Burger goes Beyond the Sea; Love your body at UNCG

by Mark Burger

The acclaimed, award-winning documentary feature Plagues and Pleasure on the Salton Sea will be screened at various venues throughout the Piedmont Triad in the next few weeks.

Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer’s film has it all. As Metzler described in an e-mail: “It features Hungarian revolutionaries, Christian nudists, pop stars, land sharks, hard drinkers, empty cities, failed resort towns, tons of dead fish, a dying café and a man who builds a mountain.”

Except for the Hungarian revolutionaries and the Christian nudists, he may well be describing the New Jersey suburb I grew up in!

But, no, Plagues and Pleasures… is a study of southern California’s Salton Sea region, a man-made mecca that became a popular Golden State tourist destination as recently as the 1950s.

Since then, however, the region has suffered a lengthy and steady downward slide – almost to a farcical degree.

The water levels were improperly monitored, leading to flooding in some areas and droughts in others. Pollution and increased salinity made the water even saltier than the Pacific Ocean, rendering it uninhabitable to all but the heartiest sea creatures. As the fish died, the bacteria rose – thereby threatening both the fowl and fauna indigenous to the region.

Everything that could conceivably go wrong seemed to – beyond anyone’s worst nightmare.

For decades, a series of efforts have been mounted to save – or at least salvage – the Salton Sea. The late Sonny Bono, surely one of the most unexpected members to ever serve in the US Congress, was a passionate advocate in favor of government intervention to restore the Salton Sea. Bono’s widow, Mary, who completed his Congressional term after his unfortunate death in a 1998 ski accident, continues to lobby for it.

Writer/director Metzler will be on hand for each screening to participate in an informal question-and-answer session after each screening. In addition, audience members will be asked to fill out postcards addressed to California’s current governor – this guy who used to be an actor who always said “I’ll be back” in his movies – politely suggesting a little love, and the delay of some water transfers, that will benefit the Salton Sea. It’s all in the spirit of fun, according to the filmmakers, but also with a serious aspect.

Hey, you don’t want to be screwing around with the bird population in California. I remember seeing something about a town called Bodega Bay… and they had a hell of a bird problem there. Melanie Griffith’s mother could tell you all about it.

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea was hailed as a “one-of-a-kind documentary” by the Christian Science Monitor. “A startlingly funny portrait of Gothic Americana.”

The film is narrated, in what is surely his inimitable fashion, by cult legend filmmaker John Waters (whom YES! Weekly reporter Amy Kingsley interviewed a few weeks back).

Plagues and Pleasure on the Salton Sea will be screened 7 p.m. Sunday at the Open Eye Café (101 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro); 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Garage (110 W. 7th St., Winston-Salem); 6 p.m. Thursday at Weatherspoon Art Museum (100 Spring Garden St., Greensboro).

For more information, see

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Love your body

That’s the message that the UNCG Women’s and Gender Studies Program is hoping to impart with a series of events beginning next week. The purpose of these events is to promote positive body images and positive self-acceptance for men and women alike, as well as to explore the complexities and controversies surrounding “intersex,” those people whose sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or sexual characteristics are ambiguous.

The event will kick off Wednesday, Oct. 17 with a special screening of “Mani’s Story” and “XXXY,” a pair of short films that address intersex issues. The screening will begin at 6 p.m. in the Azalea Room of the Elliott University Center.

On Thursday, Oct, 18 the Margaret Cho stand-up comedy feature I’m the One That I Want will be screened at 7 p.m. in Room 0028 of the McIver Building.

Finally, on Friday, Oct. 19 the Minerva Series discussion will focus on “A Body of Voices.” This event begins at 12:30 p.m. in the Kirkland Room of the Elliott University Center. All events are free and open to the public.

For more information, call 336.334.5673 or see