Arts + Life

Arts + Life

Before we get too far into 2016, it's worth taking one more look at what happened to media in the year that just ended. To paraphrase the old saying, ignorance of history dooms you to repeat it. And some of what happened in media in 2015, we really want to avoid repeating.

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DNA from a genetically modified goat, a spritz of perfume, sculptures so small you need a microscope to see them.

They're all headed for the moon.

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Imagine for a moment it's 1925 instead of 2016. And you're living in a stately English manor.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG, "DID I MAKE THE MOST OF LOVING YOU?")

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At the outset, biographer Sonia Purnell didn't know much about Clementine Churchill. "I confess, like millions of others, I had absolutely no idea who Winston Churchill's wife was," Purnell tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

But then Purnell stumbled onto a letter from 1940, when Winston Churchill had just become prime minister. It was the middle of World War II, and England was in a very bad state.

As a young girl, Maya Shankar was well on her way to a promising career as a classical violinist. The famed Itzhak Perlman had taken her on as his private student at The Juilliard School at the age of 14, and she was accepted to his prestigious summer program on Shelter Island. But not long after, she injured her finger while playing a difficult section of Paganini's Caprice no. 13. She tore a tendon in her hand, putting her musical career to an untimely end.

Egyptian authorities have raided two pillars of the independent arts and culture scene in Cairo over the past 48 hours.

They targeted the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Merit Publishing House, both in downtown Cairo.

NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo tells our Newscast unit that the raids are raising alarm bells about freedom of expression in Egypt. Here's more from Leila:

John Boyega Is Awakening 'Star Wars' Fans In Nigeria

Dec 29, 2015

Nigeria is falling in love with Star Wars.

Ellsworth Kelly, one of the greatest American artists of the past century, has died at 92.

Kelly died at his home in Spencertown, N.Y., says gallery owner Matthew Marks, who has represented the artist for two decades. Kelly is survived by his longtime partner Jack Shear.

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans spoke to Carrie Kahn on Weekend Edition Sunday about the plethora of television available on broadcast, cable and streaming outlets, and you can hear that conversation at the top of the page. Eric has, however, picked 12 shows that rose above the rest for this year-end wrap.

You may see a lot of teeth-gnashing from critics in year-end pieces lamenting how the flood of TV shows this year undermines the industry and makes picking out the best stuff of 2015 nearly impossible.

Don't believe it.

For a glimpse of what's happening in Africa, Guggenheim Bilbao curator Petra Joos recommends watching a film called "The End of Eating Everything."

When Jackie Zanfagna died last year at 25 years old, her parents did something bold. In the first sentence of her obituary they acknowledge what killed her: an accidental overdose of heroin.

Now her mom Anne Marie Zanfagna is pouring her grief out onto canvas and in the process helping other parents who have experienced the same loss.

Frank Stella does huge work — some of it 20 feet tall and twice as long — so he has a suitably supersized studio about an hour's drive north of New York City. With hundreds of artworks and tables strewn with ideas in progress, the studio is a museum in itself.

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A Holiday Favorite: David Sedaris' 'Santaland Diaries'

Dec 25, 2015

You might not expect "Santa's helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he first read on Morning Edition in 1992. He was brought to NPR by an up-and-coming producer named Ira Glass.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

When it came to new programming, broadcast TV didn't impress critic David Bianculli much this year. But if you add in cable and streaming services, then the story changes.

All told, cable and streaming made it "another great year for TV," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. The year was so good, in fact, Bianculli says he could have made a Top 20 or even a Top 30 list, but in keeping with tradition, he has narrowed it down to 10 — OK, fine, 11 — picks:

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