Friday, September 30, 2005

Hoopoes and herring gulls

Tonight, I indulged my affection for British Sea Power by taking Cordelia to their show at Jones Beach. Technically, it was The Killers's show, and BSP was opening for them, a fact made clear when they took the stage at 8 PM sharp ("Hi, we're British Sea Power from Cumbria") to an enthusiastic crowd that filled maybe 1 of every 50 seats in the amphitheater. This is my lot in life - every few years I cast my lot with a band that's unknown in America. Sometimes they end up making it big - Blur is one example. Sometimes they just struggle and eventually break apart, like the Boo Radleys did. This time, I'm on the BSP bandwagon early enough to bring them to the attention of others.

So this band full of rare songwriting talent and fabulous on-stage antics ripped off a great set. Jones Beach is now one of those slightly too-friendly venues. No alcohol, lots of fairly small kids, and bands that come on at 8 sharp. The guy sitting next to us had brought his two sons, ages 8 and 11. None of them had heard of BSP. After a couple of songs, he looked over and said "hey, this band's really good." I told him that, well, I was here to see them. He was a bit surprised, but we struck up a conversation where he asked me how many albums they'd made, where they were from, etc.

Most bands do encores, which is a really tedious, by-the-numbers process. British Sea Power, instead, do an extended last number. It starts with their song "Lately," which is great by itself, and morphs into something called "Rock in A," which is an extended, semi-freeform number. The performance of "Rock in A" includes handstands, blindfolded guitar playing, the occasional crashing into drum sets, and Eamon. Eamon is their keyboardist. He wears a helmet, grabs a military drum, and marches around playing it. When I saw them at Bowery Ballroom earlier this year, he dove right into the crowd, marched around and up the balcony while drumming.

I figured that this wasn't going to work at Jones Beach, because the stage is set off from the crowd. But he grabbed the drum anyway, hopped into the seats, and marched around to the back. He reappeared up near where we were sitting in the mezzanine level, and walked right past the family that had been sitting next to us. He saw the younger kid and handed him his drumstick; the kid ran back to his seat clutching it. The band now has at least three new fans. I heard other people who saw them talking about how good they were, too.

I wasn't so excited by the Killers. If you know their songs, their music is tight to the point of semi-disco in some cases. Don't get me wrong; some of their songs are pretty snazzy. But it gets to the point where they don't deviate from it on stage at all. They also have a severely limited repertoire, drawn from their one album. As a result, their concert felt a lot like listening to the album, and they felt a lot more set apart from the crowd. Tons of teens there were really into them, though.

We had some drunk but surprisingly unbelligerent people sitting behind us. One of them tried to start a "NEW YORK YAN-KEES" chant, but finding no takers, changed it into a "MIS-TER BRIGHT-SIDE" rally.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

JetBlue gets it

I am still amazed at the footage of the picture-perfect landing that flight made last night. They turned potential catastrophe into a huge positive for their airline. Everyone who saw that is now thinking, "Damn, I want THAT JETBLUE PILOT on every flight of mine from now on." They deserve it, too - it is a great airline, even if their snack box consists of a little packet of fake brie that you spread on an Oreo and top with a watermelon Life Saver.

Why did they leave the satellite coverage on during the emergency landing? "We still leave it up to our customers to make the appropriate decisions for themselves based on their feelings or those feelings or reactions customers around them may be having." This is the first airline in history that doesn't treat passengers like children. Once someone knows what's happening on the flight, there's no good that can come from shutting off their access to the news. People use Blackberries up there now; the cat's out of the barn door.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New photo site

I got sick of maintaining my own server, so I've set up a new site here on Smugmug. Browse! Purchase! Or maybe not.

New photo hosting site

I got sick of maintaining my own server, so I've set up a new site here on Smugmug. Browse! Purchase! Or maybe not.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Los Angeles photos

I've put up some of the photos I took around Los Angeles here.

