November 27, 2007

The Inspector General Makes a Joke

"That's a joke."

With that, at least for now, the new Inspector General won my support.

Mr. Cerasoli had followed the mayor's intergovernmental office, represented by Kenya Smith, who included in his budget $2 million for a 311 system. The system will be run by a consultant and manned by 14 operators, and Fielkow and then Midura tried to pry more info re: the consultants take. Essentially, they were asking how much the operators would make and where the left over cash goes.

Smith asked Fielkow, "Do you think I'm hiding people?" and then bullied Midura (par for the greasy course), who fumbled with the math, trying to divide 2 mill by 14 and questioning if...operators...huh? Smith said it was all in the proposal. The cliff hanger and testimony ended.

So when Cerasoli took his seat, he mentioned that he wouldn't have any "$140,000 a year operators." People laughed, and he said it was a joke.

He meant his line, but there was something else there: the prior testimony and phantom consultant fees: those ARE a joke. A bad, old joke, where you try to figure out what's true, what's a punchline, and if you're the target.

Because time's up on the whole "just trust us" thing. If this IG sticks to his word, he'll report on where the money goes and which corner it sits in and how people like Smith dick around with it and bluff their way through wasting it. And maybe, just maybe, we'll stop with the joking.


Also in the house and next on the schedule after Cerasoli was Ed Blakely, who apparently got an earful after I left. It was weird seeing him stand on the side as Cerasoli and the Council exchanged compliments and coos (Cerasoli just about recited a poem for Cynthia Hedge-Morrell). The contrast was stark between Cerasoli's dry wit, his statement that he wanted to be here "as a citizen of this country," and his understated, Boston accountant tone, and the self-lionization from Blakely upon his arrival.

I was in the UNOP meeting in January when Blakey did his first big football coach talk, and have watched his misfires and half-starts with more than a little sadness because of that speech, because of the way it gave me hope. Now I hope that Blakely benefits from Cerasoli and that Cerasoli keeps the low profile and provides honest reporting.


As the Council members admitted, embarrasingly I thought, no one really knows how this whole Political System thing works. Or at least they don't want to shine too much light on it. It might turn out that their pockets are too full or they aren't even wearing any pants, much less slick suits with cool pocket kerchiefs.

Then who's joking?

November 26, 2007

November 25th Set List

James Booker - Life
The Spiders - 21 (3 X 7 = 21)
Joe Henderson - Snap Your Fingers
Johnny Otis - Misery
Earl King - The Things That I Used To Do
James The Sleeping Giant Winfield - Now You Know
The Staples Singers - Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas
Ray Charles - One Man's Mad
T-Bone Walker - Long Distance Blues
Skip James - Look Down The Road
L.C. Green - Going Down To The River
Furry Lewis - I Will Turn Your Money Green
Fred McDowell - Big Stars Falling
Tampa Red - Don't You Lie To Me
Fred McMullen - De Kalb Chain Gang
Bukka White - I Am The Heavenly Way
Napolean Strickland, Othar Turner, RL Boyd - My Babe
J. Monque 'D - Indian Princess
Tad Benoit - Rainy Day Blues
Anders Osborne - Home Coming
Big Joe Williams - Don't Your House Look Lonesome
Shirley & Lee - I Feel Good
Huey "Piano" Smith - You Made Me Cry
Wynonie Harris - Sittin' On It All The Time
Lazy Lester - Bloodstains
John Mayall - Gotta Be This Way
Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry - If You Lose Your Money
Memphis Minnie - Strut My Stuff
Albert King - Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'
Ike Turner - You've Got To Lose
Little Buster and The Soul Brothers - My Darling
Little Freddie King - Tough Frog To Swallow
Junior Kimbrough - Pull Your Clothes Off
Roosevelt Sykes - Don't Bat Your Eye
Cephas & Wiggins -I Won't Be Down

November 20, 2007

Magic 95, Hornets 88

Could've used the guy in the smoking jacket

Monday night was the first Hornets game in the ridiculously cheap ticket package we purchased for the season--10 games (9 of 10 against the cream of the league) for $100 a seat. Combine that with the free parking you can find on the downtown side of Poydras and the (hypothetical!) ease of slipping into the lower bowl seats, and these games are one of the best deals in town.

