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Fifty Shades of Kvetching

50-shadesI keep hearing about the best-seller "Fifty Shades of Grey" and its classical music connections.

Apparently the leading man in the book is really into classical music and also is an extremely accomplished pianist.

Just now I went on Amazon and did that thing where you peek inside the book, and I was dismayed by how tawdry it sounded, and how badly written I thought it was. You know, I had heard the title kicked around for I want to say a few months, but I had never wondered what the book was about. Of course it's about sex, you know?

But more power to her, pleasing the least common denominator. I had a roommate a long time ago who used to look at me and say, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

Back to the classical music. I guess I am happy for anything that helps people discover how easy it is to love classical music. I have always loved it and though I know classical music is intimidating to some people, I find it hard to get into those people's shoes.

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Book Club chat with Allison Hoover Bartlett, author of 'The Man Who Loved Books Too Much'

Arts advocates speak out for city funding

Earlier this evening, members of Buffalo's cultural community dominated an hour-long public hearing of Buffalo Common Council. The cultural funding advocates, responding to a city budget that includes no funding for the arts, echoed and in many cases built upon the eloquent arguments of last year's Erie County cultural funding crisis.

Together, they made a strong collective case for the restoration of a small and stable level of funding to benefit the myriad cultural organizations within its limits. Buffalo cut the majority of arts funding out of its budget during the economic downturn that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and has not restored it since --though, after much haggling, it did provide emergency funding to arts groups during last year's county funding crisis.

Some highlights from the evening's remarks follow. (Please excuse the shaky camera work and note that most speakers or their organizations are members of the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance.)

Tod Kniazuk, executive director of the Arts Services Initiative:

Fortunato Pezzimenti, producing director of the Irish Classical Theatre Company:


Meg Quinn, artistic director of Theatre of Youth


Laurie Dean Torrell, executive director of Just Buffalo Literary Center:


Randall Kramer, executive and artistic director of MusicalFare Theatre:


Edmund Cardoni, executive driector of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center:


Jamie Moses, publisher of Artvoice:


Molly Quckenbush, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site:


James Lanker, president of the Give for Greatness board and University at Buffalo professor:

--Colin Dabkowski

Maurice Sendak on Mickey Mouse

Maurice Sendak with one of his characters from "Where the WIld Things Are" in January, 2002. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

In 2009, two important cultural figures celebrated their 80th birthdays. One was Mickey Mouse. The other was Maurice Sendak.

To mark the occasion of Mickey's 80th, Edward Summer, the director of the Buffalo International Film Festival, organized a celebration in Shea's Performing Arts Center featuring rare cartoons, prints and a talk by the ever-engaging Mickey expert John Culhane. That tribute, to my mind, was one of the most underrated cultural events of the last several years. (My story about it is here.)

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Eric Jackson-Forsberg takes the reins at WNYBAC

Local Martin House Curator Cantillon 1

Eric Jackson-Forsberg, newly appointed executive director of the Western New York Book Arts Center, in the Darwin D. Martin House in 2009. Photo by Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News.

Today, the Western New York Book Arts Center announced its appointment of Eric Jackson-Forsberg as its first official, full-time executive director. He starts his new job on May 7. We chatted earlier this week about his experience as a curator at the Darwin Martin Complex and his plans for the center going forward.

You’ve been at the Martin House for nine years. What prompted you to make this move?

It’s been an incredible opportunity here, spending that much time with Mr. Wright, so to speak. But it just felt like it was time for a change and this opportunity came along. I had been following the organization for a few years since their founding and had done a little printing and had known Rich [Kegler] for a long time.

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Author Henry Hitchings to speak at the Saturn Club


Henry Hitchings, the British critic and author of "The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English" and "The Language Wars: A History of Proper English" will give a talk at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Saturn Club. The event, to be held in the club's second-floor lounge, is sponsored by Buffalo's branch of the international English-Speaking Union and costs $10 per person.

--Colin Dabkowski

News Book Club live chat with 'The Dirty Life' author Kristin Kimball at 11 a.m.

A Dickens birthday: Area artists celebrate Charles Dickens and his works

Features O'Neill and Hogan Cantillon 12
Vincent O’Neill takes part in the celebration of Charles Dickens and his works. Sharon Cantillon/News file photo

On the last international tour he took before his death, Charles Dickens stopped in Buffalo for two popular readings of his work. (His tour manager was terrified, according to his report of the trip, that a "rowdy element" of Western New Yorkers would overtake the affair, though it did not. Dickens himself was "much struck by the absence of female beauty from the readings.")

Since that visit -- researched and re-created by local actor, meteorologist and Dickens enthusiast Mike Randall for his annual performance of "A Christmas Carol" -- Western New York hasn’t let go of its appetite for the popular and prolific chronicler of Victorian society and its seedy underbelly.

This afternoon (March 25) at 2, prompted by the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth in February, a group of local actors will give a reading of Dickens’ works in the Burchfield Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood Ave.). The roster includes Megan Callahan, Morgan Chard, Wendy Hall, Jimmy Janowski, John Kaczorowski, Patrick Moltane, Vincent O’Neill, Adam Rath, Eric Rawski, Doug Weyand and Katie White. They’ll read excerpts from "The Pickwick Papers," "Oliver Twist," "David Copperfield," "Bleak House" and "Great Expectations."

Admission is free.

-- Colin Dabkowski

Press time: The Small Press Book Fair opens in the Karpeles Manuscript Library

The Small Press Book Fair returns to the Karpeles Manuscript Museum.  Charles Lewis/News file photo

The presses themselves are small, sure, but the book fair that local artist and print shop manager Christopher Fritton founded to showcase them is anything but. Every year, as the small press movement grows and vendors seek spots for Fritton’s annual Small Press Book Fair, he is surprised at the speed with which the space runs out. And this year, to no one’s surprise, the record has been shattered again for the sixth annual event.

The fair runs from noon to 6 p.m. today (March 24) in the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (453 Porter Ave.) and features tables from well over 100 individual artists and presses from across the region. Participants include local outfits like BlazeVOX, the University at Buffalo’s Poetry Collection and Sugar City and farther-flung organizations and artists, including Houston-based Night Owls Poster Shop, Toronto-based Broken Pencil magazine and Philadelphia’s Little Beast Press, among scads of others.

As in past years, the schedule includes a series of workshops on letterpress, screen-printing and other topics today. It’s also complemented by a post-fair party featuring music by Jack Toft, Energy Club, Damian, UVB-76 and others at the Vault (702 Main St.) at 9 tonight.

Admission to the fair is free; find more info at

-- Colin Dabkowski

Students for the Arts tonight at Kleinhans

Give for Greatness Executive Director Megan Callahan speaks in June, 2011 in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Photo by Charles Lewis / The Buffalo News.

Give for Greatness, the fundraising and arts advocacy organization launched last year during the Erie County cultural funding crisis, is hosting its first Students for the Arts festival this afternoon in Kleinhans Music Hall.

The event, meant to highlight the organization's incipient mentorship program and to spread the word about its 2012 fundraising campaign, features work by G4G mentors Jennifer Fitzery, Cassondra Argeros, Patrick Moltane, Jill Greenberg, Jim Bush, Sarah Haykel and Marcus Wise and many local students. Representatives from 18 local cultural groups will also be on hand so local sutdents can learn more about the educational opportunities they offer.

Visit G4G's website for more info.

--Colin Dabkowski

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