Ferriday’s Culture of Corruption

October 29, 2007

Ferriday, La, home of Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart (and both are cousins of Mickey Gilley from Natchez, Ms), has a lot to be proud of. It’s a town that has produced it’s share of successful people.

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Yet, driving through this small town, you’ll wonder if they have enough people still living there to form a city council, or even if they have a mayor. One thing you’ll quickly discover however, if your going 25 and the speed limit is 35, you’re going to get a ticket for speeding. Yes, they do have a police force there. So they aren’t that bad, but the point is made, don’t speed in Ferriday. In fact, you’re probably better off avoiding it altogether.

In a state where every other day it seems another politician is indicted, Ferriday stands out as the epitome of what corruption brings. The allegedly corrupt mayor Gene Allen (D) not only serves as mayor, but also traffic court judge. This small town of about 5,000 people brings in close to 1 million dollars in revenues from traffic violations. Gene Allen, by the way, would not endorse Bobby Jindal for Governor whose message was to end corruption.

The reputation that Mayor Gene Allen and Ferriday has is put in perspective when buying a home in Ferriday, you learn about the speed traps and Gene’s alleged corruption. House Concurrent Resolution came about after Representative Hollis Downs was pulled over for speeding in Ferriday. Representative Andy Anders was quoted in the Natchez Democrat as saying “We’re not here to say police don’t need to slow down traffic, but when you start using it to generate revenue you’re abusing the system,”. In this town, drugs aren’t the problem, speeders are.

But the story of Ferriday doesn’t stop there. While looking up Ferriday, I found this gem of an article about Bryant Hammett, in which the author asserts that Bryant Hammett is another profiteer of the suffering of Hurricane Katrina. In the words of the article we find…

The U.S. Congress gives Louisiana $12 Billion dollars (OUR tax dollars – from all 50 states) for Hurricane Katrina recovery.

The Louisiana legislature creates a Disaster Recovery Unit to spend that $12 Billion dollars through community development block grants (a recipe for graft).

Bryant Hammett, Jr. (Democrat-Ferriday [Little Port-au-Prince], Louisiana), Chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, applies for a job in the new Disaster Recovery Unit which he helped create.

Bryant Hammett, Jr., who is tight with that national disgrace and thoroughly incompetent governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, alternately insists that:

a) he saw an advertisement for the job on a website.
b) a friend told him about the job.

Bryant Hammett, Jr., also the sole owner of Bryant Hammett & Associates LLC, a civil engineering and land surveying business that benefited from state contracts while he was Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, doesn’t see a problem with applying for the job.

I wonder if the people who voted Bobby Jindal into office that resides in that Senate District will then in turn accidentally sabotage his administration by sending Hammett to the Senate for more of the same?

Let’s take a closer look at Bryant Hammett’s voting record in the state legislature.

He voted for Clone and Kill research (HB736) which would allow the creation of human embryos for embryonic research. This is totally unnecessary since all the advancements through stem cell research has been made through adult stem cell and there is no reason to believe that different advances can be made through embryonic stem cells. It’s been widely misunderstood that people who are against embryonic stem cell research are against stem cell research. The objection to embryonic stem cell research is that it creates life with the purpose of destroying it, whereas, adult stem cell research, life does not have to end.

He voted for bars near churches (HB297) and drive through daiquiris (HB754) which makes sense being that he’s from Ferriday. After all, if they can make 1 million dollars a year off of speeders, how much can they make off of drunk drivers?

He voted to allow elected officials employment at casinos (SB802) — of course, after reading the article that I cited earlier, this makes a lot of sense. Who knows maybe Bryant Hammett would be sitting around the kitchen reading the paper, enjoying his coffee when suddenly he stumbles upon a job opportunity working at the casino, or maybe a friend phones him up and tells him of this great job opportunity down at the casino where he can help Louisianians with their financial matters. After all, Bryant would never do anything out of greed. Nah…

Bryant Hammett also voted to expand gambling with his vote on HB966, HB353, HB114, HB799, and HB484. Obviously Bryant Hammett loves gambling, but the real question is, will the constituents of district 32 like it enough to gamble the future of Louisiana with Bryant Hammett?

When it comes to Ferriday, La., I’d suggest we stay out of it. Some things the people can’t control, Allen is in his first term, and they should take the opportunity to remove him from office. You could say, they didn’t know.

