Rain Punk

So yesterday I was over at Dr. Tim T’s office in the music building, helping the good doctor sort through some video issues. Midway through our session it started to rain, and Dr. T and I both agreed that it was nice to be back in the pattern of afternoon showers here in the summer. Last summer these never materialized and the southeastern states have been in a drought ever since, or so it seems to me.

But soon the rain was really coming down hard and heavy, with thunder and lightning. Then a guy from the film crew shooting upstairs popped in the office and said water was gushing into the recital hall. We ran upstairs and saw indeed that rainwater was pouring down in two places. The way the place is configured it was hard to see exactly how the water was getting in, but we surmised there was roof damage. I called Physical Plant to report the issue.

The rain continued. I made my way back to my own office by dodging from building to building but I still got pretty wet. A couple hours later it was still raining when I rode my bike home. I got wet again, but of course it stopped raining as soon as I got home.

That night, Xy and I watched the third disk in the second season of Treme. We were done at midnight. I stepped outside in my robe and noted some activity at Banks Street Bar, and then I remembered: Creepy Fest! It was kicking off at Banks Street Bar, and I was missing it. I ran back inside, pulled on some shorts and an undershirt, and made my way to the bar just in time to see Nick Name & The Valmonts take the stage with a blistering cover of “C’mon Everybody.” I was drawn right up to the stage and was soon surrounded by a small crowd. Here’s a video of them doing a Sonics cover at another local bar last month.

They played that last night too, and a bunch of others like “Louie Louie” and “Surfin Bird” and “Maybeline” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up,” all in the same intense and incredibly loud amped-up punk rock style. The singer (Nick Name) was wearing a shirt that said “Rock ‘n Fucking Roll” which would seem to sum up their philosophy pretty well. The audience broke into slam dancing at one point, and I hauled my 44-year-old bones out of harm’s way right quick. There was a time when I would have been an avid participant in such shenanigans but I guess those days are gone. Besides which I was still wearing my damn Birks which I use as house slippers. Not exactly prime gear for the mosh pit.

But I loved the show these guys put on, and I was digging the crowd. I saw a young African-American man wearing an Eyehategod cap. I saw passionate and playful public displays of affection amongst beautiful people of the same sex. I saw a mohawk spiked up a good twelve inches. There was a full moon shining outside. I felt that my life was complete.

And I had a brief moment of revelation. I felt there was some deep connection between the scene unfolding around me and the thunderstorm earlier in the day. It was so clear and so interesting I resolved to write it all down.

Now, of course, I can’t remember what I was thinking.

Then The Unnaturals started to play. I guess they wiped my mind clean. From what I can tell they’ve been around for years but I’d never seen them before.

The Unnaturals

Amazing. Mostly instrumental, surfy, amazingly huge sound for a three-piece. I especially liked a grungy bluesy number wherein the barefoot bass player put down her instrument and sang. I liked her bass playing too, but appreciated the change-up. And the sounds coming out of that silver guitar refreshed my soul.

They got done about 2:00 AM.

My ears are still ringing. My soul was not feeling so fresh this morning, but that’s another story.

Later: Now that I’ve had some time to mull it over, I’m prepared to take a guess at the parallel between the rain and the rock, which I glimpsed briefly and then forgot. Perhaps it was this. I felt a comfort at returning to an old familiar pattern. The summer afternoon rainstorm, the late night punk rock show, both are old familiar patterns which I have missed. The rain reminded me of summers past here in New Orleans. The show took me back further in time, and to another place, to Second Story or Uncle Sparky’s basement in Bloomington. I remember one night counting no fewer than sixty people in the crowd whom I knew on a first-name basis. At Banks Street Thursday night, I knew no one — not a soul. Yet the vibe was much the same.

Friday Dry

When my in-laws asked what time we should leave, I said 7AM, and they laughed, and my father-in-law suggested 9AM. Then it was my turn to laugh, quietly, to myself. In my mind I thought 10AM, but I didn’t take that too seriously either. When facing up to a long journey, I like to get an early start. If left to my own devices, I would probably leave at dawn. But fortunately or otherwise I am not left to my own devices. I am subject to the devices of others. Years of experience have taught me that fixating on an departure time is a losing proposition, unless there’s a plane to catch.

In the end we rolled out at 9:45AM which was fine by me. All five of us fit into our Ford Escape Hybrid. As soon as we got on the highway we determined that Xy had indeed forgotten the Scrabble game, but we didn’t turn back. Soon we were crossing the twin spans. Soon we were driving through Mississippi. Soon we were plowing through that cool tunnel beneath Mobile, Alabama. Soon we were in the Florida panhandle.

And did we drive on in stony silence? We did not. We were rocking out to a mix of cover songs I’d thrown together. Here is a sampling of the music we enjoyed, ten tracks including tunes by Caetano Veloso, Cash Nexus, and My Summer as a Salvation Soldier. They are all covers.

The title of this mix is an anagram. I was turned on to all these tracks via the late great Copy, Right? music blog by Liza Pavelich (as seen on ROX). Coincidentally it’s her birthday today.

We went 440 miles that first day. That landed us in the quaint burg of Madison, Florida. Actually I’m only guessing at its quaintness. In point of fact we never actually set foot in the town proper. We stayed at the Best Western, conveniently located near the interstate exit.

Since there were five of us in one vehicle, we made an effort to travel light. I did not pack, for example, any booze. It should therefore come as no surprise that Madison County is one of only five “dry” counties in the state of Florida. I always thought “dry” meant no alcohol whatsoever, but in this case beer and wine were legal. We were able to run to the truckstop across the way and pick up as much beer as we could possibly want. I noticed they had beverages with Smirnoff and Bacardi and other famous spirits, but upon closer examination, these all seemed to be malt beverages — in other words, flavored beer without a trace of vodka or rum. Weird. I made the highly questionable decision to pick up a big can of Sparks and an even bigger can of Tilt.

Best Western Rewards

Man — chilling poolside at a hotel in a dry county in the Deep South drinking a damn Sparks. If you haven’t done this, you should try it some time. It really puts things in some kind of perspective.

Sparks and Tilt are examples of a beverage category of which I had been blissfully ignorant. They’re called alcopops, “malt beverages to which various fruit juices or other flavorings have been added.” In retrospect, I wish I’d remained ignorant. Those things were nasty. I also regret that we didn’t at least take a curiosity cruise through Madison. That hotel by the interstate is exactly the kind of non-place that I so intensely despise with every fiber of my being. The only cool thing about being there was the cow pasture out back. Persephone had just remarked a few days earlier that she’d never seen a cow in real life, so she was fascinated.

And the next morning, when we went out to visit the cows again, we got a special treat.

Ostrich Sighting

Ostrich

Yes, it’s an ostrich. Or at least I think it is. A big flightless bird anyway.

We were joined at the fence by another hotel guest, a farmer from one of the Carolinas. It had rained on Friday night, but he wondered if Florida was suffering from the same dry spell as they’d been having in his neck of the woods. He observed the quality of the grass, and the low level of water in a pond in the cow pasture, and he concluded that indeed they were having a drought here, just as we’d been having in New Orleans.

After breakfast at the hotel, we got on the road again. Only 300 miles to Vero. The drive was uneventful, except for one thing. We were on the Florida Turnpike, a toll highway with limited access; we were going to make a pit stop at a service plaza but I missed the exit. So we took the next next exit, which landed us right in the middle of Orlando. (The Mall at Millenia to be precise.) We ended up eating lunch at one of the most upscale McDonald’s I’ve seen. I was impressed by the sanitary door openers in the restrooms. These were little hooks that allowed you to open the door with your wrist so you didn’t have to touch the knob with your hand. Fancy. It’s always interesting to see how the other half lives.

John, Clint, & New Orleans Jazz

John Lydon Public Image Limited (PiL)

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, is one of my personal heroes. That’s why it’s so hard for me to accept that he actually said this.

