Friday, June 29, 2012

everyone's favorite band


The Flaming Lips stop in Baton Rouge.

I left my good camera right next to the earplugs on my desk so I iPhoned it in. You are welcome! This is how we do it at the forefront of nu-media. I did make that 3 o'clock meeting, if you are curious. And the whole this was a lot of fun despite what might below seem to a be a lot of grousing.

The Flaming Lips, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends and Embryonic and At War With The Mystics
The Flaming Lips and GIVERS, live at the Varsity, Baton Rouge, LA

Thursday was the day that the good ol' Flaming Lips became everyone's favorite band, bringing their love parade into Baton Rouge for sixteen minutes as a part of a Guinness book bid for most shows in 24 hours.  I heard the press was jettisoned from the bus in Biloxi to streamline their record-setting. "No press, no stress," said the hair gelled announcer from the live stream presented by whatever the O Music Awards are.

I thought that to be a curious tack to take on something that is nakedly a publicity stunt. I mean, the Guinness book is in itself a publicity engine. It's not named for some dude named Guinness who was OCD about record holders

With this link, I Storfy the experience.

Alex Rawls and I talked about the Baton Rouge reaction to the show in the Facebook for his splendid new web venture You should fwend him.

    • Alex V. Cook ‎"Milk Run" : nice one.
      5 hours ago · 

    • My Spilt Milk Thanks. Was that version of "21st Century Schizoid Man" as heavy as it sounded on the stream? Was the girl singer better than she sounded on the stream?
      5 hours ago · 

    • Alex V. Cook 
      It was sufficiently weedy and crunchy. Wayne was already sounding a little worn but I think it worked in the context of the song and situation. I don't really remember her contribution to the song except that she contributed. I appreciated that their set had a heaviness to it after the charm onslaught that is Givers. I think the NASA/Acid song is kinda phoned in on the record but was rendered as an exquisite bummer live, repeating "When he dies" like a Death Valley peyote vision.

      Then the did Race fro the Price over a taped orchestra anthem which was ridiculous and beautiful.

      Also I dig how they brought out Givers' space rock side on a couple of numbers. I'd like to hear more of that from them, but then I always want more space rock from every situation in life. Givers really had to do a lot the heavy lifting for the mood of the show since Wayne did a lot of talking to pad out their 16 minutes. It was a really good match. Lips should take them on on tour and get them in some trouble.

      4 hours ago · 

    • My Spilt Milk What was the mood like after the show? Were people bummed by its length? They were genuinely worried about traffic jamming up the BR to NO leg, so Wayne explained what was going on between songs rather than beforehand when the clock hadn't started to speed up the stop.

      On the stream, the girl's vocals were too animated for my taste.

      3 hours ago via mobile · 

    • Alex V. Cook 
      BR traffic is a very genuine concern. From my vantage point, everyone knew the score and were just excited to be in a bar and in the A/C mid-afternoon and part of the whole effort. I work in the same department as KLSU and all the DJ's were super stoked. I'm a little surprised they all knew who Flaming Lips were, besides one of those dinosaurs that Pitchfork curiously holds onto.

      The Varsity should do more afternoon indie rock shows and leave the evening slots to DJ nights and the second-tier nu-rock holdovers that pack the house.

      2 hours ago · 

I am of the thinking that the Flaming Lips' album The Soft Bulletin is among the finest sonic artifact of the 1990's, a shimmering hopeful-while-doleful gateway to contemporary Millennialism, but it is reasonable to see the Flaming Lips now as a flaming bag of gimmicks - as does Matt Sigur at the Advertiser -  what with the 24-hour song ensconced in a USB drive wedged in a real human skull and all.

I'll say this: I think the quality of their songs dropped in proportion to their experimentation. Yoshimi has two or three Perfect Songs, but I'm hard pressed to remember any of the others on that or subsequent releases, with the exception of Embryonic's "Convinced of the Hex" and "Silver Trembling Hands." They are loosey-goosey things cut from winner material.

