Ten Years of b.rox

Sweetgum Buds 2

Ten years ago today I started writing here at b.rox. I didn’t give much thought to the content of that first post, in terms of setting the tone for the future. I just wrote about what was on my mind at the moment.

I’m fascinated by cycles, including the cycle of seasons.

In retrospect, however, I must say that seems uncannily prescient, foreshadowing a theme which has become so much more prominent in my thoughts, my writing, my practice, my life. Also, the emergence of spring buds as subject is a fine metaphor for beginning a new project.

I don’t really write much here anymore. A chart of the life-cycle of this blog would show a peak around 2006-2007, with some vigor continuing until the autumnal equinox of 2012, followed by a year of intentional silence. (Though I didn’t note it explicitly, that first post was very much about the vernal equinox.) These days mark a sort of senescence, I suppose, as I mostly post links to writings published elsewhere.

One of my primary impulses to write here was the same impulse that motivates my private journal writing: to mark the days as they pass and keep track of the interesting stuff that happens in my life. That. combined with the urge to share. But that act of sharing publicly has ultimately come to feel more like a limiting factor. These days I’m back to writing in my private journals more intensively than ever.

My friend David Bryan has suggested that the writings on this site might make an interesting book, which would include the flooding of the city in 2005 and the process of recovery, from a very personal angle, with the birth of my daughter as a natural ending point for the story. I appreciate this idea, thought I think a better arc might focus on our house, from our purchase in 2002, through the flooding and reconstruction, ending with the sale in 2009. I even have a title in mind: The Wizard of North Salcedo. I often felt like a wizard as I fixed kids bikes on the sidewalk in front of our house.

It’s funny to note that The Wild Hunt began one day later. What a different trajectory that site has taken.

And as a final note, I’m not sure I ever mentioned it, but the tree pictured in that first post did not survive the flood. We cut it down in November of 2005.

Sweetgum Stump

Even the stump is gone now, but we’re still here, and so is this site, even if it’s looking more like a stump itself these days. Thanks for reading, y’all.


This chart (via StatCounter) shows the long slow decline in monthly traffic to my blog since June 2007.


I wish I had stats going back further but I don’t. I suspect we’d see an even more dramatic pattern if we could look back all the way to Katrina. The first big spike on this chart corresponds to Hurricane Gustav.

I used to think this reflected a general decline in my overall relevancy, and perhaps it does. When I became a parent I had less time to read other blogs and that might also be a factor. But I’m also inclined to recognize the rise of Facebook and other social media and the general decline in blog-reading.

Moderation in All Things

After much dithering and even more mulling, I’ve decided to implement a new policy regarding comments on this blog. From this point forward, I’ll be moderating all comments. In other words, until I approve a comment, it won’t appear here for public view.

In the past, this was semi-automated. Certain posts would be flagged for moderation, but most comments from actual human beings (as opposed to automated spambots) would just come right through.

I’m a big fan of the first amendment and freedom of speech, but that applies to the public sphere. This blog is akin to a personal newsletter, privately published by yours truly, primarily to gratify myself through narcissistic ego-tripping. I enjoy sharing with others, and hearing back from readers. However, this not a constitutional forum and has never functioned as such.

So far, I’ve been fortunate to have a base of readers who are extraordinarily respectful and thoughtful, with very few exceptions over the years. But this being the wide open internet, there’s no guarantee that such good behavior will continue. Someone could post a death threat here tomorrow. I’d feel pretty bad about that.

Given the highly personal nature of my writing, and the fact that I now have progeny to worry about, it just doesn’t seem wise to leave this venue wide open for any and all to say whatever they want.

So I’m going to exercise some prior restraint. Actually, prior restraint is a technical term, and I’m probably using it incorrectly. What I mean to say is that all comments will be held for review from this point on. Given the generally low volume of comments here, I don’t think this will be overly burdensome.

Inquiring minds will wonder what sort of criteria I will use to separate the wheat from the chaff. I regard the comment section here as akin to a discussion in my living room. That’s the level of decorum and civility I hope to see. Any dialog that I wouldn’t tolerate in my living room will also not be tolerated here. Negative examples include:

  • Blatant spam
  • More subtle varieties of spam
  • Hate speech
  • Threats of violence
  • Incoherent ranting

That’s not an exhaustive list, just some ideas off the top of my head.

