Fluent Fall 2016

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Fall 2016 | Vol 5 No 1

fluent Fall 2016 | Vol 5 No 1 Nancy McKeithen editor & publisher Sheila Kelly Vertino associate editor Kathryn Burns visual arts editor Zachary Davis fiction editor Todd Coyle music editor Sarah Soltow proofreader Contributing Writers Amy Mathews Amos, Catherine Baldau, Paula Pennell, Ed Zahniser Contributing Photographers Benita Keller, Curt Mason, Mark Muse, Judy Olsen, Keron Psillas, Carl Schultz, Sterling “Rip” Smith, Hali Taylor Submissions For information on submitting unsolicited fiction, nonfiction, plays and poetry, please see the website: www.fluent-magazine.com/submissions. Please submit arts news to news@fluent-magazine.com. Fluent Magazine is published quarterly and distributed via email. Available online at www.fluent-magazine.com.

C O N T R I B U T O R S Amy Mathews Amos has worked at the interface of environmental science and public policy for 25 years as an analyst, advocate, consultant and now writer. Her writing has appeared in the washington post, pacific standard, high country news. She’s a contributing editor for the observer of Jefferson County and serves on the Board of the American Conservation Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @AmyMatAm. Catherine Baldau is a writer and editor. As Publications Specialist for the Harpers Ferry Historical Association, she has edited and designed numerous books, including the award-winning harpers ferry under fire: a border town in the american civil war.

Todd Coyle is a journeyman musician who has performed in and around the Eastern Panhandle of WV and around the country for over 30 years. He has worked in folk, blues, pop, jazz and country bands as a guitarist, bassist, singer, producer and sound man. Zach Davis is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in numer-

ous print and online publications, such as carve, the first line, drunk monkeys and numerous volumes of the anthology of appalachian writers. He is the Fiction Editor of fluent. Paula Pennell, having developed technical proposals for over 20 years, enjoys the contrast of writing about creative people and their art. An artist herself, Paula works with hot glass and keeps bees at her home in Monrovia, MD. Sheila Vertino is returning to her roots as a freelance writer and journalist, after a career as a magazine editor-in-chief and book and research publisher. Based in Shepherdstown, she describes herself as a culturally curious word nerd. Ed Zahniser is a retired career bureaucrat and co-founder of the Shepherdstown (wv) good news paper. His poetry has appeared in over 150 literary venues in the U.S. and U.K.; seven anthologies; five books, five chapbooks, and three gallery shows of poetry as works on walls. He contributes to fluent, wv observer, adirondack almanack blog. His recent book of poems is at the end of the selfhelp rope, Slowread Books, 2016.

THE COVER IMAGE In Tchaikovsky’s THE NUTCRACKER, Clara (Sarah Baldau) discovers the magic and joy of dance in Tableau II, “The Forest of Fir Trees in Winter.” This year is the tenth anniversary of the Shepherdstown School of Dance’s production. Photograph by Michelle McJury, 2014, photographicmemoriesbymichelle.com.

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Fall 2016

Balancing Act: Shepherdstown School of Dance

The Engine Room Art Space

American Conservation Film Festival: Season 14

Saving Ourselves by Saving The Past

The Potomac Playmakers: 90 Years of Community Theatre




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BalancingAct By Catherine Baldau

BEHIND THE DOOR of a building in Shepherdstown that looks as much like a warehouse as it does a dance studio, a group of girls in black leotards and pink tights huddle in the small waiting area. Electricity seems to crackle around them. The Nutcracker cast list has just been posted. As the dancers arrive and study the list, their expressions slip from anxiety to surprise to delight. If there is disappointment, it is hidden well. They join the circle, where the energy and burst of teenage endorphins and adrenaline is palpable as the dancers dissect the cast list.

This year marks the Shepherdstown School of Dance’s (SSOD’s) tenth Nutcracker production, and for most of these 14- to 17-year-old dancers, this will be their tenth performance. But now the discussion will have to wait. It’s time for class. The girls hush and file into the studio. They place their hands on the barre. Within a few piano notes, the energy begins to shift. Their expressions morph into an almost meditative state. “Dance is a meditation,” says Artistic Director Emily Romine. “People talk about the benefit of not

Dancers in the wings preparing for “Waltz of the Snowflakes” in 2013.

Photo by Charlie Devine. 4 | fluent

Photo by Michelle McJury.

Instructor Emily Romine believes dance gives children the ability to block out the noise and find what’s really important. “It’s easy for kids today to get caught up in the scorecard—how many ‘likes’ do I have, how many A’s, what’s on that test— as opposed to what is valuable. In dance they tap into it.”

Photo courtesy SSOD.

just sitting meditation, but walking meditation — going through a labyrinth. Here they are walking a labyrinth of pliés and tendus. Floor barre takes the mediation a step further. You’re not looking at the mirror. You’re not seeing anyone else. You’re very much inside your own body. That is a hidden treasure. It does a lot for kids.”

At the Barre In the studio, Romine listens for a moment to the music, then ticks off a sequence: Front…fifth plié… extend…close plié straighten.... The dancers digest it and begin to move. Plié second with arms in first. Side…close in back…feel your fifth absolutely before you plié. Joy and satisfaction are derived from the repetition, Romine says. “It’s about what’s inside of them: the hard work that’s in them, the repetition, the artistry, the mind/body connection they’re making. If you’ve had u

SSOD students warm up before presenting an adjudication piece for the West Virginia Dance Festival in Charleston, WV. The school participates in this annual event sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. fluent | 5

the repetition and a firm grasp on how things work, then the freedom abounds when you’re ready.” A native of Martinsburg, Romine received her training from Carolou Russell. During high school, she studied with David Howard, spent two summers at the School of American Ballet in New York City and a semester at Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts in Massachussetts. While studying abroad she thought she was going to stop dancing. “I went to Brazil for a year and found a dance studio in the city I was staying in.” She laughs. “I kept trying to get away from it, but I couldn’t.” Upon her return from Brazil, Romine majored in Art History and French at Wittenberg University in Ohio. There she took classes at the Dayton Ballet and Ballet Met in Columbus. Wittenberg didn’t have a dance major, but Romine was able to dance in the university’s company. After more time abroad in Paris and Argentina, Romine returned to the U.S. and received a Masters of Science and Education from Shenandoah University. She was teaching in Loudoun County, liv-

ing in Shepherdstown and dancing again with Russell when she received the call that redirected her life down another path. “One of the local dance studios was looking for a substitute ballet teacher,” she recalls. “So they called me. There, I quickly found out how much I really loved teaching dance. It was fantastic.” When that school decided to move, Romine was in a quandary. She didn’t want to leave Shepherdstown. With a two-year-old at home, the idea of starting a school was the furthest thing from her mind. But several people wanted a dance school in Shepherdstown, including Mercedes Prohaska, whose daughter was a student of Romine’s. “At that time, my daughter Harlee was about nine or ten,” Prohaska says, “in that transition phase where she needed serious ballet classes. After we looked at different studios in the area, someone suggested I talk to Emily about opening a school. We didn’t know each other at all. One day we met on my back porch and SSOD was created.”

