Monday, April 14, 2014

black moons and scorched earths

The evening's blood moon, as predicted by CNN. It is too rainy and cloudy to take it in here.

As that goes on in the heavens, I'm blogging about depressing books and weird movies!

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've had a lifetime of throwing "Kafkaesque" around without ever actually reading any and The Metamorphosis surprised me in a lot of ways. It was much funnier than I was led to believe, much sharper and strikingly less contemplative than I'd thought.

It also just wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I wanted to squash Gregor Samsa sniveling under that couch long before his family did. He didn't seem all that likable as a person and maybe that's the point.

I suppose this book ushered in the European old-man-in-a-room fiction of which I am rather fond, so I should give it more props, but it doesn't hold a candle to the human roach motels Beckett and Krasznahorkai and Bolaño erect.

I wanted to like it more. I thought about reading The Trial after, wanting some deep seed for Kafka to flower in my dark heart, but I'll let him sit. Maybe a transformation will hit me one morning and I'll see its wisdom peeking out at me from the corner of the room.

Every Day is for the ThiefEvery Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This dystopic view of present-day Nigeria's infiltration by corruption is more haunting than any deep-world wound speculation. Everything is micro-corrupt, so much so that the corruptions are corrupted and there is no way for the humans living in this vision of Lagos to make it except to succumb to it, let it course through their veins like clouded blood.

Reading a book like this is like sitting on the roof of your house watching locusts swarm on the horizon. Their presence is terrifying in the distance, happening to someone else, so much so that you can't think about it when they get to your door.

Black MoonBlack Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a stirring piece of perfect literary sci-fi: a straight, relatable, apocalyptic plot (everyone has chronic insomnia except for a few people), an excellent panoply of viewpoints daisy chained like the dreamless dreamworlds they inhabit, the meek heroes inheriting the shot-to-hell earth. Completely loved it.

My favorite thing about it was how it came to a stumbling end, knotted up rather than neatly tied. Quick as a fever dream. Go read it!

And as it happens, I wandered midbook into the hallucination world of Louis Malle's 1975 film Black Moon (unrelated). Wrap your brain around the trailer:

and then, if you dare, let the whole thing overtake your withering consciousness. The war between the sexes cast as an actual war, French starlets breastfeeding old ladies, black moons and scorched earths. What's not to love? Watch the whole thing!

Louis Malle, Black Moon (1975)

I'm reading Cormac McCarthy's Outer Dark right now, so that should kick me right down the blackened well of the human spirit. Just look at this sentence at the end of the first chapter. Mesmerizing! It is like watching words turn into insects right before your eyes!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Let's talk about books!

Let's talk about books!

First of all, let's talk about this one.

I'm in it!

My interview with Ian MacKaye from the July/August 2008 issue of the Believer has been collected in Confidence or the Appearance of Confidence: The Best of the Believer Music Interviews.  I will be rubbing this fact in the face of everyone I know who knows what the Believer is.

I believe that is the higher purpose of being anthologized.

Order it here, or get the bundle and subscribe to this fine periodical.

I will say that Ian MacKaye was the third-nicest famous person I've ever interviewed. The second nicest: John Cage and nicest: John Waite. It was a close race.

Here is what I've been reading:

The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers.

This is 100% bandwagon-inspired by my infatuation with HBO's True Detective series, which is partially based on this otherwise obscure tome and this grisly actual case in Tangipahoa Parish.

I'm reading it on my cracked iPhone (for free from Project Gutenberg) as I fall into the netherworld of dreams every night, which seems to be the right way to read this.

The connection to the show seems largely superficial - Carcosa is a place and has a king - but the deal is, the book (within the book) drives people a little mad when they read it in each of Chamber's stories.

Everyone was on the edge of that anyway (like our detectives) and all they needed was a nudge. Probably like all of us.

I started this out thinking I've read a lot of books lately, what with our shiny new library and all, but really, I've just been checking out books.

