Friday, June 29, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: BOOM!


Pop! went the firecracker.

Fffffffft! went the bottle rocket.

BOOM! went the stuff that draws the cops.

It's the weekend before the Fourth of July, and this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth is a blast, too. Only it won't attract cops like cow patties attract flies. Unless, of course, good music is illegal where you live.

In that case, you're hosed.

The Big Show compromises on music for no jurisdiction.


NOW, y'all go on and enjoy the program. I'm gonna see how much I can blow up good without attracting the long arm of the law. Then again, maybe I can blow off the long arm of the law.

Because that's how we celebrate America's birthday. We always have been a violent, rebellious lot.

Go on. Get! Go listen to the Big Show! It's extra-special good for the Fourth. Go on now! I got my fireworks to tend to.

Hey, y'all! Watch THIS!

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Alo . . . BOOM!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stones @ 50: The logo


Wheeee! The Rolling Stones have been together 50 years . . . and they have the uber-hip Shepard Fairey logo to prove it!

Actually, as are many things in life, this is a gross oversimplification.

If we want to be strictly accurate, 2012 marks the 34th anniversary of the Rolling Stones becoming a parody of themselves in their 16th-anniversary year.

'Without a doubt . . .' karma's a bitch


Boy, oh, boy, did
CNN blow it on the Supreme Court's ruling on the health-care reform law.

I consider this -- along with the cable network's collapsing prime-time ratings -- to totally validate the concept of karma. The universe could have forgiven one Anderson Cooper-Kathy Griffin pairing on New Year's Eve, but not two. And especially not annual ones.

"But without a doubt, the individual mandate, which has been the polarizing centerpiece of the political and policy debate over health care, the justices throwing that out is a direct blow to the president of the United States," said CNN's John King, "a direct blow to his Democratic Party, and this is a victory, if you will, for conservatives."

NOTE: NSFW language at video's end

And karma, as we all know, is a bitch.

"Wow, that's a dramatic moment," to quote Wolf Blitzer as he enthused on hearing the initial, horribly wrong word from reporter Kate Bolduan.

Oh . . .
Fox News Channel got it spectacularly wrong this morning, too. Karma has been busy.

Be good, people. Is what I'm saying.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The sound of bullshit


I'm sure you're familiar with Potter Stewart's concurring opinion on a 1964 pornography case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sure, you remember. Stewart wrote, in Jacobelis v. Ohio, about an explicit French film that had been deemed obscene in Ohio and its exhibitor fined $2,500:

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."
Similarly, I think we all know bullshit when we see it. Particularly, we know it when we smell it. But do you know bullshit when you hear it?

Like Justice Stewart, I might never intelligibly define bullshit -- the figurative kind that assaults truth, as opposed to the literal bovine kind -- in all the fullness of its being. But I know it when I hear it, and I just hope the Gambit writer wore his cowboy boots when he covered an appearance by NOLA Media Group head Ricky Mathews and NOLA.com editor James O'Byrne at a New Orleans tech gathering last week:

Word of the digital plan had leaked out before the paper had planned to announce it (ironically, in digital form -- a blog item by The New York Times’ David Carr), and O’Byrne and Mathews were still batting cleanup, trying to get hold of what Mathews called “the master narrative.” Despite the civic shock, Mathews said, the NOLA Media Group had known all along that cutting back The Times-Picayune would be a tough sell in a traditional (if not hidebound) city that loves its institutions -- even if it doesn’t always support them.

“We could have had this play out exactly the way we wanted to, which is announce a new company and talk to your employees simultaneously, and we’d still be in the same spot -- with a really visceral reaction from the community,” Mathews said. “The way to change that is to be talking. I’ve been talking till I don’t have a voice any more, explaining to people what we’re doing.”

(None of that talking has been done in The Times-Picayune newsroom, where 48 percent of the employees were given severance papers last week; 200 people from around the company are being let go. Mathews and O’Byrne have yet to address the staff in person, though Mathews said he had met recently with Mayor Mitch Landrieu for “about three hours, and he [Landrieu] got it immediately.”)

[UPDATE, June 21, 1:15 pm: A source in the mayor's office said the office "wouldn't characterize the meeting in those terms, either in the amount of time spent or in the mayor's takeaway (from the meeting)."]

“This is an entrepreneurial effort on our part,” O’Byrne told the New Orleans tech group, which was enjoying light hors d’oeuvres and complimentary craft cocktails by mixologist Alan Walter. “Because of the leaks that happened in The New York Times, we lost control of the narrative, and for two weeks we really had to focus all our efforts on what we had to do as a company [which] was to tell all our employees where they stood.

