Monday, March 28, 2011

Another black thing I probably don't understand

Saint Augustine High School is a Catholic-run school in New Orleans that serves a predominantly African-American student body.  It has a reputation of preparing students for later, successful programs of study at Xavier University, also located in the city.  Saint Aug, as it is referred to, is generally accepted as having no peer in educating the children under its guidance, and preparing them for careers that benefit the wider civic life.

I am not Catholic, despite what readers may conclude from my ongoing fascination with the saints that populate New Orleans's landscape and culture.  I am also not black, which should be obvious to anyone who spends enough time reading through the archives.  I do, however, live in a city in which, as a white person, I am in the minority.

There has been an ongoing controversy at Saint Aug recently.  The archbishop of New Orleans, Gregory Aymond, made an executive decision to forbid corporal punishment at the school.  According to the Times-Picayune, which has been covering this story (I don't have my copy in front of me, so readers will have to excuse me if some facts are inaccurate), Saint Augustine was the only Catholic School in the nation that allowed "paddling" as a disciplinary measure before the archbishop suspended the practice a few weeks ago.

Alumni of the school have come out in force to protest this decision.  Current students are testifying as to the merit of paddling as a means to enforce discipline.  The archbishop, who has recently taken pains to reduce the influence of violence within his jurisdiction (click the link above for the prayer that ends every mass in the Archdiocese of New Orleans), makes a valid point that Jesus never used corporal punishment as a means of teaching.  Archbishop Aymond makes a further point by stating that force is never an appropriate or acceptable method for increasing compassion or understanding.

Saint Aug alumni have demonstrated with signs that read, "Spare the rod and spoil the child."  As someone who has raised a child, I understand that a little physical reinforcement goes a long way in bringing about desired behavioral results.  I have no comment on its efficacy in teenagers, but I theorize a carrot will have more value than a stick.  This is armchair philosophy on my part.  I am not a professional educator and I have little interaction with teenagers of any race or economic background in any setting.

A recent T-P report quoted an alumni as saying, roughly, "I don't want to bring this up, but I would hate to think there is a cultural element to the archbishop's decision."  The caveat that a person doesn't want to mention something before they do is a sure sign that they do want to bring it up, they are just sugar coating it and deflecting responsibility for the consequences.  I don't get any impression that Archbishop Aymond is saying that cultural traditions should be ignored.  It seems to me that he is saying that African-American students do not need to be paddled to excel in their scholastic training.

This does not strike me as a racial issue since Saint Aug is the only school that has continued the practice.  If there is any evidence of discrimination enabled through low expectations, it is the idea that a certain population of young people about to enter adulthood needs to be treated as toddlers and subjected to corporal punishment in order to behave.  Paddling may be effective.  There has been plenty of testimony in favor of its benefit from people who bore it and excelled because of its threat.   I remain unconvinced.  I am the product of a school system in which this method was a thing of ancient history.  I get along okay, thirty or more years later.

The racial issue in this dispute is a red herring.  While corporal punishment in a school is not a cause of violence in the community at large, the idea that it is an appropriate way to deal with misbehavior is an assumption that should be avoided.  Oaks grow from acorns.  Teenagers rarely make the best decisions, and they need encouragement.  They need positive examples.  The many graduates of Saint Augustine High School serve as positive role models.  I doubt any one of them would result to hitting another person in their professional or personal interactions.  There is nothing positive to be gained by institutionalizing paddling as the most effective way to deal with waywardness.

Over the years, I have been reminded that there are black things that I cannot understand.  This originally offended me.  I am a cognizant, sentient, man who lives every day with eyes open and ears cocked.  I've learned that there are things I cannot understand, only indirectly absorb, based on race.  There are things I cannot understand because of my gender as well.  The reverse is also true.  I wouldn't wish anyone to walk a mile in my shoes, though it has been a pleasant journey overall.  Corporal punishment directed at young adults is not one of the things I can condone, no more than when it is inflicted on older adults.  If a person, a teenaged student who is given the opportunity to attend one of the premier schools in New Orleans, needs to feel pain to perform, what does that say about that person?  What does it say about the system?  What does it say about the culture?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What is New Orleans?

There are different answers to the question, "What is New Orleans?"  I've got my answer and it may be similar to other people's.  This song by Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band always makes me smile and pay extra attention.

