Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Really at this point, the idea of New York Governor David Patterson suspending his campaign should be anything but news.  I mean, for the last few weeks the New York Times has been beating on him like he owed them money, with the news that he helped to suppress a sexual assault beef with one of his top aides just being the most egregious of the revelations.  However, somehow this is news because, well, it’s David Patterson, and he doesn’t seem to live in a world that is ruled by the same laws of reality that the rest of us are.

While there never was the one big bombshell that the times had promised (I was expecting nothing short of drugs, dead hookers, embezzled campaign funds, and maybe a male mistress), the cumulative damage ultimately proved to be more than enough to finally bring the Governor’s reelection campaign screeching to a halt.   Although, it is worth noting that there are those in political world and the media who are calling for a little more drastic action than just that and actually resigning before his term expires.  However, all indicators would point to the Governor serving out the remainder of his term and not seeking reelection.

The following comes from today’s New York Times article on the matter;

Mr. Paterson is expected to make the announcement Friday afternoon. It would end his campaign less than a week after it officially began, with an angry speech at Hofstra University on Long Island.

As he prepared for the announcement, some newspaper editorial writers were demanding something more than an end to his campaign: they were calling for his resignation. That only added to the increasing sense that it would be nearly impossible for him to run the state and the campaign with the abuse case in the background.

Even though I don’t doubt that the thread on the Governor’s abuses of power will continue to be pulled in coming months, it looks like a bizarre chapter in New York’s political history is going to soon be drawing to a close.

UPDATE: According to the New York Times, everything that we thought Patterson was going to say has been said.  As expected, he vowed to finish his term.


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Some Words On Haiti

I haven’t posted about the situation in Haiti yet.  This is mostly due to the fact that it’s so unbelievably staggering, that I just have had absolutely no idea what it is that I could say.  The death toll is astronomical, the country is in a state of near-chaos, and so far the global community has been unable to provide the kind of aid that is needed.  In short, it is one of the single worst disasters that has occurred in my lifetime, and in the aftermath is a nation that is teetering on the edge.

I am not on the ground in Haiti.  I have never been to Haiti.  I cannot paint an accurate picture of what is going on in the country right now, or what needs to be done.  This being the case, here is the picture as painted by some sources with much more authority and expertise than I would ever claim to have.

From The Los Angeles Times:

For residents, the shortages of food, water and fuel carried the prospect of increased hardship in a nation with a volatile history. Chaotic lines formed at gas stations, though it was unclear whether any gasoline would be pumped. Those with enough fuel created a noisy traffic jam on one main boulevard heading out of the capital.

People scavenged for water, carrying empty canisters in the street.

One elderly man, who wanted to be identified by only his first name, Milton, said Haitians were hoping that U.S. Marines, who have been deployed during times of political upheaval, would come again.

“When the U.S. occupation is good and big, it creates work, builds roads, helps people,” he said. Not only that, Milton added, Marines tended to toss the remains of their meals into the city’s omnipresent mountains of garbage.

From The New York Times:

For rescuers and those buried, every hour that passed was the enemy.

“The time window is ever shrinking,” said Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

Residents interviewed through the city said that the cries that they heard emanating from many collapsed buildings in the initial hours after the quake had begun to soften, if not quiet completely.

“There’s no more life here,” said a grandmother Thursday, who nonetheless rapped a broom against concrete in hopes that her four missing relatives believed to be buried inside might somehow respond.

From CNN:

“If help doesn’t come quickly, it probably will [get worse],” Agnes Pierre-Louis, manager of her family-owned hotel, the Le Plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince. “We’re not hearing anything from the government. We’re not seeing any foreign aid yet.”

But Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said forces have not “seen a great deal of insecurity.” The priority now, he said, is cranking up rescue and relief efforts to stave off restiveness.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoed that sentiment, saying that “other than some scavenging and minor looting, our understanding is the security situation is pretty good.”

“The key is to get the food and the water in there as quickly as possible so that people don’t, in their desperation, turn to violence or lead to the security situation deteriorating.”


The situation is especially dire for children, who make up an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of the Port-au-Prince population. They’re smaller and more vulnerable to injury than adults, but they also suffer faster from dehydration, blood loss and shock. Their immature immune systems also make it harder to fight back against illness and infection than adults, health experts said.

