Tuesday, January 31, 2012

my opinion on Lana Del Rey is valuable

Lana Del Rey, "National Anthem"

Heartless Bastards, Arrow (streaming at NPR)
Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
Ornette Coleman, The Complete Science Fiction Sessions

I'm not sure what the big fuss is about. Lana Del Rey is just weird enough to work for me. Her voice has a hairbrush-microphone-sing-in-the-mirror quality I admire. The lyrics are occasionally goofy enough that it sounds like an actual person made them up. I like the Nelson Riddle via Casio-preset production. It's like cinematic romantic anthems for people who are marginally successful at having relationships, songs to be belted out in the microwave dinner minutes. I dunno; it's not thoroughly insipid. Is that what's wrong with it?


We had four fire alarms in a row this afternoon , and each time we filed outside dutifully, complaining about the work we weren't getting done by the fourth iteration. Ours is an echoey old building decked out in tile and hardwood and marble, and the alarm is so loud in the stairwells, it is almost transcendent. Visceral. Like you will become fire if you don't leave. The fact that I like the fire alarm might determine whether my opinion on Lana Del Rey is valuable to you.


On the note of enjoying fire alarms, happy birthday 75th birthday Philip Glass!

Here's a video of me watching Mr. Glass watch someone perform "Opening" from Glassworks at a master class here on campus  in 2010.

Monday, January 30, 2012

grocery store roses


We put a lava lamp in the music room to enhance the grooviness


Troll Hunter


The Rolling Stones, Aftermath

The Libertines, Up the Bracket
Edward P. Jones, The Known World


The Monkees, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

Louisiana Saturday Night Spotify playlist
Mount Analogue, Observations and Motion
Wye Oak, Civilian

I put together a

Louisiana Saturday Night playlist

of Cajun, zydeco, blues, New Orleans music and swamp pop as it appears in the book. There's a lot of stuff I want to include that isn't on Spotify, but it gets the idea across.

A giveaway for the book is to be staged through this very website, as soon as I get the details sorted.


I had lunch at the stockyard and then watched a cattle auction, all as part of an assignment. Nothing will make your face itch more than an auctioneer babbling numbers in the $900 range. Look for the tale in the March issue of

Country Roads

and find out if I inadvertently bought a cow or not.


The camellias are at a full rage just out our back step. There is a wall of them separating us from the neighbors, really one of my favorite things about our house. They got in my dreams - I was in a room in my house where I saw a small blond leather version of a camellia on a long stem like grocery store roses. When I picked it up to look at it, another appeared in its place, and then every time I turned my head, there were more and more, stacked up in piles so the leather flower whorls pointed out, until they filled up the whole room.


Used to be, if someone would ask me what kind of movies I like, I'd say I don't really like movies, but now I'll say the kind of movies I like is Troll Hunter.


Maya is teaching me to play drums, part of a twofold plan involving  1) learning to play drums and 2) doing a parenting half-nelson to get her to practice, and she is actually really good at putting a musical idea across. Like she's patient, but not infinitely so, which is pretty much my approach to teaching. And everything.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Known World


Edward P. Jones, The Known World
The Swell Season, Strict Joy
Vic Chesnutt, Silver Lake

Steve Reich, Three Tales
Jim Staley, Mumbo Jumbo

Book publicity is aswing! The one definite thing is the book launch party at Teddy's Juke Joint on March 10th. You said you'd come! I'll remind you!


I had a dream that Sukie, the very dog you see above, was the size of a horse and just standing at the foot of the bed in the dark staring at us.

I also had a dream that I was involved in the building of the Eiffel Tower, and there was some deal with the timesheet, where you had to list every hour that work was being done on the tower, not just the hours you worked. Basically the timesheet would say you worked 16-20 hours a day, six days a week, covering the different crews. The supervisor explained this was a violation of French labor laws but was how it had to work, and that when the labor law inspector inevitably comes around, tell him that I worked all those hours, and he'll tick it off on his little list and that would be the end of it.


The Known World is so good. It's Cormac McCarthy spare, rambly, harrowing without the gauze of privilege lending the narrator a means to disbelieve that things are as bad as they are.   The people in the Known World are cautiously surprised the world isn't worse, or pragmatically try not to think about it.


Somehow I'd yet to hear Steve Reich's Three Tales before, or this little wonder as well.

Steve Reich, "Reed Phase"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

into the mists of history on a flaming raft

One's circle should contain all the best people.

The Bright Light Social Hour, The Bright Light Social Hour
Battles, Dross Glop 1
(here and here)
tUnE-yArDs, W H O K I L L 
We Are Augustines, Rise Ye Sunken Ships
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
Black Francis, The Golem

Edward P. Jones, The Known World
Pearls Before Swine, City of Gold

Here's this:
What I'll say is: W H O K I L L made it onto my "best of 2011" list, and might have made it to the top if my list had a top, and Merrill Garbus would probably whip any or all three of us in a fight if it came down to it.

I almost bailed on posting a "best of 2011" list because 1) it is lazy, 2) is arbitrary, and 3) it was January 19, 2012 when I finally got around to it, nearly three weeks since the year was sent adrift into the mists of history on a flaming raft. But I'm listening to W H O K I L L now, and it still has the stuff. 

In response Mr. Klosterman's  aforementioned "Tuneyards piece" about the career arcs of indie darlings: Why people love anything is anyone's guess. I do what I can just to understand why I like something when I like it because I think there is something to glean from fingering that fragile cord of interest while it still stretches from point A to B. You have to pluck it right then before the string pops. How the thing sounds in the future when all the popped strings are restrung is the future's business.

And anyway, blessed are the determined recommenders! Thanks to J. Edward Keyes for keeping mentioning We Are Augustines! Double thanks for Jamey Hatley for mentioning Edward P. Jones in conversation this morning; I've been trying to remember his name since she mentioned it a year or so back. This Washington Post article lays out what he's about, if your curious. I hope someone out there gives The Golem a spin because it is aces. One's circle should contain all the best people, so that their recommendations spiral up like a minaret.

The Bright Light Social Hour, "Detroit"

Me: This song is pretty good, isn't it? Maya: Yeah, it's good. Not the best though.


Speaking of recommendations, in this week's Record Crate for 225 Magazine: Fred Eaglesmith, Punch Brothers, Kidsleep records compilation, and Bryan Adams. Fred Eaglesmith is playing tonight in Baton Rouge at the Red Dragon. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I like Bruce Springsteen

"All I'm Thinkin' About"

Pulp, His 'N' Hers
Roedelius/Campanni/Bigazzi, Friendly Game
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Devils & Dust
The Chameleons UK, Strange Times
Momus, Ocky Milk
Klaus Nomi, Za Bakdaz: The Unfinished Opera

Virgin Prunes, ...If I Die, I Die

Clarification: I like Bruce Springsteen and am glad he's playing JazzFest.

I made a quip on twitter/facebook
making light of the spate of "no Jazz at JazzFest" quips that come up whenever the big non-New Orleans-music headliners are announced. The oblique joke fell largely flat with acquaintances spilling out on all sides to tell me I was dead wrong to not appreciate any Bruce Springsteen appearance. I do; I intend to go see him even. Geaux Boss!

It's just that social media is such a curious, obsessive mirror. When we see something in its reflection that doesn't look like us, our tendency is to correct it or excise it or blot it out, whereas in real life, we let friends and strangers say stupid things all the time without comment. Something about it being on the screen, our screen, makes us react. I'm pretty sure this is how contemporary politics and class dynamics works as well.

Bruce Springsteen is a wide wellspring of (re)discovery for me. I came of age in the late 80's where da Boss suddenly was re-animated into an all-consumptive media entity, an agent sent from Adult Contemporary America to eclipse Prince. As insouciant teenagers should do, I shunned it, leaving his entire ever-expanding catalog for me to revisit now.

For instance, until today I hadn't listened to Devils & Dust, (and I have Spotify's ticker to thank for my doing so) which is a sepia thundercloud casting a shadow on peasants and the locusts eating their crops alike, occasionally parting to let in little rays of light like "All I'm Thinkin' About" shine through.

Monday, January 23, 2012

the Japanese magnolias are doing this

Magnolia liliiflora, a.k.a, Japanese Magnolia

Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas (streaming at NPR)
Alex Chilton, Free Again: The "1970" Sessions
The Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come
Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
Dr. Dog, Shame Shame
Marah, Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight
Camper van Beethoven, II and III
Mekons, United and Punk Rock

My friend Terry once said the most reliable sign of an untrustworthy person is an appreciation for Leonard Cohen.  I'd attempt a counter-argument but Terry is long gone and thereby wins all debates and besides, who can talk about records when the Japanese magnolias are doing this outside?



Sunday, January 22, 2012

the adoration of the conjurer

Mountain Goat revival

Tod Goldberg, Where You Lived: Stories
Palace Music, Lost Blues and Other Songs
Brian Eno, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
The Mountain Goats and Nurses at Tipitina's, New Orleans, LA
The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree and Heretic Pride
Alabama Shakes, Alabama Shakes
Simon Joyner, Out into the Snow
Fred Eaglesmith, The Boy that Went Away and Balin

A review of Tod Goldberg's free ebook Where You Lived: Stories (cross-posted to Goodreads)

A free ebook from Amazon, easily worth ten times the price. I hope the young lions embrace the short ebook as a platform and make it their own. This three-story set from the author of the Burn Notice series is sharp yet breezy. The second-person narrative of the opening story is effortless in how it injects you into the life of a loser teenager becoming a successful adult; it's almost as if the narrator is the childhood home the protagonist revisits, though, if that is the case, it's not glaringly so. The second story, about the twilight of a golf pro, is like Wells Tower titrated for television, but the third, a glowing tableau of jerkwater ennui, is worth a look. I have yet to delve into the extra "the story behind the story" end material, but I'm kinda thrilled it's there. It speaks to the potential of the platform and how a good story or three with dimension aren't going to be fenced in by something as flat as a page.


John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats makes me like music a little more after hearing him/them play. Which is not an easy feat for me, since there's only a few things I like more than music, things too intimate to my heart to detail, and his/their music details those things, hence the magic and the adoration of the conjurer.

It was great, though it wasn't even the best tMG show, probably in the middle of what I've seen. JD spent a lot of time at the piano, which cool and all, but I remarked that each of those piano songs sound like there are going to turn into "Theme from 'The Greatest American Hero'" any second and they don't. My nephew Shannon said on Facebook that JD's likely got a cassette somewhere with twelve versions of that song. I defer to Shannon's insight into the Mountain Goats - he's actually been the teenager from "Dance Music" even down to literally living in those apartments in San Luis Obispo and etc.

But when JD leads the masses in a singalong of "No Children", it's like church for people like me, bitterness and sarcasm at its wittiest yet transcending itself into love. And when the girl standing in front of me broke into a full pep rally cheer routine to "This Year", it's like there's hope simmering in the world, ready to bubble over at the striking of the right note.

I'm trying to get Maya into the Mountain Goats; it seems a good fit for an adolescent who in her band interview explained that she likes to draw owls and birds of prey. I am all into Fred Eaglesmith at the moment. He's like those old country-fringe classic singer-songwriters, or rather, is one, whose albums actually rise in quality to meet those countless desperate sunsets. He's at the Red Dragon in Baton Rouge this Wednesday if you're into good music and all.


Duck confit club at Capdeville

Thanks to Brannon for driving, and Robbi and Tim for indulging my need to try the duck confit club at Capdeville, which was smoky and funky and distinctive, befitting the excess of its makeup, but Brannon's pork cakes over cheese grits was the thing. Savory and rich and with just the right sharp tang; it was upscale church picnic good.

Our two vegetarian companions suffered their grilled cheese and marinara/soup with pluck. I took a whirl with the fried red beans and rice balls appetizer, which like the opening band for the Mountain Goats, would've been so much better if it was, you know, better, or at least prepared to fit the parameters of its aspirations. I like truth they were aiming for in the distance - a boudin ball made out of red beans and rice, two-for-one Louisiana Appetizerganza, but the facts don't bear out that truth. Really, it'd been better without the beans. They dry up in the fryer.

Fried red bean and rice balls with a green onion aioli and reduced hot sauce

They should change the wording on the menu description from "reduced hot sauce" to "hot sauce reduction". Otherwise, it sounds like "Hey! I got half-price hot sauce from Dollar Tree!" Nothing against Dollar Tree, and hot sauce is hot sauce once it's in the bottle, but it detracts from the tony, we-get-you,-young-professional vibe the place is trying to put out there - e.g. the serving staff all wear concert tees; Talking Heads and the Clash on the jukebox, playing against the otherwise semi-posh, hotel-restaurantesque decor. I like how the menus were made from the nice filing folders; the ones with the metal clips. Coveted by office jockeys everywhere.

I am chalking up this indulgence of their and your patience as preliminary research on the next big project, which will never come to fruition if I don't get that proposal done, so off I go. Cheers!

Friday, January 20, 2012

request for a Mountain Goats/Coldplay mashup

I woke up with both the Mountain Goats "No Children" and Coldplay's "Clocks" in my head, perhaps soundtracking the dream I had where I was supposed to sing a song in a play with my daughter. Typical to logistical planning with a 10-year-old, she reminded me of the play the night before and had complete confidence that I had my act together, and typical to me, I'd forgotten that I signed up to sing a song and didn't know what song it was or anything. I flurried around the set before the show bothering people who'd spent months rehearsing if they had the words or even knew what song it was, but they were all busy with their parts. The ones they were prepared and qualified to perform. I wondered aloud in the dream why I was even being allowed to participate.

