Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being Critical

I've been contemplating my most recent writing foray lately and have wondered how I get myself into these things...

Cameron Crowe's tepid facsimile of Lester Bangs (which Philip Seymour Hoffman vailantly tries to breathe life into) talks about the only real perk rock journalists get, which is free albums, and that's very much where I'm at, I'll admit it. What I find intriguing is that technology has turned that desire for possessing grand, thematic, long-form statements from artists into something declasse, unless you are making the effort to be consciously retroactively hip and going into collecting vinyl. It's amazing that CD players still exist, actually.

It's amazing that albums still exist, when you think about how easily mp3s are gobbled up like so much appetizers these days, everyone thinking their favorite song is worth shelling out a few cents to download it onto their preferred digital storage device - until the listener starts thinking hey, if this song is good, what else is out there by these guys/gals?, which is when the few cents-per-download add up fast. "Just go ahead and get the whole album, dammit," is what I say, and I have downloaded a few directly to my Droid - but then I miss the crucial thing that dates my sensibilities, which is the album art and the liner notes. If you don't think that's still important, check out how cool the Black Keys' Brothers album packaging is. It's been a part of the whole experience of owning an album since at least the late '50's. Hearing about how jazzed the too-soon-gone Coco Robicheaux was about his latest album's packaging says that the musicians still consider it, too. All of this is why I find the whole thing about free music by way of the internet so intriguing.

Major label record companies have never embraced anything that looks as though it's going to cut into their profits, but truth of the matter is, many of their usual m.o.s have imploded in the face of artists being able to put themselves right out there on the internet and manipulate their own image, sounds, and marketing in any way they so desire - if they choose to do so. We live in a world where it is easier than ever for an artist to still stick it to the Man some kinda way, even if it ultimately won't benefit the artist. The only recourse any of these labels have is to give music lovers limited-time releases they can listen to before they deign to buy, because the consumer demands it. Or to hype an artist so, so much that people will feel they have no choice but to buy to get a listen - and even though that's working less and less on savvier listeners, you can still fool the younger people a lot of the time by waving Katy Perry in front of them on Sesame Street. The kids will find a way to hack that planet to their liking, though, and the major players will be left scratching their heads. Again. And chasing the trends through numbers obtained through Soundcloud or Spotify, numbers that will make their heads spin because now more than ever, the types of music people are able to access are so incredibly diverse. This doesn't even bring YouTube or Vimeo into the equation.

Pardon me while I move on to the opinions. There are so many of those. I started following a bunch of the music news sites via Twitter and began to think about how much my opinion really matters...especially when I dwell on how many women are in the music criticism realm. New Orleans is lucky to have Alison Fensterstock in there, as well as ANTIGRAVITY's own Erin Hall, and one look at DJ Soul Sister's tweets and her sense of soul and funk's places in popular music history comes right through
- all of which can seem like an embarrassment of riches in this area compared to how many female opinions of today's music are out there: more than ever before, but still not a lot. I took a look at Rachael Maddux's review of two female rock critics' writings in the most recent Oxford American issue and am still contemplating what it means to be a woman telling everyone how good or bad an album is, or if it even matters. I'm inclined to say it really doesn't matter anymore, but boy, some people will still make an issue of it. It's more of a choice these days rather than a requirement, though. I think.

Anyway, I'm learning and absorbing as I'm listening.

But I will always prefer to have that CD in my hands over the contents of it in a digital player.

UPDATE, TOO LATE: Dammit, I shoulda included Red Cotton in all of this. The only woman to really chronicle the second lines in this town in recent years, she is not one to be ignored. I mean it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 6 - I Think

Seriously? I can only take one kvetch post from myself per week, and I barely wanna burden all of you still reading with ankle and elbow complaints. Here's to say that yes, Das Boot is still on my right foot, but if all is going well, it is slated to be replaced by a lace-up ankle brace next week, and the day that that happens, I may take Das Boot into my backyard with a load of lighter fluid and some matches and burn the damned thing into submission. I'm convinced that most of my current ankle achiness results from its rubbing against the side of Das Boot, making simple things like browsing through the new Marshall's by my mom's house the day before Black Friday into events akin to a high-altitude stroll through Bhutan. My first full physical therapy session is today, and, judging from the experiences of a friend of mine who spiral-fractured his leg a few years back, I might wanna torch that facility after my own experiences getting flexibility back into my injured limbs. Yes, fire is a big theme here. I am born under a fire sign after all and have some pyro tendencies - plus, if you haven't noticed, it's gotten cold out.

All of this convalescing has had me thinking a great deal about some stuff that concerns those who can't heal or who take a longer time to do so. Our healing powers are all different, more than each of us will probably ever understand. This world ain't too kind to those of us who have chronic problems, though, and we do have a tendency to hold up those who behave like they have all their limbs and perfect health as being heroically normative - so let's check out the perspective from the other side for a change.
When a cripple climbs a mountain or runs in a marathon it isn’t a victimless crime. It makes life harder for the rest of us cripples. Because when they go around being so brazenly indomitable, everybody expects the rest of us cripples to be indomitable too. And that’s fucking exhausting. If you think being indomitable all day is so easy, you try it. You’ll be worn out by noon. These racing/climbing cripples are a threat to my precious, inalienable right to be domitable. There’s nothing I enjoy more than kicking back with a six pack and being domitable. 
And these indomitable cripples also threaten my right to be a fuck up. They go out there and bust their asses training because they think they have to prove their excellence because if they don’t excel beyond excelling they’ll ruin it for the rest of the cripples. But they’d serve us better in the long run if they fucked up and did it with pride. It’s just like Jackie Robinson. There was no way he could fuck up playing baseball because if he did there was no way anybody who wasn’t white would be allowed to play major league baseball ever again. But if they banned white people from playing just because the first one to come along wasn’t a superstar, there would never have been any major league baseball in the first place. White ballplayers are allowed to fuck up all the time. Just watch the Cubs and you’ll see. Had Jackie fucked up, history may well have eventually regarded him as even more of a pioneer, a proud symbol of the right of all people of all races and creeds to attempt to do something they might fuck up. Now that’s equal rights.
John Hockenberry has written many times about the inaccessibility of the New York City subways, including one particular time that resonated with me as a new mother trying to make my own way through the stations with an infant and all his paraphernalia - he looked around at a subway stop once and found that it wasn't just his wheelchair-bound self that was having trouble, it was mothers and nannies whose charges were more mobile in strollers except when it came to access to trains. If the stroller-pushing masses who rely on public transportation in this town ever unite with the handicapped, watch out, RTA...but then New Orleans hasn't had much in the way of a major transit system in decades. It also doesn't have much in the way of smooth sidewalks and roads, which can be tough to navigate for even the healthy. For someone encumbered by a certain apparatus on her foot, it can be downright infuriating to try to traverse someone's unwieldy brick walk made into a petrified earthen wave by New Orleans' pudding-like ground and whatever trees' roots may be pushing the bricks around. Much as I love this town, I probably would think twice about staying if I had a serious physical problem and couldn't get around too easily. It would take a lot of help to keep me going, at any rate.

I won't lie - thinking about all of this, being forced to confront it, is a scary business. Having to deal with this thing on my foot for so long - I've almost forgotten what it's like to be able to not even think about walking. This is a certain kind of failure that cannot be denied. My body gave up the ghost in two places that have turned out to be pretty vital to my movement. And I know now that even though the doc will give me an all-clear on the bones eventually, it will take more time for me to get out of my current mindset. In my worst moments, I feel like a useless appendage to the human race. Thank goodness for loving family and friends. Their contributions at this crazy time cannot be underestimated.

So I will pick myself up as best I can and maneuver my way through my encumbered physicality as best I can. Yeah, my brain hurts a little, too. More Aleve. More good humor atop it. More struggle. Shit ultimately happens. Life goes on with or without me. Guess the only thing really propping me up is that I don't want it to get too far without me hanging on to it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I mean, REALLY???!??


 Oh, yes. Pizza is still not a vegetable. Kermit says so.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No, I don't work in an office with a bunch of people...but if I did, I would have them all do this one day:


Of course I'm absolutely certain I need to get out more, anyhow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The events at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan yesterday, and the subsequent court injunction tussles regarding tents in the park and other assorted issues related to the use of privately owned public spaces, took on different dimensions for me when it was revealed that not only was the People's Library at the park treated as though it meant nothing*, there was the possibility that a Torah may have been subjected to the same treatment - and there were definitely some Tanakhs that were trashed.

Tanakhs - aka, the entire Jewish Bible - are bad enough. If a Tanakh, usually in book form, is ruined in some way, it doesn't just go into the nearest garbage can, because it contains the name of God in it. It must go into a special depository for ruined documents of its kind known as a genizah. The most famous genizah is that of Cairo, in which not just pieces of parchment were discovered, but also pieces of wood with God's name on them, illuminated manuscripts, art, and other fragments of all kinds in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. When I attended classes at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, there were clearly labeled receptacles in the library copy rooms that told us where to deposit any copies of sacred documents mentioning God that we weren't going to use, which certainly forced me to reconsider the power of words and how disposable they have become in society today. To have the NY Sanitation Department roll Tanakhs into dumpsters, when considering the genizah, adds extra insult to the injury of a donated library headed for a landfill.

The even greater problem, however, comes from the alleged disposal of a Torah scroll, which is a HUGE no-no in Judaism, one that crosses denominations. I was told as a kid by my father that if one merely drops a Torah scroll, everyone present at that unfortunate event must fast for three days. In some circles, penance for dropping it can last even longer than that. Torah scrolls are heavy - it's like holding a small child - and it isn't unusual for some wobbling to occur as its spindles are lifted, but everyone must take great care with them.

If - IF - a Torah was treated badly by those clearing Zuccotti...the first thing that comes to my mind is a scroll in my grandparents' synagogue on Long Island enclosed in a glass case for all to see as a memorial to the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah in Europe. This memorial is especially heartbreaking because the scroll has been opened enough to show the boot marks on it from Nazis who thought they could somehow stamp out Judaism by stomping on its most sacred document. The Torah cannot be used in services because of that desecration, but if it were even more badly damaged than that - as, say, the Torahs from the flooded Beth Israel Synagogue in Lakeview were - it would be given a burial with proper funeral rites. To not do such a thing would be tantamount to a grievous crime.

Hearing about these terrible events puts the denial of press coverage by those clearing the park into a more sinister light for me. Whether or not people can be allowed to settle nights at Zuccotti pales in comparison to the suppression of mere words and ideas concerning why protesters were there in the first place. If those booted out of the park can take that and run with it, Bloomberg will have ultimately failed and we will all be the better for it.

And, if - IF - a desecrated Torah scroll is indeed lost in this mess, as a Jew, Bloomberg should have known better.

*Edited & updated at 10:32 PM. Some books have been recovered, but their condition is terrible.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I have to give huge thanks to Clay for the following picture. I, too, wanna see this as an animated gif - and, once I do, I'd like to (virtually) bronze it and entitle it "Win One For The Gimper."


I got the feeling, from the gesturing with the crutches, that Sean Payton may well keep them after he's healed up. Nothing like waving a stick for emphasis on the sidelines.

It was through those crutches, actually, that we found out my orthopedist doesn't watch much football, attributing it to "an ADD when it comes to watching games." I don't know if that equates to a dislike of football necessarily, but I'm glad we gave the doc a heads-up with regards to what might be the latest local trend in orthopedic aids. Heck, I'd go back to the Touro ER and demand a pair of Mobilegs...except that I have, at long last, been okayed to move free of my stylin' walker due to the appearance of new bone mass in my ankle. Don't get me wrong - Das Boot is still ensuring I walk like Quasimodo, but I can get around a tad more now.

In the long run, it also means I can shed more of my housebound addictions I've required in recent days, like the analysis of movies with Kurt Russell in them. Not to mention watching a bunch of said movies. Save. Me.

Update, 6:02 PM: Via The Gambit comes this gem:

Daaaamn right.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fourth Week Musings

Thanks to a borrowed heating pad and the fact that I tend to sleep with my right arm curling over my head anyhow, my elbow is fast on the way to allowing me to straighten it out without pain. For some reason, I keep thinking of pitcher Bob Gibson whenever I think of trying to straighten my arm out: one tale of his going to a tailor to have a suit altered comes to mind. When he was asked to straighten out his pitching arm to help the alterations, he was convinced that he had straightened it out. Seasons of stellar pitching hasn't gotten my elbow in this current situation, though, so I'll have to keep working on it.

Twitter has been a helluva online place despite my starting to get off the second floor a bit more than I have been. Disputes over the sexual abuse of boys and the sexual harassment of women will always get people talking, and the terrible news related to recent revelations over Jerry Sandusky's sexual misconduct while at Penn State (and the institution's attempts to keep it under wraps and in-house) as well as the women who are speaking up in seeming droves over presidential hopeful Herman Cain's sexually suggestive behavior have had virtual forums all abuzz for the past few days. The most memorable Twitter stream in probably all of the site's history then came courtesy of Queen of Spain, who posted a pointed question out of frustration and was so overwhelmed with followers' replies that her retweets of them had her in Twitter jail for a time (scroll down on both of those last two links to see them all). Answers ranged from simple "nos" to some descriptions of the offensive behavior complete with the further harassment victims found themselves subject to when they did report it. Just because we women are outside of the home in greater numbers doesn't mean we deserve this garbage from men in general. Putting us back in the home won't change things, either. Nor will dressing less provocatively, or speaking out less, or wearing more damned pink, or any of the other asinine ideas floated to women about how we can keep these guys off our backs. Simultaneously, though, women are expected to go through life being stoic about it all, which is still useful some of the time, but it all requires ordinary women to operate as superhumans. Perhaps it's been my physical state contributing to my current thoughts on this subject, but I have been thinking about this stuff a lot lately as I look at my mess of a house and simultaneously want to do something about it myself while wishing I could whip my husband and son into working on it. Women still have an uphill battle in life. Only thing different is the incline.

This past Monday counts as the third time in a few days my parents have been shaken by earthquakes in their current home in Oklahoma City. The second time it happened, it freaked my mother out quite a bit. Nowadays, though, I think she's graduated from being freaked out to simply being pissed off. Even her initial idea that her childhood home in east Tennessee might be free of the shakes has been abandoned. Just when Mom and Dad thought all they'd have to deal with out there were tornadoes...

Off to warm my arm. Hopefully, my physical therapy concerning it and my bum ankle will be beginning this week. 'Til then, I must limp off, though I was able to gingerly shuffle step in Das Boot yesterday to this:


Maybe I'll kick back with one of these concoctions while I take this album in. Who knows?

Update, 8:19 PM: Oh, and speaking of all the harassment talk, here's another way to look at the Penn State scandal: what if the victims were female? After you read, you might wanna do this. Dammit.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Schlep To Moses Meeting

In the course of my long periods of time spent at home lately, I've been introduced to a Facebook game known as Journey of Moses that has helped me pass some bursts of hours (when I haven't been trying to figure out what I make of this, that is). I've been digging up energy, whacking scorpions, spiders, and snakes in Egypt and, currently, the east African wilderness (hey, I just killed an overseer, which makes me persona non grata in Pharaoh's kingdom), and slowly making a camp a self-sufficient enterprise, complete with a well, fig-bearing trees, an energy-giving camel (don't ask) and a cave bearing gems. It's kinda fun figuring out what furniture, flowers, and shrubs you can use to make your personal oasis a nice, friendly spot to which you can retreat when tussling with traders in the desert or digging for mysterious clues gets to be too much (or you run out of energy, whichever comes first). I came across something in the relics up for purchase that was kinda disturbing and just erroneous, historically speaking.

"D'you know they're offering crosses you can put in your campsite in this game?" I said to Dan about my recent game obsession. "They're supposed to produce gems for use in the game. But that's just wrong, anyhow. Um, it's MOSES, here, not Jesus."

Dan said the game sounded stupid anyway, but said it could be just a piece of equipment, like something to hang a tunic on or something. "If it is intended as a cross cross, I can just see a campsite covered with the things," he said with a mischievous smile.

Uh-oh, I thought. Last thing I want is for a fantasy space of mine to resemble Baton Rouge.

Friday, November 04, 2011

RSD Holding Forth

Thanks to the Gambit's newest reporter Charles Maldonado, I was able to check out from home the Recovery School District's presentation to the city council on its efforts to get more community involvement and input into the workings of its schools.

If anything was to be learned from this bit of political theater, it was at least two things:

  • Nothing in recent memory illustrated how detached the workings of the city's schools have become from the day-to-day of city council business, from the cluelessness of Stacy Head on where early childhood education funding (specifically for pre-K3-and-4 programs) has gone (down the toilet) to the queries of councilman Jon Johnson demanding RSD superintendent John White give him clues as to what is happening with specific school sites in the Lower Ninth Ward - queries that couldn't possibly have been addressed that morning. White repeatedly directed councilmembers and public commenters to the many public meetings that were forthcoming to have their concerns addressed in more detail. Giving everybody only a minute to speak will do that.
  • Then again, it wasn't like only having a minute to speak discouraged those who wanted to be heard (for the determined, it never really does). Recurrent themes in the comment period were all from African-Americans wondering how much more the destruction of their heritage in relation to local education could take. People at the podium raised issues from the possible renaming of L.B. Landry High on the west bank ("What did we do to deserve this?") to the contentiousness of school admissions to the mass firing of a mostly black public school teaching pool shortly after 8/29/2005 vs. the current predominantly white makeup of the RSD's current teaching pool to a plea for control of the public schools to return to the city. Judging from the few comments that were heard, community involvement still has a ways to go.
The only public meeting I currently see listed on the RSD website is the one on November 29 White referred to a few times yesterday. There are supposed to be more meetings, as well as some parent centers to help facilitate greater community involvement, supposedly. Can't find them on the RSD site yet, but at least White mentioned those locations yesterday. Kristen Gisleson-Palmer lauded White on his work with two of the high schools in her district, which was the only reference to this measure that was apparently sprung on the teachers of those schools without much warning. Of course the RSD's defense will be that everyone should have gotten a clue from Johnny White's 100-day plan. When you're in the thick of actually doing your job, however, who has the time to see what may be coming down the pike?

One unfortunate sidebar to yesterday's events was BESE District 2 board member Louella Givens' appearance at the presentation. It was noted that, though Jackie Clarkson couldn't be in attendance for the RSD presentation, councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell - who kept the presentation and the comment period moving along in Clarkson's stead - had invited Givens to be present. That fact alone, along with some asides from Givens during the presentation, made Givens look more like a stepchild of local public education rather than a leader. Though I admire her being the only one on the state board to speak out against blanket charterization, her appearance in council chambers and her press conference later on in the day didn't exactly cement a higher position for her in the upcoming BESE District 2 runoff elections.