Brad Goins Thursday, June 4, 2015 Comments Off on CVB ON THE UPSWING

I don’t know how excited local editors get about such events as National Tourism Week. After all, we’re bombarded with press releases for the dozens of other “weeks” and “months” that take place during every year (and, indeed, during every month).

This year, reps from the Convention and Visitors Bureau hand-delivered an information packet about National Tourism Week along with some hot food. And this time, I actually read all the material. In doing so, I learned some interesting things about tourism and its effect on the area’s culture and economy.

First, the Bureau made an effort to do up Tourism Week (May 3-10) right. In addition to providing snacks at its Welcome Center, the bureau handed out postcards with postage on them. Children got free coloring books and crayons. And mothers who showed up on May 10 got free flowers.

In terms of accomplishments over the last year, Lagniappe has already mentioned the Bureau’s recent work on local tourism apps several times. But during Tourism Week, I learned that in the last year, the Bureau also produced promotional videos for SWLA in Spanish, French and German. These will go to international media.

Here’s some more. SWLA won Outside magazine’s 2014 Travel Award for best foodie destination. And in a highly publicized article, the Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace ranked Lake Charles as the eighth happiest city in the country.

Promotion of the area has worked on some level. Growth in social media has been impressive. The Bureau’s website got 430,000 hits last year. Twitter followers are up to 1,300 (a 40 percent increase over the previous year). Finally, there’s the blog. I didn’t even know the Bureau has a blog. But it does, and there are now 4,700 people following it. That’s an increase of 400 percent — that’s right, 400 percent.

But how about economic impact? Right now, the average one-night visit brings $494 to the area. All those visits add up to $400 million in revenue for Calcasieu Parish alone. And the pay-off in salary for parish workers who deal with tourists or tourism is $93 million. Not a bad little chunk of change.


What A Wonderful Dish

On April 29, the Times-Picayune published recipes of 50 musicians and chefs associated with the New Orleans Jazz Fest. All 50 foods are served at the fest on a regular basis. The recipes include the likes of Louis Prima’s meatballs and Irma Thomas’ macaroni and cheese and stuffed shrimp bread.

Here’s a representative recipe that was written by N.O. jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong:

Louis Armstrong’s Creole Red Beans and Rice  Serves 6 or more


1 pound kidney beans

1/2 pound salt pork (strip of lean, strip of fat; slab bacon can be used if preferred)

1 small can tomato sauce (if desired)

6 small ham hocks or one smoked pork butt

2 onions, diced

1/4 green bell pepper

5 tiny, or 2 medium, dried peppers

1 clove garlic, chopped

Salt to taste

Use a two-quart pot with cover. Wash beans thoroughly and soak overnight in cold water. Be sure to cover beans.

To cook, pour water off beans and add fresh water to cover. Add salt pork or bacon and bring to a boil over full flame in covered pot. Turn flame down to slightly higher than low and let cook for 1 1/2 hours. Add diced onions, bell pepper, garlic, dried peppers and salt. Cook for three hours. Add tomato sauce and cook for 1 1/2 hours, adding water whenever necessary. Beans and meat should always be just covered with juice, never dry.

To prepare with ham hocks or pork butts: Wash meat, add water to cover and let come to a boil in covered pot over medium flame. Cook for 1 1/2 hours and then add beans (pour water off) and add rest of ingredients to meat. Cook for 4 1/2 hours. Add water when necessary.

Suggestions: For non-pork eaters, chicken fat may be used instead of salt pork. Corned beef or beef tongue may be used instead of ham hocks or butts.

Wash two cups of rice thoroughly. Bring two cups of water with one teaspoon of salt to a boil and add rice to boiling water. Cook until rice swells and water is almost evaporated. Cover and turn flame down low. Cook until rice is grainy.

Serve on dinner plate, with beans either over rice or beside rice, as preferred. Twenty minutes later — Bisma-Rex and Swiss Kriss.

Bisma-Rex and Swiss Kriss were antacids of the day.

The 50 recipes were collected by the Times-Picayune’s July Walker. To get yourself a free New Orleans recipe book, visit and search for “50-plus recipes from New Orleans Jazz Fest vendors, musicians and chefs.”


Letter Written. Problem Solved.

As LSU struggled for its financial survival, Gov. Bobby Jindal rolled up his sleeves and got to work on the problem. On April 27 — exactly a week after Moody’s downgraded LSU’s credit rating — Jindal had his Administration Commissioner, Kristy Nichols, write a letter to the Advocate in which she stated matter-of-factly that “in just a few weeks, we will have a balanced budget …”

Man, is that a load off my mind! Just listen to the collective sigh of relief!

On the same day — April 27 — Jindal published a letter in the New York Times in which he described his opposition to gay marriage.

Education experts around the country said that the letter about gay marriage would have an especially beneficial effect on LSU’s budget, with many stating that they thought the letter would solve the budget problem entirely. As Trey Cameaux, of the education think tank Freedom Wings, put it, “Our research proves convincingly that the single most effective solution for budget shortfalls at U.S. universities is the writing of letters about gay marriage. A distant second is the practice of refraining from cutting money out of the school’s budgets.”

The Louisiana Budget Project offered this response to Nichols’ letter: “If you thought Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration was fretting over the state’s dicey budget situation — caused largely by its own policies — think again.” Well, they’re right. Why fret about a problem you’ve just solved?

Even LSU education professors are on board. Said professor of education Milo Tutmore: “If Governor Jindal could just bring himself to write a letter to the New York Times about voter ID fraud, I think we could balance LSU’s budget down to the last penny.”


Pretty Good Question

While the leaders of the New York Times’ editorial office were figuring out why it was important to run a letter by Bobby Jindal, others at the newspaper were putting together a long, well-researched article about why it was important for Louisiana to keep at least its major universities up and running. The writers looked at the move in Louisiana to shift higher ed from traditional, liberal arts, four-year-degree universities to technical education. They dipped deep into the reservoir of statistics to argue that such a change would hurt Louisiana’s economy more than it would help it.

I’m a big supporter of technical ed. I wish there were more of it. But I can see that a bright high school grad from Mississippi or Arkansas probably wouldn’t relocate to Louisiana for the sake of technical ed. And certainly one should always keep in mind the number of bright young folks who will leave Louisiana if they can’t get a solid, well-rounded liberal arts education here.

One of the numbers floating around these days is that an LSU tuition now costs more than $8,000. Do you think students (or parents) will pay $8,000-plus if it turns out that LSU students no longer have the option of taking classes in German or French or theater or art? I don’t know the answer. But I think it’s a pretty good question.


‘Our Embarrassing Legislature’

Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace has been Tweeting a series she calls “Our Embarrassing Legislature.” It started with a Tweet stating that in a legislative hearing, Gene Mills, who heads the group Louisiana Family Forum, dismissed the value of sex education experts with the statement “remember, the experts built the Titanic.” In all fairness, I can see the consistency of Mills’ comparison. I mean, after all, a cruise ship is pretty much exactly the same thing as a sex ed course.

Grace continued her series with the Tweet “Louisiana House unanimously asks Ginsburg, Kagan to step away from gay marriage case.” Again, I’m not really sure I see Grace’s point. I figure all Supreme Court justices begin their day by determining what the Louisiana Legislature wants them to do. You know how the saying goes: “If the Supreme Court is the scales of justice and law enforcement is the sword, then the Louisiana Legislature is the blindfold.”


Drink Enough Beer And It’s One-Dimensional

“Our entire universe could be a 2D hologram, scientists warn.” That headline appeared in the Google News feed on April 28. The source was something that was mysteriously cited as only as “Metro.”

I have a few questions about the 2D hologram universe. Is there a lot of compelling, concrete evidence to support the idea that the universe could be a 2D hologram? Is there a lot of compelling, concrete evidence to support the idea that everything we step on, grab and hold is a hologram? Is the idea something more than a cool theory that an ambitious academic is promoting?

Unless the answer to each of those questions is an emphatic yes, I’m going to suggest that it might be just a bit premature to issue a warning. Maybe instead of a warning, it would be better to issue a Hey, guys. What’s a Hey, guys? It’s the beginning of the question “Hey guys, have you heard about this cool new theory that this guy has come up with?” This question should be followed by another: “You wanna hash it out after a few beers?” After the right number of beers, the theory that the beer you are holding and drinking is a hologram will become a lot more plausible.


The News

“‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Willow’s out, Sasha’s in as competition twists, turns”

— April 28 headline in the Los Angeles Times, which some have called the flagship newspaper of the United States

And every one of these headlines appeared in the April 28 edition of the Washington Post (another candidate for flagship paper):

“Woman’s brain tumor turns out to be ‘evil twin’ complete with bone, hair and tooth”

“In a desperate 911 call, pregnant shooting victim clings to life and saves unborn baby”

“Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary”

And then there was the headline that was listed first in the Post’s National News section:

“Sitter stumbles upon blood-covered stabbing suspect who says he ‘slayed the beast.'”

Well, I guess we can quit mourning the loss of the Weekly World News. The newspaper industry will take note if people quit watching Maury Povich because they’re more entertained by the Washington Post national news section.

As for the “evil twin” mentioned above, that is a “teratoma” — a clump made up of bone, hair and other materials which most scientists think came from an embryo that never fully developed. In theory, the teratoma is absorbed by the embryo that grows to maturity.

I don’t know why Washington Post editors felt the need to use the term “evil twin.” Maybe they’re doing stealth promotion for a coming horror film. Or maybe they’re just trying to get somebody to buy their newspaper.

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