New Orleans North

October 5th, 2011

Dozens of small villages, towns and cities were devastated by the rains from Hurricane Irene.

Wardell Quezergue’s 80th Birthday

April 5th, 2010


Left to right: Bo Dollis, Big Chief of the Wild Magnolias (lead singer of what may be the funkiest funk band of all time); rhythm and blues artist Al “Carnival Time” Johnson; singer Michelle Davis; poet Chuck Perkins; composer and arranger Wardell Quezergue (seated); Ken McCarthy

Last month, I was at the 80th birthday party for Wardell Quezergue “the Creole Beethoven,” a musical genius who applied his gifts behind-the-scenes to countless hits over the last fifty plus years.

Some of Quezergue’s music with cuts from the Wild Magnolias and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.

About that Super Bowl

February 14th, 2010

There may be things more important than the Super Bowl.

On the other hand…waiting for, watching and celebrating The Game in the French Quarter.

More important than the Super Bowl

February 13th, 2010

Yes, I know. It’s sacrilege.

But the Question of the Age – for New Orleans at least – is this:

Is the perpetuation of the inept and corrupt criminal enterprise known as the US Army Corps of Engineers more important than the physical survival of New Orleans?

The issue really is that stark.

I’ve never been prouder to stand by someone: Dr. Ivor Van Heerden.

Van Heerden continues, at great personal expense, to insist that the Corps (and their enablers at LSU) tell the truth about why New Orleans flooded in 2005.

For the full story: Ivor Van Heerden, the Corps, and LSU

Note: If you question my categorization of the Corps as a criminal enterprise, they crossed that line when they applied pressure on LSU to censor and ultimately fire Professor Van Heerden for telling the scientific and engineering truth about the New Orleans levee failures.

Manchester United – New Orleans Saints

February 10th, 2010

The real reason behind Chuck Perkins and Ken McCarthy’s trip to Manchester, UK this past fall?

The two wanted to learn first hand what it’s like to have a championship football team to help prepare New Orleaneans for the shock.

All kidding aside, the epic rallying of Manchester United, once a less-than-stellar team (hard to believe), has had a definite positive impact on the psyche of Manchester over the years and has clearly been an important part of its rebuilding process.

Yet another link between these two great cities.

Earl Barth New Orleans master craftsman passes

February 3rd, 2010

Earl Barth, a sixth generation master of the plastering art, has passed away.

Mr. Barth is representative of one of the little know aspects of New Orleans art and creativity.

Known for its music and food, New Orleans was and remains one of the bastions of high level craftsmanship in the building trades. New Orleans craftsmen were in demand around the country and their work can be seen in places as far flung as Chicago and Washington DC.

In 2008, scholars and music lovers gathered at the Sound Cafe in New Orleans for to hear some of these men talk about their dual lives and craftsmen and musicians – and to hear them play.

Here’s some video from the event:

Can the web save the world?

January 3rd, 2010

Just found this online (posted 3/21/07)

I wrote it for in order to drum up support for New Orleans among Internet geeks. I waited so long to hear if they were going to publish it, I’d forgotten all about it. Thanks Google.

Strange, they didn’t bother to put in paragraph breaks. It’s a bit long winded, but it tells the whole story for those who are interested in the subject.

Here it is in a readable version:

Can the web save the world?

In a word, yes.

And here’s the qualifier: “One piece at a time.”

Web activism has been part of my personal agenda for as long as I’ve been involved with the web.

In 1994, when I organized and sponsored the first conference on web marketing ever (Marc Andreessen gave the keynote), I invited all the usual suspects: ad agencies, PR firms, tech magazine writers – and NAMAC, the National Alliance of Media Arts and Culture.

Why did I want to bring a non-profit group of independent filmmakers to the table for a discussion about the future of the web?

Because I felt then, and feel even more strongly today, that the work of independent media producers is essential for the pursuit of social justice and positive change in our society.

My then-extravagant hope was that some day we’d sort out compression issues and bandwidth limitations and be able to stream independently produced video across the net as an antidote to television.

Now that day has arrived. What are we going to do with it?

Save the world, of course, one piece at a time.

