Monthly Archives: April 2010

Random Treme Post

I’ve managed to see every episode of Treme so far, remarkable since I don’t have HBO. Episode one was at a friend’s house and the last two weeks have been with friends at a local bar. It seems most everybody in this city has some connection to the show.

My connections? My former teacher, writer Rodger Kamenetz, had a cameo in the second episode, “checking into hotel with Steve Zahn about ten secs.” And another friend is working on the show.

Was recently reading Back of Town and saw this great making of video. Near the end, there’s a great quote from David Simon: “This city really does matter to America, even if America doesn’t get it.”

Check it out:

Here’s an interesting article about how uncomfortable filming can be in neighborhoods.

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Filed under music, New Orleans, pop culture, t.v.

Loving Lissie

I’m not sure where or why I first heard Lissie, but I’m so glad I did. One of the folks I work with was playing a clip of her covering Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” the other day and it reminded me how much I love her voice. I wish I could sing like this lady, but I’m so glad she sings the way she does and I can listen in. I’ve listened to this song about a dozen times around today, I think it’s my favorite of hers:

And here’s the “Bad Romance” video, too. Enjoy.

Annnnnnnd this awesome cover of Dylan’s “Ramona,” cause it rocks, too:

Lissie, when are you coming to New Orleans? Seriously.

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Fess Up Thursday – Performing Arts

So, thanks to the Peauxdunque folks, I had a baby epiphany about an early section of my book. Just a little insert, but I’m excited about it. It’s even more remarkable when you consider I’d gone straight to our meeting from a 13-hour work day and I was beat (sorry, y’all!).

I guess I should do my due diligence and inform everybody that I’m reading for the first time in forever, as part of the LSU Day Celebration. Not only am I not alone, I’m in super-excellent company. The official lineup is thus:

Jamey Hatley
Chris Shipman
Emilie Staat
Claire Dixon
Vincent Cellucci
Ben Lowenkron
Ronlyn Domingue
Kristin Sanders

When: Saturday, April 24, 2010

Time: 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Where: Allen Hall 102 (LSU Campus)

[5:20 p.m. edit: Oh, niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. Two seconds after I do my due diligence and blog about my up-coming reading, the whole freaking LSU Day gets postponed till fall because of bad weather. Of course it got canceled–er, postponed. I was actually prepared, for once. 🙂 I thought I was an all-growed-up writer person, knowing what I was going to read and all that jazz. Then, the universe decided to BLAM! some weather at my best-laid plans. Well. The people on the roster above still rock, just FYI. Check them out if and when you can.]

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Filed under bragging on, Fess Up Friday, Friends, literature, writing updates

Where Y’At?

Last week, I got a gig working on a film and I’ll be doing this for a bit. Film jobs have their ups and downs, but all in all, I am really, really glad to be back on another show. The company is great (and it better be, with 12-hr days!) and it just really gets my blood going.

Jamey always says the universe gives you what you want and you’d just better be clear on what you want. I’ve taken liberties with what she says, but I think the message is generally correct. 🙂 Shortly before this gig came up, I was telling a friend in a coffee shop, “My whole body hurts when I see movie vans and I’m not working on a show.” So, the universe gave me what I needed and I’m glad it did.

The bounty of my Netflix queue offered up Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, which started filming at the tail end of The Final Destination, just a few blocks from us. Then, on Friday, at the end of my long-ass work week, I got my issue of Entertainment Weekly. The Summer Movie Preview issue, no less, which highlighted two movies filmed in New Orleans, around the same time: Jonah Hex and The Expendables. I see that Jonah Hex filmed at Lafayette #1, a cemetery near my house. I’ll be looking for that now.

So that’s where I’m at lately. I’ll carve out some time for the book, somehow, because I’m this close to finishing it. This close means I’m at page 231 of what will be about a 300 page manuscript.

Today, I swung by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s Meet the Authors event, which featured some friends of mine. David Madden was representing his newest book, Abducted By Circumstance, and also a story that had been reprinted in Best of LSU Fiction, edited by Nolde Alexius and Judy Kahn. Then, there was presentation by Scott Ellis, author of Madame Vieux Carre and Elise Blackwell read from her newest novel, An Unfinished Score.

Let me tell you about this event. You’d kinda have to know about New Orleans in order to fully appreciate what I’m about to tell you. If you do know New Orleans, imagine the prettiest day imaginable. Bright sun, but not too hot. Absolutely clear, a sweet breeze blowing in. Lots of tourists, but not too many. You’re in the Cabildo, the upstairs room with all the windows overlooking Jackson Square and past that, the little amphitheater that’s on the river side of Decatur, right on the levee. Everything is beautiful and happy, for a moment out of time. You’re in a room with writers you admire and some you know and love. Everybody’s got new books (which you buy, that’s what credit cards are for), everybody’s dressed for spring, everybody’s digging the mint julep tea. Then, Elise Blackwell reads from her book, about a viola player, about music, and from the square below, teeming with Tarot and palm readers, musicians and street performers, an unseen man starts singing opera in this big, round voice that reaches up into the room, dueting with Elise’s voice perfectly. That’s what happy is. That’s what New Orleans is.

And then, there’s always Stanley’s afterward, with Maurice. And a few hours after that, there’s gonna be watching Treme at a great bar with friends. Actually, that second part would be in about an hour, y’all, I got to get going…

But before I do, here’s some pictures, cause you know I’m all about giving you presents.

