Friday, July 23, 2010

Sissy bounce makes The New York Times magazine

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 10:59 PM

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Our dear departed music columnist Alison Fensterstock (who left to write for some paper or another) wrote the first major article about New Orleans' sissy bounce scene for Gambit back in the summer of 2008. Since then, the scene has gotten national attention -- partly due to Alison -- from national magazines and various music festivals. But now sissy bounce has either made it or jumped the shark (depending on how you look at it): Katey Red, Vockah Redu, Big Freedia and the rest are all in a huge feature in the upcoming New York Times Sunday Magazine.

The story, "New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap," by Jonathan Dee is ... well, a mixed bag. Alison seems to have been Dee's main source (and he quotes her extensively), but like so many well-meaning, well-written stories about the city, there's still a New Orleans As Exotic Zoo feel to it, especially when Dee drops phrases like "the cultural Galapagos that is New Orleans." Dee follows Katey Red and Vockah Redu to Austin, Texas, for a performance in "a cruddy little venue" called the Beauty Bar:

Nothing if not old-school, [Katey] led the crowd (and her two backup singers) through a series of shout-outs to the projects and neighborhoods of New Orleans, even though very few in the audience would have any reason to know their names or to distinguish one from the other; she led them in a chant that made “Katrina” and “FEMA” into rhyming objects of the same obscene verb.

Why does it matter that no one in the Austin audience would know the Calliope from the Melpomene? It's Katey's song. Why would she alter her performance? Who would expect her to? If Beausoleil played Austin, would it be worth remarking on that very few in the audience knew Cajun French?

And why include this quote from Freedia's DJ/manager, Rusty Lazer?

“I’ve lived in New Orleans a long time, and I know a lot of people, but you’ve just seen something that about 95 percent of my white friends will probably never see.”

Dude! I bet it's a kick when you're the only non-Chinese guy in the Chinese restaurant, too!

It's cringey statements like that which led a Facebook commenter to note, "This guy is treating NOLA bounce like he's writing for National Geographic, which equals gross."

Anyway, the rappers all come off really well in the story, and it's great to see them get the attention they deserve (and Alison the attention she deserves), but the whole article carried with it the whiff of that occasional New York Times/NPR attitude that the whole world -- and, all too often, New Orleans in particular -- is a subculture in a Petri dish that has to be "interpreted" and classified by outsiders. Which brings us to the smartest line in the whole story:

Vockah Redu — who lives in Houston now, having gone there six years ago to study performing arts in college — probably chafes at the “sissy bounce” label more than anyone. “My daughter’s gonna be reading that soon,” he told me with a tight laugh. “But I’ll be able to explain it to her. It’s just stardom, and I feel like it’ll die down eventually. Right now the media’s buying it, so ‘sissy bounce’ it is.

P.S. to the sissies: If Madonna or Lady Gaga comes sniffing around after reading this piece, make them pay you a lot of money up front.

P.P.S. to readers: Alison's story was better.

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Mayor Landrieu to furlough city workers for 11 days as part of plan to plug $67 million budget hole

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 10:02 PM

This afternoon at City Hall, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced plans to plug the city's $67 million budget hole for the year — a plan that includes 11 unpaid furlough days for all city workers by the end of the year, and a 10 percent pay cut for Landrieu and members of his staff.

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Landrieu was joined by members of the City Council and his administration in announcing the cuts at City Hall this afternoon.

"This is not a proud moment for the city of New Orleans, and I am particularly angry as a citizen and as now the chief executive officer of this city that now we find ourselves in a situation to make very bad choices based on bad options," said Landrieu, adding that he had "no choice but to make very very difficult decisions today that will be painful."

"The city of New Orleans has been living beyond her means, and the city has not even made good on delivering the services that it was budgeted to deliver," the mayor continued.

Landrieu compared the cuts to those being made by other mayors around the country — the city of Oakland had to lay off 60 police officers this week, and Mayor Cory Booker in Newark, N.J. has closed swimming pools, stopped buying toilet paper, and stopped putting gas in city cars, said Landrieu. "Those are fairly significant austerity measures, so we are not living in isolation," Landrieu added. "We are living in tough times, and we are living in tough times because other folks made bad decisions and we have to correct all of those things."

The city is currently overspending its existing budget by $32 million and will cut back on overtime, and rely on reductions in the police department's command structure announced earlier this month to fill that gap. The 11 days of furlough will save the city an estimated $6.7 million, while reductions in other contracts will save $5.6 million over the next 12 months.

The city is also using $23 million from an insurance settlement, which was due to be paid before Landrieu arrived as mayor, and which has since been paid. That money will go against the city's structural obligations and one-time losses for 2010. The mayor's office said the insurance settlement was related to Hurricane Katrina, but did not go into specifics this afternoon.

By the end of the year, the $67.5 million gap will be filled with $67.5 million in cost savings, if the mayor's plan is fulfilled. Video:

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Ain't That a Shame

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 8:26 PM

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In the days following Hurricane Katrina, spurious rumors spread about Antoine "Fats" Domino's fate. He was, in fact, rescued from the rooftop of his 9th Ward home. His Steinway baby grand wasn't so fortunate. It has been preserved — sort of. It will sit in the entrance of the Presbytere, where it was installed today, and be the opening piece in the Louisiana State Museum exhibit "Living With Hurricanes: Katrina & Beyond," which is slated to open Oct. 26.

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Cari-boudin, or: How Sarah Palin spent her money in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 5:59 PM

In early April, dozens of national GOP poohbahs came to New Orleans for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SLRC), a bellwether event for the 2012 presidential election. The big star at the SLRC, though, was former Alaska Gov. and current Fox News analyst Sarah Palin, whose minions placed little gifts on the seat of every attendee: a shrink-wrapped chunk of caribou jerky, with a jaunty note attached: "An Alaskan Snack from SarahPAC!". At a convention where most of the swag ran toward cheapie ballpoint pens, Palin’s cari-boudin made an impression.

The jerky showed up again last week in SarahPAC’s quarterly finance report submitted to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which had a $3,800 line item for “gift bag items” from Indian Valley Meats, located in the small town of Indian, Alaska (“where the mighty Chugach mountains meet Cook Inlet”). The other mail-order cured meats from Indian Valley could almost be described as Northern Exposure meets Cajun cuisine: teriyaki jerky with Arctic ox, salmon jerky, and hot and spicy summer sausage with reindeer.

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Sarah Palin signs autographs at April's Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Photo by Cheryl Gerber.

According to the FEC filing, SarahPAC raised more than $850,000 in contributions and spent most of it on typical campaign expenses, including airfare, mailings and donations to other political candidates (Nevada senatorial candidate and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle — a sort of Palin manque — received $2,500). As for how Palin spent her dough in New Orleans, there was a $1,500 expense for “Dinner/Meeting” at Mother’s Restaurant on April 8, and two separate filings for unspecified “Meals” at the Windsor Court Hotel on April 8 and April 12, totaling $162.49, and “Business Center, Printer Rental, Printing” at the Windsor Court totaled $259.

Though Palin was famous on her book tour for signing her biography at populist spots like Costco and Sam’s Club, she didn’t go the Motel 6 route while in New Orleans, but stayed at the Windsor Court, one of the city’s poshest hotels. One night’s lodging there on April 12 came to $205.57.

All told, SarahPAC contributed more than $2,100 to the New Orleans economy — and that’s not counting the caribou jerky.

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Reconciled

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 6:25 AM

Think you know New Orleans? Think again. No matter how long you’ve live here, no matter how many generations back your family might go, if you haven’t sat and listened to the young trainees at Café Reconcile tell their stories, you don’t really know this city.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, several of his top aides, Criminal Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson, NOPD 6th District Capt. Bob Bardy, and a handful of NOPD cops got an earful Thursday night at a round table discussion with about a dozen Reconcile students — “a listening opportunity,” Landrieu called it.

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The students were asked to tell their guests what it’s really like growing up in the city’s rougher neighborhoods, and they didn’t hold back. They spoke of attending pre-Katrina schools where it was easier to get drugs and guns than take-home textbooks, of feeling so unsafe in their neighborhoods that they dared not even sit on their porches, and of not having NORD programs and playgrounds to keep their younger siblings and cousins out of trouble. Two young men said they had been shot — one of them three times — just trying to walk home.

They weren’t complaining; they were just being honest. In fact, these same young people were filled with hope, thanks to Reconcile.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sorry, Fort Jackson: Wildlife rehab center moving tonight

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 10:49 PM

According to plan, considering Tropical Storm Bonnie gets uncomfortably close. From Unified Incident Command:

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, LA, which is providing medical care to oiled wildlife, will relocate to a larger facility in Hammond, LA early Friday morning. The transport will occur overnight in order to minimize stress on the animals.

The current Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Facility is located in a hurricane evacuation zone and subject to damage from tropical storms and hurricanes. Moving the facility to the Hammond site eliminates the risk of evacuation in the event of a storm and reduces stress and potential loss of life of the birds.

Initially, the Hammond Bird Rehabilitation Facility will be capable of handling approximately 1,000 birds. Capacity could increase to as many as 2,000 to 3,000 birds.

When it was announced earlier this month that the move was imminent, I was writing a story ("The Volunteers of BP's America") about volunteering in Port Sulphur as birds came in and were sent to Fort Jackson, where they're cleaned, or, if they're dead, catalogued. Now, instead of a 20-minute drive to the Buras facility, the animals that come to Plaquemines will have to make a two hour trip:

Tom Buckley with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says he doesn't anticipate any problems relocating that far from the docks.

"It's obviously a little bit further away," he says. "Right now it's in the No. 1 top hurricane evacuation zone, so moving it to Hammond will get it out of that evacuation area, and it'll be a stable, more secure facility."

The new facility will have climate-controlled housing, more space for a larger volume of birds, and "state-of-the-art equipment," Buckley says, "rather than the rubber buckets and the other things (wildlife handlers) have been forced to use — but which they've used excellently. But this'll be better and more efficient for them, and I'm sure for the birds, too."

Pickup sites in Plaquemines Parish, like the one at the marina in Port Sulphur, will remain in use. "Plaquemines Parish will continue to be an important location for receiving, stabilizing, and transporting animals from impacted areas," the Unified Command release said. Wildlife branch director Rhonda Murgatroyd said the branch "is grateful to Plaquemines Parish officials and residents for their assistance, and we appreciate their continued support as we move."

But that distance could mean rescued birds may sit in oil for several hours before getting cleaned. To Port Sulphur, VOO carrying oiled birds navigate a network of bayous and inlets bleeding into the Gulf — a trip that already takes more than an hour.

On July 7, Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser said moving the facility is "unthinkable." He doesn't understand why it's moving, and why there won't be any cleaning operations near the parish. "If they would embrace more volunteers and people from all over the country to help, a greater volume of these birds would be cleaned at a faster rate," Nungesser said.

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Blackout: Mac McClelland on reporting from the Gulf

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 10:13 PM

Mother Jones human rights reporter Mac McClelland has been on the Gulf Coast since the early days of the Gulf oil disaster, and she's documented every last drop of it, it seems, from the Gulf's coastal communities, particularly from Grand Isle. Her most recent entry for Mother Jones is filled with oil wrestling, bar fights, sexual aggression (and frustration) and racism in the summertime getaway town that's now BP's Ground Zero. In this week's Gambit, I talked with McClelland about media restrictions reporting from the Gulf — before the "amended" safety zone ruling — as she was on her way back to Louisiana. Here's more:

You’ve run into consistent problems getting access, but you’ve also gotten pretty close. Where in the chain of command is this miscommunication — where BP, the Department of Interior, U.S. Coast Guard, have all said there is no media restriction, when on the ground, there is.

I wonder if it’s a miscommunication so much as a willful, you know, dishonest propaganda scheme. ... If I was a conspiracy theorist, which maybe I’m not, but if I were, I feel like that would be evidence that they’ve purposefully been keeping us away this whole time and they were just paying lip service to the idea of treating us fair. ... I feel like even while they’re saying, “Yeah, press can go wherever they want,” they’re definitely not telling their employees that. I mean, I’ve had cleanup workers who work with subcontractors say specifically, “We were told we can’t let people through here.” I feel like people aren’t being assholes just because they feel like it, I feel like they’re definitely being told the opposite of what the American public is being told.

Continue reading »

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Veteran bartender Brian Rea talks shop at Tales of the Cocktail

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 9:38 PM

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By Jennifer Kilbourne

Brian Rea is coauthor of The Modern Bartender’s Guide, creator of thebarkeeper.com, and former curator of what he says is the world’s largest collection of books about cocktails. On Saturday, July 24, he’ll host the seminar, “Bartending in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s (The Dark Ages)” (10:30 a.m., Royal Sonesta Hotel, tickets $40 in advance; $45 at the door) at Tales of the Cocktail 2010. The self-described “Curmudgeon Loungasauraus,” spoke to Gambit about his life in bars past and present.

Gambit: How did you begin bartending?

Rea: I was married to a lady whose father sold bars and grills. The father of my first wife, I should say.

Gambit: How many wives have you had?

Rea: Three. I would’ve had more but I was working nights.

Continue reading »

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Exene Cervenka says: Download movie, help Gulf

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Back in the mid-1980s, X frontwoman Exene Cervenka and her pal, independent filmmaker Modi Frank, decided to shoot something different: a "a shoot-'em-up starring their talented and twisted circle of friends, of which every member was headed for a full-size future in music, movies, and more."

The result was a short feature called Bad Day, which starred Exene and her fellow X members John Doe and Billy Zoom, along with a chap by the name of Kevin Costner:

Shot in 1986 at a secret location near Chatsworth, California, the short film features an inspired cast of irregulars playing the residents of a small town on a bad day. Call it what you will: a cow-punk time capsule, a mock-Western, a guerrilla film forerunner – or just plain proof of a time when everyone didn't take themselves so seriously.

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The project was never released, but Exene is making it available for download now for a donation -- saying, "A portion of the proceeds from Bad Day are going to Gulf Coast aid organizations that help both the environment and the people affected." Not sure how much, or which organizations (we'll update this), but it sounds worthwhile in any case. Variety says:

The Web site includes a trailer and the movie's entertaining back story. Most of the players will be familiar to fans of late-'70s/early-'80s punk: John Doe of X, Chris D. and Julie Christiansen of Flesh Eaters/Divine Horsemen, Dave Alvin of the Blasters, Gil T. of Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs. The future future Oscar winners were writer and X amigo Michael Blake, author of the novel and screenplay "Dances With Wolves," and that film's director and star Kevin Costner, cast as the town drunk. Alvin and X's D.J. Bonebrake supplied the acoustic score.

It isn't high art -- "Bad Day" was never intended as much more than a lark. But it's fun, and as a time capsule of a certain period of L.A. rock, it's hard to beat.

Read more about Bad Day and download it here.

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Henry's Uptown Bar turns 110

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 7:07 PM

New Orleans is home to many venerable, century-old institutions: Antoine's, Galatoire's and Bud Rip's come to mind. And then there's Henry's Uptown Bar.

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For much of its existence, Henry's has maintained a modest facade, with barely more than a sign over the door at its corner spot at Soniat and Magazine streets. Reportedly Lee Harvey Oswald had a few drinks there. And it's quietly been a neighborhood institution. The bar underwent a major renovation after Hurricane Katrina (though it was not flooded), and part of its plucky new spirit has been marked by the ever-changing messages on the chalkboard in front. Signs declared Henry's "The official travel agent for Mark Sanford," offered "Win a free trip to Hawaii with Greg Meffert," and noted "Voted #1 best bar by Henry." It also proudly advertised, "Keeping Uptown lubricated since 1900." And that's (somewhat) true. The bar is celebrating its 110th anniversary this Saturday with a block party featuring a pig roast and music by the 3rd Line Brass Band, John Lisi and Deltafunk and Weathered. The festivities begin at noon, and as always go till the last diehard peels him or herself off the bar and turns out the lights. A full list of memorable signs is posted on the friends of the bar Facebook page. Henry's is at 5101 Magazine St.

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