I may have officially become an old fart this evening. Frankly, I cannot decide who has been worse for New Orleans in the post-K era, hipsters, planners or NIMBYs. Let's call the whole thing off:
I may have officially become an old fart this evening. Frankly, I cannot decide who has been worse for New Orleans in the post-K era, hipsters, planners or NIMBYs. Let's call the whole thing off:
Former NOLA Mayor C Ray Nagin has been indicted for taking bribes and being a poser. I should be waxing eloquent or something like that since he used to be one of my favorite targets; instead the post title quotes what Jeff Probst says to the losing tribe on Survivor. I'm glad the vain sumbitch has been indicted but I'm bored with Nagin and everything about him. I may rally and write about his malakatude next week but all I have to add is this: the worst punishment you could inflict on C Ray is to bar him from looking in the mirror. He was always big on primping.
It's not news that a GOP Congresscritter elected in the 2010 teabagger wave election would vore against aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. It is, however, news when that malaka is from Biloxi, MS and his district was ground zero for Katrina. Here's a statement from Congressman Steven Palazzo's office:
Congressman Palazzo fully supports a Sandy relief package that includes spending offsets. On the heels of a fiscal cliff deal that added $4 trillion to our existing $16 trillion national debt, we must ensure that disaster relief is paid for. He also hopes we will be able to have a much-needed national discussion on disaster relief reform in the coming days.
This would be hilarious if it weren't so pitiful. I *hope* that the voters punish him in 2014 but I'm not optimistic. Next thing you know he'll blame the Real Housewives Of New Jersey for his vote. Relief money could fall into the hands of Tree and Juicy Joe Giudice, after all...
In Palazzo's lexicon, E is not for empathy but H *is* for hypocrisy.
The US Army Corps of Engineers plans to supervise construction of a five-story underground facility for an Israel Defense Forces complex, oddly named "Site 911," at an Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv.
Expected to take more than two years to build, at a cost of up to $100 million, the facility is to have classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3, a laboratory, shock-resistant doors, protection from nonionizing radiation and very tight security. Clearances will be required for all construction workers, guards will be at the fence and barriers will separate it from the rest of the base.
Only U.S. construction firms are being allowed to bid on the contract, and proposals are due Dec. 3, according to the latest Corps of Engineers notice.
Time and treasure are always available. US resources -- public and private -- are always available. The "no we can't" spirit so prevalent in government and private industry these days only seems to apply when we feel like it. This isn't me making a value judgment on Israel paying some private company to build whatever this is, by the way. It's me pointing out that we tend to talk about choices as if they're inevitabilities and not things we've decided to do on purpose. If we can choose to do this, we can choose to do something else, too:
Now, please take the time to watch this meeting of theLouisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authoritythat took place immediately following Hurricane Isaac where Col. Edward R. Fleming explains to the board that COE simply doesn't have the money or resources to address the levee system that flooded Braithwaite, East Plaquemines Parish and Laplace.
We choose to do and not do things, and this isn't semantics. How we talk about our spending priorities is how we understand them, and we seem to understand that protecting ourselves is impossible, and blowing shit up elsewhere in the world is inevitable, and anybody pointing out that neither of those is true is crazy.
Remember my open letter to Andrew Cuomo about former Katrina Kaiser (as opposed to Kay Kyser) Ed Blakely? I kept wondering why there was no confirmation from Noo Yawk and when the Sandy Commission was announced, the pompous Dr. Blakely's name was missing. Here's how the Gambit covered it:
Brad Penuel, the co-chair of the New York Hurricane Sandy commission to which Dr. Ed Blakely claimed he had been appointed last week, told Gambit by phone today he wasn't familiar with Blakely — and in a subsequent email, added, "Just received confirmation that Ed Blakely will not be serving on the Commission."
Blakely — the Hurricane Katrina "recovery czar" who had been appointed under former Mayor Ray Nagin — made big waves last week when his new employer, the University of Sydney in Australia, issued a press release saying Blakely had been appointed to the Respond Commission. Blakely gave an interview on the subject to an Australian radio station, confirming the appointment.
The Respond Commission is one of three announced by the state of New York to analyze the response to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Penuel, its co-chair, is also director of the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University,
An official press release released an hour ago from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced the commission's makeup and made no mention of Blakely, although it noted "Additional appointments may be made to the commissions."
Penuel, though, made it clear that Blakely would not be one of them.
I'm not sure if the flack from NOLA caused a retreat or Blakely just lied about it. My money is on the latter. Kaiser Ed has never been part of the reality based community and he's too old to start now.
May I call you Andrew? Let me start with a few compliments. I think you're doing a good job so far as Governor of the Empire State and I'm a *great admirer* of your father, Mario. Yeah, he left me at the altar in 1988 and 1992 but the man is too awesome to hold a grudge against. Of course, you know that, and are probably tired of hearing about your dad when you have your own national ambitions.
Okey doke, that was the sweet part of this open letter, here's the bitter. What on earth were you thinking when you appointed former Katrina Kaiser Ed Blakely to your Hurricane Sandy commission? It looks like your staff fell down a 12-story walkup on this one. I am a New Orleanian and Dr. Blakely was about as popular and competent as the man who appointed him, C Ray Nagin.
When Kaiser Ed (I always called him that, Tsars are for schmucks) first came to NOLA, he had the hint of the windbag about him but I wanted to give him a chance. I stuck to my guns for about 6 months until it became clear that Blakely was all talk and no action. He insulted the community (he's bound to call Staten Islanders insular Guidos at some point) and launched a flotilla of trial balloons for initiatives that never came to fruition.
I cannot honestly think of a tangible accomplishment by Blakely during his time here. He promised "cranes in the sky" and, well, the skyline was bereft of them until he was metaphorically ridden out of town on a rail.
I reckon that your staff looked at Kaiser Ed's resume and didn't use the Google before the appointment was made. Bad staff, bad. If they had they would have found my little buddy Jeffrey's classic post, Come Crane With Me: An Ed Blakely Timeline. It's a brilliant summary of Blakely's misspent time in the Crescent City and it's funny as hell to boot.
There is only one way that this appointment makes sense, use him as an example of bad recovery planning. Anything Kaiser Ed suggests, do the opposite. The man does not know his ass from a hole in the ground but he can talk for hours without saying a bloody thing that makes a lick of sense.
There's still time for you to dodge the Blakely bullet, Andrew. I initially refused to believe it was true so I consulted with Gambit Editor Kevin Allman who confirmed the story even though it had yet to appear anywhere in the reality based media such as the Times or Daily News; the NY Post doesn't count but you knew that already.
So, Governor, shitcan the appointment before Ed shows up, makes an ass out of himself and embarrasses you by saying something stupid and offensive. Don't say that the folks in New Orleans didn't warn you of his douchebaggery and malakatude because I just did.
I had a fleeting personal acquaintance with maggots in October, 2005. It happened when Dr. A and I snuck into NOLA from our Red Stick exile. I emptied our fridge and tried but failed miserably to clean it. Back to maggots, when I opened the freezer, flying maggots came zipping out. No longer larvae but living large and post-larval.
Peter Morrison, treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party in Texas, suggests in his newsletter that the state should have an “amicable divorce” from the “maggots” who re-elected Obama.
Morrison posted on his Facebook page his post-election thoughts: “We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity. But in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity.”
“Texas was once its own country, and many Texans already think in nationalist terms about their state,” Morrison continued. “We need to do everything possible to encourage a long-term shift in thinking on this issue. Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government? Let each go her own way in peace, sign a free trade agreement among the states and we can avoid this gut-wrenching spectacle every four years.”
A band of maggots, that's what we are. I think we should celebrate our maggothood or is that maggotry? Seriously, the maggots are gonna start gnawing on the Texas body politic soon enough if the Gopers don't start treating Latins like human beings.
As to the secessionist sentiments, rant on, dude. That issue was settled long ago and I don't think the enlightened minority in the South deserves to be governed solely by cretins like this bozo Morrison. Secession is a flag that wingnuts like to wave to illustrate their purity. I think it merely illustrates their idiocy.
I think malaka Morrison is suffering from maggot brain. They worm their way into your cerebellum and begin living larval. Then, they force you to say stupid things on Facebook and the Tweeter Tube. In short, you should blame George Clinton:
I've never cared for Michael Bloomberg. Arrogant plutocratic billionaires aren't my cup of tea. But I've never spent much time thinking about him. That has changed. Not because of his endorsement of the Prez, but because of his preposterously arrogant and hubristic (izzat a word?) plan to hold the New York Marathon as scheduled this weekend.That's why Mayor Billionaire Media Mogul is malaka of the week.
Lemme see: half of Manhattan doesn't have power, they're still finding dead bodies in Staten Island and Mayor Malaka is determined to tie up police resources with a marathon? Methinks his priorities are a trifle skewed. I recall all the brickbats when we in NOLA went on with Mardi Gras in 2006, which was months after Katrina and the Federal Flood (see, Harry, we do call it that here at First Draft.) The Marathon isn't even a full week after the Frankenstorm obliged Bloomberg to trot out his horrendous Spanish for public consumption. I almost called it high school Spanish but it isn't that good. I do, however, dig his ASL translator, she can bust some moves, y'all.
My friend Gambit editor, Kevin Allman, has been on the Bloomberg beat this week as well as beating Bloomberg down. I don't usually post quotes this long but I cannot top this:
Remember 48 hours after Katrina struck and the levees collapsed, when people were still trapped in buildings and the number of dead was still unknown? When the electricity was still out, hospitals were closed and essential services were stretched beyond the breaking point?
Now imagine if New Orleans had a marathon planned for the following weekend after Hurricane Katrina — and Ray Nagin insisted that, despite the state of emergency, tens of thousands of runners hit the streets.
Because that's what's happening in New York right now:"I think some people said you shouldn't run the marathon," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news briefing Wednesday. "There's an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy. There's lots of people that have come here. It's a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you've got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind."
