New Orleans & ALA

I just got back from ALA for a panel on RFID (“Tiny Trackers”). As usual, ALA was chock-full of stimulating folks and ideas. A few notes follow, but first a report about New Orleans.

New Orleanians were grateful for ALA’s presence. ALA was the first large conference to keep its commitment to New Orleans since Katrina. The tourist and business sections of the city feel — well, a little empty, a little recessional. More closed & out of business signs than usual. In the French Quarter, the local businesses are mostly open — but nearby on the Riverwalk shopping mall, many of the corporate-owned businesses are still closed. Make what you will of that. But walk just a bit beyond the French Quarter into the 8th and 9th Wards, and things are quite different. I walked over that way on Sunday after my talk, although I didn’t make it much past the Vieux CarrĂ©. (It’s hot in New Orleans!) But even as far as I went, it’s clear that the recovery is only partial. And the reports from locals, and ALA folks who biked or bussed around in other districts, are depressing. The country has moved on and forgotten about New Orleans — a city that is one of this country’s greatest treasures. As my partner said, it’s like the media is Vamp Willow: “Bored now.”

….

The Lyman Ray Patterson Award went to Prue Adler, well-deserved. Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” was, while largely a regurgitation of his schtick, very good because his schtick is very good. (As long as he stuck to his schtick, that is. A number of folks quibbled with his naive market-centric and tech-utopian view of net neutrality.) The Free Speech Buffet was great, with an Emergency Zine Reading:

* Elaine Harger, in response to a censorship attempt, gave the would-be censor a button that said: “Use your brain: the filter you were born with.”

* Amusing reading of overblown prose from romance and other novels from Alycia Sellie. (I list this for its copyright relevance.)

* Ammi Emergency reading from a zine about post-Katrina looting of supermarket. “After the storm, New Orleans was even more New Orleans.” Community looters: One “incompetent neighbor” emerged with a broken bag of box wine and a rotten ham, and when it was pointed out, was upset & said “I’m no good at looting!” She was promptly consoled by another man who said, “You’re doing just fine honey.”