Sunday, August 31, 2008

Update on evacuation



New Orleans City Council Vice-President Arnie Fielkow and his family members.
City Council Vice-President Arnie Fielkow and I just met on the street and confirmed to him that I plan on leaving after all. I am now heading to the area where most of my fellow New Orleans Jews are hunkering down, to wit, Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi. It should be about a five or six hour journey that would normally not take more than three. Contraflow has been running so effectively that Louisiana State Police officials are now considering ending it within a 20-hour period. Since the contraflow was implemented at 4:00 a.m. this morning, that means that it could be over with by midnight. Of course, that's about the time that the storm is due to start slamming the city with tropical storm force winds. I will let you know what is going on as soon as I have news to pass on. In them meantime, keep those prayers up and keep us all in your thoughts.

The Long Goodbye



I am watching the last of my neighbors pack up his truck as he prepares to hit the road with his family headed for Texas. Our normally busy street is deserted. The stillness in the air is pierced by gusts of what is now a very pleasant breeze. In just a few more hours, however, it will be another story. Gustav is intent on making me a very unpleasant camper and I have horrible feelings about having to leave my humble abode, the home I had been forced to desert unintentionally after the levee breaches three years ago. It is the home that you see above and to the right of this blog with over five feet of water lapping at its base. It has only been 16 months since I returned to New Orleans, living 20-plus months in Cleveland, Ohio. The prospect of having to stay away for another undetermined period is frightening and heartbreaking. What effect this storm will have on the ongoing recovery effort from Katrina remains to be determined. Certainly, the effect on the psyche of the populace has been severe. From reports I have received and watched on my still functioning TV, the drive on the road has been sluggish, at times creeping at a snail's pace. At times the contraflow is moving at 70 m.p.h., while at other times and for no apparent reason, drivers slam on the brakes and everything backs up. I purchased a generator yesterday thinking that it might have been necessary. Now, because I cannot trust leaving it anywhere in or around my house, I will be driving up to wherever I go with it in tow. The only good news is that Gustav seems to be intensifying less than expected and that it still seems to be on a track headed away from New Orleans. It's just not far enough. Were I in Mobile, Alabama -- a two hour's drive under normal conditions -- I would still be in peril. So, the best thing to do is head north and hope that the levees hold. Authorities already have stated that the West Bank area including Algiers is at certain peril due to levees that are expected to breach or are not yet completed. This is ironic because the West Bank was the first area to rebound after Katrina. Gustav could very well finish the job that Katrina and Rita started three years ago. Only time and infinite patience will tell as well as the care and protection of the Lord. Bless us all and keep us in your prayers.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another mandatory evacuation...


Myron Goldberg, president of Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, leads an afternoon prayer service (Mincha) on August 29, 2008 at the still devastated synagogue that was destroyed exactly three years before. (Photo Alex Barkoff)

Mayor Ray Nagin just announced the second mandatory evacuation for New Orleans this evening just before 8:00 p.m. Governor Bobby Jindal and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu has also urged everyone to take heed to the warnings and get out of town now. We are on the bad side of the expected track of the storm, even more so than Hurricane Katrina. The exodus out of the city has been going on all day with most every channels out of the city slogged down to a snail's pace at the edge of the city. All Home Depot, Loew's, Wal-Mart, and Sam's Club stores have closed down as of yesterday. Gas stations have shuttered their doors and most essential services are but a memory. I have resigned myself to the fact that this is a life threatening situation. Family members have all called and urged me to get out. Yet, I believe it is necessary that someone be here to document what is happening here as we prepare for the worst and hope for he best. Contraflow is due to start at 4:00 a.m. on the major arteries out of the city, which means New Orleans will have no means of entry once those plans are implemented. It's the first time that this plan of simultaneous flow both eastward and westward out of town has been implemented. This weekend, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was to have featured a number of memorials to those whose lives were lost and as a way to recall what was prior to today considered the storm of the century. Thursday evening's Levees.org event had an auditorium full of people at Touro Synagogue, but that was before the dire warnings from authorities began to be issued. Friday afternoon a Mincha (afternoon) prayer service was held at the Lakeview site of Congregation Beth Israel (see above). That structure is still shuttered after three years following catastrophic destruction that resulted after the 17th Street Canal levee was breached during Hurricane Katrina. After the service was over, the members headed over to Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie, the site where they are now meeting to hold Shabbat services and to enjoy a meal with one another into the late hours of the night. At the same time across town at Temple Sinai, one of the oldest Reform temples in New Orleans, an interfaith prayer service hosted by Rabbi Ed Paul Cohn was held. At the event was Francis Hughes, Archbishop of the City of New Orleans; Episcopal Bishop Charles Jenkins; as well as other clergy representing Protestant, the Ba'hai and Islamic faith groups. It was an impressive night. Yet, the storm that was forming in the Caribbean was very much on people's minds. It was the elephant in the back of the room that could not be ignored.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Anniversaries and Alerts

Three years ago the city of New Orleans withstood its greatest challenge when Hurricane Katrina slammed into it with wind gusts of up to 140 miles per hour. What followed the onslaught of wind and driving rain was a man-made disaster of greater proportions, the failure of the levee structures designed to protect the city. It has taken an army of dedicated city workers, loyal residents and outsiders who won't stand idly by and let politics and apathy take over where the flood waters receded. The only thing that can kill the city of New Orleans is not opposition to its rebuilding campaign. It is apathy. Apathy will drive a wedge into the heart and soul of the City That Care Forgot. So on this important anniversary, as another storm threatens her, don't you forget to care.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yo no me gusto Gustavo

It looks like my worst fears have been realized. A storm with the potential to be worst than Hurricane Katrina seems destined to impact New Orleans. I am frightened, but I am determined to stay and report on this very important event. I am thinking that I should be hoofing it right about now, but I know that my true responsibility is to let people know what is happening here. I have the resources to do so and will be dumb enough to be prepared to hunker down and deal with this natural disaster. Don't misunderstand me. I am sure that I will be dealing with a loss of power at the very least. However, if things work out, I will be at the epicenter of a very important story. Say a prayer for me and wish me well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Weary Wait

While millions of our fellow Americans watched Hillary whip the Democratic National Convention into a dither last night, all of New Orleans was chomping at the bit, wishing it were all over so they could see more of what really interested them...the weather report. As Gustav pounded Haiti, the entire populace of New Orleans kept a watchful eye on every update available, taking note of the barometric pressure of the storm, its forward momentum and top wind gusts. Gustav, like voodoo, is an export from Haiti that most New Orleanians would disdain. This dangerous storm looks like it will be the first to disrupt oil production since the twin threats of Katrina and Rita in 2005. To his credit Governor Bobby Jindal was broadcasting to the populace emergency plans he was putting into place and announcing that evacuations, voluntary at first, would begin by Friday. People who remember the mass exodus from New Orleans on the days prior to Katrina making landfall do so with pain etched on their faces. The 70-mile drive to Baton Rouge took some people as long as six hours and the town was booked solid for those who needed a hotel room or other suitable lodging for an extended stay. A drive to Houston took 12 hours, according to those that made the trip, and the trip to Mobile was also marked by bumper-to-bumper traffic that should have only been a few hours at most. The elderly and those dependent on care will need to leave the city very early so as to make as expeditious and safe an exit as possible. Then there are those stubborn fellows like me who are loath to leave home and hearth no matter what nightmarish scenarios might occur. The fact is no one can tell just where the storm will make landfall and the margin of error is too great to be overly concerned. So we wait and watch. And wait and watch. And wait and watch.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dare we mention the "h" word

Fay is a just memory now, but all of a sudden an area of disturbed tropical weather in the Caribbean has strengthened into a full-blown hurricane and Gustav is now on everyone's minds. Looking at the suggested trajectory of the storm (according to the National Hurricane Center), it may well come into the Gulf of Mexico and, if it holds its present course, may become a problem for us unlucky fellows situated along the Louisiana coastline. Well, it is only three days away from the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This is the time of year that we are all prepared for this kind of problem and I've spent much of my life dodging storms. The irony of all of this hurricane preparedness is that for Hurricane Katrina, I was out of the picture. I was vacationing and didn't have an option of staying or leaving. In fact, when I left, the storm was little more than a minor consideration for Louisiana or Mississippi, where it eventually came ashore. We were all told that the storm would skirt up along the Florida peninsula and threaten Panama City and Tallahassee. In 24 hours it changed course and headed straight for New Orleans like a powerful locomotive on a long and straight stretch of track. It wasn't until at the last possible moment, as the storm began lashing the coastline of Louisiana and Mississippi that it veered toward the right and moved ashore east of the city.
Levees.org is getting ready to roll out one of its big guns in its tireless fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whom they hold responsible for the failure of the levee system designed to protect the city of New Orleans. On Thursday night, they will release a new short film titled "The Katrina Myth: The Truth About a Thoroughly Unnatural Disaster." Produced by Levees.org, the advocate organization headed by Sandy Rosenthal, the short film will be presented at Touro Synagogue with a festive party on the eve of the Katrina anniversary on Thursday night. Following the opening party with a live jazz band, the film will be shown, followed immediately by an audience discussion. To reserve a place for this free event, call 504-269-2650.
Another reform temple, Temple Sinai plans an interfaith worship service on Friday evening. Around the same time Congregation Beth Israel worshippers will hold their Minchah (Afternoon) prayer service at the site of the destroyed Lakeview synagogue on Canal Boulevard. A major program on Sunday morning will follow where markers recalling the 3,000 holy books and seven sefer Torah scrolls that were destroyed and buried in the synagogue's two cemeteries will be revealed. Community members are encouraged to participate at the outdoor event and to enjoy a festive repast at the new site of the synagogue, Congregation Gates of Prayer. This will probably be the last time that the Hurricane Katrina anniversary will be observed at Gates of Prayer, since Beth Israel is due to move out of the rented space they have been using for the past two and a half years by next July.

Monday, August 25, 2008

We're gonna party like it's Two Thousand and Nine

While flash storm warnings remain in effect across southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi from still stubborn tropical depression Fay, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it could have been a lot worst. Sadly, the folks in Florida got a pounding from Tropical Storm Fay that resulted in a lot of flooding. Nobody appreciates the damage that can result from flooding more than the populace of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I hope they make a full and quick recovery. In the meantime, much of the nation's attention is now focused on Denver where a political storm is being unleashed on the national scene in the form of the Obama-Biden ticket for the Democratic National Convention there. I don't know if Senator Joe Biden's addition to Barack Obama's ticket will prove to be fortuitous or not, but I do reckon that Senator Hillary Clinton's addition might have foretold of doom. The so-called "Dream Team" bruited by President Clinton could have resulted into a nightmare. Hillary will have a hard time convincing the majority of her backers that they should fold and cast their ballots for Obama, but she doesn't have much choice. Unless she wants to be perceived as a spoiler (and forever cast her as a non-team player), she simply must do what the presumptive nominee wants and needs. Tonight, it will be another wife taking the national political spotlight in the person of Michelle Obama. Fist bumps aside, I am waiting to see and hear what the Demos have up their sleeves to make the case for her husband. I am sure it will be a spectacular send up. Party people (as in Democratic), give it up for Master O and his posse. There's a lot at stake and nobody knows how to party more than them. Of course the same can be said about strife and infighting. Let's hope they party more than they squabble.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fay, Fay, Go Away

Well, I knew it was too good to be true. A whole hurricane season last year and no tropical depressions, tropical storms or hurricanes with which to deal. Hmmm...2008 seemed like it was doing okay until Hurricane Fay threatened Florida. I noticed that it was headed in an apparent northward trajectory. That seemed okay to me as far as Louisiana was concerned, although I did have a lot of empathy for the entire state of Florida that stood in the oncoming path of the storm. Then Fay did a curious thing. It hovered over Florida like a hungry pet that wants its food, unleashing a torrent of badly needed rain over Florida and Georgia. But, drought aside, sometimes too much of a good thing is not good. Fay kept sucking up just a bit more of the energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters to fuel it and to draw it ever slowly into a path away from Florida and more towards the coastline of Mississippi. It is amazing that the coastline of Mississippi is only 40 miles wide, but it has seen more than its share of hurricanes including, of course, Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005. Fay seemed drawn to Mississippi as if it were on a mission and the only good thing about its short sally in the gulf was that it had no time to strengthen into a full blown hurricane. So, here I am watching band after band of driving rain and the heavy winds that are emblematic of tropical storm activity. It seems that we in New Orleans will escape most of the brunt of the storm, but for those northeast of the city, like Baton Rouge, there will be a greater risk of flash flooding than we will have here. Superstitious fellow that I am, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. And, just in case, my toes too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bird watching

