Readers' advisory happens purely by accident...when we're not looking

by tosca on Thursday, November 12, 2009

Paul often makes provocative statements to challenge our staff and to encourage healthy debate - and then sit back and fan the flames. Yesterday he outdid himself. He said something that got right up my left nostril - and then he laughed. EVIL MAN. And it wasn't even his own comment LOL He said that readers' advisory only happens when we're out and about in the collections (maybe shelving or when wandering aimlessly around the aisles, I dunno) and when staff talk amongst themselves. Is he out of his ever lovin' mind? Yes. He is. But that's incidental to his statement heh.

And my response was, 'Bollocks!' If those are the only places we, as professionals, are gettin' a little readers' advisory lovin' then we're doin' it oh so wrong, and have been for ages. I'm desperately hoping that's not the case. I am always talking books - with customers, in my newsletters, in emails, in GoodReads, with friends - all 2 of them (I tell myself it's quality not quantity), with family, at the bank, on the bus, on the train, on the plane - I do not like them, Sam I get the idea.

I moved from a tertiary library to public libraries because I wanted to live and breathe readers' advisory. I realised that I do more of that these days in GoodReads with virtual strangers than I do with actual customers. I miss it. Which is prob why I make every opportunity an RA opportunity. OMG that is such a cheerleader moment *cue tear* Meh. Nevermind 'Bring back Buck!' I say 'Bring back books!'

And that's what I learnt at school today, Mum. Pfft. And now I'm sending this link to Paul LOL

If I f2f with you now...will you still respect me in the morning?

by tosca on Thursday, November 5, 2009

When is it ok to socialise with your colleagues? When is it not ok? Maybe when you've both had a snootful and you wake up in Hamilton with your pyjamas on and can't remember how you got there (surely I cannot be the only one with a story like this?) it's a good time to say, 'Whoa, horsie.' Is it even an issue? What kind of socialising is ok? We tweet and FB and Bebo and Google Wave at each other outside of work hours in a very familiar and social way - is this considered socialising? And if we do get rip snorting, falling down drunk at our weekly quiz night...will we still respect each other in the morning? I think it is ok because I'm a big girl with my pull ups (WOW). And so are my colleagues.

Every Wednesday a few of us play geek after hours (come on, who doesn't?) and go kick butt at Finn McCool's weekly quiz night. We grab a meal, kick back and relax before the quiz. It even involves alcohol *gasps* How daring! It's something we've done for a few months now while I've been out of the branches and, even though I'm officially no longer a part of 'them' (branch staff serving customers) neither is it an insurmountable issue. But it is something I've been considering lately. Enough to discuss it with the group I hang out with and, after much waving of forks and jabbing of spoons (no eyes were lost in this discussion...this time), we came to the following conclusion: they don't have an issue - I don't have an issue. HEY there's no issue.

So maybe...just maybe...others don't either? Note the use of the question mark.

And if it is an issue do we knock it all on the head? Does that mean no Christmas dinners? No birthday get togethers to sing 'For he's a (sometimes but not always and usually the best time to catch him is after he's had his morning coffee) jolly good fellow'? Do we avoid each other if we meet after hours in the supermarket, shopping mall, lingerie shop, stripjoint? At 5pm each day do I forever after avert my eyes lest I be tempted to give in to the sin of encouraging you to f2f with me? If it is a mountain then who decides which situation is a mountain and which a molehill? Me? The other person? Management? Who draws the line and do they draw it with something other than a neon pink crayon? I was never good at colouring in the lines as a child. I imagine much hasn't changed now. Meh.

I would imagine that it's all decided on an ad hoc basis in most organisations and, to be honest, I'm not even sure if we have a clearcut policy about the fraternisation of colleagues outside of office hours - perhaps it's not an issue. I'd like to think it's not - I'm gonna be Pollyanna-ish about it (I know SHOCKING that's twice in two days - hold on now).

So I have learnt this week that I can socialise with colleagues after hours and still remain professional. I think I am now officially a grown up.

Note: f2f = face to face, FB = FaceBook (this is for my quiz colleagues - and you all know who you are - who refuse to meet me in these places) *rolls eyes*
Please note: that while we met amicably and discussed over dinner whether or not we are able to maintain a professional manner during the weekdays, when the quiz is on - LOOK OUT - it's no holds barred and any sense of decorum goes out the window. Although I will still respect you in the morning :)

OMG - the Gaiman cometh!

by tosca on Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I have just heard that Neil Gaiman is coming to New Zealand. I heard it in Twitter must be true, right?

I was hanging out on Twitter and saw that @bookiemonsternz had a new blog post up and took a peek at it and almost started screaming and then fired back a cool response: OMG@bookiemonsternz is that for real?! Is @neilhimself coming to NZ?! (how cool and unflustered was I? Huh?)

And she was all like: @Manukau_Libs Would I lie to you? Would I? Nopes, I would not. :)

I go: OMG I so gotta go! @Manukau_Libs is going to be there. With bells on :) #NZFest2010 - Town Hall Talk: Neil Gaiman -

Now all of us NZ-librarians/libraries/library assistants are discussing the wonder that is @neilhimself. I'm so excited I could pee my pants. Although I won't. But I could!

I've already put in for annual leave and told my boss just now. YAY ME I'm going to see the Gaiman. Hopefully he doesn't cancel *gulps*

I heart him much *sigh*

Quickie review - Ask your father : fifty things your father should have told you but probably didn't by Michael Powell

by tosca on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Title: Ask your father : fifty things your father should have told you but probably didn't
Author: Michael Powell
Year: 2005
Genre: Non-fiction
Age Group: Adult

Quote: Our fathers teach us how to be men by example; it is our choice whether to follow.

Summary: Michael Powell's very funny and, at times, quaint book is a collection of fifty things he believes a father should teach their son. This book is for the times when your dad is not available - whether by choice or by circumstance - to help you.

Review: I spent quite a bit of time laughing out loud, groaning in exasperation and, at times, cringing at some of the advice contained within this tiny book - but it was time well spent.

Separated into four categories (Style and etiquette, Women, Machinery, DIY & fixing stuff and Being a real man) you'll find every situation covered - from 'How to unclasp a bra with one hand' to 'Mobile phone etiquette' to 'Jump starting a vehicle' to 'Behaving in a strip club.'

Powell brings great sensitivity and humour, and the added bonus of very cool 1950s looking photos, to what is surely an unusual subject. A very funny book that gave me a quirky insight - as both a daughter and as an interested observer - into fatherhood. It always looks easy in the movies and after reading this book I know for a fact it isn't, but it sure does look fun. I learnt something I never knew I needed to know: I wear a bra and that doesn't, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that I automatically know how to get out of it one handed. Now I do - although I'm not sure how, as a girl, that life skill will help me at all. If ever.

Further recommendations:
Boys will put you on a pedestal (so they can look up your skirt) : a dad's advice for daughters by Philip Van Munching
No tattoos before you're thirty : what I'll tell my children by Sam de Brito

It's ok to disagree - the world will not end...

by tosca

My mother's a counsellor so that whole 'I'm ok, you're ok' that seems like so much kaka is kinda normal in our household (even though I think it IS kaka). I see it like this: I'm ok that my siblings are all nuts. See? It works. I'm also ok that most of the time we fight. About stupid things. About serious things. That's life. We get in a ruckus and we get over it. I still have to live near them. I still have to see them at birthdays and reunions. The world did not end because they booed my thought that we should stop adhering to the commercialism that is Christmas by paying exorbitant amounts of money for my family to love me (in the guise of presents). If they don't by now - screw 'em :) Love you mum LOL.

And conflict management - well shoot, as long as it doesn't end up resembling a hostage situation it's all good. Right? Right! It's all part and parcel of life. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that conflict management is normal *gasps* I know. Shocker!

So if it's a part of life...why isn't it ok to disagree with your colleagues? Even, and I say this tongue-in-cheek and yet not tongue-in-cheek, with management (not that I've disagreed with management at all this week, but it is only Tuesday and anything can happen)? Why is it that when I disagree with colleagues they look like I pissed in their cornflakes when I so blatantly didn't because, surely, I'd remember a momentous occasion such as that? When I say I disagree, or when our staff tell me they disagree, I don't immediately think, 'Oohh dissention - stamp on it!' It would be immature to quote Ben Stiller from Sandler's 'Happy Gilmore': You could trouble me for a warm glass of SHUT THE HELL UP.

I'm gonna go Pollyanna on you (I know, what a hell of a surprise that is - shocked the crap outta me, too) - I really, honestly, hand on heart believe that it's ok for staff to disagree. With me. With each other. With their senior librarians. With their manager. And yes, with top management. More importantly, I think it's ok for them/us to disagree with each other in front of each other. Disagreement does not mean they hate me (even if they do they should at least not show it jesus and if they do that’s a whole other blog post). It does not mean they hate the organisation (even if maybe they do).

