NPR Staff

Debbie Allen is a big name in television. She played the tough but tender dance instructor Lydia Grant on the 1980s show Fame. She was a producer on The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, about life on a historically black college campus. Currently she is the executive producer for Grey's Anatomy. She's won numerous awards for acting and choreography.

Joel McHale made a name for himself by skewering celebrities and the world they live in on E! Network's The Soup. Then he became a celebrity in his own right: He was in the hit NBC show Community and now he stars in the new CBS comedy The Great Indoors.

In a new memoir, McHale again takes aim at the nature of celebrity — by making fun of celebrity memoirs. It's called Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be, and it's full of anecdotes from McHale's life that are both real and imagined.

The Berlin Wall was a scar — a concrete and barbed wire boundary that divided families, East and West, communism and capitalism, tyranny and democracy. People died trying to climb over it while others labored to carve tunnels beneath it.

Along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, armed groups on patrol — mostly men — look for illegal immigrants and drug traffickers. They're not U.S. Border Patrol, but regular people who've decided to take matters into their own hands.

They call themselves militias. Groups such as these have been around for decades, but they exploded in number after Barack Obama was elected president. Today, there are 276 militia groups around the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" is an easy one to adapt for whatever your cause. There are ones like "Make America Gay Again," "Make America Skate Again," "Make America Read Again," "Make America Fair Again." You get the idea.

Bakers, of course, had to get in on the action. How could you pass up "Make America Cake Again"?

Lalin St. Juste, leader of the seven-piece, genre-bending band The Seshen, wrote the song "Distant Heart" in memory of a friend.

"She struggled with a lot of darkness and addiction and trauma and things like that," she says. "And over the course of our relationship, I watched her struggle to be resilient with it."

What Best in Show did for dog shows and what A Mighty Wind did for folk music, the new mockumentary Mascots does for, well, mascots. The film, from director Christopher Guest, follows contestants in the World Mascot Association Championship.

One late December day in 1950, Max Beckmann was standing on a street corner near Central Park in New York City. The German expressionist painter had been on his way to see an exhibition featuring his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Called "American Painting Today," the show was displaying his Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket.

It would turn out to be his last self-portrait.

Devendra Banhart can remember the exact moment he decided to become a songwriter. He was around 9 years old, and he performed an original song for his whole family. The tune, he says, was called "We're All Gonna Die."

"Their reaction was, 'Never do that again,' " Banhart says. "They were horrified."

The Beach Boys sounded like California in musical form: beach, waves and a perpetually sunny blue sky.

But Brian Wilson, who co-founded the band with his brothers Carl and Dennis and their cousin Mike Love — and who wrote many of The Beach Boys' signature hits — struggled for years with mental illness. He's heard voices in his head and wrestled with the ghosts of the ways of his father, who encouraged his musical career but beat and abused him.

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