Enduring the quarantine one cell-phone game at a time

PULP LIFE COVID-19

cell phone game collage

There are infinite ways we’re coping with the global pandemic -- forcing our bodies and brains to do the things we want them to (or think they should do), or giving in to surprising and unexpected forces with predictable or weird or wonderful results.

For me, some of these things include:

Social media -- and a few physical letters -- showing me what’s outside my six-foot radius. A lot of bread. Some smoked meats. Walks and nature. More bread. Needlepoint, knitting, running, lifting heavy things, a few bike rides, pets. Light drinking, heavy drinking, loud music, total silence.

You know what your body and brain have asked for in the past and what you’ve given into and given it. Pre-pandemic, my body frequently wanted tasty treats and caffeine -- and frequently got it, so why would I curb those habits now?

But my brain was also asking for something unexpected to fill the downtime between working from home, parenting some kids, staying six feet away from other breathing things I’m not directly responsible for, and eating bags of chips:

Cell-phone games.

The roll call of cell-phone games I’ve played in the past dates back to Snake on my old flip phone -- but it’s a short list. Some Angry Birds. Some poker app I downloaded after reading a Colson Whitehead poker book. Desert Golfing (recommend!).

That’s it. Cell phone games aren’t in my DNA the way regular video games are, so why is it that my brain waited eight days into quarantine to get me clicking and downloading and clicking some more? 

WCBN station ID promos by Sun Ra, Dexter Gordon, Dewey Redman, and other jazz greats surface online

MUSIC

Johnny Griffin at Hill Auditorium, 1978

The uncropped version of the photo of Johnny Griffin that ran with the rampaging review of his 1978 concert at Hill Auditorium. Photo by Larry E. Wright/The Ann Arbor News.

The best thing about WCBN is the music, obvs. Nearly every time I tune into 88.3 FM, I hear something that catches my ear, or is new to me and makes me want to dig deeper, or reminds me of a band I forgot about.

The second best thing about WCBN is the vintage station ID promos. (Sorry, sports-talk guys. I'm sure your show is fab.)

Some of the clips feature the DJs doing skit-like or audio collage promos, but many are voiced by a multitude of musicians, both famous and not-so, telling you that when they're in Ann Arbor, they listen to WCBN.

But as far as I know, the only place to hear these small gems is to listen to the station -- until now.

Patrick Shawl uploaded eight WCBN station ID promos to Soundcloud featuring some major jazz artists: Sun Ra, Dewey Redman, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, George Cables, and Stanley Cowell. None of these clips are wacky, or even in the upper echelon of some of the WCBN promos I've heard, but they sent me down a rabbit hole in an attempt to ID the IDs.

There's no notation of the years these were recorded, or at what shows, but some sleuthing turned up clues and it seems like many of them were taped at the 1978 Ann Arbor Jazz Festival, which Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra played on September 23:

Third Place Living: Marcia Bricker Halperin's photo exhibit "NYC's Vanished Cafeterias: 1975-1985"

VISUAL ART REVIEW

marcia-bricker-halperin-dubrows-1975

The first thing that jumps to mind when I think about New York City cafeterias is Edward Hopper's 1942 painting Nighthawks. In addition to its masterful capturing of manmade lights and nighttime shadows, many interpret the painting as a portrait of big-city loneliness. "The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another," states the proprietor of the fansite edwardhopper.net. But to me, it looks like the counter clerk is speaking with the couple, who may have had a great night out on the town based on the way they're smartly dressed, leaving the man with his back to viewers as the lone lonely one -- though the painter referred to him as "dark sinister" in his notes for the painting, not lonely.

These sorts of varied interpretations about what people are doing in eateries went through my mind as I viewed photographer Marcia Bricker Halperin's NYC's Vanished Cafeterias: 1975-1985 exhibition.

