Helen Keller and Me

Two years ago today, I launched this blog. Today is also Helen Keller’s birthday, so Helen Keller and I have at least one thing in common. In honor of the anniversary of Helen Keller’s birth and this blog, here is an encore of my second blog entry (posted two years ago tomorrow):

Happy Birthday Helen Keller: June 27, 1880

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Photo courtesy of the American Foundation for the Blind Helen Keller Archives

Above is a 1955 black and white photograph of Helen Keller, on her 75th birthday, assisted by Polly Thomson (secretary and companion) serving birthday cake.

In this black and white photograph, two older women stand shoulder to shoulder behind a lace covered table. On the table is a three-tiered cake decorated with icing flowers and swags and a single small slender lit candle. A stack of small plates with dark patterned rims sits to the left of the cake.

The woman on the left, Helen Keller, is a few inches taller than the woman on the right. Her face is cast slightly downwards. Her eyes are open yet her gaze is not fixed upon anything within the picture frame. Her is mouth opened in a smile. Helen’s dark wavy hair is parted on the left and pulled back from her face. Short waves of whiter hair flanking the part frame her face. Her light-colored damask, short-sleeved dress has a V-shaped neckline that is both wide and deep. It covers her shoulders and dips down to just above her breasts. She wears a triple strand of round white pearls around the base of her neck. Her right arm, bent at the elbow, reaches forward slightly as the broad bladed cake knife in her right hand poises between icing flowers atop the cake, its tip just behind the lone birthday candle. The knife obscures the writing on the far side of the candle but two words, one above the other, are visible on the near side: Birthday Helen.

The woman on the right, Polly Thomson, is wearing a darker dress of the same style and similar fabric except for the sleeves on which are fuller and pouf out at the banded cuff just above the elbow. Her hair is darker than Helen’s and is also worn in waves pulled off the face and parted on the left. With her chin tucked in, Polly’s head tips down toward the cake. Her downcast eyes direct our attention to the cake and the four hands of the women.

Both of Polly’s arms are held in towards her body and are bent at the elbows. Her right arm crosses in front of Helen’s left arm, seen just between the two women’s bodies and below Polly’s right elbow. Polly’s right hand reaches across Helen’s waist as she holds, her fingers gently grasping, the top of Helen’s right hand as Helen cuts the cake. Polly’s lower left arm crosses her body as she loosely holds Helen’s left hand in hers.

The touching right hands and forearms of the women create a V shape at Helen’s waistline, above and to the left of the cake. Their touching left hands and forearms create a smaller V shape, echoing the first, at Polly’s waistline. The down-turned heads and points of the V that are created by the hands direct our attention to the cake.

In the background on the left, behind Helen’s right shoulder, is a candle in a wall sconce. To the right of the sconce, we see the top left corner of the narrow black frame of a picture or document, the glare from the flash bulb obscuring its contents. In the lower left, below Helen’s right elbow the upper left of the dark wooden frame of a shield-backed chair is seen. Between the women and behind Polly on the right, are indistinct dark shadowy shapes resulting from the photographer’s flash.

Google Doodle Celebrates Seiichi Miyake

As you probably know, Google highlights all sorts of interesting things with the artwork known as the Google Doodle at the top of their search page. Today’s animation (seen below) celebrates Seiichi Miyake, the Japanese inventor of the Tenji block — those blocks that have raised bars and bumps and create detectable warnings on the sidewalk, train platforms, etc. When you click on the animation, you are taken to a page that has stories from all over about Seiichi Miyake and his bumpy Tenji blocks.

Here is a description of today’s doodle:

A grey curb runs diagonally from the upper left corner to the center of the wide rectangular picture frame. A small area of dark grey, almost black, street with part of a white bar from a striped crosswalk is visible in the lower left corner of the image. On the other side of the curb are two rows of square yellow paving blocks with raised bumps. Beyond these pavers is a dark grey sidewalk. The grid of the sidewalk is interrupted a path of more yellow paving blocks. These yellow blocks have raised bars and are perpendicular to the swath of blocks with the bumps along the curb. The white ball and red tip of a white cane appears in the upper right corner of the image. As the cane sweeps from left to right, it is followed by a pair of feet wearing black sneakers with rounded white capped toes and laces. The feet, at the bottom of jeans-clad legs, approach the intersection of the blocks with the raised bars and the blocks with the raised dots. The cane continues to sweep back and forth as it points to the blue, red, ochre, and green letters that spell “GOOGLE” along the curb-side edge of the dotted blocks. As the feet meet and stop at the intersection of the blocks, the tip of the cane comes rest between their toes.

