Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy new year!

Double rainbow over Kilkenny, Ireland. I've been putting up pics on the FaceBook if you wanna follow along.

2011 was OK 'n'all, but 2012 is gonna happen! Less talk, more rock! I'm resolved! Happy new year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

go, ho ho

Loathe I may be to introduce another cat picture to the Internet, Here is Sukie contemplating what trials face her at Grandma's while we are on vacation.

Yule log from Ambrosia, photo by Jerri Jensen. The meringue mushrooms are painted with chocolate underneath the cap to create the shadow. So much cake and buttercream that you kinda have to lean in to get your fork through it.

John Sayles, A Moment in the Sun
Nicholas Jaar, Space is Only Noise
Timber Timbre, Creep on Creepin' On
The Dirk Hartung Combo, Drained Wait
John Cale, Circus Live

Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Rhizoma

David Bowie, Tonight and Let's Dance
Jack Oblivian, Rat City

We busted out the yule log, put on Rat City and had a rock 'n' roll, mac 'n' cheese, chocolate cake party with Sammy and Junebug from down the street. It seems that being able to make the previous statement is a sign of living the good life.


I toyed with how badly I could get away with signing off on the proof of my book when I found on small but, to a very small but vocal audience, critical change that needed to be made, so here we go, ho ho. It's OK because I like the thing better with each re-read, which is a gift unto itself.

Star Trek: Generations
Independence Day


Here is the landscape upon which we grazed this Christmas Eve. I had this thought: is the reason we all are so into Christmas this year (doesn't it seem so?) because of a nascent fear that in Incan calendar end times deal is true? Like its the last Christmas? I've watched two terrible movies on cable today, weirdly both featuring Brent Spiner, and had another thought - Why has no one made an end-of-the-world Christmas movie? Melancholia meets Armageddon meets Miracle on 34th Street. Maybe I have a new project for the new year. Happy holidays, everybody!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

mama fried chicken

2011 is burning down to an ash, just how I like it.

Mem Shannon, A Cab Driver's Blues
Shrimp City Slim, I Work Nights
Carol Fran and Clarence Holliman, It's About Time

  • Happy birthday, Mem Shannon!

    "I keep telling everybody, you know, po-boy sandwiches don't taste like they used to taste."
    "No, you right."
    "I don't know if it was the mayonnaise they were using or what."
    "It's because we'd eat one of them every now and then, then."
    "Yeah, it was special."
    "I remember when I was a youngster, and I'm 71 now, when my mama fried chicken, that was a special supper. Now, chicken, it's common."

    - Dialogue snippet from Mem Shannon's "5th Ward Horseman" from A Cab Driver's Blues, maybe the best Louisiana blues album there is, alternating between tasty, anecdotal funky blues and actual New Orleans taxi cab confessions. Check out "$17.00 Brunette". Doctors and lawyers don't tip for shit.

  • Also, happy birthday to my mother-in-law Frances sitting on a porch somewhere up in the hereafter, tapping her foot. One of the first times I met her, she fried up some chicken in a little electric skillet. So good, it's about ruined me for fried chicken ever since.

  • My annual list of the five most intriguing Baton Rouge CD's of 2011 is up in this week's Record Crate blog for 225. Read em' and weep. Or cheer, or tear at your flesh, or whatever reaction lists like these bring out in you.

  • Some of you better get busy proofing your books, you.

  • I am such a short timer for this year. In four days we embark on an Emerald Isle trip that will hopefully be accompanied by spotty wireless so that I may enjoy moments just for themselves for a bit, refocus my lens a little. I am excited about the whole itinerary but realized that I will get to watch the season two premiere of Sherlock on actual BBC One which lit a match around an already combustible tableau.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

but look at what you're missing

Missing nothing from Christmas buffet at work

John Sayles, A Moment in the Sun
Robyn Hitchcock, Tromsø, Kaptein
Common, The Dreamer/The Believer (streaming at AOL)
Robert Wyatt, Drury Lane
Arthur Russell, World of Echo
  • This snippet of dialog from A Moment in the Sun might be the best thing I've read all year.

    “I been thinkin bout peach pie,” says Wilbert.
    “Aint none on that wagon.”
    “Man needs a dream.”
    “Not me."

    I think it sums everything up. The whole human condition.
  • Maya Angelou is surprised at the language surrounding her reading included on "The Dreamer" from the new Common album, though it must be said that she completely owns the track (starting at the 4:40 mark).

    Common featuring Maya Angelou, "The Dreamer"
  • My wife came across this bit from Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality about the Madonna Inn of San Luis Obispo, CA. We spent our honeymoon in the "Rock Bottom" room - each has its own theme - and still talk about the strawberry champagne wedding cake obtained from their in-house Swiss bakery. We had a steak in here:

    Anyway, Umberto Eco nails the place by describing as follows:

    Let's say that Albert Speer, while leafing through a book on Gaudi, swallowed an overgenerous dose of LSD and began to build a nuptial catacomb for Liza Minnelli.
  • Joe Bonomo pointed to this story about M. Henry Jones, an artist in the East Village who has been for decades pursuing the perfection of an arcane form of 3-D photography, who is being forced to move to a new studio because of rent prices. The landlord, for what it's worth, comes off like he's really helping the guy out as much as possible.
  • It brought up Mr. Jones connections to the New York underground film scene, one of the greatest microperiods of art history (Jonas Mekas' ecstatic compendium Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959-1971 is the best book on the subject) , and this old post about Harry Smith's films and the tedious and luck-of-the-draw manner by which knowledge was once obtained and now, just from clicking around, emerges a film by another of that scene that I've read about but never seen.

