Arts & Culture

Arts & culture

Remembering Jazz Singer Keely Smith

Dec 22, 2017

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


In music and the culture it reflects, 2017 was predictably unpredictable: idols fell, empires shook, consensus was scarce. This conversation is one of five with artists, makers and thinkers whose work captured something unique about a chaotic year, and hinted at bigger revelations around the bend.

The first time I heard about Caga Tió, or Tió de Nadal, my family was getting settled into our life abroad in Barcelona this fall. A new friend's teenage daughter was telling us about the Catalan traditions she celebrates in school.

"During Christmas, there's a log that you feed scraps of food, and then he poops presents when you hit him with a stick and sing a song!"

Then she sang:

Children all over the United States will have a big decision to make on Christmas Eve: Would Santa Claus prefer a chocolate chip cookie for a snack or perhaps a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Quiz-mas Spirits

Dec 22, 2017

In this last-ditch effort to soften the soul of Puzzle Guru Ebenezer Scrooge, every answer contains the name of a cocktail, spirit, or other alcoholic beverage.

Heard On Anthony Ramos: A Quiz-mas Carol

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Mystery Ghost

Dec 22, 2017

The bell tolls thrice! Will a visit from a Mystery Guest— or should we say, a Mystery Ghost of Quiz-mas Yet To Come— melt the heart of Puzzle Guru Ebenezer Scrooge? Jonathan Coulton and Scrooge ask yes or no questions to guess our Mystery Ghost's secret.

Heard On Anthony Ramos: A Quiz-mas Carol

Future Future

Dec 22, 2017

We peek into the future with a music parody game where songs with sci-fi themes are rewritten to be about TV shows that are— at least partially— set in the future.

Heard On Anthony Ramos: A Quiz-mas Carol

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Gift Exchange

Dec 22, 2017

We move into the present for this game about presents. Contestants identify the famous pop culture duo based on a description of the gifts they might give each other. Here's the twist: if a contestant answers correctly, they get to open a present. And just like during the holidays, the winner of this game won't be the contestant with the MOST gifts, but the contestant with the BEST gift...and by BEST gift, we mean the most expensive one.

Anthony Ramos: A Quiz-mas Carol

Dec 22, 2017

As a member of the original cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton, Anthony Ramos had never actually seen the show from the audience's perspective until a month after he left. His verdict? "It was dope!" Between playing John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, Ramos died on stage sixteen times a week. "It gets hard on your heart after a while, you know?" he confessed to host Ophira Eisenberg at the Bell House in Brooklyn.

So many of us have spent Christmas with Elvis' music, but Priscilla Presley actually spent Christmas with Elvis. Priscilla shares heartwarming memories of holidays with the King, from the first time they ever exchanged gifts to their tree-trimming traditions as a married couple living at Graceland, to how that changed when Priscilla gave birth to their daughter, Lisa Marie, and how Priscilla feels when she hears Elvis' music now.

Meet The Expert: Holiday Word Origins

Dec 22, 2017

The bell strikes one and we're visited by the ghost of Quiz-mas past, Merriam-Webster lexicographer Kory Stamper! Our guest expert is the author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Stamper leads a game about the strange origins of holiday words. Will our first spirit be able to take the bah humbug out of Scrooge?

Heard On Anthony Ramos: A Quiz-mas Carol

Victorian Inventions

Dec 22, 2017

Our story begins with a quiz about the past. Charles Dickens is one of the best novelists of the Victorian Era, but he's not the only good thing to come out of that time. Contestants ring in to identify things invented in the 1800s.

Heard On Anthony Ramos: A Quiz-mas Carol

The Grinch's psychological problems have been pretty well analyzed. He has anger and empathy issues, not to mention sociopathic tendencies. No wonder he tried to steal Christmas.

But what about the Grinch's defining physical disability: a heart that was "two sizes too small"?

At NPR One, we've spent all month making our podcast wish list, checking it a few times, making sure it includes the podcast episodes that have entertained, educated and delighted us and our listeners this year.

So, our gift to you this holiday season is a list full of podcasts to keep you from getting bored while you sit in traffic, on a plane (or in a sled), headed to grandma's. You can hear the whole list in order here, or listen to individual episodes on NPR One or wherever you get podcasts.

