Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last night felt like this:

I really was waiting for my son's head to spin around. It never happened, thank God. And I wouldn't wish waiting for it to happen in a room in the ER (where we saw commercials for the Slap Chop on a teensy TV) on anybody....but hey, as the tagline for Parenthood says, it could happen to you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tacky has always been one of my favorite words. I can't tell you what it means, but I know it when I see it. Too much make-up is tacky. VPL - as in "visible panty line" - is tacky. Track mansions are tacky. Polyester is tacky. Tanning beds are tacky. Plastic flowers are tacky. The death penalty is tacky. The death penalty? Yes, the death penalty. I actually heard someone say that on network TV one time. i was watching a political talk show and this William F. Buckley type was going on and on about why we should have the death penalty. He was obviously well educated and making sure that everybody knew it. I didn't think he'd ever stop talking. Finally, it was the other man's turn. I heard the moderator say, "Well, Reverend, let's hear your views." I immediately sat up and took notice because right there on national TV was everybody's favorite Southern Baptist agitator, my good buddy Will Campbell. The camera panned to Will's face, which was scrunched up like he'd just gotten a whiff of bad shrimp. Finally he said, "'s tacky." The moderator and Mr. Erudite Republican looked at each other, then cleared their throats. "Excuse me?"

"Tacky," Will repeated. "The death penalty is tacky."

Mr. Erudite looked at his watch. Mr. Moderator was trying to keep things rolling.

"And what exactly does 'tacky' mean, Reverend?"

"'s a word we use in the South that describes anything that's artificial and unnatural," Will explained, "...that goes too know...tacky."

Mr. Moderator looked over at Mr. Erudite. They both shrugged while the network cut to a commercial break.*

God save us from all the tacky that abounds in this world. Tacky is Hizzoner the Walking Id heading off to a community forum as an expert of sorts on lessons learned from catastrophic events, and serving on that same forum with deposed HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson. Tacky is anything involving Jeremy Shockey, who is himself the embodiment of tacky. Perhaps he designed the Saints bikini I saw in KMart the other day, a tacky-on-tacky thing to see if I ever saw one.

Just for comparison's sake - and just because I wanna show off the stuff I've found on the internet recently - let's see a couple of things that are not tacky:

Ms Alberta Hunter doing some Rough and Ready blues

...and the news that Cameron Frye's house is up for sale in Highland Park. Bueller? Bueller? The tackiest part of that tale, for some reason was learning that the Ferrari that went out the window and into the ravine wasn't a real Ferrari but a fiberglass replica. That's just not right.

The epitome of tacky, however, is the news that local trash diva Veronica White will be signing her book on maximizing FEMA funding after a natural disaster tomorrow night at Dillard University. Forget that what happened on 8-29-05 and after could be construed as more of an unnatural disaster (although I wouldn't characterize all of it as tacky, only certain black-humor-ish aspects of it) ...I can't think of anything tackier than this sorry negotiator of trash contracts that are costing this city money it cannot afford to throw out with the garbage collection getting people to come out and sign a bunch of dead trees she happened to have killed just so she could make a name for herself as another disaster expert.

What on earth qualifies her for this sort of thing other than that she lives in post-apocalyptic New Orleans? If all that is needed is proof of residency here to bolster one's status as an expert in the disaster field, then all of us who live here have PhDs.

Dolly Parton once said, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!" She should know. But no matter how tacky Dolly tries to look, she will always be cool. Sometimes you can be so over-the-top tacky that you end up cool.*

This sort of profiteering off the insanity that is what happened here (and is still happening in many ways) after the storm and the levee breaches, is never, ever going to be cool. Ms White ought to donate all the proceeds of her book to the Division of Natural Sciences and Public Health at Dillard, not just a portion. The greenbacks are dead trees that can make a difference.

Otherwise, these books are headed for the trash heaps Ms White is throwing our money into.

*Marshall Chapman, Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller


Update, 11:54 AM: Decidedly NOT tacky: Supporting funding for the Louisiana Food Bank Association:

2009 funding for Louisiana Food Banks and the Louisiana Nutrition Assistance Program (LANIAP) currently rests with the Senate Finance Committee. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, please help the Louisiana Food Bank Association by calling, faxing or emailing members of the Senate Finance Committee with the following message:


I urge you to support an amendment to HB1 or the Supplemental Spending Bill that would provide funding, in full or in part, to support the Louisiana Food Bank Association’s LANIAP program that provides Louisiana food to Louisiana people. The need is real, the situation is urgent, and it is the right thing to do.

Contact info for Louisiana Senate Finance Committee Members below the Jump:

Senator John A. Alario, Jr.
1063 Muller Parkway
Westwego, LA 70094
(504) 340-2221
(504) 341-0794 (fax)

Senator Sharon Weston Broome
P. O. Box 52783
Baton Rouge, LA 70892
(225) 359-9352
(225) 359-9353 (fax)

Senator Sherri Smith Cheek
9973 Mansfield Road
Keithville, LA 71047
(318) 687-4820
(318) 687-4077 (fax)

Senator Jack Donahue
3840 Hwy. 22
Suite 200
Mandeville, LA 70471
(985) 727-7949
(985) 727-9904 (fax)

Senator “Nick” Gautreaux
209 E. St. Victor Street
Abbeville, LA 70510
(337) 740-6425
(337) 740-6400 (fax)

Senator Eric LaFleur
P.O. Box 617
Ville Platte, LA 70586
(337) 363-5019
(337) 337-6812 (fax)

