Veterans Day Rant

I hate the title of this blog post, but it is so true. How many of you say “thank you for your service” when you notice men with baseball caps indicating they served our country? Or National Guards people who are in uniform? I figure about 5 percent.

They have become – since the days of the Vietnam Veterans – forgotten Americans.

And they put THEIR lives on the line every day during their tours of duty so that we can hang out with friends, go to ball games and simply sleep soundly at night.

There are reputable organizations out there that help our Veterans. I donate to Paralyzed Veterans of America…$10/month.

Here’s a link for grateful Americans to help support our Veterans because American Government is NOT .

If you would like to help our Vets – from WWII thru Afghanistan – above is a link to resources. Choose one, donate monthly. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Everyone thinks “well enough people will donate, so I don’t have to”….YES YOU DO!!! THESE PEOPLE PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE FOR YOU!!!!

Many of them are homeless, like the video above. Many of them are on food stamps, which have recently been cut ( thanks G.O.P.). You sent these people to witness and perform unspeakable acts and you bastards want to sweep them under
carpet?????

There are thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who have PTSD. How many are being helped? How many are waiting almost TWO FUCKING YEARS to get help from the bogged down with government bereaucracy at Veterans Administration These people need help NOW, not when it’s convenient for some government worker to get to the bottom of their ‘TO DO’ list.

HELP OUR VETERANS, PLEASE. They didn’t think twice about protecting you.

Little Free Library

At the end of last year, Sun and I wrote an essay and won a Little Free Library. Since then, she and I have been the stewards of our very own LFL. And I do not overstate when I say it changed my life.

First, it brought Sun and I even closer together sharing the project of checking to see if books have come into or gone out of the LFL and working to replenish our stock. We’ve spent hours together walking the neighborhood handing out flyers. She’s been asking when we’ll be doing that again. I think we’ll be sending out a summer newsletter just as an excuse to do it again soon!

Second, it brought me closer to my neighbors. I’ve yet to hear anything negative about the project. Turns out, folks like free things and appreciate the sense of caring that a steward emits by the very act of stewarding. Even wizened neighbors I’d have thought would have scratched their heads at us young hippies have embraced us and our library. I’ve met neighbors that have lived doors down from me for over a decade that I never knew. It’s that nice feeling we New Orleanians get after a storm passes and we are all sitting on our porches with no electricity to pull us indoors. Humans connecting over a common bond. In this case, that common bond is books. The Marthas and Wendys and Dollys that you meet every other summer after a particularly bad storm. Except now we meet weekly, if not more often. We get thank you notes left in the LFL. My favorite was written by a young boy thanking us for the Star Wars book.  We also get notes of encouragement to keep up the good work. I keep every note. And we get offers of donations. Oh, the donations! I need an extra room for all the books we’ve amassed in under six months!

Third, I am a reading machine now. The quality (and quantity) of books being donated to this LFL is nothing short of astounding. Here’s a link to my Librarything account showing the LFL tag I’ve created for the books I’d not have read but for my LFL. And that’s just of the books I’ve read so far. I have just as many in my to-read pile.

Our LFL has its own Facebook page, its own bookcrossing account, a personalized embossed seal to mark the books, and, most importantly, its own heart. When I was away from home for a week, a neighbor did the stewarding for us. Because truly, it’s hers too. It belongs to this neighborhood. And we all know it. We are proud of this little box–what it means to ourselves, our children, our community. And we are grateful for the wonder it has renewed in us that we didn’t know we could so easily attain.

Her James

Nearly four years ago, a young boy by the name of Jeremy Galmon was shot and killed after a second line had passed by, a casualty of people using bullets to settle arguments.

The fundraising for Jeremy’s family was held only a few blocks from my home, sponsored by members of the community and by Young Men of Olympia Social & Pleasure Club, who had sponsored the parade on the day that the boy was caught in the crossfire. The city was in an uproar over this latest victim of gun violence here, and the finger-pointing at the parade as a cause of the violence was happening in too much earnest. Casting blame on the second-line was far too easy to do at the time, but the bands were out in force, and people were driving by the Goodwork Network to give funding to the Galmon family and to deliver the message that second-lining was not a cause, but strove to be a solution in a number of ways. It was there that I met Deborah Cotton for the first time, working right alongside the organizers, enjoying the Baby Boyz Brass Band, the Roots of Music in one of its earliest incarnations, and assisting with style and grace.

