Book Review: Hagridden

hagridden

The Civil War era is not a subject that interests me much so it was with a little skepticism that I began this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was almost immediately pulled into the story.

Hagridden by Samuel Snoek-Brown, and published by Columbus Press, is set at the straggling end of the war in the swamps of south Louisiana. The story is about two nameless women who are left to fend for themselves when the men of this remote area are conscripted into the war, including the son and husband of the women. The setting is apocalyptic in this war torn scenario and life is hard in the small thrown-together shack where the women live. The women work together to eek out a basic existence through means that would have been unthinkable in better times but the women do what is necessary to keep from starving. The author’s description of the abject poverty in which the women live and the acts they commit to survive is unflinchingly detailed which makes for a slightly revolting (at times) but compelling read.

The introduction of a local man who has deserted the war brings another level to the women’s lives. Buford was the best friend of the son/husband, who was killed in the war, of these women and harbors feelings for the younger woman since before her marriage. The ensuing struggle between Buford and the older woman over possession of the younger woman weaves a dramatic tale that teases out issues of religion, myth, superstition, loyalty, and lust. The legend of the rougarou is woven throughout the book and is brought to chilling prominence with the addition of the crazed lieutenant of Buford’s regiment who is out to hunt him down and exact a premeditated revenge that will keep you glued to the pages.

The pacing of the book is perfect and keeps you invested in the story without any lag in interest. Snoek-Brown’s dialog and colloquial language is skillful and convincing with a solid knowledge of southern Louisiana mythology. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes historical fiction, southern literature, or just an old-fashioned horror story. Hagridden encompasses all three with aplomb.

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Art in Ruin; a K plus nine personal photo project

Art in Ruin is a new personal photography project by Laura Bergerol. It is timed to be ready by 8/29/14 (the ninth anniversary of Katrina making land in New Orleans.) My inspiration for this project began with a house that I noticed several weeks ago on Earhart Expressway, that was colorful and cheerful. When I went back to investigate, I realized that though the house was decaying, someone had painted wonderful things on it; and it looked as if it was ready to dance on Mardi Gras day. After I noticed the first house, I did more research and realized that there are many houses and buildings in New Orleans, that have also been “made beautiful” both by human hands, and by nature. When I went to photograph them, I realized that there was a “strong chance” that many of these houses will disappear into dust (some sooner than others) as their structures are less than stable, so the need to document them became more urgent. I suspect that this project may eventually expand to other cities, other than New Orleans, but for now, New Orleans gets my attention. I plan to offer a book of the photos, and all profits after cost will go to Animal Rescue New Orleans (www.animalrescueneworleans.org) who have been rescuing and finding homes for the dogs and cats of New Orleans since Katrina. Eventually, there will be a website (http://artinruin.org) but for now the photos live on my photography site; Art in Ruin and on the Art in Ruin Facebook page; Facebook page.

I have shared photos, but as this is a work in progress, be sure to check back. art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin art in ruin

Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?

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New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!

 

 

 

 

 

Women Who Write

Audubon Park Labyrinth, New Orleans

Audubon Park Labyrinth, New Orleans

 

During the month of April, Poetry Month, I’ll be featuring four women poets from Louisiana. They will tell us their writing process, what they read, who they admire, what their favorite words are and many, many other things. They will share a poem with us. They will be beautiful examples of why you should date/love/marry/admire/emulate women who write.

It’s going to be great.

“You should date a girl who reads.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”
Rosemarie Urquico

 

 

Sunday Snapshots: LeBeuf Plantation

Algiers Point & Levee 002

Algiers Point & Levee 003

History and recent renovation information of LeBuef Plantation here. (Click photos to embiggen.)

Biking & Walking & River Watching

Algiers Levee

Algiers Levee

Last week I took a little walk along the newly paved bike and pedestrian path on the levee in Algiers.  I’ll be honest, this is something I doubted would happen in my lifetime, yet here it is! The newly constructed path runs from the Algiers/Canal Street ferry landing up to just down river of Federal City, a two-mile stretch. It’s connected to the path that already existed from the ferry to Huey P. Long Ave in Gretna. The new section is lit by solar lights for evening strolling and biking and won’t that just be a gorgeous sight with the lights from the city in the background? Benches will be added along the path in the coming weeks creating great river- watching and breath-catching spots.

The next phase of the path, from Federal City to the Chalmette ferry landing, will be added when money for the project is raised. I can’t wait for that since I live a block off the river within that span of the levee which will make it a hop, skip and jump for my dogs and me to access the path. This development along the river has long been anticipated in Algiers and I’m very happy to see it coming to fruition.

