Friday, February 28, 2014

Kind of underneath a mountain of Carnival crap

So the blog is even more crappy than usual this weekend.  I'll put some photos and stuff up later though and it will be okay.  The short version is, it's going well. 

The new ordinance... which is actually just the old ordinance with better PR... seems to be having some effect. The real test for that is coming this weekend, of course. 

The parades have been good. (Pics and details coming later.) The crowds have been manageable and fun.  The only problems have been the weather has been a little cold and everybody's been pretty sick.  Yesterday I could barely stand but went out to a party near the Magazine Street portion of the route to catch Babylon, Chaos, and Muses. It's been a long time since I've spent a whole night out at parades without a single sip of alcohol.  But it worked... mostly because I'm already loopy with fever or the vapors or whatever.. but also because it's actually just fun to be out there even if you feel like you may die soon.

More later. Meanwhile here's the Lafayette Academy band playing the national anthem at the start of the Chaos parade last night.

Damn frivolous lawsuits

Clancy DuBos on that Don Briggs deposition:
LOGA took it a step further and filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of SLFPA-E’s contract with its legal counsel. The contract includes a handsome contingency fee. LOGA’s lawsuit specifically claims the SLFPA-E suit would cause “irreparable injury” to LOGA members and have a “chilling
effect on the exploration, production, development and transportation” of oil and gas in Louisiana.

That claim is a favorite meme of LOGA’s longtime president Don Briggs, who prides himself on being the scourge of environmental trial lawyers. Given the enmity that Briggs has for environmental lawsuits, one would think that he’d be well prepared for any questions that opposing counsel might ask him in a deposition relating to the LOGA suit.

Think again.

For example, Briggs was asked in a Feb. 20 deposition if he had “any facts or information” to back up his opinion that oil and gas exploration did not contribute to coastal land loss. He answered, “No. … Nothing.”
It gets funnier.

The light at the end of the corridor

The Lafitte Corridor linear park has an actual contract to begin construction. It has been many years coming.
After sorting through five bids for the job, Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) announced Tuesday that the city has selected Durr Heavy Construction, LLC the official contractor to build the Lafitte Greenway Tuesday.

The 2.4 mile linear park planned to stretch between Mid-City and Treme was scheduled to break ground last year (though before that, in 2010, FOLC had announced that groundbreaking would take place within a year).
I didn't know they were planning to put sports fields in there too.  Anyway this is good news because it should time out in a way that leaves us another opening date to keep pushing back once the rest of the Crescent Park is finished. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Soggy Sunday

The good news is I'm pretty much done with work now until the end of Carnival season. The house is more or less in order. I think I might have all the groceries I need save for the odd beer run that's bound to come along. Parades resume tonight.  By rights, it ought to be time to start the party.

The bad news is I'm fighting off a nasty head cold and fever. I'm not sure if it's any comfort that I'm not alone in this.  According to an informal survey conducted by me on Twitter, seems like lots of folks are battling something similar. It's actually pretty common this time of year. The weather changes rapidly; hot then cold then hot then cold and wet. And everyone is outside milling around in it. It's bound to give anyone at least a sniffle or two.

Well, everyone but this kid.  He is indestructible.

Testing the water

Yes, he was tasting it.  He's now immune to just about anything for the rest of his life.

This was Sunday afternoon not long after the deluge had finally broken up after having dumped all over the Krewes of Carrollton and King Arthur with only a brave few in attendance. The King Arthur floats flew by as we watched from beneath our slickers and umbrellas.

King Arthur

So long, swift and soggy king.  Better luck next year.

But the clouds broke in time for Alla... or what was left of it.. to herk and jerk its way through soaked streets.

Alla down the street

Alla (ALgiers, LA) is the latest of the westbank krewes to relocate to the uptown route.   Their theme was  "Alla goes to NOLA" because that was, in fact, what they had done.

Alla Goes To NOLA

They brought the Gretna police with them, though.

Gretna Police

It's no big deal for the Grenta police to cross the bridge anyway since they don't have to worry about the Gretna police shooting at them when they reach the other side. 

The Alla floats depicted the typical roster of "iconic" New Orleans institutions and locales.

Here's a Tulane float.

Tulane float

Here's K&B

K&B float

They've also got this signature "Allagator" float.


The rain did a lot to diminish Alla.  Most of their bands had dropped out by the time they started rolling.  The back half of the parade was pretty much just a line of floats more or less trying to get things over with.  Among the few hardy bands who marched anyway were John Ehret, Shaw, and Warren Easton.

Flag team

When the Easton band passed by our spot they weren't playing anything but they had come up with a fun idea to chant, "Ah! My feet hurt!" as they marched.   Probably the best thing I've seen so far this year.

Besides the rain there were other problems. There were a couple of abnormally long delays during Alla which I later read were caused by people falling off of floats and injuring themselves.
New Orleans Fire Department superintendent Timothy McConnell, whose crew members perform a safety check on each float before it is allowed to roll from its staging area, reminded float riders that the safety harnesses are only effective when worn.
That's a good point. But having seen these safety harnesses up close, I'm not sure what if any help they would be at keeping an adult man who has fallen overboard from getting hurt.  Not saying people shouldn't wear them, of course. Just, if you are wearing one, also don't fall off of the float just to be extra safe.

Tonight's parades are Mystic Krewe of Druids.. who used to be "Krewe of Anceint Druids" but then decided they wanted to claim they were descended from a krewe that used to be the Mystic Krewe of Druids and so they changed it... followed by the Krewe of Nyx who used to be the people on the waiting list to be in Muses but decided to change that too.

On Sunday it used to be wet out there.  Let's hope tonight it's not wet anymore.

Look out, Washington!

No, really, look out.  The graphic LAPolitics created to go with Garret Graves' announcement that he's running for Congress is scary.

Actual image from LAPolitics.com

Graves looms over the Capitol like a sleepy-eyed Godzilla (Graveszilla?)  preparing to strike at all that damn wasteful gubmint going on in there.
“We need to get the government out of our healthcare decisions, private communications, economic markets and daily lives. Government is increasingly part of our nation’s problem and it is not bringing forward solutions. We must reverse the trend of subsidizing federal failures,” said Graves.
Graves's press release also highlighted some of the "solutions" he's brought forward as the head of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
In six years, Garret replaced decades of repetitive studies, wasteful spending, bloated bureaucracy and red tape with results. In carrying out his vision for hurricane protection, coastal restoration and flood control, the state protected more homes, businesses and jobs than ever before.
It's true that Graves's CPRA produced a master plan everyone agrees would be key in the desperate effort to halt the disappearance of the Louisiana coastline... if such efforts are ever funded.  But Graves and his boss Bobby Jindal have taken steps to hamstring at least one high profile gambit for funding the plan in their opposition  to the SLFPAE lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.

So with coastal loss unabated, it's difficult to know just what Graves has "protected more homes, businesses and jobs" from.  Maybe giant monsters.

Everybody hates Bobby

He could have been Sarah Palin in 2008 but now he's just... Sarah Palin in 2014. Except it's actually worse because people still hold him accountable for stuff seeing has how he's still technically the governor.
The Republican Governor of Louisiana was heralded as the new face of the party practically since he was first elected in 2007. He flirted with running for president in 2012, and is making all the moves for 2016.

All the moves, that is, except managing his state properly—at least according to Bayou voters. Jindal has a 35/53 approval/disapproval number, putting him 18 points under water, a figure only better than Illinois’ Pat Quinn and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, who are not seeking re-election.  
Officially all we'll ever have is a string of quotes about "having the job I want" but Jindal's whole career history was about jumping ships before they hit the rocks he steered them toward.

It may seem reasonable that 2016 should have been the prize he was after the whole time. But I think the plan was to jump off on the McCain ticket and spend the next four to eight years campaigning as a celebrity pundit with no real responsibilities.

But McCain tagged Palin for that role instead.  Maybe Jindal would have been as terrible at it as she was. But he's even worse at trying to look like a credible executive now that everyone hates the terrible job he's done at that.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I can haz PARTY job

The Lens is hiring. 

Varg submits a resume.

Guess Mitch pretty much has to run now

It's the only thing that can save us from this foolishness.
"I have no plans to run for governor, but I wouldn't rule it out," Georges told LaPolitics.com in an excerpt of an interview slated to be published in full Wednesday (Feb. 26). "I would only consider running if (New Orleans Mayor Mitch) Landrieu didn't run and if (state Rep.) John Bel (Edwards, D-Amite) didn't catch on."
In case you were wondering, John Bel Edwards is not catching on.   I wonder if maybe this phrasing isn't Georges's way of publicly nudging Mitch into the race a little bit.

The Sixth Congressional District was without form, and void

But then Garret Graves spoke and things began to change.
"Things are starting to take shape...Things are starting to become clearer," Graves told NOLA.com  The Times-Picayune on Monday (Feb. 24). He said he has been meeting with various Baton Rouge business, politics and community leaders to discuss a possible run, and most have been supportive of this possibility.

"I think it's safe to say that the consensus is that people continue to see a void in the race," said Graves.
So even amidst the void things are starting to take shape for a Graves candidacy.  That should be a nice change for him since  he gave up on that whole busieness of letting there be a firmament in the midst of the waters thing which, frankly, wasn't very fun anymore.

Some charts and graphs for drafting football players

SB Nation's Jon Bois has some information for you about the ways in which some teams are very bad at the NFL Draft.
Even if their failures in the draft are understandable, it doesn't mean they aren't funny. Y'all, they are funny as shit.

How can the only people in the world who don't understand that Warren Sapp will be better than Kyle Brady be the same exact people who are in charge of an NFL franchise? Why is a team spending a second-round pick on a kicker? When the Browns select one of the greatest busts of the century in Brady Quinn, why is the great surprise not that he was picked in the first round, but that he wasn't picked far earlier?

With the benefit of hindsight and massive volumes of statistics, these errors are every bit as funny to me as a snap that pops an inattentive quarterback upside the head. After some stat-gathering and number-crunching, I've found lots to laugh at.
Maybe not exactly as funny as shit but pretty funny.  Take a look when you've got some time to spare

Here's how a lobbyist gets out of a court date

Update: According to The Hayride, Don Briggs' health could be a very serious issue.  That's certainly not something we'd want to make light of. Judge Clark's skepticism suggested his claim might be less than credible but, that may be more of a Judge Clark issue.
We’re told that yesterday Briggs’ blood pressure was over 200. He’s only a few months removed from heart surgery.

But we’re also told that Janice Clark said she’d have an EMT on hand for the testimony she demands he give today. So if he has a heart attack right there on the stand maybe he won’t die.
If this true then, well, how very considerate of her.

Upperdate: And now Briggs's testimony has been postponed until March 10

Since posting this today, I've had a chance to see some of his deposition and it's.. um.. well I can see why the judge might have thought he was ducking this a little. I'll come back to this later.

It's all a matter of getting access to the right decision maker.
E. Wade Shows, an attorney representing the Attorney General’s Office, said (Judge Janice) Clark issued the bench warrant after a long day in which a LOGA attorney said (Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don) Briggs was too ill to attend.

“Mr. Briggs has been subpoenaed, which is basically an order of the court,” Shows said. “Mr. Briggs failed to appear in court and the judge was not satisfied with the reason for his failure to appear. She has commanded him to come before her court Tuesday morning and respond to the subpoena.”

Shows said LOGA’s attorney submitted a note from a Lafayette doctor that expressed concerns about Briggs appearing in court.

“She then called the doctor on the phone and went over what the letter said and said she could allay his concerns about his ability to handle the situation,” Shows said. “At that point, (Briggs) apparently went to another doctor. The second doctor didn’t write a letter, but called and left a message with Mr. Briggs’ attorney, and she was not satisfied with the doctor’s call.”

Briggs said Monday night that his doctor told him “I shouldn’t go in today,” but declined further comment.
Weird not to show up to court for your own lawsuit, though. So maybe he really wasn't feeling well.  Or maybe he was out grass-rootin' and stuff.
HOUMA, La. — One of the state's main oil and gas lobby groups asked industry members in Houma Tuesday to help start a campaign to slow down and fend off lawsuits from landowners seeking damages for oil and gas activity.

Gifford Briggs, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association vice-president, gave a state of the industry presentation to the South Central Industrial Association, calling for a grassroots campaign to curtail so-called legacy lawsuits.

Briggs denounced the lawsuits as frivolous, saying a suit filed last year was for trial lawyers to benefit from million-dollar and billion-dollar verdicts and settlements.

Oh look, they've got another Briggs on staff at LOGA.  It's kind of a mom and pop lobbying firm for a multibillon dollar state-dominant industry.   And the grass roots stuff is going pretty well too.

Sunday afternoon, the people gathered with the Krewe of Alla to celebrate the industry in the streets of New Orleans.

The Oil Industry

Regular fun

Yay the Crescent Park is finally open.. some of it is.. for part of the time anyway.   Most of us know the story already so skip past all that and all the officials congratulating one another and stuff so we can get to the part where they tell us what we can't do.
The park will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 7 p.m. during daylight saving time.

No skateboards, motorized vehicles, Segways, motorcycles, scooters, glass containers or bottles, littering, heavy equipment or vehicles are permitted in the park. Overnight activity, cooking and swimming are prohibited.
I'm not sure because I haven't been out there in the evening in a long time but I think Lakeshore Drive might be open later than this.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Something called volcano monitoring

I'm going to let myself believe The Advocate wrote this headline on purpose.

Oh wait goddammit they changed it.  It's still there in the URL, though. Here's what they changed it to.

Jindal disrupts 'harmony' at White House meeting
The nation’s governors emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday claiming harmony, only to immediately break into an on-camera partisan feud in front of the West Wing.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out first, saying if Obama were serious about growing the economy he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline project and take other executive actions.

Instead, Jindal said, Obama “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” on the economy by focusing on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, up from $7.25. “The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that,” Jindal said.
What a dipshit.  Raising the minimum wage to a level slightly less far below what we might consider a living is clearly "waving the white flag."  I hope someone said something about how insane that is.
“What the heck was a reference to white flag when it comes to people making $404 a week?” (Connecticut Gov Dannel) Malloy snapped. “I mean, that’s the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”
Well OK, then.

Look, we know Jindal is just trying to look like a ballsy guy to Republican primary voters.  But he has demonstrated a tendency to go bout that in awkward and.. well.. insane ways. Are we sure he's getting his money's worth in advice from all these people he's paying for it?
Jindal’s campaign paid $716,000 in the past two years to political consultants, according to filings with the Louisiana Board of Ethics. The latest report — released last week details campaign contributions and expenses in 2013 — just popped up on the board’s website.

The governor hired Louisiana-based consultants such as Roy Fletcher and Pat Bergeron. Jindal also went outside Louisiana in search of advice. He turned to Aduston Consulting for political strategy and Grassroots Targeting for Web development.

Aduston has a Washington, D.C., address. Grassroots works out of Virginia and helps Republicans “target the right person with the right message,” according to its website.

Jindal’s favorite adviser appears to be OnMessage — a political firm that counts former Jindal Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell among its partners. OnMessage received $796,699.29 from the governor’s campaign in 2012 and 2013 for a variety of tasks, including political strategy, media production and polling.
One of these guys told Jindal it was a good idea to be a prick during  a "bipartisan" event at the White House. The other two failed to warn him against an impending eruption. 

Wonked to death

Thomas Frank:
Actually, let me offer a correction to Obama’s formula. What really defines our time is the simultaneous soaring of inequality and the maddening inability of most progressives (there are exceptions, of course) to talk about it in a way that might actually inspire anyone to get off their ass. Start with the word itself: Like “neoliberalism,” another favorite lefty term for many of these same developments, “inequality” is confusing. It is euphemistic and aloof. It gets easily muddled with other, similar-sounding issues like marriage equality, gender equality and equal housing opportunity. Its tone is also needlessly clinical, giving the whole debate a technical and bloodless air.

Still, to read around on the subject is to get the feeling that certain liberals like it that way. “Needlessly clinical” is exactly their style. The subject, for them, must be positively cloaked in wonkery. They don’t talk much about “class,” like some troublemaker from the ’30s; they talk about “inequality,” which is a delicate and intricate signifier. Oh, it is extremely complex. It requires so many charts.
There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon.  Sure, some of our so-called liberal politicians and pundits are just kind of spineless.  But still more of them really do just identify too closely with the people who created the problem in the first place to challenge them directly.

One often wonders whose side Mary Landrieu is even on, for example.
“I’m a die-hard Republican, but I love Mary Landrieu,” said Lafayette resident Mark Miller, who owns and runs multiple Louisiana-based companies that drill and offer support services to other energy firms. “You can’t overstate what it means for this state to have her experience and influence, especially with the energy chairmanship.”

Among other things, Miller cites Landrieu’s support for the Keystone Pipeline extension, her opposition to cap-and-trade legislation, her defense of offshore drilling after the Gulf oil spill and her support for the industry’s tax advantages. Landrieu has also garnered support from shipbuilding magnate Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, noteworthy because Bollinger helped bankroll the GOP’s takeover of the Louisiana Legislature.

But, more to Frank's point, too often arguments over substantial crises involving real life villains are sanitized as the passive consequence of circumstance rather than the deliberate product of policy choices.
The rich got so goddamn rich, in other words, because the signature policies of the Great Right Turn were designed to make them rich. And, as the world knows, these policies weren’t limited to Republicans; Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama—plus, of course, their resident economists and cabinet members—all more or less endorsed the basic tenets of the free-market faith. They are all implicated.

So inequality, now that we’re having a “conversation” about it, must of course turn out to be massively complicated, something no one could possibly have seen coming — sort of like the 2008 financial crisis, come to think of it. Furthermore, it must be seen as another technical problem, a matter for the experts to solve, like the budget deficit or entitlement spending.
Which brings me back to Tulane academic and Preservation In Print contributor Richard Campanella's carefully chosen words describing the "green dot" plan in this NYT piece.
Decision makers may see a disaster as “an opportunity to finally get things right,” said Richard Campanella, a geographer at Tulane University, but during those times, “everyone else craves normalcy.”
Of course it isn't Campanella's job to say "Decision makers Plutocrats may see a disaster as an opportunity to finally get things right take advantage of tragedy in order to improve their position, but during those times, everyone else craves normalcy victims may push back." But his phrasing does paint the parties more likely to help him get his work published in a forgiving light.  And keeping those types happy actually is a big part of his job. 

Not that academia is all about flattery to power.  It has other uses. But those who would seek to represent  us on the short end of the inequality debate aren't doing us any favors by adopting its often hedged and passive rhetoric.

It's still happening

Just this morning we were talking about how what's happening to Sandy victims has been happening to Katrina victims for a long time.

