Monday, June 30, 2008

Gone are the days of June

It seems hard to believe that June has flown by. I was just in San Diego and Los Angeles at the end of last month it would seem and now, after having just returned from Washington, D.C. for the AJPA conference, I look back and question where all the time went. June is no longer "busting out all over," as Rodgers and Hammerstein would have us sing. It has burst and it is waning with scant hours remaining before the entrance of sizzling July. For those of us who remember the lure and charm of the summer, June has always been a special month. It was hot, but not nearly as oppressively hot as July or August. I think back on my days at Camp Blue Star in Hendersonville, North Carolina. During the first few nights in June, the temperature in the Blue Ridge Mountains would plunge into the 50s, quite chilly for a native New Orleanian. I would spend many a night shivering in my bunk bed, thinking about warm things and wondering why I couldn't have one more blanket. However, if the truth be known, I loved the hearty weather. I grew to love the few cold days New Orleans afforded me. There were those miserable, overly humid days that were not nearly as much fun when the mercury plummeted into the teens or 20s. My days in Cleveland following the Hurricane Katrina disaster were also quite pleasant and my first winter there turned out to be quite mild by Cleveland standards. The second winter of 2006-2007 was considered "normal," by most Clevelanders and that one nearly broke my penchant for cold forever, but to be accurate it wasn't the cold. It was the snow. Brrrrrrr. That's how I deal with the oppressive heat and high humidity of a typical New Orleans summer. I think about the Cleveland winter and I reckon it's not nearly so bad.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A recall for Governor Jindal

Wow! Talk about your ill-advised efforts. The backlash due to the Louisiana Legislature's voting themselves a 127% pay raise has finally spilled over into the governor's mansion. Bobby Jindal, the wunderkind of the Republican party, is now the target of wrath for those voters who can't jibe with his political stance of not wanting to muck up the waters in Baton Rouge by vetoing the pay hike they voted for themselves. Jindal stated in very emphatic terms that he opposed the pay raise and found it distasteful for them to do so. However, he is pragmatic. If he squashed their pay raises now, he might be sacrificing any chance to get specialized legislation through the House and Senate in future years. He looked very impressive in detailing his plan to neither veto or refuse to sign the new legislation. Yet, Jindal could not have perceived how upset voters were across the state with regards to their representatives helping themselves to the money trough created through historically high taxes on oil and gas. It was easy to consider a pay raise that kicked in right away rather than, as had been the case previously, issue a pay raise for the next legislative session. Ann Duplessis, the author of the pay raise, will probably become the poster girl for unbridled greed in Baton Rouge. It seems to me to be unfair to lump Jindal into the same category as the others. Considering it will take a million signatures for the effort to suceed, I don't expect to hold my breath about Jindal being removed from office. As someone keenly interested in enacting reform legislation, it is a shame to lump him with the greedy legislators who complain about how little they are making when they knew full well of how poor the salaries were when they ran for the positions. It reminds me of the fellow who killed his parents and then begged for the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Newspapers feel your pain

With the 2008 American Jewish Press Association meeting now history, I have returned from the nation's capital to consider some of the highlights from the sessions that were conducted throughout the week. First of all, for those newspapers that are experiencing a loss in subscriptions and/or declining readership, it will get a lot worse before it gets better. As a matter of fact, if present trends continue, print newspapers as an entity in America and worldwide could cease to exist in a far shorter period that the exhaustion of paper resources that have been bandied about by ecologically minded alarmists. Not that I prefer to have to choose between the two, but I think a number of other newspapermen, as print journalists used to be called, would wish they could keep their readers and start to worry about where they were going to get paper products. The declining numbers are due to a number of factors, but the largest are the proliferation of broadcast media for news, especially cable outfits like CNN and Fox News and the burgeoning Internet. When revenue streams from advertising are lost to competitors like these, the print medium has to do some quick footwork to keep from becoming the Edsel dealers of tomorrow. Several business model suggestions to make local connections with communities were suggested and ways to "sell" these were considered during brainstorming sessions. The biggest three sources of new revenue for newspaper websites were listed by a representative of the American Press Institute as e-mail, video and search engines. Local businesses will look to expand their position in the marketplace through adjacent advertising or by links that publicize their products and services. It will be up to the newspapers to expand their websites (or launch new ones) in order to capture these ever-increasing revenue streams or lose them to others who are more responsive to their needs. Newspapers are still reeling from a loss of advertising revenue due to broadcast TV and radio competition decades ago. The Internet poses both the greatest threat and the greatest opportunity for the future of the newspaper industry. With a depressed economy they are feeling your pain even more than they had hoped. Say a little prayer for the newspapers of today. They are at a critical crossroads and there is little doubt that the decisions they make and the solutions they implement will ensure their continued presence or their ultimate demise.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rocking the Senate

Cleveland Jewish News editor-in-chief Cynthia Dettelbach and publisher Michael Bennett frame me

