Wizards, transformers and vampires did their best, but they couldn't transform 2011 into a magical year for Hollywood: Despite all the 3-D and IMAX screenings and the premium prices that come with them, industry box office sagged by half a billion dollars compared with last year. But quality? That's another story.
But that's not the message you'll get if you call Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's office, where you'll be greeted with a cheery message: "It's a great day in South Carolina..."
And that's the same message you'll receive when calling call any other state agency. Or attend any recent event with the governor, like one last month in Columbia where TD Bank announced its plans to create a regional hub.
Singer-songwriter Guy Clark is a key figure in alternative country music. In the 1970s, his Nashville home was an axis of creativity, a hangout where musicians assembled to trade songs and stories, and where Clark mentored young songwriters at the time, like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell.
The opening moments of A Separation lay out the story you'd expect to see in a film about a wife who is leaving her husband: Simin (Leila Hatami) and her bank-clerk spouse, Nader (Peyman Moadi), are explaining heatedly to a judge why they want a separation. Or actually, why they don't want it.
Visiting a metal fabrication plant in Sioux City this December, Mitt Romney touted his successful business background, saying those qualifications are what America needs right now.
"I want to use the experience I have in the world of the free enterprise system to make sure that America gets working again. ... These are tough times," said the Republican presidential candidate. "You guys have jobs. Hope your spouses do. But I know these are tough times."
But not as tough in Iowa as in many other parts of the country.
Adepero Oduye planned to be a doctor, but after her father died suddenly, she decided to change course and pursue an acting career.
Credit Focus Features
Seventeen-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye, right) finds a friend in Bina (Aasha Davis) in Pariah. Director Dee Rees says, "Alike, the main character, knows she loves women — that's not her struggle. Her struggle's more how to be in the world."
Credit Jenny Baptiste / Focus Features
Rees (center) says the film is "semi-autobiographical." Having her parents see Pariah helped her talk openly with them about her own life.
A homeless man begs for money during the launch of Christmas celebrations in Athens' central Syntagma Square, Dec. 9. Difficult economic times have meant subdued holiday activities — and even carolers, who traditionally receive money for their songs, are feeling the pinch.
In Greece, caroling season runs through the Orthodox Christian holiday known as the Epiphany, celebrated on Jan. 6. Traditionally, children go door-to-door, playing the triangle and singing songs of the season. In return, people give them a few euros for presents.
But this Christmas, Greek retailers say sales fell 30 percent from last year. The unemployment rate is at record levels, crime is rising and austerity is dampening everyone's spirits.
Mitt Romney's campaign stops Tuesday in New Hampshire, at small restaurants with largely invited crowds, featured lofty patriotic themes and seemed designed to help him lock down his current base of support in the Granite State.
"America the Beautiful," the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were referenced by the GOP presidential contender during his last bit of stumping in New Hampshire before heading off for a three-day bus tour of Iowa, which holds its caucuses in a week.
The funeral of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is expected to begin Tuesday night, East Coast time. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is watching events from South Korea, and speaks to host Robert Siegel from the capital, Seoul.
Listeners weigh in on a story about more and more hospitals in Massachusetts saying no to early deliveries; and an interview about the biopic My Week with Marilyn. Host Robert Siegel reads listeners' emails.
Arab League monitors visited the central city of Homs, an opposition stronghold, besieged and under bombardment by the Syrian army until the monitors showed up. Syrian army armor was withdrawn from the city streets ahead of the visit, but activists say they expect a resumption of the army offensive as soon as the monitors leave. They also complain that they have not been allowed to meet with the Arab League team.
It's been another warm, rainy day in much of the Northeast, with temperatures in some areas topping 40 degrees. If you hate shoveling snow, or paying big heating bills, that's good news. But for people who love winter sports — and for thousands of businesses that rely on snow for winter tourism — this month's October-like weather has been painful.
Host Robert Siegel speaks with Cassee Cain and Ziyuan Liu, who recently won the team portion of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. The high-schoolers from Oak Ridge, Tenn., modified the Kinect device for Microsoft's Xbox 360 in order to analyze human gait. Cain and Liu hope to use the device to diagnose and treat medical problems that affect movement.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
This year, the federal government gave billions of dollars of stimulus money to medical providers to help speed up their use of electronic health records. The idea is for doctors to coordinate care better so that patients can see their charts online, and to allow clinics to grade their doctors.
Oregon is ahead of the curve. Sixty-five percent of clinicians have electronic medical records, compared to about 45 percent nationwide.
When the internet kills a big box retailer, Gordon Brothers is the undertaker.
"They're stuck with selling the things that are inside the box," says bankruptcy lawyer Steve Jakubowski.
Gordon Brothers specializes in retail liquidations. When a store dies, they put on a suit, greet the guests and sell them whatever remains. And that means everything — not just books and clothing and DVDs, but shelves, lighting fixtures, even the chairs.
Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin started the Juilliard guitar program. Her new album, Guitar Passions, features collaborations between Isbin — who studied with Andres Segovia, among others — and artists with very unclassical careers: jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, rock singer Nancy Wilson of the band Heart, soprano saxophonist Paul Winter and several others.
While pantomime performances of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are traditional English holiday entertainment fare, there's a new hit in town. Londoners are flocking to Matilda the Musical, a souped-up version of Roald Dahl's well-known children's novel, playing in London's West End.
The production by The Royal Shakespeare Company has been proclaimed the best British musical in years. But despite most of the cast being under 16, this show is certainly not just for kids.
2011 was a good year for the word "swag". Not trinkets, or party favors, not an acronym for Stuff We All Get, "swag" comes from swagger. This year a term that hip-hop artists have been using for nearly a decade enjoyed a moment in the spotlight.
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Forget the ABCs or childhood friendships. Brooklyn band the Deedle Deedle Dees infuses its music with subjects as diverse as Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence and the letters of John and Abigail Adams, coupled with catchy, sing-along choruses.
Iowa voters will go to local caucus meetings on Jan. 3 in the first round of the presidential nominating process. In the Republican race, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul lead the polls, but it's unclear whether there will be a big winner in Iowa, Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving tells Robert Siegel.