Tuesday, February 28

Six Months Later...Part 1

Life goes on in typical New Orleans fashion, carrying on under the deserved appellation, "The City That Care Forgot".

The crowds were small and the costumes wickedly satirical as Mardi Gras built toward its boozy climax Tuesday in this hurricane-buckled city that could use a few laughs.

The culmination of the eight-day pre-Lenten bash fell nearly six months to the day after the Aug. 29 storm that smashed thousands of homes and killed more than 1,300 people, the vast majority of them in New Orleans.

"I lost everything," Andrew Hunter, 42, said as he sat on the steps of his ruined home on Jackson Avenue. "But what the heck. This helps us keep our spirits up, and we need all the help we can get with that."

Even amid the typical debauchery including early morning drinking, flashes of bare breasts and skimpy costumes in the French Quarter there was no escaping reminders of the storm.
I grew up in New Orleans and spent most of my adult life there. As a kid I remember the expectancy of going to the parades with friends and relatives. Collecting parade doubloons became an enjoyable obsession. Downtown New Orleans parades have historically attracted more out-of-towners, while most of the locals are drawn to the krewes, as they're called, parading in the suburbs. Later in my life the debaucherous side of Mardi Gras became apparent as the Spirit of God opened my understanding to sin and its deleterious effects. Most of what is written and televised about Mardi Gras concerns itself with this aspect, although the surburban parades take on more of a family atmosphere if one can excuse the token lost drunks in search of their car keys. I recall how my wife and I, after having given our lives to Christ in 1979, found ourselves at the Cabildo, shivering in a cold February rain and suddenly wondering why we were there at all, as Jesus held our affections and the attractions of Mardi Gras became pale by comparison.

I've been curious to see some of the physical effects of Katrina since it happened and got my chance over the last couple of days to travel down to New Orleans to assist a family moving to Atlanta. I don't hold it as any coincidence that today marks 6 months almost to the day that Katrina took its toll. From Kenner to Metairie to lower Gentilly to the much talked about Ninth Ward to St. Bernard parish, every area bore the marks of an unimaginable devastation. As I travelled the streets and walked in neighborhoods I remembered in happier times, I found myself unable to grasp the magnitude of what has happened. It may be trite to say but pictures and video alone can do it no justice. As one who has been there, the scope is so vast and the tragedy in some places so deep that restoration is quixotic. The park next to where I lived as a child, where I played ball and remember Christmas gift giveaways and visits by Santa Claus, is now a FEMA trailer city, complete with a guarded security entrance. The building in the background is the Catholic church where I attended and served as an altar boy (yeah, I was a decent kid at one time, before questioning myself right out of Catholicism, but that's a story for another day.)The frustrations of residents are advertised in various ways throughout the city. I found an "Evacuate Broussard" bumpersticker (Aaron Broussard is the president of Jefferson Parish who is most noted for his tearful performance during a Meet The Press interview in the aftermath of Katrina in which some of his statements were later discovered to have contained some "inaccuracies") on the back of a truck while driving in Metairie and painted signs such as this one on homes and placards. This one reads "Thanks State Farm for our new roof. We will need it. Ha Ha". New Orleans WWL radio runs a regular evening show in which callers can speak their minds to local government officials brave enough to weather (pun intended) the onslaught of outraged residents. And the outrage is palpable.

Part 2 later...

Friday, February 24

The little parody that could

Doesn't seem like much of a stretch, now does it? Seems like someone in this canned, plasticized, commercialized world would've come up with a Sim-Church equivalent some time ago...2 gigs harddrive space required for installation. After all, isn't it great having such a vast selection of christian books on everything from spiritual weigh loss to church marketing, to choose from to encourage the believers en mass (no pun intended)? Christian bracelets, christian ties, christian shirts, christian necklaces and christian breathmints all ensure we're properly adorned as we buddy up with our christian friends at christian churches listening to the latest christian worship tunes on a typical Sunday morning before we drive off to the local christian eatery, only to vaguely recall the life-changing sermon we've just heard as a "good" one.

I don't mean to suggest that all mega-churches are so vain. Many do great works. Typical mega-church members are no different than those of average churches, though. It's just that people in mega-churches can hide in a crowd, away from the view of accountability. I recognize that there is a marketing make-over going on in many churches as leadership becomes growth focused. Success means reaching numeric membership plateaus, while spiritual and doctrinal benchmarks have reduced significance.

So..."Dream the dream. Build it YOUR way. Preach as little as you want. Write a book series that breaks into the New York Times bestseller list. Discover an obscure scripture verse that makes millions in spinoff sales. Guest ministers preach as your church grows to mammoth proportions!"

Friday, February 3

Ingenious beer consumption promos

In the event you're too busy consuming various and sundry edibles and drinkables during the game to notice, Super Bowl XL's commercials will show up here. Last year's commercials are currently there as well, in case the spots were so memorable as to make you spill your bag of Doritos.

Isn't it fascinating to see the many ways Anheuser Busch can advertise beer without mentioning it?