Thursday, February 28, 2008

Current listening:

And yes, it's him again. Can't help it. The new album's good - but I don't know what to make of his Americana: A Work In Progress DVD that came with it. It starts out with his touring back around the time 9-11 happened and ends with his going to New Orleans to get to where his line of music began.

Whatever it is, Ray, I hope you don't just leave it at "To Be Continued..."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The greggar kits are sitting on my kitchen counter, complete with instructions on how to assemble them. I'm still missing some of the materials for their construction, but I'll be taking care of that well before this coming Sunday. I'll be bringing them in and trying to teach a bunch of jaded middle-school aged young 'uns how to put 'em together and why there is this crazy holiday in the Jewish calendar that sanctions noisemaking in a house of worship, getting into the craziest costumes imaginable, and getting so completely drunk off your butt that good is bad and bad is good. And no, I am not talking about Mardi Gras.

I think the toughest thing to get across to a group on the edge of their teens is this idea that masking can reveal your true self. The place in which these kids live prides itself on concealing so much behind the guises of "historical records", of long-held traditions, of regional pride, of the way things have supposedly always been done. And that's just New Orleans. The individuality that fuels our popular culture these days has little room for the truth unless it serves some kind of purpose somehow, usually one pertaining to monetary, social, or political gain. We are encouraged to take on certain masks nearly every living moment because the way that things are depends on it.

So how can a disguise be a window to what lies beneath, no matter what that "beneath" is?

I suppose one could start with alcohol. The stuff has a way of knocking our disguises clean off and yanking our inhibitions out from under us as though they were flimsy bits of carpeting. Just ask anybody who has been under its influence....which, in this town, is at least every other person. Being a teetotaler here is akin to denying that we all have needs - and, at times, those needs include the right to make complete and utter fools of ourselves.

It doesn't mean that we should be drinking anywhere and everywhere, however - a friend of mine said to me recently that she is most content and comfortable when drinking with good friends, preferably at their homes for parties. When everybody is already familiar with everybody else, and they all have a good idea of how each person is when they are drunk, it only adds to the pageant.

So, hmmm, it's okay to have no inhibitions in a controlled environment...


Well, what else is to be expected of a holiday that reveals hiddenness? Of a learning experience that had my kids getting plastered - with gauze that hardened on their faces into masks for them to remove and decorate? Of the celebration of the day a drunken party animal of a king kicked an anti-Semitic adviser out on his ass and saved his new bride as well as a large chunk of the population of his kingdom? Of a day when we are supposed to blot the bad guy's name out by making as much noise as possible, and yet we keep relating the same story, with Haman's name in it, every year?

Everything right is wrong again, y'all....and I can't help but think that we are in the perfect time and place to explore that.

As for the middle schoolers, something will stick. Kids really don't change in one mostly hidden way: everything is going in. We just have no clue as to when, where, or how it's gonna come out.*

Oh, and, speaking of oxymorons...

My thoughts on all the school linkeroos today dovetail nicely with the following:
"We were designing just one step ahead of the pile drivers, as it were," van der Gracht recalled. "Construction was always on the heels of design," was the way Renshaw put it. Indeed, construction sometimes got ahead of design, often enough that Luther Leisenring, the architect in charge of the specifications group, took to referring to building specs as "historical records"; by the time they were written, there was often something else already in the building.

"How big should I make that beam across the third floor?" architect Allen Dickey was asked by a colleague.

"I don't know," Dickey replied. "They installed it yesterday."**
My only questions are: Are we looking at "historical records" in the making, in the form of the charade of getting parents in on the planning processes behind the RSD schools? Or will they simply be historical footnotes?

*One of the best, most fitting Purim costumes ever really stands out for me. In grade school, for a Purim pageant, we were encouraged to get into the craziest getups we could possibly think of. Since Purim doesn't occur at the same time as Halloween, we were generally SOL on the store-bought costumes and had to fend for ourselves. A super-popular jerk of a girl (well, she always treated me like crap) ended up coming in with a standard school-issue globe of the world wired on top of her head. If that doesn't reveal volumes about the pressures kids are under these days, I don't know what does.

**The Pentagon: A History, Steve Vogel
I have a post worming its way through my brain, ready to wiggle out at some point today...

...but I must attend to the fact that, for the first time in my blogging history, I am it.

So, six utterly useless things, habits, quirks I seem to never be able to completely overcome:

- I hate it when somebody uses the microwave, pulls something out before the cooking time is completely up, and fails to reset the thing. There's a button called "CLEAR" on the damn thing, people. Use it. The worst offender here: my mom. Love her dearly...but push the button, Mom!!!

- Microwaves, VCRs, digital clocks, digital car radios that display the time: all of those things must have the correct time on them, even when allowances are made for daylight savings. Spring forward and fall back, people. Dan doesn't care about this and actually gets annoyed at me for changing the clocks in his car to the correct time after the rest of the Western world has been advised to turn clocks back or forward. He thinks it's expending too much energy on changing numbers that will eventually go back to what they originally were anyhow. I think of the horrific dream I had when I was starting college: the one in which I checked every single clock in my parents' house and none of them were right. Time was of the essence, and I'd lost it.

I still find myself turning things over and over again in my hands from time to time. It's a reflex that is dying very, very hard from my years as a glassblower, when hot glass on the end of a blowpipe had to be kept in constant motion and on-center so that gravity could be fully overcome. I imagine inanimate objects getting incredibly dizzy in my hands sometimes. To all those pens, pencils, cooking utensils, baseballs, coins, nail clippers, etc.: I apologize unreservedly for your altered states.

- Sometimes I find myself really really hating the fact that I can't curse. I had parents who cussed blue streaks to a point where I was seriously disgusted. I dropped my disgust when I went to college, and it slipped even more when I worked for a boss who cussed in such creative ways that I just had to join in. The cussing thing ended when I had my son. Now I find myself sounding like a shrill, annoyed Doris-Day-ish, stamping-of-feet (insert your best nasal voice here) "ma-MAAH" when I get ticked at the little guy and say things like "For goodness' sakes!" or "What did I just say?" or "How many times do I have to tell you these things?" - when what I really want to say can border on verbal abuse, even if I'm simply venting. Sometimes motherhood resembles sucking shit on a stick. Bottom line: I just hate that I sound like Miss Manners these days. It's damned unbecoming. But I am also very conscious that words can and do hurt. Oh, well.

- I read. A lot. A lot a lot a lot. I am trying to cut down on the terrible habit I have of buying books. I think I need to change my breaking point when it comes to book buying, because I have been basing it on the story of a geologist and rock collector I met when I was in middle school and working on a science project about geodes. Said geologist was quite the avid collector of all kinds of mineral, gem, and crystal specimens, until the foundations of his house sank from the weight of all his finds. His wife was especially peeved that money had to be expended on jacking the house up, and she laid down the law on his collecting, forcing him to donate or sell a number of his finds and confining the keepers to one room in the house.

I think Dan needs to start putting his foot down. The foundations of our house aren't in jeopardy, but I need a new, more critical and ever-present breaking point. If anybody's got any ideas, let me know.

- I'm just not a big fan of memes...but hey, I'm doing the polite thing and doing this one. Honestly, I don't mind doing them myself - it's just this idea that I have to pass 'em along as though they are hot potatoes. I guess I just worry a tad too much about what other people think concerning them.