Saving a city

A city is a pretty good-sized piece and seven years ago some friends and I sat around my kitchen table and tried to figure out how we were going to save a little city that we loved. Just two miles square and sitting on the banks of the Hudson River, the City of Hudson appeared destined for obliteration.

Here’s what we were facing:

The second largest cement company in the world was planning to build the largest coal-fired cement plant in North America right next to town.

Cement plants are third only to oil refineries and chemical plants in the amount of health-damaging pollutants they produce. The plant which would run 24/7 was just a mile from schools, the city’s hospital and New York State’s retirement/long term care facility for retired firemen.

And here’s the really bad part: Not only was every local politician and every local media outlet in favor of the plant, an atmosphere of intimidation hung over the city that frightened many local people into keeping quiet about their concerns. The company was prepared to spend – and indeed did end up spending – $50,000,000 on advertising, PR, lobbyists, attorneys, and donations to local groups.

On our side: Fifty people and fifty bucks.

Six and a half years later, in a conflict that lasted longer than World War II, the fifty people with fifty bucks won.


It’s a long story (see the “Additional Reading” below), but it all boiled down to this: we used the media we had – hand painted signs, meetings, flyers, the mail, the web – to build a membership organization that grew large enough to counterbalance and ultimately overcome what I think most reasonable people would have thought was an unbeatable force.

Today, I find myself thinking a lot about another city.

Saving our soul

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have been initiated into the glories of New Orleans and those who have not yet had the pleasure.

Until June of 2006, I fell in the latter category.

Then my old friend Steve O’Keefe, one of the Internet’s earliest commercialization pioneers, invited me to come visit. He’d been living in the city for the last ten years pursuing a passion we both share, music.

To say that I was stunned by the depth, breadth and sheer vitality of the music culture of New Orleans would be an understatement. How could I have missed this all my life? Understand, I’m a huge jazz fan. I’ve produced jazz concerts, hosted a jazz radio show, managed a jazz record label – and I never “got” New Orleans. (It might have something to do with growing up in New York City. I *assumed* my home town was the only place that mattered.)

Anyway, the city’s music scene is only the outer manifestation of something that is rapidly disappearing from North American society: communities…real neighborhoods, where people know each other, celebrate and mourn together, and support each others’ creative endeavors. For too many people, New Orleans equals Bourbon Street, a Disney-like tourist trap where frat boys misbehave and puke on each others shoes.

That’s not New Orleans.

The real New Orleans is indescribably profound, creative, human and it holds a big piece of America’s soul – and the real New Orleans is dying.

Un-spinning the spin

Like so many stories the mass media sells us, the story of New Orleans has been spun to such an extreme that the reality and the reporting might as well be from different planets. For example:

Myth #1: Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, right? Wrong.
The storm did little damage. It was the catastrophic failure of over one dozen federally built and maintained levees that caused the vast majority of the damage.

Myth #2: The citizens of the city were disorganized, reckless and lawless. Wrong.
The pre-hurricane evacuation was one of the largest and most successful rapid movements of a civilian population in history. Those who were trapped by the flood waters caused by the collapsed levees were overwhelmingly peaceful and participated in countless acts of heroism, often risking their own lives to save others and feed and care for the most vulnerable.

Myth #3: The hurricane was over eighteen months ago, they should be over it by now.


Tell me what city could recover from the loss of 200,000 houses, 81,000 businesses, 175 schools and 6 major hospitals in a year? In two years? In ten? Per capita damage to Louisiana was a mind boggling $6,700 per state citizen. Compare this to New York after 9/11 ($390) or Hurricane Andrew which devastated South Florida ($139.)

What happened in New Orleans was the equivalent level of destruction of total war. After World War II, otherwise self-reliant and capable cities like Berlin and Tokyo and many, many others needed massive, prolonged infusions of outside assistance to get back on their feet.

So what’s going on?

Bottom line: The federal government – whose negligence caused the disaster in the first place – has made the decision that it’s cheaper, politically and financially, to let New Orleans die, rather rebuild it.

Thus the constant drumbeat of media propaganda that the city was destroyed by “an act of nature,” that its people are inherently corrupt and unworthy, that no one should live there. This last point is especially preposterous. If no one should live in New Orleans, no one should live in Holland either. The difference is Dutch levees don’t collapse.

