Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The thing about Judaism...and, indeed, most all religions and schools of that one's education in its meaning, rituals, and history never ends. It is not something that cuts off at your bar/bat mitzvah. The exploration of one's spirituality within its framework is lifelong. And the surprises just never end.

For instance, I know it will surprise a number of the kids I've taught over the past few years that the story of the Maccabees is part of the Apocrypha, the "things hidden" over the centuries from all but the most scholarly devotees of the study of the Hebrew Bible. It would also surprise them to learn that the Maccabees were not necessarily religious freedom fighters, but practitioners of a different sort of zealotry stemming from a time of persecution of any Jewish people and Jewish practices. There was no middle ground for Mattathias and his sons (as evidenced in 1 Maccabees 2:19-26) and for them, there was no way of negotiating with the king of the Syrian Greeks and his armies without the use of swords. The ones who ultimately suffered for these extremists' battles were everybody else stuck in between - from the people who went along with the hedonistic aspects of the Hellenistic culture the king Antiochus spread to the people the Maccabee band encountered in their righteous battle who were forced into circumcisions or killed outright for not being zealous enough.

No neutrality. You were a Greek or you were not. A part of the solution or part of the problem.

Is it any wonder we focus more on one cruse of oil meant to last only one day lasting for eight? Pretty, miraculous lights. That's where Hannukah's at!

To change gears a little, it is still a wonder that, in these supposedly enlightened times, the extremists are the ones whose voices are heard the loudest. And it is even more horrifically wondrous that we let them shout down all that is good, compassionate, and cooperative about the human race...all because, deep down, most of us who are good, compassionate, and cooperative feel that these people are simply talking to hear their own voices, and, when they are done having their say, they will wend their way back into whatever corner of the world they came from and keep to themselves once again.

We forget that these people not only have voices - they have brains. And limbs. And hands and feet. Everyone has the capacity to do whatever they want with what they have been given, and it is all too easy to use what is given for either good or bad. And it seems this week that The Nation has proclaimed that the bad is right in our own backyard here in New Orleans and that letting it lie is wrong. And The Nation is right.

To a point.

As a New Orleans blogger and a reader and supporter of other New Orleans bloggers, I can say that there is one thing above all the other things we write about, a thing that caused most of us to start this blogging stuff in the first place: our troubles are also this country's troubles. We do our best to refute those who would argue that the events of 8-29-05 here were simply the result of a natural disaster - they are symptomatic of a lack of real consideration for the upkeep of our infrastructure as a nation. We decry those who would let former centers of health care rot for their own financial gain, only to push even more residents out for a new, pie-in-the-sky, maybe it'll be built facility. And, as Athenae points out:

Jackass could have stayed in Chicago and learned the real "meaning" of the N-word just fine. The sentiments expressed in this story could have been expressed by any one of a hundred people I've talked to in my years living here. This isn't about the South. This is about America, as it always has been, as we keep saying here: Our fate is your fate, and it was, and it is. Our own.

I mean it, how often do you hear this? Every day? My house, my block, my neighborhood, I live here and you don't. Moreover, I BELONG here and you don't. Our lives are a crazy quilt of safe areas and danger zones, in which we make snap decisions about who "looks" like they belong here and who doesn't. But for the outright violence, but for the semi-official nature of the "militia," is there anyplace in this country this couldn't have happened? Neighborhood Watches and community meetings and everybody on the lookout, all the time, for what's coming after them. It's no wonder, no wonder at all.

No, the majority of us don't necessarily possess the religious zealotry of the Maccabees, but we do have that heavy individualism that can get just as bad. And I think that we, too, forget something important.

We, too, have brains. And limbs. And hands and feet. And voices.

There are times when we have to use those voices, and let me tell you, there is NO time like this very second.

Speak up. Write, email, call, to let The Nation and many, many others out there know that the racist idiots who shot Donald Harrington and his companions did not act as you would have acted in that situation. Let everyone know that the racist whites in the YouTube made by reporter A.C. Thompson are not expressing your views.

THEN...make sure, no matter what your race, creed, or color is, that justice will be served, not only in these shootings, but in how Charity Hospital is regarded, how the decentralization of our "system of schools" is increasing, how our finances are being messed with on a too-regular basis, and how the people we elect to act on our behalf constantly betray our trust.

This kind of thing needs to be done nationally as well.

One of the prayers said at the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is an alphabetical acrostic proclaiming to God, as we each beat our hearts with our fists, all of the ways in which we have transgressed against God in the past year and how ashamed we are of our actions. We then proclaim that we will act more righteously, and with greater consideration.

Consider it my wish for us all at the dawn of a new year: that we admit our culpability in all of this and act to make this right...

...and that, more importantly, we continue to do so.

Monday, December 22, 2008

E eloquently weighs in on The Nation's recent article on Algiers Point after 8-29-05 and the Color of Change's demand for justice:

What we need is an independent federal investigation into all of it: All of the vigilante killings, all of NOPD's desertions, all of Nagin's mistakes, all of Brownie's incompetence, all of Bush's neglect, and the Army Corps of Engineers for the failure of the federal levee systems. We need the truth and we need accountability, but what we really need is healing. Color of Change's call, even if it succeeds in precipitating an investigation into what happened in Algiers, is just as likely to salt our civic wounds as it is to sanitize them.

We needed it starting in late 2005 and we still need it today. Color of Change isn't going nearly far enough. They're flailing in Bobby Jindal's direction in reaction to the Thompson piece instead of actually putting forth a proposal that might help usher New Orleanians toward some sort of closure.

But again, I don't just want to call out Thompson and Color of Change. This instance is emblematic of the larger role that Katrina and New Orleans play in national political discourse.

For the nation, the federal response Katrina signalled a final deathblow to President Bush and conservative governing philosophy. Polls demonstrate that the public pretty much turned on the GOP for good as a result of the Katrina saga. The PR battle that took place between the parties was one in which the Right blamed Nagin and the natives for their lack of "personal responsibility," while the Left (and the vast vast majority of the country) blamed Bush and his henchmen for their inexplicable and inexcusable inability to respond to an entirely predictable catastrophe in a major American city.

Since then, national analysis of New Orleans is through these lenses, not just the lens of 'Katrina' but the lenses of were was the immediate partisan reactions to Katrina.

The Left, during Katrina, was justifiably incensed over the way that African Americans were labeled "looters" while whites just looking for food. That's why it is unsurprising to see the lions of the liberal netroots (HuffPo, Think Progress, Color of Change) seize upon this story - it scores points in that old front against racist right wing media portrayal.

Katrina is an eternally smoldering political fire, that actual people live here New Orleans is an abstraction that most don't, can't, and won't think about in the midst of the constant drone of the 24 hour news cycle. That the story of New Orleans continues, that it takes on new twists and turns, that its existence continues to be tenuously propped up on a three-legged stool of racism, corruption, and incompetence seems lost on much of the progressive netroots, on thinkers who I respect greatly and read every day.

The most frustrating thing to me is that the progressive netroots really can be of great assistance in this city, without really sacrificing the opportunity to score those political points.

Sign the Color of Change petition here, and keep in mind that it is a call for a beginning into an investigation of one of many things that went wrong during that terrible time over three years ago.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Santa's gonna bring you something nice and put it in your stocking!"

"No, he won't," the little guy said.

"Don't say that. Of course he will!!!!" she insisted.

The little guy walked off, and the waitress related this story to me.

"He says he won't get anything in his stocking!" she said to me, slightly horrified.

"Well, no, he won't," I said as her face fell even more,"because we're Jewish."

With that, we laughed together.

Yep, no stockings waiting to be stuffed are hanging in our home, thanks. We won't be expecting Santa to be stuffing himself down our chimney anytime soon, either. And from what I gather, Santa won't be too thrilled to find this house if he does come...

Sorry, Santa, we won't be accepting Jesus as our savior. Not even for more presents. Back up the chimney with you, now.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coozan Pat alerts readers to this article from The Nation examining what happened in Algiers Point on the West Bank of the Mississippi shortly after 8-29-05. A sampling:

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.

So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins--in fact, there was never an investigation. I found this story repeated over and over during my days in New Orleans. As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.

Hill, who runs Tulane's Southern Institute for Education and Research and closely follows the city's racial dynamics, isn't surprised the Algiers Point gunmen have eluded arrest. Because of the widespread notion that blacks engaged in looting and thuggery as the disaster unfolded, Hill believes, many white New Orleanians approved of the vigilante activity that occurred in places like Algiers Point. "By and large, I think the white mentality is that these people are exempt--that even if they committed these crimes, they're really exempt from any kind of legal repercussion," Hill tells me. "It's sad to say, but I think that if any of these cases went to trial, and none of them have, I can't see a white person being convicted of any kind of crime against an African-American during that period."

Read more on those seeking justice for New Orleans here.

Update, 12-21: The Zombie weighs in:

I don't doubt for one second that these incidents are true...but they are a drop in the bucket to the overall level of lawlessness and crime which occurred in the days following the Federal Flood. There are so many "incidents" which occurred in those days of horror, it just really peeves me to see a "national" (pun intended) reporter cherry pick incidents and call it "Katrina's Hidden Race War"

....gets your blood pumping doesn't it?

I've got an interview, on tape, with a young lady who was in the Dome who witnessed an elderly woman thrown over the walkway outside simply because "...she was a white woman". I've got interviews with people on Dumaine Street who told me of a band of men (African-American) with guns, a police officer included, who were systematically hunting down drug dealers and thugs in their neighborhood and killing them.

Point being....a lot of horrible things took place during that time. Were there white racists with guns shooting at people? I'm sure there were. Were there black racists with guns shooting at people? I'm sure there were.

Had Thompson framed this story as "Katrina's Hidden Vigilante War" I would have no problem with it because I think there were many, many vigilante incidents which went untold or of the most egregious being a beheading of a child molester at the Convention Center (the headless body was actually shown underneath a blanket on CNN for a about a 10 hour period then the story mysteriously disappeared). And of course I don't have an issue with him reporting that there were white racists at Algiers point who were targeting African-Americans...that story needs to be told, and those assholes need to be prosecuted. But calling it a "Race War"....that's fucking insane and purposely's simply bad journalism.

Update, 12-22: Comments on the video from Varg, who resides on the west bank, and Mr. Clio are here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I Am A Hostilidays Wuss

Well, it happened. And ultimately, I guess I am to blame for this state of affairs.

I've been giving Dan some day-to-day recaps of the 2008 Hostilidays YouTube Wars, the highlight of which, for him, was Sheckrastos' rude, crude entry. He's actually been telling some people at his workplace about it, which I thought was bad enough...

...but he just couldn't let it go.

How do I know this?

Last night, after putting our darling son to bed and making sure he was fast asleep, Dan did a Google search for some more truly awful videos and he found the mother of 'em all....or, actually, part 2 of the mother of 'em all. He went to get ready for bed while I found parts 1 and 3, and he and I witnessed the whole sordid, socially unacceptable, blasphemous tale. I mean, NOT safe at work, NOT for the kids, GUARANTEED to start a 21st century crusade, that kinda thing... expressed in a comment on the YouTube page for this thing:

well it was hilarious..but ur goin to

Once I got out of the fetal position I was curled into and got off the floor, I thought about whether or not I oughta post it on this blog. Could I possibly get away with a "Most Awful Family In Britain" sort of presentation, in which I simply claim that the video is so, so bad, it just can't be shown or linked to at all?

How to share this H-Bomb of a moving picture with those who would be most appreciative of it?

Well, that's one of the ways in which the holiday spirit has triumphed.

