Friday, August 31, 2007

I really shouldn't have been surprised, but I guess that speaks to how unique the New Orleans blogging network is. Even when we make comments that are less than civil to each other, we do have the good grace to apologize eventually, to explain where we're coming from, and to take each other's comments seriously - but not too. I know, from my experiences in the parenting blogs, that it can be very, very easy to be vindictive and petty, especially if one is hiding behind a username and revealing little else other than massive amounts of vitriol. But arguments over what makes a good parent are rather nebulous compared to the cold facts Ashley compiled beneath Shelley Midura's letter to our illustrious oaf of a prez. Scroll down on the post of his I've linked to. You'll see 'em.
I love all that and all those people and we need the insight they take away with them to the rest of the country but no amount of volunteer action can fix levees badly designed or maintain them if they are ever fixed, assess taxes and evaluate tax rates, or create an actual workable, understandable, desegregated and at least somewhat fair school system (without quotation marks). Volunteers and individuals can only do so much. And in thanking and congratulating and singing the praise songs of them we cannot, should not forget the larger picture, the larger problems–urban somewhat-malign neglect, testing instead of educating, writing off the poor and brown, blaming victims, sidestepping malice-laced ignorance behind public policy and grants, the twisting of a region’s arm with their children held at gunpoint, a bureaucracy built to fail and thwart instead of serve, the delusion that folks who aren’t home yet aren’t needed, the bullshit idea that we are the blank slate/experiment/testing ground for whoever flies in and says s/he’s got ideas, people’s lives toyed with like shit-stained old domino pieces in the street somewhere.

If the above is strictly a liberal viewpoint that is not worth considering - that is even seen as whining, which is truly an abominable thing to think - then I am on the verge of hating people, too. I will still stand by folks like Oyster, Alan, and Ashley, because they know what is going on and they have taken upon themselves the heavy burden of being sane voices (sometimes, the only sane voices) in this wilderness loosely termed "Gulf Coast recovery". For even more sane voices, check my blogroll. Check the blogrolls of the sites I've blogrolled.
Hundreds of New Orleans bloggers can't be sharing the same illusions...can they?
I hope not, 'cause I've met some great people through fighting these "illusions". May everybody reading this and the posts of all of the others in the NOLA blogpocheh be so privileged to meet so many good people - under much better circumstances.
In solidarity with AshMo'n'em, I will not be allowing any comments on the above post.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Y'all have a listen:

And, if you're still thirsty for more from these blogging individuals, go to Cliff's Crib and read about this full-blooded New Orleanian. Check G's corner of the blogosphere (yep, she of the "knowing laugh" - there's a darned good reason for that) and her starter links post New to the G Bitch Spot? Start Here. Head to E.J.'s and encourage the man to write more, if possible...his info is pretty darn important.

And how did I spend yesterday? Got in my car to take the little guy to school and got nothing when I turned the key. A kind contractor jump-started my car, and I got my son off to school just in time. Went to the local Sears to get the battery replaced and, in the waiting room, Regis and Kelly was interrupted by the illustrious oaf speaking from Martin Luther King, Jr., Charter School in the Ninth Ward. Those poor kids...

The woman sitting by me, who was waiting for her flat tire to be fixed, went on about how, when she was living in Atlanta (and not 'cause of the evacuation - she retired only recently and came back to New Orleans), Home Depot sponsored a Dubya fundraiser and lost her business. Dooky Chase's lost it, too, when they hosted the oaf at a dinner of dignitaries Tuesday evening. None of us were listening to the talking head masquerading as the leader of the free world, so I got up and changed the channel.

It's a sad state of affairs when I, and others around me, prefer watching John Legend doing his musical guest thing on Tyra Banks' show to the words of the president of the United States. Not that Legend isn't good, just...well...

I'm still gonna go to Dooky Chase's, however. I've been waiting a long time for it to reopen, and one cannot hold Leah Chase responsible for the past seven years. The woman is keeping a New Orleans institution alive. Baptize some gumbo for us, chef. Dan and I will be piling in when you reopen to the general public.


Oh, and for a perspective on how many New Orleanians were regarded (and, in some ways, are still regarded, which is total bull), head over to Ian's. A sampling:

For a few days in September 2005, I volunteered at the Cajundome, working long shifts and doing anything anyone asked me to do. I kept a detailed diary here, which is definitely worth another read. The unfortunate effect of this work was the most severe illness I've ever had in my life, which (combined with other personal issues) kept me from volunteering as much I wanted to. But I've never stopped thinking about those I met, who I otherwise would never have spoken to, even as a frequent New Orleans traveler. These exhausted, grateful people were not the plasma TV-stealing, helicopter-shooting thugs that are too often associated with Katrina evacuees these days.

That perception, combined with the government's ineptitude and the media's willingness to look away once ratings went down, often gives the impression that everything has returned to normal in the Big Easy. In the words of some people I met in Utah, "We don't hear about it at all anymore." I've heard similar thoughts in Missouri. In better times, everyone would still be thinking about Katrina and its effect on the nation ever since.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This just in, from Rising Tide keynote speaker Dave Zirin:

''I'm scared to return. Too much death. Too many spirits." This is what a friend said to me the week before I left for New Orleans. I had never been to the Crescent City. He had traveled there many times — a "home away from home" — before August 2005 changed the course of the city forever. Now he fears it.

I felt the fear before my plane even landed at Louis Armstrong International Airport. As we began our descent, dark jagged shadows jutted across the verdant swampland. It was all too cinematic. I found out later that what I thought were dramatic shadows was wetland defoliation; the banal reality proving to be far more frightening than the supernatural.

My second NOLA moment was leaving the airport, catching a glimpse of a man riding down the center strip of the highway in 100-degree heat, on a bicycle, with headphones, no helmet and his hands off the handlebars. At the time, I thought it was just local flavor, like seeing a cardinal in St. Louis. But later, after learning about the spike in the suicide rate over the last two years, I began to wonder if it was something else.

I was in the Big Easy as an invited speaker at a conference of NOLA bloggers called Rising Tide II. In most cities, bloggers practice a peculiar virtual cannibalism, tearing each other apart for sport. But at Rising Tide, among people young and old, black and white, I saw my first glimpse of what can be termed blogger solidarity. It stemmed, as one told me, from "the necessity of coming together after Katrina."

They referred to each other in conversation by their blog names, more colorful than the mobsters in the film Goodfellas. There was Danger Blonde, MD Filter, my unflappable guide, Liprap, and Mom'n'em. (Mom'n'em is a man. The handle comes from a matriarchal New Orleans phrase. Instead of asking, "How's the family?" You say, "How's Mom'n'em?")

The bloggers represent the best of something beginning to bubble that you won't see on the nightly news, as the two-year anniversary of Katrina arrives today. Amid the horror, amid the neighborhoods that the federal government seems content to see die, there are actual people sticking it out. And they do it with gusto.

As Valentine Pierce, a poet and journalist at the conference, said, "Bush's promises don't hold water. The only thing that holds water is the city."

