Friday, January 20, 2006

Pet Pic o' the Day

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Back in the Saddle

We're almost done with our first week back in the classroom, and I couldn't be more happy with how it's gone, at least as far as the students are concerned. I had visions of breaking down with emotion when walking in and seeing a good crowd in the classroom. I knew that wouldn't happen, but I am generally touched and encouraged by the numbers.

Although many students have expressed anxiety about being back and claim only to be here because they need to graduate, most are very upbeat and taking the hassles and inconveniences in stride. As I watch them, I think, "Do they notice the garbage all around and the continued disrepair on campus?" Of course they do. So I wonder, "Do they not care?" Of course they care. "Then why do they do it?" Well, I think they do it because for all the entitlement of this generation of college students, most of ours realize that we all have a lot to be grateful for. As much as we'd all like a picture-perfect campus amid a glorious setting of oaks and parks, that's not what we're here for. We're here for a place where learning is valued and happens, despite the obstacles in our way.

Now I'm not naive enough to think that all of us have the intrinsic motivation to put all we should into our work because we care that much, but this is a place that is very agreeable. Most students prefer it to where they were, even if those schools had many more trappings than we have. I too would like to have a few more "attractions" on campus, but I appreciate that if you're going to have only one aspect, the academics are the fundamentals, and we still have that in spades.

I'm glad to be back, and I'm glad that our students are generally glad to be back too. Work never felt so good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chocolate City

Well, the mayor stepped in deep cocoa Monday. I just caught it yesterday, but he said that New Orleans will be a "chocolate city" by the end of the day.

The right-wingers are jumping on the potential divisiveness of this statement, without realizing the real problems with it and its context. I have several reactions.

1) I have no problem with New Orleans being "chocolate," which, to most of us, would mean "Black." The truth is, New Orleans has been predominantly Black for a long time now, and African and African American culture give the city its soul. I believe that Nagin did not mean that Whites should not be in the city. I'm not sure if his claim that he means chocolate in the form of "dark chocolate mixing with white milk to make a delicious drink" (to paraphrase his explanation) is genuine, but I don't really care that much. If anything, Nagin has been overly-conciliatory to White New Orleans, so I think he was just trying to compensate a bit, not incite a race war.

2) The bigger problems come from the truly divisive aspects of what he said. One was that God and MLK were talking to him about all this. The other was that he didn't care what Uptown people said, we're going to be Chocolate.

First, the God thing. I have very little tolerance for people who think they know what God wants. I think it shows the absolute lack of critical thinking if someone says that an event is God's punishment or God's reward, without looking for evidence that contradicts it. If you're going to say that Sharon's stroke is God's punishment, but Ryan White was called to be with his creator, that's screwing with the data. Why hasn't David Duke had a stroke? Gimme a break.

Now, the Uptown thing. I live in Uptown, and part of the reason I live there is because it's diverse and generally not full of bigots. Now I've heard some people talk about the improvements to the city since "those people" have left, but I don't know them, and I don't want to. My neighborhood is richly diverse (although gentrifying--guilty as charged), in terms of race, class, age, etc. In fact, I have a friend who ridicules the people driving to the 'burbs by saying, "Go back to honkytown." Most of us Uptown value the diversity and want to maintain it. And everyone I know who lives there wants the city to stay majority Black.

3) Later, I just started laughing when watching the local news people try to get through the newscast with a straight face. Reminded me of Eddie Murphy impersonating Jesse Jackson's gaffe on SNL long ago: "Don't let me down...Hymietown." I actually see these comments as an ingenious move toward the normal banana republic style of politics we have here. It doesn't make me mad; it cracks me up. I don't think anyone but Hannity took it seriously enough to think it's going to hurt our chances for aid.

I'm thinking about t-shirts, bumper stickers, everything. I think those little oval stickers that show your car was imported from Ireland or somewhere would be good. Just the CC and then Chocolate City underneath.

And Chris Rose couldn't resist interrupting his vacation with another classic column.

Reporting from Chocolate City--HammHawk

Monday, January 16, 2006


Today is the day for us to recognize this great man and what he stood for. I always feel guilty for my lack of participation and tell myself it's ok because I don't do anything for President's Day either.

But it's not ok. King was better than pretty much any president we've had, and just because my job is to help African American students advance themselves doesn't mean that's always my motivation (or that I'd do it for free). So today I'm going to a vigil to show some support. And I'm going to continue to encourage my students to participate in activities to help the city come back. That could be action in the spirit of King.

I often wonder why we don't have someone like him today. I know he wasn't perfect, but let's face it, Jesse Jackson is more interested in photo ops, and Al Sharpton has great ideas but can be a blowhard too. I suspect the current Kings are under the radar.

Someone like Malik Rahim could be the difference maker. And I'm biding my time til Barak Obama storms the white house. I'd personally volunteer to run secret service for that guy.


I thought I could share my idea for Oregon's license plate or state marketing campaign or something with this brainstorm, but I Googled it and found that a bunch of things had that title, so I guess I wasn't the first. Dang.

Then, we have a suburb near here called LaPlace, which I assume means "the place." So I was thinking of sending them a letter saying they should put it on their "Welcome To..." sign or something, and I see that someone from there called her cookbook that.

Don't know why I can never think of something original. I have a few more, but I doubt they'll go anywhere. Such as the melon sling, which would make carrying watermelons, canteloupe, etc easier, and I'd like to market a fish tank ornament in the form of a mafia rat in cement shoes and sleeping with the fishes. I came as that for Halloween a couple years ago, and it was my most successful costume.

Some day my ship will come in...

Rave of the Now--Damien Rice's O

My brother got me this CD about a year ago, and I can't get enough of it. Was reminded of it while watching The Girl in the Cafe (4 stars) last night with E & MIL (mom-in-law). Cute movie; slightly heavy-handed, but still. Anyway, I'm a sucker for sad-sounding music, and this album is the best. It's my preferred falling-asleep music. Every song is beautiful. Also featured in Closer (3 stars). Perfect for both. But I'm itching for his next album.

Second Line--Mixed Results

Yesterday was the day for a fabulous second line through various parts of town. About 17 Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs sponsored, and a bunch of brass bands a relocated folks returned for the show of unity in returning the great city. I was really charged up by the turnout and the mood. Everything seemed great.

Then today I read in the paper that right after we left three people were wounded in shootings. It's just awful.

Why do we have to step back every time we step forward? Who are these punks who still think they're showing something by shooting someone? New Orleans has a chance to move forward and be a better, more enlightened city, and the crime continues. It just breaks my heart after such a positive and inspiring event.