Mythological Duty: "Welcome to Night Vale" creators visit Ann Arbor


Jen Mann

It Devours is the new novel by Welcome to Night Vale podcast creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Photo by Nina Subin.

One article about the popular, fiercely beloved Welcome to Night Vale podcast begins with the line, “Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of” the show.

But until I’d received a copy of the novel It Devours! written by the podcast's creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and researched Night Vale in preparation for a recent phone interview with Cranor, I’d been one such under-the-rock dweller.

Yet because the podcast could be described as the David Lynch version of A Prairie Home Companion -- focusing on a fictional desert town in the American Southwest, where all conspiracy theories are true -- I asked Cranor if any of Night Vale’s residents also live under rocks.

“No, but one of the characters is a rock -- the dean of the Night Vale Community College, Sarah Sultan,” said Cranor without missing a beat, referring to a character who communicates via telepathy.

Well, then. At least I might have some company.

Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor will be with artist and illustrator Jessica Hayworth at U-M's Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre on October 23 at 7 pm, courtesy of Literati Bookstore. The three will be interviewed by Detroit writer, actor, comedienne, and The Moth Storyslam Ann Arbor host Satori Shakoor, followed by an audience Q&A and signing.

Cranor answered questions for Pulp about Welcome to Night Vale and It Devours!.

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Imaginary Landscapes: UMMA concert explores the sonic side of abstraction


Jonathan Ovalle

U-M assistant professor of percussion Jonathan Ovalle compiled a program of music that complements the visual art in the exhibit Victors for Art: Michigan's Alumni Collectors -- Part II: Abstraction.

When most of us think about the word “abstract” our minds go directly to pieces by artists like Jackson Pollock or Pablo Picasso. But "Angles of Abstraction" will let guests see -- well, hear -- that the word abstract can apply to much more than just visual art.

Curated by University of Michigan's Jonathan Ovalle, "Angles of Abstraction" (Sunday, Oct. 22, UMMA) started to come together after the assistant professor of percussion was approached by a colleague over the summer and asked him to create a concert that tied into the themes of the UMMA exhibit Victors for Art: Michigan's Alumni Collectors -- Part II: Abstraction.

“The big buzz words were ‘abstract’ and ‘exploration,’” Ovalle said. “Both of those words are super intriguing to me.”

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Edgefest & Piotr Michalowski have helped make A2 a haven for avant jazz


Ballister by Geert-Vandepoele

Piotr Michalowski, Andrew Drury, and Joe McPhee played Encore Records on October 17 as a warm-up to Kerrytown Concert House's annual Edgefest (Oct. 18-21). Photo by Eric Gallippo.

As free-jazz hero Joe McPhee got started on the third movement of Tuesday night's Fringe at the Edge concert at Encore Records, he settled into a minimalist, two-beat groove that was sometimes barely audible.

While McPhee patted his palm against the mouthpiece of his pocket trumpet, drummer Andrew Drury fell in, lightly tapping skins, rims, and cymbals for a nervous, anti-beat.

Piotr Michalowski held his sopranino saxophone and listened a moment, then completed the percussive theme by popping and puffing through his horn, before the trio opened up into long-toned exuberance. When it was over, Drury made Michalowski jump and then grin, as he frantically bowed away at some metal for a screeching effect.

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In Their Own Voices: Michelle Held & Frank Allison at Crazy Wisdom


Frank Allison & Michelle Held

Frank Allison and Michelle Held have found their voices through song. Allison photo by Doug Coombe.

Detroit-based Michelle Held was a professional actress, appearing at the best theaters in Michigan, including the Purple Rose, where she trained, and the Williamston Theatre near Lansing. Her then-boyfriend gave her a guitar, but Held hardly touched it because she was busy with day jobs and rehearsals. And when she did try to play it, it didn't go well. “I would pick it up and get frustrated,” Held says.

When she took a full-time job at a production house, Held took her guitar to work but had too little time to do more than tinker with it. It wasn't until she was laid off from that job in 2009 that Held could work on her guitar skills and, finally, she says “began to get the hang of it.” In 2011, she wrote her first song.

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Musical Royalty: Ann Arbor Symphony performs "Ludwig and the Kings"


Katie Geddes and David Vaughn at The Ark

Arie Lipsky will conduct cellist Zlatomir Fung and the Ann Arbor Symphony is an eclectic program of music that evokes King Solomon.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, the Ann Arbor Symphony will present a program called “Ludwig and the Kings.” “Ludwig,” of course, represents luminary German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. But who is the King in question?

“Growing up in Israel, I had daily bible studies and was fascinated with the complex characters of some of the prophets and kings," said conductor Arie Lipsky, who has led the symphony for 17 seasons. "This concert presents a rare musical outlook on King Solomon, known to be the wisest man on earth.”

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A Wilde Afterlife: Laura Lee, "Oscar’s Ghost" at AADL


Bookbound open mic

Author Laura Lee dug deep into the mystery that helped shape Oscar Wilde's legacy. She'll discuss and sign Oscar’s Ghost at AADL's downtown branch on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7 pm.

Oscar Wilde said the truth is rarely pure and never simple. These words apply to many facets of his life, including the feud between Wilde’s lovers Lord Alfred Douglas and Robert Ross. Laura Lee set out to find the truth of what happened between these men after Wilde’s death in her new book, Oscar’s Ghost: The Battle for Oscar Wilde’s Legacy, which she'll discuss at AADL's downtown branch on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Douglas and Ross each blamed the other for Wilde's downfall and early death as well the way the latter handled Wilde’s prison manuscript, De Profundis. Their feud escalated to include stalking, blackmail, witness tampering, prison, and lawsuits.

“When I first got a Kindle, I downloaded and read (Wilde’s) De Profundis," Lee says. "I discovered that this was actually an edited version of the book and that a longer version existed.”

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Active Culture: "INAATE/SE" meditates on Sault Ste. Marie's Ojibway tribe


Adam and Zach Khalil’s INAATE/SE is not a film to view if you’re looking for escapism. INAATE/SE is about the Ojibway community in Sault Ste. Marie and the movie bends and flexes filmmaking conventions and linear storytelling in order to tell about this tribe’s past and present as well as ask questions about its future. This film will make you think about our relationship to time and history, about the stories we tell, and the stories that are silenced.

On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Ypsilanti Experimental Space (YES) screened followed INAATE/SE, followed by a Q&A with Adam Khalil. The day before, Khalil was generous enough to meet me at Henry Ford Museum and spend a portion of his afternoon talking with me about his film and his process, opening himself up to an organic and wide-ranging conversation centered in this work. He allowed us to think together for a moment. We talked about survival, representation, what it meant for him and his brother to create this work and how, in some ways, both the past and the future live within us in the present.

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Protect Your Neck: Author, throat puncher Jen Mann hosts a moms' night out at AADL


Jen Mann

Jen Mann's publishing career began when a blog post about Elf on the Shelf mania went viral.

When you put the wrong date in your calendar for an interview with Jen Mann, the blogger/author behind People I Want to Punch in the Throat, you kind of fear that you’ll be added to the list.

But Mann -- who will be coming to the downtown library for a moms’ night out event on Wednesday, October 11 at 7 pm, as part of a book tour to promote her latest humorous essay collection, Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat -- couldn’t have been more understanding, despite her famously feisty, tell-it-like-it-is persona.

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Cantina Jams: A2SO plays the music of "Star Wars"


A2SO Star Wars

Return of the Jedis: Last year's A2SO Star Wars concerts were sold-out affairs, so the symphony brought them back.

Not so long ago -- last year, to be precise -- in a venue that’s close, close by, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra (A2SO) played two sold-out concerts featuring John Williams’ music from the Harry Potter films. The audience response was so enthusiastic that A2SO immediately started making plans to perform two concerts featuring Star Wars music, and those concerts will happen Saturday night and Sunday afternoon (October 7-8) at the Michigan Theater.

“We were so overwhelmed (last year) ... and the audience, some of whom had never seen a live symphony concert before, told us that the music evoked powerful images for them, even though there was no visual component accompanying the music,” said A2SO conductor Arie Lipsky. “They also told us that they’d never thought that music had played such a vital role in the movies, and they thanked us for highlighting the music on its own. So many said, ‘Now we’re hooked on seeing live symphony orchestra shows,’ and we responded by investing in music from all the Star Wars movies.”

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Hot Fight, Hot World: Environmentalist Bill McKibben at U-M


Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben believes the Great Lakes deserve and need better environmental stewardship.

Bill McKibben has long been sounding the alarm about our changing climate.

The renowned environmentalist and author (including the landmark The End of Nature) founded 350.org, a worldwide organization dedicated to climate-change issues. He will speak at Hill Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 5, on the topic “Down to the Wire: A Hot Fight in a Hot World.”

If it seems like the fight has gotten more difficult lately, given the current federal administration’s refusal to even acknowledge the problem, McKibben isn’t about to give up. He says it’s still possible to take significant action.

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