Molly Spencer covers chronic illness, domestic life, and nature in her second poetry book, "Hinge"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Molly Spencer and her book Hinge

Hinge by Molly Spencer shows a world in which the poet seeks to find footing in a constantly shifting landscape and body. Views, possessions, relationships, and physical capacity change and merge and vanish at various points. The multipart poem “Objects of Faith” reveals these different angles by looking at things like a window or a berry and distilling them to what they do: “To hold in place / once piece of the world” or “To be that ache / in someone’s mouth,” respectively. This instability and the feeling of being on the cusp of something appears through the changing seasons, motherhood, and domestic life. 

This collection of poetry particularly examines chronic illness, its progression, and its effects. At times, the poet’s observations are stark: 

In this family 
of illness,
the doctor says, 
the body
attacks itself.

The poet seems to consequently no longer trust the world to stay how it’s meant or desired to be. It’s as if everything has become more fragile and uncertain—the poem “Patient Years” tells us “safe is the shell of an egg.” The poet also asks the question “if the one you love / most will follow you down.” 

Despite dark winter days, even darker dreams, and physical limitations in these poems, persistence is visible. The poem “Vernal” suggests hopefully that: 

Friday Five: Buff1, Modern Lady Fitness, Sean Curtis Patrick, Jevon Alexander, Kawsaki

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 12-25-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features hip-hop from Buff1 and Jevon Alexander, ambient from Sean Curtis Patrick, indie from Modern Lady Fitness, and vaporwave from Kawsaki.

AADL 2020 STAFF PICKS: BOOKS, MUSIC, MOVIES & MORE

2020 Staff Picks

Normally, you might come into the library, talk to someone on staff, get some recommendations, perhaps share a few of your own, and we'd go on our merry ways, content we could engage in a positive social interaction while discussing whatever book, movie, TV show, music, or more that came up.

Art is life and life is people.

But we've not seen most of you since March 13, the last time the Ann Arbor District Library was fully open to the public—and to the staff. While many AADL staffers have returned to the buildings to do important behind-the-scenes work since the summer, many others have been working from home since the closure. And we miss being able to share what we're currently loving not just with patrons but also with each other.

So, to staffers and patrons alike, these are the movies, TV shows, music, books, and more that helped the AADL crew get through 2020. 

Zoom-o: Theatre Nova's "I’m Streaming of an Alright Christmas" brings panto to your screens

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

 

Theatre Nova's I'm Streaming of an Alright Christmas

Pantomime, or panto, is a form of audience participatory musical comedy theater developed in England that has become a beloved part of the Christmas and New Year season in many parts of the English-speaking world. There are songs, dances, and gags galore. Theatre NOVA proudly carries on this tradition right here in Ann Arbor. 

This year, however, things had to change a bit. How does one engage the assistance of an audience when theaters across Michigan have had to close? Through the magic of modern technology of course. Theatre NOVA had already experimented with theater over Zoom in October with its Zoom Play Series. Now Nova has applied Zoom to its 2020 panto I’m Streaming of an Alright Christmas by Carla Milarch and R. MacKenzie Lewis.

The plot revolves around Santa and his team getting ready for their Christmas flight. But the reindeer have gone on strike, the elves haven’t made the toys, and the dreaded Rona Monster is on the loose in the North Pole. Can Christmas be saved? 

After I clicked the provided link and logged into Zoom, I was met by an animated red curtain. Holiday music played while a five-minute countdown popped up in the lower right corner of my screen along with a dancing Santa along with four guidelines for maximum enjoyment of the show: 

Friday Five: Same Eyes, Jack Withers, Dan Sutherland, Corey Strong, Zettell

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 12-18-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week it's an all Ann Arbor special featuring synths from Same Eyes, Jack Withers, and Dan Sutherland, seasonal music from Corey Strong, and folk from Zettell.

Raqs Media Collective's "The Pandemic Circle" explores how artists share and create during quarantine

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Stills from videos in The Pandemic Circle exhibit

Top: video still from Why do they call the answer to a question, a solution? (12 minutes, video, spoken word), 2020.
Bottom: video still from twentyfourbyseven (7 mins, video, calligraphy, text, animation), 2020.

On December 1, Raqs Media Collective premiered two new videos as part of an ongoing project titled The Pandemic Circle. This three-part series, curated by STAMPS Gallery’s Srimoyee Mitra, was commissioned by the University of Michigan Stamps Gallery and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design as part of EXPO CHICAGO’s online adaptation of its previously in-person discussions and events series. The focus this time is on ways in which those working within the arts are changing and adapting their practices to continue making and sharing art amid the pandemic. 

The virtual exhibition includes three short films that explore themes of time, space, and routine, and, more. As described on the exhibition page, the works “grapple with the pervasive and dispersed impact on daily routines and relationships with one another, and beyond, in the age of the Coronavirus." The two new videos are paired with 31 Days, created earlier this summer, three months after the pandemic ushered in sweeping quarantines across the globe and changing the flow of daily life. The follow-up films expand upon the members of the Collective’s response to these changes, broader cultural events, and their own worlds. 

Friday Five: Laughing Hyenas

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE BOOTLEG WASHTENAW

Laughing Hyenas, 1987

Jim Kimball, Larissa Strickland, Kevin Strickland, and John Brannon of Laughing Hyenas in a 1987 promo photo provided by the band's label then, Touch & Go Records.

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week, it's the Ann Arbor post-punk noise-blues of Laughing Hyenas whose discography recently came to Bandcamp.

In 1995, not long after the breakup of his pioneering hardcore band Negative Approach, vocalist John Brannon and his partner, Larissa Strickland, moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor and formed Laughing Hyenas, which drew equally from The Stooges, The Birthday Party, old blues, and pure noise.

While the Hyenas' music has been on Spotify and the like for a while, and Third Man reissued all their records on vinyl in 2018, the Touch & Go label's recent decision to put much of its back catalog on Bandcamp gives me yet another reason to relisten to this supremely powerful band. I also get to tell two quick personal stories I have about Laughing Hyenas lead singer John Brannon before the tales get pushed into the ever-increasing "FILE NOT FOUND" portion of my brain.

Objects of Veneration: "Sacred Hands" and other online exhibits at the University of Michigan Library

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD

Pages from Hebrew and Coptic manuscripts

Left: This page belongs to a 10th-century manuscript of the Torah or Pentateuch. The Masorah (a set of rules of pronunciation, spelling, and intonation designed to transmit the text accurately) is written in a mashait hand (formal cursive script) and added in the margins and between the columns. Parchment, fols. 151, 210 x 180 mm.
Right: Parchment fragment. Verso. Book of Jeremiah. Sahidic Dialect. White Monastery, Sohag (Egypt), 10th century. Fragments of the same manuscript are kept in London, Manchester, Paris, and Vienna. The images of birds and fish are fairly common in these Coptic manuscripts as exemplified in the decoration accompanying the initial "T" on the left margin of this page. Parchment, 365 x 278 mm.

The introduction to Sacred Hands, a new online exhibit by the University of Michigan Library featuring ancient manuscripts for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, sums up why objects of veneration such as these are important even if none of those religions apply to you:

It seems appropriate to use the term "sacred" to describe the hands that copied the manuscripts containing the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, the meaning of this word transcends the conventional limits of the religious sphere. "Sacred" can also designate what is unique, exclusive, and venerable.

Additionally, so much of our current social and philosophical climate is generated from these old texts that it's impossible to understand the present without studying the past.

Friday Five Times Five: 25 new Bandcamp releases by Washtenaw County artists

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five collage of album covers

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

Today is the last Bandcamp Friday of 2020—the monthly fee-waiving day when artists receive 100% of the money from purchased items. So, to celebrate shopping locally, here are 25 new and newly reissued releases from Ann Arbor musicians, bands, and labels. It's the Friday Five if it lifted weights and ate a high-protein diet.

Below, check out music from JTC, X-Altera, The Down and Goers, a new comp from none/such, Hans Schroder, Battalion, Isolation Daze, Circle Confusion, 10 Trillion Suns, Sol Fono, FJAITE, Jess & Dan, Cinder Stage, Musa Haydar, BK Irwin, Towner, Thanh Thi Giang, Day of the Cusp, Ed Dupas, adjuul, Golden Feelings, the rants, Furrowed Brow, Experimental Voice Box Programmer, and A World Without Gods.

You can also read the previous 12 Friday Fives right here, which means you'll get to discover music from 50-plus other artists in Washtenaw County.

Also, here are eight posts in our Music in the Time of Quarantine series that we did from March to May, which means there are umpteen more Washtenaw-associate releases to discover and purchase on Bandcamp and beyond.

Heck, while you're here, take a peek at all our music posts, many of which also have links to Bandcamp releases by local artists.

Bootleg Washtenaw: Repulsion live at Schoolkids Records, June 9, 1991

MUSIC BOOTLEG WASHTENAW

Repulsion at Schookids Records, 1991

An occasional series highlighting live recordings made in Washtenaw County.

On Repulsion's lone album, Horrified, the Flint-based grind-metal pioneers' sound is a muffled blur of blast beats, gnarly guitar, and grunted vocals. Same is true of the band's many demos, which is what Horrified was when it was recorded in 1986 and released as the Slaughter of the Innocent tape. That sort of audio is what you'll hear times 100 as featured in this June 9, 1991, in-store concert Repulsion did at Schoolkids Records, 523 East Liberty Street. But it's still wonderful to see the inside of Ann Arbor's most legendary record store once again. 

Horrified received its official release in 1989, and that's the record vocalist-bassist Scott Carlson is referring to when he points to the wall at Schoolkids and says, "The is from our album—up there" before the band rips into "Pestilent Decay."

June 9, 1991, was a Sunday and, before the videographer steps into the record store, he records a long line of people standing in the dark to get into the Michigan Theater. East Liberty was hopping that night. The sunset was at 9:10 pm, so this show was likely after Schoolkids closed for the day, but I'm not sure what event was drawing such a big crowd at the Michigan Theater. According to The Concert Database, there were no bands playing at the Michigan Theater that night—the previous show was Laurie Anderson on May 11 and the next one was  Kraftwerk on September 27—and City Slickers was the number one movie in the country that weekend, but I don't recall first-run mainstream films being a regular thing then for this venue. (Looking into it; will update if I find anything. Very important, you know.)

Update: The crack staff at AADL's Old News figured out it was Taxi Blues, a critically acclaimed 1990 Russian movie, but not one I would assume could draw such a big crowd. Also, the start time was 8:40 pm, and despite the darkened skies, the Google Machine tells me sunset that day wasn't for another 30 minutes. The East Liberty corridor is a tunnel.

While you should absolutely listen to Repulsion's badass Horrified if you want to hear one of the earliest examples of extreme metal, the main draw of this video for Washtenaw County folks is seeing the racks and racks of expertly curated LPs at Schoolkids Records. Check out the 39-minute below, but fair warning: Some cretin on the street who was there to see the band uses the N-word at the :27 second mark.