Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Like Most, I Dig Lighthouses

Amelia Island, Florida
Summer 2009

Photography by Alexis Lily
True Talent at All of Eight Years

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

HBO's "Treme" Should Prove Interesting...

Debuts next month but first a history lesson -

Congo Square
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Congo Square is an open space within Louis Armstrong Park, which is located in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, just across Rampart Street north of the French Quarter. The Tremé neighborhood is famous for its history of African American music.
In Louisiana's French and Spanish colonial era of the 18th century, slaves were commonly allowed Sundays off from their work. They were allowed to gather in the "Place de Negres", "Place Publique", later "Circus Square" or informally "Place Congo" [1] at the "back of town" (across Rampart Street from the French Quarter), where the slaves would set up a market, sing, dance, and play music.
The tradition continued after the city became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. As African music had been suppressed in the Protestant colonies and states, the weekly gatherings at Congo Square became a famous site for visitors from elsewhere in the U.S. In addition, because of the immigration of refugees (some bringing slaves) from the Haitian Revolution, New Orleans received thousands of additional Africans and Creoles in the early years of 1800s. They reinforced African traditions in the city, in music as in other areas. Many visitors were amazed at the African-style dancing and music. Observers heard the beat of the bamboulas and wail of the banzas, and saw the multitude of African dances that had survived through the years.
Townsfolk would gather around the square on Sunday afternoons to watch the dancing. In 1819, the architect Benjamin Latrobe, a visitor to the city, wrote about the celebrations in his journal. Although he found them "savage"[1], he was amazed at the sight of 500-600 unsupervised slaves who assembled for dancing. He described them as ornamented with a number of tails of the smaller wild beasts, with fringes, ribbons, little bells, and shells and balls, jingling and flirting about the performers' legs and arms. The women, one onlooker reported, wore, each according to her means, the newest fashions in silk, gauze, muslin, and percale dresses. The males covered themselves in oriental and Indian dress and covered themselves only with a sash of the same sort wrapped around the body. Except for that, they went naked.

One witness noted that clusters of onlookers, musicians, and dancers represented tribal groupings, with each nation taking their place in different parts of the square. The musicians used a range of instruments from available cultures: drums, gourds, banjo-like instruments, and quillpipes made from reeds strung together like pan flutes, as well as marimbas and European instruments such as the violin, tambourines, and triangles.
White Creole composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk incorporated rhythms and tunes he heard in Congo Square into some of his compositions, like his famous "Bamboula".
As harsher United States practices of slavery replaced the more lenient French colonial style, the slave gatherings declined. Although no recorded date of the last slave dances in the square exists, the practice seems to have stopped more than a decade before the end of slavery with the American Civil War.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vanishing Before Our Eyes


Barrier-island loss dealing blow to birds

Wine Island was rendered one-tenth of its pre-Gustav size by the storm surge. Scientists say the dwindling island is an important habitat for nesting birds and must be preserved.
By Nikki BuskeyStaff Writer
Published: Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 6:01 a.m. Last Modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 at 11:20 p.m.
( page of 4 )
HOUMA — Remote and shrinking, the Isles Dernieres barrier islands that lay dozens of miles off Terrebonne’s coast are most often discussed as sandy speed bumps for storm surges.

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But for thousands of sea birds, the islands are a vital, yet disappearing, link to life.
The islands have shrunk in size and number since the 2008 storms, as have the birds who reproduce there.
The islands, far away from the coast and predators that threaten their young, serve as a nesting place for terns, black skimmers, brown pelicans and others.
Nicholls State University researchers determined that about 44,000 pairs of birds mated and nested on the tiny islands in 2008.
A year later, the number dipped to about 28,000 pairs, a loss of about 36 percent, said assistant biology professor Aaron Pierce.
Researchers aim to keep a close eye on the island chain this summer to see if the decline continues.
With the birds’ preferred habitat rapidly disappearing rapidly, scientists acknowledge the outlook is grim.
“Let’s be clear — there is no recovery going on,” said Richard DeMay, a senior scientist with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
Brown-pelican populations have increased, but only because the birds are recovering from near extinction blamed on a now-banned pesticide, DeMay said.
“The trends do seem to be headed down” for other species of birds, he said.
If the barrier islands continue to erode, DeMay said, “you’re going to be seeing fewer and fewer sea birds” in Terrebonne and Lafourche.
“Louisiana is the most important state for these colonial nesting seabirds in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Mike Carloss, coastal-operations manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The department manages the Isles Dernieres, including Raccoon, Whiskey, Trinity, East and Wine islands, as a natural refuge.
“Without the islands, they’re in trouble.”
The birds prefer islands that are small and remote. Pelicans tend to nest in bushy vegetation. Terns nest on the sand.
Raccoon and Wine islands, smaller islands in the chain, host some of the largest colonies of nesting sea birds in the state, Carloss said. Raccoon Island fared well through Gustav and Ike.
But Wine Island has been reduced to almost nothing, and its plant life was eradicated. Many locals say it will be lost forever if it’s not rebuilt soon.
Terrebonne Levee Director Reggie Dupre, who flew over the island in February, estimates Wine Island, previously 55 acres, now measures about 5 acres.
In 2008, 11,000 pairs of birds nested on the tiny spit of land.
Just 6,800 pairs of birds returned to nest there in 2009.
The shrinking island likely resulted in increased competition for nesting sites, prompting some birds to nest in extreme conditions. Some pelicans nested directly on the sand, putting their nests so close to shore that they were flooded, Carloss said.
Few “will return to nest there in the future,” Carloss said. “There’s nothing left for them there.”
State wildlife biologists are pushing for Wine Island’s restoration because it’s one of the state’s larger breeding colonies, but the state has no restoration plans, said Chris Macaluso, a spokesman for the state Office of Coastal Activities.
Also, despite protests at public meetings, the island is not included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to restore Terrebonne’s barrier islands. Scientists have deemed the island “unsustainable,” Macaluso said.
“It’s extremely susceptible to being washed away,” Macaluso said.
Since 1991, Macaluso said, dirt dredged from the Houma Navigation Canal has been used at least four times to bolster the island.
The last project was in 2007, but Gustav and Ike swept away most of that material.
Macaluso said dredged mud will be used on Wine Island in the future, but he couldn’t say when that might happen again.
So what does that mean for the birds who depend on the island to reproduce? Scientists aren’t sure.
They say many sea birds fled the rapidly degrading Chandeleur Islands off the coast of St. Bernard Parish to Terrebonne’s islands. But the birds’ options, in Louisiana at least, are lessening.
“The loss would not be good,” Pierce said. “We host the largest pelican colony in the state. And, for birds like royal and sandwich terns, these islands host a significant portion of their breeding population.”
DeMay, Pierce and Carloss tried to remain positive about the prospect of keeping the islands viable, both for storm protection and birds.
“It depends on how important society views these islands to be and the commitment we’re willing to make,” Pierce said.
It will require millions in maintenance, dredging and rebuilding.
Nicholls researchers are hoping their work will help determine ideal nesting conditions so future restoration projects take those needs into account.
“We’re spending a tremendous amount of money to save the islands for hurricane protection. We’ve spent $50 million just to maintain these land masses,” Pierce said. “Our idea was more than providing just a land mass, maybe there are things we can do to restore the ecosystem function.”
DeMay said protecting the islands is key to the survival of local communities, both human and bird.
“Huge percentages of the national bird populations nest here in Louisiana, and there are three to four species that nest on those islands alone,” DeMay said. “When we lose those barrier islands, particularly the smaller ones like Wine Island, for the species as a whole — it will make an impact.”
Staff Writer Nikki Buskey can be reached at 857-2205 or
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Entitlement from the Top...

