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The Battlefront

April 19, 2010

Don’t you touch my flag, yeah, steal my queen,
You have more trouble than you ever seen.

A whole week later, an episode in which they portray New Orleanians as all too human and not mystical Indian chiefs, brass band musicians, restaurateurs and DJs. (Well, except for that very first scene that has Coco Robicheaux fixing to decapitate a rooster all over the new WWOZ digs. Mmmmmm hmm.) Everybody happy now?

If Episode 1 embodied determination and community, this one was more about desperation and somewhat selfish cynicism. Towards the beginning of the episode, Albert Lambreaux and Creighton Bernette are all het up about (re)builders not doing things the right way and crucial Tulane University departments closing, respectively. Later, we see that Lambreaux has (almost?) killed a young punk for stealing his tools and copper out of homes, while Bernette lectures his daughter that Fortier High School closing to make way for the Tulane-sponsored Lusher charter is someone else’s problem. Life is a zero sum game, he tells Sophie, in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. Activism is relative when it comes to your stuff and flesh and blood. Don’t get me wrong, if I caught someone stealing my shit after I put all that energy into freshly installing it (and dealing with returning, FEMA, insurance, shady contractors, Entergy and the S&WB to do so), it was my kid languishing in Baton Rouge boarding school or I went all the way to St. Gabriel only to be jacked with, I’d be beating on someone with a piece of plumbing, too.

Everyone’s crying, everyone’s broke, everyone’s desperate. And even musicians who play and shoot the shit with the likes of Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello end up getting busted by NOPD for a stupid roach.

Allow me to speak now as a representative of the city of Madison, Wisconsin, to where I really wish Simon & Co. had expanded their celebrated eye for detail. Yeah, the Sonny character was a poseur jerk himself, but ain’t no way those kids are from Madison because:

a) godless Madisonians don’t do good works for churches; they mostly come on behalf of teh bleeding-heart librul blogz, and
b) even if they are, they’re freshmen from Oshkosh or Wausau. No one actually from Madison talks like that, looks like that or is that clueless. For future reference, Madison is to Wisconsin as New Orleans is to the rest of Louisiana. Different.

‘Cuz, you know, flashing your boobs at passing military vehicles is “authentic” New Orleans behavior; we do it at Mardi Gras all the time. *eyeroll* I wonder if the show is going to introduce one new irritating character each week, just to make the previous one look good in comparison. Sonny is making me warm up to DJ Davis. After all the setup, if Season 2 doesn’t have him jump off the roof of the Omni, Treme will have some ‘splaining to do, artistic license or not.

To everyone who “came and still come to spend spring break or vacation time doing the worst of recovery jobs,” including my aghast young Mennonite co-worker (“we worked so hard, we didn’t run around getting drunk on and off Bourbon Street”): Thank you. Real, authentic New Orleans has impeccable manners.

We had a very New Orleans-focused weekend up here in the Northlands leading into the show: Our battle with the Louisiana Department of Revenue since being 2006 returnees finally ended; we owe them nothing. Last night, as Niki Fisk and I settled into the debut of Episode 2, Niki’s mother called to announce that their horse was about to drop and off we drove to watch a little silver bay come into the world. A silversmith & jewelry maker, Niki will be moving her store out of Uptown and onto Lower Magazine by Juan’s shortly.

Alright, give it up, what did you think of Episode Deux?

  1. April 19, 2010 10:49 am

    Just noticed that Creighton’s daughter’s name is Sophie (as in Newcomb?).

    I’ve been kinda wondering why the two busker characters even exist, since in a show that is already swarming with musicians, they seem kind of superfluous. But last night Allen Boudreaux suggested on twitter that they could conceivably be setting up the beginning of a storyline that leads to the grotesque Zachary Bowen/Addie Hall murder/suicide from 2006 (see Ethan Brown’s Shake the Devil Off,

    I’m still not sure how I feel about Chief Lambreaux’s beatdown of that copper thief. At first I thought it was totally out of character, but after a long talk last night with my favorite anthropologist/Wire-fanatic, Linda T., I think I could be convinced. What gives me doubts is something Simon said at the 2009 Tennessee Williams Fest, which is that HBO really was having trouble understanding a Simon show without any murders, and Simon said eventually they had to give them one to close the deal. Was that the “contractual obligation homicide”? It sure as fuck makes Chief Lambreaux more complex, at any rate.

  2. April 19, 2010 11:01 am

    I saw the beatdown not as a selfish “he stole my shit” attack, but as an attempt to stop a social parasite who is slowing the recovery. In an interview I did with Clarke Peters, he emphasized that Mardi Gras Indian chiefs are warriors (and he was coached by big chiefs Donald Harrison and and Otto Dejean), and that scene seemed consistent with that vision. (Dejean, incidentally, played Labreaux’ tribe member George Cotrell). And I accept the possibility that even though we primarily know Indians today as entertainers or paraders, that the violence of Indian past remains as largely sublimated thread in Indian culture today.

  3. April 19, 2010 11:06 am

    My husband suggested too that Sonny/Annie were being set up to tell the story of Zach adn Addie, especially when they showed them in the Spotted Cat. We met Addie when she bar tended not long before Zach murdered her. I dismissed his thought but was shocked to see Twitter abuzz with that same speculation!

