Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Who knew?

For the last post of the year, we present The Future . . . or, what we were supposed to have 10 years ago.

Where the hell is my air car?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

World-Herald dumps western Nebraska

Well, at least western Nebraska still can get Husker games on the radio. At least until the radio industry finishes imploding, anyway.

But they'll have to wait a day or two for the Omaha World-Herald's wall-to-wall coverage of everybody's all-Americans.

THAT'S BECAUSE the state's largest newspaper has decided them folks up in the Sandhills kin jes' go on ahead and become part of Wyoming, as has been threatened by some from time to time. In a state where folks past Grand Island have felt less and less connected to their more-numerous eastern Nebraska brethren, they are just about to have one less thing in common -- their formerly statewide newspaper:

Effective Feb. 2, The World-Herald is changing the way it delivers the news and provides advertising services across the state of Nebraska.

The newspaper will end its Midlands edition, which is distributed across much of the western half of the state. Instead of providing same-day printed newspaper delivery to that part of the state, The World-Herald will provide subscriptions to a replica electronic edition (e-Edition) for each day's paper. It also will offer delivery of the paper by U.S. mail.

In a significant related move, The World-Herald will expand distribution of its Nebraska edition, pushing delivery of this edition as far west as the Kearney and Holdrege areas. The Nebraska edition goes to press nearly five hours later than the Midlands edition that these areas currently receive, providing more up-to-date news.

The World-Herald News Service, created last year, makes available all World-Herald content to its family of daily and weekly papers across the state. Over the past two decades, The World-Herald has ensured quality news and advertising services throughout Nebraska by acquiring and improving newspapers and their related Web sites in Scottsbluff, North Platte, Kearney, Grand Island and York, as well as 11 weekly newspapers. The Norfolk Daily News also participates in the World-Herald News Service.

Four Iowa daily papers and 12 nondaily papers owned by The World-Herald also are part of the World-Herald News Service. also provides World-Herald content 24/7 online and by mobile phone.
AHEM. Will the World-Herald Co. be vastly expanding the newshole of the North Platte Telegraph and Scottsbluff Star-Herald so they might somehow shoehorn in all that World-Herald News Service wonderfulness each day?

And what about all the World-Herald's coverage of Husker football on Sundays? Exactly how many of the Telegraph's or Star-Herald's Sunday sports sections could be fit into the World-Herald's college-football section?

Listen, I realize the newspaper industry is in for drastic changes, and that print editions will be less and less of the equation from here on out. What offends me is the newspaper peeing down western Nebraska readers' legs, then telling them it's a beneficial rain.

What we are talking here is a diminution of service to an overwhelmingly rural area of the state. What we also are talking here, in the socio-political sphere, is an unintended but not-so-subtle message to those folks that they do not matter in the grand scheme of Nebraska.

I UNDERSTAND the economic reasoning behind the World-Herald's move. What I don't understand is how the paper is allowing its brand to be diminished by so blatantly throwing in the towel and leaving so much of the state unserved by anything but the smallest of small-town newspapers.

The newspaper crisis has been building since the birth of the World Wide Web, and now the World-Herald reacts? Worse, the long-delayed reaction isn't a proactive one but, instead, comes in the form of a barely organized retreat.

And it's outstate World-Herald subscribers and single-copy buyers who've been left bleeding on the battlefield.

So now the paper's soon-to-be-erstwhile readers are expected to subscribe to the "e-Edition" available on the paper's woeful, truncated website? Good luck with that one, guys. Really, the "e-Edition" should be a joy to read in areas where broadband Internet service isn't nearly so ubiquitous as in the big city.

It seems to me many of the World-Herald's cost-saving objectives could have been met by either having its outstate editions printed in Grand Island, North Platte and Scottsbluff, then distributed from those hubs.

OR, BETTER YET, why not expand the circulation areas of those World-Herald Co. newspapers somewhat, and then offer an outstate edition of the World-Herald as a wrap-around to them, while raising the cover price of the papers, say, a dime? Would it really have been impossible -- and economically unfeasible -- to achieve cost savings while enhancing value to the customer?

Even if you are retrenching somewhat, isn't it always better to do it in a way that plausibly can be spun as a plus for your readership while positioning you as an industry innovator? Wouldn't it be smart journalism to add state- and national-coverage value to three of your western Nebraska publications while freeing up space in -- and the staff of -- those papers for more, and more thorough, regional and local coverage?

What the newspaper industry needs today is imagination and innovation. What it gets is slapdash haphazardry and sheer panic.

NEWSPAPERS LIKE the Omaha World-Herald could be intelligently organizing a graceful retreat from the business of publishing dead-tree newspapers and an entry into the world of multimedia news dissemination. A measured, thoughtful transition would give editors and publishers time to develop a game plan.

It also would give areas like western Nebraska time to more completely integrate into the broadband world so that no reader -- no citizen -- is left behind.

The World-Herald could have done that. Could have.

As in "coulda, woulda . . . shoulda."