Subtle, brain. The generalized fear of being discovered to be a fraud is so fun. It makes for uneventful drama with a flatter ending, when it actually has one. I wish in the dream I'd decided to sing "No Children"  in front of all the parents sitting uncomfortably in metal chairs in the school auditorium, or, at least brought down the house with a stirring rendition of "Clocks." One of the bands at Maya's big Black Diamond concert last December did so, stage lights in full dramatic swing, and I cried a little. It was touching, seeing band after band really lean into to these empty bubble pop songs, filling them up with their lives. But no, I fretted in my dream and woke up before I could see what happened.

So, I hereby issue this request for a Mountain Goats/Coldplay mashup of these two songs. Give my lousy dreams some meaning, lend some purpose to those brain cells flaring up in the anxious void of my subconscious. I'd do it if I was any good at that sort of thing.

I'm going to see the Mountain Goats in New Orleans this weekend. Maybe they'll hear this plea and work it out on stage.

The windup playlist (to be updated until we go)
The Mountain Goats, Tallahassee
Badly Drawn Boy, About a Boy soundtrack

The Mountain Goats, Heretic Pride
Arthur Allgood, I Have Not Seen The Wind (d/l-able from his Facebook page)
The Mountain Goats, Ghana
Fred Eaglesmith, Indiana Road
Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Beware

Thursday, January 19, 2012

party time

Last night, I went out and partied with these folks at the Rainbow Inn in Pierre Part, LA. The Rainbow Inn appears in a Country Roads piece this coming February and on page 121 of my book this coming March. The people from Swamp People hang out there all the time; Miss Cora (right) says she even got a speaking part this season.

Swamp pop legend Don Rich plays a regular gig there every Thursday, but is taking a break until March.

Don Rich, "Party Time"

Matthew Dear, Headcage and Black City
A bunch of Clams Casino songs on YouTube (via YouTube/Google)
Shawn Lee's Incredible Tabla Band, Tabla Rock 
A bunch of rare funk songs on YouTube, notably The Soulfadelic's "The Big Chase"
Lou Donaldson, Alligator Boogaloo

The Montesas, Wrong Side of Town
Clogging videos on YouTube
Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!!, Canten En Español

Hey! Louisiana Saturday Night tumbled up on the @LSUNews tumblr!

If that seems like a string of gibberish typos to you, it means LSU made an announcement about my book on one of their new sites.  It is a humbling thing to have a respected press and subsequent giant parent organization help promote one's book. Thanks, LSU!

Louisiana Saturday Night (published by LSU Press) should be in stores early March (You can pre-order, I think) and this site will be partially, if not, significantly conscripted in the book's promotion. If any of you out there are media folks/book reviewers/book store owners/book festival organizers/people who like to fly authors out and put them up in luxury accommodations so they can talk about their own obsessive interests, please hit me up! The publicity machine is in gear.


I got the new year off to a perfect late start by listing my favorite records of 2011 in this week's Record Crate blog for 225. Also this week in Baton Rouge: Rough 7, the Tipitina's Co-Op benefit and get your tickets for Fred Eaglesmith.


The savvy self-publicist would post some Louisiana music to coincide with these announcements, but the following is the path I am currently walking. Or clogging. Or doing the hully gully to, or something. Whatever it is, it's party time.

Edited to add:  I've never heard of the Montesas before today but I love these guys!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Damien Hirst isn't dead


Some heavy-handed sarcasm from a Village Voice writer is perpetuating a rumor that Damien Hirst is dead.
Unless the SOPA/PIPA blackout is keeping any other obituaries from appearing, I believe it is safe to say Damien Hirst isn't dead. My sympathies to all those prepared to trot out their pickled shark jokes and totally riveting reasons why they hate contemporary art.

 And I had such a clever obituary picture, too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

dust collection

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Mark Leyner, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack
Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Owl & the Pussycat, Owl & the Pussycat
10 Secs from Every Hit Song of the '90s (via WFMU's Beware of the Blog)
World Party, Private Revolution
Bombay Bicycle Club, A Different Kind of Fix
Matthew Dear, Headcage

Chick Corea/Eddie Gomez/Paul Motian, Further Exploations
Ultra-slow version of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights"
(via YouTube)

I finished Nutsack. I'll have a formalized review forthcoming somewhere/how for Nutsack is a book that calls for one, but really, I think I just like saying "nutsack." Who doesn't?

