Friday, September 30, 2005

Maybe She's a METHodist?*

The Freakos on Ashley Smith.

You know what really mystifies me about all this? Why doesn't "Purpose Driven Life" say "Purpose-Driven Life" on the cover? Every bestseller list you'll see (WSJ, NYT, PW) is checked by hyphen conscious** copy editors, and a hyphen gets added in the title listings even though one appears nowhere on the cover of the book itself.

*Get it?
**Just seeing who's paying attention.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Band Books Week

The Blogosphere is abuzz with commentary on the ALA's Band Books Week. Here are Lindsay at Majikthise, Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk, and Number One at Cinerati.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Times-Picayune on the Superdome and Convention Center

Stop what you're doing and read the full text of this Times-Picayune story about rumors and urban legends associated with the Superdome and Convention Center. Excerpts to follow when I get back from work tonight. Thanks to Cinerati for the link.

Of the many books, documentaries, articles, and dissertations that will emerge detailing the events surrounding Katrina and Rita, I am sure there will be some that adequately capture the role of the Times-Picayune. I hope they (the T-P, that is) aren't forgotten at Pulitzer time.

After-work Update: Excerpts --

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members" killing and raping people inside the Dome. Unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies, "we couldn't count."

The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. Nagin told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.

NOPD Capt. Jeff Winn's 20-member SWAT team responded on about 10 occasions to calls from the Convention Center, usually after reports of shots being fired. The group found people huddled in the fetal position, lying flat on the ground to avoid bullets or running for the exits. They also heard stories of gang rapes, armed robberies and other violent crimes, but no victims ever came forward while his officers were in the building, he said. "What's true and what's not, we don't really know," he said.

Numerous people told The Times-Picayune that they had witnessed rapes, in particular attacks on two young girls in the Superdome ladies room and the killing of one of them, but police and military officials said they know nothing of such an incident. Soldiers and police did confirm at least one attempted rape of a child. Riley said a man tried to sexually assault a young girl, but was "beaten up" by civilians and apprehended by police. It was unclear if that incident was the one that gained wide currency among evacuees.

Much more substance in the article itself.

Monday, September 26, 2005

That's the Second-Biggest Obituary I've Ever Seen

Props to everybody's favorite secret agent, Don Adams, who passed away today at age 82. A funny funny guy, who made a lot of people laugh.

Vote for Your Favorite Public Intellectuals

Thanks to Minipundit for pointing to Prospect Magazine's ballot of 100 of the world's public intellectuals, from which we are all invited to pick our five favorites. They have an accompanying article explaining why lists like this are inherently flawed and biased. And of course, self-selected polls are notoriously unreliable. (As Dr. Free-Ride says, numbers don't lie... unless they're statistics.) But, they're still fun.

I have only a couple of rules for anyone using the links provided above to vote:

1) You can only vote for people you have heard of.
2) You can only violate rule #1 a couple of times.

I think it would be a scream if they threw in about four or five non-existent ringers to see how many votes they garnered. Advertising execs used to call this effect "spurious awareness." For instance, they would conduct a study to see how people "recognized" certain name brands. I'd ask you to tell me how many of the following toothpastes you have heard of: Aim, Crest, Dentyne, Colgate, Arm & Hammer, Sparklewhite, Ultra Brite, Aquafresh, etc. Then I'd calculate how many people picked Dentyne, which is not toothpaste (to my knowledge, anyway) and Sparklewhite (which doesn't exist at all, as far as I am aware), correlate it to other data, and then draw conclusions about how people react to advertising, lists, polls, etc.

But anyhow, since Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf is not one of the options given on the Prospect ballot (And yes, I know the definition of a public intellectual is subjective, while the definition of toothpaste is objective), I guess I'll just play it straight and pick my five faves. I'll share them with everyone later this week, after I vote. (I don't want to just rush into this and throw my votes away, you know.)

Update: I guess this poll is actually co-sponsored by Prospect and Foreign Policy. Here's the way FP presented the list, thanks to Unlocked Wordhoard.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dumb Idea #13,814

Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton has recently introduced legislation to create the U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence. This is a carryover of an idea Mr. Kucinich expressed during the Democratic primaries. Several Democratic House members from Minnesota have supported this proposal as well.

Hey wait! I think we already have one of those! (And what about this?)

Let's say that we do end up with a U.S. Department of Peace -- an eventuality that Dayton, Kucinich, et al. know quite well will never come about in a million years. It would be a policy arm of the federal government, with patronage appointments just like those of Michael Brown and others at FEMA, and career bureaucrats with minimal accountability (the vaguer the objective, the easier to say "Well, it's a complex issue... we're still working on it.").

Democratic administrations would set their own agendas for the Peace Department (as well as the Defense, State, Treasury, Commerce, etc. Departments) in their own way, and Republican administrations would set their own agendas for those departments in their own way.

Can you imagine the Orwellian acrobatics of vocabulary and P.R. associated with this? If the policy of the U.S. government was to refrain from engaging a certain rival militarily, then the Peace Secretary would say "X" and explain that the policy was the way it was in order to promote "peace." If the policy of the government shifted so that it planned to engage that same rival militarily, then the Secretary of Peace would assert the opposite of "X" and explain that that policy was the way it was in order to promote "peace." Given the way G.W. has been holding seances to ask FDR for suggestions for new federal to-do lists, I'm surprised he hasn't jumped on this himself.

Just to keep things fair and balanced, here's Dumb Idea #13,815. Maybe this is a good time to get on board the Porkbusters bandwagon.

Great Doc on the 1893 Chicago Columbian Expo

This weekend my GF and I watched an excellent new documentary on DVD about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Expo: Magic of the White City. Official website here. Very good review here. If you have read Erik Larson's fascinating The Devil in the White City, then you will definitely want to watch this, along with another recent indie documentary, H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer. Gene Wilder narrates, and the audio commentary is done by a high school teacher named David Cope who has made the study of the 1893 Fair his avocation. (Note to Mr. Cope -- If you have a site I'd be happy to link to it, but I searched to no avail.) The Expo touched lots of well-known figures and events -- the phrase "Thine alabaster cities gleam" referred directly to the fairgrounds; Every architect you've ever heard of had something to do with it; Walt Disney's dad was one of the workmen on the Expo buildings; It produced the Ferris Wheel and Cracker Jack candy; The Germans showed off their humungous cannon Big Bertha; the list goes on...

In the The-More-Things-Change-the-More-They-Stay-the-Same Department, the film explains that the Expo's highbrow offerings regarding art, music, technology, science, commerce, ethnography, and various belles-lettres were paid for by its working-class visitors' propensity to a) drink beer and b) watch bellydancers... Just like the way that C-Span is paid for by cable providers -- i.e., C-Span's bills are able to be covered because of pro wrestling, music videos, home-shopping shows, etc. (This is not a criticism at all, trust me... I think it's evidence of the potential benefits of market forces.) And of course that all aligns with this well-argued series of assertions, which state that we have good old-fashioned smut to thank for the popularization of and technological and commercial developments associated with the Internet, the VCR, cable TV, photography, paperback books, and the English and Italian languages. You can accept or reject that author's premise(s) and conclusion(s), but I see no reason not to throw his ideas into the microwave and see how they turn out.