Sometimes, disagreement means exactly that - they disagree. It is not (always) an accusatory statement (even if sometimes it's voiced as such). It does not (always) mean I even have to take on board what they say (although I’d be an idiot if I didn’t investigate their justification). It is not always negativity for the sake of negativity (even if sometimes it is). Sometimes, dissention is how we move forward and, quite often, the naysayers catch the little details that so often escape us all. They even remind me what our core business is. And surely, if our systems and processes are robust, we can stand up to a little criticism?

I'm a bossy, uncompromising tart who constantly wears her bitch undies (all day every day) - but I welcome dissention - even if I don't always agree with your opinion, hairstyle, perspective, choice of literature, cat's name, lifepartner etc. ;)

I am not afraid of discord. I do not think an organisation should be one homogenous, amorphous (I hope like hell those two terms don’t contradict each other because I ain’t stopping for no dictionary) blob. I like that it should reflect the diversity of our staff.

Conflict management is a beautiful term and I'm getting a crash course in it. Now ask me if I like it! Go on...I dare you.

Please note: No library assistants or librarians were harmed in the writing of this least, not physically. Psychically - well that's a whole other ballgame.

Best teen non-fiction read this week...

by tosca on Friday, October 23, 2009

...spotted this gem in Cataloguing yesterday - so I nicked it for the day - and wowsers am really liking it. What is it? Glad you asked, it's 'I can't keep my own secrets: six-word memoirs by teens famous & obscure' and is edited by Smith Magazine. I'd already read 'Not quite what I was planning: six-word memoirs by writers famous and obscure' edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith - an adult version of the teen one.

You'll find everything from the funny to the sad to the ridiculous to the moving and everywhere in between. Here's a quick sample:

  • Jesus saves, my ass. Comma justified. by Hali H.
  • Couldn't sing so played the drums by Rachel M.
  • Making paper cranes, need the luck by Zoe K.
I reviewed it very briefly on our library website WHICH by the way, looks a tad bit different than when I was blogging aaaages ago (yeah, got busy, too busy to blog, so sue me). If you haven't checked it out then now is as good a time as any. Most especially check out our Reviews section. I like it much. Shoot - when did I learn to blog so brief?!? When I wasn't looking. D'OH.

A lot of our staff are briefly reviewing books for our website. OH JOY. That's not sarcasm. I really am chuffed - it's just that I'm alwys so cynical it's hard to tell the difference. But OH JOY.

A suggestion...

by tosca on Thursday, October 22, 2009

If you don't already do in the branches. That's it. Seriously. That's my only suggestion - work at least - AT LEAST - one day a week/fortnight/month in a branch library.

Why? Practical experience. Nothing beats it. And maybe it'll give you some insight as to why staff are skeptical about new policies, revised policies, ditching old policies, events or activities that do nothing to promote collections, pricing changes and everything else in between.

I never want to forget how to check in/check out a book, shelve and/or talk books with customers and answering reference enquiries. What I could have done without, as a library assistant, are purchase orders, banking, quarterly reports, rosters and even training staff.

Query: would an admin assistant per branch alleviate a lot of the non-core chores such as those listed above?
Answer: dunno, but I like the idea of it.

100 Best Beach Books Ever...

by tosca on Monday, July 27, 2009

100 Best Beachs Books Ever - as voted by the general US public and NPR (National Public Radio) Books Board.

Definitely worth a look! I intend to add a couple of these to my TBR (To Be Read) pile (although possibly NOT Tolstoy's War and Peace - was fantastic the first time around but I don't intend to go back again).

We out.

Too much ain't enough...

by tosca on Friday, June 12, 2009

When is too much IT too much? Where do we draw the line? When does what we do resemble something more along the lines of IT masturbation than anything remotely helpful? When do we just look like IT wankers who IT for the sake of IT? I have just discovered I am guilty of the above - yes, that's right, I am an IT wanker, and indiscriminate about my choice of titillation.

Every year for my birthday I buy myself a birthday present - I figure only I really know what I really want. And I deserve it :) So this year I bought myself a brand spanking new BlackBerry 8320 which belongs to the Curve series. My previous phone was the BlackBerry 8100 - not a smartphone, unfortunately. But this baby is - so what? So it's got: phone, email, sms/mms, instant messaging, browser, camera, media player, blackberry maps, organiser, 64mb flash memory + microSD expandable memory slot, QWERTY keyboard, tethered modem capability, dedicated send, end and mute keys, trackball navigation, user definable convenience keys, speakerphone, voice activated dialing, bluetooth capability for hands free dialogue, headset capable, integrated attachment viewing, compatibility with popular personal information management software, high resolution light sensing screen and easy email set-up direct from phone. Like I said, IT masturbation, really, isn't it LOL

BUT it's a gem, and I truly enjoy using it - and because I like it so much I've downloaded the apps for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Talk, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Messenger and Flickr...all making me realise what a pretentious tosser I truly am. And I can prove it:

Caught bus this morning workbound, plugged in to the iPod touch as usual (pretentious point #1), playing in Facebook (pretentious point #2) - updating my status, commenting on other friends/family status (pretentious point #3) and set Facebook notification tone to Iko Iko by The Belle Stars (pretentious point #4); tried to read e-book on iPod touch (pretentious point #5) only to find battery low and thus am devastated (pretentious point #6); bus pulls up at mall and I trek through clearing Gmail (pretentious point #7) for which notification tone (pretentious point #8) is Jessica by the Allman Bros Band (also theme for Top Gear which I heart majorly); consider trying Google Talk (pretentious point #9) but resist and set GTalk alert tone to Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles (pretentious point #10) and GTalk new message tone to Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot (pretentious point #11); outside the mall again and clearing Yahoo Mail (pretentious point #12) which doesn't have a tone and consider trying Yahoo Messenger (pretentious point #13) but resist, barely, and set messenger alert to Beyonce's Irreplaceable (pretentious point #14) and new message tone to ACDC's Shook Me All Night Long (pretentious point #15); flick a message to Twitter (pretentious point #16) and set twitterberry direct message tone to Missy Elliott's Get Your Freak On (pretentious point #17), friend update to Del's Mistadobalina (pretentious point #18) and reply alert to Jay-Z's Can I Get A (pretentious point #19) which also updates Facebook status at same time (pretentious point #20); cross road and realise have not set windows live messenger alert or new message tones. Cannot be assed, really. By this time I'm about to walk through the doors of the library so turn off the iPod touch and lock the BlackBerry...and then wonder what the hell was I just doing?!

When on earth did I get to the point where I feel I have to be so contactable as to have to go through all of that before I even get to work? Before I'm even barely awake?

When did my phone become another appendage? Why did it become one? How did I not notice? And what will I do now that I do know...? How funny - as I finish typing this paragraph my phone is blaring Mistadobalina, so I look and it's John Key tweeting with an update LOL. Geez.

For those interested, the apps I've mentioned above are listed:

Facebook - view friends' updates and status, post your own, send/receive wall messages, pokes, emails etc.
Flickr - take a photo and post to your Flickr account immediately (my testing)
Gmail - keep up to date with your Gmail messages by sending/receiving
Google Mobile Apps - launches Google products such as Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Sync and Latitude
Google Talk - chat in real time with contacts list, sending/receiving messages
Twitterberry - post/receive updates to/from Twitter (although you cannot: direct message someone, view saved direct messages, access favourites)
Windows Live Messenger - send/receive messages
Yahoo! Go - Yahoo version of Google Mobile Aps so you can check Yahoo mail, Y! One Search, Messenger and Flickr

And now frickin' Jessica is playing, letting me know I've got a Gmail email. ARGH. It is slightly ridiculous, eh, think about it...ipod in one hand, headphones on, blackberry in the other hand, walking along juggling reading one thing and texting/typing in another. Can I get any more isolated? Probably LOL Can I get my head any further up my own arse? Oh, most definitely :0)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...

by tosca on Sunday, May 31, 2009

I received the weirdest email a couple of weeks ago - May 14 if we're going to be anal and exact - from Schmap. Never heard of them before the email so I had to visit their website to find out that with Schmap you can 'Explore your destination online with our unique integration of maps, photos and place reviews.' The email was notification that a photo I had taken in New Orleans and placed in my Flickr account had been short-listed for inclusion in the seventh edition of their Schmap New Orleans Guide, to be published early June 2009.

It's the worst shot ever and was taken more as an aide memoire of the place's history than a holiday snap. I can prove it's a terrible photo as I've attached it to this paragraph. When I got the email notification of the shortlist I had to laugh because it reminded me of the psychic I met. My first full day in New Orleans I visited Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street 'cause hey, it's New Orleans and it's named for Marie Laveau AND it's on Bourbon Street. It's a tourist trifecta, I mean, come on! I poked around in the shop for a bit looking at (but not touching) various gris-gris and other voodoo paraphernalia. As I was leaving the proprietress invited me to come back at 12pm if I wanted a palm/psychic reading. It seemed fun so I said sure. Roamed around Bourbon Street checking out bars and trinket shops and headed on back to the shop, where I spent a very entertaining 30-45 mins. He was such a hoot!

