February 28, 2006
A blogger at The Third Battle of New Orleans turned to the language of Sept. 11th to describe the urgency for filling the streets with grass skirts, plastic beads and trumpet blasts:
"If we do not have Mardi Gras, the hurricane has won."
The arguments against it made sense -- too many suffering people, too little space, too few resources to tap, wrote the man who goes by the name of Seymour D. Fair. But "New Orleans has an intact 150-year-old tradition of annually celebrating life and being human. We need to have this celebration this year more than ever."
With Mardi Gras here, I thought we might check in on some of the Big Easy bloggers whose posts we followed (see Katrina and The Waves) - as the hurricane bore down on the region.
Last time I read Raymond P. Ward, he was summoning The Clash - "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" - on his Minor Wisdom blog. The appellate lawyer went, with his wife and four cats, to Jackson, Miss., and wrote infrequently over the fall as the city started putting itself back together. He did manage to borrow from two Bob Dylan songs for inspired posts he titled "Blue Tarp Blues" and "Broken."
He's lived in New Orleans since moving there as a young boy in 1960, and begins an entry from last week with the observation that a fish doesn't notice the water it swims in. So Ward turns to a relative outsider, author Tom Piazza, to capture the city's core. In the new book Why New Orleans Matters, Pizza writes first about the city's special sauce - the storybook characters, the cottony air, the famous food, music and celebration, the crime and poverty. Then he writes about the city post-Katrina, from the vantage of one who lost his home.
Ward summarizes: New Orleans matters to the nation strategically for the same reasons that motivated Thomas Jefferson to acquire the city. The nation needs a port at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and that port needs a city to support it. On a deeper level, by losing New Orleans, the nation would lose a large chunk of its own heart and soul.
A Ward post from a few days earlier highlights a distinctive EBAY offering for those considering flying south for Mardi Gras: How to live like a local. The offer was to join some folks in their FEMA trailer. They'd live in an alley next to a once-grand Magazine Street house. The trailer has running water, but they're still waiting for the electrician. They've asked the local brewery, Abita, to donate a case of Restoration Ale to the highest bidder. All proceeds go to the Preservation Resource Center. Sorry, no one bid, and the auction has ended.
Finally he links to an essay by Chris Rose of The Times-Picayune that is included in the columnist's collection of post-Katrina columns called 1 Dead in Attic. Rose writes:
I live on The Island, where much has the appearance of Life Goes On. Gas stations, bars, pizza joints, joggers, strollers, dogs, churches, shoppers, neighbors, even garage sales.
Sometimes trash and mail service, sometimes not.
It sets to mind a modicum of complacency that maybe everything is all right.
But I have this terrible habit of getting into my car every two or three days and driving into the Valley Down Below, that vast wasteland below sea level that was my city, and it's mind-blowing A) how vast it is and B) how wasted it is.
My wife questions the wisdom of my frequent forays into the massive expanse of blown-apart lives and property that local street maps used to call Gentilly, Lakeview, the East and the Lower 9th. She fears that it contributes to my unhappiness and general instability and I suspect she is right.
Perhaps I should just stay on the stretch of safe, dry land Uptown where we live and try to move on, focus on pleasant things, quit making myself miserable, quit reliving all those terrible things we saw on TV that first week.
Metroblogging New Orleans became a vital command post for disaster news - which levees had broken, where people could find shelter, who was missing. Good to see the first post there on Monday had to do with finding one's Mardi Gras moment.
Chris Martel seemed to have scored:
Watching 'Puppy Bowl II' on mute, listening to a Lee Dorsey LP at a very loud volume, front door wide open, drinking a screwdriver, THIS IS IT BABY!!! Pure self indulgence. We all share in the traditional parades and revelry, but the real beauty of mardi gras to me is that we're all celebrating even when we're not lined up on St. Charles or standing in line for 2 hours at Popeye's. Mardi gras permeates everything, there's this electric sense of wonder that infiltrates your dreams and every thought in your head for that one week leading up to Fat Tuesday. It's like the best disease that's ever afflicted mankind.
Craig Giesecke found what he was looking for in a photograph of a boy taken Sunday on St. Charles:
He's a kid, right? He's acting like a kid, throwing a football back and forth with other kids between parades. But he's got on those outrageous panties and he's armed with plastic weaponry in case some imagined foe appears sharklike from the shadows. It's what New Orleans is this extended Carnival weekend -- playing like children, wearing some slightly risque clothing and keeping some kind of guard up in case we need it.
