Arts & Culture

Almost everyone knows of renowned author Samuel Clemens -- especially here in Missouri, where we're proud to call Hannibal his home.

But the life of the man whose pen name was Mark Twain is far from an open book.

For example, few people realize that a chance meeting in his early 20s with a young girl may have sparked and sustained his writing career and provided the inspiration for the character of Becky Thatcher in his most famous novel, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

Cecilia Nadal (standing at right in green) talks with Yanith Carranza (left) and Elizabeth Morales in Amherst Park after the unity concert. Morales came from the Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park.
Robert Joiner | St. Louis Beacon file folder

Karen Cox Miller seldom thought much about the growing presence of foreigners in the Alpha Garden and Alpha Village apartment complexes a couple of blocks west of her home near Hodiamont Avenue and Skinker Boulevard.

On Sunday, however, she decided to get to know some of the new arrivals by attending the neighborhood's first Amherst Park Concert for Unity, which sought to build better relations between African Americans like herself and immigrants.

The three works in Exposure 13 at UMSL's Gallery 210 are decidedly minimal in style and scale, though not in content. This is a good thing, give that they are exhibited in Gallery B, the smaller of the spaces at 210.

Even with all the ways to access the Beacon that I talked about here two weeks ago, one place you won't usually find us is on paper (unless you print out an article yourself, of course).

Liberty Bell of the West on Kaskaskia Island
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | file photo

Several floods have scarred the Kaskaskia Island, the most recent being the Great Flood of 1993. After that, Illinois prohibited residents from moving back unless more than 51 percent of their home remained standing. And current building codes virtually prohibit new construction.

Kaskaskia Island was created by flooding. Originally not an island at all and on the east bank of the Mississippi River, the town was settled by French fur traders in 1686 just south of Ste. Genevieve. It was an administrative center for the area and became the first capital of Illinois.

St. Louisan Big George Brock has performed at past Bluesweek festivals.
File Photo | Bluesweek

The history of St. Louis blues festivals -- like the lengthy, proud tradition of St. Louis blues music -- is a story that can be confusing. It's also a story that has plenty of different perspectives and fascinating characters, just like many of the famous blues songs born here on the banks of the Mississippi.

I LOVE great ideas. Solutions. Effective approaches.

If I were asked to nominate "the best idea wasted," it would be the IBOT wheelchair invented by Dean Kamen using his Segway technology.

Segway, you'll recall, is that two-wheeled device that takes a standing rider and never tips over due to the gyroscope technology created by Kamen's company DEKA. It's a remarkable invention.

For four years -- more than twice as long as an elephant's gestation period -- Karen Brody labored over her play about the ultimate conclusion of pregnancy. Then, "Birth" was born.

 

Walter Metcalfe
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

This time last year revitalizing the Arch grounds seemed to be the impossible dream. An idea put forth by the Danforth Foundation to create a museum above ground on the Arch grounds was nixed by the National Park Service, and with that decision an enormous amount of money and the prestige of the Foundation took a hike.

The impossible dreaming did not take into account the determination of St. Louis lawyer Walter Metcalfe Jr.

While on vacation, I read an interesting New York Times story about five neuroscientists who took a wilderness trip. They wanted to see how immersion in nature might affect their digitally overloaded brains.

For "Screwed Again," a reprise of sorts of 2008's "Screwed In" at the Gallery of the Regional Arts Commission, nine local artists spent days painting a mural that occupies three walls of the enormous main gallery.

Last week, the location wars got serious. The same day that Foursquare was featured in the New York Times Fashion & Style section, Facebook launched its Places application.

Author Sara Paretsky will be in town for a book signing at the St. Louis County Public Library on Aug. 31, the day "Body Work," her 14th novel featuring the exploits of private eye V.I. Warshawski, officially reaches the nation's bookstores.

Preparing for its major fall season opener, the Rivane Neuenschwander survey, the Kemper Art Museum is playing out the summer with “Gesture, Scrape, Combine, Calculate: Postwar Abstraction from the Permanent Collection.” 

But this show is anything but a placeholder in the exhibition schedule. It’s a solid survey of mid-century modern painting and sculpture that reveals some surprises and reminds us of the excellent quality of the Kemper’s collection.

Dan Parris, at the white cliffs of Dover, England
Provided by the film company

Dan Parris

Dan Parris has made it his calling to try to get by in life on not much more than pennies. With two compatriots, the 26-year-old St. Louisan has hitchhiked halfway across America on $1.25 a day. He is nearing completion of a documentary film intended to motivate others, particularly his generation, to do something about extreme poverty.

In trying to spread his message, Dan Parris nearly died in a plane crash in Nairobi, Kenya, last summer.

Jim Manley
Devin Rodino

Interview with Jim Manley

HOME: All the guys in the band are from St. Louis, but all of us have played throughout the country at one time or another. I did a show called Trumpet Party in Amsterdam that was a blast! (no pun intended!)

AGE: Wild Cool & Swingin' started about 12 years on Wednesdays at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups.

INSTRUMENTS: We are a nine piece group - featuring Charlie B on the vocals ... backed by a four-piece horn section and keys, guitar, drums and percussion.

Walter Metcalfe at Arch news conference
Rachel Heidenry | Beacon | File photo

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to town today to take his own look at the five final competing plans for the Gateway Arch grounds and its surroundings, calling them all "truly exciting for me and for the nation."

