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'Bambi' Artist Tyrus Wong Dies At 106

Jan 3, 2017

The Hollywood artist and calligrapher who designed Disney's Bambi has died at age 106. Tyrus Wong, a Chinese immigrant, survived Angel Island, the Chinese Exclusion Act and racial bias, before receiving acclaim for his work, late in his career in the 1990s. NPR's Audie Cornish talks with Pamela Tom, who made the documentary, Tyrus.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda was a teenager in the 1990s, he liked to make eclectic mixtapes for his friends. In those cassettes, he experimented with the rise and fall of energy in music: A musical theater number might play after a hip-hop song, only to be followed by an oldie or an obscure pop song. It was through mixtapes that he could bridge the gap between two seemingly opposing passions — Broadway and rap.

It's 1968 in New Bordeaux, La. On the surface all looks tranquil as you drive through the bustling city in your red Pontiac, tapping your foot to Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang."

But as you take a sharp left down a winding back alley, an alarming sight gives you pause. Behind you, trucks painted with the Confederate flag begin to appear, the white men behind the wheel angry and visceral as they shout racial slurs.

Your name is Lincoln Clay. You're a 23-year-old biracial man — but in this place, this time, you're black, and instances of racism and bigotry are commonplace.

There's a reason that some readers view contemporary coming-of-age novels with suspicion. Too many play out the same way: An odd but winsome young person goes on some kind of journey of discovery, either literal or figurative, and learns something about himself or herself in the process. Often, there's an awkward romance. And the ending, whether happy or otherwise, can usually be described as bittersweet.

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Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of banished words for 2017. John R. Shibley, who curates the list, talks to NPR about the bete noires that made the bigly listicle of guesstimates.

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Erica Abad glides down the ancient canals of Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City, on her gondola-like boat. Her cousin, Efren Lopez, steers their boat — called a chalupa — by pushing against the canal floor with a long wooden pole, while Abad flips a sizzling quesadilla on a steel griddle fitted into the boat. When a group of people on a nearby barge signal to them to order some quesadillas, Lopez navigates the boat toward them. And Abad places a few more quesadillas on the griddle for their customers.

William Christopher, an actor best known for his role as Father Mulcahy on the sitcom M*A*S*H, has died at the age of 84. Christopher's agent, Robert Malcolm, told The Associated Press he died early Saturday morning at home in Pasadena, Calif., after a battle with lung cancer.

It's the most aspirational time of year, as people cast about for their resolutions — often resorting to the same old standbys they've tried, and abandoned, before.

This year, why not try something new? We happen to have a few suggestions on hand ...

For the Ads for Nicer Living project, NPR listeners are writing short ads pitching life's little joys, five of which will be produced by NPR.

Most of the submissions so far are about appreciationfor children's laughter, dogs, sunsets, warm socks, balmy breezes.

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TIM WATTERS: (Imitating Bill Clinton) My name is Bill Clinton. I was the 42nd president of the United States, and I am married to my lovely wife and fantastic woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for 41 years now.

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If you find yourself at a loss to name even one Native American food dish, you're not alone. But a growing number of Native chefs are trying to change that.

Freddie Bitsoie is one of those chefs, working to bring back indigenous foods from centuries ago, and adapting them for today's palate so people can learn not just about their cuisines, but their cultures too.

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On New Year's Day, Portland restaurant Ava Gene's will be serving brunch to the hungry and hung-over masses. And amidst the frittatas, French toast, and grits, there will be Chef Josh McFadden's own favorite: pasta carbonara.

Women Who Count: 3 Smart STEM Romances

Jan 1, 2017

When Octavia Spencer first read the script for Hidden Figures — based on a book about the African American women who did the math for our early space launches — she thought it was fiction because it seemed too good to be true. Her disbelief reveals how conditioned we are to think that only white men make notable contributions to science, technology, engineering and math — and how important it is that we celebrate stories of the women who do.

As 2016 comes to a close, we wanted to take the time to hear from a few people whose words and actions influenced the nation this year.

One such person is actor and activist Jesse Williams. Many may know him as Jackson Avery, one of the many good-looking doctors on Shonda Rhimes' long running medical drama Grey's Anatomy.

In addition to starring in Grey's Anatomy, Jesse Williams dabbles in a lot of things: He's launched two mobile apps, hosts a basketball podcast and is in the midst of filing a remake of the 1990 thriller Jacob's Ladder.

Reading The Game: 'The Last Of Us'

Dec 31, 2016

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective.

It's that time of year again, when I atone for my failure to make top 10 lists by simply offering a collection of 50 of the many wonderful things I read, watched or heard in 2016. (Here's last year's list, for reference.)

Standard caveats: I don't watch everything! I am behind on many things. That's just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn't here, it is not a rebuke.

How big was the writer Ring Lardner? He helped create what's still called The Golden Age of Sportswriters, the ones who wrote about The Babe, The Ironman, Dempsey, DiMaggio, and Joe Louis. And he went on to write short stories, novels, songs, and plays. He was an inspiration to Ernest Hemingway, who read his columns growing up outside Chicago, and later a favored writer of Maxwell Perkins and confidant of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A theater company in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently decided to do a social experiment: Put seven cops and seven civilians in a rehearsal room once a week to really get to know one another. Then, after 10 weeks, ask them to put on a show.

Remembering Debbie Reynolds

Dec 31, 2016

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The AP reported Friday that Simon & Schuster planned to move forward with publication of a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, in spite of harsh criticism. The forthcoming book, called Dangerous, is said to be about free speech.

Remembering Elie Wiesel, In His Words

Dec 30, 2016

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A number of influential people died in 2016, and we're taking a moment now to remember one of them, a man who dedicated his life to making sure the world would never forget.

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This is the time of year when everybody is making predictions for next year, and everybody is making resolutions for the things they plan to do. But it's a Pop Culture Happy Hour tradition that while we do these things too, we also revisit the ones from last year to see whether we have any ability to know what's going to happen (rarely!) and any tendency to follow through on our own plans (sometimes!). As she has for the last two years, Kat Chow of NPR's Code Switch team sits down with us to check in.

Is It Possible To Die Of Grief?

Dec 29, 2016

The actress Debbie Reynolds' death just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, died has led some to speculate that grief from the loss might have been a contributing factor. There was similar speculation when actress Brittany Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, was found dead at just 39, several months after the sudden death of his wife.

If Pablo Larrain is news to you, he won't be for long. The Chilean director, whose Tony Manero, No, and The Club won critical praise but only modest box office here, has two highly recommended new films in the awards spotlight this year. Like Jackie — a challenging and brilliant portrait of Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband's assassination — Larrain's Neruda engages in iconoclastic play with clichés that have clung to a national legend, in this case Chile's beloved poet-politician Pablo Neruda.

Ben Affleck made his debut as a director with 2007's Gone Baby Gone, a much-admired adaptation of a Dennis Lehane crime novel.

Hollywood is in the process of closing out a record-breaking, $11.2 billion year. The big draws were talking animals — including a fish called Dory and a bear named Baloo — a slew of superheroes and a new batch of Star Warriors. The numbers have movie studios — especially Disney, which led the pack — celebrating.

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