For The Other Loki by Bill Sienkiewicz

For The Other Loki by Bill Sienkiewicz

As bylines go my own gets a lot of questions. “Why Loki?” and  “What is that from?” lead the pack.

Let’s start with the name itself. If you recognize it you probably associate it with either mythology or comic books. In both cases you would be correct.

In ancient Norse legends Loki was the half brother of Thor, the thunder god. A trickster figure, he was as often portrayed in a negative light as a positive one. Even so he was a Promethean archetype, the bringer of fire to man. In the comic books he was cast as a super-villain, a role we will soon see played on the big screen when this summer’s Thor movie comes out.

So why pick a super-villain / trickster god for your screen name? I didn’t. It was inflicted upon me because of my horrible jokes and puns.

It all goes back to my days of working for the House of Blues in New Orleans. For those who have not been there, all the employees have their own handles on their name badges. Reminds me of the Internet in that way. I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful people who by names like Queen Bee, Venom, Storm, Uncle G., and others. My own was soon to be thrust upon me.

After a short time there my boss noticed my penchant for truly horrible jokes. Combining that with the personal intel that I was a huge mythology buff and an avid comic book collector she decided on Loki one night after work. The name tag was created and given to me the next morning.

Since my job was usually running the guest list I was in fairly high profile spot. As a result the nickname spread far beyond work, and since I could not combat it I adopted it. It’s now been almost 20 years and as many people know me by Loki as do as George. Over that time I’ve produced art shows, concerts, print and online articles, rpg game materials and more under that name.

I love the association with the positive aspects of this mythic entity. Much of my post Katrina blogging and work for the Open Society Institute was an effort to “bring the fire of knowledge.” It’s the same fire I bring to all of my work be it pro bono community efforts or work for my clients.

So there you have it. Oh, one last thing- it rhymes with “low key.”

Questions? Anyone? Bueller?

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Never Forget

HUrricane Katrina and the Failure of the New Orleans Levees

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As a native of the Gulf Coast I’ve been watching in horror as events unfold around the British Petroleum disaster. It’s been especially hard to watch from halfway across the country here in Ohio.

One thing that helps as I try to make sense of things, much as I did when the levees failed five years ago, is finding trusted sources for information. Down on the coast I’ve got all of the NOLA Bloggers so I am confident of the info from the ground there. The big picture is harder to get a handle on.

Then it hit me, when I was still working for Patron Saint Productions I worked with Steve LeVine on the campaign for his book The Oil and the Glory. Who better to go to than an industry expert?

In short order he got back to me and shot over a link to his latest piece on The New Republic. I highly advise it for those trying to get an idea of how things are spinning out within the industry. For instance take this excerpt talking about BP CEO Tony Hayward:

Hayward is not known to be a gruff oilman. Yet his slow and defensive public response to the April 20 rig explosion has dismayed many oil and p.r. industry veterans who say that BP lost control of public perceptions virtually from the outset. Its first corporate statement after the explosion was a link to a press release from Transocean, the Swiss-based operator of the rig from which BP’s Macondo well was being drilled. And then, for almost two weeks, neither Hayward nor any other London-based executives got in front of the cameras on the scene to explain what they were doing and would do about the spill. When Hayward finally did, the British oil executive seemed intent on conveying only one crucial point—that, unlike a string of accidents in BP-run operations going back five years, this one was not inflicted directly by his company’s personnel. He bristled at comparisons with a deadly 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas. Yet, given the typically intense oversight exercised by Big Oil over important contractor-run projects such as Macondo, Hayward might as well have suggested that aliens seized control of the rig. The overall impression was that of an out-of-control catastrophe in which the company’s CEO was attempting to fob off responsibility to a no-name contractor.

You can check out the full article, Tanking Hard for more insightful commentary. His industry analysis is great stuff, and this is an event whose repurcutions will affect us all as they unfold.

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I Miss You Dr. Morris

L to R: Ray in NOLA, Sophmom, Loki, Dr. AShley Morris
New Orleans Geek Dinner July 14th, 2006 L to R: Ray in NOLA, Sophmom, Loki, Dr. Ashley Morris

Yesterday marked two years since Ashley Morris left this world. One of the most powerful voices in the New Orleans blogosphere suddenly silenced on April 2, 2008. I remember being stunned into immobility as I read his lovely Rollergirl wife’s post on his blog:

This is Hana, Ashley’s wife. I am sorry to tell you but Ashley passed away this morning, Wed. April 2, 2008 in Florida.

He was 44, the age I will attain this coming September. Way too young for his ticker to give out, but it did. I miss him terribly.

I think Greg Peters on Suspect Device said it best:”“Ashley was fire. Ashley was the furnace where the rage was forged, where the steam pressure built, where raw anger began its conversion to power and motion.” Ashley was the voice of New Orleans unfiltered. He coupled the eloquence and facility with language of an English scholar with the willingness to say what no one else would and to express the rage we all felt as New Orleans was basically abandoned during and after the Flood. David Simon, a name known to all fans of The Wire, described Ashley’s profanity laced invectives thusly:

“I admired his sense of outrage; petulance and selfish rage are useless, but rightful and righteous anger has an essential place in our times. Ashley was angry on behalf of others, which in my mind makes all the difference. From what he wrote, I am convinced that Ashley loved his city and he loved the people of his city, and he was short and to the point with people who tried to [evade] the real questions using ad hominem and decorum and false civility. He spoke his mind.”

Yesterday I could not write about this, not on the anniversary of his death itself. Instead I did what we were doing when we first meet at a Geek Dinner in New Orleans, I met up with a bunch of local Cincy bloggers over beer and questionable humor. At one point I told them a bit about Ashley and raised a toast to him. There’s no Abita around here so I drank Red Stripe, getting as close to the Gulf Coast as I could.

Sophmom, an Atlanta based NOLA Blogger pulled together a great collection of links to memorials across the Gulf Coast blogosphere. Check them out, and you will see why the Excellence in Blogging Award at Rising Tide is named for Ashley. See why he has become the Crescent City’s Patron Saint of Blogging. See why we are al poorer, wherever we are, that his voice is silenced. (Also be warned, we Gulf Coast Bloggers are a NSFW group).

I ask that you go to his blog, read what he wrote, and visit the blogs of my dear friends in New Orleans who are mourning this terrible loss. I’m posting links to those who’ve written about him, many (if not most) with pictures, and I will add updates as posts appear. Please start with Greg, Ray (and with Councilperson Shelly Midura’s homage before the council), Adrastos (and an audio tribute), Maitri, Schroeder, Loki, Liprap, Karen, Michael, Lisa, WetBankGuy (and more WBG), Mr. Clio, dsbnola, Bart, Dangerblond,Oyster, Blake, G-Bitch, Scout, Greg’s made a video (take a hanky), Saintseester (beautiful memorial icon), Charlotte, Tim, Varg, Celcus,Animamundi, Alan, JudyB, Cliff, Cenlamar, New Package, Video of Oyster & Ashley (thanks to Blake), Barbawit, Nancy Nall with a unique and moving tribute and Ray talks about “playing it sad”, Micheal Tisserand for Gambit Weekly, YatPundit’s Kos Diary, Dangerblond’s post about the newly established memorial fund has a great picture, Remember Ashley Morris (geek mourning activism)….

He is the NSFW Patron Saint of New Orleans Bloggers, and as one of their number I salute his memory. he was also my friend, and It pains me that since I live in Cincinnati now I can no longer honor his memory by grabbing an oyster po-boy and and Abita beer to enjoy in the humid heat of the Crescent City.

I’m going to close with a video homage put together by Greg Peters a few days after “The Perfesser” left the building:

Damn you Ashley, you made me cry again this year. FYYFF!

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[xposted to: HumidCity | CincyVoices | SocialGumbo]

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In the weeks immediately after Katrina we spent most of it with my friend Sean Hastings. He’s an amazing individual and one hell of a friend. Recently he had a speaking engagement at The Seasteading Institute Conference 2009 in California, his first speaking engagement and it’s been captured on video. Seasteading in simplest terms is the idea of homesteading the world’s oceans. If that sounds like science fiction play with an iPhone for 5 minutes and get back to me.

Sean’s always been ahead of the curve and has a serious background in digital cryptography among other things. Check out the beginning of the video even if you’re not interested in the Seasteading stuff, it’s worth it to watch Sean get mocked on The Daily Show by John Stewart. If you’re already familiar with the Principality of Sealand or HavenCo. then you’ll love this. If not, sit back and learn.  I’m still peeved he beat me to it!

Sean Hastings – The Seasteading Institute Conference 2009 from The Seasteading Institute on Vimeo.

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Notes From Northside

shakeitThe wife, our fractious felines, and I are finally getting settled into our new home in Ohio. The Northside neighborhood we are in reminds me of home in a lot of ways. The community is of mixed ethnicity and is artistic in general temperament. In many ways it is like a tamer version of the Marigny back in New Orleans, with a little Magazine St. thrown in for good measure.

I’ve discovered a few neighborhood resources online that I’m throwing up for the edification of friends and colleagues who might be interested in what kind place we ended up in after leaving the Crescent City a few months ago.Of course this is going to include some links for food and restaurants, that’s one of the most important aspects of one’s new home.

First up there is, a really decent example of a well done neighborhood website. It is the effort of the Northside Business Association (a group which I am preparing to join). For those wishing a view of the area there is a Northside Flickr Community, my New Orleans friends will find a bit of visual similarity in some respects.

So I decided to pick a few favorite things about the neighborhood after our three months here. The result is as follows:

Honey– this place blew me away. I think it could stand head and shoulders with most restaurants back home. Even just their approach to fries is outstanding: Sweet, Yukon, and Idaho potatoes with chili-lime honey. Fans of the Delachaise and The Green Goddess in NOLA would adore this place.

The Northside Farmer’s Market– With lots of rural expanse outside the city there is a lot of farming going on. We got lucky and inadvertently moved in an easy walk from the weekly farmer’s market. I’ve already developed a habit f going to the Blue Oven Bakery stall first, the do this bread called Bad Boy that is phenomenal!

The Sidewinder Coffee House – This place would fit in perfectly on Magazine St. or in the Marigny. Good coffee (a rarity up here), cocktails, live music in the evenings, and a really pleasant staff make for my favorite non-home place to hop online and get some work done or relax in the courtyard.

The Northside Tavern-Live music, decent drinks, and a little restaurant that shares it’s courtyard. Grab drinks at the bar and go dine at The Hideaway, or the reverse. Great courtyard the two share as well.

The Blue Jay-This is the local equivalent to The Bluebird Cafe in NOLA which just closed after 20 years. Solid, simple, American fare with a variety of breakfast and lunch options. My lovely wife has become quite fond of this regional stuff called goetta thanks to The Blue Jay.

Shake It Records– These guys started their own indie label back in the late seventies, I’ve run across a lot of their output off and on over the years. I never really thought about the fact that they might have a storefront, much less one in my new ‘hood. It’s my new stop for vinyl (yes, vinyl. I can even play 16’s and 78’s.) and secondhand DVDs. Terrific selection in whatever medium you prefer.

Cluxton Alley Roasters– This is where I go to replenish the household stockpile of caffeine. Roasted fresh every morning the way coffee should be! My only complaint is that medium roasts seem hard to come by up here…

So there you have it, an Internet window into our new corner of the world!

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RT4Next month marks the fourth anniversary of the failure of the New Orleans levees (a distinct and separate disaster from Katrina, although most outside the region do not know it).  It is also the fourth year of the Rising Tide Conference, a gathering spearheaded by the New Orleans blogger community to examine   and address the city’s ongoing concerns in the wake of what locals call “The Federal Flood.”

This year we will have noted comedian and longtime New Orleans proponent Harry Shearer as our keynote speaker. I can’t wait for that, especially as I have been invited to MC the event. There will be panels on New Orleans culture, the state of health care in the city, the political landscape and more.

Now I know a lot f my readers on this blog are from other parts of the country, which is why I encourage you to check out the event. Natural disasters and engineering failures can strike anywhere, and there is no better example of how poorly things can be handled at all levels than the Katrina response was. Living in Ohio now I have really had it illustrated to me how little people outside the disaster zone really know about the situation, mostly due to a simple lack of hard facts. This conference is a perfect vehicle for self education on the subject.

If you live near a levee or dam, if you live in an area where forest fires/tornadoes/earthquakes occur, or if you have a simple love of New Orleans and its history then this is important to you! Please check it out, attend, or donate to support the effort. As people across the Midwest discovered not long ago, you could be the next one lost in a morass of post disaster FEMA paperwork while you try to find a roof to put over your exiled family’s heads.

For more info please check out The Rising Tide Blog, Flickr Community, or follow us on Twitter. I will also happily answer any question posted to the comments here.


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Smells of Home

Multitasking Like an Octopus on Meth.

Yeah, that’s pretty fair approximation of my state of mind right now. Getting the LLC registered up here, learning the ways of home ownership, deadlines / content creation, all these and more have devoured my time outright. Add in an exciting little interlude of getting assaulted on the way home the other night (do not worry, I’m perfectly fine) and its been hectic.

sausageIn the midst of all the the madness I realized that something was missing. What the new house has desperately needed was for me to do some cooking.

It was even more an olfactory thing than a desire for the food itself. It just suddenly came to me that that backbeat of fragrances from cooking Creole food is a significant part of what trinitymakes a house feel like home. So, having planned in advance and made a trip to Jungle Jim’s, a vat of jambalaya was called for.

As the Trinity (celery, bell pepper and onion) sauteed down in an Herculean amount of butter the aroma began to drift through the house, suffusing it with the smell of the first stages of the dish. As I added garlic, beer, wine, and three kinds of sausage the atmosphere evolved and spread from room to room. Now it smells like home.

It is the basic things, things that often fall below one’s radar they are so basic, that can comprise the most jambalaya2important part of one’s environment.

Lets tie this together with social media for a moment:

  • What are the little things in the “background” of your online landscape that might be more important than you think?
  • What are the “smells of home” for you when in an online community or while using social media?
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