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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

After Months of Searching, Islamic Society of Vermont Hires New Imam

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 1:29 PM

From left to right: Taysir Al-Khatib, Abd’Llah Al-Ansari, Yusuf Ali - SAMANTHA LORD-KONARE
  • Samantha Lord-Konare
  • From left to right: Taysir Al-Khatib, Abd’Llah Al-Ansari, Yusuf Ali
The Islamic Society of Vermont has hired Abd'Llah Al-Ansari, a U.S. army veteran, prison chaplain and scholar of Arabic and Islamic studies, to be its new imam. Al-Ansari's first day as ISVT imam is April 1.

Islam Hassan, the ISVT's former imam, relocated to Ohio last summer.

Detroit-born Al-Ansari was one of three shortlisted candidates, said Yusuf Ali, head of the imam-hiring committee. The 10-member group includes ISVT president Taysir Al-Khatib, two women and two University of Vermont students.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Questionable Authority: Seven Days Staff Have Thoughts on Church Street Mural

Posted By , , , and on Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 4:51 PM

Detail of "Everyone Loves a Parade!" by Pierre Hardy - FILE: KATIE JICKLING
  • File: Katie Jickling
  • Detail of "Everyone Loves a Parade!" by Pierre Hardy
“Everyone Loves a Parade!” Lately, not so much. When the Church Street Marketplace mural of that title was unveiled in 2012, the work — by Québécois artist Pierre Hardy — was lauded for its inventiveness, meticulous detail and “Where’s Waldo?” aesthetic. As the CSM website exclaims: “Grand Master Samuel de Champlain leads the charge as the scene depicts an evolution in time along Church Street. Notable and everyday Burlingtonians, downtown businesses, and iconic images of the past 400 years are distinguished through overflowing illustrations.”

But sensibilities have evolved since those Norman Rockwell-ish days of 2012. Today, many see the mural’s rendering of 400 years of Vermont history as a toxic whitewash. City councilors and Mayor Miro Weinberger have called for the creation of a task force to consider ways of replacing the mural with one that’s more inclusive and representative of the Queen City’s racial and ethnic makeup.

And, perhaps, one that looks less like a placemat in a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Indeed, absent from recent rancorous mural discussions has been any assessment of the work’s artistic merits. For that, we called upon Seven Days’ arts and culture staff to weigh in.

Beyond its blinding whiteness, the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural is objectionable because:

KEN PICARD: Canadian muralist Pierre Hardy culturally appropriated bricks and mortar as his artistic medium, which were actually invented by the ancient Egyptians in 2500 B.C. How about using some native stone, people?!

SADIE WILLIAMS: It is a poor imitation of trompe l’oeil. Please Google trompe l’oeil and look at the myriad examples of incredible works in chalk by street artists. You’ll reconsider ever using that term to describe that monstrosity of squashed perspective.

RACHEL JONES: Isn’t blinding whiteness in form and content plenty?

DAN BOLLES: Everyone does not, in fact, love a parade.

JORDAN ADAMS: It works on a false assumption. At best, people tolerate parades.

What features, if any, from the existing mural would you save and incorporate into the new one?

KP: I’d keep the images of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, but maybe not eating vanilla ice cream.

SW: I would save the paint scraped from the walls and grind it into a fine dust to be kept in a jar at the foot of the new mural. Visitors could take a handful and scatter it in the wind and pray for the death of the patriarchy. Also, there would be face masks because you really shouldn’t inhale that stuff.

RJ: Maybe Lois Bodoky, the (now deceased) Hot Dog Lady. Does anybody know what she thought of the mural?

DB: All of the weirdly non-Vermont stuff. Like ’70s Elvis in front of Ben & Jerry’s, for example. However, for the sake of historical accuracy, he should really be touched up as Fat Elvis.

JA: I would save the wall itself — lest Banana Republic’s apparel be exposed to the elements.

The current mural commemorates the sesquicentennial of Samuel de Champlain’s 1609 “discovery” of Lake Champlain. What should the new mural commemorate?

KP: The fur-bearing trout of Lake Memphremagog, Vermont’s earliest documented case of “fake news.”

SW: The death of the word “discovery” as a term to describe Europeans putting flags on stuff that indigenous folks already knew about. Most people are on board with that.

RJ: A renewed commitment to not Disney-fying Church Street and, you know, history.

