Editor B’s Year-End Close Out

Music really helped me get through this year, and so I wanted to do a year-end post about my favorite songs and audio oddities of 2007. I’d imagined writing a detailed annotated list itemizing what each song meant to me. Alas, I find I don’t have the time or the wherewithal for that.

So I thought I’d just give a bare listing of my top ten.

  • “Melody Day” by Caribou
  • “Hades & Persephone” by Ana├»s Mitchell
  • “The Grove” by Big Blood
  • “Night Country” by Magnolia Electric Co.
  • “Gronlandic Edit” by Of Montreal
  • “Helen Hill” by Dave Cash
  • “Emma Goldman” by Panorama Jazz Band
  • “Freedom Land” by 2-Cent
  • “Final Path” by Yeasayer

But I do still want to share the love. So here’s a 150 MB zipped archive [link redacted]. Download it if you dare. It contains 29 mp3 files, and you can hear my faves for your very own self.

Happy New Year!

Update: Link redacted. But contact me if you want to share.

Also I should note that when I listed “Melody Day” by Caribou, I meant the “Four Tet Remix” version. I recently heard the original and I don’t think it holds a candle to the remix.

Also when I said “Final Path” by Yeasayer I should note it’s from their Daytrotter Session and you can hear it here.

And finally thanks to Schroeder who taped the Panorama Jazz Band for Community Gumbo. Hear ’em here.

Update: Now I’ve discovered a better way to share music: 8tracks


Today is Xy’s birthday. She wanted a Kurt Cobain lunch box (I am not making this up) so I went to FunRock’N on Magazine where said item had been spotted. After a comedy of errors (including being turned away from the store in error) I ascertained that they did not have the lunch box anymore. They even called their other shop on Decatur, but no luck. Not wanting to return empty-handed, I purchased instead a Kurt Cobain action figure. The look of disappointment on her face made it worth all the hassle.

Tonight: Dinner at Feelings.

Lil Red Gets Married

It’s not all drudgery. We’ve taken some very pleasant breaks from working on the house to visit friends. Today we went to Li’l Red’s wedding in Madisonville. Li’l Red is one of Xy’s co-workers, a young Teach NOLA recruit slugging it out through her first year as a teacher in our public schools. I’d never been to Madisonville before, but I’m always up for a wedding. Still, it was strange to attend a small wedding for someone I don’t really know at all.

Xy wanted me to take a picture so her parents can see how pregnant she is. We used her cameraphone.

Xy at 6 1/2 Months

It’s really not that evident in the picture, but because she’s so petite to begin with, she feels quite large. It’s hard to imagine that she’ll get much, much bigger — but she should, inshalla.

Painting the Year Out

What have I been doing over the holiday break? Painting. Every day. Yes, even on Christmas. I’ve finished painting the walls of our living room. I painted the balusters (banisters if you prefer) which took three days, because I did three coats of two different colors. I’ve been painting the wall above the mantel gold, which is also taking multiple coats, and a story unto itself. I spent most of today cleaning and priming the downstairs bathroom.

It’s easy to get up and get the work done when I feel Xy’s support. It’s a little more difficult to get motivated when she lies in bed sleeping all day. Of course, she gets a pass on all such behavior because she’s pregnant.

This break has been especially sweet because we figure it’s the last time we’ll have together as just a couple for quite some time to come. I remarked on this today, and Xy replied: “Yeah, but it’s not so bad because we’ve had so many ‘just a couple’ times over the years.” And that’s very true — we’ve been together fifteen years now. But what’s truly amazing is that I said something negative and Xy looked on the positive side.

I told her we could use a lot more of that attitude in the months and years ahead.


Now that Christmas is past and campaign season is swinging into full gear, I will permit myself the following cranky thoughts.

Remember the mantra from 2004? Anybody but Bush… Anybody but Bush… Well, it turns out now there is someone worse than Bush, and it just so happens that he’s running for president. I’m speaking of course of Rudy Giuliani. Or so the pundits would have us believe — the same people who tried to sell the “Anbody but Bush” line four years ago. On the other side, the hate machines are really cranking up against Hillary Clinton, who is apparently the Antichrist. Tune in to some conservative talk radio and get and earful. It’s really something. You’d think she was actually a leftist.

As fascinating as it is to watch this fight, I wish the Republicans and Democrats would just sort out their priorities and get back to the rest of the country when they’ve chosen their nominees. Why should I waste my mental energy hating Giuliani or Clinton if they’re not even in the running?

I’m not feeling particularly cranky these days, but I still have these thoughts.


I got some clothes and a swell electric garlic roaster for Christmas this year, but by far the coolest gift comes from my dear departed Grandma Mildred.


It’s a crib blanket that I used as a child forty years ago, handmade by Grandma. The theme seems to be travel. It says: “BY AIR, BY SEA, BY LAND” and it depicts boys and girls employing various means of locomotion: an airplane, a hot air balloon, a sailboat, a train and an automobile.

Apparently Mom kept it on a shelf all these years and decided it’s time to pass it on to the next generation. Thanks Mom.

A Christmas Eve Poem

There are nineteen balusters
In our balustrade.
I painted them all orange today
Each one a different shade.

Actually that’s not true.
I painted sets of two
In alternating hue.

This tortured verse
Has gone from bad to worse
But do not curse
My name.

I plan to have a merry Christmas
And hope you will do the same.

Scratchy Chin Season

Chin Hair

I’ve started a new tradition. I’m not shaving between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. This gives me an annual chance to appreciate just how gray my beard is getting. I’d say I’m about 50% gray at this point. Then, on New Year’s Day, I’ll shave it clean and get a fresh start.

Footnote: I do have to shave my throat to make it look like a beard and not just scraggly. Where’s Sweeney Todd when you need him?


Xy and I went to see Sweeney Todd at a suburban cineplex last night. It’s a truly impressive film, masterful, the latest iteration of a story that goes back at least 160 years — and yet I had two major reservations.

For one thing, both Xy and I were somewhat squeamish with regard to the graphic throat-slittings. All told, these made up only a few seconds of film, but I could barely look at the screen during those moments.

However, the main thing that bugged me was the absence of the title song. Who could forget these lyrics?

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.
He served a dark and a hungry god.
To seek revenge may lead to hell,
But everyone does it, though seldom as well
As Sweeney,
As Sweeney Todd,
The demon barber of Fleet Street.

But you won’t hear them in this film. I understand they cut over an hour of music from Sondheim’s score. The cuts seem to have eliminated all the most “stagey” songs, so that the final result is a film that doesn’t seem like a stage musical but like a film where most of the dialog just happens to be sung. And I’ll grant that the title song is one of the stagiest numbers in the whole musical. So it makes sense that they cut it.

But, damn it, it’s also the best song in the musical — in fact, it’s my favorite songs from any musical. And they keep teasing us with it, instrumentally, throughout the film, so that you keep expecting the song to bust out. And it never does.

And that is an unforgivable sin. In fact, it robs the movie of a proper ending. I thought they’d at least run the song over the closing credits, but no, just the instrumental theme.

Although it appears to be a minority opinion, I’m glad to see I’m not alone in this.

The Solstice & the Tipping Point

Today’s the northern solstice, the longest night of the year and the shortest day. Tomorrow the days will start to get longer again. In the fiction of Ursula K. le Guin, this day is known as Sun-Return. Out of darkness, light.

I’m always surprised how many people are completely unaware of the solstice. You could argue it’s the most significant day of the calendar for us earthlings, cosmically speaking. It’s the reason we have all these celebrations around this time of year.

It seems New Orleans could use some solstice magic right about now. I’ve heard a number people, from personal friends to the Mayor, express the thought that a “tipping point” is right around the corner, that our collective efforts will finally get some traction, and the recovery finally accelerate.

I wish I shared that optimism. But even though I’m skeptical, I can sincerely say that’s my solstice wish: That we as a city, as a people, can see our way through this dark night together.


I wish I could take comfort in the unity of our City Council today, as they closed ranks and voted for the redevelopment of our public housing projects. I wish I could believe that the planned redevelopment will truly lead to a more just and humane society, with greater opportunity for all.

But I can’t.

So I find myself wishing that I could embrace the mindset of the protesters: outraged, indignant, furious, sad. I wish I could share their conviction that this is a ruse to further disenfranchise the poor and powerless. At least I could be secure in my righteousness.

But again: I can’t quite share that view.

I’m confused and uncertain and nervous about the whole thing. I have more questions than answers.

It seems ironic that I’m going to be on National Public Radio tomorrow morning talking about this. The show is the Bryant Park Project. I tried to tell Alison, “I’m not sure I’m the best person to speak on this issue. I’m deeply conflicted about all this. I don’t know what to think.” Unfortunately, she ate that up.

Based on a recent blog post, I’m guessing they lean more toward the opposition. I suppose that means I’ll lean slightly toward the establishment… and I hate that.

Maybe if the conversation veers the other way I can keep my anarchist street cred intact.

Update: Well, the conversation did veer the other way, a little. You can listen here. Also I should mention that I got my names confused; I spoke on the phone not to Alison (the host) but to Angela — the same Angela who put a slideshow of my photos online with Village Voice back in the summer of last year.

Christmas Questions

A question to all the Christians out there:

How would you like to see non-Christians act with regard to Christmas? How can we be both respectful to you and true to ourselves?

Clearly we can’t celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday, so would you rather we not participate at all? That doesn’t seem quite fair, since there have been celebrations around the winter solstice since ancient times, long before the birth of Christ. It would be a real bummer to be surrounded by people who are celebrating and not join in the festive spirit.

But if we celebrate an entirely pagan Yule, will Christians find that offensive? Won’t it be construed as an aggressive attack on Christmas itself?

Would you prefer we join in a watered-down secularized version of Xmas, accentuating Santa and eliminating Jesus? If I was a Christian, I’d certainly be concerned about the rampant commercialization and secularization of this religious holiday. I don’t want to contribute to that. It’s a Christian holiday, and I respect that.

So what options are left?

Seriously, I would like to know what you think, because Christmas is a very confusing time for me.

Obligatory and Unsatisfactory Ruminations on the Public Housing Debacle in New Orleans

Stop the Demolitions

The struggle over public housing has been building for years here in New Orleans. Now it’s ramping up to new levels.

It’s a disgusting and pathetic spectacle. With apologies to Mom and Dad, it’s a clusterfuck. There’s just no other word to describe it. I don’t have it in me to play reporter and account for the steady stream of protests and legal maneuvering, but it can be summed up like this: Some people want to tear all the public housing developments down to build mixed income developments, and some people think that’s a nefarious plan for “ethnic cleansing.” Emotions run high around this issue. Shrill rhetoric abounds, and civil discourse is in tragically short supply.

I’ve been following the issue half-heartedly for over a year now, and I still don’t know what to think. My politics are, perhaps, most closely aligned with the protesters who want to stop the demolition juggernaut, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that some of these housing activists are real jerks. So I’ve stayed away.

Plus, I’m not unsympathetic to the other side of the argument. I’ve only talked to a couple public housing residents about the issue, and they are both fully in favor of the proposed redevelopment. Granted, that’s hardly scientific, but it certainly does give me pause. The plan for redeveloping the Lafitte project, at least, is regarded by many as extremely progressive. I don’t know about the other projects. But I have a hard time with any plan that calls for tearing down sturdy building built in the 1930s. We just don’t build to the same quality today. But we seem to have developed a spatial fetish about those buildings.

No one seems to doubt that public housing was a failing proposition before Katrina. It was failing the residents and also the general public. The main beneficiary was the hospitality industry, who effectively got government underwriting for their poverty wages.

The Housing Authority of New Orleans is corrupt, so much so that it’s been run by the federal government for years. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development also appears to be corrupt. In any case, HANO & HUD have amply demonstrated their inability or unwillingness to provide quality housing. I don’t believe we can trust this administration (or any recent administration) to do the right thing, whether that’s re-opening the old projects or tearing them down.

But I’m not going to pick sides in this fight. I’m just watching from the sidelines. I hope the City Council can perform a miracle on Thursday. I hope some middle ground can be sought. I hope the principles outlined in the Unified New Orleans Plan are honored.

And now a bit of lagniappe, here’s a video we shot in the summer of 2006 which is unfortunately still relevant today:

Update: Just an hour later I have to revise what I wrote. I just had a conversation with Donna, who is former resident of public housing, and she said unequivocally that she thinks the demolition proposals are wrong, wrong, wrong. She doesn’t need or want to move back into public housing herself, but what about all those estimated 12,000 homeless?

Initial Appointment

Xy and I had our initial appointment with the Road Home program this morning. Yes, that’s right, initial. We’re only just now getting started. For once this tardiness cannot be blamed on governmental ineptitude or bureaucratic bungling. It’s our fault. We’ve dragged out feet and postponed this because we don’t really expect to get any benefit from it. But the governor herself said that everyone who sustained any damage from the big storms of ’05 should apply. So we are.

The process we experienced was almost comical. There were all kinds of beeps and sirens going off. We had to sign in and check in multiple times through multiple checkpoints. They took our thumbprints and mugshots.

Road Home Mugshot

Road Home Mugshot

Road Home Thumbprint

Road Home Thumbprint

We had insurance, which actually paid out a decent amount in a timely fashion. But are we whole yet? It’s hard to say. Our renovation is ongoing, and we haven’t run out of money yet.

As I understand it, since we have an appraisal of our home’s value from when we purchased it in 2002, and since the amount of our insurance payouts is a known quantity, and since our home was less than 50% damaged, there’s only one variable remaining to be computed. Then the award formula can be calculated in a straightforward fashion. The remaining variable is the Road Home’s estimate of the cost of our damage. They will calculate that based on an inspection which should happen soon. If their estimate is higher than our insurance company’s, we should get some funds to make up the difference. If not, we won’t.

So essentially this will function as a check on our insurance adjuster, and it all comes down to the inspection. I’ve heard tales (which may be specious) of people bribing their inspectors with lavish meals to get a favorable evaluation. We won’t be engaging in any such foolishness. I’ve also heard about people getting an unfair evaluation because they couldn’t meet the inspector, but I certainly won’t allow that to happen.


Last night Xy and I took one of her students out to dinner at Venezia’s. We had pasta and pizza and then got desert at Angelo Brocato’s. After that we went to see The Golden Compass at the Prytania.

Caitlyn is very quiet and serious, one of Xy’s smartest students. In fact, Xy’s says Caitlyn is smarter than her — not bad for an eleven-year old. She’s the kind of kid who gives one hope for the future.

As for the movie, I enjoyed it greatly. It was far better than one might think from the many reviews that call it a mixed bag. It definitely requires a sequel.

Caitlyn said she’d give it a B+ or an A-.