So, after you watch the doc, read the book, and get an idea of how many aspects of 20th-Century America were impacted by the 1893 Expo, just reflect on how it all might never have been if it weren't for a bunch of Chicago guys who liked to drink beer and watch Little Egypt.

Props to Shanmonster for the visual.

Misc. Items of Interest

Truman biographer Alonzo Hamby comments on Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s NYT piece on Reinhold Niehbur. Excerpt:

Utilizing the theological concept of original sin, Niebuhr saw human nature as a problematic mixture of good and evil. He suggested that utopian projects for the perfection of humankind all too easily adopted a means-justifies-the-means ethic that resulted in horrible dystopias. Schlesinger admired him enormously. So did C. Vann Woodward.

And, as Brian Lamb has ascertained, it's pronounced SHLAY-ZING-ER.

Foxy Librarian reflects on the days when she worked (from the context, I am guessing in a civilian capacity, but maybe not) for the local Sheriff here and here. If you easily get squeamish, don't click. (Oh, btw, if you're squeamish you probably shouldn't click on any of the "Dawn of the Dead" or other zombie links that I have posted in the past. Sorry.) Excerpt:

One Sunday I was driving somewhere and heard some breaking news about a grisly murder on the radio. My heart skipped a beat, and I realized that I couldn’t wait to go to work on Monday to see the pictures. It horrified me because it dawned on me right then that had become a depraved ghoul. It was time to find another line of work. The strong stomach and sense of black humor that I developed at the job, however, has served me well in the library.

Speaking of police procedurals, Kottke points to this post by Patrick Pittman which argues in favor of "Homicide: Life on the Streets" as the Best. Show. Evar. (Sorry, couldn't stop myself.) Excerpt:

In Homicide, Braugher is Pembleton, a fiery Jesuit consumed by passions and fears we could never know. In this episode from season 3, Braugher is toe to toe in the interview room with a suspected cop killer, played by Steve Buscemi. As they dance around the idea of the shootings, the two of them trade rhetoric on the nature of civil society, the nature of hate, and in extended form, the central theses of Plato’s Republic. The dialogue is electric and the atmosphere moreso. I’ve never seen a scene like it — the way Braugher’s face ripples a strange sense of satisfaction as he pulls the rage hiding within his victim, and slowly, but surely, his weaknesses. Every time Buscemi’s white supremacist calls him nigger, he grows in strength. By the end, he’s practically dancing. These five minutes may even be the best thing Buscemi’s done.

I'd have to think about whether or not those five minutes were Buscemi's best, but it certainly was a great scene in a great episode in a great four-parter. As for best show ever, I would have to draw the distinction between the first three seasons and the last three (and the M-f-TV movie wrap-up). Yes, I know there were seven seasons; I'm just on the fence about whether season four belongs with seasons one through three (often derived verbatim from David Simon's excellent reportage) or with five through seven ("The other detectives don't take me seriously just because I won a beauty pageant."). If we're just talking about seasons one through three (and maybe four), then I absolutely agree that there's nothing else like it out there.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

More "Favorites" cleaning

Here are some other good sites that have made their way into my favorites bar:

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Let me point out that the blogrolled Perfectly Cromulent is among those who evacuated Houston. Excerpt:

We bugged out about 1:30 PM yesterday. I boarded up the windows while The Wife packed and took pictures. Granted, not all the wood I was able to lay hands on fit perfectly (our place looks like Pete's House of Irregular Plywood), but better that than nothing. Unless a 90-foot pine falls on us, I guess.

It took about 90 minutes to get from our place (north Loop area) to Conroe. Once we cleared that, it was pretty clear sailing. We made Lubbock around 11 PM, and The Mom was kind enough to have procured some beer for The Wife and some Jameson for yours truly.

The ride up was largely uneventful (except for She Who Shall Not Be Named's projectile vomiting episode around Arlington which necessitated the patented White Trash Shower in a gas station parking lot with a jug of water and a bottle of Dawn). And quick. I counted at least 50 DPS cars headed south as we went the opposite direction, which offered an excellent opportunity for The Wife to floor it from Ft. Worth to Lubbock. The result? 300 miles in less than four hours.

Queen of Sky, in (Austin?), is also making preparations:

Don't worry, Everybody... I have filled my car with gas (we are expecting price-hikes and/or shortages, since Texas produces 1/4 of the country's oil), and I still have plenty of batteries left over from the Millenium. I am going to put my car in a garage tomorrow before the hurricane hits. I have plenty of water (like 10 gallons), and yesterday stocked up on non-perishable foods. If the electricity goes out here I will be surviving on canned fava beans and prepared polenta and tuna in olive oil.

I like her even though she spelled Millennium wrong.

Here's Metroblogging Houston.

Here's H-Town Blogs.

K-Blogging Is Soooo Three Weeks Ago.

For the past 48 hours, tabloid copy editors, bloggers, and late-night joke writers have been combing popular culture past and present for references to the name "Rita" that could make sense (however marginally) in the context of a hurricane*. In one sense they lucked out with the "Waves" associated with last month's Katrina, but on the other hand they soon ran out of other Katrina pop culture references. (I guess Rush Limbaugh and company called it "Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel" for a while, but that was way lame.)

Look for headlines, jokes, throw-away lines, etc. having to do with:

  • Rita Moreno
  • Lovely Rita, Meter Maid
  • Substitute Stooge Joe DeRita
  • The non-Rita-specific "I was born in a class five hurricane"
  • "Houston, you have a problem"

* Before doing a little Rita-Googling, it would never have occurred to me that there might be an entire site devoted to famous actresses wearing opera gloves.

Update, 11:58 PM, 9/22/05:

I swear, I didn't cheat and look at this NYT article first:

Houston, You Have a Problem

Published: September 23, 2005
Facing a potentially devastating hit from Hurricane Rita, the Houston-area economy ground to a halt yesterday as more than four million residents evacuated the city and other nearby coastal areas on clogged highways, which were made worse by motorists stranded as gasoline ran short...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stop the Proscription!

As I mentioned the other day, I am reading Robert Remini's book "The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America's First Military Victory" so as to brush up on a bit of NOLA history.

