I hope to find some time to blog about specific panels in the next few days, but, in the meantime, the '08 4Cs struck me as the best in years. I didn't go to a single weak session. In fact, many of the presentations (I went to seven panels including my own) provoked and engaged. And they were all pretty well-attended, too...not always the case in past years.
As always, catching up with grad school friends was a highlight. A crew from U-Arizona hit Bacco and enjoyed the odd marriage of Italian and Creole cuisines. I had the crawfish ravioli...tasty. Nominating Committee meetings took up a lot of time but I appreciated the chance to learn more about how the Cs takes care of such business and have a say in future leadership. Look for your ballots in mid-June, folks.
All work and no play? Course not. I made time to hit the Louisiana Music Factory, a great two-floor record store that devotes the whole ground level to New Orleans artists--iconic, obscure, and all points in between. Caught part of John Mooney's in-store set. He pretty much took off the roof during an Electric (notice the capital "E") version of Son House's "Louise McGhee." Nice. The upper level boasts an impressive selection of non-Louisiana artists on both vinyl and CD. I got a copy of Black Merda's first album on CD. It's a Russian import. I didn't even think the band's catalogue was available on disc, so this was a geeky discovery that kept me smiling all the way back to the hotel. Black Merda was a great 60s Detroit band--part Funkadelic, part MC5, part Jimi Hendrix Experience. Also got one of the Dengue Fever CDs that I didn't yet have...DF is a contemporary surf-rock band from California that's a whole lotta Farfisa organ, a whole lotta bilingualism, and a whole lotta VOICE, thanks to the song stylings of Chhom Nimol, the Cambodian legend who sings lead on most tracks.
Finally, I have to mention taking the streetcar to the New Orleans Museum of Art in order to check out the world-class modern sculpture garden. Located in City Park, the place is gorgeous, thanks in part to the low-hanging live oak trees that fill the park. What a great place to stroll. The most striking feature of the sculpture garden is the breadth and diversity of the collection, from the Warhol-esque, humongous safety pin to the haunting image of a lynching.
But the pleasant surprise was the NOMA's huge George Rodrigue exhibit. Rodrigue based his blue dog series at first on the werewolf legend, loup garou, but soon the blue dog took on a life of its own. Rodrigue uses the dog itself as a kind of canvas on which he can compose a wide range of emotions. He's used the image for purely aesthetic creations, but also for commercial campaigns too. And, of course, for fund-raisers. I enjoyed the exhibit quite a bit and would like to learn more about Rodrigue, by all accounts a fascinating figure.
God bless New Orleans.