In the meantime, medical teams on the ground will continue to grapple with the aftermath of early triage, which postponed treatment for those whose injuries may have been serious, but not life-threatening.

Victims with arm or leg fractures, for instance, wouldn’t have been a top priority, Cummings said. But the untended wounded remain ripe for infections and shock and they’re more vulnerable to other illness.

It’s a no-win choice for health workers who have to make hard decisions about who gets care — and who doesn’t.

From the BBC:

Most of the bodies are covered in white bed sheets or rolled inside carpets, but others have been left exposed to the hot sun and the stench of rotting bodies has begun to fill the air.

Families who are desperately searching for their loved ones are gingerly uncovering the sheets that cover the corpses in the hope they can at least identify family members.

But even if bodies are identified there is nowhere for them to be laid to rest.

Mass graves are now appearing across the city.

The mood for the past 24 hours has been one of patience and solidarity, but there is now a sense of anger and frustration that could change the atmosphere here drastically.

From The Washington Post:

All day Thursday, it was mainly the people of this shattered city, working with bare hands and simple tools, who clawed at the rubble and pulled at slabs of concrete and blocks of debris to get at those still trapped.

The dead and injured were pushed through the streets in wheelbarrows. At the overwhelmed central hospital, anguished patients lay in a weedy parking lot on gurneys fashioned from wooden doors. Calls for help went unanswered, and no doctors were in sight.

Refugees in tent cities sang hymns far into the night, and a chilling series of strong aftershocks shook awake those who were sleeping.

There were scant signs of help from the Haitian government, itself scattered by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday evening. The streets were filled with beleaguered residents milling about, left with no jobs, no instructions on what to do, and no place to buy food or to take the injured. Many said they felt totally alone and saw no evidence that relief was on the way, as their mournful pleas began to give way to anger.

Some very sobering stuff to so the very least.  As all of these words certainly indicate, the situation is dire, and immediate action is vital.  If you feel compelled to donate, which I would certainly urge you to do, here are some places that you can go to safely do so;  Unicef, Direct Relief International, Yele Haiti. There are countless other excellent organizations that are accepting donations, but I would caution you to make sure that they are legitimate before you donate.

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Jay Reatard: 1980-2010

Wow.  I don’t usually find myself too affected by celebrity deaths, but I have to admit that this is really bothering me.  The New York Times is reporting that garage rocker Jay Reatard was found dead in his home today at the age of 29.  I realize that I am just about the last person in the world to post on this, but I really felt like I had to get something up.  There was just something so vital about Reatard and his music that made him feel so very full of life, making it all the more strange to me that he should pass away in his sleep  (as is being reported).  For such a spirited and talented musician to pass away at such a young age is really tragic.  It’s one of those moments where I don’t have anything eloquent to say, as I don’t think that it would truly do the man justice.  Given what I have read and seen of Reatard, though, I think he would support this crude and base reaction; holy shit.  Below is a more fitting tribute than I can muster, Reatard’s video for “Ain’t Gonnna Save Me” (one of my favorite songs of 2009 off of one of my favorite albums) — music fans the world over will miss him.

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Remember back when HBO seemed to have the market cornered when it came to great original programming?  Well, it looks like those days might be returning soon.   Already boasting three of televisions most exciting upcoming premieres in “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme,” and “The Pacific,” the Home Box Office has shown that they’re not yet satisfied.  According to Variety, the network has decided to stay in the David Milch business by ordering a pilot from the writer for his a new show called “Luck,” that is to be centered around the world of horse racing.

Are you one of the crazy few who aren’t excited by the prospect of this great voice and wonderful concept? Well, then I should probably also mention that Michael Mann is in talks to direct the hour long pilot. Allow me be to be far from the first to say; wow.  HBO, way to constantly reward my faith in you and not give me cause to cancel my subscription.  Seriously, David Milch, the world of horse racing, and Michael Mann might just be a trio made in heaven.  Add that to the three previously mentioned series and some guilty-pleasure comedies like “Eastbound and Down,” “Bored to Death,” and “Entourage,” and I’m more than willing to forgive the weird cultural phenomenon that is “True Blood.”

