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Arne Duncan And A New Pornographer

Spotted: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introducing flame-haired indie goddess Neko Case at the 9:30 Club last night. But ... why? Is the Cabinet member a devoted Neko fan, or is she a big supporter of education reform? (A friend who was at the concert said she put in a good word for Obama's education plans.)

As it turns out, the backstory proves, yet again, just how tied the administration is to the Chicago scene. Last week, the Department of Education hired Tim Tuten, co-owner of The Hideout, a hip Chicago club, as assistant secretary for communications and outreach. (He's also been a schoolteacher in the Windy City.) Tuten is friends with Neko, a fixture in recent years at The Hideout, and he set up Duncan's introduction. "That's all Tim making something like that happen, connecting those two things [education and music]," Duncan told The Chicago Tribune through a spokesman on April 1. "No one thinks like him. We need more of that here." And Tuten's not the only music promoter on board at the DOE: He was brought on by Peter Cunningham, "a Chicago musician and media specialist," according to the Tribune.

So it seems we can expect more events featuring Duncan alongside popular artists--not a bad p.r. plan on the part of the DOE, which needs to do all it can to give its traditionally wonky image an overhaul. I propose a Ray LaMontagne concert at the Rock N'Roll Hotel. Other suggestions?

--Seyward Darby