Conversation with Dash Shaw and Gary Panter
John Hope Franklin Center—The graphic novel is a hybrid form, floating somewhere in the spaces between literature and film, animation and comic books, fantasy and gritty realism. As fully realized as any graphic novel may be, on some level it still functions as a storyboard, with the action inside your head as the movie.
My favorite passages in graphic novels are those that go into the farthest reaches of minutiae, suspended moments in which the frame lingers on some kind of interstitial action, an aerial view from a flying plane out past a lilting wing, a sudden shift in perspective in the form of an architectural floor plan, a close-up of a hand removing a piece of clothing and dropping it to the floor. Passages like these reverberate in my head like scenes from a remembered Kurosawa film—and all of those listed above were plucked from work by wunderkind graphic novelist Dash Shaw, creator of Bottomless Belly Button and more recently Body World.
On Thursday, Sept. 25, the John Hope Franklin Center opens an exhibition called Bottomless featuring original drawings, storyboards, color background overlays and a new video animation by Shaw. Bottomless Belly Button, Shaw's 720-page book, has garnered clamoring praise from several directions, from The New York Times Book Review to the Hollywood studios that are working to bring his singular vision out of your head and onto the silver screen. Don't miss Shaw in conversation with legendary RAW magazine artist and Pee Wee's Playhouse designer, Gary Panter, noon today in Room 240. —Amy White
Charlie Haden Liberation Jazz Orchestra
Duke Universitys Page Auditorium—It's a given that anytime owlish, diffident Charlie Haden—one of the top jazz bassists of all time—takes to the stage, somewhere amid the inevitable musical jokes and exhortations, he's going to have something profound to say. Over the past 50 years, Haden's bass has not only provided jazz musicians and audiences with a solid musical base, it's contributed much to the art form's ethical and political foundations as well.
In 1969, Haden crafted with fellow jazz composer Carla Bley a suite in protest against the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration and the politics of disenfranchisement of the day. When the two recruited an all-star band, including Don Cherry and Paul Motian, to perform it, the Liberation Music Orchestra was born.
The group reconvened in the 1980s and '90s, using gospel and African and Spanish folk songs along with American standards to speak out on apartheid, South American politics and U.S.-backed political instability in Central America. In 2005, the war in Iraq and the political climate at home prompted their latest recording, Not in Our Name. Bley's re-arrangements of familiar anthems are satirical and sharp-witted in places, elegiac and tender in others. For a taste before the show, some of the group's historical concert footage, including a compelling take on the South African national anthem, is on YouTube; search under the group's name. The concert begins at 8 p.m.; visit dukeperformances.duke.edu for more info and tickets. —Byron Woods
McIntyres Fine Books—Imagine being faced with death and depression day-in and day-out. That's what happened to Durham physician Dr. Paul Austin, who spent more than 25 years working in emergency rooms, gradually coming to see his own life in his patients—and verging on becoming lost in their pain. His memoir, Searching for the Pain: One Doctor's Account of Life and Death in the ER, recounts his experiences and how he sought to recover from them. His tales of life in the ER are disturbing, realistic and show just how deeply working there can affect an individual. According to Eugenia Quackenbush, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, "If you are considering a career in emergency medicine, you must read this book." The signing is at 2 p.m.; for more information, visit www.fearrington.com/village/calendar.asp. —Zack Smith
N.C. Museum of Art—An atypical film noir, Edmund Goulding's Nightmare Alley, is not easily defined nor is it held in the ranks of the classics. Rather, the film falls neatly into the cracks of the genre, eschewing noir's usual urban locales for carnival tents and garish midways. Despite its unusual setting, this hardboiled adaptation of a dime-store crime novel wins major points for its grim fixation on morality, as an average Joe (played by Tyrone Power) transforms himself from carnie barker to mystifying, mind-reading mentalist. Damage and destruction ensue as the once simple-man falls prey to illicit sex, greed and the damning effects of human nature... what else could you expect? The locale may have changed, but this is still film noir. Catch this long-unseen treasure on a rare 35mm print tonight at 8 p.m. for a five-spot. Part of the NCMA's 2008 Fall Film Series: Homage to Film Noir, curated by Indy contributor Laura Boyes. —Kathy Justice
E. Patrick Johnson
Regulator Bookshop—Being black in the South has never been easy. Being gay in the South hasn't been easy either. So the combination of being gay, black and living in the South is problematic, to say the least ... or so we've been led to believe. Strange Fruit and Appropriating Blackness author E. Patrick Johnson, who has never been one to shy away from the intricacies of race theory or queer theory, has put together a complex oral history of gay black men in the South called Sweet Tea. In his latest work, Johnson has compiled stories from interviews with gay black men of all ages in every Southern state, subverting the preconceptions that gay culture thrives only in northern, secular and urban areas. While in the Triangle, Johnson will also perform Pouring Tea, a one-man show based on interviews from Sweet Tea. The signing takes place at 7 p.m.; for more information, visit www.regbook.com. —Zack Smith