Saturday, June 29, 2013

Street Art: Love it or Hate it?

Street art.

Love it or hate it?

Vandalism or self-expression?

Street art, graffiti, tagging, whatever you want to call it, takes many forms, including sculpture and street installations, and could be considered as old as cave painting.  You see it in urban areas, on train cars, on sidewalks, just about anywhere, really.

While there is plenty of sanctioned art locally, and many wonderful galleries, street art is alive and flourishing in Shreveport-Bossier and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council has sanctioned many public art pieces.  One public work was dealt a setback today.

Locals driving through the intersection of Youree Drive and Kings Highway will notice that the "En Plein Air Gallery"  has been painted over.  The gallery, which was started in 2011 by local artist Nadine Charity, has been developing and evolving.  It began with poster art on the blank wall of an abandoned beauty supply business after the neighboring Murrell's restaurant was demolished.  The blank wall was an open canvas just calling out to local artists.  Most recently red circles have appeared as well as a bamboo and concrete sculpture.

Here is a 2012 video of the poster art which began the gallery:

Via Robert Trudeau, this is the gallery today:

...and the gallerylast week:

Which do you prefer?

Note the concrete and bamboo sculpture in the center.

Local street artists responded to the painting-over of their mural by dressing up the sculpture today:

What do you think?

If your're a fan of street art you might enjoy this Facebook page:  StreetArt in Germany.

Further reading:
Wikipedia:  Street Art
The History of Modern Street Art and Graffiti 
Is Street Art a Crime?
Street Art or Street Crime?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Along Highway 1

I took a drive to Coushatta today, down Highway 1 just a bit, to get some fresh vegetables at Ed Lester Farms.

To me, there is so much to see along Highway 1.  The simplest things fascinate me.

Like this house.  It's at the edge of a field, under a bunch of shade trees.

It looks abandoned...but is it?

But doesn't it look like it used to be a neat house?  What history is there?  Who lived there?  Who does it belong to?  Why has nobody taken care of it?  Why isn't anyone fixing it up?  What will happen to it?  

I'd love to see the inside.

It fascinates me.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini: 1961-2013

The New York Times report.

And the Boxer Pretended to be a Wheelbarrow

If you think your life is stressful and you're feeling overwhelmed with it all, take a moment to check out my friend Julia's blog; she is writing about the misadventures of living in a camper while building a house (among other things), and it is some funny stuff.

Here she writes about her boxer discovering the doggy door:

Elated about having constant access to outside, the maniacs were running to and fro in their fabulous new apartment, sounding like a herd of elephants. Maximus, the boxer, took a little while to acclimate to the doggy door, but he started learning by thrusting one paw through and pulling it back out. Then he'd thrust the other in and pull it back out. Then he'd put both front paws almost straight out in front of him and stare wondering how he was going to keep the fucker open if he moved his front feet. He began to push himself up the ramp with his back paws, taking baby steps with his rigid front arms, and would continue to pretend to be a wheelbarrow until he made it inside.  
I laughed until I cried reading that.  Oh, the visual image...

She is writing for theraputic reasons and probably doesn't care one iota about site hits and stats.  She's a gifted writer with a dry sense of humor, though, and covers diverse topics.

Check it out:  I Have a Secks List.

Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington Holds His Ground Against the DOJ

Christianity is under attack in Bossier Parish by the DOJ.

Via Amanda Crane at Bossier Press Tribune:
The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office has been denied federal funding for its mention of God and use of religion in the Young Marines and Youth Diversion programs.
Sheriff Julian Whittington received notice that funding would be restored only if he signed a letter “pledging that no prayer or mention of God would be allowed” in the programs. However, Whittington said he is appalled by the government’s decision and refused to sign the letter, forgoing the $15,000 grant award.

Be sure to read the whole story.

Sheriff Whittington is standing his ground and says the program will continue with or without the government's support.

This issue came about, in part, because the Young Marines Program has been such a success in reforming troubled kids.  Because the program was so successful, local judges began ordering troubled kids to the Young Marines Program rather than sending them to jail.  Because the YM was never intended as a "diversion program," the Louisiana Law Enforcement Commission, who partially funds the program through a grant, suggested that the Sheriff's office establish a new diversion program for court-ordered juveniles.