With Bryant Hammett, an election time conservative, they should know, and sending him back is a reflection on the community.

Johana Harris: A Biography.(Book review)

Notes March 1, 2012 | Mirchandani, Sharon Johana Harris: A Biography. By Ethel Paquin. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011. [xv, 256 p. ISBN 9780810877603. $65.] Illustrations.

Ethel Paquin’s& Johana Harris: A Biography is the first full-length biography of the renowned pianist, teacher, and composer whose birth name was Mary Duffey. The book is in some ways a psychobiography. Its first sentence is “Mary Beula Aleta Duffey was born to a mother who didn’t want her,” and Beula/Johana’s difficult relationship with her mother is a strong thread throughout the book. The writing style is highly engaging, at times somewhat breezy, and sometimes humorous, filled with casual expressions like “between a rock and a hard place” (p, 1), “You did not cross Laura if you knew what was good for you” (p. 1), and “Men being men, marriage being marriage, and Catholic doctrine being what it was, before she knew it Laura was pregnant” (p. 2). While Paquin does not hold back her interpretations of the events in Johana’s life, she also provides sirong supporting evidence for them.

Paquin explains the book’s origins in her preface. Research for the book was begun by Louise Spizizen (1928-2010), who in 1993 had put forth the disputed theory that Johana Harris was co-composer of some of Roy Harris’s works. When she was unable to continue her research due to personal problems, Spizizen turned over her materials, including the personal papers of Johana and Roy Harris, to Paquin. While Paquin does address the question of musical authorship (see especially pp. xi, xii, 34, and 58), her primary goal in the book is to answer a broader question: “Why would Johana Harris, a musical prodigy of well-documented genius, who had been the youngest student ever admitted to the Juilliard Graduate School of Music, who had be^n offered solo concert careers by management firms in this country and in Europe, who regularly received ovations when she performed, choose to marry Roy Harris and subordinate her own career in favor of advancing his?” (p. xii) The theme of subordination is woven through this meticulous portrayal of Johana as both a woman and an artist.

Whilt; Johana’s musical talent is made clear, the book is also quite intimate, filled with personal details including those surrounding her two abortions and miscarriage, and the role of mental and physical illnesses on various events. Paquin’s narrative is storylike as she shows the interplay between Johana’s relationships, music making, and academic life. Her relationships with several men are analyzed, with much attention given to that with her first husband, composer Roy Harris. Roy is not presented in an attractive light. Paquin’s description of Roy as “an undependable, emotionally abusive, volatile man” (p. xii) is reinforced throughout the book. Johana Harris’s second husband, composer Jake Heggie, contributes a forward to the book and also addresses Johana’s influence on Roy Harris (pp. viii-ix).

Paquin draws upon papers and letters; newspaper reviews and articles; interviews recorded by Spizizen of Johana’s colleagues, students, relatives, and friends; and fresh interviews of her own. She also draws upon the literature concerning Roy Harris, particularly Dan Stehman’s Roy Harris: A Bio-Bibliography (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991). Included are twenty-three photos in black and white of Johana and others. Notes are provided for each of the book’s twelve chapters. A minor complaint is that the book is difficult to navigate as no index is provided, and each of the chapter titles consists of no more than a date range. go to site medium length hair styles 2011

In chapter 1, “December 1913 to May 1932,” Beula/Johana’s background and childhood in Canada, her musical development, and her move to New York at the age of twelve are thoroughly portrayed, along with her training at Juilliard and in Berlin, her teaching position of secondary piano at Juilliard, and her tremendous early successes as a performer, concertizing in the United States and in Canada.

Chapter 2, “June 1932 to October 1936,” includes Beula’s fiance David Dawson, the beginning of her long-term romantic relationship with Halfden Gregersen, Roy Harris’s background, and her marriage to Roy Harris as his fourth wife. Paquin’s discussions, here especially btit also throughout the book, of Beula’s pianism and performance demeanor are quite insightful. She describes her technique as “unobtrusive and reliable, the medium through which she expressed herself” (p. 22). She describes Beula as not so much trying to impress her audiences, but as trying to share music with them. The chapter traces her life through Roy’s appointment at Juilliard, their friendship with the New York publisher William Norton and his wife, and her positions first at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA and then at Westminster Choir College, where Roy was also teaching. Paquin points to the beginning of Roy’s dominance over Beula, when, wanting her to be less attractive to other men, he had her give up her dying her hair blond and exchange her sumptuous makeup, silk dresses, and high heels for a more severe style with dark tailored clothes. The difficult relationship Beula always had with her mother was aggravated when Roy and Beula eloped in California. She was so angry when she found out that she burned Beula’s compositions, letters, and books, and sold her piano. After their marriage Roy convinced Beula to change her name to “Johana” in homage to J. S. Bach, spelled with one “n” to avoid the number 13.