BUT, I feel that way about a lot of contemporary indie rock type music. I don't know what it is "indie" of. I know that is a tired argument; its like bellyaching about there being no jazz at JazzFest, but I work with the campus radio station. I walked by and heard that cursed Gotye song and the announcer said it was a request. I remarked that I request that we remove that song from all playlists. We've gleaned all we can glean from this group, and got a "why you wanna be like that?" look. I try to avoid nostalgia but when I roamed those very halls twenty years ago and a little song by a little band called Nirvana hit it big, we dropped it like a bad habit. Not because it was suddenly a bad song, but because we had a post-adolescent, Quixotic mission to be different.

The Flaming Lips aim their lances those same windmills in the Corporatized Now. Sure VH1 and a list of companies were behind this thing, and sure some of their endeavors seem more Jackass than Jimi Hendrix, but they are weird! I like weird! Please, somebody be weird! Mark Leyner said in Et Tu, Brute that "All acts of creativity are acts of patricide. You must always kill the father." and even though I am now a father, I still think that's true. I can take it. Eighties music wasn't even that good in the actual Eighties. Blaze a trail, you lazy bums. Do something that has me stumped.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

my exact chitlins frequency

Not chitlins, but Chipotle which just opened up near campus today. It looks a little like chitlins.

William Faulkner, Sanctuary
David Byrne & St. Vincent, "Who"
Brian Eno & David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Paul Weller, Sonik Kicks
Spring Break Shark Attack!, Spring Break Shark Attack!
Silver Jews, Tanglewood Numbers (via YouTube)
The Fall, Ersatz GB and This Nation's Saving Grace

I suck at reading Faulkner. In saying that I think there is a particular skill at reading certain authors; I similarly suck at reading David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon and most of the Russians, and it's not that I'm scared of a big book or thorny writing - I particularly like the latter -  but there is something about those authors with which I have trouble. Part of that trouble is I get a scent on them that there is something in there for me, that I'm not going to get anywhere else.

I used to have the same problem with Mark Rothko, still have it with Barnett Newman to a degree. I have on my to-do list before me to write about this place where I ate some chitlins, a rare food I just can't get with, though I think when I finally have the some tuned to my exact chitlins frequency, All Things Will Be Realized.

Which is all stubborn and a perhaps even stupid. People like things and don't like other things, often in sliding brackets of time. It's not that big a deal. John Cage defined his later music as brackets of time in which things happened and didn't generally specify what things. The bracket makes it his. I can get around that, even though I can thoroughly recognize that reasonable people would not consider such a loosey goosey situation as "music." As music, it often leaves something to be desired, but as Music, it is grand and profound.

I think that's what's up with Faulkner. I am actually quite enjoying Sanctuary, which I am mildly obligated to read by a Facebook reading group comprised of bookish bros with good taste. I like the slow orbit of action so far (mid Chapter 5), how you see that car crash happen because you saw it start in Chapter 4 and probably in Paragraph 3 if you don't suck, like me, at reading Faulkner.

I see how history and people and cars and liquor are all atomic in Sanctuary, flowing in the vacuum of a Starkville game weekend, waiting to become molecules in the right setting, and that in Serious Faulkner like As I Lay Dying or Light in August, all this happens at once or even out of order like it does in the world. I'm into it. Maybe in Chapter 7 someone will eat some chitlins and it will be like, whoa.

I tried to explain to a friend the deal with Silver Jews' Tanglewood Numbers, how "Punks in the Beerlight" is the best drug apology song there is (this excerpt from "Dying in the Al Gore suite" from the Fader will explain) , how when he repeats "I ALWAYS LOVE YOU TO THE MAX" he only partially means that it is love to his (or love's) capacity, it also means that it is love to the limit  where it isn't love at all, love to its maximum vacuum. And then, because it isn't on Spottily I listened to it on YouTube just to make David Lowery mad and saw the video for "I'm Getting Bank Into Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You" and yeah, forecast is cloudy, but them walking through that flea market happy like that is a sweetness to their procession where things just stop crashing for a second.