Jack Ware is still looking for his Mardi Gras moment, despite some successful pub-crawling over the weekend:
It doesn't worry me since there's still time. I do have a very pronounced sense of the people who are out of town right now and I miss them dearly. The vendor stands can sort of make me sad since I find myself thinking, 'this person always gets one of these, and that person loves these...'. For me, at least, Mardi Gras isn't as care-free this year as it usually is and I think that's alright. There's almost more of an emotional charge to it this year. I'll try and get some practical stuff done today and be rested up for this evening through tomorrow afternoon. If anyone wants to get together, I'll be on St. Charles Ave., I should be easy to spot since I'll be the drunk one trying to catch some beads.
Anagrams of transit maps have been spreading around the web like a hacking cough, thanks to Boing Boing, and former Inky editorial assistant Ian Mount celebrated the local twist Monday on Gridskipper.
Would love to see more of this map (left). Anyone know where it came from? Someone want to try one of your own? It's got promise, with such stops as Gym Wino, Rad Pig, I Mourn Fat and the euphonious Lit a Hip Hop Handler.
February 27, 2006
Coffee and a Slice of Pound Cake
After hearing this, I'm convinced that we should declare Brooklyn to be Philadelphia's next borough.
The Kid From Brooklyn just wants a cup of coffee, and winds up at a Starbuck's.
Warning: So not safe for work.
But so liable to make you laugh so hard you lose fluids out your nose.
A Load Of Old Famous
The hottest Olympian? No longer the bust that is Bode Miller. Tanith Belbin gets the online gold medal, according to Yahoo's buzz index. She's a newly American ice dancer, whose good looks made her name the most-searched-for term during the winter games. There was a run on "tanith belbin photos" and "tanith belbin pics," suggesting a hunger for something worth more than a thousand words.
Last year the Washington Post's Dana Priest told a chilling story about a German man of Lebanese decent who was abducted on vacation in Macedonia and wound up spending months in an Afghanistan prison cell until it was determined that he was not a member of al Qaida. The rendition of Khaled El-Masri didn't help U.S.-German relations. Some recent German press reports question just how innocent El-Masri was.
Apple crowed about selling its one billionth song for download last week (Coldplay's "Speed of Sound"). But someone got there first: TouchTunes, which delivers to digital jukeboxes, has sold more. But it isn't rumored to be readying a slick new boombox.
Forget Iceland. If you want a really cool place to vacation, consider Verkhoyansk, the Siberian outpost considered the coldest city on the globe. It's plugging its record -67.8 degrees celsius (minus 154 fahrenheit) temperature with a "Tourism at the Earth's Cole Pole promotion for extreme tourists, Der Spiegel reports. Only hitch: a neighboring Arctic town thinks it's the coldest.
Good to know that some of what Yahoo! calls the nation's "wildest , weirdest and wackiest street names" are within a few hours drive. Second place went to Divorce Court in Heather Highlands, Pa. Unexpected Road in Buena, N.J. and Shades of Death Road in Warren County, N.J. ranked 7th and 8th respectively. The winner of the online poll sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors: Psycho Path in Traverse City, Mich.
When did blondes start having more fun? You've got to go back to caveman days. The Times of London says food shortages gave northern European woman blonde hair, and these traits made them stand out against their rivals during a fiercely competitive period at the end of the Ice Age, when men were scarce.
That guy sitting next to you at the Terrorism - Past, Present and Future course at Yale? That would be the former spokesman for the Taliban. Chip Brown wrote the cover piece for the Sunday Times Magazine on Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, who you may from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911, insulting a woman who objected to the Taliban's treatment of women. He was 22 when he toured America, and defended the fundamentalist regime's decision to destroy those giant Buddha statues. He's now at Yale on a student visa. That angers John Fund of The Wall Street Journal, who notes one reason Rahmatullah was admitted was that Yale had previously lost an intriguing foreign student to Harvard.
The scribbled text of Johnny Rotten's reaction to the Sex Pistols's acceptance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "Next to SEX - PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We're not coming. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organization selling us a load of old famous." For more, Rotten's the Filth and the Fury site.
What Your Music Tells
This is something you already know if you thought Nick Hornby stole your idea for High Fidelity, where record-shop owner Rob Fleming recommends judging potential mates by their album covers. (Historical note: When Blinq saw a Southern school teacher had Little Feat, the Jefferson Airplane and Barry White in her closet, a marriage proposal was not too long to follow.)
Psychological Science is to publish a study called "Message in a Ballad" by Samuel Gosling, an Brit teaching at Texas, and Peter Jason Rentfrow, an American teaching at Cambridge. It rises from a series of tests that judge personality traits based their students' compilations of 10 favorite songs. A panel of student judges rated their peers' personality profiles according to their musical choices. And the authors found these ratings remarkably accurate, compared to their own psychological profiles of the participants.
