". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, April 30, 2010

I Will Not Write For The Sake Of My Mental Health

What's happening with the oil catastrophe in the Gulf and the legislative catastrophes in Oklahoma (women's health and control of their own bodies) and Arizona (stalinist style personal identification state), I dare not even begin to write about them. My anger is so great that what will result at this time is incontinently incoherent.

Every damn month of 2010 there has been a massive natural catastrophe, including for April the Icelandic volcanic eruption plume (which some speculate is caused by the lessening weight of the melting glacial ice).

April, however, we've had a string of catastrophes that are entirely man-made: the mining disasters caused by capital's refusal to abide by mining safety standards resulting in the deaths of miners and their loss to their families, to the cruel anti-woman legislation in Oklahoma, the anti-migration laws in Arizona that are the freeway to denial of voting rights and arrest of anyone and everyone for nothing other than what the arrester feels like -- and which will do nothing to curb the global migration movements due to failed states, failed economies and climate change (you want to stop migration from Mexico to the U.S.? start with rolling back NAFTA -- you all know, right, how NAFTA serves BIG AGRI? and how quickly it destroyed Mexico's own agriculture?) -- and now this, BIG OIL BP creating yet another catastrophe for the Gulf.

No. I cannot write about these things without getting figuratively sick to my stomach from anger laced by disgust and fear at the keyboard.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alan Lomax in Haiti -- And Danse Martinique

Re, Alan Lomax in Haiti:

The island nation was discovering the roots of its rural culture in Africa, struggling to reconcile the class and race issues arising from a mixed French, Spanish and African heritage, and the cosmopolitan urban culture and folk traditions of the rural poor. Lomax, too, was coming of age in his first solo venture in ethnography, while wrestling with emotional uncertainty, romantic longing, technical challenges, sickness, and financial woes. Harte Recordings will release Alan Lomax in Haiti (obviously this happened last year -- as Vaquero was commissioned to write a piece about it, we spent many weeks working through all the contents), a 10-CD audio and video box set that reveals for the first time the musical and cultural fruits of that national and personal struggle.
The Danse Martinique clip is from the massive Caribbean film and audio recording focused primarily on Haiti that Alan Lomax conducted in the 1930's. These same pattern dance forms and drum accompaniment we saw in the French Caribbean a couple of summers ago. Though now the performers were much more prosperously dressed -- yet, again, the same patterns of clothing too.

I'd have embedded it, but for some reason the code plays without you having a choice about it. This may not be desireable or wanted by someone casually surfing their friendly blogs.

Film - audio clips and more information here on the Cultural Equality site.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harlem's Afro-Cuban Renaissance PLUS Postmamboism!

From Larry Blumenfeld, and the Village Voice:

"This music has gone underground," Sanabria laments later, between sets. "But I remember when there were 30 different clubs in this city where you could go and hear some mixture of Afro-Cuban tradition and New York jazz." Sanabria, who grew up in the Fort Apache section of the South Bronx, found inspiration back then from such standard-bearing first-generation players as Tito Puente and trumpeter Mario Bauzá. Sanabria teaches at both the Manhattan School of Music and the New School, and he treats the stage as one more classroom: He pauses halfway through one set to acknowledge the name chosen by Bauzá and his brother-in-law, singer and frontman Frank "Machito" Grillo, for their legendary orchestra: Afro-Cubans. "That was an early nod to Africa," he notes, "before it was in fashion." Tonight, Sanabria's own nod is overt and visible: In place of his usual jacket and tie, he wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with, in red, a Kongo cross and the phrase Abre/Kuta/Güiri/Mambo—Kikongo for, very liberally interpreted, "Word up."

The whole band wears the shirts. So does Ned Sublette, the musician and writer holding court at a table nearby, as is his custom nearly every Wednesday night, surrounded by stacks of the T-shirts he designed and copies of his authoritative book, Cuba and Its Music. Both are expressions of what Sublette calls "postmamboism"—"a portable theory that places music at the center of understanding" and "begins with the study of African diaspora musics," as he has explained in a post on "Not deconstruction, not postcolonialism, not subaltern studies, not semiotics itself can boast of a triumph to rival the Postmamboism T-shirt," Sublette writes me in an e-mail.

For Sanabria, the fashion statement just fits: "It means what we say musically: This has deep roots, and it calls for an open mind."
By the way, for those in the know, they have noticed that HBO's Treme is Postmamboist, totally!

Monday, April 26, 2010

*Treme* 3rd Ep -- "Right Place, Wrong Time"

Rushing about, prepping for Vaquero's SF gig, last night's Treme stays in mind.