The new shortwave

Before during and after World War II, listening to shortwave radio -- dropping in on what was up a world away -- was all the rage.

If what was on the Omaha airwaves was just too boring. well, let's see whether Radio Moscow is worth a few socialistic laughs and giggles. Alternatively, you might find less ironic enjoyment from the BBC World Service or Radio Netherlands International.

AND IF THERE was a crisis somewhere on the globe, maybe you could pull in a broadcast from the thick of the action through the static as the signal came and went.

Shortwave radio was exotic. Shortwave radio was romantic. Shortwave radio helped you escape the ordinariness of your ordinary old American town.

It's a new century now, and what's left of the Omaha airwaves is more boring than anyone ever could have imagined in 1958. I'm serious, here. Radio nut that I am, I'm pining for those comparatively exciting days when KFAB was spinning vinyl like the Mills Brothers' "Cab Driver." Or maybe even some 101 Strings or Jerry Vale.

But there is escape today via Internet radio . . . the new shortwave. And, lo, manufacturers are starting to advertise 'Net radio the same way they sold us shortwave well over half a century ago.

I mean, listen to this from Tivoli Audio:
When Tivoli Audio CEO Tom DeVesto and his team of engineers set out to create the next generation of home audio, they began with a simple question: What would the ideal radio do? The new Tivoli Audio NetWorks radio is the answer to that question. Taking advantage of broadcasting over the Internet, NetWorks delivers crystal-clear reception of any radio station, near or far, with no need for a computer. NetWorks allows listeners to tune in to Italian Opera from Milan, rock music from New York City, or any specialty, niche radio station from any location in the world in its native language, and in real time.
BETTER YET, watch:

THE BIG DIFFERENCE between now and then, though, is that you didn't have to sell your daughters into white slavery to buy that RCA shortwave table radio way back there then. There are, of course, well-heeled folk today who wouldn't think twice about dropping anywhere from $599 to $750 on an Internet table radio.

I, however, am not one of them. Me, I got no frame of reference for that kind of thing.
I also got no daughters to sell into white slavery.

Running audio cables from my computer to my stereo will just have to suffice. Either that or firing up the old shortwave set atop the bookcase.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Benching New Orleans

I once worked for a radio program director who loved pie-in-the-sky. Hated everything else -- and not only that, he saw no need to do "everything else" well . . . or at all.

Trouble is, it was such mundane skut work that actually kept the station on the air.

One day, after this doofus had dumped half of the work in his job description on top of all the drudgery in my job description, I had had it. I didn't particularly care whether it cost me my poorly compensated job or landed me in a fist fight with someone who outweighed me by 100 pounds.

"You're the laziest SOB I've ever seen in my life when it comes to doing the skut work nobody wants to do but has to be done," I told the guy . . . my boss. And it was the truth.

LEADERSHIP IS not an entitlement program, nor is it a license to dump your burdens onto others' shoulders. Leadership is figuring out what needs to be done, then getting it the hell done.

For that matter, good citizenship is all about discerning what the hell needs to be done, then getting on board with the work of making it happen. That's where your tax money comes in. Voting, too.

It's the skut work of civic life. It's what people need to get around to before the "visions of sugar-plums dance in their heads."

NEW ORLEANS and its leaders -- and its people, some of them -- remind me of that discombobulated boss I now am well rid of.

The Crescent City is one of those places -- another one is my hometown, Baton Rouge -- that never tires of chasing after grand schemes as if wishes really were horses, allowing all the beggars a free ride. In the wake of Katrina, feckless Mayor Ray Nagin made a big to-do of plans to reimagine downtown and create 6,500 jobs with the construction of the "Hyatt Jazz District" near the Superdome.

Of course, that never happened. Nor will it.

Nor have New Orleanians found any relief from a staggering murder rate, unreliable and expensive utilities, a dilapidated infrastructure, a struggling school system . . . or the little-abated threat of being another Katrina away from oblivion. One from which, next time, there will be no recovery.

America's soggy Pompeii . . . is what we're talkin'.

New Orleans -- and, indeed, Louisiana as a whole -- have found tender mercies flowing from their leaders (and, to be fair, from its citizenry at large) rather like waters from a dry well. In the Mojave Desert. In July. During a particularly dry year, even by desert standards.

WHAT NEW ORLEANIANS, and Baton Rougeans . . . and Louisianians, fail to apprehend is some basic "inside baseball" stuff. Namely, it's highly unlikely you're going to hit a three-run shot if you can't even manage a bloop single. First things first.

Thus we have a city, and its leaders, with visions of sugar-plums, bullet trains and jazz districts dancing in their heads when they can't even manage to put bus benches at the city's bus stops.

Well, at least they couldn't until a band of extraordinary ladies got together -- and got some saws, screws, paint and drills -- and set out to "bench" the city of New Orleans. And this they are doing, as the above video shows us.

These patron saints of mass transit may not be able to take the load off of working-class New Orleanians' shoulders, but they can take a load off their feet. Every little bit helps.

