WCBE

Susan Stamberg

It's been a cold winter in Washington, D.C., but over at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, there's a flutter of exotic real and imaginary birds, created by 12 contemporary artists, in an exhibit called "The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art."

American painter Richard Estes has made a career out of fooling the eye. His canvases look like photographs — but they're not.

"You can't see my paintings in reproduction," the 82-year-old artist says. That's because, in reproduction, the paintings — especially his New York cityscapes from the late 1960s — look like photos. He's called a photo-realist, or hyper-realist — an intense observer of the built environment. But he doesn't paint the view from his apartment window.

Dripping in diamonds and shimmering in silks, the movie stars of the 1930s and '40s dazzled on the silver screen. Now, some of their costumes and jewels are on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There, a film clip runs on a wall behind gorgeously gowned mannequins lit by sconces and chandeliers. The clip is from 1932's No Man of Her Own, starring Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Nearby, co-curator Michelle Finamore points to the actual gown Lombard wore. It's long, made of slinky silk crepe and covered in teeny gold-colored glass beads.

The request was forwarded to me from a distant (fifth floor — I'm on the fourth) division of NPR.

It came from Justin Lucas, the head of NPR's Audience and Community Relations team. He's the go-to person here for requests from listeners, for information or permissions.

He'd gotten a letter from Beth Hansen, owner of Soup and Salad, a small sandwich shop in Easton, Md., a charming old town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Justin read me an excerpt of the request: "I'd love to make and sell Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Chutney. A portion of the proceeds ... "

There's a running joke in Los Angeles that everybody — from your dog walker to your dry cleaner — is writing a screenplay. Curt Neill is one of those aspiring screenwriters — a sketch comedian who has tried to write screenplays, but never finished one. "I've never even gotten close," he admits in Caffe Vita, an LA coffee shop where he writes.

There's an 85-year-old building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles that has been a venue for the Dalai Lama, the LA Philharmonic and even scenes in Entourage and The West Wing. But extracurricular activities aside, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple is a house of worship. Recently refurbished, and given a preservation award by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the temple has a special place in the history of Hollywood.

Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1940s, Albert Paley played with blocks and Legos. And he loved wandering the streets, scavenging bottle caps, matchbook covers, cigar bands and "picking up pebbles that I thought were interesting," he recalls.

Now 70, the American sculptor has moved from pebbles to monumental gates. His iron and steel works adorn Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Rochester, N.Y. His gates, archways and free-standing sculptures are eye-catching landmarks.

In her novel I Always Loved You, author Robin Oliveira imagines a passionate scene between Edgar Degas — a French artist known for his paintings of dancers — and Mary Cassatt — an American painter known for her scenes of family life. The kiss in the novel is pure fiction, but then again, "nobody knows what goes on in their neighbor's house, let alone what happened between two artists 130 years ago," Oliveira says.

Comedian Sid Caesar, one of early network TV's biggest stars, died Wednesday morning at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 91.

Caesar didn't do smut, putdowns or smarmy remarks. Instead, he did skits: grown-up, gentle comedy for the whole family.

In one skit, Caesar was the smarter-than-anyone German "professor." Carl Reiner played a movie executive with money problems. The professor's solution? Make a musical — and get the greatest composer in the world. He is shocked to discover that his top choice won't be available.

The comic actor Sid Caesar died on Wednesday at the age of 91. He starred in the popular 1950s program, Your Show of Shows, television's first live comedy show, featuring skits and musical numbers.

Before World War II, many Americans got exaggerated ideas about Africa from movies like Tarzan the Ape Man — movies that were filmed on Hollywood sound stages.

It took time to change that view. But after the war, Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon sought to shed a new light on the vast and variegated continent.

It's that time of year again. Time for Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. Every year since 1972, around Thanksgiving, I've shared my mother-in-law's famous cranberry relish recipe on the radio. It's appallingly pink, like Pepto Bismol — but it tastes terrific.

This year, I bring my relish recipe to Thanksgivukkah. Next week, Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah fall on the same day. It's a rare convergence.

One hundred years ago in New York City, nearly 90,000 people came to see the future of art. The 1913 Armory Show gave America its first look at what avant-garde artists in Europe were doing. Today these artists are in major museums around the world, but in 1913, they were mostly unknown in America.

Fans of the reclusive J.D. Salinger are in their element these days.

When it was time to create a new collection, Christian Dior had a ritual: He went to his garden and sat down among the flowers.

