Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unlikely friends = my first cool milion

Woke up yesterday morning to the sound of scrambling. Sleepy brain translated: cat paws scratching at a window in the sun room. Sure enough - there was Monkey, perched precariously in a corner where the wall met a bank of windows, desperately trying to reach the furry little squirrel calmly sitting right on the other side of the window. I mean RIGHT there. Monkey seemed confused, determined, and sort of gleeful at this turn of events. She's been a little lonely since Pony died...

After a few minutes Squirrel disappeared and I brought Monkey out of the room. About ten minutes later...repeat visit. And this morning - Squirrel seemed to be hanging out waiting for Monkey, who galloped up the stairs when I called down to tell her that her friend had returned. (True!) I'm trying not to think about the damage Monkey's new pal (and its extended family) is causing to our roof, to the peeling paint on the window sill, and to Monkey's fragile, neurotic little brain.

In the meantime - am already imagining the Saturday morning cartoon: Monkey (the Cat) and Squirrel Take on the World. Then comes feature-length Pixar animation, sugar cereal, lunchboxes, TV appearances, Fresh Air interviews, and of course - their own podcast. Any illustrators out there looking for work?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

5 sounds from Ireland

1. Altogether, radio from: Czech Republic, UK, Lithuania, Slovakia, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Croatia, Poland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, plus my own contribution, from the USA. An impressive array of stories and approaches to storytelling, with distinct national radio cultures defined, challenged, and stretched, as each program played. Didn't come away with favorite stories, rather moments from several: A gravedigger, about to retire, describing looking forward to sitting at his kitchen table tinkering with a clock. Two former circus performers (and lovers) reunited in a nursing home in old age, nostalgic for the dream of a shared future they'll never experience: "running a nice big carousel...". A long, awkward silence between two estranged friends, over the phone. The sound of a mama cow licking her newborn calf. And so many others...

2. Beirut, followed by Sufjan Stevens, from the speakers at the Mermaid Cafe, (the Lula of Dublin?) over the course of a nice long dinner with new and old friends. Always especially pleasing to hear (certain) familiar music when far from home. Also that night, learned that in Ireland (and many other countries) rocket is actually arugula, and that people really do eat pig's cheeks. Which I do not condone.

3. Beautiful, traditional Irish music in a extraordinarily non-extraordinary bar that was far from the city center, or other touristic byways. Was my first experience in an Irish snug - a small, cozy, separate section of a pub where live music is often played for an audience of maybe a dozen. This is not the place to pull out a camera or recorder, fyi. Learn from our mistakes.

4. Young girl walking by me in the airport, holding on to her father's hand. With each step she took her right foot yelped. Realized that her shoe had a 'squeaker' in it - yes, like the squeaker in a dog toy - to help her parents keep track of her, I guess? Though the company that makes them claims they're "fun." Heard that thing for 6 gates worth of airport hallway, as I continued in the opposite direction. Creepy.

5. The rain coming on, across the field, while we rode through the most beautiful Irish countryside in Lackan, County Wicklow. The horses didn't seem to mind the damp - neither my trusty mare Blue, or Thelon's gigantic Naylor (supposedly the second largest registered horse in the country. And I believe it.) Another sound, from this incredible afternoon: the lambs bleating, as we'd ride by and they'd scamper away from the fencelines. The cows, on the other hand, strode right up to say hello.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Radio Dublin

Greetings from Dublin, where I've just made it through Day #1 of the International Features Conference. Besides a minor luggage mishap on the way in (resolved!) it's been a fine trip so far. Am still thinking about yesterday's late lunch - goat cheese, spinach & beet pie and a perfect pint of Smithwicks (you know when you're traveling and you pick a random bar or eatery on a whim and it just happens to be a perfect decision? )

More to the point (of this blog, at least):
We've been hanging out in a castle all day, listening to and discussing radio features about: a homeless shelter installed on a boat (Czech Republic), bicycle couriers (UK) a rural version of a 7-11 - minus Slurpees - (Lithuania), a car crash from driver and victim's perspectives (UK), and cyber activism against transit ticket inspectors (Slovakia). Finished up with a presentation of the "I Live in the Balkans" radio project - an impressive collaboration between 11 Balkan countries.

Yes, ears are tired. And could use a beer...into the city for dinner.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Good clean audio fun involving free cookies

Felt like we hit the (some? a?) jackpot this past Saturday. After dinner we took a long bike ride toward the lake and parked our bikes outside the North Lakeside Cultural Center where we spent the next hour with:

Thrifted old cassettes, hundreds of buttons, dollhouse miniatures, an interactive laundry experience, flashlights, creepy/beautiful old black and white photos, a toy piano, the drawer of exquisite objects, old-school
composition books, (yes, composition books have a wikipedia entry), light mystery, lots of Hauschka and, I believe, John Fahey, an obsessive (yet likable) recordist's true: free cookies.

People! What more could you want from a surprising and interactive, hour-long audio mystery tour set brilliantly throughout a beautiful old Chicago house? I'm talking about:
Static: A Headphones Tour (conceived by Tom Horan and directed by Libby Ford). I don't want to say too much - probably already have - because if you're in Chicago you really should just buy a $10 ticket and experience it yourself.

Static seems to me to be one of those incredibly special events going on in a big city that you imagine you're always missing, or that you read about after the fact and wish you'd known about earlier. Here's your chance...the tour runs through May, every Friday and Saturday nights.