Thursday, December 31, 2020

Rita Baum Holder ( March 16, 1926 to Dec. 30, 2020)

 
(Left to Right)  Sarah Holder, Rita Holder, Doug Holder, Josh Holder, Donald Holder, and Phil Segal


Rita Baum Holder
( March 16, 1926 to Dec. 30, 2020)


Rita Baum Holder--wife of the late Lawrence J. Holder, beloved mother of Don and Doug Holder, grandmother to Josh and Sarah Holder, and mother-in law to Evan Yionoulis and Dianne Robitaille, passed away Dec 30, 2020 at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Center, NY due to complications from cancer. Holder was born in the Bronx, attended James Monroe High School, and later graduated from Brooklyn College. For many years Holder was a high school biology teacher in the New York City School System. Holder was passionate about the arts--theatre, literature, opera, and film, and instilled this sensibility in her two sons. Later she was proud to attend the Tony Awards, where her son Donald, a noted theatrical lighting designer was honored on several occasions. She also attended many poetry readings that her son Doug was involved in, and even made former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky laugh. For many years Holder was an active member of the Arts Guild of Rockville Centre and received an award for her many contributions. Holder and her late husband Lawrence were world-travelers, and she often documented her trips with wonderful photographs and storytelling. Holder was a volunteer at the Museum of Natural History in New York City--a position she was very passionate about. She will be missed by many--friends, former students, and family. She was a devoted wife, friend, and grandmother. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Murder in the Marsh by Kevin Carey

 



 The year 1980. The city of Revere. It is a coastal town right outside of Boston, but the Hub's skyline looks like OZ to the denizens of this gone-to-seed burg.

Carey, who is originally from Revere--knows the walk and can talk the talk. He is able to catch the bullshit banter of the barroom, and the invective from the numerous poseurs, thugs and cops, that circle each other in a compost heap of their own making. Carey's brutal dialogue reminds me of my favorite Boston crime writers--the late George Higgins  ( "The Friends of Eddie Coyle").

Have if you will, detective Eddie Devlin. A 40ish-- disgraced cop--with a bad elbow. He has only one true friend, and a wheelchair  bound-- almost girlfriend-- Gwen. She is a muse to this brooding poor man's Hamlet, as he tries to track the murderer who ruined his career and life.

Carey chooses the Marsh in Revere--a poignant symbol of all the hidden and repressed secrets that  are below the scum of the surface. The Marsh is a cesspool of corpses and rotting detritus--it envelopes the whole story.

Devlin is on a journey to redeem himself, and Carey brings his crazed quest into full bloom. He portrays Devlin as almost as feral as his prey.

I can see echoes of Dennis Lehane, and Robert Parker in this story. But this story has a unique Revere feel to it, with all its greasy fried clams, stunted lives, rotgut booze, and the biker bars, wonderfully brought to seedy life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Somerville Ceramicist Arthur Halvorsen Brings Flower Power To The City




The hippies of the 60s evoked flower power in their fight against the "system."  Now in 2021, Arthur Halvorsen conjures up the power again, in the city of Somerville and beyond...




Arthur Halvorsen is a graduate of Maine College of Art where he received his BFA in Ceramics.
Arthur's work uses bright colors, textures and patterns on earthenware, gathering inspiration from pop art, coloring books and tattoos. Arthur is a Somerville Mudflat studio artist, he teaches classes and workshops at Mudflat but also teaches at Lesley University in Cambridge MA and and other venues nationally as a visiting artist. His work has been featured in Ceramics Monthly, Pottery Making Illustrated, Studio Potter, ArtScope Magazine and on WCVB Channel 5; Chronicle. Arthur has been recognized as a 2019 Brother Thomas Fellow recipient for his work in the field of ceramics within the Boston area.
Recently Arthur has been painting murals with spray paint throughout Boston. Keep up to date with Arthur more accurately on Instagram @arthurhalvorsen



How has it been for a creative person living in Somerville?


I have to say that moving to Somerville, as an Artist, brings with it a lot of benefits because of the Somerville Arts Council and all that they have to offer artists that live in Somerville. I couldn’t take advantage of what they have to offer in the past because I didn’t live in Somerville. I didn’t have the residency box checked off. I have lived in South Boston, Dorchester, Braintree, Newton,  and Chelsea, but I had my studio at Mudflat Studios on Broadway here in Somerville-- since we moved to the new building in 2011. I haven’t looked back since. Also I’m now a 10-15min walk to my studio from where I live. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing, or a bad thing. I think it’s a little bit of both and I say that because I am an insomniac, so when I don’t or cant sleep, I’m in my studio.


