December 15, 2008

This Could Happen Here

December 4, 2008

Holiday Party & Suns - Hornets Game Notes

Notes on last night's game up on SLAM. Come check out the party next Sunday, too.

November 18, 2008

Prospect 1 Log #1 on Tribes



This is the first piece I've done for Tribes on the Prospect 1 Biennial. More to come.

November 11, 2008

Still Tippin'

You can go here to see the Mayor's power point presentation and the full budget proposals. Lot to see in there. And a tone like weird, disfigured version of a Franklin Covey seminar. I guess this is how business gets done!


!

November 5, 2008

Wow

This was the about when it hit me.

When two families, black and white, at least 3 generations, stood up there in victory, with the flags and the crowd--that happened last night.

As cynical as I leaned for the last few months, this beat it. Even in this warped land in 2008, the very fact that they could all win, together...

And after all that bullshit of the last 8 years, we can still win, can still hope. Wow

October 28, 2008

Hornets Kick-off Party Tomorrow Night + SLAM Preview

Alright, the GreyTone preview is up on SLAM right huurr.

And the Hornets247 party hosted by myself and Ron Hitley is right huurrr.

So we'll see you there, right?

October 13, 2008

September 26, 2008

Debate What if #2: Mississippi - John - Hurt


What if they'd done the right thing and scheduled this debate in New Orleans? And then the Great Spasm happened and McCain pulled this latest stunt?

Would he have cancelled on New Orleans? Could he escape the irony of the next Republican administration leaving the city hanging? Seems like that might've given the Obama people an even riper fruit to toss at this increasingly twisted opponent. I mean, if they'd, like, fought for us or somethin'.

New N.O. Blogger on the Scene



Welcome to the internets, F. Baby.

September 24, 2008

Proposal for the Debate



Idea: why doesn't Obama say, you know what? I'll see your request to cancel our debate and go listen to Bush babble about this panic attack. But why don't we have our VP candidates debate in our place? The whole point of a VP, after all, is that he or she is prepared to step in if necessary on a moment's notice. We can stick to your format, and we'll meet up on October 2nd, the scheduled VP debate.

What do you say?

September 16, 2008

End of an Error

This is how the Bush years end: millions in Texas without power, the coast ravaged, with gas prices over $4 a gallon, Wall Street collapsing in on itself, and the fundamentalist governor of another oil state on the precipice of the presidency.

Mission accomplished.

September 15, 2008

Still waiting

Again, when are we going to demand that the Gulf South and disaster become campaign issues? While two horrendous hurricanes blow through the bottom half of the country, followed by bungled responses by the federal government in the aftermath, why has neither candidate given a major speech on recent events? Not simply a name drop of Katrina, but a real, powerful speech about what we're going to do?

Around 3am on I-10, en route to Atlanta for our Gustav hurrication, I drove past a family parked on the shoulder. The parents stood at the fender while a toddler stood on the trunk, waving her arms playfully, oblivious to the standstill, or perhaps dazzled by the headlights. There, I thought, is the future.

Obviously none of us knows what the next 8 years of America will look like. But if no one wants to step up during election time and promise to build a better FEMA and a wall of barrier islands--temporary fixes, but protection all the same--then I don't have much to say about elections, democracy, and change. Instead we get talk of pigs and lipsticks.

And here's betting that pig with lipstick gives the first speech on the subject.

September 14, 2008

That lost highway




In the saddle again. And starting next Sunday, on WTUL 91.5FM doing--dig it--the Country Show from 2pm-4pm. Streamingling online at www.wtulneworleans.com.

August 30, 2008

Security


August 28, 2008

In the Superdome, 2 years and 355 days later

We booked a hotel room in Memphis and then I went to Superdome. It is August 28th, 1 day shy of the 3 year anniversary.

I pulled the bike in and our guy who runs the lot was sipping whiskey with water and ice on the tailgate of a pick-up. His co-worker had me stick a business card in the bike's spedometer so his boss would know that I belong.

Fans crawled through the lots and sidewalks on the uptown side of Poydras. Brand new jerseys, to-go ups, bottle blondes, the heat of the preaseason. Think about 3 years ago, and the change in the crowd. Not a mention of that, just the loud thumps from the speakers on the patio of the Energy Building. My man and I drank Bud and Bud Light in plastic bottles. Where to go and memories of Memphis. Aw, wellllll.

We cut through the Marriot alley and past the old New Orleans Centre. Dead buildings with expired air conditioning units, stray dumpsters. I remarked on a rusting hulk of a Dixie Beer truck, still running, with three figures crammed in the cab, the sides of the bed made of rough lumber, the dashboard full of paper and emphemera. As it pulled out of a loading dock, I couldn't believe the size of it, like some giant old man, long gone to seed but wider by the year and mobile.

In front of the Amoco building, which houses the Orleans Parish DA, a dude rolled up to me trying to cell his CD. You know what, I bought that CD: Big Lou - That Corner Store. I didn't buy one off the second dude who approached me, but Big Lou, I got him.

Up the ramp to the Dome. I hadn't been in there since I graduated, when I was late and had to scramble down the lower bowl aisle, barely making it. The other times were a few Tulane games and a Monster Truck Pull. That time, I remember rolling down the confetti-colored carpets, leaning against alabaster walls, trying not to tumble from the upper deck. That night, once we made it out to the parking garage, you could hear a thousand drivers revving up their engines, amped up by the spectacle of a demolition derby and Gravedigger. I made accidental eye-contact with one driver. His woman was in the passenger seat and two kids doddled in the back. He said something to me and I just kept looking, shrugged. He actually reached under his seat. I couldn't believe it. He bluffed like he was going for a gun, and at that time, I really didn't flinch. There was no gun, and he had to sit back up, empty-handed. This really pissed him off. I came to my senses and we all split.

Oh, and the other time, my friend Dill showed up. On the flight down, he'd met a cameraman from CBS Sports who promised us tickets to the game on Sunday. We got loaded and forgot about it, until Sunday morning, my phone rang. I dragged myself to the desk. And on the line was the cameraman, asking for my friend. We got the tickets later in the TV trailer outside the Dome. When we walked into the darkened command center, my friend announced, "Hey, I'm M-----, I'm here for the tickets!" This didn't go over so well with the techs. The Saints played the Bears, an atrocious day of football.

So tonight, August 28, 2008, I walked up to the club level and dug the new paneling, concession stands, and turf. They did the Superdome right this time. The coziness, along with the casual booziness of the preseason, mean for minimal football watching, just eating and drinking and commenting. It was relaxed.

The roof which hung open like a blown intenstine, the cool air where a foul humidity once baked the left behind, they were there, as were the ghosts. The hallways, the endless hallways. What if we couldn't leave? I bought chicken strips and used the bathroom 3 times in 2 hours.

No banner hangs for those who sat under that roof 3 years ago. We give no moment of silence, even now, at the fingertips of another menace. Let us cheer the second and third string. This one doesn't count.

Yet we all know. We know what are our plans are, what are opinions are, what we expect. And with a decision only days away, we cheer languidly for men who won't even make the team. They bowl over each other on the site of a cemetery.

Saints' reserves look weak. The 3rd string QB, Tyler Palko, is from my part of the world. He sucked tonight. No one noticed, not much.

Back to the home. In time for most of Barack Obama's speech. Let me ask you:

Do you still believe in this America we speak of? Does that promise resound in you? When do you feel it? Does it sustain you?

If we are to reclaim this country, let us talk about who "we" really are, and what this country promises us, what it has left to promise us in 2008, after Katrina, after the last 7 years, after the last 40 years. You may tap the American spirit, but how much is left in that well?

In a week, we'll know if New Orleans lives or dies. No game, no speech can make it more certain. Only time and the wind.

Ready.

Cone of Uncertainty

"What are y'all going to do?"
Funny, I hadn't thought of that.

