Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He also reviews books and movies for NPR.org and is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a seriously terrible marine biologist and a slightly better-than-average competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, a cultural history of the iconic character. His fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Story, McSweeney's, The Dallas Morning News, Washington City Paper and many other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

Avengers: Infinity War is — and truly feels like — the culmination of something.

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They're the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They're what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — two Jewish kids from Cleveland who were reading the alarming news coming out of Europe — created precisely the hero necessary to put things right: an impossibly strong and nigh-invulnerable paragon of virtue and butt-kicking they called Superman. He could have ended Hitler's advance with a snap of his fingers — and he definitely would have, if only he weren't a creature of pure fantasy.

If they are to successfully make the jump to light speed, Star Wars movies require a precisely calibrated fuel mixture: one-third epic space battles, one-third narrow escapes and duly buckled swashes, one-third hooded beardy dudes standing around looking pained while solemnly intoning the cheesiest hokum about Darkness and Light as if it's Hamlet's Yorick speech (which in a way, it is).

The television police procedural is a genre, and like any genre, it makes an implicit contract with its audience.

Chiefly, that contract is about plot. Here's what you'll get, it says. Each episode, a crime will be committed, investigated with a certain amount of technical detail, and ultimately solved. That's it. We may introduce some embellishments — a chewy performance here, an out-of-left-field twist there, or maybe a tiny amount of character development — but week in and week out, we'll stick to the parameters.

Monty Hall got it.

Hall, who died today at age 96 according to his agent Mark Measures, was in on the joke. He was you, sitting there at home, clucking your tongue at the lengths to which people would go, the extent to which they would abase themselves, just to get picked to compete on a dumb game show.

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The first book of the Harry Potter series went on sale in the U.K. 20 years ago today. It offers a convenient excuse to reacquaint yourself with a world before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of muggles, horcruxes or pensieves, before tourists would crowd into London's Kings Cross railway station simply to peer wistfully at the space between Platforms Nine and Ten.

Here's the first story NPR ever aired about Harry Potter — a wonderful piece by the late Margot Adler, from All Things Considered in 1998.

Some gems, from that bygone era:

"Why is a welder like a woman in love?"

I'm 7 years old, standing between the two dogwood trees in my backyard. It's autumn; there's a crispness in the golden, late afternoon air. I've taken the hood of my parka and thrown it over my head, but my arms are not in the sleeves. The coat falls over my narrow, bird-boned shoulders and down my back.

Like a cape, you see.

Robert Silvers, whose long career as an editor included terms at The Paris Review, Harper's and, most notably, as co-founder of The New York Review of Books, died Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1963 with Barbara Epstein, intending to raise the standard of book reviewing. In its pages, a given book under consideration could be little more than a jumping-off point for an extended essay that directly engaged the political and cultural moment.

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