Jean Lafitte and company were among those who had some issues with authority, but were still prepared to defend their adopted city against foreign invaders. Excerpt (pg. 34):

...Lafitte admitted that he had evaded the payment of duties in the customhouse but swore that he had "never ceased to be a good citizen." In a separate letter to Claiborne (Louisiana's territorial governor) he offerered his services in defense of the country and only asked that "a stop be put to the proscription against me and my adherents .... I am the stray sheep, wishing to return to the sheepfold." He said that he had never sailed under any flag except that of the republic of Cartagena, and if he could have brought his prizes to the ports of Louisiana he would not have employed the "illicit means that have caused me to be proscribed."

Posted in observance of Talk Like a Pirate Day, Sept. 19.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Recently, while attending an important meeting at the United Nations, a press photographer captured President Bush jotting down a quick note to the Secretary of State.

And then, a few minutes after he got back, another photojournalist captured this:

Saturday, September 17, 2005

K-Blogger Updates Part Deux

Queen of Sky has been volunteering at the Austin Convention Center, which is housing a bunch of Katrina refugees. Among her fellow volunteers: sensitive actor Matthew McConaughey.

She sums it all up:

I saw a lot of stuff at the shelter: misc. body fluids and possible poop on the floor, soiled sheets, plenty of germs... but it was nothing I hadn't seen in my eight years of flying. In fact, working at the shelter was surprisingly similar to working on an airplane!

Sounds like she's having a better week than Delta is.

Laurel and family have returned to Slidell and have their cable TV back in time for the season premiere of Desperate Housewives (which features desperation that is significantly higher on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs than most of the desperation recently associated with Louisiana).

The Interdictor has decided to take an entrepreneurial leap:

As for me personally, I've decided that my future will revolve around my marriage to Crystal and the creation of my own disaster preparedness consulting firm. I am looking forward to being my own boss and helping others maintain their operational capabilities even under the worst circumstances.

Google's Search Engine for Blogs

This week, Google unveiled their new blog search engine. I heard someone refer to it as "Bloogle" which I think is what they ought to call it. (OK, maybe not -- a chilling vision has just flashed through my mind of Tim Kazurinsky holding up a series of cards and saying "A search engine for cows -- Moogle. A search engine for St. Louis -- St. Lougle. A search engine for model trains -- Choo-Choogle. A search engine for synagogues -- Jewgle" and so on.) (However, if Google ever gets into the business of providing adult content, I have just the name for them: "Go Ogle.")

Here's what the Motley Fool has to say about it. Excerpt:

Interestingly enough, I used the Google blog-search service to get a sense of the buzz on the new product. And I found that there are a variety of criticisms. First, the Google service indexes blogs only back to March 2005. What's more, Google does not seem to do a good job of weeding out spam blog posts.

But as is the case with other Google services, the smart programmers at the company will continue to improve the functionality. It will certainly be inspired to do so because of the coming competition from Yahoo! and Microsoft, both of which are supposed to launch their own blog-search services soon.

This is bad news for pure-play blog-search companies, such as Technorati, but it's very good for people like me who increasingly rely on the value of blog content.

Here's some of what Technorati says about Google's new service:

I welcome the competition. We've got some tricks up our sleeves too - and there's no doubt that in the end, the competition will end up producing more innovation and better services for bloggers and readers.

Welcome to the party, Google!

Also, I'm looking forward to reading John Battelle's new book "The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture" even though it may be an example of the trend towards subtitular grandiosity about which I have blogged in the past. But then again, search engines are so important to our information-based economy (we use them all the time at work), that it may not!

Here's an interesting excerpt from one of Battelle's blogposts:

Last night at a book event at Books Inc in Mountain View, a fellow asked me a question that made me think - in short, he asked why there was so much useless information on the web. Put another way, he was expressing frustration with search results - so often we can't find what we are looking for. I responded that - while it's possible he might not like this answer - we as users of search need to get better at searching. And by that I don't mean smarter about how to use advanced features, or how to find the perfect query, but rather at critical thinking, at reviewing and critiquing a set of results, learning from what is and is not there, and refining our searches as a result. And that the only way that is going to happen is if our educational system values critical thinking skills over rote testing.

More on the AOTO-I

Here's a succint but insightful article from Technology Review about Katrina bloggers. Let's think about Jeff Greenfield's construct of the Army of the Over-Informed, discussed in my previous post, and apply it to people with very specific knowledge about, say, controversies in competitive horse shows or the history of engineering challenges in New Orleans. And more importantly (and unlike the Web-nascent mid-90s when Greenfield wrote his book) those people now have the ability to share their specialized knowledge with anyone -- or everyone -- in the world who has Internet access. Excerpt from Tech Review:

With Katrina, however, news crews were on the ground, witnessing and reporting the destruction -- and the undeniable ineptitude of the early rescue and recovery efforts. So when blogs highlighted the fact that FEMA Director Michael Brown had little previous emergency management experience, for example, the MSM pounced on the information that blogs were supplying, calling spin for what it was.

Likewise, when President Bush said that "no one could have predicted" the levees would fail and New Orleans would flood, the blogosphere jumped into action, producing dozens of articles, studies, and video files that predicted just that, sparking a new round of mainstream news stories.

"The so-called 'memory hole' that many politicians of all stripes have relied upon is now closed," says Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor of interactive telecommunications at NYU. "The blogosphere has become the institutional memory for the country."

Through the terrible aftermath of Katrina, we are witnessing the legitimization of a new medium, one that provides alternatives to or supplements what's available through the MSM. Blogs have made a leap toward legitimacy: a story is now a story whether it originates on a blog or on CNN. The medium is no longer the message. The message, in fact, is now the message.

On a related note, check out this post from I, Reporter on the first anniversary of Rathergate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Army of the Over-Informed: 2005

Jeff Greenfield wrote a novel in 1995 about (get this!) a presidential election that gets thrown to the Electoral College. It was called The People's Choice, and I think I heard him talking about it on C-Span shortly after it came out. Spanheads (myself among them) were about the only folks who read it at the time. It got a bit of Lazarusian buzz a few years later because it touched on some of the issues of the 2000 election controversies.

But there's one passage that stood out to me, and something reminded me of it the other day so I went looking for a copy at the library. In retrospect it seems to nail certain aspects of the blogger mentality (or I guess I should say "one of the archetypal blogger mentalities" -- including some of my own) on the head. Greenfield certainly was prescient in asserting the importance of the arcana of Electoral College procedures; he also was prescient in his observations about what he called "The Army of the Over-Informed" and their love for nitpicking the media to death. However, even though I think the sketch he drew is entertaining and enlightening, he may have poo-pooed The Army of the Over-Informed a bit more than he should have -- especially considering his colleague Mr. Rather's experiences with the blog-empowered AOTO-I circa 2004.

Here is a (lengthy, I know - quit bitching about reading it, because I had to type it) relevant excerpt from The People's Choice, chapter 13, pages 92-93, 0-399-13812-9. The fictional "DeRossa" is a veteran TV newsman and one of the central characters of the novel. The bolding is mine. How many blogosphere denizens does the following passage bring to mind?

