Arts & Culture | St. Louis Public Radio

Arts & Culture

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 21, 2008 - I recently had the idea that used books might sell better during an economic downturn. So, over the summer, I went poking into used bookstores, asking questions, especially whether sales are up. Mostly, I stayed in the central/south/west corridor of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 21, 2008 - Remember back in the early '80s when MTV emerged and the entertainment industry was convincing itself that the promotional films record companies had been producing for years had suddenly become part of a major aesthetic breakthrough, and that "Billie Jean" and "Hungry Like the Wolf" were the future of cinema as we know it?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 21, 2008 - James M. Smith’s new show at the Sheldon, What Came Before, shows the artist moving in a more sculptural direction and moving deeper into themes he has often broached in his long career.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 19, 2008- When Bernie and Barbara McDonald finish their set at John D. McGurk's Irish Pub and Garden on Monday night, it will mark the end of an extraordinary run of Sunday and Monday performances for the traditional Irish music tandem.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 18, 2008 On occasion, you'll still hear an overcaffeinated radio host deriding bloggers, with an edgy, irrational disdain. When they get really worked up, it's almost inevitable for these AM talkers to accuse bloggers of "typing in their underwear from their parents' basement." Luckily, this stereotype has mostly gone away, as an array of bloggers cranks out digital copy at an ever-increasing pace.

Streetcar "car-card" advertisement
Provided by Tower Grove Park

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Visitors won't be coming on streetcars to see the lily ponds in bloom as they once did -- note the "car card" advertisement above that would have been posted on the interior of a United Railways Co. streetcar. And more than likely, you won't see women in long dresses holding parasols and men in Victorian suits standing on lily pads.

But what you will find these days in the middle of historic Tower Grove Park are the same three lily ponds, newly revived after a $400,000-plus renovation. And they are looking as they did nearly a century ago when people rode streetcars to see them in full bloom, and some did pose for pictures standing on lily pads.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - For Nervous Laughter at the Philip Hitchcock Gallery, Leslie Holt has curated a large group of works guaranteed to touch a nerve somewhere, depending on your personal proclivities, religion, politics or the line you draw between public information and private sensibilities. Holt, one of St. Louis' most prolific and savvy painters, never goes overboard with this show; but these works do bump up against those boundaries of decorum that Hitchcock himself is fond of pushing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - When you're promoting an event called the Big Read festival , it helps to have a big name to brag about, and organizers of this year's festival think they have one: Alan Alda

But if a big name doesn't have the right reputation, it can cause big grumbling.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - Three Hundred Six is the number of miles that separate the domiciles of Stacie Johnson and Michael Behle, St. Louis and Chicago artists respectively who have curated the thusly titled show at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary in Maplewood. The show brings together artists from these two metropolises and they have both more and less in common than you would think.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - St. Louis Actors' Studio's mission is to address a particular aspect of the human condition and adhere to it when selecting our season. This approach enables us to focus on what drives us in our day-to-day adventure of life -- what makes us tick. Last season, our first season, we explored the Family Dynamic -- its triumph and its dysfunction. Actors, directors and writers who participated in a workshop created an original production on the same theme.

Learning about bonobos by meeting Lucy

Sep 17, 2008
Baby Lucy, a bonobo) is cradled by her mother, as sister Lexi looks on.
Photo by Marian Brickner | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 17, 2008 - Do you know what a bonobo is?

St. Louis photographer Marian Brickner says the 10 years she has invested in chronicling the endangered ape species will be worth it if more people are able to answer yes to that question.

"I simply wanted people to know they exist," said Brickner, a determined woman who has spent countless hours observing bonobos through her camera lens at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 16, 2008 - Echoes from Manzanar: If the Walls Could Talk is painful and joyous at once, a truly moving collection of art and memories by Arthur Towata, one of the most influential ceramic artists working today.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 15, 2008 - There are artists whose works are hung in galleries or shown on screens or preserved in books, and there are artists who ignore the rules and find material in everything from the interior decoration of their apartments to the organization of trash piled on the street. There are "outsider" artists, and there are artists so esoteric that they never even make it outdoors. Three recent DVD releases show four major artists working underground, out of bounds or within worlds solely of their own making.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. September 13, 2008 - The new GOP mantra of "drill, baby, drill!" doesn't thrill Elizabeth Kolbert.

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The longtime writer for The New Yorker is one of a series of speakers at this fall's special edition of the Washington University Assembly Series dedicated to issues in the Nov. 4 election. Her book "Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change," was chosen for all of the university's incoming students to read and will be the subject of a series of group discussions this semester.

Spotlight on young actors

Sep 11, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 11, 2008-  Most of St. Louis' colorful theatergoers and participants can agree that the local scene has unabashedly expanded over the past half-decade or so. From feisty breakout companies such as The Orange Girls to the ever-growing and perennially popular Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, times are good for our actors (and those of us who applaud them). Here, we introduce (or reintroduce, for savvy stage fans), five who are riding the theatrical wave in the Lou.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 10, 2008 - Time and time again, in the strange and strangely believable universe created by the Coen brothers, obsessive characters pursue elusive goals - a lawman tries to catch a killer and find meaning in a world marked by seemingly random violence ("No Country for Old Men"); a deceptively laid-back slacker searches for a missing rug ("The Big Lebowski"); a childless couple commits major felonies to obtain a baby ("Raising Arizona"). In the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, pursuit of a goal is inevitably complicated by the competing needs of other characters, and chaos ensues.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 9, 2008 - Helen Weiss began her career at Famous-Barr in 1959 at a time when many women were just beginning to establish careers outside the home. Many in retailing and other professions looked to her as a role model. It wasn’t for her ability to rise through the ranks. She stayed a mid-level executive until her retirement last year. Rather it was because she always kept about her a sense of who she was – a party giver, a fashion plate, and an unreconstructed liberal who never fell out of love with that futile Democratic presidential candidate of the ’50s, Adlai Stevenson.  

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 8, 2008 - Once upon a time, musicals were about all-American boys and girls falling in all-American love. Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. Right?

Well, no, that's not really true. Even as far back as the 1920s and '30s, there were lots of other musicals about American materialism, the growth of unions, war, politics, sex, race, class and much more. And that's where New Line Theatre, "the bad boy of musical theater," comes in, now in our 18th season of making intelligent, provocative, adult musical theater.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 7, 2008 - In the years since its opening in 2001, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts has been a solid, if somewhat introverted, presence in Grand Center. Don’t misunderstand — the Pulitzer has reached out beyond its velvety concrete walls in some visible ways, gamely co-hosting events with the Contemporary, opening itself up in the evenings for film showings and musical concerts, and promoting contemporary art in St. Louis in coordination with other museums in town.

The Lens; Explosive content

Sep 5, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 5, 2008 - The title of the film "Traitor" is loaded and unequivocal - so much so that the film's quality might be suspect. However, it offers as much thought and subtlety as action and suspense.

A fine actor, Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda," "Crash"), plays the leading role of Samir Horn. The story opens with Samir as a boy in Sudan studying the Koran with his father. The boy also learns chess, invented by the Persian conquerors of Northern India to teach military tactics. From the balcony of the family home, young Samir watches his father die as his car explodes from a bomb.

Farewell letter from China

Sep 2, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 2, 2008 - The Chinese are not afraid to point out minor shortcomings of the country and its presentation of the Olympics. But still, they voice overall pride in Beijing's Olympic effort.

Now that the flurry of media reports on the Olympics, the athletes, security issues and Beijing's pollution have subsided, and the huge numbers of foreigners have made the long voyage back to their respective countries, I've found time to reflect on the games and their effect on China and its people.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 2, 2008- Here we are in Tylertown, Miss. -- about 90 miles from New Orleans. There are about two dozen humans and even more dogs. In the morning, the doors open and the rooms unload like clown cars. It's hard to tell how many of us there really are. People take shifts in the yard with their dogs. There's Hubig Pie, the beagle, watching over a pack of five shar peis, while my three hide in the pool house waiting their turn. Perhaps the scope of this can best be expressed with this one additional detail: Four of the dogs here are in wheelchairs, including Dag, a pit bull, Theo, a Doberman with a gunshot wound on his ass, Winnie, a crabby wiener dog, and Bandit, a crippled collie who everyone takes a turn spooning in front of the television.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 1, 2008 - Twelve seasons implies a degree of permanence and stability in the world of theater companies. So, the fact that the New Jewish Theatre is about to launch its 12th season is a bit of a milestone. And yet we embark on this season with a mixed array of emotions: excitement and anxiety topping the list.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 28, 2008-  Forty years later, it is shocking to watch old news footage of the chaos outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968 as Chicago police and National Guard troops armed with tear gas, billyclubs and bayonets confronted unarmed anti-war protesters.

The demonstrators, most of them college-aged, wore long hair, love beads and scruffy jeans and shouted anti-draft slogans like "Hell, no. We won't go" and warned, "The whole world is watching.''

History was watching, also. And St. Louisans will have an opportunity to discuss and reflect on the political and social aspects of the 1968 convention when KETC and the Missouri History Museum kick off the Community Cinema Series on Sept. 11 with a screening of "Chicago 10" by filmmaker Brett Morgen.

New Opera St. Louis plans to warm up winter

Aug 26, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 26, 2008 - One recent summer in Philadelphia, soprano Gina Galati and her musical friends bemoaned the lack of opera in St. Louis during winter months.

Instead of just complaining, Galati, who had never directed before, assembled a group of singers from scratch in August 2007. She excited donors, who gave money and their homes for singers' residence. They would perform Rigoletto in February 2008.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 26, 2008 - The movie Tropic Thunder debuted in August with attendance that matched the accolades from the critics. It was feted as humor at it finest - a satire that pulled no punches.

About 13 years ago, I might have found Tropic Thunder humorous. Then, my son was born with autism. Now, it's not so funny. The movie's repeated use of the term "retard" and its depiction of those with developmental disabilities are unquestionably demeaning. But the real joke is the defense of its satiric ambitions that fall once again on that great pillar of Hollywood absolution - creativity.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 25, 2008 - Wow, it is as though network TV has been born again! Two weeks of Olympics, China style.

Now, off to the Mile High City for Barack Obama's coronation and then on to Minneapolis for John McCain, the action hero mini-series.

Anyone who thinks nothing good could come from Reality TV shows did not watch the Olympics carefully enough. Sure, no one got tossed off the island, but there were disqualifications. And though the judges did not get to speak, Randy, Simon and Paula had nothing on some of those gymnastics judges - such harsh scoring!

After the Olympics: numbers to ponder

Aug 25, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 25, 2008 - Having a hard time putting the Olympics behind you? Wondering how much faster, farther and higher the world's top athletes can go?

Much has changed in the 104 years since Washington University's Francis Field hosted the Olympic track and field competition. Consider this: An American runner named Archie Hahn took gold in the 100-meter dash at the 1904 St. Louis Games. His time? 11 seconds flat. The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt finished the race this summer in a world-record 9.69 seconds - and it's widely accepted that he held back in the last 10 meters.

Commentary: Chicago wins 'nanny town' title

Aug 22, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 22, 2008 - Finally a reason to feel superior to a certain toddling town to the north. Reason magazine recently ranked the Second City first when it comes to meddling in people's affairs.

Reason, in case you don't know, is a libertarian monthly that reports on the incessant attempts of governments to limit individual rights in the name of health or environmentalism or safety -- a necessity since we are too stupid to know what's good for us.

Pipe organs swell the sounds of many churches

Aug 21, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 21, 2008 - Long before rock concerts became social events where friends could enjoy music, religious observance served as the center for melodious enjoyment.

In the Middle Ages, church choirs needed an instrument to keep them on pitch. Out sprung the organ.

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