Sunday, October 30, 2011

momentary smartypants


  • The Louisiana Book Festival was a rejuvenating hoot. It is the weekend when soggy, scrappy Baton Rouge transcends its reticence to airs to become a momentary smartypants village blessed with fantastic weather.

  • Mark Richard (below) let me be a pesky fanboy a number of times throughout the festival, which is very kind of him. His is a body of writing that is deserving of slobbery praise.


    I rode my bike claiming to offset all those paperback copies of my own book I'll be shilling out there next year. I like to pay it forward like that. My various editors in attendance all made me feel like a big shot even though I didn't have any product to push this time around.

  • A certain once Oprah book actual big shot kinda flipped out a little during his talk, going WHO'S TALKING? WHO IS TALKING?! And then stormed off the podium to chew out a security guard in the marbled echoey lobby of the State Capitol who was probably for the 1000th time that morning sweetly directing a visitor to where you can put your finger in the Huey Long bullet holes. I like this person's books and his whole talk was generally about feeling out of his league as a success, which I can get with, but man, the security guards at State Capitol have great stories and know how to tell them with a surplus of dignity. So, settle down. I walked out.

  • Not really because I am so sensitive to spectacle - my Saturday night of absinthe-and-roasted oyster-fueled holding of forth will establish my comfort with such. The green fairy and I make an unstoppable comedy duo.


    No, I split because Maya's band Black Diamond had their second live performance at St. Aloysius Fair, which is an excellent suburbanite counterpoint to the bookish types cavorting around Capitol grounds. While getting a round of corn dogs, the two dads manning the Red Bull stand were overheard saying, "Those Occupy Baton Rouge people oughta get out there after that." and the other was beside himself. "Occupy Baton Rouge! That is stupidest thi -" and collapsed into sputters. It really was stupidest thing he'd ever heard of. Protesting!


    I'm not offering this anecdote to make my fellow pinkos gasp; just to demonstrate the political baseline of the place and that our charms as a city come filtered through that kind of cheesecloth. I told someone that while New Orleans is taxonomically rooted in recreating Europe in the wilds of Ameriker, Baton Rouge is named for a bloody head on a stick.

  • Back on the chain gang of Sunday, we listened to Dolly Parton sing

    Gimme a word, gimme a sign
    Show me where to look
    And tell me what will I find


    and had grits and grillades and did the sorority row trick-or-treat. Maya went as Ziggy Stardust - technically Aladdin Sane if you are going to be like that, but nobody out there had every heard of David Bowie anyway, so we be whatever leper messiah we wish.


    Tomorrow night is the kick ass trick-or-treating in the rich people sector of our neighborhood. There's one lady that sets up a table where you get a WHOLE Snickers and a grab bag size bag of potato chips. I think they gave out whole Cokes one year, but some killjoy probably complained. Dude. A whole Snickers. A richness anyone can respect. That's why I love it here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

let's hope I didn't just jinx it

Mason jar ghosts at the haunted park own the street. More pics!

Cockney Rebel, The Psychomodo
Dwight Yoakam, If There Was a Way
Simon Joyner, Heaven's Gate
Tom Waits, Bad As Me 
(streaming at NPR)
Swearing at Motorists, More Songs from the Mellow Struggle
The Glands, The Glands
Mount Eerie, Song Islands Vol. 2

  • Ladies and gentlemen, Simon Joyner.

    Simon Joyner, "Prometheus",OK Hotel, Seattle, WA, July 23,2010
  • Now that you are all cheered up, the Louisiana Book Festival is this Saturday!  I'm not reading or paneling or even selling anything this year, but I'm nonetheless excited! Traditionally, it is prettiest day of the year, so let's hope I didn't just jinx it.
  • Also, my daughter's band Black Diamond is playing at the St. Aloysius Fair on Saturday at ~4pm!
  • You counteract a jinx by acknowledging one, right? Isn't that how the stock market works?
  • This took half-listening to half the song to get it, and I still am not sure I "get" it.

    The Microphones, "Get Off the Internet"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saccharine darkness

T. Rex, Bolan's Zip Gun
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, The Human Menagerie
Haruki Murakami, 1Q94
Lou Reed & Metallica, Lulu 
(streaming from their website)
Various Artists, Monster Ballads (from the album's website)
Tom Waits, Bad As Me (streaming at NPR)
England in 1819, Alma (forthcoming)

  • I've never heard of Cockney Rebel but they are my favorite band no one remembers now. And maybe didn't know then. Also, the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration Lulu is the greatest terrible idea in modern rock practice. Like the later T.Rex albums, Lulu is in places hypnotically annoying and that is the foundation of its greatness. Saccharine darkness, like a doctored iPhone shot of the clouded sunset over Whole Foods. More on that and Monster Ballads the new Tom Waits forthcoming.
  • I love writing for sweet ol' Country Roads magazine. I have two piece in the November issue: one where I convince my daughter to Cajun dance with me at Boutin's and discuss the Poche's mini-mart housed curiously within the restaurant.  Also, I let Nunu's mastermind George Marks do all  the talking on what's happening out in Arnaudville and beyond.

