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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pithy F*rging Sayings (20th edit.) 

Welcome to our latest edition of Pithy F*rging Sayings gathered from the singularity. Check out old sayings posts here, scan down past this post for more.

As always, the citation herein of these quotes does not necessarily imply endorsement, the goal is to provoke thought.

"Everything I eat is from the earth, right?
I am what I eat, straight up earth, right?
nothing but a walking sack of earth, nice to meet you
how do you do, guess what, yeah your one too."---311

"Unity is a crucial source of awareness for me: it is the foundation of empathy and connectedness; it is the principle that expresses the integrity of existence."---Marcia Falk

"The essential claim of the fundamentalist is that he knows the truth."
---Andrew Sullivan


Clouds of Meaning 

The depth of definitions offered at Urban Dictionary allow for such nuance. Nuance is the lifeblood of the Clarion Content's thoughts about meaning. In our mind's eye all words carry an ever changing cloud of meaning around them. Each word is the center of a cloud and the ultimate boundries of both denotation and connotation are amorphous and ever changing, as language evolves.

Words and meaning analogize well with clouds. Clouds are never stagnant, they are always in motion, nor do they ever have perfectly defined edges, the edge is Heisenbergian1, uncertain, and viewed through the lens of the observer. Further all the clouds interact in an especially complex and co-related way in the ecosystem that is the Earth's atmosphere, much as words and language do in our human travels. Butterfly wings on the other side of the language world resonate.

1Those seeking the meaning of words and subsequently adopting them as part of their vocabulary effect the very meaning of said words through this process.

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Muhammad Ali: The Photographs of Sonia Katchian 

The Clarion Content is delighted to welcome back a bon vivant whom we hope will be a regular contributor, Catherine Howard. Ms. Howard is a whirlwind of activity and very much in the middle of the Durham artistic milieu. She is a visual artist, an art history instructor, and a curator.

To see her artwork, check out www.catherinejhoward.com, and to see more of her writing, check out catherinejhoward.wordpress.com.

Read her first piece on the Clarion Content here.

Muhammad Ali: The Photographs of Sonia Katchian

at Focal Point Gallery in Chapel Hill, NC

as seen by Catherine Howard

Walking into the artist’s reception at Focal Point Gallery on Sunday, January 15th, a sumptuous spread of cookies, sheet cake, cupcakes, and snacks left no room for doubt that we were joining a jovial celebration of Ali’s 70th birthday already in progress. Although Sonia Katchian’s “The ALI Folio” includes a smattering of images of Ali in the ring, this exhibition glorifies an intimately human Ali, the gentle man known to his family and close associates.

This living legend, a symbol of boxing, charisma, Islam, and now Parkinson’s disease, captivates our collective imagination. His public persona inspires awe and reverence (after all, the man is The Champ), but with a career veiled in bravado, who is the man behind the façade?

Now, we do see Ali’s physical prowess in various photographs of his warm-ups and sparring. The piercing gaze he flings at an off-camera opponent in “Deer Lake, PA Training Camp 1974)” chills the blood. However, of the mixture of fighting, preparation, and candid shots, the most captivating photos only tangentially allude to his “job”. Ali’s unwavering intensity, a quality that made him such a formidable fighter, surfaces in a photograph of him conversing with a tailor, entitled “Los Angeles 1981”, but his piercing gaze is softened with a poised deference.

On another wall, the dichotomy of man vs. idol is perfectly encapsulated: “Deer Lake, PA Training Camp 1974”, depicting two small boys gazing up at a life-size chalk drawing of The Champ surrounded by promotional boxing posters, is placed right next to “First Class to Detroit, 1981”, in which Ali is sprawled out, jaw slack, exhausted, on an airplane.

The vulnerability and trust required to fall asleep around someone else is a testament to the warmth and dedication inherent in Katchian and Ali’s relationship. During our conversation, she reiterated the gentility Ali exuded toward his inner circle. “He was so modest, soft-spoken. His public persona was all for show.”

