Hurricane Sandy V – No Power

It’s the morning after the morning after, cool and crisp, a bit of sun, and no power still…no power where people live anyway. There does seem to be power in various empty office buildings around us, including the Helmsley Building on Broadway at Liberty, floor after floor brightly lit, and this monstrosity (the white building on the left) across from us…Note the stream of smoke coming out the side (middle of the picture, two thirds the way up), probably from their generator, keeping almost the entire building alight, with no one ever in the building…not one person through these days. (Insert profanity here.) Water is holding out well for us – at least a third of a tub full.

And food is fine. Pasta last night. Something out of the freezer tonight – probably fish – and then that’s it for the other stuff in there. I took Biba, our 13-year-old boxer, down the 13 flights. “Good girl! One more! Just one more!” It was a long slow descent. We went down to the East Side Esplanade. Same wreckage, a little boarding up, the water down a few feet in the tunnel. It’s bright and cool, water pumping out everywhere, a lot more to go. I carried Biba back up the stairs – her hind legs just don’t work – lay gasping for a minute or two and biked up into the city, through the gridlock, looking for a bike store. Our tires needed air. We made good time, easing past the blacked-out traffic lights and around a lot of impatient drivers and aggressive turns. I mentioned bad driving habits to a few. There were no bikes stores open until 80th Street across from the American Natural History Museum. I wanted to connect, charge and blog there, but it was sold out! Computers everywhere. We went back down through midtown and came back to the familiar confines of the Beer Authority. I’m charging up, watching updates and listening to the latest. Governor Cuomo had a few good words. “Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality. ” Maybe someone will listen? Ha! Good joke that one…but tomorrow is another day.

Hurricane Sandy IV – The Next Day

It was a quiet night, little wind and next to no rain. The only question was how the city fared after the surge and when we might get our power back. A couple of trees down, one on top of a car, and an oddly smashed windows at the T-Mobile store on Water Street. (This followed by stories of smashed storefronts and looting at Seaport.) Mud, wood, garbage, uprooted bushes and branches were everywhere, along with signs of failed sandbagging in building after building. The smell of gasoline and oil and old burned rubber was in the air. I walked down the East River Esplanade – and past an odd assortment of detritus (toy police cars still in their boxes) – and came to the Battery Park Tunnel underpass, completely underwater.Construction workers stood around and took pictures too; there was nothing else to do. Battery Park hadn’t fared much better.Branches were scattered, trees stripped, one (above) completely uprooted. The waves continued to bang at the pier. It was high tide again.

I was still without power though – and no way to blog – and so headed uptown on foot. Rumor had it there was power above 34th Street. No businesses were open, nothing at all until a cupcake stand at Broadway and 3rd.

But no one was buying…not yet. There was a coffee shop after that, no lights but serving coffee and sandwiches. The tree damage was as bad in Union Square.The streets were crowded, more so the closer we got to the 30s, and then, a traffic light functioning at 31st. (Up to this point, it was mob rule at every intersection.) And then there were more lights and doors open…and then I arrived at a pub, Beer Authority, just south of the Port Authority. A blog (or two) and a drink (or two), and it’s time to go home and see about the power. And Lonnie.

Hurricane Sandy III – Lights Out

I started this post last night…and then the lights went out. No lights. No water. No Lonnie. We were at high tide, high surge, and Lonnie had said it was approaching 13 feet. The city had never seen anything like it. Lonnie had never seen anything like it. He had thrown his hands in the air in dismay and then… I ventured out to see the extent of the surge. It couldn’t be that bad. These guys were always so dramatic. The city was dark, that was true, no streetlights or lights from the buildings. Police cars and Con Edison trucks drifted past, one policeman yelling at a van driver, “Turn your fucking lights on!” Other than that, it was quiet. No sirens, just the sound of a distant generator and the wind coming up…and then the smell of something burning and smoke…coming from the subway station for the ‘1’ line at Wall Street. It was coming out of the R station at Whitehall too, two blocks away. And then I ran into the water getting closer to Battery Park.

It was worse outside the park at the Staten Island Terminal.

The wind picked up and whitecaps rolled up the streets to the little asphalt shoreline, all of the zombie storm watchers staring sadly at the floating wood and debris bobbing to the sidewalk. It was time to go home. I walked up the 13 flights and waited in the dark.

Hurricane Sandy II – Lonnie!!!

