Religion: Too much or not enough

14 heaven hellReligion is everywhere, even in three important books with North Carolina ties.

North Carolina’s beloved novelist Lee Smith takes us back to an earlier time in her novella, “Blue Marlin.” Its central character, Jenny, age 13, deals with her strong but immature religious views as she seeks to have God help her patch up her parents’ crumbled marriage. On a trip to Key West, she bargains with God to do good deeds if he will bring her parents together again.

Smith says that for all the stories she has ever written, “this one is dearest to me, capturing the essence of my own childhood.”

The book is also a reminder that Jenny’s immature view of God is one that is widely shared and not to be scoffed at.

What really happens to us when we die? Active churchgoers are caught between two ideas. First is the belief set out in the Apostles’ Creed in “the resurrection of the body” and judgment day accounting. Second is the conflicting idea that believers in Christ go directly to heaven when they die while others go straight to a place of punishment that lasts forever.

UNC-Chapel Hill religion professor Bart Ehrman’s “Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife” deals with this dilemma, and he sets out a detailed history of ideas about afterlife.

Ehrman describes how ideas about afterlife developed in many religious traditions. He asserts that Jesus and the Apostle Paul did not believe in hell. The punishment for sinners was, they believed, simply annihilation, not everlasting punishment.

Many North Carolinians do not appreciate our state’s important place in the history of modern popular music or the influence of religion and church music on our music culture. Former Raleigh News & Observer journalist David Menconi’s new book, “Step It Up and Go, The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk,” helps set the record straight.

The connections between gospel music, both black and white, run throughout the book. Menconi gives Ray Charles credit for “turning sacred gospel into secular soul, a new style that translated religious rapture into much earthier feelings.”

Charles transformed a gospel song, “It Must Be Jesus,” into a “randy song” called “I Got a Woman.” Menconi writes, “Changing that song’s subject matter from uppercase him to lowercase her scandalized the church, but it caused a pop music sensation.”

A Winston-Salem group, “The 5 Royales,” brought evangelistic fervor to secular music even before Charles. The group was one of the top R&B bands in the 1950s. Though forgotten by many, the group is immortalized by a street in Winston-Salem named after them.

Menconi writes about a Charlotte group called Jodeci whose “spin on hip-hop soul was churching it up with gospel feeling. Whether pleading for sin or salvation, they had the same urgency.”

In 1992, one member of Jodeci told Menconi, “Someday I’m sure we’ll all go back to gospel because that’s where our roots are.”
Maybe he was speaking for some of the rest of us.


Cape Fear Studios exhibition highlights works of Stanley Greaves

12 01 Stanley GreavesCape Fear Studios will host “Retrospective - A Varied Path” featuring member artist Stanley Greaves through Oct. 20. Greaves is an internationally acclaimed artist from Guyana who now lives in Fayetteville. He is well-known for his colorful surrealist paintings which have made him popular in the Caribbean art world.

“I am showing examples of work I have done in different regions including recent woodworking activities,” Greaves said. “I have been making boxes, two of them are on show at the exhibition, which showcases a mix of sculptures, examples of my calligraphy and my poems in calligraphic form, and ceramics.”

The name of the exhibition, in effect, would be kind of retrospect because not all of the work exhibited is recent, he said.

Greaves’ exhibition as a member artist at Cape Fear Studios is a glimpse into the heart and soul of an internationally recognized artist, or ‘maker’ as he refers to himself, said Rose Kennedy, also a member artist.

“This is a rare opportunity to experience his work in painting, pottery and sculpture in an intimate, welcoming environment,” said Kennedy, who also serves as the retail gallery chairperson for Cape Fear Studios. “Stanley … is widely recognized throughout the world for his contributions to art and literature.”

Kennedy said Greaves’ artwork isn’t usually for sale, but he has generously donated a pottery piece to be auctioned benefitting Cape Fear Studio’s mission of providing arts and education to the community.

The pottery piece up for auction is called “Key Pot.”

“I had a collection of house keys that I collected over the years and always wanted to do something with that,” Greaves said. “And eventually, the thought came up that you know what, I can use some of these keys and put them on the pot. And that's why I named it a ‘Key Pot.’”

Greaves asks people to bring their own experiences to the exhibition, and he doesn’t think it's a necessity for the artist to explain the meanings behind the work.

“In order for people to look at the picture and read it and extract whatever they can from it. And in that way, those experiences are more valid to them instead of me giving them something,” he said.

Born to Guyanese parents, Greaves studied and lived in the United Kingdom, United States and Barbados. He doesn’t think living in different places has affected his art but instead made him more secure of it, as to not follow trends, he said.

