Archive for November, 2007

Layout Week

Sorry for any confusion about layout times yesterday. For the rest of the week, we’ll be meeting at 3 p.m. in computer lab b in the basement of the library.

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We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed their time off. There won’t be a meeting next week because we’ll be meeting every day, beginning on Monday, at 5p.m. in computer lab B in the basement of the library to lay out the magazine.

If you haven’t submitted your final drafts yet, please send them in tonight or tomorrow morning.

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We won’t be having a meeting this Wednesday, so enjoy your Thanksgiving break! Layout will begin Monday the 26th, we’ll update you on exact times later. Included here is an article about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from the latest issue.

Boy in destroyed Plaquemines County courthouse.
A destroyed courthouse sat for two years in Plaquemines Parish, he said. Kids would play inside of it.

After the Storm: Louisiana Two Years After Katrina
Written by WALLACE MCKELVEY / Photographs by ANDREW SOPER

FEMA flatly ignored an Emergency Communities volunteer trying to get a trailer for a homeless family in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, a region hit particularly hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The volunteer called again the next day, saying he was the “director of procurement” for the nonprofit organization. The trailer was soon on its way.

“Our leader told us that when you want something from the government, make up a fancy title for yourself,” said UD student Andrew Soper, who volunteered at EC this summer.

Emergency Communities is one of many organizations that have stepped up where FEMA has fallen short in the wake of Katrina. It sets up community centers, which provide three hot meals daily as well as free internet, laundry, and long distance telephone service. The centers become the main focus point for redevelopment in the community. Emergency Communities’ goal is to transfer the centers to the community, while EC builds more centers in other affected areas.

Soper organized a summer camp at the EC center in the Diamond Trailer Park, an enclave of FEMA trailers 60 miles east of New Orleans in a soggy field surrounded by a fence.

“It’s the second largest park in Louisiana,” Soper said. “And it has the highest crime rate of any park.”

With a miniscule budget, the volunteers organized daily activities for up to 50 or 60 children at the park. These included field trips to the Audubon Zoo and the recently refurbished YMCA pool in New Orleans.

Girl with a Red Nose, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

Clowns Without Borders, which regularly travels through third-world countries and war zones like Haiti and Serbia, came to the camp with red noses and face paint in their arsenal.

McGruff’s visit was more ho-hum.

“He came with the sheriff, got his picture taken, handed out coloring books, and peaced out,” Soper said. “He was there for five minutes.”

Deborah Alvarez, a UD English education professor who has conducted research and hosted a winter session in New Orleans, said problems in the school system were exacerbated by the hurricane.

Of the 127 public schools in the Orleans Parish School District, 120 were classified as in academic emergency and transferred to the Recovery School District in the Fall of 2005 before Katrina hit.

Alvarez and her winter session students helped teachers at John McDonogh High School prepare their students for the LEAP exam, a standardized testing program.

“[The students] were made to take the exams in the Spring of ’07,” Alvarez said. “During ’05-’06, many of these kids went to school for one week – the week before Katrina. Then they were evacuated and displaced. Some of them may have missed their entire freshman, sophomore, and junior year.”

According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, 83 of the 127 schools were scheduled to be open for the ’07-’08 school year.

As a result of many public schools being heavily damaged and still closed, some students attend schools across town. Likewise, some schools focus on one subject area – math, science, or the arts.

“There isn’t any more a ‘neighborhood school,” Alvarez said. “It’s created a real mess.”

New Orleans schools also face the problem of hiring teachers. After Katrina, approximately 7500 teachers were fired and advised to find positions elsewhere.

“There’s a desperate need for teachers who are highly qualified in almost every discipline,” she said.

One of the greatest difficulties facing displaced residents in southern Louisiana and Mississippi is the lack of infrastructure.

The roads are in poor condition, public services are still well below their pre-Katrina levels, and there is a lot of red tape to go through to get aid from the government.

“There are no grocery stores in the Lower Ninth,” Soper said of predominantly black New Orleans neighborhood, which was inundated by water from failed levees. “If you want to buy groceries, you had to get on a bus and drive somewhere.”

Alvarez said that those who wanted to return to New Orleans faced housing shortages and inflation.

“After the storm, the apartment you could have rented for $300 a month, now was $750-$100,” Alvarez said. “People couldn’t afford to move back.”

Businesses across the city were closed due to flooding, leading to a shortage of services and materials. Construction suppliers like Home Depot were also closed, preventing residents who returned in the months after Katrina from rebuilding. Due to the closure of businesses, it was also difficult for returning residents to find jobs.

During winter session, Alvarez said one of her students suffered appendicitis. She was first taken to a doctor in a trailer home, before being taken to a hospital outside New Orleans.

Compounding the problems of infrastructure and public services is the Louisiana eminent domain law.

“If you don’t maintain your property for a certain amount of time, the government seizes it,” Soper said.

The specter of losing thousands of working-class homes, often a family’s most valuable possession, has led to legal battles and protests to prevent the law from being enforced.

Emergency Communities volunteers have regularly mowed the lawns of residents who don’t have the means to return to New Orleans and rebuild.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has had a number of victories against eminent domain through the courts system.

Thus far, no residents have been evicted from their homes, despite threats from Mayor Ray Nagin of mass-demolition in early 2006.
Soper said that walking through the Lower Ninth Ward was a strange experience.

“It’s unlike anyplace else – it’s a ghost town,” he said.

Remains of the Plaquemines Co. Courthouse.

Whole neighborhoods are empty, devoid of life. Houses have sat vacant for two years and only a few people have returned. Spray-paint markings remain on the doors from when rescuers came through, tallying people rescued or corpses recovered.

“It’s safe to walk through during the day, but you don’t want to go there at night,” Soper said. “It’s so unsafe they still have MPs patrolling it.”

Regular police patrol the neighborhoods, while the military police drive around the maze of streets in Humvees.

“One EC volunteer was actually kidnapped,” he said.

The female volunteer had taken a taxi from the airport to the community center, and along the way the vehicle was carjacked at gunpoint. The carjacker told the driver to take him somewhere, but he was distracted and the driver and passenger escaped.

“Fortunately no one was hurt and the volunteer ended up staying,” Soper said.

Senseless violence is a fact of life in New Orleans, post-Katrina.

“There are a lot of desperate people in New Orleans,” Alvarez said. “Desperate for money.”

Alvarez said one of the teachers she worked with had moved from the Lower Ninth to the Marigny, near the French Quarter, and knew a barber who was trying to keep his business in the neighborhood alive.

“He was murdered in his trailer for 34 dollars,” she said.

Alvarez said a lot of drug dealers have returned, hoping to get their place back, which accounts for much of the violence.

The hurricane took an extreme psychological toll on its victims, which hasn’t been addressed due to the lack of mental health services in New Orleans.

“For two years, kids had to take on adult responsibilities,” Alvarez said. “There’s no homecoming, dances, or football games. You go to school and come home. This fall, it seems like the kids wanted those things back. They don’t want to be adults anymore.

“One of the things that trauma does to adults and adolescents is the stress focuses the energies of the brain on surviving the day. It’s hard to sit in the classroom and learn quadratic equations when all your mental and physical energy is focused on staying alive, living past today.”

The psychological trauma causes many students to engage in risky behavior. Alvarez remembered the story of one student she interviewed who was evacuated to Texas, then to one parent in Shreveport, and the other in Florida. He entered an air force base, stole a watch, and was arrested.

“He says he was sitting there with shackles on his hands and legs at 16 years old and had to ask himself, ‘what am I doing?’” she said.

Alvarez said some of the students she worked with withdrew into themselves, completely denying that anything had happened.

Harold, a homeless EC volunteer, walked with Soper around the Lower Ninth Ward collecting cans. Though he was outgoing in other respects, Harold would never talk of his feelings about the hurricane or its aftermath.

“You could never understand what it’s like after the storm,” Soper said. “But I wanted to understand.”

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Occasionally, articles slip through the cracks, or there just isn’t room for them in the print edition. This is one such case. Check out Kaitlin Valli’s article, railing against the phoniness of faux-alt-country ingenue Jenny Lewis. Check out Lewis’ website and decide for yourself.

