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THE

Defender Picks

 

Jeudi

January 29th

St. Cecilia’s Asylym Chorus

Old US Mint, 2p.m.

Choral group welded through New Orleans eclectic music scene; $5

       

Jonathan Freilich

Ogden After Hours, 6p.m.

Hear the guitarist/composer play and speak at Thursday’s premier after hours event

 

Chrisette Michelle

Saenger, 7:30p.m.

Grammy nominated singer for her album “Better” in 2013

 

Johnny Vidacovich

Maple Leaf, 12a.m.

Drumming sensation takes the stage with Mike Dillon and Brian Haas

 

 

Moth GrandSLAM Championship: 1

The Joy Theater, 7:30p.m.

Ten StorySLAM champs retell their tales to the theme “Fish Out of Water”

 

Vendredi

January 30th

Lynn Drury

Old US Mint, 2p.m.

New Orleans songwriter performs a solo show

 

Helen Gillet

Old US Mint, 8p.m.

Cellist uses electronic loops to create compelling compositions

 

Pelicans vs LA Clippers

Smoothie King Center, 7p.m.

L.A. vs. LA

 

Donnie Darko

Prytania Theatre, 12:15 a.m. (also playing 31st)

Cult classic takes to the big screen…again

 

Soul Creole

d.b.a., 10p.m.

A band made up of LA and TX natives mix up a pot of gumbo goodness with hints of zydeco, blues, soul and hip hop

 

Gravity A: Re-Orientation

Tipitina’s, 10p.m.

New Orleans funk quartet gets reoriented with Sonic Bloom ft. Eric Bloom of Lettuce

 

In the Mood: A 1940s Musical Review

Saegner, 2p.m. and 7p.m.

13-piece band jazzes it up with six singer-dancers complete with WWII era costumes

 

Slippery When Wet

House of Blues, 8p.m.

A tribute to Bon Jovi

Samedi

January 31st

Krewe du Vieux

French Quarter, 6:30p.m.

The raunchy and sarcastic Quarter parade is back and rolling down a new route

 

Krewe Delusion

French Quarter, 7:15

Burlesque diva Trixie Minx presides over Delusion rolling after Krewe de Vieux

 

Big Sam’s Funky Nation

d.b.a., 11p.m.

Get funky after Krewe de Vieux


Snakes in the Temple

5th Circuit Court Lamps at Center of Unfolding Courtroom Mystery



The twelve sit loosely coiled holding up large opaque globes of light in the West Courtroom. Noted by everyone who appears for court, or works in the building, no one has a clue how they got there. They are the brass snake lamps of the Fifth Circuit, the most enduring mystery of a New Orleans landmark.

 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals building, named since 1994 after Judge John Minor Wisdom, turns 100 years old next year. The Court plans to celebrate the centenary with festivities coinciding with its annual judicial conference. Six hundred people - judges, spouses, and guests -- will be on hand.  Many will remember the landmark civil rights decisions issued by the Court, often written by Judge Wisdom. Others may roam the large marble hallways designed by James Gamble Rodgers in the style of Italian Renaissance Revival, marveling over the intricate interior.

 

For Jesse Cannon, Assistant Circuit Executive for Space and Facilities, the coming centenary offers a chance to show the wonders and mysteries unknown to people wandering nearby Lafayette Park or hurriedly passing the front doors at 600 Camp Street. Cannon, an architect, has been studying the Wisdom Building since he first arrived during a twelve-month pilot program back in 1987.  

 

"We've always had a desire to learn more about this building," Cannon says.

 

The rattlesnakes - yes, rattlesnakes - of the West Courtroom remain mystery number one.

 

Cannon knows that the 12 lamps - two in front, two in back, four on each side - came with the original decor of the building. He knows the U.S. Treasury supervised the two million dollar design and construction, completed in 1915.  But that's all he knows for certain, though he researches and deduces. 

 

"Wherever these fixtures were formed, the lighting fixtures in the other two courtrooms had to come from the same place," he says. "It would only make sense." 

 

Those lamps consist of traditional bald eagles, but each room has a different design. They decorate the East and En Banc courtrooms, where the Fifth Circuit always held court.

 

The West Courtroom, in contrast, housed the federal district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana until 1963. The snakes oversaw all manner of federal trials. The courts left in 1963 for renovation. Hurricane Betsy changed plans. The building spent years as a temporary school; children learning by the light of the snake lamps. 

 

When the Fifth Circuit returned to its home in 1973, court business and personnel had increased so much that the Appeals Court took over entirely.  Today, all three courtrooms - East, En Banc (where all the judges of the Fifth Circuit will hear a case) and West - are used regularly one week a month and as well during special sessions. 

 

But, why snakes? 

 

Sure, for a room that's filled with lawyers, what better symbol can there be than rattlesnakes?  But Cannon thinks the designers had more serious intentions.

 

"One of the interpretations is that the snakes represented good and evil, which here in the courtroom is a pretty ideal, convenient if you will, interpretation," he says. "Also snakes represented healing. Images of serpents were placed outside temples and other religious buildings several thousand years ago to protect those temples from evil."

 

Think of the Rod of Asclepius or the Caduces, the basis for the symbol still used today in medicine. Cannon, belonging to the prestigious Fellow American Institute of Architects, points out that the building was clearly designed to be a judicial temple by the architect. The decor in the great marble hallways is distinctly classical in its design. Other judicial buildings created during that era have the same Greek and Roman imagery. 

 

In the En Banc courtroom, he points to small, grotesquely gothic faces looking down from the hand-stained ceiling.  He sees intentionality in the creation of all these complex symbols. 

 

"The architects certainly wanted to evoke some sense of justice and the court system," he says. "They may have done the same research and came up with these symbols from past cultures."  The great hallways contain panoplies of classical imagery.

 

Like all mysteries, everyone's entitled to their opinion.  The Circuit Court library has a four-page history that says of the snakes, "Some say it is an homage to Texas.  Some say it is in recognition of a famous statues called Rattlesnake by Frederic Remington." 

 

Cannon today works with the General Services Administration on maintenance and restoration projects.  He's primarily concerned with keeping the historical integrity of the finishings and the fixtures that were part of the original construction, including those brass rattlesnakes.  He's located blueprints, photographs, and other drawings relating to the construction of the building.  He's recently gotten the original drawings from the National Archives that are now on display. 

 

"Over the last 27 years or so, we've been constantly looking for source material that will give us a better understanding and appreciation of the history of the building," he says. "So it's an ongoing process." 

 

Someday he and the rest of the staff of the Wisdom Building hope to solve the mystery of the brass rattlesnakes.

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Contributors:

Dead Huey Long, Emma Boyce, Elizabeth Davas, Ian Hoch, Lindsay Mack, Anna Gaca, Jason Raymond, Lee Matalone, Phil Yiannopoulos, Joe Shriner, Chris Staudinger, Chef Anthony Scanio, Tierney Monaghan, Stacy Coco, Rob Ingraham,

Staff Writers

Cheryl Castjohn, Sam Nelson

Art Listings

Cheryl Castjohn

Photographers

Brandon Roberts, Rachel June, Daniel Paschall

Film Critic

Jason Raymond

Puzzler

Paolo Roy

Art Director:

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor:

B. E. Mintz

Published Daily by

Minced Media, Inc.

Editor Emeritus



Stephen Babcock