Thursday, December 31, 2009

My ex-boss would say on occasion, when things got really crazy work wise, "No rest for the wicked, and the righteous don't need it, by God."

Her oft-used phrase came to mind when I saw that, just when I think I'm done for the rest of the year, the Walking Id isn't.

In spite of City Council's precious decision to quash Nagin's plan to purchase the Chevron Building and relocate City Hall...he's doing it anyway.

How? By tapping a 200 million dollar fund called the Revolver Fund.

The Revolver Fund was set up by the state as seed money for insurance financed or FEMA financed repairs. The 200 million dollar fund was directed toward the city with the understanding that at the end of the recovery the money could be added to the $411 million dollar D-CDBG funds, bringing it up to a total of 612 million. The money was meant to speed the recovery process and it is essentially a reimbursement process with FEMA. The city must actually execute and pay for repairs, then they are reimbursed by FEMA.

Now the problem with that equation is that any money spent under the Revolver system must meet FEMA requirements for spending....the FEMA requirements state the money can't be used for new development...they can only be used for repairs of existing infrastructure.

Here's the problem...Nagin is trying to pass the purchase of the Chevron building off as a repair project and pay for it with Revolver money. That's bullshit. It's not a repair project, it's clearly a new development and once he spends city cash for the building the city will denied by FEMA in its attempt to tap the Revolver Fund.

Aside from just blatantly defying the decision of City Council, Nagin is putting us on the hook for untold millions....

Folks...this is insanity...Nagin is spending down money we don't have....

Unfortunately, the Chevron purchase won't have to come back before the council for approval because they don't have dominion over the Revolver Fund. However, council can introduce a new ordinance to forbid the purchase. The problem is they will need 5 votes to override Nagin's impending veto.

Now is the time to raise hell. Call your councilperson and demand they pass an ordinance to stop this purchase...and amend the 2009 budget to stop the allocation of monies which Nagin wrongly listed as "encumbered" with the D-CDBG funds.

Head to Dambala's and get your city councilperson's phone number and email addy to let 'em know how bad this is gonna be.

Our mayor's hurtin' on the recovery apparently knows no bounds.

He must not be sleeping well at night.

Still not getting the picture? Let E fill you in some more. A lawsuit against Nagin might well be a viable option here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Communications from out here on the Left Coast, via the in-laws' enclave, have been limited to short bursts from me on Twitter. Truth be told, I am running about quite a bit out here, and when I'm not, I'm reading. A lot. Other books, other blogs, magazine articles.

Haven't been a big one for lists. I'll leave that instead to the Gambit, the Zombie, and Maitri. This song's for all of you. I really don't need to know all of the people y'all have kissed, though.

What gets me all itchy about being here around New Year's, though, is that it is here in Silicon Valley where I am confronted the most with the always-in-conflict dichotomy of individual achievement vs. obligations in familial form. I will be told how rude, uncouth, and utterly lacking in manners my generation is and, in the same breath, I will be asked why I am not more ambitious in my pursuits outside the home. I speak of someone still needing to be there when my child becomes ill or in order to fulfill the volunteer hours strongly encouraged of parents by the school he attends and am then asked why he isn't playing with children his own age more. I speak of the difficulty of trying to get the phone numbers of children the kid likes at his school, since there is no general school directory and many, many parents are working, so trying to get numbers directly from them when I pick the kid up is just not happening, and it brings us all back 'round to why am I not jumping into the job fray. Articles like this do not help, because they still condemn women for staying out of the workforce to raise their children and tell us to just work through the guilt of leaving our kids because it will ultimately be serving feminism and breaking some glass ceilings, so hooray, recession, for getting mothers out there in the workforce in droves!!! Yep, it's still all up to women, dammit. Probably should have removed my ovaries when I'd had the chance.

You see why I can't last much longer than a week out here...

So hey, my wishes for the new year?
That I do muster the energy to do it all one more time.
That I can write more thank-you notes and get my son doing it, too.
That we can all RSVP to stuff right off.
That there will be much, much less racism, sexism, or any other -ism that is the basis of any sort of prejudice that can be used like a butcher knife to slice us all apart.
That there will be a form of peace on earth that will be reflected in air travel.
That my husband will step up more and participate even more in the home and in raising the child we brought to life seven years ago.
That my beloved home of New Orleans will have better leaders and a much better future in store.
That we all stay happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
That whatever threads of sanity I still have stay as strong as can be and help serve me in tough times ahead.

Everybody be well. Smile more and keep your senses of humor.

Happy New Year.