Here are some books I checked out and didn't read.

The End of Love, by Marcus Giralt Torrente

Actually, I can't even come up with a list. So fleeting was my relationship with these books.

Also, I cannot finish the Morrissey autobiography. It's like eating too many bananas. Up to the saturation point, one is all about bananas, but too many - you are overcome with mush.

So, get my new anthology!

Or order one of my old books:

Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking For a Good Time In South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky Tonks and Dance Halls

Darkness, Racket and Twang: Essential Listening from the Fringes of Popular and Unpopular Culture

The First Annual Outsideleft Hardy Annual 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

like, do it

Dianna Wills, backup singer of Henry Turner Jr.'s band Flavor.  I went to Henry's new club for Country Roads magazine. You should check it out. The club, I mean. You can check out my article too.

Here is a quick clip.

Anyway, Ive been busy. My band, the Rakers, had our first out-of-town show

and I've been eating well.

Mostly, I've been teaching.

In fact, I updated this poor, neglected blog because I am doing a lecture in an hour about living a digital life, so I guess I should, like, do it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


An actual henge. 
Inner yard of Beaumaris Castle
Braced against the wind at Colwyn Bay.
That which covered the hedgerows and hillsides.
A view of the gardens at my sister-in-law's.
The view from the top of the hill.

Three Kenneth Anger films I hadn't seen

Demon brother, invoked.
Esquire has up a great long interview with my favorite experimental film-maker and goat-footed prince of the bon vivants, Kenneth Anger. You should go read it, and then watch Invocation of my Demon Brother, his best film, in my opinion.

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)

I thought I'd seen all his films, but here are three more that sprang up from the article.

Brush of Baphomet (2009)

This is a wade through details of murals painted by Aleister Crowley at his Abbey of Thelema in Sicily, where he and acolytes gained his reputation for excess. Using Morton Subotnik's Silver Apples on the Moon as its jarring soundtrack is a curious choice; it creates the orgiastic anxiety of Crowley's murals, but never relents. Unrelentingness is the great thing about Subotnik, but is rigor is scientific and mathematical; Crowley's (and Anger's) are intrinsically tied to the mysteries of the flesh.

Ich Will! (2008)

This mystic collage of Hitler Youth footage was mentioned in the Esquire piece.  It is long by Anger standards at 35 minutes (Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is longer by 3 minutes.) The blood sepia coloring and romantic Bruckner soundtrack add some sinew to the frolicky idylls of Aryan scamps. It culminates in a night rally with lines of soldiers bearing torches, marching in swastika formation. The presence of fireworks point back to one of his first films, Fireworks, where Anger was the youth being antagonized by the military. The torches echo Anger's career-wide cast of Lucifer as the Bringer of Light. What that light reveals is up to those casting shadows under it.

The Man We Want to Hang (2002)

Another love letter to Crowley's paintings, this calmer and more pastoral, lending the old monster a bit of cozy charm. You'd need charm to host the kind of orgies that would get you kicked out of the country by Mussolini. Maybe it's that Il Duce wasn't invited.

Friday, January 3, 2014


We first saw the top of the Eiffel Tower from street-level at the Arc de Triomphe, poking the tip over the rooftops and thought, that can't be it. It doesn't look like it. Then we saw the thing we've seen our whole lives.

Right up on it.
We were taking an open-top bus tour, the drivers of which were on strike though we noticed that our driver one day was a striker the other day, so how does that work? Basically it meant that there were people in bright jackets blowing whistles at the buses, letting us know where the stop was among the millions of people just like us, gawking at Paris' wonder.