Louisiana has been called the Sportsman's Paradise because of the veritable wealth of wetlands, forests and other natural resources it enjoys. As a result, there are fishermen, hunters and nature lovers who find themselves a picturesque corner of the Louisiana outdoors and have at it. There are numerous commercial fishermen who ply their trade in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which is where the plentiful supply of shrimp, crabs and oysters are found. Not that anyone here who keeps kosher would have any of those. Yeah...right. But unlike those hunters with the high powered rifles and state of the art scopes or those Ted Nugent types who arm themselves with powerful bows and specially tipped arrows, I am incapable of harming a fellow creature. Not that there's anything wrong with hunting, mind you. When it comes to my idea of getting attuned with nature, I try to find myself a lovely place where I can view nature at hand, on the wing as it were. I have taken up the hobby of bird watching, which some consider boring. I find it exciting and I attempt to view my high-flying friends in all of their beauty in their native haunts. To this end I have been hanging out watching, waiting and enjoying these lovely works of nature, while enjoying a festive repast or a delightful libation. I do have to endure some high noise levels in this particular environ, but it is all part of the hobby. Meanwhile, for those of you who eschew hunting, please feel free to join me where viewing these incredible winged wonders goes on into the wee hours of the morning. I've got to tell you it really has made me appreciate all of the special wonders of nature and I hope to view much more in the days, weeks, months and years to come. So in case I've piqued your interest, here's where you can find me:


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tubbs Jones passes, a second lightning Bolt and Jewish bloggers

I learned right away of the importance of Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones when I was living in Cleveland. A tireless fighter for her constituents, she was a true pioneer as both an African-American and a woman. Tubbs Jones was the first African-American woman to serve as a judge, a Cuyahoga County prosecutor of note and a five-term U.S. Representative elected to serve Ohio's 11th District since 1998. She was in fact the first African-American woman to represent Ohio in Congress.The tributes to Tubbs Jones have been pouring in from a poignant remembrance by Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz to a number of state and national figures since she passed away yesterday evening. Her passing, attributed to a brain aneurysm, has been termed "an incalculable loss" by fellow Clevelander and former mayor Dennis Kucinich. Tubbs Jones spoke before both the 2000 and 2004 Democratic National Conventions and was a co-chairman of the 2004 platform committee. Despite being quite close with Senator Barack Obama, she was Hillary Clinton's biggest advocate in Ohio. Tubbs Jones chaired the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (commonly referred to as theEthics Committee) and, as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, actively campaigned against the Iraqi war, tax cuts and changes in Social Security proposed by the Bush administration. Tubbs Jones won re-election in 2006 by over 83% of the electorate and was running unopposed. She was predeceased by her husband of 27 years, Mervyn Leroy Jones, Sr., and is survived by her son, Mervyn Leroy Jones II.
Lightning strikes again: Usaim Bolt was even more impressive than in his 100-meter dash when he rewrote the world record book again by besting Michael Johnson's gold shoe 200-meter race mark in 0:19:30. Frankly, I think he may be able to shave another one or two one-hundredths of a second off that mark. He is incredible and just another one of the reasons that I will miss the expanded Olympic coverage from NBC and affiliated stations that is fast winding down.
Meanwhile, the U.S. women's softball team, fresh from two hard-fought wins against Japan, lost the gold medal game against them today in what could be the last Olympic softball game. Softball, a women-only sport (men compete in baseball) made its Olympic debut in 1996 in Atlanta. It was voted off the 2012 Olympics program slated for London by a vote of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2005 that was reaffirmed in 2006. Another vote to consider reinstituting the sport on the Olympics program is slated for next year. If it does not win approval from the IOC, softball will probably not return again.
Yesterday's first ever International Jewish Bloggers Convention streamed over the Internet live from Jerusalem had its problems with dropouts, picture loss and loss of audio. Nevertheless, I was captivated by the strength of the program, which included an opening address by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a packed house of Jewish bloggers. The bloggers were all committed to promoting the concept of blogging and their blogs in particular. All in all it was very satisfying and allowed me to put a face on some of the major players in Jewish blogging in both Israel and North America. Kudos to Nefesh B'Nefesh for putting it on. Next year in Jerusalem? Who knows?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Dream of Aliyah



By coincidence, today the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention is being held. A sold-out convention of Jewish bloggers is being held in Jerusalem in just a few hours, sponsored by Nefesh B'Nefesh, the group founded by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart in 2002 to encourage Jewish emigration to Israel. The act of making "aliyah" is the Hebrew term that literally means "rising up" or "ascent." In many Jewish communities, the fervent hope of living in a Jewish state where one can practice his or her religion unfettered is the ultimate aspiration. Someone who makes aliyah is considered an oleh (male) or olah (female). The plural is olim. The dream of aliyah was just realized yesterday by 240 North American olim along with 50 others from the United Kingdom who, with the help of Nefesh B'Nefesh, permanently relocated to Israel and thereby strengthened the Jewish state. I am proud to state that I know of four of them, but I will get to their story in just a bit. As usual, many of my stories have something to do with my experiences associated with Hurricane Katrina. This one is no different. It all started with Cleveland Jewish Federation worker Robin Sirkin. It was she who spearheaded the Federation's outreach to Katrina victims, who were in Cleveland at the time of the disaster or who had evacuated there. Being a stranded vacationer, I was helped immeasurably by Sirkin, who provided me with much-needed financial assistance through the Red Cross and the Federation and helped guide me throughout the vetting process for additional help from the city and the state of Ohio. Were it not for Robin Sirkin and others like her, I would not have stayed in Cleveland. As it turns out, she was also able to connect me with a generous donation from Bellefaire JCB, a picturesque campus located in the shadow of John Carroll University off Fairmount Boulevard there. Bellefaire offered me a dormitory style one-bedroom efficiency where I could live while working in Cleveland. Soon after moving there I began my job as the web producer, IT adviser and staff reporter of the Cleveland Jewish News, a job which I loved and kept for 18 months. When I moved into the room Bellefaire JCB had provided me, I found it filled with $1500 worth of goods including a new bedspread and two sets of dishes in case I wanted to keep kosher. On top of the bed were a detailed map and a lovely note from David and Jill Gleicher, welcoming me to Cleveland and inviting me to attend nearby worship services at Green Road Synagogue. The note written on a piece of cardboard also invited me to join them for Shabbat dinner at their home, about three blocks away. It was an extremely generous donation of time and energy on their part, making sure all the furniture, cooking ware, towels and other appurtenances were in place before I arrived. I was astonished at how well I had been received. As it turns out, with the Gleichers' help, I did begin to keep kosher. A link to that CJN story is found here. Over the course of the next year and a half, I had many Shabbats to share with Jill and David and their family and well as with Robin and John Sirkin's loveable brood. Their homes were always open and standing invitations to join them were always extended. Jill, a retired dermatologist, and David, an attorney who had retired to become an author, were a very unusual couple. She had given up her practice in Buffalo after becoming disabled and moved to Cleveland with her children. David, who attended Yeshiva University and was a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, had practiced law for a number of years and had raised a family there. David had also been lucky a few years back as a $32,000 winner on "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" and a $25,000 winner on a game show run by The History Channel. Both David and Jill found themselves divorced and looking a few years back. They were lucky enough to find each other and were married in 2004. David moved to Cleveland around that time, but it wasn't long before he and Jill decided to make the emotional and religious leap of moving to the Promised Land. Knowing they were going to be making aliyah, I also had David begin to write a blog for the Cleveland Jewish News about some of his experiences prior to beginning the laborious effort to move the family there. Although the blog was short-lived, it was full of a number of well-written pieces and I enjoyed reading them even after I had made my return to New Orleans. You can read all 18 of his pieces by going to this link. I talked to them at length on several occasions and made sure that I was in Cleveland last November especially to say goodbye to them in case I wasn't able to see them again before their journey. As it turns out, I didn't make it back in time, so I was glad I made that trip. Over the course of the last two months they packed and sent off all of their worldly possessions. About a week ago they closed on the sale of their lovely Beachwood home and yesterday they were on the El Al plane that landed in Israel. People from all over the world can see them arriving on the 35th Nefesh B'Nefesh flight on their Internet site here. Jill and David along with two of their sons will be living in an apartment in Jerusalem, a home they found and purchased in a lengthy and complicated procedure two years ago. It was a pleasure to see them arrive, although the video was not very steady and blurry. I hope one day to visit them and see for myself the new life they have carved out for themselves in the heart of the Jewish homeland. So this Passover, when I utter that famous phrase, I will be thinking of the Gleichers when I say "Next year in Jerusalem!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Geeks vs. Nerds vs. Me

