Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maitri mused recently on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things relating to power, oppression, and prejudice after a trip to Dachau, and I left my rant at the feet of her post.

Of course, Lord David's most recent experiences in an ongoing battle of confronting the abuses of power occurring in his own neighborhood by those who are supposed to serve and protect could also have been included in that response. And he's not alone....any police department that allows its officers to pull their weapons on citizenry that don't deserve it at highly inappropriate times (and shame on those who term it a "prank" - cruel intimidation is what it is) is one that certainly needs a major attitude adjustment. I mean, yes, this kind of thing happens in many other places, too... but the reforms the NOPD has supposedly had in place since Richard Pennington was chief seem to be torn and frayed in this city of hurt. We need help from the police, not help from the police, if you know what I mean.

Speaking of interconnectedness, a group of folks who went on a tour of Israel a few months ago spoke of their travels at our synagogue last night, complete with a slide show afterwards. One fellow kvetched a little about the seeming rudeness of Israelis, which Dan (as a visitor of Israel himself who didn't agree with that assessment at all) immediately confronted him about afterwards and found it to be a part of a stereotype held by the man that included New Yorkers and Chicagoans as rude as well just because they didn't say hello to you on the street without any provocation. The same man also admitted his thought that the new wall that was being built on the Green Line surrounding the West Bank probably contributed a great deal to the tour group's feelings of security while they were in admission that greatly saddened me, as that Wall is simply another terrible prop in an ongoing war of occupation and brutality on both sides that both Israelis and Palestinians are tiring of but cannot seem to stop.

One of the things I saw more than a few pictures of in the slide show, however, were the loads of feral cats that inhabit Jerusalem and many other places in Israel... (confession: I've had cats on the brain lately, as my oldest cat - my chubby, green-eyed, dark gray, black-striped tabby cat - has gone missing from our house in the past week. I've been trying to hunt her down and hunt down recent pictures of her to post to no avail. If anyone has seen her around the LGD, please bring her home, as she's not really an outdoor cat)...many of them starving and just barely getting by.

If one were to go by the interconnectedness of all things, I guess we'd take a good look at how societies treat their animals. Even though kindness to animals is a tenet of the Torah, it takes a gifted writer such as Haim Watzmann to examine one Jerusalem family's response to a mother of kittens and the comments of caring people to make the link between the treatment of animals and the treatment of people:

Eventually, I figured it out. The dysfunctional relationship of israelis with their cat (and to a lesser degree) dog population but one symptom of a population in moral decline. The image of the emaciated Hagar desperately trying to feed her brood at whatever temporary spot of warmth she finds – only to be banished because of, you know, the neighbours – is the picture of creeping decadence. The cats may be hungry as they are allowed to multuply without bound, and feed around garbage dumps, but it’s the people’s soul that’s decaying.

The picture Haim put up of Hagar’s pathetic face says all it needs to. I think he must know……

We all know.

But what we choose to acknowledge and act upon is key.

It is all intimately linked.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oh, and speaking of kids...and "gimme my money back!" moments...

Soupy Sales passed away last week. He gained notoriety for his New Year's show, when, in a fit of pique at having to work on a holiday, he discovered the true power of television:

Shel Silverstein's Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book played around with that a few years earlier:

...but Soupy, in saying that on television, got considerably more mileage and money out of it, money he promptly donated to charity.

Hope you're enjoying "Puerto Rico", Soupy...or wherever you may have ended up.
Thank you, Disney, for making the ultimate admission that Baby Einstein videos are absolute crap by offering this refund for their return.

The better move for most parents would have been not to go near those products in the first place.

Granted, I'm not that immune to all the bells and whistles, myself. I did purchase two things labeled "Baby Einstein", one of them a board book and another a CD collection of classical music for the infant set that was on sale at BJ's Wholesale Club. The CD collection was boring as hell, to the point where the little guy was nearly begging me to put the James Brown back on. The board book got lost in a sea of other board books we owned that were better, and the Baby Einstein one could never surpass the board book version of Margaret Wise Brown's My World, which wasn't even her best, but held the little guy's attention enough for him to carry it everywhere and for us to have worn out three copies of it.

My aunt, after having babysat for him once shortly after I purchased My World, told me I needed to return My World right away to the bookstore, as it was badly written and didn't seem to be doing much for the kid. One memorable night at Lafitte's Landing with the little guy in his high chair and our friends all around a great big table, however, told me different: he turned to a page on which the bunny family was sharing a meal around a big table with their friends and kept looking up and back down to the book to compare what was around him with the picture.

My World helped him connect with what he saw every day. Baby Einstein products, not so much.

And really, it wasn't the idiotic videos that aggravated me so much. I just didn't buy them, just like we made the decision not to purchase $900 strollers or Dolce & Gabbana for infants, as we knew the little guy would grow out of 'em almost as soon as we passed our credit card over to the salesperson. What got me more than freaked was seeing the apartment of a mother of a year-old child that was full of electronic toys, all of them requiring batteries in order to function and nearly all of them being of the Baby Einstein brand.

It was consumerism run rampant. It was a brand name using its supposed research-tested clout to put something over on new parents who were so lacking in confidence of their own parenting skills, so frightened of what it was going to take for their youngsters to get by in a brave new post 9-11 world, so in need of keeping up with the Mommy and Daddy Joneses that they were going to blow some serious bucks on something that would make their kids the best of the best and allow the parents to do the housework and hold down a career in the bargain. God forbid you were not one of those families that wanted to give your kid the best. That would be tantamount to being in the same sad basket with at best, the people who shouldn't have had kids in the first place, and, at worst, in with some sort of 21st century child abuser.

I also made it a point, and still make it a point, not to associate with people who think that way...because the best isn't necessarily the stuff that costs beaucoup bucks.

Parenthood is a crazy time, especially when we all seem to have bought the whole idea of the nuclear family in which both parents work and juggle the child care (though that is still kind of uneven by gender - moms still do more than dads in the child care realm) and one's own parents and grandparents are no longer the ones we consult about what to do when a problem arises with one's own child - or, if we do consult them, their advice doesn't hold as much sway over the parenting decisions we make as it once might have. Still and all, I was wary of jumping on the Baby Einstein bandwagon because I knew, deep down, there were other ways of nurturing the little guy than plunking him in front of a screen full of hand puppets and transforming and pulsating shapes and colors. And we really had little use for toys that had us buying stock in Duracell, since most of those toys were little more than glorified noisemakers.

If the whole debacle over Baby Einstein ought to have taught parents anything, it's that of buyer beware, especially in an age where adding "baby" or "infant" to products from furniture to safety locks and outlet covers (oh, don't get me started on THAT) to sheets and toys is enough to make us parents hand over our wallets in good faith that what we purchase is always going to be good for our kids.

Gather up those videos and get your money back, parents. Then let your kids bang on the pots and pans while you cook, and, later on, read some good children's books to them that don't have a brand name anywhere near them. Dance a little to "I Feel Good" and have some fun with your young 'uns....because good, honest play will teach them more than some video ever will.