They were also the perfect people for me to speak with to learn the ground-truth about post-Katrina New Orleans. They're not paid to write about the myriad of issues they confront — from mental health to public housing to the loan swindles to the state of art. They do it because they want everyone — those staying away, the transplants from the North, the ones who get their information from the mainstream media — who sees New Orleans as merely a symbol to know the facts: the good, the bad and the ugly.

And the ugly side is that the majority black city is still being left to wither slowly on the vine. There is a reason President Bush did not say the word New Orleans in the last State of the Union. This is Moynihan's "benign neglect" writ large. Butit has had a bizarre boomerang effect. Because the future of city is at stake, the neglect that guides federal policy is something that both whites and blacks have to confront.

Also, since New Orleans was far less segregated to my eyes than Washington, D.C., where I live, it puts the suffering of the black majority into people's faces where it can't be ignored. If Katrina wrecked and removed 40 percent of the city, it has, among a minority, also brought people together.

It is remarkable that a city can be both torn asunder and also find a measure of salvation in the same name: Katrina. To the people I spoke with, Katrina is a noun, an adjective and even a verb. But one thing it isn't is simply a hurricane. When locals talk about Katrina, they are very conscious of the fact that the hurricane itself barely dented this proud city.

Katrina means the breaking of the levees. Katrina means loss of their homes. It's the politicians so fatally slow with aid. It's the spike in violent crime. It's the ever-rising suicide rate. It's the aged who have died of desperation.

Katrina is something ephemeral, a sadness seeped into the humidity. It gets in your clothes, your eyes, your hair. It's everywhere, even if you aren't staring at a house with a black X, with a number underneath, denoting a death at the hands of levees.

It made me feel as if the city's almost satirically gothic above-ground cemeteries were monuments to August 2005, even though the graves have stood for generations. The only thing I can compare the experience to would be visiting Kent State University, another site with spirits that can't find peace.

But as spiritual as post-Katrina New Orleans feels, the ravages of the city are something that residents know were man-made. The people of New Orleans are the last ones to need a lecture about how horribly unnatural this disaster was. It wasn't an act of God. It was the product of a whole set of priorities that put their city last. Bumper stickers are everywhere that read, "Make Levees Not War." People have signs in their front yards telling the Army Corps of Engineers to take their eminent domain and back off their houses.

Make no mistake, there is anger and a sense of desperation among the city's poor. Sometimes it's inward, as the mental health and suicide studies show. Often it is outward, as the violent crime demonstrates. That feeling of being abandoned by this country and this criminal administration, of being left to die on a roof, remains. And yet, they still, so very inconveniently, continue to live, love and, most importantly, struggle and agitate. Everyone in this country should travel to New Orleans and be among a people supposed to perish, who act like they just didn't get the memo.
graphic courtesy of Suspect Device
Go see Maitri's, too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

God bless our future mayor and, quite possibly, president.

From New Orleans city councilwoman Shelley Midura to our illustrious oaf of a prez:

August 28, 2007

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for visiting New Orleans for the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the worst federal levee-failure disaster in United States history followed by the worst federal disaster response in United States history. We’re also grateful for the $116 billion federal allocation for the Gulf Coast. That $116 billion has served you well, as your spokesmen often cite it as an indicator of your dedication to our recovery. But, it hasn’t served us as well -- it’s not enough, it’s been given grudgingly, and only after our elected officials have had to fight for it. So I feel I must correct the record about you and your administration’s dedication to our recovery and implore you to take action to make things better.

Indeed, you have allocated $116 billion for the Gulf Coast, but that number is misleading. According to the Brookings Institute's most recent Katrina Index report, at least $75 billion of it was for immediate post-storm relief. Thus only 35% of the total federal dollars allocated is for actual recovery and reconstruction. And of that recovery and reconstruction allocation, only 42% has actually been spent. In fact, while your administration touts "$116 billion" as the amount you have sent to the entire area affected by Katrina and the levee failures, the actual long term recovery dollar amount is only $14.6 billion. This amount is a mere 12% of the entire federal allocation of dollars, billions of which went to corporations such as Halliburton for immediate post-storm cleanup work, instead of to local businesses. Contrast that to the $20.9 billion on infrastructure for Iraq that the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2006 that you have spent, and it’s an astonishing 42% more than you have spent on infrastructure for the post-Katrina Gulf region. The American citizens of the Gulf region do not understand why the federal obligation to rebuilding Iraq is greater than it is for America's Gulf coast, and more specifically for New Orleans.

New Orleans has more challenges and fewer resources than we've ever had in my lifetime in the City of New Orleans. Yet, other than FEMA repair reimbursements, the only direct federal assistance this city has received from you has been two community disaster loans that you are demanding be paid back even though no other city government has had to pay back a these types of loans for as long as our research can determine (at least since the 70’s). These loans are being used to balance the city budget to provide basic services to citizens who need far more than the pre-Katrina basics.

Despite this obvious contradiction, your administration blames local leadership for our continued need for federal assistance. But this argument is disingenuous, Mr. President. There are a host of tasks that only you and your administration can accomplish for our recovery. These are some concrete steps you can take to make good on your 2005 Jackson Square promise:

* Completely fix the federally managed levees
* Fully fund our expertly crafted recovery plan
* Give New Orleans all that you have promised to Baghdad - schools, hospitals, infrastructure, security, and basic services
* Forgive the community disaster loans, as authorized by the new Congress
* Appoint a recovery czar who works inside the White House that reports daily and directly to you and whose sole job is the recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the region
* Restore our coast and wetlands
* Work with Congress to reform the Stafford Act
* Cut the bureaucratic red tape

In turn Mr. President, the people of New Orleans are more than willing to do our part. We have already:

* Consolidated and reformed the state levee board system.
* Consolidated and reformed our property assessment system.
* Passed sweeping ethics reform legislation.
* Created an Ethics Review Board.
* Hired an Inspector General.
* Submitted a parish-wide recovery plan.

Much has changed in New Orleans for the better since the storm, and more progress is coming. Civic activism is at an all time high. For the first time in my lifetime, there is an actual reform movement in New Orleans driven by the people. "Best Practices" has become a City Council mantra. We have a new Ethics Board. Our incoming Inspector General, Robert Cerasoli, is considered one of the elite in the Inspector General world, as is our new Recovery Director Dr. Ed Blakely in that world and our Recovery School Superintendent Paul Vallas in the realm of public education. We are attracting the cream of the crop. Young people from around the country seeking to make a difference in their lives are moving to New Orleans to teach in public schools, provide community healthcare, build housing, work for nonprofits engaged in post-Katrina work, and, in general, do whatever they can for the recovery because they all know what I am not so sure that you know, mainly that what happens in New Orleans over the next few years says something about the very heart of America itself.