Ali’s public conversion to the Muslim faith made him a lightning rod during the Civil Rights movement, but regardless of how his religious beliefs were portrayed in the media, Katchian tenderly mused, “He is a very spiritual person; his relationship to God is so deep and important to him.”

This multifaceted glimpse at such an iconic figure sparks nuanced conversations about race, fame, and religion. While there may not be any cupcakes left, Ali’s candid smile will still welcome you. Bring the kids and neighbors, and join in the celebration!

On display until February 28th, “The ALI Folio”, a connoisseur’s boxed edition containing fourteen of Katchian’s and Ali’s favorite photographs, can be purchased by visiting Focal Point Gallery at 1215 East Franklin St in Chapel Hill. Posters and postcards are also available. Call 919-636-4557 or visit www.chapelhillfocalpoint.com for more information.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans 

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans passed Wednesday in Duke Hospital at the age of ninety-one. The Clarion Content could not have said it better than the Duke Chronicle, "Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans shouldered the legacy of the Duke's founding family with remarkable grace, unwavering commitment and indiscriminate love."

As long time readers know, it is the Clarion Content's contention that Durham is what is because it is built on what was. There are few better examples of those who laid the foundation of this great cultural city we share than Ms. Semans.

The members of the Clarion Content editorial board who had cause to interact with Ms. Semans found her remarkably gracious and kind. She had no reason to treat us as anything other than anonymous minions and she did nothing of the sort.

We are grateful for her life and works and we join those who mourn her passing.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

State of the State 

Wait a minute! Is the Clarion Content mistaken or did Obama just start down a path to lose an un-loseable election?

Is he really running the Al Gore 2000 populism playbook?1 Against a Republican field that makes former scion, George Bush II, look like a thoughtful, articulate candidate? Against a a Republican field that Senator Bob Dole could have beaten with one arm tied behind his back?

What gives, Mr. President?

Has no one told you that the only way you can run against the Man in this country is with less regulation, not more. The Reagan narrative, "Get the Man out of lives and off of our back" is alive and well, in the Tea Party freshman of Congress and the Ron Paul zeitgeist."2

But the populist left, Mr. President? This country has been tarring and feathering the populist left as lily-livered commies since before Senator Joe McCarthy was a teenager. The last Democrat to win the Presidency with a true people's mandate from the left was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

And there was a depression. Now, while there is economic malaise, and there are worrying signs of deflation in the United States economy, there is no depression.

Absent times that bad, campaigning from the populist left is a surefire recipe for defeat, Mr. President.

1 None of this should imply that there are not dangerously high levels of income inequality in America. It is just that a Democrat can't win a national election crowing about it.

2Note that in both these canons the Man is far more likely to refer to the government than big corporations.

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Fire on Markham Avenue 

The Clarion Content's intrepid Durham correspondent, Cady Childs, captured this shot of the scene at the fire at Danser Guitar Works last night on Markham Avenue. No one was hurt. There was significant damage to the building and contents.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old North Durham Park 

Durham's disputed pitch

The battle over Old North Durham Park was taken up by the Durham City Council this week. According to the News and Observer the council the approved a resolution, which essentially endorses the Durham Park's and Recreation department's plan, for repairing the park's dysfunctional drainage system and replacing the athletic field's rocky surface with topsoil and grass.1

The council, while hiding under the cover of the Parks and Recreation plan, controversially agreed that the size of the field could be reduced by up to 10,000 sq.ft., much to the chagrin of local residents. The residents, despite generally supporting the Central Park School for Children's plans for nature trails, a butterfly garden and picnic spaces, are suspicious about the reduction of the size of the athletic field, the frequent site of community soccer games. The pitch, one of the only public fields of any size in downtown, has been hotly disputed.

The N&O reports Old North Durham residents and their supporters claim the city is cooperating with real-estate interests to discourage the park's use by blacks and Hispanics. Among the organizations lobbying on local residents behalf, the Durham Coalition for Urban Justice and El Kilombo. The school's coalition is represented by the Friends of Old North Durham Park.