All hyperbole and kidding aside, the world of horse-racing, and of course race gambling, seems to be absolutely ripe for Milch’s no-holds-barred writing style.  The world is seedy, classic, and kind of exotic all at the same time, but also full of a tragic humanity that I am pretty much foaming at the mouth to see the writer tackle.  Hopefully my main man Kem Nunn will be getting a little race track love on this one as well. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on this one, as well as hoping for some involvement of Ian McShane.

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Al Gore Is Fired Up

If you truck your merry self over to Slate than you will find their exclusive interview with former VP, one-time Nobel Prize winner, and general environmental do-gooder Al Gore.  Now, it’s a pretty long and comprehensive interview that covers a whole ton of relevant stuff regarding environmental topics, ranging from the meeting in Copenhagen to the potential for a CO2 tax, it’s all very interesting and you should definitely give it a comprehensive read.  This being said, the “sexy” subject right now is the emails that were leaked from the decade old research unit at East Angila University, which proponents of the idea that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon have been latching onto.  It’s specifically this section of the interview that caught my eye at the outset, as Gore seemed to get a bit agitated;

“These people are examining what they can or should do to deal with the P.R. dimensions of this, but where the scientific consensus is concerned, it’s completely unchanged. What we’re seeing is a set of changes worldwide that just make this discussion over 10-year-old e-mails kind of silly. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes. It’s been the size of the continental United States for the last 3 million years and now 40 percent is gone and the rest of it is going. The mountain glaciers are going. We’ve had record storms, droughts, fires, and floods. There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.”

Now, when I’m reading this it’s really Al Gore preaching to the converted (as it likely is for most people reading any interview with Al Gore) but the underlying tone of frustration in his answer really resonated with me because I often feel it myself.  The environment is literally decaying before our eyes, and when the situation would seem to warrant being extra-cautious when it comes to emissions standards and waste runoff and the like, we instead are becoming a culture of willful ignorance and a purveying belief that the whole thing is some liberal conspiracy to swindle companies out of their bottom lines.  It’s not only baffling to witness, but it could also end up costing us dearly.

For me, and apparently for Gore as well, these emails (while a bit embarrassing) change absolutely nothing in the overall debate on climate change.  The papers in question were such a small subsection of the research that has been going on that to place any real importance in the emails is to make a mountain out of a mere molehill.  If there’s anything that the meeting in Copenhagen and the press these emails have gotten indicates to me, it’s that we are constantly finding distractions to distract us from the real issues and make us forget what’s actually at stake, and it’s happening when we can afford such distractions the least.  I would like nothing more than to eloquently illustrate this point myself, but I’m afraid that Mr. Gore does it better than I could hope to;

“We’re already at the point where it’s stretching our capacity to reach an agreement that will solve the problem, but it’s still within our capacity. There are abundant reasons for hope that we will act in time. If you look at the difference between today and 10 years ago, there is a global consensus. More than 70 leaders from nations are gathering at Copenhagen. Many nations have taken action and the world is waiting for the natural leader, the United States to move on this.”

It’s important to keep this in mind, that what’s at stake is nothing less than the future of our planet, and by extension our very civilization.  But it’s good to leave things on a note of hopeful optimism, so that’s what I will close my rant with.  You, however, should definitely read the rest of the interview for yourself, as there’s lots of great stuff in there on a wide array of environmental issues.  Also, there’s a bit about Gore’s new book Our Choice, which is of course about climate change and the future of the planet (could it be the perfect stocking stuffer?).  I would suggest checking it all out regardless of which side of the issue you happen to all on.

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Eggers Hits the Newsstands

Step right up Dave Eggers!  You’re next in the line of people attempting to revitalize the newspaper industry!  Okay, so maybe the line isn’t quite that long, and Eggers ambitions may not be quite that grandiose, but in a perfect world, revitalizing the industry may just be what he ends up helping to do.  As this little piece in the Los Angeles Times explains, Eggers is taking his McSweeney’s-type publications to the streets of San Francisco, and eventually beyond (maybe):

“In addition to books and a monthly magazine, McSweeney’s publishes a literary journal, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the new issue of which is set to appear here today in a form that confounds every trend in publishing: a 300-plus-page Sunday-style broadsheet newspaper called the San Francisco Panorama, with which Eggers and company mean to celebrate the glory of the form. Featuring news and sports as well as stand-alone food and arts sections, a magazine and a 96-page pullout Book Review, the Panorama is both homage and conversation starter.”