Mr. President, we are in fact doing our part locally in New Orleans despite contrary comments by your administration. Our intense civic activity and government reform initiatives are serious indicators of our local commitment to do our part for the recovery. But we are drowning in federal red tape. We are being nickel and dimed to death by your Federal Emergency Management Agency. We are resource-starved at the city level. The mission here is not accomplished. What we need is Presidential leadership, not just another speech filled with empty promises. Our recovery's success, struggle, or failure will be intimately woven into your legacy, for better or worse. What Americans think about America is deeply affected by how this country rises to national challenges, none more significant than post-Katrina New Orleans. Fully restoring New Orleans to its formerly unique and permanent place in American culture is this nation's greatest domestic challenge. Your leadership of our country through this difficult time will serve as an American character lesson for future generations.

Shelley Midura
New Orleans City Councilmember
District A

Thanks, erster, Ashley, and Jeffrey.

Though I'm still a tad skeptical, I need this some.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Why Hurricane Katrina is still a tourist attraction two years later...coming up at ten", the WWL anchor said.

I was sitting at the computer, despairing a little. Seems that RT II and its stresses is combining with the upcoming 8-29 anniversary to make me a little sad. I'm reading all these blogs, thinking about everybody's suggestions within and without the core RT organizing group, and it's causing me to step away some. Part of me feels I know too much. It can be paralyzing. It can cause me to second-guess myself and others. I know not much of this makes sense, and can possibly be attributed to some post-event downer feelings (and I'm even second-guessing if I should be having those kinds of feelings, since many, many others did much more than I in getting RT together. I'm a lightweight compared to those folks), but I was seriously thinking of walking away from the blog and taking a hiatus.

Then I heard those words, and I got angry. I'm crying angry tears as I'm writing this, and I hope I can go on.

9-11 should have been a big wake-up call for this city. Four conventions were cancelled right off the bat due to the grounding of airplanes and the fear of another hijacking with deadly results. I would walk my dog in the park and encounter other dog owners who ran neighborhood bed and breakfasts, people who were getting anxious and upset because reservations were being cancelled left and right. The big yellow "Thanks for Traveling" signs hotels were putting up all over the country took on extra meaning for this area. Tourism was what made this city tick.

Sad to say, it still does.

8-29 happens. Neighborhoods are washed away due to man-made failures. Temples to the gods of tourism and of other people's celebrations are transformed into hell on earth. Hospitals are flooded. Families cannot return - some of them never will.

And should have become a time of real change for the better over the past two years, a chance to bring in opportunities for other kinds of economic development aside from condos and tourism - perhaps high technology, or development of this area as a center for greater experiments in wetland reconstitution and flood protection, to name a couple of directions this could go in - is reduced to "Hurricane Katrina is still a tourist attraction two years later".

The same old thinking. The same damned problems, only magnified x 1000.

Other people are looking back to what they posted two years ago, or where they were when it happened. I've got archives, myself - feel free to look at 'em if you need the time travel experience. I myself am a little sick of the time travel, because I feel we are still learning nothing from it. Nada. Zip. Zero.

In my tradition, one lights a candle on the anniversary of one's death, that person's yahrtzeit. A person's memory does shine on, in our hearts, in our stories we tell, in our genetic material, even. The yahrtzeit candle is symbolic of that. At the same time, however, we are encouraged to carry on. There's a reason why we can't find Moses' grave, aside from archaeological evidence having not been found...yet. So Moses the servant of the Lord died there, in the land of Moab, at the command of the Lord. He buried him in the valley of the land of Moab, near Beth-peor; and no one knows his burial place to this day.*

If we dwell for too long on the old ways, on the things that have always been done, we risk never leaving those ways. Getting our bad government out of our hair is only a first step. We need to bury it where we cannot find it, leave it behind, and bear witness to what it was like before we made that change. We all still need to fight for the things that we have taken for granted as our rights for so long. And, most importantly, we need to learn to let go and move on without forgetting.

I'm going to do my best to do what this mom did with her daughter over the next week. These days with my family will be buried all too soon before I can turn around.

Perhaps then I can try to shovel some dirt onto these old ways that, if we allow them to persist, could indeed drown us.

*from the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Excuse the following link, but I've been listening to a lot of Keller Williams' music lately (not the realtors, people. Click on the link, why dontcha...) and this smidgen of a pretty, yet crudely appropriate, song just fit the bill:

Swampwoman tells of her impressions of the situation.
Dangerblond has her report from right in the thick of things:
Although there were no fireworks during the Politics panel, I did manage to create some controversy later on in the afternoon when I threw Jay Arena out...he showed up today at the New Orleans Yacht Club for Dave Zirin’s speech. When Dave threw it open for questions, Arena made a statement in which he called New Orleans bloggers “hysterical” for writing about crime and calling for Eddie Jordan’s resignation and accused us of doing it because we want to see more black men to go jail.
That really pissed me off for a number of reasons. For one thing, I know which bloggers he is talking about because they are my friends. I know that their priorities to inform citizens of personal crimes and homicides in their neighborhoods so that they can be vigilant and know what to look for, to plot out where crimes are concentrated as a resource to law enforcement and citizens, and to honor the victims, who just seem to slip away into distant memory as though they never existed. In the future, bloggers would like to get more informed and involved in the justice system, and yes, most of us would like to see violent killers, batterers and rapists put in jail for a long time.
Arena must think he is talking to a bunch of people who are too uninformed to know that the outrageous numbers of young black men in jail are mostly doing statutorily-mandated time for drugs. I don’t know a single blogger who thinks it’s a good idea to use police officer time and jail space on non-violent drug offenders. I’m sure Arena would agree with us that these people need treatment, and a prison term will just give them time to earn a PhD. in drug sales and antisocial behavior.
So, no Jay, the New Orleans bloggers don’t want to see anyone going to jail, much less a young black man, unless they are involved in a violent crime. What we want is to keep our neighborhoods as safe as possible so that we don’t have to live behind bars.
Clay has photographic proof of the incident involving Arena's ejection.
These unscheduled visitors, all three of them, most certainly did NOT come out of Dave Zirin's back pocket. Really. I checked.
Bottom line is, there were candidates for local offices taking in the panels and talks at RT II who did not trade in on their status to get a free ride into this conference. There are quite visible, nationally known community activists who appeared on panels this year and, if all goes well once again with planning and organization of RT in the future, will likely do so again. Collection of conference fees is vital to the survival and success of the gathering, and security (unfortunately) ought to be as well.
Our numbers, and our visibility, are growing like the rising tide. To paraphrase Peter Parker, that comes with great responsibility.
I was damn happy to meet so many of the great people whose work I've been reading online. RT is great at creating an atmosphere for these folks. Let's not jeopardize that.
Instead, let's all gate crash the events that our illustrious oaf of a prez will be crashing in our city to "commemorate" (i.e., do his best to look like a sympathetic, compassionate individual and fail miserably) the second anniversary of 8-29 and after in this coming week. First Draft has more...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

photo of RT II conference room courtesy of Maitri's blog
(go give her a cyber pat on her virtual back, y'all. She worked her tail off for RT)
spray painting on blue window shading tarp inspired by AshMo
(He worked something else off (heh), but it was ultimately good for RT)

My head is spinning, y'all. Must...digest...blogger....conference.......

This fellow's doing a waaay better job than I am at the moment....

Take in some Sophmom impressions of the whole conference experience, while you're at it.

