As the year progresses, events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lake Charles continue. And it is well and good that they should do so.
But anyone who is speaking to an audience about the history of Lake Charles should be well aware that the area that eventually became Lake Charles was not part of the Louisiana Purchase. It really and truly was not. Honest.
The reasons for what seems like such a glaring omission to us today were crystal clear to Napoleon (right) when he drew his map of the Louisiana Territory in the early 19th century — and completely left out what is now called “Southwest Louisiana.”
As Napoleon saw it, there was no major waterway connecting SWLA with the populous areas to its east. That meant that any journey from the eastern part of Louisiana to the southwest would be an arduous one. And it would be a journey that Napoleon saw no reason to make. Even if one did go to the southwest, reasoned the Little Emperor, there was nothing there but swamps and mosquitos. Napoleon apparently felt there were no worthwhile resources (other than, perhaps, fish) in the southwest corner.
So, you may say that Napoleon was short-sighted. But you cannot say SWLA was part of the Louisiana Purchase. Not if you want to be accurate.
Why did Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, along with some of his staff and 17 tourism industry reps, just travel to, and spend a week in, England and Germany? A much more interesting question is: Who picked up the tab for all this — Nungesser or Louisiana taxpayers? And if the answer is Louisiana taxpayers, the very most interesting question of all is: Why are we paying for it when Nungesser is super-rich?
If The Joke Doesn’t Work, Try Being Funny
Lagniappe columnist Jeremy Alford’s “Bad Joke of the Week” came from Louisiana congressional aide Michael Willis, who had the nerve to reel this one off:
Why did the clock go back four seconds? It’s was hungry.
Here in Lake Charles, we have the Angel Investors who give periodic grants to the local entrepreneurs who come up with the best business plans and brightest ideas. The SEED Center has a similar sort of grant system set up.
It’s no surprise, then, that Baton Rouge has the PitchBR program, which awards especially savvy new entrepreneurs with $1,000 prizes.
One recent winner caught my eye: CuteNation, whose marketing line is “Citizens of Adorable.” CuteNation is marketing Japanese-influenced toys of the sort I first noticed when I got Hello Kitty on my radar in the late ‘90s. Today, consumers can easily get similar toys in the fine Littlest Pet Shop and Shopkins lines, or, for an even cheaper price, in the vending machines in their grocery stores.
This sort of thing has always been part of U.S. culture — at least in my lifetime. When I was a boy, I liked the U.S. reruns of the Japanese TV show Astroboy, as well as the rubber Astroboy figures with their big, flaming feet.
I assume all these toys developed out of some sort of Japanese manga (a thing I know next to nothing about).
To see the new Baton Rouge toys, visit Facebook and search for “CuteNation, Citizens of Adorable.” CuteNation offers an app that enables consumers to custom design their own toy.
As many of you know, Arcadia Publishing has recently released many fine picture books covering various aspects of Southwest Louisiana history. Now Arcadia is helping us get our Halloween on by giving consumers a 30-percent discount on all books about hauntings, the paranormal and graveyards.
For Louisiana, that includes the titles Haunted Lafayette and New Orleans Vampires. Another book is the brand new A Haunted History of Louisiana Plantations by Cheryl H. White and W. Ryan Smith, which is available at the sale price of $13.99.
This book is so new that I only got my review copy on Oct. 5. But I can tell you a little about it just by looking at the contents page.
The book begins with a short “Primer of the Louisiana Big House.” There follow case studies of nine Louisiana plantations: Houmas House; the Destrehan, Oak Alley, Nottoway, Cherokee, Magnolia, San Francisco and Melrose Plantations; and, of course, The Myrtles.
Like all Arcadia Publishing books, this one is loaded with black and white photos and illustrations. It’s no surprise that one of these is the famous shot of the ghost of Chloe at The Myrtles.
Sales prices are good through the month of October. Take advantage at arcadiapublishing.com. The “Search Books” prompt is at the upper left of the page. See page 34 for my in-depth review.
New: You Must Be Negative
A syndicate is a company that distributes stories and cartoons to a large number of newspapers and magazines. We sometimes do business with a Chicago-based syndicate called Creators.
During my recent visit to Creators’ content download section, I noticed that Creators publishes books. In its New Books section, Creators listed 11 titles.
Out of 11 books, five are markedly negative. This is obviously in stark contrast to the decades-long American insistence on nation-wide optimism.
Let’s look at dem books. The 21st Century Needs A Rewrite by Jamie Stiehm is one of those books that pretty much demonstrates by its title that it’s bound to be negative.
Evil In America by Ben Shapiro, says its promotional material, “sheds light on the distortions of reality plaguing America. Leftists and their head-in-the-sand allies search for taboos to break. The modern media transforms our presidents into celebrities. Democrats make shoddy risk assessments. All of this leads to a collapse in constitutional order and government accountability.”
And then there’s Double Standards: The Selective Outrage of the Left by Dennis Prager. The title doesn’t make it sound as if the book absolutely must be negative. But wait till you read this promo copy:
“[Prager’s] incisive wit cuts right to the heart of hypocrisy in public discourse, particularly that of the left — which taps into its ‘moral’ outrage when it’s politically expedient and becomes curiously docile when it’s not. ‘The truth will not set you free if delivered without hope,’ he writes …”
Hose me, Agnes! “The left” really is evil if it does all this stuff. I swarn, if I ever encounter “the left,” I’m going to turn tail and run away as fast as my little feets will carry me. It’s weird; I encounter the right 100 times — hell, 200 times — a day. And it almost never does anything evil to me.
There’s a second book by Prager in the list: America’s Accelerating Decay. That one also has a title that assures negative content.
To be fair, there is one book in the list that is anti-the right. Or at least, I think it might be. The blurb for Land Of Trumpin’ by Marc Monroe Dion contains this sentence: “Recognizing that people needed someone [that is, Trump] to blame for their joblessness, their anger, their depression, and their slip down the ladder of society, Dion explains the causal hate and outright discrimination brought about by the 2016 election.” That gives you the feeling that the book is going to be at least fair-to-middlin’ negative, and maybe really negative.
But gettin’ really down and dirty with negativity is a book whose title makes it sound as if it might be positive. Don’t be fooled. Here’s the promo copy for the novel Drunk in the Warm Glow by D.W. Anderson: “While dealing with his father’s apparent abandonment and his mother’s grisly suicide, Tyler Linley uses pills and Hollywood escapism to numb his raging pessimism.
“[Tyler’s] friends make him realize he must face the fluctuating state of reality or he will self-destruct, destroying everyone around him.”
Back in the day, when we wanted that sort of thing, we just watched an Ingmar Bergman movie.
Now — again, to be fair — I’ll note that there are two positive titles in the list. Of course, that’s just 2 out of 11. It is what it is, as they say.
Among the two is All Is Well: The Art And Science of Personal Well-Being by Marilynn Preston, who’s been writing a physical fitness column since the 1970s. Preston seems to be mellowing out the self-help business, offering such fanciful advice as “Tweet mindfully” (as if anyone does that). In spite of her physical fitness past, she says there is a place for “crispy fries” in well-being.
Then there’s Sunny With A Side Of Understanding by Doug Mayberry, whose very title gives one the warm and fuzzies. Mayberry, one is told, writes his weekly column with the assistance of his granddaughter Emma. He offers “witty, optimistic advice on family, aging, health, wealth.”
Even when we give the positive titles due attention, we can’t deny that they’re outnumbered at least 2 to 1 in this short list. Does this mean America is shedding its mandatory optimism in the Age of Trump? Well, I think it’s quite a bit too early to make a sweeping conclusion like that. But if we were to judge merely from this one book list, well, there’s been a sea change.
“Peter Krause returning to ‘Bachelor’ franchise”
— CNN headline, Oct. 5
“‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ trailer debuts” — CNN headline, Oct. 10. Just to reinforce the message, it’s the trailer, not the movie, that’s debuting.