Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blog Bloc

Once again, I find myself still blog blocked, although I think it's going away very soon.

In the meantime, may I re- recommend Lloyd Fonvielle's Mar De Cortes Baja blog, the one that inspired me in the first place. Lloyd seems to be going through a blogging renaissance these days, even commenting on stuff I was thinking about, like Vermeers' painting, The Little Street, and 1950's comics.

Mostly though, he's touting his latest project, the short internet film collaborations he's doing with filmmaker Matt Barry. Cool stuff.

Thanks, Lloyd!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My New Blog

I've just begun a new blog, featuring my photographs. The address is  Right now I'm showing photographs from the 2009 DC Auto show.

Where You Will See the Zulu King

Okay, well not exactly the King (that would be Jimmie Felder), but at least a genuine New Orleans Zulu!

Yes, as promised- here is our old friend Mr. Freeland- Archer, deep in Zulu drag.

Here's what he had to say:

One (of many) interesting things I noticed in preparation for the parade was that
pretty much all my brothers and sisters in-black-face only made up the "mask" area of the face,
from the chin line to the forehead, I suppose in a not-so-subtle way to say, "under here is my real color."
Given the variety of The Creole Nation, of which we are all a part, the three-toned look was fascinating.
And, oh, those beautiful ladies (not in black-face), harnessed up in peacock displays of Ziegfeld feathers. .
I decided to go all the way black, in case I flipped my wig, which weirded out more than one fellow rider
(not to mention some in the crowd).

Also, the placement of the eye make-up depends on what side of the float you’re on.
If you’re on the “driver” side, it goes over your right eye.
If you’re on the “shotgun” side, put it on the left.
This way, as the ride approaches the viewing stand, all eyes forward are white.

Besides having school Brass Bands between floats, some have DJs on board, as we did (mixing from Sugar Boy to The Ying-Yang Twins).
Between throwing beads and handing our coconuts, I kept my self warm by dancing and singing along (miming Fess’s whistle breaks),
All in my own kreepy karaoke.

Please don't be alarmed, dear readers, it's all what you make of it. It's just the way of New Orleans.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This coming Tuesday is the culmination of the Mardi Gras season in America's Greatest City, New Orleans, LA. Known as "Fat Tuesday", it's the last day before Lent.

In the church it's also known as "Shrove Tuesday". The next day, "Ash Wednesday" begins the 40- day season, traditionally reserved for self- reflection and spiritual renewal among Christians.

In New Orleans, it also means the end of the Mardi Gras season, a non- stop bacchanalia and series of parades that started this year on January 6th and will end Tuesday night at midnight in a drunken public display of tourist- driven nudity and unbelievably tasteless behavior on Bourbon Street.

At exactly 12:00 AM, police will push all the revelers off the streets in the French quarter, and begin the general clean-up. By 2 AM, Bourbon will be deserted. Happens every year.

That's the tourist aspect of Mardi Gras. There is also the real Mardi Gras, the Mardi Gras that the locals enjoy. It doesn't have much to do with the "boobs for beads" atmosphere of the French Quarter.

Here's a nice link to the history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans that will save me from trying to encapsulate it.

Which brings us to Zulu. This year, frequent L by L participant, Mr. Freeland- Archer (not his real name), will be riding in the Zulu parade. Although the Zulu Crewe is traditionally African- American, they began to integrate several years ago in order to make some money for the organization, which is known for it's social work and neighborhood programs. Last year's king was a white businessman.

So, for a certain fee, anyone can parade with the Zulus. But there are rules: you have to wear blackface, even if you're African- American. You have to wear a kinky wig. You have to wear white gloves, black tights and a grass skirt. There's a dress code and a behavior code.

Okay, yeah, I know- it does sound kind of racist. But in New Orleans, it's not. Zulus are inheritors of a great tradition. Members are proud of being Zulus and have been since the first parade in 1909. The most famous king of the Zulus was Louis Armstrong in 1949, and it had been a lifelong dream of his, a most cherished wish.

Louis Armstrong as King of the Zulus

A wish shared by our friend, Mr. F.-A., who wished so hard that this year Mrs. F.-A. paid the fee and gave Mr. F.-A. the 60th birthday gift he craved so much. Tuesday morning at three AM he will head to the Hilton Hotel on St. Charles Street and get into the make-up: black on the face itself, white around one eye and the lips, then don his afro wig, change into his tights and grass skirt and pull on his white gloves.

He will have shaved his head and and his beard. Mr. Freeland- Archer, as most of his acquaintances know, never does anything in halfway measures. He will have his 100 coconuts to toss, plus a customized selection that he made himself, featuring postage stamp- sized photos of famous black people, ranging from Rosa Parks to Marion Anderson to James Brown. He will then board Sponsor Float Number One under the direction of Zulu Lester Pollard. This year's theme: golf (but no Tiger Woods jokes, please!)

