Saturday, November 18, 2006

25th Annual Seagrove Pottery Festival

Along with two friends, one from China and one from Nepal, that we are privileged to be "hosting" (periodically meeting and making feel welcome) from the UNC International Friendship Program, we attended the 25th annual Seagrove Pottery Festival. Seagrove is a city about two hours away that is said, with 90 potteries within 20 miles, to be the biggest pottery area in the state. Founded before the Revolutionary War, the area has an interesting history based on the rich clay found there.

I've gone thrice in the past and purchased some beautiful pottery, but this year we only purchased a few items (a lovely hardwood cutting board and knife, a small ikebana cup). I want to get some nice plates and a pretty tea kettle - maybe next year we'll find some such pieces that we like.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Durham Art Walk; Film Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967)

Last year, we enjoyed attending the Durham Art Walk,
a free event downtown where almost 100 artists show and sell their work. It was fun, and today we got to attend it just for a few hours. There was some notable photography, mosaics, and painting that we enjoyed. We purchased a very affordable glass butterfly craft - or, rather, asked them to make such a butterfly in purple and expect it within a week. That butterfly is destined for our garden, perhaps hanging on to a camellia bush. Too bad that we didn't have more time to spend at the Walk this year!

On my own, in the evening I went to my first event of The Cinema, Inc., "Raleigh's oldest [since 1966 I think] ... nonprofit film society [which] offers classic feature presentations monthly at The Rialto Theatre". The film tonight was the French/Italian 1967 Belle de Jour starring Catherine Deneuve.

I didn't quite understand the film. A young wife, Séverine Serizy (Deneuve) loves her husband but has unusual fantasies about being with other men. This leads her to become a prostitute (taking the name Belle de Jour - beauty of the day?), always returning before her unsuspecting husband would get home each evening.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Shakespeare Play, Twelfth Night; Video 12 Days of Christmas by Boymongoose

Along with two friends, my wife and I went to see Shakespeare's comic play, Twelfth Night, put on by students of UNC Chapel Hill's Department of Dramatic Art (Professional Actor Training Program). I wasn't familiar with this Shakespeare play and didn't heed reasonable advise about reading or otherwise becoming familiar with a play of his before seeing it. The language was characteristically rich and had a number of plays on words, many of which I, no doubt missed.

The comic love story about mistaken identity was a treat to see. The acting was good and sometimes excellent, particularly by D. Williams (playing the fool Feste) and Marla Yost (the twin Viola). I enjoyed the interesting decidedly anachronistic approach that the director, Charlie Steak, took, using period language but a mixture of period and contemporary costume and a delightful little rap interlude.

At UNC, they have an upcoming free performance that sounds interesting, Night Sky; here is the description from their website:

Night Sky
a drama by Susan Yankowitz
Directed by Barbara Harrison
November 17-21
Historic Playmakers Theatre
Internationally produced and acclaimed, it is the drama of a highly motivated female astronomy professor who is rendered aphasic after suffering a concussion in a car accident. The once articulate and abrasive professor must learn how to speak all over again. The play explores the relationship between the black holes in the cosmos and the black holes in the mind; the poetry of unconventional language; and the ways in which all of us struggle to communicate the thoughts and feelings locked within our most private selves. The play was first directed by Joseph Chaikin, himself aphasic. This beautiful and challenging work provides a thrilling venue for all actors and one of the most challenging and impressive roles for female actresses.

By the way, it's not a cultural event, but I can't resist sharing a well-made and funny video that a friend shared with me earlier in the week that parodies people from India. The Australian group Boymongoose and their 12 Days of Christmas!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Debate about Kashmir

My friends Afroz Taj and John Caldwell helped to organize an interesting debate about the Kashmir conflict, sponsored by the UNC Sangam student organization as part of South Asian Awareness Week. Here is the description from their website:

Come attend a Political Debate on one of the major conflicts in South Asia, The Kashmir Conflict. The conflict goes back till 1947 and still continues. Come out to get view points from all the three sides India, Pakistan and Kashmir, and give your opinion. This will be a great debate! You will get to learn more about the intense topic of Kashmir. Come to see how the conflict will change since India and Pakistan have Nuclear weapons. We need people who are serious, concerned or interested in this issue. So please come only if you are interested.
My wife and I enjoyed attending this short evening event. There were about a dozen in attendance, mostly students. In thinking about the issue of Kashmir (should it be part of India, Pakistan, or be independent), one thought occurred to me, and that was federalism. I'm sure it's been thought of and seriously considered before, but my suggestion, that I shared (and which, it seemed, carried the day as perhaps the most feasible solution), was to use the European Union as a model. Just as the French maintain their culture and the neighboring Italians maintain theirs, there is an easy sharing over borders.

The thought I had is, based on economics and encouraging multi-culturalism, that the current states of India and Pakistan, as well as Kashmir, all become semi-autonomous units. Live in Calcutta and enjoy the Bengali culture? Fine - when you want to visit Kashmir or Mumbai or Delhi or Srinagar or Lahore, off you go with minimal fuss.

I enjoyed the discussion, but wish that there were more partisan opinions expressed, based on what we see in the real world. I would have enjoyed hearing a strong case for Pakistan; instead, based on the attitudes of those present, much of the discussion seemed Indo-centric. I like debates where a team or person strongly argues a case that is not the case they personally believe, and then others can chime in and all can have good discussion. Nevertheless, this was an interesting and educational event.

Map from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas, produced by the C.I.A.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Garden Lecture, "Fifty - but who's counting - Great Native Plants for the Southeast", Bill Cullina

I was part of this well-attended (several hundred in the audience at least) talk by Bill Cullina, nursery manager for Garden-in-the-Woods in New England. I am a member of the NC Botanical Garden, which hosted the talk.

I enjoyed the light-hearted talk by this knowledgeable man. I was looking forward to finding his "list" on the NCBG website, but at least as of near Thanksgiving time, it hadn't been posted.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Film The U.S. vs. John Lennon (David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, 2006)

Tonight, my wife and I saw The U.S. vs. John Lennon at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC. What a film! It is a documentary about the life of John Lennon and his leadership in the peace movement during the Vietnam War. The U.S. government tries to deport him and, finding that he had a small charge of marijuana possession filed back in England, uses that as a pretext to demand his departure. Eventually, Lennon's lawyer countersues and proves that the Nixon administration has conspired against him, with people from the very top of the government involved. It was a moving film where the pace was great to (re)learn important biographical and historical aspects of the man and times, and the songs rekindled fond memories for me. Well worth watching!

November 15: I found a nicely done video montage, below, of John Lennon set to his beautiful (it always moves me; they played this at the candelit vigil after his murder) song, Imagine, done in a pan and zoom Ken Burns style. A music video of the song is also available, and I also found a contemporary anti-war video montage based largely on Imagine by artist John Callaghan of Cal-TV (the video is set to Imagine This by WaxAudio; the video is decidedly political with some violent images and starts with some offensive language)