I gave this abortive holiday miracle to the NOLA blogpocheh in an email and threw it out there for any of 'em to post, any of 'em at all to share it with the world. And the only one who had the steel ovaries to even throw up a link to it was Morwen.

View it at your own mental risk. Hehhehhehhehhehhehheh....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It is the tip of a massive iceberg, one that has many of us trying to figure it out. It's one of the reasons why, for the first time in this city's history, we have an inspector general in the first place.

Where the hell is the city's money going?

Since this investigation has got to start somewhere, Inspector General Robert Cerasoli begins with the "company cars" and finds that, if the city pares down the current number of cars in its fleet from 273 to 60, the maximum number allowed under city ordinance, then we will be saved a grand total of close to:

Mr Walki...errr...Mayor Nagin, just something to consider:

You know, you can own the most pimped-out vehicle on the market, but with the city's streets being in the condition that they are, why would you want to destroy its suspension like that? And you have the personal use of two late-model vehicles? That's really gonna cost us, the humble city taxpayers, in repairs on that Lincoln and that Expedition.

Please pick your battles more wisely, sir, and sell the Lincoln at least, along with the extra 212 vehicles. The cuts the Council wants to make in the city budget pertaining to fleet purchases and fuel can easily be made up in this way.

You are holding the freaking checkbook...

Mazel tov and yashir koach to Mr Cerasoli on the publishing of his first comprehensive findings concerning the (non)workings of our city's government. Please keep it up, no matter what happens. We all need this.


Whooo! Hannukah's around the corner...

and no, these are not part of the Hostilidays YouTubes.

But THIS certainly is:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's the little things that get to you sometimes

Like when cobblestone streets are repaired with patches of scored asphalt:

...or it takes a while for the Sewerage and Water Board to get around to replacing the covers on the water meters, leaving open holes nearly two feet deep in the sidewalk:

Oh, sure, this recovery business is gonna take a while, but isn't it already December 2008?:

Hmmm...aren't there any funds for such basic infrastructure repairs?

Unfortunately, there is no more money in the 2008 budget to make streetlight repairs for the rest of this year, and the 2009 budget that was passed includes only the smallest amount for repairs in 2009, despite Council Member Midura’s efforts to get this infrastructure fund properly funded at the budget meeting.

It is possible your lights are likely to remain out for a while. We will continue our best efforts to provide a remedy to this situation.

Thank you.

More on the budget shortfalls from E here.

An examination of the Walking Id's proposed 2009 budget is here.

What Cliff thinks we oughta do to fill the budget shortfall is here.

We have 75 million dollars in the recovery budget to buy up half of Mid City for a new hospital complex that still don't have the money to build....Would it be legal to take some of that 75 million and put into the regular city budget to make up the shortfall? We should take all of it. Councilwoman Clarkson keeps assuring everybody that the disaster loans that have been the way of balancing the budget will be forgiven as the reason we won't be in crisis for the 2010 budget. When that day comes we can use that revenue to replace the Mid City money if needed. I honestly don't think the federal government is going to give us the money to make this plan happen anyway. We ought to just take what we have now and scale back the plan to fit what we can afford. We shouldn't be holding the money we do have hostage for the state, the federal government and LSU if they can't deliver on their part of the funding.

Would it be possible to move this money or is this another case where guidelines and the city charter give our leaders an excuse to not think outside the box?

Howzabout Cliff for mayor?


ANYway, since we ain't got the dough to do much...

well, 'tis the season, right?

Just deck that caution barrel with some candy canes and boughs of faux holly!

We can dress up Jackson Square, sure!

But that hole will still remain,
and that light will still be out.

*Jackson Square photo courtesy of Charlotte

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dan keeps saying that I must counter some of the nastier YouTubes in this bloody hollerday war with some sort of porn. "Naked Christmas! Naked Christmas!" he keeps telling me, with a teensy bit of drool emanating from one corner of his lip.

Well, my neighbor told me of a little something...but it is risque, so click on the link below only when you are not at work and the kids are all safe in their beds.

Then, feel free to live it up with Hot Jewish Chicks.

In somewhat related news, Big Daddy's goes belly-up. Never been in there, but the place still had an effect on me...and on some unsuspecting relatives of mine. After a less-than-stellar dinner at Antoine's (this was before we had our own waiter over there), I took said relatives down that block of Bourbon Street and they were suitably shocked and appalled. "Topless and bottomless!!!" one of 'em exclaimed as she held onto my shirt sleeve for dear life, staring at the mannequin's legs popping in and out of the building as though they were portents of disasters yet to come.

This was pre-8-29, so perhaps she was right...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some of you might be wondering about the proliferation of Hannukah hip-hop on the interwebs...

...the insane shtick one particular guy brings to the dreidel game in this video holds one possible clue.

Fun fact: my husband actually IS a Hebrew school dropout.

I need to find that shirt.

PLUS: Waaaay too many people got roped into this one:

And this one needs to be seen to be believed. Harvey Fierstein and Bambi do NOT mix.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dan heard about this atrocity in the Hollerday YouTube Fest and suggested I find:

a)something combining Michael Bolton, Kenny G., and Yanni all at the same time (what, no John Tesh?)
b)something related to a certain holiday for the rest of us.

Soooo, heeeeeeere's b).

Blame Dan first. I can at least use him as a human shield to get a running start on my escape from you meshuganah hordes...

...although Dan does like this one - plug the kids' ears, now:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's my birthday, and I'm gonna head down to Lake Ponchartrain to surf to this Hannukah classic:

So don't go tossing me down a well if I'm not as responsive to this year's Hollerday YouTube War today:

Just letting you all know what's up....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If you can decipher what these kids are singing to the elderly...

...then you haven't had enough Manischewitz.
All right, fine, you treif bivalve, you! Let's raise the stakes a little more...

Don't mess with me. I got a dreidel and I know how to use it.
'Tis that most annoying time of the year...