You work as a ceramicist , but your recent project is spray painting flowers on abandoned storefronts in the city. Is this another direction for you, or just an extension of your work? Was this spurred on by the Pandemic?


I see both my work in clay, and my more recent work with spray paint as relating to one another and complimenting each other. The clay came first I have to say, but the imagery I use of flowers translates so well into spray paint. I think that has all to do with the thick black line. That line to me is an incredible vehicle for getting ideas across. I reference kids coloring books, stained glass windows, tattoos and drawings done with Sharpies-- like I did as a kid.


The spray paint did come out of the Pandemic. I work at a hardware store in the South End, and after one of the protests in the city there was rioting and looting. At the same time I had been self- quarantining  away from Mudflat because I am a front line worker, I haven’t caught Covid luckily, thankfully, but back in 2009 I had Swine Flu (I survived the Swine, ‘09!), and I didn’t know if having had that made me more susceptible or whatever to catching Covid, so I stayed away for 13 weeks. That made me so depressed. I’m an artist and I feel as thought I need to work with my hands, I need to do something with my hands, I need to be creative. So the store where I work was hit by looters and we had plywood in the windows, we sell spray paint, and that's where I was hit by lightning with an idea… So I think for a second.... I’m depressed, a lot of other people are depressed what can I do to make other people smile? What is something that I could do for the people of city, where we have been through so much. Flowers, flowers are what you give to show someone they’re special, to say “I’m sorry” to send your condolences for a friend or family member that has passed away, etc. Flowers are very powerful, they can sometimes carry a lot of meaning and take on a life of their own, so I didn’t reinvent the wheel. I did what I knew I could do best and just started spray painting my flowers around the city. It was already in my wheelhouse but only on what I call the band-aids. One could say that I am vandalizing the buildings.  But to be honest--  but I am only hitting plywood or rigid foam insulation, the band-aids. I am not and will not “tag” or spray paint a brick wall or something of the like, unless I have permission. At one point throughout the city, I had 48 spray painted murals. I also find it interesting about  which ones do stick around or are kept up-- available to be viewed by the public. I assume after the pandemic that some of these murals will migrate and have a new life. They may be  put in peoples' homes as art, to or they the art on the interiors of restaurants and local businesses. It is is going to be fascinating to me, where they end up.


For your ceramic objects you often take banal things like buses, city buildings, etc... that you infuse with colorful, bright, and provocative images. Do you see the extraordinary in the ordinary?



Short answer: Yes I do. Throughout my life I have a tendency to give inanimate objects personalities. For example I see the traffic cones and construction barriers as the urban wildflower. Imagine looking at a hill, field, meadow, whatever, you are going to see flowers and weeds, and more nature sprinkled in there as well. When I see the traffic cone as doing the same thing. They both signal for your attention and both are about survival, one is to entice a bee to pollinate it, the other is screaming “WATCH OUT!” or “DANGER, DANGER!” They’re both calling attention to themselves for a variety of reasons. I like to draw what I commonly see around me and make it special.


Why did you choose ceramics as your genre?


I graduated from Maine College of Art in 2007. When it was time to declare our majors I was torn between Ceramics and Photography, and in all honesty I didn’t want to be photographing weddings for the rest of my life. I would rather make the cake stand for the wedding. After watching the Reality TV show  Bridezillas, one time in college, we got to see how brides act on their big day. After seeing how they treated the photographer I said to myself: Absolutely not! Honestly that’s how I came to clay. Also clay has a lot of mystery imbedded in it. It’s an art and a science at the same time. You give up a lot of what clay could be by placing things or objects into the kiln. You put your pieces in the kiln and there is magic that happens when it gets glaze- fired and then you open up the kiln again. That could be like Christmas Day or the worst day of your ceramics career-- if everything gets ruined. You have to have gambling in your blood in order to make friends with clay. You get used to disasters and happy accidents happening all the time with clay.


Why should we view your work?



Well why not? Everybody at least likes, not everyone loves but everyone likes flowers.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hilary Sideris’s Animals in English

 




Hilary Sideris’s Animals in English (Dos Madres Press),

reviewed by Gregory J. Wolos




In the prologue to her poetry collection Animals in English, Hilary Sideris explains that she “was writing a series of poems in the voice of Temple Grandin,” who, because of her autism, “spent her youth and most of her adult life learning to speak the language of ‘normal’ humans so that she could tell us how animals . . . perceive, feel, and experience the world in pictures.” Sideris hopes that she can parallel Grandin’s intention “by translating Grandin’s experiences and insights into the language of free verse.” The “voice” of these poems is Sideris’s representation of Grandin’s: through the activist’s epistemological framework, the reader is brought closer to the inner worlds of animals, a rendering which expands our awareness of the greater existence we humans share with our fellow creatures.

