three of my favorite places that may not exist anymore

Linette and I love New Orleans. It’s one of our favorite places in the world. I refuse to either confirm, or deny, but there’s even a rumor going around the internet that our daughter was conceived there, between shifts spent working at the Crimewave USA table during the New Orleans Independent Press Bookfair in 2003… Anyway, it breaks our hearts to think that some of our favorite places (and, worse yet, people) may be gone forever. Here, in way of tribute, are just a few snapshots taken during our last visit. The first is of me eating at a fantastic, little place called Mother’s. The second is of Linette drinking at one of the oldest taverns in America, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. And the third is a shot taken inside Ernie K Doe’s Mother In-Law Lounge.

I could go on for pages and pages as to why I think New Orleans is one of the few authentic places left in the United States (if you can get beyond the Bourbon Street titty squad, the petty criminals, and the wannabe vampires), and why what’s happening now is a catastrophic cultural loss for our country. I could also spend a lot of time ranting about the racism creeping into the media coverage, and fact that the city apparently had no contingency plan for evacuating those without transportation, or the financial means to leave. But, all that stuff, as well as the discussion as to whether or not it makes sense to rebuild, can wait until later. What’s important now is that we all open our hearts and homes to the survivors along the Gulf Coast (not just in New Orleans), and our billfolds to the Red Cross.

It’s especially important that we give money to the Red Cross now, as most of the immediate burden is going to be put on them… Our National Guard forces and other government resources, as we all know, are tied up in Iraq. FEMA has been decimated. And, our leaders are preoccupied with more important matters.

I linked to it up above, but here, in closing, is a clip from a letter attributed to a New Orleans rescue worker (via BoingBoing):

The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number — 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn’t leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn’t be able to get out. The resources — meaning, the political will — weren’t there to get them out.

White per capita income in Orleans parish, 2000 census: $31,971. Black per capita: $11,332. Median *household* income in B.W. Cooper (Calliope) Housing Projects, 2000: $13,263.

Now send some money. Please.

Posted in Mark's Life | 51 Comments

thank god for the aclu

Fortunately, as the Bush administration continues to force federal social spending through so-called “faith-based” initiatives, the ACLU is there, pushing the issue in the courts, and trying to keep the line between church and state from being completely obliterated. And, it seems like, at least in one recent case, they were able to hold back the tide of government-funded evangelical extremism. Here’s a clip from the LA Times:

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suspended a $75,000 grant to the Silver Ring Thing, a sexual abstinence program for teenagers, saying it was concerned that the program “may not have included adequate safeguards to clearly separate in time or location inherently religious activities from the federally funded activities.”

The silver ring in the program’s title refers to a ring worn by participants. It is inscribed with the message, “God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of sexual sin.” The ACLU had charged that the Silver Ring Thing used “taxpayer dollars to promote religious content, instruction and indoctrination.” A lawyer for the program, which has received about $1.3 million in federal funds since 2003, insisted that “any religious teaching that goes on is separate in time and place from what the government is funding.”

Do you believe it’s gotten to the point in our country where a court case has to be filed before the administration will acknowledge that a program built around jewelery that says, “God wants you to be holy,” is crossing the line?

(note: I wonder if I could get funding for this idea I have for bracelets that say, “Save your Cherry for Satan.”)

Posted in Church and State | 9 Comments

texas zombies

According to the Daily Texan, hordes of zombies amassed yesterday in Austin at an open casting call for aspiring American Idols… Meanwhile, across the state, in Crawford, our President was beset by something equally as terrifying – a twisted, scarred Iraqi war veteran by the name of Tomas Young, who had come to join Cindy Sheehan in her vigil outside the Bush compound. According to the Brad Blog, in addition to wanting to speak to Bush about our ongoing occupation of Iraq, Young would also like to ask Bush why he’s stopped funding the stem cell research which could one day restore his ability to walk… From what I hear though, Bush wasn’t anywhere near. Word is that he got the hell out of Crawford once the skies got all “dark and spooky”… Speaking of the Hurricane Katrina, there are rumors floating around the internet that the situation in parts of Mississippi and Louisiana is much worse than what we’re being led to believe. I’ve even heard that the press is being ordered out of some areas and that martial law has been declared… And in completely unrelated, but no less distressing news, it’s also being reported today that the Army whistleblower who brought to light the fraudulent billing practices of Halliburton in Iraq has been canned… Sweet dreams, zombies.

