Levees Not War
Protect the Coast with Multiple Lines of Defense.

Posts Tagged ‘new orleans’

Louisiana Anthology Interviews Levees Not War

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Louisiana AnthologyUsually when Levees Not War is involved in an interview, we do the interrogating. But now, we’re happy to report, the tables have been turned: Levees Not War is the subject of an in-depth interview with the editors of the Louisiana Anthology, Bruce R. Magee and Stephen Payne, professors at Louisiana Tech in Ruston. The Levees Not War Q&A is the second of a two-part interview with blogger and author Mark LaFlaur, focusing on Elysian Fields, a novel of New Orleans, that was posted on June 28 and July 5. Click here for the iTunes podcasts.

Bruce and Stephen have kindly posted two pieces from Levees Not War on the Louisiana Anthology website, “Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11?” and “Disaster Capitalism Will Solve U.S. Budget Deficit? Ask New Orleans and Wisconsin” (original links here and here).

At about 39:30 minutes in, the interview includes a 5-minute shout-out to the Rising Tide conference on the future of New Orleans held annually in mid-September at Xavier University (Sept. 13, 2014)—affordably priced and always interesting—with mentions of prominent keynote speakers such as Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, Harry Shearer, John Barry, and David Simon. Click here for more information about Rising Tide 2014.

The interview was conducted by phone in late April. Since the Q&A with Bruce and Stephen, Elysian Fields’s presence in bookstores, especially in the South, has expanded significantly. The book is now available at the stores listed below: support your local independent bookstores. We hope you’ll spread the word among your book-readin’ friends, and we welcome your suggestions of indie booksellers near you who you think might want to carry Elysian Fields.

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Bookstores Carrying Elysian Fields

[ see complete, up-to-date list here ]

New Orleans: Crescent City Books, Garden District Book ShopMaple Street Book ShopForever New Orleans, and Toulouse Royale

Baton Rouge: Cottonwood Books, Barnes & Noble at LSU

New York City: Three Lives & Co., McNally-Jackson Books

Atlanta: Eagle Eye Book Shop (Decatur)

Birmingham: The Little Professor Book Center in Homewood

Mobile: Bienville Books

Jackson, Miss.: Lemuria Bookstore

Oxford, Miss.Square Books

Bay St. Louis, Miss.: Bay Books

Memphis: The Booksellers at Laurelwood

Nashville: Parnassus Books

thanxamazonChapel Hill, N.C.: Bull’s Head Bookshop (UNC)

Durham, N.C.: The Regulator Bookshop

Austin: BookPeople

Houston: Blue Willow Bookshop

Little Rock, Ark.: WordsWorth Books & Co.

Berkeley, Calif.: University Press Books

San Francisco: City Lights Books

Portland, Ore.: Powell’s City of Books

Seattle: Elliott Bay Book Company

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Rising Tide Update: “Category 5 General” Russel Honoré Is Keynote Speaker

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans SaintsThree-star general hailed as “John Wayne dude” by former N.O. mayor Ray Nagin

The  annual Rising Tide conference has been ramped up to a whole new level: the keynote speaker will be Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, the no-nonsense “Category 5 General” who took command of Joint Task Force Katrina that coordinated military relief efforts following the August 29, 2005, hurricane and resulting “federal flood” of the city of New Orleans.

The 8th annual Rising Tide conference will be Saturday, Sept. 14, at Xavier University in New Orleans. Please see below for details about panels and other conference attractions. Registration (only $20) is still open; all are welcome. Click here for a map to Xavier University.

Honoré, a Louisiana native (born in Lakeland in Pointe Coupee Parish) and graduate of Southern University, was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina by President George W. Bush two days after the storm. Amid official incompetence from local to federal levels, Honoré exhibited decisiveness and a gruff management style, but also restraint and a local’s understanding of the people he had been sent to assist. He knew that the task force was on a relief mission, and barked at one soldier who had flashed his weapon at a New Orleanian in a threatening way, “We’re on a rescue mission, damn it!”

“Now, I will tell you this—and I give the president some credit on this—he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is Gen. Honoré. And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he’s getting some stuff done.” —former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin

Rising Tide is delighted to welcome Lt. Gen. Honoré. Copies of his new book, Leadership in the New Normal, will be available for sale.

An Aug. 29 interview with Lt. Gen. Honoré by WWNO ’s Jim Engster on the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, including remarks about the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, can be heard here. See also the expansive Washington Post profile, “The Category 5 General” (Sept. 12, 2005), CNN.com’s profile., and Lt. Gen. Honoré’s impressive curriculum vitae. • Historical note: In his interview with Jim Engster, Honoré mentions in passing that at the time he went to Rosenwald High School in New Roads, La. (class of ’66), the school was segregated: all-black. (As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”)

[ Because of health issues in her ongoing recovery from a gunshot wound in the Mother’s Day parade shootings in the Seventh Ward on May 12, 2013, the previously scheduled speaker, Deborah Cotton of Gambit Weekly, will not be able to appear. We wish Ms. Cotton well—and the other victims of that shooting, too—with a full and speedy recovery. (Contributions to a fund to help Deborah Cotton with her medical bills can be sent here.) ]

Rising Tide panels

Click here for more schedule details.

•  Creating Community for Writers of Color: MelaNated Writers Collective

•  Beyond Tourism Beyond Recovery

•  Charter School Access & Accountability

Second Stage: Tech School

•  Working with Bloggers

•  Personal Branding: When You Are What You’re Selling

•  Using Visual Tools in Online Promotion

•  Content Marketing

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More about Rising Tide

Past featured speakers have included David Simon (co-creator of HBO’s Treme and The Wire); the actor and activist Harry Shearer; N.O. geographer and historian Rich Campanella; Treme-born writer Lolis Eric Elie, director of the documentary Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans; former Tulane professor of history Lawrence N. Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans; Mother Jones human rights and environmental reporter (Ms.) Mac McClelland; and authors John Barry, Dave Zirin, and Chris Cooper and Bobby Block.

Click here for a listing of previous Rising Tide programs, with links to videos and more.

Like Rising Tide on Facebook (don’t forget to share!), follow Rising Tide on Twitter (remember to retweet!), and check for programming updates on the Rising Tide Conference Blog or Rising Tide website. Visualize Rising Tide at the RT Flickr site.

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For more information, please see our earlier post, “Rising Tide 8 is Sept. 14 in New Orleans: Register Now!

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Happy 295th Birthday, New Orleans!

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

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Bonne fête à La Nouvelle-Orléans! Un joyeux anniversaire!

Now entering its 296th year, the city of New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, on May 7, 1718.

The map above shows the city as it appeared about 1721, when the settlement of La Nouvelle-Orléans, on the high ground along the edge of a bend in the Mississippi River, was laid out as 14 blocks, with a drainage ditch around each block.

The first map below depicts the city and environs as it appeared in 1798, five years before the Louisiana Purchase (click here to enlarge). The second map below shows the city in 1763, the year France ceded the settlement to Spain (only to take it back in 1801, and then turn around and sell it to the United States in 1803). The “city,” of course, was then what is today known as the French Quarter. Click here for a timeline of the city’s history.

Better yet, read Richard Campanella’s excellent Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans (2008). See also Lawrence N. Powell’s The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans (2012) and Craig E. Colten’s An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature (2006). Many more sources about New Orleans are listed on our Literature page.

Here’s to 295 more years—though we worry about how much of the city will remain above water in the year 2308.

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Tom Piazza on Writing for HBO’s “Treme”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

“New Orleans has a mythology, a personality, a soul, that is large, and that has touched people around the world. It has its own music (many of its own musics), its own cuisine, its own way of talking, its own architecture, its own smell, its own look and feel. . . .

“It may be hard for people who have never been to the Crescent City to understand the passionate love people have for it, to understand why it’s worth fighting for—why it matters. . . . New Orleans is not just a list of attractions or restaurants or ceremonies, no matter how sublime and subtle. New Orleans is the interaction among all those things, and countless more. It gains its character from the spirit that is summoned . . . in the midst of all these elements, and that comes, ultimately, from the people who live there. . . . That spirit . . . is what is in jeopardy right now.” 

from the Introduction to Why New Orleans Matters

 

A few nights ago we went to the Center for Fiction in Manhattan to hear our friend Tom Piazza talk about writing for HBO’s popular show Treme, which most readers of this blog know is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Piazza is an accomplished and versatile writer of short stories, novels, and books about jazz, blues, and New Orleans—ten books altogether. He has won a Grammy and other awards, and his writing has been praised by Bob Dylan, but until co-creator and executive producer David Simon phoned him in 2009, he had not written a screenplay.

The following is an account of the evening, with some paraphrasing and some direct quoting of Piazza’s remarks, and a bit of background explanation about the show, which we highly recommend. Tom Piazza did not say this, exactly, but one of the qualities of Treme that we have found most appealing, besides its vivid realism and honest evocation of America’s most unique, world-unto-itself city, is that about half of the show’s main characters are African American (Antoine Batiste, LaDonna, Albert “Big Chief” Lambreaux), and each is an individual, not a (stereo)type. This is almost unheard of in American television. In fact, all of the characters, of whatever complexion, are treated with respect and psychological subtlety. Music, too, in many varieties, is accorded a place of honor. In many scenes, music is not there merely for atmosphere—it’s part of the action, like the other characters.

A Show Set at the Heart of New Orleans Music

A brief clip of a Season One episode that Tom had written was shown to give the audience a taste of the show, then the Center’s executive director Noreen Tomassi (shown with Tom in photo below) asked him a series of questions about similarities and differences between writing fiction and screenwriting, how the writing work on the show is organized, and so on.

(For those unfamiliar with New Orleans neighborhoods, the Treme, or Faubourg Treme [pronounced “truh-MAY”] is a historically African American “back of town” section of the city behind the French Quarter, across Rampart Street. It is named after a French planter, Claude Tremé, who married a free woman of color. The oldest African American neighborhood in the United States and home to a large population of free blacks since 1812 [thus 2012 will be its bicentennial], Treme includes the site of the legendary Congo Square—now covered by Louis Armstrong Park—where slaves were allowed to gather on Sundays to play drums and sing and dance. Treme has been the birthplace of countless jazz and other musical talents, including Alex Chilton, Louis Prima, and Shannon Powell, as well as Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band, who often appear in the show. What New Orleans is to America’s music, Treme is to New Orleans.)

Of the six writers for Treme, two are residents of New Orleans: Piazza and Lolis Eric Elie, a former columnist for the Times-Picayune who grew up in the Treme. Elie, too, though an accomplished journalist and maker (with Dawn Logsdon) of the documentary film Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, had also never written television screenplays. The other writers are the show’s creators, David Simon and Eric Overmyer (who worked together on HBO’s hit show The Wire), the late David Mills, and George Pelecanos, all veteran screenwriters.

Piazza explained that screenwriting is a combination of collaborative and solo work, some done with the others in the writers’ room and some alone. The six gathered at a room HBO had booked at the Monteleone Hotel. Certain plot and character aims were established early on—for example, by the end of the first season we’ll want this character to have moved physically or psychologically from here to here. After group discussions, sketching out rough outlines, the writers each went off to do solo work, which would then be brought back to the group to be worked over, cut, altered, elaborated, and so on. For one thing, writing for TV definitely requires working well with others, being able to compromise, bite your tongue, and bide your time.

In Treme, he explained, you have eight or ten principal characters who have “point of view”—that is, characters you can be alone with, whom the camera follows through a scene. The trick in making an episode is to “shuffle the deck” of the scenes in such as way that the pace never flags, the tension on the line never goes slack. But if you shift too much or too rapidly, the viewer may become disoriented or the narrative may get scrambled.

At the Crossroads of Fiction and TV

One way in which screenwriting is like fiction is that you’re writing against the tension of not knowing whether the material you’re writing is actually going to be used. You may work long and hard on scenes that you end up deciding not to use after all—fiction writers know about this—and the same thing can happen in the writers’ room.

As for screenwriting’s influence on his fiction, he said, at first he was wary of the schematic element creeping into his work, the necessary focus on plot (more than character and psychology). And yet there were ways in which the differences in the genres have sharpened some of his fictional instincts.

“One thing I’ve thought a lot about since starting with screenwriting for Treme is that in fiction there is always the question of what you dramatize and what you want to explain by way of exposition. In other words, do you show something happening, or do you tell about it as having happened at more of a distance? In film, where everything is dramatized, there is no equivalent to exposition except for the voice-over (such as something like having a narrator say, ‘It was a bleak winter of homes and entire neighborhoods nearly leveled, and determined residents struggling to get by and start over . . .’). This experience of writing for the screen where virtually everything is dramatized sharpened the questions I asked about what to dramatize when I turned back to fiction.”

Piazza said there were some tough questions facing the creators and writers and actors when preparing for the first season, such as, How do you come back after an extreme catastrophe like this? How do you try to get back to the kind of life your city had before? The writers and actors focused on the life of New Orleans as depicted in Why New Orleans Matters, copies of which were distributed to the members of the cast and crew by the production office before filming began. That book, which Tom wrote in five intensive weeks shortly after the storm (publ. Nov. 2005), shows the city’s life and culture as based around food, music, dancing, festivals—all of which are intertwined. While Season One was very much rooted in Why New Orleans Matters, Season Two was more about the nuts and bolts of survival, rebuilding your home and your city, struggling to get back to normal, dealing with the insane bureaucracy and other obstacles.

Doubts Allayed by High-Fidelity Realism

One audience member asked what impact the series has had on the people of New Orleans.

“Dozens of bars and restaurants with HBO host Treme-watching parties on Sunday nights. Even the Charbonnet Funeral Home has HBO. It’s a fantastic thrill to go to a bar or restaurant and all these people watching these lines you wrote are talking back to the character and responding to things they do. And there are all these blogs that have sprung up to discuss the show, such as Back of Town and Watching Treme that have this ongoing midrash of discussion about episodes and characters and verisimilitude, significance, etc.

Before the show started there was a certain amount of caution and skepticism, with people wondering how are outsiders going to tell this story? How do they know what we’ve been through? It was similar to the questions in early 2006 about whether there was going to be a Mardi Gras so soon after the storm. There was some hesitancy about whether it was appropriate, but enough people said, Of course we’ll have Carnival: there’s no way we’re not going to have Mardi Gras.”

When asked which characters he most enjoys writing for, Piazza replied that “you have to love writing about all the characters—and this is true of fiction too—but I especially have fun writing for the character Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), who comes from this Uptown Garden District family, but he’s bohemian, a would-be musician who hangs out with all these musicians and artists. He switches modes of diction very flexibly, depending on the setting he’s in. Also, it’s wonderful writing for actors as good as the ones in the Treme cast, because whatever you write, you know they’re going to get it and be able to play it.”

As for what might be expected in the third season, Piazza was teasingly discreet, and too professional to spoil any surprises. He did venture a supposition, however, that a viewer could reasonably be surprised if the season did not deal in some way with such major events in the city’s recent history as the aftermath of the Danziger bridge shootings or “the savage, cynical, deliberate destruction” of public housing complexes that has made it difficult-to-impossible for lower-income residents of New Orleans to rebuild their deep-rooted lives in New Orleans.

Piazza was asked about the future, about how many years out the character developments can be envisioned. David Simon has said publicly that he sees Treme as a four-season show, though HBO has paid Simon “the compliment” of saying it’s as if in this complex, multilayered series Simon is writing a novel, and we want him to be able to bring that novel to completion.

That comparison strikes us as accurate, and although many works of fiction have been adapted for the screen (especially by HBO lately), Treme is one of the few television dramas we know of that can stand comparison with a serious novel for richness and subtlety. For those who might have missed David Simon’s remarks at Rising Tide 6 last August on the making of Treme and the show’s relationship to the city it represents, see our live-blogging here and a video of the keynote speaker here. See also

Until Season Three airs next spring, and even long after the show has resumed, we highly recommend Tom Piazza’s Why New Orleans Matters, along with his novel City of Refuge (2008) and his latest book, Devil Sent the Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America, a collection of articles and essays about musicians, writers, and New Orleans. He has written ten books altogether and is at work on a new novel, so he’ll keep you busy—and will repay the attention you give his writing—for a long time to come.

For More about the Treme and New Orleans . . .

Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, a documentary film by Lolis Eric Elie and Dawn Logsdon

After the Flood: The Creator of ‘The Wire’ in New Orleans” (New Yorker review of Treme by Nancy Franklin)

New Orleans African American Museum: Tremé 200: Bicentennial 1812–2012

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts | Spike Lee’s acclaimed 4-hour documentary (HBO, 2006)

If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise | Spike Lee’s follow-up to When the Levees Broke (HBO, 2010)

Trouble the Water | Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, 2008. Includes 15 min. of video footage just before and during Hurricane Katrina by Lower 9th Ward residents Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott. Winner of 2008 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.

Michael E. Crutcher Jr., Treme: Race and Place in a New Orleans Neighborhood (2010)

Ned Sublette, The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square (2008)

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“If there is a single factor most repsonsible for the extraordinary distance New Orleans has traveled in the years since its near-death experience, it is the city’s culture. Not only the city’s music, dance, funeral traditions, cuisine, and architecture—its look and its smell and its feel and its sense of humor—but the interaction among all those factors, their coordination, is what makes the city live, what makes it alive, in its unique way. . . .

“As of this writing, the notion that the written word is doomed, or doomed to irrelevance at least, because of the power and immediacy and omnipresence of electronic media, is so widespread that it has become almost axiomatic. But it is not true. . . . In the private space shared by the writer and the reader, one individual soul encounters nother and a spell is cast, created by both of them. . . .”

—from the Introduction to Devil Sent the Rain

 

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Credits: Top photo of TP (at P.J.’s on Maple Street?) by Sean Gardner, from Williams College alumni magazine; Congo Square illustration (dancing the Bamboula, ca. late 1700s, drawn by E. W. Kemble ca. 1880s) from Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University; The Center for Fiction’s executive director Noreen Tomassi and TP from The Center for Fiction; Treme Season Two poster from HBO.

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To Save New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Morganza Spillway Is Opened; Only 2nd Opening Since 1954

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

“The President of the Mississippi River Commission Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh has directed the New Orleans District Commander Col. Ed Fleming to be prepared to operate the Morganza Floodway within 24 hours. The operation will include the deliberate and slow opening of the structure.” —U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announcement, May 13

On Saturday at 3:00 Central Standard Time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the first 25-foot-wide bay of the Morganza Spillway for only the second time in the structure’s nearly 60-year history. The last time was in 1973. The primary objective of the opening is to reduce the likelihood of the swollen Mississippi River flooding the port cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans downstream.

If the Corps had not opened the Morganza, reports Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune, the river would have crested at 19.5 feet at New Orleans, “only a half-foot below the tops of levees and floodwalls in the city.”

The Corps announced that, at least for now, the Morganza opening will be smaller than was suggested earlier: present plans call for 125,000 cubic feet of water per second to be diverted into the Atchafalaya River and Basin instead of the earlier projection of 300,000 cfs. That is less than one-quarter of the total capacity (600,000 cfs) that the spillway could divert if all 125 bays were opened. The opening of the bays will be gradual, beginning with one or two at a time in order to let the Atchafalaya fill as gently and slowly as possible; there will not be a torrent or tsunami rushing into the Atchafalaya Basin.

Flooding will still be considerable, however, over some 3,000 square miles of Acadiana. In some areas the water will be 25 feet deep. About 25,000 people will be affected. Governor Jindal has directed parish administrators in the Atchafalaya Basin parishes to direct people living in the flood plain to evacuate. “Now is the time to take action. Don’t delay. Don’t hope something will change.”

The higher water is expected to reach Morgan City within three days of the opening.

It is predicted that the Mississippi will crest at New Orleans on Monday, March 23.

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New Orleans Is Most Likely Safe from River Flooding

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

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There’s a certain trepidation in writing that headline, but . . .

Despite over $2 billion in damages, possibly to reach $4 billion from the Mississippi River Flood of 2011, including dramatic flooding upriver around Cairo, Memphis, and Vicksburg—and despite scary images and headlines on screen and paper—the city of New Orleans should be safe from inundation from the historically high waters now coursing down the Mississippi toward the Gulf. The flooding is the result of normal springtime snowmelt compounded by record rainfall from two major storm systems across the U.S. during April. (See Mississippi River watershed map below; click to enlarge.)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already begun opening the Bonnet Carré spillway upriver from the city (photo below). There will be flooding in the Atchafalaya Basin—possibly around 3 million acres—once water is diverted from the Morganza Spillway, a decision that is expected soon from the Corps of Engineers. And deep-draft shipping may be temporarily suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard if water levels rise to just a little higher than they are now; Americans “upriver” may experience a spike in gas prices as supplies are temporarily interrupted by the halting of oil tanker traffic between Baton Rouge and the Gulf.

Read the Headlines with Some Skepticism

Under the ominous headline “Mississippi River Flooding in New Orleans Area Could Be Massive if Morganza Spillway Stays Closed,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on Wednesday that based upon the best information available from the Corps of Engineers, the staggering volume of water making its way down the Mississippi could cause “levee failures and massive inundation of metro New Orleans, worse than Hurricane Katrina, if the Morganza spillway is not opened to divert river water down the Atchafalaya basin. The bad news for people living along the Atchafalaya: the Corps of Engineers predicts they will flood in either case.” Although the article itself was measured, not alarmist, the headline implied there was a possibility that the Corps might decide not to open the Morganza Spillway. Another headline warned, “Corps Officials Fear Flooding.” Note to the reader: It is the Corps’ job to fear flooding and to try to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Now, reporters don’t write the headlines, and the body of an article is often less alarming than the headline crafted by some news editor. But “Flooding Could Be Massive” sort of got our attention, so we checked around.

An engineer friend in the New Orleans area who knows people at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the Corps is monitoring the situation very closely all along the river, per established protocol, and just waiting for Major General Michael Walsh to give the word about opening the Morganza Spillway. Major General Walsh is president of the Mississippi River Commission and commander of all USACE districts along the river. Times-Picayune environmental reporter Mark Schleifstein writes that General Walsh is expected to announce his decision to open the Morganza spillway between Friday and Tuesday (May 13 and 17).

Our engineer friend says, “Walsh is going to wait until the last possible moment to give the order just in case something changes in the river or they [the Corps] discover a better alternative. And when I say, ‘last possible moment,’ that is taking into account the timeline between when the order is given and everything that has to happen to safely open the structure. This stuff is really well thought out. The hydraulics, structures and levee engineers there have been working this 7 days a week for the past two weeks. . . . New Orleans is safe for now. Never say never, but we have no reason to panic as of right now.”

[ Click here for City of New Orleans Emergency Preparedness / Flood Fight information ]

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St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans: Celtic Carnival

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Before we write a disapproving piece about the assault on Libya, we want to share a few cheerful views of the St. Patrick’s Day parade we enjoyed from beginning to end on Thursday in Marigny and the French Quarter. (See photos after the jump.) We were not in New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, so this was a welcome taste of Carnival, though of a more Celtic complexion. The Irish in and around New Orleans can’t settle for just one St. Patrick’s Day parade: we count at least a half dozen. The big one was on Saturday the 12th in the Irish Channel, with the throws including not only beads and cups but cabbages and potatoes. The one we saw on Thursday night in Marigny was the Downtown Irish Club Parade.

It says something about this parade—and about New Orleans—that it originated at a bar called Bud Rip’s Old 9th Ward Bar on the corner of Piety and Burgundy.

During this “Celtic Carnival” season, any lenten fasting or penitence is set aside. Mardi Gras is followed by Ash Wednesday, so by the liturgical calendar (most Irish we know are adherents of a religion that observes this calendar) we are in the season of Lent, a period of 40 days’ fasting before Easter. But . . . everything in moderation.

Before the photos, a few words about Patrick (c. 390–461?), the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Britain but at about age 16 was seized into slavery by Irish raiders; he was a herdsman for six years until he was able to make his way back to Britain. His work as a missionary among the Irish followed a dream in which he was called to return to Ireland. A description from the Oxford Dictionary of Saints shows an admirable figure well worth emulating:

Although he had little learning and less rhetoric, Patrick had sincere simplicity and deep pastoral care. He was concerned with abolishing paganism, idolatry, and sun-worship; he made no distinction of classes in his preaching. . . . One of the traits which he retained as an old man was a consciousness of his being an unlearned exile and formerly a slave and fugitive, who learnt to trust completely in God.

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Staging area, Royal Street & Elysian Fields Avenue

[ more photos follow the jump(more…)

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Happy Mardi Gras 2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011


“To many New Orleanians, Mardi Gras is not just the day itself, but the season leading up to it. . . . In the two weeks before Fat Tuesday these [Mardi Gras] krewes throw their famous parades. Every night, people from every class and neighborhood make plans to meet “at Bacchus” or for Endymion . . . , picking a corner to meet, bringing food and drinks in coolers, and often ladders with specially constructed boxes on top in which children sit to catch the beads and trinkets that spew from the parade floats like water from the fountain of life itself.” —Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters (pp. 97–98)

 

When the cares of this world grow too heavy, we all need a break from the ordinary, and that is why we have Carnival. And this festive season, which begins at Epiphany and whose climax is Mardi Gras (this year Tuesday, March 8), is a big part of the reason why this blog cares so much about the health and well-being of New Orleans: the city, its people, and its culture. It’s the City That Care Forgot, but also a place that has lately seen too much to worry about (thanks most recently to a company called BP).

But we won’t dwell on the cares just now—that’s what Carnival is for. It’s also for making fun of hardships and folly, flipping ’em around jujitsu-like with a sense of humor, satire, absurdity. Sometimes it’s the only way to deal. Let it go for a while. Lighten up.  The ancient Greeks and Romans, with their bacchanalias and Lupercalia (Carnival’s deep-historical origins), understood that if you don’t cut loose from time to time with a little madness here and there, you get hit with the big madness, the kind that doesn’t go away. Therefore . . .

To all our friends in and around Louisiana, to all who “Be a New Orleanian, Wherever You Are”—we wish a lively and frolicsome Mardi Gras, a celebration of life, humor, imagination, and letting the good times roll, everybody all together.

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“It is rare indeed to have every, or almost every, citizen in a city tuned to the same channel at the same time. Everyone agrees to have a day, the same day, in which no one can be certain what is going to happen. People light out in the morning, often wearing masks or costumes that advance an alternate persona for themselves. They may have certain stops that they know they will want to make, but they are also open to the fact that the winds of the day may lead them elsewhere, and that that is part of the point of it all. One submits to the multifarious flow of chance and felicity, of music and motion.” —Why New Orleans Matters (pp. 98–99)

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