In December 2012, the Sheriff's office submitted their grant proposal for the Young Marines funding and in response was told that the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, would not fund the program as long as God or prayer was allowed, even if that prayer was voluntary.

When asked to provide a letter saying no mention of God or voluntary prayer would be allowed, Sheriff Whittington refused and withdrew his grant request.

Then, in February 2013, the Sheriff, submitted a request for funding for his Juvenile Justice Delinquency Program and was refused on the same grounds.

So, now the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office has been refused funding for two programs aimed at helping troubled kids just because Sheriff Whittington is standing up for core values, religious freedom, and voluntary prayer.

Shame on the DOJ.

You can read more about the Young Marines program here.

La. State Senator Barrow Peacock proposed a resolution (PDF) asking the Louisiana delegation in Washington for review of this decision, which passed with unanimous approval:

Peacock on Wednesday got unanimous Senate approval of Senate Resolution 192 asking the Washington, D.C. delegation to review the basis for denying funds for the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office Young Marines Program. 
"This program has had prayer that has been led by teens who are in this program, and when it hasn't been led, they had a moment of silence," Peacock said.  "But now they are being told by our federal government, by the Department of Justice, that there can be no prayer activity or they will not fund this program."

Sheriff Whittington sees further implications beyond just the Bossier Young Marines:
The Young Marines Obligation states, “From this day forward, I sincerely promise, I will set an example for all other youth to follow and I shall never do anything that would bring disgrace or dishonor upon God, my Country and its flag, my parents, myself or the Young Marines. These I will honor and respect in a manner that will reflect credit upon them and myself. Semper Fidelis." 
When it comes down to it, though, Whittington said this isn’t a situation that effects just Bossier Parish youth.
“This is an American issue,” he said. “How do they think they can do this? Now you’re telling me that we can’t have voluntary prayer or even mention the word God?”

Sheriff Whittington's concerns about the "bigger picture" can be seen in U.S. Representative John Fleming's report that attacks against Christianity have been occurring at an alarming rate in the U.S. military to the degree that he has offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would guarantee service members the right to practice and express their religious beliefs freely without fear of reprimand.

There has been a little local noise to chip in and help fund Whittington's youth programs but the bigger picture, it seems to me, is a government that is too big.  The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ has no business in a state run program for troubled kids.   They want to put grant money on the table but you have to forsake God to take it.

Kudos and support to Sheriff Whittington of Bossier Parish who vows to find the funds within his own department, and without the feds,  to keep the programs going.

(Photo credit:  The Shreveport Times)

Update:  Thanks to The Dead Pelican for the link!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flag Ceremony at American Legion

Steve and I attended the Flag Retirement Ceremony at The American Legion on Flag Day.  It was a somber and serious ceremony where many flags were respectfully retired according to proper flag retirement protocol.

I just want to clarify that because in this picture it looks like there are "a lot of flags in a big old pile on the ground," and that's not the case.  Under these flags was a metal rack to keep them off the ground, however, some of the huge "holiday" or garrison flags just were so big and would drape over the sides.  When that happened, an attendant with a long pole with a hook on the end would move in and re-position the flags so they were off the ground.

The American Legion Post 14 conducted a moving and respectful ceremony and we were proud to be able to take part.  I apologize if the picture looks otherwise.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Bossier City Landmark Is For Sale

A Bossier City landmark is up for sale:  Beam's Restaurant has a "For Sale" sign out front.

The restaurant is still open for business as the full parking lot at noon today would attest.  I stopped in to visit with Mike and his mom over chicken fried steak.

Beam's has been in business since 1960 and has been a Bossier City institution ever since.  It's one of the best places in Shreveport-Bossier to get a hot plate lunch with your choice of two or three vegetables and a dessert of the day for less than $10.  The okra and tomatoes can't be beat!

It's what I call a "hometown place" because you almost always see someone you know when you go in.  There's the regular coffee and breakfast group every morning as well as the lunch regulars.  Mike Beam and his mom are there every time I go in and Mike always comes over to my table to visit.

The restaurant is heavy on LSU memorabilia and Mike is always glad to speculate on LSU's prospects in any given sport.  Today we talked about the College World Series (Mike thinks LSU can go all the way!).

