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ICE THUNDER

Michigan - USA

Monday 14 March 2011

At Michigan Tech, this year’s Winter Carnival theme revolves around books, so there’s Harry Potter, "The Little Engine That Could," and a ten-foot-tall toilet celebrating the childhood classic "Everybody Poops." The sculpture that catches our eye, however, has nothing to do with reading. In fact, it’s less of a snow statue and more of a snow speaker cabinet, measuring roughly 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall and holding 68 speakers wired to a 20-kilowatt generator. Photographer AJ Mueller envisions shots with partiers, the speaker wall, and one of our cars, so he interrupts a couple students screwing speakers into their plywood cutouts and proposes we bring the Juke back in a couple hours. "Are you sure you want to do that?" one student asks. "Last year they flipped a car."

By 11 pm, the speaker-statue and Ludacris’ "My Chick Bad" have drawn a couple hundred students into a pulsating, bobbing mass of energy. Just what Mueller wanted. We shouldn’t be surprised that college students in Houghton, Michigan, aren’t so different from the booze-loving college students at any other university in America. We are, however, amused by the dress code: ski googles to shield eyes from the blowing snow, CamelBaks for handsfree alcohol consumption, and enough layers to turn everyone into genderless blobs. Those who are much more cavalier about the weather, such as the gorilla and the dragon that pose with the Juke, stay warm with their alcohol-fueled enthusiasm.

We shoot photos for at least twenty minutes and several cops walk by without acknowledging us, but when we move the car for a new angle, we finally draw the attention of three officers in a patrol car. They’re not pleased that our Nissan is parked halfway on the sidewalk and partially in a driveway. It’d be better, they say, if we pulled the car completely onto the sidewalk.

As they retreat into their mobile shelter, one of them calls back, "Oh, and hurry up, because the students are going to flip it."




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