Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Swear I had Nothing to do with It

Giant Penis Seen from Space
Press Association
Wednesday January 31, 2007

Two pupils who drew a giant penis on a school lawn using weed killer two years ago can still admire their work from satellite photos now posted on the internet.

Despite the school re-seeding the area, the penis has turned up on satellite image search engines because a photo was taken before the new grass could conceal the appendage.

The unnamed pair of year 11 pupils from Bellemoor school for boys in Southampton, burned the 6-metre (20ft) phallus into the grass as an end of term joke.

Staff, parents and pupils who log on can now see the image in all its glory.

A spokeswoman for the school said: "It was just one of those high school jinks.

"This was an act of vandalism that took place during the summer of 2005. Southampton city council re-seeded the area and the grass was re-grown by the beginning of the new school term."

Livin' the Life

Ruminations on a typical yesterday:
  • Bobby had a dental appointment for 9:00 AM on the Westbank (that's on the other side of the Mississippi River for those of you not from here). I had the place to myself for three hours. Didn't score once.
  • Went to get my beard trimmed at 2:00 PM. Having become concerned about the whiteness of my beard (my face seems to disappear into a cumulus cloud lately), I asked about adding a little color. Before I knew it, I had black goop spread all over across my face. I looked into a mirror and freaked. I looked just like Dave. An old, fat Dave (buddy, watch yourself; otherwise, your future looks bleak). I pleaded with them to wipe it off. They said it was already too late. After the cleanup and the trim, however, I found I looked pretty good - like I had slathered shoe polish across my jaw. I can't go out for a while. I look like this.
  • At 7:00 PM, I found myself at the Marigny Theatre for the second night of auditions for an upcoming production of three Tennessee Williams one-act plays. The actors there were remarkably talented. I later turned to Timm, the producer of this event and owner of the theater, and mindlessly asked him, "Why do people of such caliber come here?" Luckily, he missed the inadvertent bare-foot-in-cow-patty remark. His response was that, while watching the auditions, he had wanted to comb through the plays to find another one-acter or two. I thought to myself, Give me strength.
One last note to auditioning actors: when the director is attempting to excuse you so that you can go home, don't start piping up that you want to read more because so-and-so read a longer portion of a scene or because you think you can do better or because now you know more about the character and the story. The director probably has a pretty good idea of what you're capable of doing. He probably has a concept of how he's going to cast. He's probably tired and just wants to go home and try to wash some of the fucking dye out of his beard. Give him a break.

See What I Mean?

Timothy Noah noticed the same incongruity I did yesterday.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

'Scuse Me

I don't mean to be ugly or dense or unfeeling and inconsiderate or anything; but am I imagining things when it seems that all the RSS feeds are providing overwhelming coverage about the death of Barbaro?

Did I sleep through the ceasefire and withdrawal from Iraq, the cleanup of the Gulf Coast, the treaties with Iran and North Korea, the passage of universal healthcare for Americans?

I'm just asking.

We're Doin' Fine, F'Sure

Joe at Manly-Pointer has an interesting post about healthcare in New Orleans today.

To emphasize his take, on a note closer to home, Donnie Jay, principal producer for To Do Productions, went to a public clinic last week with a festering sore and a swollen left foot. Donnie has diabetes. No one at the clinic could see him that day, so the staff gave him an appointment to return on May 31st.

Over the weekend, he decided this was not an acceptable option, so he got a friend to take him to University Hospital at 7:00 yesterday morning.

By yesterday evening, he was in a room and expecting to remain there on his back for at least a week.

Later this afternoon, doctors will amputate his left little toe.

But, not to worry, America is thriving. Dear Leader tells us so. Keep shopping.

Two Ways of Looking at It

Even though Tony Blair is giving the Catholic Church in England twenty months to begin to comply with the new equality laws, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor believes ...
The Government's refusal to allow faith-based adoption agencies to opt out of laws prohibiting discrimination against homosexual couples is the first step in banning the church from public life ...

... [He] said the legislation, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, had created a "new kind of morality" and represented a "lack of freedom for religious conviction".
With all respect, Your Eminence, why don't you view this new regulation as an invitation to step into the present? Certainly, there is precedent for this. Haven't your forbears occasionally capitulated to various governments throughout history, sometimes for purposes that could not be construed as humanitarian?

Monday, January 29, 2007

In the Midst of the Rubble, We're Tightening Our Belts ...

To feed the top dogs:

Salaries of top New Orleans administrators have nearly doubled in the past eight years, and paychecks for some positions have almost tripled, thanks to aggressive pay increases pushed through by Mayor Ray Nagin. But whether the city is getting a big bang for the big bucks is an open question.

The pay packages for top Nagin aides are well above those in Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., cities that were already substantially larger than New Orleans even before Katrina scattered the city's population across the country.

And the executive pay scale doesn't lag far behind Atlanta and Austin, Texas, bigger cities that also own and must pay top-flight managers to run some extremely valuable assets: an electric utility in Austin, and Atlanta's airport, the busiest in the country. …

When Nagin took office in 2002, he made increasing executive salaries a top priority, saying it would attract employees of higher caliber -- and potentially woo "stars" from the private sector. He talked expansively of using the headhunting Web site to recruit nationally.

As it turned out, nearly all of Nagin's original hires were local, though he did manage to lure some staffers from jobs in the private sector. But in subsequent years, he has been more apt to promote from within the ranks, with the exception of recovery director Ed Blakely, an outsider with an established pedigree in his field.

In his first few months in office, Nagin persuaded the City Council to approve salaries of $150,000 for two top appointees: his original chief administrative officer, Kimberly Williamson Butler, and former chief technology officer Greg Meffert, whose position was invented by Nagin.

Before Butler, the CAO, traditionally the top aide at City Hall, earned about $90,000.

Nagin has since created several high-level posts, most recently recovery director, with a salary of $150,718. Last fall, he created a job overseeing housing and economic development, a post that now pays $166,467.

Under his guidance as well, job categories that have been on the city books for decades have been retrofitted with much larger paychecks. For instance, in 1999, longtime New Orleans Museum of Art director John Bullard earned $68,040. He now brings in $145,205, a salary that is commensurate with that earned by major museum directors in other cities.

As former Mayor Marc Morial's communications director, Denise Estopinal earned $47,460. Her counterpart in the Nagin administration, Ceeon Quiett, makes $122,025 -- the same salary as Nagin.

Whether the pay increases Nagin implemented have resulted in a stampede of new talent at City Hall is hard to say. Quiett declined to comment for this story.

But in at least one high-profile case, even the mayor would agree that the new hire was a dud.

