New Podcast: KraftiM – IkoNO, from Requiems for a Submerged City

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Keeping with our recognition of the 2nd anniversary of Katrina, we present another selection from the album Requiems for a Submerged City, “An electronic tribute to the City of New Orleans and its people – to those who survived Katrina and to those who didn't.” The album is released via the great Internet Archive.

Tonight, we present the track “IkoNO” by KraftiM:

KraftiM's track is a personal, loving tribute to the soul of New Orleans, pulsating with rhythms and echoes of the sweet soul music he once grew to love. Sounds of wind and water mix to this carnival-like electronic potpourri as a natural part of the environment and its atmosphere, but at the same time casting a dark shadow over the passionate and creative spirit of the city and its soul.

In addition to being a tribute, this is a great album musically that would strongly recommend for anyone who appreciates electronic music. I am also going to try and find other releases by the artists who participated.

Weekend Cat Events: Cats of New Orleans Revisited

We at CatSynth will continue to keep this candle lit along with Kashim and Othello and all our cat-blogging friends. Please visit them for the full list of remembrances.

This week also marked the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On Wednesday, we revisited my trip to New Orleans last November. I also wrote about the Cats of New Orleans, both real and imagined, and so we re-visit them this weekend.

(Click to enlarge)

We also visited with the Louisiana SPCA and got a tour of their cat facilities in their temporary home, several environmentally controlled units inside a large warehouse. You can see some photos from the temporary SPCA as well. The good news is that they have completed and opened their new permanent facility. So much of the rebuilding in New Orleans has been slow or non-existent, it's good to see this success…

In addition to the Weekend of Rememberance by Kashim and Othello, the other weekend cat events are going on. Bad Kitty Cats Chaos Festival #8 as at The Mad Mirror. The Friday Ark #154 is at The Modulator. And Carnival of the Cats will be at This Blog is Full of Crap with Laurence et al.

New Podcast: Requiems for a Submerged City

The Sunday's podcast is another great find from the Internet Archives. The album Requiems for a Submerged City is “An electronic tribute to the City of New Orleans and its people – to those who survived Katrina and to those who didn't.” Tonight, we feature the first track, “This is It” by Doc:

Doc opens his track and the album with an upbeat intro carrying some of the emotionally most charged moments from New Orleans Katrina/flood media reporting. After the initial blast of 'media energy' the track transforms into soft, relaxed, dreamlike ambience hosting a strange collage of media snippets, some tangible, some almost subliminal, floating gently in the stream of music.

Regular readers will know that we at CatSynth have been closely following, and often touched by, the events in New Orleans following Katrina. This was even more true after my visit in November, 2006. So am I happy to feature this collection as part of my regular podcast series.

I am also happy to announce that you can now subscribe to the CatSynth Channel far more easily via FeedBurner. From now on, every podcast post to CatSynth will include the “feed” icon below:

Click here to subscribe.

I will also be retrofitting previous podcast posts as time permits.

So not that it's this simple, you all no longer have any excuses to not subscribe to our podcast.

Election detritus

Readers may recall that I was in New Orleans on election night, in the middle of the district of William “frozen assets” Jefferson. Well, his runoff election is today.

Keeping cash in the freezer and taking bribes is one thing, but in my mind the reason he deserves to lose is that he has turned to bashing his opponent Karen Carpenter for her support of gay rights and abortion rights. Whether these represent his true views or a cynical attempt to appeal to socially conservative voters, either qualifies as a reason to vote against him. We'll have to see if at the end of the day his little “Republican” play works…

UPDATE: Looks like Jefferson pretty much trounced Carpenter in the runoff. I would like to think it's because of loyalty in the district, and not because of so-called “values issues.”

Spotted Cat in the news

While I was back in New York thanksgiving weekend, the Sunday Times ran an article on New Orleans in the travel section. Not only that, they featured the Spotted Cat, both in the article and as the cover photo for the section:

Readers may remember that I also featured the Spotted Cat in my article on NOLA night life. It has unfortunately been getting bad press lately, but not because of the music or the club itself, which remains one of the best venus in New Oreleans. Rather, the Marigny neighborhood has seen a spike in crime over the past few months, including some nasty murders – the most disturbing one involved a former Spotted Cat employee. It appears to be part of an overall increase in crime in New Orleans since people returned after Katrina.

With such negative perceptions, it's important to highlight the positive in New Orleans and it's institutions. In addition to my articles, others are doing their best to provide some good press for the Spotted Cat.

Summary of New Orleans / ICMC articles

Here is a list of all the New Orleans and ICMC articles in chronological order. New readers are encouraged to use this list as a starting point. Enjoy!

Weekend in New Orleans Part 1: Zip visits the French Quarter

Weekend in New Orleans Part 2: City views and Scultpure Garden
ICMC late concert on election night
Preparing for tomorrow's radio performance and more ICMC
After radio performance
NOLA Night Life
Weekend Cat Blogging #75: Cats of New Orleans
The Other New Orleans

The Other New Orleans

I conclude my series from New Orleans with a visit to the areas beyond the central city and tourist district, areas hardest hit by Katrina. Consider the following overall map of New Orleans:

The Garden District and Tulane University (where the ICMC conference was held) are in the lowel left section. The rectangular area encompasses much of downtown as well as the French Quarter and the Fauborg-Marigny district (home of the Spotted Cat featured in my article on night life). These are highlighted in red and yellow, respectively, below:

To the east of Marigny are the Bywater neighbhood and the Lower Ninth Ward. The latter is probably known to many readers as the site of some of the worst flooding and destruction from the storm.

Heading out of Marigny north on Elysian Fields Ave., the trendy crowded neighborhood gives way to a more spread-out “Los Angeles” style area of separated buildings, convenience stores. Much of this area appears to be functioning again. We then turn east onto Claiborne Ave. (LA 39), one of the main east-west streets in New Orleans. Heading east, one sees more and more of the severly damaged houses, but the scope of the disaster is most apparent after crossing the canal on a large bridge and descending into the Lower Ninth Ward:

It is more than destroyed homes. Entire blocks are either in ruins or empty, all the businesses are boarded up or destroyed. While there is car traffic and some work on houses, the district seems largely empty and devoid of people and activity:

The photos really don't capture the experience in the Lower Ninth Ward. Imagine the images above extending in every direction around you, with no end in sight. These really are ruins of a city. And it should be noted that this is over a year after Katrina and the promised rebuilding and recovery. Part of me thinks that this area should be left this way as a “monument” of sorts – though I suspect the former residents might feel differently.

Heading back west over the canal on Claiborne, we rejoin Elysian Fields heading north towards Lake Ponchartrain. Many of the neighborhoods along the lake were also hard hit by the storm and flooding:

Unlike the Lower Ninth Ward, the areas along the lake do show signs of recovery and of life.

Arriving at the lake is another experience again. It felt a lot like traveling across San Francisco on Geary from downtown west to the ocean, a quieter area with rough waters and windswept shoreline:

The wind, water and trees provide a quiet, almost peaceful, contrast to the devastation, some of which still can be seen only a few blocks south. But one can see in the waves of the lake, only feet below the flood line on a normal somewhat story day, echoes of the storm surge. It was after all the lake and not the Mississippi River that provided much of the initial flooding.

It is here along the lake that I close this article and my reports from New Orleans. The surreal mixture of natural tranquility and destruction seems a fitting contrast and completion to the music and food, the busy conference and stately manors, streetcars and cats. Somehow it all works together.

Weekend Cat Blogging #75: Cats of New Orleans

WCB 75 is being hosted this weekend by Skeezix the Cat. My contribution this week is a special article on cats in New Orleans. Of course, this is a city steeped in its jazz heritage, and cats and jazz have always gone together at least when it comes to imagery and language. Certainly there were no shortages of artwork, posters, murals, etc., celebrating the “cool cat” of jazz:

The relationship of New Orleans to its real cats is a bit more ambiguous. This is definitely a “dog town” from the perspective of animal companions. People can be seen walking dogs everywhere, and there appear to be lots of guard dogs around as well. Cats were a little more elusive, though I did see a few during my many walks in the uptown area to and from Tulane for the conference. Please click on the images below to see large images of the furry New Orleans residents:

The middle picture is of a pet cat named Kramer who was very friendly and talkative. Most of the other cats I encountered were a bit skittish, many of them darting across streets and hiding under the raised fundations of the houses. Hiding under a house is most times a perfectly good strategy, but I do think with a bit of sadness how many kitties were caught hiding there when the floods came. Many cats were located and rescued in the aftermath of Katrina. Spray-painted notices such as these are still a common site around the city:

Of the groups most involved in locating and rescuing cats and other animals after Katrina was the Louisiana SPCA. Their shelter facility was destroyed in the storm, and they had to evacuate themselves and the animals in their care, no easy task. Upon returning, not only did they not have a facility, but were faced with the reality that so many people had left their pets behind – largely due to a government policy that disallowed pet evacuations, but has since been reversed. You can read more about the SPCA's efforts to rescue animals and rebuild – its both heart-breaking and uplifting.

I did have an opportunity to visit the SPCA's temporary facility. I would like to thank Lori Haeuser and Kate Pullen for taking the time and effort to provide me a tour and more information about their efforts with cats.

The temporary shelter is in a converted coffee warehouse on the Westbank, across the river from the main part of New Orleans and largely spared by the flooding. The warehouse is basically a huge non-insulated space with a concrete floor, not really set up to house large numbers of animals. The SPCA constructed a number of temporary housing units inside the warehouse for offices and animal facilities, including several units for the cats. There are separate units for kitties ready for adoption, healthy cats not quite ready for adoption, those with medical needs, and a separate area for feral cats. Each of the little buildings has its own climate and lighting control – the latter was particularly useful for the feral cats who prefer the shadows. Below is a picture from the adoption unit:

As you can see, they have quite a few black kitties at this time. As noted a few weeks ago around Halloween, black cats do have a harder time getting adopted. And more generally, it seems that culturally many people in the area, particularly those with a more rural background, as less likely to view cats as “pets” that one adopts from the shelter, but rather as functional animals that one might start feeding a befriending, and then perhaps take in. In someways, it is more a situation of the “cat adopting the human”, though those of us with cats know that is how it usually works anyway. They did say that cat adoptions are starting to pick up a bit now, so hopefully some of these kitties will find homes. In the meantime, it seems that they are being cared for as best they can under the circumstances. And they do get to come out and play, as was the case with this friendly little torbie (in photo to the right).

Please visit the Lousiana SPCA website for more info and to support their work.

NOLA Night Life

In addition to the late-night events at the conference, I made of exploring other aspects of New Orleans’ famed night-time culture.

While the French Quarter at night is a rather unique experience, there’s only so much one can take of endless streams of loud, drunk tourists. One of the concerns after Katrina is that this would become the only story in New Orleans. There are, however, good opportunities to hear local music at small venues outside the tourist district.

One neighborhood that stood out was the Fauborg Marigny district. This is small triangle area to the east of the French Quarter, a lot funkier, with a feel more like a trendy “up-and-coming” neighborhood in New York or San Francisco. It seems to be the main hangout for the local crowd as well as local musicians outside the standard tourist circuit. I kind of “adopted” this neighborhood for many of my evenings – in particular, I found myself at a club called The Spotted Cat several times. It’s a cozy place, with interesting artwork and decor, and what is often described as some of the “best local live jazz in New Orleans.”

It’s a rather small operation, cash only – and it looks like their website “” is offline and (like more of New Orleans’ real estate) apparently in the hands of speculators. But it seems like a safe bet to just drop in a see who is playing. I heard quite a variety of music, a local character known as “Chaz Washboard” who played, not surprisingly, a washboard, but one augmented with a couple of resonant metal cans and a hotel bell. As someone interested in homemade and alternative instruments, this was a little bonus. The following night I heard an ad-hoc group playing jazz standards, but featuring a remarkable pedal-guitarist named “Dave” who could make his instrument sound like a “strummed piano.” The next band that night was a set of local jazz musicians doing an extended bebop jam – musica gratia musicae. One regular group, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, plays old swing and popular jazz every Friday. I went with a couple of friends from the conference at the place was packed, spilling out into the sidewalk (where drinks are of course legal). This club was also a great place for socializing, and made friends with a few recent arrivals to the city.

I did finally get a chance to visit the Circle Bar last night. This is also a funky little place for local music, in this case more rock than jazz, and in a lot of ways felt more like a New York club than something unique to New Orleans. But from a local perspective, one can see how this fits into the scene. It’s located away from the tourist areas at the edge the Arts/Warehouse district, not too far from the freeway. It’s even “cozier” than the Spotted Cat, with the main room being a “parlor” of sorts, with it’s notable feature the overhead “k&b” clock – I believe this was a hold-over from a previous club at the same location (?).

I was keen to try the special of the night, Good Riddance Rummy (Baccardi and Coke), but opted for a nice safe Guiness as I was driving that night. The band playing was a local group called the Bipolaroids – straight ahead driving rock, with a bit of 60s British influence in chords and rhythm (e.g., triplets a la Penny Lane, flat seven chords, etc.) The keyboard player had a Minimoog along with a standard keyboard, but I could barely hear any of it with the band being as loud as they were.

So in summary, one should go see the French Quarter at night at least once, but then explore elsehwere in the city for something more real. Spotted Cat gets my strong recommendation for jazz! Circle Bar is cool as well for a funky, alternative night with local musicians.