All across this huge land, an invisible Army of the Over-Informed keep ceaseless watch on the press. They are everywhere. They are young men finding sanctuary in their parents' finished basements; they are old women attended by no other living thing save a house cat with scabrous breath and a regiment of cockroaches; they are assistant professors of history whose lungs have already been poisoned with the dust of a thousand monographs and ten thousand pieces of chalk. And they all have one thing in common: They know more about less than anyone else in the world. And they spend a significant portion of their waking lives waiting for the press to make a mistake.

Some among them knew the box office receipts of every movie commercially released in the United States since Birth of a Nation. And they knew that whenever a story appeared about all-time box-office-champion movies, those stories were fatally flawed; the writers never bothered to adjust for inflation, thus criminally underestimating the receipts for older blockbusters such as Gone With the Wind.

Or they could tell you how many of Babe Ruth's home runs in 1927 reached the stands not on the fly, but on one bounce, and were counted as homers under the rules of the day, thus undermining the argument that Roger Maris's sixty-one home runs during the 162-game season of 1961 was a less impressive feat than Ruth's sixty back in the 154-game season of 1927.

And what they could tell you, they did – instantly, eagerly, gleefully. In 1992, DeRossa had called Ross Perot's withdrawal from the presidential race "the greatest missed opportunity since Napoleon failed to reach Moscow." Fifteen minutes after the broadcast, six faxes were on his desk informing him that in fact*, Napoleon had taken territory within the city limits of Moscow, and had held it for several days.

DeRossa had felt the force of their numbers, and their zeal, from his first days in journalism. They wrote to tell him that his count of the presidents was wrong, since Grover Cleveland, who had won, lost, then won again, was counted twice in the official ledgers. They called to complain that the account of presidential popular votes was wrong, since he had failed to report the votes cast for the Socialist Workers' Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Populist Party, the American Independent Party. They flooded his desk with telegrams when he referred to Vietnam as "the only war America ever lost," since the United States had never formally surrendered to North Vietnam. They demanded that he apologize to the memory of Harry Truman for saying that Truman had been defeated by Senator Estes Kefauver in the 1952 New Hampshire primary, since Truman had never formally entered the race. One year, DeRossa casually referred to the "first presidential broadcast debates in 1960." He was chastised by a media studies teacher for overlooking the 1948 radio debate in the Oregon Republican primary between Harold Stassen and Thomas Dewey. A few months later, he had carefully amended his reference to "the first televised presidential debates," only to be reprimanded by a mass communications graduate student, who reminded him of the 1960 West Virginia primary debate between John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.

* Today, rather than private, easily ignorable communications like faxes, there would be twice that many public, semi-permanent , detailed and illustrated explanations of Napoleon's experiences in Moscow published on the Web that same day.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Stifle It; Edit.

Auteur Kevin Smith gives a photographic tour of his house.

MaryAnn Johanson describes her (hypothetical) Generation X Renaissance Weekend (no, not a Renaissance Fair). Excerpt:

Lately I’ve been fantasizing about a Generation X version of those Renaissance Weekends the masters of the universe throw for themselves, only my GenX Arts and Cultural Summit would bring together Xers who are doing intriguing work, work that’s hinting at the new golden age of entertainment being born right now. We’d sit around and shoot the shit and find out what ideas we have in common about where art and entertainment and culture might be going and we’d network and all sorts of amazing projects would grow out the gathering.

Sounds cool. Count me in. I have a few other suggestions for the guest list, too.

Speaking of Generation X, some of us Gen-Xers like to use bad words a lot and don't think much of it. In recent years, the FCC has decided to "take back" the airwaves (part of the whole "taking back of America" thing, I guess). Supporters say that this does not stifle the First Amendment, because the founders would have never intended things to have "gone this far" etc. etc.

However when an image the one shown below (found in this Boing Boing post) comes along, the stifling of the First Amendment comes into full view, because (IMHO) this image presents the legitimate opinion of someone whose first-hand experiences are valuable to include in the public discussion of one of the most important news stories of the decade. And if any serious broadcast news or talk show showed this, they could concievably open themselves up to huge fines. And guess what? That's stifling the First Amendment.

The Hills Are Alive...

A few soon-to-be released albums of note:

Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar -- This is going to be a four-CD set with a guide. It looks great! I love anthologies like this. It looks like the earliest recording will be 1906's "St. Louis Tickle" by Vess Ossman, with whom I must confess I am not familiar. It runs up through Bill Frisell in 2001, which raises one obvious criticism: If it starts in 1906 and ends in 2001, then it's not 100 years, now is it?

Genius of the Electric Guitar

It features some of my faves -- Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery -- as well as some guys I have never heard (that I know of). Rockers Jimi Hendirx, Jeff Beck, and Carlos Santana appear as well. Why these musicians and not others? The material is drawn from the RCA and Legacy archives, so (for example) stuff from Blue Note or Original Jazz Classics would be omitted.

"I've never heard a more beautiful and perfect guitar player in my life than Wes Montgomery."

-- Joe Satriani

I must confess that I don't get worked up about Eminem (or Howard Stern, or David Mamet, or Dick Cheney) using bad words. (BTW - What did Ford think they were getting themselves into?) As I said the other day, the book of Ecclesiastes has it right that "there is nothing new under the sun."

The reason I mention this is the soon-to-be-released eight-disc Rounder collection Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings. Mr. Morton is universally credited as one of, if not the most, important figures in the creation of jazz. And guess what this new collection has? A Parental Advisory for Explicit Content! No surprise, when you take a look at the etymology of the phrase "jelly roll." The origins of the word "jazz" itself are debated, as with this alternative view of the etymology given in the previous link.

I'm not saying that Mr. Mathers is of the same stature as Mr. Morton. [Although I do think Mr. Mathers is talented and clever, and who knows what insights mid-21st Century musicologists might glean in (what will then be) retrospect, which we can't now predict?] But I am saying that his lyrics might not be worth getting all riled up about given that a few years ago we honored Morton, a bordello musician with a prurient, euphemistic nickname, by putting his image on a postage stamp.

I wonder if the FCC knows about this.

So I like jazz a lot, but since I am a product of the 80s, I have to at least mention the upcoming releases from sweet-album-cover-art stadium rockers Journey and Iron Maiden. OK, I've mentioned them.

Last but not least, the Übercool Liz Phair has a new album due out in October, "Somebody's Miracle." I love girls that rock (her, The Donnas, Aretha, The Go-Go's, The Breeders, Veruca Salt, The Andrews Sisters, many many more). The only possible stumbling block that I see is the new Liz album doesn't have a Parental Advisory sticker.

