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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Topic: Oddities

Allegory: The Broadway Musical and Hollywood Film as Modern Christian History

Theo Hobson offers this fascinating off-topic item - Hegel With Songs - very amusing, but apparently not parody. It appeared in The Guardian (UK) on 7 September. For me - a former teacher and history buff, and atheist grandson of a Congregational minister with a burr-in-the-saddle about religion in general and what it has done to us all over all the long centuries - this is so fine. And who hasn't thought Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was full of crap? Well, perhaps there are a few folks who spend little time thinking about "German idealism" in the decades following Kant, and about dialectical reasoning (thesis - antithesis - synthesis) morphing into Marx mucking about with dialectical "materialism" as some way to think about progress - their loss.

This also caught my eye, perhaps, because in the seventies I played in the pit band for far too many performances of The Sound of Music - little did I know!

The core passage from Hobson:
... The Sound of Music offers us our religious inheritance in a form we can all accept. Its plot is a fairytale version of modern Christian history.

The Reformation began with someone leaving a monastery; so does this film. In both cases the motivation for leaving is a conviction that God's grace cannot be confined to a religious institution, but must be expressed in the midst of the world. Because Maria leaves her convent on good terms with her mother superior, we are apt to miss the radicalism of her departure. She is a fantasy-faith version of Martin Luther. The entire plot is a fantasy rewriting of the Reformation, in which the Catholic Church is glad to be supplemented by this alternative vision.

She becomes the governess to an aristocrat's children. This is a representative Protestant/secular identity: her role is now economic. And the nature of her work is characteristically modern: to educate and to discipline. Her employer, a widower, seeks order in rational certainty. He has introduced a cold, militaristic atmosphere into his bereaved home. He symbolises the Enlightenment.

Maria subverts all aspects of her new role. In place of discipline and rationality she offers love and music, even if this means defying her employer, and so jeopardising her new economic identity. She therefore redefines her role, from employee to friend, mother figure and (dare we hope?) lover.

The highlight of the film comes early: the graceful advent of healing song, in the midst of a storm. Maria is the healer, the dispeller of the dark shadows of grief. She is the vicar of Christ who says: "Fear not." When the children confess their fear and rush to her bed, she teaches them a new habit of hope, in the form of a new song. More widely, she teaches them that music has the power to dispel demons. When assailed by terrors ("when the dog bites, when the bee stings"), one has to call to mind one's favourite things, such as raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and brown paper packages tied up with string. The element of chocolate-box kitsch should not distract us from the truly primitive drama of this song. It is exorcistic. Music has the power to expel evil forces.

So she is teaching them not just a new song but a repeatable liturgical practice, as we shall see. She is teaching them religious hope, but by means of art, self-expression. This form of religion is unregulated by the ecclesiastical institution; it is a synthesis of Christianity and Romanticism.

But Maria is not simply a Protestant-Romantic reformer; she remains in touch with her Catholic roots and in need of them. She cannot sustain her independence from the church. When her bosom flutters with love for her master she returns to the nunnery. She loses confidence in her new identity and returns to her Catholic identity of daughter of the church. Her progress is a retelling of Europe's spiritual history in which Catholicism is not left behind but continues to be needed as "base". In this version, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and Romanticism remain explicitly and consciously indebted to their ecclesiastical source.

The children are miserable without her, especially as their father plans to marry the scarlet woman from the city, Maria's antitype. One day, in the garden, the eldest girl suggests that they cheer themselves up by singing the song they learned on the night of the storm. As they sing, Maria suddenly returns, running through the garden, haloed by her hat, guitar case in one hand, suitcase in the other, joining in the chorus. This is a dramatisation of the sacramental force of song: it has the power to make present what it represents, to conjure up the inspiration and protection it seeks. The film is in effect over now, with the resurrection of the resurrected mother.

In the final part of the film the new family defy the Nazis, singing their way to freedom. Some think this intrusion of 20th-century history rather over the top. But the Nazis are a crucial foil. The tension between the church and the world, between Catholic and Protestant, between religion and Romanticism, is now resolved, for all are united against this extreme evil. And of course by this time Maria's own role has stabilised. Before she marries, her identity is split between her Catholic and Protestant selves: nun and single working woman. This painful split is resolved by the new role of "mother" and wife.

The film performs what Europe has always been pining for: the integration of its conflicting religious impulses. It is the fantasy unity of Catholicism, Protestantism and Romanticism. It is Hegel with songs. And what songs!
What songs? When playing in the pit band for The Sound of Music we dissolute and cynical musician types used to mutter alternative lyrics under our breath - "The hills are alive, and they're coming to get you…" and "High on a hill sits a lonely goat turd… " But the far-too-cute Sabrina Boyd played Maria. That helped. I did hear John Coltrane perform "My Favorite Things" live once - 1964, Pittsburgh Jazz Festival - soprano sax. Not much like the musical or film, of course. He stopped in the middle as the news broke and the kids came down the aisles with the "extra" edition of the Post-Gazette - the 1964 Civil Rights Act had just been passed. Music has the power to expel evil forces - it has the power to make present what it represents, to conjure up the inspiration and protection it seeks? Maybe so. "Fear not." John Coltrane knew.

Ah, memories. Hobson here now has me rethinking it all - not Sabrina or Coltrane's variations in Dorian mode. Martin Luther and Hegel. Whatever.

Posted by Alan at 22:29 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005 22:33 PDT home

Topic: Photos

New Photography: The Getty Center

Note, the new architectural column on the Getty Center has been posted - seven nested pages and more than forty high-resolution photos. The "photo album" software lowers the resolution so these are in Just Above Sunset. The first page is mostly text - architectural history and some cultural notes and such - the pages that follow are almost all images.

A sample:

Posted by Alan at 18:03 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 5 September 2005

Topic: World View

Labor Day Here and There

Corinne Maier - the author of "Bonjour Laziness: Jumping Off the Corporate Ladder" - has in the New York Times today, Labor Day, this - Working Hard at Nothing All Day. It is a discussion of how Labor Day is an American invention and the rest of the world celebrates such things on the first of May. Of course, Corinne Maier's call to slackers everywhere to goof off, "Bonjour Laziness," was discussed in these pages last September here. That item was about attitudes toward work her and over in Western Europe, with reader commentary from Montreal, London (the one in Canada) and from our Paris readers.

What Corinne Maier has to say this Labor Day?
... it's you Americans who have invented it. We French thank you for that, even if few of us realize that this paradoxical day comes from across the Atlantic. Nonetheless, it was in America, a decidedly pioneering land, where the idea of a shorter workweek, a notion dear to French hearts, was born.

All that began on May 1, 1886. On that historic day, American workers went on strike to demand an eight-hour day; at that time it was habitual to work 10 to 12 hours - quelle horreur! Alas, the strike resulted in the Haymarket tragedy, and European Socialists, shocked, decided to fix May 1 as the day for demanding better working conditions.

Even though the impetus for the May 1 Fête du Travail comes from America, your Labor Day is not celebrated then, but in September. And this difference in date changes everything. For in France, May 1 announces summer, and we also have a saying, "En mai, fais ce qu'il te plaît" - that is, in May, do as you please. The day is also the prelude to a series of warm-weather events that the French dote on: the Cannes film festival, the French Open tennis tournament and especially the Tour de France, even when it's always Lance Armstrong who wins.
The big difference? There Labor Day is "the beginning of a season of pleasures." Here, it's the end of same, sort of.

Other differences -
Americans have picnics and family gatherings; we have the lily of the valley, brought into the city by rural folk who've gathered it in the woods, and protests. Every year, the famous May 1 protest gathers together union members, militants and leftists. This march, though closely covered by the news media, doesn't usually get a lot of attention from the public. There are exceptions, as in 2002, when the threat of the extreme right's coming to power drove a million Parisians into the streets. ...
This is followed by the usual comments on how our two nationalities don't have the same attitude toward work. "Americans think the French are lazy, and the French think Americans are interested only in money." There's a nod to the issue that French workers have a higher per hour productivity rate than their American counterparts – "proof that you can work better by working less."

But the key is this:
Americans also forget that going to work every day is often more a chore than a pleasure. You seem more and more disillusioned about work: only a third of you say that you love your jobs. In such conditions, it's not surprising that you spend on average two hours of your workday ... not working. Answering personal e-mail messages, shopping online, playing computer games or chatting with co-workers ... it's so much more pleasant than working, really.

My American friends, there you are caught, red-handed, being lazy. Is that enough to reconcile the Americans and the French? United in indolence, a foundation of sloth in which Labor Day is the cornerstone. Will Laziness Unlimited be the future of work?
Ah, we're not so different, after all.

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, reacting to this, has some more, this Labor Day, in an exclusive, "Put Down that Hot Dog and March!"
PARIS - Monday, September 5, 2005: Today is Labor Day in the United States and Canada. Europe borrowed this day and placed it, for reasons of solidarity, on May 1st. On this day workers are supposed to celebrate, and many do so by having a parade to protest about the latest dumb outrages by stupid management. In Paris something is always wrong so there is never no parade, but there are other years when corks are ready to blow and the mechanics and shopworkers, the bus drivers and the train workers, teachers and scientists, the whole bleeding working world takes to the streets to give the big red finger to the MGT. Here are links to the ugly, the bad and good May Days in Paris from 1996 to 2005, as they appeared in MetropoleParis:

• May Day in Metropole Paris 1996 Red Flags On May Day
• 1997 Hide and Seek May Day Parade
• 1998 May Day at République, also see Eyewitness to Paris in May '68, by Jim Auman and 30 Years Later - A Chronology of 'May '68'
• 1999 A Week Asleep
• 2000 Red Flags, Blue Skies, May Day
• 2001 The May Day Issue
• 2002 Parisians Vote for May Day, Massively
• 2003 Day of club meet, 1st missed May Day
• 2004 Four Parades Instead of One
• 2005 Primo de Mayo

As Marx or Lenin or Willy Brandt used to say, 'Workers of the world, unite! You got piss-all to lose!'
Of interest also, see this book review:

The white-collar blues
'Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream'
Barbara Ehrenreich
Metropolitan Books: 242 pp., $24
Reviewed by Wesley Yang - September 4, 2005 - Los Angeles Times

… [the book] focuses on the subtler psychological exactions made on the dignity of the middle class. We watch as Ehrenreich posts her résumé at and HotJobs, consults "career coaches," labors over her (concocted) résumé and 30-second "elevator speech," attends networking events and "boot camps," and receives a business-professional image makeover.

She skewers the florid inanity of much that she encounters with her characteristic wit, painting a picture of a corporate world "paralyzed by conformity, and shot through with magical thinking." The world she describes demands absolute obedience (in marked contrast to the "rules-breaking" cant of the new economy-era managerial gurus), which it repays with absolute indifference.

The leader of a job "boot camp" dispenses a putrid mélange of New Age mind-cure that dominates the "transition industry" ("Every unit increase in your personal sense of well-being increases your external performance exponentially," expressed in the style of a formula, "EP/PSWB") and turns out to be himself a psychologically broken man. Workers are urged never to blame their employers or the economy for their straitened condition, lest bitterness infect the "winning attitude" they must at all times exude.

The obfuscatory jargon serves a transparent purpose - to present as inevitable and thus beyond politics the one-sided withdrawal of the social contract that used to assign mutual responsibilities to employers and workers. The white-collar job-seeker faces, she notes, "far more intrusive psychological demands than a laborer or clerk." Browbeaten from all sides to display "cheerfulness, upbeatness, and compliance," submissive employees turn out to be the easiest to fire.

Ehrenreich's next foray, into the faith-based job-networking scene, is both sad and farcical. She is enjoined to "network with the Lord" and is exposed to lecture topics such as "how clutter can be an obstacle to God's grace," with a smattering of racism, sexism and homophobia to wash it all down. One wonders what the Jesus Christ who smashed the money-changers' tables in the Temple would have made of all this.

After seven months of searching, only two "jobs" call her back - both sales positions without benefits, offices or guaranteed salaries. One is for Mary Kay cosmetics, the other for Aflac insurance.

It's hard to know exactly how to apply the lesson of her example.
Been there, done that, and got kicked out for bitterness infecting my "winning attitude" that I was, at all times, supposed to exude. Couldn't do it. Fine.

No work today.

Posted by Alan at 10:12 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Topic: Announcements


This week's issue of Just Above Sunset - Volume 3, Number 36, for the week of Sunday, September 4, 2005 - is now online and contains, in magazine format, extended versions of what first appeared here, along with much new material.

This week's issue may be the Labor Day issue, or the back-to-school issue, or the hurricane issue, or the Paris and London issue - your choice.

In current events there is a great deal on the hurricane and what it has shown about us, and about those who lead us, along with two item on the ongoing Iraq war - one on the controversial new strategy for winning, and one on war reporting.

This week's "features," so to speak, cover the shift as the new year begins in September - Mike in London explaining what changes there, and Ric in Paris what changes, or doesn't, there. There was no column from Ric, "Our Man in Paris," last week, but this week there are three, two of them with photos of the end of summer in Paris. And for the heck of it, there's a short note on Las Vegas and an exclusive photo of the famous writer, Ray Bradbury, who just turned eighty-five.

More Paris? The week's shots from "Our Eye on Paris," Don Smith, show the Paris some of us remember all too well. David Hockney inspires the local photography, and there's a special botanical shot. The pages on Richard Meier's Getty Center, along with architectural notes, will probably be posted Monday - there are forty of them and building the multiple pages and text are taking a bit more time than anticipated. As some of you know, the Getty Center is that big billion-dollar museum complex that opened a few years ago, high above Sunset. Richard Meier is the architect, and this is sort of Le Corbusier meets Frank Lloyd Wright meets Mies van der Rohe in a monumentally Stalinist thing. Stay tuned for that, or more precisely, log on in a day or two.

Of course Bob Patterson is back, with a column that demands some interaction, and with an unusual roundup of back-to-school book recommendations.

Oh yes, the quotes for the week are tangentially related to events in New Orleans.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ________________

The President's Rentrée: When it rains, it pours…
News from Lake George: Things Fall Apart
What's With These People? Readers on the administration's response to the storm and flood…
Disconnects Noted: And Now They Are Open for Discussion
Iraq: The Blindingly Obvious Strategy of the Day - The Oil Patch
War Status: Who Do You Trust?

Features ________________

Our Man in London: Notes from Westminster
Our Man in Paris: In the News in France as Summer Ends
Our Man in Paris (2): Last Word of August from Paris - Unauthorized Water!
A Photo-Note from Our Man in Paris
Las Vegas: Assessing the Pre-Ridiculous
Book Note: Ray Bradbury

Bob Patterson ________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - Between A Rock and a Hard Place
Book Wrangler: Study Hard, Make Us Proud, Get A Solid Script

Guest Photography ________________

Our Eye on Paris: Traditional Paris

Local Photography ________________

Hockney: The Sun-Drenched Color Palette He Devised in Los Angeles
A Rose
Richard Meier's Getty Center (coming soon)

Quotes for the week of September 4, 2005 - Tangentially Related to Events In New Orleans

The rose:

Posted by Alan at 16:18 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 16:19 PDT home

Saturday, 3 September 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Disconnects Noted: And Now They Are Open for Discussion

• The American Red Cross was and still is banned from entering New Orleans - a collection of the reasoning involved - bit of "too dangerous" and a lot of "helping these people on site would make them less likely to want to leave" - statements from officials. The deaths that resulted from this decision are not discussed.

• From the weekend wrap-up on the Washington Post, a snippet on FEMA here:
As reports continued of famished and dehydrated people isolated across the Gulf Coast, angry questions were pressed about why the military has not been dropping food packets for them - as was done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami.

Bill Wattenburg, a consultant for the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one of the designers of the earlier food drop programs, said that he has lobbied the administration and the military to immediately begin something similar. He said he was told that the military was prepared to begin, but that it was awaiting a request from FEMA.
Never happened. Elsewhere in these pages on the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, who, prior to joining FEMA was as an assistant city manager, Laura Rosen being angry:
My lord, the guy heading FEMA has no qualifications. What was he doing before getting pulled into FEMA by the Bush administration in 2003? He was an estate planning lawyer in Colorado and of counsel for the International Arabian Horse Association Legal Department. And yes, it is the same Michael D. Brown.
Her item has internal links to the facts, and now this additional information - the International Arabian Horse Association Legal Department asked Brown to resign, or be fired, and earlier in the year there were calls for him to resign as head of FEMA, because FEMA seems to have inappropriately distributed thirty million dollars in disaster relief funds to people in the Miami area even though they were not affected by Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than one hundred miles away - the link has more detail. He takes care of his friends. Also see this from the New Orleans Times-Picayune September 2nd - current issues with breaking agreements.

• From the Associated Press, Saturday, September 3, this:
WASHINGTON - Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck - a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.
File that under Management 101 of course.

• Under "class and race" issues file this, also from the Associated Press, Saturday, September 3 -
At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses pulled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line - much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the Superdome since last Sunday.

"How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?" exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.

The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, near the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome. The Hyatt was severely damaged by the storm. Every pane of glass on the riverside wall was blown out.
• Noted in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, September 3 - Met by Despair, Not Violence - byline Scott Gold, subhead "As they begin to patrol the chaotic city, troops are surprised by what they don't find." They were told to expect urban combat to take back the streets, they entered the city "locked and loaded" in full armor, but no enemy - just desperate and dying civilians who wanted help.

• Also noted in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, September 3 - Reporters Confront Leaders on Government's Response (Scott Collins) "... many reporters shed their stance of neutrality and joined numerous commentators in criticizing local, state and federal officials for their seemingly slow reaction to the calamity."

On Thursday's "Nightline," ABC News' Ted Koppel assailed Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown for his inability to offer an accurate count of refugees at the New Orleans Convention Center: "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting about it for more than just today."

On CNN, reporter Soledad O'Brien also lit into Brown: "How is it possible that we're getting better intel than you're getting? ... Why no massive airdrop of food and water? In Banda Aceh, in Indonesia, they got food dropped two days after the tsunami struck."

"No one, no one in government is doing a good job in handling one of the most atrocious and embarrassing and far-reaching calamitous things that has come along in this country in my lifetime," said CNN commentator Jack Cafferty. The cable network reported being flooded with e-mails praising Cafferty's diatribe.

Also on CNN, Anderson Cooper had a bristling exchange Thursday evening with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who was thanking leaders and praising the emergency aid bill Congress was about to pass.

"Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi," Cooper said. "And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated?. It kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats."

On MSNBC, host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough called the situation in the Gulf Coast region "nothing short of a national disgrace."

Commentators who have proved friendly to Republicans criticized some of the relief efforts, if not the Bush administration directly.

Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News Channel's highly rated "The O'Reilly Factor," told viewers Thursday: "The country expects the government to control law breaking in the hurricane zone, to provide food and shelter, and to prevent any person or company from exploiting this desperate situation."

News executives defended the tenor of the coverage, saying that reporters witnessing the devastation were best qualified to press government officials about reports that did not correlate to what they were seeing, they said.
That seemed to be happening, and over at Fox News on Friday night this:
I've never seen anything as harrowing as Fox News' Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith on Hannity and Colmes. While Aaron Brown on CNN said we have "turned the corner", it's clearly not the truth. There are thousands of people trapped in what Geraldo called "this Hell on earth" at the convention center. No one has been bused out. Shepard was on I-10 and just devastating in his description of the "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of people being denied exit and still without food, water, medicine or water.

When a network like Fox can't prevent its reporters from speaking the truth, you have to know the situation is so much worse than we've been told. Geraldo was crying, Shep Smith looked like he wanted to drive a knife thorough Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes. How frustrating for them to watch reality get trumped by spinned photos of supply-laden ships arriving. The reality is that 12 hours after those ships arrived, nothing has changed for those in lock-down at the convention center or exiled on a highway.
Saw it too, and the video is here - the Fox News pro-administration machine breaking down for a moment.

Back to the Times media notes:
Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president of CBS News, said she could not remember another disaster in which there was such a disconnect between what the government said and what reporters saw.

"It is part of our job to question them and to say, 'How can you say that, when we see something else with our own eyes?' " McGinnis said.

... The turning point in the Katrina coverage came Thursday, when authorities stopped evacuating refugees from the squalid Superdome in New Orleans because of reports of shots fired at rescuers, Rosenstiel [Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington] said. Journalists found it difficult to accept official explanations of why the extensive relief promised by the government had not reached refugees.

"The [Bush] administration threw the head of FEMA out there to the lion's den" to answer reporters' questions, Rosenstiel said.

Indeed, Koppel's grilling of FEMA's Brown proved pivotal to many viewers, who burned up blogs and online discussion with analyses of the exchange.

"Thank God Koppel is there to ask the common sense questions," a poster wrote at Americablog. "Kudos to Koppel for standing up to the White House spin," wrote Matthew Gross on his blog Deride and Conquer.

By midday Friday, the tone of the coverage seemed to be shifting. As troops began delivering food and water and President Bush toured the Gulf Coast region, CNN blared the headline "Help at Last" on its website.

But also offered transcripts documenting differences in the official version and the "in-the-trenches version" of events, under the headline: "The big disconnect on New Orleans."
That CNN item is here, and it's in simple bullet points.

The Times also notes the conservative commentators have accused the media of using the disaster as an opportunity to attack Bush, quoting Rush Limbaugh.

As for CNN and Anderson Cooper, who appeared on Bill Mehar's Real Time show on HBO Friday night - and resisted laughing it up as much as Maher tried to loosen things - he seems just angry. Here is the exchange that happened Thursday, Cooper and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.
Cooper introduced Landrieu and immediately asked, "Does the federal government bear responsibility for what is happening now? Should they apologize for what is happening now?" Landrieu told him "there will be plenty of time to discuss those issues," and proceeded to begin thanking various government officials for their disaster relief support.

Finally, Cooper interrupted her:

Senator, I'm sorry... for the last four days, I have been seeing dead bodies here in the streets of Mississippi and to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other - I have to tell you, there are people here who are very upset and angry, and when they hear politicians thanking one another, it just, you know, it cuts them the wrong way right now, because there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman has been laying in the street for 48 hours, and there is not enough facilities to get her up. Do you understand that anger?

LANDRIEU: I have the anger inside of me. Most of the homes in my family have been destroyed. I understand that, and I know all the details, and the President...

COOPER: Well, who are you angry at?

LANDRIEU: I'm not angry at anyone. It is so important for everyone in this nation to pull together, for all military assets to be brought to bear in this situation. I have every confidence this country is great and strong as we can be do to that, and that effort is under way. That effort is under way.

COOPER: Well, I mean, there are a lot of people here who are kind of ashamed of what is happening in this country right now, what is - ashamed of what is happening in your state. And that's not to blame the people that are there, it is a terrible situation, but you know, who - no one seems to be taking responsibility. I know you say there's a time and a place for kind of, you know, looking back, but this seems to be the time and the place. There are people that want answers, and people want someone to stand up and say: we should have done more.
Not the usual behavior of out press? You could say that.

Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta had some things to say. Rick's involvement in the founding of CNN can be found in CNN: The Inside Story, a book from 1990 (Little, More) by Hank Whittemore - see the index under Rick Brown -
If you've watched CNN this week, all the on-air CNNers seem to be in high dudgeon - not only the Anderson Cooper case you mention here, nor the normally curmudgeonly (read, "old conservative fart") Jack Cafferty that you mention elsewhere, but also Jeanne Meserve breaking down during a debriefing from Aaron Brown the other night, Soledad O'Brien coming on strong while interviewing someone (whose identity I forget) the other day, and this morning, Miles O'Brien grilling Louisiana's governor on how many troops she requested, and when.

I can't help but think Jonathan Klein, who is on record in favor of personalizing CNN's news coverage, sees this going on, and probably approves. For all I know, he's actually urging them to do it.

I saw Anderson open his show last night with that interview - introducing it by expressing his "outrage," and then seemingly fighting back tears afterward as he moved on to the next piece. I was surprised Landrieu didn't just say, "Miles, I've got too much work to do to sit around and take crap from you," then take off her microphone and walk away. Instead, at the end, she kept thanking him for the work he was doing.

At first, I was annoyed with Cooper's lack of professionalism. Although I've always liked his stuff, I've also felt that he hasn't really racked up enough real journalistic experience to understand this principle of objectivity. For example, I asked myself, shouldn't he - and maybe the rest of us - be at least as dismayed that over a thousand pilgrims died during that panic in Iraq earlier in the week? In fact, from now on, should I fault him every time he does NOT become emotionally involved in a story close to MY heart?

But then, I got over it. First of all, these on-scene reporters are suffering from lack of sleep as they struggle to get from one scene to another, only to constantly confront personal tragedies that they can do little to alleviate - suffering, in fact, from psychological trauma similar to that experienced by the rescue workers, nurses, and other public servants in the area.

But also, maybe one of the problems with disaster coverage in general is that it tends to equalize all these hurricanes into one big amorphous blob of distressed survivors, strolling through piles of broken lumber, vowing to build again. Maybe this one, which is probably closer to San Francisco's 1906 earthquake or the Chicago Fire than to Hurricane Andrew, demands reporters who will shake us by the shoulders and get us to forget everything else we've ever seen, and also to force our government to pay better attention to this than it seems to be doing.

Not that this necessarily will work, of course. Here in Atlanta, even with refugees streaming in who will probably end up as permanent residents for years to come, the major concern of the locals seems to be whether we will run out of gas in our cars during the upcoming holiday weekend, or whether we'll be paying more than $3 a gallon from here on out.
Maybe so, or maybe all these accumulating "disconnects" - now the media openly reports them - will mean some changes for the better in the nation.

The "disconnects" are there. Now they are open for discussion to the general public, not just fodder for bull sessions among the policy wonks.

Posted by Alan at 10:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005 10:22 PDT home

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