Simon’s tribute to Ashley: video now up

The video from the DePaul University College of Communication commencement has been posted. David Simon’s introduction and remarks start at about the 27 minute mark.

Thanks again to Jim King for keeping on top of this for us.

More about Simon’s decision to speak at the ceremony here and here.

“I owe him a trip to Chicago and a morning spent in a funny hat and gown.”

A surprise from today’s Chicago Tribune

David Simon pays tribute to a ‘Wire’ fan

It’s not terribly unusual for television writers to form bonds with the people who watch their shows. What David Simon is doing for a “Wire” fan this weekend, however, may be a little unusual.

Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” will be in the Chicago area Sunday to receive an honorary degree and to deliver the commencement address for DePaul University. Simon’s appearance at the ceremony, which will take place at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena, sprang from his desire to pay tribute to Ashley Morris, a DePaul assistant professor and “Wire” fan. Morris recently passed away at the age of 44. Morris was a New Orleans resident and a noted local blogger, and he taught in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media (he commuted weekly to Chicago to teach). In addition to being a hardcore Saints fan and Warren Zevon devotee, Morris was an avid “Wire” viewer. He became friendly with Simon via Web sites devoted to the show, and one site, Got That New Package, posted an online tribute to Morris when he passed away on April 2. The community of New Orleans bloggers also deeply mourned his passing. I’ll quote here from an obituary supplied by DePaul: “The NOLA bloggers, rising in response to an unimaginable tragedy, quickly found themselves steering different parts of the beast,” wrote noted Louisiana political cartoonist Greg Peters, on his blog, Suspect Device. “Ashley was fire. Ashley was the furnace where the rage was forged, where the steam pressure built, where raw anger began its conversion to power and motion.” (The full DePaul obituary for Morris is at the end of this item. The New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary is here.) Reading that, it’s not hard to understand why Simon liked Morris. Continue reading

Info re David Simon @ DePaul commencement

Thanks to Jim King for info re David Simon’s involvement in the upcoming DePaul commencement activities. Per the DePaul site, the date of the ceremony is June 15. (at the improbable hour of 8:30 a.m.)

For those who may not have been around earlier, here’s the backstory.

Ashley Morris is a committed motherfucker

Last winter I wrote my post, Rigorous Honesty, after watching Bubbles struggle and stumble his way through an NA meeting and then after talking for a long time about the episode over lunch with another fellow Wire addict and former drug addict, the charming Ms. Hiromi. Like most of my half-decent writing, the idea was not even half-formed when I first sat down to write it and then it just barfed itself all over the page in one long non-stop blast. I posted it, then packed up my computer and headed to the Austin airport to come home to New Orleans.

I’m at the airport, and H. calls me up and says, “Dude, you are not going to believe the comment you just got on that post”. We were ten minutes from boarding but I went and paid the $9.95 for wifi to read the very humbling praise that David Simon left me, and I was admittedly kind of giddy. And the first person I called was Ashley. Ashley who, like me, had loved the show from the very beginning. But Ashley who, unlike me, had helped drive the “Save The Wire” movement when it looked like it might be cancelled by HBO; who had read and watched and rewatched Homicide and The Corner; who could quote off the top of his head more trivia and quotes and little known Wire facts in five minutes than I could dig up in an hour of Googling.

I immediately called Ashley, and he answered the phone, not with “Hello”, or “Hey Ray”, or “Ashley Morris”. No, he picked up the phone and yelled “Motherfucker! You piece of shit! Goddammit, you lucky fucking asshole!” All in good fun, of course. (We were close, this is like whispering sweet nothings between us.) “I guess you read it then, huh?”, I said. “Yes! I read it. Fuck you.”

And for most of the history of this blog, my post was the most read post, and one of I think only two posts that got some DS love in the comments. I didn’t gloat, but yeah, I check my stats.

Well, no longer. The most read post on this blog, ever since four weeks ago, has been Open Thread for Ashley, and the most DS love I’ve ever seen doled out for anybody not actually on the show is there in the comments.

I tell you, that fat fucking loveable bastard was committed, man. You do not FUCK with Ashley on his turf and expect to stay on top.

Motherfucker will do ANYTHING. “My name is my NAME!”

The last time I saw him, at the Maple Leaf Bar, I was giving him my brain-dump on single malts (one of my former weaknesses), and I pointed at the Highland Park on the top shelf and told him about the Orkney Island distillery, the northernmost distillery in Scotland, almost at the Arctic Circle, and I said “Highland Park 18 year old. When I relapse, it’s gonna be a pint of Guinness and then a bottle of that,” and he said “Like hell.”

“Like hell what?”

“Over my dead body. I’ll kill your dumb ass before I let you relapse.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I need another cranberry and soda, you want another Abita or you switching to Jameson?”

Committed.

Indeed.

Tomorrow it will have been a month, y’all. I think Ashley would want us to start writing about what comes next, ya know?

“Ashley Morris, tireless proponent of N.O.”

Ashley’s obituary in the NO Times-Picayune:


Thursday, April 10, 2008
By John Pope
Staff writer

Ashley Morris, a passionate advocate for New Orleans who possessed the mind of a computer geek and the soul of a rabble-rouser, died April 2 in his sleep in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 44.

The cause of death has not been determined, said Ray Shea, a friend, who said that Mr. Morris had been in Florida to settle family legal matters.

Mr. Morris, who reached a worldwide audience with blunt blogs about New Orleans, loved his adopted hometown so much that he commuted every week to Chicago to teach computer science at DePaul University.

“Ashley divided the world into people who would fight for New Orleans and people who have abandoned us,” Shea said. “If he thought you were a friend of New Orleans, you were a saint. All of his saints were the football players, or brass-band musicians, or chefs or anyone who did anything to try to save this city. Everyone else was the enemy.”

Karen Gadbois, a neighborhood activist, remembered Mr. Morris as a man who “was not tempered by social conventions to stifle his own voice.”

When it came to New Orleans, Mr. Morris wore his heart on his sleeve and his loyalty on his skin. Literally. When the Saints reached the playoffs at the end of the 2006 season, he had a giant fleur-de-lis tattooed on his right shoulder.

Although he was known mainly as an unseen online personality because of his postings at ashleymorris.typepad.com, he received global visual exposure via CNN in 2006, during the first post-Katrina Krewe de Vieux parade. Dressed as a French mime in convict stripes and white face makeup, he stood in a glass case bearing this appeal to the French president: “Buy us back, Chirac!”

“He was a character, a huge, big force of nature,” Shea said of Mr. Morris, who weighed about 350 pounds. “He was part Lenny Bruce, part Thomas Jefferson and part Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein,” the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

Born in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., Mr. Morris earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Mississippi, where he was a drummer in the marching band, and a doctorate in computer science at Tulane University. He was an associate professor at DePaul.

In his classes and professional seminars, he always found a way to work New Orleans into the discussion, said Mark Moseley, a friend.

Mr. Morris had his students build databases that the federal government should have been using when Hurricane Katrina struck, Moseley said, and he wanted to teach a class on post-storm New Orleans.

Mr. Morris “loved living here, eating here and celebrating here,” Moseley said. “He liked life, and he found it kind of distilled here.”

Survivors include his wife, Hana Morris; a son, Rey d’Orleans Morris; and two daughters, Annabel and Katerina Morris.

A funeral will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at Schoen Funeral Home, 3827 Canal St. Visitation will start at 10 a.m.

Burial will be in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.

Ashley Morris Memorial Fund

The Ashley Morris Memorial Fund has been set up. Ashley is survived by a wife and three small children , a family having to cope with sudden and unexpected loss of a husband and father.

Even his most casual acquaintances know how much Ashley loved community, how much he could made them feel part of something bigger just by knowing him.

Let’s come together in community to help Ashley’s family through this very difficult time.

Please donate here.

Funeral details

Ray asked that we share the following, regarding Ashley’s funeral plans:

Relatives and friends of the family are invited to attend the Funeral
Services from SCHOEN FUNERAL HOME, 3827 CANAL ST., on Friday, April 11, 2008 at 1:00 pm. Visitation will be from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. Interment to follow in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3
He adds:
Hana has also informed me that traditional Saints fan attire will be
considered an appropriate substitute for traditional funeral attire.
Ashley, for one, is likely going to his final rest in a Saints shirt,
shorts, and black and gold high tops.
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