Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harry Shearer's "The Big Uneasy"

Harry Shearer, producer, director and writer of "The Big Uneasy"
©Alan Smason

Harry Shearer is a man on a mission. The mission is one of information that everyone who lives in New Orleans already knows, that the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster, but in reality a man-made disaster. Shearer's film premiered last night in New Orleans and in 200 other movie theaters across the country. It was intentionally shown on the day following the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in Louisiana In order to maximize its impact. In the film "The Big Uneasy" he lays the blame for the levee breaches squarely on the shoulders of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Shearer's provocative film tells the story of what he believes is a coordinated campaign nationwide to discredit those that differ with the "official" version of the flood that suggest the levees fell victim to the high winds and storm surge that topped the levees. The film revolves about several respected engineers and a whistleblower within the Corps who all have reached the conclusion that the system of levees failed due to shoddy construction and bad engineering on the part of the very agency assigned with the task of protecting the city. The biggest star of the film is recently dismissed L.S.U. professor Ivor van Heerden (currently suing the state for wrongful termination), whose now dismantled Hurricane Center in Baton Rouge eerily predicted that a direct hit or near miss of a substantial hurricane could bring about catastrophic failures of the levee system and cause the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (called "Mr. Go" by locals) to overflow its banks. Van Heerden is joined by University of California at Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea in what is a well-documented indictment of the Corps of Engineers. Their findings and detailed analysis show that the levees collapsed from beneath ground and that they never were topped by the storm surge associated with the storm. John Goodman figures in the film with the comic relief of "Ask a New Orleanian," a series of questions that give more than answers. Voice overs included several by fellow New Orleans residents Brad Pitt and Jennifer Coolidge, who along with Shearer's on camera narratives were eager to help set the record straight. Shearer said that the reason he felt compelled to make the film - financed entirely out of his own pocket - was that the news media has not told the story. The Corps is exempt from any damages that might arise out of flood-related damages from the structures they maintain by law, but as Shearer so carefully points out, it has an incestuous relationship with Congress. Congressmen consider the Corps as their favorite tool to implement water projects in their home districts. Set asides make Congressmen appear to be doing something and can guarantee re-election of incumbents. Although it is a serious film, there are moments of levity in the documentary that help keep it moving along at an enjoyable pace. Like Pitt, Goodman and Coolidge, Shearer was not born in New Orleans, but came here to live and enjoy its many amenities along with his wife, singer-songwriter Judith Owen. Many celebrities like Sandra Bullock and Nicholas Cage have found the music, the food and the lifestyle too hard to resist. Shearer has made a point for his adopted city and assumed the title of a documentary film maker in the process. Known for his starring role in "This is Spinal Tap," but in more recent years for his many voice characterizations on "The Simpsons," Shearer unabashedly stated he used "Rupert Murdock's money" to fund the film. Good show, Harry. Good show.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Obama Nation

