Arts

Arts and culture

Dorlyn Catron's cane is making its radio debut today — its name is Pete. ("He's important to my life. He ought to have a name," she says.)

Catron is participating in one of the America InSight tours at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum offers twice-a-month tours, led by specially trained docents, to blind and visually impaired visitors.

They call it "The Leaning Tower of San Francisco."

But it wasn't always that way. The luxury skyscraper was billed as "state of the art" when it opened a few years ago. People paid millions for condos there.

"Difficult woman" is a loaded term, but writer Roxane Gay isn't afraid of taking on ideas with baggage. (A few years ago, she wrote a book of essays called Bad Feminist.) Her new short story collection, Difficult Women, explores women's lives and issues of race, class and sex.

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Between Fidel Castro's death and the new American president, it's hard to know what's next for U.S.-Cuba relations. But partnerships are already underway, including one involving Cuba's first independent video game design company and a U.S. foundation that helped it get started.

Empty Head Games is the company started by two young Cubans, Josuhe Pagliery and Johann Armenteros. In November, the duo launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for their game, Savior. In just six days, the campaign hit its $10,000 goal.

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"Dogs are better than human beings," wrote Emily Dickinson, "because they know but don't tell." That sentiment comes to mind when considering Emily Bitto's debut novel, which showcases a dazzling, gabby and ultimately doomed collection of stray human beings. Assembled under one bohemian roof in 1930s Australia, most of these characters tell all to a fault. But one, an adolescent girl named Lily, sees all but keeps her mouth firmly shut — until she comes to narrate this book.

'Bambi' Artist Tyrus Wong Dies At 106

Jan 3, 2017

The Hollywood artist and calligrapher who designed Disney's Bambi has died at age 106. Tyrus Wong, a Chinese immigrant, survived Angel Island, the Chinese Exclusion Act and racial bias, before receiving acclaim for his work, late in his career in the 1990s. NPR's Audie Cornish talks with Pamela Tom, who made the documentary, Tyrus.

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In India people worship many gods. Aravind Adiga's new novel is about one of the most powerful ones.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda was a teenager in the 1990s, he liked to make eclectic mixtapes for his friends. In those cassettes, he experimented with the rise and fall of energy in music: A musical theater number might play after a hip-hop song, only to be followed by an oldie or an obscure pop song. It was through mixtapes that he could bridge the gap between two seemingly opposing passions — Broadway and rap.

It's 1968 in New Bordeaux, La. On the surface all looks tranquil as you drive through the bustling city in your red Pontiac, tapping your foot to Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang."

But as you take a sharp left down a winding back alley, an alarming sight gives you pause. Behind you, trucks painted with the Confederate flag begin to appear, the white men behind the wheel angry and visceral as they shout racial slurs.

Your name is Lincoln Clay. You're a 23-year-old biracial man — but in this place, this time, you're black, and instances of racism and bigotry are commonplace.

There's a reason that some readers view contemporary coming-of-age novels with suspicion. Too many play out the same way: An odd but winsome young person goes on some kind of journey of discovery, either literal or figurative, and learns something about himself or herself in the process. Often, there's an awkward romance. And the ending, whether happy or otherwise, can usually be described as bittersweet.

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Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of banished words for 2017. John R. Shibley, who curates the list, talks to NPR about the bete noires that made the bigly listicle of guesstimates.

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Erica Abad glides down the ancient canals of Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City, on her gondola-like boat. Her cousin, Efren Lopez, steers their boat — called a chalupa — by pushing against the canal floor with a long wooden pole, while Abad flips a sizzling quesadilla on a steel griddle fitted into the boat. When a group of people on a nearby barge signal to them to order some quesadillas, Lopez navigates the boat toward them. And Abad places a few more quesadillas on the griddle for their customers.

William Christopher, an actor best known for his role as Father Mulcahy on the sitcom M*A*S*H, has died at the age of 84. Christopher's agent, Robert Malcolm, told The Associated Press he died early Saturday morning at home in Pasadena, Calif., after a battle with lung cancer.

It's the most aspirational time of year, as people cast about for their resolutions — often resorting to the same old standbys they've tried, and abandoned, before.

This year, why not try something new? We happen to have a few suggestions on hand ...

For the Ads for Nicer Living project, NPR listeners are writing short ads pitching life's little joys, five of which will be produced by NPR.

Most of the submissions so far are about appreciationfor children's laughter, dogs, sunsets, warm socks, balmy breezes.

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TIM WATTERS: (Imitating Bill Clinton) My name is Bill Clinton. I was the 42nd president of the United States, and I am married to my lovely wife and fantastic woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for 41 years now.

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If you find yourself at a loss to name even one Native American food dish, you're not alone. But a growing number of Native chefs are trying to change that.

Freddie Bitsoie is one of those chefs, working to bring back indigenous foods from centuries ago, and adapting them for today's palate so people can learn not just about their cuisines, but their cultures too.

Women Who Count: 3 Smart STEM Romances

Jan 1, 2017

When Octavia Spencer first read the script for Hidden Figures — based on a book about the African American women who did the math for our early space launches — she thought it was fiction because it seemed too good to be true. Her disbelief reveals how conditioned we are to think that only white men make notable contributions to science, technology, engineering and math — and how important it is that we celebrate stories of the women who do.

On New Year's Day, Portland restaurant Ava Gene's will be serving brunch to the hungry and hung-over masses. And amidst the frittatas, French toast, and grits, there will be Chef Josh McFadden's own favorite: pasta carbonara.

As 2016 comes to a close, we wanted to take the time to hear from a few people whose words and actions influenced the nation this year.

One such person is actor and activist Jesse Williams. Many may know him as Jackson Avery, one of the many good-looking doctors on Shonda Rhimes' long running medical drama Grey's Anatomy.

In addition to starring in Grey's Anatomy, Jesse Williams dabbles in a lot of things: He's launched two mobile apps, hosts a basketball podcast and is in the midst of filing a remake of the 1990 thriller Jacob's Ladder.

Reading The Game: 'The Last Of Us'

Dec 31, 2016

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective.

It's that time of year again, when I atone for my failure to make top 10 lists by simply offering a collection of 50 of the many wonderful things I read, watched or heard in 2016. (Here's last year's list, for reference.)

Standard caveats: I don't watch everything! I am behind on many things. That's just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn't here, it is not a rebuke.

Remembering Debbie Reynolds

Dec 31, 2016

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How big was the writer Ring Lardner? He helped create what's still called The Golden Age of Sportswriters, the ones who wrote about The Babe, The Ironman, Dempsey, DiMaggio, and Joe Louis. And he went on to write short stories, novels, songs, and plays. He was an inspiration to Ernest Hemingway, who read his columns growing up outside Chicago, and later a favored writer of Maxwell Perkins and confidant of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A theater company in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently decided to do a social experiment: Put seven cops and seven civilians in a rehearsal room once a week to really get to know one another. Then, after 10 weeks, ask them to put on a show.

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