Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Last Chance Workout

Howdy, pardner. This here's the Old West and this fancy saloon is called The Last Chance. See that fellow over yonder at the far end of the bar? Yep, the one sippin' water, like a horse. That's none other than Slim Smason. Now, Slim is lookin' pretty good these days, but nigh over a month ago he was sittin' a lot heavier in his saddle. Seems like he made some kind of wager in a contest called "The Biggest Loser." Heh heh...that's some name, huh? Anyway, ol' Slim started eatin' different. He wouldn't have none of them Porterhouse steaks or eat any of them fancy desserts we got here on the menu. Nope. He ate chicken and turkey and canned tuna. Can you imagine? He swore off any of them carbonated fountain drinks like sasparilla and said goodbye to rockgut whiskey. We thought he was a bit peculiar before, but then he started hookin' up with this outfit called the JCC. They put that feller through his paces like a dude at a ranch. A lot of us were balled up laughing at Slim. One feller at the JCC had him doin' all kinds of exercisin' and he was a'huffin' and a'puffin' and sweatin' like a Brahma bull. They worked him so hard he was put away wet every day. But it wasn't long before ol' Slim started sheddin' weight like crazy. He lost two, four, six, ten, fifteen pounds before long and he started lookin' a bit taller in his saddle too. So, today the jig is up. Slim is due to get checked out at the JCC outfit and for them to record just how much weight and inches he's lost. Slim says his blood pressure is a lot lower and he's movin' around a lot more spry these days. Regardless of whether he's the Biggest Loser or not, he's already a winner, he says. Well, that's about all I got to say, pardner. I'm headin' across the street to the other big saloon to celebrate with the rest of the town about how we corralled them Mavericks last night. You know that place, don't ya? It's called The Second Round!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In the Microsoft world

I am sitting in a ballroom of the Baton Rouge Marriott Hotel. Inside are nearly 300 IT professionals who are watching two large projection screens on left and right with a speaker on a platform in the center. Behind him is a three-foot tall by 15-foot wide projection that reads "Microsoft." The easy-going, tall speaker, Sean, is wearing an iris blue long-sleeved shirt emblazoned with a white Microsoft logo over the pocket that already bears his name tag. It is his job to address the group and explain in an informative and pleasant manner the functionality of Windows 2008 Server. He does this via a wireless microphone that extends from behind his right hear to the corner of his mouth. His banter accompanies the colorful slide presentations he has prepared on his laptop. Because it was only released two months ago, most of the group gathered inside the room has never had an opportunity to install, much less configure Windows 2008 Server. They are here to learn about the new operating system. In short one could consider Windows 2008 Server as pretty much Windows Vista Server just as Windows 2003 could have been viewed as Windows XP Server. Occasionally he will crack an IT joke, referencing some obscure code or something that only a few IT professionals will understand. Other times he does something unexpected or a message appears that asks whether his system is authentic and the room roils in laughter. Believe me, any kind of humor will make this presentation more tolerable. Two of the most interesting concepts so far have included Windows PowerShell, a return to a command line interface for Windows to permit better utilization of applications and more efficient operations (can you say Linux?) and Server Vitualization with Hyper-v, which will allow consolidation of different virtual machines on a network and allows for management through another Microsoft product called System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Of course, the latter products can only be installed on a 64-bit system, which could cause problems with drivers on an existing network, but it's all in the name of progress at Microsoft. The room is packed for a simple reason: everyone who attends gets free Microsoft software (Full versions of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio and SQL Server are given out like candy to an eager pre-teen). That's well worth the three to four hours for sessions that can be about as dry as a bone. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," the expert drones on as he does a hands-on demonstration of virtual machine access. For me, his explaining how to use command line interface to many of the IT professionals in the audience is almost like experiencing deja vu. Microsoft began its dominance of the computing world when it launched DOS (disk operating system) back in the 1980s. It was a command line interface. They have now come full circle due to several reasons. The most primary is due to security concerns exacerbated by hackers who were able to take over Windows computers remotely while using the Windows GUI (graphical user interface) that Microsoft has trumpeted for ease of use since Windows 95. Security holes have been closed, but there are so many problems that have been exposed that Microsoft has had to rethink the concept of having devices employ a GUI. If it is truly easy to use for the end-user, it follows it must also be easy for the hacker to gain entry into the server or other computers on the network. So to keep unwanted computers off networks, they have employed a battery different options, all of which are intended to make computers more secure and to validate all computers on the network. "Remember, I didn't build this system," Sean says innocently as laughter is heard throughout the room. "But I do know the guys who did." Finally, after he goes over the time allotted by 30 minutes, the room doors burst open and the busy crowd rushes to get their free software. Part two is upcoming, dealing with providing solutions for clients. But I will venture a guess and it's not a long shot. It will be more of the same. The good news is that there is some learning that is going on. The bad news is that a lot of it is tedious. But, then again, who said networking computers was all that much fun anyway?

Monday, April 28, 2008

This and that

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal makes the Hollywood scene tonight with his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Since the writer's strike is over, perhaps he will be able to get someone to write some zingers for him. Lately, the governor has had a busy time playing host to President Bush and Republican nominee apparent John McCain. It will be good to see him out from underneath other politicians' shadows and standing (or sitting as it were) on his own. Jindal follows several highly visible governors including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mike Foster.
I've got less than two days of the JCC's "Biggest Loser " contest left and now that Passover is over I can start to enjoy (and I use that term loosely) items like rice cakes again. My weight is now down to 172 pounds from my starting weight of 187. Also, my blood pressure is down to 120/70 from the starting point of 120/80. In short, I feel great and my midsection has shrunk appreciably. The benefit of the work in the gym can readily be seen in my arms and legs, which each have more definition. The only sad part of my experience is that my trainer's last day with me and the program is this Wednesday. After that I am on my own or I need to consider having more sessions with him.
Congratulations to the New Orleans Hornets who are one game away from advancing to the second round of the NBA playoffs after they dispatched the Dallas Mavericks last night, 97-84. They have advanced further than any other New Orleans NBA franchise. I know that Clevelanders love King James, but Chris Paul has proven to be superhuman, coming into his own and leading the Hornets throughout this season to the delight of local fans. Some may recall that some of the biggest NBA records at the time in the late 1970s were registered in the Superdome and took place when the Jazz was still a New Orleans team and Pete Maravich was the local star. After the Jazz left in 1979, this city which had previously hosted an ABA franchise, the New Orleans Buccaneers, went without a professional basketball franchise until four years ago when owner George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans from North Carolina, a move that still smarts for the Tarheels.
A Microsoft event takes place in Baton Rouge tomorrow. The experts there will show the latest permutations of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio and SQL Server. I am looking forward to it and I'll give you a report on how the event turns out.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Creepy Crawlers

A typical New Orleans house pet

When I was first living in Cleveland, I was always expecting roaches to pop out from underneath the kitchen cupboards or to be running along the baseboards. It was just what I considered a normal expectation of life. However careful one may be, any food in New Orleans kitchens drew roaches, pure and simple. A typical "pet" was the large cockroach with the small head and large thorax and abdomen that runs about an inch and a half in length. There were also the smaller variety of German cockroaches with a smaller, less segmented body that were an inch or less in length. It wasn't until a few weeks after my stay in Cleveland due to what locals now call "the federal flood of 2005" that I began to notice there weren't any roaches in Cleveland. Apparently, the one benefit that those long bitter winters yields is a virtual eradication of the roach population. What few members of the crawling insect variety that choose to live in Cleveland are much smaller in scale and rarely sprout wings as their larger New Orleans cousins do. I mention this because last night I began to open up the cupboards where I had stored my non-kosher for Passover foods. As you might expect, I got the expected scurrying of unwanted pests as light hit the inside of the cabinets for the first time in over a week. Some of the New Orleans variety of cockroaches actually are fairly brazen. If the lights are on, they don't care. One can almost hear them shouting "Hey, buddy, turn that thing off!" Cockroaches, which can aggravate asthma and cause allergies leave a trail of their excrement behind them (sorry if you're eating when you're reading this), especially if they happen on to find crumbs or other food items inadvertently left on countertops. Trust me. Cleaning is a way of life that is necessary in New Orleans kitchens and bathrooms where the pesky critters seem to congregate. Local comedian Ricky Graham says you can tell a native from a visitor because natives know just the right amount of foot pressure to apply from their shoes to a cockroach to kill them, but not so much as to ruin the carpet.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wet Jazz Fest

Yesterday's opening of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was a splendid day for sun and fun, but today's performances were dampened by the heavy rains that poured throughout the latter portion of the day. With the ground already soaked and mud in abundance on the infield, tomorrow's expected heavy rains suggest, perhaps, alternative plans should be made. For the diehard Jazz Fest enthusiasts, no amount of drizzle, downpour, inundation, thunderstorm, squall, or cyclonic disturbance will prevent them from attending. And the same could be said for the performers. One of the highest paid professionals was Billy Joel, whose rain-soaked and thunderstorm-filled set was cut short by a half hour due to the floodgates that had opened up in the skies. Joel was quoted as having shouted out at the sky "Is that the best you got? C'mon, bring it on!" While this is all in keeping with the spirit of the Jazz Fest that emphasizes fun, great music, delicious food, creative crafts and pride in the local culture, to experience the festival in the rain takes a lot of stamina and mind over matter. As Satchel Paige once said, "If you don't mind, it don't matter." I recall going to one of the early Jazz Festivals with none other than Leigh Harris, known to her fans as L'il Queenie. The downpour was so bad and the mud was so thick that the half boots I wore were caked with mud through and through. After the Fest was over, I remember walking over to a nearby home and using their water hose to hose off most of the mud. The shoes had been worn only a few times before and had been soft and pliant. After the festival, they changed colors and were stiff as a board. No amount of saddle soap or store bought treatment could save them from the garbage heap. In the end the performances and the time were reckoned easily worth the price of one pair of shoes. However, with today's walk-up $50 price tag to see the Jazz Fest and the cost of good shoes up at least 200% from what they were 29 years ago, one may question if it's all worth the trip. My favorite way to see the festival is to ride a bicycle into the front gate. You dispense with the cost of parking and the time involved in finding a safe spot and pretty much can leave whenever you want, squirting through tight spaces and blasting past the worst of the traffic. However, there is nothing more dangerous than riding a bicycle on the rain slick streets of this city when Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras or some other celebration is ongoing. It is an accident waiting to happen and I loathe pedaling in the rain. Of course sitting and sloshing through the mud is not all that enticing either. Frankly, I will miss not seeing my hero Elvis Costello as he sings with our great performer Allen Toussaint, but the opportunity to stay warm, dry and mud free is too enticing for me to pass up. Lastly, I console myself with the knowledge that there still is another weekend of Jazz Fest upcoming. As Billy Joel sang yesterday, that's why I'll be "Keeping the Faith."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stumpin' with McCain

John McCain arrived in New Orleans today to tour the still devastated Ninth Ward area and to speak at the mostly African-American campus of Xavier University. He took particular pains to distance himself from the Bush administration and the sorry response it had to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There was no doubt that McCain was not speaking as a Senator, who like his fellow Senators Obama and Clinton, did little to breed confidence in the government in the days following the cataclysm. McCain was speaking as a presidential hopeful and one whose rhetoric spoke more towards what he would have done were he in charge as opposed to what he actually did to inspire our citizens, all of whom were forced to flee their homes and businesses. Today many of them are still trying to recover from the unprecedented disaster. If we trust what McCain said today, the citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast would have little to fear if another "100 year" storm were to slam into the vicinity head on. He would direct the recovery effort himself from the tarmac of whatever nearby airport he would land Air Force One. He pledged: "Never again, never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way this was handled." That's quite a bit of posturing for McCain, who heretofore has never been quite as reproachful of the Bush administration in the area of domestic policy. McCain has been quite careful in the past not to tie his hitch to the Bush wagon train, especially as anti-war demonstrators have encircled the wagons. He has had the indelicate task of supporting the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, while distancing himself from Bush. When asked if the responsibility for the disaster in New Orleans goes all the way up the ladder to Bush, McCain answered "yes." The speech could be McCain's sharpest criticism of the President. Given the fact it was delivered to a group that experienced much of the pain and suffering brought about by the incompetence of a poorly managed FEMA response team, it received thunderous response. As a member of Congress, McCain also shouldered some of the blame too. He was critical of his fellow Senators and those Representatives who continued to add pork barrel projects to legislation when much of that money could have been earmarked for hurricane relief. McCain was one of the first Senators to tour the city after the storm, but that was due in large part to a response from Women of the Storm, a local group who petitioned Congress to see for themselves what was happening (or the lack thereof) in New Orleans. McCain and others made the trip in March 2006, almost seven months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Make no mistake about it. New Orleans is not Republican territory. Through the years it has largely supported liberal Democrats, while neighboring Metairie, Baton Rouge and much of the northern areas of Shreveport and Monroe have constituted a fairly large amount of staunch Republicans (or registered Democrats who vote Republican). In a way he vindicated himself because of remarks reported earlier in the week on CBS and by Newsweek that suggested McCain was unsure whether or not to rebuild the Ninth Ward. "I really don't know...that's why I'm going," he was reported as having said. Local organizations spearheading relief like ACORN were appalled that McCain, or any presidential candidate for that matter, would be unsure about the rebuilding efforts there at this juncture. McCain may have had his most difficult moments when he was asked how he could justify the huge cost of waging the war in Iraq and Afghanistan when only a small fraction of that cost has trickled into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He was also asked why he favors making the Bush tax cuts that favored corporations and the upper tax brackets when many of those cuts resulted in the loss of federal funds supporting minority education institutions like Xavier University. The controversy of Barack Obama's connection with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright surfaced briefly when McCain was confronted by a student who questioned how he could accept a political endorsement from the Rev. John Magee, a Christian evangelical, who has claimed that Hurricane Katrina was divine retribution for the sinners who lived in New Orleans. To his credit, McCain called Magee's remarks "nonsense." He also pointed out that there is a major difference between accepting an endorsement and attending a pastor's church for 22 years. McCain will probably take Louisiana in a face-to-face showdown with either Obama or Clinton. It is safe to say, though, that while he probably won't win in New Orleans proper, he generated an incredible amount of positive public relations as a result of his stop here. A later stopover in Baton Rouge to raise funds for his continuing campaign marked the end of a busy day for the Republican nominee apparent.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Political Nexus

Hot on the heels of the North American summit between President Bush, Mexican president Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a few days comes news which should put New Orleans even more in in the political spotlight. Republican nominee apparent John McCain will be here tomorrow to tour the Ninth Ward area and to meet with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the new wunderkind of the Republican Party. McCain will only be here for a day to pump up his statewide campaign, where he appears heavily favored to win the state in the November presidential elections. Meanwhile, Jindal is looking forward to making his first national TV appearance on Monday's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. How Jindal comes across will definitely help shape how big a player he will be in the Republican convention and there are several of his biggest supporters who are hoping to catapult his popularity into a run for higher elective office on the national scene. Meanwhile, former Democrat John Kennedy (now a member of the G.0.P.) geared up his campaign for U.S. Senator with a powerful ally, none other than the top Republican, President Bush, at a rally yesterday in Baton Rouge. The President appeared at a fundraiser for Kennedy who hopes to unseat popular politico Mary Landrieu. Landrieu has been raising money for her own war chest, but she has yet to draw as impressive a figure as Bush to endorse her.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is relishing a hard fought victory in Pennsylvania. While North Carolina and Indiana loom large, it is apparent that she is seeing her former hold over the nomination process slip away from her although she is holding a firm line. If she were able to pull off an upset in North Carolina, I would be the first one to rally the troops for her, but even the most ardent of her backers acknowledge that Obama looks like a shoe-in there and that her best hope is Indiana, provided she wins big. As Sonny and Cher once sang, "The Beat Goes On."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Big Easy Music Awards

In many ways the New Orleans recovery scene looks bleak. The progress being made in the Ninth Ward can be measured not by blocks, but by the erection of single houses. Lakeview looks a lot better today, but imagine that one or two houses stand on a single block, while the rest is empty space, sandlots and grass growing where beautiful houses and mansions once stood. The bulldozers and wrecking cranes have had their final say on a conservative 60% of the housing there. While FEMA trailers are for the most part gone from the scene, the homes that were so severely damaged that their tenants have permanently relocated cry out for lack of attention and upkeep in areas like Broadmoor and Mid City. But if the physical progress can be measured at a crawl, the mental return from survival mode to exuberant cheerleaders can best be seen in the arts scene. Last night while President Bush dined at Commander's Palace, the New Orleans arts community feasted on two major events. At Le Chat Noir a packed house enjoyed the Storer Boone Awards that are nominated, voted on and passed out annually by the theatre community. I was not in attendance there as I headed over to Harrah's Theatre for the 20th annual Big Easy Music Awards. The music community honored its own last night with a celebration involving live performances and mixed media. In the end 29 awards were passed out to a widely divergent set of musicians, singers, and promoters of various things having to do with musical New Orleans. Top award recipients included Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, who received the 2008 Music Heritage Award. Johnson still spends much of his time away from the city living in Houston, the city to which he evacuated just prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. WWOZ passed out several honors to volunteers who had helped their radio station survive the terrible times following Hurricane Katrina. Station manager David Freedman was on hand to reveal that Rolling Stone Magazine had tabbed the quirky radio station with worldwide web listernership in addition to local devotees as the Number Two Radio Station in the country. (Only subscribers and you know about this information because the magazine has yet to hit newsstands.) Jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. received the 2008 Big Easy Ambassador of Music Award, while his former partner, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, got the nod as the 2008 Entertainer of the Year, largely based on his Grammy Award winning "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Rhythm and blues pianist Eddie Bo received the 2008 Lifetime Achievement in Music Award from local legend Allen Toussaint and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu. The droll Harry Shearer served as master of ceremonies and much of his banter reflected on his dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's response to the Hurricane Katrina relief on a local level. Newcomer Troy Andrews and veteran performer Irma Thomas received top male and female performer honors for 2007. But it was the live performances that captured the indomitable spirit of New Orleans and Louisiana. For me one of the best was the Big Easy Awards Funky All Star Band directed by Donald Harrison, Jr. and featuring Shamarr Allen, Troy Andrews, "Big" Sam Williams, Matt Perrine, Stanton Moore and Jon Cleary (who won the Best Rhythm and Blues Artist for 2007 as well) that really made me feel that I had arrived back home. There's simply no other way to describe the feeling I had as they churned out "Hey Pocky Way," a Mardi Gras Indian funk classic first popularized by the Meters. The evening ended with Lafayette native hip hopper Cupid singing his popular "Cupid Shuffle" and the entire hall standing up and moving to the directions from the singer ("to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right; to the left, to the left, to the left, to the left; now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick; now walk it by yourself, walk it by yourself.") It was a great night for New Orleans music and an even better night for the city to once again feel proud of all that it has achieved since the storm. My hats off to Awards organizer Gloria Powers and Margo and Clancy Dubos of Gambit Magazine who have sponsored this incredible local awards ceremony for the past two decades!
The last time there was this much media attention in Pennsylvania, it was Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil was looking for his shadow. Whether the Clinton campaign continues or grinds to a halt, only the voters of Pennsylvania can tell. For you Clinton supporters who are not voting in Pennsylvania's primary today, perhaps you will consider voting in our poll at right.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Sixth Child

Passover has always been a family oriented holiday. It is not unlike the American celebration of Thanksgiving when family members will travel cross country just to make it to the dinner table to break bread with their loved ones. Of course, at Passover we don't break bread. We break matzah (unleavened bread) instead. Before we partake of any foodstuff, we read from a special Passover prayerbook called a Haggadah. Haggadot (plural) are as varied as the permutations of Jewish observance. Some are plain Jane texts of Hebrew and English. Some have beautiful illustrations with detailed commentary, while others are far more inventive with games for the kids and song parodies. It is all in the spirit of the holiday which celebrates the redemption of the Hebrew slaves from an oppressed to a self-determining people who owe their existence to the direct intervention of God. Early in the Haggadah reading we are told of the Four Sons or Four Children who could attend a Passover meal called a seder. The Haggadah gives instruction on how to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt to the Wise, the Wicked (or Contrary), the Simple, and the One Who Knows Not to Ask. Before he died, the Labavitcher Rebbe (Menachem Mendel Schneerson) instituted the concept of the Fifth Child, whom he described as the One Who Could Not Attend. Furthermore, some have gone to suggest that the Fifth Son might be representative of the children who perished during the Holocaust. As a member of a family, one can measure the changes in family structure and size by attending seders through the years. My maternal grandmother put on huge Passover productions. She not only had two sets of dishes for meat and milk for Passover alone, but went so far as to have a special stove and a special dishwasher that were only used at Passover time. I recall my Great Aunt Tante Pearlman, who attended my materal grandmother's huge affairs with her son. Her son David was a relatively young man who passed away shortly before his mother expired. Cousins would see each other for an evening and then not see each other for another year. The link was always through the Passover seder. After my grandmother passed away, my mother and my uncle and his wife continued the practice of hosting seders alternating with each other as to who would play host. Although these were much smaller affairs, they were similarly rewarding in connecting to family members. I watched my cousins grow up, the youngest of whom just became a mother herself for the first time a few months ago. I saw how the hardships of divorce and death affected family members and I offered my help whenever it was appropriate. Lately, I have started thinking about all of those family members I no longer see, those proper and genteel Southern ladies who would grace my grandmother's seder or those kindly gentlemen who sat at the table observing the ordinances for the holiday. They are at the seder, but only in memory. I would suggest that we might want to consider a new Passover tradition of recalling the Sixth Child: the one who grew up, experienced the Passover holiday through the years, but is no longer physically or mentally capable of being there or has gone on to meet his or her Maker. Passover is always open to new traditions. Recent changes to the traditional observance include the concept of a Miriam's Cup filled with water that is placed on the table as well as an orange that is included, both to emphasize and glorify the feminist contribution to our faith. When I think about all those faces I no longer see at a family seder, I wax sadly about it. Would it not be an appropriate way to acknowledge those whose company we can no longer enjoy than to say a word or two about them during the night's reading? I would suggest that we should prepare a few words to consider the Sixth Child (or Sixth Son). I know I miss seeing so many of my loved ones at the Passover seder. And it is true that eventually I, too, will be a Sixth Child one day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Passover Preparation

Keeping kosher is tough enough during the year. However, preparing for the Passover holiday is the biggest challenge. The usual laws separating meat and dairy dishes still apply. But add to that the additional rejoinder that one cannot have anything that contains bread or grains or is not made especially for the eight days of Passover and you can get an idea how much more difficult it is to maintain the practice. When I lived in Cleveland, there were at least two different kosher butchers and bakers whose businesses were within walking distance. There also was a large supermarket that carried large numbers of kosher foods next door. Here in the kosher hinterland of Bayou country, there is really only one source: Joel Brown's Kosher Cajun New York Deli and Grocery. About a month before the holiday, Joel's staff begins turning over his selections to include only "kosher for Passover" foods. All of the meats, frozen dinners, and Passover menu items like matzah (unleaved bread) all carry labels that certify they are acceptable. Even the soft drinks like Coca Cola carry a small designation that shows they are prepared with real sugar and not with corn syrup solids. If you are a Coke drinker, Passover time is when you stock up your pantry to enjoy the real Coke, the formula that the company stopped making once the New Coke bombed. When the Coca Cola bottlers responded to consumer pressure to bring back the Original Formula, they neglected to inform the public they were converting the formula from the more expensive sugar to high fructose corn syrup. Real Coke enthusiasts could tell the difference and many still bemoan the conversion, but their entreaties and finger pointing were ignored by company top executives who saw a way to recoup benefits from an unprecedented financial disaster and public relations bomb. The swing into full Passover mode begins in earnest today just before midday because all traces of unacceptable food items (i.e. breads, liquors distilled from grains, etc.) must be sold, disposed of, sold or burned. It's not easy to do, but millions of people do. So today I will begin enjoying the daunting taste of matzah and matzah ball soup as well as gefilte fish. My cabinets containing chometz have been secured and what items I could not dispose of were "sold" to a third party via my rabbi, who could legally claim them if they so desired. The fact that the third party is in Nashville, Tennessee makes that very unlikely. The major part of the holiday is the seder meal, which begins tonight after sundown and will continue into the very wee morning hours in observant homes. For the youngest children it is a special time: a night when they can stay up well past their bedtimes. It is also a time of singing and games and a time I recall vividly as a youth seeing my whole family gather together to recall the redemption from slavery to freedom. To all my Jewish friends I wish you the best of holidays.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blogging for ours

While there a number of suitable topics to cover this date including the horrible anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, I was most drawn to a column today written by local Times-Picayune writer Chris Rose. Rose and I have met on a few occasions, but he has more or less operated outside of my circle of friends since he began writing his column in 2000. His 60 second interviews have always been pretty enjoyable fare and I've seen him as a legitimate voice of the people. Some years previous to Hurricane Katrina, he had appeared on several local stages including Le Chat Noir's "Galatoire's Monologues" "The A**hole Monologues,"and "I Love My Kid, But..." But Hurricane Katrina greatly affected Rose, like many of us. His "One Dead in Attic," a series of remembrances from the early days of recovery in New Orleans, was a powerful set of columns written around the storm and collectively published about a year after the storm. He detailed how he, his wife and their children were sent off to live afar in the days preceding and following the storm and the floods that resulted from the levee breaks. When he returned to work, his coverage of life on the streets in a neighborhood without power proved to be a window on the soul of what was then a soulless city. Rose's power of description hit home pretty hard, especially for lifelong residents of New Orleans like me who were forced to live in exile. It was only a year or so ago that Rose revealed to his readers that he had despaired so much that he had to seek medical treatment. He acknowledged that the stress of the slow recovery and its impact on him and his wife had placed great strain on their marriage. Today I read about Rose's description of Ashley Morris, a man who took him to task regularly in his daily blog and who, unbeknownst to Rose was his neighbor. Morris' blog titled the "Library Chronicles" criticized anything that seemed to be detrimental to the city in his estimation. Rose describes how he read Morris regularly to see what criticism he might be leveling at him. But he didn't realize that the criticism was coming from across his street. Morris wrote Rose to complain about Entergy gasline repairs that were destroying the old street name tiles built into the sidewalk corners. When Morris complained about "our corner," Rose wrote him back asking him what he meant by that phrase. It was then that Rose learned that the neighbor he used to think was a fine, upstanding guy was in fact this troublemaker from the blogospher. That was just a few weeks ago at the end of March. Despite a bit of trepidation on his part, Rose agreed to meet Morris when he returned to town. As fate woud have it, Morris never came back. He died on the road just a few days later in a hotel room, leaving behind a widow and three young children. A jazz funeral followed last week, but Rose's grudging admiration for a tireless champion of New Orleans culture is obvious. So too is Rose's talent for dealing with one of his online detractors whom he eventually took to his very large heart. For those who wish to read the entire column, go to:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxing Times

In case you hadn't noticed, today marks the day that many Americans dread most. Yes, it's the day when it's time to pay the piper, when it's time to put up and shut up, when the pain of IRSitis (that's pronounced ur-si-tihs) hits most Americans and no amount of aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen will help. Ever since the U.S. Tax Code, which identifies the Internal Revenue Service as the official tax collecting arm of the govenment, went into effect has the plight of the American taxpayer ever been made more stressful and the careers of H. and R. Block more profitable. For those that use Turbo Tax or any of the other computer programs that attempt to help figure out what is owed and what can be deducted safely, the old adage "garbage in and garbage out" has probably never been truer. Regardless if you've figured it out correctly or not, it's time to submit your check because if you don't pay what is owed today, you may be liable for penalties and interest which can turn a small oversight into a major headache. My advice is get a good accountant and maintain a healthy friendship. Accountants can be lifesavers on the sea of taxation. And in the meantime just take a deep breath. The next quarter will be due in just another 90 days.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wild Weekend

This last weekend was a whirl for me and I apologize for not having time to write a blog yesterday. Despite the draw of the French Quarter Festival and the V-Day celebrations in the Central Business District, my place was out in God's country with the Chilankatoba Lodge of the Order of the Arrow, an honor society of Boy Scouts and selected adult leaders. While the Boy Scouts of America will be 100 years old in 2010, the Order of the Arrow will mark its centennial five years later in 2015. For its entire history the group has dedicated itself to cheerful service work both in and out of the BSA. This coming weekend the Southern Region Section 1 of the Order of the Arrow will be gathering at the Salmen Scout Reservation maintained by the Southeast Louisiana Council . It was the job of the host lodge to make sure the camp was well-prepared for the other lodges who are expected to attend with nearly 500 Arrowmen, as members are known. Substantial repairs to the existing facilities were made by dedicated Scouts and Scouters and I can report with pride that the camp is in tip-top shape. This next weekend will mark the first time in 30 years that the Southeast Louisiana Council has played host to the Conclave. It should be a wonderful time.
Kudos to Cabaret Le Chat Noir for the past two weekends of shows as they hosted the All Kinds of Theatre production of Amanda McBroom's show with pianist Joel Silberman. It was a spectacular show consisting of most of her own penned material. McBroom's performance culminated with her special rendition of "The Rose" that was used in the film of the same title featuring Bette Midler. McBroom's husband, George, a former star in the San Francisco production of "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," came on stage for last night's final encore to sing a duet of "Some Enchanted Evening" with his wife. McBroom, considered one of the very finest cabaret singers in the world, was overwhelmed with New Orleans and all of its charms. She stated she had to leave because her clothes no longer fit. A fine tribute to New Orleans' fattening cuisine.

Friday, April 11, 2008

French Quarter Festival, V-Day kick off; Dr. Kroger kicks the bucket

Wow! It's been 25 years that the New Orleans French Quarter Festival has been in full swing, starting initially as a very small attempt to beef up attendance from locals into the French Quarter, which had acquired the unseemly reputation of a dirty, dingy and dangerous area of the city. When it first started, a few local artists played some traditional jazz selections and several French Quarter restaurants sold a few of their menu items to the anxious crowds. Over the years the caliber of artists has been raised and the number of stages for performances has increased substantially to 17. The number of participating restaurants and the variety of menu offerings has, likewise, leapfrogged. It is possible to even bring kids to the very family-friendly events that occur from today through Sunday. Special events include a "second line" parade this morning, a battle of the bands, and an oyster eating contest. Local luminary and pianist Ronnie Kole's brass statue was unveiled in ceremonies at the Legends Park on Bourbon Street. Add to this the celebration of V-Day down at the Superdome with stars like Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda and "Vagina Monologues" author Eve Ensler and there's lots of stuff happening way down yonder in New Orleans. For those who want to get out of town, this is also the weekend for the Pontchatoula Strawberry Festival. Surprisingly, Pontchatoula's most famous daughter, Irma Thomas, is not appearing at the French Quarter Festival. So who knows? Maybe that's a good spot to hang out this weekend, away from all of the hubbub and traffic of the downtown and Vieux Carre areas.
Sad news for "Monk" fans: Those who know me well know that I am a particular fan of TV's "Monk." I note with sadness the passing of Stanley A. Kamel, the gifted actor who portrayed the obsessive compulsive detective's overtaxed psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Kroger. Kamel, 65, was found dead of an apparent heart at his Beverly Hills home. He was a veteran of TV for decades having played a number of roles on TV soaps like "Days of Our Lives" and prime time fare like "Beverly Hills 90210." As Dr. Kroger, Kamel had a marvelous part, which he played to perfection opposite Tony Shaloub's quriky Adrian Monk. He will be missed by "Monk" fans across the globe.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A gathering of Eagles and Blue Dogs

Last night I had the pleasure to attend a gathering of several hundred area Boy Scouts and adult leader called Scouters at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The reason was a special exhibit of Norman Rockwell and Joseph Csatari paintings that were on display as a special traveling show with the new Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca visiting New Orleans for the first time in the position he accepted last May. Norman Rockwell was one of my favorite painters and many of the wholesome Americana images he captured on canvas dealt with Scouting. Csatari was his pupil and has carried the torch proudly since Rockwell's death. Many of the paintings, like Rockwell's "The Scoutmaster" have become icons in and of themselves. It was unbelievably moving to see these paintings and drawings up close and all together. Also on display was an incredible retrospective on the hallowed career of George Rodrigue, the Cajun artist whose "Blue Dog" paintings have become world famous. Many will note that the very popular Blue Dog was at first based on the Cajun legend of the loup garou, a Cajun werewolf legend. Rodrigue based the image on his former pet who had died four years earlier. At first the eyes burned red with anger and menace. Later, though, as the animal appeared more frequently in Rodrigue's paintings along with other famous personages like Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Huey Long, Earl Long, and others, the eyes became a softer, friendlier yellow. The exhibitions were wonderful, but the highlight of the evening was the speech by Mazzuca, which noted the incredible progress the Southeast Louisiana Council has made since the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. At one point, the former 16,000 youth members of BSA units in the council had ebbed to 3,600. At the end of 2007 the council had regained to a level of 11,000, but approximately one-third (similar to the loss of population across the city) has been lost. I was proud to accompany my Eagle Scout son David, who like all Eagle Scouts in attendance pledged to continue to help Scouting in future years. We were fortunate to sit with our troop's Scoutmaster, Gene von Rosenberg, who has been Scoutmaster of Troop 48 (charter-partnered with St. Andrew's Episcopal Church) for the last 25 years. Tonight, a similar event at the New Orleans Museum of Art will be held with George Rodrigue also in attendance.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Black Jew Dialogues, Part 2

Ron Jones, yours truly and Larry Jay Tish after last night's performance at Le Chat Noir

Following publication of yesterday’s blog about “The Black Jew Dialogues,” I attended the performance at Le Chat Noir last night. The sparsely attended crowd was treated to nearly an hour and a half of scripted fun followed by a ten minute question and answer period. Both co-creators and stars Larry Jay Tish and Ron Jones were clever in their approach to the material, which was hysterical for most of the night. There were underpinnings that dealt with issues of anti-Semitism and racism against African-Americans, but the message was delivered through the veil of humor. It was a play within a play with the two stars breaking character to become themselves only to revert into other characters. “This play within a play thing, we didn’t start,” Tish remarked prior to the performance. “Actually, Wiliam Shakespeare did it originally.” The whole performance was quite hilarious and there the party next to me, neither African-American or Jewish, were having just as much fun as the others in the audience who were. Following last night's nearly hour and a half long show, the crowd thinned out and I found myself enjoying a late night with the two stars. We ended the morning at the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel, not exactly on my diet. But what the heck! It was fun and I hadn't had anything alcoholic earlier at Le Chat (much to Barbara Motley's chagrin). Tonight's the final performance, but I don't think either Ron or Larry will make this their last trip.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Black Jew Dialogues

Ron Jones, left, as "Mabel" and Larry Jay Tish as "Esther" in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Larry Jay Tish is probably one of the most genial fellows one would ever want to meet. He calls himself a "Bu-Jew," meaning he believes in both Buddhist and Jewish traditions. His diet is fairly strict, but he is being tested while in New Orleans. Somehow, it is hard to pass on a shrimp po-boy from Domilise's or to sample from some of the swank eateries found in the Crescent City. Larry is the co-writer and co-creator of "The Black-Jew Diaglogues," premiering tonight and playing again tomorrow night (Tuesday) at Le Chat Noir. Le Chat's comely proprietress, Barbara Motley, was contacted by Tish a few weeks back when he learned that he was going to be presenting his show at nearby LSU in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. Trying to piggyback on the other date, he offered Motley an opportunity to showcase the original comedy starring fellow Bostonian Ron Jones and himself. The series of vignettes runs nearly an hour and a half and is being co-presented by Anthony Beane Acting School and Community Theatre. Proceeds for tonight's show will benefit Le Chat Noir, while tomorrow night's proceeds will benefit Anthony Beane. Due to the nature of the show, Motley says she was insistent that Beane be brought into the mix as a sign of working with the diverse New Orleans theatre community and the importance of the message of Tish's "The Black Jew Dialogues," which stresses similarities between the African-American and Jewish communities. Throughout the performance, Tish and Jones will play characters not unlike themselves and will explore many of the issues that have strengthened and divided the two diverse communities. They even get into drag for the appearance of "Esther" and "Mabel," two older "ladies" who meet in a park. "At first they don't like each other," Tish explains, "but then they end up singing about the joys of food -- Jewish and soul food!" The multi-media presentation has lots of funny video bits too. As an example, Tish conducts man on the street interviews about a range of issues that turn out to be quite hilarious. Both Jones and Tish will employ the use of puppets for another segment of the show. Tish says the show has been playing well on college campuses, since its inception a little over a year and a half ago. The biggest break came when "The Black Jew Dialogues" was chosen to appear for 27 straight nights at the Edinburgh, Scotland Performing Arts Festival, which Tish describes as the world's largest. Based on its initial success, the show has been booked into other European venues like Leeds, England and has criss-crossed the country for most of the last year. Both Tish and Jones have had experience in improv theatre: Tish, who originally hailed from Brooklyn, had lots of experience acquired in Boston as did Jones, who was a native of Washington, D.C. "I wanted to do more and wanted to bring people together, especially after 9/11," confides Tish. He and Jones brainstormed in a hotel room to get the creative process started and that's the basic genesis of the material in the show. "We wanted to show the absurdity and stupidity of racism and hatred, especially between our groups," Tish notes. He acknowledges that there was a growing rift between blacks and Jews and he found that incredulous given the history of Jews being at the forefront of the battle to achieve civil rights. Tish promises an evening of fun and laughter, but with an underlying message. For ticket information, contact Le Chat Noir at 504-581-5812 or drop by tonight or tomorrow night at 715 St. Charles Avenue.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Moses is dead and I'm not feeling well either

I went to bed late last night after working at a very nice party, providing music for the guests who were celebrating two major events at one time. The first was a 60th birthday party and the second was an official housewarming for his sister-in-law, who was hosting the event. After well over two years, she was finally free of architects and contractors whose job it was to restore and repair her house following the damage from the Hurricane Katrina related flooding. The party took place no more than eight blocks away as the crow flies from my home, so I know the house received at least four to five feet of flooding. When I checked my e-mail, I found a notice that noted actor Charlton Heston, 84, the star of "The Ten Commandments," "Ben Hur," "The Agony and the Ecstasy," "El Cid," "The Greatest Show on Earth," "The Planet of the Apes," and "Touch of Evil" (to name just a few) had succumbed, probably due to the effects of Alzheimer's disease with which he had acknowledged having consistent symptoms in 2002. For me his greatest role was that of Moses, the central figure of Cecil B. DeMille's retelling of "The Ten Commandments" in 1956. I remember seeing that film in the theatres as a child with my grandmother dragging me by the hand. I recall the pivotal scene where Heston's Moses sees the burning bush and hears the words of God for the first time. To a young, impressionable kid, especially one who was coming to grips with his Jewish heritage, this was a very awe-inspiring film. To me Heston was the definitive portrayal of Moses and I used his performance to consider what the real prophet would have been like. Later, in Hebrew school, I learned that Moses used his brother Aaron to communicate to the pharaoh because he was slow of speech. I found that concept implausible when I thought about the movie, because Heston was a speechwriter's dream, a stoic figure with a booming baritone to match. The other major movie role I treasured growing up was Heston's Judah Ben Hur in William Wyler's epic "Ben Hur." Although this was a Christian tale, there was Heston playing the role of another Jew. With his hawk-like, chiseled features, I should have known that he wasn't Jewish, but the illusion was convincing because, after all, wasn't he Moses? The chariot scene in the Academy Award winning film still ranks as one of my favorites and it probably helped secure Heston his only Oscar. Here in the Crescent City, some will recall Heston portrayed Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, in the Hollywood send up "The Buccaneer" in which Yul Brynner played privateer Jean Lafitte. But most will recall Heston's role in "Number One" in which he played the improbable role of a great quarterback (Billy Kilmer did most of the throwing in cutaways), who had brought his New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl. Whatever role he played, Heston was usually over the top. Consider his "El Cid" opposite Sophia Loren or his circus master in "The Greatest Show on Earth," de Mille's only Academy Award winner for Best Picture. Heston chose to ignore the historical record when he took on the role of Michelangelo, a gifted artist acknowledged by Vatican scholars as having been homosexual. But it didn't really matter. Heston was larger than life and like John Wayne, he cast such an enormous figure that he made the pictures ever so much stronger by his appearance in them. Heston was a six-time president of the Screen Actors Guild and presided over the American Film Institute. He loved community theatre and helped found the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Theatre in Wolfe's hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, not far from where I attended summer camp for seven years. Many will remember his TV role on "Dynasty" and "The Colbys," but Heston was a movie star. The small screen never seemed to capture his true essence. There were the forgettable pictures too like "Soylent Green" and those disaster flicks like "Airport 1975" and "Earthquake," but fans were forgiving of Heston, even when he became highly politicized late in life. As a president of the National Rifle Association, he devoutly defended the right of Americans to bear arms, even if he took heat for it from the liberal wing. He and Ed Asner, TV's Lou Grant, got into a series of public imbroglios over restricting gun ownership and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore ambushed Heston in his own Beverly Hills home in "Bowling for Columbine." It was probably not a well-advised move for Heston to have an audience with Moore, who used the opportunity to personally impugn Heston's integrity and sensitivity in holding pro-NRA rallies in Flint, Michigan and in Columbine following gun tragedies there. It was a low point for Moore, but Heston showed his mettle by leaving the interview after six minutes of haranguing by the porcine interviewer. Heston leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Lydia, adopted daughter Holly Heston Rochell and director-producer son Fraser, who made his screen debut as the infant Moses in "The Ten Commandments." It is a shame, but Heston's famous chant at NRA conventions with rifle raised above his head ("From my cold dead hands!") can now be played in earnest. I much prefer "Let it be written. Let it be done!" Don't you?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cabaret category

At the conclusion of this year's Big Easy Theatre Awards, Margot Dubos, the grande dame of Gambit Magazine, which sponsors the foundation responsible for the program, announced that a new category would be set up for cabaret. This is welcome news to the main cabaret club in the area, Le Chat Noir, named in honor of the very first Parisian cabaret that started it all. Le Chat Noir is run by Barbara Motley, a woman who so loved cabaret that she opened her own New Orleans venue over a decade ago. Motley, a charming tall glass of water is vivacious and gracious. She is generous with her time and friends and makes all who enter her doors feel welcome and at home. Her girl Friday is Su Gonczy, a brilliant lighting technician, who occassionally accompanies acts with her voice. It is my favorite bar in the city and I love the space which is typically devoted to either small plays or genuine cabaret fare. Starting this weekend and continuing through next weekend is Amanda McBroom, the well-known and talented New York actress and cabaret star. She is a terrific talent and typical of the caliber of performer that Le Chat Noir will book. While the Big Easy Awards committee only considers local acts for nominations, it is important for us to encourage people to go to Le Chat and experience what truly exceptional cabaret is all about. For more information on Amanda McBroom, call Le Chat Noir at 504-581-5812.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Losing is not easy

It's been over two and a half weeks since I started on my regimen of diet and exercise as part of the JCC's "The Biggest Loser" contest. Frankly, I have seen progress and noticed a goodly amount of weight has been shed. I was down ten pounds at one point, but as I continued weight training, I have noticed that I also added weight by building muscle. My tone is much better and I am using a lot of cardio exercise to burn more fat. Today I can show a decrease in body fat percentage too, down 3%. As part of the contest, I am expected to meet with a trainer for ten times. I met with him twice in the first week. He was on vacation last week and I saw him twice this week. That means I have three more weeks and six more sessions with him before the contest is over. He drills me like a sergeant, which is what I really wanted. I wanted someone who would demand me to extend myself to the very reaches of my ability. I have the aching muscles to prove that. I am well pleased with his impulsion to drive me to the envelope of my stamina. My only major problem is the bland food I am supposed to eat. The diet won't allow red meat more than once a week and centers about chicken, turkey and fish for most meals. I have been applying my Creole and French cuisine skills towards making the salads and entrees taste palatable. My first turkey breast yielded 30 times the amount of meat I could use in one night. I decided to use the new reusable freezer bags with the vacuum seals and handheld mini-pump to freeze half of it and to keep pre-sliced portions in the refrigerator. Isn't science wonderful? As I mentioned before in the March 23 blog titled "Nutritional Tidbits," this whole process has been complicatd by the fact I keep a kosher home. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it has been difficult to find food items on my permitted list that are kosher. The vegetarian aspects of many meals makes it easy, but the non-dairy and meat aspects make it a bit more difficult to be compliant. Nevertheless, I feel that my core has been strengthened by the process and so I will not deviate. I will push on and when it's all over three weeks from now, I am sure to be at a better spot than I would have been were I not have elected to take this opportunity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A heavenly concert for Mary Abbay

One of the things most disturbing about the numbers of those who perished during the Hurricane Katrina cataclysm was that everyone, no matter where dispersed, lost someone they knew or were close to someone they knew who lost someone. In that way New Orleans is like a small town where everyone knows each other's business. Several months after returning from Cleveland, I was in the main New Orleans U.S. Post Office lobby. A display on the wall showed some of the forgotten victims who drowned, suffered heart attacks, etc. There was my middle school (Eleanor McMain Jr. High School) Spanish professor, Dr. Manuel Romero and his spinster sister. Both had drowned in the home they shared for a lifetime. Invited to my Bar Mitzvah, Dr. Romero gave me a hardback Spanish-English, English-Spanish dictionary. When my son was learning Spanish at Isidore Newman School, he used that very same dictionary, which was signed to me on the inside jacket. I was so sad to learn of his demise, but ironically, the dictionary suffered the same fate, falling victim to the swirling waters of Katrina's destruction.
Last week I learned of another dear friend who had been lost and it affected me in much the same way as when I learned about Professor Romero. When I managed Smith's Record Center in the 80s and 90s, I met a number of noted classical artists. One of them was a very sweet and very talented harpist named Mary Abbay Sayle. I don't remember why, but everyone referred to her as Mary Abbay instead of Mary. She was a genteel Southern lady with a very quiet disposition. I enjoyed her company when we would meet and I helped her sell some of her tapes that she put in our store on consignment. I don't recall her actually making CDs, but I certainly would have sold those for her too would she had asked. Mary Abbay made a name for herself, playing gigs with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and later when it was renamed and reorganized as the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. She loved playing chamber music, but was content to play solo recitals too. She was a music instructor and enjoyed passing the love of music to the young. Every now and then Mary Abbay would call on me to work as a disc jockey for a wedding reception. I was happy to do so. She would work at restaurants like the famous Sazerac Room at the Fairmont Hotel (formerly the Roosevelt Hotel), where she met her husband Tim, who was a chef there. He and she married and they later moved to Memphis where she continued to play at venues like the Peabody Hotel and he continued to ply his craft at famous kitchens in that city. Mary Abbay died unexpectedly on March 29, 2007.
A special memorial site can be found online at:
Surprisingly, a notice of her passing never was published in New Orleans' Times-Picayune. That will happen on Sunday. Mary Abbay's friends here have organized a memorial concert to benefit a fund for her three young children David, Georgeanne and Abbay. The concert to be held at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church (State Street at St. Charles Avenue) on April 6 at 3:00 p.m. will feature several pieces of music by Faure, Debussy Respighi, Rutter and others, many with prominent harp solos. I urge all of my friends in New Orleans to attend the free concert to honor her memory and to consider making a donation to the fund. For more information call 504-920-0086. The address to send donations to the Mary Abbay Gourley's Children's Trust Fund is P. O. Box 111252, Memphis, Tennessee 38111-1251. Somehow, I know that the music will honor the memory of one of the most talented and loving individuals I have ever been blessed to have known. There truly is a reason that the harp is considered the instrument of the heavenly hosts. It is best played by angels.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My momentous announcement

After much deliberation and forethought, I have decided to take my blogging to the next level. I am prepared and ready to tackle the next biggest challenge in my life. So, it is with the greatest of pride that I announce my intention to throw my hat into the political ring. It is time that a man of conviction takes on the powers that be. It is time that a man of vision charts a course for the future that his electorate can take pride in. It is time for me to assume the powers that most conform to my readiness and preparation. I am ready to be emperor! Yes, I know there are some who have held the title in their own inimitable fashion through the years. There were those Caesars and the Charlemagne fellow in ancient and medieval times and in a more recent era Pu Yi in China and Hirohito in Japan. But all of them had decided to be local in their influence and hadn't fully thought through the global possibilities of absolute powers spanning nations and across continents. I am talking about emperor of the planet, something like Ming in the Flash Gordon movies. Now that's something someone can sink his teeth into! It's a role to be coveted and, best of all, it is a lifetime position. I don't have a retirement plan in existence anyway, so this should be a perfect fit. I'm sure it also comes with an excellent health plan. I probably would get a discount for maintaining a supply of able bodyguards, so it seems to me it's a win-win proposition. As emperor I promise to take care of my own business and increase my personal wealth. I would not be a tyrant, unless someone crossed me. After all, what's the good in being a man with absolute power if you can't wield it recklessly? I think this may work out to be a very good plan and I might even make today a worldwide holiday to celebrate my momentous decision. What is today's date, again?