Wednesday, March 31, 2010

(Super) Sunday Afternoon: Wheels, a Fancy Hat, More Wheels, and Some Feathers

Motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle.

It really is a very fancy hat, isn't it?

Suddenly, these motor-tricycles are everywhere, the new head-turning wheeled contraption of the moment.

Boston Baked Beans, another example of the snack food brand custom car trend. (They were out in force: Lay's potato chips, Big Shot soda, etc., etc.) He was very proud and stopped so I could get a good picture.

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle. Every weekend, these guys play bicycle polo on the neglected tennis courts at Washington and La Salle. And they were doing it again in the midst of the Super Sunday revelry and noise. (And talk about noise, that's a lot of cars with really loud stereos. Big Freedia was the favorite musical selection.)

Young second liner, going home for the day.

26 inches all day. (I'm glad those aren't just part-time 26 inchers.) This is the latest plateau in the ongoing rim inflation. A few years ago, 22s were considered brag-worthy, but they were surpassed by 24s. And now, if you're not riding on 26 inch rims, well...

Indian, going home for the day

Motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle...

When Indians get casual, they need a whole lot of room. This spread of laid-down feathers stretched twenty-plus feet across. (And there were plenty more patches like it, all around the perimeter of the park where all the Indians gathered at the end the day, to lose the heavy gear and drink a beer.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dance, Slimbo, Dance! Musings on Muses

Cellar Door asks, "Please tell us about your muses. If it amuses you.":

It amuses me (though I can't guarantee it will amuse you). First, let's disambiguate. I can think of at least three particular senses of the noun "muse":*
  1. The Literal: Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus who preside over the various arts and sciences.
  2. The Less Literal: A person, typically a woman, who inspires the artist to create.
  3. The Not Literal: Some notion/subject/entity that serves as a source of inspiration.
Regarding The Literal, the Greek ladies, I've never made their acquaintance and can claim no particular association. For the Less Literal, the lady-as-muse, I confess, I'm highly suspicious of the whole notion. It seems to be most often employed by starry-eyed dudes who have no idea how to deal with women as actual people and instead turn them into objet d'arts to be admired as some sort of aesthetic or philosophical ideal. Certainly I have important ladies in my life. I adore my wife, but she's not my muse. (Though she is my editrix, reading almost everything I write before I do anything with it, and setting me straight on the occasions when I wander off course.) Certainly, my daughters are the subject of about a bijillion of my photos, and while a muse may sometimes also be a subject, they are not the same thing. Those gals are not muses. They're kids. Who do things like eat their cereal incredibly slowly on exactly those days when we have like three minutes to get out the door to school. They're not muses.

So we're left with the Not Literal, the notions/subjects/entities, and now we're starting to get somewhere. If I can ascribe a muse-like role to anything in my life, it would be my lovely little broken down town of New Orleans. It's certainly a favorite subject of mine, appearing frequently in my writings and constantly in my photographs (and obliquely in my illustrations, which seldom explicitly depict New Orleans but are fed by the wealth of characters this town provides). But it's also something-beyond-a-subject. It creeps into the brain pan and saturates the self and informs and dominates the worldview and ensnares and puzzles and pleases and enervates and compels one to love it in spite of and because of its big tangled mess of virtues and vices, and it has the best clouds and the funkiest houses and the most hilarious people, and I like few things as much biking through its forgotten corners on a sunny day with a camera and no particular plan, and I can even forgive its shuck-and-jive pantomiming of its own hackneyed legend** for the benefit of visitors, because it means no particular harm and, when nobody's looking, it goes right on back to being its stubborn old self, and it's nice to leave, but it's nicer to come back, and (except for a few occasional excursions to terra firma) I plan to stay hunkered down right here until the day they lay me in my tomb (at which point I'll presumably continue to stay hunkered down), and I'm getting a little verklempt, and oh, Lord...

It's like that. That's pretty muse-like.

* And let's not forget the parade. Muses is a great parade.

** Though occasionally the city does actually behave just like its legend. I write this on one of the first true Spring evenings of the year, warm enough to have the balcony door open as a gusting breeze rustles the greening willow, and somewhere down the street someone—a marching band kid, I'm guessing—is actually playing trumpet, and wafts of casual swinging horn drift over me with each rush of temperate wind.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dead passion vine. Most of the (former) greenery around us looks like this right now, knocked back by this past winter's uncharacteristically harsh freezes. But Spring is upon us, and hints of new life are starting to appear. I'm ready for it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: Virgin Mary, Magazine St., 2001 (This was taken with that same plastic cereal box camera.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dance, Slimbo, Dance!

Usually, I run this blog as a benevolent (or so say I) dictatorship, writing and ruminating on the whims of my choosing. But today, I hand the reigns of this bloggy-chariot over to you. Here's the game/deal:
You name a subject, and (within the bounds of propriety and prudence) I will post about it. The results may be worthwhile. They may be worthless. But I will say what I have say.*
Dance, Slimbo, dance!

* Unless, I'm too busy, lazy, or stumped. Dictator's prerogative.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: Virgin Mary on seahorses

Photos from the Crypt: Les Brusiers, Sun Studios, 2003 (I don't remember who actually took this picture.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alex Chilton

I met Alex Chilton last Saturday night for the first and sadly last time. He was very soft-spoken and sweet and talked mostly about an obscure form of astrology in which birthdays are matched to particular playing cards. Upon telling him my birthday, he informed me, without hesitation, that I was a King of Diamonds. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I liked the sound of it. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: Four boys, Pleasant St.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What I'm Reading: How Buildings Learn

You might have noticed, I like buildings. They do all sorts of useful things like shelter us, and they're often—intentionally or unintentionally—rather beautiful (or at least weirdly interesting). And I particularly like old buildings because they've spent decades or centuries since their inception accruing personality: a succession of modifications and repairs and extensions and retoolings and paint jobs and wear and tear and traumas and recoveries that add up to make that old building entirely unique (and compelling) in a way that new buildings rarely achieve, no matter how artfully designed.

So I read Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn" with great curiosity:

It's devoted to precisely this subject: how buildings evolve from their original form to something new, informed by actual daily use, which is often subtly or significantly at odds with the builder's or architect's original intent, and how buildings continue to adapt as they are summoned to all sorts of new purposes for which they were never designed. (A house becomes a store. A warehouse becomes apartments.) It's a manifesto of sorts, calling for the building trades—and architecture in particular—to accept and embrace, not fight, the fact that buildings change over time and arguing that part of the job of creating a new building is to ensure that it will adapt gracefully to unforeseen demands in the unknowable future (something which many high-concept high-budget constructions do rather poorly but which many time-worn building vernaculars do quite well). It's also a highly idiosyncratic and opinionated book, full of quirky examples and curmudgeonly advice. He probably gets some things wrong—Brand himself acknowledges that the it's largely a collection of hypotheses that should be verified or rejected by empirical study—but I suspect he gets the main thrust right.

Having nearly finished it, I now look at old buildings differently. I'm more aware of what I'll call their "strata", the modifications that have accreted over time to result in the present-day structure. (New Orleans offers particularly choice opportunities for this because of all the twin-houses—or triplet-, quadruplet-, etc.—that started life identically but diverged until the original shared lineage is scarcely recognizable.*) It emphasizes that buildings (and the neighborhoods and cities they compose) are never merely static constructs but are, of their essence, dynamic entities moving through and changing in time.

* In fact, the cover of the book shows precisely such an example, a before-and-after of a pair of buildings on lower St. Charles Ave.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: Revolution second line, "We set the city on fire"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: Boy with flag. (Our nascent series sputtered. Let's revive it.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Today is my birthday (thank you, thank you), and this morning, Sarah gave me my presents, including the newly reissued first edition of Henry Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (which I'm very excited to geek out on):

And then, as I was pulling in to work, Gary Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" came on the radio, and I learned that, lo and behold, today is also Fowler's birthday (oh, muh guh!), and Gary recounted his whole eccentric story: how, at age forty-one, he had a crisis of faith and quit his teaching gig and moved to a one-room cottage on an island in the English Channel next door to his brother (the tomato farmer) and spent the rest of his life writing, among other things, quirky prescriptive texts on English usage.

Forty-one, huh? Okay, I've got three years before I start my own soon-to-be-timeless-classic on the English language, Slimbo's Everything Is Better With Hyphens and Footnotes.*

* I'm not sure what Fowler would say about the use of "co-inky-dink"—I'll have to look it up
but I assure you, Slimbo's Hyphens and Footnotes will strongly favor it.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Saturday Afternoon

Brick house

Lavender house

Gas off

Blue house

"My Funny Valentine"

Virgin Mary, close

Virgin Mary, far

Laurel Elementary schoolyard

D.J. Jubilee

The M.C.

Blue and yellow (Rocawear 99)

Passenger zone

Friday, March 05, 2010

Later, Skater

Who likes clicking—and also rocking—for a good cause? Everybody! Well here's your chance.

The good cause:

Our beloved guitariste-Brusier, Jason "Fingers of Fire" Goodman, and his fine associates at skateNOLA are doing their darnedest to get a skatepark built in City Park, which is a great idea for many many reasons. And you can help.
The clicking:
They've applied for a $250,000 grant from Pepsi and have a solid chance at getting it, which would be huge. What can guarantee their success? Your going here and voting for it. (And continuing to do so once each day for the remainder of March. Don't worry; in this case, ballot-stuffing is legal.)
The rocking:

They're having a fundraiser tonight at the Hi-Ho Lounge at 10 p.m. sharp with a whole bunch of A-1 bands.
Make it so.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: I took this back in the dawn of time (the year 2000, to be precise) with my first-ever digital camera, a ticky-tacky little lo-res plastic thing that came in a cereal box or something like that. (That's almost literally true. I think it actually came free with my DSL router.) But I like this picture despite its technical deficiencies. (Actually, now the crude pixelation looks sort of rustically charming. Is the Digital Age old enough that we can now feel nostalgic for its early years? I think so.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Photos from the Crypt: Eat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Photos from the Crypt

Until recently, our domestic computing was in a sorry state. We'd been hobbling along on half-decade old Macs, noble machines but far past their prime, encumbered by age and the ever-growing demands of modern bit-spinning. This made all sorts of routine tasks irksomely slow, but in particular, it made navigating through my old photos almost impossible. Each time I'd try to launch the ol' photo software, the computer would gasp, shake its fist at me, and launch into a tirade: "Back in my day, we measured file sizes in kilo-bytes, not mega-bytes! You kids today with your massive data archives and your streaming video and your..." But at last, we've packed the old geezers away and upgraded to a shiny new computational unit that can actually do the sorts of resource-intensive things that contemporary computational units are supposed to do, like say, browse through a whole bunch of old photos.*

All of which is a long way of saying that I once again have meaningful access to my past ten years of photographs—an absurdly huge trove, some small percentage of which I'm rather proud of and a large percentage of which is totally random and pointless**—and I'm in the mood to share. So let's kick off a new series of lost images from yesteryear: Photos from the Crypt. Stay tuned! (Ooh, I'm excited!)***

* And even more fun, my shiny new photo-management freeware now possesses modest facial recognition capability (!!), and with a bit of nudging and cajoling, it does a half-decent job of figuring out who is in the photos and groups them accordingly, so when I'm bored, I sit there telling it, "Yes, you guessed that person right. No, that's not that person. That's that other person. Yes. Yes. No. Yes..." in a sort of meditative name-that-face zone-out (that for somehow feels a lot like playing Tetris).

** My photo-methodology could be roughly summed up as, "Shoot now. Ask questions later." These days, I do strive to be more selective in my clicking, but as for the collateral photo-damage already incurred, oh well. (In this era of ever-cheapening data storage, it's really not worth trying to get rid of the chaff. Don't delete data. Mine it. Besides, you never know when you'll find out after the fact that a murder occurred nearby while you were innocently snapping pics, and you'll go back and examine them and notice something curious in the corner of one, and you'll super-enlarge it and apply fancy enhancement algorithms and discover that the identity of the killer is...!)

*** Note: It's perfectly possible that I'll inadvertenly re-post some photo that originally showed up here back in the Slimbo-Paleocene era. I'm spacy like that. Sue me.