This morning this headline on The Awl grabbed my attention as I was trolling my list of zines for a good read: A Q&A with the Advice Columnist Called ‘Sugar’. I suspected “Sugar” was Sugar the anon advice columnist from the lit magazine “The Rumpus” which I read now and then and I was right. I’d seen Sugar’s column featured prominently on “The Rumpus” but had never actually read it since I’m not a fan of advice columns and I figured it was all about sex anyway (not that that’s a bad thing!); however, I was curious as to what Sugar had to say in this interview so I clicked through. I skimmed through the first half when I realized it was all about how the interviewer knew Sugar in real life but didn’t know she was the anon Sugar of “The Rumpus”…. yadda, yadda, yadda and then I zeroed in on the following question and Ms Sugar’s answer (boldface is mine):
“Tell me what that message is.”
“Well it’s so many things that I feel like, what you could do, if you read all of my columns they do boil down to some pretty essential truths. You hit on one of them when you said ‘the hard choice is often the best one,’ that life is both more simple and more complex than most of us would like to believe, that there is something about the essential, that we all have an essential truth within us which if we really listen to that, which is totally different than that bumper sticker ‘follow your bliss,’ which is bullshit. You know? And that’s, I have never read a self help book in my life. I think self help is pretty much bullshit. I don’t pay attention to this…what’s that Oprah book, like The Secret, or some sort of crap like that? ‘If you only believe, then it will be true,’ I think that’s a really aggressively entitled bullshit sort of approach to life’s complicated questions. And at the same time there’s a piece of that in Sugar that says ultimately we’re all responsible for our lives, we’re all going to fail, we all have something inside to offer, and our work here is to find out and express it in whatever channels are appropriate. So it’s not Sugar’s message, but it’s really just my life, everything I think about how to live, which is in opposition to that self help crap.“
I find it ironic that Sugar thinks self help books are bullshit , apparently not recognizing that she engages in the same “bullshit” on a different level. I’ve read a self help book or two in my day, in a quest for finding workable solutions for life issues, by people educated and published in their area of interest. It’s easy to find experts on a given subject by simply researching a subject and assessing the qualifications and education of those who have written about it or soliciting recommendations from friends and colleagues. The same cannot [always] be said of advice columnists, many of whom are people who are hired by infotainment newspapers and magazines to give their opinions on any and every subject under the sun without any discernible expertise. In the answer above Sugar even states herself that “…but it’s really just my life, everything I think about how to live “. Um, o.k. But don’t read those self help books by psychologists, physicians and educators because that’s, ya know, bullshit. Interestingly, in this interview, Sugar describes her column thusly:
“It’s self-help and it’s also anti-self help.”
It seems to me Ms Sugar is as dazed and confused as the rest of us poor slobs trying to make sense of this thing called life.
While I’m not a regular reader of advice columnists, I’ll admit to occasionally rubbernecking a particularly sensational advice column headline in the newspaper or a magazine. In my opinion, though, most advice columns are really just voyeuristic exploitation of people’s confusion and hopelessness for the ratings game and/or public recognition and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But everyone is entitled to their opinion and is free to seek help from whatever forum they please. Maybe an anonymous advice columnist of unknown qualifications has more validity for some because of her life experience than the author of a self help book. And that’s….o.k. I’ll just take my chances with a well researched book, thank you.
A random roundup of my personal picks of the best from local blogs and other NOLA-related news.
In Treme news, in response to the last episode, Sam Jasper at the Back of Town blog has written a beautiful and thoughtful post about the culture and tradition of place and the inevitability of change, “It Just Don’t Smell Right Up In Here”. Big Chief Albert Lambreaux is showing more of his cantankerous side while in New York recording Indian chants for a proposed record release. The title of the post comes directly from Big Chief’s mouth. Sam writes in part,
“His son has come around to the tradition in his way, but it’s not Albert’s way, and that’s mortality hitting ya in the face. Not just his own, but possibly the old ways, the culture he is so totally self-identified with and by. I know many elderly Native Americans who are terrified that their grandchildren won’t know any of the songs, traditions, creation stories, or medicine ways. In fact, several years ago, I believe it was the Shawnee who were given back sacred objects that had been held at the Smithsonian for a very long time. They let the Smithsonian keep them because no one alive knew what to do with them anymore.”