He said a lot (let's not get into the marriage thing because YUCK is all I can say to that) but what I remembered was he asked me if I'd been published. I said yes, years ago (when I was a angry, radical pro-Maori tertiary student) I had a research paper published. He frowned and said, 'No you WILL be published.' Of course I looked oblivious because I don't intend to write anything more strenuous than a blog post these days. Then he said it was still to come, that it would be photos and asked me how the holiday pictures were going. I'm not a camera-toting person and I remember thinking he must have that bit wrong, so just shrugged. He laughed and told me to keep up the holiday snaps. Didn't remember anything about what he said - until I received the email.

Didn't really think anything about it after that because I mean, shoot, I figured they just headed to Flickr and did a keyword search for anything New Orleans tourist-y related and emailed all of those people, right? That AND it's a truly ugly photo. No people are in it otherwise I would've managed to chop their heads off, I'm sure, but I did get two ugly cars LOL Ack. All of my photos were to remind me that yes, I really was in New Orleans or Memphis. I mean, shit, I took a photo of the Piggly Wiggly sign up the road from my motel because I'd heard about it in movies but never seen one LOL D'OH. Anyway, got an email yesterday to find that it HAS been included in their New Orleans map. So hah! You can check it out on their site, and I've placed the widget at the top left for a bit. It's a pic of the Ursuline Convent - historic place, spooky history but it's New Orleans so it's spooky-cool all over.

It's artistic license but I've taken what Monsieur Le Psychic said to mean the holiday photo inclusion in an online map guide is what he meant by 'published'. He was spot on with a couple of other things as well. Even still I'm bound and determined the marriage thing is NOT going to come true. So there :D

Reach out and iTouch somebody's hand, make this a better e-reader if you can...

by tosca on Monday, April 20, 2009

A new post - whoop whoop! Been far too busy of late to update posts. Or maybe just been too lazy and, generally, unmotivated. Last post I stated that I would be gettin' back on track and, with that in mind, am starting in right at #2 on my list:

#2 - anything of interest - and yes I do mean anything (books, music, people whatever)

S0 here I sit on the laptop (yay wireless - one thing my time in the States taught me was wireless is a god - or perhaps the internet is a god and wireless is a demigod) and am plugged in and listening to Chester 'Howlin' Wolf' Burnett wailing for me to, '...come back home some day...' If you're a member of Manukau Libraries I highly recommend the cd The Rough Guide to the Blues Well worth the listen.

I have an iPod Touch. Is it good? Does a one legged duck swim in a circle? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Does Pinocchio have wooden balls? Does a bear shit in the woods? Yes. To all. But is it great? Depends on what you bought it for, really, doesn't it. It's got wireless although you try pushing on the stupid teeny tiny keypad made for a 2 yr-old *rolls eyes* On a very good day my typing speed is 143 words p/min and the hunt & peck method (with & without stylus) drives me up the wall. What can it do? Magic. Almost LOL

The desktop icons (do you call it a desktop? what the heck do you call it?) include: YouTube, Safari, Calendar, Email, Stocks, Contacts, Maps, Clock, Calculator, Notes, Settings, App Store. Of these 12 programmes or applications I use Email and, sometimes, Safari. That's it. Why don't I use the email more often? Wireless network, really. If I could guarantee a wireless network (that didn't have passwords up the wazoo) everywhere other than home, I'd be able to access email anywhere but since I only use it at home I may as well boot up the laptop for that - although nephew Markhiem and I did configure my 3 email accounts (Orcon, hotmail and gmail) so that if we wished we could play with it. Since receiving Monsieur Le Touch I have added three new apps (applications) and they are eReader, Skype and Stanza. I don't use Skype on it for the same reason I don't use email. As for eReader...

eReader - on the Mac laptop (which I killed and let's not talk about that 'cause I'm still kinda sensitive about it, have killed umpteen pcs when playing and always managed to restore and fix them but the mac is beyond me I hate to admit) was not that friendly. It didn't have quite the sophistication that Mobipocket did. From memory, I don't believe that it could take half as many formats as Mobipocket could, either. I have some 3000+ ebook files in prc format...none of which can be chucked through eReader. ARGH! Am currently looking into programmes that will convert without a hassle. The html tags don't appear to enjoy the experience. To put it lightly. Am still just playing at this stage but there's really only two things I want to know...

Can I read prc files on Monsieur Le Touch? If not is it easy to convert? The answers are: No and relatively so - as long as you have the html file AND then upload the successful converted file to your personal fictionwise bookshelf. Blah blah blah blah blah. Say what? Yeah, my thoughts exactly. So I hunted around online and found The Ja(y)nes had posted about this topic with very easy to follow instructions (my kinda people!) YAY THEM! So I'm following their guide. YAY ME! But the stupid conversion has stalled at 22% BOO HISS! The hardest part of this whole job is trying to find a stupid html file of the actual prc file of the...yeah, blah blah blah blah blah. If I have a prc file of the ebook then there's no way I'd keep an html copy of it, too. That's just daft. So for now I'll leave the conversion running in the background and check on it later. Geez. It has since popped up with an error message LOL Ack. Great instructions and easy to follow but I want hassle free and eReader isn't, quite, that. So have moved on to Stanza...

Stanza - oohh now this is idiot proof and I know this because I was able to 1) download it via iTunes and then 2) install it and 3) convert a few books 10 mins or less. The shitkicker (and isn't there always one) is that I can't convert ALL of the books I have - or at least not the ones in .prc format ARGH *cue tear* I can only convert the ones I have in every other format but (.lit, .pdf, .doc, .txt blah blah blah). Still, it's better than nothing and it's giving me a chance to test whether or not I want to continue this way. Although I think I'd have to get one with space. More is more in this instance, not less is more. My last iPod was 30gb and I had movies and music on there. This one great if I'm not going to max out on music, movies, videos or ebooks :) But it damn sure suits me fine for now. And yes, I have kept all of Tracy's music on there ;0)

So would I chuck my Blackberry Pearl in for the iPod Touch totally? HELL NO. I'd switch between 'em :)

An iPod touch, wi-fi settings and a pleading nephew...

by tosca on Sunday, March 29, 2009

There is nothing like a child to remind one that life goes on. Even when you don't think it should. And most especially when you're not quite ready for it to. Trace's mama gave me her iPod touch. I initially refused because it felt too final a step. was an admission that she really is gone. Theoretically I know it, and certainly at the service last Wednesday I saw it, but that doesn't mean it's actually clicked. I spent a couple of hours at Mama Munns' house catching up, chatting and helping the ladies update their own various iPod songs/playlists. We then looked through some of Trace's numerous cds with photos of everything from gravestones, family members both past and present/young and old and sightseeing pictures. I discovered some new things about Trace I never knew - for instance, she took some damn good photos. There was a disc that had the most amazing pictures of a park and when I zeroed in on a few details I realised that they were actually of Mountfort Park. And never had I seen that place look so beautiful. Ever. Trace had a damn good eye! And then I remembered her telling someone that she was once asked if she would sell her pictures. I told Mama Munns that her stuff would make a fantastic book. Especially in light of the negative reputation Manurewa has :-)

Mama Munns said to take the iPod home and delete all of Trace's music and make my own mark. I seemed weird. I couldn't even bring myself to touch it at first. It sat, for the first hour or two after I got home, untouched (kinda goes against the whole point of its name), on the dining room table. I wouldn't switch it on, I wouldn't even browse through her collection. It just sat there. My brother-in-law touched it and I'm afraid I nutted off at him and he quickly put it back. I somehow think I may have overreacted so I doubt he'll even look at it sideways let alone touch it again. Then Markhiem came over to visit and promptly plugged it in to re-charge - all without asking, I might add. The boy is worse than me with IT toys - no boundaries whatsoever and, once spotted, gotta turn it every which way but loose to figure out how it works. Once he saw that it had Safari (which is what they use at school) he wheedled, pleaded and begged until I agreed to configure the wi-fi settings. He had to work for it though - I made him figure out how to find the IP address, subnet mask, router and DNS details. Unfortunately, it was a trial and error process - and so I made him use Google to troubleshoot when we, scarily, somehow lost wifi access on my laptop and had to ruddy well re-configure that, too. That was NOT a good moment and I'd be thankful not to go through it again hah. I'm sure Markie'd be glad if he didn't have to hear every terribly inventive use of the 'F' word I ever stored in my repertoire :) He's stoked that the wireless is up and running on the iPod touch and no doubt he'll be back tomorrow playing with it again.

I've spent the last half hour going through her playlists and realised that music and books can tell you a lot about a person. They make you realise how well you knew them, and I think also confirm how little you really knew about them at one and the same time. A lot of her music was no surprise - the opera, the country, the musicals, the classical - but quite a bit of it was new to what I thought I knew of her - R&B, soul, 60s & 70s, Alicia Keys, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Richard Marx, Shakespeare's Sister...and a whole host of other stuff that was a delightful surprise. I imagine that the iPod will sit around for a while longer before I feel like adding anything to it. Hell, I may never add to it. I also imagine that Markie will be the only one to play with it for a while to come.