President Obama talks on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
Yesterday for reasons only the powers that be can explain, I was inside Xavier University awaiting the address by our nation's 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama. I had been given press credentials in the course of working in my capacity as a reporter and sometimes editor for Southern Jewish Life Magazine. The waiting game is always unnerving for reporters. The byword is always hurry up and wait for every member of the Fourth Estate and even worse for television or still camera photographers. The setup time recommended for them by the White House was 7:30-8:30 a.m. Mind you, the speech was scheduled to begin around 2:00 p.m., so getting up at the crack of dawn to place equipment and mark off one's spot was not especially appetizing to many members of the news media. Nevertheless, those are the rules and don't ever forget that the rules exist to keep everyone in check. The Secret Service and other White House staffers were running around the auditorium, checking out even the slightest hint of impropriety. I behaved like an angel, of course. When the Internet connection was not available, I didn't even complain. When the place they allowed me to sit was located behind the riser for the cameras, I didn't even murmur my discontent. I could, after all, still see the stage through the legs of the cameramen and, after all, that's what long camera lenses and binoculars are for, right? I heard the President talk about many things. After talking about his lunch, which made me hungry, at Parkway Bakery and Tavern (alligator sausage and a shrimp poboy), he mentioned the dedication of the volunteers who have helped rebuild New Orleans. He talked about the tenacity of people like Norman Francis, the president of Xavier University who promised only a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina that the nation's only black Catholic university (and the only one founded by a legitimate saint) would rise from the ashes like a veritable phoenix in just a few short months. To his credit, the university did just that, reopening its doors to students in January of 2006. The President also acknowledged the hard work of students like Jade Young, Miss Xavier 2010, who came back after the hurricane and focused on her studies. As a freshman pharmacy student, she introduced the nation's chief executive and told the audience of how grateful she was to her school and to all those who helped support her during the travails experienced during the rebuilding and recovery efforts. When the President and First Lady appeared, the cheers of the crowd of supporters and politicians rang out loudly in the auditorium and in typical fashion, the President spoke with eloquence and simplicity in promising that the federal government would never desert New Orleans in the future. The only promise many of the local political figures like Governor Bobby Jindal would have liked to hear was that the White House would consider suspending the current moratorium on Gulf oil rigs. But that didn't happen and probably won't for some time to come. It was a wonderful day for people to discover that New Orleans doesn't consider itself a victim anymore. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was in attendance and shook my hand as he left, has long stated that we have shifted from rebuilding the city that was into building the city we want in the future. He and his sister, U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu, appeared earlier in the day on nationwide TV broadcasts of "Meet the Press" and on local broadcasts, acknowledging the solemn occasion of the fifth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. It was a remarkable day of remembrance and a special day of looking forward, not backward, as the city and state moves ahead with such things as master plans and other efforts designed to make the city even stronger than it is now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

First Person commentary in the Cleveland Jewish News

For nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina I worked as a staff reporter for the Cleveland Jewish News (CJN). Today's online CJN edition features a First Person commentary by this humble reporter on the fifth anniversary of the storm (a smaller piece was slated to be published in the paper itself). The CJN is an unusual community newspaper, which is run by an independent board that serves the estimated 80,000 Jews living there. Since my return to New Orleans, I have continued to submit stories of interest to the community members there, including several on conditions here in New Orleans as well as the evacuation from Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Considered one of the top such newspapers in the country, the CJN continues to make incredible strides in journalism and with innovations to their web site during a tenuous time in the economy and a downward trend for the newspaper industry in general. My commentary can be found here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26 five years later

My Broadmoor home three days after Hurricane Katrina
Double click image to see flooding
©2005 Sidney Smith

Five years ago I landed in Cleveland for a few days vacation. My son and mother, the only other members of the family, had already left for college and aboard a cruise ship, respectively. My visit was to be personal but, unfortunately, short. I was due to spend the weekend there with family and friends and would be winging my way back to the Crescent City on Monday morning with an expected return in the early afternoon. I spent the first evening, August 26, enjoying a meal at Fire, a restaurant run by executive chef Doug Katz and located in historic Shaker Square. Following the wonderful cuisine there I passed by the windows of a major supermarket undergoing construction. Large signs on the windows announced the grand opening of the new Dave's Supermarket in five days. I peered inside the windows and noted that there seemed to be little progress to indicate they would be open for business in less than a week. I clearly remember thinking how much I regretted I would not be able to see them open their doors. The next day I attended worship services at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and was honored to hold high the Torah scroll, an honor afforded few visitors in a service. It was later that afternoon that I went to check my e-mail and noticed several urgent stories over the Internet later that warned that Hurricane Katrina, a minimal strength storm that had struck Miami just the day before, had reorganized into a major category four storm over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters with further strengthening likely. The satellite pictures showed a massive system beginning to take aim at New Orleans. I was understandably upset. I needed to get back to New Orleans in order to protect my home and hearth. Frantically, I began trying to arrange for a ticket back home, but the lines were crazy busy and it was apparent that no flights were going into the city for the foreseeable future. An e-mail from Continental Airlines on Sunday notified me that my return ticket was canceled. That afternoon and night was a sleepless one for me as I held my breath, hoping that the 175 m.p.h. winds category five storm would miraculously miss the city. As it turned out, the storm did diminish slightly as it came ashore. Estimates are that it was a powerful category three storm with maximum sustained winds near 135 m.p.h. when it hit the city, veering off to the east just enough that a direct hit was registered in nearby Bay St. Louis and Diamondhead, Mississippi. I watched local New Orleans TV newscasts over the Internet, news reports that could not be seen by those in the local viewing area due to widespread power outages there. All of the local studios able to broadcast had evacuated to Baton Rouge or Jackson, Mississippi. Several news teams were stranded in the flood waters that followed the levee breaches at the Industrial Canal and with cell phone towers down no calls were getting in or out of the city. I watched in horror as Mayor Ray Nagin announced that the Twin Spans, the two elevated highways that crossed Lake Pontchartrain and joined the I-10 from New Orleans East to Slidell on the North shore, were gone. Gone! It was surreal. By the time the floodwaters from the New London Canal arrived at my home on Tuesday, August 30, there was nothing to impede the flow of the water leading from Lake Pontchartrain. The water climbed to five feet and stayed there for close to two weeks before the pumping stations began to work the almost impossible task of pushing the toxic soup out of the city. By the end of the third week the water was nearly gone from inside my home, but the toxic black mold and green mildew had started to consume everything left behind: books, albums, pictures and all the walls. Cabinets had exploded and the contents of their shelves were spilled onto the floor. By the time I arrived back home seven weeks later, I could not believe the utter destruction that awaited me inside and out. My entire time in town was limited to a period of just 36 hours before I had to get back to the airport for a return trip back to Cleveland, where I was now living. Because there was no electricity in the Broadmoor section at that time, there was no way to do any work past sundown as I tried to claim any items not ruined by the waters or rendered unusable by the mold and mildew. I made it back to Cleveland late Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Dave's Supermarket in Shaker Square had been opened for six weeks. and doing brisk business. As it turned out, I had not only witnessed its grand opening, but ironically shopped there in the interim. Thanks to my having registered as a Katrina refugee with no visible means of support, I paid for my groceries with an electronic debit card - food stamps, if you will - provided to me by the State of Ohio. Such a change in fortunes is not unusual in those that survived Hurricane Katrina.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The so-called mosque near Ground Zero

