The Great Blackout of Aught-Three, as experienced by me:
- Frankly, I enjoyed it. I have many blessings to count, I realize I live within a feasible walking distance from home, I was wearing comfortable shoes, the iPod was fully charged and loaded (and it also makes an excellent source of light in a darkened emergency stairwell), my apartment's not that stuffy so I had a much easier time of it than a lot of other people. Still, it was a nice enough day and it was pretty interesting to see what was going on during the hike uptown and over the bridge. I have to admit that at times I had to stop myself from breaking into song along with the iPod, because I was so nonplussed about the whole experience, and I was finding so pleasant to just walk and watch people and stuff.
- Of course, it all would have been so much worse if the rest of the city hadn't been so laid back about it all. Compared to that other time, no one was was freaking out that I could see. We calmly climbed down the 20 stories to the street, where people were hanging out talking to others, deciding what to do. Walking up Lexington Avenue toward the Queensboro Bridge, people were waiting calmly on lines at pay phones, delis, and ice cream trucks, and the only ones being assholes were the fat-cats sealed up in their SUVs who were pissed off that they didn't have the right of way anymore. And for once, no one was greeting their hostility with more hostility. People were just rolling their eyes at the temper tantrums. Every truck driver with extra room was telling people to hop on, and at the bridge there was a human chain lifting others onto the upper roadway for the trudge home.
- If I had to be stuck in a major city during a massive power blackout, I’m sure as hell glad it was this one. New York's active street-level culture is normally a plus from a social standpoint, but it's also useful in a crisis. It's a pedestrian city, so if you're forced to hike across it, there is no shortage of places to get water, food, or alcohol. There are lots of payphones, in case the cellular networks are down or overloaded. People are used to regular contact with strangers, so it's not a big deal to interact with your neighbors or other people on the street. It becomes much more of a shared event.
- I’m very grateful that delis and greengrocers stayed open long enough to let people stock up on provisions for the night. All we had at home was a half-gallon of milk and some wheat bread, so I was lucky to grab some fruit to snack on during the night.
- Even with my rose-tinted view of life in New York, I was amazed at the lack of street crime and looting, especially after living through the blackout of '77, and then later living in the middle of the neighborhood (Bushwick) where most of the looting and the fires took place. I guess it was part of the relief that this was just a blackout. Also, I have to give our charisma-free mayor some credit for telling everyone the power would be back by midnight last night. By letting everyone think it would get back to normal soon, those announcements probably prevented a lot of mayhem during the night.
- I’d always believed the party line about this problem being solved after '77, but I guess a certain vulnerability is the nature of any interconnected system. Even if safeguards had been put in place since '77, I suspect that power usage has increased enough to leave us back in the same position. Bush is already yapping on about how the system needs to be modernized, but I bet he's thinking along the lines of lucrative contracts to his pals in the petrochemical and other traditional power industries. I’m thinking more about the sensibility of alternative power sources, especially fuel-cell networks that would allow cars to dump excess fuell-cell power back into the grid, rather than letting it burn off while the car is idle.
- Astoria's had power since about 5 or 6 this morning, so I’m having a quiet day at home, safe and sound with the Rooster. We had pancakes and bacon for breakfast, since bacon was the only meat at the supermarket that was safe to buy after a night with no power.
Crap! I forgot my own anniversary! August 5 was the official Fourth Anniversary of my career as a blogger. That is to say, it was the first time I posted online with a proper blogging tool I had been writing for my own web site for a couple of years even prior to that. (Does anyone even remember Rumpus Room anymore?) Four years later and I still have to occasionally apologize to Jonno for my off-the-cuff, easily misinterpreted observation. Yes, the valuable lessons about watching what one says came early here at UltraSparky.
The traditional fourth anniversary gift is fruit or flowers (I really should have thought of this last August and tried to cash in then), but the acceptable modern equivalent is appliances. Although I suppose for internet personalities, it's always the same.
I’ve been menaing to write more about the many exciting or at least mildly amusing things going on lately, but it's been hard to gather the will to sit and concentrate on the blogging thing. Here are a bunch of quick links that I’ve been meaning to pepper throughout a series of scintillating posts...
The Junk Drawer
- Art Chantry, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 is an incredible restrospective of the work of my all-time favorite designer, now showing at P.S. 1. I can't rave about this enough. The work is fun enough to look at in reproduction, but he does so much with materials and printing tricks that seeing the stuff in person is about a million times cooler. (And they're using the same title for the exhibit as I did for a fictional exhibit years ago. but I’m not bitter.)
- Speaking of P.S. 1, I’d like to point out that it's not the same place as P.S. 122 in the East Village. You really ought to check out what's going on at P.S. 122, because they put on tons of great theater and dance and performance and such, and it's their ticket prices are great for what you get. More on this later, because I’m starting to work on a number of projects with them.
