Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Four TV things

Sparkle Johnson


24: Live Another Day



I cannot muster the interest for the World Cup. I haven't climbed aboard Neil deGrasse Tyson's weird little spaceship, though I longed to co-pilot the original Cosmos one along side Carl Sagan who would, on the outer stretches of the mind's glorious imagination, tell me he is my real father and ask me if I want to get wicked high. I didn't even watch all of The Wire though I know, I know...  I don't care that much about TV. I'd just as soon watch Star Trek than anything.

But I love 24. It is stupid, predictable, jingoistic. It relies on it structural conceit the way a dozing lummox does a straining hammock frame. It is essentially a giant phone ad. I love every president-personally-involving, about-to-gouge-out-your-eye-if-you-don't -tell-me-who-you-are-working-with moment. Ponk pink ponk pink goes the beat of my heart. I'm sorry.

The thing I love about this ninth season/reboot is that Jack Bauer, the unflappable stress sponge that has saved countless American hides in real time for almost a decade, is fed up. Democracy has failed him time and again. He doesn't even flinch when the government is out to arrest him one second and then he's on the phone with the president the next.  By the way, William Devane with his Alzheimer's and his Wilford Brimleyist public speaking style is the most believable president on the series.

Jack won me over this season after torturing a sympathetic terrorist a little too much as he forced doctors to waker her from a coma so he could do so, and his partner witnessed a man gone too far. Jack, for the first time, recoiled at himself and apologized, saying, "I shouldn't have done that. It's just that I hate these people." That is a great apology! Insufficient, like all apologies, but still, an honest one.

Jack is a savior, a torture spy Jesus, forever arisen from the cave. He is Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," killing people he once saved. I love it when a noble soul has had it.

Plus, Chloe is a goth now! The only thing that would have been hotter is if Agent Scully had gone goth.

The Leftovers



I'm only two episodes into HBO's latest contribution to the rapture noir genre, and truthfully, I don't yet care about any of the characters, but then, like, God didn't care about them either. 2% of the world upped and disappeared in an instant. You even got the "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned" gag, with a car plummeting driverless into trash cans as a handful of people yelled for so-and-so who just vanished.

It's great that only 2% left. Just enough to jack with the social order but not dismantle it. People join a guilt cult where you have to wear white and be silent. My wife astutely pointed out that it is the same cult John Lithgow joins in The World According to Garp. I keep hoping to see him lumbering around in the background. Otherwise, people work for insurance companies and coffee shops just like in pre-God-forsaken now.

The slight shift that the remaining 98% needed to make to get along is jarring, which is the beauty of the show. Our deal is so fragile, yet we can survive and mutate to anything. We have a much harder time living with ourselves than we do any level of adversity.

I remember right after Hurricane Gustav walking through the fallen trees in my powerless streets to Calandro's, the neighborhood supermarket, which was weirdly open. There was no power, just battery lights and people making cash purchases for whatever there was to have. I asked if there was a cold Coke in the place and Misti the cashier said, "There's Cokes, but they ain't cold."

A weary panic was in the air there, a semblance of going about one's day against a wave of futility. Lights were flickering and everyone was sweating and worn to a nub. I thought then, I bet the rapture will be like this. Not a wholesale desolation like Hurricane Katrina, but a system-wide bummer like Gustav. It kinda is, on HBO anyway.

I love it when Justin Theroux breaks the toaster at the station because he believes the rapture has taken his bagel. A vengeful god indeed!

Superjail (season 4)



This is all getting to heavy. I'm on a Beckett kick again and maybe that is informing this gloom fetish. Superjail is not part of that. It is a dense, hypnogogic, lurid eye massage. I'm a little chagrinned that they have dispensed with the opening song, what with the new version of it before every episode, but that is a small price to pay for the Bosch-like mayhem this show creates.

Sparkle Johnson commercials for Hotel Furniture Liquidators in New Orleans.


Lamps everywhere!

New Orleans TV has always played host to great lo-fi local ads. Every person of a certain age who grew up in their broadcast area knows by heart the addresses of Seafood City and Rosenberg's.

Add Sparkle Johnson to that pantheon, shilling for Hotel Furniture Liquidators.