Yahoo Maps w/Shaded Circles

Here are some graphics to give you a (very rough) idea of how flooding of the scale seen in New Orleans would impact other major American cities. (There were similar maps circulating a while ago about the effects of a dirty bomb, etc. Couldn't find any on Google.) Of course, these maps don't take into account topography or the effects of adjacent lakes and rivers for these other cities, but they are still interesting. Via Austin Mayor.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Elmore Leonard Adaptations

The topic of Elmore Leonard's books and short stories and the film adaptations thereof came up at work the other day. (We have all sorts of interesting topics that pop up all the time at work.)

I am a big fan of Mr. Leonard's work. I like the fact that many of his books exist in the same universe, and characters from one book will unexpectedly pop up in another for a few pages and then leave. Here is a good article from Bright Lights Film Journal about some of the film adaptations of Elmore Leonard's works (even though it omits mention of 52 Pickup).

"Every Car on This Lot... You Heard Me, I Said EVERY CAR... will be MARKED DOWN to NINE ELEVENTHS of Its MSRP!"

The other day at work I was inking in some meetings and appointments and stuff on my desktop calendar (i.e., desk made of fiberglass or whatever and calendar made of paper) and I noticed that Sept. 11 was designated "Patriot Day." This totally took me aback, because it was the first I had heard of it. But, I guess that has been the official designation for about three years now, according to this CNN article. (Sorry, I guess I'm just slow -- but nobody else at work knew about it either.)

I think this was not a very good idea... Official holidays are often initially intended to allow the populace an organized opportunity to reflect, remember, etc. etc. But within a relatively short amount of time, they become loci around which postal and teachers' unions arrange to have another day off, merchants have special sales, and tourist traps plan special three-day-weekend packages. How many people actually take advantage of Martin Luther King Day to reflect on civil rights issues? How many reflect on the contributions of veterans on Memorial Day or Veterans' Day? Before you know it, 20 years will have passed, and the emotional upheaval (unique to each individual) that most of us felt on 9/11 will be looked upon with bemused curiosity at best by the reigning cohort of 20-somethings who have no memories of that day at all. And I've got news for you... they're not going to want to hear us talk about what we remember from that morning. They're going to want to know can they get an extra couple of days off of work or school so they can go to the 10th annual Patriot Day Skiingpalooza in Aspen or whatever. September 11 falls on a Sunday this year. How long until we start having September 11 on the closest Monday to September 11 so we can have another three-day weekend? Even better, Make September 11 be the Tuesday after Memorial Day so we can have a four-day weekend.

Other (possibly better-presented) arguments against Patriot Day (not Patriot's Day, BTW) are presented by Robert George in this article in Reason Magazine. Excerpts:

America celebrates Independence Day, July 4—the nation's birthday. Beyond the fireworks, barbecues and concerts on the mall, the idea is to commemorate the moment when the values of democratic freedom and individual liberty that the nation has come to represent were first inscribed in print.

America also observes Memorial Day on the last Monday in May, specifically honoring the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting this nation and fighting for the ideals first written down on July 4, 1776.

Yes, we honor the departed and keep them in our memory. In New York, the sacrifices of the police officers and firefighters who died saving others as the World Trade Center fell down around them will never be forgotten. Nor will the heroism of the ordinary passengers on United Airlines Flight 93.

But the fact remains that this was one of America's darkest days—and not just because of the deaths of over 3,000.

It was a day of failure.

Update: 9/11/05, 9:07 AM (CST) - So New York is commemorating the 9/11 Attacks with a ceremony (yesterday) and moments of silence as described by CNN below:

Houses of worship rang their bells throughout the city shortly after a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time at which a hijacked jetliner crashed into the north tower. Another moment of silence filled the air at 9:03 a.m., marking the moment a second plane struck the south tower. Two other silences were to occur at 9:59 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., the precise times when each tower collapsed.

Watching C-Span this morning, I saw that there was a somewhat dignified moment-of-silence event held on the White House lawn signifiying the 8:46 AM crash. A little later, over at the Pentagon's America Supports You Freedom Walk, the 9:59 AM collapse of the first tower was commemorated by (forgive me if my clock is off by a minute or two, but I kid you not) the rock band that was providing background noise belting out "Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love."

The Artistry Formerly Known As Print

Stuff changes. That's how it goes. Economies change, societies change, technologies change. Now before you get all freaked out by the following (and I'm just as much of a bibliophile as any of you), think about how certain parchment (or stone tablet) afficianados must fave felt about the first books.

Here's a post from Michael Blowhard on "the future of long, all-prose narrative."

Here is Scott Esposito's response to Mr. Blowhard.

Here is Word Munger's response to both Blowhard and Esposito. Excerpts:

Michael is speculating that the long prose narrative will be history someday — that the novel will have come and gone as a genre. Scott, perhaps not surprisingly, thinks a bit differently. He suggests that the novel is a welcome respite from the high-speed, plugged-in society we’re living in.

I’m going to argue something slightly different: that the novel is already history. The novel is certainly no longer the mass-media entertainment, the way it was in the 19th century. People still buy and read novels, certainly, and occasionally a book comes out that strikes a nerve and really gets people talking — a Harry Potter, or a Da Vinci Code. But even a mega-blockbuster like Da Vinci only sells around 35 million copies worldwide. There are literally hundreds of movies with this many viewers. Even a midlist film like Vanilla Sky grosses over $200 million worldwide, corresponding to roughly 30 million screenings*. But by only counting viewers in theaters, we’re barely getting started. There are DVD sales, rentals, screenings on HBO, and finally regular TV.

With the ease of self-publishing, especially with the rise of e-books, what we might see is something like an eBay class of writers, making money off of blogads, audiobooks, podcasts, you name it. They’ll be patching together income in drips and drabs, rather than garnering giant publishing contracts. Nearly all of them will have day jobs. Will what they produce look like a novel? Perhaps some of the time, but it will most certainly depend on what makes the most money. Maybe short stories, or series, or something else entirely, will be more marketable in podcast or e-book form than the traditional 300-page novel.

So the hallowed novel is perhaps doomed to be replaced entirely by flashier stuff — movies, music, video games, podcasts. An abomination? Remember what preceded it: the “literature” of the ancient Greeks was epic poetry, memorized and performed to music. “Drama” was musical theatre, perhaps more like opera or a Broadway show than a “serious” play. Maybe what we’re really doing, with our iPods, our cell phones, our laptops, our PSPs, is simply returning to our roots.

* He probably means "viewings in a theater" rather than "screenings." Also, he neglects readings of TDVC that occur via a school or public library, a used bookstore or garage sale, or a single copy circulated among acquaintances. But still.

Speaking of the relative status of the long prose narrative, the charming and erudite Diablo Cody (KSFW) got a spiffy new T-shirt at Ye Olde Renaissance Festival:

Are those Alex Ross prints in the background? Looks like Batgirl, the Golden Age Flash, and... Captain Marvel?