I watched Cave of Forgotten Dreams last night on Netflix on my iPad and had a salient point to make about how they know it is the same cave painter throughout because his/her handprint has a crooked little finger, and how you put your crooked little fingers on the iPad screen to make things happen and that when I went to put my hand on his, the movie stopped and it was a meta-cave-drawing-discovery, frozen in time. That wasn't the point I had at the  time, but that point is now lost. I also liked how there are preserved cave bear tracks in the dust.

I did almost nothing this weekend but watch season 2 of BBC One's Sherlock on the laptop, and I could talk about the sensation of watching a detective genius on his laptop on my laptop, but the point I'm working is there is a scene where old Sher is trying to clear his name on something and wanting to know if his housekeeper (who forever claims to be not his housekeeper) if his room had been dusted. "In dust lies the truth" he claims with great dramatic flourish, or something to that effect.

Sherlock is great TV, my favorite show going. The English, through the focused projector of The BBC Dramatic Series, understand how to work an archetype. These episodes are based on the old stories, the original episodes as it were, and yet are fresh. You want to know how old horsey Benedict Cumberbatch manifests the great detective's opium problem or his seedy connections, and it all falls perfectly into place like dust in a sunbeam. The hat becomes a great meta-joke.

My friend Clarke and I had a conversation about swamp pop, a curious strain of oldies as practiced here in South Louisiana. I mentioned that in writing my book, it was the music I was least prepared to embrace really, but I've come to love it. It's like when Jasper Johns painted that same flag over and over different ways, images the mind already knows is his phrase, I believe. These swamp pop guys take the tiredest of old songs and breathe stunning life into them.

Speaking of old songs, or maybe just dust collection, I got an email that World Party was assembling a 5CD collection of hits and outtakes. Didn't they just have the one song, albeit a good one?

World Party, "Ship of Fools"

but then I remembered "Private Revolution" with hot ass Sinead O'Connor shimmying in the background

World Party, "Private Revolution"

In 1987, it was pointless to try to not sound like Prince, whose revolution was unstoppable. We all wanted to look like Karl Wallinger and have someone who looked like Sinead O'Connor dancing like that behind us.

Friday, January 13, 2012

rock city

Would it were this was a close-up of an area marquee and not the sign at the hardware store near my house.

Rock City, Rock City
Ron Franklin, Ron Franklin
Rory Gallagher, Rory Gallagher
Baby Bee, Drop It Like a Bomb  
The Seeds, The Seeds
Dash Rip Rock, Dash Rip Rock

I'm letting the music do the self-reflection for me today.

Happy Dash Rip Rock day! I suggest we paint DMZ on all neighborhood association signs in tribute!

Dash Rip Rock, "DMZ"

This is pretty much what they were like when I saw then in 1987 at the Chimes, across the street form where my office is now. Meanwhile, back in rock city...

The Seeds, "Evil Hoodoo"

Baby Bee (from my hometown of Houma), "High-Heeled Leather Boots"

Rory Gallagher, "Laundromat"

Rock City, "My Life is Right"

and for good measure...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Go see Joe's show

Joseph Winterhalter, Installation View, BBAC, Detroit 2010
Joseph Winterhalter, Installation view, BBAC, Birmingham, Michigan, 2010.

My old friend Joe and two other fine artists have a show titled Forms of Authority up at Prairie
 (4035 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati OH). The reception is Jan. 14, 7-9 PM. Any of you Ohioans/Kentuckians in the range of this call and the gallery, go and raise a cup of art opening wine with Joe for me.



I told Joe in an email "They look so clean in the photo but I suspect inspection would reveal that clean leaves a lot of traces of its own messy formation." Which is the way of formation. One of the really cool things we saw at Bunratty Castle in Ireland were a couplet sets of antlers from Irish Elk mounted on the wall of the great room. The Irish Elk notably exemplifies the neutral purpose of evolution's slog; their antlers grew to a point where their heads could no longer support them, and the beasts died out recently enough in the evolutionary timeline that they got mounted up on castle walls and turned into really stunning things like mermaid chandeliers.

Perhaps an ignominious end to such a noble beast, going from having a head too big for God's plan to allow to being scraps in some German craftsman's atelier, something about which he could muse "That'll work for the mermaid!"

The Process is just that, a process. We want to attribute a goal, a  higher purpose because it impresses meaning to our triumph and suffering. It plasters bright exit arrows on our mendacity. We believe in our hearts, It'll all be worthwhile because in the end, we become this awesome mermaid in a castle!


Joe's work embodies this, using institutional construction materials as his elk horns, (re)working them so that time is refracted through them, that the fourth dimension is just like the other three, meticulously rendered on equal footing on the canvas, which becomes a fifth dimension of sorts, another angle added to the evolutionary process. I suppose the viewing of the canvas is a sixth dimension; the writing about the viewing a seventh, and so on. If we were both high or quantum physicists right now, it would all make sense.


The Sugar Frosted Nutsack rolls along with evolutionary recursion as the main character.  It's a story about a story that absorbs each retelling of the story into the story. Picking up and losing things along the way. 
Yesterday, I was working on a data process that mirrored it - get some more data, aggregate it, then get some more data and aggregate all that. All the pensive Japanese guitar music and glitchy techno I listened to while working on that report was about that.  I'm to talk to Efrim from Thee Silver Mt. Zion today; their music is very much about this, a song ravaged to become a new song, about society ravaging its way into becoming a new one, only to sing another song.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion, "1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound"


This post mirrors the Process. The story sitting right here in front of me waiting to be finished mirrors the Process. Everything does. The action begets the artifact which bears the trace of the action to give the artifact its dimension. That sounds like the kind of thing Joe or I would say to each other after that third vodka tonic back in the heady days of burgeoning alcohol problems and art talk. Except we would've brought the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence into it and then played pool. Or, like Mr. Leyner in Nutsack says about his story whose telling becomes a story whose telling...
Everything about it becomes it.
So, yeah, go see Joe's show at Prairie if you can. Should be a good one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nutsack made me snort

Bright spot.

Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Mark Leyner, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack
Owen Pallett, Heartland
The Doors, The Soft Parade
The Books, Thought For Food
Paul Haines, Darn It!

More dreams. I had a dream last night where I was at a party Ornette Coleman was also attending and I had a chance to ask him about the 1958 incident in Baton Rouge area bar where he was beat up and his saxophone was thrown down a hill. I've never been able to nail down the particulars of where it happened - the most solid lead I've gotten is that it happened at a club called the Sans Souci across the river in Port Allen - and true-to-life, I didn't get the answer from the Mr. Coleman in my dream.


All the Pretty Horses is really good, but you probably knew that already. You might not know (but might suspect) that Mark Leyner's The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, his first novel in fourteen years, is as electric and funny as his novels ever were. Back when I devoured them all in the 90's, they were the electricest and funniest. Nutsack made me snort so loud in the library coffee shop,  the barista was forced to briefly stop telling her friend at the counter how great the food at Epcot was. There's a blurb for you!


Owen Pallett, "Oh, Heartland, Up Yours"

Sometimes listening to a chorus of a particular song is like relaxing in a bean-bag chair filled with pain killers.


I have my first-ever guitar lesson tonight. Crazy notion, I know, being taught how to do something as opposed to learning it the hard way. Imagine if that same concept had been applied to my day. Snorting in the library was the best part.

Monday, January 9, 2012

an echo of Eco

Cliffs of Moher. Freak out on a windstorm day dream!

Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality (link to a PDF of the opening essay)
The Rolling Stones, "Brown Sugar"
Old Crow Medicine Show, "Wagon Wheel"

David Bowie, Bowie at the Beeb
Efrim Manuel Menuck, Plays "High Gospel"
Laura Gibson, La Grande (streaming at NPR)
Herculaneam, Olives and Orchids
Kuupuu, Lumen tähden (From the Free Music Archive)

Travels in Hyperreality (Harvest Book)Travels in Hyperreality by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read only two essays in this collection. The title one speaks to the beautiful and horrific American sense of inflated reality as it manifests in its tourist spectacles, citing as examples a number of places I've been: San Simeon, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Disneyland and Disney World, and particularly the Madonna Inn, an over-the-top, theme-roomed  Swiss chalet hotel in San Luis Obispo, CA where I spent my honeymoon. Eco doesn't sign off on the life-as-circus as he sees it here, but he gets why we do it, how the inflated story culled from a million facts and misunderstandings is the story we tell ourselves, the myth that we believe. Eco's prose is so evocative, you will want to drop everything and visit the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library, or at least the one that appears in the text.

Here is San Simeon aka Hearst Castle aka Xanadu from Citizen Cane

The striking aspect of the whole is not the quantity of antique pieces plundered from half of Europe, or the nonchalance with which the artificial tissue seamlessly connects fake and genuine, but rather the sense of fullness, the obsessive determination not to leave a single space that doesn't suggest something, and hence the masterpiece of bricolage, haunted by horror vacui, that is here achieved.

and here he goes into metaphoric overdrive attempting to depict the Madonna Inn:

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. But that doesn't give you an idea. Let's say Arcimboldi builds the Sagrada Familia for Dolly Parton. Or: Carmen Miranda designs a Tiffany locale for the Jolly Hotel chain. Or D'Annunzio's Vittoriale imagined by Bob Cratchit, Calvino's Invisible Cities described by Judith Krantz and executed by Leonor Fini for the plush-doll industry, Chopin's Sonata in B flat minor sung by Perry Como in an arrangement by Liberace and accompanied by the Marine Band. No, that still isn't right. Let's try telling about the rest rooms.

The other essay I read, "Cogito Interruptus", is largely a critique and appreciation of Marshall McLuhan, which, if you are a McLuhan nerd like me, you'll be all into, but otherwise might not grab you.

Generally, the contemporariness of the prose is astounding. I felt a bit of a stomach punch when I saw a date of 1980 on this essay while thinking how "now" his messages are, how he's the kind of writer you find yourself always trailing behind. Plus, both essays were funny. Nothing is better than a funny egghead.
(cross-posted at Goodreads)


Tangentially connected to this, I had a really complicated dream that involved LSD, something with which I have no direct experience, but fills the folk history of most of the art and literature I love. I was putting these supposedly laced Avery labels on my arm (Those packs of label blanks you see in a display case at Office Depot; I am currently working on some reports to be printed on them) and then it "kicked in" - blurry vision, heightened colors, vertigo problems - all the things I've heard about LSD manifesting in my already woozy dream-physics.


I'm working on an essay about a similarly stitched-from-fact-and-myth dream I had in Ireland, about Ireland, pecked out into my phone's notes app amid transatlantic sleepless desperation on the flight back.  It involves the loose quilting of truth and hope that blankets out understanding of a place. An essay, sort of, is a waking dream concocted from a thing's reality and possibility, so the Eco essay (pointed out by my infinitely resourceful wife) came in very handy. That idea of the artificial tissue seamlessly connect[ing] fake and genuine. Now the trick is to not turn my essay into an echo of Eco and still keep up with the dream (of the dream).


Bowie at the Beeb, "Moonage Daydream"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The best thing I ate in Ireland


The best thing I ate in Ireland was the fish pie at


The Caragh Restaurant in Killarney. We found it on Yelp. Go figure.

The fish pie consisted of a thick cream sauce with shrimp, fish, oysters and cockles (!) topped off with the ubiquitous whipped potatoes and then baked. Think a homemade seaside pot pie, and then remove any negative associations you might have with pot pies. Then, imagine you had a long day hauling nets of cockles and sea monsters out of the violent, freezing Atlantic, and this was waiting for you at the hearthside. That's what it was like.


You are never more than 100 miles from the sea pretty much wherever you go in Ireland, so the seafood is exceedingly fresh and this took the starchy, aggressive blandness I found to underscore most of what I ate there and channeled it in a positive direction. A dish like this sticks not only to your ribs but to your soul as well.

There are two balls of mashed potatoes hiding behind the broccoli on the side, should you worry not enough potatoes were involved.


This is what my sister-in-law got, simply titled "bacon and cabbage." She tried to get out of our stern waitress whether it was streaky bacon (what we think of as bacon in the U.S.) or the hammy, backstap bacon they call bacon there, or whether it was cooked together or what and the waitress stopped her short. "It's cabbage and bacon on the plate." and it was, no more and no less, and it was pretty good too. The bacon had something akin to a corned beef texture and tang to it; I wonder if it was corned bacon, which suddenly sounds like the beginnings of the best Rueben sandwich ever.

I digress; it's easy to call the food in Ireland boring, in fact the general cuisine does a lot of the legwork for you. But, these two dishes were both very homey, following the script, and were something I'd gladly eat once a week were the charming old Caragh just around the corner.

Friday, January 6, 2012

night boat to Houma

Madness, "Night Boat to Cairo"

The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta
The (English) Beat, Special Beat Service
The Damned, The Chiswick Singles and Another Thing
Madness, One Step Beyond
Bad Manners, Special Brew

We took the night boat to Houma to go pick up the dog from my mom's and this excellent throwback soundtrack pulled from my Terrebonne High Class of '87 tape case saw us through the impenetrable darkness of Spur 70, a truck route illuminated only by the moon, sugar cane field fires, and the occasional glitter of a petroleum processing plant. It worked so well I'm going to queue it up again to facilitate the following remarks:
  • Zenyatta Mondatta has a marked skronk side I'd forgotten. Also, I could listen to a 4-hour full permutation version of "Voices Inside My Head." Does there exist a massive dub workout of the tune? Sly & Robbie did "Walking on the Moon" but it's not quite what I'm after.

    The Police, "Voices Inside My Head". I like the guy's MTV-style production credits.
  • The (English) Beat's "Save it for Later" has always been one of my all-time favorite songs despite my previously not having a clue what Dave Wakeling is crooning in most of the verses. A lacuna, if you will.

    Black air and seven seas
    All rotten though, but what can you do?
    I don't know how I'm meant to act
    With all of you lot.

    Kinda heavy for this little video, which incidentally depicts the little basement nightclub in which I will hang out should I make it to Heaven, reading French paperbacks while 1980's insouciant English babes dance with hand motions.

    The (English) Beat, "Save it For Later"
  • Damn, the Damned were good.

    The Damned, "Smash It Up"
  • History may cast them as clowns, but Madness was no slouch of a band. Nor was Bad Manners.

    Bad Manners, "Inner London Violence" from the 1987 film Dance Craze.
  • I wish there was an actual night boat to Houma. The drive is a bit of a circuitous slog no matter which way you go, so it might as well be by night boat. My parent's house is right on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which I could pick up just across the river at the locks in Plaquemine, so it is possible.

    Cajun Ska Cruise! It's an idea whose time has come.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


The library window was doing crazy stuff while I was trying to finish my editing!

Aphex Twin, Richard D. James Album
USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, Sibelius: Pelleas and Melissande

MGMT, Congratulations (twice)

XTC, Nonsuch
MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
and Congratulations (twice more)
The Flaming Lips & Yoko Ono, EP from their NYE show (streaming at Death and Taxes)
Guided By Voices, Let's Go Eat the Factory (streaming at NPR)
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
  • I played MGMT for Maya (10)  and she shrugged, "I've heard this record before. Like a long time ago."
  • I wish someone'd given me a swift kick to straighten me out on MGMT. I had it in my head all this time I hated them ever so much. I wonder who I really hated and misdirected it onto them. To think, there's a perfectly hate-able band that I've not despised all this time.
  • I turned in my final proof corrections and the index, like just now. It was like folding a paper boat and sending it downstream and watching it bob and weave and suddenly realize, hmm, that was some rather important paper you just made that boat out of.
  • I'm going to go see Gregg Allman tomorrow night. I also just looked up the word "lacuna" after seeing it on Twitter and realizing I didn't really know what it means. If I knew what more words meant, I could probably connect the dots between the two.
  • If you were watching ESPNU at around 4PM CST yesterday and were thinking, man, the enormous head of that incredibly handsome man is taking up the shot in this great little clip about LSU's Digital Media Initiative, that handsome man would be me. I understand that is a very specific set of circumstances, so for those of you outside that demographic, it will be on again Jan. 21.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ireland was great

Mural on a victualler shop in Galway

Radiohead, "The Daily Mail" & "Staircase"
Neu!, Neu '75

Jody Redhage, Of Minutiae and Memory
Simple Minds, Empire and Dance
MGMT, Congratulations
Sparks, No. 1 in Heaven
10cc, 10cc
Jimmy Cliff, Wonderful World, Beautiful People
Various artists, Trojan Dub

  • Ireland was great.
  • Instead of making any New Year's resolutions, I listened to Neu! '75. More inspirational.

  • Neu!, "Hero"

  • I only identified one error in the final proof of my book. This is either a really great sign or a terrible one. I'm gambling on the former.
  • There is a larger essay forming out of the Ireland trip, in case you were worried. In the mean time, I will be wearing the sweet Guinness golf hat I got at the Bunratty Castle gift shop, which might be better than the final essay.

    It's cold in Galway. Also, I look like I've subsisted on black puddings and Guinnesses for longer than just a week.
  • I noticed my blog stats didn't waver at all during the week when I didn't post anything. In fact it was a pretty good week, traffic-wise. That again is one sign or another. I had a weak resolution rolling around that I was going to stop listing every album I listened to and book I read, stop the five-bullet point rule, adopt a less talk/more rock attitude and address the general vs. specific issues in my writing here and elsewhere, but now at my desk, my fingers automatically did their thing.

    Meanwhile, back at HQ, pelicans!