    If you look at the character bios on the HBO Treme site, both characters are not even local NOLA musicians which I found disturbing…when there are so many NOLA native street performers. I guess time will tell. Glad I didn’t bet any money with my husband on that potential storyline! I never watched The Wire (don’t hurt me Ray!) so tell me…is that the kind of macabre horrific story David Simon would include?

    The scene where Albert beat that punk was gripping, to say the least. I need an HD tv! We couldn’t tell at the time who was beating who! I was going to say that Albert is my favorite character thus far, but I can’t…I’m in love with all the characters right now for different reasons. Even Davis. My husband was commenting on how annoying he is until I explained to him that he is based on a real person too. Now he gets it. A few of my friends who are not at all familiar with NOLA already want a spin off based on the Davis character! They love him!

    The scene where Janeette breaks down..they nailed that. Even as a non -NOLA resident I experienced that feeling for months after the storm. I can’t even imagine how everyone who lives/ed there identified with that scene.

    Treme drinking game- drink every time you see someone you know….everyone passed out in the first 15 minutes…..
    With every re-watch I see someone else I know or know of…love it!

  4. April 19, 2010 11:34 am

    A lot of hints were dropped that the two new characters would have a Bowen/Hall aspect – Spotted Cat, staying during the storm, the tales of staying in NOLA after evacuation, even the young vet they were talking to at the bar. I’m not surprised that set off a lot of foreshadowing for anyone who was familiar with the situation or who has read Shake the Devil Off.

    Re: the Lambreaux beatdown, I’ve heard plenty of tell from those days of what would happen to unlucky theives who got caught, even as late as November 07. I’ll not get further into it than that, but the only thing I found suspect about that scene was that Labreaux was again out stalking the streets at night free from the eyes of curfew or trigger happy authorities, and that Skinny didn’t haul ass sooner.

  5. liprap permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:35 am

    Oh, those irresponsible men again. 😉

  6. liprap permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:39 am

    Like if you look at Tootie Montana and what he started to do in devolving out the violence of the rivalries between tribes or gangs and channeling that into who’s making the prettiest suits. That element of violence IS still there. And hey, the chief’s tools were stolen in what is in reality, one of the world’s largest small towns, meaning word gets ’round and if something’s happening or has happened, someone WILL find out about it.

  7. April 19, 2010 11:48 am

    On a different note, I have to ask about the reactions to the voodoo scene. All I’ve seen is a sort of dismissive eye-rolling quite different from the usual Tremhate that one sees on the interwebs.

    I know folks from here have issues with the marketing of this city, but I’m having trouble understanding if that scene was intended to satirize the voodoo-for-tourists thing or if it was intended to be an actual representation that locals find uncomfortable.

    It obviously struck a nerve, and I’m wondering why. Thoughts?

  8. Kevin permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:54 am

    The voodoo scene, like all things touched by Zahn, felt cheap and inauthentic.

    Zahn-Hatin’ Me

  9. April 19, 2010 11:55 am

    I will not be goaded into Larry the Cable Guy impressions. 🙂

    Though I am starting to want know how Lambreaux got an Invisibility Cloak out of the Harry Fing Potter novels.

  10. Kevin permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:58 am

    I’m hoping the street musicians aren’t going to turn into variations on Zack Bowen and Addie Hall, but all the signs are there, from the Spotted Cat to the National Guard-veteran “Sonny” was talking with in the bar scene.

    And then this morning I read an exegesis of the music from this episode, written by someone who obviously had no knowledge of the Zack/Addie murder, and… well, you decide:

    “The first true bitter music of the show’s run come from two previously unseen characters, Sonny and Sonia, catering to three sympathy-dispensers who’ve come from Wisconsin to blindly aid relief. It’s important to break down the song’s origin first: It’s an unattributed standard that was first put on record by New Orleans’ piano blues star Fats Domino. Bessie Smith, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan each performed it at one time or another, too. But if you haven’t heard of it, it’s for good reason: It centers around a particularly intense, ultra-specific love-you-to-death sort of domestic violence plot. Sonny belts this out over his piano and Sonia’s fiddle: “You ran my mother out of her mind/ I’m gonna buy myself a shotgun/ I’m gonna shoot you four or five times/ I’m gonna stand over you and watch you finish dying.” It would be almost too jarring to listen to if it wasn’t made clear immediately afterwards that Sonny is probably talking about the city he loved.”

  11. liprap permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:58 am

    1 – I think it’s part of Coco Robicheaux’s whole shtick.

    2 – There was definitely some satirizing of tourist voodoo involved.

    3 – Most people find the unexplained either eye-rollingly banal or something to carefully sidestep it if they felt there was some truth to it, whether it’s Davis suddenly bringing up the burning down of Coco’s house as the practical side of the summoning of a lwa or Spud the DJ telling Davis he was gonna keep the resulting bloodstain up ’cause you don’t mess with something that could create bad juju….except that stuff tends to go hand-in-hand ’round here.

  12. liprap permalink
    April 19, 2010 12:02 pm

    I see it as something like Steven Seagal’s Zen Taser vision in “Lawman”: Lambreaux apparently has his ways and could teach Hog-f-ing-warts a thing or three.

  13. April 19, 2010 12:24 pm

    I hold out the same hope that you do, but that is a lot of foreshadowing coming from a director who does things very intentionally.