Mediated Reality

Prof. Nokes over at Unlocked has a cool post on mediated reality. Responses elsewhere in the blogosphere here and here. Excerpt:

...several members of my family were involved in an event that received national television coverage, particularly on CNN (I'm not omitting description of the event here to be evasive; it's just irrelevant to the argument). When they learned the event would be covered on the national news, they were excited about their 15 minutes of fame. Once the actual reports were aired, however, they were terribly dismayed. CNN's version of events bore little resemblance to what they had actually experienced. The events had been caught on video, which the network misleadingly edited and from which they removed the sound, since the dialogue caught on tape would have contradicted CNN's reports. They shot footage of an area miles away, and aired that footage as if it were where the events had taken place.

For a couple of days, the reaction from home was one of cynicism. Suddenly, they felt they couldn't trust news reports. Suddenly, they understood the power of editing to twist the truth into a beautiful lie. Then, over a few days, I noticed their attitudes and comments changing, and within two weeks, those in my family involved had changed their version of events to agree with CNN's version, which just days early they had denounced as total falsehood, and of which they had actual physical evidence (the location of the events and the videotape) contradicting. Nevertheless, their experiential knowledge was rejected and replaced by a television-mediated story. Their experience was unreal, and the television was the reality.

Part of this discussion is hampered by the fact that in we only have one word for "know" in the English language, whereas most of the Romance languages have two. In Spanish, for example, "saber" is the infinitive of "to know" in the sense of knowing a fact or knowing how to do something. "Conocer" is the infinitve of "to know" in the sense of having familiarity with a person or a place or a thing. So, I know (saber) that Boise is the capital of Idaho, but I do not know (conocer) Boise, because I have never been there.

I comment on all this partly because it's only a few days until Survivor: Guatemala begins. I am an unashamed Survivor fan; I think the group dynamics are fascinating, and you all can look forward to weekly Survivor analysis on these pages.

"I'm mad as hell that Boston Rob won the million bucks!"


Currently watching: A Science Odyssey -- This is a PBS-aired series that takes various branches of science (Medicine & Health, Physics & Astronomy, Human Behavior, Technology, and Earth & Life Sciences) and tracks their histories from the start of the 20th Century (or so) to the present. I'm just finishing up the second program now. I don't claim intimacy with all the concepts presented, but I'm tremendously optimistic about what science and technology have in store for our future. (Check out the blogrolled Speculist if you haven't done so already.)

After you do that, check out VodkaPundit's excellent post on stem cell research and the recent change in leadership on Bush's Bioethics Council. My view on research such as this is that if it can be done, it will be done. But will it be done by a military or economic rival first? Excerpt:

The United States didn't grow rich in the 19th Century because we dug coal, built railroads, or milled steel. We didn't grow even richer in the 20th because we drilled oil, assembled automobiles, or fabricated computer chips. Rather, we grew rich because we fearlessly embraced the latest technologies, and freely pursued them on a scale impossible anywhere else.

The specifics – coal, cars, chips – were incidental to the times. The secrets to our success were the generalities: freedom, fearlessness, and scale.

We won't stay rich in the 21st Century by drilling more oil in Alaska or wherever – that's so Early Industrial. We won't do it by building better cars, a relic (still useful, but still a relic) of the last century. We'll stay ahead of newcomers like China the same way we overtook our European competitors over the last 100 years: By seizing what's new, and pursuing it freely and fearlessly on a large scale.

And when I say "large scale," I mean it. There is no scale larger than biotech.

One day, the opportunity to have one's head grafted on to Roosevelt Grier will be open to all.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Done With Armchair French Quarterbacking (For the Time Being)

OK, I'm finished armchair French Quarterbacking and Dixieland Bandwagon jumping for the moment.

Internet big daddy Vinton Cerf is going to work for Google.

The Freakos ask how carpooling will effect people listening to audiobooks. I am a huge audiobook fan, and I am almost done with Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. (No, really!)

I realize (to my embarassment) why I couldn't find Battlestar Galactica: Season One at any of the video stores around here. It doesn't come out for another week and a half.

Here are some academic bloggers I have come across in the last week or so. My hope is that linking to them will make me look smarter help encourage the free flow of ideas and information.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How Now, Brown Bureaucrat

Someone is going to have to clue me in on the whole world of Arabian Horse shows, because I don't get it. I know the general idea is to have a pretty horse that behaves itself, but really, that's about as far as I can explain it.

So anyway, it's pretty clear that the guy who is now the director of FEMA, Michael Brown, is going to be the fall guy for all this Katrina stuff in a major way. It seems to me that every other local, state, federal, civilian, law enforcement, Federation of Planets, or whatever official is in his debt, because for any screw-ups they are percieved as having made, they can point to Brown and suddenly won't seem incompetent at all.

Mr. Brown's job before getting hired as the assistant director of FEMA by his old college buddy Joe Allbaugh (G.W.'s campaign manager) was with the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA).

The following are what historians call "primary sources" -- That is, no journalists or pundits or whatever have told us what to think about these documents.

Here is Mr. Brown's separation agreement from when he left the IAHA. Excerpt:

The parties recognize that, due to the nature of Mr. Brown's duties as Judges and Stewards Commissioner, he has been the subject of numerous personal attacks, and that there have been numerous allegations made during the course of his employment that Mr. Brown engaged in conduct that would constitute cause for the termination of Brown's contract with IAHA. IAHA specifically acknowledges, however, that no cause exists to terminate Brown's contract with IAHA.

Here is some sort of lawyer directory with Mr. Brown's profile from his time at IAHA.

Update, 9/10/05 9:06 AM: Time Magazine has looked at this FindLaw directory page as well, and they feature it prominently this week in an article on Brown's resume. (This article also points out that Brown used to work for the guy who became Tim McVeigh's defense attorney.) And check this out:

The FindLaw profile for Brown was amended on Thursday to remove a reference to his tenure at the International Arabian Horse Association, which has become a contested point.

When I looked at the FindLaw page on Wednesday, Sept. 7, it looked like the last time the info had been updated was years ago, because it still listed his primary job as being with the IAHA. But all of a sudden on Sept. 8, someone finds the time to update it, IAHA disappears, and FEMA shows in its place. How interesting. (End of update.)

What caused the hoopla at the IAHA that precipitated Mr. Brown's departure? I still don't quite get it, but it all has to do with some horses getting cosmetic surgery when they weren't supposed to. This article from Arabian Horse World Online lends some insight.

"It's not just cosmetic. I've always felt... different from the other horses... trapped. Now, for the first time in my life, I really feel like I'm taking care of me."

These excerpts from Arabian Horse World Online (linked above) might lend credence to the notion of history repeating itself:

However, information that came to light at the August Board meeting — the revelation that Brown had set up his own legal defense fund — severely eroded that support. This revelation created the appearance of impropriety, especially when he’d been saying that he had commitments of a great deal of money for IAHA’s Legal Defense Fund which never materialized, and then it turned out he’d been out soliciting funds for his own, personal, legal defense fund.