Senator Edwin R. Murray
1540 N. Broad St.
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 945-0042
(504) 942-5968 (fax)

Senator John R. Smith
611-B South 5th Street
Leesville, LA 71446
(800) 259-2709 / (337) 238-2709
(337)238-6444 (fax)

Senator Mike Walsworth
4007 White’s Ferry Rd
Suite A
West Monroe, LA 71291
(318) 396-5499
(318)396-0192 (fax)

Senator Gerald Long (Interim Member)
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483
(318) 628-5799
(318) 628-6120 (fax)

Senator Willie L. Mount (Interim Member)
P.O. Box 3004
Lake Charles, LA 70602
(337) 491-2016
(337) 433-8080 (fax)

Senator Francis Thompson (Interim Member)
P.O. Box 68
Delhi, LA 71232
(318) 878-9408
(318) 878-5650 (fax)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Next to me stood a mother who had been assigned to help me get second line hankies painted with the kids as a school festival activity this past Saturday. At one point, both our sons and her daughter were gathered at the table, going to town with all the fabric paints, the puffy paint, and the fleur-de-lis stencils as another mother passed by, snapped our pictures, and wrote down our names for publication.

"I'm sorry if I keep asking your names," she said apologetically. "I have trouble keeping them all in my head."

"Well, that's what the notepad is for, right?" I said, grinning.

She laughed a little. "I used to be a reporter...but ever since I had my first child, it's like any capacity I had to remember people's names, what they said, locations off the top of my head...that capacity is gone. Even with the notepad, I have to ask a bunch of times just to make sure what I wrote down is correct."

The reporter mom walked away, and the mom helping me and I talked a bit more about how our brains got rewired by our hormones. Helper Mom told me she had a hard time sitting down and reading a book straight through. I said I had always done it to a small degree, but I find myself reading several books at a time more often: reading one until my mind wanders, putting it down when that happens, and picking up another. It's amazing I can still keep the stories straight.

"Of course, I could always attribute the shorter attention span to all my time on the Internet," I said, laughing.

In some ways, it comes as no surprise that I'm not the only one in that predicament. Seems many publishers out there have decided they are in the same boat, and they want online statistics to do their jobs for them. Less than 500 readers? Go to hell, writers!

The writers' inclination, understandably, is to tell the publishers to take long walks off their online platforms. Therefore, just as blogging is now apparently killing journalism, it is also getting in the way of the way a writer's life is supposedly conducted. Faster, Writers, Kill, Kill That Badass Internet for getting in the way of your dreams! Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!

Granted, I am not banging my head against many walls to try to get my work in print. This is a rough world out there, made even rougher by the insistence on the bottom line - and publishers of print media have not taken into account what it takes to be more flexible and to quit looking at their shops as printers of greenbacks. Most of them are learning much too late in the game that this is not the way to see newspapers and publishing houses - but instead of taking a long hard look at what they have done, it's so much easier to slough it all off on the internet, make the sign of the cross at it, and tell others that virtual hoodoo is taking their livelihood.

Writers aren't flocking to the internet much, either, though, because there is still a lot of crap out there when you troll the web. When everybody and his brother and sister can establish a website for free and start posting pictures of their cats and dogs living together while the kids jump off trampolines around their coexistence and tell everybody how much they love their favorite celebrity and sci-fi genre, well, it loses its gloss pretty quickly. Who the hell can write great literature for 500 per day of that lot? It takes serious publicity hounds and professional exhibitionists, right? That's it, I'm off the blogging thing! It's too much of a wild world of weblogs.

First off: everyone has to make the decisions that are right for them. If, as a writer, one feels the need to get off the internets, go. Barring a worldwide electromagnetic pulse, the web ain't going nowhere. If, as a publisher, you are feeling swamped by the hunt for the needle in the haystack that will be on the New York Times bestseller list for two years or so, narrow it down, by all means.

It's just...blaming the Internet is beginning to take on all the attributes of blaming God. I won't be surprised if, one day, the entire Internet as an entity in and of itself is brought to trial in a court of law. Whatever decisions are made, don't lay it at the virtual feet of the interwebs and tell it it's all its fault....not for too long, anyway. Recover, regroup. Get back into thinking about why you got where you did and how you want to continue. Get in touch with the world for a while. Yes, I'm spouting every cliche short of "don't give up" if it's what you really want, because the cliches still apply, regardless of how fast and furiously crazy things get.

There is still a need for great works of writing out there, and for folks to put in the time to bring us those stories, to fire our imaginations, to get our brains in motion that is more contemplative. Otherwise, most of the bookstores would be long gone, as would all the great works of literature of the past and of right now.

Don't go gently into the cathode-ray tubeless night, any of you, is all I'm saying.

Unless it really is your hormones. In that case - speaking as a rewired mother - may God and any healing methods you choose help you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dave Zirin's take on New Orleans as Super Bowl host in 2013?

Another sporting shock doctrine:
"No city has been through more than New Orleans," said Rita Benson LeBlanc, a part owner of the New Orleans Saints. "This is just a true testament to what an entire community can do."

Pasquarelli added, "Playing host to a Super Bowl should address some of the city's lingering problems." By "lingering problems" he must mean sky-high poverty and unemployment. Much has been made about the city's comeback, on the basis of healthy employment numbers (relative to the rest of the country) and a mini-construction boom buoyed by post-Katrina reconstruction.

But many New Orleans residents still feel compelled to celebrate any infusion of business, particularly the business of unlimited expense accounts and debauchery the Super Bowl inevitably brings with it. This is because the poverty in the city is still persistent. In March, the metro area lost jobs for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. And New Orleans, with some families still living in federal trailers and others still trying to return, remains the murder capital of the United States.

This is because the city has become profoundly dependent on its service economy since 2005.

This is also because the Obama administration has to date done nothing to help the Gulf Coast despite his repeated assurances to do otherwise. A look at shows a depressing litany of broken promises straight from Obama's mouth on everything from strengthening the levees to rebuilding hospitals and schools.

As New Orleans resident and commentator Harry Shearer wrote:

“The farther we get into this administration, the clearer it becomes that New Orleans is now enjoying its second consecutive federal administration which, far from offering to fix what it broke, far from offering a hand of support, is merely offering one finger.”

This is why, in the absence of alternatives, the Super Bowl money train looks all the more seductive.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Yippee! Love, Dan" was what the card on the flowers said. I told Dan I loved it when I called him to check on his retrieval of our son from the babysitters' last night, and then I conked out. An anniversary dinner celebrated at a New Orleans Wine and Food Experience dinner will do that to you.

I'd never been to Broussard's before, though I'd walked by it many times and seen the picture of Gennifer Flowers in the window, along with the dates of her performances at the restaurant. They have a beautiful courtyard, a noisy dining room right off the street, and some of the strangest tiles of cherubs (uhhh, putti, pardon me) clad only in aprons and toques dancing around the walls of their foyer. It was there that I drank six-seven glasses of wine, some of it made from cloned grapes, enjoyed some conversation with my husband of eight years and some good, good food, and observed a fellow at the table next to ours taking iPhone pictures of the labels on each wine bottle the waiters used to refill each glass for each course of the meal.

"Beats collecting the corks or soaking the labels off, eh?" I said to him in my increasingly drunken state. He agreed, and we chatted for a bit. He was a Jefferson Parish policeman, and when he heard where we lived in New Orleans, he said, "Oooh, y'all be careful!"

Lovely. Just what I needed to hear.

"You know the crime is gonna be a biggie as far as the Super Bowl is concerned, right?" I said to Dan.

"Oh, we got the Super Bowl?"
"Yeah, for 2013," I said.

Sure, it's a good thing for this city. It always is when the NFL decides to put what has become more than just a game right here in our midst. Especially now.

Oh, hell, I'm not being ungrateful. If it weren't for Paul Tagliabue insisting on the Superdome being spiffed up and shined to a high gloss of sorts in time for the first Monday Night Football of the 2006-2007 season, Tom Benson would have moved the team to San Antonio, most likely. No Saints, no purpose for the Dome other than scrounging for more exhibitions, more Mardi Gras balls, more NCAA championship games and bowl games. Then the way is a tad more rocky for New Orleans hosting future Super Bowls. Tagliabue helped make it a smoother road right from almost the very start after the events of 8-29-05.

Detours on that road to Super Bowl hosting, however, have included other conventions taking a pass on New Orleans as their host due to the ever-popular urine in the education pool Louisiana Science Education Act Bobby Jindal signed into law and to the ever-present horrific specter of violent crime that is still rearing its ugly head. For the NFL to give this city its vote of confidence in hosting its biggest event is indeed a boost in many ways. We still run on tourism down here. There hasn't been much going on in the way of diversifying the local economy. But the fact that our population is growing much faster than anybody had predicted it would nearly four years ago - and that that population is supporting the home team in so, so many ways - are also big factors in having this event come back here for a tenth time in its history. We are the pros. We can do this, despite all that has happened to us. I'm sure there will once again be calls for New Orleans to host it every year.

This town has four years in which to address the problems that could cause all of this good fortune to come crashing down around us. I hope we take that time and use it wisely.

I will certainly raise a glass to that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

This past weekend has taught me many things:
-Whatever happens to my hair is apparently now the property of my synagogue.

I got it cut on the last day of religious school, donated the hair to Locks of Love, and somehow it was turned into a media event. I was filmed before and during the cut, along with two other LoL volunteers, the video was shown to the kids at a last day of school assembly, and then I emerged, a la Extreme Makeover: Balabusteh Edition. My decision to do it was even mentioned in the synagogue bulletin. It's been a couple of weeks now, and people are still exclaiming over my hair, even ones who I don't well, but who have seen me off and on and are now coming over to me to tell me how my hair has changed their lives in some way. Move over, Stacy and synagogue is proving to be a badass in the physical changes department.

-Hello, World, my name is Leigh, and I am a Facebook games addict.

First, after I'd determined that I am the captain of both the Enterprise NCC-1701 and 1701-D, that, if I were a New Orleans neighborhood, I would most resemble the neighborhoods of Gentilly and New Orleans East, and that I am apparently 100% Long Island (Dan is 0%, and, most interestingly, it seems that the polar opposite of Long Island is New Jersey. The description of how non-Long Island he is also includes a dis of his driving skills, which made me wonder if my dad had made up the quiz.), it was a click of link that took me to a series of MindJolt games I could play to my heart's content and beyond, and then the granddaddy of 'em all came down the pike in the form of a badge from a friend saying she'd just gotten a high score. I clicked on the link to that game and have now been sucked into a living dream of playing one minute long games with all the bells and whistles and the constant yearning to send smack talk to all the other friends whose scores are higher than mine and to post the same little badge on my Facebook updates when I BEAT THE ASSES OF ALL MY FRIENDS AT BEJEWELED BLITZ! EAT THAT, YOU DULL CRYSTAL FLIPPERS! Oh, wait... someone just made to near 150,000 points in a minute's time of play? IT IS ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!!!!!

