Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Unlike JazzFest itself, this one is absolutely free to the public, unless you want to attend the patron party beforehand. That's right, folks, you don't have to pay. There's even food and drinks served afterwards that you don't have to pay for, either. The choir, of which I am a member, is footing that bill. And yes, I too am singing there this Friday.
No, you don't have to be Jewish to come. Hell, even Barack Obama can come and there will most likely be no repercussions for his political career. At least, I think there won't be any. One can never be too sure in this circus called the presidential race.
Hey, there will be children singing there, which is all Steve Martin would want. I think...
Oh, for goodness' sakes. If what I've said hasn't convinced you to come, I don't know what will. Just do your best to stop by.
That way, we can all celebrate the end of one of the more hellacious Aprils in recorded memory.
Well, to my memory anyhow.
Citizens City Hall has some speechifying up from the meeting at Dixon Hall Monday. Pastorek brings up education as it applies to voting. I wonder if he happened to catch this little item. I do hope future generations can become educated in such a world-class manner that they can rise up and see when history is being repeated. Once they see that, I hope the way in which they use that education will then benefit us all and turn the clocks forward on economic and racial equality.
Otherwise...19th century, here we come.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Linkage to G-Bitch's notes on The State of Public Education in New Orleans meeting and panel discussion is here.

Like I said, I was late, too, to the meeting, so I too missed Cowen and Pastorek making their opening remarks. I missed the excuses made for Recovery School District superintendent Paul Vallas' absence from the meeting (turned out those excuses were pretty empty - t'anks, Jeffrey). I perused some of the literature handed out to attendees, which included the Cowan Institute's report on the state of the city's public schools and a short schedule of events for the night and plunked myself down towards the front.

So we've got the following people involved in this whole scheme to transform the public schools from being "someone else's schools", as Matt Candler of New Schools for New Orleans put it.:

The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
Urban League of New Orleans
Business Council of Greater New Orleans and the River Region (which is apparently a letter-writing arm of the Citizens for 1 Greater N.O.)

First off, I'm glad all these people are coming together in the name of our children. I'm glad, as panelist and former New Orleans Science & Math High School principal Barbara MacPhee said, these folks recognized that "we had an adult problem" all these years before the storm.

Problem is, we have a different version of an adult problem these days. These organizations have come together to embark on what is supposed to be "the beginning of a more candid dialogue about the schools", but where were most of the representatives from those same schools they were talking about? Where were the parents? Ben Franklin Elementary principal Charlotte Matthew told Paul Pastorek a "coordination of resources" needs to get going between the schools in the three different systems operating here. It might have been nice to encourage more representatives from each school in the system to come and help get that coordination started - perhaps a later start time to the meeting might have done the trick.

There was much more agreement last night on the fact that the adults couldn't go back to the way things had been. The Orleans Parish School Board must not be allowed to be in charge of all the public schools again. Nobody is fully agreed on the particulars of how to move forward, however, aside from hiring and keeping quality teachers, setting up accountability structures for both teachers and parents, and eliminating de facto economic and racial segregation. Pastorek himself said the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has only recently embarked upon research into what is making schools across the state work (supposedly, two "research enterprises" are embarking upon this task. Wish 'em luck, 'cause they'll need it) and he claims that there are 21 schools in the state that have a high-minority, high-poverty student body that are also high performing schools. Paul, man, what makes those schools work? Isn't there enough data that your people can start sharing what works with the people in this area, or are we still too broken to really benefit yet?

I'm confused.

Some questions of note from the audience:

How can area museums, the zoo and aquarium, and other organizations with educational programs outside of the school environment better support the teachers? Their participation in educational workshops offered by, for example, the D-Day Museum, has been low. How can they increase it?

How can parents be encouraged to participate?

If the parents aren't participating, how can they be held accountable?

Can Head Start-type programs be integrated into the schools?

From a 2nd Grade student at Green Charter School: How much money have you been saving over the years?

Will Act 175 be fully implemented into the schools?

One important statement from an attendee that was passed over by the panel:
I can tell you, Frederick Douglass (High School) isn't like what the panel is talking about.

Answers to the above questions will be posted by me later, unless everybody answers them for me in the comments.

Hey, they are adult problems, after all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

First impressions on this past evening's meeting at Tulane, as shared with my husband:

Me: "Well, there was a woman there who tried to pin the panel down on the conditions at Frederick Douglass, but it went unrecognized."

(paraphrasing)Dan: "Well, I'm on the other side of the argument. I think the public schools have improved a great deal since before the storm, the elementary schools. A good foundation is especially what is needed. Is Douglass an elementary school or a secondary school?"

"Uh, I think it's secondary..."

"Exactly. If it's secondary, it will only take a good foundation set into incoming students in the next few years to help change things."

(Yeah, right...I think. It only takes one godawful teacher at any stage of this education game to impress upon a child that a certain educational avenue(s) is inaccessible to them.)

Me: "The thing that bothers me about all these meetings is when they are scheduled. I mean, you could barely make 5:30 (and, actually, we didn't make 5:30), and the meetings scheduled for prospective charter school board members are in the early and mid-afternoon."

Dan: "Well, when do you think City Council meetings are scheduled?"

"Even so, these people are talking about all the involvement and participation they want from the parents of their students. If they want that involvement, why don't they schedule things so that more parents can become involved?"

"You've got to remember...these are academics we're talking about here."

"That's true."

"Or...they just don't care."

"Well, there you go!!!!"

*If they really cared, they'd update their website. The handout from tonight's Cowan Institute meeting reads:

You are cordially invited to join us for a Charter Board Informational Session
An information session to introduce charters, charter board membership and the New Orleans public charter schools in need of board members
Three opportunities to attend:
Tuesday, April 29, 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Tuesday April 29, 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Monday May 5, 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Hosted by:
The Greater New Orleans Foundation
1055 St Charles Avenue (the K&B Building)
1st Floor Conference Room
(If you haven't yet registered for one of these workshops, please do so by email ( or phone (504-274-3630)
Saw this little item in the Gambit this morning:

Dr Michael DeBakey, legendary surgeon, professor and inventor, was honored with the Congressional Gold medal, the highest award the U.S. Congress gives a civilian. The 99-year-old Debakey grew up in Lake Charles and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Tulane University. later, he helped develop the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) that saved thousands of lives during the Korean and Vietnam wars, invented several medical devices and surgical procedures, and was a pioneer in cardiovascular surgery.

...and I was instantly transported back in time to my childhood spent, in part, in laboratories where I sat in either my dad's office or at my mother's desk after school or on odd days when there was no school for me. Dad worked at Baylor College of Medicine and headed his own pharmacology lab, while Mom worked as a research technician and did some lab hopping working for other PhDs at Baylor and the University of Texas' Medical Center. And yes, if you want to know, my parents met in a lab at Baylor and have been together ever since.

Dad's lab was in one of the newer buildings at Baylor, on one of the topmost floors, just down the hall from the Sleep Disorders Lab. My mother's changes of jobs took her to other places around Houston's medical center, among them the then-newly built Michael E. DeBakey Center for Biomedical Education and Research. Near its first floor elevator banks, a huge portrait of Doc DeBakey looked out at all the researchers, staff and myself as we waited. He stood in a pose similar to the one below:

...and he had an air of a commanding elder about him, lent still more authority by his scrubs and his surgical mask, items of his profession that said he was still a force to be reckoned with. Back then, he was inching closer to his eighties, but that huge portrait by the elevators emanated strength and wisdom that transcended his age. "I may look like a grandfather," it said, "but I have the power to save your life, and I'm working on it every day."