These days it has become fashionable for computer technicians and networking consultants to call themselves geeks or nerds or something else as equally insipid. I shudder to think about calling myself by either designation. If being a geek or a nerd builds confidence in a client, then they should by all means run, not walk to seek them out. On the other hand, I like to consider myself a professional business consultant who does not need to come up with some kitschy phrase to identify myself. I know what I am doing and I do it. In popular parlance I am one of those that do, not one of those who can’t. I have built my reputation on personal relationships with clients. It is a level of service that they appreciate and respect - one that a geek or nerd knows woefully little. Right after Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans and I was literally stuck in Cleveland, I did fill out an application to join one of these outfits. The limited number of hours involved weekend work and the pay scale was hardly worth the 20-30 minute drive I would have to make daily. When I scoffed at the salary, I was told that a higher paying job might be available through a downtown office, but my calls were not returned forthwith and I was soon offered the job I most relished at the Cleveland Jewish News where I was able to work as an IT advisor and a staff reporter. Again, I believe there was a divine spark there -- some omnipresent force at play -- which prevented my being labeled a geek or a nerd while allowing me to write for a living. Can I get a Hallelujah? Back in the days when I ran my family record store, people would invariably ask me about how I felt when Tower Records, Virgin Records or Warehouse Records had opened up megastores or multiple locations around town. My answer was that we offered a level of service and knowledge that few could return in kind. To this day I see former customers who still bemoan the loss of our store. Yet not one of them confides in me how they wish any of the other music stores would return. The truth is they have all shuttered their stores or else gone bankrupt. They were all victims of the paradigm shift associated with record distribution in which the Internet now plays a critical role or the effects of rebounding from Hurricane Katrina were too severe. Nearly 12 years ago my mother and I closed our record store, keeping it open for select customers for several years thereafter until the building was leased. That gave me the time needed to reinvent myself as a computer technician and a networking specialist. During those days, when the record industry suffered its greatest losses, Netware was still considered the most prevalent computer networking option for business. In less than a decade Microsoft networks have become the preferred standard for business. Change is inevitable and not being able to transform one's self or deal with it head on will always slow you down or stop you dead in your tracks. I will be keeping up to date and trying to stay ahead of the curve because in reality, dear friends, it is vital in my business. Besides, it is the only assurance that I will never become a geek or a nerd.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mean old Mr. Bostick

My sister and I were talking yesterday and I was reminded about my ninth grade teacher at Eleanor McMain Junior High School. His name was Allen Bostick, Sr. and he taught science. I informed my sister that I had read in the newspaper that he had died a month ago at the age of 79. Because of the way schools were created in Orleans Parish back then, elementary schools ran from kindergarten through sixth grade and junior high schools ran from seventh through ninth grade, which included the first year of high school. High schools held tenth through twelfth grades. Bostick was my nemesis during my initial year of high school at McMain, but not because I gave him sufficient reason to dislike me. Because I excelled at science, I easily answered most questions correctly in class. When his teacher's handbook that held all of the answers to the science experiments and questions was stolen, he unfairly blamed me as the culprit because my answers were almost always correct. He continually looked to put me down in front of my classmates, but he never scared me. I will admit that I was cocky, so the two of us frequently hit head on in an explosive manner such as when magnesium reacts to water. One day I was caught by the school principal with illegally getting out of class to bring a project to Bostick's class, which I had mistakenly left behind at my house. After I was caught, mean old Mr. Bostick used his power to lord over me and changed my previously high mark (everything to that date was in the 90s) to a 39 out of 100 from a 93 for his 5th period class. I was devastated, but the biggest effect was on my not being able to enter Benjamin Franklin High School in the fall, where I had been tentatively accepted based on my I.Q. and successful taking of the entrance exam. Because the low mark by Bostick cost me acceptance to Franklin, I entered Alcee Fortier Sr. High School the next year. Everything happens for a purpose. I know that my sister still holds mean old Mr. Bostick as responsible for keeping me out of Franklin and, possibly, out of some potential colleges as a result of his grading me in that way. Yet, had it not been for my having been at Fortier, I might never have seen my Great-uncle Joseph on a daily basis. Uncle Joe retired from teaching after that year, but contracted pancreatic cancer in just a few months and was gone within a year. Also, had I been at Franklin, I might never have learned touch typing (as I did at Fortier), which gave me a huge leg up when I finally went to college and has helped me immeasurably in my writing ever since. And what about my association with the Phortier Pholk Phest, the singing group that was formed to help foster better race relations and for youth to help understand one another better? My election as senior class vice-president and my work as executive editor of the Silver and Blue newspaper might never have been repeated at Franklin. Also, there were those driving runs during driver's education classes where I was able to order out lunch with my instructor at Bill Long's Bakery (the very best roast beef sandwiches you can imagine on fresh french bread baguettes) or at Domilise's. Ah, that was heaven! There were those lunch runs with four girls that I made that made me pretty popular too. On reflection, I got to know my future wife Sally at Fortier and we know well where that led. Fatherhood led to my association with Scouting and my work in audio-visual aids at Fortier eventually led me to work in radio and television production. So, I guess I should be grateful for much of the high school experience I enjoyed at Fortier and not harbor ill will against mean old Mr. Bostick. My sister still feels like he was wrong and I guess I can't argue with that, but I believe it all happened for a purpose unknown to me. Besides, it was all great fun!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Amazing Mr. Phelps and the Lightning Bolt


Michael Phelps after winning the 4 x 100 meter relay (Getty Images)

There is no doubt now that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time. His quest for eight gold medals at one Olympics and his total of 16 medals, 14 of them gold, has put him squarely in a class by himself. I cheered him on race by race as he broke one record after another until, with the help of his teammates, he secured his goal late tonight. It took 36 years for Mark Spitz's single Olympics record to fall and I believe that this new level of achievement will never again be surpassed in my lifetime. There are just too many variables at play and too many obstacles in the way for this feat to be repeated. As more than one person has pointed out, Spitz won his seven medals in 1972 by his command of just two specific swimming strokes, namely the butterfly and the freestyle. To Phelps' credit he accomplished his five individual gold medals and three relays by his additional mastery of the breaststroke and backstroke and managed to break seven world records in doing so. Let's not forget that his goggles filled with water when he swam the 200 meter butterfly event, essentially blinded, but he still managed to not only win, but to establish a new world record in the process. That shows his ability to take lemons and make lemonade. There were plenty of close calls that would have upended Phelps' quest for eight gold medals in 17 swims, but with strength, stamina and a bit of luck, he followed success with more success. While Phelps can rest now and enjoy the remainder of the Olympics, one can only question what the next Olympiad in London will bode for Phelps, whose Olympic legacy will inspire legions of kids in the same way that Spitz inspired Phelps. Only I don't see anyone ever coming close to what Phelps did. As the most decorated Olympian ever, Phelps will continue to rewrite the record books with each succeeding medal performance. I am in absolute awe and I defy anyone to argue against his greatness.
As great as Phelps has been in the water, Usain Bolt from Jamaica has been on the track. He firmly established himself as the fastest man in the world with an unbelievable performance in the 100-meter dash in just 9.69 seconds, beating his own previous world record of 9.72 seconds. More records are sure to fall with Bolt eyeing Michael Johnson's 19.32 seconds 200-meter mark. Keep an eye out for this lightning fast Bolt.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Child Spy

Hmmm...did anyone get as much a chuckle as I did when it was revealed yesterday that among many others none other than the late Julia Child, the "French Chef" from PBS had signed up to be a spy during World War II? And not just any spy. She was doing her spying for the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency! I can understand director John Ford wanting to be a spy. After all, he wore that eye patch. Larry Tisch, who later went on to run CBS was another interesting recruit, but I could understand his being interested in communications and possibly cyber cracking. But Julia McWilliams, the latter-day high pitched, high cholesterol purveyor of pastries and pate? I just don't quite understand her wanting t be a spy. But I can imagine a scenario during the war, while she was living in England working for the Allies, developing of all things, shark repellent. It probably would go something like this:
(Julia walks into the kitchen and picks up a phone. She looks suspiciously left and right and then dials six digits on the phone, which clicks as it spins.)
Julia: (Speaking low in a monotone) Hello. The paprika is very spicy in my paprikash. (Listens) Yes, it's me. Can we talk?
Julia: (Listens) Right. I'm alone. Just my bouillabaisse and me. Hah! Hah! Hah! (Laughs heartily and then snorts)
Julia: Sorry. I can't help making a little joke. You know, a little kitchen humor...a little pastiche among the pastries, n'est pas?
Julia: (Listening) Oh...sorry. (Her mood becomes serious and she starts to speak in a hushed tone) General, I've just finished baking the plans of the munitions plant inside this lovely Beef Wellington. I just thought that was so appropriate, don't you? I would strongly suggest a St. Emilion or perhaps a St. Estephe, if you must. And a little blanched asparagus with some Sauce BĂ©arnaise would be nice too. (Listening)
Julia: Oh, well, I just thought since I had gone to that much trouble that you would at least want to-- Oh...never mind, then.
Julia: (Gets sullen, but then perks up) I should tell you I am working up something else for next week. It's a list of suspected collaborators. I think I'll have it placed inside a deep, dark chocolate mousse. It should be something you'll simply treasure!
Julia: (Beaming) Well, be talking to you soon, general. Have a lovely day, or as they say in France, BOMB APPETIT! Hah! Hah! Hah! (Fade to black)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Attorney General to the rescue

Well, it only took a couple of days before new Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell was able to swing into action and launch a criminal probe into the actions of Mayor Eddie Price, Jr. as well as others in his administration. As was revealed on TV and in the pages of the Times Picayune, the mayor has allegedly been involved in regularly accepting gifts and in kind donations from a slew of businessmen who do business with the city. He piled up approximately $9,000 in personal charges and $500 in gasoline charges on city credit cards for which he never paid back the city. According to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's report, others allegedly misusing city credit cards were finance director Milton Stiebing, city attorney David Cressy and, not to leave out the ladies, planning director Louisette Kidd. Mandeville police chief Tom Buell, the original source of allegations that launched he investigation, was also rebuked for allegedly using $140,000 from a Christmas toy fund to pay for parties and gifts for Mayor Price and other city officials. Following the recusal of St. Tammany Parish district attorney Walter Reed, Caldwell saw an opening and took it. Caldwell, the first Jewish Louisiana Attorney General, was moved by one of the lessons he learned in his religious school education, to wit, the Commandment that read "Thou shalt not steal."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mandeville's Mayoral Mess