    Bruce Baillie, Mass for the Dakota Sioux, parts 1 and 2
    and over on Facebook I see that my friend Dickie Landry is going to be doing a solo saxophone concert in the Guggenheim rotunda in March and then I glance over at Spotify and see the profile of someone who's recently passed away, and like this post, it's all too much, it's a buffet table with too many hands in the food, and I have friends that proudly opt out of the din of social media or the Internet in general which, whatever, they seem to do just fine, but I want to pull them over and say but look at what you're missing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

the kids are alright

Maya: coolest kid.


My daughter's band Black Diamond, "And Run", "Let it Be" and  band interview at the Manship Theatre.

I could not be prouder, they sounded and looked great. Thanks to Doug Gay for the great work he does over at Baton Rouge Music Studios. Send your kids over there instead of wasting everyone's time with whatever you have them doing! You get a lightshow like that at a soccer tournament?


Gregg Ginn & the Royal We at a house party in Baton Rouge. Former Black Flag guitarist/SST label honcho Greg Ginn played guitar, laptop and theremin, occassionally accompanying Kim Vodicka's spoken word.

I am by nature led to make smartass comments about the one man laptop/guitar/Theremin act of Greg Ginn & the Royal We - "one inch nail" and "open mike night at a bar in Blade Runner" and "experimental music can be defined as being more fun to make than it is to listen to" among them - but once that is out of the way, it was very cool and singular and extra awesome that it was going down in a darkened smoky apartment show in Baton Rouge early on Sunday evening. It's like a Portland dream but cooler and weirder and more post-punk fulfilling. The poet in the second clip, Kim Vodicka, put on the show and I would've picked up her chapbook had the door guy ever reappeared with my change, but whatever. It would please me if there was no actual door guy and some kid just made off with my money. The kids are alright.

The Kills, Blood Pressures
Guided By Voices, Let's Go Eat the Factory (streaming at NPR)
Atlas Sound, Parallax
Jacks, Vacant World
The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychcandy
Love and Rockets, Earth Sun Moon

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My suggestions for the new Beach Boys album

Graham Bond Organization, Live at Klook's Kleek
Mitch Ryder, How I Spent My Vacation
Dead Boys, Young, Loud and Snotty
The Undertones, Hypnotised
The Cramps, Off the Bone

Karen Russell, Swamplandia!
Flatbed Honeymoon, The Traveler
England in 1819, Alma
Shearwater, Palo Santo
The Beach Boys, Love You, Sunflower, Surf's Up
Au, Versions
Matmos, Supreme Balloon

The Beach Boys (including Brian Wilson) are reuniting for an appearance at JazzFest and a new album. My suggestion for the album is that Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips be tapped to produce it and that he be given the following:
  • One million dollars
  • One of Phil Spector's handguns
  • An abandoned Midwestern missile silo in which to record the album; Mr. Coyne should be given the only key
  • Temporary full creative control over the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and
  • A signed document from the mayor of Oklahoma City to Mr. Coyne mandating that he make it "the best fucking Beach Boys record ever."
Otherwise, I'm not expecting much.

The Beach Boys, "All I Wanna Do"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

to peck away

Painting studio lobby after the end of the semester

William Gibson, Neuromancer
Silversun Pickups, Seasick
M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
My Morning Jacket, Circuital


William Gaddis, Agape Agape
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, The River

  • NeuromancerFirst time I read Neuromancer about 15 years ago, I was excited about the profligacy of computer networks that laid before me, and now that I taught a course in digital branding last semester, it is interesting to see how we are still catching up to Gibson's fever dream of dicey cognitive perception and dissolution of the physical self into a loosely wrought digital world. Great science fiction is like great science (and great fiction, too) in that the world it proposes is both terrifying and dazzling, impossible and very real. I'd finished the book sooner had I not read it in my iPad where I could with a few gestures leave the stream and join my own shimmering digital environment. When you check Facebook a few times during a passage where a character is jacking into different digital existences like flipping TV channels, the story starts to bleed into life.

    I should add: Neuromancer is what got me into dub. The long distance space pilots are all Rastafarians who listen to dub across the vast stretches of space, which sounds alright to me.
  • I just executed a productive transaction via LinkedIn. I think it's the first time LinkedIn has proven to be useful. Not just for me, but maybe ever.
  • This song is speaking to me right now.

    My Morning Jacket, "Outta My System". I'll hold on to black metal in case things get dicier.
  • Agape AgapeI had an occasion recently to peck away on someone else's manual typewriter - it was at a  party a poet was having and a poem was sitting there reeled up on his little desk being ruined by his guests, so I joined in and I added a line and then suddenly couldn't remember how to do a carriage return. I grew up with the things so I knew but technological adoption had pushed this minor skill to a box in the attic. I knew there was a bell when you got to the end and the speed by which you get to that bell is very satisfying, tethering the text to the paper, making the word a very real thing. I can see why poets like these things.

    I feel that schism is one of the many being bridged in Agapē Agape, one endless paragraph that went on for a tidy 100 Kindle screens in which a fading Beckettian old man bounced around his walls, lamenting the passing of how you used to do things. I like the way Mr. Gaddis frequently finishes a phrase with "the" e.g., "...the only game in town, because that's what America's wait, little card falling on the, there!" It's like this thing is dying to be a poem but he's long forgotten how to do a carriage return. It's like a thought starts dying the second it hits the air, like the aliens in War of the Worlds.

