28 June 2009

Hmmm.  I’d never seen anything like this before, but a woodpecker was getting after the banana tree in our backyard.  It was a little dusky when I took these, so they’re blurry, but you get the idea.

Anyone else seen this?  I assume it was after bugs, but it almost seems to be sucking nectar.



28 June 2009

It was a weird week, death-wise.  Michael Jackson’s came as a real surprise to me, but Farrah Fawcett’s was a little more expected.

My students were too young for Jackson’s heyday, but they are completely aware of his magnitude in the history of pop music.  I’ve heard a bunch of them talking about it, and I’m glad they appreciate what he meant. I hope that no footage exists of my participation in my school choir’s “Thriller Medley” from 1984.  Nobody wants to see that, but it was a big deal.  I was wisely placed in the back.

Most of them had only heard of Farrah Fawcett, but I’ve mentioned that she was ubiquitous in her day too.  Not the same degree of influence or anything, but iconic just the same.  And yes, I had the poster.

The 70s and the 80s have lost two of their biggest figures.

Now it looks like we’ll lose another major face in Walter Cronkite.  I doubt my students have even heard the name, but I’ve mentioned that they’ll be hearing about him quite a bit–newspeople love their own–as his family says his death is imminent.

Whenever I’m in some icebreaker or something, I break out the fact that Cronkite is my second cousin.  I’ve never met him, but he was pretty close to my grandmother.  He’s the only famous relative I have.

It all seems like a good time to allow Steve Martin to pay homage to Farrah and Michael:

Boy oh boy, I am so mad at Farrah Fawcett-Majors. She is so conceited. She has never called me once And after the hours I’ve spent holding up her poster with one hand! Geez!

Badlands & Black Hills

25 June 2009

Just got back from a much needed vacation to South Dakota, one of the few states I hadn’t seen before.  After grading AP psyc exams for 12 days, we were ready.  We tacked the camping onto the free flight to KC, so we could just rent a car and save a ton of money.  Well, not so much.  Because of the idiotic fees Continental charges now, the extra bags (backpacks) and my overweight bag meant we paid $130 each way in baggage fees.  Plus, we rented the car for $300 for the week, which seemed reasonable, but KC has the 2nd highest airport fees in the country, so the $300 car cost $430.  That’s almost 50% in taxes & fees.  Bullshit.

Good thing the trip was so great.  We drove up from KC and camped in the middle of South Dakota the first night before we made it to the Badlands.  They were amazing.  Incredible views, tons of wildlife (more on that in a minute), and just a great vibe.  After that we went to the Black Hills.  I’d never seen Mt. Rushmore, and I have ambivalence about it, but it was very cool.  And I’d heard of the Crazy Horse memorial, but I didn’t know much about it.  It’s great too, but it’s not nearly done, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  There’s a Werner Herzog waiting to happen if he hears about Korczak Ziolkowski.  Another obsessive crazy genius.  I like what he tried to do, but c’mon….  More great hiking and camping there, and then we came back through part of Nebraska and visited Carhenge.  Awesome.

Below is me at Stonehenge, 1990, and at Carhenge, 2009.  Anything changed?


Other highlights of the trip:

  • E almost got bit by a rattlesnake.  Seriously.  I saw it (first rattler I’d ever seen in the wild) and it got within an inch or 2 of her ankle.
  • E got attacked by ticks.
  • E went head to head with a bison.  Actually, we got the hell out of its way, but that meant treading back into rattlesnake area.
  • E braved Wind Cave, which wasn’t her cup of tea.

So, it was a trying trip for her, but we both had a blast.


  • The aforementioned rattlesnake
  • Lots of bison
  • Lots of pronghorn antelope
  • Lots of deer
  • Lots of prairie dogs
  • One marmot
  • Two mountain goats
  • Some other snakes
  • Lots of beautiful birds
  • Toads
  • Hares

For me, the animals are always the highlights, but this time another thrill was finding a fossilized jawbone, probably from an oreodont, whatever the hell that is.