5 Gift Wrapping Tips From A Pro

Dec 22, 2017

Mia Canada isn't easily intimidated by stacks of naked presents that pile up during the busy holiday season. The owner of a gift-wrapping boutique called That's A Wrap! in Atlanta used to be a gift bag person — but that all changed after a seasonal job wrapping gifts at a mall 12 years ago allowed her to explore the creative side of wrapping presents.

Canada shares a few tips for making holiday wrapping a cinch — even at the eleventh hour.

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It would not be the holiday season without Crumpet the Elf.


Steven Spielberg's The Post is a story of journalists, government leaks, and a president who hates the press. It's about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, but there's a reason Spielberg rushed to tell the story now.

And he really did rush: The filmmaker has long talked about making a Pentagon Papers movie, but the 2016 election made him feel it had become urgent. He got the working script just weeks after the Inauguration, rounded up his high-powered cast, and leapt into production as if he were making a little indie flick on the fly.

You know when somebody has that special something? The star quality you can't really describe but it's just there? Jidenna has that something.

Joel Edgerton's performance as Stanley Kowalski opposite Cate Blanchett's Blanche DuBois in the Sydney Theatre Company's 2009 A Streetcar Named Desire was one of the most unforgettable things I've ever witnessed on a stage. It would mark the pinnacle of a lesser artist's career, and an impressive career it would be.

People reduce themselves to the size of peanuts in search of a better life in Downsizing, and an entire colony's waste can fit inside one plastic bag. But the new sci-fi comedy from writer-director Alexander Payne is a gigantic mess at any proportion. It's the rare movie that seems to execute every part of its concept absolutely wrong; a narrative, tonal, visual and sociopolitical fiasco the likes of which haven't been seen in many moons.

In case you're wondering whether the last-minute dropping of Kevin Spacey ruined Ridley Scott's movie about the 1973 kidnapping of billionaire J. Paul Getty's grandson, I can testify that there's barely a technical seam showing in All the Money in the World. Scott is a master craftsman who re-shot Spacey's scenes in nine days without turning a hair.

Forget the party dresses and uncomfortable shoes. Toss the fussy canapés — and instead, simmer the soup.

At writer and radio producer Anne Ford's holiday party this year, it's all about comfort. "I like the idea of having some kind of holiday celebration, but not the kind where you have to wear sequins and high heels and drink champagne cocktails. I want to sit ... with a blanket and eat latkes and just be chill about it."

Chadwick the African Lion gets up slowly from a late morning nap in a spot of warm sunshine that's become somewhat of a rarity in these often smoke-filled days here at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

"He's a very majestic older lion," Dr. Julie Barnes, director of Animal Care and Health at the Santa Barbara Zoo tells a visitor. "He's 19-years old so he is definitely geriatric at this time. But he is very beloved here by the people who work at the zoo and by our visitors."

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Susan Adolphus James has one vivid memory of childhood Christmases on the island of Beaulieu, Grenada: black cake.

"Christmas don't feel like Christmas if you don't have a piece of black cake," says James, who moved to the U.S. as a teen.

It's been 25 years since Morning Edition listeners first met a very un-merry Christmas elf named Crumpet from "Santaland Diaries," the somewhat fanciful story of David Sedaris' time working as a Macy's department store elf.

"Santaland Diaries" catapulted Sedaris into a career as a best-selling author and playwright. Twenty five years ago, Sedaris was a struggling writer who occasionally read his work in nightclubs.

This American Life's Ira Glass, then an independent producer, had seen him.

Oooh boy, 2017 has been quite a year. Donald Trump was inaugurated as the United States' 45th president, devastating hurricanes hit Texas and Puerto Rico, and there's been a massive uprising around sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

Goran Bregović is one of the Balkans' most beloved musicians and composers. He grew up in the Bosnian town of Sarajevo and witnessed the atrocities of war in the 1990s. But he channeled his home region's pain, as well as its endless humor, into his music, and got his big break composing for films like Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies.

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Thirty-seven years ago, sexual harassment in the workplace became illegal. That led to the creation of the first harassment training videos. This one, called "Power Pinch," is narrated by a man sitting in a bar.