Central to last night's narrative was Batiste's bone. The episode begins with with his foolish focus on the little bone, and his thread concludes with the literal loss of his trombone. How will that play out? Typical narrative expectation is that Annie rescued his 'bone, and then maybe Sonny sells it. But musicians like Bonnie Raitt provided immediately for musician relief, even prior to her other benefits soon after. She donated $200,000 outright for musician relief, and the relief wasn't contingent on doing this or doing that. Maybe this is how Batiste gets a new 'bone? Just speculation on my part. He needs a dentist. Such professionals are pretty much mia at this time, but there is one in Baton Rouge, right, Batiste's ex-wife's husband. Almost a part of the family, not to mention he lives with Batiste's sons, who Batiste has been neglecting shamefully. Or maybe Batiste sees his ex-wife's husband, receives some pro bono work, but still hasn't got an instrument. Maybe his embouchure has suffered some long term damage. Maybe he's gonna have to fly right, at least for a while, and maybe look long and deep into who he is -- and isn't? Maybe he'll even have to get a job, maybe working with Albert? But that's pretty typical tv narrative development, which isn't necessarily true to life either, though sometimes we flawed and failed human beings do have a come to Jesus moment.

Pierce has been doing a splendid acting job, though that opening scene of him humping the stripper looked less like sexual congress than anything seen on screen for quite some time. Naked women on screen as window dressing is kind of offensive too and this stupid strip club in Treme's French Quarter always brings to mind the strip club in The Sopranos, as if the Treme team are making some sort of comment on the show that got all the emmys.

Batiste's ribbing from the other band members in the strip club was straight up though, and also sad, right after that convo in NYC among the musicians playing with Mac for the benefit concert, about whether to stay or go NO. But their conversation? never have I heard any musicians talk like that among themselves. But then, the deal has to be made clear to us all who don't hang out with musicians or in NO. Never had there been so many New Orleans musicians and New Orleans music in NYC as in those weeks after the Catastrophe. And that hasn't changed. Regular gigs in NYC for Big Sam and a lot of other NO musicians. And, of course, now NYC is gonna play Mardi Gras whether or no it has a clue (part of that is all the students who came down to help, to intern with Spike, and all those rebuilding vacations -- they all come back with cds and beads). The other day a jazz arts venue director had to be carefully talked through her not brilliant idea to hold a second line in downtown NYC because, well for starters, it just couldn't work, for so many reasons.

Gads, how good the character of LaDonna is! She knows damned well how creoles view somebody like her, but she isn't having it. So that kind of makes up for the bs of the strippers. Speaking of strippers as we are, are we certain those va-va-va-voomers moved into Davis's neighborhood are not transvestites or transexuals? It would be fun if they were and very slowly Davis figures out that these neighbors he does approve of, unlike his gay neighbors (because they have money and he thinks they are destroying the neighborhood), are not who he thinks they are.

Why was Creighton was so suspicious of Davis in terms of his daughter? That scene seemed a time waster of the sort we never saw in The Wire. Whereas the YouTube bit was perfect, and perfect timing.

The motiveless beatdown of Batiste (and last week's arrest of Delmond), plus the run-around Toni gets from the sheriff – we're getting a picture here of law enforcement and 'security' that is not in control of itself or controlled from the outside either. It's in this period that the mysterious murder of musician Hilton Ruiz took place. We drank some weeks back by chance with an NO homicide cop and he confirmed what we thought happened – that it was indeed a murder and covered up by the NO PD.

It was terrific to see Bacchus in this episode, looking exactly like Bacchus looks. They made things so much more tolerable for so many in those days.

How difficult it is to have an honest critical reaction to this show. Shoot, excellent amigo, Tom McDermott, was central to one of the threads. How can I judge something like that critically as television?

The final scene, starting a funeral, honoring the dead discovered in the lower 9th, celebrating an Indian's funeral, honoring the dead discovered in the lower 9th, with Albert and the friends come in from their diapora to honor their brother's end, is stunning. There's Cherice! And, then, all up in their funeral rites, there's a tour bus that wants them to tell what's up.  Sheeee-it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jazz Fest 2010

Vaquero continues to crow happily that finally, this year, the Times-Pic seems to be taking JazzFest seriously in terms of its coverage of the music and musicians represented.  In other years he's felt the Times-Pic tended to flinch away from this long music festival that brings so many visitors to New Orleans, as something not so much of the city, so not so much worthy of coverage.  In a sense, maybe so?  The Indians, for instance, are relatively recent additions to the local music stages.

All this by way of a terrific piece today (thanks to New Orleans Ladder for the pointer) on Donald Harrison Jr.