And as he did on a visit here last July, months before the design competition got underway, he once again pledged his support for getting the winning design built by 2015 -- the 50th anniversary of the Arch.

Many Glacier
Susan Hegger | 2010

One family, three cars, seven days, 14 people, ranging in age from 2 to 83.

That could have been an unmitigated disaster, but for us, it all added up to an incredible vacation, with fleeting but memorable stops in some of the most breath-taking places in the world. Here's a whirlwind look at a whirlwind tour.

Day One: Flathead Lake, Montana

OK, technically, it was Day Two. (Day One was one long travel day; it's not easy -- or cheap -- to get to Somers, Mont.)

One of the main reasons for heading to California for a vacation was so my partner (and Beacon bookkeeper) Martin Kaplan could participate in a reunion of performing arts alums from Palos Verdes High School, from which he graduated in 1978. Marty described the rehearsals that occupied him last Friday and Saturday as "surreal." It felt, he said, as if he'd been catapulted backward in time, to the 1970s, when he was a student at PV High School, and during rehearsals it seemed very little had changed.

'Get Low'

In contemporary rap slang, "get low" means get down and dirty, but in the mountains of Tennessee in 1930s, it meant "get down to business." The business Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) wants to get down to in the fine new independent movie "Get Low" is his funeral, and he is not willing to wait until he dies.

Ed and Mary Etta Moose and Sam Dietsch at Moose's restaurant, 1998, San Francisco.
Terry Lorant, Oakland, Calif.

Ed Moose, who for 32 years headed two of San Francisco's best-known restaurants, the Washington Square Bar & Grill and Moose's, died Aug. 12. Mr. Moose, a native of St. Louis, was 81.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "He had broken his ankle in a fall at home in June, had several operations and developed a staph infection.

"Mary Etta Moose, his only survivor, said there will be no memorial service: 'He said, 'I've seen memorial services, I've thrown memorial services, and I went to memorial services, and I don't want one.' "

After you tell us what you know, tell us what you want to know.

That's how I often start a conversation with folks to explain the Beacon's Public Insight Network.

The PIN, as we call if for short, is a program the Beacon uses to find new sources who can help us tell stories with a better sense of relevance. Using email as our primary tool, we ask questions about topics we are covering and reporters then use the responses we receive to help tell a story.

Newly engaged artist Arthur should be walking on air. But as a fetishist who's missing his favorite footwear, he's in a quandary.

So begins "Psychopathia Sexualis," a comedy revolving around an anxious soon-to-be groom, his wealthy socialite fiancee and his father's argyle socks.

Only within proximity to the socks is Arthur able to make love. However, in an unorthodox therapeutic move, his psychiatrist snares the potent pair.

Author Eric Jerome Dickey, who will be speaking at the St. Louis County Library Saturday, would probably take exception to this description promoting his appearance that appears on the library's website:

"Described as 'the king of African-American fiction' by Entertainment Weekly, Eric Jerome Dickey discusses his highly anticipated new novel 'Tempted by Trouble' -- a flaming-hot story set in the world of conmen and thieves."

Dickey says he prefers to be known simply as "author" -- no racial or ethnic description necessary.

For "Form in Translation: Sculptors Making Prints and Drawings," assistant curator Eric Lutz of the St. Louis Art Museum (along with research assistant Ann-Maree Walker) has again brought together works that show the strengths of the museum's permanent collection while giving insight into a vital mode of artmaking that deserves more exposure.

Last week, Slate published an article, "How Blacks Use Twitter: The latest research on race and microblogging."  Now, I'll admit that I can't tell you why, but my general sense of Slate is that it's intelligent, thoughtful, edgy. So when I clicked through to the article I expected something, well, intelligent, thoughtful and edgy.

There's no money in poetry, but there's no poetry in money, either.

—Robert Graves

This month's poem is by Catherine Rankovic. Brutal honesty and painful humor usually characterize this writer's poetry and essays. "Hide & Sex" is no exception -- although the savage truth here dresses in the clothes of a children's game, wears several layers of irony and flirts with the sonnet.

Recently, Bruce Burton left his post as graphic designer for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis to join a St. Louis design firm. As a parting gesture of sorts, he's curated an exhibition of outstanding contemporary graphic design for the museum's Front Room.

"RBMBKESHKM" showcases work by Roy Brooks, Mikey Burton, Kelly English, Sibylle Hagmann and Kindra Murphy, designers based more or less in the middle of the country, the "flyover zone" where people on the coasts often assume nothing is happening.

I'm a transplant.

It was 1991 and the city was experiencing one of its highest murder rates in years.

I showed up as new college graduate ready to perform a year of volunteer work for a local community service agency. The housing they provided was on the site of a community center in the College Hill neighborhood near O'Fallon Park on the city's north side.

French artist Laurent Grasso's "Les Oiseaux" ("The Birds") (2008) is an extraordinary video piece now showing in the St. Louis Art Museum's New Media Series.

The eight-minute projection has the camera trained on the pink sunset over Rome's skyline and a series of curious dark clouds floating across it. The clouds turn out to be hundreds of starlings flying in groups, their synchronized motions creating unexpected, even thrilling shape-shifting effects that are more beautiful than the built structures in the city below.

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