Susan Stamberg

Smack in the middle of all the political clatter in Washington, D.C., stands a solitary, serene woman in a pale blue satin jacket, reading a letter. She's from the 17th century, and her visit marks an important anniversary for the National Gallery of Art.

She was painted by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer around 1663. Twenty years ago, in 1995, the National Gallery put on the first Vermeer retrospective ever, featuring 22 of only some 35 Vermeers known to exist. The show was a hit — despite some pretty serious hurdles.

The first president of National Public Radio has died. Don Quayle was 84 years old. He had a long career in public broadcasting — both television and radio. NPR's Susan Stamberg reflects on his impact.

Don Quayle gave me my first radio job. It was the early '60s and he was head of the Educational Radio Network — the precursor of NPR — a skinny little network of 12 East Coast stations that developed a daily drive-time news show. He hired me to help produce it. When this national network arose, he was an obvious choice to run it.

In Palm Springs, Calif., a $1 million home was just built — with plans resurrected from 1951. The original sold for about $15,000, and was called an Eichler, after developer Joseph Eichler, who offered well-designed, well-built tract homes to the masses a half-century ago.

British art dealer Joseph Duveen once said, rather astutely: "Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money."

Starting in the late 1800s, in London first, later New York, the Duveen family sold precious European Old Master paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture to rich American collectors. For the first half of the 20th century, Duveen was arguably the world's greatest art dealer and some of the greatest works of art in America got here thanks to the Duveens.

When the Oscars are handed out on Sunday, the red carpet, the ceremony, the films and people who are honored, will be all about being seen. But there's a group of actors who will never be seen on screen. They're only heard — and barely.

Loopers are voice actors whose work begins after the show or film is shot and edited. Their job is to record what people in the background of a scene could be saying. Their dialogue is never really heard at full volume — and it's mostly ad-libbed.

It's been 10 years since we launched the annual Hollywood Jobs series, in which we explore odd movie jobs — you know, the ones you see in the closing credits. In the last decade, producer Cindy Carpien and I have talked to key grips, animal wranglers, focus pullers, foley artists, shoemakers, slate operators, loopers, food stylists and many more. Today we check back with some folks we've profiled in the past, to ask how their jobs have changed since we last met.

It's been a cold winter in Washington, D.C., but over at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, there's a flutter of exotic real and imaginary birds, created by 12 contemporary artists, in an exhibit called "The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art."

Dripping in diamonds and shimmering in silks, the movie stars of the 1930s and '40s dazzled on the silver screen. Now, some of their costumes and jewels are on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There, a film clip runs on a wall behind gorgeously gowned mannequins lit by sconces and chandeliers. The clip is from 1932's No Man of Her Own, starring Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Nearby, co-curator Michelle Finamore points to the actual gown Lombard wore. It's long, made of slinky silk crepe and covered in teeny gold-colored glass beads.

The request was forwarded to me from a distant (fifth floor — I'm on the fourth) division of NPR.

It came from Justin Lucas, the head of NPR's Audience and Community Relations team. He's the go-to person here for requests from listeners, for information or permissions.

He'd gotten a letter from Beth Hansen, owner of Soup and Salad, a small sandwich shop in Easton, Md., a charming old town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Justin read me an excerpt of the request: "I'd love to make and sell Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Chutney. A portion of the proceeds ... "

I had what the guys would call the dubious distinction of putting Tom on NPR's air. For 10 years they'd had a weekly program on WBUR in Boston. In 1987, when we were launching Weekend Edition Sunday, we asked stations for tapes of local programs that might work nationally. WBUR sent cassettes of Tom and Ray, and their five-minute spots became the hit of Sunday mornings.