You can probably see where this is leading.

Internet pros volunteers needed for New Orleans

New Orleans needs independent media to tell its story. Not just for the sake of telling a story, but to organize and rally all the people in the US and around the world who love the city and what it stands for – and there are millions of them currently unconnected.

Who’s going to do that?

More precisely, who’s going to create the media infrastructure that will make it easy for New Orleanians to tell their story and easy for outsiders who care to target their help where it will do the most good – both on the neighborhood level and in Washington.

Cities are savable. Even in the darkest times. I know. Hudson was savable. I believe New Orleans is savable too.

– Ken McCarthy


Update: January 2, 1010

A year after this, a friend and I made a ten minute video explaining the reality of what really caused the destruction of New Orleans.

After posting it to YouTube on the third anniversary of the levee failures, we threw all our promotional weight behind it in an coordinated effort with

All throughout the Democratic and Republican conventions we managed to stay in the Top #13 news videos. We even retained our position during the Sarah Palin lunacy.

All in all, over 90,000 people have viewed the video on YouTube.

You can see it by going to the web site. It’s right on the home page.

If you’d like to help New Orleans, one of the fist things you should do is become a member and add your voice to the people who are demanding that a real investigation be done into the failure of the levees there.

It’s a city worth saving and much more needs to be done.


Manchester, England: The Story of a Pop Cult city

December 27th, 2009

Notes from the book “Manchester, England: The story of a pop cult city” for anyone who wants to research historical connections between Manchester and New Orleans.

Author: Dave Haslam, Published in 1999

1. “The inhabitants are of a good sort, being pretty much of the old English temper, hardy and sincere in their affections and expressions, given to hospitality, very kind and civil to their friends, but very stiff and resolute against their enemies, well disposed to religion and very zealous in whatever they engage.” – William Stuckeley on Manchester, 1724. P. VII

2. Manchester is a hybrid town, born all in a rush 150 years ago, when those arriving looking for work in the fast growing factories, workshops, warehouses and foundries. P. XI

3. Famed and feared 150 years ago as it became the first industrial city in the world. P. X

4. From the 1830’s and 1840’s, as the burgeoning industries provided work for an ever-growing population, so a new urban, industrial culture developed, based on music and nightlife, street life, singing and drinking. P. XIII

5. Manchester was defined by work and hooked up pleasure. P. XIV

6. Nightclubs pull 50,000 people into the city center ever saturday night. P. XVI

7. Horrible public housing. P. XXII

8. It used to be claimed that if Dublin were destroyed, all you need to rebuild it could be found in the work of James Joyce. The same is true of Manchester and its pop music. …Travel the world and Manchester is known for two things: pop music and football. P. XXV

9. What gives further flavor to pop music in Manchester is perhaps because it’s a hybrid town, specializing in hybrid music. P. XXVII

10. The city’s historical links with other countries and cultures, via migration and trade, have left Manchester with open-minded attitudes. It’s one of the least insular music cities in the world; it can love its local bands without being deaf to the charms of others. P.XXVII

11. Just as Manchester music fans get into these sounds from out of town, Manchester musicians – and you can trace this back decades – have a well-developed consciousness of what’s going on elsewhere, and an inclination to bring these outside influences to bare on their music. Just as the city used to import raw material – cotton – and turn it into something else, so modern Manchester find itself importing, refashioning and exporting pop music… Manchester has been at the heard of English pop music creativity for at least 3 decades. Where once the Manchester mill-oweners and merchants, mill-hands and factory operatives created the wealth that financed the Empire, now the city dominates English pop culture, trading in music, the sounds from the streets resonating from around the globe. P. XXVII

12. The city’s pop music is soaked in the chaos, boredom and violence of modern Manchester. P. XXX

13. Manchester 150 years ago had a reputation for wild night life, for a special kind of raw, noisy, and gregarious weekend culture. The street had a special kind of vibe, and edge. There was drunkenness, violence, and vice. P. 3

14. Manchester became part of the global network in the era of rock & roll this would be just as crucial as in the days of cotton and coal. P. 7

15. By the end of the 1830’s after the industrialization of cotton manufacture, Lancshire was responsible for 90% of the cotton manufacture worldwide. England needed Manchester. Manchester was at the vanguard of wealth creation in the country; cotton had become hugely important to the national economy, accounting for nearly 50% of all export earnings. Liverpool had become the most important cotton port of its age, and Manchester the greatest cotton market. P. 7.

16. Manchester suffered the kinds of diseases associated with such poor decisions, cholera, small pox, typhus.

17. Engels “the condition of the working class in England.” P. 26

18. In Manchester millions have struggled to make the last farthing count, and imagined and created a better world for themselves. P. 27

19. Ann Lee started the shakers in 1774. Sailed out of Liverpool. P. 27

20. The hedonistic impulse in Manchester has always been strong, especially in hard times. It’s a city still full of ideas, and dreamers hanging on to optimism even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (Recurrent on uncertainty and poverty, random violence, and suffocating preconceptions from out of town). P. 28

21. The search goes on, for something more than chopt straw and dry horse dung in our flour; if not a better world, at least a great night out. P. 28

22. From its first beginnings Manchester has had as much of a reputation for depravity as industry. P. 34

23. Manchester was full of strangers and travelers. P. 37

24. Cooke Taylor, in 1842, was claiming that Manchester had 309 brothels. P. 38
25. Memoirs of Madame Chester by Polly Evans, 1865, P. 39

26. You couldn’t get a quiet drink in Manchester in the middle of the 19th century… Out on the town, there’d be informal sing-songs, nights spent listening to mechanical organs, perhaps with accompanying drums and tambourines. Public houses acting as music venues were very much a part of early Manchester life. This close link between drink and music… P. 42

27. Jazz hit the city with a rattling jolt. In its own way the coming of jazz was as much a shock to Manchester as the industrial revolution. P. 54

28. The big boom in dancing which blew away the bourgeois, buttoned-up ways of behaving came after the First World War. P. 60

29. In the explosive dancing boom after the war, the young from 16-25 flocked to the dance halls by the 100,000. P. 63

30. Anthony Burgess, “A Clockwork Orange” P. 68

31. Jazz, dance, movie; they connected with the needs and desire of Mancunians in a way in which high culture never had. P. 78

32. It was the reaction of Mancunians to American popular music which was to shape going out in the last 4 decades of the 20th century. P. 82

33. Manchester’s first import record shop -1 stop – didn’t open until 1957. The two main means of obtaining authentic American records were either through contacts at Burtonwood air base near Warrington, which was manned by American soldiers until the mid 1960’s or – as Kevin Curtis did – via sailors. P. Both the Beatles in Liverpool and Eric Burdon of the Animals in New Castle are known to have relied for their early music education on imports brought by visitors to the ports of their respective cities, but Manchester, too, had its docks, courtesy of the ship canal, which was regularly visited by ships from Montreal, New York, and other ports on America’s east coast. According to Alan Lawson, sailors were on a nice little earner bringing boxes of records back: “I met one old chap who claimed he bought his first car on the proceeds from records he bought dirt cheap in America and sold for a fortune back home.” P. 85

34. The manchester club scene in the mid-1960’s: the clubs were cheap and it was likely that a night out could include a visit to more than one club. P. 98

35. Manchester is the clubbing capital of England, the city with a renowned night life and dozens of important bands. Manchester is the city with the most highly developed music consciousness in the world, sometimes you can imagine you can reach out and touch it, a palpable buzz of a night life culture that’s evolving, absorbing, period. P. 139

36. Going out has a long history in Manchester, and a central place in urban popular culture. P. 149

37. It all changed in the late 1980’s when the dance floor asserted its position as the focus of the British youth culture. P. 142

38. In 1948 Manchester had been the birth place of the digital revolution with engineers from the University successful creating the first programmable computer there was some historical symmetry then, that Manchester would also embrace computerated-music with enthusiasm. P. 163

39. In America we discovered pockets of people, little communities on our wave length. Networks were also being built between people in Paris and the factory bergade in Manchester. P. 185

40. In Manchester, one remove from the London-based press, bands can evolve at their own pace, make their mistakes in private. P. 187.

41. Rave culture was made, and thrived, out on the margins, the screwed-up places. P. 187

42. In Manchester itself the rise of rave culture was out of the control of the exisiting music community. P. 188

43. Gospel singers: South Manchester…Old Trafford, Chorlton, Whalley Range, Mosside, Holme. P. 206

44. Dogs of Heaven. P. 212

45. Hard times and baselines: The Moss side story.

46. It has now become accepted that shopping and tourism have key roles in the future prosperity in the city. For the young, especially, Manchester is becoming a must-see city, a cult pop city, and it was probably the Madchester area that brought in the first influx of tourists. P. 254

47. Manchester has often found inspiration from America, but often not from mainstream, corporate America: it’s outlaw American culture that’s fed into Manchester culture. P. 257

48. Pop music has reflected and also created Manchester…P. 258

49. Culture soon dies if it’s confined to one city or one country. P. 295

50. This street culture is not about civic pride and marketing intiatives, it’s about ideas, self-expression and escape. It can, and will, thrive in crappy coffee bars, under leaking roofs, or down unlit roads. It’s uncontrollable, uncomfortable, and never far removed from the problems of everyday living. Yet it’s survived – and, at times, prospered – because it’s had to; The alternative to this independent Manc, pop culture is silence. P. 260

51. Record stores. P. 260

52. Tony Wilson’s annual music conference. P. 260

53. People getting together to do things and make things better, that’s what Manchester’s always been about. – Ian Brown, P. 267

54. There are still 2 nations, still grim areas of real, deep poverty, a world away from glittering sites of civic splendor… P. 270

55. Greater Manchester police deal with more crimes per head that almost any other metropolitan force. P. 277

56. In Manchester, like Liverpool, Detroit – other places with similar problems of poverty and crime – music has given the city a voice, broken the silence, woven itself into the deep fabric of life. P. 278

57. The end of the story is yet to be lived, let alone told. P. 280

Where did all the cotton go?

December 21st, 2009

Notes from “Five Plants that Changed the World”

Author: Henry Hobhouse

Chapter: Cotton and the American South

1. 1784, first single bail of cotton arrives in the Port of Liverpool. Refused entry. Remained on the quayside until it rotted. P. 141

2. The years 1784-1861 were critical for the American South and for the North of England. P. 142

3. By 1861, the cost of industrialized cotton cloth in Europe or the United States in terms of gold had fallen to less than 1% of its cost in 1784. P. 142

4. Picking 100 pounds of bowls would take 2 man-days; ginning would take 50 man-days at best; and bailing by hand, cleaning, and carting another 20 man-days. All this effort resulted in only about 8 pounds of spinnable cotton, which would then require 24-40 man-days to spin. P. 144

5. Cotton was the luxury cloth in 1784. P. 144

6. London’s Dr. Johnson and friends helped the development of early mill machinery. P. 146

7. Arkwright’s first mill in Nottingham was powered by horses rather than water. P. 148

8. 1765: 500,000 pounds of cotton all spun by hand.
1775: 2 million pounds mostly spun by machine.
1784: 16 million pounds all spun by machine.

Before 1790 all the mills were water-driven. P. 148

9. Lancashire attractive because of port of Liverpool, cheap coal, cheap iron, large reservoirs of workers from Ireland, local mobilization of capital by people and institutions in Manchester and Liverpool. P. 148

10. Concentration of labor in factories…obliged to live in company owned “back-to-back” without sanitation, garden, or fresh air. P. 149

11. The period 1784-1861 saw an eight-fold increase in the number of slaves in America, it also saw an increase in the misery of the British cotton industry…In 1825 90% of the workers in the spinning section of the industry were women and children; The children had no opportunity for education, no protection against abuse, no redress against brutality, no rights in common law against dangerous machinery, inhumane overseers, or over long hours with no over time pay. P. 149

12. Labor was always treated better in new England (US) than in old, at least until the wave of paupers arrived from Ireland in the 1840’s and 1850’s. P. 150

13. It is hard to over state the important of the coincidence of the escalating demand for cotton from England combined with the increased production made possible by the new ginning process. P. 152

14. Cotton acreage in the new South was to rise to match demand, and with each 100 acres of cotton, between 10 and 20 slaves were needed. P. 153

15. Cheap, virtually empty, fertile land had more influence upon the early settlers than all the rhetoric of all the politicians who have ever inspired, amused, or saddened an American audience, and has shaped the American character more than any other factor. For the first time in modern history, land was available for about 1/50th the cost of the same quality of land in Europe. P. 156

16. In England, the most important trader, net imports rose from 20 million pounds in 1784 (none of it from the North American mainland), to just under 1.5 billion pounds in 1850 (82% from Dixie), a 150-fold increase in demand. P. 157

17. 1784: 1 bail of cotton
1800: Less than 10 million pounds
1830: Less than 100 million pounds
1840: More than 80 million pounds
1850: More than 2 billion pounds
P. 158

18. The beginning of cotton monoculture followed the adoption of the gin in the 1790’s. P. 160

19. In the whole of the deep south, throughout the first half of the 19th century, the only sophisticated metropolitan area was New Orleans. According to European travelers, it was also the only place in the whole of the United States with first-class hotels or restaurants. It was a great service center and entrepot, a market place, a city of leisure, creole cuisine, theater, music, lust, and vice. Transients were said to exceed the indigenous population in number, prominence, and criminality. P. 161

20. It was in New Orleans that slave ownership for reasons of conspicuous consumption reached it’s highest pitch. P. 161

21. Of all the crops exported from what was then the southwest, cotton was the most important. …Nearly half the exports to Europe came from New Orleans, easily outpacing the older ports of Charleston and Savannah and the new port of Mobile, Alabama. P. 162

22. The rise of industrial spinning, carting, and weaving in England coincided with the first growth of upland cotton in the South and the widespread use of the whitney-gin; as a result, by about 1820 there was an apparently insatiable British demand for raw cotton combined with a huge area available for production in America. For a hundred years Britain would spin more cotton than the whole rest of the world put together, and the United States would grow the huge tonnages necessary to keep the mills fully employed. P. 165

23. If the textile trade in England produced towns wholly populated by wave slaves, the growing of cotton in the American south produced a society wholly and apparently inevitably dependent upon slavery. P. 165

24. It is one of the awkward facts of history that obscurantist, backward, tsarist Russia emancipated the surfs two years before free, progressive, democratic United states freed the slaves. P. 167

25. Of the 1860 cotton crop, consisting of over 4 million bails, nearly 80% went to Europe. Cotton was one of the bulkiest raw materials, and certainly the most valuable, in the whole United States. P. 174

26. The greatest irony of all is, of course, that this great aggrien slavocracy depended upon the steam and the iron of Europe and New England for its market. The last great slave empire fed the first great industrial revolution. Each as dependent upon the other in symbiotic relationship. P. 176

27. All over the world, cotton textile manufacture became the first element in the first industrial revolution… the first great manufacturers were those of cotton. P. 176

28. In 1861 cotton by far was the most important industry in the United States. …Nearly 60% of the American crop (was) processed in England, mostly in Lancashire… P. 176

29. America produced 2/3rds of all raw cotton exported throughout the world, and Britain exported more than 2/3’s of all manufactured cotton products. P. 176

30. By 1861, cotton had become the single most important crop traded in the world, and more than 80% of that crop was grown in the South. P. 177

31. 1784: First bail virtually no cotton grown in the U.S. No cotton processed by steam power, less than half a million slaves in the 13 colonies, only a handful of spinning mills in England, most workers were adult males, no cotton exchange, no infrastructure, no means of public investment in the textile trades.

By 1861: Cotton was the most important trade in the world, the skies above Lancashire were black with smoke from steam-raising boilers whose power was devoted almost exclusively to the cotton industry, there were nearly 4 million slaves, female and child labor in Lancashire had become a disgrace which had aroused the indignation of all humane people, sophisticated economic infrastructure arose in New Orleans, Manchester, and Liverpool to support this trade

Manchester sister city relationships

December 17th, 2009

Manchester has a number of formal sister relationships.

Here’s the current list:

* Amsterdam, Netherlands

* Chemnitz, Germany

* Córdoba, Spain

* Faisalabad, Pakistan

* Los Angeles, USA

* Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua

* Rehovot, Israel

* Saint Petersburg Russia;

* Wuhan, China

For reasons we’ve stated elsewhere, it makes sense for Manchester to have an ongoing cultural relationship with its real sister city, New Orleans.