It's still happening.
Members of the New Orleans legislative delegation, including state Sens. Ed Murray, Karen Carter Peterson and J.P. Morrell and Rep. Jared Brossett, demanded to know why the state is asking for the money back when many homeowners claim they have sent in the necessary documentation to prove they followed the program’s rules and used the money to rebuild their storm-ravaged homes.

The meeting was only the latest show of outrage over a program that has been beset by controversy since its inception, criticized for not providing enough money to replace what was damaged and often leaving homeowners open to abuse by unscrupulous contractors.

Green dots for thee but not for me

Not sure Detroit is a fully analogous situation to New Orleans. But just to add to the Sandy story from earlier, no one is suggesting that New York could learn any "lessons" from our experience with the green dot strategy.
The arguments heard in Detroit in recent years echo those that were made here at the time: The New Orleans population had been contracting long before Katrina and would certainly be much smaller afterward; even the billions of dollars in federal recovery aid would be insufficient to rebuild the whole city; those who came back would be stranded in parts of town lacking services like police protection and streetlights. 

New Orleans’s population, around 370,000, is less than 60 percent of what it was 50 years ago, when the city’s footprint was smaller. When New Orleans was still mostly vacated after Katrina, many here doubted the population would even recover this much and questioned the possibility of rebuilding over such a large area.

“You can’t bring it all back at one time,” said Mr. Canizaro, now keeping a lower profile. “We didn’t have the resources.”

Those who lived in the neighborhoods that were at stake in the plan were staying on couches and in guest bedrooms in Atlanta, Houston and Nashville, and focusing intently on how to get home. Decision makers may see a disaster as “an opportunity to finally get things right,” said Richard Campanella, a geographer at Tulane University, but during those times, “everyone else craves normalcy.”
Again, I don't think Detroit's situation is a very good comparison with New Orleans. I don't know that "shrinking the footprint" is the right idea for Detroit either. It sounds like a bad idea, but I don't know enough to say. The difference with our situation, though,  is between shutting down largely abandoned neighborhoods and telling disaster victims they aren't welcome back because our "decision makers" want to "get it right" whatever that might mean.

Deja Vu

Unfortunately the Sandy scenario isn't likely to be the last uncomfortably familiar repeat of what Louisiana and Mississippi have been through.
Sixteen months after Hurricane Sandy, homeowners are still waiting for help rebuilding.

Of the 19,920 people who applied for the city’s Build It Back program for home repairs, which started in June, not a single homeowner has seen construction work start.

And only 110 — or 0.55% — had inked a deal on how much aid they’re going to get as of the end of January, according to city data analyzed by the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding in a report to be released Monday.
Sixteen months is nothing. Y'all come back in eight or nine years and see how it's going.  Also what's missing is the serious discussion about whether or not displaced victims are "better off" not coming back... or if their hometowns are better off without them being a "drag on the economy"  and whatnot.   Not so many outsiders questioning whether whole neighborhoods should be rebuilt at all either.

But even so it is very familiar and we do sympathize.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

So how is it so far?

And as the parades begin, so does the city’s new Carnival rules. 

Some of the biggest changes: ladders, chairs and grills have to be six feet from the street, private port-a-lets cannot be on public property, and no one can cordon off an area.

But with a shrinking police force, some wondered whether they would actually be enforced.

“I'm going to push it as far as a I can until they tell me I can't, and then I'll do whatever they enforce,” said Uptown resident Nick Moncure as he set up his tent.

But Friday night, police did enforce the rules. They told groups to move their chairs six feet from the curb, but Dale Fortner said that made it possible for others to stand in front of him and block his view.

“It kind of takes away some of the pleasure of watching the parade, because I’m not a young man anymore and I don't like standing up for a couple hours,” said Fortner.
Poor Mr. Fortner. It's just not the same if he can't sit just five feet over there for some reason.  Speaking as someone who is grappling with the early signs of age-induced not wanting to stand so much, (man my back is stiff after just two days of parades)  I still don't understand what is the matter with keeping your chairs to the back.  If the chairs and other obstructions are placed away from the curb, there's more room for everyone to move about.  This way, if you feel like being in the front, you can get up and walk there for a while and then come back and sit some more.  The chairs and ladders in front are what keep the crowd from sharing space easily.

Anyway, I'm glad WWL found signs of rules being enforced because I didn't notice much of anything different out there Saturday.


Does the ordinance say anything about tents specifically?  They're probably the worst thing you can put out there.  Here we see a tent set up with some chairs and ladders and other items roped together to form a barricade around a huge piece of neutral ground where people would otherwise be able to stand or pass through.

Tents, barricades, structures, hammock

One or two of these isn't a problem on the first weekend but, come next Sunday, they'll be lined up one after another effectively canceling anyone's access to the neutral ground.

No one on Orleans Avenue seems to have gotten the memo either.
But people are already making preparations. NOPD already has the barricades out, and Orleans Avenue is already being marked off by Endymiongoers— and has been since Wednesday night. No sign of tents, stakes, port-a-potties or the Krewe of Chad yet, but these folks have already made their reservations:
Follow the link to see Gambit's photography of the marked territory.

There's a bit of rain today so the crowds will probably be too thin get a good feel for how jammed up the route might get next weekend.  On Friday and Saturday, though, with moderate crowds, it was pretty comfortable out there.

Friday, Menckles and I had to split early so we didn't catch much of Oshun or any of Cleopatra.  I did manage to get a couple minutes of video from the St. Mary's Academy Marching Band.

After that we went to see a rock show.  And then we broke a carnvial rule by hitting the town a little too hard on the first night.  I still don't know how I managed to rally in time to catch any parades on Saturday... or even if it was a good idea to try... but the 39th Krewe of Pontchartrain was coming down that road one way or another.  And, for some reason, we were there.

King and Queen Pontchartrain XXXIX

See the look on the tractor driver's face?  That's pretty much how I felt.

Anyway, Pontchartrain's theme was "What's Eating New Orleans?"  And that could have been really clever if they wanted it to be.  But sarcasm isn't really for Pontchartrain's matinee audience.  So, instead, they just themed their floats after "iconic" New Orleans foods.

What's Eating New Orleans

The Pontchartrain float titles are always little fill-in-the-blank puzzles.  They are very easy.

Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy

Cafe Au Lait & Beignets

Did you get them? Please remember to return your pencil at the desk when you are finished. It was fun and all, but when a badly hungover person stands and watches a parade of giant foods roll by, that person's stomach begins to do funny things.  So as soon as Pontchartrain ended, we went in search of remedies.

Luckily we didn't have to search very long before we came upon just the thing.

Pho Orchid

Pho Orchid is the latest in a string of ventures to open in the space next to Igor's on St. Charles.  None of its predecessors has had much staying power, though.  Hence the blank space on this sign.

Please leave now

If they keep making soul restorative bahn-mi like this, though, maybe they'll stick around a bit.

Pork Bahn Mi

Feeling a bit better with  full bellies, we spent Choctaw just trying to walk it off a bit. Choctaw is one of the krewes recently sucked over to the Uptown route from the Westbank.  Of these immigrant krewes, this year, I've managed to miss Cleopatra entirely and catch only glimpses of this one from across the street.


I can't keep up with this. Are teepee floats something you might find listed on Airpnp?   I'm still having a hard time coping with the fact that Airpnp is apparently not satire so who knows?

Choctaw's theme was... something about travel, I think.  I don't know, I was in recovery. Anyway, here's a picture of a pumpkin float.

The most anticipated event... okay, well, the biggest curiosity of the day was the first voyage of the new Krewe of Freret.... not to be confused with the old Krewe of Freret which stopped happening back in the 90s long before most of the organizers of the new Krewe even lived in New Orleans much less knew how to work a Mardi Gras.  They're starting to figure it out, though.  Kind of.  Here's what they did Saturday.

First, they put a candidate for city council on their king float featuring a giant sign with his name on it.

Jason Williams King Freret

I'm still not sure if this technically violates the prohibition against carnival krewes making political endorsements in their parades but it clearly breaks that rule in spirit, at least.

Their theme was, "There's a first time for everything" although it wasn't really very clear how the floats fit the theme.  This one says, "Have we lost our head?" and features the headless horseman.

"Have we lost our head?"

According to Uptown Messenger, Freret was going with a (sort of) horror theme because they were "lampooning their own return from the grave."  But this is kind of weak since the new Freret doesn't really have any connection to the old Freret so it's not appropriate to describe this as a "return."

But the keen observer will have recognized these as the floats from this past October's Krewe of Boo.

Here's Krewe of Boo's "Brides of Dracula" float at the French Market.

Brides of Dracula

And this is the same float in Freret as... well.. something.

Freret crowd

This is completely normal, by the way.  Floats are often shared and recycled among krewes every year.  If you look closely at these, you can see precisely where they will appear this season.

Float schedule

Of course, if you're going to do this, the trick is to theme a little more creatively than Freret did.  Also it's a good idea to have all the floats at least 50 percent filled with riders.  Too many Freret floats were largely empty.

Despite all this, it's important to remember this is the group's first ride.  They'll figure it out.   Anyway, they seemed to have a good time out there.

Freret masker

They also featured a couple of marching clubs.  This is Dames de Perlages. They make little beadwork costumes.

Dames de Perlage

This was.. some sort of Mexican wrestler inspired thing. I didn't catch the name.

Mexican Wrestlers

Here is the first ever doubloon printed by the (new) Krewe of Freret.

Freret Doubloon

The WCBS, I am told, stands for "We Can't Be Stopped." Ok.

We didn't catch much else from Freret.  I was interested in seeing some of these "locally produced" greener throws they kept telling us about. As far as I could tell, though, they were still throwing plastic beads... if fewer of them.

They did get these folks from ARC to follow the parade with bead recycling bins, though. So that's pretty cool.

ARC Bead recycling

All in all not a bad day, nasty hangover not withstanding.  So we went back out to see the night stuff too.

Sparta Captain

Sparta's theme was "Isn't it Romantic" They were throwing these plush champagne bottles. Sorry about the blurry photo.

Sparta plush champagne

Their floats depicted famous couples and bad puns.

Napoleon and Josephine

Sparta puts on pretty parade that mixes some traditional elements like these kerosene flambeaux carriers,

Flambeaux carrier

with some creative variety including some of the more popular marching clubs and dance teams.  Here were some folks playing bagpipes.


And this here is a source of gathering frustration for me.  These mini-horses show up every year.

Mini horse

But every year they are maddeningly difficult to photograph.  What few pictures of these things I haven't deleted over the years all look pretty much like this one.   It's like they have some magic that defies photography. Adrastos suggests they are in the unicorn family.  I'm starting to believe that.

Pygmalion followed Sparta and also put on a pretty nice parade for a first Saturday night. Their theme was, "Some of our favorite songs."  None of these first weekend parades takes many risks with their theming. There was a "Monster Mash" float, a "They All Asked For You" float, and such. 

In recent years, Pygmalion has also introduced some signature floats including The Jester, which looks like a big rolling daiquiri shop.

Jester Float

Here's the "Pygmammoth" I don't think the pterodactyls were part of this float last year.


Meanwhile, on the other side of town, two of the more innovative events to come about in recent years appear to have really come into their own.  I won't be surprised  if the schedule stays the way it was this weekend,  people come to know this as "t'it Rex/Chewbacchus Saturday"  NOLADef got some great photos of these parades here.

What's really gratifying about the growing popularity of these little DIY krewes is that we've arrived at a point where we're starting to be confident in our ability to have two separate but comparably popular carnival events happening in different parts of the city at the same time. Moreso than any ordinance, this is the best way to keep the crowds manageable at any one event. Of course this also means that it's impossible for a person to see everything but that's hardly new.

Another way to keep the crowds under control, of course, is shitty weather. But we'll do Sunday in the next one of these posts.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Know your political carnival rules

A few weeks ago, City Council At-Large candidate Jason Williams accused his opponent Cynthia Hedge-Morrell of violating electioneering rules on the day of the primary.
In complaints filed Tuesday, Williams alleged that Hedge-Morrell handed out sample ballots within 600 feet of a polling place, a violation of state law, even after being advised to leave. The complaints were filed with the Louisiana secretary of state, the Orleans Parish inspector general and the parish Board of Election Supervisors.

Williams said he believes Hedge-Morrell violated voting laws by visiting the Guste High-Rise Retirement Community, a senior living facility that serves as a polling site, on the day of the election. Hedge-Morrell does not deny visiting the building that day but says she was visiting with constituents.

Williams and Hedge-Morrell — a district council member running for an at-large seat — will face each other in a runoff March 15.

Election law prohibits campaigning within 600 feet of the entrance of a polling place. Williams said tipsters called his campaign headquarters on election day to notify him that Hedge-Morrell had violated the rule.
This afternoon, Williams appeared in the inaugural parade of the (new) Krewe of Freret as the King.

Jason Williams

Here's what the city ordinance says about political advertising in Carnival parades.
No participants in any parade shall display in any manner in such parade any endorsement of candidates for elective public office, nor any endorsement of any issues to be voted on in an election. However, nothing contained in this provision shall be construed to prohibit the humorous caricature of current social events and issues. 
The sign on Williams' float simply says, "Jason Williams King of Krewe of Freret" but this does cut things pretty close to the line. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Carnival pre-gaming

Vodka check

As of Wednesday afternoon, the above were the prices on King Cake Vodka at your local Rouses.  Parade season hits its stride tonight so now would be a good time to stock up if you're into that sort of thing. Not sure what to tell you about the fact that Rouses is offering 750 ml bottles of Taaka King Cake Vodka for two different prices. Pay whichever one you think is most appropriate, I guess.

Taaka or Taaka

If flavored vodkas aren't your thing take comfort in the fact that there are more great locally produced beers available in parade route convenient cans than at any point in my lifetime anyway.

NOLA Brewing has added its Irish Channel Stout to its canned offerings, Tin Roof is selling a nice "coffee porter" specifically branded for parade goers. In recent years, there's been so much Abita Jockamo at my place during parades that I've come to think of it as an essential flavor of carnival.  Despite the wide availability of so much superior product, I'm the most hooked by the fact that Miller Lite is going with the retro labeling.  There's a case of that chilling in the fridge right now.

But there's more to Carnival prep than just stocking up on potables. There's also the question of where one is going to eventually deposit them.  You might be familiar with the popular "Ain't no place to pee" trope. It can become a real issue for residents near the parade route.

Not a toilet

This week, the city has been aggressively combating the problem by positioning port-o-lets like these along the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground and at Lee Circle. 

Place to Pee on Mardi Gras day

But that's never enough.  Some techies claim to offer an entre-pee-neurial solution via the "Airpnp App." Not sure when that launches, though.

If you do find yourself waiting in line to pee, you'll need something to pass the time.  Sure you can dick around on Twitter but don't forget that Carnival is for people watching.  And to do that properly you'll need a bingo card like the one Gambit has provided here. I'm gonna go ahead and check off the bottom-left corner since that's basically me every year.

J.P. Villere has been writing a version of this rundown of proper Carnival etiquette for a few years now. This one is particularly good.  
(20) Surprise yourself.  Expect anything might happen during a parade; see (17).  Stash a Band aid or three in your wallet or purse just because.  Bring earplugs for you and yours; between sirens and all the bands you may actually want them.  Wear sunscreen; see (13).  Drink less; see (18).  Say please and thank you more.  In other words, in surprising yourself, let Carnival reveal the best of yourself whether marching, masking, or spectating

There's plenty of practical advice in there too.  To that, I would add one thing.  It's a good idea to make sure your bicycle is in working order.  But even on the bike, you'll have trouble navigating a crowd and getting across parade routes.  For the most part, you should be ready to walk.

The weather is looking especially iffy this year so make sure you have a poncho or a raincoat available.  I always go pick up a new pair of waterproof hiking boots just before the first parade.  Makes a big difference.

New boots

There's usually just enough tread in them to get me through Jazzfest.  But after that they go in the trash.

I've already got a few miles on them this year thanks to the mess downtown during last Saturday's convergence of Krewe Du Vieux with hosting activities for the NBA All Star Game. We were actually pretty lucky to have parked as near to the quarter as Camp and Julia. We walked alongside a stationary line of frustrated motorists bottled up by the closure of Canal Street to vehicular traffic.  Here are some confused drivers being rerouted onto Common Street.

NBA traffic bottleneck

The upper Quarter was pedestrian only as well which is something that usually happens during the second weekend of parades and sometimes during other special events but not during KDV weekend.  If you can get there, it makes for a nice atmosphere.  This is crap photo of the open Chartres Street but it's the only one I have.

Chatres Street

There are people who argue that the Quarter should be pedestrian-only on a permanent basis.  But something about that makes me uncomfortable.  It's fun during Carnival or during other events to shut things down and contribute to the feeling of pause these celebrations lend to ordinary life.  But on most days, the French Quarter is still a living breathing part of the city.

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

Shutting it down to all but foot traffic all the time feels a little too much like... well,

Your Guide To Dizneylandrieu

We were lucky enough to snag a Guide To Dizneylandrieu from a Krewe of SPANK marcher.  SPANK's theme was the evening's clear winner. Uptownmessenger got a hold of a hi-res scan of the guide and published it along with an Owen Courreges column which does a good job of getting at the reason this theme resonated.
There’s a good deal to work with here. Mayor Landrieu’s Disneyfied policies include his proposal for “closing hours” for Jackson Square, signing a law banning certain speech on Bourbon Street, his support (later retracted) for the recently-proposed noise ordinance, his well-publicized enforcement crackdowns on alcoholic beverage outlets and live music venues – the list goes on.

Although obviously to a lesser degree, one could argue that Landrieu is attempting to pull off something akin to Mayor Giuliani’s tenure in New York.
Dizneylandrieu wasn't the only act of cleverness pulled off at KDV, of course.  Other highlights included Krewe of CRAPS' "Gov at Twerk" theme depicting Bobby Jindal as Miley Cyrus.  The float featured a picture of the governor riding a wrecking ball as it battered the state of Louisiana.

The Guv @ Twerk

Also CRAPS marchers are pretty good at distributing liquor beads, if you know how to ask nicely.

Liquor Beads

Here's the Krewe of CRUDE's noise ordinance SWAT team.

Noise Ordinance SWAT team

And this is about 30 seconds of a brass band playing "Cissy Strut" just as the Krewe of Comatose's despoiled wetlands themed "Zombie Fish" float arrives.

For more video, be sure to check out Humid City where Loki has posted the product of his having served as a KDV parade escort while wearing his ridiculous Google robot goggles and bothering people the way he does.  It's pretty good.

Tonight's parades are Oshun followed by Cleopatra... much of which I am probably going to miss because six months ago I bought tickets to see Neutral Milk Hotel without event thinking about the parade schedule.  I'm sure it will be worth it.  It's just that the traffic might make getting there kind of an adventure.  Might try just walking with the parade.