Archive for August, 2011

Yes, I could have spent this morning writing another Rising Tide Recap in the style of Hunter S. Thompson. Or I could have honored this solemn occasion with another commentary on the state of New Orleans after the Federal Flood.

But the Muse came around and said I needed to do an image of Michelle Bachman with Drew Brees eyes. And since she is my master…

David Simon – Keynote Speaker, Rising Tide VI from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Note that this forecast puts a major metropolitan area in the northeast quadrant with an uptick in intensity just off the coast. Remember that.

Back in 2007, I did an e-mail Q&A style interview with Chuck Watson, Director of Research and Development for Kinetic Analysis Corporation. In the five-year history of this blog’s goofy musings and absurd ramblings on the New Orleans experience, this interview probably contained the most important thing this blog has ever done- a qualified hurricane forecaster stating emergency mangers in areas prone to be in Hurricane paths imply or even demand exaggerated predictions from forecasters and, the forecasters indeed comply…

The Chicory: You said in your comment that emergency managers “always want people scared” and the media doesn’t always publish below average predictions. Does this mean authorities pressure you to deliver sensational numbers? Does it effect the manner in which researchers study and predict storms?

Chuck Watson: Huge question. I don’t think pressure from emergency managers and other sources directly impacts the research itself (although it does impact who gets funding to an extent), but it has a big, big, impact on forecasts and the way they are reported, both seasonally and operationally.

Emergency managers have a tough job. They are always pushing hurricane awareness, especially at the beginning of the season. Calling for a quiet season means less press coverage, and less scary coverage, at exactly the same time they are trying to get people to start thinking about evacuation plans and preparedness. So they get touchy when we say a below normal season for their jurisdiction because they perceive it as making their job harder. They prefer that we, in the words of one irate caller from a couple years ago, “either tell people they might get hit by a storm this year or shut the f*** up, ’cause people won’t prepare otherwise”. I (obviously) disagree with that attitude – if you treat people like idiots, generally they don’t disappoint you. I think if you explain the risks and the benefits of mitigation and preparedness, without the scare tactics, most people will react accordingly.

I always tell people that it only takes one storm to ruin your day, and even if our odds for a hurricane in your county are half of normal, say 1 in 100, that’s still pretty big odds you will lose your roof. Sometimes that message gets lost in the technical discussions about the forecasts, but it’s not because I’m not saying it.

Operationally, the hype from the media and pressure from emergency managers is intense. NHC sometimes uses what they call the “forecast of least regret” (their words). For example, if the storm is forecast to brush the coast, they tend to show it making landfall, making a direct hit on a major city rather than an adjacent lower populated area, or call for the winds to be higher than either the models or unbiased forecasting would indicate. NHC has reportedly changed tracks at the behest of emergency managers to make them “scarier” and encourage people to evacuate, especially for high risk areas like the Florida Keys. I think this is a bad idea. The forecast should be the best possible rendition of where the storm is going and how strong it will be when it gets there. Fudging the tracks and, more typically, the intensities, tends to decrease the credibility of the forecasts and over time is counterproductive.

Reading that I almost immediately recall this “Hell on Earth” forecast before Katrina from the National Weather Service. While the NWS was patting itself on the back for scaring the shit out of people and inciting them to leave, consider that the many details in the release didn’t happen. All gabled roofs didn’t fail. All apartments didn’t collapse. It mentions throughout the damage from wind but the majority of Katrina damage in Louisiana and Mississippi was from levee failures and storm surge flooding. Nothing about flooding was mentioned in the release. So while the bulletin was heralded by the NWS as saving lives, it was mostly bogus and off the mark. Perhaps if it urged people to seek higher ground it would have saved even more lives?

The chickens came home to roost three years later when Hurricane Ike approached the Texas Gulf Coast…

Why Hurricane Ike’s “Certain Death” Warning Failed

So if my dreamed-of “absolute database of everything” actually existed, I would love to find out just how useful scaring the shit out of people to motivate them is. It appears to be one-shot pony as many residents quickly figure out the tactics. Nudge that intensity up a little bit, nudge that path over a little bit.

Next thing you know you have a Cat 3 Irene hitting the 300 year-old port city of Charleston and effecting 700,000 people in the metro area. And it’s already working…

Forecasters say SC could see effects of Irene

There are larger issues here as well, stuff like the role government should play in our lives, “nanny state” shit. I think this type of thing creates a dependence on government for thought and direction when an average person is perfectly capable of thinking for them self despite what a lot of others think. Chuck agreed above when he said, “if you treat people like idiots, generally they don’t disappoint you.” People aren’t as stupid as they are thought to be. There are labels telling folks not to eat the rat poison or think an inflatable Sponge Bob is a good lif life preserver* (helmet, seat belt and open container laws fit in here too).

But hey, at least people will actually get sick or die from eating the rat poison. These hurricane forecasters have escalated / devolved into “we know what’s good for you more than you do” with a heaping helping of “fear is better than truth.”

* Consider the possibility of a drowning person with no life preserver whose friends don’t toss him the huge inflatable Sponge Bob because it specifically says not to on it. Oh fortuna, if I’m ever drowning throw my ass anything that floats and I’ll take my chances.

As a response to this blogger’s unfortunate and hurried reference to a Mardi Gras Indian as “Feather’s Magoo” in this blog post…

Altercation at Cafe du Monde

I would like to frame up her ignorant disrespect of our fine culture by displaying the Wikipedia article on Mardi Gras Indians below but with her name for them inserted…

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Feathers Magoos are African-American Carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel.

Collectively, their organizations are called “tribes”. Many of the tribes also parade on the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19 (“Super Sunday”) and sometimes at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

There are about 38 tribes. They range in size from a half dozen to several dozen members. The tribes are largely independent, but a pair of umbrella organizations loosely coordinate the Uptown Magoos and the Downtown Magoos.

History
Feathers Magoos have been parading in New Orleans at least since the mid-19th century, possibly before. The tradition was said to have originated from an affinity between Africans and Indians as minorities within the dominant culture, and blacks’ circumventing some of the worst racial segregation laws by representing themselves as Indians. There is also the story that the tradition began as an African American tribute to American Indians who helped runaway slaves. These slaves married into the tribes on occasion. An appearance in town of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the 1880s was said to have drawn considerable attention and increased the interest in masking as Indians for Mardi Gras.

When Caribbean communities started to spring up in New Orleans, their culture was incorporated into the suits, dances and music made by the “Indians”.

In the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century, the tribes had a reputation for violent fights with each other. This part of Feathers Magoo history is immortalized in James Sugar Boy Crawford’s song, “Jock O Mo” (better known and often covered as “Iko Iko”), based on their taunting chants.

As the 20th century progressed, physical confrontation gave way to assertions of status by having better suits, songs, and dances. Generations ago when Feathers Magoos came through neighborhoods, people used to run away; now people run toward them for the colorful spectacle.

A tradition of male-only tribes ended in the late 20th-century as women began appearing in costume as well.

Suits
Generally each “Magoo” makes his own suit, assisted by family and friends to sew elaborate bead and feather work—a chief’s suit can weigh up to 150 pounds (68 kg) and cost up to U.S. $5,000—and traditionally a new suit is required each year. Beads and materials were once reused from one year’s suit on the next.

On St. Joseph’s night the Magoos would come out and parade their suits one last time before taking them apart and burning anything they didn’t reuse. In recent years, however, there has been a market for selling suits after they are worn for display by museums and private collectors.

Hierarchy
The Feathers Magoos play various traditional roles. These include the “chief”, the “spy boy” who goes out in front of the group, the “flag boy” who bears the tribe’s standard and uses it to communicate between the chief and the spy boy, and the “medicine man”.

Long-time Feathers Magoo “Chief of Chiefs” Tootie Montana on Magoo hierarchy:
“You’ve got first chief, which is Big Chief; First Queen; you’ve got Second Chief and Second Queen; Third Chief and Third Queen. First, Second, and Third chiefs are supposed to have a queen with them. That’s just tradition. I found them doing that. Your fourth chief is not called fourth chief, he’s the Trail Chief. From there on it’s just Magoos, no title. You also have your Spy Boy, your Flag Boy and your Wild Man. Your Spy Boy is way out front, three blocks in front the chief. The Flag Boy is one block in front so he can see the Spy Boy up ahead and he can wave his flag to let the chief know what is going on. Today, they don’t do like they used to. Today you’re not going to see any Spy Boy with a pair of binoculars around his neck and a small crown so he can run. Today a Spy Boy looks like a chief and somebody carrying a big old stick. It’s been years since I seen a proper flag. Today everybody has a chief stick. The Wild Man wearing the horns in there to keep the crowd open and to keep it clear. He’s between the Flag Boy and the Chief.”

Tribes of the Feathers Magoo Nation
7th Ward Hard Headers
7th Ward Hunters
9th Ward Hunters
Black Cherokee
Black Eagles
Black Hawk Hunters
Black Feathers
Black Seminoles
Blackfoot Hunters
Burning Spears
Carrollton Hunters
Cheyenne Hunters
Comanche Hunters
Congo Nation
Creole Osceola
Creole Wild West
Fi-Yi-Yi
Flaming Arrows
Geronimo Hunters
Golden Arrows
Golden Blades
Golden Comanche
Golden Eagles
Golden Star Hunters
Guardians of Flames
Hard Head Hunters
Mohawk Hunters
Morning Star Hunters
Red Hawk Hunters
Red White and Blue
Seminole Hunters
Seminole (Feathers Magoo Tribe)
White Cloud Hunters
White Eagles
Wild Apache
Wild Bogacheeta
Wild Tchoupitoulas
Wild Magnolias
Wild Mohicans
Yellow Pocahontas
Young Navaho
Young Brave Hunters
Young Monogram Hunters
Young Cheyenne

In popular culture
The HBO series Treme features one tribe of Feathers Magoos in one of the major plot lines weaving through the series, featuring preparations, the parades as well as strained relationships with the police department.
The song “Iko Iko” mentions two Feathers Magoo tribes.

Why eight? Because “eight good Gillys” just sounds good. All those vowels sounds syncopated with hard Gs.

As noted in yesterday’s post Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are coming to Tipitina’s tonight and I can’t promote the show because it’s sold out. Maybe they’ll do an Indian song or some slow Cajun ballad to thank us.

I’ve been an unabashed lover of these two for a decade or so mostly because they get right down into my favorite aesthetic of humanity. Despite a fascination and curiosity about science (particularly astronomy and geology), I cherish and hold tightly to the dirt of us – the dark, tragic, suffering, brief, lives we live out as jealous, flawed, incomplete, yet exuberant souls. Despite the tall buildings and the superfast computers and internets and global economies and what not, the human mind and its constructs still live out the mythos of our spiritual, fire-worshipping ancestors and even further into the essence of that DNA, the apes and animals we descended from. Sometimes we use our departure from them to illuminate our nobility and sometimes we use our intimacy with them to justify some savagery. We like to play fast and loose with our ascendance to the higher order when it behooves us.

To me, and to artists like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and Trilobite and The Handsome Family and former G Bitch professor Harry Crews, the soundtrack of life is in minor chords on stringed instruments rather than Dubstep electronica. It’s filmed in Super 8 not Blu-Ray. It’s a moldy Southern Gothic novel and not a glossy photoshopped magazine cover.

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Lyric: “Well, Miranda ran away – Took her cat and left LA – That’s the way that it goes – That’s the way – She was busted, broke and flat – Had to sell that pussy cat – That’s the way that it goes”
But, WHICH pussy cat?
The Way That It Goes

An uplifting song with near-perfect phrasing and lyrics.
Wayside (Back in Time)

This used to be a Radiohead song…
Black Star

A heartbreaking ode to sharecroppers…
Annabelle

I have a particular fondness for this song because I have loved many a barrom girl and ultimately married one too. Also, it’s a waltz.
Barroom Girls

A driving, fast-paced murder ballad that ends with the would-be rapist with his own whiskey bottle in his neck from deus ex machina.
Caleb Meyer

Among the most plaintive and deliberate of the pair’s songs, about the passage of time revealing truths …
Revelator

Love song to a drug …
My Morphine

Thursday August 11 Gillian Welch, my favorite artists ever, ever, ever will be playing at Tiptina’s. I can’t really get into the ritualistic and profound relationship I have with Gillian and Dave Rawlings but it borders on being spiritual. They their fans wait 8 long years between the release of their last album “Soul Journey” in 2004 and their latest “The Harrow and the Harvest” in July. Now they are tour in just a Cadillac and I’m so excited I’m pulling a micro-tour and seeing them at Tips on Thursday then driving up to Birmingham and seeing them again on Friday.

My only hope is that Romy and I don’t encounter a repeat of our last incident at Tips where I was forced to shoosh a loquacious early 20s Tulane college student during Yo La Tengo’s plaintive, melodic encore. She refused of course and kept going on in a volume that effected the encore for everyone within 15 feet circumference around her. With Yo La Tengo, like Sonic Youth, you really need to listen to some of the songs because the art is in the slight tonal changes within the feedback. In the slower, quieter ones this is more important.

She not only didn’t adhere, she didn’t even understand the request, more, she was flabbergasted by it, asking “Seriously?”
I stated I was indeed serious and she ignored me and kept on about some drama between her and another girl to a third girl.

The rest of our interactions sort of went like this (and I realized our tet a tet probably spoiled the encore for everyone around us)…

Varg: You don’t fucking get it do you?
Her: I don’t fucking get it?
Varg: No. It would be like seeing into a higher dimension for you.
Her: We were here first!
Varg: …
Her: Also, it’s a BAR dude!
Varg: Fat Harrys is a bar. This is a club. A music club.

Not sure how that meant she could talk as loud as she wanted over the band because she spent more time on the balcony but this is early 20s logic here. After the band’s first set, the crowd sort of tapered out a bit and people who really wanted to see them could sort of got closer to the stage. Yo La Tengo was in their Spin the Wheel show and that may have seemed too weird for many of the Uptown college students in attendance so they jammed. Not our privileged little girl though.

So then she called both Romy and me fat (I’ll admit, I had a full bushy beard and some layers on that night, it was January) and asked us what we did for a living as some way of justifying her righteousness to do as she pleased.

By the time it was all over we had missed the encore. Her friend came up to us and apologized but insisted, “We WERE there first.” Like a little kid.

Downstairs, I was paying the tab and apparently her and Romy kinda got into a shoving match and the girl was thrown out by the banana man.

She continued to harass us from outside the club but I had to respond, “Whatever! You lost the high ground when you were thrown out by a BANANA!”

This becoming sort of a serial event at shows. I thought Tip’s may provide some relief and they did certainly react faster than HOB. It happened at a Sia Furler show there a while back too but my tolerence tank had some fuel left in it.

I have to add here that it’s not just young obnoxious girls who do this type of shit at shows. A few months before this incident I had a less caustic encounter with a middle-aged shirt-and-tie fella also at House of Blues Parish during a Jolie Holland show. She’s the quiet type of artist as well. You gotta listen. The tie guy was talking very loud at the end of the show and asserting a lot of wrong things about the artist and talking about how he was just across the street and only came over because he had comp tickets. Thanks for comping this douchebag HOB, he fucked up the show for the paying customers because, you know, he didn’t really care about the artist. Tank got a little more emptied with him.

To his credit though, he got the hint faster than the Uptown girl.

I anticipated the ensuing fight between my wife and this Tip’s girl outside but when we got out there she was gone. I’m pretty sure nothing would have happened. After all, we had Sister Annie Walker to protect us.

So now I am nervous because I know that Gillian Welch is the quiet type of artist that you really have to listen to. And I know that she doesn’t really roll into town that much. And I know that I really do have an attachment to this artist much more than the previous ones. My only saving grace is perhaps the college students are all out of town for Summer.

But first, this is all so Social Media, Social Justice.

The good…

Using Twitter handle @Riotcleanup, citizens are coming together following protests of the police shooting a Tottenham man. The Twitter account is raking in thousands of new followers per hour in the process. (At last count they had 59,000.)
Meanwhile, Riotcleanup.co.uk lists times and locations for clean up efforts, along with suggestions for equipment that people could bring along.
Facebook pages such as Post riot cleanup: Let’s help London and Riot Cleanup are keeping up with the aftermath as well, and serving as launch pads for other local communities to begin their own work.

From After London Riots, Social Media Plays Janitor, Cop

Aaaand the bad…

THE destruction in dozens of parts of London began to look like the first “BlackBerry riots” yesterday, with gangs using the smartphones to co-ordinate some of their targets for looting and burning.

From BlackBerry riot driven by the mob mentality

And some ugly…

On Monday, RIM tweeted: “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

As a result, a hacktivist group going by the name TeaMp0isoN (cute) hacked into RIM’s official blog on Tuesday to post the following menacing reply:

Dear Rim;
You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all, the Police are looking to arrest as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment…. if you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, gps locations, customer information & access to peoples BlackBerryMessengers you will regret it, we have access to your database which includes your employees information; e.g – Addresses, Names, Phone Numbers etc. – now if u assist the police, we _WILL_ make this information public and pass it onto rioters…. do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps? Think about it…. and don’t think that the police will protect your employees, the police can’t protect themselves let alone protect others….. if you make the wrong choice your database will be made public, save yourself the embarrassment and make the right choice. don’t be a puppet..

From London rioters organized looting with BlackBerries
As RIM works with police to identify rioters, the company’s receives a threatening message

Summer last,
Cicadas sang strong.
The season, long.

Summer this,
Robes run sour.
The hours, showers.

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Pavement pulverized pigeon,
horseflies and stink.
Perspiring painters ponder,
“What would the aliens think?”