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”

Saturday concert: Vieux Farka Touré

This is a music video for a song from the first, self-titled album by Vieux Farka Touré. He’s the acclaimed musician son of the great Ali Farka Touré. Both hail from the town of Niakunké, Mali, west Africa. (Not far from Timbuktu, actually.) The video seems to have been shot in Niafunké, and maybe in […]

A song of insufficiency

In honor of the United States Congress, I’d like to present Bertolt Brecht’s acerbic little song with the grand title of “The Song about the Insufficiency of Human Striving.”

The video is followed by the German text, with my own loose translation after each stanza.1

Das Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens Continue reading “A song of insufficiency”

Injun trouble in Alabama

Gambling proprietors in Alabama have been trying to pass off their slot machines (prohibited under state law) as a form of bingo (legal in some counties). Gov. Bob Riley is trying to stop them with a special task force and mostly successful lawsuits. Warnings of impending raids have recently forced the shutdown of several giant bingo farms that siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars a year from customers.

The gambling industry is fighting back with a barrage of TV ads lampooning the governor and calling for a statewide referendum to legalize gambling. Naturally, this would be done on terms favorable to the big establishments, protecting them from competition.

One of the industry’s favorite tactics is to portray Riley as a pawn of the Mississippi Choctaws, whose casinos lure customers from Alabama. The ads imply, without actually saying so, that Riley is trying to kill off Alabama bingo farms because they would compete with established Choctaw casinos. The inference is that Riley must have taken bribes from the Indians. Continue reading “Injun trouble in Alabama”

teh kidz r alright

A cartoon rabbit seated in front of a glowing TV set, saying "This calls for immediate action."

I was recently directed to yet another complaint about the decline of literacy, the corrosive intellect-leaching power of digital technology, and our collective guilt for letting Western civilization subside into a mire of tweets, blogs, and gaming.

iPhones Have Consequences, by Sally Thomas, is a witty, engaging essay on the subject, supported by memorable anecdotes. I believe it delves deeper into the question than most such efforts, and it’s well worth reading.

I feel I must address her argument that the present college generation is dumber than we forty-somethings, seeing as I’ve argued exactly the opposite. It’s my view that the forty-somethings are the dumbest generation currently on offer, and the so-called “twixters” or “tweens” are more curious than we, and have read more and thought about more than we had at their age. Continue reading “teh kidz r alright”