So, if you're reading this, and it looks like a fun thing for you to do, go for it and send me a line as to what you've posted. Tag yourselves. Just's all fun and games, 'til someone loses a virtual eye. Try not to poke or get poked.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A little guy epiphany, obtained today after having passed a certain pizza restaurant on Magazine:

"Mom! New York has a Statue of Liberty!"
"Yes, it does, honey."
"And New Orleans has a Statue of Liberty!"
"Yeah, we just passed it in front of the pizza place..."
"Both New York and New Orleans have 'new' in their names!!!!"
"That's right."
"And they smell the same...

(uhhh, I guess...)

"But New Jersey doesn't have those things, except for the 'new'."
"No, I guess not, but technically, the Statue of Liberty is in New Jersey."
(confused look) "Really, Mom?"
"Yes, but it welcomes people who are coming in to New York by boat."
(relieved confirmation on his face) "Yeah!!!"

Later on, Dan said to me, "I don't know about the same smells..."

Depends on where you are in NYC and at what time of year. Advice to those of you traveling on the Belt Parkway near the easternmost outskirts of Queens - don't visit that brand-new Target shopping center on a hot day when the breezes off Jamaica Bay are coming in. Not all the methane from that reclaimed landfill across the parkway has dissipated just yet.

Aside from that, I'd say, yeah, some of the smells are similar. New Orleans' smells are NYC's minus the dumpster smells from various retail businesses, the choking exhaust from many, many cars and city buses, and the cooking smells (not all of 'em good) from the apartments above and beside your own.

Pretty much the same.
Lost in all the hubbub over the Walking Id's outbursts against the mainstream media and the "bloggers" was a little bit at the beginning of the Eric Paulsen-Sally Ann Roberts interview that talked about the recent success of the city's hosting of the NBA All-Star Game, and, more importantly, the $52 million rebuilding of the Orleans Parish Prison. A rebuilding partially financed by FEMA at first, but then revealed to be a possible money pit for recovery money from the agency.

In light of the recent studies stating that yes, the trailers allotted to displaced and rebuilding homeowners are indeed toxic and all those people have not been crying wolf, the following words best describe how I feel about the juxtaposition of these two stories:

Tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of law-abiding New Orleanian can't seem to get the federal, state and local governments to get up off the collective asses and keep their collective promises to rebuild their destroyed homes, but by God nothing will stand in the way of government rebuilding destroyed prisons to house the poorest of the poor blacks.

Post-racial America my ass.

Thanks, Reverend.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So I headed over to the Alternative Media Expo at the last late minute, taking Oyster up on his half-hearted and throughly dripping-with-flu plea to man the table for Rising Tide. I took my trusty CompUSA closeout special with me to test it out and found myself at a table between a few fun folks tucked in towards the back of the Contemporary Arts Center space.

First off, God forgive me for relying on the CAC's wireless service. Really. I should have gotten a clue when one of the Consortium of Genius dudes asked me to let him know if I got a signal. Actually, I did, and I called up the RT website just fine. The mistake I made was calling up the schedule page from the site for an EMT who was interested in the "Making Civics Sexy" panel and wanted to talk more about the (terrible) situation the hospitals are in here. I told him Editor B had addressed the topic many times on his blog and had spoken at RT II as a panelist. Once I got that schedule up, schmoozed a little more with the fellow, and then tried to call the homepage back up after he'd left the table, the network booted me off. It took me a half-hour to get the homepage back up, and that's when I decided to simply leave it up. Everyone, stay awaaaay from the keyboard, else the network will self-destruct. The COG guys were amazed I even got a signal. "CompUSA closeout special, y'all!" I said, nearly leaning back in my chair with my hands behind my head. And the CAC is supposed to have a Cyber Cafe! For shame...

Oh, wait. It is currently closed. C'est la vie.

Anyhow, I was glad to have attended, even though I had to leave an hour early. Got to meet some folks I've known of online and through other bloggers, like Loki, Leo McG., Humid Haney, and Dr. Daisy, who came late due to air travel difficulties but trolled those Expo aisles with a good deal of energy obtained from her daiquiri and her bubbly companion (not champagne; I'm talking about a good local friend of Daisy's! Sheesh...). E stopped by and we commiserated on what a week in local blogging history it has been. most of my hours at the table, though, were spent talking up Rising Tide, emphasizing that it was not strictly for bloggers, that we are always accepting proposals for new speakers, new presentation ideas, and that we are at To emphasize this fact, I ended up ripping a bunch of religious school attendance sheets into small pieces, writing the URL on them, and arranging them on the table in a giant wave. Somebody commented on how much they liked my approach in the midst of its creation, and another said, "Ooooh, way to recycle!" Yep, at the Expo, anything DIY goes.

So, if anybody is emptying out their purse or their pockets, sees a small scrap of deckled-edged (i.e., ripped-paper edged) rectangular pink or white paper with the RT web address on it, and decides to check it out, check our links as well. Keep on reading, maybe start your own blog if you are so inclined, and bring your unique voice to the table. In the end, that's what it's all about.

Oh, and...speaking of current local issues that many of the NOLA blogpocheh are concerned with, go to G Bitch. Now. And, if not now, yesterday.

Friday, February 22, 2008

You know things are gonna get weird when you get these kinds of messages in your voicemail:'s about three. Um, I was just gonna try to grab you before you got here at four to let you know that, um, oh, these's so pretty outside we let 'em out. The yard's dry, but this area around the edges are reeeeally muddy...The little guy is just sooo...we decided, you know, he full of mud & we were gonna change him but then he kept playin' in it and so I thought well you know he's just full of mud...I'm just gonna ask you to bring some clothes but I think he's got some here...Actually he's not really as full of mud as he is wetLITTLE GUY, NO!!! I'M TALKIN' TO YOUR MOM RIGHT NOW...don't know if he thinks I'm talking to you (unintelligible)...And right in front of me he's smirkin' and he'splayinginthispuddleohlemmegoBye.

Now, you have a sense of humor, right? He's really really really in need of, um, some shoes, too.
I headed to school to pick my son up and found him in his own dry shorts and t-shirt, no underwear, some dry socks and some white light-up heart sneakers with pink trim. The teacher for his class had forgotten that he'd come to school that morning with a pair of galoshes as well as his regular Cars sneakers (since it was raining cats and dogs yesterday morning), so he changed back into his frog galoshes and we returned the light-up heart sneakers to his classroom.

I think his teacher was really freaked out by a possibility that I was going to give her hell for his being a typical kid. Another parent had come in to get her waterlogged daughter and was not amused. I, however, was laughing my head off. The little guy is the yin to a puddle's yang. Plus, he is washable, as are his clothes.

Yes, on the one hand, the teachers should have been a tad more thoughtful and realized that the ground out there was still very wet after the rains. On the other hand, ultimately, no harm was done other than the use of some electricity to get his damp and slightly muddy clothes washed and dried along with a regular load of laundry that had accumulated in the house.

C'est la vie. What a hoot!

And, in other blogpocheh news:

Tim is leaving his 'hood for many, many good reasons. Shehecheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higianu laz'man hazeh.

Mark Folse's spouse is recovering from appendicitis. R'fuah shleimah to her and her family from me and mine.

Expectant mamas abound in the local blogosphere, and their due dates are around the corner. Wish 'em well. I know I do. Remembering what the homestretch was like with my pregnancy, I'm sure these women are wishing the kids would pack up and move already.