We arrived a few minutes late and, as expected, learned that Chris Paul would be in streetclothes with a sprained ankle. And, although the Magic are one of the top teams in the East this year, fresh off a victory against the Celtics, the crowd was as light as I expected.

This didn't dampen the energy, though. In the 6 games I've attended over the last year, there's a strong sense that the fans that do show up have the potential to become something special, much like the team we support. On Monday night, both parties did the city proud.

The Hornets came out flat and the Magic jumped on them, feeding young Dwight Howard in the post and hitting open shots. The Rashard Lewis signing and the decision to let Jameer Nelson run the point looked good from where I was sitting. Where I was sitting, of course, improved markedly after the first quarter. And let me tell you, professional basketball at close range is as dramatic and vivid a spectacle as you'll find in sports. The form of shooters, the fight for a rebound, the way coaches either connect or alienate players, all of that is so much clearer up close. I recommend an innocent looking woman, a full cup of beer, wearing a jacket like you're just late, and a confident stride for this type of viewing.

When Tyson Chandler went down early, clutching his knee at midcourt, I flashed back to last season's injury plague and the pain of watching an undermanned team battle all year in the toughest division in the league, only to barely miss the playoffs. Chandler should be OK, but his removal seemed to spark the team. They cut the deficit to 10 at the half, then pulled ahead briefly in the 3rd. Peja shot well, the ill styles of Melvin Ely were oddly too much for Howard, and our defense tightened up.

And the crowd went nuts. Let's be clear: while the Hornets continue to improve their community outreach and keep the ticket prices low, the experience at the arena isn't much different than at any in the league. You get free t-shirts, cheerleaders, and an "urban" type of emcee. Being New Orleans, you unfortunately get hardly any assistance in the pro shop (Hey! I'm actually here to buy some of this crap! Stop messing around until I have to ask the slightly seedy manager for help! It's a store!) and a reallllly bored kid unable to make the debit machine work when you try to buy a $28 hat on the upper level.

There's definitely room for improvement. First, get that customer service up to par. In ordering my ticket package, the staff was great, extremely helpful, and did a lot of follow-up when I thought the tix were lost in the mail (which was in fact my fault, they were delivered to my office). The people at the arena should mirror that.

Second, go overboard on the New Orleans part. Really, the people in this region will definitely drink beer and get up and dance when you play generic shit like "Shout!" Now, imagine if you played "Hey Pocky Way." Imagine if, at halftime, you gave only half the time to the Slidell jump rope team, and the rest to, I dunno, the Soul Rebels. People would go for that, because right now, even po'boy festivals draw a crowd intent on praising our culture. If the team really wants to spend the next 5 years with a big crowd, make the entire experience a New Orleans thing.

Because from what I can tell, we have a shot at a great, great NBA crowd. All through the 4th quarter, the half-full arena was rocking, with people going all out in dance contests and D-Fence chants. A lot of this was the tight game, but there was also a sense of celebration, of unembarassed foolishness, that was a familiar sensation.

Many critics cite the size of the NO metro area as the inherent proof that this team can't work here. I think that's uninformed. Strong franchises in places like Sacramento and San Antonio fill arenas despite the size of the cities. If this team keeps progressing, why not New Orleans? Why not a place that likes to cheer and dance and get together? Why not us?

On Monday night, victory was not to be. In the hands of back-up point guard Jannero Pargo (Kim's special favorite), the team played too erratically in the last 2 minutes, with neither Peja nor Mo Peterson getting the ball at a point when shooters are most valuable. All the same, with our two best players out, we stuck it to one of the best young teams in the East (in some ways a good parallel talent-wise with the healthy Hornets) and almost pulled it off. We looked well-prepared and deeper, and, yet again, we hustled our ass off against the odds. I've said this for a year now: this team comes to play, and people want to see that.

And the crowd was something to see, too.

November 19, 2007

Rough Drafts and Parallel Paralysis

In the continuing, ironic litany of parallels between the city government's handling of its crisis condition and the federal government's own methods of deadly mismanagement, we find this story in the Sunday Times-Pic.

