Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Tumbleweeds Devour New Mexico Town"



Hahahaha! If it's not tarantulas, it's tumbleweeds. This just in from Clovis, New Mexico: Tumbleweeds Devour New Mexico Town. The military has been deployed.


This is a good excuse to revive one of my favorite posts: The Trouble With Tumbleweeds (December 2012):


The Trouble with Tumbleweeds

Russian thistle, in its pre-tumbleweed life. Credit: Jim Pisarowicz


You may recall I killed a tumbleweed on my way to Alamogordo.


Russian thistle, aka tumbleweed. Credit: Fred Bauder.

They're kind of engaging, tumbleweeds, like bouncy lab pups always on the wrong side of trouble, or prickly tribbles, and it's difficult not to anthropomorphize them into young'ns, teen-agers, and adults, depending on size.  I like how the Quantum Biologist describes them:

"Tumbleweeds: ... out here in the day-to-day life of the American West, they’re practically an animal of their own. You swerve to avoid hitting them on the highway. They nuzzle the barbed-wire fences, sniffing out an opening. They show up mysteriously like stray cats in your yard overnight. Though native Westerners give them scant notice, transplants like me still have a starstruck fondness for them, as if they were some B-list actor from a John Ford movie that we’d discovered, lost and drunk, making a cameo in the alley behind our house...."

The Columbus Museum of Art commissioned this cinematic study of tumbleweeds. It is a masterpiece:



Tumbleweeds are not always endearing. Here is the account of a member of the Chihuahua Desert Wildlife Rescue organization:
"You have not really experienced life until you have been attacked by one of these monsters as you drive along our local roadways. This can be especially frightening at night when, under cover of darkness, they sneak up on you and devour your car. I remember a cold, windy night a good many years back. A good friend and I were driving along a narrow, rocky road in the mountains near Bingham, New Mexico, in my friend's VW bug. Suddenly we were am-BUSHED by a huge tumbleweed flying off the mountainside. I do believe we both wet our pants."

I thought tumbleweeds were indigenous Southwestern plants, but they're not - they're Asian exports, thought to have insinuated their seed into grain brought by immigrants to South Dakota in the 1870s. New Mexico considers them noxious weeds. Most tumbleweeds in New Mexico are the Russian thistle.




As early as 1895, the Russian thistle had proven so prolific that one alarmed academic had this to say
"Kill it first, if possible, whatever it may be, and find out its name afterward... There is but one treatment to recommend for (it), utter extermination from New Mexico, and let me emphasize this statement: Now, if ever, is the time to exterminate it!" 

When driving down a New Mexican road, it is fascinating to see tumbleweeds caught up against fences, trapped there by prevailing winds and wire. Eventually, a pile-up against the fence gets tall enough so that the tumbleweeds at the top can get over to the other side.

En route to Santa Fe last week, I was enthralled by the tumbleweeds on the fence along Highway 285 south of Cline's Corners. Look on the left side of the road.




Here is a good photo of tumbleweeds piled up along a fence.

Tumbleweeds against fence, New Mexico. Credit: Sarah at Adobe Nido.


In reading the text to describe Sarah's photo above, you can see how hard it is to write about tumbleweeds without imbuing them with thoughts and feelings!

So, is Russian thistle good for anything?

According to Utah State University
"Russian-thistle hay saved the beef cattle industry during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, when no other feed was available for starving animals."

and: 
"Cattle and sheep eat Russian-thistle, and it is a minor component in mule deer and elk diets until it flowers and becomes spiny. It is an important prairie dog food, and pronghorn eat it readily. Russian-thistle seeds are eaten by birds, including scaled and Gambel's quail, as well as small mammals."

Well, other than nocturnal ambushes of innocent people, why are tumbleweeds a problem?  

Again, Utah State University offers the best description:
"Livestock ranges, deteriorated from drought or overgrazing, are frequently invaded and dominated by Russian-thistle. After seeds mature in late fall, the plant stem separates from the root and the plant is then blown by wind. Seeds fall to the ground as the plant tumbles. The tendency of dead plants to collect along fence lines and buildings creates a fire hazard. During a fire, ignited plants can blow across fire lines and make fighting fire more difficult."