Update, 5:35 PM: This always bears looking at this time of year. I certainly hope our murder rate goes down as well, but until our broken law enforcement systems are reassembled, I don't have much hope for improvement in this area, either. Let's just be careful out there, all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I found these at Octavia Books and found I couldn't give enough of them as gifts this season:

Do you deserve a good karma check or a bad karma check?

It's a valid question.

The checks in the book are for good deeds - such as complimenting your waiter on good service or giving a thank-you to someone who really helped out in a pinch - and for bad - stealing a parking space someone's been waiting for, having a private conversation on your cell while you're in a public place. Just depends on the situation.

I already have a darned good idea as to who's getting a bad check. It would certainly be better in someone's stocking than a lump of coal these days (in the only episode of According to Jim I could tolerate, a running joke is explaining coal to kids who don't know much about it: "It's a black rock that burns." "Cool!" Kinda misses the original intent of the act...).

Granted, it's a long post I'm referring you to, but it is well worth the read. Check out what the Zombie says in that link about where the recovery money is really going and how it is affecting us all. Don't worry if it takes you awhile to digest it. Take that time, wrap your head 'round what's being said...then think about this:

If the money wasn't used to bail out HANO, if it was meted out in a transparent manner and wasn't flagged for irregularities in the awarding of contracts for various city projects that are now on hold - wasn't, wasn't, wasn't - think of all the things the proper management of it could have freed up in terms of the current city budget crisis. All the mess that could have been avoided had the Walking Id in the mayor's office been more competent and less of a stonewalling schmo. A big bad karma check goes out to him and his minions for doing what he has accused Lee Zurik and various bloggers of doing:

The good karma checks? They will go out to you for insisting on the following:

City Council can pull this back into play in a special session and bring all these items back into question.

As it stands right now, Nagin may be setting up an 83 million dollar black hole with little to no oversight. There’s very little to stop him from…oohhh….let’s say….sliding the Municipal Auditorium plan into Economic Development category for the LRA operating budget.

This is up to us, the citizens, to stop this boondoggle before it happens and leaves the next administration in a lurch. If you’re as concerned about this as I am, please contact your city councilperson and demand that they bring the LRA budget back to the table for further scrutiny.

And don't forget about contributing to Ride Hamilton's recovery. There's a major amount of good karma on ya right there for that.

*Yeah, I know, I just linked to on that one. Only really derogatory remark in the comments for it concerns Lee Zurik's eyebrows. I'm gonna burn for that linkage, I know.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I don't have access to his Facebook, but someone else I know does and is absolutely appalled at what happened.
On my way to hospital. I was beat up by 9 guys. I took a lot of head injuries. Punks were spray-painting graffiti on stores, so I told a security guard and they ran. Then they jumped out from behind a car and beat me for a full 2 minutes. The punks didn't hold back. They meant to maim me. It took the police 10 minutes get there as I laid in the street bleeding. I coulda been killed EASY.
Ride of Two Fires Hamilton is more than just some character in Heart Like Water. He has been doing his best to document on film nearly everything that is going on here. He's come to a few Rising Tide conferences and has had one of his films shown at Rising Tide 2.

photo by Maitri

The man is now hurting badly from his injuries and is short on funds.

Spare what you can this holiday season. There is a PayPal link through his email that should help get the funds there: Contribute what you can to help him through this terrible attack.

Update, 12-22: Way to contribute: Log in to your PayPal account, click on the "Send Money" option, and enter in the email address to transfer the money to Ride. Wishing him r'fuah shleimah (healing and health) this holiday.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

After you drown your sorrows and realize Breesus is not only human but Drewish (funny, he doesn't look Drewish), that maybe the Unknown Who Dat shouldn't take up permanent residence in a Tomb of the Unknown Who Dat just yet, and contemplate that the Cowboys not only have to go back to Dallas, but they will soon be getting the Walking Id as their neighbor, just take a few deep breaths and realize that we are DIVISION CHAMPS WITH A FIRST WEEK BYE IN THE PLAYOFFS.

Take it, Kermit.

Who. The Hell. Dat.

Friday, December 18, 2009

When we are now told as Americans to "find a happy place", we'll know exactly where to go.

Of course what will temper the impulse people who don't live here might have to pull up their stakes and come running over the state line might be some facts on the ground concerning some crucial stuff that makes families want to settle here and stay put - you know, like the crime problem here, and the way the whole "school choice" thing is really playing out:
Education should not be left to a “last-minute miracle.” If that is our collective belief, then this is not a democracy and we should send all the working-class and middle-class kids home so the resources can be left to those who are lucky enough to be able to pay, lucky enough to live in x neighborhood, lucky enough to be part of y family that has owned q for t number of years and given f number of thousands to something or someone. That’s also not a meritocracy. If you are born into it, you didn’t earn it. And if you didn’t earn it, how can you say with a straight face that you believe in hard work, perseverance, and intelligence?

