Friday, March 30, 2007

The Friday Fluff: What are you reading?

I typically have about 2 to 3 novels and 1 nonfiction book I'm actively reading. My usual routine is to have one "work of literature", one "worthless escapist novel", and one history/politics book on hand. Lately, I've fallen into a rut. My non-fiction book is quite good, but given the size of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I'll likely add another nonfiction to mix in with it. I've also strip mined most of my favorite authors' works by now (Rand, Adams, Vonnegut, Capote,...) as far as novels are concerned. I've recently picked up Poirot and the Ender's series but I'd like a bit more variety on the novel side. I'd like to hear what you've recently read and enjoyed. I'll also share my recent reads and what I thought about them. Please categorize into fiction and non-fiction.

Where's Your God NOW!!!

Just to clarify, should any sort of medical ailment befall any of you out there in blogger-land, let it be duly noted that i'll not be praying for you. Unless, of course, I don't like you...

Damn I'm Cold

It's a little frosty down here today. In a move that stunned me this morning, Alec Baldwin, he of the unfilfilled promise to vacate to more Canadian locales, has offered to pay the college tuition of an 18 year old Army soldier who is about to deploy to Iraq.

What stunned me with this story, was not that Alec felt the compunction to show his support for the troops, but that he managed to make the public statement about supporting this particular soldier without once invoking the mantra of the Super-Smart-Hollywood-Military-Geniusseses 'Bush lied about this evil profit-driven war that nothing good ever at all will ever come of until we have full Democratic control of the federal government at which point continuing the war will be the best idea since sliced gravy'.

Yeah, I need more coffee to absorb this one

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Now They've Done It

So, the Democrats in the US Congress have passed some legislation that the President is going to veto. The fight they picked is a very useful one, and it has the nation talking. Before such measures, it was only speculation that a United States Congress would actually demand an arbitrary end to a military action. Now, that is a reality. What has this changed? Not much, but this is useful because it is forcing Americans to actually speak to other Americans about their differences of opinion. Yeah, there's still that too-loud din of pundits yelling loudly at one another over soundbytes, but we are suddenly faced with the very real and very obvious truth that there is no one at the wheel of our ship of state, and that's forcing a lot of folks to look at what they think and why.

This debate is between a bad idea and a worse idea. Neither is actually helpful to the nation, both are terribly expensive 'plans' (I use that term because, like every member of the American political class, I apparently lack a better one), both options have very, very heavy ink in the 'con' column. So we are really left looking at these two paths and making a decision over which one will do the least catastrophic damage.

Because, and let us not kid ourselves any longer, we have turned that corner where the term 'catastrophic' becomes attached to either side of the argument.

I mean, let us call this like it is: we have a Commander in Chief who has proven his strategic incompetence and inexplicable inability to win a war arguing against a Thin Majority of Legislators who no longer wish to deal with strategic incompetence and inability. This is providing us with the mother of all disingenuous debates.

Let us look at some of these arguements:

"Congress is interfering with the ability of the troops and the generals from making the tactical decisions they need to make to win the war." First of all, coming from a President who left Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense while the US military was engaged in a real, shooting war has very little room to talk about someone else's interference with Generals. In spite of that, our troops and generals have won hundreds of tactical, on-the-ground victories. What happened to those victories? The strategy abandoned whatever those victories had won by providing no cohesion, no projection of power, no diplomatic and political support to solidify those gains.

It is my opinion that we have been fighting the Iraq war since 1991, and in my opinion, our mighty military has been victorious enough to have 'won' this thing about 12 times over. It was always the politics of the situation that allowed victory to slip away.

"The consequences would be disasterous." Yes. Yes they would. But here's the rub: will those consequences be more or less disasterous than the consequences of the policy we are currently engaged in? There is, at this point, no way to tell.

"Give the 'surge' a chance to take effect, and give the generals time to win." More of the same is not a winning strategy in Iraq, and proves, to me at least, that this Commander in Chief is not the 'closer' we need to bring about the end game. There is something he still does not understand, on a fundamental level, about how to be a leader.

"If we leave now, Iran and Syria will have their run of the place." Really? They appear to be having so much trouble with that right now, they can snatch Royal Navy personnel out of a Persian Gulf full of American aircraft carriers and British frigates.