    That also calls into question the voodoo scene’s placement at the lead of the episode where these characters are introduced, considering every single media outlet that covered the Bowen/Hall murder-suicide took time to indicate that the scene of the crime occurred in an apartment above a voodoo shop.

    Or am I reading too much into that?

  14. April 19, 2010 12:29 pm

    It freaked me out a little, to tell you the truth. And they did it on the air: they could’ve just pretended to sacrifice the rooster and not actually do it leaving blood on the wall. Of course, if you show blood in the first act, you have to bring it in the third, so feel it was a precursor for the eventual ceremonial dropping of blood by Lambreaux or Sonny’s probable voodoo shop dismemberment of Annie. Or something like that.

  15. April 19, 2010 1:31 pm

    I also thought the scene was a bit about the loss of emotional control that that kind of stress will cause. Lambreaux is typically so controlled and he appeared to have just lost himself exploding into a rage and then being surprised at the result.

  16. April 19, 2010 1:33 pm

    To me, It was just them letting Coco Robichaux be himself.

  17. virgotex permalink*
    April 19, 2010 1:39 pm

    It didn’t feel like an unforeseen explosion to me. He knew he might have to go there but didn’t want to. I guess maybe if the kid had offered to hand over the money he’d gotten, or if he hadn’t dissed him, things might have ended differently. He really did sound like he was warning him telling him he didn’t know what he was doing.

  18. April 19, 2010 1:40 pm

    I thought Episode 2 was righteous once again.

  19. April 19, 2010 1:50 pm

    I guess I’m still having trouble shaking my expectations of Lester Freamon. I expected him to look at the guy over the top of his glasses like the daddy he never had…

  20. April 19, 2010 2:21 pm

    Simon expounds a bit on the exchange between Sonny and the tourists . That’s a very good explanation of where that hostility comes from in the scene.

    I also enjoyed that he didn’t just drop those same tourists but picked them up and had Davis sending them to Bullets for a real experience that frightened parents and church group alike but lit those kids up.

    Need to watch it again. This was pretty densely packed.

  21. April 19, 2010 2:28 pm

    I think the voodoo scene, like everything else in every Simon show, serves more than one purpose, but my take on Zahn’s character has always been that despite all his affectations and his store of facts, he doesn’t really get it — music is always about something else to him, be it getting money or demonstrating that he’s the smartest guy in the room, or whatever — so far, he hasn’t been seen enjoying music just to enjoy it. The voodoo is something AWESOME and COOL because it’s NEW ORLEANS STUFF and his listeners DON’T GET IT — but then, neither does he. I got the vibe that Coco was playing with him, deliberately pushing his buttons, but that might be wish fulfillment on my part — “Let’s see how far I can push this schmuck…”

    He’ll raise a stink about getting paid for his own music, and in the same movement rip off someone else’s CD and attempt to barter it for above-his-station wine. He’ll use his speakers as a weapon and the music to punish. He’s a climber, not an aficionado. He’s stammer in submissively urinate when he spots Elvis Costello in the club, but has no trouble lecturing the black musicians outside about what they should do with their careers.

    I’m largely on Kevin’s side in the Davis-Hating, but I concede that the character is being set up as a child who is going to have to make the change to adulthood at some point.

  22. April 19, 2010 2:29 pm

    a real experience that frightened parents and church group alike but lit those kids up.

    “whoo hoooooooooooo !”

    Davis/Zahn’s response to that did crack me up. I enjoyed him more in this ep because his usual shtick just wasn’t working.

  23. April 19, 2010 2:31 pm

    I think the response that Albert gave the copper thief could just as easily be given to Davis. He’s a taker, not a maker.

  24. April 19, 2010 2:33 pm

    That sentence up yonder should read, “He’ll stammer and submissively urinate …”

  25. Michael P permalink
    April 19, 2010 3:01 pm

    I saw Albert’s reaction to his son getting busted with the roach as foreshadowing the beatdown on the copper thief. Albert said the cop had no choice; Delmond was breaking the law directly in front of him, which shows disrespect for the law and the cop, so the cop had to react. The copper thief showed disrespect to Albert and to the city, so Albert had to react. Still, that was a pretty stunning scene, especially when contrasted with the beauty of his performance at the end of the episode. Albert may well end up being the most complex character in any of Simon’s work.

    Don’t get me started on the voodoo scene, I was soooo happy after the first episode that there might finally be a show about New Orleans that didn’t mention gris gris or Marie Lavaeu.

  26. April 19, 2010 3:28 pm

    Not impressed with episode deux. A backwards step, in my view. More looking forward to the Madonna Glee episode than the next installment of Treme– and that’s a bad sign. Episode one, while imperfect, had scenes that “stayed with me”. Not so this time.

    But I will dispute Greg’s assertion that the unloved Davis character “hasn’t been seen enjoying music just to enjoy it”. Despite having to play the Prima song on the air, during that montage scene he is shown truly getting into it.

  27. ferngrrl permalink
    April 19, 2010 3:28 pm

    Ray, Sophia is Greek for “wisdom.” Got that feeling from her character since the start, huh? Me, too.

  28. April 19, 2010 3:39 pm

    I like the Sophie Newcomb in-joke better.

  29. ferngrrl permalink
    April 19, 2010 3:45 pm

    I’m still cogitating on that scene. Thus far, IMO, being Chief isn’t the main mover here. He’s Chief because he is a leader, because he gets people together, has authority, and so on. He is more than a Chief: he is also a meticulous contractor (the people who built these old houses knew what they were doing; hanging sheetrock over perfectly good but unrepaired plaster is stupid, etc.) who can *build a house from scratch.”

