Monday, December 29, 2008

Congrats to a Tenured Howie

I just found out that my friend and colleague Dr. Howie Luvzus received tenure at Xavier. Moreover, he got promoted to the rank of Associate Professor. I ask you though, would you give tenure to someone who appears in public dressed thusly?:
I know this post-Katrina world has been a real emotional roller coaster for him, which may have played a role in his cross-dressing. Congratulations to him and his family on this well-deserved accomplishment. In my letter of support for his being granted tenure, amongst many paragraphs of praise, I wrote the following two sentences (note that Howie, believe it or not, goes by a different moniker at times):

"My job satisfaction here at Xavier is directly related to having Dr. Gstohl as a colleague. I consider Dr. Gstohl to be my best friend, and he is someone who I admire greatly both for his scholarship, teaching, and personality."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Freakin' Saints

I'm hating the Saints a bit more than I love them right now, as their season just ended on another disappointing note. I think 6 of their 8 losses were by three points or less. They can't finish games. Our defensive secondary is awful, as is our pass rush. Jason David might be the nicest guy in the world, but I sure hope he's being nice in some other city next season. And yet, as crushed as I am right now, hope springs eternal, as I just renewed my season tickets for 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Turning Pages Soaked by a Flood on a Christmas Day

We went to see Benjamin Button today at the Prytania. The film had a big impact on me, and my eyes teared up more than a few times. The city of New Orleans plays a leading role in the movie, both through its amazing links to the past, as well as the tragedy of Katrina. The movie begins with a blind clockmaker losing his son to the First World War. He builds a clock that runs backwards in order to go back in time and to bring the dead loved-ones back. The movie ends with Katrina flood waters rising, soon to destroy this same clock. The two relatively recent events in my life that made the film especially poignant were witnessing the suffering of New Orleanians after the waters rose when the levees broke, and the passing of my own father a couple of years ago.

The theme of photographs, captured moments in time, were recurring in the film. I was sad a couple of months after Katrina to learn that my photo album had been destroyed in the flood. A few days before Katrina, Therese said she had moved all the photo albums upstairs, but she forgot mine. Here is one of the pictures I took of a flooded photo, one that shows me sleeping with my dad.
So this year I was impressed that Therese went to the trouble to make me a new photo album of a few pictures she was able to collect. Here's a picture of the first page:
The message I suppose, perpetrated by the film and my photo album experience, is that monumental moments in our lives are unexpected, random, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, rarely orderly, and it takes a great deal of courage to keep playing.

I know some have disregarded Benjamin Button as a Forrest Gump copy due to many similarities, mostly because Eric Roth's authorship of both screenplays. I'm not a fan of Gump, and felt that Button was a much better film. Roth explains that both of his parents died while he was writing Button, and I agree with Roth that this script is "more mature." David Fincher did a great job directing. His earlier film Seven remains one of my all time favorite movies.

So I guess we need to go forward, though I do enjoy looking backward now and then. And if I aged backwards like Mr Button, one day someone will look in my new (though old) photo album, and see what looked like shortly before my death:
Now I'm going to introduce my visiting in-laws to Benjamin Button's favorite libation, one that so well represents New Orleans, the mighty mighty sazerac.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas is a Lie

Today, they will tell you, it is Christmas Eve 2009. However, it isn't Christmas Eve, and it isn't 2009. They've been lying to you.
Christmas is supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yet nobody knows the time of year at which Jesus was born. Some people claim Jesus was born in the Spring, because of a passage in Luke 2:8 which claims that there were shepherds keeping their flocks nearby. But all of that is suspect too. I don't even believe Jesus was born in Bethlehem. So, at best, there is a 1/365 chance that Jesus was born December 25th. Not very good odds.

And we really have no idea what year it is. Some reportedly brilliant man named Dennis the Little miscounted the reign of Augustus when calculating how many years it had been since Jesus' birth. Some people claim that we're off by four years because Herod the Great, the guy who tried to kill the baby Jesus according to Matthew 2, died in 4 BCE. So there we are, with Jesus being born four years after a man who tried to kill him. So it might be 2005, but we really don't know. They're lying to us. People like Kathy Lee Gifford, Adrastos, and Oprah.

Furthermore, if some of the great biblical prophets came into a home with Christmas trees, they would rightly claim we are worshipping the fertility goddess Asherah. But in reality it's the pagan elements of Christmas that I love the most, like the lights, the santa clauses, elves, and all the eggnog flavored brandy. I'm hoping that Asherah might visit me tonight, due to the tree and some triangle-shaped-pubic-triangle-cookies I left out for her, old school style (Jeremiah 44:19). I'll bet she is hot! For dinner tonight, with Therese's parents John and Mary Mike Fitzpatrick in town, I'm making oyster soup, prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, coconut covered dates, asparagus, and creme brulee. There will be quite a bit of wine involved, so after I explain how Christmas is a big fat lie, I might just tell everyone what I think of them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fa La La La Booooooo!

Last night we went caroling in Jackson Square. It was fun. The best part was when they announced Mayor Nagin and then hearing most of the 8,000 people boo. Also, turns out the crowd could sing better than Becky Allen, bless her heart, so they might think about turning down her microphone next year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can the Bluebird of Happiness Survive?

Our friends B and Xy got us a bluebird of happiness for a housewarming gift.
It's cool, and Xy says it is an Appalachian tradition, where the glass bluebird is supposed to bring happiness to any house. I repeatedly joked that it wouldn't live long in our house due to so many people suffering from depression. In fact, it nearly died today from bad moods from Therese and Kalypso. Maybe Christmas will bring it back to health.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Save the New Year's Bonfire in Mid-City

I was shocked and sad yesterday when I received this flyer:
Bonfire Flyer 2008_2
"The City of New Orleans," which apparently means some bureaucrat who convinced the police department, the fire department, and parks and parkways, has decided to end a century old tradition in my neighborhood. Every year people take their Christmas trees on December 31st to the neutral ground on the 4200 block of Orleans Avenue. Then at nightfall, there is a massive celebration with a giant bonfire and fireworks. They argue that they are shutting this down for the safety of our persons and our homes. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever gotten hurt during this tradition, and no home has even come close to catching on fire. In the past there have always been police and a fire truck standing ready in case there were problems. With only a few firemen and police required, this strikes me as a very limited drain of city resources. Instead of focusing on this event, why not try to ticket the hundreds of people who shoot firearms in the air on New Years? Or spend some time doing police work so we don't have to live in the murder capital of the world. The Mid-City Neighborhood Organization asked if there was anyway to get a permit to hold the bonfire, and they were told no. I plan on writing to my City Council representatives, and voicing my disapproval at the Dec 22 meeting.

People who live here are going to fight when outsiders try to take away these cultural events. We don't want to live in anytown U.S.A. New Orleans has unique traditions that need to be defended.

Here is a video we made of our family at the bonfire two years ago. It's one of our favorite things to do in New Orleans.

Check out Save the Bonfire.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Less News is Good News

My name is Michael, and I'm a newsaholic. But I'm getting better.

Just one month ago, I would wake up around 6AM, listen to NPR's Morning Edition, read the Times-Picayune, and during the work day I would often check internet news. Back at home I would listen at 4PM to All Things Considered, watch the local ABC news at 5, and the national ABC news at 5:30, watch the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer at 6, while surfing back and forth with Hardball, and then at 7 PM my favorite news venue was Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He was outraged at the Bush administration, just like me. Then I would watch the Daily Show at 10, followed by the Colbert Report. Then I'd go to bed after checking the internet.

Now that Obama has won the election, I find I'm satisfied with far less news. I find all I need now is the Times-Picayune, NPR, the internet, and of course the Daily Show and Colbert. Sorry Keith Olbermann. I'm glad you're on the air, for what it is worth. Good night Keith, and good luck.
Keith Olbermann

What You Want, Baby I Had 40 Years Ago: Jazzfest Ages

The lineup for the 40th Jazzfest has just been announced. Aretha Franklin seems to be the biggest name on the bill. I remember how great she was, about 40 years ago. Here's a visual aid to show what time and fast food have done to her.
I also noticed acts like the O' Jays and Earth Wind and Fire. It will be like a freakin' 1970 polyester wax museum, so hope for clouds. In fact, is there anyone under 40 performing at Jazzfest? And if this is a trend, in 10 years will all the performers be over 50? Wasn't this the generation that said "Don't trust anyone over 30"? But before you think that I am advocating youth at any cost, I am pleased to report that the Imagination Movers are off the list. Rumor has it that their orange jumpsuit idea backfired when they got mistaken for prison workers last year. Even though Disney Channel isn't popular in prison, turns out the "Movers" are.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Homan With A Bullet

There's been an unholy war going on in the New Orleans blogosphere. The goal is to post the absolutely worst Xmas video. Thus, with bile and malcontent I present to you "Santa Claus Wants Some Luvin"

If you watch closely you can see a shirtless Adrastos with a weed blower.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Turns Out Chicago is the "Who" in "Who Dat Say They Gonna Beat Them Saints?"

For the third year in a row, da Bears ended the Saints' season on a cold and windy day at Soldier Field. Allstate is based in the Chicago area, so they celebrate, while I am thinking about getting back in shape and playing cornerback. The Saints need much improvement on defense, and I am pretty sure that I can be at least as good as Jason David.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow in South Town

I'm giving a final exam right now, and it's snowing pretty hard outside. This is the first time I've seen in snow in New Orleans. Well, actually one year before Katrina at City Park they dumped a bunch of fake snow for the kids to play with. But this is the first time I've seen real snow. In any case, I'll bet the Heat Miser is upset:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vitter's Filly Buster

David Vitter doesn't like the proposed congressional aid package they're putting together for the auto industry. He said it is "ass backward." But unfortunately, when my senator says things like that, I have mental images of Wendies and diapers. Make him stop, please.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Vince Marinello's 14 Point To-Do List

I can't get enough of the Vince Marinello trial. For those not following the case, Mr. Marinello is a local sportscaster who allegedly murdered his wife by shooting her twice in the face. That in itself is interesting, but the fascinating part here is the ineptitude Mr. Marinello seems to have displayed in doing the dastardly deed.

To pull of the caper, Marinello went for the brilliant "scruffy man on a bicycle" disguise. That might work in my neighborhood, but not in Metairie. They don't like scruffy, and they certainly don't like bicycles.

But the best part is the yellow note they found in his FEMA trailer, and yes, it was, a FEMA trailer thank God. The note allegedly has a map of the murder scene on one side, along with 3 phone numbers, one belonging to our late bigger-than-life Sheriff Harry Lee. On the other side: a to-do list pertaining to the murder. I've read that item number one was "Gun--River on way to MAMA." Other lines include: "Motive -- maybe -- NOT STRONG," "Insurance money -- None," "Clothes -- Burn," "girlfriend--none," and then other items pertaining to a bike, gloves, mustache, black tennis shoes, sunglasses and a white shirt. Also, he bought the fake mustache at the same place that supplies facial hair to Rex and other Mardi Gras fancy-lads.

Today at the trial the jury was presented the list. I need to see it, as soon as possible. I also feel the compulsion to know the identity of the other two phone numbers. So if you know anyone on the jury, or maybe you know someone in charge of evidence in Lafayette Louisiana, let them know that inquiring minds need to know more about that list.

Update: WWL posted this picture of the list, but it is too blurry to read:

Update 2: The TP reports that in addition to Harry Lee, the two other phone numbers were for a "floor man" and a co-worker of Marinello's at WWL.
Update 3: Here is the list:
Gun - River on way to mama
Id'd at scene car at trailer (white) - rent (?)
motive - maybe - NOT STRONG
insurance money - none
girlfriend - none
clothes - burn - mama
Inherit business - none
Inherit stocks - none
Peter bike - PAINT
gloves -OK
moustache - OK
black tennis shoes - /black socks ok [the words black socks ok were crossed out with wavy line]
sunglasses - OK
white shirt/black tie [the words black tie were crossed out with wavy line]

Friday, December 05, 2008

I Hate the Alamo, and Tonight I Will Toast Santa Anna & the 21st Amendment With a Sazerac

Prohibition ended 75 years ago today. I'd celebrate proper if I were in New Orleans. Sadly, I'm in Texas for a SACS conference. SACS, which stands for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, is the organization which accredits my university. This SACS conference is in San Antonio, which is a pretty cool city for Texas, I suppose. It's certainly cooler than places like Dallas and Waco. But I went to the Alamo earlier, and the whole experience made me sick. It was like Texas religion, with relics of Bowie knives and Davy Crockett hats. Seriously, who wears a raccoon carcass on their head? Well, my quest tonight will be to get an alcoholic beverage, even though I'd estimate 9/10 of Texas is what they call a "dry" county. My friends in New Orleans do not know what that means. Let me explain: it means they don't serve alcohol, not even a dry martini. Well SACS sort of sounds like sazerac, which was the first cocktail, and it was invented in New Orleans. Maybe I'll even have three, and then put a dead rodent on my head and kill me a beaaaaaaar.

Shoot! I just learned that Fess Parker played both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. I guess when TV needed an actor who looked good with a raccoon carcass on his head, he was a no brainer.

Later note: I could not find a sazerac in all of San Antonio, so I had a whiskey with club soda and a lemon. It was not as good as a sazerac. People tend to drink budweiser in San Antonio, and the only mixed drinks I saw were green apple martinis.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thanksgiving Fight With My Mom about Gingerbread

My mom, Julie Homan, came to visit us over Thanksgiving weekend. The last time she was here was for Barkus 2005, so she hadn't been here since the flood. She was the first person to visit our renovated home, and it was great seeing her. Here you can see her playing Christmas songs on our piano with Kalypso, and me playing guitar. It's too bad her grandkids live so far away from her in Omaha, Nebraska. She doesn't feel like she knows them very well, and that they don't know her.
It's hard for her to visit us, as she has to leave behind her overweight dog Peaches with neighbors. And it is hard to live at someone else's house. I know it's hard for me to live elsewhere. Anyway, after a great Thanksgiving dinner at Howie's, we were home rolling out gingerbread dough to make, of course, gingerbread people. My mom kept repeating over and over that I needed to divide the dough, and I finally said "Christ, I hear you already, and look, I've divided the dough a long time ago, so can you please quit saying that." Then I said something about her being judgmental, as she had previously been repeating that we had too many animals and we don't take care of them. Well, she went to her room upset, and the visit wasn't the same after that. I doubt she'll be anxious to come back anytime soon, and God knows I dread dragging all four of us and two dogs in the car for 20 hours to Nebraska. So mom, if you get around to reading this, I love you, and I'm sorry I lost my patience about the gingerbread. But you should know we're thinking about getting a third dog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reflections on ASOR Meeting in Boston

I attended the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Boston, and overall I had a great time. This was the first year in which the meeting was arranged by Morag Kersel and myself as co-Vice Presidents for Programs, with much help from Jennie Ebeling and Yorke Rowan as Program Committee Chairs. I used to think that ASOR officers were snobs and only came to the most popular sessions. Instead, it turns out they were in meetings all day long. And I do mean all day, from 7AM until 11 PM in some cases. Some personal highlights of the meeting include:
  • The opening night included the plenary address by Martha Joukowsky, who gave a paper entitled "From Censure to Acceptance: Women Archaeologists in Near Eastern Archaeology." This was preceded by Sarah Kansa from the Alexandria Archive Institute, who spoke about Open Context, of which I'm a big fan.
  • I love hearing about inscriptions, and Yossi Garfinkel's 10th century inscription from the Elah Fortress is amazing. I was also amazed by the 8th century BCE inscription found at Zincirli in which the deceased's soul inhabits the stele. Also Garth Gilmour presented an incised potshard he claims is Yahweh and Asherah. I sort of agree with him, though the Yahweh figure looks like the Hey Koolaid guy. Oh Yeah!
  • The reception at the Semitic Museum in honor of Larry Stager was nice though crowded. Luckily we got there early, and Kalypso and Gilgamesh got to check out the four room house and some cool artifacts. Also the reception in honor of CAARI turning 30 and ACOR 40 were very nice.
  • I was able to be at the announcement where Carol Meyers found out she was receiving a Festschrift, and also to be at the presentation of Dick Friedman's Festschrift. It was great seeing all of my old friends from UCSD.
  • I ran over to SBL for a short time Saturday to present in a session on Service Learning and Biblical Studies. Thanks to Bobby Duke for launching this.
  • The best part was seeing everyone. These are people I lived with at oversea schools, and friends I excavated with, so I know them pretty well. I was especially happy to work on the program with Morag. 
The meeting overall went great. Thanks to everyone who was involved, especially the program committee and the ASOR staff. Next year in New Orleans ya'll.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Off to Boston for ASOR/SBL Annual Meeting

Early tomorrow morning, as in archaeological dig waking up early, I'm off to the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting in Boston, which is followed by the Society of Biblical Literature. What's especially nice about this year is that my family will be going with me. I prefer the ASOR meeting, where I get to see people I excavated with and also lived with at research centers such as the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem and the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman. This year will be the first meeting after Morag and I got elected co-VPs of program. I hope it goes well. At SBL I'm giving a paper in a session about Service Learning and Biblical Studies. Also at SBL, there will be a reception for my teacher Dick Friedman where he will be presented with a well deserved festschrift. It will be nice to get away from New Orleans and some painful struggles at Xavier regarding Freshman Studies. People will freak out, no doubt, about how big Kalypso and Gilgamesh are getting. Many of the friends we'll see have never met Gilgamesh, or knew him as an infant.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bible's Buried Secrets

NOVA will be premiering the Bible's Buried Secrets this Tuesday evening.
It's about archaeology and the origins of the Bible, and looks pretty interesting. My friend Tristan Barako was involved in the production. The Zayit inscription, with which Kalypso and I were involved, is also featured. You can see the dig director, Ron Tappy, in the image above, looking at the inscription through a magnifying glass. I've been told if you watch carefully you can see me looking intently into a theodolite. You might want to watch all two hours just for that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

House Blessing Reflections

We had a great time last Saturday at our house blessing party. I've had several days to reflect on it, and it's really such a nice memory. Our architect Peter Waring came early with a case of Boomerang wine and several wine glasses. After most of our friends had gathered, Fr. Linden and I went to the backyard to get a twig from our fig tree that survived Katrina's flood. Gilgamesh held a bowl of water which Fr. Linden blessed, and following a group prayer, we went around the house to every room and Fr. Linden sprinkled water throughout. Gilgamesh kept asking when he could dump out the water. We got some great housewarming gifts, such as truffles, a Mishkan piece of needlepoint (Mishkan in the name of our house), an oyster spoon, and a fleur du lis tile. My friend Howie and his family even gave us a football autographed by the 2007 Saints. Kalypso's piano teacher Ashley came for a few hours and played the piano as background music. It was nice seeing everyone's reaction to our remodeling, and more so, to mark the occasion with our friends. Too bad our families are so far away. It's sure nice to be home.
Fr. Linden followed by Gilgamesh, Kalypso, and friends, during house blessing party.
More pics by Adrastos and Dr. A here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

October 22nd in Perpetuity

Overall it was a pretty good day for me, October 22nd. Jarvis DeBerry spoke to Xavier students as part of our Freshman Seminar, we were getting ready for our first Voodoo Fest the following weekend. I was hoping Obama would win but was skeptical at the same time. But the thing is I am reliving that day everyday since, in a sort of Groundhog Day moment, as emails from Xavier are continuously being recycled. People who know me often get my October 22nd emails sent to them again, and I receive there emails as well. Sure does make me look incompetent, which is not something that needed this extra help.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

House Blessing

Tonight at 5PM we're having our house blessed by our friend Fr. Phillip Linden and then we're having a party. If you didn't get an invitation it's because my email is screwed up, so feel free to stop by at 5PM or anytime after that. We live at 215 S. Alexander Street in the neighborhood behind Jesuit. This drawing by Gilgamesh will help you locate it:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Stealing Signs

We had two Obama signs in front of our house when I left for school this morning. When I returned home just now, they were gone and the frames remained. Someone in my neighborhood apparently is in a bad mood about an Obama administration. Tuesday night when Obama in his victory speech said "And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too." I'm not sure the guy who removed our signs listened to that speech. I remember being very depressed four years ago, and being sad removing the Kerry sticker from my car. That car flooded after Katrina, and never in my life have I removed someone else's sticker or sign.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Jury from Hell

I learned on Twitter today that my arch nemesis Adrastos will be appearing for jury duty on November 14th, the same day listed on my jury summons.

