Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How many Joe Caos does it take to pay for one temporary jail?

According to Cao's billboard it would take 11 Caos to pay for one.

I pay for a lot of stuff in cash

Also I pay for most of my bills by check. Maybe I'm an old man but I'm not comfortable granting some utility or telecom permission to just go into my bank account and withdraw money without first going through the (yes, I know) meaningless ritual of receiving a document with my signature.

Sometimes library patrons complain that they can't pay their seventy five cent library fines with credit cards. What they don't realize is that the costs to the library in the way of card processing fees would be a significant drag on the budget. Remember, library fines aren't a profit-generating revenue stream in the first place, nor are they meant to be.

On the other hand, restaurants are actively trying to collect money from customers. I know their profit margins can be slim but making it less than perfectly convenient for people to hand over their money seems like a bad strategy. But several places persist in it nonetheless. At Blackened Out, Peter and Rene have a fun back and forth on the subject of cash only restaurants here. As someone who pays for a lot of stuff in cash, I'd like to have some sympathy for Peter's side, but I can't see my way there. If we were arguing about the restaurants going completely "cashless" I'd have a different opinion.

Is it too early to blurt "Madden curse"?

- Drew Brees has a strained MCL in his left knee, according to WIST-AM in New Orleans, which is citing a source familiar with the situation. The radio report also stated that the plan will be for Brees to play Sunday against the Panthers

Update: And now... NOOOO not Arrington! Dude, if it was that serious, just let Arrington kick the field goals inside of 30 yards. Results couldn't be any worse than with Hartley. Plus, Arrington proves he can "contribute on special teams" High five, as the kids say.

"We're just waiting for this thing to blow up in our faces."

This is a cute post about the state of LSU football which begins with a trip into the "Heart of Darkness" so Ignatius Reilly like that it's only missing the Scenicruiser.

And also there's this:

You may not know what it's like to not live in a democracy. I have, for short periods, had this experience. The general level of absurdity in life doubles. Minor bureaucrats assume occasionally godlike powers. Nothing makes any sense whatsoever, and soon people begin to cope by doing one of the following:

1. Sympathizing with their oppressor
2. Standing in open rebellion
3. Embracing absurdity
4. Withdrawing completely

Then again, maybe you do know what it's like to live in a non-democratic state. Being a football fan is to accept a certain level of dictatorship in your life. Unless you have a few million to give to an athletic department or even more than that to buy into an NFL franchise, a large slice of your leisure time will be governed by someone with complete authority over their domain. Their removal will not be your decision. Their decisions will be their own. You will deal with it because being a fan is to be a form of peasant, and you must deal with the prevailing conditions in the kingdom no matter how mad the king and his crew of flunkies become.
Long time readers will note that I have long advocated for reforms that would make Head Football Coach an elected office. But we do not live in the most democratic of times so this idea has been slow to catch on.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


New Orleans LA,-As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted.

The NOPD’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint Thursday September 30, 2010 in the Central City area beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M., and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.

The NOPD would like to, as always, remind motorists to drink responsibly and use a designated driver.

Because, we all know this neighborhood is menaced by motor vehicle code infractions.

Update 9/29: To his credit, Serpas says, "It was completely unfair to tie that event to the second line; it was unrelated"

What Wang said

More or less anyway
You can talk all you want about what happened earlier in the game, and why "it never should have come to that in the first place" and all that stuff until you're blue in the face. The winning kick was in the air, and it was a chip shot. It either goes through the uprights or it doesn't, and that's 100% on the kicker. Simple as that.
More later

Update: And here comes John Carney again. Hartley's FG percentage right now is equivalent to Chip Lohmiller's ignominious tenure in New Orleans. Also so far this season, the two shortest missed field goals in the NFL came off the foot of Garrett Hartley. The season is nearly a quarter of the way over. It's time to do something.

"Temporary here becomes permanent"

Sherriff Gusman is circumventing the permitting process and beginning construction on a "temporary" facility on the site of his controversial proposed mega-jail.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's tough on the road

Going on the road can be a harrowing experience for anybody. Any given trip is fraught with hidden hazards, surprises, unanticipated foes laying in wait poised for ambush. Yes, driving around New Orleans has become a much more touchy matter under new Police Chief Ronal(d) Serpas. Serpas's most visible initiative since taking over NOPD (apart from momentarily replacing Saints coach Sean Payton with Jeff Fisher *see here*) has been his beefed up traffic enforcement program. It's an unusual priority for the Chief given the department's much publicized problems with systemic internal corruption and the ongoing citywide murder epidemic, not to mention the Chief's own personal disregard for public parking regulations.

Hail to the Chief

Nonetheless, Serpas has instituted a new wave of frequent "sobriety checkpoints" just about every weekend (but not always on the weekend) all over town. In addition to being subject to sobriety testing, perhaps even blood screening, drivers who encounter checkpoints are required to show proof of insurance and registration and have their vehicles in general compliance which means, among other things, displaying a current brake tag such as this black and gold edition I had issued for the Tercel around the start of last football season.

Black and Gold Brake tag

I don't know exactly how much positive influence the black and gold tags had on the 2009 season, but it's our policy to consider all the possibilities when it comes to matters of fashion and football so we are noting it for the record.

Anyway, Serpas may still be in his honeymoon phase as Chief and New Orleanians are still giving him the benefit of the doubt about a bunch of stuff. But this doesn't mean that they're necessarily going to take this checkpoint business lying down. The New Orleans drunk drivers have hoisted the flag, so to speak. Or at least they've taken to the internets and Tweeter Tubes and Facebooks and whatnot, which, we all know, is where revolutions are made each and every day.

In this case, the revolution being tweeterized involves the approximate time and location of each checkpoint which NOPD is required by law to release to the public in advance of its occurrence. A day or so ahead of each checkpoint, the NOPD sends out a press release announcing its hours along with a vague description of what part of the city it will happen in. And that press release is inevitably distributed via various internet sites and twitterers and such so that anyone who happens to have an eye out for that particular information, or who likes using his smart phone while drinking and driving, will have a halfway decent chance of avoiding the fuzz.

It's not perfect, though. For example, here's the announcement of a checkpoint that happened this week.
New Orleans LA,-As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted.

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, in the Gentilly area. The check point will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.

The New Orleans Police Department would like to, as always, remind motorists to drink responsibly and use a designated driver.

So that's all well and good. If you don't already have to go to "the Gentilly area" for anything, you're cool. But obviously, this isn't always the case. The Gentilly area, or the Algiers area, or the Uptown area, as these things are invariably written covers a lot of ground. What if your plans are such that you can't avoid driving through "the Gentilly area" that night? What if you live in Gentilly? Even with advanced knowledge of a sobriety checkpoint, drivers are far from safe. Sharing information is a helpful tool, but Player Protect, it ain't.

This hasn't stopped locals form availing themselves of the options they do have... nor has it stopped a few of them from getting a bit cocky about it from time to time. Still, it can't be making much of a dent in the checkpoints' overall effectiveness. As a percentage of the total population of people on the streets at night, the number of people drinking and driving while avoiding traffic stops because they were forewarned by the internet is certainly negligible, right? Not so say these bellyaching cops.
Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are disrupting a common law enforcement technique against drunk driving, the sobriety checkpoint, authorities said Friday.

One such checkpoint at the intersection of Oak and Leake streets last Friday night netted eight DWI arrests, with 31 citations and 73 sobriety tests administered, said traffic division Lt. Melvin Howard at the New Orleans Police Department’s weekly departmental meeting Friday.

But a number of Friday night drivers had prior notice of the checkpoint — presumably enabling some to avoid it — via posts on Facebook, Howard told the rest of the department. Drivers were sending updates to their friends as they passed through, and word spread quickly while many were still at the bars.