    I doubt that he knew he had so much rage in him for that copper miner, but the builder confronted the destroyer and that was that. There seemed to be some hesitation, as if the beat down had two parts to it, the 2nd part brought on by Skinny’s bad-ass remarks. Started out as teaching a lesson to a bad kid, but ended up almost destroying the destroyer. Now, if Skinny stands in, in some small way, for the storm, and for the loss the storm brought, the beat down could easily become murder.

    Remember, though, that he tells his son it’s okay that he’s not into the Indian thing–it’s just not who you are. And remember the oft-repeated line about pride [on Bourbon St.]. Take pride in what you do, right?

    Such a packed episode–wish I had it on tape….

  30. ferngrrl permalink
    April 19, 2010 3:52 pm

    C’est ca.

  31. April 19, 2010 4:24 pm

    Actually, he played the Prima after he had been told to play the pledge drive playlist; he chose it out of spite, once again to show how much more hip he was than management. If he was “getting into it,” my read would be that he was getting into it because of what a cool move he played on himself.

    And no memorable scenes? Really? Salt-Free Spicer crying in her eggs? Albert beating the thief? Goodman’s Tulane rant? The two-man Indian practice, which I thought was a fucking remarkable, beautiful scene — it was like watching the first fertilization of a cosmic egg: the Indians are coming back, starting right *now*, and we get to see it.

    You didn’t watch it with Jeffrey, did you?

  32. April 19, 2010 4:29 pm

    A better way to say that stuff about Davis: he played the Prima because it was his job. I want to see him just being in the moment, dancing, smiling at some great passage, and THEN I’ll believe that music can be more than a symbol to him.

  33. April 19, 2010 4:32 pm

    I think he’s re-establishing his authority as a Chief. Sometimes, you have to send a lesson, and he did, though it obviously wearied him and he didn’t get any sadistic enjoyment out of it. But word will get around that the Chief is back.

  34. April 19, 2010 4:50 pm

    Sophie laid it out in the 1st episode, so I’m jus’ saying get ready to have your Heart broken over Creighton. It’s only going to build till after Mardi Gras.

    I’m trying to hang other posts on the Ladder and linking back to Back of Town so maybe y’all can weave enjoy into all of this and aw’dat.
    Like this one
    and this one

    Thanks fo’ da Great Blogging Treme!

  35. Kevin permalink
    April 19, 2010 4:54 pm

    Despite having to play the Prima song on the air, during that montage scene he is shown truly getting into it.

    …à la Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati.

    Seriously, this character could be transferred to K-Ville with only the most minor of alterations. Drop the pot and the swearing and he could be Cole Hauser’s wacky DJ friend who provides the soundtrack for the gumbo parties.

    I don’t care if Davis Rogan is like that in real life; it doesn’t work onscreen for me, one bit.

  36. April 19, 2010 5:15 pm

    The voodoo thing is confusing in this context, because of listening to Coco say right out one night when talking about this, that as far as he could figure there was no ‘real’ voodoo in New Orleans and hadn’t been for many decades. “Maybe way out in the country you might find somebody who can do that.” Then he continued with his grandmother and what she could do.

    Also, Coco’s Spiritlands was played in this household non-stop post the Failure for months.

    I dunno about this scene, especially as it takes place in WWOZ studios, which are, well, pretty familiar.

  37. April 19, 2010 6:42 pm

    Actually, he played the Prima after he had been told to play the pledge drive playlist; he chose it out of spite, once again to show how much more hip he was than management.

    Demonstrably false. He came into the station because he had a dream that inspired him to line up a big Mob-based seque-perfect playlist in his head, which included both Prima and Louis Armstrong. The pledge drive playlist (every third song from the pledge drive CD) fucked up his continuity, so he played Prima anyway and kept hanging up on the incoming calls of complaint from the station manager.

    Go back and watch again.

  38. Danielle permalink
    April 19, 2010 7:26 pm

    I don’t think you are reading too much into it. It definitely struck me when I watched it. There is WAY too much foreshadowing for that story line to not be developed. Annie’s definitely ending up in several pots and pans and Sonny’s leaping off the Omni Royal (which is also, I believe, where Davis works for a day before getting fired… ). How could they not use that story? definitely tragic but that’s such a “truth is stranger than fiction” situation it’s inevitable.

  39. April 19, 2010 8:15 pm

    Just noticed in episode 1 that Ladonna’s bar is at the corner of Danneel and something-something. Is it supposed to actually be located in Central City or did they just film there?