It must be time for me to get back on track with the point of this blog - it's been so long I may have forgotten ;) The format was something like this:

- NZ public libraries and the web 2.0 tools they're using
- anything of interest - and yes I do mean anything (books, music, people whatever)
- infodoodads Top 13 list (and when I run out of those I'll simply find some other list)
- book-related sites or blogs of interest (or even just what I'm reading atm)
- learning 2.1 tutorial (until I finish the list)

Peace, love & mungbeans, baby.

In the sweet by and by...

by tosca on Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grief is such a deeply personal process. I will say no more about my own feelings.

Although not religious Tracy was deeply spiritual. A more positive person I would be hard pressed to find. I like to think that Tracy would have enjoyed this song - I never met a person who had such a huge appreciation of music. Most especially opera, modern musicals, the 80s and country. She would have gotten a hoot out of a country icon such as Dolly singing with Irish group Altan in this very Celtic sounding version of what is an old country gospel classic.

I remember my liking for the Ten Tenors began with Tracy. She had spare tickets and asked me if I was interested in attending. I remember making the rather rude comment, 'Ten Tenors? One is bad enough but ten is just overkill!' I went. And I had a great time LOL I have been a fan of their music and style ever since. I do wonder...knowing Tracy's love of opera, and my being named for one, would she have approached me if my name were Mary...? LOL A small common point of interest that culminated in a very, very good friend.

She lived, and loved, with great passion and great heart ;-)

Moe mai ra i raro i te korowai aroha o te Atua.

On reflection...

by tosca on Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's impossible, either in writing or speech, to convey the many impressions, thoughts, ideas etc. that I gained during my (just short of) 3 weeks Stateside. And it'd be crazy for me to assume I ever could...but I did jot down a few notes if I remembered to, and one thing that tops the list is PRIVACY - or lack thereof.

PRIVACY - it's insane and an awful generalisation but the Americans I met who were very friendly, and in New Orleans they all are, in Memphis not so much (they weren't horrid, they just weren't as open as New Orleaninians) the 'term' privacy was not much more than a word. They were quite happy to tell all and sundry about their day, their family, their son/daughter or husband/wife or brother/sister or mother/father. They were also quite happy to hold extremely personal conversations on their mobile phone in enclosed spaces (such as on the Amtrak). In the space of one hour I overheard: a woman crying on the phone to her mother after her son upset her; another woman talking to her cousin about how she had to come back to raise the siblings she thought she'd left behind forever; a couple discussing whether or not they would have enough money to get through the week; a young girl blithely stating to one of two boyfriends (she discussed that freely with both of them, too, the fact that they were one of two LOL) that she definitely didn't have enough money for a hotel room but it'd work out somehow; another young lass talking about how she had to catch the train into New Orleans each week because she couldn't find work anywhere in Memphis; a young man earnestly discussing why he felt his relationship wasn't working with his girlfriend; another young man talking to his parole officer about job opportunities...the list goes on and on. But it's done in such an engaging fashion that the most you can do is think loudly in your head about something else and look like you're not actively listening, even though you unconsciously do. You can't help it! And they also think nothing of turning that insatiable curiosity on you - err or me, rather. They wanna know why you have an accent, where are you from, what do you do, are you married, why not, do you got kids, why not, don't you like children (in a tone that suggests there's something wrong with you if you don't and they'll have no problem letting you know they think that LOL) etc. But it's so engagingly done you answer it all and then realise what happened LOL

ADS - what is with the ads?! A number of them caught my eye for the strangest of reasons. I've got a bunch of ads here for a variety of reasons (humour, weirdness appeal, health warnings that make you sit up and go WTF? and other stuff) so kick back and enjoy. Quilted Northern ad with the tagline '...a luxurious experience you can see and feel.' Guess what they were advertising - quilted toilet paper. For real and you can check it out for yourself. Umm if you're not delighted you can get your money back. Which part of you is meant to be delighted?!? Then there's the Blackberry butt dialing ad - heh it's funny. Just one comment! Why doesn't he lock his Blackberry Pearl? I've got one and I lock it (not that my butt tries ringing anyone because I don't keep it in a back pocket D'OH). Ok another comment! Blackberry's gone FLIP? Why? I love that they weren't! Another ad is the T-Mobile MyFaves ad with the single dating dad - with kids like that who needs enemies geez LOL The Free Credit Report ads are especially hilarious and my pick is the Dream Girl one. Umm he'd be a happy bachelor if he'd had just checked her credit before marrying his dream girl. Uh-huh. Pull the other one. You can view ALL of the Free Credit Report ads if you want. The Talk To Your Kids About Sex PSA (public service announcement) is gave me that ohmygod-I-never-want-to-discuss-this-topic-with-any-kid-let-alone-my-own-please-god-never feeling when it asks parents to be upfront about sexual discussion with their kids because it can't be taught in schools anymore. But I liked this ad better because no matter how old my nehpews/niece get they're always going to be our puddinheads LOL (hopefully without coming to me for the sex talk bah humbug). I found the Online Booty Call ad rather...odd. And disturbing but judge for yourself. Although I was quite glad that ad didn't play as much as the e-Harmony ad but even that made me wonder what the obsession is with settling down and why they had to hammer their point home in every commercial break. Bleah. I thought the Denis Leary ad for Rescue Me was funny (esp the bit where the clumsy guy falls over but I like slapstick comedy) with the giant firefighters but damned if I can find a version of it (prob not looking properly ack). A couple of medical alert ads I found uhh strange: Lyrica and PDD/SJS but can't find nothing for them either *sigh*. Nevermind.

PHONES - cellphones are everywhere here. Maybe it's because it's such a huge country that I noticed it more than usual. I also noticed that in general the cellphones of choice were, predominantly, Blackberry (various versions but not many Pearls) and the iPhone. Huh. And all the phones over there seem so much bigger than ours here! The Blackberrys were gimongous - ok prob not that big but they seemed it. And I gotta say, I'm seriously looking at flicking the Pearl and maybe going for a 8707 or an 8310 or even an 8800. Or I could be a total spaz and just get mine in a diff colour like red or white (why oh why don't they do interchangeable faceplates??). Oh and yes, believe me, for a total of 2 mins and 13 seconds I did briefly contemplate switching to an iPhone *gasps* Shock! Horror! Heh

PICKUPS - yeah, trucks everywhere! And they're huge!

MUSTANGS - my dream car is a 1964 or 1966 Ford Mustang convertible in cherry red and, while I saw a heapload of mustangs in and around New Orleans (esp in the French Quarter) most of them were 2005 or newer. Wow. I still prefer the earlier version, though =)

COP CARS & FLASHING LIGHTS/SIRENS - doesn't necessarily mean pull over you're in trouble. In New Orleans it mostly means 'You're in my way MOVE NOW!' and so ppl move over quite happily and the police go on their merry way doing their rounds of the streets. It's all very peaceful. I did see a fair few ppl getting arrested over the Mardi Gras celebrations and, considering how tolerant they ordinarily are if you've crossed a line it must be either a pretty big one or you were removed for public safety. I saw one young man totally off his face sitting on the sidewalk. He was so pissed he couldn't move, couldn't speak and certainly couldn't remember where he was staying (or even what his name was or who he was staying with). Oh no, I lie - he could speak. He was fluent in cussing LOL As I came up near them he was swearing up a blue streak and one of the police officers asked him politely to moderate his language. The guy's swearing got even worse (hell, my paternal gran taught me to swear and she AND my gramps were in the army and this guy couldn't taught her a thing or two) and I was slightly impressed and horrified at one and the same time, but jumped outta my socks when the officer clapped his hands together (it was so loud it sounded like a gunshot) and yelled, 'I asked you to moderate your language, sir, there are ladies present.' Like a fool I stopped to look around and realised that as the only female out and about in the wee hours of the morning he meant me LOL They take Southern Hospitality extremely seriously there :-)

Oh ok, it's 3:11pm on Saturday the 7th of March and my plane got in at err roughly 7:00am and I'm dead beat and, after handing around souvenirs to siblings and repeating every day a million times to each sibling and then some (why do we never all meet in the one place at the one time eep) I'm done. More stuff will probably hit me later (like why the frick do people have to squish into planes, so much so that when the person in front leans their chair back they're almost sitting in your intestines?!? greedy airlines!) so until then I'm out.

And I'm walkin' in Memphis...

by tosca on Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's been about 3 or 4 days since I last blogged and there is a real good story as to how that came about. It's just long winded - as usual ;-)

On the 8 hour train ride out to Memphis I was fortunate enough to sit next to a very interesting young woman who was returning to Chicago (which, by the way, was an 18 hr train ride but MUCH cheaper than it would've been for her to fly). She came down for Mardi Gras and to see her family. Originally she's from New Orleans but, after Katrina, she and her son and mother packed up and moved to Chicago. She's been back twice to visit with family since then (her father and his second wife still live here in Algiers) and each time she said she breaks down she hates to leave this place so much. She was also kind enough to share photos with me of her relatives - her uncle was one of the chiefs of the local Black Indian groups. How cool is that?! I was gutted that I never got a chance to see any of their Mardi Gras celebrations as their costumes are all handmade and exceptionally beautiful. Her uncle died a couple of yrs ago and one of his sons is now the chief. The beads - and the work that goes into the costumes! She said that as soon as the current Mardi Gras is over they start working on the next year costumes. Her son, who is 14, will be taking part next year and he will begin to make his as soon as she returns to Chicago. They're going to be looking at moving home to New Orleans.

