“The campus administration has grown unwieldy,” Professor Plum said. “We need a disaster to wipe everything out, so we can start over.”

He read the mail…. (More)

Professor Plum and Ms. Scarlet held hands as they left to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar library, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).

In the staff poker game, the Professor of Astrology Janitor was also ready to start over. A series of almost-good hands had left him with only seven big blinds in his stack. He peeked at his cards, found a pair of red Tens, and quickly pushed the rest of his chips into the middle.

Chef looked at her cards. “Usually I’d fold this to an all-in bet, but with you so short-stacked I really have to call.”

Chef turned over the Ace of Spades and Jack of Clubs. It wasn’t a strong hand, but it was good enough to call a desperation all-in bet.

The flop brought the Nine and Seven of Spades and the Eight of Clubs. The Professor of Astrology Janitor groaned at the good-news-bad-news. The good news was that a Jack would no longer give Chef a dominant pair, as a Jack would give the Professor of Astrology Janitor a straight. The bad news was that a Ten would no longer give the Professor of Astrology Janitor a dominant three-of-a-kind, as a Ten would give Chef a straight.

The Jack of Spades on the turn was, again, good-news-bad-news. It completed the Professor of Astrology Janitor’s straight, but any Spade on the river would give now Chef a winning flush. The Professor of Astrology Janitor closed his eyes as Chef dealt out the final card.

“At least it’s not a Spade,” Chef said.

The Professor of Astrology Janitor opened one eye and saw the Ten of Clubs. Both had Jack-high straights and they split the pot, leaving the <Professor of Astrology Janitor exactly where he had been before the pot. He began his plaintive mewling and Chef went to the kitchen to make Grillades and Grits, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….


Dear Ms. Crissie,

It may seem unusual to envy the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago – an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.

That’s what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.

Residents overthrew a corrupt government. A new mayor slashed the city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, detonated labor contracts. New Orleans’ City Hall got leaner and more efficient. Dilapidated buildings were torn down. Public housing got rebuilt. Governments were consolidated.

An underperforming public school system saw a complete makeover. A new schools chief, Paul Vallas, designed a school system with the flexibility of an entrepreneur. No restrictive mandates from the city or the state. No demands from teacher unions to abide. Instead, he created the nation’s first free-market education system.

I can relate, metaphorically, to the residents of New Orleans climbing onto their rooftops and begging for help and waving their arms and lurching toward rescue helicopters.

Kristen in IL

Dear Kristen,

We commend your defense of what Naomi Klein called the Shock Doctrine, seizing on a disaster to push through radical policy changes that would otherwise have stalled in political debate. And we note that in your not-an-apology column, you say you meant only a metaphorical storm – a political revolution – adding “I wrote what I did not out of lack of empathy, or racism, but out of long-standing frustration with Chicago’s poorly managed finances.”

That said, we note that the changes to New Orleans are more attractive to an upper-middle-class white woman than they do to the former residents of the Big Easy. The response to Hurricane Katrina was gentrification, and tens of thousands of former residents will never return. As Dr. Ron Daniels wrote for The Final Call:

The net effect of the demolition of public housing and the failure to build sufficient affordable units to replace them has been a dramatic rise in rents. Units that once rented for $400 now command $750 to $1,000, putting them far out of reach of the majority of renters displaced by Katrina. A recent Brookings Institution Study touted the fact that the poverty rate in New Orleans has declined. However, it also revealed that this reduction is due to the fact that many of the displaced poor and working class Blacks are unable to return to the city because of the high rents. The refusal to re-open Charity Hospital, which largely served poor people, is another example of the scheme to push out the dispossessed to make room for more affluent residents.

New Orleans is on the rise again, but it is not being rebuilt to accommodate the Black poor and working class people who comprised the base of New Orleans famed culture. As I predicted, New Orleans is being transformed into a Disneyland like city where tourists can come to sample a culture largely created by Black people without having to deal with the “problems” associated with the Black poor. New Orleans is no longer a Chocolate City. It has a White Mayor for the first time in decades and a 5-2 White majority City Council. These dramatic changes were unthinkable as long as Blacks were the decisive majority in the city. Katrina changed that. The de facto ethnic cleansing of the African population means that the New Orleans we once knew is not likely to ever be again. The story of Katrina and its aftermath is a shameful chapter in America’s history.

We further note that while you praise “the nation’s first free-market education system,” recent data show only a marginal improvement in outcomes for New Orleans high school graduates, and the Justice Department is monitoring the system in the face of rising school segregation.

We have no doubt that many of your upper-middle-class white friends and neighbors would be delighted to see ethnic cleansing in Chicago on the scale that Hurricane Katrina allowed in New Orleans. We conclude that your “not out of lack of empathy, or racism” line ironically reveals your true wish … for a city where upper-middle-class white people don’t need to empathize with the poor or people of color, because Those People have been driven out of your city.


Dear Ms. Crissie,

Are Grillades and Grits a New Orleans recipe? How do I make them?

Big Easily Hungry in Blogistan

Dear Big Easily Hungry,

Yes, Grillades and Grits are a classic New Orleans breakfast recipe. To make them, flatten 1 pound of top-round steak with a mallet and cut into 2″ square pieces. Sprinkle with Creole seasoning and dredge them in flour, then fry in butter and oil until both sides are browned. Put the browned meat on a covered dish to keep it warm and use the same skillet to fry 1 medium diced onion with 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 large diced bell pepper, and 1 stalk of diced celery until softened. Add a 14.5-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and break them up with a spoon. Stir in ½ cup of beef broth and 1 Tablespoon of prepared roux, then add ½ teaspoon of whole thyme, 1 bay leave, and season to taste with hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Return the meat to the pan and cook on low heat for 45 minutes, until the meat is tender. Remove the bay leaf and serve over grits. Bon appétit!


Photo Credit: Kathy Anderson (Times-Picayune)


Kristen in IL; Shock Doctrine; not-an-apology column; gentrification; tens of thousands of former residents will never return; Ron Daniels; recent data on New Orleans schools and Justice Department monitoring.

Grillades and Grits.


Happy Sunday!