Friday, September 23, 2005

Blogrrow (??!?)

I'm sure there's a German word for the "act of borrowing an idea or hitching onto an idea discussed in another blog". The Germans always have just the right word (although that word tends to run through the alphabet twice before finishing) for such a situation. My German is non-existent, so blogrrow will have to do. I'll leave the pronunciation to you, what with the double "r" there. Just please, don't swallow your tongue. Trill it like the Spanish "rrr".
I'm blogrrowing from East of Ethnia's post for today. Mr. Gordy seems to be having the kind of day I'm having. Much to do but the to do is not about much. He lists 10 songs his alter ego, his PC (or is it a Mac? My apologies) has unloaded on him sporadcially.
I won't list 10, will 7 do?

Garage a Trois’ The Machine from "Bande Originale du Film de Outre Mer" Stanton Moore on drums, Skerik on sax, Charlie Hunter on 8 string guitar. If the soundtrack music is this intriguing, I can't wait to see the movie.

North Mississippi Allstars’ Deep Blue Sea from "Electric Blue Watermelon" Oops! Have to turn this one down. It is an office, isn't it. Moody and low; a different type of song from this blues based cd.

Art Tatum’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” from "20th Century Piano Genius" AS always, Tatum is gorgeous. But here, he's alone and the entire cd (actually 2 cd) collection was recorded by a home-owner where Tatum was playing in the early 1950's. How he squeezes so many notes into one song is utterly amazing. Can one be tired and relaxed listening to his rendition of George & Ira Gershwin's gem?

Kronos Quartet’s Cancao Verdes Anos from "Kronos Caravan" Just one more interesting and jolty performance from the KQ.

Marcin Wailewski’s "Roxana’s Song from "Trio" A simple collaboration with exquisite results. Have to turn it up a bit to get over the office din.

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabete’s Mamadou Boutiquier from "In the Heart of the Moon" Trance. A mystical trance. With instruments sounding like footsteps. Dancing footsteps.

Louis Armstrong & Oscar Peterson’s You Go to My Head from "Louis Armstrong meets Oscar Peterson" IMHO the first minute and a half of this rendition is the most perfect collection of sound. Ever (well apart from hearing your kids' first words). Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Peterson were one in this performance. If you get a chance, listen to this song. The tell me if there's any possible fault with it. It is the perfect performance.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Having a Look See

Pepper of the Earth founder Linus Gelber took up digital photography less than a year ago. His learning curve is incredibly steep. Please take a look at the NYC 9/11/05 photos. My favorite is the haunting Photographs & Memories. He's also quite the Joseph Mitchell when it comes to describing and telling stories of his liitle kingdom of Brooklyn.

Monday, September 12, 2005

THAT T-shirt
Thievery is next to Artistry, I say. In his latest post, the estimable Whisky Prajer writes of a certain t-shirt he willingly owns and of the opportune times he mulls over when to adorn himself with it. An empathetic wince brought me to this (self-appointed) meme. Thanks, WP! So, here's my take on the beloved t-shirt carefully folded and tucked (deeply and darkly) away in one of my dresser drawers.

