It’s safe to say Philomena is not the movie the embattled Catholic Church was hoping to see this holiday season. Directed by British filmmaker Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons) Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, a survivor of what has come to be known as the Magdalene laundries. In a system supported by the Irish government, some 10,000 “fallen” young women — mostly pregnant and unmarried — were sent to convents between 1922 and 1996 where they were deprived of their rights and subjected to forced labor in exchange for care during their pregnancies. Many remained in the laundries for years against their will and had their children taken away and sold to wealthy American families. It was not until early 2013 that the Irish government finally issued a formal apology for the atrocities, and last summer it agreed to pay $45 million to the estimated 770 laundry survivors who are still alive and had conducted a decade-long campaign for reparations.
British journalist Martin Sixsmith’s best-selling 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee may have provided some inspiration for that apology. An article Sixsmith wrote for The Guardian recounting his experiences helping Lee discover the truth about her son — published with the unforgettable headline “The Catholic Church Sold My Child” — caught the eye of British actor and comedian Steve Coogan, who bought the rights to Sixsmith’s book and went on to co-write, co-produce and star in Philomena. That genesis led Coogan and Frears down the unusual path of creating a film not only about Lee’s personal story but also spotlighting Sixsmith’s behind-the-scenes journalistic role in unraveling a mystery, which is not a part of his book. The surprising result is a first-rate holiday movie about forgiveness that’s entertaining and substantial enough for gatherings of disparate people with inevitably wide-ranging tastes. What else happens at the holidays?
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
Busch accepts that “drag” is a fair and unavoidable term to describe his performances, but don’t call him a drag queen.
“Call me a drag legend,” Busch says with a laugh. “I bristle when someone calls me a ‘drag queen.’ If I didn’t feel like there was the slightest edge of patronization in it, I would be more likely to accept it. It’s so wide sweeping.”
Busch is not a female impersonator, though some of the characters he has created are based on starlets. He’s not misogynistic and sees his work as feminist (“I have prided myself on being almost a feminist on stage as far as the strength and dignity of the ladies I play,” he says). What he likes is being comfortable in drag, as in two recent cabaret shows he performed at New York’s 54 Below. He’ll draw from both shows in his performance Tuesday at Cafe Istanbul.
(Parade details below)
As the only “local” utility regulator in the four-state Entergy system, the New Orleans City Council often finds itself in the position of being the tail that wags the dog. Regulating a utility giant ranks among the most far-reaching powers that council members have. They guard that authority jealously.
Major decisions by Entergy Corp. and its various subsidiaries often get rubber-stamped by statewide regulators in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, but those same decisions get put under an electron microscope in New Orleans. That frustrates Entergy executives — and some self-proclaimed “reformers” who want to transfer local utility regulation back to the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC).
Supporters of local regulation say the council’s regulatory authority is the only thing standing between New Orleans ratepayers and significantly higher utility bills. It doesn’t happen easily.
Utility regulation at City Hall is an intricate — and intensely political — dance. Council members know they can’t squeeze the utility too much lest it become insolvent. They also are constantly looking over their shoulders at restless voters, who want the lowest rates possible.
Most of the time, the relationship between the council and Entergy New Orleans (ENO), the local subsidiary, is cordial. Sometimes, particularly when ENO makes decisions that put the interests of its parent company in conflict with the interests of local ratepayers, the council flexes its regulatory muscle. This can take the form of calling utility execs before the council Utilities Committee, subpoenaing documents, or even taking the company to court.
On rare occasions, as happened on Nov. 21, the council exercises its nuclear option: a prudence investigation of the utility’s decisions.
That is, the utility must demonstrate that it 'went through a reasonable decision making process to arrive at a course of action and, given the facts as they were or should have been known at the time, responded in a reasonable manner.'
A prudence investigation is the regulatory equivalent of a declaration of war. It gives the council authority to examine documents and decisions that otherwise would not be subject to public review — and if the council deems decisions by the utility to be unreasonable or imprudent, the council can spare ratepayers from any adverse economic impact.
In some ways, it's like taking the utility to court — only the council gets to be judge and jury. This is not something the council does lightly. In the past 30 years, the council has conducted only three prudence investigations; each time, the investigation led to huge savings for local ratepayers — after a protracted, bitter fight with the utility.
Today, Tiffany & Co. (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 504-434-6002) celebrated the grand opening of its first store in New Orleans (and 94th U.S. location) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 3,900-square-foot store's interior design scheme features nods to founder Charles Lewis Tiffany's design motifs, including a custom carpet with his graphic dragonfly pattern. Art Deco-inspired details and the signature Tiffany blue color palette are prevalent throughout. Officials say the opening was a success.
“We are thrilled to have had such a wonderful turnout on our opening day in New Orleans," says Diane Brown, vice president of Tiffany & Co. mid-Atlantic market, U.S. "The Tiffany store has been in the making for many years, and we are excited by the warm reception by the local community. The Tiffany brand is rich in history and tradition, as is New Orleans, and we look forward to planting our roots in this wonderful city.”
The store carries engagement rings, celebration rings, and pink and yellow diamond jewelry, as well as baby gifts, leather goods and accessories.
Common argument: The Saints aren't a great road team; they aren't a good cold weather team; they certainly can't win on the road in the playoffs because, after all, they never have.
You can slice the evidence any number of ways. The Saints' average margin of victory falls significantly on the road compared to their margin in the Dome, and yet the Saints have, at 24-13, the NFL's best road record since 2009.
Mike Triplett, blogging over at ESPN, noticed the Saints have a 5-7 record under Sean Payton in games played outdoors in December and January. Given the upcoming contest in Seattle, which you may have heard of — a game that may well determine the NFC's top seed, putting the winner of it on the fast track to the Super Bowl — that stat isn't comforting.
But let's take a look at those games in context, because the numbers alone don't tell us a whole lot.
If you need to grab a beer (or coffee) with a cool uncle or bored niece or nephew, or are looking for shows over the holiday weekend, here's a rundown of some highlights:
Thursday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving):
Grammy Award winners Rebirth Brass Band head a Thanksgiving Throwdown at The Howlin' Wolf (907 S. Peters St., 504-529-5844) at 10 p.m. Tickets $15.
Eunice, La. zydeco dude Geno Delafose performs at Rock 'n' Bowl (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-861-1700) at 7 p.m. Tickets $12.
Friday, Nov. 29:
Leaning way heavier on the pop side of pop-punk, scene elders The Robinsons make a sort of homecoming for the holidays and will perform Christmas tunes, with heavier successors The Ghostwood, at Hey! Cafe (504-891-8682, 4332 Magazine St.). Stream The Ghostwood's seven-track, lovelorn punk EP Empty Cosmic Gloom here. Admission $5.
At 10 p.m., perpetual rock 'n' roll frontman persona James Hall is at Circle Bar (1032 St. Charles Ave., 504-588-2616).
Also at 10 p.m., Sweden's blackened-crust lords Agrimonia headline Siberia (2227 St. Claude Ave.), bringing with them massive, 10-minute, scythe-sweeping metal suites. Opening are T.O.A.D. (Take Over And Destroy) from Arizona, New Orleans doom-slayers Sumerian and Houma thrashers Diab. Download Agrimonia's album-opening track "Talion" here.
New Orleans noir writers Chris Wiltz and Bill Loehfelm will be behind the counter of Garden District Book Shop this Saturday, ringing up books for holiday shoppers. Though the titles of their most recent books might not intuitively align them with holiday cheer - Wiltz's last books is Shoot the Money, Loehfelm's is The Devil in Her Way - the writers are volunteering to give back to the bookstore as part of Small Business Saturday. The event is nationwide and aims to celebrate a dedication to shopping local.
At Octavia Books, six writers will be signing and recommending books, including Carolyn Kolb, Rebecca Snedeker, George Bishop, Tom Sancton, Sylvaine Sancton and Lawrence Powell. For a schedule of when to find them, click here.
Indies First, the campaign started by author Sherman Alexie that helps promote Small Business Saturday, encourages authors around the country to be "superheroes" for independent booksellers by dedicating a few hours to working in the aisles.
Now open on Veteran's Blvd., Atomic Burger joins the Crescent City's growing stable of restaurants offering fast food with a focus on employing fresh, local ingredients instead of the mass-market (and often disconcerting) kitchen chemistry that has made discerning diners wary of the drive-thru in recent years.
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