For me one of the highlights of Mardi Gras time is always the brief, seasonal reunion of the Panorama Brass Band, the carnival-time offshoot of Panorama Jazz Band. Band leader/founder/Clarinetist Ben Schenk started Panorama to focus on Clarinet heavy brass music, and the band plays raucous numbers from all over the world, with Balkan, Caribbean and Klezmer influences, as well as homespun New Orleans selections. Their shows are always totally jumping, with audience members ranging from gutter punks to old school New Orleans brass aficionados. One of my favorite Mardi Gras memories is following Panorama around in the St. Anthony parade and even watching them in a bizarre standoff with a bunch of rabid Christian protestors who, for whatever reason,
Local eating habits, never a paragon of restraint under normal circumstances, tend to bottom out at Mardi Gras, when cold fried chicken, mangled finger sandwiches and bloody Mary garnishes can make up a shockingly high percentage of nutritional intake for some people, myself included.
But this year I've spotted a small measure of gastronomical salvation along the parade route, in the form of the World's Healthiest Pizza. This is the local company formed in 2006 by health and nutrition writer Jeff Leach and his business partners with a serious mission to make the nation's most popular take-out food something that is actually good for you. The fiber-loaded crust is the heart of the matter, and the center of the boast implied in the company's name.
The company has done well enough to expand with two shops now open in the Uptown universities area, and this carnival season World's Healthiest Pizza vendors can be found hawking their pies from a wagon they drag along the St. Charles Avenue parade route. If you've been curious about this pizza but perhaps reluctant to try it, the parade route is actually the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl.
by Sam Winston
You gotta give the guy credit for putting New Orleans in the spotlight. Whether it's genuine is probably besides the point because Edwards is apparently bowing out of the race for President. New Orleans and the recovery in the national political news, rising with Edwards' announcement from the 9th ward and plummeting after the national debate snub, has officially vanished as a campaign issue.
While Edwards as a candidate has been overshadowed by the Clinton and Obama campaigns, he has managed to steer the policy debate for the Democrats quite a bit. He definitely brought up New Orleans more often than any other candidate. It's probably wishful thinking but perhaps in trying to gain his endorsement Clinton or Obama will once again take up the plight of New Orleans and create a much more visible and active federal plan. The Democratic candidates think they own this issue but it would be nice if they'd belly up to the heavy lifting of it the way Edwards advocated instead of just using it to bap their Republicans foes with it for an easy score.
According to Edwards' website, its going down at noon at
4000 North Roman Street (Intersection of Roman and Bartholomew)
(Why so happy? These guys have pretty good health care coverage.)
It seems President Bush cares about as much for health care as he does New Orleansat least in the number of words, that is. In Bushs 2006 State of the Union speech, many in New Orleans believed he would outline many of his administrations plans for rebuilding the city and the Gulf Coast. Instead, Bush expended 160 words on all the feds had already done for New Orleans, and recognized that many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country (they likely felt this exclusion most acutely when they were hanging out on rooftops waiting for days to be rescued, or while they were waiting for rescue for days at the Convention Center or it could have been when they were living for days, weeks and months in formaldehyde-laced trailer homes waiting for suitable replacement housing).
Even though 47 million Americans dont have health care insurance, no one really believed the president would talk too much about it in his 2008 State of the Union speech.
And the good news? Without any high expectations, no one was disappointed when Bush gave the nations health care all of 159 words. Besides, whats the point if youre only repeating yourself?
Allright, y'all, this missive is from Captain Ann-Marie Coviello of the Box of Wine. The Box of Wine is the parade that marches down St. Charles to alert the revelers and Mardi Gras fans that the time of Bacchus is upon us. It is open to all and more fun than a barrel of Motley Crue and Lindsay Lohan. Come march or watch.
To those who don't know, Bacchus is the reason behind Mardi Gras. It all goes back to Bachhus. And he must be worshipped and given tribute especially, according to Grand Marshall for Life Shelly Loughnane, "by those who lives the lives that we do."
From Ann Marie:
It's that time of year again, the time of year when a Bacchantes mind turns away from the quotidian and toward the call of Dionysus' drumming....
by Sam Winston
I said it would be Paris. It'll be London instead. If I'm still on this side of the pond, it's only an hour flight to London from Hamburg. If any Saints crazies are planning on making trip, avoid the "traditional" English breakfast and try to find some clotted creme instead. I was just there for New Year's and beans for breakfast when they are not "south of the border" style are terrifying.
With Mardi Gras rolling fast and hard, it is easy, while living in the heart of New Orleans, to forget what is happening in the rest of the world. However, since I am the wimp of all wimps when it comes to weather, I have yet to venture out to see a parade.
This unwillingness to be cold or wet has given me the opportunity to catch up on my favorite past time. Surprisingly, this obsession of mine is with Awards Shows. Normally, I love them all. I am not a huge fan of the droning on of announcers or the sometimes unbearable acceptance speeches, but instead, I love to see actors dressed in their finest. Nothing is more satisfying to me than to see what beauty is cast upon the red carpets.
You may or may not have heard of Ninth Ward organist Mr. Quintron's musical invention the Drum Buddy, but if you've ever attended one of his sweaty dance parties you've seen the curious machine flashing and whirring front and center. The machine is a combination analog synthesizer/rhythm kit/signal processor whose beeps, tweets and scratches are regulated by light sensors read through differently spaced holes in the spinning can that rotates atop the machine. The principle is half-theremin, half-player piano, and it gives Quintron's sound its distinctly organic-meets-digital swamp tone.
Because of the cost and effort involved in making the instruments, they're not often advertised as on sale to the public - however, a recent order from experimental musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson spurred a production frenzy, and a run of ten were sold over the past few months. The last machine in the series - which boasts a unique cabinet carved from rare Louisiana sinker cypress - is now up for auction on eBay, ending Mardi Gras Day.
The profits from the sale are pledged to go to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Click here to bid - and start making some funny noises of your own.
by Sam Winston
Mardi Gras is not just too early for Crawfish, the season is supposed to be particularly bad according to this radio interview.
It's funny. As the average/clueless consumer, I seem to remember over recent years having no middle ground for crawfish seasons. It was always either "sparse" around Mardi Gras time only to watch consumer prices sink to ridiculous levels by the end of spring as the Crawdads grew in size and quantity, or for the Crawfish to remain small all year with hefty 4 dollar a pound and up prices. Then a friend of the family usually comes in late spring every year from the Lafayette area and destroys our New Orleans impression of the season with steroid size Crawfish that seemed to never have anything to do with the up and down talk of the season.
Regardless, another good friend of mine, whose boiling claim to fame is oranges in addition to lemons, lamented recently that with the Gras so early this year, things just aren't the same without plentiful Crawfish.
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