Monday, June 25, 2012

zigs / zags

Keith Frank, "Follow The Leader". Clarke bought this at Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte after we got a sno-ball on the way out of town after the Smoked Meat Festival. I talk about Keith Frank a lot in my book; he uses zydeco as a cultural sponge that somehow makes everything into a groovier, earthier version of itself.

Swamp pop bands all day at the Smoked Meat Festival in Ville Platte, LA
Keith Frank, Follow the Leader/Boot Up

Thunderclap Newman, "Something in the Air". Forgot all about this tune until I saw the CD at the library. I am into how it zigs into this percussive tense thing around the 2:00 mark and then zags back into full orchestral '69 lush pop and then comes to a sudden stop.

Television, Marquee Moon
Thunderclap Newman, Hollywood Dream

Luc Ferrari, Presque Rien No. 1, Part 1. I could listen to Luc Ferrari pieces all day but then they are already made out of all day.

The Flaming Lips, Hear It Is
J.Paul Jr and the Zydeco NuBreeds, Stronger
Major Handy, Zydeco Feeling
Clifton Chenier, Live Vol. 1
Zammuto, Zammuto
Luc Ferrari, Son Mémorisé
Various artists, Music for Merce Vol. 4

Les Blank's 1973 film Hot Pepper. Don't go trying top make time with Clifton Chenier's woman, especially on what would've been his 87th birthday.

Ville Platte Smoked Meat Festival

ville platte smoked meat fest 007

One can hardly be prepared for the psychedelic meat parade that is the Ville Platte Smoked Meat Festival, or as they call it, La Festival de la Viande Boucanée.

ville platte smoked meat fest 034

It could not have been a prettier, hotter, smokier day. My buddy Clarke and were both judges, which I sounds like the highest possible honor until you get to the beauty pageant awards, where one of the male infant participants was crowned King Baby Master. You don't get a better title in life

ville platte smoked meat fest 014

My team judged the amateur smoked seafood and then the professional championship round, but once a category is judged, we were free to try a bit of everything. We tasted probably 100 different smoked meat dishes. The discovery for me (above) was how much I like ponce, kind of a Cajun haggis - pork stuffing smoked in a pork stomach. I'm not a weird meat fetishist like those that will sing the praises of offal over choice cuts, but ponce is good, y'all. I want slices of that on po-boy bread served to me at a bayou side deck in Heaven.

It was so much meat and I held in there until I hit the wall with this tasso-wrapped, smoked frog leg.

ville platte smoked meat fest 017

Thanks so much to the great people from Ville Platte, especially Sharon Fontenot of the Swamp Pop Museum for hooking me up with this auspicious gig. I thought I never wanted to see meat agin, but we stopped at the B&S on the way out of town, and this Fred Flintstone cut in the butcher case sent me to the car for my camera. Sharon promised to take me a tour of the meat markets of Ville Platte somewhere in the near future, when I am able to eat again.

ville platte smoked meat fest 024

Bear witness to the whole thing in the slideshow below. I'm trying out different slideshow options so let me know if this doesn't work for you somehow.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Clear off your desk and your ass will follow

desk 1
Clear off your desk and your ass will follow. The kingdom of workplace efficiency heaven is within. I've never felt this way about office furniture before.

Funkadelic, Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow
Herbie Hancock, Fat Albert Rotunda

desk 3
A closer look at those groovy matches found while cleaning out. I want to put my number on them and use them as business cards. Offsite "meeting" at the Calloway Inn, y'all.

desk 2
But forget those matches, check out the flowers right outside my window.  They came that way before I even fooled around with them in PhotoShop. It's better than having an actual plant in your office because the Universe is responsible for watering it.

This is how your promote an album, by the way.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I did finally have beans

boston sunday 1
Some guys want to play golf on Father's Day morning. I want to go to Chinatown...

boston sunday 2
...and eat red bean buns with people doing Tai Chi in the square. I can say I did finally have beans in Boston.

boston sunday 3
And then I want to get to the airport with proper flourish so I can get back to the ones I love.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The long road to a lobster roll ends in street musicians.

This conference that brought me to Boston was all about manifesting narrative in new ways through through technology, so let's go slideshow!

The Day Alex Ate All of Boston

boston friday 1
Once I got all the actual conference stuff out of the way (this is actually a great conference) I set the controls on Chinatown, with a mission of finding...

boston friday 2
... a cheap pork bun kind of thing. The ones at Mei Sum are $1.50.  A normal person would be sated with this, but I am not a normal person and plus, we don't have Chinatowns where I hail from, so my second mission was to find the first place with ducks hanging in the window like in the movies.

boston friday 3
Vinh-Sun was maybe thirty steps down the block. A braver soul might have gone for the five spice innards, but I am neither normal nor particularly brave, so...

boston friday 4
I got the duck. I put a microdot of pepper sauce on those greens and they became a dragon that told me The Secrets. $6 gets you all that plus...

boston friday 5 comes with tea and soup. Everything will cost $6 and come with tea and soup when I become king. Except the pork buns. They will be distributed freely, for your king, though neither brave nor normal, is generous.

boston friday 6
This overindulgence predicated a walk across Boston Commons in shockingly perfect weather. I considered walking all the way across town back to the conference hotel, but I am country-mouse giddy about taking the subway. The Green Line will take you from the Commons to

boston friday 7
...the Boston Public Library where these cats hang out. I love libraries and I would spend a lot of time here if I had more time here, for...

boston friday 8 is free to all. It says so right under the penises of cheribum. There was a farmer's market charming up Copley Square right outside, complete with a Danish pastry cart helmed by gorgeous Danish young people, but I showed restraint, as I did when I checked out the Trader Joe's just around the corner from my hotel.

boston friday 9
Later, our contingent made off for the North End to Limoncello where we started slow with a caprese salad. That is my boss wringing his hands in the background, wondering if "The Day Alex Ate All of Boston" will end with a trip to the hospital.

boston friday 10
Things escalated with linguini with mussels and clams. We will have a lot of this when I am king.

boston friday 11
Despite what you may think, this is actually not a bad photo. The Italian district in the North End is blurry with quaintness. At one point I looked up from the map on my phone so my boss' wife could point out that we were right in front of Paul Revere's house.

boston friday 12
Things snapped back into focus at Mike's Pastry where we capped off this orgy with...

boston friday 13
...ricotta pie and pistachio and chocolate mousse cannoli.  And coffee. I was under the impression that I didn't really like cannoli ("Cannoli" is plural, right?) but then I discovered that I hadn't had a real cannoli. We all agreed that ricotta pie is what we imagine Carmela Soprano's tastes like.

I am now back in my room where there is thankfully no food, for I would eat it until I filled the volume of said room, marveling that I managed to do all this and slide in just shy of my per diem, trying to repair some nearly blown deadlines while I have NHK World on mute in the background, and I can't sleep because I miss everybody, and coffee, but, man, I like Boston.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Google Fusion Tables

More work nerd stuff from the IRE Conference in Boston.

This is a very ugly, quick interactive graph based on the Reveille's public LSU Salary Database, showing positions with their max salaries. I did this while the presenters were arguing about their presentation.

Here is another of SuperPAC data:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Boston Day 0 and 1

boston Thursday 1boston thursday 2boston thursday 3
boston 5

Boston is a postcard collage.

boston 6boston 7

cross the streams

OK, I warned you I'd eventually cross the streams between work and life. This is the kind of stuff we are doing at this conference I'm at in Boston.
And another....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I'm making good use of this space!

Ogurusu Norihide, "Humour"
The Fall, Ersatz GB
Magazine, No Thyself
P.I.L., This is PiL
Gleaming Spires, Songs of the Spires
The English Beat, Special Beat Service
Siouxsie & the Banshees, Kaleidoscope
The Sisters of Mercy, First, Last and Always

Monday took a surprisingly gothic turn.

The Cramps, Off the Bone
Tav Falco & the Unapproachable Panther Burns, Behind the Magnolia Curtain
Chuck E. Weiss, Old Souls and Wolf Tickets
Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, Muy Divertido!
Gilberto Gil, Expresso 2222
Various Artists, Healing the Divide (particularly the Tom Waits/Kronos Quartet pieces)
Tom Waits, Blue Valentine
Charles Brown, Charles Brown Sings the Blues
Campion Jack Dupree, Blues From the Gutter
Jimmy Reed, Blues is My Business

A "Bluesday-Tuesday" is less a surprise of GothMönday, I suppose. I started to discuss the idea of "here" when referring to a blog but thought better of it. I'm fixing to be out of town for a couple of days in Boston, so I'll probably "be" "here" where everyone knows my name, putting up pictures of lobster rolls and subway platforms and lights reflecting off a certain harbor. Cheers! (as it were.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012


We got the big naan at Himalaya's

Little kid selecting Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" at karaoke at the Red Stick Animation Festival
Kraftwerk, Autobahn
Robert Ashley, Improvement
  • I took Maya to a free face-painting/air-brush tattoo/karaoke kid's event at the Red Stick Animation Festival, and while I know to accept that karaoke is not for me and that it is for other people and in it they find a transcendence I find elsewhere, one kid, a kid, got up and requested Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis". Let us discount that it is a terrible song; what course of events leads a kid to pick that among the banquet of karaokiable wonder that is contemporary pop music? I expected the horsemen from the apocalypse to come galloping in at any second, declaring the progress of culture to be Over and that were were to be rounded up to toil the rest our lives in the robot factories. Or I wondered, as the costumed Spiderman broke-danced in my direction, why Hell was not fiery, with horned demons and cauldrons? 
  • Everybody both loves and hates Katy Perry's "Fireworks" and two other kids did it, just standing there. Why not Glee it up? Isn't that what that music is for? Maya and I decided a karaoke "Fireworks" should include fire breathers, tigers jumping through flaming hoops, buildings around us crumbling under waves of demolition, an earthquake cracking the earth between the singer's feet, vultures plucking children from the panicking crowd* as colossi vaporize them with laser rays. That is how you do it.
  • This little old blog reached 175K visits last night. It deserves some kind of fanfare. Maybe not karaoke "Fireworks" but something. We got the big naan at Himalaya's last night. For a second I thought the guy was bringing us a giant baked flounder. He did say it would be a surprise. 
  • I'm left tonight to my own devices and am fixing to meet some dudes up at a fake English pub situation just down the street from the giant naan.
  • I don't know if any of this is all related or even interesting. I told one of those dudes that I was going to go home and listen to Kraftwerk really loud because I was left to my own devices and this was a thing of which my devices are capable. Another friend worked for composer Robert Ashley for a while and said his work was "really boring, but in a good way." That idea has stuck with me over the years, as each of the 175K among you already know. Salut!
*Her contribution to the imagined mayhem. It made her daddy proud.

Friday, June 8, 2012

songs of pain

Jessie Hill, Y'all Ready Now?
Roberto Bollan, Hammond Groove Vol. 1

Hearing myself teaching Excel all day.

Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes
Okkervil River, Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See
The Band, Northern Lights-Southern Cross
Davey Graham, Midnight Man
Daniel Johnston, Hi, How Are You and Songs of Pain and The Lost Recordings

Daniel Johnston's Songs of Pain just kills me. I can't imagine the experience of him handing you a tape on the street like he used to do and taking it home and pressing play and having these songs come out of the speakers. You might just cease to exist. Puff of smoke where a heart was. My first Oxford American story was about Daniel Johnston and largely about "I Save Cigarette Butts". Years later, I still think it to be one of the world's greatest love songs.

I never really thought about the song "Tuna Ketchup" before, but when he sings and I like her, I want to throw a brick through a window, it is so good. I wanted to say more but he says it all in a manner more direct than I can by talking about it. Just shut up and listen to the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

a lot of neck bones

bjs 1

Monday night:
Various artists, Respect to Studio One
King James and the Special Men at BJ's Lounge, New Orleans
Holy Modal Rounders, 1 & 2

bjs 2

Exhausted from a night out with New Orleans R&B at BJ's Lounge and the endless drive back, but there is a story forthcoming from all of it, so keep your shirt on. All I'll say is the secret of the red beans (or, as much of the secret that would be revealed to me) is "a lot of neck bones".

Tuesday day:
Curren$y, The Stoned Immaculate
Childish Gambino, Camp
Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe (via NPR)
Laurie Anderson, United States Live (Happy birthday!)

bjs 3

Monday, June 4, 2012

take me to the river

2012-06-12 6

Too Many Numbers, The Scarlet Number 
Creative Source, Creative Source...And More

2012-06-04 5

John Lee Hooker, Sittin' Here Thinkin'

2013-06-04 2

Etgar Keret, Suddenly There's a Knock at the Door
Merry Clayton, Gimme Shelter

2012-06-04 1

John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, The Lifespan of a Fact
Paul McCartney, RAM
Mad Men 

2012-06-04 3

King Floyd, Choice Cuts
Lyn Collins, Mama Feelgood
Baby Charles, Baby Charles
Kings Go Forth, The Outsiders are Back
Darando, Listen to My Song: The Music City Sessions
Various Artists, Street Sounds From the Bay Area


This is a non-chronological walk from my office to the Mississippi river, as well as a self-imposed Photoshop exercise. You will find the following above: 1) artist model through a screened studio window in Tiger Stadium, looking a little like the Hall of Doom, 2) thistle by the river bank, 3) a once definitive but now discarded refusal in the parking lot, 4) Tiger Stadium supporting itself, 5) the practice facility getting its Pop Art landscape on, and 6) the river peeking through the trees.

It's hot already, but not as hot as it will get and this little "take me to the river" summer humidity baptism is a way of embracing it before it swallows you whole, which is also what everything I read and watched this weekend was about. The Lifespan of a Fact is maddening and luminous, the multi-year back and forth between a prickly author and a laser-sighted fact-checker. Blessed be the fact checkers. Bless the dogged little hearts of those who just want you to get it right. I'm relieved when a magazine assigns one to me because while I could go on about the Truth like any other writer (I typed "righter"! Subtle...) that Truth is made solely of facts. A pretty cathedral isn't worth much if its strained glass ceiling suddenly rains in shards down on its congregation. Unless you are a journalist. The story in Lifespan around which the authors duel is about a suicide in Las Vegas, which gets submerged into the barrage of notes and the bobs up, persistent as death. Facts'll do that.

Somebody must have really broken Etgar Keret's heart. His collections of short short stories are a thousand points of hilarious perverse light, as are those in Suddenly, There's a Knock at the Door, but the light is dimmed, the twilight of love glowing through the cracks around the curtains, a golden shower of the whole world out there framing a condensed ball of misery. I want to give his Kafkaesque ass a hug before he turns himself into a worm or something.

I don't want to care about stupid TV characters like I do the ones on Mad Men. You see bad things coming like a train on the tracks but when it gets there your are all, "OH SHIT TRAINS ARE BIG AND CAN'T STOP IF THEY WANT TO!" I'm not going to spoil it, but dammit, Lane, you made me want to go out and do something corrective and if all it was was a sweaty walk to a river instead of getting some of that pie in the conference room next door, I'll take it. I might still get some of that pie. It is just a TV show.