It's all the more heartening and soothing to broken hearts because right now, even now, I'm hearing people who should really know better say things like this: "When the hurricane struck, I was saddened by the devastation but hoped that anything worth preserving would be moved to higher ground.  No; they just keep rebuilding in the same place."  OK.  The amount, the levels of ignorance in that, I can't even begin to parse, but then, anybody who knows anything about it knows what all that ignorance is, so I don't have to.  And those who don't get it, who won't get it, even when one brings out every fact and piece of evidence about why this all wrong, well -- yanno?  FUCK 'EM.

So soon, off to way uptown to watch the third Treme episode. (no, we don't just not have HBO, we don't even have a television, so we are depending on the kindness of, well, not strangers, but friends with HBO who are willing to let us sit with them for an hour or two -- well Vaquero was in a hotel room with HBO last weekend, so that was fine -- he won't be next Sunday night though ....)  My experience watching shows like this, all one season at a time, without having to wait a week in between allows for heavier and stronger dramatic impact -- whereas you cannot make Vaquero watch television at all.  But this is the exception because we keep getting asked to talk about the program for obvious reasons (last week he had to comment on Treme for a local television program) we have to watch it (as if this is a terrible hardship -- it just takes some planning and effort!).   After tonight the screener dvd eps will all have been broadcast.  With the fourth episode is when the show is gonna get Real Good, if The Wire's progress is anything to judge by.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Crunch Time

Grading papers, Vaquero off to San Francisco cruelly early in the AM of Wednesday, the third episode of Treme to watch, deadlines to meet, research to be accomplished re slave dance troups, Ostrogoths and Visigoths, AND Jefferson Davis -- personally?  It's not factually accurate for people to refer to him as President Davis, or as living in the White House.  He was never POTUS, and he never lived in the White House in Washington D.C.  Nor did Lincoln and his administrations in any way ever recognize Davis as president of anything.  Nor did any other nation in the world.

Vaquero in San Francisco, in his own words:

Looking forward to seeing my people in San Francisco -- April 29 at the
Museum of the African Diaspora for my talk "Eh, Eh, Bomba! The Haitian
Revolution as a Generative Explosion of Popular Music in the Hemisphere."
and May2 at the Mission Cultural Center for my concert, "Noche Bohemia con El Vaquero."
By the way, and off topic: Is everyone in Arizona deranged? How 'bout those bills and laws for possession and open carry of weapons (none) and deporting people on the basis of what shirt and shoes they wear?  This puts all the burden of dealing with the immigration mess on local law enforcement, where, as so many state as excuse for what is going on, is located a corridor for drug smuggling. This means some serious trouble is inevitable and don't always bet that the law enforcers won't be the ones shot, and that the perps will be caught. In the meantime not a thing is moving ahead in D.C. for the federal cleanup of the immigrtion mess for which it is responsible. Though that's not so easy, with all the special interests, i.e. big agri biz, etc., arrayed against doing anything, and, of course, states rights.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vaquero And Houston

He got home fairly late last night.  From his high spirits one might have been pardoned for thinking that he flew all the way back home without the assistance of a plane.  He had the most marvelous time, playing, lecturing, performing, being interviewed for radio and newspapers, reading and signing.  He sold all of the books he brought with him, the bookstore sold more and he sold Postmamboist tee shirts.

He hung out with so many of his favorite musician amigos, and he was taken care of very well.  The festival assigned a lot of the acts a 'caretaker,' a young local volunteer who drove you around, guided and carried, and was just generally as helpful as the caretaker could be.  The best thing about them, V. said, is that these volunteers were so clearly have a wonderful time doing what they were doing.  His volunteer was named Grady, and was in heaven, as one night he listened to V., Brian Lynch, Yunior and Yosvani, discuss straight time vs. swing time.

He hung out with Eddi Palmieri a whole lot all weekend too.  He has only one regret -- he didn't get to Joe Ely's show, which was playing on the other side of the festival while V was on stage with Brave Combo, performing "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly."

Vaquero also got a new summer straw cowboy hat.

All in all it was his idea of heaven.  A musician's heaven.

Netflix Founder Acquires Online Education Start-Up

Reed Hastings, the founder and chief executive of Netflix, used the Web to make it easier for us to rent movies. Now Mr. Hastings, who is also a former high school math teacher, is using the Web for a less entertaining, more educational cause — teaching math to kids.

On Tuesday, Mr. Hastings will announce that he has financed the acquisition of DreamBox Learning, a start-up that uses online games to teach math, by Charter School Growth Fund, a non-profit investment fund for charter schools.