OK. Now just imagine the cable-news and talk-radio reaction — even a fraction of the reaction — had Nagin suggested New Orleans hold a marathon six days after Katrina, and that running it was somehow a tribute to those who had perished.This is the same Bloomberg who, on Saturday, turned down President Barack Obama and FEMA's offer of help: "President Obama asked Craig Fugate from FEMA to call me earlier in the day and offer any help. I assured him that we had, we think, everything under control but we appreciate the effort. What FEMA really can do is to help those parts of the country that don't have all of the extensive facilities and agencies and practice that New York City does. But I did want to thank them for their offer." (He later reversed himself, saying FEMA had been "spectacularly helpful" so far.)
Yesterday Bloomberg turned down a visit from Obama, saying, "“What I pointed out to them is we would love to have him, but we have lots of things to do."
Perhaps understandable — a presidential visit to a disaster area can create a lot of distraction and chaos.
But a marathon is OK.
Christine Brennan of USA Today says it better than I can:"New York's leaders are shockingly, unbelievably, moving ahead with one of the most logistically challenging sporting events in the world.
This is just what a city reeling from a once-in-a-lifetime storm doesn't need: a massive road race crossing through five boroughs that usually attracts 47,000 runners and 2 million spectators and requires 8,000 volunteers, 1,000 staff members and hundreds of police and other city workers and services. It's an unnecessary distraction coming at the worst time for the city and the region."
I'm not going to defend Ray Nagin's decisions after the storm. But I don't think there is language scathing enough to express what would have been said had Nagin spurned FEMA's help right before Katrina struck — and then forged ahead with a plan to hold a marathon within the week.
So what's the difference?
The only problem with Kevin's post is that he didn't use the M word to describe Bloomberg and we all know how that's spelled: m-a-l-a-k-a. Uh oh, I seem to be having a Mickey Mouse Club flashback.
This whole episode is yet another illustration of how stratified our allegedly classless society really is. Working class folks in Staten Island are on their knees but Mayor Money Bags insists on going through with an event that makes absolutely no sense at this particular time and place. Let them eat Nikes.
Bloomberg is actually making Chris Fucking Christie look good. And if that ain't malakatude, I don't know what is.
I'm not sure what Todd Rundgren thinks of all this but I'll give him the last word. The only thing Mayor Malaka can't stop running is his mouth:
I don't usually go in for even a semi-poetic tone but the images of NYC and Atlantic City have got me thinking about our little thing here in NOLA 7 years ago. 7 years? It was really another lifetime but whenever there's a big disaster-especially in a place I've spent time in like Manhattan-my stomach gets knotted and my expression gets grim.
There's always an adrenaline rush before and during a massive system like Sandy. The next day comes the hangover, when the scope and extent of the damage is clear. This is a particularly strange event since it started as a tropical system and then morphed into a blizzardy, wintery mess. I don't envy folks who are digging out from this system having to deal with cold weather. Sarcasm alert: Climate change obviously does not exist.
There seems to be an immutable rule that the worst parts of a storm system come in after sunset in order to be even scarier. Another immutable rule is that some teevee journos will do and say stupid things. Southern Beale has a few scathing words about that over at her joint.
Speaking of stupid things said on teevee. It is *not* better to lose power when it's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk than when it's cold. It's just different. As someone who lost power for 5 days after Isaac, I know that from personal experience. Either sucks the big one and there's not a whole helluva lot you can do about it but be patient until you're not.
Athenae has posted a bit about the politics of the Frankenstorm but I'll chime in too. I usually cannot stand Joisey Governor Chris (STFU, I'm the Gov) Christie but he has called Obama's response thus far "outstanding."
Thanks, Governor; good way of hedging your bets and looking towards 2016 if Willard goes down. Of course, it helps when the Prez appoints the most qualified person in the country, Craig Fugate, as FEMA director. One final thing about Christie: lose the shirt with Chris Christie, Governor stitched on it. It looks like a maternal camp name tag or something. You don't wanna look like Edward Norton in Moonrise Kingdom, after all.
Willard is already circling around how to pretend he hasn't called for FEMA's functions to be returned to the states or, better still, in his view, to a private company. Bad idea. We saw enough FEMA crony capitalism in post-Katrina New Orleans to last a life time.
I assume that Mittbot's plan is to lie, deny and later vilify his way out of the corner he painted himself into. It's what he does. At the risk of sounding like a religious bigot, it's classic male LDS behavior. When Joseph Smith got caught with his pantaloons down, he had a revelation from God that plural marriage rocked. In the 1970's when the Mormon church was under fire for its racist policies, then President Spencer Kimball had a revelation from God that they should change that. It's a form of self-righteous denial that has served Willard well. It's the main reason why he seems to *believe* his whoppers. Politico just believes them because they're biased and want the drama of a close election. There's enough drama without that right now, y'all.
Enough nattering from me for now. I hope all my Northeast peeps are high and dry. Just gird yourself for a long, slow process and be thankful that the infra-structure in Joisey and Noo Yawk is better than that in NOLA. I somehow doubt that we'll be able to comply with Springsteen's request to "meet me tonight in Atlantic City."
The estimable Jason Berry aka Ashe Dambala filmed the Rising Tide conference for the second year in a row. He did double duty as one of my panelists this time around. It was the end of a long day and everyone, myself included, was exhausted. The mood in the room was positively funereal. I looked at the audience and saw a section of former and soon-to-be-former Picayune-ites and decided to play it straight for once. I had a few puns and zingers planned but had to file them away for future use. Tone is everything when you're performing in public so I had to shackle Shecky.
My goal as moderator was to get NOLA.com's James O'Byrne on the record with the paper's position. I'd promised him fair treatment and I believe I kept my word. One of the puns I discarded was a play on the similarity of his last name to the leader of one of my all-time favorite bands. I saved it just for y'all: O'Byrning Down The House. It's what Advance publication has done to the Times-Picayune, after all.
At the party the night before the conference I had a long chat with former TP photog John McCusker. His take: the Times Picayune as we knew it, is already dead, the formal interment will be Monday, October 1st but the spirit left the body the day of the great bloodbath in the newsroom earlier this summer.
Back to the panel. I made a new friend, laid off Picayune reporter, Katy Reckdahl, who stole the show with her insightful comments and keen analysis. As I said before, I wasn't really on my game. I even passed up a straight line from my friend Clay who asked the last question of the panel. I usually never pass up straight lines but this time I did. There's nothing funny about the demise of a local institution and 200 people being fired. Sounds Romneyesque, doesn't it?
I mentioned the funereal atmosphere. Since it's New Orleans, you might think that it would be a jazz funeral. Nope. It felt like one of those funerals that has you poleaxed because it was for someone who died way too young. I recall being at the funeral of an elderly in-law who was born cranky and stayed that way until her death in her Nineties. My brother-in-law turned to me and said "that was the period at the end of the sentence." He was talking about his Grandmother but he was absolutely right.
The death of our daily paper merits stronger punctuation than a period but since I don't believe in exclamation points, I am somewhat at a loss. Suffice it to say that the death of the Picayune we used to know feels like a crushing blow because of how important the paper and its staff were to all of us after Katrina and the Federal Flood.The reporters and staff at the Times-Pic were like soldiers who became a family because of shared circumstances and, yes, suffering.They became a part of the community's extended family as well. That's why this hurts us so much.
My primary lament is not for the *form* of the paper but for the way its institutional memory has been erased by rich cocksuckers from New Jersey and their local henchmen. If I thought they could be shamed, I'd give it a shot but shameless is as shameless does. Uh oh, I sound like Forrest Fucking Gump.The suits have erased the institutional memory of their own news organization by discarding talented people like my friend, Stephanie Grace, whose insightful political columns I already miss.
Okay before I get even more maudlin and morose, it's time to pour a shot of Jamesons, toast the end of an era and cue up the media panel:
There are times when I wish the rest of the world would forget about Katrina and just let us be normal again. This is one of those times:
New Orleans became a blank slate after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. And ever since, entrepreneurs have rushed in to experiment with new ideas for building and running a city.
Blank slate? Fuck you NPR and Debbie Elliott who is probably a well meaning, albeit misguided, lefty. There is no such thing as a community as a blank slate; especially not a city as enamored of its history, culture and as set in its ways as New Orleans. The blankety blank blank slaters are a bunch of hipster posers who mostly have *bad* ideas and bail out as soon as the going gets tough.
There have been many trash/garbage controversies in post-K NOLA. It's obvious why: we had a whole lotta extra shit to haul away including a flotilla of stinky refrigerators. The stench of the latter remains one of my most vivid recollections of coming home, as you can see from the picture above, which was taken by Dr. A. Duct tape sure came in handy, y'all.
I assume you've heard of payola whereby the record companies paid dee jays to play their records. There's a brand new-n-red hot controversy involving trashola: local talk radio super mouth, Garland Robinette is listed as a "lobbyist" for well known shitbag Fred Heebe's River Birch landfill. Garland who is best known as a stern moralist who excoriates graft and corruption was paid a cool $250K in trashola:
WWL talk radio host Garland Robinette received $250,000 from the owner of the River Birch Landfill in October 2007, after Robinette routinely used his show to criticize the reopening of the rival Old Gentilly Landfill to dispose of Hurricane Katrina debris, his attorney confirmed. Federal authorities investigating River Birch flagged the monetary transfer and interviewed Robinette several times late last year, said Robinette's attorney Dane Ciolino, who said the money was a loan.
"They asked him a lot of questions, and he has cooperated fully," Ciolino said Friday. "He has been told that he is not a subject or target of the investigation."
Embattled River Birch owner Fred Heebe loaned Robinette the money through a company Heebe owns, Ciolino said. "Fred Heebe is a personal friend of Garland's" he said, "and it was a personal loan."
Nice friend. Anyone out there wanna loan me $250K? I'm not good for it and I may skip town but what's a disappearing act between friends?
Talk about not passing the smell test: Heebe is a well known GOP crony capitalist creep. He was appointed US Attorney in 2001 by President Beavis but had to withdraw because of allegations of wife beating. Heebe had two qualifications for that post: a law degree and bigass donations to the Bush campaign and the Gret Stet goopers. There's a lovely irony that this stinky businessman is being investigated by the agency he aspired to head.
Back to Garland Robinette. I'm not sure what WWL radio's reaction to this will be: his show the Think Tank is a ratings winner. Additionally, I'm not sure as to whether or not this loan/bribe/gift or whatever is illegal. If nothing else Robinette will be hearing from the IRS sooner rather than later.
That's right, ladies and germs, trashola has converted the Think Tank into the Stink Tank. I'll update this rubbish as the story progresses.
Fixed, says a better writer than I am, is not unbroken.
I went to New Orleans this year for Rising Tide with the memory of it four years ago fresh in my mind. With the memory of the bravery of its people, with the shell-shock and desperate stretched smiles wide, fresh in my mind. I was prepared for that, for the rage that swept over me at the abandonment of this place to hit me like a wrecking ball again.
And there she was, standing on the lawn, in front of the garden hose and the neatly kept yard, around the corner from Adrastos and Dr. A, on a street where neighbors have arguments about trash and parking. She's worn, a little, her blue finery faded, her altar chipped, but she stands. There are dozens like her, all over the city. There are similar small monuments in neighborhoods near where I live, keeping watch over a small patch of grass, or a garden.
All weekend long, while another hurricane battered and killed, I kept asking people, at parties that felt like reunions, if it sounded terrible to talk about how wonderful things looked to me. If by mentioning that it seemed so joyous here now, so crowded, so noisy, so alive, that meant I was somehow saying it was all okay, and we could just forget what happened.
It was quiet, when I came here before, in 2007, with a bunch of you to see what we'd done as a country and try in some small way to help. It was quiet. The streets were quiet. There was very little traffic to dodge, very few people to approach or avoid, even 18 months after the storm. And it was a question, a question that enraged people but nonetheless a question: Would New Orleans be rebuilt?
It's not quiet anymore. The scars of abandonment are still there, the chips, the wear. The markings on a house used to signify if it had been searched, the landmarks people used in conversation: This is right around the corner from where they found a body. But there are other landmarks now, too, gloriously ordinary: There was a tree here, and they cut that down.
And it's not a question anymore. Out here, in the vast country of Not New Orleans, people do still occasionally ask it, as if it's still up for debate. That's what I'm saying. It's not up for debate. People did it. They're doing it. They've done it. Slowly, painfully, harder than they should have had to do it, but it's over, that debate. It's not whether and if but how and when, and the how and when doesn't ever really stop, but that's okay because it's not supposed to.
previously: Our Lady of the Driveway
I'll have more later, since I got here yesterday and have decided to just sleep when I get home, but my first impression is that this is such a different place from four years ago, the energy and joy are incandescent, and seeing it makes me happy the way you are when you see a friend succeed at something: Way to fucking go, man, that's awesome.
Liveblogging updates within.
Time for a shameless plug for Rising Tide 6 coupled with a swell Blondie tune. There are two more days to register for the conference at the low, low price of 25 smackers. It goes up to $30 on 7/1, which is still a good deal.This year's conference will take place on Saturday August, 27 at Xavier University in NOLA.
I've kinda sorta missed having C Ray to kick around. I haven't missed having him as my Mayor but he was so easy to mock that he was good for the satire business. It got to the point that he was such a soft target that I laid off. It was probably sometime around the point when his approval rating sank to 19% or thereabouts. It was like kicking a shiny headed dog with worms or something.
C Ray is back in the news this week, which gives me an excuse to take this stroll down malakatude memory lane. As you can see from the picture above, Nagin has written his very own Katrina tome even though back in January he told the Picayune that he had no plans to write a "tell all thing.' Knowing Nagin he probably said man at the end of the sentence, man. The Mayor as hipster doofus or is that douchebag?
The book is called Katrina's Secrets. I have a hunch that there won't be many secrets divulged or truths told because Nagin is terminally delusional. I doubt if I'll buy it but it could have some new foot in mouth masterpieces such as "crime keeps the brand out there" or "Ground Zero is just a big hole in the ground." It probably won't discuss the 90 minute shower he took on Air Force One while other Gret Stet guvmint officials were trying to get W to do something. C Ray had to shave, buff and shine his empty head. The man was never able to walk past a mirror without admiring himself: vanity can be a form of malakatude too.
C Ray has also hit the lecture circuit with middling success: people aren't that eager to hear from someone whose reputation lies somewhere between buffoon and poltroon. He's also billing himself as a "recovery expert and green advocate." Not many people in New Orleans would agree with either characterization. Recovery expert is laughable on its face and "green advocate" is almost as funny: his administration ended curbside recycling here and his sanitation director, and Whitney Houston wannabe, Veronica White said that "recycling was so 20th Century." Ms. White was, if anyhting, funnier than her boss; unintentionally, that is...
I could go on and on about Nagin's malakatude but since he's yesterday's man I won't. I did, however, once dub him malaka of the century and that should suffice.
See ya later, C Ray; after a while crocodile:
Hope that spinning platter didn't make anyone dizzy. If it did, I blame the vain, which is the title of yet another riff on Hizzhonor the former Mayor as well as a great song by Dwight Yoakam.
Former President Beavis' book has a chapter on Hurricane Katrina. According to Bush, the only mistakes he made were PR ones: he coulda shoulda spun it better. This is, of course, patent nonsense but that's how the W in denial book tour is spinning it.
According to Bush, the ones who made the big mistakes were mostly Louisiana Democrats. First, Senator Mary Landrieu was guilty of being emotional as her hometown drowned. Imagine that. Second, Governor Meemaw (aka Kathleen Babineaux Blanco) should have let him federalize the Louisiana National Guard to deal with the "insurrection" in New Orleans. As with so much else, Bush is dead wrong on that score. That was actually Blanco's finest moment during the crisis: there was *no* insurrection, it was an attempt by W's handlers to spin the event in their favor.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina destroyed Blanco's political career. Despite a tendency to speak English as a second language, she was a pretty good Governor who had a good shot at re-election before the levees broke. I miss Gov. Meemaw's malaprops but I miss having a Governor who gives a shit about the Gret Stet; especially higher education. Her successor seems poised to hot foot it out of town despite his claims that he's "got the job I want." PBJ still has high approval ratings but they're poised to crater during the next legislative session when many painful and excessive budget cuts are expected to be made.
Anyway, Katie Moore of WWL-TV caught up with former Governor Meemaw at the Carville-Matalin fest that I had to miss yesterday because I was waiting for a repairman who never showed:
Yeah, yeah, posting out of turn and all but it's Friday, plus Athenae said I could do some extra RT5-related posting. Pretty sure she meant during, rather than after, the event but hey, in New Orleans, the party never really ends.
Credit/blame to racymind for the song. It was on her ipod, we did pass by Hammond, it became part of the trip soundtrack. But it does work here, too, because it's a song — a story really — about families, mostly about choice, about what and who you choose to stand for and with. About how sometimes what might seem a choice to someone else is, to you, an imperative. Crystalline, unavoidable despite the odds of success or failure.
It works because this is actually a post about Rising Tide 5, at least a highly subjective take thereon, and all those things are part of what RT is about. A community of like-minded citizen journalists choosing to continue to stand together, not because they can't stop looking backwards, or because they can't get over something that happened five years ago, but rather because they see the truth. In fact, they cannot help but do so: a lot of shit that started five years ago is still happening, is happening again, over and over, and more continues to start new every day. Mac McClelland pretty much nailed it in her keynote. If you STILL haven't seen the video, just go, do it now.
It was an awfully damn inspiring event to take part in. I'll be there next year for sure. Don't have a choice not to.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina began wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast that's still reverberating today -- and many members of the public continue to see Michael Brown, head of FEMA at the time, as one of the story's chief villains.
Still, Brown, a KOA talk-show host who'll broadcast live from New Orleans tonight and tomorrow, insists this feeling is hardly universal, as he learned after being caught in a recent storm.
"I've actually been to New Orleans several times" since Katrina, he points out en route to the airport this morning. "This might be my fourth or fifth trip back -- and my last trip was about a month or two ago, with Spike Lee, to do some interviews for his documentary on HBO."
During that stop, "I had to go get a rental car, because that evening, I had to broadcast from Baton Rouge instead of New Orleans. And I was walking from the hotel to a rental place when there was a downpour. So I headed into the foyer of an old abandoned building with some other people, including this sweet old woman. We were all soaked -- and I started talking to her.
"We were just making small talk, and, bless her heart, she recognized who I am and put her arm around me and said, 'I'll tell you what, sonny, we got out of the city, but we saw what happened -- and you just weren't treated right.' And I said, 'Ma'am, you've just made my day.'"
The opposite point of view was expressed by an e-mailer whose note reached Brown last night. "It was from somebody who lives in Shreveport or something -- a trial lawyer, I think. And he wrote, 'How dare you share your face back in Louisiana. You and Bush screwed this up' -- they've always got to throw Bush in there."
His response? "Okay, whatever. That's life in general. Some people, no matter what you talk about in terms of what took place, what happened, what didn't happen -- some of them will just never be emotionally able to accept me or anyone else from the administration. And I get that."
But he refuses to hide.
