Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's that zydecorific time of year - New Orleans Jazzfest. As I have every first week of May over the last eight years, I'm heading down to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival. My yearly reboot. The food, the drink, the music, the party, the Fairgrounds, the Quarter, the etc. Jambalicious. Some of you may remember and have appreciated my report from last year's pilgrimage. Obviously, we're going to party our asses off again this year, and I'll be sure to take some pics worthy of a photo-diary/recap for you VTKids next week, but I thought this might me a good opportunity to highlight the continuing failures of our governmental institutions to take care of our own. I mean, really. I know most of us are a little dulled right now by everything that's happening in our country and the world (possibly too dulled to pay attention to what's happening in Somalia, The Most Lawless War Of Our Generation:

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi said Thursday his forces were now in control of Mogadishu. The BBC reports, for the first time in nine days, gunfire has stopped. Ethiopians and government troops are patrolling the city conducting house-to-house searches, as residents collect rotting bodies that have been abandoned in the streets.

and the way in which the media is covering it:

The escalating war in Somalia has received little attention in the US media especially on broadcast television. Using the Lexis database, Democracy Now! examined ABC, NBC and CBS's coverage of Somalia in the evening newscasts over the past three months. The result may surprise you: ABC and NBC has not mentioned the war at all. CBS mentioned the war once on a Sunday night news broadcast. The network dedicated a total of three sentences to the story.


but I digress. Check out this report about the current state of New Orleans 20 months after Katrina.

Over $100 billion was approved by Congress to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Over $50 billion of that money was allocated to temporary and long-term housing. Just under $30 billion was for emergency response and Department of Defense spending. Over $18 billion was for State and local response and the rebuilding of infrastructure. $3.6 billion was for health, social services and job training and $3.2 for non-housing cash assistance. $1.9 billion was allocated for education and $1.2 billion for agriculture.

Louisiana received $10 billion to fix up housing. Over 109,000 homeowners applied for federal funds to fix up their homes. Eighteen months later, less than 700 families have received this federal assistance. Renters, who comprised a majority of New Orleans, are worse off – they get nothing at all. Some money is scheduled to go to some landlords and apartment developers for some apartments at some time.

109000 applied.
700 received.

The education system is apparently not doing any better:

New Orleans is now the charter capital of the U.S. All the public schools on the side of the Mississippi which did not flood were turned into charters within weeks of Katrina. The schools with strongest parental support and high test scores were flipped into charters. The charters have little connection to each other and to state or local supervision. Those in the top half of the pre-Katrina population may be getting a better education. Kids without high scores, with disabilities, with little parental involvement who are not in charters are certainly not getting a good education and are shuttled into the bottom half - a makeshift system of state and local schools.

John McDonogh, a public high school created to take the place of five pre-Katrina high schools, illustrates the challenges facing non-charter public education in New Orleans. Opened by the State school district in the fall, as of November, 2006, there were 775 students but teachers, textbooks and supplies remained in short order months after school opened. Many teens, as many as one-fifth, were living in New Orleans without their parents. Fights were frequent despite the presence of metal detectors, twenty-give security guards and an additional eight police officers. In fact several security guards, who were not much older than the students were injured in fights with students. Students described the school as having a "prison atmosphere." There were no hot lunches and few working water fountains. The girls' bathrooms did not have doors on them. The library had no books at all, not even shelves for books in early November. One 15 year old student caught the 5am bus from Baton Rouge to attend the high school. "Our school has 39 security guards and three cops on staff and only 27 teachers," one McDonogh teacher reported.

The changing demographics are also of interest:

The pre-Katrina population of 454,000 people in the city of New Orleans dropped to 187,000. The African-American population of New Orleans shrank by 61 percent or 213,000 people, from a pre-Katrina number of 302,000 down to 89,000. New Orleans now has a much smaller, older, whiter and more affluent population.

And in a piece of news that really should be more shocking than it is, it appears that the US government passed on and/or wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid. (Here are the documents that the Washington Post based their reports on)

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

But I guess it doesn't matter if they're not actually going to use the money that's allocated to help the people of New Orleans. It's criminal negligence.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Weekend Wrap

Despite the unfortunate baseball results, it was a pretty dern good weekend in Cambridge. The weather was close to ideal, between 65 and 85 and sunny all weekend (and right now, incidentally). And the only bright side to the unfortunate baseball results was that everyone else in the city seemed to be in a good mood, lending to a nice vibe all around.

Friday night brought some birthday partying at Lucky's for birthday girl KO and friends.

Saturday brought afternoon baseball in the pub with a friend and then a pleasant surprise of a total ripping kick ass local rock show at the Plough and Stars, featuring The Konks and Mr. Airplaneman. I had never seen either but was starting to get the sense that this was not your average Plough roots rock band night as the place got more and more crowded. The Konks were good, but Mr. Airplaneman were great. Girl on drums + girl on guitar = Mr. Airplaneman.

