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PLAGUE DOCTORS

During the centuries of Bubonic Plague in Europe, “plague doctors”, if you could call them that, wore bird-like masks stuffed with herbs. Camphor. Lavender. Peppermint. They had no idea what a bacterium was or what was causing people to die so suddenly and swiftly, but they thought their masks and cloaks might help.

Most people believed the Plague was God’s wrath, visited upon the sinful, which led to the Flagellants—troupes of young men who marched through towns, whipping their bare backs to bloodiness with flails—who hoped that by mortifying their flesh, God would spare their lives.

People in modern times still do this as part of religious devotional ceremonies.

In America, in the scientific age, we now know about bacteria and viruses. We can thank a Dutch scientist named van Leeuwenhoek who, in 1674, first observed microorganisms under his early microscope, thanks to Da Vinci’s discovery of magnification earlier in 1508.

It wasn’t until Edward Jenner, an English scientist who in 1796 discovered that smallpox could be prevented by introducing cowpox virus—a lesser cousin of smallpox– into the skin, that vaccination was born.  He’d noticed that milk maids, who spent time with cows and commonly developed cowpox, seldom got smallpox. He theorized that cowpox exposure charged the immune system against its more deadly relative, and slowly, the notion of vaccination took hold in the West.

“Variolation” – introducing smallpox pus itself into the skin – was an old practice among the Ottomans and other cultures, by the way.  European royalty practiced it, too. The problem was, it killed 10% of subjects, but still offered better odds than full-blown smallpox. At Valley Forge, George Washington ordered all his troops to undergo variolation. It just might have saved the American Revolution, just before his army crossed the Delaware and routed the sleeping Hessians at Trenton. You can read a compelling account of this in Kathryn Goodwin Tone’s THE KINGS BROAD ARROW, a young adult novel.

 

 

Dr. Jenner, however, believed in his cowpox vaccine. Scratch yourself with cowpox, wait three months, then scratch yourself with smallpox. No smallpox symptoms appear.

I’m not sure how much of this history modern anti-vaxxers know. I really doubt that the miniaturization of killer microchips has arrived at the level of sophistication where any of these Covid vaccines incorporates them. To what end? To switch off billions of people with the flick of a switch? Why not just let the plague run rampant and kill us off by itself? Besides, there’s a worldwide chip shortage these days. And those are just the regular-sized ones.

Covid is a result of peering into what should be a forbidden area of inquiry–gain of function in viruses and their weaponization—and represents human hubris at its worst.

Sure, in war bullets can indeed be useful, but not if you shoot yourself in the foot with them.

 

 

 

 

 

A Mad Scramble

It was a mad scramble. In an email, two weeks out from Sept. 9, Professor Walsh, Chair of Classics at Loyola, wrote that campus conditions were “vexing.” He warned we might have to go with Zoom again due to sudden Delta variant rules. I already had my Southwest Airlines ticket. As always, I’d stay with my sister Lindsay outside Baltimore, drive to town the night of the show, perform the tale, and then go out to dinner with the profs.

For fifteen years I’d done this in September. I’d pack my 12-string and tell either The Odyssey or the Iliad: Book I for two hundred Classics and Honors students in a big performance space. 70-minute storytellings. Either psychodrama or high adventure.

But now there was an indoor mask mandate on campus, even if vaccinated. How could I perform with a mask on? That was patently impossible and so I wrote Professor Joe Walsh back with the suggestion that for the second year in a row, against our frustrated wishes, we could always Zoom from my studio in New Hampshire. I work with a brilliant digital engineer named Gavin Bodkin, who has helped his dad move online since the pandemic began. Yes, Gav was available to produce. Joe Walsh agreed. My Zoom studio on the third floor had sat unused during a summer of live shows.

The mad scramble began.

I tightened the twelve fresh strings on my Taylor from the floppy looseness I’d planned on for safe flying. I strung it up to the open tuning I use for The Odyssey. Gavin produced the Zoom invitation to be sent to the students from faculty. Five nice people from Loyola suddenly became involved and we exchanged a blizzard of emails. I provided an Odyssey logo.

And then I heard Martha was back from sabbatical and that she’d be the one to introduce me. Professor Martha Taylor is, I guess, now that she’s back, the Chair of Classics once again. It was she who, fifteen years ago, established the annual tradition of inviting me to perform to kick off each fall semester. It might be over Zoom, but it would be great to see her again after her two sabbatical years.

I started rehearsing the Odyssey musical score and on a drive to my son Jon’s house to return a pair of sandals I’d inadvertently swiped at a party there, I ran the movie of the story in my mind. Troy. The beach at Ismaros. The Lotus Eaters. The Cyclops. After a half hour out, and a half hour back, the story was rehearsed and ready.

Bless his heart, Gavin arrived at 4:30 for the 7 pm show, rested for an hour, and then we climbed the two flights of stairs to the studio. A jet black backdrop, a wooden chair, a quiet little fan, tried and true lighting, and the camera mounted in place two feet away from me. Last spring I conducted performances and full day residencies for elementary kids from that chair. I doubted I’d ever be back. The pandemic was over, right? Wrong, as we all now know.

By 6:35 Gavin was in his headphones watching the computer, seeing who was in the waiting room. Joe showed up on my screen and we talked until Martha, too, appeared. We chatted, lamented our lost profs’ dinner, and got ready for the show. More and more students were signing on.

Telling my version of The Odyssey is like entering a dream. The music is constant, and lofts the words and sounds along. Once it begins inside the Trojan Horse, it doesn’t end until the Cyclops is blinded, and Odysseus escapes with what’s left of his crew. During such shows, I lose all sense of time and awareness of my body. All that I’m aware of is my fingers running the frets of the guitar, and how the music is blending with the imagery. The characters all know what to say. Sometimes they surprise me, and say things I’ve never heard before.

This version ended up seventy-five minutes. Then came the questions. Suddenly, faces appeared in group mode on Zoom. Here were all these young people who’d just watched the show with me on full screen, only I could see them now. Groups of five or six on a couch, with masks on. Some alone in their dorm rooms. Hands went up. The questions? How did I memorize all that? Is the music all planned out? We went on for another fifteen minutes. They were enthusiastic and very nice.

I’m old. They’re young. Still, it worked.

Of course, the story is imagined, not memorized, and the music, like jazz, is spontaneous, moment to moment.

Even Martha loved it. She sent me a post-show email inviting me back for year sixteen.

So it looks as if until this plague really does end, I’m Zooming again.

 

https://www.oddsbodkin.net/educational-programs/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Back-to-School Storytelling Motherlode

The Back-to-School Storytelling Motherlode is Odds Bodkin’s MASTER DRIVE.

Buy it, plug it in, and share these mp3 albums with your young children, elementary and middle and high school students, and you, the adults. All 19 albums are age-coded. There’s even Odds Bodkin’s The Water Mage’s Daughter, a 550-page epic poem for literate readers.

These award-winning storytelling albums include live acoustic music, character voices and stunning vocal sound effects, some with virtuoso whistling here and there. It’s all real.

100% natural storytelling. Classics as well, like The Odyssey, Hercules, David and Goliath and Beowulf.

Grow your family’s imaginations and knowledge with the Back-to-School Motherlode–

Odds Bodkin’s MASTER DRIVE.

The Ultimate Back to School Storytelling Collection: Give Your Child the Imaginative Edge

Got a kid in kindergarten? You’ll want this. Got an elementary age child? You’ll want this. Are you yourself someone who values high-quality adult storytelling? You’ll probably want this, too.

Odds Bodkin’s EPIC DRIVE, a collection of 19 full-length storytelling albums. The New York Times calls him “a consummate storyteller.”

The Evergreens: Gentle Tales of Nature for the youngest of listeners.