Monday, October 26, 2009

via this link on the Tweeter Tube.

I'd love to link to Greg Peters' latest Suspect Device comic in this week's Gambit, too, about "the boys in uniform", but it's not up yet.

Hell, neither is all of this week's Gambit. Ummm, hello over there...latest issue online, Gambit HQ? I'll just have to make obscure references to being married "Fujita style" all by my lonesome, I guess.

Update, 6:37 PM: Gambit's latest is now up, with one of the highlights in this week's issue being the interview with Angus Lind. Love to figure out the contents of that notorious column of Lind's that was referred to in the interview...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Someone please tell me why I now get so het up when these lists come out.

A while back, when I was starting out college and the cheapest - not to mention one of the longest - ways to travel home was by train, then an hour and a half drive to my parents in Middle-O'-The-State, PA, my mom lucked into a place on the outskirts of Harrisburg that had opened up in what had once been a Popeye's. She walked into the Smokey Pig and beheld a sight she hadn't seen in a couple of decades: a large spit over a fire behind the counter slowly cooking some of the best barbecue she'd tasted outside of Georgia. The smell of the sauces used won her over as well, and she was a woman on a mission from that point on.

Grabbing a pile of their menus, she made it her business to expand their business, even though she knew it was a bit much for most people who lived in MOTS to schlep all the way to some godforsaken industrial byway an hour and a half south of their town just for barbecue. Nobody thought that way in Pennsylvania, a state where most ingredients for pizza have died before they have even crossed the state line - and putting them together to make an edible pie is beyond anyone's ken. Haute cuisine? Didn't exist where my parents were.

I like to think our visits to the Smokey Pig every time my family came to get me from the train station helped sustain the place for just a little while, even though I know location doomed it from the start and our visits there to get our fill of Georgia pit 'cue and some quarts of their sauce were very infrequent. Mom was just so driven to make sure the place stayed alive, she sucked us all into her task. It was disappointing to hear that the place had shut its doors and doused its fires only a few short years after Mom discovered it.

I see lists of the happening places in New Orleans, however, intending to drive adventurous folks through those places' doors, and I cringe inwardly.

I know one reason for this is that, with some exceptions, it's a tad easier for good places to be found, to sustain a loyal clientele, and to even thrive here. We appreciate good food, good company, and are willing to support it in this town. It's gold, y'all, gold.

What also helps bring in the gold here, though, is the tourism. The economy hasn't diversified enough to where local crowds alone can keep things going, and, in the reality of the restaurant business, local crowds can't do it alone. Same goes for most bars. But there are some watering holes that are just special, that I have a soft spot for, that I like just the way they are without the turista infusion. There are some that will keep their character and resist the ways of the fern bar serving up the latest trendy mojitotiniac fizz no matter what, and I raise a glass or three to them, but there are some that are walking a fine line between the ferns and the funk. What will their tipping point be, and how many locals will be displaced as a result?

With restaurants and other eating places, this kind of thing can be sad, sure. My husband informed me of a double whammy in NYC when he went up there on business in the past week: our favorite Israeli grill in Queens and our divine bagel place in Brooklyn are no more. The former closed due to personnel problems, the latter due to lofty plans to convert the building The Bagel Guys and many other businesses were in to condos - plans that didn't pan out when the bottom fell out of the economy, but still left a vacant building in the wake of the recession. We shook our heads over those casualties and wondered what would be left to visit when we returned to say hi to friends we once lived closer to. We can still say hi to our friends, sure, but not over a great bagel or some kick-butt kibby. Sigh.

But the bars? What is it about publicizing the bars that gets me feeling uneasy?

On the one hand, bars can be sleazy dens of iniquity in which one's paycheck can succumb entirely to the impulse to drown one's sorrows and the pains of everyday life that are too tough to bear when one is fully sober. I'd have a soft spot for the bars where I blew a great deal of dough in my misspent youth if it weren't for the fact that I was simply marking time there by draining glasses of alcohol before I had to return to the glass studio to feed a hungry furnace its nightly diet of broken shards of cullet. I don't remember much about the places where I drank aside from some details revolving 'round playing bad pool, doing my best imitation of Lady Day when "T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" came up on the jukebox, and catching some occasional food specials with the drinks when I was ravenously hungry - all of which could have happened in ANY bar, not just the one I went to.

Then again, there are the places I went to to check out some great live music; the spot that served me up too many Long Island Iced Teas the night before I got married; the places where I got together with good friends over some good brew, got pleasantly buzzed, and even had some friendly banter going with the fellow behind the bar; the places that seemed to have friends I'd never met 'til that night they'd just emerged from the woodwork; the places where I wasn't going to be annoyed by loads of guys hitting on me, and, if there was the off chance that someone coming in was gonna try it anyway, that they'd be getting the message from the regulars soon enough - the list goes on and on. These moments can happen at any bar, to be sure, but with me, they have happened most frequently at the bars in this city I call home.

It's something that people don't understand until they come here and have been here for much longer than a weekend jaunt...and it is something that Julia Reed does touch on in her article accompanying the Conde Nast Traveler Bar Tour:
After over a decade in the far more intense urban confines of Washington and New York, I found these brief lunches (at Napoleon House) in the upper reaches of the French Quarter a joy, a perfect example of what Walker Percy identified as the city's "peculiar virtue... a talent for everyday life rather than the heroic deed." New Orleans, he wrote, "has nurtured a great many people who live tolerably, like to talk and eat, manage generally to be civil and at the same time mind their own business." He added that if a person were to fall ill on the streets of Manhattan, folks would grumble about the inconvenience of stepping around a body. In New Orleans, on the other hand, it is still likely that "somebody will drag you into the neighborhood bar and pay the innkeeper for a shot of Early Times." They will, in other words, take care of you in the same way as Girod had hoped to nurture the down-on-his-luck Napoleon, by giving him a safe haven and a restorative pick-me-up. (boldface mine)
Shortly after this terrible event occurred at Pal's, I told a visitor to this city about how much many of the local bars resemble localized community centers in these parts. What gets my goat is when the places that really are off the beaten path get messed with a little. The average bar 'round here isn't just a place to sit your butt down and drink - although, if that's all you wanna do, nobody's gonna stop you unless you cause a ruckus that disturbs everyone else in the place. You can get some good, restorative help for the soul from some of the best local pubs...and I tend to be a little suspect of someone using the CN Traveler as a high-class insider guide to soaking up an atmosphere from such places. In fact, I kind of hope such people do walk into places like the Dungeon or the Mayfair and are so overwhelmed by the atmosphere in those places that it kicks 'em right back out onto the street. Could well teach 'em a lesson.

In a nutshell (that everyone coulda just scrolled down to check out at the conclusion of this post, I guess), I get weary of these bar recommendations because bars in so, so many ways are like people - there are so many of them that aren't for everyone that walks through their doors....and, in truth, they shouldn't be trying so hard to be all things to all people. A bar is a bar is a bar in that each one is serving up a more or less similar menu of alcoholic beverages, but the tone of each bar is set by its owner(s), its tender(s), and its people, all of which make for a delicate balance of camaraderie with an edge.