How to best manage Russian thistle? 

I like Utah State University's emphasis that Russian thistle thrives in disturbed land (see my post re: salt cedars), thus recommends solutions related to this core cause: 
"Prescribed burning will not control Russian-thistle since it thrives on disturbed sites, and seeds are easily spread from unburned areas by tumbling weeds. Some herbicides are effective against Russian thistle, and current herbicide information can be found in the Weed Management Handbook on the University of Wyoming Extension website. Revegetation of infested areas, along with the removal of disturbing factors like overgrazing and fire, is the best way to repair lands infested with this weed." [Emphasis mine.]

I leave you with the Tumbleweed Invasion. (You may wish to hit the mute button for maximum enjoyment.)

  





Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Mexico Movies: Bless Me, Ultima


Bless Me, Ultima. From:wikipedia

The movie version of the classic New Mexico novel, Bless Me, Ultima, came out while I was in New Mexico, and I didn't see it then. Lo, the DVD was at the Lafayette Public Library.

Here, I reviewed the book.

Movie: Bless Me, Ultima

Provenance: Filmed in (or around) Abiquiu, New Mexico. 

The trailer below is roll-your-eyes hyperbolic about the so-called controversy of the book. Controversial. Banned. Forbidden. Burned. .... Forget about that part - look at it for the scenery! 



I liked the movie. It was pleasing. The scenery, especially, was magnificent - you can see why New Mexico is called the State of Enchantment. Amazingly, the film-makers were even able to do some justice to the marvelous New Mexico sky.

Something I liked about the trailer is that it reflects the feeling I got from this movie: "From the heart of the land, that is our land; from the heart of the culture that is our culture." Bless Me, Ultima - movie version - comes across as an American story. It is of all of us.

Decades ago, on Sunday mornings, there used to be a Christian ministry that produced half-hour morality stories set in modern times. The stories were fairly simple and the acting was serviceable. Wasn't great theater, but it wasn't bad. In fact, they were entertaining.

The movie, Bless Me, Ultima, reminded me of those half-hour episodes, where characters were presented with moral dilemmas and we saw how they handled them.

Recommended? Yes, for the scenery and for a story of Americana that many of us know little about.




Friday, January 24, 2014

Morgan City, Louisiana, Part 2: Boats

A recent first-look at Morgan City - boats!


Boat, Morgan City, Louisiana

Boat, Morgan City, Louisiana

Apparently, the above boat is a shrimper. Presuming the lil' red rascal on the blue flag is a shrimp.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lafayette: 2nd Saturday Artwalk: January 2014: Louise Guidry



Louise Guidry, Lafayette, Louisiana


The Jefferson Street Branch of the Lafayette Public Library, downtown, participates in the 2nd Saturday Artwalk.

The library showcases a different artist each month.

For January 2014, that artist was Louise Guidry.

Generally speaking, many (most?) women don't like to go around broadcasting their age (and I fully endorse this approach), but I noticed that once my grandmother turned 80, she was totally fine with revealing hers. I've noticed my mother is the same, as I imagine I will be in due time.

Anyway, Ms. Guidry is 83 years old. She got a Bachelor's in Fine Arts in her late 50s, adding that to a degree in education she acquired in earlier years. 

I was particularly taken with the work at the top of this post. It's a view from Highway 31, which Ms. Guidry says is a long-standing source of inspiration to her.

I'm going to have to take a drive down Highway 31. Indeed, Travel & Leisure took note of it in an article, America's Most Iconic Drives, adding:  
... Some of these roads are justifiably famous, including what’s arguably America’s most scenic drive: California’s Route 1, around the town of Big Sur. Rocky cliffs plunge down to open ocean, creating a severe distraction while you navigate this narrow road.

Other roads may not be household names, but are nevertheless an integral part of the American fabric. Highway 31, west of New Orleans, takes you through classic Louisiana countryside, past lazy bayous and swampy lagoons filled with alligators and herons.


Louise Guidry, Lafayette, Louisiana




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lafayette: Cow Paths


I don't know if I've made it sufficiently clear that I am directionally impaired. Easy for me to get lost.