    One of the supplemental essays offers that Agapē Agape started as an essay on player pianos, and I can see that, but it diminishes what's going on here. It's about a million little alliterative conceits, mixing up Pushkin and pushpin, Agapē vs. Agape, pitting Plato and Philo T. Farnsworth against each other. It is hallucinatory and gibberish-y in the best way, like a hose put to your brain one last time before the tower is drained of water.
  • It should be added that formatting both of these reviews (x-posted from Goodreads) for this post took much longer than it would have if I'd just used a typewriter and rabbit glue. Perhaps Heraclitus is right and it all ends up in the river no matter what we do.

    Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, "Point Blank"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

power pop language

Black Diamond

William Gibson,
No Reservations Holiday Special
Stephen King's Bag of Bones

David Sandström Overdrive, Pigs Lose
P.J. Harvey, Let England Shake
Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand

  • Maya's band Black Diamond plays twice this weekend, Sat. night at the Manship Theatre and Sunday afternoon at Brew-Ha-Ha.
  • I just had a publicity planning meeting about Louisiana Saturday Night where we began mapping out my forthcoming omnipresence on the Louisiana music book talking circuit. If you have an event you'd like me to be at hawking my wares, let me know.
  • Late last night, I was reading Neuromancer with the No Reservations holiday special going on in the background, and while I'll confess getting easily lost in Gibson's classic of perceptive dissonance,  it still made a lot more sense than whatever was going on with Bourdain over there on the TV. I'm guessing it was a post-modern take on the old narrative holiday special, but I dunno, more mama's cookin', less drama lookin'. Or something.  The pooping Santa thing was cool until it became to a cartoon, then it lost me. Pooping Santa is interesting enough on it's own.
  • Also, it felt like Bag of Bones was on for hours and hours, getting more and more ridiculous, but in a great terrible TV way. At 1:43 AM, you want to look over see Pierce Brosnan lumber around pretending to cry in the rain.
  • I've resisted until now, but yeah, that new P.J. Harvey record is pretty special. Today, though, belongs to David Sandström Overdrive, for they are totally speaking my power pop language. I've never heard of him or them either.

    David Sandström Overdrive, "Not a Good Boy Now"

Friday, December 9, 2011

minus the Univac

Katie Naquin, "Orange as Hippos". Oil on canvas, on display at LSU's Middleton Library.
See more of her work at

New Order, "Blue Monday" (12" Mix)
Can, Tago Mago
Various Artists, Tackhead Sound Crash Slash and Mix by Adrian Sherwood
Ruts D.C. vs. Zion Train, Rhythm Collision Vol. 1
Ghost, Opus Eponymous
Kvelertak, Kvelertak
Sleep, Jerusalem


Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition at Chelsea's Cafe, Baton Rouge, LA

Roberto Bolaño, The Third Reich

Songs: Ohia, Axxess & Ace
and The LionessPhosphorescent, Here's To Taking it EasySol Invictus, Black Europe
Henry Brant, Wesleyan Gamelan, and others, Meteor Farm
Joe Byrd & the Field Hippies, The American Metaphysical Circus
Jimbo Mathus, Knockdown South

  • According to the Blogger stats, we've hit 125K page views on this little blog. Thanks!
  • I'm not really sure how to describe Henry Brant's Meteor Farm. It sounds like a live dress rehearsal of Glee, a phalanx of beplumed native drummers, a holiday jazz band concert, and a Univac going to town on interstellar gas cloud data all happening on the same stage, each rotating through their parts like serves in volleyball, all muttering "I got it" when the ball comes back over the net. Does that help?

    I just found some liner notes that pretty much line up with my description, minus the Univac. Brant's music as I understand it, is very much about sounds' position  in space. I'm picturing all these groups on a massive stage with a harried stage director, clipboard in sweaty palm just trying to keep everything moving.

    Whatever is going on, it has the massive the-earth-is-moving consciousness about it that I appreciate from the large-scale activities of the avant-garde composers. I suppose this is the thrill of any symphony or symphonic pop configuration, but when guys like Brant pull things apart and leave them all stretched out under the proscenium arch is when things really click in my brain. Section 12, when it all sounds like it's about to be run over by a train, is a dazzling constellation of anxiety.
  • Jimbo Mathus's cosmic crew might be the best bar band I've ever seen, in a meta-bar band way, or even maybe in a meta-meta-bar band that circles around to just being a great bar band and finding the material to suit (and Nudie suit) the context. I was gonna regret not shooting a video but thankfully some kind obsessive did it for me and us, one and all. My world blogs itself!

    Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition, "Tell It to the Judge"
  • See, if I had his band, or his position to have a similar band or at least the wherewithal to wear a Nudie suit on occasion, I'd want to do songs like this.

    Joe Byrd & the Field Hippies, "Nightmare Train"
  • and talk about avant-garde composers between the songs, and nobody wants that.  It's probably best that this is my venue.

    125,000 idle blog clicks can't be wrong!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

livewire voodoo

Digital screen in the new plaza under construction in downtown Baton Rouge. I kinda hope it stays like this.

William Gibson, Neuromancer
Premiata Forneria Marconi, Storia Di Un Minuto
Brainticket, Celestial Ocean
John Cage, Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake
Brad Mehidau, Places
The Bad Plus, Never Stop
Ornette Coleman, The Complete Science Fictions Sessions

  • Brainticket is the only ticket you need.

    Brainticket, "Era of Technology"
  • I'd like to think there are layers of techno-irony involved reading a digital copy of Neuromancer checked out from the library on the iPad while riding the bus home, but really it seems second nature to me. For Case, the protagonist in William Gibson's novel which introduced the word cyberspace in its first chapter, the pains of going back to analog attack him in his dreams.

    But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he'd cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands clawed into the bedslab, temperfoam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach a console that wasn't there.
  • I don't talk about my day job much because here's why: I've been watching this data replication job fail over and over, each time for one small little glitch that happens ten minutes into the process and so you have to re start it. It's like teaching someone to ride a bike except when they fall or get scared, you have to go buy a new bike.