Statue on the Pont Alexandre III, near the Grand Palais
Christmas decorations on Champs de Elysees
Plant shop near Notre Dame
Foyatier's Cincinnatus (1834) swingin' it in the Jardin des Tuileirs
Museum-wise, the Centre G. Pompidou and the Louvre were hit. So many things I've seen before but never seen up close. For instance, (left) Matisse's Figure decorative sur fond ornemental (1926)

has never personally had anywhere the impact on me that (right) Man Ray's Ingre's Violin (1924) has until I saw them in person. There, breathing the same air as stupid old me, Matisse crams the whole world of pleasures into a frame and sets it on fire, altering the atmosphere with its frgrance. Man Ray's photo looks like a cute tattoo idea.

The sunset view from the Pompidou escalators is maybe the most profound thing I saw there, starting at the rarefied heights and sinking to where the pipes come up from the ground. You want to hold your breath, like going through a tunnel.

Inside the pyramid at the Louvre
You know what's in the Louvre so I'll spare you except to say Mona and Venus are both very special, deserving the gravitational pull they possess. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

A thing I didn't expect to be as thrilling were Robert Wilson's video portraits of Lady Gaga installed throughout the museum.

I am already a big fan of Robert Wilson and I'll give Gaga her props, but I really did not expect that these pieces would hold up against the greatest of antiquity, and they do. This is actually a video. A crane flies by every once in a while and she closes her eyes and when she opens them, like you know she will, your heart stops like you just kissed someone you aren't supposed to.

We did Paris on a budget so we had to suffer the charms of the neighborhood boulangerie for nearly every meal.

I don't even know it's name but if you find yourself at the Best Western near the Arc de Triomphe,  turn right out the door and then left.
One evening the boulangerie was closed and I stumbled onto the quintessential Paris market street.

Like I said, magical. Paris lives up to every breathless statement made about it. It is crowded as an ant pile, but when you are the ant, you are only interested in the queen before you.

From the Centre G. Pompidou escalator

New Year's resolution dashed by missing Robot

I read this tweet

and thought, "Great idea for a resolution!" and then felt immediately disappointed in myself for making a resolution because they are foolish things and, even if I were to keep true to such a fire, I should resolve something more practical or useful. But here we are. I thought, "OK....Moldova! Go!"

Moldova is my favorite European country no American has ever heard of. A cursory search through their celebrated authors led me to a name I wish was my own.

An avant-garde poet from the 1930s and author of a single novel titled Music-hall, Robot was swept up in Soviet fervor during Romania's cessation into the Soviet Union. From a weirdly exhaustive Wikipedia article, the sole source of info on Mr. Robot:

This, Iurie Colesnic suggests, was "a conscious choice", and justified by Robot's belief that avant-garde poetry was well-appreciated by the Soviet administration (making him "the most obvious intellectual victim of Soviet propaganda").[3] 

No, Robot. No regime appreciates the avant-garde. That's what makes it avant-garde.

I was ready to jump head on in this resolution but the LSU Library shockingly in its 2 trillion books has nothing by Alexandru Robot, or even by his cooler secondary nom-de-plume Al. Robot. All I have is one of the little poem snippets plugged into the Wikipedia article, thus plugged here.

Şi luna care cată piciorul tău în iarbă,
Un fund amar de cupă întinde ca s-o soarbă,
Efebul care strânge metafore şi fluturi.[17]
And the moon, searching for your foot in the grass,
Presents for sipping the bitter bottom of a cup,
To the ephebe who gathers metaphors and butterflies.

Robot was still an ephebe ("young man") when in 1940 he had a row with the other Moldovan poet of note, the fascist leaning Ion Barbu (for which the library has a sole volume in Romanian.) All I'm saying is, Al. Robot vs. Ion Barbu is a great matchup of names. A year later, the Nazis occupied Bessarabia and Robot was on a refugee boat that sunk in the Black Sea. It is presumed by most who presume such that Robot drowned, though there are some reports he died in battle as a conscripted member of the Red Army.

All this is from Wikipedia, so take it as you will. I'll let Ol' Robot go as I will this resolution that led me here, but I'll raise a first workday coffee to our friend Robot and endeavor to gather metaphors and butterflies myself in this glorious new year.