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Wednesday, 11 January 2006 00:00

Recommended diversions

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As a proud member of the Star Wars generation, I enjoy a healthy dose of otherworldly sci-fi plots and special effects. Enter the world of “Firefly.” Five centuries into the future, the totalitarian Alliance regime rules an outer space colonized by humans from Earth.

Some of the fringe folk in this world include the motley crew of the Firefly-class spaceship known as Serenity. On board Serenity are military rebels, a bi-racial couple, a preacher, a voluptuous courtesan, a spunky mechanic, a doctor and his psychic sister who all manage to operate just outside the law as they meet with misadventures on new and strange planets. With sharp-witted dialogue (cursing is done in Chinese), a cowboy-style theme song, and suspenseful plots, “Firefly” has all the makings of a hit TV show thanks to creator Josh Whedon (who gave us the hit series “Angel” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). For some odd reason, the suits nixed “Firefly” after airing it several months in 2002 on the Sci-Fi Channel. Fortunately for those like me who missed the original episodes, “Firefly” is now out on DVD. The four-disc collector’s edition includes 14 episodes (including 3 that never aired), director commentary, behind-the-scenes features, a blooper reel, deleted scenes and plenty of reasons to wonder why this show got canceled in its prime. The just released DVD of “Serenity,” a feature film starring all the crew from the show, will build more of a cult following and perhaps jumpstart another season of “Firefly.”

Bearfoot Bluegrass

I was attending an arts conference in High Point last November when I first heard these guys play — and what amazing sound! A young string band quintet based in Anchorage, Ala., Bearfoot Bluegrass formed in 1999 after playing together as music camp counselors. They’ve put out a few albums (their latest is “Back Home”) and tour nationally. They’ve played at the IBMA Festival and won top band honors at the 2001 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. With a tight sound, jazzy bluegrass tunes, and lead singer Annalisa’s powerful, sultry voice, it’s only a matter of time before this band earns the kind of fame Nickel Creek has garnered.

Selected Poems by James Applewhite

For my money, Applewhite is one of the best poets around at capturing the grace and rhythms of the haunting Southern landscape. A longtime English professor at Duke University, born and raised in Eastern North Carolina (near my hometown), Applewhite recently published a “best of” collection that captures the terrible beauty of the natural world and the timeless legacy of small Southern towns like no one else I’ve ever read. Make no mistake: Applewhite does not dally in provincial lullabies. He is a master of verse spinning lyrical lines about collard greens and tobacco leaves, and isn’t afraid to journey into the paradoxes and idiosyncrasies of the South, which, in turn, become metaphors for our own lives. Selected Poems (Duke University Press, 2005) brings together more than 30 years of his award-winning poetry.

— By Michael Beadle

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