I’m making myself sick saying this: public education should not be hard to access. That is why it is PUBLIC. In other places, it’s not perfect but not nearly so hard.

Why do we here so admire the extraordinary, over-the-top efforts of parents to get a decent education for their kids? Why does this irritate so few? Or seemingly so? Does anyone realize, or believe, that education is not a privilege, a game you have to be lucky enough to win? That parents should not have to fight or bargain with any number of devils just for a school? Why is this so radical in LA?

There should be a few competitive, harder-to-get-into schools for the hard-core scholar or artist. But that shouldn’t be the only chance to get out alive.

My addendums to G's points:
KIPP also has Shawn Datchuk, who I wrote about a while back – he handles the special ed in McNair, I believe (My apologies - it's New Orleans College Prep where he works). The huge problem I have with these superhuman counselors and teachers is their burnout rate in these positions that overwork ‘em and mightily underpay ‘em. The grateful kids and parents can only sustain someone like this for so long. No one should ever be expected to be a saint for their employer, but the charters seem to regularly demand that of their employees. That is NOT the way this should work.

And I plotz every time I see a parent with that desperation in their eyes telling me he/she’s applied to get their kids into these schools – and I realize how powerless I am to even give them any sort of encouragement other than “Well, people move away and spots can open up – the mistake would be to not even TRY.” I want to shoot myself when I hear myself say such a pithy, pathetic thing, but that’s all that’s left when there aren’t even schools in the remains of the public education system here that ARE in the middle.

All of this is mightily f$#!ed.

The only other thing I feel is just as mightily messed is the Walking Id's snit over the budget. Stamping his foot and saying "No Mardi Gras stands for you!" is a move designed to burn his bridges around these parts. And eliminating Fridays as a workday for city employees only makes sense if all those people are converting to Judaism atop it'd make prep for Shabbat one hell of a lot easier...but I don't think these folks will want to give up their shellfish, so it will come down to Nagin standing on a dee-luxe ladder toasting the kings of Carnival as they stop at Gallier Hall.

74 more days, people.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So the kiddo got the aforementioned Nazi plane set for Hannukah from the grandparents:

It came with some nifty decals and all to put on the plane parts and make it look more camouflaged:

But, you know, something was missing.

Let's compare with the Raiders scene that inspired this set:

Granted, the little guy has seen Raiders. He knows there are no Generic Bad Guys that Indy is fighting - it's the Nazis, pure and simple, who see the Ark of the Covenant as their tool for world domination. The kid now loads the mini Aron Hakodesh into the cockpit, derides the Nazis as evil dudes for trying to use a ritual object of great importance for their own evil ends, and makes like the Generic Bad Guy flying wing is now going to take the Aron back to Israel.

But, see, I know what the reasoning is behind not throwing a swastika decal onto a Lego plane part.
  1. Who'd want to buy that for their kids? Lego couldn't sell those if they paid people to take 'em off their hands. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart! It's the National Socialist Party plane from Raiders, just for you!"
  2. Parents would have a lot of splainin' to do about world history...not to mention the nature of evil, the banality of it, how it can turn the mysteries of life into tools to serve that evil, how capable we all are of it, and what it takes to stop it. 'Cause, you know, this is the flip side of Indy's adventures:

If you're gonna fight evil, fight ignorance first, parents. At least give your kids a window into where things are coming from. For those of you who see the Indiana Jones Lego sets as mere toys, think about this: the Nazis seized and catalogued art, artifacts, and ritual objects belonging to the people they sent to the gas chambers, all in the name of their own profit, of course - and they also wanted to take the fact that Jews, homosexuals, Romanies (gypsies) and other - in their eyes - "degenerate" people existed, retell their history from the point of view of the Nazi annihilators as "saviors" of the German volk from some imagined plague dwelling within those same people who had to die, and enclose it in museums and warehouses, thus removing these people, who were deemed Other and thus could not live, from the everyday lives of ordinary Germans. The Nazis were ultimately unsuccessful, thank God, but not before they stole billions of dollars worth of art and stored thousands of Torahs, silver ritual objects from synagogues, and other items of value that once belonged to the millions they massacred.

What marketers and manufacturers do when they eliminate telling details such as the swastika from these toys is engage in a similar sort of denial in which people aren't seriously hurt, but the quest for the almighty greenback trumps the references in Raiders to what the Nazis were trying to do and the depths to which they were willing to dive. Without selling the toy, Lego doesn't have much of a business going, right? Sure, they don't. But they don't hold the ultimate sway over the context of the sets they put out on the market and the stories we can tell about them.

