Saturday, February 28, 2009

In honor of our guv'nor's trip to Disney World...I'm sure he will take the advice of this song next time he puts his foot in it. Sing along, now!

Friday, February 27, 2009

I opened up the new Offbeat magazine today, and I saw Jan Ramsey's endorsement of legalizing marijuana in New Orleans to help save it in these trying financial times. I was a bit saddened to see Antoinette K-Doe featured in an ongoing recipe series that's been running for a while - looks like she had a good one for cornbread, and a little perspective on food coming from her background: I just love to cook. When I'm cooking, my mother and grandmother are inside of me, so that means a lot. And that's all I know, is to cook and feed people.

Flipped through the pages a little more and was stunned to see an ad for local public TV station WLAE touting a one-day, four-hour-long Tuition Auction. The participating schools? 45 private and parochial greater New Orleans area institutions, Loyola and Xavier Universities, and Lafayette Academy Charter School.

I don't even know where to start on this one. Too, too many one-liners come to mind:
  • I give the phone lines two minutes before the whole system crashes.
  • Guess this is what school vouchers are really about.
  • Couldn't they have just contracted with Priceline on this?
  • Ebay, anybody?
  • I need somebody to start handicapping this race, but I don't think Vegas bookies would touch it with a ten-foot pole.
  • Edwards is in prison right now kicking himself for not thinking of it first - the kickbacks he could have gotten from parents wanting a better education for their kids!
  • I'm sure our goober-natorial representative is rubbing his hands with glee, and his handlers are wondering how they can spin this one to further show how impressive Jindal's record is.
  • Stop Louisiana, I wanna get off...and I'm taking New Orleans with me.
I'm not sure if this is the first tuition auction or what, but it's pretty damn sad when you are reduced to a one-shot Sotheby's-type ordeal to ensure your children get the good education they deserve, no matter what financial, racial, or class bracket they are in.

Why don't they just throw all the applications down a flight of stairs, and whichever ones reach the bottom are the ones that get first pick? Makes about as much sense.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On most days, the little guy is your basic young 'un who contemplates some deep issues of grave importance to the way the world works. It isn't unusual for me to be talking with him about magnetism over his scrambled eggs, or for me to have had this talk about water with him last night over macaroni and cheese:

"Mom, you know...(so many of his talks start with him sounding like Marlin Perkins) water is made up of red hydrogen molecules and blue oxygen molecules."
(Yes, I should know better by now, but I can't let things like this rest...and, for that matter, neither can my husband) "Oh, no, they're not really red and blue, honey. That's a representation of the molecules. And the proper names for hydrogen and oxygen by themselves are atoms. Both of them together in a combination of two hydrogen atoms to one oxygen atom make up water molecules."
"And those atoms are blue and red, right, Mom?"
"That's for pictures of them. The real atoms can't be seen without the use of powerful microscopes. And water itself is clear."
"What's clear?"
"Like looking through a glass window. Water doesn't have a color."
"But what about the ocean? They say the ocean's blue."
"That's a reflection of the sky above it."
"But it's salt water. Isn't salt water blue?"
"No, it's clear. If you pick it up in a cup, it might have some stuff in it from all the sea life and a certain amount of salt in it, but if the water is distilled from that state, it's clear."
"But they say the ocean is blue."
"You know what? You should ask your grandpa about this. He's a scientist. He studies cell biology, takes a look at all the microscopic stuff that makes us people up."
"But has he studied water?"
"He and your grandma both have had to study some molecular biology, and have had to learn about elemental atoms and particles and such. Ask them next time."

And the above is a fairly tame conversation compared to the times he asks me some really tough stuff about human nature and its heart of darkness. The latest in that series was when he asked me about suicide. "What's suicide, Mom?" From a six-year-old. God help me.

However, there are those moments that will stand out for all eternity. Those times when his antics are strangely appropriate, yet inappropriate all at the same time. That moment this past Mardi Gras day when I was sitting out on the porch with some blogger peeps and the child comes wandering out there with only his shirt on, the blogger peeps' oldest child following behind him grinning from ear to ear. That instant when he announced for all the parading world beyond our balcony, "Mom, I'm changing my pants."

"Uhhh, thanks honey. Finish the job, please," I told my darling, half-naked child as nonchalantly as I could.

He nodded. The kid was satisfied. He'd checked in with Mom, and life was good. The blogger spawn followed him back inside, still grinning.

However, one person did not get this memo, and it was my husband. I heard him bellowing from inside the house, in a most incredulous, horrified voice, "WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS????!!!?!?!??"

The kid was in a houseful of our guests. It was only natural for my husband to be appalled at the half-au natural little guy.

But then again, it WAS Mardi Gras.

I'm just not ready for this kid to go off gently into the Quarter, though...


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lordy, I'm tired.

Seems New Orleans has paid a price for Lent this year, as the future of the Mother-In-Law Lounge is now in doubt.

Seems like Ms Antoinette was in the Muses parade only Thursday and I was commenting on the manicure the Emperor of the Universe sorely needed. Ernie K-Doe's mannequin needs help, too.

Oh, that's right. The Muses parade was this past Thursday.


I went out to visit a certain yaller blogger on the parade route yesterday and ended up in lockdown for an hour or so because of this sick idiocy. Dear God, it was Mardi Gras, for crying out loud. Why? Why even attempt to pull a weapon in a crowd of innocents and cause such pain at the points of bullets?

And I knew it was really bad when my dad called. It had made national news.

The sick, cynical phrase "keeping the brand out there" is the only thing that comes to mind.

Largely because I'm tired.

(Update, 12:31 PM: Clay goes into more detail on Mardi Gras day crime: So, now what? We're a poor city with a history of injustice, but there are plenty of places in the world that fit that description that don't have NEARLY the problem with crime, specifically murder, we do. I'm going to propose that our criminals have a very low respect for human life and specifically are very low on Kohlberg's stages of moral development. The best outcome now is to make an example of the suspects, should they be convicted.)

The other thing Dad talked with my husband about yesterday during the same phone call? The splendiferous, uber-Republican, "critical thinking" science education-loopholing, stimulus-rejecting, I'm-talking-slow-so-you-can-really-get-it trainwreck of a governor we have.

So there were two good things about Mardi Gras yesterday, actually:

-being able to hang with good, good friends, blogpocheh and all, and their friends and family over pancakes and Rodeo Lawyer Beer.

-completely missing Jindal's response to Barack Obama's address

T'was a happy Mardi Gras despite.

Though I'm still pooped.


Rob Walker, who wrote a great deal about the Mother-In-Law Lounge in his Letters From New Orleans, posted a little something about Antoinette K-Doe here. Rest in peace, Empress of the Universe.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I would really only quibble with the title of this post. More like "not quite the Gras-est of Mardis" - but I get the point.

So many things about Mardi Gras this year are back to some form of "normal" for Carnival celebrations. Crowds in our neighborhood have not been as insane as in the past three years. Traffic is still something to be avoided and to plan for accordingly - though we didn't account for one of the slowest cleanup crews ever following Thoth when we were trying to get home from our pal Pacrac's party near the beginning of the parade route. About the only anomaly we've encountered this year was a nice lady who set up the perfect parade spot for her family right next to us, not far from our home on the gray brick road. She'd schlepped all the way from New Orleans East on Saturday, set up a tarp and lots of chairs for her extended family, shooed people out of our faces during the Iris and Tucks parades while decrying the lack of civility and respect for those who'd been there the whole day with a spot...and then Dan saw the table being unfolded and the home-cooked food being laid out and commented on her great setup.

"Yeah, we'll be ready when Endymion gets here," she said.

Ohhhh, boy.

Endymion switched back to their Mid-City parade route last Mardi Gras season, taking their insane territorial neutral-ground camping hordes with 'em. Dan had to break the news to this poor, thoroughly prepared lady that she had prepared for every eventuality except for the one that didn't even have her in the right place to enjoy Endymion as it passed. I hope she found a better spot.

The problem with Mardi Gras this year is it just doesn't seem as pregnant with promise as it has been since 8-29...and perhaps it might be attributed to this season entering a certain toddlerhood since that time. It seemed the parades were indicative of a city coming back with a vengeance and a rapier wit, something that was especially highlighted in the more satirical krewes' themes, which were retooled for the insanity that was the early days of return and supposed renewal. About the only thing that can be said of Mardi Gras this year is that it has bounced back much faster than the rest of the city has...and this is not to say we don't still love the celebrations around here, or the pageantry, or the loot, for crying out loud. It's just that Carnival is now running at a triathlon's pace, while the city itself is still learning how to crawl, and doing it badly. And I myself am feeling it more this year than ever before.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras day. We will most certainly eat, drink, and be merry, doing the pancake-flipping thing here at chez Liprap.

...but we will still be mindful, the day after, of the work yet to be done.

Damn right.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"Yes, honey?"

"Does the word 'ball' have an 'o' in it?"

"Ummm, no."

"Does the word 'no' have an 'o' in it?"

"Yes, it does. What's with the letter 'o'?"


*short attention span snaps* "Mom, look at the airplane. He's hanging with his friends."

"Kiddo, you didn't answer my question."

"What, Mom?"

"What's with the letter 'o'?"


*attention goes boiiiing* "Does 'question' have an 'o' in it?"

"AAAH! Yes it does! But what is with this fascination with the letter 'o'????"

"What's fascination mean, Mom? Does it have an 'o' in it?"


Makes me wonder if the kid is part of an"o" racket.

And yes, after the last post, I just couldn't leave things as down as they kinda were. I'm getting over the creeping Carnival Crud many seem to have been afflicted with in one form or another, I finally started getting some good Mardi Gras vibes yesterday, and I'm looking forward to seeing my first Muses parade in its entirety in seven years or so (had to miss the previous ones due to four years of living in NYC, then a few more years of having to put the kiddo to bed and figuring Dan would get more stuff anyhow from a women's parade - and now I read this and wanna kick the krewe for being so much the fraidy-cats) .

I still haven't figured out what the deal with the "o" is. Really, this comes up with no other vowel in the English language. Although, looking at the "O" that Lefty is trying to sell to Ernie, it does look like a cheapo Mardi Gras frisbee throw...
Still so many houses still ruined. Most of them gutted out, but even now some were untouched. He couldn't understand the people who weren't striving to come back. It was so different from the time after Betsy, when there was no question. Everybody came back and started right in. Forty years after our liberation movement, Ronald thought, and we're further back than ever.*

I was, and still am, biased. I liked the man's journal. I really love Nine Lives. But when Dan Baum is saying things like this in interviews about his book, it makes me wonder:
People ask me 'What's going to happen to New Orleans?' And I say, look, you know I think that in 10 or 15 years New Orleans will be the disorganized, impoverished, violent, screwed up, corrupt city it was before the storm and that's really the way they want it.
Deep down, I hope he's wrong. Damn, did I say hope? Deep down, I know he's wrong, in so many ways. Maybe it's just the folks I hang with on a regular basis here, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of people here who don't want change. Neither is E:
Folks are not interested in transparency because of the thrill of the democratic process or intellectual curiosity. Certainly an efficient and effective recovery for New Orleans is way more important to me right now than the philosophical purity of a completely open direct democracy.

Rather, the reason the fight for transparency and open government has become consumed this city is because people are trying to figure out why the recovery has been such an inefficient failure to this point. The most poignant moments of citizen indignation came when people wondered why it was nothing was getting fixed, why there are no cranes on the skyline, and why we see so little evidence of the flowing recovery dollars Mayor Nagin continues to promise.