One gets the impression if it weren't for isolated bands of the extraordinarily civic-minded in that woebegone city, there would be no recovery there at all . . . 3½ years après le deluge.

MEANWHILE, in "the city care forgot," this is what has brought Mid City residents to the barricades:

NO FUNCTIONING CITY? No problem. No big-ass bonfire with thousands of people running around it -- and throwing fireworks in it? This is war.

What is wrong with this picture? Probably the same thing that caused someone on the SaveTheBonfire blog to think it necessary to post this on it:

I don't speak on behalf of anyone other than myself, but if you wish to see the bonfire continue:

* Do not throw fireworks or other foreign matter into the fire.
* Respect the directions of fire fighters and police, and identified bonfire marshals.
* Keep your clothes on (this is a family event; we bring our kids)

Do not get dangerously close to the fire, and respect any barricades that may be erected.

FIVE DECADES and change ago, CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow closed a landmark See It Now broadcast taking on Sen. Joseph McCarthy by quoting from William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." If you replaced the words "senator from Wisconsin" with "mayor of New Orleans," you'd have a pretty damn good epitaph for New Orleans:

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Good night, and good luck.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Que sera, Sera-mas

I always was kind of fond of the Doris Day Show, which I hadn't seen in decades. Until now, with this sweet Christmas episode from, I think, the 1970-71 season.

Call me a sap, I don't care. It's Christmas, and Christmas is a powerful thing.

A blessed Christmas

Isaiah 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: The Christmas show

Ho! Ho! Ho! Here's the show!

The Christmas edition of 3 Chords & the Truth, that is.

I'm sure there's more to be said about its holiday wonderfulness, but I'm flat too tired to say it right now. I guess you'll just have to listen, then.

It's here. And here. I think you'll enjoy it, because no broadcast automation programs were harmed -- or even used -- in its production.

And, really, couldn't we all use a bit of the human touch at Christmastime? Be there. Aloha.

Or should I say "Mele Kalikimaka"?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Eve four decades ago

Forty years ago, we were at the end of a hard year. 1968 was the year everything, seemingly, came apart.

White hatred killed Martin Luther King Jr. Arab hatred killed Bobby Kennedy. Ghettos burned across America, part of a spasm of inner-city violence that spanned the last half of the 1960s, off and on, and from which those communities never recovered.

THERE WERE student riots in Paris and police riots in Chicago. A communist offensive on the lunar new year convinced Americans that we really couldn't win in Vietnam and added the word Tet to our national vocabulary.

The world. Hell. Handbasket.

1968 was a year of grace, too. The video above depicts a big one we received on Christmas Eve -- God speaking to the world through His Word and three astronauts -- Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders -- circling the moon in an Apollo spaceship. Apollo 8, it was.

I was 7 . . . almost 8. I knew about Bobby Kennedy, and about Martin, and about the war. But it's grace that cuts through the chaotic noise when you're a kid. That was especially true in the '60s, which really were The Wonder Years, when we followed the space program like kids today follow . . . what?

Miley Cyrus?

1968 and 2008 -- radically different times unified in chaos and uncertainty. And the need for a little grace at Christmastime.

A '60s kind of Christmas

Do a search for Christmas videos on Google, and you'll find the most fascinating things.

For instance, did you know there's a Web site with nothing but home movies on it? There is. It's run by a film-transfer business called Home Movie Depot.

And there we find some old Super 8 movies belonging to a user, handle of Fabian. Fabian's family was in sunny Southern California in the 1960s, it seems. The web page guesses this home movie was from 1965.

It wasn't.

The women's clothes are off for '65. For one thing, miniskirts weren't widespread in this country in 1965, if they had gotten here at all.

FOR ANOTHER THING, the kids are playing with the
Hot Wheels they got for Christmas. Hot Wheels didn't appear on the scene until 1968. Note to self: Retrieve old Hot Wheels and Hot Wheels track when you go back to Louisiana next summer.

Merry Christmas from the family.

Carve the turkey turn the ballgame on
Make Bloody Marys cause we all want one
Send somebody to the Stop 'n Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprite
A box of tampons and some Salem Lights
Hallelujah everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Feliz Navidad.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

It's gettin' close, Christmas is.

AND IN THE SPIRIT of the Yuletide season, we present Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family." Because, you know, he wadn't making that s*** up.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Barney wuvs to heaw hiwmsewf tawk

Openly-gay congressmen from Massachusetts mistake reporters' fondness for Capitol Hill dial-a-quote services for Americans giving a damn about anything they have to say.

PARTICULARLY the American getting ready to move in at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, D.C.

That, and general arrogance and pretension, is my explanation for this interview by Rep. Barney Frank with The Hill, and I'm sticking to it:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) thinks that President-elect Obama picked same-sex marriage opponent Rick Warren to give the inauguration invocation because Obama "overestimates" his ability to unify people.

"Oh, I believe that he overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences," said Frank, the first House member to come out of the closet voluntarily.

Frank, on MSNBC on Monday, said that he's delighted Obama was elected and that the country is headed into the "best time" for public policy since the New Deal.

"But my one question is, I think he overestimates his ability to take people, particularly our colleagues on the right, and, sort of, charm them into being nice," Frank said. "I know he talks about being post-partisan. But I've worked, frankly, with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, the current Republican leadership. The current Republican leadership in the House repudiated George Bush. I don't know why Mr. Obama thinks he's going to have them better than George Bush."
FRANKLY, FRANK underestimates his ability to annoy the s*** out of people.

Jack Benny: The original twisted Christmas

Before Monty Python, there was Jack Benny. Warped and absurd doesn't just come from nowhere, you know.

And sometimes, prime-time television in White Bread America (which is what we, today, assume what all of America must have been in December 1960, when the episode of The Jack Benny Program aired) was just downright twisted. So twisted there would be hell to pay if it aired today.

I'D TELL YOU how twisted, but that would give away the plot. And the jokes.

No, in the New Edgy Millennium, you can rhapsodize about giving your baby "D*** in a Box," but you can't show this.

In 2008, you can go just so far. We have standards of decency, you know. Some things still are offensive.

But if you can't be offensive at Christmastime, though, when can you in the New Edgy Millennium?

Strike a blow for freedom of expression. Watch.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Free market's just another
term for nothin' left to lose

In Miami, these scenes will have played out some 14,000 times by the time 2008 is over.

In Las Vegas, 50,000 times. In Franklin County, Ohio (Columbus), 9,000 times.

EVICTION: It's going around in these troubled times. And we're nowhere near the bottom of the mortgage crisis or America's economic crisis.

Look at the video, from Dateline NBC. At what point . . . at what rate does this kind of trauma have to happen to ordinary Americans before something collectively snaps in the United States? At what point does the suffering of the middle and working classes crash head-on into Wall Street bailouts, golden parachutes and CEOs as robber barons?

What spark might -- will? -- ignite the leaking fuel tanks of our civic society, and how much will the fireball consume?

Look at the video.

How many people with nothing left to lose does it take to make our political leaders afraid . . . very afraid?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Somewhere in Louisiana, it's always 1959

In Louisiana, you're OK, I guess, so long as you're posting stuff critical of the gay-rights movement.

A commenter on my last post had this advice for me: "Please post more like this rather than the anti-Louisiana stuff, okay?"

Not a chance.

Not when there's so much "anti-Louisiana stuff" to choose from. Not when it's so factually irrefutable. Not when the "anti-Louisiana stuff" usually is about things so egregious they take Nebraskans' breath away -- just as they do others unfamiliar with the state's certain reductio ad absurdum je ne sais quoi.

THERE'S NOT a chance in hell I'll quit posting the "anti-Louisiana stuff" so long as, for example, Louisiana vigilantes can kill a man just for being black . . . and Louisianians are OK with that. Naturally, the latest "anti-Louisiana stuff" -- the latest "anti-Louisiana" horror, actually -- has bubbled up from New Orleans like so much swamp gas . . . straight into the pages of the latest edition of The Nation:

The way Donnell Herrington tells it, there was no warning. One second he was trudging through the heat. The next he was lying prostrate on the pavement, his life spilling out of a hole in his throat, his body racked with pain, his vision blurred and distorted.

It was September 1, 2005, some three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, and somebody had just blasted Herrington, who is African-American, with a shotgun. "I just hit the ground. I didn't even know what happened," recalls Herrington, a burly 32-year-old with a soft drawl.

The sudden eruption of gunfire horrified Herrington's companions--his cousin Marcel Alexander, then 17, and friend Chris Collins, then 18, who are also black. "I looked at Donnell and he had this big old hole in his neck," Alexander recalls. "I tried to help him up, and they started shooting again." Herrington says he was staggering to his feet when a second shotgun blast struck him from behind; the spray of lead pellets also caught Collins and Alexander. The buckshot peppered Alexander's back, arm and buttocks.

Herrington shouted at the other men to run and turned to face his attackers: three armed white males. Herrington says he hadn't even seen the men or their weapons before the shooting began. As Alexander and Collins fled, Herrington ran in the opposite direction, his hand pressed to the bleeding wound on his throat. Behind him, he says, the gunmen yelled, "Get him! Get that nigger!"

The attack occurred in Algiers Point. The Point, as locals call it, is a neighborhood within a neighborhood, a small cluster of ornate, immaculately maintained 150-year-old houses within the larger Algiers district. A nationally recognized historic area, Algiers Point is largely white, while the rest of Algiers is predominantly black. It's a "white enclave" whose residents have "a kind of siege mentality," says Tulane University historian Lance Hill, noting that some white New Orleanians "think of themselves as an oppressed minority."