The waitstaff is friendly and personable; today we had a laugh over a celebrity sighting by one of
the waitresses and whether or not it was legit; one of the customers chimed in that Drew Brees was in the restroom while Mike insisted he had just seen Elvis out in the parking lot. You probably had to be there, but it was funny.  The beleaguered waitress stuck with her celeb sighting story.

Mrs. Beam told me that she is 80 years old and ready to retire.  "When you make it to eighty, you've done pretty good," she said.  She wants to travel some and Mike has an Alaskan cruise in mind for them.  One can hardly blame them; the restaurant business is a tough road.  You have to be there all the time and it's hard to take a real vacation or time off.  It's been a labor of love for them both.

I asked Mrs. Beam if the For Sale sign had sparked any interest.  "A little," she told me.  "We've had a few people interested."  But so far nothing is "a done deal."

With its prime location it won't take long before somebody makes a serious offer and Mike and his mom will be on that vacation highway.

After over 50 years in the business I'd say it's time Mrs. Beam gets her cruise!

Be sure you take time to stop in for another hot plate lunch (or two, or three) before this Bossier City institution fades away.  Have a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea and talk some LSU baseball with Mike.  It's a nice way to spend a morning, or an afternoon.

How to Spend The Hot Afternoons This Week in Shreveport

As the heat rises and the temperatures get steamy outside this week in SIGIS-land, consider spending an afternoon at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum on Greenwood Road.  The museum is still home to all the fabulous dioramas you remember as a child, as well as many other wonderful surprises.  Through this month you will find a fantastic special, limited exhibition of the works of local folk artist Bertha Cooper Harris.  Mrs. Harris is sometimes compared to artist Clementine Hunter, but she clearly has her own style and story to tell through her work.

Steve and I attended the opening reception on June 2 where the artist was in attendance along with some 400 other guests who came in and out through the afternoon.  In addition to the paintings, there is also brief, eight or nine minute documentary screening which shows a recent visit by Mrs. Harris to the remains of Beene Plantation where she spent much of her youth.

I'm an admitted admirer of Mrs. Harris's work and have a couple of her numbered prints, and one original, in my home.  One of my favorites is "Cooper Hill" which reflect the artist's early life living on her grandfather's land.

I love it because of all the activity and the bright colors.  There is something going on in each part of the painting!  And notice, in the above photo, the little white and black dog in the right corner.  The dog appears in many of Mrs. Harris's paintings.

In her memoir, reviewed here, she writes of having to leave a beloved dog behind when the family moved one time.  I asked her if this was the dog, but alas, it is not.

She told me this dog is just sort of a trademark of hers.  He's cute, though, and I like looking for him in the pictures.  He's not always there, but he's in many of them.

Mrs. Harris paints on whatever she can find; cardboard, fan blades, canvas, gourds, etc.

I love this one:

It reflects pay day and the company/plantation store.  Again, much activity in the picture!

The exhibit runs through June 28.  The museum is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 - 4:00.  Admission is free.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Take One More Quick Trip to Jefferson, Texas and Explore Room 104

Can you stand one more quick trip to Jefferson, Texas?  I know, I know, we were just there less than a month ago, but this was just a quick, overnight trip so we could see The Soulfish Blues Band play at Auntie Skinner's.  As a bonus, we had the good fortune to be able to stay in our favorite room at The Excelsior House hotel which is just beautiful.

I wrote about The Excelsior House last June when we last stayed there.  The hotel was built by riverboat captain William Perry in the 1850s and it has been in continuous operation ever since.  We first stayed there in 2011 and this weekend makes our fourth time to stay there.

Our favorite room is number 104: the Diamond Bess room.  I love it for the lovely private sun porch adjoining the room.  Both the sun room and the bed room have been redecorated since our last stay.

I love the old furniture; check out that marble topped dresser!  (Remember, click on the pictures to enlarge).

When we checked in we went straight to the sun room to watch the rest of the marathon, 18-inning Texas Rangers game (they lost).

The room is white with turquoise accents.

Lots of places to sit...

On that baker's rack you'll see books; you're welcome to take and leave a book as you wish when you stay.

