The Blue Raccoon

Friday, September 12, 2008

You Can Actually Learn Stuff On Blogs
And other Friday-ness

Last night television was chock full for current events freaks: the presidential candidates at a service forum where they did not talk to each other and just repeated high sounding nostrums; the vice-presidential sweetheart sounding amped up and sometimes clueless; and two specials about 9/11, one gripping and still shocking and the other chopped up by commercials and pathetic.

I'm tired of the politicians, (and many of their shrill, block headed adherents) so I'll cut to the documentaries.

The History Channel's 120 Minutes The Changed America is just about a perfect non-fiction retelling of the awful day seven years ago except for its title: I'd gone with 120 Minutes: 9/11 NYC for short. Taking a cue about immediacy from the otherwise fearmongering and fictional 24, History gives viewers real terror as it happened to actual people who had ways to record the unfolding events. White on black numbers spin between segments. Every viewer is left to recall what they were doing and at what time they first heard the news.

No over-familiar faces of famous newscasters pull us from the reality of that moment; viewers are taken into the sunny Manhattan streets that turn black with debris clouds, causing people caught in the open to resemble the ash-entombed victims of Pompeii brought to life, like gholems suddenly self-aware and scared of all the new sensations, the cloaked air ringing with the high warbling of ceaseless fire alarms, the sirens and the cacophony of screaming mass hysteria.

The excellent editing of these disparate, stitched together elements are linked together not by comforting voice overs but radio broadcasts, civilian and EMS. They serve to keep up us along in the story, as does when one of those experiencing the attack from his apartment holds up a ripped off piece of notebook paper that says simply: 10:15. A sudden bang prior to the first tower falling will make you jump in your seat. If you sit down and watch this, free of distraction, you will relive that day. You know what's coming, of course, but what this documentary achieves, by putting us there, seeing afresh through the eyes of people we've never met, is a retelling that does not feel stale or trite. It's just gut wrenching.

You can see a trailer here.

Here is A Night To Remember for the 21st century. That 1955 book by Walter Lord revived what was then somnolent interest in the Titanic disaster which hasn't abated since. I first read the slim 135-page book from out of the library of Salem Church Junior High. Lord's swift and detailed narrative history, a form of non-fiction of which he was a pioneer, has remained an inspiration for me. My guess is that some young person who sees 120 Minutes may feel the same way.

This is not a presentation about the other simultaneous horrors; of the Pentagon or United 93's destruction over Shanksville, Pa. The latter got a feature length docu-style theatrical film made (though just prior to the cockpit transcripts getting released).

We are given a glimpse of what is to come in the aftermath in the emotional reactions of those watching in helpless, jaw-slackened, eyes-wide distress on the huge screens of Times Square. One man says: go over there to Arabia and blow it up, "Bin Laden, all of'em." Traumatized patrons of a bar watch in silence as Bush gives his statement in Florida, but we don't see him sitting there like bump on a log for several minutes, looking poleaxed, in front of the elementary kids.

This program doesn't deal with the conspiracies or the politics or blame. It's just what happened to those who witnessed.

Meanwhile, over on MSNBC, 9/11 As It Happened was too painful for me to sit through -- not because of the circumstances. Most of the early going is swaying non-blinking images of the burning towers, replays of the second plane hitting, and a closing in and moving away that resembles the motions of the late great John Candy in his Dr. Tongue and The 3-D House of Stewardesses on Second City Television, see it about minute two here. Or maybe the "Near, Far" exercise on Sesame Street. That's not the show's fault: there wasn't any crew near the site at the time.

In addition, there is the chattering of Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Al Roker, over the images of this mushrooming disaster until they sound a little overwhelmed -- which is understandable, just about all of us were. But the frequent commercial interruptions--as though MSNBC feared for our psychological safety--instead gave this whiplash sensation, spinning us out of the calamitous morning into the now that it changed. Terrible programming decision, and somewhat insulting, and if we ever got to Ashliegh Banfield running through the streets trying to report as the massive cloud billowed and curled through Broadway, I don't know. I couldn't bear to watch.

You can read real commentary about the broadcast here.

Now, In Hadron Collider News...

From the Madison + Main Advertising blog -- and I never thought I'd ever quote from such a source, thanks to RVA Blogs -- a bit of Hadron Collider humor. The source is old, and reveals the mirror reflecting in a mirror progression of the Intertubes.

The article was archived by Mr. Oogly and titled, LHC: The World's Funniest Malapropism, here and here. From these postings, the information migrated to boingboing. And thence to this blog.

Also on Kamen, from whence I kited this image of the Hadron at rest, this Live Cam of the LHC, which Kamen got from elsewhere, and is worth viewing here.


Xeni Jardin, via the New York Times, by Ann Johansson.

-- How did I miss this before?-- I mean, I'm a Richmond lifer and consider myself somewhat plugged in to the city's cultural history. But again, the Madison + Main blog learned me something.

And that, billion-eyed audience, is that boingboing new tech babe Xeni Jardin is from Richmond. Richmond, Virginia! Daughter of an artist. Duh. I feel, well, about 12 circles of left out. In black and white, it's here.

Well, as they say, shut my mouth. I 've labored off and on with a novel about three Richmond sisters who've gone on to disparate careers who reunite here for a weekend due to the exhbition opening of their youngest. The older sister is something of an Internet/new tech guru, a public scholar, who can make sharp jokes and provocative observations but also writes books that get people talking and are taught in university classes. And I read such books, and consumed articles, and waded into Wired, realizing--over the course of an embarrassing number of years--that the tech environment was changing with such rapidity that, well, trying to write about a person who writes and speaks about such matters in a novel would sound, well, old by time it came out. And that's kind of where I am with that part of the problem.

My trio are from a rather gnarled branch of an old Richmond family, and the artist chose to stay here. Anyway, so I've been working on his for quite some time, too much at last, then history got in the way since, well, a publisher wanted me to write that stuff.

I've run across Xeni, and read about her here and there, and she seemed way too California for my kind of background study....then I learn of her Richmond nativity. The last time I came across her was a recent New York Times article about the purging of sex writer Violet Blue from boingboing, at the engineering of Xeni, and the resulting to-do in the blogosphere. I actually quoted from the piece, some weeks ago, "Poof! You're Unpublished" about the transiency and ephemeral nature of what this is that is done here on the Innernets, and you can read the NYT's piece here.

Have a great weekend, all. I'm editing Richmond In Ragtime, somehow. And I've got a toothache.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home