These Bluebook Blues

Sitting here with the tedious tome now for more than a handful of hours, a few tunes bubble up through the muck...

Hopkins v. Fate, 13 So. 13 (Tex. 1963).

House v. Letter Writer
, 27 So. 666 (Miss. 1967).

Hooker v. Conductor, 85 So. 504 (La. 1965).

Signs I

No P
Park, Beijing

Is Law School A Good Investment Anymore?

Not really - according to this.

(Via Dummocrats)


Here's another reason.


Fire in Uptown

"You could see it all the way from Metaire." - Adam Dorsey, neighbor

More from the Times-Picayune.

Returning from dropping of the rent check and grabbing some groceries for this evening's soiree, I spotted a gigantic black plume of smoke churning above what might've been my house miles off on the western horizon.

I turned off of St. Charles and gunned it down the obstacle course of a slum thoroughfare that is Daneel Street toward the Tulane campus.

Arriving on the scene on Roberts Street, people were converging on a large Victorian utterly ablaze, a black pillar standing high up over the flames that enveloped the entire structure. The firefighters were there already, as were some news cameras and photographers. I managed to get right up in front across from the house in the intense heat before the caution tape went up. It was absolutely blistering as the fire hoses were unfurled on the pavement in the bright afternoon sun.

At one point, a fireman in full gear fell as his hose started to get out of control and get away from him. Luckily, two people from the crowd helped pin down the hose until he could get up.

The fire then jumped to the upper story of the building at 1687 Roberts. As I watched, more and more of the building succumbed to flames as its neighbor went down with a roar. A little old lady in green stood near me, alone, with her purse and cane. Talking with her, I discovered that Olga had just left the upper apartment now in flames. The police had been very insistent, she said with a bit of a laugh, stopping to encourage the firefighters to spray more water on her apartment. People offered her a place to stay, but she already had one. She seemed surprisingly chipper for what she was witnessing.

Loyola University's student newspaper staff was out in full force, as they had seen the fire from their offices on campus.

As the fire continued through the second house, it looked like 1699 was in jeopardy. A man and a woman from the house, both well-dressed, walked in and out trying to remain calm as firefighters took to their porch with hoses in the billowing smoke. The man in blue and khakis, sweating noticeably, brought out a dog. Then he and a few others brought out an old chest to the street corner.

The crowd had now swelled to about 250 at the intersection of Roberts and Dryades. There were joggers, there were businessmen, there were college students, there were neighbors, people with their dogs, school kids. Cellphones and cameras were out in full force. One man walked around to the firefighters and emergency personnel with cold bottles of water. Reporters asked questions. News cameras rolled.

Just then, a figure came up and asked me if I was enjoying leaning up against his truck. It was a classmate who, I found out, lives directly across from the first building that started on fire. Luckily, he told me, it was uninhabited, having been under construction as of this morning.

Another classmate who lived on the other side of the fire stood by with ash and soot stains on his clothes where droplets had landed on him as he walked over.

Finally, it looked as if the firefighters had the fire under control in 1687/1689 to the extent that 1699 was no longer threatened.

It all went so quickly. The crowd began to thin a bit at last. You could see the same look on many faces in the crowd and on porches in the neighborhood: What a shame. Man, I'm glad it wasn't me.

This time the guy isn't in San Diego

Campus email sent at 12:15:

An armed robbery occurred in the City of Madison, along the border of the University. The suspect was seen entering the 21 N. Park Street Administration building. Smith and Ogg Hall, two residence halls were immediately locked and the search of 21 North Park Street began.

Students and Staff are asked to remain out of the area. Students in the Ogg and Smith Halls should find shelter in a safe place. Persons in or around 21 N. Park should follow the on-scene police instructions.

Here's a link to the press release.

Update, 1:20PM: CB says it was at was at Frabroni's, an Italian grocery store on Regent Street right next to 21 N. Park. That building is probably one of the worst buildings on campus to use as a getaway. It's a 3-4 floor building, housing the Bursar and related offices, placed atop an above ground 3 floor parking garage so there are a minimal number of ways in and out. Also, the campus welcome center is on the front of the ground floor. He may have simply parked in the garage.

Update, 1:40PM: Campus email at 1:32, taken into custody, all clear.

Republican Debate: Send in the Pander Bear

As could be expected, there were a lot of audience specific responses by the Republican candidates, the ones that showed up, that is--basically not the big people, Frudy McRomneyson. They had scheduling conflicts and were represented on stage by empty podiums.

Though the minor candidates had the PBS spotlight, there was the usual amount of question sidestepping. At one point the moderator specifically called out the candidates, I'm pretty sure it was Hunter, and asked him to actually answer the question.

On the bright side, a few times, I heard the other candidates talk about and reference the Constitution, which they haven't been doing before. That's definitely good to hear. People seem to have put constitutionalism on the back burner these last few decades. Perhaps they're picking up a few Ron Paul talking points?

Alan Keyes is newly into the race. I remember him from when he ran against Obama back in '04 for Illinois' senator. He never had a chance and he said some crazy things on tv. Obama beat him handily, by at least 40-some percent. I wonder who talked him into running this time? He's never actually been elected to any office, but he was in the State Dept for a few years in the '80's.

I find it interesting how Huckabee, I think it was, but a few people are pushing it, mentioned trying to make a preventative health care system. If the government, as funded by everyone, is going to be paying for one's health care, one doesn't bear the direct costs of illness, then there is less incentive to keep oneself healthy. So it snowballs and the government has to get even more involved in people's lives.

As expected the questions focused on minorities, mostly blacks. One question was asking about a specific law that they would use to fix racial injustice. Stuff about broken black families and welfare came up a lot. I'm sure black people want functioning communities, but that's not the kind of thing that can be superimposed from the outside.

It's neither the nice nor easy thing to do, but to do nothing is the best solution. Fiat money and inflation hurt poor people, the state schooling monopoly strangles success, minimum wage makes it illegal to employ people with few skills, housing projects segregate people into failing communities, and welfare gives people an incentive to be neither productive nor charitable.

Race should not be a factor in anything, negatively or affirmatively, whether prosecuting a person more harshly or going light on him. Many wrongs have been done, but a second round of wrongs won't ever make a right. Giving things out to groups reduces the legitimacy of individuals who earn them themselves without advancing the group--you can give a man a fish or teach him how to fish. Of course we're all equally human, only voluntary exchange recognizes that. Furthermore, the black community needs more Cosbys as leaders and fewer Sharpton and Jackson types, who have careers as long as minorities remain downtrodden.

The biggest shocker of the debate was when Brownback said that he had been to jail. He let it hang for a moment and then clarified that it was a night voluntarily spent in jail to find out what it was like. It seemed to come off quite wrong, almost mockingly, as if he needed a room near the country club.


What Was That, Ahmadinejad?

Something about no homosexuals?

Perhaps there's an explanation in the water over there in Iran. Or in the nooses.

But The Atlantic's well-written, in-depth look at homosexual conduct in the Islamic atmosphere of Saudi Arabia makes a reasonable person go hmmm... from a whole different angle when considering Ahmadinejad's already laughable pronouncement.

Strangely, the article gets into enough nuance about the differences between Western and Middle Eastern societal perceptions of homosexual conduct...that Andrew Sullivan might take umbrage.


Pictures At An Exhibition

Uptown rummage sale, Magazine Street, New Orleans

A profusion of pawn shops

We hip creole sartorialists

I really don't know what's going on along the Jefferson Highway.

Shotgun shop, Magazine Street

In this parish, we do not recycle

Uptown, where the streets do have names

Shotgun row

A Southern belle still on the rebound

Flora, Magazine Street

In my neighborhood, Octavia Street

Our daily crustacean...

The Spotted Cat, Frenchman Street. Where locals go to catch - and play - jazz.

Balcony Bar, a classic watering hole on Magazine

That about sums it up.

Why I Didn't Wear Green

Lime. Forest. Chartreuse. Pea. Mint. Olive. Emerald.

The shirts in Torts class last Thursday, while not a majority in the lecture hall by any means, peppered the rows on the day of the protests in Jena, Lousiana in support of the Jena 6.

Racial prejudice is wrong and useless, but I didn't wear green in solidarity with the protestors. I didn't hop on a facebook bandwagon.

While others have hinted at it, here's the most illuminating explanation I've found to articulate the reason why I refrained.


The Tulane Hullabaloo prints my LTE regarding earlier calls for the publication to apologize for controversial speech.

No other letters about the brouhaha appeared in the Friday issue - and the paper hasn't apologized - so it seems the final round has been fired...

Has Milwaukee jumped the shark?

From the Journal-Sentinel

"The Fonz" soon might be part of our downtown landscape, immortalized in a life-size bronze sculpture that city tourism leaders hope would be a stopping point for visitors.

Visit Milwaukee, a non-profit group that promotes the city as a tourism and convention destination, is leading an effort to raise $85,000 to commission the statue, which likely would be in the plaza south of E. Wisconsin Ave. and west of N. Water St., near the Chase Plaza office tower.

Let's face it: there just isn't a reason not to take a vacation to Milwaukee now.

At least it's being paid for privately. I really can't say much more about it--my family didn't watch that show. We were more Wonder Years type of people.

I was going to make a joke about Laverne & Shirley statues, but according to the wiki, Milwaukee doesn't like them.


In the 504

Parked car, Magazine Street, across from The Funky Monkey

ASM Grocery Idea Needs to Be Sacked

Today marks the triumphant return of the Mendota Beacon across campus. Running of the paper has moved to new hands and I've moved up to the position of 'village elder.' After running it day-to-day in the spring, moving back to a role of mainly just contributing articles is a welcome relief. As the paper is still getting its internet kinks out, I'll stoop to some shameless self-promotion.

As students return to campus to start class, our student leaders are forming new ideas and goals to attempt to achieve this school year. One idea that's floating around this year is to start up an ASM grocery store.

I agree that for as populated as the University area is, there seems to be a shortage of grocers—take the University with 40,000 students in comparison to my small home town which has five thousand residents and one full grocery store—but I don’t believe ASM should use our money in an attempt to fix the perceived problem.

Students don’t have the same consumer needs as average people living in families. The students in dorms are the least able to easily get to a store, but that’s overlooking the fact that the few thousand people who live in dorms have their food needs served by cafeterias. Food service also takes care of the other typical things they eat—snacks, munchies, and microwavables—with small convenience stores adjacent to the cafeterias.

There is one grocery store by State Street this side of the Capitol. I’ve heard complaints about it, including high prices. However if that store is making such a killing as a monopoly, then the market would have taken care of it already by someone else realizing it and starting up his own store to get a slice of the student money. However, everything from Madison’s anti-business laws to land zoning laws are deterrents holding up the market that wants to serve us as consumers, but that’s a different story.

Even students who live on the outside without cars, have another means of getting somewhere: the bus, for free with their ASM bus passes. Sure, it’s not the most time-efficient or easy way to go, but it beats walking. On the bus maps, they even label where the numerous grocery stores are! People complain about having to spend hours on the bus venturing to the edge of town, overlooking a grocery store just a mile south of campus on Park Street.

A problem for ASM, as it seeks an affirmation of its existence in starting up a student supermarket, is that if it could be done profitably serving the student areas, then a store or two would have opened already. From the start, they’re going to be trying to sail a sinking ship. Not to mention that running a grocery store is more complicated than providing a non-perishable service, since grocers normally buy goods, mark them up a little, and then hope to sell them before they spoil. Luckily for them, ASM gets hundreds of dollars from each of us each semester that could be put toward a failing enterprise.

In recent newspaper articles, I’ve read that some people would like to put the store in the new Union South or in the new University Square building. I, too, last year imagined a grocery store going into the new retail space in University Square, but we students can’t force a business into a private development, something we don’t own. Moreover, our campus is simply too big for a single store to be convenient to a majority of students. People on the east side of campus rarely venture out to Union South as it is, let alone carrying groceries, and visa versa from the western side.

I don’t complain about something without providing a suggestion. My idea is that if they want to start a grocery store, it should be for-profit, or at the least setup as some kind of co-op. To give it as big a market as possible and taking into consideration easy access and rentable places, it should be on or near Regent Street, so students and Madisonians alike would shop there. While not close to the State Street area, numerous buses, even the 85, run along Regent and Park Streets up towards the Capitol. If it doesn’t catch, after a year or so, it’d just close and ASM would be out its check. If it works well, I would hope to see its profits either re-invested or go directly to ASM to help pay down the amount we students need to pay in seg fees.

All in all, a campus grocery store would be convenient for some people, yet all students would bear its cost equally. At present there are other issues ASM could be dealing with, especially as the students’ advocate for city safety.


I Thought Austin Was In Texas

Strange things happen here in New Orleans. Like meeting Austin King yesterday among the Cheesehead expats at Cooter Brown's sports bar down by the levee.

Bygones were bygones as the handful of us in Green and Gold whooped it up as Old Man Winter tied Marino's record and the Pack came from behind to win at Lambeau.

Austin seems to be enjoying the city as much as I am, per our cordial conversation.

"In Poor Taste" is putting it mildly

Last week, there was a comic, "In Poor Taste," published in the Badger Herald that showed Sarge holding Beetle Bailey who had just been killed, presumably by an IED. Obviously, the author was going for shock value and it worked. A graduate student in the business school took particular offense to the comic and wrote a particularly moving letter to the editor:
As someone whose best friend — we’ll call him Joe — is currently fighting with the army in Baghdad, I was so upset to see the “In Poor Taste” comic showing Sarge holding a dead Beetle Bailey that I was literally brought to tears. OK, I get it — it’s supposed to be a satire. The comic is called “In Poor Taste,” right? Very funny, ha ha.