On the one hand, Greg Peters wants you to buy him a beer. On the other hand, there is an ad that pops up in Google Ads on his blog's sidebar that has a link to "10 Rules to losing belly fat" at My suggestion: go in and screen your ads, Greg. I had to when one showed up in my sidebar for "Dating Outside Marriage". That just ain't kosher.

Dangerblond made it through her bar(f) exams. Woohoo! See that Shehecheyanu link up by Tim's news, Kim, and have some stiff drinks. You deserve it!

And, once again, it is raining out. The only footwear my son has on today is the galoshes, as his sneakers are still very waterlogged. And he does have an extra set of clothes, with underwear, in case he decides to pull a Gene Kelly.

Don't get worried...get prepared.

Update, 3:05 PM: Mazel tov to Editor B and Xy on the birth of their daughter, Persephone Jean. Welcome to the blogger spawn ranks, baby girl!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I wasn't going to enter this fray...but Jeffrey's post (aka, The Devil) made me do it.

Sponsored by:
a division of Walking Id Enterprises
A fuller response to a commenter at Dave Zirin's concerning his latest column:

"I know a New Orleans refugee--ironically, she is white."

... the tragedy here extended to all races, all creeds, all walks of life, and it is still doing so. I see no irony in your mention of the woman's color. The largest of the levee breaches was at the 17th Street Canal, and it inundated a majority white neighborhood with up to 14 feet of water. Homes were knocked off foundations there, too, just as in the Ninth Ward. In places like the Lower Nine, people cannot come back and rebuild because they are too poor to do so - rising costs of living here coupled with the same old tourist service jobs that are not keeping up with those costs make recovery extremely difficult. Those who attempt to stick it out and rebuild face serious roadblocks in the form of insurance companies refusing claims and/or the scarcity of Road Home monies - not to mention the indiscriminate demolitions of private homes that are so well documented by local activist Karen Gadbois. Anybody who wants to return to Lakeview faces the exact same thing - and they also face the added idiocy of the absence of white collar jobs that could help anchor them to the communities they are trying to rebuild. Failure to support real infrastructure such as hospital reconstitution, social services such as daycare and support for the elders of the community, and economic development that is NOT tourist-centric is hampering the recovery of this city and contributing to its further decline.

The NBA players such as Steve Nash have got it right - they can't relate. They can, however, lend a hand, which is much more than government, at all levels, has done. When the mayor talks about relocating the homeless living under the I-10 Claiborne Avenue overpass to giant tents in Central City, what problems does that really address? When he and the police chief show off their new assault weapons they have acquired to supposedly help fight crime (most likely, it is simply more firepower to aid in their security measures for the hosting of the economic summit that Dubya has thrown to this region), does it mean they will address the greater problems of why their current officers have to work twelve to sixteen hour shifts at a time and mostly patrol alone? The projects are coming down, but what is going up in their place? That land is being passed over to private developers who say that they are going to redevelop the land as mixed-income housing - but the only contracts they are held to are the ones for demolition.

I want to give your friend a big hug. I want to find some sort of treatment for her, but I know that, if she is anything like me and most of the other folks I know, she will want to be here, where her heart is. This city is being kicked around on all sides, but we who are here and fighting it out would rather go it in the trenches here. Living any other way for us is living as a zombie would.

(Note: When I say "zombie", I don't mean this one. No offense meant to Dambala. More folks oughta live as he does actually, minus the fish and the scooter injuries...)

(Anudda note: This is a "fuller" response, because the second half of it was rejected by Edge of Sports' comment filter. S'allright. I got my own blog. ;-D )
I took a walk around the 'hood the other day and took a few pictures of some things I've been seeing lately pertaining to art vs. graffiti. Thus far, I've been on the fence about the whole Fred Radtke vs Michael Dingler thing (aka, the Gray Ghost vs NOLA Rising). I'm already a tad biased towards NOLA Rising, because I've seen a lot of graffiti, and, to my mind, what Dingler himself is doing doesn't really qualify. The man's work is on posterboard and wood. It is usually stapled or nailed onto telephone poles, not sprayed or drawn directly onto them. A better term for what he does would likely be "guerrilla art":

For more examples of what Dingler actually does on the streets, head for his website. A link to his flickr exists there as well, and the most recent pictures on it consist of what I consider to be graffiti art. It is much more permanent, and is therefore true fodder for folks like Radtke who are looking to eradicate such "bombings" from the cityscape.

What I'm seeing in spots a few blocks from my house, however, are probably not instances of the Clean Sweep program doing its job.

All of the following has been around for a while. No gray on it. No attempt to paint it over whatsoever:
No gray paint has touched those tags. None that I can see.

However, if stop signs could talk, I'm sure they'd be cussing a blue streak:

In fact, I think somebody tried to interpret on this sign (pardon the French that you read):

Radtke's attitude towards the issue of covering public property with non-reflective gray paint is that of combating the taggers at all costs - even the taxpayers' : if the city replaced the vandalized stop signs or coated them with a protective cover, he wouldn’t paint over them.

Back to Dingler's beef with the Gray Ghost...

As I said before, I'd characterize NOLA Rising's works as a type of guerrilla art. The most important thing about it, for the purposes of this post, is that it is easily removable. You can take it down as easily as it was put up. Pull out the nails. Tote a trusty staple remover with you to try to take some of it off the poles (and I'm now wishing I'd done just that around Mardi Gras time, when I saw this one on my street...).

If it is easily removable stuff, then what is behind these intriguing swaths of gray?:

And this one - a bane of my personal existence - that I see every damn day as I drop off the little guy at school:
Oh, wait!

I think I get it now:

Honestly, I couldn't tell if this one was definitely a NOLA Rising work that was painted over. The coverage is so thick and thorough that it is difficult to see anything beyond the fact that this IS a piece of poster board that shares the same dimensions as some of Dingler's poster board pieces.

If it is a NOLA Rising piece that was covered by the Gray Ghost, however, I suggest Mr Radtke invest in a staple remover. Take the work off carefully and donate it to fundraisers that will find good homes for it in return for money to good causes. Save it for yourself, man, and see if its value appreciates over time. Or, expand your palette. Don't go with such a drab, dingy gray. So passe, this Krylon Special of yours that you wield with a righteousness that could be channeled into a more creative direction. As a possible instructive guide for a new color scheme, I present this:

Defacement of art? Or an intriguing comment on the rebirth of a community through all the darker elements of its destruction and recovery? The thick impasto of the "NOLA Rising" on the board still shows through all the linear applications of the earthy, dark tones of opaque color atop the message. New Orleans lives!

And hey, Mr Radtke, if all else fails...if you can't beat 'em, join 'em:

There's an earlier event with the NOLA Food Co-Op going on, too.

Thanks to NO News Ladder, Charlotte, Mark Folse, Maitri, Morwen, Dangerblond, and Humid City for more on this hubbub. And, for more on graffiti in general, check this out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Woke up with this in my head:

It was Dusty Springfield's version in my brain, but this comes pretty close.

Hi-De-Ho, y'all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

As promised a while back...

Presenting to you a selection of:
Pearlgirl's Photos!

Daddy Oyster in a relaxed, conversational mood. I certainly hope none of the adult beverages on the table before Dad are in that bottle that's being devoured by my sister! If so, I want some, too...

