Monday, December 22, 2008

Algiers Point Anger

I know it's the holidays. I know that I could and probably will post something cheery this week.

Or not. I am beyond furious, crying as I type this. Anger in my bones wanting to explode out. I can even say that though I'm an avowed pacifist, that there are a couple of people in the video below that I'd like to do in on a public square.

Just prior to Katrina, we lived in Algiers Point. What we did after the storm can be found chronicled at my sister blog, Katrina Refrigerator. On our block there were only four of us. My husband and myself, and Mr. Mitchell and his wife. Mr. Mitchell and his wife are black. The four of us shared a generator for two households, running it about one hour a day. We looked out for each other, made sure we had ice, water, food. Whatever we got, we got enough for them and vice versa.

During that time, my husband and I were running all over the Point and beyond, making food drops, finding people that no one even knew were there. Most of them were old, sick, out of their medication, had no ice, no food and were black. There were some white people, an elderly man not on the Point who couldn't quite navigate the MRE's physically or mentally, the family on the tip of the Point who all needed psych meds and menstrual supplies-one of them is a Vietnam Vet who wouldn't come out of his house, so the rest of the family got his medications together for us to see what we could do. There was old Bernice. She had been born and raised on Algiers Point. Had lived her entire life in a two block area. Well into her 80's maybe 90's, I can't remember now, she had been at an assisted living home and was told the night before the storm that if she had a place to go she should go there, so she did. They put her in a taxi and she went back to the home she had shared with her husband for decades and weathered the storm by herself. Nearly blind and almost deaf, she made it, amazingly.

In our travels around the Point and Algiers area, we learned about guerilla networking. We learned who had what kind of equipment, what kind of supplies. You never knew what you'd need. In fact, we once traded a bottle of Absolut vodka for one jar of mayo that had been kept cold as we had a ton of tuna and nothing to mix in it. Nevermind there were still folks over at the Convention Center. We didn't know that. It was a complete news blackout. One only knew what was going on where they were, period.

We'd heard some guys bragging about shooting other guys. We heard of some guys who had strung beer cans all over the street as a sort of burglar alarm. We knew that some of them had said they'd taken turns as lookouts. But it was the bragging about shooting people that my husband and I talked most about. We thought these guys were idiots, and more to the point, we didn't believe them. We really didn't. They had signs on boards saying they'd shoot if they saw looting. They had a big easy chair in the street, apparently that was where the person on duty would sit for their shift. But again, we talked about their reports of shooting people and decided that they were stressed out and just doing a lot of dick measuring. No way these people would actually shoot anyone "just cuz."

I distinctly remember my husband saying, "They're full of shit."

Evidently, we were stupidly naive.

At the time, we lived in a double on Elmira Street. Our landlords became our friends, and remain so. They sent this article from to me in an email titled "A Familiar Face and Old Wounds." I read it immediately. Then I watched the video below. It's chilling. I simply cannot wrap my head around my neighbors laughing about shooting people, black people. "Pheasants in South Dakota?"

I am so upset by this on so many levels that I can barely comprehend it. Shot of a house with bunches of American flags on it, oh yeah, this is what America is about. A guy saying he had earned his wings as a New Orleanian by shooting at black people, while his wife says, "He learned about the N word" and nods knowingly.

Over time, my husband and I still agreed that the guys we talked to had to be full of shit as we had heard of no one being prosecuted. Now I see why no one has been prosecuted, and that makes me even sicker to my stomach. These guys were telling us at the time that they'd shot people and tossed them into the river. Evidently they did, and they're still living in their houses patting themselves on the back while the number of "missing" remains over 700.

Why is the national media picking this up before locals? Why aren't the local people talking about it? There has to be something we as New Orleanians can do to get this story up front, get these people prosecuted and put away. I will tell you that I'm not going to let this one go. We were there, we were helping, we were weeping.

I'm still weeping. Now for a different reason. I just don't know where to put my grief, my anger and my shame for not believing this could be true. I guess I thought my neighbors were better than that. I guess I thought wrong.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What on Earth is the MATTER with These People?

I saw this article headline today: Store Refuses to Make Birthday Cake for Child. The reason given was the child's name: Adolf Hitler.

This article explains that these idiots named their 3 year old boy Adolf Hitler Campbell. Oh yeah, and his sisters' names are equally bizarre.

What is going to happen to these kids when they get to school? The mother says: "What's the big deal. They're kids. They're not gonna hurt anyone." Um, no, you MORON, but some kids might hurt THEM.

Good god, what were these people thinking.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Humble Entry Brought to You by General Motors

Okay, after suffering and laughing through all the entries in the "hostilidays" video postings, I humbly offer up two pieces of a really horrid, very long (two hrs running time, Lucas must have been hard up for bucks)piece done in 1978. The entire thing is on You Tube in pieces. I give you the first and last piece.

The first piece contains dialogue, if you can call it that, that must be what a GM Board meeting sounds like combined with CNN's election coverage visuals, and ya gotta love the cast:

The entire torturous piece (and I am a Star Wars fan!) ends with this:

How very low I've sunk.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

RIP Polaroid Film

Polaroid film will no longer be produced. This CNN article found yesterday made me sad. While digital photography is wonderfully immediate, that was also what made Polaroid film so great. Instant, well nearly instant, gratification. There is a Polaroid camera in a box behind me as I write this. I guess I'll decorate it in Mardi Gras beads and turn it into sculpture. It will soon be useless as anything other than an old time curiousity.

I remember being a kid before the faboo Polaroid 600 came out. The Polaroid was shot and out would shoot this kind of black paper thing. We'd all stand around peeing our pants with anticipation as the adult holding the paper counted off the time. Finally, FINALLY, the developed photo could be peeled from its backing revealing the picture. It was miraculous. I even remember that it had a very recognizable, almost sweet smell.

As Polaroid progressed, we learned the shoot and shake method. No one was ever really sure that shaking the ejected photo would develop it faster, but we were convinced that it might not develop if we didn't shake it. Besides, shaking it seemed to shorten the wait time as our impatience got lost in the action and giggles of shaking the thing.

Years later I decided to get a degree in photography (never got it, math requirements got in my way). I learned about things like ASA and F Stops. I absolutely loved the sensuousness of the darkroom. Black, dank, the sound of running water, the sloshing of the trays full of chemicals, even the smell of the chemicals---the whole thing was a creative womb.

With great care the film would be extracted from the camera then the cannister, hands hidden in a lightproof bag, always with a bit of paranoia---was there light leaking in anywhere? Would the little slice of life made by light briefly, ever so briefly, flicked onto the film be forever destroyed by the very light that made it? Phew! Did it. The end of the film cannister fell to the floor and the film pulled out. Now I could put it perfectly on the developing reel. I knew how to use the old metal ones, but really liked the plastic ones in the 70's that kind of ratcheted the film onto the reel. Less chance of bending it, I thought, until of course I did bend one roll. From then on I wasn't quite so cavalier. Now to develop the film itself. Chemicals, lid, agitate, let it sit, watch the clock, agitate again, let it sit watch the clock, listen to the timer clicking off the minutes, wait! What kind of film is in there? 400 or 250? Oh yeah, 400, cool, it's cool. Agitate, zen, rinse. Now I had negatives. The negatives made me happy in their reversal. Looking at them as I hung them to dry was like looking at a parallel universe.

Once dry, one frame was chosen for printing. Not always the right one, but I'd figure that out as I went along. Line it up just right on the enlarger, don't scratch it, any dust on it? No? Make sure. Okay. It's good. Flip the switch on the enlarger, play with it. Make it HUUUUUUUUUUGE, no don't like that, make it tiny, no don't like that much either. Get out your box of filters. OOOOOOOOO, loving that red filter, nah, maybe mess with the contrast a bit. Choose my paper stock. Damn, look at that lower left corner. How did that guy's hand get in there? Shit. Well, no problem, dodge it out, gently, gently now. The timing had to be perfect.

Now to put that piece of paper into a tray. Grab the tongs, I hope these aren't the old ones with the crack in it that scratched that last print. Slosh, slosh, slosh. Magic, magic, magic. An image formed, slowly like something coming out of the ethers in a dream. ENOUGH. Into the next chemical to stop the developer. Made it. Slosh, slosh, slosh, RINSE. Okay, it'll be there a while. Don't want that glorious black and white to yellow cuz I was too impatient to rinse all the chemicals out. Go have a cigarette and come back.

Hang the final product up, I was now looking at it in the light, safely. The silver glowed, the blacks were inky, not a spot on it that I didn't mean to be on it. Wow. A miracle. That face smiling back at me. That leaf caught just as the wind hit it and at just the right angle to see all the veining under it. The guy trying to bash another guy's head in at a Ku Klux Klan rally in San Francisco. Harvey Milk in a parade! Mayor Moscone there too. Those cool old doors on that building they've torn down now. The cops in riot gear with big shields coming down Market Street in San Francisco during the riots after the Dan White verdict.

Photography. Love it. All of it. Don't do enough of it anymore.

Digital photographers have tried to explain that my computer is now my darkroom. Besides, I no longer have a darkroom in my house (although in years past, I'd been known to use my bathtub for developing film.) I get it. I really do. I still prefer Black and White 400 ASA film shot with just the right exposure to give it a great grain without clicking a button to turn my color photo into a b/w, then pushing another button to give it grain in standardized increments. The silver just isn't there. The zen just isn't there. The miracle isn't there.

As for the miracle of Polaroid film, it will no longer be made. That is really a damn shame.

Of all the photos yearned for in the nostalgia piece above, Hurricane Katrina only spared a few. Those few were Polaroids. Something in that film allowed it to survive the chemical stew of the floodwaters on Tulane. Polaroid photos survived Katrina. That's a good enough reason to mourn its passing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Glory at Sea

A while back, I was sitting at Buffa's. There were some kids, at least from my perspective they were kids, talking about making a movie. They even considered my grandson for a part in it. They wrote the screenplay in Buffa's. You'd see them in the front room or the back room, all gathered around a table talking seriously as the rest of us cranked the jukebox or played bad pool.

The result was this amazing short film, Glory at Sea. Buffa's cook, Mama Jo is in the cast along with others from Buffa's including Cedric, whom we haven't seen in forever and miss a lot.

I got an email from Benh Zeitlin, who had brought it up to Buffa's one afternoon so we could all see it. I bought one from him that day it was so beautiful. His production website is, although I'm not sure if you can purchase a copy there or not. I've emailed him to find out.

This film has garnered many awards. I'm so delighted for them.

YouTube's Screening Room has posted Glory at Sea in its entirety (and an interesting tidbit learned at Buffa's that day was that Obama loved the score). I am posting it here for you. (Hit the "high quality" button, it was shot on HD video.) It's one of those pieces you'll watch over and over again. Hope you like it.

I'm so proud of them!