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State of the Arts

Few locals need more confirmation that JDK - Jager Di Paola Kemp Design - is hip, nor stories about the Burlington company's remarkable and well-deserved success. Still, it's always nice to see an article by a New Yorker who's in utter awe of a company from little ol' Vermont. JDK knocked the socks off writer Mark Borden, as his article in the April issue of Fast Company reveals - just as principal Michael Jager blew giant Microsoft away with his "less Hulk, more Bruce Lee" design proposal for the Xbox 360.

Borden's lead details that client coup, then fills in the obligatory company history, from JDK's early, now-legendary design experiments with a nascent Vermont snowboard outfit called Burton, on through its current clout with clients from Magic Hat to Patagonia to, well, Microsoft. The story's subhead is "The Striking Power of Michael Jager," and the creative director cuts a suitably dashing figure in the accompanying photo. About the JDK crew the writer conjured this description: "a bizarro creative hit squad that helps clients zero in on their psychographic id." Way to grow.

PAMELA POLSTON

Trey Anastasio met with some bad juju recently - an arrest for possession of illegal substances, and the resultant embarrassing headlines and mug shot in the media. But that scrape apparently has not dampened his enthusiasm for doing good. In 2005 the Former Phish front man created a nonprofit called the Seven Below Fund, which donated funds to the Vermont Land Trust, advocates for the homeless, non-commercial local radio stations, and more. Recently he established the Seven Below Arts Initiative and, in a partnership with Burlington City Arts, is offering eight-week artist residencies - for three artists at a time - at The Barn, Anastasio's studio near Westford. Once used exclusively for recording, the facility is now being retrofitted for visual artists by the first resident artist, Burlington sculptor Lars Fisk.

Residencies are open to artists at any stage working in any medium, but the opportunity seems ideal for those with a "rigorous body of work" who have not yet achieved commercial success, according to Anastasio's website. Applications for the first residency period are due April 2.

PAMELA POLSTON

It's hard enough to hawk a doc. But one about Ralph Nader - now that's a tough sell. Henriette Mantel hopes viewers will give An Unreasonable Man a chance when her film opens this weekend at Merrill's Roxy in Burlington. The Emmy Award-winning Newfane native has been showing the film at festivals around the country - including Waitsfield's Mountaintop Film Festival - and will be in Burlington to talk about the film Friday night. She shares directorial credit with childhood friend Steve Skrovan, formerly the executive producer of the television sit-com "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Everybody doesn't love Ralph, and An Unreasonable Man embraces that fundamental conflict. Nader critics such as the Nation's Eric Alterman don't hold back in the film. They blame him for stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore, and for all of Bush's subsequent blundering: the Iraq war, the erosion of civil liberties, a conservative Supreme Court. Even some of the now-grown-up "Nader Raiders" turn on their former mentor for his misguided political ambitions.

The film's talking heads are lively. But Mantel and Skrovan also chased down some great footage, including Nader confronting a Boston cop who wouldn't let him into the presidential debates.

An Unreasonable Man shows the two-party political system in a whole new light. More eye-opening, the first half of the film focuses on the work that led Nader to conclude he should be a candidate: His dogged efforts as a consumer advocate led to protections such as seat belts, air bags and the Clean Air and Freedom of Information acts. There was a time when every young idealist dreamt of joining his pro-people, anti-corporate charge. Mantel was among them. She worked for Nader for about a year, fetching the mail and answering the phone. The experience prepared her for a career as a stand-up comedian, actress and writer. She played the wisecracking maid Alice in The Brady Bunch movie and wrote for such shows as "Win Ben Stein's Money" and Michael Moore's "The Awful Truth."

Mantel hopes her movie shows Nader for who he is: all drive, no dirt. "There are a lot of skeptics," she says. "With this movie a lot of people say, no, no, no . . . But once they get in the seats, they're glad they've seen it."

That pitch didn't convince a New York magazine critic to attend a Manhattan screening. His response was: "'Give my seat to a dead Iraqi or American GI,'" Mantel recalls. "But he ended up writing a great review. He's still mad at Ralph, but he liked the movie."

Mantel says she'd like to shoot a doc in Vermont one day, but hasn't yet found the appropriate subject.

Bernie Sanders?

"There's always Bernie," she concedes with a chuckle. "People are mad at him, too."

PAULA ROUTLY

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Paula Routly

Paula Routly

Bio:
Paula Routly came to Vermont to attend Middlebury College. After graduation, she stayed and worked as a dance critic, arts writer, news reporter and editor before she started Seven Days newspaper with Pamela Polston in 1995. Routly covered arts news, then food, and, starting in 2008, focused her editorial energies... more

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