Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Zombieproofin', Drunken Lawn Moving, 0-0-100

Chronicling Southwest Louisiana and the Cajun World


Those who think of Louisiana as bringing up the bottom of lists may or may not know the state is near the top of the list when it comes to zombie-proof architecture.

With NASA releasing a paper on what should be done if aliens invade, maybe it’s not such a bad idea for Louisiana architects to be thinking of ways to use architecture to circumvent the zombie threat. The architectural firm behind the recent Zombie Safe House Competition effort is Architects Southwest, which is based in Lafayette. Artists, architects and others were invited to submit designs for structures that could best withstand a fierce attack of zombies.

One entry was the Zombie Ranch, which is (hypothetically, of course) powered by a big turbine that’s turned by zombies as they chase around bait traps. Other designs feature houses that float on air or are built into cliffs or atop abandoned oil rigs. One design looks exactly like a birdhouse.

You can see the entries at Architects Southwest will have chosen a winner by the time this issue hits the stands.

Zombie movies have long considered the relation of architecture to the zombie menace. In George Romero’s first zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, barricading oneself in a solidly constructed basement turned out to be the one viable defense against zombies. Subsequent Romero films explored the feasibility of keeping a shopping center, a military bunker and a high rise free of zombie infestation. The films have shown that architecture is only as good as the people who use it and that zombies are hard to stop.

You Mean That’s Illegal Too?

Please excuse me for delaying the Up Front look at the vital October elections while I make a brief police report. In the last Up Front, it was revealed that the Ville Platte gubment had outlawed the act of walking on Ville Platte streets. Now, it might be possible to convince a Louisianan he couldn’t walk on his own street at night. But what Louisianan worth his salt would ever submit to being forbidden to driving his riding mower while he was drunk?

Bobby Punch, a 22-year-old resident of Lafourche Parish, was recently obliged to endure the indignity of being arrested while he was on his own lawnmower. Punch probably hurt his case somewhat with his apparent inability to keep his riding mower in his own lawn. After cutting down some shrubs in a neighbor’s lawn, Punch took his mower on the road, forcing cars on Highway 1 to back up behind his mower.

Nothing puts a Louisianan in greater jeopardy than forcing other drivers to slow down. Police were all the more interested in that Punch was in the mood to drive on both sides of the center line.
After they arrested Punch, police found that he had a blood alcohol concentration of .312. They obliged him to take a sobriety test at the station. In an unintentionally humorous note, WVUE-TV reported that Punch “performed poorly.”

One of several crimes Punch was charged with was “Not Driving on the Right Side of the Road.”

Election Report No. 2,109

The races for lt. governor and secretary of state turned out to be real mud-slingin’ and character-assasinatin’ smackdowns. It was fascinating stuff, but not fascinating enough to get the public interested in the races.

Predictions were correct; barely a third of Louisiana voters made it to the polls for the elections of statewide offices, such as those of governor and lt. governor. It was the most anemic turnout since at least 1975.

It will go on that way for a while. In Louisiana, the Republican Party is in like flint and the Democratic Party is in a rout. The Democrats will eventually rebuild and become aggressive opponents. But I predict that process will take quite a while.

You’d think that transitional process might slow down the flow of political news in the state. Most likely it won’t. Any party that’s in power eventually grows accustomed to power, gets complacent and starts making mistakes. Things will stay interesting.

Of course, on the local front, there was election news that came as a great relief to all, regardless of political affiliation. The great anxiety about who the next tax assessor is now at an end. With the cessation of the long-term agonizing about the outcome of the tax assessor’s race, stress-related illnesses in the are will decrease, and workers will no longer call in sick, or will simply find themselves unable to get out of bed as they struggle with and succumb to the mental anguish of tax assessor uncertainty.
One thing’s for sure: no trial or tribulation we go through hasn’t been endured by others who came before us. I remember many and many a time hearing an elder at the old country breakfast table saying, “Lord, I just don’t think I’m goin’ to be able to relax and enjoy my biscuits and gravy until I know who the tax assessor is goin’ to be.” Well, now we can all rest easy and get back on our feed.


The Up Fronter keeps reading that the Republican presidential candidates want not only to roll back taxes on the rich but also to increase taxes on the middle class. Pooyee! Have the Republican candidates developed a taste for the wacky weed? If I’d spent a decade trying to think of a more effective way to come in second to Obama in spite of it all, I wouldn’t have been able to think of a more surefire election loser.

One of the Republican candidates, Herman Cain, has a tax plan he calls 9-9-9. Part of the plan is that a 9 percent sales tax will be imposed on the entire U.S. population. Imagine that. You wake up one morning and all your expenditures increase by 9 percent. Now that’ll put a spring in your step, eh?
It’s been a while since I mentioned my campaign for president in the Up Front column. But I am running for president and my campaign is almost as hot as Buddy Roemer’s. I’ve come up with my own tax plan. I call it 0-0-100.

Here’s how it works. I pay 0 percent tax, people who make more than $250,000 pay 0 percent tax and people who make less than $250,000 pay 100 percent tax. I think this bold plan will eliminate once and for all the tiresome discussion about whether rich people pay too much taxes and people who aren’t rich pay enough.

We Are in the Northern Hemisphere

Herman Cain may be getting some attention. But when it comes to making comments that trigger the raising of brows and dropping of jaws, Cain is still a neophyte in comparison to presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, who’s previously earned Up Front space with her unorthodox utterances. In an Oct. 19 Republican candidates debate, Bachmann said, “He [Obama] put us in Libya; he is now putting us in Africa.” This is like saying Obama put something in Monroe and is now putting it in Louisiana.
If Bachmann didn’t think Libya was in Africa, where did she think it was? Back in the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford said in a debate that Poland wasn’t communist, everyone figured (I guess) that Ford knew what continent Poland was in.

Not everyone could get worked up about it. The morning after the debate, the lead story on Google News was “Ohio Police Hunt Escaped Wild Animals.” As the guy in Anchorman says, “Ooo, that’s a hot lead.” The Republicans could get more coverage for these debates if they could knock the number down to five or six a day.

More on Avoiding Victory

The award for Funniest Political Tweet of the Issue goes to Time columnist James Poniewozek who wrote “Herman Cain leads NYT/CBS poll. Does he have enough time, staff to avoid winning the GOP nomination.”

The day the poll was released must have been a very bad day indeed for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was able to muster only 6 percent.

Don’t Be The Last To Be Steampunked

What's the hip new word everyone is using? Steampunk! No consumer product or experience wants to be the last consumer product or experience on the block to describe itself with this awesome, bodacious and extremely popular term.

Let’s see what’s new in your steampunk world. Of course, there’s Tim Burton's automated feature Steampunk Willie, in which Micky Mouse subdues Pete with coal gas delivered through a hookah. Justin Beiber's new CD, My Little Steampunk Girl, is set to drop any day. There’s the new talent show, Bristol Palin's Steampunk Explosion, and two new reality TV shows: Steampunk Brides, in which brides-to-be compete to incorporate the heaviest amount of cast iron into their bridal dresses, and Steampunk Staten Island, in which a group of young, photogenic boot models sit around a luxury loft drinking beer, cursing, whining and listening to Rasputina MP3s.

Finally, look for the two New York Times bestsellers The Huff and Puff Principle: Using The Green Steampunk Law Of Attraction To Grow Your Life by Victoria, Mistress of Charlton Grange, and the latest Sookie Steampunk vampire novel Dead As A Hydraulic Punch Press.
Still not sure exactly what steampunk is? Just watch that old Will Smith movie Wild, Wild West and you’ll know everything there is to know about it.

‘This Has Got To Be Weird’

Now, to shift the focus to something that really is hip, word is that Tim Burton is working on a film version of the hippest of old TV shows, Dark Shadows, and Johnny Depp will play the suave and sinister vampire Barnabas Collins. Burton is just the man to tell the story and Depp is ideal for the role of Collins.

An entertainment blogger for Yahoo incorrectly identified Dark Shadows as a 1970s show. While episodes aired briefly in the 1970s, the show became a controversial hit in the mid-1960s. The Up Fronter can remember being forbidden to watch the program when he was a young boy. Depp says, in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, “I do remember, very vividly, practically sprinting home from school in the afternoon to see Jonathan Frid play Barnabas Collins. Even then, at that age, I knew — this has got to be weird.”

Dark Shadows was a cult phenomenon from the beginning, and the Yahoo story may be an early instance of the sort of thing that will take place as young writers struggle to pin down a pop culture phenomenon they’re unacquainted with.

Those who haven’t had the Dark Shadows experience are invited to watch the creepy adventures of Barnabas; his neurotic, vampiric assistant Willie; and the con man Jason, Willie’s silver-tongued partner in crime. DVDs of old Dark Shadows episodes are a little expensive if they’re bought at full price. But they’re available on Netflix for the regular prices.

News Counseling — $150 CHEAP!

The Up Fronter recently saw on the cover of some magazine — it might have been People — that Ashton Kuthcer and Demi Moore were going to marriage counseling. How, I wondered, is that going to work? I imagine it happening something like this:

Counselor: OK, so, uh, Ashton, you’re, like, uh … married … so, uh, you can’t uh, like, go to, uh, clubs by yourself and, like, spend the night with, uh, models.

Ashton: Wow! I never thought of that! That’s amazing advice. This marriage counseling stuff really works.

The whole thing gave me an idea for a new business — news counseling, which I’ll be happy to provide at a cost of $150 an hour. In the first session, I’ll explain that news about celebrities isn’t really news unless I write it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Your Governor Wants To See You ... NOW!

News From the Bayouland (and in particular, Lake Charles, La.)

Your Governor Wants To See You … NOW!

This was the big news from WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge: “44 percent of Louisiana's public schools have received a failing grade in the newest school performance scores.

 … Bobby Jindal has been briefed on the scores, the source says, and is said to be very disappointed.”

Uh oh. Governor is very disappointed. I wonder what happened to the schools. Were they spanked, or grounded, or maybe something even worse? I’m not a school, but I’m going to try really, really hard to be good and not disappoint governor.

I Just Love Your New System

The mutual admiration society whose members are Govs. Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry produced an interesting statement a while back, when Perry said, "When Bobby Jindal comes up with a new way to deliver health care … we'll snitch that in a minute and implement it in our state."

Perry, who was being interviewed on CNN at the time, apparently really did say "snitch" rather than "snatch." But I’m not one of those self-appointed arbiters of politics who judge a politician's performance in terms of whether he got a particular letter wrong. I’m a different kind of self-appointed arbiter of politics.

The key issue isn't Perry's vocabulary, but the little matter of whether Jindal's health care delivery system works. Then there's the equally little matter of whether Perry will in fact implement the system in Texas. Many of us are in the habit of thinking that when a politician promises to do a particular thing it's a clear sign the thing in question is exactly what he's planning not to do.

Almost Like No Election At All

For those who are overwhelmed by the tension of not knowing who the next Lake Charles, La., tax assessor will be, the upcoming election will be a matter of tremendous urgency. Others will be pleased that their nighttime viewing of True Blood and Dexter won’t be interrupted by any election updates.

In Baton Rouge, at least one major figure in the political sign business is on record as saying that the lackluster campaign is putting a hurt on revenue. "Business doubles in political years and triples in active political years," says Stephen St. Cyr, owner of Vivid Ink in Baton Rouge. "This is almost like an off year … The big races will be in 2012." Well, we've heard that before, haven't we? (St. Cyr was quoted in the Sept. 6 edition of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report.)

We can take consolation, though. This is Louisiana, and even if the elections are painfully bland, some shocking political event is bound to take place within days after the final results come in. Sooner rather than later, politics will once again get interesting in the Louisiana way.

Roemer’s Main Street Move

Some political junkies in Louisiana must have been surprised to read that longshot Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer supports the Wall Street protesters. But support them he does, and rather enthusiastically at that.

In a recent press release, Roemer wrote of “the young Americans currently taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement.” The ex-governor went on to make these dramatic comments:

“Please know that I stand by you … It is Main Street that is being foreclosed on; and it is Main Street that is suffering while the greed of Wall Street continues to hurt our middle class … Both parties are guilty of taking the big check and are bought by Wall Street … 

Wall Street grew to be a source of capital for growing companies. It has become something else: A facilitator for greed and for the selling of American jobs. Enough already.”

It’s possible these statements were made to draw attention to the Roemer campaign, which remains conspicuously marginal. As late as Sept. 7, Roemer was excluded from a debate of Republican candidates because he had failed to earn 4 percent of support in a single major national poll. I’m not sure the Roemer bandwagon is picking up riders even in his own state. It took two days for the story I’ve reported here to show up on the state news service The Dead Pelican.