    Oh, wait, it worked! Maybe I just needed to channel my frustrations into this screen instead of that one. Now to see if I can make the schedule work. It didn't.

    Again, this is why I don't talk much about my day job.
  • It's screen separation anxiety. Once when my co-teacher was giving our class on the virtues of being unplugged, I basically had to sit on my hands to not check Facebook or email on my phone while he was talking.
  • That is one of the many things to look forward to on our week in Ireland over the holidays, where I suspect the WiFi will be as spotty as the Guinness is foamy and there are castles and leprechauns and I might be able to wander a dreamland of something besides electric sheep for a bit.

    Or, because I'm like this...

    View Larger Map

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


More fireworks

The Roots, undun
The Gorrilaz, The Singles Collection 2001-2011
Why?, Eskimo Snow
Eleanor Friedberger, Last Summer
William Brittelle, Television Landscape
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Advance Base Battery Life

Todd Reynolds, Outerborough

  • My favorite non-profit label New Amsterdam is having a fundraiser where each day they are allowing temporary free downloads of selected releases. Today's is two discs by the hyper-post-culture-processor William Brittelle who you should get to know. Brittelle's music is made out of all the music you like except this time it's smarter

    William Brittelle, "Halcyon Days"

    Give 'til it hurts, people.
  • The new Roots album is sorta kinda about Sufjan Stevens. I'm a fan of both, and it's a good moody record regardless of how you feel about either.
  • I'm kicking around the idea of a best of 2011 list even though I really didn't exactly review a lot of music this year, but when/if I do, the Eleanor Friedberger record will be on it.

    Eleanor Friedberger, "Inn of the Seventh Ray"
  • As will be at least one thing from New Amsterdam, who by the way did not in any way solicit this announcement by doing anything but putting out cool music. I just really like what they do and how they do it.

    Todd Reynolds performs "Outerborough" live at the Metro Gallery on the Contemporary Museum's Mobtown Modern Music Series. September 16, 2009. Video by Guy Werner.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shonna Tucker has left Drive-By Truckers

My favorite coffee cup, as requested by Traci Jean, the person who got us into Drive-By Truckers in the first place. Jerri's mom gave it to be because it was the one I always picked when we went out to their farm. It's from when she lived in Germany in the 70's - it has "W - GERMANY" embossed on the bottom.

Lou Reed, Legendary Hearts
The Black Keys, Brothers
Drive By Truckers, The Big To-Do
The Cars, Candy-O

Shonna Tucker has left Drive-By Truckers as their bassist and feminizing influence, and it would be incredibly tacky to suppose that the boys were all now wondering if they could, er, coax a certain churchboy-singin' guitar player back in the band now, so don't even go there. I'm embarrassed you even brought it up.

I got to go up to the green room at Tipitina's on the last night of the Dirt Beneath tour while Jason Isbell spent (I think) his last night as a Trucker loading the bus. He said, "Oh yeah, they're all up there." This was before there was any announcement about him and Shonna splitting up and his leaving the band. I thought it was weird that he was downstairs when I got up there. Patterson had done a blurb for my first book so I wanted to give him a copy, which was my in.  Shonna invited me to do a shot of Jack with her and the band and I managed to not spazz out. Anyway, Shonna is a class act, and I look forward to what she's got coming up next.

Sweet Soul Cookin' with Shonna Tucker. I would watch her rub chicken grease on bass strings on a regular basis.

Drive-By Truckers, "The Fourth Night of My Drinking"

In case you've forgotten, The Big To-Do is a motherfucker of a record.

So yes. No point in beating one's breast over a band lineup change. She kept that job for eight years which is a long time, almost as long as I've had that coffee cup. Things break, go missing, you get a new vessel and fill that one up next. Cheers!

Monday, December 5, 2011

flare out across the room


Slim Harpo, Live in Concert
Human Switchboard, Who's Landing in my Hangar? Anthology 1977-1984
The Quadrajets, Alabama Hip Shake
Felt, Poem of the River
The Beatles, Rob's mixtape of collected Fan Club Christmas singles
Belle and Sebastian, The BBC Sessions
Dean & Britta, The 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests

  • Rainy gray December with mellow English pop going on the hi-fi reminds me of sitting in the living room of my friend's apartment playing Scrabble with him and his trainwreck girlfriend. Everyone involved was in pretty sorry shape and fixing to get worse, a tragicomedy punctuated by glows that flare out across the room of memory like Christmas lights that have yet to burn out on the string.

  • How has Belle & Sebastian not done a Christmas record? Like a resigned, vaguely bitter one with songs about Marks & Spencer's clerks cleaning up the cafe after the final holiday rush, popping out for a drink, just one before catching the train, which turns into an awkward hungover Christmas morning. There are no trains running, the shops are all closed and both are missing the presents and feast at mum's, instead sharing the last teabag in the cupboard. There, that's a start. They can call it "Gifts of the Magi" if they like.

  • This brief wave of bullshit holiday melancholy is sponsored by a lingering sinus infection, pathetic fallacy, and a innate fear of success. Really, everything is gangbusters up in here. We are busting up a gang as I type this.

  • Rob's compiling this mix of Beatles Christmas fan club singles is an act of mesmerizing devotion. I love how the tunes get weirder as they got weirder.

