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Author Topic: PC255: The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock  (Read 8733 times)

Talia

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on: April 10, 2013, 12:30:39 PM
PodCastle 255: The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock

by Pamela Rentz.

Read by Ada Milenkovic Brown.

Originally appeared in her collection Red Tape: Stories from Indian Country.

Violet Spinks checked her to-do list for the ceremony: canoe, plants, medicine cap, trails. List-making might not be traditional, but no one would blame her for needing a brain prompt. She set the list in her medicine book and picked up the TV remote. She clicked through the channels and stopped when she spotted a young man with a torso like polished bronze. He shook out a bundle of black rubber cables and attached them to a shiny disk. The camera zoomed in on his brawny arms and legs as they worked the cables with the disk spinning in the middle. He looked like he wrestled a spider. A notice on the screen said three easy payments of $14.99 plus tax and shipping.

Rated PG.

Special thanks to Tina Connolly – our Guest Editor and Host this week! Her own podcast is Toasted Cake.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 02, 2013, 12:11:06 PM by Talia »



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #1 on: April 12, 2013, 12:54:59 AM
I'm sorry to say this really didn't do anything for me.

The story itself was in the "ok, I guess" category. The parallel between the medicine woman's encounters with the spirits and modern medical bureaucracy was mildly amusing, but a bit labored (and depressing if you think about it too much). I realize the importance of having an authentic native voice, and as a character sketch it's fine; I'd just like to have more "there" there.

And then there was the narration. It was a little obvious as well. At first I wondered if it was the author reading her work, and perhaps not as polished as some of the other narrators at Escape Artists.

I would prefer to be constructive in my criticism. I would advise listening to stories read by Wilson Fowlie (a gold standard for narration at Escape Artists). He almost never raises his voice unless the story demands it, yet he manages to invest the required emotion in almost everything he does. He does not sound like he's trying to reach the people in the back of the room. I think that was my problem with the narration - it sounded like a recording of someone doing a reading for a public space, a large room, and not reading to a microphone for a more intimate playback.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 03:46:49 AM by InfiniteMonkey »



Brynn

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Reply #2 on: April 12, 2013, 02:24:37 AM
I agree with InfiniteMonkey. The narration lacked subtlety, which I think the story needed. And technically there seemed to be something too loud about the audio.

I did enjoy the idea that there was a spiritual health plan... But maybe it wasn't enough to weave an engaging story around.



chemistryguy

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Reply #3 on: April 12, 2013, 11:51:39 AM
On board with Monkey and Brynn.  I imagined the narrator was going for a native american cadence, but the reading was very broken and distracting.

Quote
and depressing

She's totally digging the crappy aluminum(?) boat at the end.  What is that saying?  I guess one could be positive and look at it adopting new methods when technology provides them, but  I (pessimist-at-large) choose to view it as abandoning century old traditions and joining the bureaucratic machine.

It doesn't help that our insurance rates just got jacked up by 35% this week.


Listener

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Reply #4 on: April 12, 2013, 12:07:39 PM
I could only make it through the first three or four minutes of the narration before I had to skip ahead to the outro. The narration felt like the reader was reading to a much younger age group than the intended audience. I didn't hear enough of the story to make an informed comment upon it for that reason.

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Frungi

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Reply #5 on: April 14, 2013, 01:55:50 AM
What Listener said, except I listened all the way through. Or well, I let it play all the way through; I’m afraid I had trouble actually listening and following the story, and kept getting distracted by the fact that it sounded like it was being read to children.



TheDandyLion

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Reply #6 on: April 17, 2013, 02:11:23 AM
Well, there is nothing more that I can add that hasn't been said. I found the story to be underwhelming. I did think that the reader did a good job of portraying an obnoxious old woman, I'm just not sure that's a good thing.



Cutter McKay

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Reply #7 on: April 17, 2013, 02:39:55 PM
I could only make it through the first three or four minutes of the narration before I had to skip ahead to the outro. The narration felt like the reader was reading to a much younger age group than the intended audience. I didn't hear enough of the story to make an informed comment upon it for that reason.

