I was in New Orleans Wednesday-Sunday for a conference, staying at the Hilton on the river and across the street from a Harrah's casino that seemingly occupies several city blocks and dominates the neighborhood grotesquesly. In the wake of the economic, political, and social disaster that was Katrina, perhaps the city needs every penny it can squeeze from such establishments. New Orleans is also bringing in some entertainment money. Throughout the conference, Canal Street was swarming with folks filming a movie to be called "12 Rounds." The median of the street was littered with torn up cars, streetcars packed with extras, and a strange little Mardi-Gras-like carnival scene in which actors in skeleton get-ups wandered. The French Quarter was just as elegantly shabby as ever, Bourbon Street even more audacious and in-your-face, and the food, right down to the beignets at Cafe du Monde, still unparalleled. I did not get out to the Ninth Ward to witness the devastation rom the flood--and I'm not sure I wanted to.
There was plenty of talk about Katrina at the conference. I particularly liked the talk by Jed Horne, who wrote Breach of Faith, by many accounts the best book about the hurricane, the flood, and the disastrous response from the government.
In other news, my chance to win the huge campus NCAA basketball pool were dashed last night when Memphis choked in the final minute of the game, missed 4 out of 5 foul shots, and allowed Mario Chalmers of Kansas to sink a 3-pointer with 2 seconds on the clock to send the game into overtime and give the Jayhawks enough momentum to get the win. It was a superb game with a heartbreaking outcome for Memphis. But if you can't hit your clutch foul shots down the stretch, I guess you don't deserve to prevail. That Chalmers clutch shot deprived me of a handsome return on my $10 investment.