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Arts + Life

Arts + Life

For lots of people, New Year's resolutions don't last. Two New York designers wanted to change that — and they wanted to change themselves at the same time.

So, Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh, best known for the viral blog and book 40 Days of Dating, created a yearlong social experiment to see if following 12 steps could make them more kind and empathetic people — and they're releasing details about each step on their website.

At the end of December, as the world cleaned up wrapping paper and pine needles and prepared to say good-bye to 2015, the romance community had its own bittersweet celebration: Kristan Higgins released Anything For You, the fifth and final title in her excellent and wildly popular Blue Heron series.

The Sesame Street of your childhood has changed. Elmo has moved into a new apartment, Big Bird has a new nest and Oscar the Grouch is hanging out in recycling and compost bins, alongside his usual trash can.

But the biggest change may be how you watch Sesame Street. The 46th season of the classic children's show premieres Saturday on HBO, the subscription-based network that's home to provocative shows like Game of Thrones and Girls. New episodes of Sesame Street will air on its traditional home, PBS, nine months later.

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Investigative reporter Dawn Anahid MacKeen's latest story is one her mother always wanted her to tell. It's about her grandfather and how he survived the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians living in modern-day Turkey were killed. (Turkey doesn't recognize the slaughter as a genocide, but says they were the result of widespread conflict across the region.) In journals that became the seeds of MacKeen's new book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, her grandfather told the story of how he escaped a forced march through the desert.

British actor Alan Rickman, a veteran of dozens of films, has died at age 69. Recently, Rickman was most well-known for portraying the complicated villain Severus Snape in the films based on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.

"Rickman had been suffering from cancer," The Guardian reports.

The first time I told a guy I'd met online that I didn't want to see him again, my hands were actually trembling. I paced the room. I typed sentences only to erase them and retype them again. You'd think I was telling the guy I was pregnant, not passing on his offer to eat homemade linguine.

The singer David Bowie, one of the most creative performers in rock 'n' roll history, died of cancer at age 69 on Sunday — two days after releasing a new album.

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There was a time when actor Ray Liotta would never have considered taking a role on television. "When I first started, television was kind of like the wasteland," Liotta tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It [was] like, 'Well, things are over now. Now you do television.' "

But the Goodfellas and Field of Dreams actor acknowledges that times — and TV — have changed. "Now television is very respected and people consider that when they're casting for movies. ... I thought, well maybe doing a show, a 13-episode type show, would be a smart move to make."

Many Americans know Dame Maggie Smith as the elegant and formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham. But at 81, Smith is now starring in a role that's a long way from Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith is Mary Shepherd — a homeless woman who lived in a derelict van parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

"She was quite happy on the street," Smith tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But I think Alan was so distressed watching her outside his window all the time that he thought he just had to help."

At a ritzy Sunday night ceremony, The Martian emerged with the Golden Globe for best comedy motion picture.

The Revenant followed, taking home the award for best picture in the drama category.

Meanwhile, on the TV side of the ceremony, Mozart in the Jungle and Mr. Robot snagged the top prizes.

But that's not all: More than two dozen Golden Globes were distributed Sunday night.

Below is the full list of winners (in bold), coupled with the fellow nominees they beat out for the prize.

America Ferrera first gained attention from her role as the quirky, spirited Betty Suarez in ABC's Ugly Betty, a role that earned her a 2007 Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy — a first for a Latina.

When the military took power in Ghana, imposing a curfew from the early 1980s, theaters in the West African country went dark. By the time elected-civilian government was restored in 1992, many Ghanaians had lost the habit of going out to watch a play.

Now one man is luring his compatriots back to live shows — and away from TV and videos. His name is James Ebo Whyte — "but everyone in Ghana calls me 'Uncle' Ebo Whyte, because of the program I do on radio," he says.

Every January, as temperatures plummet, New York's Public Theater opens its doors to Under the Radar, a festival that features cutting-edge theater from around the world. Occasionally, these shows have moved onto the radar — like Gatz, an eight-hour adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which eventually had several runs at theaters across the country.

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And now a story for a very particular group of hobbyists - stamp and record collectors in perfect harmony. In 1972, the country of Bhutan issued a set of postage stamps that you could peel off and play on a turntable...

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's a week into 2016 and perhaps time to see how these New Year's resolutions are coming. If your resolutions included decluttering, a book out this week hopes to capitalize on that. NPR's Lauren Migaki has more.

As Stephen mentions early in this episode, the original nut of what became Pop Culture Happy Hour was a conversation he and I had about whether we should take conversations we'd been having in written form about American Idol -- like this one — and have them in audio form instead. So just as without Dawson's Creek (which eventually begat the first place I ever wrote) I would not be writing, without American Idol, there might be no PCHH.

Forget journeys into the stacks or stints at a library scanner: For more and more of the New York Public Library's collections, access is just a click away.

On Wednesday, the library released more than 180,000 of its public-domain items — including maps, posters, manuscripts, sheet music, drawings, photographs, letters, ancient texts — as high-resolution downloads, available to the public without restriction.

Yesterday the Library of Congress named graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang as its fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Here's why that matters.

The era of the real-life whodunit series is upon us. The podcast Serial first attracted legions of listeners drawn to the question of whether a young man should have been put in prison for the murder of his former high school girlfriend. HBO's documentary The Jinx focused on a trail of murdered and missing intimates of a troubled scion of a wealthy family.

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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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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?")

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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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.

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