Tuesday, May 31, 2011

29 feet and rising


How high's the water, Mama?

Twenty-nine feet and rising.

And if the experts are to be believed, the Missouri River at Omaha is going to rise another 5- or 6 feet over the next couple of weeks, washing out crops, homes and parks all across the metropolitan area. Already, the water engulfs a small part of Lewis and Clark Landing downtown (at right).

Today the "Salute to Labor" sculpture, tomorrow on to the floodwall!

Above, we see flooding across an unfinished riverside park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Below, sandbags on the now-closed floodgates on the Omaha side of the Maniacal Mo.



OF COURSE, that's nothing when you consider what's happening on the north side of Omaha and above.

Below, we take a panoramic view from high above N.P. Dodge Park, all of which is swamped and getting swampier.


NORMALLY, the Missouri River is beyond the tree line. Far in the distance, we see the bluffs on the Iowa side of the waterway.

And north of Dodge Park, a few miles beyond the city limits, there are scenes such as this.


AND SCENES such as this.


AND SCENES such as this.


HOW HIGH'S the water Papa?

Twenty-nine feet and rising.

Or, to further paraphrase Johnny Cash . . .

We can make it to the road in a homemade boat
That's the only thing we got left that'll float
It's already over all the corn and the oats,
Twenty-nine feet high and risin'.

Friday, May 27, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Pass the cold hooch


This edition of 3 Chords & the Truth is broUghtto you by the letter 3 and the number Chords&theTruth. ROFLMAO.

It also is broughtt to U by cold hooch and the distillers of North AmericA.

That's rite, ladiess and germimen, I have done this week's Episobe ob da Big Show despite the rabages ob a head code. The key is timing everything to fall betweEn coughing fits and node blowwingk.

It also ids brought to you by cold hooch, my patented cure for the common code. Cold.


WELL, it's not exactly a cure for the common code -- cold -- because there is no such thing atT thise present tyme. But with two shoits of whisky in every steaming cup of my modern miracle cure -- Eat yore heart out Coozan Dud LeBlanc! -- you absolubtley don't give a damm that you ha=bve a code in your node.

You R feeling as good as is posibl;e under the cirsumsytances.

And you should see what it dodse for this week's editiuon of 3 Chords & the Truthh! It's better than Vitameatavegemin for adding poop to the prodsuct, and keeping it from popping out at parties.

Listen today! And pass me that flask, wills 'ya?

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

We lost Gil Scott-Heron


Oh, hell, no.

Not Gil Scott-Heron.

Oh, hell, no.

We lost Gil Scott-Heron.

Dead at 62, died today.

Oh, hell, no.



IT CAN'T be true. But it is, says NPR:

A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke's Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip.

"We're all sort of shattered," she said.

Scott-Heron's influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.

"If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating `hooks,' which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion," he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, "Now and Then."

He referred to his signature mix of percussion, politics and performed poetry as bluesology or Third World music. But then he said it was simply "black music or black American music."

"Because Black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we've come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us," he wrote.

Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," in the 1970s in Harlem. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, initially collaborating with musician Brian Jackson. His most recent album was "I'm New Here," which he began recording in 2007 and was released in 2010.


YOU WANT
to know why Gil Scott-Heron rejected the "godfather of rap" label?

It's because rap could not live up to him, not live up to him, not live up to him not live up to him not live up to him not live up to him. . . .

Rest in peace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Special Man and me


I say, I say, I say . . . I went to see the Special Man. There was a problem.

It is what it is.

Still, I can't get enough of this vintage New Orleans commercial.

Now it's just tone deaf as a cauliflower


I remember those days, fossil that I am.

Those days when Top-40 was king of the radio . . . and on AM. When FM stations were different -- and trying harder.

You know, when "stereo" was a selling point for an FM station.

When people were blind as carrots because there was nothing new on the radio. When people cared that there was nothing new on the radio.

When people said "radio" and not
"Radio???"

YEAH, this 1974 ad for KGOR, taken from the pages of the North Star, Omaha North High School's student newspaper, is rather, er . . . esoteric. That's the point -- radio broadcasting at a time before a station such as KGOR had no selling point other than "Superhits."