Apparently, even Lake Charles is doing a riff off the the Wall Street protests. The Occupy Lake Charles walk is set to take off from the corners of Ryan and Alamo Streets at noon on Oct. 15. I wouldn’t bet the family inheritance on the long-term success of this movement in Lake Charles. But I suppose it’s good that some people still have the spirit. If any readers want to learn more about this, go on to Facebook and search for “Occupy Lake Charles.”

Walk While You Can

Suppose there was was a rash of burglaries in the town you lived in. How would you like your elected officials to respond?

I suppose many folks would suggest that local police do whatever they need to do, within the law, of course, to target car thieves. That might be seen, by many, as a straightforward, sensible approach.

The mayor and city council of Ville Platte, La., have a better way. Their idea is to make it illegal for citizens to walk on the streets of Ville Platte.

That’s right. The powers that be decreed it was illegal to walk in Ville Platte after 10 pm. People who got caught breaking the law could be fined $200 and given a 30-day jail sentence. I guessing the rationale was that things would be pretty rough for car thieves who ply their trade on foot.

That busybody organization the ACLU filed suit against the Ville Platte law. As usual, the ACLU was advancing a wacky left-wing notion, in this case, the notion that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees U.S. citizens the freedom to walk in their neighborhoods. Oh, one other thing — the ACLU also alleged the walking ban was “creating a monetary windfall for the City and thus, a tremendous incentive to continue the curfew.”

The area NAACP also got involved, apparently on the grounds that a lot of poor black people can’t afford to own cars and find themselves obliged to walk whether they want to or not. It sounds like a small version of what was going on after Katrina, when a bunch of white folks were saying, “Why didn’t those people leave New Orleans?” and a bunch of black folks in New Orleans were saying, “We don’t have cars!”

At any rate, the ACLU suit must have annoyed either the mayor or city council, as the law was suspended, at least temporarily.

That’s really too bad. This law would have freed Villa Platte law enforcement from the heavy burden of having to keep an eye out for pedestrian car burglars. It’s true that citizens would have been unable to take a walk at night. But in hard times, everyone has to  make a sacrifice. That’s what I’ve heard.
I’m going to give Ville Platte’s law a 7 on the Silly Scale, which will put it quite a bit higher than Lake Charles’ droopy drawers law, which only merits a six. It’s one thing for politicians to tell people how they have to wear their pants. But to tell people they can’t even walk down their own street — now that’s doing something.

Newshound Carries The Day

The Woofstock Festival took place at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Oct. 8, and it was a tremendous success — for my dog Barnabas! My wife, Nydia, dressed Barnabas up as the Lagniappe Newshound. He wore a fedora hat with a press pass and a stylish tie. He worked the crowd and aimed to please his many fans.

Barnabas managed to earn the 2nd place award in the dog beauty contest. I’m not sure exactly what qualities a dog must possess to win a beauty contest. But whatever they are, Barnabas must have them in droves.

There was a good turnout for Woofstock, with booths stretching from Lakeshore Drive to Bord du Lac. Everyone was preaching the gospel of dog rescues. (Barnabas, a relaxed and happy mastiff, was a rescue.)

Johnny “New York” Latham was the emcee of the event. He introduced me to a few members of the Flat Out Roller Derby team. A couple more members came over to introduce themselves to the Up Fronter and Barnabas when we were taking a well-deserved rest on a park bench. Johnny “New York” will keep Up Front readers informed about the next Flat Out Roller Derby bout, which will take place Nov. 20 at 5 pm at Skate City on Nelson Road.

Another star of the show was the T&I Culinary Institute, which was selling very tasty apple turnovers for just 50 cents per. The crust in these savory treats was rich and buttery. High school students who want to learn to cook appetizing foods are invited to check the institute out.

The Up Fronter wishes future Woofstocks success in promoting the cause of animal rescue.

A More Informativer Headline

What was the outcome of LSU quarterback Jefferson Jordan’s recent arrest for participation in a 1:30 am bar fight? Intellectual growth. Consider the following comments, which  Jefferson made in a Oct. 3 news conference:

“I'm a lot more wiser and I'm a lot more smarter than what I was back in August.” That was one of two times he used the phrase “more wiser” in his remarks.

I know I always become a lot more articulater and a lot more lucider and a lot more intelligibler when I read statements by big-name athletes who’ve acquired great wisdom from their brawling experience.

A reporter asked Jefferson if he wanted to apologize for what he did to the team. No, said Jefferson, he figured he didn’t need to apologize to the team because the team was there when it happened. Makes sense!

Besides, it wasn’t as if Jefferson really did anything. Consider his words: “I was just being a college student. I wasn't trying to get myself into trouble. I was just enjoying myself with my teammates. And a certain situation happened to me off of my popularity.” He didn’t do anything in this situation. The situation happened to him. I get it. I wonder, does it always work that way? For instance, the next time Jefferson throws a touchdown pass, will he think he did that or will he think the situation just happened?

I don’t know. But there’s one thing I’m pretty sure of. Every football fan thanks his lucky stars that a basic grasp of English grammar isn’t a prerequisite for a starting position on a university team.

The 10/12 Exit

After only four years, the publication of the big, glossy 10/12 magazine is coming to an end. The last print edition of 10/12 will roll out in November. The online operations will wrap up at the end of the year.

The magazine had been printed for four years by publisher Rolfe McCollister and his Louisiana Business Inc. in an effort to report business developments in Louisiana along the 10/12 corridor.
McCollister didn’t skirt the issue of the magazine’s premature death; in fact, the story about it was the lead story in the magazine’s internet newsletter. McCollister cited “the need to focus resources on new technologies,” and in particular, “the development of new online and digital distribution opportunities,” as reasons for the departure of 10/12. New websites for Louisiana Business publications 225 and inRegister are among the projects planned.

In this case, it may be that the corporation is being up front. In the last three years, consumer migration to the internet, and particularly internet usage on such devices as smartphones, has gutted the magazine and newspaper industries. It may be that in spite of its sophisticated layout, graphics and color schemes, 10/12 just wasn’t able to stem the tide.

The Bounty of Reality TV

After the recent suicide of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Russell Armstrong, we shouldn’t really need any reminders of the bounteous gifts that have been bestowed on our culture by reality television. But it looks like we’re going to keep getting the reminders anyway.

The latest reality TV blessing comes courtesy of former 16 and Pregnant stars Josh Rendon and Ebony Jackson-Rendon, who were just arrested for endangering the welfare of their 2-year-old daughter Jocelyn. On  Sept. 27, Arkansas Children and Family Services removed the girl from her home in the Little Rock Air Force Base. According to the police report, "every room in the residence had human and dog feces on the floors, walls and clothing. The house was full of flies and, in some areas, maggots."
The daughter wasn’t the only one removed from the squalid domicile; animal control took away three dogs.

In addition to the endangerment rap, Rendon and wife were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, the maintaining of a drug premise and unauthorized use of another person's property to facilitate a crime.

We don’t want to let the sensational nature of this story distract us from the merit of other reality television blessings. For instance, the title 16 and Pregnant is a blessing in itself.

And if all of that isn’t blessing enough for you, there’s this, just in from ABC: pastor Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Evangelical Association, is set to appear on the spin-off series Celebrity Wife Swap with his wife Gayle. According to the story, Haggard, who, in 2006, more or less admitted to engaging in homosexual activity, will pair up with a wife rather than a husband in the swap.

You Compressor, You!

I’m sure we all realize that from time to time politicians provide explanations and arguments most people won’t find really compelling. Let’s take an example. Suppose you’re a Florida Republican who’s responsible for scheduling Florida’s Republican straw poll. Would you be swayed by the recent argument by South Carolina GOP chairmain Chad Connelly? Said Connelly:

“If you guys in Florida want to be the bad guys and compress this calendar and lose out for all the voters in America and have a calendar that’s chaotic and compressed even if it’s against your own state GOP, then go for it."

So bad guys are guys who compress calendars. This Connelly fellow seems to be arguing that he owns the moral high ground as a result of his opposition to the highly abstract concept of the compression of time — or more specifically, calendar dates. Even those Republicans who do know what a compressed calendar is may reason something like this: “OK, if the worse that can happen is that we wind up compressing the calendar, then we’ll risk it.” After all, they haven’t gotten into politics as a result of their overwhelming passion for the proper regulation of calendars.

Connelly’s comments will have a profound effect on such crucial themes of the philosophy of time as the relatively of simultaneity, the causation solution, endurantism and perdurantism, and, of course, the central issue of the nature of the compression of time. The comments will, however, have no effect whatsoever on the U.S. electoral schedule. Connelly’s remarks were reported by The Hill on Sept. 29.