Received a call the other day from a benchmarking contact. She was frustrated that her company concerned with cutbacks and pinching pennies had just hired someone in a newly created "obsolete" position, originally approved at one level then upgraded to management no less. She was checking in because she also knew that they had offered the new recruit too much money. To add fuel to the fire, there were others already in place albeit in a different department in non-management positions responsible for this type of work.

She had my attention so I inquired about the position and yes, it is a "dinosaur." I inquired about the pay and yes, they paid too much. More fuel, their CFO spearheaded the initiative and hired someone he knew personally rather than recruit through normal channels. I just had to know, was their CEO in the loop? "Indeed, but everyone knows the CFO runs the company. And, to most in view, rather poorly."

Here's to cutbacks and pinching pennies. Indeed, another fine example of Leadership Entitlement.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Always Wondered...

Who was that gray-haired guy who came out of nowhere with a beautiful young woman on his arm one Jazzfest and proceeded to dance cajun style in sync to the music like no one I'd ever seen before or since. I was dating my wife at the time and we were both blown away. Everyone around us was amazed too. No doubt the band was pleased when the applause came at the end of that song. It was another Jazzfest where something special happened. It's the little things in life worth remembering. Found out today years later who he was...

Jazz Fest murder defendant found guilty in 2004 death of Daniel Breaux
By Gwen Filosa, The Times-Picayune
March 22, 2010, 3:51PMTed Jackson, The Times-PicayuneDistrict Attorney Leon Cannizzaro talks to the media on the steps of Orleans Parish District Court with Daniel Breaux's family listening on after a jury returned a guilty verdict against John Duncan Monday, March 22, 2010. Duncan, at age 14 was charged with firing a bullet into the head of Breaux on May 1, 2004 as he was leaving the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
An Orleans Parish jury Monday convicted John Duncan of the 2004 second degree murder of Daniel Breaux, who was shot in the head after leaving the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Under Louisiana law, Duncan, who was 14 at the time of the killing, can only be locked up until he turns 31.
Breaux, 57, a Houma artist known for his Cajun waltz moves at Jazz Fest, was killed near the corner of Orchid and North Dupre streets four years ago.
A jury in 2005 convicted Duncan of murder, after hearing testimony from a one-time co-defendant that only Duncan had a gun that night. But a judge ordered a new trial for Duncan after finding that police wrongly discarded a statement from an 8 year-old boy who said he watched "one boy" shoot a man.
Former Judge Dennis Waldron granted Duncan the new trial, ruling that Duncan's defense team was unfairly denied a chance to present "contradictory evidence" in the form of the 8-year-old's testimony.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eric Lindell, From Cali to Nola

I happened upon Mr. Lindell online recently. One of those little surprises that makes your day and gets you bebopping around the living room - "Oh no, Jb's at it again, how embarrassing." Lindell rocks with a sweet, funky touch, very cool stuff. True talent as E (Dman) at would say. Groovin' on his "Lady Day and John Coltrane" cut right now. One of my favorites is his song "Let Me Know" - wants to be her only fool and I know what he means. Hope to see him next time we visit the Big Easy perhaps after catching some UNO baseball on the Lakefront. Something to look forward to...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good Friend and a little Hiatt

Brought my friend Doug to Tally for some consulting work and found a Hiatt CD stashed away in my truck on the way to dinner. Seemed fitting as the Dman turned me on to John Hiatt way back in the day, back in the Big Easy. Great songwriter, great feel, all that and Sonny Landreth on slide guitar no less. From his song Circle Back - "I gotta circle back/touch something near/find out which way to go/to get on out of here/I lost my thread/And I've lost some time/but it takes a lot of ground/for me to change my mind."

Just doesn't get much better than this. Not a bad way to pass some time with an old friend before he heads back home.