Levees Not War
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Posts Tagged ‘Rising Tide’

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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Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 8 in New Orleans

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

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Live-streaming of Rising Tide conference here.

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Keynote Address: Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré on leadership and environmental justice

New Orleans Advocate publisher John Georges introduces Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, augmented by video footage from CNN.

Standing ovation for Honoré. Honoré thanks audience for being an active community sharing respect for environment, the place where we live, for sharing a common purpose to be able to live in a place where you don’t have to worry about the quality of the water and air. I like my oil in the engine of my truck, not in the water or on the ground. “We can do better.”

Honoreleadership“I want to talk a little about leadership (and to shamelessly promote my book, Leadership in the New Normal).” You have to be able to get people to willingly follow. For instance, for the goal of environmental justice and social justice. There’s a purpose to teaching children how to read; part is to prevent these same children from later being in the prison system.

If you think you have it hard, think about how hard Gen. George Washington and his troops had it in the winters of the Revolutionary War. We are now in a kind of fight like the one during the 1770s. The elected officials in Washington with their air conditioning think they’ve got it hard, but we do not have it hard like the soldiers in Washington’s volunteer army had it. This war that we are fighting [for environmental and social justice] is a war we can win, because we are on the right side.

My public school teacher in Pointe Coupee Parish told me we know you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so let me tell you three things that will help you in the future: (1) Learn to do routine things well. Brush your teeth, be respectful, do your homework, etc. (2) Don’t be afraid to take on the impossible. This came back to me when we landed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (3) Don’t be afraid to act even if you’re being criticized.

If oil and gas are so good for Louisiana, why are we one of the poorest states in the union? Why don’t we all get to go to private schools? Just speaking critically of oil and gas industry and its effect on our state will get you criticized. We want tourism and visitors, and oil and gas industries can be here, but they can’t destroy the place. “You can’t trash the place.” We’re not saying they can’t be here, but they have do it the right way, responsibly. Too many public officials will say, any time there’s a chemical leak, or several employees die at the plant, that the chemical release was minimal, or the loss of life was minimal. This is not acceptable.

We have a hard task, but through the power of connectivity, we can succeed. In a democracy, you can turn the situation around. We have to show it to people in other countries. If you grew up in Louisiana, you grew up smellin’ stuff. Maybe the sugar cane burning, or something from an Exxon plant or a paper mill. It’s a part of the culture, and it doesn’t mean much as we’re growing up, but people from other places ask, “What is that?” • I was on CNN and I said I’m not going to call this the “Gulf oil spill,” this is the BP oil spill. The Gulf of Mexico didn’t cause this. This was created by a company. Same with the sinkhole, or the Jefferson Island salt dome collapse.

How is that the EPA is prevented from coming into a state to take action against a violation of the Clean Water Act unless the state government invites it in. If there’s a violation of a drug smuggling law, the federal forces can take action. But it was written into the Clean Water Act that the EPA is limited from enforcing the law. Self-regulating is not an option. These companies messing up this state don’t even have their headquarters here. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to use our voice to influence our legislators. We have a serious water problem. The aquifers are depleting seriously because of the industries’ use. Why aren’t they using the Mississippi River? Because the aquifers, which should be reserved for the local people’s drinking water, are easier for the companies to draw from. And what are we going to do with the orphan wells? These abandoned oil wells have been abandoned. Streams of oil all over the place, just leaking. You can see them all over Plaquemines Parish, still lying knocked over by Hurricane Katrina, and the companies have been allowed by the Louisiana legislature to leave them abandoned. We have to make it visible. This is your war. This is our time. This is a great cause. How are you going to get your nieces and nephews and neighbors involved? The way we’re going in the state of Louisiana, this place will not be fit to live in. What we have going on off our coastline is like what they have going on in Nigeria. How many of you could make a list of 10 people you could bring on the team for environmental justice, for social justice?

