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9/20, 9PM





Friday, September 02, 2005
4:30 PM      

Shakily, he read from the script
“Hi. This is Sam with Equal Health [Help?] Services. As a resident, you have been selected ...” [click]

I think it was even a recorded message. Was that the best take? The announcer even mumbled the name of the company. Like spam, I don't understand why there's money in it for hacks like this.

A second pre-recorded call came in this afternoon. There was a long pause after I said ‘hello;’ often a telltale. Then:

“Are you or somebody you care about currently without health insurance? If so, then please listen ...” [click]

It would be nice if they recorded the hang-ups and decided to stop calling after so many hang-ups at the same number. I don't think they care, though.


I haven't had the stomach
to watch much of the coverage of Katrina and the aftermath. In an interview last night (or was it the night before? — it's hard to remember), Paula Zahn alluded to reports from people who said they'd stepped through feces and over dead bodies in the Super Dome as part of her preamble to interview questions she posed to two refugees, a mother and a daughter. Lovely. It seemed she either wanted them to corroborate, or to trigger a response. If the interviewer had been Katie Couric, I figure she would have asked ‘How did it feel?’

CNN has been running pictures of corpses in wheelchairs. I'm not sure where people's need/right to know ends and where the press predisposition toward pandering to the rubbernecking reflex begins. Yellow journalism flourishes. It sells.

I was in a convenience store, and heard a man talking to the clerk behind the counter. He talked in circles about how he had seen footage of water up to the rooftops of houses. He couldn't quite bring himself to say water that deep is too deep to stand in. As he spoke, I had the sense that he wasn't trying to inform the clerk; he was slowly comprehending for himself.


The Relief Effort's Not Over,
and the politics are already in full effect. I figured some dirt was going to start coming out, when Rush Limbaugh was on the airwaves on day 2 saying that the liberals were going to start pointing fingers. Sounds like the beginnings of a cover story, if I ever heard one.

Here's what I've been hearing: For several years running, New Orleans has been holding its hat out to the Federal Government, saying that they weren't prepared for a disaster. Supposedly, a simulation of a hit by a category 5 hurricane was run in the last 5 years with projected results much like what we've seen. The feds pooh-poohed it. And, they've consistently cut funding for levee maintenance and pump upgrades. Now, Dennis Hastert is saying things like “It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.”

My friend Zik is missing three members of his immediate family, including a baby. Apparently, they decided to stay home and ride out the storm. If they did change their minds and head for shelter, there's no way to contact them. It's a stressful waiting game for Zik and his family. They have to hope that their people find a way to contact them.

Fats Domino, the famous musician, grew up with my father. He's missing, too. Reports are that he had decided not to leave home. Fats lived through Betsey. Maybe he thought he'd seen the worst.

Zik pointed out something I hadn't considered: One of the first places to flood was the lower 9th Ward, which was heavily populated by people living at or below the poverty line. These are people who had to rely on public transportation to go anywhere, and who didn't have the funds to stay in a hotel. The city and state government may have pleaded with people to head for safety, but just how were those people going to do that? I expect that we'll find that the heaviest losses were in the poorest parts of the city.

The other thing that Zik emphasized was the extent of the damage. The press has skewed toward heavy coverage of New Orleans and a little on Biloxi, but the entire Gulf Coast has been devastated. Everything east of New Orleans has been trashed.

As people begin to analyze and philosophize about Katrina and Gulf Coast living in general, comparisons are being made to the ways that people live at risk from earthquakes in San Francisco and LA. The Doobie Brothers album ‘Living on the Fault Line’ comes to mind. Those cities bounce back after disaster every time. I hope the economic engine of New Orleans is more durable than its levees and pumps.

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
4:12 PM      

Machines' odd sense of humor
Searching for news on Katrina yesterday, I pulled up a map of the storm's current location. Directly above the radar shot of the massive storm, was an embedded promotion widget plugging flights to Miami! (Yeah, that's the ticket!)

Those yellow spots on the Florida Peninsula (representing some very nasty storm activity) are in the vicinity of Orlando. Makes you want to book a flight right away, doesn't it? I thought so.

Oh yeah — don't anthropomorphise machines... They hate that.