“We’re also battling social media,” Howard said. “Just as we’re tracking DWI’s and bad motorists, they’re also tracking us.”

Nearly 500 vehicles passed through, and a third of them were checked, Howard said.

I don't know. 31 citations in one night seems like a pretty big haul to me. Maybe they've got a bigger quota to meet. We are in the middle of a budget crunch, after all. And these big new mega jails certainly aren't gonna build themselves. Maybe Serpas can take a cue from the Mayor's jail-planning staff and start making his "public announcements" in a more hush hush manner. Either way we're guessing we'll see more of these checkpoints in the future. And things will continue to be touch-and-go for New Orleans on the road.

In keeping with their much-celebrated idiom of embodying the spirit, the mood, the hopes and dreams, of the city they represent, the New Orleans Saints had a rough time on the road themselves on Monday night. Although they, like many of us lately, also managed to narrowly avoid disaster. Must be all the tweeting they do during the week.

Saints vs 49ers (Game photos stolen from Michael DeMocker's Times-Picayune galleries. Please do not tell the police.)

  • Winning ugly: Unlike the opener vs Minnesota, which we thought was a very well played game, this one really does qualify as an "ugly" win for the Saints who were badly out-gained by the 49ers (417 total yards to 287), ran for an abysmal 2.1 yards per carry, were only 6 of 14 in 3rd down conversions, allowed 2 sacks (which is a lot for the Saints), missed tackles, missed open receivers, were penalized for 54 yards, and dropped a punt. It's tough on the road sometimes.

    The good news is, this was an even uglier loss for the 49ers who began the game with an embarrassing overhead snap from center that went through the back of the endzone for a safety and ended it by allowing the Saints to drive 50 yards for the winning field goal. In addition to the botched snap, the 49ers turned the ball over 4 more times killing drives on the Saints' 27, 12, and 10 yard lines forfeiting at least 9 points. Also they dropped a punt a key point in the fourth quarter which led to a Saints field goal. Sure, it's tough on the road. But if you turn the ball over five times, it's tough at home too.

    Whoops! Alex Smith contemplates subjecting center David Baas to a brethalyzer and/or on-the-spot bloodletting.

  • Drew Brees and the Blustery Day: It's hard to say Drew Brees looked "ugly" out there. Another day over 70% completions with 2 TDs and no interceptions will do just fine. But Brees did look frustrated at times with what the 49ers defense was showing him. On most plays, Brees ended up checking down to a second or third receiver. Of his 28 completions, 19 were to running backs or tight ends. One, he caught himself off of a deflection. The Niners' defense game planned pretty well for the Saints. A quarterback with less presence of mind than Brees probably would have turned the ball over once or twice.

    There were a few times, however, when Saints receivers looked like they might have been open on deep patterns where Brees just missed them. It could have been the wind. In a lot of ways, this was reminiscent of the Saints-Bears NFC Championship game. Harsh weather can make it tough out on the road for a dome team like the Saints.

    Brees is smooshed after finding no one to (Ser)pass the ball to. In 2009 Brees was sacked 20 times. To date, his highest total as a Saint.

  • I'm wondering if maybe Jeremy Shockey is about done: Since becoming a Saint, has there been any significant stretch of time when Poochie wasn't either out altogether or limping around fighting off one nagging injury or another? Shockey played Monday night but he looked to me like he could barely even run out there. Turns out he's hurt again. How much does this guy really have left?

  • You drop a punt, we break a leg. Fair's fair, right? Right so Reggie Bush is going to miss another third of another season with probably the least career-threatening injury he's sustained so far. Should we worry about this? Probably not. Yeah the Saints have had a string of misfortune at tailback which has left the position thinly stocked. But Bush isn't really a running back anyway. His exit will just give the Saints even more of an excuse to try and get Chris "Ironbutt" Ivory (who actually is a running back although we aren't sure if he's much of one) involved in the offense and we know the fans have been waiting expectantly for that to happen.

    It's kind of a shame that this happened at a point where we were starting to think things could come together for Bush a little bit. We were anxious to see if, by giving back the Heisman Trophy, Bush had also shed the dreaded Heisman jinx and was on the cusp of doing something really interesting as a pro. It could work out that way. Maybe now the time off will be good for him. Maybe, once healed, his leg will return with the proverbial freshness you hear so much about. Maybe he'll be less likely to break down later in the season. For his part, Reggie thinks he'll be back sooner than later. In the meantime, don't freak. Check out what Jeff Duncan says.
    New Orleans has been here before.

    In 2007.
    In 2008.
    In 2009.

    The Saints have navigated this Reggie-less road and fared quite well, thank you.
    In fact, it might surprise folks to know the Saints averaged more yards (430.7) and points (33.3) in the 12 games Bush missed the previous three seasons than they did in the 37 games with him (379.1 yards, 26.5 points)
    Reggie Bush missing a few games is just part of the natural cycle. And the Saints know how to cope with that.

    Reggie Bush thinks it's tough out there on the road. Hey, good news! Now Saints fans can follow @Reggiebushleg on Twitter!

  • I looked at the opposing sideline and I saw Mike Singletary Former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight once famously remarked to a reporter after his team came from behind to beat LSU that at a point in the game when it wasn't looking so great, Knight "..was worried about losing until I looked down the floor and saw (buffoonish LSU coach) Dale Brown. Then I knew we had a chance" This is sort of how it felt for Saints fans being on the opposite side from 49ers head coach Mike Singletary all night. No matter how tough it got out there on the road, we could always look over and remember that the other team was coached by a buffoon and know that somehow things would work out. Wang wrote a bit about Singletary's odd management style last week. And we know he's got kooky eyes and all. But, more than anything, Singletary's tenure with the 49ers is comparable, appropriately enough, to his former coach Mike Ditka's with the Saints. The coach is an "intense" personality and bit of a media darling but also obviously quite crazy and not exactly running the smoothest operation from an organization standpoint. Ditka's Saints teams played aggressively, if not all that well, for the first few seasons before the bottom dropped out. Singletary's teams will probably go the same way sooner or later.

    They're pretty much obliged to test Singletary every time they see him at the checkpoint. Drunk or otherwise, he's going to behave erratically.

  • Speaking of buffoonish coaches: LSU goes up against West Virginia Saturday night in Baton Rouge. We already know how ridiculous LSU's coach is, but have you seen the West Virginia fans' Fire Bill Stewart Facebook group yet? This will be some fun.

    Actually, while we still want Les Miles fired, we have been impressed with the way the Tigers have looked on defense in recent weeks. That is insofar as we think Mississippi State and Vandy are valid measuring tools anyway. Also was Miles in charge of the Saints' timeouts at San Francisco this week? I know the wind was bad but what a dumb thing to waste timeouts worrying over.

  • 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is one tough dude who delivers a lot of what Gregg Williams likes to call "remember me" hits. Willis laid into Bush especially hard Monday night in a photograph nobody took and which I, consequently, cannot steal. But if you'll think back to that moment, you, like me, may also wonder if Willis should have been flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact. Not that we're the sort to complain about that kind of stuff. Anyway it's tough on the road.

  • In the clutch, who else? Morstead. In the later stages of the fourth quarter, the Saints were hanging on to a precarious 19-14 lead. Tracy Porter's interception had already saved this lead once. But the Saints' offense was sputtering and Bush had just been helped off the field minutes earlier when the Saints failed to convert a 3rd and 1 at their own 31 yard line. The 49ers have been steadily gaining confidence and were about to get another opportunity to take the lead.

    Onto the field steps Thomas Morstead who boots a high 52 yard punt all the way to the San Francisco 17. The ball is fumbled by Phillip Adams and recovered by the Saints. It's their most dramatic gain in field position the entire day and it couldn't have come at a better time. The resulting field goal puts the Saints up 8, a lead they will relinquish on the next possession, but crucial points nonetheless.