I can't believe I just wrote that. I need serious help before my forearm falls off due to tendonitis in my elbow from pointing and clicking the mouse for long periods of time.

-Yes, I know my son is a flirt of sorts - he was at the pool on Saturday telling a girl his age to pull off her swim goggles so that he could see her eyes, and a friend at the pool told me he needed to save that one for when he got older. What I didn't know was how much he loved to do things like hack away at our front bushes with hedge clippers on the pretext of getting rid of the cat's claw in them. He did get rid of it, but he left a pile of twigs by our front steps and then wondered why the garbage men didn't pick that stuff up this morning. Time to teach the kid how to bag 'em.

His other surprise? This child, who is loath to get into any costume whatsoever unless he has dictated every aspect of its appearance or has sanctioned its purchase...this kid, who will only allow baseball caps to touch his head, and only for short periods of time...this son of mine who really has never wanted to be anyone but himself as a pilot, truck driver, or race car driver...this little guy decided at an event my husband took him to yesterday that he wanted to have his face painted. He wanted to look like a cobra, and he waited patiently in line and waited even more patiently as they turned his sweet face into a frightening venomous hooded snake face, with forked tongue lashing out to the side. It was strangely, scarily amazing.

"Why a cobra?" I asked him.
"It's my favorite snake!" he said.

News to me.

-More instances are cropping up in which, for all the lofty reasons why the Information Age has made things easier communications and technology-wise, there is nothing like the lowest common denominator to drag it all down into the muck and wrestle it into submission and tabloid fodder. When the local paper has to publish something that the rest of the world has already known for a number of years pertaining to how to behave with basic email, it only reinforces this as our town's motto. How much further behind can we get, folks? Should we start trolling through the emails of everybody who is supposed to be helping us to see what sort of indictable sins we can uncover? I propose we go to the folks running the Road Home program and request their emails to see where all that money is going. What I have said and Ms Verite says about Stacy Head still stands.

And as for Ms Nolting... be careful who and what you write about and how you do it, especially if it pertains to your job. On Joe Longo: well, go read Greg. Now.

Update, 5-19 : From Cliff:

I know what some people are going to say when they read this. They are going to let me know that we need transparency, and corruption hurts us all. They will mention Nagin’s trips and the crime camera debacle and Stacy Head’s emails. All of those things did happen and should be looked into but look around this city. Most of these problems were here long before either one of them got in office. Do I think we should ignore any wrong doing? I don’t think that at all. I’m saying that if all we get from turning over all these stones is bad feelings and new faces in office we will have the same problems because there will be no policy changes to benefit the public. Isn’t that what all of this is supposed to be for? Why does it seem that we never talk about any of that very much? Sooner or later we have to move on to other things. What is the plan for the future of the city when there is nothing left to investigate?
Now excuse me while I log onto Facebook and play the games 'til I have to bring my son home...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Higher Education With A Full Clip

So the Louisiana pols have decided it's a good idea to approve a bill allowing concealed handguns to be carried on college campuses provided that the carrier of said weapon have the proper permits, with a stipulation allowing the college to dictate where the guns could be stored while the carrier is on campus. Somebody on the Tweeter Tube asked for thoughts on this state of affairs, and I decided my two 140-character responses weren't going to cut it as far as what I really think of this idea.

How would my life in college have been different with easy access to firearms, I wonder? Let me count the ways...

-I was awakened at 2 AM or so one night my freshman year by my roommate's phone ringing. I groggily picked my head up in anguish at this terrible time for a phone call, and realized I couldn't go back to sleep due to the background noise that sounded like a bunch of people drumming on anything they could in the lower quad just outside my window. Imagine my surprise at discovering that was actually the case. Imagine what the reaction would have been had I pulled out a firearm and taken aim at an overturned 55-gallon drum a kid was whaling on. I'm quite happy the campus police broke it up without the use of any weapons, but boy, my sleep wasn't the same after that that night.

-Let's count damn near every other critique of my work I went through in college, which, after all the work I put into the many art pieces I did, for some of the instructors to say the things they did about what I did, or to not even acknowledge that I actually did some work...well, bullets in their brains would certainly have made me feel better, right? Especially since I wasn't diagnosed with depression and treated for it until well after I graduated college. Discharging a weapon in those situations certainly would have lessened the number of crying jags I had after such critiques.

-Despite the drinking age being 21 at the time I was in college, one look at the recycle bins for glass told a much different story concerning how much my fellow under-21 classmates were adhering to the letter of the law. Now, later on in my college days, I actually did pop off a pistol at some plastic milk jugs set up on a fence, as the pistol belonged to an ex-boyfriend's horrible father who had left his mother for some other broad and the ex-boyfriend wanted to use up all the ammo just to spite his dad. I now imagine all my college classmates in the holding tank that is the freshman dorms taking all those bottles from the recycle bin, heading on down to the Providence River with 'em, and popping off their firearms at those bottles in the late evenings - times that used to be reserved for street luge-ing on skateboards down the hills that surrounded the dorms. Thanks but noooo thanks. I'd have 'em yank the drinking age back down first.

- A visiting artist once told of how, in his younger days, he created a series of works in which he would make blown glass bubbles and have his assistant shoot the hot glass while it was on the end of a pipe, a process that had to be discontinued when he and the assistant quit getting along with each other. I'd rather have hydroflouric acid dripped down both my arms first before I did anything like that, and that's saying a lot, coming from me.

-On a side note: If firearms had been readily available to my dad's students when he was an assistant professor and his chainsaw accident had occurred, my younger brother would most likely not be alive today.

Also, think about this: the use of concealed weaponry in the worst-ever public high school massacre in America caused the most carnage in that school's library, to the extent that, in the aftermath of the tragedy, the school ripped it out, turned it into an atrium, and relocated the library facilities elsewhere in the school. Louisiana lawmakers: in permitting this thing to stand, you will most likely be encouraging armed students to be stressing our already seriously stressed institutions of higher education and forcing said institutions into rebuilding and remodeling scenarios by allowing their students greater access to weapons....because the last thing any stressed-out college students need are reminders of carnage created by other stressed-out college students. New libraries and remodeled facilities cost money. You have been obsessed lately with cutting colleges' access to that money.

I vote for more libraries and fewer bloodstains.

A response from Saintseester in the comments:

I wouldn't compare the gunmen at Columbine to the law-abiding concealed carriers who go through the training and application process necessary for carrying a personal gun.

As a professor, who was threatened by a student on campus, I am not opposed to allowing faculty and other staff to carry legally. (You have to be at least 21 anyway, so that rules out a lot of the student body.)

I guess my real beef boils down to this:

I wasn't aware of the age limit on permits. And I can understand wanting to defend oneself against threats like the one you received from a student. I'm so sorry.

It just seems so insane to have to go as far as allowing this so that everybody can feel that another Blacksburg won't happen, when what is really needed (or, at the very least, ought to be funded and legislated in addition to it) are better ways of catching these people before a bullet or many bullets are needed to stop them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So our U.S. senator "Diaper Dave" Vitter has finally dropped his hold on the nomination of an individual with actual emergency management experience to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. All because he must have been making some sort of point about whether our current president could possibly nominate someone to do that job better than one from his own party.

Let's let Lewis Black tell us how well that last nomination went under a GOP preznit, shall we?

New Orleans (The Carnegie Hall Perform) - Lewis Black
It took Monday to decompress from my Saturday and Sunday. Not that my weekend wasn't good, it just entailed a lot of running around. I felt as though I was permanently attached to my car at one point...but as long as taking my little guy to the pool and to his first baseball game of the season (not to mention taking li'l ol' me to a Geek Dinner, 'cause if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy) made him a happy camper, it was all worth it.

Since our swine flu stay-at-home time, we've been heading to the swimming pool a great deal. And not just any son prefers the pool he learned how to swim in for the past few summers, to the point where he refuses to swim in other pools I take him to. Granted, I can understand the pool preference thing, as there are some swimming pools I've seen that have seriously creeped me out, and he is still a novice swimmer, but I hope he gets comfortable swimming in more than one pool, and soon. It gets crazy having to schlep the kid out to Metairie all the time.

Seeing the kid swim, however, makes me realize how spoiled I was when I was learning how to swim. I had access to pools that weren't too shallow or too deep, so I could practice moving about in the water without freaking out about whether or not I could touch the bottom of the pool if I had trouble doggy-paddling. My son is learning in pools with shallow ends at 3 to 3 1/2 feet deep, and he spent a couple of summers hanging out on the steps that bring the kids down to that level, since he was too short to be confident that the water wouldn't be over his head when he tried to stand on the pool floor.

Where does that leave us, then? Picture a bizarre, quasi-comedic ritual of having this child continually jump in the pool not far from those same steps he spent so much time on these past few summers, dog-paddle or kick over to those steps, climb out, and jump in again, yelling things like "Keep your legs straight when you hit the water!" in a British accent, while I repeatedly try to give him tips such as "Paddle with your arms in front of your head, honey, not off to the sides of your body," and am repeatedly ignored on that count. Thankfully, I am not ignored when the kid gets more confident and decides to jump into the pool at a distance further away from the steps but still close to the wall of the pool: "Kiddo, you're getting tired, I can tell. Swim to the wall when you get tired,"I say, and, wonder of wonders, he does what I say and the lifeguard breathes a sigh of relief.

And, in this way, the little guy's swimming slowly improves.



So glad to have been able to attend my first Geek Dinner in a long while, and to have dragged lunanola and Net2NO's Jessica Rohloff into the mix over there Saturday night! Just wish I could have stayed longer, but the little guy was tanking from a full day himself, even though he outlasted Dangerblond in her own house, no less. It was good to see Racymind again and see she was doing well, but boy, did I miss Sophmom. Please get well soon, madame!

Also, a hearty mazel tov to Clay and Candice on their engagement (They met at Geek Dinner III - a match made through NOLA blogging circles!), and to Pistolette on the birth of her second child.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A blue moon ago or so, yaller blogger Jeffrey threw up a post that said he might as well shut down his blog, as some of his best posts were comments on another blog.

Well, now I'm hitting one of those stretches, only the place where I've been leaving supposed "gems" behind has been The Gambit's Blog of New Orleans. First it was the swine flu insanity. Currently, it is Nine Lives author Dan Baum's use of Twitter to tell the story of how he was fired from the staff of The New Yorker magazine. From Baum's reply to Kevin Allman's post:

Tweeting this story about my time at the New Yorker is a strange exercise, I’ll grant you that. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t realize the size of the tiger whose tail I was grabbing. I had 25 followers at lunchtime today and watching the number soar is a bit unnerving.

Mr Baum, from one veteran Tweeter Tube wrassler (3,984 tweets to date!) to you, a novice at the use of this medium, I will first tell you that trying to read through your story as it is - from the bottom up and in incomplete sentences - gave me quite a headache. Your tale so far is intriguing, but the format is infuriating.