“We are asking these bodies to do some pretty intense things,” says Romine. “That’s why the discipline is important.”

Photo courtesy SSOD. 6 | fluent

Photo by Sadie Arnold.

High school senior Ariel Cifala started dancing when she was 3 years old. In February she’ll be 18. She doesn’t plan to dance after high school, but still takes classes five days a week. “I felt like I needed to finish out my years here and stick with it. I love dancing.”

The school opened in the fall of 2003, not long after that back-porch meeting. Their first performance was in the spring of 2004; their first Nutcracker in 2007. “We had to mature as a school before we could tackle the Nutcracker,” Romine says. By 2011, they had outgrown their studio and moved to their current location on Princess Street. Their mission statement hangs on a placard in the waiting area: Shepherdstown School of Dance is committed to keeping the Art and Discipline of Classical Dance alive in our community. Their goal, Romine says: “Create a place where dance is valued and honored and where anyone who values and honors it — and is present — will get everything we have and will benefit.”

Adagio Mid-way through class, the barres are moved aside and the dancers take their spots in center. Plié…pas de bourrée to fourth…en-dehors turn, double pirouette…. “The technique is really, really important,” Romine says, “but only as a vehicle for everything else.” Ballet

is a combination of physics, science and math and the students are constantly analyzing and digesting the technique and how things work. Corrections range from head to pinky toe. “Arms a little higher…a little closer together with the hands. Careful this last dégagé side doesn’t turn into a rond de jambe….Watch that front foot, turn it out more from the top of the hip.” “The logic of it all is insane,” Romine says, “but then you have to turn all of that off and dance. And you have to put the artistry in. There’s something for every part of your brain and body. Every class becomes a performance for yourself.” Level VI dancers (the school’s most advanced level) spend a minimum of 9.75 hours a week in the studio. The physical demands on the body require this level of discipline. Many of the students take extra classes, and many have been accepted to summer dance intensives at schools including the American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, The Rock School, Joffrey u fluent | 7

Photo by Michelle McJury.

“Dancers need to have that internal place of development,” says Emily Romine, “but they want to be able to show it off. There has to be a little bit of swagger in them.” Here her students perform in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Act 2 “Divertissement d. Trepak – Russian Dance.”

Ballet, Washington School of Ballet, and the Boston Conservatory. What compels them to spend four or five weeks of their summer dancing, when they dance five days a week throughout the school year? “When you dance all year and you’re continuously going to class, it feels weird in the summer to not do anything,” explains 17-year old Ariel Cifala. “It’s like you’re not being productive.” Her 15-year-old sister JoJo adds, “It’s really nice to go to a different place and have different teachers. Here we do straight ballet with the same two teachers. So it was nice in New York to have five different ballet teachers, plus yoga, Pilates and character classes. It’s a nice change.” Romine watches them go with the same pride and anxiety as a parent sending a child off to college. “The thing I think is so valuable and important about this work is that it is very internal. So I worry when 8 | fluent

they go out there in the big, bad world. Not everybody communicates the way I do in the dance studio. You want to protect that and make sure they continue to value themselves….You don’t want someone to be swayed from the path of the thing they love just because they got the wind knocked out of them.” But the ability to take corrections and constructive criticism is a valuable, humbling life skill. “These are some of the strongest kids I know,” Romine says. “The things that they have to organize and manage in order to do the thing they love — and I love the fact that they’re organizing and managing it for something they love. Not because they’re trying to score a point or get a Like. They’re doing it because they’re compelled.”

Grand Allegro The students have been dancing for over an hour when the time comes to move across the floor. They

divide in to groups of three and four. Tombé onto right... pas de bourrée...glissade...saute de chat.... New energy reserves are found — the same level spent hashing over the Nutcracker cast list earlier. Romine and Prohaska agree that casting is the biggest challenge. “It’s brutal,” Romine says. “We’re a school, and as the students develop, they’re changing all the time. So every single year we have a brand new class, even if there are kids in this cast that have done it for ten years.” Ariel Cifala was surprised to be cast in the prima ballerina role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. “You can never expect a part,” she says. “You’ll get your hopes up too high and then if you don’t get it you’ll be really disappointed. I think I’ve always wanted to be Sugar Plum, especially when I understudied two years ago. When you’re little and you see the Sugar Plum, you always look up to that part. I think it’s crazy that I’m going to be Sugar Plum.” The age of the boy playing this year’s Nutcracker called for a much younger Clara than in past productions. This shifts not only the choreography, but the tone of the production from a coming-of-age story to a more innocent, magical tale. “The universe really handed us something here with our tenth year,” says Romine. “This is going to be new and exciting.” Photo by Charlie Devine.

“The Nutcracker is the Nutcracker, so the story is the story,” Prohaska says. “But how it’s portrayed and how it’s choreographed and how we tell the story changes based on how the school evolves and trying to best showcase the ability of the dancers.” Most important to Romine is giving students roles that are challenging enough to stretch them, but not so challenging that they cannot embody and enjoy what they’re doing on stage. In addition to costuming 50 dancers, Prohaska works to find a professional male dancer for the role of Cavalier. She begins networking as early as May or June. “This year I made contacts from San Diego to Miami, and we ended up with Azamat Uulu from Rhode Island, who’s actually from Kyrgyzstan and has danced with the Russian Ballet.” The school has hired these professionals from companies across the country including the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence, and the Oregon Ballet Theatre. They also recruit community members to act as parents in the Act One Party Scene. One of them is Steve Cifala, Ariel’s father. She’ll also be playing a party parent, allowing the two to dance together in her final Nutcracker. “He’s really excited about it,” she says. “I think it will be fun.”

Apotheosis At the end of class, the students have just caught their breath when conversation returns to the Nutcracker. Rehearsals begin in a week, which for these dancers means two months of Tchaikovsky. None of them complain. As exhausting as it is putting the Nutcracker production together, Romine relishes this time. “Nutcracker is tradition,” she says. “There’s this sense of comfort and familiarity that comes with sitting in the audience at Christmas and watching the Nutcracker. Yes, it’s totally familiar, but I get goosebumps every time I see it. During rehearsals, I don’t play the end of the show for a long time. And the first time we go all the way through it…it gets me every time.” Cifala is trying not to think about her final Nutcracker performance. “It’s crazy to think that in my first Young students as bakers in Nutcracker Act 2, “Divertissement f. Mother Gigogne and the Clowns.” The 2016 production will feature 50 dancers from grades K through 12. fluent | 9

Nutcracker I was a party child, now it’s my tenth, my last year at SSOD, and I’m Sugar Plum. It hasn’t hit me quite yet, because it’s too early, but I think that by the time we get to dress rehearsal, and it’s going to be the last time I’m doing that, I’m definitely going to cry.” Year after year, Prohaska stands amazed at curtain call. “No matter how these kids gets cast, even if they’re disappointed, I never know it. They always, always bring it.” In addition to being the managing director, Prohaska teaches the pre-ballet program, ages 3 to 6. What is most rewarding about her job? “Watching these kids grow right in front of my eyes.” She pauses, taken for a moment by unexpected emotion. “They come in and they’re little. And then they graduate and turn into this beautiful person.” She believes dance makes them better adults. “They’re physically beautiful, but dance contributes to a lot of their character. It teaches them so many life lessons. How to deal with life’s anxieties and disappointments. About reaching goals and dreams and having accomplishments. It teaches you humility, which I think is important in life. It also teaches you endurance and to suck it up and get out there and smile through it and know that if you’re in pain, you’ll get through it.”

Romine is humbled to be able to offer something she loves so much to her students, to help them grow as artists, and give them an opportunity to connect to this “otherworldly” thing. “What I want to give to the students is a balance between the rigor and the creativity and expression. In life, too. As human beings, having that rigor, but keeping the openness to what is possible and creative in your life—whether it’s dance or something else — it’s a skill. Both sides are important. You can’t neglect one or the other. It would be easy to hide in one side or the other, but to be able to keep both is important. “I want them to be able to leave here, quit for ten years, and then walk into an open ballet class wherever they are, and know exactly what to do. They will put their hand on a barre and it will all come back. They’ll go to that special place.” fluent

The Shepherdstown School of Dance presents the Nutcracker, Frank Center for the Performing Arts Sat, Dec 10, 2 pm and 7 pm | Sun, Dec 11, 2 pm Tickets go on sale in November: 304.886.8398 www.shepherdstownschoolofdance.com

Community members join dancers on stage in the Nutcracker Act 1 party scene. Photo by Michelle McJury.

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the new f word arts | culture | events

Mark Muse – Photographs Fine Art Photography and Printmaking • Portfolio Printing Printing for Exhibition Color and Black&White High Quality Art Reproduction

[\ muse@markmusephotographs.com markmusephotographs.com

The Bridge Fine Art & Framing Gallery Abstractions 2016, October 15 – November 20 Coming in December: Seth Hill and miniatures by Judy Bradshaw

8566 Shepherdstown Pike, Shepherdstown WV 25443 • 304.876.2300 Fine Art, Ceramics, Photography & Custom Framing

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click on any cover to read the issue.

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Sponsor fluent | 13


Artwork by Hagerstown artist Lauren Hoffman of Art Poptart. Photo by Paula Pennell. Other photos courtesy of Emily Jones and the Engine Room Art Space.

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agerstown, MD is on the brink of a renaissance. With the recent library renovation and a growing crop of new restaurants and businesses, the City of Hagerstown is employing creative ways to revive the area and draw people back downtown. The Engine Room Art Space—“The Space”—stands at the forefront of the City’s renewal by offering emerging, local artists a free public space for exhibiting their work, and providing a positive space where community and visitors can come together to experience, think, discuss, create and contribute in new and imaginative ways. u

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Opened in June 2015, the Engine Room Art Space started as a revitalization program of Main Street Hagerstown, presented by the City of Hagerstown’s Department of Community and Economic Development. Through grants and funding, the City invested in a three-story building located at 36 North Potomac (NoPo) Street, in the heart of downtown Hagerstown. The intent is to provide local emerging artists with affordable apartments (dubbed “The Studios of NoPo”),

onsite experience and a venue for showing their art. In exchange, the Residents drive the vision, mission and operation of The Space. “They gave us a good bit of freedom to make key decisions on how to set up the space, what types of artists and artwork to feature, programming and even the name,” says Emily Jones, Director of the Engine Room Art Space. The residents’ oversight began with the decision to keep the Space’s original plaster wall intact. “The

The Engine Room Art Space: Outside looking in at the “Edge of Appalachia” exhibit featuring collage artist Ashley Hoffman, painter Mindy Sizemore and blacksmith Lucas Warner (October 2015).

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architect had a different plan, but we fought to keep it because it ties in with Hagerstown’s history,” says Jones. The aged plaster wall brings primitive beauty and character to The Space. Pockets of old wall paper and a gambling motif tucked away in the top corner suggest clues to its past life. Regardless of the chipping plaster, Emily and the residents believe the wall is worth preserving, and the artwork displayed on the wall is carefully selected to coordinate with its varying colors and patterns. As for the gallery’s name, “We did a lot of brainstorming and one resident suggested “Engine Room,” as in the engine room on a train. We all liked it because it represents the idea of “starting up,” which aligns with our mission of getting artists started and pushing forward,” explains Jones. The Engine Room operates on a small budget allocated from the apartment rental fees. No money is exchanged; the Engine Room doesn’t take any profits from sales. Rather than focus solely on work by The Studios of NoPo’s resident artists, the residents decided The Space should showcase a broad range of local artists, genres and mediums — painting, mixed media, performance, sculpture and more. It’s not a business, nor is it a non-profit. It’s an open space where lots of different things happen. “A place for the community to come together to exchange ideas and form new perspectives of what art can be and what art does.” The Engine Room welcomes local emerging artists to showcase work that presents challenging ideas or processes — local being within a 60-mile radius, but preferably from Hagerstown and surrounding areas. Jones recommends proposing art in person. “People and their art go together. You always appreciate art more when you can meet the artist in person and learn about their work firsthand,” says Jones. Exhibits rotate monthly, in parallel with a unique selection of art events and themes that often reflect Hagerstown traditions and encourage community

participation. Examples include the recent Grimm’s Tales exhibit, which aligned with Hagerstown’s Augtoberfest and featured art inspired by stories and tales. Another event opened the space to students from the Barbara Ingram School of Fine Arts, who orchestrated, installed and promoted their artwork at what The Studios of NoPo Residents hope will be an annual exhibit; and their most popular event to date, “All on the Wall,” where all local artists and aspiring artists were invited to fill The Space with their talent. u Emily Jones, Director of the Engine Room Art Space, and Fernando Velez, a resident of The Studios of NoPo, prepare for the first exhibit, (June 2015).

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“Businesses Helping Businesses” also plays a huge role in the Engine Room’s strategy for keeping it local. The Residents actively seek opportunities to collaborate and participate with downtown businesses on events like the Washington County Free Library’s Altered Book Art Contest (see sidebar for details). They even support and promote local restaurants when ordering food for monthly receptions, which are open to the public. In keeping with their “come one, come all” approach, future plans include hosting creative workshops and clubs, and adding more experimental programming, art-related discussions and critiques. With a full calendar of free creative events and new local art on display every month, the Residents have a clear vision for The Space. “We’d like for this to be a casual, comfortable gathering place where visitors can hang out and discuss art and ideas,” says Jones. fluent

THE ENGINE ROOM ART SPACE 36 North Potomac St, Hagerstown, MD 21740 Hours: Thu–Sat: 11 am–7 pm, Sun: 11 am–5 pm Emily Jones, Director 240-520-1407 Online: www.engineroomartspace.com facebook.com/engineroomart instagram.com/engineroomartspace engineroomartspace.tumblr.com twitter.com/EngineRoomArt Exhibits: Altered Book Contest Group Show, through October 30 Studios on NoPo Group Show, November 3–26

“Our Shadows” event (February 2016): The interactive portion of this exhibit, organized by Emily Jones, was a 25-foot paper mural on which community members traced one another’s shadows on the wall, then filled the shadows with imagery that expressed themselves. The other half of the gallery was filled with silhouettes made by artist and educator Mindy Sizemore showing images from different life stages—kindergarten, college and retirement.

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Below, Shepherdstown, WV artist Renzo Perez works on one of the images in his exhibit, “Recorrido,� a story of life, people and places from Lima, Peru, to West Virginia, told through photography and drawings. Perez worked on the mural throughout the month the exhibit was up and revealed the final product at the closing reception in September.

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Seated Budha. Photos: Saving Mes Aynak.

Saving Ourselves

by Saving the Past By Amy Mathews Amos

In “Saving Mes Aynak,” filmmaker Brent Huffman tells a story emblematic of our times: a ruinous reality that leaves us feeling angry, fearful and sad, yet strangely inspired and determined at the same time. While divisiveness rages all around us, Huffman helps us lock arms with someone halfway around the world, and gratefully embrace his commitment to preserving the best of humanity while surrounded by its worst. “Saving Mes Aynak” is a study in such stark contrasts, and we can’t help but root passionately for the triumph of good over evil throughout. u

We first meet our hero, Qadir Temori, at his mosque in Kabul. A devoted Muslim, Temori is praying for the health and safety of his family and the future of his troubled country. But he’s also praying for the safety of Mes Aynak, a 5,000 year old Buddhist site buried beneath the dry dust outside the city. The size of the ancient ruins of Pompeii, Mes Aynak so far has relinquished Buddhist statuary, frescos, and an entire monastery in the short time Temori and his team have had to excavate. As the lead Afghani archaeologist on the site, Temori is tasked with the impossible: excavating the country’s most important archaeological site with few trained staff, little support, and the threat of Taliban violence. Under ideal conditions, Temori estimates it would take 20 years

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to excavate a site of this size and value. Instead, the Chinese mining company with rights to the copper also buried beneath the dust, has given him one year. To Temori and his team, Mes Aynak is a treasure. It represents their country’s history, heritage and culture — no matter that modern-day Afghanistan is Muslim and the ancients were Buddhist. To mining company executive Liu Zhenguo of the China Metallurgical Group Corporation, Mes Aynak is a problem. One that he reassures us “won’t take long to solve.” Presumably, one year. Not surprisingly, the rich lode of copper that lured the Chinese to this site is also what drew the ancients. Before the Buddhists, Bronze Age artisans turned copper into coins and other artifacts in an ancient smelter.

A gold-gilded Buddha statue from the 9th century.

Later, the Silk Road passed through the site, bringing Iranian, Chinese and other influences into the city. And like many archaeological sites, Mes Aynak reflects layer upon layer of civilization, as each generation built atop their ancestors’ works. Temori has no illusions that he and his team can save all of these artifacts. There’s no time or money to do so and many are so large that they simply can’t be moved. Like the 100-foot-high Buddhist statues of Bamiyan, truly saving Mes Aynak would require preserving the site. But between the Chinese mining company seeking billions, Afghan officials accepting bribes, and the destructive Taliban suspicious of all things beautiful, that’s not Temori’s goal. Afghanistan’s Buddhists of Bamiyan inspired Temori to become an archaeologist in the first place. But, just like the rest of the world, Temori knows that the Taliban blew up the giant statues in 2001. Instead, he is struggling to recover what he can and document the rest with maps and photos. In one scene, with well-worn worry beads in hand, we see him pleading with a French archaeologist and a translator for a basic computer that will allow him to do just that — document what was, for posterity and science, before the inevitable destruction. But despite smattered pledges of support from the World Bank, the French government, and the Czech Embassy, few resources have trickled down to Temori and his team. Instead, they go months without wages, weather the Taliban’s death threats and landmines, and worry about feeding their families. Why? Why such determination in the face of such obstacles?

“It is great what my dad is doing,” says Temori’s young son Ali. “He is helping to protect our history and culture.” That sentiment clearly runs in the family. “I am very proud of my son,” Temori’s father, Wassim, says. “I sent him to school and university during very bad times….Today, thanks to God, he is working to save this country’s heritage.” In this brief scene, Temori’s joy at returning home to his three children after a fraught day at the site is palpable. “We want to preserve and protect our heritage and present it to the world,” says Temori early in the film. “That is why we started this incredible project.” By the last scene, he worries that all his team’s sacrifices will be in vain. Thanks to Huffman’s film, those sacrifices will never totally be in vain, regardless of the ultimate outcome. If nothing else, Temori’s devotion reminds us of universal values that transcend today’s balkanized global landscape of terrorism, prejudice, and greed, and the online echo chambers that escalate each. His dedication to his country’s history, heritage and culture—in short, his commitment to conserving our shared humanity — cuts through that toxic loop. We’re right there with him throughout, hoping against hope that the good guy, and all that he stands for, wins. Somehow, it’s impossible to consider that he won’t. fluent

According to news reports, mining at Mes Aynak has been postponed indefinitely due to security concerns and political instability. Filmmaker Brent Huffman will be answering questions at the American Conservation Film Festival’s (ACFF’s) screening of “Saving Mes Aynak” at Shepherd University’s Byrd Center for Legislative Studies on Saturday, October 22 at 6 pm. A second screening will be offered at the Frank Center on Saturday, October 28 at 7:30 pm. This film is has received ACFF’s Green Spark Award Highlighting Conservation Heroes. fluent | 23

2 weekends American Conservation 4 venues Film Festival 2016 35 films Season 14: Oct 21–23, 28–30

See complete schedule of films, page 34. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies on the campus of Shepherd University National Conservation Training Center Reynolds Hall on the campus of Shepherd University The Frank Center on the campus of Shepherd University Photo: BBC. 24 | fluent

LIFE STORY – FIRST STEPS, Filmmakers: Tom Hugh-Jones, Rupert Barrington — Vulnerable, naïve and determined, some young animals face their biggest challenges in the first few days of life. In infancy, every challenge is a new one. How a creature fares at the very beginning of its life is the foundation upon which their future success depends. Saturday, October 22 during BLOCK 3, which begins at noon at the National Conservation Training Center, 59 min. As part of ACFF’s Youth and Family Programming, this film will be followed by a live animal presentation by Blue Ridge Wildlife Center. u

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RACING EXTINCTION —  Oscar-winning director Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) assembles a team of artists and activists on an undercover operation to expose the hidden world of endangered species and the race to protect them against mass extinction. Spanning the globe to infiltrate the world’s most dangerous black markets and using high-tech tactics to document the link bePhoto: OPS. tween carbon emissions and species extinction, Racing Extinction reveals stunning, never-before-seen images that truly change the way we see the world. Friday, October 21 during BLOCK 2, which begins at 6:30 pm at Reynolds Hall. 95 minutes. SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY — Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds, worshipped and treasured since the dawn of humankind. This film follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000-yearold food legacy. In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David-andGoliath battle to defend the future of our food. Sunday, October 23 during BLOCK 10, which begins at 6:30 pm at Reynolds Hall. 93 minutes. Photo: Courtesy of Collective Eye Films.

Photos: pbsinternational.org.

E.O. WILSON: OF ANTS AND MEN — Follow the extraordinary scientific odyssey of one of America’s greatest living thinkers, E.O Wilson. Often dubbed “a Darwin for the modern day,” his lectures at Harvard were picketed and he was even physically attacked on stage at a scientific conference, all because he suggested that human nature could be studied scientifically. Time has borne Wilson out, and sociobiology has become a well-established and accepted part of the humanities. The film culminates in a rapturous finale about his work in the great national park of Mozambique, Gorongosa, once torn apart by civil war, now being restored to its former glory. Two Screenings: Saturday, October 22 during BLOCK 4, which begins at 2:15 pm at the National Conservation Training Center, and Sunday, October 30 during BLOCK 16, which begins at 6:00 pm at the Frank Center. 92 minutes. u

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THE BURDEN: FOSSIL FUEL, THE MILITARY AND NATIONAL SECURITY, Filmmaker: Roger Sorkin — This film tells the story of fossil fuel dependence as our greatest long-term national security threat and why the military is leading the transition to clean energy. The Burden is the centerpiece of a strategic media engagement campaign to inspire a movement that strengthens our energy security and harnesses the power of American innovation to make us leaders in the 21st cenPhoto: www.theburdenfilm.com. tury global clean energy economy. Saturday, October 22 during BLOCK 6, which begins at 6:30 pm at the Frank Center. 40 minutes.

Photo: thebabushkasofchernobyl.com.

BABUSHKAS OF CHERNOBYL — In the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, a defiant community of women scratch out an existence on some of the most toxic land on Earth. They share this hauntingly beautiful but lethal landscape with an assortment of visitors: scientists, soldiers and even “stalkers”— young thrill-seekers who sneak in to pursue post-apocalyptic video-game-inspired fantasies. Why the film’s characters —Hanna, Maria and Valentyna—chose to return after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny, and the subjective nature of risk. Saturday, October 22 during BLOCK 6, which begins at 6:30 pm at the Frank Center. 72 minutes.

Photo: truecostmovie.com.

THE TRUE COST, Filmmaker: Andrew Morgan — This film explores the impact of the fashion industry on people and the planet. While the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, the human and environmental costs continue to grow. Filmed in 13 countries around the world, The True Cost explores the global damage being done and the ways we are buying into it, and includes interviews with top voices from the fashion industry as well as prominent human rights and environmental activists. Sunday, October 30 during BLOCK 15, which begins at 3:30 pm at the Frank Center. 92 minutes.

Photo: catchingthesun.tv.

CATCHING THE SUN — Through the stories of workers and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and China, Catching the Sun captures the global race to lead the clean energy future. With countries like China investing in innovative technologies and capitalizing on this trillion-dollar opportunity, the film tells the story of the global energy transi-tion from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands. Their successes and failures speak to one of the biggest questions of our time: Will the U.S. actually be able to build a clean energy economy? Two screenings, both at Reynolds Hall: Sunday, October 23 during BLOCK 7, which begins at 1:00 pm, and Friday, October 28 during BLOCK 11, which begins at 6:30 pm. 74 minutes. u

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THIRTY MILLION — A statistic. But this statistic is made up of individuals. Bangladesh is often described as the most vulnerable country on the planet in the face of a changing climate, as its people are already at risk from rising seas. Filmmakers Daniel Price and Adrien Taylor were fueled by the urgency of the impending displacement of these people who did relatively little to contribute to a problem that may bring unprecedented human suffering. Two Screenings! 2:15 pm Saturday, October 22 during BLOCK 4 at the National Conservation Training Center, and 6:30 pm Friday, October 28 during BLOCK 11 at Reynolds Hall. 34 minutes. u Photo: thirtymillionfilm.org.

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2015 ACFF SCHEDULE FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21 BLOCK 1—6:00 pm, Byrd Center for Legislative Studies Pale Blue Dot (4 min) Forget Shorter Showers (11 minutes) How to Change the World (110 minutes) This block of films is brought to you by Sustainable Solutions. BLOCK 2—6:30 pm, Reynolds Hall Canyon Song (13 minutes) Racing Extinction (95 minutes) Where Ice and Ocean Meet: Kenai Fjords National Park (21 minutes) SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 BLOCK 3—Noon, National Conservation Training Center (Youth/Family Programming) Life Story: First Steps (59 minutes) Live Wildlife Presentation from Blue Ridge Wildlife Center (45 minutes) BLOCK 4—2:15 pm, National Conservation Training Center Thirty Million (34 minutes) E.O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men (92 minutes) BLOCK 5—6:00 pm, Byrd Center for Legislative Studies Saving Mes Aynak (58 minutes) Sonic Sea (63 minutes) BLOCK 6—6:30 pm, The Frank Center The Burden: Fossil Fuel, the Military and National Security (40 minutes) Babushkas of Chernobyl (70 minutes)

Think Like a Scientist: Gorongosa (7 minutes) Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change (12 minutes) Catching the Sun (74 minutes) This block of films is brought to you by Geostellar. BLOCK 8—3:30 pm, Reynolds Hall Moving the Giants (11 minutes) Return of the Cicadas (7 minutes) Defined by the Line (8 minutes) Pronghorn Revival (6 minutes) Monarchs: The Milkweed Mission (9 minutes) Testimony: Remembering Glen Canyon (9 minutes) Beneath Paradise (12 minutes) Harbinger (10 minutes) Muir (4 minutes) Sharing the Secrets (13 minutes) Medieval Monsters (10 minutes) BLOCK 9—6:00 pm, Byrd Center for Legislative Studies Bluebird Man (28 minutes) The Messenger (90 minutes) BLOCK 10—6:30 pm, Reynolds Hall Pangolin (13 minutes) Seed: The Untold Story (94 minutes) FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28 BLOCK 11—6:30 pm, Reynolds Hall Pangolin (13 minutes) Thirty Million (34 minutes) Catching the Sun (74 minutes) SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29


BLOCK 12—5:00 pm, The Frank Center How to Change the World (110 minutes)

BLOCK 7—1:00 pm, Reynolds Hall Marijuana Grows & Restoration (5 minutes) Think Like a Scientist: Boundaries (7 minutes)

BLOCK 13—7:30 pm, The Frank Center Saving Mes Aynak (60 minutes) Audience Choice! (?)

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continued SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30 BLOCK 14—1:30 pm, The Frank Center An Acquired Taste (70 minutes) BLOCK 15—3:30 pm, The Frank Center The True Cost PG-13 (90 minutes) BLOCK 16—6:00 pm, The Frank Center Medieval Monsters (10 minutes) E.O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men (92 minutes)

Most films are not rated; a few films have mature content. This schedule is subject to change, so please check the website (conservationfilm.org) to note any schedule or venue changes. Doors open at each venue a half-hour before each film block.

2016 FILMMAKERS & SPECIAL GUESTS ATTENDING THE FESTIVAL BLOCK 3 Live wildlife presentation—Wild West Virginia!— from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center featuring a skunk, owl, bat and hawk (subject to change based on availability) BLOCK 4 Graham Townsley, filmmaker, E.O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men BLOCK 5 Brent Huffman, filmmaker, Saving Mes Aynak BLOCK 7 Neil Losin, filmmaker, Think Like a Scientist Jamie Nolan, SunShot Initiative, Dept. of Energy, to speak on Catching the Sun BLOCK 8 Kent Wagner, filmmaker, Testimony, Remembering Glen Canyon Darlien Morales, filmmaker, Beneath Paradise Sam Sheline, filmmaker, Harbinger Chandler Ellison, filmmaker, Muir Drew Perimutter, filmmaker, Sharing the Secrets

EMERGING FILMMAKER PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOWING FILMS Byrd Center for Legislative Studies 213 North King Street (on Shepherd University Campus) Frank Center 260 University Drive (on Shepherd University Campus) NCTC—National Conservation Training Center 698 Conservation Way Reynolds Hall 109 North King Street (on Shepherd University Campus) Screenings at NCTC and on November 1 are “payas-you-can.” Please register online to reserve your seat. NCTC requires government-issued IDs for ALL GUESTS 16+.

Block 9 Su Rynard, filmmaker, The Messenger BLOCK 10 Katie Schuler, filmmaker, Pangolin BLOCK 14 Vanessa LeMaire, filmmaker, An Acquired Taste BLOCK 15 Pietra Rivoli, author of Travels of a T-shirt in a Global Economy that inspired Planet Money’s t-shirt series. Pietra teaches international business and finance at Georgetown University with a special interest in social justice in China. FESTIVAL HEADQUARTERS: The Entler Hotel, 129 East German St, Shepherdstown.

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The Potomac Playmakers: 90 Years of Community TheatRE By Chris Brewer

THE YEAR WAS 1926. Calvin Coolidge was in the middle of his first elected term as President. It had been only six years since the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote. A number of entertainers who would become luminaries of stage and screen were born that year, including Jerry Lewis, Cloris Leachman, Andy Griffith, Mel Brooks and Marilyn Monroe. In Hagerstown, Maryland, the Women’s Club Inc., which had been founded a few years earlier, in 1921, was making its own entertainment news. At the Women’s Club Board of Directors meeting in November 1926, members of the club’s Dramatic Department outlined a plan for a new community theatre group, and asked for — among other things — approval to rename the organization The Potomac Playmakers.

The driving force behind the plan, and its subsequent acceptance, was Mary Lemist Titcomb, nationally recognized for her work with public libraries and founder of the bookmobile concept. On November 11 and 12, 1926, The Potomac Playmakers debuted their first show, “The Boomerang,” a popular romantic comedy of the day, written by Winchell Smith and Victor Mapes. The Playmakers’ 90 years of longevity mark them as one of the nation’s oldest, continuously running, all-volunteer, non-profit community theatre companies. Through the efforts of hundreds, perhaps thousands of volunteers, The Playmakers have carved a rich history in Washington County and the tri-state area. They’ve survived a fire, the Great Depression and a World War‚ and continue to deliver to audiences live theater close

Photo: Andrew King. 34 | fluent

Waiting for the audience—chairs set up at the Women’s Club for The Potomac Playmakers’ next show.

to home at a reasonable price. Main-stage tickets are $11 purchased online or $13 at the door. Most local theatre groups stick with tried-andtrue “safe” plays that will entertain everyone and not offend anyone. But a significant value of live theater is to challenge the audience to think and question longheld beliefs. Over each of the last three seasons, The Playmakers have included at least one show of a controversial or “edgy” nature. In the 2015–16 season, it was “The Laramie Project,” which dramatizes the reactions of Laramie, Wyoming, residents after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. This season, the unconventional offering is Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” In addition to their main-stage productions at the Women’s Club, The Playmakers take their shows on the road — to local wineries, churches, and other commercial and civic organizations. Some are trouped versions of their main-stage productions while others include murder mysteries that interact with audiences and, in partnership with other performing arts organizations, old-time radio shows. Recent presentations include a staged reading of an original work by playwright Harriet Lawrence, to assist in further developing her script, and debut performances of three one-act plays, all written by Maryland playwrights. The Potomac Playmakers continue their mainstage relationship with the Women’s Club, where it

Photo: Andrew King.

all began nine decades ago. In selecting productions for the 90th anniversary season, Board members looked to the history of the organization for their inspiration — and discovered that their first staged play was “The Boomerang,” now out of print. After much searching, they obtained a copy from the University of California-Davis Library. So to celebrate 90 years, The Playmakers will again produce “The Boomerang,” this time directed by Barbara McCormick. Opening night is Friday, November 11, 2016 — 90 years to the day after the theatre company first produced the play. fluent THE POTOMAC PLAYMAKERS Nov 11, just prior to “The Boomerang” opening curtain: Birthday party with local dignitaries, proclamations, toasts and revelry. The audience is invited to dress in their favorite 1920s attire. At the Women’s Club, Hagerstown, MD. Nov 11, 12, 19, 20: “The Boomerang” at The Women’s Club, Hagerstown, MD. “8 Christmas Tales Presented as Radio Plays” at various venues before Christmas. (See website for details.) For more information: 240-382-7269 www.potomacplaymakers.org facebook.com/potomacplaymakers potomacplaymakers@gmail.com

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Stomach Acid

A Gathering of Younger Poets—The Spring

Semester 2016 Poetry Writing Workshop at Shepherd University, taught by Dr. James Pate, spilled over into a student-run weekly summer workshop hosted by Four Seasons Books and Happy Creek Coffee Company. Each week two participants presented poems to the workshop for critiques. Poets supplied print-outs or sent emails a week ahead for study by fellow participants. The ground rules mainly required respectful interchanges. Many poems were sharpened or clarified in response to comments. Some were substantially re-worked or re-imagined. Hints of biography were sometimes fleshed out. We are pleased to present a sampling of these younger regional voices.

—The Editors

The way the river smelled at seventeen Aluminum distractions and sleeping in cars An accidental smokescreen deflecting The inevitable ache of time Appropriate nostalgia for a soft second Precluding the balancing act between Mountains and bars, streams and girls, Hay fields and cheap drugs Reunion therapy bourbon and stomach acid Xanax counselor to quiet the kids It was I who killed the sun, and spit in the face of the summer When I moved to the city and tried to hide my accent

—Tucker Riggleman

BIG fish One time, I talked to you about my months of “being 21” and how I had my time in the spotlight of alcohol and hazy smoke from everyone’s cigarettes.

Farcical Aquatics If this situation were underwater It would take an entire ocean to submerge And all of the squids Would get uncomfortable And they’d take their children home By one tentacle, saying: Well we won’t be coming back here anytime soon! Propelling themselves back to outer space. And I would be a coral reef You would be the sand And when the waves start bludgeoning That little boat on the horizon that Just wanted to get home to its mistress I’d sink deep deep inside of you And you’d fill all my little crevices And algae would grow on my arms and legs After a while. And you would end up Absorbing some sea cucumber and I would get so jealous I’d eat it. And you’d laugh, Kicking up dust in the water. —Katie Quinnelly

You looked over at me and said, “That was a graceful Kelsey.” I wanted to tear up, cry right there in front of you as Matt poured a beer from behind the counter. I wanted you to know how nice those words were for me, even if they were excess spit and air to you. I wanted to know why you’re still caught up with this town— why everyone is still caught up with this town? My roommate had a revelation last week: This place is like Big Fish. This place is like Jenny from Big Fish, stealing everyone’s shoes when they try to leave. People say they’ll leave and come back later at a better time, but they don’t have their shoes and they don’t try to find them, so nobody leaves. —Kelsey Stoneberger Optimism How many of your country’s minds are chaff ? Democracy replies, “No more than half!”

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—Jake Johnson

Fragile Roots

I Ask an Empty Sky

They say that the apple Doesn’t fall far. But they didn’t account for — The grass, the berries, the flowers. My parents were the apple That rolled down the hill Starting a separate orchard And I am the wild flower Growing beneath, spreading in the wind. The black sheep of the black sheep, My roots are fragile, Moveable. —Danyel VanReenen

I follow the road of time back Into the recesses of my mind My heart pounds as I pass The Catholic church The Pentecostal church The ten Methodist churches The Presbyterian church The church where I was baptized Where I used to sing “How Great Thou Art”

If I were to write a poem about you If I were to write a poem about you, I would line you up, split you into couplets, quatrains, and sestets. I would be very careful about keeping parts of you separate in case one of the stanzas caught on fire. That way, if I lost you, it would be parts of you, not all of you. If I were to write a poem about you, you wouldn’t rhyme. you would be free verse because you always knew how to break the rules. You would not exist in iambs or tetrameters because you never let anyone write your rhythm. If I were to write a poem about you, you would be a concrete poem, forcing readers to t i l t their heads and look at the page differently. You were always good at changing perspective so often you did it without realizing. If I were to write a poem about you, it would go like this. —Kelsey Stoneberger

Now I ask an empty sky “How Art Thou Great?” The time between seats, pews and altars Has become more significant with time And I trace the path like a maze From the blond baby That grew up between altars To the woman in West Virginia purgatory Every turn I take reminds me There are too many churches And not enough faith

—Danyel VanReenen

Era Straddling I’m here because a condom broke and birth control was poor And then an ICN was free when I was premature, So though some wish to turn back time or find the future’s stage, I never would’ve seen the Earth in any other age. —Jake Johnson Grown Up Problems I never met an autumn I didn’t want to bury Beneath cracked oak and compost Complete with empty liquor bottle headstone To accompany the useless undergraduate eulogy A serotonin stream just inches out of reach Left with fractured chords and nightmares Painted in ex-lover hues: blotted strawberry blonde, Cerulean stroke, a shade of olive We offered our howls to the solstice sky They were greeted with silence and the problems of grown ups Ancient dust from a neglected campfire mirroring A piece of heaven not suitable for wolves —Tucker Riggleman

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“This Is the Dawning of the Age of Nefarious, Nefarious . . .” With Apologies to The Fifth Dimension BY ED ZAHNISER

How many hedge fund traders have you heard admit they were once Hare Krisha kids in airports and bus and train stations — or sometimes simply in your face — wanting donations for building the next Golden Temple? Probably none. Come to think of it, how many National Transportation Safety Administration (NTSA) folks now doing airport security screening were once Hare Krishna kids, maybe in those same airports? Probably few. The demographic doesn’t fit so well. Not that we should be down on people who manage to change. Most people probably agree that most other people would benefit from changing. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t I what? Agree that most other people would benefit from changing? Or benefit from changing myself? Answer no more than two questions. For a Hare Krishna kid to become a hedge fund trader is less weird than the fact that there will not be enough Takata airbag replacements to replace all the defective airbags already “on the road.” Not only does this mean those defective airbags will not get replaced in a timely fashion, it means upcoming new-model cars will be produced with the defective airbags. You can buy a new car now fully expecting a recall — as soon as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulators get around to it. Don’t hold your breath or your airbag. 38 | fluent




It is unthinkable that we should forego a modelyear’s new cars, even new cars with known potentially exploding airbags. “How did the victim die?” “He was killed buy an automotive safety device, You Honor.” “What do you mean?” “The airbag safety feature turned out to be sort of an IED,” Your Honor. “It exploded and metal shrapnel from the fixtures killed him.” “What’s an IED?” “An improvised explosive device,” Your Honor. “How many cars are known to have these IEDs?” “‘Many millions of vehicles in the U.S. from nearly two dozen brands,’” Your Honor, “according to Car and Driver magazine (June 2016).” “What does ‘brand’ mean here?” “Automakers, or makes of automobiles, Your Honor.” “You mean? — ” “Let’s not even go there, okay, Your Honor?” Meanwhile, many politicians—and other people who don’t work at McDonalds or Chic fil a — maintain that government is the problem. The putative free market would otherwise take care of this airbag IED problem. In a truly free market, you could anticipate two possible scenarios. Scenario 1: Were so many car buyers to be killed by airbag IEDs, there would be no demand for automobiles. The automakers would then get on the airbag

manufacturers’ case and make them build a better airbag in anticipation of when car buyer numbers should increase enough to create demand to produce cars again. Scenario 2: Were so many people to switch from driving cars — because of the airbag IED threat — to driving D-9 Caterpillars and Honda Goldwing motorcycles, automakers would start mass-producing streetready D-9 Cats and motorcycles to meet demand. With Scenario 2, sociologists would also find an expanded, collateral market. There would be new demand for professional papers to explain the differing motivations of the “defensive” D-9 Cat customer base, versus the “what-the-hell, fatalist” Honda Goldwing customer base. Possible word-search lists could include “normativity,” “privileging,” “subtext” and “autonormativity.”

This Is the Drubbing of the Age of Aquarius Ah, and we thought the blame fell on the Reagan Years for laying to rest the Age of Aquarius supposedly ushered in by the Sixties that largely happened in the early Seventies. Think of this verse from the 5th Dimension song as your “How we doing?” checklist: [ [ [ [ [ [

] ] ] ] ] ]

Harmony and understanding Sympathy and trust abounding No more falsehoods or derisions Golden living dreams of visions Mystic crystal revelation And the minds true liberation

So, how are we doing? How many of the six did you check? Ten songwriters worked together to create the lyrics: Pavel Vrba, Gerome Ragni, Galt Mac Dermot, James Rado, Ahmir K. Thompson, Erykah Badu, Pino Palladino, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, James Jason Poyser, James Dewitt Yancey. Their names alone suggest an ethic of inclusivity and cooperation. This checklist may give more opportunity to exercise your writing implement:

[ ] Cacophony and confusion [ ] Pathology and Mistrust Rebounding [ ] Social Media Hate and Shaming

[ ] Globalization Crushing Dreams [ ] Opiods and Heroin Devolution [ ] And the mind’s fixed crenelation . . .

If It Ain’t Baroque, Don’t Fix It Our species does not handle anxiety well. Poet W.H. Auden titled a 1947 book The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue. It’s a long poem in eclogue or pastoral form. Auden’s four characters — in a wartime bar during World War II — searched for identity, meaning, and substance in the face of increasing industrialization. Full disclosure: Auden edited his poetry on amphetamines. Alan Watts books became popular in the late Sixties and the Seventies. Watts used Auden’s title to title the opening chapter of The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951). Watts, with theology and divinity degrees, was a popular interpreter of Eastern Wisdom for the West. Insecurity and anxiety seem to team-drive today’s politics. In 1966, Watts published The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. It roots human conflict in our illusion that we are unconnected and isolated individuals. We feel that the world is outside of us and hostile. Watts thought this explains our misuse of technology and our concerted assault on Nature. Watts found the antidote in India’s Vedanta philosophy, which holds that, to the contrary, the self grounds the universe. Today’s bugaboo is digital connectedness and its parallel economics of globalism. Connectedness is “business as usual” for the millennial, but its parallel “globalism” and “inclusivity” can threaten oldsters. They threaten some oldsters’ former religious, cultural, social, and economic hegemonies. The “new normal” feels like “no normal.” It’s unsettling, if you were once the norm. Our unsettling mix of un-winnable terrorisms, Mid-East quagmires, and drug wars, plus massive refugee movements, compound fears with frustration. Thus right-ward we shift — world, national, local, and often interpersonal politics. How will the arts and art world respond to this new normal of no normal? An American journalist wrote that Marcel Duchamp’s painting, “Nude Descending a Staircase No.2” (1912) looked like “an explosion in a shingle factory.” In 1912, what would become World War I was already brewing. fluent fluent | 39


Keeping a Cool Head...

“Janus chops” by G Bradley Sanders. “The piece is one of a pair of heads which interpret the past and future, joy and pain, yin/yang,” says Sanders. “Each piece has a dominant side and, as you turn it, it changes to its opposite expression.” He adapted the pieces for the Cut to the Chase film festival awards. The final pieces are ceramic, fired by artist Joan Bontempo. To see more of Sanders’ work, visit bradleysandersart.com.


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