Mr. Hastings said that he thinks netbooks will be ubiquitous in schools in a few years, creating huge opportunities for online learning software.

“I think we’re on the edge of a real inflection point where the hardware becomes so cheap that Web learning is really throughout the schools,” he said. “But what I noticed is there’s really not that many people working on the software.”

Full story here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Go To El Yuma For Splendid Photos and Posts on Creole, Non-Creole

And other equally fascinating New Orleans elements.  El Yuma is the blog of this semester's co-professor and amigo.

El Yuma: Trabajo Voluntario: Creoles, Cajuns, Treme, and Guest Blogging at The Havana Note

El Yuma: Trabajo Voluntario: Is Cajun is to Creole as Guajiro is to Criollo?

El Yuma:  Trabajo Voluntario: More from the New Orleans Second-Line

El Yuma:  Trabajo Voluntario: More from the New Orleans Second-Line

El Yuma:  Trabajo Voluntario: Gone fishin' en La Nueva Orleans, Luisiana!

The permalinks are, of course in reverse chronological order -- the first entry of this experience of Ted's and the students he chaperoned and mentored is the last one.

HBO *Treme* -- My Hair Stylist Loved It!

My hair stylist saw "Do You Know What It Means," and loved it. This is the first response I've heard from someone not connected to New Orleans in some way.

Her 17-year-old son is a rabidly passionate musician (guitar), so she spends enormous amounts of her very small amount of time not at her shop, ferrying him to music gigs, standing quietly in the background as he meets professional musicians, etc. He's mad for Brasilian music. But at this stage he love it all.  He's been pestering her for years to take him to New Orleans.

Europe’s Cloud of Ash Casts Pall Over World of Music

One of the areas most impacted by the Iceland volcano plume is music performance.

Vaquero's seeing some effect at the Houston International Music Festival though most of the acts scheduled to participate had already come to the US for the other gigs they booked around the Houston iFest. But the Europeans who need to go home, are stranded.

Vaquero played a smokin' performance last night -- the audience had such a good time, thus so did he. Many books were sold. One Houston woman by herself bought 10 copies of The Year Before the Flood and had him sign each copy to a different friend. *
He's got two performances - events today and another tomorrow.

He's being told that Houston's pretty wide open for music performance right now. For some reason the acts aren't coming through this city, so venues are happy to book people they haven't before.


* As a bonus, the gig was located next to a tamale restaurant.  V. was happy, happy, happy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Life In Haiti

Our friend, M., who left the U.S. to be with her six-year-old daughter, K., to protect her and take care of her, as all her caretakers were killed,  is depressed.  Though the visa application and permission papers are in the system, so that M. can bring K. to her home here, nothing is happening.  And after it almost happened, but administration had put in the wrong birth date, and it all had to begin again, she's fearing permission to take K back home is never going to happen.

She can't go out of the hotel room -- it is the bare minimum, i.e. a door that locks, a roof and walls, and it is still $25 a night, but there you go. It's too dangerous to go out. Also, because the word has gone around that she's got an American husband, Mz, so this MUST mean she's really rich, thus K is a prime target for kidnapping. Mz's is working as a tour guide, that's how rich they are.

K.'s been sick with one thing after another ever since she came down with dysentery. M is also struggling with being a mom. She's never been a 24/7 mother since K. was an infant, because she left for the U.S., with the hopes that Mz shared with her, that they could make a better life for K. So being locked in a tiny room with a little girl 24/7 takes its own toll, particularly since this is a new experience for M. M.'s also very independent.
Both M and Mz are having a hard time maintaining their spirits. We try to help.

What Haiti fears so much as that the world has forgotten them again, already, in the light of the many catastrophes that have happened elsewhere since.

Blogspot's *Library Archives" Doesn't Like *Tremé* Or Tom Piazza Or Chris Rose Either

For whatever reason this Blogspot, titled for whatever reason, Library Archives, doesn't have perm urls for each individual post, just one long roll.  The name of this particular entry is "That Ain't Right," put up on April 12th.  Here's the url.

Jeffrey doesn't like Tremé, and he doesn't like it for the same reasons advanced in certain quarters all along, while the show was being shot -- shoot, since before the shooting started.  There's a certain validity in certain of Jeffrey's arguments.  Obviously I'm not going to agree with his assertion that Tremé was made for NS, TP or CR -- what would be the point of that? For instance NS doesn't own a television, and never watches television. He hardly ever goes to movies.  HBO isn't in the business of making series for people who don't watch television.

Mostly these are the same anti-Tremé arguments that have been circulating long before the shooting of the show even began.  People have that right.  I know what it's like to live with the more than inconvenience of constant television and movie crews in my neighborhood.  You hate them.