John Lydon on New Orleans Traditional Jazz by Editor B

There’s only one conceivable response. Obviously someone needs to record a traditional New Orleans-style jazz tribute to the Sex Pistols and/or Public Image Limited. Something with plenty of banjo, maybe featuring Don Vappie or Carl Le Blanc. I’ve heard the Pistols covered in just about every style from disco to polka but I’ve not heard that. Not yet. But I want to. It would be the proverbial hoot.

I can’t even imagine what it would sound like. I can imagine the Hot 8 or the Soul Rebels covering “Holidays in the Sun,” and I think that would be awesome. In fact I personally would give an eyetooth to hear such a thing. But those funky brassbands, while quintessentially New Orleans, do not represent the old-timey sound Mr. Rotten so callously decries. To pull that off we’d need an act like the New Orleans Jazz Vipers or the Hot Club of New Orleans or even Preservation Hall. Can you imagine what it would sound like? I can’t. But I want to hear it.

Who could pull off such a feat? Who bridges the gap between the disparate musical milieus of punk rock and traditional jazz? Surely there’s someone in New Orleans who fits that bill.

Whenever I have raised this question (it’s been on my mind for a good little while now) one answer invariably returns.

JF100424_DSB_Lagniagge_New Orleans Bingo! Show_Clint Maegden

Obvious, ain’t it?

In case you don’t know, Clint Maedgen is the bandleader of the amazing New Orleans Bingo! Show, which might best be described as “punk cabaret.” Moreover, he also plays with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has been one of the primary exponents of the traditional jazz style for half a century now.

Clint is surely our only hope, but he’s so damn busy, and I don’t know him personally. Fortunately at the Chef Menteur show this weekend I met some people who are better connected. We are going to press this case. If you can help, please do. I don’t have any grand scheme, though I can imagine any number being hatched.

Maybe something interesting will come of it.

If so, just remember — you heard it here first.

If not, forget I said anything.

Photo credits:
John Lydon Public Image Limited (PiL) / Shell Smith / CC BY-SA 2.0
JF100424_DSB_Lagniagge_New Orleans Bingo! Show_Clint Maegden / Derek Bridges / CC BY 2.0

Debauchelor

My week as a bachelor is drawing to a close. When we did this last year it was pretty tame. I saw some movies, which was exciting enough, and a notable highlight was a trip to the doctor to get some meds.

This year things have been a little different. Still not frequenting the strip clubs — that’s not my style. But I’ve been staying up a little later, drinking a little more, bathing a little less, and generally letting it all hang out.

The week started off with a bang, when the Krewe of Palmyra. Did I mention I was propositioned by a somewhat intoxicated and nearly-naked second liner? It was a joke, I’m sure, but my ego will take what it gets.

I put in almost a full week’s worth of work, but I did take one sick day. My right ear had that “unpopped” feeling which was making me feel off-balance and generally disorientated. I went to see my ENT about it and got some meds: an oral steroid, dexamethasone, to complement the nasal spray steroid I started on this time last year. That gave me some extra time to sit in my underwear here at home editing ROX #96. I’d completed a rough cut by midweek.

I was also kept busy with community meetings: one planning for Rising Tide VI and two related to the Lafitte Corridor. One evening I got together with a Green Party person from Philly who was in town for a conference. We didn’t know each other, but she found the old webpage for the GNOGP and got in touch. We had a good dinner at Mandina’s and some great conversation.

Yesterday morning I rode uptown for my monthly book club, where we discussed Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg. (I found the book disturbing, unpleasant, and absolutely exquisite.) Afterwards I was able to enjoy a leisurely lunch with the group at that Ethiopian place on Magazine Street.

Summer is finally in full effect. I love riding around New Orleans on a hazy, muggy summer day.

But the perfect bookend for this week came on Saturday afternoon in a one-two punch. The first punch was the 610 Stompers Ball Crawl. I didn’t sign up for the fun, but they stopped pretty much right in front of our house for an extended shenanigan which included a Mustache Contest. It was reminiscent of the Krewe of Palmyra, except on steroids. It seemed to be about ten times as big.

And of course, these guys have the moves.

The sheer nutty audacity of these guys is amazing. Of course the 80s workout getups are funny, but it’s truly astonishing to see them moving in unison.

Xy will be jealous. She loooves the 610 Stompers. At least I’ve got some video for her to get a vicarious thrill.

The second punch? Chef Menteur. I threw down some jack (a paltry smidgen to be honest) for their new recording project on Kickstarter (and encourage others to do the same) and that got me an invite to a party/show on a Mid-City warehouse rooftop. Had some of the best pulled pork since I was in the Carolinas, enjoyed some Pilsner Urquell on tap, renewed some old acquaintances and made some new friends, and generally had a blast.

The music was even awesomer than anticipated. Certainly they rocked harder than I expected. Sort of artsy mostly instrumental spacerock.

Xy would have liked that scene too. It reminded me a lot of Bloomington.

All in all it’s been a fun week, but also a full week and a productive one. I’ve hardly had time to miss my girls, but miss them I do, and I’m looking forward to their return which should be sometime today.

Now if you’ll excuse me I really should mow the lawn before Xy gets back.

Update: OK, that took about twelve minutes. I usually leave the yardwork to Xy so this was my first time handling the new push-mower we bought a couple months ago. This was easy, dare I even say fun?

Taking Requests

It must still be finals week somewhere because my “Study” mix is raking in the love.

As I was writing this a rare comment came thru: “I was procrastinating like crazy until I found this gem and put myself to work on my essay which btw is due tomorrow. Thanks!” So maybe it’s not a finals effect. Maybe it’s summer school.

I don’t get a lot of love on 8tracks. The numbers are rather meager, and none of my mixes have racked up more than a hundred listens. At 53 plays, “Study” is not my most listened mix, but with 29 “likes” it is my best-loved. It definitely converts at a higher ratio.

I think I first put this one together by special request of David B. back in October of 2009. Apparently that’s the formula for success.

So: If anyone else out there has any requests, just let me know.

Happy Mardi Gras

I imagine anyone reading this post today will be from outside New Orleans. Here it’s Mardi Gras, and people have other things to do. So for all those people in the rest of America, where it’s just another Tuesday, I offer the following mix for your amusement.

My boss challenged me to whip up an “unlikely” Carnival mix, and this is the result. If you listen all the way through you’ll even hear Persephone wishing you a happy Mardi Gras. That was recorded in 2010 just before her second birthday.

And while I’m tossing out the digital throws, here’s a photo which is the best I snapped this season.

Riders

A special shout out to Levees Not War where you’ll see this photo featured. Update: Also featured on Levees.org.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Mellenscat

I’ve gotta give some props to Eric Spears for continuing to excavate such gems from his personal video collection. Here’s Christy Paxson Behind the Scenes at the Making of the Latest John “Cougar” Mellencamp Video.

Eric sez: “Between episodes of her access TV series, The Christy Paxson Show, Christy made several video shorts, and this is one of them. I sent a copy to MTV, but they never responded.”

This particular video cracks me up so much I can only watch about three minutes at a time before I’m racked with convulsive hysterical sobbing.

Minor Relapse, Electoral Politics, and Music

Last night FOLC had its annual board election. I was excited but also a little nervous. We had a bigger slate of candidates than ever before, fifteen in all, for eight open seats. I wasn’t up for re-election myself; our terms are staggered and mine ends next year. But I was nervous because there was a real prospect for the four incumbents who were seeking re-election to be displaced. In governmental elections I have a severe anti-incumbent bias, but this is not government, and I find I have a great deal of loyalty to my fellow board members.

We had a great turnout, with over sixty FOLC members in attendance, casting their votes. In the end, the incumbents were all re-elected and we have four new board members who will hopefully provide us with a fresh infusion of energy. I’ve posted the results on the FOLC site.

I ended up having to speak at some length at the meeting, and in order to be heard by 60-odd people I had to raise my voice. Unfortunately my poor throat is still on the mend from whatever viral assault I’ve been fighting; I’ve been getting better daily but last night’s activities set me back a day at least.

