Debbie Davis, Alex Rawls bring their holiday cheer to “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) on Saturday (Dec. 17)

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Baby, it’s not even close to cold outside, but there’s still plenty of Christmas cheer in the air as “PopSmart NOLA” — an intelligent discussion of New Orleans culture — presents a Super-Sized Holiday Episode on WHIV (102.3 FM) on Saturday (3 p.m. to 4 p.m.).

Joining us in the studio will be special guest co-host and DJ Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk, and special guest vocalist Debbie Davis!

If there is a Father Christmas when it comes to holiday music in New Orleans, it’s Alex Rawls, whose obsession with and coverage of the seasonal genre includes a 2004 cover story for Gambit Weekly (my first clue into his twisted psyche). More recently he penned a holiday-music piece for | The Times Picayune. Back home at My Spilt Milk, Rawls noted that Big Freedia has released a Christmas EP, “A Very Big Freedia Christmazz,” and a track on the “Office Christmas Party” soundtrack. Earlier in the week, he ran news of her releases along with news of this Friday’s release of “Merry Christmas Mr. Fields” by Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos. He also reviewed the EP as well as Christmas albums by She & Him, Kissing Party, R. Kelly and David Bazan, among others.

For the angel atop the tree, Rawls assembled his own special free Christmas music mixtape for you to download. “We guarantee it’s 99 percent sentiment-free and snark-free,” Rawls told readers, “as indie rock and electronic artists commit to their own songs and covers with the same passion and intelligence they bring to their music the other 11 months of the year.” Rawls will discuss his obsessions and play from his stash.

Our special guest vocalist, Debbie Davis, has become a New Orleans music treasure. Whether performing with her husband, the great sousaphonist Matt Perrine, the Mesmerizers or the Pfister Sisters, Davis has been one of the most consistently wonderful voices of New Orleans. Her 2014 Mesmerizers album, “Linger ’til Dawn,” was a critical smash. And of course her holiday release with Matt, “Oh Crap, It’s Christmas!,” is a seasonal favorite. She’ll join Rawls and me to discuss her work and favor us with some of her work.

You can listen on the radio or follow along online at Join us, and help us keep the intelligent discussion going!

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 5: Extended interview with Alexandra Scott, helpful links on sexual assault and harassment

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(NOTE: Regretfully, it appears due to a technical glitch, Ep. 5 might not be saved for archival purposes. Until this is figured out, please enjoy this extended version of the Alexander Scott interview, which was incredibly revealing and offers some of the most sobering examples of what New Orleans performers go through on a regular basis in terms of sexual harassment. Also check out the helpful links and other resource info at the bottom of the page.)

Even before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States back on Nov. 8, women across the United States were horrified at the language about and attitude that Trump has expressed toward women — and those most horrified might well have been women who have experienced some form of sexual assault, abuse or harassment. As increasingly more women come forward to share their experiences, especially on social media, those numbers become more apparent.

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“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 2: A.J. Allegra, Gary Rucker, Jason Brad Berry and Corey Mack

PROMO 11-5-16.pngOur sophomore effort of the radio version of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) was, if nothing else, a very fun time — an “Outsized Political Discussion” episode with interesting observations, an embarrassing technical difficulty (my bad) and Donald Trump showing up in the most unlikely places (in the conversation).

We welcomed director A.J. Allegra and co-star Gary Rucker of Rivertown Theaters’ current production of “1776” and its relevance heading into Tuesday’s (Nov. 8) elections, investigative journalist Jason Brad Berry of American Zombie, and comedian (and guest co-host) Corey Mack. We also had a chance to hear southwest Louisiana journalist Herman Fuselier read an excerpt from his new book, “Ghosts of Good Times: Louisiana Dance Halls Past and Present” (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press), a coffee-table book in collaboration with photographer Philip Gould. (My apologies to listeners for the minute-long gap of dead silence, cleaned up here in the edit.)

This week’s playlist:
Tupac Shakur — “Changes”
“1776” soundtrack — “Sit Down John”
“1776” soundtrack — “Piddle Twiddle and Resolve”
Vivaldi — “The Four Seasons”

[Read more: A.J. Allegra’s Top 5 political-themed musicals]

Tune in next Saturday at 3 p.m. for our next episode, in which we examine the Affordable Care Act and its impact on New Orleans musicians and other artists, now that the registration period has opened. Until then, keep following along on Facebook as well as on Instagram (@popsmartnola) and Twitter (@dlsnola504), and please remember to keep the intelligent conversation of New Orleans culture going.

TV show “The French Quarter,” adapted from book by “Gangs of New York” author, gets green light: Deadline Hollywood

French Quarter.pngApproval has been given for a TV series version of Herbert Asbury’s book, “The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld,” according to Deadline Hollywood.

Asbury’s well known for his “Gangs of New York” that inspired Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning 2002 movie. That book was published in 1927; “French Quarter” came out in 1938 but has been re-released in recent years.

According to the Deadline Hollywood article, two different Louisiana-based production companies (Vermillion Entertainment and Rubicon Entertainment) will oversee the show, with cast and crew still to be determined:

Being from New Orleans, we were naturally drawn to the material that showcases an incredible time in history spanning pirates and riverboat gambling to voodoo and politics,” Vermilion president Todd Thompson was quoted as saying. “We are excited to further our great relationship with Rubicon.”

[Read more: The New Yorker on the forgotten crime novels of Herbert Asbury]

Vermilion got in the news recently for announcing a planned anthology series based on Alfred Hitchcock’s works, while Rubicon plans an adaptation of Stephen King’s “Drunken Fireworks.”

Should be fun. Stay tuned.

(Hopefully it will be better than “French Quarter Undercover”)

New Orleans actress Kerry Cahill on her own loss, following Pulse Orlando shooting

Editor’s Note: New Orleanian Kerry Cahill is an educator and professional actress whose life in public was completely transformed when her father, 62-year-old physician’s assistant Michael Cahill, was the only civilian among the 13 murdered in the Fort Hood mass shooting back in 2009. Cahill, whose screen credits include such films as “Now You See Me,” “Oldboy,” TV’s “Common Law” and the upcoming “Free State of Jones,” was featured in Greg Barker’s documentary “Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma” — which began airing on HBO this past February. In the aftermath of the Pulse Orlando shooting, I asked Cahill if she would reflect on her experiences and how if at all these recent shooting resonates with her.

I will introduce myself. My name is Kerry Cahill, I’m an actress and a teacher and a 16-year resident of New Orleans. My father was murdered at Fort Hood Army Base on Nov. 5, 2009. It was a domestic terrorist attack. “Domestic terrorism” means activities that A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended — to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion. Also: It means it’s at home, and the attack comes from home; meaning the terrorist is from your country. It also means the attack may not always be violent.

So this definition includes the Westboro Baptist Church, the Charleston, S.C. shooter, the Oak Creek shooter, the Orlando shooter, and the Lafayette shooter. I make sure we realize this because I’m pointing out that we have a very large problem in America that is beyond Islamic extremism. Domestic terrorism doesn’t discriminate; domestic terrorists will target any group they don’t like: soldiers, homosexuals, women, religious groups and African Americans.

Now that the definition of domestic terrorism is clear, let’s move on. We are a country in grief and we have been in grief for a very long time. I don’t know anyone that has not been affected by gun violence, and I know quite a few people all across the nation. I travel a lot, and I moved a lot as a child. I’m willing to bet you, the reader, know at least five people affected by gun violence. So it is safe to say that we have a violence problem in America and people are using guns most of the time to enact this violence.

I’m not sure how to say this next part without it sounding mean, but it’s important that you realize this. You are probably not going to be a hero if this ever happens to you. I say this because I think the human condition requires us to have a sense of certainty and control over our lives to feel safe. Mass shootings and gun violence are obviously uncertain. No one I have ever met runs faster than a bullet. There is no negotiating. So if you are in a movie theater, club or a well-lit mall, and you have a gun and you are not a special forces or SWAT-team-trained individual, the first thing you will do when the shooting starts is freeze for about three seconds. Three short seconds. About five bullets. It’s not on purpose, it’s not because you don’t care; it’s because your body is in shock. If you have not already been shot now you are catching up and there is chaos, people are running, screaming, the gunman is still shooting, and you are shaking. Now pick that gun up and miss all the other people and make a kill shot in three seconds while the shooter is moving around. Do it! Come on! What’s wrong with you?

(Learn more: Read CNN article on Michael Cahill)

At the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Fort Hood Army Base there were many heroes; charging the shooter, warning people and saving lives. Most of the people there that day were trained soldiers and first responders; uniquely able to respond to an attack. My father was one of the people who charged the shooter. Let’s explain him a bit: 62 years old, more than 20 years in the Army, and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Spokane, Wash.. He was also in a cubicle when it started, so frankly that gave him two or three split seconds to start running. He was a hero everyday, too. He stood up for people all the time, fought for his patients, and never backed down. It was a habit with him to fight; to charge the bad guy was an extension of that. I urge you to look at your daily habits, because that’s what comes out when a trauma happens.

I still miss my dad, I fight for veterans to further his mission, I tell stories about him, I emulate him, and I …. I cry, more often than I will admit. I cry when something great happens, when something bad happens, I pick up my phone and call his voicemail; we still have his phone on. I’m missing a piece of me. I’m never getting it back, and I am just one of the thousands upon thousands affected. I can tell you there are wounded from the Fort Hood shooting still getting treatment from their wounds, bullets lodged in their bodies, severed nerves, brain surgery after brain surgery, and more.

Brody's 1st Christmas

Michael Cahill with family

I can tell you that the phrase “That must have been hard.” is haunting. Why is it past tense? Do people think that mass shootings, trauma, terrorist attacks suddenly go away? I’m getting better at moving through life with this suitcase of trauma, but movie theaters make me nervous, as do buildings with one exit, and lone men who look a little too quiet or angry because 99 percent of mass shooters are lone men who are a little too quiet or angry.

I say all this because you might think about this when a mass shooting is near your home or your city, but for me it’s a computer tab in my brain that is always open. I am not saying I never laugh or smile or feel joy. I do. I just need you, the reader, to understand that I’m laughing through some pretty thick scar tissue, and, unfortunately, there are more and more people like me every day. That is the bigger problem. I wish I was unique. I don’t want you or my future children to feel this way.

Thank you for reading this. I know this isn’t easy. This does not mean I don’t think you should have a gun. I know people who evacuated to safety during Katrina because they had guns to keep them safe. I own a gun, as do most of my friends, and guns are what eventually took down my father’s shooter. Let me be clear: I do not think all guns should be banned. I’m just pointing out that in a couple weeks before the next shooting, we will sit back down and forget that we still need to fix this problem. We will sit back down into our “It would be different for me” world. Because we have to. We have to so we can leave the house and smile.

So here is what I’m asking you to do: Acknowledge some facts, be honest with yourself, be honest about our current politicians and continue to argue, debate and struggle through to find some solutions. I for one tend to wonder why we don’t treat guns like cars. The bigger the car the more you have to do to get a license. I don’t see this as a major issue. Terrorists and future mass shooters are buying the same guns you are, training with the same people. (My father’s shooter trained with good old-fashioned Texas gun lovers.)

Nader and Kerry Waiting to speak

Nader Hasan and Kerry Cahill prepare to speak at event

But my real point here is that we can’t stop in two weeks; we have to focus on multiple policies at a time as well. If you think one sweeping policy will fix this — like banning immigration or banning assault rifles — you’re wrong. There are more guns in America than people, and almost all the mass shooters over the past 20 years were born and raised in the USA. These are facts. I don’t like them either, but they are true. Google them. Most mass shootings are domestic violence, as well. So we, including our congressional members and U.S. senators, have to now use the same tactic the founding forefathers used when they wrote the Constitution. We have to sit in rooms and argue, debate, listen, yell, state facts and believe the facts, and come up with policies for background checks that can help, as well as access to mental health, domestic-violence policy changes, funding for metal detectors possibly, hotlines for people worried that they know someone who needs a mental-health assessment, more training required if you want to own a certain type of gun that can kill 50 people in a short amount of time, etc., etc. … I put the “etcetera” there on purpose because I don’t know the answer, either.

I do know that I will probably not make it out of a mass shooting alive. I won’t win against an AR-15 or a Glock 45. I won’t, and that’s OK. I never want to have to fight one again, I already got lucky once: I was robbed at gunpoint and made it out alive. And if you think you’re tired of the violence, imagine how the 13-year-old in my school who lost her 3-year-old sister to a drive-by shooting feels. Imagine how I feel, imagine how a 9/11 survivor feels, imagine how a president who has had to hug more than 100 victims’ family members feels. So don’t get tired — get mad, get energetic, and don’t stop because I’m never moving out of the USA. I will stay and make it better. I hope you do, too.

Variety: Steve Zissis in “Togetherness” is one of the “Breakout TV Performances of 2015”

Steve Zissis in HBO's "Togetherness" (HB)

Steve Zissis in HBO’s “Togetherness” (HB)

As the year-in kudos machine cranks up for 2015, it’s cool once again to see New Orleans native and Jesuit High graduate Steve Zissis to continue getting the recognition and success he’s due. Variety on Wednesday called Steve Zissis’ turn in HBO’s comedy-drama “Togetherness” as a struggling, overweight Hollywood actor one of the “Breakout TV Performances of 2015.”

Wrote co-authors Maureen Ryan and Brian Lowry:

Another indie-flavored half-hour show about moderately miserable people in a coastal city? You’d be forgiven if deflation was your reaction to the one-sentence description of “Togetherness,” but skipping this HBO show would have meant missing out on Zissis’ fantastic performance. His shaggy character was an everyman actor who was sure his time had passed, but the quiet passion and wily subversiveness he brought to the role were beyond impressive. In a cast full of capable actors with higher profiles, Zissis’ versatility, skill and warmth easily stood out.

A lot of the credit, naturally, goes to Zissis’ keen ability as an actor to mine the emotional and comedic possibilities of what some might dismiss as a stock comic foil. But then there’s the obvious reason: He’s a co-creator along with fellow New Orleanians (and Jesuit grads) Jay and Mark Duplass, who teamed with Mount Carmel grad Stephanie Langhoff, who runs Duplass Brothers Productions. Check out TV columnist Dave Walker’s coverage here. As Zissis told Walker:

I think an open story was part of the plan, but that was what was new about TV for them. In feature films, obviously you have to wrap everything up in a bow in an hour and a half, which is challenging. And I know that Jay and Mark loved being able to tell an open-ended story. I think in some ways it’s also allowing them to go deeper into character study than what you can maybe do in an hour and a half. I think these are probably the most complex characters they may have created so far. It may just be because, by the virtue that it is an open-ended story, you get to live with them longer. They’re loving it.

Zissis is in very talented company, including personal favorites Titus Burgess in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and Krysten Ritter in “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” — both on Netflix. You can hear more of Zissis jib-jabbing with awesome co-star Amanda Peet below. Season 2 is currently underway.

Discussing historic New Orleans theaters on local media (links)

John McConnell The SpudcastAs noted previously, my article on the return (and future) of historic New Orleans theaters in the downtown area (and beyond) graces the November issue of Biz New Orleans. It’s an interesting look at the variety and viability of these beautiful theaters, each of whom can, if properly run, can fill a need in the New Orleans entertainment scene. There was a lot to talk about with this article, and so I did:

You can check out my appearance on WWNO’s (89.9 FM) “Inside the Arts” on Tuesday (Nov. 10), with Diane Mack.

You also can check out my appearance on John McConnell’s WLAE-TV show “The Spudcast,” which aired Wednesday (Nov. 11) but also repeats on Thursday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. Here’s the YouTube clip below: