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Arts and culture

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We're going to talk about "Hidden Figures" for just a few more minutes. The movie is just out this weekend, but it is already a hit with young women of color who are interested in science, technology and math.

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And now we're going to take a few minutes to mark the passing of an artist you've probably seen many times without even realizing it. Indian actor Om Puri worked in short films, TV series and hundreds of movies including "Gandhi."

On Tuesday, President Obama will give his farewell address to the nation. It's a custom that goes all the way back to George Washington; these speeches, author John Avlon says, "serve as a bookend to a presidency."

For about 150 years, Washington's farewell speech was the most famous in American history, Avlon tells NPR's Michel Martin: "It was more widely reprinted than the Declaration of Independence. And yet today, it's almost entirely forgotten."

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Availability is the best ability for Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy.

"I'm waiting all the time for that call, because I know Justin Bieber may call me at three in the morning and I have to tattoo him at six. That has happened," McCurdy says.

Bang Bang is considered one of the most successful tattoo artists in the industry.

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"There must be something about me and orphans," says author Jerry Spinelli.

Several of Spinelli's novels tell orphan stories, including his Newbery award-winning book Maniac Magee.

"People come from other people," he says. "And if you remove one of the elements in that equation you're left with someone who is, in some sense, abandoned — and that changes the equation."

Manju has the body of a boy, the forearms of a cricketer, and a superstitious, arbitrary tyrant of a father who wants only one thing: To raise the first-best and second-best batsmen in the world.

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Psychic Soldiers Populate 'Throwaways' — With Style

Jan 7, 2017

Style matters, even when it's inside your brain. Caitlin Kittredge's comic Throwaways may deal with invisible and mysterious forces, but there's nothing low-key about artist Steven Sanders' character designs. The telekinetic protagonist, a psychic on the run from a top-secret military project, foregoes urban camouflage to let his freak flag — well, his Black Flag — fly. When he faces down several war wagons full of government agents, his t-shirt emblazoned with that band's logo — to say nothing of his sassy cerulean mohawk — almost steals the show.

Editor's note: Tunde Wey is a Nigerian chef. Lora Smith is a native of eastern Kentucky and co-founder of the Appalachian Food Summit.

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In the kitchen at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, just north of downtown Detroit, Linda Carter and Shawnetta Hudson are in the final stages of making their newest jam creation: cranberry-apple preserves. Carter is meticulously wiping down tables while Hudson seals the lids on jars. Then comes the logo — a beautiful graphic of a black woman with afro hair made of strawberries. The kitchen is small and basic, but for the past year it has served as the hub of a community-based product called Afro Jam.

Sherlock and Pop Culture Happy Hour both premiered in 2010, but until now, the two have never intersected in the form of a full segment on our show. The series of 90-minute episodes — which air in America as part of PBS's Masterpiece Mystery! series — stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, respectively. Last weekend, Sherlock launched its fourth three-episode season (not counting a one-off special in January 2016), which makes this a perfect time to dive in.

The Ardennes forest is best known as the site of the Battle of the Bulge, although one of the sibling protagonists of The Ardennes associates it with idyllic family vacations. But by the time Kenny (Kevin Janssens) prevails on Dave (Jeroen Perceval) to revisit the rugged Belgian woods, another war has erupted.

We meet Dave first, as he dives, fully clothed and masked, into a pool. The camera is below the plunging figure, which makes for a dynamic and disorienting image.

In A Monster Calls, a preteen boy in a rambling English countryside manor is visited several times by a beast of his imagining as his mother battles terminal cancer. This is a rough yet kindly monster, not here to feed off the boy's grief or make it disappear but rather to help him harness and manage it. But he certainly looks scary, emerging as he does from the gangly tree that rests near the grave plot at the top of the hill, with bright-red eyes and a towering height, walking on roots that creak and crumble with every step.

Standing across from each other at City Hall, each wearing an outfit that barely passes for "dress casual," Dianne (Olivia Thirlby) and Henry (Ben Feldman) cannot make it through their wedding vows with giggling and rolling their eyes a little. It's not that they don't care for each other — though they're in a rough stretch — but for two people so allergic to convention, the institution of marriage is like a pollen bomb. Their instinct is to duck-and-cover when it detonates.

Director Damien Chazelle's La La Land is an unapologetic musical that hearkens back to Hollywood's glory days of song and dance. The passion and grandeur of the musical numbers might make you believe that Chazelle had always imagined himself working in the genre, but he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that's not the case.

More than four decades ago, when NPR was still in its infancy, the network had a little idea: How about we ask listeners to write ads for the finer things in life — the things money can't buy?

The results, the "Commercials For Nicer Living," were produced by NPR in 1972 and voiced by Susan Stamberg and Linda Wertheimer — and so delightful that we decided to revive the series.

It's been 23 years since Tad Williams wrapped up his staggering fantasy saga, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Originally planned as a trilogy, it eventually grew to comprise four huge novels and — by Williams' own count — a total of a million words. Shockingly, it became a bestseller, and along with Robert Jordan's vast Wheel of Time series, Williams' books helped pave the way in the '90s for George R. R. Martin's equally ambitious fantasy opus, A Song of Ice and Fire.

Dorlyn Catron's cane is making its radio debut today — its name is Pete. ("He's important to my life. He ought to have a name," she says.)

Catron is participating in one of the America InSight tours at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum offers twice-a-month tours, led by specially trained docents, to blind and visually impaired visitors.

They call it "The Leaning Tower of San Francisco."

But it wasn't always that way. The luxury skyscraper was billed as "state of the art" when it opened a few years ago. People paid millions for condos there.

"Difficult woman" is a loaded term, but writer Roxane Gay isn't afraid of taking on ideas with baggage. (A few years ago, she wrote a book of essays called Bad Feminist.) Her new short story collection, Difficult Women, explores women's lives and issues of race, class and sex.

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Between Fidel Castro's death and the new American president, it's hard to know what's next for U.S.-Cuba relations. But partnerships are already underway, including one involving Cuba's first independent video game design company and a U.S. foundation that helped it get started.

Empty Head Games is the company started by two young Cubans, Josuhe Pagliery and Johann Armenteros. In November, the duo launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for their game, Savior. In just six days, the campaign hit its $10,000 goal.

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