  • The secret to Dean Wareham's particular musical genius is that he can ride the lowest wave for longer than anybody and and it never crests and suddenly picks up just a touch and you shake awake and go "I'm surfing! I'm doing it!" and you are for just a second and then you get deposited on the sand on your wetsuit, the empty beach staring right at you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

a robot's fart

We went to see the Christmas lights get turned on downtown and suddenly it sounded like the parking garage was under siege. Fireworks! We scrambled to the roof to watch them explode up close and personal. The best part was how the boom echoed off the surrounding buildings, each blast dissipating into what Maya and her friend accurately described as "a robot's fart".

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice
John Fahey & His Orchestra, Of Rivers and Religion
The Incredible String Band, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and Wee Tam
Roberto Bolaño, The Third Reich

I heard Incredible String Band on KLSU last night piloting the darkness one must brave to come home from Teddy's and it reminded me what having a late-night college radio show is about. I wanted to ring up DJ FML and request Pearls Before Swine but she was doing fine on her own, plus, driving. I took DJ FML's lead and let the merry pranksters soundtrack the Albertson's. It was degrees less jarring than the kid screaming NOOOOO over the anonymous R&B holiday Muzak.

The Incredible String Band, "A Very Cellular Song"

Last night at Teddy's, my buddy Clarke and I were nursing a Jack and Coke setup in a back corner booth as Larry Garner was interspersing extended, encyclopedic blues/funk workouts with stories about how integration put him in contact with hippie girls and LSD. Teddy has a million blinking, shimmering competitors for one's attention going on in the place. Clarke asked if I could see the band where I was sitting and I said that I could see that one flat screen recasting the stage like a personal size Jumbotron. He was quick to point out that it was playing actually a DVD of a different show recorded there.

I said this level of stimulus, of congenial mayhem was about as awesome as it could get, when suddenly Teddy's wife appeared passing around a tray of cupcakes.

For instance, wrap your brain around Granny dancing with Mr. Peyton who was sporting an electric mohawk for the evening. I'm not sure how old either are exactly, but they are up there. Larry, performing in the background, who himself is almost 60, said Mr. Peyton was the neighborhood barber when he was a kid.

I put both of these things on Facebook and wondered whether it is even worth blogging further, which is the most precious wonder one can transmit. But it all is precious. Facebook is like taking core samples to see what might have lived down in the ice; the long form is strapping on mukluks and consorting with the Emperor penguins.

Piece of John Fahey's "Song" from Of Rivers and Religion

It's what late night radio shows are for - the extended traipse through a thing that interested you, to give it more than a fleeting glance. No one is listening, or rather if they are, they are along for the ride, so you can go where you truly must. The DJ went from the Incredibles' alchemist lair to the Kingston Trio and the Mamas and the Papas and on through familiar ground, which works too. No matter how flat the world seems, there are still valleys and peaks and chasms in which to stare. Or massive explosions, staged for nothing more than to make fart noises in their passing.

PS: William Bowers once killed me in an anecdote he wrote for the Oxford American, saying he was left standing there like "a blinking, farting robot" - one of many things that guy wrote that left me in a similar state. Whatever happened to that guy?

You need to read his "All We Read Are Freaks" if you haven't, which I had in my head was all about Jane Austen, which would tie this up nicely, but it's about Emily Dickinson. Close enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

metal on the brain

The kiln in the sculpture building is so metal, even if though it is actually brick.

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
The Atlas Moth, A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky 
Liturgy, Aesthethica
Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestial Lineage
  • I'm letting the black glow of Brandon Stousy's "The Top 40 Metal Albums of 2011" for Pitchfork guide my way today. Liturgy, listed his addendum, is like Ragnarok on Ice; graceful and causes one to occasionally gasp.

    Liturgy, "Returner"

    Baton Rouge's DIY-meets-D&D horde Thou makes the list twice!
  • The Year of Magical Thinking(cross posted at Goodreads)  The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Luminous. I'm embarrassed to admit this is the first Joan Didion book I have read. As you probably already know, it's full of meditative simple lines about death and grief and moving on but the one that keeps ringing in my head is "I just can't see an upside in this." I don't think I've ever read a more honest reaction to death. Or to anything.

    Joan Didion is kinda metal when you think about it. She goes into suburban darkness, embracing her excesses while exposing the rawest parts of our humanity.
  • People got metal on the brain today. It's all the rage on my friend's list, even rage against it, and my boy Randy posted this wonder.

    Alternate Reality, "The King That Never Was". Not enough back story.
  • If I may take this a rung lower, New Orleans, LA's own Pacifist.

    Pacifist, "Happiness". Not safe for work. Or home.
  • Someone from Thou commented that Liturgy was "hipster metal" and I contend that if it was "hipster dad metal", it would fit my exact demographic. I understand those who see little delineation among these three videos, which is what I appreciate about metal. It goes deeper into the hearts of American peculiarity and anxiety than any other music. I actually like Liturgy a lot and already regret pointing anyone to Pacifist even before hitting "publish".

    I got to Pacifist by a mere two YouTube recommendation clicks from Liturgy, so I'll admit, metal is a fine, brutal line to walk.

    Wolves in the Throne Room, "Thuja Magus Imperium" 

"Ozzy Shirt" Gets Honorable Mention in DaCapo's Best Music Writing 2011

Original story art: "The Ozzy Shirt" by L. Steve Williams

  • I have had such a spate of good news on the writerly front lately that I am sure the villagers are about to announce my reign is over as they cut my throat.
  • I flip through the table of contents of each year's Best Music Writing from DaCapo and dramatically sigh to myself, "maybe next year", except I got word it is this year! My OffBeat story "The Ozzy Osbourne T-Shirt" was included among editor Alex Ross's honorable mentions in the 2011 edition. Alex Ross is my favorite music writer - his The Rest is Noise is my gold standard. It is humbling to be so honored and even mentioned.
  • In this month's Country Roads, I have three stories: one where Chef Scott Varnadoe suggest that you, among other things, inject a turkey with liquified pork fat before you fry it; one where I visit master woodworker Ford Thomas at his studio, and one where I muse about Christmas, Zooey Deschanel, the Avett Brothers and my lovely wife.

