A Brief History of "Hawking": The latest science graphic novel by Ann Arbor's Jim Ottaviani profiles the legendary theoretical physicist

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jim Ottaviani and his book Hawking

The subject of the book was a scientist who was also a New York Times bestselling author and affiliated with a renowned university. And the writer of this book ... was also a scientist, a New York Times bestselling author, and affiliated with a renowned university. It's only fitting that Jim Ottaviani -- preeminent writer of science comics, former nuclear engineer, and current librarian at the University of Michigan -- wrote a book about Stephen Hawking, the preeminent theoretical physicist and cosmologist.

Illustrated by Leland MyrickHawking traces the legendary scientist's life, from his groundbreaking work in theoretical physics to his best-selling book A Brief History of Time to his advocacy for rights for people with disabilities. 

To familiarize themselves with the source material, Ottaviani and Myrick combed through pages and pages of notes and references, dozens of books, and numerous print, audio, and video interviews. “We also spent a fair amount of time at Cambridge,” Ottaviani adds. “We visited Hawking’s offices, his environment … talked to his friends and coworkers” to get the best possible picture of the late scientist.

Art and "Soul": Honey Monsoon's new album looks for the light within

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Honey Monsoon by Miles Marie

Photo by Miles Marie

For local band Honey Monsoon, music and art spring from the same well of creativity. 

That dedication to artistic exploration comes through clearly on the band’s second album, Opal Soul, which offers an engaging, irresistible mix of neo-soul and jazz with some world-music elements neatly woven in. For the album, Honey Monsoon's core musicians -- Ana Gomulka, guitar, vocals, keyboards, music, and lyrics; Taylor Greenshields, drums, percussion, recording, and mixing; Sam Naples, guitar, vocals, and mixing; and Binho “Alex” Manenti, bass and keyboards -- are augmented by a horn section and other musicians for a full, layered sound.

Opal Soul is very much about reflection and finding the light within,” Gomulka said. “I'm madly in love with exploration, healing, and the journey back to my higher self. Listening to this music is an invitation for all to make the journey with me.”

Both music and lyrics on Opal Soul reward a close listen. One of the album’s highlights, “Sign of Life,” starts out as fairly straightforward pop, then the horns jump into an avant-jazz groove, followed by an acid rock guitar solo, with all the elements ultimately mixing into a cohesive whole. 

Gomulka sings: 
“Looking for a sign, looking for a sign of life / Looking for a way, looking for my way out / Looking for a sign, looking for a sign of life / Looking for a place, looking for a place where my roots can sprout.”

All the songs on the album deserve attention, but two other particular highlights are “Cloud,” an irresistible, neo-soul single full of gorgeous hooks; and “Clarity,” a compelling song about finding that precious concept and learning to let go of the past that builds to a rich, extended groove.

Gomulka took the time to answer a few questions about the new album via email.

Minimalism & Maximalism: The National and Courtney Barnett at Hill Auditorium

MUSIC REVIEW

The National at Hill Auditorium

The National at Hill Auditorium. Photo by Christopher Porter.

"How does it feel to be the king of sad-dad rock?" shouted a fan last night at The National's lead singer, Matt Berninger, as he entered the Bell Tower Hotel in Ann Arbor.

The band had just finished a 25-song, two-hour set at the venue across the street, Hill Auditorium, which was filled to its 3,538 person capacity with sad dads (and moms) -- heretofore collectively known as SAD-D.A.M.

Berninger was joined by an augmented version of The National that added four additional musicians to the core quintet and they filled Hill with a massive wall of sound.

But the opening act, Courtney Barnett, achieved a similar feat with just herself on guitar plus a bassist and drummer -- and it was her second performance in Ann Arbor that day: at 12 noon, Barnett recorded an episode of the syndicated radio show Acoustic Cafe at The Leon Loft. (Check out a clip here.)

Museum exhibit labels tell the stories of an eccentric curator and visitor in Matthew Kirkpatrick's new novel

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Matthew Kirkpatrick

Author photograph by Susan McCarty

The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art by Matthew Kirkpatrick is a novel in the form of museum exhibit labels. The labels reveal the art pieces in the museum, along with the curator’s unique relationship and what has happened to the Seagrave family’s daughter. In between the labels, occasional passages narrate a visitor’s exploration of and discoveries in the museum. 

Kirkpatrick teaches creative writing at Eastern Michigan University and previously studied at the University of Utah for his Ph.D. He also wrote a story collection, Light Without Heat, and a novella, The Exiles.

On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Kirkpatrick reads at Literati Bookstore with Joe Sacksteder (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Kirkpatrick about his interest in museums, his new book, and what projects he’s working on next. 

Psychological dramas and fragmented stories in Joe Sacksteder's "Make/Shift" push against form and content conventions

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jack Sacksteder and his book Make/Shift

A contestant in a game show where people are eliminated if they get aroused. Parents and kids enduring an overnight trip for hockey. A man in grief who sees letters in the sealant on the road. An international student and her hall counselor coming to understand each other’s perspectives. 

Each of these characters, among others, navigate the shifting situations of the short stories and flash vignettes of Make/Shift, the new collection by Joe Sacksteder.

Sacksteder studied and taught at Eastern Michigan University. He was a visiting instructor at Interlochen Center for the Arts and now serves as Director of Creative Writing there. 

On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Sacksteder returns to town to read at Literati Bookstore with Matt Kirkpatrick (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Sacksteder about his connection to Ypsilanti, writing, and upcoming projects. 

The abstract paintings of late Detroit artist Gilda Snowden are "Bold & Beautiful" at U-M's Connections Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Gilda Snowden's Chair 6 painting

Gilda Snowden's Chair 6

I will never meet Gilda Snowden.

I missed my chance when she died suddenly of heart failure on September 9, 2014, just as I was beginning to be dimly aware of her importance as an artist, an archivist of Detroit’s art scene, and a mentor to many of its young creatives. She left a large body of work behind, thousands of paintings and drawings, a few of which are currently on view at Bold & Beautiful at the University of Michigan’s Connections Gallery.

Snowden’s early work features bits and pieces from her collecting activities, collaged onto the surfaces of her paintings as opening gambits for her painting practice.  She credited the influence of her Cass corridor mentors, who also worked in unconventional materials:  leather, chainsaws, shotguns, barbed wire, and the like.  By the time she produced the artworks represented in this exhibit, however, she had left those strategies behind for the more esoteric and protean qualities of pure paint.

Encore goes "Crazy" for the Gershwins

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Encore Theatre's Crazy for You

Matthew Brennan as Bobby Child and Megan Grosso as Zangler Follies Girl in Encore Musical Theatre's production of Crazy for You. Photo by Michelle Anliker Photography.

“I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?”

If you do, put on your dancing shoes and head to the Encore Musical Theatre in Dexter for a feast of George Gershwin tunes and Ira Gershwin lyrics.

Crazy for You is a post-Gershwin, Gershwin musical. The 1992 Tony Award-winning best “new musical” brought light singing, dancing, and frivolity back to Broadway. Conceived by and with a book by Ken Ludwig, the play uses the Gershwins’ 1931 Broadway hit Girl Crazy as the framework and then adds numerous songs from other Gershwin stage and film musicals, a few tweaks to the story, and ample room for dance routines. The result is an appropriately bubbly, silly, charming tribute to a style of musical that lit the lights of Broadway in the 1920s and early '30s with great music that lingers on.

Jason DeMarte's "Garden of Artificial Delights" examines modern excess via fake still-lifes

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Jason DeMarte, Placid Propagation, 2018, pigment print. Courtesy the artist

Jason DeMarte, Placid Propagation, 2018, pigment print. Courtesy the artist.

Jason DeMarte's intimate solo show Garden of Artificial Delights mixes the domestic, the “natural,” and the artificial to create a room-sized simulacrum of a still-life at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

DeMarte takes over the space with his take on classic floral wallpaper, a foreboding gray background with a warm foreground containing peonies, poppies, and female cardinals. The stage of the exhibition is the entire ArtGym, a relatively cozy gallery space that houses DeMarte’s room-sized adhesive wallpaper, and six framed photographs. Each photograph is digitally manipulated and portrays what appears to be at first glance a traditional still life. The color palette and inclusion of floral elements in each photograph echo the wallpaper, with a gray, dreary fog contrasting against vibrant flora and fauna.

Except, it isn’t always flora and fauna featured in the frames of these photographs.

Instead, multi-colored candy floats through the dreary atmosphere, paint drips over a peony and covers a bird entirely, or perhaps canned whipped cream covers wilting flowers from which butterflies are attempting to feast. In the center of the gallery space, there is a square black bench that viewers may utilize in order to absorb the 360-degree immersive experience created by the wallpaper. 

Each photograph is a digital photomontage comprised of multiple images, edited to appear “hyperreal,” as UMMA’s Assistant Curator of Photography Jennifer M. Friess observes. The resulting works of art are seductive, pulling us into the dismal yet confusingly bright and vibrant world of the birds and their candy.

Susan Jane Gilman set "Donna Has Left the Building" partly in Michigan "as a valentine to being here"

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW INTERVIEW

Susan Jane Gilman and her book Donna Has Left the Building

Author photo by Guillaume Megevand

Being a culinary ambassador for cookware. Acting as a dominatrix. Facing search and seizure laws in Tennessee. Helping the refugee crisis in Greece.

These are all things that author Susan Jane Gilman had to have known or learned about to include in her new novel, Donna Has Left the Building, said fellow author Polly Rosenwaike in conversation with her at Literati Bookstore on Thursday, June 6. There, Gilman shared stories from her life and research that led to writing about these situations in her book. Within these experiences, Gilman’s characters may be flawed and behave badly, but they also display tenderness and sympathy, added Rosenwaike.

As a writer, “You want to have empathy for all characters,” Gilman said. “I’m all of them.”

This novel has strong ties to Michigan. Gilman wrote Donna Has Left the Building “as a valentine to being here” in southeastern Michigan at the University of Michigan for her MFA and then teaching at U-M and Eastern Michigan University. Gilman, who grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, found the Midwest to be a big contrast to the way she observed that people seemed to be constantly performing in New York.

Swords & Strats: Fuzz Fest's annual celebration of lowdown rock 'n' roll returns to The Blind Pig

MUSIC PREVIEW

Midas Band

Twin lead fists: Midas brings its modern Detroit take on the classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound to The Blind Pig on June 21.

After six years of glorious noise, one wouldn’t be wrong to think of Fuzz Fest as an Ann Arbor institution -- if using that word for a celebration of Michigan’s loudest and weirdest metal/punk/psychedelic artists didn’t seem so incongruous.

Once again invading the Blind Pig with a sea of denim and leather, Fuzz Fest 6 serves as an important convention for those with calloused eardrums and dilated pupils -- or anyone who seeks out the musically extreme.

The lineup is 33 bands strong, spans a number of genres and represents more decibels than most responsible adults can consume over the course of three days, but here are a few highlights based solely on this reporter’s particularly coarse tastes.