Monday, March 1, 2004

2004 Juried Student Exhibition Competition (Arts Feature)

This small piece is one of the most formative of my career so far - if not for anyone else, than for me. My friend and colleague at Planet, Talamieka McNeil, gave us the heads-up on this arts competition at JSU, where she attended school. As a fan of the arts, I decided to cover it with her. However, as someone who had been to all the other student museums in the area, I was ready to be disappointed. (Sorry if this upsets people from the other schools, but it's true.) I was blown away by the quality of art from Jackson State, and I believed then what I believe now: the best arts program in that part of Mississippi is there. I was also blessed to meet Lorenzo Gayden, a young man whose talent comes as an embarrassment of riches. I've given him press several times - and he's deserved it each time.

Many art aficionados appreciate a chance to see art from young, raw talents. A good place to do that now is at Jackson State University. The 2004 JSU Juried Student Exhibition Competition is over, the winners have been selected, and their works are on display on the campus. The competition gives the students a chance to have their work appreciated by the judges, the university administration, other students, and by the public.

Sponsoring the competition are JSU’s own Clay Club and James Allen Antiques of Atlanta. Allen is the owner of the controversial “Without Sanctuary” exhibit of lynching photos, currently on display at the university.

Several different awards are given, including Best 2-D Work, Best 3-D Work, and Merit Awards. In addition, members of the administration give five Purchase Awards to the students.

"Adrift on the Sea of Consciousness" (Column)

Wow. Janet Jackson, Arsenio Hall, and "Yes, Dear" all name-checked in the same column. Sometimes folks, the pop culture references kill the first time out - and then kill you in the long run.

Welcome to the stress-addled mind of the Bipolar Extremist. I’m feeling like going down the stream of consciousness without a paddle…

Let me get this straight. CBS has apologized for the now-infamous “Boobgate” incident at the Super Bowl. They’ve apologized for the delays they are now using for their “live” broadcasts. And now they’ve apologized for Atlanta-based Outkast’s Grammy performance, which had the band members in Lone Ranger-era faux Indian garb. I’m suddenly reminded of Monty Python’s legendary apologies for the apologies.

CBS, so long as you’re offering up apologies for all slights, real or perceived, I have a few requests.

Where the hell is our apology for Yes, Dear? You owe the world a big freaking “my bad” for that piece of crap. And since that segues nicely into Arsenio Hall, you better start doing “mea culpas” for Star Search, too.

It’s not that I want to bash on CBS even more than I bash on Planet’s competitor, but the Tiffany Network makes it so damn easy.

Yeah, I’m angry this time. My man Clark bailed out of the race before Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich. It both annoys and disappoints me that the General left the race before the Righteous Rev and Ernie Keebler bailed out. Well, at least he won one state before he left, which is one more than Howard Dean has managed to accomplish, at least by press time.

By firing his campaign chairman for speaking out, Dean showed that he is again willing to cut off his own nose to spite his face. Knowing of his manic behavior, I’m surprised he didn’t use a chainsaw to do it.

John Kerry. What can I say about him that his opponents haven’t already said? If he’s been knocking boots with an intern, it only goes to show that he’s trying to learn from a better man. But, to give him his props, he picked a more cuddly intern to corrupt. If it’s true, do you suppose he’ll apologize, or will he instead attack the Dean campaign through a series of mudslinging commercials?

And have you seen the new Planet Weekly commercial? You soon will. Watch for it on WJTV. It’s made by local director Philip Scarborough and graphics genius Matt Beall. No mud is slung.
A question for the baseball fans out there. Does anyone think that CNN is spending far too much time harping on the Alex Rodriguez trade to the New York Yankees? Does anyone not in a 212 area code actually care? And if so, why? The Yankees have become nothing more than a sad commentary on baseball, proving that it is all about the bottom line. With a payroll three to four times the size of most other clubs, they prove that they really do have the finest team that money can buy.

And why should CNN care? Come on, this is an easy one. CNN…Ted Turner…Atlanta Braves…the club that actually claims to be America’s Team. They’re the National League version of the Yankees, without the annoying burden of talent.

Of course, if there was any Atlanta-based group that should apologize for being insulting to American Indians…it’s not Outkast. Maybe we can get TBS to do it.

Hey Ya! Yankees fans, let me know why your team rules. Braves fans, let me know why the Yankees suck. Red Sox fans, let me know why your guys suck. Send comments to: ed@planetweekly or log on at planetweekly and let’s all hope nobody’s cyber-squatting in our living room.

Cowboy Mouth -- Yall Magazine

This was my most contentious piece ever. The editor of Yall loved the idea. The band loved it (and the publicist loved it, of course). My photographer colleague, Tom Beck and I met them in New Orleans, I wrote it, and we submitted our work. The photo editor kept asking Tom for different shots - the editor had no idea what he wanted, and he apparently was still in college. The editor I was dealing with had left and the publisher was running things. He decided that he wanted a Southern People and bumped this story without notice for one issue. No big deal, except that, in doing so, the band released a live album in the interim and their publicist wanted that in there now. Further troubling things was that the publisher changed his deadline for work three times, finally calling me and saying he needed a rewrite and could I do it in 10 days? I told him I could. He called me 2 days later and asked where it was. I told him I still had 8 days. He said he meant 2 days, but said 10. I sent him a rewrite, which someone reedited, and they published it. This is the version I originally submitted.

November 28th, the night after Thanksgiving. A crowd approaching one thousand men and women have come in out of the cold and filled Howlin’ Wolf, a music club in the warehouse district of New Orleans. The patrons, who have been warmed up by local punk-pop band, Gang of Creeps, and by a three-song reunion gig by The Red Rockers, generate happy, anxious excitement. They crowd the stage, awaiting Cowboy Mouth, one of the South’s favorite bands.
When the band takes the stage, an eruption of cheers that would be more at home in a stadium greets them. With little ceremony, they launch into “Light it on Fire,” a barnburner guaranteed to create a roar. It does. By the time they tear into their second number, “Disconnected,” the crowd is moving as one organic unit, almost desperate to absorb the band’s energy and return it to them tenfold. In return, Cowboy Mouth does their level best to blow the audience out the front door.

Standing front and center, Fred LeBlanc, the Mouth’s lead singer and drummer, pounds the skins and exhorts the fans to cheer, to jump, to take part in the show. The front man and chief cheerleader, he builds energy both on and off the stage with his ferocious drum work, his vocals, and his interaction with the crowd. He brings them into the show, refusing to let them be passive witnesses to the performance. There are no passive witnesses.