Some of the references may not make sense, but, in true New Orleans fashion, they are evocative enough that it doesn't matter if they don't make sense.  New Orleans is turkey necks and mashed potatoes on Thursday.  New Orleans is baby dolls.  New Orleans is Rick's Cabaret, yeah, that's New Orleans, alright.

Whether you get it or you don't, you'll get New Orleans from this long song.  People drive past my house and the music coming out their car windows is in this genre.  That's New Orleans.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor still relevant today

The archbishop of New Orleans has instructed churches to conclude services with the following prayer.  It is meant to implore Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the patroness of the city and the State of Louisiana, to intervene in what he calls, "The New Battle of New Orleans" against violence, murder, and racism.

The Times-Picayune published the findings of a report the other day that determined New Orleans has a murder rate ten times the national average.  Someone gets murdered just about every day.  If a day passes without a murder, you can be pretty sure two people will be shot the next day.

"Loving and Faithful God, through the years the people of our archdiocese have appreciated the prayers and love of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in times of war, disaster, epidemic, and illness.  We come to you, Father, with Mary our Mother, and ask you to help us in the battle of today against violence, murder and racism.

We implore you to give us your wisdom that we may build a community founded on the values of Jesus, which gives respect to the life and dignity of all people.

Bless parents that they may from their children in faith.  Bless and protect our youth that they may be peacemakers of our time.  Give consolation to those who have lost loved ones through violence.

Hear our prayer and give us the perseverance to be a voice for life and human dignity in our community.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.

Mother Henriette Delille, pray for us that we may be a holy family."

Who is Heniette Delille?  I was curious myself.  More on that another day.  She was a remarkable free woman of color in New Orleans.

I've never seen Our Lady of Prompt Succor in person.  Her shrine is in the Ursulines Academy uptown on South Claiborne Avenue.  It is always closed when I stop by to test the doors.  Nothing at all like the shrine to Saint Roch, which is always open with artifacts of miracles unguarded.  Note that the link is the first of a three-part post on subsequent days.  The photos are incredible, as is the place.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Orleans is food for the imagination

Video cannot capture New Orleans.  It is a place best experienced first hand.  Lacking that, music is much better than images to capture the air of the place.  Listen and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Mardi Gras Indians from 03/20/2011

Today, I'll post the second third of the Mardi Gras Indians we had the honor to witness as they paraded through Central City this past Sunday.  Again, no commentary.  I can't add anything to their nobility.  I can only stand in awe.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mardi Gras Indian Parade

Saint Joseph's Day was yesterday some of the tribes and chiefs paraded today in Central City, New Orleans.  Let their majesty speak for itself.

This is just a fraction of the Indians who turned out.  Their route was Simon Bolivar Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Claiborne Avenue, and then Washington Ave to complete the circle.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

This week's puzzler

I'm stuck in the office this morning and listening to Car Talk to make the time pass.  I'm trying not to look out the window at the sunny day, especially since I'm going to the movies at noon ("The African Queen").

Anyhow, for once, I know the answer the answer to this week's puzzler so I thought I would share:

These states have something in common that no other states have: NY, IA, ME, FL, UT, WY, VT, TX, ID.

The hint, which makes it too easy: MS and AL would never qualify for this list.  I might add that CT never would either.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eating Crawfish in New Orleans

It is true that portion sizes tend to be large in New Orleans.  The food is good and people like to enjoy it. Now that Lent is upon us and many people are eschewing meat, it seems it is the season for boiling crawfish.  The weather is certainly  nice enough for cooking outdoors.

An excerpt from today's Times-Picayune:
"...4 to 5 pounds per pounds [of crawfish] per person is typical for a South Louisiana boil.  People here can, and will, put them away.  Outsiders, not so much.  Figure 2 pounds for out-of-towners."

4 to 5 pounds?!?!  I can't say I'm surprised.  Much of the weight is comprised of shell, which is inedible, but when I buy crawfish for dinner, I buy a total of two pounds for both the lady of the  house and I.  It is more than enough.

We haven't been to a crawfish boil yet.  When I read the recipes in the article it mentioned putting frozen corn in the boil.  I assumed it meant kernels but later figured out that it's frozen corn on the cob.  I didn't even know there was such a thing.  Corn on the cob is something I've always bought fresh toward the end of summer.  As usual, every day here is a learning experience.