    I'm most thrilled that Maya took the photo for the last story.

  • Last August, I went to cover a breakdancing competitions where I learned, among other things, that it's not called "breakdancing", not if you're for real about it. I was sure the piece was lost to the ether but it surfaced in the Decemner issue of 225.

    Hers's a video of B-Boys United squaring off against Sleepless in Seattle (I think) in the final round.

  • You could have worse side gigs than mine.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You are sick of hearing about

Here's to all of us!

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice 
The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs

The Divine Comedy, Bang Goes the Knighthood
Epic Soundtracks, Rise Above (Via this guy's YouTube playlist)
  • I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice for a magazine story, if one needs an excuse. It's also the payday before the holidays payday so I got some new clothes and I'm strutting around like a JCPenny catalog model listening to smart, self-referential, literary-minded Britpop in the sudden crispness of what passes for the autumn/winter cusp in these swampy parts.

    The Divine Comedy, "At The Indie Disco".

    Pretty much nails the 80's/90's college rock experience. Who knew the Divine Comedy was still poking their walking stick at it after all these years. The whole of 2010's Bang Goes the Knighthood is a sophisticated wonder. This one is a winner too.

    The Divine Comedy, "I Like"
  • You are sick of hearing about each increment in the book's progress, I'm sure, but then you are free to read what you like so...
  • Ace rock 'n' roll scribe Joe Bonomo linked to the page for my book at LSU Press, which I hadn't even seen yet. I knew it was coming, but he found it before I did. And with that, I can officially share the cover art for those of you I haven't shown it to on my phone.
  • Y'all know about Epic Soundtracks, right?

    Epic Soundtracks, "Everybody Else is Wrong"

    It's our last day of class today, and the final teams are doing their presentations and I'm really proud of the work they've done and look forward to one day hitting some or all of them up for a job when they are running the show.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Toot the horns, me!


Felt, Forever Breathes the Lonely Word and Poem of the River
Blut Aus Nord, 777 - Sect(s)
and 777 - The Desanctification
Julian Cope, Jehovahkill
Skrillex, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

  • The big news is that my forthcoming book Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky Tonks, and Dance Halls is featured (or rather the sumptuous cover photo of Teddy's Juke Joint, taken by Frank McMains) is featured on the cover of the LSU Press Spring 2012 catalog. Then, four pages in, the book is included as well! Top of the world! Toot the horns, me!
  • One of my students interviewed me for the student paper about Google Maps stealing peoples numbers with their little camera cars. I hope I got the bit about packets right.
  • Then, HTMLGiant ran a thing I wrote about Joshua Cohen's writing that proved to be surprisingly contentious. The wrecking ball always completes its parabola.
  • I was thinking about Felt, the worlds greatest cult band, and the phrase "forever breathes the lonely word" and the crematory smoke in my Cohen piece and where words go when they leave your mouth or the printers or in a digital sense, the submit button.  I was thinking about how Lawrence from Felt came up with a plan to do ten (10) albums and ten (10) singles and then dissolved the project and stuck with plan and for the most part clammed up about the whole thing, and how that says so much more than saying something does. Then I was thinking about what a perfect little world "Declaration" is.

    Felt, "Declaration"
  • The gentlest of 80's English bedsit pop (Felt) and contemporary French obscuro metal (Blut Aus Nord) may be indeed curious bedfellows, but they both speak to me from the depths of their respective hermetic lairs. Each act has a tentacle in the circle of the mystic.

    Blut Aus Nord, "Epitome IV"

    Speaking of strange bedfellows, in the December 2012 issue of OffBeat, I have a profile of Finnish, accordion-and-fiddle-wielding folk metal horde Korpiklaani, appearing at the Hangar on Dec. 11.  Surely that is something we can all get behind.

    Korpiklaani, "Surma"

Monday, November 28, 2011

I need to scratch my head

Image of Ken Russell from "A Ken Russell Interlude" by Kimberly Linbergs in Cinebeats.

Wild Billy Childish's the Buff Medways, The Medway Wheelers
Coco Robicheaux, Hoodoo Party

The Prisoners, The Last Fourfathers
The Nightingales, Out of True
The Nectarine No. 9, It's Just the Way Things are, Joe. It's Just the Way They Are

  • RIP Coco Robicheaux. I talked to Coco a couple of times but never in a professional hipster-interfacing capacity and somehow never saw him perform, which I will now forever regret. But his incense smokin', voodoo talkin', Stagger Lee walkin' demeanor was for real, the New Orleans thing that gives the city its shimmer.

    Coco Robicheaux, "Time Has Come Today"
  • RIP Ken Russell. Ken Russell's films were a revelation to me in my early film snob days. They possessed a Felini level of brittle charmed ennui with a late night Skinemax level of depravity, all wrapped up in absurd magic. It was the kind of film practice that you couldn't fence in as "good" or "bad" but more just "wow."
  • Altered States, Tommy and Gothic are probably the best known of his films, but I particularly loved The Music Lovers, a histrionic biopic about Tchaikovsky. More pointedly, the train scene where Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson don't get it on in the most hallucinatory manner. (NSFW)

  • There is a short essay about Ken Russell in my first book Darkness, Racket and Twang (Only $5.99 for the Kindle version)

    Ken Russell's In Search of the English Folksong on OvationYou might know Ken from his cult faves "Gothic" or "Lair of the White Worm" or from odder affairs such as "The Lovers," his hallucinatory soap-operatic feature about Tchaikovsky. Ken operates on a weird plane at the corner of Fellini and Pee Wee Herman, with a little Argento thrown in for flava, in a tea-and-crumpets English pomp stylee. 
    It opened with a dream sequence with Ken wearing these square sunglasses that had the word "falling" built into the frame. He was seated in a Lawrence Welk-vivid garden gazebo, where a dowdy English soprano is lolling out a sea shanty. He awakes, plays some 78's for his dog, and then announces, pushing his face through a bouquet of flowers, that he was going to go in search of folk music among the folk.He stumbles through some Teletubbies countryside to a pub, where a metal outfit named "So What" appears and breaks into song. Ken focuses a camcorder on the trashy/foxy lead singer, and then they are all of a sudden outside, with the band playing atop picnic tables. Throngs of English youth appear from the bushes to do what seems a modified frug around them. Ken then has a drink with the guitarist and follows him home, where he poses in front of a corvette festooned with a rebel flag license plate and sings a country-ish song. Then, here come the fruggers again...This was all in the first ten minutes. And I fear that I'm not making it sound random enough. After the first commercial break, it seems that he's calmed down and is now documenting actual folksingers, sadly sans frug. Eventually it has Fairport Convention frolicking in a church under a disco ball, but nothing else so far is up to par with the opening sequence. Ken Russell has a particular talent for walking that fine line between the perverse and the asinine, and this BBC budget affair captures it better than anything I've ever seen of his.

    Here is a scene with his dog..

  • Somebody asked me if I was serious when I said I actually liked Lulu, the almost categorically panned recent collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica and my answer can be found at the end of the Ken Russell piece. It walks a line between perverse and asinine. It is a risky flailing of artistic emotion from a group of people who have long paid their dues, crafting personae. Sure, Lulu is head scratcher, but good. I need to scratch my head. I wish more art made me scratch my head rather than does the absurdity of the news. I wish there were more guys like Coco around about whom I wondered if the voodoo thing was for real than demon-scared politicians about whom I'm compelled to ask the same question.

    I wish there were more Ken Russells steering the vast resources of the BBC into the choppy waters of the puzzling. I'm thrilled Lou Reed convinced the most boring metal band in the world to bellow "I AM THE TABLET" with the confidence of a madman. The more I listen to music of the 70's, like even the hugely popular music like Chicago, I'm struck how weird it all is. How surprising things were. The world could fall apart any minute back then, just like it can now.  I am glad a few people are willing to keep it appropriately weird.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"I might enjoy falconry"

Black Butler
Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

I reviewed A Time of Gifts over at the Goodreads and offer it here for your reading pleasure:
A Time of GiftsA Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Patrick Fermor possesses in this text a conversational way with history that I openly envy. He can talk about the first Apostlic King of Christian Hungary as easily and normally as we might allude to so-and-so from the office. Plus, I am a sucker for any book where someone walks from one place to a distant other - in the is case, from Holland to the Danube; this book details the first half of a trek to Constantinople at the eve of World War II. He captures the all-encompassing hallucinatory intake of a walk. He leaves no little musings out, which can make a reader glaze over pretty quickly. It did so to me enough times that I had to thumb back plenty of times just to remember where we actually were in the trip.

So, if the destination and the expediency of getting there are the key points to your travelling, this book is not for you. If you need to grasp everything that is said in a conversation, read elsewhere. But, if you believe that life's literal and literary journeys are like auditing an infinitude of brilliant lectures, and that each traveller arrives at their own destinations on said journeys, then this will beckon you down the road. I have BETWEEN THE WOODS AND THE WATER, volume two of this set waiting for me in my bag just as soon as I'm ready to resume our walk.

There is a great joint profile of Fermor and similar writer Bruce Chatwin in the Decembe 2011 Harper's that led me to his cuious doorstep.

View all my reviews
Maya is immediately deep into this anime series she saw at a friend's house called Black Butler. I am relieved that it is not about the exploits of an wisecracking African-American servant, but is instead a Victorian, Jack the Ripper mystery being solved by a moody boy with hair dangling over one of his giant glistening eyes and a tall Anime-English unflappable butler who wears all black. The best part in each episode is the 3-second intermission.

Black Butler intermission.
Like, that's it. It us actually two little scenes with the weird clarinet ditty, but still only a few seconds. Is it a meta-intermission, or do they just have like a flash screen when they originally appeared n TV in Japan. Does anime appear n TV in japan first? The main thing I like about anime is that I don't really get it. Otherwise, it's not my bag. Maya has watched about 20 episodes of it and is right now indoctrinating a friend and about to corrupt another as soon as they get here.

I am pecking this out on an Android tablet I have for work, partially so I can surrender my iPad to them so they can watch 20 more episodes on Netflix later, and partially because I am under the iSpell and am curious how life is hunched over an Android. After the robot wars and post the Age of Man, we will be all too familiar with such a feeling.

It's not so bad; some things are better, like the Spotify layout is better and I like how they do the text cursor, but overall it is still a little counterintuitive. Immediate understanding is how the iPad gets you. It's like you muse, "I might enjoy falconry" into the air and suddenly you have this gorgeous falcon looking badass on your wrist, awaiting your silent command. Android is a little more like a cool remote control car from Radio Shack. Plus, the whole design ethos is very Space Mountain on Android vs. the antiseptic HAL-like sociopathic calm of the iPad.

Ugh. I'm even boring myself with this. I'm going to embark on a more meaningful product comparison as displayed below.

Don't get me started on the camera.

Friday, November 25, 2011

the curvature of the earth

I always forget how flat it is when I drive down to Houma, where I grew up one of those times I grew up.