You know somewhere out in the ocean, a menace is making decisions for you. You see photos of Haiti and recognize it even though you've never visited the island. You tell your mother it'll be OK.

You watch people who suffered through Katrina grow anxious, agitated. A few days ago, you drove around St. Bernard Parish and said how good it looks and now you think about all those people with their ass hanging out because no one's done enough for the levees protecting da Parish

You walk down Poydras Street and wonder what it'll look like next week and it's not even a street you like, but everything takes on that weird color of memory. Only you have no memory and you're sweating in the present. This must be important, even this crane, this lawyer.

You hear somewhere that it'd be good for the Democrats if another storm hits. You remember that it's 2008, and no matter how much people want to talk about hope, this is a cynical, worn out nation.

And you call and make some vague plans to go one direction if the storm turns one way, another if it goes east. You wish you'd made a friend in Memphis.

There is no good description of right now. A city full of people who live in the shadow of a storm that hit 3 years ago now await their fate with very clear visions of what that might be. Doom clouds up conversations. All over again, we're reminded how fragile this life is and, conversely, how much we loaded into its persistence. Gustav might be nothing, but we know the other shoe has to drop someday.

How bad that will be...a weatherman's best guest.

August 26, 2008

The Governor's Bolo Tie: Convention Live Blog 8.26


(Begun in the last third of his speech)
Mentions McCain's backyard and crouches. "How bout it?" I think he actually did a "ya-hooo."
BILL CLINTON IS EATING IT UP. This fella is like an 8th grade teacher. He's talkin Green.

The More of the Same/Four More Years of the Same Ol' Same Ol'
*Does that mean the Clintons, too?

Governor of Montana wears a bollo tie: they can never take our sunshine.

In the stuttering of chants, Bill lost his enthusiasm. The pace closed. Green as hell.
"Stand up Colorado, Stand Up Florida! Stand up, Pennsylvania!" And Bubba is up. Everyone is up and fired. He begins shouting more state names, "MIssissippi, the Carolinas"

Talk about Louisiana right now! No, the war.

Cheerleader. "That's it Baby, Let's Go win this election!" Brian Schweitzer is the Star of Stars!

**

HIllary video with Lenny Kravitz in it. THey're klling it! No! Even the sound is messed up!

**

She's not even the nominee! They're playing Tom Petty and showing her on SNL! THis is bullshit! This is not the nominee! This is ridiculous, Wesley Clark calling her a tough cookie! People admiring her laugh..her chuckle!

The Democrats just destroyed the momentum of a true heart of the party with an extended musical, victory video for the second place finisher. You are the Democrats, after all, aren't you?

**

even if she was the nominee, the video is over the top. she is like the John Lennon of this shit! She might as well be the nominee! Enter Chelsea.

What fckin song is this? Bill Clinton may shed post-surgery tears. This enough garbage!

Here comes the speech, but the applause keeps cresting.

**

Her heart is visibly not in it. She is pursed, she turned her head the first time she said Obama's name. "I have done this...." A brag.

"No Way, No How, No McCain." !! That's like giving someone a hook, a hit chorus.

Demonstration of political canniness. "And you made me cry." Tells a story. Where have the stories been so far?? That's what works!

**

"And Puerto Rico." She means Florida and Michigan. Memorials for fallen Democrats.

Repairs the rift with blacks for a future run. That cynical.

Bleak economics, conflicts, prices, to renewal, provide opportunity, instead afford gas and groceries. Biden and Michelle O not exactly overwhelmed.

WHAT ABOUT BARACK! Where is the homage to Barack? He is the nominee of the Party! This isn't the winner's slot!

She continues to explain why she ran. And why she supports him. Better knock it home for him here. Gleam in Bill's eye as she speaks more soaring and still no mention of Barack!

**

And why so much Green and so little Iraq? Where is the war?!

"We did before with President Clinton!" No enthusiasm with the future VP and 1st Lady. Health Care always gets him. Now some world-talk. Then some tribute to those two. And Biden's wife, too.

That sing song, call n response: "More war and less diplomacy?" Followers chant, No! Into the attack on McCain. Good joke on McCain/Bush being alike in the twin cities. She coulda won this, you know? Hands down.

The story of the suffragate movement. She is not done. Chelsea is a blonde.

Triumphant "Keep Going!" chant, when she could be percieved as comparing herself to Harriet Tubman, a woman who snuck African-Americans along. She kills 'em with this one.

IF the bridges are falling down and the levees have broke, "Keep Goin!"

"And Godspeed!"

August 25, 2008

Reggaeton Not Dead to John McCain

The man has his finger on the pulse...of 2005.

August 21, 2008

I'm With The Champs Right Here


New Orleans, August 2008
"Not to be an 'I-told-you-so, ' but I was in Jackson Square, and I predicted that New Orleans would come back as a stronger and better city, " Bush said. "That's the prediction I made."

Yep, you are a fcking soothsayer, alright. The "vision thing," that's what got you here, what got us through, what's kept this country on such a glorious path for these last 8 years. "An 'I-told-you-so'?" Don't you worry about it, boss. We shouldn't have doubted you for a minutes.

Frreal: is the strategy now to spin his ass off a helicopter like a top, instruct him to say the most bewildering thing possible, then suck him back out to the ranch for quiet time? And are the photos of him and athletes some attempt at softening his image in these, his final days? Will this make McCain look more competent and ready?





Honestly, is it not time to ask people like Deuce and Leah Chase: why do you soil yourself in this man's embrace? What has that gotten us? What could it possibly get us in the next 4 months? Does it feel good to make him feel good? Because it sure looks like Bush feels good these days.

This is New Orleans, 3 years after the federal flood.

August 20, 2008

Charity Can Be Saved

I meant to go the press conference for this report, but work intervened. It'll be interesting to hear LSU's response and the silence from City Hall.

Last Sunday, I rode up to Charity to do some Booker musing. On the loading dock/ambulance entrance in the back, I parked and sat down in an old office chair someone'd left there. I figured I'd write a little and wait out the rain.

After a half-hour, an SUV with Texas plates ascended the ramp to the loading dock. The passenger side windows came down to reveal two young ladies, with a dude driving and looking concerned.

"Do you know where the emergency room is?" they asked.

"This hospital is closed," I said. Then I pointed over my shoulder and told them to try Tulane.

"I got a hole in my head," said the girl in the front, motioning at a gash the size of half-dollar on her forehead.

"OK, Tulane's over there."

Someone thanked me and they drove back down the ramp. I sure hope they get to read this report.

August 13, 2008

NYT takes note

Well, at least when the NOAH story made the NY Times, it featured the leader of the good fight, Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage (they could've linked to the site). Damn you, New York Times, you're hurting the recovery!

August 7, 2008

Oh NOAH! Look at Who They Let in the Backdoor

After sending his possible regrets due to a scheduling conflict, the Mayor appeared at the Council today to talk NOAH. He was in fine form.

When I arrived, the normal stuff was playing out: talk of better preparation for voting locations, particularly for handicapped citizens; an apology to the gathered firemen--decision on their pay was delayed because the corresponding report still had errors; fine use of mixed metaphors and figures of speech by the Council ("behind the 8 ball," "puppy to rest," "apples to oranges (2x)"); the treatment of Midura as a spacey little kid; the brusque cross of city pol/grandmamma from Clarkson, who once again referred to her many years on the Council and her old friends; the walls lined with fantasy images of new developments like the Ellis Marsalis Music Center and the Tracage; and that clock with no hands on it.

Then the cameras shuffle, the rules were suspended, and you knew that Nagin was coming after all (really, isn't that how he's always heralded?). Clarkson called for a 5 minute recess, then tried to ask the firemen to sit back down. It seemed Willard-Lewis had a resolution for them and was ready to fire away now that the tripods were settled. She shouted about a new station in New Orleans East, Blakely's assumed wisdom, and the need for a Marine.

And as she did this, Nagin appeared from backstage. He ignored all the members save Carter, who he clutched hands with, and then fiddled a bit with his Blackberry. When she was finished, Willard-Lewis also recieved a touch. Clarkson asked if the mayor was ready and you could hear him answer as he descended to the council floor, "Always."

Nagin sat down at the table alone. He began with the wish for some "non-sensational" dialogue. Amateur investigations had clouded judgement of the NOAH situation from day 1. Of course if his administration had known something, they would've done something earlier. Among those to blame for the inaccuracies are college students and the news. Now that he was on the case, things have been "kicked into high gear."

He repeatedly mentioned 90 properties (out of how many?) that were under investigation. Of these, 46 invoices had been paid for work that might not have been done. His office would request documentation and possible reimbursement from subcontractors, but first they need to match up the NOAH records and find out who'd been paid and for what. Because, I guess, they don't usually do these kind of things, like finding out if they get what they pay for). At this point, Nagin is not comfortable about any NOAH work. He won't tolerate any "insider" deals. He is really concerned.

But what also concerns him is the way this has been handled. He respects the Council's schedule; why not they his? He doesn't appreciate them not acting like a team. He is, yet again, "sick and tired."

(There's also a strange thing with Nagin where you can't tell if he's saying "portrayed" or "betrayed," which I think is telling. See, Nagin became this Nagin in the cameras of the storm. He was sucked into the unreality of the screen and light, saw himself shouting, saw what it got him, and became obsessed with the camera. This has turned on him, to the point that he truly believes that the camera has betrayed him, that the media is crushing the recovery, and that he must do battle with it for the soul of the city...on camera, of course. In fact, I don't think he just uses the paranoia for defense--I think he really does believe this. The camera ate Nagin.)

And he's sick and tired of the whole sum--the Pam Jones thing (?), the 311 thing. Don't you know, when they got down to it, 97% of 311 calls go thru?!! So I put my cell on speakerphone and called 311 three times. And 100% of the time, I recieved the message "Your call can't be completed as dialed." No one seemed to hear that, and no one disputed Nagin's account.

Nagin listed false reports (which I'd never heard) about Bill Jefferson or Chief Reilly owning NOAH houses. A warped tactic, but I guess he had some truth. At his most plaintive, Nagin doesn't understand why the Councilmembers act like this. "Well, with a couple, I do." Then he paused...

So if the IG, the FBI, HUD, or the US Attorney wants to investigate, fine by him. But not the press.

First up is Fielkow, Nagin's potential successor. Fielkow believes that, for people to stay in New Orleans, to invest and reinvest, to do business here, there must be a confidence in leadership. The NOAH situation has eroded that confidence, particularly the delay of 2 weeks in the mayor taking action. "Your reaction was defensive," Fielkow tells Nagin, tells him he should have looked into it immediately.

Nagin: I said that. Check the tapes.
Fielkow: OK, we will.
Me: RN--Ray Nagin, Richard Nixon.

Doesn't it make more sense, Fielkow asks, to have an independent investigation? Shouldn't the City put all the info out there for the IG, the FBI, and HUD to look at and decide what happened? Fielkow makes the main point: After all we've gone through, the City's internal investigation won't be credible. We want the same thing.

"I'm not convinced of that," Nagin growls.

The mayor then goes on to make clear that as we speak, the City is taking NOAH's list of houses and comparing them to the invoices recieved from subcontractors to find out what was paid for. They are the City, and they are responsible to HUD and the citizenry.

Isn't their a taint, Fielkow asks? Isn't the best thing to do in business, when a problem arises, with conflict of interest accusations, to separate the business from the investigation? There are independent monitors like Cerasoli (interestingly, all of the council members who speak bring up the IG's name, which must make Nagin grit his teeth).

Nagin says they have an independent investigator inside the Administration who is familiar with the process. He doesn't seem to see the contradiction there.

Fielkow is done. Hedge-Morrell has nothing to say. Really, nothing? The budget chair? Huh.

Midura is up. She thanks everyone. On the big screen, you can see the "James Carter For Congress" sticker on her lapel. She tells Nagin that the Council represents the public, which is disgusted and is pressuring the council re: the City's slow response.

Nagin: I don't know where they get that from.

Midura asks how "immediately" is defined by Nagin, when they've had repeated hearings and inaccuracies in this debacle. Apparently, Head sent an email requesting stop payments to NOAH in April. Nagin says he has no documenation of that.

In her usual stuttering, almost elfish way, Midura asks a key question: re: Nagin's contention that his office is matching up the lists of what was paid and what was done: why wasn't it happening all the time? Aren't lists kept?

(It always strikes me as a shame that Midura is so bad in person, because she often gets it. Her persona allows the good sense to be either patted or swatted on the head by lesser minds with bigger mouths.)

Nagin says NOAH had clean audits up until this. He continues to say that they'll hunt down any possible "insider things," I guess meaning NOAH and subcontractors and the swindling of money and property. What he doesn't seem to get is that LISTS are the issue. More than possible corruption, the fact that the City can't simply check this out within a day or two is the problem. There is a sea of bullshit and broken half-systems under everything.

Mention of Anthony Jones and his bad lists! Kenya mentioned!

Midura asks several questions about the city notifying HUD of an investigation. Not sure why, but she must think something was wrong. In closing, she asks for more "teamsmanship." "I'm doing what I'm supposed to do," she says, as if she should be defending herself.

Carter is next. He asks what the reconciliation process is, how regularly NOAH and the City have done that. Nagin says they verify a charge and invoice, then will have someone go physically check the building. It's "Full Blown Review" now. Carter asks if the people doing the investigation are possible subjects of that investigation. Nagin says he doesn't know, doubts it. HE SHOULD KNOW!

Most of the firemen stayed for the entire thing, I notice. Pretty cool.

In closing, Nagin says that many elderly people are confused about who gutted their houses, since subcontractors hired by the city don't wear badges. Apparently, these old fools can't tell the difference between out-of-town college kids and professional demolition men.

Clarkson does some tying up of things about working together for the good of the citizens. Nagin agrees. She asks that subcontrators not be allowed to self-audit, and that the legislative branch be given more oversight of these audits. Nagin agrees, but you have to think that's the last thing he wants, and has stated as much in earlier discussions. Clarkson metions Cerasoli looking into things, and Nagin says "Beautiful."

Then, with more pleas for working together, the surly, glazed, puffy eyed Mayor gets up and leaves silently. At this point, one public speaker is called: Sandra Hester.

"Real nice of you to call up the public speaker after the mayor leaves."

True.

NOAH and the flood

This could end up being the story/controversy of the year. In terms of the effect on the national perception of the city, its government, and, sadly, its citizens, this is a bad one.

"'A group of kids took the stuff out," she said. "The only people who helped me was people from outside the city.'" -Doris Dupre, whose house was gutted by volunteers but was on a list billed to the city by NOAH, which took credit for the gutting.

The Times-Pic and WWL-TV deserve credit for chasing this story and keeping on it like it was mayor of Mandeville. The question is, when does the national press pick it up? And what will Nagin's next response be?

And what do these kids think when they get the news? That the something-in-the-corner-of-your-eye that hints of the depth of this city's plight, the brooding forces that don't care a thing for matching t-shirts, that have always lurked in corners of City Hall, that they have spit on your bus and made their own money off your spring break?
At this point, nothing the city says about the rebuilding can be taken for granted. Citizens knew that already, but once again, the world will be let in on the sick joke.
"'The idea of this program always seemed silly to us, because we have hundreds of volunteers each month. There's no reason to hire professional demolition crews to gut houses for old people...It was always kind of funny, though. We knew at the time that something weird was going on. They wouldn't e-mail the lists. You had to drive by City Hall and pick it up from somebody.'" -Amanda Davis, homeowner coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese disaster response office.
Again, all we can think is that the Administration, in the equivalent of a war crime against the recovery, is letting cronies make money off of both suffering and good will. Wow.

