Harry Nails ‘Em

28 February 2007

I love this exchange in the comments from Harry Shearer’s blog post “In the Rest of the Country, It Was Tuesday”:

It was just Tuesday for me, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

What would get me excited about New Orleans has nothing to do with Mardi Gras. What gets my pulse racing is the idea that the rest of the country is spending a king’s ransom to return the city to its previously, completely disastrous state, replete with sky high murder rates, banana republic style political corruption and totally broken educational system.

New Orleans’ horrible shortcomings were more charming when it was their problem – less so when it’s my problem.

I think I’ll spend next Fat Tuesday in Quebec City for Winter Carnival. It’s a bit more old fashioned, and heavy coats take the place of more daring costumes, but it’s lively and fun. What’s more, nobody gets shot like a dog in the streets and they pick up the trash on time, to boot.

HARRY RESPONDS: If you prefer a place where the culture comes courtesy of a law (“You speak French because you have to”), welcome to it.

The truth is that New Orleans is NOT right for everyone, such as this person. No one who lives here has ever said, “Everyone loves New Orleans and would love to live here!” Like a lot of people, I have a pat line for things like this. Mine is, “If stuff working like it’s supposed to is your top priority, then New Orleans isn’t for you.”

My friends are sick of the comparison, but I’ve said of our time in Nashville, “There’s not much to love and not much to hate. New Orleans has plenty of both.” I think that’s why it appeals to those of us who enjoy festivities for no apparent reason and dressing in costume 10 times a year. Yeah, it sucks when the police chief doesn’t do his job or the utility people are corrupt, but I’m sure that the winter festival described above is a real nice way to pass the time, too.

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Oscar-Appropriate: HammHawk’s Katrinys!

26 February 2007

I initially started this list for discussion around the 1-year mark, but I wasn’t feeling it, as the kids say. So I thought as we near the 18-month mark and it’s Oscar season, I’d finally put it out.

We’ve all had a lot of folks going through our minds as winners or losers from the storm. I initially was inspired by the incredibly cheerful and cool waitresses at Surreys that made me feel not-quite-so alone when I first got back; if I recall, they were the first people I’d seen wearing storm-related rally t-shirts, and it was a morale boost. So they’re in here (as is Slim Goodie’s, as far as I know the first real restaurant to open). I made the whole thing pretty short & easy, and with an emphasis on the positive, because that’s my bent.

So yes, I know I’m more sympathetic to Chris Rose than many people. And I know that many of you are more up on people who should be here than I am, but these are folks who’ve particularly struck me. None is perfect, but I’m giving my assessment; this is just one man’s opinion, and I welcome your comments. No links here because I’m still sick, and you know where to find them.

THE GOOD

Media

Times-Picayune in general for publishing, as they said, come hell and high water

Chris Rose, for saying what we were all feeling, and doing it so well. No more Britney. Yeah, he was light on the protesters, but that doesn’t cloud for me the great stuff he’s written for a long time.

Jarvis DeBerry, Stephanie Grace, & Lolis Eric Elie, for poignant perspectives we weren’t getting elsewhere

Garland Robinette, despite his problems, he was passionate about getting the job done, and a consistent source of information early on.

New Yorker, for an empathetic perspective that got through and took the feds to task

WWL’s satellite for allowing us to get some sense of home and information

WWOZ for keeping the groove alive and helping to account for our beloved musicians (we were actually listening to WWNO when they signed off, and that was eerie. I believe the last words were, “See you on the other side.”)

John Biguenet, for giving the country the feel for what New Orleanians really are through his NYT pieces

Bart Everson, for helping to put a face on the frustration of the people

Other bloggers, for getting out there and reporting the scoops

Music—Really, all of them who’re still here

Walter Wolfman Washington, for being among the first musicians back, and staying

Branford Marsalis & Harry Connick, Jr. I don’t share Ashley’s anger toward them, and I think their efforts are doing a lot more good than harm.

Fredy Omar, for his unbridled enthusiasm and gratitude for the Musicians’ Village

Fats Domino, for wanting to go “home” right away and making that JazzFest appearance (not to mention donating all his proceeds from his recent album)

John Boutte, for his unbelievable JazzFest appearance that threw sand in the face of the idiots in Washington

Bob French, for continuing to beat the drum that this is the only place to be

Spencer Bohren, for the soon-to-be-classic Long Black Line

Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, & Michael White, for losing so much but keeping the faith

Dinerral Shavers, RIP. Thanks for your work with Rabouin; it won’t be forgotten.