I care about transparency precisely because I care about efficiency and recovery. Quite frankly, I wouldn't mind if Nagin used city money to install a gilded toilet in Greg Meffert's stretch Escalade so long as he'd also crafted a long term vision for regional sustainability, brought home displaced residents, advanced the causes of economic and racial justice, improved city services, and raised our collective quality of life.
Here in New Orleans, we've been subjected to so much obfuscation in our government and have been repeatedly told it's what's good for us that many of us now want to see exactly how the wheels are turning - or if they are even moving.

Sometimes he found himself thinking uncharitably about the people who hadn't returned, and had to make an almost physical effort to haul himself back from that. Everybody's got circumstances, he'd tell himself. Not everybody can set their own destination. But it seemed to Ronald that a fundamental mistake had been made after Katrina. The government dangled a lot of resources, and it made everybody freeze up. Nobody wanted to start in until they saw what they were going to get.*

Of course, there are problems with that need for transparency as well: the extreme version of wanting to regulate the regulators creates a situation in which real action is pushed aside in the process of waiting for the government to do the right thing. Too much nitpicking can add up to jitters related to every teensy violation that comes down the pike. Everybody's a participatory critic and nobody is satisfied.

Is that what we really want?

The struggles seem to be getting harder and harder. The real problems - racial, economic, recovery-related, educational, medical, law enforcement-related, infrastructural - are not being addressed, which is sad, because it's what we need the most in this, one of the world's largest small towns.

This is tough to say considering it's Mardi Gras time - but there are way too many sideshows in City Hall these days. The focus ought to be on bringing the main events back in the place - the people of New Orleans and the still largely unmet promises made to them concerning their very real problems. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not of the Walking Id, the City Council battles, and powder-blue clad police trying to divert our attention from their sorry crime-fighting record to testify against a take-home car assessment that does not apply to them.

We knew after Betsy we weren't going to get no help from anybody, Ronald often thought, and maybe that was better.*



*from Dan Baum's Nine Lives chapters on Ronald Lewis

Monday, February 16, 2009

Yep, it's that time of year again...

You are Invited to the 3rd Annual Carnival Ball of
“the krewe with the edible doubloons”

Where: Our House - email for location at

When: Mardi Gras Day (that’s Tuesday, February 24, 2009) from 8am until (we really have no idea how long this is going to last)

What: Pancakes, and lots of ‘em

Who: You

Why: We can’t eat all those pancakes by ourselves

Krewe Fees: Hey, all we’re supplying are pancakes, syrup, coffee, milk, juice, and probably Leigh’s homemade king cake, so bring whatever else you want to eat or drink between 8am and whenever (and make sure there’s enough to share) – or as our friend, Jimmy, puts it, “Act right and bring something.”

Specialty Throws: In honor of the 50th anniversary of the doubloon, we will have our own limited edition doubloons... and they’ll be chocolate chip flavored

Krewe Royalty: King… John E. Kaechs
Queen… Mabel C. Rupp

Sunday, February 15, 2009

From the "urine in the education pool" department...

...and, here in Louisiana, there's more than one way to make the education pool a cesspool...

...I give you G-Bitch's and Coozan Pat's reactions to an article in today's Times-Pic on new teachers vs. experienced teachers.


It’s not the first, last or worst thing Paul Vallas has said about teachers but it’s just as telling:

“I think experience can be overrated,” Vallas said. “You like to have experienced people, but that’s no substitute for energy, innovation and ability.”

So experienced teachers are a homogeneous group of lazy, boring, inept people and good riddance to them all? Or educating children just isn’t that hard and/or important for Vallas to worry himself with? It also reflects part of the charterization/privatization movement which believes that the best way to improve public schools is to privatize them. Or to run them “like businesses”–that should be a dead argument post-credit-meltdown. And to get rid of experienced teachers who are seen as failures, probably rigid, and prone to being in unions and striking and making demands and wanting procedures for dismissal. In the conservative ideology behind much of the charterization movement here in NO, teachers are more delivery systems than anything else, whose success is gauged in test scores that adults look at from afar and congratulate themselves over. Teachers are interchangeable and it’s probably even preferred to have them keep cycling through every 3 or so years. Young, relatively inexperienced teachers do what you tell them. By the time they see a need for collective bargaining or reform, they’re gone, replaced by a new set of fresh, excited faces.

The Tired Old Argument:

At least the "charter schools vs. 'regular' schools" argument had further reaching policy ramifications. The "experienced teachers vs new teachers" debate is simply the most ludicrous red-herring involving student achievement there is. It smacks of politics over effectiveness, and ignores systematic issues that affect all classrooms. That local newsmakers continue to return to this 'issue' suggests either a misunderstanding of who actually runs schools or a decided lack of access (or interest) to investigating more pressing matters.

Riots, brawls, student-on-student and student-on-teacher assaults are terribly underreported. So are the reasons these things happen. But it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out it ain't the teacher's fault when a student commits what would be a felony - and they are back in class the next day. No, that ain't on the teacher. That's on the principal and on the superintendent. And if you have a principal or superintendent that cannot create an atmosphere of safety for students and teachers (experienced or new), student acheivement is going to suffer.

Fires, theft, vandalism fall into the same "school is a safe place" boat. That it took 6 fires in a week to be reported in the Times-Pic regarding one historic, local high school, and nothing was mentioned about the school being opened without adequate fire safety mechanisms (fire alarms, extinguishers, locked exit doors) is flat out unbelievable. Experienced teachers can die from smoke inhalation just as quickly as new teachers. But the decisions to put students in that school, the responsibility for installing adequate safety measures, and the security of school hallways during class-time is again not a teacher issue.