Let me also make clear this isn’t about shutting down oppositional viewpoints. I love hearing from people who disagree with me. I enjoy a good challenge to my deeply held convictions. Longtime readers can vouch for this.

But make no mistake — by exercising prior restraint (or whatever the correct term might be) I may actually be taking on a greater level of culpability. Since I am manually approving everything, the legal view might be that I am tacitly endorsing what you write. Therefore, I will err on the side of caution. If you don’t come correct, your comment will not be approved. You will not be notified. Your words will softly and suddenly vanish away. That’s all. There will be no recourse, no appeal. If you don’t like the policy, you are of course free to start your own blog.

Hopefully I’ve been clear and this makes sense to everyone. If you have questions, you can post a comment.

Five Biggest NOLA Blog Stories

I’m going to be making a presentation to a special interest group at the American Educational Research Association’s upcoming conference.

My topic? Blogging in post-Katrina New Orleans.

My idea is to recount five or so of the biggest stories to emerge from the local blogosphere since the flooding of the city in 2005. I mean “stories” in the broadest possible sense, not just investigative journalism or any other narrow conception of the term.

So I’ve compiled my list, but I thought this might be a fun game to play — and also a helpful reality check for me. What are the top five stories in your opinion? I will share mine in due time but I’d really like to see what people say independently first.

I would love to hear your take, and as I said it will help me as I prepare my talk.

Pick One

I’ll be on that panel tonight (Katrina 5.0) and they’ve asked me to read a post from my blog from the first few weeks after Katrina.

The question, of course, is which one?

My mind immediately sprang to something I wrote at the end of that dark November, which I titled Random Electronic Squawking.

But I thought I’d ask any readers out there for suggestions. If you remember something specific I wrote from five years ago, then it must pack a certain punch. I’m inclined to think people remember the general overarching narrative rather than specific posts, but feel free to prove me wrong.

Hurry, though — showtime is seven o’clock tonight. Though of course I’d still be interested in hearing your thoughts after the fact. And by all means come on out to the Presbytère tonight if you can.


Katrina 5.0: A Symposium on Technology & Blogging

Next week I’ll be on a panel called “Katrina 5.0: A Symposium on Technology & Blogging” hosted by the Louisiana State Museum.

Among other things, I’ll be talking about blogging, my experience of writing about the aftermath of the levee failures, and how the platform or community has evolved in the past five years. I think it’s interesting to look at how Katrina played out in the blogosphere, and compare it to the BP oil spill and how it continues to play out. I have my own ideas, but I’d be curious to know what others think.

So — what do you think? How did blogs and new media inform your understanding of Katrina and the levee failures and the ongoing recovery work in New Orleans? In what ways is that similar or dissimilar to the story of the oil spill?

Here are the particulars. I believe the panel itself will be in the final hour of the event.

Time: August 25 · 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Location: The Presbytère, Jackson Square

Join us for a preview of HurricaneScience.org, a comprehensive hurricane website from The University of Rhode Island. Meet two members of Rising Tide Nola, Bart Everson and Troy Gilbert, who captured Katrina’s wrath in real time, on their blogs. Learn about tools for disaster management from Ky Luu, Executive Director of Tulane’s DRLA and previous Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. Hear from Len Bahr, prominent blogger and previous Director of the Governor’s Applied Coastal Science Program, who’s using LaCoastPost as a voice for the Gulf.

Hope you can be there. In the meantime, by all means, let me know what you think.


If I haven’t written here as much lately, perhaps it’s because I feel constrained from public discussion of many of the topics which are currently preoccupying me.

  • There’s an election coming up, and I’ve got opinions, but I’m afraid to express them. Whoever wins, FOLC will have to work with them. It won’t help FOLC’s cause if the president (me) makes public pronouncements on one side or the other. Whoever gets elected can wield considerable influence for (or against) the greenway project. Therefore it seems most wise to keep my mouth shut.
  • Speaking of the greenway, we’ve been having some frustrations there as well. It’s related to the mess outlined by the American Zombie. FOLC has sent a letter to the administration and continues to try to get a meeting. There’s plenty more to say, but discretion seems advisable at this juncture.
  • On a more personal level, there’s been some unfortunate infighting amongst my co-workers. Not in my unit, happily, but close enough to impinge on me. It’s actually been fascinating, in a sad way, to see all this unfold, but I’ll be damned if I write about it. That could only serve to embarrass those persons involved, and possibly my employer. I resolved long ago not to embarrass my employer in my writings here. That’s in fact why I never mention my employer by name, and just refer to “the University.” I like my job too much to play it any other way.
  • By the same token, I’m not going to write about Xy’s discontent with her work environment, except to say it’s bad. Real bad. Leaving the interpersonal differences and administrative challenges aside, she’s sick of the hours. So am I. She’s tired of working a ten hour day and then having a couple hours of homework per night. She feels she’s missing out on her daughter growing up. So she may well be looking for another line of work come fall.

If no one read this blog, I could sound off on any topic with impunity. If I had a huge readership, I could perhaps wield some influence through my writings. As it stands, I’m in that broad middle zone where I get just enough attention to constrain but not enough to liberate.

And of course what’s going on in Haiti right now makes all this seem rather trivial, but I don’t have anything insightful to add about that either.

So I just don’t have anything to say right now. Sorry.

Penetrating Insight

Occasionally I get a comment so penetrating, so insightful, that it just begs to be given special attention. So herewith I present the penetrating insight of Chris Dillcog:

I was very fortunate to be born and raised in Sevier County and Pigeon Forge and was not as amused at your ramblings as you apparantly are. 1.) Our area is the second most visited area east of the Mississippi and is within a days drive of 63% of the population. A well traveled time share mooch surely did her homework before she happily lived off the hard earned money spent to purchase the timeshare from all your illness spreading inlaws. Then made classless jokes to show how little pride you do have. 2.)If the truth were known one or all of you probably took another timeshare presentation so you could continue your mooching way of life. 3.)The best was the way you mentioned your clean and wholesome hometown, New Orleans. I didn’t hear you mention the fact that you weren’t mugged or raped while on your FREE stay. You didn’t have to step over any drug abusers or borrow money from your in-laws to give to the beggars on the 5 lane street. 4.)If you visit again remember the reason we are not as walking friendly as the clean, safe, and morally sound area you admire is because we chose to live in an area ABOVE sea-level. I truly hope hurricane season finds you well and look forward to the money you can squeeze from Xy’s parents on your inevitable return trip.

Yes, Chris, you’ve certainly got my number.

Five & Dime

It’s been a little over five years since I started blogging here in earnest. I thought this would be a simple extension of the journal-writing I’d done off and on for years. The main difference, I supposed, was that I would be less likely to write about the minutiae of my life, that I would omit mundane details in an effort to keep things interesting. I imagined my audience would be small and obscure. 1,760-odd posts later and my readership is indeed small, though bigger than I imagined, and not nearly as obscure. I know many of my readers, and many friends and relatives keep tabs on me through this blog. Which is great, only it gives the lie to my early naïveté. Writing here is not the same as writing in a private journal, not by a long shot. I’m no longer worried about being boring. My primary worry is being too honest. My parents read this blog. Nuff said? My years of writing here have overlapped Katrina, a big story arc which I am glad to make public. But there are plenty of personal details that I won’t put here, and generally speaking those are the juiciest parts. Sex, drugs and acrimony. Get the picture?

Once I started this blogging business, I stopped keeping a private journal, but I’m realizing the limitations of this approach. So now I’ve started journaling again. I will keep blogging too, but perhaps less frequently. For quite some time I’ve aimed to post here daily. But there are only so many hours in a day, and my current challenge is to find a way to juggle my several writing projects, to discern what goes where, and find other means to give vent to the peculiar pressures that drive me on.

Speaking of anniversaries, it’s been ten years since Xy and I moved to New Orleans. Most of those years were pre-Katrina. It sure doesn’t feel that way, though. These post-Katrina years seem heavier, they weigh on me more, and they tip the balance toward the present. I know Xy and I lived here for six years before the storm, before the flood, but those years seem so distant and faint. The damage to the city feels like damage to my brain. But that, after all, is why I keep a journal, and a blog.

Here’s to another five, and another ten.

After Beyond

I think I was secretly hoping the Beyond Jena forum would be a bust. I’ve never been involved with organizing something on this scale before, and it was a little challenging, a little demanding, a little stressful. I knew if it was successful I might be tempted at some point in the future to try something similar, or even more ambitious. On the other hand, if it was a disaster, I could wash my hands and say “Never again!”

Alas, I wasn’t so fortunate. Much to my chagrin, the forum was a screaming success.

Kimberly & Marion

You can download the audio here. I’m particularly happy with the panel I moderated, so be sure to give them a listen.

Of course there were a few hiccups. Mostly they don’t even bear mentioning, but one of my panelists was a no-show! Paul Beaulieu, what happened to you, man? No call, no e-mail, nothing. I called and left reminder messages for you on the run up to the event. I called you the morning of. No response. What happened? It’s not so much that I’m personally insulted, but I think it’s a shame that our audience didn’t get to hear your voice. As a talk radio host, you would have rounded out that first panel perfectly.

I also regret that I failed to find a local Vietnamese blogger for that first panel.

But probably my biggest regret is that we turned people away because we’d hit our registration cap. As it turned out there were plenty of people who registered but didn’t show. We had room and more than enough food.

There’s always room for improvement. For now I’d just like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who helped make bring this forum together. Y’all did a great job.

A strange, sad footnote: A lady showed up and started distributing this flyer. She was asked to leave.

Beyond Jena

I mentioned earlier that I was working on the Beyond Jena forum, which is rapidly approaching on the last day of this month. We’re still working on some loose ends, but the event is coming together and I have every reason to believe it will be a success. I’m excited about this because it brings together several areas of interest to me personally.

The idea for this event came out of two panels in 2007: one that I was on and one that I organized. In a sense this event combines those two. That first panel was sponsored by Communications, which led me to get talking with Dr. Kimberly Chandler, one of the newer faculty in that department. Together we came up with the idea for the Beyond Jena forum.

Here’s the rationale. The 2007 demonstrations in Jena were “a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America” [Chicago Tribune]. In fact, the story of how those protests were organized became a story in and of itself. We thought it would be interesting and valuable to discuss the rise of the blogosphere, in particular bloggers of color, as well as other independent media. How is this playing out in New Orleans today? How can we merge new technologies, pedagogy and grassroots media here at this University, to further our mission? So it’s not really about the Jena Six per se; that’s just our jumping-off point to talk about a host of connected issues.

We’re aiming for a bigger event than I have ever organized before. My job usually entails programming that’s directed to our faculty only, which is a fairly small group — just a couple hundred, I think. If we get thirty people to turn out for something it’s a screaming success. This event is not just for faculty, but also for staff and students and the public at large. Come one, come all! We are providing a continental breakfast and a lunch. We got eight different departments (plus Rising Tide) to sponsor the event. It’s free but registration is required. There are a lot of logistics to juggle.

We’ve got a great bunch of participants lined up. I’m very excited about the panel I’ll be moderating, “The Rise of Blogging and Grassroots Media as Tools for Social Justice in New Orleans and Beyond.” I think it will be a stimulating discussion.

My only worry at this point is attendance. We are getting the word out as best we can. The University’s media apparatus has been deployed. Flyers are in the works. I even created my first Facebook ad. So far the registrations have been trickling in. The next ten days are crucial.

For more details on the event, or to register, visit BeyondJena.com, and please send that link to anyone you think might be interested.


Three cheers for Steve Volan. He’s blogging again. He’s writing about a hot topic in New Orleans. And he’s the only person on the City Council that I look up to.

I mean that last part literally. They call him “Tall Steve,” and there’s a reason for that. Did I mention he’s on the City Council? In Bloomington, Indiana, that is. But trust me, the folks on the New Orleans City Council aren’t any taller.

Regardless of his physical stature, I’ve always been impressed by Steve’s towering intellect. I’d recommend his blog to anyone interested in local governance issues, especially as they play out in Bloomington, but also with an eye to bigger national and global issues.

In a recent post, Steve takes note of the current plan for a LSU/VA hospital. Even from a distance of 800 miles he can see the misguided nature of this plan. Why can’t our local leadership see as clearly?

I don’t share Steve’s inherent distrust of campuses. I suppose that’s because I work on a campus and love it. But I do understand where Steve is coming from. His perspective is undoubtedly influenced by the prominence of Indiana University’s campus in Bloomington. I think of Bloomington as a small (but sprawling) city wrapped around a big campus. When I moved to New Orleans I found the world I’s known inverted: Now I’m working on a tiny campus in the heart of a big (but shrinking) city.

Declining Relevancy


Here’s some more webstats for this blog. That September 1st peak is when Gustav made landfall, and it’s been downhill ever since. Apparently I need another hurricane to boost my readership.

I’m joking of course. Actually I have been reflecting lately on what I’m doing here. I see this as a primarily selfish enterprise. I like sharing aspects of my life with the world. I enjoy getting feedback on what I write, especially thoughtful feedback that challenges me in a friendly fashion. I’m glad if other people can get something out of it. But at the end of the day, I’m writing for me. I am writing for my future self. I am my own number one fan. I’ve kept a journal off and on for thirty years now, and this blog is the latest iteration of that compulsion. Writing publicly adds value for me, but if I couldn’t write publicly I’d do it privately.

So I try not to pay too much attention to webstats, but they are fun to look at.

Subscribe via E-mail

I recently became aware that people who subscribed to get e-mail updates for this blog are no longer getting them. Something broke when we migrated to our new webhost, and I haven’t had time to fix it. However, I have found a quick fix that’s almost as good, maybe even better. In the unlikely event that you’d like to receive an e-mail notifying you of new posts to this blog, you can subscribe via FeedBurner. The only disadvantage of this system that I can see is that updates are not sent instantaneously. They are sent only once a day. However, this might be considered a plus if your inbox is jammed. One potential advantage of this service is that it will also mix my latest Flickr pix into the update, which you might miss if you only check the blog manually. Of course, you can get the same updates if you subscribe to this blog’s Atom feed, but for those who don’t want to use an aggregator, subscription via e-mail is a good alternative. Sign up today!

Panel #2

Last week I moderated a blogger panel. I was disappointed with the low attendance, but at certain times of the semester it’s hard to get faculty to turn out. However, I was very pleased with the actual content — the bloggers were articulate and thoughtful and passionate. It was a great discussion. A big thank you to Cliff, Oyster, Schroeder and Maitri. (Alas, Karen of Squandered Heritage couldn’t make it, which is a shame because I’m sure she would have brought another great perspective.)

Here are the questions I asked. Remember, these were formulated with a non-bloggy audience in mind:

  1. Tell us about your blog. What do you write about, and why? What motivates you?
  2. Who are your readers? How many people read your blog? Do they leave comments? How does your readership inform your writing?
  3. Tell us about the blogs you read (not strictly local). How do other blogs influence your writing?
  4. The writer David Zirin described the New Orleans blogosphere as being unlike most cities, using the phrase “blogger solidarity.” Your thoughts on the nature of the local blogosphere?
  5. If you were blogging before Katrina, how did Katrina change your blog? If you started blogging post-Katrina, was Katrina in some way a catalyst?
  6. Activism: Describe how you are active in your community. How does that relate to your blogging? Is your blog an adjunct to this work or is it your main channel? Can blogging be a form of activism?

I don’t think I explicitly got to some of those latter questions because the conversation took on a life of its own (as good conversations should) and we ended up covering those topics.

However, my big regret is that I didn’t allot more time. We only had an hour, and so I didn’t get to my final two questions. This was particularly disappointing because these were my “big” questions:

  1. Does blogging matter? Can blogs make a difference? And if so, how?
  2. One promise of new media is democratization. Is this promise being realized, or does the blogosphere reproduce/reflect social inequities?

I thought I’d follow up by posing these questions to my esteemed panelists online. Please answer on your own blogs, or in the comments as you prefer. Feel free to address either of these two questions, or both — or neither, as the spirit moves you.

Anybody else can join in too; it’s an internet free-for-all.

Panels, Panels, Panels

I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on “Media, Communication and Community: Private and Public Interests in Rebuilding New Orleans” this Wednesday night. It’s sponsored by the Xavier University Communications Department and it’s open to the general public. More info.

Next week, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion on “New Media and Community Activism in Post-Katrina New Orleans.” This is geared toward faculty here at our fine University. I invited five local bloggers to participate and — surprise! — they all said yes. It was difficult to choose five people to represent all the hundreds of New Orleans blogs. If you’re a local blogger reading this and wondering why you weren’t selected, I hasten to assure you that you were next on the list. Honest.

And finally, I’m going to be on a panel sponsored by the New Media Consortium’s Regional Conference in November on a similar topic. It’s called “Digital in the Wild,” a coinage from Alan Guitierrez of Think New Orleans who will also be on the panel along with Chris Reade (louisianarebuilds.info/Young Leadership Council), Ted Cash (Common Ground), and Sandy Rosenthal (Levees.org).

Three panels in four weeks. That’s a lot of paneling.