New Orleans Relief and Related Resources

Federal Emergency Management Agency: 1-800-621-FEMA
Louisiana Homeland Security
City of New Orleans
Louisiana Governor's Office

Mississippi Emergency Management

FEMA Charity tips
Red Cross
: 1-800-HELP-NOW
Episcopal Relief & Development: 1-800-334-7626
United Methodist Committee on Relief: 1-800-554-8583
Salvation Army: 1-800-SAL-ARMY
Catholic Charities: 1-800-919-9338
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

National Hurricane Center
National Weather Service
Hydrologic Information Center (river flooding)

[ link | e-me ]

3:02 PM      

The announcer had a big smile in her voice.
“This is not a sales call. America's leading pharmaceutical companies would appreciate a few minutes of your... ” [click]


N.O., You Cant Go Home
Talked to Mom a little bit today. She's been on top of the reports out of New Orleans. She told me that some incomprehensible percentage of the city was flooded; so incomprehensible that I don't remember the percentage. Suffice it to say that most of the city is flooded. I wanted to imagine that our part of N.O. had miraculously been spared, but Mom had heard reports early yesterday saying that the pumping stations in that part of town were not working so well. It's unlikely that they held up.

I read a report last night about an industrial canal levee breach in the 9th Ward in St. Bernard Parish. My Dad thinks they have their reporting wrong – that it's actually the 9th Ward of Orleans parish (our part of town).

A TV station blog is reporting 15-20 feet of water flooding parts of the city, looting, and power outages. Officials are telling people not to come home until further notice.

Some people checked into hotels to ride out the storm. I wonder if they're getting a special disaster rate. It may be the last business those hotels see for several years.

[ link | e-me ]

Sunday, August 28, 2005
11:46 PM      

I'm worried about New Orleans.
I was born there. My parents grew up there. I have aunts, uncles and cousins living there today. We can only guess what it will look like after tomorrow.

My late grandmothers' homes are there. Somewhat miraculously, those homes made it through Betsy in 1965, even though they got swamped – for several years after the flood, obvious water lines on the walls about 6" from the ceiling of my maternal grandmother's house remained as a reminder.

Betsy's winds were about 155 MPH at landfall - 1 MPH below category 5 strength. The waters of the Mississippi rose ten feet above normal. 40 years later, Katrina is projected to hit at 165 MPH, and may draw the waters to as much as 28 feet above normal. It is also projected that 60 to 80 percent of the houses there may be destroyed by wind.

Four years after Betsy, Camille (one of very few category 5 storms to make landfall in the US) grazed the eastern edge of New Orleans. With any luck, Katrina won't be a direct hit, either.

[ link | e-me ]

11:05 PM      

Protestant Fatwah: The Ultimate Faith-based Initiative?
I was on vacation in the Berkshires earlier this week, paying almost no attention to the press. I think I was in Stockbridge (the home of Norman Rockwell...) when I saw the headline about Pat Robertson. Here was a ‘holy man’ on TV, saying that US operatives should ‘take out’ president Chavez of Venezuela! The official response?

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Tuesday called Robertson's remarks "inappropriate," but stopped short of condemning them.

I guess Robertson interprets ‘Thou shalt not kill’ in a very literal sense (with emphasis on ‘thou’): murder by proxy is apparently no problem.


Shooting in the Berkshires
was a lot of fun. We visited a lot of museums, where they forbade photography indoors. I'm finding that every museum has different stipulations. Many claim copyright law as the basis for their restrictions. You can shoot all you like outside the exhibit halls, but nothing indoors. I think it's because they realize a no-photography outdoors policy would be impossible to police. At the Clark, they allowed photos indoors, except for specific exhibits, and interestingly, nothing under glass...

A number of times, people spotted my D100, and asked ‘Are you a serious/professional photographer?’ I answered yes each time, but I wonder what motivates them to ask the question. Often, they go on to explain why their little point and shoot fits their needs / is too much for them to comprehend.


Bits of Black History in the Berkshires
Gleaned from the exhibits at the Norman Rockwell Museum: until the [late?] 1960s, most mainstream media [e.g. the Saturday Evening Post] had a policy of only portraying black people in subservient roles. Rockwell was actually instructed to paint a black face out of a crowd in one of his illustrations.

I had seen his painting ‘The Problem We All Live With,’ which depicts a six-year-old black girl [Ruby Bridges] being escorted by US marshals to an all-white school in Louisiana, but the museum's exhibits revealed that Rockwell was much more engaged with the social issues of the time than I'd given him credit for.

The Rockwell Museum isn't far from the center of Stockbridge, where I met a man who asked if I knew the story of Mumbet. I said no. He told me that she had been a slave to a family in Stockbridge, and sued to gain her freedom after hearing the declaration of independence. She won her freedom 80 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, the first black woman to be set free. Her case was the first to test the constitutionality of slavery under the new Massachusetts constitution.

Elizabeth ‘Mumbet’ Freeman [free man - get it?] is buried in Stockbridge in the first circle of the ‘Sedgwick Pie’ - a position that symbolizes how close she was to Judge Sedgwick himself and his family. She also played an unsung role in America's history.

[ link | e-me ]
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