After having survived the fallout from his alleged drunk driving incident at the Causeway, after everyone else involved was either fired or resigned, it seems like Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price, Jr. is self-destructing even further. Apparently he is intent on being run out of town on a rail or else being involuntarily escorted to a state or federal penitentiary. Although he claims he never has betrayed the exalted office he holds, it would seem that he is stretching the realms of believability with the latest report released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. The report found instances where Hizzoner had accepted free golfing trips to exotic greens like Pebble Beach and free hunting trips paid for by a number of different people who have done business with the city. Price managed to use his city supplied gasoline and other credit cards to pay for all sorts of personal items for which he never reimbursed the city. Hmmm...perhaps he is taking his lead from Mayor Ray Nagin, who appeared before the New Orleans City Council to deflect pressure from the news media and the Council as to what has been going on with the embattled New Orelans Affordable Housing agency (NOAH). NOAH has been soundly criticized for claiming to have rehabbed houses in different New Orleans neighborhoods, but when the work was checked, either no work seemed to have been done or in some cases the house no longer existed. Nagin admitted there were "irregularities" in their record keeping, which disturbed him, but he claimed the news media, WWL-TV and the Times-Picayune in particular, were blowing it way out of proportion. I guess if we were to believe Mayor Nagin, we would also have to take Mayor Price as a man of his word. After all, these are elected officials and they would never allow their office to be bought and sold by vested interests. This is post-Katrina Louisiana and that just doesn't happen anymore, right?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jewish natation notes


There are two stories about the Olympic swimming events that have major connections to Jewish swimmers. The first has received a large amount of coverage because it had a direct impact on Michael Phelps' quest for eight Olympic gold medals. The incredible comeback for the U.S. team in the 4 x 100 meter relay was made possible last night by Jason Lezak, whose 46.06 anchor leg was the fastest ever swum, beating the 100 meter world record holder Alain Bernard of France by one one-hundredth of a second (0:00:01). Bernard, who had issued invectives on behalf of the French team against the Americans taunted them saying France would "smash them." He occupied the lane next to Lezak. Not only was this Lezak's personal best, but he contributed mightily to shattering the world record time that he and his teammates had set yesterday at the preliminaries at 3:12:23. This new world record shaved off nearly four seconds from that record at 3:08:24. Wow! Previous to the Olympics, Lezak held three world records, five American records, four Olympic medals and eight national titles. Now consider one other factor. Lezak is the oldest swimmer on the U.S. men's team at 32. Also contributing as part of the phenomenal team effort was the second leg swum by Garrett Weber-Gale, who hit gold in his Olympic debut. Like Lezak, Weber-Gale now owns a world record, an Olympic gold medal, and happens to be Jewish. While the media may have been deemed the other a "smaller" story, it does have a lot to say about what in life is truly important. Israeli swimmer Alon Mandel set a new national record at the Olympics when he finished fourth in one of the men's 200 meter butterfly heats with his time of 1:59:27. Despite this incredible time, Mandel did not qualify for the semi-finals, but it was obvious that he had swum his heart out. This was because that heart was broken earlier in the week when it was revealed that his father Kostia had died in an accidental fall from a ladder at his family home in Netanya, Israel. Rather than drop his Olympic dream, Mandel was counseled by his mother Rina not to return home for the funeral, but to concentrate on doing his best at the Olympics as his father would have wanted him to do. Mandel's sister Maya watched in the stands at the "Water Cube" Aquatics Center in Beijing as she cheered her brother on. Mandel is just one of seven Israeli swimmers competing in the 2008 Games, but his performance gives the tiny nation beset with so many political problems a litle bit to cheer about at this 27th Olympiad of the modern era.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Big Mac

(Photo Copyright Reuters)
There was always something about Bernie Mac. Whether you saw him on the big screen or on TV, he was always naturally funny. Yet, there was an underlying sadness that seemed ready to come out, yet never really did. That kind of humor which results from dealing with strife and misfortune has defined some of the greatest comic geniuses of our time. As a teenager, he lost his mother to breast cancer and in a relatively short order his grandfather and two brothers also died. "Comedy comes from pain," he admitted more than once, but Mac, whose onstage persona got him in trouble as recent as a few weeks ago when he opened at a Barack Obama fundraiser event, claimed that he really wasn't funny. No, he insisted, he was only channeling other family members who were infinitely more hilarious. His onstage comedy was filled with racy language, but he knew that his core audience never expected him to be "clean" like Bill Cosby. He was wise in knowing that. On TV Mac catapulted himself from a guest star on "Moesha" into his own slot on Fox that ran for five years. Despite the onset of the lung disease sarcoidosis in 2004 which shut down production for a while, Mac's TV series was honored with several awards including a highly-regarded Peabody Award; a Humanitas Award for his promotion of human dignity, meaning and freedom; and an Emmy Award for outstanding writing . He received several Television Critics awards and an NAACP Image Award as well as the NAACP's nod as outstanding actor in a comedy for four years in a row from 2002 through 2006. His disease was reported to be in remission in 2005. One of the "Original Kings of Comedy," Mac's career had achieved near superstar status after becoming an integral part of the New Rat Pack of George Clooney's "Oceans" movies franchise. He starred in a few other films like "Mr. 3000" (which he filmed here at Zephyrs Stadium), last year's "Transformers" and "Bad Santa" opposite Billy Bob Thornton, but one could always feel his best work was forthcoming. Indeed, "Soul Men" with Samuel L. Jackson and "Old Dogs" starring John Travolta will both feature the Chicago native's last work before the camera. Although he was never truly one of my favorite comic performers at first, I respected him for his innovative work and admired him for the strength of character he portrayed. I had become a bigger fan in recent years, especially after his roles had grown in importance. At the conclusion of his TV episodes, Mac would invariably break character and address "America," referring to himself in third person. It seems somehow fitting that a man whose comedy was condensed to just 50 years would have such a luxury. On reflection I'll miss that big guy with the bug eyes a lot.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic Effort

Oh, my goodness! Did someone ever see a better initiation for an Olympics? I believe the Chinese have set a new standard for opening ceremonies with a pyrotechnics display that may never be rivaled. But these are the guys that invented gunpowder. So, why shouldn't they do it better than anyone else? I am in absolute awe, but when it really gets down to it, I probably will be more impressed with the performances of the athletes competing in this Olympiad. I have great hopes for all of the competition, but I hate all the attention being put on Michael Phelps. Four years ago he faltered in Athens in his attempt to best Mark Spitz's mark of seven gold medals. If he gets any amount of gold medals less than eight, everyone in the media will be commenting about how terrible it was that he didn't make it. Excuse me? We're talking about winning gold medals here -- beating the best in the world for eight times in a row. Even if he did his very best, there is no reason to believe that any one of the numbers in the field could also rise to the occasion and find that inner strength and resolve to nudge Phelps. So, I won't be sitting on the sidelines commenting about how poor Michael Phelps couldn't make it. I am going to cheer him on and support him one race at a time. Should he make it, I will be happy for him and the United States. However, should he be edged in any of his races, I will consider how fortunate he is to have an opportunity to compete against the penultimate of talented swimmers in the world and earnestly believe that he did his very best.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Death of Mr. Floppy


MR. FLOPPY
(Pictured with his older, deceased brother below)

While you were sleeping last night, we all lost a former valuable friend. Once regarded as an essential part of every computer, the A:/ drive, "Mr. Floppy," has gone on to computer heaven, replaced by the much younger, more robust and dependable flash drive. Years ago every computer had a true "floppy" drive that read thin, flexible magnetic disks suspended in an outer plastic casing, which allowed them to be handled by end-users. The capacity of these floppy disks introduced originally by IBM in an eight-inch format were approximately 76.7 kilobytes. Commercially available since 1971, the floppies, as most English-speaking computer enthusiasts called them, went through a series of improvements to make them smaller and able to hold more data. By 1978 a smaller version at five and one-quarter (5 1/4) inches was available and it was utilized to run applications or even an entire operating system such as Microsoft's DOS (disk operating system). The popularity of these disks lasted for several years until the three and one-half (3 1/2) inch varieties began to be manufactured. Even though the smaller 3.5 inch disks were encased in a hard shell, they were still affectionately known as floppy disks to computer enthusiasts. At first only one side of the floppies were able to be read, holding a maximum of 720 kilobytes of data. Eventually, though, both sides were able to be read, yielding an impressive 1.44 megabytes (1.44Mb) of data. At the time this was considered a huge amount of data that could be placed in a pocket or a purse. In humorous fashion, computer networkers have often referred to this ability to share data on what would later be termed local area networks by the tongue-in-cheek labels of "Sneakernet" or "Frisbeenet." Several computer companies manufactured both 3.5 inch A:/ and 5.25 inch B:/ drives in their personal computer offerings in the 1980s and 1990s. When Windows 95 was first unveiled to the public, it was only available in the 3.5 inch format and B:/drives went the way of the dodo shortly thereafter. Mr. Floppy was once considered invicible. Boot disks and startup disks were necessary in order to troubleshoot computer problems. Mr. Floppy interceded on behalf of the end user time and time again. In recent years as flash memory with no moving parts or friction came onto the scene and the demands of applications that required larger and larger executable programs than could be held by Mr. Floppy, it became obvious that he was headed for obscurity. Mr. Floppy became as useless as a pair of stretch socks that become "quitters." The death knell was sounded when Intel began manufacturing motherboards that didn't even have a place for a floppy drive to be added. For those that mourn the loss of Mr. Floppy, who has joined his older brother B:/drive in the firmament of outmoded computer parts, there are two things to take to heart. First, there are several external floppy disk readers that work on USB ports regularly selling for less than $50 each. Compared to $20 for internal disk readers, they are a bit pricier, but they are fully compatible with the newer motherboards. A word of caution, though. Some don't report as an A:/drive. Teac and others make an external floppy disk reader that does report as an A:/ drive. Some flash drive devices require they occupy the F:/drive space on a computer and that may create a conflict with an external floppy disk that occupies that same drive letter. So be careful that your external floppy drive reports as an A:/ drive or you may be constantly plugging and unplugging your drive in order to use your wireless mouse, optical player devices and your jump drive along with the external floppy reader. Lastly, regardless of where Mr. Floppy has gone, he will always be a part of our computer culture. Anyone who has saved a document will see an icon that serves to recall Mr. Floppy and what he once stood for all those many years ago. He has moved from being indispensable and the sine que non of computing to a metaphor of the past. As long as we remember him for what he did, he will truly never be gone from our hearts. Aside from his older brother, Mr. Floppy is survived by his numerous flash drive cousins, his hard drive father and, of course, his motherboard. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to be made to the computer scrapyard.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Levees.org

In the true spirit of Hillel who once asked "If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now...when?" comes Sandy Rosenthal, a wife, mother and community activist. Rosenthal, an attractive, tall blonde has a very slight speech impediment, but she never has let it get in her way of speaking her mind, especially since she saw the devastation of what happened to New Orleans in the wake of the levee breaks that followed Hurricane Katrina. To that end she founded the socially conscious Levees.org organization while she and her family, including her teenager son Stanford, were all evacuated in Lafayette, Louisiana. Levees.org has time and time again held the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the flooding that took place. Since it was the job of the Corps to maintain the levees and to make certain that they were properly designed to protect the property and citizens of the city, she reckons, they should be held accountable for the disaster of the resulting flooding following the surge brought into New Orleans by the hurricane. Sometime after the flooding subsided and the recovery effort had begun, Rosenthal's organization began putting up yard signs demanding that the Corps of Engineers be held accountable. As a result of stinging accusations, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a report that essentially cleared the Corps of any wrongdoing. Rosenthal and her organization called foul there because, among other things, the ASCE report was paid for with Corps of Engineers funds (about $2 million). The community watchdog organization went so far as to make a satiric video showing a high school classroom discussing the very idea that such a report would be free of any influence. It generated a great deal of accusations of being unfair by the Corps and other engineers closely associated with them. Suggesting that such a relationship was a clear conflict of interest, a University of California-Berkeley professor, Raymond Seed, pushed for an independent review of the actions of both the Corps of Engineers and ASCE. Seed claims that at most every turn, the Corps and ASCE prevented his investigation from completing its fact finding mission. In fact he claims both of the parties undermined the review he had initiated along with the National Science Foundation and has charged that the funding of the initial review by ASCE was a clear ethics violation. Rosenthal and her organization have pushed for an investigation of the Corps' failure to prevent the cataclysm and the alleged conflict of interest, which has been termed the 8/29 investigation. Both Rosenthal and Seed have been critical of an internal investigation being conducted by three former presidents of ASCE because it has dragged on for many more months than they feel it should. According to a spokesperson for ASCE, that independent group referred to as the CPC moves at its own pace. According to a report in the Times-Picayune, retired U.S. Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) claims the CPC has experienced difficulty in meeting because of the schedules of its members. A report is now expected to be released during September. Rosenthal and Seed have continued to express dismay over the slow progress being made by ASCE and Seed additionally alleges that a list of witnesses he provided to them over nine months ago have never been contacted by the review board. Rosenthal's son won a Youth in Philanthropy award last November from the Greater New Orleans chapter of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals based in part on his work as the webmaster for the Levees.org website. There is no question from where the son gets his inspiration and drive. Perhaps Sandy Rosenthal is emblematic of that other famous Hillel quote, to wit, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Vistas

"So, what do you think of Windows Vista?" someone asked me the other day. I had to answer truthfully. "I really don't mind it," I told him. "There are a lot of people out there who don't like the added security, but I do." That's absolutely true, but for those Windows XP lovers, the leap to Vista will take some adjustments. Yet, for those that have been using Windows 2000 or (gasp!) Windows Millennium or Windows 98, it will seem like a leap of galactic proportions. Anyone who has started to work Windows Server 2008 will recognized the similarity between it and Windows Vista. Server 2008 is in reality a Windows Vista server. While Windows Small Business Server 2003 edition (also known as SBS) has been doing very well for customers, there has been much anticipation about the SBS 2008 edition. The news is that it will be released on November 12, 2008, just in time to make it still in 2008, but many months past its original scheduled release. Backups under Windows 2008 Server will no longer be tied to tape media, but will allow a full system state to be copied to a networked drive or onto a local hard disc, something never before natively available. It makes the old style way of collecting data even more obsolete. But that's what computing is all about...massive amounts of change and updates. As I tell end users all the time, the day after you buy your computer is the day is becomes obsolete. It's a very unforgiving world, but one that is continually reinventing itself and audacious in its constant striving toward perfection. But it does leave one exasperated from time to time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Back from Opryland


Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Sherith Israel in Nashville at right
Well, the last few days have been a bit of a blur, mostly blurred images of cars being passed on my way to and from Music City U.S.A. The professional Scout Executives have all assembled in Nashville, Tennessee for the annual National Leadership Training event, known in popular parlance as "All Hands." This year is proving to be a most audacious one for the Boy Scouts of America. The new Chief Scout Executive, Robert Mazucca, is implementing some big changes in this hallowed organization, trying to change the public perception of Scouting as an old-fashioned and outdated institution and attempting to focus more on reaching underserved minorities like the Hispanic community. A report in The Tennessean tells all. So, what could possess a volunteer like me to make the eight-hour drive to Nashville on Friday, only to return on Sunday before the event officially opened? Well, it was my intention to meet with Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Sherith Israel, who graciously accepted an invitation to lead a morning prayer service for any Jewish Scout professionals there. Friday night I got to meet with the rabbi and his lovely wife Danielle, who is expecting their first child. Saturday morning I attended relgious services at the synagogue and enjoyed a tasty Kiddush luncheon there. Sunday morning we arrived at the Opryland Hotel, the largest hotel in the world without a casino, only to get lost for several minutes. We did make it, however just a few minutes late.
As it turned out, three Jewish professionals turned up for the service: Robert Altman of Amarillo, Texas, Jonathan Glassman of Milford, Connecticut and Leo Ney from my own Southeast Louisiana Council in Metaire who lives and services the Houma, Louisiana area. It was an inspiring service and afterward we enjoyed an impromptu bagel breakfast. A nice time, but an all-too short trip to a fascinating city.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

E-mails and stealth advertising

As the presidential campaigns have progressed into attack mode with considerable alacrity, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to deal with other people's opinions about who will serve our country best in the highest office in the land. In theory there should come a time when no matter what rhetoric emanates from the two contenders, we will have made up our minds as to whom we intend to give our vote. I strongly suspect that readers of this blog are much like me. I believe we all pretty much put our pants on one leg at a time. With the exception of those ladies or men who prefer skirts or who may be monepedes or disabled in some fashion, I truly beg your pardon, but I hope you get my drift. I think we all have the capacity to determine for ourselves which of the two candidates will best suit us. So, why am I receiving daily e-mails forwarded to me by friends and family about McCain and Obama? With regards to the election, am I expected to believe that each one thinks I am at the tipping point? Don't we get bombarded with political messages from the candidates on television already? Aside from the e-mails, there is another disturbing trend in political advertising. It is an attempt by the major agencies to mimic the success of viral marketing on the Internet. Advertising campaigns featuring ballgirls making spectacular catches at minor league baseball games or corn popping from supposed radiation emanating from cellphones have been proven to be nothing more than the products of creative minds from major advertising agencies uploaded to video sites like YouTube. The attempt has been to be more than subtle, indeed the agencies call it stealth advertising. The cameras are deliberately hand held and shaky and the dialogue is made to appear to be unscripted to delude one into believing that it is an amateur video. After it is revealed that the "trick" ballgirl catch was really a commercial for a sports drink or that the corn popping was just promoting a Bluetooth headset device, we're all supposed to smile and say "Yeah, that was really cool! You guys rock, so now I'll buy your stuff." Hmmm....am I getting this right? The Internet that was supposed to be the Information Superhighway is now being used by for profit institutions to deliberately give out misinformation in order to promote their products? Now the major TV networks are beginning to show these viral attacks ads placed on the Internet by the presidential campaigns. If the advertising agencies' strategy was to put something inexpensive on the Internet so that the major media would broadcast it or talk about it on radio, they have once again made their point. We'll buy anything if it's packaged correctly. That means we'll all have to deal with more of these fake ads and more e-mails in the coming months and that's really too bad. I have reached my tipping point as far as these are concerned.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Satchmo Summerfest and White Linen Night

One of the best weekends of free offerings is on tap in the Crescent City. First, Saturday and Sunday the Satchmo Summerfest will be held at the Old U. S. Mint off Esplanade Avenue. There will be a number of wonderful traditional jazz acts playing at various stages around the site, which houses the Louisiana Jazz Museum. Nestled at the edge of the Vieux Carre near the French Market, the Old U.S. Mint is a great place to sample food and drink as well as to take in some of the great music that has made New Orleans the mecca for jazz enthusiasts. The nice thing about "Satchmo Fest," as locals may say, is its proximity to the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny. One can easily dine at a nearby restaurant for brunch, saunter over to Royal Street and examine antiques, check out the festival and take in some of the sights of Frenchmen Street all in one day and evening. Although the music is free, one must pay for the privilege by buying food and drink from sponsors. But the food is usually very good and, after all, one must eat.
Saturday night it's White Linen Night in the burgeoning arts area in the Downtown District and for those that love art, it's the night to see and be seen. Yes, white linen is encouraged to be worn, but there are no fashion police out there. There's more food and drink to be purchased and lots of free music available on the street for the enjoyment of the patrons of the various art galleries that sponsor the event. It all makes the first weekend in August a very anticipated event each year.