The second annual Horrifically Annoying Hollerday YouTube Fest!

It's da bomb!!!!*

* It certainly carries the potential to explode...

Update, 11:37 AM: Speak softly, play Maoz Tzur cheesily, and carry some strong Maccabees:

...not to mention a blast from the '80's past...

Oh, and grab the'll need it for this one...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Despite some more examinations of our recent refuse woes from Matt McBride- namely, the way in which the "house count audit" of the Walking Id's administration is being done...

The "house count audit" is supposed to independently determine for the city exactly how many houses are getting trash service - nearly two years after the contracts started. In the public's minds, this would probably involve an outside firm coming into City Hall and poring over the trash companies' address lists. But that's not what this "audit" is about. In fact, it appears this audit is not an audit at all, but simply an elaborate exercise in CYA ....

...The methodology for the audit is a whiz-bang technical mashup of vehicle-mounted GPS receivers and GCR's witches brew of data pulled from Entergy bills, post office records, and Sewerage & Water Board records.

From what I can gather, GCR is producing some kind of list where they think it is likely folks are receving trash service (not where they know service is received). GBB/GCR calls these addresses "prospective refuse collection points." Then GBB, with their GPS boxes and wireless antennas, seems to be going out on trash collection days and noting who has their cans out, and then tying that into the database.

Missing in this "audit" of the trash companies is the obvious - there is no interaction with the trash companies and their records. In effect, it is people driving around looking at trash cans and creating a brand new address list. There seems to be no provision whatsoever to determine if the city is getting double billed for any of those cans, or whether those cans should even be there. I also wonder how GBB/GCR accounts for people who might not put out their cans - or who do not have them within sight of a passing car - the days their auditmobiles roll by? And what about the year and a half of service the city had already paid for by the time the audit began?

Frankly, it's the goofiest audit methodology one could come up with. It's like going to the Grand Canyon, spending the entire time in the gift shop looking at postcards, and then coming home and telling everyone how Grand the Canyon is! It seems designed to avoid looking at the actual records in order to provide plausible deniability in case irregularities are uncovered. It also avoids placing the Sanitation Department in the uncomfortable position of having to explain their very poor oversight and contrary execution of these lucrative contracts. If nobody's looking at the records - and based on the actual records it seems no one is - then no one can say anything conclusive about them and their obvious problems.

(Please give E some suggestions as to how to present his petition to remove Veronica White from her sanitation directorate. A combo of sending it to the City Council members and a media blitz on the front steps of City Hall as E presents it to the Mayor's office is a start...and then we all must keep referring to its 568 signatures on a regular basis until she is gone.)

...I have to agree with Cliff's attention to Big Red Cotton's post New Orleans - It Ain't For Everybody, and reprint it here for your consideration:

Okay, so a soon-to-be released survey identifies the 20 cities Americans say they would most want - and least want - to relocate for a job.

Guess which list New Orleans made...

Because the national economy is in the crapper into the unforeseeable future, more Americans will be faced with having to relocate to find work. So this Washington-based professionals organization, The Human Capital Institute, created a survey to help cities determine how to market themselves to attract talented out-of-town workers. They interviewed 2,500 employees and entrepreneurs nationwide who ranked New Orleans as their fourth least favorite pick for places to move to. Amongst our cited ills are population shrinkage, murder rate increase, and post-Katrina tourism industry challenges. The negative attributes rankings were health and safety (55%), image (49%), and environment (45%).

Hmph... Well on behalf of New Orleans, allow me to say that we don't want to be with anyone who doesn't want to be with us. I, for one, am tired of Homogenous Nation's negative opinion of New Orleans. We cannot be everything to everybody, especially imagination-lacking, subdivision beige house loving, mainstream America. We're busting our asses to put this city back together and take it to the next level - it's a GD mission! So if you're not feeling this, move over and let the ones through that DO wanna get with us.

Excuse my tangent folks. I'm just OVER the whole 'image' conversation.

Ironically, the other cities that made the survey's Top Worst List happen to be our sister cities:

New York/New Orleans - Disaster Soul Mates
Detroit/ New Orleans - Chocolate Cities
Los Angeles/New Orleans - Hollywood/Hollywood South

Apparently, the respondents are not so much into catastrophe, flava, or drama. Okay, I get that. Again, this aint for everybody.

The other irony is that our economy is still growing and outperforming the rest of the nation - we're actually ADDING jobs here while the rest of the country is losing jobs. And according to CityBusiness, New Orleans is fast growing as a hot spot in the tech sector. So I have a feeling some of those naysayers are going to be eating their words about us sooner rather than later.

Oh it feels good to be able to say that and actually believe it has a chance in hell of being true...

Anyhoo, I'm filing this after a fabulous Creole Italian dinner and too much wine and song at Vincent's. Now I'm off to catch one of the best live music shows in the country - the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf, which will be packed as it is every middle-of-the-week Tuesday night. And the night won't end till the band says it ends.

Ah New Orleans, my beloved... If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right!

I said it before and I'll say it again: Hell, yes and Amen!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why are we here in New Orleans a tad obsessed with garbage?

Well, aside from the fact that I'm cleaning the house today and finding all sorts of crapola in the nooks and crannies of the living room alone... Just think about this a little, people. When you live in a city that had piles of debris from flooded-out houses all over the place not too long ago, and in which there are still many blighted properties dating from before 8-29, garbage is indeed an issue not to be taken lightly.

Seems City Hall is certainly treating it as a lark, however...and as an excuse to give the trash haulers some extra moolah, according to Matt McBride:

There are many irregularities in the Richards and Metro address lists provided to the City Council. While at first blush it would appear that both firms are actually underbilling the city, it would appear Metro is definitely overbilling, and Richards is borderline.