Last week, Joe was attacked when out on a patrolling mission. One of the trucks was hit with an IED. Two people were seriously hurt. One has a smile that kills the ladies. Now he also has no legs. The other guy lost both legs, an arm and his voice box.


I’m all for free press and free speech. But there’s a line between opposing or protesting the war and simple respect for people who are actually dying. And whether or not you support why our soldiers are in Iraq, if you’re a U.S. citizen, or living in the United States, those soldiers are in your army. They are fighting — losing legs, arms and voice boxes — for you. They are dying for you. To see this comic poking fun at that struggle is an insult. It’s an insult to our soldiers, to me and it should be to you as well.

Personally, I also found the comic to be over the line. IED's are not a laughing matter, nor should those who are victims of them to be portrayed for cheap and disgusting political points. My distaste for the comic grew after reading the author's response:
I also went to high school in Beaver Dam, WI home of two of Wisconsin's combat causalities. My sister had a tendency of wrecking cars so my parents were frequent customers at the body shop at which Ryan Cantafio worked. My dad, a veteran himself, still breaks into tears every time the subject comes up. Ryan didn't have any great ambitions in life. It seemed all he wanted from life was to live in piddly little Beaver Dam WI get married and have a family. Instead he's now dead and for no good reason. He didn't die for freedom, he didn't die for democracy, he didn't die to protect the country. I could go on about how Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror but I'll stop there. I sure as hell hoped he believed he was doing one of those things, because I'd hate to think that the people who are dying and getting wounded believe it is all in vain.

If you think I'm ignorant of what is really happening you are dead wrong. My dad made it a point to educate me on the nature of the military and war. Service to your country sounds like a noble thing until you begin to consider how the government has historically treated such a commitment. Whenever people tell me I should feel thankful towards the soldiers I don't feel any gratitude. Rather all that comes to mind is "I'm sorry". It is disgusting how noble idealism of the common citizen soldier is cheaply exploited.

Certainly he knows people who have fought in this war and those who will not return. The problem I see is the offensiveness that is so often prevalent in anti-war diatribes. He doesn't care for the soldiers who are fighting in Iraq - he pities them. If he wants to see what real idealism and service looks like all he needs to do is visit a VA hospital.

If you walk up to soldiers from Vietnam, Korea or WWII and say "I'm sorry" they will look at you as though you've lost your mind. The men I know who fought those wars are proud of there service. Many would gladly serve again - knowing full well the horrors of war. These are not men to be pitied or looked down upon as exploited simpletons. They are instead men who are to be revered and thanked for fighting to make the world a safer place.

It may be difficult to understand for many, but the men and women fighting and dying in Iraq are fighting for the same things. Whatever you believe or think about the President or our reasons for going to war, we are fighting for freedom and for democracy. It may sound idealistic or naive to some, but I assure you it is the case.

Brave and decent people are fighting and dying in this war and deserve far better than a cheap shot like "In Poor Taste."

The Strange Fruits of Ahmadinejad

On the occasion of the Iranian leader's speech in New York City, the folks at Columbia University are clearly inspired to greatness:

One middle-aged Columbia grad, incensed that his alma mater has invited Ahmadinejad to speak, offers to sell his diploma for 50 cents, but gets no takers.

Fraternity groups go strange, with posters reading: “Save a tree, print less flyers” and “Invite me to your protest.”

While Ahmadinejad may gain an international platform in his Manhattan speech, I think it's ultimately a positive thing - subjecting him to the healthy acid of American free speech and all the hoopla that attends it will eat through some layers of rhetoric and, if nothing else, put Ahmadinejad on record on some key issues.

If anything, I think he will ultimately regret his decision to speak at the university.

"You'll find most students on campus will be pretty open to his speaking there," says one of my classmates, a Columbia alum, sitting across the law library table. "They've been trying to get him to speak there since I was a senior."

He says Columbia is a university, and as such, should be a place for discussion - it's good to talk to your enemies.

My friend also notes that Coumbia University President Lee Bollinger, whom he had for a class and who introduced the Iranian leader, is an intelligent man, a bit of a Free Speech buff who is rumored to be on lists of potential Supreme Court nominees.

Right now, from reading the live updates at CNN, it sounds like Bollinger is dousing Ahmadinejad in some pretty caustic criticism.


Aren't there easier ways to get a laugh?

Okay, so maybe I am paying a little too much attention to the presidential race, but it seems to me that Rudy Giuliani should know better than to leave his phone on during a speech.

It seems like even more of a no-brainer when the group he was talking to was the NRA, not exactly his biggest fans right now.

I like Rudy, I think he could be the nominee, but this is no way to get a laugh - or give a speech. This had to be done as a joke, but I certainly hope he wouldn't do this if he were debating Hillary, would he?

Bumping into the K-Ville Cast

On Friday, I went down Magazine Street here in New Orleans to grab some lunch after class. We went to Juan's Flying Burrito, a reasonably-priced place with a creole spin on Mexican food.

Standing in line at the popular joint, I noticed two police officers come in, backlit, through the door. I thought vaguely, "Oh, another day in K-ville..." Then, as they walked past toward the counter, I realized it was actually the stars of K-ville, the new FOX cop drama set here in town. Anthony Anderson hi-fived one of the line cooks behind the counter knowingly and a few girls sought autographs. I told them I enjoyed the first episode as they passed us on the way out.

Departing to hit the books, we ran into the crew filming an episode of the show just off Magazine in a giant old church where lighting rigs circled the building.

I'm planning to squeeze in episode 2 tomorrow - besides the location, I found the show's chaotic cinematography and complex characters intriguing enough to maintain my interest. The highly local touchstones - like the use of the term "neutral ground" in place of "median" earned a thumbs up.

I hope someone on the show uses the term "Quarter Juice" and explains that one to the outside world.


Old School

A little something on a football Saturday all the way from 1929: (click any for a bigger image)

Add 34 years, 1963:

The upper deck was added in 1966. Add another 40 and you've got last year:

Going back even further
, there was a bleacher collapse during the homecoming game against Minnesota in Nov., 1915. It seems at that time Camp Randall ran east/west and was up on the University Ave. side of the parcel, where the engineering campus is now. As my Taiwanese fluid mechanics prof said last year: "Go Badger!"

O Captain, My Captain

Will you not go down with your ship?

Rumors that Mayor Ray Nagin was looking to buy a house in Texas have been rampant since Hurricane Katrina.

Turns out they're finally true.

Who has time to worry, though, that "he has no pulse nor will"? There are so many deckchairs here to rearrange.


I've got those ramblin' blues

It is one a.m. Saturday morning, and I am on a shaky, swealtering, slow-moving Azeri train. Well, it's no longer swealtering any more, because a board nailed up over a part of the window which doesn't open has fallen off, letting the cool night breeze blow through the cabin. The single, bare bulb gives off a sickly yellow light. As we pass through stations in tiny peasant towns in the central plains, the bulb goes brighter, then dulls again. I am dozing fitfully on my plank of an upper bunk when a police officer pokes me.