As Benedict Carey writes in the New York Times:
The top 10 lists were particularly good in revealing the authors’ taste for variety, intellectual appetite for abstract ideas and willingness to experiment with alternative points of view, a quality psychologists call openness. And a high volume of lyrics in a person’s list seemed to roughly reflect sociability, or extroversion, Rentfrow said.
The top 10 lists revealed little, however, about people’s levels of conscientiousness — how neat, responsible and organized they were. "This makes some sense," Rentfrow said. "You can tell more about these kinds of qualities by looking at a picture."
The Times of London wrote that the psychologists also monitored courting couples' first six weeks of conversation, and discovered that they used music to "check each other out" nearly twice as much as they relied on books, television or sports:
While the men tended to use musical references to establish themselves as belonging to a particular “tribe”, and the women more often choose it to reflect moods, in both cases it had the effect of communicating their character types.
All of which is a way, really for me to link to something written in 2000, but which I'd missed, and I've spent the morning hunting down songs I didn't know, and thinking twice about ones I did, disagreeing a little, but never wondering what this person would be like on a date.
Elvis Costello was asked by Vanity Fair to come up with a list of his 500 favorite recordings, which he did and then some. I'm not sure what it says about him other than he's got Catholic taste in music, and I'd guess his collection takes up a few wings of his mansion. He goes deep into Sinatra - two songs from In the Wee Small Hours and not even the title track; mines Steely Dan for "Show Biz Kids;" cherry picks "Nobody" from the Replacements; a Pablo Casals interpretation of Bach's Cello Suites, a Charles Dutoit-conducted Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev; Lauro Nyro and Labelle's "The Bells" ...
Too many to summarize. Just read it. Memorize it. Sew it into your liner. And collect these recordings for when you wind up in the cast of Lost and need tunes to last on your desert island. It'll tide you over until we can see what the Moon has to say.
February 26, 2006
How about Frontline's brutal hour-long piece on the insurgency, titled "The Killers," which helps sort out who's who in the ranks of those responsible for the hundreds of deaths a week? Using intermediaries, the journalists got interviews with the fighters to show how al Qaida in Iraq has muscled former Baathists out of the way and changed the lines of the battle.
Juan Cole's Informed Content, where the University of Michigan professor closely reads the local papers and breaks down the week of sectarian violence that has the ominous look of civil war. He's fond of this NYTimes piece on the role of Shiite clerics in the rising attacks.
On the opposite side of the aisle from Cole, there's Powerline, which recently posted a letter of thanks from the mayor of Tall 'Afar to the U.S. troops which freed the city from the boot of Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born al Qaida leader.
For a view from the streets, there's Healing Iraq, a blog by a dentist reporting on post-Saddam Iraq. He wrote on Friday of:
Fierce streetfighting at my doorstep for the last 3 hours. Rumor in the neighbourhood is that men in black are trying to enter the area. Some armed kids defending the local mosque three blocks away are splattering bullets at everything that moves, and someone in the street was shouting for people to prepare for defending themselves.
There’s supposed to be a curfew, but it doesn’t look like it. My net connection is erratic, so I’ll try to update again if possible. The news from other areas in Baghdad are horrible. I don’t think it’s being reported anywhere.
And the latest post (Thursday) from Baghdad Burning, written by a young Iraqi woman:
We woke up this morning to news that men wearing Iraqi security uniforms walked in and detonated explosives, damaging the mosque almost beyond repair. It’s heart-breaking and terrifying. There has been gunfire all over Baghdad since morning. The streets near our neighborhood were eerily empty and calm but there was a tension that had us all sitting on edge. We heard about problems in areas like Baladiyat where there was some rioting and vandalism, etc. and several mosques in Baghdad were attacked. I think what has everyone most disturbed is the fact that the reaction was so swift, like it was just waiting to happen.
All morning we’ve been hearing/watching both Shia and Sunni religious figures speak out against the explosions and emphasise that this is what is wanted by the enemies of Iraq- this is what they would like to achieve- divide and conquer. Extreme Shia are blaming extreme Sunnis and Iraq seems to be falling apart at the seams under foreign occupiers and local fanatics.
The Incredible Don Knotts
The rubber-faced, shiver-voiced actor died at age 81 on Friday, his passing announced by TV Land, which is how it should be. His five Emmies marked a career of prime-time cheese that spanned a quarter century, and enjoyed a glowing afterlife in odd-hour re-runs. We should turn off our sets for a minute to mark the passing of a giant.
There is not a stage of my life when Don Knotts could not be seen, reminding us that it was not necessary to be competent to be cool, whether he was fumbling with his service revolver as Deputy Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show, fumbling with his ascot as the lecherous replacement landlord in Three's Company, or fumbling with his conscience in the half-animated film The Incredible Mr. Limpet, where - turned into a Nazi-hunting fish - he approaches the spawning grounds and wonders if this would technically constitute cheating on his wife.
One shouldn't forget his appearance in the film Pleasantville, where his appearance as a mystical television repairman "rocks the meta," in the words of a mourning commenter at A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago.
February 24, 2006
Replace T. O.
Remember Jeremy? The cute little 7-year-old who believed in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, and that if he named his Web site F.U.T.O. people would believe he actually meant "For You Terrell Owens?"
And all those T-shirts he sold on the same page as his "Open Letter to T.O." (which sounded as if two Horsham brothers with a little experience in marketing might have been looking over his shoulder)? Well, a good idea is a good idea.
Jeremy's back. With another plan. To raise money so the Eagles can buy a new receiver:
Now that T.O. is leaving, I was thinking we need to replace him with somebody better. But then I remembered that the hole reason he is leaving is because of money. So I'm thinking we could help the Eagles to replace him by all pitching in. If we hit our goal we'll all get to be happy about the Eagles again! I miss them. - Jeremy
Jeremy is trying to get 1,000 people to pledge $10 each, to help the Eagles pay for a receiver who can both run, catch and play with others. He has set up a pledge drive using a site called Fundable, which only collects money from people if the entire goal is met, which is $10,000.
Replace T.O. is what he's calling this cyber version of a sidewalk lemonade stand.
I emailed the person who told me about this - who I'm guessing was one of those Horsham brothers -and he said that he wasn't expecting any money to actually change hands. Who would actually pay $10 for this, right? Although, if the money is raised, Jeremy will actually present it to the team.
And if they don't want it -- the money will go to Eagles Fly For Leukemia, the team's pet charity. There are 24 pledging days left.
If Philadelphia is New York's sixth borough, then Pittsburgh is its West Village, declares New York Magazine in another one of those annoying attempts to annex the free world. (See: "Hip to be Square")
"It’s more gay-friendly than Manhattan," says Coldwell Banker relocation specialist Mark Rutigliano, who moved here (with his partner) from West 11th Street. It's not just that Queer As Folk is set here—a serious performing-arts scene thrives downtown and the city hosts the annual International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Of course, Pittsburgh's appeal also lies in its affordable real estate: $300,000 gets you a three-bedroom house. And if you do get homesick, there’s an upscale gay bar called New York, New York.
Hello, I Must Be Going
One arrival and one departure to note in the blog world. Both formidable.
Say goodnight, at least for the foreseeable future, to the Command Post, the news collective that rose at the start of the Iraq War and has since enlisted correspondents from around the world to chronicle elections, natural disasters and terrorism.
And say hello again to A Citizen's Blog, Chester County-reared lawyer Michael Berquist's painstaking analysis of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Command Post's Alan Nelson says he is standing down because other sites like Technorati, PubSub and Digg have emerged to do the work that CP pioneered.
A Citizen's Blog called it off in mid-baseball season - blogging took too much time to do well, said Berquist, a prosecutor in Allegheny County, but the respite has refreshed him. And other parts of his life have calmed down.
Command Post began in March 2003. Nelson, a management consultant from Main Line, says its value was in triangulating one story from myriad angles -- "our having folks posting what was just reported on Haaretz radio (in Israel), for example, Or having citizens posting election news in all 50 states. As good as Google and CNN are, they just can't do that and be nimble enough at the same time."
He says that if another Katrina-scale disaster occurs, or if he senses interest in citizen-generated election coverage, the Command Post could spring back into action.
Meanwhile, Nelson and blog partner Michele Catalano of Long Island, will keep the site up as an archive -- "a small historical landmark along the hyperlink highway," they wrote in a farewell message. "'Oh, look, honey,' Web travelers might say, 'here's where average people around the world first collaboratively reported and documented history for themselves on a global scale.' "
Meanwhile, A Citizen's Blog expects to be back in full swing by March 6. Berquist was warming up Wednesday when he wrote his first post since August 18. It was a short sweet piece on Jimmy Rollins's pursuit of Joe DiMaggio's record for hitting safely in 56 consecutive games.
Curiously it is a story that seems to be flying underneath the collective radar of the baseball establishment, despite the fact that J.Roll's assault is one of the best in recent memory.
Hypothetically if Jimmy does it and hits safely in his first 21 games this season, does that mean he's broken DiMaggio's record? Or does the record have to be broken within a single season?
I think that if Jimmy does it, hitting in the 57 games would be more impressive than DiMaggio's streak. DiMaggio got into a groove and never got out of it. Jimmy is going to have to pick up where he left off six months ago and get back to it. DiMaggio had tremendous media attention on his feat in 1941, but he had to deal with nothing like the 24/7 media maelstrom players have to deal with now.
Who knows? Maybe the Tattered Coat will return to action soon.