Park 51, the former Cordoba House

Before I begin to expound on my topic for today, I need to state some things that may not be obvious to the casual reader. I am first and foremost an American. There is no doubt in my mind that I love my country. I can say categorically that I do not wish to live in any other country for any extended period of my life. I firmly believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which guarantee our basic freedoms and make us the envy of many other nations. Yes, some of our rights have been abridged in the security concerns following 9/ll, but I reluctantly understand they have been necessary in the fight against terrorism. I know that those that would see our country hobbled by fear would take any all steps to inflict further damage on our infrastructure and to our institutions by further bombings or catastrophic events like those that played out in the underground tunnel in London or on the trains in Spain. Terrorists are opportunists and we need to exercise due diligence to prevent them from striking at future targets by being vigilant and subscribing to safe practices. This may translate into having to disrobe at airport terminals before boarding flights or to support the war on drugs. Drug money has been shown to directly finance terrorist groups and there is little doubt that many cartels are sympathetic to terrorists' goals. With that said, I want to assure everyone that I have been studying the Cordoba Initiative's proposed Islamic cultural center, first named Cordoba House and now renamed as Park 51. This center would include a place a worship within its walls and because of that opponents have referred to it as a "mosque," even though that is a small part of what it would purport to be. The groundswell of controversy has risen because Park 51 would be located in the shadow of the former site of the Twin Towers, a mere two blocks away from Ground Zero. The relatives of those who died have weighed in that they would prefer it be built elsewhere out of deference to their feelings. Several well-known politicians and pundits have voiced their opinions that to build such a "mosque" in such close proximity to the place where over 3,000 Americans died would be in bad taste. I hear what they are saying and I am deeply affected by their arguments. The New York Landmarks Commission has the power to decide whether this cultural center can be built there and they have given the project a green light after months of contentious debate. They have in effect said that they believe such a building can help bring about healing in New York in the days following 9/ll. The majority of members have heard from their neighbors and they believe the Cordoba Initiative will make the abandoned former Burlington Coat Factory into a showplace for religious tolerance and understanding. The embattled project is headed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has long promoted improved relations between Muslims and the West. The actions of a few misguided Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001 should not be construed to be the feelings of all Muslims living in this country. Indeed, President George W. Bush warned the nation in one of his first speeches following the attacks on America that to indict all worshipers of Islam would be very wrong and anti-thetical to the principles of religious freedom we enjoy in this country. Rather than open up wounds that would inflame relations between patriotic Americans on both sides of this debate, we need to ask some basic questions. If building a center two blocks away is considered too close, then where would an appropriate site be? Is four blocks far enough or do we need to have the site moved as much as a half a mile away? Or failing that litmus test, is a mile or more going to be considered far enough? When the arguments are boiled down, it's not just a matter of inches; it's a matter of stopping the construction of the Islamic center, period. I see the point the relatives of the dead and those particularly vocal, patriotic Americans have made. Yet in the long run I see far more damage being done to the whole of our nation's community and to the fabric of our freedom by insisting the project be stopped. We are breeding distrust between our diverse religious communities by holding to such beliefs and doing irreparable harm to our fellow Americans by imposing such beliefs that fly in the face of what makes us such a strong nation. I am not a proponent of Islam. I am an advocate for America and its values. Those are the values that have shone like a beacon in a world where rights to practice one's religions have not always been guaranteed. Religious freedom is what led to the founding of this country and we should not forget that it is freedom of all religions that has kept us strong during periods of great strife. I would hate to think that well-intentioned Americans would react in such a negative way to a project that has been offered in peace and, ultimately, as a memorial to those who perished, many of whom were Islamic Americans too. It is not unreasonable to consider the feelings of those relatives and friends of the dead and to suggest ways in which the center can best honor their loved ones. There are already plans to remember the dead in a significant way inside the center but in the long run it will be the decision of Imam Rauf, considered a liberal or moderate among Islamic leaders in this country, and his board as how best to do that. Some suggest it is a deliberate slap in the face of Americans that this project has been allowed to go forth. Perhaps some Muslims feel that way. That is their problem. America went through several periods of isolationism and xenophobia and to what end? Our solution to dealing with our Native Americans was to corral them onto reservations or shoot them. Our solution to dealing with Japanese Americans during World War II was to send them off to "camps," much to our own shame. Here in the South we have had a horrible history of abuse when dealing with the civil rights for many of our people. Basic rights of ownership of land and voting for elected officials were denied and separate but equal school systems never worked. Today's generation of Americans demonstrates through their words and deeds that much of these racist attitudes are in the dustbin of history. For these reasons and countless others like them, I say we cannot let our fear of Islam or distrust of our Islamic-American brothers to guide us into taking a wrongful stand which might drive a wedge between our diverse religious communities from which we may never recover. As painful as this center may be to some of us, we must not let this controversy make us intolerant and intractable. We can and should voice our opinions. This is, after all, our right as American citizens; but in the end, if the monies are raised and the already-approved center is constructed, we should be supportive. This will teach an impressive lesson to our enemies, who would love to see us bicker with our brethren to show others that we are not the nation we say we are, that we are a nation that hates one another and is not worthy of emulation elsewhere. Remember that an adjudicated project that passes each legal test and is erected near Ground Zero has the capacity to send a powerful message to those that are bent on our nation's destruction. It is simply that they we are strong because of our diversity and because of that they will never be able to destroy us.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Laura's on-air slips

"The Problem We All Live With" ©Norman Rockwell
(Courtesy of Park West Gallery)

