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Across the Universe

Our musicians, our writers, our artists, the culture that comes to visit us, the Elvis impersonators, the stars. WXXI Arts & Life Editor and Reporter Jeff Spevak takes a look at the local scene each week in Across the Universe.

How did we get to the point that singing is considered to be a dangerous act?

That's where we are, in this era of COVID-19. Last week, the nation was reopening bars, restaurants, churches, music venues. Now, more than half the states in the country are pulling back from their premature announcements that the coronavirus pandemic is over, and life may now return to normal.

"Miss Juneteenth" is one of the current virtual offerings at The Little Theatre, part of the Black Cinema Series. It's about a single mom, Turquoise Jones, a former Miss Juneteenth winner, preparing her rebellious teenage daughter to follow in her footsteps and compete in the pageant.

"One message is pride, one message is teaching history," Richard McCollough says.

As far as Fred Costello can see, two good things have emerged from The Summer of 2020.

"My home studio has never looked so clean," he says. "My dog gets a lot of walks."

Otherwise, "Honestly, I'm bored. Have you ever seen that movie 'Groundhog Day'? That's what life has become. I get up the same time every morning. I'm watching the same TV shows during the day. It's like, oh my God, I'm not a man of schedule. I mean, I'm always running, between the studio and gigs, the ballpark, you know."

Gaelen McCormick's creative soul was saved by crochet.

"It was right around the time of the Women's March in DC," she says, "and, you remember how everyone was making pussy hats? And I thought, well, that doesn't look too hard, why don't I get some yarn and watch a YouTube video. And actually, that kind of saved me for months, learning how to crochet, and learning how to be creative in a way that really felt good, but didn't have to involve sound."

A couple of weeks ago, the actor Stanley Tucci went viral. He simply posted a brief video in which he demonstrates how he makes a Negroni cocktail. A double shot of gin, a shot of sweet vermouth, a shot of Campari. Shaken with ice, garnished with an orange, which he first squeezes into the glass as he advises, “Don’t let anyone see you handle it like that.”

Simple, yet elegant. Others may quibble. The late Anthony Bourdain suggested a 1:1:1 ratio on the booze, don’t bother shaking, and just drop in an orange wedge. It’s a big world; to each his own.

Black Out Tuesday

Jun 2, 2020

The murder of George Floyd has once again caused much of the nation to question the position of Black people in American society. Is that position to remain one of one more Black man, or Black woman, lying prone on a Staten Island street, as was the case with Eric Garner in 2014? Or Floyd on a Minneapolis street last week? Both pleading, “I can’t breathe?

Perhaps the vehicle to lead us out of the coronavirus pandemic will be our cars.

The car. In which we are hermetically sealed. Unless we roll down the windows, which is bound to happen as summer arrives. One thing COVID-19 cannot stop.

Alan Zweibel hears voices in his head.

"All the time, when I'm writing -- and this goes on for many, many years -- the TV is on when I'm writing at home," he says. "The volume is down, and it's usually a show that I've seen before. 'Law and Order,' you know, 'SVU.' Something that's not going to take my mind off my work, but it's like a white noise in the background, there's an ambience to it. And if something does catch my eye, between sentences or paragraphs, I'll turn the volume up a little. But it is a constant companion."

If there is something positive to come out of this coronavirus pandemic, Greg Townson says, it may be in something once uttered by one of the minds behind Monty Python.

"Believe it or not," Townson says, "I think it was John Cleese who said, 'In order to be creative, you have to have at least three hours of uninterrupted time that you're devoting to your project.' "

Had it been a minute faster, or a minute slower, on a 2,825-mile journey, the Titanic might have been just another passenger ship that never met an iceberg.

That's the cruelty of timing. We're seeing it now in the arts, as musicians gauge whether they should release a new work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, or wait until it's OK to throw a party.

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