In Playa del Carmen, even though it is laid out in an allegedly-logical grid, I had troubles.

In Alamogordo, it is laid out in a very rational way 90% of the time. You have your numbered streets and then you have your place-name streets. Occasionally, a street disappears and then pops up somewhere not where you expect it to be. But you always have your mountains and the White Sands to keep you at least going toward the proper north, south, east, or west.

But Lafayette? Lordy, no.

The property-management person told me, "Now keep in mind that the Lafayette streets are like a cobweb," as she fanned out the fingers of one of her hands, "if you do that, you'll be OK." I'm pretty sure I just stared at her, silent.

The visitor-center person told me, "No, it's not a cobweb. The roads were originally cow paths - as the city grew in population, it just paved over the cow paths." Here's another take on the Cowpath Theory: "The problem with Lafayette is that it's three settlements that grew together and then the cowpaths in between were paved and eventually became the major streets. Seriously."

And the native Ville Platte person told me, "There are those who believe that the Lafayette streets were laid out by a drunk cajun on a mule."

So:

Louisiana and Johnston Streets are the same street.

Highway 90 inexplicably takes a 90-degree turn from Pinhook on to University. Or is it that Highway 182 takes the 90-degree turn off of Pinhook onto University. Well, they kinda both do that.  Except it's Business 90. "Real" 90 is just a few blocks away, under the alias of the Evangeline Thruway. Make that the SE, SW, NE or NE Evangeline Thruway. (Choose wisely.) .... And "real" 90 actually intersects University twice. In most realities, such things aren't possible, but they are in Lafayette.

Speaking of the Evangeline Thruway, part of it is "real" 90, but once 90 takes a sharp perpendicular turn, the Thruway becomes Highway 167, which veers at a right-angle off of the afore-mentioned schizophrenic Johnston/Louisiana Street.  


From University Street, you can turn right onto "real" 90 (by the airport), but you can't go straight across 90. Unless you're coming in the opposite direction, and in that case, you can go straight across 90.

There's a section of W. Pinhook that has four lanes on it only because there are four painted lines saying it has four lanes. If you're claustrophobic, you might get a little anxious here.

Ah, and let's discuss the "Future I-49" that slices through town.

I've been in Lafayette three months and I still don't know which way is north (or east, west, or south) from where I live. 

I don't even want to talk about how Bertrand Road shockingly splits into two.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Disappearing of Louisiana, Part 2: Water Words


The Zen of Flowers and Refineries, by Raina Benoit. Lafayette, Louisiana. 


To get a handle on the disappearing of Louisiana, I need to educate myself on water words. Unless quoted by an attributed source, everything below is based on my (flawed) understanding of water terms. 

Wetlands

1.      "Wetlands" is the parent category for these subcategories:
  • Swamp
  • Marsh
(there are more, but I'm trying to keep it simple)

2.      Wetland
An area that is inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration to support ... a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions
3.     Swamp
 a wetland that is forested ... Many swamps occur along large rivers where they are critically dependent upon natural water level fluctuations. Other swamps occur on the shores of large lakes. [I added the boldface for emphasis.]
4.     Marsh
A type of wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species ...
Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds


Wetlands are important because they: 
  • Help mitigate the effects of river flooding and hurricane-led coastal surges
  • Protect water quality by trapping contaminants on the wetlands floor
  • Protect shorelines from erosion




Cypress swamp, Natchez Trace, Mississippi.



Bayou

A bayou is a slow-moving creek or a swampy section of a river or a lake. They are usually found in flat areas where water collects in pools. Bayous are often associated with the southeastern part of the United States.

Bayous are usually shallow and sometimes heavily wooded. They can be freshwater, saltwater, or a combination of both. This combination is called "brackish water."
Source: National Geographic Education

The Bayou Teche may be south Louisiana's most prominent bayou. Thousands of years ago, it was the main channel (see below) of the Mississippi River. Bayou Teche is 125 miles long and feeds into the Atchafalya River.


Tributaries v. distributaries

  • A tributary is a freshwater stream that feeds into a larger stream or river
  • A distributary is a stream that branches off and flows apart from the mainstem of a stream or river. 
 Source: National Geographic Education

Another description Rivers are connected together in vast networks of tributaries, which feed water into the main river channel, and distributaries, which pull water out of the main channel.


Channel

The channel isn't the water; it is the container of the water - the bottom and sides of the river, for example. The banks of a river are part of the channel.

The above is a neutral definition of a channel. Some channels are man-made. Canals and ditches are man-made channels.

A man-made channel is a double-edged sword. It can control the passage of water and can prevent some floods. On the other hand, water moves through a man-made channel faster (thus stronger) than a natural channel. Consequently, when water does top the channel banks, it is a more dangerous flood because its force is stronger than it would have been in a natural channel. And if there are no wetlands to absorb the brunt of the flood, there is more erosion, more property damage, more loss of life.

A movie short

Below is a five-minute video by Kael Alford called Bottom of 'da Boot: Louisiana's Disappearing Coast:




Also read: The Disappearing of Louisiana, Part 1:Stumbling on History

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lafayette: 2nd Saturday Artwalk: January 2014: Whoojoo


At the January 2nd Saturday Artwalk, my friend and I stopped in at the Whoojoo Stained Glass Studio.

Whoojoo is the childhood nickname of artist Craig McCullen, whose studio is, I guess, exactly what a studio is in the classic sense - it's a work space and an exhibit space.   

Work in progress, Whoojoo Stained Glass Studio, Lafayette, Louisiana


Above and below: I liked the squiggly, straight, and curved lines on one of his work tables. 

Work in progress, Whoojoo Stained Glass Studio, Lafayette, Louisiana


Some end results here:

Whoojoo and Miró. Credit: Craig McCullen



Dangle the Lure. Credit: Craig McCullen


Below is a video in which he talks about the history of some of his work:





Hey, there's a woman behind there! And maybe a fish. And an owl.

Whoojoo and Miró. Credit: Craig McCullen







Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lafayette: The Walmart Cajun Aisle


Walmart's cajun aisle, Lafayette, Louisiana


In Alamogordo, a grocery store had the German section, in recognition of the members of the German Air Force and their families who lived in the area.


Walmart's cajun aisle, Lafayette, Louisiana


Here in Lafayette, Walmart has its cajun section.


Walmart's cajun aisle, Lafayette, Louisiana


I hadn't heard of the "crawfish pie" before. Ahhh, in looking it up, I guess I've heard of it, but didn't know what it was. Here's the classic Hank Williams song, Jambalaya, which references crawfish pie:




Lyrics:
Goodbye Joe me gotta go me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne the sweetest one me oh my oh
Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and file gumbo
Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou
Thibodaux Fontaineaux the place is buzzin'
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style and go hog wild me oh my oh
Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou
Settle down far from town get me a pirogue
And I'll catch all the fish in the bayou
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie...
Later on, swap my mon, get me a pirogue
and I'll catch all the fish on the bayou
Swap my mon, to buy Yvonne what she need-oh
Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie...

In my still-very-limited understanding of things here, I can tell you these hints about the above lyrics:
  • Pirogue (a boat) - pronounce it as: PEE-row.
  • Fill fruit jar - referencing moonshine in a jar, hence the subsequent gaiety

But I had to look these up: 
  • Swap my mon --> Barter my things (my personal belongings or my in-kind catch such as crawfish, crabs, fish).
  • File gumbo -->  gumbo spiced with sassafras (filé) -=> FEE lay


Walmart's cajun aisle, Lafayette, Louisiana


One shelving partition is devoted entirely to the art of the boil.

Walmart's cajun aisle, Lafayette, Louisiana


So, a trip to Walmart is a journey to cuisine, to a song, to lyrics, to anthropology.


Walmart's cajun aisle, Lafayette, Louisiana


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Louisiana Movies: In the Electric Mist

In the Electric Mist. From: IMDb


Movie: In the Electric Mist

Provenance: Based and filmed in and around New Iberia and St. Martinville, Louisiana

Based on a book by James Lee Burke: In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead

Synopsis: Series of murders in and around New Iberia investigated by former alcoholic sheriff Dave Robichoux, including a murder from the long-ago past.