Now living in Fayetteville, Greaves said he tends to avoid big metropolitan scenes and crowds stating the work he’s interested in doing is of no relevance to the art scene in larger

Although he has received many awards and prizes, including Guyana’s national honor ‘Golden Arrow of Achievement’ in 1975, Greaves says he hardly seeks art exhibitions.

“I am not a competitor, I don't feel the need to show myself that way,” he said, “I have been able to hold exhibitions from time to time, but that's just not for me.”

According to Kennedy, Greaves works in the pottery studio and is very engaging to talk to and a joy to watch as he intently works his magic with clay. He was a natural choice for a feature show because of his stellar work, introspective nature and international recognition, she said.

“Come in to absorb the workings of an extraordinary, creative mind and place a bid in the auction. His work is (usually) not for sale, so the auction is a great opportunity to own a special creation by Stanley,” she said.

Cape Fear Studios is located at 148 Maxwell St. in downtown Fayetteville. “Retrospective - A Varied Path” runs through Oct. 20. Admission is free to the public during their new hours of Wednesday and Friday from 2-5 p.m. and by appointment on Saturdays. For more information visit or call 910-433-2986.

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Pictured:  (top) Stanley Greaves is a member artist at Cape Fear Studios. (above left) "Key Pot," a pottery piece by Greaves will be auctioned off. (above right) A work by Greaves on display during "Retrospective - A Varied Path" at Cape Fear Studios through Oct. 20.

Rembrandt exhibit now open at Methodist's McCune Art Gallery

Methodist University’s David McCune Art Gallery is showcasing the “Rembrandt: The Sign and the Light" exhibition through Nov. 18. The exhibition displays a series of 59 etchings by the well-known Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn and is a part of the gallery’s 10-year anniversary celebration.

“One of the things that’s very attractive about this show is Rembrandt's way of storytelling,” Silvana Foti, Art Director and Curator of McCune Gallery said. “The way he captures human quality, almost seems like his subject matter was staged, they're extremely theatrical.”

Rembrandt was a 17th-century Dutch artist who established himself as one of the greatest storytellers in art history through his ability to render people in his work. Rembrandt’s work is known to approach "real life" through theatrical transposition.

Foti described the etchings to have a psychological emotional drama that's connected between the images when looking at them.

The etchings on display offer a variety of subjects, including religious figures, scenes, portraits, figure studies and famous beggars from Rembrandt’s 35-year career. The name of the exhibit is derived from the technique used by Rembrandt in the etchings that are on display.

“There will be some etchings that are very dark, and when you begin to examine them there will be sparks or light that will just illuminate,” Foti said. “A kind of technique used by Rembrandt known as Chiaroscuro, creating a strong contrast between light and dark.”

Each visitor is provided with a magnifier to witness the details in Rembrandt's etchings.

Most people think of Rembrandt as a painter and are surprised by his etchings that profoundly changed the course of art history, Foti said.

“It would be an awful shame to not be able to see this exhibition in person, this is a once in a lifetime for many people,” she said.

The David McCune Art Gallery is known to host two shows per year, a regional show and an international show. Shows are planned a year or two in advance. The different exhibits are selected based on things like familiarity with the artists' names, different time periods, different styles and likes, Foti said.

"The Sign and the Light" exhibition is a part of the gallery’s 10-year anniversary celebration. The gallery has brought some well-renowned names like Picasso, Rodin and Chagall, among others, to exhibitions in the past.

“I think we have been a pretty big gem here in Fayetteville, offering art not just to the university but community,” Foti said.

The gallery has attracted many art lovers from across different states like New York, Georgia, Virginia and more who are surprised to see such shows come to a small university like Methodist University, she said.
Senior graphic design major Tom Gore said that it was amazing for him to see these great pieces of art, right here at Methodist University, without having to travel to New York.

“Methodist sets itself apart from other universities in many ways, but for a university to bring in master artist exhibits such as Picasso, Rodin, Chagall and Rembrandt year after year is just unheard of,” said Bradley Johnson, director of Marketing & Communications at Methodist University.

He said he toured the exhibit with his wife last Friday, and there were visitors in the gallery from Nebraska.

“With Methodist allowing in guests to see original, 17th-century works from Rembrandt at no charge, it is truly a gift to the Fayetteville community and beyond," Johnson said.

The museum has attracted fewer visitors due to the pandemic. The ticketing and limitation rules in place may be the issue since people are usually more impromptu and didn’t have to commit to a time and date in the past, she said.

Foti emphasized the importance of witnessing the exhibit in person and not just virtually to experience and understand the talent, details and technique of Rembrandt’s etchings.

“The main thing is you’re going to be surprised by the etchings, the amount of detail and the way that Rembrandt has the ability to capture your human quality and the world around him,” Foti said.

The exhibit is free to the public but with reserved days, times and face covering requirements due to COVID-19 restrictions. Visitors can go to to reserve a date and time and to access the free ticket.

The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 4 p.m. The gallery will be closed Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

For more information about the gallery, exhibit and to access the free tickets, visit


01 01 Aurie and Edward Parker of Wake Forest

01 02 Debbie Stewart of Fayetteville








Pictured: (Left) Aurie and Edward Parker of Wake Forest visit the Rembrandt exhibit at Methodist University's David McCune Art Gallery. (Right) Debbie Stewart of Fayetteville views an etching by Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn.


Indigo Moon Film Festival goes virtual for 2020

01 01 20161001 164327Five years ago, the inaugural Indigo Moon Film Festival weekend was nearly washed out by Hurricane Matthew. Festivalgoers braved strong winds, heavy rains, power outages and the beginning of historic flooding in downtown Fayetteville to take part in a sold-out opening night.

If a hurricane couldn’t cancel the IMFF, there was little chance that a pandemic could.

Instead, IMFF founders Jan Johnson and Pat Wright put their heads together with the festival board of directors to devise a way to continue the festival while reducing health risks associated with in-person audiences.

The solution is a fully virtual event for 2020. All films will be streamed online through a virtual portal. Anyone who purchases a ticket or pass can watch from the comfort and safety of their own home on a computer or television using common apps for streaming.

While some festivalgoers will miss the experience of viewing films on the big screen in one of the traditional venues, Johnson and Wright said the virtual experience has opened up a lot of possibilities for this year and for future festivals, too.

“It’s been exciting learning this new interface,” Johnson said of the process to prepare the virtual venues on the internet site and upload trailers and interviews with filmmakers.

What audiences will see is a streamlined online site that can be searched and selected as easy as ordering any product online.

“If you can turn on your computer, you can watch the films,” Wright said. “Or hook up your computer to the TV, whatever you are comfortable with.”

Festivalgoers can watch trailers and select which films to see, Johnson said.

The virtual experience and online platform allow viewers to watch all of the films if they choose — something that wasn’t possible during past festivals. At four traditional venues, viewers would choose which films or blocks of films to see over a weekend. Using the online platform, viewers have a week to watch as many of the films as they choose.

“Before, each person had to buy a ticket,” Johnson said. With a virtual festival, you buy a pass and can watch films for the entire run of the festival.

There is still a schedule this year, but all films will open on Saturday, at different times. After they are shown, they will be available online and viewers can rewatch them if they want.

Passes are available at VIP, “Three Fer” and student rates. A VIP pass is sold online at $100 and will give access to all films after their scheduled showtime until the festival ends at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 16. Student and “Three Fer” passes are sold online for $25 each. Viewers can choose to purchase single viewing tickets and can purchase anytime during the festival.

There are more than 60 films in this year’s festival, including opening night’s “Finding Manny,” a documentary directed by Kacey Cox. The movie is inspired by the book “Carved in Stone” and tells the story of Holocaust survivor Manny Drukier, who jumped from a Nazi “death train” at the age of 16 and found refuge in a home for orphans. Drukier was tracked down 71 years later by a German researcher who invited him to return to the orphanage, now a school, to share his story.

“It is a fantastic film,” Johnson said. “The kind of film that makes you laugh and cry.”

In the documentary, as Manny Drukier revisits places that hold some of his darkest memories, he tries to reconcile the past so that he can educate the future.
This sentiment is similar to the motto Johnson and Wright have for the festival — “film inspires change.”

“This is again the season of year and time of our lives we can take a look at how we’re going forward,” Johnson said.

Creating and sharing films can inform and enlighten us — and others — to different experiences, customs and cultures, Wright said. It is a benefit to taking part in a film festival that offers diverse film topics from around the world.

“We get to watch all these films from all over the world,” Wright said. “It’s a way to make our world a little bit smaller and work on these issues that face us.”

One benefit of a virtual festival is that filmmakers can provide Q&A videos to run after the films, Wright said. So far, more than two-thirds of the films will have accompanying Q&As. This introduces viewers to filmmakers and gives some insight to how the films were made.

One Q&A available is from local filmmakers Brian Adam Kline and Nicki Hart who made “Live Vid,” in the Shorts Block: Love.

“It’s about a woman dealing with COVID-19, and I thought Brian’s script was hilarious,” Hart said of the film that takes places in the early stages of the pandemic.

“She is locked down with her husband in her apartment,” Hart said. “She had a social life and friends. Now, all of a sudden, they’re forced to be cooped up and she has no other way to talk to her friends than in a live chat room.”