When I first started driving da son (who hasn't updated his site since Father's Day!?!?. His blogging license may have to be suspended), to college, it was a trip laden with adventure, usually of the imagined kind. He was leaving the family home for a multi-state-away place, where he would be growing in mind, stature, and experience. Where he would also be away from the prying eyes and ears of his (devoted but nosy) parents. It was a last chance for me to have some of that clicheish Q-time with the young innocent lad before the big changes that college would grind him through.
Get a lie of the land.
That sort of thing.
Well, after 7 hours of vigorous interrogation, both the interrogated and the interrogator were exhausted. Upon arrival, we sat in the overstuffed car gathering our strength. After unloading what seemed to be all of his worldly possessions into a tiny room and then brushing off the dust & grime of confessions, excuses, rebuttals, and exhausted pleas of "No Mas", it was time for a refreshing ice-cold beverage. The little town where the university is snuggled into offered a few choices. Brews seemed the most self-explanatory, so we dragged ourselves in and poured ourselves into a booth table. Being the sweet (and under 21) lad that he was, da son opted for some pop (as soda is so cutely ordered here in the Midwest). For me, the waitress recommended something from the Hydra-headed tap.
"How'z a Bastard for you?"
"Uhh, pardon me?"
"A Bastard! An Arrogant One!"
Well, it's not often (unless you regularly dine at Croatian restaurants) that a waitperson is so open and honest and hits you with a wet bar towel of an insult before you left a lousy tip. And if you wanted a bastard, why not go all the way and adjectivize it to an arrogant one. I closed my eyes and murmurred a "Yes, that'll do." and waited for a bop on the head or a slap on the face. After a few seconds passed and no physical assault was being launched, I peaked through partially shut eyes to see her sashaying over to the bar and give the barkeep our drink orders.
The waitress' offer was true. Arrogant Bastard Ale is a fine brew. Quickly mellowing, thanks to the calming suds and the bar's easy manner, I stared at the bar and the merchandise behind it. My eyes typewrote across, right to left, top to bottom, taking in all of the offered wares. Da son, thankful that words were not bombarding him, must have noticed. He also noted where my eyes came to rest.
It was a surprise that the following Christmas, a wrapped t-shirt has my name on it. I must have been staring at it at Brews for a long time to give him the idea that this "t" was for me. How prescient of him!

You probably know some guy from your past or maybe in your neighborhood who owned a Harley, or a dog named Pissant, or a rusted-floorboard perpetually-open-tailgate pickup. This is the kind of t-shirt he'd be sporting, except it would be beer-soaked and grimy with oil and spittle.
My eight-speed (yes, 8 speeds, a long story involving freighter travel, Livorno, Italy and trust) was the closest I got to a Hog. My family had a toy poodle named Bacio, which is Italian for "kiss"; I think Pissant would have had Bacio for dessert. Throw in some 20-30 trips around the sun, and this t-shirt was as appropriate for me as a nun's habit is for the Hilton sisters.
But, I loved this t-shirt! And it was a gift from one of the kids, immediately adding on untold value to the piece of cloth. I wore it outside and was not warmly received. I was not worthy of the title. I had an urge to start fights. I was considering tattoos, and not of Mickey, Minnie, or Goofy. The shirt was cool, it was me who wasn't.
So, with care and love, the Arrogant Bastard was carefully folded and tucked away. Occasionally, when the fam's out of the house, I'd break it out and perhaps drain an ale or two. Then, with footsteps on the porch, I'd carefully sequester it back.

Now, I noticed something on the Stone Brewery site. Hmmm. "I Am Very Bitter. And I like it!" Now, that seems quite age appropriate. A declaration I could comfortably walk around with. Christmas is only 3 months or so away..... And that would fit me to a Tee.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Borrowed, without shame, from Silflay Hraka.
Since I borrowed this pic (which they had, in turn, borrowed), might as well note their comment.
This Is So Wrong
Everyone knows it's way too late in the year to catch a striped bass in New Orleans

Just wonderin' where Barbara B. was for this "photo op". You know she wasn't back home waiting to gut the fish her men brought back.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Addition to Sites to Visit
I'm really late to the party on this one. It's been around since January 2002. Always something to read or to view. Have a gander at One Good Move.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mem's Dry
What with all of the good news that Fats Domino is safe as are Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, no news was available on the whereabouts of Mem Shannon.

As per Mem Shannon's official site, Mem and his band are safe and sound. Mr. Shannon, New Orleans taxi driver extraordinaire and blues musician, has put out some fabulous recordings in the last 10 years, including his latest, "I'm from Phunkville". His "A Cab Driver's Blues" on Rykodisc, with "You Ain't Nothin' Nice" and "My Baby's Been Watching TV", along with taped conversations with some of Mem's fares is still my favorite of his recordings. Things are just a bit rosier knowing Mem's still around.

Meditation on Wood

Among the pack of books lying on and around my bedside bookcase is a book of short stories or memories by Josip Novakovich. A Croatian, he immigrated to the USA when he was 20. He studied medicine in Novi Sad (present day Serbia), theology at Yale University, and literature at the University of Texas, Austin. With this winding road of education, he has a complete and studied picture of the human condition. You can’t pull a fast one on him. He has taught at Bard College, Moorhead State University, Antioch University in L.A., and the University of Cincinnati. He is currently teaching (well at least as of 2003) at Penn State U. at College Park, PA. Here’s a (very) short story from Mr.Novakovich’s, "Plum Brandy – Croatian Journeys".