Wow - where has this movie been? Sometimes I take a break from watching a movie because it's a little dull and I go off to do other things. With this movie, sometimes I took a break so it would delay the ending.

The photography is beautiful and captures all that is entrancing about southern Louisiana. The misty bayous, the super-green, flat sugarcane fields, the alleés of live oaks. The low-brimmed Acadian houses with their deep porches, lawns that touch the water. You'd think it was a paradise, if you didn't remember the mosquitoes and the sopping humidity. 
 
Tommy Lee Jones and John Goodman are both a pleasure to watch, with TLJ determinedly lethal and Mr. Goodman Nero-like in his dissolution.

There are a few plot points that are a little off, but these are minor quibbles.   


Music from the movie

La Terre Tremblante:




Damn Right I've Got the Blues (in the movie performed by Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas), performed by Buddy Guy:





I'm a Hog For You, performed by Clifton Chenier:




Recommend? An enthusiastic yes! 



Friday, January 17, 2014

Louisiana: Mardi Gras Season Begins

Mardi Gras season at Walmart, Lafayette, Louisiana


There is a Mardi Gras season in Louisiana, which begins on January 6, the day before the Epiphany.

In Lafayette, the city runs the Mardi Gras flag up the city hall flagpole.

Krewes hold balls.

There are King Cake parties.

And Walmart puts out its Mardi Gras enticements: Masks, costumes, beads, King Cake, and .... root beer?


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jeanerette, Louisiana: The Flashing Red Light


LeJeune's Bakery, Jeanerette, Louisiana


Michel, one of my Louisiana cultural interpretors, told me about this bakery in Jeanerette where, if you see a red light flashing outside its door, it means there's bread fresh out of the oven, hot.

My brain collects factoids such as this, caching them into some data closet, so I heard the bakery information, and then forgot about it. Until, that is, when a few weeks later, on a Saturday morning, I was driving from Lafayette to Morgan City on Highway 182, entered into Jeanerette's business district - almost empty of pedestrian or vehicular activity - and saw a red light incongruously sticking out over a storefront sign.

How odd. Ohhhhh, LeJeune's Bakery! Was the light supposed to be flashing? Didn't remember, but parked the car, and went in.

LeJeune's Bakery, Jeanerette, Louisiana


Whereupon I saw warm, plump rolls just asking to be plucked. Too bad the bakery's Generation 6 happened to walk up right then, only to inform me the rolls had been promised to Generation 4, his grandmother.

LeJeune's Bakery, Jeanerette, Louisiana


I couldn't buy a roll, but the owner's son graciously allowed me to look at the bakery's heart, where the bread is made.

LeJeune's Bakery, Jeanerette, Louisiana


Here's a good video the regional news did on the bakery:




Note that one pronounces the family name lazhern and not lazhune. There's a good newspaper story about what the bakery did during ingredient shortages in World War II.


LeJeune's Bakery, Jeanerette, Louisiana


Will Generation 6 go into the business? Too soon to tell, but there's a precedent of non-linear transfers, so if the current direct line doesn't take over the business, maybe a cousin will.


LeJeune's Bakery, Jeanerette, Louisiana

The bread tastes as good as it looks in the picture above.
 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jeanerette, Louisiana: The Sweetest Place in Louisiana


Sugarcane trucks, Jeanerette, Louisiana 


I'm kind of fascinated by the sugarcane harvesting. No idea why. But I like the shape of the trucks. The harvesting machines are like dinosaur robots. And the sugarcane is so green. 

I first wrote about sugarcane in Louisiana here.


Recently, I drove through Jeanerette ("the sweetest place in Louisiana"), which is on Highway 182.

Right on the edge of town, in the short-short video below, you can see: unharvested sugarcane, sugarcane being harvested, empty going out for more sugarcane, and the plant processing the cane. Not to mention the killer song by Blind Boys of Alabama. (I heard them play this very song at Columbia's first Roots 'n Blues Festival.)




I got out of my car to take some pictures of the processing plant. The processing produces an aroma that is not unpleasant. It's not the enticing fragrance of peppers roasting in New Mexico, but it has a homey, agrarian smell. Like barns and horses and earth.

Sugarcane plant, Jeanerette, Louisiana

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lafayette: The Yellow Flower in the Blue Jar


Second Saturday Artwalk, Lafayette, Louisiana


At Lafayette's January 2014 Second Saturday Artwalk, Astra Modern Market placed single yellow mums in blue mason jars atop white tables.

Second Saturday Artwalk, Lafayette, Louisiana


How could you not love them?


Second Saturday Artwalk, Lafayette, Louisiana


Especially in the middle of winter.

Second Saturday Artwalk, Lafayette, Louisiana

Astra Modern Market is in the space where a auto repair garage used to be.


Second Saturday Artwalk, Lafayette, Louisiana


The splashy yellow mums in blue jars were like little suns over water and white sand.



Second Saturday Artwalk, Lafayette, Louisiana



Monday, January 13, 2014

The Disappearing of Louisiana, Part 1: Stumbling on History


My intermittent series on "the disappearing of Louisiana" is about the effects of nature and man on Louisiana's land and waters. One source says that Louisiana loses 25 to 35 square miles of land a year, nearly a football field every hour. Where does the land go? It is sinking under water.  

I didn't know about the disappearing of Louisiana when I took my road trip here in the winter of 2011/2012. But by chance, I drove right through a mammoth, manmade complex designed to control the Mississippi River. And it plays a role in the land's disappearance.        

Below is an excerpt from a January 2012 post, when I stumbled on history: the Old River Control Complex:

Highway 15, Louisiana

I found myself driving along a levee, moving from Hwy 1 to Hwy 15. It's a damned good thing I gassed up in Morganza before I got onto 15. It was a l-o-n-g way between gas stations.  I drove aside a levee and a series of locks, dams and hydroelectric projects (or something) the entire way. The Old River Control Complex. Some interesting sites about same, most with cool pictures: 


Credit: USACE per Urban Decay


Credit: USACE

America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure

Morganza Spillway/Floodway and Old River Control Structure

Where Does the Water Go? The Old River Control Structures, Louisiana 

I saw large white birds with black-tipped wings taking in the waters at the auxiliary structure. High fencing, barbed wire, big padlocks, and what looked like a thick electric-shock cable prevented me from getting a closer look. But I was able to use the office lavatory. Someone had written a sign inside the ladies' room: "If you can't clean up after yourself, then use the woods." Reminds me of a motel room in Memphis, Missouri, that had this sign in every bathroom: "Don't clean game in the sink."

Anyhoo, after an in-car lunch of hard-boiled eggs and a satsuma orange, I proceeded along my way.
 

I've got a lot of studying to do.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lafayette Neighborhoods: College Park


College Park neighborhood, Lafayette, Louisiana


Lafayette has many pocket neighborhoods cached off of its main arteries. Quiet, shaded, established. Often with graceful live oaks, giant elephant ears, flowering shrubs. Pretty mixes of architecture.

College Park neighborhood, Lafayette, Louisiana


College Park Addition

The College Park Addition neighborhood is more or less comprised of the "president streets," at least as these streets are bordered in a square by: West Pinhook, Taft, St. Mary's Boulevard, and University Avenue. The president-street names within this square are Taft, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, and Hoover. There's also McKinley, but that runs smack through the University of Louisiana campus, so I'm not counting that.

College Park neighborhood, Lafayette, Louisiana



I did include the two art museums that fall within the bounds. 

Hilliard Art Museum, College Park neighborhood, Lafayette, Louisiana



Here's a slide show:



#30

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Louisiana Movies: The Apostle


The Apostle. From: IMDb


Movie: The Apostle

Provenance: Filmed around St. Martinville, Louisiana, and a couple of other places.

Hm, I dunno. When I streamed it down from Netflix a couple of weeks ago, I realized about five minutes in that I'd already seen the movie, or at least part of it. Couldn't remember how it went. Which told me it must not have been that memorable. And, indeed, it became a little like homework to watch it.

There's no doubt Robert Duvall was the center of this drama; he dominated almost every scene. Almost every scene. The actor who played Rev. Charles Blackwell, John Beasely, quietly held his own, an understated counterweight against Mr. Duvall's manic, narcissistic persona. Farrah Fawcett, Billy Bob Thornton and Miranda Richardson were drawings barely colored in.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure how much Louisiana factored into the story. It seemed little more than a prop. 

Recommend? Shrug.





    



Friday, January 10, 2014

News for the Rootless: Follow-Up


Back here, I listed news organs that I had on trial to get me better informed.

The list included

The Guardian
American Prospect
The Economist
Mother Jones
Schneier on Security


I also continued to dabble with the online Atlantic. Also, The New York Times and Washington Post.

Plus after that post, I'd added these information sites to my audition list:

Pro Publica
Bitch Media
Reuters


No thanks!

Atlantic. I finally weaned myself off the Atlantic entirely. I cannot abide the tabloid titles that seem geared primarily to college students. Why X is not Y. .... What Everyone Needs to Know About Z.... The Dark Side of W ....... The Most Dangerous Thing About D .... 

I've shoved the Atlantic into the same file drawer as celebrity "news."


Mother Jones and American Prospect. Again, tabloid-ish titles. Also, there seem to be stables of writers who presume to be journalists, but who apparently operate under very loose standards of objectivity, fact-finding, or even understanding of their subject matter. Where's the editorial oversight? Plus it's generally all bad news all the time. I'm done with both of them.

I'm sad about this because occasionally the above offer jewels of informational reporting, such as Mother Jones' series on prisons.   

When I stumbled on to Pro Publica, I thought I'd found a little nugget of gold. The honeymoon was over when I read its series on acetominaphen. While I have sincere respect for those who have lost loved ones to the drug, the low numbers of such deaths or injuries, in both absolute and relative terms, pale against deaths due to other causes. I just couldn't understand the blitzkrieg of attention focused on this. I still don't, and it killed credibility for me.


The yes list

The Guardian and The Economist. A rich mix of the good and bad about our world; the serious, curious, and frivolous; served up with a minimum of emotional button-pushing. 

Reuters. Pro Public did lead me to this article on Reuters. So when my little fling with Pro Public ended, I went over to the calmer, more thoughtful Reuters. The headlines tell the story in less than 10 words, without hysteria. Shooting Heard at Airport in Congo's Capital. ... Reduced Fed Support Reflected in January Bond-Buying Plan. ... Major Chinese Art Collection Set For Oxford Museum. ...  It's a calm retreat from the carnival side show that is typical of online news.

With The Guardian, The Economist, and Reuters, I get what I want - information that:
  • Covers a wide breadth of subjects, 
  • Covers varying degrees of depth into different subjects,
  • Is accurate, based on what we know now, 
  • Is relatively objective, and
  • Refrains from manipulating my emotions.



Credit: Schneier on Security


Schneier on Security. I like this niche news source on two levels.

  1. I get more informed on the technical side of security issues, which feeds my geek within, even though a lot of the comments go over my head.
  2. Mr. Schneier takes a look at security issues and incidents from various angles, explaining why some incidents or variables are cause for alarm, why others are of minor or moderate concern even when they look alarming, and why things that might look innocuous could have troubling implications. 



Bitch Media.  This news source is provocative in a good way - it presents information from fresh perspectives that make us think. Sometimes the perspective is enlightening and sometimes it provokes strong disagreement. "Bitch Media’s mission is to provide and encourage an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture."

For the most part, it succeeds in its mission. Like most nonprofits, it runs the risk of mission creep, which could bring it down over time, but for now, that isn't too noticeable.

 
Credit: Bitch Media



















Thursday, January 9, 2014

Louisiana: Palmetto Island State Park: Floating on the Bayou


Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana


On the first Sunday of each month, there's a ranger-led canoe tip at Palmetto Island State Park. Free!


Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana


Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana


Lots of vultures about on the day we floated. It's not a good quality photo, but you can see a cluster of them in the tree below:

Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana


I saw a lethargic snake on the bank, which the ranger identified as a yellow-bellied water snake. Can you see it in the picture below?


Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana


I'll be writing more about this later - the disappearing of Louisiana - but I learned from the ranger that the people who do maps (USGS?) have begun to remove some location names from their current Louisiana maps because these locations no longer exist. They have eroded away.


Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana