The Go! Team will rock you down to your very sinew.
The Go! Team will rock you down to your very sinew.
Well, I’m in Hawaii, and you know what? They should really market this place as a vacation destination or something. It’s nice!
I’m staying at a lovely cottage in Kailua, which is a lovely little town on the northeast shore of Oahu. Not touristy, not resorty — just a nice middle-class town with a great beach. Haven’t seen any identifiable tourists yet, although I’m sure they’ll pop up. I’m right around the corner from Kailua Intermediate, home of one of the cooler mascots I’ve heard of, the Junior Surfriders. Mad props to the estimable Lisa — occasional commenter on these pages, Friend-Of-Crabwalk, and former Hawaii resident — for suggesting the place.
Rental car note: Any initial excitement you may have at being offered a cheap convertible at Dollar Rent-A-Car will be extinguished the moment you step into your Chrysler Sebring and realize you’ve seen lawnmowers with more power.
In other F.O.C. news, congrats to Reese on the birth of son Hank. (Actually, in the email he sent out, Reese only refers to “the baby,” but I’m making the assumption that a child named Hank is a son, not a daughter. I think that’s pretty safe.)
And, finally, I’d like to point out this article in Slate by the weirdly conservative Will Saletan. (I don’t mean politically conservative — I mean stylistically conservative. I always imagine him writing with a bow tie and a schoolmarm’s pucker.) It details how the media missed the boat when reporting on the CDC’s recent release of sexual-activity data. Newspapers all reported on the (shocking!) fact that a lot of teenagers perform oral sex. They missed the big story, he says, which was that around 35 to 40 percent of young adults have had anal sex.
Now, what minor media organization focused on the anal-sex numbers the moment the data came out? This one.
Where I disagree with Saletan is his tsk-tsking that this is awful awful awful because more anal sex means we’re all going to die of AIDS. (That’s an ever-so-slight oversimplification of his argument, but there you have it.) But Saletan himself quotes the CDC’s own stats on HIV transmission:
According to data released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, the probability of HIV acquisition by the receptive partner in unprotected oral sex with an HIV carrier is one per 10,000 acts. In vaginal sex, it’s 10 per 10,000 acts. In anal sex, it’s 50 per 10,000 acts.
This fits in with a long-time crabwalk obsession: HIV is actually really hard to get if you’re a healthy heterosexual American. Re-read those numbers: If you have unprotected vaginal sex with someone who is HIV positive, you still only have about a 1-in-1,000 chance of becoming infected yourself. Oral sex is 1-in-10,000, and even unprotected receptive anal sex with a HIV-positive partner is only 1-in-200. How many sex-ed classes are honest about that? If they’re anything like the classes I took as a kid, they pretty much all said any of those scenarios meant instant death.
(Also note that all of those stats are for the receptive partner — i.e., the woman, if we’re speaking heterosexually. Female-to-male transmission is several times more difficult than that.)
The fact of the matter is that, as long as you’re not sleeping with bisexuals or IV drug users, heterosexual Americans just don’t get HIV. It just doesn’t happen. The number of heterosexual-to-heterosexual transmissions among otherwise healthy Americans is vanishingly small.
Now, none of this is to say (a) we should cut AIDS funding or anything stupid like that — we should of course do the opposite; (b) that AIDS in Africa is a myth of some sort — it’s not, because poorly maintained African bodies are much more likely to ease transmission; I spent six weeks in Africa reporting on this; (c) that there aren’t plenty of other bugs out there that are no fun at all and are much easier to transmit than HIV (herpes chief among them); or (d) that the fact AIDS is still primarily a gay problem in this country makes it even one iota less important.
But I don’t like false scaremongering, and that’s what we’ve traditionally had in this country about HIV. It comes from a good place — the idea being that heteros won’t care about AIDS unless they can be convinced it will affect them — but it’s just wrong.
I really only watch one TV show: Arrested Development. But I’ve never actually seen a full episode on TV.