Word of mouth amongst the barflies is a good thing, as it keeps things in that balance.

Words in a glossy magazine with slick pictures of hipsters ( or in an article online with a snazzy slideshow) - well, the jury's still out....and the bars will be on their own there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Feeling a little like Michael Corleone today...though I've actually been feeling like this for most of the past couple of weeks, ever since I had to get a bunch of pictures together of the little guy from each year he's been on this earth for a timeline project his class was doing.

I talked to some folks about how much more involved we as parents have to be in the kids' homework these days and brought up the flash cards and scrounging around for the timeline pictures as examples. After the first couple of years of the little guy's life, we finally purchased and figured out how to use our digital camera and never bothered to print out most of the pictures we took, which made things difficult for me, as we don't have a working printer.

"Oh, no," my friend said, "just think of all the people who lost their pictures in the flood! Talk about the insensitivity of such an assignment."

Leave it to the disaster and recovery here to present a new dimension to parental difficulties and worries. I had to step back and thank my lucky stars I didn't have that least, not now, anyway.

What I see going on with my son, though, is an ongoing struggle with the increased workload and expectations in first grade and how much that is making him uneasy. Initially, I was going in at least once a week after school to consult with his teacher about his progress, but, after getting very uncomfortable myself with going up there and talking with his teacher that much, I am realizing that there's only so much I can do short of being in that classroom with him daily, which isn't going to happen. He must simply adjust, and, frankly, so must I.

Just when I thought I was out...

As if the little guy's increased workload weren't bad enough, I was confronted on the school listserv by the possibility that the school may or may not be doing its part to combat bullying among the kids. I was surprised by my reaction when I read about one student threatening another in a different class with bodily harm, and then read a post by a parent who, after having read how seriously the incident was taken by the school, had to throw in her two cents about how little the same administrators responded to the complaints concerning the bullying her child had endured over the past year or so.

I wanted to try to cast some protective spell over my kid, maybe send him to school in full body armor, get him in martial arts classes, anything to spare him any experiences approaching the merciless teasing and lack of compassion I endured from the kids in grade school from first grade all the way to sixth. At the same time, I also didn't want to be so much of a helicopter parent that he couldn't learn to take care of himself...

...which is the moment when I fully realized where my parents were coming from when they tried to give me advice when I was in the thick of those cruel kids at the little guy's age - advice that largely proved to be ineffective: "ignore them; oh, they're teasing you because they like you; oh, just laugh at them when they say something hateful" just weren't working at all. In the grander scheme of things, Mom and Dad had the larger view that I just couldn't see - that one day, this too shall pass. But that somehow never came through to me as a kid, because kids live in that second, that minute, that day. It still hurts when I think about that time and about how alone I felt in my misery.

I don't think the little guy is encountering anything near what I went through, but I know the odds of his going through his school years completely unscathed are slim. It simply seems as though the schools are so intent on getting the kids up to speed academically that their social and emotional development still falls by the wayside. The most I can hope for is that my son doesn't keep it from me when something is seriously wrong, and - for my part - that I don't deal with it in such a way that treats his problems as very small in the scheme of things. Those troubles are very real to young kids.

Just when I thought I was out...

Last week, my dad apologized to me for moving me to a teensy Pennsylvania town in the middle of what was turning out to be a good high school experience in Houston with more actual friends and way fewer bullies to deal with. Recent experiences with my younger brother revolving around my parents' most recent move to Oklahoma City had Dad glimpsing what that move to PA twenty years ago must have been like for me.

"It's okay, Dad," I said. "I learned how to deal with it. Besides, I probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for that move."

"Oh, great. Thanks for that, kid," he said only half-jokingly.

An ad for HSBC I saw recently had someone in it admitting for the first time I can recall in advertising that she "didn't want to be a mom".

Dad has no idea how close he was to not having any grandchildren from me.

...they pull me back in.

And here I am. Back in school again through my son's eyes, unable to see what the future holds for him, having to take my cues from him and the situation in order to guide him as best I can - though he will most likely end up teaching me more than he'll ever know about life and how it all comes together or barely holds on at the seams.

We can second-guess our past actions all we want - but we are still in the here and now.

Time to grow up, again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

As Adrastos and Ray in Exile have noted, today is the day of Ashley Morris' birth.

Having recently thought a great deal about this currently undefeated Saints team and how it is bringing families and friends together, this post of Ashley's popped into my head. Unless one has been to the Superdome for a Saints game, it is difficult to comprehend how much the fans have banded together as a community in their sections, each knowing the other not only by the seat numbers on their tickets, but also by their preferences of food and drinks, their knowledge of the players and the game, and, in this case, where they are coming from.
One couple that sits in the section in front comes in from Hattiesburg for every game. It's a mother and daughter and they love the Saints as much as any of us do, if not more. They never miss a game.

The mother, Miss Ellie, has a bad knee, so Dillyberto (usually) or Cl10 or I (occasionally) will help her down the steps to her seat. Like us, she's up against the rail, but instead of a walkway in front of her, she has nothing but the expanse of the dome. Her daughter, Bettie, is a riot, and loves to tell us stories about how Momma won't miss a Saints game. As a former resident of the 'burg, I always manage to bring up Leatha's BBQ Inn, which is, I truly believe, where God goes when he wants barbecue.

Well, Miss Ellie was talking about how she was going to have to have a knee replacement, and Bettie was saying that she refused to have the surgery done during the season, because she wasn't about to miss a game.

That's a Saints fan, y'all.

On February 11, Miss Ellie had a total replacement of her right knee. According to Bettie, she's in pain, but doing well. From Bettie:

My last words to her before she was given her "la-la land shot" was GO SAINTS!!!

This caused Bettie to miss the Thoth activities, but she planned to hold court at Lafitte's Blacksmith shop on Mardi Gras Day.

Dillyberto did a Google search on Miss Ellie Dahmer, and we found out, to quote
Dilly Berto that "Bettie Dahmer and Ellie Dahmer's toughest challenge has not been knee surgery."

We are blessed. We are Saints fans, and we have true heroes like Miss Ellie Dahmer walking in our midst.

Long live Miss Ellie. One of my heroes.

Wherever you are, Ashley, I hope you're honking your horn to celebrate the Saints' current undefeated status.

Monday, October 19, 2009

They didn't know anything much, and was it a shocker.

"Something very important happened in 1948," I began. "Anybody know?"

Blank stares from these sixth and seventh graders.

Someone tentatively said, "The Holocaust?" Another student said, "The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima?" Ummm, no.

Trying to give them a hint that what happened occurred in the Middle East drew some more blank stares.

I finally ended up having to give these kids a twenty-minute crash course in 20th century Israeli history - and all because I had an idea for a whole-school mural that these kids must contribute images for.