The Clarion Content has heard much about the merits of both sides of this difficult debate. It promises to be repeated as downtown and Durham's gritty reputation grapple with avoiding gentrification.2

1If you have ever had any interaction with Durham Park's and Recreation Department, that alone could make you suspect of their plans for anything.

2It won't be easy. There is resentment, not only among haves and have-nots in Durham, but also between those who invested in the community when it was down and those who could not afford to do so.

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Job Searching advice 

This isn't your usual job searching advice. Rather this is the Clarion Content's Practical Advice, simple heads up tips that we have heard and want to pass along. In this case the advice we heard concerns job searching and personal privacy.

When replying to Craigslist and other job search websites, one of the most irritating pieces of the process is the spam that it produces. Our job counselor recommended creating a new separate email address for your job search. GMail, Yahoo and Hotmail are all free. By creating a new email address, you don't jam up your existing email address, the one that all of your friends and relatives have, with unwanted spam.

This technique also makes you more focused on your job search, because when you are checking emails about job searching, there won't be any goofy forwards or angst ridden emails from long lost relatives to interrupt you. If no one but parties related to your job search has the email address you are using, you won't be distracted by frivolous and/or social email.

Another job searching tip, along these same lines that we heard for responding to internet job ads, send your resume without your street address. Again it cuts down on junk mail, employers who will have your email and phone number from your resume, are not upset not to have your street address, especially if you still include your city, state of residence. Legitimate employers are not looking to mail you anything and if they are, they will have reached out and made personal contact long before then. Spammers and junk mailers trolling for addresses won't be bothered to look you up, if you don't give it away.


Not a done deal yet 

"No, there is another..."

The Clarion Content heard CBS's Bob Schieffer bandy it about on the Monday morning news round table. Now Clarion Content fave, Nate Silver, over at the 538 has written a column about the possibility of it.

What is it?

A brokered convention.

A brokered convention results when a nominee is picked at the convention, through multiple floor votes, after there has been no clear winner from the primary results. The 2012 Republican Convention will be held in Tampa, Florida, during the last week of August.

How might the Republicans arrive at this precedent breaking scenario? (We say precedent breaking as the last time the Republicans had a brokered convention they nominated Thomas E. Dewey in 1948...who went on not to defeat Harry Truman.)

But the times, they are a changing and shuffling. The Democratic nomination race of 2008 between President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton felt unprecedented in its length.

Will this be the year? Schieffer's colleagues noted, he was hoping for it. He wondered if the pundits even remembered how to cover it. Silver speculates that a brokered convention could produce a last minute dark horse candidate like Wisconsin's Paul Ryan or the latest Bush scion, Jeb.

And what might it mean for Ron Paul?

Click through on the various links to read more.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

A Report from Centerfest Focus Groups 

Are you curious about those focus groups on Centerfest the Durham Arts Council has been holding, dear readers? Us too!

Fortunately, we have a special guest columnist who attended the first meeting and generously gives us, Durham, a sense of the room. Please welcome to the pages of the Clarion Content, for what we hope will be the first of many dispatches, LiLa front man and Durham native, Eli McDuffie.

Durham's Five Points, once the heart of Centerfest

Centerfest Focus Group One

observations by: Eli McDuffie

Durham Arts Council head, Sherry DeVries, moderated and guided the group toward three questions:

1)Which artists do we invite?

2)How do we publicize the event/artists?

3)How do we attract the large crowds?

The first question was the easiest to answer. There was a solid consensus on the demographic of artists. Mentions of inclusion of young student artists and discussions ratios of local to national artists were met with overall agreement.

As the audience touched on different ideas I observed an unmistakable wealth of wisdom being shared, but I also sensed a cautionary undertone. The artists present were seasoned not only in their art, but also in testing economic climates. This was no naïvely optimistic crew. The Durham Arts Council and the artists shared a similar concern for the festival: how can Centerfest best be carried out to maximize its entertainment value to the community, without leaving someone to foot the bill?

