Katrina

Careful what you ask for

A little more than a month ago, I found myself in a conversation with some friends about the practice of making mix CDs. And while I don’t remember just how that conversation took this particular turn (except, of course, that there was beer involved, so anything is possible), somehow I found myself on the end of a challenge (or two). Said friends offered up specific themes, and it was my task to compile suitable mixes to match those themes.

I finished the first of those CDs earlier this month, popped it in the mail, and have just received word that it has finally reached its intended destination.

irene.jpgThough perhaps I should instead say that it made landfall, since the theme in question was “Hurricane” (see track listing below). And while I knew the timing of said CD’s arrival would come pretty close to the anniversary of Katrina coming ashore in NOLA (six years ago this coming Monday, for those of you who’ve forgotten), there was no way for me to know that it would also coincide with the ongoing movement of Irene up the eastern seaboard. (Stay safe and dry, all you peeps from the Carolinas up to New England.)

For the record (for the disc??), I’m open to future requests . . . bearing in mind that there’s already a line here (so I can’t guarantee anyone a rapid response), and that I suspect the uncanny “make it so” magic that happened this time only works by accident (so you probably won’t be able to produce an everlasting global utopia simply by asking for an “everlasting global utopia” mix).

  1. Rolling Stones — “Gimme Shelter”
  2. Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie — “When the Levee Breaks”
  3. Led Zeppelin — “When the Levee Breaks”
  4. Bob Dylan — “The Levee’s Gonna Break”
  5. St. Louis Jimmy — “Florida Hurricane”
  6. Lord Beginner — “Jamaica Hurricane”
  7. Jamie Lidell — “Hurricane”
  8. Marcia Ball — “American Dream”
  9. Liz Phair — “Hurricane Cindy”
  10. Neko Case — “Middle Cyclone”
  11. Hurricane Smith — “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?”
  12. Hurricanes — “Pistol Packin’ Mama”
  13. Hurricane Harry — “Last Meal”
  14. Johnny & the Hurricanes — “Crossfire”
  15. Johnny & the Hurricanes — “Storm Warning”
  16. Bob Dylan — “Hurricane”
  17. Dr. John & the Lower 911 — “Say Whut”
  18. Elvis Costello & Allen Touissant — “The River in Reverse”
  19. Bruce Springsteen — “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”
  20. Marcia Ball — “Louisiana 1927”

Who dat?

One of the most amazing little serendipitous moments of . . . well . . . who knows how long? And way too sweet not to mention here.

Was out with a couple of friends, celebrating a birthday (not mine). The Super Bowl was not an official part of anyone’s agenda though, as it turns out, all three of us were rooting for New Orleans. Even the birthday girl, who’s not a football fan. At halftime, we leave the bar we’d been and start walking back to where 2 of the 3 of us had parked their cars. And we hear this noise up ahead from several blocks away.

We get closer, and it sounds vaguely like a Mardi Gras parade. There’s music. Horns. Shouting.

Bear in mind, this is Minneapolis. In February. And it’s snowing. So we figure that can’t possibly be the case.

We get closer still. And, yes. There’s a small brass band standing in an alleyway. There are a dozen people dressed in black and gold (Saints colors, for those who are not NFL-savvy) dancing in the street, having the time of the fuckin’ lives.

This is one of the reasons I love Minneapolis.

Better still, it’s one of the reasons I love N’awlins. Even though I’ve never lived there. I can’t think of any other city in the US that could generate enough passion and love and community and loyalty to have people dancing in the snow like that. Not for people who were 1000 miles from home, anyway.

Lost in the flood

As I type these words, the lead story on the CNN website is a classic example of “good” moral panic reporting about the “blistering pace” of murders in New Orleans. Nearly one per day this month alone, and with a per capita rate that makes other alleged hotbeds of violent crime look placid and calm by comparison. The story itself goes to great pains to claim that the rising tide of crime in the City That Care Forgot predates the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The lesson? New Orleans has long been a crime-ridden, dangerous city. Always. If things are bad there right now, it’s got nothing to do with the storm or its aftermath. Nothing at all.

It’s an especially curious — and disturbing — story, given that today is the two year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast. The “murder board” story isn’t a breaking story or time sensitive news, after all. And, barring the appearance of a fast-breaking bit of news, CNN could just as easily have devoted their lead spot to an anniversary piece: “Katrina: Two Years Later” or “Rebuilding the Big Easy” or some such. It’s a pretty safe bet that when the six year anniversary of 9/11 rolls around in two weeks, CNN (and much of the rest of the mainstream media) will quite happily run such anniversary pieces. Stories with sentimental titles like “We Will Never Forget” or “The Day Everything Changed” or “Where Were You When . . .” There will be plenty of patriotic flag-waving. And New York will almost certainly not be the target of “blame the victim” reporting.

Of course, the “problem” with journalism that would remember Katrina in the same fashion that 9/11 has been (and will be) is that such reports would need to acknowledge that, two years later, large swaths of New Orleans are still in shambles. That the federal government completely failed — in both the short and the long term — to respond effectively to the first massive disaster to strike the US in the post-9/11 era. That thousands of people displaced by the storm and the flood still can’t go home again.

And heaven forbid that CNN should point fingers at the government for failing to serve the public during a major catastrophe.

This just in…

The Yes Men go to New Orleans.

And I’m especially stunned by the video available on CNN’s website, where the reporter claims that no one has any idea who this faux HUD official was. I know that the Yes Men aren’t exactly celebrities in the way that, say, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are celebrities. But they’ve also released an award-winning documentary about their media pranks through a major movie studio. And, for the non-cinematically inclined, they’ve got a book with lots of photos that covers much of the same material. They’ve perpetuated witty and politically savvy hoaxes on the WTO, MSNBC, McDonald’s, Dow Chemical, and Halliburton (among others) that have garnered a fair amount of press attention and notoriety. And they don’t exactly work hard to disguise their appearance when they undertake their efforts at “identity correction.” By now, I would’ve thought that their inability to sneak up on people would almost rival that of Michael Moore (or, once upon a time, Mike Wallace). But obviously, I would’ve been wrong about that.

Good thing, too, since I suspect it may take a few more Yes-Men-like pranks to help remind folks just how bad the situation in New Orleans remains to this day.

Lost in the flood

A year later, the Katrina debacle still makes me unbelievably sad. And furious. All the more so because so little has been done to rebuild the places hardest hit by the storm — and because what has been done has been so transparently about helping the rich get richer . . . while the poor (once again) get kicked to the curb. My own words are simply too bogged down in grief and rage to come out well right now. So I’ll borrow a handful of words that Bruce Springsteen’s been singing recently:

There’s bodies floatin’ on Canal and the levee’s gone to Hell
Martha, get me my sixteen gauge and some dry shells
Them who’s got got out of town
And them who ain’t got left to drown
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?
I got family scattered from Texas all the way to Baltimore
And I ain’t got no home in this world no more
Gonna be a judgment that’s a fact, a righteous train rollin’ down this track
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

Full lyrics here (though you’ll need to scroll down a bit). Audio available online in multiple formats (Real, Quicktime, Windows)