Arts & Life

The snow and severe cold of the "bomb cyclone" currently hitting the East Coast is no joke.

But for a TV nerd, a storm that shuts down work and school means more time for binge-watching!

It may be only a day or two, so viewing choices are crucial. Can't waste time with dramas that go nowhere or marginally funny sitcoms (yes, Twin Peaks and Curb Your Enthusiasm, I'm talking about you). I'm here to give you some suggestions tailored to your tastes. Hopefully, these shows will act like a hot bowl of chicken soup and a thick, warm blanket.

Some writers believe that they have to ease their readers into darkness. It's a popular gambit, and to an extent, it makes sense — you don't want to lose the reader by plunging them instantly into misery; there has to be some glimmer of hope at the beginning, even if you plan to extinguish it eventually.

Imagine having one of the worst days of your professional life play out in front of 5 million people.

ABC News anchor Dan Harris doesn't have to. In 2004, he had a panic attack on live TV after years of working in war zones and using drugs to cope with the stress. But that mortifying moment led him to take up meditation.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

“The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War”

Author: James McGrath Morris 

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pages: 312

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

When WWI began in Europe in 1914 the French army was woefully short of ambulances and drivers. The United States was not yet in the war, but some Americans living in Paris volunteered in an informal, unorganized way.

Visual artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, is having a moment. In 2017, she won a so-called MacArthur "genius" grant, and over the past few months her work has been shown in Baltimore, New Orleans and upstate New York.

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano.

Jennifer Brea was a PhD candidate at Harvard University when flu-like symptoms and a high fever brought her down for more than five years.

After her condition stumped several doctors, the 28-year-old filmed herself on her iPhone, including an episode when she was unable to move or speak. She showed the footage to her doctor, and in 2012 – a year and a half after her initial fever – she was diagnosed with a condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

The audio link above includes an excerpt of Terry Gross' 1989 conversation with Sue Grafton.

I think the last time I reviewed one of Sue Grafton's novels was in 2009. I wrote that U is for Undertow was so good, "it makes me wish there were more than 26 letters at her disposal." Now, of course, that line falls flat.

British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli first set out to study Alzheimer's because of his grandfather, who developed the disease when Jebelli was 12.

In the years that followed, Jebelli watched as his grandfather's memory started to disappear. But Jebelli points out that although a certain amount of memory loss is a natural part of aging, what happened to his grandfather and to other Alzheimer's patients is different.

Setting off through the winter woods, I am wrapped like a Christmas package with seven layers of insulation between myself and the day. I'm wearing mittens an astronaut on the surface of the moon would envy.

This is one of those ice-box cold, double-digit below zero days and the snow has that super cold squeak. The air is just absolutely metal cold, but the cool part is that it is radiantly sunny outside and windless, so there's a blue sky and sun just cutting through these trees.

For more than four decades, Peter Martins helped to shape the New York City Ballet — first as a dancer and then as an artistic leader.

Late Monday he informed the company's board that he would be retiring effective immediately.

Martins had been on a leave of absence since last month amid an investigation looking into sexual misconduct claims.

Martins has also served as artistic director of the School of American Ballet. He is also retiring from his role at the school.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Thousands of party-goers are expected to see in the New Year at Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate where an official party and firework display are planned. As usual, security will be tight with road blocks and an increased police presence of some 1, 600 officers. But this year, female revelers attending the open air event will also be able to access a women-only safety zone staffed by the German Red Cross.

The measures are being introduced by the police for the first time in Berlin because of concerns about sexual assaults.

Dozens of new emojis are planned for 2018.

One of the most popular additions? Redheads.

"People felt like they were getting left out," says Jeremy Burge of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee. It's part of the Unicode Consortium, which sets the international standards for emojis, among other things.

"Even though I don't have red hair myself, that was the number one request we got for the last two years running. So I felt like I should step up and try and make that happen," Burge tells NPR's Weekend All Things Considered.

When you hear the word quinceañera, the traditional rite of passage for 15-year-old Latina girls, you might think of poofy, pink dresses and big, boisterous family parties. A new HBO documentary series aims to add a little more depth to that perception.

15: A Quinceañera Story takes viewers inside the modern quinceañera. It profiles an East Los Angeles teen boxer, a transgender teen and two girls who perform in rodeo shows together.

It's 1992. Your hair is gelled up, you're sporting high-tops and maybe still listening to Run DMC on cassette.

That's the setting for Sam Graham-Felsen's Green, a new coming-of-age novel that's also a look at race in America. It follows a friendship between two adolescent boys in Boston — one black and one white.

The Call-In: Paying It Forward

Dec 31, 2017

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LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

Time now for The Call-In.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRAYER: Last week, we asked you for your stories about paying it forward - an act of kindness that spreads from one person to another. Here are three that warmed our hearts. A warm meal is at the center of our first story.

Reading The Game: Inside

Dec 31, 2017

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.

Chef Carla Hall had never heard of "friendship bread" before someone gave her a plastic zip-top bag full of a yeasty, mushy starter. As a young caterer just starting out, she got busy baking up a storm and was excited to tell her friend some days later about everything she had made.

Instead of being delighted, her friend just stared at her. "You used it all up?" she asked. "That's not the point. You're supposed to just use some of it, and then pass it on to someone else. That's why it's called friendship bread."

Several years ago, Claire van Kampen was composing music for a London theater production. During a break, one of the singers asked her if she knew the story of Farinelli, the famous 18th century opera singer.

"'You'd really like the bit where he goes to Spain and sings to King Phillipe who has this bipolar disorder.' And then I started to think: Now that's an interesting story that I haven't heard about, seen."

Ferlinka Borzoi (Deb West) [Flickr]

The end of every year gives us a chance to consider what went right or wrong in the past, and how we might do better for ourselves and our furry companions going forward.  It's a great opportunity to hit the reset button and try to make the coming year a better one for all!

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James Beard was one of the 20th century's great cooks, along with Julia Child, who elevated American home cooking.

When he died in 1985, his colleagues went to work to preserve his legacy and soon after established the James Beard House and the James Beard Foundation.

Every year, the foundation gives out awards to chefs and restaurants, cookbook authors and TV shows. The annual event is like the Oscars of the food world.

Naturally, a dinner at New York City's historic James Beard House is part of the occasion as well.

Manliness And Green Living

Dec 30, 2017

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Hanif Kureishi has written plays and movies — notably the screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette, which was nominated for an Oscar. But he's also won awards for his short stories and novels.

The British author's new book is a slender volume called The Nothing. Considering that there is very little sex in the book, it is a dirty book, about a nasty, dirty old man. The protagonist Waldo is in his 80s — he's "very withered" and "barely mobile," Kureishi says — when he suspects his younger wife Zee may be having an affair with one of his best friends.

Home, Home On The (Shooting) Range

Dec 30, 2017

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Revisiting our favorite books from adolescence is a tricky thing. These are, after all, novels we bonded with during a very impressionable time in our lives. As with our first romantic loves, we're often not willing or even able to see their faults. Even in hindsight, our judgment is colored — by nostalgia, by comfort, by the sense that these books are old friends.

Superfly Photos From A Late, Great Master

Dec 30, 2017

Flared-leg pants, oversized glasses and hats. Unflinchingly proud expressions. Groovy dance moves.

This was the youth culture of 1960s and 1970s Bamako, the capital city of Mali. And it was captured by Malian photographer Malick Sidibe, bringing international recognition and big deal awards. And it's being celebrated in the first major posthumous exhibit of his images, "Malick Sidibe: Mali Twist," which is at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain In Paris through February 25. Sidibe died in April 2016 at age 80.

We've all been listening to what we in the broadcast biz call "year-enders": the most popular books, music and movies of the year; and of course the always-moving lists of people who died this year, mostly famous people.

But we also have our lists of people in our private lives. Our close friends' Christmas dinner always includes toasts to people who are no longer at the table — it's a moment of memory we welcome and dread at the same time. We all have our own ways of remembering our dead. And I want to share mine with you.

All Things Considered host Robert Siegel likes a good cocktail. He also likes to talk about cocktails.

For the past few years, right before New Year's Eve, he has talked with Emma Allen, who covered the New York City bar scene for The New Yorker and now edits the magazine's famous cartoons.

This year, she had a surprise for him.

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