“I know that the layoff at The Times-Picayune seems significant,” O’Byrne added, “but it’s important to realize that we’re advertising for about 50 people in the new digital company. So you end up in a space where you’re going from about 165 down to 140. But you’re eliminating four days a week of print, and a lot of that labor existed to get that seven-day-a-week product.”
HAD ENOUGH? No? Well, you little masochist, you!
“We’re going to create a Google-Nike kind-of-vibe work environment,” Mathews told the group. “It’s our goal to create a world-class digital work environment for the journalists who are going to work for us, because we can attract the best and brightest from around the country. They’re going to want to come to New Orleans when the real story starts to get told. … We’re going to be a cutting-edge new media company with a print component that is still extraordinarily powerful. That’s our goal. So that narrative’s not been fully told yet; it will get told. You don’t tell it by being defensive, you do it by doing it.”

Mathews also addressed the issue of broadband access, which is not as widespread in New Orleans as other cities and has raised concerns over who will be able to get the new digitally focused paper. “New Orleans is quite a wired community, but there are certain parts of the community that are not wired,” he said. “So we’re going to invest money working with the Knight Foundation to begin to make a dent in it.”
OH, BROTHER.

“We’re going to create a Google-Nike kind-of-vibe work environment”? Really? When somebody says something like that, it can't NOT be bullshit. That's such a red-light indicator of the presence of bullshit that mere language loses it power in its presence.











See, I told you. My mouth is still agape and, obviously, so is my keyboard.

These people are just making this stuff up. It's the inverse of what people tell bums panhandling downtown -- no, I don't happen to have any cash on me right now. Dang.

Instead, Mathews and O'Byrne are out there trying to convince Crescent City techies that they're loaded when, in reality, they got nothin'. My God, it's like a couple of frat boys desperate to get laid. They'll say any damn thing, so long as it sounds good and halfway plausible. They'll make stuff up.

Unfortunately, the mass firing of Times-Picayune staffers, they didn't make up.

Perhaps they'll sleep a little better in the long months ahead knowing it wasn't the economy . . . or the death of newspapers . . . or random fate that did them in and will leave their city with
"three Sunday newspapers a week" . . . and a crappy website. No, it's because -- Pulitzer prizes notwithstanding -- they're just not among "the best and the brightest from around the country."

The sort of folk worthy of
"a Google-Nike kind-of-vibe work environment."

Swoosh, y'all.

DISCLOSURE: I went to college with James O'Byrne at LSU, where we worked together on The Daily Reveille in 1981. I'll just say that I don't envy him, and that life do throw some mean-ass curveballs at people as time goes by.

'The New York Times killed me'


When New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid died while clandestinely in Syria this past February, the hagiography passed for the official version of events.

Brave reporter sneaks into repressive state to document Bashir Assad's massacres, dies of acute asthma attack.

Read all about it in the
Times.
Jill Abramson, the executive editor, informed the newspaper’s staff Thursday evening in an e-mail. “Anthony died as he lived — determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces,” she wrote.

The assignment in Syria, which Mr. Shadid arranged through a network of smugglers, was fraught with dangers, not the least of which was discovery by the pro-government authorities in Syria. The journey into the country required both Mr. Shadid and Mr. Hicks to travel at night to a mountainous border area in Turkey adjoining Syria’s Idlib Province, where the demarcation line is a barbed-wire fence. Mr. Hicks said they squeezed through the fence’s lower portion by pulling the wires apart, and guides on horseback met them on the other side. It was on that first night, Mr. Hicks said, that Mr. Shadid suffered an initial bout of asthma, apparently set off by an allergy to the horses, but he recovered after resting.

On the way out a week later, however, Mr. Shadid suffered a more severe attack — again apparently set off by proximity to the horses of the guides, Mr. Hicks said, as they were walking toward the border. Short of breath, Mr. Shadid leaned against a rock with both hands.

“I stood next to him and asked if he was O.K., and then he collapsed,” Mr. Hicks said. “He was not conscious and his breathing was very faint and very shallow.” After a few minutes, he said, “I could see he was no longer breathing.”

Mr. Hicks said he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 30 minutes but was unable to revive Mr. Shadid.
IT'S KIND of like The Washington Post of All the President's Men -- only dirtier, dangerouser, and with an Arabic soundtrack.

Not.

So now the Pulitzer-winning reporter's cousin has come out with a different story about the story. It sounds less like Ben Bradlee's
Post -- as interpreted by Jason Robards, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman -- and more like The Office. With Steve Carrell as Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., fame.

Reports Politico:
"The phone call the night before he left [Turkey for Syria], there was screaming and slamming on the phone in discussions with editors," Ed Shadid, a cousin to the late reporter, said last night at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's convention in Washington, D.C.

"It was at this time that he called his wife and gave his last haunting directive that if anything happens to me I want the world to know the New York Times killed me," Ed Shadid said.

