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Arts + Life

Arts + Life

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.

Just ahead of Valentine's Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: "Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!"

In 1996, when Dominque Dawes became the first black woman to win an individual gymnastics medal at the Atlanta Summer Olympics, critics said her look wasn't quite right.

This week, the lights go down on another packed house at the Theatre du Chatelet, the gilded19th century theater in Paris whose name has become synonymous with grand American musical productions. The latest hit is Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, which ends a sold-out 10-day run this Friday.

Anne Bowers wanted her boyfriend to buy her a used ring. Second-hand engagement rings are hundreds or even thousands of dollars less expensive than new ones.

But when it came time for him to propose, her husband went for a new ring. He said he just couldn't buy a second-hand ring. Why?

Second-hand rings have a history. They may have been worn by someone in an unhappy relationship.

Call it a happy ending to a fish-out-of-water story.

Today, a one-of-a-kind, fiberglass shark cast from the same mold as the iconic, mechanical sharks used in the 1975 classic movie, Jaws, is leaving home.

After more than 25 years keeping watch over Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, a junkyard in Sun Valley, Calif., the shark known as Bruce is headed to a museum.

This matters to me. Because the shark and I have a past.

Like many people, I used to be afraid to go in the ocean because of Jaws.

In a prison hidden in the woods of Berlin, N.H., a group of 20 players are ready to compete for a chess tournament. They will sit in a windowless room engaged in a battle of the mind every Wednesday for five weeks — and one will be crowned the best player.

There are no prizes or trophies, merely a paper certificate for the winner, but for the inmates in this relatively isolated facility, the championship is a big deal.

Comedy and race will meet head-on at this year's Academy Awards on Feb. 28. Amid calls to boycott the Oscars over its lack of diversity, the host is one of today's most provocative black comedians. You can just feel the audacious Chris Rock rubbing his hands together in excitement.

New Orleans is famous for its rollicking carnival to celebrate Mardi Gras, but the party has deep roots in another Gulf Coast city, Mobile, Ala.

And in Mobile, carnival rules this time of year, even in the city council chambers. "Good morning and happy Mardi Gras," says city council president Gina Gregory as she welcomes masked and costumed revelers for a special proclamation marking 185 years of street celebrations in Mobile.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Abdulnasser Gharem doesn't have the background you might expect for a successful artist – let alone one famous for edgy work from Saudi Arabia. He was once a lieutenant colonel in the Saudi army. He went to high school with two of the 9/11 hijackers.

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

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Last week, Mattel announced that Barbie is getting a makeover. A whole bunch of them, in fact. Now, 33 new Barbie dolls are available for purchase through the website, in three new body types — petite, tall and curvy — and seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 14 "face sculpts." We rounded up some sharp thoughts on this news, ranging from what this means for Mattel's bottom line to whether a widely hyped debut of Barbie's new looks is really a step forward.

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