However, there are things Jeffrey hasn't considered either, as in his criticism of Albert's scene, suited up as Big Chief.  That is a Donald Harrison suit.  You can tell because of the tail piece.  It's DH's signature Congo Nation Big Chief suit tail piece.  If this scene is preposterous Mardi Gras Indian behavior why did DH consult on , give it a heads up, even unto the point of donating his signature tail piece?

Jeffrey, alas has no profile on his Blogspot. However, it's obvious he lives in NO, and has a wide circle of those willing to engage with him. This is why reading this entry of Jeffrey's is worth reading, and also the many comments made to it. Not everyone agrees with him.

It's contradictory, that he accuses writers of attempting to grab an identity at his expense, while making the accustation anonymously

The take away from Jeffrey's Library Archive entry, "That Ain't Right," is this: he's set up an 'us' vs. 'them.'  He's the us -- and who are this 'us'? what is their culture?  and everybody else is outsider.  This is so useful for saving New Orleans from what will be New Orleans's future if a whole buncha others have their way, which is a future without Mardi Gras Indians.  The music would be over, which evidently is what some people want. -- a New Orleans minus New Orleans culture, so much of which is rooted in these communities that make music. Why is that, do you suppose?  Maybe Jeffrey doesn't have ears and doesn't like music and can't dance, so he sees those who love the music and the cultures out of which it comes as a them, while the non-dancers and non-music lovers are the us?  Just because one is born in New Orleans doesn't automatically make one a music lover.

Still music lover or music hater, it was the music, it was the cultures out of which that music came, that were the first responders to the psychic catastrophe that was the Failure of the Levees. It was those who love the music, the musicians, the cultures who responded immediately with attempts to help, to tell the world what was being destroyed, who responded immediately to the Failure Catastastrophe, wheverever they lived -- and that was all over the world
In fact, it's pretty clear Tremé is NOT made for NS, et. al.  Tremé is made for: all the people who don't know New Orleans, who know nothing about it, who don't know who lives there, who wonder why bother to save this national treasure of culture, history and tragic evil.  This, in order that the city not be swept away, not be turned into French Quarter Get Drunk at 10 in the AM and Show Your Tits, that it not become New Orleans theme park with Mardi Gras every day at 4.

By the way, the owner operator of Piety Street Recording Studios, who is as antagonistic to hype and hope as anyone you know, says he's seeing the consequences of that Tremé money going directly into the musicians' pockets -- they've got more money than they've had in a long time.  Some of them more than they've ever had.  And it's showing in more gigs, more hires for the gigs, and the making of new recordings.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

HBO Tremé -- O Wow!

HBO already renewed Tremé for a second season on the basis of the response to the premiere episode!

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Do You Know What It Means" - HBO Tremé, Premiere Episode

Tremé (2010) David Simon – Overmeyer – Mills for HBO. Premiere 80 minute episode, "Do You Know What It Means"* (Sunday, April 11, 2010).

Tremé begins 3 months post the failure of the levees; its focus is the unique cultural and historic contributions to what is the United States that is the city of New Orleans. We watched it at the home of the series's music director, BL, in company of various others of his and his wife L's friends, their Abbysinian cat and their two daughters, A (6) and R (3 ½) – though the girls got sent to bed, despite every trick for stalling they pulled out. It aired 10 PM our time. We got home at 2 in AM.


It took until this last summer for the devastated botanicals of New Orleans to come back. On all the visits prior to summer of 2009, the trees and other foliages had not yet come back full force. You could see everywhere that horrible ugly nothingness of ashy not-color that is the sign of catastrophe (you can still see it around Ground Zero here). You can't re-create this, I thought. But the ep's first scenes are about NO's first second line parade post the Failure, and sure enough, the leaves are scarce and the trees are scarred. There's a negotiation between the Social Club and the bandleader. Nobody's got money. Everybody's hurting. Hurting big time. But they are going to do it. They have to do it. They come to an accomodation.

Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters, Freeman, in The Wire) has a discussion with a member of the Yellow Pocohantas Mardi Gras Indian tribe. Would the guy essentially donate his time and truck to helping him clean out the bar to have a practice space for his people, in this bar that he doesn't own? The guy's doing real well, boasting of how well he's doing, with the FEMA contract he got, because he has a truck and a business that does hauling and clean-up, and he's on the ground. He says no. Albert's not his tribe. Softly in the background we hear Juvenile's "'Nolia Clap." Vaquero deconstructed this Juvenile hit with superlative descriptive and music writing in The Year Before the Flood (p. 299, chap. "The End Is Near So Drink a Beer"). It felt like a shout-out to the book, which B's read carefully. Just a a few bars of the beats, plus the whistle -- not lyrics -- it was way off, low down, probably a passing car playing radio or sound system.