Hurricane Sandy has just about made landfall; many tunnels and bridges into New York are closed, a crane has collapsed high above 57th Street and the talking heads are going crazy, “as we approach full moon full high tide.”

Hurricane Sandy coming ashore

It is a literal hurricane of images and chatter – and by literal, I mean figurative. Lots of breaking stories, tight-faced warnings and on-the-spot reporters losing their balance in the wind. The best of them has to be Lonnie Quinn of CBS 2 News in New York.

Lonnie Quinn looking presidential.

Lonnie Quinn not only has all the maps and graphs, but more importantly he talks in common folk speech. Sleeves rolled, tie undone, Lonnie offers clear and confident opinions with a genuine enthusiasm (“Look at the wind field on that!”); he is what many might call literally (figuratively) presidential.

Lonnie explains things to Maurice and Kristine

Now if Mitt Romney is looking for a way to surge those swing states, he should dump Paul Ryan and get Lonnie on the ticket instead. (Or if he were really serious about this, he could ask Lonnie to supplant himself!) Yeah, like any of that will happen…as Laetitia Sadier sings in Stereolab’s The Seeming and the Meaning: We communicate more and more/ In more defined ways than ever before/ But no one was got anything to say/ It’s all very poor it’s all just a bore.

Hurricane Sandy I: The First Surge

South Ferry Station at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, 10:15am, Monday, October 29

It’s quiet in the city. The sandbags have been secured. A few windows have been taped. The police cruisers are patrolling back and forth, broadcasting over their PA for all to evacuate. Hurricane Sandy approaches.

East River Esplanade (under the FDR Parkway)
10:05am, Monday, October 29

The East River Esplanade and Battery Park are both in Zone A and were evacuated officially at 5pm yesterday. The tourists, dog walkers and ambulance chasers (who pretend to be journalists) remain.

Police and tourists at the Wall Street Bull, Bowling Green Park, 10:50am, Monday, October 29

There is little to no wind – although I can report one howling gust that sounded like a banshee coming out from the buildings. The water has barely crested the docks and walkways.

Southern tip of Battery Park, Statue of Liberty in distance, 10:30am, Monday, October 29

This morning’s high tide, at 8:30am, assisted the water’s brief and bare rise into the city. This evening’s high tide, at 8:50pm, threatens to be higher, amidst the peak of the storm. We’ll see.

Brooklyn Bridge from East River Esplanade, 10:20am, Monday, October 29

La Nozze di Figaro

I had the great fortune of attending Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro at the Lincoln Center on Friday night. As Salieri declares in Milos Forman’s  film Amadeus, “Displace one note and there would be diminishment.” The climax to this opera is so beautiful that, as mentioned in a previous blog, Ragnar Kjartansson composed a  performance piece entitled Bliss devoted to it, repeating these crystalline moments repeatedly for 12 hours straight. However more than the climax, there  is the isolation and loss that the characters are forced to endure alone on the vast stage.  There is something awful and searing about an actor alone in an empty expanse, dwarfed by the backdrops, sets and space, alone, the audience staring back, waiting, judging, alone. It is primal. We are there. We think of being in that, stuck in that yawning gap. We are just like that, alone in our little seats. It’s our agoraphobia. And there is no escape.

Born Free: A Film Review

Born Free (James Hill, 1966, UK) **** (Four out of four.) There are so many great things about this film — the terrifying opening scene with the blood and clothes flowing down the river, the sped-up shots of the lions attacking, George Adamson bringing Elsa back from the airport, the rock hyrax Pati-Pati, Elsa chasing the elephants and defending Joy Adamson from the snake. There’s also the scenes of George’s painkiller addiction, which is so intense because it seems impossible for such a loving and reasonable man to be so intense, and then the scene of him killing the man-killer lion in his pajamas. There’s also the fact that Joy and George have separate single cots, and they never seem to kiss. I know it’s all very British, but it’s very unnerving too. Joy was so beautiful. And of course there’s the music. But the biggest thing about this film is Joy and George’s attachment with Elsa. Everything seems so genuine — the scene of Joy feeding the milk to the kittens from her thumb, George pushing Elsa out of his bed, Elsa waiting at the end of the driveway for Joy to come home, Joy walking through the savannah crying, “Elsa! Elsa!” and finding her almost dead and then Elsa gone for so long to suddenly reappear with her own kittens.

