“Say Goodbye To New Orleans/Say Goodbye My Baby…”

You know what’s gone on the past two days in New Orleans: The city gets sideswiped by the hurricane and seems to have avoided the worst of it, only to find its defenses breached and liquid doom flooding in an inch at a time. The water is a toxic mix of oils, gasoline, fire ants, snakes and pesticides.

Okay, nothing unusual…except we’re talking about a city that has few ways out. There’s three bridges to the east, The Lake Ponchatrain Causeway to the north, and I-10 to the west. Any access going directly west either hugs the Mississippi or dead-ends at another river. There isn’t much in the way of access away from New Orleans.

In a way, the city is an island, isolated from the rest of the nation.

If the water rises to the level of the surrounding sea, it’s going to be impossible to pump out. Since New Orleans is (or WAS) below sea level, you’ll have to pump the water up to get it out; but first you’ll have to rebuild the dikes below the water level. You also have to have the electircity connected to the pumps, and water levels low enough to accept the water from Lake New Orleans.

Then there’s the cleanup. And the toxins now deposited on the city.

New Orleans may no longer exist as a city. It may just exist as a memory in our minds, or a word on a plaque along the lines of “Here was the first American City to literally die, killed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005”

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Fire Dusted Baker, Please!!!

Just so you know, Dusty baker has been fired from the Chicago Cubs since this was posted. It’s up mainly for documentary purposes.

If you’re a sports fan in Chicago, I’m sure you’ve heard Dusted Baker complain about not being given unquestioned adulation or blind devotion from the people in Chicago. Well, let me pile on.

First, a history lesson: having seen two coaches turn good teams into pieces of crap (George Perles and Bobby Williams), I’m sure I can tell when a team is turning to horse shit underneath someone’s supposed watch. And, to be honest, I saw that Dusted Baker would let the team turn to crap when, after that foul ball bounced off the glove of the now forever scarred Bartman, he never thought about going out to the mound and calming down Pryor. While there were players out there, it was Dusted Baker’s job.

Since then, I’ve listened as the Cub Pitchers’ arms have been repeatedly injured, the Cubs go from in control of their destiny to out of the playoffs in less than a week (complete with a victory after they were out of it) at the end of last season, and a team built to win playing under five hundred. And all this, with the front office supporting the team with spending.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Understand this, Dusted: you’re in a job where you’re judged by what you do with what you got. You were given a plum job, an audience that would cheer if the Cubs put out a team of Junior High kids, and a front office that gets you what you need. Guess what: you’ve been failing, and badly.

You think you’re being persecuted? Try having “For Sale” signs posted in front of your house. Try threats made to your children (you know, the ones you hide behind every chance you get in the post-game interviews). Try being booed in your home stadium. Haven’t experienced the above yet? Then shut up.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Perles had built his team to a place of pure glory before the collapse, hence his still being welcome in East Lansing. Williams was a nice guy who, while good as a running back coach, was out of his league as the team coach; he has since found consistent work as a running back coach in both College (LSU, under Saban) and the Pros (Detroit, and now Miami).

I’ll bet that once Dusted Baker gets cast out of Chicago, he’ll run to the safety of San Francisco and be welcomed back with open arms (Thus proving that even Utopias have their flaws). He’ll probably do baseball games until he grows old, and gloat over the games his beloved Giants win over the Cubs. Of course the fans in San Francisco will probably coo their approval when he talks about the “abuse” he suffered in Chicago; never mind what has really happened.

MSU Meditations I: Intro

Officially starting this week (although it’s been going on all month, and there’s many who never left) hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of 18-30 year olds are filling in the apartments, dorms and houses that surround the colleges that are supposed to give them the education to improve their lives. In response:

  • Rents rise in the area, and sometimes outside the area, as landlords try to increase their take between taxes, insurance and city intrusion.
  • Liquor stores and bars prepare for the usual business rush that comes from the infusion of overmonied (and overcredited) students ready to throw themselves into a hard weekend’s drinking
  • Other businesses get ready to escape from the doldrums they’ve suffered through the summer
  • Campuses plan their parking patterns for the year’s football bacchanals
  • Cops start planning overtime, ready to spend their time hunting down “underage” drunks and others.

I’m sure there’s places where everything works out fine, where people go and do more than they ever dreamed of doing. I’m more concerned about one place. A place where I spent (too) much time in college, then another bunch of years profiting off of (paying during this time with taxes and support of local businesses). A place where I believe things have gone horribly wrong, and where things can go amazingly right IF THE PLACE REMEMBERS WHAT MADE IT GREAT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The problems I’m going to talk about here happen all over. Many schools have similar problems to what I’m talking about. However, I’m going to focus on what I know and have loved: Michigan State University.

Sadly, the school has felt free to trade on its party-school reputation, with predictable results. Seems every time I hear about MSU in Chicago, it’s always in a severely negative light, as if everything bad about Chicago can be traced directly to MSU graduates.

I wonder if any other school goes through this. I once heard a mutilation of the OSU Fight Song by U of M graduates which included the couplet “at Columbus you’re way ahead/when you get straight A’s in Phys Ed;” I have to wonder whether they even feel the need to demean MSU folks when too many of them are too willing to demean themselves for fun and sport.

Part 2: Remembering MSU’s Past (and it’s shameful present)

MSU Meditations II: Remembering The Past

When I think of MSU, I think of a school that has always had to scrape for its survival. A school that has always lived in the shadow of Michigan. A school that has always had to seek ways to excel, be noticed, and in ways the other school couldn’t stop.

It has always done its best when it’s gone its own way, as Michigan always did its best to insure that MSU could never compete. Whenever MSU tried to improve itself, there was U of M, trying to stop MSU any way they could.

MSU was always at its best when they didn’t compete directly but worked where U of M didn’t want to go. MSU was started (as Agricultural College of the State of Michigan) when Michigan ignored the wishes and needs of Michigan’s farmers. As Michigan kept to its elitist mind-set, MSU reached out to the rest of the population. When Michigan focused on Graduate students, MSU built up its undergraduate programs and built the biggest dorm system in the nation (complete with classes at the dorms).

And now? Sadly, MSU has seen fit to follow the rest of the universities in their activities. They chase after graduates, starving undergraduate education in the process. They chase after athletic greatness (more on that later). They starve their liberal arts for the sake of their business, law and engineering schools. (Yes, I missed science and Agriculture, but those schools were the basis of MSU).

You know the results. You see it every time they lower themselves to the worst expectations.

Part 3: Looking at athletics and reputations

MSU Meditations III: The Athletic Side

I remember 1987. Perles had promised Michigan State fans a rose bowl in five years, and we got it. Better yet, we won the game; something other Big 10 schools had found hard to do over the past twenty years! The Spartans had arrived, and we thought we were here to stay (yes, “WE.” Remember, universities are chosen by those attending. There are places where you go where it’s closer, those places don’t count here.).

Well, things changed. Perles turned his attention away from coaching and recruiting (and onto the Athletic Director’s job), and the team suffered; with losses to Central Michigan in 1991 and 1992 (and a near-loss in 1993) being the Nadir of his career. He lost his jobs soon after.

But that’s not the worst of it:

If you’re not an Michigan State Spartan fan, you probably have forgotten (assuming you heard in the first place) that MSU won the Rose Bowl in 1988. However, chances are you’ve heard recently that MSU’s football teams used Steroids in the eighties, and that was the only reason for their success. I heard it frequently enough on Chicago Radio to believe it was indeed true.

In fact, I’ve recently heard of the Pittsburgh Steelers supposedly using steroids during their glory years, when they won those four super bowls.

Connection? Perles. He was the defensive coach at Pittsburgh, then moved to MSU to coach during the eighties and early nineties.

Understand this, MSU fans: Reputations last longer than winning seasons. Fans remember bowl wins, everyone else remembers what is thought about the school. And reputation always trumps bowl wins; for reputation lasts (whereas bowl championships don’t). Don’t let the plaques fool you; they’re there so people don’t forget.

Part 4: Reputations and the Student Body itself

MSU Meditations IV: Student “Life”

March 27, 1999: I was on the west side of the Lansing area. Michigan State had just lost their Final Four game to Duke, the eventual champions. And I’m risking a fight with a Notre Dame guy three inches taller than me because on the television screen is a bunch of brats setting couches on fire and bragging on their beating the Police!

Now, I’m aware of the history of MSU riots, and until this date some actually made sense. You had times when the cops were kept from beating up on students, and times when the students went ape-shit on each other. There were also times when a so-called riot was nothing but people having fun, with the “riot” moniker added on as a scare tactic.

March 27, 1999 was sheer stupidity. They lost the game, so they decided to tear shit up.

And worse yet: they continue with this pattern; with the exception being a controlled celebration after the 2000 NCAA basketball championship.

Guess what: I get to hear Radio talk show hosts rip on MSU students and graduates. They’re linked with the worst of the Cubs fans, and when the latest version of March 27, 1999 happens I get to hear thoughts of a preemptive carpet bombing of East Lansing so as to clear the land of all stupid people.

As the “Udder University” always in the shadow of the Behemoth in Ann Arbor, you should know your actions are looked at more closely. Many look at you, hoping to God that you’ll mess up and act like the vicious brats they pray for you to be. It’s up to you to live to a higher standard, NOT DOWN TO WHERE THE HATERS WANT TO BE ACT!

From a Spartan, who tries to take pride in his school despite the actions of idiots (and it’s not always easy, let me tell you…).

In case you think this is ONLY about Michigan State University…

MSU Meditations V: Not Just At Michigan State

I talk about things going on at Michigan State because of my experiences there. However, MSU is not unique in any sense. As Murray Sperber wrote about voluminously in Beer and Circus, similar stuff has been going on at college campuses allover the country. Michigan State, while not exactly the virtuous sister in this (it is cited in the book), it’s not necessarily the worst either. Not only that, but it’s squarely in the mainstream of university decay, according to Sperber.

What the universities need is some changes:

  • Do you really need football? Basketball? Lose the sports, you lose the idiot alumni PLUS a major source of your troubles.
  • If you’re going to let anybody into your halls, have some classes that separate the men from the boys (and the women from the girls). Many colleges used to do this; the idea being to let in people who may not have done well in High School and see how many of THEM belonged in the University.
  • Return the drinking age back to 19. That would remove the obvious difficulty in keeping alcohol away from the High Schools (students hell-bent on drinking will do so; families hell-bent on feeding students alcohol will do so regardless) while reducing the power of drinking on the campuses (since relatively few students will be “illegal,” with the number dropping near zero by the end of the school year)
    (yeah, fat chance I know, but it’s a shot. Have heard many intelligent people suggest this, figured it belonged here.).
  • How much Public money is flowing to the universities, anyway? Some schools might want to think about taking themselves private; as monies from the public sector become scarcer that might be a way to take total control of their future.
  • Otherwise, more funding from States and Federal. Stop using schooling costs as a bar keeping poorer students from education.

I wouldn’t mind seeing MSU dismantle it’s Football and Basketball programs and create classes to weed out the posers from those who belonged in college (one of MSU’s strengths has always been welcoming others, no need to stop that). I’d also like more “In Loco Parentis,” including a barring from school for anyone identified as being in one of those riots they seem determined to start every year. Students seeing their friends barred from school for “tearing shit up” would go a long way towards a calmer, more fitting celebration next time around.

Why I Like Downtowns.

I like downtowns that are thriving.

I like downtowns because each storefront stands on its own, and not as a designed part of a pseudo-whole.

I like downtowns because you’re outside and in a public space when you leave a store. Malls are private spaces where the public is invited if they shop or hang out.

I like downtowns because there’s parks and things you don’t find in the malls.

I like downtowns because demographics aren’t catered to there.

I like downtowns because there’s the sounds of downtown going on there; and nothing is piped in or played off muzak.

I like downtowns because you don’t hear muzak everywhere in the air (not even at the record stores).

I like downtowns because the people you meet there and the stores there have interesting things.

I like downtowns because the stores there aren’t cookie-cutter. Even the cookie-cutter stores aren’t cookie-cutter.

I like downtowns because at midnight you can still be in it; and even find things to do there.

And finally, I like downtowns because all the boring people hang out at malls and Wal-Marts and Targets and other Cookie-cutter developments that have turned America into a generic land where the only identifiers for cities is weather patterns; leaving the interesting and curious to hang out together.

Where a Friend Moved

During a recent trip, we stopped off at a friend’s house. She moved in it during the summer.

Her stated reason for moving there was to be as close to the school as she could. That way, her boys could do their school activities without her having to take time to chase them down. She even showed me the route to the place.

Makes sense. But I had other suspicions as to her choice of places, starting with the ract that the place where we turn off the highway to get to her place runs behind a Wal-Mart.

And the Wal-Mart isn’t alone there. Turns out it’s the main center of business for the town (and no, I’m not talking about downtown). Nearby is the Target, a Kohl’s, grocery stores, other strip mall stores, and an enclosed mall. Further north are the Home Depot and Lowe’s; and other developments are going on to the north.

So I wonder: was the school just the excuse? There’s a school on the other side of town, one near other residential areas. While closer to the College, it’s in no way close enough to be disturbed by college students. Plus, this friend has sons instead of daughters, there’s little chance of them being corrupted by college girls before going to college.

Just wondering…