That's it.
Superhits. Or, "tone deaf as a cauliflower."

And if you get lucky, there might be a real person behind the microphone, reading liner cards that say "Superhits."

Well, I may be as blind as a carrot, but radio is as dead as a doornail.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Simply '70s: The tornado of '75


Thirty-six years ago this month, it was Omaha's turn to be devastated by a major tornado.

It wasn't a good year. What became known hereabouts as "the tornado of '75" followed by four months (almost to the day) what became known hereabouts as "the blizzard of '75."

Both extreme-weather events became Omaha touchstones for "just about as bad as it gets around here."


ABOVE is a 1985 TV report on the 10th anniversary of the great storm -- the F-4 twister, not the paralyzing blizzard. We'll call that the "short version" of what befell Omaha on May 6, 1975.


THIS IS what we'll refer to as the "long version" of Omaha's tornado horror story, produced back in the day by the City of Omaha.



IF YOU really got into those 16-millimeter Encyclopedia Britannica educational films in grade school and junior high, you'll love this. Lots of useful information, but it's kind of like a filmstrip, only without the "Booong!"



You may be too damned close when. . . .

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


This KFOR-TV storm-chasing crew's first indication it might have been just a little too close to a killer wedge tornado Tuesday came . . . when?

Not only should you not try this at home, you shouldn't try this professionally, either. This is one case when "killer video" almost really was to die for.

As it were.

As this recent outbreak of deadly weather so painfully points out -- again -- you have to have guts to live in Oklahoma. That's not a football insult coming from this Nebraska fan, either.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God help the Midwest

The Storm Prediction Center, a weather service division, said a repeat of the deadly April outbreak across the South could be setting up, with a possible large outbreak on Tuesday and bad weather potentially reaching the East Coast by Friday.

"This is a very serious situation brewing," center director Russell Schneider said.

-- MSNBC

The incredible shrinking god of Harold Camping


Flannery O'Connor -- Southerner, literary great and faithful Catholic -- once wrote to a friend that "these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself."

That would reduce the deity of Family Radio's president, Harold Camping, to something on a subatomic level. You have to go pretty low to be understood by the 0-fer king of apocalyptic prognostication.

Monday was a day for irrationalizing in the Camping camp as the 89-year-old demonstrably false prophet explained that May 21 was a "spiritual" Judgment Day, and that we'll still all be Krispy Kritters come Oct. 21, just as he originally forecast.

Huh? As The Associated Press reporter no doubt discovered, a Camping you understand may well be a cause for alarm:

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God's judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there's no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.

"We've always said May 21 was the day, but we didn't understand altogether the spiritual meaning," he said. "The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven ... if God has saved them they're going to be caught up."

It's not the first time the 89-year-old retired civil engineer has been dismissed by the Christian mainstream and has been forced to explain when his prediction didn't come to pass. Camping also prophesized the Apocalypse would come in 1994, but said later that didn't happen then because of a mathematical error.

Camping's hands shook slightly as he pinned his microphone to his lapel, and as he clutched a worn Bible he spoke in a quivery monotone about listeners' earthly concerns after giving away their possessions in expectation of the Rapture.

Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their possessions, and those who did would cope, Camping said.

"We're not in the business of financial advice," he said. "We're in the business of telling people there's someone who you can maybe talk to, maybe pray to, and that's God."

But he said he wouldn't give away all his possessions ahead of Oct 21.

"I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car," he said. "What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?"

WHILE THE GOD of Harold Camping might be infinitesimal, so as to be understood by your average loony, my God is as big as the universe. (And I don't claim to understand Him. At all.)

And this little piss-ant of a false prophet -- he who has wasted big money and caused such widespread grief for those foolish enough to heed his mad teachings -- is going to have a lot of explaining to do upon his End of Days.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bob Dylan, take us away!


You turn on the news, you read the Internets to see what's goin' on, you get consumed by the hurt and tragedy of this vale of tears . . . and sometimes you just need Bob Dylan to take you the hell away.

Sometimes, you just need to be taken the hell away. Far away.


BOB DYLAN'S BEEN doing that for us -- and also bringing it all back home to shatter our complacency -- for a half-century now. God grant him many more years of doing the same before knocking on heaven's door.

Happy early birthday, Mr. Zimmerman.

Every picture tells a story


If, as it is said, every picture tells a story, the book on what has befallen the small city of Joplin, Mo., will not be one of happy endings -- not anytime soon.

It will read as a tragedy, an almost unspeakable tragedy.

Early reports from the tornado-ravaged city put the death toll at 24. The Joplin Globe says officials fear the death toll will surpass 100, this in a city of just over 49,000. The stories of scores of lives in that corner of southwest Missouri will read as tragedies -- tragedies that climax in terrifying and horrific fashion.

What story does the above photo of St. John's Regional Medical Center tell? A shattered building once filled with the sick, and with doctors and nurses. A crumpled, upended medevac helicopter, tossed into a sea of crumpled cars -- this symbol of mercy and hope turned into one of devastation and mayhem.



WHAT STORY did the camera capture here, amid the rubble, the flames and the newly homeless? How many stories does this one news photo tell?

How great is our illusion -- our human delusion -- that we are in control of anything in this life. Just a day ago, a self-important hack "theologian" in Oakland, Calif., had the world focused on an Apocalypse that never came. On a Rapture that lifted no one unto heaven.

Today, this apocalypse came in an instant, unheralded and unforeseen. The "Rapture," in a real sense, came for many in the twinkling of an eye when hell touched down upon God's country.

Where is Harold Camping and Family Radio now? Can we recover the $100 million a vain and foolish man spent on spreading false prophecy and apply it instead toward God's mercy upon a small city in a far corner of Missouri?

LOOK HERE. What story, this?

All the king's forces and all the king's men . . . reduced to two brave souls, a sole injured one, a salvaged mattress and a commandeered pickup truck?

How a disaster can come so suddenly and be so big as to overwhelm the capability of civil society, or municipal government?

The ingenuity and grace of citizens in the middle of America amid unthinkable horror and unending devastation?

The triumph of the human spirit?

The desperate fight for life?

Every picture tells a story. Some tell several.

A new, horrible chapter in the story of Joplin, Mo., is being written before the camera's eye. May God have mercy on those who climbed out of the rubble . . . and on the souls of those who did not.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Half past the Apocalypse


It's half past the Apocalypse, Omaha time, and apparently we're all still here.

Omaha is strangely intact, and the awful, massive earthquake strangely absent . . . and I'm strangely unraptured. Don't they know it's the end of the world?

It ended in Family Radio's bank account.

Friday, May 20, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Enraptured





While Harold Camping and his Family Radio devotees have been preparing to be caught up to Jesus in the sky today, I've been working on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth, just in case.

I sincerely hope you find the program . . . enrapturing.

And if I'm still around, and you're still around, come Sunday we'll have us some fun.

And if I'm still around, and you're still around, and the Rapture-ready folks aren't anymore come Sunday, next week's edition of the Big Show will be broadcast via the facilities of KYFR, 920 on your AM dial, Shenandoah, Iowa.

Being that Mr. Camping and Family Radio won't have any use of KYFR anymore, we will be returning that frequency to rock 'n' roll for the duration.



I'VE EVEN got a slogan: "Rock around the clock while the world goes to pot." That's because Jimmy Buffett already took "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?"

It's not like we'd have anything to lose, being that eternal doom already awaited.

Anyway, enjoy the show . . . for whatever time we all have left.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there (or not). Aloha.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Simply '70s: Hadacol to a polka beat



Way back in the day, Louisiana had "Coozan Dud" LeBlanc and his Hadacol cureall.

Decades later and 1,000 miles farther north, Omahans had Joe Zweiback and his miracle-making Gera-Speed, with its "28 essential nutritional factors." And not just in itty-bitty amounts, either.

Down the hatch . . . and now back to today's wrestling match. Er . . . "rassling" match.

There's a difference, you know.

Vivian Maier, genius


(And this.)


Lead us not into temptation. . . .


If you want to stop abortion, mind the company you keep.

If you believe homicide in utero is an abomination, a deadly affront to the rights and dignity of the most powerless and vulnerable members of the human race, don't fall in goose-stepping formation behind a man who sees our society as a tug of war between producers and parasites.

Don't take seriously the "faith-based" entreaties of a popinjay provocateur who once proposed voluntary sterilization of welfare recipients to prevent "a small minority of people working to fund and finance everybody else who isn’t working or producing."

And if you value the dignity of human life, live in Louisiana and come upon a "pro-life" rally with state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, at its head touting his bill to outlaw abortion . . . quickly walk the other way. No,
run the other way.

MEANTIME, even though I'm safely in Nebraska, I really need to stop looking at the hometown rag, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, online:

Supporters of LaBruzzo’s bill moved to a terrace garden outside the House side of the State Capitol. Opponents of his measure, many wearing pink, followed.

LaBruzzo climbed atop a planter with Rebecca Kiessling, a lawyer he identified as the person who handled the rewriting of the legislation, to address the crowd of about 50 people.

“This is going on across the country,” said Kiessling, of suburban Detroit.

She is with Personhood USA, a Colorado-based group pushing anti-abortion legislation on the state level.

Kiessling said the U.S. Supreme Court likely will not soon overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that allows abortions. “Let’s recognize the unborn child as a person in a full legal sense,” she said.

LaBruzzo said he welcomed a predicted challenge in court if the legislation is approved by both chambers and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Laura Mullen, of Baton Rouge, was one of several HB587 opponents who took LaBruzzo up on his offer to discuss the issues. When asked about medical implications of banning abortion, LaBruzzo interrupted questioner by saying he was directed by his religious beliefs.

“You’re not discussing it all,” shouted Brett Chance, of Baton Rouge, another opponent.

IF LOUISIANA pro-lifers are "directed" by their religious beliefs, as LaBruzzo claims he is, they have to understand there is a fundamental religious principle they can't escape. One the inheritor of David Duke's House seat can't rewrite like some legislative bill.

It's not complicated, and it goes like this: Satan can't destroy himself. You can't devote your political or philosophical life to evildoing and think you're going to do away with evil. You can't spend your legislative career denying the worth and dignity of "the least of these" -- pushing ill-conceived bill after ill-conceived bill designed to brand some human beings as parasites and deal with them accordingly -- then set your eugenicist self up as some grand defender of human life.

It's like entrusting Satan with the keys to the Kingdom; it would not end well.

Don't believe me, ask Jesus (Mark, Chapter 3):

22
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," 10 and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
23
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan?
24
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25
And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
26
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.
27
But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house."
IF YOU'RE in Louisiana, and you're pro-life -- or even if you're a national pro-life figure and get a call from some piss-ant bayou pol you've likely never heard of before -- listen to me now. It's important.

John LaBruzzo is the devil. And if you hang out with him, Satan is going to plunder your house.


You have been warned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Simply '70s: The Datinator


Once upon a time -- 1973, to be exact -- Arnold Schwarzenegger had to go on television to get women. Now, the women he's gotten land him on television.

Ah, the passage of time.

Two all-beef patties, special snark, lettuce, cheese


If you're a "sweet, sweet man" who's an average-Joe version of Adrian Monk -- albeit one who just happens to have consumed his 25,000th Big Mac -- you know what that makes you today?

"America's saddest man."

No, it must be so. It was on Gawker.

Because, obviously, there's nothing more pathetic than eating two Big Macs a day, just about, for the last 39 years. And nothing stranger than saving the receipts. Or packing a couple for road trips . . . just in case.

There's nothing in the world more worthy of ridicule than that. Not even being Arnold Schwarzenegger.



A WORKING SHMOE who loves him some Big Macs (and is very, very thorough about it) is way sadder than fathering a bastard child -- or is it two? -- during your marriage, then watching your wife and your four legitimate kids squirm in the TV lights after your sins come to haunt them.

Nah, Don Gorske of Fond du Lac, Wis., is the freak here. And it's just like a bunch of rube cheeseheads in flyover country to celebrate a sad, pathetic specimen such as that.

Ergo, let's laugh at the freaks. The laughable freaks, that is, not the heavy-hitter, "serious news" freaks. In a world ruled tag-team style by snark and unseriousness, it's important to keep these things straight.

Except when they're gay.

And you have to admit Mr. Gorske of Fond du Lac, Wis., and all that saturated fat is sooooooo "gay," though not gay. OK?

Don't think about it. Laugh at the freak. This one, not that one.

I admit it; I was about to do the same damned thing -- right in this space. But then I thought about it.

Guess that makes me one up on American media culture, but probably not on Don Gorske of Fond du Lac, Wis., and "sweet, sweet man" status. If ever I ate my 25,000th Big Mac (and there's no chance of that at this late date), I doubt the whole town would come out to celebrate me and my digestive feat.

A few, though, might drop by to wonder "How come that sorry son of a bitch ain't had a heart attack yet?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The iMac and the typewriter should be friends


Hey, steam punks! Watch this!

This isn't just making modern technology look and act old-school; this is the actual fusion of old and new tach tech. The typewriter isn't just an artsy keyboard evacuated of its ortiginal original function . . . its essence.

No, this is all typwwriter typewriter and all keyboard, as well. It's positively theological.

It's also pricey. And being more cheap than intrigued, I'll likely be forgoing this particular tech fusion.



ON THE OTHER HAND, I can see myself squirreling away my pennies (andq and dimes, quarters, 50-cent pieces and dollars) to get me one of these to USBify and hook up to the fambly PC.

You juset just can't beat the combination of heavy metal and hot lead. No siree, Bob.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Casting pearls before Darwin


A week ago, some nihilist in New Orleans wrote the following on Twitter:

"Morganza stays closed, LSU might flood. Morganza opens, oyster beds might die. I know what I'd prefer. Damn, I'm mean.
"

As Lisa Loopner might have said three or so decades ago, "That's so funny, I forgot to laugh."


But it's Louisiana, so you know that the ability to eat fresh oysters is more important than pedestrian fare such as higher education, the economy or even survival itself -- if LSU and Baton Rouge went under the muddy waters, you know New Orleans would, too.
Again.


SO THIS
essay by Ivor van Heerden on the New Orleans news site, The Lens, really didn't surprise, shock, dismay or enrage me at all. And it shouldn't shock you that LSU fired van Heerden more than a year ago amid speculation it feared the professor's criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would cost the university serious federal money.

What LSU didn't see coming was the loss of
lots more state money at the hands of Louisiana politicians, who value just about everything more than higher education.

So consider the following and reflect that natural selection
isn't just a matter of evolutionary biology. It's a matter of anthropology, too.

Denied an annual dose of sedimentation, coastal wetlands are shriveling. Thousands of square miles have been lost, a problem accelerated by the oil industry as it sliced and diced the coast with canals that invite vegetation-killing salt water.

In the last 30 years there have been calls — first by academics and concerned citizens, more recently by politicians — to set the river free … well, parts of it anyway. The idea is to mimic nature and build new land or at least sustain existing land. This is achieved by cutting “diversions” in the levee walls and letting the muddy water spill out over the surrounding wetlands. An alternative is to use siphons that suck water from the river to the lower wetland side. A number of diversions and siphons have been constructed – notably those at Davis Pond, pictured on The Lens’ home page, and Caernarvon – and have been acclaimed as the beginning of the way forward.

A test run with a different purpose in mind was prompted last year when the deepwater blowout in BP’s Macondo tract threatened to invade Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and coat them with oil. Scientists contacted the Governor’s Office and pushed successfully for the continuous operation of all diversions and siphons. The concept was that the lighter fresh water would act to flush out the oily salt water, and there is ample evidence that it had an impact.

Small wonder, then, that Louisiana is begging for the billions that will be needed – from Congress, or perhaps, the eventual settlement with BP – to create vastly more diversions and siphons in a truly serious campaign to rebuild the coast.

The unusually high and dangerous spring floods of 2011 present a glorious opportunity to demonstrate not only the land-building power of re-sedimentation, but our own resolve to get serious about coastal restoration. But are the diversions and siphons wide open? They are shut tight. Why?

It seems there is another power almost as mighty as the Mississippi: the power of special interests in Louisiana politics – in this case the oyster business. It appears to be a force sufficient to scare Baton Rouge into a state of paralysis that must be causing the rest of America to question the sincerity of our lamentations about land loss and coastal erosion. Why give billions more to a state that won’t work with the coastal-restoration infrastructure already in place?

IT TOOK an asteroid to do in the dinosaurs. Apparently, all it takes to doom Louisiana is an oyster . . . and a culture that's too short-sighted and dysfunctional to survive.

You know you're in the Midwest when. . . .


At first glance, you'd think this weekend picture indicates that national book retailers have found it necessary to make certain, uh . . . adjustments to profitably operate in the great American Midwest.

Is what I am saying.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Dark and stormy


Fortunately, this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth is better than the weather around these parts.

Indeed, it was a dark and stormy night.

And -- again, fortunately -- the Big Show this week also is better than Edward Bulwer-Lytton's infamous prose. But on the other hand, this pretty much covers it; just substitute Omaha for London:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
COME TO think of it, scratch the part about "fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps." We've had electricity in these parts for several years now.

Aye, it was a dark and stormy missive your Mighty Favog labored to extract from the well-worn keyboard -- its shift key reduced to a "Sh" key, resisting the repeated demands of the author's right pinky that it peaceably submit.

Yet the show went on, as indeed it had to go on.

Though the watery tempest raged outside the studio, 3 Chords & the Truth was undaunted. The music played, and life went on.

The storms called for unconditional surrender, but the Big Show would not yield.

The music played -- alas! -- and life went on.

AND YOU likely will find it all quite enjoyable. Unlike this purple prose.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

All-American fascism


I just spent a lot of time contemplating this 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning news photo at a Newseum-sponsored exhibition at Omaha's Durham Museum.

I suggest members of today's half-witted, mean-spirited "patriotic" lynch mob at Louisiana State University spend some time as well with this image by Boston Herald American photographer Stanley Forman. It didn't win the 1977 Pulitzer for spot-news photography for nothing.

The context differs between Boston 1976 and LSU 2011. The animating spirit, however, remains the same.

I hate it when my alma mater keeps living down to the 1974 Randy Newman song that so memorably references it.

Go in dumb, come out dumb, too


My first reaction to what happened to a hapless Louisiana State grad student by the name of Benjamin Haas was that someone who was dumb -- or naive -- enough to do what he did, where he did it, pretty much asked for whatever he got.

Which, in Haas' case, was plenty.


What Haas did was threaten to burn an American flag on the LSU parade ground in protest of the treatment of another student -- one arrested and charged with pulling down the Stars and Stripes from a war-memorial flagpole and then burning it. Haas wanted to stand up for "freedom of speech."

That's fine and good, but the problem here wasn't any usurpation of the First Amendment -- the LSU flag burner wasn't arrested for that. The charges involved destruction of public property, arson and theft.

Holier-than-thou "progressive" do-gooders bug me. (And don't get me started on angry, right-wing cranks.) In this case, my annoyance
blinded me.

WHEN The Daily Reveille's story on the protest finally went online today, along with an accompanying video, it became pretty clear that the "hippie" was the least of the problems on the Baton Rouge campus this day. The real problem was a "patriotic" mob purporting to stand up for God, country and "freedom" by doing what mobs do.

Think Little Rock Central High School, 1957.
A jeering crowd swarmed after communication studies graduate student Benjamin Haas on the Parade Ground this afternoon after he outraged many students and community members with an announcement that he planned to burn an American flag.

Though Haas didn't burn the flag as he originally announced yesterday on Facebook, the mob of people tore after Haas until he slipped into a police car and was escorted off campus by police.

Haas did not have the needed permit to burn a flag, which is why an actual flag burning did not take place, according to LSU Media Relations.

After chasing Haas off campus, the group of more than 1,000 straddled Highland Road, shouting a back-and-forth banter of "GO AMERICA" and "GO TIGERS."

"I initially began this flag burning protest to define due process for students and suspected terrorists alike, to call on LSU and universities across the country to defend basic human rights and avoid putting students into the criminal justice system when it can be taken care of internally," the pre-written text of Haas's speech read. "In the name of peace, there will be no flag burning today. This country and the flag that flies over it stands for freedom, democracy, love, peace and the ability to question our government."

Haas attempted to recite his speech a few times, but the crowd cut him off, chanting "U-S-A" as horse-mounted police worked their way through the maze of people, pushing them back and eventually escorting Haas off campus in a police cruiser.

(snip)

Rebecca Favre Lipe, vice president of the Baton Rouge Tea Party, said she was "amazed" at the demonstration of patriotism from attendees.

"We have First Amendment rights, but there's also respect," Lipe said.

People began to gather in Free Speech Plaza around 11 a.m., where Sarah Kirksey and Hunter Hall, communications studies seniors, distributed 134 American flags they bought. As an incensed crowd snaked through Free Speech Plaza, a line of on-lookers watched from the terrace of the Union.

Two women who asked to remain unnamed brought signs reading "Benjamin Haas is a terrorist" and "You hate my flag but love my freedom."

One of the women said she labeled Haas as a terrorist because "anybody that hates America is a terrorist."

IT TAKES ONE to know one. You know?

I still think defending the original flag burner's "free speech" is a poor hill to die upon, but wha
t we saw at LSU today was a shameful, redneck mob more about getting "the hippies" than any genuine display of patriotism.

There were "terrorist" wannabes afoot, but Benjamin Haas, as it turns out, wasn't one of them. Menacing Mobs for Freedom is a circle that cannot be squared.

I may not know much, but I know intimidating unpopular minorities through angry displays and the implicit threat of violence not only isn't "freedom" but actually is the antithesis of it.

If this is how Louisiana's "best and brightest" behave, God help those they will someday lead.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'50s sound: It's a thing of renown


What happens when you play a 1958 pressing of a 1956 LP on a 1955 Webcor record changer? Something like this.

What you see and hear here is the real deal. And it's a lot more fun than an iPod. Or iTunes. Or even an iYiYi.

(Yes, there is such a product.)

The first part of the audio is from the crappy microphone on my Nikon digital camera. Then I fade into the WAV file being recorded of the Les Brown LP on the studio computer. The audio file has been synched to the video.

This is what it really sounds like, folks. I did absolutely nothing to the audio other than adjust the volume.

Compact discs, my foot.


Now sit back, relax and enjoy your visit to the world of 1950s high fidelity. Up next, Les Brown and His Band of Renown with "Meanwhile, Back on the Bus" off of the Capitol Records album "Les Brown's in Town."

And note, please, that hipsters today are paying $28 for 180-gram LPs that fall far short sonically of what was the $2.98 norm in the 1950s and '60s.

Monday, May 09, 2011

A matter of perspective


I'm not sure people "get it" when reports about flooding on the Mississippi River dominate the evening news.

For example, Omaha fought a hellacious battle with the rampaging Missouri River in 1952, and it survived by the skin of its teeth. Many towns didn't.

But the thing is, when you've grown up on the Mississippi River, you have a term for the Mighty Mo: "That little bitty river."

Above, we find, courtesy of Louisiana State University, a shot taken at noon today of the swollen Mississippi where it borders the west end of campus. It's only a few feet from the top of the levee.



THING IS, the levees on the Mississippi in south Louisiana are as big and bad as levees get in the United States.

To give you an idea, the first photo was taken from atop the levee, looking toward the water. The second one is from atop the levee looking the other way.

It's pretty much like taking a picture from the top of a three-story building. And if, say, this particular levee were to fail, the water would stretch as far as the camera can see.

And farther.

Did I mention the Mississippi won't crest for another two weeks at Baton Rouge?

Perspective. It something that's nice to have.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The upside of the End of Days


Look on the bright side: Harold Camping could be right, and we might be raptured before a certain Omaha songwriter and
YouTube maven can compose again.


Son of a bitch.

The Tribulation has started ahead of schedule, and there may be no saving us now.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The House of Hi-Fi . . . today


Sigh. Today, what was the House of Hi-Fi is now Omaha's house of anti hi-fi.

Obviously, I was born too late . . . and not in Omaha.

Still, Google Maps is an amazing tool for taking what was and seeing what now is. Now if I can just manage to step inside that 1964 edition of
Billboard like a hot-tub time machine, I could do some serious shopping.

And were "ifs" and "buts" lots of fruits and nuts . . . oh, what a feast we'd have!

Good night, House of Hi-Fi, wherever you are.