August 4, 2008

The Good Soldier Jones

What, what, wHAT!

Irresponsive, but with not much left in the tank for fronting, as the lurching-along has caught up to them, the population of Nagina dickers with the locks inside City Hall. The locks are either corroded and not yet replaced, a hand-wringing “how could…?” Or newly minted fingerprint sensors, with a code for each day of the month and a finely engraved imprint: Out of Order. Either way, a fumble, a fumble, and the sounds of spare change in pockets mingling with keys, Notes-to self's, the muffled percussive to the angry radio bites and the sirens—these are not encouraging sounds; these are not cause for gloat.

Pfffft. Of course, I know. And I am late, this was news days ago. Even the Times-Pic honked about it.

But the point of a moment, of marking an event, of a passing announcement, and announced passing, is to put into focus all the clouded visible. We crank on here, we sigh over there; we wrinkle our noses on the riverside. Mostly we are lost on the island, cautious or thickly drunk or—dare we tell anyone—industrious. Once or twice a spell, though, we note a change. A specific, hoped-for, definitive change.

Then we wonder what the hell will ever come of it, and do the hope/doubt juggle.

But for a post here, let us note the removal of Anthony Jones from his post as acting chief technology officer in the administration of Ray Nagin. He cut a prominent figure here, and I want to get this thing right.


(Not that this makes ANYthing right.)
After the 311 collapse, the surveillance camera disaster, and the neglect of computers, the man who lied about his college credentials and was promised a promotion is disappeared. We may see still more consequences of his (in)actions, but his next acts are gone from the public sphere (though hope springs eternal). We know of no punishment for him, he simply moved down a rank and continues to collect…and keep a low profile, if he knows what’s good money for him.

If we’ll hear even fewer words from Jones, we can ask what he—as a figure of our times—says about New Orleans in 2008.

First, the inept nature of this lack-of-recovery. Jones was a bungler-master at the center and failure of some of Nagin’s more atrocious follies, ugly jokes that should have been easy successes. Jones manifested the assumed, that beneath Nagin’s paranoid bluster and podium plays, there remains a crippled, unqualified cadre in City Hall. They are petrified and clutch to power like popes to canes. You think we need surveillance cameras? Shit, Nagin’s been promising them since 2003. When crime took a grip on the post-K city, Nagin bellowed that they’d be there in just a minute, and that’d stop this bullshit. When the truth came out, he promised again, laid some blame, and got ‘em up, damnit. Sorta. Almost. After all, some contractors bailed and didn’t hold up their end.

See, it was Jones who should’ve been the contact for said contractors. But we still don’t know what Jones was up to, certainly not holding anyone—contractors, staff, self--to the efficient execution of a plan. What we got was a prolonged, deadly failure to protect the citizenry. Lies beget decay and violence.
Because at the center of the Jones story was the fact that he’d fibbed about a near-degree from Tulane and, when caught up in that, a second deception re: a vague association with the University of Phoenix. He’d stumbled into his job, lied, and was told if he did good and finished school, he’d be the permanent chief of tech. Then Jones went and proved that, in fact, a Tulane education really does mean something, that you can’t just fake your way through. When this whole farce came to light, the administration furrowed its brow and tried to wait it out, rather than immediately correcting the situation. Superiors like Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield expressed surprise, but flailed weakly to wave away the obvious questions, like why don't you do your homework? Or, was there no one else more qualified? The duplicitous nature of Nagina was Jones’ other signification to our age. The policy is to admit nothing and accept no blame.

Or, in the case of the 311 system, when Jones’ inability to do math (or do the simplest of cover-ups) led to the near de-pants-ing of Kenya Smith in the City Council chamber, the policy was to hit back with as much abrasive how-dare-you?! as possible. Instead of checking the report before entering the chamber, Smith breezed in, looked down onto the table, saw the incredible mistake (that X operators for 311 would be paid a total of Y million, meaning each would make Z, an absurdly high figure), panicked and hissed at the questioners. Rash, divisive defense was better than telling the Council that he’d correct this asap and get back to them with his solutions. This had the effect of stalling the issue for a few weeks, until people started calling 311 and getting no answer. Then Jones came back to the surface, silently, of course.

This is why Jones was important this year. He both embodied the duplicitous and overmatched nature of Nagin’s administration, and provoked the administration into expressions of this nature. He was a small man who caused big things to happen. We’ll never know how much damage can be traced to Anthony Jones, but he lets us track down some specific threads in the great, unending ruin that is Nagina. Again and again, a problem would start in one place and resurface in another, the consequences amplified, shocking, avoidable. When we looked closer, we’d find traces of the invisible Jones. A temporary controller of a seemingly benign division in City Hall, he showed us just how dangerous every section really is, as each one is permeated with the gross foolishness of the greater apparatus. Instead of removing Jones when he failed the city the first or second time, Nagina refused to budge, defiant against would-be attackers, unable to act swiftly for the greater good. In the end, the administration is willing to sacrifice progress for power.

In one room sit 40 unused computers; on a corner in a rough block, a camera misses a murder. Out the door goes a man who helped put them there.



Note: And on Wednesday, head to City Council and check out the IG vs. the City's attorney.

July 30, 2008

Oil of LA

New essay about the oil spill at Gathering of the Tribes.

July 10, 2008

Anthony Jones Continues The Ruckus

Democracy is a puffy, mottled face thing in City Hall, where everyone looks slightly tazed, and slightly bloated. Paper shuffling, "thank you," "no, thank you," stone-faced Nagin spies, and the side entrances all mark the organism's mediocre pomp n' circumstance. "Wow," I thought as I exited today. "Even the militant who spoke during the public response portion was below average and sorta confused."

But, if you listen, sometimes you can hear the odd truth pebble fall off a table and rattle around on the floor. Why, I even heard one today.

IG Cerasoli and two of his assistants came before the Council today to report on their progress and much-reported lack thereof. In a painfully detailed account of their problems acquiring office computers, they mentioned:

1. An order from Dell for 42 computers was delivered to the wrong office and sat there for 2 weeks. No one in that section of City Hall bothered to notify them--or anyone else, apparently--of this delivery. That area was in the proximity of the Office of Technology, home to our man Anthony Jones. (It should also be noted that Cerasoli's people should've got a fcking tracking # and found those computers on their own. Those of us who've ordered, well, anything know what's possible if you really want to find something)

2. Apparently, Dell will no longer ship computers on credit to City Hall because the City is not in good standing with the company. This means that a check must be cut and sent to Dell before an order can be started and shipped. Imagine the delays that costs. Also, what did the City do to incur the wrath of Dell?

3. Defending the time wasted in setting up a network, Cerasoli said that he designed the system himself through the Dell website. When asked why he was handling that task and not the City's Office of Technology, he said that he made the request in a meeting with Anthony Jones. Jones did not show up for the second meeting, so Cerasoli took matters into his own hands. One hopes that his network functions.

Obviously this is a big mess. My continued question for the IG: why didn't he find the funding for this set-up outside of the City's budgetary office? Why not get, what, a $100G loan or Rockefeller grant and stay out of this b.s.? I'm surprised that as canny an operator as Cerasoli didn't forsee some of this.

But, wow, Anthony Jones. One wonders how many consequences the city will suffer from his reign? As in so much of this recovery, the seemingly most innocuous players continue to do the most damage.

And one also wonders if Anthony Jones came out for the launch of Kenya Smith's Congressional bid on Tuesday at Woldenberg Pavilion. I wonder if he heard me when I rode by on my bike yelling "Call 311, Kenya! Call 311, Kenya!" I know Kenya did. That was me, Kenya. I'm that guy!

New article in Tribes

New piece on hip-hop in Morocco at the Gathering of the Tribes site.


June 3, 2008

Ring Ring (Crony) Riiiiiiiing


On the heels of unanswered questions re: the city's 311 system, we learn that the City is investigating the credentials of the interim director of the Office of Technology, which oversees 311. Apparently they suspect that Anthony Jones isn't just a few credits short of a bachelor's degree at Tulane, but may not be enrolled there at all. His claim of a business degree from the great online commuter college, the University of Phoenix, may also be phony.

Huh. The 311, hotline for malfunctions and vital information. Screwed up and overseen by a fraud. Huh. Remember back in November, when the Inspector General made a joke after hearing from our friend, Kenya Smith, that $2 million was the budget and don't ask any questions? Remember how odd it seemed that no details were available and Kenya got all defensive and beefed with the Midura scapegoat? And now this.

"(Brenda) Hatfield (the city’s chief administrative officer) acknowledged that Jones did not have a bachelor’s degree but said she has challenged him to finish his education as a condition of removing the “interim” from his title." City Business

"I just called 311, and there ain't nobody answering." Resident Juan Gaspard, at the Council meeting on 311.

"Do you think I'm hiding people?" Kenya Smith, budget hearing for the 311 system, 11/27/07.

May 29, 2008

Life is the farce which everyone has to perform

I IS ANOTHER (2008)

I’m going to take you on a river journey
Merci beaucoup. Thank you.
Connecting the dots: how far we’ve come
That helicopter turned up river.

Newfound vigilance in our citizens
Ok Daddy you take fishy
It was August in New Orleans with no electricity. It was so hot.

And fishy survived.

City that normally spends
Caribbean flavored bright orange with two palm trees in the front
reinventing, and making a way out of no way

Like Shell Oil.
Not only did they come back right after the storm,
they also stepped up
and became a major, multi-year Jazz Fest sponsor.

Gene’s Po-Boys, in the hot pink building on the corner of St. Claude and Elysian Fields
reducing the jack-o-lantern effect
very serious

My next topic is streets. A comic once asked:
Why did the chicken cross the road in new Orleans after hurricane Katrina. Pause.
Cracked the code
To go swimming in his favorite pothole.

Seriously.

We pay above the Southern regional average
This year we have had zero. That’s right, not one
It is about you.

We have been working hard to get these cameras rolled out,
but we’ve had some challenges
Allow me to paint a picture

Celine Dion, Al Jarreau, and Aaron Neville are giving a special concert
The moon and stars are up above
reinventing
you have a dinner reservation
pass through the biomedical district
into their second hot salsa set.

That’s right, not one.

Can you see it New Orleans? Then let’s make it happen!
large, small, mom and pop
It is about you.

a trade mission in July to Panama.

Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes to create a confederacy
It is about you.

This is something I started talking about six years ago, remember sell that sucker
We have finally cracked the code on this pot
have finally after a full year cracked the code
Hallelujah!

Ok Daddy you take fishy.

from the unlikeliest stretch of swampland rose the likeliest of cities
And they didn’t have skin in the game, they didn’t have our genes
It’s like Teddy Roosevelt said

Five billion tourist dollars spent?
you have a dinner reservation.

Your blood sweat and tears are all over this recovery.
The dust of rebuilding is on your hands.

Can you see it New Orleans?
This recovery is bigger than Ray Nagin or Bobby Jindal or George W. Bush
It is about you.
And we will never be the same,

only better.

Like Shell Oil.

May 28, 2008

Good jokes comin' right up

Nagin's State of the City goes down tonight at 6:30pm. Last year's was the infamous tribute to 1990's No Limit Records and Smokey Johnson. This year's will apparently mention the great corporate investment in the city over the last year, apparently symbolized by the new Nike Store next to Rock n' Bowl.

No, really, a shoe store is "corporate investment." More to come on another historic microphone assault.

May 15, 2008

If I Don't Do Nuthin', I'ma Ball


Playaz Circle ft. Kenya Smith ...



'"If you're lobbying a council member or a state representative on something and you bring them to an environment where they're more comfortable and they feel more at ease talking -- as opposed to the drive-through window at McDonald's -- there's a greater likelihood of being able to prevail on the issue," Smith said.
"This is within the standards of how it's done around the country. You don't take people to eat at a greasy spoon, or say, 'We're going to give you a turkey sandwich.' We're trying to build consensus to generate resources to meet the needs of this recovery."
The billing statements provide no details about who accompanied the city administrators at the various meals, nor do they specify what they ate and drank or the business purpose. The city has yet to respond to a May 6 request for documents that include such details.
Smith said the people he has entertained include a "huge cross section of stakeholders -- business leaders, community leaders, political leaders -- those are three broad categories of who I work with. I do that because I have to build consensus."
Quiett said she has used the card only to cover the costs of city business. Even the smoothies and coffee she charged to the city were purchased at business meetings, she said. In some cases, she said, she purchased a smoothie to reward a staff member who had worked extra hard.'

Hornets - Spurs Game 5 notes

These might get to SLAM today, but here's what I had....

Pre-game
-Due to some confusion, I’m at the top of the lower bowl and Aggrey’s down at courtside. Pretty diverse crowd up here, as I sit next to a French reporter, whose next to a Chinese reporter, whose next to this (don’t make me have to go and see the) Rasta, who Aggrey is best boys with. Also: two rows down, a white dude with gold fronts.
-Nat’l Anthem: a 5 year old named Tione Johnson. Honestly, this city has more child prodigies…

Q1
-TP gets hit hard early, and is in a pissy mood all night. This is a game the refs will need to control. (Sad how true--in the bad way--that becomes)
-After CP3 loses Parker to make it 13-11, Pop calls a TO, out of which Bowen drains a 3. There’s a grave inevitability with the Spurs that’s not unlike watching the Patriots. Christ, does that make CP3…? NO, and B-Scott isn’t some angry old man, either, and the Saints better not sign Shockey.
-Emeril in the house. Aggrey texts that Lang would be amped. During last year’s Jazzfest, some friends of mine from Pittsburgh went to Emeril’s and got mean drunk, apparently a reaction to the poor service. Emeril was in the house that night, too, filming a TV spot, and one of my friends tried to crash the kitchen, yelling, “Emeril knows this ain’t right! Emeril knows!” I can’t really forget that when I see him.
-David West is on fire, has 14 for the quarter. Peja’s only had 2 shots, which is not hot.
-Quarter ends 23-21, SA, and Pop just went crazy. It looks like bar fight down there, and I’m pretty sure Joey Crawford said something. To defuse the situation, Crawford walks to within 5 feet of the dancing Honeybees and stares. Always a good way to release the stress when Pop’s mad at you, Joey.

Q2
-I don’t know how to describe the moments when Juju Wright sees a seam in the defense, but the entire crowd can see it happen, like his eyes just got 10x bigger and his arms grow a few yards. He attacks the hole in one long motion, and banks the ball hard off the backboard. Bowen drains a 3 at the other end.
-Bow Wow in the house! I text Aggrey that Lang would be amped.
-34-28 Spurs with 8:00 left. The Hornets need a solid run now, I think.
-Drew Brees pops his free t-shirt, autographs a football, then guns it into the first row of the upper deck. Sign that lady to a minicamp!
-Wow, a second white dude with gold teeth sits down and high fives his, uh, brother. Bling, ahem, bling.
-The run is slow in the making, with Peja and West doing some damage and Ginobli countering them. 42-36 Spurs with 1:50 left.
-At this point, the dude whose seat I’m in (KATZ reads the label, which could be radio or a deli) shows up and I move to the TV station seats on the same level, center court. Much better.
-When Ginobli falls down, West ends up dunking at the other end and the game is tied. The crowd, as it has been all post-season, is electric.
-Parker gets hit again, this time by, I think, a Pargo elbow. That’s the playoffs and maybe Mike D’Antoni isn’t in the seat of a sexual harasser if everyone thought the same way.
-Half ends 47-44. West has 22, CP3 only 6 and 8. Manu leads the spurs with 15, Parker’s at 10 and 2, and TD is held to 4.