The Odyssey: An Epic Telling, a fabulous introduction to Homer’s world (when you order the drive, we’ll include a free autographed Odyssey Adventure Map of the Mediterranean Sea that tracks Odysseus’ journey): great for 5th graders on up.

 

The Little Proto Trilogy, three musical dinosaur tales the entire family will enjoy. Parents’ Choice award-winners.

And much more. Paul Bunyan tales. Funny Folktales. Fairy Tales. Beowulf. Hercules. On and on.

Just plug in the drive and drag the mp3 files onto your computer, then share them with your family. And you can share the drive with others, too.

An award-winning treasure trove of musical tales, filled with unforgettable characters.

THE EPIC DRIVE.

Give your child the imaginative edge.

 

Odds Bodkin’s Live and Zoom Shows Now Booking for Fall 2021 and Winter 2022

Odds Bodkin’s Live and Zoom Shows for Are Now Booking for Fall 2021 and Winter 2022!

Fully vaccinated and delighted to be back performing for live audiences, storyteller and musician Odds Bodkin is now booking live assembly performances for K-12 schools in New England and beyond. Plus a host of other incredible offerings for adult audiences. All shows are also available on Zoom.

Last year, Loyola University Maryland opted for their annual Iliad/Odyssey performance via Zoom, and 200 Classics and Honors students tuned in. That was Odds’ 13th annual September show for Loyola. But this year, he’ll be flying down in person with his 12-string guitar to regale his college audience once again. That’s 14 years in a row!

Special thanks to Gavin Bodkin, Odds’ son, for building a Zoom studio for his dad and engineering a host of appearances during the pandemic. Full day GOLDEN RULE residences for elementary schools in Merrimack, NH, complete with custom workshops, were completed to rave reviews (watch video). A Halloween show of Dark Tales of the Supernatural for Syracuse University. An Odyssey: Belly of the Beast performance for Old Greenwich School in Connecticut. An adult concert for a Long Island library. All took place on Zoom.

But now Odds is back live with his 12-string guitars, Celtic harp and other instruments. He’s ready to travel once again.

What is he offering?

 

GOLDEN RULE: World Stories About Empathy for K-2 and 3-6

FAIRY FOLKS AND OLD OAKS: Two Long Fairy Tales told with voices and 12-string guitars

DARK TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL adult scary concerts for Halloween

DANIKA THE ROSE: A Blend of Dvorak’s Moravian Duets with an original Odds Bodkin fairy tale performed with sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer, available for concerts nationwide (the next show is for The Groton School on Jan. 9, 2022!)

THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST, THE ILIAD: BOOK I, HEARTPOUNDERS: ADULT HALLOWEEN HORROR TALES, BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE, ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS and FALL OF THE TITANS for universities and high schools

STORYBLAST! Family concerts for libraries, churches and museums are also available.

Be sure to check out the storyteller’s amazing family recordings at Odds’ Shop!

 

 

 

 

 

11 Days Left in MASTER DRIVE Sale! Ends July 30th!

11 days remain in Odds Bodkin’s MASTER DRIVE sale at the storyteller’s online shop.

Get $50 off the price of his MASTER DRIVE this July. This flash drive features his complete audio stories, his epic poem The Water Mage’s Daughter (550 pages pdf), a live performance video plus original musical compositions.

Just plug it in and distribute the stories to your family’s devices! All mp3 audios.

 

Regular price: $199.95. Now $149.95!

Perfect for Family Travel!