I suspect the decorate furnished that Martha Stewart cookbook on the top shelf because it matches the color scheme of the room.  I was intrigued with the Caesar biography on the bottom shelf.

The bowl of books on this shelf held a copy of Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father which looked interesting.

All in all, it's a very relaxing spot to curl up and read, visit with friends, or take a nap!

We spent the evening at Auntie Skinner's listening to the fabulous Soulfish Blues Band.

We had a grand time and shut the place down.

This morning I explored the courtyard right outside our room at the hotel.

The fountain is filled with koi and turtle, both tiny and quite large.  Those windows are on another sun porch where you can sit and have breakfast (not usually an option on Sunday, sadly).

I love this salmon begonia growing in a planter outside my door; I'm on a mission now to find some that color:

All of the landscaping is pretty, actually...

I like it because it's a little wild and untended in a way.

There are plenty of nooks where you can sit and visit:

And the sound of the fountain is relaxing.

Now this spot gets a little tricky to sit in during the later part of the summer; that's a big ol' fig tree and when those figs get ripe there are wasps and bees buzzing all about.

There are figs on the tree now but they aren't ripe yet.

We checked out of the hotel, found some breakfast, and hit a couple of shops before heading home.  I love The Walnut Street Market because they have the coolest architectural salvage stuff.

How about a pink porcelain sink?

One of my goals this summer is to take down my storm door and put up an old fashioned screen door.  This one is close, but not quite it:

Need a scoreboard?

Tons of knobs, glass pulls, hinges, heater radiants, and back plates to dig through...

And outside there are multiple sections of cypress picket fencing.  Excellent!

How about a concrete chicken?

We poked around for a while, bought some fudge and chocolates from The Old Store, and headed home as rain was moving in.

We took a new route home, always back roads for us, via Karnack and Highway 9, and ended up on South Lakeshore Drive when the rain got so hard we couldn't see anything.  Since we were five minutes from The American Legion we just pulled in there and had a drink and a visit with friends while the storm passed.  Can you see the heron on the end of the pier?

See him now?

I guess he was waiting out the storm, too.

Now it's time to do laundry and unpack the little treasures I bought.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Soulfish Blues Band at Auntie Skinner's Saturday

Looking for something to do Saturday night?

Drive over to Jefferson, Texas and catch The Soulfish Blues Band at Auntie Skinner's!

In fact, if you go early you can hit some of the antique shops, and maybe visit The Cork Yard for a glass of wine or a cold beer!  Friday is Prime Rib night at The Cork Yard.

Then you can head over to Auntie Skinner's to hear Soulfish!

Good times!

SIGIS in Bayou Bucks Magazine

Be sure to pick up (or subscribe to!) this month's copy of Bayou Bucks magazine which features three photos from yours truly!

They contacted me several weeks ago about using some of my photos from the Red River lock and dam and I was happy to oblige.

It's a nice magazine if you're into hunting and fishing and such.

Check it out!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Take a Trip to the Cross Lake Flotilla 2013

Summer has officially begun and the 22nd annual Cross Lake Flotilla was, by all accounts, a day of good fun, lots of sun, food, and music.

The flotilla is an annual, bacchanalian celebration of summer, boats, the lake, and fun.  Each year there is a pre-party, an after-party, and the flotilla itself is a gathering of boats and other watercraft outside the American Legion Post 14.  There is a boat decorating contest, a poker run, and sometimes there is a decorated hat contest.

The theme this year was Pontoons 'n Paradise.  The theme selected through a Facebook vote.

Threatening weather and overcast skies did little to scare away the boats, barges, jet skis, and land lubbers who all converged on Cross Lake yesterday.  The clouds gave way to sun around noon and the rain held off until about 8:30 p.m. which was long enough for hundreds of people to come out to the lake.

Steve and I were invited to ride on our friend Jerry's boat.  There were six of us on board and as we were pulling away from the pier, the Back When Band was getting the music cranked up, the food vendors were ready to sell boiled crawfish, meat pies, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, and sausage on a stick.

The first item of business was the poker run.  We decided we'd all pool together and if anyone in the boat won, we'd split it up.  So we got out the map of locations, plotted our strategy, and we were off.