The finer details of whether or not to have a juried competition for the artists and where resources would be deployed were still unresolved as the small blue stickers got passed out to the audience to vote.

As the voting commenced and the results were reviewed by Ms. DeVreis and the panel, the common theme, the point of agreement, amongst the artists was publicity...How to bring as much public awareness as possible to the artists and their mediums.

There is no doubt that all the important pieces were present, one only has to look at the title of the focus group sessions: Creative Community, Food, Music, Performing Arts, Site-Venues, Format… But undertones of caution still lingered, tinged with worry. Durham has fallen short in recent years of creating a sustainable event. Organizers emphasize that profitability or at least reasonable cost control must be a priority. Just hinting at the range performers and number food trucks that could grace Centerfest provided some reassurance to the audience, but that topic was left to be resolved in another focus group.

See you next time, Room 209, Durham Arts Council.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Michelle Gonzales-Green: a sense of place 

The Clarion Content is delighted to welcome aboard what we hope will be a regular guest contributor, Catherine Howard. Ms. Howard is a whirlwind of activity and very much in the middle of the Durham artistic milieu. She is a visual artist, an art history instructor, and a curator. She worked with the Durham Storefront Project. She will be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa in 2012 for a collaborative public art residency. She graduated with a degree in Art History from Barnard College. To see her artwork, check out www.catherinejhoward.com, and to see more of her writing, check out catherinejhoward.wordpress.com.

Today she tells us about the newest installation at the Carrack Gallery.

a sense of place by Michelle Gonzales-Green

at The Carrack Modern Art

from Catherine J. Howard

Canvas on the floor, gold piano keys, wire sheets hanging from the ceiling... When I walked in, "a sense of place" was still very much in-progress. Upon entering the space, Michelle Gonzales-Green’s effusive energy sweeps you into a menagerie of interactive installations dedicated to personal space, faith, and identity. She has taken the entire week to paint/sculpt/create within The Carrack’s space, giving her the flexibility to reflect the surrounding environment and subsequent experiences in her work. Chronicling her creativity only since January 1, 2012, this seemingly piecemeal array explores the wide variety of facets prompted by Gonzales-Green’s meditations on “home” and “self”.

First, we run into “Wonder Clock”, a combination of the album sleeve for Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” and black and gold piano keys refashioned as clock hands. Gonzales-Green gushed that “Pastime Paradise” was the genesis of her self-awareness, and as such, the rest of the show in essence stems from that album. [While writing this piece, I listened to “Pastime Paradise” on loop. It was only fitting.]

Next, a resurrection of Grandma’s wooden wall paneling and flowered couch welcome you to sit down for a spell. The framed photographs reverse our expectations, focusing on pride in Grandma rather than in the grandkids. Memories, both comfortable and of loss, nostalgia and pain, surface in waves. A trio of sculptures explore female empowerment, gender ambiguity, and the afterlife. A seductively sensuous “Tree of Knowledge” refashions femininity as the origin of paradisaical knowledge, rather than it’s downfall.

Now, to be fair, I have to leave a few surprises, but I can at least say don’t be afraid to get down and dirty in your experience of heaven and hell. Oh, and, be prepared for a journey back in time.

The visual language between individual installations may not be consistent, but the entire exhibit’s energy is intoxicatingly genuine. Not even a hint of irony or sarcasm in sight. Gonzales-Green eloquently summarized the motivation behind "a sense of place": “We only know what we choose to be. To have a sense of place, we all choose, but why do we choose what we choose? How do we know what we’ve never experienced or never been?” This inspiring sphere of reminiscence and nurturing gives us a chance to step outside our personal history and experience a viscerally powerful alternative perception of “home”. Allow her to enfold you and whisk you away on this fantastical journey.