David and I

Judy Kahn, Scott Ellis, David Madden, Elise Blackwell, Nolde Alexius

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Filed under book news, bragging on, Friends, literature, music, New Orleans, writing updates

Lorrie Moore said it best

Reading the Lorrie Moore-Paul Vidich interview in the Fall 2009 issue of Narrative Magazine:

VIDICH

You’ve said that a short story is like a mad, lovely visitor with whom you spend a rather exciting weekend. How would you characterize working on a novel?

MOORE

I think I’ve referred to a novel as a job. But it can also be much more fantastic than that: an alternative universe you enter through concentration and writing. But of course it’s difficult to set your life up to accommodate an alternative universe, which is why writing one can take a long time.

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Lie to tell the truth – Treme

As a fiction writer, I’ve had the “lie to tell the truth” conversation many times with other artists. Sometimes, it is the lie, the fiction, the thing that never happened, or just didn’t happen when you say it did, that speaks the greatest truth. That’s the luxury of a fiction writer – we get to play with the facts and make things up. We are telling the truth of the heart, not pretending to tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as seen objectively (is there an objective truth?).

Since Treme started production in New Orleans, and especially as it’s gotten closer to premiering, several people have asked me, “So, what do you think. Will it be good? Will it tell the truth?”

I don’t know, is my truth.

I’m fascinated by the “translation” between books and movies and I’ve often said that a movie adaptation of your favorite book cannot be the same. It can’t. It has to change because of the basic, irrefutable, physical fact that a movie is not a book. Successful adaptations, to me, are the ones that keep the feeling, philosophy and heart of the original work, not just try to re-create written scenes as action.

The same could be said for history, for facts, I imagine. In order to tell the story of people who didn’t exist–but probably could have–in the aftermath of Katrina (or any historical period), you’ll likely have to tweak the facts a little in order to tell the thematic truth.

Hey, I watched K*Ville, even though I cringed when the title was announced, even though one of the first episodes make it look like the airport was off of Tchoupitoulas Street. Mostly, I was enamored with the possibilities. And Cole Hauser. I always had more confidence in Treme than K*Ville, mostly because of the good work done on The Wire, and really the titles of the two New Orleans-based t.v. shows do speak volumes. And at least it’s not The Big Easy, eh, especially as a diabolical reference to post-Katrina New Orleans.

So, tonight, I’m watching Treme. And I’m doing it with more assurance having read David Simon’s open letter in today’s Times-Picayune, which makes the argument about lying to tell the truth very well.

Your sensibilities matter to us because we have tried to be honest with that extraordinary time — not journalistically true,  but thematically so. We have depicted certain things that happened,  and others that didn’t happen,  and then still others that didn’t happen but truly should have happened.

This is a nice way of saying we have lied.

Why? Why not depict a precise truth,  down to the very Hubig’s?

Well,  Pablo Picasso famously said that art is the lie that shows us the truth. Such might be the case of a celebrated artist claiming more for himself and his work than he ought,  or perhaps,  this Picasso fella was on to something.

That’s just a sample from the middle. Check out the whole thing at the link above. Enjoy. Hope it makes you want to get a Hubig’s pie and watch Treme.

And here’s another great example of lying to tell the truth. Students of a popular show choir talk about the differences between their reality and Glee. I’m not sure who thought Glee was realistic, but as one student says, there’s one thing Glee gets right, “People from different backgrounds can come together and make some cool music,” he says. “The Classics has athletes, speech club people, drama club people, and if we didn’t have show choir, we probably wouldn’t make eye contact in the hallways. But because of show choir, we hang out and we’re actually friends.” That kinda sounds like the point, the truth in all the flash.

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Tough guys sing Savage Garden

This made my day and will probably make yours, too.

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Street art reconsidered

I wrote a post last year about street art. Well, the post was kind of a goulash of images and ideas I was thinking about. I’d been having conversations about street art, which I’ve compulsively taken pictures of for years, which made me think about Banksy coming to New Orleans. And all the street art I’d taken pictures of in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Included in that post (and the galleries of street art images), is one particular image that I kept thinking about.

Just a portion of the work.

Is this street art? Art, yes, available as you walk down the street, yes. But graffiti? It takes up the entire side of a building near my house. Because of the size and the color, I wondered if it might be a mural, perhaps even commissioned by the store housed in the building. This isn’t quite the same thing as street art — which is often spray-painted and involves stencils, for the speed of execution — even if it is beautiful.

So, I decided to ask.

Today, I went into the store Neophobia (which I’ve loved for years) and asked one of the co-owners, Amanda. She said that the artist hadn’t been commissioned by them, but they loved it when they saw it, so they invited the artist back to finish the work. She took my name and number to pass on to the artist, so if I hear from him, I’ll post again.

Meanwhile, this brings to mind another debate. Street art can legally be considered vandalism, though people like me consider it art and photograph it. People like New Orleans’s Gray Ghost take it upon themselves to censor it. Where’s the line? What distinguishes vandalism from art?

And I’ll give you a perfect example.

A friend of mine was commissioned to paint a mural on the backside of a local bar. She spent weeks on it, adding incredible touches to make it look like a fine New Orleans double. And it is a nice thing to see while walking in the neighborhood, rather than an ugly white wall.

Only. Someone tagged it. I couldn’t help but feel upset. Here I am, a proponent of street art, and I’m upset by some tagging? Well…maybe it’s because I think it’s rude to tag someone *else’s* work. It’s like going up to a painting on a museum wall and signing it. Right?

Judge for yourself. Here’s the mural (with the tag) and a close up of the tag. Lemme know what your thoughts are.

5.22 Update: So, on a recent walk in the neighborhood, I noticed that the tag had been painted over. Was this Jenn, the artist, while she was back in town visiting? Was it the property owner, who’d paid for the gorgeous mural? Was it a kindly citizen? Here is a snap of the “fixed” mural:

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