Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Added on August 17, 2008: I end up telling a lie to you...

I will stop updating Econoclasm.

As an assistant professor of economics, the number of things that distract me from publishing papers in academic journals of economics needs to be minimized. A trip back to Tokyo, and a great jazz performance in New Orleans, has invoked this kind of stoicism in my mind.

Occasionally, I may upload some photos especially when I make a trip. Also it may benefit myself to review development economics papers on this blog from time to time. But I cannot guarantee this.

I don't know how many of you read this blog, but thank you for your interest until today. I'll be back in six years time, after getting tenure as a professor of economics.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Royal Street in French Quarter at night

Nicholas Sanders Trio at Snug Harbor

Although I lack in sleep, am tired from interviewing job candidates for our Institute, and need to take a flight in the morning the following day, I insist on going to a jazz club before leaving New Orleans. After having dinner with my colleagues and being told that they go back to the hotel, I walk to Snug Harbor on my own.

Time Out says there are two best contemporary jazz clubs in the town. One of them appears to be closed down as its official website address takes me to a porn website. The other, Snug Harbor, looks very professional: the website says, "We are not a disco. Do not speak. Do not take photo during the performance."

After a 30-minute pleasant walk through Royal Street in the French Quarter from my hotel, I arrive at Snug Harbor. The walls, the ceiling, and the floor are all made of old wood, looking slightly decrepit but in a pleasant and stylish way. The street it faces seems to be a jazz club street: there are two more jazz clubs here. When I enter, on the left spreads a dinning space, on the right a bar space. The doorman tells me, "For the music, walk in the bar to the end." Paying 12 dollars, I enter the music room.

A little cozy space has a stage just enough for three pieces (piano, bass, and drums) with several tables on the ground floor and on the balcony. The capacity doesn't seem to exceed 100. I take a seat on the balcony from which I can see all the three pieces at one glance. Some youngsters are hanging around the piano on the stage for a while, apparently discussing which piano phrase is cool. They look reserved and devoted with their thin physique suggesting some sort of stoicism, very different from ordinary youngsters in the English-speaking countries.

The performance begins slightly after 10pm. After the introduction by the club owner(?), the pianist, the bassist, and the drummer walk up to the stage. They are among those youngsters hanging around on the stage before.

From the very first tune, the trio impresses me to the extreme. Each of them, especially the pianist and the drummer, is amazingly skillful for their age. The pianist's right and left hands sound like different two individuals. The drummer, when he plays solo, maintains the rhythm in each part of the solo, something I never experienced before for a drum solo. Each of them plays independently, claiming their own presence without sacrificing the others'. The balance between individualism and harmony is maintained at the level where only a very minor deviation by any of the three players destroys it. And the three deliver the sheer energy of youth. It's contemporary jazz. It's not easy to understand. It's abstract. But I do feel the harmony, the rhythm, and the melody. I never felt this way before when I listened to jazz.

The trio plays about 8 tunes. Not a single tune bores me. They even play a fantastic mellow tune in the middle. Although the trio's strength appears to be uplifting pieces of music, they are versatile. The only caveat to me is the bass. His sound often sinks between the two expressive sounds of the piano and the drums. But towards the end of the performance, the bassist stands on par with the other two.

The trio's name is Nicholas Sanders Trio: Nicholas Sanders on piano, Max Moran on bass, and Joe Dyson on drums. I really want a CD that records their live performance.

Just popping up at a jazz club on Sunday night takes me to such a high level of jazz performance in New Orleans. I'm awed by the town's ability to churn out great jazz talents almost a century after the beginning of jazz.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Review on Hilton New Orleans Riverside

Overall it's an unpleasant three-night stay at the hotel. My room (#4020) has: no kettle or coffee maker (but with ground coffee beans and tea bags), an alarm clock one hour ahead without any buttons for adjusting time (so I woke up one hour earlier than necessary), ants hiding beneath the alarm clock and strolling on the washing basin, a shower head fixed to the wall, a wireless Internet connection costing as much as 11.95 dollars per 24 hour. The only good thing is three mirrors surrounding the washing basin so I can easily look at the back of my head when I set my hair.

Restaurants downstairs are unpleasant, too. A breakfast buffet tastes horrible (bad coffee, bad bacon, bad smoked salmon, bad pan cake) except for spiced potato cubes sauteed with peppers and onions, but it still costs more than 20 dollars (including VAT and tips). A dinner and another breakfast at this same restaurant takes unnecessarily long before the waiter serves a light meal that I order, because I want to eat quickly. The hotel's cafe "proudly serves" Starbucks Coffee (that's what they put on the cup label).

The hotel effectively monopolizes eating and drinking options: we need to take an at least 10 minute walk to eat/drink outside the hotel. Plus the breakfast restaurant 10 minutes away is uninspiring (cheaper though).

For the sake of fairness, there are some good things. Checking out without queuing at the reception is a good thing. Another restaurant, Drago's, serves an excellent Crescent City Shrimp, grilled in rosemary-filled butter sauce.

I stay at the hotel for the business purpose (our Institute interviews newly-minted PhDs at the hotel from 10am on Friday till 1pm on Sunday). Ideally, then the hotel should provide excellent food options and comfy bed rooms. It spectacularly fails to do so. Even if I was in New Orleans for tourism, the location is not good at all as it takes at least 15 minute walk to the French Quater.

If you go to New Orleans, this Hilton hotel should certainly be out of question.