In the collection’s opening poem, “Nantasket Lights,” Sideris begins her act of ventriloquizing Grandin. The poem details Grandin’s childhood frustration with language: “I didn’t think in words. Still don’t,” and describes how she was removed from school for slapping a classmate who mocked her repetitive attempts to tell a story by calling her “tape recorder.” What Sideris’s child-Grandin was trying to describe was a physical sensation, the pleasure of being “pushed up against a wall” while riding the tilting wheel of the Rotor at Nantasket Park. The comforting feeling of compression is continued in the next poem, “Squeeze Chute,” which describes how cattle are “clamped” in a metal cage to get there shots, a process which actually calms them down “like swaddled newborns.” Sideris’s Grandin suggests that she would find comfort in “a squeeze chute of my own.”

“Squeeze Chute,” as do more than half of Sideris’s poems, begins with an italicized quotation taken from a set of books cited at the volumes conclusion which are by or about Grandin. In the poem “Rapid Erratic Movement” the epigraph reads “It doesn’t jump out at normal people the way it does at me or a cow.” Sideris’s poem goes on to describe a child-Grandin who is “obsessed” with motion, such as “flags/ flapping in the wind,/the light reflecting off a fan’s rotating blades.” The narrator compares herself to a cat chasing a laser dot, “mindless,/ obsessed, their world/ a skittish dot,” and continues on to contrast her behavior with the purposefulness of a child, who, “cheered on by our mothers,/ makes a castle with/ a bucket & shovel.” Grandin, like the animals with which she empathizes, is observational, not planful, like the purposeful child. The epigraphs to Sideris’s poems tell us the activist “saw pictures inside her head,” and that during her thinking process had “no words in my head at all,” a revelation Sideris transliterates in her poem “Certain Infinites” as “Words came unnaturally,/ I learned to speak/ mimicking mom, who/ conjugated like a queen.” Sideris’s poems and the epigraphs upon which they are based suggest that Grandin was a difficult to child to raise, her condition nearly impossible to properly diagnose.

The epigraph to the poem “1950” describes how childhood autism was once believed to be “a reflection of bad parenting, and most especially of a chillingly remote . . . refrigerator mother.” The poem itself describes how, as child-Grandin “painted walls/ with my feces, Doctors told her [mother]/ she was the cause,/ there was no cure.” Yet while Grandin seemed immune to “normal” parenting, the poem “Ariel” reveals her intuitively empathetic relationship with a horse she was learning to ride: “She shows you/ how to ride, knows/ when you want/ to canter, gallop,/ trot—dances with/ you when people/ can’t or won’t.” The horse, it is suggested, observes the details of the child’s discomfort and adjusts to accommodate them; to demonstrate Grandin’s empathetic understanding of animals, Sideris’s poem “Signs of Horse Distress” parallels the autistic child’s suffering with the distressed awareness of an animal like Ariel: “Head high,/ eyes wide, ears/ pointing toward/ the person of/ concern or pinned/ back, flat. Sweat/ without exercise./ Tail swishing/ without flies.”

Sideris channels Grandin as she considers the difference between language as used by “normal” humans and animals. Our own human understanding of language prejudices our conception of animal language. As the epigraph to “Prairie Dogs” explains, “instead of looking for animal language in our closest genetic relatives, the primates, we should look at animals with the greatest need for language in order to stay alive.” The complementary poem suggests their calls are intended to warn that “a predator/ is on the way, how fast,/ where from, what kind.” The epigraph to “Annabelle’s Bite” explains that “[a]nimals probably don’t have the complex emotions people do, like shame, guilt, embarrassment, greed, or wanting bad tings to happen to people who are more successful than you.” Sideris’s poem illustrates the concept: “The pet we let out/ kills with grace, Calm jaws clamp/ prey then shake/ methodically.” In “Slaughterhouse Lights” the Grandin-based epigraph emphasizes once again the similarity between animals and the autistic, asserting that “[a]utistic people and animals are seeing a whole register of the visual world normal people can’t or don’t.” The poem describes how Grandin was hired by a company to determine why pigs were stopping on a chute that would lead them to slaughter: “I got on my hands/ & knees, saw the reflecting/ lights in puddles; pigs fear not death, but sudden movement,/ rapid changes, foreign objects/ in their visual field.