The Clash, Sandinista!
Duke Ellington, Live at Newport
Radiohead, OK Computer

My favorite part of my favorite route there is this marshy, palmetto festooned stretch of LA 20 around Vacherie. I half expect a dinosaur to emerge from either side of the road.

I was going to say something about the curvature of the earth in regards to the first photograph, but I think this photo better demonstrates the phenomenon of charting one's fleeting existence at one point in the warp of time-space. Stare at the deviled egg spiral atop the potato salad and learn the secrets of the Freemasons. My mom said it this is how her mom always served it. I'm certain my grandma served this same dish at many a function of Eastern Star, the Masonic Ladies Auxiliary.

Some people are members of cabals, the nature of whose activities remain obscured.

Wrap your brain around this process: strawberries in peach Jell-O over a layer of sweetened cream cheese over a layer of crushed pretzels. Church picnic good.

Somehow I dislodged the memory battery of my camera and it reset the date to Jan. 1, 1980, and this photo, enhanced with Snapseed's more dramatic filers, likely depicts my feelings about the place mid that decade. Put on a New Order tape and you'd nail it. I've come to appreciate Houma in a new light, having grown up a few times since then.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving is exciting!

Happy Anniversary to us! Thirteen years!

Beecher's Issue One
Various Artists, Zabriskie Point: Original Soundtrack
Sandy Denny, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens

Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts

She's in charge of getting the turkey this year.

The lumpia meat is asmimmer! The banana ketchup is at the ready! The ham is in the crock pot! The world famous jalapeño sausage cheese bread from Bourque's Supermarket is in the little foil thing it comes in! Someone else is doing pies! Thanksgiving is exciting!

William S. Burroughs, "A Thanksgiving Prayer"

Seems like last Thanksgiving I read "Howl" for some reason. You want to apply reasons for going back to the classics. Instead, I wanted to be the first to post "A Thanksgiving Prayer" on Facebook, but one other up beat me to it. Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Watch out for those in philanderer's ties and murderer's shoes! Eat through your imperialist shame! Did I mention banana ketchup? I did!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Look at the pretty flower!

Abutilon × hybridum. Lantern Tree or, Flowering Maple

Chicago, Chicago III
Charles Mingus, The Clown

National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Varèse: Orchestral Works, Vol 1 

Matthew Dear, Black City
YACHT, Shangri-La
Terry Riley, A Rainbow in Curved Air and In C

Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (via this profile in Harper's, which I guess you can't see unless you already have the magazine, but its a good article anyway.)

Klaus Schulze, X
Future Sound of London/Amorphous Androgynous, The Otherness

It's been a busy week. I did the NYT puzzle everyday. I got ~2,000 words down on a new possible book project. A student just showed up. Gotta go. Look at the pretty flower!

R.I.P. David Rush

David Rush, "Free Radicals" 2006. More of David's art can be seen at his Flickr page.

Back in the early 1990's I hosted a radio show for experimental music on KLSU with one of my friends. It ran late Saturday nights when no one was listening, a perfect place for Geoff and I to vent our needs for aural weirdness. We had our preferences: Geoff went for highly textured sample-driven pieces; I was all about 60's free jazz loft catharsis and dada art pranks. It worked because these puzzle-less pieces started to find a way to fit together.

This show attracted like-minded disparate thinkers. A grad student with a difficult personality and even more difficult jazz records started showing up. One of our regular callers resided in a halfway house. Another was a sixteen year old misfit who we met in person one evening when her dad dropped her off at the back door of the station at 11 PM and drove off. It also attracted David Rush.

David was then, and on into adulthood, a calming influence. His deep voice, always deeper than you expected to be coming out of his sweet, round head, took on the mannered hush of an air conditioner kicking on when he spoke. While the rest of us were turning our personal manifestos into unlistenable playlists, David played calm music. Music that moved but stood still. Stuff woven of calm methodologies and a willingness to wonder. There were clashes among this gaggle of radio hosts with something to prove to our no listeners, so much so that another friend did an ethnography of this late night dysfunctional family. David just quietly waited until he could play his records. The last conversation David and I had in person was about Klaus Schultze.

Klaus Schultze, "Floating"

I lost touch with David over the years until I encountered him at a local art show, or more correctly, encountered his work. His paintings are joyous, curious things, as dense and methodical as the music he loved. They are fantasies and sci-fi landscapes and computational grids, vivid and purposed, but not looking bully your eye. He believed in science and process and philosophy and I gathered that those things coalesced into a form of spirituality for him, which is how a spirituality should form.

The circumstances of his passing are unclear, but it seems that he had an ongoing medical problem that overcame him and and he died in his sleep. So, wherever/whatever that spirit is now, here's hoping the sky is filled with nice, round stars and the wind makes a low electronic throb through the trees.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

cracklins and pies

The only things to get in Krotz Springs are cracklins and speeding tickets. Fortunately it was only the former for me today on this research trip. That and a boudin ball from Kartchner's Grocery got me rolling.

My destination was Lecompte up near the middle of the state. It has pies on all its insignia solely because of Lea's Lunchroom, the center of the Louisiana pie vortex. Somebody needs to turn this sign into a t-shirt quick.

The general. It's like a Wayne Thiebald painting come to life.

The specific. It's like what sweet potatoes dream about being.

The town has a typical Louisiana history. Like, I'm surprised there is not a parenthetical in there saying "(not that Thomas Jefferson)". Unless it is.

It was gorgeous and iconic out there in Acadiana. This is coming back across the Krotz Springs bridge, floating on a clowd of cracklins and pies, into the autumnal bosom. Love it here.