Last night the Senate Caucus Room, the former site of such historic hearings as those involving Watergate, Iran-Contra and the Teapot Dome scandals, was the scene of a much milder and less anxious group of journalists. It was the annual recognition dinner of the American Jewish Press Association's Rockower Awards. For the first time honorees were given their awards in advance (earlier in the morning at the Doubletree Hotel) so that the Rockower ceremonies would not seem to carry some sort of government sanction. The recipients from sixteen different categories didn't seem to matter. The setting in the Russell Senate Building in the shadow of the Capitol was so magnificent and the ability to soak up a bit of Washington's history was well worth the earlier reveal. Among the attendees were the AJPA's outgoing president, Cleveland Jewish News CEO Rob Certner and CJN editor-in-chief Cynthia Dettelbach, both of whom I had the pleasure to work for while esconsed in Cleveland from 2005 to 2007. Also joining from Cleveland were advertising director Jennifer Woomer and publisher Michael Bennett, who took over his new position following last year's AJPA conference. It was a grand opportunity for Jewish journalists to discuss industry trends, keep informed as to best practices and to honor their own. Panels of Washington area experts kept everyone up to date and, indeed the conference goes on for yet another day today before closing. The opulent setting for the Rockower recognitions was made possible due to the tireless work of AJPA executive director Toby Dershowitz and fellow Washingtonian Natasha Nadel, both of whom were assisted by a staff of young, energetic interns. My congratulations to them all. The AJPA continues to assist the business side of Jewish journalism with cutting edge technologies being explored in many brainstorming sessions as well as giving important symposiums to reporters and editors who thirst for knowledge. I am privileged to have been at both business and editorial sessions with some of the brightest and best Jewish writers, editors, publishers and advertising people in the country. I continue to praise them all for what they do to further the cause.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AJPA Conference

Every year the American Jewish Press assembles in a city of its choice in order to bestow honors on the very best among them as determined by panels of judges. My work as a Jewish journalist allows me to meet with some of the best and brightest minds in the field. This year the city of choice is the American Jewish Press Association's home field, Washington, D.C. In the heart of the nation's capital the members of the Jewish press have been meeting for several days and those being singled out for special acknowledgment will receive Rockower Awards later this morning. Tonight's dinner will be held in the esteemed halls of the Senate Caucus Room on Capitol Hill. It should be a great event. Last night AJPA members assembled at the International Spy Museum, an event hosted by Milton and Tamara Maltz, who hail from Cleveland. Even though they were not able to attend the event, the Maltzes made sure that every one in attendance had enough to eat and plenty to see. Speaking of Cleveland connections, I have been delighted to get to see many of my friends and colleagues from the Cleveland Jewish News including editor-in-chief Cynthia Dettelbach, CEO Rob Certner, and Publisher Michael Bennett. A full day of activities remain today and another half day tomorrow before it breaks.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Al Sleet, the hippy dippy weatherman, expires

George Carlin, a brilliant comedian and social commentator, has gone on to perform on that celestial stage, a place where, perhaps, he can finally say the seven words you can't say on TV. Carlin, 71, started his career as a conventional stand-up comedian of some note in the early Sixties. But it was when he started turning his act towards using social commentary and appealing to the generation influenced by drugs and the Vietnam War that Carlin's impact as a funnyman became so profound. Carlin was the first host of "Saturday Night Live" and he appeared on The Tonight Show more than 130 times. Just last week the Kennedy Center had announced that Carlin was the recipient of the Mark Twain Award for lifetime achievement as a comedian. Carlin, who admitted he had a long record of drug usage finally announced in 2004 that he was entering rehab for alcohol and the pain killer Vicodin. It may have been the last stand of one of the leading comics of the Love Generation that was born out of Haight Ashbury and Woodstock. Carlin won four Grammy Awards for several of his 23 comedy albums. Growing up with Carlin's comedy albums was a right of passage for me and others of my generation. His "Class Clown" album with its "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" was one I recall playing over and over again. Busted for obscenity in Wisconsin when he uttered those words on stage, Carlin's routine ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the government's right to censor comments of that ilk. An actor in several movies including "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and Doris Day's "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," Carlin proved to be a great presence on screen, but it was on stage in a live setting where he thrived. In recent years he began writing more books and had three successful comic commentaries make the top sellers charts. Carlin was a unique character and a bit of an irreverent rogue, but he was loved by millions and will be missed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Guess it was only a matter of time. The LSU Tigers had been writing a College World Series script that kept them winning at the last possible moment, but on Friday night the North Carolina Tarheels took the opportunity to do a ninth inning rewrite as they defeated the boys from Baton Rouge with a grand slam on their way to a 7-3 win at Rosenblatt Stadium. "I guess we ran out of miracles," Tiger Coach Paul Mainieri was quoted at game's end. That win sent the Bayou Bengals packing and kept North Carolina's hopes alive as they continue play in the CWS for yet another game. The grand slam by Tim Federowicz was the first one registered in Omaha, Nebraska since 2001. The game, which was rain delayed twice over as many days, didn't start out well for LSU with the Tar Heels getting two runs and loading up the bases with only one out before the game was stopped due to rain. On Friday play got underway for a short time with LSU pitching through the first inning before it was stopped again due to lightning in the third inning when the score was North Carolina 2, LSU 1. A second rain delay ensued shortly with a torrential downpour extending the game for nearly an hour and a half until play could be resumed. Federowicz had been 1-11 at bat prior to the grand slam. North Carolina Coach Mike Fox later told reporters that he thought he was due to break out of his hitting slump. Meanwhile, a brilliant pitching effort in the seventh and eight innings by LSU reliever Louis Coleman (8-1) was for nought as he registered the loss against Alex White (12-3). While the loss sends LSU fans into an emotional tailspin, there were several high notes. First, sophomore Blake Dean was deemed the hitter of the year with his incredible .346 on the year. Also, honors for freshmen DJ LeMahieu and Matt Clark at the SEC Tournament bode well for the future of LSU baseball. Last of all, but certainly not least, the Mainieri's coaching was good enough to earn him top honors at the SEC tournament and he seems poised to repeat his effort this year in years to come. It was the 14th visit to the CWS for LSU, but the first time in eight years that they registered at least one win. That also says something for this bucky little team.
Moving on to politics...who is ready to cast their ballots today? Our latest polls dare to ask the question about which ticket you are ready to see elected to the White House. Check it out at right. Demos should vote for their choice, while Republicans should vote for their party.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Sensations

Well, it's finally happened. The earth has passed through space and crossed the apparant path of the sun. In so doing we have crossed the imaginary point in space known as the summer solstice, thus signalling that the beginning of the hottest season of the year (for those us blessed to live in the Northern Hemisphere) is officially here. As any school child can tell you, summer is the best season. It's the season of extended recess and recreation. For those who can still slalom, it is a time for waterskiing. For those of who can't slalom, it's an opportunity to witness those who can. And for those who enjoy the outdoors, it a verdant time to commune with nature. Ah, summer. So many songs have been written about this wonderful time of year. From the insipid ("Summertime, Summertime" by the Jamies) to the introspective ("Summertime" by George and Ira Gershwin). When I was a youth, I eagerly looked forward to summer. It was my vacation away from my parents and a time for me to have real fun. Not that summer day camp wasn't okay. I enjoyed my time at the JCC, but then, fortuitously, I was asked to leave. It wasn't that I was a bad kid or one inclined to mischief. It's just that I always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When a catastrophe happened (and it frequently did), I usually wasn't far away and so took the blame for what I would consider minor infractions. The last straw was an apparent impromptu strip show, where several young toughs decided to teach me a lesson and threw me unclothed outside of the men's locker room to the disgust and dismay of the swimmers in the pool and on the deck a floor below. So, it was off to summer camp for me, a blissful place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina -- Camp Blue Star. I took to Blue Star as a pig takes to...uh, it is a Jewish camp, so let me rephrase that. I took to Blue Star like a rebbe takes to a yeshiva. I was in my element and I was able to experience the wonders of nature close up and personal. Nice. For seven years I went to Blue Star as a camper and each summer I spent eight glorious weeks in a cabin and enjoying the program they had set up there. We swam in an outdoor lake, not a pool. It took getting used to, but for me, water is water. I had no problem adapting. And as to campcraft, I was a regular wizard. I was the youngest Junior Instructor for campcraft that the camp had seen at that time. It is little wonder that Scouting seems to still be such a draw to me. Blue Star had some great programs including putting on theatrical productions of a very high caliber. I became a fixture there and several of the counselor fought over who got stuck with me. (Trust em, though, there were worse.) One of my former camp counselors, Macy Hart, left Blue Star around 1969 and became the first director of Camp Henry S. Jacobs in Utica, Mississippi. That's important to know because my son attended Jacobs 25 years later for several years. So, he got to know Macy well too. Another counselor, Jerry Himmelstein, became the Anti-Defamation League director in New Orleans, but he and his wife Linda left after Hurricane Katrina to live in New England, last I heard. The summer offered times for me to get to know the girls that attended the camp and I am thankful for those experiences too. I still have several friends I remember from Blue Star and a few from the New Orleans JCC Day Camp. My son treasures his past summers at Henry S. Jacobs and now his girlfriend is working for the summer guessed...the JCC Summer Day Camp. Small world, but isn't summer great?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mazel tov, Cindy

Today is a very important day in Cleveland. No, it has nothing to do with Juneteenth, although I am sure there are a number of people celebrating that holiday there. Instead, I am referring to today's private gathering at Cleveland Jewish News senior staff reporter Arlene Fine's home, where she held a surprise party for staffers and former staffers to honor Cynthia Dettelbach. The Brooklyn-born longtime editor of the CJN celebrates 30 years at the helm of the editorial department of the award winning publication. Dr. Dettelbach (she received her doctorate in English when she was 37) is affectionately known as "Cindy" by veteran staffers. She is the heart and the soul of the newspaper and still personally inspects every item that is inserted into the weekly Jewish paper and its custom publications like j-Style. In acknowledgment of her many years of service to the regional journalistic community at large, the Cleveland Press Club enrolled her as a member of their Hall of Fame Award in 2006. An award winning columnist for many decades, she admits that she has struggled with personal issues that might have defeated lesser-endowed individuals and discouraged even the bravest among us. Yet, throughout her career she has met all the challenges head on and persevered. Her writing is sterling and her expectations of her staff are very high. She keeps the bar very high for her stable of writers and associate editors because she knows of what they are capable. She is quick to send a hastily constructed article back to its author with a blunt reproval, demanding an immediate rewrite. She is tough, but she is not unfair. She is capable of understanding why something she has slashed from an article needs to be inserted. But pray you have done your homework. If not, she will shoot you down like a frog's tongue can pick off an airborne fly. I can honestly say that whenever an article was handed back to me it was improved immeasurably, the mark of an excellent editor. When I became a refugee in Cleveland right after Hurricane Katrina passed and the levees breached in New Orleans, it was Cindy who insisted that I consider coming on board as a staff reporter for the paper. She fought hard to get me and it was her keen interest in having me join her staff that helped shape my decision to accept my position there. A tireless fighter for the underdog, she can be a major benefactor to one looking for relief or redress. You really do want someone like Cindy in your corner. You positively don't want to be opposed to her unless you want to wage the fight of your life. While I don't agree with all of her political stances, I respect her positions. Through all of her 30 years as the editor-in-chief of the CJN, Cindy has done so with characteristic style and grace. After I left the paper to return to my home in New Orleans in April of 2007, I continued to maintain contact with her through e-mail and via phone calls and I hope to do so for as many of the next 30 years that she will have me. Mazel tov, Cindy! Today's get together was a well-deserved honor. Apparently, some of her "Cindy-isms," a special kind of Cindy-speak, were lovingly brought forth. It was all part of a special recognition from a staff that truly loves her. Just don't forget there's someone else who feels the same way, despite the fact he lives way down yonder in New Orleans!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A lot in two days

Israel Scouts performing for the New Orleans JCC Day Camps
A lot of things have happened in the last two days. Locally, the Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) have come down to the uptown Jewish Community Center for a stellar performance in front of several hundred Day Camp kids. It was an amazing thing to see the Caravan Golan in performance and to see how the children reacted to the ten singing and dancing 17 year-olds. Along with 20 others in two other caravans, they had been selected from among 1400 hopefuls. After practicing for five months of weekends in their native Israel, they began a tour a few weeks ago that will take them from the East Coast through the South and Southwest and on to the West Coast. The five boys and five girls will begin their years of military service to the country following their return to Israel at summer's end. The caravan is led by two 25-year-old veterans of the Tzofim, one man and one woman and I was pleased to meet with them briefly after the show and let them know how great they were. Many of the songs were sung in Hebrew, but it didn't matter. The youngsters in the audience were having a hard time keeping still and not dancing and gyrating to the music with the very friendly and energetic troupe of Israelis.

Later on Tuesday night, the Florence Melton Mini-School, an adult Jewish education course graduated its latest class in ceremonies at the Metairie J.C.C. It was especially interesting for me to see this class graduate because the ceremonies mark the mid-point for me as a first-year student and give me some insight into what my graduation will be like next year. All of the students spoke glowingly of the rabbi instructors, two of whom are now leaving for other posts or pulpits with spouses.

On the national front: Cyd Cherise, the dancing partner of Fred Astaire and others passed away from heart failure at the age of 87 in Hollywood and Tim Russert was eulogized and later buried in private services in Washington, D.C. Life goes on, but not with the same sweetness as it had when they were still among us.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Tzofim Are Coming!

In the United States there are two Scouting organizations recognized by the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM), the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. In Israel there are six associations that are part of its Scouting organization. Most Scouting organizations have boys and girls within their ranks. Israel is no exception here. As a matter of fact, segregation by sex as in the United States is quite rare. In Israel the Hebrew word for "scouts" is tzofim. Among the six Scouting associations, the Hebrew Scouts Association is by far and away the largest at 60,000. The Arab School Scouts Association has some 13,000 members, while the last four groups of Arab and Druze Scouts number a few thousand each. Each year three or four caravans of Israeli (Hebrew) Scouts travel to the United States and entertain crowds in key cities. A very intense competition is held to determine the forty Tzofim who possess the best voices, the most energy and best smiles to act as ambassadors to israel. Several dozen other Tzofim who are lucky get to travel to the U.S. to be located at a number of summer sleep away campus run by various organizations, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) being the chief sponsor. Also, the Friends of the Israel Scouts help raise money to finance the caravans that criss-cross the country performing songs and dancing their way into the hearts of attendees. In some cities the Tzofim perform private concerts for summer day camps, which is great for the kids, but doesn't allow for outsiders to see the show. Last year the Tzofim performed at the uptown J.C.C. for the first time in over a crowd in front of a crowd of over 200. This year, however, the J.C.C.'s summer camp is sponsoring the caravan and they are holding a private show just for day camp attendees. But I will be there and I will get pictures (I hope) of their performance. I am excited...can you tell? These young men and ladies are an inspiration and they beam with confidence about the future of the state of Israel. They are Israel's greatest secret weapon. Interestingly, most of them will enter military service and fulfill a commitment of two or three years right after the summer. So, this free trip from Israel to the U.S. is a great opportunity for them, but an even better opportunity for those of us lucky enough to be in the audience.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

As I sit writing this fine stormy morning with lightning flashing and thunder sounding about me, I am at peace. Today is Father's Day and it is a day from which I derive great solace because being a father has been a full-time occupation for me since my son was born in 1986, but much more urgently applied since my wife passed away in 1995. It is a mantle I wear with honor and, while we don't discuss it much between ourselves, it is my most treasured job. Now that my son has passed from teenager to college student and about to undertake his senior year at my alma mater, I must admit that I am a lot less the center of his attention. Many of the things that interested me when he was a mere tyke still do. These include Scouting, music, theatre, animation and action films, Judaism, and an appreciation for the fairer sex. I hope that many of my values have been instilled in him, but as he is now 22, most of that instruction has either taken or not. I have to stand back and revel in the wonders that he still has to unveil in life. A father can relive his life vicariously through his child, but the journey is like that of a car where you are a mere passenger and no longer in control of the vehicle. As any father, I wish the best for my child and pray that he will live a long and outstanding life. The saddest thing for me is to read or hear about a parent having to bury his child. In his books "Big Russ and Me" and "The Wisdom of Our Fathers," the late Tim Russert made a case for the tireless parent who gives his all in order to provide for his family. Bill Cosby talked at length about what we do in "Fatherhood." To be a father is easy. To be a good father is difficult. Sometimes the lessons we need to teach are painful to both parent and child. Yet, it is a wise parent who knows what has to be done in order to teach and secure his child's way in the world through these lessons. My joy is to see young fathers experiencing the trying relationship for themselves. Eventually it kicks in. This is a limited run. The time a parent spends with a child is well spent, but it is far too short before they no longer have the desire to be with a parent, choosing instead to be with their own peer group in social outings. But isn't that what we most want? To make them upstanding and independent creatures so that they won't have to rely on us for everything? Like it or not, we won't always be able to be there for them, nor they for their children. It is the great continuum as we move on and they take our place. To be a father is to know both joy and pain. It is a road that we fathers happily tread and one, we hope, our sons will embark upon too. My father, both my grandfathers and my maternal great-grandfather have passed on. One day I, too, shall be gone, but the promise that one or more will carry on in my stead gives me pause and lifts me up today and through all of my Fathers Days to come.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert

My apologies to the daily readers of the Kosher Computing blog, but I have been busy at Boy Scout camp for the past few days. I heard the news about Tim Russert, the NBC political correspondent, who unexpectedly passed away yesterday at the age of 58, over one of the parent's radios as they were taking their Scout home early. I was devastated. Russert was one of my most admired TV personalities and I believe he was light years ahead of most commentators. He had an unbelievably easy grasp on one of the most difficult beats to cover: Washington politics. He was an amiable and likeable fellow and I am pleased to report that I was privileged to see and hear him speak at a fundraiser for Cuyahoga Community College (commonly referrred to as "Tri-C") among my first duties as a staff reporter for the Cleveland Jewish News. Russert was a student at Jesuit school John Carroll University, the university that gave my township of University Heights its name. He picked up his law degree at Cleveland State University. So, it was only natural for a Clevleand area university to invite a former Clevelander to talk on the importance of education in that city. Russert reeled off joke after joke in warming up the crowd and he had an easy going manner with the audience. What was most apparent was his deep attachment to his father, whom he wrote so eloquently about in "Big Russ and Me" and his commitment to his Catholic religion. He loved sports almost as much as he loved politics. But it was in politics, as host of NBC's long-running "Meet the Press," where Russert really excelled. Even the Smithsonian decided that his famous slate with the words "Florida. Florida. Florida" from 2000 needed to be enshrined within its hallowed halls. His interviews of famous politicos were as incisive and hard-hitting as anyone could deliver. He could hit a subject with a question head-on and then, when least expected, come back with a follow up that would yield jucier material. When Senators, Representatives and Cabinet members sat before him and the cameras, they had to prepare well in advance and even then many were shaking in their boots knowing a Tim Russert interview was undeniably tough. What a loss for NBC. What a pity for broadcasting. The nation has lost one of its favorite sons and a figure who will be sorely missed when this historic November presidential race is finally played out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Little Sioux Scout Camp

The news from Little Sioux Scout Camp in Iowa is not good. At least four Boy Scouts were killed last night as evening fell in an sudden, unexpected tornado and 40 other Scouts and Scouters (the term used for adult leaders) were injured to varying degrees. The word is that all of the killed were from the Nebraska area, but that has not been confirmed at this time. In the meantime, the Scouting network has risen up to help its own in time of need and has established several efforts to help. First, monetary donations to help rebuild the Little Sioux Scout Camp that was totally destroyed can be made to the Mid-America Council out of Omaha, Nebraska. Second, Scouts and Scouters are being urged to send pictures and letters of support to the families struck so severely by this tragedy. Council Scout Executive Lloyd Roitstein was credited today for his leadership by Chief Scout Executive Robert "Bob" Mazzuca and BSA National President John Gottschalk, whose home council was Mid-America. There is no doubt that were it another group other than the Boy Scouts who were affected, I would strongly suspect that greater loss of life and more suffering would have occurred. Congratulations to the young men who took cover and helped their stricken fellow Scouts after the storm passed. They are a credit to what the Scouting program is all about and a living testament to the Scouting slogan: "Be Prepared!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A man, a plan