Advice for traveling there:  Skip the roadside “attractions.”  S. Dakota is lousy with them, and they’re generally cheesy and lame.  Yeah, even Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.  Stick to the national parks and forests, and you’ll have a real time.

Carhenge may seem cheesy to some people, but not me.  It’s very cool.

Anyway, here are the pix.

Gene Simmons is pathetic

4 June 2009

My brother sent me a link to Terry Gross’ interview with Gene Simmons, which he apparently wouldn’t consent to release to the archives.  It’s a few years old, but it’s worth attempting a listen.

If you can stomach it, you’ll see what the face of Voodoo’s headliner is all about.  Basically, he’s a misogynistic, pseudointellectual poseur who’s clearly overcompensating for something.  Not sure how much of it’s an act, but I know that I wouldn’t want to spend 30 seconds with him.

Well, that didn’t take long

3 June 2009

I sent my friend Gary the link to Gentilly Girl’s fine send-off of Adam Nossiter.  Gary’s never been a fan, so he was quick to submit the following to the T-P and to the AJR.  Here’s what he wrote:

Regarding your article on the departure of New York Times reporter, Adam Nossiter, from New Orleans. I can say without reservation that I, for one, celebrated his exit from our city. While there may have been many fair and objective reports by journalists in the aftermath of Katrina, a preoccupation with the descent of the city seemed to captivate the national media, with Nossiter always leading the way.  His sensationalism bled into the national psyche, turning Americans against our recovery, frightening potential visitors, driving away many who might consider relocating here. One only needed to hear from friends and colleagues in other parts of the country to appreciate his poisoning of public opinion. “Been reading the Times…”

Nossiter, like his airwave counterpart Anderson Cooper, attempted to weave personal fame from the threads of our demise. I would have expected more sensitivity to our plight from a journalist with local roots but his sensationalistic reporting threatened our recovery at exactly the time when we tried to build public consensus.  While I will not deny the truths in some of his reports, in many cases, his pessimistic approach produced uneven tales that are best described as half-truths.

As examples, I found this phrase in his story on a national conference of librarians “What with ever-present evidence of last year’s destruction, crime shooting up, near-daily fires and continuing malaise… . “  His words translated an important and positive event in our recovery, our first major national conference, into yet another negative tale of the city’s stagnation. He even managed to denigrate the return of the beloved streetcar by focusing on the reduction in ridership.  More recently, he predicted in the Times that an issue with trash collection in the French Quarter would ruin the upcoming Carnival season, and then failed to report a speedy resolution of the problem well before the season began.

Nossiter’s reporting did significant damage to our reputation and our recovery by reinforcing the agenda of some outside the city who dismissed our rebirth as extravagant or impractical. His so-called commitment to keep us in the American consciousness was poisoned by the tone of his reporting, and in the end, his version of our recovery impeded rather than promoted the city’s rebirth. He is no hero in the story of our recovery.

Apt quote for the beginning of hurricane season

2 June 2009

“If we’d only take the time to listen to tropical depressions, maybe they wouldn’t become raging hurricanes.”

Dan Liebert, Verbal Cartoonist

The princess of New Orleans

1 June 2009

The Princess and the Frog, the Disney cartoon set in NO with the Black princess, is coming soon.  I was happy to hear a while back that the princess was local, but the NYT discusses the impact of the movie on stereotypes.  I’m pretty sensitive to these things, and I happen to think that most animation relies on stereotypes, usually without notable consequence.  But I thought this was a little excessive as an argument about setting the thing here:

Disney should be ashamed.  This princess story is set in New Orleans, the setting of one of the most devastating tragedies to beset a black community.

Huh?  To my mind, all the more reason to counter the stereotypes of the city that media coverage of the storm instilled.

Others claim that the prince is not Black, which seems a little weird, but they don’t show him on the website, so that may mean they’re editing to avoid the controversy.  I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s good that Disney is diversifying its palette, but I’d think parents would be more concerned about reinforcing the notion that you need a prince in the first place.