Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Playing the Disaster Dozens

First off, let me say unequivocally that I have great sympathy for the people around San Diego who have been displaced and are losing their homes to the wildfires. I'm sure everyone in New Orleans does. We know what it is to flee, to be a refugee, to lose everything. But I just hate how it is being compared in the media to Katrina, some kind of crazy game of one-upmanship -- my disaster affecting affluent white people is worse than your disaster that drowned poor blacks. What kind of way is that to think? Aren't we all Americans?

I'm also angry about the way the evacuation and relief efforts are being handled. Quite well in fact. Why couldn't it have been like that down here? Why did people have to starve and die at the Dome, the Convention Cenetr?

I saw this article from the AP yesterday -- here's the lead:

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Like Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years earlier in New Orleans, thousands of people rousted by natural disaster fled to the NFL stadium here, waiting out the calamity and worrying about their homes.

The similarities ended there, as an almost festive atmosphere reigned at Qualcomm Stadium.

Bands belted out rock 'n' roll, lavish buffets served gourmet entrees, and massage therapists helped relieve the stress for those forced to flee their homes because of wildfires.

When I first read this article it made me so angry, just blind with rage. Massage therapy? Catered food?! What the HELL?! The people at the Convention Center would have been delighted with bottled water and MREs!!! Why do the people of San Diego deserve any better?

But then I read it again, more rationally. It may not be quite as blatant as it looks. First, the article is obviously calculated to inflame, being couched that way, comparing Katrina and the wildfires. The article could have been written without mentioning Katrina at all, or adding the comparison at the end, instead of leading with it.

Second, upon second reading it seems that all the nicer amenities provided at Qualcomm stadium were not government largesse, but volunteer efforts. The massage therapist was there on her own initiative, volunteering to help out. Local hotels donated the catered meals. The "rock bands" may have been volunteers too. Which is nice, actually. Maybe this means people learned somethign from Katrina. That we are all in this together. That this kind of disaster could happen to anyone, so we all need to be ready. That evacuees should not be left to suffer and thirst, alone, without community support. I certainly hope so.

Thirdly, in terms of water and medical supplies being ready and bountiful -- one can hardly be surprised that the govt. of california is better equipped to handle an evacuation than that of Louisiana. I mean, it's California -- wealthier, successful, just much more functional in general. Isn'tthe state of California alone the world's tenth largest economy or something like that? Plus, they know this kind of thing -- the wildfires -- could happen any year with the Santa Ana winds, and often do, so they have had every reason to be prepared.

In the aftermath of Katrina, most of my rage was aimed not at FEMA but at Mayor Nagin, the City Council and the entire city government of New Orleans. We, too, knew the Big One could hit any year. More, much more, should have been done to prepare. Citizens should not have been left to languish and starve at the Superdome. So I can hardly hate on San Diego for being prepared.

Thirdly, althouigh the evacuation is massive, rememebr that Souhthern California is much more heavily populated that South Louisiana, and although the burned areas have been devastated, they are in a relatively confined area. The rest of the region is still functional. Evacuees, indeed, are moving into the city of San Diego proper, where there are hotels to cater to them and emergency services are still intact. Completely the opposite of Katrina/Rita, where practically the whole of Souhth Louisiana was evacuated. There was no infrastructure anymore, no one left to speak of cater any meals to the Convention Center refugees. Emergency services were overwhelmed by a regional disaster.

Still, my feelings are complex. I doubt the Dome refugees would have been served capered chickens in cream sauce if anyone had brought them food. The racial disparities seem blantant.

I also don't like the way ther MSM is trumping this up as, if to best Katrina, as if to say, oh, thisis so much worse, we can forget about New orleans now. Last night on the nightly news Brian Williams said thst the SoCal evacuation were the largest since World War II -- which is manifestly untrue. 900,000 people have been evacuated for the wildfires: 1.2 million evacuated for Katrina, and over 2 million in South LA and Texas for Rita. The one-upmanship is just crazy and sick. I felt personally betrayed when I heard that. I thought Brian Williams was on our side.

Not that there should be any sides! Comparing disasters is pointless, and yet we can't seem to help it. The similarities ,and the differences, are so marked.

Pandagon has much to say on this same topic, and also refrences the AP article.

let me close with another quote from that article:

Hundreds sat in the stands watching the [television] sets, transfixed as news programs broadcast images of destruction. Among them was Bruce Fowler, whose home in the Scripps Ranch neighborhood had survived fires in 2003. ...

"Every couple of years, you don't want to go through this worry," Fowler said, sipping a root beer. "I never thought I'd be in a place like this, getting handouts."

Nobody does, brother, nobody does. And yet, it could happen to us all. We just need to remember that, and try and have compassion, for us and for them.

I'd like anyone who reads this post to comment and share your thought with me. This was a hard post to write. I don't really know how to feel. How do YOU feel?