    Morstead watches as NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Garrett Hartley celebrates the game-winning field goal. Honestly, I still don't trust Hartley.

  • Brad Childress was not there: For the second week in a row, the Saints' defensive front got pushed around by a physical running attack. But unlike week one, when Brad Childress took the ball out of Adrian Peterson's hands, this time, the 49ers kept feeding Frank Gore and it almost won them the game. The Saints' D was sloppy. They fell down a lot. They missed tackles. They keep coming away with turnovers and God bless them for that but it's not always going to be that way.

    After the game, Gore told reporters that he thought the 49ers got the better of the Saints' defense. "They're a good team but they couldn't handle us out there. They can't handle us." When T-P writer Jeff Duncan tweeted this quote, it prompted an indignant response from Saints linebacker Scott Shanle.
    Damn more talk! This team is all talk. Frank u lost the game. U are 0-2. Your entire team needs to shutup and just play
    We'd like to think the Falcons won't have much worth talking about Sunday but the Saints need to play better on defense to make that happen.

And so, yes, it's still September and it's already Falcon week in New Orleans. Personally I prefer to see Atlanta come in to the Dome later in the season when there are more clear stakes involved one way or the other. Oh except for that one year when they came in early and it was awesome. Otherwise, I'd rather play the Falcons later, but we can't have everything.

The bad news is, we're getting word that the dreaded black pants are coming back out of mothballs for this one which is never good from either a football or a fashion standpoint. Worse than that, Menckles went out and got a new brake tag today and the color scheme is perhaps the most ominous thing imaginable.

Red and black brake tag

The good news is, due to a minor collision some months back, my right headlight is currently held in place on the front of the Tercel by a slavishly maintained duct taping improvisation. Which means nobody's gonna give me one of those new tags until I get it fixed. Which means I'm still sporting the black and gold on my windshield for the forseeable future. Let's hope that's enough to outperform all the other contrary portents. In the meantime, if you see or hear of any NOPD checkpoints out there, be sure and tweet me out a clue.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Very tired of watching this movie over and over and over

Bring back the Dixie Tavern

Pat asks, perhaps, the most crucial question regarding Cynthia Lee Sheng's real estate extortion/land grab redevelopment in Fat City.
Bonus Item 3: Does the Fat City heavy metal scene survive this by adapting to new surroundings, or do they find another place to play?

They'll just have to find some place to play in Orleans Parish, I guess. The Dixie Tavern is closed. What used to be the Mermaid Lounge is now kind of a country-themed yuppie bar. What does that leave? The Hi-ho? Maybe someone should try following TBC brass band on the corner of Bourbon and Canal once or twice just to see how it goes.

Staggering Failure

It would have been so easy to let the Bush tax cuts on upper income earners expire, extend the tax cuts, on middle and lower income earners, and then BOOM Obama Tax Cut. Everybody goes home and talks about how awesome they are.

Just last week, this New York Times/CBS poll indicated that 53% of Americans favored ending the tax cuts on earners over $250,000 while 78% percent wanted the cuts extended for middle income earners. Seriously, what a fantastic opportunity for the Democrats to score a major slam dunk right before the midterms. And yet, somehow, this group just never could reach the rim.
Key legislators were mum, and aides pessimistic, that the House will do what Speaker Pelosi wants to do: force a vote on tax legislation that will put Republicans on the record backing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And with House Democratic leaders still insisting that they will follow the Senate's lead, it seems more and more likely that they too will drop the tax cut issue for now.

The poll also said that 54% of Americans say it's time for a third major party to challenge both Dems and Republicans. Can that really be much of a surprise to anyone at this point?

85 percent

But hey Casamento's is open so that's something, right?

"One of the great untold stories is that we've really ravaged our oyster reefs in coastal areas," Montanga said.Levees dramatically altered salinity levels and killed off many reefs. Montanga estimates 85 percent of oyster habitat worldwide has been destroyed, with huge consequences for other species. Oysters are important habitat for baby fish and vital, natural filters to keep the neighborhood nice for loads of other creatures. From the Chesapeake to the Gulf of Mexico, scientists working on ways to restore oysters are finding many challenges.
Scientists schmientists. Obviously what we need to do here is ask BP to fund a marketing campaign to add an r to the names of more months; see if that works.


Good to know our representatives are fighting BP tooth and nail for more marketing money. Because the problem here really is all image-related. I have no idea what kind of commercial can reanimate these fish but I'm guessing it's got to be awesome. Might go buy a 3-D TV just to watch it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Securing their legacy

Ladies and gentlemen, the 111th Congress. They did the absolute least they could with the most we could give them. One would think that extending a tax cut to middle class Americans would be a slam dunk for these people. One would be wrong about that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Saints are alright

We promise to bang out the long form post sooner this week than last. In the meantime, Saints fans, quit squirming. There will be plenty situations this season where a desperate, physical, professional football team throws everything it has at the defending world champion and comes away with an almost win to show for it. When I was growing up, there were many many games where the Saints and their fans felt like they almost had the defending world champion 49ers only to see things slip away at the last second.

Saints fans certainly understand how the 49ers feel today.
San Francisco's Frank Gore also led all rushers with 112 yards on 20 carries. Gore had a 12-yard touchdown reception from Smith and ran seven yards for a touchdown on the 49ers final, tying series. The 49ers finished with 417 totals yards to 287 by the Saints.

"We know what we can do," said Gore. "We just have to stop beating ourselves. We whooped their behind up and down the field. They can't stand with us. We beat ourselves for the second week in a row. That has to change."

But, also, fuck them. Feels good to be on the other side of that shit stick, doesn't it?

Un-Vanished, perhaps, but not "new"

QOTD: Times Picayune reporter Bob Marshall relating something he was forced to ask a BP representative in a phone conversation.
“Do the fish, birds, crabs, shrimp and benthic organisms realize this is old oil?”
Read the whole thing for context, which is as bad as it seems.

This battle for the soul of the Republican Party is far more interesting than we thought

I'm guessing, the next election cycle could produce a showdown between the exorcism wing vs the witchcraft wing.

Maybe there should be some sort of wizzard's duel arranged.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Dat say dey gonna mainline dat butter

2 hours before kickoff. I have to cook and then get everything across town in time to see the game. I'm busting out this recipe again mostly because I want to die young and happy.

Meanwhile go check out Wang's solution to the latest Who Dat controversy which we endorse fully.

Millions of fish

I'm sure this is all perfectly normal.
Lately, what is keeping the parish on its collective toes are fish kills: at least four major ones, within the last two weeks.

"Millions of fish, absolutely, millions," said P.J. Hahn, the parish's Coastal Zone Management Director.

Hahn has been documenting the fish kills, including one in Bayou Robinson on Sunday.

"We're used to seeing fish kills out here at this time of year, but not at this number, mass number of fish that are dying, and not in the frequency that they are occurring now," he said.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said the fish kills are due to low oxygen -- and not related to the oil spill. However, parish leaders remain unconvinced. On Sunday, representatives of the district attorney's office in Plaquemines, went out to one of the fish kill areas. They collected samples, which could end up being used in civil penalties case related to the oil spill.

Also, that pesky vanished oil somehow keeps washing up.

Just in the past week alone, clean-up crews in Plaquemines Parish collected more than 37,000 gallons of oily-water mix and another 8,700 bags of tar balls.

"We still have a lot of work to do out here, there is no doubt about it," Hahn said. "We're just getting a steady collection of oil."

Meanwhile, don't go putting up any sandcastles on Florida beaches or 5-0 will shut your ass down.

I must keep a journal I must boast of victory*

Yes, this is the long overdue Saints-Vikings game recap. I wasn't sure if I was going to get it in or not but Brad Childress put three guys on a plane to come and see me at home and they were pretty persistent and... well here's what they get. Can't imagine they'll ever regret getting what they asked for.

Note: Game photos (i.e. the ones that don't link to my Flickr account) are, as always, shamelessly stolen from Times-Picayune photographer Michael DeMocker's NOLA.com galleries.

  • This week's Dome complaint: Yes, of course, the concession prices are up again. When we got into the stadium, Menckles and I ordered two Miller Lites and something called a "walking taco" which is a bag of Doritos opened sideways and adorned with various toppings; beans, sour cream, peppers, cheese, possibly Nutella... I was too grossed out to pay close attention. We were out twenty bucks and I think a supplemental insurance premium right off the bat. So not only are the prices going up in the Dome this season, the food is getting stranger.

  • This week's Dome/Square Paradox:When the Saints announced their plan to create the new Champions Square "urban tailgating" space at the Superdome, we were concerned that they were dangerously flaunting the rules of geometry, let alone decency. How can we have a Square in the same place that we already have a Dome? What sort of con are the Bensons running now? With their sweetheart office tower deals and their spherical cubes and walking tacos and whatnot, one can't help but be a little suspicious.

    But that's not the weird part. You see, long ago, we observed what we took to be an ironclad law of nature which stated that beer prices naturally decrease at the same rate as one's proximity to the Superdome. A man selling cans out of an ice chest to fans on the corner of Poydras and Lasalle will be asking at least a dollar more per can than the guy on Poydras and S. Rampart. It was an undisputed universal principle. Until Thursday. Walking up Girod Street near the Macy's tunnel, we were a little offended to find a guy trying to sell light beer to passing fans for $7.50 each. Usually the street guys get between 2 and 5 dollars depending on location but, I suppose, these days $7.50 still qualifies as a deal compared to what they're getting in the dome. Still it seemed a little high. But that's not the weird part either.

    The weird part came when we got to Champions Square itself and dutifully noted the many items we were restricted from carrying with us there.

    Shit you can't do in Champions Square (Presented by Verizon)

    As we walked up the ramp overlooking the square, maybe it was a trick of the light or something, or maybe I was regretting having left my service animal at home, but I swear I saw a booth selling beer for $5.50. That's a $5.50 directly between an absurd $7.50 from a street vendor and the obscene $8.00 inside. What property does the Dome/Square space possess that bends the laws of nature like this? More study is necessary.

  • This week's other Dome complaint: I'm willing to look past the poorly planned, comical banner-dropping ceremony. Saints fans who grew up on ostrich races and questionably certified pyrotechnics were probably expecting a little more than a poorly balanced Harry Connick trying to belt out at least one line of "When the Saints go Marching In" before falling off of his float. (Maybe if they'd made a game of this activity... I don't know.) Anyway it was very sudden and sort of haphazard looking. Still the banner stayed up. And the Saints didn't lose the Bruschi Bowl so I guess they got to keep it.

    I am not willing to look past, however, the NFL's decision to put the end of the Dave Matthews/Taylor Swift Jackson Square embarrassment up on the jumbotron for the benefit of Saints fans who thought they had avoided the travesty by going to the Dome instead. I think of all the complaints about the NFL's phony opening festivities (and there are many) the one I keep coming back to is, what does any of this have to do with football? I mean, isn't that supposed to be what these TV programs are about in the first place? It's a football game. Why do we need Taylor Swift for that? In fact, why do we need a pre-game concert at all? Who is all this stuff for? What it says to me is that the NFL doesn't think its fans are really all that into football. And, if true, that would be bad from their point of view, but I can't see how tween idol music shows are the remedy for that.

  • They won the freaking Super Bowl. What more do you want? Many Saints fans came away from the opener saying it was an "ugly win." we have no idea what they were talking about. The Saints committed no turnovers. They were penalized only three times for 20 yards. They outgained the Vikings 308 yards to 253. Also earlier this year they won the Super Bowl.

    Aside from a few (but not an obscene number of) dropped passes, the Saints were fairly efficient against one of the NFL's tougher defenses. Drew Brees was 27 of 36 for 237 yards and a touchdown. That's another 75% completion day that could have been better had it not been for the drops. He also made two outstanding plays in this game. One was the touchdown pass to Devery Henderson while scrambling to his right. The other was recovering from a bobbled snap near his own goal line and finding a way to turn the play into a big gain.

    Nothing ugly in Super Bowl 44 MVP Brees' performance

    Defensively there was little to complain about either. I'm having trouble finding the "ugly" in holding Adrian Peterson under 100 yards, Brett Favre to 171 yards and a pick, and... well any NFL team under 10 points. Admittedly some of this can be explained by the Vikings' injury problems and their "rusty" old man quarterback. Still more of it can be traced back to coaching. (More on that in a minute) But either way, there's nothing there we're ready to label "ugly". Overall, the Saints played a pretty tight football game. They just didn't score a gagillion points in the process. (Although, they should have had 20... more on that in a bit as well)
    Also the Saints are the reigning Super Bowl champions.

  • Despite the early reports, this is not 2008: One of our concerns going into this season (if you can say we had any.. the Saints are the Super Bowl Champions after all) was that the Saints would have trouble maintaining their commitment to offensive balance without Lynell Hamilton or Mike Bell on the roster. And for one half of one game, it didn't look too good. The Saints attempted 3 rushing plays and 22 passes during the first half. The Tweeter Tubes were going crazy with complaints from the press box.

    As if to drive the point home, the Saints opened the second half running the ball on 7 of 11 plays culminating in a touchdown by Frenchy Thomas. That drive was the game's turning point. The Saints didn't score again, but they remained in firm control of the game from that point on. On the one hand, we're encouraged by Payton's willingness to see what's going wrong and make adjustments to his strategy. On the other hand, we're wondering if he would have gone back to the ground game had he been down by more than two points at halftime.

    Pierre Thomas was allowed to play football in the second half

  • Brad Childress is no genius: At the same time that the Saints were putting the ball in Thomas' hands, the Vikings were taking it out of Peterson's. Peterson, who ran hard and with some success against the Saints in the first half, only carried six times in the second half and, in fact, had zero rushing attempts during the fourth quarter. The Vikings never trailed by more than a touchdown. Why would Childress take the ball away from his most productive offensive player?

    During the offseason, Childress continually made headlines complaining about the Saints' rough defensive play in the NFC Championship game. So called expert football analysts suggested that Childress was slyly anticipating that his comments could either "work the refs" ensuring favorable treatment in the season opener or "psych out" Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams perhaps making him less likely to pull the trigger on as many blitzes as the Vikings saw in the championship game.

    Williams basically called the bluff. By backing off the blitz and sitting back in coverage, the Saints ended up confusing the fresh-off-the-playground Favre more than they would have by spearing his ankle or hiding his pain pills or whatever they've been doing in his nightmares for six months now. Thanks to Childress, the Vikings were coming into this game fighting the last war. After a lifetime of watching the Saints get out-coached in ways similar to this, I'm finding these days most enjoyable. Also the Saints are Super Bowl champions still.

  • This week's fan complaint: Sad to say, the long day of "urban tailgating" took its toll on Saints fans. One gentleman in our section noticed a group of Vikings fans take their seats near us just prior to kickoff and immediately jumped on their case. At first we thought he was joking around but after five minutes of red-faced pointing and shouting, people began to get uncomfortable. Some of us tried to help the visitors laugh it off. "I don't mean to jump to conclusions but some of these Saints fans probably shouldn't be driving later." It didn't help. The guy kept going and people kept getting more and more worried.

    Inevitably stadium security intervened and escorted the red-faced man away. And there was much rejoicing. For a little while anyway since, much to everyone's disbelief, the man was allowed to return to his seat five minutes later. What's more, he was markedly unbowed by his experience and continued antagonizing the Vikings fans sitting behind him this time photographing each of them and threatening legal action for THEIR HARASSMENT OF HIM.

    I know the NFL has a draconian Code of Fan Conduct in place that is supposed to discourage this behavior but the enforcement of these rules is baffling. In recent years, I've watched Superdome security threaten to eject Saints fans for banging on the wall and making general fan noise. The very fan in question here has been known to shoot dirty looks toward people using colorful language near his children. But somehow, this guy is free to be as nasty as he wanna be toward visiting fans. I don't get it. I don't get any of it.

    Other Saints fans were observed peeing into trash cans near the bathroom line and getting into sloppy fistfights in front of the "walking taco" table Thursday night. It was not their finest hour overall.

  • Uh Oh the kicker sucks: Garrett Hartley missed two field goals any professional should be expected to make. It's the reason the 14-9 perceived "ugly win" wasn't a 20-9 dominant opening performance. The truth is, the kid has never really established that he's the guy for this job. Sure he happened to be in the right place to make one very important kick that any professional should be expected to make last year. But that doesn't mean he's a made guy. And that's true despite the fact that the Saints are the reigning Super Bowl champions.

    I wouldn't get too comfortable, either, 5.

  • Second guessing Reggie Bush... because that's just what we do:
    Upside down Bush

    Actually Bush played well against the Vikings. He didn't do anything dumb. He led the team in rushing during the first half. (One carry. Eight yards.) He didn't drop any punts. Despite all of the off-field attention he's gotten lately, Bush has never looked more comfortable in uniform.

    Still, he shouldn't have given the trophy back. The circumstances under which he forfeited it are the NCAA's problem primarily, and USC's problem to a certain extent. We can sort of understand the temptation to "move forward" and all, but in reality, by giving up the trophy, Bush is mostly just pussing out. Sure he got in a few passive aggressive comments during the announcement, but if he really wanted the hypocrites embarrassed, he would have kept the thing and let the story fester. I would have been tempted to start wearing it around my neck.

  • We're exhausted with this "Who Dat" controversy. No one is ready for Round 2, but there it is. Earlier this week I received a mass emailing from Senator Vitter regarding this matter and... Actually, you know what? Let's worry about this later and watch videos instead. Remember, the Saints are Super Bowl Champions.

Looking forward to tonight's game in San Francisco. It's still funny to me that people can call a Saints-49ers matchup a "trap" game or say that it's an opponent the Saints may overlook. Not too long ago, this was a serious divisional rivalry. Well, a frustrating one anyway. Here is the series history on Monday Night Football:
1989 SF 31 NO 13
1990 SF 13 NO 12
1993 SF 42 NO 7
1994 SF 35 NO 14
That ain't no good, but of course all that stuff happened before the Saints became Super Bowl champions. See Wang for more on the matchup. Short version: Mike Singletary is a nutty coach and the 49ers "do in fact blow". I agree. Expect a new outcome tonight.

*Post title, not surprisingly for most, lifted from a Classic GBV track.** But also, seriously, we gotta get back on track with these. Will try to do better next week.

**On tour this fall

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making it right, As long as it takes, yadda yadda

BP refuses to pay Alabama's oil spill claim, citing lawsuit; state education budget cut
BP PLC told Gov. Bob Riley today that it wouldn’t pay the state of Alabama’s $148 million claim because Attorney General Troy King sued the oil company.

BP said in a statement that "immediate resolution" was "unachievable at this time."

Riley, blaming the lawsuit for lost revenue, said he would have no choice but to cut the state schools budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 by an additional 2 percentage points, from 7.5 percent to 9.5 percent. Because there are only two weeks left in that budget year, it means the state’s K-12 school systems, colleges and universities will see a roughly 25 percent cut in this month’s state aid check.

"If that lawsuit hadn’t paralyzed our negotiations, we wouldn’t have had to make these additional cuts to education funding," Riley said in a statement. "One man made a brash, reckless decision to sue BP while the state was still working to recover lost tax revenue from the company."
So Bob Riley is not only siding with BP in its dispute with his own state, he's making state schools and colleges pay for that. Way to go.

I've got a university... or maybe not so much anymore

I thought the Good Gubmint REformers like Jindal were supposed to value education because it was the future and, um, think about the children, and stuff. Or maybe that just means they like to talk fast.
Louisiana State University's main campus would be forced to cut 700 jobs and enrollment would shrink by an estimated 8,000 students if Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration follows through on threats to reduce state support for higher education by $62 million next year, according to an analysis released late Wednesday.

Wonder what the "old corrupt crowd" would have done

In 1928, LSU was a small-time country school that generated little interest or attention in the state. Labeled a “third-rate” institution by the Association of State Universities, the school had only 1800 students, 168 faculty members, and an annual operating budget of $800,000.

In 1930, Huey Long initiated a massive building program on campus to expand the physical plant and add departments. By 1936, LSU had the finest facilities in the South, a top-notch faculty of 394 professors, a new medical school, more than 6,000 students, and a winning football team. In only eight years, it had risen in size from 88th in the nation to 20th, and it was the 11th largest state university in the nation.

Meanwhile, shit rolls downhill.

University of New Orleans Chancellor Tim Ryan has resigned effective immediately, according to a statement sent by LSU System spokesman Charles Zewe. John Lombardi, president of the LSU system, "relieved" Ryan of his duties, according to an email sent to students by Joe King, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost.
As the pie shrinks, the tablemates become more and more covetous of one another's pieces, or crumbs as the case is here. UNO was never exactly Stanford-on-the-Lake but, not so long ago, it was a pretty respectable urban university. Now, not so much.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Read this Matt Taibbi NFL Season Preview before it goes stale

The NFL’s Next Evolution
The NFL became a passing league during the Brady-Manning decade, a period that ushered in rules changes that made it illegal to breathe on a quarterback or say unkind things to pass-catchers more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Referees in the 2000s looked at offensive holding the way on-the-take Chicago cops looked at rum-running in the ’20s. By 2009 it was so easy to complete passes that even then-Redskin Jason Campbell — a nice kid who couldn’t hit the life-size blue whale exhibit at New York’s Museum of Natural History from seven paces — threw for more than 3,600 yards. That would have led the league in 1978; in 2009 it was 14th.

Also read this Moosedenied preview of this week's Saints-49ers game so I can go back to figuring out what to actually write football-wise this week.
Trap game" my ass. The 49ers just aren't good enough. In fact, they're not even particularly good at all. They're three studs and a bunch of chumps. They've got Frank Gore, but they've also got two rookies on their offensive line. They've got Vernon Davis (and Michael Crabtree, assuming he bothers to show up) but their quarterback is in his fifth year and he still looks like a deer in the headlights. They've got Patrick Willis, but so what? They struggle with basics, don't make adjustments and are generally in complete turmoil.

Liberry moment

Sometimes a person will come in and check out a stack of travel guides pertaining to some faraway country or region. I never know how to feel about this because it either means that they are planning a trip to that place very soon or it means they really would like to go there but never ever will.

Un-Vanished but well hidden

Oil washing ashore now back-page news

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Not if you mean New Orleans in late summer, you better freaking not.

Meanwhile George Soros controls the universe via ACORN or something

The worst thing about right wing conspiracy shills is that they actually are many of the things they accuse others of being.

33 percent more expensive

The typical resident of the New Orleans metropolitan area pays 33percent more in housing costs than before Hurricane Katrina struck,according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released Monday. The survey also found that the area has 13 percent fewer housing units than it did before the flood, a main factor behind the jump in housing costs. Both owners and renters were hit hard by the 33 percent jump. In2004, the average monthly cost was $662, compared with $882 in 2009.

Also I don't know how many of you have tried out the new Canal Place theater yet, but the Hubig's pies there go for six bucks.

Martian Law

Billy Southern in yesterday's T-P:
If Abraham Lincoln, the president of a fractured country at war with itself, didn't have the constitutional authority to declare martial law, it can be safely assumed that a mayor or a police chief or captain, even in post-levee failure New Orleans, also lacked that authority.

So it's hard to know what the mayor, Ray Nagin, was saying when he told a journalist, "I've already called for martial law in New Orleans," as was recently rebroadcast in PBS's stunning "Law and Disorder" documentary on Frontline. If indeed any police officers even heard this order, they were obviously in no position to research the constitutionality of the claim at the law library of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Instead, they would have understood that the mayor was telling the world that he had lost the city to "insurgents" and "mobs" and that they needed to take it back without regard for the normal rules.

In the defining moment of crisis, when panic and passion were already so likely to overcome judgment, it appears that those in charge illegally threw out the rule of law. That they might have panicked and believed the rumors and very worst exaggerations about the citizens of our city is no excuse. The problem with the Law of Mars is that it easily confuses the blood of the guilty with the blood of innocents.

Via J Stratton on Flickr, one of my favorite post-K photos shows a declaration of Martian Law here.


Where's the oil? On the Gulf floor, scientists say


Huge fish kill reported in Plaquemines Parish

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wait Til Last Year Part 1

January 24, 2010 was a hell of a day. Prior to a few sentences in the post below this one, the sum total of my remarks on this event to date can be found here. At this late hour, I'm still finding it difficult to call up a more precise language with which to describe the events of that day. It's still all very hazy. Maybe the emotional memory is still that overwhelming. Or maybe it's because I only slept about three hours last night. But I'm still not sure I put the thing together. Luckily there are pictures.

Saints Sunday on Royal Street Dome crowd before NFC Championship Beautiful Day Before NFC Championship Game

Wow what an amazing day to be out and about. And also full of these which likely contributed some to the haze.

Cardinal's Blood-y Mary

So what I do remember isn't very crisp but certainly intense. I remember trying to cross Perdido Street but being held up by a random parade of dune buggies. I remember encountering multiple random second lines. One of them I distinctly remember was playing "Let's go get em" (like this here) which was just the most perfect circumstance under which I've encountered that riff. I remember walking up the Poydras Street Superdome ramp and thinking to myself that this was the same ramp I'd walked up in January of 1988 when my folks brought me to see the first ever Saints playoff game. Against Minnesota. We had lost that one 44-10. And here I was 22 years later walking up that ramp, amped up, as full of liquor, righteousness and wrath as I'd ever been.

I still can't talk that much about the game. It was scary. I know I spent most of it screaming angrily about the perverted favoritism the game officials displayed toward Favre and the Vikings throughout. We all know about the absurd media narrative that has since sprung up around a contrary version of these events. I find this shocking, insulting, and further evidence of an ingrained media prejudice against this city. I'm still pretty raw over it but I forced myself to watch this game over again once this summer just to see if I had, perhaps through the haze, gotten it wrong somehow. But no, the Saints were getting hosed most of the night. Like I said, I still don't really want to talk about it. BSJD breaks down some of what I'm getting at here if you're interested. Meanwhile we're just going to skip to the end right now.

So here's what I remember. The game is in overtime. Everyone in the stadium is physically and emotionally exhausted. The Saints have the ball on the Minnesota 41. They have the ball for the moment anyway since Pierre Thomas' 4th and 1 plunge is currently under review. The play has been ruled a first down on the field so we're fairly sure the Saints will maintain possession but it sure is taking a long time. It was at about this moment that I started moving up and down the aisles of Section 617 approaching every Saints fan I could get to in the time allotted (friend of stranger... mostly strangers), laying a bear hug on each and telling them as sincerely as I could, "No matter what happens here, I love you. I love each and every one of you people" Yeah, I was pretty wasted.

The official emerges from the replay hood and signals a first down. There are a few more plays, another replay delay, a timeout, and some more anxious moments as Garrett Hartley lines up for what looks like a makeable field goal. I can remember a little bit about waiting for the kick but mostly what I still see in my minds eye is the ball lifting to the full height of its arc, "Get in there, dammit!" And then I blacked out. Really everything went dark and quiet for a second. I came back to when I heard the crowd roar. And then... HOLY FUCKING SHIT! and so forth.

But really I don't remember much after that. Luckily there are a few pictures.

Halas Trophy presentation

Super Bowl Bound

St. Peter Street

Maybe later this season, I'll be able to write a little bit about the Super Bowl. But I'm still not quite over that one either.

Wait. What? More football? But we won football already. Shit, well, if we gotta.

  • Obviously Drew Brees isn't quite over it either: I mean, come on. Dear New Orleans is bad enough, but do you really have to go the whole nine and actually play cheerleader too? Look, I know we live in a looser age where the coaches routinely write movie scripts and goofy T-shirt slogans aren't laughed right out of the locker room and all the players are in the Tweeter Tube and whatnot. But sometimes preening and lack of focus is still preening and lack of focus. And sometimes I still think these guys have let their success go to their heads a bit. And maybe that's okay too. I mean, how often has a Saints Super Bowl championship come around? I know I'm not taking this season very seriously, I'm not gonna blame the Saints for blowing it off too. But I do get the impression they may be blowing it off a bit.

  • The Superdome doubles as a storm shelter: Right now it is raining buckets on the NFL's stupid, over-commercialized un-New Orleans Taylor Swift concert and corporate sponsored parade. Good. Fuck em. This week I watched the ESPN "Insiders' NFL Special" where a panel of experts remarked that New Orleans celebrated the Super Bowl win "more than any other city has ever celebrated a Super Bowl" only they meant it in a bad way. It was as if they were saying, once again, people don't know how to behave down here. At the same time, that's going on, here's a video NFL.com released this week. Apparently Saints fans are too excited about their team but also they don't get mention among the "NFL's best bases" (Also fuck you, Darren Sharper) Point is, fuck the NFL and fuck the national sports media. Obviously they don't get us. And obviously they don't deserve what we have. Sinn. Fein. Bitches.

  • The Rat Symbolizes Obviousness: I say all this because what we've got here is worth having. I said earlier that I'm not ready to write about the Super Bowl so I won't bore you by telling you what you already know about what last year means. I bring it up only to remind us all that we get to keep all of it. We keep it all no matter what happens this year. The Saints could win 19 games in 2010 or they could win 3. Either way the 2009 New Orleans Saints were World Champions for the first time ever and being there to see that was a transcendental experience and nobody, not even Tedy Brucshi is coming to take that back.

    Having said all of that, here are two very obvious reasons I don't think the Saints are going very far into the playoffs this season if at all.

    1) Last year the Saints finished 6th overall in rushing in the NFL. Their leading rusher was Pierre Thomas with 793 yards. Second was Mike Bell with 654. Mike Bell is gone. Because Bell didn't see the ball so much in the playoffs, fans tend to forget just how important his contribution to the offense was. Lynell Hamilton was slated to step into Bell's role. Lynell Hamilton is gone. PJ Hill and Chris "Ironbutt" Ivory competed to fill the void left by Hamilton. PJ Hill is gone. Ironbutt is out at least three weeks. The Saints have a massive void in their offense with no apparent answer. I expect them to struggle controlling the ball on the ground all season long. In past seasons, when they've played with a badly unbalanced offense, Drew Brees broke all sorts of passing records but the team didn't win very many games.

    2) Even more obvious and boring. The defense has probably not improved very much and won't force as many turnovers. Who is going play where Casillas was supposed to step in for Fujita? Can Malcolm Jenkins do what Darren Sharper did? Is Vilma even healthy? How comfortable do you feel answering any of those questions. In 2009 the a Saints defense with average talent made the most of its multiple fortuitous breaks. Sure it could work that way again. But I don't think so.

    So look for the Saints to come back to Earth a bit this year. And the baseline for this group in its non Super Bowl years has been between 7 and 10 wins. They're a plucky lot. Let's give them 9 just because we like them.

Let's hope one of those 9 comes tonight in the Legitimize It bowl against, once more, those hated Vikings. I'm about to head down to the Dome in a few minutes only this time I'm feeling a good deal less wrathful. This doesn't mean I'm not fired up. And even if I wasn't, I've always got Wang around to help me get there. But right now I just want to get to the Dome in time to see that banner drop and to visit for a while with that smell of greatness that nothing can ever wipe away.

Happy New Year

2010 Ashley Morris award winner Clifton Harris wrote a short post for August 29 which he titled "Today is Not a Holiday"
To my New Orleans friends and family,
It's okay if you don't want to watch, read, or participate in any of the Katrina events. It's also okay if you want to go to the second line then call up a public official and cuss their ass out. Whatever you decide to do today is the right decision. You went through the struggle so the choice is yours. After a long emotional week I think I am going to sit this one out.

So maybe holiday still isn't the word to describe what happens during the days surrounding 8/29. Maybe not yet. On the other hand, for five years now, it has been a time for city-wide recognition of the most significant historic event of our lifetimes. It has become a time most New Orleanians are becoming accustomed to marking with reflection, family, service, and, yes increasingly, celebration. I expect that, as years pass, the celebratory nature of the event will continue to grow. August 29 is and will continue to be a time to remember tragedy but also to count blessings, reconnect with family and neighbors, and, if the previous five years are any indication, engage in civic dialog and service in remembrance of an event that reminded us how important our community is to us. At times during the week of innumerable gatherings, parties, symposiums, parades, concerts, readings, and so forth that sprung up around 8/29, I found myself referring to it as "Bizzaro Mardi Gras" in conversation. But I'm beginning to see it as a kind of Thanksgiving.

On 8/29, Varg wrote a post that I thought captured this perfectly. There's much more to it but here's the part that left the biggest impression.
Today is a day of remembrance and those neighbors we lost will be honored. The voids they are leaving are a chaos all their own. Along with the “other victims,” those unclassifiable friends we lost from cancers, heart attacks, drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide in the years following.

I’m just one person and not some symbol of New Orleans but I have seen improvements in my life since the Flood. I am earning more income, have a better quality of life and live by many of my own terms. I have been married. I have finished working on my home and added value to it. I have developed and continue to develop a circle of friends and social contacts – these are New Orleans artists, builders, mothers, business people. I have a deeper empathy, sympathy for my neighbors. So, for me, things have recovered. We’ll see.
I, and I'm sure many of us, could write something along similar lines. It made me think, anyway.

A lot of horrible shit has happened as a result of the flood and during the five years following upon it. Most of this horrible shit, the public stuff, the stuff that affected everyone, we've spent a lot of time kvetching about in public places; I have on this blog for one thing. I could also make a list of personal traumas I have accrued during this time and they would be familiar to most; lost family, friends relocated who haven't returned, workplace upheaval, general drama with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, that whole chaos thing Varg was talking about. And yet while all that was going on, I also got married. I went to Paris. Mac McClelland signed my book. Like Varg, I've also "developed and continue to develop a circle of friends and social contacts". Frankly, in the past five years, I have learned a great deal more about the city I live in and the people I share it with than I expected I could and I thought I'd had a pretty good handle on that to start with. I'm less lonely now than I've ever been. And I can't help but feel a little guilty about that. But then guilt is a common element during holidays, particularly the more somber commemorative ones. As a confirmed atheist, I hesitate to use the word blessings to describe what I've gotten away with personally during this time, but if you've got a better word for profound ethereal good luck, I'd love to hear it.

So how does one observe a holiday like this? How does one celebrate the survival of some of the things, places and people we love while also confronting our losses and the fragility of what remains? Editor B writes,
Be revolutionary.

That’s it. That’s my wish for the people of New Orleans. Come to think of it, that’s also my wish for the people of this nation and this world. But somehow it seems especially apropos at this place, at this time. We’ve been having to rebuild and rethink everything, and five years on there is still much to do. So, as we continue to work at building it back better, we need to be bold. We need to be daring. We need courage and compassion and creativity.
I'm cutting out an example B presents from his personal experience, but he continues.
Not all revolutions are good. Not all revolutions are just. I don’t endorse change for the sake of change. For a community that has lost so much, in fact, more change may be difficult to face. But that’s our challenge, to preserve the good while revolutionizing the bad.

And actually, I think a lot of New Orleanians are doing this already. But it seems that it’s never enough. We need to constantly be supporting one another to be stronger and go further.

And this is why I've spent the weekend around 8/29 at Rising Tide each of these past few years. It's what I think B would would call "good" revolutionary. It isn't organized around any political orthodoxy or narrow social grievance. Rather, it is, or tries to be, a conference about the state of New Orleans organized for and by New Orleanians looking for ways to support one another. Mostly they do that through watching, reading, talking and sharing information in a raucous and open forum. New Orleanians have always been free with their opinions, but now more than ever they've come to understand the importance of countering banal happy bullshit even if that gets a little sloppy at times. Maitri puts this more eloquently than I could ever hope to.
It has been five years since Hurricane Katrina, The Flood and the information flood it brought with it. My hope for five years from now is increased information flow, but more than that, that we consider the source and its intent. That we build a more accurate picture, and not a sparklingly precise one. For the future we make comes from what and why we remember.

By now you've probably read about the overwhelming success of Rising Tide V from various outlets and websites. Of course, I have a few things to throw on the pile before we set it on fire.

  • This Year's Winner: Sure, Cliff took home the Ashley Award and that was well deserved. But the person who won the day at Rising Tide V was Clay by a long shot. Scoring Mac McClelland's autograph on a copy of the Halliburton cementing manual was inspired. Hats off.

    Scoring Mac's autograph

  • Who can keep up witha da chief?: Ronal Serpas participated in the opening public safety panel and pretty much dominated it. (Video here and here) On the one hand it's encouraging to see that the new chief of police is interested enough in engaging with the public that he shows up to events like this. On the other hand, the ease and polish with which he functions in this capacity is downright suspicious. He's not afraid to tell pretty little lies and make them sound good. Serpas told the room that he believes the state of the NOPD he's taking over now is worse than its previous nadir in 1994 because, according to the chief, the problems now are indicative of systemic accountability failure while the unfortunate actions of individual bad actors in the 1990s somehow weren't. He didn't say why he thinks this. But it is convenient for him to believe so given his history with the department and his desire to play savior now. It's good politics. It's also bullshit.

    But Serpas is a practiced bullshitter who tells tight stories and deflects difficult questions with ease. DSB, who lives in the same neighborhood I do, asked Serpas why our nights bring regular patrols of police cruisers riding around with their blue lights flashing. The question wasn't meant as a compliment. Those lights are an ominous and unpleasant presence. Serpas took it the other way and went on for a few minutes about the value of riding around with blue lights and how much everybody loves them and thank you very much for asking.

    Of course nobody's perfect and the chief did make two gaffes during his appearance. While delivering a canned line he must have used on numerous occasions back in Nashville about being second-guessed by the public the same way football coaches are, he confused Sean Payton with Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. Also, he parked illegally.

    Hail to the Chief

  • My Schoolgirl Crush on Mac McClelland: For some reason this became a running joke around the conference. I have no idea where it came from and I can't account for the general lack of maturity frequently displayed by my colleagues. But look. Mac McClelland is an outstanding and outspoken young reporter whose work during the Summer of Spill challenged the BP-Federal spin machine and the various media outlets not working hard enough to keep it in check. She was undoubtedly THE person to speak to this conference this year. I was pleased and honored that she accepted our invitation. Plus, she exhibits a certain Gonzo sensibility that fit the Rising Tide bill as well as or better than anyone else who has appeared there. If brandishing a Bloody Mary and calling the Governor of Louisiana a "fucking douchebag" on stage doesn't keep our brand out there, I have no idea what does.

    Appropriately, the NOLA blogoshere's very own original Gonzo journalist, Lance "Varg" Vargas delivered a stone cold introduction to McClelland's speech which makes all of these points far better than I can here although I can't believe he went on for five goddamn minutes. On the other hand, Varg did take home the Kimberly Marshall It’s All About Me Award at the Friday night party so maybe it isn't that surprising after all. Here's the video.

    Rising Tide V: Keynote by Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland (28 Aug 2010 NOLA) from Sophielab on Vimeo.

    Varg goes further beyond the call of duty by annotating McClelland's remarks here with links to her work and numerous other notes on topics she referenced. Mac knocked it out the park at RT 5 and did so with even more substance than style. This is not to say that I wasn't utterly intimidated and frozen in my tracks every time she spoke to me. You can draw whatever conclusions you like, but I will continue to insist that my fanboyhood is strictly related to Mac's professional work. I'm sure, for example, that the year we figure out a way to get Matt Taibbi to Rising Tide, I'll behave much the same way. Until he throws a drink on me and storms out of the room, that is.

    CORRECTION: The strange man rambling on before Mac in the video, we are told, may not, in fact, be Lance Vargas. We aren't sure but photographic evidence suggests he is actually Tim Ruppert.

  • Speaking of Tim Ruppert, Tim delivered an excellent presentation on a crucial flaw in the legal design standard for levees where effectiveness is measured in terms of property put at risk as opposed to the standard for dams which are judged in terms of lives. The presentation was cleverly titled When Can We Get Some Dam Safety In New Orleans? and was accompanied by carefully timed informative tweets which I thought was a neat touch. Tim has compiled his supplemental material here.

  • I already said what I want to say about the politics panel: It's in this post here. Adding only, I love Pistolette (I have a soft spot for Parish people), but when she says stuff like Clancy Dubos is a "big old liberal" I gotta laugh a little bit. I can't think of a more singular example of down-the-line conventional moderate than Clancy Dubos. Of course, Clancy himself commented that Rising Tide is the only conference where he's considered "mainstream media". I guess it's all a matter of perspective. Or maybe it's the gig as go-to political commentator for the city's top circulating weekly paper as well as its highest rated TV news broadcast. Maybe.

  • Ray called me wuss: Everybody knows I hate Treme. But I was glad to see the panel happen at Rising Tide because 1) It drew a big crowd. 2) It gave Maitri an excuse to fly in to host it. 3) While the show is in season, I like to read Back of Town as much as anyone. Still, I don't care for the show and I know a lot of people know this so when it came time for Q & A I didn't feel like getting involved because I knew a lot of people wanted to see me be a dick and I just didn't think that was an appropriate time. But for some reason I was standing near the stage when Ray came over and kind of smirked as he asked me if I had anything to say. I started to tell him I didn't want to make a stupid scene but he just grunted, "Wuss," and ambled away before I could protest further.

    Well okay then, I'll just ask my damn question. I tried to ask it in a polite way so that the panelists would answer honestly and not defensively. I think I accomplished that. I can't remember what I said, exactly. I think it was something about how the show, in its effort to present HBO viewers with a version of what it calls "authentic" New Orleans culture, is creating a sort of newly fake yet neatly packaged set of images and expectations about New Orleans to be further exploited by an ever hipper brand of tourism. I wasn't too surprised, although I was a little saddened, to hear Eric Overmeyer and Lolis Elie both embrace this very concept. One of them, I can't remember who, even said, "Well I know they appreciate all the new business over at Bullet's" And I'm sure they do and good for them. But I wasn't asking how Bullet's is doing. I was asking a question about what really is ours anymore and what do we do for ourselves as opposed to what we do for the benefit of an audience and I wasn't satisfied with the response to that at all.

    But at least I wasn't a dick. I had a follow up question in mind where I would ask the panelists to help me design a Treme bus tour (like a Katrina bus tour but faker because it's about a TV show) which might help fans of the show reach places like Bullet's where they appreciate all the business and whatnot. But I didn't ask that. I already had the answer I expected anyway.

  • Not for burning this weekend: As in years past, Octavia books was on hand with an amazing selection of NOLA-centric reading material to sell.

    Books books books!

  • The blury one in the lower right corner there is a photo project by Dave Anderson called One Block
    NY Times:
    Mr. Anderson focused on a block in the Lower Ninth Ward, the largely poor neighborhood that suffered some of the most catastrophic flooding in the city. At first, he said, he resisted shooting in that area “because it was so overexposed.”

    But he found himself falling in love with a block bounded by Chartres Street, Douglas Street, Caffin Avenue and — yes — Flood Street. It was a racially mixed neighborhood with lovely homes and not-so-lovely ones. “It seemed to represent ethnically what New Orleans was like, to a degree,” Mr. Anderson said. “And they hadn’t gotten so much water that they had absolutely no chance of making it back. There was a chance the neighborhood could recover — but it certainly wasn’t a sure thing.”

    Yes I know how hokey that sounds. And, yes, Chris Rose wrote the foreword so you kind of know what you're getting here. But I mention it because I'm close to the family of one of Mr. Anderson's subjects. I was at her funeral just two months ago. On August 28, the book launch was celebrated with a block party in the neighborhood where these photos were taken. Rebirth was there. Because I was at Rising Tide that day I couldn't be there for the party but I am told it was a good time. Sort of like a holiday really.

It is often said that there are four seasons in New Orleans and that those seasons are Carnival, Festival, Hurricane, and Football. Isn't it only fitting, then, that this newest holiday on the NOLA calendar sits almost exactly on the emotional cusp of two of those seasons? This line of demarcation between segments of the year also marks the end and beginning of yet another year since the disaster. Falling as near as it does to Rosh Hashana, it's tempting to think of 8/29 as the NOLA New Year. This fifth New Year, not surprisingly, has a certain fin de siecle aspect to it as well. I won't go into the numerous personal reasons I have for saying this. You can cite your own, I'm sure.

But because it's Football season, I'll note, for everyone's benefit, one blessing I left off of my list way way back at the top of this post. I got to see the New Orleans Saints become Super Bowl Champions. Okay wait. I got to sit in the Superdome for four seasons and watch this particular Saints team go through the long hard slog toward becoming a Super Bowl Champion. Wait. That doesn't quite get it either. I sat through the most harrowing, frightening, intense football game I've ever watched as this Saints team exorcised a long time bogeyman opponent in the NFC Championship game, in the Superdome, with my wife and my best friend there with me to see it happen. And then I saw them win the Super Bowl. All told, I am one lucky son of a bitch.

On the day of the 29th, Menckles and I decided to take Cliff's advice. Working upon the assumption that "whatever you decide to do today is the right decision" we walked down to Parasol's to catch a glimpse at another remarkable transition as the longtime operators of that bar celebrated their eviction from the building and subsequent occupation of the bar down the street. There are details but we've already hashed them out here. The move was marked by, what else, but a party and second line from Parasol's, around the block, and down to the new space, Tracey's, where participants were greeted by more music and a priest on hand to bless the building and throw holy water at people.

Blessing the patrons

I caught these thirty seconds of video with my phone. It's not much but I think it captures the spirit of the day pretty well.

Happy New Year.