BTV Radio Players present The Gloved Fox!

It started with a serendipitous discovery. Early in 2012, Andrew Liptak, the founder of Geek Mountain State, mentioned an upcoming performance by The Intergalactic Nemesis at the Flynn Theater. On a whim, my partner Andrew Rash and I decided to check out this unique, interesting-looking performance art that mixed live radio drama with Foley effects and comic book images projected onto a large screen.

Inspired by this experience, my partner Andrew developed an original superhero-esque character named the Gloved Fox, set her heroic exploits in a 30’s-era city, and started approaching friends and acquaintances with his idea of writing, producing, and directing a live radio drama complete with Foley effects. The response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Friends of friends asked how they could take part in this adventure. Actors, radio lovers, sound designers, and aspiring Foley artists all came together and asked, “How can we make this happen?”

Andrew approached Bill Simmon and the staff at VCAM to discuss using VCAM’s equipment to record the episodes with the intention of creating both a video and audio version. Though the episodes were to be designed primarily for the radio/Internet listener, Andrew also wanted to create something visually appealing to highlight the acting and skill that goes into radio theater and Foley artistry. Andrew’s ideas intrigued Bill, and he eagerly agreed to help us figure out how to make The Gloved Fox! possible.

Thus, The Gloved Fox! was born! As of today, we’ve recorded episode 1 – “The Thespian’s Revenge” – and made it available as a video version on Youtube and a downloadable audio version through Google docs. We learned quite a bit about on-the-fly sound mixing with this first episode, as you will hear when you listen/watch (since it was performed in one take without post-editing). Our technical issues revolved mostly around audio mixing and how different types of microphones pick up sounds – issues that we will iron out with future recordings (and the help of a more experienced audio engineer who has joined our team!).

Designing the Foley SFX has been one of the most geekilicious aspects of this project, and as lead of sound design and Foley artistry, I’ve learned a great deal about creating and performing SFX. Our goal is to perform most of the SFX live, relying on pre-recorded sound as little as possible. This goal has led to fantastic sound design meetings where we’ve played with a variety of objects and brainstormed ideas for needed sounds, lengthy research sessions of old-time radio drama Foley techniques, random experimentation with various objects that we encounter each day, and e-mails with the creators of The Intergalactic Nemesis for advice. Some of our happiest discoveries so far: using a large suitcase to simulate car door opening and closing; “random acts of fruit violence” to mimic knife stabbing and neck breaking; and the maker talents of our friends in creating a beautiful and functional “Foley door.” While we still struggle to make the microphones pick-up certain sounds effectively (i.e. the thunder in episode 1), we eagerly continue our experiments as Andrew’s scripts challenge us to explore new ground with each episode.

We are scheduled to record episode 2 “Victims of the Voracious Vamp” and episode 3 “Wrath of the Wraith” on February 1st. Andrew has mapped out 10 episodes for The Gloved Fox!, after which he will write a series of Old West/Cowboy stories followed by a serial adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Stay tuned for upcoming episodes – and more “lessons learned” as we explore the world of live radio drama!

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Banned Books Week 2012

Libraries, bookstores, and educators across the world celebrate Banned Books Week from September 30 to October 6th this year. Activities include readings, videos from all 50 of the U.S. States (including this one from Vermont), and all sorts of fun displays.

Today, I threw together a simple, quick, eye-catching display to show the Essex Free Library’s celebration of banned books:

What’s your favorite banned book? Check out this list of the top 100 banned/challenged books from 2000-2009.

Book Review: Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Reamde

Once again, Stephenson delivers an epic novel with an intricate, intelligent, entertaining, and fast-moving plot. Reamde is less a Snow Crash-like sci-fi novel, and more a suspenseful action-adventure story with a healthy dose of online gaming, hostage-taking situations, and baddy Russians.

Like in Snow Crash, online virtual-reality gaming plays a large role in Reamde, as does a computer virus that pushes the plot and (eventually) unifies the book’s various plot lines. Stephenson does a fantastic job exploring the complex personalities of his characters as they face stressful and challenging plot points – providing subtle viewpoint shifts when characters gain or lose power in the book’s numerous hostage situations. Characters that seem 2-dimensional develop in unexpected, yet fulfilling, ways – some transforming from villains into (unwilling) heroes by the novel’s end. The novel shifts between at least 4 main plot lines and the viewpoints of characters in each of those plot lines (and several seemingly – but not entirely – random characters), and it keeps the reader guessing up until the last 100 pages as to exactly how these plot lines will converge. At 1044 pages, the novel does seem a bit interminable at times, but the fast pace and numerous plot and/or character twists hooked me time and again. Stephenson’s ability to juggle and interweave seemingly infinite plot lines boggles me as a reader – especially when subtle, almost throw-away scenes reveal game-changing details. My only criticism would be that certain details seemed to get lost as the book hurtled towards its end – that and the book’s overwhelming complexity makes it easy to forget important details.