...and reading one of my pieces at the book launch tomorrow. Here's the one I plan to read. It's pretty good for a baby blogger if I do say so myself. It's dated 1/15/06:
....is the title of a 1968 LP by those wacky funsters Firesign Theatre
who were kinda sorta the Yank version of Monty Python. I devoted part
of my misspent adolescence listening to their records. (For the young
uns reading this: A record is a black thing made of vinyl that is played
with a needle. Ouch.) Now, you're probably asking yourself what the
hell Firesign Theatre has to do with my post-K blog. Not a whole helluva
lot but the title is an appropriate one to...um...appropriate and
apply to the FEMA trailer issue here in Debrisville circa 2006. The
front page of yesterday's local rag had another story about <drum
roll> finger pointing on
the trailer issue. Mayor C Ray blames FEMA; FEMA blames Entergy;
Entergy blames City Hall, the contractors hired by FEMA and Yoko Ono
who, in turn, blames Paul McCartney. To paraphrase the late Senator from
Louisiana, Russell Long, "Don't blame you, don't blame me, blame that
fella behind the tree." Senator Son of Huey was talking about taxes
instead of the blame game but I think you catch my drift.
The process to get a trailer, or a flooded house for that matter, energized is a cumbersome one. It has 3-steps: A licensed electrician and, then, a city inspector must approve the work *before* Entergy sends a crew out to energize the trailer/house whatever. And to slow things down even more, at times the city has had as few as 2 electrical inspectors on the job post-K. Chief Nagin Clone Greg Meffert has said for weeks that he was considering cutting out step-2 (the city inspection) but he still has not done so. Once again, C Ray and his krewe of clones are making a problem worse by talking instead of acting. They not only need to wake up and smell the coffee, they need to drink some and pronto. C Ray and his krewe of clones seem determined to live up (down?) to another Firesign Theatre album title, "I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus."
This is a bloggercentric version of the book announcement. Click on this LINK to read the press release and to learn how you can buy this sucker. I'm honored to be one of the bloggers included:
Gallatin & Toulouse Press announces the publication of A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writings from Postdiluvian New Orleans. This collection combines the vivid post-Katrina experiences captured by the best New Orleans bloggers with the work of traditional writers from the same period, cataloging some of the best-written and most powerful reactions of the people who experienced Katrina.
The book launch reading will be Thursday, Aug. 26 7 pm Upstairs at Mimi's in the Marigny in NOLA. Open to the public. Bloggers include Clifton Harris, Ray Shea, Maitri Erwin, Troy Gilbert, Tim Ruppert, Peter Athas, Greg Peters, Sam Jasper, Ashley Morris and others. Cover by Greg Peters. Sam Jasper and Mark Folse, editors with much assistance from Ray Shea.
Proceeds from the book will be donated to Hana Morris.
Tom Benson is the car dealer who owns the Saints and an increasing number of properties in downtown New Orleans. His star has waxed and waned over the years but right now his public stock is pretty high because of a certain football game earlier this year. I've always considered Benson to be a malaka; mostly because of his repeated attempts to get taxpayers to pay for a new stadium for his team. Right after Katrina and the federal flood, Benson seriously considered moving the Saints to San Antonio but it didn't happen in large part because then NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue recognized a PR nightmare when he saw one. So, we're inclined to cheer not boo the former Commissioner here in NOLA. Guess I shouldn't have called him the commish either since it conjures up images of Michael Chiklis when he had a chia pet on his head and I'd rather picture him as Vic Mackey...
Since 2005 Benson's malakatude seemed to lessen. He stopped demanding a new stadium and kept the team in what many locals call the Sacredome. He hired Sean Payton who brought Drew Brees and eventually a championship to Debrisville. Benson is now older than the Grampian Hills so his grandkid, Rita, seems to be running the business side of the team, which other than fawning local press coverage has been a big improvement. Tom Benson like most successful car dealers has a rough side: he's always reminded me of a yat Archie Bunker. I keep waiting for him to call people dingbats and meatheads and I suspect he does so in private along with other cherce epithets. Aw, jeez...
In 2008, the Bensons bought the local Fox station and this is what may have inspired his reversion to serious malakatude. Benson has long been a major contributor to the Republican party, which is par for the course for an NFL owner but now he's pitching in and helping the loathsome Glenn Beck with his so called 828 event:
One of the ways that Glenn Beck is raising money is by way of an auction. He’s auctioning off all kinds of stuff, like a scholarship to Liberty University, dinner at the Glenn Beck mansion or a lunch date with Karl Rove.
But, there’s one recent addition to the auction stands out. Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints, donated “4 Plaza Level Tickets & Exclusive Pre-Game Field Passes to a New Orleans Saints NFC South Home Game of Your Choice”
Based on how disgraceful Glenn Beck’s 828 event really is, any reputable business person or organization should not be helping Glenn Beck raise money for a book launching event. Moreover, given that Glenn Beck called Hurricane Katrina victims “scumbags,” the use of The Saints to raise money for Glenn Beck is even stranger.
It's not strange if you know anything about Tom Benson. He's a car dealer so he's used to shaking suckers down and sticking them with vehicles and car notes they can't afford. He's also a pro football magnate so he's used to shaking down politicians to subsidize his team; not to mention raising ticket prices on the fans who love the team, not the owner. Additionally, the Gret Stet has moved way to the right in recent years so shacking up with Beck probably won't hurt him. It does, however, make him malaka of the week.
There was a community meeting in St. Bernard Parish last evening, which is facing a crisis worse than Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. That's saying a lot since Da Parish took it in the neck in 2005. One fisherman summed up the situation by asking BP and the assembled officialdom: "Can you replace my heritage?"
Here's how WWL-TV's Bigad Shaban covered the story last night:
If you're not watching Treme, you should be. I'm not saying you have to subscribe to premium cable, but make a note because the DVDs will be out sooner or later. In the meantime maybe you can just persuade someone to record it for you, or invite you over for dinner on Sundays. It's worth it, because like The Wire, it's not just a story about one particular city. It's about the stuff you read on this blog, it's about this country we all live in. Not for nothing, there's a hell of a lot of great music in it too.
Sunday's "Right Place, Wrong Time" was arguably the best episode so far. The first two were certainly not all fun and games but in this one, shit got real. As Maitri commented right after it ended, the sense of dread was palpable. Whether they're working hard to get their life back on track or just going through the motions, most of the characters end up someplace they didn't intend to be. In jail, in exile, in bed with the wrong person, drinking alone, staring bewildered at the Disaster Tour bus rolling through a moment of private grief.
In the most poignant scene of the episode, two story arcs collide when trombonist Antoine, drunk and stumbling homeward after a stripclub gig, comes around the corner where buskers Annie and Sonny are performing. Weaving back and forth, he sings along, escaping into a memory. I don't stand a ghost of a chance ... and just like that, he's a different character than who we knew before, no longer just the tomcatting clown we've come to depend on for comic relief.
The Dr. John classic the title comes from, used as a source cue as well as episode theme, serves as an apt metaphor for life after one's world has been picked up, shaken, and thrown back down, by trauma, by natural disaster, or by both entwined. In "Right Place, Wrong Time," post-K New Orleans is a purgatory where polarities have been reversed, nothing works the way it used to, things can't get back to normal because normal doesn't live there anymore either.
The Continental Drifters used to call New Orleans home, and the storm and its aftermath were especially cruel to the band's extended family. In a rambling remembrance written after the body of his ex-brother-in-law Barry Cowsill was finally found months after Katrina, Peter Holsapple mentions "the purgatorial zone" so many Katrina survivors ended up in. But this song pre-dates Katrina by a few years, so it's not about the storm or any of that.
Except that it is, inasmuch as it's about being in limbo:
to this bar I know
won't get me where I wanna go
I listened to this a lot when I was in my own fugue state following a life-altering trauma. It didn't make me feel better but it helped me recognize where I was. I especially related to the cynicism of the title because even though I sometimes allowed myself to hope things would work out just fine, when other people said stuff like that I wanted to slap them.
Not unlike Antoine wandering home from Bourbon Street, the singer (Mark Walton, who also wrote the song) lurches through the lyrics. Spaghetti-surf guitar pushes along under poppy-gorgeous choruses in contrast with minor key accordion noir and the slurred despair of the vocals. It's Nick Cave meets the Mamas and the Papas. It's the bardo. It's where you're left after your old life is gone but before you come to recognize the stranger that's taken your place.
I have an iPhone and I really like it. I even know why they call it a smart phone, it does cool things and has swell apps but this smartness (izzat a word?) thing doesn't translate to its users. I saw a woman crossing Canal Street this morning so engrossed in her smart phone that she didn't notice the bus bearing down on her until the driver honked. I hate to use a cliche but she got that deer in the headlights look and dropped her phone, which was obviously smarter than her. Smash.
A brief apology for my fleeting appearances at First Draft this week. I am slammed at work and I've been obsessing out over Treme at Back Of Town. The show being set 3 months post-K has punched a lot of my buttons and engaged my interest. Speaking of which, I keep finding swell versions of Careless Love to post. Here's another one:
Every state in the union has a neighboring state they both mock and look down on. Here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, we're glad that Mississippi exists, otherwise we'd have to make it up. Both states tend to be at the bottom of lists you want to be on top of and at the top of lists you don't even want to be on at all. Oddly, both states have conservative Republican Governors with Presidential ambitions. That brings me to this week's "honoree" Haley Barbour.
In many ways this is a lifetime "achievement" award. Barbour has been a malaka for decades. He was close to the Bushes, father and son. He's a former RNC Chairman and big shot lobbyist who pretends to be a good ole boy. In short he's a complete phony, which is what malakatude is all about; at least this week. Barbour is also coyly flirting with running for President. Just what we need: another Southern Gooper in the White House.Yikes. Sheesh.
In the last week, the Barbour of Pascagoula (my favorite Magnolia state town name) has had a bout of foot in mouth disease as far as I'm concerned. And my voice is all that matters when it comes to the malaka of the week. I do, however, enjoy getting suggestions; the world is malakatudinous.
Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, the quotable Haley Barbour. He's been sparring with all sorts of people of late. Here's a snippet from an AP story about his wee kerfuffle with Chairman Mouth of the RNC:
Race and "fat rednecks" and Republicans.