The real Elsa and Joy Adamson

It was all a movie, and it yet really did happen. If they go on to make a movie of McPhedran’s My Bad Side, it should be like this. Apollo would play himself, and I would consult.Joy Adamson went on to raise leopards and cheetahs and was killed by a disgruntled employee. George Adamson tried to start his own pride of lions and was killed by poachers. The actors, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers (married in real life), became involved in the protection of lions. And Elsa…she died when she was just five, of a fucking tick bite. Not going to happen to Apollo. I’ll tell you that. (Review by Dee Sinclair.)

Top Ten Animal Films (According to Dee)*

*No cartoons, animatronics, etc

  1. Orca, the Killer Whale (Michael Anderson, USA, 1977) This is pure camp, but I was born the year it came out. I’ll never forget when he bites off the broken leg – cast and all – of Annie (Bo Derek).
  1. Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, USA, 1990) It is the cheesiest of films, I concede that, but the wolf, Two Socks, is awesome. It’s one of the saddest moments in film when those bastard soldiers shoot and kill him.
  1. Tarzan the Apeman (W.S. Van Dyke, USA, 1932) Cheetah is a star, but it’s really all the elephants and crocodiles that make this film amazing. (Not so much the fake hippos.)
  1. A Boy and his Dog (L.Q. Jones, USA, 1975) This is camp apocalypse – before apocalypse was hip – with Don Johnson and his bitter mongrel, who thinks profoundly and cruelly on humanity but remains loyal to the end.
  1. The Secret of Roan Inish (John Sayles, USA, 1994) The magic in this film is very real. The seals come out of the dark sea in a wonderful, terrifying way. They know more than you would think.
  1. Gorillas in the Mist (Michael Apted, USA, 1988) The gorillas are incredible, just incredible. I know this film has animatronics, but it was shot on location and there are incredible shots of the gorillas in their habitat.
  1. The Edge (Lee Tamahori, USA, 1997) Bart the bear is a force, not only in the way he flings that poor guy around but also in how he lowers his ears and pushes out his lower lip. He also dies the tragic death.
  1. Babe (James Cromwell, USA, 1995) I admit there are too many visual effects – puppets too – but there really is a border collie and a pig. And it’s a great pig. “That’ll do, pig.”
  1. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, USA, 2005) The rogue bear is pretty horrifying – devouring Treadwell and his girlfriend – but that is what bears do. There are so many other great bears in this and Timmy, the fox.
  1. Born Free (James Hill, UK, 1966) Elsa! Elsa! Elsa! Kitten or full-grown, Elsa is the second greatest of cats. (Apollo rules.) There’s Pati-Pati too – a rock hyrax! – the other lions and elephants. Nothing compares to this one.

The Edge: Of Good Writing

Screenwriting is a most inconsistent proposition. While there are many films that have great scenes and characters, the work is often lacking in its overall story. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s films, including The Master, fall into this category as does the work of many modern screenwriters/filmmakers, such as Gaspar Noe, Terence Malick, Pedro Almodavar, Jim Jarmusch, and that other Anderson, Wes.  I posted recently on Andrei Tarkovsky’s film The Sacrifice, and his struggle with story-telling.  This too is an issue for many of the great auteurs: Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni and, even my favorite, Werner Herzog; it’s the image, the motion, the atmosphere first and everything else after that. This is not say that the story arc of Hollywood should be subscribed to in any way. There is nothing so painfully innocuous as to be dragged along through the introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, denouement and all the pain-in-the-ass red herrings in the films of Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Jimmy Cameron or Clint Eastwood.But there is a middle ground out there, something between the poetic image and the Hollywood ride. It’s as hit and miss as the rest, although there are diamonds in the rough. One film that comes to mind is Greg Motolla’s Superbad (written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg); as stupid as this movie can be, the story is true, the characters honest. Another surprising film is Lee Tamahori’s The Edge, written by David Mamet. This film is typical Hollywood, “Jaws with claws” as it was dubbed; however it is well-written. The story structure is effective – except for a weird denouement/climax #2 – and the arc is clear. The characters are engaging, even as types, and interact in an interesting way with both each other and their environment. The message is loud – We must face our demons! – but it’s a good film. And the bear is great. Really.

Ugh and damn

I’m in a lousy mood today. I think it’s last night’s Obama/Romney debate that set me off, that ugliness in human nature, everything an evasion or attack, and how it goes so much deeper than that. It really isn’t just those guys. As Voltaire said: “Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.” It’s so ugly! Stupid me. No writing today, that’s for sure. Ugh and damn.