Overall, Reamde is one satisfying and engrossing read. One of my favorite details in the book: the strong female characters. Huzzah! Five out of five stars.

Geek Thing for a Friday Evening

Looking for something geeky to fill your Friday evening? How about free pizza?

The Essex Free Library in Essex (at the intersection of Routes 15 & 128) is hosting a Hunger Games Post-Premiere Pizza Party from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. tonight. Essex Free Librarians Caitlin Corless and Lara Keenan (yours truly) and Brownell YA Librarian Kat Redniss will host teens and adults for a discussion comparing the movie to the book. All attendees will be entered into a lottery to win a highly sought after official Hunger Games movie poster! Questions? Call the Essex Free Library at (802) 879-0313.

May the odds be ever in your favor – and we hope to see you tonight!

2011 – A Librarian Looks Back

Revisiting 2011 with my librarian lens, I discovered several Vermont library-related geeky highlights.

KOHA Transition

KOHA is an open-source library management system (LMS). In Vermont, the Green Mountain Library Consortium formed a VOKAL/KOHA group dedicated to making KOHA work for Vermont libraries. By the end of 2010, I had helped the Brownell Library transition from its propriety LMS to KOHA – the first library in the consortium to do so as part of the VOKAL project. In the spring of 2011, several other libraries completed their own transition, and I trained librarians around the state on how to use KOHA’s amazingly powerful search features. This year has seen an incredible coming-together of librarians throughout Vermont as more joined VOKAL and helped create a working online library catalog. To see if your library is part of the VOKAL consortium, check out the catalog.

NELA Conference

In October, Vermont hosted the New England Library Association (NELA) Conference, and librarians from throughout NE flooded the Sheraton in Burlington to discuss library issues and trends. R. David Lankes, a professor from Syracuse University, gave a keynote titled “Killing Librarianship” in which he challenged us to become “activist librarians” and figure out the purpose of libraries in the 21st Century (presentation). Other highlights included Vermont’s own Jessamyn West discussing the persistent and increasingly dangerous digital divide in the U.S., especially in rural states like Vermont (link to her talk); and Steve Butzel’s presentation called “Website Makeovers for Mobile Users,” in which he discussed the importance of making library Web sites more user-friendly for mobile devices (link).

Hurricane Irene

Despite the widespread damage in VT from Hurricane Irene, most libraries escaped significant harm. The one exception was West Hartford Public Library which lost about 60% of its collection. Many librarians, however, faced enormous personal property damage, and the Vermont Department of Libraries (DOL) established a fund into which librarians could donate money to help other librarians recover from personal property damage. Once again, VT librarians come together!

Vermont Library Calendar

The Vermont Library Association produced a Vermont Public Libraries calendar for 2012 – and it features gorgeous photos showcasing unique library spaces in VT. My sister library – The Brownell – is featured! Check it out.

First Wednesdays Series

Once again this year, the Vermont Humanities Council and the Vermont DOL created the First Wednesdays Humanities Lecture Series. Nine libraries around Vermont host a speaker on the 1st Wednesday of the month, and we are incredibly blessed to have such amazing speakers! So far in Essex Junction, I’ve attended a lecture given by UVM Professor Paul Bierman on the interstate highway system in Vermont, a lecture by NYT Chief Washington Correspondent David Sanger on U.S. foreign policy under President Obama, and a lecture by UVM Classics Professor Emeritus Philip Ambrose on Greek tragedies. It’s a free way to increase your geek cred. Learn more about upcoming First Wednesdays here.

David Sedaris

And how can a retrospective be complete without least one author event. My favorite of this past year: David Sedaris speaking at the Flynn. His mischievous humor set the sold-out crowd giggling with glee as he shared both published and unpublished essays. As he read, he made marks on his pages to register when we laughed and how hard – for, as he told us, he continually modifies each piece based on the responses he receives when reading. How geekilicious is that?!

Here’s to another year full of library geekiness!

Last Minute Geektastic Holiday Gift Idea

Looking for a last-minute geeky Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s holiday gift?

If you’ve ever been to the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington, you know that it offers high-interest, educational, interactive science exhibits for kids and adults alike. The Center is beautifully designed, with well thought-out rotating and permanent exhibits. (The current special exhibit Grossology looks deliciously intriguing!)

From now until January 31st, ECHO is running a You Give, We Give promotion where the Center will match every purchased membership with a free membership given to a needy Vermont family. Learn more and check it out here.

What could possibly feel better than 2-for-1 geeky gifts?