Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Very Cool Show With Maybe Some Unintended Resonances

St. Maurice's Church in the Lower 9th Ward

Looking over the 9th Ward from the steps of the church. You can't tell how close we are to the river, but we're really close, only a few blocks.

All the pictures I took of this were blurry. It's called "Altarpiece", by Taylor Lee Shepherd, and it's a bank of TVs that respond to sounds in the church. It was gorgeous.

All the feet and legs on the balcony at St. Maurice's. Note how almost everyone is wearing the exact same shoes. Full disclosure: I was also wearing those shoes.
On Sunday night a friend and I went to see a performance, part of a series called Space Rites, in a partially renovated church in the Lower 9th Ward. The church is called St. Maurice's, and it's incredibly beautiful inside, covered in white rectangular tiles that make it look like the interior of a shell. I was happy to see that it's apparently being fixed up--many of the deconsecrated churches are in worse shape. Nevertheless, we were pretty sure one of those pretty tiles was going to fall on ours heads. But none did.

We were there for the debut performance of the Weather Warlock, a machine built by the musician Quintron to translate weather information into sounds. You can hear it here: http://weatherfortheblind.org/ On Sunday it was playing the sunset, with a variety of local musicians playing along. And it was wonderful--I was expecting something a little more delicate, but it was loud as hell, with a killer band playing along. It was thrashy; it was churchy; it was great.

OK, but here's the problem. My friend and I quickly noticed that the audience was almost universally clad in a style I would describe as "White Etsy Hipster", and was so culturally uniform I could have sworn we were in Portland, or maybe in a music video making fun of Portland.  (Men: suspenders, ironic prospector beards. Women: vintage flowery dress, 80s accessories.) There was a contingent of grungy metalheads and a few people in jeans and coats, but mostly it was these very specific-looking folks. (I myself am white and have my own Etsy shop, so I'm not pointing fingers too hard here. I draw the line at ironic calico, though.) More than that, everyone drove there--there was a huge and sudden influx of cars into the neighborhood, to the clear amusement of the locals. And then when it was over everyone went away again, like a school field trip.

This show took place in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that is almost entirely black, and one of the most economically depressed in the city. The Space Rites folks have done right by the community there, offering the church space to a local Baptist congregation and enlisting the Lower 9th Ward choir for another show in the series. I think it's a good project. But there's some introspection to do here about why it attracted such a specific audience and nobody else.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Various Changes, and also I am the worst blogger ever

My poor blog, I haven't updated it since last October. And that post was only a soup recipe. Not that anybody really reads it (hi, 4 subscribers, one of which is my mom), but it's always nice to look back on things from years ago, in the event that I bothered to record them. In any case, I do actually have something to write about. Because I bought a house:

It's in the Mid-City neighborhood in New Orleans, and it's a slightly decrepit but sweet single shotgun, built around 1910. We call it the Voodoo Dollhouse.  It's got a wee little front yard and a back yard that's only slightly larger, and a front porch that faces West, perfect for watching sunsets. It has 11-foot ceilings and wonderful acoustics; it also has a variety of issues, from both Hurricane Katrina and long-term mild neglect.
It's been a tumultuous few months; I broke up with my long-term boyfriend, and moved out of the neighborhood we'd been in for three years. It's a lot to process.
And I became a homeowner. I did this with money I inherited from my grandparents, which makes the whole thing rather bittersweet. And while it was a lot of money for me, I could only afford a somewhat funky house in a neighborhood that's actually great, but mere blocks from one that's not so great. This house is a project, is what I'm saying. Or rather, it's a series of projects. Some of which I'll be detailing here, I think.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Spicy Bacon Dream Soup

By which I mean, this recipe literally came to me in a dream. It wasn't even a full night's sleep, but an afternoon nap, which seems somehow less witchy and dignified. Nevertheless, it was quite a vivid dream, and when I woke up I realized that I had all the ingredients in the fridge. I went ahead and made it, and it was pretty much as delicious as you would expect for a soup that somebody literally had a premonition about. So I can confidently say that psychic powers exist, but maybe only in regards to soup.

You could make a nice veggie version of this, with mushrooms instead of bacon. But it was bacon in the dream.

You will need:

6-8 medium red potatoes
1 tablespoon crawfish boiling spice (or Old Bay seasoning, in a pinch)
1 large onion, chopped
2-5 cloves garlic, to taste, coarsely chopped
6 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups cooked whole kernel corn (canned or fresh)
Enough broth to completely cover the other ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A lemon

The broth: Better than Bouillon is my favorite brand, and they make a faux-chicken stock I use for everything. You can make it while the onions are cooking.

In advance: Boil the red potatoes whole in the crawfish* boil (or Old Bay) until cooked through. Drain and let cool, preferably overnight, but at least for a couple of hours. When cool, cut into quarters and put aside.

In a medium soup pot, add onions and olive oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions start to brown a bit. Add bacon and garlic, and cook together 5 more minutes. When everything is slightly browned, add broth, quartered potatoes and corn. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add more broth and salt and pepper if needed. Right before serving, add a wee bit of lemon juice.  Serves 4, whether regular people or soup-related clairvoyants.

*Crawfish boil, despite the name, is vegan. Most contain cayenne, salt, celery, lemon powder, and sometimes MSG. You can totally make your own, but I'm too lazy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Family's Old Neighborhood in Winnipeg

 Above: This is the house my dad grew up in, in North Kildonan, a suburb of Winnipeg. I went out there with my dad and uncle. It was so cool to see it!

Below: The back yard, and the shed my Granddad build himself, circa 1965.

Below: Now this is really cool. Behind the house, there is a dog footprint... it belonged to my uncle's dog Princess, who stepped in this concrete in 1970, when a crew was paving the back lane.

Below: a back lane. Many of the older suburbs in Winnipeg have a back lane running through the middle of the block. People used to park their cars back there. The back lanes felt very woodsy compared to the rest of the city.


I went to Winnipeg for a week, for my uncle's wedding. It was pretty fantastic to see my Canadian family, and meet my new auntie-in-law and her daughter. I haven't been to Winnipeg since I was a little girl. It's a vibrant, growing city, and incredibly diverse, culturally. I like to make fun of Canadian food sometimes, but I had all sorts of wonderful meals in Winnipeg--Greek, BBQ, amazing hamburgers, and my uncle's awesome cooking.

The weather in July was pretty wonderful--70 and breezy, a treat after New Orleans mugginess. In the winter, it can get down to 40 below. The buildings all have massive walls and half-inch, double-paned windows. Downtown, the skyscrapers have passageways between them, over the street.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Skully Dolls

 I've been making these for about a year. They're peg dolls, meaning that their bodies are clothespins, and their heads are round wooden beads. They have a sculpted base to help them stand. I used to use air-dry paperclay for the base, but now I use Apoxie Sculpt, a miraculous two-part putty that dries as solid as armor. They're incredibly fun to make, and much faster than my stitched and embroidered dolls. I got the idea originally from the cute little pincushion dolls from PicalilliPatchwork, when they were featured in Art Doll Quarterly. I've diverged a fair bit from hers, though. The clothespins and wooden beads are available at most craft stores; I got mine at Jo-Ann's. (You can also get a starter kit from Picalilli's Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/122855583/make-your-own-lily-unpainted-clothespin?ref=shop_home_active)

More Mardi Gras

Top to bottom: Fog in the French Quarter, the view of the city from Algiers Point, me in my Mardi Gras wig and headdress, St. Ann's Parade.