New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for July/August 2008

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

Long time NOM members will recognize the owl on the cover. She was the logo for New Orleans Mensa in the early eighties and appeared on the cover of every La Plume. Through the centuries, the owl has sometimes been associated with witchcraft–even so modern a witch as Harry Potter has an owl. More commonly, the owl is associated with wisdom. The owl symbolized Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Iroquois legend tells that the creator made the owl’s eyes big and round so he could look and learn and pulled his ears out from his head so he could listen and learn. The owl then became filled with wisdom. Although not an official symbol, the owl is frequently associated with Mensa. Special achievement awards given by National Mensa are called “Owl Awards”. I don’t know who drew this flirtatious little owl. If anyone remembers, let me know. I would like to credit the artist.

This issue features the first of a three part series on New Orleans and New Orleans Mensa in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. The series first appeared in MPULSE, the newsletter of Dayton Area Mensa.

I have enjoyed editing La Plume for the past six years, but I plan to resign as editor next year. If anyone is interested in editing, call or email me and we’ll talk.

Former LocSec, Mike Puinno, battling cancer

Cheryl Puinno

Mike is still fighting his battle with pancreatic and liver cancer. He is truly an inspiration to all who come in contact with him. The fact that he is surviving pancreatic cancer going on 5 years now has the medical community up here shaking their heads in awe. The doctors and nurses keep telling us it's unheard of to survive pancreatic cancer past 2 years. (Mike's initial diagnosis back in May 2003 was 4 months, but definitely no more than 6 -- without a doubt were the doctor's exact words.)

I'm attaching a letter from Hope Lodge (American Cancer Society). Mike has stayed there on numerous occasions when he has had to have treatment, and it has been a godsend.
Joining the New Orleans Mensa was one of Mike's greatest pleasures, and he especially looked forward to NOM nights and thoroughly enjoyed his term as "The Ediot" of the newsletter. I'm not sure if there is anyone left in the New Orleans chapter who knew or remembers Mike, but I thought I would pass this letter along to you to see if anyone individually or if the New Orleans Mensa chapter itself would like to purchase a brick in Mike's honor. I thought it would be nice to give anyone who knew Mike the opportunity to help with this fund raiser.

Cheryl Puinno

ed. note: Mike Puinno was LocSec and Editor of La Plume in the early nineties. If anyone is interested in donating, let me know and I will forward the address or you can check the website of the American Cancer Society for Hope Lodge, Buffalo, NY.

LocSec’s Lucubrations

by Gerry Ward

Our actor/comedian members were in some fine shows last month. Mike Cahill was in “The Sunshine Boys”, and Yvette Hargis was in “The Renew Revue” and “The Ball and All”. I had a good time at all of them, and hope to attend more theatre evenings in the future. In fact “The Ball and All” was so authentic that I thought I really was back in the ninth ward where I grew up. Yvette’s character was so much like a sister-in-law of mine that I thought she must have known her to do her so well. And the scenery was a duplicate of Jack Dempsey’s Bar and Restaurant on Poland Ave. Congratulations to our fine talented members on terrific performances.

Because of the terrible floods in Iowa , I thought we should do something for the members caught in them. We felt terribly let down by other Mensa groups and National after Katrina. I emailed the Loc. Sec. in West Des Moines Mensa who had written to tell the Loc. Sec.’s e-list why she didn’t have time to do a long survey. I sent her our sympathy, and she said that she helped us by cutting down trees with her farm’s chain saw after Katrina, and she sent her birthday money to a charity that was taking care of displaced pets. As far as what we could do for them, she wanted to know what our recovery plan was.

Everybody at NOM night said in unison, ”What recovery plan?” I did not write and tell her that, but I think we should at least send advice on what worked for us and what to avoid. If you decide to send money, I think we need to have a meeting to discuss how to send it, such as gift certificates to Wal-Mart, and to her to distribute as her Ex-Comm sees fit. They know who is in great need.

If you have suggestions, advice, or information for the Iowa Mensans, please submit them through our Yahoo email group. Just send a blank email to Yahoo will send you an email asking you to confirm your request to join the group. When you reply to that email, you will be a member of the group and can submit your suggestions.

New beginnings, New Orleans

by Pat Reising

Will it come back? Should it rebuild?

A city ravaged by a killer hurricane, followed by the worst flood ever, destroying homes and businesses, displacing thousands of citizens. Even before the full extent of the devastation was known, those in-the-know asked derisively if New Orleans would survive, if it should even try to rebuild. Evil stepsisters Katrina and Rita? No, the year was 1849, and like after the great fires of 1788 and 1794, rebuild it did. The Crescent City became sufficiently prosperous in a decade that, by the beginning of the Civil War, it was a prime objective of Union forces and then a plum spoil for the North.

A century and a half later, I hear the same questions asked but not in New Orleans. The citizens believe in their city, embellishing every available surface with fleur de lis rebuild emblems. And while they are acutely aware of the hindrances set up by those who were expected to help, they know they will survive, just as they have many other disasters that threatened to put a big end to the Big Easy.

If you attended the 2005 AG in New Orleans, I hope you set aside some tourist time--otherwise, why hold an AG in a destination city? Whatever you saw of the French Quarter and major attractions are today as they were then often with a fresh coat of paint or gleaming new windows. Whether you have been to New Orleans a dozen times or never, now is the time to come on down. Come for the food and music, the architecture and history& and the beads.

Popular restaurants are open, and lines to get in are short. This effectively eliminates the impromptu line parties that break out when waiters sell drinks to the hungry and thirsty revelers in the sidewalk queue, but it virtually guarantees you’ll be sucking shrimp and shucking oysters before you turn into a pumpkin. I was able to snag a table for five at Emeril’s Delmonico on the Friday after Thanksgiving and at a reasonable dinner hour; well, reasonable for aging Midwesterners who have dinner for lunch and supper for dinner. In northern climes, those mid-century dinner-party sideshows, Caesar salad and bananas Foster, have been all but abandoned in favor of mass-produce, portion-controlled, pre-plated fare; down NOLA way, both are unselfconscious perennial favorites.

Café du Monde still stays open 24/7 as it has since 1862. Seems like the occasional hurricane is necessary to scrub the sticky stuff off the patio. To preview the al fresco experience before you go, you can buy a tin of their chicory coffee at any large grocery store in Dayton; imagine drinking it to a sound track of tugboats whistling baritone notes and carriage horses click-clacking in syncopated counterpoint to a Jackson Square street musician improvising bluesy jazz. Café du Monde’s celebrated beignets are a bit harder to recreate at home. Most of us are loathe to use the mountains of lard and sugar-powder needed for authentic flavor.

The famed grillwork balconies are as impressive as ever; photographs can’t capture the dual nature of such delicate tracery wrought in massive iron. Take a walking tour and you’ll learn that St. Louis Cathedral is more than a theatrical backdrop for Andrew Jackson (on a horse that is decidedly not Truxton, his Tennessee thoroughbred.)

While some cemeteries suffered wind and water damage, the cultural and environmental significance of this uniquely New Orleans way of death shouldnt be missed. Why wait for that dream trip to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, when a two-day drive from Dayton brings you to New Orleans’s Cities of the Dead?

Bus and van tours are available without advanced reservations, and Mississippi River cruises are rarely sold out. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americans is restocked after losing thousands of fish when the generator finally failed after days of keeping their fragile environments livable after Katrina, and the rescued penguins and marine mammals have been returned from their foster homes. IMAX at the Aquarium has add a film about Katrina/Rita to its spectacularly photographed nature shows. In Harrah’s Casino, the weather is eternally spring, but the house always wins. Ironically, with fewer tourists around, my favorite sport--people-watching on the streets of the French Quarter is easy in the Big Easy. So, come on down!

This is Part I of a series of articles about New Orleans. Previews of coming attractions: Survivors in their own words; Charity, where is home?

This was published in Dayton Area Mensa’s newsletter MPULSE, January 2008.

RVC-6 Report

by Ralph Rudolph

Naturally, I'll be at the AG this 4th of July weekend. A few items of some importance will be occurring:

  1. Jared Levine has presented motions to be voted upon at the Annual Business Meeting (ABM). If they pass, they will be put to a national referendum. Essentially, his motions would redefine how the Ombudsman and National Hearings Committee would be selected. His motions seem reasonable; however, there is already a committee studying how to revamp the role of the Ombudsman and selection of National Hearings Committee members that has come to similar conclusions. I believe it would be in our best interest to let this committee finish its work and then compare the results to see which would be better to implement.
  2. The AMC meeting will cover a lot of routine committee and Assistant RVC reappointments. It will also vote on a dues increase to $59 next year. AML is already "running in the red" and costs are expected to rise significantly, especially printing, postage, travel and advertising. Because of our multi-year and life memberships, AML will not realize the full impact of the dues increase for several years. There may be a reexamination of actuarial studies regarding life dues. I believe this increase is necessary.
  3. The AMC will hear the results of the recent Hearings Committee decision on Barry Levine. I have heard nothing regarding their recommendations. My vote will depend on hearing sufficient proof that Mensa as an entity has been harmed by his actions.
  4. I will be hosting a "Meet and Greet Your RVC" session during the AG. Watch your program. If you have anything to discuss with me, be sure to be there. Naturally, we can also chat in hospitality or whatever as well. or

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