I had hoped to try and grab some lucidity as the last few days' adrenaline subsides and I drift into a short stupor before I have to drive back to Atlanta and return to my day job, so I could put down in words at least some of the things that have happened, that were created and shared by and with these NOLA Bloggers, this fifth anniversary of Katrina's landfall and of the infrastructure failure that occurred in her wake, but, nah. I'm afraid it might be too late for that. So, if you don't mind I'll ramble and link to some of the fine friends who are better bloggers than I am. It will be best for us all if y'all go and read what they wrote. If you're looking for well-written, cohesive narrative, I fear you're in the wrong place. Here's my report from Rising Tide & Rob Thomas with a few ReTweets thrown in, my RTs.
Loki, who once again did a great job as Master of Ceremonies, has posted a Cinchcast of Mother Jones' Mac McClelland's keynote speech, including the Q&A that followed. While she's been generally regarded as the hottest keynoter yet, I happen to think that depends on how you define hot, since she's up against last year's keynoter, Harry Shearer. (Stop it, I'm serious. He's certainly hotter from my POV, but I digress.) Aside from being brilliant and beautiful, she rocked for being the first keynoter to come to the Friday night party, and she signed NOLADishu's Halliburton Cementing Handbook. Shearer, however, gets his own special kudos for being the first keynoter to show up at the year after his keynote Rising Tide as an attendee, which also rocked, a lot. His documentary, The Big Uneasy, shows one night only nationwide on Monday, August 30th. If you miss it, look for it soon in DVD.
Veracity Stew has a good recap of Tim Ruppert's presentation on the differences between levees and dams, in fact and in how they are considered, regulated and maintained by governments, whether federal or local. It turns out those differences are big and important and affect millions of Americans who don't live anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico. The Big American Night has a long post that pays particular attention to the Public Safety and Environmental panel discussions. If you didn't follow Liprap's live blogging on the Rising Tide blog on Saturday, then scroll down to see her live posts. @Dakinikat did something cool, putting up a post early in the day and then letting the comments thread be the live-blogging. I don't agree with everything she says, but it's a nice record, and her comment after noting that our keynoter was dropping f-bombs and drinking a Bloody Mary, "She's gone native," was hilarious (h/t @skooks).
We had a great crowd, with folks coming in all day and very few leaving, until the very last panel, or because of the very last panel, which was Maitri's Treme panel. Jeffrey gets the quote of the day as a questioner when he asked Eric Overmyer, Treme's co-creator and executive producer, whether there was a danger of "curating to death" the culture that the show is trying to capture. Overmyer recognized that danger.
I'll toss up the links to pictures and interesting reports, hopefully including video, as updates to this post as I find them, and promise another post covering the Katrina 5.0 Symposium at the Louisiana State Museum as well as Shearer's movie, later. We had over 200 attendees at this year's conference, plus probably a dozen or so more press comps and unregistered panelists (it was my job to count them and I'll work on getting the final, final head count after I get this post up). The Howlin' Wolf turned out to be an almost perfect venue and h/t to Howie for getting it done on game day. The Marriott Springhill Suites was perfect as a conference hotel. With quite a few organizers encamped and many out of town guests, including our keynote speaker, I heard not one single complaint. Somehow, miraculously, our non-attendee hotel neighbors didn't even complain about us, or at least not that I know. Walking back and forth between the hotel and the Wolf it was impossible not to notice the front of the Convention Center less than two blocks away, and I couldn't help but wonder what passed in those spaces five years ago.
The organizers kicked ass, many shouldering multiple responsibilities. I did my best to manage the registration process from afar but would like to thank the real organizers for an amazing job done well: Peter Athas, Patrick Armstrong, Jeffrey Bostick, Leigh Checkman, Alli deJong, Mark Folse, Mark Moseley, Lisa Palumbo, Tim Ruppert, Rob Steinmetz, Lance Vargas, George Williams, and especially, our Chair, without whom it would have been something completely different, Kimberly Marshall. I kind of miss the days of live-blogging Rising Tide, because manning the check-in table means I don't get to pay full attention to the program, although this venue was better for doing both at the same time than any place we've previously held the conference. I end up doing more tweeting than blogging and trying my best to follow as we go along on Twitter by keeping one eye on the #rt5 tweet stream, of greatest value when used as a guide to longer content by clicking the links shared. There were lots of great tweets, but my favorite was from Lamar White of @CenLamar who tweeted to @RisingTide the day after the conference, "This year was a smash success. Rising Tide is quietly emerging as the State's most relevant and insightful annual conference." Also, check out his report of running into President Obama at Parkway Bakery on Sunday.
It was a hard decision for me to make, because debriefing with the organizers after the conference is one of my favorite parts of our traditions, but last April, when, on a whim, I tried to buy tickets for Rob Thomas' acoustic concert in Biloxi on 8/28 for his Sidewalk Angels Foundation, the last of the summer tour, I hit the jackpot and came away from Ticketmaster with front row seats. I was fortunate enough to enlist @brenyb as my enthusiastic partner in crime, and we high-tailed it out of Rising Tide and to Biloxi in the pouring rain, without eating dinner or so much as having a beer, landing in our seats barely in time to catch our breath before they started. Playing with Matt Beck and Frankie Romano, he performed a mix of his solo material, Matchbox Twenty favorites, some covers and two Tabitha's Secret songs, one of which I'd never heard, and really liked, Swing. Matt Beck did one excellent solo song that I have on video. My Flickr Pics are here, but I'm a little uncomfortable posting the videos I made. Unlike most artists, Rob doesn't take down concert vids folks post online, but these are such high quality that I'm not sure it's okay (or maybe I just want them all to myself?). It was a soft concert, relaxed, with everyone seated except at the very end, with the appreciative audience singing back to him all night. On our ride back to New Orleans (okay, after a stop for a late dinner at Waffle House), we talked about Rob's way with words, and maybe I'll come back and write a whole post on his remarkable ability to distill complex concepts into a very few cleverly turned words, and add a set list, but this line from MBT's Hand Me Down, which he did not sing on Saturday, seemed to us to perfectly fit the day's theme, nailing what passes for information right now in this country, what a corporate for-profit media teaches us: "gonna like the way they lie, better than the truth."
Jeffrey pointed out a few things in a blog post on the Friday before Rising Tide that I think bear repeating. First, he points out this paragraph from the RisingTideNOLA.com home page:
We come together to dispel myths, promote facts, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a "real life" demonstration of internet activism as we continue to recover from a massive failure of government on all levels.Then he adds this:
I very much like that little block of text. It says an informed, engaged public can debunk and overcome damaging untruths which emerge either through general laziness or from powerful institutional malefactors. This is, in my opinion, the very best of what internet media offers us.I hope people came away from this year's Rising Tide both more informed and engaged. I know I did.
*** We already have an update. Crystal Kile's video of Mac McClelland's keynote is here.
**** Watching Treme has a comprehensive post up here with detailed coverage of the Treme panel.
***** Mark LaFlaur's live blogging for Levees Not War. The conference is always better for having Mark around.