    Consider the booty jam is how I started my profile of Bobby Rush (playing VoodooFest on Saturday) in the November issue of  OffBeat. I could have probably just stopped after that sentence. Also I warble praise about Bergen's most melodious son Sondre Lerche, playing One Eyed Jacks on November 13.
  • I wanted to lose interest in 1Q94 by chapter 3 (of approx. one billion short chapters) just to free myself of the loose contract I have with this phonebook and no, I am totally suckered in. Like, I didn't see that coming and I felt like I did see what was coming and I only have 900+ pages to go.
  • When the morning was waking over the war He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died, The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide, He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor. Tell his street on its back he stopped a sun And the craters of his eyes grew springshots and fire When all the keys shot from the locks, and rang. Dig no more for the chains of his grey-haired heart. The heavenly ambulance drawn by a wound Assembling waits for the spade's ring on the cage. O keep his bones away from the common cart, The morning is flying on the wings of his age And a hundred storks perch on the sun's right hand. Dylan Thomas, "Among Those Killed in the Dawn Raid was a Man Aged a Hundred"
  • Happy what-would've-been-your-97th birthday, you old drunken bastard. I think we've covered all the bases here. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

horror vacui

You can't fear a vacuum filled with cheeseballs

Tuxedomoon, Soundtracks/Urban Leisure
Per Petterson, I Curse the River of Time
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
Tom Waits, Frank's Wild Years

  • I feel hungover without the benefit of a hanging.
  • I feel like 'writing something' is sitting right there in that kind of heavy plastic packaging that you end up using a steak knife to open. I just recently finished two big things so I should just let it shine inside the packaging a bit, let the want retain its integrity without spoiling it with the want for the want. But, I want to crack it open and play with it.
  • I feel alright; I don't mean this to come off glum. My friend Terry looked at one of my paintings and said I have horror vacui, a fear of empty spaces, that I want to fill it all up. That's why I check out 10 library books I'm not going to read and then trade it in for one massive one that, if history is a fortune teller, won't get read either. I'm okay with playing things out that way.
  • I feel vindicated! I just listened to Tom Waits' "Straight to the Top" for the first time in ages

    and there is a boxing match sound effect that came from an old sound effects record I once used in an audio piece back when I was a maker of audio pieces. I think Prince uses the same one in "Pop Life."  Funkadelic used some effects from that same record on "Wars of Armageddon". It's a weak form of vindication, but I'll take it. I got the sound effects record from the same library that I got those books from. One of the things I have a mind to write centers around checking out the same book from three different libraries. This sense of drama is precisely why I steer away from fiction. I have a flyer on my desk for a class on performance art that a friend of mine is teaching next spring. It has a picture of a naked woman laying on the floor with a skeleton lying on top of her.

  • I feel a little like that. I like the look on her face. She had a touch of that now, what am I doing, again? look about her that I like. Maybe that's what I'm talking about doing, or maybe that's what I can call it. Isn't the nature of art being able to call it art? But, don't you have to do something to feel a way about it? To call it someting, don;t you need an "it"? You do! Okay! I feel a lot better! Thanks! I'm gonna listen to "Strange Powers" for the 100th time this week because I feel like I have them!

    "When we kiss it feels like a flying saucer landing" C'mon!

    Bonus: have you ever heard the Magnetic Fields cover of "Heroes"? Me either! But we can be them. Heroes, that is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"test post"

The devil at the end of my driveway.

Per Petterson, I Curse the River of Time 
David Bowie, Heathen 
Cluster, Curiosum 
Various Artists, Night Watch/Black Music
The Dave Howard Singers, various tracks from their website
The Royal Family and the Poor, We Love the Moon

Gastr Del Sol, Camofleur
Tuxedomoon, Soundtracks/Urban Leisure

  • The title I Curse the River of Time comes from a Mao poem. @MKupperman said something funny about the "let a thousand flowers bloom" quote but that was 3 days ago and I don't think you can go back that far on Twitter, so maybe it didn't happen. He will say other funny things, so he's worth looking at anyway. Also, it's a "hundred flowers." Not trying to be like that; I just found out myself.
  • Cluster made video game music in the age of wooden toys.

    Cluster, "Proantipro"

    Is that an actual tuba in there? Like an old street musician in lederhosen wondering why these art students hired him to just go "wump wuuuump wump" for six minutes? I think they had to make their own synthesizers out of old watermill parts. I forgot Bowie did a Pixies song. There is a Jacques Derrida track on that Night Watch/Black Music compilation, so watch out.
  • I've been trying for days to listen to Dave Howard Singers' "I Am a Bunny" from this compilation called (I thought) You Bet We've Got Something Against You, but has it as Absolute with most of the same songs. I'm not sure why; it is just him holding down most of the keys of an organ while going "I AM A BUNNY, I NEED A (garbled)" over and over, with an interlude of talking to a Dutch audience that doesn't understand what he's saying.

    Here he is mangling "Rock On."

    The heart wants what the heart wants. I could just buy the song, but what fun is that?
    Edited to add: I could also just look at their awesome website.
  • I tested the bracketed, truncated media commentary but I think it proved to be even less readable than this mess. It's all testing, all the time up in here. I'm going to call this "test post" just to see if a thousand page hits bloom like last time. I'm gonna sandblast off with Tuxedomoon and the Royal Family and the Poor. Good day!

    The Royal Family and the Poor, "Dominion"

Monday, October 24, 2011

banana ketchup

So, you are saying your pantry is stocked with just the one style of banana ketchup?

