The ArtsCenterIt’s a long way from Glasgow to Carrboro, but a couple of North Carolina moments can be found on Battlefield Band’s new Zama Zama, a concept album about greed and the never-ending search for wealth. First, and in the Scottish tradition of writing songs of greeting for notable figures, the quartet offers “Bernie’s Welcome to Butner”the given being that the fallen financier is in no way worthy of the tune’s majestic fiddle and pipes. And the album’s penultimate track is a moors-and-mist take on “Plain Gold Ring,” a song owned by Tryon’s late Nina Simone. Tickets are $25, and the majesty begins at 8:30 p.m. See www.artscenterlive.org. Rick Cornell
David Leonhardt/ Dean Baker
Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke Campus/ The Regulator BookshopFrom our vantage somewhere in the middle of what they’re now calling the Great Recession, both the recent past and the imminent future look pretty sucky, economically speaking. By coincidence, a pair of all-star economics experts will speak in Durham today on why the economy blows, who blew it and why, and for how long, it will continue to blow.
Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, called the housing bubble as far back as 2002. His new book, False Profits: Recovering From the Bubble Economy, follows hot on the heels of last year’s Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy. He blames economic policymakers (especially Alan Greenspan) for failing to recognize and address the housing bubble, and he accuses them of dodging responsibility for it now that it’s blown up in our faces.
David Leonhardt, an economics columnist for The New York Times, will give a talk called “Read My Lips: The Coming Battle Over Taxes.” He sees no way out of the ruinous deficit we’ve accrued, other than increasing the government’s income stream (go ahead, read his lips: new taxes). Republicans who’ve made hay from faulting Barack Obama’s stimulus package and spending proposals for our current predicament, you can shut yer yaps: Such policies may not be getting us out of the hole, but according to calculations Leonhardt made last June, the stimulus accounts for 7 percent of the budgetary shortfall; the rest of Obama’s still-to-be-fleshed-out legislative agenda, 3 percent. By contrast, George W. Bush’s tax cuts, Medicare drug benefit and other don’t-pay-as-you-go policies account for 33 percent of the red ink. (Nonpartisan note: Obama’s continuation of certain Bush policieslike the Iraq war, tax cuts for those making up to a quarter mil and the Wall Street bailoutcontribute another 20 percent.)
Difficult economic times like these call for vigilant attention to economic issues. These speakers are here to enlighten us free of cost. Why not make it a double-header? Leonhardt speaks in Room 04 at the Sanford School from 5–6:30 p.m., then Baker’s talk and book signing at The Regulator starts at 7 p.m. Visit sanford.duke.edu and www.regulatorbookshop.com. Marc Maximov
Carolina TheatreIf you saw Mike Leigh’s 1999 film Topsy-Turvy, you’ll recall that it recounts the story of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan as they struggle to produce what would become their most enduring work, The Mikado. Now, 125 years after the original premiered at London’s Savoy Theatre, the Durham Savoyards, under the direction of Derrick Ivey, tackle the comic opera that carries the subtitle “The Town of Titipu.” Inspired by the day’s rampant imperialism, the action takes place in Japan, where flirting is a crime punishable by execution. In 1910, H.L. Mencken wrote that the opera’s emphasis on “clean humor and good taste on the stage” translated into staying power in America, despite some raunchy qualities. While that might be true, Gilbert and Sullivan’s work also hasn’t lost its comedic value. Tonight’s preview performance costs $10 and starts at 8; shows run through March 21. Visit www.durhamsavoyards.org. Read our preview. Sarah Ewald
Nasher Museum of ArtThe funnies in the back of the newspaper might elicit a resigned chuckle (if that), but there’s still great work on the op-ed page that can make you sit up and take notice. Cartoonist and illustrator Peter Kuper will deliver a lecture on “Revolutions and Art,” where he’ll discuss artists’ propaganda tactics. Among the outsize personalities he’ll discuss will be Diego Rivera, whose 1933 Man at the Crossroads mural at New York’s Rockefeller Center depicted Lenin. (Rivera, an outspoken Communist, also included Leon Trotsky, yet Trotsky’s presence didn’t garner as much of a reaction. The mural was later destroyed.) Kuper will also discuss Thomas Nast, the Gilded Age cartoonist who famously satirized Tammany Hall ringleader Boss Tweed, drawing him sporting a moneybag resting on his shoulders instead of a head.
As for his own background, Kuper has worked for publications ranging from Time to The Progressive. He’s also heavily involved in producing comics, taking over Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” in 1997 and contributing to World War 3 Illustrated. The event begins at 4 p.m. and is co-sponsored by Duke’s Department of Art and Art History. Visit www.nasher.duke.edu. (Kuper also visits Chapel Hill Comics at 7 tonight; see www.chapelhillcomics.com.) Sarah Ewald
The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
Nasher Museum of ArtIn 2003, when the Chicks’ lead singer, Natalie Maines, told a London audience she was “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,” the comment made them overnight heroes of anti-war liberals. Trouble is, it also alienated their core audience of country music fans, and the backlash stung. Country stations everywhere refused to play them, and angry former fans trashed their albums.
This documentary may disappoint those who would venerate the Nashville-martyred trio. They didn’t become the biggest-selling female group of all time by singing from soapboxes, and they didn’t respond to the crisis by telling off their critics and renewing their Mother Jones subscriptions. A relentless drive and ambition (originating particularly from the headstrong Maines and their British manager, Simon Renshaw) propelled them to the top of the charts, and their rushed apology and panicky band meetings make it clear that protecting their brand is their first concern.
Even if they never get terribly political, though, Maines and her bandmates are certainly no pushovers. The film is most interesting when it shows the Chicks struggling to defend their hard-won careers and responding to many of the same pressures that normally attend mega-selling musical acts. Directors Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck find the heart of the story in the Dixies’ remarkable determination, perseverance and cohesion, though whether they’re still together as a band is an open questionin January, founding sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire announced that their next album will be without Maines. The free screening starts at 7 p.m. Visit www.nasher.duke.edu. Marc Maximov