I had no clue, until seeing that item in the weekly, that DeBakey was born in Louisiana, and studied and practiced in New Orleans. I had no idea he was born with the last name of Dabachi, had Lebanese ancestry, and interned at Charity Hospital. It seems that my mother was not only changing jobs when she went from Baylor to UT at one point, she was unwittingly moving from one side of a longtime feud to another. And, when I attended an arts magnet high school in Houston shortly before we moved to Central PA, the only way in which we students thought of the DeBakey High School for Health Professions was as another cream-of-the-crop public school in the area that we were academically competing against whether we knew it or not.

Hell, I had no idea the man was still alive and kicking. He very nearly almost wasn't.

Suffice it to say that I didn't know, until this morning, what an effect Dr DeBakey has had on my life in so many inadvertent ways. What more can I do but embrace this strange confluence of events? How can I really knock a man who gives such sage advice as the following?:

Okra is the key to good gumbo.

Damn, right, Doc.

Here's hoping that your ticker will keep on ticking into your 100th year. Mazel tov on that medal.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ms Karen B comments on the last post:

This is a frequent conversation in our home. When Katrina hit my husband was in helicopter aviation stationed at fort hood(really close to NOLA). His unit was more concerned about their upcoming deployment than katrina. The army had them send a few token helicopters and their pilots. But sending entire units, nope. My husband and I were furious. Its one of the reasons he left the military.

Please wish Mr B safe passage and, especially, safe return when his deployment overseas happens.

Oyster clues us in on our required reading for the day. Just....don't yank the newspapers outta the floodwalls to fulfill your requirement. Go to the library, instead.

Tim reminds us of who really put the paving over of street name tiles on the radar. See the original, complete with photographic evidence, right here. Keep on blogging, bloggers...and keep on showing everybody how to work the whole "credit where it's due" mojo.

And speaking of Ashley...

A while back, he wrote about viewing the beginning episode of Alton Brown's Feasting On Asphalt 2 and how disappointing it was, in so many ways. Well, Alton himself kicked off his book tour the same way he kicked off his motorcycle tour up the Mississippi River: right here in New Orleans this past Wednesday.

I really didn't have the time to query the man about why he was so willfully, woefully unprepared when he came to my town, since there was a line out the door to get him to sign various publications of his. I had just enough time to shake his hand, get him to sign the book to my husband (shhhhhhh!!! Anniversary present! Don't tell...), and get a picture of him with us for Dan and other family members who are highly appreciative of his Good Eats program, like we were when we lived in NYC.

Thanks for bearing with us, Mr Brown, and we hope you didn't have the Ma Na Ma Na song in your head for too long. It was the only thing that kept the little guy in line for half the wait time.

The layout of the book is very nice, complete with a foldout map of the route Alton and Co. took, loads of pictures, and a number of recipes that accompany the somewhat snarky diary the man wrote of his travels.

From Day Two of his trip:

Part of me knows that this is a gimmicky place. Heck, the beignets aren't even any good, and I don't know a single local who eats here. And yet no one can argue that Cafe Du Monde isn't authentic. That's because it is indelibly connected to this place and to its culture. You might argue that if that is the definition of authentic, then McDonald's must represent authentic American cuisine. I would counter that had McDonald's stuck to southern California the way, say, In-And-Out Burger has (with one exception, I know: Vegas), it would be authentic. By spreading out beyond its natural geocultural borders, a chain sacrifices its authenticity. Since I can think of no exceptions, I'm going to call this a rule.

I finish my third beignet wishing I'd stopped at two and walk over to the river to watch the sunrise across the big crescent. This is the first spot I've encountered where there is no levee to climb. that's because the French Quarter is the high ground of New Orleans. It has not always been a pleasant place. The geologist brothers Kolb and Van Topik referred to the site as "a land between earth and sea belonging to neither and alternately claimed by both." Repeated cycles of flooding have built up the land on the outside of the big curve where the quarter sits. This is why there is literally no evidence of Katrina's wrath here while many of the other districts are still in ruins. A shame in the richest country in the world, if you ask me.*

Yes, Alton Brown came here with some of his own preconceived notions, based on what his taste buds are primed for. He still has that obsession with finding sweet tea in New Orleans (he should have gone to Li'l Dizzy's) and a hankering for alligator (at the Big Fisherman on Magazine, of all places!!!!), but overall, he still appreciates the good stuff and the good places.

Oh, and Alton, it's "La Divina", not "La Davina". Future editions of the book must correct that typo.

*from Alton Brown's Feasting On Asphalt: the River Run

oh, and it looks like this fellow will have an interview with Alton Brown up on his blog soon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So, I'm back.

Back from trying to tell my family that private homes are on the chopping block and people who are doing their best to rebuild those same homes are coming back to find that the house they gutted in order to prepare it for new drywall and such is now gone. They didn't believe me...or, rather, they didn't believe that people couldn't be adequately informed about such doings. I felt like Cassandra...or like the people who had escaped the Shoah to come to this country and tried to tell others what they had seen. It all seems too incredulous, too outrageous, so un-American for that to happen. Well, I'm hailing from un-America, and it's happening. Pardon me while I hie back to the south side of I-10. Thanks for your time.

Back to what Sheckrastos calls Debrisville, and there is most certainly more debris here now than, possibly, since the advent of the Federal Flood. We drove past the remains of B.W. Cooper on the way back home and the little guy said, "Hey, look! A junkyard!"

"It is now," is all I could say. "People lived there once."

Back to some serious heat in the air. Back to heading to JazzFest, but being unable to eat much of anything there the first weekend, because it's still Passover, dammit. Why can't some K for P vodka be offered at the Fest? Nothing like a screwdriver of affliction** in a city suffering from some serious affliction. Must find teensy flask and conceal it in my purse...

Back to reading about Katrina fatigue. Daaaaamn right.

Back to reading about some sick reasons why this area is still not further along in its recovery:

In addition to its work guarding private companies, banks, hotels, industrial sites, and rich individuals, Blackwater was quietly handed a major no-bid contract with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service, ostensibly to protect federal reconstruction projects for FEMA...Documents show that the government paid Blackwater $950 a day for each of its guards in the area - some $600 more per man per day than the company was allegedly paying its men on the ground. That contract kicked off a hurricane boon for Blackwater; by the end of 2005, in just three months, the government had paid Blackwater at least $33.3 million for its Katrina work for DHS. All of these services were justified by the government's claim of not having enough personnel to deploy quickly in the hurricane zone, though spokespeople carefully avoided drawing a connection to the various U.S. occupations internationally...By June 2006, the company had raked in some $73 million from its Katrina work for the government - about $243,000 a day....

The hurricane's aftermath ushered in the homecoming of the "war on terror," a contract bonanza whereby companies reaped massive Iraq-like profits without leaving the country and at a minuscule fraction of the risk. To critics of the government's handling of the hurricane, the message was clear. "That's what happens when the victims are black folks vilified before and after the storm - instead of aid, they get contained," said Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and an editor of Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch. Kromm alleged that while seemingly endless amounts of money were doled out to scandal-ridden contractors, vital projects had "gotten zero or little money" in New Orleans in the same period, including: job creation, hospital and school reconstruction, affordable housing, and wetlands restoration. Even in this context, DHS continued to defend the Blackwater contract. In a March 1, 2006, memo to FEMA, Matt Jadacki, the DHS Special Inspector General for Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery, wrote that the Federal Protective Service considered Blackwater "the best value to the government."*

Please, somebody, tell me something I don't already know, but the rest of this country should know. I mean it, now.

Because I'm back here. And, aside from all the tourist hoopla that is still getting people to come, we are still not really being seen. Not really being considered.

Forget "next year in Jerusalem", people. In the hopes that we will be fully freed from the tyranny of mainstream media posturing, misspent monies, and exploitation of many other local resources, I will hereby encourage us all to state:

"Next Year in New Orleans!"

at the conclusion of each seder.

How in hell can we talk of Jerusalem when we can't take care of what is right here on our own soil?

*Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
** matzah=bread of affliction

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

via Poplicks:
My friend Barbora is a sixth grade teacher. Before teaching the social class structure of Rome, she asked her students to use index cards to assemble a depiction of what they thought the current U.S. social class structure looks like.
Click on the link and figure out whether to laugh or cry. I'm still torn.

PLUS....Ashley would no doubt have concurred with this assessment.

Y'all don't forget to wish Hana a Happy Birthday on the blog or in person, if you can. I know I will most likely celebrate the conclusion of Passover with her and the kids, if I can.

Monday, April 21, 2008

City Business consults with Sarah Elise Lewis on the Moton Elementary School site atop the former Agriculture Street Landfill.

Sarah fills us in much, much more on what it's all about and then some.

The part that makes me cry:

I went back to Moton yesterday to take a few pictures. Soon after getting out of the car I met the woman who lives across the street in modest home with the FEMA Trailer aesthetic that’s become so familiar in working class neighborhoods since the flood. Seeing us peeking into the auditorium door, she shouted to me, “Hey. They gonna open the school back up?” Her children now attend elementary school Uptown, and she drives them there every day. From across the street to a world away.

She was hoping her children could attend Elementary School in a place that very well may cause cancer. Because it is better than the situation they’re in now.

And so I am angry. Not that the school is ungutted, unsecured, and still full of its contents nearly three years after Katrina, but because a neighborhood was ever built there in the first place. Who would benefit from placing homes on an incinerator site?

The following diagram from Citizens' City Hall gives us some clues:

And, for anyone who pooh-poohs the idea of having to shuttle children nearly a world away from the neighborhood in which they live to attend school, I refer you back to a map in this post detailing how far out of their way parents must take their children to be educated. In uncertain times, in this uncertain place, and in our shaky economic climate, those costs of transportation for these children and their families can have an impact on incomes. Parents have more than enough to worry about without having to think about how the ground beneath their feet is capable of killing them and their children slowly and horribly.

I want the government to do the right thing and buy these people out, get them moved out of Cancer Alley and onto healthier ground.

Anyone want to take bets on whether or not that will happen?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hello from the northeast!

This is simply to say that I love New York...

...but when all we want is the traffic reports so that we can get from LaGuardia Airport to my grandparents' home on the south shore of Long Island without getting held up by, say, the pope's motorcade or a load of folks trying to rush to their suburban idylls after a hard week in the big city, and the radio gives us the following:

-a woman recently divorced from her abusive husband is hacked to pieces by him on the street shortly after her divorce was finalized.

-a sex offender is caught after trying to lure a fourteen-year-old to meet him through the internet. Among all the stuff found his car were loads of condoms and beer.

-a homeless man rummaging around in some garbage cans in lower Manhattan finds some plans for the Freedom Tower to be built at Ground Zero. Those plans were labeled "secret" and should never have been found intact in the garbage. Heads will roll.

.....truthfully, all I can say is,"Dear GOD, I HATE 1010 WINS!!!!"

Plus, since I've been here, I have seen one demolished house and two houses with all openings boarded up, the place where we used to live now has some primo shopping just down the block, and a Popeye's has opened up in a former funeral home not far from my grandparents' neighborhood.

The weird has always been a profession here in the five boroughs and Guyland.

Gotta love it!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Must take a short hiatus for the Passover holiday, everybody.

Until then, I must say that I saw this for sale online:

...and all that came to my mind was this:

Don't go running off to buy a Bag O' Sulfuric Acid while I'm gone, folks. Be well, and Chag Sameach!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

(Note to readers: The following has been gelling in my brain for quite a while, and it has finally come roaring out with the novel-reading encounter described in the first few sentences. All of this is simply something for us all to be aware of. We are, after all, in a culture that has been commodifying everything since before most of us were born. Just don't be afraid to question that sometimes, is all I'm sayin'.)

The novel was really really good. My nose had been stuck in nonfiction for so long, I'd forgotten what it was to lose myself in a good story like that.

"Oh, I read The Memory-Keeper's Daughter from that Oprah Book Club!" a woman in a sequined shirt under a dark pantsuit said to me chummily, passing me by with her small mop of a dog. "It was verrry good! So, I thought I'd watch the Lifetime movie they made of it, and they reallllly messed the story up! If I hadn't read the book before, I wouldn't have known, but the book is just soooo superior," she finished.

"Yeah, that happens way too often with movies made from good books," I said. She nodded and walked off to wait for her daughter to finish her sports practice.

Oprah's Book Club? I thought. Where the hell did that come from? On a hunch, I took a look at the cover of the novel in my hand and sucked in my breath a little. There it was-that Oprah's Book Club sticker.

God help me, I just now looked up the woman's book club online and realized the whole shebang is in its twelfth year. And some authors have been included more than once in the chosen selections - why can't it be like Brian Lamb's Booknotes or something, where an author can only appear once? Give somebody else a chance, Oprah!

One of the chosen authors who struggled with the implications of that sticker was Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, an amazing novel and, in my opinion, his best. He did his best to satisfy both the literary audience and the popular (read: TV) audience with his comments and ended up with his book withdrawn from Oprah's club (though one wouldn't know it to look at the site online), which earned him some lit cred and boosted sales of the book anyhow because people wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It is a double-edged sword, however, because it has been said that any author graced with being Oprah's choice has pretty much got it made - but Oprah's reach is such that even rejection by her can put unknowns on the map.

It was then that I began to think about how this applied to my city's current library system overhaul plan, unveiled for all to peruse in the past few weeks. It can't be denied that the public library system here needs to be rebuilt. When most of your city's branches have been severely damaged by flooding, well, I'd say the time is right to rebuild.

Put that rebuilding initiative in a city in which the long arm of tourism has a mighty insidious reach, however, and it isn't enough to provide people who live here with access to all the knowledge they can read, hear, or see, 1-hour-per-day computer sessions, and other library events and courses the city's residents could possibly drink in at their convenience. The library must also cater to city visitors. It must take said visitors to new places mentally and physically, since the visitors will need to travel to a specialized, themed branch to listen to jazz recordings or partake of this city's culinary delights in a literary setting.

In the meantime, will it really become more convenient for the people who are here after the visitors have gone, the people who are, ideally, the folks who will be using the overhauled system the most? Let's examine what some of those problems are:

So why haven't I adopted any of the libraries in New Orleans as a home away from home? Why haven't I even signed up for a card?

I suspect that one reason is the belief I adopted as a young professional with a steady paycheck that it's better to own a book than to borrow one, that it's better to have a library than patronize a library. The head rush I get when I'm walking out of a bookstore with loaded bags is more intense than the joy that comes from borrowing a title. No returns. No time restrictions. No fines.

But my desire to own more and more books is not the only reason I've steered clear of New Orleans' libraries. I probably would have visited at least occasionally if the libraries looked inviting and had convenient hours.

But a bibliophile can drive past the main library on Loyola -- the flagship location -- and not see a single feature that beckons him come. And it looks no more appealing from the inside.
I've met some wonderful people who have worked in or on behalf of the New Orleans public libraries, and my criticism of the environment and conditions they have to deal with is not a criticism of them. It's to say that where they work is unappealing and that they deserve better, as do all the children who could potentially come to the library and fall in love with reading

Jarvis DeBerry goes further in his column and says the master plan doesn't necessarily need "to aggressively and adamantly depict what New Orleans is about."

I'd be fine with a library system that aggressively and adamantly depicts the importance of reading, that shows that this community holds libraries in high regard and is willing to pay for them.

DeBerry has unfortunately stated another reason why libraries are not held in much high regard these days - the importance he himself puts on possessing a personal library, the high he gets when walking out of a bookstore with new books to peruse. True confession here: I myself am not immune to that high. I have admitted time and again that I am hell in a bookstore - and there's nothing wrong with heading out every so often and supporting one's local booksellers.

This idea that we have to own knowledge, however....hmmmm. What does that lead to? Let's see one possibility:

London, at least, is convinced that the placement of the quasi-totality of collections online is the sole mission proposed for the future. Today, the British Library keenly desires to transform the lead of the past into future gold through a brand-new key position: the marketing director. Aided by a crew of one hundred, his mission is to create a modern brand image and advertising, and thereby accelerate the opening of the collection to the greatest number of the world's users. Facing the future with open arms means radical decisions: While truckloads of books and newspapers are being dematerialized, IBM is getting ready to pocket tens of millions of pounds sterling that could not be any less immaterial.

The architectural modesty of the new British Library already reads as the future, with its comfortable and pleasant work rooms that are well lit from the ceiling and with its armchairs- although unrecognized by home decor magazines - in which patrons can spend hours. Its efficient supervisory duties are performed by human beings, but the national library of each country will be open upon reservation only (on-site staff, as opposed to on-site computer technicians, will be scarce) for those who track the marginal science, the secret of a text deemed insufficiently worthy of world vaporization, and all those - often the same individuals - who, like the blind, demand contact with old books, the grain of the pages, the sui generis aroma, the reality of leafing through them, the biblioteca de papel, we might say ironically.

As can be seen in small business trade the world over, only the specialized institutions will survive and thrive. The intermediary archive that currently satisfies (more than honorably) the needs and tastes of the public at large will vanish, for it, too, will soon be overequipped for electronic communication in the comfort of one's own home. France certainly knows how to make good use of its language; it has rebaptized its municipal libraries [bibliotheques] mediatheques, because words beginning with media or medio reveal from the outset the vocation of what they designate.*

Big box bookstores and public libraries have been snagging ideas and events from each other to get people through the doors for quite a while - author events, book readings for children and adults, bargain book sales of new and used books. There are loads of copies of published works going in the doors of these places - and a large percentage are coming right back out only to be pulped and recycled into even more books, with perhaps one or two copies left behind in an archive someplace. That archive, and whoever keeps the gates of that archive, will then be available for access for a limited time - namely, the opening hours of the institution in which it resides.

Unless it all goes digital - in which case, what would really be the point of a serious overhaul such as the one for the New Orleans Public Library?

Well, there are a lot of things happening in this area these days. Many, many plans have been revealed for this city and we have yet to see little other than demolitions. The stuff on paper looks mighty exciting, but when one is faced with a recession, priorities have to be reassessed and rearranged. Flooded libraries may well be rebuilt, but adding specialized branches may fall by the wayside for a little while longer. After all, one can patronize one of many, many great clubs around here to listen to live music - there's not much need for an exhibition room full of listening stations to present that same music, although I know that, as a resident, I personally would enjoy that - and it really isn't necessary for a library to have to do that. Unless, of course, you have something else to sell - like maybe library chocolate (hmmmm, will it add to my expanding knowledge if I eat some? Around here, it'd probably be library pralines) or jazz recordings.

Which brings me back to what made me suck in my breath when I saw the Oprah sticker on the cover of the novel I was reading.

I've been trying very, very hard to overcome the impulse I have to go into bookstores and buy, buy, buy like there is no tomorrow. For me and my family and friends, there is indeed a tomorrow, and it is also one of the many reasons why there are libraries in the first place - by having any and all past knowledge in one publicly accessible place, it can help us move forward, expand our imaginations, empathize with others through story, and be the change we've been reading about, without having to pay out the nose for it. Treating that as yet another commodity to be bought, sold, and traded cheapens that potential somewhat - and though I don't think one's personal libraries ought to be neglected, I also don't think we need to remake our current libraries completely and totally into a consumptive entity to help sell this city.

Why can't the public library continue to do what it's doing, only better, with better paid and happier employees, great public events, and edifices that present themselves for community gatherings - something that, in our current recovery climate after 8-29, is needed now more than ever? Why do we need to dress it all up with jazz and culinary themes? Have things really become that bad for libraries as a whole?

If so, we might as well stick a branch right on Bourbon Street. One in the French Market. And have a ruined room in a remade branch in the Lower Ninth Ward as a commemorative gesture as to what crumbling national infrastructure can do to our institutions and, indeed, our lives.

Dammit, I just want to read. Why does that have to be so tough to understand?

Later on that night, I finished the novel. I closed the book and, instinctively, my fingernails began to pick at the Oprah sticker on the cover. I rubbed the last traces of the gummy residue from the sticker off the book's surface. The next day, I dropped it in the library bookdrop.

Technically speaking, it's probably a form of defacing a library book, but, in my opinion, the book didn't need Oprah's seal of approval for me to think it was good. I hadn't had it recommended to me by Oprah herself or by a fan of Oprah's show. It was through word of mouth from another avid reader like myself that I'd heard it was worth picking up, and I sought it out at the library.

Will we be eliminating another way of finding commonalities between otherwise perfect strangers if we remake the library into another version of Barnes & Noble, but with Trombone Shorty and duck po' boys on the side?

If we are, it will certainly sound and taste good for a bit. Digesting the change might be a little hard on our systems, though...

* from Books On Fire: The Destruction of Libraries Throughout History, by Lucien X. Polastron.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This goes out to the MSM from one "cranky misanthropic" blogger:

All of the blogpocheh are extraordinary.

Once again, have you ever thought it's you that's boring?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Miscellaneous Musings

courtesy of Ms Ingman and her wonder blog

Fun with keywords, by my dad:

Ebay likes to correct your searches.
For example...

Thanks, Dad. That's about right.

Are We In A Recession?, Parts One and Two. Lock up your snack foods, folks, and run for the hills, else you'll be up to your armpits in former Bushies looking for work!

The Right Reverend has a picture of what the white liberal DailyKos bloggers look like. He's also got some straight talk from Obama on what is gonna help bolster his presidential campaign. It certainly HAS to work that way for every candidate now, and that's kinda insane.

I have been doing my best to slog through New Orleans After The Promises by Kent B. Germany (which E has also been reading), but I find myself having a tough time getting past the various acronyms for all the civil rights organizations and Great Society-era agencies that cropped up in this area. It's kind of a shame because I want to get at one issue that is related to the school demos, but I have to dig a little deeper into the book to present it well. At least, I think I do...

...until then, I give you a nifty game you might want to play to see how much of a racist you really might be. Watch that trigger finger, and those pre/misconceptions, too!

