Sunday, December 31, 2006

Frank's Place

One of the best things about living in New Orleans is the food. I've been an enthusiastic student of Creole culinary traditions ever since we moved here when I was six years younger and 40 pounds lighter. But there was always an important part of the culture of Big Easy cuisine that was absent from my repertoire like a roux sans flour. This was the 1987-1988 CBS series Frank's Place, something I have long desired to watch but didn't know how because it's not officially released on video and the reruns don't currently air. But then, thanks to rota fortuna spinning upward, I found them.

The premise of the show is that a Boston professor of Italian Renaissance Art, Frank Parish (played by Tim Reid, who previously played Venus Flytrap in WKRP) inherits a Creole restaurant in New Orleans, called Chez Louisiane, from his estranged father. Then because of voodoo, he reluctantly changes careers and runs the restaurant. All of the characters are great, but I think my favorite is Tiger the bartender. He plays a big role in two of my favorite episodes, "Frank Joins the Club" and "Where's Ed?" Every episode begins with Louis Armstrong singing "Do You Know What it Means, to Miss New Orleans?" It's a very well written show. Mark Christensen, a writer for Rolling Stone, commented "rarely has a prime-time show attempted to capture so accurately a particular American subculture--in this case that of blue-collar blacks in Louisiana." The show has aged well, and I highly recommend it, especially to those who are fond of the uniqueness of New Orleans. Chez Louisiane was based on the famous Creole restaurant Chez Helene, at which I never had the privilege to eat. The skipper-cap-wearing chef in the TV show is named Big Arthur, and he is based on the famous New Orleans chef Austin Leslie. Leslie later went on to cook at Jacques-Imo's and finally Pampy's Creole Kitchen. After Katrina he spent two days in his attic before being evacuated to Atlanta where he died a few days later. His recipe for fried chicken with persillade is still one of the favorites at Pampy's, and I highly recommend it. Better yet, get the fried chicken to go, and watch Frank's Place on DVD. You can either borrow them from me, or purchase them as I did, from Professor Video. He sells all of the episodes on 5 DVDs for $50.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

W for Vendetta

"After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad." --George W. Bush

I'm not very proud to be an American this morning. The whole trial was a farce, and life in prison will always be more ethical than execution, no matter the crimes. How surreal that today is Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Holy Day commemorating a willingness to sacrifice a human being. Some analyst on CNN just spoke about how Saddam's execution fits with the New Year's theme of "Out with the old, in with the new." And to think that some in the world actually accuse Americans of being culturally ignorant...
Later note: They just showed footage of Saddam's body. Imagine the outcry in this country if they showed the corpse of our former president following an execution by an occupying force.

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown Ruins My Xmas

We're in Omaha for Christmas. Santa Claus left a note for Gilgamesh and Kalypso that said their presents were too big to fit in our car. Unfortunately, there was no note for me, so it looks like I'm screwed again by the fat man. But even worse, I just read that Mr Dynamite passed away. In the words of Chuck D, "To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close." Rest in peace James Brown.

Later note: Check out Breath of Life's erudite synopsis of James Brown's impact on music and culture.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A WiFi Catch 22 in New Orleans

New Orleans needs free WiFi to help it rebuild. I happily posted that New Orleans was going this route back in November of 2005. There were some setbacks with other companies fighting Earthlink, and then the driving force behind this, Greg Meffert, resigned. But things were moving forward. Then yesterday I heard from Earthling that Earthlink's WiFi system was up and running in much of New Orleans. Great. But it's not in my neighborhood. In a nutshell, if your neighborhood did not flood, then you have access to free WiFi, but if your neighborhood did flood, you're out of luck. The city says the service will be free as long as the city is rebuilding, but the service is only available in places that didn't flood, and hence don't need to rebuild. I would argue that the flooded neighborhoods need the WiFi access more than anywhere else in America. For example, I won't be able to get a phone line working in my house for years, and with information and building permits online, it would make much of the rebuilding process easier and safer. But for Earthlink, it's a business and not a charity. They are hoping that they will profit by selling higher-speed wireless service to those who want a faster connection on the network. Moreover, in the area now covered by Earthlink, there are many of the city's businesses. Earthlink is hoping that these businesses will purchase the faster service, and then this "will guarantee the financial viablity of the network as it moves forward."

I hope to be finished rebuilding my house in one year, 18 months at the most. It would be nice if my Mid-City neighborhood was covered by Earthlink's WiFinetwork before then.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Road Home Christmas Gift

I just received a "new" option letter from the Road Home. Overall I'm very satisfied with the $120,406.63 they're offering this time around.

On July 14th, 2006, we met with the Road Home people in Baton Rouge, as we were part of the pilot program. Then in Mid-October, we received our first option letter. It said that we were eligible for $64,116.87. There were two major mistakes: First they estimated our house to be worth $146,154. However, we purchased our home for $157,000 in 2002, and it was appraised for $193,000 in 2003. Our house was easily worth more than $200,000 prior to Katrina, but thank God we refinanced and had it appraised. Second, they claimed we received $12,495.67 from Allstate Homeowners. Instead, we have received much less than half that figure.

This new option letter reads as follows:
Estimated Pre-Storm Value: $193,000
Estimated Damage to Your Home: $289,363.80
Homeowner's Insurance Proceeds: $3,051.91
FEMA Assistance: $0
Flood Insurance Proceeds: $64,541
Penalty Assessed for No Insurance: $0

So now we'll sign it and fax it back. I think with the approximately $70,000 from Allstate, the $120,000 from the Road Home, and $118,000 from the SBA, we should be able to fix our house. But there has been talk about forcing people to pay off their SBA loan with their Road Home Funds, meaning people can't have both the Road Home money and the SBA Loan. If that happens, we're screwed.

Later Note: Well it happened, and we're screwed-The SBA took its loan offer back in mid-January. Read about it here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Some Good News & Some Great News

First, The Good News:
I just finished grading. I find it emotionally exhausting. I remember when I was a student, and how I felt that at times grades were unfair and subjective. Often times they were. A wise teacher here at Xavier, Dr. Rotondo-McCord, often tells students to not let grades get in the way of learning. Good advice. I also know that many students in my Theology 1120: Intro to Biblical Studies course work very very hard and wind up with a D. It is a difficult class. I ask my students to come up with a project that will improve the world, and then implement it, all the time writing about it in a blog. One of my students, Joseph Jones, wrote "I feel as though it (the blog&project) shouldn’t be graded because it will make someone feel like their hard work and time was useless." I wish I didn't have to grade their work as well.

Second, The Great News:
To quote Hammhawk: "Tenure. Got it. Most glad." I also got promoted to the rank of Associate Professor. Now those damned students will listen to what I say. Oh yeah, they'll listen now for sure...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Xmas Card 2006

It's a very FEMA-ie theme this year. The real thing is actually a scratch and sniff that smells like formaldehyde.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reggie! Reggie!

Back in March when the Saints signed Drew Brees I purchased season tickets. I'm so happy that I did, as it has been a magical season--a distraction that we desperately needed here in New Orleans. I'll never forget seeing their return to the Superdome with my buddy Howie, or seeing with my daughter Reggie Bush's first touchdown on a punt return. I had the privilege of taking my son Gilgamesh to his first football game. Last Sunday Therese and I went, and Reggie had his NFL breakout game with four touchdowns. He was running hard. Several times everyone in the dome repeated the chant "Reggie! Reggie!" Afterwards Reggie Bush said the following:
Obviously it was great to hear the fans chanting my name. Our whole season is dedicated to the City of New Orleans. Everybody who lived in New Orleans or is from New Orleans that went through Hurricane Katrina last year, it's really at the end of the day about them. Because we know, obviously, if we win, that's going to give them something to be proud of.

They have four games left, and if they just win two of them, they'll be in the playoffs. Every Sunday I have more and more faith.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dead in the Water

I just learned that House GOP leaders pulled the Senate bill that would have allowed drilling off the Gulf shores. It would have meant millions of dollars for Louisiana that we could have used to restore the wetlands and improve levees. Once again it seems that Louisiana is exploited for the benefit of the United States. All we are asking for is our fair share of oil royalties, the same given to Texas, Florida, and even Wyoming.
Later note: the bill passed by a large margin Friday.