Her James

Nearly four years ago, a young boy by the name of Jeremy Galmon was shot and killed after a second line had passed by, a casualty of people using bullets to settle arguments.

The fundraising for Jeremy’s family was held only a few blocks from my home, sponsored by members of the community and by Young Men of Olympia Social & Pleasure Club, who had sponsored the parade on the day that the boy was caught in the crossfire. The city was in an uproar over this latest victim of gun violence here, and the finger-pointing at the parade as a cause of the violence was happening in too much earnest. Casting blame on the second-line was far too easy to do at the time, but the bands were out in force, and people were driving by the Goodwork Network to give funding to the Galmon family and to deliver the message that second-lining was not a cause, but strove to be a solution in a number of ways. It was there that I met Deborah Cotton for the first time, working right alongside the organizers, enjoying the Baby Boyz Brass Band, the Roots of Music in one of its earliest incarnations, and assisting with style and grace.

I knew the name from her book Notes From New Orleans, which was one of the first post-8/29/2005 chronicles I’d read – I feel to this day that it is still unjustly overlooked as a smart, occasionally sassy, and heartfelt window into that time. I then found that she was contributing to Nola.com under the name Big Red Cotton via a blog there entitled Notes On New Orleans (I wonder where that title came from?), where her amazing voice and perspective jumped off the web browser and stood out among all that hot mess. She’d made it a point to immerse herself in the second line culture and invited me out to do so sometime.

I’ll tell everyone a secret: for quite a while, I wanted to write like Deb. Her frankness about how many people were on some sort of antidepressant to deal with the aftermath of the levee breaches helped make me bolder about admitting that I was on them and will most likely be on them for the rest of my life. There’s one post of mine that’s directly inspired by her examples: a multimedia account of a visit to another fundraiser, the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund, filled with brass bands, love, laughter, and even some “Halftime,” anticipating the Saints’ Super Bowl win later that same month. I was happy to see her posting at the Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, and touted her extensive online archive of second line YouTubes when I could.

Life gets crazy, and 2010 flew by, then 2011, 2012. I saw Deb again at a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities program, then at Rising Tide 6, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of that opportunity to dance with her as she took in another of the second lines she so loved. Once I heard she was among the 19 shot by someone lying in wait for the procession to come by this past Sunday, my heart was in my throat. She’d worked so hard for so many years to show that this was a welcoming part of New Orleans culture, and one kid with a gun had struck that down, taking her with it…

She and a few others are still recovering from their injuries. The suspect(s) in the shooting is(are) still at large. And, for whatever reason, I find myself thinking about James.

James is no one specific. In Notes From New Orleans, Deb wrote about wanting a James to come along, and referred to him in one of her most recent tweets. James isn’t someone who can come and take her away from it all completely, but he can certainly make it all bearable for quite a while. James will know just what makes Deb tick, and will respond to her in all the right ways when she’s low, bringing her out of whatever doldrums she’s in. James is a supportive, seductive dream of a black man who hasn’t arrived in her life…but I wonder…

New Orleans may not have been perfect, and it may have lashed out at her, but it has sustained her all these years. She’s believed in it for so long, worked so hard for it, that I couldn’t help but think that one of the greatest tributes to her toils was Ronal Serpas making the point that the second line was not to blame for the shootings – and most everyone agreeing with that assessment. Jeffrey the yaller blogger is correct in saying “no one has done more to cover and celebrate this generation of NOLA street culture.” Deb treated it so well that if it were a person, I’m sure it would be a James.

It’s now time for us all to do what a James would do – support Deb and those others hurt in the shootings.

The Gambit is working with the Tipitina’s Foundation on a fundraiser for them all. Go here and stay alert for further details.

Deb kick-started New Orleans Good Good shortly before Sunday’s parade. Sign up for updates on her condition and details on fundraising. It would also be great, if you are in a position to do so, to sponsor some advertising on the site and keep her work going.

A blood drive effort for shooting victims is being scheduled for May 22, from 2-7 PM. At least 25 donors are needed for the blood drive. Contact meglousteau@gmail.com for further details and to volunteer.

Liprap

Cross-posted at Humid City

Does Louisiana’s “Hollywood South” nickname cost more than we can afford?

During March 2013, the office of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued the following  press release about its “Tax Credits and Rebates in Louisiana” report:

BATON ROUGE – Mar 25, 2013 – Louisiana’s tax credit and rebate programs resulted in a tax revenue loss of more than $6.13 billion in revenue in the last seven years, according to a study of the programs released Monday by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office.

The performance audit looked at 44 of the credits that each resulted in a tax revenue loss of at least $1 million for at least one year between the calendar years 2006 and 2011. Auditors said the credits from those 44 programs – 52 percent of the 85 tax credit programs on the books — totaled a revenue reduction of approximately $5.4 billion, with 2011 tax data still incomplete as of October 2012.

The five most expensive tax credits accounted for almost $3.7 billion of the $5.4 billion total for the period studied, or 67 percent of the total revenue loss. The five are:

·  The inventory/property tax exemption for businesses — $1.5 billion.
·  The insurance company premium tax credit — $1.1 billion.
·  The motion picture investor tax credit — $512 million.
·  The credit granted on net income taxes paid to other states — $402 million.
·  The credit for assessments paid to Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — $212 million.

While media sources are generally focusing on the $512 million figure noted above [emphasis added] regarding the “Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit,” it is actually one of three separate components of the film tax credit program listed among the 44 “loss leaders” noted in Appendix C of this report:

· The Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit: $511,613,716 (ranked #3 of 44)

· The Motion Picture Infrastructure Tax Credit: $29,561,287 (ranked #20 of 44)

· The Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program : $10,561,744 (ranked #29 of 44)

That’s a cumulative total of $551,736,747 over a period of 72 months’ time (or an average of $7,663,010 per month) that is reportedly lost through the program as a whole.

This $551,736,747 figure accounts for nine percent (9%) of the reported total lost of $6.13 billion during the six-year time frame examined in the report — or roughly $1 out of every $11 lost.

(Note, too, that those numbers do not include the much-touted year of 2012 with its 61 projects filmed in New Orleans… I predict that those numbers will reflect even greater losses as hundreds of millions more in uncapped credits and rebates are likely to be reflected in the statistics. If the program continues to operate in this unlimited manner, the notion of a “turning point” from subsidizing Hollywood to Louisiana’s realization of a genuine profit becomes increasingly unlikely.)

The three credits/programs noted in the report are described as follows:

Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit: Louisiana taxpayers that invest in state-certified motion-picture productions can earn a tax credit at the time expenditures are made by a motion picture production company. (This credit in particular features a rebate component, which the report defines as “A rebate is money directly reimbursed by the state to an entity or individual, independent of the tax return process or tax liability.”)

Motion Picture Infrastructure Tax Credit: To provide a credit against corporate income tax for an approved state-certified infrastructure project for a film, video, television, or digital production or postproduction facility. This credit applied to infrastructure projects between July 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008. (While this credit appears to time-bounded/no longer be active, it still earned a spot on the loss list.)

Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program: To provide a financial incentive to the film industry in order that the state might compete with other states for filming locations.

It seems that the only guaranteed way to make the big money in “Hollywood South” is to be a so-called “motion picture investor,” given that the tax dollar hemorrhage from that program is a staggering 48 times greater than the losses experienced by the so-called “Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program” itself.

And, oh, the hand-wringing that occurred when Governor Jindal proposed the implementation of a $1 million limit on the amount that could be claimed for each actor’s salary by production companies as qualifying expenses when applying for Louisiana film tax credits! (Never mind that this precise limitation already applies to “payroll spent on Louisiana residents,” apparently whether or not they’re in front of the camera.) The governor only wanted to trim one specific part of the program… however, with media coverage regarding this report currently on the rise, I suspect that future proposed cuts may go even deeper.

As noted in this WWL TV story originally broadcast on 3/25/13, Mayor Landrieu’s office has been at work, creating the spin:

“We asked Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration whether the film tax credit program is providing a tangible benefit to the New Orleans economy.

“His adviser on the Cultural Economy said in a statement, ‘The state’s tax incentive program for film has helped New Orleans grow a new industry. We estimate that since 2007, New Orleans has seen more than $2 billion in direct spending from tax credit film projects – money that is spent in and remains in the local economy, as the program intended. Our local film industry is now nationally known, and it supports more than 1,000 full-and part-time jobs. Production companies want to film here because of the tax incentives and numerous related businesses have launched or relocated to New Orleans because of the opportunities that have been created.'”

Unlike the numbers noted in the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report, the figure of “$2 billion in direct spending” (which is not to be confused with $2 billion in tax revenue generated) is unsubstantiated.

The estimated “1,000 full- and part-time jobs” may not be as statistically significant as the Mayor’s adviser’s statement would like to imply if one considers that the city’s current estimated population is ~370,000, nor is it confirmed if all of these jobs in fact consistently pay a year-round living wage.

While the auditor’s report includes fairly “hard” numbers (verifiable, with the exception of the noted not-yet-complete figures for calendar year 2011), the best we see from proponents of the film tax credit program are nothing more than “soft” or estimated figures that are inherently difficult to verify.

As the WWL story notes, “And without a requirement that the tax credit programs track the return on the investments, the legislative auditor said it’s tough to tell if they’re worth it.”