Besides, y'all, Raiders is a good action flick. Pop some popcorn and watch it with the kids. It's entertainment with a smidgen of basis in fact, which is more than I can say for the Lego sets it inspired.
Another gem from my Queens synagogue's listserv:

A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards. She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Chanukah stamps?" The clerk says, "What denomination?"
The woman says, "Oh my God. Has it come to this? Fine. Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform."

Just seems like the perfect time for some more hostilidays love - eighties style.

And it's always nice to get some greetings from Kobe, Dwyane, and Cuba at this time of year.

According to WTUL, I missed these ladies performing last night at d.b.a. (nah, they weren't there, but the Tin Men were...grrrr, sad that I missed them, too), but what can I say? I was helping my son construct a Nazi plane his grandparents gave him for the holidays, so I had to miss out on the Hasidic Strip....among many other fine bits of entertainment. Thanks, Steven Spielberg.

Two more nights, people.

At least all my Chanukah gifts have been sent out. Now I must concentrate on the goyische presents.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Got a little hopped up on making and eating latkes last night, but I did take a little time to listen in on the first mayoral debate through WWNO online (you can watch it here if you wanna) and commiserate with some folks on the Tweeter Tube whilst the whole shebang was going on. The deja vu all over again permeated the whole exercise, with some twists of an "herbal" nature. We are no better off than we were before the 2006 election, and the cast of characters involved in this year's circus are largely recycling the same tired platitudes and promises when I wish they'd have instated recycling as part of our trash pickup four years ago. Nobody really knows how City Hall works (or, if they do, they're not telling us), and Norman Robinson went for the entertainment value of getting these candidates in a police lineup atmosphere in which they were allowed to run their mouths - only things missing were the lines on the wall telling us how tall these people were.

After hosting my latke blowout, I hied myself back to Twitter, played Ed McMahon to Jeffrey's Johnny Carson and got picked on for being a NOLA political nerd *sniff*. But I am not as nerdy as the following folks about this go-round, I can tell you that.

E - first impressions, and analysis
Kevin's reporter's notebook
The yaller blogger, aka, Heeeere's Johnny
Alex Woodward on Thomas "Not In My House" Lambert

Overwhelming first impression - there will be one bumper sticker concerning this election that will overshadow 'em all:

Don't Blame Me. I Moved Out Of The City.

Update, 12:46 PM: Don't miss Mominem's ultimate candidate resource of the mayoral hopefuls AND the city council runners.

Anudder update, 1:47 PM: Adrastos has more on the Norman Robinson Show and its participants.

One mo' time, 8:14 PM: The yaller blogger gives the debate the Lester Bangs treatment, minus the psychotic reactions and carburetor dung. And Leslie Jacobs is the first casualty after the qualifying deadline.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My cousin attended a prospective student meeting at Tulane and told me about the answer to a question someone asked a current student there concerning what traditions, quirks, and other strange things occurred on the Tulane campus.

The girl who answered told the students about some lady who's, like, a hundred years old or so who pushes a cart around and attends as many classes as she possibly can, or something to that effect.

"Sounds kinda weird," my cousin the New Yorker said.

"Actually, I think we know that lady," I said. "She used to attend our synagogue. She even came to our wedding," I blurted out without thinking, getting the strangest look from my cousin. He wouldn't have remembered her presence, as he was only an elementary-school kid at the time who was convinced that he and a cousin of mine on my mom's side of the family (that he'd just met) had been separated at birth somehow...but she was there. In one of our wedding pictures, she is standing in front of our ketubah - our marriage contract - and reading it with great interest. My grandparents and parents made sure she got a ride home that night.

She lived around the corner from me nine years ago and attended services and Torah study regularly at my synagogue. The lady was deaf as a post and couldn't sign or read lips, so the only way to communicate with her was to sit patiently with a pen and paper and write your responses to what she loudly said in conversation. I learned that Mrs. Hardy had traveled a great deal, that she lived alone, that she enjoyed seeing everyone grow and change through the years, getting married, having children...and I would see her dressed to the nines daily walking briskly with a cane all the way from St Charles and Prytania to Tulane University as I traveled down St Charles to work. When she learned that Dan and I were going to take a month traveling in Spain and Portugal on our honeymoon, she brought over an electric teapot with the correct kind of adapter on it for European outlets - she'd loved the Costa del Sol when she'd been there (especially Torremolinos) and assumed we'd be staying in one place for a while and would need some way to cook.

In April of the next year, we moved to Queens and stayed for four years. When we got news of the Federal Flood shortly after 8-29-05, one of the first people I did my best to check up on was Mrs. Hardy. Someone on the West Coast saw my post on about her and a TTY conversation resulted, in which I had to admit to the deaf caller who was sincerely trying to help that she probably wouldn't avail herself of any help available to the hearing-impaired; she just wasn't that kind of person. Mrs. Hardy was a soul who was an adventurer true to her name - there was an innate trust in her of the goodness in people, as well as a willingness to engage everyone as best she could: through conversations with pen, paper, and some loud talk. It was a profound relief to see her again at my synagogue when we moved back to New Orleans six months after the storm and the flood, and she took great joy in seeing that Dan and I had a son who was running around and doing his little guy doings.

Problem is, time was proving to be harsh on her. She didn't live close to St Charles and Prytania anymore, so we saw her less frequently at services and Torah study. She pushed a cart around for balance just as much as for convenience in carrying stuff....and even though she kept going to classes, there were signs that her mind was not as sharp as it used to be.

I learned through Twitter last week that Mrs. Martha Hardy, aka, the adventurous one, the world traveler, the perpetual student, the Granny Cart-Lady, and "Sophie Newcomb" had passed away on December 9th at the age of ninety-one.

Zichron l'vracha, as they say in my tradition...may her memory forever be for a blessing.

Update, 12-16: Clay passes on this link to Mrs. Hardy's obit in the Tulane Hullabaloo.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seems my blog is beginning to look a lot like Adrastos', what with the holiday vids and all. Especially this past week, where I've been running 'round like a chicken with its head off trying to get things ready for my son's birthday and Hannukah. As it is, the gifts that need to go out to family and out-of-town friends haven't been sent out yet - thank God Hannukah is eight nights long. This week has really been the week I needed to do what my sister-in-law's holiday gift to me says - step back and use the F%$!-It Bucket. It works. It really does. I highly recommend it. I'm gonna make one for a relative of mine, 'cause I think she'd appreciate it quite a bit...after I give her the Basin Street Records CD...does anybody else think giving a woman a Jeremy Davenport CD might suddenly imply the giftee is a cougar in some way? And why does an older woman liking younger men have to have such a moniker anyway? Could be worse, I guess, like lecher, but the implications that something is somehow off about older women with younger men is still there. Why the hell can't people just be with who we wanna be with and have everybody else stay out of it unless bodily harm is involved?

See, you can't just give a gift have to think about context, pop culture, and semantics atop the individual giftees likes and dislikes. AUGGGH!!! Pardon me while I grab me some motherf&%!ing candy.

So my parents send my son a marble run maze that takes a PhD to put together (You think I'm pulling your leg - it's a seventy-page instruction book.) I feel a major sugar high coming on.

So this week fittingly ends with a biblical downpour that cancels one Hannukah party for my son, keeps me at home from another Hannukah party, ensures that only five kids come to whack a rocket pinata at my son's birthday party, and just generally freaks out my dog. It was dump the candy from the bucket and fill it with alcoholic beverages time.

Yeah, I'm recovering. Barely. Pray for me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Only one night away from a double whammy - the first night of Hannukah and my 37th birthday.

As a friend of ours on our Queens synagogue's listserv has posted: A friend of Rabbi Kalman Packouz tells him that as he grows older he experiences a personal miracle on Chanukah. He eats one potato latka - and it burns for eight days.

Two points to make here:
  • I don't cook latkes in that much oil - at least, I do my best not to.
  • I'm not that old...not yet anyway.
Anyhow, if Adrastos can highlight everyone's favorite holiday brick of a treat, I can certainly find some paeans to potato pancakes that'll sit like clay in your gut.

The following is one my husband and I like the least of all of Jewish singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman's songs. It reminds me of how old I'm getting as well - seems like ages ago when she was my music teacher in my Jewish day school deep near the coast of Texas. Now she plays concerts that demand upwards of $50-plus for tickets. She got to Carnegie Hall, practicing and teaching all us kids now-classic original music of hers as well as the occasional inclusion of "Mairzy Doats" and its like. I still wanna scream NO WAY! whenever I hear "A kid'll eat ivy, too, wouldn't you?"

But I hear the following, and I just wanna scream, period.

Sorry, Debbie.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

All right. Now Greg's done it. I have to whip out the OGs.

The following ain't safe for work. The kids' ears'll bleed, I know. But the sight of Orrin Hatch whipping out his mezuzah on a chain is truly nauseating.

The GOP senator from Utah may have a recording studio, but the Jewish people will always be more shtetlfabulous in one little finger than he'll ever be with his weak-ass "hip hop".