In the film, viewers see the character talking to her friends, and the responses of her friends, typed out on screen. “She’s really telling them how she’s really feeling,” Hart said.

Making the film was a rewarding experience, Hart said. A veteran of local live theater, this was Hart’s first film to be released to the public. It is also her first producing credit.

Kline, who has directed Hart in multiple shows at the Gilbert Theater, approached her with the script earlier this year.

“In this crazy time of COVID-19, we wanted to do something to make people laugh,” Hart said. “I’m proud of it. It’s a small film, but it’s still impactful. We make you laugh with this film, but we explore that dark underbelly of COVID-19.”

“Live Vid” is also semi-finalist in the Peak International Film Festival, but Hart is proud that her collaboration with Kline was accepted in the IMFF.

“Indigo Moon has a great following and reputation,” she said. “It’s a great, great thing we can claim, culturally, to have a film festival in this town.”

This year’s festival will have Jury and Audience awards that will be presented online after the festival is complete. Viewers will have the opportunity to vote on awards in categories at the end of viewing blocks.

Much of the transition to a virtual festival was made possible by a grant from the Arts Council of Fayetteville Cumberland County, Johnson said.

The 5th Annual Indigo Moon Film Festival will take place Oct. 9-16. To purchase tickets/passes or learn more about viewing, visit


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Saltbox Seafood Joint, surviving the coronavirus

14 9781469653532Can any of North Carolina’s great roadside eateries and local joints survive the coronavirus?

I have my doubts. So does UNC-Press. It has put the release of an updated and revised edition of my book, “North Carolina Roadside Eateries,” originally published in 2016, on hold indefinitely. We just do not know which of the more than 100 restaurants in the book will be in business when and if normal times returns. Nor do we know what the roadside restaurant business will be like in North Carolina after the worst of the coronavirus is over.

Will we be able to explore places where locals gather for good food along North Carolina’s highways?

In general, the forecast is not good. But there are bright spots. For instance Wilber’s, the legendary barbecue restaurant in Goldsboro, closed in March 2019 and was therefore not included in the revised “Roadside Eateries.” Last month Wilber’s reopened, at first only for curbside pickup. Thus, if the revised “Roadside Eateries” is ever published, Wilber’s will be in it.

There is more good news. Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, one of the places covered in the original “Roadside Eateries,” got an expanded description in the now postponed revised edition.

It is the sort of joint that can make it through the pandemic. Because it is thriving, it might give a clue about what kinds of locally owned eateries and joints will be available to give us the experiences that “Roadside Eateries” celebrated.

Here is some of what my editors and I wrote for the revised “Roadside Eateries.”

Since the last edition of “Roadside Eateries,” Saltbox chef Ricky Moore has been just a little busy. Though he’s a busy man, don’t worry — he’s still at it, cooking incredible food for lucky locals.
Now, Ricky’s success isn’t the least surprising. He’s been in the food business all his life. He grew up catching and cooking fish in eastern North Carolina. He cooked during his seven years in the Army, studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked at the fine Glasshalfull restaurant in Carrboro and as the opening executive chef at Giorgio’s in Cary.

Moore explained to me that it’s not easy or cheap to get the best fish. He has to take into account that “the value is in the quality of fresh product we provide. Good, fresh seafood is not cheap, and the North Carolina fishermen deserve to get top dollar for their catch.”

Hush-Honeys are Ricky’s version of the hushpuppy. They’re a little salty, a little spicy and a little sweet. They’re the perfect complement to the best seafood you’re liable to find anywhere, let alone in the middle of the Tar Heel State.

Even if you are not able to visit Saltbox Seafood Joint for its mostly take out service, you can learn some of its secrets in a new cookbook published by UNC Press, “Saltbox Seafood Joint
Cookbook.” Chef Ricky Moore tells his life story. He shares 60 favorite recipes and his wisdom about selecting, preparing, cooking, and serving North Carolina seafood. That includes how to pan-fry and deep-fry, grill and smoke, and prepare soups, chowders, stews and Moore’s special way of preparing grits and his popular Hush-Honeys.

North Carolina’s cultural icon David Cecelski is the author of “A Historian’s Coast: Adventures into the Tidewater Past” and numerous other books and essays about our state’s coastal region. He gushes in his praise, “Chef Ricky Moore’s new cookbook is out and I think he’s written the finest seafood cookbook you’ve ever seen and probably ever will see if you’re like me and love the flavors of the North Carolina coast.”

To learn how one restaurant owner is surviving the pandemic, visit Chef Ricky at the Saltbox as soon as you can. Until then, join Cecelski and me to celebrating Chef Ricky Moore’s success and enjoy trying the recipes in “Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook.”

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