Monday, August 31, 2009

And then, as if things weren't surreal enough today, a sequence of photos amazes, then shocks and saddens me.

Details from G:

Both Mister and I had unsettled sleep last night, me as usual, him as usual, I said, after a neighborhood shooting. Mister and I were in the back yard, chatting at the grill, The Girl inside with a cat or 2, when we heard gunfire, close, more than 1 gun, at least 2, and I stopped internally counting at 12 shots. We crouched down, for fuck’s sake. Then ran inside. The Girl asked if that noise had been fireworks and I said, No, gunfire, yes. We looked out the window and saw two young men running away. Both had guns. They weren’t running scared. They were loping, relaxed, loose-limbed.

The police finally came, one SUV driving all through The Crime Scene. While one cop got pissed-indignant about the crime scene with people and fellow officers, I just hoped Mister, out there in a bright yellow shirt with a camera and a smart-ass mouth with authorities didn’t cross that path. He did. It came out okay. In some instances, being a white man is barely enough.

It was chilling. Senseless. Demoralizingly sad.

I yelled at a cop that I’d seen two guys running. He asked if I thought they’d done it. I said, I saw them running with guns, that’s all I know.

If having a better functioning justice system ain't an argument for more transparency and accountability in the workings of City Hall, I don't know what is. All I know is those guys should not have been that supremely confident that they'd get away with murder... and neither should anybody else who has intentionally caused another's violent death in the past four years here.
Don't know how long my comment will stay up over at, but hey, I got my own blog:

If one chances to think about it, the "Skanks in NYC" lawsuit could cut another way...the ACLU or NAACP could sue companies such as the one that runs for allowing racist comments regularly on this site using freedom of speech as a crutch. The lack of moderation on this site undermines the good, hard work journalists such as Molly Reid and Gordon Russell do in reporting our local news.

The corruption in City Hall still runs so rampant that sites like American Zombie still serve a purpose in providing a window for folks in the know who cannot reveal themselves. That window will most likely be shut tight and have bars over it as a result of Dambala outing himself. He and the sources whose information he kept close to his chest all these years will need our support at this time, if only because we support more transparency and accountability in those who would be our leaders in this town.

A commenter known as azureblue has posted some interesting stuff related to bloggers' rights, courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Their bloggers' rights page links to Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, which asks for any cease-and-desist letters bloggers have received to be entered into their database for further analysis.

Big thanks to azureblue for the points made and the links. Speaking truth to power has never been easy.

Update, 10:26 AM: celcus on the folks who are trying to take the Zombie to task on
Anonymous posters complaining about and calling out someone for blogging anonymously. Hilarious!
Anudder update, 7:56 PM: The Zombie is still going strong, even when tips are garnered from the article bearing news of his outing himself:
Some one posted this as a comment under the Teep story, and it confused the HELL out of me:

"Daya Naef works for the City Attorney's office:

Notarial Archives
NA #2007-66876
NA #2008-38835
NA #2009-24675
NA #2008-47726
NA #2008-36802
NA #2008-36801"

WTF? How does a person go about looking up what these numbers mean?

How could Daya Naef be working for the City Attorney if she was also working for HSOA subsidiaries in cases against the city, or working as their agent as they got those city contracts?

That's even more messed up than the possible conflict of interest that she and her husband might have.

Would these documents be the things the other Anon poster told us Naef was signing up in Brenda Breaux's office?

Is it wrong to even ask these questions now? I don't like feeling bullied into not asking. I'd like to know what is going on.
One Mo' Time, 9-1: Oh, all right, if Cliff can link up, so can I. Just take this as a huge hint that what is needed is quality and occasional hilarity minus the racism, Until then, I'm gonna get me some mo' zombification. Blame Adrastos, especially since I initially thought it was Tim Conway's name on the zombie movie posters he'd found.


When local blogger Ashe Dambala, as he calls himself to hide his identity, came to collect an award at a New Orleans bloggers' convention last weekend, two of his regular readers couldn't wait to see him -- so they could find out his real name and sue him for libel.

Assistant city attorney Bob Ellis and his wife, private attorney Daya Naef, had grown agitated at Dambala's suggestions of potential conflicts of interest between them, so they paid $30 each for admission to the confab, called Rising Tide, looking to face their accuser.

They would arrive to find Jacques Morial -- brother of the former mayor -- accepting the award on the winner's behalf, both amusing and disappointing fans who had hoped to see the political blogger unmasked. The couple's entrance, meanwhile, riled audience members, some of whom seemed offended that a blogger's target dared try to pierce his cloak of anonymity.

Ellis, in an interview, called Dambala a "delusional nut" who has "keyboard courage, " but doesn't "have the courage to meet me and have a cup of coffee."

Until now, that is.

Big thanks to Molly Reid of the Times-Picayune for this one. Not only does it feature the hullabaloo over Dambala, it also takes a good look at local blogs.

Go dig up the dead-tree edition of the paper, or head over to and look for " 'American Zombie' blogger outs himself while facing libel suit from City Hall employee". Another annoying habit their website has is that of changing the dead-tree headlines. Wish I could break my boycott of the site over this one. Sorry, folks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our Day of Remembrance

And, no, Yizkor is not the name of the storm in the pic. It is the Hebrew name of memorial services for the dead normally held four times in any Jewish calendar year. As far as the Gulf Coast is concerned, I feel the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in these parts is another occasion for a yizkor service of sorts, which already seems to be happening online.

R'fuah shleimah (healing and health) to all families still feeling the effects of the storm and its terrible aftermath.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Although Bloomington was a college town, Indiana remained a typically American bastion of complacent parochialism, of brutal commercialism, indeed of anti-intellectualism and jingoism...I hasten to add that on the whole my high school years in Indiana were not unpleasant, thanks to the native friendliness of most Midwesterners...It's just that many, many things lay beyond the pale in Indiana. The bigotry and the hypocrisy were far less unnerving to me than the proud and cheerful ignorance - an all-American trait which continues to appall me to this day. Our government's military adventurism and capricious acts of repression around the world, our own disproportionate responsibility as American consumers for the degradation of the global environment, the murderous corruption of our "war on drugs", the ongoing domestic war against freedom of speech, and all the other rather unremarkable failings of a given nation at a given time - well, not many Americans waste much thought on them. I did not have all the experience to comprehend all this twenty years ago. But I knew that I was missing something. There had to be more than this.*
Let me begin by saying this:

Go now and purchase Ethan Brown's Shake The Devil Off.

If you have a hard time with the subject matter - and if you've been living in this city for any length of time in the past four years, you most likely will - skim through it if you can, read it in small doses if you feel you can take that, and send it to anyone who asks you how New Orleans is.

What is needed now does not only consist of the visual record of what was done to this city as a result of the levee breaches, it must also consist of constantly letting the rest of our country know that the decisions that were and are still being made at the highest levels of our government are affecting all of us who are Americans. Willful, blissful ignorance of those problems will not cut it anymore.

Yes, there is the exploration within the book of a horrible crime: the murder and dismemberment of Addie Hall and the subsequent suicide of her boyfriend and killer, Zackery Bowen. But the context of it all is important, the context being that the ongoing failure of our government and our military institutions to fully own up to and treat the many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder that are coming up in our latest crop of war veterans and the chaos of life in post-8-29-05 New Orleans shortly after residents began returning to the ruined city culminated in a perfect, internal storm for Bowen, a veteran of tours in Kosovo and Iraq. His anguish and his feelings of having nowhere else left to turn (evidenced by, among many other things, the message of "Please Help Me Stop The Pain" emblazoned on a wall of the apartment where the murder occurred) led to Hall's and his deaths.

What makes this book required reading for everybody out there, however, is this:
At every level, we're a "you're on your own" society. It is one of the perversities of the "you're on your own" style of governance that it applies largely to those who most need and most deserve the government to work for them: people such as Iraq vets and Katrina survivors. That the apocalyptic fall of Gustav and Ike climaxed with a financial collapse in which the Treasury Department initially proposed a $700 billion bailout to purchase troubled, mortgage-related "toxic assets" demonstrated just how topsy-turvy the country's priorities have become (economist Nouriel Roubini rightly described the bailout as socialism for the rich and well connected). I became fascinated with Zack's story - and New Orleans itself - in part because I believe that Katrina was about much more than the end to any national pretense of an engaged or effective Bush presidency (the president's approval ratings never recovered after the levees broke in 2005) or even the fall of a great American city. I believe that the "wrecking crew" (to borrow Thomas Frank's great phrase) of incompetents running critical government agencies like FEMA; the passage of unpopular legislation in the wake of national shocks (such as the Patriot Act after 9-11, or President Bush's post-Katrina suspension of the Davis-Bacon act, which sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region); and the "you're on your own" style of governance represented by Katrina's aftermath was not exclusive to New Orleans - it could be seen across the nation.**
The fourth anniversary of 8-29-05 is coming up.

Mr. Obama and everyone in the federal government now has a required reading assignment from me, as do the Louisiana state governments and this city's officials.