 

Age-Coded Stories Include:

The Adventures of Little Proto (audio)

Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure (audio)

Little Proto and the Volcano’s Fire (audio)

The Teacup Fairy: Very Old Tales for Very Young Children (audio)

The Evergreens: Gentle Tales of Nature (audio)

With Twinkle in your Eye: Funny Folktales from Everywhere (audio)

Rip Roarin’ Paul Bunyan Tales (audio)

The Winter Cherries: Holiday Tales from Around the World (audio)

The Blossom Tree: Tales from the Far East (audio)

The Wise Little Girl: Tales of the Feminine (audio)

Earthstone: The Eco-Musical (2 hour audio)

The Odyssey: An Epic Telling (4 hour audio)

Giant’s Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure (audio)

Hidden Grail: Sir Percival and the Fisher King (90 minute audio)

Stories of Love (audio)

David and Goliath: The Harper and the King (audio)

The Myth of Hercules (audio)

 

Plus Rare Works:

Beowulf: The Only One (live audio recording)

The Iliad: Book I (50-minute video)

The Water Mage’s Daughter: a 13,000-line epic poem. (PDF e-book)

 

Plus Odds Bodkin’s Original Musical Compositions on Acoustic Instruments and Kurzweil synthesizer:

Rapunzel’s Window

At Beauty’s Door

Black Irish

Soft-Hearted Men in the Good Old USA

Little Paws

Christmas Morning

The Great Irish Elk

 

Order yours today!

$50 Off Odds Bodkin’s Master Drive (Complete Works)

Master Storyteller, Musician and Epic Poet Odds Bodkin offers you $50 off the price of his MASTER DRIVE this July. This flash drive features his complete audio stories, his epic poem (550 pages pdf), a live performance video plus original musical compositions.

Regular price: $199.95. Now $149.95!

Perfect for Family Travel!

 

Age-Coded Stories Include:

The Adventures of Little Proto (audio)

Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure (audio)

Little Proto and the Volcano’s Fire (audio)

The Teacup Fairy: Very Old Tales for Very Young Children (audio)

The Evergreens: Gentle Tales of Nature (audio)

With Twinkle in your Eye: Funny Folktales from Everywhere (audio)

Rip Roarin’ Paul Bunyan Tales (audio)

The Winter Cherries: Holiday Tales from Around the World (audio)

The Blossom Tree: Tales from the Far East (audio)

The Wise Little Girl: Tales of the Feminine (audio)

Earthstone: The Eco-Musical (2 hour audio)

The Odyssey: An Epic Telling (4 hour audio)

Giant’s Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure (audio)

Hidden Grail: Sir Percival and the Fisher King (90 minute audio)

Stories of Love (audio)

David and Goliath: The Harper and the King (audio)

The Myth of Hercules (audio)

 

Plus Rare Works:

Beowulf: The Only One (live audio recording)

The Iliad: Book I (50-minute video)

The Water Mage’s Daughter: a 13,000-line epic poem. (PDF e-book)

 

Plus Odds Bodkin’s Original Musical Compositions on Acoustic Instruments and Kurzweil synthesizer:

Rapunzel’s Window

At Beauty’s Door

Black Irish

Soft-Hearted Men in the Good Old USA

Little Paws

Christmas Morning

The Great Irish Elk

 

Order yours today!

Odds Bodkin’s THE ODYSSEY 4-hour storytelling audio on sale for two weeks! Usually $49.95, now $34.95!

Usually $49.95, you can now grab Odds Bodkin’s classic telling of Homer’s Odyssey for $34.95! Download all 42 episodes today! This sale lasts two weeks, until June 21, 2021!

From the Belly of the Trojan Horse to the Return to Ithaca ten years later, go inside the mind of Odysseus, the original epic hero of Greek mythology. This classic tale is over 4 hours long and great for vacation car travel. Kids love it, and listen intently. Includes a full musical score on 12-string guitar and Celtic harp.

Winner of the Oppenheim Platinum Award for Best Vacation Product.

CLASSICAL SONGS EXPLODE INSIDE AN ADVENTURE ON MAY 23RD

Classical songs explode inside an adventure this coming Sunday, May 23rd at 3 pm EST when Odds Bodkin joins musicians live onstage in Philadelphia to perform the broadcast premiere of DANIKA THE ROSE. Get your livestream tickets here and tune in for this groundbreaking new performance work. As Sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer sing Dvorak’s beloved Moravian Duets in Czech, pianist Jonathan Ware wraps them both in music while Odds tells his original story in English and Brett Ashley Robinson plays the girl Danika. It’s a vivid, exciting and hauntingly artful display of virtuosity on many fronts. Don’t miss it!