Yesterday was the first time ever that I felt like there wasn't enough time to really work with a group of kids. Blessedly, the kids' "homeroom" teacher in religious school let them stay longer than just the 30-minute allotted class time for art because she felt they were only beginning to grasp the ideas I was throwing out at them. Some good stuff pertaining to the symbols of Israel - the Israeli flag, the seal of Israel - came from the students, as well as some images related to the chalutzim, the early pioneers who made the desert bloom even before Israeli statehood, and to some of the wars that have been fought through Israel's 60-plus year history as a modern state. But the students' knowledge of figures such as Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, Abba Eban, Chaim Weizmann, Golda Meir, and many others who played roles in recent Israeli history was sadly nonexistent.

If they were ice cream flavors, perhaps these kids might have taken it upon themselves to know more. Perhaps that might be the next step in their education, actually - if it was traditional for young children in cheder to lick off honey placed on tracts of Torah and associate the sweetness of the honey with the experience of learning, then the next class I teach will probably be trying to get flavors of gelato made that will be associated the most with Moshe Dayan, or Hannah Senesh, or maybe Naomi Shemer.


I'd try to reach more kids in other ways concerning other subjects, but I've always had the feeling that trying to teach children the basics in secular schools involves fighting an uphill battle with implementing increasing requirements put upon the teachers that will keep schools and students up to certain standards versus actually attempting to impart a love of learning and a good sense of critical thinking into students - which is what got many people into teaching in the first place. I've seen too many teachers whose idealism is wearing thin and turning to ragged disillusion. And I can't decide if it's good or bad to have it confirmed by statistics and by one of the experts in the field:
It is a Faustian bargain. When teachers lose control of decisionmaking—when they prepare students for tests they have no role in designing (and often no belief in), when they must abandon units they love because there is no longer time, when they must follow the plans designed by others, when they are locked in systems of instruction and evaluation they don’t create or even choose—they will not be relieved of stress. Their jobs are not made easier, they are made harder and more stressful. While some find a way to resist, others acquiesce, though they feel, as one teacher put it, that “the joy is being drained out of teaching.”

It will surely be argued that I am too optimistic here, that only a small percentage of teachers can or will take on this more creative work. That there is not time in a school day. Not enough support. It is too haphazard and unsystematic. Too slow. That it is only realistic to rely on ready-made materials, rubrics, lesson plans, and scripts that will bring focus and consistency to instruction. That teachers appreciate the way various programs lift the burden of decisionmaking. That instruction in subjects like reading and math is just too complex, the frameworks of assessment too elaborate, for teachers to master.

I will only point out the incredible irony of this position—that some reformers insist on high standards for students, while they have such a low estimation of teachers.

I want to see the school administrators, the reformers, and the diehard NCLB supporters, after they have eventually fully eliminated the undervalued "middlemen and women" in the classrooms, go in there themselves and actually try to earn the paychecks they are getting for treating faculty as pawns and, ultimately, scapegoats in what is seemingly a business to them with only one product in mind- educating the young. The end to be worked toward is admirable, but the means by which we are attempting to get there is wearing on the people who need the way to be easier, more open to suggestions and decisions on their part, and who need to feel less like puppets and more like people who actually have a say in what is being done and what is being asked of them.

I've been lucky to teach for a few hours a week in a religious school with an understanding director who knows that sometimes learning can get messy, that there is generally not enough time, that there are goals for learning but we can achieve those goals in any way we like through our lesson plans, and, if we have no clue, we have many resources built up over the years to draw from in planning a day for our kids. We chafe a little at the idea that there are parents who don't take the religious instruction seriously, but we do the best we can.

It's sad to think that fewer and fewer secular teachers don't feel the same.

And if those numbers increase, it will ultimately hurt us all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So Obama spends nearly four hours in New Orleans on the way to the Left Coast...

...he gets some takeout from Dooky Chase's shortly before he leaves...

...and, in-between it all, I can't help but think of all the footballs he probably hauled with him on Air Force One, of how he deflected the boos that came Bobby Jindal's way when Obama intro'd him at the Town Hall held at UNO earlier today, of how few questions ended up being asked at the Town Hall (only 7), and of how only one thing stood out above all else:

People here were so star-struck in Obama's presence that many issues nearest and dearest most New Orleanians' hearts simply were not addressed. The largest of those elephants in the room that were carefully avoided was that of flood protection for this city through the strengthening of levees and the restoration of our wetlands. The man was still speaking as though Katrina had caused all of our problems and we were going to be just hunky-dory with 100-year-storm flood protection, when we are already quite aware of what a fallacy such "protection" is.

It's sad that a population that was lining up in their cars and tying up traffic uptown to file their papers in a civil suit against the Army Corps of Engineers a couple of years back couldn't manage to get a word in about this in the president's first appearance in this city since his election.

Of course, I'm not sure what other platitudes would be passed onto the Town Hall attendees other than those asking for patience on our part, citing the red tape that is being cut, albeit slowly, and pointing to working in cooperation with a state and city that, in all likelihood, want to make things as difficult as possible for us residents.

Good %$#!*&^ luck with that last one, Mr Obama.

Even your assurances that health care reform would pass with the help of Mary Landrieu, Charlie Melancon, and Anh Joseph Cao were quite amusing in a nice, gallows humor-ish sort of way.

Ladies and gents, if there's one other thing I gleaned from all of this, it's that we need to get over our "OhmyGodit'sOBAMAINTOWN!" goose bumps and start realizing he is in office because we elected him to do a better job than the yahoo that was in office before him. We need to hold Obama to those higher standards, which won't be happening if we keep making goo-goo eyes at the man and fail to let him know what is really on our minds.

Watch the Town Hall here.

More can be seen of my impressions of the town hall by checking out my Tweeter Tube stream.

Full transcript of the speech before the Q & A can be found here.

Personal fave tweet o' mine: Obama says in reference to the FEMA reimbursements question asked: "I wish I could just write a check" Audience member asks, "Why not?"

A foreshadowing moment: on addressing a question about health care reform and how it will affect one couple's coverage, I had this thought:
Didn't we hear all of this at the press conference where everyone went berserk over Skip Gates at the end instead?

Little did I know what item about this gathering of Obama's would be making the news this time.:
When Obama called on Tyren to ask the last question of the day, the boy’s question temporarily silenced the crowd:
“Why do people hate you and they’re supposed to love you and God is love?”
Obama handled the question deftly. “Well, first of all, I did get elected President, and not everybody hates me,” he told Tyren. “If you’re watching TV lately, everyone seems mad all the time. Some of it’s just what’s called politics. One party wins, the other party feels it needs to poke you to keep you on your toes. You shouldn’t take it too seriously. People are worried about their own lives, losing jobs, health care, homes, and feeling frustrated. When you’re President of the United States you’ve got to deal with all of that.”
Gambit asked Tyren what he thought of Obama’s answer. “It made me feel good about what he said,” Tyren told us. “And he gave me the right answer.”

And so, Obama's first up-close encounter with mostly adult New Orleans' citizens ended.