And I must give a big, huge thanks to keynoter Dave Zirin, who gave one heck of a talk, seemed to get a kick out of the NOLA blogger krewe, and endured my mini driving tour of New Orleans with shock, awe, and, most importantly, open eyes and ears. Safe trip back, Dave. All the best to your mom'n'em...uhhh, your family and friends, not this mominem...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hey, everybody!

Give this man a hearty yashir koach (well done) for his recent radio interviews that truly define "helping the brand". Take that, C. "Walking Id" Ray!

Actually, I recommend that all of us take a full weekend dose of this:
The Rising Tide Conference

because it starts tomorrow, y'all. I can't wait!

I am sad to say, however, that this lady won't be on any of the panels...sorry, Clay. Heh.

Update, 8-24: She may not be on any of the panels, but according to Madame Dangerblond, Jeannette Maier is looking to make an appearance. Hold on to everything, y'all!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The problem with choice is that it is a choice. It is, at heart, uncontrollable.

I keep turning some recent conversations over in my mind, along with the stuff I digest through the computer, and, initially, I had to excuse myself. My brain was full.

Somehow, I became embroiled in two conversations that were about orthodox Judaism...on the surface. The one I'm thinking about the most is the most recent one. Met up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while at a local coffee place, and, after we established that I'd been out of town for a week or two, the talk of the Jewish educators' conference I'd been to in St Louis must have set her off.

Parts of orthodox Judaism are offensive to her personally as a woman and a feminist. I agree. It's why I'm not an orthodox Jew. What I think she is much more offended by, however, is that her own brother embraced orthodox Judaism as a convert. Her brother is endorsing a form of Judaism that follows a treatment of women that comes from centuries of interpretations of Torah law that are mentioned in the Talmud and incorporated from various outside influences in the countries in which Jews have (mostly uneasily and insecurely) lived. The reasons for women being separate from men due to menstruation can be easily explained, sure. The tradition and Jewish laws that advocate separating women from men in the synagogue certainly exist and are cited quite frequently amongst the orthodox. What cannot be as easily explained is why a somewhat intelligent individual that seems to make rational decisions by most modern people's reckoning would choose a restrictive way in which to live, and - in some ways, a more perplexing thing to wrap one's head around - that the man's wife would go along with it. To paraphrase my friend, "It's awful to me that he has chosen something that treats his own wife as a second-class citizen. I'm glad they have sons. I'd hate to think they were raising a daughter this way."

As long as a certain "silent majority" of mainstream subscribers to any religion, political party, or sect look to these orthodox groups as some sort of fount of wisdom or truth, this kind of stuff will be happening. These people will still have a great deal of power and might on their side. Wahhabi Islam, evangelist Christianity, Lubavitcher Judaism, extreme right-wing Republicans. I don't know how basically decent people who want to do the right thing can keep balancing the impulse to do the polite and decent thing and hear these people out without wanting to mash some of them to a pulp for their megalomania. Newton could very well have termed one of his laws as nearly every pissed-off action towards another human being is gonna have an equal or greater pissed-off reaction from that offended human and/or his/her relatives/countrymen/partners in crime/what have you. The law of the highly unfortunate dark side of human nature.

Just an observation, folks. Not much to see here.

....and here's Loki with a quote from one of our founding fathers that has some pertinence to the subject at hand. Say what you will about 'em...those guys did have some good insights.


Oh, and I'd like to direct everyone to Maitri's neck of the woods. Not only is she "blaming" her latest choice of subject matter on my bad influence (hee!), she's rebutted it very, very well in her usual way. Just for that, I think she's deserving of one stylin' t-shirt that'll make everyone do a double-take:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oooookay. Not really sure what to make of this, except to say that their ad campaign has taken an interesting turn...

I AM sure about this, though (thanks, Aaron!): God forbid our children should actually have some downtime and have to be forced to use their imaginations! I'm glad that I am finally free of the tyranny and idiocy that is the Baby Einstein brand. No, I will not be allowing the little guy to watch American Idol anytime soon, but I will be reading him some more of this with gusto:

Runny bought a howboy cat,
His buns were polished gright.
He yelled, "Stand back! I'm Killy the Bid,
And I'm fookin' for a light!
So give me your sold and gilver,
And your sorses and haddles, too,
Or else I'll hold my creath and bry
Like bids named Killy do."

Whaddya think? Have I sufficiently warped my son's brain yet? Or should I let him watch Simon Cowell destroying people's potential singing careers on FOX?

*from Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit


Oh, and as for one of the reasons why I'm reserving judgment on this street opening, well, the city gave this their all. I wish they would give the rest of the homes in New Orleans the same kind of careful attention:

On Wednesday (March 7 ,07), “Division F Judge Yada Magee issued a ruling in favor of the City of New Orleans, authorizing the partial demolition - specifically, the right exterior wall -- of the property owned by Jocelyn Sinclair Griffith and located at 1336-40 Magazine Street and 1025 Melpomene Street Magazine."

The city acted with such surgical precision on that exterior wall. What was preventing them from doing the same with the underground work a few years back? Where's my time machine? I'll send those careful people back, and then the street will have been whole all this time...

"On January 19, 2007, Griffith filed a motion for a temporary restraining order requesting that the City of New Orleans be enjoined from demolishing property located at 1336-1340 Magazine Street and 1035 Melpomene Street.”

I think we need to ask Ms Griffith to contribute her stalling skills in service to all the folks whose properties are over at Squandered Heritage. I think those whose homes are slated for demolition could use the help, and Ms Griffith would earn their everlasting gratitude.

For another reason why Lower Magazine ain't out of the woods yet, ask Blake. He needs advice, and, apparently, all of these people need some serious help.

Update, 8-21: from a commenter: Actually, Judge Magee ruled that the city could NOT demolish the buildings because testimony stated they only required shoring. (the city sent a high school grad, the Griffiths had the Director of the HDLC and an noted architect expose the sham Notice to Condemn)

The City, SWB damaged the propertys. The City issues a Stop Work Order to stop the SWB from working. Then the City denies funds to shore the damage. The City under Head's orders issues 24 hr notice to demolish (to open the street with no regard for property owners rights, A complete lack of due process.

The Judge realizes Head is trying to pull a fast one, the Notice was unconstitutional, the Notice was issued without inspection and orders the City to pay for Shoring (the partial demo order was cleverly worded to read: tear down what you broke and then fix it, the wall).

Head wanted to tear it down, lien the present owners and sell the property to a friend at a fire sale.

But good PR, huh? She looks like a hero. Hope she never wants your house

Thank you!

Friday, August 17, 2007

I suspect this is what might happen if we stay in New Orleans through a future hurricane:
I'm just feeling a tad silly because choir practice started up again at my synagogue last night, and we gave the new cantor a real taste of what the characters in the choir are really like. Anybody who can endure raunchy psychologist jokes and tasteless camel jokes and still sing through the rehearsal is all right by us. Beside which, with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur coming down the pike, we can all atone for laughing at said raunchy jokes. And I can atone for getting off on the wrong side of the bed, finding a shark costume there, and wearing it in public. Hee!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some good news: according to Blake, Magazine Street is now open all the way, baby. However, I still have to wonder about the foundations of the nearby houses and the shenanigans of the mechanic that is over there, so that "Liberate Lower Magazine" on my sidebar is gonna be there 'til I get the whole story. Knowing this town, one open intersection doesn't conclude a municipal maelstrom of a story such as the one surrounding Magazine and Melpomene. Da link stays for now.


A week or so ago, I did a little Torah and Talmud study at a bar in St Louis concerning alcohol and Judaism. One of the passages we studied pertaining to this topic reminded me of the justification a rabbi found that allowed Hank Greenberg to play on Rosh Hashanah many decades ago.* Many, many times on this blog, I have referred to the first part of this passage as an illustration of Judaism's attitudes towards alcohol consumption on one particular holiday. The first sentence of the passage, however, is a tad less sinister and blackly humorous than the whole thing. Read on:

Talmud Megilah 7a: A person is obligated to get drunk on Purim until they do not know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai. Rabbah and R. Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They became mellow, and Rabbah arose and cut R. Zera's throat. On the next day he prayed on his behalf and revived him. Next year he said, Will your honor come and we will have the Purim feast together. he replied: A miracle does not take place on every occasion.

Considering recent horrific events at a Mid-City neighborhood bar, I think many more miracles are needed these days for all of these people in my city, because there is no time like the present. Yes, there is the (hopefully) temporary insanity of oppressive heat and the threat of a hurricane approaching the Gulf, but there is another part of this that has been sorely neglected - the long-term effects of feeling neglect on a local, state, and federal level. People are crazier here in general, and there are fewer places for those who seriously need the help to go. The people who are finding solace and companionship in their neighborhood watering holes, which could be construed as a certain type of community center in these parts, are running screaming and scared from them instead. My heart goes out to the family of the deceased, and, at this point, I'm wondering if I shouldn't create some sort of "NOLA R'fuah Shleimah" sidebar graphic. Only problem is, the fact that it would be a "sidebar" is a tad too ironic. Ugh.

Update: Editor B gets it. This is not a "sidebar" occurrence. This is awful.

Yet another update: Alan gets serious. Why the hell can't the criminal justice system in this town be? Perhaps because this city has been written off as unreachable and unsaveable. Bull.

Update, 8-20: Schroeder posts on the memorial for Nia at Pal's. Remember what I said about local watering holes? RIP, Nia Robertson. I only hope the law enforcement entities in this town will take their hints from the Pal's patrons and really help take back this city. Too much to ask?

* Greenberg received Talmudic advice from his rabbi, who found a passage stating that, in Second Temple times, children had played in the streets on Rosh Hashanah. Turned out that Greenberg's decision to play, and the decision many synagogue-goers made to listen in on the game surreptitiously during High Holy Day services, was based on a Talmudic passage that Roman children had played in the streets on Rosh Hashanah. Ooops. At least Yom Kippur is still sacred in the minds of Jewish ballplayers...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

There's a massive elephant in New Orleans' den right now. Due to possible bad mojo that could be pushed in the direction of the storm by the breath of all the people speculating about when, not if, it will come here, folks in these parts are keeping mum about the elephant until it looks as though we are indisputably in its cone. As you can see, its trunk is projected to sideswipe Puerto Rico and other various Carribean isles, with the further speculation that said pachyderm will start exposing its massive body as it gets closer to the Gulf. Nobody wants the big fat elephant butt to end up right on top of their house in these parts, so most of us are, most likely, quietly stocking up for the worst and reviewing our evacuation plans whilst keeping up the sociable chatter without making reference to the weather in any way, aside from commenting on the oppressive heat, which most of the country is experiencing, so that's okay to talk about, since it isn't a phenomenon isolated to this area. Maybe, once we have reviewed our plans for the sixth time, we can then check out the elephant's presence by the TV set and comment on its strength and what it will do when it musters up the energy to move in our direction. Only then can we answer phone calls from faraway relatives and muster up the courage to confidently banter with Dad about, "Hey, there's a former secretary of state paying y'all a visit down there! Are you ready for 'im?" Yes, we will be going with the contraflow to Baton Rouge if we have to. Yes, our pets are coming with us. No, we won't freak. Not right away, anyway. The problem is, the more the elephant feeds on that warm, toasty water and gets to liking that weather, the bigger he's gonna get. We won't be able to act as though he's not there anymore, and thenwellbescaredoutofourheadsandbarelyholdingittogetherforourfamilies

(huuuuuge deeep breath)

All I know is, if Jim Cantore's broadcasting from your area, get the hell out. That. Very. Second. The man is a hurricane magnet. The yin to a storm's yang. Move it or lose it if he's around, I say.
Every time I travel, I learn something new.

Turns out San Jose airport, aside from being one of the places on earth where more construction vehicles and dirt-moving apparati run amuck than in, say, a rock quarry (plus, I have never understood the fact that there is no terminal B. What's up with that?), is one of the new homes of these machines. Little blue illuminated "Clear" boxes alert you to the presence of these biometric machines that help you sail through security, with the help of a nominal fee (hah) and an intensive security screening that doubtless requires one to sell his/her soul to the devil...uhhh, to share the details of one's life with a corporate entity and the TSA (sorry, I know it's redundant, that last bit).

I think my father is correct about what is going on with air travel in this country. Mechanical difficulties, inane scheduling and missed connecting flights, the need to charge everybody for every little extra onboard your flight, and the tyranny of government-hired security inspectors are doing their darndest to keep all of us US citizens at home, forget the terrorists. Walk away from a security line with your son's yogurt having been one TSA agent's decision away from confiscation, and one day, you, too, will want to assemble a gun made of a Tampax applicator, a small canister of air, and a teeny magnet from a recalled Mattel toy made in China, in the event that your right to carry certain foodstuffs is challenged due to their liquidity.

Oh, I just ensured that I will never "Fly Clear" by typing that last paragraph. C'est la vie.

Plus, I never thought that I would see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of traveling with the little guy. Since he was nearly three months old, I have been schlepping the young 'un out to No-Cal to see the in-laws. The in-laws have been urging Dan and I to move to Silicon Valley for slightly longer than that, and this trip was no exception ( a big hint along the lines of "The bottom's fallen out of the housing market some around here, which we knew was coming. Good time to buy!"). In past years, I might have capitulated eventually due to the sheer volume and weight of all the stuff I've had to take on the plane. When I got our selves prepared for security yesterday, however, I realized that I no longer had to wrestle a stroller and a car seat onto the conveyor belt. I felt lighter as I removed my shoes and my son's sandals, put our couple of bags on the belt, realized neither of those bags contained diapers, and felt lighter still. I'd have floated all the way through security if it weren't for the yogurt debacle. I am no longer a baby-paraphernalia-toting pack mule. Wow.