After admirably opening it's doors and officers to an outside review, the NOPD put out a severely edited, positivist version of the review for the public to, I don't know, blindfold ourselves with or something. Worse, it's not apparent what steps the NOPD will take as a result of the report, short of denial and sticking to plan. Seems familiar to me.
The draft detailed in the newspaper includes these observations:
-According to NOPD officials, "Police technicians in Records are minimum wage employees and are leaving for better-paying jobs and working conditions in the fast-food industry."
-'"The Department is devoting time and resources to recruits who are grossly inadequate in sentence structure, grammar and spelling," the officers wrote. Training officers reported that they worried about the motivation of many recruits and felt that some applicants are signing up to join the NOPD "simply because of the need for a job or benefits."'
-'"Zero tolerance practices leads to multiple arrests, causing citizens to further distrust the police," officers wrote. They recommended a focus on quality of arrests over quantity.'
-'Trailers double as offices. The crime lab lacks key equipment and certification. Evidence storage is in peril, crowded among trailers. The records division, whose employees share desks, splits minuscule office space with the city's taxicab personnel and some city computer programmers.'

Most of this is fodder for the NOPD's request for more money. With the current crime situation, who can argue with them? Even better, in making the request, Reilly details some of the problems listed in the draft report as reasons for the add'l funding.

Word. I'm for getting them more money, I'm very much for a new crime lab, and more staffing in social services-type support. What I don't see as helpful or farsighted is the need to deny all criticism, to squash a report that in fact assists your cause, and the refusal for imaginative solutions and self-inspection (Yes, I know they're cops). Zero tolerance makes some homeowners and business people feel better, and it sure did great in Manhattan and even in the old N.O., but isn't it possibly outdated in the wake of a disaster? Isn't it heavy-handed in a time of deep distrust? Does it help to solve the whole stop-snitchin plague?

As far as the phenomenon of parallels I mentioned, I think we all understand a disaster that leads to an ongoing, ugly problem (the decision for war in Iraq-the occupation/Katrina-murderous crime wave), the need for a solution (war funding/cop funding), and the persistent feeling that we're throwing good money after bad when those who administer it (the feds/the city) are proven fuck-ups who snub their noses at outside ideas (the Iraq Study Group/the BGI Draft) and continue to offer us spit-shined bullshit (take your pick/take your pick).

Let's be honest, let's talk as citizens, as sufferers, as passengers in the same boat. Don't lie to us and give us candy while we stand atop landmines. And don't pretend you know better when we all know each other way too well for that kind of bluff.

"If you use drugs, buy drugs, you are going to die in this city," he said to a wide-eyed group of middle-age men and women. "You are going to get your butts shot off," he added with dramatic pause. "But otherwise, you have nothing to worry about."

I see you John Bryson. I see you, post-apocalypse PT Barnum of law-enforcement and tourist caressing. Get your mind right, man!)

November 18th Set List

Little Brother Montgomery

Here it be. We were locked out of the vinyl stacks, and took the opportunity to stretch things out a bit, using some selections from the family collection...

James Booker - Junco Partner
Turner Parrish - Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog No More
Aretha Franklin - So Swell What You're Well
Fats Domino - Walk You Home
Corey Harris & Henry Butler - If You Let A Man Kick You Once
Charles Mingus - Freedom Part II AKA Clark In The Dark
Randy Newman - Every Man A King
Huey "Piano" Smith- High Blood Pressure
Bob Dylan And The Band - Lo And Behold!
Joe Tex - I Want To (Do Everything For You)
Ola Dura - Neighborhoods
Danny Barker And His Riverboat Ramblers - Chinatown, My Chinatown
Curtis Eller - Coney Island Blue
Minny Riperton - Come To My Garden
Earl King - Don't Cry My Friend
Teddy Moss - Sympathizin' Blues
Carl Dawkins and the Wailers - Cloud Nine (Take 3)
Preacher Boy - Waiting to Be Next
Furry Lewis - Judge Harsh Blues
Fife and Drum Band Music From the Deep South - Sitting On Top Of The World
Royal Trux - Junkie Nurse
Memphis Minnie - This Is My Strange Man
Johnnie Johnson - Key To The Highway
Tuts Washington - Arkansas Blues
Don Vappie And The Creole Jazz Serenaders - Salee Dames, Bon Jour
The Abyssinians - Declaration Of Rights
Eddie Bo - I'll Keep On Trying
Herve Duerson - Naptown Special
Lonnie Johnson - Death Valley Is Just Halfway To My Home
Little Brother Montgomery - Deep Fried

Every Sunday, 12-2pm, WTUL 91.5FM New Orleans

November 13, 2007

Willie Birch in the Brooklyn Rail

Really fresh interview with Willie Birch in the Brooklyn Rail.

"Birch: The religion we call voodoun has a nature of embracing everything. It pulls it in and when it shoots it back, it’s disguised but it’s still Yoruba. I see New Orleans’ culture the same way. New Orleans culture is a culture that allows everything to come in but when it tweaks it and pushes it back out, you still hear those drum beats coming out of Congo Square. That is the root. This place is so powerful. It’s not like New York. It’s not like L.A. It’s not like Paris. It’s not like London. I’ve never been to Moscow although I’ve studied Pushkin–it’s not like Moscow. It’s not like Africa. It’s not like Nairobi. It’s not like Cairo. It’s like New Orleans. And its culture comes from the bottom. And the bottom begins, as far as Willie Birch is concerned, at Congo Square. And the nature of what came out of that was able to take all of the human condition and put it in its pot and when it shoots it back out it shoots out a whole different idea of what it means to live in this place in this time of our existence. So I don’t worry about the idea of what’s going to happen."

November 12, 2007

November 11th Set List & James Booker

Still haven't solved the technical puzzle that would allow us to archive and post our Sunday Blues shows on 91.5 WTUL (12-2pm), but I'm going to start putting up the set lists on Monday.

James Booker - Let Them Talk
Corey Harris & Henry Butler - L'espri De James
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry - Best of Friends
John Bentley & His Buddies - Trouble In Mind
The Delta Boys - Black Gal Swing
Johnny Young & Big Walter Horton - Stockyard Blues
Robert Jr. Lockwood &Johnny Shines - Blues On The Hour
Joe Turner - Cocktails For Two
The Schoolboys - Ding-a-Ling Coo Coo Mop
Cephas & Wiggins - Dirt Road
Mississippi Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods - Going Down To The River
The Holmes Brothers - Something Is Wrong With My Baby
Bobby Bland & Junior Parker - Love My Baby
Shelton Dunaway/Cookie and the Cupcakes - Betty and Dupree
Alvin Smith - On My Way
Sid Hemphill Band - The Sidewalks of New York
Roosevelt Sykes - All Days Are Good Days
Ike Turner - Matchbox
Big Mama Thorton & The Harlem Stars - All Right Baby
Ike & Tina Turner - Crazy About You Baby
Eddie Clean Head Vinson - Wait A Minute Baby
Magic Slim & The Teardrops - 1823 South Michigan Avenue
John Lee Hooker - My Best Friend
Nappy Brown - It's Really You
Prince La La - She Put The Hurt On Me
Gene & Al's Spacemen - Mercy
Arthur Weston & George Roberson - Uncle Sam Called Me
Lightnin' Hopkins - Bad Boogie
Shy Guy Douglas - She's My Kinda Girl
Ali Farka Toure - Erdi
Johnny Young - Train Fare Out Of Town
Justin Wilson - Signers Of The Declaration

We went with our Godot hangover (a good thing) and focused the 1st half on friends and duets

Also, my James Booker project has begun. If you know anything, get at me.

November 8, 2007

New Essay on Tribes

So an essay I wrote for Tribes if finally up on their site. I admire Steve Cannon more than almost anyone in the world, but whoever put up the post cleverly titled it "Untitled Essay About New Orleans," which, when you think about it, is really what I'm usually doing anyway.


I'm trying to get some things done/started, hopefully posted, but in the meantime, check out this bit of history from Paul Stekler. Back soon.