  40. April 19, 2010 8:20 pm

    I’ve hung out with Coco on Frenchman quite a bit before his place caught fire, and well, he will tell’ya where not to look for the spirit. I’ve too many friends in that ‘Church’ to even question its place in the telling of this story… and for another thing Armstrong Park sat VACANT AND DARK from the time they destroyed Treme to build it until some time around the Flood, like when OZ moved there and even then it took the hole at night… at least from what I’ve seen wit’my own lyin eyes.
    Jus’sayin, you wanna buy Lucky Beads you betta, I did. But if you want to hear the Loa, you have only to walk your ass down Piety and lay your soul on the banquette… metaphorically speakin of course ahem. Ha! The snake is as real as the sunset in the house of the rising sun.
    They unloaded a Bunch of Humans in Baltimore back in the day same as New Orleans. After the Haitian Slave Revolt, there were only 2 places in America in which slaves were allowed to gather themselves in groups of more than 3: New Orleans and Memphis. In New Orleans we had Congo Square and the drums. Elsewhere no drums no forking way, but in Memphis they were allowed to form churches with tambourines. (I’m telling you the blacks were not allowed to stand in groups of more than 3-6 For Any Reason outside of work) On the way there they lived on my family’s land in the MS Delta. My folks never had a problem with whatever the workers did off-time, though I cannot speak for other families. In Memphis we got Al Green thank God.
    When you bring some of this stuff onto the screen you have to be careful. Different religions have their saints and guardian angels, but (for me) New Orleans has always carried something extra in the Spirit.
    And, well, it really isn’t my place to call its name here.
    David Simon is carefully peeling away the skin… to get at the bones.

  41. April 19, 2010 8:23 pm

    So how does that invalidate “… he played the Prima after he had been told to play the pledge drive playlist; he chose it out of spite, once again to show how much more hip he was than management”?

    I’ll admit that I was wrong about the spite, since he did mention it beforehand, but The Point is that he ties the elite coolness of his good taste to his self worth and will never back down. He lovingly lays out the whole plan to Spud, basking its brilliance, and than has a childish breakdown at being told what to do. He can’t show off his brilliant playlist because of FUCKING business. So he plays it anyway, but is determined not to enjoy it; that’ll show ’em! (Not sure why the station manager was calling during the first song, since only one of three had to be from the palylist.)

    That self-righteous rant was, I feel, meant at least partly for Spud. When he later relates how He Told Off His Boss, he never does finish the part that comes after “And what did HE say?” His subsequent freakout in Tower Records is the only time I’ve seen the character truly passionate so far, and that was about money.

    Maybe the character is just too immature for me to tolerate. I know people like this in real life and they’re infantile and insufferable; “arbiters of cool” are on the bottom of my list of people whose opinions I care about.

  42. April 19, 2010 8:47 pm

    Other sign said Urquhart.

  43. April 19, 2010 8:47 pm

    I just don’t get the Davis hate.

    Of all the characters that we’ve seen in Simon projects…backstabbing gangsters, mass murderers, drug dealers who will beat you into a permanent cripple over $10, child molesters, babykillers, psychos who will torture and kill a gay man just to send a message…the one guy that sends everybody into a frothing lather of hate is a geeky, self-absorbed hipster white guy who likes to hang out with black musicians.

    And all the people who hate him the most are, quite honestly, geeky white guys who are fans of the same music. The few black folks I’ve seen comments from say shit like, “yeah, typical white dude”.

    I think y’all hate him ’cause he hits a little too close to home. Sure, maybe he’s a dislikable person, maybe you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time around him in real life, but some of his qualities that are so irritating are ones that plenty of people in our circle of friends display from time to time or most of the time…including St. Ashley. Including, oh, say, Loki, or myself, or Haney, or Folse, or Oyster, or Adrastos, or frickin’ most everybody in Krewe du Vieux.

    The annoying white hipster who talks a little too much and a little too loud when he’s drunk and wants to get his opinions across is just as much a standard New Orleans archetype as any other character on the show. They exist, they might be annoying, but they don’t need a beatdown like a filthy copper thief and they sure as hell aren’t one-tenth as reprehensible as Marlo, Stringer, the Greek, Ziggy, or a few dozen other characters from The Wire or The Corner.

    (For the record, I like the real Davis Rogan. I’ve never had to spend tons of time around him, but one hour a week every Sunday night is easily manageable. I know other white guys in New Orleans I could do with a WHOLE lot less of.)

  44. April 19, 2010 8:55 pm

    (And I still love you too, Greggy P. Group hug.)

  45. April 19, 2010 8:56 pm

    Ray, I will totally go in on a Davis poll with you, ’cause I’m not quite getting why there is so much vitriol over Zahn’s character. Sure, I’ve seen loads of reasons that add up to some self-hating white boy-ism, and I’ve seen some dumbass behavior out of the character, but not enough to warrant the virtual tarring and feathering I’m seeing.

    Perhaps we should get back to y’all with a set of questions and a Davis thread. I mean, shit on a stick. It’s getting vicious now.

  46. April 19, 2010 9:06 pm

    Simon did strike it poor on volunteers. Indeed I was offended by that portrayal.
    On my own blog alone I have cataloged at lease 40,000 people who have come to help New Orleans rebuild –for whatever reason. Out of that total I have probably corresponded with 10% conservatively estimating. They are interesting people from across the country.
    No kidding. It has dropped off over the last year, but for the past 4 years strong, there are still groups up North who set up 5 and even 10 year plans to continue sending people down here.
    It is an amazing enterprise national in its scope and even a fair balance of secular and religious.
    New Orleans brought America to her doorstep. It just isn’t good manners to spit in their faces like they are clueless dumbasses. Many of them probably watched Episode 2. Simon wasn’t here donating his off-time to rebuild. That’s the truth, so he really doesn’t seem to know who those people are and what they gave to this city, to wit: their heart.
    It ain’t my job to tell them that is or isn’t their heart.
    It is just my place to thank them, all the thousands of them.
    And thanks youz tooz!

  47. April 19, 2010 9:16 pm

    I had my hands full while I was reading Ray’s comment, and was getting physically anxious to finish what I was doing and reply, because I can tell you EXACTLY why I hate Zahn/Davis (and this has nothing to do with Davis Rogan; never met the man). In order of severity:

    1. He’s a hypocrite. He’ll stand and be righteous about getting paid/compensated for HIS music, but he’ll steal CDs by other artists (and expensive wine from his struggling girlfriend). He’ll tell black musicians what to do with their careers but can’t say anything to the white popstar. Most pathetic line of the night was “Where’s the afterparty?”

    2. He’s condescending. Fastest way top push my buttons: adopt a condescending attitude toward me or anyone, really. Been that way since HS. Even worse when the condescender is whiny and childish.

    3. Most serious: He takes me out of the show. Unlike any other Simon character, even during the (to me) unbelievable season 5 of The Wire, or Ziggy in S2, or whoever: When Davis comes on, I’m aware of watching someone act, I’m aware that his character is standing in for “white boys,” and doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than a foil or a kind of hipster billboard (although he might be moving into comedy relief, which I also have a low tolerance for). He breaks me clean out of the Treme world.

    As to whether he’s an accurate representation of geeky music-centered white guys, maybe so. But that doesn’t mean the character is being used effectively in the context of the show, or that he’s written with the same care as others. Have I been like that? Sure, on occasion, more so when I was way younger than this guy is supposed to be. Obviously there’s truth to the character, but if I have my moments and Loki has his moments and you have your moments, we’re not like that 24-7.

    Bottom line for me: he’s not fully drawn, doesn’t have the depth of the others (yet), serves only as the obnoxious hipster comedy relief, and Zahn, frankly, is acting acting acting all the damn time. Ever see Clark Peters act? No you have not.

  48. April 19, 2010 9:19 pm

    And I love you too, Ray. XOXOXOXO.

  49. April 19, 2010 9:30 pm

    That beatdown scene surprised me in a good way (what I love about Simon shows). I was thinking, “aw shit, he’s gonna take the punk under his wing, teach him a trade, about pri–[WHAM bash SPLUTCH!] DAMN! Well, so much for that mentoring program!”

  50. April 19, 2010 9:50 pm

    WTF? This episode was a Cleveland steamer. I thought DS might blow something, I just didn’t think it would be a Goat. This boner rises over the harbor at Rhodes, this rectal flame arcs high through the eastern sky!

    Buffy and Jody and Toto were from Madison? Madi-Fuckin’ Sin Wis-Con-SIN!?!

    SweeetCreepinJesus! Treme writers, get a fuckt checker or at least hire somebody to run google for you. Madison is more like Austin and Berkeley than Fargo. For instance, when I moved from Madison to New Orleans, I noticed folks here don’t drink as much:

    all 60,500 campus denizens seem to enjoy themselves enough to have ended up here, again:

    Home to both The Onion

    and The Progressive

    Madison is a city of wit, wisdom and bacchanalian abandon. After viewing this libelous ineptitude I can only assume one thing: Which one of the Treme writers is from that whore Ann Arbor? Point them out so I can beat them like a copper thief!

  51. Kevin permalink
    April 19, 2010 10:47 pm

    Ray, for me it has nothing to do with the character being dislikable (though I’d rather grind my teeth into shards than spend an hour in his company). Like Greg, I just don’t think “Davis” fits in this story, written and played as broadly as he is. (Who on that staff wrote the line “This is some deep New Orleans shit! You can’t plan that kind of magic!”?)

    From the first scene (come on; a brass-bandhead and an ‘OZ dj wouldn’t know that the first second-line since the storm was happening that day?) to the Lucy-and-Ethel break-in at Tower Records, it’s like this phony person is from some broader, goofier TV sitcom — especially compared to the lovely, subtle acting of everyone else on screen. And, like Greg, for me watching Zahn act act act every second is jarring, and exhausting.

    That’s the alpha and omega of my objection. It has nothing to do with whether “Davis” is likable or not. I loved “The Sopranos,” and found many of those characters reprehensible; I loved “Six Feet Under,” and never wanted to be in the same room with anyone in the Fisher family. It’s not that; I don’t need characters to be likable.

    I’ve had a friend from out of town tell me that the Zahn character is an entryway by which he can get into the rest of the story. Maybe that’s “Davis”‘ purpose. Certainly the critics think he’s fine. I know I’m in the minority.

    I’d just like to see the dj character written — and, more than that, played — with some of the same subtlety as the other folks onscreen; I can get lost in their stories and believe them — but “Davis,” and the way he’s played by Zahn, not for a second.

  52. April 19, 2010 11:37 pm

    Yes, Kevin brings up another better way to say it than my blurt: nuance. Every character in the show already shows nuance and detail and the beginnings of character growth through action. I could not give you a one line summation of Antoine, or Albert, or LaDonna. But I can give you one of Davis, and it would have the word “douchebag” in it.

  53. April 19, 2010 11:43 pm

    I’d argue that without knowing the Ashley Morris backstory and being privvy to some other spoilers about him, Creighton Bernette is pretty lacking in nuance after two episodes as well. As is Sonny. All the white guys, in fact.

