As noted below, I'll be joining Bill Steelman of Essex Heritage at the mic for First Friday at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport on April 5. That's a member event (although you can join that night and still get in on the buffet and drinks). But everyone is invited when I'll be on a panel at the Newburyport Literary Festival on April 27. Ghlee Woodworth and I will talking about Newburyport walking trails, local history, the byway and so forth at 11 a.m. at the Newburyport Art Association. And best of all, it's free! And I'll be the speaker at the Lynn Museum's annual membership meeting in May. In each case I'll be selling and singing the Byway Guide for interested parties.
In the last few weeks the news from northern and western Africa brings fresh conflicts. But Homeland Security means something different at Berklee College of Music on Monday night, where students from Africa will present a concert of music and dance from their homelands of Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and other countries.
Homeland Security: Celebrating Contemporary and Traditional African Music and Dance will feature original student compositions with deeply personal meanings, including “Va Gumulelana (No More War),” by Helder Tsinine, the first non-English language song to win the Peacedriven Songwriting
Contest, and “Battle” by Jason Ekhabi Sibi-Okumu, about his struggle with kidney failure. Berklee’s 16-member West African Drum and Dance Ensemble and another group choreographed by student Jeniffer Criss will perform traditional drum and dance pieces from Ghana, Togo, Guinea and Mali.
Berklee's been getting increasingly international lately, with satellite operations and outreach. The West African ensemble features percussionist
Victor “Blue” Dogah, who in 2008 was named Berklee’s first Africa Scholar—an
award covering full tuition and room and board for four years – through a program started by Berklee president Roger Brown. (No relation.)
As a juvenile film fanatic, I was given copies of "Truffaut/Hitchcock" and "Stanley Kubrick Directs" one Christmas or birthday in the early '70s, back in the days when you could see all their films at the Brattle or the Orson Welles or at your nearest college film series. DVDs and cable have pretty much put an end to those outlets, but "Psycho" and "Dr. Strangelove" remain perhaps disturbingly close to the top of my list of all-time favorites. And now the Museum of Fine Arts is offering a chance to take in Kubrick's complete filmography in order on the big screen in February.
Offerings include: "Fear and Desire," the little-seen 1953 war allegory in a print restored by the Library of Congress (Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 7); Kubrock's first masterpiece, the World War I drama of cowardice and heroism "Paths of Glory" in a print restored by UCLA (Feb. 7 and 9); and of course his 1964 peak, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," a bit of Cold War insanity that's a shortgun wedding of "Fail Safe" and "Duck Soup," that's also one of Peter Sellers' greatest films (Feb. 14 and 16). And of course those great Kubrick couples - Hal & Dave, and Tom & Nicole - are also on the schedule.
Tickets are $11 (less for members, students, seniors, etc.) at www.mfa.org/film, 800-440-6975 or the MFA ticket desks. Click the web site to find out which theater each show is in and other info.
Between the time she sent her press release and when I actually read it, Naomi Slipp's Kickstarter reached its goal, so some of the suspense has gone out of this. But you still have one day to kick in more to support the exhibition she's organizing, Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Eakins and Rimmer to Contemporary Artists, set for Jan. 31-March 31 at the Boston University Art Gallery. Slipp, a BU grad student, says she's trying to create "a unique project that will draw together the Boston arts and medical communities and provoke a rich conversation about what it means to picture the human body." Given how large and important those two communities are here, and how interesting the results can be on the rare occasions when they interact - Remember the giant photos of cancer cells at MIT? - this seems like a worthwhile project. premiums available to backers include a copy of "Teaching the Body" (the illustrated exhibition catalog) and a private exhibition tour with Slipp.
The exhibit is especially challenging behind the scenes as she is arranging to borrow (and prepare and ship) works from all over, While she has secured significant funding, one source dropped out late in the process, leaving her with a $2,500 shortfall. Hence the Kickstarter. And her laptop got ripped off this week, which means a little extra would probably be appreciated.
