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Arts + Life

Arts + Life

His is not just a gentle voice; for many people, it's a very familiar one, too. For 25 years, Francois Clemmons played a role on the beloved children's program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Clemmons joined the cast of the show in 1968, becoming the first African-American to have a recurring role on a kids TV series.

And, as it happens, it was Clemmons' voice that Fred Rogers noticed, too, when he heard Clemmons singing in church.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In 1995, the televised trial of O.J. Simpson riveted the nation. Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark made the case against the hall-of-fame football player, who was accused of the brutal double homicide of his ex-wife and her friend.

Throughout the trial, Clark faced tremendous scrutiny. She was criticized for courtroom decisions as well as for her hairstyle, clothing and her personal life. Many ultimately blamed her for Simpson's acquittal.

For Muslim-Americans, there was a world before Sept. 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and one after. Now, their community faces the dual threats of extremism and growing atheism.

Young Muslim-Americans are angry and frustrated, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. While bound by their religion and their community, they have opinions as diverse as their backgrounds.

Serekalem Alemu is crocheting a basket.

Wearing a gray fleece jacket and a long gray skirt speckled with blue flowers, Alemu sits on a sofa on the second floor of a former warehouse in the industrial section of Tel Aviv. A damp Mediterranean winter breeze blows in through the open window. Traffic whizzes by on the boulevard below. With her thick, black hair held back in a ponytail, the 28-year-old winds long, narrow strips of teal-colored fabric into a ball, which will eventually become a basket.

For more than a century, mug shots have helped police catch criminals. Those photos of a person's face and profile trace their roots to Paris in the late 19th century.

Now, some of the earliest mug shots ever taken are on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The black-and-white photos were once on the cutting edge of how police identified suspects.

They were taken by a French criminologist named Alphonse Bertillon, and his techniques set the template that police use today.

Rise Of The Modern Mug Shot

On Friday night, I finally got to see Hamilton, the critically acclaimed musical I've been surprisingly obsessed with since Frannie Kelley's glowing write-up of the cast album last fall.

Mary Fusillo and her husband, Bob, have been married for 20 years. She met him on a blind date in Houston. Right away, she knew she liked him.

He was very intellectual, and he "read jazz biographies of dead jazz musicians," she says, laughing.

"And I was used to guys that went hunting on the weekends," she adds.

They fell in love and got married. Pretty soon they had a house and kids — twins, actually.

But within a few years, there was trouble.

It seems George Orwell's Big Brother never gets old — and he's still watching us. Right now, he's in Cambridge, Mass., where a theatrical adaptation of Orwell's novel 1984 is on stage at the American Repertory Theatre. The production was a sold-out hit in London.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Forget all that stiff-upper-lip stuff. If you're looking for evidence that the British have a big, beating heart underneath their reputation for reserve and restraint, look no further than Sunday's finale of their popular TV export, Downton Abbey.

First, it's not really black. It's not even a color or a pigment. "Vantablack" is a "material," according to Surrey NanoSystems, the British company that created it.

Comic Louie Anderson has had a hugely successful stand-up career for the past 30 years, but he admits he wasn't a very good actor early on. "I didn't know who I was or how to do it," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Host Chris Rock made sure Sunday's Oscars were about as black as they could be, given that no black people had been nominated in any high-profile categories.

Of course, Rock brought the pain, as he always does, in a razor-sharp monologue skewering sensibilities on all sides of the #OscarsSoWhite debate. And his comedy bits throughout the show kept up a steady drumbeat, reminding audiences in the hall and at home just who had been left behind.

Craig Windham, a voice familiar to many NPR listeners, died unexpectedly last night of a pulmonary embolism. He was 66.

Windham was an award-winning journalist who covered presidential campaigns, hurricanes, earthquakes and the first Persian Gulf War. More recently, he focused on anchoring and reporting for NPR's Newscasts. In less than 40 seconds, Windham could explain the intricacies of a complicated bill or capture the glory of a space shuttle flying over the nation's capital.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal wanted to be an artist. His dad wanted him to study medicine and encouraged him to draw cadavers at the graveyard.

The rest is history.

Eleven-year-old Neel Sethi is about to be kidnapped by monkeys. Rigged up to a harness in front of a blue screen, he prepares to run, leap and cavort — a live-action dance that will later be mixed with computer-generated animals.

I came home from a trip the other day with a small plastic bag filled with 4 ounces of brown powder that, truth be told, made me a little nervous.

The powder had a strong odor that reminded me of badly burnt coffee, with perhaps a note of brown sugar.

I didn't dare open that bag. It contained crude caffeine, about 90 percent pure. That small bag held as much caffeine as 1,000 tall lattes from Starbucks, or 2,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi. It was enough to kill several people.

As if there's not enough controversy over the Oscars, there's also the matter of a curse.

The French have gotten themselves into one of their recurrent linguistic lathers, this one over the changes in their spelling that will be taking effect in the fall. The changes were originally proposed more than 25 years ago. But nothing much came of them until the government recently announced that they'd be incorporated in the new textbooks, at which point traditionalists took to the barricades.

British costumer Sandy Powell already has three Oscars, and now she's been nominated for two more. This year she's up twice for best costume design: one for Cinderella -- with its sweeping ball gowns — and another for her work in Carol -- featuring impeccable 1950s dresses.

Carol is a love story starring Cate Blanchett as a wealthy woman whose marriage is falling apart. Powell says Carol can afford the latest 1952 clothes — including a blonde mink coat.

It's hard to imagine a more magical way to begin a museum visit than to step inside The Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad Museum. Artist Yayoi Kusama has covered the walls, floor and ceiling with mirrors. LED lights hang from the ceiling and are reflected everywhere you look. The lights sometimes move with the closing of the door, and create a wonderland of infinite color.

In the central Japanese mountain village of Damine, children have kept up an unbroken tradition of performing Japan's classical theater, kabuki, year after year for more than three centuries. But as people age or leave for opportunities in cities, the village is running out of performers.

A newly released study suggests diversity in TV and film is so bad, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite should probably be changed to #HollywoodSoWhite.

That's because of an "epidemic of invisibility" cited by researchers at the University of Southern California, who analyzed more than 21,000 characters and behind-the-scenes workers on more than 400 films and TV shows released from September 2014 through August 2015. They tabulated representations of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual status.

When you think of tract homes, you think of houses that look the same: the same color scheme, the same style; homes that form two uninteresting walls on either side of a suburban street. That might be the case today, but nearly 60 years ago — at a time when "real" architects wouldn't touch tract homes — one architect did everything he could to break the monotony. His name is William Krisel, and he's being honored by a place whose look he helped define — Palm Springs, Calif.

One of the most dramatic homes in Los Angeles has just been donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Designed in 1961 by John Lautner — an influential Southern California architect — the glass and concrete house clings to the side of a canyon. Its present owner, James Goldstein, has been revising and perfecting it for 35 years.

With its elaborate headdresses, colorful sequined gowns and statuesque dancers, Jubilee is the classic Las Vegas show. It was the last showgirl extravaganza on the Vegas Strip, and now it's closed, its last performance on Feb. 11.

Women go through eight to 12 costume changes in a show that packs in at least as many different routines in about 90 minutes. There's a patriotic medley, the story of Samson and Delilah, even the Titanic.

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