Monday, April 17, 2006

As Josh said, this ride has reached its end. I have been humbled and awed by the people who came to this blog to read our words and experience Katrina for these last eight months. I hope it was useful to some and calming to others.
We decided to end this blog today on the news of being honored with the most prestigious journalism award in the country. Not to bring it down, but it is a bittersweet thing to accept. I would gladly hand it back if it would prevent the death and untold suffering for which we were awarded the prize.
Let it also be known that this award only highlights the fact that we did nothing special. Any journalist that I am proud to know would have done the same thing. Some would do it for the glory and adventure, but most would because they believe in the power of words to help, to calm and to force action, especially when life spins around on you and kicks you in the guts.
Katrina chose us, we did not choose Katrina— all we had to do was show up to work.
Thank you all for reading.
Mike Keller
Dear Readers,
We have been asked by our superiors to remove the last two photographs posted to this blog and instead of editing out portions of my last post that some readers could find offensive, it has been removed in its entirety.
I have one thing to add here that Mike and I have not made sufficiently clear: Nothing shown or expressed on this blog is directly or indirectly affiliated with, linked to, as a result of or in league with the views, opinions or beliefs of the Sun Herald or any of its corporate affiliates.
Again, The Sun Herald and its corporate affiliates do not support, agree with or condone any commentary, opinion or even reporting written into or expressed on this blog.

I am humbled by the spirit of the people of south Mississippi and congratulate the Sun Herald staff for its efforts after Hurricane Katrina, which have recently been justly recognized.

I will not be going ahead with the Biloxi Banter blog.
I will repeat one thing I wrote earlier:
Our loyal readers have made this worth it. Thank you profoundly for reading.

Our Dance with Katrina is done.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Just to keep the content fresh, here's a photo of a chicano caballaro in Gulfport last week during our smallish version of the many nationwide marches protesting the "Sensenbrenner" bill that would have made undocumented immigrants felons. Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering co-sponsored that bill. I wonder if he considered how many of those immigrants were rebuilding the Gulf Coast?
This photo by Joshua Norman

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

As the debate over immigrant laborers rages in the country right now, I find myself in the middle of it down here. Well, at least for the moment. I have become the unofficially official "diversity" reporter at the SunHerald. What that actually means is that I'm supposed to keep up with and write about issues involving the Vietnamese and Latinos on Mississippi's Gulf Coast.
Anyways, after a string of disturbing interactions with locals over my new beat, the following exchange occured.
I will refrain from expressing my true and complete beliefs on this whole thing, (your welcome Keller) because my employers may read this, but I will say this: being of half-Jewish ancestry, I have a hard time refering to a human being as "illegal."

First, I've got here a link to the story that started this all.
Second, I've got the letter I sent out to the newsroom, in addition to an email that I got in response to the linked story. As much as I'd like to do the opposite, I removed all parts of the email that might identify the sender.
I'd like to hear what you all think about all of this.

The story:

The letter:

Hi All,
I have received numerous disturbing responses to my articles on
immigrant laborers in the last few months in person, on the phone and
via email.
Attached is the second email of this nature I have received in response
to my article on immigrant laborers that ran today.
The other email I got simply attacked me personally, but this one
actually raises a point on word usage that we will all probably have to
deal with before long in our work and will certainly be dealing with in
It is the question over how to refer to someone who has entered the
country without documentation to live or work and has still not received
official clearance to live or work.
As the writer of this email so astutely points out, there are basically
two ways to refer to them: as "illegal aliens" or "undocumented
The reason I always refer to them as "undocumented workers" has to do
with the fact that a human being cannot be "illegal."
It is not off-base to call immigrants "aliens" by the ultimate
definition of the word, which is someone or something for somewhere
else. It simply carries with it a connotation that is obviously
negative, and, for some reason, the word "alien" only gets attached to
Latinos these days, not European, Asian, African and Middle Eastern
Laws do not govern the state of a person, rather, they govern a person's
actions. Laws do not consider the existential nature of man, they simply
say what you can or cannot do.
Hence why the state of Texas came up with the since struck-down and
now-infamous "sodomy laws" that made the acts that homosexual people may
or may not commit illegal and not the state of being homosexual illegal.
While the Texas legislatute would have liked to have proposed Nazi-esqe
laws making a person lawbreaking simply for BEING what they are, it is
impossible to do under modern, humane law creating restrictions, and for
good reason.
My point is, the prevalence of hostile and racist responses I've been
getting about my stories on Latino immigrants makes me uncomfortably
feel like I need to ask you all to think a little harder about how you
refer to them.
Again, it is illegal to enter this country without documentation and it
is illegal to work without a working visa, but it is NOT illegal to BE
from somewhere else, which is what the phrase "illegal alien" implies.
I have had to catch myself several times in conversation to not let the
phrase "illegal aliens" slip out, because it has been so commonly used
for so long.
But since the debate over immigrant laborers is raging right now, and
since there seems to be a segment of society in South Mississippi still
grossly misinformed about and hostily unreceptive towards the presence
of a group of people making the cleanup and recovery more possible, I
feel like we all need to think a little harder about how we refer to
Thanks for listening.

To: Subject: LRe: "A Tale Of Workers In A Strange Land" Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 11:55 AM

These people are not "Undocumented Workers" but rather "Illegal Aliens" -- something that journalists just can't seem to get their lips to utter.
They violated our laws to get here -- that makes them ILLEGAL! They are nothing more than "gate-crashers".

Please use proper terminology when printing stories to be digested by the public.

(a guy from)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

And I conclude with these guys, who I simply cannot explain. Anyone having any clue as to who they might be and what those automobiles/go carts are that they're driving, is invited to comment.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Tell me whether or not you can read that white circular pin because it's a funny one, especially when I tell you the guy wearing it was no younger than 70.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Any of these guys could have been my grandpa Jack, lord rest his soul.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I want to take this time to admit that I think Connie Moran (on the right, wearing boa, Mayor of Ocean Springs) may very well be the foxiest mayor in America, weird hair streaks and all. This photo, unfortunately, does her foxy-ness no justice. I have no idea what kind of mayor she is though, and frankly, I don't care.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I often wonder if people down here are just looking for excuses to throw beads at each other. I heard they did it during the MLK day parade too. Un-frickin-real.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Howdy Y'all. Welcome to Biloxi's St Paddy's Day parade, the subject of today's brief photo essay.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Thursday, March 09, 2006

And for my final, sobering photo of this series. The Sgt. on the left pulled the Cpl. on the right out of an Amtrac that was on fire. They were both riding in it, it suddenly exploded from an IED, 8 other Marines inside died almost instantly, and these two made it. The Cpl. was covered with severe burns and is still recovering. This was actually one of the first times they met up with each other since the incident. The Sgt. got shrapnel in his head and some burns also. This incident occured only three days after the Sgt. was shot in the back while trying to rescue another friend of his. Said the Sgt, "I just felt like I had a big target on me that week." Hard to remember this shit is still going on from the comfort of our living rooms while we scream at the T.V. and its moronic talking heads, no?
This photo by Joshua Norman

These were the two dozen young recruits who showed up mid-morning to wathc the war games on the beach and get psyched about going to war. Too bad that where they'd end up, you'd have to take the water away from the sand equation. (Did that make any sense?)
This photo by Joshua Norman

This is just to prove that we were in Gulfport. That's the Grand Casino in the background.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This was one of the few Marines from this company who was not in Iraq during Hurricane Katrina and took a couple of the Amtracs first to Biloxi on Aug 29 to rescue people and then to Waveland (which they got to float to) on August 30.
This photo by Joshua Norman

It's also rather unnerving how close to the water you ride in this. These guys must get utterly drenched in these poorly ventilated bastards in any kind of waves.
This photo by Joshua Norman

but damn was it fun
This photo by Joshua Norman

It's mostly surreal because these things are the size of mid-sized bedrooms. My 6'1", 230 lb, ass was a tight squeeze in there.
This photo by Joshua Norman

It is hard to explain how amazing the displacement of water is from these 27 ton bohemoths as they move through the water at 10-20 knots. It's rather surreal.
This photo by Joshua Norman

And yes, yours truly got to ride along.
This photo by Joshua Norman

These boys were fighting in the Al-Anbar province near Syria. Needless to say, there isn't a whole helluva lot of water there, so this was the first time in two years they got to drive their Amtracs in water.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I had the pleasure of spending last Saturday with a group of amphibious assault vehicle (aka Amtrac) driving Marines recently returned form Iraq as they practiced on the beach in Gulfport. Hulluva nice bunch of guys, except for this one uncomfortable moment where one of them, some smart-ass Sgt., says in reference to some period of time from last year, "And where were you that May, when we were sweating our asses off, dying, bleeding, fighting in the desert protecting your FREEDOM! Sitting on your ass probably!" Thankfully, he cracked a smile, but not before he had quite artfully allowed an uncomfortable moment to pass. We warmed up to each other eventually, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a rather thought provoking joke.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I had to send the cop photo again cause i think you can see his face better in this one.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Finally, my favorite photo of the day. This looked like a black blob on my view finder, but a little digital magic on the contrast and brightness made, for me, a very entertaining photo.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This is ony of my favorite photo techniques, where (for you photography nerds) you close the aperture and slow down the shutter speed from normally balanced setting and then pan with the subject as the shutter is open. What's great about the reality of this scene is that they were going maybe five miles per hour.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I did not go to any of the Coast's parades, because I was lazy on Saturday and forced to work Fat Tuesday, but I did not get the sense of urgent release like so many people described going on for other people's parades. There were about 1,500 people there, which must be the entire population of Stone County, but it was just kind of a ho-hum and not wild family affair.
This photo by Joshua Norman

No explanation necessary.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I just enoy this quirky shot of the band.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Because the "Official" King and Queen did not show up, this regal pair stood in for them. Think I was making them nervous?
This photo by Joshua Norman

Wiggins' Mardi Gras dog, the bulldog Hoot.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I had the thrill and privilege of covering the Wiggins-Stone County Chamber of Commerece Mardi Gras parade on Fat Tuesday instead of the booze-orgy that is the St Anne's parade in the French Quarter that my erstwhile colleague Herr Basement had so much fun at that he mostly forgot how the last half of his day went, only that it somehow involved a Panamanian lawyer in a catsuit, or so he claims. Anwyays, above are my photos from Wiggins. I thought this was a bad shot till I saw the expression on the cop's face. Let me know if you can see it too.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Friday, February 24, 2006

Here's a link to another HOLY S#%T moment for me in regards to my place in the new frontier of blogging journalists:

I can't say I'm surprised that journos get fired for putting things on their blogs, and that they have been for years, but it still makes me uneasy.
In my relatively narrow opinion, it seems like news organizations want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to blogs and and their reporters blogging. They want the notoriety and "cool factor" that a blogging reporter can bring to their paper or TV station or whatever, yet they don't want to allow the full intellectual freedom that blogging can be.
Unfortunately, this intellectual freedom often leads to moronic behavior or, as my girlfriend so astutely put it, "mental masturbation." (Case in point, see earlier post on the reporter in Delaware.)
It does not take a genius to see how public statements (which is basically what blogging is) can affect your career as a (relatively) public figure in journalism.
I agree that we should be held accountable for what we say and do in the public realm as the supposed eyes, ears and conscious of society. But blogging and the internet has since its inception blurred the public/private line.I am mostly made nervous by the lack of a clear defining line between what is a fireable blog entry and what is just goodhearted fun. Hence why we have been so reserved on this blog, (save for FEMA criticism).
In retrospect, it makes me a little bit nervous about my salty toungue on this blog. Yeah, that kind of language is not what I use in the newsroom or in my reporting, unless the source starts it, but it is what I use in the day to day, thanks to my Jerzey upbringing. Mike cautioned me against using the language, saying it meant that I was, well, dumb because I couldn't think of a better, non-profane way to say it. I disagreed and do still disagree of course, as I think cursing adds honest, unrepressed emotion to things like blogs.
But now I am nervous that the same bosses who gave me permission to do this blog so long as I wasn't working may take offense to something like my sometimes nasty language and perhaps do to me what they did to that guy in Houston and that kid in Delaware.
Or, maybe I'm worrying too much and over analysing the whole thing.
Ah, fuck it.