Sometimes, there’s a silver lining. Some sore throats seem to skew my voice lower by almost a full octave. Here’s what I sound like today, singing the first part of “Philadelphia” by Magazine.

Philadelphia [Sore Throat] by Editor B

Don’t Fear the Epigraph

Throughout my childhood my family made regular visits to my grandfather’s place, a doublewide trailer at the dead end of a long rural road, secluded acreage at the edge of Pottawatomi State Park in scenic Door County, Wisconsin.

On one visit, I excavated (from a drawer in a nightstand in a guest bedroom) a remaindered paperback of The Stand by Steven King. I suppose it was purchased by one of my aunts, uncles or cousins.

I didn’t manage to read the book. Not sure if I even tried.

But what I do recall, with crystal clarity, is the epigraph. Strangely enough, the epigraphs from The Stand are mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on epigraphs, but not in the entry on The Stand.

Actually I gather there are several epigraphs for the various sections of the novel, but there was one at the beginning that caught my eye back those many years ago. (It must have been 1981 because the book came out in paperback only in 1980. Surely a remaindered edition wouldn’t have been available until then. My grandfather died in 1981, and I didn’t return to Sturgeon Bay until 1992.) With the front cover missing I suppose the epigraphs may have been visible without actually opening the book. There were some other quotations, but only one made a lasting impression.

And it was clear she couldn’t go on!
The door was opened and the wind appeared,
The candles blew and then disappeared,
The curtains flew and then he appeared,
Said, “Don’t be afraid,
Come on, Mary,”
And she had no fear
And she ran to him
And they started to fly…
She had taken his hand…
“Come on, Mary;
Don’t fear the reaper!”
— Blue Öyster Cult

At the time, I had no idea who the Blue Öyster Cult was. They sounded mysterious and intriguing, and the lyrical quotation was dark and chilling. The name and the lyrics combined to create an atmosphere that was both dreadful and delicious at the same time. Eventually Blue Öyster Cult became my favorite band of my high school years, based on the records they’d put out in the 70s. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” remains one of my favorite songs. But at the time, I didn’t even know they were a rock band. I thought they were some sort of religious group. Their name alone evoked a mysterious image that still haunts me today.

I don’t know why this memory came back so vividly today. Perhaps it’s because I recently read Earth Abides, a novel which inspired The Stand. I’ve still never read The Stand, and really have no desire to do so, but Earth Abides is a great book.

In Praise of Audio

I’ve produced quite a bit of video in my day — well over a hundred programs, though probably less than a hundred hours all told. I don’t do much video production these days, but I’m called upon routinely to advise people who want to make a video, or think they do.

My most frequent advice: don’t.

That’s because, most of the time, what people really want is audio. In most of the cases I encounter, the subject in question is a single speaker, or perhaps a panel discussion. What is the crucial component there: a static view of the speaker’s head, or the words that are being said? If you said the latter, congratulations, you’re right.

We can prove this with a simple thought experiment. Imagine you’re watching a video of someone making a speech about a topic that is simply fascinating to you. Imagine that it’s poorly shot. It’s dim, and the image is grainy, and the camera is shaking all over the place in a way that induces nausea. But by some miracle the audio track is pristine — crystal clear — you can hear every word in the highest fidelity.

That’s a good video. Even though it’s bad. Back in the days of analog TV broadcasts, people would squint through fuzzy reception as long as they could hear what was going on.

Now, by contrast, imagine the reverse. The image is crystal clear, the lighting is beautiful, you can see every twinkle in the speaker’s eye in high definition. But the sound is off. The mic wasn’t plugged in, or something. It’s muffled, barely audible.

That’s a bad video. Do you get my point?

In short, for many programs, the audio is the most important component. Obviously there are exceptions, programs where the audio is virtually irrelevant. Sports come to mind. But for the vast majority of programming, the audio is more important than the video.

People think they want video because it’s got a certain techno-luster. Video is, in the common parlance, sexy. Good video can indeed convey crucial information with great economy and clarity. But by the same token, producing good video is hard work. Even producing a bad video is hard work. Trust my years of experience when I say that for most people, most of the time, it ain’t worth it.

Even if you’re willing to do some work, it may be counter-productive. Video is such a headache, and such a distraction, that all the effort gets sucked into the video aspect, and the audio is totally neglected.

Also, remember the following: No one really wants to watch your video anyway. Life’s too short. But they might just put your audio recording on their iPod and give it a listen during their morning jog.

So I advise people to focus on what’s really important, and aim for a decent audio recording instead.

The advantages of focusing on audio are manifold. Audio tools are cheaper than video. Working with audio is easier, both in production and post-production. Moving audio around is easier. You can buy a Zoom H2 Handy Recorder for about $140, and you will have a recording device that is easy to use and produces really good recordings in the form of digital files which you can transfer to your computer via USB.

Perhaps most important of all, audio is doable.

So: forget the video, and focus on the audio; you might actually get a quality product.

Best of 2010

It’s entirely ridiculous for me to offer up an annual “best of” list. I don’t keep up with the latest and greatest. I’d rather plunder the riches of the past than fetishize the new.

Of the twenty or so books I read this past year, only one was published in 2010: The Heart of Higher Education by Parker Palmer and Arthur Zajonc. I could, of course, compile lists of the titles I enjoyed most regardless of when they came out: add Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry by Arthur Zajonc (2008), Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002), and Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor (2009) to the aforementioned Heart of Higher Education. These were those most interesting books I read this year. I can’t help but notice that nonfiction outnumbers fiction in this short list, and there’s not a novel in sight. That’s a first. But all these books came out in the past decade — so much for “plundering the riches of the past.”

For music, my “discovery” list would be a tad more cumbersome. There would be a slew of tracks to contend with, but who really cares? So I’m sticking with the standard concept: a mix of music and audio bits from 2010.

This is so random it’s not even funny. I’m almost completely ignorant of what trends might be taking place in music over the last year. The only thing I even heard about was witch house, a.k.a. drag, (you know, the artists with the crazy black triangles ▲ and other unpronounceable names) and for all I know that subgenre is dead and buried (no pun intended).

And what about pix? I myself published 1,200+ photos online over the past year. If I could pick out the top dozen or so that might be the most meaningful list of all… but the size of the task is daunting.

Oh, what the hell. I’m on vacation. I’ve got little better to do.
Continue reading “Best of 2010”

Five-Star Xmas

When I whipped up a Xmas mix three years ago, I had to engage in some serious scraping to round it out. Times have changed, and my collection has expanded. I can now present a collection of seventeen tracks with zero compromises. This is everything I consider necessary for a Five Star Xmas.

Enjoy! I guess I should add a few caveats. This is probably not safe for work. Parental guidance is strongly advised. There are dirty words, a measure of irreverence, and some loud raucous parts. If that’s not your idea of a good time, you may want to look elsewhere for your holiday cheer.

Day in the Life

Here’s my entry in the Day in the Life contest. If you like this, please visit the mix on 8tracks and click the ♥ button so I can get a piece of the glory.

Here’s a handy guide to help you enjoy the mix.

1. Rising with love and positivity
2. Morning commute
3. At the office
4. Losing myself in my work
5. Dinnertime unwinding
6. Evening telecast
7. Nocturnal revelry
8. Ready for bed
9. Hit the coffin for a while

1000 Days of Persephone

As a number of people pointed out to me, the trouble with celebrating the first thousand days of life is that the number 1,000 is generally beyond the grasp of most two-year-olds. A couple friends had funny ideas about how to communicate the idea. “Let her play in a pile of 1,000 $1 bills so she can feel like Scrooge McDuck!” Or: “Ball up a thousand pieces of paper and fill a room. Or go to the hardware store and buy a thousand metal washers.”

Sadly I did not have the resources to pull these off. I tried taking some photos to document a “day in the life” but that didn’t pan out so well because of schedule conflicts. Who knew you could have schedule conflicts with a toddler? In the end we went out for pizza which seemed suitably festive.

Also I put together this mix.

See if you can guess the theme.