Oh, and we can't forget the creationism-in-the-schools chickens coming home to roost:

The first tangible results of the Louisiana legislature's passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal's signing of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act have materialized, and these results are negative both for the state's economy and national reputation. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a national scientific society with more than 2300 members, has put Gov. Bobby Jindal on notice that the society will not hold its annual meetings in Louisiana as long as the LA Science Education Act is on the books. In a February 5, 2009,letter to the governor that is posted on the SICB website under the headline, "No Thanks, New Orleans," SICB Executive Committee President Richard Satterlie tells Jindal that "The SICB executive committee voted to hold its 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City because of legislation SB 561, which you signed into law in June 2008. It is the firm opinion of SICB's leadership that this law undermines the integrity of science and science education in Louisiana." [NOTE: Although the legislation was introduced as SB 561, it was renumbered during the legislative process and passed as SB 733.]

Pointing out that SICB had joined with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) in urging Jindal to veto the legislation last year, Satterlie goes on to say that "The SICB leadership could not support New Orleans as our meeting venue because of the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula." Salt Lake City was chosen as the site of the 2011 meeting in light of the fact that "Utah, in contrast, passed a resolution that states that evolution is central to any science curriculum."

Noting that SICB's recent 2009 meeting in Boston attracted "over 1850 scientists and graduate students to the city for five days," Satterlie pointedly tells Jindal that "As you might imagine, a professional meeting with nearly 2000 participants can contribute to the economic engine of any community." The implication of SICB's decision for both New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and the entire state of Louisiana is clear. With Gov. Jindal threatening draconian budget cuts to the state's universities, the loss of such a significant scientific convention will only add to the state's deepening fiscal crisis.

...Sorry, Louisiana. You are a lovely state, but scientists won't be supporting you as long as you're going to be dedicated to anti-scientific foolishness.

Other states don't have cause for complacency, though — creationism is not exclusively a Southern problem. If this keeps up, we may be having all of our scientific meetings in Canada.

At this rate, the only thing that will smack of science in this state will be the parade tracker on WDSU.

Update, 2-16: In an email my dad sent me last night when I forwarded the links from Al R. on to him: this will probably be the last year that FASEB meets in New Orleans also. and we bring about 13,000 people to a meeting.

Thanks a bundle, Baton Rouge. Nice going, Bobby J!


Anudder update, 2-16, 6:38 PM: Go read Dambala. Just go. Now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My question (or, rather, my husband's) from a while back still stands.

Was anybody near the intersections with cameras for the recent parades? Did they take pictures of floats that failed to stop on red?

I can just see Oshun and Pygmalion piling up the $110 tickets as their floats moseyed on past the camera'd intersections, with the tractor drivers and the riders much more preoccupied with the bead-needy throngs than with obeying the traffic laws.

Happy V-Day, be safe at the parades, and here's a Mardi Gras Misheibeirach for all the folks with ailments this season:

Mishabeirach avoteinu
Mechor habracha l’imoteinu
May the source of strength
Who blessed the ones before us
Help us find the courage
To imbibe our alcoholic beverages despite the risk of hangovers
And let us say “amen”

Mishabeirach imoteinu
Mechor ha’bracha l’avoteinu
Help those in need of healing
With r’fuah shleimah
The renewal of body
The renewal of spirit
The strength to yell for beads and other chazerai
And let us say “amen”.

Be well out there, folks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I had a serious Carnival high last Saturday night. I didn't want it to end, but I knew it had to. I was simply too sick to keep going on, plus I had to teach religious school the next morning. Didn't leave too much time for too much revelry, but I was going to enjoy myself.

Once I was dropped off at the Colton school, I got excited, even though I was lugging a few bags of stuff with me. Two and a half of those bags would end up in the hands of parade spectators, but until then, I had to deal with it all. A guard at the St Claude Avenue entrance tried to send several of us laden with throws and soft drinks and the like around to the back of the school, where the true krewe members' entrance was, but when he saw everybody unloading, he sighed and took pity on us. I walked in through an auditorium of which half the seats had been removed so that people could dance if they so chose at the after-party. I had to find my sub-krewe mates.

I was so, so happy I'd brought the camera. The true pageant of Krewe du Vieux unfolded right before my table, each wild, inspired, insane costume resplendent in the daylight, even more so than at night or during an after-party. The last KdV Doo I'd been to was when Irma Thomas was the parade queen and the night's entertainment at a just-closed cavernous Krauss department store on Canal Street. I bowed my head in memory of my long-gone yet much treasured Soul Queen of New Orleans go-cup from that year, then ran off to say hello to Adrastos and Dr. A, who were the first at their sub-krewe's table. Shecky grumbled a little at being the first arrival, but I figured everybody else would be there soon enough, as it was not even 4 PM. It gave me time to throw on even more makeup than I usually wear, then hang out some more and watch all the rude, crude, and socially unacceptably-clad masses pass by whilst noshing on some junk food and sipping some watery beer from the keg.

The headache I had had the day before brought with it a sore throat that had continued on into the following day, and I still carried it with me as I said hello to fellow Seeds of Declinees Michael Homan and his lovely, bewigged, large-bosomed and -derriere'd wife Therese. I eyed the beer belts on the gold-clad superhero folk of the Krewe of PAN and wished I'd brought something like that with me instead of the Cold-Eeze tablets that ended up being stuck in the fanny pack tucked into the large foam butt I was wearing that I'd covered in a fabric embellished with dollar bills of all denominations. Must tuck that beer belt idea away for next year...