"Congress is holding up vital funds and resources for our troops on the front lines." If, strategically and tactically, things Congress does right now affect our front line material and ordinance situation in April, then we have far, far bigger problems with the way this war is being waged than I thought.

"If we leave now, all the lives lost and wounded and disrupted will have been in vain." Guilt, the last resort. Not one soldier who has died in the service has died in vain in any conflict, win, lose or draw. They proudly served a nation and were commanded by an office when they came into harms' way. Even if the folks who sent them there were wrong to do so, the fact that they went secures their place in the pantheon of American heroism, and no bumbling politician on either side can take that away.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Note to Self: Don't eat dog food

So I've read up on Canadian cuisine and I have to admit that most of it is unappealing. From poutine to flipper pie, it's filled with items that must've to be invented of necessity.
That's still no reason to go around eating dog food. And yes I know the dog food was eaten by a human in an attempt to get the dog to eat the food a la "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," but I think we've all learned that you shouldn't try things you learned off of watching TV (especially if Nick Nolte is the person you're imitating). As a result of her dog-food-eating ways, an Ottawa woman and her dog are both sick. For three days she apparently experienced "loss of appetite, vomiting, foaming at the mouth and trouble urinating." She also experienced "lack of proper judgement" but that was apparently happening before the woman thought it was a good idea to eat dog food. She should've stuck to her Oreilles de crisse.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Brainstorming (Part 1)

So, I'm hangin' out with the ol' brain trust the other day on a rare slow night in the burrito stand kitchen. We were just throwing ideas around regarding things that may help New Orleans & the Gulf Coast really accelerate this recovery and provide the long term economic impact needed to revitalize and diversify the area's economy.

Several things inspired my personal contributions to the list, which was designed to be a more 'outside the box' list of things to look at. I read that New Orleans is looking to host more Consulates. I've also been reading a book you may have heard of but haven't picked up yet, it is called The Central Liberal Truth which 1) is an actually infuriating read for me, but 2) is more important than it will ever get credit for, and 3) isn't about what you think it is. Also, this last weekend ended up with me spending a lot of time with the family, and read this piece from Leigh C. about community. Lastly, I keep up with both JMac regarding homegrown initiatives to curb poverty in Athens, Georgia and Da Po' Boy's dissections of financial chicanery in the Gulf region, especially those parts about insurance.

Well, that's a whole lot of name dropping and set-up, anyway.

Some brainstorms for New Orleans & the Gulf Coast:

An insurance co-op. Private companies are bailing or raising rates so high folks and businesses are choosing to go without. That is not good news for any kind of economic recovery. Since the state can't seem to get a disaster fund together (a la Florida 92-04, 04-present day) to bail insurance companies out when catastrophe strikes, and can't seem to get money effectively to the people, it is time to find another way. Homegrown insurance co-op, the policy holders are the shareholders, and any "profit" made goes into administration, investment (in stuff like US Treasury Securities - gifts that keep on giving), and finally payouts to shareholders when disaster strikes and lowering rates when it doesn't.

Some form of microlending. I don't know too much about this, but there are many smart people out there who do and who are making a difference in poverty crushed areas by getting plans like this together. I will be watching Athens closely in case something like this actually makes it off the ground there.

Since we're talking about collective community financial solutions, another idea would be for the City of New Orleans to buy the New Orleans Saints. Green Bay owns their team, after all. That sure would answer the long term questions, now, wouldn't it? I mean, maybe not the city, but a citizens' organization or something. Well, hell, why not the City? I'm sure that would increase both voter turnout, involvement and encourage leading citizens to make sure things were run better - because a losing season could spell defeat at the polls. Plus, I'd love to see Ashley run for Mayor - or at least City Council.

In other sports related ideas, and this would be trickier on a whole other level, but if we could get the Big 12 to get rid of their northern division, they could reform the old South West Conference, and have Arkansas back, then we could demand Tulane re-join the SEC and start caring about football again. I mean, having the Sugar Bowl rocks, but can you imagine the difference: Rice vs Tulane in New Orleans or University of Tennessee vs Tulane in New Orleans? I mean, at least two of Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss or LSU would show up every single year in New Orleans, and that's not counting having Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida on the roatation as well.

I mean, how much cash does this town make off the Sugar Bowl every year? Yeah, now imagine having at least seven more games in the SuperDome close to that level.