The full T-P article here.

I've tried sucking the heads but don't find it particularly appetizing.  I'm a person who eats the lobster's tomalley with gusto.  I'm sure I'll acquire a taste for the head eventually.  Waste not, want not.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Brotherhood - New Orleans, LA

We all need a buddy code...
Let's practice it 52 weeks a year.  The Superman way, the New Orleans way.  Diversity is our strength.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras - New Orleans 2011

One would think from the choice of today's image that I am depressed or, at least, feeling a misfit.  Untrue.  There are no misfits in New Orleans.  I am the happiest person I know.

Rather than try to come up with something original about my first Mardi Gras, I thought I would just heavily edit a song I was thinking of this morning before went to see the Zulu parade.

I left the North.
I travelled South.
I found a tiny house.
I can't help the way I feel.
And I realized, I realized
That I could never
I could never, never go back home again.

'nuff said.
Happy Mardi Gras to all.
Lent begins tomorrow.
With a tip of the fedora and a handshake,

Monday, March 07, 2011

Another peek into Whalehead King's Odditarium...

Saint Expedite:

Saint Joan of Arc:

Our Lady of Prompt Succor:

I'm practicing photographing the artwork in the studio.  Little, simple pieces.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Saint Roch, pray for us - New Orleans, LA

I've got a nagging head cold so I decided to visit Saint Roch's Campo Santo shrine for relief.  As you can see from the sky above,  it isn't the best weather to be nursing a sinus infection.  My Littlest Ninja motorcycle is dwarfed by the majesty of crypts and liturgical art that have built up around this burial ground since the shrine was completed in 1876.

I ride a 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 250.  The styling and mechanics hadn't changed since Ronald Reagan was in office.  While cemetery design has changed over the past century, St. Roch's cemetery is an anachronism in a modern city.  It fits right into New Orleans' scheme of things.  I hope my Littlest Ninja and I do too.

I feel better now...
... but I've still got some tinnitus in my right ear.  Maybe tomorrow I'll visit Saint Roch again, weather permitting.

Cheers and good health to you this Carnival season,

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fair Grounds Race Course - New Orleans

I'm not one to play the ponies but I do live close to the Fair Grounds so I decided to go to the track and risk a dollar.  As is my custom, I arrived much too early for any action to be unfolding.  I bought the Daily Race Form and looked over the odds.  I read the columns.  It was all very interesting but I have no idea how to place a bet.  As is also my custom, I quickly lost interest and left with a wallet exactly as full as when I arrived.

I've since found someone to tutor me on the art of loosing money at the track.  We'll see if I pursue this pastime.  While I am foolish about a lot of things and I am often parted with my money, it isn't usually by gambling.  If living close to Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun couldn't make a gambler out of me, I doubt living within walking distance of the race track will do it.

There were some nice statues of jockeys, however...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

St. Roch Shrine - New Orleans

This is a statue of Saint Lucy in the Shrine of Saint Roch.  You know it is Saint Lucy, not because of the clown on her arm but because of her eyes in the dish.  She was martyred by having her eyes removed.

This is St. Roch:
Saint Roch is the patron of plague victims.  A local priest promised St. Roch that he would build a chapel to the saint if he spared New Orleans from the current yellow fever epidemic.  The populace was spared and the priest build his chapel.
Since then, people have prayed to St. Roch in this chapel to cure them of various ailments.  Saint Lucy, too.  In appreciation, they have left momentos.  Let's look behind St. Lucy's head in the small room off the side of the chapel, shall we...
That's some kind of immobilization device that, I assume, is designed to keep bandages off the surface of a burn victim's face.  Furthermore:
There are plaster casts hung on the wall to represent organs and limbs healed by St. Roch.

There is an extensive collection of dusty crutches and leg braces...
And then there is the floor of the place, tiled over with gratitude:
A closer look...

There's more, much more.  For a small chapel, there are plenty of things to inspire piety, a sense of mystery, disgust, bemusement, and food for thought and faith.  A powerful place, indeed, that is far off most tourists' maps.  St. Roch's Cemetery is pure New Orleans, part of the weft and woof of the city, important to the people who live here.


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