Parade time rolled around. I lugged my stuff one more time, out the back door and down towards Franklin Avenue, mildly concerned that NOLA Slate and her promised shopping cart o' throws was nowhere in sight. Fellow Seed Mark Folse mentioned simply leaving the stuff in front of one of the Creole cottages lining the street if she was a no-show, which had me inwardly horrified. I had taped together strands of beads to make it easier to separate 'em and throw them, dammit! I had kumquats, for God's sake. I was not leaving a bag of over 500 bite-size citrus fruits on the curb, thanks. I didn't have to worry too much about it as Slate showed up...with a cart filled to the brim with stuff already. Oops. I hung my strands of beads on the pegs lining the sides of the cart, stuffed the kumquats underneath, tucked my funny money into my shoulder bag of special gifts in case I ran into folks I knew along the parade route, and we shoved off behind our float of Fannie Mae giving head to the Monopolized Clarence Darrow.

Highlights of the forced march through the Marigny and the Quarter:
  • The people, ohhhh, the people. Saw some familiar ones along the sidelines, including my son's babysitters, some housemates of mine, a few more fellow bloggers, and a former housemate I hadn't seen in nearly eight years. Re-entering the Marigny entailed walking into one serious cloud of pot, something I hadn't experienced since Phish came to JazzFest. The tallboy Bud Sarah Lewis passed to me in mid-parade helped me walk through the valley of wacky tobacky just fine.
  • I love this man's wig. 'Nuff said there.
  • I was mightily sustained by the bottomless shopping cart of throws Slate and her Brother-Can-You-Spare-$700-Billion bum-clad hubby pushed down the street (nine dozen pompoms, folks. Tip of a freakin' Carnival iceberg) and by her flask of rum which helped my throat and my aching feet move along a little more with each sip.
  • Homan sidled over to me at one point when there was a halt in the movement of the parade and asked, "Isn't this great?" Hell yes, it was.
  • Slate discovered the joy of kumquat-giving near the end of the parade, when we'd reached the bottom of the cart and were left with the citrus. She'd give me updates on reactions to her gifts...and, more specifically, to where she'd put the gifts: "You've got to put 'em in their cleavage, honey," was her first bit of advice, which my tree man pal and kumquat supplier Justin was already merrily doing. "Talk to him about it," I said, directing her to the man himself. After an experimental bout of cleavage-stuffing, there was this report: "The older ladies who got 'em in their shirts were just so, so happy!" Off again...then back..."The old men who got them in their shirts gave me the sweetest smiles."
  • Oh...that foam butt covered with money fabric I mentioned I had on? It's amazing how many ass-men (not this sort of assman) there are out there..and one of them was apparently a krewe member who frankly admitted to me near the end of the parade that he was afraid I was shaking it so much I'd break it. I told him it was foam and he laughed, then looked a little sad.
  • Getting back to Colton and, despite my aching feet, dancing at least one dance with the brass band up on that stage had me set for the rest of the night. Aaaa-men.
Aaaand the downsides...
  • I am never walking that far in any sort of heels again, even if they're Aerosoles. Ain't gonna happen. I also need to start doing some endurance training for that kind of hike.
  • I hope this doesn't start some sort of ugly "tradition" of my getting sick each Krewe du Vieux parade. I used to regularly get sick on my birthday. This was strikingly similar. And I would NOT wish the raging cold I had for the next few days afterwards on anybody.
  • My husband and son missed the parade. Again. For the second year in a row. Third time's the charm.
  • It's so nice dodging mule poo, and the mules themselves...I am convinced those beasts set the furious pace for the parade, causing my family to miss it and causing me to rush to get out of the nose of the mule towing the float behind ours.

Oh, and religious school the next morning? Couldn't teach it. Sick as a dog....

....but happy as a clam about Krewe du Vieux.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So many new books, so little time...

Tonight is a book signing of this one at the Garden District Book Shop. I've already started it, and am already having a giggle at Stephen Rea's characterization of Wal-Mart, among other things.

And the author is not this Stephen Rea. Just wanted to make that clear.


I went in to the bookstore just to get the Finn McCool's book and ended up walking away with Dan Baum's Nine Lives as well. Book signing on the 17th at Octavia Books, for this one.

For those not in the know, Dan Baum did a bang-up job with his New Orleans Journal after the storm, ending it in mid-2007 to head off to Colorado to work on his book. The journal was more about day-to-day life in this city after 8-29-05. The book focuses on the stories of nine people in New Orleans, their lives bookended by hurricanes Betsy and Katrina.

More on this here.

And finally, I won't be able to make it, unfortunately, but Mark Folse will be holding a book signing of the book based on his blog, entitled Carry Me Home, at Maple Street Book Shop this coming Saturday, from 12 to 2 PM. Y'all come on out, check your copy for errata before purchasing, and get the man's John Hancock on the inside. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I don't know if it's just me, or if the colds I get are getting worse. They seem to be most uncommon microbes these days in their strength and their duration in my body. The thing I worry about the most is my throat with these things, as I've had bronchitis too, too many times.

So I've been mostly confined to home, with occasional jaunts on public transportation to pick the little guy up from school, as my car is still in the shop. Gives me a bit of time to think between coughing jags and seriously runny noses...not to mention time to do some goofing around online.

Like I didn't have that before...but anyway...

I joined Facebook on a lark and on an invitation from a friend from NYC. What the hey, social media ahoy! Poke me, I'll poke you back. Send me your green patch plants, your crappy Mardi Gras gifts (yes, that is actually a Facebook category). I can most certainly chat with you, if you've got the time. And I'll tell you my current status, while I'm at it.

I should have figured out where this was going to take me when friends from high school found me on it. One fateful day, someone from my former grade school asked me if I was actually so-and-so and used my maiden name.

And I hesitated.

Yes or no? Or, in the vernacular of Facebook, accept or ignore?

You see, I don't have much fondness for my grade school days. Memories of that time are ultimately painful ones. I was teased mercilessly. Weaknesses were found when these kids, who were supposed to be fellow students, would use their words to hurt me and would invariably make me cry and lash out at them, getting me into trouble. The best advice my family could give was to ignore these children or laugh at them. I'd laugh at them and get in trouble for laughing too loudly to try to drown out their hateful words. Trying to ignore them was an exercise in futility.

The best I can say about it is I found some good kids who were not like the rest, but they were a precious few. As far as I'm concerned, I look back on it now and the best way I can see it all is that I started at the bottom and things got so much better when I grew up and out of that sorry environment.

Ultimately, I did "accept". The most I've done is to confirm the identities of kids in class pictures from long ago, chatted a little about stuff that some of us used to do outside of school, and reconnected with some of my good, good friends - my precious few friends - from that time.

I don't know what sorts of pains and hurts my teasers and bullies from that time suffered. Perhaps it was the not infrequent pain of being stuck between two divorced parents. The frustration of being a little kid in a huge world. Sibling rivalry at home.

All I know is that I and a few others in that school got the worst of it, and it seemed to go largely unchecked by the people who were supposed to be our teachers. Our parents had no clue what to do with any of it, either.

So far, through Facebook, I've encountered the good ones and those who were largely indifferent, oblivious, or just too scared to change the status quo back then.

I don't know what I'll do if one of the bullies wants to "reconnect".

Monday, February 09, 2009

If you care about elementary and secondary education at all in this city, I give you another blog to watch:

Adventures In Homeschooling

Looks like St Catharine Academy will be doing well by one little girl.

For more on the final straw leading to why this got started, I give you this post from Amy.

Oh, and if anybody can recognize the people on this board, let me know.


I had a kick-ass time marching in Krewe du Vieux for the first time Saturday night. Problem is, I'm too sick to write all I wanna write about the experience. I give you instead my Flickr shots of folks' costumes at Colton before and after the parade. I give huge, big thanks to NOLA Slate for sustaining me with rum through our merry march and letting me tag along with her cart full o' goodies and even throw a few. I will revisit this again once I quit feeling like the walking dead.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn time and again to my tormenter-in-print, constantly aching to quit its glossy pages, its profiles of the interior design of local homes, its constant "gee-whiz-those-public-schools-are-getting-better" articles sitting on the same pages as advertising for every private school in the greater New Orleans area.

Problems arise when I idly open up a copy at a newsstand or coffee shop (mistake #1) and flip through its pages to browse its current offerings and read a phrase or two turned by its intrepid, quasi-trendy authors, and I behold gems such as this one, from its Carnival issue, in Errol Laborde's "Fleur De Lists: Carnival '09 in Numbers and Notes":

Gazillion Number of times that it seems parade bands play the "Hey Song" (also known as Rock and Roll Pt. II) during parades.

Note: This song has been banned by some schools because of controversial lyrics assigned to it at sporting events. During Carnival parades, just the music is heard rather than the frequent chant of "Hey!"

Oh. My. God.

Curse you, New Orleans magazine!!!!

Quit throwing me bones like this! Now I'm trying to think of what sorts of lyrics could be placed into this song:

...aside from this classic from my misspent youth:

I can't get it outta my head. I want to know exactly what sorts of nasty lyrics people might be adding to it. I'd do more research on it right now, but I need to get up and go.

This could be the second greatest issue of this year's Mardi Gras celebrations after the true enforcement of the city's laws concerning the positioning of ladders on the sidewalks at the parades. The ladders come first. Insert your own lyrics to Gary Glitter's classic in the comments here afterwards or simultaneously.
Tried to get up early yesterday morning and failed a little, but I managed to get a few things done. Blanched some almonds and pistachios, got the little guy off to school, then came home and made what was supposed to be marzipan to stuff dates with, but is actually some sweet-tasting goop that has the glow of U-235. I suppose I feared what happened to me last time I tried to do this and actually undercooked the simple syrup. I can bake like nobody's business, but almond paste just kicks my ass every time.

Things could be worse....the convection oven was flipped on at the synagogue and the brisket within left to cook for 3 1/2 hours - but the folks who flipped it on forgot to check to see if the gas was on as well. At least the meat is nicely marinated.

While I was blanching nuts, I listened to some tidbits of news on the radio.

Found that in college nowadays, those with scrips for ADD-ADHD medications are having the last laugh. Is it just me, or do good study habits need to be reintegrated into our kids' schooling? Perhaps encouraging more kids to turn off the tube might help...but then I think about all the bad grammar and misspellings my son is gleaning from checking out this website from time to time. On the other hand, he is getting some further development of his sense of humor, because I frequently have to explain why the pictures and captions are funny. "Here's the anatomy of a funny, honey..."

The other day, a discussion was held on the bloggers listserve about a notice someone posted concerning the economic stimulus bill and how it will affect our current "system of public schools" here in New Orleans. Since over 60% of our schools here are now charters, and since things are so damn bad financially all over the country, there really isn't much of a choice anymore - whilst kicking and screaming, protesting the emergency order still on the books that largely removes parent and teacher involvement in the process of approving a switch to charters, and cursing with all our might the farce that is the applications process for all these supposed "choices" we as parents are now falsely empowered to make, we have to support the current system.

Those last seven words are tough for me to say, and they come with a major caveat.

"Falsely empowered"? What's that about? The mad rantings of a disgruntled mama who didn't get her child where she wanted him to go? Tough toenails, lady. Tighten your belt and go the private school way.

My child is in a great school, in fact, a charter. This is his third year there. I'm grateful that it is doing well by him, as I'm aware that sometimes kids and particular educational environments don't mesh, and I could well be on the hunt right now for some alternatives.

Problem is, I was asked recently about the current state of public education here and what the prospects were for a child trying to get into a good public or charter school right now. And I found myself scrambling for a good answer, one that could give great hope and ensure that kids were in the right places without it costing an arm and a leg until college came around, because that's how it's worked for ages, right?

Well, right now, the New Orleans system of schools needs to put up a huge sign at the doors of every school under its umbrella, get the word out on every website, slip notes to every parent considering a move here, and just generally shout out that all ye who enter this farkakhte application process, abandon your hope and find a pot of money with which to send your kids to a good elementary school, because the good public schools here pre-8-29 are still the good ones, and they are full-up. The rest of the charters haven't been around long enough to make any statistics really stick on how good they are, and classroom and school experiences like these are still common.

Fact of the matter is, I bought my lottery ticket/got an application in to a good charter back when there weren't many other people doing so, and I got lucky. About the only thing I can advise people to do right now is to enter that lottery and get the kids on the lists for the good schools, at least...because the old joke about the fellow who prays to a saint asking him to help him win the lottery still applies: eventually, the statue of the saint looks at this poor soul in front of him, comes to life and says "My son, please, please, a ticket."

All that's left to us now is to support funding for the good charters, because those ones will be here to stay. Hell, even Paul Vallas will be leaving, not that that was entirely unexpected. We just need to demand some things like accountability, a true addressing of what teachers and parents are going through and better steps taken to actually solve those problems rather than just decentralizing the system and changing who is ultimately responsible, and a rescinding of a certain emergency order that is still on the books, paving the way for more charters to enter this city on an autobahn while the parents and teachers are chugging along on a country road under construction.

The choice, in this case, is up to you, the reader, now.

I give you the following. You decide if you want to support it or not. I myself am still torn.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan (ARRP) – otherwise known as the federal economic stimulus bill—proposes an increase in federal funding for education in many areas. However, in the section of the bill devoted to school facilities and modernization, the House and Senate are at odds about how to distribute the money and whether charters should have equal access to it. The House version is favorable to KIPP and charter schools' reform agenda because it includes charters explicitly as being eligible for funding, just like all public schools. The Senate version is not has no specific language including charter schools in the distribution of funds. favorable to KIPP and charter schools' reform agenda because it

What You Can Do

Please take a few minutes to email your local Representative and Senator. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has an excellent web-based system for emailing Congress that we can use to relay our message about ARRP. We recommend that you use this system instead of emailing or letter-writing because this is absolutely the latest technology and is designed to streamline the process vs. all of us reinventing the wheel on our own and it is much easier than writing on your own.

7 Quick and Easy Steps for Sending an Urgent Message to Your Federal Representatives

*** Please note that volume is important here! Everyone is out there hustling, so let's show our terrific representative in DC that KIPP and our charter allies are in the house! You can send multiple messages, all from one computer, as long as you have each person's name, address, phone number and email.

Navigate to:

Enter Your Zip Code to Find Right Targets: Fill in your school's zip code to pre fill the right people who should receive your message:

Choose the ARRP Action Alert: Once you fill in your zip code, you'll be taken to a page with a box that says "Action Alert," click on the first one that says, "Public Charter Schools Deserve Equal Access to Federal Support."

Check the Representative and Senator information is Correct: The next page will show the Action Alert language at the top of again, "Public Charter Schools Deserve Equal Access to Federal Support." Scroll down to see the Representatives and Senator to whom your message will be sent. You should double check that these people are right and your zip code wasn't entered incorrectly.

Customize Your Message, if desired: The system has already created a beginning and end for the message that will go out in your name. This might feel a bit contrived, but it is much more effective to have this set language so we all advocate correctly for the dual outcomes of: a) changing the Senate bill to match the House bill and b) having the House bill language prevail at the end. There is a small box for you to add your own customized message.

Add your contact information: Include the KIPP school or region name in the address box (for example, KIPP Bay Area 426 17th Street, Suite 200) so that your KIPP name is included along with your personal name. A copy of the message sent through this system will go to your email inbox so you have a record.

Send the message: Click, "send message."

Thanks to everyone for making your voice heard and supporting the work of the KIPP New Orleans Schools and Charter Schools everywhere!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Well, in better news I got today...

Nice righting of a wrong, Dave

Gawd bless Bill Hicks, wherever he is.
Perhaps he's in Arizona Bay...

...or, perhaps he's in another place...

Update, 2-4: Found my copy of Love All The People last night and realized I hadn't fully finished the book. Where was the bookmark? In the middle of the 30-plus page letter Bill Hicks wrote to John Lahr, the author of his New Yorker profile, about the Letterman incident. From the first paragraph:

Jokes, John, this is what America now fears - one man with a point of view, speaking out unafraid of our vaunted institutions, or the loathsome superstitions the CBS hierarchy feels the masses (the herd) use as their religion.

Anudder Update, 2-7: Oyster linked to this comprehensive Hicks post from blogger Anntichrist S. Coulter. Go through the links. You'll be happy you did - it'll be as though you've squeegeed your third eye, as the man himself would have said.
I've got to wonder about the things I can get used to sometimes.

Dan headed out for D.C. today, giving me access to his car while the car I normally drive is in the shop, thus (barring some major long-term work on my car) saving us the cost of a rental car for the period of time he will be away. Yes, I am married to a man who would squeeze pennies to a bloody pulp to get more value from them, if he could. It is because of that consideration that I have been driving this car in the state that it is in for the past few weeks, just so we don't have to incur that rental car expense. The "check engine" light hasn't been on, but the other problems this car has had have had me worried:
  • driver's side power window doesn't work at all
  • the struts on the rear driver's side of the car are probably near gone
  • the brakes are soft
  • the emergency brake is difficult to set
  • the car has been making a sound that, on its good days, sounds like bicycle wheels with playing cards stuck between its spokes, and, on its bad days, sounds like the drumming intro to a certain hard rock classic amplified to make it ten times louder. I kept waiting for Eddie Van Halen and Co. to jump out of the trunk and accompany me into places like, say, my synagogue or the little guy's school.
I walked into our mechanic's shop with this laundry list of our car's ills and ended up chatting with Dan and the receptionist about all of this stuff, and about how long we've waited to bring the car in. Part of me felt a tad embarrassed at waiting this long, irrationally wishing I could have somehow lessened the noises and the malfunctions in a manner similar to tidying up one's house some before a cleaning lady comes - but I also felt embarrassed at how loud the car must have sounded at times. "I'm surprised more people on the street weren't giving this car the eye as it passed by, because it sounded so loud to me," I mentioned as the receptionist wrote all the bad stuff down on a form.

"I was in a grocery store parking lot last night," Dan said, "and I counted at least three or four other cars making similar noises that nobody batted an eye at."

The receptionist chuckled. "So many people bring their cars in and when we ask them about repairs resulting from the cars hitting potholes, most of them say they don't remember hitting a pothole. I think the conditions of the streets here are so bad, they are probably used to it by now and don't consider it an abnormal occurrence that could contribute to putting their car in the shop."

Certainly is amazing what sorts of things we can all get used to.

And it is certainly worth reexamining what some of us might accept as the norm from time to time, because it seems to me if this city were a car, it'd be up on blocks all the time and one of the signs that we might be rednecks would apply to it: we'd have to mow the grass growing up around it to find it (#83).

Update, 1:03 PM: Speaking of reexamination, any city that allows this kind of thing to happen in a section that is supposed to be its economic bread and butter is asking for trouble. Perhaps Hizzoner the Walking Id wants the city to become a center for these sorts of studies? (yes, I know there are no accompanying pictures with the captions at the bottom of the article, but just reading those captions ought to spur the imagination).

Bayou St John David at Moldy City has some details that explain why Trashanova, aka Sidney Torres, appeared in a commercial during the Super Bowl urging businesses and residential properties with five units or more to start paying for their own trash pickup. Good thing the place we own is a four-plex.

Anudder update, 6:46 PM: "The ludicracy of our system" (thanks for the heads-up, Mr Folse)
Somebody, please tell me if "ludicracy" is really a word. I think she must have meant to say "lunacy", or "ludicrousness". I want to kick myself for being hung up on this point of vocabulary, but something in me doesn't want that to obscure her point any more than it already has been. Irrational feelings have just ruled my day today...

Monday, February 02, 2009

I attended the Beyond Jena forum at Xavier University this past Saturday, and I have to say that so, so many people missed out on this one. If you did, there is a complete audio recording of the day available on the forum website (aka, the Beyond Jena link).

A few off-the-wall observations:

-Skype ROCKS! It was perfect for Dr Marion Carroll to contribute to the doings of the second panel from afar and clue everybody in to his work on The Jefferson Parish Education for All Children blog, begun when he began to help his community confront the Jefferson Parish public school system about the segregation by the river the school board wanted to enforce in their schools (i.e., West Bank residents could only attend West Bank schools, and East Bank residents could only attend East Bank schools). It is indeed a cool tool.

-Ya know, if you've registered for a conference, and you can't show, call first. Just common courtesy, folks.

-I missed talking to DJ Poptart (aka, Crystal Kile) in greater detail about her idea to get a longitudinal survey together about who locally is using social media. Bart Everson, the moderator for the first panel discussion, mentioned that nationally, bloggers are less likely to be white than the general population, but that there is a perception that this isn't true for New Orleans. There seems to be a lack of demographics to prove or disprove this perception on a local level. It would probably be a good idea, as Ms Kile said on Saturday, for a group like, say, Rising Tide to partner up with the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women and get going on such a survey. It would give us all a way to address the racial divide in these parts that seems to be penetrating the local blogosphere.

-Cliff, G-Bitch, and E.J. held their own despite the absence of WBOK radio show host Paul Beaulieu. Bloggers are THE best. General consensus on the blogosphere's role in the Jena protests is that, in Cliff's words, there was the "right intent" in getting the rest of the nation to sit up and take notice of what was going on in the town, "but the community didn't follow through on its support." For more on this, head here. And this goes not just for civil rights issues, but for ANYthing that gets started and whipped up by bloggers in terms of the issues. Don't start what you can't finish.

-I got a kick out of seeing all the college kids up there who kick-started blogs mainly because it was a course requirement. I was a tad disturbed that they were all freshmen, but when G-Bitch told me it was easier to get freshmen to do it than the members of any other class in college, it made sense.

-The thing about blogging is that it seems to only attract certain people in this life, like most any other skill or profession. In terms of grassroots organization, it is only a supplemental tool for that at this point in time, and a few things Big Red Cotton mentioned at the Q & A for the first panel may also be holding back a real blogging boom in these parts: some serious troubles with literacy among the lower classes here, and the fact that this is a pretty small city that can't afford people much in the way of anonymity. It can make facing the consequences of what you write and speak out about tough things to take.

-Despite Dr Michael Homan's supposed malakatude, the man is making the most of blogging as a tool for his theology courses. Xavier students taking his courses are a lucky bunch.

-And finally, some other important links:
In short, I look forward to the next forum along these lines that Editor B organizes.

And you should, too.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Dammit, people...this is really getting out of hand.

This dear lady, this newcomer to New Orleans and to the NOLA blogpocheh, has been mugged a second time since she has been living in this city. And she hasn't been here for very long.

What can we do to convince her that this isn't the way this city's heart beats?

Hell, what can we do to convince ourselves of this?

I do hope she reports this latest theft. I also hope New Orleans' supposed finest don't give her a hard time about it..

I guess we all keep an eye on the pawnshops.

And we pray.

At least this fellow's vehicle has been found...