And while we're talking about the Sugar Bowl, it is high time SEC Alumni Associations build one big SEC Center/Hotel in New Orleans. It ain't like this city isn't lousy with SEC alumni in the first damn place, and secondly - how hard is it -really- to sell SEC alums on a convention in New Orleans during the off season? I ain't never heard nobody say "hell no, I don't want to go to New Orleans this weekend - I got stuff to do in Columbia."

Crazier ideas still to come....

Sunday, March 25, 2007

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days that reminds me why it is good to live in the South. It was one of those days that reminded me why I fell in love with New Orleans in the first place. All the trees are in bloom; oak, dogwood, cherry blossom - whatever those are in the neutral ground on Napoleon near the river.

Warm weather is here to stay, and you can drive around with your window down and enjoy it. I chose to drive around this morning. "A New Tennessee Waltz" was playing on 90.7 FM as I ran by the burrito stand to pick up some stuff I left there last night, and bantered with my co-workers unfortunate enough to have to spend the morning inside, but they were in good spirits anyway.

From there, I rolled by that French style bakery on Magazine Street (a strange reversal for me in NOLA: I can pronounce the name but can't spell it) and picked up some tasty breakfast goodies. Then to CC's way Uptown to get some coffee and chicory, with just the right amount of space for the perfect amount of half and half. On to my aunt's house, where we ate the delicious goodies and sat on her porch talking about her father and mother and chasing away pigeons who were trying to nest on a rafter. Her stories about my grandparents bring all those memories flooding back and they seem so close at hand - she tells the stories in my grandfather's voice and with some of my grandmother's mannerisms. It is hauntingly beautiful to hear her talk of them, I sat and listened for an hour that was not wasted.

Not too long after, my cousin showed up with her daughter, so for one fleeting moment it was like we had four generations under one roof. That baby smiled up at her grandmother who had just been talking to me about mine and I'd swear, if this didn't look like Heaven itself, you could probably see it from here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Then who's the VICE President? James Garner?

Let's play a little $20,000 Pyramid:

B-movie actor...
State-level politician...
Presidential candidate...

Ronald Reagan is not the answer we're looking for. The correct answer would be Fred Thompson. You might remember him from such movies as Feds, Iron Eagle III, and Days of Thunder. (He did actually do some good movie roles in there, too.) Mona Charen is over on Town Hall absolutely gushing about how good a candidate Thompson would be. He recently took the majority (not just the plurality) of a Republican candidate straw poll vote on hannity.com that included the current favorites such as Guiliani, Gingrich, and Romney.

Unlike Reagan, Thompson actually splits time acting and being involved in politics. He's already been a US Attorney, a campaign manager for the "Great Conciliator" Howard Baker, and a US Senator in Tennessee. His strong points seem to be Bush's weakest points: Thompson is a really real conservative and he's articulate.

Personally, my favorite current Republican candidate is Gingrich but I don't think he really has a shot at winning. I think his first divorce will do him in. Sure politicians divorce all the time but asking for one while your wife is in the middle of her cancer treatment is a little more than most people will probably forgive. I'm not willing to call Thompson the second coming of Reagan at this point but he has some potential. So far, he's merely decided to "keep the door open" to a Presidential bid but I would like to see him go up against this relatively weak crop of candidates and see what he has to say.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Making Georgia Proud

Thank you, Representative David Scott, GA - 13th!

You do your state proud in going to bat for this one. God help any coastal district representative who voted 'for' this piece of... absolute nonsense.

However, since 162 members of the United States Congress voted in favor of punishing victims of natural and man-made disasters, I can only figure that the "Distinguished Gentleman" from Dallas, Rep. Jeb Hensarling was not informed by any of his GOP colleagues of one very pertinent fact:

Texas is a coastal state, and Dallas is prominently positioned in a geographic location affectionately known as "tornado alley."

Let me bring up some additional examples of other times amendments like this were not brought before the United States Congress:

Charlie, Frances, Gaston, Ivan, Jeanne 2004; < - entire state of Florida rebuilt, fatalities as far north as Birmingham, flooding as far north as Athens, GA.

Isabel, 2003;
Isidore, Lily, 2002;
Gabrielle, 2001;
Gordon, 2000;
Dennis, Floyd, Irene, 1999; < - Florida and Coastal Georgia evacuated, half of North Carolina flooded & rebuilt.

