Some things were made to complement each other: peanut butter and jelly, Hope and Bo on Days of Our Lives, St. Augustine and the Marx Brothers. "But what does St. Augustine have in common with the Marx Brothers?" That is exactly the kind of question that Adam Lerner, executive director of an "experimental art organization" called the Lab, intended to address when he decided that the group should sponsor a series of lectures called Mixed Taste Tag Team: Lectures on Unrelated Topics.
The weekly lectures are not long-winded expositions on how the oddly paired subjects are historically linked, nor are the couplings, such as the May 17 presentation "Infused Olive Oil & John Coltrane," intended to disclose some previously unknown secret, like Coltrane's addiction to the Italian cooking staple.
Instead, as the "tag team" in the title suggests, the talks feature one speaker per topic, and each is expected to give a thirty-minute spiel that deals only with the subject of his or her expertise. In fact, Lerner requests that speakers not try to address how the items connect. The hope is that a post-talk question-and-answer session will yield revelations like Lerner's favorite epiphany: "St. Augustine said there was no peace on earth, much like the Marx Brothers depicted a chaotic world."
The pairings consist of one subject from a high-culture list and one from a low-culture list, although Lerner is quick to point out that he's "not saying it's high culture or low culture; it's just usually in that category."
Lerner says he wants people to "learn to develop taste, to understand the subtle differences, whether it be in cheese or poetry." But does that mean being high-brow about low-brow topics?
Actually, any occasion that bills the Grateful Dead with fresh-flower arranging, or the Harlem Renaissance with artisan cheese, no matter what the motivation, is pretty much in a world of its own. The casual atmosphere and free wine also help assuage any urges attendees might feel to figure out exactly what it is they are supposed to accomplish in these think-fests.
Tonight's installment brings together the too-long-separated duo of Dizzy Gillespie and single-malt Scotch. Jake York, an English professor who says he has been "very ardently drinking Scotch for a good ten years, like real ardently," will give a talk on the liquor and promises free samples.
Summer Jazz kicks off at Writer Square
Get your ears together, downtowners. The Summer Jazz Series in Writer Square gets going at 5 p.m. this Friday, July 2, with a free performance by Rekha, featuring the popular Denver-born saxophonist and recording artist Nelson Rangell. Rangell's brand of smooth jazz is easy on the system, as befits the start of a five-week after-work concert series. The evening will also include a "speakeasy-style" fashion show that recalls the early 1930s. On July 9, stylish singer Julie Monley, another native Denverite, will headline a roster that includes theatrical performances by Alliance & Co., an artistic wing of Denver's Alliance Française. For this date, Monley is a most appropriate vocalist: She lived and worked for more than ten years in Paris. Sponsored by the Writer Square Merchants Association, Westword and smooth-jazz station CD 104.3, the three-hour free performances will also feature the West African group Boubacar and a dance performance by Cleo Parker Robinson's celebrated troupe (July 16); the Brazilian Project, anchored by the superb Boulder jazz guitarist Bill Kopper and featuring Kim Stone, late of Spyro Gyra (July 23); and the spirited Latin group Conjunto Colores, accompanied by dancers from Tango Colorado (July 30).
"The mission of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado," according to the group's website, "is to protect, defend and extend the civil rights and civil liberties of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy." Recently, the group added fun runs and holiday festivals to its arsenal. The organization will unveil some of its tactics at today's 4th of July Liberty Run and Festival of Rights in Washington Park, 1700 East Louisiana Avenue. A children's race starts at 8 a.m., and a four-mile run will immediately follow. Prizes will be awarded for the most festive patriotic costumes.
After the run comes the fest, which includes music, food, face-painting, readings of the Declaration of Independence by costume-clad volunteers, and a trivia contest to remind you of all you've forgotten since high school. This year's party will offer a new "GrafFREEti" wall, displaying compositions from local students of what freedom means to them. Attendees will be able to add their own offerings, as well.
"Stampede" is an understatement
If you find yourself in Greeley over the July 4th holiday, make sure to stay downwind of the Rocky Mountain Stampede. This is probably good advice whenever the rodeo comes to town, but visitors should be particularly vigilant today, because along with the plain old stank of farm critters and the undeniable olfactory funk of a few thousand sweaty country folk basting in the hot sun, this year we've got ourselves a Baked-Bean-Eating Contest going on in celebration of Bush's Baked Beans Day at the stampede. The contest -- in which hapless participants will descend with gladiatorial abandon upon heaping bowls of Bush's Baked Beans to see how many they can suck down in the allotted two minutes -- will take place this morning at 9 a.m. at Island Grove Park, 600 North 14th Avenue, the center of the festivities. Bush's spokesman, Jay, and his talking dog, Duke, will be on hand to bear witness to the gluttonous combat, and while there's no word on what the prize might be for he (or she) who is the beaniest of them all, my guess is that -- as with all good parties -- this one's going to end with someone getting their stomach pumped. For more information, visit www.rockymountainstampede.com. -- Jason Sheehan