A spokesperson with the ADC confirmed those remarks to POLITICO, which were first made available in a rush transcript provided by ADC member William Youmans, who attended the event. Other attendees also tweeted the remark last night, noting the audience's surprise at Ed Shadid's statements.


(snip)

In his conversation with editors, Anthony Shadid is said to have complained about logistical issues regarding his transfer into Syria. Ed Shadid also told the audience that his cousin was suffering from health issues prior to his entry into Syria. Anthony Shadid died from an acute asthma attack on February 16.
DR. EDWARD SHADID'S audience at the ADC gala was shocked, shocked.

They oughtn't have been. The nation's newspapers are populated by humans, not superheroes, and they can be derailed by a lot less than Kryptonite.
Take mathematics, for example.

And the
Times is a lot more like The Office than you -- or they -- would like to think. Your local paper is probably even more Office-ier than that, and it's full of Michael Scotts.

That's life, into which --
like the rain -- the posturers, the excessively ambitious, the unimaginative and the incompetent must occasionally fall. It's not like the movies, and it's not at all the way journalism evangelists spin their own story.

Only sometimes lives hang in the balance. And sometimes journalists die because Robert Redford plans are hatched with Dunder Mifflin forethought.

Don't misunderstand. Journalism is a noble profession, and newspapers
(still) are invaluable resources that grease the gears of a modern democratic society. This despite journalists propensity toward epistemological closure, to bandy about a favored catchphrase for our postmodern times.

In other words, believing your own PR
(and discounting others') can be hazardous not only to your worldview, but also to your health. You're not Robert Redford. Your editor is not Jason Robards. You work in something that looks more like an accounting office than it does The Front Page . . . or Lou Grant.

But the guy in the cubicle next door just might be Rainn Wilson.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The pride of Counciltucky

The Stupid One

When eugenicists talk, this is why people listen.

From the
Any F***ing Imbecile Can Procreate section of the
Omaha World-Herald:
A Council Bluffs mother is in jail, accused of leaving her baby alone in a van, with the doors unlocked, while she went to the supermarket Monday evening.

A passer-by reported hearing a baby in a vehicle about 7:20 p.m. near the SuperSaver parking lot, according to the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Jeff Danker said deputies found the vehicle's windows cracked about 4 inches and the doors unlocked.

The baby girl inside was crying and sweating, so deputies put the child in their vehicle to cool off.

Danker said deputies estimated the baby was alone in the vehicle for 25 to 30 minutes.

The baby's mother told deputies that she ran inside the store for cash and tomatoes for dinner, then forgot the baby was in the van. She also couldn't remember the baby's middle name, calling the child “the new one” a few times, Danker said.
YOU KNOW what the really sad thing is here? The cops believe the woman really is "the new one's" mother.

Unfortunately, there's probably a decent reason we call the Iowa city across the Missouri River "Counciltucky." And even if there isn't, mouth-breathers like Tiffany Tunney (thanks to Channel 7 for putting a name and a mugshot to this story), are doing a great job of confirming Omahans in their prejudices.


Lord have mercy, because right now, I got nothing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

View from my personal space

At the last day of the College World Series.















Good night . . . and have a pleasant tomorrow.
In South Carolina, your mileage may vary.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Madea for bus monitor!


You know who we need to be a junior-high bus monitor? Madea.

Surely, there must be some real-life approximations of Mabel "Madea" Simmons who can be tasked with straightening out America's feral youth. Give the newly minted monitors a school-bus version of a 007 license so the po-po will leave them the hell alone to do what needs to be done.

Can I get a witness, y'all?

Dear God. There was more out there.


I told you so.

Here.

Now here are some details of a brand-new, court-released stash of a former Iowa school superintendent's naughty
(and quite public, as it turns out) emails can be found here. A sampling from the Des Moines Register:

The 115 emails, sent from March 13 to May 8, were released Friday afternoon to The Des Moines Register and other media that had requested them under the state’s open records law.

The discovery of the personal exchanges, 43 of which dealt with sex, came to light after open records requests seeking information about Sebring’s sudden exit from the Des Moines district. Some emails were released May 29; Sebring sought an injunction blocking the release of the additional emails.

Sending personal emails or sexually explicit materials on school equipment violates Des Moines district policies.

District Judge Robert Hanson’s ruling on Friday said that Sebring’s argument that “purely personal communications” aren’t matters of public interest “indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the public interest is.”

Hanson also refused a request by Sebring’s former lover, who is married and is in the military, to shield his name from being disclosed. The man had sought protection under a portion of Iowa law that Hanson said was intended to protect whistle-blowing communications from outsiders with state government.

“First, common sense dictates that communications that should not have been occurring in the first place — personal communications using the school district’s computer equipment and email system, in violation of written school district policy — would not be protected from disclosure,” the judge ruled.

(snip)

Sebring had been in line to become the leader of the Omaha school district, Nebraska’s largest district. However, she resigned from that job on June 2 after the emails surfaced.

Of the 115 emails released Friday, 26 were sexually explicit, while another 17 included references to sex acts or sexually explicit photos.

Although Sebring, who is married, has said the affair didn’t interfere with her district duties, the emails indicate the conversations spanned the clock on some workdays. One message, sent at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, was nearly 700 words. The emails also indicate that the two met at least twice during working hours.

The man, in one email exchange, cautioned Sebring to be careful about not revealing their relationship.

“You are a public figure … and I’m in the military. I will ensure you that our close friendship remains a quiet … close friendship,” he wrote on April 24. “This means that every test, email, picture… anything will be gone the minute I am done reading it.”

He also told Sebring that he would be “cautious” not to reveal their relationship, adding “…and I expect the same from you.”
OOPS. Her bad.

The debt Omaha owes the Register for exposing this stuff -- and what a reckless flake its almost-superintendent turned out to be -- is, to say the least, enormous.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The feral youth of Bus 784


Here's what I think of this Not Safe for Work video that's gone viral around the world, thanks to YouTube.

Here's what I think of little smart-ass, bullying seventh-grade s***s who pick on a 68-year-old grandma, who also happens to be the monitor on Bus 784 in Greece, N.Y.

Here's what I think. Here goes.

Do you remember those little bitty baseball bats common back in the day?

In my youth in the segregated South, they had a common name (common in every sense of the word) I shall not repeat, but I suspect sons and daughters of the Deep South know exactly what I'm talking about.


ANYWAY, this is why God invented those. (And your old man's thin leather belt.) I suspect just nearly connecting with one of the little darlings with a billy club-size Louisville Slugger would have been sufficient to put the fear -- if not of God -- of serious bodily harm into their profoundly undeveloped little brains.

Unfortunately, if the poor woman had done what most any adult would have done when I was a kid, she would have been arrested, and then she would have been sued into pauperism by the wolves who obviously have been "raising" these little monsters. That's because brats like that don't come from nowhere.

There is almost no reason sufficient to administer a serious ass-whipping to a child. Almost. But this is a damn good one.

This kind of behavior toward a senior citizen by a child used to be unthinkable, especially in the South of my youth, unless you were talking about a serious juvenile delinquent who'd be penitentiary bound soon enough. There were reasons for that.

Someone needs to exercise "the nuclear option" against the whole lot of these feral youth on that bus. Now.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I miss spandex


Yeah! Yeah!

Und guten Abend.


HAT TIP: Rod Dreher

It must have been the 'secret sauce'

Bad things happen when swamp people get not-so-secret sauced on some resort barroom's high-octane "goo-goo juice."

Ask "Trapper Joe," who found out the hard way that while Louisiana alligators might be marginally meaner than Florida cops, they ultimately lack the power to throw your ass in jail.

Which is where your ass is going to end up when your drunk girlfriend tells Orange County lawmen your drunk self assaulted and battered her, says the
TMZ website, which in this case must stand for Too Many Zombies:

Trapper Joe -- real name Noces Joseph LaFont Jr. -- was arrested for assault and battery in Orange County, Florida early Wednesday morning.

According to the arrest report, a witness told police Trapper Joe and his GF were arguing at the Buena Vista Hotel and Spa just after midnight ... and both appeared very drunk.

The witness claims he watched Joe punch the woman in the chest ... and then grab her by the arms and shake her very hard.

The GF told police Joe had received a call on his cell phone ... and she wanted to know who was calling ... but when she reached for his phone, he tried to burn her with a lit cigarette.
I'M SURPRISED they both didn't burst into flames, actually.

Well, at least the Florida cops didn't choot 'em. That's somethin', at least.

How I learned to stop worrying
and love my enormous testicles

Wesley Warren Jr., last year

Fame must be a little like meth.

People will do anything for another hit. Or not do anything, as the case may be.

Take, for example, the poor soul in Las Vegas who now is so hooked on his notoriety that he's turned down the offer of a free million-dollar surgery to right-size the source of that notoriety -- his person-sized testicles.

The man has to go through life wearing enormous hoodies as if they were pants, because that's the only thing into which he can stuff his junk. He also has to go through life peeing on himself because . . . well, he can't find it buried deep within all that.

Then there's all the stuff you
can't do when you have a 100-pound scrotum.

So, whatever the risks -- and there are a couple -- you'd think accepting the offer of free surgery to fix what ails you would be a no-brainer. Unless accepting the offer from the Dr. Oz show meant it got exclusive rights to your story.