I had a discussion on Facebook - where I saw this - about whether Sparkle was in blackface (unsure; I can't tell if the Google Image search for "Sparkle Johnson" tells the story or not. I think the white guy in the photos is a different Sparkle Johnson.) and whether it was covered by the transformation clauses of drag (possibly).  It's a send up of bounce, which is in itself a send-up of hip-hop, masculinity, femininity, urban fetishism and a bunch of things. And is a real thing unto itself. Where do you get sent with the send-up of a send-up? Does the real thing get lost? Isn't that what the web kind of is now? Either way, I'm riveted. I wonder if it works and if so, for whom? Are hipsters flocking there? Wouldn't they already be? So many questions does Sparkle pose.

New Orleanian culturalistas tend to be wildly protective of appropriation/misunderstanding of what's "theirs" so I wonder how this fits in. I wonder if this is like a bounce Moebius strip of referentiality. I'm not sure if this is offensive or in bad taste. I like it when I'm not sure how to feel about something I'm presented. I usually say that is when I'm in the presence of true art.

This one is weirder.


CHAIRS! Apply directly to your butt!  It's also got a great finish.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Night-blooming cereus

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If the slideshow doesn't work for you, please click here to see it.

I feel like I've been waiting for months for the night-blooming cereus on our patio to bloom, like the wait for good news or a baby or a unicorn or sea creature to come into the frame of your camera set up in the wilderness. Its freakish glory lasts for a single night, once a year, if at all, and then it goes dormant. One wants to get poetic about it, like

Mine - by the Right of the White Election!

BY EMILY DICKINSON
Mine - by the Right of the White Election!
Mine - by the Royal Seal!
Mine - by the sign in the Scarlet prison -
Bars - cannot conceal!

Mine - here - in Vision - and in Veto!
Mine - by the Grave's Repeal -
Titled - Confirmed -
Delirious Charter!
Mine - long as Ages steal!

or to suss out whatever Walt Whitman said about white flowers and as usual, Whitman has the best attitude.

You must not know too much or be too precise about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.

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Shot with a Canon PowerShot SX using the flashlight from the iPhone 5 for lighting. Magic provided by flowers.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rooster died and the "just keep writing" blues

mulatto bend 8

The fine folks at LSU Press had me expand on life and death and Slim Harpo's grave over on their blog. That is actually Ophelia Jackson's grave in the same graveyard as Slim's. We didn't have band practice last night so I went to a session of the Baton Rouge Adult Music club and we played "Ophelia," as it happens. Then we played the Band's version of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" from Jericho, which I've never heard, somehow.



I'm not as up on the Band as I should be, I guess, but they are such a mortar to the bricks of the music I love. I figure I'll hear it all by the time the second coming of Ophelia occurs.



I'm into my 78s a lot, priming the pump for the "just keep writing" blues that I am currently experiencing. This one sounds fantastic, maybe even because of the worn spot at the center. I suspect that can be said about anything with a worn spot at the center.

I'm reading a bunch of Flannery O'Connor, which will give anyone the blues about his or her own writing.
The Violent Bear it AwayThe Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'ConnorMy rating: 4 of 5 stars
Something in me feels scorched having just finished THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY. Or, perhaps it is the wound this wild novel opened has been cauterized.

It's the perfect book for the ardent heathen like myself to have my possibly empty spiritual foundation shaken by the biblical odyssey of a reluctant prophet, slinking with futility against his destiny. It's also a great melodrama for the parent of a newly sulking teenager whose life is being ruined by said parent. Flannery O'Connor's rhythms, her nests of ness-es - madness, fullness, weakness, emptiness - seethe and writhe like serpents.

Fairly certain Cormac McCarthy lifted his backbeat from O'Connor, doubtless the scholars of Southern Lit and confirm or deny this, but really, who could blame him? I want to set the woods on fire right now. Everyone does, maybe. The characters and climax are five-star, but I got a little lost in its middle thicket, and not in the way I want to get lost in a novel. It was hard to tell who the real main character was, who was really who, but I suspect this is more of an existential construct on the part of the author than a failing. Whatever it was, it was hard going and it was beautiful.

Also, in a fit of reading things I've never actually read, I read Death of a Salesman.

Death of a SalesmanDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerMy rating: 5 of 5 stars
I made a crack about "Death of a Salesman" the other day on Facebook and realized that I'd never actually read it. It was one of those books I only knew from the wake it left in the waters. This is one of the those great works that still challenges the world to understand and accept its universal meaning, a spectacular avant-grade meta-statement about the anti-nature of modern (then and now) times. That little tube on the heater, the panic in Willy Loman's emotional oscillations - perhaps not the best book to read when one is considering a career change unless if it's read as a warning fable. Willy pursues an uncatchable dream and ends up clawing the ground in the dark.

One thing that doesn't get mentioned is how vivid the scene directions are. Flute music represents the characters in a house that is permeable with the environment, just as the timeline folds back on itself in a strangling loop.
You kind of want Willy to succeed at failing after all that failing to succeed and yet you get left empty for it.Willy's successful brother Ben cements a dream in the salesman's withering mind with "The jungle is dark but full of diamonds." That would only work if the diamonds lit up and showed you the way.
It made me want to design a dark, glowing stage layout in PhotoShop, which is something I imagine Arthur Miller never really had in mind as the desired effect for his writing. We don't get to decide the effects of what we do.



Here is a song the band is working up into a resounding rocker. I played it at a singer-songwriter meetup at the library the other day. It's kinda my favorite: a monolithic downer with a little glimmer in the dark.



Speaking of, our band has been pulled into the fold surrounding Henry Turner Jr.'s Listening Room and the compatriots there and its a sweet group of people doin' their thing. Thing is, Rooster died. He was a wild, old longhair that looked and carried on like what you'd picture a guy named Rooster looking like and carrying on. Like most wild people, he was a really nice guy in the brief time I've known him. He lived across the river and didn't have a car, but he had a canoe and a bicycle and he'd row the Mississippi to ride across town to hang out with the fold and then at night, row back.

Before you start on the "bad idea" route about canoeing across the river at night, with the barges and the undertow and all, he heard it already and got across the way he could. There are plenty of bad ideas that govern our lives and even our untimely ends, but they don't define us. The fact that we get across however we do is what defines us and to that, I salute you, Rooster.




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

100 words on the new Jasper Johns paintings


Slideshow as presented in "A Lens Catches; a Painter Converts" in the March 21, 2014 issue of the New York Times. Click on the painting if it's acting funny.

Jasper Johns went from painting things everyone knows to those no one does at a pace so slow he could watch the change of centuries whizz by, so slow I thought my favorite painter might have already been dead and how his art is so successful that the artist disappears completely into the image. That’s gotta feel good for a guy whose ties to existence seem tenuous.


White Flag, 1955
Jasper Johns (American, born 1930)
Encaustic, oil, newsprint, and charcoal on canvas; 78 5/16 x 120 3/4 in. (198.9 x 306.7 cm)

Also, the paintings, “Regrets,” bear giant M’s, which led to “Me and Eddie Vedder” by the Rugburns and. by extension, what would happen if Johns did his target/flag treatment on a pot leaf?


The Rugburns, "Me and Eddie Vedder"

Monday, May 26, 2014

100 words on Mad Men and oak trees

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Last night’s Mad Men with Burt watching the moon landing under a big Jackson Pollock with his maid,

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the same moon landing that my father held me up to the TV to at only a few months old, a holding I swore until I knew better that I remembered being held,

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got me thinking about the big paintings,

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squinting through the oak trees that limb/limn their way across my whole life, sometimes even falling through my roof like a loosened astronaut

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 or Don Draper falling off that office building already, what with all the balcony shots all the time.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Rakers!

louisiana party

Hey! My band, The Rakers, is playing at the Old Ferry Landing in glorious Port Allen this evening at around 7! Come rock with us!

Here is where the Old Ferry Landing is.



Also, I've neglected to put our EP up on the old blog landing, so here that is as well!

 

We are also on the Facebook, if you roll that way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Haircut




My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"They lay a whole lot stiller than live customers," said Whitey the barber to an unknown person trying to get a haircut in Ring Lardner's story, "Haircut." He was talking about how he doesn't mind shaving a person's face in preparation for a funeral. It's one of a thousand things this barber says about the town, the people in it, and the world that formed it.

Ring Lardner was a favorite of my old friend Terry Kennedy who left us a few years back, and I read this story on or about the anniversary of its passing. I suspect this one stuck out with Terry because his home town of Cartersville, Ga. is mentioned in the first sentence, but ultimately, it resonated because of the basic qualities of resonance. This breathless, 10-page explosion of detail from the barber is the life Terry sought and found in people, and was such an explosion himself. I miss that guy and am glad that he exploded enough things into the world like reading suggestions so that tremors of his having passed through are forever around.

View all my reviews

Here is Terry with a haircut. I never knew him when he looked like this. He was always a wooly old cuss when I knew him.  I wrote this about him for the paper when he passed. Salut!

terry