I got the first season’s episodes on DVD as a birthday gift. By the time I watched them all, the second season was nearly over — so I went on a downloading spree to find all that season’s episodes online.
The third season started this week — so did I tune in at the appointed hour? Nope — just hit the Interwebs, downloaded the magical bittorrent, and I had the full HDTV episode on my computer in under 10 minutes. (Funny stuff. Seems to be getting a bit broader and more slapsticky in its middle age — which isn’t bad.)
I remember this summer going to a local pizza joint (for their excellent chicken parm sub) one night and actually seeing the show on the TV there. It was the first time I’d seen it on a real set, with commercials and stuff. It kinda freaked me out.
It was just pointed out to me that I shouldn’t link to one Friend-Of-Crabwalk-journalist-returns-to-her-native-New-Orleans-to-survey-the-destruction story and not the other. So I present the supadupa Rebecca Catalanello. Her journalistic skill is surpassed only by the subtle grace with which she, er, pointed out to me that I shouldn’t link to one Friend-Of-Crabwalk-journalist-returns-to-her-native-New-Orleans-to-survey-the-destruction story and not the other.
Lower The Gas Prices, Hwd. Johnson, by one of my favorite recent discoveries, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. This track’s a bit peppier than their album, Broom, but it hits their Big Star + Belle & Sebastian dream-pop sound. Another MP3: House Fire.
New Yorkers, they’re playing at Mickey’s Blue Room in the East Village tonight.
I think I mentioned this before, but I’m about to skip town for a month. First, I go up to Connecticut for my friend Kim’s wedding to the lovely and talented Eric. Then a brief stop in New Haven for a visit to my journalistic alma mater.
Then comes the big fun: a Jefferson Fellowship that will take me to China and Japan for almost all of October. And it starts out with a trip to…Hawaii. (I know — I’m a lucky guy.)
I’ve never been to Hawaii. Never even really thought about going to Hawaii. Anyone have any advice? I’ll be there from a Thursday to a Sunday and I have neither hotel reservations nor plans.
“Functional psychopaths” make the best investment decisions because they can’t experience emotions such as fear, a study by researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Business showed.
Fear stops people from taking even logical risks, meaning those who have suffered damage to areas of the brain affecting emotions, and can suppress feeling, make better decisions, the report showed. The ability to control emotion helps performance in business and the financial markets, the researchers found.
That said, I don’t see how anybody could screw up the gambling/investing experiment the researchers were trying out. (They gave people $20 and then offered to flip a coin for a $1 wager. If they lost the coin flip, they lost the $1. If they won the flip, they won $2.50 — their $1 back plus $1.50. The researchers found that people with brain damage deadening their emotions agreed to more coin flips than people with “normal” brains, who apparently got scared of losing.)
I mean, who wouldn’t take that bet, every single time? First, your actual risk is zero — you’re playing with the researchers’ 20 bucks! Second, a 50/50 chance at a 150% return? You gotta take that bet every time — particularly if you’re going to get, at a minimum, 20 chances to make the bet, meaning the law of averages alone gives you a near 100% chance of coming out ahead.
Still, the “functional psychopaths” only wagered their buck 84% of the time, and the “normal” folks wagered only 58% of the time. Silly.
(Also, I wrote the other day about David Swensen, the man who invests Yale’s endowment and wrote a new book about a sort of investing strategy not far from mine. Well, the results are in from another year of Swensen’s work: a 22.3 percent return, versus 4.4 percent for the S&P. Quote: “The University consistently ranked in the top one percent of institutional funds during the past decade, with an average return of 17.4 percent…In comparison, the S&P 500 had an annualized return of 8.1 percent.”)
Best search term to ever lead a Googler to this site: Scooby-doo started many Criminal Justice careers.
AstroWorld, 1968-2005. R.I.P. To a kid growing up in southwest Louisiana, AstroWorld was the bomb.
Here’s my column from today’s paper, on the injustice of the TAKS test.
Also, in my continuing quest to expand the crabwalk.com media empire, I unveil two new ways to get your fill of this site’s piping-hot content:
- If you’re a LiveJournal person: this is a feed of all crabwalk.com posts sent through LJ. You can add it as a friend in LJ and I’ll show up there — no need to come over here any more. (Although, of course, you’re always welcome.) Much thanks to Leah for setting it up.
If the rumors are true, you’ll be hearing a very interesting Bush-related story out of Austin in the next few hours. Hasn’t broken anywhere yet, that I can tell.
(How’s that for a tease?)
In case you’ve ever wondered about the anal sex patterns of your fellow Americans, the CDC now has the dish. (The answer: 34 percent of men and 30 percent of women 15-44 have had heterosexual anal sex.)
I’m very glad our government is on top of this issue. So to speak.
Today’s Wilmer-Hutchins story (and it’s a good one):
A baritone horn from a pawnshop. A $7,700 set of murals. A pizza crisper, cookie-dough scoops, and a Queen Anne loveseat for the principal’s office. According to state auditors, those are some of the ways Wilmer-Hutchins officials spent more than $270,000 in federal education funds – money that was supposed to pay for reading and math instruction for the district’s weakest students.
Including one of the best quotes I’ve had the privilege of typing:
“I don’t care if they have to sell a kidney, they need to pay this money back,” [said former W-H trustee Joan Bonner of the folks who misspent the district’s money]. “We know they don’t have a heart or a brain, but a kidney might be usable.”
(Several of you who know me well are chortling knowingly right now.)
Animal-loving types have to be told to stop flooding FEMA offices with phone calls because “the barrage of phone calls is now hampering [Gen. Honore’s] humanitarian missions, rather than helping.” Some folks on this site have apparently been posting Gen. Honore’s phone number and telling people to call it repeatedly so they can tell him…I don’t know what, really. “Worry about the puppies”?
As I said: I like animals too, but I’d like to think I know better than to flood an already-stressed emergency-management system with “save the kitties” calls. This isn’t your congressman before a vote — this is a disaster area. Priorities, people.
Also: Dallas-area readers, I’m having a party this Saturday night. Email me (jbenton at toast dot net) if you want an invite.
For the record: I have nothing against animals. I generally find them cute. (And tasty!)
But sometimes animal types go too far.
Take this story. A friend of mine, DMN photographer Tom Fox, took this awesome photo of a poor little dog covered in oil and muck down in St. Bernard Parish. (Tom’s down there doing great stuff on Katrina.) It was a sad photo, obviously, and readers responded. (About 100 times more than they responded to photos of individual humans in distress, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Anyway, two days later, Tom saw the same dog and arranged to have it taken in by some animal rescuers. Thanks to Tom making the call, the dog is fine and waiting to be reunited with its owner (if he/she is still alive) or adopted.
A nice story, eh?
Actually, a bunch of clowns have decided to attack Tom for a variety of crazy reasons.
First: The Fake Dog Theory. Some folks are arguing that the dog Tom actually saved was a surrogate dog, that Tom was deviously involved in a tear-jerk dog-swap. (“I would be disapointed [sic] if the media were misleading everyone,” says one clown.) One person suspects Tom swapped the dog with another oil-covered dog two towns over.
Second: The Rude Photographer Theory. Several folks say Tom’s a war criminal because he didn’t immediately adopt the dog the moment he saw him, smother him with kisses, and rescue him right that minute. One fellow says there should be a law requiring reporters to immediately aid any animal they see in distress.
Are these people on Mars? There are packs of roving dogs all over Katrinaland. Tom is supposed to rescue them all? Even though he, I don’t know, has a job to do? And in any event, haven’t these people been watching TV? There were hundreds of thousands of people — actual human beings — in conditions worse than this dog. Did they get outraged then? Or is it just a puppy that leads to this sort of insanity?
In any event, it turns out that Tom did give the dog water and food, and probably would have done more if it hadn’t bitten one of his colleagues. He did call animal rescue the first time he saw the dog, but they didn’t respond immediately. Which is why the dog was still around a couple days later, when Tom saw him again and took matters into his own hands.
So, to recap: Tom is 100% responsible for getting this poor dog saved — and he’s still taking shit for it. Some people are just crazy.
In case it needs stating: Reporters and photographers working in Louisiana have all seen literally thousands of people who need help. And they’ve probably all seen hundreds of animals who need help. They can’t help them all, and it’s not their responsibility to.
Here’s my book review in Sunday’s paper. It’s of The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol’s luridly-subtitled new book. Have already gotten a few emails calling parts of my review “insulting,” which makes me think I’m doing my job.
I’ve forgotten to link to several of my stories recently. No worldbeaters in the bunch, but for the record: Baylor delays vote on chief, Wilmer-Hutchins High to house hurricane evacuees, and Houston, D/FW districts relaxing admission rules.
More sketchiness on Michael Brown’s resume. Turns out our FEMA chief, he of the horse-contest resume, claims to have been “an assistant city manager” “overseeing the emergency services division” in Edmund, Oklahoma, from 1975 to 1978. Which would be sorta impressive, considering he’s 50 years old today, which means he would have been a 20-year-old assistant city manager.
Of course he wasn’t: he was actually an assistant to the city manager. As in, he fetched the city manager’s coffee during a college internship.
He also claims to have been named “Outstanding Political Science Professor” at Central State University. Of course, he was never a professor at Central State, much less an outstanding one.
And he claims that, for the last 23 years, he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home. Which would explain why no one there has heard of him. As one veteran employee put it: “He was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here.”
Oh, and his former law-firm boss described him as “not serious and somewhat shallow,” which is why he got canned.
This man is in charge of dealing with natural disasters and terrorist attacks on America.
(For the record, the asshole Michael Brown is not the Michael Brown who reads this site. Who, to my knowledge, has never faked his resume, been an incompetent lawyer, or fucked up the greatest cataclysm to ever hit the United States of America.)
From a candidate’s debate Tuesday: “Ms. Covey opened by calling herself ‘a prophetess of God’ and closed by forecasting Hurricane Katrina-sized consequences if voters do not elect her. ‘I’m warning you,’ she said, in a speech that drew loud boos, ‘if you don’t change this government to God’s government, destruction will come, just as it did in New Orleans.’”
Also: “‘I want to give you the key that’s going to … put Toledo back on the map,’ Covey said. ‘[God] gave me a prophecy to read to you today…[Toledo has] fallen so hard and so dangerously that no man can bring you out, save God…I have shown my servant the miracle it will take to bring Toledo back to prosperity. This is the amusement park installment.’” That would be her grand plan, voiced before, to turn downtown Toledo into one big amusement park.
She’s also got a loose grasp on metaphor. From a written candidate Q&A with the local alt-weekly: “Q. What keeps you up at night? A. Nothing. I’m a sound sleeper.”
Yep, she’s a winner.
I used to be the city hall reporter for the Toledo newspaper, so campaign season back in Ohio is usually of inordinate interest to me. It looks like Carty Finkbeiner is a shoo-in winner. Which is good for local media. Carty was the mayor I covered, and he was enormous fun to deal with. “Colorful” would be the complimentary way to put it. (His let’s move deaf folks to the airport idea has taken on a life of its own.)
I have never been called more unprintable words by anyone else I’ve covered — maybe anyone else ever — but I have to admit, I like the guy. He’s the sort of energetic populist that you see a lot in Louisiana politics. And I’m not surprised he’s killing the competition in early polling, including the incumbent mayor.
By the way, it looks like Opal has a challenger as most crazy mayoral candidate this year. A fellow named Don Gozdowski thinks the key to ending urban poverty is improved hygiene for black people. He wants to be mayor so he can “end world hunger.” He wears flame ties. In the most recent debate: “Mr. Gozdowski quoted ’60s-era rock band The Animals and the actor Denzel Washington. He closed by donning black glasses and singing ‘I’ve Gotta Be Me.’” From the local college paper: “Gozdowski also said that though he’s never even been to a city council meeting, he has the ability to recognize and appreciate the heart of man.”
His all-purpose apology: “You’ve got to understand that what comes out of my mouth might not be what I mean.”
More debate about use of the word “refugee”:
- Scott Libin at Poynter, in effect, chickens out. “I see no easy answers to any of these questions,” blah blah blah. His disguised point seems to be: It’s silly to ban the word, but enough people have bitched about it that we might have to.
- The National Association of Black Journalists says it’s bad, falling on the silly backing that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a legal definition for the word that requires international border crossing. Well of course it does — that’s a legal definition tied to triggers in international law. Michael Chertoff doesn’t get to decide how we use language.
In any event, the appeal to international law is clearly not the issue here. That’s a front for the real reason people are opposed to the term — they view it as an insult. That’s why the head of NABJ calls it a “loaded” word. If it were just inaccurate in his mind, he wouldn’t call it “loaded.” He thinks it’s an insult to be called a refugee. I don’t think so. And I think that opinion is itself an insult to refugees around the world.
NABJ suggests, among other things, “survivor.” Ugh. This reminds me of the people who call the media whenever we refer to a “cancer patient.” They insist that, from the moment of diagnosis on, the correct term is “cancer survivor.” Look, call yourself whatever you want. But you can’t chip perfectly good words out of the English language because you want to play Orwell.
- Don Wycliff at the Chicago Tribune agrees with me. “I find myself astonished at the hubbub that has blown up around this particular word…if the implication is that Americans cannot be sent fleeing from fires, floods, famine and other disasters, natural or manmade, or from political oppression, then it is plainly untrue…It is particularly surprising to hear [Jesse] Jackson making the argument against ‘refugees’ in terms of American exceptionalism, because part of what has made him such an effective participant in this country’s political debates of the last few decades has been his ability to puncture notions of American exceptionalism.”
- This wire story details which news organizations have bought into all this. Killing “refugee” off: The Washington Post (disappointing), The Boston Globe, NPR. Keeping it alive: The New York Times, Associated Press.
Another way to help Katrina victims painlessly: Download this Pernice Brothers EP for five bucks. FYI for Dallasites, the Pernice Brothers are playing in Denton this Saturday.
After my earlier post about investing, Glenn pointed me towards Unconventional Success, a new book by David Swensen, the man who invests Yale’s $15 billion endowment and is, by most folks’ estimation, among the best at his job in America. He argues a lot of what I do in the crabwalk.com investing approach: Managed mutual funds are for chumps.
(This NYT article sums up his argument: “[H]e found himself horrified by what he saw — especially at the $8 trillion mutual fund industry, which is the primary means through which individuals invest in the market. Although his prose tends to be on the academic side, his outrage comes through on every page of ”Unconventional Success.” What is it about mutual funds that Swensen finds offensive? Just about everything. He hates the way the loads and all the hidden fees mean that the investor is always behind the eight ball…He thinks that it is criminal for fund companies to allow popular funds to balloon in size, making it nearly impossible for the manager to beat the market. He hates the way the industry pushes exactly the wrong fund at the wrong time — Internet-oriented funds at the height of the bubble, for instance…He notes, as others have before, that the vast majority of actively managed funds underperform. He uses phrases like ”invidious,” ”investor-damaging” and ”dirty scheme” to describe the general behavior of the industry…His core point, though, is that the for-profit fund industry has a fundamental conflict between its desire for profit and its fiduciary duty to its investors. And that the profit motive wins out every time.”)
He recommends a diversified portfolio of index funds — preferably purchased through non-profit companies like Vanguard or TIAA-CREF. That way you (a) get around their desire for profit clashing with your desire for strong returns and (b) get low expense ratios. His model portfolio calls for 30% domestic stocks, 15% foreign developed market stocks, 15% emerging market stocks, 20% real estate, 15% Treasury bonds, and 15% Treasury inflation-protected. For youngish folks like me, I still think 30% in bonds is too conservative; he acknowledges that he has only about 5% of Yale’s money in bonds, and I think when you’re looking at a 30-year timeframe, you can afford that sort of risk.
The thing I remember most about David Swensen is that he would never do interviews when we tried calling him in college.
Kudos to Yahoo for creating this metasearch of the various Katrina check-in sites. One place to search for a name that checks all the major web sites. Anyone who’s coming here looking for info on the late KatrinaCheckIn.org — alas, hosting could not be reestablished — should head to Yahoo.
Just 2 Guyz, having a good time.
Insanely detailed (‘tho no doubt effective) backup strategy for OS X.
In the interest of self-promotion, I would like to point out that I have on only one occasion made a recommendation to you, The Reader, on where to invest your money. Back in April, I recommended the Hennessy Cornerstone Growth Fund, a fund in which a significant portion of my own money, limited though it may be, has been placed since 2003.
Ahem: Forbes magazine tells us now that said fund is now in the top 2 percent of all small-cap funds over the last 12 months, returning 34.8 percent.
In other words: Invest the crabwalk.com way, and beat 98 percent of the market.
I won’t make any iron-clad predictions here, but my money is only invested in two other places: iShares MSCI Pacific Ex-Japan — an exchange-traded fund that indexes the major Australasian markets minus moribund Japan — and Vanguard’s Small-Cap VIPER, another ETF. Both up 10-12 percent YTD, vs. less than 3 percent for the S&P.
Low expense ratios, low churn, and passionless picking: those are the keys to the crabwalk.com portfolio.
Great video for Jason Forrest’s “Steppin’ Off.” The theme: a faux documentary of a mid-1970s rock tour, featuring a bearded dwarf and Led Zep-style occult dabblings. Includes a free visit to the Cave of Golgoth!
Forrest is one of my favorite DJs, despite the fact that listening to too many of his songs in a row leads to a terrible headache. (I mean that last sentence as both compliment and warning.) His new album comes out October 11.
Over the weekend, I got into a yelling match over the stupidest thing: the use of the terms “refugee” vs. “evacuee” in stories about Katrina.
(Blame it on the stress.)
A variety of folks have said that the word “refugee” is demeaning and inappropriate for Katrina victims. Jesse Jackson: “‘It is racist to call American citizens refugees,’ said Jackson, adding that the word connotes subhuman or criminals.” Well-meaning people (some of whom read this site!) have said it artificially puts distance between the reader and the affected people. My own employer — and we’re not the only ones — has decided we should use “evacuee” and not “refugee.”
Never mind that the dictionary definition of refugee perfectly fits these folks. They are seeking refuge; they have been forcibly removed from their homes by forces larger than themselves and are pursuing “protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship.”
My inner linguistic strict constructionist — the one who believes that words are useful in the communication of thoughts and shouldn’t be artificially limited by social norms — says it’s the best word. Or at the very least, it’s a good word that should be in our writerly toolbox.
But the most insulting thing I’ve heard is the idea (expressed by Jackson and others) that we shouldn’t call these people refugees because they’re Americans. Here’s someone named Lothario Lotho, an Oakland-based party planner : “He blasted some news reports that described the hurricane victims as refugees. ‘These are not refugees,” Lotho [said]. “These are displaced American citizens, and they need our love and support. They are Americans affected in an adverse way by a natural disaster that has never been seen before in this country.’”
Of course they deserve our love and support. Of course. I’m from Louisiana. This thing has wrecked me on a couple different levels.
But the underlying theme of many in the “they’re not refugees” crowd is: These are Americans. They’re not the trash we usually call “refugees.” I mean, does Jesse Jackson think that refugees in Rwanda, Angola, or the Sudan are “subhuman” and “criminals”? I hope not. I’ve always thought of them as incredibly unlucky people who, because of forces beyond their control, have had to leave their homes. Just like Katrina victims.
Watching this makes me as angry as I have been in my life.
We should all be helping out the Katrina victims, of course. Aside from my ill-fated KatrinaCheckIn.org (detailed below), I sent some money to the Red Cross and to the displaced employees of WWL (corporate sister to my employer) and the Times-Picayune, and I spent an hour yesterday afternoon accepting donations from passersby downtown.
But here are three relatively painless — enjoyable, even — ways to do your part:
1. Buy Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol’ Box Of New Orleans, a four-CD set of the best music New Orleans has had to offer over the last century: jazz, blues, Cajun, zydeco, R&B and funk. The tracks were selected by none other than Chuck Taggart: Los Angeles DJ, ex-New Orleanian, crabwalk.com reader, and all-around great guy. Artists include Fats Domino, Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, BeauSoleil, Buckwheat Zydeco, Earl King, The Meters, The Neville Brothers and Louis Armstrong.
Says the Times-Picayune: “More successfully than any previous compilation, [it] captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music.” Says Scott Jordan, boss man of The Independent (and another crabwalk reader!): “The best collection yet of Louisiana music.” Detroit Free Press: “Excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated…New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don’t know what it’s like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand.”
And the best part: The record label has agreed to donate all profits from sales through 2005 to the Red Cross. See, easy way to help!
2. This one’s for Dallasites: The Angelika is having a benefit viewing of A Streetcar Named Desire, the New Orleans classic, on Monday, Sept. 12 at 7:30. Get tickets via a minimum donation of $10, all of which will go to the Red Cross. As Blanche DuBois said: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Info at 214-841-4712.
They’re seeking bars all across the country to help, so everyone, go to your favorite bar over the next few days and ask them to participate. (I just sent an email to the Meridian Room.) Drinks will be sold for $10 and all proceeds go to support the bartenders, wait staff and other service-industry folks in New Orleans left homeless. There’s even a drink recipe page for those who don’t know how to pour a Pimms cup or a Sazerac.
This is, of course, only fitting, because New Orleans is the birthplace of the cocktail.
Finally, just to set the mood for your donatin’, have three Louisiana-themed songs. If you like ‘em, give big money to the Red Cross:
- A solo piano version of Louisiana 1927 by Randy Newman. Recorded live on KCRW back around 1997. “Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time / Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline / The river rose all day / The river rose all night / Some people got lost in the flood / Some people got away alright / The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines / Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline / Louisiana, Louisiana / They’re tryin’ to wash us away.” The historical basis for the song is detailed in Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.
- Big Chief by Professor Longhair. A more New Orleans song by a more New Orleans artist is difficult to imagine.
While my home state is slowly dissolving, some pretty big news on a familiar front to crabwalk readers:
“The Wilmer-Hutchins school district is being put out of its misery. State Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley announced Friday that the long-troubled district will cease to exist July 1. Its boundaries will be merged into the Dallas school district – which is already educating Wilmer-Hutchins’ students, since Wilmer-Hutchins can’t afford to. The commissioner’s move – which awaits federal approval – closes one of the most traumatic chapters that a Texas school district has faced. The district saw two indictments of its superintendent, the forced ouster of its school board, a widespread cheating scandal and a complete financial collapse.”
Michael Tisserand leaves New Orleans. I mention this primarily because (a) his book The Kingdom of Zydeco is on my bedside table, and (b) he’s evacuated to the Carencro home of my friend (and crabwalk reader) Scott Jordan.
From 2001: “…earlier this year the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans [from a hurricane] as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country. The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.”
If I’m living in San Francisco, I’m a little nervous right now.
I’m so glad that this cop will find time to watch DVDs in between rescue missions. Asshole.
“Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city,” stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. “From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence,’ New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge,” he continued. Asshole.
“House Speaker Dennis Hastert dropped a bombshell on flood-ravaged New Orleans on Thursday by suggesting that it isn’t sensible to rebuild the city. ‘It doesn’t make sense to me,’ Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in editions published today. ‘And it’s a question that certainly we should ask’…’It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.’” Asshole.
And from the web site of Louisiana’s official racist, David Duke (duke.org, I don’t even want to honor it with a fucking link): “New Orleans descends into Africa-like Savagery!…One African-American was stopped by a TV news reporter. Carrying an armful of new designer jeans he was asked by the reporter if he was trying to save the inventory of his store. With a big toothy grin the looter replied, ‘This store be everybody’s now!’…The news reports from this morning on the WWL-TV website report that in their quest to loot, gangs of rampaging Negroes even raided a nursing home full of sick and infirmed elderly…I recently reached by phone a police officer friend in my home city of Mandeville, a community that has had tremendous wind and water damage, no electricity, no phone service, no alarms functioning, etc. He told me that there have been almost no incidents of looting or robbery of any kind. Mandeville is about 96 percent White.” Asshole.
Sorry, but everywhere you turn, there’s another fucking asshole.
Not that I ever had reason to, but when Nye was working on my college paper with me, I never would have picked him out as a guy to harass. Dude’s 6’3”, 220, and strong. (He always seemed even taller than that — maybe that was the rollerblades he was always wearing.) Which is why this seems to bizarre.
What a strange 24 hours.
As the last post says, I launched KatrinaCheckIn.org yesterday morning, around 2:30 a.m. By the time I woke up, around 8:00, I had CNN on the phone asking me to do an on-air interview the next morning. I also had visitors pouring in at the at-the-time-unbelievable rate of 1,500 an hour.
People were posting about their conditions and their loved ones — heartwrenching stuff in many cases. I was happy, because the site was fulfilling its purpose. There were a few other similiar sites set up at about the same time, but I think that KatrinaCheckIn.org was the largest of the independent ones. (Sites set up by the Times-Picayune and WWL-TV were probably the same size or a bit bigger.)
Anyway, I was frustrated when the site started crashing around 9:30 a.m. I wrote to my web host — which, for the record, is not the crappy one I recently tossed to the curb — to complain. The server ended up fixed, but it failed again a couple hours later. When the site was up, it was grindingly slow. I was a little mad.
Which was dumb. Because, as it turns out, I was the one crashing the server. Because KatrinaCheckIn.org was drawing in an absolutely insane number of hits.
In the end, my host — completely reasonably — had to take the site down. Turns out the site was on pace to pull in 84 million hits in a single day. (To put that in context, here’s a note from my host: “Companies like realtor.com have 60 load-balanced web servers, a large staff (and they spend 40 million a month) to do 20 million a day without issues. Yahoo’s Sept 11th memorial 3 day ‘event’ did 64 million hits over 3 days, took months to plan, was done on 500 servers and was fully staffed. That’s the kind of traffic that showed up here.”)
The wholesale bandwidth alone for a day’s traffic on KatrinaCheckIn.org was going to be $18,000. The site was generating 1,000 requests to the web server per second right before being shut down. (Again, from my host, “Wikipedia for example does a 1,000 requests/second on a 64-server cluster with about a dozen of those being squid proxy caches.” I don’t know what a squid proxy cache is — although it sounds totally awesome — but Wikipedia’s 64 servers compare quite favorably to the one server KatrinaCheckIn.org was on. And it shared that server with hundreds of other sites — crabwalk.com among them.)
So — what now? The terrific people at Textdrive are working on a few possible routes to bringing it back without melting servers and emptying my 401(k). May have word soon. I’m hopeful. But I wanted those who used the site to know I’m sorry it disappeared, and that I’m working to bring it back.
(FYI, CNN called late last night and cancelled the interview — presumably because they realized there was no site left to talk about.)
Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, among other things. Before that, he was a staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (More.)
Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer. In many cases, they may not even be mine.