Arts & Life

2016 was the year the Underground Railroad became a focus in popular culture — in Colson Whitehead's National Book Award-winning novel, and a critically acclaimed new television drama about a group of runaways fleeing a Georgia plantation in 1857.

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Six years ago, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred in a Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences. Now they also star in the play's film adaptation, which Washington has directed.

Fences tells the story of Troy and Rose Maxson, a married couple living in 1950s Pittsburgh. Troy, a sanitation worker, is having an affair, and over the course of the play Rose begins to realize what she gave up by staying with her husband.

On-air challenge: The theme of today's puzzle is giving. I'm going to give you two words. You give each of them a letter — the same letter for each word — in order to complete a familiar two-word phrase.

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Desserts To Help Ring In The New Year

Dec 25, 2016

Pastry chef Aggie Chin returned for the third time this week, this time to talk about dinner parties — in particular, what are some good desserts to make for a small get-together on New Year's Eve?

NPR's Susan Davis and Sam Sanders join the conversation with host Ailsa Chang to talk about eating while on the campaign trail — it's not always fun.

There's a great quote by Haruki Murakami: "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." This, of course, is two-fold, because it also means that if you want to think more broadly and gain a larger understanding of the world, you will seek out lesser known books, and from different places.

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How Kitchen Sounds Influence Food Flavor

Dec 24, 2016

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Modern correspondence is heavy on pixels, light on paper. It's fast and convenient — but doesn't it lack a little something?

Take a moment to consider the love letter.

And better yet, pull one out of storage — or print a sweet email, in the case of younger romances.

In 1972, one NPR listener made this pitch for publicizing those romantic souvenirs:

"Somewhere in a dusty box, do you have bundles of passionate love letters once sent to you by your spouse? Or favorite mementos of your courtship?

Michael Giacchino started composing scores to go with the video games he was making. Then, one day, he got a call from a video game fan named J.J. Abrams, and ended up composing the music for LOST, the new Star Trek films, lots of Pixar movies, the newest Star Wars movie, and, well ... basically, he does the music for all the movies.

We've invited him to play a game called "Just like composing, but it goes the other way." Three questions about decomposing.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

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Christmas is a time for caring and sharing - especially with our family and friends.  And it all began over two thousand years ago!

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(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Martha Pym said she had never seen a ghost and that she would very much like to do so, particularly at Christmas, for you can laugh as you like, that is the correct time to see a ghost.

Shirley Jackson was a fairly famous writer in her short lifetime. She wrote a number of novels, two of them best sellers, one nominated for the National Book Award; probably the most famous book was called The Haunting of Hill House, published in 1959. But about a decade earlier, she wrote a short story for the New Yorker magazine which started conversations all over the country. The story was called "The Lottery."

Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2006.

It's all about the oil.

Through the eight days of Hanukkah, it almost doesn't matter what you eat, as long as it's cooked in oil. A good case could be made for eating potato chips with every meal throughout the holiday.

"São Paulo is the graveyard of samba." So claimed the late Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, who co-wrote Brazil's most famous song, "The Girl From Ipanema." Home to more than 20 million people, the landlocked city, a graveyard of buildings ordered against the sky, clashed with samba music's optimistic, beach-breezy beat. But now, 100 years after the first recorded samba, São Paulo is pioneering the genre's second act, with a nuanced accent on alienation that is revolutionizing its sound.

For many Latinos, the taste of Christmas Eve is a delicious gift of corn masa and filling wrapped up in aromatic leaves: tamales.

Updated 7:30 p.m. ET

Stars Wars actress Carrie Fisher is reportedly in stable condition after going into cardiac arrest aboard a flight from London Friday.

Quoting Fisher's brother Todd, The Associated Press reports the 60-year-old actress had been stabilized at a Los Angeles area hospital.

All Things Considered is taking a break from reality this Christmas to present a work of fiction called "Naughty or Nice." It's a radio drama, brought to us by Jonathan Mitchell of the podcast, "The Truth." An elf, tasked with deciding which children are naughty or nice, begins to question Santa's system.

We've all been there — hopelessly tangled in red tape, struggling to get a faceless bureaucracy to hear us. So the conversation that takes place under the opening credits of Ken Loach's absurdist dramedy, I, Daniel Blake, will be as familiar as it is sublimely ghastly.

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Twitter has a theory about Santa Claus — he might be a lot farther south than the North Pole.

The tweet that started it all came from an account dedicated to celebrating "everything NOLA." It featured a photo of Santa, holding a baby as he does, and a caption: "If you're from New Orleans 9/10 you got pic with this Santa."

One look at the responses makes it obvious that the caption was not at all an exaggeration.

Thousands of people have shared and replied to the tweet — as scores of New Orleans natives are posting their pictures on the same Santa's lap.

The turkey sits in golden splendor on the carving board. The cranberry sauce glows in its cut glass bowl. There's a large dish of Brussels sprouts, shiny with butter; stuffing flecked with sage; and heaps of crispy roast potatoes. But this is not a Thanksgiving feast. There is no green bean casserole, no mac 'n cheese and not a yam in sight. We've crossed the Atlantic, and this is the traditional Christmas dinner that Brits will sit down to on Dec. 25.

Spiritual quandaries — or at least questions of guilt — lace most of Martin Scorsese's films. Yet despite his Catholic upbringing, the director worships primarily at the church of cinema. Thus his stately if not quite transcendent adaptation of Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel Silence is as much a chance to impersonate great Japanese auteurs as it is an investigation of faith under duress.

Hanukkah Lights 2016

Dec 23, 2016

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication by the Maccabees of the Temple in Jerusalem. It honors the lighting of the menorah, a representation of the spiritual strength of the Jewish people. This holiday special celebrates the stories of the season.

Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz read original stories from authors Lia Pripstein, Elisa Albert, Ellen Orleans and R.L. Maizes. Listen to the full special above or hear individual stories below.

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