Having said that, there are ways to turn the limitations of Twitter to your advantage. Consider your sentences and your usage of words much more carefully, and don't shy away from using abbreviations, as it can sometimes be the only way to get things across within a 140 character limit. You're using links to your proposals, which is great. Just keep it all tight so it makes sense without the dyslexic sensation for the readers.

Also, if you are doing this in order to answer the New Yorker questions everybody seems to have for you during interviews and q-&-a's on your book tour, use the interactivity of Twitter to keep the current tweets from having that one-sided conversational feeling. Reach out to your readers a little more, ask them where they might want this tale of yours to go and use it as a guide (possible case in point). Otherwise, take this well-written, highly disjointed story in the making and post it on your website in full.

As for what Baum's motive might be in starting on this Sisyphean endeavor, journalist Nancy Rommelman alerts readers of the Blog of New Orleans post of this post at Bloggasm concerning Baum's ironic use of tweets to tell his story about the business practices of a magazine that has printed "some of the longest articles in the industry." Baum essentially says, over on Bloggasm, that yes, he’s thinking it might sell some books, Rommelman says...and heeeeere's where the fine line between integrity and self-promotion starts to fray.

Motive is always tricky. Motive, when all is said and done, turns an action right back on the person performing it and, depending on the circumstances, can caress or kill.

Baum, again:

It’s a gimmick, yes, and I hope it sells books, sure. But it’s also galled me a bit, as a reporter, that the New Yorker pulls a veil of secrecy over itself to rival the NSA. I mean, it’s a very good magazine, but it’s just a magazine. And as I travel to talk about “Nine Lives,” people express a lot of interest in it. “How does it work over there?” “How do you break in?” “What’s the editing process like?” “Why’d you get fired?” The New Yorker is a national institution, and I have a journalist’s natural urge to inform the public about it.

Without giving too much away, my getting fired was in very large part my own fault, so it’s not a full-on dish by an aggrieved victim. And I hope people will see that I have a lot of good things to say about the place.

So, the motive, according to Baum, is to follow his journalistic impulses, that "natural urge". And that's a good urge, overall. That's an urge that led him to write a great book that hopefully will stand the test of time and stand apart from the unfortunate foot-in-mouth comments he made about the people of New Orleans in the promotion of said book.

What I still question, however, is the use of Twitter for this purpose, which is one hell of a place to try to straddle that fine line between integrity and self-promotion.

Personally, I smell another nonfiction book in all of this on the inner workings of The New Yorker from the perspective of someone who was once an insider of sorts....although there are most certainly even more fine lines to consider when the sad tale of one's firing is in book form, no matter what the circumstances.

Watch your six with this trick, Mr Baum.

Update, 5-9: Another aspect of the tweets that Dana Goldstein picked up on through the use of pronouns:

Reading his tweets, I felt compassion for a fellow magazine journalist, who is obviously heartbroken after being dumped by the magazine he loves. But I also noticed something else: In discussing his work, Baum alternates between use of singular and plural pronouns. “I mailed in the proposal,” he writes about one article pitch. And then, a few minutes later, referring readers to his website: “I’ve posted a lot our successful magazine proposals there.”

A visit to Baum’s personal website illuminates this curiosity. According to the site, “everything that goes out under the byline ‘Dan Baum’ is at least half Margaret’s work.” Margaret is Baum’s wife, Margaret Knox, whom he met in 1986 while both journalists were working at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution...

...there is something troubling to me about the way Dan and Margaret go to pains to portray their working relationship as a partnership of equals…even though Margaret’s name appears nowhere on their work. In the workplace, editors also don’t get byline credit for the work they do, but they do appear on a publication’s masthead, and most importantly, they are paid for their efforts. Margaret Knox’s situation is totally different. Outside of the “Dan Baum” website, her work alongside her husband goes completely unacknowledged by readers. Indeed, the editors of the magazines for which Dan writes undoubtedly consider themselves the most important collaborators on his work, regardless of the labor Margaret puts into Dan’s drafts before he submits them. As an editor myself, I wouldn’t know what to make of a writer who came into the editing process regarding their spouse or significant other as an equal partner in negotiations over a piece. It seems deeply problematic from a professional standpoint.

Maybe this rubs me the wrong way, in part, because I’m a journalist with a history of dating other journalists. Such relationships are often collaborative, and yet I can’t imagine subsuming my individual, professional identity to anyone else’s. There's also a hard truth reflected in the Baum-Knox relationship, as pointed out by my own wonderful editor, Ann Friedman: Many wives in dual-journalist couples assume the "editor" role because editing jobs often have better hours, are more stable and flexible, and allow women to take on the lion's share of child rearing responsibilities.

A comment on the Goldstein post:

On a related note, I once heard David Rawlings say that he plays in a two-person band named Gillian Welch.

Anudder update, 5-11: Sasha Frere-Jones on who is on Twitter.

One mo' time, 5-12: Only one way to illustrate the conclusion of Dan Baum's New Yorker saga:

To see why, go read. A sampling:

To me, listening to a man carp about making $90,000 a year by writing for The New Yorker is like listening to an NBA star carp about his measly $15 million contract. It’s unseemly. It’s infuriating. And it’s particularly maddening when that journalist is making his 90K by living among and reporting on folks who have just gone through a major collective tragedy, many of whom have lost everything they ever worked for. (What would’ve been sufficient recompense for Baum’s mandatory 576 words a week, I wonder? $150,000? $500,000? A 5-year contract? A 50-year contract?)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

End of Days, wait, not THE end of days. Just the end of my son's exile from school due to the Hone None Flua.