From her Kickstarter sales pitch: "Over eighty works in the exhibition [many never exhibited before], including drawings, prints, sculptures, paintings, and texts, illustrate the relationship between American art and medicine, a collaboration founded because of their shared interest in the human body and the study of anatomy. Included in the exhibition are: illustrated anatomical lecture tickets; photographic stereoviews; anatomical sketches, studies, and models; pathological anatomy illustrations; and American anatomy books written for women and children. Fine art created by American artists Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), Kiki Smith (1954- ), Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), William Rimmer (1816-1879), Hyman Bloom (1913-2009), Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and many others, along with visual works from the 'everyday' including magazines and prints, will illustrate the ways that artists studied artistic anatomy. Perhaps, most important, this exhibition examines both what that study meant for these artists and for the way we, today, think about our own bodies and how they work."
Hurricane Sandy has local forecasters getting on their foul-weather faces and rolling out their bold-faced fonts, although there's still no telling exactly which way the storm will go early next week. Normally I'm loathe to fall under the spell of publicists who try to tie their arts events to such things - storms, the Red Sox, whatever. (Isabella Stewart Gardner liked going to Fenway, we get it, now give it a rest.) But the New England Philharmonic opens its season this saturday with - wait for it - "Atmospherics." The 8 p.m. at Tsai Performance Center program will focus on composer in residence David Rakowski's fourth symphony - wait for it! - Scare Quotes. Our local forecasters are not involved, but each movement in the symphony use titles taken from The Weather Channel website: Waning Crescent, Current Conditions, Ice to Rain and finally, Double Shot. Each movement "quotes" musical themes from pieces by other composers, including Bach, Mahler and Oliver Nelson with his jazz standard "Stolen Moments." Tickets, $25, at www.nephilharmonic.org. On the (literally) bright side, the program also includes Thea Musgrave's "Rainbow."
Many TV shows kick off a pop culture meme or two, and a brilliant few invade your dreams. "Breaking Bad" invaded reality a couple of weeks ago, as Alabama authorities put an alleged meth cook named Walter White on their most-wanted list. That the arrest of a real-life Walter seemed unsurprising was an interesting data point in understanding just how much this AMC drama about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned badass meth kingpin has gotten under my skin. So it's going to be a bear waiting until next summer for the show's final eight episodes. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)
The 2012 finale on Sunday night ended with a classic "Breaking Bad" moment. Walter (the amazing Bryan Cranston) hosted a family party a few days after he told his wife he was out of the meth biz. The unspoken theme was a return to normalcy. But then Walter's DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank, sat down for a little bathroom reading and picked up a volume of Walt (!) Whitman. Inside he found a hand-written inscription that made his jaw drop to match his pants, linking Walter to a murdered meth chemist. I worried Hank was going to have a stroke right there on the can as he faced the absurd truth that he has subconsciously suspected for a long time: Suburban milquetoast Walter has a double life as the evil Heisenberg! Walt is Heisenberg!
DEA agent brother-in-law? Whitman? Toilet? Heisenberg? What? All this may sound like gibberish to the non-fan, but we are so far down the rabbit hole with this show that it's way too late to bring newcomers up to, ahem, speed. Suffice to say that the moment's ruthless plotting, painfully mundane setting, literary touches and wonderful acting (by Dean Norris as Hank) were all expressions of what makes this show great.
A few weeks back I wrote a Globe column about New Exhibition Room's "Zombie Double Feature," a darkly comic summer extravaganza of two gore-soaked zombie plays ("Terror at BPT" and "Last Night Cabaret") at Boston Playwrights' Theatre. One of the rotating lineup of musicians in the show was among those left homeless by the fire, and apparently several other artists of various stripes with ties to the troupe are also among the victims. There's a Facebook page for those who want to help them.
But all in-person ticket sales to tonight's 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. "Zombie Double Feature" performances will be donated to the cause, and the zombies will be taking up a collection as well. More details here.
Pictured: Omar Robinson and Greer Rooney with Baby Zombie in "Terror at BPT." Photo courtesy New Exhibtion Room.
Executives of WGBH and Public Radio International say all the right things in this morning's Globe story. That PRI will remain independent after its acquisition by WGBH. That the deal won't affect PRI's distribution deal with WGBH's crosstown nemesis, WBUR. But c'mon. Despite the genteel face everyone likes to put on things in public broadcasting, this is a smart, hardball move by WGBH in its ongoing campaign to catch and overtake WBUR in local radio. One might almost say cutthroat, but public broadcasting people only use such words when talking about, you know, Somali pirates.
