Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina showed us at our best and worst

Such a range of emotions we feel watching the horrors of Katrina's destruction and aftermath! The anxiety of life-threatening forces as the storm approached, the shock of its intensity, the fear as it unleahed its fury, the pathos of imagining the suffering and loss of life and property throughout the region all ran their course in our minds and hearts.
Then we saw the results come in with the emerging day: the unbelievable devastation and two-story deep debris, the flooded cities, farms, towns and parishes, then the human suffering: hundreds swept away and gone, thousands more clinging perilously to life wherever they could gain footing or hang on till help could arrive. We saw a thousand stories of heroism in a day. We saw the best of our humanity, over and over.
Then we saw the worst of our evil within as the gangs of looters rampaged freely through homes and businesses, openly battling with weakened police authority, taking whatever they could get or wanted with no conscience or remose whatsoever. Without electric power as people opened up windows and evacuated, opportunists moved in and helped themselves.
Today I was in tears as hundreds tried to locate missing loved ones and described to CNN where they were last seen, many not to be seen again. Has anyone seen my husband, father, mother, son, daughter, or other loved one? He was in Biloxi, New Orleans, Gulfport, Metarie, or any of a hundred other places the last time he called me Sunday. He was afraid to stay but couldn't evacuate anymore; it was too late. He would hope for the best and try to ride it out. Can someone please tell me where he is and if he is allright. No phone. No cellphone transmission. No power. No food. No water. No safety or authority possible to serve or protect. No way to communicate, even no computers or internet!

We have established a society that is nearly paralyzed with dependency on our utilities, our oil and gas, our government systems. When something happens to us, these help us recover. But Katrina overwhelmed our backup as well.

I watched tired governors struggle to try to brace their citizens to endure, to hope, to help each other survive, and to try to keep from crying on camera. The usual bravado of "Help is on the way" was shown to depend on support and emergency systems that were clearly overmatched by the enormity of the task. It seems like total societal breakdown, but the worst of our behavior does not go unobserved, and neither does the best.

As bad as Katrina's devastating tragedy is, there are benefits which can result from it if its many lessons are taken to heart and respected. It showed us our weaknesses and our strengths on many levels as few events have in recent memory.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Katrina wasn't a "minimal hurricane" to scoff at

Hurricane Katrina didn't follow the usual script for a late August, rather sudden storm. It was forecast to maybe make landfall as a minimal (74 mph+) hurricane and proceed due west across Florida, then curve north in the Gulf and probably hit the panhandle area or the semicircular area we call the Big Bend, on its way up through Georgia and the Atlantic Seaboard.

TV weathermen called it "a wetmaker, not a windmaker" and said not to bother putting up the shutters this time. They talked about the "clean side of the storm" on the south half and "the dirty side" on the north half--the idea that the most intense rain, lightning, tornadic activity and wind is usually on the northeast quadrant. Those on the south side wouldn't be affected as much.

Katrina didn't study that diagram very well. She consistently showed her worst mannered tantrums in her south to southeastern quadrant and remained pretty quiet in her northern half.

The storm moved steadily due west as though heading straight into Ft. Lauderdale, but at the last few miles veered sharply south toward the Broward/Dade county line, made landfall officially at Hallandale, and curved down further toward Miami and her southern suburbs, then traced U.S. Highway One clear to Key West. The Florida Keys are an archipeligo that start south but arc due west; if one drives it to the end during the afternoon, one can drive straight into the sunset.

Due to Katrina's quirky gyrations, residents of Miami/Dade County finally got to claim some legitimate damage, after some greedy opportunists soaked FEMA with last year's ridiculous claims and got caught. (Last year being an election year, the government rushed in to ease Miami's pain when there wasn't any and paid out millions in bogus damages.) This year the same people who filed false claims a year ago may need assistance for real, but I'll be surprised if FEMA rushes in with the same enthusiasm to dole out the money as fast. It's too bad. Miami's southern suburbs truly got soaked by Katrina, as much as sixteen inches of water in a few hours, flooding many homes and businesses. Many will need help for real this time.

