It's Freaky Five for Friday! A freaky view of the future in Children of Men, the co-author of Freakonomics on ... Beauty and the Geek, freakish adventures on a hunt for sunken treasure, the slightly freaky Jack White in a no-frills music video, and the secret to avoid freakouts (it involves 40 winks).
NPR logo It's Freaky Five for Friday!

It's Freaky Five for Friday!

A film's freaky view of the future, the co-author of Freakonomics on ... Beauty and the Geek, freakish adventures on a hunt for sunken treasure, the slightly freaky Jack White in a no-frills music video, and the secret to avoiding freakouts (it involves 40 winks).

Here's One Reason Not to Look Forward to 2027

Even though the future is a crazy place in Children of Men, Julianne Moore manages to keep up her excellent hair-care regimen. Universal Studios hide caption

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Universal Studios

The Details

Movie: Children of Men

What It Is: A harrowing vision of the future, based on the P.D. James novel. Let's just say: In the year 2027, Earth isn't anything like heaven.

What It's Got: Oscar buzz

With mentions on a lot of 10 Best lists (mine included), Alfonzo Cuaron's The Children of Men is starting to look like a dark-horse candidate in the Oscar sweepstakes. Despite its depiction of a suddenly futureless humankind -- the year is 2027 and no woman anywhere on the planet has given birth in more than 18 years -- the film opened to robust business and terrific reviews in a few major cities on Christmas Day. Now, it's opening wider so the whole country can share in the misery, which is to say, in the excitement, because Children of Men is a breath-stealing chase film for much of its length. And happily, a plot twist revealed early on (and in the trailers) suggests things may not be quite as hopeless as they initially seem. That said, the portrait of a world in crisis -- of a comparatively secure society protecting what it has through draconian measures, and of a populace turning on itself as the rule of law is eroded -- is pretty haunting if you read the newspapers these days. And if I'm doing the math right -- 2027 minus 18 -- it all starts going haywire in just two years.

Bob Mondello regularly reviews movies for NPR.

Feeling Draggy? Nap Out of It!

Do you know why pandas are so smart and relaxed? Because they take naps! Join them this weekend. Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

The Details

Book: Take a Nap! Change Your Life by Sarah Mednick (Workman, $12.95)

What It Is: A scientific defense of the values of napping.

When that shiny ball dropped in Times Square, you were maybe thinking, "I'm going to lose my love handles in 2007." But your plan probably involved something unpleasant, like swearing off chocolate and dragging your rear end to the gym before sunrise. Here's a more appealing way to fulfill your vow: Sometime this weekend, curl up under a blanket and catch some shuteye.

In Take a Nap! Change Your Life, Sara C. Mednick -- a Harvard-educated scientist whose research usually involves pillows -- explains that napping isn't just for preschoolers. A little extra sleep can boost alertness, motor skills, accuracy and creativity, as well as make your weight-loss resolution come true. When you’re better rested, you won't crave an energy jolt from junk food. Plus, you'll look more perky and youthful.

To find your ideal naptime, clear your schedule and see when drowsiness strikes -- probably between 1 p.m and 3 p.m. Then go with it.

As for how long to sleep, that depends on what you want out of the nap, Mednick explains. It takes two minutes to transition into Stage 2 sleep, which improves alertness and motor skills. Wake up after about 18 minutes, and you'll feel as if you got a powernap recharge. After 18 minutes, nappers slip into slow-wave sleep (which can help with stress), a repeat of Stage 2, and then REM (which spurs creativity). The length of the stages varies depending on the time of day and when you awoke in the morning. The book has a sleep wheel to help you understand your sleep cycle, so you can optimize your nap length for whatever it is you'll face later in the day. Keep in mind, a nap is only a nap if you are out at least five minutes but no more than three hours.

The hard part comes on Monday. But Mednick offers tips on how to convince your boss it makes sense to set up a nap room: Regular napping will up productivity and zap absenteeism, because everyone will be healthier. Or you could just sneak into the bathroom with a quilt and an alarm clock.

Vicky Hallett, who writes about fitness for Washington Post Express, naps eight hours a day.

Bright Lights in the Basement

The fanciest thing about Jack White's music video is his hat. Matt Cardy/Getty Images hide caption

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Details

Music Videos: "From the Basement," downloadable online or via i-Tunes.

What It Is: No-frills music from rockers and popsters.

MTV didn't invent the music video. But Nigel Godrich thinks it may have destroyed it. And if anyone should know, it's him. He's the award-winning producer behind the music of big-name bands like Radiohead and Travis. And now he has a new goal: to liberate the music video from the clutches of commercial TV.