DB: Did you know that there are two stories of Ethan Allen’s death in 1789? The first is that he had a stroke. But the other is that he — wait for it — fell out of a sleigh, drunk. Obviously, historical accuracy is not paramount when it comes to the mural, so, whether or not it’s true, we should probably commemorate the founder of Vermont dying in the most Vermont way possible.

JA: The day Trump got impeached. It obviously hasn’t happened yet, but it might have by the time we sort out this whole mural thing.

How should the next artist(s) be chosen?

KP: A round-robin pentathlon involving arm wrestling, dramatic haiku readings, competitive stir-frying, speed-cartooning and beer pong.

SW: By a group of preschool kids from Burlington’s various neighborhoods. They’ll have to look at it longer than we will.

RJ: Very carefully.

DB: I suggest we start by scouting talent at Paint & Sip nights throughout greater Burlington.

JA: A hot air balloon race around the world!

The current mural was funded by donations from prominent Vermonters and local businesses. How should the new mural be paid for?

KP: With a 1 percent sales tax on every loaf of white bread.

SW: Honestly, the same way. But maybe they could just pick a really great local artist, and not treat the mural like an advertisement. Vermont has a law against billboards.

RJ: That’s a really good question.

DB: Someone got paid for that thing?

JA: Um … by the previous artist?

The next artwork to decorate the Church Street alleyway need not be a mural. What other art installations can you envision for that space?

KP: A scratch-and-sniff tour through Vermont’s dairy country would be an olfactory sensation!

SW: I’d really like a public ball pit.

RJ: A miniature version of the moving walkway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport would be pretty cool.

DB: Any work whose artistic importance merits placement in an alley leading to a parking garage that usually smells like urine and cigarettes.

JA: Motion-sensitive holographic raccoons and squirrels that break into song and dance when someone walks through the alley. We should get Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the music!

Complete this sentence: “Thirty years from now, that Church Street alleyway will be…”

KP: Reeking of urine and weed.

SW: Underwater.

RJ: A noodle shop for blade runners. (Edward James Olmos is already there.)

DB: An alleyway off Sinex Boulevard, as Church Street will be renamed in 2020 by proclamation of Mayor Miro Weinberger.

JA: Irrelevant, because we’ll all be living inside computers.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Norwich University Staffer Jonathan Trutor to Appear on 'Jeopardy!'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 7:00 AM

Jonathan Trutor, right, with Alex Trebek - SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Jonathan Trutor, right, with Alex Trebek
When a "Jeopardy!" staffer phoned Jonathan Trutor in early December to inform him that he'd been selected to be on the television game show, the Norwich University instructional technologist put the caller on hold.  “I felt kind of bad about it, but I had a meeting,” explained Trutor. “I wasn’t trying to be jokey.”

The Colchester resident’s journey to be on the game show took just a few weeks. Soon after taking an online "Jeopardy!" quiz, Trutor received an invitation to an audition in Boston the weekend before Thanksgiving. By mid-January, he was on his way to Los Angeles for a taping before a live audience.

The show will be broadcast next Monday, March 26, 7 p.m. on local NBC affiliate WPTZ-TV.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cultural Mosaic: Africa Jamono Drums Up Love for New Beats

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Africa Jamono, left to right: Ali Dieng, Mamadou Gueye, Pape Ba, Mame Assane Coly - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Africa Jamono, left to right: Ali Dieng, Mamadou Gueye, Pape Ba, Mame Assane Coly
When Africa Jamono performed at Colchester High School's auditorium in mid-February as part of the district's International Week celebration, supporting drummer Ali Dieng told the crowd, "We're going to rock your school today."

Midway through the performance, clapping to the beat of the drums wasn't enough for most members of the audience. Teachers and students scrambled on to the stage to join lead dancer Pape Ba.

Jamono means "Generation" in Wolof, the common language spoken by the group's founding members: Ba, Dieng and Baba Drame. When the three men got together in the spring of 2010 to form Africa Jamono, each man had a specific role. Drame was the lead drummer and Ba was the master dancer. Dieng's main responsibility was finding gigs and publicizing the group.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Center for Cartoon Studies to Host Comics and Medicine Conference

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 3:03 PM

COURTESY OF CENTER FOR CARTOON STUDIES
  • Courtesy of Center for Cartoon Studies
The Center for Cartoon Studies has announced it will host the 9th International Comics and Medicine Conference August 16 to 18.

The annual gathering is organized by an international committee that includes the administrators of the Graphic Medicine website, along with physicians, artists, writers and scholars.

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Young Writers Project's 'Soundcheck' Addresses Gun Violence

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 9:56 AM

Workshop attendees, left to right:  Rivan Calderin, Alex Haag, Emma Haag, Rick Haag, Liz Mariani - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Workshop attendees, left to right: Rivan Calderin, Alex Haag, Emma Haag, Rick Haag, Liz Mariani
The Burlington-based Young Writers Project held a special Soundcheck event last Friday to address gun violence, youth activism and school safety.

Twice postponed due to inclement weather, the event at the BCA Center consisted of a writing workshop led by slam poets and educators Rajnii Eddins and Denise Casey, as well as an open mic session.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Out in the Mountains Now Out Online

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 12:36 PM

Covers of Out in the Mountains - UVM CENTER FOR DIGITAL INITIATIVES
  • UVM Center for Digital Initiatives
  • Covers of Out in the Mountains
In February 1986, the first issue of Out in the Mountains: Vermont's Newspaper for Lesbians and Gay Men hit mailboxes, corner stores, coffee shops and other rural newsstands. The free monthly newspaper would continue to serve Vermont communities for more than 20 years, folding in 2007 due to financial difficulties. Now, thanks to the University of Vermont's Center for Digital Initiatives, the entire Out in the Mountains archive can be accessed online.

"Not too many papers like [this] have been digitized," said Prudence Doherty, public service librarian for UVM's special collections. "Certainly it has Vermont significance," she said, "but it [also] has much wider significance and will be used by people who are tracking the history of LGBTQ movements."

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Poet "Barber Emeritus" Amir Yasin Dead at 79

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Reuben Jackson, receiving a haircut from Amir Yasin - SUSAN NORTON
  • Susan Norton
  • Reuben Jackson, receiving a haircut from Amir Yasin
Amir Yasin has died. The Detroit barber passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully, in his sleep on March 2. He is survived by his son, Rashied Yasin of Portland, Ore., and his beloved girlfriend, Khadijah Rollins of Detroit. He was 79.

In recent years, Amir had become something of a cult figure in certain Vermont circles. Using his friend, longtime Vermont Public Radio jazz DJ Reuben Jackson, as a conduit, Amir — and Khadijah, increasingly — would post scattered thoughts and musings  via Jackson's Facebook page. Amir's often lyrical dispatches on everything from politics to race to music to the daily comings and goings at his HangTime Barber Shop in Motown inspired a devoted audience among Jackson's online friends and followers.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bierstadt Painting Takes a Vacation in Florida

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 5:24 PM

"The Domes of the Yosemite" at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, after restoration - ST. JOHNSBURY ATHENAEUM
  • St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
  • "The Domes of the Yosemite" at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, after restoration
Last October, Albert Bierstadt's massive 1867 painting "The Domes of the Yosemite" left its permanent home at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum for restoration. It was carefully rolled around cardboard tubing and driven to Miami, Fla., where conservationists at the ArtCare Conservation Studio repaired the weakened canvas, removed a synthetic varnish applied in the 1950s, and performed some minor inpainting.

The 10-by-15-foot painting, commissioned by a Connecticut financier in 1867 and sold at auction to a member of the Fairbanks family shortly after, has resided at the Athenaeum since 1873. But before it returns home, it's making a pit stop at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Fla., about three hours north of the conservation studio.

This is the first time since its installation at the Athenaeum that Bierstadt's painting has been shown outside of St. Johnsbury.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

New Single: 'On Backstreets' by Eastern Mountain Time

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 7:03 PM

Eastern Mountain Time - LUKE AWTRY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Luke Awtry Photography
  • Eastern Mountain Time
"Did you ever think you might've been better / if you'd just tried harder at just about anything?"

Those are lyrics to the chorus of Eastern Mountain Time's latest, sorta-surprise single, "On Backstreets," released in mid-February. Even for songwriter Sean Hood, who specializes in shambling songs that straddle the line between self-deprecation and self-loathing, that's one shambling, self-loathing question to pose.  It's an existential landmine.

(And no, Sean, I hadn't ever posed that question to myself … until just now. But I'll be up all night wrestling with why I quit karate in sixth grade. Thanks a fuckin' lot! )

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