I roll over blearily and look at him, mutter "what" in Russian because my sleep-addled brain can't really handle Azeri right now, and because all foreigners are de-facto expected to know Russian anyhow.

"Did you give your ticket?"

"Yeah, of course."

"We don't have it."

"Well, when I came, I gave it."

The two goony ticket-takers are standing behind him, looking on with apparently not a clue as to what is going on. They've seen my passport twice, and someone certainly took my ticket before I got on board.

"Okay. One moment please."

I roll back onto my back, and cannot look out the window for the somewhat ill-looking reflections cast by our nightlight, and remember how this all happened.


It is Wednesday, and a friend and I are on our way to buy train tickets. They sell out fast, so one needs to pick them up in advance. We've asked host families and friendly teachers where to buy them, and everyone agrees: go to the bus station, you can get them there.

At the bus station there are only bus tickets. The slow-thinking policeman says we have to go to the train station, a 20-minute taxi ride out of town, to get train tickets.

We're pretty sure that's hooey.

On the far end of the bus mall is a ramshakle cafe with a few kiosks around it. With nothing better to do and time to kill, we wander over. There are more folks over there, and we accost another police officer. "Excuse me, can we buy train tickets anywhere?"

"Yes, yes, right over here." He leads us to a small brick shack, contiguous with the cafe. No one is there, but there is a note in the window: "If I'm not here, call this number."

I dial it, and no one picks up. So our friendly police officer tries. I turn back to my friend, and when I turn around again, the officer is gone. Another officer comes up to us.

"Where did he go?"

We shrug our shoulders.

This officer is a hero -- he dials the number on in the window, gets a hold of the gentleman who sells train tickets, and informs us that he will be here promptly. He walks off with our gratitude.

Moments later, a shortish, heavy-set, dishevelled looking fellow slouches up to us, unlocks the door and turns on the light to the ticket booth. We're in business.

"Yes, two tickets for the Friday night train to Baku, please."

"There are no tickets.

"You're sure? There are absolutely none? Really?"

"I'm sure - there are no tickets."

We stand around, looking dumb. Sometimes, this trick works. A few moments later we ask again.

"You're sure? For Friday night? There are no tickets?"

"No, no - no tickets! Do you want coupee? That is five manat."

"Yes, we'd like coupee - that would be perfect."

"OK. There are no tickets. Can I have your passports please?"

He shuffles around a bit as we hand over our passports. Eventually, he pulls out a stack of tickets.

"There are no tickets," he repeats cheerily. "Please come back in twenty minutes, and everything will be ready."

Twenty minute later, we have our tickets. We get a lecture that neither of us understand, in a cheery voice that connotes advice being given. It ends with, "Don't give anyone else any money - these are your tickets."

I know this guy is a friend.


Back on the train, crawling slowly across the scrub of the Azeri lowlands, with the cold night air blowing across my bare foot, the police officer comes back to the glow of our sickly yellow lamp. "Did you give your tickets?"


"Are you alone?"

"No. My friend is in the bottom bunk. We both gave our tickets."

"Who did you give them to?"

"The guy who was taking them. I don't know his name - I just gave him my ticket. I came, I gave the guy my ticket, I got on the train."

"OK. We'll be back."

As Sigur Ros turns to The Constantines turns to The Cold War Kids, I consider the fact that in Hungarian, "the middle of nowhere" translates as "behind God's back." I wonder if I'll have to find my way back from there.

I get restless and climb down from my bunk, standing in the hallway and watching the night go by. We crawl past some peasant huts, with their proper wooden fences here and there illuminated by a pleasant white light. Cars bump along a highway a ways off in the distance. A scraggly old man with a gauzy bandage around his neck shuffles up and down. The police officer stands in the doorway to the next cabin, and does not look at me.

We roll in to Baku at seven a.m. and make for the exits. One can never tell what the consequences of a lost ticket are, but we don't really want to stay around to find out. Besides, we have blog posts to make.

Ta Da!

Hi, I'm Mike.

Without much success I've spent the last few minutes trying to think up something clever--the thing about first impressions is that you only get one.

For me moving up to LiB might not have sunk in just yet, but my ship came in and I'll be camping on this island. I used to blog elsewhere, but I've hung up on that. I'm excited about contributing this blog. I've been a long time reader and I hope to continue to keep up its standards.

The other recent ta da moment was the Halliburton protest at the engineering career fair yesterday. I don't like to help give the story legs, but it was on the front of two campus papers today.

Apparently nearly 200 people rallied on Bascom Hill and then sat in front of the Halliburton booth for two hours. I missed the action as I had been through the fair by noon and had to get to class. I talked to other engineers today and they did a pretty good job of disrupting the entire affair, making it hard for students to have a conversation with any company. Not to mention, the hall in the Engineering Centers Building being long and narrow clogs without protests.

I think everyone was mostly annoyed by it. One of my lab partners mentioned that if anything, the protest made approaching that table more mystical. In an email sent out by the university last week, no one could block anyone else, so students could still approach them. Moreover, with the really big companies, most applications are handled online.

As a mechanical engineering student I'm embarrassed that that was the welcome visitors and companies received on our campus, especially picture #12, that's downright disrespectful. Engineering, on the normal side of the tracks, is easily the least liberal area of campus.

I'm sure the protesters feel proud that they stood up to lowly engineers and campus personnel recruiters. It doesn't help that the campus mom is trying to instigate protests.

B, It's Bananas

Dumpster, near The Boot, Tulane Uptown Campus

Remarkably Prescient

"THE ultimate strategic effect of the Iraq war has been to hasten the arrival of the Asian Century.

While the American government has been occupied in Mesopotamia, and our European allies continue to starve their defense programs, Asian militaries — in particular those of China, India, Japan and South Korea — have been quietly modernizing and in some cases enlarging. Asian dynamism is now military as well as economic."

Read it (thankfully, the NYT got rid of TimesSelect).

Reminds me strangely of a February 2002 editorial I wrote but ultimately never ran in The Raider Reporter, the student newspaper I founded and edited as a senior in high school:

"In the wake of September 11, America has focused its attention of more pressing concerns like terrorism. However, while we chase at shadows, we must not forget the rising dragon across the Pacific.


In the smoky shade of terrorism, the dragon lurks, growing, biding its time..."

Is the deadline really "real?"

State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster is sticking to her assertion that the state K-12 budget must, absolutely must, be passed by September 28. In order to avoid a huge $600 million property tax increase the Department of Public Instruction needs to have all the state aid figures by next Friday.

I think that Burmaster is right to be warning the legislature of the consequences of not producing the budget. However, the Assembly has passed a K-12 budget 70-27 with the support of 20 Democrats - including the Assembly Democratic Leader - that would give the needed figures to DPI.

So the question becomes, why would Sen. Robson refuse to bring the K-12 budget to the Senate floor and why has Gov. Doyle threatened to veto the bill?

There are only two explanations. Either Sen. Robson and Gov. Doyle would rather use school children as bargaining chips in the continuing budget negotiations, or they have no intention of allowing the mean and nasty Republicans to be the party that actually comes through for education.

Just in case you don't know, the bill the Assembly passed put funding at the levels that Gov. Doyle wanted and the Senate approved.


Still Sunny Here in NOLA

For now...

No Flip-Flops for You

Just when I thought it had gone the way of The Blue Blazer, K-Mart rips off the arm pad, bounces twice off the ropes, and giveth the corporate elbow.


What's All The Hullabaloo? Free Speech, Free Press, Student Papers - Tulane Style

If student newspaper controversies were seasons of The Real World, I'd say I lived in the house when the show was set in Madison.

Now, here at Tulane University, not even a month into the school year, I feel as if I get to sit back and watch an episode of the show in a different locale. There's drama in the house. And, while I'm intrigued, I'm not yet sure how interesting it will be.

First, the southern setting for this newspaper controversy is notably different - and makes me realize how fortunate students back at my undergraduate alma mater, UW-Madison, are when it comes to a vibrant student newspaper scene.

The single student newspaper on campus here - located Dirty Bird-style in the basement of a campus building - is the venerable Tulane Hullabaloo. It publishes a measly one time per week - and on Fridays at that. Critically, it also operates, while ostensibly "funded by advertising revenue," within the context of a private university, providing a contrast to the robust public university journalistic landscape I was accustomed to at the University of Wisconsin.

Last Friday, September 14, the paper's Views section contained a number of letters to the editor upset over comments made two weeks earlier in that same section by a fictitious unkempt, cigar-chomping character called "Harbinger Harry." Why the character's boorish, innuendo-laced, third person self-referencing, rambling monologue is featured prominently in the upper righthand corner of the first page of the already vapid attempt at an Opinion section eludes me.

At any rate, Harbinger Harry evidently said some offensive things. And a number of the letters to the editor demanded an apology.

This, in my mind, raised a number of interesting questions about free speech and press freedom.

First, though, what was the offensive speech in question? Well, among other things, Harry stated in his August 31 piece that he was, as a result of going through the university's "One-in-Four" program to reduce sexual assault, "...66 percent less likely to rape someone. And 100 percent less likely to admit he'd be willing to rape a Newcomb woman...and it's not harassment if they like it." [*Newcomb is a college within the university]

Second, does the fact that Harry is a fictional, anonymous, possibly conglomerate, satirical character matter when considering freedom of speech? It's not clear whether he is a product of the newspaper staff or an outside psuedonymous entity who submits material. Clearly, he's not exactly Publius or Silas Dogood. But, I wondered at root, should the offensive speech of fictional cartoon characters in Madison student papers, like Rocky the Raccoon or Hugh Manatee, be protected?

Third, are the demands made by the letters to the editor reasonable given the freedom of the press? Here's a sampling of what they call for:

"The Hullabaloo has a duty to all women to apologize for printing such appalling comments, and to make a commitment to rein in these sorts of comments in the future." - Page Clayton, Secretary, Newcomb College Senate

"This content should be extremely offensive to all of the Tulane community and should not be something we tolerate." - James MacLarena and Rebecca Mark, Newcomb-Tulane College and Newcomb Institute, respectively

"We encourage The Hullabaloo staff to show more restraint when approving the anonymous words of Harry's writer(s) and even to reconsider the usefulness of such a column that ineefectivley attempts to shine light on campus issues in a satirical manner. Furthermore, we request an apology from the staff for the damage they have done in printing this hurtful article." - Eric Couper, et al., Newcomb Tulane College, '09

Fourth, does the offensive speech in question contribute in any meaningful way to political discourse? While it is astonishingly insensitive on its face, is it, in part, connected at least tangentially to a critique of university policy and thereby worthy of a higher degree of protection?

Fifth, is the speech worth heeding? By that, is it newsworthy? Is is it a meaningful threat to commit an act and is it directed at an narrowly identifiable party? Is the speech made in any context of seriousness? Expressing a willingness to rape - even in jest - is not a light matter.

Sixth, while, according to its masthead, "The Tulane Hullabaloo is funded by advertising revenues," is it fully independent from control by the administration of this private university? Does it rent its space in the student union building or does it receive the space free of charge from the university or student fees? One source from 2005 says: "The Hullabaloo is operated independent of the University and funded entirely by advertising revenue."

Overall, the controversy raises a number of questions, and I'm not clear on every detail surrounding the case. But it is clear to me that despite the immaturity and vulgarity of the fictional character's comments - which do indeed reflect poorly on the university, especially given their prominent placement - I do not believe The Tulane Hullabaloo should apologize as requested.

Detractors should and did counter the offensive speech with their own speech in the marketplace. While the newspaper staff would do well to reconsider the value of Harbinger Harry to its publication, whatever First Amendment rights it has should not be chilled here. To parrot a number of time-tested phrases: some measure of offensive speech must be tolerated if speech is to remain as free across the board.

Also, there certainly doesn't appear to be any imminent threat stemming from the speech.

Finally, just as no taboo should be placed on the stories of survivors of rape or sexual assault, no taboo should blanket the discussion of mandatory educational policies about those issues. Even if, as here, the critique is made in a less than convincing or tactful manner. It is interesting that in the academy, criticism of a program considered "politically correct" may be pushed into the corners, to the snipings of satirical anonymous characters.

Is it offensive? Yes. Was it unwise? Yes. Does it warrant an apology? No.

A Surprise For You

Slated to arrive soon at the little LIB bus depot.

It's only a short jaunt across the lagoon in to the island shore...


Words from Wanderers

Two friends are out exploring the world, and you might enjoy following along:

ASIA - Mike's Adventures in Thailand (and possibly Beijing)

"I'll be living in Thailand for the next few months teaching English. I'm leaving on Thursday and I'll be there for about 5 months (unless I end up going to Beijing for another few months after that so I can catch the Olympics, which is a fairly strong possibility)"

Some might remember Mike from his all-too-brief campus blogging stint at Schneeberg.

APPALACHIA - Chris' Travelogue

"I have made the ill-advised decision to remove myself from society and go for a prolonged walk on the Appalachian Trail. Somebody mistakenly told me a long time ago that it is a really fun thing to do... it was a mistake because I actually listened! So I am sitting here before you, ready to hit the trail after months of planning out and dreaming about this journey.

My trek begins in northern PA and will continue through MD, WV, VA, and possibly NC and GA if the weather permits me later this fall."


In the 504

"The Saxamaphone House"

Schools can't afford Spelling Bee fees

Just how long will it be before Sen. Robson or Gov. Doyle - or anyone else for that matter - start to use this story against the Assembly Republicans in the state budget negotiations?

On a more serious side, though, what does it say about our schools that we can't find $99 to enter the national spelling bee? It's not $99 a student it's just a straight $99 per school. If the school can't come up with that, it isn't a problem of state subsidies, it is a matter of budgeting on a local level.


Why Progressive Dane is bad for Madison...

Critical Badger points out the problems of focusing on purely symoblic - and completely meaningless - resolutions.

When you really start to think about all the time and effort the far Left in this city spends on trying to set our nation's foreign policy, it is no wonder that we have problems with crime, our water supply, and a Mayor who wants to create a trolley system and a Chicago-style millenium park - which would of course waste untold millions of dollars.

Critical Badger is right. The question we all should be asking is:
Voting at 4AM on an issue isn’t what takes away from other pressing city issues: all this bullshit grassroots campaigning does. Now they’re going door-to-door about a symbolic resolution? How about door-to-door on something that will actually create political pressure on the city?


The new FOX police drama set here in New Orleans kicks off tomorrow.

I'm interested to see where they take the show...literally and figuratively.

Sunglasses at Night

Shall we Blackle?

So it ostensibly saves energy. What about basic readability?



Seg Fee responsibility?

SSFC has denied funding to the Asian and Pacific American Council, in what I hope will be the first in a series of responsible votes to hold back wasteful spending on student orgs.

The only problem is that no matter how many groups are denied funding, students won't see any benefit unless the money is returned to the students. I would like to see ASM actually excercise some leadership and refund the seg fees that were not spent. Even if the amount is only a few dollars.

I may be getting too far ahead of what's going on at SSFC, but it does make me hope we finally have some people willing to question and criticize the old status quo of ASM and SSFC.


Bad Call in Brat City


I'm sure dear old Sheboygan, Wisconsin is abuzz with discussion of Judge Van Akkeren's use of "judgment not withstanding the verdict" (or judgment as a matter of law) in a case where it might not have been advisable given the unseemly nature of the crime alleged.

Van Akkeren's decision to acquit despite the jury's guilty verdict hinged on the defintion of a "secluded place" under Wisconsin's child enticement statute. The judge said "the jury could not have determined the shelter [at Worker's Park] was a secluded place as required by statute."

Well, I've been to Worker's Water Park a few times before. I would say luring someone to a shelter there would meet the definition of secluded - which isn't fleshed out statutorily or in Wisconsin caselaw from what I can tell - at least in the sense of the place being "screened" for the purpose of the statute.

Admittedly, a few parts of the standard dictionary definition of secluded do not fit the scenario on many counts - the shelter in question is not exactly isolated or remote and its rather open design, from what I recall, wouldn't necessarily hide someone completely from view.

However, a look at one definition of the root word "seclude" itself - "to remove or separate from intercourse or outside influence : ISOLATE" - appears to encompass an attempt to lure a small girl away from others to another place. The shelter, so far as it is "a protective or ornamental device (as a movable partition) shielding an area from heat or drafts or from view" seems to constitute a screened area, and could thus be viewed as secluded.

Van Akkeren, in his instructions to the jury, "defined "secluded area" as "a place screened or hidden from view or remote from others." The 'ors' are critical, as is the fact that Van Akkeren did not make a directed verdict - preventing jury consideration because the defendant's case was so obvious - earlier in the trial.

Yes, textualist concerns mean some statutory revision might be in order. The rather obvious legislative intent - to stop sexual assault of children by penalizing enticement actions leading to it - may have to be enunciated more clearly and translated into code more explicitly. Luring children from the presence of others to any other distinct location for the purpose of committing a sexual assault seems to fit within that intent, in my mind - how is it less problematic if a child is removed somewhere to be sexually assaulted in partial view of others?

Even fully within the strictures of the actual text in question, Van Akkeren's decision to overturn the jury's guilty verdict is unwise given the context of the case. Courts should not be swayed by the whims of public opinion. However, the number of factors lined up against his decision should have been instructive.

The jury visited the park at the heart of the matter and viewed the shelter for themselves. The defendant in the case had a history of sexual assault activity. Legislative intent and local community mores would logically favor preventing the activity in question. To make the rare move and overturn a jury verdict on a questionable definitional distinction - especially given the unsavory activity involved - demonstrates a less than Solomonic intellect on the part of Judge Van Akkeren.

UPDATE: It's now hit USA Today.

Chatter Back on the Island

LIB has been getting some play as of late back in the isthmusphere...

Mad props or a bit of a diss?

LIB's role as a benchmark or starting point


Ahh, those halcyon days of yore...

For better or worse, LIB has certainly moved on from its foxhole in the Madison blogosphere. Here's what I had to say at Critical Badger:

The one thing I never understood was why no student, rather than starting a new blog, decided to pursue a spot at LIB. There was a built-in regular readership that included influential campus figures and extended beyond campus into the community and state. We probably would’ve even taken a bona fide liberal who was thoughtful, engaged, and posted often

Clearly, some blogs are zipping along just fine without such a head start. Building new and creating a fresh identity is part of the fun. But the links were in place - reminds me a bit of my grandfather building up his dairy farm only to have none of his seven children interested in taking it over.

Kinda disappointing, but just the way the cookie crumbles, I suppose.

And, as with my grandfather’s barn, the piping is still in place over the stalls…ready in case someone would happen to come along one day.

That brings us to the present of LIB. As a reader or visitor, what would you like to see more of in our posts? Politics? Photos? Music? Interviews? Homemade video? Random stuff? Media analysis? Questions for debate? Personal stories? Links to other blogs? Better aesthetics? Shorter posts? More posts? A MOA award? Bill Anderson? Posts from Fighting Ed?

Any other general suggestions as we chart our course?


Thank Goodness for Rosh Hashanah

Hurricane Number 1 for me is in the state of Louisiana.

It was hard to miss it as an arm of the storm rolled through moments ago, unleashing some hardcore wind and rain, accompanied by a frenzied outburst of near-simultaneous thunder and lightning all over the neighborhood.

And someone I know was biking to school...

Conveniently, my morning class today was canceled on account of the professor's observance of the Jewish New Year.

We'll see how this plays out. Clouds are piled high and moving fast on the western horizon. The gutters outside are full and brown. It looks like we only got the table scraps of this one so far.


"White Boy Down"

I heard it as I strode onto the heavily waxed basketball courts in Tulane's Reily Rec. Center.

I was concerned. While running a few miles on the indoor track overhead, I had noted that my roommate, the Icelander, stood out as one of the only white players on the courts. Sweating profusely at the end of my laps and seeing that play had stopped, I had proceeded downstairs to get a report before we headed home.

And there he was, sprawled on the floor, blood smeared about on the brilliant floor, contrasting Christmas-like with his green Tulane shorts, an icebag plopped over the right side of his face. The other players stood clustered off to one side, a cloud hovering, ominously silent for the most part as the EMTs arrived.

Facing it all with characteristic humor, the body on the floor revealed sizable bloody gashes in a rough 't' across his entire eyebrow as he was loaded onto a stretcher. An elbow to the face. Seemingly no concussion. Something just didn't seem right to me about the entire situation, though.

