Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina

Much of the story of Hurricane Katrina lived on the internet as the city reconnected during its diaspora. When Cynthia Joyce went looking for one vital account for a course she was teaching, she found the site down and the piece forgotten. This inspired her search for the works that became Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina. Some of the writing included is famous and easily obtainable; a good percentage of the work is currently unavailable due to aging servers and broken links. Taken together, these pieces are powerful testament to the New Orleans blogging community who proved the internet could function as a crucial platform in a time of crisis.

Official Launch Party

WHAT: “Please Forward” launch party, featuring contributor readings and book signing

WHEN: Tuesday, August 18 at 7PM

WHERE: Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.)

Other events in New Orleans:

  • Thursday, Aug. 20, 6PM:  Octavia books reading/signing featuring readings by Deborah “Big Red” Cotton, Michael Homan, and Bart “Editor B” Everson (New Orleans, LA)
  • Saturday, Aug. 29, 10:30AM: Rising Tide Conference – “What if we’d had Twitter? — An exercise in anachronistic tweets” (New Orleans, LA)

Weighing In On Our Confederate Past

It’s amazing to be alive at the moment of the tipping point for a social movement: For my lifetime, they already include the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid in South Africa, Arab Spring, the extension of legal rights for women and for same-sex unions among many others.
What all of these have in common is that the demand for the expansion of human rights in these cases happened before the formal governing entity signaled that it was ready for the change or even in some cases, before the solid majority had decided to back the change.
All were hard-fought and seemed destined to fail at many points in their campaign. All had active opposition.
The removal of statues of Confederate leaders from public space is another tipping point in a country that is heading toward a time when whites will be a minority (by 2043).
The affronted use mockery (“Why don’t we remove all traces of Washington? HE owned slaves! Where will this end?”) or condescending treatises on “the real history”, as understood through a lifetime of racist schoolbooks and family members (“The war was about states rights and not about slavery, duh.”)
To me, the issues stated above mask the bigger truth: The lionization of the Confederate past of the South is a barrier to working together for the future and signals to people of color that whiteness is a privilege earned, when it is not. I don’t care what version or scope of history you subscribe to, although I may pity you. Have a statue of Lee in your backyard, but holding on the “Lost Cause” narrative in public places is a recipe for the continuing disintegration of our region and masks the true vibrancy of the South: that it is based on a multi-cultural, multi-generational belief in place, extreme socialization and culture handed down from person to person.
Statues of those who brought a civil war to defend a system that allowed people to be sold as chattel should not be kept in public spaces. Those of our forebears who participated in such a system but did so in previous times should be noted as having this stain on their biography, but it is not the same as those who killed fellow Americans to defend a system whose main economy was based on slavery when the tide was turning to freedom for all in the U.S.
Keep all of the statues and throw some Mardi Gras beads on em if you’d like, but put them in the Custom House or another place to properly frame their history as those who missed the opportunity to expand human rights for their neighbors, along with information on when the statues were commissioned and by whom. Put in their original place a true timeline of history that includes the length of time and number of people enslaved in that era.
All of this will prepare us for 2043 when we will be a new nation once again and allow us to be open to that tipping point.

And thank you to Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “The Warmth Of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” for writing this piece in the NYT about how symbols do help to define their time:

With the lowering of the Confederate flag in the state that was the first to secede and where the first shots were fired, could we now be at the start of a true and more meaningful reconstruction? It would require courage to relinquish the false comfort of embedded racial mythologies and to open our minds to a more complete history of how we got here. It would require a generosity of spirit to see ourselves in the continued suffering of a people stigmatized since their arrival on these shores and to recognize how the unspoken hierarchies we have inherited play out in the current day and hold us back as a country.

Rampart and Canal: “no-zone” through August

The looming logjam is necessary to allow Archer to install a so-called “half grand union,” an elaborate forking of track that eventually will let Rampart streetcarstravel toward the foot of Canal Street or jag to the right and continue along Loyola Avenue to the Union Passenger Terminal.

When a similar installation took place on the Loyola Avenue line, it took four months to finish.

This time, “we will actually complete this work in 30 days,” said project manager Martin Pospisil. “It’s going to be a non-stop, 24/7 operation.”


Every Single County in America Is Facing an Affordable Housing Crisis-CityLab

When people overreact about airbnb, I think I’ll bring this story up. Affordable housing has been in a crisis for some time, long before that site was created.
The lack of affordable housing issue comes from the same old greed that has allowed this crisis to happen in every place in the US (not all of which are airbnb-heavy counties): owners cashing in on the highest rates they can get for their property, whether the culprit are developers or homeowners. If you want to charge at the high end of market rates (whether through airbnb or Craigslist/classifieds or using brokers or any other system), then you are going to get a revolving door of tenants and those tenants are not going to care about the area or the neighbors. If you want to have responsible tenants, then map out something that works for both parties whether using airbnb, a handshake or Craiglist/classifieds or using brokers or any other system. As for those who use airbnb to decimate their neighborhoods: those folks have been around since the first days of the Industrial Age, using any means necessary to populate their slums. The way to counteract those slumlords is for a city government to take affordable housing seriously, and begin to address that issue without penalizing those homeowners (and yes renters) that use their property properly to offer good places to long-term neighbors and to the type of visitors interested in participating in community when they travel, and for short-term and newly arriving residents.
I find it ironic that those who are crying the loudest against airbnb are not now (and have never been noted for) demanding rent controls or incentives to increase long term affordable housing. (Interestingly, after Katrina, the vitriol against public housing was shocking and directed almost entirely at those trapped in the cycle of poverty for generations as their neighbors and neighborhood associations applauded the shuttering of well-built, brick townhouse and had no issue with the crap now being slowly built in its place with much of it reserved for market rate apartments.) I have been lucky for almost my entire renting life to have caring and responsible homeowners that I have rented from and they always repay my loyalty with their own, but too many of my friends are being priced out of the city because of this type of rampant market-rate greed that started IMMEDIATELY after Katrina (long before airbnb) and so lets call it what it is. I have long advocated for the city to offer tax credits for rent-controlled listings or at least for those who offer rates on the low end or middle. I think the DDD should offer incentives to the owners of Canal Street businesses to develop their upper floors for the service industry to be able to be in walking distance of their workplaces, and the same with the Quarter (as a resident, I can show you how many floors over storefronts are completely vacant; it would boggle your mind).
Airbnb done badly is just a symptom of that greed and outlawing it will not stop slumlords but will reduce the number of caring residents who use it responsibly to make the mortgage or to keep their apartment if they need to be away for a month or two. Airbnb offered the data in 2013 that 89% of their listing were single listings of primary residences. (If you suspect that data is 100% accurate, I will say that i have some skepticism just as I do about hotel data, but I can tell you that in my 20+ airbnb trips, all but 2 of them have been primary residences and those 2 were well-managed European hostel-style with strict rules about behavior.) As a constant traveler, I appreciate the ability to stay in a neighborhood and get to know residents, and to be able to walk to the store and to the metro or bus. I cannot tell you how many times before airbnb that I was in a hotel “zone” with no place to walk to get food and little access to public transportation, no one to talk to about what or where it was safe for a woman alone, adding up to what was often a stressful experience.
Check out these sensible recommendations for short-term housing (including different rates for primary residence airbnbs and a cap on the number of short-term rentals in any one area):…, but let’s recognize that the boogeyman has been among us for some time and cannot be solved by outlawing a sharing site.

Affordable Housing Crisis

Angeline-1032 Chartres Street

Opening soon at the old Stella space at Hotel Provincial is Angeline, opened by well-regarded chef Alex Harrell, last found at Sylvain, which earned 3 Beans in the T-P review (and here is my “review” too). We certainly needed another mid-priced restaurant with a creative menu and an ambitious chef for locals and for savvy visitors. I’ll look forward to making a reservation and will report back here of course.

The Angeline menu will include butter bean tortellini with redeye gravy; sherry-glazed shrimp with fried Meyer lemons and shaved radishes; and fried quail over hoecakes with local honey and hot sauce. The average price of the entrees will be $20

“I don’t want to price out the neighborhood and local business,” he said. “I want it to be a place where people feel comfortable coming in multiple times a week, maybe grab a starter and a glass of wine after work.”

Angeline is the middle name of Harrell’s mother. He wants his restaurant to reflect her personality.

“When I thought what I want the restaurant to be,” he said, “I want it to have that Southern charm. I want it to be friendly and inviting. Those are things that I associate with my mother.”


Went last week with writer pals Nancy and Bill and we had a grand time, excellent service and lovely food. We were originally seated in the lovely main dining room, but one of us wanted to sit in the front room (not me!) and we were immediately seated there. Unfortunately, that front room is low on personality and is a little like sitting in an waiting room, although having access to viewing the street is a plus. (Maybe they can knock down the wall that separates it from the bar and make that all one area, which I think would work very well. If they can’t knock it down completely, then even cutting a “window” between it and the bar would help.)

The main room looked great and two of us eyed it wistfully when we left! I guarantee we’ll sit there next time.

as for food:

I had two of the “starters” of southern fried quail made with local honey, their own hot sauce on a hoe cake and the crispy cauliflower (olivade aioli, sheep’s milk cheese); both were very good. One of us enjoyed the fish entree which had a goodly amount of fish (at first glance, it seemed small but was not). The last had two other starters and loved them as well-one was the chicken livers and arugula (with pickled blue berries, shaved red onion, Angeline buttermilk) and I think the other was the squash blossoms, but I was too busy with my quail. We all shared a nice brothy black eyed pea and collard green soup which was made with bourbon, bacon, smoky pork broth.

Drinks were good-one had asked for sherry and had the good luck of catching the general manager (I think?) on his way out who then stayed for a lively 20 minutes at our table discussing sherry, sent out a flight of choices for tasting and their own copy of the sherry bible to peruse as well as invitations to meet their sherry contacts in Spain for the two of us often there (not me!)

I had a gin drink which was tasty, well presented and a healthy size; the good size is so unusual for a restaurant these days (I’m getting tired of 10.00 cocktails that don’t match their description or are hastily or lightly poured- that is not the case at Angeline, I can assure you.)

Long story short- good menu with robust flavors using many locally sourced ingredients. Staff lovely and pleasant. Ambience good, but stick to main dining room.

yes will be back- after all, it is one of my neighborhood restaurants.


Many thanks to Abita Springs activist/artist John Preble for linking to this site today. Fascinating.

An escape room is a live-action puzzle where five to six people work together in a locked room to find clues that will eventually unlock the door. This is the first New Orleans version: