Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Literary Agent

I need a literary agent. I'm working on a book about alcohol's role in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was something I was working on before Katrina, but now that we're almost back in our house, I think I'll have time to return to writing starting this Fall. Earlier contracts for books I wrote, such as The Bible for Dummies, I think would have been better for me if I had a literary agent. So today I emailed some successful authors in biblical studies asking for advice.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I gave Gilgamesh his first crew cut a couple of days ago. Therese was against it, but I argued it was a male right of passage in the summer.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


For quite some time I've wanted to spend a day in Abita Springs, Louisiana, as I've heard so much about the place. So yesterday the family poured into our Toyota Highlander and crossed what may or may not be the world's largest bridge. We started off with breakfast in Mandeville at the Kickstand, as we wanted to get something to eat and then rent bicycles to ride on the Tammany Trace, a magnificent rails to trails project. Sadly, the guy who rents out the bikes never showed up, so we drove to the UCM (prounounced You See Um) Museum/Mystery House in Abita.

It's basically a folk art masterpiece, with recycled stuff everywhere. The artist, John Preble, shares my fetish of combining dead animals, as in alligator dogs. He also has these miniature models that move when you push a button. For example, here is one called "Tragedy on Dogpound Road" when a twister hits a mobile home park.
Then we had lunch at the Abita Brew Pub, where they used to make Abita Beer. Here by chance we sat near John Preble. Gilgamesh told him "I loved your house" and he said "thanks." And then we went to the new Abita Brewery for a tour. The best part about this was the free beer. They gave you a glass and then you could do whatever you wanted with all of these beer spouts. Did I say they had free beer? Well, they did. I had a Jockamo IPA, followed by a Purple Haze. Therese had the Andygator. The kids had root beer. They let the kids go on the tour so long as we promised not to give them any beer, which was free, by the way.
Then we got back in the Higlander and drove south, and unlike Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price, we managed to avoid hitting the Causeway Bridge barricades. I guess the secret is to stop drinking after two Abitas.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Opinion Piece about Xavier Students & U of Iowa

My earlier post about Xavier students empathizing with students at the University of Iowa is revised and appears as an opinion piece in today's Times-Picayune. Thanks to Annette Sisco for her help with this.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

July 26th in History

July 26th marks two very important dates, one in the past, and one in the future.

Way back in 657 CE, there was a major battle at Siffin on the upper Euphrates between Ali ibn Abi Talib (the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law) and Muawiyah I (a companion of Muhammad) over who would control the newly established Muslim Empire. The battled ended in what was supposed to be a peaceful arbitration, but in fact the terms have been one of the main causes of strife between Shia and Sunni Muslims until today. To Shia Muslims, Ali was the first of twelve Imams, God appointed leaders free from sin, and to the Sunni, Ali was merely the fourth Caliph (or government representative) of his dynasty, and Muawiyah was the first Caliph of the Ummayad dynasty, the one that built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Ali was assassinated in 661, and then Muawiyah took over the empire. Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims have been fighting ever since.

Sadam Hussein knew about Sunni and Shia hatred and history. The architects of the US invastion of Iraq sadly did not.

Fast forward to 2008. This July 26th there will be an awesome spectacle of roller girls, burlesque dancers, and sadly by comparison, bloggers, to honor the life of Ashley Morris. It will be New Orleans with no holds barred. Hope to see you there.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The University of Iowa, a Flood, & Xavier's Mission

As a university teacher, I'm used to being disappointed. But sometimes, once in a while, students surprise you, and they can make you very proud. This recently happened to me.

I just finished teaching Prophets and Prophecy. I require each section to come up with a class project that fulfills Xavier's Mission to promote a just and humane society. I do this to emphasize that biblical prophets worked hard to improve their worlds through similar projects focused on social justice. One of my sections was sad to learn about the summer floods upriver, and they decided to raise money for the University of Iowa, which flooded, because my students know firsthand how hard it is to rebuild a university following a deluge. When jerks like Rush Limbaugh dominate the news with stupid comparisons between flooding in Iowa and New Orleans, it's things like the actions of my students that give me hope for the future of America.

They raised $600, which isn't much to be honest in terms of rebuilding a flooded university, but I hope that students in Iowa know that university students in the Gulf South are at the very least thinking of them and empathizing with their suffering. Here is the letter they sent to the President of the University of Iowa:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff of the University of Iowa,

We are so sorry to learn about the flooding of your campus. We are students at Xavier University of Louisiana, and our campus flooded after the levees failed in August of 2005. We know how difficult it is to bring a campus back to life following a disaster.

As part of our summer Theology course, we were required to do a class project to make the world a better place. This fits both with the mission of our university, as well as the theme of social justice so prevalent in the biblical prophets which we are studying. As the prophet Micah requested more than 2,700 years ago, God desires of us ”to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." When we heard about the closing of your university due to flooding, we decided to raise money to help give support. We remember well what we experienced during Hurricane Katrina and the failed levees, and realizing that rebuilding is more difficult than most would imagine, we wanted to do what we could to help. While our university was miraculously able to reopen four months after it flooded, we have still not fully recovered, though we are working hard to achieve that. It takes a long time and a great amount of effort and cooperation and collaboration.

We also appreciated every kind word and gesture by those who were willing to help and for that, we send out words of encouragement to all of you and your families. You and the other victims of the flood all are in our hearts and in our prayers. This is only one of many obstacles that you will face in life and you must not let it dispirit you. Remember the saying “what does not kill you, only makes you stronger”; this is one of those events that makes that saying come to life. Things will get better in time. Spend the money however you see fit to help you recover.

Signed: Xavier Students in Theology 2002, Summer 2008

Well done students. And I'd like to thank my student Wyashika McClebb for taking a leadership role in this project. Here's a picture of them in front of the Xavier sign, which I personally saw submerged after the levees failed New Orleans.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

San Fermin in Nueva Orleans

Yesterday was the 2nd annual San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, or the Running of the Bulls. We dressed in white with red scarves and belts, and than ran through the French Quarter with Big Easy Roller Girls, dressed with horns on their helmets, chased us and hit us with bats. The spectacle was truly awesome and reaffirmed my belief that New Orleans is the coolest city in the world.

I've got a 5 minute video and a few pics:

Note: you can see this video in higher quality by going directly to YouTube.

My Photo Set
Howie's Photo Set
DSB's Pic
Loki's Set

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Conversation in a New Orleans Hardware Store Parking Lot

Today Therese and I went to pick out a bathroom light and our cabinet handles. As we were leaving, there was a young man trying unsuccessfully to get a large door and frame into the back of his truck. I stopped to help him, and Therese was very impressed with my altruism. In fact she said it deserved a specific intimate sexual reward which I won't repeat in this forum. I thought about this for a second, and then I said "Well you better hurry and figure out where that young man lives because I'm about ready to leave."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Big Easy Roller Girls With Horns Chasing Me!

I'm usually in the Middle East during the summer, so I missed this last year. But this Saturday, July 12th, at 8AM in the French Quarter, it's the Second Annual San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, our version of Pamplona's running of the bulls. The Big Easy Roller Girls will lace on their skates and put bull horns on their lovely heads and chase foolish corredores like me, beating them with wiffle ball bats. Thank you God for letting me live in New Orleans.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bill Cosby Notices Nagin "Not Really Doing Much"?

Bill Cosby spoke at the Essence Musical Festival in New Orleans yesterday. Cosby chastised absentee parents, and he spoke about having role models with education. Cosby stated "Take your children, show them Barack Obama, show them Michelle Obama. Say, 'This is what education does for you.'"

Then Cosby reportedly said "We got black mayors, some of them not really doing much," and then he raised an eyebrow. "You voted him in because of his color. Put responsible people in office."

I think he was talking about C. Ray Nagin, who was unavailable for comment, because he may or may not still be in South Africa or Dallas or having a tax payer funded dinner with his wife and many people pulling up chairs to talk about the city.

Plaquemines 3 Years Later

Yesterday the family and I took one of our "educational" tours of Louisiana, the kind Clark W. Griswold and I love and the kids hate. We drove down Highway 23 until it ended, in Venice Louisiana. We wanted to see how Plaquemines Parish was doing now almost three years after Katrina. Plaquemines Parish is famous for having more water than land, and it is the mouth of the mighty Mississippi, where America's main river artery flows into the Gulf of Mexico. I had not been there since Katrina, and I was also interested in the history of the river after reading John Barry's Rising Tide, which chronicles the "taming" of the river and the great flood of 1927 which hit Plaquemines so hard. Seems they take a beating pretty frequently.

View Larger Map
The answer to my question regarding the state of Plaquemines is complicated, as on the one hand, Plaquemines is doing great. The people who live there are hard working, stubborn, community orientated and have too much character to simply disappear. But on the other hand, things have obviously been tough. Mobile homes and trailers were about all you could see south of Belle Chasse. First we drove south until the road ended in Venice. We found a quaint place to have breakfast sandwiches out of a trailer called Cajun Unlimited.
The sandwiches were great, mostly because of the fresh biscuits. I asked the young man in the window named "Big Phil," who it turns out wasn't big at all, if there was anything to do in the Venice vicinity. He disappeared, apparently to ask around inside the kitchen trailer, and about a minute later he announced "There is really nothing to do here since the storm. But that pond over there has alligators." Sure enough, the pond was full of gators. Gilgamesh threw in a stick and three gators swarmed after it.
Obviously Big Phil, when not serving sandwiches, feeds the edible trash to these hungry reptiles. We then drove north to Port Sulpher to visit Fort Jackson. It's been closed since Katrina, and needs some serious restoration. Fort Jackson lies directly across the river from Fort St. Phillip, and after the War of 1812 & the Battle of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson believed that one fort was not enough to prevent enemy forces from traveling up river to attack. There was an earlier fort about 2 miles away, called Fort Bourbon, but the soldiers there drank themselves to death. Actually I don't know what happened to Fort Bourbon. I just read it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1795. And so construction on Fort Jackson began in 1822. It's a massive pentagon-shaped brick structure, built with 20 foot thick walls to protect 500 soldiers.
Near here on March 3, 1699, Father Anastase Douay said the first mass in what was later to become Louisiana, and Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, the founder of Lousiiana, celebrated the first Mardi Gras in the Americas. Are we supposed to go to church on Mardi Gras? Damn! 300 years later, Rex, the King of Carnival, set up this monument to commemorate Mardi Gras' American birth in Louisiana. But in reality he set it up to shut Mobile Alabama up, as they claim to have the first American Mardi Gras in 1703.
We then drove by the Woodland Plantation, famous for being on the label of Southern Comfort bottles.We then bought some Creole tomatoes, which experts say can only be grown in the acidic soil of Plaquemines. I used to be a Nebraska tomato snob, but I've recently had some first-rate Creole tomatoes, and I think they might even be better. In any case, the secret to quality tomatoes is sandy river soil and high humidity.
Then we drove home. Our next trips this summer: Abita Louisiana, and Ship Island.