Sunday, August 28, 2005


... and the waves? Ah, no. Not that cool.
I just thought I should send out a notice to folks who
might worry about us letting everyone know what we're
planning on doing.

As of the midnight predictions, it looks like New Orleans
is gonna get plowed by hurricane Katrina.

Although at this time the computer models suggest that it
might not hit us directly, most scenarios place us within
or uncomfortably close to the hurricane's eyewall. That's
where you really don't want to be.

The storm spins counter-clockwise, and the worst weather is
on the right-hand side, where the winds are spinning up
from the south and carrying rain.

Things will be better if the storm goes east of us, because
you want to be on the west side of a hurricane. We were on
the west side of Dennis, and the day was absolutely lovely
at our house when it hit Mississippi.

Doesn't look like we'll get as lucky this time, so we're
bugging-out for the first time since we've lived here.

East or West, you don't want to be within sixty miles of a
hurricane center. And this looks to be a BIG one.

My great-uncle lives just north of Pensacola, Florida,
which got severely damaged by several storms over the past
couple of years, but looks safe for this one. They've got
the room and have generously offered it to us, and we're
taking them up on the offer!

We'll be leaving about 4-5 AM Sunday, headed for Milton,

It's normally a 3.5 hour drive, but we're planning for two
to three times this length, just in case. If traffic is
just lovely, then we'll get there between 8 and 9 in the
morning, which is the earliest I'd like to wake up Jimmy
and Darlene on a Sunday morning...

One problem is that the "contraflow" evacuation system is
in effect, meaning that most of the interstates leading out
of the area have both sides of traffic headed outward. This
does affect us, as we ordinarlily would have taken I-10
East, but that's not possible, so we're taking State Rt. 90
into Mississippi, and hooking up with I-10 later.

Not a problem, and actually traffic will probably be
lighter for us going this route! If the interstates become
weird along our route, we can actually take Route 90 almost
all the way there.

We're all packed up, gassed up, and I've been on MapQuest
printing out detailed maps of our route.

Our main reason for leaving is the loss of electricity
which is just assumed in any tropical system.

Every tropical system which has passed by us has killed out

New Orleans just loves it's live oak trees, which drape
dramatically across the streets... and fall dramatically
across the power lines during storms.

In Cincinnati there were harsh laws about how close trees
were allowed to get to power lines... and we rarely lost
power there. But, no, not here... trees equal tourism...

The last time during Dennis we were without power for over
a day and a half.

In this weather, with the heat indexes being over 100, we
don't want to be sitting here for several days like that.
New Orleans in August is just barely tolerable even with

Our house probably will not flood, as we're almost next to
the Mississippi river levy and one of the higher points of
the city. I don't even think we're below sea level, like
much of the middle of the city. Also, our house is over a
century old, and sits up on yard-high brick pylons.
Flooding, we're not worried about.

Wish us luck!

Hope for the best for New Orleans, as possible storm paths
are the "worst case" paths for this town. Paths which drive
water into Lake Pontchartrain and over the levys and
flooding the town. And the pumps are clogged by debris and
can't work...

Of course, it's really a stupid place to put a city.
Everyone knows this, but it's been too much trouble to move
elsewhere... we all know that it's just a matter of time
until a big storm returns us to the swamp from whence we

More later. I'll send notice and update when we're safe in Florida.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Book club?

I've decided to start an online book club!

I'm envisioning a place where we pick a book every month, and, well, chat about it.

If you'd like to join, just post a comment to this thread, or send me an email.

It will be in a blog format, with different threads to suggest books for future months and threads to discuss the current book. Books will be chosen by consensus among the monthly nomination participants.

You don't have to always participate to join. Lurkers are welcome. I realize that not all books will be interesting to all people, and that some months you're just too busy. That's fine.

I'll send notice and pick members at first, but I envision that new members will be voted on in the future when this gets going.

I know folks are busy, so I'm suggesting the following process:

One book per month, with a healthy lead time to discuss possible selections, then acquire and read them before the official discussion thread begins.

The first week of every month is the current nomination thread. At the end of the week I determine the consensus (if any) and post a thread naming next month's book. We then have four weeks to locate and read it. (is this enough time, or too much, not enough?)

