The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is the only science-fiction themed krewe marching in Mardi Gras, with a 400-person team whose floats and gizmos are paeans to maker culture. It costs a Douglas Adamsian $42/year to be a member, and the krewe's inventions are all human powered -- no fossil fuels.
For their 2014 theme, the Wrath of Kahn-ival, the krewe have built a robotic bar called the Barship Enterprise, and a 10' tall flamethrowing mechagodzilla. It will be hauled by the Redshirts, the volunteer security force of Chewbacchus.
Here's a quote on "Elite Panic" from Rebecca Solnit, It's an idea I'm fascinated by, particularly the notion that if you believe that people are fundamentally a mob waiting to rise up and loot but for the security state, you will build a security state that turns people into a mob of would-be looters.
The term "elite panic" was coined by Caron Chess and Lee Clarke of Rutgers. From the beginning of the field in the 1950s to the present, the major sociologists of disaster -- Charles Fritz, Enrico Quarantelli, Kathleen Tierney, and Lee Clarke -- proceeding in the most cautious, methodical, and clearly attempting-to-be-politically-neutral way of social scientists, arrived via their research at this enormous confidence in human nature and deep critique of institutional authority. It’s quite remarkable.
Elites tend to believe in a venal, selfish, and essentially monstrous version of human nature, which I sometimes think is their own human nature. I mean, people don't become incredibly wealthy and powerful by being angelic, necessarily. They believe that only their power keeps the rest of us in line and that when it somehow shrinks away, our seething violence will rise to the surface -- that was very clear in Katrina. Timothy Garton Ash and Maureen Dowd and all these other people immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started writing commentaries based on the assumption that the rumors of mass violence during Katrina were true. A lot of people have never understood that the rumors were dispelled and that those things didn't actually happen; it's tragic.
But there's also an elite fear -- going back to the 19th century -- that there will be urban insurrection. It's a valid fear. I see these moments of crisis as moments of popular power and positive social change. The major example in my book is Mexico City, where the '85 earthquake prompted public disaffection with the one-party system and, therefore, the rebirth of civil society.
The Orleans Parish Public School Board has rejected the Louisiana Science Education Act, which followed Texas's lead by putting Creationism into the state's schools. A Board decision prohibits the teaching of Creationism in science class, and forbids the use of Texas's revisionist, Creationist "science" textbooks.
The policy says: "No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the state of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories."
It stresses the separation of science and religious teachings:
"No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes."
What I didn't mention is that today also marks the release of The Preservation Hall 50th Anniversary Collection, a four-disc box-set spanning the Preservation Hall band's storied history from 1962 to 2010, with guest vocals and instrumentation from Richie Havens, Tom Waits, Pete Seeger, Andrew Bird, Yim Yames and Del McCoury.
Preservation Hall is the legendary New Orleans club whose eponymous house band frequently host some of the greatest talents in jazz music. I drop in on the Hall every time I'm in NOLA and am never disappointed.
I got an early peek at this last week and have had it on an continuous loop ever since. The discs include five previously unreleased tracks that were nearly lost in the aftermath of Katrina, but which were rescued and restored. It's a best-of drawing from 20 CD and albums the band have previously released, and it's absolute gold. Though the music spans many styles and sub-genres of blues and jazz, every track is a winner; the accompanying booklet provides invaluable commentary and color from tuba player Ben Jaffe, the son of Preservation Hall's founders, Allan and Sandra Jaffe.
Here's a hell of a way to start the weekend: a couple of outstanding tracks from the upcoming album St. Peter & 57th St, from the Preservation Hall Band, the very sound of New Orleans. The album was recorded live in Carnegie Hall, and ships on September 25th.
* It Ain't My Fault, featuring Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def), Trombone Shorty, Allen Toussaint
* Careless Love, with a horn section that'll make you weep and a singer that'll make you wail.
IO9's Cyriaque Lamar has dug through the Tulane University Louisiana Research Collection of Mardi Gras costume and float designs and uncovered an utterly bizarre float entered in 1873 by the Mistick Krewe of Comus, who set out to lampoon both Charles Darwin and the Reconstruction. They dressed up as their idea of the "missing link" with heavy racist overtones. They didn't make it through the parade -- the police shut them down at Canal Street.
In 1873, Mardi Gras revelers from the Mistick Krewe of Comus — unversed in this newfangled evolutionary theory and angry at the Northern interlopers — dressed up as the "missing links" between animals, plants, and humans. Therefore, you had frightening human-grape and human-corn hybrids running around and fauna baring the faces of Ulysses S. Grant, other hated politicians, and Darwin himself.
You can see these costumes here, but this being 1870s Louisiana, the masquerade was absurdly racist.
Lamar's post details other floats and costumes, including an 1884 version of the Aeneid, an 1888 Middle Ages mythos float, an 1892 tribute to fruits and vegetables, an 1895 Asgard, a 1900 Alice in Wonderland, and a 1925 Japanese mythology set.
Last year, I found myself in New Orleans for a rather epic birthday party. One place I knew I wanted to visit was Preservation Hall, (which I'd written about here), a legendary unamplified jazz club. It was everything I'd heard and more.
I bought the whole run of Preservation Hall CDs, and they've been in heavy rotation here. Of the bunch, my favorite is "Songs of New Orleans," and I always know it's going to be a good day when the random number generator smiles on me and shuffles a track from the double CD into my music player, especially if that track is Go to the Mardi Gras, which played about ten minutes ago and put a smile on my face that's certain to last the day through.
I've just noticed that there's a new(ish) Preservation Hall Jazz Band CD, American Legacies, which, alas, I can't say anything about, because the Amazon MP3 store won't sell it to me (I'm in Germany and my credit card is registered in the UK, so they shut me out).