Mr. Brown has been defended by IAHA to the fullest degree all the way along. At the August Board Meeting when this all came to light, he said that he felt the need to set up his own legal defense fund to protect the assets of his family. Yet IAHA has been paying all of his legal bills. We have paid for the attorney he chose to use, and he’s never been refused coverage, so we don’t know why he felt he needed further protection. Furthermore, IAHA indemnified him, meaning that we hold him harmless for whatever he does as he functions in his job.

Mike Brown experienced a huge, rapid erosion of support that day. When this came to light at the Board Meeting, he strongly, clearly, and repeatedly stated that he wished to resign and this statement was addressed to the full Board, not to the Executive Committee. Therefore, I resent the characterization that the Executive Committee forced Mike Brown out, when in fact, the catalyst that led to his resignation was a very embarrassing situation caused by Mike Brown himself that came to light at the Board Meeting. He then stated to everyone in attendance, which was the full Board, that he wanted to resign, that he was tired, that he didn’t like the effect on his family that this was having, and he felt that it was time to go. He repeated those statements to the Executive Committee on two other days. A week later he repeated it to me, and at that time said that his attorney was contacting the IAHA attorney to work out the terms. The fact that he brought in his attorney at that early stage surprised us.

Maybe Somebody Saw 'Gone With the Wind' and Got Confused?

This instalinked Salt Lake Tribune story is to blame for the new forehead-shaped dent on the top of my desk. Summary: 1,000 search & rescue experts spent Sunday in a FEMA orientation class in Atlanta. Excerpts:

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

On the other hand, there is often a lot of humdrum work that needs to be done in things like this, as well as lots of groups tripping all over each others' feet in their zeal, so I understand the need to have participants assembled and ready in a staging area until they can be assigned specific tasks. And, there were probably plenty of rarin'-to-go, impatient alphas who look forward to telling their grandchildren that they "were there after Katrina" in the same way the therapists referred to earlier wanted validation from Oklahoma City. But back to the first hand again, why were all those trained firemen in Georgia while Sean Penn and Jesse Jackson were in New Orleans?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Denver Post

After all these years... Finally my chance!

Now the only one in the way is that know-it-all who can't even fix a hole in a boat.

Hey Professor! Was that you down there with Sean Penn?

Special Bonus: Anaylsis of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Disaster Blogging, 1666

September 2, 2005 brought us writing such as the following, from Survival of New Orleans:

10:01 am
The City is ON FIRE

Teams Alpha and Bravo finished the medium range recon and there are 3 separate locations on fire. We have pictures coming shortly. During the recon, I spoke to some Federal Marshalls and NOPD. Morale is LOW. Very low. They're not seeing the military presence they say they were promised. I told those guys they can't possibly imagine how much we (the world) appreciate their dedication. I asked what civil rights the citizens have and the US Marshalls looked at me like I just fell off the turnip truck and chuckled. I asked if citizens can have guns for protection and he said if someone thinks he needs a gun, he should have already evacuated. He also said they are setting the city on fire. The NOPD wants to know where "the two active duty brigades" were that he says they were told were supposed to arrive today. When I asked him what he would want to tell the world, he said Everyone keeps talking about the military presence in the city, and then asked me," Do you see any military around here" in dusgust.We reconned our roof also, to get a better view of the city and took... I hesitate to call them "amazing" pictures. My city... it has been punched in the face and is on the canvas being counted out. And yes, that's smoke you see out of the windows. The city is under a haze from the fires. Smoke and ash are floating miles away from the fires.

The events of September 2, 1666 prompted Samuel Pepys to write this:

Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the River or bringing them into lighters that lay off. Poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons I perceive were loath to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies till they were some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.

Here is the blogging of the full Diary of Samuel Pepys, in chronological order with the dates of his entries matching current dates, but they've only gotten up to 1662.

All I Need Are Some Tasty Waves...

Many thanks to Sean Penn for keeping focus on the primary role of celebrities: To keep the rest of us entertained when we need a little cheering up.

EFFORTS by Hollywood actor Sean Penn to aid New Orleans victims stranded by Hurricane Katrina foundered badly overnight, when the boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak. Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch.

The actor, known for his political activism, was seen wearing what appeared to be a white flak jacket and frantically bailing water out of the sinking vessel with a red plastic cup.

When the boat's motor failed to start, those aboard were forced to use paddles to propel themselves down the flooded New Orleans street.

Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."

With the boat loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer, one bystander taunted the actor: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Supreme Courtrina

Apparently Chief Justice Rehnquist has been dead since Tuesday. It just took FEMA this long to get to him.

Props to Wonkette.

Times-Picayune's Open Letter

The Times-Picayune minces no words in their open letter to the president. Excerpts (Note the bolded sentence at the end):

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

Updates From K-Bloggers

Last we heard from Laurel, she had evacuated Slidell and made it up to her sister's house in Tennessee. This weekend:

My Dh (dear hubby), Sis, and her Dh are on their way to Slidell right now. It's almost 3 a.m. and I am doing an update for everyone so I have something to do besides worry. I'm sure they'll be fine though. Mostly I'm worried about what they are going to find when they get there. A big part of me wishes I was going there too so I could see it all for myself, but I think I did the wise thing to stay with the kids.They will arrive at daybreak or later and plan to leave before dark. I hope they are able to call here when they arrive.

Stuff they brought with them: Gasoline, chain saw, lots of duct tape, food, water, first aid kit, three pairs of work gloves, two boxes of Hefty industrial garbage bags, tools, toilet paper, a change of clothing, flashlight, batteries, camera, and a list of things to get from the house if they are salvageable... oh, and Sis's shotgun, tazer and an array of other defensive cool stuff.

Prof. Kaye Trammell (now #5148 at TTLB - Adorable Little Rodent) wrote this piece for the Washington Post. Excerpt:

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When people prepare for hurricanes, they do many things: top off gas tanks in cars, fill bathtubs with water, buy water, charge up mobile phones and check evacuation routes. I did all these things. And I started a blog.

And, from The Interdictor (I'm guessing the sort of guy people used to snicker at for being a survivalist*):

The city really does look like a ghost town. It's so bizarre to see streets which are normally highly trafficed having such a limited flow of vehicles. And at night it's weird to see all these high rises with no light coming from the buildings. No street lights, no traffic lights, the clock on the Whitney Bank building on Poydras and Camp -- a widely recognized feature -- is stopped. The debris is still everywhere. Cars abandoned all over the place. Abandoned and trashed. And the quiet. Aside from the occasional vehicle, this place has no sound. Every piece of glass that used to be a high rise window which hits the ground can be heard blocks away.

*"Survivalist" meant in good humor. Please don't come find me and kill me. Thanks.

