This weekend in Brooklyn: Sound summer camp for badass young ladies!

Teen girls with headphones and microphones

When I took the Bushwick Daily assignment to write about SoundGirls.org’s Live Sound Camps for Girls, I thought it would be cool. Music, Brooklyn, empowering teenage girls—what’s not to like?

Well, I was right! There was nothing not to like about writing this story.

The end!

SoundGirls.org logo

No, no—of course there is more. But it’s the good kind of more!

It turned out that in addition to getting acquainted with an awesome nonprofit that connects female sound engineers the world over, hearing wonderful stories about girls learning to rock intimidating audio gear, and bookmarking the knowledge of this traveling summer camp program for the next time I meet a cool teenage girl, I also got to spend half an hour talking with the woman who’s been Pearl Jam’s sound engineer for the last 25 years: SoundGirls.org’s executive director and co-founder, Karrie Keyes!

I will pause to mention that, while I do enjoy me some classic Pearl Jam, I was even more stoked and awed to learn that Karrie has also worked with Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young, and did a 10-year stint as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ monitor engineer.

Waynes World not worthy

ANYWAY, what Karrie’s doing with SoundGirls.org is just as cool as all that, of course. Check it out, and if you know an NYC-area teenage girl who’d appreciate the chance to get her audio on this weekend, do spread the word!

Deconstructing guns with Of Note magazine & artist Jessica Fenlon

“Gun violence is a women’s issue,” begins editorial director Grace Aneiza Ali’s introduction to the latest issue of her magazine Of Note. Grace goes on to explain that while ‘gun culture’ in America is dominated by men, it’s women who bear the brunt of gun violence:

  • Every 16 hours, an American woman is fatally shot by a current or former intimate partner.
  • 80% of people shot to death by their intimate partners in the U.S. each year are women.
  • Women are 16 times more likely to die by guns in the U.S. than in any other developed country.

Yet the silence and stigmas that blanket most of our country’s gender inequalities continue to hamper efforts to combat the gun violence that hurts women most.

Of Note magazine cover with gun image

“The 10 multidisciplinary women artists in Of Note‘s ‘The Gun Issue’ engage the gun as an art object in their artistic practices,” Grace continues. “In doing so, they confront the infiltration of guns in our day-to-day lives.”

It would be tough to think of a more vital and urgent topic to write or read about. Couple that with the fact that I have long been a huge fan of Grace’s, and you can imagine my excitement when she asked if I would interview one of those 10 artists and contribute a story to Of Note‘s Gun Issue.

While I would have been eager to speak with any of them (you can see they’re all spectacular), I wound up feeling especially lucky to have been paired with Jessica Fenlon, a brave, articulate, and intuitive poet and visual artist, currently based in Milwaukee. Jessica uses a process she calls “glitch sabotage” to visually break images of guns in an effort to neutralize their danger. As she said it:

“There’s a feeling of power, of control, in that moment of, ‘Here’s this thing that kills all these people, and I’m just going to break a bunch of them!’”

Jessica went on to say a lot more interesting things as we talked—but please don’t take my word for it. If you’re interested in art, guns, women, technology, reading, thinking, and/or Pittsburgh, I hope you’ll check the story out when you have time for a sit-down read. Extra credit if you drop me a line to let me know what you thought.

Pleasant surprise: My favorite interview gets the royal weirdo treatment!

One of the coolest things about freelancing (and about life on earth) is that you never know what’ll happen next. Sometimes, you can go through days or weeks without anything much unpredictable taking place. But sometimes, you walk out of an event at Carnegie Hall and go to get your bike and there’s a plastic cup of wine sitting on your bike seat.

Plastic cup of wine on a bike seat

True story.

Or sometimes, you wake up and there’s a nice email in your inbox that says, “Hi, April. I came across your Medium story and would love to republish it on our site pionic.org. What do you think?”

What did I think? I believe my exact thoughts were: “Cool!” followed by, “What is Pionic.org?”

If you’re a Luddite who lives under a rock (like me), you might not have heard of Pionic, either, but it turns out it’s a pretty cool website that posts stories with names like, “Can There Be a Theory of Everything?” and “Squirrels Have Long Memory For Problem Solving.” I’m glad to have joined their club.

The Secret Lives of Vinyl Hoarders pionic story headline

You can check out my favorite interview given new life on Pionic right here. (I mean it’s my favorite interview that I’ve done. Of the ones I haven’t done, this 1995 New York magazine article that features a vaguely interview-like conversation between Martha Stewart and David Letterman might be my favorite.)

