Monday, March 29, 2010

Mardi Gras Indians

Kalypso and I went to see the Mardi Gras Indians parade yesterday near Washington and Claiborne. It's truly one of the most visually beautiful and uniquely New Orleans events. Thanks to all the Indians who worked so hard on their wonderful costumes. Here is one picture:
You can see Kalypso's other 42 pictures in this Flickr set.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Steep Price of Success in the Dome

This might seem like whining especially after 1200 season ticket holders lost their seats due to the moving of the press box, but still the increase in ticket prices is worth telling:

In 2006, the day the Saints signed Drew Brees, I bought season tickets in section 327. The price for two tickets: $800, or $50 per seat per game. That year Tom Benson said ticket prices would not go up. However the next year my bill was for $1000. The reason they gave was that we had to now buy tickets to the two preseason games, so still $50 per game but now two of the games were essentially practices. In 2008 and 2009 the price increased about $300 per year for the two seats. Now for the 2010 season, the same seats will cost $2000. That's $100 per seat per game. I am very much looking forward to seeing the championship banner hung in the Superdome, but I think this will probably have to be my last season as a ticket holder, because with the income of two teachers, we really can't afford these prices.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mark Gstohl Gets Excited On the News

Last night on WWL TV Bill Capo talked about our project with Save Our Cemeteries. Over the past two years, about 200 Xavier students have worked at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 recording names on tombstones, hoping to preserve the record as the tombs are rapidly deteriorating. My student Jarred Honora did a great job representing Xavier. I was very proud of him, and yes, he'll get some extra credit. In contrast to Jarred, however, my friend and colleague Mark Gstohl needs to take some acting classes, because I found his on-camera excitement to be forced. The best parts are when he uses words like "Shocking!" and "Wow!" and I believe he has invented a new sign language for words like name and book. I think he picked up on this over-the-top methodology when he played "Big Robin" in a Batman video we shot last summer. I'm not going to link to the Batman video to save what reputation he has left, but here's the shocking news clip of the cemetery...WoW!

Healthcare and Moore's "Cottage Cheese Ass"

I am happy that the House passed the health care reform bill last night. It is not the bill I would have written, but it's a step in the right direction. I believe it does make the world a better place, and it promotes social justice. I don't think it will be as bad politically as Republicans claim. Oyster points out that Newt Gingrich claims this will be as bad for the Democrats as when Johnson passed Civil Rights in the 1960's. I find that to be revealing. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) just declared the reform unconstitutional, as the federal government can't tell states what to do. Are water canons and dogs on their way in the future to implement this radical agenda? I am also put off by protesters calling civil rights hero John Lewis a N-word and all the other vitriol being flung. Also, and I shouldn't admit this, but I find myself being entertained by the rantings of right wing "media" blowhards. I actually googled Glen Beck to see what he had to say, and he didn't disappoint:
I mean, what happened? I will tell you what happened. Exactly what I told you would happen when you put Michael Moore and his cottage cheese ass right next to Jimmy Carter. You think, I said, you think you are using these radical socialist, communist progressives, but they are using you, and they will eat you. You think he got that big by eating Cheetos? He's eating the party. The Democratic Party is dead. As my grandparents and as you knew it and as many Democrats knew, it is dead. There is no place in the Democratic Party. You want to talk about a big tent: Unless you went along with Nancy Pelosi, you are out and you will be destroyed. That was the message. There is no ‑‑ there's not even a, there's not one chair in the tent. The Democratic Party is the progressive Socialist Party, period.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Japanese Magnolias

Today in the front of our house we planted three Japanese magnolias. Part of the decision to plant these particular trees comes from the fact that our china has a pattern depicting Japanese magnolias. Our china comes from my father, who purchased it in Japan when he was in the Far East in the army just after the Korean Conflict. On the back of the China it reads "Noritake China Japan 5473."
Note: digging holes in Mid-City New Orleans is very difficult, with the oyster shells and clay.

Friday, March 19, 2010

7 Years of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Tomorrow is the 7th anniversary of the U.S. military's invasion of Iraq. During the past 7 years, approximately one million people have died, and many more have been refugees. The world was told that the war was necessary because Sadam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. He wasn't. We were told that the oil in Iraq would pay for the war. It didn't. War profiteering companies such as Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater (now Xe) have made hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Anyone who has ever studied religion and history knew that Iraq was made up of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, and they have a long history of hating each other. I quit driving my car to work in November of 2004 to protest the war, thinking that this symbolic action might help to point out that oil was the major factor in the decision to go to war. It didn't really work in retrospect. That car flooded one year later. I, like many people, had hope that Obama would end this unjust war. Sadly, it looks like we'll be waging war against "insurgents" in Iraq for a long time to come. Still I find myself apologizing for the actions of my government.

Chef Where Dat

My good friend and colleague, Chef Who Dat, found out yesterday that his Saints' seats are being eliminated to move the press box up to make room for more suites. Shoot! At the dome I often visit Chef and his section 641, called "The Cafe," as the group's enthusiasm, comradery, and general fan zaniness are second to none. Who has witnessed the triple, or even quintuple dirty dog and not been changed forever? Who has read one of his menus and not smiled? Who has opened the can of whoop ass with the golden can opener and not been in awe? No one, that's who. So to all of the great fans in what used to be Cafe 641, here's hoping you can manage to find a way into section 327, and bring your mojo with you. We can't do the Roofbanger's Creed, but all of your other prayers will work fine.

Here's a pic from last season, right before the first playoff game against the Cardinals, that Kalyspo and I took with Chef Who Dat and his lovely marathon vet wife Jenny.

Update: Mr Clio has a brilliant solution for the resurrection of Cafe 641.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

From The Prophet's Mouth To Students' Eyes

My students in Prophets and Prophecy are writing papers due Monday that chronicle the steps involved in the biblical journey beginning with an oracle from Jeremiah's lips to the student reading a verse from Jeremiah in an English translation. After a long conversation, the dry erase board at the end of class looked something like this:

Jeremiah speaks > Baruch writes it down > Dtr and others redact > Very messy period that we know little about > Earliest textual witnesses such at Dead Sea Scrolls and LXX > Later textual witnesses such as Vulgate and Masoretic Texts > English translation such as New Revised Version > Their eyes at 3 AM in a dorm room.

I'm looking forward to reading the papers and am happy thus far with the choice of topic. It's been a very good exercise to demonstrate that there is no such thing as THE Bible. I believe that if Jeremiah could time travel and read the biblical book attributed to him, he would shake his head and sigh.

Bishops versus Nuns on Senate Healthcare Bill

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have lately stepped up their campaign against the Senate version of healthcare reform claiming the bill's language is not restrictive enough on the issue of abortion.

Earlier this week, the Catholic Health Association, and then today, NETWORK, an organization representing about 60,000 nuns, have lobbied in favor of the legislation. They cite how the current system is detrimental to women, children, and the poor. They also claim that investing $250 million in support of pregnant women is "the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some Simple Facts for Those Who Label Mary Landrieu a Prostitute

I'm tired of people referring to the Senate health care bill as containing a back room deal that benefits Mary Landrieu. Several conservatives like Beck and Limbaugh have called the deal "the Louisiana purchase" and they've labeled Landrieu a prostitute for selling her vote for money.

Instead, the reality is pretty simple, and it has to do with FMAP, or "Federal Medical Assistance Percentages." Louisiana is a relatively poor state, and as such, we receive a higher percentage of federal funds to cover Medicaid than wealthier states. Landrieu's "deal" was simply a one time fix for a sharp drop in federal Medicaid money because of a temporary surge in income when Louisiana residents received recovery dollars after the 2005 hurricanes.

For example, in 2006, Therese and I had a combined income of about $90,000. That year we received $150,000 in Road Home money. This made it appear to some government officials that our income was $240,000, and so less federal Medicaid money was sent to the state. However, all of the $150,000 and more went to fixing our house. Sure the insurance industry should have paid for fixing our house and not taxpayers, but that's another issue. The government officials at FMAP still think we make $240,000 by the way, so this legislation has them record our income accurately. I would add that Republican elected officials in Louisiana support the "FMAP fix" as it's called, but they've sadly let Landrieu take the talk-show heat as they watch from the sideline.

The Nebraska deal for Ben Nelson, tritely labeled the "Cornhusker Kickback," is a horse of a different color. This would have covered in perpetuity the state share of expanded Medicaid coverage. I don't think Senator Nelson was a prostitute. Instead, I think he was doing what he was elected to do, to look out for his constituents. But he could have done that by simply expanding their access to health care coverage, and he probably shouldn't have used his vote for such dramatic leverage. But heck, I would even favor the federal government covering all of the increased state costs for expanding health care. State budgets are starving to death, and I'm sad to see eduction and healthcare bear the brunt.

Got it? Louisiana, a one time fix to accurately record our income after the federal flood and two hurricanes. Nebraska, an ongoing payment to cover the increased state costs for an expanded Medicaid.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

1 Corinthians 13 Tattoos

I'm not a big fan of Paul, the New Testament author. But searching for tattoos of Bible verses I came across these two women with 1 Corintians 13 ink. First, "Love never fails" from verse 8. I don't think that the pubic triangle was the type of selfless love (Greek Agape) that Paul was talking about, but I have to admit, said tattoo turned out to be classy:

Corinthians Tattoo

And even better, this women went the extra mile and had verses 4-13 (leaving out the stuff about prophecy) tattooed on her lower back. Think about how many men are going to read that prime ad space and convert.
1 Corinthians 13 tattoo

Cholesterol & Liver Enzymes

Yesterday I went back to see Dr. Lombard to talk about my blood test. I waited 1 hour and 45 minutes to see him. That's certainly one of the main reasons that I avoided getting a check up for 20 years. He said my bad cholesterol should be below 160 and mine was at 174. The bigger issue involves liver enzymes. My AST (Aspartate Transaminase) was at 154 and should be below 40. My ALT (Alanine Transaminase) was at 264 and should be in the 40-60 range. He said my liver felt fine during the examination, but that he wanted me to have another blood test for hepatitis and also a liver sonogram. Depending on the results, he said they might recommend a biopsy, but that's something I wouldn't do.

So what's the deal with my liver? My lovely wife would be happy to tell you that I drink too much alcohol. I would point out that it is hard to live with my lovely wife without it. The doctor acknowledged that alcohol wasn't helping my liver, but he thinks the problem stems from something else. I'm pretty busy now getting ready to give two papers in Dallas at a conference, but when I get back, I'm going to try to invent a cocktail that helps fix livers. I think it will involve carrot juice and rye whiskey.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Joice Heth's Scientific Autopsy

Lately I've been fascinated by Joice Heth. She was an elderly African American woman whom P.T. Barnum displayed in several northeastern U.S. cities in the 1830's billing her as the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. Exploiting Heth in this freak-show actually gave Barnum his start in the "entertainment" industry. But while I'm interested in "human zoos", freak-shows and the potential for humans to treat others horribly, I'm most interested in the intersection between race, propaganda, and science that we find in the case of Heth's dissection.

In his article "P.T. Barnum, Joice Heth and Antebellum Spectacles of Race" (American Quarterly 51:1, 1999), Benjamin Reiss writes that:
"Heth's autopsy appears as a moment in which science--mediated by popular journalism and other mass media--faced some of the crisis of legibility, authenticity, and recognition brought on by the process of modernization."
So was Heth really that old? Of course, many suspected that Barnum and Heth were not telling the truth, and so to solve the issue they needed a purely objective means of inquiry. Enter science. At Heth's death, Barnum made a small fortune by selling tickets at 50 cents apiece to 1,500 people who would witness Heth's dissection on a make-shift operating table set up in New York's City Saloon. Dr. David Rogers performed the autopsy and concluded that Heth was a fraud, not more than 80-years-old. But then Barnum two days later said Heth was still alive, and the autopsy was performed on a Harlem woman called Aunt Nelly.

There's no doubt that Barnum was playing a confidence game. But so was science. Racial anatomists at the time, such as Dr. Caldwell, claimed he could more easily distinguish between black and white human skeletons than a dog from a hyena or a horse from an ox. Science was being used to propagate some pretty evil agendas at the time. Legal decisions like Dred Scott and the Fugitive Slave Act were decades away, and they were heavily impacted by racial "science."

Joice Heth, I'm sorry people treated you and your corspe so disrespectfully.