NOWNESS [Set the controls on the heart of the [nowness]; best webzine I've seen in a while.]
The Bottle Rockets, Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening with the Bottle Rockets [They are kinda the best band.]
The Gourds, Shinebox [Yes, for the cover of "Gin and Juice", so what?]
Drive-By Truckers, Gangstabilly [For Steve McQueen, God , and country]
Donna Lethal, Milk of Amnesia [Though it is not on Goodreads, I did finish and love it. More in-depth commentary hopefully forthcoming.]
Aloe Blacc, Good Things [I keep thinking this is an eponymous record, maybe because it sounds like a direct line from somebody.]
Per Petterson, I Curse the River of Time [I love a European novel that involves ferries or trains, which is convenient, since they all involve ferries or trains.]
Labyrinth [I saw it twice though Maya claims she's seen it seven times this weekend.]
Fringe [Getting caught up with time-travel shows means getting further behind, I think.]

Annie Gosfield/Lisa Moore, Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers [HT to aworks]
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972 and Dropped Pianos [HT to everybody. This sounded particularly cool with Walter from Fringe intoning from another screen/dimension in the background.]
Dirty Projectorts + Björk, Mount Wittenberg Orca [Wasn't this out already? Did buying two kinds of banana ketchup before watching Fringe open some sort of causal wormhole? I could see this album resulting from such an intersection of causes. Or maybe if you played an Andrews Sisters record for Schrödinger's cat. Something.]
United Bible Studies, The Shore that Fears the Sea [Y'all know about these folks? Me neither!]
Zooey Deschanel singing the National Anthem at Game Four of the World Series [Not quite as bad Natasha Vargas-Cooper makes it, but I'm into her derision at Grantland. She has a point. "Where is the drama of a sweat-drenched Whitney Houston, steeped in struggle, unhinging her jaw to bellow out Our Song? The drums of war echo in her crack-ravaged throat! "]
The Magnetic Fields, Holiday [like riding a hoverboard through a puddle]
Joan of Arc, Life Like [Wow, Joan of Arc has a lot of albums with a lot of songs and they all have great titles even if that dude can't really sing any of them.]

Ed. to add: I first encountered banana ketchup at a very short lived Filipino restaurant here in BR, reviewed  in good ol' Country Roads.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

a world of sweet people and smiling meat

As witnessed at the LSU vs. Auburn tailgate: Never has anyone seemed so happy to be let out of a

Cajun Microwave - sort of a BBQ coffin with a layer of coals on the bottom and top and a whole pig in the center - and

Never has anyone ever looked so serious wearing a fox hat and some kind of arm sock while stealing a cookie, and

I don't even know who this lady is but when I commented that she was the best put-together gal at tailgating, her husband said "Take her picture, and be sure to get the rings!" Evidently this woman elicits this reaction a lot; a photographer from the newspaper came across her last week and put her picture in the Style section, but

I do know these people - the much ballyhooed champion BBQ-er John and his daughter Grace - appearing across the pit.

You wanna think you live in a world of sweet people and smiling meat and they go lead a second line through Rebecca's old neighborhood in the drunken dark because she elicited that kind of outpouring and Maya is down the street carving pumpkins and Jerri had me put on that Gram Parsons tribute record where the Pretenders do "She" and Cryssie Hynde just sang "Hallelujah" as the dusk streamed in gray, white and green like the best put-together gal at the party and then she did it again, and you do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

R.I.P. Rebecca Breeden

Rebecca Breeden as the 2004 Spanish Town Mardi Gras Queen

One of my first assignments was covering a blues jam at a club in an unfamiliar part of town. I was hopelessly green, not really knowing how to capture a story or what to do with it should one fall in my lap. Looking around the room for insight, I saw a young woman with a little notebook just like mine. Rebecca Breeden had been working at the newspaper for a while on the entertainment beat, and we leaned in over our notes to see what we could collectively glean of the situation. She knew some people; I knew some people. We made some sense of the thing. It was the first time I felt like I had any business doing what I do.

What I learned from Rebecca that day, and continued to learn from her over the years, is that we are always green; all situations are new territory and the only way to capture those situations is to have eyes and ears open and mind ready to process. My every encounter with Rebecca as a colleague and as a friend further pressed that idea into me. She often edited my pieces at 225 and helped me navigate the waters of a professional writing environment. As a reporter, she was vigorously curious, especially about the gray areas where religion and politics overlap. She was open to both, and equally suspicious of both, and understood that they are mortar and brick to understanding this region. Even when I didn't agree with her, I found her insight and her manner of approaching things to be inspiring. She was the calmest of jackhammers.

Cancer is a terrible way for someone who was the exact opposite of a cancer on society to go. I'm thankful that I got to work with such an individual. I'll miss her wry smile and that big ol' Loretta Lynn hairdo of hers. I'll miss the openness she exhibited to me and everyone she met. I'll miss the country twang that buttered everything she said.  I'll miss every visit to that little house on Bungalow. I'll miss her.


Edited to add: Sandor Gulyas unearthed a picture Teddy Johnson (of Teddy's Juke Joint)  took of Rebecca and me covering the blues jam at the Buddy Stewart Rhythm Museum. Culture journalism in action, circa 2006. Here's the piece I wrote on it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

birdmen are essential

The new statue of Shaquille O'Neal on campus. I wish birds would line up on that section of the backboard.

