Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Push forward! The Ten Vinyl Albums of My 2014

I like to think I'm not a nostalgic person - push forward! - but my year defined by a growing vinyl habit says otherwise.

Here are the ten vinyl albums that defined my phonographic habit this year. Mostly 70s, overwhelmingly white and male - I know what ground I need to make up in 2015.

1. Drive-By Truckers - ENGLISH OCEANS

particularly the song "Hanging On" on side 2. It is a simple tune by DBT standards but it chokes me up a little with its frailty. 

2. Hot Tuna - HOT TUNA

One in a massive pile purchased from Dylan Bell, mostly for the back cover, but it jangles a note in every corner of the room.


Drew me dangerously into eBay. The congenial jangle and the laughing idiots on the motorcycle on the cover make me think of those I've had fortune to play music with this year, esp Lance Porter, Lewis Roussel, Leon LeJeune, Jamye St Romain, Anna Byars and Ben Bell.

4. Funkadelic - MAGGOT BRAIN

Back ages ago I realized the vast majority of the music I listened to was by white people and sought out this album to help correct it. Fortunately, Tess Brunet up at Lagniappe Records had it in stock when the condition returned.


Seduced by the elaborate package, it was one of the first times I listened to Elton John on my own volition rather than it just being on. He's pretty good, Elton is.

6, Bob Dylan- PLANET WAVES

In high school, I found myself defending Bob Dylan to my dad, who said, "Elton John, now there's a good singer." F Elton John, I thought. I tried to sell my daughter on Bob Dylan and I forget what she said about him, but it was funny. This album and NEW MORNING are my Dylan.


So simple. Talking about almost nothing. Piano tinkling. Tablas in a hypnotic telegraph from the universe. It's the best thing I listened to all year, the very year where Ashley left us.

8. Lyres - LYRES

Tremolo, scream, drum break, everything.

9. Sly & the Family Stone - THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON

Purchased and played on the day of the Ferguson verdict. Not on purpose, but it served one anyway. Sly became a gun-toting recluse, girded against The Man, during the recording of this, but didn't lose sight of the shared beauty of humanity that begat "Family Affair" - one of the world's greatest songs. You can be fearful and have a gun even. Just don't kill anyone.


I got to sing in a David Bowie tribute night and it pushed me forward in my singing. My daughter is baking herself in a Bowie-shaped pan pushing herself forward.  Push on in 2015. No cocaine necessary on that the 70s  took it all for us. Push forward!

Monday, December 8, 2014

three lovely records

Robert Ashley
In my quest to check out and listen to every cool LP in the LSU library before my contract dries up in May, I filled my brain with three lovely records from Lovely Music.

From their website:

Founded in 1978, Lovely Music is one of the longest-lived and most distinctive independent labels active in the recording and promotion of new American music. According to label founder Mimi Johnson, the label is “dedicated to releasing the best in avant-garde and experimental music, from electronics and computer music to new opera and extended vocal techniques.” Placing emphasis on the artist’s intent, Lovely Music recordings are always composer-supervised and produced.

  1. William Duckworth  - The Time Curve Preludes

    This is a powerhouse of minimalist piano (the repetitive kind), riffs and swells of notes that curl into the air like tulips taking their steps to the sun.

    The beauty of this work is that it has all the rigor and transcendence one wants  (if you are one that wants such things) but is also infused with humor. The above Prelude XXII has in it the DNA of "The Entertainer" as it does the connection tones of 1970s era phone trunk systems.

    Album at Lovely Music
  2. Alvin Lucier - Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas

    Alvin Lucier is maybe the truest of the experimental composers - his pieces could be performed in a physics lab, yet in some like his landmark I Am Sitting in a Room (a repeated text run through recordings of recordings of itself, gaining reverb of the room each time, to eliminate Lucier's stutter) and Silver Streetcar For The Orchestra (a persistently tinged triangle) there is a humor, albeit desert dry.

    Performed by Nick Hennies of the super cool Austin band Weird Weeds.