Meet the artist and enjoy homemade Puerto Rican food at the opening reception THIS FRIDAY, January 20th from 6-9 pm at The Carrack Modern Art, 111 West Parrish St, Durham, NC 27701. For more information about The Carrack Modern Art, visit http://thecarrack.org.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Liberty Arts Live Aluminum Pour 

by: Cady Childs

If there’s one event to be sure not to miss on tonight’s art walk, it’s Liberty Arts live aluminum pour at their old foundry adjacent to Durham Central Park.

The pouring will occur between 6pm and 7pm tonight.

“It’s a new year, and we want to show we’re still here,” Jackie MacLeod, of Liberty Arts, said. “Pouring is always very sparkly and very dramatic- you won’t want to miss out.”

For more information on the Liberty Arts group, visit their website at LibertyArtsCasting.org. And check out their new location at the Cordoba Arts Center, located in the Golden Belt District. Durhamites, get a peek at the new space before the grand opening March 16th. Right next to Scrap Exchange's huge new spot. Perfect to hit up after a Friday night stroll through Golden Belt's studios.

The Clarion Content is hoping to persuade Scenes from my Lunch Hour to take some photos of tonight's pour.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Duck and Cover 01.18.11 

Our thanks to "Duck & Cover" and creator Storey Clayton.

Check out his other projects, here, at the Blue Pyramid.

All ideas and opinions are those of the cartoonist and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Clarion Content.*

*But we usually agree.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Carrack, the latest 

from the Clarion Content's Art, Style, and Fashion columnist
on the Durham beat...

Cady Childs

From the opening of the Wendelbo-Malo-Digiulio exhibition
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

The Carrack Modern Art Gallery, located at 111 West Parrish Street, directly above Loaf, is one of those aesthetically addictive spaces you just don’t want to leave. Exposed brick, warm wood floors, comfy, familiar armchairs, and massive windows gazing idly down to the street below lay the backdrop for what happens when two creatively inclined, organized people put their heads together.

“This all evolved in a way we didn’t expect,” Laura Ritchie, co-founder and co-director of the Carrack, said.

At the gallery
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

The gallery functions in a way not often seen in today’s art world. The Carrack is not a co-op. Artists do not pay out a commission on pieces sold during exhibitions, there are no membership fees, and, other than being available for rent to the public for special events, the space is maintained completely through donations and community faith. In December of last year, a KickStarter campaign culminated with a $12,000 pool of funds, securing the space for the entirety of 2012, and confirming just how vital an entity the Carrack has become to the Durham community.

After working together at the Carrboro Arts Center, John Wendelbo, founder of the Durham Sculpture Project, brought Ms. Ritchie on board to take his vision to the next level.

"The community wanted a space like this, and we needed to put together the funding, space, and work to do so," said Ms. Ritchie, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and native of North Carolina.

"We wanted to make the Carrack it’s own entity from the Durham Sculpture Project, but they will always be intrinsically linked.”

From a curatorial perspective, Ritchie has already laid the foundation to secure the Carrack a space in the now crackling Durham art scene. One of the first places the Carrack popped up on the Clarion Content’s radar, if you’ll forgive the pun, was last October’s PoPuP III organized by Richie and Durham artist and bon vivant, Adrian Schlesinger. Now, the gallery is almost completely booked through December 2012, with just about every medium imaginable represented at least once during the course of the year. Richie’s verve and energy are a driving force.

The current Wendelbo-Malo-Digiulio exhibition features a collaboration of three artists (including John Wendelbo, the Carrack's co-founder). It is on display now through this Friday, January 13th, featuring large-scale sculptures and paintings coloring between the lines of abstraction and realism.

Wendelbo-Malo-Digiulio exhibit at the Carrack gallery
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Michelle Gonzalez Green’s ‘A Sense of Place’, opening January 16th, explores the ‘inner sanctum’ of finding one’s creative place, and what settings artists choose to put themselves in during that search. The exhibition will be an inner look at seventeen days of creating in Green’s studio, using original materials that inspired, infuriated, or entranced during the time recorded.

Other upcoming exhibits include works by Gracelee Lawerence (January 30th-February 10th), Dipiki Kohli (February 10th-February 12th), and Melissa Smith (February 13th-February 24th).