Somewheres between New Orleans and Pontchatoula is a sort of wetlands area - it's hard to describe. It looks like a wasteland but there's such an abundance of life there - a huge variety of birds and various other animals (like I said, New Orleans is so deceptive that way - what always looks like nothing is always much, much more). Anyways, at one point I was staring down into the water trying to guess what might be in there when the woman sitting next to me said, 'Ain't nothin' down there but 'gators.' At which my interest perked up and for the next mile or so I was avidly watching the water hoping to spot an alligator. My interest abated rather dramatically when she then said, 'After Katrina that's all you saw for three days...'gators and bodies.' She then went on to explain how she and other family members had all met together for safety in a relative's house. There were roughly 30 of them all waiting to be rescued. Can you imagine that? That's a pretty powerful image. Like I said in an earlier post, everybody has a story about Katrina, although this has been the first most personal recitation of anyone I ever met here yet. Everyone else tells you how it affected the city or local businesses etc., but nobody, until this woman, ever gave it to me like that.

An 8 hour train ride for which I slept through some of it I'm glad to say. It's about 2 hours until you hit the Louisiana/Mississippi state line and, when dark hit, so did the rain and the thunder and lightning. So it wasn't a total surprise to arrive in Memphis to find it wet, cold, dark and entirely miserable looking. After a 1 hour wait to claim my luggage I managed to grab a cab to the Days Inn at Graceland. I checked in and headed off to my room - to yank out my dying phone to snap a shot or two of the room. I kid you not, there is a guitar shaped swimming pool, 2 free Elvis-movie channels (that play his movies ALL day, every day), Elvis music playing on the loudspeakers outside and Elvis pictures on the wall. My phone is currently charging back at Banana Courtyard so I'll upload the pics sometime tonight into my Flickr account. So - sleep!

Memphis - Day 1: OMG do you know what woke me??? ELVIS MUSIC at freakin' 8:30 in the morning. UGH. So, did the usual get ready thing and then suddenly remembered where I was and raced outta bed to do Graceland! 'Cause, hello - it's Graceland!

Before Graceland I checked out a couple of souvenir shops. One right next door to the hotel where I was staying and one down the road from where I was staying. And these are before you even get to the Graceland Plaza. OMG crass commercialism abounds - and I was all too eager to partake of it LOL I have seen the famous Elvis face on everything from underwear and socks to keyrings and bobblehead dolls. It's - oh god, it's commercialism at its best and its worst, I swear. I also saw a Piggly Wiggly! I'd always heard this mentioned on tv sitcoms - so the minute I saw the sign I snapped a shot of it for my sisters to show 'em. I didn't go in, though! The weather was too cold. I couldn't handle it so I turned right back around and headed to Graceland.

Now, THIS place is deceptive! The Graceland mansion is on one side, and people were lining up in their cars (in spite of the 'NO PARKING' sign) and stopping to take photos of the house. The mansion is on one side of Elvis Presley Blvd but the actual place where you buy tickets (and get fleeced of your money) is on the other side. So, I crossed the road to buy a ticket to see the Graceland mansion - which was an interesting look at how the other half lives. In excess, it seems to me LOL Took some photos and later today I'll upload those, too. But the plaza - omg, there's an Elvis restaurant, an Elvis children's shop, about 3 or 4 Elvis souvenir shops - it's umm GROSS. That's how I thought of it - bloody gross. And yes, I did buy a very strange fridge magnet souvenir for Sonz because that's what he asked for. The weirdo =) So, you buy your ticket and you queue up to take a shuttle across the road for an audio tour - which is quite sophisticated when you think about. No shouting tour guides hustling you when you're not quite ready to move. You simply press 1 to start the audio tour, put the headphones on and wander round as you want. Which is what I did, from one room to the next, from one building to the next viewing the various display cases. Took the shuttle back across the road and then decided to visit the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum - man, did he even drive all those cars? Excess, sheesh. Took photos though, for my nephews LOL and those I'll upload later today, too. So, cold, wet and beginning to sneeze I headed back to the warmth and safety of my hotel room to take a nap..........and wake up with a fullblown cold. UGH. One thing I noticed, though, was that people don't really walk around this part of Memphis. Not at all. It snowed tonight! Freakin' cold but very beautiful. And treacherous to walk on. Took a couple of pics so will upload those later, too.

MEMPHIS: Day 2 - sick in bed LOL And thank god because the thought of walking around in slippery, cold snow does NOT appeal at all. Weather too cold - they issued a winter storm warning for Memphis. Not quite the welcome I was expecting. The temperature was something like 24 degrees, which is about 6 degrees back in NZ, I think. Either way it was COLD. I used to think that at least with cold weather you could dress up and put on clothes. In summer you can't take 'em off - I think I hate summer AND winter now LOL Ooh and note the guitar-shaped swimming pool (barely) in the background! I did buy postcards and meant to send 'em but a couple of things stopped me - SNOW grr and distance. So brought them back to New Orleans with me and posted 'em today. So don't be surprised if you get 'em when I get home. D'OH.

MEMPHIS: Day 3 - still feeling slightly off but determined to make 3 stops today come hell or high water. Glad to say I made them all! Snow mostly all melted :-)

Sun Studio - caught the free shuttle from Graceland Plaza to Sun Studio and omg HOW COOL IS THAT? Johnny Cash got his big break here! Oh yeah, I know, so did Elvis but I was never an Elvis fan. I was always a Johnny Cash girl. Took a tour of Sun Studio, which professes to be the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. I got to stand in the very same spot that BB King, Johnny Cash, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison stood ARGH. Oh yeah, and Elvis. I got to see a huge bunch of memorabilia from music legends the likes of which I only ever got to hear either on vinyl or cd. This I very much enjoyed! Then caught the free shuttle to the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum. Interestingly enough I was the only brown person on the shuttle out of the 6 of us on it, and I was also the only one who visited the Rock n Soul Museum - 3 girls got out to wander up Beale Street and the other 2 headed back to Graceland Plaza.

Memphis Rock n Soul Museum - is a musical journey. I got to hear the songs, videos, original instruments & countless other artifacts of the music that changed the world. And that's from the pamphlet LOL Another audio tour (I'm finding that Memphis specialises in these tours) that was such an eye opener about musical people and styles and backgrounds. It was great.

National Civil Rights Museum - how could I visit Memphis without coming here? The main exhibition on here at the moment is the Freedom's Sisters exhibit, which portrays 20 African American women whose work for liberty and equality continues to push aside limitations that constrict Americans. Hugely, hugely inspirational. Not much else I can say after that. Took in the rest of the museum as well - which is, of course, located at the site of the very famous Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It's a hugely moving place - from the very first exhibit to the very last - an emotional journey through a people's fight for equality. If you leave with a dry eye you're lying! The very last place you end up is standing between Room 306 (Dr. King's room) and Room 307 - it's all glass encased but you get to look in to the room and, also, out to Mulberry Street. You get to view the balcony where Dr. King was assassinated and, I must admit, I did shed a tear. More for the struggle for equality as a whole than for Dr. King specifically. It's hard not to. The story they tell is that there was a musician down in the courtyard of the motel and Dr. King leaned over and asked him to play his favourite hymn 'Precious Lord, take my hand.' Minutes later he was dead. As you stand there viewing the room and Mulberry Street you can hear Mahalia Jackson's voice singing the version she sang at his funeral. Pretty powerful stuff.

My impression of Memphis as a whole? I saw more homeless people in Memphis than I saw in New Orleans. How did I know they were homeless? Because they came up and said so and asked for a dollar - a stinking measly dollar. It was a trade off of sorts, they gave me info or showed me where to catch a cab or, once, gave me a rundown on the best places to visit and I gave them $5. Please, I'm not so cheap as to give a person $1. Maybe I was being hustled and maybe I wasn't - but it wouldn't sit well to turn my back on someone who wanted a dollar in return for information. Maybe the giving of the information was a face saver but $5 to leave someone with a little dignity didn't seem so steep a price to pay. They looked so pathetically grateful it was sad. Memphis broke my heart - or at least, this side of her did. And when I got back to my hotel I took a real good look around and then I noticed that there men much like the ones I met in downtown Memphis who looked like they were on their last nickel. They had that same look about them. And then I realised that they'd been there all along and I just hadn't seen or hadn't noticed them. I was now. And no I did not go out and give every man jack of them $5 - I'm not that stupid. Nobody wants a do-gooder interfering and playing Lady Muck - if they weren't going to come up I wasn't going to stick my nose in where it so plainly wasn't wanted. After that I was rather disappointed in Graceland - it seemed to sit up there like the king of crassness while people below went hungry.