And if you wanna rest your senses after viewing such a thing, head, wait!...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Just a couple of questions/heads up this Monday morn:

Is this happening all over the country, or just here?:
Basically, the President of the LCTCS (Louisiana Community and Technical College System) Board has dictated that Delgado can not give pay increases with any promotions this year, despite the fact that Delgado has the money to do this and has budgeted the money to do this. His bizarre reasoning for this is that, since the other schools in the LCTCS system are strapped for cash and cannot afford to give promotions or raises, Delgado should somehow show more empathy for their hardships and not fund its promotions. Thus, they are currently asking any faculty up for a promotion to take on the added responsibilities associated with the promotion without any additional pay. Part of his goal is, supposedly, to do away with any position beyond "Instructor", thereby removing all promotions altogether. This would put Delgado (and probably the other community colleges) at a disadvantage in trying to hire better qualified faculty to teach, which would obviously have a negative affect on their ability to provide a decent education.

Address your letters to Dr. Joseph D. May , president of the LCTCS Board. You can google him and read about his vision and plans for the LCTCS. This may give you more ideas to address in the letters. We don't know if the letters will be read, but we hope the effort will produce a positive impact. This is an address I found when I googled the LCTSC Board: 265 South Foster Drive Baton Rouge, LA 70806 PH. 225.922.2800

1. Receiving promotions every four years is the only fixed means for teachers to increase their salaries. We work for 4 years prior to the date of promotion to receive these increases. This isn't work we are going to do, but work that has already been done.

2. These increases also determine teacher retirement income. Example: If someone was planning to retire in 2012,and was depending on their 2009 promotion to be the highest 3 consecutive years salary, their retirement income would be less because the salary increases were not given.

3. Our promotions correspond to promotions given to administrative and staff personnel. When administrators or staff are promoted their salaries increase without question.

4. How was $125,000 found for a newly created position during a time of financial cut backs?
Also, at a time when Second Harvest Food Bank is all over the place in desperate need of funding and food donations, and volunteer programs are setting up hot food lines at the foot of Elysian Fields Avenue by the river each night to feed the homeless at "The Wall", it looks as though the Wall will be taken away as a location to feed these people. I don't know the exact story - most of what I've heard says a neighborhood association is finally getting their wish of turning the Wall area into green space. Please enlighten me in the comments, if you would.

Anybody got a neutral ground or a location nearby to offer for the purpose of feeding the hungry, in the meantime?

Last night, Edie, Dan, the little guy and I headed for Atlantic Aviation to see what waiting on the Saints to come home from an away game was like and pretty much confirmed it was like waiting on a Mardi Gras parade only with much more fast moving traffic, lots of passing cars honking to support the black & gold-clad masses, lots of people standing on SUVs for a better view, and only a few Kenner police cars there to keep people from getting run over or the players from leaving the parking lot molested in some way. It proved to be too cold for us to stand out there for too long, though, so we retreated to the car, listened to the geriatric bowl on the radio for a bit, and high-tailed an exhausted little guy back home after seeing the chartered flights land.

The euphoria hasn't quite worn off yet.

Update, 12/14: The Gambit now has the Basin Street Records video up in honor of the 13-0! Shortened version of "Saints Christmas", but with more Kermit mojo workin'.

I'll be putting in a word with Hannukah Harry while I'm at it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

It's a little too easy to dismiss this as Oh my God, it's a white boy discovering police prejudice!
A few months ago I had a run-in with the Jeff. Parish cops. I'll preface this story by saying I'm a white man, college educated, from California, and I generally have all the socioeconomic privileges that keep me from being a target of police profiling. When these JPSO cops stopped me though, I feared for my safety. I was simply riding my bike along the River levee and decided to cruise through Kennar (sic). Big mistake. The two JPSO deputies that followed me for three blocks and then pulled me over first physically threatened me when I asked, "is there a reason why you stopped me?" Then after searching me and running my ID, they informed me to leave the area or else: "this is a crack neighborhood." They said. "White people don't come back here." I was riding not four block off Kennar's main strip.

The message was, 'don't ride through black areas, white boy'; 'don't come into Jeff. Parish at all.' JPSO enforces segregation in order to further criminalize the black poor that live in Kennar and other parts of the mostly white Parish. I was outraged but powerless. Seeing Seagal playing police man to bolster JPSO's image upsets me deeply. That is a terribly troubled and violent police force that need a different kind of exposure.
I experienced Steven Seagal: Lawman vicariously through other folks tweets the other night and caught some of it through posted episodes on A&E's website (A&E, people. How the mighty have fallen there...but that's another post altogether). It's funny mainly because of Seagal's monster ego being fully on display in a Cops-like context, so stopping people for "existing while black", among the other terrible things the West Bank's Finest (ahem) may either create for themselves or have to deal with after the fact, are shot through with the action movie actor's constant emphasis on his martial arts background and punctuated by many, many zaps of multiple Tasers. It's so bad, it's almost badder than bad. Almost.

When one looks deeper into the entity that is the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, however, the comedy does fall away, hard and fast. The same show that will keep Seagal in the public eye will also subject the JPSO to greater scrutiny - you know, the department also cited in a lawsuit filed against the Gretna police department who turned back people trying to escape from a flood-ravaged New Orleans on the Crescent City Connection shortly after 8-29-05** - an action singled out for condemnation by Congress; the law enforcement entity once headed by now-deceased sheriff Harry Lee, who once proclaimed that blacks in white JP neighborhoods ought to be stopped by the police (check Carnival 1987-on in the timeline for that policy in action). It's crazy for a police force to be perpetuating such policies, but to be turning them around and applying them in the service of white supremacist idiocy: this is a crack neighborhood...white people don't come back here...well, who are they to perpetuate segregation?
Although white Americans often think we've had few first-hand experiences with race, because most of us are so isolated from people of color in our day-to-day lives, the reality is that this isolation is our experience with race. We are all experiencing race, because from the beginning of our lives we have been living in a racialized society, where the color of our skin means something socially, even when it remains largely a matter of biological and genetic irrelevance. Race may be a scientific fiction - and given the almost complete genetic overlap between the persons of the various so-called races, it appears to be just that - but it is a social fact that none of us can escape no matter how much or how little we may speak of it. just as there were no actual witches in Salem in 1692, and yet anti-witch persecution was frighteningly real, so too race can be a falsehood even as racism continues to destroy lives, to maim, kill, and, on the flipside, to advantage those who are rarely its targets.*
The JPSO has a terrible track record of perpetuating this thinking and imposing it on everyone...the imposition of its racism on everyone no matter what color they are is ironically the only equal right they afford to us all - the right to harass everybody.

And Seagal has bought into that with every episode of his show.

Just something to remember in the midst of all the Zen Taser madness.

*White Like Me, Tim Wise

** changed to correct factual errors; my bad.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Allright, enough mushy stuff. Here's a hostilidays vid that'll burn you up:

...if it were an actual monkey that were harmed in that video, PETA would sue and you'd be out a whole lotta gelt. But there's a whole lotta people short of gelt these days, anyhow. And somebody found a solution to their financial woes:

Jury's out on whether or not I'll be doing the same after my latest round of car repairs. When I paid the bill and was walking out the door of the garage, the mechanic said he always felt like a Scrooge when he had to charge people as much as he charged me for the work on my car at this most wonderful time of the year. If he weren't such a nice guy at heart, I'd liken him to that Christmas character Krampus, but he really doesn't deserve to be sent back to hell if he does something wrong by Santa.
In a couple of days, my son turns seven.

Seven years and a little less than nine months will have passed since the day I turned green from smelling the gas I was putting in my car at the Magazine Spur station and decided to get a pregnancy test.

More years than that have passed since the day I was having lunch at Juan's with my not-yet-fiance-or-husband and telling him I was never going to have kids. Never say never.

This child of mine has grown like a weed. He's still a big sweetie, but he's also quite confident in himself, almost to the point where I fear for his willingness to open his mouth and share his opinions and facts about the world at any time and any place - and almost to what seems like an arrogant fault. His French teacher told me yesterday of how he was demonstrating his knowledge of the TGV, France's high-speed train, to her and how he punctuated it with, "Know how I know that? From my Big Book of Transportation!" (She laughed at the thought of such a book, and laughed even harder when I told her, "No, it's true, he does have that book!") A visit from Mrs Jindal to his school to demonstrate the new Promethean Board they acquired as a teaching tool showed that his outspokenness can pay off though, as he gave her the correct answer to one of her questions in a demo of what the board can do (Dan and my fellow coffee shop patron had the same question: "Did she know the answer?" Uh, yeah, guys.).

He loves the cars, trucks and airplanes, he was adamant that his birthday party invitations have an Airbus A380 on them and that he have a few games for his partygoers, and he's now getting into the Legos big time. The kid knows what he likes and dislikes and has no problems telling you. Turns out he gets easily freaked by some scary stuff in kids' movies (case in point: I had to take him out of Ice Age 3 after the carnivorous plant moment, which I thought was hilarious, a true homage to Die Hard With A Vengeance), but he loves Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. What'cha think, people, should I get him an Indiana Jones set or what?

He's also still got some love for the ladies: he tried writing a nice note on what his prospects were to a little girl in his after care (he wants to be a pilot for Delta when he grows up, according to the note). Watch out for the charmer, girls. I out.

But overall, he's still a young 'un with all the accompanying growing pains that tend to be wearing on me a bit more than they are wearing on him. Or so I think, until he asks me why there are wars, or why there are kids who aren't as outgoing and friendly as he is that he tries to welcome into his orbit, or when he's going to be a big enough guy to do the things he wants to do - the stuff that sends his heart afire like being a semi-driving airline pilot, or getting married and having a job (yes, it's true, he thinks about that a lot), or seeing the animals he reads about regularly in the wild, or even owning a rat, a mouse, a ferret, or a turtle as a pet of his own.

He'll worry about things like, this morning, when I was going to get the brake tag renewed on our now-fixed car. He reminds me each religious school Sunday to pass him the money for his class' tzedakah (charity) collection in the morning. His capacity to worry about all kinds of things can worry me sometimes....but then he voices something that's more self-centered, like oh, what will happen to him in a certain situation?, or when can he watch a certain movie?, or can't I please pull out the birthday present his grandma and grandpa bought for him a little early?, and I am secretly relieved that I haven't been raising a complete saint, until the selfish goes too far and I have to rein him in. Basic kid behavior.

My son is an ongoing work in progress, as am I as his mother. We are proof positive that certain tasks are ongoing, that shaping one's life is never ending and having a hand in that process is an art in when to be a good parent and intervene and when to be a good parent and let it go. We are all still learning. But we're doing it together, planning for what we can but taking all the rest as it comes. No instruction books. Hell, we don't even have a TV with a converter box, forget cable or satellite.

Yet here we are, a couple of sillies.

I love that little character of mine. Happy birthday, little guy.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Well, crud, people. Seems the demand is outstripping the supply. Imagine that.
A report from Education Sector raises questions about the ability of charter schools and charter-management organizations to scale up as dramatically as their supporters might hope.

“The extraordinary demands of educating disadvantaged students to higher standards, the challenges of attracting the talent required to do that work, the burden of finding and financing facilities, and often aggressive opposition from the traditional public education system have made the trifecta of scale, quality, and financial sustainability hard to hit,” concludes the report, “Growing Pains: Scaling Up the Nation’s Best Charter Schools.”

As hard-hitting as the findings seem to be, the report is at the center of a controversy over whether the final text—released by the Washington think tank on Nov. 24—was watered down.

The main author, Education Sector co-founder Thomas Toch, asked to have his name removed from the final product. It “didn’t fully reflect my sense of the current conditions or future prospects for CMOs,” he said in an interview. “Charter schools are an important addition to the public education landscape and the best CMOs have produced great results. ... But the CMO movement has created only a few hundred schools in a decade, and even with more funding it would be difficult for CMOs to expand much faster without compromising the quality of their schools.”

Forget all the controversy surrounding the main author's claims that the report was actually toned down by supporters of school choice....just step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

In a perfect world, the charters wouldn't be relied upon as the only means by which public education could be reformed. They were never meant to be the cure for all that ails education.

In fact, many of the problems cited in the EdWeek article are problems that traditional public schools share - all of elementary and secondary education shares those problems, to some extent....but the added burden of a larger chunk of a charter's funding coming from private sources that are drying up in the current economic climate is making for some belt-tightening: ...the report as released last month omits some candid quotes from industry executives about the fragile economics undergirding some charter school networks and about how the credit crisis has affected the ability of charter school networks to raise money, as well as statistics showing the difficulty some CMOs have had in reducing central-office costs.

So the overall neglect of public education has brought us to this.

Even with the stimulus promised to the charters, the real problems are not being addressed. Why did we keep diverting finances for the education of our children to other things? Why did we keep supporting people in government at all levels who did this? Even if the money was going to the schools, but still ending up in the wrong places, why didn't we jump on that kind of thing much sooner and put a stop to it? (yeah, okay, here's one answer to that, locally speaking) Why the hell are too many of us so damned afraid to send our kids to truly integrated schools? Why can't we pay teachers more, no matter where they work, so that they don't have to take a second job? Benefits are not enough. They just aren't when you have to eat and get dressed and have a roof over your head, too.

We keep stumbling. Our children keep paying for it. And I keep beating this long-dead horse to a bloody pulp, as does Ms G.

Why we can't bury the thing and have a rollicking jazz funeral for it is beyond me.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Oy ve-E-eh-E-ey. More Hostilidays entries have reared their ugly heads:

Steven Wright once had a bit about sitting next to a beautiful blonde Chinese girl on a bus...

Well, here's the reality of Bucky Goldstein:

Those cowboys need to get schooled in dreidel spinning...hell, they need schooling in Judaism. Here's a primer:

My personal favorite part of the video? The Hillel/Shammai kung fu fighting. Nice to see the Talmudic battles of old represented.