On the way to our first stop, Jerry took us on a "tunnel drive" under the bridge:

Jerry let Donna navigate us to our first stop which was, of course, at the far end of the lake:

There were seven locations on the lake from which we had to gather our cards.  The participating docks were also in competition for the best decoration.  Since the poker run couldn't officially start until 1:00, we had time for sandwiches before our first card:

Then it was time to line up, drive by, and get our first card:

The wind was really kicking up all day yesterday with the advancing weather front which made it tricky to sit, hover, and navigate into some of the docks.

We liked this stop because the mannequins were cute and they had a great dog giving them a hand with the cards!

Second stop:

And third:

Stop Four:

Everyone was really friendly and having a great time.  Some of the stops offered leis, some jello shots, and at another you could buy margaritas for $1.00.

But who needed margaritas when we had wine!

Actually, strawberry Abita was my beverage of choice yesterday; unfortunately the bottles were the "pry off" caps and guess who failed to bring an opener?  That meant that Steve spent part of his day whacking the tops off my beer on the rails of the boat and bruising his hand all to heck in the process.  Now that's love!

Next card stop:

At this one, they were giving away toothbrushes!

And finally, our final stop:

This was the margarita stop and was located at The Cove, a popular lakeside bar.  They also hosted an after-party.

To get there by boat you have to be very careful as the water is only about a foot deep there in some spots.  It's very shallow there.

But, we made it and were off to turn in our hands!  And no, we didn't win.  They opened the envelopes, and it was King, King, King...(dramatic pause), six, ten, two.  Bust.  We lost to a full house.  Dammit.

Then it was time to just drift among the throng at people watch.

This boat/derrick was giving away free hot dogs:

There was a sailboat:


and dogs:

Jerry hollered out to this guy:  "Hey, he'd make a good gumbo!"  He was kidding.  I think.

Lots and lots of boats - most were anchored and tethered up next to each other.  That's the American Legion waaayyy in the background.

This guy was a pretty good ways from the nearest boat and paddling as hard as he could to get back to his party.  We asked if he needed any help; he had one of those free hot dogs but said he could use a beer: we tossed him a beer (NOT with a pry-off cap!)

We found our friends and tried to pull up alongside and tie up with them but it was just too windy.  After several attempts we decided it wasn't worth tearing up anybody's boat so we gave up.

I liked looking at all the boats:

Another dog!

By this time it was getting late in the day, about 4:30 or so, and with the front moving in, we didn't want to stay out too longer.  With that many people on the lake, and not a whole lot of launch places, the lines to get off the lake can back up quickly.

We did decide to ride over to Bird Island since I'd never seen it.  "This is a real National Geographic moment," Jerry said as we approached.  So we all got out cameras.

Bird Island is a small island surrounded by cypress and other trees.  You can hear the birds cawing and calling as you approach and it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Hundred of egrets on the nest and in the trees:

All the way around the island, egrets:

and ducks:

It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen...

I was wishing I'd taken the Canon Rebel out there so I could zoom in on the birds, but I didn't want to drop it in the lake, so it was the old Easy Share that took all these.

The clouds were starting to build in the north so we decided it was time to head in.  I got a few more boat shots as we approached the American Legion pier:

People watching:

This guy had it made:

More boats:

Obviously, not many folks were worried about the weather just yet:

The band was still blasting music across the water and the revelry was in high gear:

But all good things must end, so we jumped off onto the pier and Jerry headed off to the launch to get the boat out of the water before the crowds.

It was close to 6:00 by this time and the Backbeat Boogie Band was gearing up in the Lounge for the after-party at the Legion.

We stayed for about an hour, but we'd had enough sun and fun for one day and headed home.

I had a whale of a good time - I can't remember when I had so much fun!  And I learned two important lessons:  buy twist off caps for your beer (or take an opener) and I learned that simply buying sunscreen and leaving it in your boat-bag all day doesn't do much to prevent sunburn.  It helps ever so much if you actually put it on!

Here's our ride under the bridge from earlier in the day:

And here is a found video of Bird Island:

Find more videos like this on The Ark

Last year's flotilla post is here.

The official Facebook page (with more photos) is here.

The Shreveport Times gallery of photos is here.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB