Tuesday, February 28, 2012

destroyer of worlds

I want to hear the Dirtbombs, "Got To Give It Up" while I'm getting ready to go out.

Minor Threat, First Two 7s (Prelude: I want to hear this while I'm getting off work)
Armitage Shanks, Cacaphony Now
Fabrienne DelSol, Between You and Me
The BellRays, Hard, Sweet & Sticky
Tina Turner, Acid Queen
The Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps
The Dirtbombs, Ultraglide in Black
Reigning Sound, Break Up Break Down
Jack Oblivian, Rat City

I want to hear Tina Turner's version of "Whole Lotta Love" on the way to the club. It is a destroyer of worlds.

I want to hear the BellRays, "Coming Down" when I walk into the bar.

I want to hear The Twilight Singers, "Last Night in Town" as I lurch to the door to leave.

I want to hear Jack Oblivian, "Mass Confusion" on the radio as I leave the parking lot.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Saying Things About the South

LSU Press Director MaryKatherine Callaway and I doing the author picture. Photo by Maya Cook.

Various artists, Bartók: Contrast & Mikrokosmos (excerpts)
Andrew Bird, Break it Yourself
(streaming at NPR)
Marc Smirnoff, "G&G Me With a Buccellati Silver Spoon! The OA Editor Takes Down the Competition" at OxfordAmerican.org
Dan Deacon, Spiderman of the Rings
Louisiana Red, Sweet Blood Call
and Dead Stray Dog

First, RIP Louisiana Red

Louisiana Red and Paul Oshar, "Dead Stray Dog"

Second, Louisiana Saturday Night actually exists! As is evidenced above! I can see a copy from where I'm sitting. Copies are headed out to reviewers. I signed a copy for my editor even. I can't say how great everyone at the Press has been and is being. The posters just came in for the launch party (Saturday, March 10, 2012 at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary, LA. Here's the Facebookr event, if you keep up that way.) if you are in the area, please come. Teddy's is totally worth the drive even when there isn't a fabulous book launh party happening inside.

Plus, these gentlemen are playing.

Floyd R. Patterson and the O.M.T. Band (One More Time)

Third, I feel I have somewhat of a rooster in the cockfight ruffling between the Oxford American and Garden & Gun, having written a few times for the former. I'm a reader of both magazines and someone engaged professionally in Saying Things About the South and will say it is the kind of place that leads one to attempt to define it and, in the process, leads you to a rabbit hole of contradictions. The OA's striving for understanding is more in line with my thinking than are G&G's aspiration, but The Truth About the South is like the truth about anywhere - complicated, a rickety scaffold of facts bolted together by the perception of facts and in that wobbly vantage point does one gain a little perspective before the whole thing falls. It's like the fretboard on the Deliverance banjo that, to many, symbolizes the Southern experience; the particular twang you get depends on where you put your finger. I'm going to stop before I quote Hank Williams or something.

I do like highbrow smack talk, though. It reminds me of the wager between the museum directors from New Orleans and Indianpolis during the Super Bowl: Then he concluded by apologizing that "we have no farm scenes or portraits of football players to send you." Here's hoping G&G has a comeback in them and maybe something enlightening will emerge. If they don't mind getting their seersuckers dirty.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I got some great pictures from Poverty Point

This is Mound A, the "flying bird" mound, 72 ft high, shot from atop Mound B, the "ball court" mound, 11 ft high.

I chaperoned Maya's class field trip to Poverty Point in North Louisiana, about a three-hour bus ride drive from here.

It is one of the oldest hunter gatherer settlement sites in North America, dating back to 1400 BCE. The village of 1,000 took the shape of concentric semi-circles, which you can still see in the fields on the way to the two massive earthwork mounds at the site. The staff and museum are informative and understated, which I appreciate. Let the giant mounds do the talking.

Cropduster that kept buzzing us while we were up on the mound.

These barrels represent posts of something they just found at the site. I'm fairly certain UFO's land there at night as well.

Wild purple hyacinth with the mounds in the background.

Figurines in the museum

I was trying to capture this kid standing alone on a stump when suddenly these kids ran up and formed a star.

Sound advice.

The drive up will fulfill your needs for experiencing in-process industrial decay and how societies and brick and steel are involved in the Alchemy of charm. I regret not getting a shot of the seafoam green front of the Cave Theatre in Dephi, but then I get to go back.

There was some real magic hour light out on the vast flatness of the Louisiana delta, a part of the state whose surface I've barely scratched.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

the best afternoon soundtrack in a while

Tindersticks, "Show Me Everything"

Tindersticks, The Something Rain
Helado Negro, Awe Owe and Island Universe Story One

Helado Negro, "Dahum"

Duane Pitre, Origin
Calexico, Spoke

Calexico, "Removed"

Nina Simone, Moonsong

Nina Simone, "Don't Smoke in Bed

Louisiana Saturday Night Book Launch Party


Louisiana Saturday Night Book Launch Party

Saturday March 10, 2012, 8pm until at Teddy's Juke Joint

Celebrate the good times only found in south Louisiana's juke joints, honky-tonks, and dance halls with the author Alex V. Cook, the legendary Teddy Johnson, and the sounds of One More Time. Patrons will be able to purchase an autographed copy of LOUISIANA SATURDAY NIGHT at the event.

Free and open to the public!

For more information, visit http://www.lsupress.org/ or call (225) 578-8282

Here is the Facebook event.

Edited to add: I have a loose agreement with Teddy that he's gonna let me wear one of his capes.

If not for me, come out there for ol' Teddy.

her and she and hey and yes

Al Hansen, Calliope Venus... Lick Me Momma,1968, Hershey wrappers and sliver paint on plywood
27 x 25 inches (68.90 x 64.14 cm) ARG# HA1968-002 from the Andrea Rosen Gallery site

I had a dream last night that I'd acquired Calliope Venus at an estate sale. The estate sale people thought it was something one of the kids of the family had done. I will say that it was considerably larger in my dream.

As it happens, Maya was playing with the leftover foil from a Hersey's kiss in the car on the way to school this morning and asked if anyone had ever made a sculpture out of Hershey's kiss foil and I told her about Al Hansen, how he generally had one artistic end in mind - big booby lady silhouettes - and a number of means to get there - cigarette butts, text from magazines, arriving at Hershey wrappers because he could make her and she and hey and yes

I had it in my head (and dream) that the silver negative space was made from the candy wrapper foil.  The effluvia of silver paint is better. It is the reflective world forming her bombshell presence. The pronoun that is her silhouette. The world looks to be as thick as a lava flow, settling in pools to cool around her. It is she who is the hey and her and yes and most important to understand, hers, while the world is just whatever the world is. Boring without her in it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

for your float viewing pleasure

Frankenstein Float, Krewe of Houmas, Mardi Gras Day 2012, Houma

Fugazi, In On the Kill Taker and Instrument Soundtrack
Marginal Man, Identity
Dag Nasty, Can I Say
Bad Brains, I Against I

Hüsker Dü, Candy Apple Grey
Sugar, Copper Blue
The London Suede, Dog Man Star
Public Image LTD., The Flowers of Romance

Detail of "Civil War" float, Krewe of Kajuns, Mardi Gras Day 2012, Houma

Ramsay Midwood, Larry Buys a Lighter (4 times)
The Allman Brothers Band, Eat a  Peach

Now Ensemble, Awake
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

Cops arranged in a Fibonacci sequence before the Krewe of Houmas, Parade

Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy
Talking Heads, Fear of Music
Galactic, Carnivale Electricos
The Quantic Soul Orchestra, Stampede
Alice Russell, My Favorite Letters

Otis Taylor, Otis Taylor's Contraband
Tindersticks, The Something Rain

The purchasing of plastic swords at Krewe of Houmas

I don't have much of a Mardi Gras wrap-up thesis statement to make. I had a 10% inclination to go to New Orleans this year, but really I love the way Mardi Gras Day plays out in Houma. Sweet, hodgepodge, a little trashy, the streets alive but not clogged with whole down-the-bayou families that otherwise don't venture into town except to party it down. Here are a few others for your float viewing pleasure.

Maya and her friend "goin' walk" - their first stab at the great MG tradition of aimlessly traipsing the route while waiting for the parade to start.

Friday, February 17, 2012

This year's Forever

Around the corner from Maya's school next year.

Otis Taylor, Otis Taylor's Contraband
Black Truth Rhythm Band, Ifetayo
Gary Smulyan, Smul's Paradise
Tord Gustavsen Quartet, The Well
Corea, Clarke & White, Forever

I'm letting DownBeat's February editor's picks do some of the driving today. Otis Taylor is the grooviest, weirdest guy in grown-folks soul blues. You really gotta get with this record. Black Rhythm Truth Band is all four of those things coalescing into a fifth radiant orb of music. Lately, my fifty-cent words have been "manifestation" and "coalescing." At least I've been giving "synergy" a rest. I may start swapping out "radiant" in favor of "luminous" even though neither really says the thing I'm trying to say. "Magnetic" is more like it, without the extra-magnetic connotations "magnetic" has. I want to convey feeling affected physically by the presence of another thing, which is what magnetism really is. All light really does is fry you or cast a shadow. But, I like the way "luminous" feels in my mouth, or at least in the mouth of my mind when I type it. I never feel I have the right vocabulary to describe jazz. I think the fact that jazz is a vocabulary might be the issue. Regardless, the Gary Smulyan album says all the things you want a jazz album to say in a way that makes you like them to say them.

The Tord Gustavsen Quintet's album wasn't on the list; it was an ad on the side of the list. It sounds like its coming from down a well - muted, not really happening in the same space you are listening in but connected in an inconvenient way.  Forever won the best jazz instrumental album Grammy. Each year, I always go listen to the jazz Grammy winner. It's the bare minimum we can do for poor old jazz. Here is something I wrote about Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters when it won five years ago. Forever ago. This year's Forever sounds like jazz played with chamber music precision and yet remains still loose enough to still feel like jazz.

If I made a jazz album, like right now instead of doing this or whatever I am really supposed to be doing besides this, I would call it Cheap-O-Mart and have the players' names placed in a sans serif font under the above picture on the cover. The music would be a pale imitation of jazz I like, as that photo is a pale imitation of the bleached-out pictures my friend Frank McMains takes. He did the cover photo for my book, the thing that makes it look like a real book. My photo above looks likes a fair-to-middling photo filter job; his photos look like they are developed on high-thread count linen.

Poetry is not in the details but how the details are presented. The Truth is in that poetry. Maybe it's the same thing. Maybe I don't have the right vocabulary for this either. Or maybe I do. I just got word that a new book contract is in the works, and I wasn't going to say anything until it was signed and everything. I was going to hint at it obliquely, but I'm trying to correct the general/specific conflicts in my writing and say what I'm saying and so on. I'll make a more formal announcement when there is ink on paper.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

teenage danger activity

All it takes is a lava lamp and a spooky tree to reveal the true nature of a place.

Various Artists, John Cage at Summerstage
Kraftwerk, Radio-Activity 
and The Man-Machine
Jean Michel Jarre, Oxygene
Yello, Solid Pleasure

Yello, "Bostich"  - I've been trying to find this song for decades. Not trying all that hard, mind you, but still, effort was put toward it, and I just happened upon it. I remember sitting on the floor in my cousin's boyfriends's apartment while they made out or did drugs or engaged in some kind of teenage danger activity behind a screen as the 12" of this played on the record player.

Also, did you know that one of the guys from Yello was a Swiss millionaire industrialist, gambler and national golf pro? I'm resisting the urge to make some sort of "oh yeah" comment.


Wednesday, I was invited to talk about my work at a local Catholic girls' school. Lately, my work is talking about bars, which is a perhaps dicey thing to be doing in a chapel with  reasonably bored teenage girls assembled before me, Jesus Christ bowing his head on the wall behind. I tried to pick the least salacious piece from Louisiana Saturday Night that made my point about writing, a bit about the Cajun barn dances at Lakeview Park and Beach RV park in Eunice. It was derived from this Country Roads article from two years ago, and it wasn't until I was reading it aloud did I remember it had this bit about an RV park in Colorado
The same in which, in the post campfire dark, among the din of tree frogs and cicadas, I managed my first real kiss off a girl from Denton, Texas, whose dad also had a taste for the mountains
They (students + staff) took it in stride; either they weren't listening or their resolve is strong enough to weather the regaling of teenage urges. Right before the talk, I asked if there was wi-fi in the chapel. "No Internet here," the event organizer said. "The only connection you can get in here is to God."

That point about writing: you go to a place or do a thing, real or not, and write all the facts down and then later arrange them in a way that a Truth emerges.  Thanks to St. Joseph's for having me and the Advocate's  Danny Heitman and Corinne Cook for being such great company on the panel.


Another point about writing I said somewhere else and I'll stop: "Place" is everything that isn't you. It's why everyone experiences a place a little differently; they are all peering at it through a differently-shaped missing chunk.


Edited to add: any discussion mentioning teenage urges and/or Denton, TX is remiss if this is not included.

The Mountain Goats, "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Twenty years ago today, I picked up John Cage from his campus hotel room

Portrait by Susan Schwartzenberg/The Exploratorium from the New Albion site.

Twenty years ago today, I picked up John Cage from his campus hotel room at LSU (in the building in which I now work) and interviewed him for an hour on the campus radio station.  I remember I was particularly excited he was wearing "the jacket."  I'd read every book and article on John Cage that I could find and just about every one of them featured a photo of him laughing in the same grey jacket.

He very politely answered the questions I nervously asked him. He explained that his then contemporary "number pieces" were attempts to create physical space by putting sound into time brackets. He signed all the records of his I brought with me. One of the other hosts was a composition student who had a piece performed alongside one of Cage's the night before, and Mr. Cage produced a program from his pocket and asked if he would sign it.

The tape is unfortunately long lost to the ether. Mr. Cage told a lot of stories as he often did in interviews, and the one I remembered was about him and another composer walking in a park in Manhattan. They saw a fire engine slowly move through the neighborhood with all its lights ablaze but no siren going. They decided to follow it to see where it was going, but it rounded a corner and silently sped off. "It was a quiet fire engine!" he softly chuckled, the grey jacket brushing my arm as he shifted in his chair next to me. He passed away six months later, just shy of his 80th birthday.

Irvine Arditti, Mayumi Miyata, and Stephen Drury, John Cage: The Works for Violin 3 - Two4

one pointing forward and one back

photo (1)
Onion cells shot by a digital camera through a microscope this morning by Maya Cook

Fresh Millions, Fresh Millions
Stereolab, Dots and Loops
Gavriel Lipkind, Ligeti: Sonata for Cello Solo
Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quartet, Ligeti/Kurtág/Orbán/Szervánszky

Nick Lowe on Marc Maron's WTF
Nick Lowe, The Old Magic
Lambchop, Mr. M (Streaming at NPR)

Tuesday (Valentine's Day):
Tindersticks, The Something Rain (streaming at Blurt Online)
Lambchop, Mr. M (Streaming at NPR)
Geraint Watkins, In a Bad Mood
Jamie Lidell, Jim
The Bird and the Bee, Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future

Maya wanted me to be sure to send the microscope photo to her teacher before school. She asked me twice on our walk to school to make sure I did it, and then told me she dreamed about this really large bird that had incredible balance, like you can't knock it over, despite it only having two toes on each foot, one pointing forward and one back. The foot could spin almost all the way around like an owl's neck. "They call the bird 'Iron Feathers' because you can't pluck them no matter how hard you try," she hollered back at me as she walked in the gym and onto class.


I drew this on the napkin packed in her lunch. I usually draw something. Some weeks I run completely out of ideas. One week I started out with a giant cyclops throwing a schoolbus, but the week just devolved into cyclopses throwing less interesting things until Friday, with the cyclops claiming his arms are tired.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody.

Friday, February 10, 2012

talking about music with dudes in the nighttime

I flicked though my old Flickr photos looking for one that embodied "dude talking about something" and I think this is it.

Lou Reed, Take No Prisoners - Live
James, Laid

Here is a partial list of the people at whom Lou Reed takes swipes during the fantastic 10:44 version of "Sweet Jane" opening Take No Prisoners: the microphone tech, the crowd, himself, Barbara Streisand, Randy Newman, people from Wyoming, clerks, people who save money, political people, Patti Smith, snobs, writers, comedians. I forget which song is it where he calls out Robert Christgau by name.

I had a good across-the-room yellin' twitter chat late last night with @sleepbucket about this record and from that, I recommend reading the Lou Reed page of Christgau's collected Consumer's Guide reviews. If you are into that sort of thing.

The Take No Prisoners version of "Street Hassle" starts off like carousel music version with the band trying to mimic the string quartet but it settles into the brilliant, shimmering thesis that song always is for me, even if Bruce Springsteen doesn't pop for a "hey, bro" wisdom moment like he does on the studio album. The horn section vs. guitar racket vs. one snare drum vs. Lou Reed running out of things to say around the 11-minute mark is cataclysmic contemporary opera.

It's "Walk on the Wild Side" where he calls out his critics, Christgau in particular, and the media and everything. It's luminous. I love how in 18 minutes he scarcely ever gets around to the actual song. I had a literature teacher in college that would go deep into any tangent that presented itself, and once someone asked when we were going to discuss the text. "We have our whole lives to discuss the text. The text is going nowhere."

Styx, The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings
Tindersticks, Falling Down a Mountain
and BBC Sessions

A bunch of us dudes went for a beer after guitar (dude) lessons on Wednesday and we extolled the virtues of 70's pop culture, a conversation that spilled over into Facebook twice after admitting that talking about music with dudes in the nighttime left me Thursday morning with Styx in my head.

The Sisters of Mercy, First Last and Always
Thin Lizzy, Bad Reputation
Dr. Dog, Be The Void

The 484 South Band, 21 Miles of Bad Road
The Chrome Cranks, Ain't No Lies in Blood 
Sir Lord Baltimore, Kingdom Come
Witch, Paralyzed

This egotistic compulsion to list all the media I'm taking in paid off in the dividends of talking about it with real people in the world and through the tubes of the Internet. The media begets mediation, which becomes another media. It's like Heraclitus and how everything is water but with music and dudes being cool! And Styx! Which is a river!

Jerri says I should up the ante, so I'll see yesterday's Styx and raise you all a Billy Thorpe. One of the dad's also chaperoning  Maya's Valentine's dance last night said he had a music question for me and then never asked it. All the major dudes will tell you I'm up for the discussion.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

I almost gave up on The Known World

Looking through old photos to illustrate this one. The jalapeño sausage bread from the Bourque's Superstore in Port Barre is best stand-in for the known world that I know of.

John Paul Keith, The Man That Time Forgot
The Decemberists, The King is Dead
Drivin' 'N' Cryin', Fly Me Courageous
Ryan Adams, Gold
Marshall Crenshaw, Marshall Crenshaw
Edward P. Jones, The Known World
Peep Show

I almost gave up on The Known World - it is a little like reading through molasses - until I got to the part right at the 50% mark where the slave Stamford, the one who "lives for the young stuff", has a hallucination during a lightning storm and the author suddenly pans out through time to explain what becomes of old Stamford and the the legacy of his legacies, and then zooms back into the rain and fire and, wow. The closest I've ever seen anyone come to this sort of architectural feat is the series of destiny vignettes punctuating Suskind's Perfume, but these in The Known World are thunderclap vivid and will once again push in the thumbtacks on the note on your wall that reads, "slavery really happened and not that long ago."


I got to leaf through some of my late friend Terry Kennedy's photos last night. Terry had a, let's say, metaphysical relation with photography. He was a master at it that didn't really show or complete a lot of his work. Life was process and discussion for Terry and I think, for him, a conclusion means you stop talking, and he never wanted to do that. Anyway, he had this whole series of the room with the electric chair at Angola prison that did the same thing as The Known World. I really wish Terry was still around for a lot of reasons, but at least so I could talk about that book with him. 

Terry's photo managed to remove the "Electric Chair!" sheen and leave the viewer in the chilling presence of "electric chair." reality, which is the greater chill. It trapped what the dull thud of being led into that room must be like, realizing you are just a man and that is just a chair and those are just straps and that electricity is the same electricity that powers a blender and that it's only going to take a minute. Zap and that's it and it's all it is.


Heavy, I know. You can counterbalance all this by dialing up the BBC series Peep Show on Netflix, one of the funniest shows I've seen ever. The Office meets Workaholics meets English self-deprecation meets the best aspects of a sitcom.  Also, John Paul Keith will make you believe in rock' n' roll again, should you be in dange of no longer doing so, and the new Decemberists = the old Drivin' 'N' Cryin' + impeccable diction.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jupiter and Juno

Paying homage to the Great Cleavage at the Krewe of Jupiter & Juno parade in Baton Rouge, Sat. Feb. 4, 2012.

My favorite theme float was the Elton John float. The theme was "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" resulting in pop star floats for Michael Jackson, Cher, and KISS as well but alas, no Lou Reed float.

Bask in the shimmering orbit of Unique Dancers. They are my all time favorite Mardi Gras dance crew.

Culture Candy's Babycakes! My book publicist is up in that mix somewhere. I managed to not get good shots of the Red Stick Roller Derby crew or the Stormtrooper battalion from the 501st Leigon, aka "Vader's Fist" but this one demonstrates the blur that will be thier fury.


Thursday, February 2, 2012


This excellent double portrait of Mr. Foster sits above the reception desk of the Guaranty Life Insurance Building, which also houses a number of Baton Rouge's radio stations. I was there recording a segment of the Bite and Booze show on 107.3, airing this Saturday. Tune in! We talk about sandwiches!

Destroy All Monsters, Bored
Godz, 2

R.I.P. Don Cornelius

R.I.P. Mike Kelley
R.I.P. Dorothea Tanning

(image right: Dorothea Tanning, To The Rescue, 1965, Oil on canvas. From the Hood Museum.)


Elton John, Madmen Across the Water
Travis Matte & the Zydeco Kingpins, Booty Zydeco

Long John Baldry, Everything Stops for Tea
John Paul Keith, The Man Who Time Forgot
Dr. Feelgood, BBC in Concert (14th January 1975)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Wolfroy Goes to Town
I Can Lick Any Sonfoabitch in the House, Live in Seattle

Louisiana Saturday Night is happening! It's available for pre-order from LSU PressAmazon, and Barnes & Noble,  I've been assured Kindle/eBook formats will be available when the book hits stores in March. Events are being scheduled, talks organized, the keystone is being loosened for the publicity avalanche.

I set up a page on this blog to collect everything as well as one at LouisianaSaturdayNight.com. The full social media octopus for the book has yet to be summoned from its dark underwater lair.


Edited to add: I once knew a kid everyone at school called "Sandwiches" because he brought extra sandwiches in his lunch. I can never look at the word "sandwiches" without thinking of that kid.