He forced out Butler, for instance, after she had been on the job a little more than a year. Later, she became the subject of public ridicule when, as the elected clerk of criminal court, she engaged in a standoff with the court's judges that briefly landed her in jail. Butler followed that up by staging a quixotic run for mayor. …

Organizer Wade Rathke of Local 100 Service Employees International Union, which represents hundreds of city workers, has always opposed boosting executive pay. He accused Nagin of "callous insensitivity" when the mayor first proposed large raises for top aides, and said he doesn't think the salary increases solved anything.

"At the executive level, there is no indication that the 'search' and recruitment process is other than the standard set of acquaintances and referrals that seem to follow any mayor and his retinue," Rathke wrote in an e-mail. "There is certainly no indication that pay has been the factor here in allowing the city to step a notch up competitively and recruit from other city executive ranks. Offhand, I cannot think of a situation where we have recruited someone 'nationally' into City Hall at the executive level since Chief Pennington was hired from (Washington) D.C., and that was quite a number of years ago."

Where is the money even coming from? Traffic tickets? Citations for public intoxication?

Oh, well, ain't that just the way the world goes, cher?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Now This Is Offensive

I first came across this photo in an email written by Mark Folse. Today I found it on a news feed from Urban Legends.

The post on the Urban Legends website says it all. Thanks, guys.

The True Meaning of Globalization

My cousin Lloyd just sent me this. He doesn't know when to quit. Skip it if you've heard it.
What is the truest definition of globalization?

Princess Diana's death.

How come?

An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel while riding in a German car with a Dutch engine which was being driven by a Belgian who was drunk on Scottish whiskey (check the bottle before you change the spelling). They were being followed closely by Italian paparazzi on Japanese motorcycles. The Princess was treated by an American doctor using Brazilian medicines.

This is being sent to you by an American, using Bill Gates' technology; and you're probably reading this via a computer that uses Taiwanese chips on a Korean monitor assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by Indian lorry-drivers, hijacked by Indonesians, unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen, and trucked to you by a Mexican illegal.

That, my friends, is globalization.
I offer my most sincere and deepest apologies to anyone I may have offended by the thoughtless and hurtful remarks contained in the so-called joke printed above. It was never my intention to cause pain to anyone ...

Wait a minute. It came from Lloyd.

Blame him.

Saying Goodbye Is Hard, But Not Hearing Goodbye Is Harder

There you have it in a grammatical nutshell: life's great dilemma, reduced to a dichotomy between the active and passive voices. Life's great dilemma has to do with the difference between doing something and the neediness of having something done to us.

I find, four months after leaving my job for the last time, that I was not given an ending to my career. I became a non-person with virtually no further contact from people I had thought to have had some caring portion in themselves for me. It's as though my body - weeks dead - had been accidentally discovered, autopsied, held for next of kin, then deposited in Potter's Field after no one had responded to queries about the man whose decomposing body had been found some months ago.

(You see me slipping into passive voice?)

I wanted a party when I retired! I wanted those people who had gone before me to return and reassure me that what was ahead of me could be better than what had gone before. I wanted to see again the people I had worked with over a span of thirty years, who had molded me, mentored me. I wanted there to be people who would tell me I had done a job well. I wanted my brothers to have been invited to the party and to have seen what I had made of my life so far away from them. I wanted what everyone else has received and what others are receiving still. As it turns out, what there was for me was a solitary passage through a back door into a deserted parking garage and a short trip home.

Isolation and loneliness are terrible things; and those six words cannot express the devastation of the reality. But they are realities that belong to all of us, realities we all must face, at least at one point in our lives.

I'm facing them now. I will deal with them. I will pass through this time and emerge from the darkness again.

I've often joked about my first tattoo, the Hebrew word raham.

People ask, "What does it mean?"

I tell them, "It means compassion, which seems to be my lesson for this lifetime."

I mean that, but the word means more than that. It's used in the Hebrew Bible to convey God's loving care and mercy for His creation, which is a living, growing thing inside of Him. Yes, like a baby in its mother's womb.

I had always planned on culminating my tattoo experience with a cross. My mind has changed its direction, however; and this week I will have a new work laid across my right arm: a phoenix - in descent.

I've never seen a work depicting a phoenix in descent, one always sees the phoenix rising in rebirth. But when I met with Ramon on Friday night, he took my arm and began to sketch. What emerged from the structure of my arm was a phoenix swooping downward.

Maybe that's where I am in my own flight right now.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Priests Out of Control!

I'm Marlowe. Just another shamus working the Vegas Strip.

Late last night, after downing what was about my seventh shot of J D, I got a visit from Mickey Gimp, a sergeant in the LVPD. Seems they'd had a call that seemed to him to be right up my alley.
Police were searching for a Catholic priest they believe may have sexually assaulted and struck a woman at a church.

Authorities said they were called to Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church on Friday evening by someone who heard a woman in the church cry for help.

Sheesh, those Catholics. So stuck in the Middle Ages that when they want to fit in in the 21st Century, they think its kosher to come up with a moniker like Our Lady of Las Vegas. Mary with a headpiece, a sheer see-through bra, and a gold g-string.

Anyway, when the coppers got there, they found...

...a church employee who said she had been assaulted and hit in the head with an object by a priest...

What kind of object, lady? If you don't want the bishops taking out a contract on your comfy derriere, you'd better start clearing your facts.

She was able to tell them...
...the priest, whom they declined to identify, is between 48 and 52, and driving a creme-colored Buick LeSabre.
"Creme"? Only in America.

Gimp passed me the word that the dame was going to be all right, but they needed my help in dicking out the good father.

"Gimme another shot of J D on your tab, Mick," I told him. "Then I'll hit the Strip and see what I can do. Make it another couple of shots, okay?"

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fucked New Orleans

The Rude Pundit is on another NOLA rant:
The Saints lost on Sunday, one game shy of the Super Bowl. On Tuesday, President Bush gave New Orleans - or Katrina relief in general - zero words in his State of the Union address. Many places far, far away were more important to the state of the United States than New Orleans. Apparently, even the woman who makes videos of puppet dragons dancing for babies is more important than New Orleans.

New Orleans is fucked, yes, we must sigh and admit it to ourselves, like people with cancer must tell themselves that their bodies have turned on them. Like Republicans need to admit that the Bush presidency is a failure that will end up wrecking their party. It is going to be fucked for years to come, more than likely forever.

The Rude Pundit wonders what would have happened if it had been San Francisco that had been smited a year and a half ago. Or some other comparably-sized city. If it had been a state with a Republican governor (especially one up for re-election). All those possibilities that might have un-fucked New Orleans. Instead, the ash heap of public consciousness awaits it, except for moments of feeling good when, say, Brad and Angelina buy a house there. It's like tossing coins in the paper coffee cup of that homeless guy you see every day. You feel great about yourself as you move on with your morning. But he still is out there in the cold, just wanting enough for a bottle or a vial so he can forget, too.