Godrich has created a show called From the Basement Actually, "From the Internet" is more like it. You can download the entire first episode or individual songs from both his Web site and iTunes for about $2 a song, with 5 songs per episode.

There are no elaborate dance routines with pythons and leather and no car chases set to a thumping bass. Godrich simply invited artists like Radiohead's Thom Yorke and the White Stripes into a London studio and turned them loose. For one song, Jack White whips out an acoustic guitar while Meg White sits on the floor tapping bongo drums between her legs. Then Thom Yorke leans over a piano and plays a song that may or may not appear on an upcoming Radiohead album (which Godrich is currently producing).

Cameras linger on hands and faces. Steve Reid and Kieran Hebden (of Four Tet fame) sink into a drum-induced trance during their improvised rock jam.

The second episode is due in February, and the somber hipster Beck is slated to appear.

Thomas Pierce is spending a year at NPR as a part of the Joan B. Kroc Fellowship and likes music videos where somber hipsters brandish muskets like guitars.

Danger — Shipwreck Below!

The "Indiana Jones of the Deep" goes looking for sunken treasure. hide caption

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The Details

Book: Dragon Sea (Harcourt, $25)

What It Is: A true-life story of a treasure hunt that seems made for the movies.

If you've ever dreamed of diving into pirate-infested seas in search of sunken treasure of eye-popping historic and monetary value, then stoke the fire, brew a cuppa and settle in with Dragon Sea, Frank Pope's gripping true-life yarn of an expeditionary quest to recover an exquisite hoard of 15th-century Vietnamese porcelain buried in the hold of an ill-fated ship at the bottom of the South China Sea.

The project got under way just before 2000 with an odd couple at the helm. Heading the research and overseeing the logistics of the salvage operation was Mensun Bound, a flamboyant Oxford marine archaeologist whose previous underwater exploits had earned him the nickname "Indiana Jones of the Deep." Meanwhile -- with no academic backing to be had for a venture so ambitious and expensive -- the bills were being paid by Ong Soo Hin, a successful businessman whose motivations had less to do with scientific research than with the possibility of making a financial killing in a record-setting auction payoff from the rare antiquities the expedition promised to recover.

It doesn't take long for their differing perspectives to erode their trust, and for their personal feud to endanger the one goal they do share: a successful outcome to the excavation. Pope -- who, as one of the project's leaders, was himself caught in the middle of many of these clashes -- details the daily strains and stresses of marine excavation: the physically grueling, death-defying underwater dives; the labor-intensive sifting of mud and muck; the painstaking cataloging and tedious conservation techniques.

Diving enthusiasts, art historians, collectors and would-be treasure-hunters will all find much to savor here. The only thing missing, from my point of view, are color illustrations of the bounty they sought and eventually found.

Diane Cole is the author of After Great Pain: A New Life Emerges and a contributing editor of U.S. News & World Report.

Geekonomics, Freakonomics and Trumponomics

The Details

Reality TV: Season premieres for Grease: You're the One that I Want, The Apprentice: Los Angeles and Beauty and the Geek

What It Is: A chance to feel intellectually superior to reality show contestants (while gaining invaluable knowledge about the book Freakonomics).

The real reason to watch The Apprentice: Los Angeles is to marvel at Donald Trump's trippy, flippy hair. Scott Wintrow/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

Get your couch ready for Sunday's reality show trifecta. At 8 p.m., NBC launches Grease: You're the One That I Want, in which America gets to cast the leads of an upcoming revival of the Broadway musical. Hey, let's all vote for the WORST ONES!!!! But don't tell anyone you got that idea from us.

The Apprentice: Los Angeles launches its new season at 9:30 p.m. The losers have to live in tents. What could be better than watching wannabe Trumps coping with flighty tent flaps? Well, maybe watching Trump and Rosie O'Donnell in a potato sack race, but that ain't gonna happen anytime soon. And you can figure that his daughter, Ivanka, will not put up any guff in her role as dad's eyes and ears.

If neither of these TV options appeal, tune in for the 8 p.m. re-airing of Wednesday's season premiere of Beauty & the Geek, in which Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the best-seller Freakonomics, gamely allows himself to be interviewed by the seemingly dim beauties (former Hooters waitress, Playboy model, bikini model...) while the geeks (the fat guy who owns 25,000 comic books, the Harvard grad, the Star Trek fanatic...) have to do stand-up comedy. No need to set your phasers on stun, since you will already be stunned by one beauty's inability to state when the next presidential election takes place or what NYSE stands for (no, it's not "national system.")

Marc Silver, an editor at, took the "How Geeky Are You?" test. He is not a geek. Andy Guess, an NPR podcast poobah, had never watched The Apprentice until he previewed the new season. He found it "not bad and strangely addictive."

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