The second week of the next month begins the ongoing discussion thread of that book, which continues so long as folks are interested. (I thought of having only three weeks to acquire and read books, but didn't want the nomination to coincide with new book discussion. Or would folks like one intensive week followed by three fallow ones?)

And, finally, would folks prefer Blogger (like this) or LiveJournal.

I've already got a couple of Blogger addresses reserved, but LJ ones are easy enough to create, as well. Whatever you prefer, I'll moderate.

So far as the name goes, I suggest either "Litrachia" or "Booke Clubb".

Please let me know what you think if you're interested!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Phranc and The Knitters

Another concert post.

We went to see The Knitters at Tipitina's with Phranc opening tonight. There was some doubt about whether I'd be attending, as Adrian Belew was also playing at a different venue. But, alas, Knitters tix had already been purchased, almost immediately by M----- when she heard about the show! While I would have loved to have finally seen Adrian with a backup band (the four times I'd seen him have been either solo or with King Crimson), it always sucks to go to a show alone. It would have also involved making M----- attend a show alone since she's found it oddly quite troublesome to locate friends willing to go see shows for free.

Anyway, as such shows go it was quite tasty, my grumpiness at missing Adrian aside. The Knitters were probably the best alt-country I've ever seen, at least tied with Gillian Welch, and are seriously worth checking out and especially seeing if you ever get the chance.

We were both thrilled that they (well, John Doe and Dave Alvin) opened with the classic "Send me my flowers while I'm living" which we'd last seen done by Homer Ledford in Northern Kentucky in one of the best mountain music concerts I've ever seen.

Phranc was awesome! Her voice has really gotten better in many ways, honestly. All of the stuff I'd heard had been at least twenty years old, but she was really able to be quite moving and powerful, in addition to entertaining and funny with her between songs patter. I knew she'd have a great sense of humor, having heard here stuff and reading her excellent interview in Angry Women in Rock.

She had no Tupperware for sale, alas, but she did sing a song about selling it, and took time to mention her "partner" and the fact that she's a "Jewish folksinging lesbian".

I didn't know it, but twenty years ago she toured with X, the classic punk band who forms the Knitters along with the always-excellent Dave Alvin, and this tour was kind-of a reunion for them all.

The Knitters were fun, and I totally and completely approve of a metal washtub used as a bass drum. The five-string Kay upright bass was also lovely.

This was the third time I'd seen Excene play, and the most enjoyable. I'd seen her once at Sudsy's with her solo band, once with X, and tonight. Although, honestly, John Doe is the better performer, in X and with the Knitters. Regardless, both her and John's voices always work well together, whether in punk or in classic country. Their version of Hank Williams' "Dough, re, me" was superb, and reminded me of the many duos who have recorded it.

John's a nice guy, I must say, as we chatted a bit before the aforementioned X show a couple of years ago. He seemed to enjoy hanging out with the fans, or at least the ones who wanted to have actual conversations and not just praise him.

We were right up front, but had to endure some annoying drunk people. For a while it was the anorexic woman who needed to take up as much space as possible with wild and chaotic dancing. But we didn't know how good we had it with her, because she was replaced by the overly enthusiastic drunk tall people towards the end of the night.

Now that I've been off both drinking and smoking for a while now, I have to say that drunk folks are far more annoying than smokers. I still wanted to smoke a couple of times during the evening, but the only times I thought about drinking was to acknowledge that if I'd been quaffing beer then I would have found the annoying drunk folks much less bothersome. Which isn't to say that I was craving a drink, just a simple observation of fact. However, when we got home, we both felt the need to change clothes and shower to get rid of the smoke smell. Bleh. But I never felt the profoundly strong need to punch any of the smokers tonight, but several drinkers needed the shit kicked out of them, for the benefit of humanity. Sincere and profound apologies to those who were around me drinking too much! Every time I go to shows I feel more and more sheepish.

I've been totally accumulating my lesbian cred lately in seeing Phranc, as last month we saw Le Tigre. Who totally bloody rocked! I'd kinda been hesitant about seeing them, as they digitise a lot of their show and I thought that it would be commodified. But it was stunningly good and energetic. One of the best shows I've seen in a long while.

