Happy Thanksgiving

Today we gathered with friends and family — well, really it was just our little minimalist nuclear family and our friend James.

thanksgiving.jpg

We thanked Dame Fortune for the health of our new child, for all our friends, and for gainful employment in these grim economic times.

We had a fantastic meal. I made the smoked turkey legs in a satsuma-honey glaze — second year in a row for these, and I’m closing in on perfection. They were pretty good, but the skin was almost black in some spots rather than that deep dark golden brown. I think the grill was too hot at first. Also, I think mesquite would be a better choice than hickory. But the glaze was a screaming success: honey, oil and freshly-squeezed satsuma juice, with a dash of cayenne, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary and sage from the garden, and just a dash of Rhum ClĂ©ment Creole Shrubb liqueur.

I also made dressing for the first time ever. Frankly I’ve never liked dressing. I’ve never even understood dressing. But then I’ve never had oyster dressing. Never even heard of such a thing until we moved down here to New Orleans, though it turns out Xy’s uncle made it every year back in Evansville, Indiana. I found a recipe and gave it a try, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t pretty tasty. James, a native New Orleanian, pronounced it similar to what his Mom used to make, which I consider a high compliment.

Also on the menu: salad in imitation of Venezia, mashed potatoes and yams, and fresh-baked bread.

But the highlight of the day? No doubt. That came early when Xy organized a cleanup of the overgrown vegetation in front of the derelict property next door. Here she is with Josh and Lamar:

Hard Work on Thanksgiving Morning

Homecoming Portrait

We got our photos back from the homecoming dance. Here’s Persephone with her date, Sebastian.

Homecoming Portrait

I was intrigued by the setup. They use a digital camera and take the portraits in front of a green screen. Then you can choose from a gallery of backgrounds. Cheesy, but fun.

A Samhain Saining

We worked a little magic in Mid-City today. We gathered on the banks of Bayou St. John and collectively welcomed a new person into our community. (What better place for a baptism than a body of water named for John the Baptist?) We sanctified her and gave her a name. We shared a pomegranate and toasted with beer.

Offering

Photo by Howie. More here.

Amazing stuff. I’ve recently become convinced that public rituals such as this, and indeed all celebrations no matter how large or small, have a profound power in them.

Thanks to everyone who was able to come. And for those who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it, we’ll count you present in spirit. I made sure to record the event so we could share the experience with our parents and anyone else who cares to listen. It’s about twelve minutes long.

Samhain Saining by Editor B

It was a beautiful day. I had a great time. It was sweet.

Our liturgy, or whatever it should be called, was something I cobbled together from various sources, a secular humanist/neo-pagan mish-mash. But I did write some parts myself, and I was particularly happy with this passage:

We honor not only our immediate ancestors who have passed on, but all those who have come before us, for untold and uncounted generations, beyond memory and beyond history. It is our hope that Persephone will see the entire human family as her family, to embrace the best wisdom from the traditions of the world, and draw upon the rich cultural heritage of every nation.

For the full text, I refer you again to the audio recording.

Thanks especially to Michael, Kalypso, Lily and Anna, Sebastian and Sue, Sean, and Howie, for their help with various aspects of the ceremony.

Frustrated with Bebo

I’ve been researching social network sites for a presentation I’m making at the end of the month. There’s quite a few of them out there. As part of my research I’ve been signing up for all the major ones and exploring them a bit. I already had accounts on Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, Friendster, Orkut and LinkedIn, but now I’m also on Hi5, Cyworld and Bebo.

Most of these sites allow you to connect to your online address book. This is for two distinct purposes: 1) to see who else amongst your contacts may already be using the site, and/or 2) to invite contacts who aren’t using the site to join up. I’m not interested in flogging any of these social network sites, so I restrict my explorations to the first purpose.

Which brings me to Bebo.
Continue reading “Frustrated with Bebo”

Revelations

I’ve been catching up with various friends and relations here in Bloomington. Met up with some roxlysters. Met up with Laura Dedelow, a fellow Gustavacuee. It was especially cool to meet Josh (goodhands) in person. And supercool to finally meet Lee (magic) in the flesh. Lee and I had a very near encounter three years ago, on the last day of our Katrina exile; we were thwarted by a tornado. He’s been working on the ROX 666 DVD project ever since.

But the biggest surprise came from my parents, who treated us to lunch today. They were here in Bloomington for a mysterious appointment. Turns out they’re selling their house in Morgan County and joining the Peace Corps. (Pending acceptance to the program.) I’m stunned and proud. My parents, the hippies.

What Cool Breezes Do

Fay

Fay was a killer storm. Yet now she’s disintegrating over land somewhere to the north and east of here, and we’re being gently lashed by cool breezes and mild drizzling rain.

It doesn’t feel like August in New Orleans, not by a long shot.

This is a dark time of the year here. August used to be my favorite month of the year. Not anymore.

But at least we have these cool breezes. I can’t help thinking how these same breezes that cool my flesh have killed people I never knew. There’s an aphorism that applies here but it’s just too damn obvious.

We seem to have a lot of local politicians and power brokers going down in flames hereabouts. But what do you do when you see that happening to a friend? I’ve seen one too many people go down like that. Our response as a society, as a community, as fellow human beings, is troubling to me. We seem to let people slide until they become a threat to themselves and others, then we step in with harsh punitive measures that often seem to make matters worse. I never know quite what to do in such situations.

I can’t believe how cool it is. We’ve turned off the AC and opened some windows.

A friend up in Indiana sent me some apples hand-picked in his yard. He also sent all the ingredients for apple crisp. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole nutmeg before. Reminds me how I dosed up on nutmeg once, oh so many years ago. A melancholy three-day trip. Seems like ancient history now. Anyway, I’m baking apple crisp today. Perfect weather for it.

Gatherers of Light

I’m nearing the end of my project of excavating old images from the depths of my hard drive. There have been some interesting discoveries along the way. A few days ago, I found a set of photos I thought had been lost, from March 23rd, 2002. That’s when I made a road trip to Shreveport for an event called “Arts in the Edge: Gatherers of Light.” I was showing a video there.

I believe this was when I first met Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill. Helen was showing a film in Shreveport too, as was Courtney Egan. Courtney was my connection to the whole event. I rode up with Courtney and David, then rode back with Paul and Helen.

I was particularly happy to find this photo of Helen and Rosie:

Helen & Rosie

People had been telling me “you’ve got to meet Paul and Helen” for a couple years. And on this day in March, I finally did. And I finally understood why they were so celebrated by all their friends. I’d never met such happy, friendly, loving people.

It was a good day.

Helen slept on the ride back to New Orleans, but Paul and I stayed up and talked the whole way, six hours I guess.

I’ve posted the whole set.

Packing Up

I spent a few hours over the past week helping a friend pack up and move. Something I’ve done many times before.

Only, in this case, my friend already left. And wherever he is now, he won’t be needing his file cabinets or his shoes or his pipe collection… or any of his worldly possessions.

So, that was a weird experience. Packing up and moving… nowhere. Most of his furniture and clothing was going to a local charity (Bridge House) so we just carried it down the stairs and, instead of putting it onto a moving truck, we simply piled it in the driveway.

Moving that couch and sofabed down the narrow stairwell was quite an adventure. I’m not as sore today as I thought I might be.

Scott’s mother was in town from Birmingham. She didn’t have much use for all this stuff. The antiques and valuables were sold, but she was happy for us to take whatever we could use. I think Frank may have a new library (mostly science fiction paperbacks) to replace the many books he lost to the Federal Flood. I took home a coffee table, an old mirror, a toolbox full of tools, and more than a few odds and ends. A big hunk of coral for Xy’s classroom. A bottle of Murphy Oil Soap. A box of peppermint tea. A sword coated in glitter — which is not an unusual thing to find in any New Orleanian’s closet, really.

Shower

We hosted a baby shower today for our friends DJ & Daisy.

Painting Begins

I think this is the fourth or fifth shower we’ve hosted in this house. Showers are weird to host because the guests are friends of the pregnant party and may be unknown to you.

But they can still be fun. Especially with the help of that powerful rum punch DJ whipped up.

DJ & Daisy are house-hunting. They just made an offer on a newly renovated shotgun, two blocks from our house. I hope it works out; they’d be a great addition to the neighborhood. Their real estate agent, Shannon Sharpe Briand, was also our real estate agent, and was also in attendance at today’s party, and is also pregnant. A lot of that going around.

Of course, no event at our house would be complete without a pratfall from Xy.

Xy's Folly

Scott

Anne McKinley phoned me this afternoon to let me know that our mutual friend Scott Speake quite unexpectedly died over the weekend.

Scott

We all knew each other through our book club. Anne sent this e-mail to our discussion group:

I have just been informed that Scott Speake, one of the founding members of the Octavia Books Science Fiction Reading Group, has passed away.

Scott was apparently complaining of a cold and took to his bed on Friday. Hearing no movement on Saturday or Sunday, Scott’s landlords checked on him only to find that he had passed away.

As a dedicated early member of the group, Scott was enthusiastic in his recommendations for “spaceship and rayguns” books and hard sci-fi. He loaned out books from his large library of science fiction old and new, and was a voracious reader.

Notices are expected to be in the paper Monday. Services and remembrances of Scott will probably be on Wednesday morning from 10-11 at Schoen Funeral Home on Canal Street. Scott is survived by his mother, who resides in Birmingham.

Anne says he was “one of the founding members,” but actually I consider him the founding member. The club started in the summer of 2001 as Scott’s idea. All I did was show up. In fact, at that first meeting it was just Scott and me and James Conrad, I believe. (It was through James that I learned of the meeting.) Scott was the most reliable member of the club, up until some point a couple years ago when he quit coming for mysterious reasons we never did understand.

Scott was quirky like that. He still kept in touch with Anne and me. He read this blog regularly, and he would surprise me from time to time by popping up at events where I didn’t expect him, like that first Geek Dinner. Here’s a picture of him talking to Sophmom.

This just seems very unreal to me.

They say death comes in threes. Olivia’s brother (also from Birmigham, strangely enough) makes one. Milo makes two. And now Scott makes three. Anyway, that’s how I’m counting it, because I don’t want to lose anyone else just yet.

Update: From today’s paper, Scott’s death notice:

Scott Lovell Speake

SPEAKE Scott Lovell Speake, a Board Certified Tax Attorney and a CPA, passed away on Friday, June 20, 2008 at the age of 59. He is survived by his parents, Mary Louise Lovell Speake of Birmingham, AL and Harold Layman Speake of Moulton, AL and a sister Ruth Louise Speake of Greeley, CO. Mr. Speake was born in San Francisco, CA, grew up in Birmingham, AL and had been a resident of New Orleans since 1979. Mr. Speake graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and earned a law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, also in Birmingham. Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Memorial Gathering at Schoen Funeral Home, 3827 Canal Street at N. Scott, on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 12:00 Noon. Guest book may be signed online at www.legacy.com.

Published in The Times-Picayune on 6/23/2008.

Leo Gets a Shoeshine

When we first moved to New Orleans in 1999, we saw flyers in the Quarter warning tourists not to be suckered into making any wagers on the provenance of their footwear. Over the intervening years, I’ve been accosted by any number of fine gentlemen who’ve assured me that they know where I got my shoes, and I’ve dutifully brushed them off.

Therefore, though I’ve heard tales, I’ve never actually seen the famous scam in action.

Until last night.

Mardi & Mike

Mardi and Leo (aka Mike Leonard) are in town for a columnist convention. Leo writes a column for the Herald-Times in Bloomington. We got together for dinner at Coop’s Place. Many thanks to Mardi for picking up the tab.

After dinner we were walking along the river. A guy came up to Leo and offered him a shoeshine. I immediately knew what was up, but somehow I didn’t know what to say, and the guy was working Leo so fast. “I bet I can tell you where you got them shoes. Exactly where you got ’em and in what city.” The stakes: a shoeshine.

Being a good-natured Hoosier, Leo took the bet. And then, the inexorable rejoinder: “You got your shoes on your feet — in New Orleans.” And without pausing a beat, he bent down and squirted some sketchy white liquid on the tops of Leo’s shoes.

The price to wipe the stuff off? Five dollars. He wanted $5 per shoe. Leo just gave him a fiver and laughed it off.

I felt like a prime dumbass, letting my friend walk into that. I should have interrupted, fended the guy off. But it was educational. Maybe Leo will get a column out of it.

It occurs to me that this routine could work anywhere, or at least in any city where a bunch of tourists are walking around. Yet it seems to be very much associated with New Orleans. I wonder why that is.

Explosions

My day started off with a bang. I’d just changed the inner tube on my bike because I ran over a screw the other day. First flat I’ve had in over a year, seems like. I pumped it back up, went to the sink to wash my hands and BANG. Really loud. Scared me. At first I thought the compressor on our new freezer had blown, or something crazy like that. It was the tube, of course. Had I simply over-inflated it?

So I drove to work. Xy didn’t need the car. I’m back on the java junk after six months or so of caffeine free living. But my second cup cooled off a little, so I stuck it in the microwave for a minute and BANG. Half the cup was splattered around the inside of the microwave. I’ve heard that can happen but never experienced it before. Later Janice noticed the microwave was not working any longer, so I unplugged it.

On the way home for lunch I picked up another inner tube. This time I checked the tire for any sharp protuberances. Didn’t find any. Pumped up the new tube. BANG. Again. Something about that loud noise makes the air look like it’s vibrating. I guess it is.

So I took the whole wheel in to my friendly neighborhood bike shop. They diagnose I need a new tire. So I get one, and I’m back in business.

Explosions. It seems like everything I touch today is blowing up.

But these incidents are nothing compared to the news that’s erupting through my computer. An old friend has been arrested. Another old friend’s dad died. Psychic explosions.

When I plugged the microwave back in, it worked.

Another All-Nighter

Something about Jazzfest (presented by Shell) inspires me to stay up all night. Even when I don’t actually go to the Jazzfest. Especially when I don’t actually go.

(For the record, we never go, unless someone gives us free tix, and this year no one has, so we’ve been celebrating our own private Jazzfest at home — every day — rain or shine.)

Tonite Tony L. stopped by our house after Jazzfest. He’s back home in New Orleans for a few days, after having moved to Seattle about a year ago. Of course he kind of misses New Orleans. We stayed up all night drinking, smoking, eating, talking.

Reminds me of a night almost three years ago exactly. Except this time I stayed home, with the baby and all, but the vibe remains the same.

Remember Ashley Morris

I’ve learned a bit more about Ashley’s passing. It’s distressing to realize that he left behind not only his wife but three young children (ages 2, 3 and 5). This family could certainly use a lot of help from all of us, so please consider making a donation. Xy and I did. We couldn’t give much, but every little bit helps, so please consider making a donation and passing the word.

Also, Ashley’s funeral will take place this Friday:

SCHOEN FUNERAL HOME, 3827 CANAL ST.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Public visitation will be from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm.
Funeral service 1:00 pm.
Interment to follow in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3

Attire is formal or Saints. Ashley was the world’s biggest Saints fan.

PS: Check out this video of Ashley and Oyster.


Blight Field Talks #1 / Rough Edit from humidhaney on Vimeo.

PPS: But if you really want to break yourself up, read this account of Ray’s friendship with Ashley. I can’t link to all the reminiscences in the blogosphere; there are simply too many. But read this one.

Poop Bib

From our friend MF in China comes the following awesome weirdness:

Poop Bib

It’s a hand-embroidered bib with a gun that says “poop” on it.

No, I don’t know what it means either, but you’ve got to admit it’s cool.

Threat Assessment

I’ve been in a bit of a flame war on an e-mail discussion list over the last couple weeks. I thought it was all rather silly, but my main combatant sent me a private message last night, off-list, that has really thrown me for a loop. Here’s the pertinent extract:

I am still restrained about this. My options if I want to be a real pain in politics are all off-list and they are real. I do not utilize them very often and I am not always 100% successful, but I do have a voice in circles that matter. That isn’t a threat, that is just to say I am acting with far more restraint than you seem to believe.

It is best to let it go with absolutely no more commentary. This will all layer over and blow away…. But it is not something to continue to pick at.

When I first read this, my gut reaction was, “He says it’s not a threat, but it sure reads like one.” He seems to be saying, “Shut up or else.” I shared it with a couple co-workers, two solid guys who don’t scare easy, and their first reaction was the same.

Now I find myself in a bit of a quandary. He’s gotten in cyber-fights with others on the list before, and now I have to wonder if he hasn’t stooped this low before. It seems like the other members of the discussion group deserve to be apprised of these tactics. But if I share this information, I would undoubtedly provoke him further, and perhaps he makes good on this mysterious veiled threat. This has clearly gotten out of hand, so I should just drop it. But if I do that, without explanation, it seems like he gets a pass, and his bullying is perhaps further enabled.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into this?

Primarily

I salute the people of Louisiana who made it to the polls Saturday. Obama beat Clinton by a big margin; Huckabee beat McCain.

Locally, a few friends and fellow bloggers were in the running for some Democratic executive committee seats. Karen and Danger won, Michael and Oyster did not. I was also glad to see Ed McGinnis and Deborah Langhoff score victories.

I’m not a Democrat, but I respect what these folks are trying to do — reform the local Democratic party from within. Does it need reforming? I suspect it does. So hats off to them.

Get full primary results from the Secretary of State.

Footnote: One friend suggested that I was abdicating my civic responsibility by not registering Democrat and participating in the party primary. I disagree. I hope some day to be voting in a Green primary here in Louisiana. Greens in Illinois just had their first primary, and by all accounts it went very smoothly — not.

Surprised by Joy

Our friends DJ and Daisy and Anna and Lili came over, and we spent the day moving furniture from room to room.

My office has moved in to the front room which had been serving as our “living room” (such a strange name for a room!) since our lower floor was flooded. Our bedroom has moved into my office, and what used to be our bedroom is being fitted out for someone new.

All this shuffling about was supposed to have taken place a couple weeks ago, but my damn sprain threw everything off schedule, and that’s kept us on edge.

So when I flopped down on our bed, exhausted, I felt a sense of supreme satisfaction. At last, we got it done. It’s like having a whole new house.

But what surprised me was how happy I felt. I listened to the Philip Glass composition “Mad Rush” and wept tears of joy. Don’t let anyone tell you minimalism is cold and heartless!

And I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.

Return of the Rat

Today’s the Chinese New Year. I’m a bit disturbed that our child will be born in the Year of the Rat, because I don’t particularly care for rats. But maybe I should learn to respect the rat. Did you know rats share the gift of laughter with us?

I got a card from my friend MF in China, a genuine Chinese Year of the Rat card. Very cool.

Year of the Rat

Speaking of cool things from China, MF also sent a package of baby clothes and the like, including these items she says were made by an old lady in Qingdao who was selling them on the street.

Baby Shoes

Tiger Beast

Finally, of course, I can’t think of China today without thinking of the blizzards there that waylaid millions as they tried to make it home for the holidays. Over half a million people were stranded at a single train station. Last night on the news they called it the government’s handling of it the “Chinese Katrina.” MF disagrees. Check her blog for links to many amazing pictures. And Dane’s blog too.