Saturday, July 30, 2011

A very good heart

Posted By on Sat, Jul 30, 2011 at 12:38 AM

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There used to be an axiom in local advertising circles that if you did political ads you didn’t take on commercial clients, and vice-versa. The two worlds were considered absolutely incompatible.

That changed with Robert Berning, who came to New Orleans decades ago to hone his craft as a filmmaker and ultimately became a cutting-edge ad man who mastered both political as well as commercial image making. Berning, who died July 24 of a heart attack at the age of 64, produced a body of work that was as much art as advertising. His clients included DA Leon Cannizzaro, Clerk of Civil Court Dale Atkins, auto dealer Ronnie Lamarque, the McIlhenny Co. and many others.

“Robert was always in total control of the set,” recalled friend and political consultant Bill Schultz, who worked with Berning on many campaigns. “He always used to say that there was only one director — him. He was a perfectionist. He also was a true image-maker. He could put his finger on the pulse of a candidate quicker and better than anyone else I knew.”

Cannizzaro echoed Schultz’s assessment.

“I remember in one of the first spots that he did for me, he took shots of me tying my tie in the morning,” the DA said. “I have been tying my tie since I was a schoolboy, but that day he made me tie it at least 30 times. He wanted to make the shot perfect.”

That attention to detail set Berning’s work apart. His company won numerous local, regional and national awards. His ads had a richness about them, whether they showed Lamarque dancing and singing about the Saints or touted a candidate for public office.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Blowing off a certain ex-gov

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 4:12 PM

It's the 21st-century curse to end up knowing far too much about someone you don't care about at all (Snooki, Bieber, various Kardashia). Such is the case with a certain ex-governor of Louisiana, who is turning into a reality-show star without a reality show (at least, so far — sounds like one is on the way).

Where did he eat his first meal after getting sprung from home confinement? Cracker Barrel.

What are his favorite TV shows? American Idol and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?.

How do I know these things? Damned if I know. Osmosis, I guess.

So tomorrow, this certain ex-governor is having a birthday party/celebrity roast at the Monteleone in the French Quarter, and like every other media sap in town, I inquired about attending; I was welcome, as long as I paid the $250/person charge that every other guest was paying.

Uh, no thanks. I'll just stop by the 4 p.m. presser beforehand, a press conference that his publicist called "an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances in the media industry."

Dance, media, dance.

Earlier this week, I was already having second thoughts about the whole thing (Clancy DuBos' column and comment: "I'm glad I'm going to be out of town") when word "leaked out" (and who on earth could have leaked it?) that the certain ex-gov and his fiancee would be getting married on Friday at a Top Sekrit location ... but if I happened to be hanging around the Monteleone in the morning ... and if I happened to be at Galatoire's for Friday lunch afterward ... well, you know ...

(Funny how little birds — different little birds — also told me a couple of weeks ago that if I wanted to catch up with the ex-gov, he'd be "surprising" the crowd at Galatoire's for Friday lunch that day as well. These "surprise" appearances around town certainly seem well-coordinated.)

This morning, it occurred to me that the Louisiana press corps and the ex-gov were executing the same sick, symbiotic dance we'd seen between the national press corps and another ex-gov from Alaska. (How many times had I heard "If she hates the press that much, just ignore her and maybe she'll go away"?)

So: Goingawayville, population one. I bagged the "impromptu" wedding photo-op outside the Monteleone, I bagged the inevitable march up to Bourbon Street ... and I'm bagging the press conference/party/roast tomorrow. Seriously, y'all, would we be dancing like marionettes for Dave Treen or Buddy Roemer or the one who never even bothered with New Orleans, Mike Whatshisname? Is this really any more or less interesting than Paris Hilton?

Maybe if we close our eyes really tight and clap our hands really hard, and maybe if we stop pretending that their every utterance is worth recording, maybe the public fascination with ex-govs — with all ex-govs — will go away.

Then we can get back to what's really important.

Like the Saints.

On Reggie Bush, South Beach and "talent"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Reggie Bush rushes the football against the Detroit Lions during the Saints 2009 Super Bowl Season

As Alex Woodward mentioned yesterday, the departure of Reggie Bush to Miami was greeted with overwhelming (and apparently surprising) rationality on the part of Saints fans — not to mention plenty of Facebook love.

But seemingly just as quickly as Bush was gone, the Saints had signed Darren Sproles, the dynamic and diminutive running back who spent the past five seasons accumulating highlight reels as a backup in San Diego. The consensus seems to be that the Saints have made a shrewd personnel move, shedding an overpaid situation player for a cheaper one to fill the same role.

By any other objective measure, this story starts and ends with Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton making smart moves through trades and free agency. But this isn't an objective topic, this is Reggie Bush.

For better or worse, Bush's last five seasons — like Payton, Loomis and Drew Brees — will be inexorably tied with the story of the Saints and New Orleans' recovery. But unlike his teammates and coaches, Bush came to this team with a mountain of expectations based on his college career and purple prose that was already being written in his name (anyone remember "Jesus in Cleats"?).

Where Payton and Brees were known merely as quiet, competent and capable, Bush was glitz, excitement and Hollywood. Bush was a superstar before even stepping on the field and, when the critics were proven right and he struggled to adapt to the speed of the NFL, his whole career then became a game of catchup to impossibly high expectations.

At the same time, Who Dats everywhere adored Bush. He had one of the most popular jerseys and every time he stepped back to receive a punt, people chanted "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" This despite the media never making up its mind to revere or deride him, and always questioning his worth.

No, Bush's game in the pros never matched the level of excitement and dominance he achieved in college, but it's not like he was completely useless, or worse, a complete malcontent. Bush was never controversial in the press and, despite the Hollywood lifestyle he grew accustomed to while playing in Southern California, it's hard to make the case that his off-the-field actions ever affected his play.

And yet, his trade to South Beach has been met with a slew of references to that other overhyped superstar in Miami and this headline:

NOLA.coms headline in response to the Bush trade to Miami

Bush, it seems, is now the victim of his own desires to once again be the great, sought-after player he once was. This storyline is no different from hundreds of other players in the NFL at any moment in time. But because of his celebrity, we think Bush is somehow different and his motives somehow insincere. As if he betrayed us by making us think he alone could carry the franchise to greatness and that he's a fool to think he can do it now, as opposed to just being a cog in a great team who fails to work when parts around him go missing.

Yes, Bush was overpaid. Yes, it was maddening to see him dance in the backfield instead of running downhill. And yes, it appears that he overvalues his talents as an every-down back on a football field. But that doesn't erase all of the great moments he provided for the Saints, or the fact that he was integral to their Super Bowl run or the fact that he did it all with class and a smile.

In a few seasons, it may turn out that Sproles is not nearly as capable as Bush and that Bush is more of an every down back than the Saints had us believe. More than likely though, Bush and Sproles will just prove that they are dynamic play-makers that are best used to spark exciting moments games, rather than burn and grind consistently throughout.

But to look at Bush as a regular football player is to ignore the fact that much of his life's narrative wasn't actually written by him. After all, it was the Texans that passed up on Bush that led to the Saints drafting him. It was Sports Illustrated that wrote about "Jesus in Cleats". It was Payton that installed an offense where it's virtually impossible to be a featured running back. It was the Saints that decided to renegotiate Bush's contract to give him more money back in 2008 and now it was the Saints that decided to trade him to Miami.

Bush couldn't even control the narrative of his own personal life and, while it was his decision to date a woman who's famous for being on television, it was also his decision to leave her. (OK, he had to do it twice, but still). Really, are we going to begrudge a millionaire athlete for enjoying the spoils of his labor while NOT getting into trouble or being a distraction to his team? (It's telling that Bush has already had to deny that he will be spending his time partying in South Beach rather than studying playbooks. When did he become Jeremy Shockey?).

In the end, Bush's greatest fault seems to be the perceived notion that he lived the life of a superstar athlete that changed the course of every game he played when, in reality, he could only do it every fourth or fifth game. That's a pretty small sin considering those games still helped his team win a Super Bowl and, in the games he didn't impact, the Saints still found ways to win more often than not.

All things considered, it's hard to look back on Bush's tenure in New Orleans with anything but fondness. He may never have turned into the next coming of Marshall Faulk while he was here, but he certainly wasn't Terrell Owens. Anyone who thinks negatively of Bush is likely just disappointed that their expectations of who Bush should have been didn't match up with who Bush really was.

Whose fault is that?

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Listen: Gambit's free music Friday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Trombone Shorty
... and we're back.

Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews returns this fall with For True (due Sept. 13 on Verve) — check out the first taste of the album, "Encore," with Gov't Mule guitar-slinger Warren Haynes throwing some wild blues licks into the organ-driven soul track.

Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes performs a free show 10 p.m. tonight at Tipitina's for its Free Friday series (no relation). The show is the band's last until September. Grab free tracks from the band here.

Ambiguous 90-something-year-old Mississippi bluesman T-Model Ford and his GravelRoad, a Seattle blues-wrecking crew, are at One Eyed Jacks tomorrow. His latest LP with the band is Taledragger (Alive Natural Sounds) — listen to the track "Same Old Train" here. Stream the punky, proto-krautrock pysch-blues of "Someone's Knocking on My Door" here.

New Orleans lost another of its own this week: Rapper Tim Smooth died following a battle with lung cancer. He was 39. Here's Alison Fensterstock's obit — and check out his Where They At piece (with audio) here, along with the streaming track "Tell Me Why."

After the jump, a Smooth tribute from DJ EF Cuttin' and more music:

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Orleans' plastic bag problem

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 6:11 PM

A bag that once contained a tube of lipstick and pack of gum.
  • A bag that once contained a tube of lipstick and pack of gum.

Today I visited the grocery store near the office for a carton of milk and some yogurt, which I decided I could easily carry out the store using my hands and gigantic purse. When I told the women working at the checkout counter that I wouldn't need a plastic bag for my items, one of them asked derisively, "Why, are you trying to save the environment?"

I've gotten similar responses in the past after politely refusing a bag — either because I've brought my own or didn't think the pack of Tic-Tacs I purchased needed its own three-gallon-sized vessel. I'll either get an eyeroll or snarky comment like the woman's today, or the baggers will decide to just stop doing their jobs because I've brought my own bags. The latter scenario invariably creates this embarrassing struggle for me to hurriedly bag my groceries before the growing line behind me gangs up and murders me.

Look, I'm no Portlandia character. Although plastic bags are poison-filled wildlife killers, I bring my own bags to stores because — like many reusable products — they are just way better than their disposable counterparts (I had the same experience with resuable menstrual products). They hold more stuff, they're less likely to break and I can tote them around the store and use them to carry my groceries. The bags from the local company Repax are small enough to stuff into my purse or pockets. They're cute! And plus, I just hate how plastic bags accumulate in my house. There's only so many tiny trash cans you can line.

Reusable bags are an eco-friendly thing I assumed most people — regardless of socio-economic status — can get behind, unlike overpriced organic rice milk ice cream sandwiches or the majority of Whole Food's health and beauty section. They're a practical, inexpensive way to waste less. So why the resistance in New Orleans?

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Free felines at LA-SPCA this weekend

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:35 PM

This cat shown as example only. Models may vary. Not available in stores.
  • This cat shown as example only. Models may vary. Not available in stores.
My cat is a slightly-used model from the Louisiana SPCA in Algiers (and, to paraphrase Barbara Bush, it's been working out very well for both of us), so I was happy to hear that the SPCA would be having a cat and kitten sale this weekend. From Friday-Sunday only, you can get a cat with microchip, spay/neuter surgery, all its shots, a bag of food and other useful accessories for the low, low, low price of ... free.

They're givin' 'em away! How can they afford to do that? ...

... well, the truth is: they can't afford not to. The LA-SPCA is overflowing with cats and kittens at the moment, and a recent cat-sale event barely put a dent in the problem. So the shelter is looking for permanent homes for some of its felines and waiving the usual fee of $80 (though donations would be gratefully accepted). The usual background check will still apply, though, and renters should come prepared with a permission slip from their landlords. Dogs will also be available for adoption, of course, but the regular fees will not be waived.

The Louisiana SPCA is located at 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd. in Algiers (under the bridge).

Below are photos from the SPCA's last feline-centric event, supplied by volunteer Matthew Davis (not this Matthew Davis).

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  • MATTHEW DAVIS

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RTA launches new website

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 4:58 PM

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority rolled out its new website this week — but what sounds like a minor PR push from the agency is instead an overhaul on the city's transit system.

Consider the former, almost unnavigable website: overlapping HTML on drop-down menus, outdated route information, infrequently updated news. Now the site has Google-powered maps for all of RTA's routes, including stop locations and whether they're wheelchair accessible, have shelter and have somewhere to sit. Not to mention the schedules, posted below each map.

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It makes riding busses (which as of this year are all brand spankin' new) a little less anxiety-ridden, and you can point visitors and tourists to a better way to access streetcar times and stops — the website also is accessible on your mobile device. Just use the service locator to find the nearest bus or streetcar stop. The website's My RTA service keeps track of your routes and sends service alerts to your phone.

Here's an easier-to-read breakdown of rates and fares, and hey, there are PDF-download-free versions of RTA updates. Also, information on the RTA's "bike and ride" service, and how-to's for just about anything RTA-related.

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The Burning Bush (jersey)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM

You've heard it one million times whether he was on or off the field: "He's got to earn that paycheck."

And he did. The now-former New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush finished his career with the team officially this morning as a football superstar, having helped send the team to its first Super Bowl appearance and victory, not to mention its post-Katrina resurrection, alongside quarterback Drew Brees. He earned it with repeated injuries and blown-out knees and the longest postseason touchdown run ever by a Saint (against the Arizona Cardinals in 2010). He earned it as the headline-grabbing celebrity and attention-bringer to the formerly struggling team and as a charitable player committed to the city, the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. He earned it in the tabloids, and he earned it as the most frequently verbally flogged and "overrated" Saint without a Pro Bowl or 600 rushing yards in a season. And he earned it as both the Saints' offensive red herring and the once-in-a-career playmaker.

That didn't stop the constant mid-game commentary from fans groaning and yelling at the TV (or field) when Bush zigged when he should've zagged, or ran sideways and not forward, or got hit and was sidelined for weeks with an ice pack or surgery.

After news broke of a possible deal late last night and confirmed this morning, NOLA.com asked what fans will do with their Bush jerseys. Some responded like normal human beings, others said they'd burn, trash or unceremoniously destroy their No. 25. Twitter user and SaintsBlog.com writer Jason Bernos tweeted his response: "You feel the heat in South Beach, Reggie?", followed with, "I just felt like wasting money like he did. That's it."

If he changes his mind, the NFL store still has 'em up for sale. Despite his performance problems, pay grade and Twitter grumblings, Bush made his first NFL touchdown as a Saint, and he got a Super Bowl ring as one, too. As much as bitter fans want to disown him, the Saints made him.

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See you on the field, Reggie.

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New Orleans police auctions go the eBay route

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:11 PM

PropertyRoom.com: home of the Steal of the Day.
  • PropertyRoom.com: home of the "Steal of the Day."
In the not-so-distant past, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has had big, big trouble securing its evidence and property rooms (remember when the Feds took an interest in the department's abilities?), but today the city has decided to go the eBay route by offering online auctions of its forfeited, seized, found and surplus property.

The city has made a deal with PropertyRoom.com, an Internet auction site that partners with municipalities to conduct cybersales on all sorts of seized items. Like eBay, you bid against others online for a specified period of time, with high bid taking the prize. (Unlike eBay, "men's accessories" includes a large selection of knives ... and the "Steal of the Day" may have a double meaning.)

No word yet on when the NOPD schwag will go online (we've got a call in to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office)*, but a press release says the city will be auctioning off 843 patrol cars, 18 fire trucks, more than 1,500 computers and 2,000 bicycles.

And remember that Bentley that was seized in May from the local bar owner who was delinquent on his sales taxes? That'll be there, too.

* EDITED TO ADD: Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Landrieu's office, says NOPD items should start showing up on Property Room "in the next few weeks."

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Review: The Trip

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 11:45 AM


In The Trip, comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon share a jovial relationship as friends and colleagues, but beneath all the wit and banter is a deliciously immature impulse to constantly compete with each another. They can’t swap Michael Caine impressions without skirmishing over whose nasal inflection is more accurate. They battle to better critique food in the voice of Sean Connery’s James Bond. They even debate the lyrics and sing ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All,” serenading each other about the pain of a broken relationship as they drive through northern England.

The Trip is probably the funniest road trip movie ever made without lurking danger, mysterious strangers, gratuitous sex or violence. Actually, it’s a mission of almost no consequence as the two embark on a gastronomic tour of northern England and must enjoy/suffer one another’s companionship for a solid week. With many improvised scenes, the two are endlessly entertaining as they duel over movies, famous actors, prissy culinary flourishes, the poetry and opium smoking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the glaciers and rock formations of the Yorkshire Dales, about which it’s only important to show slightly more interest and appreciation than the other guy.

(Longer Michael Caine video and the restaurants they toured after the jump.)

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