They have an incredible mural for ESPN painted on a 12-story building next to the Hotel Figueroa. The polarizing filter I used made the sky dark blue, and the billboard looked like it was glowing.

Napoleon video availability

A couple of people have asked if I (or any Microsoft insider) can get the Napoleon Gates video they showed at the PDC this week. Unfortunately, they NEVER make the great PDC videos available, and I've been looking for years. They don't put them up anywhere internally, and anyone you might know who might have them won't release them. They're guarded jealously and not made available online.

Street photography

I had dinner with Dave Timmons at Nick & Stef's tonight, a great dry-aged prime steak with both red wine sauce and caramelized onion/blue cheese sauce. Mmmmm. I just happened to have my camera and tripod with me, and when I stepped outside I was met with the sight of two gleaming skyscrapers that were framed perfectly by some courtyard trees with white lights on them. I started to set up to take the shot, and a security guard came running out to tell me that the "management requests that no photos are to be taken on the property." I asked where the property line was, and he pointed to the sidewalk, and then asked what I was shooting. It turned out that he had been shooting for 25 years, and just got a new Nikon D2Hs. We ended up discussing photography for several minutes, and even traded our site details! I let him look through my fisheye lens, and he decided he had to get one. Anyway, I followed his request and moved to the sidewalk and took the photo.
A few steps further on, I saw a second interesting view of a skyscraper, down an alley. I set up on the sidewalk and another security guard came running out, this time from the Mellon Bank. She said, "You can't take photos on this property."

I replied, "I'm on the sidewalk, is that OK?"
Security: "You're not allowed to take photos on our property."
Me: "Where does your property end?"
Security: "The bricks are all our property."

So I moved my tripod just off the bricks and into the gutter of the alley. Now, this seemed fairly reasonable to me, what with it being legal for me to be there and all. I even said, "Is this off your property now?"

Security: "I have to ask you to move across the street."
Me: "Well, I'm not on your property now, correct?"
Security: "Why can't you just move across the street?"
Me: "Because this is the angle I want on my shot. I'm not on your property now, so this spot isn't a problem."
Security: "Okay, I'm going to have to go get someone to ask you to move across the street."
Me: "Okay, you do that."

So the moral of the story is that you should always be polite and respectful, and ask permission to take photographs on private property, even if it seems like it's just an outdoor plaza. And as soon as you're not on the property, the security guard will stop telling you to move and start asking you to move. They are trained to use the Voice Of Authority, but you can safely ignore any stern requests that don't apply to you. They really hate it when you know the rules and laws and boundaries as well as they do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

PDC keynote

I snuck up to the front of the keynote this morning with my press pass (a.k.a. "The red badge of courage"). BillG was "on" today, with good pacing and emoting. The PDC always features an actual humorous video demo, and this year Bill got to become part of Napoleon Dynamite.

After the keynote I started to walk over to the press room. Bill and his two handlers walked past me, towards an escalator. The security guard let the handlers through, and stopped Bill because he wasn't wearing a show pass. NO ONE GETS THROUGH.

Monday, September 12, 2005


This is my third trip to Los Angeles. The first time was a month after 9/11. Extremely depressing. The second was in the middle of the raging forest fires in the area, in 2003. It was several days of apocalyptic skies and choking smoke. And now I'm heading back for the third time.

I have been flipping around the channels on JetBlue, and surprise! Widespread blackout in Los Angeles! We're somewhere over Flagstaff, heading for Long Beach. CNN is talking about Michael Brown resigning from FEMA and how Bush didn't even know about it until the press asked him. (Great manager!) Suddenly they cut in to announce that there are blackouts in Los Angeles, and they cut to a commercial. I flip around a bit, and I happen upon Fox News. They are full bore into the blackout story. All over it. And their angle is "Maybe possibly could this maybe be a big terrorism attack? Because you know, they're always testing us." As if to underscore how serious this is, they go to disgraced former nominee Bernie Kerik to get his uninformed views on the situation. Meanwhile, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC are all back to regular coverage.

Back to CNN. They're doing the business minute, talking about Brown, talking about Roberts.

Back to Fox. They're looking for fires to report on, keeping their fingers crossed that it's TERROR. Police Department on FULL TACTICAL ALERT!!!!!

"It's Department of Water and Power personnel. NOT terror, not al-Qaeda, not the type of things we fear these days. It's Department of Water and Power personnel who are responsible for this outage, not terrorism."

Way to go, Fox! But it COULD have been terrorism, huh? Can't be too careful. And make sure to get a couple of shots in at other, better news sources.

Gibson: "We have on the phone Rod Bernson, who used to work with the LA fire department..."
Bernson: "Oh my god John, you must work for MSNBC! It was the LAPD!"

Followed by Bernson: "Remember that Los Angeles is NOT New Orleans. Los Angeles has very specific plans for dealing with emergencies."

Los Angeles just may be the worst city on earth.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sept 11, 2005

At about 3 minutes to 1 PM, Channel 2 was showing live coverage of the annual reading of the names of 9/11 victims. My first thought was "I hope they're not going to overrun the start of the football game for this."

Then they suddenly pulled away at the end of the letter W and said that coverage would continue on their Web site. They switched to live NFL coverage, which consisted of Jessica Simpson warbling "America the Beautiful" and shaking like Joe Cocker. And my first thought was "Why on earth did they preempt the end of the 9/11 readings for this?"

I am badly conflicted right now.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Does it matter who's in charge?

Remember five years ago, when Nader (and Michael Moore) told us that there was no difference between Bush and Gore? Well, Gore personally financed charter planes that rescued 270 people from New Orleans, and refused to be interviewed about it.

Bush could've done this too - and so could his father. So could Dick Cheney. So could Condi Rice. All these people are wealthy, and each flight cost only $50,000. Too bad they were busy vacationing, shopping for homes, and watching Spamalot.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Bush: Our worst president ever

But enough about Bush. I just wrote a letter to Peter King, my representative in Washington. Last time I wrote to him, he basically tried to shove canned yams up my ass in reply. Here's the new letter:

Dear Mr. King:

It has been revealed in the media (both left and right) that the man that President Bush named to head FEMA was, in fact, unqualified for emergency management. He was a political appointment (not that there's anything wrong with that - James Lee Witt was too, but he had the proper experience for the job), and it turns out that Brown's resume was also padded/falsified. I don't understand exactly how this happened, but as my representative and a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, what sort of corrective steps will you be suggesting to make sure that our government is run by qualified employees in the future?

I was also shocked, and frankly somewhat puzzled, when the Secretary of the DHS, Michael Chertoff, said that he didn't think that Katrina was that bad because he picked up papers on the Tuesday after the storm and the headlines said "New Orleans Dodged The Bullet." Given that this headline did NOT appear in any newspapers, there seems to be a serious disconnect between the leaders of the DHS and, well, reality - to put it bluntly. (The fact that this imagined newspaper was repeated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Myers, is even more quizzical.)

Most experts believe that it is just a matter of time before a major storm hits us here on Long Island, causing widespread flooding and destruction from Fire Island up to the L.I.E. Like New Orleans, it may be a matter of when, not if. Do we have a damage notification system on Long Island that's better than Secretary Chertoff's imaginary newspapers? As a key member of the Committee, what will you be doing to make sure that Long Island isn't faced with the same problems that New Orleans faced? I know exactly what it's like to lose everything, as my wife's college roommate has had to abandon her home in New Orleans. I would really like to avoid the same fate for thousands of Long Islanders, but I have to tell you that the response I've seen really has me worried.

Joshua Trupin
[address and phone supplied]

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

God I hate Bush

But enough about him. Here's an album with some photos from this summer in Montauk.

Help the FRC fight gays!

The Family Research Council is letting you astroturf Gov. Schwartzenegger to demand that he kill the gay marriage bill. Click this link to send your own note. I sent mine as Reverend E. Normous Peckerwood - the more people who can sign up and make this a mockery, the better!

Your early morning crazy lady

One of the great things about suburban living is the occasional nutcase hanging out at the train station first thing in the morning. There was an older gal greeting commuters at the Bay Shore station at 7 AM this morning. She had half a tall-boy in a bag, and she was yelling at everyone, asking them to borrow a cigarette. No one replied to her. So she started shouting about how you don't put the cigarette on the ground because she has more pride than that. And don't you look at her, she's not even speaking to you. And she don't drink or smoke, she's a sex addict and she loves orgasms. Then she takes another slug of beer.

I stayed well down the platform - not for my own safety, since this type is usually harmless, but because I didn't want her to belch on me or something. She kept getting louder and louder, until a commuter held out his monthly pass and told her that she'd have to leave now. She protested, and he said "Move along NOW," flashing his pass again. She grumbled and walked away from the station.

Aaaah, the power of the monthly LIRR pass.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Were airlines price gouging during the emergency?

I just found this article via google. A couple talked about their experiences stranded at the New Orleans airport for days. True, they were JUST TOO SHIFTY to leave, but is the part about airline price gouging true? Was there any excuse for airlines not offering their lowest base rates just to get everyone out and all seats filled in advance of the hurricane?

With the opportunity to get out passing them by, and airline ticket prices
inflated up to $2,000 by those anxious to profit off the desperation of others,
the Sanderses decided to wait out the hurricane in the airport.

Oh wait. The article explains that their tickets were on United. The airline that screwed us out of the price of a ticket when they cancelled a flight - with the passengers waiting at the gate - during a blizzard in January. They claimed that they'd changed the rules the day before so that you couldn't get a refund for flights they cancelled if you bought the ticket too close to the cancellation. American Express cancelled the charge. United reinstated it. Screw them.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Steph's out, and Bush should be too

We'd been waiting for a week to hear from Steph, who is a lifelong New Orleans resident and who lived Uptown. She finally called to say she was OK. She and her mom fled last Sunday to Alabama, where her brother put them up. They're looking at apartments in the building he's in. Barnes & Noble is still paying her even though the store is pretty much ruined.

It's still numbing to think of the enormity of this. Everyone has, at one time or another, talked about New Orleans disappearing under the sea. I just didn't think that I would actually see it happen. An entire city destroyed and lifeless. When's the last time something like that happened, and happened so suddenly? Atlanta and Richmond were evacuated during the Civil War. Pompeii was destroyed as a city thousands of years ago. I didn't watch any of those happen on TV, from the first Jim Cantore report to the last evacuations.

Fortunately, the federal government has swung into full emergency mode. No, not to rescue survivors from Katrina's aftermath - to rescue the president from FEMA's gross failures. All weekend, we've seen photo ops and interviews of officials who claimed, time and time again, that "local red tape" was to blame for everything. Rove saw the problem, and he and Bartlett are now "Swift Boating" Blanco and Nagin.

The problem with this is going to turn out to be threefold. First, a disaster of this scale is beyond the scope of a city or even a state. Second, since this was spread across four states, how will they be able to blame Blanco for the disaster without also tainting Haley Barbour? And third, the story has just begun. There are hundreds of thousands of people without homes now. This is going to get worse when the middle class maxes out their credit soon enough. We could be staring in the eye of major social upheaval. Are we going to claim that New Orleans be responsible for housing its own citizens? Where? With what?

The whole FEMA debacle of the past week shows the folly of having a "CEO presidency" like Bush has tried. I don't think that he ignored what was going on in the Gulf region. He did what he thought any good CEO would do: he delegated the responsibility to the team he'd identified as the right one. Then he went to bed satisfied that he had kept on top of things. Unfortunately, he's really not a very good CEO, as shown by three things.

First, Mike Brown of FEMA was a startlingly shitty hire. As they say at Microsoft, "B's hire C's." People who aren't top notch hire someone they see as good enough for the job during normal circumstances.

Second, the administration has created a culture of hiding the bad news. This is exactly the opposite of effective. Anyone who challenges a particularly stupid view or position is humiliated, demoted, or fired by Bush's team. There are so many examples of this that you can just google them up. The opposite side of this is that loyalty, no matter how shitty, is rewarded. I have no doubt whatsoever that Chertoff and Brown will be in line for special commendations at some point.

Third, he didn't demand accountability in the first, critical days. He settled for delegation without verification. And that's because everyone knows to sit on the bad news.


On an unrelated note, we went to the Hamptons Classic horse show on Saturday. The excitement came during a jump-off in the main show area. I managed to fight the tiny crowd and stood at the front railing with my camera. One of the riders came over the jump, the horse lurched forward, and the two of them went spilling onto the turf. The rider rolled around, holding body parts in obvious pain. Cordelia yelled "The horse is OK!!!"

Here's what a spill looks like up close. (Saved as a lower quality JPEG and shrunken down from 3000x2000. Click for the bigger view.)

Saturday, September 3, 2005

My Pet Goat II

Wow. Editor and Publisher accuses Bush of "dereliction of duty." Mitchell has been somewhat, well, cynical about Bush in the past, but he really slams him this time. And every word is exactly right.

Did we witness a military coup yesterday?

New Orleans waited for four days for the executive branch and FEMA to get off their butts and start helping them. Things got worse and worse. Then yesterday, the Army showed up and suddenly relief started getting through, the streets started calming down, and evacuees started moving out. Coincidence? Hardly. It almost looks like the military shoved the executive aside to start getting things done and saving American lives.

For the past four years, it has been implied that any criticism of the administration or its policies "hurts our troops." Yesterday, we saw the troops take action while the administration dithered. In addition to all the other stark lessons we're relearning from New Orleans, it should be clear to everyone that "support our troops" no longer equals "be nice to Bush." That was shattered at the steps of the convention center yesterday, as the troops pushed Bush aside to get help to Americans.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Bush in New Orleans

George Bush comforts hurricane survivors outside the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. (Click for large.)

Should've just checked into a hotel

At the Hyatt:

The first convoy of food and supplies provided by Hyatt hotels in Atlanta and Houston arrived at Hyatt Regency New Orleans Wednesday morning, and further relief supplies are en route.

At the convention center:

Kevin Clark, 10, who had come to the center with his grandfather, Isaac, described the horror so many people are facing here.
"I'm scared,'' he said. "I slept on the ground last night. I don't have anything to eat. The last time I ate was Monday.''

"Democrats and others" criticize....

I love the headline in the New York Times today: "Democrats and Others Criticize White House's Response To Disaster."

Our country has a two-party system. Democrats and Republicans. What this headline says is "Democrats and Republicans Criticize White House's Response To Disaster." OK, we know that. The National Review site has been blasting Bush, FEMA, and so on. Everyone is shocked by the lack of leadership we're seeing here. So why is "Democrats" called out in the headline, other than to make the attacks seem more partisan from the left?

This goes hand-in-hand with the media representation of the state of New Orleans now, which can be summarized as "Blacks and Others Loot Businesses." What would be the reaction if these headlines ran?

"Jews and Others Love Money"
"Women and Others Increasingly Obese"
"Republicans and Others Love America"

Well, that third one was actually what we've seen for four years now, minus the "and others" part. Even when it's clear that we're watching a nation-changing meltdown from the White House, the Times is using the headline to imply that the criticism is less than reality-based.

The good news is that gas is only $2.99 for regular at the 7-11 in Bay Shore. Unfortunately, they're out of everything but super unleaded.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Comment verification

I just had to turn comment verification on because some ahole started spamming the blog with stuff like this:

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Where do refugees go?

I know this guy who has a ranch in Crawford, Texas. It's about 1600 acres, and he only uses it five weeks a year. Maybe he'd like to host a couple thousand refugees for a while?

A glimmer of hope...

Britney Spears Prays for Hurricane Victims