Monthly Archives: August 2005

Biloxi Blues and the Drenched Quarter

Insensitive title puns aside, this hurricane Katrina was truly a terrible disaster. As with any natural disaster, no matter how much news coverage we watch or read about what happened, we can’t possibly know what it is like for the people going through it. Thankfully we have the mayors of the affected cities, such as Biloxi, Mississippi telling us what it’s like. Numerous times on CNN yesterday afternoon, I saw his quote, “This is our tsunami.” Phew, thank goodness we have our own “tsunami” now. We certainly wouldn’t want the US to be out-natural-disastered by the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Just how much like the tsunami was hurricane Katrina?

Death toll: “In the hundreds,” with roughly 250 confirmed, last I read. Let’s go with what seems like the current worst case, say 1000.
Homeless/displaced: “Experts say as many as 1 million.” Current totals are about 1/3 to 1/2 that.
Warning: At least 2 days with known landfall on the Gulf states, with hurricane tracking for a full week prior.

Indian Ocean Earthquake/Tsunmai
Death toll: Somewhere in the range of 200,000 – 300,000
Homeless/displaced: Roughly 1.3 million+
Warning: None (big wave on the horizon is too late)

I’m sorry, Katrina is definitely tragic, but this was not “our tsunami.” To jump to an illogical conclusion, the Mayor of Biloxi seems to imply an American life is worth 250 South Asian lives. I know that’s not at all what he’s saying, but why the need for any comparison at all? Why do we feel the need to equate the relative scale of disasters to one another? As if that weren’t enough, on the news this morning, I heard another quote saying, “it is like Hiroshima.” I can’t remember for sure who it was, but maybe it was the same Mayor of Biloxi. For comparison sake:

Death toll: 80,000+ outright (double that, due to radiation over time)
Homeless/displaced: 150,000 – 300,000
Warning: None (although war could be considered warning for some possible form of destruction)

On top of that, the circumstances of Hiroshima (civilian vs. military casualties, lives saved by ending the war, etc.) are so entirely different from Hurricane Katrina, it is almost ridiculous to associate the two at all, let alone claim that one is like the other. In this comparison, one American life is given the value of 225 Japanese. There are already claims of racism in regards to the disaster coverage, so I won’t continue to go down that route. But why do we have this need to one-up existing disasters? These comparisons are like apples to… no, not even oranges… more like, paper-clips. Yeah, like apples to paper-clips.

I just couldn’t help getting this sinking feeling in my gut after I saw those quotes. At first they seemed like simple, but misguided, attempts to humanize an unspeakable tragedy. In reality they’re just dehumanizing these historical disasters, and at the same time dehumanizing this event. The news organizations already do an excellent job of senseless desensitizing, we don’t need to homogenize every disaster into the same historical pile of generic “bad things.” Katrina is like the tsunami, which is like the Holocaust, which is like 9/11, which is like Hiroshima. No. Not at all. Embrace the shittiness of each one of these tragedies. Let them stand on their own life-altering, jaw-dropping merits, and pitch in.

New York, New York

New Yorker A few quick highlights from my trip to New York City, which just flew by in a blur of heat, people, activity, food and drink. I stayed in the New Yorker Hotel, which was a decent price for NY, and while not that swanky, it had a lot of old city character. The hotel was midtown, west side, which wasn’t all that great considering most of my nights out were spent south and crosstown in the East Village (look at that, just a few nights there and I already know how to use the NY directional lingo). The first day and a half were sweltering heat, but an afternoon of thunderstorms managed to cool things off for the rest of the week.

The new MOMA was one of the highlights. The museum was huge and sometimes hard to navigate, but there were a lot of classic pieces, along with many lesser-known (but often more interesting) works as well. To fill out the modern/contemporary art experience, I also checked out the Whitney, which had a Robert Smithson retrospective, and a great exhibit of very recent contemporary work, which is always refreshing to see.