Chapters 3-11 cover the years of Johana’s long marriage to Roy Harris from 1936 to his death in 1979. Paquin documents this time as filled with many personal and financial difficulties, with music functioning as a solace to her. Her life and career were so entwined with Roy’s that the reader learns much about him from a new perspective as well. How he networked and marketed himself is especially interesting for those interested in American composition. Paquin suggests that Johana’s submission to him was rooted in her childhood, when she learned to feel inadequate except as a pianist. As a child, she turned her money over to her mother, and after marriage, to Roy. For his part, Roy insisted on trying to create the appearance of success by living beyond their means in large luxurious houses with many nice cars. This often led to frequent sales of homes and bizarre living arrangements that created much stress in the household. During her marriage to Roy, Johana lived in twenty different homes and taught at nineteen different institutions in the United States. She also gave birth to and raised two sons and three daughters, and numerous composition students (including Peter Schickele) lived with them throughout the years, creating a lively household. Paquin addresses women’s roles as she describes how johana did much of the cooking and cleaning for the entire household, though at times the live-in students would help or the family would have hired help. Many of the intrviews in the book are with live-ins and domestic help who had first-hand knowledge of her family life. mediumlengthhairstyles2011.org medium length hair styles 2011

Some of Juliana’s more important teaching appointments described in great detail were at Cornell University, Colorado College, the Utah State Agricultural College, the George Peabody College for Teachers, the Pennsylvania College for Women, Chatham College, the International American University in Puerto Rico, the University of the Pacific, and the University of California at Los Angeles. Her solo recitals, chamber concerts, and orchestral appearances at all of these institutions are interwoven in the text with her personal life. Paquin emphasizes the importance of Johana as the main performer of the piano parts for Roy’s compositions, though in reviews she was often only referred to as “the composer’s wife.” Paquin also discusses her numerous performances and recordings of works by others, including Walter Piston’s Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, the Bach/Busoni Chaconne, and works by Beethoven, Schoenberg, Debussy, Ginastera, and many other twentieth-century composers.

The impact of World War II on Johana’5 students and academic life in general, and of McCarthyism and the reception of Roy’s Fifth Symphony, provide interesting political context. Johana’s involvement with folk music in the 1940s and 1950s and visits to her home by folk musicians Alan and John Lomax, Leadbelly, Burl Ives, and Molly Jackson are a delight to read.

The final chapter, “July 1980 to June 1995,” follows Johana’s continuing relationships following Roy’s death, including an engagement to violinist Josef Gingold, her breakup with him, and her marriage to the much younger composer Jake Heggie. More financial troubles, her 1987 Distinguished Lecturer Award at UCLA, her recordings for Andrew Berliner at Qryst&l Studios, and an account of her final concert and her death from cancer at the age of 82 complete the account.

In her “Coda,” Paquin contrasts Johana’s dual roles as nurturer and as a pianist. In her assessment, Paquin strongly feels that Johana deserved greater recognition than she received. With this book, she has suceeded in providing that recognition and a better understanding of the forces behind Johana’s life. What really shines throughout the pages of Paquin’s biography is her incredible talent. The accounts of hr musicianship are fascinating. With sensitive details, Paquin is able to capture the nuances of performance, improvisation, and leaning. She describes Harris’s incredible technique but shows her not as a technical virtuoso, but as a sensitive and passionate musician who wanted to share music with those around her. Examples of her extraordinary skill at improvisation are frequent.

Those interested in pianists, American musical culture, women musicians, music in academia, modernist composition, Roy-Harris, or gender roles in the twentieth century will enjoy this hook immensely.

SHARON MIRCHANOANI Westminster Choir College of Rider University Mirchandani, Sharon


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