Jenny Lewis album cover

Why I Don’t Trust Jenny Lewis

I don’t trust Jenny Lewis.

I was introduced to the concept of Jenny Lewis some time last year, when my friend Scott was getting into Rilo Kiley.

“I should download some of their stuff,” he said.

I didn’t mind the Rilo Kiley I had downloaded, and decided to take it to the next step: solo albums. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins had been getting some good reviews, and when I played the album I could see why.

Jenny Lewis has a sweet voice, and her songs were catchy, in a cutesy, folksy kind of way. And, yes, I guess I could have called it “soulful,” like every single music critic was doing during early 2006.

It was all fine, until one day, as I listened to her, it suddenly hit me: None of what she’s saying could possibly be genuine.

It’s all an act, from her lyrics to the twangy guitar and her sad eyes. My male friends had always commented upon how innocent she looked, how sweet. But, I thought, how can that be true? She’s like, thirty two. She’s from Los Angeles. But that was not the worst part of her façade—it was the real meaning of her music.

Her entire album is a parody of old-time country singers, and since no one in that hipster segment Jenny Lewis belongs to had ever really heard anything like it, she stands out for being so different, and therefore, cool.

The problem with Jenny Lewis is that most people tend to believe in the totally constructed image of her—the shy, sweet, earnest redhead with a broken heart. Do we think she’s not completely aware of her own construction?

She’s completely post-modern, but not in a good way. Her music is catchy and sweet, and could mean something to someone, but it can’t mean anything to anyone. If you believe her music, then you believe in a totally false creation.

Modern country music has never been cool, but there’s something about Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash that makes it okay for everyone to listen to them, even if they’re totally not relatable today—they’re classic, so it’s cool to admit liking them. There are no hints of modern country in Jenny Lewis’ album. It’s one hundred percent out of 1950s Tennessee and there’s no real relating to it. She knows she’s made an album that hipster kids can like, because it’s thoroughly disingenuous.

Never is this more evident than in her music video for her single “Rise Up With Fists!!!” The video is comprised of Jenny Lewis and the Watson twins in gaudy outfits, performing on a campy variety show. The song she’s singing is in the style of the artists she’s blatantly mocking. And there’s the proof: as soon as she decided to take a song that could—and should—have been a touching statement on the cheapness of the modern culture of relationships and set it in a music video that clearly mocks it, she completely discredits herself. That, or she just played an elaborate joke simply to mock a genre of music that once meant quite a lot to people.

Either way, Jenny Lewis is not to be trusted.

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General Meeting

We’ll be holding the weekly meeting tomorrow (Wed.) in the Scrounge at Perkins Student Center at 6:30 p.m. If you haven’t submitted your first draft to us, please do so a.s.a.p. For those who have already submitted drafts, you’ve been assigned an editor and should be hearing from them shortly.

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Thanks to everyone who made last Monday’s launch party such a success! If you missed the party, we’ll be distributing the rest of the magazines (roughly 400 copies) across campus on Friday. Though they’ll be spread in a variety of locations, you can count on finding a copy in the second floor of Memorial Hall and in the gyms. If you can’t wait to get your DEcon fix, here’s an article to whet your appetite. You may also download a .pdf of the entire magazine on our website, at http://copland.udel.edu/stu-org/DeconMag/pi.html.

Fall ‘07 Cover

My Tango with the RIAA

Normally, I don’t pay much attention to how I get my music. All I know is that I need that song now. To say that I love music is simplifying it. I need music. I know this sounds over-dramatic, but after going through a depressing drought over the summer, I’ve realized that music is how I get through the day. Whether I’m happy, sad, or one of the myriad emotions in between, I can always find a song that will go with it, make it better, or help it along. Broken Social Scene, the Gossip, Arctic Monkeys, Voice, some Mary J. Blige, whatever. I’m not making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay, but it seems I’ve developed an unwavering dedication to finding new artists with new sounds and new experiences.

So when I received a notification letter from an IT security goon telling me I was being sued for my enthusiasm for both music and saving money, it was kind of a low blow. I shouldn’t say sued, necessarily. The RIAA kindly made me an offer: $3,000 in forty days or they would bring charges against me for copyright infringement.



Receiving anything that’s all in capitals usually causes me to panic a little, so you can imagine how much I was freaking out reading this letter.“Oh shit!” That was my main thought. I think I dissociated a little. I first read the letter while I was at my job in Philadelphia. It was late summer and I was just doing a routine email check.After reading the letter, I practically ran out of the office. I called the “Settlement Information Line,” where I was greeted by what sounded like a 16 year old trainee, who assured me thousands of people get letters like this every month.Comforting.I didn’t know what to do. I budgeted my money compulsively for a few days, and decided I would have to take their 6 month payment plan. Or I would have to take out a loan. Or…cry a lot. Maybe I could sell my back as advertising space on eBay.My iPod, which was happily full and used to being played all the time, was immediately shunned like it had the plague. I was specifically being accused of “distributing” more than 200 songs using LimeWire. I didn’t know that LimeWire opened up everything on your computer. I should have, but I didn’t. I’ve never had much luck with technology, really.

EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner had made it clear: You stole $200 worth of music from us, so we will threaten to sue you for up to $750 per song. It was also clear that they had completely reconstructed a relationship that had previously been pleasant.

As a lifelong music customer, I felt targeted and disrespected. I understand that I had illegally downloaded music. I did not, however, feel that what I did warranted threats.


According to dear friend dictionary.com, extortion is “the crime of obtaining money by the abuse of one’s office or authority.” I can’t really see what the RIAA did as anything else.


After calling the number they gave me, I was called back several times by the same little girl, pressuring me to make up my mind as to payment. I ended up paying the amount online, through a convenient site that UD actually refers students to when they receive one of these extortion letters.


In retrospect, I should have just ignored the entire thing. At the time, though, I was scared. I didn’t know my rights. I didn’t know what others had done, and I was being threatened.


The university didn’t help either. I called a head honcho in the IT department to try to figure out what had happened and he never returned my message. The woman I talked to at the IT number said she couldn’t help me. UD basically gave me the letter and left me to deal with it on my own. Hands-off. Good luck, you rebel. Maybe they were angry that they didn’t catch me.


Interestingly enough, not all universities have decided to be tools of the RIAA. According to consumerist.com, the University of Wisconsin has refused to forward RIAA letters unless they can provide a valid subpoena. The University of Nebraska is charging the RIAA $11 to process each letter. After all, universities are not working for the RIAA. Right?


The impression I get from UD is that they’d give out your information if they were pressed. After all, we already have “stalker net” through the main udel site that gives out my address.


After paying the money, I got an additional slap in the face by UD by getting a “strike” which would put me on probation for my senior year.


You know, I only wanted some music. With CDs selling at a going rate of $18, it’s no wonder so many students download. What I really don’t understand is why these companies are targeting one of their prime groups of consumers. Why college students, who don’t have any money to begin with?


My guess is because they can. They’re big, powerful, and scary. They’re losing money in record sales. Why not be pro-active and extort as much money from their consumers as they can? A lot of people would rather pay the $3,000 than risk the expenses of a lawyer in court.


All the righteous anger aside, what I really am is disappointed. Music shouldn’t be associated with people like this.


On the positive side, a lot of people are smartening up to the RIAA’s threat tactics. The RIAA is getting denied and accused left and right. Soon enough, they’ll regret this strategy.


Until then, I still plan on being a music head. I’m not going to let the business-heads get in my way. I will never buy a CD from them again, though.


You hear that evil music overlords? NEVER AGAIN!


Now I need to mellow out to some…Rage Against the Machine.

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The general meeting is tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Scrounge at Perkins Student Center. We’ll be going over distribution, advertising, and the editing process. Please send your rough drafts to us (derridevil@gmail.com) by the end of this week and you’ll be assigned an editor to work with.

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Launch Party

The launch party was a great success! We handed out hundreds of magazines, and the response so far from the students has been extremely positive. Thank you to all the staff as well as all the students that came out to support our magazine.

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