Saturday, April 30, 2011

The State of Comic Books Today

No one asked me to appear in this documentary when they shot it.  60-odd years later, I think I would draw the same conclusions.  Not many children read comic books anymore.  They are intended for adults, often stereotyped as maladjusted.  Horror and crime comics were effectively banned in the 1950s and a Silver Age of Comic Books came about.  An age that contained stories that may have been hackneyed but still taught principles.  A Bronze Age followed and then a Dark Age.  I think we are in a Decadent Age now.  I read an occasional comic book.  I wouldn't gift one to a child.  The violence is careless toward death and repercussions, the relationships between male and female characters represent arrested development on the writers' parts, the artwork is fetishistic.  I read them because I have a fondness for the Silver Age.  I don't read many.  If I did, I would stop reading altogether.

I'm a fan of pulp fiction, a devotee of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft.  I am not a prude, but I am an adult.  There is nothing adult about today's comic books.  They are written with adolescent shorthand.  Grown men should be ashamed to produce them for anything but a paycheck.  This includes material published by the two main distributors, Marvel and DC, and also independent firms who truck in shock value.  There is no shock when you expect to be at the bottom of the barrel.  There is only resignation.

Thanks to Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep! for providing this link.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More New Orleans street names

Some of the streets downtown (downriver) of Saint Bernard Avenue had different names more in keeping with the poetic ones found in the neighborhood.  Since these streets met with streets already named by the New Orleans when the Faubourg New Marigny was incorporated in the city, the more humdrum names had precedence.  These streets now have names of Spanish governors, when, if the naming had gone in the other direction, we would have:

Magistrate Street instead of Dorgenois Street.  That's not too bad.  People have a hard time figuring out how to say Dorgenois.

Virtue Street instead of Rochenblave Street.  Again, not a bad switch.  I like the idea of saying, "Meet me on Virtue Street," but Rochenblave offers a pleasing mouthful of sounds.

Force Street instead of Tonti Street.  This seems like an even swap to me.  Everyone asks me to spell Tonti to make sure I don't mean Conti, though I am well aware by now that they are pronounced differently (ton-TEE vs con-TIE).  I'm kind of fond of Tonti Street for this reason: it gives me a chance to show off my mastery of local pronunciation.  Aside from that, it's got a lot of potholes and I avoid it.

Liberal Street instead of Miro Street.  Nothing against Gov. Miro, but I like the idea of having a Liberal Street.

Lastly, Genius Street instead of Galvez Street.  The name alone would increase property values.  The character of some of the neighborhoods this street passes through would be very different.  Imagine if you had to say you live on Genius Street but couldn't live up to your address.  You may as well move to another disappeared street from the same part of town, Madman Street.

Monday, April 25, 2011

National Plumber's Day

Have you hugged your plumber today?  Who knew there was a day devoted to celebrating these unsung and under appreciated heroes of public health and personal sanitation?  Plumbers know.  Now you do too.  Whalehead King tips the fedora today to the world's plumbers.

New Orleans is a city underlaid with pipes and drainage systems.  The city is no longer plagued by yellow fever, typhoid fever, and malaria due to the expert skills of the men and women who have dedicated their professional lives to keeping water flowing.  It's a dirty job, and we should all be collectively grateful for those who do it, keeping us free of squalor and mosquito breeding grounds.

The word plumber comes from the Latin word for lead.  Pipes were traditionally made of lead before other metals and plastics came into common use.  The Latin word for lead?  Plumbum.  It is why the chemical symbol for this element is Pb and why the technicians who deal with pipes were originally known as 'plumbum men.'

As for the embarrassing social hazard that occurs when plumbers bend over in tight spaces, there is a cure for that.  The Duluth Trading Co. is a reputable and ingenious firm, serving working men everywhere, even layabouts like yours truly.

Hug your plumber today! Offer up a salute.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Orleans' Sweetheart

I finally made my way to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the patroness of New Orleans and the great State of Louisiana.  I'll save that story for another time, but it has taken me numerous attempts to get in.  The doors were always locked before yesterday.

The picture above is of the "Sweetheart" statue Our Lady of Prompt Succor.  The words carved into the rocks at the statues base are, "Pont St. Esprit 1785."  The statue came from the nunnery at Pont St. Esprit in France.

The Air Force wings and ribbons at the statue's feet belonged to New Orleanian Albert Richard.  He asked to take the statue with him for protection when he shipped out to fight in WWII.  His request was denied by Mother St. Regis Winterhalder, who was the abbess at the time, but she gave him pictures of Sweetheart to take with him into the field.  When Mr. Richard returned home, he gave Sweetheart his wings and ribbons in thanksgiving for his safe return to the city he called home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 3

This cemetery is at the end of Esplanade Avenue, by City Park.  Tour buses stop there all the time.  I'm not sure what there is to see, though it is full of remarkable graves.  I suppose I'll have to take a tour to find out the history.  Above is Saint Louis, himself.

Mother Theresa.
Padre Pio

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Living la vida Nola

Is anyone invisible in New Orleans?  No.  Everyone has their part to play.  Every moment is a fantastic sensation.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mardi Gras Indians from Super Sunday

I came across some more pictures I took of the Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday.  I know I posted some here, and here.   The Indians were gracious enough to parade in public, the least we can do is take the time to admire them.  I know I do.

If that's the view from the back, what could the front look like?...


I saw some men in Indian costumes in the French Quarter yesterday posing for tourists.  I understand, but it didn't seem right.  The chiefs and their Indians in these pictures were very dignified, regal.  They would sometimes stop for pictures, but the stopping was more so that onlookers could take in all their majesty.

That's it for the Mardi Gras Indian pictures till next year. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Life in New Orleans, via Jimmy Olsen

Since moving to New Orleans, many of my adventures resemble the episode depicted above.  It's much better than this...
Of course, it is 83 degrees today in the Crescent City.  We're not even mid-way through April yet.  Will wonders never cease?

I'd also like to point out that I can't be considered a cub reporter anymore.  Today's post is number 1002 in a long line of personal, eccentric journalism.  I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as I have.  Apologies for misspellings, bad grammar, and questionable subject matter.  I need a professional editor.  Great Caesar's ghost!  Where is Perry White when I need him?


All illustrations today are copyright DC Comics, nee National Periodicals.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saint Joan of Arc - New Orleans, LA

I'm doing a lot of research on Saint Joan of Arc, who was only canonized in 1920.  She died in 1421.  While I don't necessarily care for the music in the video above, there are probably 60 or 80 images of Joan of Arc featured, for anyone who is interested in such things.  The music isn't bad, and, since it is in French, we are spared the meanings of the words.

Saint Joan of Arc hasn't seemed to have as much impact in New Orleans as I assumed.  Most of my research turns up links about the statue at the head of the French Market.  The Saint Joan of Arc Progressive Catholic Church is located on Eleanore Street, not to be confused with the Roman Catholic. It's kind of interesting and I think I'll visit, just to see what it is about.

Of course, the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc opens the Carnival season on January 6.  I'm thinking of joining this year.
They dress in medieval garb when they march, and I'm not sure if I want to invest in that kind of gear.  They do have intentions I agree with, however, and I like their style.  If I'm going to march in a Mardi Gras parade, rather than ride a float, I think this krewe and I would be a nice fit.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Saint Roch National Shrine, New Orleans, LA

The nice thing about having company is that I get to revisit places that I neglect.  Tomorrow, I am taking visitors to see the Saint Roch National Shrine, on Saint Roch Avenue, in New Orleans's Saint Roch neighborhood.  It is a fascinating part of town that I pass through regularly, but I haven't stopped by the shrine recently.

The last time I went, it was a gray day.  Tomorrow is predicted to be sunny and pleasant.  I appreciated the somber mood of my last visit.  Tomorrow, I expect I will be able to witness the saint's miracles in a new light.  My disposition often mirrors what is happening overhead.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Motorcycles do not kill people.

My littlest Ninja passed the 25,000 mile mark the other day.  Not bad for almost four years.  I need to ride more.

I was in line buying a handful of Chick-o-Sticks this afternoon and struck up a conversation with the beer delivery guy at a gas station on Elysian Fields Avenue.  He asked what kind of bike I have.  He told me he has a Honda 1000 something or other.  He mentioned he was riding on Saturday and one of his companions had an accident.  A lady nicked his back tire as he was passing and it sent him into the air.  "He wasn't going too fast, I hope?"  The delivery man looked at the ground sheepishly, "Well, what we were doing wasn't exactly legal."

I will spare you the details of both the cause and the gruesome effects, but I understood completely. As the driver of a small machine, who navigates through an ecosystem designed for much larger vehicles, I've gotten myself into some tight, potentially dangerous, situations.  It is the nature of being astride a lot of power and having the opportunity to make use of it.  Motorcycles do not travel in reverse.  The are impelled to go forward only, forward whenever they have a chance.

This doesn't mean I am reckless, and there are plenty of people out there who don't know how to responsible with the power that an engine and throttle grant them.  This isn't meant to excuse illegal road maneuvers, but I would like to point out that different rules apply to motorcyclists than apply to cars.

I see no harm in judicious lane splitting.  It is legal in California, a place known for having a surfeit of cumbersome laws.  I also don't mind running red lights if no one else is around.  I am smarter than than an automatic timer.  I believe in keeping traffic moving, especially my own.  A motorcycle grants freedom that should be exercised with wisdom and foresight and caution.  This takes practice.  Not necessarily 25,000 miles of practice, but somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 miles should suffice.  It should also be constant.  Every day.  If there is a break in routine, the practice begins from scratch until the motorcyclist is up to speed.  If you feel comfortable on a motorcycle, you should probably slow down and operate like a car.

The thought of dismemberment should haunt your every thought with every revolution per minute.

That said, motorcycles themselves can do know wrong, even if, sometimes, a motorcyclist crosses the line between responsible behavior and causing a hazard.  The main hazard created will be to him or herself.  Therein lies the tragedy: suicide by neglect.  Motorcycles don't kill people, people kill people.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

God bless New London, Conn.

Why am I posting this picture this morning?  Because I can; because I am.  I am Whalehead King. Yippee the Whale is my totem, my guiding spirit.  While I am not him, I am of him.  We are kindred spirits.  He is New London, Conn.  I carry a kernel of Connecticut's Whaling City in me every day in every way.  It informs my sensibility.  It makes waking up worth doing.

I first painted Yippee's portrait many years ago in a fever dream.  When I was finished, I called an acquaintance and said, "You have to come over to see this.  I've cracked New London's code."  I had.  We both agreed as we gazed at this masterpiece, awestruck at its majesty, of all it said and all that it implied, that I had summed up the New London State of Mind.

The image above is not that original oil painting.  That resides in a safe place.  I see it very infrequently.  When I do, I am struck by how crude it is compared to how streamlined and cheerful depictions of Yippee became.  I can draw him without sketching a single line.  Put a magic marker in my hand and, without thinking, I can give you Yippee's portrait in any pose.  That original is powerful beyond words.  New London: an ample parking city where the sun always shines even when it's raining.

He originally didn't have a name. I just referred to him as "The New London Whale."  During one of the many festivals that take place in Connecticut's Whaling City, someone had a large piece of cardboard and a can of paint.  "You're the guy who paints the Whale?" he asked.  "Can you do one for me?  I want it for the backdrop of play we're putting on.  I always call him Yippee because he seems so happy.  What would a whale jumping out of the water like that say?  He'd say, 'Yippee!'"  I agreed.  I painted the picture on the spot and since then The New London Whale had a name to go along with his face and his spirit.

I am not a cartoonist.  I am an artiste.  It was never my intent to make a joke unless it was a serious joke.  If Yippee is a cartoon, it is because he distills what living in New London is like, stripped of details, full of joy.

What does someone say when he or she moves to New London, Conn. and finds themselves home?  They say, "Yippeeeeee!"  I know I did.  I still say it, no matter where I happen to find myself.  Though I bear a serious demeanor, I am happy to be alive, flashing my flukes in the sun.  New London taught me that.

God has blessed New Londoners, every one.

Your moment of New Orleans zen

A tree on Saint Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras day:
The same tree a week later:

Monday, April 04, 2011

Telling what is open and closed in New Orleans

I was getting a tire plugged the other day.  While I was waiting, I walked around the block and discovered this nightclub.

The man who plugged the tire was done in about 5 minutes.  I asked him if the L&R is still open for business.  "Of course it is," he said.

I explained that I'm fairly new here and I still have a hard time recognizing buildings that are abandoned from ones that are still viable.  "You'll get used to it," he said.

I'm thinking about going on Monday for the red beans.  This is a traditional Monday dish, hereabouts.  A lot of bars offer it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Whalehead King method

An old chum is visiting me soon and I mentioned that, while I am still writing daily, I am no longer engaged in the stream of consciousness type of prose that was my stock in trade in the city where I earned my moniker, Whalehead King.  I thought I would see if I still had that old WK magic when it came to writing about Connecticut's Whaling City, a place without peer, where you can raise a family and make a good life.

There is no shame in loving New London, common sense to the contrary.  New London has always been very kind to me from the first day we made our acquaintance.  The city has woven its identity into the matrix of my bones.  It is why I still refer to myself, a few years after I regretfully moved away, as Whalehead King.  New London remains my paramour.

So, off the cuff, without revision, in the way I used to pen my fever dream essays about my former home, I came up with what follows, written with typical, trademarked, WK panache.  I don't think I've lost my touch.  Let me know if you disagree.

Read this like I would, aloud with a serious, sonorous voice in front of an audience.  Every sentence a distinct thought.  Enunciate.  Savor the vowels and let them roll off past your teeth.  It helps if you are little bit tipsy with poetry.  Take your time, pause after periods to let the words hang in the air.  Keep a straight face through it all.   When you are done, go out on patrol, wherever you live, and keep your eyes open and ears bent for the delights that lie in your path...

New London: a nightmare more soothing than a daydream.  New London: placental and nourishing in its abundance, as supportive as an amniotic bath.  A burp, a hiccup, the contented smile of a babe that follows the release of a bit of gas: New London. 
When you cut the cord, there’s no going back, there is nothing to rope you in.  Untethered and grounded at once, what lies past the horizon is the limit on a wild, New London sleigh ride.  Indian corn pops.  Nameaug hops and bops, hip to its own groove, busting its own moves.  History books are written by the victors.  Stumblebums and hoboes make their way along aimless, nameless paved-over cow paths, bumping into bankers.  New London is a place in which a person can be wide awake and never be sure what, exactly, is going on.
There is a nick on Connecticut’s belly.  There is a damp scab that demands to be picked.  There is an itch, an urge, a pang, and a gnawing.  There is a city that sings itself a lullaby.  It is the same city that shoots itself with epinephrine to get a jump on the jive and forgets the sting that made it lurch.  History has an episodic memory.  Loll away your days in New London.  There are worse ways to spend your time.  If time unfolds like flower petals on a spring day, New London blooms like an flaming, sea green orchid unconsciously attracting passing bees tempted by the flavor of its nectar.  There are no dead leaves in New London, only mulch.
Time is not money in New London.  It is gilded with filigreed zinc and asbestos, vinyl clapboard and weathered brick, ornate with the curlicues of Victorian gingerbread from better days past and more better days to come.  History is etched in moss on slate tiles heaped for a landfill.  Ashes to ashes, oil to lamplight.

Hope and manna steam in New London’s porridge bowls.  Lights dot the harbor.  The tide washes in and the tide washes out, anything clean is the stuff of pure spirit.  You can count the new bucks and thin dimes in New London on both hands, and take off your shoes.  A Hindu statue doesn’t have enough hands to grasp the fruits that spill out of New London’s fishy cornucopia.  Slippery as an eel and doubly elusive, New London can be put in a pot, but it cannot be stewed.  Any simmering is under the surface.
A city of sperm and baleen is founded on dreams.  There is bedrock under the banks and states of New London’s streets.  Pick an intersection, walk one way, find yourself where you began.  In a New London state of mind, angels gather in barrooms and discuss the news of The Day.  The best news remains unreported.  There are things in this world that cannot be put into words.  Shylocks wink to each other.  New Londoners shake hands.
If anyone reckons the span of New London’s five square miles of land, remind them the city contains an unrivaled harbor.  Look upward at the stars and say there is no limit to what a thoughtful, sentient soul can aspire toward within New London’s borders.  Scuff your boots at New London’s neck if you wish.  If wishes were fishes, New London’s dreams would be bigger than whales that tack starboard through the depths of uncharted oceans.  If wishes were fishes, the catch in New London would flood the market, lowering the price of aspirations.

To all the girls I loved before... To the city that still haunts my slumber...  To the good citizens of New London, Conn., who continue to fight the good fight, come what may.

Best wishes,

Saint Expedite crushes the Devil

I've written before about Saint Expedite, the patron of those seeking prompt relief from their troubles.  I'm working on a little chapbook about his history and his influence in New Orleans.  Naturally, I want to illustrate it myself.

Typical of my cheapskate ways, I used the smallest possible piece of paper possible.  Also typical, I made a mistake on the initial run and had to start over.  So much for saving paper.

This is an illustration of the Devil disguised as a crow that Saint Expedite killed by stomping on it.  The first draft had more realistic proportions.  As usual, when I repeat something the shorthand takes over and it becomes more abstract.  Does this resemble a crow?  As someone who practices the school of art known as "Just Good Enough," I think it will do.  I'm no Andrew Wyeth.

Sure enough, I went right up to the edge of the page.  Not initially though.  I scanned the image when I had finished and decided it needed more oomph.  The drawing before I fiddled with it:
You can tell where I added some bulk to one of the wings.   No matter.  It's good enough.  The silhoette is more dramatic after the extra penwork.

Cheers, and,


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