Poll: Without the talking seal with a Boston accent, is the NEAQ still worthwhile?

My husband hails (more or less) from the Boston area, and told me some time ago about Hoover the Talking Seal, once a fixture at the New England Aquarium. Though we were 30+ years too late to catch him on our recent visit there (d’oh!), I was still tickled to imagine the salty guy toddling and lounging around the same pools we we were now walking past, imploring visitors to “Get outta here!” or simply asking “How are ya?” with his famous Beantown inflection.

Sad though we were, the bodacious anemones, giant leopard-spotted ray (housed in a tank where you could reach in and touch it if it got close enough!), and mesmerizing schools of small, speeding silver fish did help to fill the Hoover-shaped hole in our gawking consciousnesses.

What say you? Are you too crestfallen by Hoover’s absence to enjoy a day at the aquarium without him? Or might you also be able to find sufficient joy in the cauliflower-like jellyfish, leg-diameter pythons, and tiny bopping spiky-haired penguins? No judgment either way.

Al Franken: Another person I don’t know, but like

Al Franken Giant of the Senate book cover

It’s funny that we say things such as, “Ooh, I like that Joan Cusack!” or, “Ugh—I can’t stand Shingy!” when we don’t actually know these people. At all.

Joan Cusack SRSLY gif

Srsly! I like you.

Well, I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but I myself have definitely said both of the above things, verbatim. It’s the vibes these people project, I guess, even from a screen. It’s the way we see them emote, the work they choose to do, the few and possibly decontextualized things we hear them say. Still, I realize that expressing these sketchily formed opinions, while it can make for easy conversational fodder with our friends (and foes), is kind of… dumb.

Nonetheless, I found myself issuing another hastily wrought impression of a celebrity recently, when I chanced to see Senator Al Franken discuss his new book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. I suppose I’d always had a basically positive impression of the man, though I never really followed Saturday Night Live, or Minnesota politics. But hearing Franken wax eloquent about the basic decency of Democratic values, the intractable Antonin Scalia, and the tough political row to hoe we all now have before us did genuinely endear me to him, though we’ve never so much as made eye contact.

Thanks for a fun and enlightening time, Senator! I now like you almost as much as Brooke Gladstone.

Brooke Gladstone WNYC knit hats project

OMG—remember when Brooke personally crocheted a bunch of hats as thank-you gifts to WNYC donors?! *swoon*

“I don’t want my education to make me just another educated person…

Drawing of a woman in black pants

I want to use it to help people.”

Thus spake one of the stellar Sarah Lawrence College students and recent graduates I spoke with for a feature called “Crafting Careers” in the spring issue of the college’s magazine.

Drawings of college students

A winning cohort!

Other highlights include the basketball MVP who volunteered with a domestic violence-combatting nonprofit; the human resources analyst who started college as a poet, then got into film and TV writing before finding his career groove in HR; and the unlikely management advisor who landed her gig by recalling what she’d learned in college psychology classes.

Read more about these fabulous young people who are making their mark in a host of industries, and restore some of your faith in humanity!

PLASTARC: Shifting workplace metrics from ‘square feet and inches’ to ‘occupant satisfaction and performance’

Five senses icons

I’m no doctor, but I know a worthwhile mission when I read it.

For the past nearly-year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with PLASTARC, a social research, workplace innovation, and corporate real estate strategy firm, on many of their communications. PLASTARC was founded by the inimitable Melissa Marsh, who’s dedicated her career to making workplaces work better for people.

Dr. Nancy Mroczek singing, by Paul Taggart

Dr. Nancy Mroczek: No relation to PLASTARC (that I’m aware of), but I shoehorned in a tangential connection below

Recently, PLASTARC began archiving their newsletters on their website (always a great idea, in my book), and I have to say I was impressed when I had a flip through them. Yes, I did have a lot to do with writing them, but that’s not the only reason! The ideas they grew from are all PLASTARC, and all interesting, whether or not you’re an architect, HR manager, or real estate nerd. Here’s a sampling of topics and tidbits:

  • Multisensory design: “Heeding multiple dimensions of sensory experience both complicates and enables the task of designing human-centric spaces; it opens exciting opportunities for leveraging workplace design strategies in increasingly nuanced ways.”
  • Activity based working: “The social-centric economic structures of Europe have brought us many fresh workplace ideas, including the German-born Bürolandschaft concept, which intended to bring more organic desk groupings and elements of privacy to assembly line-style open offices with identical desks—but instead wound up spawning the now dreaded cubicle.”
  • Workplace community management: “We’re constantly learning from coworking, where the best community managers often hail from backgrounds in education, political science, and even community organizing.”
  • Smart buildings: “PLASTARC sees this moment as the beginning of a golden age in which technology enables building design to focus almost exclusively on serving and sustaining human experience.”
  • The social data era: “Soon, we’ll be able to understand as much about the demand for work environments and architectural features as we do right now about the demand for products in a grocery store. With these unique skills and methods, we are moving from analysis to prediction of both the desirability and utility of space.”