But of course the state of Louisiana couldn't let it end there....because today, it decided to party like it was 1929 and 1959.

Perhaps Obama's trip was just long enough, after all....


Updates, 10-16: Cliff's take on the president's visit, along with a great picture of Obama and Tyren.

Adrastos' seconding of Cliff's post, along with an important note concerning the no-show of Diaper Dave yesterday.

Maitri on the idiotic, illegal ruling against issuing an interracial couple a marriage license made by a Tangipahoa Parish justice yesterday. Yes, yesterday, the same day our biracial president was paying us a short visit. Is it any wonder most of New Orleans wants to secede from the rest of Louisiana at this point?

Anudder update, 10-16, 10:33 PM: Verite gives us a two-parter entitled "I Am Not A Racist":
...given what happened recently in my state of Louisiana, the Justice of the Peace admitting he won't marry interracial couples and the words he used to defend his views, I thought it was time for a review of some situations that have prompted people to make the statement "I am not a racist." Perhaps someone who hasn't considered before why the whole "I am not a racist" statement alienates black people will grasp that it may be one of the worst phrases a white person can utter before or after making a racially-charged statement or doing something that any sane person should know is racially offensive.

One mo' time, 10-17: E has more from his perspective as an attendee at the Town Hall, citing what Obama's administration has done for us before Obama even came to New Orleans.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My right knee has never been the best since college, when I had to walk innumerable flights of stairs to get anyplace on a campus located on the side of a large hill, but now both of my knees are aching.

I went to pick up my son from his mini-camp, where his counselors were nodding their heads to ballads on the radio and saying which songs reminded them of their bar/bat mitzvahs. "Gee, my bat mitzvah party will always get Soft Cell stuck in my head," I said. After all, the deejay played that music a lot, for some reason.

"Who?" the counselors asked.

Getting old, getting old...

...but not so old I don't know a few tricks.

So save the date: Thursday, November 12, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, Rising Tide is getting its first beginning blogging class on at the Bridge Lounge, located at 1201 Magazine Street. A few us will be showing longtime readers and commenters how we ended up doing this thing and how you can, too, 'cause there are some astute people out there that we know have a lot to say, but might find the details daunting. We will be there to answer all your questions and to set you up right then and there with your own blog. Laptops are welcome. Registration is free.

Yes, free!

So tell us at the Rising Tide blog if you're coming, ask us some questions or tell us what you'd like to know in the comments, and mark your calendars. It is on.

My next trick: learning the ins and outs of emergency surgery:

I'm not too old to learn that, am I?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Turquoise and yellow footballs.

click on the picture to enlarge
Women of the Storm members dropped off about 200 turquoise-and-yellow footballs, tangible reminders that Louisiana is losing a football field of its coastline every 50 minutes, and they promise more today so that each of the 736 students (of MLK Charter School) will have one.
Somebody needs to give the president a tour of the wetlands, pronto.

Much as I think the footballs are a cute idea, nothing beats having the spectacle of entire communities abandoned to the sea being burned into your brain.
Adrastos on how universal the ridicule of Obama's being awarded the Nobel is:

I've found it a bit disturbing that some on the Left seem to be ridiculing Obama's peace prize in a way that *almost* echoes the Right Wing noise machine. Remember, nobody campaigns for a Nobel Prize, they sometimes emerge out of nowhere and are often awarded to *encourage* good works in the future as well as to reward past performance.

Having said that, here's your reading assignment and, yeah, I'm bit late: I was at a meeting of the procrastinators club and our starting time kept getting put back. Now where was I? There are two fine pieces at Salon by Juan Cole and Joan Walsh that place the whole thing in historical context. Imagine that....

...Obama is not perfect and has moved more slowly on some things than I would have liked BUT he's trying to do the right thing, which is something that should be encouraged. The Bushies left an unholy mess on so many fronts that it is IMPOSSIBLE for all those wrongs to be righted in a mere 9 months. I don't need to go into chapter and verse on the many problems inherited by Obama that predate the last 8 years. Remember: don't ask, don't tell was the end result of Bill Clinton's ill fated attempt to end the ban on gays in the military. Holy backfire, Batman.
We all knew that anyone who ended up in the White House after the Dubya years was going to have a very hard row to hoe. In some ways, Obama's receiving this award makes it even harder on him...but if it does get him considering what he's doing and why a great deal more, then the Nobel committee will have helped do us all a great service.

Go read the Salon articles A references for more.

And applications for Obama town hall tix end today at 10 AM CST.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


...when Barack goes marching in to New Orleans.

Only catch is this:
Due to limited space at the event, we will only be able to fulfill a limited number of requests for tickets. Please note that filling out this form DOES NOT guarantee a ticket to this event.

Filling out this form qualifies you to be selected for a ticket.

Doors for the event will open at 11:00 am. The event location and further details will be given to those individuals who are selected to pick-up tickets.

After 11:00 am on Tuesday, October 13th when the online sign-up has expired, a limited number of individuals will be selected and contacted by email called in regarding ticket pick-up information. Each individual selected will have the opportunity to pick up a maximum of TWO tickets.

Please note that the White House will not be able to respond to all requests for tickets. You will only receive an email if you are selected to pick up a ticket.

This form will be available until 11:00 am on Tuesday, October 13th.
Form's not up yet. Won't be up until 10 AM central - aka, our - time.

Synchronize your watches, folks, get ready for the virtual starter's gun tomorrow morning, and brace yourselves for Wonka Golden Ticket-like hysteria.

Thanks, shercole!

Update, 10-12: Thanks again to shercole, we have a number you can call if you cannot get online to apply: 504-280-7060.

Anudder update, 10-12, 11:36 AM: Just filled out the application four times and got nothing more than the same page minus the blank form and plus this message: "The White House will not be able to respond to all requests for tickets. You will only receive an email if you are selected..."

Well, wham, bam, no thank you, ma'am, to the White House, too. Loving the "don't email us, we'll email you" response. I mean, I know my chances of getting a ticket are about 1 in 400, 000 or so, but hey, at least give me a "we received your application, thank you!" to acknowledge my interest or something. Courtesy, y'all, always courtesy.

One mo' time, 10-12, 12:40 PM: On finding the voice mail for the phone number full, I thought of all the ways attendees could be randomly chosen, began with throwing all the applications down the longest flight of White House stairs and whichever ones reached the bottom were headed to UNO... and then I got carried away on Twitter.:
Other methods for choosing Obama town hall attendees: eeny meeny miney mo, darts, pulling out of a hat or bingo # cage...playing "Deal or No Deal" (any excuse to involve hot babes), sending it to the Nobel committee to pick...having a massive "cook-off", dance-off, talent show, or inane essay-writing contest, wet t-shirt contest, karaoke, trivia, video poker, the slots at Harrah's, whoever can swim from the Quarter to Algiers...rock, paper, scissors, shoot, ultimate frisbee, whoever makes it out of a Saints football game with no broken limbs...soon, WWOZ is going to offer town hall tix when you purchase a Brass Pass to JazzFest to boost their fundraising this week.
Feel free to add some of your own versions of how the town hall selection process will go.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Adonai our God saw fit to blow down the roof of our sukkah in the downpour last night, which was the crowning glory to a Sukkot holiday in which we barely got to enjoy our outdoor representation of what our wandering ancestors lived in when they were stuck in the Sinai desert for forty years. Just too hot or too wet out this year to be in there - even our sukkah party guests couldn't stand to be out there for long.

I mean, I know we are supposed to start praying for rain in Israel to help ensure a good harvest of crops in the coming year, but this is ridiculous.

So fine, the sukkah is down already. Hope the Almighty is a happy camper.

What made me a happier camper after such a rough week was the celebration last night of the most recent holiday in this Jewish calendar-induced marathon: that of Simchat Torah. The name of the holiday is, literally, "happy Torah", signifying how happy we are to have finished reading the entire five books of Moses and how happy we are to start it all over again. I got a dance in with a Torah scroll (and I held on to it quite well, as there are some consequences if the scroll is dropped, even by accident), got to hold the edges of the parchment as the entire scroll was unrolled, some recently bar/bat mitzvahed members of the synagogue read their Torah portions as we all carefully held this massive document, and then we sang some more and ate some afterwards.

What popped into my head when I got home from the synagogue, though, was not only the afterglow of the celebration. It was some remnant of memory from my deep, dark past as a Jewish day school student in deepest, darkest Texas.

Half a world away in the early '80's, there was still a Soviet Union. There were still a lot of Jewish people there, even though they weren't allowed to practice their religion, read any books about it, learn any Hebrew, or even walk into a synagogue, if any still existed there. At the same time, they were still marked on identification papers as Jewish, which made it difficult for them to get ahead in that world where, even though it was supposed to work by Communist tenets that made everything equal no matter what one did, there were still some comrades that were more equal than others. These Soviet Jews, kept in ignorance of their religion and unable to criticize the Soviet leadership for it without suffering repercussions that could be as harsh as imprisonment and death sentences, were very much the lesser equals.

And if they decided they wanted to leave, they were labeled as the worst of all. No visa would ever be granted to them, and no quarter would be given to these refuseniks.

The Refuseniks (from left to right) back: Vitaly Rubin, Vladimir Slepak, Lev Ovsisscher, Alexander Druk, Yossi Beilin, Dina Beilin front: Natan Sharansky, Ida Nudel, Alexander Lerner

The ones pictured above were some of the most famous of the Soviet Jews who applied for visas to immigrate to Israel and were refused them by the government. That refusal became the least of these refuseniks' problems, as they found themselves under surveillance by the KGB at all times, found it more difficult to get proper housing and promotions at work - and an extremely unlucky few, among them Sharansky, suffered imprisonment and trumped-up charges of treason that were punishable by death. We're not talking about just an isolated group of nine here - those nine were representative of a million or more people who were trying to leave.

The 1970's and 1980's was the period when American and Israeli Jewry got involved. It was a huge cause that united all denominations of Jews all over the world. If kids like me weren't writing letters to refusenik adults and children that we hoped wouldn't get confiscated from people visiting them to let them know the world was not completely ignoring their plight, we were trying to contribute to funds for the purchase of Hebrew texts, prayerbooks, and ritual objects that, if they weren't confiscated, either, would be smuggled into the country and then passed around to other refuseniks as discreetly as possible in an act of rebellion against the country that would keep them ignorant of their heritage if it could. If we really hit the jackpot, we could possibly buy some lucky few people out of the Soviet Union and get them out from under such repressive measures taken against them, but that was a pipe dream in the early '80's. The U.S.S.R. was clearly not going to let these people it was persecuting go.

What it did do on a once-a-year basis, however, was allow them one celebration.

It is no secret that the former Soviet Union was an inhospitable place for anything Jewish; one's Jewish identity was a liability, not an asset. But during the 1960s, because Israel was showing its might through its many wars, the Jews of Russia began to feel emboldened, if only slightly. Simultaneously, the American Jewish community began paying attention to the plight of Russian Jewry and initiated great lobbying efforts to pressure the Soviet government to allow Jewish immigration. With both forces converging, Soviet Jews for the first time began considering the previously impossible thought of leaving the Soviet Union for a better life elsewhere.

Equally astounding, beginning in the late 1960s, the Jews of the large cities of the Soviet Union began to congregate periodically in large demonstration-like groups around the state-sanctioned though locked synagogues. The day of these spontaneous gatherings of thousands of Jews in cities across the Soviet Union: Simchat Torah.

"Why Simchat Torah," I asked my mother. "Why not Rosh Hashana, Passover, Yom Kippur? Who knew the date? How did people find out about it? Who started the practice? Why did you go? What did you do?"

My mom thought these were silly questions. "We did it because all the young Jews in the city were going and we found out about it from our friends, and they from their friends. We went, we sang, we danced, we met people we hadn't seen for a while, we laughed, we read letters from Israel, we exchanged information about immigration and life abroad. It was simply one time a year when we could be unafraid and happy to be Jews, even with the KGB shills in the crowd. The feeling there was profound. We felt our strength. We saw our numbers. We realized who we were and we were proud."

For the Jews of Soviet Russia, Simchat Torah was the one opportunity to celebrate who they were. They had no other holidays to experience the various aspects of their Jewishness or their connection to each other or to the Eternal. Simchat Torah was it. More specifically, Simchat Torah was a celebration of who they were apart from being Russians, of their separate values, their separate ways, their separate status, and the separate criteria by which they were judged. On all other days, this separateness engendered hostility from their neighbors; on Simchat Torah the separateness was turned on its head and celebrated.

Many Soviet Jews participating in these rallies had never seen the Torah in whose name they celebrated. Yet, by their descriptions of the events, the Torah was never far away. Evgeni Valevich, a Russian Jewish musician, wrote a popular song to reflect the mood at those Simchat Torah celebrations. "As the old cantor sang," the song goes, "our small nation seems so great." Amazingly, this pride and sense of nationhood was such a new and unique feeling for so many Jews, it compelled them to transform their lives completely and emigrate.

Quite simply, the key to "why Simchat Torah?" is in a prayer saying of the Torah that "it is a tree of life to them that hold fast to it and all of its supporters are happy". The Torah is the blueprint for the way Jewish people live, for why we are who we are. Even the mere thought of that powerful document helped sustain a persecuted group of Jews in their enforced exile (even for nearly a lifetime) and got the rest of world Jewry united in a way we haven't seen the likes of since the Berlin Wall came falling down.

Here's hoping it will take more than the repression of millions to unite us all once again.

Friday, October 09, 2009

This was more of a wake-up call than the alarm on my cell phone this morning, I'll tell you that.

OSLO – President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.

The stunning choice made Obama the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and shocked Nobel observers because Obama took office less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline. Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president....

The Nobel committee praised Obama's creation of "a new climate in international politics" and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage. The plaudit appeared to be a slap at President George W. Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for resorting to largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Rather than recognizing concrete achievement, the 2009 prize appeared intended to support initiatives that have yet to bear fruit: reducing the world stock of nuclear arms, easing American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthening the U.S. role in combating climate change.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee said. "In the past year Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the U.N. for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations."

He added that the committee endorsed "Obama's appeal that 'Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.'"

Mazel tov to him.

I wish I could rejoice in this more. I just wish more people in our own country felt this way. It simply seems that the people who would have us go trotting back to some idealized Middle Age in which everyone is a heterosexual Republican have been yelling pretty loudly as of late and the media has been letting them do it without much digging into how wrong they are factually and how backward they are socially (bless Saints defensive cap'n Fujita for having the cojones to call these "heterophobes" out and to really think of the kids in the process. Makes me even prouder to be a Saints fan.)

As it is, next week the president is visiting New Orleans for the first time since his campaign ...and he still needs to give us something more than the audacity of hope in this forgotten corner of Louisiana that overwhelmingly elected him to office. Just because we are located in a red state doesn't mean we have to go to the same hell our state legislators seem to want to drag us to.

I've had a few reasons thrown out to me concerning why it's taken nearly a year after the election for Obama to come here, among them the embarrassment that is Hizzoner the Walking Id and the many federal investigations into local government corruption that are going on. I mean, who wants to be associating themselves with that and giving legitimacy to incompetents?

Granted, I think a national recession and health care reform have been taking up the lion's share of Obama's time these days...but if those reasons I've cited above have been a major consideration in the timing of this visit, then all I can say is: if the president can be so courageous abroad and be recognized for it without being associated completely with the people he is trying to reach out to, he can certainly do the same thing here in New Orleans.

Go read Cliff for more. I hope the folks in charge of the president's itinerary while he's here take Cliff's suggestions to heart.

Update, 8:36 AM: Yeah, I could see this Twitter trending topic a mile away. Will have to tell Daniel Z. about it.

Anudder update, 10:28 AM: Coozan Pat on the prematurity of Obama's Nobel.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Full Office of the Inspector General's report on the city's budget process is here. Thanks, Kevin!

Pardon me while I peruse the whole thing. You can, too.

If you need a break, just think about how oblivious Greg Meffert is to the obvious: he is in some deep doo-doo.

I'm now thinking we need Bobby Hebert in that courtroom to tell the clueless, swaggering former CTO what's really up.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mixed Bag

Apparently, according to this survey, we rank 45th out of the 55 smartest American cities. Who'd we beat out? Houston by a nose, Orlando, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, Harrisburg, PA, Memphis, Louisville, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and the dumbest of the smart: Fresno, CA. Austin and Portland, OR are apparently smarter than we are...and the smartest of all is Raleigh-Durham. What kind of world are we living in, I ask you????

Well, we are living in a city with a less than transparent budget process, which was finally confirmed today by the OIG's office.
The report also looks at budgeting for city services and determines where New Orleans stacks up to similar-sized cities.

Comparatively, the report indicated that New Orleans budgets more per person on its police services, more per person on executive and legislative functions and far more on sanitation services. It said that the city budgets less when it comes to parks and recreation.

The findings come as the mayor's budget for 2010 is expected in the next couple of weeks.

"It sounds like this is a systemic problem that has probably developed over many years and is not going to be easy to correct," Kane said.

WDSU asked a city spokesperson about the findings and was told, "The budget was adopted and passed, which means it was acceptable to the City Council, Clerk of Council, City Attorney's Office and CAO's Office."

It goes on to say that the city's capital plan and budget have been key to the city's improved credit rating after Hurricane Katrina.
And all this after the city council members voted themselves a needed pay raise. Those folks are going to have a hard time collecting that pay if we start going the way of California and its near "financial armageddon". Then again, this could be the perfect way to increase our "smart city" IQ if we get this thing solved.

What I have concluded will solve absolutely nothing, in the meantime, is checking out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's roots and calling him out as a hypocrite.

So the man's family converted to Islam and changed their name; he wasn't raised Jewish to begin with. Big whoop. I have no desire to claim this man as one of the Jewish people, believe me.

What is disturbing to me is that an Iranian blogger and other Iranians were the first to jump up and down about this and the Telegraph picked it up and ran with it. Being Jewish in Iran is not considered to be as bad as being a Baha'i, but it's still pretty bad. That this was one of very few ways Iranians felt they could discredit Ahmadinejad says volumes about what is permissible speech and what is forbidden speech in the Islamic Republic these days. Rather than addressing the very real problems they have with a "really really bad" democratic process, an economic system that is falling apart, a brain drain of educated Iranians that are choosing to live anywhere but Iran, and many other troubles that are contributing to the corruption of such a place, it is easier to attempt to bring down a leader there through religious prejudice.

To continue with the other disturbing part of this is the Telegraph taking it further...and by doing so, it unintentionally reinforces a tenet of the Nazi insanity Ahmadinejad persists in legitimizing through his continued denials of the Shoah: that no matter what you believe now, or what you practice as a religion, you are Jewish if your recent ancestry was Jewish. It doesn't help matters much when even Telegraph blog posts about this are titled thus: "Let's See How Iran's President Likes Being Called 'The Jew Ahmadinejad' " Well, of course he's not going to like it. What the hell do you all expect? Thanks a bundle.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in a position of power, and such criticism will only fuel the further repression of reformers in Iran, help ramp up the anti-Zionism of the country's leader, and it will hamper any further attempts by a Western country to try to form any kind of relationship with a regime that is clearly not going away that easily. Violations of human rights are so not conducive to good diplomacy....but all that the president of Iran's family tree is giving anyone at this point is something to hold up in the man's face and say nyaah nyaah you're a self-hating Jew, which is an idiotic thing to even consider in this supposedly more enlightened time in human history.

It doesn't help Iranians confront their very real problems.

And it doesn't help us look at why being Jewish is evidently still a racial slur even in Western countries.

Sad. All of it is sad.

Update, 7:27 PM: Hah! It's a fake story anyhow. So there. Nyaah Nyaah. Thanks, Cajun Boy! (check the vid of Bobby Hebert going berserk at Sunday's Saints-Jets game while you're visiting that Looziana man in NYC's blog)

Anudder update: 10-6: Alejandro de los Rios on Hebert's press box etiquette.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sooo, what follows is a widget and a message:

Get your vote on for Derrick Tabb, the founder of Roots of Music, for CNN's Hero of the Year. The $100,000 grant awarded to the winner of the contest will go very far in Derrick's hands...and it will contribute to the kids learning from local musicians as well as through the R of M classes. For example, when I went to see Bonerama at the Rock N' Bowl last Saturday, I saw a group of kids in the program checking out the band's performance...and then Craig Klein brought the trombone player of the group out at the beginning of the second set:

The trombone the kid in the plaid shirt is playing is Klein's instrument; he stood at the side of the stage for this number and encouraged all of the seven trombone players up there to rock it and reel it, at nearly midnight on a Saturday.

