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Sam Borden at the NY Times had a cool story yesterday about a jack-of-all-trades performer who never got much attention — until his ability to mimic the sounds of nature turned him into an overnight sensation.

According to Borden, Gennady Tkachenko-Papizh, 52, finally got attention in March.

“That was when, while sitting at a cafe [in Berlin] checking his smartphone, he saw that Miss Arab U.S.A. — who is a 22-year-old Brooklyn-born Syrian named Fabiola al-Ibrahim — had, for some reason, posted to her Facebook page a video of Mr. Tkachenko-Papizh competing on a talent show in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. ‘This will take you to another world!’ she promised of the link, which leads to about three minutes of Mr. Tkachenko-Papizh vocalizing the sounds of crickets, bird wings rustling, water dripping and hyper-dramatized operatic chanting.

“The show, ‘Georgia’s Got Talent,’ is about what you might expect from spectacles like this anywhere … Yet Mr. Tkachenko-Papizh’s performance, which he began by solemnly intoning, ‘Let us try to feel what the Mother Earth wants to tell us,’ resonated more deeply. …

“The video on Miss Arab U.S.A.’s page has logged more than 70 million views and inspired more than 102,000 comments — mostly unbridled encomiums.”

Despite the change in Tkachenko-Papizh’s life, says Borden, he is not becoming a prima donna. “He lives here with his wife, Larissa Porkhimovich, who is a financial auditor, and their two young children (he also has an older son from a previous relationship), and he said that he is most interested in simply harnessing ‘this gift I have, which has a magical effect.’

“It has taken some adjustment for his wife. ‘I think he really likes testing, trying things,’ she said. ‘It can be a little strange — sometimes I am in the house and I will just hear sounds, like a bird flying, but it is inside. But that is who he is.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Gordon Welters for The New York Times
Gennady Tkachenko-Papizh said he hopes to travel to London soon to work on recording an album. 

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In a recent NY Times article, art critic Holland Cotter expressed skepticism that a show of new artists lumped together as “Arab” could work. (Some artists declined to participate for the same  reason.)  The artists in the New Museum exhibit are from “Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, not to mention Europe and the United States.”

But in the end, he was thrilled with the opportunity to see the new works.

“It’s a big show, intricately pieced together on all five floors of the museum, and starts on the street-level facade with a large-scale photograph of an ultra-plush Abu Dhabi hotel. The image was installed by the cosmopolitan collective called GCC, made up of eight artists scattered from Dubai to London and New York who make it their business to focus on the preposterous wealth concentrated in a few hands in a few oil-rich countries on the Persian Gulf.”

Cotter goes on to describe many of the pieces in detail, here, and concludes with some advice for visitors.

“To appreciate this show fully, a little homework can’t hurt. But really all you need to do is be willing to linger, read labels and let not-knowing be a form of bliss. In return, you’ll get wonderful artists, deep ideas, fabulous stories and the chance, still too seldom offered by our museums, to be a global citizen. Don’t pass it up.”

The show will be up until September 28.

Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“Here and Elsewhere” show at the New Museum

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Wow, what an awesome job the Concord Players did with this goofy musical by the folks who brought you Monty Python!

Spamalot had so many insane costume changes, extravagant production numbers, and giddy jokes that it never allowed you a minute to think how silly it all is.

We laughed a lot. They say laughing is good for your health, and I can see why it is good for mental health at least — when you are really laughing, you can’t think about anything but the thing that is making you laugh. So you’re really “living in the moment,” as the gurus advise.

Tom was one of the trumpet players (not the one who gets shot by the conductor for playing the wrong trumpet themes in the overture), and Claire gave a party after the matinee. Wisely, she decided not to emphasize Spam for the meal (“No one would have come to the party,” she said) and instead presented a delicious spread with a Cinco de Mayo theme.

Several guests cracked out their smart phones to inform us about what Cinco de Mayo celebrates (the 1862 defeat of the French by Mexicans at Pueblo — not sure I feel much wiser, though).

Spamalot is sold out. But it was sold out today, too, and I saw a few empty seats, so take a chance — maybe a ticket holder won’t show up. The woman next to me was offended by some of the naughtiness and irreverence and left at intermission. So you could always come for the second half.

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