Albert Lambreaux unzips what you swear is a body bag. Slowly it is revealed that the bag contains one of Albert's Big Chief suits. Tears came to my eyes. Then you see this hallucinatory scene in the dark of the three months post the Failure that is the New Orleans night. Sparks and dazzles, here and there, like fireflies -- but in those months post the Failure the fireflies were all gone, all lost. Slowly out of the dark emerges this breathtaking float of orange feather. Albert's put on his position as Big Chief. He's put on his Suit. As Big Chief of his tribe se's come to confront, to negotiate, the Fema haulage contract Yellow Pocohantas member to negotiate, to get something accomplished that is good for the whole neighbhorhood and community. Everything that Albert Lamgbreaux does, breaks my heart in the way that my heart kept breaking every hour of every day in that full year post the Failure.

Delbert Lambreaux is Albert Lambreaux's trumpeteer son. This character is distinctly modeled on trumpeteer and Congo Nation's Big Chief, Donald Harrison. We see him in NYC, at the Blue Note, at NYC's House of Blues. Everyone in our viewing group has been to these jazz joints and often.

Already, we see that the major theme of at least this season is the negotiations and cooperations that go on among all groups and areas to revive, restore the lost communities and cultures, so that, as with the reference of "Nolia Clap," unlike that Magnolia, that Desiree, they aren't lost forever and ever, as so many communities had already been taken down, taken out even before the Failure, never to return.

All the black-on-black negotiations that go on, that have nothing to do with crime, but COMMUNITY. The Lambreauxs are central to this, their Indian tribe is central. Central we can already see is their family connections. Albert was brought into NO by his daughter. His son skips gigs, income from which isdesperately needed, to come back and talk with his pops, who his sisters says is losing it. He agrees to his father's request demand, that he contribute enough money to pay the water bill on this bar that he doesn't even own. As is quoted in The Year Before the Flood, back in February of 2005 I realized that without the Mardi Gras Indians the whole place would fall apart and disappear.  They are what make New Orleans New Orleans.

John Goodman, all the time, righteous ranter from the Tulane English dept., failed novelist, married to an activist attorney, father of an adorable tween daughter. He throws a Brit Twit interviewer's mic into the canal. And etc., like that – particularly when he tells off NPR, clearly All Things Considered: --"New Orleans isn't fucking Lake Woebegone!"

The brilliant colors of the photography -- this as different from The Wire as you can get. Some breathtaking shots. Wendel Pierce as Antoine Baptiste, who has really learned the moves of a trombone player. Kermit Ruffins as himself; ignoring Elvis Costello, reaction to the query, then, "You want to stay in New Orleans all your life gettin' high, cookin' and makin' a little music?" Long pause in which you hear the bemusement that such a question could even be asked – "Works for me." (This was shot in the very space where Kermit gets high when he plays at Vaughns. You won't ask me how I know this.)

Not so high:

The dj guy, even though he's totally real, modeled on someone well known, who is even worse than the actor's portrayal. Or as one friend said, "I'm looking forward to the episode in which he gets killed," that's how obnoxious he is. In a room of women married to musicians, who all laugh at the impossibilities of being married to a musician that the episode dramatizes. all these women agree that it is a million times better to be hooked up with a musician than one of the kinds of guys that this dj is.

Works for me. All of it, really. Surely the following episodes will work even more so.

As we don't have a television, we won't be seeing the next episodes, particularly as B has to go back to NO to finish up the season's on site work. But he's thinking maybe he can do a roundup of missed episodes for all of us every three episodes or so. And irony? B. didn't have a television or cable at home either, despite both he and L. working in television (she does documentaries, particularly for PBS). He got the set and the cable hookup YESTERDAY.

*One of the moments that everyone in the room loved (recall, at least half of the people in the room are musicians, with deep roots / connections to New Orleans), when Baptiste says he hates that song. The musicians all cheered, just as they all cheered the Louis Prima cut.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Swoon, Travel Music, Postmamboism

While doing our big weekend grocery shopping today, for no reason at all, Vaquero bought me a pair of dangly Swarovski earrings that I'd been secretly lusting after for several weeks.

What he didn't do is buy a new guitar, which he was prepared to do.  However, he does have a new travel guitar anyway!   Magic.  Sort of.  Most significantly it's got a most durable hard shell travel case, so he can take it with him to Houston next week.

The Postmamboist Tee Shirt 01 has been re-manufactured.  Plus, we now have Postmamboism Tee Shirt 02!


