GET READY FOR V-DAY: Birmingham Bake & Cook, the modern, diverse cooking store on Valleydale Road off of 280, caters to “chefs” on every level of the spectrum, from people with no cooking experience to professionals in need of new equipment. When it’s not open for business during the day, it’s one of the few places in town to go for frequent cooking classes and demonstrations. Not only are these good for learning tips and techniques, they’re a place to meet and socialize with participants of similar taste. Some of Bake & Cook’s best events are their demonstrations from various area chefs. This week, they’ve invited Becky Satterfield (of Satterfield’s Restaurant, in Cahaba Heights, near The Summit) to host a presentation on Valentine’s Day recipes. Sure, it’s a little early, but who knows how much St. Valentines-related foodstuffs you’ll want to make in the next three weeks, once you have this insider information. The demonstration will go from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is $25. For more information, call (205) 980-3661 or visit www.bakeandcookco.com.
THREE RING SYMPHONY: Just in time for the real circus (see below) is this collaboration from the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Called “Cirque de la Symphonie,” it is everything you’d expect from the title. The ASO will be accompanying a series of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and more while they perform their routines. This blend of classical music and modern cirque techniques should make for an interesting pairing, one that falls somewhere between your familiar dance performance and the freak flag style of Cirque du Soleil. The performance will take place for one night only at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. General admission tickets run somewhere between $54 and $72, depending on where you’re sitting. For more information, visit www.bjcc.org or www.alabamasymphony.org.
HAVE YOUR CAKE: Workplay is having a big week, at least in terms of acts I want to see perform. Last week, I highlighted “mashup” artist Girl Talk’s (January 20) show, one worth recommending simply for its innate ability to get you up and dancing, feeling nostalgic while you’re doing so. But while Girl Talk remains polarizing and somewhat hollow, the act that plays this Saturday is anything but. I’m referring to Sacramento alternative outfit Cake, a band I consider to be one of the most underrated in the last fifteen years. If you don’t immediately know them from the name, you’ve probably heard one of their few singles that garnered radio play in the later 90s—most notably “The Distance” and “Never There.” After hearing these songs for the first time, the instinct is to write the band off as a one-hit wonder, even though they’ve been releasing albums quite steadily since 1994. How could they be anything but, with their mish-mashing of genres, their strange, specific sense of wit, and a lead singer that does far more talking than singing? The funny thing is, Cake is probably one of the most consistently admired groups around, despite adopting a style that rarely, if ever, changes. Any time I bring them up it elicits a positive response. It would be a real surprise to hear someone say, “That Cake band really blows.” And the kicker’s that the band never plays in the South. Take it from me: I’ve been on their mailing list for years, and I periodically check their tour dates. You’re lucky to see them outside of California. So if you’ve got two working ears and a pulse, this is the band for you. The show starts at 9 p.m. on the WorkPlay SoundStage, and general admission tickets will run you $35 in advance and $40 the day of the show. For more information, call (205) 879-4773 or visit www.workplay.com.
LEARN TO JOT: Among the many authors visiting Birmingham this week, I found the one most worth writing about is essayist Phyllis Theroux’s appearance at the Birmingham Public Library on Sunday. In addition to a signing and reading of her latest book, Journal Keeper: A Memoir, the event will also include a seminar from Theroux entitled “The Life You Save: How to Keep a Journal You Won’t Throw Away.” I used to scoff at the idea of a diary or journal, but the older I get the more I’d like to be able to remember specifics of my past. If I had one, I’d probably treat it like a list of bullet points—“I did this today”, “this happened to a friend”, “this also happened”, etc. That way I could go back, read through it and pinpoint places where things changed. If you’ve ever felt the same way, but like me, can never seem to just get one off the ground—consider this lecture. The seminar will go from 2 to 3 p.m., a social hour with the author will follow from 3 to 4 p.m., and the signing will start at 4 p.m. and go until 5 p.m. Registration is required for the seminar. For more information, call (205) 226-3742 or visit www.bplonline.org.
CREATIVE CAMPUS: Most of my picks for visual arts events around town come from independent art galleries that are organizations unto themselves. But it’s worth mentioning every once in a while, that Birmingham universities and colleges hold some of the better shows you’re going to see. Take this week: the Samford University Art Gallery will have works by Mary Ann Sampson on display as part of their Visiting Visual Artist Series. Sampson is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has been exhibiting her work in galleries since 1983. Her pieces have been shown everywhere from the Birmingham Museum of Art to the Magic City Art Connection, with other shows across the country and outside the country. She is a printer and book artist, something you don’t see too often, at least in an exhibition format. She’ll be on display until the end of February, every weekday at the gallery from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. There will be a late reception for the show on February 3, from 5-7 p.m. For more information, call (205) 726-2011 or visit www.samford.edu.
IT’S A MIRACLE! Birmingham Southern College will be putting on their adaptation of The Miracle Worker starting this Tuesday, another in a long line of Alabama heritage-related events throughout the week. The work is originally based on Helen Keller’s biography, The Story of My Life, but The Miracle Worker has taken many forms—a few films, a Broadway production, and more. I’m confident that BSC can put their own creative spin on the tried-andtrue story. The show will run through January 28. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students (Fine Arts Society members may purchase extra tickets for $10). For more information, call (205) 226-4960 or visit www.bsc.edu.
STEP RIGHT UP! The circus is one of those things I always forget exists until it comes back around again. Though in the case of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, the event is made almost impossible to forget for the five or so days it’s in town. That is, if you see downtown every day. I’m talking specifically about the “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” a.k.a “The Greatest Show on Earth.” I personally haven’t been in about six or seven years, and had basically written the event off as a stale, repetitive exercise. But upon reading the description for this year’s festivities, I might have to reconsider my position. The rundown of events looks entirely different from what I remember, as part of what Ringling is calling their new “Fully Charged” circus tour. Among these are a duo of Ukrainian strongmen, Dmitry Nadolinkskiy and Ruslan Gilmulin, who lift telephone poles; an animal trainer who works with horses, tigers and elephants; The Fernandez Brothers, a team of acrobats; and what I consider the most exciting: The Human Fuse, who sails 80 feet at 65 mph from a “human crossbow.” The shows begin on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. They continue on Thursday and Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. General admission tickets are from $13 to $89. For more information, visit www.bjcc.org or www.ringling.com.
CLASSIC INSPIRATION: Most people know what To Kill a Mockingbird is, even if they haven’t read it. It’s one of those stories that seeped so far into the public consciousness that you can understand references to the novel or movie without ever having taken a glance at either. I’d be willing to guess, though, that less people know what source material Mockingbird pulls its events from. I’m talking about the 1931 Scottsboro trial, when nine black teenagers were accused of rape by two white women, in a box car in Paint Rock, Alabama. The accusations led to a seemingly endless trail process that included two Supreme Court decisions. Many believe the case paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement, and many of the historical incidents that came out of that. I think PBS, who produced the documentary film Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, says it best when they discuss the story “at its core” as being “a riveting drama about the struggles of nine innocent young men for their lives—and a cautionary tale about using human beings as fodder for political causes.” Next Thursday, the Birmingham Museum of Art will be showing a screening of the film. It will be followed by a discussion from Sheila Washington, founder and director, and Gary Morgan, historian, of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. The screening starts at 6 p.m. For more information, call (205) 254-2565 or visit www.artsbma.org.