Bo Dollis, Jr., Sunpie, & Antionette, for keeping the traditions alive

Food & Culture

Those beautiful waitresses at Surrey’s, for good cheer on innumerable rough days, and putting out great food

Slim Goodie’s, for opening up when no one else thought it was worth the trouble

Les Bon Temps Rouler, for getting it together and “not giving up the ship”

Harry Shearer, for sticking by his hometown and pointing out what’s what

Krewe du Vieux, for making the most of the first big MG parade of ’06 and showing that we would, indeed, continue to have a good time

Sports

Reggie Bush, for showing what a classy athlete can do, even a rookie. Not many would have worn a Katrina bracelet at his first press conference, let alone gotten his endorsers to match his fees with donations. You think Eli would’ve played here?

Drew Brees, Sean Payton, & the rest of the Saints, for inspiring and distracting.

Arnie Fielkow, for sticking by his town, even if it got him fired

Chris Paul, for giving us something to cheer for and doing it right, without saying he’d rather be elsewhere

Paul Tagliabue, for giving us a real shot; we know you played hardball with Benson

Politics (shouldn’t there be more people here?) & other “Officials”

Oliver Thomas (initially at least), for being the only city council person worth re-electing

Norman C. Francis, who deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom; too bad it’s from W (and for not canning me)

Sens. Mary Landrieu & David Vitter, for being willing to get into it to work for what’s best for their state, even if it meant (for Vitter) being somewhat critical of the emperor)

Honorary New Orleanians

Bruce Springsteen, for the transcendent JF set that made us feel so good to be here

The ALA, for risking your convention to come, and being glad you did

Qatar & France for donations and compassion our gov’t didn’t have

Immigrant workers, for helping get it done, with good cheer, despite some flak and some mistreatment; I’ve enjoyed the increased diversity

Reservists & National Guard, for being generally professional and courteous, especially when the needs were so acute

Coast Guard, for saying, to hell with it, we’ll rescue people and deal with the bureaucracy later

SPCA rescue workers, who do it all for the animals

Sean Penn; it didn’t seem like a publicity stunt to me, and he was more effective than W

Grambling U, for rescuing XU students

NPR, for giving us some real indepth attention. The first time I cried was hearing Steve Inskeep talk about people he met here.

General Heroes

Juan Parke, for being 10 times the man I’ll ever be

General Honore, for a measured but firm response to the chaos

Dr. Anna Pou and the nurses with her who were charged with murder

Katrina Krewe, for at least attempting to handle what the agencies were not

Women of the Storm, for spotlighting the shame

Citizens for 1 New Orleans, for working toward the no-brainer of the initiative they represent

My parents for putting up with all of us for so long (9 days tripled our previous longest stay with them)

Tom, for so graciously loaning us his “spare condo” for 3 weeks

The many people who gave us financial, professional, and moral support

Catholic Charities, for so many free house guttings

Michael Pierce and other cops and firefighters who stayed on the job when others wouldn’t have

 

 

THE BAD

George W. Bush, for strumming while his people drowned, and for bullshitting us ever since

Michael Chertoff, for not knowing what the hell was even happening

Michael Brown, for not pushing hard enough and for being an idiot

Donald Powell: has this guy done anything except steal W’s “it’s tough work” line?

Bobby Jindal, for continuing to carry W’s water at the expense of his constituents.

Ray Nagin. Had him as a mixed-bag for a while, but we all know why he’s no longer just a qualified failure. Unlike many people, I was glad when he cussed and cried right away, but then he stopped caring. If you’re over your head, admit it.

Eddie Jordan, who couldn’t prosecute his way out of a paper bag.

Eddie Compass, for perpetuating unsubstantiated rumors and for cracking

Warren Riley, for not being much better

US Army Corps of Engineers (natch)

Chains (Starbucks; HoB) who, despite their deep pockets, wait to see if we’re worth the investment

Cyril, for bailing and then dissing the city that made him popular

Aaron, for bailing on his city and lying about why. Yeah, I’m sorry about Joel, but not being able to face his city is an affront to the people who are soldiering through, and even a token JazzFest appearance was too much to ask.

Bob Breck, for shrilly telling us to go the wrong way on our evacuation

Looters. I know, I know, but it still sucks and makes the job a lot tougher on the rest of us

Harry Anderson, for going when the tough got going

Adam Nossiter & most of the NYTimes, for taking the tabloid approach to our situation

 

 

THE UGLY

Al Copeland (who is seriously ugly), and all the business owners who’ve let their places rot instead of doing what’s right. He gets special blame for pretending to present New Orleans food and not supporting the city, for being rich and still not getting anything done on his prominent properties. Hope his goons don’t get me, but someone needs to throw a beer on him at a Hornets game.

Loyola & Tulane, for disregarding faculty and thinking that this would be a good time to shuffle things up

Baton Rouge, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, & Boise Greenleaf, ID: F-U, you know why.

Dennis Hastert, for thinking we’re not worth rebuilding

Jesse Jackson, for using XU students as a photo op

Charles Foti, for pursuing the wrong people in the quest for a bust, and then passing them along to DA Eddie Jordan

Jack Strain, for not admitting that he’s profiling

Gretna Police, for putting fear above humanity

Police in Vinton and Weatherford, for giving us tickets on our evacuation and being dicks about it

Rush Limbaugh, for passing along that everything is fine, just because his friends said so

Landlords, for jacking up rent; how is that not profiteering?

WalMart, for not storing guns in an appropriate way for an evacuation

Bears fans, for making Katrina a trash talk opportunity.

John Derbyshire & Alan Richman, for being simple, simple people who pass themselves off as sophisticates

 

 

MIXED BAGS

Tom Benson: Absolute devil after the storm, but came around, though probably from some coaxing; current status: We’ll tolerate for now, but eager for granddaughter to take over

George Shinn: You looked great in contrast to Benson, then gave up on us when OKC sold out (confounded with novelty and high quality); current status: Who the hell knows what this guy will do?

Emeril Lagasse, for taking too long to get on board and not having the faith, claiming that no one was eating out, even though we could never get a table; current status: Did you get paid for those “Come back to Louisiana” ads?

Most national media figures, for giving the simple story, rather than the true, nuanced one; current status: Now they’ve just forgotten us

Douglas Brinkley, for initially being too quick to criticize the local folks, when the national ones were the true villains here; current status: Pretty good on Colbert, but a mayor crying is a sign of sincerity

Andrei Codrescu, for insisting that the city won’t be good anymore, despite the fact that we still have more character than anywhere else in the US; current status: He just seems a little more cynical.

 

So that’s my list. I’m sure it seems stupid to some of you, but like I said, I’m eager to hear what should change. I’ll update as needed.

 


Religious Protesters

23 February 2007

protester.jpgI don’t know the ins & outs of hate speech legislation (and, no, I’m not an advocate for general curtailment of speech), but consider this snippet from a letter regarding religious protestors at Mardi Gras to today’s paper:

This year they really managed to go overboard with their banner proclaiming “Catholicism Is A False Religion” and by verbally attacking a young girl on a neighbor’s balcony, telling her she and her parents were going to hell. She was having a wonderful time throwing beads to other children.

The writer’s point was to ban bullhorns, but it got me to thinking about the potential of considering these guys as threatening. Can telling people that they’re going to hell be considered hateful speech? I realize that such signs are not on par with the threat posed by burning crosses, nooses, etc, but just the same, does it constitute any sort of physical threat? They’re not saying that they are going to bring you to hell, but most racists don’t say they are going to cause you harm either; just that, you’d better watch your back.

As ridiculous as most people I know think these guys are (and, in a way, they add to the spectacle; I got a kick out of it a few years ago when they were on a particularly anti-gay bent near Good Friends. After the barkeeps turned hoses on them, the protesters quickly and proudly got rain jackets and hoods; their look of pride said, “Onward Christian Soldier,” as though they had just been martyred or something), do they have a right to condemn people to hell? I know that most of us who are out on Fat Tuesday aren’t doing anyone any harm, so these guys aren’t going to be too persuasive, but where is the line between witnessing and harming?

FWIW, as a psychologist and a person with some pretty noncommittal religious views, they would indeed be more effective if they had signs that said something like, “If you’re feeling a little guilty about what you’ve done today, talk to me.” Might increase their total converts to about 2.


Sick

22 February 2007

I was all psyched to write about my Mardi Gras experiences (which were phenomenal this year), but I’ve been in bed wanting to die.

No, it’s not even a hangover.  I always seem to get sick after the festivities, and I assume it’s the 6 straight days of drinking too much, eating too much junk, and not sleeping enough, but it’s never been like this.  At Orpheus I noticed a scratch in my throat and knew there’d be hell to pay.  I soldiered through on Fat Tuesday, and when we got home, I ate and went to bed, where I started shivering uncontrollably.  Today my fever was at least 102, and every time I cough (which is often), I feel like I’m being stabbed in the chest (or so I imagine).

And wouldn’t you know it, I let E talk me into giving up TV (including DVDs) for Lent.  We’re not exactly Lent-type people, but the sacrifice is often a good idea, since we live a pretty indulgent lifestyle most of the time.

Now I’m feeling just barely well enough to post, but I’m eager to recount the atrocities and post a few pix.  I’ve just begun uploading to Flickr, but I find that I can’t upload many at a time, or my computer freezes.

Ok, back to bed, where I basically serve as E’s electric blanket.


Inventions

16 February 2007

I’m not the most creative person in the world, but I’m sometimes proud of things I come up with, such as my melon sling invention, which is a convenient way of toting watermelons, canteloupes, etc, and my aquarium ornament, based on my best-ever Halloween costume, a mafia hit.

Now I have a new idea that would be really helpful to me, and I think any other professor or person who collaborates on computer work (Ashley, is this up your alley?  Any chance you could mandate it when you’re our new CFOB, you’ll probably tell me it already exists or is stupid for some reason, but I’m just tellin’ ya what I want)  I want someone to make a dual-screen laptop or monitor, so that someone sitting across from me would be able to see the same thing I’m seeing (turn-offable, of course).  As it is, I have to turn everything around, and we both strain our necks.  I could get another monitor, but my idea would take up less space.  It could be just an additional screen backing on my monitor, with an additional cover that could go over it to protect.

What do you tech-types think?  Any plausibility here?


Tornadoes in My Hood; No Pictures

13 February 2007

Well, it’s another round of, “How’d y’all make out?”

And another round of blessing counting for E & me. We dodged the flood by a few blocks in Katrina because we’re on high ground, and we dodged this sucker by exactly one block because… well, I don’t know why. Survivor guilt redux; at least this tornado doesn’t seem to be the type of thing to cause the city the kind of grief that K-bitch did (is). But it’s plenty rough on the people who were hit, especially the elderly woman who was killed in Gentilly. Thoughts out to the victims.

I’d love to take pix and post them as citizen journalism, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Just around the corner, we can see our neighbors’ rooms because the entire front is gone. Furniture, clothes, etc still in place, just like some of the buildings after Katrina. A bunch of the houses by us have lost roofs, walls, trees, cars, whatever. They’d be great pix, but it’s our neighbors’ life, and I just feel a little weird. Maybe it’s because this morning as we assessed the area in a crowd, some punk-ass frat boys or something said (loudly), “Man, someone could be DEAD in there.” E told him that he’s amid their neighbors and needs to shut up. I don’t mind other people taking the pix, but I’m just not quite comfortable with it.

We didn’t know what was up when E woke me up to hear the storm. Then it got REALLY loud, and stuff started hitting the house as transformers popped. Then it was over; less than a minute of strong stuff. We went to the back where the world’s biggest pecan tree and pain in the ass is, and it hadn’t lost much. But there were a few portions of someone’s roof against said tree, which seemed weird considering. Our neighbor two doors down was out and said they had a 5-foot hole from debris coming through the side of the house. Til then, I just thought it was a bad squall.

Now you’d think there was a Mardi Gras parade nearby, what with all the backed up traffic and cops (hell, even the Entergy trucks ring a bell).

One saving grace in our neighborhood is that most of the homes are probably insured, and at least these owners are most likely prepared to get work done. I felt badly though for one couple who just bought a nice place a block in the other direction and had really done some nice work on it. “Welcome to the neighborhood, folks. Let us know if you need to borrow some windows.”

Stay tuned for the locusts.


Another Good Post Column

12 February 2007

In response to my sending him Ashley’s like to the Post column by Elie (post below), GD sent me one I hadn’t seen yet from Eugene Robinson. It’s a pretty decent look at the Slow (or Nonexistent) Road Home program. This is interesting because GD lambasted Robinson shortly after Katrina for saying that the affluent white areas didn’t flood. This kind of thing pisses off guilty white males like GD and myself because we know, as most Orleanians do, that our neighborhoods are more diverse than most in the country; although we’re in the high ground of other affluent whites, my high ground holds all sort of people.

Anyway, Robinson’s column is a good one. Like him, I’m sick of people like W and Donald Powell complaining about how hard and complex this stuff is. No shit? Well, that’s why you get paid the big bucks.