Down through the years, Lagniappe has run several stories about what exactly a Creole is. I think I might even have written a couple of them.
If you think you’d like 335 pages of explanation, you might want to get your hands on a copy of Creoles of South Louisiana: Three Centuries Strong, a new book by Elista Istre. It’s published by UL-Lafayette Press and retails for $29.95.
Istre explores the ways in which South Louisiana Creoles developed from “a mélange” of African, European and North American roots. The result was a unique cuisine, language, and dance and musical style. She explains that Creole storytellers provided entertainment by telling tales from three different continents.
Istre takes the position that Creoles tend to be adaptable, resilient and strong, and have often resisted inside pressure to isolate themselves and outside pressure to assimilate. They tend to preserve and celebrate the traditional elements of their diverse heritage.
Early New Orleans Creoles often enjoyed financial success. Istre notes that in the years leading up to the Civil War, 9 of the 20 wealthiest black entrepreneurs in the country lived in New Orleans. Another 7 lived in assorted Louisiana parishes.
Features of Istre’s book that caught my eye were the many photos of Creole lunch plates; just as many photos of current Creole musicians; comparisons of Creole French and international French; and a generous selection of Creole trickster tales, tall tales and jokes.
The book is probably meant mainly for reading; but it is so loaded with photos and other illustrations that it can easily function as a coffee table book.
This is a subject Istre knows something about. She’s established and directed several historic sites and museums about Creoles; implemented programs about Creole culture; and worked as an advisor for a variety of film crews making documentaries on Creoles. In particular, she was recently the historical consultant for the documentary First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana. You can learn about her enterprise on Creole consulting at BelleHeritage.com.
If you want to get a copy of Creoles of South Louisiana fast, you can go to the book release party being held on Saturday, June 23, from 2-4 pm at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center at 978 Kennerson Road (I-49 Exit 23) in Opelousas.
For more information on this or other books from the UL Press, contact James Wilson at 337-482-6350 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, visit ULPRESS.org.
What’s New In Bamboo
For years, artists Mike and Doug Starn have been working on a huge art project they call Big Bambú. All over the world, they’ve created enormous structures made solely of bamboo shoots and the materials they use to bind the shoots together.
Their latest Big Bambú project is coming to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The Houston exhibit of the brothers Starn — “This Thing Called Life” — will be made up of 3,000 bamboo poles lashed together. That much bamboo will take the art work from the floor of Cullinan Hall all the way up onto the balcony of Upper Brown Pavilion 30 feet above.
Visitors will have the chance to cross a bridge of bamboo that will take them from the balcony to the place where the art work takes a curl resembling a large wave in the ocean. Those who want to can keep heading down a bamboo walkway until they get to ground level.
If you have any qualms about walking on a bamboo bridge 30 feet above ground, you should know some precautions are in place. If you are 6 or older and are at least 42 inches high, you can start the process by signing a waiver and asserting that you can walk without assistance. To walk on the bamboo, you’ll need shoes with rubber soles (no flip-flips or high heels). No one can bring a baby carrier or stroller onto the bridge. And each person walking on the bamboo bridge must “exercise sensible judgment at all times … especially if using cameras, smartphones, etc.”
If you’d rather not concern yourself with these guidelines, you can just look at, or walk through, the exhibit at the ground floor level.
The Starns have been at this for some time. Their first public installation was on the roof of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010. That display attracted more than 600,000 visitors — enough to make it one of the 10 most visited exhibitions in the museum’s history.
The Houston exhibit is the first one the brothers have staged indoors. This major installation — the first of its kind — will be open to the public through Sept. 3. To learn more, go to mfah.org.
No, that’s not the name of some tenacious Southwest Louisiana grass that grows all over the place. It’s a kind of music that has a lot more to do with comedy than botany.
It’s a kind of music that’s played by an act that’s the hands-down winner of the Up Fronter’s Funniest SWLA Band Name of the New Millennium Award. And what is that band’s name? Would you believe Arn Mait’n? That’s a hoot and a holler. Arn you glad you read about it here?
Arn Mait’n promises a bluegrass tribute to Iron Maiden. I’d think that would be enough oddity right there. But this ensemble also promises “hick-schtick comedy” and “bluegrass with punkabilly roots.” As noted in the headline, they also offer up something called “rockgrass.” And they can do bluegrass tributes for such gritty bands as Black Sabbath and Alice In Chains.
The Lafayette band’s freaky logo shows an Iron Maiden mascot recklessly hauling a Shasta travel trailer with a pick-up.
Apparently this ensemble has been around since 2016, so the Up Fronter is definitely behind the swing on this one. If I learn far enough in advance that the act is playing locally, I’ll let you know.
I Guess I Thought They Might Do Something
In the last edition of this column, I wrote, “the Louisiana Legislature went into special session to see if it could manage to bring itself to raise revenue to fix [recent across-the-board budget cuts]. By the time you read this, we’ll know whether the Legislature succeeded.”
I was wrong. Can you believe that? We don’t know a damn thing more at this point than we did when I wrote the first column.
Don’t be confused. The Louisiana House did pass a budget as the clock wound down to midnight on June 4. This budget cuts TOPS by 30 percent. It cuts funding to Louisiana universities by 25 percent. Yes, that’s 25 percent in addition to all the other cuts that have been made to the state’s universities in the last decade. (As of 2017, LSU’s budget had been cut 16 times in nine years. How do Louisiana universities recruit students these days? Promise them that if they go to LSU they can find out what sauce piquant is?)
The question is whether this budget will stand or whether the Legislation can find some way to create a less harmful one. Gubner Jon Bel Edwards, who never met a special session he didn’t like, will call one more. That’s the last one state law will allow him to call this year. This time, I’m not even going to make a hint of a prediction.
Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls
As Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson demonstrated in the recent comedy The Internship, creating a successful app isn’t really about being a tech genius. It’s about finding a widespread human desire that isn’t being fulfilled. Figure out how to fulfill it with an app, and you could very soon be following in Walter White’s footsteps, walking around your house looking for places to hide all your money.
In Lake Charles, snoballs are so fundamental to the culture that an app that could help people get them might do all right. Turns out snoballs are just as fundamental to the culture of New Orleans. (And yes, it’s only now that I’ve realized that the treats are spelled “snoballs” rather than “snowballs.”)
The famous New Orleans-based marketing firm Peter Mayer has just released the New Orleans Snoball Finder app. It can show the user exactly where to find snoballs throughout New Orleans.
How hard can it be to find these snoballs? Well, Peter Mayer says there are presently more than 45 snoball stands in N.O. The app will give users the menus and hours for each one. There’s also a “find a flavor” function in the app. Right now, the city is boasting more than 200 flavors. I want the blue flavor Jon Heder ate in Blades of Glory. Do you think the function would let me search for “blue”?
While I was reading the press release, I developed a sudden, intense fondness for the name of the stand called Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls. What do you think are the odds they have blue?
The N.O. snowball app is available on iOS and Android.
I May Forget I Have A Column In The Magazine
The Up Fronter gets PR releases for everything. For some reason, the other day, I scanned a pRess release for a new product called eClip.
Perhaps it was the press release’s startling first sentence that got my attention: “A baby has recently died in Louisiana from being forgotten in a hot car …”
My immediate reaction to that was to wonder whether there was someone sitting at a desk somewhere cranking out press releases with the names of all 50 states in the first sentence. For instance, one set of press releases might begin, “A baby has recently died in Rhode Island from being forgotten in a hot car …” “A baby has recently died in Wyoming …”
It seemed like a gruesome, disgusting and morbid way to do marketing. I didn’t come away from the first sentence with any positive impressions.
Perhaps I should have gotten a little boost from the second sentence, which told me that “eClip is an innovative new device that alerts parents if they walk away from the car without their babies.”
But that didn’t happen, because I immediately thought, “Well, how many parents forget they have a baby in the car?”
As I had just thought that, imagine my surprise at reading the third sentence: “Experts at eClip say no parent should assume this couldn’t happen to them and all should take precautions.”
So, at this point, I guessed, I was supposed to believe that all the parents in the world forget — at least once — that they have a baby in the car. It’s, apparently, a universal experience. There are no longer any parents on planet Earth who always remember they have a baby in the car.
Well, if that’s the case, we’re in a bad way. I think we’re going to need more than eClip to get out of this mess. If we all forget, now and then, that we have a baby in the car, what are the odds that we’re going to remember that we have a cell phone or a wallet or a house key or a box of Tic Tacs in there?
I suppose in a situation such as this, we should all be tremendously concerned about packs of roaming thieves taking all the stuff we’ve forgotten to take out of the car. But maybe not. It may be that thieves sometimes forget what sorts of things they want to steal from cars. Perhaps “experts say no thief should assume this couldn’t happen to them.”
Here’s one thing you definitely don’t want to leave in the car: a press release that works.