I have to say that it’s an interesting gambit.  I think something that people have lost sight of as newspapers scramble to make their issues cheaper, electronic, gossipy, and more immediately topical (thanks for that one cable-news), is the idea that something of quality can actually help to drive up its popularity.  Or at least that’s what Eggers is banking on.  The publication will be big and in color, it will feature a glossy pull-out book review, the idea is that it will be a rewarding read for people who pay attention to the details.

I have come to be wary of doubting Eggers, as he has proven to be (arguably) successful on various literary levels from a quality standpoint and also (inarguably) from a financial one.  If there is anybody who could pull off some sort of rabid devotion from what is increasingly become a niche market, it’s probably him.  The thing about that is, if this latest venture can become popular enough amongst those intellectual newspaper reading types, who’s to say that it won’t also break through to more casual readers?  If Eggers were able to do either of these things, major publications would certainly have to take notice.

The LA Times piece (and Eggers) sums up the argument for why this whole thing might just work almost perfectly:

“That’s an optimistic assessment, but it’s one Eggers shares. “All of the interns pay for magazines,” he says. “They’ll read the New Yorker, or they’ll read Mother Jones. They’ll pay for that, but a lot of them weren’t paying for the newspaper anymore. So we started thinking, what if you offered the same sort of depth, analysis, literary value that you get in a magazine? When people sit down, they want to have an experience, and if you surprise them on every page, curate it in such a way that it’s constantly surprising and constantly delighting, I think you could keep them.”

I’ll certainly be rooting for Eggers.  If you hunger for more info, then you should certainly click your way via the link over to the times (or even to McSweeney’s Internet Tendancy) for further details.  For those of you lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area (like me!), you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy of the “newspaper” in both BookSoup and Skylight books on Wednesday next week.  The rest of you across America will have to settle for supporting the venture by ordering it online, which you may do right here. Good luck and Godspeed.

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There’s a nice little feature over at Paste about David Simon’s upcoming show for HBO, Treme. The series, which recently started principal production, is centered around the lives of a group of musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Now, Simon can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes, after absolutely knocking his last two series (The Wire and Generation Kill) out of the park, especially when it comes to a feeling of authenticity.  Naturally then, it’s no surprise that when the article spoke a little bit about David Simon’s writing process, I couldn’t help but be especially intrigued.

“Simon intends to train his sniper-like eye for detail and authenticity on New Orleans, just as he did with Baltimore. But he readily admits that—while he sees similarities between the two cities—New Orleans is as bewildering to newcomers as any in America. Although he’s been visiting for 20 years, Simon isn’t kidding himself—he’s still an outsider. If he was to get New Orleans right for Treme, he needed to assemble a team of local writers, actors and consultants. Simon cold-called musicians and chefs, met with cops and politicians, and approached bandleaders like Kermit Ruffins before gigs. He tracked down eccentric New Orleans DJ/musician Davis Rogan while Rogan was an artist-in-residence in the Loire Valley in France.”

There’s something to be said for a writer knowing when he needs to bring in the hook, so to speak.  That’s something that has always impressed me about Simon, his willingness to go outside the traditional boundaries of show-business to achieve the feel he’s looking for.  The Wire was populated by a litany of former reporters and policemen, both behind and and in front of the camera.  Meanwhile, Generation Kill was littered with soldiers who had been Marines on the ground during the invasion of Iraq.  It’s encouraging to see that he is following a similar path on his newest piece of work.

Viewers watching Treme will notice some familiar faces as Wire veterans like Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce have roles in the show, but there are some new faces as well.  On of those mugs will belong to Steve Zahn, who seems an atypically famous actor to appear in a David Simon show.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I think his presence is a bad thing, just an usual one.  However, perhaps this is just Simon trying something new, for as the Paste piece points out, we shouldn’t just expect more of the same; “Simon cautions that Treme will not be The Wire: New Orleans. Its seasons will not be loosely divided by subject, and the show will provide a smaller, more intimate focus on people picking up the pieces without much help.”

Whatever the finished product is going to look like, my anticipation is already meeting almost unreachable levels without me having seen a single frame. Normally I would think that I was setting myself up for disappointment, but somehow David Simon always seems to exceed my expectations. Sometime in 2010 I’ll find out if he can do it yet again.  I can’t wait.

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