First there's national Republican Party chairman Michael Steele, who has come under criticism for his leadership. Steele says he thinks he's being held to a higher standard because he's black.
Then there's a former GOP chairman, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. He disagrees with Steele's assessment. Barbour says that's like saying, "I think I'm held to the higher standard because I'm a fat redneck with an accent like this."
Gee, now I wish I hadn't called Bob McDonnell a cracker the other day. It makes it harder for me to bash Barbour for being a rich fat cat lobbyist who plays at redneckery and good ole boydom. Oops, I guess I just bashed for him it. Oh well, I never claimed to be consistent...
Governor Barbour was just getting warmed up. In the same CNN appearance, he said that the flap over Bob McDonnell's Confederate history month thingee was overblown and that the slavery issue "didn't amount to diddly." Why? Because that citadel of malakatude, the Mississippi ledge had passed a similar resolution. Uh, Haley if you're running for President you have to win some non-Southern states and the myth of the lost cause doesn't (pronounced dudn't in the deep South) amount to diddly in much of the country. I suspect that there aren't a lot of chapters of the Sons of the Confederacy in the battleground states of the Midwest.
Finally, the Guvnuh got on his hind legs at the SRLC in New Orleans and made bogus and overblown claims about the glories of his state's recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He went on to called President Obama's policies a "man made disaster." Not a bad phrase but some of us would call Obama the guy who won the 2008 election with 53% of the vote and not via the Supreme Court. The real man made disaster on the Gulf Coast was the Federal Flood of New Orleans, which was made worse by Haley's buddies Beavis and Turd Blossom:
"Candidly I want to say thank you to the federal government," he said. "The federal government gets a very bad rap about what happened after Katrina. The federal government was very generous to us after the storm and I want to say thank you for that."
They were generous to their political allies like Barbour and Trent Lott but there are a lot of folks in this region who vehemently disagree with the Mississippi Malaka. I have a funny feeling that the Governor won't be thanking the Obama administration for its share of the stimulus money. Ingratitude is another mark of malakatude.
It's hard to imagine *any* Governor of Mississippi winning the Presidency. I know one thing for sure: Haley would make the executive mansion the Whiter House. I suspect his flirtation with running for the GOP nomination is another exercise in both vanity and malakatude. Barbour would, however, do better than Sister Sarah whose percentage of the popular vote would be in Landon, Goldwater or McGovern territory.
Yesterday, the Baton Rouge Advocate ran a fascinating as well as appalling story about police misconduct and racism in BR post-K.
Baton Rouge police officers routinely harassed black people, resorted to unnecessary violence and conducted illegal searches in the days after Hurricane Katrina, out-of-state troopers claimed in reports recently released by the Police Department.
One trooper said Baton Rouge officers referred to black people as “animals” that needed to be beaten down. Troopers also reported that officers said they were under orders to make life rough for New Orleans evacuees so they would leave town.
State Police in New Mexico and Michigan cited a pattern of violence and discrimination when they pulled their troopers out of Baton Rouge after just two days of helping local police deal with an influx of hurricane evacuees in September 2005.
None of this comes as a surprise to those of us who spent any time in Baton Rouge in 2005. Dr. A and I were in exile for 6 or 7 weeks. We spent part of that time in Shreveport and Dallas where people were very sympathetic and friendly if you mentioned you were from New Orleans. We spent the last part of our exile in Baton Rouge where we were met with hostility and suspicion. Even in areas where there were very few poor New Orleanians, people kept asking: "When are y'all going home?" My stock response was to explain that it was the authorities who were keeping us out and that we planned to leave ASAP. Eventually, I stopped telling people I was from New Orleans, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of dealing with the hostility.
Baton Rouge was a seething pit of paranoia, fear and downright Xenophobia in September and October, 2005. They were convinced that they were being invaded by hordes of welfare cheats, gangbangers, liberals and whatnot from the big evil city of New Orleans. Red Stick has always had an inferiority complex vis a vis New Orleans, which was covered with a patina of contempt in the wake of Katrina. The BRPD hasn't kept up very well with the changes in its own community, which has grown from a sleepy mid-sized guvmint/college/oil biz town into a sprawling urban area with all the usual problems that were exacerbated by the influx of New Orleanians. They've spent the last few years fighting the Advocate over the information contained in their files on post-K police misconduct and now we know why.
It's obvious that people in Baton Rouge still have a chip on their collective shoulder in their attitude about what happened in 2005. They did indeed have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of housing indigent evacuees from New Orleans but they could have done so with a neighborly spirit instead of viewing outsiders with fear and loathing. I, for one, am grateful to the Advocate for pursuing the truth and hope that it may dislodge the chip from a few shoulders in the Baton Rouge area but I'm not holding my breath. Old habits, and biases, are hard to break.
UPDATE: I just re-read the article and the folks in power in Red Stick say: Same as it ever was, same as it ever was. A feeble excuse to post a certain Talking Heads tune.
This is a piece I wrote for my blog and posted this morning. It's geared to my NOLA readership so let me provide some context. In the late 1980's and early 1990's violent crime and police misconduct were endemic. Marc Morial was elected Mayor of New Orleans in 1994 and promised to clean house at the NOPD and hire a reform minded police chief. He did: Richard Pennington was hired and got rid of 1/3 of the force he inherited. Modern crime fighting techniques such as COMSTAT were brought in and the murder rate was halved. Pennington left office in 2002 after an unsuccessful run for Mayor. He went to be police chief in Atlanta where things didn't go as well. End of introduction and on to the main post:
Other than a brief post at First Draft, I haven't weighed in on the Danziger Bridge case. It's not because I lack strong opinions but because I wanted to think my way through that particular maze. It's a murky mess, folks, but one thing is clear: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth must come out. And not only about the Danziger Bridge case but about all the excesses that happened post-K and subsequently.
I hate this situation. I know quite a few cops and they're good guys and, even better, good poleese. The rest of the force runs the gamut of humanity from cretins to shit heels to thieves to careerists to those who are mixed bags. In my estimation, any large organization will usually have up to 20% assholes: the key is for management and the other 80% to rein them in. The NOPD's AQ (asshole quotient) seems to have exploded post-K to more like 40%, which may be higher than the 1/3 of the force fired or forced out when Pennington and company cleaned house.
Why have things gotten so bad after the reforms of the 1990's? Reform is an ongoing process and things changed dramatically when Nagin was elected Mayor. Both of Nagin's chiefs, Eddie Compass and Warren Riley placed a premium on loyalty, which is a prescription for disaster when the shit hits the fan. I have mixed feelings about Compass, he was an oustanding street cop who was fatally miscast as Chief. Like so many others, he cracked under the pressure of the 2005 disaster and lost control of the force. Riley superficially regained control but NOPD has never recovered moralewise from its stint in hell.
From the outside, Riley seems to have made a deal with his troops about what happened post-K: punish the "deserters" but sweep everything else under the rug because they were under such extreme pressure. In short, Riley is sort of a one man truth and reconciliation commission. But instead of airing problems and working towards understanding the horrendous conditions that made cops crack, he turned a blind eye in exchange for their loyalty. A police force run on loyalty instead of professionalism will inevitably cover up for one another and won't inspire whistle blowers to break ranks and tell the truth. Why stick your neck out when it will be career suicide? That's the mess we find ourselves in.
I've heard conflicting things about Lt. Lohman, the investigating officer who pled guilty to obstruction of justice. Some say that he was good poleese who felt intense guilt and decided to spill his guts for that reason. Others say that he copped a plea to get the best deal he could when it became obvious that the cover up was unraveling. At this point, I'm not sure what to think. The one thing I'm sure of is that the culture of loyalty over professionalism cultivated by Warren Riley is the reason that a story that didn't pass the smell test turned into the official story. Riley is now shocked, shocked by Lohman's confession and claims to have never read the dishonest report. Repeat after me: deniability. Riley is getting his defense ready in case he's in the dock himself some day.
Where do we go from here? As I said earlier, the truth of all the post-K NOPD horrors needs to come out and the worst offenders should be fired and prosecuted. But as a practical matter, we cannot fire the entire police force and start from scratch. People need to stop thinking that police corruption is like a virus that contaminates everyone: it's more individualized than that, the majority of cops ignore it and pretend that it's not happening. Deniability leads to denial.
The most important thing is to return a culture of professionalism to NOPD whereby cops are more likely to be penalized for NOT reporting misconduct rather than thinking "why should I stick my neck out." The good news is that Warren Riley will be gone soon. His replacement has an enormous and unenviable task. They may well have to fire and/or discipline as many cops as Pennington did when he took over. The most important thing is to reduce the AQ (asshole quotient) and get it under 15-20%, there's nothing worse than an asshole with a gun and the power of arrest. It can be done because it has been done before. The real shame is that it has to be done all over again. Let's hope NOPD sustains the reforms this time around or we could find ourselves back in the same mess the next time the keys to City Hall change hands.
Remember the Danziger 7? They were the New Orleans cops accused of murdering people on the Danziger Bridge in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. A state court dismissed charges against them in 2008 but the Feds launched their own investigation into the episode and subsequent cover-up.
The case exploded yesterday when the police Captain who investigated the incident pled guilty to obstruction of justice and admitted that it looked like a "bad shoot" from the git go. This is the *perfect* witness for the Feds: he knows all the details and wasn't one of the shooters. Here's a link to the front page story in this morning's Picayune.
I almost called myself a reanimator but since I lack Dr. Frankenstein's powers I decided not to. Recreator sounds quite weird enough, y'all. It makes me sound like the Jahweh of re-runs. Or is the proper term recreationist? Probably not, sounds more like Darwin denial to me...
