Shakespeare at the iron mills

We’re going to see a local production of Romeo and Juliet, staged in the fabricating shed at Sloss Furnaces. The former iron mill, active from 1882 to 1971, has become a Birmingham arts venue.

Elizabeth Hunter’s Shakespearean company, Muse of Fire, has been staging annual Shakespeare plays that draw on the city’s dancers, musicians, comedians, and other artists to swell the scene. The results can be quirky — the witches in Macbeth summoned belly-dancing familiars, for instance — but to me it’s part of the American tradition of appropriating and naturalizing Shakespeare as one of us. And I guess the belly dancers are an extension of the dancing and singing that Elizabethan performers did between the acts of a play, more to keep the audience friendly than to advance the plot. Continue reading “Shakespeare at the iron mills”

Health care: Score one against the hyenas

Hyena caricatureN.B. The hyena caricature (right) is from William Belcher’s Address to Humanity, published in 1796. Thanks to Ragged Edge Magazine.

On Monday, the day after passage of the new health reform law, I received a visit from a friend (call him Vic) who’s perpetually broke. He and his wife (Tina) lived with us at one point when their only other alternative was the street. Now they pay $39 a day to stay at a seedy hotel near the Interstate.

They were supposed to have moved on by now, to have a place of their own. Months ago, a man set aside $1,000 for Vic and Tina to pay a deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment or rental. But Vic and Tina haven’t found a place they can afford, at least not one that Tina is willing to move in to. Vic won’t even look in Birmingham, where rents are lower, because they want to be in a good school district. Their 11-year-old daughter lives with Tina’s parents, and they want her back.

It hasn’t occurred to them to get a cheap apartment for the short term in order to save money. Saving is not a realistic prospect to them. In their entire adult life — Vic is 48 — they have only experienced two conditions: not having enough, and having just enough. Continue reading “Health care: Score one against the hyenas”

Why We Fight

One of Birmingham’s best writers, Kyle Whitmire, is leaving the Birmingham Weekly where for several years he’s provided the most astute and most readable commentary on city and county affairs. (Hat tip to Wade Kwon.) Rosalind Fournier’s profile of Whitmire at b-metro reveals how Kyle’s column got its name, which is “War on Dumb.” Seems […]

Finding out about the Birmingham Charter

itsnicelogoWell, you can’t accuse Birmingham’s green builders and architects of thinking small. They’ve proposed coming up with a new standard for cities, which they call the Birmingham Charter. And to convince the world that it will work, they want to transform greater Birmingham into a model of sustainable living.

I went to the Green Resource Center last night to find out more. The place was packed, and some latecomers stood outside in the stairwell listening.

James Smith, CEO of Green Building Focus, gave an enthusiastic, rambling address about the Charter, punctuated by video excerpts from architect Karan Grover’s dramatic multimedia presentation at the July conference on green building here in our fair city. The scope of this conference went well beyond nuts-and-bolts topics for builders. It was visionary, arguing for an entirely new philosophy for building cities and living on the earth. Continue reading “Finding out about the Birmingham Charter”

The global significance of Birmingham

itsnicelogoThose of us who live here are apt to forget it, but Birmingham is a powerful symbol to people around the world. We tend to be ashamed of the ’60s legacy of “Bombingham,” but for people behind the Birmingham Charter — Karan Grover, from India, and James Smith, from South Africa — the city represents a triumph. It was in Birmingham that ordinary people, even children, united to defeat an unjust order with love.

We locals often think that our white predecessors had to be shocked out of their complacency by the 1963 bombing deaths of children at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and (what was worse, supposedly) the international attention that this brought. The cynical implication is that it was a concern for appearances that forced white Birmingham to change, or to appear to change.

Grover and Smith don’t see it that way. Continue reading “The global significance of Birmingham”