“All About Descriptive Audio”

Last month, I had the opportunity to join co-hosts Marlene Brisk, Elizabeth Clark on and fellow guests Shirley Roberts and Chuck Adkins on “Morning Exchange” on VOICEcorps radio to discuss audio description. The show, which originally aired on September 28th, is now available to listen to on demand. No subscription is necessary to stream live or on demand audio.

If you are not familiar with VOICEcorps, you should check out their website. It’s a great resource for anyone with low or no vision.

Audio Description on “Morning Exchange”

Tune in tomorrow morning (September 28th) to the Voicecorps show “Morning Exchange” where I and two other guests will be discussing audio description from both provider and consumer points of view.  Whether you are curious about audio description or already a fan, this show is for you!  If you do not have a radio or are not in the central Ohio area, you can listen online at https://online.voicecorps.org/listen.m3u. The show runs from 11 AM until noon.

Description of a Crested Porcupine

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A black and white photograph of a crested porcupine against a white background.

The porcupine is seen head-on. Its small, lowered, V-shaped head is framed by its circular torso that is supported by its two stocky, short front legs. The legs are directly below the head and are close together with a small square of light between them.  There are four digits upon each foot. The porcupine’s long black and white quills bristle out and upward from its circular torso, past its forelegs, like the bristles of  a half-round hairbrush.  The quills are as long as the porcupine is tall.  Each quill is banded in stripes of black and white. Long white quills stand up along the top of its head. The rest of its torso is covered by short dark bristles.

The dark figure of the porcupine stands out vividly from the stark white background. The only shadow is a short black line between the bottoms of its two front paws. The long black and white needle-like quills create a staccato halo upon its back.

Follow-up to “A ‘Dog-umentary’”

Important update regarding the date for this film:

I was just on the Gateway Film Center’s site and the date for the film has changed.  The day and time are Tuesday, September 25 at 2:00 PM.  

In my last post about the upcoming film “Pick of the Litter”, I said that details about access for non-iOS users would be available on the Gateway Film Center’s website last week.  When I checked over the weekend, I saw that it had not been added although the film is listed in upcoming events.  Anyway, I called the theatre to double check on what would be available with regard to audio description for non-iOS users or anyone who doesn’t wish to use the Actiview app.  The woman I spoke with told me that anyone desiring audio description should ask for the equipment at the ticket center, where it is available at no additional cost.  The receivers fit in the cup holders on the arm of the theatre seats.  You will be required to leave your ID at the ticket desk until you return the equipment.

So to recap:  “Pick of the Litter”, an award-winning documentary that follows five Labrador puppies born in the Guide Dogs for the Blind breeding program from birth through their training to become guide dogs will be at the Gateway Film Center on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 2:00 PM. Audio description is available for download for iOS users on the Actiview app.   The theatre also will be providing  in-theatre audio description,  just request the equipment at the ticket center.   At the time I originally wrote this entry, the time was not listed on the website and the date was different so check You might want to check back at the Gateway Film Center’s website for the day and time before heading over there for the movie.

 

Information about the film itself, including trailers with audio description, is available at the Guide Dogs for the Blind website.

See you at the movies!

Happy Birthday, Louis Braille!

On this day two hundred and eight years ago Louis Braille, the man responsible for devising the system that bears his name of six dots to a cell for each letter of the alphabet, was born in a small village in France. But did you know that he was only a teenager when he did this groundbreaking work? The link below is to a half hour audio described and captioned docudrama video about Louis Braille:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFyY7u95nxw

When I Grow Up

This past winter, I had the opportunity to design a touch tour and write verbal descriptions for an exhibit featuring the work of Ohio artist James Mellick.  Here is one of his more lighthearted dog sculptures.

Wooden sculpture of a little dog with very tall skinny legs.
When I Grow Up                     James Mellick jamesmellick.com

When I Grow Up, 2007

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 This abstract sculpture of a very small dog on very tall legs stands about 4’ high. The body looks like a breadbox on stilts. The four legs rise up as four separate elements and are joined by a rectangular mid-section of two pieces with a wide gap running horizontally along its side. The legs are slender and elongated with knees and elbows about a third of the way up from the floor. The muscles, tendons and joints in the legs are subtly indicated by the gentle swelling of the stick-like limbs that then flare out at the thighs and shoulders. They appear to have been stretched as if they were elastic. The four pad-like paws with their carved front toes standing squarely on the ground seem large given the thinness of the legs.  Behind each of the front legs, the dewclaws are represented by teardrop form attached at to the limb at its upper tapered neck and the globule hanging in high relief.