Anne Rice Op-Ed

Here's an NYT piece from New Orleansian (??) Anne Rice. (A resident of Chicago is a Chicagoan; A resident of New York is a New Yorker; What is the proper term for a resident of New Orleans?) Thanks to Tinkerty. (Also thanks for the Cyborg Name Generator.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kanye Citizen

I don't think it's true that G.W. doesn't care about black people, but I do like it when celebrities dare to disregard the cue cards and tell us what's really on their minds.

Excerpt from NBC press release:

"Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks."It would be most unfortunate," the statement continued, "if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

OK, well, a) Mr. West didn't do anything at all to suggest that his opinions represented the views of the network or anyone else but himself, and b) The efforts of the artists had already been forgotten in a matter of hours (the footage of New Orleans was of course much more riveting) and the only thing that made anyone even notice the concert 24 hours later was Mr. West's unscripted commentary.

This is nothing against organizer Wynton Marsalis, of course, of whom I am a huge fan. Mr. Marsalis (born and raised in New Orleans) is a serious guy and a dedicated jazz (and classical) musician, and I suspect he will lead other efforts in coming months and years to raise funds for Katrina victims and eventually help reinvigorate the city he loves.

Update, 8:35 AM, 9/5/05: Follow-ups from all over the place, including The Chicago Sun-Times and The Los Angeles Times.

Jim DeRogatis (who is one of Chicago's great music writers) points to this interesting exchange in his Sun-Times article:

But Friday, West's statements were much closer to those being made by critics of the Bush administration from across the racial and political spectra. And while he is being criticized by many on the right -- and will no doubt pay a price with some lost album sales and less radio play in more conservative markets -- he did Americans a service by putting the issue on the table for national debate.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of this came on Sunday during CNN's "Late Edition" when host Wolf Blitzer quoted West when asking Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson whether the response to Hurricane Katrina has been racist. Thompson, a Democrat, said the government had failed and "someone has to be held accountable." He cited the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The most revealing part of the exchange, however, was the fact that Thompson mistook the comments from West as a statement from Princeton University professor, theologian, author and activist Dr. Cornel West. In one fell swoop, the rapper and college dropout has earned a place in the front ranks of this country's best-known and most respected African-American activists.

Jabbor Gibson, American Hero

There's no doubt that professional race baiters like Al Sharpton will have sophistry fodder for years to come from the handling of Katrina. There's no doubt that professional white people like Bill O'Reilly will be serving up a menu of sophistry for years to come explaining how any politician with a "D" at the end of their name is responsible for the poor execution of the rescue efforts. And, FEMA and Homeland Security people will be explaining why it wasn't poor execution at all.

Check out this story from Houston's KRGV-TV about a young man whose enterprising and altruistic approach we should all admire. Pay attention to the phrases I bolded. I'm really not trying to fish for racism where it doesn't exist, and I know some journalist was probably just in a hurry on a huge news day in which Houston was playing a significant role, but why call this act of survival "an extreme act of looting?"

HOUSTON -- Thousands of refugees of Hurricane Katrina were transported to the Astrodome in Houston this week. In an extreme act of looting, one group actually stole a bus to escape ravaged areas in Louisiana.
About 100 people packed into the stolen bus. They were the first to enter the Houston Astrodome, but they weren't exactly welcomed.
The big yellow school bus wasn't expected or approved to pass through the stadium's gates. Randy Nathan, who was on the bus, said they were desperate to get out of town.
"If it werent for him right there," he said, "we'd still be in New Orleans underwater. He got the bus for us."
Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson jumped aboard the bus as it sat abandoned on a street in New Orleans and took control.
"I just took the bus and drove all the way hours straight,' Gibson admitted. "I hadn't ever drove a bus."
The teen packed it full of complete strangers and drove to Houston. He beat thousands of evacuees slated to arrive there.
"It's better than being in New Orleans," said fellow passenger Albert McClaud, "we want to be somewhere where we're safe."
During a long and impatient delay, children popped their heads out of bus windows and mothers clutched their babies.
One 8-day-old infant spent the first days of his life surrounded by chaos. He's one of the many who are homeless and hungry.
Authorities eventually allowed the renegade passengers inside the dome. But the 18-year-old who ensured their safety could find himself in a world of trouble for stealing the school bus.
"I dont care if I get blamed for it ," Gibson said, "as long as I saved my people."
Sixty legally chartered buses were expected to arrive in Houston throughout the night. Thousands of people will be calling the Astrodome "home," at least for now.

In other news, many renegade eaters ate looted granola bars, rather than wait for the legally obtained MREs. The journalists who said all that probably didn't mean anything bad, but you know, come on...

KRGV-TV staff, unlikely to have been bus passengers.

Clear-thinking, competent, 18-year-old American hero; Somebody get Mr. Gibson a scholarship to study public administration and then hire him at FEMA.

More Visits to the Neighbors

I am currently #12471 on the TTLB ecosystem. Some of the neighbors who caught my attention are Adventures in Ethics and Science, at #12527; Atlas Blogged, at #12505; Minipundit, at #12252; Truth and Beauty, at #12536; and Mother Tongue Annoyances, at #12464.

Among their recent contributions to the blogosphere:

Minipundit points out the absence of VP Cheney from the news networks this week.

AIEAS has a great post about the difficulties of trying to comprehensively plan for any eventuality. Excerpt:

Being "overly cautious", though, might mark you as an hysteric. The folks you're trying to help might be less likely to listen to you next time if the worst case scenario doesn't come to pass. And, the other folks in the business of making models and predicting disasters may give you a hard time for acting as if the worst case scenario was more likely than any good modeler would have seen it was.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The War on Therapism

The other day, I was telling my friend SSMW about a local group of therapists who were falling all over themselves to get to New York the week after 9/11. Here's a piece from Reason Magazine about the PTSD industry and the carpetbagging therapists whom it profits. It's adapted from One Nation Under Therapy by Sally Satel and Christina Hoff Summers. Excerpts:

“Disaster vultures” was the name given to overly enthusiastic mental health professionals who rushed into the scene at the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. “Their credibility in the future would be their claim to have worked in Oklahoma City,” a dismayed local psychologist observed.

Also -- you think FEMA could have used an extra $155 million since then? Maybe used it to keep a thousand or so security people and their pump-action shotguns on retainer?

When the New York State Office of Mental Health applied for its first FEMA counseling grant right after September 11, it estimated that 1.5 million New Yorkers would need counseling. A grant of $23 million came through promptly in October. As of June 2002, about 120,000 had sought assistance, not even one-tenth the projected number. Yet around that time, FEMA announced another grant, of $132 million—nearly six times as large—in response to a second request for counseling funding. This time, the Office of Mental Health projected that two million New Yorkers, or one in four, would need counseling (“to allow necessary healing to continue”).

I'm surprised we haven't seen rowboats full of this crowd fighting their way to the French Quarter. Maybe they just opted to hang around in the Astrodome parking lot instead.

Update, 10:55 PM, 9/5/05: Speak of the Devil...