Asheville, a mountain town in North Carolina, is known for at least two important native sons: writers Thomas Wolfe, whose 1929 novel Look Homeward, Angel eviscerated some locals, and Charles Frazier, whose 1997 civil war novel Cold Mountain is set in the nearby hills. But there is also a little-known story of another writer — F. Scott Fitzgerald — who, along with his wife Zelda, had devastating connections to the town.

D-Day soldiers landing on Omaha Beach. A naked Vietnamese girl running from napalm. A Spanish loyalist, collapsing to the ground in death. These images of war, and some 300 others, are on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in an exhibition called WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath. Pictures from the mid-19th century to today, taken by commercial photographers, military photographers, amateurs and artists capture 165 years of conflict.

Andrew Carnegie was once the richest man in the world. Coming as a dirt poor kid from Scotland to the U.S., by the 1880s he'd built an empire in steel — and then gave it all away: $60 million to fund a system of 1,689 public libraries across the country.

Carnegie donated $300,000 to build Washington, D.C.'s oldest library — a beautiful beaux arts building that dates back to 1903. Inscribed above the doorway are the words: Science, Poetry, History. The building was "dedicated to the diffusion of knowledge."

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ORSON WELLES: Of course, there are all sorts of fountains. Some are beautiful, some are purely mythological. Some are silly fountains. Of course, the silliest of all, is the fountain of youth. Old Ponce de Leon thought that one was somewhere down in Florida.

SUSAN STAMBERG, HOST:

American artist Ellsworth Kelly turned 90 in May, and there's been much celebration. On Wednesday, President Obama presented Kelly with the National Medal of Arts. Meanwhile, museums around the country are showing his work: Kelly sculptures, prints and paintings are on view in New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. In Washington, D.C., the Phillips Collection is featuring his flat geometric canvases, layered to create wall sculptures.

To say that Nashvillean Spencer Hays is crazy for French art is an understatement. "French art just quickens our step, fires our spirit and touches our heart," he says.

Hays' passion began when he was in his 30s. By then he was already a millionaire; Forbes estimated his worth at $400 million in 1997, money earned from book-selling and clothing businesses. Hays had humble beginnings.

As a kid in Chicago, director William Friedkin liked to frighten little girls with scary stories. When he grew up, he scared the rest of us with a little girl — Regan MacNeil, who is possessed by the devil in his horror classic The Exorcist.

And in The French Connection, he put knots in our stomachs with one of the great movie chases in American cinema.

Starting Saturday, Weekend Edition is broadcasting under the fourth roof that's sheltered National Public Radio. NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg has worked in all of the locations since NPR went on the air in 1971, and once again she shepherds us to our new home.

The French painter Renoir, one of the creators of impressionism, is the subject of a French film that's in release across the U.S. It imagines the last years of the painter's life — surrounded by glorious rolling hills, doting housemaids and a new young model who becomes his muse. It's at least the second film to capture the master in motion.

There are certain creations that have defined beauty for generations: Renoir's pudgy, pink nude; Rothko's brilliant blocks of color that seem to vibrate; Michelangelo's naked young man in marble, with a slingshot on his shoulder.

Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln has earned 12 Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director. Another Spielberg film — the multi-Oscar winning Schindler's List — will be celebrating 20 years since its release. These films have at least two important things in common: Spielberg and publicist Marvin Levy.

Picture Rick's smoky cafe in Casablanca, Lincoln's office at the White House of the 1860s, or the Mos Eisley cantina on the desert planet of Tatooine: A production designer came up with the overall look of those movie sets. But the booze on Rick's bar or the pens on Lincoln's desk — it took a set decorator and a crew to make them look authentic and believable.

When the Oscars are handed out later this month, the ceremony will most likely be punctuated by music that has pretty much come to stand for movies and Movieland. Ironically, the composer grew up in Detroit, and the lyricist came from Savannah, Ga. — yet together they wrote the quintessential Tinseltown anthem.

"Hooray for Hollywood" was written for the Warner Brothers film Hollywood Hotel. It was a corny little "let's-go-to-Hollywood-and become-stars" movie from 1937, with some cute dialogue.

Over the past six months, the headlines from Aleppo, Syria, have been horrifying. As the conflict between rebel forces and the government continues, the city has been overrun by tanks and artillery, and assaulted by shots, explosions and fires.

But Aleppo's present belies a much richer past. It's Syria's largest city, and one of the world's oldest continually inhabited urban areas. Over the centuries, it has served as a major crossroads for trade and commerce.

American service members have long spent holidays in dangerous places, far from family. These days, home is a video chat or Skype call away. But during World War II, packages, letters and radio programs bridged the lonely gaps. For 15 minutes every week, "Canteen Girl" Phyllis Jeanne Creore spoke and sang to the troops and their loved ones on NBC radio.

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