Sideris’s art in Animals in English resides in her ability to complete a multi-level act of transduction in clear, simple language. Her poems are based on dual premises: first, animal language is not based on the same premises as “normal” human language; second, that the epistemological framework of those with autism, specifically the animal activist Temple Grandin, closely resembles that of animals. Sideris’s concluding poem, “Stairway to Heaven,” opens by telling the reader that “Cows think in pictures,/ not stories.” While being led to slaughter, the proceed along the chute that leads them to death as if they’re part of a herd that “spirals” over pasture land, and uncomplicated by emotions, they “never wonder where it ends.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Girl in the Boston Box by Chuck Latovich

 


The Girl in the Boston Box by Chuck Latovich, 435 pp. available on Amazon

review by Lee Varon


During the ongoing pandemic, many of us have re-discovered the joy of getting lost in a good book. Especially, for me, this means a mystery. The Girl in the Boston Box by Cambridge writer Chuck Latovich is a perfect present for yourself or someone you know. Steeped in Boston lore and landmarks, the book follows two apparently unrelated characters—Mark, a 40-something gay man who works as a tour guide driving Duck Boats for a living, and Caitlyn, a graduate student in architectural history at Harvard. When the book opens, Mark’s brother, from whom he’s been estranged for decades, has been murdered, leaving few clues other than the mysterious words “Boston Box” on a scrap of paper in his apartment. The police have contacted Mark to identify his brother’s body, and because it seems Mark stands to inherit a hefty sum of money his brother left behind. From the start, things don’t go quite as planned. Mark soon learns other shadowy figures are laying claim to his brother’s money. Meanwhile, in a totally separate storyline, across the river in Cambridge, Caitlyn is studying 19th buildings with hidden rooms called Boston Boxes. Though some of these rooms seem to have been used by the Underground Railroad to hide runaway slaves in pre-Civil War days, as Caitlyn delves further she uncover dark secrets and shocking crimes involving Boston’s past.


How the story of these two strangers—Mark and Caitlyn—eventually connect is what makes up some of the excitement of The Girl in the Boston Box. The book alternates with galloping suspense between Mark and Caitlyn until their stories finally converge.


As an exciting mystery this book rates 5 stars, but it’s more than just a thriller. I can always tell I love a book when the characters stay with me long after I’ve finished reading. I found this with both characters, but especially with Mark. At the beginning he’s somewhat down and out. His long-term boyfriend has dumped him. He has no family and seemingly few friends. He lives in a shabby Brighton apartment and is clinging to his job as a Duck Boat driver. Yet despite this, Mark still has the ability to laugh at himself and to hope for better times. All in all, he’s a totally endearing character who bumbles through Boston trying to piece together the clues to his brother’s murder. Far from a one-dimensional character, Mark can be at times self-pitying, fearful, and petty, and at other times brave, noble, and selfless. I laughed out loud many times at his spot-on, sometimes ironic, observations of modern-day Bostonians and Cantabrigians. If you want to lose yourself in a truly absorbing book, pick up, The Girl in the Boston Box. You won’t regret it!

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Somerville Sculptor Danielle Krcmar: She wants to put a poem/ in your home!

FRAGMENT HOUSE






Interview with Doug Holder

I am a poet, so my home is littered with polished poems, drafts with coffee stains, framed pieces that I am really proud of, etc... So that's why I caught up with sculptor Danielle Krcmar--whose latest idea is to put a poem in your home.

I noticed that you use a lot of found objects in your work. Some of it comes from Carson Beach in Southie. With all the beaches we have around us--why Carson?


I do work with a lot of found objects in my work. Where I get my found objects depends on my location, I used to find old china and shoe leather fragments in bottle dumps near old house sites when I lived in Pennsylvania, near the southern tier of New York. When I lived in Western Massachusetts I would look around house foundations near the Quabbin. Because I was still making sculptures with found china when I moved to Fort Point, someone told me about Carson Beach- where there was plenty of china bits and beach glass due to a long history of dumping. I collected china and other items from the beach for years but never collected the beach glass because I didn't have a sculptural use for it at the time. When I decided to make the Fragment House piece using Beach glass. I knew where I could get it and I liked that the beach glass would have been collected from the shore, not too far from where the piece was initially sited - in Dartmouth, MA. When I was collecting beach glass for the Fragment House Project, I would always try to go to Southie at low tide, and the larger challenge was getting the plastic bags full of glass back to the car. One morning, I was able to pick up 30 pounds of glass with the help of my son, and two family friends. There are very few areas where you can get that much glass that easily and quickly. A lot of art has been made with pieces sourced from that beach- it would be interesting to curate a show of that work and talk to the artists.




You worked with the poet Mary Pinard on a Fragment House Project. You used word and images from her poems and incorporated into the house. Can you talk about this? Do homes with a history have a certain energy--a certain poetry about them?



Mary Pinard and I had talked about collaborating. When I was asked to create a site-specific piece for the DNRT ( Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust) it provided the perfect opportunity for us to work together. I loved Mary's Poem Song Net For An Estuary , and how she researches and responds to particular landscapes and their history. We walked the overall DNRT trails together to figure out a site that we were both interested in and eventually chose Bluebird Field. In the piece, Mary's full poem is etched into the window, which is the only solid surface in the house, and then select words from the poem are additionally etched into larger pieces of beach glass as a way of emphasizing those selected words. I am a little romantic about old houses, some of that may be a reaction to growing up in the suburbs in a more modern houses and having had childhood fantasies of discovering amazing heirlooms in the attic of an old Victorian house. I do think a newer house could contain poetry, but I do think older houses have a sense of poetry to them both for the age of the house itself and the accumulated life lived within its walls, but also the history of the materials- such as something like heart pine, that was 100 years old when it was milled for flooring over a hundred years ago. In the irregularly placed studs and the thicker milled lumber the sense of something being built by hand is more visible, that evidence of the work by hand is beautiful and yes - has poetry for me. I saved lumber from our interior walls when we renovated our 115 year old house, I've used some of it in another artist friend's piece and am figuring out how it might play into new work.


Tell us what your new idea is about-- linking Somerville Poets' poems with your art?



For this new idea, I am interested in working in Somerville neighborhoods as a way to provide another layer of communication while we are under lockdown, I've began thinking about this idea when lockdown first started - being masked in public, many of us didn't quite know how to interact with one another, we were avoiding each other in public because we didn't want to get close. Masks interfered with reading facial cues and made speech harder to understand, so even casual interactions between neighbors felt awkward. I found myself needing daily walks in my neighborhood - getting outside was such a relief. It was also beautiful to see people were doing community art projects like posting rainbows in their windows, or chalk drawings on their sidewalks to offer a little bit of beauty and surprise. I did a few of the sidewalk drawings with my son and it was cathartic to make something beautiful, though often very ephemeral! I was interested in doing something. I began to think about the possibility of working with a poet and attaching it to a large fence in Lincoln park, I worried it might get damaged and I was busy enough with work that it was hard to take on another project, but the idea stayed with me. And so we go into winter-- we will be indoors more and will see each other in person even less. Having someone tell you a story via a poem seems like a lovely way to make connections, both when I ask people to host poems at their houses- which I am still nervous about- and as I ask poets to work with me. Initially I imagined the poet would create a biographical poem in response to the person/ household hosting the poem, I liked the storytelling possibilities there, but I am a little concerned about managing a collaboration between 3 parties to everyone's satisfaction.


How has the Pandemic affected your work?

Covid really threw me off and completely overwhelmed me. There was so much uncertainty and fear, and unlike many people who reported having so much time on their hands, I had more work and less time and space to do it in. I had artwork to pack and ship for our gallery, kiln firings to run for our co- curricular ceramics program, and repairs to schedule prior to upcoming budget cuts. All had to be done without the in- person help of my student workers, due to social distancing measures on campus. My teaching work became much harder and more complicated when we went on line. Teaching painting from my home mini office and sculpture and from my kitchen table to students in multiple time zones with varying degrees of internet connectivity-- was overwhelming and exhausting. Making sidewalk chalk drawings with my son was one way to be creative but it didn't seem exactly connected to my work; though we will see if it plants the seed for something in the future, as often happens. My critique group shifted to Zoom meetings and it has been the highlight of my week. Each of us works on artwork during the zoom, some of us draw portraits from the zoom and some work on ongoing studio projects. We discuss our work, our lives, teaching pedagogy, and the work of other artists as it pertains to each of those three things. It has been an amazing space to share ideas, get in process feedback on work in a way that we were not able to do pre pandemic because we did not meet as frequently. We have also been able to bring back in a critique group member who had moved across the country. It has been profound to have this group of women artists discuss work and share successes and challenges.


In June, my full-time job at Babson College was terminated due to pandemic budget cuts at my institution, which was a real shock. I still could have the opportunity to teach as an adjunct in Spring 2021, but in the moment, I had to move out of my campus studio that I had for 16 years. Most of my colleagues wrote emails to the college administration protesting the decision, which provided me some comfort, but in the end, those efforts did not reverse the decision. In October, I decided not to teach there this coming Spring, so I removed the contents of my office and my personal teaching materials this week. I wanted to do it when the students were no longer on campus. I'm a bit of a packrat/ magpie/ and since I taught, ran workshops, curated the gallery, and managed the permanent art collection I had a lot of stuff related to all those roles. It has been a long week of getting everything out and bringing it to my home and studio.

The upside of this is that I am now pursuing more public art projects and commission work. This week I moved into a shared studio space at Vernon Street. I love Somerville Open Studios and have many friends at Vernon Street, and it is beyond exciting to be back in a studio building surrounded by other artists. Every time I unlock the door to the new studio I feel a surge of happiness, it's pretty great.


Are there poems about Sculpture that inspire you?


I love the sculptor Joseph Cornell and made many assemblages as and love Dime Store Alchemy by Charles Simic. The poem Where Chance Meets Necessity speaks to the serendipitous beauty offered by found objects. The first two lines say it perfectly:


Somewhere in the city of New York there are four or five
still-unknown objects that belong together. Once together
they'll make a work of art.


...................................................four or five
still unknown objects that belong together.


the perfect economy of those words




Some of my older work with the figure was inspired by Whitman's poems. I love the visceral physicality in his poetry, as experienced here:


I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent
summer morning,
You settled your head athwart my hips, and gently
turned over upon me,

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and
plunged your tongue to my bare-stripped heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached
till you held my feet.




Why should people look at your work?


I'm interested in the potential for transformation in everyday objects and materials, my hope is that those transformations offer the viewer an opportunity for surprise and discovery through extended or repeated viewing of the work viewings of the work. My work is best experienced in person, so you can discover surface details or see how all the pieces come together to make the whole.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

An Appetite for the Epic: An Interview with Actor Rosie Jones, Narrator of The Little Queen Audiobook




An Appetite for the Epic: An Interview with Actor Rosie Jones, Narrator of The Little Queen audiobook

Interview with Meia Geddes



Off the Shelf correspondent Meia Geddes, a former Somerville resident, is the author of The Little Queen, a whimsical and wise epic that received a starred Kirkus review and was included on their “Best Indie Books” list. Actor Rosie Jones recently narrated The Little Queen to create a beautiful audiobook, good company for these pandemic times. Below is an interview with narrator Rosie Jones on the craft of audio and acting.






Rosie Jones is a British actor and director who trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She has appeared in television shows like Downton Abbey, Bodyguard and Call the Midwife. She was commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company to create six original mini plays. Her short film The Christmas Bull which was internationally successful on the film festival circuit can be watched now on Amazon Prime.





How did you get into narrating audiobooks? Could you share a bit about your acting background and how this aligns with audiobook narration?




As an actor, my work has tended towards classical theatre and period drama –– shows like Downton Abbey, The Collection and Call the Midwife. Doing these wonderful large-scale shows alongside Shakespearian theatre, gives you an appetite for the epic, and recording an audiobook feels like it matches that size of expression; when you record, you take on these huge narratives and get to tell the whole story.




I’ve always loved audiobooks; as a kid I used to listen to stories on tape before bed. Two of my favorites were James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons, and the BBC’s The Selfish Giant. My Gran also used to borrow talking books from the library, so audio was always very present growing up. It felt right to combine my skills as an actor and my love of literature and start narrating books.




For those who aren’t familiar with the process of making an audiobook, could you give a brief overview of the process from audition to post-production proofing?




When you are asked to audition for an audiobook, it will usually involve recording a short 1-2 page extract from the book. This could be on your phone or in a home studio. Once you’ve got the job, there is a lot of preparation to do –– I read the whole book and mark up my script. Then it’s time to record. This might involve going into a studio where an engineer will record as you narrate, or recording yourself at home, where you have to do both at the same time. Once the book is recorded, it needs to be proofed. Someone will listen to the audio and make sure that there aren’t any mistakes. Sometimes pick-ups or re-takes are required. Then it’s time to edit it, remove distracting mouth clicks or extraneous sound, reducing the background noise (if there is any) and finally master the book, balancing out the volume levels and making the finished product.




How do you choose what audiobooks to audition for?



On ACX the narrator can search for auditions according to set filters –– voice type, accent, re-numeration. That reduces the number of books, and leaves only those that match the actor’s requirements and suitability. Then, you read the blurb and send auditions for books you are interested in. The Little Queen is actually the first book I auditioned for and have recorded using the ACX platform.




What drew you to audition for The Little Queen?




I love fairytales –– the combination of morality, fantasy, darkness and humor ­­–– so the blurb for this book interested me, along with its rhythm and language. Also, it was a short record at just 2 hours, so a good first trial!




How do you mark up a book for narrating?




I choose a different cooler for each character and highlight their dialogue accordingly. This makes it easier for me to jump into different voices when they come up. I also make notes on intention, and have my own dictionary of squiggles that mean various things like “stress that word” or “whisper here.”




How else do you prepare for the act of narrating an audiobook? Do you have any regular practices when it comes to caring for your vocal chords? Breathing exercises? 




I try to avoid dairy if I know I am going to record as that can clog up the chords! Before a long session, I will do some typical acting warm ups –– sirening, scrunching my face that sort of thing. One of the advantages of being behind the mic though is that you don’t have to project the way you do with theatre.




While narrating, do you stand and/or sit? Are other people present? Do you record by chapter?





I always sit when I narrate because usually the recording sessions are long –– up to three hours at a time. I do make sure I sit with good, straight posture so as not to squash my diaphragm and to make sure that the voice remains energized. When recording in a studio, there will be an engineer opposite you on the other side of the glass. Sometimes publishers or authors like to pop in and listen.




You have so many wonderful and different ways of creating subtle changes in your voice for each character in The Little Queen. Apart from my input, how did you determine what voices to give each character?




Well in The Little Queen, every character has a very clear role or job, so many of the voices just popped straight into my head from their descriptions. It was fun to decide whether to play into stereotypes, or play against. With the sleep soother for example, it was very clear that she needed to make the listener want to fall asleep when you hear her speak, so it seemed only right to give her a yawning quality –– we all know how catching a yawn is!




Of the character voices, do you have a favorite one?




I love the book sniffer. I love her as a character and her voice. It’s fun for me to play deeper and slower vocally, as I tend to do a lot of young, high pitched voices.




Do you have any advice for those interested in narrating audiobooks and acting?




Do it! With technology advancing so quickly and software becoming more user-friendly, it’s much easier now for anyone to have a go. But get practicing – narrating books requires huge stamina and an ability to sight-read to a high level.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Somerville's Pier Gustafson: A Calligrapher and Graphic Designer who deconstructs the Green Line Extension


Pier Gustafson writes on his website,

"My studio in the real world is rather like the studio here in the virtual world - a bit on the busy side with lots of things going on. I may be researching a map in this corner, painting a sign-in board in that. My drawing table may be covered with sketches for a monogram which must be moved to make way for a stack of envelopes which need to be addressed."

I caught up with Gustafson, to talk a bit about his work, and the new pieces he is working on.


You are one of the original residents of the Brickbottom artist space in Somerville. Could you describe the sensibility of the artist/residents-- a reason they might fit in the milieu of our burg?



I am one of the original members of this community and have enjoyed living in this building as well as being a part of Somerville at large. I must admit that I don't travel too often towards the western half of Somerville but have enjoyed the diversity of land use and population of this more industrial corner.




You are known as a graphic artist, illustrator. and calligrapher. But also, you are now working with found art, specifically concerning the detritus of the Greenline Extension Project--right near your digs. How did the germ of the idea come about for you? Tell us about some of the things you constructed.


I am using discarded recycled cardboard and the printed graphics to depict much of the construction scene I see outside my window and around this neighborhood. The subject matter might be the building of the Green Line, but the materials are more domestic. Liquor, Amazon, grocery and Shoeboxes that I find in our recycling rooms have been the raw materials. The germ sparked when I found a bright yellow Dewalt tool box in the bin. It matched the colors of the bulldozers and cranes used in the GLX construction. I had done many drawings of the scene, but that box started my "Tonka-toy-like" constructions.




What are your feelings about the construction--do you feel Brickbottom will be changed by it?


Most everyone hates the noise of the construction. I am not bothered by it. I think once the sound walls go up we'll find the noise will seem better than the "penned in" feeling we might get once completed. I don't think we will change much because of the finished product, as out immediate area is developed with an actual building. We may feel a little different.




 When a writer confronts a blank piece of paper he often brainstorms-- a stream of consciousness goes on.  How do you approach the blank piece of paper?



Blank paper scares me to death, but a paper that has a mark on it can inspire. The boxes in the construction work have graphics that make me think in a certain way. I love making a work of art to fit a found frame or grabbing two random art tools and letting the random colors direct my thoughts and creativity.


You do a lot of commercial work, but your art is also found in museums, galleries, etc... What's the line between commercial art and art --or is there no line-- do they all flow from the same stream?


I think both fine and commercial art are two banks of the same stream. The commercial end has another person "helping" me create something for their needs...more of a collaboration, but I find it challenging and fun...and I usually get paid in advance! Making art all by myself can be a bit lonely and never be appreciated (or bought). Both banks work for me though.


Why should people buy or view your art?


Most people that see my work smile. If someone hasn't yet seen it I think they should, and I think they will smile, too. If they want to smile often, they may buy it, and take it with them. These days much of my creative endeavours is creating things digitally. I post them on instagram and facebook and get lots of exposure from people far afield. They see the original on their device for free. If I get a little heart from them, that makes me smile a bit, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Poem from the Covid battlefield: The Empty Covid Octopus by Julia Kanno

 


Julia Kanno writes:

I am the mother of two amazing  young men ages 27 and 17. I am from Appalachia and Botswana. I am an artist and also work in healthcare, I have self published with my co-pilot levin pfeuffer two books of prose"a storm is cuming" and "The hardest helmut." My first reading was done at Northeastern University and since then I have read at the Somerville Armory two times. I consider myself an introverted artist/writer. I give birth to my works including those that have been displayed at the Decordova Museum as well as Howard University and local gems such ast he Middle East and Out of the Blue gallery. I will be published in Tell magazine featuring my textiles and art in the spring.  Currently, I am studying behavioral science and psychology because there is a need for more people of color to be there for people of color to help end the stigma of seeking mental health.



THE EMPTY COVID OCTOPUS

J.Kanno

11/20


Tubes dance from ventilators
 like
Infected dancing
Octopus tails.
They, the infected warriors,
 stare out the window
With help from I
To look below from window
 see the soaked
drenched, devastated
 and confused faces
Of loved ones below.
Independence is robbed
Wheeled to the toilet by I
 and robbed of privacy by I
Using instructed body mechanics
To rotate and give comfort and not
to degrade a human
 and i am soooo sorry
 as I humbly
Wipe the
Yellow
Brown
Or even red black
 mud excrement
From the crease of your
butt.
Emptying your foley
Catheter
Is an honor
The smell bothers me no more
Because I am thrilled that your body
And your kidneys
Are connecting.

Freedom from the vent during the day is like finding inner truth
Santa Clause
Or even the north star
Or getting a great deal on
Iwannalive.com
Yet..
Careful
You are still not you nor will you be
You are in a place
That I would sell my soul to not to be in.
This place is where

you are still isolated in a room with a glass window

And a speaker video system
Then
Hooked to the machine at night
That keeps you alive
While the trachea and breathing tubes
Rob your speech
And sleep
And all you have are memories of
The before

Cooking dinner for the kids
Teaching a classroom of students with wide eyes
Building houses
Being behind a mahogany bar as a bartender hearing sweet and ugly
 drunken truths.

You forget the feel of real clothes
Fresh cotton, wool, silk and even fucking polyester

The air smacking your open ass in your new uniform
your johnny
So weary and weak

You don't bother to cover yourself anymore.
Because of this you must eat baby food again
 have to learn to chew again and
Swallow
Without dying

while you crave the beef stew that
 your beloved made with a side of rye bread.
We people like I become your new family because you cannot see
that grandchild
 with the red curls
And pink lips
And upturned nose
Or that beautiful ebony little girl
That your daughter tried so hard to have
And she looks
Just like you
And your wife
That died 79 days ago from this beast.
 Without u
That would not exist
Without your sperm
 legacy and you.
The halls as you learn to walk again no longer smell like death
Or shit
Or putrid urine
Because you have been there so long
These halls now
smell like home.
After seven  months
And after put into a medically induced coma
And turned upside down
In a diaper
And rotated like a rotisserie human  the whole time
A human will
Reverted back to infancy
In rehab
You have come so far
You sit up on you own but weak and learn
About how life went on..
 Your son got discharged from the military
Your youngest daughter got eloped to that guy you never liked
Your first granddaughter died from leukemia
Your wife had a biopsy and started preparing divorce papers because
the idea of being a caregiver
 was all too much
The house you built went up for sale because of the medical bills
And your eldest son killed himself
In his garage
With a tube in his mouth
Looking at pictures of you.
cause he thought you wouldn't live
 and he
Loved you
That much.
Later..
After rehab because of I
And doctors and staff and the team
And because you fought to make it
For them
And you know nothing
Because you were not to be upset
And keep in mind we never knew the progression of these deviations
because we were focused on you.
You are wheeled out
On a Wednesday
At 3:45

Staff like I with balloons and music
Clapping
We dressed you as you wished
Dress shoes and real underwear and no diapers
And a dress shirt
Teal green
 and even a tie
Red with flowers

And pleated pants
And brown shoes
You tied your own laces
And you wanted me to untie them again to show your family
That you can do it
How you could do it.
As we open the sliding doors
The blast of organic earth and fresh air hit your face
 we have ten balloons
And you look amazing and so happy
And we wait
And wait
And there is not
One person.
But a housekeeping person
That says
"You made it man"
You clench your jaw
I clench my rage
And send you into the abyss.


To listen to the poem go to:    https://archive.org/details/aud-20201118-wa-0000-1