Among the irregularities are:

- thousands of duplicate addresses being counted in the billing totals,

- billing the city for apartment buildings with more than four units, commercial buildings, and non-existent trailers (even double billing a trailer park in one case)

- billing the city for properties that have been demolished, targeted for demolition by the city, determined by the city to be in imminent danger of collapse, or which have had demolition permits granted to them.

With this many irregularities, it seems the skepticism some have expressed over the contracts' cost effectiveness is justified.

Ummmm, yep, it is.

Thanks, E. When and how will the petition to remove Veronica White be presented? Let us know, please. 562 signatures as of today!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Morning outrages:

(Note To All: Folks, Lubavitcher Hasidim are not out in places like Mumbai to convert everybody to Judaism. When they are on the street with a mini-sukkah at the Sukkot holiday, for instance, they will first ask passersby if they are Jewish. They will not bother you if you are not Jewish. Their role is to help make secular, non-observant Jews more observant in their Jewish practices, and to assist the observant in doing things such as eating kosher meals abroad. It puts the Mumbai terrorists' actions in a truly insidious perspective: they knew the Chabadniks weren't going to approach them, so they approached the Chabadniks and gained their trust only to torture them and murder them in the name of jihad. This was probably done to people all over Mumbai.)

The Jihadi as Nazi, from 9-11 to Mumbai :

It turns out, that when Jews suspected that the Jihadi hated the Jew the way
the Nazi hated the Jew, they were right.

After all this time, I am embarrassed to admit that only when the monsters entered Chabad House in Mumbai, did I understand.

Monsters, not solely for what they did there, but, if the reports are to be believed, for the fact that they were able to do what they did after having actually gotten to know the young couple who founded the center, after asking them for shelter in Chabad House, after telling them that they were Malaysian students eager to learn about Judaism.

Monsters, for having befriended these sweet people in order to better learn how to execute them. Monsters, for having targeted a young couple who had devoted their lives to helping others better live theirs, despite having had a baby who died of a genetic disease and a second child ill and under treatment far away in Israel.

Oyster updates us on the Entergy street tile replacement fiasco dating from before Ashley Morris' passing. "OAK" is there...the street corner now needs the "BIRCH". How difficult can replacing those tiles be?...wait, the question probably ought to be "how difficult can Entergy make the task of embedding street name tiles in concrete?" I want details. I also want it done.

E tells us the media is being shut out of yet another meeting regarding Big Charity's future - the old Big Charity building, that is. Something's a tad fishy when even the governor is urging LSU to let the media into the building to see what its current condition is.

My suggestion for a soundtrack:

...written about this experience.

...Yeah, all fall down, somebody help me off of the ground...

Knew there was a reason why I pulled the Working Man's Cafe album out for listening today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Emails came from my Queens synagogue's listserv concerning the occupation of Nariman House in Mumbai by terrorists. Said to be among the hostages were a young rabbi and his wife, as Nariman House had become a Chabad-Lubavitch House in recent years.

I knew, deep down, there was only one reason why such a place would be a target, and it had nothing to do with what Lubavitch outreach is really all about....but I had to hope a little, especially when I heard that the couple's toddler-age son was snatched away from the scene and carried off to safety.

On Thanksgiving Day, I followed many tweets about the terrorist occupation of several hotels in the city halfway around the world, read a number of real-time, in-Mumbai accounts of the horrors there, and even took great pains to unfollow (and help others unfollow) those who would deliberately spead misinformation and hate at a time when most others simply wanted the truth about what was happening right that second.

It was revealed a few days later that some Israelis were killed in Nariman House, among them Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and Rivkah Holtzberg. It was revealed to me last night that their son Moshe was right there and most likely saw the killing of his parents.

"It's clear that we don't want our Chabad Houses to turn into barricaded forts," said Rabbi Menachem Brod, official Chabad spokesman in Israel. "The whole idea of Chabad is that we are open and accessible to Jews traveling abroad."

The concern has left Israeli officials fending off charges that they should do more to protect the buildings, which serve as outposts for ultra-Orthodox Jewish culture.

"Of course we care, of course we worry, but there's not much we can actually do," said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "Not only is it not governmental, it's not even Israeli."

Granted, I've had some insight into some simple safety measures that can be taken to ensure that visitors can't get past the doors of a place without identifying themselves. It's called locked doors, cameras, and an intercom connected to someone who can politely ask who you are and what your business is, then open the doors once you have done those things. I personally think the JCCs here are quite lax in their security measures, and though I've never been to the Chabad House in Metairie or the one at Tulane, I certainly hope those basic security steps will be seriously considered and taken. Because there is still one sick, twisted bottom line ultimately responsible for the senseless death of ultra-Orthodox Lubavitchers who were only there to help other Jews abroad become more observant in their Jewish practices:

"This couple wasn't living in the West Bank. They weren't settlers. They weren't occupying anyone's land. They were killed because they were Jews, simple and plain."


Oh, and for reasons of my own, I find this especially sad that it happened in a place such as Mumbai. The beguiling way in which Maximum City author Suketu Mehta writes about his city in recent days says it all:

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.

I highly recommend his book on Mumbai. Go, go read.

Update, 7:33 PM: Head to Maitri's for more on how this has affected all of Mumbai, and indeed all of India.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The prodigal broad has returned from the buckle of the Bible Belt, where large, lit-up lower-case "t"s are prominently featured on the sides of two skyscrapers in the Oklahoma City skyline. And yes, I know there's a big one on the sides of a building in the New Orleans area, but it's the Archdiocese of NOLA's building, not one belonging to J.P. Morgan Chase.

