Culture is the topic of the month. I am something of a geek for words and the dictionary (among other things). A friend of mine was at the house the other day and we went into my bedroom to consult on some redecoration plans I have fermenting…or culturing, if you will. She remarked on the giant Illustrated Oxford English Dictionary beside my bed. I always keep a dictionary by my bed because that is where I do the vast majority of my reading and I like to be able to look up words that I don’t know. I had to buy the dictionary in question because my idiot ex-husband threw away my old dictionary because it was falling to pieces. I don’t care, you don’t throw away other people’s books. This is one reason, among many, why he is my ex. But, I digress…I also have Merriam-Webster OnLine send me their word of the day. Let’s see what they have to say about the word culture:
Middle English, cultivated land, cultivation, from Anglo-French, from Latin cultura, from cultus, past participle
2:the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education
3:expert care and trainingculture >
4 a:enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic trainingb:acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills
5 a:the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generationsb:the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also:the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or timeculture >culture >c:the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organizationculture focused on the bottom line>d:the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristicculture >culture of materialism will take time — Peggy O'Mara>
6:the act or process of cultivating living material (as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media; also:a product of such cultivation
I guess we’re going with number 4 up there, although I feel tugs from that bit in number 5 about southern culture. In fact, I think those two definitions should be somewhat intertwined and should not be separated. Although I’m not rich or very influential in my town, I spend a lot of time and money supporting the arts and culture in Birmingham, Alabama, which is definitely the South. And it’s great fun! So I’m turning this post into a celebration of my city’s culture and my very small part in it.
This past weekend, I attended Art Walk downtown with some friends. We saw lots of art, some of it amazing. I bought some lovely earrings. I saw these gorgeous old buildings downtown, some of them businesses, some of them now converted to loft homes (WANT). I ate a fantastic red velvet cupcake at a flourishing bakery that I had heard of but not yet been to.
Weekend after next is our fabulous Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. It’s in its tenth year. I usually work the film festival, but this year I’m just going to go with friends and chill and watch films that I would never even get the chance to see anywhere else. The main venue for the festival is “The Showplace of the South,” the Alabama Theatre, which has been restored to its former glory and has the mighty Wurlitzer organ that rises to the stage for performances. I’ve been to see lots of movies at the Alabama at times other than during the festival and I’ve seen ballet recitals and concerts there. I adore it.
The first Saturday in October is the Bluff Park Art Show, which I always go to, but if I don’t go this year it will be because I need to get to Chattanooga that day to attend Beer Over Dirt. That’s another aspect of culture, but it’s not in my home town, so suffice it to say that I will have fun. And I don’t even drink beer. I drink other beverages with great enthusiasm, however.
Wine, for example. Earlier this year I attended the Magic City Art Connection and its sister event, Corks and Chefs. I always go to these, too. The former is a huge juried art show in the big park in front of City Hall. The latter is tidbits from many of our excellent chefs plus all the wine you can drink. This year I had a free night at the Tutwiler Hotel (thanks to my volunteering at the film festival last year), so it was a great time. Ate, drank, wandered around the art show, bought stuff (more jewelry!), then had a party in a beautiful old hotel.
Every year the Alabama Symphony has a Decorator’s Show House that I try to get to. You go with your friends and look at some huge, gorgeous house in a part of town that you’ll never be able to afford and see each and see what happens to the rooms when a different decorator for each one is allowed to go all out. Money is no object. Sometimes the rooms are beautiful, sometimes hideous, but it’s always a kick. The kitchens in these houses are always objects of my lust.
And of course, there is City Stages, our 21-year-old next year music festival. I have been attending that since 1993. Some years are better than others, but I always enjoy it and have discovered many new musical artists as well as seen old favorites, some of whom, like Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, are no longer with us.
Well, that’s just a brief run-down. I know I’m leaving something out and of course there are movies (too many to mention here and certainly not integral to Bham except that I enjoy them with my book group a great deal of the time - oh and books!), plays and Broadway shows (I saw A Man For All Seasons, Phantom and Spamalot this year) and concerts every weekend. And we have one of the best art museums in the southeast - saw the incredible Pompeii exhibit there this year (that got me a mention in the society page of The Birmingahm News). All in all, my little southern city is full of culture and keeps me well entertained.