The Carrack, named after a type of European ship from the 15th century that lead to the discovery of new worlds, is living up to it’s metaphorical name. It is giving artists a new paradigm, truly modern, post capitalist insatiability, a new take on a collaborative, community-run space, and providing a supportive environment. In exchange for the free space, the artists are expected to largely manage their own staging and promotion. When these individual artists needed a space, the Carrack was there. Ritchie and Wendelbo are in for one exciting year.

For more information on the Carrack’s exhibitions, calendar, booking, and rental, visit their website at www.thecarrack.org.

Wendelbo-Malo-Digiulio exhibit at the Carrack gallery
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

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Catherine Howard 

Catherine Howard's "Courting Love & Violence" was specially commissioned for the Clarion Content's holiday party celebrating the Rodney Derrick Art collection.

All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

It is black paint on white gessoed canvas. The women are pin-up girls of an ilk a little bit more raunchy than your average Vargas girl1. The men are soldiers from outside our standard mental imagery as well. No G.I.'s or Doughboys here, rather they are soldiers of the Apartheid regime.

Howard deliberately juxtaposed these suggestively dressed women and their bodies with soldiers who represented the sovereignty of the nefarious. One cannot help but mix the violence with the sexuality. This is Howard's admitted intent. She believes it mirrors the imagery and actuality in our modern society where violence and sexuality are constantly part of the same brew. Cutting stencils and posing the actions of those involved gave Ms. Howard an opportunity to literally play with her creations like dolls. This metaphor, too, was deliberate, Howard believes it is not much past the time that little girls stop playing with dolls, when men begin to look at them differently.

In our society, permission to look leer is largely granted only to one gender. Thus men are often willing and able quote the proverbial, "I'm married, not dead. Of course, I am still allowed to look." Whereas women who look at men in the same way are castigated as sluts, whether they follow through on their lusty glances or not. Our society holds that the look of wanton sexual desire is normal male behavior. The look wanton sexual desire is improper female behavior. Howard's work lashes out against these strictures.

Night of the party
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Sexual objectification is inherently violent. Violence is implicit in the directionality; the what I to do "to" you, rather than the what I want to do "with" you. The object is used, subject-subject relationships are mutual, subject-object relations are unidirectional. The objectified is not a participant in a relationship, but rather a tool for use. In the context of human sexuality, the objectified learn that one's body is a tool for other people's benefit. Self-image becomes distorted, bent, misshapen.

Afternoon light
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Howard pared down her figures to the few picture here from an original thirty. She has worked extensively with body imagery in her previous art. You might remember the Clarion Content covered her collaboration with The Duke Center for Eating Disorders at the Carrack Gallery. Howard's figurines suggest the beginning of a tapestry or comic book. She says there is more of the tale to be unfolded in future images.

Catherine, we look forward to it.

1Vargas girls are iconic WWII pin-up girls. Originally commissioned for Esquire magazine, they were frequently painted on the sides of military planes.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Duck and Cover 01.12.12 

Our thanks to "Duck & Cover" and creator Storey Clayton.

Check out his other projects, here, at the Blue Pyramid.

All ideas and opinions are those of the cartoonist and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Clarion Content.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Duck and Cover 01.11.12 

Duck and Cover returns from Winter Break hiatus...

Our thanks to "Duck & Cover" and creator Storey Clayton.

Check out his other projects, here, at the Blue Pyramid.

All ideas and opinions are those of the cartoonist and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Clarion Content.*

*More often than not, we TOTALLY agree...

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ridin Wit' Joe Crack 

The president and founder of the Campaign for Change, Otis Lyons, is also the writer, director, producer and driving force behind, "Ridin' Wit' Joe Crack."

It is a one night engagement, for now, tomorrow night, at 7pm at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC).

Our advice, Durham, do not miss this show.

This is the eighth year in production for "Ridin Wit' Joe Crack." Each year Lyons adds an element of showmanship and drama, raising the game and the excitement level. This year one hundred and twenty-five members of Hillside High School Marching Hornets band and dance team will be joining the cast of Joe Crack on-stage at the DPAC.

From what we have seen in rehearsals, Durham, do not miss this show...

Steve Collins is Joe Crack
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

The Clarion Content is fond of the maxim, truth trumps fiction. It is a mantra that Otis Lyons has lived so empirically that he needs no reminders of its veracity. Lyons was a talented student according to peers and acquaintances, but he was rolling with the wrong crowd. His role models were leaders in the streets, not the classroom. Like the tale he tells in Joe Crack, Lyons was a gang member who made his living selling drugs.1 As Joe notes, "Few live and survive life's ride to tell this story."

Otis Lyons aka Vegas Don (standing)
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

That is the sad truth for Lyons old crew, as the man they affectionately call Vegas Don looks back from the far side of forty, by some estimates as many as two-thirds of his high school "crew" may already be gone. Twenty out of thirty young men, waylaid, doing life behind bars or dead. Lyons is doing all he can to prevent this outcome for others in our community, Durham.

Left to right---Orishio Williams, Otis Lyons, Steve Collins, Monte C.
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Lyons is not only spreading the message through the show itself, but literally picking up people along the way. For many members of Lyons cast, the story of Joe Crack is personal. Nick Alejandro, whose performance as Joe Crack's running mate, T-Money, sends shivers down the spine says, "This [role] touches me because its so real."

The mantra of truth trumping fiction rings authentically for cast members who have experienced much of the tale of life on the streets that Lyons and Joe Crack unfold.

Alejandro admits before the birth of his daughter Amaya, five, his life was headed down a dangerous path. He has been working with Otis Lyons and the Campaign for Change three years. Campaign for Change is Lyons non-profit organization dedicated to anti-gang, drug and crime education through youth empowerment, positive role modeling, goal-setting and outreach.

It is this same gripping reality that captures the minds of audience members young and old alike. Lyons narrative, his ability to show the truth of what is happening in the streets, opens eyes and moves hearts. The show incorporates live music, from modern hip-hop to R&B to Carmina Burana, spoken word, and a powerful personal message from a wheelchair bound former gang member2, it is a raucous wall of sound and an explosion of energy, with highly stylized blocking and elaborate choreography.

The vignettes depict scenarios that many young people face: peer pressure, street life, relationships, family interactions, girlfriend/boyfriend dynamics. They are deliberately archetypal without sounding corny or shying away from the real.

Lyons is a demanding taskmaster of his cast, often sounding like the basketball coach3 he is.

Drilling and honing the tiniest details, he demands, "Why is he sweating?" looking at Joe Crack, played by Steve Collins, who is literally dripping with the intensity of his effort.

Lyons answers his own question, "Because he is giving 110%. Why isn't everyone else sweating?"

His voice reverberates and his actors dig deeper.

Lyons knows he is tough. It is because he is about the message. He states firmly and forthrightly, it is not about the song and dance for him. It is not the spotlight of the production that drives him. It is the message, "We are changing lives here. We can't play. We don't have the time."

The earnestness of his intensity mixed with his record of success breathes fire. His people want to run through walls for him, uncomplainingly repeating takes, working as their own stage crew humping pieces of set and props on and off stage again and again.

Steve Collins, a NCCU theater graduate, playing the lead, Joe Crack, has no problem declaring it is so, "I gave up everything for this. My car. My place. I am sleeping on a friend's couch. I am willing to forgo everything else."

Collins is a veteran of professional theater who has been working with Lyons for several years. The cast is stocked with talent. Older actors like Orishio Williams and Johnny Foster stride the stage like the streets to create a seamless illusion of the world where Joe Crack dwells. Younger performers like Moriah Williams, Fred Jones, and Rahim Royal aka the DeFacto Thezpian, shimmy and strut with confidence and feel. Williams plays a "street girl" like she owns her character's diary. Jones, as the comedic junkie, has touches of everything from Jimmy Walker to early Damon Wayans. Royal's body control and movement in a non-speaking role is mesmerizing.

