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It was a sweltering hot summer in Tokyo. I was sitting in my study, which doubles as a disorganized storage closet for unsold CDs, zines and tapes. An office worker, taking a cigarette break on the fire escape of the building opposite, was watching me through the window with an expression of disdain, wondering what I was still doing in my dressing gown at 4:00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon.

From The Japanese Underground: A Playlist

2 hours ago

There are two stories hidden beneath the mix of music I've compiled here, each of which has been important in developing my thoughts on Japan's music scene over the fifteen years or so that I've been involved with it.

The image of a family tree is embedded in the country songwriting lexicon, serving as a sort of shorthand for core country values of lineage, rootedness and stabilizing familial bonds. Priscilla Renea is no doubt aware of this. Though only 29, she's already a savvy veteran of the music industry. After a fairly rural Florida upbringing, she's spent over a decade learning how to play by, and bend, the rules in the cosmopolitan capitals of pop, R&B, hip-hop and country music-making.

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We occasionally reach back into the archives here at NPR to find the first time we talked about some event or piece of culture or technology that's old hat today. We call the series...

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South by Southwest — the music and interactive media conference that takes place in Austin, Texas, each year — has a controversy on its hands.

NPR's Ari Shapiro talks to New Yorker writer Michael Specter about his article, "Freedom from Fries," on the rise of fast casual food and the impact on the fast food industry.

It used to be that American Muslims who wanted a halal meal had to live in a major city and know a good butcher. Want to find an eligible spouse? Get your parents involved. In the market for halal cosmetics? Good luck.

Times are changing though.

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It's an obscure provision of a relatively obscure law, overseen, rather unpredictably, by the Librarian of Congress.

A section in the country's copyright law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits unlocking of "access controls" (in simpler terms, breaking digital locks to dig around computer code) on various software.

Poor mothers often spend way too much time hunched over a washboard. What if they could use those hours to curl up with their kids and read a book instead? A group of friends at Oxford University plans to find out by developing a combination childhood education and laundry services center, a concept they've dubbed a "Libromat."

Say you bought health insurance through the federal health exchange, paid the premiums and followed the rules.

And then say you start having pain in your hands. Your doctor refers you to a rheumatologist to test for arthritis.

But when you search for the specialist, there isn't one there.

Editor's note: There is an offensive word in this post. It's an important part of this discussion.

What goes best with a hot cup of tea? A heaping spoonful of gossip, of course.

The World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team was honored at the White House today, where Obama praised the champions.

"This team taught all of America's children that 'playing like a girl' means you're a badass," he said.

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