make magazine

Enjoy the DIY-on-training-wheels vibe of ReadyMade Magazine, but wish it could appeal a bit more to your raging inner geek? Make, a new mag from O’Reilly, fills that void. “Make brings the do-it-yourself mindset to all the technology in your life. Make is loaded with exciting projects that help you make the most of your technology at home and away from home. This is a magazine that celebrates your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your own will.”

an acadian apology

You may have missed it yesterday, but starting in 2005, July 28 will become the Cajun national holiday. Well, sort of.
You see, the Cajuns (a.k.a. my people) are the descendants of the Acadians, the French peasant settlers of Nova Scotia (then known as Acadia/Acadie) in the 1600s and 1700s. The French and British warred regularly over control of Acadia; the final settlement came in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht, which gave the land to the dastardly Brits.
The Acadians were a peaceful people; they just wanted to be left alone. By this time, they didn’t feel like taking sides, since the French and British had both screwed them over plenty. But the Brits insisted they swear allegiance to the British crown and be willing to take up arms against their fellow Frenchmen. The Acadians were, like, “Oh no, you didn’t!” And the British were, like, “Oh yes, I did!” This game of hip-hop oneupsmanship went on for a few decades until July 28, 1755, when a British governor named Charles Lawrence decided to play Captain Asshole and deport every Acadian he could find.
They announced a mandatory meeting of all Acadian men in a church at Grand Pre at September 5, 1755. That day, at 3 p.m., Col. John Winslow told them all they were all being kicked off their land and deported: “That your Land & Tennements, Cattle of all Kinds and Livestocks of all Sorts are forfeited to the Crown with all other your effects Savings your money and Household Goods, and you yourselves to be removed from this Province.”
The British set about breaking up families and throwing them on ill-assembled, overcrowded vessels headed for the 13 American colonies. Once there, they were forced to live in appalling conditions, often banned from working, and in many cases had their children thrown into a sort of slavery to Protestant locals. Acadians were shipped all over the world — the Falkland Islands, Guyana, Haiti, England, in some cases back to France — as families were further broken apart.
This whole process is known as Le Grand Derangement, or the Great Upheaval. Historians estimate about 8,000 of the 14,000 Acadians died or were killed in the eight years following Lawrence’s decision — mostly from diseases brought on by the squalor they were forced to live in or freezing to death when homeless during the winters.
Eventually, a group of Acadians, led by the great Joseph “Beausoleil” Broussard — who had led the armed resistance to the Brits back in Nova Scotia — negotiated with the Spanish government to allow Acadians to resettle in the Louisiana territory it had recently obtained from the French. The Spanish agreed, and word went out to Acadians around the world to head for Louisiana.
The word “Acadian” (ah-cah-DYANH) over time became “Cadian” (cah-DYANH) and “Cajun” (cah-JHAN), as a series of Anglos mispronounced it.
(I don’t mind telling you that I hate Charles Lawrence with an all-consuming passion, one unhealthy for someone dead for almost 250 years. When I was in Nova Scotia in 2000, I visited Fort Edward, one of Lawrence’s old structures and one of the sites of the deportation. I summoned up the phlegm of my forefathers and let loose a huge bolus of spit, smack on a sign that bore ol’ Charlie’s name. And it felt good, damn it.)
Anyway, I give you all this history because some Cajuns have long wanted a little apology from the Brits. I mean, killing off half of a people and stealing all their land and wealth isn’t, strictly speaking, nice. One man, Warren Perrin — a great man whose son Andy I went to high school with — has been fighting for more than a decade to get the British to say they’re sorry and to formally rescind the deportation order (which is officially still in effect — I’m technically a war criminal every time I enter British or Canadian property).
The Brits told him to buzz off, in effect, and said that it’s Canada’s problem, since Canada is the legal successor to British authority. Well, last December, the Canadians finally did the right thing, in this “Proclamation Designating July 28 of Every Year as ‘A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval,’ Commencing on July 28, 2005.”
Our northern neighbors don’t exactly apologize. The proclamation recites the history and says the exile “had tragic consequences, including the deaths of many thousands of Acadians.” But instead of apologizing, all they do is “acknowledge these historical facts and the trials and suffering.” That’s good enough for me. There’s even talk that the QE2 herself may formally apologize next year.
Acadians from around the world will head to Nova Scotia Saturday for Congr

ass-welt reporting

Jon Chait and Frank Foer coin a new journalistic term: ass-welt reporting.
Part of the problem is that journalism terminology glorifies “shoe-leather reporting,” whereby you pound the pavement so often you wear out the soles of your shoes. Yet there’s no widely used term of approbation for the other kind of reporting. For this very reason, my New Republic colleague Franklin Foer and I decided a few years ago to coin a phrase: ass-welt reporting. It means you’ve sat in your chair for so long reading books and documents that you’ve worn a welt the shape of your backside into your chair. I’m not saying that every news story could be reported without leaving one’s desk. (Bernstein: “Woodward, look! I found a clip from 1971 in which President Nixon tells the Omaha World-Herald he plans to order his goons to break into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel!” Woodward: “I’ll cancel that meeting with Deep Throat.”) I’m simply saying that, sometimes, laziness can be the better part of valor.
I am so in love with this concept.

lance hates plano

You know, it appears Lance Armstrong didn’t much enjoy life in Plano, the “soul-deadening” Dallas suburb he grew up in:
“It was the quintessential American suburb, with strip malls, perfect grid streets and faux-antebellum country clubs in between empty brown wasted fields,” he writes. “It was populated by guys in golf shirts and Sansabelt pants and women in bright fake gold jewelry, and alienated teenagers.”
If you were not upper middle class or a football player, he writes, “you didn’t exist.”
As the son of a secretary, who raised him as a single parent, and as an aspiring athlete with little hand-eye coordination and no skill at moving laterally, he was neither.
“I felt shunned at times,” he recalls in the book. “I was the guy who did weird sports and who didn’t wear the right labels.” Kids in the “social” group made fun of his Lycra shorts.

When school officials at Plano East High won’t let him take off time from school to train, he says: “I knew damned well that if I played football and wore Polo shirts and had parents who belonged to the Los Rios Country Club, things would be different.”
Good to know we Planophobes aren’t alone!

dean smith wins

I would like to point out that Dean Smith — the longtime men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina — has been named the greatest coach of the last 25 years by ESPN’s “expert panel.” Dean’s longtime rival, the disturbingly rat-like Mike Krzyzykwekzyzyzewski, was knocked to a lowly third.
The “expert panel” — which one assumes does not include Ken Jennings — has not yet ruled on the best human beings of the last 25 years. I presume Dean will fare well on that ranking as well.

navigating tab, stigmatics, edwin edwards

Our back-to-school education section ran in today’s paper. (It’s available in PDF form at that link.) One of my contributions ended up getting cut in a last-minute putsch (it’ll run in the Texas Living section in a few days), but my other piece did run: Texas celebrities talking about the most important childhood class they took. The best answer prize goes to actor Larry Hagman (a.k.a. J.R. Ewing on the TV show Dallas): “Typing. That’s where the girls were.”
Caught the Democratic convention last night. Barack Obama is a real political talent.
Evel Knievel Pinball.
Stigmatics sometimes aren’t really stigmatics. Shocking, I know! My favorite fake stigmatist remains former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who during a 1980s campaign complained about the forces arrayed against him by smearing ketchup on his palms and assuming the crucified position at a press conference. Only in Louisiana could a state full of Catholics still elect him.
I’ve been half meaning to go visit old Edwin, who used to live about five miles from my house and is now in federal prison in Fort Worth. I could go bring him some crawfish.