It was weird seeing Kathleen Hanna, whom I'd last seen in Dayton playing with Bikini Kill very lo-tech, play with a band who was so very tech-y, but didn't let it interfere with their being punk as fsck. The previous week Mike had very generously paid for my ticket to see GBH, and they seemed tired and dated. Le Tigre seemed way more punk and extremely more politically aware and current.

Honestly, the Le Tigre show was probably the most political show I've ever been to, and the most politically effective. They had computer video showing along with their songs, nicely synched, and very effective at conveying both energy towards the live show and valuable information. None of the tech interfered with the energy of the show, as all vocals and guitar playing was live.

I must say that some of my enjoyment of Le Tigre, and my lack of enjoyment of seeing the Knitters and several other bands lately, was due to the fact that I was able to sit down during their show! We sat up in the balcony, and had a great view of the whole stage, great sound and not too loud, had the ventilation blowing near us, and weren't subjected to drunk obnoxious fans. I've been a fan of balcony views of shows since high school, when I ran lights for theatre and I got to like the above the stage view.

Since I've been going to shows, since I was 18, so almost twenty years now, I've most enjoyed shows where I could sit down and where I could watch the band play their instruments. I'm not a dancer, usually, especially if I'm sober, but a watcher, and that's what I enjoy doing at concerts. I really enjoy watching excellent musicians play excellent music, and I prefer sitting down to do so unless the music is just really incredibly moving. And even at excellent shows, there's a lot of wasted time when it's nice to have a seat.

But, really, having seats prevents the total drunk assholes from shoving in front of you and completely interfering with your enjoyment of the show. I'm very, very, tired of this.

The first few shows I ever saw were huge stadium affairs with assigned seating, and I still prefer that. And the shows I saw at medium venues which had seating instead of open floor were much more memorable. I can recall the songs I heard at such shows much more clearly that shows I saw which were standing.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Rock 'n' Roll

We watched the PBS American Masters special on Sun Records the other night, which was pretty cool. Catch it on re-broadcast if you missed it.

During it, they showed various musicians, sometimes with original Sun musicians, performing classic songs from the Sun catalog.

After a while, M----- and I noticed a distinct pattern. All of the older musicians seemed to be trying to reproduce the originals as well as their own distinctive styles would allow, and seemed to choose songs which worked with their strengths. Newer artists seemed to be "reinterpreting" the classic songs and didn't seem concerned with any sort of reproduction.

After a few days' pondering, I managed to sum up the difference: older artists seemed to project, "This is so cool!" while newer artists seemed to project, "I'm so cool!"

Paul McCartney and Robert Plant seemed to be able to channel their inner little boys who grew up on Sun Records and be humble and respectful to the material while impressing their own profound identity upon the songs. Newer artists whose souls weren't changed by this music, who didn't grow up on it, didn't seem to manifest the same repect. Their new versions were invariably inferior, and left a bad taste. And I really like Ben Folds.

To my ears, which also didn't grow up on this stuff, but on music two and three generations removed, it's still definitive and classic, and I would never presume to try and change it. Especially on a nationally broadcast television show. But then again, perhaps I lack the ego necessary to do what's needed to get on that show to begin with...

People who seem to think that they're more creative than masters of the form are always less so.

Although, yes, some of the older musicians featured recorded their own versions of classic tunes. Given. But they always seemed to respect the essential soul of the music. M------ mentioned that none of the new artists who were on the show did versions which had a bloody backbeat! This was an essential feature of early Sun music! What's that line from the Beatles' Rock and Roll Music? "It's got a backbeat you can't lose it!"

I'd also like to complain that they showed Brian Ferry (of Roxy Music) during the segment with Mark Knopfler, but he wasn't shown ever doing anything. We were just a couple of days earlier wondering if Roxy Music and Squeeze ever knew each other, and it was nice to see confirmation, but...

M----- and I both think that Brian Ferry would do an amazing job on Roy Orbison tunes, and would also like to comment on the lack of attention on Roy during this program! They showed his picture but never even mentioned his name!!! We're aghast, aghast I say!

But, seriously, go check out the Sun Records catalog, it's some of the best music ever.

One other thing, though, is that Sam Phillips seems to come across as a complete nutjob. I guess you'd have to be a bit loopy to do what he did, but still...

Not mentioned on the program:

I have to note that he recorded, before Sun began, what is arguably the first rock song with Ike Turner, another nutcase, Rocket 88.