Post-Katrina: Remembering New Orleans Five Years Later

Zulu Parade, Mardi Gras, 2005

I am feeling a little melancholy, which is a familiar feeling at this time of the year. It is the five year anniversary of Katrina. I wonder should we use memorial rather than anniversary since the latter suggests a celebration like a wedding anniversary?

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I evacuated New Orleans five years ago. I’d been living on Perrier Street in the Garden District for a year, and loved being in the city. When Katrina started swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, Mayor Ray Nagin called for the people to evacuate.

I haphazardly threw some things into my car because I had evacuated the summer before in 2004 returning quickly to the city. I was working on a book so my files and computer were more important than my clothes.

I went to my brother in Stone Mountain and kept CNN on during all my waking hours. At first, the city was safe, the hurricane had passed. But then the levees breached. There was nothing but chaos in the CNN coverage. They were even showing the faces of missing children but then stopped.

I did not return to live in New Orleans as I did that first year. I stayed in Atlanta struggling with painful emotions in the aftermath for a number of years.

Mardi Gras. Audubon Park. Studio in the Woods. River Road. Algiers. Lower Ninth Ward.

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Lake Lanier in Georgia: Pine, Water, Shells, Worn Paths, and Butterflies

Have you ever jumped in the car with one destination in mind, ending up somewhere else or expanding the original trip? I headed out to the North Georgia Premium Outlet. I spent an hour and a half there: I generally know exactly what I want so no wandering about shopping.

Footstep by the shore.

On the drive back on Georgia 400 to Atlanta, I turned off at the first exit for Lake Lanier. I had no idea what side the lake was on but I was determined to find it. Turning left off the exit, I could only hope for the best. I turned again making a right down a narrow winding street, really it felt like a Nantucket lane on both sides with each house having a personality of its own. No subdivisions here. I looked over to my left and was sure I saw water but no public access.

So I turned back onto the main drag from the 400 turning right this time. I didn’t see any water but felt I was driving in the right direction. As I looked to the left, I saw a car pulling a boat. I was getting warm.

Suddenly a sign:  Tidwell Park. My internal compass, passed down genetically from my father, had served me well.

all of my photos tell the rest of the story.

Pine. Water. Shells. Worn paths. Butterflies.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Kanye West’s Power: Religious Metaphors Including Those in Nature

Kanye West’s Power, his latest video, is a locomotive painting. The director Marco Brambilla draws from Greek, Judeo-Christian, Egyptian, Hindu, and Buddhist religious metaphors in what is a visual video masterpiece.

The video opens with West’s eyes lit as if superhuman.

Behind him are Ionic columns, typical of Greek architecture. The director choose the Ionic columns over the Doric and Corinthian design because the latter are more complex in architecture, design, and engineering. Among the Greeks and according to architects, the Ionic design is the greatest of the three columns. The Ionic is more complex in design including scrolls representing education and vertical lines akin to rams horns. In addition, unlike the other designs, the engineering, the design is more resistant to earthquakes.

Behind West and the columns are clouds that grow darker from the beginning to end of the video. I see something similar in scripture. In the Torah and the Old Testament, Moses went up into the mountain where God was the cloud (Exodus 24:15). When God was angry there was thunder and lightning, making the people tremble. (Exodus 19:16)

Returning to West, an industrial chain hangs around his neck. It is far heavier than any human could hold up, indicating his godlike power. From the chain hangs a rather large pendant or ornament with the Egyptian god Horus. He was the greatest of the Egyptian gods with the head of a falcon and the body of a man. In his many manifestations, he was a god of war, protection, and the sky. As the god of the sky, a connection could be made to the clouds in the sky, the backdrop in the video.

Fanning out away from the clouds, the columns, and West are two women with antelopes horns and pounding staffs. The horns are those of antelopes. Two Hindu deities, Vayu, lord of the winds, and Chandra, a lunar god rode on antelopes. The pounding staffs allude to Moses using the lowly herder’s staff to do God’s will: Moses faced Pharaoh as they struggled over freeing the Hebrews from bondage. In one memorable moment Moses staff transformed into a snake. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same but Moses’ snake devoured the magicians snakes.

Winged human creatures sit at Kanye’s feet with connections to two religious images. Cherubim protected the ark containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandment as noted in the Old Testament. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the garuda is a bird-like human that is divine.

Above West are a pair on either side pouring out oil from jars filled with never-ending oil. Throughout the Old Testament, powerful kings like David are anointed with oil by prophets to affirm their power and leadership through God’s anointing. In the New Testament, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with a perfume–in some translations it is oil or ointment.

The video is only 90 seconds and begins to speed up towards the end. A veil drops, perhaps a reference to the rent or torn veil at the temple after Jesus’ crucifixion. For Christians this tear represents abandoning the temple; the old, Judaism is replaced with the new, Christianity. The power shifts.

In the far corners of the video, grapes are in a bowl, proffered as an offering by two women. This is certainly a reference to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility.

Throughout the video, we see images of knives and swords in the hands of men. A knife comes down from above through a gold crown or Celtic circlet–consider the shift of Celtic tribalism to kingdoms in which kings and queens wore crowns to industrialism represented in the chain around Kanye’s neck–above West’s head. As the video comes to a close, two men come down on West with swords as if in ritual sacrifice.

The video ends. We never learn West’s fate. Does he remain powerful? Was his power an illusion? Does he live? Does he die?

Do a few lines from the lyrics might answer these questions: “No one man should have all that power//The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours//Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power”?

Everything but West is a mirror image in the video. Why? We should look at ourselves in the mirror as we struggle with the meaning of power. One look at the image and there is human frailty.

The video with all its metaphors is a masterpiece.

Blog Vacation

I will be hanging up the blog shingle until Sunday, August 29th for a few weeks off. I’ll still share brief items at the Rooted in the Earth FB Group Page. Come by to share and/or read about (African Americans and) the environment.

The due date for the fiction blog carnival has also been extended:

Shades of Nature: Environmental Fiction, A Call for Blog Carnival Submissions

DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL AUGUST 30, 2010. PLEASE CONTACT ME WITH ANY QUESTIONS AT DIANNEGLAVEROOTEDINTHEEARTH@CLEAR.NET

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The Other Guys: Irony of the Toyota Prius and a New York Food Desert

The film The Other Guys starring two middle-aged guys who play middle aged guys is ironic in an America where we worship youth. It will be top-grossing this weekend despite ageism. Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), are the principal characters playing what is often young(ish) buff men in cop buddy films. There’s the Lethal Weapon movies: Riggs was young and buff and ok, Murtagh was middle-aged and not so buff. Some might describe all of this as buddy-cop satire.

The Other Guys opens with P. K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwanyne Johnson), caricature of super-cops so different from Gamble and Hoitz. The latter pairing is buff–ok Danson is buff. Both Highsmith and Danson are trash-talking womanizing police officers beloved by all of New York City. They also drive a gas guzzling muscle car that is destroyed twice in the movie. Oh and yeah, do you think the two men of color driving the anti-environmental car beat the stereotype of being offed early in the movie? Watch and see. Maybe they have to go because they don’t care about the environment. Ha.

Gamble and Hoitz, our middle-aged cop buddies, tool and chase around NYC in a kinder gentler vehicle: the Toyota Prius. Their car really reflects their age, that would be middle, although Hoitz is angry about being in a lady-car.

The Prius that does an average of 50 mpg is a central character much like Gamble and Hoitz. The lollipop red vehicle is in a number of scenes including a few chases. It gets dusted in cocaine: Prius owners everywhere are cringing that the car’s clean image is besmirched. When the bad guys steal the Prius by gun-point–everyone wants a Prius, I tell you–it ends up polluted but still chugging. A raccoon gives birth in the car, a mouse is found in the back, and bodily fluids spread all over the car. Hoitz even tosses litter from the passenger side of the Prius, a sacrilege from within such an energy efficient vehicle. The poor Prius is riddled with bullet holes but I bet it’s still getting high mileage to the very end even in the car chases.

That’s not the worst of it. The Other Guys turn New York City, I would argue the culinary capital of the world, into a food desert or a place where you can only get really poor quality food. A hot dog vendor selling dirty dogs from his cart offers Highsmith and Danson hot dogs for life–but no soda–in honor of the pair’s heroics early in the film. Hoitz angrily says he’s heading out for a slice, that’s pizza, probably in search of comfort food because Gamble gets on Hoitz’s nerves. In the squad room, Ritz Crackers and Oreos, product placement abounds, are set strategically behind Hoitz’s head. In the last scene of the movie, Gamble and Hoitz go to Hebrew National Hot Dogs in Coney Island to bond over their heroics. And wait for the bonus scene after the credits, which is filled with  pork fried rice and ribs at Chin Chins. I did see some lettuce in a scene with Gamble and his wife Dr. Sheila Gamble (Eva Mendes).

All of this has NYC’s urban backdrop of the Trump Tower, the Citibank Building, the George Washington Bridge, and the Empire State Building. For those of us from urban places, more specifically those who worked and/or lived in New York, it’s fun to figure out where the car chases are taking place.

Considering how folks in southern California including the film industry–all of this was tongue-in-check concerning a car and food–subsist on low carbs and farmer’s market vegetables is satiric.

Eva Mendes ugly? Ironic. Will Ferrell as Gamble as a pimp? Ironic. Mark Wahlberg liking being a traffic cop? Ironic.

All-in-all, some funny Saturday Night Live skits strung together that taken together don’t make much sense. Still it was funny.

Nature Blog Network: More Diversity and Analyzing Traffic!

Storm Clouds in Memphis

I have been linked to the Nature Blog Network for several months now and it is one way of discovering nature blogs and learning about traffic at your own blog.

According to the website the network is “a nexus for the very best nature blogs on the net. If you’re looking for outstanding blogging about birds, bugs, plants, herps, hiking, oceans, ecosystems, or any other natural topic — or if you blog on those topics yourself — this is the place for you!”

As noted, it’s a great way to get to know about other nature blogs. As a novice, I am interested in birdwatching so 10,000 Birds, linked to the network along with many other blogs, appeals to me.

In addition, Nature Blog Network is an analytic that tracks the number of hits to a nature blog linked to the website. For example, on August 4, 2010 Ugly Overload averaged 2549 views per day ranking it as the #4 blog on the network. Click on the orange tab to the right of the rankings on the Top List page and more analytic statistics pop up. From May 11 to June 10 Ugly Overload had 78.272 views at the blog.

The Nature Blog Network is one of many statistical tools that can help a blogger figure out how many people you are reaching. Another options is Google Analytics, which can drive viewers to your site, while providing statistical data on google word searches. And when blogging using WordPress, specific data on your blog are available including your top ranked blogs.

Based on my searches at Nature Blog Network there isn’t much diversity at the site. If you are blogging about nature from any perspective of diversity, then consider linking your site to the network.

Photo by Dianne Glave

Sampling of Diversity and Environment Blogs and Websites

This is an exciting time with many blogs and websites focusing on diversity and the environment.

Here is a sampling of the ones I visit the most with some amazing people behind the sites:

Brown Girl Going Green

Chocolate & Arugula

Eco Soul Wisdom

Jarid Manos (Ghetto Plainsman)

Legacy on the Land

Outdoor Afro

What are some of your favorites? Which blogs and websites do you visit regularly? I’d love to learn more.

What Has Jarid Manos Been Up To?

Jarid’s been promoting his book Ghetto Plainsman in the southwest and working with his non-profit Great Plains Restoration Council. Just recently, he did a book signing at The Grove, an outdoor mall in Los Angeles. There’s a farmer’s market near the mall so be sure to check it out when you are in Southern California.

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He’s also been enjoying the outdoors in between all his hard work. Read what he has to say about Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle:

Hiked 8 miles..and climbed bare handed up the cliff face to the canyon rim, where it was gale force winds trying to blow me off the top.

“The battle of Palo Duro Canyon was the major battle of the Red River War, which ended in the confinement of southern Plains Indians (Comanches, Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, Cheyennes, and Arapahos) to the reservations in the Indian Territory. Palo Duro Canyon is significant because it represented the southern Plains Indians’ last effort at military resistance against the encroaching whites.” — Texas Handbook Online

For a place where such violence, sorrow and loss occurred for Indian people, setting the stage for over a century of confinement and disease, and that marked the beginning of the end (death) for the Southern Plains, on this Sunday it was peaceful and oddly serene. Could Palo Duro be trying to teach me about forgiveness — something I always struggle with?

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Jarid will be in Atlanta in the fall with Keeping It Wild. Stay tuned for more details.

Photos by Jarid Manos