Same. Two minutes in, I couldn't take the narration anymore. It was slow, choppy, and emphasized in all the wrong places. Honestly, I've never dropped a story because of the reading before, but I just didn't have the patience for this one. :-\

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AliceNred

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Reply #8 on: April 17, 2013, 03:59:29 PM
I tend to like stories about Native Americans. I like how the old ways are met with the new.

I didn't care for the reading. She seems like a nice person, someone I would like to know, but it was overlay loud. She got better, as she relaxed. It's a little odd that I didn't think reading was that strong, because I liked the tone of her voice. I'm still going to check out Toasted Cake.

I liked the story. I thought the world was well-defined and the characters weren't flat. What I didn't like is how so many sentences started with pronouns. It seemed repetitive. To me the ending could have a little stronger. With that said, I look forward to acquiring her collection.




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DKT

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Reply #9 on: April 17, 2013, 04:40:29 PM
I didn't care for the reading. She seems like a nice person, someone I would like to know, but it was overlay loud. She got better, as she relaxed. It's a little odd that I didn't think reading was that strong, because I liked the tone of her voice. I'm still going to check out Toasted Cake.

Oh, FWIW, Toasted Cake primarily features Tina's readings (who hosted this episode, but did not read this story). So even if you didn't care for the reading this week, I'd highly recommend checking out Toasted Cake.


danooli

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Reply #10 on: April 17, 2013, 06:16:56 PM
I liked the story. I thought the world was well-defined and the characters weren't flat. What I didn't like is how so many sentences started with pronouns. It seemed repetitive. To me the ending could have a little stronger. With that said, I look forward to acquiring her collection.




This sums up my feelings nicely.



Doctor Thump

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Reply #11 on: April 17, 2013, 07:57:28 PM
While I would also agree with the comments about the reading, the idea behind the story interested me.  What would we do if our 'gods' suddenly adopted a 'modern medicine' approach.  While the idea was interesting, it wasn't carried through well.  After the interaction with the gatekeeper, which left you thinking that nothing would be done, she does have a vision about Luther's back and the ceremony begins to go okay.  This leaves me wondering if:  1) the old gods reasserted themselves?, 2) the new system did work - just with delays, or 3) none of the above.  I figured we'd get some conclusion, but I was really dissatisfied b/c the story just stopped without seemingly wrapping up anything.  Was the 'new system' in place to stay?  Had something happened to allow the main character to bypass it?  What happened?  With the abrupt ending, nothing was concluded. 

The story was set-up, there was a 'new process' in place, and then nothing was resolved.  Unsatisfied with the ending....most definitely...

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MacArthurBug

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Reply #12 on: April 18, 2013, 09:38:12 AM
There were moments of this story I LOVED. Overall it felt lacking something. The narration was fine, if a little "Oh wow, reading for the big boys is scary!"

I wanted to like this story more then I did, but it was good for filling a drive out to the nearby town to pick up new shoes.

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Lionman

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Reply #13 on: April 18, 2013, 10:20:24 AM
I thought our reader for this story just knocked the inflection and tone right out of the park with this one! Excellent job!  It certainly improved the way this story flowed.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #14 on: April 18, 2013, 10:43:48 AM
Just dropping in to post a comment on the narration.
I don't think she was going for any specific culture, I just think she's used to reading to  four-year-olds, and that's just how she reads stories. I didn't last even a full minute, but that's my issue, not hers.

I'll come back once I've read the story.

Also, Tina, it's awesome hearing your voice on this 'cast.

EDIT: Um... there's no text up on the site. I mean, there is, but it's just the first paragraph...
« Last Edit: April 18, 2013, 10:46:13 AM by Max e^{i pi} »

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Talia

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Reply #15 on: April 18, 2013, 01:08:23 PM
Just dropping in to post a comment on the narration.
I don't think she was going for any specific culture, I just think she's used to reading to  four-year-olds, and that's just how she reads stories. I didn't last even a full minute, but that's my issue, not hers.

I'll come back once I've read the story.

Also, Tina, it's awesome hearing your voice on this 'cast.

EDIT: Um... there's no text up on the site. I mean, there is, but it's just the first paragraph...

Disclaimer: I haven't listened to this episode yet so I don't know what was said, but PodCastle never puts the full text of stories up on the main site. We sometimes link to a page when an online text version of a story is available, but that doesn't appear to be the case with this story, at least not that I can find.



Devoted135

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Reply #16 on: April 18, 2013, 01:47:22 PM
Somehow this story got wrapped up in my mind with a recent This American Life story here that detailed how a Native American tribe in California is slowly kicking out many of its members based on lots of bureaucratic red tape. It was an interesting juxtaposition, and I think added some life to a fantasy story that was otherwise lacking somehow.

I think it's an idea worth the telling, but it was hard enough connecting to the medicine woman (she seemed to be simultaneously about 65 and 250 years old), and there was no connection at all with the other characters. I think that if the various requests of the tribe members had all been parsed into one or two that we explored deeply, it might have been more impactful for me.



danooli

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Reply #17 on: April 18, 2013, 03:40:32 PM
I find myself worrying about the 2 missing kitty cats.



lisavilisa

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Reply #18 on: April 18, 2013, 03:54:52 PM
I feel like I would like the book this takes place in. I love most native american lit I read. Often it has some of the best magial realism you can find this side of Mexico. Yet just hearing one story from a book where all the stories where woven together feels more like I got a sample rather than a story. I loved the style and narration, but I just wanted something more to go a long with the overall plot.



DKT

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Reply #19 on: April 18, 2013, 04:09:29 PM
Somehow this story got wrapped up in my mind with a recent This American Life story here that detailed how a Native American tribe in California is slowly kicking out many of its members based on lots of bureaucratic red tape.


Ohhhhhhhhhh. Haven't managed to hear this one yet (actually - somehow - way behind in TAL listening). Thanks!


chemistryguy

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Reply #20 on: April 18, 2013, 06:09:00 PM
Somehow this story got wrapped up in my mind with a recent This American Life story here that detailed how a Native American tribe in California is slowly kicking out many of its members based on lots of bureaucratic red tape.


Ohhhhhhhhhh. Haven't managed to hear this one yet (actually - somehow - way behind in TAL listening). Thanks!

I worked for a few years in an Indian run casino and got whiffs of things done to keep per caps up.  This tale of a culture extinguishing itself was just plain depressing.


DKT

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Reply #21 on: April 18, 2013, 06:21:31 PM
Uh, the TAL tale? Or the PC one? 


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #22 on: April 19, 2013, 12:26:03 AM

I don't think she was going for any specific culture, I just think she's used to reading to  four-year-olds, and that's just how she reads stories. I didn't last even a full minute, but that's my issue, not hers.


I agree with you that this was culturally unspecific, but having heard a lot of people who read at cons, I stand by my belief that this is someone used to reading for a roomful of people rather than specifically children.



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Reply #23 on: April 19, 2013, 03:51:51 PM
There were a lot of small things that kind of bugged me about the story, ranging from the sort of uncreative direct port of HMO procedures to gods.  I would have been more interested if it had changed a bit more instead of just find-and-replacing "doctor" with "spirit" and "receptionist" with "gatekeeper."  What does it mean to have a bureaucratic organization to the spirit world?  Who decided to make the change and why? 

Between my lack of enthusiasm at the unmetaphorical metaphor, the reading (which I shan't belabor save to note that I agree it was suboptimal), and the uninspiring ending (the story presents a problem, poses a solution, says "No, that won't work," then does it anyway), this one was kind of a whiff for me.  I didn't actively dislike it, but it didn't excite me much.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #24 on: April 19, 2013, 06:21:52 PM
Quote
Uh, the TAL tale? Or the PC one? 

Well, both were depressing, but TAL, being real was more soul-crushingly so.