I knew the name from her book Notes From New Orleans, which was one of the first post-8/29/2005 chronicles I’d read – I feel to this day that it is still unjustly overlooked as a smart, occasionally sassy, and heartfelt window into that time. I then found that she was contributing to Nola.com under the name Big Red Cotton via a blog there entitled Notes On New Orleans (I wonder where that title came from?), where her amazing voice and perspective jumped off the web browser and stood out among all that hot mess. She’d made it a point to immerse herself in the second line culture and invited me out to do so sometime.

I’ll tell everyone a secret: for quite a while, I wanted to write like Deb. Her frankness about how many people were on some sort of antidepressant to deal with the aftermath of the levee breaches helped make me bolder about admitting that I was on them and will most likely be on them for the rest of my life. There’s one post of mine that’s directly inspired by her examples: a multimedia account of a visit to another fundraiser, the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund, filled with brass bands, love, laughter, and even some “Halftime,” anticipating the Saints’ Super Bowl win later that same month. I was happy to see her posting at the Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, and touted her extensive online archive of second line YouTubes when I could.

Life gets crazy, and 2010 flew by, then 2011, 2012. I saw Deb again at a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities program, then at Rising Tide 6, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of that opportunity to dance with her as she took in another of the second lines she so loved. Once I heard she was among the 19 shot by someone lying in wait for the procession to come by this past Sunday, my heart was in my throat. She’d worked so hard for so many years to show that this was a welcoming part of New Orleans culture, and one kid with a gun had struck that down, taking her with it…

She and a few others are still recovering from their injuries. The suspect(s) in the shooting is(are) still at large. And, for whatever reason, I find myself thinking about James.

James is no one specific. In Notes From New Orleans, Deb wrote about wanting a James to come along, and referred to him in one of her most recent tweets. James isn’t someone who can come and take her away from it all completely, but he can certainly make it all bearable for quite a while. James will know just what makes Deb tick, and will respond to her in all the right ways when she’s low, bringing her out of whatever doldrums she’s in. James is a supportive, seductive dream of a black man who hasn’t arrived in her life…but I wonder…

New Orleans may not have been perfect, and it may have lashed out at her, but it has sustained her all these years. She’s believed in it for so long, worked so hard for it, that I couldn’t help but think that one of the greatest tributes to her toils was Ronal Serpas making the point that the second line was not to blame for the shootings – and most everyone agreeing with that assessment. Jeffrey the yaller blogger is correct in saying “no one has done more to cover and celebrate this generation of NOLA street culture.” Deb treated it so well that if it were a person, I’m sure it would be a James.

It’s now time for us all to do what a James would do – support Deb and those others hurt in the shootings.

The Gambit is working with the Tipitina’s Foundation on a fundraiser for them all. Go here and stay alert for further details.

Deb kick-started New Orleans Good Good shortly before Sunday’s parade. Sign up for updates on her condition and details on fundraising. It would also be great, if you are in a position to do so, to sponsor some advertising on the site and keep her work going.

A blood drive effort for shooting victims is being scheduled for May 22, from 2-7 PM. At least 25 donors are needed for the blood drive. Contact meglousteau@gmail.com for further details and to volunteer.

Liprap

Cross-posted at Humid City

Morgus the Magnificent

Anyone who grew up here in New Orleans should remember watching our beloved Morgus the Magnificent. For over half a century, Morgus prefaced the weekend horror movies with his own New Orleans style horror vignettes. Morgus, along with his sidekick Chopsley would entertain us with his weekly scientific experiments gone wrong, dissecting and poking and prodding various New Orleans B-listers, with the week’s story line progressing during the commercial breaks of Godzilla or Mothra, or Godzilla-Mothra-King Kong end of the world movies. I swear, Morgus’ dry, morbid sense of humor has affected generations of New Orleanians, claiming his rightful place alongside the satire of Mardi Gras and the unique New Orleans musical soundtrack of our lives.

Well today, the ever elusive character has proverbially come out from hiding – behold the man behind our Morgus!

Allow me to present Sid Noel Rideau, a.k.a.  Momus Alexander Morgus. Sheila Stroup of the Times Picayune wrote a beautiful article profiling Mr. Rideau with his latest contribution to New Orleans culture, the New Orleans Public Library’s Internet Story Club of America. What an admirable endeavor, and it seals the deal that future generations will have the privilege of being entertained and enlightened by Morgus the Magnificent, now publically known as Mr. Rideau. Thank you sir for all you’ve done, and continue to do for our city.

PSA for NOLA Women: Free Wellness Program

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“This Tuesday’s Women’s Wellness Program session is our monthly cooking class, held down the street at Algiers United Methodist Church on Opelousas. All women are welcome! This month we’re focusing on healthy snacks.” ~Via Common Ground’s FaceBook Page

Teen Tech Day: Bringing Resources to New Orleans Teens

Something close to my heart has always been teens and resources. Many teens are working hard and just do not have the resources to accomplish the goals they set for their selves as well as not knowing anyone or having no clue where to go for resources to aid them in their success.

I’ve always been blessed to have extremely involved parents and high school (Warren Easton) and a resource obsessed mind, but many around me growing up didn’t  So as a teen, I always took it upon myself to try and find resources such as scholarships, schools, summer opportunities, etc. for myself and friends.

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As I got older it became more important to me and friends to share our resources to help teens as much as possible to not be left behind. We believe our youth are talented; they just aren’t giving a chance to experience their full potential. So instead of being afraid of our youth in the city it’s important to see the child in them just looking for a chance as well as not to punish the children who are trying to do right. There are so many ways to get involved through mentoring, offerings resources or just supporting programs working to better the teen population of Greater New Orleans.

My friend Chris Boudy and I have a love for technology. Three years ago we decided to create a technology conference to start giving teens with interest in technology more resources and teens who never considered technology industry more options to consider. Through this idea came Teen Tech Day.

TTD is a one-day interactive conference exposing Greater New Orleans youth to technologies such as video game design, robotics, programming, graphic design and more. Technology offers opportunities to explore math, science, as well as engineering in which Teen Tech works to open the door of possibilities. Each year’s students between the ages of 13 through 18 years old are provided a positive outlet to explore opportunities and get excited about technology. As the future calls for more technological based careers Teen Tech Day decided to aid in building the local technology industry of the future. Our third annual Teen Tech Day takes place on March 23rd at Delgado Community College.

If you know teens interested in technology, sign them up.
Want to donate? $5 or more can make a difference
Help make TTD a success! Volunteer to help out.

Sandy Hook Elementary School’s Chorus & Jennifer Hudson sing of hope in nation’s murder capital

Via Rafael Delgadillo, shared with his permission. I very much admire Rafael’s thoughts, perspective, and clarity re: last night’s events:

Last night’s game will go down as one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever. For the great play, the blackout, and for coming back to NOLA for the first time in 11 years.

However, for me, the most memorable moment was before the game. To see the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir pair up with Jennifer Hudson (whose mother, brother, and nephew were shot to death in 2008) in singing “America the Beautiful” literally in the middle of this country’s most violent city.

Perhaps I’m looking into it too deeply, but those of you who know me well will understand. That moment was moving. Though it is a great song, to me it had lost its meaning over time, like all songs do. But as I heard it last night, it struck me more as a song about the hope that we have for this country’s potential rather than a declaration of our exceptionalism.

The irony of it all. Jennifer Hudson and Sandy Hook’s community reminding us that we can do great things, like curb gun violence on one hand. On the other, the NFL used this city to put American overindulgence on display and quite literally sucked the energy out of one this nation’s poorest cities in the process.

Sorry if this is too personal, but sometimes… you just gotta…

#GoNOLA

Thank you, Rafa, for sharing these powerful thoughts and words.

On Moderation

Granted, I write on my personal blog less frequently these days due to a number of circumstances, but I’m both proud and saddened to say that I haven’t linked to an online Times-Picayune article from my site since 2009.

Why is that? Let’s take a look…

Every so often, Alex Rawls of the local music and culture site My Spilt Milk gets on a virtual hazmat suit and takes a look at the interactivity of the Nola Media Group/Advance Internet/Newhouse Publications’ Nola.com site so that the rest of us don’t have to. What he found on the site wasn’t pretty:

…I saw the list of stories with the most comments stories, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s a coincidence that the top five all involved African American males – three on Nagin, one by Jarvis DeBerry on Martin Luther King Day, and one an African American male who strangled a woman. When I started looking at this issue this morning, a story titled “For Some, Attending Obama Inaugural is Relief from Anti-President Rhetoric” was on the Most Comments list (and with 147 comments as of press time, it’s the second-most comented upon active story, above four currently on the list). It includes such gems as:

You can be certain only worship for the aObamanation will be offered.

Down with the USA (created by white men)!

Down with the Constitution (written by white men)!

Hooray for the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Kwanzaa)!

Gordon Russell’s story on Ray Nagin’s efforts to settle into a Dallas suburb did offer a moderate cause for hope as the target of hostility moved off of African Americans and landed on Texas in the Comments. Evidently being Black is better than being a Texan, and it’s probably better than being a Falcons fan, but Nola.com really has to find a better solution to the Comments Section question than whatever it’s doing now.

Admittedly, much of what is there is simply bitter cynicism directed toward almost everything, and not simply coded racism. That’s harder to deal with because it doesn’t cross borders so clearly that it can be taken down, but it lays out an ugly, hostile discourse that adds a mean dimension to the site.

 

It saddens me that, since Newhouse has decided to go with less dead-tree publishing and more emphasis on the website, it hasn’t addressed this.

I wish I could say it was a surprise as well, but it isn’t. It’s been the modus operandi of the organization for quite a while now. As long as the number of hits the website gets can be translated into some sort of monetary gain for Nola.com – hey, we get this many hits per day, come advertise with us! – then any and all traffic is going to look good, even if it leaves behind a trail of filth at the bottom of each article. The racism, sexism, and plain old incivility will continue, no matter how many people from within New Orleans and without are dismayed, offended and horrified.

It’d be nice to think that the recent Sal Perricone commenting brouhaha resulting in Jim Letten’s resignation may have made some commenters a tad more cautious about typing something up straight from their ids and hitting “post,” but a lack of civility still rules online.  I keep telling people that once they get on the Internet, unless they are supremely technically savvy, their computer screens are not one-way glass (helloo, IP addresses), so they’re better off still behaving as they would were they talking to someone face-to-face. It’s been years, and that hasn’t gotten through to the general public yet. People still think their anonymity relieves them of the apparent burden of being a compassionate, thinking person…

…which leads to the other, more awful part of when comment sections are allowed to run amuck. A bunch of comments that are most likely the first, unfiltered thing to slither out of the recesses of the more reptilian parts of our brains can take the hard work of dedicated journalists and relegate it to being ripped apart in a manner akin to Cinderella’s stepsisters tearing the hell out of her first ball gown before her fairy godmother comes along to set things right. The scorched earth atmosphere that results can weaken the self-esteem of even the hardiest newshound. This doesn’t mean that journalists shouldn’t be criticized for what they do – but any references to their skin color, their families, or their lifestyles (as well as those of the journalists’ subjects) should be left out of it, and leaving it up to the commenters themselves to “flag” anything they deem offensive clearly isn’t working, judging from Alex Rawls’ examples quoted above. It’s why I subscribed to the dead-tree Picayune until the laying off of half the paper’s newsroom – to support the journalists’ work, not the commenters’ spew.

James O’Byrne of Nola Media Group kept emphasizing at this past year’s Rising Tide conference the increased use of smartphones and tablets among readers that supposedly helped push the decision to publish the TP 3 days a week. I know that when I go to a Nola.com link via my Droid phone, most of the time I don’t see the comments unless I click on another link for them. I want to hope that the monitoring of hits is taking that into account, but as long as this remains a numbers game, I don’t see that happening.

With all the current hubbub over the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, the hand-wringing by City Hall over the good impressions we locals need to impart to this season’s big shot & tourist onslaught, and the technological innovations being touted, it’s sad that Da Digital Paper, putting itself out there as THE New Orleans news source online, cannot seem to consider all of this and take the steps to preserve whatever integrity it has left.

Yeah, admittedly, there’s not a lot of integrity there, but monitoring or eliminating comments outright would be a good step towards getting some back.

Saturday, 1/12/13: The French Quarter needs your elbow grease!

The Vieux Carré Graffiti Abatement Program, a donation-funded grassroots effort, needs your time and energy this Saturday, January 12, 2013! Please pitch in and support this fun and satisfying event — you’ll see the results of your effort immediately!

VCGAP Clean-up 1-12-13(Please click on the image above to link to the document.)

From the press release regarding this volunteering opportunity:

WHAT: Volunteer Graffiti Cleanup

WHEN: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

WHERE: French Quarter, NOPD 8th District Police Station, 334 Royal Street

For those passionate about making the French Quarter graffiti-free, please sign up and be a part of this fun and worthwhile event! There are opportunities to serve as a group leader, as well as hands-on tasks to participate. With the tools and instructions in hand, volunteers spread out through the Quarter and remove as many graffiti marks as possible. Volunteers receive a work t-shirt (while supplies last), all cleaning products and tools for the cleanup, and are treated post clean-up French Quarter lunch!

With the upcoming major public events, the French Quarter Business Association and VC-GAP invite individuals and groups to volunteer on Saturday, January 12, 2013 to help rid public spaces of unsightly graffiti. The clean-up will begin with check in at 9:00 AM in the courtyard of the New Orleans Police Department’s 8th District, 334 Royal Street.

The French Quarter Business Association (FQBA), along with other prominent French Quarter groups, implemented a French Quarter initiative named Vieux Carré Graffiti Abatement Program, or VC-GAP, in the summer of 2010. VC-GAP hopes to eradicate the structures in the French Quarter of the illegal graffiti.

Graffiti is a real community issue that businesses, activists, residents, and volunteers are willing to face head on. Please join VC-GAP in the fight against illegal graffiti and the eradication campaign!

To volunteer or donate contact the FQBA office at 504-309-1423 or email graffiti@fqba.org

For more information, please visit our website: www.fqba.org. Donations to the effort are also graciously appreciated. Everyone can help!

A Brief Meditation

Over an eighth night of Chanukah dinner, I got into a discussion about the horrible event in Newtown, CT, with a friend of mine who taught for many decades.

“Where are the emergency drills in local schools for this kind of thing? Why is the security at the schools here so lax?” she worried.

It was deemed a sad thing that lockdown procedures were even necessary at schools today, but some basic measures like keeping school gates and doors locked from the outside during school hours seem like afterthoughts here. I remarked that just after I learned about Newtown, I went to pick up my son from school and observed a school staff member head for her car just outside a school side gate, get what she needed from her vehicle, then head back onto school grounds without closing the gate behind her. It’s not like it couldn’t happen in New Orleans – it did nearly ten years ago.

“They do keep the main building closed from the outside, with the only access being via a buzzer and an intercom system,” Dan said, “but if you’re a kid or teacher in one of the portable classrooms, you’re on your own,” he finished half-jokingly.

The only drills anyone runs in the schools here are fire drills, and those not very frequently. I suppose, and hope, a lockdown drill or two will be a part of the school year. The trick is trying to give the kids a sense of safety without it feeling like a police state.

At the same time, schools across the country are being so defunded that to jump up and throw loads of money at security for impoverished schools seems cruel and ridiculous. I’d prefer that the long-term solution be more money to education and the proper treatment of mental illness, and better gun control laws…

…but chances are, we’ll be debating this stuff until someone comes into an infant daycare and opens fire.