And what if getting rid of 99 percent of your enormous testicles -- getting to the point where people never mind your bollocks -- meant that people would never mind you, either?

Wesley Warren Jr., this month on Tosh.O . . . in the video
I can show.
(Skip to 4:45 in the video.) In the other clip,
Warren drops hoodie and shows "it."

Paul Harasim at the Las Vegas Review-Journal has been chronicling the strange, strange case of Wesley Warren Jr., and his large, large balls. Here's the latest:
The late President Lyndon Johnson used to relish doing in-person interviews with reporters while moving his bowels. Wesley Warren Jr., he of the 100-pound scrotum, loved being interviewed last week while sprawled bare-assed across his bed.

Yet Warren, unlike Johnson, swears he was "just being comfortable," that he wasn't deriving a twisted sense of power from watching a journalist try to act like nothing is strange as he is deliberately cast into an awkward situation.

"Write that I have clean butt cheeks," Warren said, laughing in a follow-up phone interview.

Uninspected butt cheeks aside, Warren laughed often as we talked in his small Las Vegas apartment, and he said his scrotum, partially encased in a towel, "grew another three inches."
I WONDER whether he charts its growth with pencil marks on the doorjamb, just like the proud parent of a similarly sized child.

But celebrity -- even the strangest manifestation of it -- is a narcotic, and you got to get that next fix. Ordinary junkies and meth heads do mundane things in the name of getting high, like stealing from family or selling their bodies to strangers.

Fame addicts do other things. Ultimately, they develop a Stockholm syndrome kind of relationship with the genesis of their notoriety, the thing that's holding them hostage.

No debasement is too much, no testicle joke too demeaning if it prolongs the buzz. Even if the world is laughing at you instead of crying with you, the world still is acknowledging that you exist.

Oh, joy.
A "Tosh.0" video also showed a skateboarder appearing to get knocked down when he ran into Warren's scrotum.

"It was fun going to Los Angeles in the big van they sent for me," Warren said, grinning.

The Wesley Warren of today does not act like the somber Wesley Warren I interviewed last fall.

Rather than on the edge of tears, he's seemingly enjoying his celebrity. He reminds you he'll soon appear on The Learning Channel and that Fire Cracker Films of Great Britain signed him to a contract for a documentary.

An indication that Warren's interest in celebrity could interfere with repairing his condition seemed to arise soon after my first story appeared. Producers from "The Dr. Oz Show" called to say Dr. Mehmet Oz had read the piece and would find the best surgeons possible to help Warren at no cost to him.

Yet Warren balked. While fearful he might die on the operating table during the highly complicated surgery, he also said he did not like the fact that Dr. Oz wanted to confine all interviews to his show.

"Howard Stern (the radio shock jock) wants me on his show," he said.

But Warren grows angry if anyone suggests he wants the spotlight more than the corrective knife.

"Who would want to live like this?" he said. "I just don't want to die during the operation."
TOO LATE. Warren died when he answered that first phone call from a Hollywood TV producer.

The Man With the Mammoth Balls, who's filling the late Wesley Warren Jr.'s upside down XXXL hoodie, is going to ride his bollocks as far as they'll carry him. Maybe even to
The Howard Stern Show.

Again.

In today's America, it's always better to be The Man With the Mammoth Balls than to be nobody at all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

View from my seat


This is the world, as seen from my seat at the College World Series tonight.

Didya ever wonder what a baseball game looked like through a plastic Diet Pepsi bottle, man? I did. Now I know.


Didya ever notice that kids are interested in pretty much everything except the ballgame?


Yep. Game still kid-boring.


Didya ever wonder about those shoes hanging over your head? Like, wouldn't it be bad if that dude just walked through pee, and his shoes are hanging over the ledge above your head?

You gotta think about these things, man!


At least someone's watching Florida State take out UCLA.


Dude! It's great when the people in front of you go home.

And for what it's worth, Mrs. Favog is an atheistic, Bolshevik communiss. She does not stand for the seventh-inning stretch, and she does not sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

No peanuts for you! No Cracker Jack!

The end.

Celebrities: They're not like you and me

New York Daily News

Is it just me, or do we now put people on TV and in the movies -- and in pro sports and on the radio -- who in earlier days more likely would have been put in jail or in insane asylums for the public (and their own) good?

I think it's now pretty safe to say that Alec Baldwin is a taco or two shy of a combination plate, and that the last place he needs to be is on the big screen at your local megaplex . . . or on the smaller one in your family room. I think it's also pretty safe to say that photographers for the New York Daily News may have signed on for a lot of things, but that orderly on the lockdown floor of the Ha Ha Hotel wasn't one of them.

At least on the lockdown floor, orderlies get to put straitjackets on angry folk who prove a danger to themselves and others.

Behold, Alec Baldwin! One of the people driving our popular culture.

That explains a lot, actually.



P.S.: Baldwin had just gotten a marriage license when he went all Muhammad Ali on the photogs. When Mrs. Favog and I obtained ours 29 years ago, I seem to recall being a lot happier than that.

If anything, I would have given the shutterbugs a hug . . . not a right cross to the chin.

If Louisiana were capable of shame . . .


. . . the following "fun" fact would do it.

But it's not.

C'est la vie.

SO, WE'LL just have to let J.R. Ball of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report be ashamed . . . verklempt . . . mortified on its behalf.

Here's a fact that should make anyone who breathes the contaminated air in this state shudder: Haiti commits a greater percentage of its budget (13%) to higher education than Louisiana (11%).

That's right, the government of a third-world, impoverished nation still struggling to recover from a massive earthquake in 2010 invests more, on a percentage basis, in higher education than the government of Louisiana. That would be the same Louisiana that supposedly is in year five of the eight-year Louisiana miracle.

For those conditioned to respond to such dismal news by saying, “Well, at least we're not Mississippi,” consider that the Magnolia State commits 17.7% of its state budget to higher education, nearly 7 percentage points more than the Bayou State.

So pardon me if my reaction to the just-concluded regular legislative session is a bit more muted than that of those celebrating the “historic” reforms that were approved by Gov. Bobby Jindal and friends. No doubt it was a great session for those demanding reform of K-12 education, but it was another dismal one for higher education. It's gotten so bad that we're forced to celebrate a cut of just $66 million because it could have been as much as $225 million. Yet, remember, higher education must also cut $25 million between now and the end of the month, for a total hit this session of $91 million.

If you are keeping score at home, that's $451 million in budget cuts to higher education since the Jindal administration took office. Moreover, the administration -- thanks to gutless special interest legislators—is now oh-fer-two in its attempts to merge a struggling four-year institution with another university, including one involving Southern University at New Orleans, recently rated as the worst-performing university in America.
FOR YEARS, every time the wife and I head down to Louisiana for a visit, we have commented on the ongoing "Port-au-Princification" of vast swaths of my hometown, Baton Rouge. This refers to how what was nice-to-average now just has become shabby and vaguely Third Worldish.

And now I'll be damned if Louisiana won't even allow me to use ever-so-modest hyperbole to illustrate a bloody point. No, it insists on seeing my dramatic license and raising me a
"WHAT THE Fµ¢#???!!!"

Alas, beating your head against the reinforced-concrete wall of the Gret Stet's cultural and political dysfunction is the height of futility. Unfortunately for Ball, someone's got to do it.

Sigh.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 Chords & the Truth: It's a mess


This week's program is a mess.

I mean, it's all over the place musically. Oh, I know
3 Chords & the Truth always is all over the place musically, but that's just your everyday, standard, all-over-the-place musical eclecticism.

What we're talking here is real chaos. Lucky for me I enjoy chaos. And in the case of this week's Big Show, I'm betting you will, too.

Let me put it this way: When did you have the most fun when you were a kid?

THAT'S RIGHT -- when you were making a mess. This week's show is one of those fun messes. That's really all I have to say about it.

I'm tired, it's the weekend, and I plan on heading to the College World Series. If you can sneak me a beer into TD Ameritrade Park here in Omaha on Sunday afternoon -- thereby giving the fickle finger of fate to the NCAA control freaks . . . aka "those g**damn Nazi bastards," as LSU basketball legend Dale Brown once famously tagged them -- I'll let you do the Big Show and play anything you want.

Except for Tibetan throat singing. You have to draw the line somewhere.

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

40,800 B.K. -- Before Kilroy


We existed.

We were here, where you are now.

We lived. We struggled. We loved. We are no more.

This is my hand. I am --
we were -- human like you.

Do not forget us.

BEHOLD the power of art -- the expression of common humanity -- engaging us, challenging us from some prehistoric terra incognita that modern-day Spain now occupies. It's amazing what one can say with a simple handprint, amazing what a powerful symbol of humanity it is.

Especially when it's at least 40,800 years old -- the oldest cave paintings known to exist. Especially when it's possible, perhaps even likely, the art was created by Neanderthals.

Michelangelo famously depicted God giving Adam life -- giving Adam everything that made him truly human -- with the touch of His finger, reaching out to pour Himself into man . . . through Adam's own finger.

Is it far-fetched to think of those handprints from the mist of prehistory in a similar way? That prehistoric man, perhaps even one of an extinct branch of our own human species, put an outline of his own hand onto a cave wall so that those who came after might press their own hands into his own,
and therefore he might live on somehow?

I'd like to think that. I'd like to think we'd look at the wonder of a simple outline of a hand, one that predates the birth of Christ by at least 38,800 years, and realize that even the humblest things -- the simplest child's art, even -- is fraught with meaning. That they connect us in ways that we realize . . . and even more that we don't.

Prehistoric man could not have begun to imagine our world -- the postmodern world of 2012. But there he is, nevertheless, trying to touch us. Impart some of who he was -- that he was -- to us, either his distant descendants or the long-distant kissing cousins he would never know.

I wonder whatever our generation leaves behind for whatever, and whoever, may follow will say as much as a simple handprint. I wonder what Future Man -- if he were to find a 2012 handprint on a wall fragment amid the ruins of some long-buried, long-forgotten North American metropolis -- will think of it.

What might he think of the primitives who left behind such a thing?

Hello in there. Hello.

Adventures in speling


Unless, of course, the incident at the New York hospital somehow involved tequila, salt and lime wedges. . . .

No, probably not.

Jeez, that's one word you'd think everyone in New Orleans knew how to spell.

A message from the It Had to Be Said department


Are we going to have to require people to get a permit -- with mandatory video-safety certification as a prerequisite -- before they can legally purchase or use a cell-phone camera or digital SLR? Probably.

Where's Michael Bloomberg when we
really need him?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ricky Mathews shot Tupac, too

I'm usually not one to post NSFW gangsta rap
videos, but this was too delish to pass up



New Orleans' alternative weekly, Gambit, has been indispensable reading -- especially the past three weeks.

Here's a gem from its
Blog of New Orleans today, sticking it to the shameless corporate hacks -- Advance Publications hatchet man (and incoming Nola Media Group publisher) Ricky Mathews, for instance -- presently nosediving the city's venerable daily newspaper straight into the Gulf of Mexico:
At this hour, NOLA.com is fronting a major journalism award it has received for its recent 8-part series "Louisiana INCarcerated," which spotlighted conditions and financial incentives in the state's Byzantine, for-profit prison system:
A team of Times-Picayune reporters was awarded the June "Sidney" award, a monthly journalism prize given out by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, for the newspaper's recent eight-part special report on Louisiana's highest-in-the-world incarceration rate.

The series, "Louisiana Incarcerated," was reported by Cindy Chang, Jan Moller, Jonathan Tilove and John Simerman. It spotlighted how rigid sentencing laws and a strict pardon and parole system conspire to keep the jails full.
Not mentioned in the NOLA.com story: the contributions of photographer Scott Threlkeld, graphics artist Ryan Smith, copy editor Katherine Hart, designer George Berke and managing editors Dan Shea and Peter Kovacs, all of whom were fired from the paper yesterday by the newly formed NOLA Media Group.

Tilove was also fired. Special sections reporter Chang, whose byline appeared over most of the stories, has been offered a job in the general reporting pool.
HEY, if you're shameless enough to do what ownership is doing to The Times-Picayune and its staff, you certainly are shameless enough to exploit, for promotional purposes, the people you just fired or demoted.

Ukfay ouyay, ouyay uckingfay ucksfay.

If you can fake being sincerely annoying. . . .


Oh, thank God.

The people on House Hunters aren't that priggish, superficial and annoying all by themselves. That's just who they play on TV. Just like they're playing at actually looking for a house.

Because the HGTV "reality" series is a great big ol' fake. We heard the news today -- oh, boy!


Er . . . I mean, Yahoo!

The blog Hooked on Houses is giving fans a dose of reality about the HGTV series "House Hunters." According to an interview with a former participant, Bobi Jensen, much of the popular show, which has been on the air since 1999, is faked.

The premise of 'House Hunters' is that viewers follow a buyer as they anxiously decide between three different houses. Jensen says that, in fact, one house has already been purchased--the producers wouldn't even finalize her as a subject until after the closing. "When I watch other episodes of the show now I can usually pick out the house they were getting based on hair-dos alone," says Jensen. Houses are sometimes shot months apart. While the two rejected properties may be on the market, in Jensen's case, "They were just our two friends' houses who were nice enough to madly clean for days in preparation for the cameras!"

A former subject of the spin-off "House Hunters International" confirms that one house on the program has already been bought before filming begins. Ted Prosser, who did his real estate search in the Virgin Islands, said in an interview with a St. John blog: "The show is not really a reality show. You have to already own the house that gets picked at the end of the show. But the other houses in [my] show are actually the other houses we considered buying."

Hooked on Houses originally busted the program for using houses already in escrow in 2010, but now they are providing more dirt about other phony details. Jensen says producers tweaked her storyline to make it more TV-friendly. "The producers said they found our (true) story--that we were getting a bigger house and turning our other one into a rental--boring and overdone." Instead they had Jensen emphasize that their old home was too small, something that she claims makes her "cringe" with embarrassment when she watches the episode.
I GUESS at HGTV, if you can fake insufferable, you've got it made. Such is life in this land of bread and circuses.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hell, no, we ain't all right!


Long before anyone busted the first rhyme, put on the first piece of bling or intentionally tried to walk down the street with his pants moving south and his drawers creeping north, my old man invented rap on the back patio of our house in blue-collar Baton Rouge.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

All it took for the old man to go old school (before it was even the new wave), was a wayward hammer head on his thumb and not the nail. Or a balky lawnmower engine. Or a balky dog.

Oftentimes, it was a balky teenager of my intimate acquaintance.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! Gotdamn sonofabitch, c********* bastard!

Though he little realized it, the old man was a human beatbox in coveralls -- as blue as 2 Live Crew, with a purple thumbnail to boot. If only he'd had his own personal DJ to punctuate his raptastic freestyles with some mad scratching and killer mixes.

Eh . . . he would have told him to "cut that goddamn shit off" right in the middle of a performance.

BUT THIS ISN'T about my old man, though I am my father's son -- which pretty much scares the holy living hell out of my wife. No, this is about the carnage at New Orleans' newspaper, The Times-Picayune.

It wasn't the work of a madman, but it was close. It was the work of a bunch of executives at corporate who left not bodies strewn across the newsroom floor, but instead careers.

By the end of the day Tuesday, 201 employees of the
Picayune had been told that come Sept. 30, they would be shit out of luck -- not to mention shit out of a job. Of the 201 people getting the old heave-ho, which I think we're supposed to call "right-sizing" now, 84 came from the newsroom.

Firing 84 out of 173 newsroom employees, if we do the math, comes to 49 percent of the people actually responsible for covering the news that south Louisianians need to read. That's how Advance Publications makes sure that "essential journalism" endures in this star-crossed American city in direst need of it.

That's how cheap men in expensive suits "continue our 175-year commitment to covering the communities we serve."

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

Thus goes the first act of a newspaper company transitioning to the "digital future" -- firing half the people who "cover the communities we serve." Trading a seven-day print schedule for a three-day one. Shifting the lions' share of the "news coverage" to the paper's really, really bad website. Letting the vast majority of the newsroom layoffs fall upon the news and business sections.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

MEANTIME, one might be curious about where this "bold move" into newspapers' digital future will take place.

Nothing notable, just your average midsize city more murderous than "pre-surge" Baghdad that also happens to be Latin American corrupt, Latin American uneducated and absolutely Latin American poor. With a small ruling coterie of Latin American-rich types who got that way either through business or genetics.

Also, the digital strategy is aimed at a city where lots and lots of people have no broadband service -- New Orleans has just a 40- to 60-percent subscription rate for Internet service fast enough to fully access a multimedia website. For the poorest areas of town -- which are mostly all-black -- the subscription rates hover somewhere between zero and 40 percent.

It seems to me that it's one thing to argue that most poor folks don't subscribe to the paper, but quite another to, for profit's sake, raise the bar higher and higher to even aspire to be an informed citizen. Like this Harvard professor, one wonders exactly when did we cross the line between having a market economy and becoming a market society -- one where everything has a price.

Even those things that oughtn't.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

By the way, the Picayune isn't exactly losing money. It's still plenty profitable -- just not profitable enough for the Newhouse family, owners of Advance Publications.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

OH . . .
and then there's this sad reminder amid the economic and emotional carnage inflicted Tuesday on employees of The Times-Picayune: This is the "new economy," bucko. Loyalty is a one-way street that always runs in management's direction. Channel 8 in New Orleans illustrates this principle vividly for us:
"It's almost like a funeral inside, like a wake," said commercial artist Patricia Gonzalez after she got word she was being let go. She said she has worked at the TP for four decades.

Even though employees knew it was coming, Tuesday's developments still hit some like a brick.

"Next to my father's death, this is second in my life. I feel like I lost my family, somewhat ashamed that I lost my job, or will be losing my job," continued Gonzalez.

Staff writer Danny Monteverde also received bad news about his job.

"It's rough today, and it's sad to see all my co-workers and friends, really, and family go through stuff like this, but I had a good six years, I really did. I wish I had a lot more," he said.

Workers who have been axed are getting severance packages, but some were too distraught to pay attention to the details right away.

"I really haven't checked into the package, but I can't talk," Gonzalez said while choking up.


(snip)

Amoss said laid-off workers can apply for jobs that will be posted.

"When we launch the new company we will have a significant number of journalists, especially newsgathering, reporters, photographers, videographers, graphic artists," he said.

"I'm never going to give up. I will be reapplying for whatever is available, even if it's to cut the grass outside; that's how dedicated I am to the company," Gonzalez stated.
GOTDAMN sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! Gotdamn sonofabitch, c********* bastards!

Freestyle THAT, Advance.