It would be impossible not to highlight the powerful, ebullient, vibrant performance by Jakayla Hart as Keisha, Joe Crack's girlfriend. If there is one cast member whose passionate work rips at the fabric of your very being, it is Hart. She stands strong next to the virtuoso intensity of Collins's Joe Crack and Alejandro's T-Money. In a male dominated cast, about a male dominated milieu, Hart might not be able to save Joe Crack and T-Money from themselves, but the emotional strength and harmony of this triumvirate under Lyons direction will touch you.4

Jakayla Hart as Keisha
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

"Ridin' wit' Joe Crack's" message is powerful and inspirational.

Among the memorable lines from the production:

"Real G's don't hurt the people they love."

"Visiting a living corpse behind steel bars."

"The thin line between walking it, talking it and living it. Giving it or just pretending it's all right."

Steve Collins as Joe Crack and Jakayla Hart as Keisha
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Steve Collins as Joe Crack and Jakayla Hart as Keisha
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Durham, you do not want to miss this show.

Originally published January 5th, 2012.

1Read Otis Lyons's Durham story of poverty, violence, high school, family, gangs, prison, and ultimately redemption here.

2Lyons often uses former gang members as speakers. In this case, it is a personal family friend, Mike Spain. Mr. Spain, a wheelchair bound casualty of gang violence, tells it like it is. He warns young audience members, "You don't have to end up this way. You have a choice. I have to have help to take my pants off. I might spend twelve hours or two days waiting for someone to come by my house to get me, to go anywhere."

3Word is Lyons, aka, Vegas Don coaches the Carolina Don's youth basketball team in his spare time.

4We defy you to go and not cry. This, too, is Durham. Too ignore the reality of it is a moral failure.

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Duck and Cover 01.10.12 

Duck and Cover returns from Winter Break hiatus...

Our thanks to "Duck & Cover" and creator Storey Clayton.

Check out his other projects, here, at the Blue Pyramid.

All ideas and opinions are those of the cartoonist and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Clarion Content.

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Interesting Links 

It is January and we have a new batch of interesting links for you, dear readers. If you haven't seen'em all, check out old posts by clicking here and scrolling down. There are hours and hours of semi-captivating material, time wasting Alice fell down a hole and landed deep in the internet stuff.

This week we bring you a fascinating video from one of our teen contributors who regularly sends the Clarion Content good material for our "What are They Watching" column. This video can't qualify for "What are They Watching" status because by the standards of the Google-verse, it has a mere 32,000 hits.

It is nonetheless amazing. Watch as the woman below makes a beguiling transformation.

Into Drake with just make-up

The next two interesting links are both politics related. The first is more important than the second. From Robert Wright, a senior editor at The Atlantic, it speaks most cogently and succinctly about why Ron Paul is an asset in the political debate, whether one agrees with his views or finds him repugnant. Essentially Ron Paul is the only candidate from either major party who attempts to, "imagine how the world looks to people other than Americans." Those folks and their perspective make up 95.5% of the world's population. Read Wright's whole take here.

The second politics links is more of an inside baseball piece about the New Hampshire primary and the latest Republican Presidential debate. Long time Clarion Content fave and Esquire veteran, Charles P. Pierce, wittily dissects the milquetoasts1 that make up2 the Republican party field. It is hilariously laugh-out-loud funny, "[Romney] running through all four of the expressions of which his face is capable, beginning with 'Lordly Disdain' and ending with 'Flog The Butler'."

It gets more caustic from there and while it is perfectly safe for work the language is distinctly PG-13. Just fyi. Read the whole piece here.

Share your interesting links with us at ClarionContent at gmail dot com and read about them in our next edition.

1Michelle Bachmann took the Republican's last personality off the campaign trail to the sidelines after Iowa.

2Just couldn't get away from that word in this piece.

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fashion Drive-by #3: Accessories 

Necklaces provided by Tammi Floccare...

Clothing and shoes from Fifi's of Durham...

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