During the summer of 2005 Herrington was working as an armored-car driver for the Brink's company and living in a rented duplex about a mile from Algiers Point. Katrina thrashed the place, blowing out windows, pitching a hefty pine tree limb through the roof and dumping rain on Herrington's possessions. On the day of the shooting, Herrington, Alexander and Collins were all trying to escape the stricken city, and set out together on foot for the Algiers Point ferry terminal in the hopes of getting on an evacuation bus.

Those hopes were dashed by a barrage of shotgun pellets. After two shots erupted, Collins and Alexander took off running and ducked into a shed behind a house to hide from the gunmen, Alexander tells me. The armed men, he says, discovered them in the shed and jammed pistols in their faces, yelling, "We got you niggers! We got you niggers!" He continues, "They said they was gonna tie us up, put us in the back of the truck and burn us. They was gonna make us suffer.... I thought I was gonna die. I thought I was gonna leave earth."

Apparently thinking they'd caught some looters, the gunmen interrogated and verbally threatened Collins and Alexander for ten to fifteen minutes, Alexander says, before one of the armed men issued an ultimatum: if Alexander and Collins left Algiers Point and told their friends not to set foot in the area, they'd be allowed to live.

Meanwhile, Herrington was staring at death. "I was bleeding pretty bad from my neck area," he recalls. When two white men drove by in a black pickup truck, he begged them for help. "I said, Help me, help me--I'm shot," Herrington recalls. The response, he tells me, was immediate and hostile. One of the men told Herrington, "Get away from this truck, nigger. We're not gonna help you. We're liable to kill you ourselves." My God, thought Herrington, what's going on out here?

He managed to stumble back to a neighbor's house, collapsing on the front porch. The neighbors, an African-American couple, wrapped him in a sheet and sped him to the nearest hospital, the West Jefferson Medical Center, where, medical records show, he was X-rayed at 3:30 pm. According to the records, a doctor who reviewed the X-rays found "metallic buckshot" scattered throughout his chest, arms, back and abdomen, as well as "at least seven [pellets] in the right neck." Within minutes, Herrington was wheeled into an operating room for emergency surgery.

"It was a close-range buckshot wound from a shotgun," says Charles Thomas, one of the doctors who operated on Herrington. "If he hadn't gotten to the hospital, he wouldn't have lived. He had a hole in his internal jugular vein, and we were able to find it and fix it."

After three days in the hospital, which lacked running water, air conditioning and functional toilets, Herrington was shuttled to a medical facility in Baton Rouge. When he returned to New Orleans months later, he paid a visit to the Fourth District police station, whose officers patrol the west bank, and learned there was no police report documenting the attack. Herrington, who now has a wide scar stretching the length of his neck, says the officers he spoke with failed to take a report or check out his story, a fact that still bothers him. "If the shoe was on the other foot, if a black guy was willing to go out shooting white guys, the police would be up there real quick," he says. "I feel these guys should definitely be held accountable. These guys had absolutely no right to do what they did."
IN MUCH of this country after a natural disaster, sworn law officers wait to see evidence of looting, take the looters into custody and then read them their Miranda rights.

In New Orleans after a natural disaster, the cops either haul ass or turn into Mad Max, and armed good ol' boys shoot first, then yell "nigger."

But that only happens because Yankees hate Louisiana, right?

Fellow militia member Wayne Janak, 60, a carpenter and contractor, is more forthcoming with me. "Three people got shot in just one day!" he tells me, laughing. We're sitting in his home, a boxy beige-and-pink structure on a corner about five blocks from Daigle's Grocery. "Three of them got hit right here in this intersection with a riot gun," he says, motioning toward the streets outside his home. Janak tells me he assumed the shooting victims, who were African-American, were looters because they were carrying sneakers and baseball caps with them. He guessed that the property had been stolen from a nearby shopping mall. According to Janak, a neighbor "unloaded a riot gun"--a shotgun--"on them. We chased them down."

Janak, who was carrying a pistol, says he grabbed one of the suspected looters and considered killing him, but decided to be merciful. "I rolled him over in the grass and saw that he'd been hit in the back with the riot gun," he tells me. "I thought that was good enough. I said, 'Go back to your neighborhood so people will know Algiers Point is not a place you go for a vacation. We're not doing tours right now.'"

He's equally blunt in Welcome to New Orleans, an hourlong documentary produced by the Danish video team, who captured Janak, beer in hand, gloating about hunting humans. Surrounded by a crowd of sunburned white Algiers Point locals at a barbeque held not long after the hurricane, he smiles and tells the camera, "It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it." A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, "I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings." A white woman standing next to him adds, "He understands the N-word now." In this neighborhood, she continues, "we take care of our own."

Janak, who says he'd been armed with two .38s and a shotgun, brags about keeping the bloody shirt worn by a shooting victim as a trophy. When "looters" showed up in the neighborhood, "they left full of buckshot," he brags, adding, "You know what? Algiers Point is not a pussy community."

Within that community the gunmen enjoyed wide support. In an outtake from the documentary, a group of white Algiers Point residents gathers to celebrate the arrival of military troops sent to police the area. Addressing the crowd, one local praises the vigilantes for holding the neighborhood together until the Army Humvees trundled into town, noting that some of the militia figures are present at the party. "You all know who you are," the man says. "And I'm proud of every one of you all." Cheering and applause erupts from the assembled locals.

Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful" -- her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."
THE PROBLEM with Louisiana is that Louisianians are more upset that their dirty laundry gets aired than they are that their laundry is so dirty in the first place. I don't know how you fix such a culture.

But maybe if I, and others, write about "the anti-Louisiana stuff" enough, someone just might get embarrassed enough to come up with something.
But that might take a while because, as I 've written before on this blog, somewhere in Louisiana, it's always 1959.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The purpose-driven hissy fit

The rumblings came from California yesterday. Now it's a full-blown snit -- this conniption fit gay-rights activists are throwing over Barack Obama's choice of the Rev. Rick Warren (an evangelical, AAAAIIIIEEEEEE!!!) to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday defended his choice of a popular evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, rejecting criticism that it slights gays.

The selection of Pastor Rick Warren brought objections from gay rights advocates, who strongly supported Obama during the election campaign. The advocates are angry over Warren's backing of a California ballot initiative banning gay marriage. That measure was approved by voters last month.

But Obama told reporters in Chicago that America needs to "come together," even when there's disagreement on social issues. "That dialogue is part of what my campaign is all about," he said.

Obama also said he's known to be a "fierce advocate for equality" for gays and lesbians, and will remain so.

Warren, a best-selling author and leader of a Southern California megachurch, is one of a new breed of evangelicals who stress the need for action on social issues such as reducing poverty and protecting the environment, alongside traditional theological themes.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, said Warren's opposition to gay marriage is a sign of intolerance.
ACTUALLY, the word I heard thrown around was "bigot." That's the label you're hung with by the agents of one-way "tolerance" if you are so gauche to believe some fundamental tenets of historical Christianity.

Or that marriage, by its nature, goes something like
how it is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
THE SECULAR notion of marriage hews pretty closely to this view, not because the state is in the religion business, but because the state -- historically -- has recognized fundamental realities when it is confronted with them. To ignore fundamental realities, and basic biology and sociology, is to reap the whirlwind.

Look at the disorder in society and upheaval in individual lives already accompanying the breakdown of the model of marriage as one man, one woman, till death do them part. Now we're supposed to gladly undo even the tribute our heterosexual hypocrisy pays to the truth?

It will not end well.

But to believe what mankind has held fast for more than 5,000 years -- as does Pastor Warren, who backed California's constitutional ban on gay marriage -- is now to be labeled a bigot. Be seen as unfit to appear at the inauguration of an American president.

It is to be declared an ideological leper.

How utterly Stalinist -- both in its intolerance of dissent from an accepted party line and in its radical upheaval of tradition.

NO LONGER is "tolerance" of gays and lesbians enough. No longer is it acceptable to treat homosexuals as brothers and sisters with whom we, as Christians, take issue on one area of their lives.

To treat those with whom we differ fairly and with charity is no longer sufficient. Now we must approve. Affirm. Or else.

No, it would appear that how, with whom and in what context they achieve orgasm is how gays and lesbians define themselves -- that sexuality is the be-all and end-all of their humanity. Apparently, everyone else must so define them as well.


Gays and lesbians are more than their genitalia . . . and their sexual orientation, which orthodox Christians (and, historically, society) believe to be disordered, because a family never can result from it naturally. It does not conform to the "natural law."

THAT SAID, what one does in the bedroom is his -- or her -- own damn business. Christianity hasn't gone around with firearms, torches and broadaxes yelling "resistance is futile, you will be assimilated" for a very long time now because, frankly, it didn't work out so well.
Neither was it particularly Christian.

If you don't tell me what you do with your same-sex partner, I will refrain from being so classless as to speak of what goes on between my wife and myself. If you want to enter into some contractual relationship with a gay lover, conferring legal rights and privileges, fine by me.

But don't call it marriage.

Marriage never has been a purely contractual relationship, bereft of spiritual and sociological implications, and it never will be, either. So don't slur those of us who think thus -- as does the Rev. Warren -- with the word "bigot."

To do so speaks to the intolerance of the forces of "tolerance." And to try to enforce such a perverse notion of "tolerance" infringes upon the right of the many to freely practice their faith just because the few have decided to throw a hissy fit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thoughts on a snowy day near Christmas

We tend to talk about the hard times now upon us as if they were a destructive force of nature. A financial hurricane that has come to swamp us like Katrina did to New Orleans.

AH, but it wasn't Katrina that swamped New Orleans. Katrina was a low-grade Hurricane Betsy -- at worst -- by the time she reached the Crescent City.

New Orleans drowned because people, first of all, had been encouraged to build in dumb places over the decades. And, second of all, New Orleans drowned because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built really, really crappy levees which they didn't improve and raise to counteract the city's slow subsidence into the primordial ooze that is the Louisiana delta. (Americans' hastening of and reluctance to ameliorate that sinking feeling is another story covered here.)

Likewise, the economic pickle we find ourselves in right now is anything but a force of nature. Strike that -- the mess we now face is a force of human nature.

Basically, we got greedy. A capital sin that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when the serpent told Eve "ye shall be as gods."

ADAM AND EVE ate the apple. We, on the other hand, bought the apple on credit. From Whole Paycheck. To which we traveled in a big honkin' SUV.

Then we sat down in our McMansion to eat the forbidden fruit while watching Desperate Housewives on our HDTV.

We wanted what we couldn't afford, while business wanted more profit than it had a right to and government kept the gravy train a rollin', even when taxpayers refused to foot the true cost of the services they demanded.

OUR ECONOMY -- our insane expectations, built upon the shifting sands of avarice -- has turned out to be, pretty much, a Ponzi scheme worthy of Bernard Madoff , and we have no idea how to unwind the whole thing without lots of people getting hurt really badly.

The last time our economy was this bad -- lots worse, actually -- we at least paid lip service to the kinds of values that can help a body get through a really rough patch. We at least had a culture that, more or less, reflected those values. That sensibility.

Today, we march to the poor house to a hip-hop beat, singing the praises of bitches, hos, bling, f***in' and thuggin'.

This may not go well.

WE NEED a revolution. Not like Lenin and Marx, but of the heart.

Then, perhaps, we might get some "change we can believe in."

Monday, December 15, 2008

No time for legends . . . time's up for radio

Being in radio today means never having the right answer to "What have you done for me lately?"

Even if you're a certified broadcasting giant.

ABOUT six years ago, a non-commercial station's production director and program director found themselves -- for some amorphous reason or another -- visiting the studios of Waitt Radio's Omaha operations for talks with the top brass there. I think they were supposed to get acquainted with the folks there as part of some strategic alliance.

Perhaps they were even supposed to learn something as they got the nickel tour.

As the two waited in the lobby, local radio fixture Steve Brown came breezing into the studios for his midmorning "Talk of the Town" show on news-talk KKAR. I think it would be fair to describe Brown that day as "ruddy" and a little bit rumpled.

The non-comm program director was new to town. Wouldn't have known Steve Brown if the man had run over him with a busload of KOIL "Good Guys." Didn't care who Steve Brown was.

IT DIDN'T MATTER that Steve Brown had forgotten more about radio broadcasting than this guy would ever know. No, he had his verdict, and he was sticking to it:

"How'd you like to end up like that guy?"

Interesting question. Let's see . . . end up as a legendary programmer? As an architect of some of the most successful Top-40 radio stations of the 1960s? As someone who'd recruited and mentored air personalities who went on to become household names across the nation?

Then end up as a successful local talk-show host and voiceover talent?

"That's Steve Brown," the production guy ended up telling his boss. "The guy's a legend. You could do a hell of a lot worse than ending up like him."

But that's radio for you nowadays. "Casting pearls before swine" is what legends do until they retire or die. Sadly, Steve Brown -- legend -- died Saturday at 68 while prepping for his talk show in the weekend wilderness of KFAB's program schedule, according to Radio Ink:

Brown, says radio commentator and consultant John Rook at, "played a major role in the early history of Top 40 radio." KOIL under his purview served as a launching pad for Top 40 stars including Gary Owens, Dave Dean, Dr. Don Rose, and The Real Don Steele (a name Brown came up with). Brown also helped in the push to get the music of The Beatles and The Beach Boys on the air.
THAT DAY AT KKAR, Brown popped out during a commercial break to excitedly show the operations manager a ratings demographic where he thought he'd registered unexpected -- and surprising -- growth. The manager nodded, and Steve got back to his show.

"Steve Brown is . . . interesting," the OM told his guests, before excusing himself to put more Christmas music into the AudioVAULT computer system.

No, Steve Brown was interested. Enthusiastic. Still . . . after four and a half decades in the business. If the visitors were there to pick the brains of the "big boys," they had gotten a hold of the wrong brains.

Brownie was the guy at whose feet you wanted to be sitting. That's not going to happen now. Steve Brown is dead.

And so, pretty much, is the industry that forgot how to appreciate his kind.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

WBRH: Where mercy met grace

The damnedest thing about adolescence is that so many of us survive it.

This strange fact is a good starting point for a discussion about grace. Grace means that a lot of the really ill-considered things we do as youngsters -- Ill-considered? More like dumb . . . silly . . . perilous . . . idiotic -- end up as fodder for funny stories told by middle-aged survivors of their own youthful folly.

They also serve as fodder for middle-age worries that the young'uns we know and love will find out we once were as dumb as they, and will somehow use this Kryptonite against us.

A BUNCH of us 1979 graduates of Baton Rouge Magnet High recently have been getting reacquainted on Facebook. Facebook -- amazing thing, that. Naturally, all the old yearbook photographers have started posting yellowed pictures of our glory days.

And recently, one classmate was confronted by a picture of her underaged self at Mr. Gatti's pizza, pitcher of beer before her.

"Oh, @#$%! If my daughter sees this picture, I am toast."

Sooner or later, we all end up throwing ourselves upon the mercy of the court and wondering whether "older and wiser now" is a winning defense against capital hypocrisy charges.

Thirty years ago at Baton Rouge High, I wasn't much for boozing it up at Mr. Gatti's. I was more of a Sicily's beer person, myself.

I remember one time, a high-school radio colleague and I got bored during our WBRH class period. We were in the studios of 90.1 FM by ourselves, and at some point we developed a mighty thirst.

Well, we were on the air, so we couldn't sneak over to Sicily's, the pizza-and-beer joint just off campus. Now, we were both already 18 back when that made you legal, so we had a brilliant plan . . . we gave an underage classmate some money and sent her over to Sicily's to get us a couple of big-ass beers.

Which we proceeded to drink at the station. During class. In violation of all manner of federal and school regulations.

What could go wrong? Who would know?

Well. . . .

WE WERE ABOUT half done with our beers when we saw someone walk into the station. It was Charley Vance, who was filling in for radio teacher/WBRH general manager John Dobbs that semester.


So, my anonymous colleague -- let's call him "Bud" (his real nickname) -- and I were madly stashing our beers in studio cabinets and putting on our angelic, what-me-worry faces when Charley walked in the studio.

He sniffed the air.

"It smells like a damn brewery in here."

Busted. Dead. Going to get expelled and lose our federal Third Class operator's licenses.

WORSE, we were going to have to pour out our beer.

"Y'all better hurry up and finish your beer before Mrs. Guillot walks in." Mrs. Guillot being the principal, and someone you'd just as soon not mess with.

Mr. Vance exited stage right, an angel of mercy and a humble agent of true grace.
Gratuitous, unmerited help at a moment when it all could have gone south. Very south.

I don't know where Charley Vance is today, but if somebody sees him, tell him I owe him a case of whatever fine brew he would like.

3 Chords & the Truth: There stands the glass

There stands the glass
hat will ease all my pain,
That will settle my brain,
It's my first one too-tay. . . .

-- Webb Pierce, 1953

OK, what the hell is too-tay?

Was Webb snortin' in addition to drinkin'? Or was too-tay to to-day as o-tay was to okay?

Folks want to know this stuff.

AT ANY RATE, ol' Webb was doin' some serious hurtin', which obviously required some serious drinkin'. Hey, I went to LSU . . . I can do this.

(Later that day)

Why are you perspiring so loudly? Got any aspirin?

On the other hand, I forgot why I was miserable. Oh . . . wait. Damn.

While I go mix myself some bicarbonate of soda, try giving 3 Chords & the Truth a listen too-tay. We got us some drankin' songs, and some soberin' up songs, too. That, and a whole lot of other stuff that you should find as tasty as Jack on the rocks.

In moderation, one would hope. Trust me on this.

It's the Big Show, the lynchpin of the Revolution 21 universe. I think you'll love it.

Be there. Aloha.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dumber than . . . poot

I glanced at this site, which led me to this story, which referred me back to this January story, which hit me upside the head with one of my home state's raging core crises . . . and why it's only going to abate oh-so-slowly, if at all.

Really, the original story leading to an "Oh my God" comment on it isn't important now. You probably wouldn't be interested.

Suffice it to say, the article, in the Houma (La.) Courier, was about a Catholic-school senior who got a big-time suspension for starting a Facebook group the principal didn't like. At all. And now she and her mother are making a federal case out of it.


BUT, LIKE I SAID, that's not important now. What's important is this comment on the original story, which ran last January:

pootypants1 says...
January 26, 2008 8:36:15 am

Even public school can be rediculuse. I pulled my son out and he is home schooled now. He wasn't allowed to have a jacket cause it had one white stripe down one sleeve(rules say solid colors) Then on top of that he is diabetic and takes 9 to 12 shots a day. If his blood sugar happen to drop to low he couldn't eat his candy in class(even with doctors written oders) he was expected to walk down the hall,down the steps, and to the office where they kept his emergency pack. By the time he would get there he could be in a comma. I have home schooled him for 3 yrs now. Works for Us.
Report this post
HELLO, HOUMA COURIER? I'd like to report a post on one of your news stories.

Yes ma'am, I found that post quite "rediculuse," and if I ever again accidentally read something that leaves me laughing like a hyena at the same time I'm thoroughly mortified, the resulting confusion might send me into a "comma."

If the comment by "pootypants1" -- pootypants1??? -- was a joke, you need to find that out. Because if it wasn't, you sooooooo need to do a monthlong series on homeschooling in Louisiana, why ignoramuses are allowed to do it and how that's helping to keep your state dumber than a sack of . . . poot.

When people that illiterate (or would that be "illiderrut"?) are allowed to homeschool innocent children, it's akin to state-sanctioned child abuse. That's poor kid's future is going to be shot to hell from the get-go, and Louisiana's going to be dealing with that -- one way or another.