Except, the 02 is not white on black, but black on white, for summer.

Now he's making the richest, sweetest, best pasta going, and salad, we're drinking a lovely chilled white Sicilian wine, while listening to Phil Schaap play jazz.

Friday, April 9, 2010

HBO Tremé Reviews -- Compare and Contrast

New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Dave Walker states, "HBO's 'Treme' finally gets New Orleans right."
This is the screen depiction that New Orleans deserves, has always desired, but has been denied.
This is "Treme," debuting Sunday night at 9 on HBO.
New York Times:
Alessandra Stanley starts by informing the reader that Tremé is hard to pronounce.
"It’s a title that serves as a warning: people who say it wrong have no right to be there."
The promotional posters up in the subway, the phone kiosks and bus stops are stunning.  The radio promos for the HBO Tremé played hard and fast all week.  That promo intro, no matter how often I hear that eerie Mardi Gras Indian cry -- probably from a Spy Boy -- chills run over my skin.  It's so familiar, but so strange.  You can hear this only in New Orleans, very early, on Mardi Gras morning.  Each day this week, I anticipated ever more impatiently the Sunday night viewing party hosted by Treme's music director.

Edited to add a link to Katy Reckdahl's piece in today Times Picayune, "Treme anticipates life in 'Treme' spotlight."  She focuses on the Tremé neighborhood itself, Sylvester Francis and his Backstreet Museum, a museum of the Mardi Gras Indians, and who of the musicians and Indians remain.  She also looks seriously at the anxiety that if the show achieves a popularity the already endangered community and culture will be under even more negative pressure from rich, gentrifying white folks.

Sylvester and the Backstreet Museum were my first port of call on my first visit to New Orleans, on a sunny March Thursday that already feels like something from another time and life.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Account of Reconstruction, 1865 - 1866 by a British Imperialist

K -- you will find this fascinating, in light of the books you're currently reading. 

"Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke’s fascinatingly odd Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries," (published 1868).

The heads-up for this from a blog I like, though some of the blogger's statements are, if not exactly wrong, not correct. For example the blogger states that the UK backed the Confederacy. The UK government never did back the Confederacy in any of the ways that mattered, and for which the Confederacy lobbyed until the end: financially (no loans), no weapons and no embargo of the Union, either diplomatic or mercantilist.

As for the blogger's conclusion, I have to agree wholeheartedly:

But the most telling passage for me, is this one — which occurred in the ellipsis above — in which we see most clearly how the problem of black free labor literally disappears under racism. When he asks the assembled whites about what kind of work the free blacks do, they literally cannot answer him. Though he has seen almost nothing in the entire town but black industrious labor, free black labor is so unthinkable to the ” poor trash” that when he points it out, they erase his very words with a spelling lesson on race hatred:

Strangers are scarce in Norfolk, and it was not long before I found an excuse for entering into conversation with the “citizens.” My first question was not received with much cordiality by my new acquaintance. “How do the negroes work? Wall, we spells nigger with two ‘g’s,’ I reckon.” Virginians, I must explain, are used to ” reckon” as much as are New Englanders to ” guess,” while Western men ” calculate ” as often as they cease to swear.) ” How does the niggers work? Wall, niggers is darned fools, certain, but they ain’t quite sich fools as to work while the Yanks will feed ‘em. No, sir, not quite sich fools as that.” Hardly deeming it wise to point to the negroes working in the sun-blaze within a hundred yards, while we sat rocking ourselves in the verandah of the inn, I changed my tack, and asked whether things were settling down in Norfolk.
That non-work ethic of the former confederacy? It’s alive and well among certain white southern populations still, as we learned while living in New Orleans.

Houston iFest, Plus Postmambosim

Vaquero, he goes there, yes!  Sings, plays guitar, reads and signs books, plus a bit of Postmamboism

Houston and me have always gotten along well. Next Friday (Apr 16) at 7 p.m. I'll be doing a book reading / signing with some songs at Sig's Lagoon,  3710 Main, Houston, TX.

Then at 10:30 that same night, I move next door to Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge for a full set of music by me and my guitar.

The next two days, Saturday and Sunday, I'll be appearing at Houston's iFest -- a Texas-size two-weekend outdoor world music festival. I'll be at 4:30 Saturday (17) at the H-E-B cultural stage, dropping some Postmamboism and maybe playing a little, and will also do a book signing. Later that afternoon, when I'm off duty, three of my faves are up against each other on three different stages:

Joe Ely, Brave Combo, and Bachata Roja Legends, so I'll have to deal it out carefully. The following day (18) i'm back at the H-E-B stage at 2:30.