  54. April 19, 2010 11:52 pm

    Respectfully disagree about Creighton. He hasn’t had a ton of screen time yet, but we’ve seen some self-doubt, some tacit understanding that he can be a hothead, both passion and cold, sad logic (“It’s a zero-sum game”), and some sentimentality and actual joy. He doesn’t just grimace like he’s trying to shit a tuna can lid.

    As for Sonny, yeah, he’s pretty broad. For such a tiny slice of time, though, I’m seeing a character with different sides — the arrogant, meaner version of Davis (on the street) as well as hints of self-delusion and grandiosity (in the bar). He’s a dark Davis, self-appointed keeper of the cultural flame, as well as (apparently) gripped with self-loathing.

    You know, if they do something with Davis, give him some depth, get Zahn to quit pulling faces and trying to eat his soul patch, I’ll be happier than a pig in shit. Maybe just make the fucker work for money, like (as you and Virgo and Alli have pointed out) everyone else on screen is doing.

  55. April 20, 2010 7:48 am

    I liked this episode. The bookends of Coco killing the cock and the Big Chief bludgeoning the copper thief were very jarring (still trying to digest both events) and the portrayal of “Madisonians” at the hands of a spiteful wannabe ticked me off, but overall, the desperation everyone felt at the time was very nicely done, palpable. LaDonna, Toni, Janette and even the girl Annie, for a little bit, made up for the meh bits.

    Noticed a slight uptick in visits to this blog yesterday, BTW.

  56. virgotex permalink*
    April 20, 2010 8:27 am

    I said this before, but god knows that’s never stopped me from repeating myself. YMMV, but I really do not think every single thing that comes out of these fictional characters’ mouths is something Simon, Overmeyer, et al feel themselves. Do you guys really, seriously think these writers are sitting around going “Let’s stick it to those stupid volunteers?” Alternately, do you really think they’re stupid and blind enough to not realize those people who came and volunteered did something of value, do you think they don’t get that? Really?

    This isn’t a documentary, it’s a long term fictional story based on some real events and real people, but it’s a dramatic work with multiple character arcs and it has to be built the way dramatic works are built. Even if it eventually ends up reaching the same true conclusions that resulted in real life, it is not going to get there the same way. Drama can’t, and doesn’t actually correspond to the way real events happen, except maybe in “Synecdoche, NY.” Screen time in a television play is not cheap. Characters and the words they say have one job: to serve the story, to move things from A to B to C. Characters do not say things that do not serve the story. As Simon says here, there is a reason these scripted events were put there, and it’s not to trash volunteers or trash Wisconsin. It’s to move the story from one place to another and set the stage.

  57. virgotex permalink*
    April 20, 2010 8:39 am

    And all the people who hate him the most are, quite honestly, geeky white guys who are fans of the same music.


    The few black folks I’ve seen comments from say shit like, “yeah, typical white dude”.

    from Deb Cotton’s site, what she’s heard, on the same topic:

    “Ain’t nothing wrong with that character — that’s how them white boys are!”

  58. Kevin permalink
    April 20, 2010 11:53 am

    And all the people who hate him the most are, quite honestly, geeky white guys who are fans of the same music.

    You think so? I like brass-band music well enough, but if I organized my mp3s by genre, it wouldn’t even be in the top 15. Am I a geek? Eye of the beholder, I guess.

    Among the many words I could use to categorize Greg, ‘geeky’ wouldn’t even be in the top 15 of that either.

    Bottom line is that I don’t think I dislike the Zahn character because he reminds of me of my own worst qualities or something; I dislike him because I think he’s poorly written, and I’m afraid Zahn is going to pull a Strasberg hamstring if he keeps up the Acting.

  59. April 20, 2010 12:47 pm

    I guess I forgot that the only college town in America with a monopoly on universal wit, wisdom and bacchanalian abandon is Madison.

    My degree from the University of Georgia in Athens contractually requires me to rise in official opposition to the stated opinion and post the following text:

    Athens, Georgia is the greatest college town on the face of planet Earth.

    And even after accepting that demonstrably provable demographic fact, I must concede that the residents of Athens, university affiliated or not, are far too diverse to rule out anyone from membership based on behavior.

    That being said, if you had a big enough problem with the volunteers as represented in this episode and their affiliation with the University of Wisconsin, we will gladly accept their metaphysical transfer to the University of Georgia.

    We can chalk this whole misunderstanding up to another last-minute recruiting switch from a Big Televen school to an SEC university.


  60. April 20, 2010 1:01 pm

    It is said that New Orleans is the city of Erzulie Dantor and Marie Laveau was her daughter.

    There’s also Other Stuff. As even with Louis Armstrong Park at night. I, myself, have seen that the trees are Something More.

  61. virgotex permalink*
    April 20, 2010 1:27 pm


    clarification: when I said Davis could have been given the same response as the copper thief, I should have been much more specific. I didn’t mean the beat down. I meant the statement about building something versus taking/destroying something.

    I don’t hate him at all. I just think the character is meant to be the way he is for a reason. There are guys like him in every cultural mecca on the planet, and they tend to be consumers rather than creators.

  62. April 20, 2010 1:53 pm

    That bit of Zahn breaking into Tower Records — it recalled the endless looping of the black looters during the Catastrophe. and again, in the days post the Haitian Earthquake — where are Our Looters, the media screamed, we want, we need, we demand Our Looters, and We Will Have Looters NOW.

    So, of course, they got Their Looters. even if the story makes it clear that it wasn’t looting, the caption trumpeted LOOTER — even a poor fellow with a sack of powdered milk going to feed his babies.

    When white people break into a store and take things without paying, it is labeled survival and self-reliance. We discussed this often with our white friends from uptown who described their neighborhood’s daily trek to Whole Foods for water and so on.

    As one learned from re-watches of The Wire, Simon mirrors so much in an episode, bits and pieces commenting on each other, amplifying and reflecting each other, as well as the outside world. Usually though, at least the first time around, I don’t have the wider vision to catch it all, right away.

  63. Mark permalink
    April 20, 2010 3:54 pm

    I loved Davis “liberating” his CDs because I, too, got a nice legalese letter from Tower when I was out in CA post-Katrina saying I woudn’t be getting my consignment CDs back nor any money for them. That scene really wasn’t about looting about getting screwed by a company going into bankruptcy protection. I was cheerin’ “Go Davis!” as he went in to get what was rightfully his.

  64. jeffrey permalink
    April 20, 2010 4:07 pm

    Here’s the Offbeat article that covered the actual consignment controversy.

  65. Brueso permalink
    April 20, 2010 7:09 pm

    whoa- digging all the passion here. Maybe that’s the best you can say about any piece of work- does it get people passionate?

    I don’t quite understand the David slaggers cause people like that are around music scenes everywhere. I actually appreciate the character for his passion about music- someone else thinks its about something else. (Which kinda made me laugh- we’re all making guesses on what motivates these fictional characters based on their actions alone cause we can’t actually be in their heads, agreed?) and while yes, some of them are somewhat based on real people, at the end of the day, they’re beings created by some writers. (All of whom which- in the case of “Treme” would acknowledge their own music geekiness, so I’m sure in writing Davis they see a more extreme version of themselves when it comes to that). I actually thought ep 2 showed Davis a little more realistic and nuanced vs. ep 1 and I’m sure that’s going to continue. I give Steve Zahn big props for his performance.

    And yeah – I’m with the person who said “Just cause Simon’s character is criticizing volunteers does not mean that that’s an opinion David Simon (or Eric Overmyer and anyone doing the writing) shares”. They may have been reporting the kind of thing they heard, or maybe they’re just trying to say “Guess what- this guy Sonny is not a good guy”. I mean, it would be highly unrealistic that all the musicians are just cool cats, right? (As for the “Shake the Devil” similarities- well, it could be that that’s where that one is heading. Eric Overmyer wrote an episode of “Homicide” based on the N.O. cop who killed her partner who was working security at a Vietnamese restaurant and then tried to kill the entire family that owned it (2 of the kids hid in a refrigerator but recognized her voice). The reality of that story is not pretty, but maybe it’s an important story that needs to be told, because it is part of the reality that was post-Katrina N.O.

    I saw the Chief’s beat down of the boy as part of the result of going through what he’d been through the past few months since the storm. Would you have beat him beforehand? Probably, but maybe not to that extent. But there I go like everyone else guessing what this fictional character who I’ve barely seen would do (it is probably is a holdover of thinking ‘What Would Lester Do?” as someone else pointed out since Clarke Peters has played them both).

    Anyway- I may not agree with everything I’m reading here, but I’m loving the enthusiasm!

  66. NikiFrisky permalink
    April 20, 2010 9:13 pm

    Maitri! WOW!!! I still haven’t gotten to watch the episode yet. I had no idea that this controversy was raging!?! I just waltzed into your living room on sunday and tore you away from the tv to go witness the birth of a lil horse! If I had known what was goin on here, well, I still would have made you come! Congrats on having such an interesting and well read blog. It was awesome (and surreal) to see you while I was visiting. I’m your blog’s newest fan!

  67. April 21, 2010 12:20 am

    Well, yes and no. Coco does participate in voodoo ceremonies, but he definitely doesn’t talk like that while he’s doing it…

  68. April 21, 2010 12:22 am

    well said…

  69. Mark Gstohl permalink
    April 21, 2010 11:58 am

    Let me comment on the beatdown. I’m a pretty peaceful guy. Not prone to violence. But after Katrina I was living in Nashville and working at Vandy. One early morning I was out taking pictures (I couldn’t sleep. Wonder why…) and a guy came up behind me and demanded my money and camera. He had a gun. I told him one of two things were going to happen. Either he would shoot me and take my stuff or I’d kick his ass. It scared him and he ran off. If I had had my inhaler, I would have chased him down and given him the beatdown he deserved. This scene is pretty authentic to me. I wouldn’t dare do that now. But at the time, I was thinking, “Oh hell no!”

  70. April 21, 2010 1:02 pm

    You were gonna beat him with your inhaler?

  71. Tim permalink
    April 21, 2010 8:07 pm

    Hmm, all the “pride” references – I wonder if one of the characters will turn out gay. My vote is for Delbert Lambreaux – stylish, handsome and disconnected from his family …

  72. razorboy permalink
    April 22, 2010 6:53 pm

    Cool Treme thread – I just found this site through the great First-Draft. I’m not so down on Davis, probably because he reminds me of so many of my music wannabe friends. I felt that Coco voodoo and the Indian chief stuff was a little weird but I’m from Austin, so I don’t know. I just love the music. New Orleans and Denton, Texas always have the best damn drummers.


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