Our hostess, Ms Liprap, walks off to the kitchen to tend to another party guest. Daddy gives the shirt she's wearing in honor of a momentous occasion in the life of a sports legend a big grin.

There's quite the flurry of activity as guests wander in and out for bathroom breaks, parade breaks and - more adult beverages!

...BUT that doesn't mean there's no time for guests to pose with some Mardi Gras must-haves - a nice set of beads and a swag bag from Dorignac's!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging on this site.
Cheers! Stay fabulous, all!

And, if you haven't had enough Mardi Gras, go here. Beware of cheesy dance troupe music...

Monday, February 18, 2008

On occasion, I gotta wonder what the hell it is I'm doing, and what possesses me to try to get beyond what I am and what I do on a daily basis. I'm Jewish, I'm a woman, I'm Mom, I blog, I have artistic tendencies (and yes, I know that word is gonna be read waaay too quickly as "autistic". Quit skimming, people.), I sing, I teach on occasion, and there are a myriad of other things that make me me.

Problem is, I think total immersion in this thing called the blogosphere is tapping me a tad too much into the hive mind, sometimes. It can be kind of daunting when it all seems to have been done. It's why there are folks who become journalists, I guess. See It Now (hee!). Investigate. Question. Observe. Get the five "W"s in there right from the very beginning so that people know where you're coming from. Eyes and ears and not much in between: let the readers put that in themselves. Analysis? Maybe as the story develops. Whatever.
A great European master miniaturist and another great master artist are walking through a Frank meadow discussing virtuosity and art. As they stroll, a forest comes into view before them. The more expert of the two says to the other: "Painting in the new style demands such talent that if you depicted one of the trees in this forest, a man who looked upon that painting could come here, and if he so desired, correctly select that tree from among the others."

I thank Allah that I, the humble tree before you, have not been drawn with such intent. And not because I fear that if I'd been thus depicted all the dogs in Istanbul would assume I was a real tree and piss on me: I don't want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning.*
We jump up and down so much these days about the new. Most of us crave that new perspective, that originality. A makeover, whether physical, intellectual, or otherwise, is a must. Move on to the next story, the latest thing, the "it" to be with, the absolutely fabulous, the out-of-this-world. In the process, many, many things get left behind.

Oh, damn. That's not a new thing I just wrote. There go the readers...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm going through one of those times when I've lost the meaning for all the detailed trees. FEMA finally gets around to the fact that their trailers are slowly killing people who have already had something die inside of 'em from having their homes seriously damaged or destroyed and it's supposed to be news. Two idiots masquerading as leaders who were shown wielding assault weapons as though they were playthings for the kiddies are given a pass by the paper that published their foolhardiness in the first place. The city gives the NBA a $7,000 pass over five days to use a public space as a private party locale and some of the rest of us peons are disgruntled at the whoremongering discount ("Book it for the little guy's bar mitzvah!" my father says in jest, both of us knowing the city will give us no such price if we do decide to declare that on that thirteenth birthday of his, "the little guy is now a man" in Jackson Square). Marketers have been targeting me as the gatekeeper to my son as a potential consumer almost since before his birth (which now makes me want to kill my television and throw away any and all toys in my house that have to do with supposedly benign cartoon characters, Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network [which reminds me that I oughta give the Bloo pencil topper to Maitri], and many, many other horrific corporate brands out there). The elementary, middle, and high school-aged kids with revenge on their brains and access to guns seem to have graduated and are taking their tendencies to our college campuses - and damned if we're still somehow helpless in the face of it all. A drug and alcohol addled badass Jewish girl singer gets five Grammys and I try to make sense of it all (and I'm not alone). Folks are going berzerk for Barack while I still feel like the person who takes the caution about the coming of the Messiah very seriously: "If you are planting a tree and the Messiah comes, finish planting the tree, then go and greet the Messiah." And yes, I know that this man is no moshiach, but when people have been down for so long and a fellow (or a lady, for that matter) arises who is able to shoulder the hopes of those people as effortlessly as Obama seems to, well...Barack, man, don't pull a Shabbetai Zvi on this country if and/or when you get to the highest office in the land, or I'll go medieval on your ass.

Gee, are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am.

AshMo said to me once, concerning the tree quote, that "it had better be one hell of a tree".

Consider that the tree ain't a tree, but its meaning... in a different sense. A metaphor, if you will. A plea that, just because a so-called single savior has appeared, it doesn't automatically give you the excuse to suddenly neglect your work. To leave your communities behind. To sever all your connections. To kiss your roots goodbye. Responsibility nurtures that tree.

Fine, most of us want to grow beyond our roots. It's forgetting that that's where we came from that gets us into messes like the one the rebuilding of New Orleans is embroiled in right now. A balance must be maintained somehow. We ultimately can't use illicit (or even some prescription) drugs or alcohol to get ourselves right in the long term (though it might be a hell of a lot of fun). Corporate consumerism isn't going to help our kids become smarter - they will simply become slaves to the brands and disconnect from the people around them. No one person holds our salvation in the palm of his/her hand, except maybe ourselves.

And, yeah, it's all been done. But a good amount of it still works. Sometimes reinvention is just another way of seeing value in the same ol' same ol'.

Or maybe a tree is just a frickin' tree.

My brain is fried.

*My Name Is Red, Orhan Pamuk

Friday, February 15, 2008

Note to the Times Pick-Yer-Nose: If you were gonna backpedal like panicked bikers at a collapsing bridge, why'd you publish that picture of the Walking Id and his Cheshire Cat-faced police chief in the first place? You're missing a prime opportunity to connect some dots like E so ably does (on a regular basis! Forget being Da Mayor, man, and go for President!) and start asking some hard-hitting questions that get to the nitty-gritty of why the hell these guys are still here if this city is still struggling under their trigger-happy feet. They need to shape up or ship out. We can use the mouth of the Mississippi for other activities besides the shipping of goods, you know...

I'm in recovery right now from a heck of a Valentine's dinner over at this place, which recently relocated to Magazine Street. I highly recommend it - I had some great redfish over there and a pecan torte with a cafe au lait ice cream that was out of this world. The meal was nearly over shadowed by a certain painting in the dining room, which shows up in the background of a photo (wait for the one with flowers and wineglasses) on the Vizard's website. I'll let Poppy Z. Brite describe it:
The food was mostly quite good, though the atmosphere and service left something to be desired. We were seated directly across from the single most retarded piece of artwork I've ever seen in a dining room: a big, colorful, not terribly well-executed painting of eight Uptown-looking women seated at a restaurant table, all dressed to the nines but baring their breasts for the artist, all with real, three-dimensional Mardi Gras masks glued to their faces. We couldn't stop snickering at it throughout the meal, which I'm sure speaks volumes about our maturity or lack thereof.
Yep, it's a pretty freaky painting, one that other diners in the vicinity couldn't stop sneaking looks at and talking about, which pretty much puts us all in the category of highly immature creatures. The conclusion most of the women I talked with came to is that the breasts on the women in the painting were simply the fake plastic ones people will don for Mardi Gras sometimes. The men were just staring and smiling - one man nearby said it was a portrait of a ladies lunch that proved to be too risque for the ladies pictured, so the masks were plastered onto their faces on the canvas.