I remember several years ago when Tim Bugg, the Scout Executive for the Southeast Louisiana Council, began to actively court volunteers and prospective donors for his preposterous idea that a swimming pool was just what was needed at the Salmen Scout Reservation, the site of our local council's Boy Scout camp. And just where was he proposing that the pool be constructed? Why right smack in the middle of the parking lot across from the dining hall! With a beautiful lake located just a few hundred feet down from the main complex, I thought it was unnecessary and downright inconvenient. After all, every Scout who had regularly attended Boy Scout camp through the past 75 years or so had learned to swim in the lukewarm waters of a lake. It has been like that ever since I can remember at the new Salmen Scout Reservation. Well, Tim Bugg left for the Heart of America Council just before Katrina and I thought that all of this pool nonsense would go away. I was wrong. The new Scout Executive, John Cabeza, picked up the torch just where Bugg had dropped it and the discussions became even more fevered pitch. Last year, after all the damage was fixed from the camp facilities, a major donor came forward with the final funds needed to put in that pool. Over the course of the last year, the work commenced until today where an Olympic size pool is in place at Salmen Scout Reservation for the first time. I must admit that I wish the parking lot was still there, but now with a brand new state-of-the-art climbing tower adjacent to it, the swimming pool is looking mighty good. Congratulations to John Cabeza and his crack team including John Olynick, Director of Field Services. This pool can only improve the numbers of Scouts that will attempt to get their aquatics merit badges. It is a wonderful addition to an already impressive set of facilities.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tigers Lair

And now time for a sports break. Normally, I am not that interested in filing local sports stories, but I am making an exception because the news from Baton Rouge is (in my estimation) worth noting.
Following their first loss in 24 games, the LSU Tigers in a must-win game pulled out a 9-7 victory over the Anteaters of UC-Irvine on Sunday night. Again, with the end of the season on the line and the final game ever to be played at Alex Box Stadium on the LSU campus, the Tigers wallopped the Anteaters tonight 21-7 to move from the Super Regional to the College World Series. The Tigers knew they had to come out swinging and swinging they did. With powerful hitting and nearly flawless fielding, the game extended LSU's winning record to 25 of the last 26 games. LSU registered 24 hits in 49 at bats and started the game off by scoring an impressive six times in the first inning including three back-to-back four baggers. The Anteaters, whose pitching staff was as deep as any seen in the college ranks, were stunned and never recovered. Also, the crowd of 8,173 registered for Monday night's decision was announced as the largest crowd ever to witness a game there. Next year a new stadium will be dedicated bearing the same name as the venerable stadium built back in 1938. But for now the focus will be on the upcoming games in Omaha, Nebraska against North Carolina, LSU's first opponent, the time and dates still to be determined. This will be LSU's 14th appearance at the College World Series, held since 1950 at Rosenblatt Stadium. The Tigers have won the CWS title five times before (1991, 1993,1996, 1997 and 2000).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Big Brown Boondoggle

Oh, my. Were I to have had the mortgage on Ed McMahon's house, I would have bet it all on Big Brown today. Were I to have had loose cash, I would have waged it all on what was a sure bet in the Triple Crown. Let's face it. The worst kept secret in all of sports this year was that Big Brown was going to be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. It was the lock of the year. And, yet, Big Brown pulled up in what should have been the greatest triumph of his career and became famous, or infamous, for a startling fact. Big Brown is the first last-place finisher of the Belmont that had previously won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Oh, this must have been God's greatest joke on those of us who had hoped to see another horse follow in the tradition of Citation, Secretariat and Seattle Slew. Like Smarty Jones four years ago, we had a horse with great promise that did not measure up. I must admit that the hoopla from the press got me excited and moved from hopeful to anxious. There's no stopping this one, every reporter would trumpet over the airwaves or publish in print or online. It is very easy to be sucked into the maelstrom of the media hype and to lose perspective, allowing disappointment to set in when hope is dashed against the pari-mutuel windows. So, until next year when the first weekend in May brings us yet another Kentucky Derby, I will endeavor to not be so easily turned into one of the mindless members of the mob whose thoughts and actions (and perhaps wagering) are shaped by the media. I'd give you five-to-one on that.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Today is an auspicious day. With humility, I reference the 64th anniversary of the Allied Invasion that signalled the beginning of the end of the Axis forces in World War II. Notwithstanding a push from East by the Russians, the lives lost at places with names like Omaha and Utah paved the way for a beachhead that became a stanglehold on the European continent and allowed U.S. , British and French forces to battle their way into the heart of the Nazi war machine. We should all honor those brave souls who fought for liberty and who guaranteed our freedom with their very lives. The National World War II Museum opened here eight years ago as the then appropriately phrased D-Day Museum. In the intervening years, it was decided that there were other D-Days that were observed or could be observed. The focus on just June 6, 1944 was determined to be too specific. The Pacific campaign as well as battles waged on other significant dates could not be recalled easily if the focus was just on Normandy. The National World War II Museum is undergoing an expansion program now and will be increasing in size significantly in the coming years.
Happy Birthday, too, to my brother-in-law David Sobel, who lives in Sydney, Australia and who probably won't be able to read about this until tomorrow. When David moved back to Australia from a short stint here in New Orleans (he couldn't stomach the crime), my father remarked that I would probably be able to count the number of times I would see him again on both hands. So far, my dad has been right. David was here last year, but I've seen him fewer than five times in the 13 years that my wife Sally (his sister) passed away. I've seen my two nephews (Joshua and Trevor) and his wife Pamela even less.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When drivers belong in a golf bag

In every computing day there is an opportunity to become incensed, infuriated and enraged and it usually has something to do with drivers. Drivers are the items in software that make the hardware items work. Drivers are needed for just about everything in computers. So, when they work, they are cute, adorable and lovely or we don't really consider them. However, when they fail, watch out for falling computers from window ledges! Drivers supported in stable operating systems are what made Microsoft an industry leader. When Windows 95 and Windows 98 came out, they were hailed by computing folk because they came pre-loaded with all kinds of common drivers. This made connecting a new Windows 9x to an existing printer or other device fairly simple. Yet, Microsoft knew that it couldn't possibly support all drivers forever. With each new operating system release (Windows XP and Windows Vista), only the most popular drivers in the preceding two years have been included, much to the chagrin of several new OS owners with legacy devices. In addition when Windows NT 4.0 was released and, later, Windows 2000, an entirely different set of drivers were needed because those systems were based on a different kind of operating system whereby there was an executive kernel that did not allow the applications to directly attach themselves to the central processor unit (CPU), commonly referred to as the chip. That may not seem like a big deal, but anyone who had their computers freeze under the Windows 9x operating systems knows full well of the complications that could arise should an application refuse to relinquish its hold on the CPU. Windows XP was based on the NT technology developed originally as IBM's OS/2 and then later released by Microsoft as a business solution. If an application were to "hang" under that operating system, the executive kernel would release it and allow other applications time to access the CPU. Then, the non-responsive application could be shut down without affecting the entire operating system. So, why am I talking about drivers on a day when I should be complaining about searing 90 degree heat or congratulating Barack Obama on a job well done in winning the necessary number of delegates to assure him the nomination of the Democratic Party? It's because legacy drivers for a SCSI host adapter (old technology) that were supposed to be working on two new server builds (Windows 2003 Small Business Server and Windows 2008) are both presenting me with an error that tells me the devices are not working properly. This is where experience tells me to be patient and take a deep breath. It is all part of the length and breadth of dealing with computers. Eventually, the problem will be overcome or a substitute device will be inserted that will correct the error. So, every computing day can also be an opportunity to be informed, exhilarated and enlightened. Of course, it is easy to say this after the fact. While it is occurring, it is downright frustrating. Once it is fixed (and it will be), there is a wonderful feeling of ecstasy that takes over as one realizes that no matter how dastardly these computers will be, man will always triumph. That being said, I am still tempted right now to open up a window and yell out "fore!" Temperamental drivers should never be on the roads or inside computers. However, inside of golf bags is another thing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Innovator

Recently, two movies about Leonard Chessman and his highly influential Chess and Checker Records labels have been filmed in New Orleans. As many people know, New Orleans and Louisiana have become hot spots for filming independent and major studio films due to legislation that offers state tax credits to productions that shoot a significant portion of their schedules in the state and hire local union members in the process. These state tax credits are typically sold at 80 cents on the dollar to savvy speculators who in turn sell them to large taxpayers. It's a system that has been highly successful and has resulted in major pictures being filmed here like the Academy Award winner "Ray," Denzel Washington's "Deja Vu" and the upcoming Brad Pitt release "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." On the downside of this progress there have been allegations of abuse levied at some producers who, having snagged the tax credits, never finished or released their productions. These cheaters are guilty of bilking millions of dollars from the state treasury, but it is very difficult to force producers to finish their movies or videos in order to remove the specter of suspicion from them. Regardless, though, the fact is two movies on the very historically important Chess Records will be in theaters within the next year, one by a major studio and the other an independent release. Unfortunately, one of the great stars of Chess Records will not be able to view these films. That man was simply known as "The Innovator," the one and only Bo Diddley, 79, who died yesterday of heart failure in Florida. With his unique rectangular guitar and playing style, Diddley became a mainstay for true lovers of rock and roll who loved his simple and joyous way of playing and singing. His charming stage presence often belied his well-earned position as a true pioneer. But a pioneer he was. Diddley, whose real name was Elias Bates and later Elias McDaniel after a cousin adopted him, claimed he never received his fair share of receipts throughout his career. "A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun," he bemoaned once. That may very well be true, but that never stopped him from playing his guitar and singing his songs up until about a year ago when he suffered a stroke in Iowa. The recovering musician was later hit with a heart attack last August from which he never fully recovered. Diddley, who may have taken his name from a diddle bow, a rustic instrument oftentimes made from square pieces of wood or cigar boxes, inspired scores of well-known musicians with his simple "shave and a haircut" staccato rock melodies. Buddy Holly, who in turn went on to inspire the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, was a disciple of Diddley's infectious backbeat and soulful singing. Latter day rock heroes like Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello were, likewise, endeared to Diddley's style and were among many others who credited him with legendary stature in the rock and roll world. Both Diddley and another Chess star, Chuck Berry, were credited with making electric guitar play a necessary component of rock and roll music. Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the second year ceremonies were held. He had a star on the venerated Hollywood Walk of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1999. Not bad for a poor kid from McComb, Mississippi (about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans) who was raised in the streets of Chicago and didn't start playing guitar (a gift from his sister) until he was ten. Bo Diddley recaptured some of his earlier fame when he appeared in the "Bo Knows" campaign for Nike featuring another well-known namesake, Bo Jackson. In that ad, the guitar player grimaced and made the comment: "He don't know diddley." Bo Diddley knew a lot about music and some of his major hits like his self-titled 1955 "Bo Diddley," "Say Man" and "Who Do You Love?" will be with us for many years to remind us of his genius and his great gift of music to the nation and the world.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Difference

Last week I was shocked to read about the new Jewish state Attorney General who was accused of having an affair with an office worker and who was forced to resign in the face of scandal. No, I'm not talking about Buddy Caldwell, Louisiana's own Jewish Attorney General. He is doing quite well and I am glad to say working hard to clean up an office besmirched by the ill-advised tactics of his predecessor. No, I am referring to Marc Dann, Ohio's recently elected and now publicly disgraced chief state prosecutor and enforcer of laws. Talk about a fall from grace. Dann was selected in the 2006 midterm elections as a young man of promise during the same period that propelled Lee Fisher, another Jew, into the second highest office of the state, Lt. Governor. In a well-orchestrated campaign Dann had little to say to the Jewish media on his way up and he has even less to say now that he has been ensnared in a political boondoggle and a scandalous littany of charges dealing with sexual harrassment in his office by others and sexual infidelity on his part. Like previous transgressions that have brought down others like New York Governor Eliot Sptitzer, Dann was caught up in the power of his office and the power of his prowess as a man. Unfortunately, when the man caught with his pants down is Jewish, it's not just that his religion becomes obvious. It also reflects badly on his core values and ethics, which should, after all, be held to the highest of levels due to thousands of years of rabbinical thinking and moral conduct. After a State Legislature Special Session passed the most extensive package of laws dealing with ethics a few months ago, Louisiana has taken the lead in setting the bar for politicians and public servants. This is all part of new Governor Bobby Jindal's plan to restore confidence in government. That is a paradigm shift for a state that was commonly referred to as a "banana republic" by some and repeatedly thought of as the laughing stock of the country by comedians who noted how many of our elected officials were serving terms in federal prisons. I take no schadenfreude at Dann's personal demise or Ohio's scandal, which leaves a major hole in Governor Ted Strickland's cabinet. However, I do note that while scandals have plagued New Jersey, New York and now Ohio, Louisiana seems to be moving from beneath the shadow of constant suspicion and finger pointing. Have we truly made the turn? Only time will tell, but I have hope we have. That hope and a new commitment on the part of Louisiana elected officials towards change makes a big difference in the way politics was conducted in the past here.
Sad news from Hollywood over the loss of several of the more famous backlot sets at Universal Studios. When I was there last week, I thought of taking in a day at Universal Studios and seeing the King Kong "ride" and the "Back to the Future" courthouse set, both apparently lost in the conflagration yesterday. A lot of history went up in smoke, but according to spokesmen from the studios, much of it will be rebuilt.
Our prayers should be extended to Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy as he prepares for surgery at Duke University this morning. With an inoperable brain tumor, he has the fight of his life ahead of him. His wife, the former Victoria Reggie, hails from Crowley, Louisiana, and is the sister of a good friend and the daughter of a former customer. I wish the Senator the very best and his family the strength to get through this troubling period.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

No Reason for Hurricane Season

It was Jimmy Buffett who came up with the tongue-in-cheek ditty "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season" several decades ago on his "A1A" album. In his wonderful irreverant way Buffett described how hard life was waking up from a nap in his hammock and trying to deal with an incoming storm between drinks. That was the way things used to be here in New Orleans when a storm threatened. Like Jimmy Buffett, the hardest thing was to find the strainer for the drinks. The old joke went: "Q: How many New Orleanians does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: Five. Four to mix the drinks and one to call N.O.P.S.I." That joke is even more outdated now because New Orleans Public Service Incorporated that formerly was responsible for electric power and gas service in most of Orleans Parish (except the West Bank) hasn't existed in several years since it was replaced by Entergy. But you get my point. We were a fun-loving bunch down here, unafraid and untouched by any force of nature. That is, until Hurricane Katrina. Today, June 1, is the official beginning of the Hurricane Season, running until November 1. It's the third time since the 2005 storm slammed into the city and we New Orleanians do take notice. We start buying up gobs of batteries, hording water and looking to make sure we have plenty of gasoline in our tanks (even if it costs us a bundle). Anyone who doesn't already own a generator is either planning on leaving town for an extended stay away should a storm threaten or is in the process of acquiring one. I must admit that it seems a lifetime ago when the beginning of the 2005 storm season started. But in the wake of the catastrophe, few recall that Tropical Storm Cindy hit the city on July 6, seven weeks before Katrina. Cindy, which showed up on weather maps at the last minute, downed a goodly number of uptown and Broadmoor area trees and cut power to a number of homes. Cleanup operations took well over a week before things were back to normal in the Big Easy. Many were turning their heads around and asking what happened? How could a nothing storm wreak so much damage? We should have known better, but most of us went about our business not heeding the initial warning. Around this time people at the Times-Picayune and local TV stations were also publishing stories and airing specials about what could happen if "The Big One" hit New Orleans. Well, as far as a I'm concerned, the Big One was Katrina and nobody I know is reaching for the cocktail strainer any longer. We are serious about possibilities of further loss of life and property and can no longer maintain a lax attitude or promulgate the stereotype that we are lackadaisical. After all, we do live in the City That Care Forgot, but these days, when it comes to hurricane season, we do care a lot.