Richard Swift, Walt Wolfman 
[His records are like Oreo's: I could eat them all day and forget I ate anything]
Is Tropical, South Pacific [These bands sound like the presets on the Casios that used be on display department stores, or that they think Joy Division oughta be joyous if they are gonna call themselves that]
The dB's, The Sound of Music and "Revolution of the Mind" [#JangleWallStreet]
Radio Birdman, The Essential Radio Birdman [As you will see below, birdmen are essential]
Blue Öyster Cult, Tyranny and Mutation [My favorite band from 5th grade. I forgot Patti Smith did stuff with them]
The Chesterfield Kings, The Mindbending Sounds of the Chesterfield Kings

Thomas and the People, Beneath the Trees [streaming from their site; kinda like DMB without the bad DMB parts]
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gimme Back My Bullets [Their plane crashed on the way to Baton Rouge 34 years ago today. The linked article contends that in 1977, Aerosmith was going to rent the same plane and crew and thought they weren't up to their standards.]
Tom Waits, Real Gone [After years of mythos-eating devotion, I now generally like everything about Tom Waits except listening to his records, but I still do it. Why isn't his forthcoming one Bad as Me growling away on NPR Music like it should be?]
Tedechi Trucks Band, Revelator [recommended by McSweeney's]

  • Congrats to DownBeat editor Aaron Cohen on the publication of his 33 1/3 book on Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace! Can't wait to read it. Thanks for my brief appearances in DownBeat and the Believer, I sometimes get stuff in the mail addressed like this:

    I may co-opt this for my business card. Alex V. Cook: freelance downbeat believer
  • Once upon a time, television was an arena in which fearsome beauty was enacted.

    Keep watching; via the Rumpus. Lynda Carter + KISS + F E A T H E R S !
  • Like I remember Boy George guest-starring on the A-Team, and the Village People performing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Where did we go wrong as a culture? Reagan? It's not like we traded in spectacle for taste.
  • I forgot all about Radio Birdman, Australia's first punk rock band, until I saw KISS in their avian finery up there. You did watch that video, right? I think Radio Birdman formed in the holding cell of the first prison colony transport schooner. They are like Blue Öyster Cult except more like poisoned blue öysters.

    Radio Birdman, "Descent into the Maelstrom"
  • Last week when I saw Blitzen Trapper, I commented to a friend that they were knockin' on the door of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and should have just broken into a couple bars of "Sweet Home Alabama" like it seemed they wanted to mid-extended-ramble-jams. Think how thrilled everyone would have been. I feel that way when bands complain about hecklers yelling "Play 'Freebird'"; the complaint being a more pervasive cliche than the incident. Play it, then. Shut everybody up. Put away all the baggage you might have and "Freebird" is still a pretty great song.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

a V of geese

OK, a little more than blue skies from now on.

Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road [see below]
Shelby Lynne, Revelation Road [a juicy, sour lollipop with a dry chunk of raw sugar in the middle]
Dire Straits, Love Over Gold [Took sampling 8 Mark Knopfler solo albums to get to this and I still wish it was "Sultans of Swing" instead] and Brothers in Arms [also surprised how it holds up]
Sondre Lerche, Don't Be Shallow and Sondre Lerche [here's lookin' at you, Offbeat deadline]
Fred Neil, Rhino Hi-Five: Fred Neil [Thanks, Clarke! I'm never prepared for how deep Fred Neil's voice is]
Bobby Charles, Bobby Charles
Tony Joe White, Rhino Hi-Five: Tony Joe White
Sister Gertrude Morgan, Let's Make a Record
The Meters, Struttin'

  • Revolutionary RoadRevolutionary Road took me forever to read only because you can run yourself through the wringer only so quickly, not rushing each snapping bone or squashed organ, not hurrying the deflated emotional pancake of a person this book will make of you. It started out a marital horror story, the kind where you yell at the screen "No! don't go there! Just say she was good in the play! Don't try to fix anything!" to become a vigil over a heart monitor or a bomb, either way one that periodically stops beeping and you are a little relieved and then it it starts beating faster and faster until you can do nothing but watch the clock run out on love. Devastating, ruthless and, in that, beautiful.
    (x-posted at Goodreads)

  • My book has a cover! Or a cover is being floated down the editorial ice floe, a visceral, Egglestonian interior shot of Teddy's Juke Joint by my buddy Frank McMains. We bat our mutual admiration back and forth like an air hockey puck.  I believe that's how this business works, but really, Frank is not only talented as hell, he's a real mensch for doing this.
  • The book also has a very perfunctory website, the spiffing up of which should be my next project.
  • Speaking of projects, I just sent off 5,000 words of a thing that has been weighing on my conscience because what I originally proposed was just not working. Once I stepped back and said how would I do this, as if someone else was every really involved, it fell together like a V of geese, migrating off the horizon.
  • ESPN-U taped my afternoon class for something so if somewhere you see a guy with hair falling somewhere between Yahoo Serious and Jimmy Swaggart on some sports/education backchannel it might be me. I've grown tired of the mental patient buzz cut and, thanks to a lovely gift from my lovely wife, am experimenting with product.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

facing evil; conquering evil

Nirvana, Nevermind  [Holds up on repeted listens 20 years later]
XTC, Black Sea
and Skylarking
[Needed to hear "Living Through Another Cuba" after hearing New Orleans is getting flights to Cuba]
The Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps [Louche act]
Spoon, Transference [Ever notice how much Spoon sounds like Billy Joel?]