He intends to toss the customized coconuts to black children so they'll be able to identify their heroes and obtain a sense of civic and racial pride. As New Orleans native son and bon vivant Edmund Robertson (not his real name) says, "You can't dishonor the coconut."

The parade is scheduled to start at 8:15AM and finish by 3PM at the corner of LaSalle and Jackson. Neither of these will happen at these times. The parade will really begin when it starts and end when it's done. After that Mr. Freeland- Archer will be a different man than he was the day or even the night before. He will be bald. He will be beardless.

But he will be a Zulu!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Lonnie Johnson

February 8th, 1894, is the birthdate of New Orleanian Lonnie Johnson, one of the greatest of the early jazzmen and seminal guitar player.

Johnson began playing violin at an early age and added piano and mandolin to his skills. In New Orleans at that time, music studies were encouraged in the African American communities and many students played more than one instrument.

Johnson played in Storyville and, like Louis Armstrong, joined Fate Marable's orchestra on the Steckfuss brothers' riverboat line.  He went on to tour Europe, returning to play in Armstrong's Hot Five recordings, and is on the original 1927 recording of The Mooche by Duke Ellington. His recording career at this point reads like a who's who in blues and jazz: Bessie Smith, James P. Johnson, and Roosevelt Sykes among others.

Robert Johnson (whose father's surname was Dodds, then Spencer) reportedly chose his last name as a tribute to Lonnie.

He achieved his greatest commercial success in the late 1940's/ early 1950's with a series of smooth ballads. His recording of Tomorrow Night for Syd Nathan's King Records (later the home of James Brown and Freddie King) sold over three million copies. He was better known for his crooning than his guitar playing at that point, but today it is certainly the guitar playing that has made him a jazz/ blues immortal.

Despite his successes, he fell on hard times in the late '50's, and was rediscovered working as a maintenance man in Philadelphia at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel. Evidently, he wore white gloves to protect his hands, but otherwise kept a low profile. No one knew the janitor was once a superstar in jazz and rhythm and blues.

In the last decade of his life, he once again toured Europe, made new records, mostly LP's for folk or jazz- oriented labels and was reunited with many old sidemen from his youth, notably former Ellingtonian Elmer Snowden, with whom he recorded a very successful comeback record.

Lonnie Johnson died on June 6, 1970, in Toronto, from consequences due to a 1969  auto injury.

My favorite Johnson recordings are the duets he made with fellow guitar virtuoso Eddie Land. These duets, which usually feature Lang on rhythm and Johnson on lead 12- string have a bounce to them that make them sound completely contemporary. Just incredible. Here's Deep Minor Rhythm Stomp:

Once again, I'm reminded of the rich contribution to American music from AGC, New Orleans. Maybe it's the water.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saints Win, So Do We!

A victory like this is a victory for every underdog everywhere. Right now, we're all underdogs. This victory belongs to every single one of us.

Thanks again, New Orleans.

The Big Blizzard of 1939

Courtesy of

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Blogged Down

A friend of mine wrote under the heading, "Enough rest old man":
" I don't want to sound ungrateful,but post SOMETHING!
I don't have much of a life and I really like the stuff You put up! I know your family is important,but I also know your creativity also knocks.
Hey, post something just for me! I'll Know.
Congrats on IBC!!"

Then he wrote:
"I know your fan base is not as important as family. I'm just nudgin'"

Damn it, but he's right- that Memphis trip and subsequent events have left me blogged down and listless. But that's no excuse! Especially when the "fan base" demands it!

So, what's it going to be?

My long- considered rant about how we pay for cable TV and still have to put up with endless commercials and mediocre programming? Whose idea of the future is this?

Or a commentary on the great Little Walter Jacobs whose box set released on Chess/ MCA this last year won a Grammy?

Or to steer you to a great story here in the Onion that gives me much needed confidence that satire is not dead in this humorless, beleaguered country?

Or how about those Saints? This will be the first time since the Skins were Superbowl regulars that I've been planning to watch. That last game was incredible. Best coin toss ever!

Or maybe just a little reminder that the great entertainer Louis Jordan died in Los Angeles on this date in 1975. I could even add a pic:

Or how about an intelligent meditation on J. D. Salinger and his impact on post- adolescent boys flunking out of expensive prep schools?

And then there are my thoughts about creativity and the near impossibility of sustaining it. Think about it: when was the last time Chuck Berry wrote a great song? Or Leiber and Stoller, for that matter?

So much to blog about. Wonder what the "fan base" is thinking?