AKA Abraham Bacoln

January 31, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: tidbit

My favorite part of our recent weekly address:

And adding to this outrage we learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008. While I’m committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed.

1/31/09 President Obama’s weekly address

Cookeville: Hometown
January 27, 2009, 11:42 am
Filed under: tidbit

As a result of a conversation with my friends I have decided to make public the book I’ve self-published. It’s a collection of photographs of my hometown: Cookeville, Tennessee. In it I’ve tried to show you the Cookeville that I know, the Cookeville that I love.

I feel that instead of doing the promoting myself I should let others speak for me:

Kevin, how do you make Cookeville look so interesting? ‘Cause I’ve lived here for 12 years and it ain’t.
-Mark T.

Wow, Kevin, you find some interesting hidden places in Cookeville.
-Megan H.

Apparently there are two Cookevilles: The one that I grew up in, which is boring, and the one that Kevin lives in, which is cool.
-Richard M.

Your photographs have the powerful effect of making the viewer want to be where-ever it is you’re shooting, seeing what you see. Having grown up there and living elsewhere for most of 8 years, I find this to be an amazing thing to do with Cookeville.
-Rebecca H.

Okay, that’s enough out of me about this whole thing. If you’re interested you can look at a short preview or order a copy of the book. I’ve also added a link on the left-hand sidebar in case you want to find it again later.

Thanks for listening to my self-promotion.

7th ward, y’heard
January 26, 2009, 11:24 am
Filed under: tidbit

We had some visitors over the weekend, which was a lot of fun. One of our discussions veered towards why New Orleanians are so neighborhood-oriented, even going so far as to take pride in which ward they’re from. We talked about the phenomenon with our guests but I had no underlying explanation for the why of it all.

Then this morning the following article was brought to my attention:
Rats and City Planning?
which contains the following insight:

Prof. Eilam and Prof. Juval Portugali, a geography researcher, based their study on the fact that rats build cognitive maps to orientate themselves. “We put rats in relatively large areas with objects and routes resembling those in Manhattan,” Prof. Eilam explains. The rats do the same things humans do: They establish a grid system to orientate themselves. Using the grid, the rats covered a vast amount of territory, “seeing the sights” quickly. In contrast, rats in an irregular plan resembling New Orleans’ failed to move far from where they started and didn’t cover much territory, despite travelling the same distances as the “Manhattan rats.”

So apparently the shape of our neighborhoods and the fact that streets disappear and reappear, veer at strange angles, and intersect in ways that would give Euclid a headache really does contribute to our propensity to stay in certain areas that are familiar to us. It’s one of those moments of “duh of course” but it’s nice to see it substantiated by research.

January 21, 2009, 5:27 pm
Filed under: tidbit

OH MY GOSH let me tell you what I had for dinner last night. Or, well, better yet let Casey tell you what we had since it was her fault.

Short version, four words: pork burgers with brie.

Try not to get any drool on her webpage, k?

January 21, 2009, 4:27 pm
Filed under: tidbit

From here:

“By last night, with the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade over and the vast crowds mostly dispersed, no serious injuries or significant property damage had occurred, officials said. Not a single arrest had been reported by police or the Secret Service, said a spokesman at the Secret Service’s joint information center.

‘We anticipated the worst things could happen, but it was a great American celebration,’ said Army Col. Dan Baggio, spokesman for the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, which is responsible for homeland defense in the area.”

Central City
January 17, 2009, 5:41 pm
Filed under: tidbit

Central City gas station

Originally uploaded by Brother O’Mara

Today when I got done with my errands I decided to drive home via Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. And yes, that goes through a run-down part of town.

Lately I’ve had a thing for driving through run-down parts of town. I’m being safe, of course – I’m not stupid. There’s just something fundamentally different about New Orleans right now compared to before the storm, and I can’t put my finger on what it is. I keep driving and driving to see it all and to soak it in and try to understand.

There is a street that goes through the Lower Garden District called Melpomene. It’s one of the muses streets – we have a neighborhood in the LGD where nine consecutive streets are named for each of the nine Greek muses. Anyway, as soon as Melpomene crosses St. Charles it becomes MLK. Likewise, St. Charles is the boundary between the LGD and Central City, and Central City is a pretty depressed neighborhood.

Before the storm Central City was regarded as a great place to get shot at night, though mainly if you were involved in drugs, and that would be pretty much the only reason to visit Central City at night if you didn’t already live there. Many people did live there, though – it was cheap because it was a bad neighborhood, or it was a bad neighborhood because it was cheap, or perhaps the two are mutually inclusive. I don’t know enough about the area’s history to say which came first. I do know, however, that the situation worsened after they built the Calliope / B. W. Cooper housing project in / beside Central City.

I never used to drive through there before, I suppose it goes without saying. I mean I have driven it – I was a delivery driver and sometimes the shortest distance between two points is a straight line even if you don’t necessarily feel like going through that neighborhood. So while I didn’t hang out there I was not unfamiliar with the way it looked and felt.

Now that I’m back I feel this urge to explore all parts of New Orleans, even (or especially) the parts I never knew before. I’ve driven through Central City now several times, on various roads, and it really affects me every time. Every time I drive through I feel like I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong. It’s not that the area is poor – it was poor before, it will probably remain poor. It’s not a site that is ripe for the gentrification that is occurring elsewhere.

The area is, to my eyes, just empty. Not in the “look at the lower Ninth Ward and how Hurricane Katrina flattened the whole thing and all the houses are gone” kind of way. Sure, there were houses in Central City that were damaged or destroyed by the storm, but that’s not all of it. They’ve razed the vast majority of the Calliope / B. W. Cooper projects, and I know that has a lot to do with it, but that as well is not all of it.

There’s just this feeling of emptiness and loneliness, of desolation and pessimism that seems to encompass the entire area. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t live there. I don’t see it on a daily basis. It just seems like that between the storm and them tearing down the projects that somehow not only the population but the life itself of this neighborhood is gone. I don’t see as many people out on the street, I don’t see as many cars, it seems like all the corner stores are closed (though it’s hard to tell sometimes without getting out and actually pulling on the door).

The thing that bothers me the most is that Central City is big – I suppose it goes without saying that it’s right in the heart of the New Orleans metro area. It was bad before, and kind of empty before, but it’s worse and emptier now, and that gives me this almost intolerable melancholy. It’s obviously not intolerable, though, because I keep subjecting myself to it. There’s just this … hole … in the middle of this city and I don’t know what to do about it, or if anything even can be done. You’d have to see it yourself to understand why you can’t just say, “oh well it needs some neighborhood beautification projects” or “we’ll develop some new low-cost public housing”. It’s too big for any one solution, and I don’t see why anyone that has the power to do anything about it would care to.

I don’t know what I myself could do, or even should do.

It just saddens me to drive through it, to see this neighborhood that was once alive (though depressing, poor, and troubled) to now seem so comatose and suffering.

Catching up
January 14, 2009, 8:04 pm
Filed under: tidbit

For those of you who are curious how things are going down here in the Small Difficult (ha ha ha see that’s a play on ‘Big Easy’ which is what they used to call New Orleans back before Katr- yeah you get it okay on with the show) which should be, at last count, three or possibly five people (depending on whether or not my parents’ cats have learned to read, wait, they’re cats, they don’t give a crap about me or anything else) I figured I owed you an update of sorts.

The short answer is that things are great.

The long answer is also that things are great, it just involves more words.

I don’t want to be that guy who is like, “HEY LOOK AT ME MY LIFE IS GREAT WOOO WHOOOOOO” because I do enough of that already in my photography and all of my other online incarnations and I don’t feel that there’s much reason to keep hammering that point home. I’m not doing it to prove a point of “look how happy I am!” and I know when you’re having a rotten day sometimes the guy down the hall shooting sunbeams from every orifice can be a bit annoying, so I’m trying to keep it low-key.

But still!

My job is good so far. Today was the first big meeting about my first big project and so that’s exciting, yes? My official job title is Cat Herder in case you weren’t aware. It’s nice being back at the same company as before the storm, working with the same people, almost 99% of whom I love dearly and the other 1% I tolerate well. The best part for me is not having that new job anxiety while I get to learn all the people and personalities and office politics and so forth. I arrived with all that knowledge in place already, and nothing much has changed in the three years I’ve been gone.

Outside of work I’m just really relaxed. While there are a hundred things I’m looking forward to doing down here most of them are things I’ve done before, and so I’m not in a huge rush. It’s kind of nice savoring the knowledge of that one restaurant or one hole-in-the-wall bar or museum or park or venue or trip or walk or anything else and knowing that it’s there, and I’ll get to it both in time and when it’s time. I feel like to some extent I’m leaving the exploration up to Casey – when she wants to have a relaxing day at home then that’s what we do, and when she wants to go out then I have ideas about what we could do, or sometimes we go do something new to the both of us.

But this is New Orleans, so we’re doing it in a totally lazy fashion. Already I can feel every aspect of my life slowing down except for my driving, which of course has switched from defense to offense.

Since returning I’ve had the conversation five or six times about how this place gets in your blood. While I lived here last time I cursed it for what it was lacking, and in the three years I was away I came to realize that regardless of what might be missing down here, the things it does offer you just can’t get anywhere else. I do not understand how this works – I left here, tired of this place, and swore after the storm I’d never come back. Yet the instant I crossed the interstate high rise and could see the city I felt like I was home home home. I guess that’s the very definition of a love-hate relationship, right?

Let’s see – past that discussion I’m more energetic about my photography again, though I’m kind of having to wait out the winter here. I really like doing my shots in natural light, and when I get off of work I only have a few minutes to take some shots – but every day it’s a few minutes more, you know?

I’m also very excited about wine, because once again it’s everywhere and affordable (I mean of course it is, I get an employee discount) and I’m also excited about the fact that I have someone with me to help me finish every bottle, even make suggestions about which bottle to drink in the first place. Knowing that the wine won’t sit until tomorrow waiting to be finished while simultaneously slowly dying gives me encouragement to open bottles more frequently. For a while I’m going to try keeping my tasting notes at cork’d though I feel their interface may be more cumbersome than necessary and perhaps the old pen and paper is the better option.

In case you wanted something negative to balance out all this positivity: the other day I was sitting on the porch with my drink just enjoying the day and waiting for Casey to get home from work and I noticed that the house across the street had an open window. No one lives there right now – the owners are either trying to sell, or maybe rent, or maybe just let the bank take it back, I don’t know which – and there have been squatters in there before. And why not? It’s a nice house! I’d want to squat there too! Still, it’s not their place, so out they must go. I found my neighbor J—- and told him about the window because he knows the owners. The cops came, made sure the house was clear (it was), and when all that was over J—- and I went and checked it out to make sure nothing was burned or destroyed or whatever. It looked intact except for the back window which was broken (for entry). The next day the owners came out and put some plywood over a few of the more vulnerable windows.

So there’s that. The empty house across the street from us got broken into for a lark. That’s about the most negative thing I have to say about the crime situation and our neighborhood right now. Give it time, I’m sure.

Okay, give me a second here. Discussed … job – check. Food and wine – check. Life in New Orleans – check. Photography – check. Overall happiness level being through the roof – big red check with a gold star at the end.

A quick Carnival primer
January 7, 2009, 10:29 am
Filed under: tidbit

Work has started for me, so I haven’t had much time to think or write or take pictures the past two days. However, yesterday I read this fantastic piece from Editor B (a local NOLA blogger) which details what’s going on in NOLA right now. Let me quote rather liberally:

“Tonight is Twelfth Night, or so I thought.

Everybody’s heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but few people (in America, at least) know that these are the twelve days after Christmas, starting on December 26th and ending with Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas, which is January 6th, today.

These days, with the commercial focus on shopping and gifts, all the build-up is beforehand; when Christmas rolls around, many people have had their fill of holiday spirit. But in merrie olde England, the twelve days after Christmas were a wild and wooly time when everything was turned upside down, authority was mocked, people swapped genders, and so forth. (I hear in Latin America they go for forty days, until Candlemas on February 2nd, but I digress.)

I’d always assumed that Twelfth Night, as immortalized in Shakespeare’s famous play, was the night of the twelfth day of Christmas or January 6th. But it turns out that in ye olde England they counted kind of funny. Maybe they still do. They started with the evening before, so that the twelfth night of Christmas was actually the evening of January 5th. That’s when the crazy, upside-down season ended, and things got back to normal with the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th.

That may seem complicated enough, but hold on. I live in New Orleans, and here Twelfth Night is indeed observed on the evening of January 6th, and it marks the beginning, not the end, of a period of debauchery.

Yes, today is the first day of Carnival. The season of king cakes, masked balls, cheap plastic beads and endless parades is upon us.

The season culminates with Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — which always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent and is forty days before Easter, and as everyone knows Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. Elementary.

What this means is that the beginning of Carnival is fixed, but the end floats around. This year, it falls on the 24th of February. That means the Carnival season is 49 days this year, seven weeks exactly. A good length. Not too long or too short.”

Serious what?
January 1, 2009, 1:01 pm
Filed under: tidbit

I was driving Broad St. this morning and thought I was hallucinating when I saw these guys looking out over the roof of the Falstaff building.

A tiny bit of research turned up that they’re an art installation titled ‘City Watch’ by Alex Podesta but all I know is that the morning after New Year’s Eve is not the time to start noticing men in bunny suits hanging out on the rooftops of semi-abandoned buildings. It makes you seriously think back on what you had to drink the night before.