Akin to Peter and the Wolf, only for adults, DANIKA THE ROSE tells the tale of a girl haunted by her beauty and the two men who violently compete for her affections, all set in a duchy along the Danube long ago. Hunting dogs, telepathic deer, storms of mayflies, deep fried eagles and talking dream birds add to the otherworldly nature of this adult fairy tale.

Tickets begin at $15. The live audience is sold out, but you can watch it from the comfort of home!

This concert is sponsored by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and takes place on the stage of the American Philosophical Society next to Independence Hall.

Danika the Rose

Sunday, May 23rd at 3 pm EST

Live on the Web

 

 

THE WIND AND THE SUN: A Free Story for Young Kids with Odds Bodkin

THE WIND AND THE SUN: A Free Story for Young Kids with Odds Bodkin

As I explain to children, a fable is a very short story that weighs a lot. Here’s THE WIND AND THE SUN, one of my favorite Aesop’s fables. This version was captured over Zoom last month before an audience of PreK-1st Graders. As you’ll see, I speak more slowly than usual.

To learn more, visit: https://www.oddsbodkin.net/educational-programs/

THROUGH A TEACHER’S EYES: Odds Bodkin’s Zoom Storytellings for Schools/Watch Video

THROUGH A TEACHER’S EYES: Odds Bodkin’s Zoom Storytellings for Schools work well for 2021.

I’d just finished a long day on Zoom visiting a school full of 5th and 6th graders. Beginning with an hour-long show, GOLDEN RULE II–three fun and absorbing musical stories filled with conversation points about kindness and empathy–I followed up with six workshops. Laura Piccolo, the school’s Language Arts Coordinator, had sent me a list of topics she wanted covered. She’d even requested a workshop about how music enhances emotions in stories.

Here’s a video of our conversation that afternoon.

With the pandemic easing, not only am I always available via Zoom for schools, but I’ve decided to journey forth into the world again to do live shows.

Her school also purchased an EPIC DRIVE for its library–a collection of all my audio stories.

 

as well as copies of THE CRANE WIFE, one of my children’s picture books.

It was a full arts and literary experience for her school.

Visit https://www.oddsbodkin.net/educational-programs/ to learn how you can bring such a program to your or your child’s school.

 

Odds Bodkin’s DANIKA THE ROSE Livestreams May 23rd! Two Great Singers, A Renowned Pianist, An Up And Coming Actor and A Versatile Storyteller Together on Stage

A Total Cast of Five

Joined by sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer, with Brett Ashley Robinson playing Danika and Jonathan Ware playing Dvorak on the piano, author Odds Bodkin performs his newest spoken-word story with music, live onstage in Philadelphia.

A blend of classical singing and live storytelling

Similar to Peter and the Wolf, the show features narrations deepened by what inspired the story itself: Dvorak’s Moravian Duets. These twenty-three songs, gloriously sung by MacNeil and Shafer, tell a tale of love and war mixed with jealousy, pride and privilege. Maximilian is the Duke; Danika is the stunningly beautiful peasant girl from the village who becomes his obsession; and Dano is the gamekeeper she loves. Elements of magical realism—ghost birds who speak and stags that fight like an army—add a supernatural magic to this new stage work.

Enjoy the broadcast debut Sunday, May 23rd at 3 pm EST. Six cameras will video livestream the performance! Get your tickets today!

Presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

DANIKA THE ROSE

May 23, 2021 at 3 pm EST on LIveStream

Starring Jazimina MacNeil, Sarah Shafer, Brett Ashely Robinson and Odds Bodkin. Music by Jonathan Ware.