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Arts + Life

Arts + Life

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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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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Actress Gabourey Sidibe — you've seen her in Precious, American Horror Story and Empire — admits she's a bit of a shut-in. "I really wish I wasn't, but I am," she says with a laugh. And while she's "puttering around" the house she listens to all sorts of stories via podcast. "In a strange way, listening to podcasts helps me meet people," she tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Anomalisa, a new film about an emotionally stifled, middle-aged customer service expert, tackles existential questions about what it means to be alive. But unlike other movies that raise similar issues, the characters in Anomalisa are doll-size puppets.

Duke Johnson, who co-directed the film with Charlie Kaufman, explains that everything the characters do in the film — from speaking to showering to having sex — is shot frame-by-frame using stop-motion animation.

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A lone figure on stage, making people laugh: That solitude is what makes stand-up tougher and riskier than other kinds of comedy.

Every year around this time we like to take a break from our usual musical discoveries and get together with old friends for what we call the All Songs Considered Holiday Spectacular, a seasonal special done in the tradition of old-time radio.

Just in time for the holiday travel season, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has an exhibit about one aspect of flying that most of us ignore: airport control towers. Those beacons of the landscape — where landings and takeoffs are orchestrated — are now the stars of some dramatic photographs.

Oops: Wrong Name Announced As Winner Of Miss Universe Pageant

Dec 21, 2015

For a brief moment in Las Vegas Sunday night, Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was crowned Miss Universe.

Then host Steve Harvey apologized, saying he had read the card wrong.

NPR's Weekend Edition has been chatting with TV critics about shows that they believe flew a little too far under the radar in 2015 — Maureen Ryan talked about The 100 last weekend, and Alan Sepinwall talked about Review.

When NBC announced The Wiz -- the African-American version of The Wizard of Oz, presented as a hit Broadway musical and a movie — would be produced as a live television production, some TV watchers may have groaned.

Previous live telecasts of other musicals have gotten attention mainly as a target for hate-watching. But The Wiz Live! seems to have broken that spell: When it aired earlier this month, it earned 11.5 million viewers — and more if you count DVR replays.

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It isn't necessarily easy to make funny people laugh, but comedian Amy Poehler says Paula Pell can do it: "She just has this very specific way of telling a joke and being in on the joke," says Poehler.

When Henry Jimenez got to the airport, shortly before flying from his home in Mexico to the U.S., he says, the goodbyes got difficult.

"My little brother was crying and I tried to act tough on him, but I gave him a hug," Jimenez recalls. "I've never gave him a hug like that before, and I started crying, too."

Victoria Borja started doing illegal graffiti in middle school.

"It's all on the risk. You know you might get in trouble and just the thought of that makes it even more fun," Borja says.

She loved the thrill of putting her work in front of an audience.

"It's not just for yourself, but for other people to know how you're expressing yourself, it's like your own art gallery but everyone can see it and it's for free," she says.

She was never caught vandalizing property, but she did end up at a correctional school.

Note: This post discusses the events of Thursday night's episode. Be warned!

Comic Bill Burr's new animated Netflix series is set in the 1970s and definitely for mature audiences — think of it as an R-rated cross between All in the Family and The Simpsons.

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