Much as I love the little guy, I also dearly love his teachers who are with him every weekday from 8 AM to 3-ish, 'cause they're the ones who have the teaching materials and the lesson plans. All I had was The Great Muppet Caper (we returned Jungle Book 2, thank God. Even the little guy was asking me when I was going to return it.), a pack of 8 1/2 x 11 paper that we colored on (well, I colored on) and folded into paper airplanes , and, yesterday, an open Children's Museum that he insisted on riding his bike to, which would have been fine except I knew that he wasn't that great on the bike yet so I couldn't ride one of ours to accompany him. At least he knows enough to stop at the street corners and wait for me. An unexpected snag in the whole operation was the fool bike throwing off its chain on the trip to the museum and on the trip back home. Nothing like struggling to get a dirty, greasy bike chain back on under the Pontchartrain Expressway, let me tell you. This time, I truly welcomed the trip to the pool after 4 PM.

I soaked in the pool while the kid did his jumping in and climbing out routine, with his only break coming during the lifeguards' 10 minute break. No wonder he didn't want to get up this morning.

Then again, he never wants to get up on school days. Perhaps if they pushed his school start time to 9:30 AM...wishful thinking, I know.

So today is the first day I've been able to actually check out my morning paper, and the first headline concerning Nagin's Greg Meffert-sponsored trip to Jamaica being "a blur" to him made me want to wring the Walking Id's neck. A trip to a tropical isle in first-class seats, even if I were completely freaked out by the events of 8-29-05, would be a godsend and something to remember for certain. I'd expect my son to say such a thing about our trip to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island when he was two, because he was so young, I'm sure the week-long jaunt we took was a blur to him. The only thing the kid might be able to recall would be when we walked on the sea floor at the Hopewell Rocks, if anything.

Just saying...there's a reason why I call our mayor the Walking Id: his answers sometimes to queries are no better than the ones my single-digit aged son gives, and, though my little guy is getting more considerate of others as he gets older, there is still some strong inner id motivating some of the things he does. He's a kid, still. Vigilance and constant reinforcement of basic consideration for others in one's actions are still the keys there. From such reinforcement comes moments like the one at the museum yesterday, when the kid held the elevator door open and asked me to wait as our fellow elevator-mates, a mama with a kid in a stroller, exited the elevator first. I mean, wow.

Who maintained such vigilance over the actions of the schmo in the Mayor's Office? Certainly not the man's family. The flood-shocked public has consistently had its butt kicked by many other matters, sadly. Whatever other advisors he's surrounded himself with have simply helped feed whatever delusions he might still be harboring concerning his so-called "legacy", and if, by some insane stretch of the imagination, this man isn't crazy like a fox, but simply crazy, his crime might be at the most a misguided loyalty for these people who tell him what he wants to hear and send him to Hawaii and Jamaica to ease his blurred mind.

In any case, we do deserve better than this schmuck.

But, do we really believe that we deserve better?

'Cause if we do, that belief is gonna go a long way towards selecting someone next year who will actually serve this disgruntled, recovering public.

Update, 2:16 PM: The Gambit wants to know: what's your blur?

Anudder update, 5-11: For other reasons on why the Walking Id's blur is appalling in a public servant, go read.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Day Three

(Days One and Two, for reference)

This Note's For You

I forgot that the pool wasn't open until 4 PM. Silly me. We stayed at home counting down the hours until that time, when we could pull on the sandals, tool it on over to the pool, and commence the incessant jumping-in the little guy seems to love to do right now. If he could swim better, I'd sign him up for diving lessons, he's that enthralled with getting out and jumping in. Hey, the swim lessons come first.

We returned to our house to find our tenants on the front porch, one of them strumming a bass guitar. This inspired my son to run upstairs and retrieve the six-string acoustic he got for the holidays that he still can't play - yes, I'm in the market for guitar lessons for him as well. The talk got onto why the tenant's guitar had only four strings and why the strings were so thick and what's with the hole beneath the dials on the bass and why wasn't it plugged in and hey, which hand is your dominant hand? Speculation wandered over to other guitarists and musicians who were lefties and how they worked around the very right-handed world of guitars (Kurt Cobain restrung his Stratocaster and turned it upside-down to play it, as did many others like Hendrix. There are more lefty models of guitars being made, but it's just another thing that makes you realize what a righty-dominated world we live in), and somehow, we got on the subject of Neil Young at JazzFest.

Our bass man reported that friends of his said Young brought more equipment than he'd ever seen before at the Fest, and that the man's guitar was still out of tune, plus, the equipment was mostly junk. A thought popped into my head concerning the antiquity of the stuff.

"He might be saving it for projects like the train set he built that one of his sons who is stricken with severe cerebral palsy could operate. After all, it's got stuff like old vacuum cleaners as part of the scenery."

It's funny how many people know Young for his music, but have no inkling of how much he loves to tinker with toys large and small. Some more searching by me found this Lionel train set he designed. Only 500 of these have been made:

Take a ride to Greendale and discover a place where the citizenry believe in personal rights, protection of the environment, and sanctuary from corporate greed. A place that has, as its motto says, “everything you’re looking for.”

Based on the popular “musical novel” by renowned recording artist and Lionel part-owner, Neil Young, the Greendale train set evokes some of the most powerful messages from the story. From the Millennium News Network (MNN) television car and BIG OIL tank car, to the Devil animated gondola and presidential election campaign observation car, the set tells the story of modern day issues that besiege all of us on a daily basis.