Dang, that’s enough brain food for a week of lunch breaks! Thanks, PLASTARC.

If you’re hungry for more thought leadership on the future of workplace, subscribe to their newsletter and await the next knowledge drop. This month’s topic: SCIENCE.

2,000 miles of driving, 26 feet of truck, & uncountable marionettes: Mom’s miraculous move to Brooklyn

My mom had thought about moving back to Brooklyn, New York (from whence she came in the 1940s) from her adopted home of Colorado for many years. But when the time finally came to load up a big, bad Penske truck and drive it the 2,000 miles over here, my husband and I noticed something.

She hadn’t packed. At all.

Man and woman standing in moving truck

Arthur & Mom share a “ruh roh” moment in the Penske

As we walked around the large house she’d owned for almost 40 years, the house we’d budgeted about two days to liquidate before starting our drive, our thoughts were roughly split between, “Whaaaa?” and “How in god’s name are we going to do this?”

I chalk my mom’s lack of prep work up to a few things: not having moved in decades and forgetting how long it takes; deciding to take the relocation plunge on relatively short notice; and having struck an agreement with the buyer of her property that she didn’t have to leave it empty. Still, it was something of a jaw-dropper.

Fortuitously for us, my best bud from junior high, pictured above (who served as Gay of Honor at our wedding last fall), has orchestrated a few large-scale events in his time, and knew exactly how to pack a moving truck to perfection. Equally wonderfully, my mom was decisive about what she wanted to keep and what could stay behind, and my amazing huzz shuttled furniture and boxes to and fro for two straight days with a smile on his face.

After I’d snapped photos of my childhood home from every angle I could imagine, and taken one last soda-buying trip to the 7-11 behind our house (site of untold quarters spent on video games and untold numbers of dental cavities brought about by its bountiful, cursed pouches of Big League Chew), we were all loaded up and ready to go—a whole half day ahead of schedule!

Man screaming as woman drives moving truck

Mom takes the wheel

Farm silos from a car on the highway

The great Midwest

The week that followed, as I look back on it now, was a blur of $100 diesel fuel tabs, nights spent on midwest relatives’ couch beds, and the seemingly innumerable marionettes that hang from the ceiling of Rudy’s Tacos in Waterloo, Iowa. In other words: an ideal vacation.

Now it’s back to work (which I love), fixing up our house (which is fun), and teaching my mom how to use her new smartphone (which is… gratifying, at times). But a little piece of me will remain back at Cubby’s Convenience in Gothenberg, Nebraska, reflecting on our miraculous, once-in-a-lifetime road trip over a burning hot basket of fried something.

Colorful bunny shaped Easter treats

Bye for now, road bunnies

“…as i hit the gas and crash it through a store front window.”

So goes the last half of the last sentence of what is so far my favorite vignette in the very great Rick Berlin’s newish book, The Paragraphs.

Musician Rick Berlin at the Midway Cafe Boston March 2014

Rick at the Midway Cafe, March 2014

I’ve known Rick since my college days in Boston, and have had the joy of seeing many of his live performances, attending the first Jamaica Plain Music Festival (which he helps to organize), and writing about him a few times. I also once convinced the doorman in his old Piano Factory apartment building to let me sleep in the basement when I didn’t have anywhere else to go! Yes, Rick and I go way back.

Over the years, I’ve been the lucky recipient of much correspondence from Rick—both of the personal and email blast varieties. His fearless writing (as I was stoked to be quoted as saying in the opening pages of The Paragraphs) is vital and disarming, and it makes me so happy to know that some of it has finally been anthologized.

Read more about Rick in this awesome Boston Globe article from last month (written by the also great Joan Anderman, @middlemojo) and git your copy from Jamaica Plain’s own Cutlass Press. It’s a great companion on the subway, while waiting for the doc to see you, and in bed at night, when it’s the last thing on your mind before you fall asleep.