Please Forward

Please ForwardI know I shouldn’t be excited about something so grim but nevertheless I am happy to announce that Please Forward will soon be available in bookstores (officially on August 15) and is now available for pre-order at all the usual places, including my favorite bookstore.

This anthology collects online writings that erupted in the aftermath of the flooding of New Orleans in 2005. As such, it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, upon which I have expounded at some length.

Continue reading “Please Forward”

Six Month Warning

Flood Line

People of New Orleans!

In six months we’ll mark the ten year anniversary of the flooding of our city. Already the media machinery is gearing up for all kinds of coverage, and ordinary citizens elsewhere in the country and around the world will be provoked to remember us for a brief moment. They may wonder how we’re doing.

So get ready for that. It seems to me there are two ways to play this. You may wish to:

1) Avoid it as much as possible. Tune it out. Weather the media storm. There was a lot of trauma around that time, and you may prefer not to have those memories stirred. There’s been a ton of books and movies about the subject, and as a rule I’ve avoided them all — except for those I’ve produced myself.

2) Be prepared to talk about it. Have your soundbite ready. I imagine a lot of people will be asking for an assessment of where things stand here in New Orleans. Have we made a full and complete recovery? Be ready to answer that question. Be ready to volunteer your own perspective. I’m certainly not going to tell you what to say, but I hope your answer reflects some of the complications and nuances of reality.

These may seem like mutually exclusive strategies but they’re not, really. You can tune out the media blitz while still answering questions from friends, relatives, visitors, casual acquaintances, and even the odd reporter. In the age of social media, such interactions are easier than ever.

Any other ideas? Forewarned is forearmed.

Bloggers Reception

Last night Arnaud’s French 75 Bar hosted a blogger’s reception to kickoff Tales of the Cocktail, sponsored by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac.

Naturally I was there.

Arnaud's French 75 Bar

It’s fascinating to me that blogging still seems to be on the ascendant. I met a number of local bloggers, including people I hadn’t met before such as Alan and Shercole, as well as old comrades like M Styborski.

The Cocktail Summit cocktail and the hors d’oeuvres were fantastic, and I learned that cognac flavors can be organized by season in an aroma wheel.

Posting may be a little thin here over the next few days as the program ramps up, but I’ll have a full debriefing when the conference is over.

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.

NOLA Twitter

Question: When will the NOLA blogosphere finally get around to infecting Twitter?

Answer: Last week. I blame Alan.

PS: In the spirit of constant self-aggrandizement, I should mention that I’m editor_b on Twitter.

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.

Demolition Map

Following up on yesterday’s post: Big thanks to Ashley Morris for putting together this swell interactive map of the City’s “imminent threat” demolition list. I’m not sure if it works on every browser, and it may take a while to load, but if you can view it you’ll be able to zoom in and move around. It’s a great tool for visualizing the scope of this list and may

Ashley’s a mensch. You should read his blog.

A Night in Jail

A co-worker’s son spent last Friday night in jail here in New Orleans. Of course, people have to deal with our dysfunctional system all the time, and their voices are usually not heard, or they are ignored. But it just so happens that my co-worker is a writer and a blogger, so you can read all about it.


The most interesting thing Xy and I did over the weekend was to attend the premiere bout of the Big Easy Rollergirls at Mardi Gras World. Good thing we bought tickets in advance: It was sold out.

Xy pretty much demanded that we go, and given that she’s generally too preoccupied with teaching to do anything fun, I certainly didn’t argue. I went for the spectacle but was pleasantly surprised to discover the game itself was quite compelling. I can’t think when I’ve so enjoyed a sporting event. I didn’t take a camera, but Michael did, and he’s posted pix. Schroeder did a radio interview with some of the Rollergirls, and he posted pix too.

The hard part is picking a favorite player, because there were a lot of slick moves out there. I think Cherry Pi and Marquee de Squad and Illegally Blonde were the best skaters. I liked how all the players (and even the refs) customized their uniforms, but no one looked better on the track than #C8H18, Vandal O’Riley. That counts for plenty in my book.

Final score: Aints 123, Hor-Nots 128.

Afterward there was more spectacle outside the venue, as we watched a freight train grind to a halt because some bozo parked on the tracks. Then we made our way to the Kingpin to celebrate Loki’s 40th.

ABC 26 News

I was on the local news last night — top of the ten o’clock hour.

Bart Everson Mid-City Resident

They pegged it to Nagin’s 100+3 day press conference, citing his quip about commercial blight, and then segueing to our rodent-infested grocery.

They shot the interview with me yesterday afternoon. The camera operator (who bravely ventured into the grocery) turns out to be a blog-reader. He was even at Rising Tide. Unfortunately I didn’t get his name. The reporter was Cyndi Nguyen. After talking to me they interviewed Ryan and Zion, Lydia’s sons who live next door to the grocery.

That night they came back, and Cyndi did a live stand-up in front of the grocery. She even brandished a printout from this blog.

Cyndi Live

I was very happy with the way they handled the story. Twelve-year-old Zion giving a tour, showing where the rats come through, really brought it home.


I don’t have any way to record TV at home, but I took some pictures of the screen. You can watch the video on the WGNO website, but unfortunately you’ll need the RealOne Player (free) and I can’t figure how to actually save the file. I hate that file format. Why would a TV station want to make it difficult for people to share their content? They’ve got their brand plastered on the screen. They would only stand to benefit if it was easier to share.

I’ve also been contacted by some city officials who read my op-ed piece. There are some hopeful developments, but nothing substantive yet.

“I’ve lost all sense of what’s normal.”

I’m famous at last, quoted in an article on the Village Voice website by Anya Kamenetz, a former New Orleanian.

“I’ve lost all sense of what’s normal,” says New Orleans resident Bart Everson. His house, which took on five feet of water, stands at a crossroads in the city’s recovery — one of the points where people staring at destruction must decide whether to stay or go. At the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he and his wife are back in their Mid-City home, in a neighborhood where fewer than 30 percent of the families own the place they live in and which most visitors might see only on their way to Jazzfest.

Absentee landlords have abandoned more than half the nearby buildings in his district. His neighbors across the street, an elderly African American woman with her three grandchildren, are gone, replaced by someone who seems to be a squatter. Newly arrived Hispanic laborers are paying twice the pre-Katrina rents, yet some have no electricity or gas. Some pile their unbagged garbage in the street. The block around the corner is full of FEMA trailers, and across the street is a grocery store untouched since the storm. Inside, rats scurry over a floor slick with rot.

And yet Everson, who works at Xavier University, and his wife, who teaches school, have no plans to leave. They are renovating their flooded first story. They complained to their City Council member about the garbage and the rats, and used Spanish-language flyers to persuade new neighbors to clean up. And most of all, the Eversons are active in their neighborhood organization, which like dozens around the city is working independently to devise a plan for rebuilding. Their group is proposing to form a community redevelopment corporation to buy blighted houses and provide a path to homeownership for those willing to renovate them.

“We want to give people a reason to move to Mid-City,” Everson says, especially people from more wrecked neighborhoods who can’t afford to buy in the areas that stayed dry. “I really think we are the best of the worst, as far as a flooded neighborhood that’s coming back.”

Also quoted: fellow NOLA bloggers Maitri and Karen Gadbois of Northwest Carrollton.

They also put up a slideshow of my photos. They even paid me ($150) for the photos, a totally unexpected windfall and ego-boost. The photo editor said I should shoot for money. How flattering is that?

A Festive Weekend

Imagine walking into a party full of people you’ve never met, but whom you know more or less intimately because they’ve been pouring their hearts out into their writing.

Brian, Lisa & Michael

That’s what the Geek Dinner was like. Although there were some programmers and other geeky types there, this event was dominated by bloggers. And as we all know bloggers are a special kind of geek.

I wish I could write more, but time presses, and fortunately others have written more eloquently than I could: Dangerblond, Adrastos, Maitri, Morwen, Loki, Oyster, Kalypso, Ray, Ashley, Sophmom, Lisa and especially Schroeder, who really articulates what this event meant. Thanks to Alan for playing host, and thanks to everyone for being there. I had a blast.

It was hard to top the Geek Dinner, but I think the Clay Therapy & BBQ on Saturday might have done it.

Clay Therapy

MaPó Kinnord-Payton is a ceramic artist, a co-worker, a neighbor and a friend. She came up with the idea for this event a year or two ago — a very simple idea: to invite the University community to play around with clay as a means of relieving some stress and having some fun.

In our crazy post-Katrina environment, this idea seemed better than ever, so I did most of organizational work to make the event happen, including fronting about $300 dollars of my own money for clay and food. I also had to cook lunch for about 35 people! It was great fun, and thoroughly exhausting.