Black Diamond at the St. George Fair [So proud]
Smoke Fairies, Blitzen Trapper, and Dawes at the Manship Theatre [Great show]
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road [This book is going to kill me]

Terry Riley, You're Nogood [Brilliant and even hilarious if you are the precise kind of minimalism dork I am]
Parliament, Chocolate City [How have I never listened to this album before?]
Donald Byrd, Electric Byrd  [Kinda like  BULLFIGHTERS IN SPACE! at points]
Björk, Biophilia [Maya's new discovery + a friend of mine made me want to kill him when he detailed hanging out with Björk and her family over memorial Day weekend.]

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There are worse people with whom one could spend a weekend. Maya facing evil at Super Science Saturday; our grand walking tour from Canal Place to Euclid Records and back (New Orleans. this weather makes me fall for you all over again even though you still smoke); addressing the unknown (stuffed crab legs) at Kim Anh Noodle House; pre-flight ritual, dipping things in chemicals; Black Diamond playing their debut at the St. George Fair (videos up at their Facebook page); conquering evil

Thursday, October 13, 2011

rock 'n' roll transference dreams

This Google Image search page of Adele is Warhol hypnotic. It's like she can see me rolling in something far deeper than I realize.

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist
The Cure, Seventeen Seconds
Clinic, Bubblegum
Electrelane, Axes
Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest
Tame Impala, InnerSpeaker

  • My daughter's band Black Diamond is playing their debut show at the St. George Fair as part of the Baton Rouge Music Studios showcase on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 2-5pm. I will be the one upfront with the camera and the rock 'n' roll transference dreams coming true.

    4/5 of Black Diamond. The singer escaped before the photoshoot. Their setlist is the Beatles, "Let it Be", Adele's "Someone Like You" and the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love."
  • This week's Record Crate for 225: DJ Shadow, Blitzen Trapper, Dawes, Bettye Lavette, John Pizzarelli.
  • I am an unabashed fan of the Cure's "A Forest." Into the trees, y'all! I wish to shout to my compatriots in Cure-dom. So simple. I could listen to an hour-long loop of it, just let it build and build with more and more echo until there's nothing but grey.

    The Cure, "A Forest"
  • You forget entirely about a thing you for a moment loved and then the circumstances of the day conjures it. E.g., Electrelane.

    Electrelane, "These Pockets are People"

  • Work of Art Season 2, ep. 1 recap: The cast is good, the art wasn't bad, though Bayete the video artist missed a great opportunity in remaking this piece of thrift store art with his face  under all that hair. He couldn't just straight-faced read from the Preppy Handbook or a society column of the New York Times or a Sarah Palin speech and won.

    Though it only got cursory presentation on the program, I thought Kymia's transformation sculpture was my favorite. It is the simple move that professional ego politicians like the Sucklord tend to miss. Jazz-Minh's painting was good too, plus she gets bonus points for the craziest name. Hers should have won, really; it was the only piece that stood on its own without understanding that it had an origin in thrift store art, but maybe because she ventured too far form the original work. It was the only one of this round that I'd actually like to own.

    The Keith Haring dude's losing piece wasn't all that bad, though I wanted him to weave brightly colored string and things into the original Chinese restaurant bas-relief thing he got. Or rather, I wanted to. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

cold dill pickles

They have cold dill pickles at Sweet's Outdoor Grill. I was tempted by the frozen pickle juice shot, but settled for sopping up pulled pork juice with a piece of white bread.

Jack Oblivian, Rat City
American Death Ray, Welcome to the Strange and Erotic World of the American Death Ray
Viva L'American Death Ray Music, Behold! A Pale Horse
Frank Black, The Cult of Ray

Jack Oblivian, "Rat City"

  • I think Rat City is really great. Jack Oblivian makes the music a juvenile delinquent turned community college professor makes when they pick up that guitar in the garage again. It's the kind of music that makes me want to pretend to be a rock star so I will.
  • I would be a rock star like Nicholas Ray of American Death Ray and Viva L'American Death Ray Music and have a bunch of trash art projects under similar but different variations of my own name.
  • I would use the cold dill pickles sign for the front cover of every record, releasing no less than three a year. In very limited quantities on obscure labels. Play no shows. It would be so great.
  • I would be taxonomically severe with the band/album names. "The Alex V. Cook Experience Presents the Sounds of the Alex V. Cook Experience" or "Alex V. Cook, Ltd. Limited Alex V. Cook Recordings" printed in very small block print on the back would be the only outwardly distinguishable demarcations between the projects. They would be widely stylistically divergent.
  • I wouldn't mind being Frank Black either. He once sang in a song: I wanna be a singer like a Lou Reed, but I think I'd rather be a singer like a Frank Black being a singer like a Lou Reed than be a Lou Reed directly. As a member of Alex V. Cook Unlimited II, appearing on Greatest Hits of Alex V. Cook Unlimited II, Vol. 1.
Viva L'American Death Ray Music, "Out of the Pink"

fall reading list

My fall reading list, not including Revolutionary Road and Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All the Time queued up on Kindle from the library. You do know you can check out books on your Kindle now, right?

Richard Yates, Revolutionary RoadJoe Henry, Reverie
Chris D., Love Cannot Die

  • I'm particularly excited about delving into Jujitsu for Christ, lent to me by Professor Fury who is writing a forward for a forthcoming new edition. Also I was so excited to see I Curse the River of Time on new books shelf at the library that I didn't realize it was the large print edition until it was already checked out and then got a little more excited because I can actually read it. I grow blinder as each mote of youth tumbles out of eyeshot; the reason I lately prefer iPad reading to actual book reading is because I can blow up the text huge.
  • Thanks to Fred for extracting Petal Pusher from a Pennsylvania Big Lots and sending it. New Texture has a great fall lineup - I haven't thought about Chris D. in years; his A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die lies legs up at the bottom. I'm particularly stoked about Donna Lethal's Milk of Amnesia, excellently hyped by Jim Linderman at his Dull Tool Dim Bulb blog. It is moving up the stack as soon as Richard Yates gets done operating The Existential Literary Bummer like a leaf blower on my psychic driveway.
  • A student of mine brought up Reality is Broken, which would serve as an excellent non-fiction data-backed-up companion to Ready Player One except, jeez, why do books about the infectious immediacy of new media all have to be so long? Perhaps the reason new media is so engaging is because it gets to it. Like, parts at the onset of The Information blew my mind, but it became a bit of a dust storm 200 pages later.
  • I'm also thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, but then I think about a lot of things. I should focus on  not racking up library fines with this stack.
  • So yeah, this fall is all angst, technological saturation, divorce, not writing, and drug problems. Whee!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

get the ö

The rotating, cosmic game menu in the Biophilia app. The constellation in the top left corner spells björk when you come at it from the right angle.

Sandro Perri, "Changes" (via Pitchfork) and Tiny Mirrors
Sondre Lerche, Sondre Lerche
Arabian Safari, "Flood"/"Newspaper Man" (via their Bandcamp site)
My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind (via NPR)
Sufjan Stevens, All Delighted People
Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground

The Abyssinians, Satta Dub
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

Björk, Biophilia
The Knife, Tomorrow, in a Year
Radiohead, The King of Limbs

  • The secret to getting an education is readily admitting one's ignorance and admitting that knowing how to do things makes doing things easier. For instance, I usually have to copy and paste Björk's name or use the clunky insert symbols thing in Word to get the ö, and it took a decade plus of doing so before I looked up the diacritic keyboard shortcuts. It's like someone showed me I've been using the wrong end of the hammer all this time.
  • I've been listening to Biophilia for months now as the fractured soundtrack to her album-as-Universe-as-video game suite-as-iPad-app, and am just now loading up the whole thing. The app might be revolutionary, but I think it's more of a prototype of revolutionary. Björk fans are the types of obsessives that will jump through the hoops to get her apps and do updates and then buy things through the app and then not even be sure what they have at the end. Björk's fans will go through the lengths required to type her name. But others' fans, not so much. I think Gwen Stefani or Kanye West could take this album/platform  thing, simplify it, and really do make it happen. Imagine if Peter Gabriel had iPad album/app capability available during his heyday. The Sledgehammer app would've been the Angry Birds of its time.

    Björk, Biophilia live set. Having David Attenborough do the introduction is a smart touch.

    Biophilia as an album is lovely, maybe as engaging an album she's done since Vespertine. Parts of it sound that that really pretty backwards vocal part at the end of the Purple Rain album extended all the way out to touch the dying sunset. I've yet to full explore the Biophilia app/universe to have a real take.
  • Think about the lengths we go to use new technology when technology is supposed to make things easier to do and how we pay for extension of our abilities with frustration with the means. We tear our flesh over changes in Facebook which is ostensibly something we don't need or want to use for myriad perfectly good reasons, except when you do use it, you use it all the time, right up to the limit of need, so you bend around the interface changes or the shortcomings of how it works on the phone now or whatever. Total princess problems compared to the needs of people tearing their flesh about changing their governments, going forth into a palpable, potentially fatal unknown platform change and using old free-ass Facebook and whatever to help do it because everything becomes a great tool when everything seems broken. I didn't see anyone abandon the Arab Spring because they didn't like the ticker.
  • I am quite enjoying being the LSU Reveille's go to app expert interview subject. Someone was just here to talk about the pros and cons of location services on your phone and my insights on Google+ and Blendr can be found therein, once their site comes back up.
  • Speaking of creating a universe in one's art and not understanding the interface changes, Revolutionary Road makes a world as brutal as The Road set in the desperate apocalypse of the middle class family. I'm sure everyone's read it ages ago, but I'm a late adopter in some things. I'm scared to read the next page and witness how that guy is going to fuck up things this time. You wanna yell at the page like people do at the screen in horror movies. No, man! Don't go in there! Just say she was good in the play! Don't try to fix things!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Then: Now: Above: Below:


Ernest Cline, Ready Player One (reviewed fully on Goodreads)
Nirvana, Nevermind
David Bowie, Space Oddity and Hunky Dory
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

electric eels, The Eyeball of Hell

Above: Eichhornia crassipes, aka water hyacinth, invading the LSU lakes.

Below: chili dog; Robert Wilson, an accidental Impressionistic take on the Radio Bar;  ornamental grass competing with the hyacinths for invasiveness.


Friday, October 7, 2011

The weekend looks like

Detail from the wall at Boutin's. My next book might be a coffee table album analyzing south Louisiana restaurant murals.

DJ Shadow, The Less You Know the Better
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Philip Glass: Symphony No. 3; Music from "The Voyage" and "the CIVIL warS"; The Light
Max Richter, infra
William Basinski, The Disintegration Loops IV

Earnest Cline, Ready Player One
Smoke Fairies, Through Low Light and Trees

The weekend looks like a  bunch of lecture mulling, story writing, book reading, house cleaning, tailgating, gator tail eating, gravitational wave observatory-going, TV watching, in-front-of-TV-sleep-falling, bicycling. It might ending up looking a little like that mural when it's all put together.

the sundance kid is beautiful

Robert Wilson, Voom Portraits: Steve Buschemi

  • I'm very excited to go see Robert Wilson tonight at the LSU Reilly Theatre at 7pm.. Most famous for staging Philip Glass' 1976 opera Einstein At The Beach and collaborating with Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs on The Black Rider, Robert Wilson has had a singular, peculiar career that stretches over and bends all the arts of the last forty years.

    Einstein at the Beach, Segment III
  • Personally, meeting Robert Wilson is one of the last items on my avant-garde bucket list: John Cage rode in my car once, I chatted with Philip Glass backstage, saw Anthony Braxton play solo sax at the old Knitting Factory, watched a Stan Brakhage movie with (I think) him in the room, and had Milton Babbitt once tell me the thing he was about to explain was out of my cognitive league. All I have to do now is get Ornette Coleman to tell me what really happened in that south Louisiana bar in the 1950's. And then write a libretto and get Robert Wilson to stage it. Then I'm done.

    Robert Wilson, Voom Portraits: Robert Downey Jr.
  • The recording of Wilson & Christopher Knowles' "A Letter to Queen Victoria: The Sundance Kid is Beautiful" from the 1975 album Big Ego is one of my favorite things because it takes art, theatre, poetry, minimalism, performer, time brackets, control, audience, social propriety totally to task. It is maddening and funny and enraging and poignant; I've heard it a million times and still go through the same cycles.

    Robert Wilson & Christopher Knowles, "A Letter to Queen Victoria: The Sundance Kid is Beautiful"
  • Eight minutes that changed my brain forever. I was unfamiliar with his tableau vivant Voom Portraits, peppered throughout this post, before last night.

    Robert Wilson, Voom Portraits: Johnny Depp
  • It's the trouble of living off The Art Grid; I'd like to think I'm as up on Robert Wilson as anyone around here, yet there are whole swaths of his work with which I am unfamiliar. I suspect tonight's lecture will get me up to speed. There is a documentary Absolute Wilson that helps explain what he's about should you be left wondering, but then I think you are supposed to always be left wondering.

    Absolute Wilson trailer

    "...what should I not do... and then do that."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

carnal mashup

Patio by night

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Nirvana, Nevermind
Melvins, Stoner Witch

Mudhoney, Since We've Become Translucent
The Delta 72, The Soul of a New Machine
Nation of Ulysses, Plays Pretty for Baby

  • Longtime readers will kindly endure the ongoing disparagement of my own dreams; when I do remember them, they are stupid. I had a dream last night largely about checking Facebook and through that discovering that a friend of mine had to prepare a different chicken recipe for everyone at work, which was really everyone in my class but not. My friend (who is associated with neither work or class) was coming up with terrible, labor-intensive recipes: just stuff it with canned peaches or cut up a Hershey bar and let it melt all over the outside while it bakes. I think it's because I fell asleep while watching Top Chef: Just Desserts. Or maybe just because DREAMS SUCK.
  • Why can't I just have a hot food fight dream about TC:JD host Gail Simmons? I'm kinda pickin' up what she's layin' down. Maybe reenact a 60's Carolee Schneeman happening but with ingredients from the Top Chef Kenmore Test Kitchen? That's the kind of cross-paradigm carnal mashup dreams are supposed to be about.

    Carolee Schneemann, "Meat Joy" (1964) Possibly NSFW.
  • Maya asked about Nirvana the other day. It was a perfect counterbalance for this morning's "get with it" school frustration lecture.
  • I missed out on this in 2002, but I dig Mudhoney with horns.

    Mudhoney, "Where the Flavor Is"
  • I'm gonna honk the rest of this day out with horned-up post-punx. You didn't miss out on the Delta 72 back when I was missin' out on Mudhoney, did you? Get with it!

    The Delta 72, "Floorboard Shake"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the realm of actually making things

Look at this happy tree! I hope I come off that cheery about things running their course.

Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Blank Generation
The Gun Club, Fire of Love
Black Francis, The Golem

Wild Flag, Wild Flag

Jeff Mangum playing to the protesters at OccupyWallStreet via You Ain't No Picasso

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

Mastadon, The Hunter
A whole lot of Bobby Rush
Barn Owl, Lost in the Glare

  • I biked over to the soft opening of The Radio Bar last night like a damned Portlander. I look ridiculous enough in my bike helmet, a little like Sgt. Schultz, but there is no place on the front of my bike to clip a light so I wear it on a little lanyard around my neck. The combo makes me look like I'm a missionary assigned to a rave. The opening was a poorly kept secret with everyone asking "How did you know about this?" The bar is sweet and the sound system is tied into the Apple Remote app so you can request tunes and then vote for them to get them bumped up. My friend and I did all we could to keep this Bob Dylan song from playing; nothing against Dylan, but nobody wants to hear that in a bar.

  • Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum playing for the #OccupyWallStreet protesters is sweet as hell, and it's probably just as well that Radiohead didn't play - I like their shadow better than their picture nowadays - but imagine the mayhem that might have ensued if Mastadon had played instead. A million suddenly anti-capitalist hip kids doing air guitar atop the ashes of The Man. Ragnarok > Walden! Civil disobediate that shit!

  • Speaking of unfettered capitalism, I just got the press catalog copy for my book and it sounds like a real book!

  • RIP Steve Jobs and Bert Jansch. Thanks for making your deal all about making things that transcend what's necessary to get at little wonders.

    Bert Jansch, "Needle of Death"

  • I usually don't let my programming life bleed over into this narrative, mostly because programming has lost some of its zest for me. So, it is notable that I highly recommend App Inventor for you tinkering types with Android gear. It is totally fun and revolutionary even in a couple ways. I'm doing a presentation on it tomorrow and hopefully getting my class excited about it, take talking about making things into the realm of actually making things.

Monday, October 3, 2011

the dream-maker always has time for your story

Old iPhone photo of a stray cloud over China 1 that bespeaks the right level of dreaminess.

Various Artists, Authentic R&B Stateside SL10068 (collected by Clarke Gernon)
Bobby Rush, Raw
Aloe Blac, Good Things
Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Bill Withers, 'Justments
Gil Scott-Heron, Home is Where the Hatred Is
Marilyn Crispell & Joseph Jarman, Connecting Spirits
Max Roach and Anthony Braxton, Birth and Rebirth

  • I watched a half-marathon of How To Make It in America, a totally asinine HBO series about, I think, the guy that came up with skinny jeans. It's gorgeous like terrible TV shows about NYC Whenever are, part Saturday Night Live intro, part Saturday Night Fever strut. All people do in New York is drink coffee in those little cups and bump into Destiny on the street. Yo, isn't that famous jeans designer Gino Jeansaloni at that picturesque bodega? Go talk to him, yo, while I go talk to this fine lady! Catch up with you at Club Clubbo! and the dream-maker always has time for your story and goes son, you remind me of me and I'm gonna cut you a break, Here's the card of the guy that will make everything happen for you. Dreadful. Beautifully shot. I'd live these guys' empty lives.
  • The pitch perfect theme song by Aloe Blacc has been wedged in my head for days, and now, in yours.

    Aloe Blacc, "I Need a Dollar"

    But really, I feel like I lost valuable hit points just by mentioning this stupid show. Should you find yourself couch-bound on a lot of cold medicine going y'know, I like Entourage, but I wish it was breezier, HTMIIA is the show for you.
  • Speaking of valuable hit points, I love Ready Player One. It is nerds-ahoy fun, a jumble of 80's pop culture, D&D, and video game ephemera gathered up into a Magic Mountain ride with a prize at the end. It folds nostalgia into an origami Space Invader. I love how upends the usual misfit frame of role-playing games and Atari and presents them as ways to expand one's world, mostly because that's what they were to me. Ii won't give away too much to say there is a part where the protagonist must re-enact War Games within a game inside a simulation inside the book and it all works. And, it contains some of the best social media takeover u/dys-topia talk of any novel I've read.  More to come on that.
  • Speaking of social media dystopia, I had some thoughts on Photosynth panoramas but they got all article-y and were thus relegated to their own post.
  • Speaking of my second point, the Aloe Blacc album is excellent. Sure, he is jumping Bill Withers' train but if it came rolling through, wouldn't you? This is what "Femme Fatale" sounds like in Lou Reed's head when he sings it.

    Aloe Blacc, "Femme Fatale"

On Caring What Where I Was Is Called

I like the way the way the Microsoft Photosynth panorama app purports to tie into Bing maps (bless their hearts, Bing. They want it so bad). Problem is, it doesn't follow through.

Here is my manual Facebook check-in at this river silt facility to which my friends and I like to bring our collective kids. We call it "the Sand Pits." I like how it is a vast nowhere in the middle of lush Louisiana. It's like a palette cleanser to my region's banquet-like terrain.

Here is the panorama of "The Sand Pits" that picked up on my check-in.

and I'd show you where it is in Bing Itself but they are (at the time of this writing) verifying it or something, and that verification will likely fail because the place isn't really called "The Sand Pits". But the Facebook Bing map has it pegged. It's as is if Facebook doesn't care what where I was is called; it's calling it.

The idea here, I think, is that millions of people will spin on one foot and capture these little bubbles of reality and those will overlap on the Bing maps and create a 3D, traversable bubbleworld, except that it seems that Bing is making the crucial error of wanting to get the information right rather than using the data as it is given. Verification is so old media. It just bogs down the Great Aggregation that will show us what we are.

Facebook in this case, and many others, socially trumps the established media concept (Bing; cartography in general) by using it as a vehicle for data. You just go make your little awesome maps and all, Microsoft, I'll make it "mean something". It reminds me of the schism between I.T. professionals that develop software and the entrepreneur types who make the things do things useful to actual people. It's why everyone knows Steve Jobs name but not the name of the guy who actually made the thing you associate with Steve Jobs' genius.

It struck me that this is the first time I've really though about Microsoft, a company I am OK with and even worked for at one point, in an app context. Any idiot can make apps but can Microsoft? Who ultimately gets how this will all play out? The mappers or the map-makers?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

relax in the undertow

Trees are dancing drunk with nectar
Grass is waving underwater
Please don't pull me out this is how I would want to go
Insect bomber Buddhist droning
Copper chord of August's organ
Please don't heed my shout I'm relax in the undertow
- XTC, "Summer's Cauldron"

The morning's proceedings roughly follow the song wedged in my head: hummingbird; Maya's picture of grass; Maya's picture of me - I'm the large, rounded object in the middle; Maya's panorama of the yard; Maya; Zoe and Anya at their regular post across the fence.