And Sunday, I watched Real Madrid beat Valencia 2 - 1 and then saw two local hero celebrities within 30 minutes of eachother in Harvard Square:

Bill Belichick and Barney Frank. Bill popped into the Chicago One Pizzeria Uno Whatever They Call It with his family and was checking out all the old photos of local sports heroes on the walls (probably trying to figure out which one his picture would be replacing). Barney Frank was crossing the street, waving to some guy in a pick-up truck who had yelled "Hey Bahney!"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More Stellar Red Sox Fan Behavior

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Am I pushing it with my largely Red Sox sympathetic readership by publishing another classic example of Red Sox fan behavior so soon after the last one (2 days ago)? Maybe, but hey, I'm just passing on the news as it comes to me. It's part of being a blogger. Also, the Yankees are coming to town for a three game series tomorrow, so, you know, it's on. And it gives dewy24 a chance to argue about something in his wheelhouse, so he doesn't have to foolishly take out his anger on Lionel Messi.

and if you're really bored, check out the comments from some of the douchebox commenters on the Deadspin post (from where I got the vid).


The last embed video I put up was removed by youtube, so I replaced it with another and found a couple more Messi/Maradona comparisons. For those of you who don't know, the Maradona goal from a 1986 World Cup match for Argentina against England is considered one of if not the greatest goal of all time. 21 years later, the young Argentine who many have hailed as the next Maradona somehow eerily replicates the goal in a Spanish League Semifinal Championship match.



see them side by side:

and if you're really a soccer dork, see the Messi goal with the Maradona play by play call:

the video of Maradona and his shorts referenced in the comment section:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Typical Red Sox Fans

How do Red Sox fans celebrate Patriots Day? Drunken early afternoon food fights in the stands at Fenway. All class. You'd never see something like this at Yankee Stadium. I love Jerry Remy breaking down the replays - "Here comes the pizza right here!"

It's actually a great shot because the guy was in motion and you'd have to think the aerodynamics of chucking a slice of pizza on a cold wet day must be tricky. According to the Herald, there was some shit talking that preceded the actual incident regarding the pizza in question.

“They had been giving us (expletive) about [having a whole pizza in the stands],” Madore said. “Next thing I know, there’s a fly ball to left field and it goes foul and my buddy says, ‘You want some pizza now?’ And he hits him right in the face. Hey, the guy wasn’t paying attention. When you’re in the stands you’ve got to be ready for anything - a foul ball, a flying slice of pizza, everything.” (hat tip to Deadspin via N-Lo)

In other Boston sports news, The Sports Guy sums up nicely the absurdity of Doc Rivers getting a contract extension to continue to coach the Celtics. He's pretty much right on and I'd definitely rather see Carlisle, Skiles, Van Gundy, or even Ainge coaching next year. I'd rather see that douchebag who threw the pizza coaching. But, as always, Simmons has to end the article with another of his trademark wrap-up nostalgic statements. His articles are much more entertaining when you skip the last sentence. Which brings me to my:

Top Ten Simmons Lines That Could End Any Of His Articles:

10. the kid with the oversized glasses trusted Red completely. So did everyone. And watching that tiny version of myself on TV ... I couldn't help but feel a little jealous.

9. A little piece of me died that day. A little piece of all of us did.

8. Sports? "Just a game"? I don't think so.

7. I was smiling at the outcome of the game, but I was smiling more at my daughter smiling. She finally got it.

6. As far as body parts go, boxing's about fists and skulls, sure. But in the end, it's about heart.

5. And if you want to talk nicknames, I'll take "Legend" any day.

4. Maybe so. But I know one thing: pitchers and catchers report in 67 days...

3. He was, simply put, the best. And for once, I'm not talking about sports. I'm just ... a Guy.

2. The Sports Gal used to say that "the agony and the ecstasy" was stretching it a bit. She doesn't say that anymore. Sometimes, I wish she would.

1. And Now I Can Die In Peace. Really.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ketchup and Big Wheels

Finally. Video Evidence to back up my claim of innocence in The Ketchup Squirting Incident of this past January.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Uh, VTK, you're dressed in McDonalds' colors and are clearly squirting ketchup at the camera. How are you innocent? I'm innocent of the high crime of an unsolicited, unwelcome ketchup assault. You can clearly hear me saying "three" at the beginning of the video, as in "ready? one, two, three" *squirt*. Were this squirt unsolicited or unwelcome, the camera would not have still been pointed at the container in question at this stage in the count. And no, I did not just say "three" and squirt; that's not my style. I should also point out that none of this is debated by any of the involved parties. I'm just pleading my innocence for the official internet record.

Also, speaking of my style, they're not "McDonalds' colors"; they're the colors of my oft-sported Bel Biv Davoe look (more effective when I wear my green carharts (and my eight ball jacket (and shave three strips in the sides of my head))).

And on the other side of the Ketchup - Big Wheel Dialectic, here's a video of the 4th Heat of the Lombard St. Big Wheel Race on Easter Sunday, 2007, San Francisco (both vids are courtesy of VTK reader, AKBoognish):

This video cracks me up in an oddly staggered way. I laughed on and off in 30 second intervals. The action is pretty much the same throughout. It just seems to strike me as funny, then gets old, then gets funny again because it's still happening, then not, then yes, then not. Overall though: funny. Partially because it's Heat 4, so there are at least 4 times this many people participating.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Yankees.4.7 - Opening Day

And we're off! Improbable Opening Day starter Glass Carl Pavano chucked the first pitch of the Yankees.7 campaign outside for a ball. But then he got out of the inning with only one hit and no runs. And he didn't break his leg walking to or from the mound. Nice job, Carl. 10 minutes into the season, A-Rod makes his first error and gets booed. 30 minutes into the season he strikes out with men on 2nd and 3rd. Nice job, Alex. Then the Giambino drives em in as the next batter. Nice job, Jason (not sarcasm). They're really working Kazmir right now - 30 pitches in the first so far. Doesn't quite seem the same without Bernie Baseball out there. It's the right move for the team, but we miss you, Bernie.

2:45 - sloppy game by the Bombers so far. Three errors by the infield. Pavano yanked in the 5th to a smattering of boos.

3:19 - Mr. Clutch comes through! Ah, but you knew he would. MVP! MVP! MVP!

3:42 - "Give Credit Where Credit Is Due" Time - A-Rod got a generous single call on a hardly hit ball that got by the SS, but he made the most of it by stealing second and coming around to score from second on the great arm of Delmon Young to put the pinstripes in the lead. Get on, get over, get in. Third RBI for Giambi. Farnsworth's hitting 100 right now.

4:00 - A-Rod makes good with two big insurance runs on his first dinger of the year. He jumped out for a curtain call pretty quickly, but hell, go ahead, Alex. We need a big year from you. Get your confidence going. And the Sandman takes the mound...

4:11 - 3 up, 3 down, 3 K's!!! Yankees win. THE Yankees win.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sunday Driving

I reserved a zip car this morning from 11:30 to 2:00 so that I could make the 30 minute drive up to Lynn to pick up my paintings and bring them back home. I woke up, took a shower, and bought a coffee, but was still a little groggy by the time I got to the spot where the car was supposed to be parked. To my surprise, my reserved Scion named "Brent" was not there. Emmanuel was there, Francona was there, but no Brent. I started to walk home to call zipcar (I should get a cell phone) when I saw Brent at a stop light. I motioned to the woman and she realized that she was late and that I must be the person who had Brent reserved for 11:30, so she pulled over, apologized and we made the transfer. No problem. I was hitting the road at 11:40 and the good folks at the Gulu Gulu Cafe said "noonish" so I should get there around on time. Still with only a couple sips of coffee in me I set off on Mass Ave, figuring I'd take Mem Drive to the Longfellow Bridge and follow the signs to Lynn on the other side of the river (I forgot the directions but I've navigated that way successfully before). Seems like you should stay to the right to get onto the bridge that goes across the river to your right. Nope. That brings you under the bridge towards Lechmere and Charlestown. I realized I had forgotten my bag with the sheets and towels that I use to transport the paintings without scratching them. But it was already 11:50 and I'd lose another 15 minutes if I circled back, so I decided to keep going. I saw a sign for Everett and some route going North, so I headed that direction. All of a sudden I was on 93 North and I couldn't remember exactly where that went, but figured it was North which was the right direction and there'd be a sign for a cutoff to Chelsea, Lynn, Salem and the area. Nope, no sign. For some reason I still thought there was a way to salvage this route. Nope. Eventually, I realized that I was almost in New Hampshire and I decided to jump on 495, because that brings you east, probably back to Essex or Gloucester or something and then I'll just shoot south down the coast. ... nope. 495 goes Northeast or Southwest. At this point I was pissed, in North Andover, and really late (I should get a cell phone). I finally pulled over and found a map in the glove compartment. Obviously, I was way off course and had absolutely no idea what the Northeastern part of the state looked like (North Shore's for Italians, South Shore's for Irish). But it looked like I could take 28 South and shoot down to 129 East, and then pop over to 1 and make it a scant 45 minutes late. Well, there's no shooting or popping down that route and nothing scant about it. And fucking Sunday drivers everywhere, driving 10 mph UNDER the speed limit. And pompous looking Philips Academy twats walking around and yuppie Wakefield couples out for a Sunday walk along the water. And road rage exploding out of every pore in my body. 90 minutes after I took over Brent's helm from the other driver, I arrived at my destination. I should have called zipcar to try to extend my reservation but ... (I should get a cellphone). I called from the cafe and after 10 minutes on hold, the representative told me that someone else reserved the car for 2 PM and there would be a $50 fine if I was late. So I grabbed the paintings, chucked them in the car as quick as possible, got my money, and hit the road at 1:31. I drove like a maniac, screamed like a maniac, and missed the exit for the Tobin bridge like a maniac. I dished out the $5.50 for the Pike but it was already 1:55. I was screwed. I unloaded the paintings and got the car back to its spot by 2:20, 20 minutes and 50 dollars too late. But when I got home, there was a message on the machine from my favorite zipcar representative of all time who had tracked down the person who reserved it for 2:00, convinced them to make it 2:30, and extended my reservation to 2:30 so I wouldn't get the late fee. Thanks zipcar. You rule.

And now for a completely unrelated cartoon by nataliedee, sent to me by Dearest Cupcake:

Yeahr they will.