Otherwise, we must wash our hands of them all and send the message to them that they are all on their own.

Update, 9-1: The Gambit's Blog of New Orleans has just posted parts 1 and 2 of an in-depth interview with Ethan Brown, whose book was excerpted in this week's Gambit. Go read.


*William T. Vollmann, "Afterword to Danilo Kis's A Tomb For Boris Davidovich", from Expelled From Eden
**Ethan Brown, Shake The Devil Off

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yesterday was an amazing day that held one surprise, at least, and boy did it sneak up on me.

All I was trying to do was to be nice.

Rising Tide is not strictly a bloggers' conference; it is purposely tagged as "a conference on the future of New Orleans" because many of us are not hard-core computer geeks. Hell, I wouldn't know how to put together my own blog from scratch if I tried - bless Blogger, WordPress, Blog-City, TypePad, and all the other places that let us in on their server space for nothing. Computers have simply been a useful tool for our self-expression, our opinions, the sharing of information amongst ourselves and with anyone else who comes across us, and, ultimately, a means by which we have all found each other and expanded from the online world into the offline world of formal and informal gatherings. I have found some dear, dear friends among the blogpocheh, people I would do my best to help and to defend 'til the end of time.

That core group is expanding and becoming better known with each of these conferences we put together. It was certainly a joy to have Harry Shearer there, but it's an even greater joy to see all my friends, some of whom can only come for this event, and some of whom I've known only through their blogs and can finally put faces to their names at the meet & greet registration table - CenLamar and his buddy D.S. being a case in point. Can't tell you what a kick it was to meet them and schmooze with them for a while.

We've had some real doozies come in on occasion to the reg. table whether they preregister online or not. The ones that came in yesterday, though, were the first ones to really scare me a little.

She walked in with a few big guys. She had blond hair, glasses, and a print dress on, and I was writing out her name on a name tag as she paid the door fee. Just to be conversational, I said, "Daya Naef... your name sounds familiar...where have I heard it before?"

Most people take it to be an invitation to explain which blog they write, if he/she is a blogger. Or he/she might explain he/she is a commenter, lurking reader, fan of the keynote speaker, a friend of a panelist, an aide to a local politician, curious about this whole Rising Tide thing, etc. etc.

Blond Hair and Glasses said, "Oh, I'm the Daya Naef that American Zombie keeps writing all that crap about in his blog."

Well, dunk me in icy cold water, for goodness' sakes. I wrote out a name tag for Bob Ellis, who was right behind her in a Jedi baseball shirt, and kept my mouth shut, else I would have said something I would have regretted concerning how damn rude that talk of hers was.

The Ashley Award went to Dambala, but Jacques Morial was in the Zombie's stead, reading his/her words, and I found myself close to tears.

Whoever the Zombie is, he/she can't reveal it...not now. And it speaks volumes about the corruption Dambala has exposed through his humble online presence and how pervasive and fearful perpetrators of that corruption are when it comes to the voice he/she has given to people who are in the know about crooked doings in this town.

I don't know if these people found Dambala or not (if the Zombie had "the stealth Morial" reading his/her words of acceptance, I would say not). They were only there for Harry Shearer's talk and then they left, as far as I could tell. I guess the neon sign they were looking for that was going to magically appear above the Zombie's head never materialized.

And as long as these folks are never brought to justice, the Zombie will have to remain in the shadows, a conduit for those in the know who also cannot reveal their identities, but who know "too much".

It's proving to be too dangerous for these whistleblowing folks to act in any other way.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I would so buy this right now if it weren't for all the books that will be on sale at Rising Tide.

I think more and more these days about what keeps me blogging, and about how to keep myself interested, forget other readers. Believe me, if this ain't all it's cracking up to be thus far for me, I'll certainly be stepping off the virtual map for a time.

The other day, however, after I was interviewed by a certain hyphenated writer and instantly confronted with something along the lines of "Sooo, you're the only female in with all these guys. How does that feel?", and after setting the record straight by pointing out other folks such as Sophmom, Dangerblond, Lisa P, and NOLA Slate who are busting their butts for Rising Tide this year as well, I then had to think about the things that can keep some people more than others from posting as much on this entity called the blogosphere.
  • This is not a paying job. A few years ago, at the first Rising Tide, Christopher Cooper, co-author of the book Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security, reportedly mentioned that the only difference between a professional journalist like himself and a blogger is that he has a 401(k) (of course, that was back in 2006; who knows if that 401(k) is still worth much). The no-money thing is quite a downside, especially in this day and age, when the profile of the blogosphere is more prominent than ever. Now, one really has to watch what one posts, because you never know what will come up in a Google search.
  • Also, at the end of a hard day at another job, there's only so much the mind can be willing to muster and post. That's just life. Many of us in New Orleans began blogging because of the insanity of the events of 8-29-05 and after, and keeping up that kind of anger can be exhausting and unhealthy in an environment that is already somewhat unhealthy as it is for many reasons.
  • A member of the blogpocheh expressed amazement the other day at how we have mananged to get an entity such as the RT conference together each year despite the pressures of our daily lives offline. Very few of us post every day as it is. Once again, that is just life.
  • And it also speaks to the flexibility of the interwebs. Like I've taken to saying, barring a major electromagnetic pulse that knocks out everything electronic on the face of the earth, the internet ain't going nowhere.
  • Twitter and Facebook are also taking people's online time more than they used to, but when folks have something to say that is going to take more than 140 characters or will get more of a public audience, the blogs will be there.
  • DO NOT get me started on men blogging vs. women blogging. Not today anyway. Whole 'nother post coming on that one, I'm sure. Nothing like casting the battles of the sexes in yet another light....maybe black light... that would be cool...
ANYway, one of the people that happened to pop into my head in the midst of all this thinking too damn hard about what makes us all blog and not blog (ultimate answer being stuff happens), is a certain Harry I've been wild about for years: Herschele Goldhirsch, otherwise known as Harry Golden, editor and principal writer of The Carolina Israelite and author of many books. Yes, he brought a lot of his newspaper experience into founding, writing, and publishing the Israelite, but it has certain touches that could possibly be described as precursors to blogging if one carefully looks at the passages here: some folksiness in the way certain subjects are treated - note a "newspapermen tell me that" in there; an article entitled "Holding That Hemline" that starts with "I seem to see more knees around town than ever before" (well, it was 1965), and a good dose of what helped put Golden on the map, which were his views on segregation and race that were very much minority views in the North Carolina of the '40's through the late '60's (even among the Jewish people in N.C.), when Golden concluded the publication of the Israelite.

An example of one of his most famous suggestions concerning segregation, circa 1957:
Explaining his Golden Vertical Negro Plan in the Israelite, Golden deadpanned: "The South, voluntarily, has all but eliminated vertical segregation. The white and Negro stand at the same grocery and supermarket counters, deposit money at the same bank teller's window, pay phone and light bills to the same clerk. It is only when the Negro 'sets' that the fur begins to fly." Urged Golden: "Provide only desks in all the public schools of our state; no seats." Though the lawmakers passed up Golden's suggestion, readers ordered 10,000 reprints of the Vertical Negro editorial.
Having a voice that took up sixteen printed pages twice a month and having the chutzpah to keep commenting like this on race in print and to lawmakers' faces for over twenty years takes some kinda crazy courage, and Golden had it. But at the Israelite's heart was most certainly personal expression. I have little doubt that, if he were still around today, Golden would be either embracing or satirizing the interwebs in the way only he could...which puts what is sometimes derided by all of us blogging folk at one time or another as "vanity blogging" in a different light.

Hell, it all started - ultimately - with me, this whole business of my blog, and it still comes back around to me, right?

Which brings me to my final Rising Tide contest question (rules here). Looks like only droudy ventured to put in an answer to yesterday's question, and the implication was there that I had indeed rode out a hurricane - which is true. The storm I rode out, however, was Hurricane Alicia, the eye of which passed over my house when I was growing up in Houston. Partial credit in the form of $2.50 goes out to you, madame!

Harry Golden would place some folksy anecdotes, old-time cures, and other bits of lore into The Carolina Israelite, and I am no exception in terms of what I'll post here on occasion. Last night, my six-year-old little guy tried a new vegetable he picked out himself, but the jury's still out on how much he really likes it, as he couldn't quite figure out how to eat it.

Was the vegetable:
  1. a spaghetti squash
  2. asparagus
  3. a long-stemmed artichoke
  4. purple caulifower

Leave your answer below, and I hope to see you at the Avenue Pub tonight!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The following question is not for the Rising Tide contest, but it's important nevertheless:

What is right about this picture?
(hint: notice anything not on it?)

Discussion in the coffee shop yesterday at a nearby table sounded like a mini meteorologists' summit when the topic turned to Hurricane Bill. What's it doing, where will it hit first, they say it's going to head all the way up to New York and Massachusetts, even into Canada. I didn't think any storms could head all the way up there; oh, yeah, they can. I think they got a bad one in the '30's. Didn't they get something more recently (yes, Hurricane Gloria, in '85)? I can't remember. Oh, would you listen to us, the weather experts (laughs all around).

Storm watching here is much more than just a pastime. It's the difference between heading out and staying, and, in many cases, it has proven to be life or death. I for one hope this thing turns back out into the Atlantic, that this El Nino year keeps more of those storms at bay...and if it can't turn them away from our coast, at least it can weaken them considerably. I pray for colder water, icy cold, in the Gulf. I long for calm.

And I hope my grandparents on Long Island and our friends in the northeast never have to experience what this city has been through.


Speaking of living through things, here's another question for you. Remember to register for and/or donate to Rising Tide before leaving your answer in the comments (rules here):

Have I, the (ahem) humble host of this blog, ever rode out a hurricane? If so, which one?

Congratulations to Candice, who got yesterday's question correct. I owe you $5!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Good Lord! There was only one entry in yesterday's contest, and she got the answer partially right. McCain actually referred in that debate to Teach For America... and Troops To Teachers. G did way better than an FD, but it wasn't all there. I'll go for partial credit and pass her $2.50.

C'mon, people, step up a little. Don't lurk on this one. It's for a good cause, really it is.

Hmmm, maybe if I get a little snarky, it might get something going....

You see, down by the river, somebody has the brilliant idea of removing a major chunk of the Quarter's parking, eliminating Woldenberg Park, and constructing a floating thing that reminds me of what happens when Blade Runner and the contraption Jodie Foster traveled in in Contact come together. God save us all from yet another thing with the acronym of NOAH, as the first two prominent organizations in these parts with it have come to bad ends; it only ensures that this ark will remain a fantasy.

On the other hand, a fantasy rotting in a spot closer to the lake looks like it may gain new life and possible daily mass dousings of green toxic gumbo, with the possible help of some GO Zone bonds. We're waaay past the days when all that put Nickelodeon on the map was You Can't Do That On Television and everyone was just waiting for somebody to say "water" or "I don't know". The network couldn't let the slime and the mess die, either, so they incorporated it into a game show with a host that had a serious obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's so sad when your serotonin level can't allow you to enjoy hosting Double Dare every day:

I do hope Marc Summers is not still straightening out the fringe on his carpets.

Sooooo, for a certain green piece of paper (it will not be slimy), here's today's Rising Tide contest question (rules here):

Which TV show used to air in huge several-hour blocks of time on the weekends on Nickelodeon? (all right, Varg wants more specificity: we're talking about a show dating from Nick's murky beginnings. It used to be on on the weekends ad nauseum in the early '80's)

Leave your answer below.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

G-Bitch is correct. In fact, neither Obama nor McCain had much going in the way of an education policy, it's just that McCain was much more vocal about his lack of it earlier on than Obama was (does citing the reformation of the New Orleans schools as an example to follow ring a bell?). In that respect, Obama provided a good blueprint for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings: look smarter, don't react on impulse, let others bloviate away, and when you open your mouth, choose your words carefully. CHANGE was not gonna extend to public education in this country.

Another delusion-assumption—that whatever was happening in schools before this moment sucked and needs to be blown away. It starts with the same assumptions as the conservative/privatization wing of the charter “movement”—that all public schools are bad, partly because they are public and public structures and entities never work; that teachers are only defending their turf, not arguing over best practices and pedagogy; that regulation is “bad” and “competition” is “good”; that removing regulations and mandates on schools improves what happens in the classroom; that private for-profit business is superior at running everything; and private schools are better because they are private [and charter schools are better because they are not public and therefore more like private schools].

Is competition bad? Not necessarily. But what does that really translate into on the ground? Parents applying to multiple schools if they can afford to, economically or time-wise. Open recruiting via phone and neutral-ground signs. Equipment “fees” at “free public charter schools.” Teachers without collective bargaining or tenure. Multiple foundations, boards, and associations with advice and teachers to distribute and salaries and consulting fees to collect. Education management organizations, for-profit.

Are NOLA schools better? And why? Which are better? Which schools are the innovators and shakers that will bring new best practices and pedagogy to not just charter schools but RSD, OPSB and charter schools? Is there a mechanism for sharing best practices? What exactly does “college prep” mean and does it meant the same thing at each school and what does it mean in the face of the new career diploma?

Hell of a way to start my son's first day of first grade, but I did have to lug $100+ worth of school supplies in and sign him up for after care, which will be costing us another $100/month. I know that the Urban League, as well as the Evangelical Lutheran youth groups that came to town last month, can assist with the school supplies situation, and the first grade teacher keeps up with when there are sales at the stores on supplies. I know having a child is not inexpensive in this day and age, but something has got to change.

So... second question of the Rising Tide contest (rules here):

John McCain referred to two teacher training organizations in that infamous debate in which New Orleans' educational system was cited by him as an example for the nation. What are the organizations?

Congratulations to Ricardo, who got the correct answer to yesterday's question! Once you have answered a question correctly, though, you must lay off and give others a chance for the rest of the week. BUT I owe you $5, Ricardo. 8-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The tee used to be made by Upper Playground, but I now find I am coveting their Dr. K shirt.

The t-shirt pictured above has been burned into my brain since I saw it here, and my first impulse on seeing it was to send one to this man, who has put the Bonds case in the context of what was allowed under the Patriot Act and how no Bush & Cheney in office anymore is lessening its effects to the extent that Bonds will benefit. Throw in the racial politics of the accusations against Bonds vs the accusations against former single-season home run king Mark McGwire, the laxity of baseball's steroid testing policies, and the hole Bonds dug for himself in being surly to the press, the fans, and to his teammates unless they were deferential to him, and yeah, he seems to be too easy a target.

I picked up a fascinating book I procured a while back, however, known as Game of Shadows, and the story it digs into is that Bonds was one of the biggest pieces of bait used to bring down the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative, or BALCO, run by a clever, big-mouthed huckster named Victor Conte who had some big connections with those who created steroids that couldn't be detected through testing (the infamous "Clear" was so named because of that) and distributed the drugs to Olympic athletes, among them runner Marion Jones. The book got the authors involved in hot water as well when they were called before a grand jury and were sentenced with up to 18 months in federal prison when they wouldn't reveal their sources.

What the book helps clarify, however, is the extent to which Bonds made the fateful decisions that led him to be sitting in front of a grand jury - how motivated he was by his need to be the greatest, and how seeing the media fawning over McGwire during his home run chase in 1998 got him thinking about remaking himself and getting the spotlight back. Having high batting averages, making the All-Star team repeatedly, and hitting close to 40 homers in a season wasn't enough. If Bonds couldn't beat McGwire and the media into checking out his MVP award, he was going to go to the same sort of lengths he believed McGwire had been going to to remake himself and let his bat do the talking....which it did, breaking the record of 70 made by McGwire and putting Bonds on the path to besting Hank Aaron's career home run record.

It's a fascinating book, and I recommend it quite highly, especially now that the baseball season is winding down and football is tuning up....which leads us to...

My first-ever Rising Tide contest question!

Once again, check the rules, folks, and don't bother to answer unless you have registered and/or donated at least $10 to Rising Tide.

Which nationally-known athlete put BALCO on the map for other athletes?

Answer coming tomorrow. 'Til then, leave your comment.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Orleans feer kashes

(asked of me while I was out on the Left Coast, complete with answers. And no, it didn't start out with "why is this city different from all other cities?", thank God)

Do I need a car in New Orleans?

My answer: Depends on where you live in the city and what you're doing there. After a year of not having a car here, I went a tad berserk. I could handle going to work and back on the streetcar, and hitching rides with friends to do other stuff. It was the grocery shopping without a vehicle that did me in. And the public transportation here is in a shambles, even though there are thankfully no more buses from other cities roaming the streets and both streetcar lines are running again. Get a car, but get it on the cheap, as the roads won't be kind to it.

Dan's reaction to what I said: You can get along fine here without a car, especially if you're going to college uptown. (This from a man who still holds that the streetcar runs on a schedule, when I know that the timetables for it are just a bunch of numbers as far as the streetcar operation is concerned.)

What I wanted to say: Don't toss your driver's license. We're not that European.

Such a small Jewish community there. (implication: not as big, so not as much chance of meeting other Jewish people as in, say, NYC)

My answer: It's a small community, definitely smaller since the events of 8-29, but it's a great bunch and is interdenominationally cooperative across many ages and levels of observance. There is even a good-sized Hillel house serving the Tulane and Loyola campuses, and the opportunities for Jewish people to put their social action where their halakhah (Jewish law) is are certainly all around us still, as this is a city that could still use it.

What I wanted to say: To quote Michael Caine as Nigel Powers in Goldmember: "It's not the size mate, it's how you use it." In NYC, the greater numbers of Jewish people seem to be a catalyst for further argument and separation over matters of observance. Bigger ain't necessarily better.

What's the real estate situation like? The bottom seems to have fallen out of the real estate market there.

My answer: Yeah, it wasn't all that good to begin with, but things have settled down since the days when everyone thought the answer to their property value woes was to kick people out shortly after the Federal Flood and renovate their properties as condos.

What I wanted to say: The bottom has fallen out all over this country. Go check out your own back yard, for crying out loud.

But what would I do in New Orleans?

My answer: Go after what interests you. It's not difficult to meet people here. Though things are not exactly what they could be, we are not devoid of good food, great people, and joy.

Dan's reaction to what I said: You should have just said,"Well, what are you doing now?"

What I wanted to say: That question has just shot down anything I could say. I can't plan your life out for you. If that asinine query is meant in all seriousness, this city is situated between a lake and a river. Choose which one you're gonna jump into. And if you have to ask my opinion about that decision, I wash my hands of you. Seriously.


Now is the time to intro my first-ever Rising Tide contest.

First off, the money for this is coming from me and only from me. Do not ask the Rising Tide website, blog, facebook, or Twitter accounts for sympathy if you have any beef with this little exercise - just bring it on over to me.

The rules:

Ineligible participants are: the RT organizers, panelists, and speakers. Sorry, folks, c'est la contest.

  • Register for and/or donate $10 or more to Rising Tide IV.
  • Check back on my blog each day for the next five days, August 17-21
  • There will be a new question each day for you all to answer. Leave your answer in the comments.
  • First correct answer to the question each day gets a five-note from li'l ol' me. If there's more than one correct answer each day, the first one in the chronology of comments left on this blog gets the five bucks. There can only be one winner each day.
  • If you have not registered or donated, there will be no dough for you, no matter how right the answer is.
So there you have it. Keep an eye out. Be well.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In all our excitement over Rising Tide, I have overlooked a panel of great interest and importance that will be held at 12:30 PM our time (1:30 PM ET) at Netroots Nation by E of We Could Be Famous. Check it out:

While statistical evidence has consistently identified the failed federal response to Katrina as the watershed event contributing to the decline of the Bush administration's approval ratings, progressives and the netroots have largely abandoned the cause of New Orleans as a political and moral issue. The Left has a responsibility to see to it that New Orleans survives and thrives, for the sustainable recovery of this city will be the primary measure used for determining whether the netroots indeed represent a substantive movement concerned with the betterment of American communities or just another vessel for cyclical change in partisan fortunes. As it stands, New Orleans is on the brink. Rates of crime, illiteracy, poverty, imprisonment and life expectancy too closely resemble those of developing nations. Political power remains ensconced in the hands of economic and tribal elites. Basic retention of the population that has been able to return is as pressing a challenge as bringing home the tens of thousands who remain displaced almost four years after the levees failed.

He got some nice feedback on the panelists he got, managed to get himself on a second panel about local blogs and their role in reporting on the workings (or failings) of city government, and will hopefully get a link to all the video up from both of his panels soon.

You can also follow him at his Tweeter Tube account, even if he is talking about a Phillies-win repeat in this year's World Series.

And rules and regulations for my first-ever Rising Tide-related giveaway are coming soon. Keeping you posted...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Home Stretch

Ladies and gents, unbelievable as it may be, time does fly and we are closing in on Rising Tide IV. If you are reading this and you are coming, then don't mind the following pleas.

What's keeping you, you late applicant, you?

Are we not chic enough? Not scruffy enough? Too far left? Too far right? We don't drink enough wine? Or beer? Or coffee? The registration now costs $25, so the boat for a registration fee minus $5 has sailed for this year. Are we too expensive? Are we selling ourselves short? Do we need to include a cage match happening alongside Harry Shearer to further illustrate how crazy things have become in this farce called "recovery"? Do we need RT throws? Do we need more national attention (oh, I shouldn't ask that - darn near everything New Orleanian has needed national attention since before four years ago)? Are you just a person who thrives on the adrenaline rush of just squeaking by a deadline? Are you in a vegetative state and need someone to hold your hand in all of this (hey, you're not alone...)? Am I asking too many questions?

Ummm, yeah, I am...or maybe I'm not. When I come up with some more....and I will, oh, yes, I will....there will be some special things in store in the coming week for those of you who guess the answers correctly. Stay tuned to this bat-channel 'til then...

I shall be putting the Greg Peters-designed orisha up every day on this blog until Saturday, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Zeitgeist, every last one of ya, no matter what you might really think about me or RT.
So, another reason why I should limit my jaunts out of the area is closely related to the health of my pets...and the one that suffered greatly during my time away was the youngest of my pets and the sweetest, my big orange cat baby. Dan reported finding blood in the cat's urine once, thought it was an anomaly, found it again, and discovered after a visit to our vet that our cat had seven bladder stones blocking his pee pathway. The surgery had to be done in Mandeville, cost nearly as much as our car repairs back in February, and now has me wondering if I should set up a PayPal donation button for the Cat Baby Fund to help cover the costs of getting our fluffy family member healthy...but there's a recession going on and we as a nation can't even deal with the health care costs incurred by the ailments of fellow human beings, forget ten-plus-year-old cats.

When the big guy came home, having been a mild-mannered patient ("the most laid-back one he'd ever seen," reportedly said by the vet who did the surgery), Dan told me the only sound emitted by the fluffy guy was a mighty hiss aimed at our dark gray tabby, who only wanted to welcome him home. Hey, he wasn't feeling well. Still isn't. We are armed with small syringes of painkiller to inject between his cheek and gums and Clavamox to ward off infection while he heals, but he certainly won't be himself for a while.

"That's not nice of him," my son stated upon hearing about this bit of rudeness. "Just like V____ (a girl in his camp and his school) was not nice to me!"

"Ummm, this is the V____ you like a lot?" I asked, then instantly wished I hadn't.

"Yeah, I like her! But she didn't want me to give her a hug. And she didn't hug me back. She treated me badly, just like the sick cat treated the tabby. The tabby doesn't deserve that, and I don't deserve V____ not being nice to me," he said with such gravitas, this six-year-old with a huge gap where his front two baby teeth used to be.

"Look, kiddo," I tried to explain, "not everybody wants to be hugged all the time. Sometimes you have to give people their space. And this works for cats, too. Our orange cat is in a lot of pain, and he didn't want to have our tabby in his face at that moment, because he doesn't feel good."

"But V____ let G____ (a camp friend for many years) kiss her! And he also kissed R____! And..."and this is when I suddenly realized I didn't want to have this conversation, at least not when my entering-first-grade child was still this young and talking as though he were in junior high and oh dear God I'm not gonna listen any more lalalalalalalaaaaaaa....

At the door to our house, Dan asked the little guy another question about V____ and got this answer from our budding Casanova:

"Oh, I know she likes me. She just doesn't think she likes me."

Yeah, that'll get him far in love.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

It takes occasional jaunts north of I-10 for me to realize how New Orleans-centric I have become in my doddering, quasi-old age. I mean, I head out on a jet plane, and this kinda insanity happens.

It's bad enough seeing TSA people doing random friskings of passengers lined up at their gate just before boarding their flight. I guess not enough people are flying Clear for the TSA's taste, or they don't trust any of us humble travelers any further than we can be thrown into the nearest 3-D X-ray machine. I hope they get a handful of diaper mess in their hands someday as a consequence of their actions.

For goodness' sakes, the last thing I need is for Krewe du Vieux to go down any sort of tubes that are not a part of its' subkrewes' themes. I'm a member of the Seeds of Decline, so I oughta know a thing or two about downfall in general, and I can tell you that the krewe members will be stooping even lower after this, and those floats will be rebuilt in the service of that, as Gawd is our witness. I foresee a number of phoenix-centric themes coming this '10 Carnival Season...

ANYway, I will still be checking up on things from time to time 'til I return. I've got four NOLA-related books I'm reading while I'm out and about, and I am still very much looking forward to Rising Tide 4, as are some others. Good to see.

Have fun, folks, and don't rearrange the furniture too much or light anything else up without me.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Roy Blount Jr. on Atlanta's Varsity Drive-In :

It may surprise you that Nancy (Gordy Simms, the Varsity's owner) has a permit from the city of Atlanta to demolish the Varsity, which she renews every six months. But that is just so the city can't register it as a historic building. So the city can't tell her how to preserve it. Good. You want your talismanic chili dog to stay fresh, not get calcified.*

It might be too late for the churches here, unless somebody can get the ear of the right people at the archdiocese and convince then otherwise... but for, say, the houses in lower Mid-City and various places people can't work on continuously but are indeed working on, could it be an option?

Just curious.

*from Long Time Leaving: Dispatches From Up South.
Incidentally, that book has two passages I love in it, one of 'em about Garth Brooks in Central Park: Only once have I felt any sense of solidarity with old Garth - back here recently when he gave a concert in Central Park, and a quarter of a million people turned out, and a New York cop (who apparently didn't recognize anybody) was quoted as saying, "I'm sure he's very big back in his own country."