Katrina Update #83

August 29, 2006; 1:00 AM CDT

I Had The Best Intentions...

Honest. I did. The idea was to do this huge web site makeover. Incorporate CSS, maybe some Web 2.0 concepts. Better navigation. Additonal content. New commentary from the perspective of one year later. Wow! It was a thing to behold. And then I realized I didn't know how to do any of that stuff.

Well, OK. I know how to do some of it - maybe even most of it. Just not enough. Gradually, as I began the makeover process, I began discovering the holes in my knowledge: and I started buying books. I even read some of them. I found one in particular I liked regarding CSS called "stylin' with CSS" (not Styling; stylin' - so you know it's cool). But it wasn't enough.

The fact is that this site was put up fast and grew out of my own manic need to record what I was experiencing one year ago today. The one prevailing thought I had at the time was "I have to capture this. These images, thoughts, and emotions have to be preserved." So the overall design, while simple, doesn't lend itself for conversion very easily. That and my own lack of skills in the finer points of web design left me racing the clock to meet the one year anniversary, and the clock won.

But fear not - there is another one year anniversary coming up: the one year anniversary of when we arrived back home. October 3rd. And that may be a more appropriate date to release the update anyway (providing I can find that porcupine-looking "Spock Helmet" laying around here somewhere that will magically squeeze all the knowledge I need into my puny brain). October 3rd represents a point in time when the dust was starting to settle and people's plans were a bit better known, so it also provides a better point in time to update their status now. (Yeah, I know you didn't need the justification - but I did.)

Without going into detail that you wouldn't care about anyway, the actual brick wall I hit today was when I realized the change I was making would also change the URLs for most of the pages. With a bunch of other sites linking to this site now, that would be bad. So back to the drawing board. But this time I am calling in my expert friends and former Apple co-employees who are far better at this crap than I am. THAT should definitely make it awesome!

One Year

Interviewer to Mayor Nagin: "Mayor, you and the city of New Orleans have just celebrated the one year anniversary of the most costly disaster in U.S. history. What are you going to do now?"

Mayor Nagin: "I'm going to Disney World!"

No, he didn't really say that - but he might as well have. Let's review, shall we:

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country. "Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves. It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be." (January 16, 2006)

"How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about. New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."

"You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed....." (60 minutes, 826/06)

So the Disney World quote really isn't out of the question, is it? After all, this is the guy that wanted to have fireworks and a comedy show to "celebrate surviving Katrina." (OK - I do need to cut him some slack, I always like a good fireworks show and we so often get short-changed on New Year's Eve due to fog. But I digress...) He's no Robin Williams, but he does show promise...

The One Year Anniversary and the Media

Remember last week when I told you Katrina was going to be the media event of the year? Holy Over Exposure, Batman! I have seen several 1 hour shows on virtually every major over-air and cable network. Some have several. And you know what? I have yet to see a bad one. Here are some of my highlights:

When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Spike Lee)

At 4.5 hours, this is the mother documentary. You know what? I don't agree with the reviews I reported in the last update. The film was evenly balanced. You saw mostly black people because mostly black people lived in New Orleans, and the people who were left to rot in the Superdome and Convention Center afterwards were mostly black. But several white people were prominently featured in the film - many of them were showcased as experts about New Orleans in some way and their opinions were, for the most part, not questioned. There was no "kill whitey" sentiment, and, while the failings of the government were presented as fact, he did not dwell on them.

Comments about not showing enough of Mississippi or Alabama were unfair. He did show them, as much more than "Mississippi is reported to have a tree blown down." The movie is called "When the Levees Broke," just by the way. 8 stars out of 10 only because, if anything, the movie doesn't go far enough. His title "A Requiem in Four Acts" implies finality and remembrance. The story has so many more aspects to it that need to be told. He really does need to keep the cameras rolling.

Surviving Katrina (Discovery Channel)

How can you not like a show narrated by Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe? Surviving Katrina had some of the most interesting stories of the time just before and just after the storm that you will ever see anywhere. It's main fault is that their reinactments actually detract from the storytelling. There is so much footage of this event, why hire actors to make concerned looks - especially when you are talking to the real people anyway, and, well, their faces still look pretty concerned a year later. At one point they were showing footage of a patient being evacuated from Charity Hospital and they felt it necessary to put on the screen "Actual Evacuation Footage" just so we wouldn't confuse it with the reinactments. To make matters worse, they never identified the reinactments, which made it confusing when they shifted to an interview with the real person.

On the plus side, this show had some of the most amazing computer graphics I have seen of how the city flooded. I wish they would have spent their money on more of that instead of the reinactments. It was totally fascinating, and I couldn't get enough. I really would like to give this show 7 out of 10 because of the content and the graphics, but I have to give it a 5. The reinactments were that annoying.

Big Easy Rebuild (Science Channel)
Engineering New Orleans (Extreme Engineering - Discovery Channel)

These two shows were incredible. They first gives you answers to a lot of the questions that come to mind:

The second analyzes the various failures from an engineer's perspective, everything from the failure to replenish the wetlands, to why the levees gave way, to how the Mississippi Gulf Outlet contributed to the event. I give them both 8 out of 10. They'd get a 9 if only they were longer and covered more stuff.

Life After Katrina (HGTV)

How homeowners are coping with the disaster was the focus of this show. The highlight for me was when they interviewed people who live just 200 feet from where the levee broke and showed how they are rebuilding their house. They are one of two families that have returned to an area where 1000 homes sit abandoned. From the outside, their house looks normal - they even have green grass on their lawn. But they have been living on the second floor while bringing it back. It is a must see. 9 out of 10.

It Could Happen Tomorrow - The Lost Episode (Weather Channel)

In September of 2005 the Weather Channel introduced a new series - It Could Happen Tomorrow. Its theme was to dramatize what could happen should various natural disasters hit certain U.S. Cities. The first show dramatized what might happen if a major hurricane were to hit New Orleans. Of course, by the time the show was to air, it had already happened. The Lost Episode expands the original show to an hour, interweaving the footage from their show with the actual events that occurred. The original relied heavily on the now infamous Hurricane Pam exercise. 10 out of 10 just for the sheer "I told you so" factor.

Storm Stories (Weather Channel)
Coast Guard Storm Stories (Weather Channel)

There are multiple episodes of these shows with a lot of footage from before and after Katrina that are worth seeing. 7 out of 10.

Bringing Back the Bayou (Food Channel)

Emeril hosts an hour that looks at how the city's festival atmosphere and food are being recaptured by the local restaurants. He's not the best narrator, but he sure does love New Orleans and it shows in this hour that shows how some of the best restaurants in the city dealt with the aftermath of the storm. 5 out of 10 just because a lot of it plays like a commercial for the restaurants. That's OK, but it doesn't stack up well against the other shows as well for that reason.


- Janis received a clean bill of health from her doctor last week. Not a moment too soon. I think I'll let her drive me around for awhile.

- Allan Fickling has started his own blog. Check it out here. Allan is a great writer and always has something interesting to say.

On The Road Again

With Janis fully recovered, its time I get back on the road again, presenting iListen for MacSpeech at Apple stores and user groups around the country. We leave on Wednesday for a little over a week in the Chicago area. Ironically, that's where we ended up the same time last year, after we evacuated. Mid September will find me in Tennessee, and the first week in October I'll be in the San Francisco area. I am also supposed to go to Arizona and Florida before the end of the year.


"So much time, so little to do. Scratch that. Reverse it." - Willie Wonka

There was so much more I wanted this update to be - not just another update. It really was my intent to go out with a bang, and then freeze this past year in time - more or less. I figured I would go back now and then and touch things up and maybe even throw in another update here and there as events warranted, but the bulk of the every day stuff needed to be moved to my main site. Something I have really had on a back burner since before Katrina.

Alas, it was not to be. Due to my real job, I can only allocate so many hours to this site - and it just wasn't enough. Sorry about that. Hopefully I can get things where I want them to be by my October 3, 2006 deadline.