- And speaking of great stuff at P.S. 122, Heather Woodbury is kicking off their new season in September with her one-woman, eight-installment, 100+-character show, What Ever. You really ought to check out her web ite, where you can listen to streaming audio of entire acts of the show, so go and whet your appetite.
- Flaming Fire were one of the guest acts in the Devo Tribute Show I saw last week. They were pretty exciting, and the lead singer was pretty hot, but you must check out their site to see the progress they're making on their project to have artists illustrate every single verse of the Bible (1079 illustrations complete; 35586 remaining).
- The Grand List of Comic Book Cliches is funny because it's true.
- Typophile: The Smaller Picture is a project that’s building a typeface via collaborative effort over the internet one pixel at a time. (Thanks, Mike!)
- Gilles Barbier is the artist of a fantastic, witty sculptural installation called L'Hospice that depicts elderly superheroes loafing around in a nursing home. (Better pictures halfway down this page.)
I saw one of the best show's I’ve caught in ages last Friday night: the Loser's Lounge tribute to Devo. Brilliant, on all levels. Not only did it really capture the flavor and the impact of the material performed, but did so in a way that was totally fresh and original, rather than just a sycophantic rehashing of someone else's work. I bought their bootleg CDs of their Bowie and Elvis Costello shows, and am more convinced than ever that the Devo show wasn't a fluke: these guys (and it's a core band with dozens of guest singers, so it's not like a regular band) are not only supremely talented, but they're more interested in really immersing themselves into the music they play to get to the heart of it, rather than just trot out some old pop hits as a gimmick. (Which is what I was expecting them to do when I bought the tickets. I love being wrong when the end result is so much better.)
The show was typical of what I love about entertainment in New York (I say "in New York" because it's something I’ve never been able to come across anywhere else): rather than being just a rock show, or just a theatrical performance, or just one thing or another, the event itself crossed all these boundaries. They played heartfelt covers of New Wave songs, but also incorporated country, punk, and experimental electronic music. They played homemade synthesizers and traditional instruments. They featured a variety of singers and performers. They wore costumes. They immersed themselves in a kind of simulacrum of the music to which they paid tribute. MInd you this was all just for a $15 concert ticket, not an exorbitant theater seat.
And I seem to find genre-bending stuff like this all the time here: Kiki & Herb, The Three Terrors, the Qwe're Music Fest, and on and on and on. I’ve gotten too hooked on these blends of pop, rock, drag, performance art, burlesque, and cabaret to get much out of a band just playing its songs, or some drag queen just miming along to a record, or someone just standing up on stage doing some schtick. There are simply too many alternatives out there that are more ambitious and more affecting.
This article about a non-profit funeral home and its relation to larger commercial funeral businesses is a must-read for anyone else who's gotten sucked into Six Feet Under and the ongoing business problems of poor little Fisher & Sons.
Schwarzenegger? Coleman? Flynt? And is it true that Angelyne is running? And the Democrats are refusing to run anyone as a show of support for Gray Davis? Am I the only one who's happier than ever that I don't live in freakin' California? This is swiftly becoming an even greater mockery of the democratic electoral system than the last presidential election was.
Perhaps the scariest part of all is that Larry Flynt seems to be the best candidate of the bunch. If nothing else, he's the most likely to put the state back in the black. Maybe he can use "Back in Black" as his campaign theme. If nothing else it would be a cute pun to use an AC/DC song, considering it was the whole eletricity debacle (Enron's fault, by the way, more than the governor's) that destroyed the credibility of the state government.
Can't we get Aaron or Reese to run instead? You know, smart guys with some sense of the political workings of the state and experience working within the system? Schwarzenegger? Oh, please. Does a credible candidate announce his plans on Leno by making Terminator jokes? Even Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, and Ronald Reagan had more dignity than that when they ran for office.
I think we should all pool our resources and set up shelters for bloggers who need to flee California before this gets any worse. Or maybe than can all just hole up with Diane Feinstein in her Aspen house until it all blows over.
And the Democrats don't want another Democrat to enter the race? that’s just fucking ridiculous. Look, I don't think the recall is fair or sane, but frankly it seems like it's going to happen. Without Democrats on the ballot as backup in case Davis is recalled, they're effectively handing the state over to someone who'd have even less statewide support than Davis himself. Because that’s how it works: in the event of a recall, the winner of the replacement election doesn't need a majority, only more votes than any other candidate. So, for instance, if only 49% of Californians want to keep Gray in office, then the potential 10% who want to to vote for Gary Coleman because they think it's funny will decide the elction? Is a contingency plan such a bad idea?
I am so East Coast right now.