It certainly ain't your grandpa's train set. Hey, I don't even know if my dad would get much of a charge out of it, and he's clued into stuff like the misstep that is the Lionel "girl's set".

Well, one of the biggest projects Neil has embarked on as of yet in the tinkering department is the LincVolt, an attempt to take a '59 Lincoln Continental convertible and transform it into an electric car. The object in doing so:

We want to build a zero emissions automobile that eliminates roadside re-fueling entirely, a safe powerful automobile that is comfortable and economic on both long trips and the commute to work, an automobile that can generate power to the home when it is parked, potentially creating an income stream for the owner.

By working with established technologies in new ways, with the best people and companies available in each field, and creating a film about the innovative re-powering of a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible and its trip around the USA, we aim to publicize our story of innovation to make a major difference in the knowledge of, creation, and use of clean power in the 21st Century. a 2.5 ton 19.5 foot automobile, making automotive history with an extended range and mpg that has never been attained in a full size vehicle.

Obstacles like resistance to change, the need for economic rebalance created by change, and the limitations of existing infrastructure will be met with education and proof of a clean power technology system that provides economic savings for the owner, helps to save the planet, and enhances the security of the world.

We will know we have succeeded when we have one or more major companies building automobiles that use our technology or something similar, creating 0 emissions, while saving money for the owner. We will also know we have succeeded when the world's power generating plants start using our clean technology or another clean technology that delivers comparable results.

Having checked out the LincVolt site, a video made of Young's "Johnny Magic" with him driving the thing (The way the video was shot, it's amazing the Lincoln didn't crash), and Neil Young as blogger: If the Big three cannot agree to make only cars that are fuel efficient enough to get at least 50 MPG by 2011, 75 MPG by 2013 and 100 MPG by 2015, then they should go into bankruptcy and fend for themselves like all the other businesses that are having trouble. The truth is this can be done and innovators know the way to do it. -I am now convinced that the man needs to replace our hapless Setback Czar come June 1st.

And I don't CARE how junky his sound system is. When he wants to lend an operational hand to making it state-of-the-art, he most certainly will.

Oh, and we're out of pickles. None of those for breakfast today.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Day Two

(see Day One)

"Nobody reads those. Do they?"
"Sure they do. They all have families."*

Weird things began to go through my head yesterday. Don't dress the little guy in t-shirts with his school's name on 'em. Don't take him out of the house after 2 pm, lest anyone suspect he's one of those kids from the afflicted school. Yes, thinking about that stuff probably says more about me than about anybody else in this town, but hey, I was at a gathering last Wednesday and the kid waiting in the food line ahead of me would alternate talking to me and hacking away on a bad, wet cough, and all I had in mind at the time was the flu panic the media is doing its best to foment.

So. Yesterday, largely due to the weather in the morning, we stayed home until about two in the afternoon. No venturing out to the swimming pool, even though the weather did clear up not long after we decided to venture out. Our one trip out was to the library, where I settled some fines and got some new movies for the little guy to watch, as The Sword In The Stone grated on me after the third time. So we got The Great Muppet Caper at the little guy's request and The Jungle Book 2, with Baloo voiced by John Goodman and Mowgli voiced by Haley Joel Osment.

"I think I'll read for a while. Uh, I wish I had a book."*

Well, you know you've been indoors for too long watching too many movies when games like the one I played popped into my head. After a small struggle with the bottle top of an Abita Strawberry Lager (they're no longer twist-offs...grrrrrr...), I watched the weird little straight-to-DVD flick that is The Jungle Book 2 and only found out who was voicing the main characters at the end. By then, a whopping headache was developing in my cranium, so I lay down on my bed once my husband came home and started thinking about all the Haley Joel Osment movies in the context of The Jungle Book 2.

Don't try this at home 'less you have a headache:

Mowgli: If I'm gonna live here, there's gonna be some conditions.
Baloo: conditions?
Mowgli: No more dangerous stuff. No more floating down the rivers. No dancing with monkeys. More vegetables, less bananas squirted out of their peels.

After I find Shere Khan then I can go home. Mommy will love a real boy. Shere Khan will make me into one.

I see jungle animals. Walking around like regular people. They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're not supposed to talk.

Are you saying you'll flunk us if we don't look for the bare necessities?

I wouldn't wish the headache I had on anybody. Really, I wouldn't.

Today, the requested breakfast was Cheerios with pickles. There's a theme developing.

Plus, the weather's better for swimming. We're gonna sunscreen it and haul out to the pool before 2 PM for a change. Ha!

*The Great Muppet Caper

Monday, May 04, 2009

Day One of the Hone None Flua exile:

Crawfish blues

Yes, this is an actual blue crawfish.

Fitting that this is a rainy day on which to begin our three-day exile. No hoo-ha from parents on the CDC's 14-day disinfectant guidelines not being fully enacted in the closing of the little guy's school - seems the CDC and the governor have decided three days is enough because the afflicted child wasn't in school for very long once he/she developed symptoms.

So. We're here. Can't go swimming due to the weather. The Sword In The Stone is rockin' the DVD player. Pancakes with pickles has been the breakfast order of the day.

Nothing to it but to make the most of it. We aren't victims, after all.

Pickled pancakes, comin' up.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A little something I saw in The Best American Comics 2007 that I just fell in love with is Dan Zettwoch's Won't Be Licked!: The Great '37 Flood In Louisville. Click on the image to enlarge the excerpt below:

Louisville is still there despite it all. And so are we. Good to get a reminder of that every so often.