By coincidence I recently ran into Adrastos at WetBankGuy's Halloween party. I believe that right now WetBankGuy is on a jury. But that evening at the party there were two Adrastoi, which is why I had to leave early and there were nutria teeth in the brain jello. Can you tell from this picture which is the real Adrastos? Hint: look for the cat tile for sale, the Lee Zurick eyebrows, the receding hairline, and the pulp fiction covers for discussion.
So criminals, you better shape up, as you might just be facing a jury of bloggers. Hmmm. Jury of Bloggers, that sounds like a pulp title for the 21st century.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hope & History

Obama Child
This morning Therese and I woke up early and got in line at 5:30 AM in order to vote in this incredible election. Our precinct primarily consists of African Americans, and I was fascinated to overhear some of the conversations. The man behind me was talking to his sister in Ohio and they joked about how her vote counted more than his. After hanging up with his sister, he told me that after he voted he was going to Obama headquarters to drive a bus to get people to the polls. An elderly lady in front of me spoke about how she was voting with her great grandmother in her heart, as her grandmother had been a slave. But beyond the words, there was a feeling of substantive cultural change. When the polling place opened at 6AM, there was loud applause and shouts of jubilation. One man towards the front of the line shouted "How does it feel to be making history, baby!"

I know the power and the reality of the presidential office can compromise the best intentions. And there is a great deal of damage to overcome. Yet I have hope today, hope for New Orleans, hope for the United States of America, and hope for the world. I have a great deal of faith in the man pictured above. Well done Obama campaign, and well done America!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Red Street Cars on Canal

This morning, for the first time since Katrina, I saw two red street cars on Canal Street. They weren't taking passengers, presumably they were just testing the streetcars. It was certainly nice to see them though.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where's Bin Laden's New Album?

Isn't it about time for the most famous 6'4" Saudi Arabian on dialysis living in a cave in Pakistan to release his newest latest tracks? I think it was on Halloween back in 04 when I last heard from him. I've heard that he watches U.S. newscasts and he is obviously pretty savvy in terms of playing the media. Come on Osama, where y'at?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama Didn't Have A College Romp on Bourbon Street

Amazingly, New Orleans' newspaper The Times-Picayune has endorsed Barack Obama for president. I say "amazingly" because it didn't endorse anyone in 2004, and it endorsed Bush in 2000. My favorite quotation from the endorsement is as follows: "For our own great and complex city, we could use a national leader who appreciates that we are more than a sentimental memory of a college romp on Bourbon Street; that we are a culturally rich American treasure, filled with resilient citizens and worth protecting from the encroaching forces of nature."


Divine Comedy: Women Leaders and Southern Baptists

So Southern Baptists have been freaking out. On the one hand, Sarah Palin is running for VP and might very well be President of the U.S. if elected. On the other hand, she's a woman. You know, one of them female types, like Eve, Delilah, Jezebel, and Hillary.

Several New Testament verses such as 1 Timothy 2:12 “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man,” or Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” seem to indicate an anti-female-leader sentiment.

Well, recently the Southern Baptist Convention ruled that while a woman can't lead a home or a church, she can lead the nation, by God. I wonder if Obama's race has anything to do with this decision? Moreover, I've been getting a bunch of chain emails lately about how the Bible forbids the "mixing of races," you know, like Obama's white mom and African daddy. As an educated person, I know that the idea of race wasn't even invented until the 15th century, so it would be impossible for the Bible to discuss races, let alone be against biracial romance.

Have to say that even with the mixing races emails, and the decision by the Southern Baptist Convention, I'm still enthusiastically going to vote for Obama. You know, hope and all that stuff.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Quest for the Thanksgiving PoBoy

Several weeks ago I learned from twitter that someone named BigEasy had discovered that the Parkway Bakery had invented the Thanksgiving PoBoy. I dreamed about this for a week. Did it have turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans with french onions, and cranberry sauce? Maybe pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes? Those were happy dreams. It made me proud to live in New Orleans, a city that caters to gluttons such as myself. I went there on a Tuesday, and the Parkway was closed. I learned from Howie that they only offered the illusive sandwich on Thursdays, the official Thanksgiving day, and the sandwich became more mystical. So today Howie and I did lunch. There was a giant line of fat people, which is always a good sign.
Parkway Bakery.JPG
I proudly ordered the Thanksgiving PoBoy, it cost just over $9. And world, here it is:
It's turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberries. Howie ordered some sweet potato fries to balance it out. Honestly, it wasn't as good as the shrimp and oyster poboys at Parkway, but I sure did feel proud and thankful sitting there at the Parkway eating this monster. In your face Pilgrims!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rollercoaster Ride for Fans of LA Beauties

Sad times in Louisiana, as Miss Louisiana Teen USA had her crown revoked after she and her friends left some small town cafe without paying. Police later found marijuana on her person. All this too on the day when LA's favorite daughter Brittany Spears had the driving sans license case against her dismissed. She would have had to have gone to jail if she was convicted. No word yet on jail time for Miss Teen Louisiana. My students said they didn't care about either of these issues. They said that if the cops found weed on them, they'd be in jail. They also didn't share my panic in that Louisiana won't have a Miss Teen Louisiana until November 1, when the new one will be chosen. How are they chosen, by the way? I'll bet the pageant involves trampolines, nutria, and Adrastos in a crawfish themed speedo.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

XNOW & Jarvis DeBerry

I've been working with a committee at Xavier that has been focussing on creating a seminar for all incoming Freshmen. We're calling the course XNOW, which stands for Xavier in New Orleans in the World. We want the course to be interdisciplinary, and to be linked to our mission to create a more just and humane society. We also want the students to learn about New Orleans, and how their lives and work relate to a global society. We invited several speakers to address the Freshmen.

Today Jarvis DeBerry, who is speaking to the 800 Freshmen tomorrow night, wrote about our new class in his opinion piece. Like my wife and me, DeBerry moved to New Orleans as an adult for a job, but has fallen in love with the place. I'm looking forward to hearing him tomorrow. If anyone else is interested in attending DeBerry's lecture, he is speaking at 7PM on the 3rd floor of the University Center.

Monday, October 13, 2008

AC/DC and Walmart and the Devil

I have admired for many years the music of AC/DC. "Whole Lotta Rosie", "Jailbreak," and the entire Back in Black album are classics. But I just read that the band is releasing their new album, Black Ice, only at Walmart. Thankfully I didn't buy tickets to their concert in New Orleans, because I have boycotted Walmart for many many years. Ironically, I boycott Walmart because, I tell my students, they are the devil. AC/DC reportedly worships the devil. There you go.

Mr. Bluebird's On My Shoulder

Blogs by nature tend to be forums for complaining. But as I take stock of my life at this moment, there are many positive things going on with moi:

First and foremost, we are living in our renovated house. My children are healthy and doing well in their lives. I grow more proud of them every day.

My professional career has shifted from my area of expertise to much more university committee work, but it's all going well and especially since Katrina, I find working towards social justice to be both important and cathartic.

It's football season, and I have always loved the Fall. In Nebraska it meant very cold weather. Here in New Orleans it means the break in the very long hot and humid season. But right now I'm listening to Monday Night Football in the background, and I had the privilege of watching the Saints win last Sunday with my son Gilgamesh. Friday night we all went to see Lusher High School's first home football game. It makes me fondly remember my father, and all of the football games we shared.

Last but not least in my ode to joy, Obama/Biden are substantially leading in polls.

I promise readers here, if Obama wins, and the Saints win the Superbowl, I will never complain online again. I know this bifecta will never take place.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Belated Fifth Birthday for Blog

Five years ago last Sunday this blog turned five. Five years since this post. That's like 102 human years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

One Way Webco Window

I mentioned earlier that our contractor Douglas Marshall Blow of Webco Gulf Coast Construction breached our contract when it got down to the punch list. He split because he owed his subcontractors more than we were holding in retainage. I think we've finally paid the subcontractors. Now we're trying to find a way to come up with some funds to hire someone else to finish the job. It makes me wonder what contracts are for? If I had breached it, and not lived up to the terms, I would have been held liable and the courts would have made me pay. At least I think that's the way it works.

Douglas Marshall responded with a comment to my earlier post about his substandard work by saying it was all untrue, and he alleged that he did great work. Well, I'm not a contractor, but wouldn't great work involve avoiding the following:

Here is the outside of our house looking in. Sure the trim is missing, but focus on the three top windows, two long on the side and a smaller window in the middle.
Then look at this same wall inside:
What the heck happened to the middle window? Is it magic? Is it some sort of new fangled technology? No, actually Webco put up drywall over the window. While I guess it cost more in yellow paint, it saved time in the long run I imagine. Anyway, there is now less of a chance that we'll get skin cancer.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Depressed that I'm Depressed about Saints Football

I've been in a funk all day because of the Saints game last night, where they gave the game away to Minnesota. But even more than that, I'm smart enough to know I shouldn't be depressed about stupid things like sports, so the fact that I'm depressed about sports makes me more depressed. New Orleans has lost three games, all by a total of 10 points. Our very accurate field goal kicker missed two key kicks that would have brought victories against Denver and the Vikings. I'll bet he's happier than I am right now. Maybe Obama will screw up bad tonight and then I'll be depressed about that. I'm not smart enough to know I shouldn't be depressed about that. I still think this election is important and meaningful. Some of my colleagues believe that it doesn't matter who wins. Perhaps naively I still think it matters.

New Orleans Tile Peddler Disses Nebraska

There's a hairless tile peddler in the quarter who likes to post myopic rants about politics using cutesy names, and if not that, then he complains about drummers. The blogger goes by many aliases, like Huggy the Child Friendly Nutria, but lately his most common one is Ass Duress Toast. He says the moniker has something to do with Malakathology or something. Anyway, after Sarah Palin's visit to my home town of Omaha Nebraska, Mr. Toast has some nasty things to say about the Cornhusker State. I'd encourage you to leave him comments, but unfortunately I agree with about everything he says. In the picture below we see said Mr. Toast peddling his tiles. Most of the tiles have pictures of cats on them. The rest have a large creepy nutria hugging children for what appears to be uncomfortably long periods of time. It's all very sad really.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin Tapped

Sarah Palin used the word "tapped" quite a bit tonight. She kept talking about tapping oil, but my favorite part was when she mentioned that McCain tapped her, tapped her to be VP. Anyway, I'm not interested in tapping Palin. She of course I would imagine is not interested in having me tap her. So there we are.

Curious About Intellectual Curiosity

I, like many people, am by nature intellectually curious. Today in class we were talking about the caduceus and how it relates to the Nehushtan in Numbers 21. One student mentioned it was similar to the staff of Asclepius. I didn't know much about said staff, so I looked it up after class. I love that stuff, being informed and the pursuit of knowledge.

Sarah Palin and George Bush strike me as people who lack this intellectual curiosity. I guess I'd include just about everyone who thinks that the world is 6000 years young and that dinosaurs co-existed with humans until the flood. I know that must sound smug to some people. And creationists are often nice people. I've had many friends and relatives over the years who believe this, some of them even people who would be described in many measures as intelligent. But they don't seem to me to be intellectually curious. One hour until the VP debate. I'm sure the expectations for Palin have been made to be so low that whatever she does will be a huge victory.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Huge Progress In The Recovery Plan for New Orleans: Red Dots to Orange

I, like the majority of my neighbors, was very involved in the recovery process of my neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina. We came up with a fantastic citizen driven plan. We worked very hard. I went to so many meetings, well over 200, and was frustrated by the many times that the meetings were a charade. They were designed to say that people in the neighborhood had input, but in the end it was clear there was no real opinion being sought. I came to detest Concordia who made quite a bit of money running these. My biggest frustration came when the input involved putting colored dots on where you live. This happened in 2006 when I was asked to put red dots on my neighborhood at the "Unified" New Orleans Plan. Here were the red dots in my hood:
There have been about 200 official plans since then, the latest being last weekend. This is supposed to be the real super-unified really really this time it's true plan. I skipped it. Mostly it's because I'm so busy working on finishing our house. But it was healthy not to be there. So much money could be spent on rebuilding houses, and instead it all goes to the "planners" who I wouldn't trust to plan my son's upcoming 8th birthday party. Apparently the biggest change this time around is that the dots have evolved from red to orange, as you can see in this picture from Karen Apricot forwarded to me by Karen Gadbois.
Do you see that? The dots were red, and now they're FREAKIN' ORANGE! Way to go planners. I'd like to see some more research on how many people in my neighborhood are fans of the fleur-de-lis. Maybe people opposed to the fleur de lis put the dots in the wrong place.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sucker Punched List by Our General Contractor

