Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Legend Passes

If you went to St. Louis University High, or had family that did, you probably heard of Fr. Martin Hagan. A mentor, a counselor, a teacher, a coach. A legend. Fr. Hagan passed away on Monday April 28 at the age of 89. You can read the news release on SLUH's website here.

The most widely told story about Fr. Hagan was his practice of learning the name of every single one of the 200-250 freshman at SLUH each year. It's not just a story; it's the truth. And he did this for about 50 years. As a freshman, you began to notice the curious routine of an older Jesuit quietly standing in the entrance of your homeroom, carefully checking something on a clipboard. 2-3 years later, a junior or senior would chuckle when Fr. Hagan would greet them by name in the hall, even though the student might not have ever formally met Fr. Hagan.

I had the good fortune of having a personal relationship with Fr. Hagan. He was my assigned counselor for my freshman year, and my chosen counselor each year after that. I remember that each year I could have chosen someone else (I think the majority of kids had to; Fr. Hagan could only counsel so many), but there was something reverent about our visits that I had never experienced with anyone else. At the end of each meeting, he would bless me, making the sign of the cross in front of me and then placing his hand upon my head. A feeling would come over me that, for lack of a better description, I can only call religious divinity.

Rest in peace, Fr. Hagan. You will be missed by many, but never forgotten.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Nickel for a comment . . .

It's no secret that the popularity of The Loop and The Lou has increased exponentially since it's introduction. Readers from St. Louis to Chicago have logged on to see what the dynamic tandem of Roller and Coovo (that's me--what up Chi-Town!) have to offer.

But a disturbing trend has been forming. Each year as the weather heats up, we tend to blog less--enjoying the freedom from the departure of Midwest winter. To support this, I have no real evidence, only the inherited family trait of self-rationalization. The formula works like this. A plus B does not equal C unless I call three people and get them to agree that A plus B could equal C. I then wait a half hour and proclaim on one of 17 blogs that A plus B not only equals C, but should be the basis for the next episode of Tyra. The scientific method never sounded (or looked) so sweet. R.I.P Lil' Penny.

So basically we just proved that Global Warming is having a detrimental effect on blogging. In particular, the winner of the 2008 Buck Tueth's Best Blog award, TLATL. Critical issues like these are being ignored as we move forward in the 2008 election. I guess since I'm not a racial minority or a women or legally able to vote, that my opinion doesn't matter.

The last post, I personally thought, was one of my best. The way the images interwove with my words to enhance the message was worthy of a Blogging Pulitzer. A Bulitzer. Yet, it only receives two comments. One of which was by me, your boy Coovo. That's me on the left. I mean I'm no David Caruso, but I can process DNA if you know what I'm sayin'. Boo-yeah!

And what about Roller. I mean the guy went to Dubai to research a post and not even 1 comment. Not 1. Not even his wife commented. Unless of course she said, "Super post, Roller dear," over dinner and he never told me. And we share everything. Well, most things. I've never met Roller. We're actually pen pals from a third grade project who just reconnected online playing Halo.

That is beside the point. The point is that cow farts, aerosol cans and Al Gore are ruining blogging by making it warmer earlier each year. Ryan is up in Minnesota and three years ago he was blogging on HillaryDuffis18.com. Now, he's out clogging in the Minneapolis sun and ignoring an invitation to be a guest blogger from this very blog. Poser.

Disclaimer: That is not actually Ryan clogging on the right. For a pictures of Ryan, please click here . . . or here . . . or here.

Will the Ryan please stand up, please stand up, please stand up . . .

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A penny for your thoughts . . .

If I've gotten one e-mail, I've gotten zero, all asking the same question: Coovo, what are thinking about these days? Oh, you asked for it. I'm thinking . . .

  • That the Presidential race has gone on way, way, way too long. "Bitter". Yeah I'm bitter. I'm bitter that Obama gets to bowl, that Hillary gets to get hammered and McCain got to meet the Terminator. I'm running for President next year.
  • We should all start carrying tranquilizer guns in case we run into a cougar. In a perfect world, animal control gets to crime scenes faster than Horatio Caine, but Roscoe Village has families and I have to back the cops on this one
  • My first semester of grad school is almost over and I have loads to do. And yet, I blog. I blog for you. I ran out of room for this picture in the cougar line but I have to include it. Just look at this manliness.
  • The Olympic torch isn't a just a flame. Please people, this should be a time when countries put aside differences and bring friendly competition and testosterone levels to new and exciting heights!
That's all for now. I have lots more thoughts but it has taken me forever to get these friggin' pictures in the right place. I have to go study.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gang Leader For A Day

In the summer of 1999, Coovo invited me to his crib in Cabrini Green where he ran his gang "The Vice Lords of Vice". I had been spending a lot of time with him there, watching as he managed a crew of 15 or so gangstas sell illegal copies of the Wall Street Journal to stock-quote addicts. On this particular day, Coovo popped open a Diet Snapple, kicked his feet up, and gave me the opportunity I'd been waiting for since he popped open that Diet Snapple - he offered me the chance to run his gang for a day. But that story will have to wait for another day...

Many of you may be familiar with the NYT Bestseller "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything". The book is a collection of essays the authors (Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt) have penned over the years. These essays along with many new entries can be found on the freakonomics blog.

My favorite piece in that book was a collaborative effort with sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh entitled "Why Do Drug Dealers Live With Their Mothers?". The intent of the essay was to investigate the economics of inner city drug traffic, and examine a common myth that all drug dealers are rich.

The article was based on the work that Venkatesh did as a grad student at the University of Chicago in the late '80's and early '90's. With the intent of going door to door to conduct surveys of poor black families about how they felt about being poor black families, Venkatesh naively stumbled into the middle of a gang in one of Chicago's worst neighborhoods. After surviving the encounter, he was able to form a relationship with the leader of the gang, and over a period of about six years, he was able to obtain first-hand observations of Project and Gang Life.

The work, almost accidental, turned out to be ground-breaking in that, up to that point, most sociological research in the area didn't delve too much further than the evaluation of census numbers and other socio-ecomonic figures. Venkatesh heeded the advice of his subjects - that to write about them, to know them, he must "live" with them.

Gang life has always piqued my interest. Part of this is due to the fact that I can be suckered by its glorification, and part due to the fact that it is something I have never and will never know (aside from my time with The Vice Lords of Vice). For those who would like more of a peek inside, Sudhir Venkatesh's new book "Gang Leader For A Day" answers just about any question you have.

While very insightful, the essay in "Freakonomics" went only so far as to use Venkatesh's work to break down the economic model of running a crack-dealing gang. "Gang Leader For A Day" tells the whole story of the gang and its community: the kingpins, the muscle, the hoppers, the hustlers, the prostitutes, the cops (good and corrupt), the squatters, the honest, the politics of the Housing Authority, the economics and morals of the trade and everything else that makes up the cultural constitution of the Robert Taylor Homes - at ~40,000 residents it was the largest of the nation's low-income housing projects until its demolition in the mid-90's.

The book is an excellent read, and moves very quickly. I highly recommend it! And for fans of The Wire, check out Venkatesh's 9-part series on the Freakonomics blog in which he details his viewings of The Wire with gang members in New York (unsurprisingly, they all love the show, too).