November 8, 2007

The AP ran a story the other day about the arraignment of one of the Jena 6, which included the following explanation:

"A noose is a hated symbol among Southern blacks who view it as a harassing reminder of lynchings in the past."

I would like to point out to the AP copy editors that the noose happens to be a hated symbol among a few other folks as well, including white girls who have spent most their lives above the Mason-Dixon line. And the folks up at Columbia's Teachers College seemed pretty bummed about the one that showed up on a professor's door there recently, too. I'm pretty sure it's not just a hyper-sensitive Southern black thing.

November 8, 2007 10:40 PM | | Comments (0)
October 29, 2007

This looks cool:



Creative Time is pleased to announce the presentation of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a project by Paul Chan, co-produced by Creative Time with curator Nato Thompson and The Classical Theatre of Harlem with director Christopher McElroen.

• Free public performances of Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot
• Theater workshops, educational seminars, and community conversations and dinners
• A "shadow" fund putting funding back into the city
• A publication and a short film


* Wendell Pierce, New Orleans born and nationally recognized actor
* New Orleans Universities, including The University of New Orleans, Xavier University , Dillard University
* New Orleans High Schools, including NOCCA High School, Lusher High School, Frederic Douglass High School, John McDonough High School
* New Orleans Neighborhood organizations, including Students at the Center, Neighborhood Story Project, The Porch, Renaissance Project

When and Where:
November 2nd and 3rd (Friday and Saturday)
Lower Ninth Ward
At the intersection of Forstall St and North Roman St
7 PM

November 9th and 10th (Friday and Saturday)
At the intersection of Pratt Dr and Robert E. Lee Blvd
7 PM

"It was unmistakable. The empty road. The bare tree leaning precariously to one side with just enough leaves to make it respectable. The silence. What's more, there was a terrible symmetry between the reality of New Orleans post-Katrina and the essence of this play, which expresses in stark eloquence the cruel and funny things people do while they wait: for help, for food, for hope. It was uncanny. Standing there at the intersection of North Prieur and Reynes, I suddenly found myself in the middle of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot."
- Paul Chan
For the past nine months, Paul Chan has worked with New Orleanian artists, activists, and organizers to formalize the shape of the play and broaden the social scope of the project. Visiting New Orleans for the first time in November 2006, the artist was struck by the disquieting stillness: no hammer sounds banging in the distance, no construction crews yelling to one another, no cranes visible on the skyline. His immediate response to the city was to imagine an outdoor performance of Samuel Beckett's legendary play, Waiting for Godot. "The longing for the new is a reminder of what is worth renewing. Seeing Godot embedded in the very fabric of the landscape of New Orleans was way of re-imaging the empty roads, the debris, and, above all, the bleak silence as more than the expression of mere collapse," stated Chan. This production continues the presentation of the play in politically charged environments, including San Quentin prison (1957), a performance directed by Susan Sontag in wartorn Sarajevo (1993), and Classical Theatre of Harlem's post-Katrina inspired production featuring New Orleans native Wendell Pierce in Harlem (2006).
As an arts organization that for 33 years has enlivened public space in NYC and challenged the notion of what art can be, Creative Time immediately signed on to present this project in New Orleans and launch its national program. "We traveled with Paul Chan to lay the groundwork with the goal to involve and benefit the local community in all facets of the production. Meetings were held with neighborhood groups and individuals to listen to concerns, learn from their insights, and adapt planning with their challenging advice," stated Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director, Creative Time. "More than a play, the work is a socially engaged performance at the heart of a national crisis," added Nato Thompson, Curator and Producer, Creative Time.
More information:
Paul Chan is currently in New Orleans teaching contemporary art seminars, open to the public, at Xavier University and The University of New Orleans for the fall semester. In October, members of The Classical Theatre of Harlem will be conducting acting workshops with high schools and community groups, and a series of potluck dinners and conversations, with the producers and cast, will be held in different neighborhoods. A "shadow" fund, matching the production budget dollar-for-dollar, will be given to local organizations for rebuilding efforts in neighborhoods where the play is presented.
Experimental and avant-garde filmmaker Cauleen Smith is creating a new short film in New Orleans - part fantasy, part documentation - as part of the Waiting for Godot in New Orleans project. In addition, Creative Time Books will release Waiting: a New Orleans Reader, to be distributed with D.A.P., and host events with the artists in NYC in early spring 2008.
The cast features actors based in New Orleans , found through open auditions, working with actors from The Classical Theatre of Harlem who performed in the New York City presentation of Waiting for Godot in 2006. The character "Boy" will be played by 4 different boys, one for each of the four performances.
Cast: Wendell Pierce ( Vladimir ), J Kyle Manzay (Estragon), T. Ryder Smith (Pozzo), Mark McLaughlin (Lucky).
Working in a variety of mediums, Paul Chan has achieved international acclaim for his drawings, installations, and animated digital projections that incorporate philosophical reflections on politics, war, and life. Chan's work has been exhibited worldwide including recent solo exhibitions at: Serpentine Gallery, London (2007); Stedelijk Museum , Amsterdam (2007); Institute of Contemporary Art , Boston (2005); UCLA Hammer Museum , Los Angeles (2005). He has also worked with the Nobel peace prize nominated aid group Voices in the Wilderness (with whom he spent an unsanctioned month in Iraq ) and designed The People's Guide to the Republican National Convention. Chan's work will be exhibited at the New Museum, New York, in spring 2008.
Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH), a nonprofit theatre company, was founded in 1999 by Christopher McElroen and Alfred Preisser. In each of its productions--which have included numerous works by Shakespeare, a new stage adaptation of Richard Wright's Native Son, Melvin Van Peebles' Ain't Supposed To Die A Natural Death and Jean Genet's seminal political drama, The Blacks: A Clown Show--the Classical Theatre of Harlem is dedicated to producing theatre that truly reflects the diversity of ideas and racial tapestry of America. In 2006, CTH staged a post-Katrina production of Waiting for Godot hailed as "bracing and immediate ... A thrilling new Godot for our times" by TimeOut NY. Their long list of awards includes 5 OBIE Awards, 2 Lucille Lortel Awards, Drama Desk Award, Edwin Booth Award for Artistic Excellence, among many others.
Creative Time launches its national public art program with Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. Based in New York , the non-profit public arts organization, has presented innovative art for the past three decades. It works with artists and audiences to explore ideas that shape society to ensure that art remains a meaningful part of society, available and relevant to millions of people beyond differences of race, class, religion, or culture. Recent projects include Tribute in Light, which served as a gesture of hope and healing after 9/11; Doug Aitken: Sleepwalkers, a film projected on the Museum of Modern Art, NY; and Who Cares, a series of projects that explored art and social action.
Creative Time is grateful for the incredible generosity of The Annenberg Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.
Executive Producers: Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Dathel and Tommy Coleman, Bilge and Haro Cumbusyan , Beth Rudin DeWoody, Cristina Enriquez-Bocobo, Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anthony J. Gordon, Peggy Jacobs, Dakis Joannou, Liz Kabler, Randy Slifka, and Amanda Weil.
Donors: Bryan W. Bailey and Family, Zoe and Joel Dictrow, Marieluise Hessel and Ed Artzt, Shulamit and Jehuda Reinharz, Raphael Sassower, Kerry Scharlin and Peter Klosowicz, Donna and Benjamin Rosen, Debra and Dennis Scholl, Judith L. Sollott , David Teiger, Lisa and Jeff Thorp, and United Aid Foundation.
Creative Time gratefully acknowledges public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn; and State Senator Thomas K. Duane.
Special thanks to Carol Greene at Greene-Naftali Gallery and Loews New Orleans Hotel.

Forwarded by:
Karen Kern
Grants Associate
Arts Council of New Orleans
818 Howard Avenue, Suite 300
New Orleans, LA 70113

October 29, 2007 11:05 PM | | Comments (0)
October 17, 2007

So one of the kids I occasionally tutor through the YEP program was talking the other day about how 'beaucoup recruiters been coming around my mama's place lately,' which set he and another boy off on a discussion of which arm of the military was a)easiest to get into and b)offered the best signing bonus. Apparently one of the boys had already been to boot camp, but failed some part of it -- he's 18, but when I looked at his test score, it said '2.4' -- that'd be less than halfway through the second grade, and would make it hard for him to handle any kind of test that required reading or writing. It's crushing to think that these kids, most of whom are poorly equipped for life in general, are being groomed to become Our Boys, the face of the U.S. Military.

Which reminds me: I've been repeatedly forwarding this Soldier Portraits link to friends, and it occurs to me this would be a more efficient way of spreading the word...
The series is a work-in-progress by my friend and former New Orleans resident Ellen Susan and will be featured as part of the Photonola event taking place here in December.

Ellen's show will be at New Orleans Photo Alliance, 1111 St. Mary, and it opens December 1.