In any case, Katrina is now a category two storm and threatens to become a three or higher before making landfall again, much further west than was originally forecast, now possibily in Louisiana or Mississippi. With seven deaths related to the storm at this hour over Florida alone, and major flood damage and loss of property, it should put an end forever to the idea that a category one hurricane isn't a big deal. It is, after all, a hurricane; by definition, it is more intense and potentially damaging over a wider area than a storm or rainshower. "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." It's a saying we SoFla residents live by at this time of year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

always my worst subject

As a high school English teacher I always heard "English? Geez, that was my worst subject." Once I was stopped by a cop on the local N&W crossing, and heard it again as he quizzed where I worked and what I taught. Later, having taught English and Humanities in college most of my thirty-seven years before retirement, I heard it so often that I came to expect it.

I still teach English part-time in retirement, and have one Composition class scheduled for this fall so far. But today I was also invited to teach an Art Appreciation section, using my doctoral training in art, music, and architectural history.

No matter: when I told my nurse at the doctor's office I would be teaching this fall and she asked "English?" I nodded, but added "And art appreciation as well." "Art Appreciation?" she scowled, "Ouch! that was my worst subject!"

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Beneath reality's image is a masterpiece only art can reveal.

"Have something to say," she advised.

I have kept a handwritten journal for nearly four decades, and seldom written outside its confines at all until I began this blog in June. With summer vacation beginning, I became fascinated by what the host sites were saying about blogging and its freedom to be anything its author wanted it to be, to say whatever one wished. Many thousands if not millions were keeping online journals, organizing thoughts, fantasizing dreams and writing laundry lists, for private or public viewing--whatever they wished-- with more jumping on the bandwagon every day.

At last, I thought, I can write freely and share my ideas with others! I thought the blog would quickly displace my cloistered personal journaling and end talking just to myself forever. It seemed perfect: there was no need for manuscript submission, pesky editing or revisions, restrictive style conventions or market guidelines. There were no anxious waits or delays for acceptance or rejection; publication was instantaneous, free, and guaranteed! Suddenly whatever I uttered was available to the whole world! It seemed like the perfect forum for my most random interests and ideas. Surely I would never feel like writing longhand in my personal journal again! Why bother? All the advantages were with the blog. Just as my journal had effectively ended my manuscript submissions, blogging would end my private journaling.

But I had forgotten something. There was a reason why I had begun my handwritten journal. At the time, I couldn't finish a bad novel I'd written about fifty pages of and wanted to figure out why. I thought that was my reason for writing notes to myself: to understand my writing better before committing to another ms project. But that wasn't the reason. The truth was, I felt that I had run out of things that I wanted to say to others. And this morning I feel somewhat that way again. Experience has shown me that it will pass, though, and I'll rush once more to post something that comes to mind.

Edith Wharton once said that to write well, the writer must "have something to say." But often, I find, I do not. So what to say then? Post that I have nothing to say? Absurd. I've thought a lot about the Wharton admonition and decided it has significance only if qualified: have something to say to others. Although often in blogging I have no sense of ideas begging to be said, that almost never happens in my handwritten journal where my words, it seems, never cease.

My reluctance to post whatever comes to mind here as I'm used to doing in my journal tells me I am acutely aware of the otherness of readers, whether one or a few, legion or only imagined. Some bloggers seem to be able to blurt out whatever they feel and to rant and rave as though to themselves here, as though blissfully unaware of others possibly listening. I cannot. The only venue I can do that is in my handwritten journal, and returning to it often is a liberating feeling. There, I can talk about my family; not here. There, I can talk about my personal affairs; not here. There, I can curse and pray, meditate and free-associate, get as maudlin' or silly as I want to, or as serious and reflective. Not so here. Maybe in time I can bring that freedom here, but not yet. I still feel the need to be polite and mind what I say--that is, when I "have something to say," and not just something to think. Somehow having the means to tell others whatever one thinks doesn't necessarily mean that one always should.

