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August 2010

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Katrina Five Years Later

August 31, 2010

It's been five years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans. The Crescent City has been slowly rebuilding, but there is still much to be done. It's been tough for a lot of the survivors, but there have also been some good stories.

The public education system has made a turn for the better, although you need to read the progress "in context". reports on it with Katrina rewrites the book on education in New Orleans.

Heart Like Water by Joshua Clark about Hurricane Katrina When I visited Mississippi in February of 2007 (a trip dedicated to research and interviews for my book, Believer Poet: The Mission and Early Life of Ahrend H. Walters (more here), I saw firsthand a lot of the devastation still prevalent a year and a half after the storm. Katrina forever changed certain things about the region, but I've been impressed with the fortitude of the many good folk who live there. You can find out more about the stories of people who lived through this hurricane at Be sure to investigate Heart Like Water, a memoir by Joshua Clark containing hundreds of survivor stories. The book has become a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award.

Also, thanks to Marcy Davis (fellow APH member) for these two links:
Telling Their Stories (a legacy of Hurricane Katrina in photographs
NPR - The Legacy of Huriccane Katrina

August 28, 2010

Martin Luther King March on Washington 1963Today marks the 47th anniversary of the civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom rally. On the Washington Mall the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his most stirring speeches, the one known for his "I have a dream" statement (see it on

Perhaps it is timely to recall this speech and its theme at this crucial point in our nation's history. And it behooves us as well to remember the Civil Rights movment of the 1960's. Eyes on the Prize tells the definitive story of the civil rights movement and is a critically aclaimed series that has aired on PBS (more here).

August 23, 2010

Concluding a Life Story Book or Video

One of the most challenging parts of a life story book or videobiography is how to wrap it up. The final chapter needs to have substance, to sum up and to express something of great importance. That's not easy to do, particularly if the subject is still alive. It's not the end of life...just the end of the life story (so far).

One of the things you can do is comment on those things that matter the most. Your philosophy of life, what your hopes and dreams are for your family, your children, the future. If you are telling your story to another make sure that you discuss this. If you are the personal historian it behooves you to come up with some good questions for these areas.

Dan Curtis comments on this topic with his posting, How to End Your Book or Video Life Story. He also has some good questions for those who are approaching the end of life and dealing with the approaching finality. You can take those same questions and customize them for the conclusion of a life story. I also recommend looking at these "purpose" questions.

August 22, 2010

A bit of honesty. I've had quite a long week and while I know how important it is to maintain consistency in sharing life story ideas, insights and techniques I've been, well, just too busy and tired to do much posting. And, yes, I'm feeling a bit of guilt about that.

Out of this self reflection is the lesson that we all need to take time to prioritize and do what needs to be done. Writing here is important and a privilege. It's also important to take time for other things (family, friends, school and the myriad projects I have going). Even taking more time to do some good reading.

So since I just "pulled back the curtain" a bit here...take heart if you aren't getting all of your "to do" list done. Do what you can. But live and experience life fully. That type of living is not making checkmarks next to tasks - it's being conscious and present to each moment.

August 18, 2010

Girl Scouts Oral History Project   

Back in June I commented about the Boy Scouts of America commemorating their 100th anniversary this year with special merit badges. In 2012 the Girl Scouts will turn 100 and they are preparing for their centennial by creating an oral history project.

The project will be filmed and they are looking for Girl Scout alumni to share their experiences and they will use current girls scouts to interview those alumni. Should be an interesting project. You can get more info here. And if you share your story I think you should at least get a box of cookies!

August 14, 2010

Rhythm Feat

There are certain rock bands that have flown under the radar of mass commercial success, but by my own inner rating mechanism were as good as it gets. One of those bands was Little Feat, a group my college buddy (and later radio colleague) John Florence introduced me to. Man, that band could groove! They were funky, rhythmic, soulful and eclectic. Lowell George had a sinewy slide guitar style and a vocal styling to match. The keyboards by Billy Payne were New Orleans jangle-jive jumpin', Paul Barrere was a killer second guitar (later to assume first guitar prominence after Lowell's sad death in 1979), the bass playing of Roy Estrada was a steady bottom beat that thumped it just right and Sam Clayton had some fine percussive/congo/maracas contributions.

Drummer Richie Hayward of Little FeatBut it was the special drumming rhythms of Richie Hayward that propelled the song beats to another level. To me he was highly intuitive and I just loved the way he played drums. Sadly Richie has passed away from liver cancer. He was awaiting a transplant, but it didn't come in time. However, as a lasting legacy we do have his numerous great musical contributions of Hayward (he also did a lot of studio work). I will always love Little Feat. Their music reaches me in the depths of my soul. I was fortunate to see them in concert the first time during that wildly expressive mid-to-late 1970 time period and it made a special impression on me.

Check out this Little Feat performance of "Cold, Cold, Cold" from the Pinkpop Music Festival in the Netherlands in 1976 (courtesy of to hear Hayward's fine drumming sensibility.

August 11, 2010

Do you recognize any of these names: Morrie Yohai, Edwin Perkins, Arch West or Walter Diemer?

They are all inventors of "junk food" - or guilty pleasures, if you prefer. Morrie Yohai was a World War II veteran who passed away recently (July 27) at the ripe age of 90. He's responsible for Cheez Doodles. You can thank Walter Diemer for thousands of happy bubble blowing kids. While an accountant for Fleer Chewing Gum Company in Philadelphia he came up with Dubble Bubble gum. Edwin Perkins invented Kool-Aid and Arch West gave us Doritos. 

Despite the "less-than-nutritional" value of such foodstuffs these people are part of our culture's history. Personal products often contain fascinating stories. Andrew Smith has discovered this and published the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. I just gave you some fun cocktail party chatter or water cooler talk. Share and watch your friends chew on that bit of Americana. You can read more with the NY Times story by Manny Fernandez, Let Us Know Praise the Great Men of Junk Food.

August 6, 2010

Hiroshima - 65 Years Later

Sixty-five years ago today the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima in Japan. Along with the bomb dropped on Nagasaki it effectively brought about the surrender of Japan and the end of World War Two. Ending the war was good. Nuclear death - um, not so much.

The United States sent a delegation this year to the anniversary memorial services in Japan. That's a first. Let's hope that we - all of mankind - can move towards a nuclear weapon free world. For your thoughts I give you a link to the Hiroshima Peace Site. And thanks to adekun's Japan blog for the image below ( The blog contains information on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Hiroshima Memorial

August 3, 2010

3-D viewmasterRemember those classic viewfinders of your youth? If you are (ahem) in my age group you probably do. Mattel made the Viewmaster and I loved looking at the pictures through them. Insert a circle of photos, click to move the viewfinder to each photograph and see it in 3-D. Pretty cool.

Brian May, guitarist for the rock band Queen (who also is quite the scholar with a PhD) has finished up a project that utilizes stereoscopic photography of a 150-year old village in England. He's put together a book, "A Village Lost and Found: Scenes in Our Village", and packaged it with a 3-D viewer he and his collaborator, Elena Vidal, created (available from Amazon). Pretty impressive stuff for a rock guitarist (did I mention he has a PhD?). Story here.

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