Sunday, May 30, 2010

The cloud and the fallout

SBS MVPs Calvin McLennan and Boon Tee, MVP Kerry Brown, SBS MVP Kevin Royalty and marketing guru Matt Makowicz
Back in the McCarthy era when atomic proliferation was on the minds of most politicians, the looming threat of mushroom clouds and nuclear fallout from potential first or second strikes scared the living daylights of most reasonable people. It became a matter of life or death to get everyone to think about life under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation and how to prepare for the inevitable. In the IT professional world, the newest threat and challenge to its business model is the amorphous "cloud," the term used to include all services, monitoring and threat management being sent to the Internet. In reality several corporations whose services live in the cloud are a direct threat to those who have traditional business models or offer managed services for clients on a local basis. There are potential problems of fallout with these companies due to legal liabilities or lack of failsafe methods being employed that can directly impact clients. Such scenarios include servers that may reside side-by-side with enterprises that are not legitimate, which could then get impounded by law enforcement officials or changes in H.I.P.P.A. laws which now put the physicians at risk should a breach of data occur, for example. This fallout can mean real costs to IT professionals and can lead to clients losing trust in them because of shortsightedness on the IT firms' parts. It is essential that everyone in the IT industry know of their legal responsibilities and that they inform their clients of how moving their data to the cloud can lead to future problems. What happens if the company they choose fails? How do they get their data back or, if they decide to leave the firm, at what cost will that firm charge them for the data? And, if the data is recoverable, in what form will they send it back? If the client wants to look at costs, how do we explain that the upfront costs may be miniscule compared to the overall cost of liabilities that may arise later? These cases are critical to the future of the IT industry and will be of prime import as more business move to the cloud and current managed services firms grapple with how to stay afloat with the burgeoning threat of the cloud. Today's panel discussion included several Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals who gave their take on what to look for and what to look out for. Also, Matt Makowicz, a former IT firm owner who now deals solely as an author and marketing guru, lent his own suggestions and warning to IT professionals. It was agreed by everyone on the panel that change is coming and all of those in the IT industry will have to change with it or lose viability in the next few years. Once again, thanks to Jeff Middleton for an impressive three-day event.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

To "v" or not to "v"

MCP Ryan Spillane, left, and MVP Oliver Sommer
Virtualization has taken on frightening new possibilities since the core processors have come out that have made it a real consideration for business applications. The primary question is whether it makes sense to virtualize single applications on a server or run them outright without virtualization. Three major experts on virtualization answered questions and gave their own tack on virtualization: Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Dave Sobel of Evolve Technologies; Oliver Sommer, an Austrian Microsoft MVP; and Ryan Spillane, an Australian Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) with tons of business experience. They each gave their own reasons as to why or why not virtualization makes sense in a business setting and where they ran into some problems. Others in the room offered their own opinions, some welcomed by the panel, some not. More on this later tomorrow when Jeff Middleton takes on some of his own musings on the subject.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The first day of the IT Pro Conference 2010

Jeff Middleton, Matt Makowicz, Karl Palachuk and George Serchio

The IT Pro Conference 2010 sponsored by Jeff Middleton's SBS got underway with a plethora of IT professionals gathering to inform each other of some of the best ways to maintain and grow their businesses. Much of the fear from industry insiders has involved thinking about how "the cloud" will affect the market and impact IT firms, who previously have offered services on a local basis. Much of the early panels discussed how to determine strengths within IT businesses and how to mitigate problems with cash flow and liability management. Later discussions revolved about servers and ramifications of data servers hosted remotely ("the cloud") as well as real answers to questions about how to brand Small Business Server and other Windows Servers to clients. The best of the later sessions was done by Ofer Shimrat, the San Diego guru whose SoundOff is about to launch its first Managed Services platform in July. It will be interesting to see how they make the transition from advanced client support to full unified threat management and monitoring of clients through the cloud. Sessions tomorrow will deal with an alternative mail server to Microsoft Exchange, VPN firewalls and monitoring alternatives as well as virtualization tips and best techniques.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's that SBS Migration time again

Jeff Middleton, "Old Betsy" and Tim Laughlin
Tireless Microsoft Small Business Server Most Valuable Player Jeff Middleton hunkered down at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel tonight with a mission. He is hosting his third annual SBS IT Professional Conference there, welcoming a gaggle of geeks from across the globe to his own beloved New Orleans. In order to appreciate the charms and joys of New Orleans, he has summoned up a number of special events for evening time and started the three-day event with Tim Laughlin's band performing before a crowd of nearly 80. Laughlin, who is the premiere New Orleans clarinetist played "Old Betsy," Pete Fountain's fabled clarinet which he presented to him some time back. It was a pleasant kickoff to what should be several days of impressive panels of IT gurus who, along with Middleton, will impart knowledge and answer questions about Microsoft Windows servers and how to best implement effective solutions in the business arena. Some of the presentation team members have come from as far away as Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. A number of major players from the IT industry will be on hand to pitch their products as well like eFolder, Storagecraft, BackupAssist, Cloud Services Depot, Own, Cloud, Autotask and Kerio. My own eports will emanate from the hotel throughout most of what remains for this holiday weekend. Middleton definitely knows how to show off his own beloved New Orleans and the cuisine, drinks and music will reflect that. After the conference concludes on Sunday, there will be an opportunity for many of the visitors to leave New Orleans for a short cruise to exotic ports of call.

BSA National Annual Meeting in Dallas

National Commissioner Tico Perez, left, with Alan
The Boy Scouts of America meets once a year in a venue that is determined by its National Council. Over the course of the past decade this important meeting of delegates from councils all across the land has been held in cities such as New Orleans; Boston; Philadelphia; Grapevine, Texas; Chicago; San Diego; Orlando and Dallas. This year's meeting is being held at the Hotel Anatole in Dallas, not far from the National Council's headquarters in nearby Irving. This is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America and much of the attention being paid by attendees is to the centennial Jamboree being held for the final time at Fort A. P. Hill in Caroline County, Virginia. This event will feature 50,000 Scouts from across the nation with 250,000 visitors slated to appear over the course of the nearly two-week long event. In reality it is like a small city that springs up literally overnight at the U. S. Army reservation. Over the course of the last 30 years that Fort A. P. Hill has been the permanent site of the Jamboree an infrastructure has been put into place (dining halls, sites for camping, toilet facilities, etc.). Following the departure of the Scouts this year in August, monies raised by the Scouts themselves will be used to tear down those structures and return the space back to its original green footprint. In this way the phrase "leave no trace" will truly figure in a meaningful way. The National Council of the BSA has purchased property for a new permanent site for future Jamborees in West Virginia and Virginia. This tract has yet to be improved and there is some question remaining as to how much of it will be developed by the time of the next Jamboree in the summer of 2013. After all, it has taken several decades to make the existing facilities at Fort A. P. Hill effectual, so it will take some time to build the facilities at the new site. Nonetheless, the emphasis for everyone is to make this 2010 Jamboree the most fun and safest event of its kind ever held. In the meantime, it's time to focus on how to deliver the Scouting program to local councils and to the Scouts themselves.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The greatest gift

There are times when I wonder what will become of me after I have passed on.? What will I bequeath to my son and other family members when I am no longer in need of physical comfort or crave wealth? What will friends and relatives think about me when I can no longer defend myself or answer the sharpened tongues of critics? Invariably, there is the answer that cannot be prevented or pondered. There is no wealth or riches in this world that is worth more than a good name. That is the legacy I leave, for good or bad. Wills direct where fortunes are to be split or sent, but a good name is something that only those closest of family or friends can receive or from which they can benefit. There are rules by which we live. In the Jewish faith we refer to these rules as mitvot (Commandments). There are both positive and negative mitzvot, meaning there are things we should do and things from which we should refrain. Similarly, in the case of other faith groups or religions, there are acts which are not allowed and others that are advocated in scripture or by spiritual leaders. These are simple ones like don't steal or kill, but there are others that require more consideration. Whenever there are choices in life which are not covered by my faith, I tend to lean on the Scout Law and its 12 Points. For those of you are not acquainted with the 12 Points of the Scout Law, let me state them:
"A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent." The Scout Law implores everyone to hold those values giving service to G-d, their nation and their neighbors and themselves. The world at large would be a much better place in which to live were everyone to adhere to these standards of behavior. Sadly, I have found there are some who claim to keep the values inculcated in the Scout Law and Oath in their hearts and consciences, but their actions speak far louder than words. They lack the kindness and selflessness that would make them shining examples of what humanity should be. They have the power to heal, but inflict wounds instead. They dole out advice to others that they do not follow themselves. It is a pity, but I have no power to change them. So what I will do is work on myself, hoping that they will someday learn by my example. I have a lot of work to do in that area, because I recognize I have many faults and a long way to correct them. In the meantime I will pray that others will see the error of their ways. Many of them would like to believe they are G-d's chosen. They delude themselves because it is my expectation they will not earn the eternal reward they believe they are due. Their names will be sullied and after all, a spotless name is the greatest gift anyone can leave behind.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saturday's commencement

Tulane's 2010 Commencement - Click on image to expand to full size
It's been two days since Tulane University's 2010 Commencement and what was quite probably the most extraordinary commencement to which I've ever been witness. Yes, it took up approximately half the interior of the Louisiana Superdome with huge black backdrops that could have covered small skyscrapers. Yes, the monumental theatrical display and dais from which the graduates on the floor and the crowds in the stands were addressed was modeled after iconic Gibson Hall, the gothic building that graces the historic St. Charles Avenue campus. Yes, the commencement music was traditional jazz by Dr. Michael White and the Liberty Brass Band with special guest Wanda Rouzan singing "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" at the very end. Yes, the university presented honorary degrees (Doctor of Humane Letters) to Harlem community advocate Geoffrey Canada, medical activist James Ruffin and U. S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. Yes, the President honored the New Orleans Saints and their entire organization with the President's Medal given to the team's part-owner Rita Benson Leblanc, Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams and Tight End Jonathan Vilma. And, yes, the keynote address was delivered by none other than Anderson Cooper, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt and Wyatt Cooper, himself a former resident of New Orleans. Cooper gave one of the best speeches I've ever heard relating his own experiences in which he failed to get an entry level job at ABC News right out of college. His advice to graduates was they should look forward as the failures of one day may prove to be an opportunity for another. Cooper related how he financed his own work as a foreign correspondent for two years in Burma, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and on other dangerous assignments, building up expertise so that he was eventually hired as the youngest correspondent ever by ABC. "In retrospect, not getting that entry level job was one of the best things that ever happened to me," he opined. "Had I gotten that entry level job that I wanted, I would never have become a network correspondent. I probably would have never become one at all." Aside from Cooper, perhaps the most impressive figure on the stage was Tulane University president Scott Cowen, who once called Cleveland home and who has been instrumental in bringing about the university's rapid rise to the 43rd best school in the nation. This is especially significant given the severe damage the university suffered during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. As a matter of fact, this was the class that chose to attend Tulane the uncertain year following the destruction. As part of a tough series of measures imposed by Cowen and the university board of governors, many professors were terminated, the formerly separate Newcomb College for women was merged into Newcomb-Tulane College and the engineering school was gutted. The endowment at Tulane under Cowen's direction after Katrina ballooned to well over $700 million and its academic stock rose appreciably too. His address to the graduates was read from the heart and seemingly without any notes or aids. Although the event took nearly two hours, the drama surrounding it and the extra touches like indoor fireworks, confetti and hundreds of dropped balloons and green and white commencement beach balls made the festivity of what might have been just another boring commencement exercise an exciting and attractive affair. For those who would like to view the entire show from start to finish, click here.
In the meantime congratulations to my son David, who received his B.A. degree from the Liberal Arts college on Saturday during the second part of the unified commencement ceremonies at which the diplomas were actually passed out to the graduates. David started his college career at the University of Kansas, but the destruction of his hometown following Hurricane Katrina caused him to lose focus on his studies at the beginning of his sophomore year. He left K.U. and traveled first to Cleveland, where he lived with my sister at the same time as I lived and worked there. After his return to New Orleans, he first began to study at the School of Continuing Studies, eventually accruing enough hours and good academic work to allow him to enroll full time. Thankfully, the long ordeal is now over. He took six years to do what most do in four, but I am not upset. Understandably, this road less traveled has been the one he chose to take and, given the recovery in the city and his commitment to be back here, I am pleased that he took this path. I am a proud papa and I wish him and his new bride much success in the future.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dark Side of the LPO

The LPO's "Music of Pink Floyd" at Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts on Saturday night.

It really was just like an old-fashioned rock concert. There were hundreds of 50- and 60-year-olds gathering at the Mahalia Jackson Performing Arts Center Saturday night for the sell-out concert by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra titled "The Music of Pink Floyd." If the stage didn't have the 70 or so classical performers, one would probably think it was a normal rock concert. But in reality it was anything but a normal rock concert. This was a coupling of two differing music styles and in the end it won quite a bit of admiration from the rock set rather than from the classical devotees who might have been puzzled by the behavior of the crowd. Perhaps that was because the classical lovers probably expected a bigger role for the LPO than they got. But the rock music lovers have never been adequately prepared to take on the task of listening to traditional classical music or contemporary, modern classical music for that matter. Expectations aside, if one didn't know it was billed as an LPO event, it would almost be like being transported back to the Seventies. There was an impressive laser light show with all kinds of dazzling special effects and a giant screen used for some less-than- satisfying animated effects. The only reason they were less than satisfying is for those of us who recall the original Pink Floyd extravaganzas, the animated pieces were powerful and thought provoking commentaries on society and life. The intermission was a bit surreal because most of the 15-minute period was taken up by a large contingent of older gentlemen and ladies taking care of nature's call or standing in long, snaking lines to purchase more alcohol. The amount of booze being consumed could easily remind one of the Warehouse, a popular venue for rock music here in New Orleans during the time the real Pink Floyd was first touring the States. Ironically, on one of their first visits to the Crescent City, the band found out a truth that still holds true even to this day. Never leave any unsecured vehicle parked on the street. When the truck holding $25,000 worth of irreplaceable synthesizers and other electronic equipment was parked while the band partied and slept, resident criminals availed themselves of the opportunity to enrich themselves. Perhaps it was a valuable lesson the band learned about the Big Easy, because I've never heard of another incident as egregious as that one. Zebra vocalist and New Orleans native Randy Jackson sang most of the lead vocals normally associated with Richard Wright, Nick Mason and Roger Waters, while guitarist Tom Jones did his best rendition of David Gilmour. Suffice it to say he was not David Gilmour, but there were times where he approached the same riffs that made the British rocker a legend while playing with Pink Floyd. Anyone who heard Gilmour's solo efforts wondered aloud why his playing lacked the same tour de force evident when playing along his Pink Floyd band mates. All of the band members' solo releases were similarly lacking. It was always a fact that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. When they played together, they made important, life-changing music. Separately, they were good, but not nearly as transformational or revelatory. But they weren't messengers of God. They were rock musicians. Given the incredible haze of rampant drug usage and alcohol abuse that surrounded Pink Floyd shows, that is a point that is usually lost. The music transcended the performers, suspending moments in time in our collective memory. There was something more to be said about last night's attendees. Aside from the older crowd, there were some very young attendees wearing "Dark Side of the Moon" T-shirts and similar attire. The next generation of Pink Floyd lovers have arrived and while the music may not have as much of an impact on them as it did on previous generations, they are at the well drawing their buckets from those classics and, perhaps, from classical music as well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Star Trek" - the final broadcast five years later

Today marks the fifth year anniversary that "Star Trek: Enterprise," the final series in the Gene Roddenberry-sparked franchise, broadcast its final episode. At one point we also had the original "Star Trek," "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" all playing over broadcast TV. There were lots of Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Bajorans and Changelings to keep us occupied. Today we have the reality stars on "The Hills," "The Real Housewives of ___ ," and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." See? We still have lots of aliens on the airwaves!
It seems so long ago that as an impressionable teenager I watched the original series with William Shatner cast as James Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock. The writing positively captured my imagination and I recall getting very involved with the characters. The original series broadcast around the time I was preparing for my Bar Mitzvah and was off the airwaves the following year in 1968. When Paramount recognized the interest generated (especially by young men like me), they put the original "Star Trek" series into syndication. It was one of the most profitable moves the studio ever made. During this period anxious local TV stations looking to fill their slots adjacent to evening and late night news broadcasts found "Star Trek" a great lure for men 18-49 years of age, but especially the 18-25 set. That demographic has always been highly sought after by companies looking to establish branding with that segment of the market. In any event the local broadcast of "Star Trek" was seen at 10:00 p.m. over a television station that lacked a newsroom. Every night at 9:59:30 a lone trumpeter in one of the Tulane dorms would open his dorm door and play the final theme of "Star Trek" as a friendly reminder that the program was about to start. (♬ Da, da, da, da, da da dum...♬) I'm sure the neighbors were not pleased. In 1975 my "Star Trek" brush-with-greatness moment came when the Tulane University programming committee (TUCP) arranged to have series stars Deforrest Kelly (Leonard "Bones" McCoy) and Nimoy appear as guests. While a crowd packed McAlister Auditorium watching "Amok Time," the episode that showed Spock returning to his home planet of Vulcan to "marry" his chosen mate, several lucky planners and I had the sheer luck to have dinner with the two actors in a private upstairs room at world famous Antoine's Restaurant. Nimoy wanted filet mignon; Kelly wanted seafood. The headwaiter suggested they have both. Other waiters kept interrupting the dinner to ask for autographs. It was very exciting and, as it turns out, expensive when we all were forced to repay the entertainment fund for what the dinner cost a few weeks later. Just prior to dinner, when we picked up Kelly and Nimoy at the Pontchartrain Hotel to bring them to the restaurant, they filled us in on what was then a new animated Filmation and Paramount Television series being run on Saturday mornings. Basically, it was the original actors doing voiceovers, so production costs were relatively low except for what the animation cost. Paramount didn't want to release a movie just yet because the studio was concerned about recouping costs from the original series and wanted to squeeze out as much of the syndication money as they could. Paramount did give in to public pressure, releasing the first of the Star Trek films about four years later in 1979. That meeting with Nimoy was also the time I learned about the Vulcan salute. Nimoy, an Orthodox Jew (Shatner is also Jewish, albeit less observant), used the priestly blessing of the Kohanim he had learned as a youth at his Hebrew school as the sign of peace. The picture seen here shows Kelly and Nimoy with a baked Alaska from Antoine's that bears the names "Dr. McCoy & Mr. Spock."

As you might imagine, it was delicious, but not as delectable as the company we all kept. With the release of the eleventh film in the franchise - last year's "Star Trek" - a new set of possibilities exists for Paramount Studios and for lucky, addicted fans like yours truly. In a sense I hope that I may live long so that Paramount may prosper.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Lady and Her Music

The time was 1983 and I was still working in radio at WYAT Radio, a daytime AM carrier-current station at 990 KHz. The station specialized in oldies with a healthy dose of local New Orleans artists like Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, Chris Kenner, Lee Dorsey and Shirley and Lee. At her insistence, I was still working occasionally at my mom's record store, Smith's Records, and it was because of her association with RCA Records that my mom, dad and I were extended four tickets to the Saenger Theatre to see the touring company of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. I invited my hair stylist, Sally, to accompany me and my parents. It was, I believe, the first time my mother and father had met the lady who would become my wife nearly a year later. Even then, at 66 years of age, Lena Horne was in incredible voice and a radiant star. The full orchestra that accompanied her seemed to dim in comparison to the scintillating vocals that were a little smoky, but nonetheless powerful. Throughout the evening she talked about her past career, especially the fabled M-G-M years when she was breaking racial barriers and turning heads. The highlight of the night was her resplendent rendition of "Stormy Weather," the title track from one of her greatest cinematic starring roles. The following year, about a month after my return from my honeymoon, I started temporary work at the record store as the manager, expecting to eventually return to my broadcasting career. Some 13 years later I was still working at the record store and had personally sold dozens of the RCA double LP "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music" recorded live on Broadway and released before I saw her in New Orleans. Lena Horne's passing yesterday at 92 in a New York hospital brought all of these memories back. I read where she suffered the loss of her father, her second husband, musical conductor Lenny Hayton, and her son Edwin from her first marriage within a relatively short period from 1970-71. Understandably, she considered retirement at that time, but she soon realized that she could not keep away from the public that idolized her. It turns out some of her greatest achievements including a Tony award and the record for the longest solo appearance on Broadway, three Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences would have escaped her had she chosen to give up show business at that juncture. Later, following the success of "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," she released "The Men in My Life," a 1988 studio album and "An Evening with Lena Horne," a follow-up live recording in 1995 that brought her more fans and continued to establish her as a major recording artist. In her personal life she was a tireless crusader for civil rights, a trailblazer for women's rights, but was first and foremost a theatrical star of the highest order. I join with millions of other adoring fans who mourn her passing.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oh, Mama

A few years back I wrote a tribute to Mother's Day. I would like to offer it today in honor of all all beloved mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, etc.

Oh, Mama!

A History of Mother’s Day

The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600's, England celebrated a day called “Mothering Sunday.” Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent "Mothering Sunday" honored the mothers of England.

During this time many of the England's poor worked as servants for the wealthy. As most jobs were located far from their homes, the servants would live at the houses of their employers. On Mothering Sunday the servants would have the day off and were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the mothering cake, was often brought along to provide a festive touch.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church." Over time the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebration. People began honoring their mothers as well as the church.

In the United States Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe, the same lady who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. She suggested it as a day dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe organized annual Mother's Day meetings in Boston, Massachusetts .

In 1907 Ana Jarvis, from Philadelphia, began a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother's Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the 2nd Sunday of May. By the next year Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.

Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessmen, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. It was very successful. By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement in 1914 proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May.

While many countries of the world celebrate their own Mother's Day at different times throughout the year, there are some countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium, which also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Soul Doctor will be in...

I'll bet that very few of you know anything of "Shlomo, the Musical." This was a recent off-Broadway musical that documented the life of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the so-called "singing rabbi" from New York, whose life has become something of a legend. Carlebach, whose followers called him Reb Shlomo, has come to be regarded as one of the most important Jewish songwriters of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Some of his more important contributions include "Am Yisroel Chai," "Barchi Nafshi" and "Kiva Moed." During the last two decades of his life, he became so popular that many of his outdoor public performances held in the United States, in Israel and other venues attracted thousands of followers and resembled rock concerts. Even today there are Carlebach minyonim (prayer gatherings of ten or more) that feature many of the rabbi's more heartfelt prayers. One of the original schluchim (emissaries) from the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Schneerson, Carlebach could trace his roots back to several influential rabbis in Germany. He was born in Berlin in 1925, one of two twin boys and moved with his family to Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania and Great Britain before coming to the United States. His father, Rabbi Naftali Carlebach, became the spiritual leader of a small synagogue in Manhattan's West Side. Both Reb Shlomo and his twin Rabbi Eli Chaim Carlebach took over their father's pulpit following his death in 1967. What established Reb Shlomo as such an important Jewish personage was his ability to do outreach to Jews and to very diverse groups in New York. This included, for example, several Baptist churches in the area. Many religious leaders and their congregations found him to be a very spiritual man, professing tolerance and acceptance of all of the Creator's children. The show closed off-Broadway some time back, but has been retooled and is being presented from May 7 through May 12 at Le Petit Théatre du Vieux Carré. Now retitled "Soul Doctor," it promises to be a must-see for all of the Jewish community here as well as regular theatre goers who are interested in seeing a genuine Broadway production before it reaches the Great White Way. Regular readers of this blog will recall one of Rabbi Carlebach's two daughters, Neshama, who is a recording artist in her own right. She is actively involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans (click here) and recently performed for the benefit of Mazon, the organization that fights hunger and the St. Bernard Project (click here). Both her father and her recordings can be found at Sojourn Records. For a listing of some of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's recordings click here. For Neshama's recordings, click here. Shows run Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., skip a day on Saturday and start again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. with a special Mother's Day Brunch. Night shows will follow at 7:00 p.m. on May 10-12 with a matinee performance being held at 2:00 p.m. on May 12. For more information on ticket availability at Le Petit Theatre for the run of "Soul Doctor," call 504-522-2081

Monday, May 3, 2010

A very Jewish Jazz Fest

Usually, I don't let mere coincidence push my reason beyond normal expectations, but yesterday's last day of Jazz Fest was a notable exception. I found it to be filled with all kinds of Jewish connections, moreso than in other previous years. First of all, there was the fact that I attended with a friend of a Jewish Scouting friend from Atlanta, Marcy, and her cousin Jack, who happens to live in the area now. Both cousins were originally Pennsylvanians. I had talked to Marcy at length over the telephone over the course of the last two weeks, but I had never met her in person. There was something about her. I could tell we had real simpatico, born out of a common love of music and the charms of the City That Care Forgot. It turns out that her cousin was a contemporary of mine who shares a number of friends and business contacts. Why we never connected before yesterday is probably best explained in that he arrived in New Orleans just after college. That meant he was new to New Orleans around the time I was entering college at Tulane. Had he lived here during his formative middle school or high school age, I am sure we would have gravitated toward one another. Nonetheless, as we were walking up to buy a ticket for yours truly, we happened upon a fellow selling one for $35, approximately $20 less than the Festival was selling them. It looked like an offer too good to be true, but when he explained the reason, it seemed plausible. He had purchased this ticket as part of a pair just prior to being offered an even cheaper set of tickets. I spotted his necklace. Sure enough, it was a magen david and I showed him mine as we settled the deal and I gave him the cash. It turns out he was one of Jack's younger charges when he worked for the Jewish Community Center back in the 1970s. The two were so excited to see each other again, it was almost like a homecoming. Once inside we saw several common friends who Jack knew from the Northshore Jewish Congregation or from his work at the JCC or his earlier affiliation at another synagogue in Metairie. Once inside I also met Rabbi Uri and Dahlia Topolosky along with their mother-in-law/mom, Tovah. The rabbi was there because it was Lag B'Omer the first day since Passover that he could listen to music and do a host of other things like shave. He was there to make sure that everyone at the Jazz Fest knew that the WWOZ Mango Freeze tents were all certified as kosher! I had one and the frosty concoction went down even a little bit more smoothly knowing I was sharing a kosher experience with others at Jazz Fest. By the time the Neville Brothers ended their set with "Amazing Grace" and Bob Marley's "One Love," the communal experience of being a part of an event, albeit a very wet experience, was defined by we three Jewish souls enjoying the music of African American rhythms with a heavy dose of Caribbean influence. There was a lot of mazel and simcha at this year's Jazz Fest. I can't wait till next year.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day! May Day! May Day!

Ever wonder why the expression "May Day!" is used for those in distress? Well, it has nothing to do with socialism or communist propaganda. The term in English is derived from the French expression venez m'aider, which literally means "(you) come and help me!" When French was used as the most common language on the international scene, it made sense to use a phrase that most pilots or captains would know. It was used because no one would confuse that phrase with another and is in almost all cases uttered three times in rapid succession so as not be be misinterpreted or garbled in transmission. Believe it or not, the term was proposed by a Brit, Frederick Stanley Mockford, in 1923 when attempting to come up with a distress signal for airplane traffic designated between Paris and London. Obviously the French and its near-sounding English equivalent fit the bill.
Lots of interesting things happening now. I invite you all to check out my reports on, where you will note I am now listed as the New Orleans Performing Arts Examiner. Here's the link for