Why Do Men Have Nipples?

I woke early from a sweet, now-unremembered dream with a question pulsating in my mind. Why do we have nipples - we, meaning men? I've been focusing on my own man tits for the past several months now because - well, I'll get to that later. But why nips? I decided to do some research. What I've found might surprise you.

So I repeat my question, "Why do men have nipples?"

To tell you the truth, nobody really knows. The best explanation I've been able to find (and frankly it doesn't explain very much) is that nipples aren't a sex-linked characteristic. In other words, nipples are just one of those sexually neutral pieces of equipment, like arms or brains, that humans get regardless of sex.

As you may know, every human being gets a unique set of 23 pairs of chromosomes at conception. These fall into two categories. One pair of chromosomes determines sex--the XX combination means you become female, the XY combination means you become male.

The other 22 pairs, the non-sex chromosomes (they're called autosomes), supply what we might call the standard equipment that all humans get. These 22 pairs constitute an all-purpose genetic blueprint that in effect is programmed for either maleness or femaleness by the sex chromosomes. The programming is done by the hormones secreted by the sex glands.

For example, the autosomes give you a voice box, while the sex hormones determine whether it's going to be a deep male voice or a high female voice. Similarly, the autosomes give you nipples, and the sex hormones determine whether said nipples are going to be functioning (in females) or not (in males).

One interesting consequence of the developmental set-up just described is that during the very early stages of fetal life, before the sex hormones have had a chance to do their stuff, all humans are basically bisexual. Among other things, you have two sets of primitive plumbing--one male, one female. Only one set develops into a mature urogenital system, but you retain traces of the other for the rest of your life.

* * * * *

Without nipples the male chest looks strange. The nipples provide a focus point for the male chest. They direct the eye to the curve of the pectoral muscle.

Men and women are mammals (from the Latin, mamma breast) a species that [has] breasts and feeds its young with milk. The human embryo has tissue that will evolve into breasts. Both male and female babies are born with nipples and ducts intact. It is the presence of genes that direct hormones to differentiate the breast tissue. The Y chromosome stimulates hormones such as testosterone to form male features.

* * * * * *

Like all "why" queries, the question of why men have nipples can be addressed on many levels. My four-year-old daughter, always suspicious of a trick when asked such obvious questions, answered: "because they grow them." In search of the trick answer, she quickly added that "chests would also look pretty funny with just hair."…

In a now-famous paper, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin emphasize that we should not immediately assume that every trait has an adaptive explanation. Just as the spandrels of St. Mark's domed cathedral in Venice are simply an architectural consequence of the meeting of a vaulted ceiling with its supporting pillars, the presence of nipples in male mammals is a genetic architectural by-product of nipples in females. So, why do men have nipples? Because females do.

* * * * * *

Testosterone promotes the growth of the penis and testicles. Because nipples are there before this process begins, the nipples stay!

* * * * * *

Because we are mammals and blessed with body hair, three middle ear bones, and the ability to nourish our young with milk that females produce in modified sweat glands called mammary glands.
Excuse me while I stifle a yawn. Do you want to know what I think?

I think that, because we are men, and thus inalienably entitled to any and all pleasures available to the male body, we have nipples so that we can play with them and feel good. There are even classes of men - those who meet with others of their ilk in locations too frightening to the timid - who have replaced the traditional handshake with the nipple tweak. This expresses camaraderie, a willingness to extend pleasure, and a certain level of prurient interest. As for me, plucking my nipples is like flipping a switch. I've often had to alert certain unsuspecting buds of mine to the potential outcome of their actions. Fortunately, this hasn't stopped all of them.

Science is so easy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Something about the Smell of Pepperoni

Wednesday is pizza night at the Latrine. Bobby and I have made it there for this event frequently, but I never had to fight the desire for mozzarella like I had to last night.

Man, I'll be glad when I'm skinny and can pig out again.

If They Keep Throwing me This Bone, I'm Gonna Keep Chewing On It

Katrina Vanden Heuvel writes in The Nation:
On the day before the State of the Union address, Senator James Webb said, "If we're putting all of this money into Iraq and ignoring New Orleans, then we're doing something wrong." He suggested that the city had "kind of fallen off the national radar screen over the last year."

Yesterday, as if to prove the Senator's point, President Bush delivered a 5,600-word speech without a single mention of the Gulf Coast recovery. In his last State of the Union address, just five months after what Senator Edward Kennedy described as "a disaster of biblical proportions," Bush devoted all of 156 words to the unprecedented devastation and tragic non-response.

The President's disconnect from the Gulf Coast plight brings to mind the words of one Congressman who said in the days following the disaster, "Indifference is a weapon of mass destruction." It's also consistent with a Bush administration that columnist Paul Krugman described as having "an ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good." In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, Krugman wrote, "I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence…. At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice."

Imagine how different things might be if – at this moment – our president were sending 20,000 civilian workers into New Orleans instead of 20,000 more soldiers into Iraq. A Reconstruction Surge instead of a War Escalation Surge.

But the reality is that we are now spending $8.4 billion per month in Iraq, while in Louisiana, as Senator Mary Landrieu noted, "We still have over a quarter a million people not back in permanent housing. We have major infrastructure projects that will have to be complete. We have a school system to rebuild, a health care system to rebuild and still more work to do on securing the energy infrastructure for the Gulf Coast."

What this nation needed when the hurricanes hit – and needs today even more – is a President who doesn't avoid facing our greatest challenges and tragedies, but leads our government to address them head-on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And Another Thing about Jim Webb

Ari Berman writes in The Nation:
Take just one instance that often gets forgotten these days: New Orleans. At the beginning of his speech Webb said that he hoped the President was "serious about…restoring the vitality of New Orleans." In fact, tonight Bush conveniently failed to mention Hurricane Katrina. "I do not see myself voting for any more money for these reconstruction and economic projects inside Iraq when we have places like New Orleans that haven't gotten help," Webb said recently. Leadership--both foreign and domestic--Webb realizes, begins at home.

The Democratic Response to the SOTU Address

From the NY Times, here is the text of Senator Jim Webb's response to the State of the Union Address:
Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown ­ an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy, ­ how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy ­ how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy ­ that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues ­ those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death ­ we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us ­ sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable ­ and predicted ­ disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.

Meanwhile, earlier, while Bush was primping and prepping for his upcoming babbling, another man died.

Signs and Portents

Strolling along Elysian Fields late yesterday evening in a gray drizzle, I passed a large, two-storied house. On its front door was thumbtacked a laminated sign. The sign read:
If You're Cute and Cuddly,
Come on Over.
If You're Ugly,
Bring Money.
I had a spare twenty. Good thing I had my ATM Card, too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Catholic Coercion - WWJD?

Each day seems to bring me a newer reason to be ashamed of having been raised a Catholic. Recently, Great Britain passed regulations banning discrimination based on sexual orientation (the Sexual Orientation Regulations or SOR for short). This development certainly did not sit well with Britain's religious bigots. And now the Church (that's what we Catholics call the Catholic Church, you know) is flexing its atrophying muscles.

Today's Guardian reports:
Britain's Catholic church put itself on a collision course with the government today, warning it could be forced to shut down its adoption agencies if made to comply with gay equality laws.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, said it would be an "unnecessary tragedy" if Catholic agencies were forced to close - rather than being forced to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.

What playground bullying. Abandon the children who are in dire need of parenting to prevent them from entering nurturing homes provided by committed same-sex partners? What is the church going to do with them? Raise them in orphanages administered by priests and nuns? I'm sorry, but that scares me.

[Murphy-O'Connor] said: "We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service."

He added that it would be an "unnecessary tragedy" if the sexual orientation regulations (SOR) forced the closure of these adoption services, thereby "significantly" reducing the potential resources of adoptive families for the 4,000 children currently waiting for adoption placements.

There is another teaching of the church concerning examination of conscience. May I humbly request that Cardinal Murphy O'Connor and his brethren consider an examen of their own thoughts and actions? Is it truly God's will to deny a home to children?

I mean, it isn't easy to adopt a child. No reputable agency is going to toss a baby to just anyone who shouts out, "Throw me something, Mister!" Agencies scrutinize potential parents, potential parents open themselves to this scrutiny. That certainly was never the case when the good fathers and the good sisters snatched boys and girls from their homes for personal gratifications, unspeakable abuses. Who possesses the moral authority in this debate? I submit it isn't the church.
The Department for Communities and Local Government - headed by [Ruth] Kelly, herself a member of the Catholic sect Opus Dei - is considering whether to allow exemptions when the details of the regulations for England and Wales are produced later this year.
Ah, Opus Dei, that serene spiritual communion, the Vatican's personal Schutzstaffel. What the church - and so many powers of its type in the world today - is after is mindless submission. That is a sin, a grievous, mortal sin.
The lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, today appeared to rule out any chance of a compromise, saying religions should not be excused from the legislation.

"I do not want to see any adoption agencies, which do a very good job, closing," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But we have committed ourselves to anti-discrimination law - on the grounds of sexual orientation - and it is extremely difficult to see how you can be excused from anti-discrimination law on the grounds of religion.

"Each individual adoption agency must make its judgment on the basis on which it places a child, and the child's interests are paramount.

"But if we take the view as a society that we should not discriminate against people who are homosexual, you cannot give exclusions to people on the grounds that their religion or their race says 'we don't agree with that'.

"The view about discrimination is one that has been taken by the country as a whole."


The Rev Martin Reynolds, director of communications for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: "It is sad to see the Roman Catholic Church holding the government to ransom.

"We believe that the best interests of children are not being served by this political game-playing."

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "The Catholic church must not be permitted to control our legislature through this kind of blackmail.

"It did the same thing over the faith school quotas proposed last month and successfully blew the government off course.

"If it manages to achieve the same result with these regulations, we need to ask who is running this country - the government or the Vatican?"

According to the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 18), Jesus himself said,
6 "If anyone causes one of these little stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!"
- New International Version

Monday, January 22, 2007

And I Thought Saints Fans Were Intense

From the Associated Press:

PALOS HEIGHTS, Ill. (AP) -- Nine months pregnant and married to a fervent Bears fan with tickets to Sunday's NFC Championship game, Colleen Pavelka didn't want to risk going into labor during the game against the New Orleans Saints. Due to give birth on Monday, Pavelka's doctor told her Friday she could induce labor early. She opted for the Friday delivery.

"I thought, how could (Mark) miss this one opportunity that he might never have again in his life?" said Pavelka, 28, from the southwestern Chicago suburb of Homer Glen.

At 10:45 p.m. Friday, Mark Patrick Pavelka was born at Palos Community Hospital after close to six hours of labor.

While her husband watched the Bears play the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field Sunday, Colleen planned to watch in the hospital with the baby wrapped in a Bears blanket - a Christmas gift from his grandmother.

The couple named Mark after his father, who wore a "Monsters of the Midway" shirt during the delivery.

"If he wasn't born by Sunday and the Bears won, I would have named him Rex," after Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, joked Mark Pavelka, 28.

Mark is the couple's second son.

Putting the Baby to Bed

Take Me Out has finished it's second run. Really, truly finished. The producer told the cast they were welcome to take their costumes home with them since he wouldn't be needing them anymore. Frederick and Sean, the two new members of the cast, plan on keeping theirs as souvenirs of a good and happy experience. However, there were low-rumbling murmurs among the other veteran cast members, something about a bonfire at midnight on the river. But I wasn't invited.

"Last Looks after the Last Game:"
- Richard Greenberg, Take Me Out, Act III
There was an audience for the show, in spite of the Saints game, albeit made up mostly of actors' guests. Not much money for this weekend.

* * * * *

There was a drunk who knocked over a table in the row behind him and kept calling out, "Yeh, baby," at odd moments in the play, beginning in Act One when Frederick Mead sauntered onto the stage as Toddy Koovitz wearing nothing but a pair of ragged slippers and his own tumescence. Alas, that first "Yeh, baby" prompted a visible, steady deterioration of Frederick's sangfroid during the remainder of the scene.

You could see blind rage forming in the actors' faces as they performed.

Of course, they were unaware that I was spotting the guy, actually maneuvering myself to a position directly behind him, the better to grab him should be cross the line - even more, that is, than he was crossing it already.

His shenanigans prompted a text message from my Darren Lemming in the middle of one of Mason Marzac's monologues that said, "The drunk bitch has 2 go!!"

And he did. The moment the lights came up for the first intermission, I took his shoulders and asked if he didn't want to get a breath of fresh air? He couldn't walk. I heard someone in the audience whisper, "He's too drunk to even be in a bar." Let me tell you, down here, that is drunk.

I found myself wafting his 200+ pounds a few inches above the ground as I carried him out of the theater to the rainy streets (with a pit stop in the john for irrigation). He didn't seem to weigh an ounce. My arms hurt this morning.

He kept saying to me as I threw his ass out onto the street, "You're so nice to me, and you're so strong."

You learn to appreciate appreciation no matter where it's coming from.

* * * * *

I decided to sit out the next two acts (sorry, guys), but was determined to catch the curtain call. Sure enough, they appeared in towels which some of them dropped or had ripped from their waists. Gemayel, who had no nudity in the play, dropped trou and mooned the audience. He has a hairy ass - a very hairy ass - a very fine and hairy ass. Oh, testosterone.
Afterwards, we all repaired to the bar where Donnie Jay treated us to pizza and free drinks. We milked it for all it was worth until the old queen put us out.

All in all, it was a lovely closing night.

Oh, Well, Next Year

It's like waiting for the Messiah. It builds character.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just Gross

Here is the latest Google Search to point to me:
pussy modification vacuum
I don't want to know...

What a Day Ahead of Me

Bob has just announced we are going to the Latrine to watch the Saints kick Bear ass. I would have preferred catching the last minutes of the final quarter. It's easier to handle that way. But no. I'll have to endure the whole.

After the game, I will trek on over to the Marigny Theatre for the closing performance of Take Me Out. God only knows what that will hold in store. The last time we closed this play, the cast took their curtain calls in the nude, and the audience pelted them with underwear. I'm unaware of any plans afoot, and I don't think they could top that if they tried. But I've been wrong before. We'll see.

The performances have been running remarkably well, like a classy, classic machine. Maybe we can revive it again this summer. Duck will be in Martinique or someplace sultry, but Dave will be out of school and maybe willing to reprise his Shane Mungitt. Joe should be so bored with his couch potato routine, he might be ready to come back, as well.

Whoa, fuck! I just woke up. What a nightmare. No, no more naked baseball plays for me - at least not for a while. One can get tired of dick.

But enough for now, it's time to get breakfast for Bobby.

Must stay awake, must stay awake.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Oh. My. Canuck.

So, Kyklops, is this correct?

Cellular-Textual Dangling Conversation

From this past Wednesday night, a text message exchange:
whats wrong with u tonite

down in the dumps

climb out

not as ez as it sounds

if u snap out of it ill give u a piece of this ass


i axed you a ?

im thinking

Nowhere to Turn for Shelter

From today's New York Times:
In the long and sordid story of Hurricane Katrina, a new low may be approaching. In Louisiana alone, tens of thousands of displaced families who rely on the government to provide trailers or rent will lose their temporary housing next month — unless the Bush administration extends the standard 18-month time limit for their federal aid.

A year and a half is a long time for anything that is supposed to be transitional, as the families still trapped in cramped, flimsy trailers can testify. But the temporary help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot end until the victims have somewhere else to go. And the federal and local governments have moved far too slowly in providing the necessary reconstruction money and building guidance. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed more than 200,000 homes in Louisiana, and only a small fraction have been replaced. (Neither the state nor the New Orleans city government knows how many have been completed.) A sky-high murder rate has dominated the news. The success of the Saints professional football team is not enough of a distraction.

The response to the drowning of New Orleans has been a failure on every level. President Bush’s eloquent promise in Jackson Square to rebuild “higher and better” soothed the nation. But since then there has been no concrete action plan for reconstruction — only a patchwork of programs marked by dithering, bickering and bureaucratic finger-pointing throughout. The federal response was, after great delay, largely to cut a check and let overmatched local officials try to sort it out.

The president’s Katrina czar, Donald Powell, sees his role as one of a convener, adviser and advocate rather than leader of a domestic Marshall Plan — which is what New Orleans needs. He says that local officials should take the lead. But the local reconstruction plan has yet to materialize. City officials hope that it will be out by the end of the month.

There is some local optimism that when it does arrive there will be a burst of rebuilding effort. Developers are finally beginning to break ground on apartment complexes. The city has issued more than 55,000 residential building permits since the storm, finally moving at a faster rate than before Katrina.

But the time is long past to turn from planning to action. And those in need of shelter today cannot take comfort in housing that won’t be ready for another two years. The administration must extend the temporary housing provisions immediately, then make every effort to shift aid recipients to the longer-term Section 8 voucher program.

The new Democratic leaders in Congress also need to recognize that the many failures of Hurricane Katrina are more than just another reason to criticize the president. They need to quickly outline their own plans for salvaging New Orleans, so evacuees can once again call their city home.

That New Orleans remains a shattered city is a sad monument to impotence for the most powerful country in the world. Our grand plans were never laid, our brightest minds were never assembled, our nation’s muscle and ingenuity were never brought to bear in any concerted way to overcome the crisis of the Gulf.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

One Thing You Can Say about New Orleanians

...And you will, after reading this:
Is the Saints-Bears playoff game Sunday sufficient grounds to bench a trial scheduled to start on the day after the gridiron brawl?

Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Ernest L. Jones apparently thinks so.

Jones didn't hesitate Wednesday to sign off on a defense motion to delay the trial for two days "in order to accommodate all fans, including the great majority of the jury pool, the parties involved in this case and the counsel involved in this case."

Whether the Saints win or lose Sunday afternoon at Chicago's Soldier Field, a full complement of potential jurors might not show up for duty if the trial went ahead on Monday, the delay request said.

In the asbestos-related case, the plaintiffs seek damages from a list of defendants that includes six companies, one of them Avondale Industries Inc.

Jones' order delaying the trial was greeted with glee by a Civil Court insider, who asked not to be identified: "The world is safe for Saints football!" he said. "I guess that just shows what kind of power the Saints championship march has on every aspect of this city."

Did I say "one thing"?

Somebody Stop Me - Please

Boudreaux died and was on his way down to Hell. In anticipation, the Devil turned up the thermostat to make it extra warm for Boudreaux.

When Boudreaux arrived, the Devil asked, "Hey Boudreaux, how do you like the heat down here?"

Boudreaux says, "Mais, it's just fine. It reminds me of Bayou Pon Pon in July."

That made the Devil mad. That night, he turned the thermostat up all the way it could go. Man it was hot!

When Boudreaux woke up, the Devil asked him, "NOW how do you like it down here?"

Boudreaux says, "Mais, it's fine. It reminds me of August on Bayou Lafourche."

As you might expect, that made the Devil all the more mad. Well, that night, he turned the thermostat down all the way it could go! The whole place frosted over. Icicles started forming from the rafters.

When Boudreaux woke up, the Devil asked him, "How you like it now, Boudreaux?"

Boudreaux, shivering, through blue lips, says, "Mais cher, I'm one happy Cajun!"

The Devil was infuriated! He yelled, "What do you mean you're one happy Cajun?!!"

Boudreaux, still shivering says, "The Saints done won the Superbowl!"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I Will Not Be Available to Take Your Calls for the Foreseeable Future

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, along with their brood, are moving into their new home around the corner.

What's that? Star fucker? Me? I'm only bringing them a small cake to welcome them to the neighborhood; and if I don't hurry, I'll be at the end of a long, long line.

See ya!

Sometimes Ignorance Is Just Stupidity

Recently, I received a letter from the State Retirement System asking me to complete another form in addition to the mounds of paperwork I completed some months ago. The letter read:
The Spousal Consent Form is required because you chose to receive a lump sum payment for your unused leave. Thank you.
I worked for the State for thirty years. They know more about me than the law should allow, but they don't know that in the eyes of God and Looziana and the United States of Bush, I am single?

...Plays Well with Redheads

Last night, I shot rehearsal photos for To Do Productions' Sympathetic Magic by Lanford Wilson. This is the play that immediately follows our production of Take Me Out and for which I have no responsibility.

Wait, that sounds as if I am denigrating it. What I mean is that I am not working on it in any capacity.

This is a photograph of Steve Kubick and Lisa Davis, the two leads. (Are there really leads in a Wilson script?)

It will be interesting to see how these two play off each other. Steve is a technically-precise internal actor while Lisa is a technically-precise powerhouse. (After shooting a series of pictures of the two of them, Lisa asked to see what I had shot. I declined. We'd have been there all night reshooting.) Could this pairing be preparation for an upcoming production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Stop Me if You've Heard This

Peyton Manning, after having lived a full life, passed. When he got to heaven, God took the time (time, shmime, what's time up here?) to show him around.

They came to a modest little house with a faded Colts flag in the window.

"This house is yours for eternity, Peyton," said God. "This is very special; not everyone gets a house up here."

Peyton felt special, indeed, and walked up to his house. On his way up the porch, he noticed another house just around the corner. It was a 3-story mansion with a black and gold sidewalk, a 50 foot tall flagpole with an enormous Saints logo flag, and in every window, a New Orleans Saints towel.

Peyton looked at God and said, "God, I'm not trying to be ungrateful, but I have a question. I was an all-pro QB, I hold many NFL records, and I even went to the Hall of Fame."

God said, "So what's your point, Peyton?"

"Well, why does Drew Brees get a better house than me?"

God chuckled and said, "Peyton, that's not Drew's house, it's mine."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Lady Speaks Her Mind

Lila Hay Owen is a local actor of distinction. (Tom Cruise personally bit and ripped her throat before feeding her to Brad Pitt in a memorable plantation scene in Interview with the Vampire.) She was in our audience for this past Sunday's matinee, and she wrote to our co-producer, Donald James:

What a terrific show, wonderfully directed. Oh, boy there was some really fine work done by your actors. I'm so glad I finally got to see Take Me Out. It was so generous of you to invite me and Natasha. She was really impressed by the show AND the theatre itself.

Castro Prognosis 'Very Grave' after Failed Surgery

So now will we invade Cuba and take back Elian?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Descending to New Depths

Bob Herbert writes in today's New York Times (a TS Op-Ed piece):

I was surprised recently by a sudden shift in the tone of a veteran cabdriver, Stanley Taylor, who had been kind enough to take me on a nearly four-hour tour of the flood-wrecked regions of the city.

For most of the afternoon, Mr. Taylor had been wonderfully informative and polite, and his comments had been filled with sympathy for those who had lost so much to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

But as we headed back to my hotel, and darkness began to fall over the eerily still neighborhoods, his tone became unmistakably bitter. We had been talking casually about the thousands of extremely poor evacuees, most of them black, who were still stranded outside New Orleans, some of them scattered to the far reaches of the United States.

Mr. Taylor, who is black, snapped that maybe it would be better if some of them didn’t come back.The poor people that’s gone,” he said, “they’re gonna have to stay gone. That’s where all the crime was coming from, see? Folks here want people to come back, but they want people with money to come back. The criminals? Shame on ‘em. Sorry for ‘em.”

During the immediate post-Katrina period, there were essentially two visions of a resurgent New Orleans. One, widely decried as racist, saw the new, improved New Orleans as smaller, whiter and more prosperous.

This was openly advocated. Just a few days after the storm, a wealthy member of the city’s power elite, James Reiss, told The Wall Street Journal: “Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically.”

Mr. Reiss, who is white and served in Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s administration as chairman of the Regional Transit Authority (he has since left the government), said that he and many of his colleagues would leave town if New Orleans did not become a city with better services and fewer poor people.

An alternative (and more widely desired) model of the city coincided with the approach that President Bush seemed to be taking when he made his dramatic appearance in floodlit Jackson Square in mid-September 2005. Mr. Bush promised not just to help rebuild New Orleans, but to confront the long-simmering problems of race and poverty with “bold action.”

Supporters of this approach envisioned an effort that would bring desperately needed assistance to the hurricane victims, helping to get them housed and back on their feet, while at the same time constructively engaging the contentious issues that have kept America’s blacks and whites in a state of perpetual hostility, and much of the poor in an all-but-permanent morass of ignorance and deprivation.

What is actually happening is worse than anyone had imagined.

New Orleans is a mess. It was brought to its knees by Katrina, and is being kept there by a toxic combination of federal neglect and colossal, mind-numbing ineptitude at the local level.

The police department here is a sour joke, and crime is out of control. More than 16 months after the storm, children roam the streets with impunity during school hours. Debris still covers much of the city. Doctors, hospitals and mental-health facilities are in woefully short supply. Thousands of residents are still living in trailers, and many thousands more are stuck more or less permanently out of town.

The result is that blacks and whites, feeling unsafe physically and frightened by the long-term prospect of dwindling opportunities, are eyeing the exits.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who lost the mayoral race last May to Mr. Nagin, offered a grim assessment. While the ethnic breakdown may remain roughly the same, he said, the city is on its way to becoming “smaller, poorer and worse than it was before.”

Class, at the moment, is trumping race, which is how Mr. Reiss and Mr. Taylor, the cabdriver, came unwittingly to similar stereotyped conclusions. Unless the foundations of a livable city can be put in place - and they are not being put in place now - those with the ability to leave will do so. The poor, neglected as always, will be left behind.

The same thing is moving African-Americans as is moving whites,” Mr. Landrieu said. Everyone is asking: ‘Is it safe? What’s the school situation? Can my kids play outside? What does the future hold for them?’”

Without a creative new plan and energetic new leadership, New Orleans will be unable to save itself. Right now it’s a city sinking to ever more tragic depths.

But the Saints go marching in.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

God Is in the Details

I always speak to my casts before the beginning of any show. I remind them of this and that; I encourage them not to take this thing they're about to do so seriously that it cripples them with nerves; and I always remind them that acting is playing, so it should be fun.

Today I added a request that they pick up their cues more quickly. Some of them had begun to embellish their roles with meaningful pauses between speaking their lines. The pauses were becoming Pinteresque in a play not written by Pinter.

Once the show had gotten underway, I was going to slip out quietly for smokes and drinks; but shortly after the National Anthem had finished playing and Kippy had begun speaking, I couldn't move. Something was happening. They were relaxed, in their characters' skins, and reacting spontaneously to each other and the story. By them picking up their cues, the play had begun to move more forcefully and inexorably; and it swept them along with its motion.

This matinee performance came the closest to the one that was always in my imagination. There was nothing lacking on that little bare stage.

Walking home tonight through the Marigny Triangle, I thought to myself, Right now, if some little thug killuh stepped up behind me and popped me one in the base of my skull, I would have done something good. I would have left one ephemeral glistening thing in the fragile memories of a handful of people. It would have been the recollection of a performance that was balanced and beautiful, sweet and heartbreaking.

That's baseball.

Sign of the Apocalypse

The Saints over the Eagles, 27 - 24, on 01/13/07.

It's all right there in the numbers - and plainly visible for those who have the eyes to see.

Next Sunday, the Rapture.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Take Me Out" Redux

We're back. We opened last night to a discriminating audience that followed our production with the kind of attention that is rare in any theater today. The majority even sat through the two intermissions.

I find the play different now, sadder, more elegiac. My Mason Marzac, Steve Kubick, wrote,
"I daresay that the new Take Me Out cast is almost better than the old one. ... However, this new and improved Take Me Out, in my opinion, is more truthful to the spirit of Greenberg's script. This cast has more gravitas."
The first run was special. As I wrote to a new friend, "It was numinous." This revival, though different, is numinous as well, but in a different way, its own way.

We have simplified the lighting plan and made it brighter overall, and yet the play appears starker than my memory tells me it was the first time around. The staging remains simple, iconic, in the spirit of classical Greek tragedy.

There is a gravitas on that tiny stage.

On a lighter note, Wikipedia now has our production listed in its entry on Take Me Out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Googling? WTF?

My close friends know I'm a sucker for Site Meter. I probably spend more time looking at those reports than anything else on the "internets". Site Meter gives you so much information, like the time of the visit, the duration, the location from which the visit originated. I once stunned a friend during an IM conversation by asking where he was since he wasn't at home at the moment.

Lately, I've become intrigued by how strangers are reaching my site through the use of various search engines and terms I would not expect. As luck would have it, I have just stumbled upon someone who reached Bigezbear within the last hour with these three words:
"gay sperm glaze".
I am nonplussed.

And, no, you will not find any reference to that - what? phrase? concept? um, thing or matter? - anywhere on this site.

Except, of course, here and now.

Postcards from the March

From Today's Times-Picayune
Finally Finding a Voice - if Not Its Own, at Least, That of Its Citizens

New Orleans Breaks Its Silence

What many thought would be a relatively small and solemn procession to City Hall in observance of recent New Orleans murders, specifically the slayings of Marigny resident and local filmmaker Helen Hill on January 4 and Hot 8 Brass Band drummer Dinerral Shavers on December 28, quickly swelled into a city-wide march encompassing citizens from all neighborhoods of New Orleans....

Speeches were sometimes fiery and arresting, such as that of Rev. John Raphael Jr. from the New Hope Baptist Church who called for racial unity and said that New Orleans should not be "drowned in the blood of its citizens." Other speeches were desperate and grief stricken, such as the poignant address of Dinerral Shavers' sister, Nakita, who fought back tears as she recounted the life of her brother and her delicate hopes for a city on the brink.

Mentioning that she was currently attending college elsewhere, Shavers said that she plans to come home after graduation, but fears that if the violence continues there might not be a "New Orleans to come back to."
Mayor Reviled, Rebuked at Rally

For about an hour at Thursday's extraordinary anti-crime rally, Mayor Ray Nagin stood awkwardly behind a stage on the steps of City Hall, waiting for his chance to talk, listening to speakers castigate him and call for his ouster.

One by one, a diverse and agitated series of orators shouted down the mayor, as well as Police Chief Warren Riley and District Attorney Eddie Jordan, with most of the vitriol directed at Nagin. Then came the moment of silence, with heads bowed, camera shutters snapping.

"Where the hell is Nagin?" one man screamed, piercing the prayerful moment with rage at the city's leadership.

"What do you have to say Ray?" came a voice from a crowd of thousands.

"Impeach Nagin," an angry female intoned. "Where's Nagin?" the chorus continued.

Nagin stood patiently, already belittled by speakers who towered over him on the stage, here on his home turf of City Hall. In a rare moment, the mayor found himself without a voice.

Seconds after the moment of silence, community organizer Saundra Reed took the microphone and declared this rally was for the voice of the people.

“He didn’t organize this,” Reed said later. “It was time for the people to speak. He speaks all the time.”

In the days leading up to Thursday’s rally, Nagin, Riley and other city leaders had strived to avoid this kind of confrontation by holding a series of reassuring news conferences. On Thursday, Nagin and Riley tried to join forces with the marchers — only to be rebuked. Jordan did not attend….

None of those efforts seemed to dampen the community’s rage; indeed, in some cases the public comments only added fueled the anger and cynicism.

“Nagin and Riley’s call for citizens to galvanize is an insult,” said Karen Gadbois, a representative of the Carrollton neighborhood. “We have been galvanized for 16 months.”

Standing on a stage arms-length away from the mayor, Gabois echoed one of Nagin’s most famous statements from Hurricane Katrina, when he expressed his outrage at government response.

“To quote our mayor, ‘I’m pissed,’ ” she said.

Nagin nodded his head in agreement. Shortly later after being hushed by Reed, and undoubtedly humbled by the rally, Nagin was whisked away like an ambassador in a hostile land, in a huddle of bodyguards and hangers-on. As the throngs dissipated, he called his own news conference, addressing only the media, making cautious comments and taking no questions.

Nagin characterized himself as participating in the march “from beginning to end.”

Thursday’s rally did more than bluntly point out the city’s displeasure with the volcanic violent crime rate, it glaringly laid blame directly on city officials for a failure of leadership.

“Today I want to say, shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan,” said speaker Bart Everson. “You’ve really let us down. You have failed us. The criminal justice system and the government is broken. And I want to communicate to you the level of outrage that my friends and neighbors are feeling, because we don’t think you get it.”

Several of the rally’s organizers expressed surprise that the mayor showed up at all. For the past week, his office indicated he wouldn’t be joining in, organizers said. Around 11:55 a.m. Thursday, five minutes before the start of speeches, Nagin emerged from City Hall and took a spot directly behind center stage….

Baty Landis, owner of Sound Cafe and one of the lead organizers of the march and rally, said she and others had tried several times to reach out to Nagin.

Landis, whose group runs, said she personally handed Nagin an invitation Wednesday.

“We were told that this was not the forum in which he wanted to speak,” Landis said. “He did not want to come and speak outside City Hall because it could be a tense situation. They said he wanted a smaller forum.”

A representative of the mayor’s office told the group they could meet with Nagin privately Thursday, but they declined. They did not want to leave thousands of marchers outside City Hall while they met.

“We didn’t want to abandon them,” Landis….

Before the rally, City Hall staffers had tried to orchestrate the mayor’s appearance, said several people who helped set up the podium and speakers for the rally, which were paid for with private money. Badged officials from City Hall had tried to move the podium to the front steps of City Hall, apparently the mayor’s preferred backdrop for a speech.

But the workers demurred. This had been already set up, already agreed upon, several workers said….

The outpouring of rage had been building since Riley’s year-end news conference putting a positive spin on the 2006 murder total of 161.

On a per-capita basis, however, even the most optimistic projection of the post-Katrina city’s drastically shrunken population makes that figure an increase from previous years — a marked increase, depending on how shifting population figures are taken into account. That murder total was bumped days later to 162, when a woman’s bludgeoned body was found wrapped in a rug in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Just days into 2007, with the city mourning the loss of a beloved Hot 8 brass band member, the violence spiked, with six murders reported in a less than 24-hour period. Citizens began crying foul, with many reacting strongly to the murder of Marigny filmmaker Helen Hill, shot in her home in the wee hours.

Crowd of 3,000 Shows City Hall Its Outrage over Violent Crime

In an unprecedented display of civic outrage over violent crime, as many as 3,000 people marched on City Hall Thursday, demanding that city leaders stem the tide of violence, as well as calling on ordinary citizens to help make New Orleans safer.

Organized in the wake of a string of almost daily murders in the new year, the protest channeled the city's rising anger and fear.

"We have come to declare that a city that could not be drowned in waters of a storm will not be drowned in the blood of its citizens," said the Rev. John Raphael Jr., one of the opening speakers, hunched over the podium and preaching in a booming voice….

Before this week, [Police Superintendent] Riley had sought to downplay the rising murder rate as an exaggeration, arguing that the per capita rate of killings had been inflated by faulty population statistics. But in just the last six months of 2006 — after much of the city’s current population had returned — murderers killed 106 people. If the population is 230,000, an optimistic estimate, that means the city has seen a rate of 90 killings per 100,000 people since last July, a frighteningly high rate that clearly would make New Orleans the nation’s murder capital….

Slimy, Two-Faced Ass (French-) Kisser

No Oversight on Katrina?
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat to endorse President Bush’s new plan for Iraq, has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans....

Last year, when he was running for re-election in Connecticut, Lieberman was a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of Katrina. He was especially dismayed by its failure to turn over key records that could have shed light on internal White House deliberations about the hurricane, including those involving President Bush....

But now that he chairs the homeland panel—and is in a position to subpoena the records—Lieberman has decided not to pursue the material, according to Leslie Phillips, the senator’s chief committee spokeswoman. “The senator now intends to focus his attention on the future security of the American people and other matters and does not expect to revisit the White House’s role in Katrina,” she told NEWSWEEK....

But in the view of White House critics, the Katrina fallout is far from over. They view the missing White House material, along with contracting foul-ups and abuses, as an important part of the story of the disaster that befell a major American city. “Katrina was perhaps the government's biggest failure ever,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a liberal watchdog group. “For the Congress not to be willing to stand up to the White House and demand to know who's accountable is a total abdication of their responsibility. How serious about oversight are they if they're not willing to flex their muscle over this one? Wasn't the election about holding the government accountable? Congress has the power for oversight, and the mandate. Does it have the will?”

Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Louisiana Democrat who participated in House investigations on Katrina last year, also said the Katrina disaster needs further inquiry and that he will continue to push for such a probe in the House. “It is still important to my constituents—many of whom lost everything, including their loved ones—that we learn from the mistakes so that they aren't repeated,” he said. “We deserve to know what happened."
I'm speechless.

Up Close and Personal

So tonight my li'l bud shows up to see the preview of Take Me Out and, while waiting for the house to open, who should he see walking in but his latest squeeze? Now, my friend hasn't heard from this squeeze in about a week and has been spending that week wondering whether the squeeze has the same degree and kind of feelings towards him as he has towards the squeeze. He's about to find out, though, because said squeeze proceeds to give him the old its-not-you,-its-me,-so-long,-see-ya-'round speech. Li'l bud broke.

In other words, what I mean to say is, I spent most of the performance with an eye on my friend instead of on the actors on the stage; and, although my actors were outstanding troupers, my li'l bud didn't perform too well.

Damn, but it's hard to watch somebody hurting.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thousands Rally Against Crime

Clandestine Morning Tryst, a Dangling Conversation

I won't be able to meet you this morning at Envie. I've woken with a cold and stuffy nose. Make that "a cold along with a stuffy nose".

I feel wretched and abandoned. I may die before brunch. I'll let you know.

Somebody gave this to me and...He. Will. Pay.
Get better or I'll make your ass bleed, Bitch!

Silence Is Violence

The Anti-Violence March to City Hall

There is a lot of justified anger right now, but the purpose of this march is to call for collaboration, not resignations.

We are asking our public officials to answer to three fundamental needs: Presence, Protection, and Accountability. We need our leadership to be more present in this time of intense need; we need to revise the relationship between citizens and police so that we feel protected; and we need for our criminal justice system to demonstrate willingness and ability to prosecute and convict criminals appropriately.

Our two slogans reflect these needs: Walk With Us and Silence is Violence.

- Baty Landis, Helen Gillet, Ken Foster

Formation is at 11:00 AM at the foot of Canal Street near the World Trade Center.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wake Me When It's Over

Tomorrow night, To Do Productions' revival of Take Me Out previews for the benefit of the Louisiana State Gay Rodeo Association (don't ask...). You may have heard we had to recast several key roles in order to accomplish this task (rumors, how they get around). Well, this afternoon, I'd like to take a moment to reveal the new actors who have stepped up to the plate and who I have no doubt will hit a few right outta the park.

First up is Frederick Mead. Frederick is once again pinch-hitting for Duck Tennant in Duck's former role of Toddy Koovitz. These two guys could not be more different, one short, one tall; one technical and exact, the other (sometimes frighteningly) spontaneous. Frederick is going to have audiences falling off their seats with astonishment and laughter.

Chris Schlumbrecht was set to reprise his role of Jason Chenier, the catcher for the Empires. Last Thursday, sadly, we lost him due to personal illness. The next night, Sean Mellott appeared at the theater to read for the newly vacant role. He only looks that young, he really is legal. He's also a perfect actor to step into the part of the play's lovably naive doofus.

For anyone who was worried that we had lost Duck from the show as well, relax. I simply moved him into the role of Shane Mungitt. Man, am I glad I did. Duck and I have worked together in two plays now with him essaying three different roles. The guy is a revelation.

I have been extremely fortunate in the two plays I have directed this past year. I have landed actors that are forceful and gutsy, talented beyond any measure I could have hoped to find.

Please, God, don't let 'em screw it up.

Note: These baseball cards are the work of Carlos Gonzalez, the once and future Kippy Sunderstom of our Take Me Out.
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