Posted in Other | 4 Comments

reclaiming dinosaurs for jesus: roadside kitsch becomes our science

The LA Times has a great piece today on the cement dinosaurs off of Interstate 10 near Palm Springs that were made famous a few decades ago, in the film “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” (Pee Wee lived in the mouth of one.) The attraction, known as Cabazon Dinosaurs, has apparently “found religion” with its new owners, who have turned the old attraction into a Creationist’s paradise, where children (and adults with child-like abilities) can learn all about dinosaurs, unencumbered by the burdens of science. No, at Cabazon Dinosaurs, people can actually enter a fantasy world where they can imagine a reality in which dinosaurs existed just a few thousand years ago, right alongside the men and women of the Bible. Here’s a clip from the LA Times piece:

“We like to think of [dinosaurs] as creation lizards, or missionary lizards,” said Frank Sherwin, a museum researcher and author….

Kids flock to the huge statues. “And it’s not like they’re crying, ‘Oh, mommy, take me out, I’m scared.’ They’re drawn to it,” Chiles said. “There’s something in their DNA that knows man walked with these creatures on Earth.”

And, apparently, it’s not an isolated incident either. It seems as though several of these roadside dinosaur attractions which first sprung up in the 60’s are now changing hands, as evangelical Christians are seeing an opportunity to use them in their crusade against the evil, Christ-hating, latte-swilling scientists.

(There’s been no word yet as to whether or not these same evangelical investors are looking to take over the original Mystery Spot and re-branding it the Divine Miracle Spot.)

Fortunately, in all of my reading, it does not appear as though Prehistoric Forest in Irish Hills, Michigan has yet to be acquired. (note: The photo above is from Prehistoric Forest. It was copied from the site that was just linked to. As far as I know, it does not depict a biblical scene… yet.)

Posted in Church and State | 7 Comments

the art of commerce: singing the praises of the big mac

I was going to write a long and complicated introduction to this clip, but it’s not necessary… We all know about paid product placement as it exists in film and television, and I’m sure that it will come as a surprise to no one that the now almost thoroughly co-opted rap music industry would spawn slick corporate entities to facilitate similar financial arrangements between rappers and product marketing departments… Here’s a clip from the Washington Post:

(Tony) Rome hooks up rap stars, R&B singers and urban comedians with major corporations that want to reach their fans. The ideal relationship, says Rome, who founded Maven Strategies in 1996, would have an artist write a brand name into a song, feature the brand in a music video and partner with the brand in other promotions, getting paid by the brand’s owner along the way…..

Maven’s prices vary depending on the branding a company is after, but Rome made news last Spring when Advertising Age, the ad world’s publication-to-read, splashed a story across its Web site about a deal Maven stuck with McDonald’s. According to the story, McDonald’s confirmed that if rappers would include “Big Mac” in their lyrics, the fast food giant would pay them between $1 and $5 each time their song was played on the radio. Rome won’t discuss the deal with McDonald’s in further detail and guards his client list closely.

One wonders what kinds of shoes the guys in Run-DMC would have sung about if money were part of the equation. Surely, Adidas wouldn’t have ponied up more than Nike.

And you know for damned sure that Elvis wouldn’t have wasted his time peddling generic, blue suede shoes.

As for McDonald’s, I wonder if they’d pay up if someone rhymed “Big Mac” with “I ate there till my heart attack,” “minimum wage trap,” “mad cow crack,” or “it’s all connected to Iraq.”

Posted in Marketing | 4 Comments


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