A Meditation on Wood
We came out of wood. Everybody in the family, for generations, lived off wood. My great-grandfather also died from wood. A falling tree killed him when his son was three years old, and his son, when he was ten, took on the trade of chair-making, and passed it on to my father, who preferred making wooden clogs. My father’s brother was a woodcutter. Peasants brought tree trunks into our yard, my uncle cut the logs into pieces as long as his forearm, and Father sawed them further down into orange cubes on his circular saw. Then Father drew with a lead pen profiles of clog soles, spitting to give the pen a more ink-like flow. He sawed along these purple lines, and then rasped the sole’s indentations into the wood, making the elevation for the arches of the absent feet. For that he had wood-handled knives, and later, iron rasps with thousands of little teeth, like little hedgehogs, that rotated on an axle.
When Father’s saw broke down, I carried it to Novotny. Depending on how you bent the saw, it sang, and you could play plainitive music on it with the voices of thousands of slain trees if you weren’t afraid of the sharp, jagged teeth. Novotny, a soft-spoken old man whose face I can’t remember, welded the saw together with purple flames.
Sawdust spouted out of Father’s workshop through a tube into the back of the shop, and the rest I carried in baskets and dumped around the walnut tree. The soil crumbled into dust, and the wood into sawdust that grew yellow and red and rotted into the earth.
Father’s hair was full of sawdust. His cap was sawdusty. Our cat’s fur shed not dandruff but sawdust. My nose was full of sawdust. My father’s ears and brows were frosty from sawdust. When he was too tired to lift his arms, he dipped dry bread into milk and spooned honey which came from wooden hives in our garden.
In good weather we sat in the yard on tree stumps. I counted winters and summers in the cracking circles, as well as the dark years of good rainfalls and the light years of sunshine. From the dark orange centers, rays spread on all sides, cracking into the wood.
Mother chopped chicken and goose necks with a short axe over the stumps, and we ate. The blood soaked the stump, the water washed most of the blood away, the sun dried whatever remained, and the blood that built my bones and that gave me breath also entered the grains of wood and suffused it with the scent of salt.
The world long ago entered the age of plastic, alloys, and gasoline, but we still lived mostly in the age of wood, knifing and sawing through wood as though trying to cut a way out of it. We kept ourselves warm on wood form the discarded edges of the cut soles. The wood that our father deemed not clog-worthy burned in our furnace. Even the sawdust burned in his furnace, giving a slow heat that burned with a smokey hiss.

I don’t live off wood anymore. None of my siblings work in wood. We don’t cut trees, we aren’t frosted over in sawdust, and we don’t stay in the same region of Western Slavonia as our ancestors did for generations, living off wood, rooted with the wood into that hilly root-held soil.
Life appears-sifted through my memory like light through the leaves of a deciduous forest- to have been more elemental, less synthetic, than now, although my memory may be lying to me, spinning an illusion of fall colors. I imagine that if we had been Greek philosophers, we would have surmised that wood contained the substance of the world completely. Not that wood would deny fire, water, earth, and air. On the contrary, it would create them: exude mists into the indigo dawn, spit out orange fire tongues, and breathe out dank, invisible, yet green air. And when it fell to the ground, with droves of ants and maggots, the wood would open up its entrails of soil. The universe could have come out of a tree seed, growing, magnifying, and sprouting everything of its darkness.
But as it was, we were not philosophers but followers of a religion of wood. Jesus’ father was a carpenter, and Jesus was trained as a carpenter and was later nailed on a wooden cross, partly because he had not remained a carpenter. Maybe that’s the Gospel of Wood; whomever leaves the ways of the wood shall be nailed and hammered.”

Mr. Novakovich writes that he doesn’t “live off wood anymore”. I would disagree. Like his father, who progressed from his father’s chair-making to clog-carving, Mr. Novakovich progressed from clogs to words. Evidence of these words can be seen in his books, just another transformation of wood, this time to paper.

There’s more of this in “Plum Brandy” and his other books, "Yolk", "Apricots from Chernobyl", and his multi-awarded book, "Salvation and Other Disasters".

Borrowed e-mail
An e-mail from Cowtown Pattie aka Texas Trifles regarding a Lafayette, LA-based teacher and aid volunteer puts additional perspective on the scene, from the viewpoint of an involved aid giver. Thanks Pattie, for this bit.

Besides the reports on the news that all helicopter relief traffic (National Guard and Red Cross) was suspended for hours Friday while Bush played photo ops games, and all work ceased in the areas he went to as workers were dispersed except for a few hand-picked ones to do what needed to be done for the photo ops, we have this gem from a Red Cross worker in the Cajundome - when Laura Bush came by to do her "soup kitchen" bit.

As you know from the news, it looks like it's worse than anybody could have thought, and so I figured it was time for another update. Lafayette got our first refugees on Wednesday night, even as I was writing my last e-mail, and I spent a good chunk of the night manning a door at the Cajundome as they wheeled stretchers (sometimes occupied) and medical supplies in and out.

The big irony is that I moved to Lafayette in part to get away from refugee work, but with something like this on our doorstep, it's obviously been time to get back in practice, as it has been for nearly everyone else in my town.

I've always been frustrated by America's ability to ignore crises from abroad (such as the ongoing, largely-ignored genocide in Sudan). At the same time, I've always cherished the belief that Americans are fundamentally good people who may be good at shielding themselves from news of other people's problems, but that if they came face-to-face with those problems, they couldn't help but respond.

As it turns out, this is about half true. Which is to say that about half the people I know here said "Jesus, 7,000 refugees in our town?!? How can I help?" and about half said "Wow, that blows. So, wanna go out tonight?"

I've been working an information table at the Cajundome for the past two days and it's amazing how little information we actually have to give them. FEMA, notably, has yet to appear on the scene even once, which raises questions like, why bother to have a federal emergency agency at all?? We hit capacity at the Cajundome before the end of Wednes night, and then we doubled capacity on Thursday, and now we're turning people away. We can feed and house everybody's who's under the roof, but those that we can't we're simply handing a list of area churches and wishing them luck. So far about a third of the churches I've talked to are stepping beautifully up at the plate; the others are hanging out their "No Room at the Inn" signs, at least until their committees meet to discuss the issue. I'm hoping, though, if enough refugees call or drop by even the most reluctant ones, they'll inevitably be shamed into helping.

More than anything people are looking for their loved ones. The typical volunteer arc seems to be to spend the first few hours on the edge of tears at the scope of the devastation--you can't imagine what 6,000 American refugees packed into that small space look like until you've seen it--then to spend a few hours numb, then to get incredibly cheerful as you realize that at least you're still whole and healthy and you have your family and house, and no matter how bad it is out there, we're pulling together and helping. In contrast to Superdome footage, the people I've talked to have all been incredibly thankful and patient for what's happening; we're all frustrated at the lack of federal response and the bleakness of the big picture, but they realize that we're just volunteers and that we're lost and scared too.

Incidentally, CNN's not kidding; the Cajundome is 95% black right now.

It goes to show how overwhelming things are here right now that I encountered the First Lady yesterday and I almost forgot to put it in this e-mail. It actually couldn't have been a worse experience; a team of us were working to put up a website with directions to every Red Cross shelter in the region when we were evicted from the computer room by the Secret Service. There's only one room in the Cajundome with telephones and internet access for refugees, and Laura Bush shut it down for eight hours (along with the food service rooms to the side and the women's showers). You may have seen it on CNN; apparently seven refugees were allowed back so Laura could help them in front of the cameras. If you saw that footage, that's where I put in half my volunteer hours. Not knowing Bush was still back there later I tried to insist on being allowed back into the room to a "Red Cross" guy who must have been a Secret Service agent undercover. A hint for future Secret Service agents: The real Red Cross guys don't look like they want to break your legs for walking too close to the barricade, because they're too busy passing out food and helping people. They're also less likely to use phrases like "Stand fast, sir!" Now, I know this is the sort of thing that happens whenever a VIP tours a disaster site, and maybe Laura Bush handing out that loaf of bread really will lead to an increase in donations. All I can say is, to have paralyzed a third of a day of operations at this stage of the game, it fucking well better. And I tried to position myself to say this to her in front of the television cameras too, but instead I only got a wave and a smile as she hurried past me. Looks like I'm going to have to become nationally infamous another day.

The Cajundome seems to have enough volunteers now but I'm still scared to death about it. We have to get people out of there as fast as possible so we can move new folks in from the Superdome and the Convention Center, where, unbelievably, they are still dying. A bus came by last night and tried to unload; when they heard we were over capacity and couldn't take any more, they began to riot. When I went in this morning the Cajundome was in such lockdown that it took me a half hour to get in, and couldn't have at all if I hadn't been recognized by a Red Cross official. An increasing amount of attention is having to go into keeping people happy and feeling that things are moving along so we don't get a Superdome kind of violence all of the sudden. The truth is that I don't know what's happening down here, and nobody does. Any time I remember that they haven't even counted the dead yet I want to sit down and cry. Statistically, most of the people we're talking to will find their familiies. Statistically, some of them won't. I can't imagine what that dome will look like when that list is released.

I also hope heads will roll in the government for what's happened here this week. I agree that now's not the time for that, but there is no conceivable excuse for having let thousands of people preventably die on our shores. You can't imagine the shock in people's eyes as we explain again and again that there's still no federal agency here to help them, no state agency, only a handful of Red Cross workers and a bunch of utterly untrained volunteers.

On a more personal note, NAMES REMOVED and I have taken in two refugees of our own, who weigh less than a pound each: two-week old kittens a cop friend of ours found abandoned on a bus. We're still feeding them from a dropper, but they've finally opened their eyes and every sign is that they're going to pull through. The white one's going to be named Yeti if I have my way. Black one, who knows.

Anyway I'm off to dinner and to try to unwind for now. To sum up, hurricanes suck, give more money if you can, and I hate Laura Bush,


PS A 17-yr-old student of mine is single-handedly coordinating an animal shelter at the Coliseum that is housing hundreds of evacuated animals. She hasn't slept in three days. Sometimes human beings can really pull through.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Yes, it's not a real word. Ludicrousness is, but too many (well. three actually) "s"'s. Not a real word for thes not real world times.
I offer some selected NYT bits from today's paper.

"Marty Montogmery stood on his second-floor balcony on Friday night, playing blues on his harmonica onto empty French Quarter streets that have never seemed so dark, so desolate - or so threatening.
On the table beside him sat a shotgun that he calls 'Kindness'.
"If something happens and I have to use it, I'll be kiling them with 'Kindness', Mr. Montgomery said, laughing with a tinge of menace."

"Ride Hamilton, a firefighter who splits his time between Sioux Falls, South Dakota and an apartment (in NOLA)...has stocked his apartment with water, dry goods, and bath products for him and his friends. Each morning, he drives his Ford Escort to go 'shopping' for more. At the (untended) stores, he see looters with shopping carts who bid one another 'Good Morning'. Like the residents of his apartment building, he justifies his work as a necessary evil to help friends survive deprivation that could last months.
"Call it 'gathering supplies'. Just don't call it looting." Mr Hamilton said.
He added, "Someday, the lights will come back on. The music will start back up. And life will go on. And I'll have ice in my glass again", as he twirled a cube-less glass.

"(Chalmette, LA)'s sheriff's department is now based on the Cajun Queen, a ferry boat parked aside a Domino sugar refinery in the town of Arabi, along the Mississippi River. Sheriff Stephens, interviewed on the Cajun Queen, said federal assistance had been minimal. "I have Royal Canadian Mounties who have gotten here faster than the federal government," he said. "I have made more life and death decisions in the last four or five days than I have in 22 years." The Canadians were actually members of a 47-member search-and-rescue team sent from the municipal government in Vancouver, British Columbia."

Folks, please read that again. ...the municipal government in Vancouver, British Columbia. Unlike our current FEMA leader, Michael D. Brown, I'm assuming the municipal government's administrator's claim to competency does not rest on being a commissioner of horses. These helpful folks have somehow found New Orleans and quickly. They were over 2,300 miles away (well actually 3,910 km) and they got here before the FEMA authorized assistance force.
A bit more about the horses.
Mr. Brown's, whom Dubya affectionately calls "Brownie" and of whom he has recently (Friday, Sept 2nd) commented, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.", major previous job, (as most of you know by now), was a commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, (from NYT) from which he resigned under pressure in 2001 after a controversial 10 years.
Perhaps, Mr. Bush was mis-quoted. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe Prez B. actually said, "Brownie, you're doing heck of a job (a helicopter is landing to fetch our prez away at this point) screwing this up big time!. If the reporter had not skuttled away to try to get away from the whirling props of Marine One, he would have heard that clever ending.

Allies and foreign acquaintnaces are sending aid, as well they should, since we were usually there (and there is almost everywhere) first. Fidel C. offered to send doctors and he also held a moment of silence in the National Assembly. And then he returned to business at hand, "passing a resolution condemning the American occupation in Iraq."

Hugo Chavez, presicent of Venezuela and not a tight buddy of the Rev. Robertson, offered soldiers, firefighters, other disaster specialists, and $1 million in cash. He also offered this opinion, "For four days there were warnings that the hurricane was going to make a direct hit, and the king of vacations at his ranch only said, 'You must flee.' Mr. Chavez then added on Wednesday, 'He did not say how.'"

Now, I'm not a huge Hugo fan. Though popularly elected, he has not exactly been the JFK of Venezuela. His economic policies have been atrocious and damaging for Venezuela's people. In fact, his policies have been almost as destructive as Nigeria's, another oil-rich and mis-managed country that is in the economic pits.

The American Red Cross, recepient of over $32 miilion dollars (including some of mine) in donations since Katrina hit, has set up over 135 stations in Louisiana and Mississippi to help the unfortunate folks of those states. However, not one of those stations ( at least as of early this morning) is set up in New Orleans. FEMA and the Louisiana State Homeland Security agency along with the National Guard have not allowed Red Cross to enter the city (formally) to set up aid stations. The thinking seemed to be that if the Red Cross were to be there, people would not want to leave the city or, even worse, people who had left New Orleans would then want to come back, since aid was now available. While I may, after multiple shots of ouzo, follow that logic, what are these groups then saying to the folks that are still marooned in NOLA? Is this the Spartan thinking of healthcare? Put them on the mountain (or in the diseased flooded city) and those who walk out or are bussed out will survive. And those who don't? Well, one person interviewed last night at the hell-hole that was the New Orleans Convention Center said he thought this(Lack of aid and support by the Feds) was the USA's version of ethnic cleansing.

Ludicruity is where we're at.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Monetary Tipping Point

If you are seperated by Six Degrees or less with someone in coastal Louisiana or Mississippi, you should, of course, send money and any other assistance directly to that person or those people.
If you need more than Six Degrees to make a connection with the folks struggling to recover from Katrina
you are frustrated, appalled, and/or out-of-breath angry at how things are not progressing positively down in MS and LA, you are at a monetary tipping point.

Get a piece of paper. That envelope you just threw out that had held your monthly utility bill will do.
Get a pen, pencil, or borrow T.O.'s Sharpie.
Now, regardless of whether you lean toward the Republicans, the Democrats, or to a (pick your own here) Third Party, think of the money you were planning of sending that political party this year.
Write that amount down on the paper.
This money.
Will is be spent wisely?
Will it even benefit one person, even yourself?
Will it make any difference?
Honestly, now.

If your answer is, "No, it won't make a difference.", please step over here for a moment.

If your answer is, "It may make a difference.", please consider those questions again. Then once again. If your answer slips from a "Maybe" to a "No", please join your colleague from the previous paragraph, right here. Thanks for reconsidering your answer.

If your answer is, "Yes, my political contribution will make a difference (mainly for myself, actually)." AND re-reading the questions will not sway you in any possible way, there's a seat available for you at the President's Energy Board Committee. PLease feel free to engorge yourself.

For the "No"'s, turn that potential political contribution into something that will make a difference. Turn it into a charitable contribution for relief to the folks down in Louisiana and Mississippi. Click on:

or, as Whisky Prajer suggests, to those "thrifty Mennonites" at Mennonite Disaster Services.

Look at the amount you've scribbled on your envelope. Please make that amount your contribution.

This is the year when the political contribution should become solely the Hurricane Katrina Relief contribution.

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