    In Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas, one may find merriment in the absurdist persistence of these works - largely about two tones extremely close in pitch - but more likely, annoyance that, if allowed, can transform into enlightenment. If you can swing that move, you have life covered.

    I once had an idea to write a book about phenomena as art, and emailed Alvin Lucier to ask to interview him for a chapter about his music. He responded:

    Dear Alex, I have lost interest in being interviewed for books and articles. It seems to me that you could study my work and write something more interesting that I could relay to you. You should do the work. I never say anything that seems complete and true. Cordially, Alvin Lucier

    Album at Lovely Music
  3. Robert Ashley - Private Parts (The Yard/The Backyard)

    This album is astounding. Robert Ashley's deal is about the spoken voice, almost informal music and the ordinary in our lives, and how when concentrated, they become something extraordinary. A friend of mine studied with him and said his music is "boring, but in a really good way" which has stuck with me forever.

    Robert Ashley, The Backyard

    Im on my third listen to this piece, with its guileless tablas, the digestive melodrama of the organ and ol' Robert droning on about how

    $14.28 is more attractive than fourteen dollars. It's just that way.

    Ashley's hypnotic voice feels magically profound. I want to walk around with those tablas going, narrating everything I see. Had Ashley lived, he could have made an app that just had simple music and his voice describing everything the phone camera sees. I might never turn such a thing off.

    Album at Lovely Music

Thursday, December 4, 2014

[Train whistle blows in the distance.]

One of Moebius' storyboards for Jodorowsky's proposed adaptation of Dune.

We got a DVD player for the first time in ages and here is what I watched:
  1. Jodorowski's Dune (2013)

    The infamous cinematic madman behind The Holy Mountain (trailer) and El Topo (full movie) comes off as the greatest liberal arts teacher mentor you never had, talking at length about a science fiction epic that never got made based on a book he never read.

    A friend told him the gist of Frank Herbert's Dune and he concocted a better Jesus myth rooted in the mysterious spice melange that turns a desert planet and a desert rat humanity into flowers of enlightenment.

    It made me want to go check out Dune from the library, not read it, and do something profound with my life.
  2. Mystery Train (1983)

    I openly admit to falling asleep to this movie every time I try to watch it, and I don't mean that as a dig. I fall asleep at movies. It's me, not you. But there is something about this film that drifts into my consciousness, how it strands my thoughts in the deadbeat crypto-Memphis of Jim Jarmusch's creation.

    I had the subtitles on and it seemed like every time I nodded back into it I saw

                    [Train whistle blows in the distance.]

    on the screen. I'd watch (and fall asleep to) a movie that just had a black screen with that written on it. If I were as brave or wild as Jodorowsky, I'd make that film.
  3. This is Spinal Tap (1984)

    The is Spinal Tap is one of those movies embedded in my cultural DNA that I think I may never have seen first-hand. I did the responsible thing and watched it with my daughter who made it half way through. The next morning she asked me if the drummer died. The whole experience went to eleven.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Introducing Andy Pratt, Whose Records are Like Life.

Andy Pratt, from AllMusic

If you know Andy Pratt at all, it is likely for this blistering, gender-switch, pop orchestra number "Avenging Annie," a near hit for the songwriter and later covered by Roger Daltrey.

I didn't know about him before a chance meeting via the YouTube recommendation engine, which led me down the forest path to his 1969 album Records are Like Life. 

A large number of Pratt's albums are available for streaming (and embedding) on his site If the embed does not work, here is the album on YouTube.

Records are Like Life is a prime example of 70s cusp sylvan wildness, where a guitar summons the spirits of mystery from the wood as on "Wet Daddy" or a piano/organ mix crafts a palace of staggering melancholy like "Oliver." Much of Pratt's first album is like this, grandeur that is tinged with a marked innocence. "Shiny Susie" is an upscale orchestrator's take on T. Rex/Donovan sexuality that would come to flower in his next album.

Pratt comes into the fullness of his powers on  Andy Pratt (above or on YouTube) See particularly the hit "Avenging Annie" as well as the Zappa-influenced "It's all Behind You" with its deep-spoken soliloquies and sitar-interludes and sleaze-soul come-ons. "Summer, Summer" is like light rock Rolling Stones, if that's a possible thing.  I could imagine a Parade-era Prince performing the "All the King's Weight." The schizo-twang of "Who Am I Talking To" might be the thematic track on the album - for Pratt seems to be asking that to the panoply of musicians in his head.

With Resolution's release in 1976, Steven Holden said in Rolling Stone of Pratt, "By reviving the dream of rock as an art and then reinventing it, Pratt has forever changed the face of rock." Praise no artist should have to uphold, the album is powerhouse, gelling his myriad talents into a concentrated vision. The title track finds his Jagger-esque sneer transmogrifying into a sinewey croon, surrounding his grand melody like ivy.

"Treasure that Canary" takes more than a little from the Stones' Beggars Banquet, but he does wonders with the leftovers. I particularly like the AM gold jet to the stratosphere at the end.

Somewhere after this, Pratt entered into every grand artists' search for a hit as well as an embrace of Christianity that loses much of its edge for this listener, though he finds a career in that world. Fast forward to the informally crafted albums he releases through is website to land upon 2011's Life and Death, in which a beleaguered Pratt emerges from some artistic wilderness, sounding is he is clinging to just that.

In the crudest pop critic algebra, this album is

(Chris Bell + ELO + Steve Earle) / lonely

"No yer not/gonna break me down" sounds as unconvincing as a growl from a defeated yard dog, but in that raggedness comes Pratt's glowing humanity. "I'm a long time loser. You're not gonna break me down." "Rapture" proclaims it is "a long, long way to Valhalla' over a congenial rumble rock that reminds me of Roky Erickson's post-13th Floor Elevator's glory on The Evil One. Pratt may seem to have lost it a little - trading his recording studio Boston for a storage-unit Tom Petty -  but in that losing, has found something.

"My Complaint" feels more of a true resolution than Resolution - he's tired of everything - "My complaint must be a hundred miles long." He starts answering his own complaints with a cranky "What?" It feels like as true a rock song as man can sing.

Check out and buy more of his work on his website

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just as my Nick Cave infatuation was starting to fade

Nick Cave and the bad seeds live @ Paladozza (11174862314)
  1. I finally watched 20,000 Days on Earth.

  2. I saw Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds this summer in New Orleans and it was the most transformative concert I've seen in a decade. Cathartic, climatic, catastrophic, loud as a gun, precise as a scalpel. Just as my Nick Cave infatuation was starting to fade, someone mentioned

    and it pulled me right back into it. I came up with the first three verses of a blatant Nick Cave ripoff tune called "Demon! Demon! Demon!" while walking the dog this morning.
  3. I'm in love with his studio. A while back,  New York Magazine ran a discussion between Sufjan Stevens and Stephin Merritt on the comparative values each puts on pop music, and the question of fame came up:

    Do you crave massive fame and popularity?
    STEVENS: No. [Laughs.] I wouldn’t mind being popular in other ways, but not with music.
    MERRITT: I don’t care if I’m famous. I want to be rich. I want to be able to do what I’m doing on a bigger scale, and if I feel like having an orchestra, I’d like to be able to snap my fingers and have it happen that day. I don’t particularly like orchestral music, so it’s not much of a constraint for me. But it is a constraint not to have an enormous apartment with reverb chambers and an empty swimming pool where I can record the drums if I want to.
    STEVENS: You want an empty swimming pool?
    MERRITT: Yeah. I want the facilities that Abba had. I may not use them like Abba, but I want to have the creative freedom to do what only a lot of money would allow me to do. So I don’t really care about fame, but I do care about money.

  4. In the world of this movie, Nick Cave has some Abba-grade digs. Pianos all over the place, fancy rugs, lots of light. he and Warren Ellis loll around intoning into microphones with engineers floating in the dust motes to catch some genius.

  5. The resources of the studio are Nick Cave's amanuensis, a word-of-the-day from 2011 that has stuck with me.
    • amanuensis
    • audio pronunciation
    • \uh-man-yuh-WEN-sis\
    : one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript
    Marco worked as an amanuensis for a judge who needed to compose his opinions orally while recovering from cataract surgery.

    "As early as the 1840s and 1850s, the Ohio Cultivator published women's columns that spoke vividly for women's rights and honed the talents of two important abolitionist feminists, Hanna Maria Tracy Cutler and Frances Dana Gage, who is now best remembered as the amanuensis for Sojourner Truth's 'Ain't I a Woman' speech." -- From Frances W. Kaye's 2011 book Goodlands: A Meditation and History on the Great Plains
  6. The recurring themes of Nick Cave's creative life is transformation and memory, which he taps into quite well. I'd like to have some financial advice - for a guy who hasn't exactly been a huge pop star he's doing quite well in houses and cars and studios. Plus, that would be a hilarious investment advice show.

    But the whole thing is about transformation, his whole gig maybe. Maybe it is the human gig. Anyway, he makes it seem graceful and terrific and you should see this film even if Nick Cave is kind of a clown to you. Baton Rougeans, 20,000 Days on Earth is playing at the Manship Theatre on Nov. 29. (Facebook event)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5 things from living in the world

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. I think it looks like a dog.
  1. The ESA is landing the Rosetta on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
    Live Feed (via

    Also, it has been discovered that the comet is singing a 40-50 hertz song into space and because the European Space Agency is cool like that, they put it on Soundcloud

  2. Back on Earth, Glenn Beck has explained he is retiring because of illness. I harbor no real love for Glenn Beck, but it is impossible to ignore the effectiveness of his personal invective on the public. I was weirdly moved by his semi-cryptic announcement about his mysterious illness. Basically, he doesn't dream and it is destroying him, causing him to feel searing pains in his hands and feet. He speaks of having his wife check his feet for broken glass and doesn't mention stigmata, so I'll give him points for toning it down here.

    The announcement is a powerful cocktail of vulnerability and ego.

  3. I lost my keys. That will remind you live in the world. If you find them (they have a white plastic bottle opener, an ironically unused green carbiner clip and Hyundai key fob on the ring), drop me a line.
  4. I'm becoming nostalgic, or realizing that I have always been nostalgic despite denying it. My band, the Rakers, has embarked on a monthly River City Rewind project at Chelsea's, where we cover a bunch of old, forgotten Baton Rouge songs from yesteryear. This is one of my current favorites we are doing for the 11/19 show at Chelsea's.

    The Greek Fountains, "Countin' the Steps"

    Come on out! We are doing a Kyper song!
  5. But yeah, nostalgia. My earliest "memory" is of the moon landing in 1969. The story goes that my father held me up to the TV to see it when I was but a few months old and forever I insisted I remember it. Now, I know memory is a selectively curated collage. My ability to remember people is as dodgy at Glenn Beck's but you don't see me comparing myself to Winston Churchill.

    Tashi plays Messiaen Quartet at the End of Time

    My nostalgia is manifesting through my daughter's record player and I just realized that I can check out albums from the campus library. As a student, I would take up residence in the library basement listening rooms and study and smoke and wallow in obtuse classical music, so now I'm checking these records out and doing the same at home, without the smoking.

    I love Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, composed for an odd quartet of musicians imprisoned with him during WWII. From wiki:

    Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered 
    World War II. He was captured by the German army in June 1940 and imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany (now ZgorzelecPoland). While in transit to the camp, Messiaen showed the clarinetist Henri Akoka, also a prisoner, the sketches for what would become Abîme des oiseaux. Two other professional musicians, violinist Jean le Boulaire and cellist Étienne Pasquier, were among his fellow prisoners, and after he managed to obtain some paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic guard (Carl-Albert Brüll, 1902-1989), Messiaen wrote a short trio for them; this piece developed into the Quatuor for the same trio with himself at the piano. The combination of instruments is unusual, but not without precedent: Walter Rabl had composed for it in 1896, as had Paul Hindemith in 1938.
    The quartet was premiered at the camp, outdoors and in the rain, on 15 January 1941. The musicians had decrepit instruments and an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards.
    [1] Messiaen later recalled: "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension."[2]

    Brüll provided paper and isolation for composing, and he also helped acquire the three other instruments. By forging papers with a stamp made from a potato, Brüll even helped the performers to be liberated shortly after the performance. After the war, Brüll made a special trip to visit Messiaen, but was sent away and told the composer would not see him.[3]

  6.  But, I also really love Tashi, the string quartet on this recording. Check out that cape!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Under the influence of A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

"cos he was the one to send it with truth that's something from 
someone and Gena Rowlands" - Fugazi, "Cassavetes"

5 things:

  1. Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence is killing me.

  2. Here is part 2 of the movie.

  3. We got cable and a new TV and Google Chromecast so we can stream everything to everything and experience the media world like all the ants in the digital anthill at once.

    It sort of works. The system glitched out just as Gena Rowlands asked her kid if he thought she was dopey and the kid said "You're smart. You're pretty. You're nervous, too." I feel that way about our wireless network. And the move in general, I guess. Everything I like is smart, pretty and nervous.
  4. Honestly, I don't know Cassavetes' work all that well. I know he's important in that golden era of film that I don't really get into. I'm more familiar with this Fugazi song about him.

    Fugazi, "Cassavetes" from In On the Kill Taker.
  5. But, wow, what a movie.  It is a masterwork in staggering dynamic shifts, like the scene where the African-American guy working for Peter Falk starts singing and Gena Rowlands is transfixed and all up in his face like he is going to kiss him and then the worker places a hand on Gena's head like she's going to kiss her but doesn't and then it escalates further and Peter Falk bellows for it to stop and it does as if the earth quit rotating.  He apologizes later not knowing who or what he is apologizing for. Theirs is world held together by frayed cords.

    I haven't even gotten into part two of the movie and I still want to sing its praises. I need something new to get into (in this case, Cassavetes) like I need a hole in my head.
    Speaking of things with holes, I think I have a new guitar. It is smart and pretty. Not even nervous.
    Porch life forever.

    It is a black lacquered Fender acoustic/electric, well suited for absorbing all possible light and transmitting my mannered darknesses.

    "in the dark till the lights came up my heart beating like a riot riot " - Fugazi, again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014



I caught a glance of the elusive LSU School of Music ghost squirrel a while back. I followed the squirrel through the trees for about 10 minute before I got a good look at it and it me.

I would have liked some enterprising woodwind student to have come out and soundtracked the affair.


This morning, the moon was taking the escalator down from the top deck of the stadium


and this guy is trying to peek in my office window.


I've been thinking a lot about fonts and letterforms lately and how the curves all interact. For a second yesterday, I was saying, "I am going to make a font!" Almost downloaded the program and everything.


This creative switch has been tripped by the fact that I am in the throes of finishing Gas Station Boudin, among other throes. Nothing will get you thinking about things more than having a task at hand.

Anyway, good morning, long-neglected blog readers! Come see my band, The Rakers, at the BeatNik if you are in New Orleans this Saturday. (Here is the Facebook event)

For those that don't follow me elsewhere and have been wanting to know what I have been reading, I was blown away by Denis Johnson's Angels and Yukio Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea.
AngelsAngels by Denis Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a book! Everything is precise, even the hallucinations and the real unfathomable horrors, even the sense of indirection in these characters' lives. There is no mercy in this world, but there is a tactile web of sympathy, and precision of that sympathy is what holds us up over that darkness to which we are drawn.
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the SeaThe Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is all killer, no filler. Precise sly from the early pages where a young boy peeps through a hole in the wall to watch his mother have sex with a sailor, this perverse parable of fate, glory and destiny unfurls like a pennant planted on previously unclaimed land.

Mishima's language razor precise; I can only imagine how powerful this is in the original. His sense of time passing is magical, minutes can flow into pages and a whole season can be condensed on a paragraph break. Points of view are similarly mutable; as if everyone is of a single cultural mind. And the ending almost had me shout NO were I not vainly attempting the stoic, flaws of manhood woven through the book. Total page turner, yet perfectly crafted.
The types used for both were designed by a Mr. Dwiggins. I told you I was into this.

And I wrote a slew new songs I'm proud of.

"I'm Not Afraid of my Soul"



"Flannery O'Connor"

So that covers me. Today's ramble has been brought to you by the Tony Williams Lifetime.
Have a good one!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Four TV things

Sparkle Johnson

24: Live Another Day

I cannot muster the interest for the World Cup. I haven't climbed aboard Neil deGrasse Tyson's weird little spaceship, though I longed to co-pilot the original Cosmos one along side Carl Sagan who would, on the outer stretches of the mind's glorious imagination, tell me he is my real father and ask me if I want to get wicked high. I didn't even watch all of The Wire though I know, I know...  I don't care that much about TV. I'd just as soon watch Star Trek than anything.

But I love 24. It is stupid, predictable, jingoistic. It relies on it structural conceit the way a dozing lummox does a straining hammock frame. It is essentially a giant phone ad. I love every president-personally-involving, about-to-gouge-out-your-eye-if-you-don't -tell-me-who-you-are-working-with moment. Ponk pink ponk pink goes the beat of my heart. I'm sorry.

The thing I love about this ninth season/reboot is that Jack Bauer, the unflappable stress sponge that has saved countless American hides in real time for almost a decade, is fed up. Democracy has failed him time and again. He doesn't even flinch when the government is out to arrest him one second and then he's on the phone with the president the next.  By the way, William Devane with his Alzheimer's and his Wilford Brimleyist public speaking style is the most believable president on the series.

Jack won me over this season after torturing a sympathetic terrorist a little too much as he forced doctors to waker her from a coma so he could do so, and his partner witnessed a man gone too far. Jack, for the first time, recoiled at himself and apologized, saying, "I shouldn't have done that. It's just that I hate these people." That is a great apology! Insufficient, like all apologies, but still, an honest one.

Jack is a savior, a torture spy Jesus, forever arisen from the cave. He is Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," killing people he once saved. I love it when a noble soul has had it.

Plus, Chloe is a goth now! The only thing that would have been hotter is if Agent Scully had gone goth.

The Leftovers

I'm only two episodes into HBO's latest contribution to the rapture noir genre, and truthfully, I don't yet care about any of the characters, but then, like, God didn't care about them either. 2% of the world upped and disappeared in an instant. You even got the "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned" gag, with a car plummeting driverless into trash cans as a handful of people yelled for so-and-so who just vanished.

It's great that only 2% left. Just enough to jack with the social order but not dismantle it. People join a guilt cult where you have to wear white and be silent. My wife astutely pointed out that it is the same cult John Lithgow joins in The World According to Garp. I keep hoping to see him lumbering around in the background. Otherwise, people work for insurance companies and coffee shops just like in pre-God-forsaken now.

The slight shift that the remaining 98% needed to make to get along is jarring, which is the beauty of the show. Our deal is so fragile, yet we can survive and mutate to anything. We have a much harder time living with ourselves than we do any level of adversity.

I remember right after Hurricane Gustav walking through the fallen trees in my powerless streets to Calandro's, the neighborhood supermarket, which was weirdly open. There was no power, just battery lights and people making cash purchases for whatever there was to have. I asked if there was a cold Coke in the place and Misti the cashier said, "There's Cokes, but they ain't cold."

A weary panic was in the air there, a semblance of going about one's day against a wave of futility. Lights were flickering and everyone was sweating and worn to a nub. I thought then, I bet the rapture will be like this. Not a wholesale desolation like Hurricane Katrina, but a system-wide bummer like Gustav. It kinda is, on HBO anyway.

I love it when Justin Theroux breaks the toaster at the station because he believes the rapture has taken his bagel. A vengeful god indeed!

Superjail (season 4)

This is all getting to heavy. I'm on a Beckett kick again and maybe that is informing this gloom fetish. Superjail is not part of that. It is a dense, hypnogogic, lurid eye massage. I'm a little chagrinned that they have dispensed with the opening song, what with the new version of it before every episode, but that is a small price to pay for the Bosch-like mayhem this show creates.

Sparkle Johnson commercials for Hotel Furniture Liquidators in New Orleans.

Lamps everywhere!

New Orleans TV has always played host to great lo-fi local ads. Every person of a certain age who grew up in their broadcast area knows by heart the addresses of Seafood City and Rosenberg's.

Add Sparkle Johnson to that pantheon, shilling for Hotel Furniture Liquidators.

I had a discussion on Facebook - where I saw this - about whether Sparkle was in blackface (unsure; I can't tell if the Google Image search for "Sparkle Johnson" tells the story or not. I think the white guy in the photos is a different Sparkle Johnson.) and whether it was covered by the transformation clauses of drag (possibly).  It's a send up of bounce, which is in itself a send-up of hip-hop, masculinity, femininity, urban fetishism and a bunch of things. And is a real thing unto itself. Where do you get sent with the send-up of a send-up? Does the real thing get lost? Isn't that what the web kind of is now? Either way, I'm riveted. I wonder if it works and if so, for whom? Are hipsters flocking there? Wouldn't they already be? So many questions does Sparkle pose.

New Orleanian culturalistas tend to be wildly protective of appropriation/misunderstanding of what's "theirs" so I wonder how this fits in. I wonder if this is like a bounce Moebius strip of referentiality. I'm not sure if this is offensive or in bad taste. I like it when I'm not sure how to feel about something I'm presented. I usually say that is when I'm in the presence of true art.

This one is weirder.

CHAIRS! Apply directly to your butt!  It's also got a great finish.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Night-blooming cereus


If the slideshow doesn't work for you, please click here to see it.

I feel like I've been waiting for months for the night-blooming cereus on our patio to bloom, like the wait for good news or a baby or a unicorn or sea creature to come into the frame of your camera set up in the wilderness. Its freakish glory lasts for a single night, once a year, if at all, and then it goes dormant. One wants to get poetic about it, like

Mine - by the Right of the White Election!

Mine - by the Right of the White Election!
Mine - by the Royal Seal!
Mine - by the sign in the Scarlet prison -
Bars - cannot conceal!

Mine - here - in Vision - and in Veto!
Mine - by the Grave's Repeal -
Titled - Confirmed -
Delirious Charter!
Mine - long as Ages steal!

or to suss out whatever Walt Whitman said about white flowers and as usual, Whitman has the best attitude.

You must not know too much or be too precise about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.


Shot with a Canon PowerShot SX using the flashlight from the iPhone 5 for lighting. Magic provided by flowers.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rooster died and the "just keep writing" blues

mulatto bend 8

The fine folks at LSU Press had me expand on life and death and Slim Harpo's grave over on their blog. That is actually Ophelia Jackson's grave in the same graveyard as Slim's. We didn't have band practice last night so I went to a session of the Baton Rouge Adult Music club and we played "Ophelia," as it happens. Then we played the Band's version of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" from Jericho, which I've never heard, somehow.

I'm not as up on the Band as I should be, I guess, but they are such a mortar to the bricks of the music I love. I figure I'll hear it all by the time the second coming of Ophelia occurs.

I'm into my 78s a lot, priming the pump for the "just keep writing" blues that I am currently experiencing. This one sounds fantastic, maybe even because of the worn spot at the center. I suspect that can be said about anything with a worn spot at the center.

I'm reading a bunch of Flannery O'Connor, which will give anyone the blues about his or her own writing.
The Violent Bear it AwayThe Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'ConnorMy rating: 4 of 5 stars
Something in me feels scorched having just finished THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY. Or, perhaps it is the wound this wild novel opened has been cauterized.

It's the perfect book for the ardent heathen like myself to have my possibly empty spiritual foundation shaken by the biblical odyssey of a reluctant prophet, slinking with futility against his destiny. It's also a great melodrama for the parent of a newly sulking teenager whose life is being ruined by said parent. Flannery O'Connor's rhythms, her nests of ness-es - madness, fullness, weakness, emptiness - seethe and writhe like serpents.

Fairly certain Cormac McCarthy lifted his backbeat from O'Connor, doubtless the scholars of Southern Lit and confirm or deny this, but really, who could blame him? I want to set the woods on fire right now. Everyone does, maybe. The characters and climax are five-star, but I got a little lost in its middle thicket, and not in the way I want to get lost in a novel. It was hard to tell who the real main character was, who was really who, but I suspect this is more of an existential construct on the part of the author than a failing. Whatever it was, it was hard going and it was beautiful.

Also, in a fit of reading things I've never actually read, I read Death of a Salesman.

Death of a SalesmanDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerMy rating: 5 of 5 stars
I made a crack about "Death of a Salesman" the other day on Facebook and realized that I'd never actually read it. It was one of those books I only knew from the wake it left in the waters. This is one of the those great works that still challenges the world to understand and accept its universal meaning, a spectacular avant-grade meta-statement about the anti-nature of modern (then and now) times. That little tube on the heater, the panic in Willy Loman's emotional oscillations - perhaps not the best book to read when one is considering a career change unless if it's read as a warning fable. Willy pursues an uncatchable dream and ends up clawing the ground in the dark.

One thing that doesn't get mentioned is how vivid the scene directions are. Flute music represents the characters in a house that is permeable with the environment, just as the timeline folds back on itself in a strangling loop.
You kind of want Willy to succeed at failing after all that failing to succeed and yet you get left empty for it.Willy's successful brother Ben cements a dream in the salesman's withering mind with "The jungle is dark but full of diamonds." That would only work if the diamonds lit up and showed you the way.
It made me want to design a dark, glowing stage layout in PhotoShop, which is something I imagine Arthur Miller never really had in mind as the desired effect for his writing. We don't get to decide the effects of what we do.

Here is a song the band is working up into a resounding rocker. I played it at a singer-songwriter meetup at the library the other day. It's kinda my favorite: a monolithic downer with a little glimmer in the dark.

Speaking of, our band has been pulled into the fold surrounding Henry Turner Jr.'s Listening Room and the compatriots there and its a sweet group of people doin' their thing. Thing is, Rooster died. He was a wild, old longhair that looked and carried on like what you'd picture a guy named Rooster looking like and carrying on. Like most wild people, he was a really nice guy in the brief time I've known him. He lived across the river and didn't have a car, but he had a canoe and a bicycle and he'd row the Mississippi to ride across town to hang out with the fold and then at night, row back.

Before you start on the "bad idea" route about canoeing across the river at night, with the barges and the undertow and all, he heard it already and got across the way he could. There are plenty of bad ideas that govern our lives and even our untimely ends, but they don't define us. The fact that we get across however we do is what defines us and to that, I salute you, Rooster.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

100 words on the new Jasper Johns paintings

Slideshow as presented in "A Lens Catches; a Painter Converts" in the March 21, 2014 issue of the New York Times. Click on the painting if it's acting funny.

Jasper Johns went from painting things everyone knows to those no one does at a pace so slow he could watch the change of centuries whizz by, so slow I thought my favorite painter might have already been dead and how his art is so successful that the artist disappears completely into the image. That’s gotta feel good for a guy whose ties to existence seem tenuous.

White Flag, 1955
Jasper Johns (American, born 1930)
Encaustic, oil, newsprint, and charcoal on canvas; 78 5/16 x 120 3/4 in. (198.9 x 306.7 cm)

Also, the paintings, “Regrets,” bear giant M’s, which led to “Me and Eddie Vedder” by the Rugburns and. by extension, what would happen if Johns did his target/flag treatment on a pot leaf?

The Rugburns, "Me and Eddie Vedder"

Monday, May 26, 2014

100 words on Mad Men and oak trees


Last night’s Mad Men with Burt watching the moon landing under a big Jackson Pollock with his maid,


the same moon landing that my father held me up to the TV to at only a few months old, a holding I swore until I knew better that I remembered being held,


got me thinking about the big paintings,


squinting through the oak trees that limb/limn their way across my whole life, sometimes even falling through my roof like a loosened astronaut


 or Don Draper falling off that office building already, what with all the balcony shots all the time.