Friday, August 12, 2005

you can hide, but you can't run

It's my second month anniversary here at Blogspot today. Thirty-five posts, four comments, about a hundred visitors I think (who knows, since they turned off the stats?) and about as many profile views. I hesitate to say it, but posting here is starting to feel like putting a message in a bottle. In an odd way I feel like I got more reception and feedback from my handwritten journal which I at least knew no one was reading. Was that homepage shutdown on the 10th the next step to restoring stats? I notice the Known Issues in Help and the Buzz no longer mentions the problem.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

who bears the divine image?

As a former humanities professor, I was always fascinated with depictions of the Diety which artists had imagined over the centuries. Some early Medieval artists painted a flying old man in the sky, a Zeus-like figure with flowing white hair. Later some artists showed a hand sticking down from a cloud. The Old Testament (Genesis) says that man is made in God's image. "But which man?" I asked my classes. "Which of us looks like God?" One student answered, "All of us." Good answer. I wish different societies and cultures, religions and political parties could recognize the unity of our human condition on this planet instead of trying to claim superiority for one point of view or another, one race or creed or another. What we share is far greater than what we do not.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Flurry. Surrey.

Marv and Bert rode through all of Wyoming and most of Colorado in silence.
"Okay, let's play a game," Bert said. "I'll say a word, then you say whatever it reminds you of."
"Okay, go."
"Alright then, Veronica," Bert said.
Marv thought a moment. "Harmonica," he said.
"Why'd you say that?"
"Rhymes with Veronica."
"Hmm. Okay, but it doesn't have to just rhyme. Let's try another. Veronique."
"Ver-oh-neek," Bert enunciated.
"Unique," Marv responded.
Bert regarded Marvin for some time. "Verona."
No sooner voiced than Bert was all a-twitter. "No no no! You're just rhyming. You can say anything in the whole English language, but you're just doing nursery rhymes. See-saw Marjorie Daw." He shook his head from side to side.
Marv suspected he was being mocked. "Hey, what about you?" he said.
"What about me?"
"Why do you just keep saying 'Veronica'? Who's Veronica?"
"I wasn't."
"Were so."
"Not. I also said 'Verona,' like Two Gentlemen from Verona."
Marv thought a while. "Okay, now you try it, smart guy: persimmon."
"Richard," Bert shot back.
"What? What does 'Richard' have a bat's ass to do with 'persimmon'"?
"Richard Simmons, get it? The exercise guy on tv?"
Marvin groaned. Silence seemed the lesser evil as they crossed into New Mexico.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hello, fellow travellers

Oh what the heck, maybe a new post will get me out of the dumps. Hi there, everybody. Welcome to my blog. It's a tentative thing still after nearly two months and 34 posts--still not quite sure what I want to tell the world. I could say life is beautiful, and it is, or life is lousy, and sometimes it is that also, or--but why say those things? My life is mine, your life is yours; you have as much right to describe your own as I do mine, and no doubt your own blog to do it in, which I will visit if you happen to comment. Otherwise I will have no idea who you are, since your visit will just show up as a hit. But that's okay. Bloggers don't have to sign guest books, thank goodness, at every site they visit.

You and I have something in common though: we're both here at the same time on the same planet. What a coincidence, huh? And we're both people. And even if we're on opposite hemispheres, we both think and feel and try to live our lives as well as we can, and try to accomplish what we can, and love some things and hate others. And we both like some people and maybe not others so well. And we both got into this craze called blogging, for whatever reasons. I wonder if it will last, for both of us.

Did you know that over ninety percent of new blogs are abandoned by their authors after just a few days? according to one host. That's a pretty brief commitment, isn't it? Sometimes I think I'll just walk away from this one, but where would I go? For many of us, blogging is the only place we can vent and rant the way we want to and publish it--and maybe even have it read. Nobody's going to buy it or publish it elsewhere.

Well, that's my 30 for now, fellow travellers. Blog well and prosper.

Monday, August 01, 2005

sometimes I say exactly what I don't think

I don't understand why I sometimes say the exact opposite of what I think. It's not that I change my mind; I still believe the same thing, but I do sometimes say the opposite. Maybe I don't want to believe what I do, or I think that if I say something enough, I'll begin to believe it.