Two large bat-like ears resembling large pasta shells growing up from the back edges of the head mounted at the front end of the boxy body. The brow sits well below the ears. The muzzle tapers toward the blunt rectangular nose. The mouth is a narrow downward slit toward the bottom of the muzzle.

Rear view of a wooden sculpture of a very small dog on very tall skinny legs.
When I Grow Up  (rear view)  James  Mellick

At the other end, a long thin tail curls down and around the rump, between the hind legs, where it then arcs downward beneath the middle of the torso.

The shapes are very simplified and there is minimal detail. The surface is smooth and polished with a soft sheen.

 

A Piece Of History

Close up color photograph of a tall narrow vase on display in a gallery.
Wood-fired stoneware vase by Dick Cooter of Cooter Pottery.

 

This tall narrow vase stands 16” high and is 5” wide.  The body or lower portion is a little over half the height of the vase.  At the shoulder of the vase, just below the slightly tapered base of the neck, is a strip of clay that joins the neck to the cylindrical body.  It protrudes from the body like an uneven collar.  The bottom of this strip has a rough edge that appears to have been torn.   lug or knob has been pulled from this strip on either side. They stick out like little fingertips.  The tops of these lugs have a small depression as if made by a thumb pressing down while the clay was wet.  Two more lugs with holes in them are also on either side near the top of the neck, below the rim of the mouth. Uneven in size, the one on the right is a little bit longer than the one on the left.  They stick out like two small rectangular ears.

This vase is like a recording.  The depressions on the tops of the lugs at the shoulders, the rings banding the body and the neck, the splitting and cracking where the upper lugs and shoulder collar are attached, and the unevenness of the walls – they way they bow in and bulge outward – are all a record of the artist’s hands and the nature of clay.  The color of the vase is smoky and streaky with flares of lustrous coppery reds, greys and blacks as well as the surface textures that range from glossy to matte, smooth to rough are all reflective of the wood-firing process.

This vase is part of the audio described touch tour for the exhibit “For the Table” at the Ohio Crafts Museum.

 

Ginkgo Candelabra Set

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Ginkgo Candelabra Set by Matthew and Karine Maynard of Maynard Studios, Inc.

Above is a photograph of one of the pieces included in the audio described touch tours I recently did at the Ohio Crafts Museum for the Best of 2017 exhibit last month.  This was one of the pieces we had permission to touch.  The complete description, as given in the tour, is below:

Ginkgo Candelabra Set

Hand forged; mild steel land silicon bronze with walnut support base

Karine & Matthew Maynard

Lawrenceburg, KY

The artist’s words:

The Ginkgo tree has survived since the time of the dinosaurs and its leaves are beautiful in their grace and shape. This piece celebrates light and time by using the Ginkgo as a design motif and as a symbol of life.

This set consists of three pieces: a long, horizontal candelabrum that measures almost three feet wide and 14” high and two tall symmetrical candelabra that measure 12.5” wide and 40” high. All three pieces are 5.5” deep.

The low wide candelabrum sits on the front of the open display stand and is flanked by the two tall candelabra immediately behind. All three of the pieces consist of sinuous ribbons and tendrils of dull grey metal that swirl and curl around a more static form. On the long low piece, the form around which the tendrils travel is a thick arching vine or branch that rises from the far left and touches down several inches short of the far right edge where it curves gently upwards. Growing from the long the shoots that stem from the main arching vine are gold fan-shaped ginkgo leaves. They have a central vein and lightly scalloped arched tops. Their stems echo the left to right flow of the viny growth. Five small grey candle cups rest on five golden drip pans, like handle-less teacups on saucers, at varying heights along the length of the candelabrum.

The two tall candelabra are mirror images of each other so what is on the right side of one will be on the left side of the other. They each consist of a single straight rod-like element that is 40” high, the last 8” of which rise above a tangle of swirling tendrils. These tall forms begin as flattened triangular forms emerging from the base of the candelabrum, less than 1/2” thick. As they rise, the apex of the triangle is stretched upwards and the shape grows thinner and rounder until it becomes a slender rod topped by a candle cup and drip pan. Two more candle cups and drip pans perch on tendrils emerging from the twining growth: one to the outside of the tall rod several inches above the base and the other to the inside of that central rod, about halfway to the top. A few ginkgo leaves sprout from a curved shoot to the inside of the lowest candle cup. As in the low horizontal candelabrum, the main components are dark grey with antique gold accents in the ginkgo leaves and saucer.

All three pieces rest upon low walnut bases. The warm tones of the wood echo the warm notes of the gold accents. The gold saucers and leaves have a grayish patina so that the contrast between the two metals is muted. The metal itself has a hammered texture, tangible evidence of the artists’ tools.