PRI distributes "This American Life" and other popular shows to stations including WBUR. And it also syndicates WBUR's "Here & Now." Despite all the nice talk abut how the WGBH deal isn't going to affect that, it's impossible to believe that 'GBH won't have an inside track to get national shows like "This American Life" the next time the contract comes up. And to get their own shows syndicated. They'll all deny it now, but just watch. And if you were running WBUR, would you want to entrust your own shows to a syndicator controlled by your crosstown rival?
They'll say this is all about strengthening WGBH's national profile and PRI's finances and, you know, better serving listeners. But I bet there were a few high-fives behind closed doors at 'GBH HQ when they sealed the deal. After the bad PR they earned with their recent jazz massacre, and the wide lead 'BUR has in local ratings, this is one round that goes to the challenger.
Jazz lovers of all stripes are invited to turn out at 1 Guest Street, Brighton, tonight at 8 for a swinging New Orleans-style jazz funeral, complete with live music. The address is the home of the WGBH broadcast empire (right), and the funeral is for jazz on WGBH-FM (89.7). More of a protest march, really. But swingin'. No word on who'll be carrying the coffin. Or maybe WGBH will come to its senses, and the box will be empty.
If you're reading this, odds are you already know that WGBH is cutting the majority of its jazz programming, shifting the long-running, Monday-through-Thursday "Eric in the Evening" program to weekends, cutting Steve Schwartz's Friday show altogether and - this part is still rumor - cutting the weeknight editions of the overnight syndicated "Jazz with Bob Parlocha" as well. News and talk, primarily reruns of WGBH shows, will replace the missing jazz hours, as the station continues its attempt to win the city's news-and-information audience from WBUR-FM.
The first two moves were announced as a "new focus on jazz," which sounds a lot like Mitt Romney telling us the dog loved it up there on top of the car for 500 miles.
You've probably heard by now that WGBH (89.7 FM) has pulled the carpet from under weeknight jazz listeners, with plans to move Eric Jackson's venerable "Eric in the Evening" jazz show to the weekends, cutting it from 16 hours a week to 9, and eliminating Steve Schwartz's Friday night show altogether. Jackson has been on the air in more or less the same slot for 30 years. Jazz fans were up in arms, storming the barricades via a Facebook page. We'll see how that works.
The best part was that WGBH had the Orwellian brass to call this "a new focus on jazz." Call the BFD! Pants on fire!
Lots of folks noted that jazz fans can get whatever they want from the Internet, and Dan Kennedy perhaps shot from the hip with the observation, "I suspect not many people listen to terrestrial jazz radio in the age of Pandora." I suspect that many Internet jazz listeners are in fact dialing up terrestrial stations online - WGBH when Eric's on, as well as the wonderful WWOZ from New Orleans or KKJZ from Long Beach. (As I type these words, Ella Fitzgerald is scatting on K-Jazz, Dan; I think they knew I was going to mention you.) But yes, the Internet has had its usual impact here. And Jackson is 20th in his broadcast time slot.
That's what it's about, ratings and dollars. WGBH decided some time ago that it must battle WBUR for the large audience that tunes in for "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered," "Marketplace" and other "news and information" programming, be it local or national. And that means anything that doesn't fit those plans must be shunted to the sidelines - hence the move of WGBH's classical programming to WCRB (99.5 FM) a couple of years ago. Probably the classical listeners had a Facebook insurrection too, but it doesn't appear to have made much of a dent.
You might be one of those naive old-timers who remembers that public broadcasting was created to provide programming that wasn't supported by the marketplace. About the best spin you could put on the present reality is that fine folks at 'GBH and 'BUR have looked at the degraded news operations of the networks and the cable screamers and decided that their most important, their sole mission, should be to provide a news and information alternative.
That both stations are providing pretty much the (oxymoron alert!) same alternative, well... tough. They're afraid for their jobs like everyone else in the media these days, and if big ratings is what they need to keep them...
But I can't see myself driving along the Charles late some night, looking at the city lights, and wanting to tune in reruns of a midday issues talk show, not matter who's doing the talking.