I had the great pleasure of seeing one of my highschool friends, Anni Bruno act in a crazy, raunchy, fringe theatre festival show called The Banger’s Flopera. The writing was so off-the-wall it was hard to keep track at times, but it was well acted and executed and had me laughing plenty.

One of the days I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, which I had never done before. It was a foggy, drizzly morning, but I was still able to snap a panorama from the center (Note to panomra software makers out there: I have the best set of 13 pictures for you to prove your software on. There are so many confusing, criss-crossing lines and repeated elements in these, they confused every program I tried. The final product was done in two sets of six, and then pasted together with the last one in Photoshop.)

Brooklyn Bridge

Best food out was probably an all-you-can-eat king crab night, where they literally dumped whole crabs on the table in front of you (in addition to corn on the cob and fries), and handed you a wooden mallet and a nutcracker. I don’ think there were any other pieces of silverware on the table.

Best night out was actually right after that dinner at a trashy place called Sing Sing Karaoke. They had private rooms and shots and we were set. The question “What did you sing?” is almost laughable, because we sang it ALL.

In the end it was a great trip, and I definitely understand the allure for those folk who’ve recently decided to move.

You Know What They Say About Big Cities

I don’t know how many times someone in NY asked me how big Seattle was after I mentioned how small it felt. But I never had a good answer, since I couldn’t remember whether the figures I knew were for Seattle proper, or for the greater metropolitan area. Either way, NY was still a whole heck of a lot bigger. And now for the official numbers…

Seattle has a total estimated city population of 573,000 and a metro area population of almost 3.8 million as of 2005.

New York City has a population of over 8 million people (1.5 million on Manhattan alone) and a metropolitan area containing over 22 million people.

And then there’s the massive state of Connecticut. I think I guessed that a dozen Connecticuts could fit into Washington State. According to my scientific calculations, it looks like I was off by one…

CT in WA

And the survey says… WA (71,303 sq mi) ÷ CT (5,544 sq mi) = 12.86 Connecticuts in Washington State. QED


I never thought my visit home would include getting hooked on the addictive puzzles known as Sudoku. At first glance it looks like they require a lot of math, but they don’t take a single bit of addition, subtraction, or any more complex tricks. The purpose is simply to place the numbers 1-9 in each 3×3 square, as well as each row and column. Each number, 1-9, should appear only once in a row, column or 3×3 square. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Think of it like a crossword puzzle without having to know any of those annoying words. Pure logic, baby.

Exercise your brain by heading to Web Sudoku. I recommend printing out the harder ones to do with a pencil and eraser. You’ll need it.

We’re all sell-outs

After my last two posts, where I skipped around the idea of a “sell-out,” I thought I’d now try summarizing my thoughts on why I think the concept “selling-out” is bullshit. Before writing this, I decided to throw some terms at Google and see who else had already ranted in the same way. Well, lo and behold, I found a rant that mirrored my thoughts and was written more eloquently than I could pull off. The author himself has been called a sell-out numerous times (in fact, I just had a long conversation about him the other night), and is none other than David Eggers… Continue reading

Andre the Giant Walks the Line

In my last post I mentioend the popular street artist turned fashion designer, Shepard Fairey, in a sell-out sort of context (I’ve always hated calling creative people sell-outs, regardless of their actions. I’ll have to return to this thought in another post). Well, checking out the trailer for the upcoming film, Walk the Line about the life of Johnny Cash, I noticed the art credit on the promotional graphics was none other than Mr. Shepard Fairey. Alex may have said it best with, “Huh, he can actually do something other than Andre the Giant.” Indeed, the promotional graphics include a poster, desktop image, stencils, stickers, and the essential AIM buddy icon, all based on the same stylized image of Cash and his guitar. I like the design and style, and the movie itself looks quite good (Joaquin Phoenix learned to play guitar, and sings all his own songs, and sounds dead-on in the trailer).

But… and there’s always a “but,” stencils as part of movie promotion? I doubt even the king of viral stencil design himself can pull that off. I do think it’s a good sign that movie studios are getting more experimental, at least with their marketing, but they’re still a few years behind. I see it as similar to the “virals” that advertisers have attempted. The very nature of a meme or viral in this sense is almost that it’s accidental. Trying to create one from scratch is oxymoronic. I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many of these Johnny Cash stencils around, Shepard Fairey designed or not.

Banksy Strikes the Holy Land

Banksy BalloonThe UK’s artist, Banksy just finished a trip to Palestine, where he tackled the blank canvas that is the West Bank barrier between Israel and Palestine. Wooster Collective has a gallery of photos of some of his work. Truly striking. The Guardian has a brief article about his trip, and a gallery with a few additional photos. Wired magazine also just recently came out with an article on Banksy, highlighting some of his work.

I think he’s truly a brilliant artist, and every new piece he comes up with is as thought-provoking as the last. Unfortunately I’m a bit disappointed that he is never referred to as an artist without adding numerous qualifying adjectives to the word. “Guerilla graffiti artist,” “Spray can prankster,” “hacking the art world,” and the worst yet, “a self-described ‘art terrorist.'” Why would you descsribe yourself as an “art terrorist”? Does he think this helps his cause? No, I certainly doubt it. Does it make him more provocative? Sure. How will we see Banksy in 5, 10, 20 years? Will he be seen as an artist ahead of his times, such as a Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, or (the obvious parallel) a Jean-Michel Basquiat? Can he achieve this coveted status of famous (and famously misunderstood) artist without some sort of tragedy such as an untimely death, or repeated arrests for his illegal work? What if he just grows old, and his art and ideas go downhill until he dies of natural causes? My guess is he’d just be forgotten as yet another “spray-can prankster” who could never move beyond the shock-value tactics of youth. I’m really curious what direction he’ll go. He claims to be anti-corporate and has refused offers from Nike, but Banksy is already heading in the direction of other street-art icons, such as Shepard Fairey, selling books of his work (may be sold by an un-related third party, I’m not sure). Maybe a Banksy clothing line is next, without compromising his precious status as an “art-terrorist,” “hacking the art world,” of course.

What? Pages

Even though I’m not in QA (Quality Assurance) any longer, I still manage to run across my fair share of bugs that reveal some amusing things at work. Today, as a result, I managed to find some fun new city names, such as…

Ninety Six, SC
Eighty Eight, KY
Six Mile Run, PA
Fruita, CO
Fate, TX
Beauty, KY
Experiment, GA
Okay, OK

And in case you didn’t know, there’s a Bethlehem, CT. There are plenty more listed here. I could only confirm some of them. Or if you feel like typing some random junk, now has phonetic city matching/guessing for some fun surprises. Any other favorites to share?

Summer Strings

This summer has been flying by, and so has the traffic on my website. OK, not so much the latter, but nonetheless I have some random search strings from June and July to share…

pixelated!! – Vectors!!
a lot of interesting thoughts – Here?
break up if they kiss someone else – Like, totally
difference between a blimp and a zeppelin – This issue was fully debated with members of the Trachtenburg family here
is talking to oneself a bad thing – Hey self, is it?
average punch speed miles per hour boxing – All I could find was some Tae Kwon Do site claiming the fastest kick in a tournament match was 70 mph, and the fastest punch was around 100 mph*
evil kitty cat with a rifle – C’mon, why does he have to be evil?
impatient people – Am I done with this post yet?
iwant to chat to micheal jackson – If you ask your Mommy nice, she might let you sleep over
parkour minimum age – Um, it’s just running and jumping. 3-10 year olds are the leading experts. I’d be more concerned about a maximum age.
why is un a valid word in scrabble – Because it’s in the dictionary
triple tit – Rent Total Recall
silly fork

*I would guess that the fastest mph punch would have to be close to the world-record fastball in baseball. What you’re doing is essentially the same: swinging/throwing/pushing a part of your body through the air as fast as possible. Do you think the mechanics at play are different enough to create drastically different speeds? Can anyone find a website that isn’t about the fastest knockout or paper-punching machines?