As an aside,in an earlier thread, Sam talked about the character Aunt MiMi, commenting as how she wanted to be Aunt MiMi. Huh. I’m acquainted with Sam and have heard a few of her stories. I think Aunt MiMi would be thrilled to be her. Sam is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. She’s a born teacher and storyteller who shares her knowledge and life experiences with an open heart, bypassing the need to instruct. I highly recommend her personal blog, NOLA Slate, although she doesn’t post nearly enough to feed this starving reader. (Check out this amazing post.)
Former mayor Ray Nagin released his self-published Katrina memoir last week resulting in a frenzy of blog posts, opinions, tweets and grumblings all over town. The best thing I’ve read hands-down is Michael Homan’s post, “Pharaoh Nagin”. No spoilers here – you must go read it.
Local indie designer Kerry Fitts was featured in the Times-Picayune last Thursday. (Sorry I don’t have a link.) After the earthquake in Japan Kerry allocated a portion of her sales from her Etsy shop to ArkBark, a non-profit group that was rescuing pets left behind in the radiation zone. Shortly thereafter she began exchanging emails about a possible fund-raiser and is traveling to Japan in July to participate in that event. She is donating her original designs for dogs and seeking additional donations from other local crafters. For more info about this amazing woman see my interview with her here.
One of my favorite local blogs is “NOLA Details” where the blogger Carla shares a NOLA-related photo every day. My favorite reoccurring theme on this blog is “Fun Porches” and we surely have plenty of those here in NOLA so I don’t anticipate she’ll run out of candidates any time soon! Here’s one of my favorites. Carla has another blog, “Watching NOLA Nature”, described as “Explorations in the urban oasis of New Orleans”. I really like how she zeroes in on the little things that go unnoticed in our every day lives. She reminds us of the wonder of nature and the beauty that is all around us. It’s a great little Zen moment everyday that I really look forward to.
Are you a tweeter? If so, my pick for Tweeter To Follow is @gadboiselensnola for informative up-to-the-minute reports from many of our city services department meetings including the City Council meetings, the City Planning Commission meetings and the Housing and Human Needs Committee meetings (all in the last 12 days!), among many others. Karen has made it so easy for us to keep up with what’s happening it would be a shame not to follow her.
Finally, I want to give a little shout-out to local blog “New Orleans Write Spot” that currently has one of my pieces posted. Susan Prevost (whom I interviewed here) publishes local talent and has the welcome mat out for local writers who are interested in publishing there. It’s a great place to read a bit of poetry and prose and support local talent.
Remember, you can follow us on Twitter and on Delicious to keep up with what we’re talking (also found in the sidebar) about or just wait for here for my random NOLA Noteworthy posts. Take care, y’all.
Update: I just want to add a post on NoLA Rising I read this morning (6/30) about the musical house that’s being created in Bywater. Internationally known artist Swoon is involved along with many local artists. I recently viewed & photographed a scale model of the house from the street (seen below). Go to ReX’s website to read about it and view the video that details this community-minded event.
NSP 3rd Annual Write-a-Thon!
The Neighborhood Story Project is holding its Third Annual Write-a-Thon! Join us in raising money to support documentary poster- and bookmaking in downtown New Orleans. During the Write-a-Thon, writers will write novels, theses, poems, exposés, love-letters, short stories, blog entries, and autobiographies, until they run out of ink. Food will be served and there will be a forum for readings- all to benefit the NSP. We’re now entering our seventh year, coming out of a jam-packed spring, and looking forward to future projects!
Sign up here.
Date: Sunday, May 15, 2011
Location:New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s been a busy week in NOLA and I’ve been saving like crazy to my Delicious and Instapaper. I thought I’d share some of the interesting reading I found this week about our city and her people.
The Rumpus, an online zine based in California, published two NOLA-related stories. One, With Words and With Pretty: Super Sunday 2011 by Benjamin Morris, is a colorful narrative with photos of this years Mardi Gras Indian yearly spectacular. It explains a bit about the Indian culture to those who aren’t lucky enough to live here and unable to see it for themselves.
Also on The Rumpus is NOLA native Mark Folse’s book review, The Last Book I Loved, Mystic Pig. I read this book back in about 2006 and found it a bit too dark and violent for my taste at the time. The city was still in the active aftermath of the storm and my psyche was still a little too sensitive for such an intense story. After reading Mark’s review, though, I’ve decided that it’s a good time to reread this book. Mark also has a FaceBook page for it – click here.
Our own Emilie Staat wrote a wonderful tribute to some NOLA artists on her personal blog, Jill of All Trades, titled “Going To Bragtown”. It’s a great run-down of several of our city’s best and brightest authors, musicians and film makers and all the wonderful things happening to them lately. Thanks, Em!
Dawn Allison of Dawn Breaks blog recently volunteered at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival and penned a great recollection of her experience including photos, Tennesse Williams Poetry Slam. Wow – I really missed a great event but I won’t miss it next year!
Finally, I want to direct your attention to an upcoming event at The Jazz Suite in Algiers and organized by O. Perry Walker High School benefitting The Wonderful World of Jazz Foundation. The event also honors Japan native Yoshio Toyama who has come to NOLA for years with his band to play at the Satchmo Summer Fest and is a huge supporter of the O. Perry Walker band. This is such a wonderful story and you can read all about it here. Here are the particulars of the event:
O. Perry Walker’s benefit and jam session will be April 12 at 7 p.m. at the Suite Jazz Cafe, 3580 Holiday Drive, in Algiers. The Roots of Music kids will lead off the night. Other performers include Rebirth Brass Band, TBC Brass Band and The O. Perry Walker Jazz Ensemble. The Jazz Cafe is an adult venue.
Do you follow NOLAFemmes on Twitter? If you did you would see my tweets about all of this and more. Follow us on Twitter!
I read Debra Shriver’s new book Stealing Magnolias: Tales From A New Orleans Courtyard snuggled in my bed over several unseasonably cold nights here in New Orleans. It proved to be the perfect bedtime story, transformed into a lullaby, to this vibrant city we love so much. At first glance, a potential reader might consider this to be another lovely coffee table book but there’s far more to this book than that — to leave it lying on a coffee table with only the occasional glance at the photography would be a sin against everything New Orleanian. The photographs are indeed glorious and show everything from the Mardi Gras Indians to our tropical and time-worn gardens to luscious confections to historical architecture to second liners leaving The Hi Ho Lounge ( my favorite photo!). As fantastic as the photography is it’s only a part of the delectable contents of this book.
We get glimpses into Debra’s own 1830′s townhouse on Dumaine Street that was put under contract just 3 weeks before the storm and she tells the story of her decision to buy the house despite the catastrophe the city endured and the subsequent journey of renovating, furnishing and making the home her own. I was particularly taken with the art she’s chosen to grace the walls of her townhouse. Many of the photographs and paintings are by Louisiana and New Orleans artists and I was pleased to see an emphasis on women’s portraits. I’d give my eye teeth for that Mahalia portrait!
She has a wonderful chapter on food and recipes with an emphasis on time honored rituals of local dining. The section named “Ode to an Oyster, Serenade to a Shrimp” grabbed my attention immediately! All of the recipes seem to be actually achievable even for the novice cook and I like that. Interspersed throughout the book are quotes by notable New Orleanians and one of my favorite is in this section.
Ask me what my favorite dish is and I’ll tell you flat-out, “Anything cooked in New Orleans”. ~~~ Charmain Neville
Stealing Magnolia’s is a well-rounded view of New Orleans with chapters on music, food, decor, local tradition and history interspersed with personal anecdotes of her experiences here. There is so much to see and read I couldn’t possibly cover it all so my advice is to buy the book. It’s easy to see that the city has cast its spell on this New York transplant and we are all the luckier for having her as another creative resident of our city.
Stealing Magnolia’s can be found in many of our local bookstores or can be ordered online from the publisher, Glitterati, here.
Debra will be reading from her book and signing at Octavia Books on Wednesday, December 22 from 2 to 4 pm.
(Originally published on TravelingMermaid.)
With contributions and collaboration from over 100 residents, writers, photographers, artists, and community organizations from New Orleans (and beyond) who kickstarted the recovery process, How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress presents the post-disaster landscape from the perspectives of those who are navigating their way through it.
6-8pm at Beth’s Books/Sound Cafe, 2700 Chartres Street at Port. Live music by Little Freddie King, food, drinks and, of course, books.
Free and open to the public.
To buy online through Amazon, click here.
For other inquiries, contact us:
No, this isn’t a post about Kermit’s new CD which is on my very short list of must-haves but, yes, I did steal the title from him. My must-have list is very short because I have begun a journey of decluttering my life and home and have vowed that any material item I purchase must be something I really need or can’t live without. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time…..my house is bursting at the seams and all this stuff has become a bigger and bigger background stress for me.
Today is my first step toward purging some of the stuff in my home that I really don’t need and can’t use. I cleaned out my closet and donated 3 large lawn and leaf bags full of clothes, shoes and handbags to the Vietnam Veterans of America. I even purged items I held onto in the last 3 closet cleanings. Let me tell you, when I lugged those heavy bags down the stairs and out the door this morning I felt such a lightness of spirit it was exhilarating! And when I looked into my closet which is now only half full, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. It was all just stuff I didn’t need. And this is only the beginning. I have 4 more bedroom closets, 2 linen closets, 3 bathroom vanities and a kitchen full of cupboards to purge and I Will. Be. Ruthless. Oh yeah, and a sideboard full of dishware I never use too. I just don’t need it all.
Serendipitously, I found the website Miss Minimalist (whose motto is “living a beautiful life with less stuff”) and may I say Yay! What an inspiration she is with her wealth of experience and tips. If you’re on a decluttering journey too I highly recommend her website.
So a couple of unexpected things happened to me recently that have made me a happy girl and I’m going to tell y’all about them. Two of my loves in life are photography and poetry and I dabble a bit in each. I have a blog where I post poetry that I write and interact with others who share that passion but I’ve kept it a bit of a secret for the past 3 years and published under the pseudonym Zouxzoux. In January of this year I took the shaky step of submitting some of my poetry to online zines for publication. I guess I had beginners luck because the very first submission was published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and I’ve really had very few rejections from other zines I’ve submitted to since. Anyway, a few weeks ago I received notification from St. Somewhere Journal that they’ve nominated one of my poems for the Pushcart Prize. I was (and still am) astonished and very grateful – it’s such a privilege, especially for a struggling writer like me. I know thousands of writers are nominated and it’s unlikely I’ll actually win but the fact that I was nominated has really given me a boost of confidence and that means so much. Another source of that strange feeling known as confidence comes from my friend and mentor, Tammy Vitale. I met Tammy several years ago online and she has really been a creative inspiration for me. When she heard about the nomination, she asked if she could interview me for a post on her wonderful website, Women, Art, Life: Weaving It All Together and I was, of course, thrilled. Here is the link to the interview and I encourage you to peruse her website – it is such a positive and beautiful place to visit.
Then a few days ago I won a copy of Debra Shriver’s beautiful book, Stealing Magnolias: Tales From a New Orleans Courtyard. (Check out this great piece about the book on Style Court.) I had entered a photography contest on FaceBook sponsored by Glitterati which asked for photos of New Orleans and I won! I entered a photo of Nick’s Supermarket on Washington Avenue (below). It’s not what most people think of when photographing the city so I guess that’s what caught their eye. Of course, to the locals, it’s pretty much a typical scene although I’m sure there are plenty of locals who pass scenes like this everyday and never really see. I know not everyone likes street art but I think it’s really interesting and, often, carries a message if you’re only open to it. This creature is known as “Tard” and the lettering is by local sign painter Lester Carey who’s painted many, many of the signs you see everyday in the city. There’s a great write-up about him here on NO Notes blog so go on over and read his story. It’s fascinating. One local who photographs scenes we all might pass everyday without seeing is the blogger at What I Saw Riding My Bike Around Today. I’ve been following her for probably a year or so now and she always has fantastic local photos as well as interesting posts. You should visit.
Well, I’ve about run out of “Happy Talk” for the moment and the cat is meowing for
supper so I’d better get off my butt and get going. Have a great week-end, y’all!
I’m doing the lazy blogger cheat here to let y’all know of a couple of up-coming NOLA events that look pretty awesome. Our friend and brutha blogger, Glenn Meche, is directing a play and one of our favorite bookstores has some celebratin’ going on this week-end. Y’all check it all out!
MISS CUSHMAN RETURNS TO “THE AVENUE”
After 174 years, Charlotte Cushman returns to St. Charles Avenue. Cushman, a renowned Victorian actress, said to be one of the most famous women in the English-speaking world at the time, made her theatrical debut on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans at the St. Charles Theatre on April 23, 1836 in the role of Lady Macbeth.
Next week, Miss Cushman returns to the Avenue, at Le Chat Noir, 715 St. Charles Ave., two blocks from where the 4000 seat St. Charles Theatre stood between Poydras and Girod in The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman, featuring Karen Shields and directed by Glenn Meche.
Born in 1816, Cushman left her hometown of Boston in 1835 and began to tour as an opera singer. Although she received favorable notices in Boston, New Orleans proved to be a different story. A critic for the New Orleans Bee wrote that, “Miss Cushman can sing nothing” and suggested she take on acting roles. After studying acting with the principle actor of the St. Charles, James Barton, she made her triumphant debut in Macbeth.
Her storied career took her to the great stages of New York, Washington, Philadelphia and London where she performed for four U.S. Presidents and English royalty. She portrayed both female and male roles including Hamlet, Cardinal Woolsey, and her most famous “breeches” role, Romeo. Taking the form of a ‘farewell performance,’ Charlotte regales the audience with moving and sometimes hilarious scenes from her most famous roles and reminisces about her family, her many “romantic friendships” with women and life in the Victorian theatre. The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman is written by Carolyn Gage and won the 2008 Lambda Literary Award for Drama.
The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman will appear Friday, September 10th and Friday, September 17th at 8:00 p.m. at Le Chat Noir. For tickets call 504-581-5812.
Maple Street Book Shop has some interesting events coming up this week. It all begins on September 10 with a wine tasting and cheese party to celebrate the release of Before, During and After and continues with a week-end long birthday celebration for store manager, Gladin Scott. From their website:
Join us on Friday from 6-8pm for a wine tasting and cheese party celebrating the release of “Before (During) After.” Local photographers John Biguenet, Tom Varisco, and Zach Smith will sign “Before (During) After.” We will also have a slide show of photographs from their book.
Andrew Dike of Martin Wine Cellar will have a wine tasting with various wines from Martin Wine Cellar. Enjoy!
Gladin Scott’s Birthday Bash Weekend!
Please join us on the weekend of September 10, 11, and 12th for Gladin’s Birthday Bash! A donation of 20% from all book sales at the Maple Street Book Shop this weekend will be donated to Lusher School’s Creative Writing Program