Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Saints are coming 

It would be impossible to overestimate the level of Saints hysteria going on in New Orleans right now. We're saturated here.

Seriously, I couldn't even attempt to truly describe the atmosphere. But, to give you an idea, I'll note that on a rainy Christmas Eve last month, after a regular season Saints road win, 2,000 fans assembled on the sides of a road near the airport to show their love for the team.

So, obviously, if the Saints win the NFC championship (as I expect), there may be 10,000+ fans waiting by the road tomorrow on a chilly, rainy Sunday night; waving at our triumphant heroes, riding on a bus. That would be about 5% of the city's current population.

Everyone's been wearing gold and black for the past two days, and everyone's been talking about little else than the game. The pride and unity here is amazing-- an immeasurable psychic boost to a stricken city.

I can't begin to imagine what will happen here if the Saints win tomorrow, much less win the Super Bowl. Between celebrating the Saints and Carnival, the whole town might have to take the month of February off.

Deucebag Jeffrey has promised "the biggest Saints-related post ever", so I'll just link to him in advance.

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Update: Also, tonight on Fox 8's 9pm broadcast, there will be an interview with my friend Ratboy about the Saints (and other stuff) from Chicago.
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Hivemind... activate! 

As many of you know Lovely and I are... expecting. Yeah, yeah-- cheers, and all that. Another Pearlgirl is on the way, and we're delighted.

However, we haven't been able to agree upon a name for the new Baby (matrix). She's due in March, so this isn't a Big Deal yet, but I can tell it's becoming a stressor for Lovely. So I guess we need to come up with somepin sooner than later.

Fortunately, just now, I received a most excellent idea. How 'bout we get creative? How 'bout we celebrate the New Orleans Saints watershed season with a feminized version of one of their players' or coach's names? (Or nicknames.) Or we could use a word or phrase that relates to the Saints in a cool way. I think there's vast potential here for creating the perfect sports homage in the form of an innovative name (like "Seven").

So, Blogger Hivemind, I earnestly implore you: gimme your best suggestions for a Saints baby name in the comments. If one of them is good enough, it may become the name of a lifetime. (For those who must know, the surname we are working with is "Moseley".)

I'll start with an obvious potential name that doesn't need tinkering:

"Drew" or even "Drew Brees"

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Alright, I can't help it, one more:

"Shanle" (after perhaps the most underappreciated Saints player).

C'mon, help us out.
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Whoa 

Scout finds a Post Breach video by Ben Mor titled "Help is Coming". It's symbolic, spooky, intense and arty. Scout considers it the best internet Katrina video she has seen, so take a look. Not your light Friday fare, though.

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Also, I think this Moldy City post on Nagin's "very favorable" city loan, and this Metblogs post about the Magazine St. "dystopia" (H/T Jeffrey) are two absolute must-reads for locals.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

 
If the "Super Bowl for Prostitutes" is in New Orleans this year, why does Amsterdam get the trophy?
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5 things 

Paw paw tagged me with one of those beloved "blog chains", and wants me to list five little-known, "off-the-wall" things about myself. Feel free to skip this minutiae, but if you do read it, please interpret these personal factoids with utmost charity.

1. I once taught a college course on Feminist Ethics, and was fond of discussing the works of bell hooks and Nancy Chodorow.

2. In 1998, I had a dispute with Entergy that went unresolved, and I got pissed and spent a year living in an apartment without electricity. I consoled myself with a Nietzsche quote about the virtue of cold baths. (And except for the summer, it wasn't as bad as you might think.)

3. During my first year of college, Medium Jim and I were big fans of Love Connection with Chuck Woolery. Occasionally, after watching Woolery perform his signature "two and two" gesture going to commercial break, we would celebrate his coolness by jumping off a second-story dorm balcony. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do.

4. Fiona Apple interrupted a concert to scold me and a gal from Mississippi for talking too loudly during her show at HOB. She lectured us about rudeness for several minutes, and eventually got the rest of the crowd to applaud in support of her speech. My comrade from Mississippi then returned fire and yelled: "Shut up ya skinny bitch! Go take a hit off your crack pipe, and play the damn piano!"

5. I keep my keys on a Chococat keychain. I think Chococat is cool, and the keychain was one of my few personal possessions to survive the Federal Flood.

However, last week I was sitting in the banker's office explaining why my company needed a business loan for future growth. After asking numerous questions, the banker stood up and asked to make a photocopy of my driver's license for his file. I stood up too, but my wallet was in my suit pocket below my keys, so I quickly pulled out both items because I didn't want to look like a weirdo (keeping him waiting while I clumsily fished around in my pockets).

So, along with my wallet, out popped Chococat. In full view. Ta da!




That was a fun moment: Two grown men in suits standing in a bank, discussing the exchange of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the applicant pulls a child's toy out of his pants and presents it to the loan officer.

Somehow, I was still approved.

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I don't care if it's bad luck. I'm not gonna inflict this chain on anyone else. Bloggers can "tag" themselves if they're interested.

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I've been remiss 

It's been over 27 months since my last post on unfortunate Romanian penis choppings.

Sorry for the lack of updates. Here's the latest one:

Doctors' unions in Romania have criticised a decision to make a surgeon pay ($200k) in damages after he lost his temper and hacked off a patient's penis during surgery.

Surgeon Naum Ciomu, who had been suffering from stress at the time, had been operating on patient Nelu Radonescu, 36, to correct a testicular malformation when he suddenly lost his temper.

Grabbing a scalpel, he sliced off the penis in front of shocked nursing staff, and then placed it on the operating table where he chopped it into small pieces before storming out of the operating theatre at Bucharest hospital.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Triumphing over adversity by selecting a Bentley 

In his perceptive sports column, Wojo writes:

Bears cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. was standing in front of his locker after Chicago's 27-24 overtime win in the NFC Divisional playoff, and he was talking about how difficult the past 12 months have been for him.

"I would say the last year has been a drastic change for me as far as signing with the Bears, then with the off-the-field issues [he pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge], getting married, having a kid, moving to Chicago, buying a Bentley... it's crazy," he said.
...
Oh my gawd. You see, this is the problem with a lot of the Bears. Manning signs a five-year, $21 million free-agent deal and buys one of the most expensive cars on the planet -- and thinks he's had it rough. Bears quarterback Rex Grossman watches his team eke out an overtime win against a Seattle Seahawks team with a loan officer in its secondary and he says, "Our whole team just played great."

These oblivious Chi-town pikers are gonna get thumped on Sunday, and that ain't no fairly tale.
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Interview with Iraqi Christian priest 

TPM links to this video interview of an Iraqi Christian priest discussing the devolving situation for his congregation since 2003.

Imagine how bad conditions are for a pastor to say the following:

It was much better [during Saddam] than now. There was poverty, low income and war, but the enemy was outside of Iraq, not inside.
...
[sounds of nearby gunfire outside]

As you can hear now, there are shootings and no security.

Christians who spent a lifetime under a Stalinist tyrant now find conditions in Iraq unendurable, and are fleeing by the thousands. That boggles my mind.

Think about it: Christian communities that have existed almost since the Nazarene's resurrection (and who pray in Aramaic and worship in the land where the Garden of Eden supposedly existed) perservered through two millennia of empires, wars, catastrophes and religious persecution... until the current military occupation and sectarian war.

Perhaps some Neo-Cons might criticize Iraq's Christians for "cutting and running", but if there's no security and constant death threats... how can you not leave? This article describes one Christian parent's tragic tale:

For some [Christians] in Mosul, there is bewilderment at why the West-- with its powerful Christian figures in George W Bush, Tony Blair and Pope Benedict XVI-- cannot help. Among them is Firaz Adis, 51, who will pass this Christmas without his son Ricot, kidnapped from Mosul University four months ago. "I paid a ransom of $10,000 but they killed my son anyway," he sobbed. "They said 'This will keep happening as long as you are agents of the occupiers'. I ask all the Christians in the world: 'Please help us'

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Update: Some historical reminders from a recent Der Spiegel article:

It was a Syrian Christian, Michel Aflaq, who founded the nationalist Baath movement in 1940, a career ladder for Iraqi Christians until 2003 and still a political safe haven for many Syrian Christians today. Former Egyptian President Gamal Abd al-Nasser had no qualms about paying homage to the Virgin Mary, who supposedly appeared on a church roof in a Cairo suburb after Egypt's defeat in its 1967 war with Israel. And former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, insisted on sitting in the first row in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity during the annual Christmas service.

But those days are gone. The last prominent Christians -- Chaldean Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister for many years, and Hanan Ashrawi, Arafat's education minister -- have vanished from the political stage in the Middle East. And since the election victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the bloody power struggles between Sunni and Shiite militias in Iraq, the illusion that Christian politicians could still play an important role in the Arab world is gone once and for all.

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Update #2: The moral emptiness of the Bush Administration's War in Iraq is on prime display here:

Senate lawmakers sharply criticized the Bush administration on Tuesday for failing to provide refuge in the United States for the most vulnerable of the Iraqis fleeing the violence at home.

The United Nations estimates that two million Iraqis have fled the country and that 1.7 million are currently displaced within the country. Of those, roughly 500,000 have been displaced since February, with roughly 40,000 to 50,000 more fleeing their homes each month. Among them are Iraqis who have been threatened or attacked for working with American troops and companies.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ellen Sauerbrey, an assistant secretary of state, acknowledged that only 466 Iraqis had been admitted as refugees since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. She said that expanding the resettlement of vulnerable Iraqis in the United States was "a top priority."
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The bipartisan panel of senators called for prompt action, warning that the United States was abandoning many Iraqis who had helped the United States-- as translators, guides and contractors-- at great personal risk.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wonderfully pretty 

Here's some Cure lyrics I slightly "augmented" after reading this mind-blowing post at TIA.


The Tomkats
...
into the sea you and me
all the years and no one heard
i'll show you in spring
it's a treacherous thing
we missed you hissed the tomkats
...

we're so wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully
wonderfully pretty!
...
hand in hand
is the only way to land
and always the right way round
not broken in pieces
like hated little Meeses...
how could we miss
someone as dumb as this?
we missed you hissed the Tomkats

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"They think it is important to be there right now" 

Richard links to this US "exclusive" story which states:

Hollywood's favorite nomadic couple is finally settling down-- far away from Tinseltown.

Angelina Jolie tells Us Weekly that she and Brad Pitt have moved their three children, Maddox,5, Zahara, 2, and 7-month-old Shiloh, to New Orleans.

"We love it there," Jolie told Us at the Golden Globe Awards after confirming the move. "The kids are going to go to school there. We're really looking forward to it."


On January 12, just a day after moving to The Big Easy, Jolie was already mixing with the locals at restaurant Angeli on Decatur.

Diner Jorge... tells Us the star-- clad in an ivory dress over white pants-- blended right in: "No one at my table believed me when I told them it was her." And that's just what she wants.

While Pitt works (he's filming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button locally), sources say Jolie, 31, plans on being a low-key mom in the $3.5 million, six-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath mansion the pair recently purchased (their fourth house) in the French Quarter.

"She's interested in befriending normal moms so she can do things with the kids," says a Jolie source.
...
The couple also hope to raise awareness for the region, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Says the source, "They think it is important to be there right now."

Um. How can I put this? Good for them. I'm glad they're settling here, and I think they'll enjoy the casual attitude New Orleanians have regarding celebrities. I hope they like their new house (which I mentioned a month ago) and the school they've chosen for their children. Verily I say to you, I will do my best to help Ms. Jolie meet some "normal moms" (and dads?).




'Course, there's a New Normal in these parts.
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What an Obamanation 

Presidential candidate Barrack Obama, who was a State Senator 25 months ago, has the audacity to declare that the New Orleans Saints' "fairy tale" is over.

Now, surely if a "tall, skinny guy with big ears and a funny name" can be a serious (vice?) Presidential candidate, then a rebuilt football team from a catastrophe zone can be a Super Bowl Champion. It's not over until it's over.

I predict that Chicago fans will not achieve "Rextasy" next Sunday. The Saints will prevail, and after the game, Sen. Obama will dine on deep dish crow pie.

I just hope Bears fans will be better behaved when they lose than when they win. Da Paper reminds us about last time:

On Jan. 6, 1991, Chicago defeated the Saints 16-6 in a wild-card game at Soldier Field.
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As the final minutes ticked down at Soldier Field on that January day 16 years ago, jubilant Bears fans pelted the Saints' sideline and Black and Gold fans with snowballs, some laced with household batteries.

This is how we roll. We throw parties, not batt'ries.

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Doing Nuance 

The Cunning Realist posts a very illuminating quote from "The Best and the Brightest", which couldn't be more applicable to the current situation in Iraq. You'll probably get more insight from those paragraphs than anything else you read today.

History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes.
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Monday, January 15, 2007

Mosquito Coast 

Why are skeeters swarming in January? They're suddenly all over, and completely vicious.

They're getting big, too. I heard the governor declared the mosquito to be the new state bird of Louisiana.

It's enough to drive one crazy.

Snowball?


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Bush Admin hid Big Oil royalty avoidance 

TPM:

The Interior Department's internal watchdog says top officials at the agency knew about problems costing taxpayers as much as $10 billion in revenue, but tried to hide the problem from the public, according to Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Tollefson.


Well, at least our intrepid Interior Dept. recouped the royalties going all the way back to October '06, rather than 1998. Very impressive.
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Exemplars of Crony Capitalism 

Discussing the merits of Bush's surge/escalation are almost beside the point if the companies doing the nation-building are incompetent, corrupt, or both.

From the Independent via TPM (some of these article excerpts have been cut and pasted out of order for effect):


The American company appointed to advise the US government on the economic reconstruction of Iraq has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican Party coffers and has admitted that its own finances are in chaos because of accounting errors and bad management.
...
Across the world, BearingPoint has become... a part of the US government's strategy of spreading free-market reforms to developing countries and America's allies. Elsewhere in the Middle East it is advising the government of Jordan on how to minimise the regulation of business and reform its tax policies in order to attract foreign investment; in Egypt it is advising on customs reform and respect for international companies' patents.

...

BearingPoint is being paid $240m for its work in Iraq, winning an initial contract from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) within weeks of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. It was charged with supporting the then Coalition Provisional Authority to introduce policies "which are designed to create a competitive private sector". Its role is to examine laws, regulations and institutions that regulate trade, commerce and investment, and to advise ministries and the central bank.

...
BearingPoint is fighting to restore its reputation in the US after falling more than a year behind in reporting its own financial results, prompting legal actions from its creditors and shareholders.
...

The company's shares have collapsed to a third of their value when the firm listed in 2001, and it faces being thrown out of the New York Stock Exchange altogether. Despite annual revenues of $3.4bn, the company made a loss of $722m in 2005. Those figures were released only last month, nine months late, and the company has not yet been able to report any fully audited figures at all for 2006.

Analysts in the US claim the reason is a culture of poor management controls stretching back to before the company was carved out of KPMG, the global accounting giant, at the start of the decade. A litany of failings included invoices going astray, poorly trained accounting staff and a failure to work out the tax implications of having so many employees working in foreign countries.

Why does the Bush administration repeatedly invest in companies that can't do basic accounting? Why do they choose incompetent cronies to be America's "free market" ambassadors to the Middle East? American investors won't even invest in BearingPoint, yet we send this unprofitable company to the frontline of the GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR as economic consultants, planners and trainers. BearingPoint can't even properly train their own staff-- how do they expect to train foreign countries?!

Why don't conservatives understand that this sort of crap GUARANTEES that we will lose in Iraq? Why don't our troops overseas deserve the very best political and economic support teams available, rather than Republican cronies and toadies?

These are the same people who normally genuflect before the sacred "free-market", yet they don't raise a peep about crony capitalist shite like this, when American lives are on the line.
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One-11 "may be a watershed date" 

For MLK day, I want to reprint this hopeful excerpt from the latest Gambit Weekly commentary:

Skeptics doubted the extraordinary [crime march] demonstration would have any effect on the crime rate. We disagree. In fact, we saw ample evidence that Jan. 11 may be a watershed date in the city's post-Katrina history. The demonstrators showed a capacity for political courage and racial unity that our leaders have lacked.

Yes, racial unity. Almost one year to the day after Nagin's divisive "Chocolate City" speech on the Martin Luther King Day, black and white New Orleanians from all walks of life and all parts of town marched and prayed together for a safer city. After the divisive mayor's race last spring, who would have thought such a coalition possible? One of the high points came when a majority-black procession from crime-wracked Central City marched up Perdido Street-- to a hero's welcome from other demonstrators and mostly white CBD workers on their lunch-hour. Going forward, such diverse coalitions will be essential to fighting crime and restoring community confidence in NOPD.
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