Today's blog is going to be troubling for me and many of my contemporaries. It is one that affects me in many ways because I am a child born in the Fifties, raised in the Sixties and who matured in the Seventies (although the jury is out on that one). As a child of the Deep South, I recall the strange practices of segregation that kept races apart from water fountains and restrooms. I remember arriving at a ferry landing one day when I was six and trying to decide between four choices available to "white" and "colored" patrons instead of today's usual two or progressive unisex variety. Unlike most of my contemporaries when I was young, my mother worked for a living. She chose a housekeeper to do the regular chores of cleaning and washing clothes and instructed her to escort my sister and me home from school while she pursued her own career. It was unusual for a black woman to pick up her charges at that time, but she did so every day without fail. Her name was Victoria and she would walk us for the ten blocks to our home and feed us prior to the arrival of our parents each weekday evening. Sometimes, were we fortunate enough to time it correctly, we might catch a Broadway bus to within a block or two of our house. At that time the Broadway bus ran directly in front of my home, powered by an electrical line that ran overhead. I remember the Broadway electric bus for a couple of reasons. First there was one little seat adjacent to the rear exit that I especially loved to grab for myself because it faced inside the aisle rather than towards the front of the bus. I loved that seat because I didn't have to share the space with anyone else on a bench. It was my own private seat. Secondly, there was the sound the bus made as its extended arm slapped the power line above it. I could especially hear it when I was in bed at night trying to fall asleep. It was a sound like that made when wet leather is snapped rapidly and it sounded distinctly different from the clicking sound the similar arm of the St. Charles streetcar made as its pole conducted the power that turned its engines beneath the carriage as it rumbled along that historic avenue. On both the streetcars and the buses was a card that clipped to a seat on the midpoint of the transport. My sister and I knew that card well. We both ran toward it when we got on board and, if the seats were full where it was, we would move it forward to allow us to sit on one side - the "white" side - and to allow Victoria to sit on the other ("colored") side of the card. It didn't seem odd to us because everyone accepted it as normal practice. Sometime around this time the sit-ins and the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights era ensued. Within a few years only "men" and "women" restrooms were around and that card had all but disappeared from memory. New Orleans became a watershed for the Civil Rights era when desegregation was ordered for its public school system in 1960 and Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old originally from Tyler, Mississippi, was escorted to school by federal marshals in a scene famously depicted by Norman Rockwell in his painting "The Problem We All Live With "(see above). That was a time when church bombings and cross burnings cropped up across the South. The last vestiges of the system that sold humans like chattel were being shaken off forcibly and we were all spectators or participants. As a child, I heard the epithets hurled at blacks, but they were an anomaly to me. Aside from my maid, I dealt with very few men or women of color and the desegregation of the school system , which was accomplished in stages, actually didn't catch up to my grade level until I was in high school. I had very few schoolmates who were black until my final four years of public school, but I accepted them as I do all others: by the content of their character and the capacity of their hearts. To use the infamous "n" word has always been abhorrent to me. I have little love in my heart for those that demean others in such a callous fashion. Yet today, as the urban culture has taken over much of the fashion and consciousness of the younger generation, there is a disturbing trend. Too often the rappers and spokespeople call each other by the very same tarnished word that slave owners used in referring to their property. But why is that? What makes blacks employing the "n" word as often as Michael Richards did in his infamous cellphone outburst more right to use that word? Does the fact that their skin is a darker hue entitle them to demean their entire race and, in essence, to continue the practice of racism and race-baiting? I know that I can hear from some of my black friends that I'll never get it: "it's a black thing," they might say. Well, to that I say no, it's not. It's a people thing. I don't care who you are. You can't make yourself feel better by standing on the backs of your brothers and sisters and making them feel psychologically less than you by name-calling or hurling epithets. This is especially true in my own Jewish community where there are documented self-loathing Jews, who wouldn't associate with this one or that one because they're either too Jewish or not Jewish enough or, perhaps, are too supportive of Israel or not Zionist enough. In the case of a famous Jewish radio broadcaster, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, things got way out of hand last week. Having been a former talk show host myself, for many years, I can well appreciate what she was trying to do. She was trying to desensitize her black female caller who was complaining that her white husband was using the "n" word and demeaning her in front of others. Clearly the attempt to make her caller see that it was just a word did not translate over the airwaves. The reason is that it's truly more than just a word; it's the compendium of a million words of hate and it carries no less weight than "kike" for Jews or "wop" or "dago" for Italians. I cringe every time I hear someone refer to others by such words because I recognize the power within them. They have the power to make someone grand into someone small, but using them over and over in such a capricious manner will not lessen the power of those words. On the contrary, what it suggests is that it's okay for everyone to hurl the epithets at one another. In reality it is the exact opposite of that. Dr. Laura was wrong to do what she said over the airwaves and she has apologized for her having said it. That doesn't justify what she did, but it does acknowledge to us she admits culpability. Apparently, as a result of this event, she has elected not to renew her radio broadcasting contract in the coming months, thus ending her career of three decades over the air. While he did not utilize a racial epithet, Rush Limbaugh was similarly sidelined from NFL broadcasts when he was deemed insensitive by suggesting that a black quarterback with a very good record was being carried by his teammates and bandied about by the media merely because of his skin color. He never used a racial slur, but he lost his position on the ESPN broadcast team because he rightly or wrongly expressed his opinion and it touched a nerve. The power of words have shaped human conduct through the ages, from the ancient writings of the Bible to the powerful teachings of modern thinkers like Gandhi. They have the power to bring positive meaning to entire races of people like those found in the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or they have the power to incite wars and unleash unspeakable horrors like those spewed by Adolf Hitler. Meanwhile, the gangsta rappers like presently incarcerated Lil Wayne and others like him, propagate the culture of hate by continually using the very words they won't permit outsiders - non-blacks - to use in describing them. I clearly remember the days when using such words meant someone was a racist. Today, however, it seems when someone uses them, they're multi-millionaires.

Monday, August 16, 2010

After Elvis

Thirty-three years ago the afternoon sun was hanging high in the sky above Smith Mountain Lake, a tranquil man-made lake that was formed from a dam near Lynchburg, Virginia. The sun beat down unusually hot as it does in August, but my friends and I managed to enjoy the day fishing and sloshing down cold beers while out of harm's way. We had no TV or radio on and by the time we drove into Peaks of Otter Restaurant, located just off the Blue Ridge Highway, we were famished that evening. We had no idea that the world as we knew it had stopped spinning. During that time we were out on the lake the rest of the globe heard the news they had never imagined they would hear: Elvis Presley, the King, was dead. During dinner we heard nothing about the demise of Elvis or how he was found dead at only 42. We only heard about and sampled the fresh rainbow trout that had been swimming along in local streams only a few hours earlier. We enjoyed a festive repast and drove the 40 minutes back to the home located just off the lake. It was then that we turned on the TV to hear Tom Snyder on an hour later than he should be apologize for being on late due "to the death of Elvis Presley." I'll still never forget just how a beautiful day it was and how the world came crashing down for those who grew up in the rock and roll era. Last year's passing of Michael Jackson might be the closest to hysteria that fans exhibited since the death of Presley. The outpouring of grief for the King of Pop probably lasted longer than that for the King because the funeral for Jackson was postponed for several weeks and memorials went on unabated for months after his passing. Yet, in the three days from the time Presley died until the day he was laid to rest, there was an unbelievable response from his fans. I was driving home from Virginia on that Sunday, but elected to spend the night in Chattanooga rather than make the drive to Memphis. As I recall an out-of-control automobile barreled into the funeral crowd, killing a young Louisiana woman. Perhaps, had I been in Memphis, I might have been in harm's way too. The fact I wasn't in Memphis, though, didn't mean I didn't have feelings for Presley. He was one of my earliest musical heroes and I remember singing "Don't Be Cruel" along with his single for family members when I was just a mere tyke. Frankly, I never got that hip shaking thing down too well, but that didn't matter. For just a few minutes, I, too, was the King, making my mark on the musical world to the delight of my audience. Years later when he had graduated from blue jeans to jump suits, he still had that magnetism that made fans glad to be around him and appreciative of his skills as an entertainer. One adage that's true: after Elvis, nobody out of prison makes jump suits look good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A bad week for the Saints

The Louisiana Superdome, home of the world champion New Orleans Saints
It's been a bad week for the Saints. Yes, the Who Dat Nation was definitely fired up for the first pre-season game against the New England Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady last night. But it was not to be a final victory. They made several mistakes on the field, some of which might have resulted in a different outcome than the 27-24 win the Pats enjoyed at game's end. Down 24-7 at one point in the third quarter, the Saints second and third teams showed real depth in battling back. The highlight reel will show Larry Beaver's 97-yard return run for a touchdown, but it should also show his muffed fair catch that almost resulted in a turnover. The fact is Drew Brees and the first team looked a little hesitant, but when it counted they put points on the board. The defense swarmed over New England in the second half, accounting for the fact that New England was unable to put any more points on the board in the final quarter until the final minute of play. The fact is a loss is a loss, whether it's in pre-season or in the regular season. If this serves as a wake-up call to the world champions about where they need to apply fixes, then this close game will have had a positive impact on future games. Aside from the game's outcome, the loss of running back Lynell Hamilton for the season due to a torn ACL in his right knee will be another hit for the team that had such high hopes for him. With the departure of Mike Bell, the running back position will now need to be decided between Chris Ivory and P. J. Hill. Another hit that the team took was a spiritual one. Earlier this week Dave Dixon, the "father of the Superdome" and a figure instrumental in securing the NFL Saints franchise back in 1966 died after a long battle. Dixon was a legendary figure whose impact on the local scene has never been truly acknowledged by people outside of New Orleans, but his legacy in the form of the Louisiana Superdome, the nine Superbowls played there and other sports events like the BCS Championship Bowl and NCAA Final Four played there, will forever remain as to his import to the local economy and the spirit of the city.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The depression that went away

The former Tropical Depression 5
The first thunderstorms made their appearance about 3:00 a.m. and it wasn't long before the nighttime sky was flashing with bolts of lightning and powerful claps of thunder. For a short time there was a reminder of what the worst part of living through a tropical disturbance, depression, storm or full-blown hurricane can bring: the loss of power. But nearly as suddenly as the lights went off, they came back on and haven't gone off since. Now, occasional bands of fairly light rain are coming through and, while most guards are not down, much of the populace is breathing a huge sigh of relief. It would seem that it will be a miserable, wet day, but one without a great deal of street flooding or high winds.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some things I've missed

A "44" for the President from Drew Brees
©Carrie Devorah (all rights reserved)
It's been nearly three weeks since I started on my epic adventure to attend the National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America. It was in every sense of the word an adventure and, with the exception of one Scouter who passed away in his sleep a couple of nights before the affair ended on August 4, the safest Jamboree ever. Given the extremely high temperatures that prevailed over the course of the 13 days I was there when the thermometers would hover over 100 degrees Farenheit with high relative humidity. Being from New Orleans I am accustomed to periods of such weather, but the sanctuary of an air-conditioned building or the promise of an automobile with working environmental controls always made the hardship easier to endure. In Virginia at Fort A. P. Hill, there was little in the way of air conditioning and there was no respite from the heat except for constant intake of cold water to lower one's core temperature and to compensate for the loss of body water from perspiration. There were a few Scouts who succumbed to heat exhaustion and were revived in the short term, but in the end most of those in attendance (Scouts, staffers and visitors) made the most of what turned out to be a very busy and well-planned ten-day event. In the interim, though, I missed a few things in New Orleans. The first one is the apparent end of the British Petroleum leak in the Gulf of Mexico, which has met with positive reaction across the board. Anthony Bean's production of "The Wiz," which starred New Orleans Soul Queen Irma Thomas and a cast of mostly kids went on without me as did Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre's final production of "The Music Man" starring Chris Carey. On my way home from the Jamboree I stopped in Washington, D.C. to check out a few of the sites there. I knew that the NFL World Champion New Orleans Saints would be there on Monday morning to meet with President Obama, but I could not stay away that much longer. (Oh, if I only could.) Nevertheless, I did get an excellent shot from the affair from Washington Press Corps member Carrie Devorah. It shows Saints quarterback, Superbowl MVP and Madden 11 coverboy Drew Brees presenting a Saints jersey bearing the number 44 to President Obama. Fans will recall that the Saints won the 44th Superbowl (XLIV) this past February 7 and political scientists will point out that Barack Obama is our nation's 44th leader. Very appropriate indeed. Saints fans the world over should thank Carrie for her excellent photographic skills and her generosity in sharing with me.