ANYway, since we don't receive too many holiday catalogs here on the gray brick road, I took great delight in perusing one of the many that my mom gets: Neiman-Marcus' Christmas Book, famous for offering all sorts of incredible gifts such as a mauve Hummer and this fantastic gem that can be yours for only a half-a-mil:

To honor battles won and heroes lost over 38 glorious years, you can put 530 square yards of sporting history into your own backyard: An entire Cowboys Texas Stadium end zone. Our exclusive package also includes the VIP treatment for the last regular season Cowboys game in Texas Stadium. Your crew gets pre-game photos in your zone with Jerry Jones, a luxury suite for the game, and a once-in-a-lifetime post-game tailgate party on your soon-to be new backyard (with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, no less). There's also autographed memorabilia from Cowboy legends, and a VIP package to attend the opening of the new stadium in 2009. Better yet, the Jerry Jones family and the Cowboys organization will generously donate the entire purchase price to The Salvation Army®.

I only comment on this because a) I can't imagine Tom Benson doing anything like this ever ever. Offering this kind of package in exchange for $500,000 to a local charity? Over his soiled cars' bodies... ; b) Who would he really be able to collaborate on this kind of thing with, anyway? Hell, neither Macy's nor Lord & Taylor reopened in the New Orleans Centre adjacent to the Superdome. ; and c) The Dome had better not be facing any sort of demise anytime soon, especially in these financial climes.

Aaaah, hell, even if a Saints end zone were the thing being offered, I have no place to put it, except maybe I could cut it up and use it for wall-to-wall carpeting...

I'm gonna buy local - and spend a tad less moolah - instead.

And I wouldn't object to having some of these wrapped in blue paper in my home, either.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the one hand: yeesh...*
On the other: aah, hell, history should be so kind...
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
*motivated by my recent reading of this book...
Update, 11-27: from a friend on my Queens synagogue's listserve:
You can't make this stuff up. From today's Huffington Post, quoting the New York Post (no relation).

Merry Hanukkah from the White House!

The president and the first lady invited leaders of America's Jewish community for a Hanukkah reception at the White House next month - but raised more than a few eyebrows by putting a picture of a Christmas tree on the invitation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Folks, articles like this unfortunately show that our part of the country has been mired in the conservative muck for so long, we can't even muster up any connections greater than a nifty game of "Six Degrees of Barack Obama Separation".

There's this: "I'm not the guy; I just raised a lot of money for him," said David Voelker, the New Orleans businessman who is chairman of the board of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. At $80,300, Voelker appears to have been Obama's top fundraiser in Louisiana.

Which is best characterized as "I dunno, man, I just work here. Ask Virginia Boulet."

She's not an inner circle type of gal, y'all...I coulda told the Times-Picayune this last month. She does some good cheerleading on the Prez-Elect's behalf, but she passes us on to Jennifer Borum Bechet, a former Harvard Law Review colleague...who hasn't talked to him since those bygone days.

They should just spin a wheel of prominent Louisiana Dems and thrust whoever the arrow points to into the limelight at this rate. Nice to see that the White House is looking beyond geography with some of its appointments, anyhow...

If there were more prominent Louisiana Dems, perhaps they would have helped put a stop to naked land grabs in the making such as this one, in which everyone's time to speak to the city council was shrunk from three minutes to one, with no questions being taken.

New Orleans' Lower Mid-City residents and businesses put together a slide show of images from the neighborhood, demonstrating what would be lost if this portion of the Mid-City National Register District were destroyed to make way for new VA and LSU medical centers. Historic Charity Hospital and its Mid-City neighborhood were listed on the 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Once again, I give you, for your perusal, some stuff from a previous post on this matter of the LSU/VA location...

The dots you are seeing below are of properties cleared for demolition in December 2007:

Oyster's comment on the latest Squandered Heritage post from which the above map comes:
Much of where you mapped, of course, is a block away from planned billion dollar VA hospital. It will be prime commercial and residential real-estate in a few years, especially if the neighborhood has been considerably “altered”.
And now, for your perusal, a map of the proposed site for the new LSU/VA:

With planning like this, who really needs the local paper to chime in on it all, I ask you?


Monday, November 24, 2008

Wisdom gleaned from recently released (and soon to be released) animated flicks:

How to impart the bad - smooth its way with the good:

The good news is, we'll be landing immediately. The bad news is, we're crash landing. - Skipper the penguin, Madagascar 2

A truth rarely commented upon, until now:

Once again, a UFO has landed in America - the only country UFOs ever seem to land in. - Monsters vs Aliens, coming next year.

Finally, we've been watching lots of this movie all weekend in our house. Got to get these latest nuggets of wisdom outta my system, then go and study some Talmud or something. Perhaps the Pirke Avot...or I may forego words altogether and go straght for studies of Gematria...

One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.
- Oogway the wise tortoise

We do not wash our pits in the Pool of Sacred Tears. - Master Shifu

I thank you for your consideration. *bow*

There is no charge for awesomeness, or attractiveness. - Po the Panda

Friday, November 21, 2008

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up

Aaaaah, Lordy, once again, I am a taggee. This thing has been going 'round like a bad winter flu. Nothin' to do but to take my medicine and complete it...especially since there's a beer in my future at this weekend's Po' Boy Preservation Fest.

Hmmm, random, random...

1) I went to the Shirin Neshat exhibit at Tulane recently and had to leave partway through the viewing of one of the showings. The gallery is showing four films of hers based on this book. I found myself getting sick to my stomach trying to watch a short film of hers called Zarin, about a prostitute who suddenly discovers that she is in a world where the men have no faces. The woman in the film was painfully skinny, on the edge of skeletal, and something about that made me sad, angry, and upset. She was wasting away from the harshness of her world, and it just really got to me.

2) My kid is getting into board games, and it's a kick for me. In fact, I need to get back to a game of Battleship in progress...

He seems to really enjoy chess lately as well, though I can't play that worth a damn. He works on it on the computer, with Dan advising him on which moves are better than others. I think the little guy just likes to take the pieces when he can, and the winning is least, right now, it is...

3) I've started worrying about how much Hebrew my son will actually be learning as a secular Jew. He asked me the other day what a bar mitzvah was, which is a step in the right direction, and he loves the songs and prayers he's learning at religious school - but, when I see how little the kids in the grade level ahead of him know of the language, it worries me. The kids don't even know how to spell "shalom" in Hebrew. Which leads to...

4) deepest, darkest feelings about sending him to the secular Jewish day school in the area. I went to a Jewish day school in Houston for nine years and hated. Every. Second. Of. It. Mainly because of my classmates, most of whom seemed bent on making my life hell. Somehow, though, I absorbed a lot of what Judaism was about despite it all, and I got much more Hebrew out of it than I thought I did. Sending my son to the JDS here is out of the question for us monetarily speaking, but I still worry...

5) I'm kind of thankful now that I didn't go further than a few courses at the Jewish Theological Seminary down a path to becoming a cantor. I love to sing, but I think I'd go nuts from the straddling of immediate family issues and congregational issues, since these days, cantors tend to be trained as "rabbis who sing". As a result, I admire our new rabbi even more, a mother of two young children who is my age. More power to her...she is traveling down a rarely-traveled road. Rabbi Sharon Brous in an essay entitled "Holy Guilt Trip":

What I didn't know at the time was that deciding to become a rabbi for a woman means deciding to become a woman rabbi, itself a distateful oxymoron in much of the religious world, and an inescapable source of angst even in the liberal Jewish world. I quickly learned that there actually was something worse than being an ignorant, illiterate, High Holy Day Jew who didn't know that salad dressing had to be kosher. My very being - as a strong, serious, spirited woman in love with Judaism - posed an existential threat to the Jewish people, and my passion for Torah and tradition only added insult to injury.

6) Not that there is no historical precedent for learned Jewish women. It just so happens that my mother, when she converted to Judaism, chose Beruriah as her Hebrew name.

Fine, I'm done.


Pat of Hurricane Radio
The Mosquito Coast's swampwoman
Kelly of Good Children
Doctor Daisy up in Wisconsin
Alli, when she returns from the Nether Lands
Professore Dr Michael Homan

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Updates from comments on my take on this Babble article:

At what point did caring for others, particularly those in our families, become so completely devalued? As if raising a child or caring for an adult is a task beneath them, one that only a lesser skilled, lesser educated, person undertakes. And let's not forget that women CHOOSE these roles, oh yes, nothing about caring for others is assumed in a woman's life.

(Take, for example, the holier-than-thou insults to so-called 'Mommy-bloggers,' a term which means, you chose to be a Mom, so shut up, get in the kitchen, and live with it -- most certainly don't write about it, or anything else for that matter.)

Which is, of course, what the insults to this woman were about.

From li'l ol' me:

I can't say that I'm immune to the attitudes that have devalued basic day-to-day caregiving for others. Something in American culture has changed the way we look at extended families - perhaps the primacy of individual gain above all else. And this woman's complaints - and the commenters' kvetches as well - have those changes written all over them.

This generation of women we are a part of was raised to have these individual aspirations, that we could have it all without too much of that responsibility, that, somehow, if the care of others such as children and parents, entered the picture, we could manage it without too much strain, because we could take it, by God! Plus, wasn't all of this supposed to be equally shared by family members of both genders? (yeah, riiiight)

Well, it's tough, tougher than we thought. And we STILL can't complain about it because the responsibility thing is perceived as a "choice" rather than a necessity. You are correct there, Holly.


Oh, by the way folks, required must-read for all: Hospital by Julie Salomon. 'Cause if you think family members as caregivers kvetch...

Seriously, though, it's really good. More on it soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Here you go kids...

Your Yiddish lesson for the day:

Thank the folks who brought you Yiddish With Dick and Jane for today's mechayeh!

Oh, and speaking of farbisseneh maidelehs, add your signature to the petition to Dismiss Veronica White today. E says he's gonna throw in all sorts of goodies for the folks whose names are the 250th and 500th signatures, so would it kill you to sign? Don't answer that...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the one hand, I want to yell my ever-ready mantra at Peter Schjeldahl concerning his opining on Prospect .1: "We don't care how they do it in New York!!!!"

However, he does raise some valid points about how the atmosphere of New Orleans circa 8-29 and three years afterwards has affected the participating artists:

Be it ever so small and poor, and despite catastrophic displacements, New Orleans can’t help but remain New Orleans, which is to other cities what a poem is to prose. The phantasmagoria of high and vernacular architecture, polyglot flavors, omnipresent music, exuberant cemeteries, and geographical unlikelihood, of a seaport largely below sea level, stokes continual wonderment. Desire isn’t only a street name there. A municipal tradition of giddy impulsiveness, shadowed by recent tragedy and chronic woes—including a high incidence of crime—has got to many of the invited artists in “Prospect.1.” In the friskily hyperbolic words of a review by Walter Robinson, the editor of Artnet Magazine, the show “takes the reprobate scallywag nihilists of the contemporary avant-garde and converts them . . . into goody-two-shoes bleeding-heart believers in the nobility of humankind.” You may disdain the frequent sentimentality in the show if you can suppress your own uprushes of sentiment. I could not.

I give Schjeldahl props for recognizing the most New Orleans-centric artists, and, especially, for recognizing Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick of the L9 Center for the Arts. The man has professed to liking this biennial: my favorite...since the nineteen-eighties, when biennials ceased to be innocently serious roundups of recent art and became heavily engineered spectacles.

The next sentence, however, is of P.1 organizer Dan Cameron admitting quite frankly that he is a "tourism promoter". Ummm, little to no heavy engineering in these New Orleans spectacles, Mr Schjeldahl? I beg to differ.

Speaking of engineering...

I read this Babble article on the strains of taking care of one's mom and one's three children under the same roof recently and found myself appalled at the tone of the comments on it, at the insensitivity coming from both the author of the article and the commenters. On the one hand, I do hope that this woman talked with her mother about how she felt before this article came out online.