Just before the gurney reached the elevator to head down to the waiting ambulance, two players ran alongside. "Man, you can't take that shit. You've gotta press charges on that guy." My personal geiger counter on the situation crackled a bit more loudly.

A police officer filled out a report of some sort as the ambulance doors closed - but I never saw him enter the rec. center itself. I went to my car, disturbed.


Parking near the Bluebird Cafe on Prytania Street, I walked through the heat and entered the triage waiting room at New Orleans' Touro Hospital. It was about 7:30 in the evening. The ambulance had already dropped him off.

A motley crew of patients cluttered the room in various states of discomfort, frustration, and exhaustion. Sitting next to the Coke machine, the minutes began their drag, stretching out into a doldrum of hours. We soon ran out of Powerade and mini doughnuts set to expire the next day that I had grabbed on my way. Nobody seemed to move out of the room. Not the guy with the grotesque, bloody, plastic-wrapped thumb. Not the black girls wrapped in sheets. Not the pregnant lady nor the guy in a wheelchair with some wound to his head. And certainly not the Icelander, the bloody rune blackening between blue eyes and blonde hair.

Shortly before 10:00 p.m., I headed out to find some food just as most restaurants began closing down. Even the Chinese take-out place up the street. Finally finding some pizza, I returned to the sound of the late shows on the tv in the corner of the hellish room. Still no triage assessment, much less stitches. A sign at the doorway said patients could not leave the triage room until they had seen a doctor or face additional fees.

More and more, the room took on a disquieting air. The tension built as few people left the space for relief. It got claustrophobic. People passed out. A woman talked all too loud on her cellphone, sparing no street slang turn of phrase.

Finally, triage came for the number we'd been waiting to hear. Not, however, before I had learned the Icelandic words for 'seaweed,' 'rhinoceros,' and 'volcano,' among others. He also said he didn't remember the elbower on the basketball court ever apologizing after the incident. And, he now recalled, the same guy had knocked him down earlier in the game linebacker-style for no apparent reason...

My conjecture at a reason continued to flesh itself out. And I didn't like the conclusion that emerged.

Getting to the triage doctor, however, was just the foothills. Time oozed along uphill. I dozed off - or tried to - several times. At some point after midnight, a large black man across the way began convulsing violently and moaning in a daze. The room was like a cage, the lights harsh after too many hours. A lady wrapped her blanket more tightly and rocked nervously back and forth. It was that space where characters are thrust to find the breaking point - Crane's Blue Hotel, Golding's island, Hemingway's safari camp.

This is absurd, I thought. How long will you wait, I asked? 24 hours? When does the gangrene set in? What is the Icelandic word for glacier?

The girls with bandanas fought with the vending machine. A man crouched in the hallway, heaving, gasping, holding onto the railing.

Shortly after 1:15., I left to attempt to get some sleep so I could function in class. It was creepy quiet in the triage waiting room, the giant emergency room doors looming at the end of the hallway, still closed. The Icelander was the only white boy in the room.

Looking around at the ailments, the shudders, the pained and contorted faces, the embodiment of a song trickled in down from the dark ceiling. My body is a cage...

I walked out past the security guard into the night. A few nurses waded through the yellow half-light to a rumbling mobile food stand along the lines of the tacqueria trucks common here in NOLA these days. Touro stood overhead, arms across its chest.


4:30 a.m. Cell crows in my ear.

6 hours and 24 minutes after arrival, the Icelander inquires once more about his disposition and is at last admitted.

I drive a deserted St. Charles Avenue down to the hospital. I open the door - glasses steam instantly - and trudge into the great sterile whiteness of the emergency room. There is only one doctor on, I learn. He is from Iran. We wait some more. Paperwork.

The man in the next bed, separated by a curtain, makes disgusting gargling sounds in his fitful sleep.

We leave Touro some time after five in the morning. Everything feels empty, worn. We are still wearing our sweaty clothes from the gym. Rubbing my eyes in anticipation of the drive, I do not even want to look at the figures crumpled on the blue chairs in the waiting room. I do not want to know how long it will take.

Driving back to the house, the sequence of events grows, vines itself around my thoughts with a strange, heavy sobriety. There's a Faulknerian side to southern hospitality, I decide. It's down there under the house in the dark with the molded over brick stilts, an odor akin to rot. Makes a person uneasy.

Welcome to New Orleans, I thought. Welcome to New Orleans.

This is Controversial?

Sounds an awful lot like standard operating procedure in the student section at Camp Randall to me...and that's coming from someone who worked security in the great jumping grounds between L and P for three years.

The only controversy for me springs from the author's seeming presumption of a sort of sacredness for service academies' sports teams. If Dilonno wanted to object to obscenity at sporting events generally, I would have a bit less of a problem with his argument.

However, he rests much of his case on the nature of Rutgers' specific opponent in the game in question.

Should the Navy football team be treated to some magical higher standard than other opponents? While I respect the commitment its players make, I don't believe it should.




"Goldsmith raced to the hospital, double-parked outside and walked into a dark room. Ashcroft lay with a bright light shining on him and tubes and wires coming out of his body.

Suddenly, Gonzales and Card came in the room and announced that they were there in connection with the classified program. “Ashcroft, who looked like he was near death, sort of puffed up his chest,” Goldsmith recalls. “All of a sudden, energy and color came into his face, and he said that he didn’t appreciate them coming to visit him under those circumstances, that he had concerns about the matter they were asking about and that, in any event, he wasn’t the attorney general at the moment; Jim Comey was. He actually gave a two-minute speech, and I was sure at the end of it he was going to die. It was the most amazing scene I’ve ever witnessed.”

After a bit of silence, Goldsmith told me, Gonzales thanked Ashcroft, and he and Card walked out of the room. “At that moment,” Goldsmith recalled, “Mrs. Ashcroft, who obviously couldn’t believe what she saw happening to her sick husband, looked at Gonzales and Card as they walked out of the room and stuck her tongue out at them."

More eerie inside perspective from Jack Goldsmith in The NYT Magazine.


Worth Noting

Brian has a fascinating post on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. It's a very touchy one here, and most PCVs refuse to talk about it, because things get very uncomfortable very fast. In fact, we've taken to calling Armenia "Kansas," so as not to get yelled at by random Azeri passers-by.

So I haven't seen much of what the article Brian links to talks about, but it's worth hearing:
The tragedy of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that erupted in the late Eighties split many families and friendships down the middle – but in quiet ways, many ordinary people on either side of the divide are keeping up contact with one another.

Svetlana Firian, who is Armenian, uses the internet to preserve her friendship with her old Azerbaijani schoolmate, even though they haven’t seen each other for more than 17 years.

Firian, now 44, was born and brought up in the Azerbaijani capital Baku. She asked for the name of her Azerbaijani friend, who still lives in the city, to be withheld to avoid creating problems for her.


Whither Biloxi

Katrina slammed Mississippi's Gulf Coast even harder than it hit New Orleans. On a Labor Day trip to "study at the beach" with the roommates, I hoped to get a sense of where Biloxi, the region's principal city, was in its recovery.

I was a bit surprised. Despite a thorough report from the city in March noting an optimistic outlook, the barrier island that makes up Biloxi proper was still, in the words of one roommate "Casinos and trailers. That's it."

The towering, self-contained casino complexes that ring the city are glittering once again. Shrimp boats line the docks behind some of them. While lengths of boardwalk are missing here and there, the beautiful white beaches still stretch out along the highway to Gulfport (just watch out for hunks of metal debris out in the shallows!).

But the place still has a vacant, ghostly feel to it. Outside of the casino strongholds, Biloxi is an expanse of old live oaks oustretched over empty lots dotted here and there with trailers. A few houses are being rebuilt in locations - mostly of brick, some raised high on cinder block columns. A few small convenience stores are open.

Based on a some structures, like the remains of the O'Keefe Art Museum just west along the shore, the storm surge must have been terrifically brutal. Beauvoir, the onetime Gulfside home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, stood broken and disheveled above the beach, buried in the trappings of major renovation.

Construction is underway. Casino activity, clearly the economic lynchpin of the area, is humming once again. A mall along the water is undergoing major refurbishment. The dizzying number of empty lots and ruinous foundations, however, give off a lingering feel of uneasiness. The beach across the highway still seems deceptively bright.


FEC Keeps Blogging Frontier Open


My thoughts on the topic...wrapped in an extended Western metaphor.

A great voice is silent

Early Thursday, Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer. He was, and still is, the most famous opera singer in the world. Though normally LIB has been more of a fan of local music and indie bands, one simply cannot deny Pavarotti's talent and ability to move people with his voice and music.

The men with whom Pavarotti became famous as The Three Tenors - Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras - remembered their friend at the La Scala opera house in Milan:

"I always admired the God-given glory of his voice -- that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range," said Domingo.

Carreras added: "The best memories are the ones in intimacy ... We have to remember him as the great artist he was, a man with such a wonderful charismatic personality."

In case you don't know what his voice sounded like, here's a sample:

Through Azerbaijan with the Pale Young Gentlemen, part 1: "Saturday Night"

There's a dearth of indie music in Azerbaijan. Hell, there's a dearth of anything that isn't Turkish or Russian pop music. So I've had it in my head to do a feature about travelling with music for a little while now. And what better travelling companions than a group of pale, young gentlemen (and a lady)? And which better pale, young gentlemen (and a lady) than the Pale Young Gentlemen.

We'll take their songs in no particular order, and today we begin with Saturday Night.

(Oh, I drive to work...)

You can't throw a stick in Sumqayit, arguably the largest city in Azerbaijan after Baku (although second-largest-city ranking depends more on local pride than any hard numbers), without hitting an American. We trainee types are scattered in the suburbs of "Qayit," little villages of dusty streets and little shade, of goats in the schoolyards and gangs of little kids yelling out "hello!" and "Steve, what is your name?" The villages are where we work. Sumqayit, often, is where we play.

(Follow the road, and do what you're told...)

To get to Sumqayit from my particular village, you hop a marshrutka, the decaying minibuses that hold 20 or more people (although there are only 15 seats or so). You ride down the potholed, rutted, and speedbumpy roads, past herds of goats eating trash, sheep and cows meandering along the Caspian, and miles of the decaying chemical plants and oil refineries that have made the Absheron Peninsula the most polluted region in the world. You roll through the outskirts of town, notice the New Azerbaijan Party local headquarters (that's the party of the current President, and the last one, his father, for that matter), and then jump off in front of the cafe with the listless men sitting and drinking chai and playing backgammon.

(I'm happy where I am...)

You can't throw a stick in Sumqayit without hitting an American. And if you're an American in Sumqayit, there are only really two places to hang out: the fast internet cafe and the Dove. The Dove is actually a string of places -- cafes spread along the shore of the Caspian, centered around the looming behemoth of a Soviet modern-art statue of a dove, done in concrete, of course, and looming over the square where the main road runs into the ocean.

(I've fallen prey to your drink and your charm...)

The "brother" at our cafe knows to pull up more tables the minute an American shows up, because there will soon be more. We slowly spread, accumulating more people and more tables, 50 cent mugs of beer spreading as we flick our chins to indicate another round. "Please bring four... wait, no, he's drinking too, bring five... wait, no, we need seven more beers please." If we had money, we'd drink Khirdalan, which tastes about like a PBR, but we're poor, so we drink the cheap stuff. We sit and we talk as the sun sets (but never quite gets down - it's a policy violation to travel after sundown). Our own little version of the Austrian cafe culture of the 1920's, with conversation about development work, education, and bowel movements (a favorite topic among the Dove intelligentsia) stretching as long as it can into the languourous Azeri evenings.

(So, I drive to work...)

Life can be tough here: the heat, the squat toilets, the lack of privacy. But good company makes all the difference, and it's easily found here.

Catatonic State

Still digging out from the trip's photographic blizzard...found this mesmerizing Photoshop-free shot from a roadside restaurant at Simatai, China not far from The Great Wall.

Post title may also subliminally approximate present personal status after hours of reading.

China, Cyberlaw, Warfare

Hasn't Tom Clancy written a novel on this scenario yet to guide us all?


Study Music: Seabear

If bouts of studying were meals, Seabear would be my perfectly chilled accompanying white wine.

An Icelandic band centered on a friend of my roommate, Seabear is worth a swirl, a sniff, and a sip - at least.

McCain and His Easter Eggs

It seemed strangely familiar.

Reading an account of John McCain's stint before a critical New Hampshire high school audience, I recognized the line he used in his attempt at a soft landing when grilled - again - [yawns] on his age:

The audience groaned; McCain slid into a joke.

''I think it was one of my sons that alleged I'm getting to the point I hide my own Easter eggs,'' McCain said to laughter.

I heard McCain use the exact line - "I'm getting to the point I hide my own Easter eggs" - in the summer of 2004 while interning on Capitol Hill for Congressman Tom Petri.

Gathered with hundreds of other interns in an upper conference room in one of the Senate Office Buildings, I remember laughing at the joke but found the comment somewhat odd.

McCain's age, at this point in the game, seems to be the least potent of the numerous variables keeping him from the presidency.


This Nawlins Life

Blanche: "Why, that you had to live in these conditions!"
Stella: "Aren't you being a little intense about it? It's not that bad at all. New Orleans isn't like other cities."
- A Streetcar Named Desire

It rained yesterday.

The devastation of the Lower 9th Ward.

I begin to warm to the idea that the Lower 9th should not be rebuilt - or that, at the very least, government funds should not be spent to make it livable again.

A sweltering FEMA trailerpark at the top of St. Roch.

Rummaging in the Irish Channel.

Rue Bourbon from the balconies.

Christian activists meet the vanguard of Southern Decadence.