And they did.

Without Roots of Music, certainly some musical traditions will still be passed on to the next generation here in New Orleans, but the number of school bands that would be aiding the transfer is dwindling due to lingering effects of the Federal Flood four years ago and to the lack of funds coming up for any arts and music programs in the schools. Support a good program and vote early and often, 'til November 19th!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

So I posted a "repulsive" image of Sarah Palin's autobiography cover Blingee'd into oblivion yesterday.

Yes, I still have the heart of a twelve-year-old.

I thought they were funny. I sent the link to an ailing friend of mine to cheer her up and she laughed, coughed, and laughed again. Palin's only real claim to fame is her tagging along with McCain for a run to the White House and, in the process, turning that campaign into a bigger joke than it already was. As far as I'm concerned, her story ought to have ended right there, but she keeps coming back like a bad penny. It's sad and awful that the media has turned into her tool to the extent that her book is already selling out online. She most certainly does not speak for me, either as a woman or as a public figure, has already proven a willingness to manipulate even her own offspring for her own ends, and, in the end, she is simply a quitter in the realm of public service.

Her brand of selfish crazy is indeed repulsive to me.

What is also repulsive, though, atop it all is how much the mainstream media takes its eye off the ball with regards to many of the real issues of the day... ineffective a Democratic majority in Congress really has been...

...why we still cannot extricate ourselves from Iraq and Afghanistan...

...why not having the Olympics in Chicago is a good thing...

...and why, when all is said and done, a murder rate is much, much more than its numbers:

What concern of mine is Carmen? Why do I publish the lists of the dead, the mostly low-life victims? Why do check the blog stats page for links into those posts and the Internet searches that bring them in. I wonder why I plucked the story of another young girl named Chanel Sanchell. The local newspaper story doesn’t tell us much about Chanel either, what lead her out of her house that night with someone her family didnt’ know who came to the door looking for her. All I know is here in New Orleans there are too many golems with guns, soulless shells who will take a life without much more thought than to take out and light a cigarette, and they move through the life of the streets like sharks through schools of fish, predators and prey trapped together in the currents of only place they know to live.

I remember what I wrote about Chanel and it applies to Carmen as well. Whatever lead them out into the night with a stranger, a night that ended with a gunshot, both were once small children not much different than my own, as innocent as lambs in the lap of Sunday school Jesus. If their deaths cease to matter to you, matters no more than the condition of the bad schools your children didn’t attend or the trouble on streets you never cross; if the broken families of people who pulled two or three tours in Iraq don’t bother you then consider this:

The next time you see some kid on the corner eyeballing you at the stoplight, the one in the chee-wee haircut with the long white t-shirt, don’t avoid his gaze. Look straight back at him. If that bulge at his waist looks like it might be a gun don’t turn away or run the light. Look hard, as if into a mirror at your own cold and soulless reflection in his eyes.

That is what matters.

Okay, so I shouldn't have posted the Palin picture in a Sukkot post. My apologies there as a Yiddishe maideleh.

It's actually more appropriate for Purim...

Friday, October 02, 2009

What a way to start Sukkot

Update, 8:09 PM: Sorry, folks, I meant to post the above picture. We have someone actually cultivating etrogim in her garden, and this year, it was a bumper crop of them. Some of them are also large enough that you'll probably see 'em being thrown around on the gridiron in the game this coming Sunday. I can say that not only are they as big as my head, they smell much sweeter than I imagine the lady pictured below must smell.

Check out the original and more here.

Chag Sukkot sameach to all.
Oh, get your minds out of the gutter and respect the classics. It's Lafcadio Hearn, for goodness' sakes.

So I've been checking out what about Hearn's writings makes him worthy of having a cult founded in his name. I started off with Chita and am now in the middle of a book of his selected writings which actually begins where he ended up: in Japan, with the unusual tales he recorded in his unique prose near the turn of the twentieth century. I am now in the part of the book that presents some examples of his writing from where he began - in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a newspaperman, when being a reporter was socially only a teensy bit above being a stevedore working along the levees, the sort of fellow that Hearn wrote about quite a bit before he moved on to New Orleans, its culture and its people. For whatever reason, his reporting on a "Violent Cremation" read like a precursor to the pulps that a certain Shecky I know is so fond of: not only does Hearn report extensively on the facts of the grisly deed and on its alleged perpetrators, he starts to try to solve the murder as he goes along with the tale. The folks who came up with the particular collection I'm reading seem to dismiss the earlier writings of Hearn's when he is in America, but that is an omission of a grave order, from what I have read so far. The man seemed to write like a chameleon, taking on the most florid of styles for the papers in Cincinnati and New Orleans and the sparest and choicest words for the tales of ghosts, deities, goblins, and ancestors returned from the dead originating in China and in his adopted home of Japan - but he always had a yen for a good yarn.

Makes me wonder how he'd spin some more recent bits of straw into gold...

We are a people who are supposedly big on sensational headlines these days. Recent ones have been feeding us tales of kittens thrown to their deaths on a local highway, of Ted Williams' head being treated less than reverently in its cryogenic state, of too many Kardashians behaving like Cardassians. When it comes to what matters most, however, we can't afford to keep our eyes off the ball.

For example, the state in which I live is keeping on with its experiment in making our children suffer further effects from the urine in the education pool introduced by the idiotic loophole that is the Louisiana Science Education Act. (thanks to Madame Dangerblond)
Don’t be misled into thinking that Louisiana is a small, hopelessly backward state, and what happens there is of no importance elsewhere. That state is being used as a testing ground for a nationwide theocratic effort to literally undo the Enlightenment. If the creationists’ schemes to reverse the progress of the last ten generations are successful in Louisiana, they’ll be deployed elsewhere. So pay attention.
Another thing to pay attention to is to watch it when folks such as Diaper Dave decide to throw stones from their transparent and fragile houses. Adrastos tells it like it is over at his virtual cafe and at First Draft, where he's been burning up their XML with the 'tude we all know and love so much in these parts.

I mean, the freaking senator needs to quit with these righteous crusades, as it is waaaay too easy for others to poke him full of holes when it comes to his illegal act of having paid for sex. Just resign, man, before we actually feel sorry for your sorry ass for getting yourself on the road to being disbarred.

At least the Saints are doing well, Drew Brees' cleats will be going pink this coming Sunday for breast cancer awareness, and defensive captain Scott Fujita has expressed support of marriage equality for all, no matter what one's sexual orientation is. It's so nice to be proud of the home team, no matter what sort of punters or tossers they might actually be.

ANYway, I'll be sticking my nose back into some more of Lafcadio's words, who wasn't into the sensational titles so much as the sensational stories. Hmmm, if Hearn were a blogger...

...he'd probably never get a post out but once in a while or so. He reportedly was in constant torment concerning his endless searches for just the right words. His kids would be appalled at the way he'd moan and pace about the room shortly before he'd sit down to write.

But oh, such sweet torment...