On a slightly more upbeat note I had chicken and jojos for dinner ;)

Am back in New Orleans at the moment and yes, back at the Banana Courtyard and lovin' it. Slept 12 hours straight and am doing some last minute souvenir shopping for the siblings back home. Which reminds me, had better contact them all and let them know I am still breathing. And am MUCH warmer. Tomorrow I start flying home: New Orleans to St. Louis to LAX to Auckland. I arrive back in Auckland on Saturday 7th March at roughly 7am. YAY ME. Will be glad to get home to my own bed although I have VERY much enjoyed this trip and the huge number of interesting people I have met along the way. And hope to see again next year when I come back for the Jazz Fest =)

P.S. - I don't have pics of Dr. King's room or of the Civil Rights Museum because I was kinda conflicted over the whole is it right to take photos or not thing. It didn't FEEL right so I didn't. Wanted to though =) And then, just as I was walking away from the museum I saw a young woman conducting a lone protest at the end of Mulberry Street (to the far left as you exit the museum). Her sign read: 'This construction is a $10 million monument to injustice. It desecrates the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. BOYCOTT the National Civil Rights Museum now!' Then I felt even worse LOL But if you want an idea of how the Lorraine Motel looks then try here and, way at the bottom, you'll see the protest sign I'm talking about. There was also another sign that read she'd been protesting the museum for something like 21 years now. Eep!

Oh and also - there's a place here in New Orleans, or a parish, called Tangipahoa - which sounds kinda Maori to me. Or at least, the name LOOKS Maori but it ain't. It's pronounced TANG-UH-PAH-HOE. Weird.

Oh and I heard a guy the other day at the train station say to his dad, 'I gotta get the hell outta here 'cause I'm tryna DO somethin' with mah life.' Which I thought was so cliche of every American movie I'd ever seen. And yet kinda nice. End post.

Alive and kicking - Fri 27th Feb, 10:30am

by tosca on Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just a quick post - I'm fine =) Yes, there was a shooting on Mardi Gras and no I was nowhere near it. In fact, I didn't even hear about it until I switched the late night news. About freaked out EEP! It was up in the Garden District or Uptown. Then, just yesterday, there was an attempted kidnapping. A young man was taken from Jefferson Parish (I went through there yesterday) and was taken to a home in Algiers Point (where I was just the other day), or perhaps it was the other way around. Once again, I did not hear about until I switched on the late night news. There was also a sexual attack in Audubon Park and, once again, I was nowhere near there and am fine. Umm, the late night news seems to be where I hear everything.

MAHONY: Yo, there will be NO wake. I repeat - NO WAKE hah :-)

The ads here in America crack me up, big time. There are so many Medical Alert restaurants, there's also numerous dating ads (e-Harmony is one I can remember) and, believe it or not, Online Booty Call. I kid you not! When I get some time I'll post some links to the adverts. They're an experience and a half.

It's roughly 10:30am and in half an hour Stanley, the driver that Banana Courtyard uses (and he's SO nice and gives you heaps of info on the local spots and people of interest), will drop me off at the Amtrak station here in New Orleans. And then, about 10:00pm I will pull in to Memphis where I'll be for the next four days. So, the next time you hear from me I'll be bloggin' it up in Memphis!

Post Katrina City Tour & A Banksy - Thurs Feb 26, 4:15pm

by tosca on Friday, February 27, 2009

Today is my last full day here in New Orleans. Tomorrow I catch the train to Memphis, where I will be for 3-4 days, and then am back here again at the Banana Courtyard. I had initially planned to take a post-Katrina tour and then backed off of the idea, if only because some part of me felt it bad about making a tourist opportunity out of someone else's pain. The last 10 days have been an internal push-me-pull-you about the whole issue, then, yesterday I thought I would do it and ask how I can help. I'm not a hammer and nails kinda gal (my family are VERY aware of this and love me anyways) and was kinda fearful about what the suggestions might be as to how I can be of assistance. I'm glad to say the answer is well within my capability!

We visited various parts of New Orleans - the affluent to the not-so-affluent, the least hit (if there is such a term for a city recovering post-hurricane) and the worst hit. The images - which I've loaded into a different Flickr set, are startling, humbling, painful and heartbreaking. You have people like Brad Pitt/Steve Bing and Harry Connick Jr./Dave Matthews and Branford Marsalis and various other faith groups have given more than their money - they've given their time and their expertise in networking to help people recover. We visited Pitt (who, the operator assured us, sends his children to the local french immersion public school and lives at 451 Governor Nicholls Street and can eat in restaurants without getting hassled by people and is treated normally by locals) and Bing's 'Make It Right' suburb (is that the term for it?) with the very unusual looking homes. We also visited the Musician's Village - and the colours are amazing. If also unusual looking. I also got to see Fats Domino's home and his recording studio (situated side by side) and wow. Check out the pics to see what I mean - some of them don't have titles but that's because I probably couldn't remember exactly why I snapped it, and some of them don't have titles simply because a picture is worth a thousand words and my blabbering away would be redundant.

My head is crowded with facts, figures, statistics, images, thoughts: things like how the 17th Street Canal levee breach measured 750ft. Can you imagine that? And how people on one side of the levee had up to 14ft of water - their homes and possessions wiped out, and how people just on the other side of the levee - separated literally by a bridge and water - were untouched by flooding. How do you explain it? You can't. Really, you just can't, except to say that New Orleans is an unusual place - it's not flat at all. Some parts of it are quite low and I swear, you can literally cross the road and be higher again and keep moving and be even higher again. I suck at explaining it so maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.

We passed through St. Bernard Parish which has to be the worst hit part of all - not ONE part of this parish was untouched by water. Some parts hit as high as 28ft. I passed through, in the relative safety of a vehicle, separate from the devastation/restoration - desperately moved by the plight of the people rebuilding lives and homes but, at the end of the day, removed from it all. I can go home - this IS home. The tour guide says the best way anybody NOT from here can help is to be a tourist. Shop here - buy from here. Everytime you open your wallet your sales tax goes some way towards rebuilding the city - and that, I can definitely do!

There are a lot of photo opportunities that I let slip by for two glaringly obvious reasons (obvious at least to me): 1) I hate the thought of capitalising on anybody's misfortune and 2) the van was moving too fast. Would I have capitalised otherwise? I'd like to think not, but I can't be wholly sure. To end on an upbeat note, I saw a Banksy piece today! Just not far from where I'm staying. The tour van pulled up and I looked out the window - and about had a heartattack! So there I am gasping and gaping and stumble out of the van (yelling goodbye to the operator and to the other passengers) whilst desperately fumbling for the camera. My first Banksy =)

Mardi Gras is now officially over, Wed 25th Feb, 2:30pm

by tosca on Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ack - mardi gras is over and done with for another year. I took a quick walk down and then up Bourbon Street and couldn't breathe - faaaar too packed with people. So decided to give the midnight closing a miss. The heat! And the mess - although to look at it today you wouldn't know that last night there'd been the rowdiest party in the world going on.

Finally have got some pics posted - after a fashion. I find people's holiday pics much like wedding pics. They mean absolutely nothing except to the person who took 'em. So if I have a 101 shots of the Bourbon Street sign it's because I honestly had to keep pinching myself to double-check that I really was here/there. So, understand them or not, like them or hate them, here are my pics on Flickr! Or you can view them as a slideshow!

The reason for all of the images of the sidewalks here is because I was told that they were not made for sober people LOL That would be the truth of it. I enquired about it, with one of the tour guides, and she said most of the time it's because tree roots grow under the sidewalks so why uproot the tree? I asked if the city of New Orleans gets sued for injuries arising from the sidewalks and she said, basically, 'Is it our fault all y'all don't look where you're going?' LOL So there ya go =)

Feel free to leave comments on the photos or whatever. Am thinking of doing the Post Katrina City Tour tomorrow, and am doing the Preservation Hall tonight :-)

Mardi Gras is here! - Tues 24th Feb, 4:45pm

by tosca on Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nobody parties like the New Orleanians - they throw down! Or as one young girl told me today as we were catchin' beads, 'Nobody front like N'Awlins!' And she's right. Slept in late (no leisurely breakfast with the local B&B guests this morning) and raced through getting ready to head to Bourbon Street. Which is even MORE of a zoo today than it's ever been in the last 7 days of my stay here. I can hardly begin to describe what I've seen..but I'ma try :-)

What I Have Seen: boobs and arse - and that was before I even GOT to Bourbon Street LOL Some car slammed on their brakes as I was crossing Esplanade Ave (just around the corner) and 2 women and a man jump out, one (almost) in a bustier and hotpants, one in angel wings and a bustier and fishnet tights oh and bikini bottoms (let's not forget those, right?) and he was in a skirt and fishnet tights and a padded bra. Then I get TO Bourbon Street and there's costumes left, right and centre. Men in drag (and the most sensational costumes I have ever seen in my life), a bunch of ppl lined up facing a wall while everyone took pictures of their butts (I shit you not), people on stilts, people with fake boobs, people with real boobs, people with fake butts, people with real butts, a man striding past wearing a t-shirt that reads 'I LOVE MY PENIS' and he has on a thong LOL Then there was the guy at the bottom of Bourbon Street who flashed me while hoochie dancing to 'When the Saints go marching in.' I was admiring his teal blue cocktail dress when he started winding and grinding to the brass band that was playing and next thing WHOA full frontal and I was blinded. One man passed out at my feet - I'd like to say it was my charisma but he was three sheets to the wind. He bumped in to me, smiled (blissfully unaware) and said, 'I'd like to show you a good time - work with me, it'll only take a minute.' What a sweet talker LOL Then he keeled over and passed out LMAO So I waved a police officer over, who promptly said, 'Ma'am...what'd you do?' Huh - so he had to radio for EMS and they hauled the guy away to a tent to re-hydrate him. I'm still not sure that'll help him. His head's gonna hurt tomorrow :-) I saw an elderly woman all dressed up beautifully...with curlers in her hair LOL It was precious! Absolutely precious.

Speaking of EMS, they have tents set up all around the city to see to people's injuries. I kid you not but the main cause of injuries during Mardi Gras (other than the obvious drinking too much and passing out - as the t-shirt says 'I got Bourbon faced on Shit Street' and it's the truth) is directly related to beads! I ain't kidding - people get smacked by beads around the head, in the face, on other parts of the body. It sounds kinda funny but it bloody well hurts LOL Now as a result, I'm gun shy everytime I see a bag of beads come flying near me LOL I spend more time ducking them than catching them - although I do have about 120 beaded necklaces, now, so YAY ME. Will have some for family, friends and me =)

Spent all day at the parades - Zulu and Rex and wow. The mess at the end - mess aside though, it's great fun. The marching bands, the cheerleaders (omg I've seen a lifetime's worth of spandex, sequins, leggings, pantyhose, bustiers, flags, trombones, lame, boots with tassles to last me a lifetime). I'm sunburnt! Stood in the freakin' hot sun for ages to watch the parades go past. Picked a good couple to stand next to - she didn't want any throws (loot they chuck at you from the floats, e.g. stuffed toys, empty cups, beaded necklaces, bracelets, etc.) but for some reason she kept getting hit in the head with stuff so she'd give it all to me :-) Thank you, strange lady! Each parade is preceded by a tonne of police cars (Mobile Command vehicle, Incident Vehicle, 3 or 4 police cars, 3 or 4 Mardi Gras World pickups and sometimes even 1 or 2 tractors (in case a float breaks down, as one did the other day) - so nothing is left to chance.

Midnight tonight signals the official end of Mardi Gras so I'm going to head down about 11:15pm to get some shots of the New Orleans Mounted Police and then, when they start closing Bourbon Street down, head off to midnight mass with everyone else (drunk and sober alike). One local has said to be very careful as the police get quite pushy in an effort to shut everything down. Oh, and before you ask, this is a Catholic festival which is why it ends in mass!

Good lord, my feet are tired and my head hurts (not to mention that my nose is red as a lobster and so are my arms) but it's a good hurt. Gonna rest up for a bit until 10:30pm and then get ready to go out all over again heh :-) I heard a comment earlier today from an elderly couple, who said that they found the day costumes rather humdrum LOL They did advocate my coming back if I want my eyebrows singed and hey, what's a little eyebrows between friends, right? Right!

SONZ & LOGAN: Before you ask no I haven't yet done a Cajun Swamp tour OR the Lower 9th tour. Two reasons mostly, a lot of the locals I've talked to are still quite sensitive about what happened as a result of Hurricane Katrina. They're not partial to tourists for the sake of tourism - if people can find another way to help out, that's even better. So, I'm still in two minds about it all. I sat, yesterday, on the steps of the levee drinking my mango daiquiri and pondering whether or not I would do a tour and still haven't made up my mind. As for the swamp tour - $95 to ride an airboat? I'm all for supporting local businesses! But I'm also a cheapskate LMAO Ok, no I'm not - I'm just not sure I want to be thrown around the bayou on a swampboat/airboat thingee. Eep! Still haven't done the plantations, either, and probably won't. Mostly 'cause I'm plum tired :-)

Happy Lundi Gras, Bebe - Mon 23 Feb, 6:15pm

by tosca on Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Everyday I'm greeted by something new and today it is either: Happy Lundi Gras, bebe (Happy Fat Monday, baby), Happy Carnival or even Happy Mardi Gras. Had breakfast with some of the guests here at the Banana Courtyard - and a fantastic bunch they are! People from Canada, England and other parts of the US. Ordinarily I either get up real early and race off to explore the Vieux Carre or sleep in real late and race off to explore the Vieux Carre. If all y'all ever get the chance to stay here with Miss Mary and Mr. Hugh do take the opportunity - you get a key so you can come and go all hours and only have to think about lunch or dinner. I've become quite well acquainted with the various food kiosks/stall holders and Esplanade Mini Mart here in the Quarter.

Met a couple of gorgeous children yesterday who should be paid to talk up the tourist attractions here in New Orleans. Dayette (lil miss 'Call me Didi, everyone else does) and her little brother David ('...but ev'rybody call him David B...') talked my ear off about how fantastic life in New Orleans is and how, even though they '...don't have much money 'cause daddy's a dishwasher and money's tight since the storm, you know (Didi's words exactly), but you should come live here. You should think about it, Miss Tosca - you will like it, I know you will.' And she's right - I know I would and, late night last thing before I drift off I seriously consider it. And then first thing in the morning I wonder who the hell I'm kidding. Pack up and move across the WORLD - ne'mind the SEA - to an unknown. Unh unh!

Spent the whole day today (ok, I lie, I spent some part of it walking up and down the Riverfront sippin' on my chosen alcoholic drink of the afternoon (yeah, I choose one for morning, one for afternoon and then one for the evening to round off my day) which was a Mango Daiquiri (mango rum & ice cream yum) sitting down at the Riverfront listening to a variety of bands. Trent Sawyer band, Ed Perkins band, another band (I forget the name of but they were GREAT) and then Big Al. A lot of the stuff that the bands sang the locals all knew and everyone was shaking and shimmying and singing along. Ooh - I now know how to line dance. Next paragraph:

MY SISTERS: yeah, you know that line dance that we always see on movies featuring African Americans? THAT ONE! Some women made me get up with them and they taught me to do it and no shit, everyone got up and did it. It's like - rhythm is in-bred in these people (and by that I mean New Orleanians) 'cause god knows I got all the rhythm of a dying catfish in a tree but today I looked good LOL Oh, and you know how we joke about hoochie mama dancing? The marching bands yesterday - some of the young girls would go bouncing past and then, all of a sudden, drop and start windin' and grindin' (they pronounced it whine-ing and grine-ing). Little Dayette who was standing next to me said, 'Ooh you go to school to learn how to dance like that!' and one guy on the other side of her said, 'Unh unh, no way, you ain't going to that school!' Then some humvee in the parade would go past and all the little kids around me would drop and start poppin' and lockin' and the women/young girls would start some serious booty shaking LOL It's fantastic. One thing I noticed for real today is if you got booty - flaunt it, if you got bust - flaunt it, if you got thighs - flaunt it. In short - if you AIN'T flaunting it why the heck not?!? It's such a precious thing, it really is. Oh, and to the young guy I stood next to at the parades yesterday thanks for helping me catch beads :-)

Have just spoken with Miss Mary to book the Madame Steamboat room here at Banana Courtyard for 3rd-5th March when I come back from Memphis, so I'll be flying out from here. I plan to chase Banksy's works around the city (assuming I can remember where I saved the dratted online map to D'OH me).

Another two parades tonight but I think I'm too damn tired to see 'em. I gotta bring the nephews here they would have SUCH A HOOT (and run me broke havin' it LOL).

Beads, beads, beads! Sunday 22 Feb, 6:15pm

by tosca on Monday, February 23, 2009

It's Sunday night here in the French Quarter and I've just come back from watching 2 parades down on Canal Street. These New Orleanians damn sure know how to throw a party. Talk about hundreds - and that's only what I saw on my side of Canal Street (was standing on the corner of Burgundy and Canal Street). Just got back to my room (here at Banana Courtyard where all y'all should stay if you come here, Miss Mary and Mr. Richard take real good care of their guests) and watched a bit on the news for when the parade came down St. Charles from uptown and whoa. Heaps more ppl up there. Am about to go back and watch Bacchus, one of the locals was telling me that Val Kilmer is the King this year of the Bacchus float. Am going for more necklaces! I've got something like 40 new beaded necklaces now. And I earned 'em all by hootin' & hollerin' and jumpin' for 'em (no flashin' involved whatsoever).

Was comin' back last night and stopped in at the local Esplanade Mini Mart - now ordinarily the guy there calls me Bebe, but they had a different guy on last night, younger and, I'd say, Chicano. Very friendly and engagin and, instead of Bebe, he calls me Sweet Girl, Sweet Thang and Sweetheart. Gotta luv this place :-)

I think it'd be a bit of an anticlimactic to get to Memphis - not that I'm going to put off Graceland. Was down at the French Market yesterday and finally got to try some Crawfish Etouffee, and the day before had Gumbo at NOLA and, before I go (hopefully tomorrow) I want to try a po-boy, a muffaletta and some jumbalaya. Surely it's not a trip to New Orleans if I don't!

Eep - must be time for me to head back down to Canal (about a 15 min walk from here and very safe if I walk back along N. Rampart Street - well lit, police/troopers all over) and see Bacchus and hustle for some more beads =)

Ooh, just quickly: Ernie, the historian from the tour last night, he said (and I'm still not quite sure if he was kiddin') that the reason Louisianians are so damn friendly is the whole voodoo thing. That to hedge yer bets greet everybody and smile while you do it. Even more so if the person ain't from around here. He said, so when they say, 'How you doin' today?' it's because they really want to know, how ARE you doin' today and are you gonna curse 'em LOL

Laissez les bon temps rouler, Saturday Feb 21 9:45pm

by tosca on Sunday, February 22, 2009

Well heck - the vibe out there is TOTALLY different from last night, which is even more different than the night before again :-) Just came back from doing the Spellbound Voodoo Tour (as run by Haunted History Tours out of, mostly, Rev Zombie's Voodoo Shop down on St. Peter Street). Local historian took us in and around the Vieux Carre (French Quarter, which is roughly a 6x13 block radius) and also took us to a local shop run by a very interesting woman.

Am having such a blast out here - and when I come back again (which I plan to next year for real) next year I plan to come with a farkin' good camera - you gotta see this place to believe it and, seriously people, you may not believe it even then.

Oh, I almost got knocked in the head by beads. For all y'all who thought barin' yer boobs is de rigeur here to get beads that's such a crock! People on the balcony chuck beads for any and every reason whatsoever. I was walkin' with the tour and then I hear a voice say, 'Hey, sweet thang' and then BAM. If I'd been a couple of steps further ahead I've have gotten knocked out. The guidebooks don't write about that LOL

One gentleman on the tour said he and his wife walked all up and down Bourbon and not once did he see boobies. Should've seen his face when I told him I'd seen enough to be able to describe them intimately...and then there were the male chests.

Am runnin' through money like it's water :-) But I do have souvenirs for the family. Oohh went down to the French Market and spent faaaaar too long noseying around and the band. OMG the band! Absolutely fantastic :-)

Now I'm buggared and havin' an early night - walking all around this area tires me out something chronic hah. Tomorrow is another day, right?!?

How you doin' today...? Friday 20th Feb, 4:45pm

by tosca on Saturday, February 21, 2009

I've made a point of greeting everybody I walk past and, believe you me, that's a freakin' mission and a half in a place as busy as New Orleans seems to be right now. They all seem to reply with, 'How you doin' today?' I haven't yet met a rude person. What's with that?!? Not that I want to, I just haven't. Of course, a lot of then want to strike up conversations: in shops, in a few bars I've been in, on the ferry, waiting for the ferry, walking around Algiers, at the cornerstore dairy where I've been going for my daily fix of Coke & M&Ms, standing in queues in the oddest of places. A lot of ppl seem to take my accent as a starting point for a conversation and, this being New Orleans and the peak of their tourist season, I just go with the flow. One freaky note: on the free ferry over to Algiers? They have guards who carry rifles. I shit you not - and how did I know they were real? Because one daft tourist went up and asked if he could touch the gun D'OH Did I? Hell no! I might be born in NZ but even I know a real guy when I see one, geez, and I don't wanna touch it!

Did the Vampire tour last night and omg freaked myself out totally. Bumped into (amongst others on the same tour) a really nice couple of ladies from San Antonio, Texas who're here for the same reason as me - see as much as you can see in as little time as possible. Wandered around the area with our very knowledgeable guide and freakin' A who knew this place was such a hotbed of vampiric activity? I had an idea but it's a totally different matter to hear it. And doing the tour at night...and then having to walk back to the Banana Courtyard on my own ARGH. Was jumpin' at every shadow and footstep LOL Needless to say, the police presence here is VERY strong so walking back was not a problem at all.

Got back to the B&B and stopped for a yarn with Mr. Richard (Miss Mary is still in Mississippi atm) and the 2 Canadian couples who'd also spent the day roaming, much like me. After a few glasses of wine, some hilarious chatter, I headed for bed at oohh 1am? Something like that? I came back, after the Vampire tour, through the French Quarter to unwind after all the blood and gore chit chat (seriously, that's some freaky shit, right there) and wow - it's crazy on Bourbon Street LOL That's all I can say - I've seen enough female boobs and hairy chests to be put off FOR LIFE. Funnily enough, it was the men flashing people on the balconies for beads LOL I had one guy come up and physically start counting the beaded necklaces around my neck and then say, 'Seriously? You flashed THAT many times?' I've heard NZers are pretty laidback but we've got nothing on these New Orleanians, eh. Absolutely nothing.

Slept in late - too damn tired to get up early. Was meant to head on down to the Garden District again for a Ghost Tour (yes, I'm here for the tours AND the booze - not to bare my boobs and collect beads, and besides my beads from home are prettier) but decided to cancel it and head out to NOLA for lunch instead. The next paragraph is for Markie & Jax (nephews).

MARKHIEM & JAX: Guys! Emeril has THREE restaurants in New Orleans - Delmonico's Bar & Restaurant, Emeril's and then NOLA here in the Vieux Carre (French Quarter). They only do lunch on Fridays so I rang 'em up and made a lunch reservation. Went on down and omg their food is INCREDIBLE. I did get you a copy of their menus (the dessert/coffe menu and also the entree/mains menu). I did NOT - repeat NOT - steal it. The fabulous waiter, James, quite willingly handed them over in a paper bag. So I tipped him $20. Seriously, the service there was great and the place is so busy. I had something like 3 waiters trying checking on me throughout the whole experience. One kept topping up my drinks (which I don't remember paying for actually), one kept asking if I was ok and wanted to know what the ingredients were in each dish and the third would sort of swoop by and check I had everything I needed. When I tipped them at the end two of them made a point of coming up and thanking me personally. Whoa! Do we get service like that back home? We gotta stop eating at Burger King LOL So, I have the copies of the menus, just like you wanted, legally obtained, though :-) Only one copy of each, though!

Every shop I enter? If there's a woman behind the counter she wants to know everything about me: how old am I? Why'm I travelling on my own? So I'm single and do I want to meet her son? LOL Good grief :) I took the Canal Street Ferry on over to Algiers Pointe because I wanted to go see Mardi Gras World and I ended up on the other side of the Mississippi River like I was meant to, but not at Mardi Gras World. I got caught up in the Jazz Walk of Fame and then wandered around Algiers for a bit looking at the houses. Historical and so heartbreakingly beautiful - those pictures you see of homes here in New Orleans that're slightly run down? Row up on row like that. Wandered around and took some photos - beautiful place.

Stopped at Rouses, which is a local supermarket on St. Peters to top up on shampoo & toothpaste (the essentials, eh), and a couple of New Yorkers in front of me got into a verbal tussle with a couple of locals. Talk about uncomfortable. I looked everywhere (up at the ceiling, down at the floor, sideways at the shelves) and tried not to see it going on. It had the tiniest aisles ever but I suspect for all other parts of the year it's not that bad. The lady behind the checkout counter (should've seen her nails they were FABULOUSLY covered in glittery sequins and things), when ppl complained, said to ppl, 'All y'all want an express lane? Then come back on Wednesday when Mardi Gras over and everyone else go home.' Everyone stopped complaining LOL Gotta luv the attitude!

Popped back down to Jackson Square and watched a brass band busking - this place is a musical dream. It pumps out of every bar - I've heard rock, pop, zydeco, alternative, heavy metal, jazz of various styles, both live and pre-recorded. Not just the bars play their music loud but the shops, too. There're so many of these little Mardi Gras shops they sell all the touristy type stuff (that I'm such a sucker for) beads, shot glasses, mugs, t-shirts, masks, feather boas etc. and they play their music just as loud as the bars. Bourbon Street is this fusion of crap I can't even explain it. So I won't LOL Anyways, was down at Jackson Square, near the St. Louis Cathedral, and the band was awesome. People were dancing away in the square. I want to take a carriage ride of the French Quarter but prob won't be a good time until after Tuesday when it calms down a bit.

Have stopped in at the postal shop where I've been using their internet access daily and they know me by name, now. That's kinda freaky - but great service. Am about to head back to the B&B to get changed and come back down for the New Orleans Ghost Tour. Yes, another night where I've voluntarily paid to be scared shitless, but it's ghosts! And I'm Maori, I can't resist a ghost story - that's my story and I'm sticking to it :-)

JAX: I DID get your beads but they're not covered in vomit (how I'm gonna explain that to Customs anyways who the hell knows). Was walking up Bourbon St last night with a margarita and some guy came racing up and said he'd give me the beads if I'd be in a picture with him - how can you say not to that? I didn't, and so you have beads. Anyways, the vomit thing? Is kinda hard, New Orleans is very quick with the clean up crews here. As fast as mess is made it's cleaned up again. Gawd, I'm tired and I needa get changed.

Missing home - but not enough to cut my trip short :-)