The viewing of this picture happens to coincide with some reading I'm doing about breasts, and the following bit in the introduction could have been written for Dan, me, and our fellow diners last night, not just straight men:
...among the straight men I know there is not one, no matter how polished, tweedy, intellectual, fusty, or geriatric, who doesn't go instantly stupid when I divulge the subject of my book. I may slip into high-minded mode with clinical phrases like "breast obsession" or "breast fetishism." I may share my interest in breast evolution or breast fixation across cultures. The men listen patiently, and then ask: Will there be pictures?
Ms Seligson, next time you get that question, send those men (and women) to Vizard's on Magazine, and get yourself a new afterword for your book. The reactions to that picture could make for some great writing. Or, at the very least, a good laugh.

Oh, and damned if I missed this great video. Gawd bless dat wacky Cajun Boy.

Update, 3:26 PM: Hey, why am I giddy 'cause it's rainin' out? Maybe 'cause it'll be raining on the NBA's Jackson Square par-tay. What goes around, comes around. And next time, fellas, don't go choosing your locales for bashes based on whether or not they showed up in K-Ville. Rent out an Algiers ferry, like the one in Deja Vu. The possibility that it might be blown to bits on the river is simply part of the fun!

One Mo' Time, 4:46 PM: Sheckrastos pointed out in the comments that I did an inconsiderate loser bit with my Jackson Square comment and failed to take into account the fate of the retailers on the Square such as himself. Mea, mea culpa, sir! I guess I will need to buy out your store now to make up for the gaffe. Let's all pray that the skies part over the Square this weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I saw some of this last night and found it fascinating. It also put some of my family history into perspective...

Cliff actually reminded me it was going on in one of his last posts:
African American Lives on PBS should be shown in every inner city school. It’s the best program I have watched in a long time. The lesson to be learned from this program is that you can't beat the feeling of knowing where you come from. It's empowering. My only wish is that somehow we could do this kind of thing on a large scale. Maybe Barak can try to fund this when he becomes president. This program has inspired me to make an attempt to find out my own lineage. I think I have a good idea of where to start. I just need to get pass the obstacle of not having all the information Katrina took and not having a PBS budget to travel to all of these small towns. Maybe Dr. Gates will read this and hook me up.
These words of his tugged on me for a while, because, fact of the matter is, my great-grandmother on my mother's side did a lot of genealogy research way back when. I can only speculate as to what the mindset of my GGM F. was when she embarked upon her searches - perhaps it was in partial reaction to her first marriage, which, by all accounts, was hell on wheels. She was already working her tail off as a nurse and raising two girls while dealing with all of it.

Or, perhaps, it was simply her hobby...

All of her work centered around doing some of the traveling that Henry Louis Gates did, mainly to Valdosta, Georgia, and doing a LOT of letter writing in the pre-Internet, pre-cheap long distance phone calling days. It established a direct connection to a private who fought in the Revolutionary War. It established, even further back, a direct ancestor amongst the signers of the Magna Carta. And, most importantly, it gave us some documentation that should have been of no surprise to my mother and me when we were looking through three boxes of old family pictures and papers to find stuff Mom wanted to use for my granddaddy's eightieth birthday album.

It was a transcript of a will, dated from the turn of the nineteenth century, from an ancestor of ours bequeathing his slaves, named only by their first names, to various family members.

My mother was initially shocked, "We owned slaves!" she said, looking at me with wide eyes.

Yes, we did. And it wasn't that long ago. I felt, and still feel, pretty awful knowing that, but overall, I'm glad that I do know. And, to aid anybody who is doing what Dr Gates is doing - and what Cliff should, by all means, have the money and the time to do - the name of the family my GGM did a lot of her research on is Keels. If anybody needs more information, contact me directly:

There was a time in our history when we treated people as property, and we have not fully let go of that time. If we had, then most of these folks who are searching for their past would not still be wandering about like motherless children and grasping at percentages of European genetic material in their DNA to constantly have to re-present themselves to the willfully ignorant and the disgustingly bigoted as people fully worthy of consideration and acceptance as fellow brothers and sisters. Most of the people in this country are still treating anybody with African ancestry as that indistinct "Other".

This documentary series ought to be shown in every school. Period. Because if it takes everybody who is "white" ('cause sometimes you don't know unless you go digging) to start doing a quasi-mandatory FOIA of sorts and own up to having these kinds of documents in their possession (and they are out there), then the past can help empower us all and start getting it all out on the table - the good and the bad, the ugly and the gorgeous, the amazing and the awful. Not to mention the fact that in the end, darn near all human history begins in Africa, "the cradle of humankind" (see Megan Smolenyak's video here). It reveals another big way in which people's prejudices are nothing more than constructs of power - one group of people over another - that have no basis in facts or science.

And hey, maybe if we can do it here, it can show many, many others the way ( or a way). It will hurt at first, but it will only help in the long run.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Okay, FINE. I'm posting for a third time in the same day once again. I heard this on WWOZ on the way to pick up the little guy from school, and, as Dan is fond of saying, I just thought I'd share.

Eat your hearts out, those of you with mere brass balls. Ha!
Recent comments at Adrastos' concerning the sick picture of two even sicker people who just happen to be city officials:

Me: This picture is horrific. And one of the best of the comments was somebody saying that she/he'd like to bring some inappropriate comments to the webmasters' attention: all of the comments on the picture.

Incidentally, the little guy found the rocket launcher gun that came with his Buzz Lightyear doll and shot me with it this morning. The Walking Id's latest idiocy shows me that some kids never grow out of those impulses. God help us all.

Jeffrey: With all due respect, if you can't laugh at this picture what can you laugh at?...I mean, am I supposed to make sure everyone understands that playing with guns is irresponsible... and that the mayor and police chief are engaging in an idiotic glorification of the violence they are charged with combating... and that heavily arming a metropolitan police force in this fashion is in and of itself disturbing?

Becuase... you know... duh. I didn't realize we were all in kindergarten all of a sudden.

Me: I really think the joke is on us. Meaning, we need to get the Walking Id and Chief "Patrol Alone for Sixteen Hours" Riley out of City Hall. Period.

And that's the truth. For more on why, check Maitri's comparison.

Update, 2-14: oooh, City Hall is saying that the picture was taken out of context. And nobody will be buying a Photoshop excuse if it comes up. So the Times-Pic editors didn't go with the pictures the mayor's office sent 'em of NOPD officers handling their weapons correctly and using their new resources to help this city. That's their right. The one picture that ended up in print has simply illustrated what many in this city already know - that this overgrown child is not (and has largely never been) acting in this city's best interests.
"What the hell is this? This is horrible. Come see this!!!"

Curious, we looked up. She was gesturing to a fellow waitress, who was taking her time. She took her time explaining it to us curious diners.

"It's a picture of the owner with Barack Obama here. And somebody attached this sign beneath it and misspelled both his name and Hillary's name. I mean, come on!!!!"

"Yeh, if you're gonna support a candidate, at least spell his or her name correctly!" Fellow Waitress said as she passed by.

"It drives me nuts," the first waitress said. "I was out at a place on Oak Street Saturday, and somebody wrote in chalk on the sidewalk in front to 'Vote for Bark Oboma'. A friend of mine was out there when this Tulane student was writing it on the pavement, and he corrected her on the 'Oboma' part, so at least she tried to chalk in an 'A' over the second 'O', but still..."

"Lemme take a look at it," the woman at the table next to me said as she slid out of her seat. I followed and saw that "Barack" was "Barak" and "Hillary" was "Hillery". Two conflicting messages were written on the envelope stuck to the wall.:

This man's Barak'n my world!
Vote Hillery!

"Oh, hey, I'll correct it!," the woman said. "You got some extra paper and a colored pen?"

"Yeah, sure!"

"Wait...never mind, I found some right here!"

More discussion followed at the sorry state of spelling and grammar as well as punctuation amongst the English speakers and proofreaders of this country. Everything from billboards to TV ads were criticized, not to mention da local paper.

"Whoops!" the woman doing the corrections said. "I need another piece of paper. I gave 'Barack' an extra 'R'. And I'm a writer, no less!"

" 'Barrack' Obama?" I hooted. "There's a pro-war candidate if I ever heard of one! Ha!"

The new sign was taped under the picture.

"Anybody want anythin' from the store?" a large man asked the diner employees.

"Yeh, a million dollars!" Fellow Waitress yelled.

I walked over to the jukebox and put on "London Calling", "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl", and "Your Cheatin' Heart", 'cause I still had thoughts of this broad in my head. I went back to reading about urban planning and wondered if some of what I was reading about was what was ultimately causing us to lower all our standards.

And I'm not simply talking about spelling and grammar... I'm talking about the possibility of working for something better without having it usurped by "the market economy".

"That was more fun than a movie, and much cheaper!" the writer woman said to me as we were leaving the diner.

"Kind of sad, actually," I said. On many levels, was what I meant. The movies cost too damn much. The stories in most of the movies offered are such crap.

And comparing life to the movies is a sad comment on life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Woohoo! The New Orleans blogpocheh's numbers have reached 300, according to our chief compiler, Mominem. Yashir koach, everybody! Robert Crumb would doubtless snarkily say:
Uhhh, that would be "Keep on bloggin'. " And your feet don't HAVE to be that big here, but it helps.
Looks like this member of the NOLA blogpocheh inadvertently set the background for the recent Bordeaux Street bust of Chinese nationals passing military secrets to their home country. China's been busy, indeed. And, for those folks who "wish he'd gotten away with it", well, Klaus Fuchs was a nice guy, too.

And I second E - Lolis Eric Elie definitely came to the public housing hijinks table waaay too late. His last few columns seem to be making up for lost time on many fronts, actually. To look at it another way, they might be a nifty device to keep these issues in the public eye - which would necessitate checking out further columns of Elie's to see if he'll follow through. I'm not holding my breath, however - if things get really bad and he sharpens his criticism to a fine point, his writing may end up buried in the Saturday editions. Which can only mean one thing: before you go out on Saturday night, read that day's paper for the real news. It could well give you more reason to drink (not that anybody in this town needs a reason...).

Oh, and mazel tov to Terrance Simien and Terence Blanchard on their Grammy wins! Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will is an excellent album - his "Wading Through" is haunting melody with a hint of "It Ain't Necessarily So" wafting over a musical re-creation of flood waters that need to be overcome in order to ensure survival. That's the one that sticks in my head the most.

The one that I've been trying to wrap my head around, however, is the case of Amy Winehouse. She won five awards, tying Lauryn Hill's numbers from ten years ago. For a few moments there, she was absolutely speechless on getting Record of the Year for "Rehab", then she regained her composure, thanked her record company, her publishers, her musical collaborators, her parents (hugging her mum at her side) and dedicated it to her husband (her "Blake incarcerated") and to London. You gotta love the spunk and the attitude, not to mention the working-class London accent. I do hope she is happy and healthy, because she is one of these folks who is fully conscious and respectful of jazz history: "She was totally knocked back that Tony Bennett was calling her name and she kept calling to her dad because they're both huge fans of the crooners of that age."

And hey, if you don't believe me, check her "Moody's Mood For Love". She made a classic her own.

Great ability...and some good songwriting
..with a touch of a punk attitude...

...can make for some good stuff.

Trouble is, she's living the life she writes of in her songs much, much too hard (and people wonder about her beehive...). Amy, madame, we'd all love to tell Ron Jeremy to "f--- off", but nobody really needs excessive amounts of drugs or alcohol in their system to do so.

The biggest problem with sad souls such as Winehouse, is, once again, this idea that the only way to be "authentic" in writing and performing tough is to live even tougher. And women have the hardest time trying to balance themselves on that fiber-optic-thin tightrope. In some ways, it's just as hard as it was forty years ago (!) because the media scrutiny has made it impossible for celebrities to develop outside of the public eye unless they remove themselves nearly completely from the scene as Lauryn Hill did shortly after winning her Grammys. But there's another element to all this that hasn't gone away (and is also why it blows my mind that it happened forty years ago and is still happening), and Linda Ronstadt commented on this recently:
I felt that I was artificially encouraged to kind of cop a really tough attitude, you know, because rock 'n' roll is kind of tough and it was a, quite an identity crisis that women had. You know there was Janis Joplin...she was really funky and she wore a see-through blouse and she was actually quite literate and (a) quite shy and lovely person, but you know she had to be really a red hot mama, drinking...Southern Comfort and being drunk and kind of slobbering or whatever it was you were supposed to be doing.
Who else could you put in this group of women performers? Lucinda Williams comes to mind. On the country and western side of things, Jeannie C. Reilly had a lot of talent and really wanted to be the next Loretta Lynn, but the success of "Harper Valley PTA" railroaded her into a cleaned-up version of rock rebellion and had her in a miniskirt for the rest of her performing days. Less talented but hyped-all-out-of-proportion celebs let themselves be pushed around by this nearly insurmountable force at work in popular music and its ever-present adjacent media engine.

What I really want is for somebody like Marshall Chapman who has been through hell and back as a singer/songwriter (a woman told to slow down by Jerry Lee Lewis, of all people... ) to tell this London girl she doesn't need to pull a "Leaving Loachapoka" and go "ninety miles an hour with her hair on fire". Really, she doesn't.

She just needs find another way to be who she is without being a holy terror to herself. Because, God bless her, she is quite capable of giving as good (and as bad) as she gets. Amy, what you've got ain't so bad. Don't give it away so easily and horribly.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yep, every once in a while, when I get to feeling a little melancholy about being here, I actually open the paper and take a look:
Everybody needs to make it their Life's Work to teach at least one kid to say, 'WHEE!' And mean it! - Jill Conner Browne

And there on Mardi Gras Day on the St. Charles parade route awaiting Rex was Cooper Manning, in a typical Carnival scene. He was standing on a ladder behind his three young children with wife Ellen below, wearing a New York Giants No. 10 jersey in honor of Eli. They had just returned from Arizona after seeing the incredible victory by New York in the Super Bowl and celebrating with the Manning family.

Someone asked him why he didn't go to New York for the ticker-tape parade honoring the Super Bowl champions and his MVP brother.

And then came a not-so-surprising reply from a born-and-bred Orleanian. He said he couldn't live with himself if he didn't get home "to see at least one real parade."

The kind that throws beads. - Angus Lind

Two streetcars collided head-on at Canal Street and North Gayoso at 8:17 a.m., injuring 23 people, according to a Regional Transit Authority spokeswoman. By 9:15 a.m., the last injured passengers were being loaded into ambulances, and both streetcars had been removed from the scene....

