Thursday, January 31, 2008

I am procrastinating out the wazoo today. Yesterday, I worked my butt off cleaning my kitchen, I had to pick up the little guy from school earlier than I should have because he kept spitting on everybody when he was repeatedly told not to (his teacher did the "If you do that one more time..." and, of course, he did it. Mom had to take the kid out like she was taking out the garbage as a result), and I rewarded myself by checking out last night's parades (Clay and Candice did good in their float debut, by the way). Today, my body and my legs are paying the price for all that activity. And I still have to clean the rest of this place up - our pals who moved to the north shore recently will be commandeering our place for the Muses parade tonight, if the weather doesn't kill their plans first. At least I can see my countertops again and my toilets are squeaky clean.

Sooo, much as I would love to take this whole cleaning job and shove it, I really don't have much of a choice right now, especially with the Krewe of Pancakes and Syrup doing its thing at my humble blue home on the gray brick road come Mardi Gras Day.

invite picture courtesy of Dan C.
If'n you wanna come, lemme know at
Act right and bring somethin'!

I'm waiting on the painters of our house to unstick the windows they painted shut so that, among other things, we can head out onto our balcony and pelt passersby with beads accumulated from past parades this weekend (hey, it improves the little guy's hand-eye coordination!). I am also contemplating whether or not we should stock up on some s'mores ingredients to take advantage of the fire pit in the backyard our tenants have had going off and on throughout the parading season - Dan got some marshmallows the other night after a long evening of checking out some parades, only to find that the fire had gone out by the time he came back with the food. Man, was he ticked. Anybody got a line on purple, green, and gold marshmallows?

ANYway, I have me some links.

A little something from AnimaMundi that's kind of appropriate to this time of year:

"Here's the problem for a drinker.
If things are going to hell, you drink to forget. If they're going great, you drink to celebrate. If there's nothing to do, you drink to have something to do."

Best argument for not adding to the national Nielsen ratings on February 3rd and going out to watch Hulk Hogan in Bacchus instead: tell Super Bowl sponsor Bridgestone-Firestone to take their off-the-books yet still documented slavery practices in Liberia and shove 'em up their collective butts sideways with chainsaws. Chances are, I will be out on the parade route anyhow as an official enabler for Dan's obsession with doubloons, while he sits at home and watches the Patriots (hopefully) get their comeuppance. Plus, I really really don't want to enable stuff like this. Double Stuf Oreos are gross.

Cliff gives us actions and words to live by.

Charlotte informed everybody on the bloggers' listserve about the New Orleans Murder Blog, which I have added to my blogroll. Today's entry is a sobering one for me personally (my cousin stayed in that Hollerday Inn when he was here with his high-school group), as is the one for Nicola Cotton, the officer shot in the line of duty recently in Central City.

Miss Amanda Shaw is a real switch - a teenager in the public eye who is smart, polite, and is following her dream on her own terms. Damn, that's kind of sad that that's not the norm. Plus, her new album is really good. And yeah, I know how strangely cool it would be if she was "Miss Amanda Jones", but hey, it ain't a perfect world. Deal with it.

If I were of a mind to do a Sheckrastos-style caption contest, I'd do it with this picture. Priceless. Absolutely priceless.

This is for Maitri. If you ever get in a situation where you are in labor and you see one of those patented turntables in the delivery room, RUN. Listen and giggle, madame.

I took this sucker recently and was thoroughly embarrassed. I am only 67-point-whatever percent smarter than the rest of all us peons. Take the quiz and lie down afterwards. Drink yourself into oblivion if you need is that time of year after all.

Oh, and my Hornets offer still stands, youse guys. I must warn you, however, you may have to prop me up with a two-by-four and dust me off if you expect it to happen right after Mardi Gras.

Just letting you know....

Update, 12:43 PM: Okay, so loads of parades have been rescheduled or cancelled due to the weather that's coming. Can you say "momentary sigh of relief?"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ohh, boy.

I just got insanely inspired.

I never shoulda read the comment thread to this post in the first place. It must be Mardi Gras getting me going or something. Problem is, when I hear wusses like AshMo and Obamoyster standing up for the home team like they do and then lamenting that they can't go due to babysitting problems...well...just check my offer:

All RIGHT, dudes. Bring the kids on over to Camp Chez Liprap when you head to a Hornets game. Lemme know WELL AHEAD of time.

The only thing I ask for in return is two season tix.

Am I out of line? Out of my head? Have I just unleashed a potential Blogger Spawn Hoe-Down (as G-Bitch would call it)/Blogger Pilgrimage To The Arena sans Kiddies?

Only time will tell. Get back to me, fellas...

And, if this thing DOES get bigger (like, say, Mr Clio decides to take advantage with his brood), I will need volunteers for assistance with the young 'uns. Compensation for the volunteers to be named later.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A "response" to the SOTU address last night from Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas, aired on ABC. It was much better than seeing the illustrious oaf pressing the flesh last night, as though he were running for office again. I much preferred watching Ratatouille for the umpteenth time with my son over watching Dubya throw New Orleans a bone and implore everyone in a highly unconvincing manner to trust him.

She mentions, in her speech, that the city manager of Greensburg, Kansas, was there on the dais behind the Rampart monkey. Anybody remember Greensburg?

more awful pictures of the May 4, 2007 tornado's aftermath can be seen here

Sebelius had a prime opportunity to really skewer the lame schmuck currently in the White House. And she had all the ammunition with which to do so. In the aftermath of the EF-5 tornado that wiped out most of the city, Sebelius expressed her concern that recovery efforts were being hampered by the fact that much of the equipment needed was in Iraq:
"When the troops get deployed, the equipment goes with them. So here in Kansas about 50 percent of our trucks are gone. We need trucks. We are missing Humvees, we're missing all kinds of equipment that could help us respond in this kind of emergency," she said.
She is the one Democratic leader left of a state hit by catastrophic disaster that saw with Greensburg some similar things to what Kathleen Blanco saw with 8-29 and after. Jindal, our newly inaugurated Republican governor, cannot do this and won't even try.

I keep listening to her speech over and over, trying to decipher it. It is a wimpy, wispy piece of retort, there's no question. She sounds as tired as I am of all the crap that's been going on. She is quite concerned for the well-being of the entire country, for certain, but she's got her own problems. All she could do was implore Dubya to get off his duff and start working with the Democratic Congress to make things better for ourselves and for future "greatest generations". She offered up Greensburg as a model for "green living" when she could have taken some time to discuss how the infrastructure of the entire country needs some serious help of a different sort of green. Maybe it's the name "Kathleen" that's the problem...note to parents of a future greatest generation: stay away from that name if you want your daughters to go far in politics.

Kathleen, honey, if this is what you mean by "bipartisan action", well, I think you need to get more specific in order to distance yourself, and help distance your party, from these kinds of actions. And our illustrious oaf of a prez has had eight years to work with Congress and has squandered every opportunity to do so. You sound like a tired, civilized lady - but divisive politics are unfortunately the order of the day.

God bless, and sleep well, and in the morning, let's get to work.

For some people, that work will be business as usual.

And, in American politics today, that is a sad, sad thing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Gambit hasn't updated their site yet (update, 5:45 PM: oh, goody! They got around to it), but I caught this little quote in the cover article by David Winkler-Schmit about Endymion's move back to their Mid-City route (thank GOD and the City Council and the po-lice!).:
Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardy notes that the second Saturday of the parade season puts a lot of stress on NOPD in terms of logistics. Parades that day include NOMTOC, a large and popular Algiers parade that rolls in the morning, followed by Iris and Tucks on the Uptown route - and finishing with Endymion's Mid-City trek.

"The fact that the NOPD has the manpower to do that speaks volumes about where we are in the recovery," Hardy says. "To me it's a win, win, win, win. Mid-City wins, Endymion wins, Uptown wins, and, most of all, NOPD is strong enough, even if it's not 100 percent. I never want to sound like I have rose-colored glasses...but this is certainly more than a baby step back."
Arthur, man, your glasses may not be rosy, but you probably should get your prescription checked. Go visit the police as they monitor the parades standing in the same places for twelve-hour shifts, with short short breaks for eating and maybe the bathroom, and see how well you see after that. For the NOPD to be "winners" in your scenario, they have to be standing their feet off and watching out for more than the average carnival mischief, all on piddling salaries.

So, folks, be kind to the po-lice. They are keeping your Mardi Gras season a fun one, as they have for many, many years. Pass 'em a handwarmer out there if'n it's cold. Let 'em head for a Hubig's Pie if they so please. And, if the absolute elation of our pal who was on the beat Saturday is any kind of indication, the float riders need to be tossing these to every cop along the route:

Yes, that's treating our law enforcement right here in New Orleans...

I cannot tell you how jealous my husband was.

Oh, and I nominate our illustrious oaf of a prez for Rampart Monkey of the Century. There is little to no confidence in any ability he might have to address the true state of the nation head-on. The man will most likely be laying one huge egg with his speechifying tonight, as mythical Rampart monkeys are wont to do, apparently. Maybe somebody can supply Dubya with several gross of Super Viagra beads to toss to everybody in the Capital to soften the blow a tad. Update, 5:49 PM - Amorphous Funk details the bone Dubya will be throwing this region later tonight. What do you think - should they all stay in the Superdome?

Update, 2:43 PM: And this is treating our law enforcement wrong:
In a 11:45 a.m. press conference, Police Chief Warren Riley said a rape suspect, who the officer was attempting to handcuff, resisted and struggled with the 24-year-old officer. After a tussle lasting about seven minutes, the suspect grabbed the officer's weapon and shot her multiple times...

The officer was patroling alone, without a partner. Riley said many officers patrol by themselves.
Arthur Hardy's not the only one who needs to get his glasses prescription checked. Officers patrolling alone. That's really great. Just what we all need.

via Prytania Waterline

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Although this was the first big parading weekend of the Mardi Gras season, religious school still went on this morning, with the only concession to the city's festivities being an earlier dismissal time. I'm a little apprehensive about how the students in my mosaic glass class are going to finish up all their projects before the trimester runs out - during-the-week work from me will most likely be needed. It's kind of what I bargained for with setting up something this ambitious, though, so I'll just have to do what I have to do.

A question was asked of the clergy this morning about B'not Mitzvah ceremonies (the ones for girls). Why are more of them done in this country than in Israel itself?

The short answer is simply that the orthodox in Israel hold more sway over the decisions that concern women. Because, in the synagogue, women are not required to do as much as men, a bat mitzvah ceremony is seen as unnecessary. A woman is seen as maturing a year earlier than a man (if, in many synagogues in Israel, the ceremonies were given equal time for both sexes, girls would be doing it at twelve, boys at thirteen), but her sphere is largely seen as being in the home. And, yes, that's the nice way to put it all. Somebody stop me before I start to go into why women's voices shouldn't be heard in a shul, why some men still think that a woman reading from the Torah or even touching the Torah is an unclean act, how orthodox women are separated from men in so many public ways...Here in the U.S., though, things are a tad more secular, and a tad more equal. A good thing, in my humble opinion.

The cantor from a different area synagogue gave a different, more convoluted answer that spoke of how times, traditions, and history could contribute a great deal to such ceremonies, to things that Jewish children over the past few hundred years have seen as, at worst, a form of public torture, and at best, as a ceremony of some generational meaning that culminates in a fantastic party.

In Prague, the cantor went looking for relics of the former Soviet Union. His son had asked him for an AK-47 as a souvenir, which would have been impossible for the cantor to purchase, forget about taking it home. The man automatically opted for something a little less expensive, though he had no clue what it could be - yet. He went into a shop that reminded him of an average t-shirt shop in the Quarter, only this one had memorabilia from a failed decades-long experiment in socialism. The cantor walked away from the shop with a Red Army captain's hat for his son and some extra items he hadn't counted on finding at all. He hadn't even been looking for them, but once he saw them, he knew he had to have them.

A case labeled "Inappropriate Judaica" was sitting next to the one that held the captain's cap. It held some items that were relics from the Shoah. Armbands Jewish people had had to wear to show the world that they were Jews and could supposedly bear any kind of crap the Nazis threw at them until the wearers of the armbands were sent to death camps. A stamp with a Star of David on it that was used to stamp the passports and important papers of those who were Jewish. Some "yads" - pointers that were used to follow the words in the Torah scrolls as they were being chanted by the reader - were there as well, dating from the late nineteenth century. They had been stripped of any jewels they might have had on them, yet the silver decoration on them was exquisite. The cantor paid for the armbands and two yads, and consulted with the Holocaust Museum in D.C. about them. The armbands were fakes. The yads, however, were the real thing. They had most likely been plundered from one of many synagogues that were burned or otherwise destroyed in the 1930's and 40's, or taken from someone's possessions as he was loaded onto a train to a camp.

The cantor gave a yad to his niece on the occasion of her bat mitzvah. She was most likely the first person to use the yad as it was intended for the first time in nearly seventy years.

The cantor was also quite certain, as am I, that his niece was the first woman to have ever touched that yad.

How many women will be missing that chance, I wonder? And how many more will be making the most of such opportunities to take their place in history - and possibly even change it? The mind boggles...

I certainly know mine did.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I almost didn't sign up for it this year. But a sense of tradition and by God, I can't miss this! won out.
So I will see y'all there tomorrow afternoon, I hope. Just look for a first-time-ever-outside-of-camp sighting of this. Complete with a rescue dog in her very own doggie life vest. 'Cause I come prepared.

Until then, contemplate this. Lies, damned lies, Facebook stats, and sadistics. I'm not stating my opinion - it's a warning.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I have to approach this sort of news along the lines of "I really really really hope this sticks".

Sad, I know. But it's true...

Laureen Lentz talks of the unanimous approval of a serious overhaul of the Historic Conservation Review District Committee (HCDRC) by the City Council. She also details some of what she terms the "bi-weekly massacres of due process" she observed along with Karen Gadbois.

One important point:
Regardless of how you feel about preservation and the issue of demolitions in the City, this reform is encouraging for all citizens because it sends a clear message in its unanimous authorship by City Council that small-time dictators at City Hall can't continue to operate fiefdoms within their departments irregardless of the laws and procedures without the notice of the public. It's sometimes easy to give up but I am learning to have some faith and patience in this process of reform post-K.
Like I said before, I really hope it sticks. Especially in light of the news that really isn't very new to all us who live here.

G-Bitch actually does this kind of rundown waaay better than I have, with some rightful criticism of thrown in as a little lagniappe. R'fuah sh'leimah goin' out to The Girl in her struggles with strep, G! Y'all be well.

The parades in my neck of the woods begin tonight. One of 'em is rumored to have a real live camel marching in it - a Carnival first. Dan is also thinking it's gonna be a Carnival last, due to the cantankerous disposition of the ship of the desert. Watch out, folks, they spit. Maybe, if it does, we can get Xy to work some placenta magic on the beast.

I can, however, assure you that you won't see camels in Jefferson Parish. And that's the truth.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mardi Gras, Curious George, and the Four Penguins of the Apocalypse from the flick Madagascar (fine, just one penguin) have converged in my son's storytelling.

"Mom, Curious George is a Rampart monkey!"

"Oh, and what is a Rampart monkey?"

"It's a mammal that lays eggs in a nest!"

"Oh, really?" I said, trying hard not to laugh and/or drive off the road (yes, this was, once again, happening in the car). "I thought that was a platypus."

"No, George does that. And his pal Skipper is a Rampart leopard penguin!"

I let him babble on for the rest of the car trip about how George and Skipper laid their eggs all day and all night. I heard all the drama of one of Skipper's eggs making it to term and hatching out of its egg with small crackling coming from it and a peep! I heard other smatterings of Skipper being a big hotelier in Animal City and firing all his monkey employees. I thought this was turning out so much better than the day the little guy announced that "One day, Curious George was all alone. The man in the yellow hat died."

"What????!!!!!" I nearly yelled, happy he'd told me this when we were coming to a stop at a red light anyhow. "What happened????" I asked, horrified.

"Well, George ended up moving to Animal City and working for Skipper," he said matter-of-factly, as though what he'd just said didn't merit any elaboration. Nice. The only time the child has ever mentioned a human being in his stories, and he kills him off. No explanation. The man in the yellow hat is simply gone. Poof. Irrelevant.

Oh, and the Rampart part? Try "Mardi Gras Mambo" for that reference.:

Down in New Orleans
Where the blues was born
It takes a cool cat
To blow a horn
On LaSalle and Rampart Street
The combo's there with a mambo beat

No, I'm not gonna go on with the rest of the song. It's my least favorite Mardi Gras song ever. Hate's not a strong enough word.

Although...Rampart monkeys and Rampart leopard penguins make for mighty interesting costume ideas. Hmmmm...

Naaaah. I just can't go with a trainwreck of a song lyric, storybook animals, and some creative zoology as an excuse to dress up. That would just be wrong, wrong, wrong. It's all happening way waaay too early this year to be that crazy. Heh heh.


Recent email from my mom, with the surprising title of "This sucks":

Leigh this is rediculous (sic).
Hang in there Love, Mom

As ever, Mom is correct. She's also been getting some blogspeak through osmosis, I fear. I'd expect an email titled "This sucks" from Dad more than from Mom; for a moment there, I thought he'd hijacked her email account.

Be well, Mom. Don't worry.

Too many things are happening all at once this time of year fo' sho'.

The Super Bowl.

Super Tuesday.

Mardi Gras.

And now....drum roll please...


And Clay, whatever you do, DON'T toss chunks of ice with Mardi Gras beads imbedded in 'em. That ain't no way to throw. If you need any extra beads to toss without spending any dough, lemme know. I'll be checking to see how cold they are...

Update, 2:48 PM: Oh, and, speaking of Super Tuesday, y'all try THIS dilemma on for size. Pray tell, what would you do?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Found on a park bench this morning:

It is slowly melting, and all I had was my son's digital camera to capture the moment. Oh, well.

Planned obsolescence piece?

I think it's simply detritus from somebody's styrofoam cooler - I saw a small chunk of styrofoam stuck to the other side of the ice. In which case, do we need to call in the Gray Ghost to cover it up as it melts? That riot of color coming from the beads within could start something unsavory. Once that ice melts, it could spread the beads all over the park bench and encourage others to (gasp!) decorate for Mardi Gras! The lines have to be drawn! The public must be protected from this scourge! Uh-huh. I'm so sure...

And, in other news: Shut the hell up is quite right.

I also caught this nifty letter to the editor of the Gambit:
Support for Public Housing: We send this statement in response to the New Orleans City Council's unanimous vote to move forward with the demolition of 4,500 units of public housing. Due to our unique Sister City relationship with the people of the 7th Ward of New Orleans and several Ithaca residents who left our area to work for social justice in New Orleans, we feel a particular affinity to New Orleans and its people.

Housing is a universal human right. We are shocked and outraged that citizens of New Orleans were shot with pepper spray and tasers as they went to ask their City Council to vote against approving demolition permits for public housing. Many more were arrested and harassed. Hundreds of people were turned away from the City Council meeting. Public housing residents and their supporters faced this horrendous treatment when they went to City Council to ask that there be a moratorium on demolition until one-for-one replacement of public housing units is guaranteed and that public housing residents be included in the decision-making process.

In the two-plus years since Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans' poorest families have had a very difficult time returning home. Despite Katrina causing the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War, HUD is spending $762 million in taxpayer funds to tear down over 4600 public housing subsidized apartments and replace them with 744 similarly subsidized units " an 82 percent reduction in housing. We are also concerned and cognizant of the underlying race, class and other discrepancies that are apparent in these and other actions.

We call on our elected officials in New Orleans to stop these needless demolitions and take immediate action to uphold the human rights of New Orleans' poorest citizens.

Maria Coles, Michelle Berry, Gayraud Townsend, David Gelinas, Svante Myrick, Daniel Cogan
Alderpersons, City of Ithaca, N.Y.

Yes, Ithaca. Home of Cornell University. A prominent stop, and sometimes and end-point, for escaping slaves who were working their way up and out of the south through the Underground Railroad. Ithaca is also putting forth an intriguing ecological living experiment and a pretty nifty local currency system that might do us all some good in the trying financial times ahead.

Hey, they had streetcars once, people. And, though they are up north, we can learn from 'em. Just sayin'.

Update, 7:02 PM: Oh, and a further Ithaca - NOLA connection: Love Knows No Bounds.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Went to bed with a whopping headache last night, after one godawful day and a heckuva Tu B'Shevat seder. I ruined what was supposed to be marzipan and it is currently a slightly gooey, hockey-puck-consistency mass on my counter - it was supposed to be a stuffing for dates. Just to give you a hint at what might have triggered my headache, there was some discussion at the table of how creative the rabbis were at weaving through the Jewish calendar such novel ways of religiously sanctioning the act of getting hammered. I wouldn't have done it in the first place, however, if it hadn't been such a spectacularly bad day.

I had Dan drag my headache-ridden self back to the house and up to bed. It was then that I had a dream.

I wouldn't have remembered it at all if it hadn't been for my seeing this tidbit of news in da paper this morning (gee, if our political process hasn't had the trappings of a three-ring circus before, it certainly does now. This is what comes of moving all the primaries to earlier in the calendar year...). Suddenly, I was back in line. Or I was trying to find a way to get in line, an entrance I could use. The place was a maze. I kept trying to help all sorts of people along the way, but I also had to get to safety. I had a family to think about. My ID was in order, and we were in.

Things were much more in order this time around. The folks in San Diego had nothing on us Dome-goers seeking shelter from the upcoming storm. We were wind-proof and flood-proof. We had entertainments galore. I could hear music through the sociable chatter and the undercurrent of fear. Our seats were facing away from the city and in towards the middle, but it was tough to see anything, really. All I really knew was that I had an in. I had gained the privilege of being able to sit and wait out any disaster, any catastrophe, in comfortable surroundings with supposedly like-minded people. It was making me uncomfortable. For my son, it proved to be doubly so, because he had made his way back outside, and I had to, too, in part to find him.

I made my way out and propped open the door behind me in what I thought was a subtle manner, so that nobody else would go rushing in after I'd left. I found the little guy pretty quickly, as he hadn't gone far, but I couldn't find the way back in. The rain was coming down, but not as heavily as I'd thought it would be coming. There were still many people on the side walks, in various states of distress, denial, or what-have-you. All I knew was I had to get my son to safety.

We went into an underground mall, which I thought would be connected to the Dome for certain. I passed up many, many people, and loads of stores and storefronts. Everyone underground seemed to be going about their emergencies here. Nobody was worried. I got very close, to the middle of some clothing store that had at one time had a hatch into the Dome from beneath its floors - there was even a headline pasted up somewhere from an old newspaper that showed our illustrious oaf of a prez visiting the hatch for a photo op. I went in and out of other underground stores that bordered on the Dome, but came up with nothing in the way of an entrance. It was raining outside, but there were no strong winds, no collections of water that would lead to flooding. I got my son back home and took some time to look into this further.

I instead became entangled in other people's lives underground. An ingenue past her prime who was obsessed with her legacy. Barroom denizens, restaurant frequenters, artists offering parts with which to make your own art, families, maintenance workers. It was then that I was sunny out. I was tired of being afraid. Somebody had given me and many, many others too much reason to panic when there was nothing, nothing at all. "What about that hatch in the dress shop?" somebody asked me. "Does it still go to the Dome?"

I didn't know, and honestly, I didn't care anymore. "Somebody welded it shut a while back," I said, knowing it might not be true, but it felt true. I didn't care about my "in" any longer. I just wanted to live.

Advice to those wanting to continue living that is most likely gonna be wasted (heh) at this time of year: Stay away from the cheap champagne. And if you aren't gonna stay away, at least advise the younger generation to do so.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The silly:

Mom reads to overtired little guy.

"There are six..."
"And what color are they?"
"Ummmmm...greeeeen (big grin, giggles)."
"No, they're not. You're being silly."
(more giggles)
"What color are they?"
(smiling pause)"Bluuuuue!!!"
"All right! Now, there are seven..."
"Those are not chipmunks. What are they?"
(more giggles, semiserious pause)
"They are field..."
(Mom whoops with laughter) "Noooo, they're field mice! Field munks!!! (shaking my head, laughing some more)"
"(Little guy giggles) Mom, what do field mice do?"
"Well, they run around in the field."
"What else do they do?"
"Well, they eat, and they sleep, and..."
(Drowsy husband yells from our bedroom) "Little Bunny Foo-Foo scoops 'em up and bops 'em!!!"
(Mommy laughs)
"What did Daddy say, Mom?"
"Daddy's talking about a silly rhyme, hon. (sings) Little Bunny Foo-Foo/Hoppin' through the forest/scooping up the field mice/and boppin' 'em on the head."
(kid giggles)
(Mommy thinks: Gee, and folks wonder why our culture is so violent...)
"Aaaaaanyway, so there are eight..."

The sad:

Swampwoman's ongoing monitoring of Somestates' idiocy. Start from these posts and work your way back through a few posts. Stay by the bathroom; you're gonna need it if you start to get sick. Which you probably will.

Tim over at da Nameless Blog keeps on going with his "How's the House Coming" saga. Part six was published today. Don't leave the bathroom yet. Just let it allllll out.

Wet Bank Guide is bidding everybody Goodnight and Good Luck a la Ed Murrow. Mr Folse has certainly put forth missives of a high caliber at that address. It doesn't mean buh-bye to the Net, thank God...but it's the end of an era. Godspeed.

Update, 1-21: The Book gives us his take on the idiot LSU fan YouTube.
Had a cold time at the Krewe du Vieux parade last It was chilly out, which was probably one of the reasons why it moved so fast. We tried to get to our appointed spot as last-minute as we possibly could, but we took two cars, and I was the one who found a relatively close parking spot. I ended up seeing the whole parade by myself...Dan and the little guy opted to take the streetcar instead and it got them there at the tail tail-end of the parade. The kid was the one with the digital camera (I kid you not...he got it for Hanukah from my sister-in-law and her husband this past year and it is indestructible. The picture quality's not too bad, either...), and all he got was a blur of lights over some people's heads and somebody's butt. So, alas, we have no in-parade pictures.

We do, however, have many, many links to paradegoers' pics and parade members' pictures to help suffice in this regard. This IS da internet, y'all.

I give you: Karen
NOLA Notes
Michael Homan
Howie Luvzus

And I give you:DA LOOT!

Not much in number, but quite, quite meaningful to li'l ol' me. Those are themed cups from Maitri which were filled with KdV wooden nickels, red and gold pirate booty beads, and some stylin' glass beads ( made in India these days! and, incidentally, yes, I am still looking for this video...). Those are Cult of Lafcadio Hearn bumpa stickas from Sheckrastos and AshMo. At the last moment Karen Gadbois, aka, the Walking Vodka Bottle, sprung me a rubbery anemone-like bracelet. Our pal Justin, a Seeds of Decline subkrewe straggler, passed me some kumquats and Hanukah gelt (which holiday IS this anyway?????), and I met up with a religious school teacher who was just as surprised to see me as I was her. As a token of our meeting, she passed me a special bagel:
From the Jieuxish Afrikan Injun League
On humble behalf of our Big Macher
Ronald W. Lewis
King of Krewe Du Vieux
His Royal Honor Guard Bestows Upon You
This Jieuxish Mardi Gras Indian Bagel


There Ain't No Jieux
Like A Ninth Ward Jieux
Cause The Ninth Ward Got Just One!

Ain't I lucky? Guess how lucky...

One throw ended up in my bag. A throw I certainly did not get directly from a krewe member, but from a lady next to me who was from out of town and was so, so embarrassed, she ended up putting it in my bag. I laughed about it with her and said jokingly, "Gee, my son's gonna love this!!!"

After meeting up with Dan and the little guy shortly after the parade passed by, we walked back to my fortuitously parked car and made our way home. When we got out of the car, I walked off towards the house and the throw clattered out of a hole in the bag and out onto the sidewalk. Oops. Of course my son had to notice.

"What's that, Dad?"

Dan turned bright red as I picked it back up and put it in the bag in a spot not so close to the hole. "Uhhhhh...." he stalled, searching for the right words. "It's.....a....toy for Mommy, son."

Right. Blame it all on me. This is 2008, folks. A three-speed vibrator sporting a subkrewe theme in permanent marker is an equal opportunity sex toy in this day and age. And, from here on out, I'm taking a strong canvas bag with me to the KdV parades. No more holes in bags for me, thanks.

Friday, January 18, 2008

SHORT STUFF pieces, bits and pieces:

The Houston, we have a problem edition

Why bring Houston into this? 'Cause HANO certainly has.

In contracting out the disaster voucher program to a metropolis in another state, HANO is simply following HUD's lead in getting out of the public housing "business". It's a 6 1/2 hour-plus drive, HCHA officials. Start prepping yourselves for either a) doing the conscientious thing and actually eclipsing HANO many times over or b) treat New Orleanians in need of the vouchers as though we're "over there" and make like any phone calls from folks in need of help are from across the universe. Either way, folks here just won't be winnahs...damned if Harris County does their job and shows, once again, how inept local agencies are, damned if they don't do their job and more folks leave the area as a result. Nice.

Speaking of housing, I'm behind on my plans to return to the glass grind due to some lack of funds. No, it's not HANO's fault. Our property manager has been in and out of the hospital due to serious health a result, our rent checks are very, very behind in getting to us. Yes, we are waaay too nice for our own good, sometimes. On top of it all, we have a tenant who smokes like a chimney and whose emissions have been wafting down into our bathroom and bedroom, making it difficult for Dan to sleep in there at times. It's kind of our fault for not including "non-smoking" on our leases - in fact, we just realized we are the only ones in our entire house who don't smoke. On the plus side, a number of our tenants did a great job trimming a tree in the backyard and cleaning things up back there in general. Sours and sweets, y'all.

As an added side effect of the money tsuris, I've been cooking my way through a nifty bunch of recipes my neighbor lent to me on New Year's Day, put together by the author of this blog. Had some great stuffed zucchini last night, I whipped up a chocolate and zucchini cake and a tomato tart the other day, and I had a mustard chicken stew last week. Good, good stuff, and I highly recommend Clothilde Dusoulier's cookbook. Next up for the making: either a curried turkey filling good for sammiches or the ratatouille. If and when I follow through with more recipes from her book after that, I'll just have to buy a copy of my own.

Problem with that is, I already have a number of books I'm working my way through. Honestly, I have to quit with the nonfiction. The last book I finished was Frederick Taylor's Dresden, a good book which made me more than a little depressed... especially, for some reason, when I found out that the firestorm that destroyed the city was kicked off by the RAF on Mardi Gras 1945. Puts getting bombed on Fat Tuesday in a whole new, sobering perspective. Currently, I'm in the middle of NOLAFugees' Life In The Wake ( huh - they went from quasi-fictional humorist journalism in Year Zero all the way to mostly good postdiluvian fiction) and Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games. Escapism, here I come...

I came very, very late to the NORA Unconference last Saturday, but early enough to hear the tail-end of a talk by Ommed Sathe, the director of real estate strategies for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (got questions for NORA? Go here.) One thing he spoke of that jumped out at me was that it is now taking an estimated $150,000 to develop and maintain a 1500 square foot housing unit. For a good, enterprising person in this city to be able to do that, he/she needs to be making $60,000 per year. Oy vey. All I could really do was take notes on the work other people had done all morning in their respective groups, notes I will be passing on to a couple of places in the ThinkNOLA neck of the woods...if they think they can use 'em over there.

So I head on into the weekend with hope that things will be better. We're headed to the Krewe du Vieux parade tomorrow seems that I now know large numbers of folks marching in the different subkrewes, so I have to be there or else. The little guy will also be in attendance, because we are not above corrupting the young 'un. The kid's already doing some great fake passes, some tackling (much to my chagrin - he's always trying to put the hurt on kids twice his size) and serious running with the football, which is having Dan thinking future running back. Personally, I think the child is gonna make a great logistical manager. Behold his impressions of the workings of an average airport:

Organized chaos...the kid is the master. And so's the KdV.

Update, 5:15 PM: Okay, LSU fans, you got some problems - but da Cajun Boy ain't one. Neither is his friend James, whose email is reprinted in the Cajun Boy's link. Read on, all. We'll see ya in front of the po-lice station on Royal tomorra night.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

...was when I began blogging.

I had no clue, y'all. And, in some ways, I still don't.

Make no mistake. I am addicted to this thing called the blogosphere. I'm linking to so many things on occasion that there are times when I wonder if all that this monster I've created is is simply some sort of virtual signpost: go here, here, and while you're at it, head around the cyber corner to this little nook and cranny. Who has the time for all that?

Apparently, a lot of people do, and for that, I am grateful. At the very least, it lets me know I'm not totally certifiable, just partly.

It also lets me know that, if all blogging is vanity, then that sort of vanity is a many-splendored, multi-faceted thing that can accomodate all sorts of things if you let it. The good, bad, ugly, warty, startlingly beautiful, cheesy, popular, obscure, insanely artful glory of individuals logging on and pouring themselves out, bit by bit, through the writings they post, the anecdotes they share, the links they choose to put out there for others to's all a palimpsest of a grandly vulgarian sort. One that's kept me checking in for more and adding some of my own to it for the past two years. And every time I think there ain't no more for me to add, that I am completely spent, the company I've kept online all this time has egged me on, challenged me, taunted me to keep on keepin' on.

And, though I've been going back and forth with myself lately about continuing with this humble li'l corner of the internets, I think I will be continuing on. Because where else but the blogosphere would pictures such as this beauty be posted?:

Thanks, Ian!

Thanks for hearing me out on a regular basis, you internet denizens, you. Carry on, all. And watch your asses, because you never know when some kinda flames will be trying to crawl up your rear...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Something else that is beginning to work:
In the wake of questions about how easily and quietly New Orleans officials have been approving demolitions of homes that might be restored, a review committee moved into a larger room Monday, gathered public comment and rejected nearly a third of 91 demolitions requested by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

It was a surprising turnabout for the Housing Conservation District Review Committee, so much so that Chairman Nelson Savoie began the meeting by calling it the "demolition committee" and later found himself deferring to preservationists in the audience.

Update, 6:15 PM: Mapping of the approved and rejected properties.

Something that might have helped in this regard:
Squandered Heritage founder Karen Gadbois and Sarah Lewis, representing the group Common Knowledge, visited every property on the list and took color photographs, distributing them to the public at the meeting. The panel had more detailed photos of the backs and sides of the houses, but Savoie refused to distribute them to the audience.
There's always a big "but" in regard to the city's intentions:
Savoie said the decisions showed the panel wouldn't "tear down housing just to be tearing them down," but he said preservationists need to understand that the city is trying to head off overwhelming problems with blight. While FEMA provides money for demolitions, the city might not have the money to rehabilitate derelict properties, Savoie said.

Yet another "but" that was brought up by somebody trying to follow the money:

But Michelle Kimball, advocacy coordinator for the Preservation Resource Center, spoke up at the meeting to say the city recently received nearly $300 million from the Louisiana Recovery Authority that could be available.

"Don't you think it's premature to move forward with demolition before all the money from the LRA is allocated?" Kimball asked.


Or right on somebody's redevelopment schedule?
Oyster's comment on the latest Squandered Heritage post from which the above map comes:
Much of where you mapped, of course, is a block away from planned billion dollar VA hospital. It will be prime commercial and residential real-estate in a few years, especially if the neighborhood has been considerably “altered”.
I'm very, very happy the Inspector General's office now has the authority to hire investigators and legal staff. (T'anks for da news, Mr Clio!) Something tells me we are really gonna need it.

Update, 1-16: From Celcus' recent comment:
While the map displays what appears to be a "corridor" or "juicy swath of land ripe for redevelopment" it would be in reality, a scattering of disjointed and isolated vacant lots vaguely clustered around Canal Street. Hardly the sort of thing the developer Illuminati would want, being difficult to get title to, and require expensive buy outs.... The demolition "system" the city is pursuing is a complete clusterfuck on so many levels, but I think it is more incompetence and sheer indifference more than any grand conspiracy.
Looking at things citywide (see ThinkNOLA for more), Celcus' assessment is indeed valid.

This kind of thing still needs to be addressed, however, if it is all predicated on city incompetence. because it is one of the things this recovering city needs the least. Period.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Let's look at this thing from a... um, from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that's good?

Well, we don't have Ed Harris in New Orleans, but we're focusing on the positive here...

Neighborhood participation in crimefighting, public space planning, and local politics has increased. More people are asking questions about how our local government works, about what, if anything, is being built next to our homes, in our neighborhoods, or if absolutely nothing is going on (highly unlikely - there's always something, it seems). People are getting educated in what their criminal justice system is all about, and how loosely that term can be applied to what goes on here in New Orleans.

More people are coming here. Not sure if they are here to try to develop this place as America's last frontier, if they are genuinely here to help even after all this time, or if they are simply here to party before it gets swept into the sea by another hurricane or coastal erosion or both. Whatever. C'mon down.

Hizzoner the Walking Id's not gonna be able to run for another mayoral term in this burg. If another referendum comes this way to try to extend the consecutive term limit to three, I have the utmost confidence in this city that it will be voting that down once again.

Some of the bestest people who care so much about this town and are willing to defend it tooth and nail are right here, y'all. Once again, I'm proud to stand with 'em.

Mardi Gras is early early earrrrrleeeeee this year and is alive and well amongst the recent L-school grads and many of the NOLA blogpocheh who are preparing for the first parade of the year and the only one in Da Quarter. The little guy has begun to construct little Lego thingys and sit them atop his Matchbox cars and his Hot Wheels. "These are floats, Mom!" he tells me with great cheer. "They're ready to parade!" This year, the kid asked me for a ladder on which to sit. "We'll see," I said, knowing the ultimate answer was "Aw Hell Naw!" Besides, if the little guy gets really desperate, I know he can charm his way onto a ladder seat, especially if a little girl is already in it.

If Ed Harris isn't willing to come down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, maybe I'll simply get dressed up as Ed doing his Gene Kranz thing...I do believe it will be this city's finest hour, since the holiday is coming on so early this year. It will, once again, show us all that ultimately, we residents are the ones who will let this city sink or have it swimming like Michael Phelps for all its days.

Y'all come for our first-ever organized Krewe of Pancakes and Syrup gathering early on Mardi Gras day, right here on the gray brick road. I think you're gonna need it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Light Show

Talk amongst yourselves, and share your thoughts.

Thanks to Aaron and Sister 72.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On January 11, 2007, thousands of New Orleans citizens marched together to City Hall to decry the violence that was gripping our city. Spiraling crime in late 2006 and the early days of 2007, and in particular the deaths of two local artists, musician Dinerral Shavers and filmmaker Helen Hill, became a catalyst for citizen engagement. We marched to grieve loved ones and neighbors lost to violence, and to call for more decisive action by officials in law enforcement, criminal justice, and City Hall. On that day, citizens from all parts of the city had a chance to speak directly to our leaders and each other about their fears and hopes, opening an anti-violence dialogue with our city�s leadership and establishing the foundation for the programs SilenceIsViolence currently sponsors. SilenceIsViolence continues to serve as a symbol and channel for the citizen voices and engagement in the pursuit of public safety in every community of New Orleans. To mark the one-year anniversary of the March for Survival, a noon memorial on the steps of City Hall will remember those who have been murdered in our city in the year since January 11, 2007. A press conference to follow will address progress and continuing challenges in public safety from the citizen�s perspective. Nakita Shavers, Jake Hill, and SilenceIsViolence founders Baty Landis and Ken Foster will speak. Topics will include:

-Acknowledgement of support and collaboration from many local agencies.

-Hopeful signs of progress toward sustainable public safety in our neighborhoods.

-The future organizational model and goals of SilenceIsViolence.

-Ideas for citizen participation and activism in our communities and our judicial system.

On the evening of January 11, 2008, at 9 PM, we will hold a memorial concert at the Howlin Wolf to benefit the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund, featuring the Hot 8 Brass Band. We invite anyone with an interest in public safety in New Orleans, and in the role of citizen actions and voices toward securing our own public safety, to attend these events.

If only I had pictures of the many many others who have died in the past year and are still dying. C'mon out if you can. If not, check the SilenceIsViolence site to see how you can help with outreach and/or donations.

Update, 5:11 PM: Mominem chronicles Hizzoner the Walking Id's platitudes on the past year's murders, and Maitri expresses the exhaustion of having to protest and agitate for a safer city on top of all of an average New Orleanian's struggles these days.:
The truth is New Orleans suffers from a fatigue so deep, I’m surprised she has the energy to make it to the end of the day. We are too worn out from fighting the little battles of daily life that all-out war seems like too much work, not a necessary responsibility. This is precisely why crooked politicians and crime march on in this city even when we cannot any more.
What is even sadder is that there were only maybe forty people in front of City Hall today, not counting the media folks. The folks who died in the past year could well have been ourselves. Ken Foster made the point in the words he spoke today that he wasn't good friends with the most well-known of the murder victims, but that he saw the victims' friends' and relatives' grief at their passing and knew he couldn't stand idly by and do nothing. This is what we're on the verge of with such a small turnout such as the one today - the willingness of good people to stand by and do nothing. No matter how tired we are of the daily grind of living here, we can't afford to do that. We just can't. Everyone here has already chosen a difficult path in living here post 8-29. Find a way to become more active in how it can be.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. And it hurts. But we must keep going.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I see posts like these amongst the NOLA blogpocheh who are fighting the good rebuilding-of-their-homes fight 24/7. I'm getting loads of analysis of the presidential candidates along the lines of "yes, but are they good for New Orleans?" from other quarters. Yes, the fight for housing and much, much better city planning is still going on in its own way (and I've got to see if I can fit this into my Saturday schedule). No, I'm not going in on the political handicapping that some people seem to be taking a kind of perverse glee in engaging in. *Sigh*

It was actually a little heartening, and a tad surprising, to see Obamoyster waxing lovingly about some chewing gum. It had me feeling nostalgic for some candy from my partly cloudy past.

The confection in question is from Japan and is named Milky :

Made by Fujiya Company in Japan, Milky and its little girl, Peko-chan, have been around since the '50's, and there is quite a marketing blitz around this cartoon character - until fairly recently, apparently:
Peco-chan, the character representing the major confectioner Fujiya Company, was already born in 1950. For years she was smiling in life-size around sweets shops in Japan, but recently a huge scandal about Fujiya using expired milk to make some 15,000 cream puffs forced Peco-chan to hide…

Along with that people discovered a few “older” food poisoning cases which oops! Fujita failed to report and, well… I suppose from now on poor Peco-chan has to pay the high price for Fujita’s slack quality control.

Today, without even really looking for it in Buffalo Exchange, I saw a change purse with Peko-chan on it and just had to get it; my love for this candy runs that deep.

It is really that good, you might ask?

Well, yeah. It tastes like your mother.

Wait, wait! Don't be offended! It's what it says on the box. Really.

A student from Japan in the glass department at my college introduced the department head to Milky candy, probably at a place we nicknamed the Japanese Mall in Boston, where we'd stop off after a field trip to Harvard to see the Blaschka Glass Flowers or UMass' glass department or Gerhard Finkenbeiner's quartz workshop and glass harmonica manufacturing studio, among other things. It was supposed to be an international mall, but there was a Japanese grocery there, the food court was almost all noodle shops, sushi places, and dessert kiosks serving ginger, green tea, and red bean ice cream along with other Asian pastries and goodies, and, aside from a Gap clothing store, there wasn't much else there.

All I knew was, by the time I was taking glass courses, Milky had become legendary amongst the glass students at school, because the Japanese student had translated the writing on the box as "tastes like your mother". Ohhh, boy. Sounds like an invitation to the dozens is what that sounds like, doesn't it? Yo' mama...

The legend only grew when the same student went out to the Pilchuck Glass School and came up with the winning t-shirt design for his summer session. It featured the iconic Peko-chan and, arc-ing underneath her picture, the declaration: "Pilchuck Tastes Like Your Mother". If anybody out there possesses one of those shirts, send it to me, please. Not that I'd actually be able to wear it until my son was fully grown and outta the just has that *sniff* sentimental value.

Until then, I will be carrying my Peko-chan change purse with great pride. If anybody also has a line on the availability of Milky in the greater New Orleans area, let me know. I really can't negotiate Fujiya's site too well - I'm having a hard enough time understanding a recent acquisition of my son's all about Japan's railways (complete with an all-Japanese DVD):

Translator, anyone?

Oh, wait...maybe I don't want to know...

Update, 1-11: Oh, and the fact that this group is coming to the city to have their annual meeting? Entirely coincidental, y'all (Thanks, Bruce!). Is that ever funny.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

As per a bit of myself getting carried away about the kosher dietary laws in the comments to my last post (sorry, Mominem...I did go a bit berserk on the detail), I now feel the need to share one of my favorite stories concerning kashrut, a story that involves a little examination that happened in NYC a little before we moved back down south:
A glassful of cold New York City tap water not kosher? It may be true — and just in case, restaurants and bakeries operated under Orthodox Jewish law were advised Tuesday, June 1, (2004) to use filters that can ensure water purity.

The problem: tiny harmless creatures called copepods. The nearly microscopic organisms are crustaceans and therefore not considered kosher.

As stores in heavily Orthodox Brooklyn reported a run on water filters and rabbis considered whether additional measures were necessary, the Central Rabbinical Council issued its edict for businesses.

“We have given out a ruling that they should filter their water,” said the council’s Rabbi Yitzchok Glick. “We are still in the middle of deliberations about exactly the issues and the Jewish law.”

Under Jewish law, the eating of crustaceans — aquatic animals with skeletons outside their bodies, including shrimp, crabs and lobsters — is barred.

I personally don't keep strict kosher. About the only thing we don't do in our own home is cook pork or shellfish in our kitchen, or mix milk with meat (no cheeseburgers, no butter in meat recipes, that kind of thing), or buy food that doesn't have a hechsher on it. Maintaining completely different sets of dishes and pots and pans - indeed, even appliances, in some cases - to separate milk from meat isn't part of my food preparation and serving at home.

The devilment in the details of separating the kosher from the treif is what came to a head here, and it's one that had my husband giggling a little. From a Jewish blogger commenting on comments that she'd read concerning the dilemma the Orthodox in NYC were faced with:
Another commenter protested that the ruling was based on a misinterpreted definition: The claim being made was that the crustaceans were visible to the naked eye of anyone who’d been trained to see such things, but, said the commenter, if one had to be trained in order to see the crustaceans, then, by halachic/Jewish law definition, the crustaceans weren’t visible to the naked eye, and, therefore, did not render the water treif/non-kosher. Yet another commenter complained that, next thing you know, the rabbanim/rabbis will find something in the air that will make them declare that treif, too, after which we won’t be allowed to breath without face masks.
A good link found at the On The Fringe blog post examines this tendency for the orthodox to make their interpretations of Jewish law more stringent than they have ever been and comes to this truism about any and all religious life today:
A tireless quest for absolute accuracy, for "perfect fit"—faultless congruence between conception and performance—is the hallmark of contemporary religiosity. The search is dedicated and unremitting; yet it invariably falls short of success. For spiritual life is an attempt, as a great pianist once put it, to play music that is better than it can be played. Such an endeavor may finally become so heavy with strain that it can no longer take wing, or people may simply weary of repeated failure, no matter how inspired. The eager toil of one age usually appears futile to the next, and the performative aspiration, so widespread now, may soon give way to one of a wholly different kind, even accompanied by the derision that so often attends the discarding of an ideal. Yet this Sisyphean spirituality will never wholly disappear, for there will always be those who hear the written notes and who find in absolute fidelity the most sublime freedom.
For the record, my egalitarian Conservative rabbi in Queens said it's okay to drink the NYC water. I drank it anyhow because 1) it's good water and 2) running around and going berserk over filters for water just isn't my idea of observing halakhic precedent. We do indeed need to get to back to the meaning of why we do these things and get a better, more resonant answer for ourselves and for future generations than "because this is how our ancestors did it." At the very least, we as Jews can encourage an ongoing journey of spiritual discovery that resonates much larger than filtering microscopic crustaceans out of drinking water.