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Case of the Stormy Mondays

Today is a bad day. I am completely disgusted and affronted that I have to come into work today. That I have to deal with my coworkers. To put covers on books. Check my email. That I have to go home and cook dinner from scratch, because my husband got so spoiled living with my folks while I was in graduate school that he can't even boil water anymore. That I have to clean up, because people are coming over tomorrow night. That I have to feed the cats, brush my teeth, do anything at all. A day like today is only worth crawling back into bed and spending the day dozing, reading, and occasionally drinking tea -- which someone brings me. Getting up to go to work while it's pouring rain and the sky is still black as night is just torture. It's just not right.

A patron just asked me if we were closing early because of the bad weather. I wish.

UPDATE: I see on reports of major street flooding at Carrollton and Banks St., which is only a few blocks from my library branch. And schools around town are closing, including I see, Tulane and Loyola. So, maybe.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day for the Environment

So I just read on Blogger Buzz that today is Global Blog Action Day, and this year's theme is the environment. So ... yay ... love the environment!!!

Seriously, though, we in New Orleans have a had a foretaste of what's to come all around the world if and when global warming melts the polar ice caps and raise the seas. If we leverage our expereince and our hard-learned lessons, New Orleans could be a world leader in coastal restoration and mitigation technologies -- sure to be a growth industry, sadly.

Here's a link to America's Wetlands, the foundation dedicated to restoring Louisiana's coastal wetlands -- a vital link in the chain protection that will help prevent another Katrina.

In other news, I've disabled the captcha in my comments sectins, so it's easy to drop a note. If you're reading, leave a comment -- I'd like to know who's out there.

If no one comments, I will be SAD. :-(

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lights Out is Scary

This morning, Weekend Edition ran a story about a guy who wants to make an energy-saving gesture by convincing his hometown, San Francisco, to turn out the lights for one night: Lights Out San Francisco.

Pre-K, I used to be all for this kind of thing, but now, this idea makes me tense. Fires up my POKSS (Post-Katrina Stress Syndrome). I was here in the early days after the re-opening, when three-quarters of the city was still dark, and it was frickin SCARY. In the devastated neighborhoods. I'm talking pitch black, can't see your hand in front of your face DARK. Dark like the most howling wilderness, in the heart of the city. This is when there was no electricity at all, so no porch lights, no street lights, no traffic lights, no storefront signs, NOTHING. And quiet. No air condotioners, no radios, no cars, no buzzing streetlights. No crickets chirping, even, cause they were all dead.

Man! I don't care to repeat that experience! Next year the guy's trying to take this idea national. I think this will be a fun time for intact cities. But I don't think New Orleans will embrace it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

K-Ville Nitpick Patrol

Tonight's episode:

The voodoo paraphenalia: Cigars and rum are offered to Legba, not Ogun. Also, most average people in NOLA would not know this. Most people are scared of voodoo, or vodoun as it should be called.

Keeping kosher: Marlon said he once tried to keep kosher to impress a girl, until she caught him with a "pulled pork poor-boy." WTF? A cuban sandwich, man, a cuban sandwich!

I'm sure there were more errors, but those were the two that jumped out at me.

I have no say, the show is not as bad as I expected. It does not come near to the eye-gouging Big Easy level of badness. But I still don't think the show is going to survive. Not beacuse of its faux-Nola dorkiness, but because that mess is packaged in a very lame, cliched, buddy-cop-show format. Haven't we seen that a million times? It's stale, man, stale! Law & Order, anyone?

I don't object, in theory, to a show about post-K New Orleans. By no means. Bu I think the stale buddy-cop drama is just about the lamest, least interesting way to do it. I don't think America at large is going to be interested enough in picking over the corpse of post-K New Orleans enough to stick with the lameness.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Big Boxes of Books

Unlike Jeffrey, I am thrilled at the advent of a Borders bookstore in the former Bultman funeral home at the corner of St. Charles and Louisiana. I mean, think of it, would you rather have a huge, rotting, unused building on a major intersection, or a thriving business? To see a major national chain willig to invest in inner-city NOLA right now is a positive development, I thnk. That intersection has gotten positivwely decrepit post-K (and wasn't too hot before) and really needs a facelift. A large, successful anchor store could revivify the whole area. And now those of us without automobile transport to Metarie or the Westbank can enjoy a big box bookstore/cafe.

I'm confident our independent bookstores will be able to weather the change. Remember, Starbuck's didn't drive PJs or Rue de La Course out of business when it landed. Same deal here. People who will shop at the Borders are probably not the people who shopped at Octavia or Garden District Books anyway. And now, some of those people will be keeping their tax revenue in the city proper instead of sending it out to Jeff Parish.

So I think, it's all good. Personally I can't wait!