Lonnie Daw was operating streetcar No. 940, and suffered neck injuries. Richard Garrnett was driving streetcar No. 933, and was cut in the head. The remaining injured were passengers, who suffered cuts, bruises and back injuries, Cook said.

From a commenter:
Well I am sorry to say for the mistake and we truly did not meant to offend anyone. The correction on the two drivers names are as follows:

Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr.
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Oh, what can I say? It's still my kinda town.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sorry to brag, but...
I have a new toy:
...and just when I think I have the bestest husband in the whole wide world, who actually brought me something I asked for from the fire sales at the CompUSA that's closing in our area and said, "Happy belated birthday!", he says, mostly seriously, that I need to start putting advertising on this beloved blog to help cover the cost of the thing.

Oy vey. Has it really come to this? Well, if you check the sidebar, I guess it kinda has. And no, I am not going this route...unless somebody wants to pay me for writing about risque Carnival throws. Anyone? Anyone?

*crickets chirping*

Didn't think so.

I'm thinking I should have gone into more serious endorsement of some of our local winners who are now part of the local Democratic Party Exec. Committee in their district. Mazel tov to Karen Gadbois and Kim Marshall! I only wish I coulda voted for ya, but I'm not in your district. I wish I'd been able to put Oyster over the top, but I'm a registered independent (sniff).

I am getting restless. At least some of our long overdue rent checks have arrived, so maybe I can finally get going on the glass grind in the back shed. I certainly hope so.

Update, 7:51 PM: And then I read what Athenae has just posted.
"'s not just about... them assuming you're a loser. It's that the only way we can assign value to an occupation of which we've not heard before, the only way we can understand it, is to find out how much it pays."
That's kind of what some family gatherings are like for me. About the only folks in my family who have some appreciation of what I'm doing are my mom and, possibly, my mother-in-law.

What this is, however, is different. My husband has never read this blog, but he sees how important it is to me to be doing it and to be reading the work of others. Some of this is an attempt to get me to find what I love and have it provide some sort of benefit aside from better mental health for me and a demonstrated ability to make connections and kinda sorta influence people. Plus, I have complained high and low at times about how much being mom at home can have me feeling as though I'm driving the crazy bus and the brakes have been cut.

Where do I go from here?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Important elections coming up! Go with this guy's voting advice. It's a momentous occasion that there are even recommendations coming from that neck of the virtual woods that don't run along the lines of imbibing Rodeo Lawyer beer, firing Les Miles, or just generally being an enlightened advocate of burning the Saints' black pants. Oh - there is that bit at the end about burning the condos. Really, folks, you don't need to do that, since foreclosure happens.

Important job openings with the Inspector General of New Orleans' office need to be filled! Head here for more information.

Important source of many, many Mardi Gras pictures: Sophmom's latest post. Poor lady had to experience Mardi Gras vicariously through's ParadeCam at her place of business. Next year in New Orleans! Another few good pic sources: Michael Homan, Howie Luvzus, and dsb nola, as well as Jeffrey's Ash Wednesday/clean-up time post.

Important reviews of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations show on New Orleans, which aired this past Monday, can be seen at AshMo's, Clay's and Pistolette's. Almost makes me wish we had cable or satellite TV. Oh, well...we'll just have to drop by Les Halles the next time we're up in Nu Yawk and give the place some of our bidness. And, if we see Monsieur B in this area soon, we'll be paying for whatever he imbibes as well. L'chaim!

Important ton of bricks on my head:

The last time I did any glassblowing whatsoever was February 14, 2004.

It was the first and only time I've brought my son into a hot glass studio, and he made himself at home, even at the tender age of 14 months or so. It was the studio's first-ever open blow day, and anybody with skills could step right up to the bench, grab a pipe, and gather out of the furnace. When we came to visit, my former glassworking partner almost all through college had just taken ownership of the studio and we were dropping by to say hello and take a mini-vacation from the NYC rat race. Rows of chairs facing the hot shop were set up in the gallery while a small team of workers busied themselves for over an hour making a blown glass heart with sculpted hot bits of glass that were brought over to the gaffer and transformed from molten honey into a leafy vine that snaked around the heart. I put my name into the raffle for a drawing for a pair of hot glass shears, and was elated when I was chosen. I still have those shears, which I fully intend to use someday when I have my own table torch.

After seeing this masterpiece being worked on for such a long length of time, I jumped up there and popped out a hollow-footed wineglass I'd made two of for my wedding. When Dan had taken a drink out of one of them in mid-ceremony, a splash of wine had become trapped in the foot and kicked back on him when he tipped the glass back a little more. Got a nice giggle from him under the chupah!

I'd warned the people there it was going to be quick, and it was - fifteen minutes. Blink and voila! there was the glass. Dan told me later the toolmaker who had come for that day to donate the tools for the raffle and sell some more was really surprised and amazed. Hey, I aimed ta' please, and I figured the crowd there was waiting for their turn to step up.

My former partner in glass certainly stepped up to the ownership and management of the public access studio for many, many years. When I walked away from the shop that day and went back to full-time mommyhood, she kept on keepin' on with a very hard, stressful job. Having taken a few years to recover from a similarly stressful management of a production studio and gallery, I had a good idea of what she was going through. It can become your life, your blood, your baby. The source of great pleasure and satisfaction, as well as the fount of much cussing, kicking, and screaming, just 'cause stuff happens.

I received an email from the studio that the place was shutting its doors after many years. I immediately gave my friend a call and heard the relief in her voice. For personal reasons, she'd made the decision to close up, and it was absolutely the right decision. I am very, very happy for her and wish her well. I certainly hope she never looks back, which can be easier to say than do...but I am confident that she will keep her mojo workin' no matter what she does.

Best to family and friends, Ms S, and I cannot tell you how much I wanna make it to the closing party!!!!

And yes, I have not used the shears on any materials such as paper or plastic. They are being saved for glass and glass only. I'm keeping my promise on that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Important notice: Ladies and gentlemen, I wrote this rant late at night when I couldn't sleep for all the quiet that had settled on my 'hood. I know that the magazine mentioned below is no vehicle with which to start a social revolution. It is, however, an indication of how blithely a certain segment of society will go about its business as always, denying that change needs to come, accepting the current educational climate as inevitable. The stuff I'm spewing about can certainly start with them, or they can get outta the way.

Dammit, dammit all to hell. I am so angry I could spit grenades. And it's all 'cause of a couple of articles in February's New Orleans magazine, in combination with my thoughts about this great lady's experiences in the RSD.

The magazine's IT schmucks haven't updated their site yet. Idiots. Then again, it is right after Mardi Gras. I'll give 'em that much. And yes, I know I shouldn't be wasting my time on the sometimes narrow view this magazine takes of things. (HammHawk, dude, your astute rebuttal of that article's hint is nowhere to be found in the letters to the almighty editor of the magazine. Sad, really...) The February issue focuses on the schools - the charters and the private schools. The only mention of the Recovery School District is in an article entitled "Charter Schools: Making The Grade" by Dawn Ruth.
The philosophy behind the charter school movement is pure Darwinism - only the strong survive. As the theory goes, "strong" means "successful", and successful means standardized test scores that show school children - poor as well as rich - can read, write, and compute at least at a basic level. That would be good news for New Orleans parents and the region as a whole but since many of the city's new charter schools are only six months old, it will be another four or more years before anyone can pass fair judgment as to whether charters are the answer to New Orleans' past education woes.
...Overall, New Orleans charters performed better than traditional schools but that outcome is not surprising considering RSD schools struggled with serious problems including a shortage of classrooms and teachers to meet the demand of an influx of returning students. Since then, most problems have been resolved.
I think Ms Ruth could have dug a bit deeper into the situation, especially after the New Orleans LEAP scores were released in August. Michael Homan has some great thoughts on the subject that could certainly use some elaboration, especially some important words from a Ralph Adamo article, the effects of white flight on the quality of the public schools, and the toll the current roadblocks to rebuilding can take on a caring parent who loves this city so. Seems Michael Tisserand is one of the few journalists to examine the realities of the charter school situation a little further. Oy vey.

The reality is that the current climate here doesn't favor the regular public schools, whatever those are. The ones I'm talking about are the state-run RSD schools that are not charters. The ones that are largely being bolstered by teachers who are run through the Teach NOLA program with not much more than a bachelor's degree are taking their toll on those souls. The salaries need a boost for certified as well as uncertified teachers. It is all more than enough to drive sane, caring people completely insane.

More evidence that the current climate is giving the RSD the proverbial finger? Try the next education article in the magazine on for size: "The Cost Of Learning: High School Tuition Vs. College Success". The thing reads like another big ad for Darwinism, pulling back from its conclusions a tad at the very end to try to instill hope in those readers who have been crushed by its endorsements. Kathy Finn writes:
In New Orleans, as elsewhere, private institutions are sometimes criticized as having abetted an exodus of students from taxpayer-financed elementary, middle and high schools. It's an argument that likely will arise among people who champion the need for high-quality public eduaction. But many educators believe the existence of solid private schools helps to raise the bar for teachers and pupils throughout the area.
The importance of making a good education available to all, regardless of financial status, seems indisputable. However, it's difficult to challenge the theory that having quality private schools available as an option can also mean a great deal to the quality of local education overall.
In other words, everything is hunky dory, because it's optional. Survival of the fittest, folks. But hey, when you're talking entry to top colleges, the sky's the limit, right? Spend and spend away on your kids, 'cause it's worth it. Check the stats that are cited to help the young 'uns compete with record numbers of Ivy League applicants and loads of foreign-born and raised applicants in the bargain:
In researching the path to eight of the top colleges in the U.S., the (Wall Street) Journal (note: I'm trying to find this article, but the online Journal wants $79 for the privilege) identified some 70 high schools that send the largest number of seniors into those colleges. While annual tuition at a few of the feeder high schools runs as low as a few thousand dollars, and annual tab above $20,000 is much more typical and tuition at a few of the prep schools runs close to $40,000.

Fortunately for local families, some excellent private schools are available at far lower prices. At Isidore Newman School in New Orleans - long one of the most expensive private schools in the local area - high school tuition for 2008 is listed at just over $15,000. Tuition at the highly respected Metairie Park Country Day School, meanwhile, will stop just short of that mark for 2008, as will the tab at Louise S. McGehee School.
Yep, getting your kids into Harvard still requires loads of dough for the right "feeder schools". But guess what????? New Orleans can give it to you at near-bargain prices!!!! I'm waiting for the Special Man* to pop out from someplace and tell the parents to let their kids have it....with noooooooooo problem!!!! except now they have to save for high school and college.

But don't despair, those of you who can't afford all this for your children!
...when it comes to comparing outcomes among private, parochial and public schools, many educators say the real key is parental involvement. Students who have abundant support and encouragement from their parents throughout their school years are far likelier to achieve their full potential than are students who lack parental attention, no matter what type of school they attend.
Nobody could tell you that better than an RSD teacher:
Today was report card conferences. Two parents from my homeroom class came to collect their child's report card. One of those volunteers/works at school. Other parents from other homerooms came in but most didn't stop to talk. Just took their kid's failed test and left. I want to cry just looking at the math grades in comparison to most students' other grades. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong to give out all those Fs.

Today I feel like shit. Just personally, I felt like shit about today. The kids were little bastards all day. And the parents, by their absence, proved to me why this is the case.
Yeah, fine, standards are needed. There's not so, so much wrong with giving these kids some basic skills. But standards should not be the only thing looked at in all this mess called education. So many things are wrong. Throwing money at it isn't going to help if that money isn't used wisely, which was one of the many reasons why pre-8-29 New Orleans public schools were largely failures, with a few exceptions. Parents dropping their kids off and leaving their responsibility to those kids at the school doors for the duration as well isn't working, either, which warrants a greater examination of the stresses on parents that center around work, finances, and simply providing food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their kids. Politicizing the system has its pitfalls as well, as I saw in a recent article.

A further examination of how we perceive community and how that could help us all is definitely in order - folks like Michael Homan have been working to get quality schooling right in their own neighborhoods that isn't going to break backs from the cost. A recent observation from the cantor of an area synagogue, on seeing the middle school-aged kids at my religious school schmoozing with each other at break time, puts this in some perspective - he said it was amazing seeing all these Jewish kids all together like this because, all together, they represented so many different secular (i.e., non-Jewish) area schools, private and charter, as well as places like Ben Franklin High School, which is still under the old Orleans Parish SD. In fact, once many of these kids are about to enter college, it may be at gatherings of synagogue youth groups that they hit it off with somebody only to then discover that, all through their schooling years, they lived only a couple of blocks apart all that time. I personally found that to be a little sad. Having one kid a couple of blocks away from the other going to an entirely different school outside of the city limits can diminish one's sense of community at home unless parents take an active role in their neighborhoods as well.**

In the end, little rings truer for me than the conclusions a prep school college counselor comes to about that whole process:

Powerful emotions get mixed up in the college-admissions process. Michael Thompson wrote in "College Admission as a Failed Rite of Passage" that central to this experience is "the most important and most difficult transition in all of life: the end of childhood and the late-adolescent separation and individuation from parents." He continued,

The frantic involvement of many parents in the process is, from my perspective, a cover for this profound parental anxiety: Did I do a good job with this child? Did I do everything I needed to do for this child? Is this child prepared? Is this child going to have a good life? ... Such fears about letting go of an unfinished child exist in all families. How can we let go of a child who is still so young in so many ways?

Surely he's right about this. Also lurking uncomfortably beneath the surface of these waters are class anxiety, the culture wars, and a whole set of unexamined prejudices about what does or does not constitute a "good" college. All this drama is nice for admissions offices that like to see applications stacked to the roof and supplicants spilling out into hallways as they wait nervously for information sessions to begin. None of it is good for seventeen-year-olds just taking their first tentative steps into adult life.

Articles such as the ones in the current New Orleans magazine feed that parental anxiety most of all. They crap all over the hardworking, unsung heroes who are the folks who are teaching in the RSD and overcoming the humps as best they can. They shortchange all our kids with their obvious and subtle biases.

Next time my husband renews his WYES membership, I'm gonna tell him to tell YES we say "no" to the New Orleans subscription. Put that money into better programming... 'cause it certainly ain't helping that magazine out any.

Survival of the fittest. Heh, heh.


*Yes, I know that's not the real Special Man in the commercial...but you gotta love the box of chicken thrown into the deal, right?

**All community-oriented thoughts influenced by my recent readings of Dolores Hayden's work. Skewer me in the comments if you must...