We changed planes in Houston, and I took in some CNN airport news on the aforementioned toy recalls. The reporters were describing the effects of swallowed magnets on a child's insides and the fact that lead poisoning isn't something you can see the symptoms of right off. I looked over at my son, who is a happy, engaging, somewhat bossy character of a kid who hasn't chewed on a toy in years, and I had to wonder at the fact that people are still having children in such a world. All of this worry about the next lead-painted toy to come down the pike, the latest disease, the newest studies of child behavior and intelligence and how to curb the behavior and augment the intelligence...even the effects of environment on a child. It can eat you up, or it can melt away in a gorgeous moment.

"Hi!" the little guy greeted our seatmate cheerily. "Where are you going?"

"To Florida," the twelve-year-old kid said. "Where are you going?"

"To New Orleans!" my son exclaimed. "It's our home!"

"Oh," the kid said, a tad glumly. "We're moving to Florida."

"I moved to New Orleans!" the little guy chirped, "from New York. I was born there."

Before any of us knew it, my son had made a new friend. The little guy ended up on the lap of this preteen kid who was heading to the unknown with his family, looking out the window and verbally sparring with the bigger kid about what they were both seeing. "Thanks for putting up with my son," the preteen's mom said from a row or two up.

"Hey, my thanks go to him for putting up with the little guy!" I said, and we both smiled.

Security comes in many guises, and sometimes can't be detected through an X-ray machine. Amazing how a four-year-old can help someone much older feel more secure about something as big as a move. I must alert the TSA. I think they could use some lessons on making everybody feel more at home in their own public spaces.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flashback to a couple of months ago:

...while we're at it, add New Orleans to Zirin's book tour dates...if the bookstores can't bring him on down, maybe, uhh, the Rising Tide conference could? Just a thought...

Well, folks, I managed to get my toe in the door on the highly entertaining Rising Tide II planning meetings, I showed impressionable bloggers such as Oyster, Maitri, Dangerblond, Lisa, AshMo, Morwen, Mominem, Mark Folse, Slate, and da Former Po'Boy Welcome To The Terrordome and made my pitch to bring Dave Zirin to New Orleans, and...well...part of me can't believe we all managed to get this guy down here, but in two weeks' time, Zirin will be the keynote speaker at the edge of the lake. The Edge of Sports man himself...
Major, maaaaaajor thanks to Madame Morwen, the wheeler-dealer who's making sure that Zirin's latest hard copy is out there for everyone's perusal and purchase during the conference. Big kudos go out to the conference planners for hearing me out in the beginning and keeping track of all developments through email.
And, as for the rest of y'all, I'd advise you to be there...

The Rising Tide Conference
...or be a certain four-sided polygon.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust...

...but we really shoulda seen it coming instead of relying on this man's rep a tad too heavily. Even in cynical times, we still need our reliables and near-heroes, and Thomas seemed to be one of those fitting the local bill. We were wrong. Again. Sooooo...:

ALL of this stuff seems to happen when I'm out visiting the in-laws.

Maybe I really do need a laptop...

Friday, August 10, 2007

-How do you feel right now?

(shifting uncomfortably in chair) Well, I came off a flight early this morning. I'm pretty well rested because I slept well on the plane. I've had a great day with the little guy and my sister-in-law and her fiance. My in-laws seem to be all right, though I'm a tad worried about the health of my mother-in-law. Aside from that, things are fine. (excessive nodding) Things are good.

-You don't sound too confident in your assessment.

The problem is (shifting again in the chair) the blogging thing. Maybe I should just go back to blogging in a vacuum, like I did for more than eight months last year. (thinking) Quit checking out all these other people's work. Just live life and write.

- Why would you want to do that? You get a charge out of what these others have been writing. It feeds your sociable nature. Getting and giving feedback seems to be a good thing for you. It has gotten you involved in something outside yourself and your child-centered world again.

Weeeelllll, I read this. And now, I'm disgusted. Not for the same reasons as David, of course. Not the exact same ones, anyhow. Yeah, it's disgusting having the Walking Id stonewalling the public as to what the heck is really up with things like the mass surprise demolitions and properties up on the chopping block that should not be there by any stretch of the rebuilding imagination. It just has me wondering...

- ...what has all of your blogging turned into?

Yeah. (straightening up in the seat) Yeah. What am I doing? I'm getting more involved, sure, but in what way? In some ways, being mom is hard for me. It's all I can do at times to get through a day as a mom. I think about taking on more work for myself with a job out of the house, or an activist role in the community, not unlike what this strong, brazen woman does, and then I've gotta wonder: what happens if the little guy gets sick or seriously hurt, or exhibits signs of serious emotional disturbance? Dan is usually in Baton Rouge. I'm the only one that can be called on. Yeah, I wanna save a city, but...

- have a responsibility to your child.

Exactly! Which is why comments such as these:

Around the time that I started blogging, Bob Somerby offered some suggestions for liberal bloggers that every blogger should consider -- they're valid regardless of ideology. I'd add a couple that I think are especially valid in a one newspaper town. We can ask questions that are going largely unasked and point out facts that are being largely ignored. Also, in a one newspaper town, the fact checking role of bloggers is vital, who else is going to point it out when the local media answers questions incorrectly or incompletely? If enough bloggers did the first, citizen journalists would occasionally become citizen assignment editors. If one Houma-based blogger can get the Picayune to ask whether Mitch Landrieu was wearing make-up, over 100 New Orleans bloggers should be able to get the Picayune to ask why Nagin is more secretive about his rebuilding policies than chickenhawk presidents tend to be about their foreign policies.

can really cut me in particular. I already feel guilty in some nebulous way that I haven't been doing all that I could. Then I read something like this, and it makes me feel worse...then defensive...then thoroughly disgusted.

- Well, it sounds like you've outlined your reactions right off. Care to elaborate?

I feel bad because I guess, according to this criteria, I'm a bit of a lesser blogger because I don't quite have a journalist's instincts. And it's true, I don't. Maybe I have been looking at this blogging thing all wrong, investing too much emotionally into it, likening the people I've met through blogging as one crazy family, when all we are are a bunch of people who happen to like loosely communing with the help of our keyboards and writing what we think. We all surf in our own ways, our synapses may happen to connect in the same manner on occasion pop-culture wise, but we are all distinct beings. And then, I think about Agnes Denes:

- What the hell is that?

It's an illustration. Duh.

-Oh, come on...

I tried to magnify this as much as I could, but Pascal's Perfect Probability Pyramid and the People Paradox—The Predicament can only be magnified so much, I guess. Look closely at the pyramid, and there are teeny weeny individual people that make up its structure. It is an illustration of the "glass half-empty"assessment that human beings, though they may all think and act as individuals, are simply small units that make up a larger structure. If any one of us individuals becomes too conscious of his/her individuality, the structure collapses. Can't have that, now, can we?

-So, what are you getting at?

Upsetting the balance. We become too wrapped up in ourselves, in our ideologies, in our points of view, and we aren't serving the structure. We aren't serving humanity as a whole. We become desperate in our need to foist our view on the world, to reshape it as it should be, and equilibrium is upset. Sometimes, that's good. Sometimes, it's awful.

- And it's awful...?

(irritated) Would you quit interrupting? Yeesh...

I'm not sure if going whole-hog into the citizen journalism route is best for me, personally. I'm calling attention to David's post for the valid point on our FOIA-dodging, perpetually idiot-talking excuse for a mayor, but I'm uncomfortable with the rest, because it implies that a blog is for one thing and one thing only. From what I've seen, the blogosphere and the characters within it are much more faceted than the axes they sometimes have to grind. From what I've seen, the rest of the NOLA blogpocheh will be jumping on this information at some point in the near future. I think the great thing about all of these crazy NOLAns I've come across in my surfin' travels is that they aren't always pushing the "this is what the MSM is missing" line - at least, not in a standard, journalistic way. They are emphasizing the fact that New Orleanians are humans, citizens of these here United States, and that they most decidedly do not deserve the scorn and derision being heaped upon them by two-thirds of the rest of our own country. I think that most of those hypothetical Midwestern cabbies David cites would appreciate that.

-Uhh, you're not linking to a Midwestern cabbie's blog, there...

Technically speaking, Hawaii's to the west of New Orleans, and in the middle of an ocean. (exasperated) All right, so I'm stretching the definition. Big whoop.

-Couldn't find a Detroit cabbie's blog, now, could you?

(guiltily) No, I couldn't. Yet another thing for me to be guilty about.

Urrrrgggghhh...I'll keep looking...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

It's as though, in some perverse manner, worlds are falling apart left and right.

Natural disasters occur. In places in which it was thought to be unthinkable.

And then...the infrastructure fails the people it was intended to serve. Which isn't old news, unfortunately.

It sounds all too familiar to me. It is one of those reasons why I blog, why I've been a tad more into the disaster preparedness than I usually have been. I don't want any of what has happened to close friends in my home to happen again to anyone else, anywhere else. If it does, they should be prepared.

I know that no one in Bay Ridge or on Staten Island could have seen a tornado coming. But, for public transportation to be leaving people in the lurch? Not good, in a city like New York. Not good for the massive population of the five boroughs.
I ask you to ponder the photo below, taken by a Brooklyn resident named Michael Gaffey. More photos can be seen here (one picture was taken not far from where we used to live in Queens), but the caption on this one is especially poignant.

Two signs of a very bad day for a car owner on Second Street between Beverly Road and Avenue C in Brooklyn: a destroyed windshield and a parking ticket.

Judging from the condition of the ticket, it probably got stuck on there before the storm blew through. The way things have been going infrastructure-wise, though, I'm sad to say I wouldn't be surprised if it were the other way 'round.

I have friends in flooded apartment buildings who need our support and good wishes right now. Be well and safe, Forest Hills residents. Hugs to our Queens synagogue friends from us.


Update: Not only has New Orleans made it to the cover of Time magazine, it has also made the front page of today's Wall Street Journal, this time for reasons I've touched on previously. Get thyself to Madam Dangerblond's, read, and weep for those whose houses are gone due to bureaucratic bungling. Then get angry on behalf of those folks, and of those whose homes are wrongly on the chopping block. See which properties are facing the bulldozers over at Squandered Heritage. Vent your anger out on the city government. This should NOT be happening to good people who just want to live their lives in their homes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One of many, many reasons I am privileged to live in New Orleans: this man's writing:

In spite of the weight of history and the difficulty of the moment, I am not living in the past. Increasingly, I am living in a Richard Alpert Right Now, a locus in time informed by the landscape around me and my sense of its age, its rightness for the place, the uneven and green-occluded site lines of a city settling into the earth as perfectly as a Mayan ruin rising out of the jungle. The monumentality of the city informs the moment as you perceive it, but to truly live here is to walk through a series of present moments like cells in a film, the action is in front of you or inside of you and the great pillared oaks and moss-draped homes are just backdrop.

Read the rest of Mark's latest. Because Oyster's right: will take me a long time and several readings to figure out my favorite sentence from this piece. And that's a wonderful little task to have.

I'm gonna go recover from studying Torah and Talmud over some beer...


Let's all send out some r'fuah shleimah to Pistolette's family. This is terrible news. And very sudden, indeed.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading the blog of a rude, crude doofus.

Exhibit A: my last post.

I really thought this disaster preparedness session was going to be a joke. I was surprised and grateful that it wasn't. I was ticked that only eight people showed up for it. I was not at all upset about missing a choir practice to stay for the whole thing. I wish more of the educators attending this conference were required to attend the session. I wrote that down on my session evaluation to the conference powers-that-be.

This stuff is vikhtik. Very important.

Loads of resources. Great, useful tips on risk assessment and which security measures will reduce anxiety or reduce risk. Meaningful discussions on all types of stuff that happens. And all of this orchestrated by a very brave lady who survived a shooting/hate crime at a Jewish organization. Bless her for bearing witness, for telling her story. Bless her for listening to everyone's concerns and taking them seriously. She is one inspiring woman, and I'm sorry Edie and I nearly didn't give her a chance.

I now have loads of information to use wisely. And I know one of the first people I'm gonna share it with...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

So I'm here. In an average American city. On a college campus, in dorms that, if I had attended this college ten-plus years ago, would have made me want to buy the room I'm in and become a perpetual student. There's even free Net access 24/7!...something I know Sheckrastos wishes he had right now. The only real downside is the freaking hotter 'n hell weather, which makes it torturous to get to the various seminar buildings for all the education sessions I've gotta attend. Big whoop-de-doo. I come from one of the heat Meccas of the United States. I need to arm myself with bottles of water and bandannas full of ice for my neck and simply deal.

Life's normal here. Too normal.

"There's a class on disaster preparedness in school situations tomorrow," Edie said to me. She's here, too. "I overheard some of the presenters planning it. They have no clue!"

We laughed.

"I would have said to them, if I'd been there, 'Ooookay, pop quiz! A hurricane is bearing down on your area. What do you do?' " I said. (Well, for starters, you don't leave these behind...)

Edie and I talked it over some more. Since this is a Jewish educator's conference we're attending, chances are that the presenters are gonna think in terms of terrorist attacks on Jewish organizations, which is, sadly, a serious consideration for any Jewish-run building such as a synagogue or a JCC. The place that instantly came to mind for both Edie and I that badly needs to beef up security measures is right in our area. But hey, we are a tad preoccupied, what with having to rebuild the city and all.

Yeah, so, I talked some people's ears off about New Orleans, most interestingly over dinner with a lady from Baltimore whose best friend is in New Orleans. "Soooo, there are some problems," I said, outlining the recent property assessments debacle, the idiots we have at all levels of government, the diaster that is the Orleans D.A.'s office, talking over the recent National Geographic article on NOLA, what the Minneapolis bridge collapse says about all the crumbling and poorly maintained infrastructure all over the country (not to mention what it says about how New Orleans is being left in the dust).

"Still, you sound so optimistic!" Ms Baltimore said.


Didn't think I was communicating that all too well when I was talking about insurance companies refusing to pay folks trying to rebuild, or formaldehyde-leeching FEMA trailers, or rising energy and water bill costs. But I guess somehow, I did.

I still feel that, deep down, living in New Orleans is giving one massive middle finger to the forces that would have us all leave for their own powerful gains. I even told Ms Baltimore so.

And, taking trips outta the NOLA morass on occasion is a great re-energizer. I'm looking at every educational session here through the prism of "How can I bring this back to the religious school kids in New Orleans?" No place else, y'all. New Orleans, dammit.

Edie's in that frame of mind as well, but in a different way. She's cussing out the forces that be that won't hook up a big screen TV in the common room here so that we can watch the Saints-Steelers preseason Hall of Fame game.

Life IS way too normal out here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Camp is ovah!

Thank GOD! Thank the passage of time! Pray for me as I head onto an airplane soon to "blow this popsicle stand" for a time. The way this past week has been going...well, the kids seem to have been rubbed against a carpet until they are fully electrically charged and then let go to drive us all nuts. Saw the Simpsons movie and have "Spider Pig" running through my head - the kids even wanted me to have them do it for "Simon Says". Plus, an infamous injury quote this week, from a counselor accidentally kneed in the face by a camper:

I'm bleeding. Nobody makes me bleed my own blood.

He's fine now. Really.

Weird end-of-camp funnies:

Last week, a camper known for amazing feats along the lines of "losing his head if it weren't attached" lost his lunch.

No, no, not that. We couldn't find his midday meal and had to raid camp kitchens for stuff.

This week, my co-head teacher comes over to me with a ziploc bag full of noodles. "This was on the Lost and Found table," she said, smiling.

"And I know whose bag it is!" I said, laughing.

Sure enough, she looked a little more and found a tell-tale brown bag on the table with said camper's name on it. Too bad the lost and found isn't kept in a cooler...


They call me Ms Pitiful.

No, really...

Campers' lunchtime impressions of me getting them to quietly head down the hall:

Kid 1: Okay, everybody! Fingers on the lips...

Some kids (scattered, not too loud): Hands on the hips!

Kid 2: Ohhh, that was pitiful!

Kid 3: Fingers on the lips!

All kids: Hands on the hips!

Kid 4: (doing something I don't do): Ohhh, that was even more pitiful!


Kid 1: Fingers on the lips! (more giggles)

Me: Gotta come up with a new word other than "pitiful"...


And finally.... the kid curse of the summer!

Four-year-old, laden with stuff, after stubbing his toe and tripping a little on his last day:

"Oh, poop in the butt!"

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Uh, gross.

But there are some damned important points being made in the post, among them, the on-the-books ordinances concerning vacant lots that are increasingly going to come into play if the city chooses to do so - or if it gets forced to due to the lawsuits over incidences of pus leg in the populace trying to maintain those lots.

And there may well be more abandoned properties not only because of the surprise, surprise, surprise demolitions all over the place, but because of the recent assessments on properties (yeah, I know the title of the post is a bit rude. Think of how you'd feel, sitting in a crippled, ruined city in which the so-called leaders don't care too much about getting city services back and thriving. Your energy and water bills are sky-high, the feds don't want to help fund stronger protection for your city, and then your housing assessments more than double - and in some cases, are tripled. Yeah, take it all New Orleans. My children, pets, and blood, too.). Buh-bye taxpayers, and screw you. We're rebuilding New Orleans in the image of condos - and yuppies - in the sky.


Update: Okay, so there's another way to look at the reassessments. As it is, my husband doesn't want to contest the assessment on our place, which has more than doubled, for fear that it will go higher. Those millage rollbacks better be moving, moving, moving on down.


While we're all at being angry, let's kick someone for immediately thinking this bridge collapse was a terrorist act. Send your good thoughts, healing wishes and some r'fuah shleimah to the victims in Minneapolis - St Paul.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Hey, I'm gonna get some tickets to the Arena Bowl!" Dan said.

"Okay," I said, only half-believing him.

Shoulda known better. An hour or so later, he'd won us some nosebleed seats on eBay. And I do mean nosebleed, since we were in the very last possible row we could be in before we had to crawl up onto the ceiling. We could have rappelled down from the catwalks with the rest of the army dudes who delivered the game ball down to the field.

First off, I hate the New Orleans Arena. Architecturally, it is an unimpressive structure. Safety-wise, the place freaks me out, as there are really only two major ways in and out the place, which seats close to 20,000. God forbid there should ever be a fire in the place. We went there shortly after the place opened for a concert, and the bottlenecked crowds at the exits convinced me never to return to the arena unless it was absolutely necessary. I guess the Arena Bowl in which San Jose made it into the game qualified as a necessity. I've cheered for Dan's pet teams in stranger situations. What the hey.

Well, the whole pregame, which I missed most of because I was walking around and down some stairs to get a Champs Sporting Goods sweepstakes form, was basically a major propaganda show put on by our country's army. I thankfully managed to avoid an Army glee club rendition of many patriotic hits, and arrived at the tail end of a small ceremony inducting some new recruits into the Army. "There are much better ways to get into this game for free," Dan said to me as the inductees marched off. Wish I'd stayed out when they tried to get everyone involved in a "Mardi Gras Mambo", though - where's the Navy Steel Band when you need it? I've heard Navy bands go to town with "Enter Sandman", too. Must petition the major sports franchises to get the sailors to put on the show next time.

The folks sitting next to us were less than thrilled with their dirt-cheap seats, however. "I'm pretty mad at my Saints' ticket rep right now,"one of them said. Can't win 'em all.

I will say that, judging by the sheer number of jerseys and merchandise worn, there were loads of Saints fans in attendance at the Bowl, which means any of the following things:

- Most likely, about half of the Arena Bowl attendees were local.
- These people want the NFL season to start. Right. Now.
- This probably added up to free nationwide publicity for the first owner of both an arena football team AND an NFL team. Yup, everybody's favorite car dealer and corporate sports bully, Tom Benson.

Actually, it was all kinda fun and family friendly. Like Peewee football with grown men, mixed in with the ice hockey-ish possibility of players ending up over the wall and into the stands at any moment during the game. The cheerleaders are allowed to get away with much skimpier outfits, which Dan chalked up to their being in climate-controlled arenas most of the time. If I weren't freezing my kishkes from all the climate controlled A/C blasting on us, I'd have agreed with him.

"Why didn't you get a sweatshirt?" Dan asked me when I came back from a jaunt out to the bathroom and to get some Arena Bowl apparel to help me warm up.

"Because, they didn't have any! All they had were XXXL t-shirts!" I said.

Hey, it'll make a nice sleepshirt.

I must say that the Arena Bowl had the halftime show that the 2006 Saints' home opener should have had. ReBirth kicks the butts of U2 and Green Day combined any day of the week, and has energy to spare. Love it, loooove it. I am also extremely proud to say that I successfully avoided the Superdome jambalaya, which I have had issues with previously, but couldn't evade a daiquiri brain freeze. Must have been the meat locker A/C contributing.

Aw, hell, Dan was happy. San Jose won!

Plus, I saw some guy on the Jumbotron screens who looked a lot like AshMo missing no opportunities to lift his shirt and expose his prodigious gut to the assembled crowds and, possibly, to national TV viewers at home. Woohoo!