Sandy Rosenthal of Levees.org asks Honoré about the SLFPA-E lawsuit and Gov. Jindal’s attempts to have control over the membership of the Flood Protection Board. The governor may be forgetting that he will not always be governor. How is he going to explain to his children or grandchildren that they can’t go out and play because the air is too polluted? • Audience member commends Honoré for speaking out about environmental issues. You have some of the best guerrilla fighters in the state in this room now, but we need leadership. Please run for governor. [Applause.] • You have to get busy on the college campuses and get the students mobilized. You’ve got to be prepared to do civil disobedience; that’s the only thing that will get these people’s attention. It’s likely going to look foolish to the rest of the country, but it’s got to be done. It’s going to take the voice of the people speaking out. It’s going to take some community organizing. Get the restaurateurs involved; they need clean seafood, so it affects them too.

Magnus & WilderAshley Award Presented to Greg Peters

Received by Greg’s sons, Magnus and Wilder, after introductory remarks by Alli de Jong about our late friend Greg Peters (1962–2013).

Charter Schools: Access & Accountability

11:30 Moderated by Scott Sternberg. Panelists: Nikki Napoleon, Marta Jewson, Jaimmé Collins, Aesha Rasheed, and Steve Beatty.

Questions posed to the panel include: Are charter schools in New Orleans more or less responsive to democratic principles than our old School Boards, and how can we address the access and accountability issues for the present and future of New Orleans?

Eighty percent of New Orleans schools are now charter schools. Questions of accountability, transparency. Because the school or school system is not strictly a public entity in the traditional sense of the public school, its administrators are not accustomed to requests for public records, or have different understandings of accountability—they may be quick to comply with requests for information, or they may say “that’s none of your business.”

Re: parent engagement, Jaimmé Collins says that all of us should be more active about attending the board meetings. This would begin to change things. We could each commit show up to at least one board meeting per year. Set an example and become a more engaged member of the community. Steve Beatty, editor of The Lens, says that the boards should schedule meetings at a time of day when parents can actually attend, not during the workday. If a school is not giving satisfactory performance or accountability, parents can “vote with their feet” by withdrawing their child and going somewhere else. In Q&A, a teacher says that that is often not a realistic option. Nikki Napoleon did pull her child from one school and placed him in another.

Jaimmé Collins says that school administrators should pick two or three things on which they are willing to engage in particular with parents to help the school improve in a more focused way for students. Started a parent-school review to design a process by which parents could evaluate how well the school is performing, but getting five or six parents to commit and attend meetings is sometimes a challenge. A good idea but sometimes a challenge to execute.

Steve Beatty says the city of New Orleans doesn’t have a charter school system; we have a lot of different charter schools operating independently.

 

CharterSchoolPanelCharter Schools panelists, from left to right: Nikki Napoleon, Marta Jewson, Jaimmé Collins, Aesha Rasheed, and Steve Beatty.

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MelaNated Writers Collective: Creating Community for Writers of Color

10:05 Jarvis Q. DeBerry introduces MelaNated Writers Collective panel, Jewel Bush, David Thaddeus Baker, Kelly Harris, and Gian Smith. Young writers of color in New Orleans seeking a community of other writers of color, seeking support, fellowship in what is by its nature a very solitary pursuit.

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 Jewel Bush speaks at Rising Tide’s MelaNated Writers Collective panel. From left to right: Jewel Bush, David Thaddeus Baker, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Gian Smith. 

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Discussion of the importance of not caring about—not being held back by—what white people think, or would think, of what I’m writing. Part of the necessary self-liberation for a black writer is to (try to) be free of these considerations. Reference to a famous essay by Langston Hughes (cite:TK). • The effect of Hurricane Katrina on these writers’ work. Gian Smith says it took being separated from New Orleans to realize how important the city and its people are, and to make me determined to represent what is not known to the rest of the world. Partly in reaction to the television representations of New Orleans, of black people of New Orleans. • How has being in New Orleans affected your writing? Kelly Harris-DeBerry: being in N.O. has made me more playful in my poems. Gian Smith: I think it’s a distinct advantage to be in New Orleans. Just as all of Stephen King’s novels are set in New England, mine are definitely set here. The settings for the action are local. Question about how the memory of the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina affected your writing? Jewel Bush says the storm is there as a background to the present action of a story. It’s always there as a presence, an internal chatter that’s always on. David Thaddeus Baker says he has written two poems relating to Katrina, but he cannot let the storm dominate his focus or overpower what he is writing. Kelly Harris-DeBerry says she is hesitant to write about the storm because she is not from here and she was not here at the time of the storm (2005).

Q&A

Pat Armstrong asks if writers feel pressure or expectation to “cross over” and serve as a “tour guide” to New Orleans and to the community of color for readers outside New Orleans. Jarvis DeBerry says there is sometimes an indifference among New Orleanians about whether outsiders get what we’re about or not. Lance Vargas asks, How do you get into that contemplative space needed to start writing? David Thaddeus Baker: I go for a walk and think about things. Jewel Bush: I like to listen to music; gets me in the mood. Gian Smith: I try to clear my schedule so that I am not distracted by other obligations. Kelly Harris-DeBerry: I don’t really have a ritual, but I try to write with pencil or pen. I feel I’m more thoughtful and concentrated when I’m writing by hand rather than by typing. I seem like I take my time and I’m more thoughtful.

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10:00 Introductory remarks by RT secretary Patrick “Cousin Pat” Armstrong. Thanks to Xavier University of Louisiana for hosting this conference, and to sponsors The Lens, WWNO, and WTUL. Welcoming remarks by Xavier Univ. Student Council president Javon Bracy. Emcee is George “Loki” Williams. T-shirts and posters designed by Greg Peters for sale.

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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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Rising Tide 8 is Sept. 14 in New Orleans: Register Now!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

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Keynote Speaker is Gambit’s Deborah Cotton

Deborah Cotton, a Gambit reporter and activist who was injured in the notorious Mother’s Day shooting on May 12, will be the keynote speaker for the 8th annual Rising Tide conference on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Xavier University in New Orleans. Ms. Cotton was one of 19 people injured by three shooters during a second-line parade in the Seventh Ward to honor Mother’s Day. (See our account of the shooting here.)

Deb-taking-notes-smallA Los Angeles native who moved to New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina (2005), Cotton writes about and videotapes second line culture, Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands, and social aid and pleasure clubs for Gambit under the pen name “Big Red” Cotton. She has written Notes on New Orleans for NOLA.com, Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, and her own web site New Orleans Good Good. Ms. Cotton appeared on Brass Bands panel at Rising Tide 6, where she spoke about the New Orleans noise ordinance. (Click here for a fine tribute by her Gambit colleague Kevin Allman.)

Also featured at Rising Tide 8

Creating Community for Writers of Color: MelaNated Writers Collective will discuss why New Orleans is a city ripe for literary rebirth. Moderated by Jarvis DeBerry of the Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, panelists include authors jewel bush, columnist for Uptown Messenger; David Thaddeus Baker, web editor for The Louisiana Weekly; Kelly Harris, founder of Poems & Pink Ribbons; and Gian Smith, spoken word poet and author of “O Beautiful Storm.”

Tech School is back! Katy Monnot of Bird on the Street hosts a day of presentations on better use of social media for individuals and businesses. On the Working with Bloggers panel, Bridgette Duplantis, Maria Sinclair, Shercole King and Victoria Adams discuss how small business can leverage the power of blogs to help with promotions. Megan B. Capone, Celeste “Metry Chick” Haar, and Marielle “NOLA Chick” Songy will talk about about Personal Branding: When You are What You’re Selling. Addie King, Jess Leigh, and Cara Jougelard will present Using Visual Tools in Online Promotion, and Steve Maloney will present a primer on Content Marketing.

Like Rising Tide on Facebook (don’t forget to share!), follow Rising Tide on Twitter (don’t forget to retweet!), and check for programming updates on the Rising Tide Conference Blog or Rising Tide website. Registration for Rising Tide 8 is open now!

What Is Rising Tide?

RT6-ad-poster-smallThe Rising Tide conferences, held  since 2006 on or near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, bring together bloggers, activists, techies and other geeks, teachers, writers, artists, and experts in education, public safety, infrastructure, Louisiana politics, the environment, Internet technology, sports, parenting in New Orleans, and many other topics pertaining to the area’s ongoing recovery from hurricanes, “federal floods,” oil spills, and other challenges.

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.

Rising Tide NOLA, Inc., is a nonprofit organization formed by New Orleans bloggers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federally built levees. After the disaster, the Internet became a vital connection among dispersed New Orleanians, former New Orleanians, and friends of the city and the Gulf Coast region. A surge of new blogs were created, and combined with those that were already online, an online community with a shared interest in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast developed. In the summer of 2006, to mark the anniversary of the flood, the bloggers of New Orleans organized the first Rising Tide Conference, taking their shared interest in technology, the arts, the internet and social media and turning advocacy in the city into action.

All are welcome. Advance registration for students is $18, and for the general public, $20. The ticket includes breakfast and lunch (provided by Laurel Street Bakery and Juan’s Flying Burrito, respectively).

The food is great, and the discussions are even more nourishing. We’ve been to four Rising Tides, and we’ll be there again this year. Sign up now!

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Click below to read about previous Rising Tides (most recent first): 

rt3Rising Tide 7 Is Sat. Sept. 22 at Xavier (2012)

Dedra Johnson of ‘The G Bitch Spot’ Wins Rising Tide’s Ashley Award (2011)

Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 6 (2011)

Rising Tide 6 Is August 27, So Register Today (2010)

Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 5 in New Orleans (2010)

Come Surf the Rising Tide : Aug. 28 in New Orleans (2008)

Rising Tide 5 Is Aug. 28 in New Orleans: Register Today (2010)

RT4: Sinking to New Heights (2009)

Rising Tide III in New Orleans Aug. 22–24 (2008)

Viva New Orleans—for Art’s Sake! (2007)

Making Blogging Sexy: Rising Tide 2 (2007)

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In Memoriam: Greg Peters, ‘Suspect Device’ Artist and Blogger, Father, Friend

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Eileen+Greg

September 24, 1962–August 2, 2013

“My message is kind of an emperor’s new clothes thing: I’m making fun of them, but I’m also trying to remind people that you have a choice. And if you don’t get involved in it, then it’s going to continue, and they’ll continue to put on the circus show for you, amusing you by proposing laws about pants that show ass crack, or Darwin being racist, at the same time that they’re screwing over your future.” —Greg Peters

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Update 8/10/13 : Be sure to read Mark Moseley’s thoughtful tribute to his friend and ours at The Lens, “Remembering the unforgettable: a salute to the late, very great Greg Peters.” Highly recommended. ]

 

It is with sadness that we note the death yesterday of our friend Greg Peters, an award-winning cartoonist, artist, and writer, following heart surgery at Oschner Medical Center in New Orleans. A native of Marquette, Michigan, who was an all-but-dissertation-Ph.D. in English and creative writing at the University of Louisiana (Lafayette), Greg Peters was 50.

In his own words (from his profile at Lafayette Creative [‘artsy, without the fartsy’]):

Greg Peters is a cartoonist, writer and graphic designer living in Louisiana. He is available for freelance work, as well as speaking engagements, personal appearances at bachelorette parties, raucous press club luncheons, and swanky, black-tie bourgeois pig feeds, where his unassailable personal magnetism and colorful vocabulary make him a sure object of intense, whispered conversation.

GregPetersPageAlthough we did not know Greg as well as we would like to have known him—living in separate cities, and meeting only at the Rising Tide conferences whose posters he designed year after year—we always admired his intelligence, artistic talent, his satirical wit and no-bullshit honesty, and his very wide and loyal network of friends, in New Orleans and beyond, who will be mourning his passing. We will miss Greg in much the same way as Ashley Morris is missed: talented life-forces who passed too early, too young, from this physical realm, but whose spirits live on among us and continue to inspire our best, most honest work and our best living, as if life itself, and how you live it, matters. We are not OK, because they are gone. But we’ll be OK, because they’re still with us on the inside.

Putting Art to Work Against Official Incompetence and Mendacity

Peters’s award-winning “Suspect Device” editorial cartoon series (named after the song by Stiff Little Fingers) was published in the Times of Acadiana and Gambit, and other graphic work was featured in the book Attitude 2: The New Subversive Alternative Cartoonists (2004). He designed posters for the Port of New Orleans, among other clients, and, from 2007 on, he designed posters for all but one of the Rising Tide conferences on the future of New Orleans. (A sampling of his work appears below.) He also created the cover for A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans (2010), which includes two of his blog posts from Suspect Device.

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Kevin Allman has posted a fine tribute at Gambit, noting that Peters was “funny—and always furious and rude, juxtaposed with sophisticated writing. In a 2004 profile of Peters and his work, former Gambit music editor Scott Jordan noted, ‘Peters’ craft is fueled by his punk rock-influenced DIY personality and educational background in literary criticism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and Buddhism—all meeting the surreal arena of Louisiana politics.’ ”

Other tributes can be found at NOLA.com, Toulouse Street, Library Chronicles, Liprap’s Lament, Pog mo Thoin (an especially eloquent and touching personal recollection from a friend who is not of the New Orleans blogosphere), and on Facebook, where Greg’s companion, Gambit contributor Eileen Loh (shown with Greg in top photo), posted the following:

I’m gutted to have to tell so many of Greg Peters’ friends that the world has lost a brilliant mind, a gifted artist, a scathing wit, a maestro of sarcasm, an ardent defender of the disenfranchised and the discriminated and the broken, and one of the gentlest, kindest, funniest and most fearless people I’ve ever met. He never got to live one day of his life without the congenital heart condition that got him in the end, and in my almost bottomless sadness, I am happy he’s finally free. Please keep his boys in your thoughts; they are inconsolable.

Greg Peters is survived by his two sons, Magnus and Wilder, shown embracing with him above; his companion, Eileen Loh, and his former wife, Saundra Scarce of Lafayette.

Memorial Services Announced

Eileen Loh announces on Facebook:

There will be two memorial services for Greg Peters: one in Lafayette and one in New Orleans. The former is set for next Saturday, Aug. 10, at Martin & Castille Funeral Home, 600 East Farrel Road, Lafayette (337-234-2311). Visitation starts at 1:00, and the service is from 2:00 to 4:00. • The family is hoping that some of the guests might choose to prepare a 4- or 5-minute eulogy or remembrance to read at the service, largely so that Magnus and Wilder can hear many facets of their dad’s truly one-of-a-kind personality.

The New Orleans memorial service is TBA and will be a far less classy affair, a punk Irish wake in a New Orleans dive bar, as the gods intended . . . probably toward the end of August, 23/24, so that as many of his kick-ass friends from all corners can come. I will keep you posted. 

For further details, stay tuned to Greg Peters or Eileen Loh’s Facebook pages.

 

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Greg Peters, center, on a panel at the first Rising Tide conference, August 2006. From left to right: Dedra Johnson, Josh Britton, Greg Peters, Lois Dunn (Scout Prime of First Draft), and the late Ashley Morris. Photo by Maitri.

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Let the last words, for now, be those of Charles Bukowski, as quoted in a signature in an e-mail from Greg in 2009:

“We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

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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

 

*

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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Rising Tide 6 Is August 27, So Register Today

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

A Conference on the Future of New Orleans

After a week of economy-strangling legislation in Congress, Wall Street plunges, and a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating, maybe you’re ready for some positive news? The Best Thing Happening—we’ll be there and we can hardly wait—is the 6th annual Rising Tide conference on the future of New Orleans on Sat. Aug. 27 at Xavier University.

Held every year since 2006 on or near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Rising Tide brings together experts, bloggers, writers, activists, new media peeps and other ordinary folks who care about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: the culture, the environment, the politics, the food and music, the Saints, and the rebuilding and restoration . . .

This year’s RT, with meeting space generously provided by Xavier University, will be bigger and better than ever: two very interesting keynote speakers—David Simon, creator and executive producer of HBO’s popular New Orleans drama Treme, and the brilliant N.O. geographer and acclaimed author Richard Campanella—plus two simultaneous programs: the panel discussions on one stage, and, for the first time, a Tech School focusing on social media and blogging topics (more below).

Check out the Rising Tide Facebook page and Flickr site, then click here to register.

The panels this year are on Social Media, Social Justice  Louisiana’s Coastal Health, featuring our friend Len Bahr of LaCoastPost and Pulitzer winner Bob Marshall of the Times-Picayune • New Orleans Food Writing and Brass Bands. And, if you want to go to Tech School, you can get hands-on training in social media and blogging, learn advanced WordPress techniques, ways to improve your photography, and the latest in web strategies and online tools.

Two Must-Hear Speakers: Richard Campanella and David Simon

We are big fans of Rich Campanella (right) and his books Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans, New Orleans Then and Now (with Marina Campanella), and Time and Place in New Orleans. This Brooklyn-born geographer–historian–demographics geek has a rare gift for appreciating and explaining New Orleans’s neighborhoods and demographic changes as well as the city’s cultural riches and complexities. Rich will be speaking on “on the origins of how we’ve come to perceive, delineate, and name New Orleans neighborhoods.” See our write-up of his remarks at a 2009 panel discussion we attended at Loyola University, “What Is New Orleans?”

Fans of the hit HBO show Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, will want to hear producer David Simon (see Salon.com’s interview with him)—also creator of HBO’s The Wire—and should check out the blogs Back of Town, many of whose writers are among the organizers of the Rising Tide conference, and Watching Treme.

Networking, Sharing Ideas, and Making Blogging Sexy

As usual, there will be a festive Friday night warm-up (location TBD), and at the conference Octavia Books will provide a literature table of the panelists’ published works available for purchase. Registration includes breakfast beverages and pastries as well as a tasty lunch prepared by J’anita’s.

“We come together to dispel myths, promote facts, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a “real life” demonstration of internet activism as we continue to recover from a massive failure of government on all levels.”

Previous RT venues have been appropriately casual and informal (and much appreciated), but Xavier’s hosting of the event brings Rising Tide up to a more serious and professional level. The organizers are grateful to the university administration and to Bart “Editor B.” Everson of Xavier’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching for arranging the venue.

Past keynote speakers have included Mac McClelland (left), human rights reporter for Mother Jones; actor and filmmaker Harry ShearerJohn M. Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America; and Christopher Cooper and Robert Block, (former) Wall Street Journal correspondents and authors of Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security. Click here for past years’ lineups and panel discussions.

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David Corn on Democrats, Zombies, and the Vampire Karl Rove

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Last night we had the pleasure of attending a real live Manhattan “liberal elite” salon hosted by Mother Jones magazine, moderated by MoJo’s publisher, Mr. Steve Katz, and featuring the magazine’s Washington bureau chief David Corn (also a blogger for PoliticsDaily.com, former Washington editor for The Nation, and author of The Lies of George W. Bush, Hubris [with Michael Isikoff], and other critically acclaimed books).

Corn spoke about the 2010 midterm election(s), what the Democrats are up against with the Tea Party Republicans, the likely outcomes of the 2010 election, and what impact it will have on the White House’s foreign and domestic policies, whether or not the GOP wins the House . . . and much more!

Readers of this blog will recall that Mother Jones was present at the 5th annual Rising Tide conference in New Orleans on August 28 in the form of (Ms.) Mac McClelland, a human rights reporter who covered the BP oil spill’s effects on Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana and elsewhere. As smart and attention-worthy as Mac is, we’re here to tell you there’s even more talent on the staff of this 30-year-old magazine of investigative journalism (the current issue’s cover story: “The BP Cover-Up”). A year’s subscription for this bimonthly is more than worth the $10.

The following account is based on hurriedly scrawled notes and is not intended to be a verbatim transcript of Mr. Corn’s remarks. To read his exact words, see his blog, his articles at Mother Jones, and read his books (listed below), all of which we highly recommend.

Backlash: The Tea Party Movement as a Political Science Experiment

Corn began by wondering aloud whether there would be a Tea Party as we know it today if John McCain had not chosen as his 2008 running mate an obscure but telegenic governor from the state of Alaska. Can you imagine Dick Armey as the “poster child” face of the Tea Party? Still, he said, there would in any case have been a backlash against a Democratic president, as there always is from the far right (JFK, Clinton . . .). Some of the recoil from the present administration results from the fact that the Democratic president is African-American, though Corn is not sure that race has as much to do with the backlash as the extremely distressed economic conditions.

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