Living with my mother and feeling responsible for her financial future often feels like an overwhelming burden. Instead of saving money for my children's education, traveling as a family, or even going out to eat, my husband and I spend our money on the hefty mortgage. We've talked about selling, but between the weakening economy and our need to house so many people, it's not a viable option for us. Not only do we fret about our children's future, but we worry about my mom's as well. With no retirement funds to live off of, her financial future is in our hands.

Mom contributes what she can. She works a few days a week in a small boutique, and every month she writes me a small check to cover utilities. Sometimes I want to ask her why she's not working more, but the words never come out. As her daughter, I feel as though she's earned the right to work less now that she's raised a family. But as the adult who's responsible for three young children, as well as for her, I wonder if she should be doing more.

Yes, motherhood can be hell. I personally think it's nuts for me to be having any more kids, no matter how many people ask me if I'm considering having more, no matter how many times my son's teacher says having another child might help put the one I have now in his "place" somehow, no matter how many people might think I now need to be in some sort of baby-making and child-rearing business, with no guarantees and no safety nets and most definitely no monetary returns. But to say things like this to somebody who has made their own decisions on the matter:

...isn't it just a tiny bit irresponsible to have had more kids while worried about this? I know lots of working poor have several children for many reasons (belief they are a gift from god, lack of knowledge or will to use birth control...all valid for what they are worth) but the author doesn't seem to be of this ilk...

Why did you choose to have a third child when you could barely afford two? It doesn't sound to me like you're making such great and responsible choices as compared to your parents. pretty damn insensitive. Any decisions involving family size, the care of family members, the financials of raising a group of people and keeping them housed, clothed, and fed, are going to be freaking difficult ones requiring lots of thought, a good deal of talk with the involved parties, and more than a little kvetching along the way. Stuff happens. You make plans, and the fates and/or gods laugh their heads off. And being a member of a so-called "sandwich generation" that is doing her best to trim the caretaker candle at both the young and the aged ends ain't easy at all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna watch some puppies wrestling each other. One of 'em just pooped and missed the puppy pad. Sign this petition and perhaps Veronica White's new job will consist of cleaning up after these sorts of critters, instead.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

According to Dan, I began my Saturday saying something about "Bastard!" in my sleep.

I dreamt that he had brought home four rabbits in a cage, they had all gotten out, and he expected me to run and get the bunnies and put 'em back in the cage. No wonder I was yelling in dreamworld.

"I decided not to wake you," Dan told me later. "Whatever frustrations you had, I figured it was better for you to work 'em out in REM sleep."

Thanks, honey. Thanks a bundle.

It was the little guy's last game of the soccer season and the day of his school's fall festival, which was planned to have loads of inflatables for the kids to bounce around on for the day, while the adults could wander over and take in the Panorama Jazz Band's music and, later on, the Wild Magnolias show as well as that of Sunpie Barnes and his Louisiana Sunspots. Loads of fun despite the stink of what I initially thought was simply somebody's child's seriously toxic diaper, but turned out to be loads and loads of these:

Turns out somebody involved in the vending for this festival had the bright idea of selling cases of these things for the kids to wreak havoc on initially unsuspecting fest-goers. The smell of these things makes the horse crap smell of the JazzFest grounds this past year a rosy change of pace in comparison. I found myself wishing even more that I could jump around in the Space Walk with the little guy, since that seemed to be the only fart-bomb-free place on the entire school grounds.

Saturday night was our Collective Birthdays Dinner night, since Dan just had a birthday on November 7th, my birthday is next month, our friend Edie's birthday is this month, and her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend have December birthdays as well. We headed for Restaurant August and enjoyed an incredible meal, at which I feasted on an amazing cassoulet and enjoyed some champagne on the house in honor of Edie's birthday. A perfect night, until the small scream of a fashionably dressed lady at the table behind me and the sound of her chair scraping the floor in her haste to get away from her place at the table marred things a bit. Seems one of our semi-frequent houseguests in this part of the country had paid her a visit at the center of the table, right next to the wine bottle:

Howdy, ma'am! Lovely dress! May I sample your appetizer?

I couldn't resist leaning over to the lady in question and saying, "Hey, par for the course!", 'cause I'm such a stinker myself when I've had a great meal...especially when I observed her tablemates covering the roach with the wine bottle and calling on the bemused waitstaff to dispose of this creature that was freaking her out so. I walked off to the bathroom shortly after the incident and overheard some of the staff shrugging it off as "It's New Orleans!" I agreed wholeheartedly with that assessment. It wasn't an epidemic, simply a single bug dropping in on an unsuspecting bunch of Mardi Gras bead-wearing tourists.

We exited the restaurant and headed out to our car only to get a call on Dan's cell from Edie telling him that her car was covered...
She immediately ran out to two car washes she could find that were open at 10 o' clock at night and ran it through them twice...and she still has some of that crud on her car.

Who do I blame the most for all these recent encounters with nasty odors, vermin, and bird poo?

The woman responsible for saddling this city with "a Rolls Royce when we could only afford a Camry". The one whose "miss-trash" gaffes are more than likely causing even more city funds to be funneled down a black hole that more than likely leads to the pockets of many cronies of Hizzoner the Walking Id, if not the man himself. The woman who is more than content to go running off crying to the mayor and cowering behind his tailored suit when she is being asked, repeatedly, to give evidence that she is actually doing what's best for the city. What is she trying to hide by not answering this basic question? Don't you, as a city taxpayer, want to know?

Stacey Jackson was an easy scapegoat in the NOAH scandal as far as the current Mayor's Office is concerned because she was already out of her office by the time the list of supposed renovated homes hit the fan.

I'm waiting to see what happens with Veronica White here, since she is an acting director. Will the Walking Id use her as a human shield? Will she resign and head to an undisclosed location in Dallas? Will this be investigated by the city's Inspector General and the FBI with the utmost swiftness so that we can see the people responsible get the hook from the Perdido Street monolith?

Or will this whole past Saturday of mine be explained away as being simple random acts of bizarre coincidence?