Speaking of pre/misconceptions, Kevin Allman commented recently on one of the pictures in the Ethan Brown article on New Orleans' murderous times:

That's quite a piece in Radar, particularly the scary picture of the seemingly abandoned building captioned "SCENE OF THE CRIME: The intersection of Marigny and Burgundy, a notorious drug corner near the location of an execution-style murder this February."

It's interesting to me because that's my corner (one block off Elysian Fields, behind the KOPS copy shop), and 1) it's not a "notorious drug corner"; 2) and I have no idea what "execution-style murder" the writer/captioner could be talking about. In February? Two months ago? Who would that be?

It's just a corner in the Marigny. Sts. Peter & Paul Church is on one corner.
Occupied houses on two others. And the big scary house in the photo is undergoing rebuilding, as are a good percentage of the houses in town (it was a wreck before the storm).

I don't dispute the writer's overall theme - things aren't great here, and they're not getting better - but if anyone's headed to Marigny and Burgundy to buy anything but a cup of coffee down the street at Marigny Perks, they're likely to be disappointed. As am I at that article.

Seriously, if anybody has a clue as to what happened at this particular corner, other than a nifty, ominous-looking lighting job perfect for a photo op that makes it look like nefarious deeds have happened there:

...please let me know, and I'll relay the information to Mr Allman. Hell, the way things are going down here concerning crime information, I'll relate it to the NOPD, since they may not know themselves. Scratch that - I'll post it here.

Got up at four-frickin'-thirty this AM, and got caught up in this video Mr Clio found. "Back that thing UP!" is gonna be in my head all day, especially since I need to back up my ol' resume with new information for potential employers. One of these days, I'll get to a Saints game, even if it means sitting on top of the thing hanging from the ceiling. To get out, I'll just rappel my way down to the field and get moving. I might be able to balance out all the "bowling balls" on the field that way.

Not much else to tell, here. I'm simply trying to stave off the inevitable discussion of the hard living down in these parts these days. When I can get down to it, I'll be back on it again. I can't avoid it, anyhow. It's a profound dream that stays with me at all times...because I have to constantly turn it over in my mind and look at it from as many angles as I possibly can.

At this rate, I'll stop when I'm gone.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Aaaaah, Lord...

Why can't I just pull a 1900 on Mondays?

Update, 12:47 PM: Well, knowing (via this link through Minor Wisdom) that this is National Stress Awareness Month just doesn't make me feel much better.

2:13 PM: Say it together with me:

I repeat myself when I'm aware of stress...
I repeat myself when I'm aware of stress...
I repeat myself when I'm aware of stress...
I repeat myself when I'm aware of stress...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I'm having one of those times.

One of those bad times.

Things are getting crazy. I feel like I'm going crazy. I can't decide if my son's recent bad behavior is being caused by:

a) heredity
b) school environment
c) possible tummy ailment that has been going around
d) after-school-care environment (I determined that this is his last week in what passes for after-care at his school. His regular class is great. His after-care is awful. Problem is, there goes an hour off my me time. And this really isn't a good time to have my day shrunk - I might discuss at a later time exactly why this ain't good, but it's kinda TMI right now...)
e) stuff I've been doing wrong as seen through the eyes of others
f) irregularity of his religious school attendance (then again, he only has it every other week, as dictated by the schedule of the school itself. Not conducive to a good learning environment, really.)
g) "only-child syndrome"
h) ADHD or any other acronym that says "hyper as hell - Ritalin candidate so that underpaid, overworked teachers don't have to be aggravated by him"
i) too much TV and/or DVDs
j) imaginary friends, usually penguins or mice
k) he's just stubborn as all hell and is acting out in attention-getting ways - mostly negative - to try to get what he wants
l) (fill in your favorite child behavioral peeve here)

I haven't hated being mommy this much in a long time. Really, I haven't. I am in such a gawdamighty spin, I can't tell if he's exhibiting normal behavior for a five-year-old or if I really do need to have him tested for some sort of ailment, be it physical or psychological (or hell, maybe I need to be tested). I wanna go hide in a hole someplace. I wanna wring the neck of the next person who suggests my son needs a sibling. Most of all, I find myself craving...

Ye Olde Long Island Iced Tea.

No, not for him. But, there is this possibility that if I have one or a few, things might change for the better for us all...

I developed a taste for this kitchen-sink beverage when I was still attending college and was of a legal drinking age. I kinda felt I had to order a schooner of one of 'em to offset the fact that, at the time, my boyfriend and I were regularly attending a seaside joint known as Shooters. It just seemed better for me to be sipping one of those babies rather than doing the sunburned yacht-hopper thing and diving into a gazillion pitchers of beer. It seemed to

Long Island Iced Teas became my drink of choice at places like the Columns Hotel bar here, where I'd sip only one and the potency of the thing would be offset by the melting ice. I never overdid it...

...until the night before my wedding, when I downed three of 'em and my bridesmaids had to carry me home. I was fine the next day, amazingly enough. My wedding was wonderful. My husband is wonderful, and we are approaching our seventh anniversary next month. And I haven't had one since.

I'm reconsidering that, however, because I explored the life-changing properties of this drink one night without even taking a sip of it.

I had taken up a regular trip to a watering hole across the street from the art school I attended. It was largely in order to be sociable with a first-year grad student who seemed to be struggling with the head of the glass department and couldn't see why she should try to develop glassworking as an art when she wanted to focus on her skills (kinda goofy when you think about it). She liked hard cider. I'd have some beers. We'd talk over all kinds of stuff. At that bar, I observed an obsession on her part with those Nutrition Information labels on food and commented that she might want to think about that as a possible starting point for some conceptual work. She tried it and came up with some great stuff with potential, but she still wanted to keep up those hot glass skillz.

One night, I decided to take the plunge and go bottle-to-bottle with her with that hard cider. I was into the second bottle and was really feeling it. An ex-glassworking partner of mine had just come for a visit from her midwestern graduate program, and she walked into the bar and sat beside me. She was a gung-ho glass art-as-art woman. Ex-Glassworking Partner and First-Year Grad Student did NOT get along. I was sitting between the two of them. I was working on my third cider. A waitress/fellow art student walked by, tripped, and spilled some salt from her tray. I leaned back from the stool (and out of the argument that was brewing) and said the first words that came to mind: "To everything, there is a season."

The waitress/student took a second, then guffawed in appreciation of the comment. "Oh, my God, I almost missed that!"

Grinning stupidly, I leaned back into the bar to hear the beginnings of a rip-roaring argument from my two friends. It's an argument as old as time. In three words: Art vs. Craft. It was getting nasty. More than slightly drunk-nasty from one woman, totally ideologically righteous-nasty from the other. I'd finished the third cider. Things were swimming. Myopia was setting in. I was wishing that temporary deafness would set in, too. Both women were on the verge of taking their argument outside. The bartender passed by and asked if we wanted anything else.

"Yeah, a Long Island Iced Tea," I slurred.

"NO!" they both said at the same time, instantly cutting off their argument. Wow, I thought, they have been paying attention to something other than Paul Marioni vs Dante Marioni. That was the last coherent thought I had that night, other than telling some sculpture department grad students my address so that they could take me home. Heck, I don't even remember how I left the bar...

...but I do know that a drink that has that kind of power is a force to be reckoned with. It cannot be taken lightly (actually, taking one of those lightly is an impossibility) or misused. Neither can it be ordered frivolously.

I have never had hard cider since then, and don't intend to. However, it's been nearly seven years since I've had some of that potent iced tea...

Soooo, it's time for some whup-hide gumbo for those who tell me one more time:"Gee, your son is very energetic! Is he being treated for it?".

And afterwards, I'll be raising a glass of that there alcoholic witches brew in the hopes that it can work a teensy bit of its magic once again.

What Is Ashley Morris?

(the following is straight from Ray, who read this at Ashley's funeral yesterday. Short synopsis from Dangerblond can be found here, as well as something from Michael Homan. Pictures, you ask? Of course there are pictures! What are we, a buncha Luddites?)

(My most heartfelt apologies to Kermit Ruffins for what I’m about to do here.)

What is Ashley Morris?

What IS Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is a fiery spirit who inspires and energizes anyone whose life he touches.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is a poet, a patriot, a teacher, scientist, comedian, cook, gadfly, bulldog and warrior.

What is Ashley Morris?

What IS Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is theology and geometry, never lacking in taste and decency even while strapped to Fortuna’s wheel, scribbling on the modern Big Chief pad he called his blog.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is the bass drum. Ashley Morris is the snare drum. Ashley Morris is the high hat. Ashley Morris is the tri-tom. And Ashley Morris never claps on 1 and 3 and hates anybody who does.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is smoked duck poor-boys from Crabby Jacks, shrimp poor-boys from Domilise’s, roast beef poor-boys with extra gravy from the Calhoun Superette, and any kinda poor-boy you wanna get on a lazy Sunday on a barstool with the afternoon sun shining in the window at the Parkway Bakery, y’all. What is Ashley Morris?

What IS Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is Krewe du Vieux. Ashley Morris is the Mystik Krewe of Pan. Ashley Morris is “Buy Us Back Chirac!” and “Bring Back Competent Corruption” and “The Cult of Lafcadio”.

Ashley Morris is at the top of Harry Shearer’s list of favorite mimes. (It’s a short list.)

What is Ashley Morris?

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is daddy to the beautiful Katerina, to the charming Annabel Lee, and to Big Rey d’Orleans Morris.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is the roller derby husband of the best blocker the game is likely to ever see, and woe be to the first jammer who thinks she’s gonna sneak by Soviet Block without a serious ass-whupping.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is an Abita ale, a wee dram of Jameson, a fine Cuban cigar, and an endless supply of stories and experiences both sacred and profane, enough to while away many a late night.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is the Saints 12th Man, the first to arrive and the last to leave in section 635, the Gentilly of ticket sections, reachable only by an arduous three-quarter mile journey by escalator, escorted by sherpas, where you WILL stand and you WILL cheer until the end of the fourth quarter regardless of whether Dem Boys are up by 6 or down by 17.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is he who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds New Orleans through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the saver of lost cities. And he will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy New Orleans. And you will know he is Ashley Morris when he lays his verbal vengeance upon thee. What is Ashley Morris?

What IS Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is Lenny Bruce and Bob Dylan and Bill Hicks. Ashley Morris is Che Guevara. Ashley Morris is Thomas Jefferson. Ashley Morris is Michael Collins. Ashley Morris is any separatist rebel patriot anywhere who ever said “Sinn Fein”, “Ourselves Alone”, or “Let ‘em freeze in the dark without any shrimp or coffee until we get some real levees up in here.” What is Ashley Morris?

What IS Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is the exposer of FMooks, and Ashley Morris is…(all together now) F Y Y F-ing F.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is a whole fried chicken from Dooky Chase’s with baked macaroni, collard greens, cornbread, and candied yams as sweet as bread pudding, eaten out of a box on the front steps of a condemned housing project on a cold drizzly January day saying, “This is the life. You know what they’re eating in Houston right now? Quiznos.”

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris is our voice. Ashley Morris is our rage. Ashley Morris is our laughter, our tears, our heart, our soul.

What is Ashley Morris?

Ashley Morris IS New Orleans.

And Ashley Morris is my friend. Ashley Morris will always be my friend.

And I will always miss him. Forever.

Please keep up your contributions to

Friday, April 11, 2008

Life without Ashley, well... kinda like New Jersey...

It ain't that pretty at all.

Please keep those donations coming in to support the Morris family

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It sounds like the beginning of a bad religious joke, or a Lenny Bruce routine: A Jew walks into a church and says, "Don't let's close this down!", which is close to what WGNO26 got yesterday. Tip for Ms Nguyen, whose coverage presented a denial of communality in general as an overlooked aspect of the church closings yesterday: the person at the beginning of your report is Poppy Brite, not Polly.

And Poppy is agitating to keep the community that she found at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church together, along with fellow OLGC parishioners such as her godmother and Harold Baquet, who spoke extensively and eloquently at the parishioners' rally on the steps of OLGC yesterday. Excuse my shaky, low-quality video, folks.

Part 2 of the rally footage can be seen here.

Any place that is looking for solutions in concert with the Archdiocese of New Orleans' consolidation plan that will keep churches like OLGC open has gotta be pretty special:

We know the history and irony of this old church, and have not been afraid to confront the facts that 50 years ago, my own family and the families of other African-Americans would not have been welcome. Irish and German immigrants built this church, and at the time they were oppressed minorities themselves. That fact speaks volumes about how far we have come as a Christian people. All these years later, we have become a multi-ethnic parish of rich cultures and diverse people of many colors and languages. Our tight-knit community is an open and welcoming environment, gay-friendly, minority-friendly, woman-friendly, family-friendly, without ever having to try or say so. Our actions speak louder than words, everyone here accepting that we all approach the Lord broken and battered.

That's what makes our parish a great community. New Orleans history is full of places where diverse people accommodated each other. This Uptown neighborhood is no different.

Over the course of several weeks, a fragmented, disruptive and ill-timed release of information has forced some parishioners in both OLGC and St. Henry's parishes into a panic. Moderate voices are not being heard. Officials with the archdiocese have never presented us with a hopeful example of what the new situation would look like. Our two parish communities are walking in darkness, just a dozen blocks away from each other, both threatened with having our doors closed without our collective parish councils ever having met.

Clustering has been going on in many parts of the Midwest and East Coast for more than 30 years. Clustered parishioners are free to conduct church business in concert with a shared celebrant priest. The priest, headquartered at one of the parishes, travels to each of the communities to celebrate Mass on the weekends.

Clustering would have been a very workable solution for St. Henry's and Good Counsel, which have ministries that complement each other gracefully.

The "clustering" Baquet describes is a workable solution for other religious organizations as well. Synagogues that cannot afford to have a full-time rabbi can get interning rabbis in for certain worship services each month, and then the rest of the services are lay-led. There might be a shortage of priests, but there is certainly not a shortage of parishioners....not yet, anyway.

If the priest shortage were all that there was to the Archdiocese's decision, then this might truly be workable. Problem is, folks, this is post-8-29 New Orleans - and Poppy Z. highlights a comment on the site by a "sadcatholic" who feels OLGC will suffer a fate similar to what has been happening with public and private housing and public school properties all over the city:

Does anyone not notice that Our Lady of Good Counsel sits on prime real estate property in the city? It is in the "sliver by the River" that wasn't affected by Katrina in the Garden District. Several years ago, the Archdiocese was offered lots of money for the old school building but the sale couldn't go through (from what I recall) because of lack of sufficient parking associated with the building. Isn't it coincidental that now that old school building AND the church AND church parking lot may now be available since the parish is being closed?? Bottom line for the Catholic Church is MONEY - not generations of people that are devoted to their faith. The Archbishop and all his minions will have the blood on their hands of all the good people that lose their faith because of their selfish motives. This is truly a sad day in the rich history of the Catholic Church in New Orleans.

And really, there's nothing seriously wrong with the school building next door to the gorgeous church, other than the fact that the Archdiocese closed it as a school thirty-some-odd years ago and has refused to reopen it since:What's even more insane is the presence of the Louise Head Start child care center operated by Catholic Charities that is right next door to the empty school building. Uhhh, wouldn't fixing up and opening the big ol' building next door have been a better solution, especially when one considers the continuing crisis that is preschool child care in this town?

No, I guess not.

Time for the OLGC folks to take this to a higher authority. Especially since they have been left out of the process. How much more can they endure being pushed around like pieces in a perverse game dictated by administration rather than ministration? These parishioners, and this entire city, need all the social capital they can get.


Tributes to a major contributor to this city's social capital can be found here and here. Please keep the donations coming to Ashley's family at A sendoff for this friend and fierce defender of this city will be happening tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Woohoo! Oyster's blogging again, meaning all of y'all checking out the blogpocheh's tributes to Ashley are doing the right thing. Best of all is how we're overwhelming Hana Morris - in the right way:

Hi you all. Thanks for still coming 'round.

I am going to keep this blog open and keep you updated on what's up with our family and such.
At this moment, I am overwhelmed with all the support I am getting from all the bloggers, the New Orleans community, Lusher school, DePaul community, and old friends. I will be forever grateful for this. I realized that New Orleanians are a family; not a community, not friends, a family.

I will post things as they become official but things are just coming together. All the things Ash did not have time to finish when he was here are happening now. The kids college education will likely be taken care of. The graduation speaker he wanted sooo much finally accepted. And - Entergy is putting the street tiles BACK.

He did it all even though after he passed. He was just larger than life.

Keep your donations coming. T-shirt tributes inspired by Ashley can be found here and here. Proceeds from the sales of 'em will also go to Ashley's family.

Got lots more stuff and nonsense to blog about, and I'll get it out eventually because my brain needs the extra space. 'Til then, send your funds and your good wishes to Hana and the kids. The Big Easy Rollergirls have. What's stopping you?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Keep the donations coming to We'll get that AshMo/Meemaw picture off Oyster's blog yet!

Public Service Announcement: If you're gonna deny, deny, deny, like our fool senator "Diaper Dave" Vitter keeps doing, please drive carefully. Never let 'em see you sweat, or commit traffic violations, in your haste to run from the truth.

Tomorrow morning is a rally for Our Lady of Good Counsel church to stay open. Check back to this post for details.

Nice video on Michael Dingler (aka, ReX from NoLa Rising) that Humid Haney has posted. It even features that "bane of my personal existence" telephone pole, which now has the gray spots beneath the Stop sign stained the color of the pole. Aside from the electrical box pictured in my li'l photo essay, nothing else I saw on my walk has been painted gray. Too bad - don't we all need a new canvas?

Hell of an article in this month's Radar magazine by Ethan Brown about how New Orleans is "keeping the brand out there" - aka, what the murder rate is doing to this city.

In February, a day after Fat Tuesday, I was walking my three dogs when a scruffy man in his twenties passed me on an old squeaky dirt bike, glaring when I offered a wave. In New Orleans, this is unusual—it's still the Deep South, after all—so I stood on the corner and watched him slowly pedal away. Just before he reached the next street, he rode up to a middle-age woman carrying a large purse and suddenly threw a mighty punch, striking her on the side of her face. She fell down screaming; he leaped off his bike and landed on top of her, grabbing for her purse. But the woman wouldn't let go. As I dialed 911, her screams attracted the attention of several nearby residents, who came rushing out of their homes to help. Surrounded, the man took off running, leaving his bike, the battered woman, and her purse on the side of the street. By the time the NOPD arrived on the scene 15 minutes later, he was long gone. This is what it's like to walk your dog in New Orleans.

Brown also answers those who object to his telling it like it is with two important points about the effects of the crime rate here:

1) Even after a massive anti-crime march on City Hall in early January of 2007, the city has done little on crime other than incessantly spin the numbers (the Mayor, the NOPD and the DA all, to borrow David Simon’s oft-used phrase, “shine shit and call it gold”); so, they all need to be constantly confronted with reality in order for change of/reform of law enforcement practices to occur.

2) New Orleans is a very, very small town (population estimates range from about 250,000 to just over 300,000) undergoing a very, very shaky recovery. So a sky high murder rate presents profound risks to the already tenuous recovery. Yes, New Orleans has long been a dangerous place and, yes, New Orleans reigned as the murder capital of the United States in 1994. But the city simply can’t afford its murder rate now–and I’d remind anyone here who is sanguine about the homicide rates of the past that crime was undoubtedly one of several major factors (a lack of economic diversity being another) that led to the steady decline in the city’s population since the early 1960s. Is this the sort of city that New Orleanians want? A city that experiences a long, steady decline in its population–and grows more dangerous every year?

Somebody in a great position to confront city officials on their lack of planning concerning the housing shortage has been on fire lately with his Times-Picayune columns. That's the kind of reporting that confronts our officials with reality when they get out of the vacuum-sealed cocoon that is the Council Chambers - and hopefully take some of that reality back in with them and start working to make this city a better place. For more on Lolis Eric Elie's latest, check E's latest. Yashir koach, Lolis!

I was listening to our rabbi's sermon this past Friday concerning his visit to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, and when he was taking about looking out at the Ohio River nearby and thinking about all of those for whom crossing that river from the south meant freedom, I was momentarily distracted by Edie, who leaned over and whispered to me, "Yeah, and the Ohio River will be here soon!" I giggled, but it's really no joke. Check the USGS Water Watch map daily to see why. The tide is a-risin'...and the News Ladder's Editilla has been tracking the stories of flooded Midwesterners' homes and lives for quite a while. Go back and read his previous posts from the past few weeks.

V to the Tenth is happening this weekend, with a Superlove event taking over the Superdome on Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th (admission is free) and, amid all the activities, performances and talks on Saturday, Naomi Klein will be discussing disaster capitalism from 1:50-2:20 PM. I've seen The Vagina Monologues performed before and loved it, so get your tickets for the performance at the Arena on Saturday and see folks such as Eve Ensler herself, Salma Hayek, Jane Fonda, and Oprah doing their thing with it.

AND, if you can't make it to any of the above events, at least read the Katrina Warriors' book selection for their Network Reading Project: Sandrine's Letter To Tomorrow.

Be good, folks. Stay well and take care.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Funeral services for Ashley Morris are at 1 PM this Friday at Schoen Funeral Home on Canal Street. There will be a jazz procession at St Louis Cemetery #3 afterwards.

Please donate to to help support his family at this time of need.

Update, 11:38 AM: Oyster says "Donate!" or we are forced to see a picture of AshMo and Meemaw (which might have helped topple the Blanco candidacy for a second gubernatorial term) on his blog for all eternity. DON'T let that happen!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dr. Ashley Morris, PhD, passed away on April 2nd, 2008. Ashley was a father, a husband, a teacher, a scientist, a musician, and above all, a New Orleanian. He was a fiery spirit who inspired and energized anyone whose life he touched. Ashley left behind a wife and three small children and expenses are mounting. Please remember Ashley and help his family...
by making a donation through this link.
I now have the picture on the left of this post in my sidebar as a permanent link to Feel free to donate as much as you can. Any amount will be greatly appreciated by his family.

For more information on how you can help, check the latest over at Humid City.
It's Sunday. It's the Lord's day for some. Time to get up, put on one's Sunday best, and head on over to...hey, wait a minute! Where's the church?????


The Archdiocese of New Orleans has announced plans to close a vibrant
and historic Catholic church, Our Lady of Good Counsel at 1235
Louisiana Avenue. This 114-year-old church ministers to 450 families,
including a large number of elderly and disabled parishioners who do
not have the ability to travel to another church. Both OLGC and
another historic Uptown church, St. Henry's (which is 152 years old
and ministers to 300 families) are to be closed in April. Our Lady of
Good Counsel was one of the first Catholic churches to reopen in New
Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, we have repaired the
minor wind damage we sustained in the storm, doubled the size of our
congregation, and made great progress toward paying off our debt to
the archdiocese. Our congregation ministers to the local poor through
the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other organizations, and we hold a
popular St. Joseph's altar each March 19, where the saint is honored
and the public is fed.

The archdiocese blames the closing on a shortage of priests (OLGC and
St. Henry's each have two priests in residence) and reminds us that we
"must make sacrifices for the good of the Church." We feel that we
have already sacrificed a great deal, while the archdiocese has
sacrificed little or nothing; they simply do not wish to help small
parishes that aren't putting money in their pockets.

Our Lady of Good Counsel is architecturally significant, with a
magnificent high altar, remarkable stained glass windows, a working
pipe organ, and other details that would make it part of a standard
church tour in any European city. Under the archdiocese's current
ruling, this beautiful and sacred building will be sold off to the
highest bidder and could even be torn down. Only in New Orleans do we
have so many unseen treasures, and only in New Orleans, it seems, are
we so ready to throw them away.

The archdiocese will announce its final decision re: Our Lady of Good
Counsel and St. Henry's on Wednesday, April 9. On that day at 11:15
AM, OLGC parishioners will gather in front of the church to discuss
the decision and rally in favor of keeping our place of worship open.
We greatly appreciate any support or coverage you can give us.

Here is OLGC's website:

Very sincerely yours,

Poppy Z. Brite [ bookdocpzb (at) gmail (dot) com ]

You may also wish to contact Cheron Brylski [ CBrylski (at) aol (dot) com ], who
is coordinating the anti-closing efforts.

My words to the Archdiocese: now you've done it. You've up and ticked a writer off. Nice going. Way to minister to your parishioners.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba (Cong: Amein).*

I've started to say the Mourner's Kaddish at services lately, which is weird for me. I was taught as a kid that one only says kaddish for immediate family, usually a deceased parent or, God forbid, a child. Others were taught this as well. As a teenager, I distinctly remember a friend of mine at a B'nai Brith Youth Organization convention service in a slight agony because she felt she couldn't participate in a communal rising and saying of the kaddish there. "It would be like I was already considering my parents to be dead," she said, sitting uncomfortably as most everyone around us rose to say it. I understood; it was how we'd both been taught.

I am now a member of a congregation that communally rises at each service to say this memorial prayer. Up until a month ago, I would rise, but I would not say it, meeting the purpose halfway. There are many, many reasons for a Jewish congregation to do a communal version of this prayer now. Outcry for those who have passed away and left nobody behind in their blood descendants to speak for them here on earth. In memory of those who died in the Shoah perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators. Former Soviet Union refuseniks who died in the USSR having constantly been denied an immigration visa, an act that was part of the living persecution of Jews within the Socialist Republics.

Many, many other reasons.

Before this past month, I have said this prayer only for my departed Jewish great-grandmother and for my departed non-Jewish grandmother...but I found the words coming to me in services for reasons other than the ones I have stated. I feel that I have seen too many people die in my lifetime for me not to tell God that I am here, bearing witness. And though I found myself last night wanting to scream a kaddish to the heavens for a man I once knew that was more reminiscent of Allen Ginsberg than traditional Aramaic, I said the prayer with the congregation.

For mourners, the kaddish must be said each day for a year after a loved one's death. And it cannot be said alone - one must have at least a minyan, a gathering of ten, in order to say it. Communality in prayer is important in my tradition...which is why I read this yesterday (via Poppy Z.) and had to share the following, in the hopes that those who also value communality in their lives, no matter what form it takes, will send opinions to the address that follows, or flood the phone lines:


Word is leaking out that Archbishop Hughes will be informing dozens of parishes on April 9 that they will cease to exist by the end of 2008...even though many of these parishes, including Our Lady of Good Counsel Church and St. Henry's Church, are vibrant, self-sufficient communities.

BUT BE WARNED...Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Henry's are not the only churches slated for closure. Yours could be too. And the Archbishop and his chief architects of this plan, including Fr. Michael Jacques, are refusing to meet with parishoners to explain their rationale for the ax they intend to wield on April 9.

THE EXCUSE OF A PRIEST SHORTAGE IS A RUSE. Most of these parishes are self-sufficient and have adequate staffing for masses. Most of these parishes have active ministries. But Archbishop Hughes is not just moving to close these churches, but also petitioning Rome that they cease to be recognized as communities. Our Lady of Good Counsel has existed since the 1800s. Your church may be just as old.

Archbishop Alfred Hughes
7887 Walmsley Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana 70125

DON'T SIT IDLY BY. Your church belongs to you!

No, I haven't converted to Catholicism, folks! But I cannot help but think that this is yet another way to shrink this city and demoralize its residents in the face of that green bottom line. This is already killing folks like Poppy Z., who just recently joined Our Lady of Good Counsel:

...I have no intention of relinquishing my relationship to the Church. However, that relationship is centered around God, the saints, and my church community, not fealty to the Church hierarchy. The importance of the Church vs. the church fails to address the fact that I am not going to go to Mass and listen to some priest harangue me about the evils of homosexuality and abortion. I have no particular reason to think the pastor at St. Stephen's will do that -- in fact, I've never heard any priest in New Orleans aside from William Maestri do that -- but when I lose Father Pat and OLGC, I am going to lose two very important relationships, and I don't feel that the archdiocese is acknowledging that at all. Catholics are fetishists; it's unreasonable not to expect us to have deep attachments to our church buildings, our statues, our places. The idea of OLCG being sold gives me a sickness in the pit of my stomach, something like the way I felt when I saw the shitty "Mexican" restaurant that had taken over the building where Marisol was. If they take these things away from me, they challenge my faith just when I had finally found the courage to proclaim it. I am curious to talk to some cradle Catholics from my parish and see what they think of all this.

In other words, let these people continue to bear witness in places in which they feel a real connection to others, a connection that has been built over time. Islam has now surpassed Catholicism as the dominant world religion - and moves such as this are not going to help the folks in Rome and their representatives maintain what they have, let alone gain new members.

The thing about communality in prayer is that it can reassure us that we are not alone in our struggles. It can give us the strength to take on the world again, in ways great and small. It is one of the reasons why mourners say the kaddish, which outwardly looks like another version of praising God, but it ends with wishes and hopes for peace.

May there be abundant peace from Heaven and life upon us and upon all Israel.
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace, upon us and upon all Israel.



Subscribe to the Ashley Morris Fund mailing list to receive updates on fundraising efforts for Dr Ashley Morris' family.

Head to Maitri's to see some Gambit Weekly tributes to Ashley.

A beautiful, beautiful remembrance of the departed from Ray.

*May God's great Name grow exalted and sanctified (Amen).