Sunday, April 18, 2010

I've moved . . .

. . . my blog, that is.

Due to a number of technology issues (most importantly, the fact that Blogger doesn't support an app on the iPhone), I have re-established my blog on Word Press.

That means Scoopzone's new home is located at

Now that I'll be able to post from my iPhone, as well as from my nifty and oh-so-easy-to-use MacBook, I'll be putting lots of new stuff on my blog. I PROMISE!!!

This version of Scoopzone won't be going anywhere. I'm keeping it for historical purposes. But all of my future posts will appear only on my new blog at Word Press.

So bookmark my new address, and go back to it often.

If you go there now, you'll get to see my first post chronicling First Lady Michelle Obama's recent visit to San Diego, with pics too.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Louisiana politics at its most jaw-dropping best

Among the many things I miss about living in New Orleans, one that tops the list is election season. That's because politics in the Big Easy is side-show entertainment.

There's no doubt that my nostalgia for the bizarre characters and outrageous mud-slinging battles that surface in races for even the most benign offices in NOLA has some connection to the pedestrian nature of politics in San Diego.

If New Orleans is the Jerry Springer of local elections then surely San Diego is the political reincarnation of Martha Stewart.

Some people thought Hurricane Katrina and its boot-strapping aftermath would infuse more civility into the Crescent City's political culture. But this year's race for coroner is proving the naivete of such predictions.

The race pits 80-year-old incumbent Dr. Frank Minyard against Dwight McKenna, a surgeon who served on the Orleans Parish School Board for five years until a federal court convicted him of tax evasion.

Minyard, who famously flaunts his jazz trumpet playing skills in campaign posters, was first elected to the post in 1974.

He became more widely known in the aftermath of Katrina as his office struggled to identify the hurricane's victims while dealing with its own devastation. The effort was chronicled in this NYT piece.

More recently, Minyard has become the target of what can only be called one of the craziest political commercials ever made. The B-horror-movie-themed spot hits on a mild scandal from years ago when, according to The Times-Picayune, families of several dead people sued Minyard for removing small pieces of bone and cornea during autopsies without their permission.

Those fine points are lost in the ad, which features "Dr. Minyard" and his hunch-back sidekick Igor discussing the night's organ harvest and sale over a corpse.

It won't win an Oscar, and it probably won't win McKenna the election. But it might just get a few voters in New Orleans to think, at least for a minute or two, about something other than the Saints playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Mount Laguna snow

Tim and I made the 45-minute drive east from San Diego to Mount Laguna a few weekends back after a series of big Pacific storms dumped inches of rain on the city and several feet of snow on the mountains.
When the local mountains get snow like this on the weekends, thousands of people converge on them. Luckily, we arrived early (around 8:30 a.m.) and police were requiring chains for the drive to the summit (which I have, of course).

The scenery was postcard beautiful.

I call this Tim, No, Cow.
No, my tongue didn't get stuck.
Click on any pic to view it full size.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This ain't your grandpa's Super Bowl

Watch this video if you haven't already. It elegantly explains why the relationship between the people of New Orleans and the Saints football team is unique and unmatched in the entire world of sports.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trip to Louisiana for LSU-Auburn game

We headed to Baton Rouge last Thursday for a quick trip to see LSU play the impostors in the Tiger Bowl.
It was Tim's first LSU game, so I made sure he got the full experience.
We joined the crowd as fans gathered below the Journalism Building to await the arrival of the Golden Band from Tigerland.
Mike VI was looking better than ever. He must be nearly 600 pounds by now.
I pointed out my brick in front of Mike's $3 million habitat, which sits across the street from Tiger Stadium.
This was the view from our seats as the two teams warmed up before the game. That's Mike VI in the trailer, making his traditional trip around the stadium to help work up the fans.
We were very happy with the results. LSU won 31-10.
We spent the day before the game hanging out with my family and seeing some of the sights around the Capitol City. This is Nottoway, an Italianate plantation home built in 1859 across the River from Baton Rouge.
Nearby in the community of Point Pleasant, we found The Chapel of the Madonna sitting in front of a cow pasture.

The tiny church measures 8-feet by 8-feet and is regarded by some to be the smallest house of worship in the world. It was built by an Italian-American family after a relative recovered from a severe illness.
There's just enough room inside for a small altar and a couple of kneelers. The keys to the church are left in a mailbox at the door.
Of course, we also did some serious eating. Here's Tim about to tear into a fried seafood platter at Walk On's, a popular restaurant in Baton Rouge that was founded by a couple of LSU grads who were walk-on players for the basketball team.
Me with my mom and dad. Much of the talk over the weekend among my relatives revolved around the question of whether my dad now has more hair on his head than I do.
My niece and nephew. They grow up so fast!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Burning Man - the movies

Scenes from our camp site, the Playa and Pink Mammoth, a camp that hosted a huge afternoon party everyday featuring the most amazing music mixes.

This video starts under the giant wooden sculpture that formed the base on which The Man stood.

I've saved the best for last. This clip condenses the hour and a half leading up to and including the burning of The Man on Saturday night.

It's the climax of the entire week, and it features amazing pyrotechnics that would make any Hollywood producer proud. It seemed as though all 45,000 Burners were gathered in the huge circle that ringed the platform.

It's an experience I'll never forget.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Almost the end

Finally, after nearly four weeks, we're nearing the end of my posts on my late August trip to Burning Man.
I've tried to provide an honest and complete overview of my experience, which ranks among the best I've had in my life.
I'm closing out with some of the pics that hadn't yet made it into previous posts. Steve and Dean, our camp mates from Chicago, made each of us elaborately decorated umbrellas. As the sun set on our first day at Black Rock City, we took to the streets. From left to right are Tim, Kent, Al and Steve.

The umbrellas, with themes of flowers, dinosaurs, Voodoo, bananas and pink flamingos, were a big hit with all of us and the people who cheered us on and trailed us like paparazzi. Click on any pic to view it larger.
Here is Dean dealing with a dust storm as only he could.

Steve gests a misting on a morning trip back from the ice store.

This free-form, communal sculpture took shape in the center camp.
Me and Tim relaxing after a cup of coffee.
Without a doubt, I plan to head back to Burning Man in 2010 because I know that I only scratched the surface on my first trip. Part of what makes the experience so amazing is sharing it with friends. So if any of my posts resonate with you, drop me an email in about four or five months and consider joining our group next time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Temple

This year's version of the second most important structure at Burning Man came in the form of an elaborate lotus blossom.
Ramps and ladders provided access to two elevated floors within the giant wood flower.
People approached the Temple with an innate reverence, spending time to scribble messages of grief or longing or peace on the structure's beams. Most were dedicated to people, pets or things that were no longer in their lives.

The notes were written with the knowledge that they would be reduced to ashes with the Temple in just a few days. The ritual reminded me of the traditions of the Society of St. Anne, a walking krewe in New Orleans which parades through the Bywater, Marigny and French Quarter on Mardi Gras day. The parade ends at the edge of the Mississippi River where participants toss relics of their past year into the water.

Others just roamed the platforms, reading the personal accounts of strangers that brought many to tears.
When a woman handed me a marker and said, "It's your turn," I jotted down two dedications. Benji was the sweetest, kindest dog you could ever imagine. He infused immeasurable happiness into the lives of Jess, Rex and Bob for many years. He died this summer after a long battle with cancer.
Sunrise over the Temple, by my buddy Steffen P.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Burning Man's answer to health care reform

So by now you've probably figured out that Burning Man can be a dangerous place. If the dust and heat don't get you, there's always a late-night fall from the top of a rolling disco club or indulging in too many "special" brownies or a painful skid down a 30-foot tall, AstroTurf slide. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What all this means is shit happens. And when it happens to you, you head to Black Rock City's medical tent.

That's where I ended up with Tim and two other camp mates, who all suffered fairly minor bumps and bruises.

Tim was in a head-on bike collision late one afternoon in a mild dust storm. His finger was pretty badly cut, but we waited until the next morning to get it checked.
Here's Tim giving some basic information to a clerk, who then printed a one-page medical record that stayed with him until he left.
Patients with minor issues, like Tim, were sent to an open area where they were seen by a nurse and sent on their way. People with more serious issues were sent to one of 10 cots in the heart of the tent.

About 10 nurses and one doctor manned the station during peak hours. Each staffer was a volunteer, working a single 12-hour shift in exchange for free entry to the event.

And the price to patients? Absolutely nothing. Imagine that. Socialized medicine that actually works.

The operation reminded me of the way health care was handed out after Katrina devastated New Orleans. (Go here to see one of my early posts on medical services immediately after the hurricane.) Black Rock City might be the only place in the country where this kind of post-catastrophe, battlefield triage care is practiced on a regular basis.

Patients requiring more than a couple hours of monitoring, antibiotics or a few stitches were shipped out in an ambulance to a hospital in Reno, located about two and a half hours away.

During my time in the tent, I saw people with flu symptoms, asthma attacks, cuts, sprains, bad drug trips, wound infections and separated shoulders.

Now back to the AstroTurf slide . . .
When I polled nurses one the biggest source of injuries, the unanimous winner was this ill-conceived monstrosity. People climbed to the top and slid down on thin sheets of plastic. I did it, and have to admit it was pretty cool.

But the plastic sheets often shifted or tore apart during descent, and nothing stopped sliders from crashing into bystanders when they reached the bottom.
These were among the most common injuries suffered at the slide. Imagine all of the nasty little microscopic things living on those green plastic blades.

Without a doubt, the services provided by the medical tent staff is essential. With so many people clustered in such a remote location for so many days, there must be a way to tend to the injuries that are bound to occur. If the service wasn't available, some people wouldn't feel safe going to Burning Man.

The dark side of Burning Man

Nightfall transformed Black Rock City into a new world filled with pulsing music, glowing bodies and fire-breathing mutant vehicles that seem to float across the surface of the desert. At the center of it all was The Man, towering over his elaborate color-bathed base.

We started each night by donning dozens of glow sticks. They're a critical accessory out in the darkness, and you can't bring too many of them with you. Tim models what proved to be a popular light-stick ensemble.
The Towers of Shiva, an art installation that doubled as a stage by David King and Controlled Burn of Reno, served as a central gathering point and performance space for dozens of fire dancers twirling flaming poles, lanterns on chains, wheels and clubs.
The dancers, the fire-breathing towers circling the stage and a long row of tall-standing flame throwers performed in synchrony to amazing sets of music. Hundreds of people clustered around the scene each night as the pandemonium went on for hours.

Click on this pic and you'll get a feel for what the city looked like from the center of playa at the peak of nighttime activity. Keep in mind, you're only seeing about a quarter of the entire illuminated horizon.
Away from the playa, the streets were teaming with activity well into the early morning hours.

The space under the base of The Man offered a break from the sensory overload.
Showing off their nighttime gear are (from left) Steve, Scott, Kent, Tim and Pete.
These eyes, illuminated by battery-operated spotlights, were fastened to the fronts of a of pair bikes that roamed the playa side by side.All good things come to an end, even on the playa, as documented by this sunrise pic by my friend Steffen P.

Up next, we take a trip . . . or two . . . or three . . . to Black Rock City's amazing medic station.