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At West Point, McChrystal wrote fiction

 
Rolling Stone magazine was a guilty pleasure of my college years and several years to follow, even if it appeared increasingly incongruous in my mail drop alongside The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and the New York Review of Books.  At some point in my thirties, I realized I was beginning to resemble the aging would-be hipster husband in the famous Donald Barthelme short story whose wife complained that he was too self-absorbed to realize the magazine wasn't "aimed at him." 
 
By the time P.J. O'Rourke replaced William Greider as the principal political contributor during the Clinton era, I'd stopped reading the magazine altogether.  So I was as surprised as anyone by Michael Hastings' The Runaway General, certainly the only piece of American journalism in recent memory to single handedly force the President of the United States to order a change in command structure in this nation's primary theater of military operations.

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Burchfield and Cornell: a summer of Buffalo in New York City

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Left: Charles Burchfield's watercolor "The Four Seasons." Right: Kate Burton as Katharine Cornell and Bobby Steggert as the young Pete Gurney star in A.R. Gurney's play "The Grand Manner" in New York City.

Last summer, New York City played host to a major exhibition featuring artists who got their start at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Buffalo gallery whose mid-70s founding is the stuff of art world legend. This summer, Buffalo's dramatic and artistic legacy is again the subject of two well-received projects now on offer in the Big Apple.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is displaying the work of the late Buffalo watercolorist Charles Burchfield, who painted nature in his own mesmerizing, singular style in the small hamlet of Gardenville (in West Seneca). Meanwhile, in Lincoln Center Theatre's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, Buffalo-born playwright A.R. Gurney's new show about fellow Buffalonian Katharine Cornell, "The Grand Manner," opened on Sunday.

The reviews are in, and they're generally glowing.

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Review Roundup: The return of moe., Canal concerts

CONCERT_MOE

Al Schnier of moe. performs at Erie Canal Harbor on Friday. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt / Buffalo News

The music has already been plentiful at Darien Lake, Artpark and Lafayette Square, but the outdoor concert season is hitting on all cylinders following Friday night's openers at Erie Canal Harbor and the Ulrich City Center in Lockport. In case you missed them:

•Buffalo favorite moe. kicked off the Buffalo Place Rocks the Harbor series with a homecoming show that opened with Keller Williams. From News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers' review:

The first set started heavy, and got heavier, as guitarists Garvey and Schnier traded solos through gorgeous guitar tones. The effect was not unlike what one imagines the Allman Brothers Band might sound like jamming on a funk-based Phish tune. The groove supplied by Amico and Loughlin was the cornerstone, Derhak’s playing the cement, and the twin Garvey/Schnier improv the structure itself.

Here are Adam Wolffbrandt's photos.

Missed moe.? You've got another chance tonight. At 5 p.m. today, the action on the waterfront continues with Donna the Buffalo opening up for moe. Get primed for the show with Miers' piece on moe. from earlier this week.

Rusted Root, no stranger to the Molson Canal Concert Series, helped kick off this season's Lockport lineup. The News' Sharon Cantillon filed these pics of Rusted Root and opener the Ragbirds. Allison Eck's review gave Rusted Root high marks:

Their characteristic light indie tunes and fresh percussive licks contribute to their strong bluegrass feel and made for a great ending to a beautiful night. 

•Back inside, the Seneca Events Center hosted former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung. From Joe Sweeney's review:

Unlike the current lineup of Styx, whose concerts are thoroughly based in rock guitar heroics and fist-pumping choruses, DeYoung’s performance was more of a soft rock revue with the occasional blast of distorted riffage.

And if you're looking for a flick tonight, Jeff Simon had high praise for "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," wasn't as impressed with "Knight and Day," and had even less love for "Grown Ups." 

New Yorker's "20 under 40" begets more lists

As any avid sports fan will tell you, the one thing that lists are unquestionably good for is generating more lists.  Ask someone in a press box or at a sports bar to come up with a list of the top ten major league shortstops since World War II, and someone else within hearing range will come up with another list of Hall of Fame members who began their careers as shortstops, but achieved stardom at other positions.  Change the subject to left-handed point guards in basketball, and odds are someone will attempt to top your list with one requiring an even greater command of minutiae. 
 
Literature, of course, is not a competitive sport (or at least it is not obviously so), but has its own romance with compulsive list making. In Nick Hornsby's novel High Fidelity, for instance, protagonist Rob Fleming's "Top Five" lists organize and aestheticize what might otherwise seem desultory about his emotional life.  
 
The New Yorker
magazine unveiled its much-heralded 20 Under 40 summer fiction double issue earlier this month, and if it was the intention of its editors to stir up a debate about the comparative merits of the particular young writers who made the cut as opposed to those who didn't, the appropriateness of grouping writers by chronological age rather than other distinguishing characteristics of their work, and perhaps even the future of fiction as an art form in a time of radical transformations of consciousness and accelerating technological change, then one might consider it a qualified success. 
 
Most of all, what the list seemed to inspire was more lists.

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Thursday Theater Roundup

Now that summer has finally arrived, the theatrical offerings across Western New York have thinned out just a tad. For those looking to satisfy their theatrical appetites for between now and the July 7 opening of "My Fair Lady" at MusicalFare Theatre, the July 22 opening of Shakespeare in Delaware Park's all-female version of "Macbeth" and the Aug. 12 opening of "All Shook Up" at Artpark (among many other upcoming offerings, including the sprawling Buffalo Infringement Festival and the brand-new Twin Tiers Theatre Festival in Olean), check out the latest version of our Thursday Theater Roundup:

"Jake's Women" through June 26 at Medialle College in a production by Kaliedoscope Theatre Productions. From the review: "Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions and director Thomas LaChiusa saw much that they liked about 'Jake’s Women,' and a lively, acidly funny play has emerged, superbly acted by veteran troubadour and comedy club regular Robert “Ernie” Insana, as Jake, and a stellar harem of seven actresses: Kaleidoscope diva Beth Gerardi-Wharton, award-winning Lona Geiser, Sarah Blewett, Maura Nolan, Jennifer Fitzery, Shaina Greser and Elizabeth Oddy, as a wannabe Jake date. Forgettable? Not anymore." --Ted Hadley

Lovers, jo, diane and colleen

Josephine Hogan, Diane M. Cammarata and Colleen Gaughan in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of "Lovers."

"Lovers" through June 27 in the Andrews Theatre in a production by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. From the review: "[Brian] Friel’s writing, O’Neill’s caring interpretation, and the cast’s relish and skill all combine to create an affecting experience. This is not the romantic evening implied by the play’s single-word title. It is, however, another excellent opportunity to join the Irish Classical on its journey, exploring the breadth of human emotion with creativity and heart." --Ted Hadley

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Thursday Theater Roundup

It's time for the Thursday Theater Roundup:

"Jake's Women" through June 26 at Medialle College in a production by Kaliedoscope Theatre Productions. From the review: "Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions and director Thomas LaChiusa saw much that they liked about 'Jake’s Women,' and a lively, acidly funny play has emerged, superbly acted by veteran troubadour and comedy club regular Robert “Ernie” Insana, as Jake, and a stellar harem of seven actresses: Kaleidoscope diva Beth Gerardi-Wharton, award-winning Lona Geiser, Sarah Blewett, Maura Nolan, Jennifer Fitzery, Shaina Greser and Elizabeth Oddy, as a wannabe Jake date. Forgettable? Not anymore." --Ted Hadley

Lovers, patrick & cassie 1
Patrick Cameron and Cassie Gorniewicz in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of "Lovers."

"Lovers" through June 27 in the Andrews Theatre in a production by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. From the review: "[Brian] Friel’s writing, O’Neill’s caring interpretation, and the cast’s relish and skill all combine to create an affecting experience. This is not the romantic evening implied by the play’s single-word title. It is, however, another excellent opportunity to join the Irish Classical on its journey, exploring the breadth of human emotion with creativity and heart." --Ted Hadley

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Behind the internationalism of 'Beyond/In Western New York'

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French tightrope walker Didier Pasquette on a recent walk. Photo courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

In an event aimed at drawing attention toward the city-wide art exhibition "Beyond/In Western New York" organizers announced recently that French tightrope walker Didier Pasquette has planned a walk across the two towers of the Liberty Building in downtown Buffalo.

In my story on the walk today, I noted that the exhibition, for the first time in its history, will include several artists from outside the region. Here's a bit about their concerns about the regional/international makeup of the exhibition, which didn't make it into today's story:

Beyond/In Western New York‘ organizers, clearly excited about the prospect of hosting internationally recognized artists, stressed that the exhibition will remain resolutely focused on the work of regional artists. The internationally famous artists' work is being added not to overshadow the work of regional artists, they say, but to foster dialogue between the art of the region and the world at large.

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Art meets science

TimothyFrerichsheadshot

Timothy Frerichs, associate professor of art at the State University of New York at Fredonia, will give a talk next Thursday at the Central Library at noon called "Linnaeus' Gardens." His work challenges the traditional ways we observe nature -- he uses art as a tool for scientific investigation and representation. In his artistic statement on his Web site, he writes:

"My projects are based on site-specific walks of primarily transitional landscapes.  During the walks, I gather and record found objects from the site. These objects along with other researched site imagery are used to create my works. I strive to create a visual dialogue examining how collecting and collection processes (whether scientific or cultural) represent our perceptions of the natural world. I am especially interested in how these perceptions change."

At the talk, Frerichs will discuss his experience as a Visiting Artist at the Linneaus Gardens in Uppsala, Sweden, the oldest botanical garden in Sweden. His work dealt with plant classification. (Botany and art? It seems like Frerichs has a pretty fascinating collection of interests)

But then again, Vladimir Nabokov was an entomologist before he became a writer. I wonder how both communities -- scientific and artistic -- feel about this mixing of disciplines.

The talk is presented in conjunction with the library's exhibition "In the Garden: the Art of Botanical Illustration" (June 1 to Sept. 26) and as part of the National Buffalo Garden Festival (June 18-July 25).

 --Allison Eck

Thursday Theater Roundup: the Canadian Edition

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Peter Krantz as Elwood P. Dowd and Donna Belleville as Betty Chumley in "Harvey" at the Shaw Festival.

As summer approaches and the theater season proper winds down and the whole entire theater community exhales in the wake of Monday's annual Artie Awards, it's relatively slim pickings this weekend for seekers of dramatic thrills and chills. Fortunately, we have the Shaw Festival over in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., where a series of compelling dramas and comedies (and some things in between) have opened in recent weeks.

Hence, this week's Canadian-flavored Thursday Theater Roundup. We'll start with two very worthy local shows, one closing on Sunday and another running through the end of the month.

"Lovers" through June 27 in the Andrews Theatre in a production by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. From the review: "[Brian] Friel’s writing, O’Neill’s caring interpretation, and the cast’s relish and skill all combine to create an affecting experience. This is not the romantic evening implied by the play’s single-word title. It is, however, another excellent opportunity to join the Irish Classical on its journey, exploring the breadth of human emotion with creativity and heart." --Ted Hadley

THE EXONERATED 

Michael Atkins Yawn rehearses a sceen for "The Exonerated" at Ujima Theatre. Photo by Mark Mulville / The Buffalo News

"The Exonerated" through June 13 in TheatreLoft, in a production of Ujima Theatre. From the review: "As strong an indictment of the American criminal justice system as has ever been produced for the stage... Ujima and director Lorna C. Hill are to be applauded for honoring this gravely important topic with a production that simply sings." --Colin Dabkowski

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Scalapino's writing punched a hole in reality

"I intended this work to be the repetition of historically real events the writing of which punches a hole in reality.  (As if to void them, but actively)," wrote Leslie Scalapino in a "Note on My Writing," a widely quoted essay about her that they were at the beach — aeolotropic series (North Point Press, 1985).  "...[In my writing] An event isn't anything, it isn't a person.  No events occur," she wrote.  "...The self is unraveled as an example in investigating particular historical events, which are potentially infinite.  The self is a guinea pig..."

Scalapino died on May 28th in Berkeley, California after a battle with cancer.  She was 65.  Although she had long been associated with the West Coast wing of what came to be known as "language-centered writing" (or more simply "Language" poetry), the over thirty books that comprise her oeuvre defy any easy categorization as to genre and lineage.   Those who would place her in the language writing camp will point out that her work challenges all the operative mechanisms of literary subjectivity and referentiality as consistently and successfully as any writer who ever sought to foreground the act of reading as constitutive and inherently political.   
 
At the same time much of her work, while adopting the grammatical structure of narrative--i.e., the centrality of a unified subject even if merely as a placeholder--derives its sense of linearity from the serialization of phenomenal experience, and more particularly, the experiences of eroticism and suffering (not necessarily in that order).  In this sense, it reflects certain concerns akin to the study of Buddhism and the West Coast iteration of the Beat movement.    Scalapino edited The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen (2007), a key figure in the San Francisco Renaissance and West Coast wing of the Beat generation, and was a frequent guest lecturer at The Jack Kerouauc School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.
 
Conceptualists and experimental writers of all stripes will also claim her as their own, and some have in fact suggested that Scalapino was to postmodernism what Gertrude Stein was to modernism: a writer whose language didn't attempt to "represent" some possible version of "reality," but invented a syntactic reality of its own.

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