A few of my favorite things







If I were a food critic, 2010 would’ve left me with a royal case of gout. But as it is, I write about local art, so 2010 left my brain all wrinkly, my body tired, and all of me excited about 2011. Throughout the year there were a bunch of art-related events that thought outside the box, and, whether or not they worked, they tried—really tried—to be different. Or maybe the events didn’t turn out the way everyone expected. Or maybe they weren’t planned at all. What each of these had in common is they made my job fun. Here are a few local events that made 2010 interesting.

We still have a hard time believing that Lady Gaga played here in September, let alone that she donned the UVA t-shirt the audience threw on stage.

Bloated spectacle

No matter how you slice it, Lady Gaga’s music…pretty much stinks. But even the biggest hater couldn’t have walked out of JPJ feeling unmoved by the Bowiesque spectacle—and surprisingly emotional experience—that was her concert here this September. For a lot of UVA students, seeing Lady Gaga in a glittery Cavaliers tee will be one of their fondest college memories. The rest of us will have to settle for watching Gaga play the power ballad “Speechless” on a flaming piano.

Radio rebound

In a recent interview with a noted physicist, the New York Times Magazine’s Deborah Solomon offered a universal rule to compete with Einstein’s unified field theory: “Everything in the world will get worse.” To WTJU’s small and feverishly dedicated group of listeners, it sounded like the universe was operating on that rule when UVA announced plans that would change programming at the eclectic station. But amid massive public outcry those plans were, for the most part, put on hold. Meanwhile, with two recent fund drives surpassing their goals (the Classical Marathon this month beat its $40,000 goal by $6,000 in pledges) it looks like all it took to motivate 91.1FM’s listeners was to threaten to change it.

Name mismatch

Any room that hosts music around here gets a de facto seal of approval—thanks for doing everything you do!—but sometimes taking the music out of the venue has a way of freshening one’s perspective on things. That was the case when the Vermont vocal trio Mountain Man (one of whose members lives in Charlottesville) played at the gorgeous Christ Episcopal Church on First Street early last month. Who would have figured that a group could learn to be so musical without first learning to plug in a guitar? The three ladies of Mountain Man have some growing up to do. But let’s hope that in growing up they don’t lose their charm.

Alternate universe

Walking into a gallery can feel like a lot of things, but rarely does the experience of walking into an empty room with art tacked to its walls feel like walking into a whole new world. But that was exactly the experience that greeted gallerygoers at “Leaf and Signal,” curated by the local artist Warren Craghead, a bright array of art zines that were chaotically wheatpasted to the walls at The Bridge/PAI. The art itself was hit or miss—some of it done by kids—but culled from a network of lo-fi zinemakers from San Francisco to the U.K., “Leaf and Signal” made Charlottesville feel like a stop on the circuit of world-wise, handmade, eclectic, cheap, beautiful art.

Losing it

Except for the fact that it’s a play, Hank Williams: Lost Highway is much like any biopic about the pitfalls of fame—Ray, Walk the Line, The Doors, The Temptations, the list goes on. But at Live Arts’ production of the play this year, Lynchburg-based songwriter Dallas Wesley didn’t merely act, or impersonate Williams; he was possessed by the two-dimensional version of Williams we wish we knew, who loved his mamma, burped when he drank liquor, and existed exclusively to please an audience. Backed by a crack squad of local musicians (who after the play have come together to perform elsewhere as the Lost Highway) the concerts-within-a-play were, when fictional Hank wasn’t stumbling drunk, among the best of the year.

Kink in the road

The best song on Invisible Hand’s self-titled album is the first: “Two Chords” is songwriter Adam Smith’s fond farewell—or is it a fuck you?—to the I-IV progression, the melodic building block for much of pop music. The rest of the Hand’s album avoids any basic structure as the band attempts to rewrite a shrieking rock ‘n’ roll that almost makes you wish it’d been the Kinks, and not the Beatles, that were the biggest British thing to ever hit America.

 

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A few of my favorite things

Every now and then I like to take a step back from the HTS syllabus and make sure that my readers have a good background in the classics. I’m constantly depressed about the fact that I went all the way through high school and college—majoring in English, no less—without ever cracking open Moby Dick. Thus, I want to make sure that, as a Professor of Websites, I never fail my students in the unique way that my (otherwise exemplary) tutors failed me.
    So, for those not in the know, allow me to introduce you to BoingBoing: A Directory of Wonderful Things. The site gets around 2 million page views a day, and is the most-linked-to site on the Internet, according to Technorati. And, if you’re an Internet obsessive who knows there’s endless amounts of useless knowledge out there just waiting to be absorbed, but don’t have the time to surf your life away, BoingBoing is the answer to your prayers.
    The brainchild of a few California-based tech nerds who got to know each other through their various affiliations with Wired Magazine, BoingBoing scours the Web each day. Its webmasters then post the very best of the strange, the beautiful, the thought-provoking, the silly, the clever, the important and the genius from blogs and websites the world over.
    For example, a recent visit to BoingBoing alerted me to the existence of a Flickr page of vintage children’s product packaging, a San Francisco art event in which people could have their art silk-screened onto tortillas in edible ink, a pending bill in Zimbabwe which would allow every government minister and his brother access to citizens’ private e-mails, and a fake half-suit you can buy if you like to teleconference, but can’t afford those darned expensive pants.
    But what I really love about BoingBoing—aside from the fact that it does my work for me—is that it is evidence of a mind at work. It’s a lively mind, an engaged mind, a mind that’s constantly learning, a mind to which I aspire.

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Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

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