Now that I've mucked about with word play, off we go. The Treme filming was something of a clusterfuck, which I know is quite typical. That's why they call it show business with the emphasis on the latter. If anyone else decides to do some extra-ing, I have one piece of advice for you: do not work your day job if you have a night shoot. I essentially worked a 16-17 hour day, which was kind of like being a junior associate at a New York law firm. I was bone tired when I left. I'd rather be bone idle...
We arrived at Washington Square Park in the Marigny and saw a long line snaking out of the tent. I was a bit confused because we'd been told we would be treated as first class extras whatever the hell that means. Just as I despaired of ever getting out of that line, a chick with a clipboard showed up and said: "Are there any Krewe members? If you are follow me." So, we got cuts, which I approved of. This episode set the tone for the evening: sometimes we were special and other times we were rabble. I'm not fond of being rabble even if it's sporadically rousing.
We got in the tent and ran into our peeps: the sub-krewe of PAN. We all had paperwork to do so we could get paid for being told to hurry up and wait. They fed us but tried to reserve one line for musicians only. One of the Krewe du Vieux members glared at the kid with the clipboard and said: "Fuck that. I'm staying on this side of the line." Said clipboard kid meekly retreated in the face of his righteous indignation as well as his elaborately decorated hard hat. I had Joe Sixpack on my side and it felt frakking good.
The oddest part for me was seeing our new mime, Chris. My dear friend and blogging colleague the late Ashley Morris was the mime in the 2006 parade. Ashley's spirit hung over the whole enterprise for his sub-krewe mates. Krewe du Vieux and Ashley are synonymous for me. I joined PAN through Ashley after jokingly asking him "who do you have to kill or fuck to get in." He laughed and said: "I know a guy." Despite his reputation for bluster, Ashley was a master finagler and that's how I ended up in the cold in Faubourg Marigny as an extra last week.
Krewe du Vieux is a home made parade with rough satirical edges. The 2006 parade was an emotionally charged event since it was the first public post-K Carnival event. The overall theme was C'est Levee and PAN's take on that theme was Buy Us Back, Chirac. It's a good thing that Black Jacques was still Prez: let's get cozy with Sarkozy doesn't pack the same wallop. Anyway, we all dressed up as various Frenchy types: aristos, priests, maids, Breton fishermen and our Captain as Napoleon the First and his wife as Jeanne D'Arc. Now that's leadership, y'all. <humming the Marseilles>
The float builders did a good job depicting our rickety old float. In fact, too good, as I said before KdV has a handmade, homemade feel to it and this float was slick. A few pictures including our mime and Jeanne D'Arc:
Dr. A took the photos on her iPhone which along with the stage lit streets gives this an eerie feel but 2006 was an eerie time so it fits. Call it Adrastos noir...
The Treme assistant directors' attempts to manage the KdV people were amusing and, occasionally, infuriating. They didn't seem fully briefed that we were there because we were the real deal and as such were quasi technical advisers. We didn't do it for the money: we did it for love of our Krewe and, some of us, out of love for Ashley. That meant that we were quite prepared to bolt when they asked us to do something *extra* ridiculous and it nearly happened when we were finally called to the faux parade route. The AD told us to march in front of our floats, which led to a heated exchange that I gleefully joined in. We *always* march behind our float and when we told the AD that he balked so I said: "We won't do it but if we did you'd be mocked in New Orleans. So much for verisimilitude." He relented after a flurry of similar comments from my krewe mates. Score one for the locals.
They preferred that we not drink during the shoot but we are enterprising people and, in the interest of realism, hit the bars on Frenchmen Street. It was pretty weird entering a bar clad in my clerical robe complete with staff and beret. Dr. A was a pre-revolutionary French fop. We look ready for the guillotine, don't we? Let them eat not only cake but wigs...
The rest of the shoot combined repetition and boredom. It was also cold and windy on the street that night. We had a few more minor run-ins with the AD assigned to us but he eventually realized that we were not normal extras doing it for, uh, extra money. The problem was that by the time he figured that out, the shoot was nearly over. C'est la vie or is that C'est levee?
The biggest problem with the shoot involved the people who were cast as crowd extras. They looked like hipsters at a rave, which is not the Krewe du Vieux crowd at any time but particularly not in 2006. That crowd consisted of hardcore New Orleanians who were back in the city, struggling to rebuild: the hipsters floated in later. Dr. A looked at the crowd and said: "Where are the black families and gay men." An odd juxtaposition to be sure but both groups are heavily represented in a typical KdV crowd. And the Marigny has a big gay population, which made the gutterpunks and hipster doofi in the crowd even more ridiculous. No drag queens or costumes along the KdV route? Poppycock.
Parading over and over again was dull but necessary. I do, however, think that some of our footage will end up in the show since rumor has it that there *may* be a KdV sub-plot. Additionally, there was a set-up involving Steve Zahn's character in the crowd. The good news is that Zahn looked more like a normal KdV viewer than the hipster doofi around him. Treme star Wendell Pierce also marched with PAN's teevee band, the Stooges Brass Band:
Poor Wendell, they made him a trombonist who are the butt of jokes in the horn playing community. It is, however, an easier instrument to fake than some other horns. I didn't meet Pierce, the look on his face made it clear that he was there to work and not to fraternize with various odd faux French people. I respect that. Me, I was there to mill around and freeze my ass off.
In the end, I'm glad I was an extra on Treme. It was more work than play but I'll be dining out on some of these stories for years; especially the ones I cannot write about. Juicy, juicy, juicy. But my lips are sealed or is my keyboard is locked? Whatever.
I'm not sure, however, that Treme will be as note perfect about post-K NOLA as The Wire was about Baltimore. Yes, I know it's David Simon's show BUT Balmer is *his* town and now he's at the mercy of research and local advisers. The parade we shot is likely to look like every other Mardi Gras parade ever filmed as opposed to the dignified frenzy (an oxymoron but true) of Krewe du Vieux 2006. It's a detail and maybe a small one but you know what they say about the details and the devil. Among his local writers, I hope that Simon leans on former Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie who knows a great deal about many of the sub-cultures that make New Orleans so interesting as well as infuriating.
Finally, PAN was not the only KdV sub-krewe represented: Spermes, TOKIN and Comatose were there as well. We made a lot of Spermes jokes over the course of the evening; especially over their trademark spermatozoa staffs. I approached my friend, and fellow NOLA blogger, Hammhawk and asked him if they were all now donors since it was so bloody cold. Then we tried cross-breeding a Fleur de Lis with his Spermes, uh, pole:If you want to see more of Dr. A's cinema verite pictures follow this link.
David Simon's new HBO series Treme will be on the air quite soon. It's, of course, set in post-K New Orleans and the combination of Simon's involvement and the topic has created quite a buzz in Debrisville. John Goodman was recently added to the cast. Goodman's character is loosely based on my late friend Ashley Morris whose picture is above. He's a college professor who boosts his beloved city and dumps on those who shit on us. Sound familiar, Athenae and Scout?I, along with some other NOLA bloggers, learned about this some time ago but kept it under our hats until the Goodman announcement was made. I'm feeling lazy today so to learn more about Treme, Goodman and Ashley, head over to our mutual friend Mark Folse's joint, Toulouse Street.
My friend Michael Homan is a NOLA blogger and Xavier University professor who rode out the storm at his house in Mid-City. Unfortunately for Michael, his neighborhood flooded, which led to a series of harrowing adventures as well as long periods of boredom until he left his flooded house. It's a damn good thing that he's such a strong swimmer.
I grew up in earthquake country (the Bay Area) and live in the hurricane zone so the disaster in Haiti punches my empathy buttons. Unlike those folks, I've been lucky. The worst thing that ever happened to me earthquake wise was a stack of books landing on my bed in my parents house when I was a surly teenager. (Getting hit in the head with a copy of Catch-22 did nothing to improve my disposition.) I was among the lucky in New Orleans too but was exiled from my home and city for weeks. I've made a modest donation and I hope that our readers will click on some of the links posted by Athenae yesterday or use the Google to find other ways to help.
Seeing the film of the collapsed buildings in Port au Prince, of course, reminded me of the post-Katrina devastation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As First Draft readers know, most of the damage in New Orleans was from the Federal Flood but places in Mississippi such as Waveland and Bay St. Louis were leveled by the storm. And whenever I think of that disaster and the flooded streets of Gentilly, the Lower Ninth Ward, Lakeview and Mid-City in New Orleans, I get Bruce Springsteen's My City Of Ruins in my head. It was written for his post 9/11 masterpiece The Rising but as with the best of Bruce's work, it's universal. It's Sam Cooke meets The Band meets the E Street Band.
I'd like to dedicate My City Of Ruins to the people of the epicenter of the earthquake, Port au Prince. Come on, rise up:
Note: This post was initially written for my blog and it has a few inside NOLA references but I'm too busy (lazy?) to hyperlink and explain them so just go with the flow. Happy New Year, Adrastos
Lisztomania is a best forgotten "bio-pic" about Franz Liszt directed by the master of excess, Ken Russell. Its theorum was that Liszt, the leading concert pianist of his day, was the first rock star so he was played by Roger Daltrey. I love Roger to death but this is the sort of disastrous casting that no movie can survive.
My feelings about the Aughties are akin to my feelings for Lisztomania, I'm glad it's over but there were some good bits as well. So I'm succumbing to the Listomania that's racing through the blogosphere like a virus at a dormitory. I have two lists: the things I *liked* about the first decade of the 21st Century and those I disliked.
The Top Five Things I Liked About The Aughties, in no particular order:
1. Good Teevee Shows: The Aughties was when movies for grown-ups fled the big screen and found refuge on teevee. There were some of the best shows ever on the boob tube, most of which could be found on cable. Here are a few of my favorites: The Wire, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, 30 Rock, Top Chef, Project Runway, Survivor, Mad Men, Dexter, Foyle's War, Battlestar Galactica and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to name a few. Unfortunately, good sitcoms were harder to find than dramas so there's only one on my short list.
2. The Blogosphere: I started blogging 4 years ago and love it. I've also made some very good friends, both real and virtual, and come up with some pretty darn good nicknames. My favorites are all New Orleanians: Renee Gill-Pratfall, Cynthia Windy-Lewis and last but never least, Mr. Gloomy Pants. 2009 was a rough year for me but one of the few highlights was being invited to join First Draft. Thanks, Athenae
3. The Spread Of Good Food: I grew up in a food oriented family. My mother was a great cook and we lived in a proto-foodie place, the San Francisco Bay Area. I now, of course, live in foodie heaven, New Orleans. But the gospel of good food has spread hither and yon and it's now possible to get a good meal in previously unheard of places like the United Kingdom and not just the ethnic joints either. I kid you not.
4. The Entertainment Value Of New Orleans Politics: There are times when I pinch myself over how truly ridiculous NOLA politics and politicians are. As a citizen, I'm semi-horrified but as an online satirist, I'm thrilled. Special thanks to C Ray, Dollar Bill, Oliver the Actor, Veronica White and Kaiser Ed Blakely. I couldn't have done it without you guys.
5. The Rise In Citizen Activism: The 2008 election was thrilling because of how passionate and involved people were after we blew it in 2004. The internet fueled the wave and it started rolling after Bush launched his war in Iraq and crested in November, 2008. It even came to post-Katrina/Federal Flood New Orleans, which was a pleasant surprise in a city best known for its laissez faire attitude about its corrupt and inept guvmint. Of course, in 2009 the energy seems to be on the Right but wingnuttery is good for the satire biz.
The Top Five Things I Disliked About The Aughties, in no particular order:
1. The 2000 US Presidential Election: Or as I like to call it, prelude to a bummer. The sturm and drang on the GOP side gave us a hint of what was to come. I came to feel very badly about my apathy in that election season, not that being more engaged would have made a damn bit of difference in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I voted for Gore and thought he'd be a much better candidate than President but I had a bad case of Clinton fatigue. Besides, I thought at the time: the other guy is Poppy Bush's doofus son, how bad can he be? We all found out.
2. Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood: It ripped our lives apart in New Orleans. Dr. A and I were among the lucky ones BUT the impact of that period remains strong. I've heard folks from other places talk about Katrina fatigue. We've got it too:one can't watch a Saints game on teevee without a gratuitous, and usually incorrect, Katrina reference. I'm also tired of talking to tourists who think the French Quarter was underwater because of piss poor press coverage, which brings me to:
3. The Decline and Fall Of The MSM: I came of age in the 1970's when the American media did some remarkable work but those days are long gone. The MSM is now characterized by sloppy and lazy reporting and by a general cluelessness as to why it's in decline. Bob Woodward is the poster boy for the decline: he's gone from an outsider who helped slay Nixon administration to an insider who fluffed the Bush administration.
4. The Coarsening/Dumbing Down Of The Culture: In this instance, I'm referring to a general lack of consideration for the other guy and not just what passes for the arts. It impacts every aspect of daily life: people seem to be getting ruder, coarser, stupider and more selfish every day.
I hope I don't have a creeping case of old fartism but it seems to me that people have an increasingly hard time distinguishing between how you act in public and in private. And that makes life both harder and dumber. In lamenting dumbassery in the Deep South of his day, H.L. Mencken once referred to it as the "sahara of the bozart." I think that's an accurate description of life in the US and A in the Aughties.
5. Greed: The selfishness I referred to above reached its apogee in the 2008 economic meltdown. We've gone from a country that used to make things to one obsessed with the stock market and every type of financial gimmickery imaginable. My late mother was a realtor and the main thing I learned from her is that no one should EVER agree to an adjustable rate mortgage. She thought they were a scam that would come back to bite you-as she put it in her Midwestern way-in the hinder. She was right: we have a country full of foreclosed houses and miserable former homeowners. The only ones who made our like bandits were, uh, the bandits. At the risk of further coarsening the culture: greed can go fuck itself.
Finally, I'm feeling listless so my listomania is listing. In the immortal words of Jeff Probst, I got nothing [more] for you.
As always, there's a lot of malakatude around but this is a rare example of malakatude with a happy ending but not, of course, for the malaka in question. Last week, some creep broke into Our Lady Of Lourdes Church in St. Bernard Parish and stole all the Christmas presents they planned to give to the needy. Compounding the malakatude, the church had re-opened a mere one month ago after being flooded by Hurricane Katrina and ye olde Federal flood. The Debrisville media have been riding this story so hard that donations have flooded in (pun intended) to replace the stolen prezzies. (Eek, I sound like an Aussie.)
Yesterday, police arrested the ironically named Herman Peter Smiles, a local crackhead who had broken into the church to rob the poor box to steal money to feed his habit. He found the holiday swag and took it with him thereby wiping the smiles off many a face. Fortunately, the Grinchlike crackhead is a *really* stupid criminal: he lives down the street from OLOL, someone he told about the crime turned him in and he's already confessed. The goods were also all recovered: the malaka was too high to try and sell them. What a buzz kill, man.
Here's how WWL-TV news in NOLA covered the denouement of the story:In short, the church ended up with more goodies to give away and the arrest of the malaka burglar wiped the, uh, smile right off Mr. Smile's face. Hmm, I wonder if he signs his name with a smiley face? Probably not: I suspect that the convicts frown on smiley faces at Angola...
This noirish holiday story with a happy ending reminds me not of George Frakking Bailey or Frank Frakking Capra but of the frakking Grinch who tried to steal frakking Christmas from the frakking twits in Whoville. Here are Aimee Mann and Grant Lee Phillips with You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch:
New Orleans Times-Picayune city editor Gordon Russell was a crack investigative reporter before his promotion last fall. Gordon is one of the MSM types in New Orleans who admits to reading the NOLA bloggers. In fact, he was on the politics panel at Rising Tide Tres (Trois?)
Gordon was also one of the reporters on the ground when New Orleans became hell on earth on 8/29/2005 and his reporting was one of the reasons that the Picayune won a Pulitizer Prize. Now that he's an editor, Gordon doesn doesn't write as often for the paper but when he does it's a doozy. His piece on Sunday's front page, Shot or not, dead or alive? Two men's fates lost in chaos after Katrina, is one of the best things Gordon has ever done and that's saying a lot. It's a personal account of what he saw in the chaotic days after Katrina and the federal flood.
NEW ORLEANS - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers' failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina, a decision that could make the federal government vulnerable to billions of dollars in claims.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval sided with six residents and one business who argued the Army Corps' shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He said, however, the corps couldn't be held liable for the flooding of eastern New Orleans, where two of the plaintiffs lived.
Duval awarded the plaintiffs $720,000, but the government could eventually be forced to pay much more in damages. The ruling should give more than 100,000 other individuals, businesses and government entities a better shot at claiming billions of dollars in damages.
The ruling is also emotionally resonant for south Louisiana. Many in New Orleans have argued that Katrina, which struck the region Aug. 29, 2005, was a manmade disaster caused by the Army Corps' failure to maintain the levee system protecting the city.
Many have argued. Yeah.
Not that this will stop any of the right-wing smuggery brigade who want to talk about how everybody should have just started walking and walked right out of that hurricane and then there would have been no problem at all! Also, there was looting. And when the checks cleared jewelry sales at Wal-Mart went up 1400 percent. And some people had big-screen TVs. Also some bling. So government isn't to blame.
That was how Yankee Third Baseman Craig Nettles described the plight of reliever Sparky Lyle after the Bronx Bombers signed Goose Gossage to be their closer in 1978. It also fits what's going on in the New Orleans print media world. The Times-Picayune had its finest hour in the wake of Katrina and Federal flood. Columnist Chris Rose became a star for his highly personal and idiosyncratic coverage of life in the evacuated city. Rose was previously known for light and frothy writing but was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for the stories that were collected as 1 Dead In Attic.
Times have changed and like other urban dailies, the Picayune is in trouble. There have been a wave of buy outs but most of the takers have been near retirement anyway: yesterday Rose became the latest critter to jump off the sinking ship.
As far as I know that notorious newspaper killer, Athenae is not implicated in the Picayune's problems but she's pretty darn crafty so ya never know.
It's a day for strained metaphors for me. I compared the Picayune buy outs to, uh, a Who elpee at my blog. And like Sparky Lyle, Chris Rose has gone from Cy Young to sayonara; unfortunately, the Goose is nowhere in sight...
I didn't realize that hundreds of retired veterans became Katrina evacuees who were sent to Washington DC. And over 4 years later they are still there awaiting the completion of the rebuilding of their retirement home in Gulfport, Mississippi. From the Sun Herald:
WASHINGTON — The hundreds of Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Gulfport’s destroyed Armed Forces Retirement Home today are looking at their last Veterans Day in Washington. And for almost all of them, it couldn’t come too soon.
For four years, they have adapted, or not, to life at the beautiful Washington campus, but with 10 months to go before the newly rebuilt facility reopens on the Mississippi Coast, the veterans talk of little else but getting back to Gulfport.
Of the 414 residents in Gulfport when Katrina hit in 2005, about 350 were evacuated to Washington — many on 10 buses provided by AFRH. Now there are 202 Gulfport residents still in Washington, said AFRH spokeswoman Sheila Abarr, and at least 170 are on the return list
Here is the Gulfport construction cam to keep tabs
And conservatives said Mississippi was all rebuilt years ago....
It's time for more recycling from the new guy. I posted this on July 13, 2006 and I wish I could say that we're no longer comfortably numb in New Orleans but we've had a bit of a relapse. That's what happens when one's leaders are numbskulls:
Syd Barrett's death got me thinking in Pink Floyd song titles. A scary concept, I know. Careful With That Axe, Eugene didn't fit the situation here in NOLA but one title nailed it: Comfortably Numb from The Wall. Comfortably numb describes the state of our political, judicial and socio-economic systems here pre-K. We were muddling through at all levels but as long as we were comfortable, we were numb.
Then came Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood, which, by analogy, was to New Orleans what the last part of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was to Pip the hero of the novel. Pip had always thought that the bitter recluse Miss Havisham had been his financial benefactor. He was wrong. His real patron was Magwich, an escaped convict turned magnate whom Pip had helped while a child. There are two scenes that complete the analogy:
First, Pip confronts Miss Havisham who had led him to believe that she had helped him. She had also cruelly used her beautiful ward Estella to torment Pip. Miss Havisham lived in a large and spooky house but spent most of her time in a dining room wherein a wedding feast had been laid but never served. Miss Havisham’s fiancee had jilted her. The table remained untouched including an aged wedding cake that had been gnawed upon by vermin. Miss Havisham always wore her wedding dress as a badge of shame and delusional martyrdom.
Pip let Miss Havisham have it: telling her what an evil and horrid crone she was; especially the way she'd used Estella as an instrument of vengeance against the male gender. Miss Havisham, being a Dickens character, realized the error of her ways but then a coal rolled out of the fire and set Miss Havisham's dress ablaze. Pip tries to put the fire out by using the venerable tablecloth but it crumbles and Miss Havisham dies; a victim of, in her case, being uncomfortably numb.
How does this apply to NOLA? Miss Havisham is a perfect symbol of the city. For years, we allowed our city to rot and decay and instead of trying to do something about it, we turned to drama, drugs, booze, food and apathy. If I had a hundred dollar bill for every time I’ve heard “you can’t change fill in the blank it’s New Orleans,” I’d be as rich as Pip's portly solicitor, Mr. Jaggers. I’ve heard that line applied to government, litter, crime, you name it; it’s the catchall excuse. The city and its people were all comfortably numb.
Second, at the end of the book, Pip returns to Miss Havisham's house in an attempt to prevent his first love, Estella from turning into her step-mum, Miss Havisham. Pip finds Estella sitting in Miss Havisham's dark and filthy dining room, where else? The curtains had not been opened since the day Miss Havisham was jilted. Pip rips the curtains open and flings the windows open. The curtains crumble from years of dust and disuse. But Pip has let the sun and fresh air in. Having faced their demons honestly, Pip and Estella go on to a better life.
Hurricane Katrina swept our old systems away; exposing them as rotten, corrupt and structurally unsound. Post-K, everything has collapsed; especially the criminal justice system. The criminal courts no longer function. There is no place to house juvenile offenders so they must be put back on the streets even those who pose a danger to the rest of us. Debrisville is like Miss Havisham's decrepit mansion but there's no Pip to level with us and help us to pick up the pieces and start anew. Why? Because for nearly two centuries, New Orleans was comfortably numb and content with, and downright proud of, its apathy and backwardness. The storm *should* have provided a jolt to the system but the future remains unclear. One thing *is* clear: being comfortably numb is no longer an option. Instead, we need great expectations.
UPDATE: The original post was written *before* my lethal YouTube addiction:
The malaka of the week sweepstakes didn't need to run the whole consarn week thanks to a bit of idiocy out of the corn fed mouth of Iowa wingnut Steve King. The King of nothing was responding to a question posed by the Hill, "what vote would you like to redo?"
“I don’t really go back and re-live that sort of thing. Some of the big votes that I’ve thought about, some of the jury’s still out. And at this point, maybe I’d answer that question another way, probably the singular vote that stands out that went against the grain, and it turns out to be the best vote that I cast, was my “no” vote to the $51.5 billion to [Hurricane] Katrina. That probably was my best vote.”
Mr. King is well known as one of House GOP Leader Boner's more gaffe prone acolytes but this is rich even for him. I particularly like the bit where he admits to being completely unreflective. How Bushian is that?
Additionally, King is from a state that has been flood prone so he really should keep these thoughts to himself. Of course, when you put your foot in your mouth as much as Congressman Malaka does, you get used to talking around it. Sure, it's garbled but it's not like the dude ever makes any sense. Here's one of his classic riffs after the 2006 death of the terrorist honcho Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
"There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he's at. And if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas."
Yes, that's right: he insulted the legendary journalist Helen Thomas who was 85 at that time. It takes a real malaka to mock an old lady; especially one of Ms. Thomas' accomplishments.
Another of King's claims to fame is his extreme homophobia. His response to the advent of gay marriage in Iowa was to warn of it becoming a "gay marriage Mecca" for "those people." King is wont to use the term "those people" when referring to gay men, for whom he has a special distaste. Hey, at least he doesn't call "those people" cornholers. Hmm, maybe that's not an insulting term in Iowa...
Steve King is overqualified for the title of malaka of the week. His malakatude covers the waterfront; of course, he wouldn't pay to rebuild a waterfront in New Orleans. Anyway, King may be overqualified but in the immortal words of Adrian Monk: "he's the guy."Hat Tip: Kevin Allman of the Gambit Tabloid Blog.
Okay, it's time to introduce another recurring feature from the new guy. It's sort of an hommage to my favorite magazine, The New Yorker. They've been running "letters from" various places for eons. If it's good enough for them, why not First Draft?
I'd also like to show that I can do something other than snark and satire even though that's what I do best. This is also the first post that I'll be recycling from the Adrastos Virtual Cafe. Don't worry, I won't do it very often and only with pieces that I think are more or less timeless. Besides, Athenae told me I could do a spot of recycling and she's the bull goose loony around here. This was first posted on September 19, 2006 and it's about someone who was very dear to Dr. A and myself:Michel was our handyman for 5 years. Actually, he was Dr. A's factotum and I was her sidekick as far as Michel was concerned. That was fine by me. Dr. A met Michel the week we moved into our house on Constance Street. A shite tree at the house next door had fallen down and nearly hit our house. The drunk who then owned the building had dragged the dead tree to the curb but failed to have the limbs cut down so they sat on the sidewalk for days. My trashophobic wife swung into action. A man on a bicycle stopped and said: "I'm a handyman, lady. I can help you with that mess." It was Michel.
Michel was the handyman's handyman. He could garden, fix nearly anything and do it for a fair price. Michel was also likable, likable, likable. There was just something about him that drew people to him. He'd often show up with a crew of helpers: Sweet, Andre and his girlfriend Georgeanne. Andre, his cousin, liked to introduce himself by saying, "My name is Andre, like the champagne." Sweet was his primary sub-contractor and still cuts our grass. His nickname is not an ironic one; like Michel, he's as sweet as pie. He prefers to be called Edwin but we can’t help calling him by the affectionate nickname Michel gave him.
Michel wasn't always as reliable as we would have liked but he'd show up smiling and apologetic and tell us about his latest misadventure. We always forgave him because his explanations were so entertaining. Besides, when he worked for us, he gave it everything he had. I got exhausted watching him.Dr. A thought that Michel should have gone on Survivor. Every time, they'd have a citified African-American guy who couldn't swim or was afraid of birds, she'd say: "They should get Michel. He can operate a boat, fish, build things and take care of himself." I don't think he would have been good at the backstabbing part of the game though: it wasn't in his nature.
For the last few years, I've had a semi-regular feature at my blog, Malaka Of The Day. I've never done it daily but it has a nice ring to it. You're probably asking yourself: what the hell does malaka mean? It's Greek for wanker or jerk-off BUT it conveys so much more. It's the primary cuss word in the Hellenic vocabulary: the equivalent of dropping a nuclear strength f-bomb.
So, I've decided to import this feature to First Draft but I'm going to try very hard to do it regularly on either Friday or Saturday. I hope nobody intends to hold me to that promise but if you do there's lots of malakatude out there.
For the first Malaka Of The Week, I considered mocking someone who's important like Bad Max Baucus (D-Insurance Industry) but changed my mind after watching the season premiere of Survivor. There's an odious Texan by the name of Russell H whose strategy involves sabotage and extreme mendacity even by Survivor standards. He makes Richard Hatch look like Mary Pickford, the Virgin Mary or Mary Richards in contrast. That's a whole lotta Marys. Hail, yes...
Of course, lying is as common on Survivor as it is in the halls of Congress or on Fox News but Russell H has plumbed new depths of malakatude. In order to gain sympathy from his young and gullible new tribe mates, he claimed to be from St. Bernard Parish and to be a Katrina/Federal Flood, um, survivor. He claimed to have ridden out the storm in his house with his faithful dog. His story was a real tearjerker: the dog drowned and he was forced to retreat into his attic with an ax. The problem is that none of it was true. Malaka Russell is from Houston and has never been to Da Parish. I knew right away he was a lying sack of shit because of his twangy, Texany accent. People from Da Parish have the classic yat accent, which for the uninitiated among you, sounds like Brooklynese or like Pauly Walnuts from The Sopranos.
This is as low as anyone can sink. Playing on people's best instincts for personal gain is the essence of malakatude. Russell H should not only lose Survivor he should be locked in a room with a group of angry and bitter survivors of the real storm and flood. They'd make short work of this pudgy, ugly Texan malaka.
I may have, on occasion, professed that I rather like Rachel Maddow, and I've more than once posted here about her. This one, though, isn't just fangirl squee, trust me.
Maddow knocked it out of the park last night with this Tom Ridge interview. If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth your attention. The clip below is one of three, the other two are on her show site. She devoted over half the program to the conversation with Ridge, starting with the topic of whether politics influenced DHS terror alerts, whether Ridge has backtracked on statements to that effect made in his new book, then moving on to Iraq intelligence and the failured FEMA response to Katrina.
It's a remarkable bit of broadcasting, not just for what Ridge says or doesn't say, and not just for Maddow's tenacious questioning. What really struck me as I watched it was that something real was happening here, something we don't see very often. By "real" I obviously don't mean Ridge is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Rather that, as the interview unfolds, there's a palpable sense that we, along with Ridge, really don't know where it's going to end.