Every time I look at these photos, I'm so grateful for the contrast they provide to Nina Berman's haunting "Purple Hearts" series (heavy emphasis on the purple part) that got so much attention last summer, and, in my opinion, were provocative in all the wrong ways. Whereas the "Soldier Portraits" make you want to look deeper, Berman's photos just made you want to turn away.

October 17, 2007 3:35 PM | | Comments (0)
October 1, 2007

Ever since the Grace Mansion was struck by lightning a few months back, a small army of workers has been milling about the property as they gut and rebuild the top floor. In keeping with most post-Katrina phenomenon, this has brought about all new 'highs' and 'lows' for neighbors like myself who were unaffected by the fire but still live with its effects several months later.

The most notable benefit thus far was when they hired a 24/7 private security detail, presumably to protect their normally vacuum-sealed property from all the comings and goings of strangers, and the officers -- most of them off-duty cops -- set up their post in front of my house. A few cookies later -- "Hungry officer? I had some extra..."-- and I'd never felt safer the entire time I've lived in this city.

But now the security detail is gone, and there's a "Pot of Gold" port-a-john parked in its spot.

Evidently, it's never locked.

You'd be amazed at how many people will make use of a free port-a-john parked on the sidewalk.

October 1, 2007 9:55 PM | | Comments (0)
September 27, 2007

I was reading Andrew O'Hehir's film column in Salon today, where he mentions a new Katrina documentary screening at the upcoming New York Film Fest, "The Axe in the Attic." I can't tell much about it based on the synopsis offered on the film's website, but the following made me a little nervous:

"Drawn together by outrage, documentary filmmakers Ed Pincus and Lucia Small embark on a sixty-day road trip from New England to Louisiana, and ultimately into the Katrina devastation zone to meet evacuees who have lost their homes. They make the uneasy choice of integrating themselves into the story, 'because when you're two white northerners heading South, remaining behind the camera just doesn't feel like an option.'

Really? I'd think remaining behind the camera would be your first -- and possibly best -- option. I haven't even seen the film yet, so I probably ought to lay off, but that premise bugs me, as though it were somehow easier for Spike Lee to stay out of "When the Levees Broke" just because he's black...

At the same time, I kind of understand why you'd reflexively lean on your preconceived notions when trying to cover this. The Katrina story is so totally unprecedented, and therefore still so unknowable, that it's driven many who've been drawn to it for poorly defined reasons too deeply into themselves. As a result, many attempts at documenting what exactly went down here have ultimately been overwhelmed by the authors' sense of inadequacy in the face of its enormity.

I'm thinking specifically now of the deeply weird and beautiful-in-spots story that ran in the July issue of Harper's, "In the Year of the Storm" (thanks to Anne Gisleson of NOCCA and Press Street for giving me a copy and pointing out the subsequent blog discussion mentioned below), in which the author, Duncan Murrell, ultimately suffers what sounds like a near breakdown after taking on the self-consciously experimental task of living in New Orleans for eight months after Katrina.

I don't know where the editor was on that one, but if ever there was an instance of a writer who needed more hand-holding (not to mention better line-editing), that story was it.

Much to his credit, Murrell participated in
a sometimes painfully candid discussion about the piece
on the Ward Six blog, where he 'confesses his sins' (his words, not mine) in writing the story:

"I had gone down to the city to take back a big story. I had ambition, I imagined the glory I would earn, this would be my title shot. Arrogant, ambitious, self-important. Yes. Therefore the best outcome, or at least the most just, seems to me what has happened to that article since: it's meant nothing. It's sparked no real conversations about anything. I think very few people have read it. Or maybe plenty have read it, but they haven't been moved to say anything about it. My phone does not ring. This bothered me, I'll admit it, but the more I think about it the more I think that this is right, this is the way it should be.

I've been changed, though, and that's good."

September 27, 2007 12:44 PM | | Comments (2)
September 21, 2007

My friend called me today -- she was crying, having just left her office here for the last time. In a few days, she'll be headed north for good. "I'm really, really sad," she said, and she sounded like my 6-year-old niece, it was so sweet and uncomplicated. "I'm just so, so sad."

Goodbyes are always hard, of course, but it's hard to explain the mix of emotions that comes with saying goodbye to someone with whom you've shared the past few years in New Orleans. There's the straightforward sadness, of course, and also hopefulness and relief for the person who's moving on, but also a little jealousy that they're on the other side of having made the difficult decision to leave -- a decision which strikes me as forever unmade if you're still here, as though staying weren't actually a valid option but just prolonged procrastination. I hate that I think that way sometimes. I know plenty of people who, thank god, righteously refuse to. Those people may even resent my thinking it out loud. But there it is.

It was almost two years ago exactly that this friend and I stood in a converted church in St. Martinville hugging each other in tears at the precise moment when we both realized what the storm was going to mean for us personally: an endless series of long goodbyes. That was just a couple of days after the storm, before we were able to make sense of anything, and before we'd gotten around to worrying about the Rubik's cube that had been made of our material lives.

Remember the Rubik's cube? I've thought about it a lot over these past two years, because that's what this whole city feels like to me sometimes, like a scramble of different colors trying to find their way back to the right side of things. Getting to where you're going often requires getting lost in the meantime, maybe spending some time on the wrong side of things with people who aren't quite the same color they used to be. You used to park here? Well, now there are new neighbors with trucks there, and a ginormous trash pile over there, so now, you have to park over here. You work there? Well, now that office has moved over here, so now you have to work somewhere you're not used to. And your friends? All the red and green ones? They're all over the place. Some of them you are unlikely to see on this side of town again.

I used to get so impatient with the Rubik's Cube when I was little. I'd think I had the whole thing together, would check three sides, four sides, good good, I think I got it this time... then Bam, there's one single yellow square left on the otherwise red side. Shit. I'd get so tired of undoing my work that I'll admit -- and I can't possibly be the only one who cheated this way, can I be? -- I used to peel the stickers off and replace them to make it all work. And my sister would say, Oh my god, how did you do that? And I'd shrug with the dissatisfaction of having fooled only her.

The trouble was, the game was over once you did that, because somehow you screwed up the internal logic of the thing and made it so it would never really work again. So although you had yourself a perfect Rubik's Cube, you knew it wasn't perfect, really.
But maybe I was missing the point -- maybe perfection was not supposed to be the know, it's the journey, blah blah blah. Looking back on it now, I think I should have embraced that single yellow square.

All I know is that when this friend is gone, a really important sticker is going to be missing from my cube.

September 21, 2007 2:54 PM | | Comments (0)
September 12, 2007

New Orleans funk and soul master Wilson "Willie Tee" Turbinton died yesterday - you can read the short news report here.
And if you do so, I highly suggest you scroll down and read the sweet and sad post "Willie Tee is Dying" by Steve Allen, a saxophonist who evidently played and recorded with him.

If you've ever read before, you're well aware of the ridiculous crap that frequently makes its way into the comments and blogs, so I don't need to point out what an uncharacteristically kind and well crafted message Steve Allen has left us with
If there was a permalink I missed it, so I'm reposting it here:

Posted by SteveAllen on 09/11/07 at 11:29PM

Willie Tee is Dying

Last night around half time of the Saints season opener I left the house and went to Touro Infirmary on Prytania Street. When I got there the guards at the desk told me visiting hours were over at 8:30. It was about 9:30. I persisted and they wanted to know if the patient was near death and if the hospital had called me. Yes, near death in the oncology ward, that's cancer, and no, no call. I told them I was his sax player, that he was Willie Tee, Teasin' You, Wild Magnolia producer, many other 'comebacks' and reinventions, a name that it would have been impossible for even a jaded New Orleans security guard not to have known. The officer went in the back and came out and asked what Willie Tee's real name is, which is Wilson Turbinton. He let me go up to the room.
This month's Offbeat magazine has an obituary for Earl Turbinton, Willie's brother in it. Since Katrina, Earl had been in a long term medical facility, first in Memphis and lately in Baton Rouge, because he'd had a couple of strokes and lung cancer apparently according to the obituary. Willie and he had an album several years back called "Brothers for Life", and now it looks like they will become brothers in death as well. Earl passed away and his service was 4 short weekends ago. Willie visited his brother daily in Baton Rouge. They were very close, in every way, bearing a very pronounced resemblance to each other, working together on and off for their entire careers, even starting a music academy for young people years back which evolved into NOCCA, The New Orleans Center For Creative Arts High School. It was something Willie never mentioned to me, having happened many years before we met. When we were together there was only time to talk about music, the music we were working on in the right now frame of reference. Improvisational ensemble music, as free and spontaneous as possible at all times, anything goes, and as little structure as possible. That was what playing with Willie Tee was for me. Just follow him, anywhere, 20 minute medleys, change keys, change feels, pick up different horns, constantly searching for new keyboard sounds, writing new grooves on the bandstand... the most challenging and fun musical experience I've had maybe ever. And we communicated so instantly and the flow just laid itself out in front of us so easily, it was like driving a Cadillac through the sky.

And now that ride is over? Willie looked small in the hospital bed. He was knocked out on pain medication, heavy stuff that Hospice can supply, which is the point at which a patient gets no treatment for their disease, just to be made comfortable until the end. I know about this intimately. Juanetz and Jack, my mom and dad both died within 3 months of each other. They were old and very sick, and ready to leave this world. Willie Tee however is 63. It would seem he has plenty more to give. He was invited to be an Artist in Residence at Princeton for a year after Katrina. Handy, since his home near City Park had been destroyed by the storm. Princeton did well by it's students, having the street genius around to exude musical knowledge in it's purest most direct form, no academic filter composed of 'concepts, theory, reflection and words words words, just the pure spark of creativity. Let the academics sort it out and theorize it in the past tense, if that's all they can do. Creation happens in the eternal now, and that's the only place it happens. You see the difference, yes?

Willie said pray to the Lord for me. On this subject I must watch my step not to hurt the feelings of my fellow humans who need every bit of hope and comfort they can get. There is a God, and God is all powerful, and miracles do happen, things that can't be explained in conventional physics. Sometimes the Big Guy seems interested in what we're going through, other times not so much. And I know from our perspective, living in this world, there could very well be a great deal we can't and couldn't understand, even if we could see what's on the other side. So it's probably is best not to come off cynically on this subject. Yet I find it hard to keep some thoughts to myself. Will it change anything, no. Am I registering a complaint, absolutely. Willie Tee just deserves some free and easy time right now. He should be sitting at the piano somewhere singing, not lying in the gown breathing through plastic tubing. That should be later, much later. Why now? Why is the spark being extinguished so suddenly and abruptly? I don't mean to challenge your faith, but can you explain that?

I went by the Hospital again yesterday afternoon and there was a hand written sign on Willie Tee's room that said NO VISITORS. I had just seen Paul, the owner of Sweet Lorraines, where we had played so many great sets, and he hadn't gotten in either, but he had spoken to Marilyn, Mrs, Turbinton, and she said they were making arrangements move Willie to a Hospice off of St. Charles somewhere near by. Marilyn didn't even come out of the room to talk to me, the nurse said she was upset.

And today, September 11th, while I was setting up my studio at my house, the radio announcer on WWOZ said they wished to extend their love and sympathy to the Turbinton family, and that Willie Tee had gone to join the Ancestors. I'm happy for him that he didn't have to just lay there in the hospital bed and suffer. He didn't say much to me the night I visited him there. Just "I feel terrible, I'm dyin', pray to the Lord for me, and I've been thinkin'." I told him when you get there tell 'em we're not too happy about this. Well he's there now. I have to say, I feel like there is a 'there' there. It is and always will be the BIG MYSTERY to us on this side, but I feel feelings and hear voices that come from there, my parents in dreams mainly and now Willie Tee too I'm sure will visit me. I'll sure be glad to see him and I hope he sends me some inspired sounds from time to time. In fact I know he will.

September 12, 2007 5:52 PM | | Comments (0)
September 3, 2007

One of the privileges of living in post-Katrina New Orleans is that there are plenty of opportunities to marvel at the accomplishments of your friends who are busily working away in their various trenches -- in the new charter school system, maybe, or in a re-imagined kitchen in an old restaurant, or in their own recently bought/repaired/rebuilt home, sitting in front of a blank computer screen attempting to make some sense of the chaos.

Last week, three of the hardest-working sense-seekers I know published stories that made me especially proud to live in the same town with them. They're all well worth checking out:

Billy Sothern's book Down in New Orleans

Brett Anderson's series on Mandina's in the Times-Picayune.


Katy Reckdahl's piece for the American Radio Works' "Routes to Recovery" series.

September 3, 2007 11:25 AM | | Comments (0)


CultureGulf Addressing a full range of subjects related to the rebuilding of New Orleans -- from architecture and visual arts to food, music and, yes, even television -- CultureGulf will hopefully contribute to the ongoing dialogue about the future of this region from which so much of our country's cultural capital originated. more

Contact me Click here to send me an email... more

About Cynthia Joyce

Cynthia Joyce is a freelance writer, editor, and web producer. She has written for several local and national publications including Newsday, the Washington Post, Legal Affairs magazine, and still contributes regularly to, where she was a founding A&E editor. She moved to New Orleans in 2002 and has since met more doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs than she ever thought possible in one lifetime.



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