Halperin's work was on display at the University of Michigan's Lane Hall Gallery when COVID-19 closed down everything. Organized by The Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Women’s Studies Department, the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, and the Department of American Culture, it was originally scheduled to run January 16 to July 31, but the exhibit has moved online. The 17 black-and-white photos in the physical exhibit are interspersed with shots of the gallery setting and text panels for the online version, 

While the name NYC's Vanished Cafeterias indicates Halperin went all over the city to photograph, the Brooklyn native shot at two locations, both part of the small, family-run Dubrow's chain. (She has also shot eateries in other places, such as Miami's Concord Cafeteria, not associated with Dubrow's.) As the Institute for Research on Women and Gender website states:

"Artist Spotlight: Tadd Mullinix" highlights the many personas and productions of one of Ann Arbor's most prolific musicians

MUSIC FILM & VIDEO

Musician and artist Tadd Mullinix was scheduled to DJ at a party for the 2020 Ann Arbor Film Festival (A2FF). But when A2FF went virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mullinex took his set online with the rest of the fest. Now the A2 Film Fest has teamed up with Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO) member Jordan Stanton to release a short documentary on the multifaceted Mullinex, who records all sorts of electronic music -- from techno to avant-garde to drum 'n' bass to hip-hop -- under numerous pseudonyms (Dabrye, JTC, Charles Manier, James T. Cotton, X-Altera, etc.).

Stanton released his Impulse Ann Arbor documentary last November, which gave a 22-minute overview of Tree Town's techno history. Artist Spotlight: Tadd Mullinex is similarly brief, but the 8 minutes are enough to give a taste of Mullinex's background and music, which you should immediately listen to after you've watched this film. Start with any releases on his own Bopside label or the numerous records he's made with longtime partners Ghostly.

Glaciers & Glacial Paces: Sean Curtis Patrick's atmospheric photography & ambient music evoke mysterious beauty

MUSIC INTERVIEW COVID-19

Sean Curtis Patrick

Sean Curtis Patrick is one of Ann Arbor's most multidimensional creatives.

I don't mean to limit him geographically, either; this blog is about Washtenaw-area culture, so I gotta stress Patrick's local connex, but he's really one of the most well-rounded, multidimensional artists I can think of working today, excelling in music, photography, sculpture, film, and whatever other creative pursuits to which he applies his endlessly curious mind.

Even during the COVID-19 quarantine -- where some artistic folks are struggling to do any creative works in this chaotic time -- Patrick has been musically prolific and continues to pursue his photography, pottery, and more.

"A lot has been happening, even though I'm not leaving my house much," Patrick wrote in an email. "I've grown two full beards and then shaved them off during quarantine, so I know some time has gone by."

Patrick is the media design and production lead at the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation, and he's made remarkable films, interactive displays, and photos of Greenland's glacial melt. Outside of his day job, Patrick pursues hobbies with the sort of obsessive focus that bespeaks a passion for experience, exploration, innovation, and just living a full and rewarding life, from climbing mountains and riding motorcycles to racing bikes and modifying technology to fulfill his artistic ideas.

During quarantine, Patrick has been releasing a series of EPs and singles that explore ambient music realms, but they feel like extensions of his overall artistic aesthetic and purpose rather than mere background sounds. His is a world of visual wonder, aural invocations, and a desire to live not just as a bystander but as one who dives in and explores our universe and shares those discoveries with anyone who's open to experience all the grandeur, sadness, beauty, and wonder of our Earth, existence, and beyond.

I asked Partick about his creative process during quarantine and how his various artistic pursuits inform one another.

Polly Rosenwaike's stories give an intimate glimpse into the contexts of motherhood

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Polly Rosenwaike and her book Look How Happy I'm Making You

Author photo by Michael Lionstar.

This story was originally published on March 29, 2019.

Women who want babies. Women who do not. Women who try hard for a baby, and women who easily become pregnant. Women who lose a baby, and women who have one. 

These women populate the stories in Look How Happy I’m Making You, the debut collection by Polly Rosenwaike. Efforts to conceive and be mothers -- and the effects of those efforts on these women -- engage them. 

Rosenwaike’s stories, however, do not only center on the processes and acts of conceiving, birthing, and parenting. This collection moreover illustrates the complexities of the feelings and relationships surrounding motherhood and the wish for it. 

Rosenwaike draws inspiration from her own experiences as a mother and often works from branches of the Ann Arbor District Library. A resident of Ann Arbor, she is the fiction editor of Michigan Quarterly Review, is widely published in literary magazines, reviews books, teaches at Eastern Michigan University, and has two daughters with her partner, poet Cody Walker. 

Rosenwaike will read and discuss Look How Happy I’m Making You at Literati Bookstore Wednesday, April 3, at 7 pm. She answered questions about life in Ann Arbor and her new collection.

Pandemic Ponderings: Some stay-at-home thoughts during COVID-19

PULP LIFE COVID-19

Stay at home thoughts

I have learned some things about myself during this whole COVID-19, stay-at-home time. Time will only tell what I will do with this new information in the aftertimes -- a looming question we all share.

1. I am the type of person who will totally get dressed from the waist up for a Zoom meeting, and wear pajamas from the waist down.

This was a surprise. You see, in my mind, I have what I describe as the Head-Hands Theorum. Among your co-workers, I believe that it is best practice to pretend that their bodies consist of their heads and their hands. You know, the work parts. This is not to say you shouldn’t have compassion for the things that are going on in their lives. This is to say that many, many people would have found/caused less trouble if they were subscribing to the Head-Hands Theorum. I thought that one would need to have on real pants (or other downstairs clothing) to properly observe Head-Hands. But, alas, now I don’t know who I am anymore.

2. I am angered every time I see one of those “check on your extroverts” tweets.

Times Past: Catching up with 1960s Ann Arbor psych-rockers The Beau Biens

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Beau Biens

Beau Biens rocking WCBN's April 1967 mixer.

This story was originally published on April 4, 2017.

The Beau Biens would have been entirely forgotten were it not for the single record they released: the "Times Passed / A Man Who's Lost" 7-inch, released in March 1967. While this Ann Arbor-based group didn't last long, and the single wasn't particularly popular at the time, over the past 50 years the record's status as a lost psychedelic classic has grown and grown.

"The Beau Biens 45 is considered one of the best garage band singles of the '60s," said Frank Uhle, media consultant for University of Michigan's Instructional Support Services by day, Ann Arbor rock encyclopedia by night. "A couple of years ago a book was published that listed just about every American DIY record that came out then, and a panel of experts voted 'Times Passed' number 427 of the more than 8,000 records included."

Though it's been bootlegged on several garage-rock compilations, the original 45 is nearly impossible to find. That's one reason why Uhle has reissued the record; another is because he located Joe Doll, the man who had the original master tapes because he was the one who recorded it at WCBN-FM during an all-nighter. Even the first pressing of "Times Passed / A Man Who's Lost" was pressed from a second-generation copy of the tape, so this new edition is even better than the real thing. The quintet consisted of Tom Kleene (vocals), Don Tapert (lead guitar), Tom Hartkop (rhythm guitar), Jim Masouras (bass), and Rick Fine (drums).

Originally a folk group, the Milk River Jug Band, the group's sound got turned on its ear when Tapert witnessed a Rolling Stones concert and only wanted to rock. After some resistance from his bandmates, the group changed its name to The Beau Biens and the train started rolling. The ensembles sound evokes a garage-ier version of The Yardbirds, powered by a fuzzed out Vox amp stomp.

We talked to Tapert about The Beau Biens' beginnings, seeing the Stones, Yardbirds, and The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Ann Arbor in '60s. We also tapped Uhle's bottomless well of local-music knowledge about the '60s Michigan rock scene and how the reissue came about.

Theaters in the Absurd: Washtenaw-area drama troupes announce cancellations, postponements, and out-of-business news due to the covid-19 pandemic

THEATER & DANCE

tragic masks

On March 12, Kickshaw Theatre announced on its Facebook page that it had to cut short its then-current production of Lungs, and because the show didn't have a full run, it seemed reasonable to wonder if the play might be rescheduled.

But on May 1, the cancellation became permanent: Kickshaw Theatre sent out a note that said the organization was closing permanently after five seasons. It also canceled the final scheduled event for the current season, Madeleine George's The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, which was to run July 9-26.

With the sad news of Kickshaw's demise in mind, we decided to check the updates of other theater groups in Washtenaw County to see how they were doing.

New Washtenaw music in the time of quarantine: Volume 7

MUSIC

Washtenaw quarantine music volume 7 cassette tape

Image by Rahu/Pixabay

Another round of new releases from Washtenaw County musicians in the age of quarantine. (Visit our mini-guide on livestreams by local artists here.)

Volume one is here.

Volume two is here.

Volume three is here.

Volume four is here.

Volume five is here.

Volume six is here.

Volume seven is below and features music/mixes from Benjamin Green, Matthew Dear, Idle Ray (Fred Thomas), Dagoretti Records, XV, Shigeto, Josef Deas, Todd Osborn, Charles Trees, The Fearless Flyers, The Kelseys, Chirp, Jib Kidder, Virago, MEMCO, Lily Talmers, and Chris Dupont.