Oh, and mazel tov to LSU on their BCS champeenship win last night! The SEC totally, totally rules. Period.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

In my most fantastic of fantasy worlds, both overt and subtle racism, sexism, ageism, and any -ism one can possibly think of is gone. Finito. Kaput. Buh-bye. Don't come around here no more.
I instead get waaay too many reminders that we're not there yet. Clues that we're still behind, that we've tripped up here and there, that as soon as we get a few steps up something knocks us a step down. And I'm not just talking about stay-at-home mamas like myself - though I was sent something recently that proves that unwritten national policy still favors childless women. Scroll down a little and read some stories that will not only make you not want to procreate - if you are female, it will make you wonder why you were even born. Thanks, employers. Thanks a bundle.

No, I'm talking about all the -isms that give us the excuse not to care. The stuff that we can also get hung up on to the extent that it holds back real dialogue, real talk about the issues, about how best we can work for change that benefits everyone. Classism that keeps us from truly looking at those less fortunate than we and seeing things from their side. Racism that judges others by their skin. Sexism that says, because you are a woman, you need to stay here, go here, do this, do that, stay out of this, keep your mouth shut and your body invisible. All the -isms that give us the gall, the tackiness, and the ignorance to make such crass judgments as the one highlighted in this post concerning the two homeless folks that froze to death in last week's icy cold temperatures. Yeah, once again, I know about those comments. They're bad for me. I shoulda made a New Year's resolution to stay as far away from them as possible. But hey, m.d. just had to post one on his blog. Whatever.

The more I read in general, however, the more I see that we have a long way to go precisely because, over the millenia we human beings have been on this planet, we have set up some elaborate psychological systems to keep us all in our places. Try this tragicomic scenario on for size:
I saw anti-Semitism among my Iranian friends. At a gathering of a group of women at the home of my friend Nargess one evening, one woman told a joke about a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim. Another told a joke about a Jew and a Turkish-speaking Iranian. In both jokes, the Jew was cunning, miserly, and a master merchant.

I had had it. After years of enduring comments like these, I protested. "I'm so sick and tired of these jokes about Jews," I said. "My husband is a Jew. You've got to realize how offensive these jokes are."

Nargess's sister, Monir, who owns a hair salon that is one of my favorite places to visit, tried to console me. "Your husband is okay," she said. "He's not a Zionist. So it's okay that he is a Jew. My best customer is a Jew. I love the Jews. When I move back to America again, I want all my best customers to be rich Jews."

The women explained that they said nothing about Jews that they didn't say about Isfahanis, adding that Isfahanis are just as cunning and miserly as Jews.

I tried to make the point again. "Monir, you're a Turk from Azerbaijan," I said. "Everyone is always making jokes about Turks. You of all people should be sensitive to this."

"I love Turkish jokes," Nargess chimed in. "They're the best jokes in the world."

"When you were in the United States during the hostage crisis and people cursed you just because you were Iranian, wasn't that racist?" I asked.

"Not at all!" Nargess exclaimed. "They were ignorant people. And they were justified. We were burning their flag. Our culture was hurting their culture."

I couldn't win. The Islamic Republic's anti-Semitism goes deeper even than cultural stereotypes. It stems directly from interpretations of the Koran and other teachings that have been passed along for centuries. The Koran reveres the prophets of Judaism, but it also refers to the Jews of Mohammad's time as the Muslims' "worst friends".*
This morning in my synagogue's religious school, the middle school students were treated to a prayer that wasn't included in their revised, secular version of the Reform Jewish movement's most recent prayerbook: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has not made me a gentile." At least one student recognized the negative connotations and the exclusivity and superiority implied in such a prayer. I was glad the cantor had chosen that one and not the one that says,"who has not made me a woman" - we'd have had a small war on our hands in religious school. Orthodox and ultra-orthodox sects of Judaism still include these prayers in their daily rituals. How's that for sanctioned elitism?

I could go on about the suspicion, the discrimination, and the downright idiocy other cultures, religions, and microcosms of such things use to separate and/or elevate themselves above a real or imagined horde that is ready to snatch their superiority from them at any second. Mardi Gras in this city has certainly developed into one of them.

Posts such as David's, however, serve as reminders that we fritter away many opportunities to reverse the damage we have done to each other and prevent it from happening to others in the future. We missed one opportunity to look at many other ways in which we could reverse this trend with the housing demolitions and what has been promised to be put in their place (once again, no contracts, just words). Another one is heading down the drain with the approval of the Lindy Boggs Hospital demolition. Schools and private homes are looking as though they are next on the chopping block. I really don't have much hope for those entities at this point. It's sad.

It's also why I have little hope for the recent crop of presidential candidates. Mario Cuomo once said of politicians that "We campaign in poetry, but when we're elected we're forced to govern in prose." If the politicians won't speak of rebuilding the Gulf Coast, maybe they can speak of getting this country's crumbling infrastructure propped up and working again instead. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are apparently not poetic enough for this bunch.

And so, I have vented out my negativity online, hoping it won't seep into my everyday life too much. A good friend of ours is moving to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and, in a moment of prosaic weakness, it looked a little too good to my husband and I. A tad further from those pesky, hurricane-harboring gulf waters, from a high murder rate, from having to negotiate the school systems for a better education minus the drain on our pursestrings: "If we can't get the little guy into a good high school in New Orleans, we could rent out our apartment in the house and schlep up to Mandeville!" Dan said.

The trip back across that wide divide known as the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway tempered those thoughts quite a bit. I thought of how much I did not want to return to the small Pennsylvania town my parents lived in at the time I graduated college. It was a nice town - there just wasn't much for me there. I thought of how much I loved New Orleans, and yet of how fragile our ties to it really could be, especially with a husband with a two-hour round trip commute (on a good day) to work every day, the fact that I don't have a nine-to-five job myself and am easily transplantable on that fact alone, the fact that the little guy is still young. What passes for common sense these days says we ought to be moving up there, too.

Common sense sucks sometimes. Thank goodness we don't listen to it all the time.

Where would the fun - and the poetry - be in that?

* Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran