That Duel

211 years ago today, Aaron Burr (the Vice President) shot and killed Alexander Hamilton (the former Treasury Secretary and still leader of the Federalist Party) on a dueling ground in Weehawken, New Jersey.Aaron Burr

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Sarah Carr, Hope Against Hope

This is a profound, beautifully written, intelligent and moving book about the jarring changes in the New Orleans public school system since Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago. As you may have heard, our Crescent City is now on the cutting edge of the school privatization/reform/charter movement that has been sweeping the Sarah Carr Hope against Hopenation, and has been cited by Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, as a model for the nation. Those of us who actually live here tend to see things differently; in my own opinion, New orleans becoming a model for the nation would be a tragedy of the first order. In any case, what is really wonderful about Carr’s book is that she avoids the postage-stamp caricatures that both sides in the debate generally make of each others’ points of view. She explores all viewpoints with nuance and compassion, following a freshman at a KIPP high school, a young white teacher at Sci High, and an experienced black woman principal at O. Perry Walker school, through the ups and downs of a whole school year. While doing this she also considers the history of public education in the United States and New Orleans in particular, segregation and integration, No Child Left Behind and the quantification movement, Teach for America, and many other aspects of the subject. There are many books about these issues — I also like Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System — but Hope Against Hope is one of the best out there, a must read for anyone interested in education.

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Jazz fest

This is my third year attending the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. It really is enormous and a lot different from the “ordinary” festivals in other places: add in the second lines, the New Orleans food, the party atmosphere, and the simply staggering number of stages and artists. Also the prospect for extreme weather, either in terms of rainfall or scorching sunshine.

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The Anti-copyright freak parade

This article is not all that interesting on its own — yes, if you own a venue that features music, you need to get a license. It’s been this way a long time, everyone understands how it works, and if you don’t get a license you run a real risk of being sued or shut down. The bar owners who try to flout this are no different from that Montana rancher whose selfish desire to welch on paying grazing fees for federal land became a cause celebre last year.

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My new toy

Lap Steel 1Did I mention on top of everything else in my life, I’m trying to teach myself lap steel? I’m learning it in C6 tuning which is really just mind melting, it’s so not like the guitar, but it’s the authentic country & western sound, and to me the lap steel is all about baby steps to the pedal steel.

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