Culture

Many Americans know Dame Maggie Smith as the elegant and formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham. But at 81, Smith is now starring in a role that's a long way from Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith is Mary Shepherd — a homeless woman who lived in a derelict van parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

"She was quite happy on the street," Smith tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But I think Alan was so distressed watching her outside his window all the time that he thought he just had to help."

Tributes Pour In For Rock Legend David Bowie

Jan 11, 2016

Tributes to iconic rock musician David Bowie are pouring in, as fellow musicians, celebrities, world leaders and even astronauts reflect on what Bowie meant to them.

A statement on Bowie's Facebook page said that he died peacefully, "surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer."

When Jack O'Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

"This will fix me," O'Connor thought as he went to boot camp. "It better fix me or I'm screwed."

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O'Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

"Same thing," he says. "Percocet, like, off the street. Pills."

Rock Icon David Bowie Dies At 69

Jan 11, 2016

Iconic rock musician David Bowie has died of cancer at age 69. The news was announced in a statement on Bowie's social media sites:

"David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer," it read.

Bowie's death was confirmed by his son, Duncan Jones, who tweeted, "Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all."

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A new lineup up of inductees will join the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame pantheon this month. And 2016’s list branches out to include the hall’s first songwriter.

Typically reserved for prose and poetry authors, the Hall of Fame is actually open to writers of all stripes – and this year voters headed by the Kentucky Arts Council approved the addition of Appalachian folk singer and songwriter Jean Ritchie, who passed away last June.

Bingeing has become many people's favorite way to consume television. But marathon-viewing doesn't just change how we watch, it also affects how we eat.

While the culture of the Netflix all-nighter is relatively recent, researchers have been studying the links between TV viewing and mindless eating for years. And the news isn't good for our waistlines.

Time zone by time zone, the planet is saying goodbye to 2015.

The end of the year is still hours away in the U.S., but Australia has already hailed the new year with fireworks like those (see above) in Sydney Harbour.

In Japan's capital, balloons were released from Tokyo Tower.

A few highlights from other celebrations planned around the globe:

In two weeks, the American Dialect Society will gather and decide: Of all the words we read, wrote, spoke and heard in 2015, which one deserves the title Word of the Year?

Presiding over that conference will be linguist Ben Zimmer, executive editor for Vocabulary.com and a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

A Holiday Favorite: David Sedaris' 'Santaland Diaries'

Dec 25, 2015

You might not expect "Santa's helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he first read on Morning Edition in 1992. He was brought to NPR by an up-and-coming producer named Ira Glass.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

Courtesy of Pogue Library

Murray State University is celebrating "A season of global traditions" this holiday season, so on Sounds Good Matt Markgraf sat down with Sarah Hopley, Special Collections & Exhibits Librarian for Pogue Library, to talk about some of the holiday traditions at the university over the decades, including a giant Christmas tree, letters to Santa and a pre-Kwanzaa celebration.

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