Halftime
-Trombone Shorty might be compared to Lebron James. Since a young age, he’s been in the spotlight, playing on the street and with his well-known family. Now the question is, can he take that next step and push N.O. music further than just funk and brass? The talent and charisma is there, and he’s definitely looking for the nat’l audience. That quest might be his Achilles heel, but tonight, things look good for the next king.

Q3
-Well, I guess Chris Paul made the decision to take this thing by the throat. A floater, a 3, and a chip shot from the paint make it 57-51. Not to root against them in the next one, but how dope would it be to see this dude in his first Game 7?
-Hornets D is the other story, as they have SA playing sloppy and frustrated. The refs haven’t been good on either side, but the Spurs get the visitors treatment.
-From this angle, you can really see that TCP3 alley-oop coming. Fortunately, the Spurs aren’t stealing signals.
-D-West +1 past TP, quarter ends 72-58.
-The Used-to-Bees come out. They’re the, like, older, more physically diverse dance team. They have this Svengali dance coach, a real shady dude, who tonight…is that guy making it rain? No sht. He just made it rain. I’m still wincing as I write this.

Q4
-Byron is going for the kill! He leaves his starters in to face Pop’s line-up of shooters, Udoka, Ginobli, Fin, Bones, and Oberto, who’s not so much a shooter as an extra in a junkie flick.
-Doesn’t work. 2:30 into the quarter, it’s 78-63. After the Spurs TO, the Jumbotron plays a clip from 300 while Enter Sandman pounds thru the speakers. That line, “Off to never, neverland” was the death of heavy metal.
-Tyson is helped off. Looks like an ankle and trouble down the road. He and West have alternated on TD and done a great job tonight.
-West goes around TD, then blocks his shot at the other end. Pargo finishes with a 2, its’ 85-70 Hornets with 6:00 to go.
-Unfair but awesome: when Tony goes to shoot FT’s that could cut the lead to single digits, a fan holds up a life-sized cut-out of Eva in what looks to be a Honeybees outfit. He misses both and all us 15 year old’s chuckle. For this, the fan gets a pound from Hilton, who seems to have some diva-on-diva beef with Eva.
-Hugo appears with gold boxing gloves on as the Rocky theme plays, and eventually he makes his way to the top row in the arena, bringing the crowd to its feet. Hugo’s been thru a lot these last few days, and it’s good to see him back on-top. Aggrey resents the out-of-Philly experience.
-This leads Pop to pull his starters with over 2 minutes left and a 12 pt. deficit, though it might have been a Fck You to the refs, too.
-I’m not sure, but I think the local TV people just had an Anchorman-like confrontation below us. Really, there’s a heated re-telling going on to my left. Huh.

Post-game
-The reporter who Pop sarcastically labeled, “a very accurate young man” after Game 2? Yeah, he introduces his question to Pop by saying, “it’s the very accurate reporter again (coy smile).” Really? You want to what, flirt with Pop at a time like this? Pop still doesn’t know why the games are all blow-outs, but he does say “I believe the official was incorrect” twice.
-Big Shot Bob talks to some friends on the loading dock, looks unconcerned. This concerns me, as we still haven’t seen his dagger collection this series. More to come.

May 6, 2008

Spurs Get Stung

Notes up on SLAM. I don't think this thing is done, but there's nothing the Bees lack right now. The defense is crazy, Peja (my x-factor) is hitting threes and diving for loose balls, and CP3 looks possessed, even more than the previous 88 games. They win this and they've blown through the last 3 defending Western Conf. champs. The crowd is the greatest vent/pride session in town right now, with people standing for quarters at a time and tubas blasting in the street after the game. The Hugo fiasco aside, these games make us look pretty good. And that's no small thing.

Also, if you want daily Hornets news and you're not reading Hornets247.com, now you know.

April 30, 2008

Notes on Brotzmann/Bennink at the Big Top - 4/28

Giant Sits

-Is this still how it sounds when the world falls apart?
-Brotzmann on soprano, I am digging the cieling fan.

-Bennink, in a bandana, so often ignores the cymbals, which to me is a real shame during Brotzmann's long notes (this manifests thru the evening...).

-Thinking about the reference points they work from, i.e. how their ears and art evolved. Probably the N.O. in me. More math and operatics in this, less spirituality, less marching music.

-Imagine Brotzmann's hotel room, with the curtains all blown horizontal, sucked in by a sleeping beast.

-There is a basic imbalance going on, and it doesn't work for me tonight. Bennink is waaay louder, and constant. What I mean is, the beat changes, but never stops, and is usually frenetic, if steady in segments. A great sound alone, but the disconnect from Brotzmann's more, uh, thoughtful, quiet stretches is unfortunate. Aging prowess: it can congeal into squarer beats, or it may bare emotion. Brotzmann searches, groans, and Bennink mugs a bit for the audience. This isn't my kind of dialogue, even though it does leave me more interested than before in Brotzmann.

-Maybe the drum always blows out the breath (me and my lion/lamb fix)

-In Violence City, isn't it something to hear this tearing of sound? Bludgeon & bleed soundtrack, but how it fits in this almost bucolic city of ours, that's a wonder well worth recieving.

Thanks to Rob Cambre for bringing in the giants and setting the table.



April 29th Set List


Good one last night, dedicated to Bonzi Wells and the city of Lafayette. Jean Luc Ponty-of-View was a request for a statement of purpose from the folks at the Shell Oil Jazz & Heritage Foundation. In the middle, did a run of Tuts-Fess-Touissant in anticipation of tomorrow's movie night (and then I lost track). Be nice to see you there...
Artist - Track - Album - Label

James Booker - Classified -A Taste of Honey - Night Train
Nina Simone - Feeling Good - I Put a Spell On You - Mercury
John Cale - Big White Cloud - Vintage Violence - Columbia
Declared Enemy - Black Panthers - Salute to 100001 Stars A Tribute to Jean Genet - Rogueart
Tom McDermott - Choro #1 - Live in Paris - STR Digital
Fred Anderson/WIlliam Parker/Hamid Drake - II - Blue Winter
Peter Brotzmann Sextet - Side B - Nipples - Unheard Music Series
Habib Koite & Bamada - Ford Bana - Maya - Putumayo
LM5 - Even Ash WIll Linger - After Math - Lily Mase
Lee Morgan - That's All - Introducing Lee Morgan - Savoy
Sun Ra - Drop Me Off in Harlem - Nuclear War - Atavistic
Kahil El-Zabar's The Ritual - Return of the Lost Tribe - Another Kind of Groove - Sound Aspects
Tuts Washington - Tee Nah Nah - Louisiana Spice - Rounder
Professor Longhair - Mean Old World - Rock n' Roll Gumbo - Dancing Cat
Allen Touissant - Do the Do - Connected - NYNO

Who's a Sucker?

The Hornets sure ain't.

“Everything that we have done is all about this city,” Paul said. “It’s about rebuilding the city of New Orleans.”

April 26, 2008

Hornets Fall, Lead Series 2-1

Sorta predictable loss, and actually not that frightening. Notes up on SLAM. Honestly, timeouts are a good thing in the playoffs, Byron. Especially when you go down 16. Really, they're OK.

April 23, 2008

Bees Gut Mavs, 127-103

Our GreyTone production is up at SLAM. This was a full-scale beating, and if we expected to witness a passing of the torch from Kidd to CP3, Chris turned into one angry pro-Tibetan protestor, shutting the ceremony down in front of the entire world.

