Friday, September 30, 2005

All-Time Fav Bands -- To The Letter

My favorite band for each letter of the alphabet (runners-up in parenthesis)

A - The Arcade Fire
B - Beck (B-52s, The Beatles, Blondie, Blur, David Bowie, Built To Spill)
C - The Clash (Elvis Costello, Camper Van Beethoven, The Cure)
D - The Decemberists
E - The English Beat
F - The Feelies
G - Al Green (Galaxie 500, Gang Of Four, Marvin Gaye, Grandaddy, Green Day)
H - P.J.Harvey (Jimi Hendrix, The Hives, The Hold Steady, House Of Love, Husker Du)
I - Iggy Pop (Since it's not the name he was born with, I'm calling this an "I" not a "P")
J - Joy Division (The Jam, Jesus & Mary Chain, George Jones)
K - Kraftwerk
L - Led Zeppelin (Ted Leo + The Pharmacists, London Suede, Los Lobos, Luna)
M - The Mars Volta (Magic Hour, Maxwell, Bob Mould, My Bloody Valentine)
N - New Order (Neutral Milk Hotel, Randy Newman, Nirvana, North Mississippi All-Stars)
O - Outkast (Oasis)
P - Pixies (Pearl Jam, A Perfect Circle, Pink Floyd, Portishead, Prince, Public Enemy, Pulp)
Q - Queens Of The Stone Age
R - Radiohead (R.E.M., Ramones, The Replacements, Jonathon Richman, Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, Royal Crescent Mob)
S - The Smiths (Sebadoh, The Shins, Sigur Ros, Sleater-Kinney, Sly & The Family Stone, Smashing Pumpkins, Elliott Smith, The Specials, Spoon, Squeeze, Sufjan Stevens, Stone Roses, The Strokes, Superchunk, Matthew Sweet)
T - Talking Heads (Television, Tenacious D, Tool, The Tragically Hip)
U - U2 (Undertones)
V - The Velvet Underground (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Violent Femmes)
W - The White Stripes (Weezer, Wilco, Wire)
X - X (XTC)
Y - Yo La Tengo (Young Fresh Fellows, Young Marble Giants, Neil Young)
Z - Zwan

The letter with the best lineup? While "N", "P" and "R" all have great rosters, it has to be "S." At least three of those bands (Sebadoh, Smiths, Spoon) would be in my Top 20. All of them would probably be in my Top 50.

Gotta Be In It To Win It!

While the celebration may be a little premature, a division title is the most any White Sox team has been able to celebrate since 1959, so let's cut 'em a little slack.

It's been a harrowing September for Sox fans -- losing 90% of a 15 game lead -- but in the end there was enough gas in the tank to hold off the ridiculously hot Cleveland Indians and take the AL's Central Division.

Now comes the hard part.

The Sox have not managed to win a postseason series since 1917. Of course, that stretch includes the one they lost on purpose in 1919, so it's always kind of hard to feel sorry. What may be even worse is that this stretch since '17 only includes 5 series ('19 WS, '59 WS, '83 ALCS, '93 ALCS, '00 ALDS).

That's it. A stretch of futility only matched by the cuddly ones.

The prognosis for this year isn't actually a whole lot better, but you gotta be in it to win it. Keep hope alive!

White Stripes Live

On NPR's All Songs Considered website, streams of a live show in DC featuring The White Stripes, The Shins & M Ward. Sweet.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Proud Tradition Continues

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan went on trial yesterday under a 22-count federal indictment for racketeering, mail and tax fraud and making false statements.

In so doing, Ryan joined a long list of Illinois Governors in the dock. A short list from the last 100 years:
  • Dan Walker, Governor from 1973 to 1977, did a couple of years in federal prison for fraud (unrelated to his tenure as Governor).
  • Otto Kerner, Governor from 1961 to 1968, also did a couple of years in the federal pokey for 17 counts of bribery, conspiracy, perjury, and related charges.
  • William Stratton, Governor from 1953 to 1961, beat a tax evasion rap in 1965.
  • Len Small (like Ryan, from Kankakee), Governor from 1921 to 1929, was tried for embezzlement and bribery, but also beat the rap.
Now the current Governor, Rod Blagojevich, finds himself in a bit of trouble as well. Two people recently pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to demand consulting fees from investment firms wanting to do business with the state's school teachers pension fund. They said in their plea agreements that the payments were used to reward campaign donors for the benefit of a "high-ranking public official," reputed to be Blagojevich.

And this is just the list of relatively recent Governors in trouble -- without even getting into all the other disgraced Illinois pols, from Paul Powell and Dan Rostenkowski on down.

Illinois corruption -- a proud tradition.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Back from outer Beantown with a newly minted title: "Godfather."

Into Providence on Saturday afternoon, up the highway to Northborough for a dose of MassBQ and Ned's Red and a view of the Wanda's very nice colonial digs.

On Sunday, young Nedley Wanda was the easygoing star of the show -- never crying once during the service (or the whole weekend, that I can recall) -- renouncing the Devil and all of his works with the ease of rolling off a log.

The service was followed by brunch at the Beechwood Hotel in Worcester, which featured the single most chocolicious thing that has ever been made, seen or eaten: chocolate cobbler, a volcanic mess of brownie and chocolate syrup. Healthy eating took a brutal beatdown in that room, as this astoundingly yummy treat was merely the last (and best) in a seemingly endless parade of treats.

Thanks, Ned (and Mark & Alane) for the brunch, and don't forget: "Never tell anybody outside the family what you're thinking again."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

To Bahstun

The wife and I are off this morning to Boston (actually Northborough via Providence) for the baptism/dedication/christening of young Ned Wanda (not entirely sure what franchise Ned is working with -- could be the Lutherans).

I will be his Godfather ("Don't ever go against the family, Nedley"), which is very exciting.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Line Renaud - Sexe
  • The Pixies - Stormy Weather
  • The Tragically Hip - The Darkest One
  • Bjork - It's Not Up To You
  • Blondie - Sunday Girl (French)
  • Adam And The Ants - Stand And Deliver
  • X- Poor Girl
  • U2 - Kite
  • Pulp - Help The Aged
  • Helmet - You Borrowed
  • Jay Ungar & Molly Mason - Ashokan Farewell
  • The Strokes - Last Nite
  • Camper Van Beethoven - Interlude
  • Beastie Boys - Three MCs & One DJ
  • Blur - Clover Over Dover

The Golden Gate -- Then And Now

These photos -- one from 1968 and one from 37 years later -- have 2 things in common, and both are pretty amazing:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Long One

Time will tell, but this just might turn out to be the biggest homer in the Sox' long and desultory history.

Elphaba And Glinda Are Dead

Went with Noreen to see Wicked last night at the Oriental Theatre. The cast was headlined by Ana Gasteyer, formerly of Saturday Night Live, as Elphaba (i.e., The Wicked Witch Of The West). The real star power was provided, however, by Kate Reinders as Glinda, who fully inhabits the role of ditzy blonde automaton who eventually grows something of a conscience.

The book was essentially the back story of the Wizard of Oz, eventually becoming more than a little like Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead -- weaving its way into and out of the well-known story, providing an alternate take on the well-worn tale in which bad is good and good is ... well, not so good.

The animating idea is that things are not always what they seem. What is proclaimed as evil is not always so, and what is assumed as good (and is not so subtly prone to malapropisms) is also not necessarily so. The songs weren't particularly memorable, and the production was suitably full of the expected bells and whistles, but Gasteyer and especially Reinders are more than up to the task of carrying the show.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The City/The Game

Well, we're back from San Fran, and the weekend motto was half right: No Win, No Vomit.

Flew in to SFO on Thursday evening and checked into our spartan but clean digs at the Castle Inn.

Around the corner was dinner at Habana on Van Ness and Pacific. All was fantastic. From the mojito, to the empanadas, to the sweet potato soup, to the entrees (Salmon for Noreen, Pato for me), all was fantastic. Then it was on to Curt & Nora's for a couple of cold ones and plans for Friday.

Friday was tourist day, starting with our first glimpse of young Cameron (click on pictures to enlarge):

From there it was on to chilly Fort Point and some first looks at the Golden Gate Bridge:

To Louis' on Ocean Beach for breakfast, followed by some views of the Beach's namesake:

A drive through Golden Gate Park:

Then a quick trip though Haight-Ashbury before driving across the bridge to Sausalito:

The day's highlight was a walk across one of the true wonders of the world:

Held above the roiling tides and currents of the Golden Gate by nothing more than human audacity, ingenuity, and labor:

Later it was on to a Chestnut St. wine bar, The Shoe and 1550 for dinner (I had Thumper).

On Saturday, Noreen took a run (such ambition!), while I slept in. At C&N's we had bagels & coffee (thanks, Patty) and met their Brit friends Kate & Mark, who joined us for the game:

The trek began with a Malibu load-up, a trip to the Embarcadero to catch the BART, and the BART ride to Berkeley:

The walk from BART to campus was nicely broken up by a stop at The Bear's Lair for a couple of cold ones:

Then it was on to the stadium:

The first half was beautious, as the Illini took a 17-7 lead into the lockerroom against the 15th-ranked Bears. The Illini faithful (old and new) were hopeful, but not cocky. The end of three found us still on top, 17-14, but the fourth quarter was a bad one, as the Bears scored three TDs and ended the skirmish on top, 35-20:

The return trip to SF was a bit more somber, but only a bit. True, there was no win, but equally important -- no vomit! It was a laid-back last night and then back to Chicago in the morning. All in all -- great trip!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

California Here We Come

It's off to SF this afternoon for a little relaxing in The City and a trek to Berkeley to see the 2-0 Illini take on the Cal Bears at their Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

It will be our second trip to the decaying hulk of a bowl set into the hills above the bay, and hopefully this trip will be as pleasant as the last (the first of 10 wins on the way to a BCS berth in 2001).

Motto for the weekend: "One Win -- No Vomit!"

Since 9/11

This past Sunday's New York Times Magazine (9/11/05) featured a review of the GWOT since 9/11/01, by Mark Danner.

The article is useful for a number of reasons, but it is most useful for putting both the attacks, reactions and subsequent attacks all into the wider context of the purposes of the Islamofascist fanaticism that spawned them.

As Danner points out, the attacks were not carried out because "they hate our freedoms" (to quote the President), but because they hate our presence in the Middle East (particularly Saudi Arabia) and our support of non-theocratic regimes in the region (particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt). At least part of the purpose was to lure the U.S. into a "quagmire" in Afghanistan (a la the USSR in the late '70s) that would damage our prestige and power in the region and the world.

Due to unforseen tactics by the US military, that didn't happen. Afghanistan was intially fought by air and special forces along with local proxies, and the result was a rout of the Taliban.

Iraq, however, has been a different story. Begun for a since discredited mix of reasons, it has now become the quagmire that was intially avoided in Afghanistan.

The sun is setting on American dreams in Iraq; what remains now to be worked out are the modalities of withdrawal, which depend on the powers of forbearance in the American body politic. But the dynamic has already been set in place. The United States is running out of troops. By the spring of 2006, nearly every active-duty combat unit is likely to have been deployed twice. The National Guard and Reserves, meanwhile, make up an unprecedented 40 percent of the force, and the Guard is in the "stage of meltdown," as Gen. Barry McCaffrey, retired, recently told Congress. Within 24 months, "the wheels are coming off." For all the apocalyptic importance President Bush and his administration ascribed to the Iraq war, they made virtually no move to expand the military, no decision to restore the draft. In the end, the president judged his tax cuts more important than his vision of a "democratic Middle East." The administration's relentless political style, integral to both its strength and its weakness, left it wholly unable to change course and to add more troops when they might have made a difference. That moment is long past; the widespread unpopularity of the occupation in Iraq and in the Islamic world is now critical to insurgent recruitment and makes it possible for a growing insurgent force numbering in the tens of thousands to conceal itself within the broader population.

Sold a war made urgent by the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a dangerous dictator, Americans now see their sons and daughters fighting and dying in a war whose rationale has been lost even as its ending has receded into the indefinite future. A war promised to bring forth the Iraqi people bearing flowers and sweets in exchange for the beneficent gift of democracy has brought instead a kind of relentless terror that seems inexplicable and unending. A war that had a clear purpose and a certain end has now lost its reason and its finish. Americans find themselves fighting and dying in a kind of existential desert of the present. For Americans, the war has lost its narrative.
We cannot know what future Osama bin Laden imagined when he sent off his 19 suicide terrorists on their mission four years ago. He got much wrong; the U.S. military, light years ahead of the Red Army, would send no tank divisions to Afghanistan, and there has been no uprising in the Islamic world. One suspects, though, that if bin Laden had been told on that day that in a mere 48 months he would behold a world in which the United States, "the idol of the age," was bogged down in an endless guerrilla war fighting in a major Muslim country; a world in which its all-powerful army, with few allies and little sympathy, found itself overstretched and exhausted; in which its dispirited people were starting to demand from their increasingly unpopular leader a withdrawal without victory - one suspects that such a prophecy would have pleased him. He had struck at the American will, and his strategy, which relied in effect on the persistent reluctance of American leaders to speak frankly to their people about the costs and burdens of war and to expend the political capital that such frank talk would require, had proved largely correct.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More New Or -- leans

Steve Chapman weighs in with his thoughts on rebuilding New Orleans. As clear and unsentimental as ever, Chapman's unsurprising answer is "no."
If you were looking for a place expressly designed to endanger people and property, it would look a lot like New Orleans. No one today would ever think of building a city on a plot of ground below sea level, surrounded by water, endlessly vulnerable to floods and hurricanes. So why would anyone think of rebuilding a city in exactly the same place?
New Orleans was a unique and wonderful creation, and I'd give my eyeteeth for the chance to go back to the city I got to visit only once. But neither I nor anyone else will ever be able to return to that place: It's gone. Whatever comes next will not be the same. You can't flood most of the buildings in the city, immerse it in a toxic stew, empty out its residents for months, and expect it to blossom anew like a perennial flower in the spring.
While I'm immensely torn about the question -- there is no American city with the authentic mix of cultures that made up New Orleans, and its loss will be a cultural disaster for the country -- in the end I really don't see how it could possibly be rebuilt, even if there was a good reason why we should.

What Chapman doesn't really address, though, is whether our political culture is even capable of having a lucid discussion on the issue. Quite apart from the human cost of the Bush Administration's incompetence, one long term effect of their buffoonery will be to preclude any serious argument on behalf of not spending billions of dollars (that we of course don't have) in order to clean up and rebuild areas which will immediately go on a death watch of sorts waiting for the next disaster.

Monday, September 12, 2005

On The Beach

Noreen and I went down to North Ave. Beach yesterday for another day of volleyball on the shore.

The weather was outstanding, if somewhat breezy, and the volleyball was ... well it was fun, anyway.

As per usual, it was a Laurx-heavy event, with Brothers Joe, Andy, John & Mike joining Dan to make a fearsome fivesome.

The easy choice for game of the day was my first, joining Mary and Brother Mike to take on Noreen, Norb & Tom.

N, N & T blew out to an easy 9-0 lead vs. our rusty trio and the taunts filled the air. Norb's threat to go get a chair was the last straw, and he eventually did go grab some chair ... after losing 25-22.

The lake made for a refreshing cool down before an early exit. Most went off to find a spot to watch the Bears lose. Noreen and I, though, had more volleyball to play, as it was seeding day for our new Willow Creek team.

That did not go well, and six games later we found ourselves stuck in flight 7 (and that is not good).

The good news is that my bad shoulder came out of the mulit-game volleyball day feeling OK. The additional bad news is that just about every other muscle on both our bodies are hurting pretty bad.


Friday, September 09, 2005

If You Rebuild It, Will They Come?

Jack Shafer in Slate asks the unspoken question surrounding the ongoing evacuation of New Orleans. Will it ever be inhabited again? More to the point, should it ever be inhabited again?

Shafer's answer is that no, it probably shouldn't, and for a number of reasons -- mostly economic -- it probably won't. The age and dilapidated state of most of the housing stock will preclude any rehab short of bulldozing for large chunks of the city. Seeing as how most of those structures were without flood insurance to start with -- and will be unable to get flood insurance in the future -- there will be little money or incentive to rebuild on the part of the current property owners.

Shafer's guess is that the city will be rebuilt on a much smaller scale, limited mostly to higher-ground areas (such as the French Quarter) that had limited damage and have obvious economic value.

Oddly enough, I think that what may eventually be the strongest factor leading away from abandonment could be the very incompetence of the Bush Administration that has done so much to leave New Orleans in this state to begin with. By screwing up so badly they have only redoubled the scrutiny that will be given to their longer-term policies. Try floating (as Denny Hastert did) the idea of not rebuilding the city now, and just wait for the howls. I'm not even sure that Bush has balls that big.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Coupla Videos

Profoundly odd, but oddly interesting New Pornographers video for "Use It" (love the garage door/curtain at the beginning). The video for Laura Veir's "Galaxies" is also cool.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

how it feels | how it looks

Well, I've been given my list of recipients for the DualDiscDebacle (see also the monkeys on the side).

The double mix CD they will be getting is how it feels | how it looks:

No big theme to either disc -- just songs I like that seemed to make for a good mix. I'll mail out copies of the pair to swappers in New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, California and Brazil.

In return, I should be getting five mix CDs that five other people from five other places will be sending me.

Pretty cool. Can't wait to see what I get.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Jake Agonistes

Sat in with my teenage daughter last week to watch a bit of Sixteen Candles, the 1984 John Hughes "classic" teen pic starring Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall.

Notable for its time-capsule 80's fashions and soundtrack, the movie features a wide range of Hollywood career paths: long and notable (John Cusack, [arguably] Joan Cusack); short and notable (Molly, Anthony Michael, Gedde Watanabe, Justin Henry, Jamie Gertz); long and mostly not notable (Brian Doyle-Murray, Paul Dooley, Edward Andrews, Max Showalter); and short and not notable in the least (Darren Harris [Cliff, the "other" geek], Haviland Morris [Jake's hideous girlfriend]).

The paradigmatic resident of that last bin is, of course, Michael Schoeffling (i.e., Jake Ryan himself), and while I'm sure that Michael Schoeffling's real-life fate is interesting in itself, you have got to ask yourself this question.

"What the hell is the deal with Jake?"

Has there ever been a movie character with less personality, less interest in his surroundings, less ... consciousness ... than Jake Ryan?

While on a certain level Jake is, by necessity, little more than a stereotypical mimbo, if you examine him as an actual human being he's quite a mess.

For a start, he develops a crush on sophomore Sam as they sit in class together and he intercepts a note. Why is he in a class with a bunch of sophomores? Shouldn't he be in some college prep class somewhere?

So he develops a crush on the sophomore. Weird, yes, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. After tracking her down in the yearbook he decides to give her house a call. At midnight. What kind of idiot does this?

Meanwhile, of course, his parents' mansion is being systematically destroyed by a bunch of rampaging Visigoths disguised as his New Trier classmates. He wanders through the house in a daze, oblivious to the destruction being perpetrated on the Ryan's formerly nice Highland Park house. In what world would this happen? Did he not have one friend capable of putting a stop to the mayhem? Or at least slap Jake out of his stupor and implore him to stop the mayhem himself?

In the end, Jake returns downstairs to find his house a toxic waste dump. You name it, his "pals" have destroyed it. Jake's reaction? "What a mess," he deadpans. Dude, a 50-pound weight has busted through two floors and taken out your parents wine collection, and that's the best you can come up with?

His thirst for warm Old Style eventually leads him to uncover Farmer Ted, the freshman geek who proceeds to mix martinis and counsel the clueless Jake in the ways of life and love. In return, Jake impassively implores the 14-year-old to drive his father's Rolls-Royce away and bone his awful girlfriend in it. Leaving aside the invite to nail his girlfriend -- his father's Rolls? What, destroying the wine cellar wasn't enough? Let's take the Rolls out as well?

In the end, of course, Sam gets her clueless, lifeless, cradle-robbing, soon-to-be-jailed-at-the-behest-of-his-parents boyfriend. They share a belated birthday cake while sitting on the dining room table (presumably since the chairs had long since been burned for kindling by the horde).

She whispers that she can't make a wish because it has already come true. It's my guess that her wish for conjugal sex with an inmate will also soon come true, as she visits her man at the Audy Home.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Do You Believe It? The Deuce

Ventured back to Champaign yesterday for the beginning of the Ron Zook era in Illinois Football. For three quarters The Illini were as dismal a sight as they have been for the past three years -- the three years that finally cost Ron Turner his job.

For the fourth quarter, and the improbable overtime that followed, pure magic.

The opponent, from the State University of New Jersey (SUNJ ... OK, Rutgers), was a middling member of a piddling conference (The Big Least). Yet for three quarters it was total domination for the Scarlet Knights, who took a commanding 27-7 lead early in the third.

The Illini returned to the game, slowly at first, with a couple of Jason Reda field goals to pull within two touchdowns with 12 minutes left.

The defense stiffened in the fourth, ending two drives with punts and one with a key field goal block. The offense, meanwhile, finally found its footing. New QB Tim Brasic got his nerves under control, the O-line finally started blocking, and the highly-touted running backs (Pierre "Frenchy" Thomas and E.B. "Admiral" Halsey) took over the game.

A six-play 54-yard drive brought it to 27-20, and after the blocked FGA a nine-play 65-yard drive tied the score at 27, capped by the Admiral diving into the end zone from five yards out with just over a minute left.

The Illini even manged to wrest the ball back one more time, setting up a 52-yard game winning attempt. The ugly kick was pushed to the crossbar by the stiff wind, but stayed wide right. Overtime.

In the OT, SUNJ took a key holding call on their possession and settled for a field goal. 30-27.

The Illini possession was highlighted by the play of the game, a 20-yard pass run by the Admiral that shifted from one side of the field to the other before coming ashore at the 2. After a SUNJ timeout to discuss their long, losing flight home, Frenchy took the ball to the house and the win was secured.


It may not mean much by itself, but it did set a tone. The last couple of Illini squads would have folded when things got tough. If nothing else, Zook has already managed to turn the team around mentally. The schedule will get a whole lot tougher later in the year, but this will be one to remember regardless of the final record.

And my new orange Illini t-shirt is now 2 magical wins in 2 appearances. Pics:

Kickoff of a new era.
The crowd was orange-y.
Luther Head was on hand ...
... along with Sergio McClain...
... Calvin Brock (makin' time with the shorties) ...
... and my shorty.
Check out the scoreboard...
... and exult!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Jack & Meg

Noreen & I went to see The White Stripes last night at the Auditorium. It was the third of three nights in Chicago for the duo, and little was left behind as they left town.

First, a little bit about the Aud. I hadn't been in the place for many years, but it was magnificent. Beautifully restored, and with unmatched acoustics and sloping sightlines I would put it at the top of the heap for Chicago venues. Even in Row AA the view was clear and the sound was great.

Jack & Meg took the stage and immediately launched into "Blue Orchid," the fervid opener from Get Behind Me Satan. While it could have been a bit louder, the song delivers exactly the sort of crunching guitar and pounding drums that are the band's signature.

Unfortunately, it was followed up with "The Nurse." As with the album, where this one also follows "Blue Orchid," the marimba-based song merely acts as a momentum killer.

The band proceeded, in fact, to essentially play the new album in track order as their opening set. Different, but it had the effect of replicating the album's maddening sequencing. Every time it seemed that combustion was about to be reached ("Little Ghost," "As Ugly As I Seem," and especially a smoking-hot "Instinct Blues") the fever would be broken with yet another ballady piano number (I love Jack, but his piano playing is like watching a great painter take up a mallet and chisel. The art is there, but the talent lies elsewhere).

After running through the album to "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)," it was time to take a bow and leave the stage.


Whether it was an "encore" or a second set, when they returned to the stage it was for some balls out screaming noise. This was what I came looking for, and the second set delivered. Jack dancing and backpedaling across the stage like Ali with a Rickenbacker, careening from center stage mike to a second mike next to the drum kit (where the real ass-kicking took place). Meg pounding the skins with primal fury. Delta blues channeled through a black and red caballero with a fistful of hot licks.


Nirvana was reached with the back-to-back killers: "The Hardest Button To Button" and "Seven Nation Army."

I guess I should apologize for being retrograde, but for me The White Stripes are a simple concept. Beat the hell out of the drums, play a scorching, crunchy blues lick, and turn up the volume. In the second set, that was the game plan, and the smile never left my face.


The saga of New Orleans continues, and continues to worsen.

The situation inside the Superdome has been compared to hell, but the situation outside doesn't appear to be any better.

The scene begs two questions. First, why in the world does a city like New Orleans exist at all? Located in a bowl between Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River, the city has always existed a hair's breadth away from exactly this type of disaster. Should the massive levee & pumping system surrounding the city fail -- well, you know the rest.

Ari Kelman in Slate has a good analysis of the why surrounding New Orleans. He discusses the distinctions between the city's "situation" and its "site":
In 1718, when the French first settled New Orleans, the city's earliest European inhabitants saw riches inscribed by the hand of God into the landscape of the vast Mississippi valley. The Mississippi river system takes the shape of a huge funnel, covering nearly two-thirds of the United States from the Alleghenies to the Rockies. The funnel's spout lies at the river's outlet at the Gulf of Mexico, less than 100 miles downstream from New Orleans. In an era before railways, good highways, and long before air travel, much of the interior of the nation's commerce flowed along the Mississippi, fronting New Orleans. The river system's inexorable downstream current swept cotton, grain, sugar, and an array of other commodities to New Orleans' door.

Over time, New Orleans developed a divided relationship with the environment: Nature, as embodied by the Mississippi, promised a bright future. But it also brought water, wind, and pathogens, elements of a fickle environment that in the past as now turned cruelly chaotic.

Geographers refer to this as the difference between a city's "situation"—the advantages its location offers relative to other cities—and its "site"—the actual real estate it occupies. New Orleans has a near-perfect situation and an almost unimaginably bad site. It's because of the former that people have worked endlessly to overcome the hazards of the latter.

In short, New Orleans' strategic location made it valuable, even as that location made it increasingly untenable without greater and greater intervention. Which brings up the second question. What now?

Clearly, three massive jobs will take up the near term, all at the same time: evacuate the living, account for the dead, stem the flood and begin draining the swamp that the city has become. Once that is done -- and this will take a while -- the question of clean up awaits. It seems pretty clear that much of the city will simply need to be bulldozed. It's inconceivable that anyone could return to live in the houses that will have been feet deep in standing water for weeks & possibly months. So the question will be less on of cleaning up than of massive rebuilding, and the ultimate question will be to what end? Will it be worth it to rebuild a city so precariously perched on the cusp of reprised ruin? There will certainly be enough saying yes that it will be done, but ask yourself -- would you want to live there?

In the meantime, say a prayer that the city is evacuated before it descends even further into complete chaos.