Arts & Life

I first came across the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald through his collection Six Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories. The slim volume, with its bright purple cover, called to me from the cluttered end cap of a secondhand bookshop. I cracked it open, sat, and read through "The Jelly-Bean" right there on the dusty floor.

Just in time for the holiday travel season, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has an exhibit about one aspect of flying that most of us ignore: airport control towers. Those beacons of the landscape — where landings and takeoffs are orchestrated — are now the stars of some dramatic photographs.

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The Best Of The Worst: Christmas Films

Dec 20, 2015
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEET SANTA CLAUS")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S. Hooray for Santa Claus. You spell it...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

NPR's Weekend Edition has been chatting with TV critics about shows that they believe flew a little too far under the radar in 2015 — Maureen Ryan talked about The 100 last weekend, and Alan Sepinwall talked about Review.

When NBC announced The Wiz -- the African-American version of The Wizard of Oz, presented as a hit Broadway musical and a movie — would be produced as a live television production, some TV watchers may have groaned.

Previous live telecasts of other musicals have gotten attention mainly as a target for hate-watching. But The Wiz Live! seems to have broken that spell: When it aired earlier this month, it earned 11.5 million viewers — and more if you count DVR replays.

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. I have baked many, many, many pies.

And when I first began making pumpkin pies this autumn, my results were at best inconsistent and, at worst, disastrous.

Lee Child is the author behind Jack Reacher, America's favorite tough guy. And after 20 novels and one Tom Cruise movie, Child knows a thing or two about best-sellers. But what about worst sellers? We've invited him to play a game called "I know I sold at least one copy ... unless Mom lied?" Three questions about books that sold really, really badly.

Kurt Masur, the German conductor whose career spanned from leading an orchestra in East Germany to more than a decade of reshaping the New York Philharmonic, has died at age 88.

Mindy Norton

Most Christmas manger scenes include animals, because the Christ child was born in a stable.  And besides Joseph and Mary, they were the only witnesses to the birth of Jesus.  So it seems only natural that we would want to include our pets in family celebrations, especially at Christmas!

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Sometimes an aging movie star must sit and watch as a charismatic newcomer steals the spotlight — even inanimate ones. R2-D2, the adorable little robot — or droid — first appeared in Star Wars in 1977. And over the years he's faced cute competition from Yoda, and the Ewoks. But the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, brings us what might be an even cuter new droid: BB-8.

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Most Americans know little about the painter Hale Woodruff, but he had a profound influence on 20th century American art. Like many black artists in the 1920s, Woodruff left the country for Paris. He later studied in Mexico with Diego Rivera.

Today Woodruff is best-known for a set of murals at Talladega College in Alabama. After a national tour, those murals have made a final stop in Kansas City, where Woodruff's family has roots.

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Jonathan Sun is a Ph.D. candidate at MIT. He's a playwright, an artist, an architect, an engineer and a designer. It probably goes without saying that he knows how to spell.

But on Twitter, he's jonnysun — an "aliebn confuesed abot humamn lamgauge," as his bio puts it.

"Jonnysun" is an icon of "weird Twitter," an absurd-comedy subculture on the social networking platform.

Sun's alter ego mostly writes tweets that are haphazard and misspelled — but still manage to say something. Sometimes his jokes are just silly; others are downright profound. Many are both.

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All the hype around the new "Star Wars" movie made us think about the last time people were this excited about "Star Wars."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

The camera stays tight on a gaunt, weathered face as we hear a train and the dull roar of exhausted travelers disembarking at the outset of Son of Saul. The screen is narrow — almost square — so there's very little space in the image around his head. As a result, we hear but don't see a band playing as the train's passengers are herded into a building, then to a large room with benches and wall pegs.

This week, the latest installment in the Star Wars film saga is posting record numbers around the world. In 1981, NPR hoped the interstellar fable would do the same for its audience numbers. That's right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas' original three movies.

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On the outside, the clothbound book looked innocuous enough. Titled The Candle and The Flame, The Work of George Sylvester Viereck, it appeared to be the work of a once famous, now disgraced German-American poet. But instead of printed lines of verse, the book contained only blank pages.

Beginning in 1921, a New Yorker named Victor Alfred Lyon filled it with recipe after recipe for homemade alcohols and mixed drinks. Over the next decade, this little book of "poems" became the comprehensive formulary of a Prohibition-era bootlegger.

This week's show is about exactly what you might expect it to be about: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Screening scheduling left Stephen and me without the delights of Glen Weldon, who will provide super-spoilery thoughts in a Small Batch a little later (stay tuned), but we welcomed Gene Demby and Chris Klimek to bask in the glow.

Is Forgiveness The Ultimate Test?

Dec 18, 2015

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hero's Journey.

About George Takei's TED Talk

In 1942, the U.S. government interned George Takei and his family in a Japanese-American internment camp. Decades later, the actor describes his journey to forgive the country that betrayed him.

About George Takei

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hero's Journey.

For thousands of years, human beings have told stories about heroes embarking on epic journeys.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell was the first to identify the hidden blueprint embedded within these stories — the specific stages that protagonists undergo to emerge as heroes.

How Does The Journey Change The Hero?

Dec 18, 2015

Part 6 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hero's Journey.

About Dame Ellen MacArthur's TED Talk

After completing her harrowing solo sail around the world, Dame Ellen MacArthur describes how that journey transformed her.

About Dame Ellen MacArthur

How Does A Rikers Inmate Become a Hero?

Dec 18, 2015

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hero's Journey.

About Ismael Nazario's TED Talk

As a teenager, Ismael Nazario spent more than 300 days in Rikers Island's solitary confinement before being convicted of a crime. He describes how every day was a test to survive.

About Ismael Nazario

When Ismael Nazario was a teenager, he was arrested for robbery and sent to Rikers Island.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hero's Journey.

About Jarrett J. Krosoczka's TED Talk

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a successful author and illustrator. But, he says, his life could have gone in a completely different direction, if he hadn't had a long line of mentors.

About Jarrett J. Krosoczka

How Does A Hero's Journey Begin?

Dec 18, 2015

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hero's Journey.

About Dame Ellen MacArthur's TED Talk

Dame Ellen MacArthur's journey began when she discovered sailing. She describes how years later she undertook her greatest challenge: to sail solo around the world faster than anyone in history.

About Dame Ellen MacArthur

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