One other thing I noted in the report: the Hornets now have a real hometown crowd, which erupts, boos, stands, dances, and does everything it can to push the team and make it hard to win in the Arena. A big key to that: cheap tickets. This was why Golden State was so great to watch last season, and one of the reasons they let down this year. You have real, working-class New Orleanians supporting the team, bringing families to the game, eating $1 hot dogs and drinking $2 beers beforehand, and crowding the merchandise shop afterwards. Let's hope this continues next year.

Also, a new nickname has fallen on our Chris: Obama of the Bayou. Huh.

April 22, 2008

This Shouldn't Fly

How does this pass?

"'You can see hope in the fact that people (who frankly I could give two shts about, 'cept for this funny hornman) are absolutely determined to make it better than it was before...(which was, heh heh, a place where, runny-nosed and loudly)...I spent many a fine day here in New Orleans," he said, pausing for the punchline, "and a pretty good night, too."'

Dig the blackheart.

I'm walking over to Gallier Hall right now. Supposedly homeboy is planting a tree.

UPDATE:

Well, there was the tired, jock/nerd dynamic across the barricades, as a handful of hoarse protestors asked the porky secret service agents how it felt. Only about 15 to a side. I saw an old neighbor, who talked about free-trade and apathy. For some reason, two streetcars were positioned in front of Gallier Hall, and a set of bleachers stood across the street, Mardi Gras- style. No one but press to watch, and it wasn't clear from Poydras and St. Charles what exactly there was to see.

To follow this act, we may get a fatigued senior citizen who sold his soul to play Reagan for a few months. We may get a former first lady ala a South American dictorship, or a battered African American man who somehow survives an emasculation effort from both sides. But, while I'm feeling a little better about our town this week, we should admit that we lost to Bush. He moves on, leaving his keepers and detractors to mumble in the street, the vaults empty and the pumps encased in gold, the war in bloom and the enemy still hidden. You think Bush is stressed about any of that?

On the way over there just now, I thought I saw Alberto Gonzalez at the corner of Carondelet, walking with a group toward One Shell Square (pretty sure not him). I wasn't shocked at the sight, but at the possibility that it wouldn't shock me at all.

At least for this stage, the game's over, and the bad guys give toasts in Gallier Hall.

April 20, 2008

April 17, 2008

The History of the Creole Wild West (as told by themselves)


Come check it out on Saturday.

April 16, 2008

April 16th Set List



Happy Birthday, Bessie Smith (1894).

Artist - Track - Album - Label

James Booker - Gonzo's Blue Dream - Spiders on the Keys - Rounder
Roy Campbell Ensemble - Aten and Amarna - Akhenaten Suite - AUM Fidelity
Lindah Kallerdahl - Body & Soul - Gold - Esp-Disk
Right Hemisphere - Falling In - Right Hemisphere - Rogueart
Vandermark 5 - Speedplay (for Max Roach) - Beat Reader - Atavistic

Bessie Smith - Careless Love - Marty Scorcese Blues - Columbia
Abbey Lincoln - People in Me - People in Me - Verve
Nina Simone - Go to Hell - Best of Nina Simone - RCA
Bessie Smith - Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair - Marty Loves Blues - Columbia
William Parker & Hamid Drake - Japeru - Piercing the Veil Vol. 1 - AUM Fidelity
William Hooker - Spirit World - Armagedon - Homestead


Bali - Pemungkah - Music for the Shadow Play - Nonesuch
Metaform - Sunday - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - Just
Sonny Fortune - Long Before Our Mothers Cried - A Better Understanding - Blue Note

Gil Scot Heron - New York City - Its Your World - Rumal-Gia
Mark O'Leary & Han Bennink - Track 3 - Televison - Ayler
Peter Brotzmann Group - Part 2 - Alarm - Atavistic
Rob Brown Quartet - Step With Care - Jumping Off the Page - No More

April 8, 2008

Salman Rushdie and N.O. Hip-hop, ha

On Saturday morning, we woke up early and headed to Freret Street to prepare for the festival. Preparations at the neighborhood center went well, though the work began with me and a very strong man digging heavy sludge out of a storm drain, not exactly the fairest of sights. Up and down the street, tents went up and vendors prepared for the thousands of festival-goers. By 11am, I was done and took a walk to eat and catch some music. At 1pm, I returned for the scheduled sound-check in the backyard of the center, where there’s a small stage for a planned rap showcase put on by some neighborhood kids. Well, long story short, we had to hustle together additional microphones and no one had a cd player or mixer, or a DJ for that matter. So to the Bywater and back I go, returning with my equipment to serve as best I could. Like the song goes: Toney’s his name, he lives on his own.

Man, hip-hop is such a weird world down here. Musically, the differences with New York are obvious, but the differences in the scene (as I know it, which is minimal) are another thing. I noticed this when I did that radio show this summer, but—straight up: a lot of people here look at a white dude who’s interested in hip-hop like he’s from another planet, especially if he doesn't dress/talk all over-compensated. Not hostility, but almost right through you, like there’s no way you could be there or understand anything. In New York, underground hip-hop in particular has people of many races who’ve been around for a minute. Sure, there are issues, but there’s nothing new about it. Hip-hop is everywhere up there—stylized, entrenched, often overly-dramatic and macho, but a part of the entire place.





Here, hip-hop is more street-centered, more based in the projects that are now gone, the devastating violence and poverty, the appreciation of dance and specific neighborhoods, and the teens so feared by the newspaper and its suburban readers. And it’s not just the image of hip-hop here that is isolated in a way, but the style of the music itself. New Orleans hip-hop owes so much to Bounce, which wasn’t a national phenomenon or even concerned with anywhere but New Orleans (this is a great thing in many ways, as is Bounce). Bounce, I always think, is a little like early dancehall in that it is purposely local. Dancehall was a reaction to the popularity of reggae, both roots and lovers rock, which became a world music. Dancehall was intentionally unintelligible to the non-Jamaican (well, there’s a cat from Dorchester, but…). New Orleans hip-hop is similarly focused on the immediate audience. A Lil' Wayne might happen eventually, but so might Buju Banton.

Secondly, the conditions of its arrival are vastly different than that of New York. The city’s perpetual paradox of brutal violence and popular creative catharsis meant either viciously menacing raps (“Make ‘Em Say Ugh”) or infectious dance music (“Back Dat Azz Up”). I remember a NY Times article after the storm that focused on the abscence of NO's hip-hop in the tributes to the fallen city. To which I replied: no one gave a sht about it before the storm, and it pretty much didn't give a sht about anyone else, and you weren't going to find a "Do You Know What It Means..." in the catalog.

There’s very little “conscious” shit out there from N.O. artists (perhaps a result of the political realities), and the style of emceeing is much more tied up in flowing with a trigger beat, or repping a neighborhood, finding the best phrase to repeat. That’s not to say anything negative at all, as such styles demand things that many a rapper couldn’t handle. My point is that New Orleans rap is highly unique, developed very much on its own terms. And though I know a little, I don’t know a lot.

But there I stood, spinning back up tracks to a yard full of spectators, many young, some older, most of them offering little visual response to my choices or the performances of the artists. Years at EVR taught me to just keep on with it, to roll with intrusions, attitudes, surprises, and beefs. There were young cats who didn’t know how to act, and young girls who have local radio hits. Once we finally got started, it was fairly smooth, but, man, was it a trip.

I stood under a blue tent with blue netting and played the backup tracks and some commercial NY hip-hop I had with me. The artists were fairly amped to be there, and much professionalism was attempted. At one point, one of the girls very solemnly asked if I had a card, and I handed her my business card, for “Executive Manager.” Another asked if I could play some Bounce, and I said I would if someone gave me some, since I was being fed a mixtape of new R&B and some Weezy at the time. The order of performances was never clear and constantly revised. The level of posturing was high all around, as some dudes had matching outfits and a stage mother instructed me on the order of her daughter’s tracks.