Last Fall we had hired a general contractor through a contract administrator. Though it was a painful process, construction on our home at last proceeded to the final punch list in August. We had several problems with the general contractor throughout the process. But when he got the punch list of things left to do, he bailed. That was on August 29th, the third anniversary of Katrina. The contractor, Douglas Marshall Blow of Webco Gulf Coast Construction, said he was picking up his tools because Gustave was on its way, but looking back it was clear that he had no plans to return. Then when the power was out after Gustave, he texted me and said I'd soon be hearing from subcontractors because he hadn't paid them, and the contractor said he would not do the punch list. Turns out the money I had been paying to him lately was going to purposes other than paying the subcontractors. So essentially as part of our contract, if he had honored it, meant that we owed him $18K. The subcontractors who we've heard from are owed about $18K. So essentially, he gets to walk away from our contract with very little penalty as far as I can see, and while we have to pay the $18K, there is much on our house that is not finished. Moreover, many things were poorly constructed and installed, so for today example we had to pay a roofer to fix the roof vents that were never attached properly. We decided we probably didn't want a leaky roof after all. Because our contractor breached the contract, we have little recourse down the road if things go wrong.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recruiting Lara Croft for ASOR Board

I've been a member of the American Schools of Oriental Research for many years, and recently I've been an officer. Basically ASOR is a professional organization that focusses on the archaeology and history of the Near East, especially the ancient Near East. One of our main competitors is the Archaeological Institute of America. They've been feeling pretty good about themselves, as Indiana Jones, Mr Harrison Ford, has joined their board. That's cool, but it also makes me jealous. So we at ASOR need some celebrity bling. We could try Indiana Jones' dad, Sean Connery. That would get my friend Sue more involved. Or we could try Indie's kid, but he gives me the creeps. I'm thinking the person who I would most like to look at during boring board meetings would be Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie. I would of course insist that she wear the tomb raider wetsuit at the board meetings. Angelina, I know we're neighbors, but I don't know how to get in touch with you. Please join the ASOR board. Brad's welcome too, but my personal preference would be for you to leave him at home.
Lara Croft
Future ASOR board member, Angelina Jolie

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2 Hurricanes & A Semester's Rough Start

Here at Xavier University, it's halfway through week four. However, I have one class that only meets on Friday, and we have not yet met. We missed the first two Fridays because of Gustav, and then we missed last Friday because of Ike. Moreover, this Friday I'll be en route to Boston for an American Schools of Oriental Research meeting, so the Friday of week 5 will be our first class. I've tried to keep things moving along pedagogically with technology, but when Gustav was approaching Xavier moved its website, blackboard, and email to a remote host in some faraway place known as Denver. Now they've moved everything back except the email, but there have been many glitches. I wonder if this is something that I can expect for the rest of my life every September, when the hurricane season is most active? It's tiring.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Houston & Ike

My thoughts and prayers are with Houston and residents on the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ike slowly heads towards Texas. This appears to be a very large storm. It's been windy here all day as feeder bands pass overhead. Also, I had to cancel my dirt order as it is supposed to rain this weekend quite a bit, also from Ike. Be well Houstonians and dwellers in lowland areas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Dirt Than I Needed

I just bought 8 cubic yards of topsoil. I only needed 6 but the minimum they deliver is 8. It's supposed to be delivered on Friday. Then Saturday, we landscape and get some sod to put on top of it. Good fun.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Booing Hurricane Ike

Today I watched the New Orleans Saints defeat their division rival Tampa Bay in a very hard fought and close game. That was great, and it is a much needed bright spot in an area that has been put through the ringer. The lowlight was hearing the local nice guys and Disney Channel stars the Imagination Movers sing the national anthem. Might as well have been Barney for all I care. But the highlight of the game for me was when they had a local weatherman, Bob Breck, on the big screen talk about the possible danger we face from Hurricane Ike. They showed the storm model of Ike entering the Gulf, and the entire stadium of 70,000 plus booed very loudly. At that very moment, the storm models showed Ike taking a turn to the west of our area. Take that sorry game somewhere else Ike.

A "Back to Normal" Sunday

I have to say that the third year anniversary of Katrina involved a very stressful week. With Therese and the kids evacuating, getting ready for Gustav, riding it out, and then getting things back in order for school tomorrow, all of that has been taxing. We recently got our electricity restored, and we also have internet access. Those are very good things, especially now that I can work and think in an air conditioned environment. We'll be living out of boxes for some time I imagine, and that is fine. We cleaned up and painted our old 2 bedroom apartment on Hennessey, and now we're looking for some tenants. Things have also been very stressful with getting ready for the upcoming annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research, as a key component of the organizational team recently resigned. Friday I also got some phone calls from contractors and lumber yards who say they are going to put a lien on our house because our contractor bought things on credit and now our contractor claims he is broke. So it seems our contractor owes various entities about $13,000, and we have about $18,000 in retainage to motivate him to finish the job. The big question is will he finish it for the remaining $5,000 or just walk away. So we spent Friday and Saturday doing our own contractor work to make the house more livable, including cleaning up the construction debris in the yard, painting the closets, fixing the hot water heater, and caulking the bathrooms. Today I'm going with Howie to the Superdome to see the Saints play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then tomorrow I'll have much catching up to do with regards to work and professional obligations.

And I know all about Hurricane Ike soon to enter the gulf.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

waiting for juice

therese and kids made it back yesterday. Everyone is fine. No power and no Internet. Hopefully tomorrow. School supposed to start Monday

Monday, September 01, 2008

snow days

city officials keep saying hurricane evacuations are like snow days. This is baloney. Let the people come home immediately if you want them to evacuate again.

Halfway Through Gustav

We lost power in my house at 4AM, and my AT&T iphone lost service just a few minutes ago. So if you're calling or texting I'm not ignoring you. But overall it's my impression that New Orleans is doing quite well. Only a few small branches down on my street, and no flood waters here at all. I'm not sure how Terrebonne Parish fared, as that is where the eye was supposed to have hit about an hour ago, but I hope everyone down there is OK. Cox Cable internet/cable and a Troy-Bilt generator are thus far allowing me to keep tabs on events. We still have water and gas. My dog Mosey is stressed out, but Oot the sugar glider and Morgus the parrot seem calm. I'm now going to try to find a cigar and then I'll smoke it in the house. Therese would never let me do that if she were here.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Staying & Going

Mid-City New Orleans is pretty quiet about now, with curfew officially beginning in about 3 hours. Early this morning Therese, Kalypso, Gilgamesh, and our dog Kochise got in the Highlander and drove to a friend's house in Baton Rouge. I decided to stay here. I can't find a very good reason to explain why I needed to stay, except that I'm awfully stubborn and I was so profoundly impacted by the events that took place 3 years ago that I'm now addicted to that chaos. I imagine it must be like being addicted to heroine. You know it isn't good for you and it is hard on your loved ones, but you keep making that destructive decision. In any event, this storm does not seem to be anywhere near as powerful as Katrina, and it keeps veering west, despite Mayor Nagin's apocalyptic predictions. So me and Mosey are here on S. Alexander Street, along with my neighbors Mike and Steve, and we're hoping for the best. With our generator, stockpiles of water and canned goods, even in the worst case scenario I'm set for several weeks. But I think come this time tomorrow, as the storm winds finally begin settling down, I think New Orleans is going to be just fine.

I find myself listening to the song "Like a Hurricane" by Neil Young.

Friday, August 29, 2008

3 Years Later, 85 Saints Go Marching In

Living in New Orleans, I think about Hurricane Katrina every hour of every day. I feel like I have not yet entered the "post" in "post traumatic stress disorder." One-third of the houses in this great city remain empty, and the black flood line is still visible throughout my neighborhood. Today near my house they are finally burying the remains of 85 unidentified individuals who died after the levees broke. How sad it would be to drown and not have anyone be able to identify the body. For me that epitomizes being alone, and serves as a microcosm for the U.S. government's abandonment of our recovery. At the same time I'm inspired by all of the students, church groups, and volunteers who have travelled and given their sweat to help us rebuild. I've also very much enjoyed living in our renovated house, though I'm still angry as hell it took three years to rebuild due to the insurance industry. And it's not easy to be objective with Gustav entering the Gulf. Many people here are terrified the city will be underwater come Tuesday. Our lives here depend on quality levees, and nobody I know has any faith in the Army Corps of Engineers. But even with all of this stress, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. New Orleans is unique. When the city honored the 85 unidentified victims of the failed levees, they sent them out with a Jazz Funeral, and Lord how I want to be in that number.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gustav Closes Xavier Campus

Xavier has announced that classes will be cancelled after 12 noon on Friday, and they won't resume until Thursday. Today we made sure the car was full of gas, we had our insurance policies in hand, and we stocked up on canned food and bottled water. Tomorrow, we make sure the generator is working, and we start thinking about an evacuation plan. Yikes!
Update Thursday 6AM: All of the panic seems premature, but there is panic. The two gas stations nearest Xavier don't have any gas and have shut down completely. There is, at the moment, only a 20% chance that New Orleans will see winds of 45 mph or more.

Rock Me Homan Jesus & Lamenting Mice

Yesterday, on the first day of class for Intro to Biblical Studies, I taught like Jesus. But before elaborating on my Christ-like pedagogy, some background information is necessary:

In this class we always start with the topic of 586 BCE, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and exile and fighting assimilation in Babylon. We listen to both Don McLean and Bony M sing "By the Rivers of Babylon" and we read Lamentations. In Lamentations 4:6 the text reads "The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her." That notion of sudden death preferable to a long drawn out agonizing one got me thinking about my father's favorite short story, "Lost Face" by Jack London, and then that got me thinking about mice.

I've had some pretty epic battles against rodents in my office before. First they chewed off the face of my Moses action figurine, and then they attacked a nice Bedouin family. But recently when we were moving furniture to our restored home, we noticed that mice had recently infiltrated our old laundry room. And thus, the following parable was born, linking me forever with Jesus:

There was a fat man from Nebraska who noticed mice poop on his laundry room floor. He bought two types of traps. The standard spring loaded bar mouse trap, and these new fangled sticky pads. The next day, there was one dead mouse, nearly decapitated, in the spring loaded trap, and there were two mice, still alive, suffering on the sticky pads, who were thrown into the trash can where they died a slow tortuous death and their corpses smelled like spoiled crawfish. The fat man with the bad karma was reborn as a three legged mouse, and one day he tried to help his mouse friend on a sticky pad and he got caught too. Now I ask you, which of these mice had the better fate?

How to Ruin Labor Day Weekend

Q: Wouldn't it be funny if, after three hard years working to get back into our home in Mid-City New Orleans, a hurricane named after a field-goal-kicking mule came along, and wiped us out again?
A: No, that would not be funny.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Last Move of My Life

In just one hour, I will walk from my office to a gas station which rents moving trucks. I'll fill out some forms, and then drive off to start loading our material possessions, things that have been sitting so long in storage. We hope to load the truck tonight and then park it in front of our house, and then when we wake up tomorrow, we'll start unloading. Then I'll drive the short distance over to the house where we live now, and start loading that stuff, and then we'll unload it. I'll be tired and sweaty, but I'm very much looking forward to this, because I don't anticipate ever having to move again. I plan on living in this house until the day that I die, which according to Deathclock is in 14 short years. So I'll help carry the stuff we own inside, but someone else will have to bring these things and my corpse out one day. I'll try to lose some weight so it's not too much of a burden.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rising Tide III

Rising Tide III will take place this weekend. It's an event where New Orleans bloggers and others "come together to dispel myths, promote facts, share personal testimonies, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels." John Barry will be the keynote speaker. I won't be able to attend this year, because if all goes according to plan, we should be able to move back into our house this Saturday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Mishkan

All great houses have more than an address, they have a name. We've thought a lot about a name for our newly renovated house, which we hope to move back into in a couple of weeks. In fact we were trying to find a name before it flooded. Therese liked names involving the circus. She liked Homan Circus, but her last name is still Fitzpatrick so that didn't really work. We played around with Alexander Street Circus, and Cirque du Mid-City, but none of those stuck, mostly because Therese hasn't quite reached the age yet where she can grow a full beard, and everyone knows a circus needs a bearded lady. But now at last we have settled on a name: The Mishkan.

Mishkan is a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling place," and it is one of the most common words in the Hebrew Bible, referring to God's home, the Tabernacle. I'm sort of obsessed with the Tabernacle, believing that you can learn a lot about a person, or in this case, a deity, by studying their home. I wrote my dissertation on ancient Near Eastern tents, and later turned this into an award winning book (currently #3,148,555 in sales at Amazon). And to further prove my obsession, I built a scale model of the Tabernacle, as you can see in this old picture.
I'm dressed as the High Priest of Israel wearing a costume made from a bedsheet for a Halloween party at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. I'm blowing a shofar in front of the scale model of the Tabernacle and its courtyard. If you look closely you can see a sacrificed cow on the horned altar. Good fun. The actual Tabernacle is the rectangular building towards the back of the courtyard. Here is a more detailed picture of the entire courtyard to the left, and a bird's eye view of the actual Mishkan to the right:
Once you enter the Tabernacle, you are in a long room structure with three objects: the Menorah to the left, the Table of Showbread to the right, and the altar of incense to rear. All of these objects, and the Tabernacle as a whole, are very symbolic, and meant to be a microcosm of the universe. These were superstitious people, and they believed they could help the cosmos function by creating a model of it and helping the model function. Behind the altar of incense was a screen, and behind the screen was the holiest relic in ancient Israel's cult: the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the contract between God and Israel in the form of the 2 tablets of the 10 Commandments. If you would like to read more about the Tabernacle, check out this article I authored for Religion Compass.

OK, so you could tell I was obsessed with the Tabernacle from the first picture. Well, in designing our remodeled house I had the Tabernacle in mind. I wanted a long room structure, and I wanted people who entered our front door to have their eyes taken to the back, to the Holy of Holies, which we did by creating a wall of windows.
Additionally, we have a chandelier that represents the Menorah, we will soon have a table with bread, and the oven, which is supposed to arrive tomorrow, will represent both the sacrificial altar and the altar of incense. Then in the very back room, where we'll spend most of our time, I guess God will be represented by a 50" Panasonic HD Plasma television. Or better yet, we hope that the spirit of God dwells in our Mishkan. God, and you as well, are invited to come over anytime. We'll provide the libations.

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.

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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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Voucher Veto

So now that Jindal vetoed the legislature's pay raise, breaking his promise that he wouldn't interfere so long as they passed his school voucher program, isn't there any way for the legislature to kill the school vouchers? Sadly, it seems not. And already the local media is trying to spin this "won't veto and then public outcry and still won't but OK will veto" fiasco into Jindal being a hero for the common folk.

New Orleans: More than a Banana Republic?

When we first moved to New Orleans, we had a very difficult time getting our driver licenses. In fact, it took us more than one day. Previously we lived in California, where we made an appointment with the DMV online and this simple task took only took 15 minutes. Here of course the DMV had no website, they don't answer their phones, and we had to wait all day for our number to be called only to learn we didn't have the correct documents. Later, people were shocked to learn that we went to the New Orleans DMV, and they said that they always go to Metairie or Slidell even though it costs more. A friend of Therese stated: "Darlin, you're no longer in the United States, you're in a Banana Republic."

That stuck with us. I always thought that living in Falafel Republics, small and impoverished areas in the Middle East, helped us acclimate to living here. In Amman and East Jerusalem we were used to waiting in line all day for visa extensions, and we always expected the worst and we were rarely disappointed. Whenever dealings with the local government transpired without a glitch, we'd light a candle in a church and tell everyone about it. But recently during a conversation a wise woman told me that New Orleans is not in fact a banana republic. She said to look at buildings like the courthouse, which you see here:
She claimed that New Orleans was more like cities in Eastern Block countries such as Hungary or Poland, which had amazing infrastructure and architecture in the past but now the cities were crumbling and decaying because of inept government. I've thought a lot about this, and about how Big Oil left New Orleans in the 80's, and wonder if New Orleans has what it would take to wipe out corruption, fix public schools, and attract businesses again. I'm not very confident. It certainly won't happen under the reigns of Ray "Fishy Crime Cameras" Nagin or Bobby "School Vouchers for Not Vetoing Pay Raises" Jindal.

But wait... Who's that Yankee on the horizon sniffing out corruption as the first ever inspector general of New Orleans? I heard that after one year, he finally has telephones in his office. In another year he might even have the computers and the staff he's been promised. Look out world, New Orleans is coming back! But then again, we don't live here for the DMV, we live here for the bananas foster at Brennan's and the falafel at Mona's.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dobson's Confused Theology

James Dobson, the conservative Christian leader of Focus on the Family, accused Barack Obama of "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology."

I am an expert in Bible and Theology, so I feel compelled to tell the world the following:

James Dobson deliberately distorts the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin's 10 Commandments

George Carlin was brilliant and brave, and I'm so sorry he's gone. I'd like to thank him for his critique of society, especially how he spoke about what is wrong with America, and hypocrisy. Like me, he was brought up Catholic, but he had some serious questions about organized religion. I also loved how he played around with language.

Here's George Carlin, later in life, performing his amazing skit "The Ten Commandments"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sazerac: Official Cocktail of New Orleans

The Louisiana House twice voted down making the Sazerac the official cocktail of New Orleans, afraid it would encourage drinking. But then today, despite all odds, the House approved the bill, and now it goes to Jindal's desk. Many point to this as government officials wasting our tax dollars by wasting time. But me, I'm all for recognizing the sazerac. It was reputedly the first cocktail, and has a long and amazing history, and it is intimately tied to the city. In fact, I think I'll go make one right now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ramblin' Man

I just finished reading Born Standing Up, an autobiography by Steve Martin about the difficult years leading up to his success as a comic. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've always been a huge Martin fan. His albums "Let's Get Small" and "Wild and Crazy Guy" were the first comedy albums I owned, and I remember playing them over and over in my basement room. I was about 11 years old in those days. I very much enjoyed that his comedy wasn't mean, but rather it cleverly made fun of himself. Though I'm not a professional comic, I would say that Steve Martin's early comedy influenced my lecture style. That is why when I talk about the Battle of Jericho, I wear bunny ears.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Brilliant Son On Road To Pulitzer

While my 7-year-old son Gilgamesh has only been blogging for three months, yesterday he posted something far more fascinating and useful than all of my publications combined.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To My Neighbors Upstream

The upper Mississippi River and many of its tributaries are flooding, having already overtopped six levees in Iowa and Missouri. There is also flooding in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. Now the feds report that as many as 27 levees might fail in the next few days. I have many fond memories of summers spent in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City, and I am sorry the people there are about to share my experience with the difficult task of rebuilding your life after a flood. And like Xavier three years ago, the University of Iowa has flooded and has now suspended all university operations. Five people are dead, and there is no drinking water in many areas. On the news last night I saw people yelling at government officials and police because of road blocks preventing people from seeing their homes. That brought back many bad memories, times when I snuck back into New Orleans and the time I first saw my house after the flood waters had rescinded. Rebuilding your life after a major flood is an all consuming task. It is taking us three years. I pray that the people involved in this most recent flood are treated fair by their insurers, and that those without insurance can be given a helping hand by the government to begin their lives again.

I'd encourage you to join me in contributing to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
House Flooded Iowa
Flooded Home in Cedar Rapids, (Frank Polich/Reuters)