That day's attractions include Mighty Diamonds, Eddie Palmieri, New Orleans  rapper Truth Universal, and Marcia Ball.

(The weekend after is ridiculous -- the fest closes with King Sunny and P-Funk -- but I'll be back in Noo Yawk.)

More about San Francisco soon, but it's gonna be special.
And the new Postmamboism T-shirts really really are coming, soon . . .

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tremendous Praise for Tremé From Heather Havrilesky of Salon

She describes Tremé as "David Simon's magnificent, melancholy Tremé."  She really seems to get it.  She understands that the catastrophe is 'flood,' not the hurricane.

"Treme" concerns itself with survival -- of a culture, a city, of downtrodden individuals -- but it also dares to explore the highs and lows of a passionate life. The series captures the romance of those fleeting moments when your whole existence rests on a few staccato notes, tripping out across a crowded room, but also digs into the dark times when you can't afford to pay your utility bill or buy a sandwich for lunch. This fragile balance, walking the line between creative rapture and destitution, not only personifies the artist's life, but reflects the at once ethereal and impoverished nature of New Orleans itself. Even in a few of the clunkier scenes, where Creighton's daughter laments the unbearable oppression of Catholic School or Davis sticks it to the man by stealing his CDs back from a closed-down Tower Records, some struggle to transcend the ordinary can be found.

And if the residents of New Orleans, from the very wealthy to the very poor, have something in common, it may be this shared drive to achieve something richer and more satisfying than the average life. Likewise, Simon and Overmyer's characters want to shrug off the rules of the straight world and follow their bliss wherever it leads, whether to the jam session or the poorhouse, if that's what it takes. In fact, Davis, Zahn's utterly convincing slacker DJ, may be the most ambitious of the lot, since ambition for the rest of these characters means doing something that feels right, that feels worthwhile. When Davis tries to get Kermit Ruffins to introduce himself to Elvis Costello (who came to hear him play) and Kermit shrugs it off, Davis is incredulous.
The full article-review is here.

In the meantime one of the "historical figures" in The Year Before the Flood is playing a bit part in today's shooting of Tremé.  He's thrilled.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


When I was growing up, my maternal great-grandmother and I used to make these eggs for Easter -- though nothing this elaborate, of course.  My grandmother, my great-grandmother's daughter, frowned upon this elaborate custom and grumbled every year we did this.  I thought it was because it messed up her kitchen (Great Grandma lived with her).  But much later I realized it was because this was a Polish custom, Catholic, in our overwhelmingly  Protestant, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Swedes and Germans, which we too, were.  Except Great-Grandma -- she was Polish and came from a Catholic background.  She renounced her Roman church upbringing in order to marry my rigidly Lutheran, Swedish great-grandfather, before they moved to North Dakota.  It was one of many family secrets concealed from us, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  As I was in the age cohort of the first great grandchildren born, I spent a great deal of time cared for in my earliest years by Great Grandma (whereas her death arrived before my third sibling reached the age of consciousness), and thereby absorbed a great deal of information, that, though I wasn't able to process it until much later, made a great deal of sense out of what was so mysterious as to be a negative space in my understanding.  Great Grandma could speak Swedish and German like both sets of our grandparents (while our parents could speak only English), but there was another language, in which she sang.

Pisanki comes from the Polish verb pisac, "to write."

Doesn't it seem likely that the famous Fabergé eggs are inspired by this traditional Easter egg?

You can see more about the Pisanki tradition here.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Personal 2010 April Fool Favorite

WikiTravel's Mordor Page.

Mordor's travel twinned with Brussels.

The site's "What to See" section is particularly useful.

Haiti's Founding Document Found in London

Perhaps I need to state this at the top:  This story, though broken today, is NOT an April Fool.  It would never occur to me to 'play with' something this profoundly significant to our Haitian sisters and brothers.

They proclaimed their freedom boldly — “we must live independent or die,” they wrote — but for decades, Haiti lacked its own official copy of those words. Its Declaration of Independence existed only in handwritten duplicate or in newspapers. Until now.

A Canadian graduate student at Duke University, Julia Gaffield, has unearthed from the British National Archives the first known, government-issued version of Haiti’s founding document. The eight-page pamphlet, now visible online, gives scholars new insights into a period with few primary sources. But for Haitian intellectuals, the discovery has taken on even broader significance.

That the document would be found in February, just weeks after the earthquake that killed so many; that its authenticity would be confirmed in time for the donor conference that could define Haiti’s future — some see providence at work.
The full story is fascinating, and includes a comment from our brilliant friend at Duke, Dr. Laurent Dubois.