Bonnie, Earl, Georges, Mitch, 1998;
Danny, 1997;
Bertha, Fran, Josephine, 1996; < - I graduate from high school.
Allison, Erin, Opal, 1995; < - Out of school for summer under threat of evacuation.
Gordon, 1994;
Andrew, 1992; < - Homestead, FL destroyed, Miami badly damaged.
Chantal, Hugo, Jerry, 1989: < - Texas hit twice, South Carolina rebuilt.

Some of those names ring a bell? They do for me. I grew up in a Southern, Coastal State. Those names, and their associated imagery, are seared into my mind of memories. Middle of the night phone calls to family; canned food and batteries filling tupperware containers; the Weather Channel at 4 in the morning; riptides; water over the FJ Torras Causeway; water to the foot of my elementary school; panicky tourists while Jerz and I were roaming in the rain, drinking beer and laughing; one long summer afternoon drive, Mama stopping at 5th Street with tears in her eyes, telling me we may never see our Island like this again.

Maybe it's 'cause no one ever had to leave Dallas in the middle of the night worried that their city might be erased in the next 36 hours.

Part of being American is that, when disaster - natural, manmade or both - stikes your state, the other 49 pitch in - in official capacity - to fix it, because it could happen to them next year. That ain't charity, that's prudent planning. That's nationhood. That's one of the benefits that comes with membership in the More Perfect Union. That is one of the answers to the question we answered loudly back in 1865 - no one can vote themselves off the island, no one can get voted off the island. Membership has priviliges, and membership has responsibilities.

Thank you, Ashley for the HT on this one. And thank you to Rep. Scott of Georgia and the 266 other members of the United States Congress who have brains.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Degrees of Seperation

Watch how this works:

Maitri points out that Slate gave mad props to Dangerblond by linking to her quote about Mr. Chocolate Conspiracy. It's a good quote. Link over and read it.

In other administruvia, People Get Ready moved from Blogger to People Get Ready (Wordpress) in December, and now has moved to People Get Ready (Where?).

Is it worth it to keep up with a blog that moves so much? With posts like The Conspiracy of One, you bet it is.

In final Chocolate Conspiracy news, there are some t-shirts floating around the city with this logo on them. I must have one. Luckily I know the cat who designed it.







Vive le resistance chocolat!

An Honorable Exit

Facing reality, Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana decided to announce this evening that she will not be seeking re-election in 2007. Hopefully, without political concerns to distract her from the legislature, she can take that ol' meat axe to whatever red tape is holding up the recovery from Baton Rouge. Here's hoping she spends the next nine months swinging.

As a betting man, I'd put my money on Bobby Jindal to win the contest, and put the final brick in the Republican wall the Deep South has become. But I know nothing of Louisiana politics - this being the one place every one of my predictions turns out wrong every time I make them.

Christopher

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

It is a difficult experience to see your hometown in the news. I've been meaning to write this for some time, but have been unable to really put a point on it. Monsters live everywhere. Cities, towns, and little country roads north of Brunswick, Georgia.

I wonder if that one went to my high school?

Though I'm not one cut out to be a 'leave the lights on/trust noone' type, I understand that vigilance is the price of freedom. Do you raise your kids in a bubble, or do you play the odds that it won't happen to you?

I know one thing, and this always gets an argument started between me and certain members of my family who carried a badge and a gun to work for 20 some odd years: we've got to have some better way of dealing with sex offenders than what we have right now.

Case and point? A man admits to a rape, and gets 18 months when the judge suspends the sentence. A teen engages in consentual activities, and gets 10 years with little sympathy from the prosecutor. Both end up, presumably, on the sex offender list. The same list that the monster who killed Christopher was on.

Just so I got this straight: the guy who has a high school fling with another high schooler gets the book thrown at him; the guy who admits to drunkenly raping a woman gets a lenient 18 month sentence; and the child predator was already out, living next door to small children, with only a list to help working parents protect their kids? That's a heck of a system we got there.

Fun Police

I guess we're back in the realm of "studies-nanny-state-types-commission-to-scare-the-crap-out-of-parents-who-don't-know-their-kids-well." College kids these days are into binge drinking and pill taking. Not all of the kids these days, mind you, just enough so that tsk-tskers can sell their services to parents and colleges. The University of Georgia this year introduced 'family tailgate zones' on large swaths of the campus that were no-alcohol-allowed areas, that I heard failed miserably because no one showed up. Athens-Clarke County, where the University of Georgia is located, is debating the eradication of of happy hours and power hours. Efforts one and all to curtail the "drinking problems" of legally adult Americans who can legally purchase alcohol.

I wonder if the problem is really more pronounced these days, or if parents are still being shocked by their kids' "excesses."

Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am a part of the generation that will consider its own behavior far more barbarian and destructive (in a positive, entropic way) than any following generation, I still ain't impressed. We were still worse than them. Way worse.

How do I know this? Because if they were consuming more alcohol or doing more drugs than I saw people in Athens or on Island City do, there would be hundreds upon hundreds of alcohol and drug related deaths shutting down college campuses all over the country. The service industry would grind to a screeching, abrupt halt everywhere.

Maybe Creswell Hall and Island City were just exceptions to the rule, and everywhere else, kids were good and studious and never did anything bad. A whole nation of folks like my brother, shocked at the "excesses" of college kids drinking beer.

Killing Time

The radio is on.

Seriously.

Many, many props to Leigh C, for reading her page - and hearing music on it!! - really kind of broke the camel's back for me. I was reading her site, listening to her playlist, and finally decided to sit down and get one made for myself.

Though I have a million things to write and post about, this is what I did today with my internet time. Though I'm not quite sure how I am going to justify Primus and Keb Mo in the same setlist, and we're not even going to try and figure out how I ran No Doubt and George Straight in there, this is the stuff I listen to when I'm on the beach.

Update: Ok, after listening to the list, the segues in and out of many of the tunes from the 1990's to the 1960's just weren't sounding too good. I have rearranged much of it to reflect the beach style. An updated "90's Playlist" is in the making...

Hence the name....

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finish this Sentence:

"My parents didn't like me to watch to much TV when I was little, they called it the 'b___ tube.'"

Indeed.

Sounds like the fight club in Phoenix is alive and well.

Oops. Forgot about that first rule.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Environmentalism done right

Instead of a jet-setting former VP telling us we should conserve energy while his mountain chalet is powered by burning old tires and small children, someone has apparently done something good for the environmental cause. The folks at the WWF (no, not the Wrestling Federation) are using Google Earth to show people the impact man-made mining and mountaintop removal. Concepts like global warming are hard to garner sympathy over because it is hard to prove the man-made aspect of it and it's even harder to prove exactly how bad a thing it is and how soon it would cause things to go seriously wrong, especially given the most public proponents of the cause. This on the other hand is quite in your face and very hard to argue over. Look at the mountain and look at what's happened to it. This isn't some erosion issue or something like that. This is something man has done. It even includes before and after photos. If we could get a little more of this and a little less Day After Tomorrow, you might see a lot more people supporting environmental causes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Daddy's Doin' Doubles Open Thread

I always have more links to write about then I ever get a chance to post on. My email is full of linky goodness that I will never, ever share. Why? Because a burrito stand on Magazine Street rules my life.

So I leave you, my readers, the Open Thread in which to post your own linky goodness and ruminations on many a subject of the day. Let me know what you're reading about and what you think of it.

Storytime

For some reason, I've read a lot about the 'second shift' or 'household chores' this week, and the division of labor between men and women when they cohabitate in a home. I can't remember where the rest of the articles were, but this one in the Flagpole got me thinking a little, and remembering the crazy messy roommate situations I have been in before.

Following will be analysis, why we live in filth/why we must clean. But first, the war stories.

I have lived with some of the messiest people on the face of God's green earth. One apartment I had during college, I left Athens for a week to visit Island City. When I got back, two of my three roommates had dirtied every dish in the house (which was a considerable task). After reducing the utility of the dishes, they started in on the pots, skillets, saucepans and cookie sheets. This task, too, was considerable. Once those items had been cased out, they began ordering takeout such as Chinese food and pizza, and using the containers the food came in as their dinnerware. They left all of this mess in an archeological timeframe style pile on the coffeetable and end tables as well as the counters in the kitchen. Their day jobs? Dishwashers at a local restaurant.

In that self-same apartment, one of these roommates had a beautiful blonde friend who would sleep over from time to time. His room was filthy. I mean, we timed it once he was moving out, and was cleaning his room: it took two hours of hard work before you could even see his floor. It was bad. Anyway, one day the blonde, who had been sleeping over for about a month, comes downstairs and asks where our vaccum cleaner was. I point to the closet and ask if she needs help cleaning her apartment. She wasn't cleaning her apartment. "I'm tired of sleeping in a bed covered in dog food and cigarette ashes," she told me.

Then there are folks like me: the borderline neat freaks. I am usually constantly cleaning. Especially when I get very drunk. I say borderline, because I can still tolerate a mess, but that apparently is not the case after a fifth of whiskey.

I used to think the thing that triggered that drunk cleaning thing in my brain was the subconscious knowledge that tomorrow I would have to clean up after the party (as I never consumed a fifth of whiskey alone) and cleaning up badly hungover is one of the most absolute worst things that a human being might do.

After looking back on my 29 years of mess making, cleaning, crazy roommates and reading all the socio-political experts talk about the division of labor in the home, I have one conclusion.

Cleaning is about power and control. Men more often than not exert power and control in the home through the TV, the computer or through video games. Their domination of the viewable playlist satisfies their need for power and control. Women need less of this rabidly visual stimulation, and exert their power and control over their personal space in the home. Ergo: the woman cleans, the man watches TV, but they are doing the exact same thing.

Borderline neat freaks like me take this one step further, and it has nothing to do with masculinity or femininty. It has everything to do with controlling where our things are and knowing the locations of our stuff. I might clean up, but I'm really only rearranging the mess so that I know where my keys are, my DVD's are, my books are etc. I can't deal with some woman cleaning up my stuff because she may put my phone charger in a place where I don't usually keep it, and that lack of access will keep me distracted for hours on end.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Possibilities are Endless

Here's some real good distraction for any free time you have today. During March of every year I have memory for, I remember hearing at least something - and I remember losing at least a little cash over - this thing called 'bracketology.'

But I had never even considered something like this.

I must say, it leads me to some intriguing matchups, from whence I realized rather quickly that I would have seeded the entire brackets a little differently.

I mean, having to face off two shuttle disasters in the Where Were You When Moments Bracket in the round of 16 was just heartwrenching.

My final four for the Moments: Hurricane Katrina v. Oklahoma City bombing; San Francisco World Series Earthquake v. Shuttle Challenger exploding. All four I watched on television screens. You all can pretty much guess which one ended up lasting through the whole bracket, and that deal was sealed when I had to pick it over the Berlin Wall falling.

My final four for the Film Deaths was much tougher, especially in the loaded bottom bracket. I mean, in the Elite Eight, I had the birth of Alien v. the opening scene of Jaws; Darth Vader striking down Obi Wan vs. Tom Hanks' "earn this" death in Saving Private Ryan? That's a personal final four right there, and that's after the tough desicions against Dr. Strangelove, Platoon and Thelma and Louise. But we still had to deal with the top seeds from the upper bracket: Bridge on the River Kwai and Raiders of the Lost Arc. (I also wonder what it says that Alec Guiness showed up in two of my final four choices, as well as movies directed by Speilberg and two starring Harrison Ford?)

Anyone who knows me well enough can guess which one ended up standing alone here. Yes, it was Darth Vader and Obi Wan. Kiss my geek rear end.

I must go out and get that book.

What She Said...

I was going to write about this today, too. But Maitri really hit all the salient points on this particular subject. If the Army Corps of Engineers won't listen to their own experts, what do we do? It really stings to know that while it is more than possible to effectively defend New Orleans, a strategically important part of the United States of America, from water, the powers that be are more interested in spending tax dollars on stuff that their own purchasing departments and experts know doesn't work.

Erosion may take 10 years to destroy a metropolitan American city, an earthquake may take 10 minutes, but incompetence will pretty much ensure that you can't ever get back up once you're knocked down. Nature loads the gun, nurture pulls the trigger, and that's a national problem.

Thing all the rest of you back in the world should be worried about is this: you may be sick of hearing about New Orleans, but you should be outraged at the way the government is handling all this. You can blame the locals all you want, the same Federal failures that New Orleans is dealing with now, you will have to deal with in the future.

Walter Reed Hospital, New Orleans' levees, and our inability to win in Iraq are all fruit of the same poison tree.

Changing gears a little, I must ask where that poison comes from. I have more than a few ideas. They aren't linked solely to one individual in one office, though that individual has more power to do something about the rot, the listing of our ship of state, than any other individual. That this particular individual has failed to adequately address the issues of competency - and has failed to do so with such swagger - will forever saddle him as the figurehead of that poison. But I see him and his entourage as mere symptoms of the larger issue. There was something bigger than him brewing long before we got to this point. I can't put my finger on it, but we're going to have to start working on what that is. We can work on the micro and the macro at the same time.

Monday, March 12, 2007

"The Blitz"

That's how I described it to co-workers. Two of my best friends fly into New Orleans the Monday before Mardi Gras with the understanding that we will make a forced march through some of the bigger name restaurants in town.

Act One:

Our first stop was Monday night at a place called NOLA in the French Quarter. It is a testament to how distracting this town truly is to say that I've walked past this establishment many times without quite thinking about what was inside. NOLA is one of Emeril's places, love him or hate him, there wasn't much controversey inside the restaurant.

Walking in, I was given pause with the layout of the place, being that the restaurant goes vertical instead of expanding horizontally. The bar is to your left and dining is to your right, and above you, and above you. The central elevator dominates the scene, and is the visual centerpiece for the place. As the hostess walks you to the elevator doors (our table was on the second floor) you pass the open expediter station with that slightly open view of the kitchen behind them. Newer upscale restaurants usually do this to advertise the product and give you a hint of knowing what is going on behind the line. We didn't linger long enough for me to judge the utility of this layout, however.

Once seated, we were able to take in the atmosphere of the place at our leisure. What NOLA offers is upscale and trendy atmosphere, and all the colors and decor of the place are fimly rooted in a more modern aproach to design. Warm colors on the walls, black an white photography, the industrial-chic elevator continued to dominate the view, and seperate the dining areas. Though such decor could really exist in any city with the population to support such a place, you could hear New Orleans in the patois of other patrons, and you could see it in the beads around necks, the feathered hats and Saints jerseys.

But the thing that really struck me was the service. My goodness, how like a hillbilly I must have looked to be experiencing the small touches that define fine dining while paying attention for the first time. The section captain and our servers knew our names, the replacement of white napkins for black ones because all of us were wearing dark clothing, the names of the sous chefs on the menu - those little things I am not used to or have missed in the past while paying closer attention to the food.

My two friends, who had grown up in Atlanta and who are more experienced at the fine dining angle than their oblivious Low Country companion, patiently explained to me the hows and the whys, only giggling slightly because they thought I knew these sorts of things already.

The food was not a dissappointment. That evening's entrees included the shrimp and grits, the roasted duck and the pork porterhouse. All three were strong meals. I've noticed one thing down here, when they say they're bringing you the pork porterhouse, they are bringing you an absolute slab of swine. It was served on sweet potatoes, and the sweet potatoes they serve in New Orleans are something else entirely from anything I've had in the Eastern Time Zone. The duck had an exceptional seared crust around a delicate meat inside.

But the star of this meal was something the Lady ordered: on the menu it is listed as the "Roasted Garlic-Reggiano Parmesean Bisque with Basil Pesto," we called it a first course and it left me wishing I had ordered that rather than the Gumbo of the Day, and I love Gumbo of the Day. This dish absolutely knocked the ball out of the park, and was the undisputed winner of the 'first courses' we ecountered, and would hold that title all week.

I also want to go back to the service at NOLA, these guys were good. I know good service, and how things are done when servers care about the work they do, the diners under their charge and the presentation of the meal they bring to the table, and the big guys working our section that night were professionals in every sense of the word. Rarely have I heard of cats that good, sometimes I've worked with them, but it was nice to have attentive folks like that taking care of us on Lundi Gras.

What Will They Tell the Grandkids?

I’ve made some mistakes in my life, embarrassed myself a few times and really left some stories in my wake - but reading about these two winners has me feeling pretty good about how I’ve turned out in comparison.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s why they call it dope; and
at least this guy wasn’t talking crap about Mel Gibson while he got arrested. The future South Park episodes write themselves.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rounding Out

Today is the 13th day in a row I will work an 8 hour shift or more at some point. I am bone-tired, in further awe of parents, members of our military, and more conditioned members of the foodservice and construction industries who do stints like this for years and sometimes decades at a time.

Tomorrow, I ride to Mississippi to play the blues.

In the meantime, my writing abilities round about now bottom out as parts of my brain start shutting down, so I'll direct traffic elsewhere for your weekend leisure.

Doug over at Hey, Jenny Slater! has some excellent suggestions for American automakers (he also shares, at least for Lent, my no-meat-on-Fridays rule), Andre at Georgia Politics Unfiltered brings up the question of legalizing marijuana use (they are apparently going after 'grow rooms' in the ATL in an attempt to make their NFL quarterback pay attention to his game instead of extracurriculars), and DADvocate talks credit card reform and immigration. Dr. Morris exhaustively describes the Musicians' Villiage situation going on with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans.

I'm off to the burrito stand that rules my life. I will be attempting to hit the Circle Bar tonight to see the Black Rose Band and hope they have produced a CD at this point.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Back at the Ranch...

...Andre has returned and Georgia Politics Unfiltered is back up and running. Of course, Andre placed his wildly successful political blog on hiatus back in January, only to return last week with the force of 30 or so new posts that I somehow overlooked. Right wingers and "part of the problem" Democrats in the ATL may now resume their regular hair pulling and teeth gnashing.

Welcome back, Andre.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Mean Kids In Middle School

To highlight their 'movement unity' and 'conservative values,' the archconservatives got together and had a big party to meet and greet the men who want to be the Republican Party's nominee for the Presidency in 2008. The biggest splash of the conference? None of the guys with the stones to put themselves up to run for the most important elected office in the world, but the coolest kid on the school bus ride home from middle school.

Yup, the Worthless Blond one is back, and the reaction is what you'd expect.

But the Coulter apologists are out there, slingin' that same old defense: Ann Coulter is important because she pokes fun at the 'political correctness' that stifles real debate in this country.

You want to hear about stifling debate? If my Pops, my Moms, my Aunts or my Grandmas had ever watched me get up in front of a suit and tie crowd and use language like that, they would have died of embarassment - but not before they kill't me dead by whoppin' my white ass bloody with their belts, hickory branches, yardsticks wrapped in duct tape or anything else within arms reach that might be used as an attitude adjuster. Other people's pops and mamas and grandmamas woulda helped 'em do it, too. Not a damn one of 'em would have cared about how much money I made off 'a talk like that in my last book, neither.

And not one of 'em woulda gone to jail for it, neither. Coroner back home woulda just said, 'boy shoulda known better.'

Why? 'Cause talk like that ain't bein' rebellious against 'political correctness,' that kinda talk is nothing better'n trash. Kids talk like that 'cause their friends do it and they don't know better. Kitchen folk talk like that because what's said in the kitchen means different things. Sometimes folks who are familiar with each other will talk like that while fishin,' huntin,' or just yammerin' away at one another in private settings. But if you're a grown adult standing in front of people wearing suits and ties with the cameras on? Trash talks like that.

Polite people who know how to act with manners and dignity and class don't need to talk like that to get their points across, and can be civil even with people who disagree with them.

That ain't 'political correctness,' that's bein' raised right by your mama and daddy and knowin' how to behave.

American, conservative values indeed.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Hypothetical

Let's just say:

You wake up one day, and the building you live in collapses. You miraculously survive, but are gravely injured. You face astronomical bills because of the injuries themselves, lost wages, plus you can't work at 100% and will require years of physical therapy before you can get back to your old productivity. Later, but within the statute of limitations, it comes to light that the construction company who built the building you lived in didn't build the building to code and didn't even follow their own company rules for construction projects, but when you moved in they assured you that the building was safe because they built it.*

Do you sue the construction company?

Hell yes, you do. So does everyone else. If Granny Butterfingers can squeeze McDonalds for serving hot coffee, you can sue the construction company the injuries, lost wages, and rehabilitation that they caused you to deal with, right?

I reckon we'll find out soon.

Like it or not, we like to call this the Petition Clause, that little discussed but very important right included in the very First Amendment to the United States Constitution by our Founding Fathers; who obviously thought it an appropriate check on the power of an un-accountable government.

*This analogy made by Garland Robinette on the radio.