But everyone wanted to be on that stage. They wanted to do hip-hop in front of people and to rock a crowd, and they wanted to stand out. I can relate to that, though this time I pulled my hat low and drove through the sets, content to be a bit player/observer.

I guess there were some complaints about the cursing, both my selections and the live ones, but that’s hard to stop. What’s funny is there wasn’t a hint of menace in the air. People—hustlers, family members, little kids, a couple white hipsters, whoever they all were--didn’t express much of anything, but they took it all in. In this city, a live performance is nothing special, unless of course you’re repping for your friend or cousin who’s onstage. Everybody knows a musician, so you watch and think who else you’ve seen, if you could do that, if maybe there’s something else to be heard down the block.

In the end, I had a seat on a very normal, if hectic, day in New Orleans hip-hop. I’m not so into songs where the hook is just “Money-ma-money-money/money-ma-money-money” (really, that was one), but rappers did their thing. If there were awkward or ridiculous parts or an abundance of fronting, there were moments when someone really felt they were making it, like they were that video star they’d been emulating for the last two months, the hardest or sexiest one in the whole joint.

I’ve dj’ed in some funny situations, and I can always relax once I’m in the set and hooked up, going with it and choosing music. Which is good, because this one was a whole other thing. Like a few other times I can think of, though, it was a bizarre, fresh time to be DJ Toney Blare.

$*$*$*$
When we pulled up on Broadway tonight, I was feeling giddy. In my wizened alumnus-hood, I often feel this way when I’m on Tulane’s campus. The resentment of the place’s absurdity is gone now that I don’t pay them, and I can embrace the whole joke that is that university, crack up at it, even. And there’s nothing more ridiculous than Tulane’s rare attempts to act like an institution of higher learning.
Like, for instance, hosting a public lecture. Last week, as I strolled to the WTUL studio, I stopped in my tracks to appreciate a sign of the times. Strewn across McAlister Drive from one graceful oak to another was a banner that read, “Salman Rushdie.” Respek, Tulane, I thought.
For how very odd it is that Rushdie is a minor star on the college lecture circuit, and that said circuit would bring him to New Orleans. With Islamic fundamentalism a full-blown scourge of the planet, this freed former enemy takes the stage in an American city stricken by the consequences of a war against that scourge. A decade ago, Rushdie was in hiding; today, he’s at Tulane.

And apparently everybody had heard about it. Kim and I arrived at Dixon Hall to find a crowd of students and some adult types who eagerly told us that the lecture was sold out. We walked right in to find a lone Tulane cop trading hysterics with an Asian couple.

"Ma'am! Ma'am! Get back, ma'am!" he cried.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we’ve been waiting long enough!” the lady said. The cop told her “No!” then turned to me and told me I couldn’t come in. “Can I use the bathroom?” Nope, scheme denied. The Asian couple remained obstinate.

“Put a fatwah on her!” I yelled as we left. Then we followed some sneakier students through a back entrance, found a side door to the auditorium, and took a place to stand along one wall near the stage.

Except for basketball games and a crawfish boil or two, I’ve never seen that many people at any event on the campus. The balcony was full, as was most of the standing room. Scott Cowan growled some praise, and then two English professors affirmed the greatness of Rushdie, and then Sir Salman Rushdie entered stage right.

The title of tonight’s lecture: "Public Events, Private lives: Literature and Politics in the Modern World." And let me tell you, Salman Rushdie is quite comfortable at Public Events. He began with charming remarks that included jokes about outliving Khomeini and the cheapness of Paris Hilton. The young folks were putty in his hands, and Rushdie took his time, with many a humorous flourish en route to a general musing on the role of the fictionist as truth teller. Many hands moved in note-taking, and the crowd switched on a dime from laughing with Rushdie at Saul Bellow’s line “We don’t have responsibilities—we have inspirations,” to agreeing with him that, actually, Bellow was right. People were eager to be pleased and to agree.

Rushdie did hit lightly on some interesting things, one of which was the idea of memory as a political act. Having noted that the novel originally served a journalistic role (see Dickens), he discussed his own work’s clash with Indira Gandhi’s official record, all to show that the resilience of memory is vital to countering propaganda and dictatorship. Fair enough. Thing is, I don’t think its official truth that’s killing us: I think the exponential increase in the versions of truth, and in the public exchanges of those versions, are what weakens our memories and our ability to tell the facts from the dictator-speak.

Now to Khomeini, the change of subject that, Rushdie laughed, was like the Stones playing the opening bars of “Satisfaction”: OK, here’s what we came for, the hard stuff. But then he chose a funny story to discuss the experience. Apparently, a movie called “International Guerillas” came out during this time, with an evil caricature of Rushdie battling a team of Muslim assassins. The movie was horrendous, but Rushdie stood up for its right to public screening in an immigrant neighborhood in Yorkshire, England. By killing the censorship, he and his allies killed the movie, which no one went to see.
His point was that resistance was best done through an insistence on freedom. I thought we might flip this over and say something about The Satanic Verses (which is a fine novel): by trying to kill it, Khomeini birthed an international sensation, submerging for most intent that actual contents and quality of the book. And while I’m sure such an argument is not new to Rushdie, it was weird that he didn’t acknowledge it. He seemed to think we'd triumphed over Khomeini, even as Sadr plays with the fate of Iraq.

Instead there was an acknowledgement of the great risks and valor of booksellers and writers who supported him through that dangerous time, occasionally in the face of pipe bombs and book burnings and even a shooting in Norway. Huh, I thought, but no mention of all the explosions and fires that have followed Islamic fundamentalism in the 10-20 years since. No mention of, say, the life of present day Pakistani writers under Musharaff, or the Bengali poet laureate who died a few years ago after a fierce beating by extremists. Certainly no shout out of solidarity to those who wrote in the wake of natural disaster.

Not that he must cover these things, but it was all too cozy, these omissions. Like Tulane itself, the detachment of Rushdie’s talk from the realities of our world left us a little hollow. When he closed things by advising writers to reside on the frontier, to push the frontiers, well, I immediately thought of his posh life in London and the strange lack of mention of his more recent works.

And as usual when someone visits and pontificates, I wondered if he noticed the frontier he stood on, the blown apart America that is no longer just Bellow’s alienation, but a battleground. He tied New Orleans with New York, which misses a ton of points, and yet doubled the disservice by not tying his own sufferings more directly to those events, and to the rest of us. He mentioned the effects of public events on private life, how your character can’t determine your destiny in such a world, and how the novel resists such a development. Good points, but he pretty much stuck with how his novel survived, and all the goofy bumps in that road, and avoided any talk of other public events or possible destinies. To be blunt, he and Tulane didn’t have much to say to New Orleans, and I can’t laugh at that so much.


?*?*?*?

Public events in this town are legion, and the holding pens and amphitheaters and barstools and backyards do well as ecosystems. Truth, your story or hers, can pour out in letters to the editor, or stutter over microphone feedback. People do their best to share, to appreciate the exchange. There’s a hitch, though, in the presentation, and I believe it reveals a lot more than the story that is struggling to come out. That hitch is a comparative reflex, like when I wonder what Rushdie noticed on his way to the airport, or that security guard found himself nearly overwhelmed by literature fans. It doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t follow a norm or a system. People front or get too eager. You can’t be sure what’s an authentic performance, and what’s an exercise in holding one’s breath. In the end, the bottom could drop out and everybody ends up naked or no one shows up in the first place and the electricity is out.

It is so very, very weird to gather and watch these days. I don’t think I thought that 10 years ago. Not sure what that means, but maybe this is the accumulated lack, the way the empty neighborhoods call to us when rooms are crowded. The way violence is both a kid’s show and a block away.

Representing: old as it is, it needs some working out in New Orleans.