Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Trip to New Orleans

For my spring break my wife and I drove down to New Orleans, leaving on Saturday and arriving there on Tuesday about noon.  We stopped along the way.  It's about 1200 miles, so it takes a while.  We returned on Sunday late, again taking our time and stopping along the way.  
Here's some stuff we did.  
  • In NO we looked at some paintings of cats in a little place.  They were intriguing and strange, just faces of cats, each one of them with something in its mouth.  The one that caught my eye was one in which the cat was holding a fish, and the fish was smoking a cigarette.  We were going to buy one, but we walked away, and then we didn't remember where we saw it when we decided we'd get one (only $35, a decent souvenir :))
  • We stopped at William Faulkner's house, where there was one room that retained some writing he did on the walls for the outline of a story he was working on.  There's no real road up to the house, no parking lot, so we had to park haphazardly on a dirt road and walk down a tree-lined brick walkway up to the big house with columns on the front. That was in Oxford, MS.  
  • We took a walking tour of the Garden District in New Orleans where our guide, Sarah, told about the cemetery there, dating back to the 1700's.  It was a Protestant cemetery, so there were no angel statues.  Most of the people interred there were Germans.  They're crypts, little marble buildings where they put the bodies, that, because of the heat in NO, get cooked pretty quickly, and they later push them to the lower part or gather the bones.  She said that's where the phrase comes from: "I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole" (the poles they push the body with).  
  • We saw houses owned by John Goodman, Sandra Bullock, and Anne Rice (author of all those vampire novels).  
  • Sarah told us about the history of New Orleans.  
  • We stopped at Eudora Welty's house in Jackson, MS.  She lived there all her adult life, much of it with her mother.  Then she gave the house to be a kind of museum.  It was full of books, and that's the way she lived, so that people had to move books when they came to visit and wanted to sit down. 
  • We went to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  The museum building is the hotel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in 1968.  You can go look at a room like the one he was staying in when he stepped out on to the balcony and was killed by James Earl Ray, who fired a rifle from a little boarding house across the street.  
  • You could also go up in the boarding house and see the room where the shot came from.  It had the rifle and all the other evidence that led to his arrest.  It took a while to find him--if I remember right, he was caught when he arrived in London with a handgun.  
  • On Thursday night in New Orleans we saw a lot of people walking around with drinks (legal in the French Quarter), many of which were "Hurricanes" in hurricane glasses, a noted thing in NO.  On Friday morning when we were leaving, the streets were lined with trash from the night before, lots of plastic cups and strings of plastic beads.  
  • We ate beignets on each of the three days we were there (I think I gained about 5 or 6 pounds :().  They're very messy, a little biscuit that tastes like a donut, with tons of powdered sugar on them.  It was tricky to keep the powdered sugar off yourself, and I'm not tricky.  
  • I had been letting my beard grow; it's almost all white, and in the pictures it looks pretty bushy, so this morning before class I trimmed it all back down again.  
  • We listened to a book on CD while we traveled.  It was James Lee Burke's novel about a detective in New Orleans, lots of people getting killed, and lots of fun and disturbing insults that characters throw at each other.  The Tin Roof Blowdown--it was set during the Katrina hurricane.  
  • Our car CD player quit, and one of the CD's is still stuck in it, but we stopped at Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest boom-box we could find ($23).  
  • The woman running the art shop where we saw the cats was a bit of a kook.  She kept coming around and telling us about stuff that we stopped to look at, like a box with some sticks that had been painted.  She had to tell us where the woman picked up the sticks.  
  • When we arrived in New Orleans we were almost there, just a few blocks from our hotel, and the navigation system told me to take a u-turn.  When I did, it told me to take a u-turn.  When I did, it told me to take a u-turn.  I did have to take a u-turn, but I wasn't going far enough.  I finally figured it out after taking two loops around the median.  It was downtown New Orleans.  I cussed.  
  • Right after that I drove right past the hotel even though the navigation said "Your destination is on the right."  It was just a small entrance, and the hotel opened out behind the buildings on the street.  
  • Coming back from being out one night we saw that Willie Nelson was playing at the House of Blues.  There was a long line down the street.  I'm sure some people were smoking weed.  
How's that?  

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bots, Trolls, and Influence

Here's a New York Times video story about the use of bots and trolls on social media accounts to influence American attitudes and ideas about politics and social issues. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Happy Birthday to Virginia Woolf

One of my favorite books of all time is Virginia Woolf's modern novel Mrs. Dalloway.  It's a poetic masterpiece, reflecting the day in a life of a London housewife whose major concern that day revolves around a party she's throwing that night.  But that's too simple.  The party reflects her effort to bring people together, an effort that is as artistic as anyone's painting, dance, or musical composition.  It's the artistic arrangement of people.
The novel presents the reader with some difficulties, as it shifts from one mind to another, but for the determined reader, it's a fantastic voyage.

One of my favorite new media projects related to this story is a mapping project, reflecting the ways in which the characters move about in their day in London.  Other mapping projects are available, but the Mrs. Dalloway Mapping Project is my favorite.  Check it out! 
Happy Birthday, Virginia. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Grumpy Cat Wins in a Copyright Case

I like seeing cases in copyright that illustrate the value of coming up with a good idea or a valuable expression.  Or maybe an expression of grumpiness, which, in the case of this cat, is an example of how the lucky cat owner was able to parlay the face of his pet into some serious cash.  Like almost 3/4ths of a million dollars.  Wouldn't that make you smile?  It's in The Guardian.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Brother Jay on Reverbnation

My younger brother Jay is a musician up in Boise, Idaho, who teaches and performs and puts things out on Reverbnation.  He writes many of the songs for the band he's in--Buckskin.  You can check out some of their music on Reverbnation here:  https://www.reverbnation.com/buckskinband