Archive for the 'Hurricane Watch' Category

05
Sep
12

After Isaac

Well, friends, we made it through another one. Hurricane Isaac took out our power at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The good people of Entergy got it back to us a little after 9 p.m. on Saturday. We got internet and cable back earlier today.

I’ve been trying to come up with what, exactly, I should say about the storm that you can’t find elsewhere, something specific to my perspective and my experience… and honestly, there isn’t much to say. Isaac was a category 1 hurricane. He did some damage. Luckily, he didn’t do any severe damage to me or my family, but there are other people who weren’t so lucky. Still, it could have been worse.

If there’s one thing I want to say that I haven’t heard from a lot of people, though, it’s my feelings about how the news media handled this storm. From the first stirrings of Isaac in the Atlantic to his last vestiges drifting north, the coverage I saw was irresponsible, reprehensible, and for people who pride themselves on keeping the public informed, it was absolutely unforgivable. Each network was nothing more than a flurry of panic, fearmongering, and half-assed “stories” that left me almost physically ill.

And this is my response after I’ve calmed down.

If you really want to see my fired up response, I’ve posted a video here that I filmed during the storm, culminating in a little rant on Saturday afternoon, where I got a bit angrier than I ever intended it to be. If you don’t feel like watching that, I certainly don’t blame you. Just know I’m good, my family is good, and life is coming back to normal. Thanks for all the good thoughts.

27
Aug
12

Watching Isaac

You may have heard, there’s a Tropical Storm a-spinnin’ out there in the Gulf of Mexico. It may be a hurricane by the time you read this, I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it looks pretty likely that it’ll hit the Gulf Coast.

Of course, meteorology being what it is, it’s all still guesswork exactly where it will hit, but most tracks place us here in the New Orleans area in the path or on the outskirts. Now, for those of you who live on the coast, you know how this goes, you know what to do. You don’t need my words of encouragement.

But for those of you in the rest of the country who don’t have much of a perception of hurricane season outside of Hurricane Katrina, let me try to put your mind at ease a bit. Most of us down here know what we’re doing. We grew up here, we’ve dealt with this all of our lives. We know when to get out and when to ride it out. For a lot of us that decision won’t be made until the tracking maps come out in the morning, but that’s okay. We have time. And who knows, by the time I get up the latest maps may have it going somewhere else entirely

I feel like I’m rambling a bit here, so I’m just going to say, simply, my point: We’re cautious. We’re careful. But we’re not freaking out and we’re not going to panic, and no matter what those sensationalistic lunkheads that call themselves reporters are putting on your television, we don’t want you to freak out or panic either. We take it seriously, but that doesn’t mean we lose our heads.

I’m going to watch the news, talk to my family and friends, and try to live with Saint Walker’s philosophy: All will be well.

(It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t work in a little nerdity before the end of the post.)

10
Oct
11

Story Structure Day 14: Wait Until Dark (1967)

Director: Terence Young

Writer: Robert Carrington, Jane-Howard Carrington, from the play by Frederick Knott

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Samantha Jones, Efram Zimbalist Jr., Jack Weston, Julie Herrod

Plot:  Lisa (Samantha Jones) smuggles a doll filled with heroin into New York City, but hands off the doll to a man she met on the plane, Sam (Efram Zimbalist, Jr.), when she suspects she’s being followed. Sam comes home to his blind wife, Susy (Audrey Hepburn), and the two of them somehow misplace the doll, unaware of its contents. Lisa’s two partners, Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and Carlino (Jack Weston) are met at Susy and Sam’s apartment by the man who intercepted Lisa at the airport, Harry Roat (Alan Arkin). Roat offers them a chance to help him find the doll, replacing Lisa, who he has killed for trying to “go into business” by herself. Susy arrives home, sensing the presence of people in her apartment but believing the crooks to be her neighbor’s daughter, Gloria (Julie Herrod), playing pranks on her because she has a crush on Sam. She leaves, and the men go about the business of disposing of Lisa’s body.

The next day, after Sam leaves for a business trip, Talman enters the apartment, posing as an old friend of Sam’s. Carlino and Roat get in on the con game, attempting to convince Susy that Sam has been unfaithful to her, and that his lover brought the doll to their home. Susy and Tallman search the apartment for the doll, Susy believing that if the police find it they’ll use it as evidence to charge Sam with murder. Later, Gloria appears with the doll, which she stole earlier. Gloria’s observations feed Susy’s suspicions, and they hide both the doll and Gloria when Carlino returns. Susy sends the crooks on a wild goose chase for the doll, and alone in the apartment, realizes they have cut the phone line and left her stranded, so she destroys all the light bulbs in the house, planning a final offensive. As Talman returns for the doll, Roat runs down Carlino with his car to get him out of the way, then returns and kills Talman, leaving him alone in the house with Susy. The final showdown between Susy and Roat, of course, takes place in the dark.

Thoughts: Audrey Hepburn was not only one of the most beautiful women God ever placed on this Earth, but also one of the most talented actresses. Her portrayal of blind Susy Hendrix is absolutely convincing, from the look in her eyes to the way she moves about without actually looking at what she’s doing. How many actors could pull that off so consistently without relying on the cheat of dark sunglasses to hide their eye movements?

I’ve done plenty of college and community theater, and it’s pretty easy to see this movie’s pedigree as an adaptation of a stage play. The plot is somewhat complicated, but is still mostly contained in the Hendrix apartment. Any scenes that take place beyond the apartment give only fleeting bits of information, things that were probably kept in the apartment itself when the story was told on stage. (With the possible exception of Carlino’s death scene – and even that could have easily been explained. I doubt the stage production includes someone getting run over by a car.) The rhythm of the dialogue, the expository nature of it, also feels much more like a stage play than a screenplay. There’s even a great moment where Gloria, acting as Susy’s secret weapon, quips that she wishes something like this would happen every day. In the context of the film, it’s kind of a ridiculous thing to say, but on stage I can see it helping the audience laugh and relieve a hint of tension just at the right moment.

That said, the writing really is magnificent. Frederick Knott’s original story and the screenplay by the Carringtons both paint Susy as a remarkable, resourceful woman. The criminals think her blindness will make her an easy mark, but she turns it around on them, first using her other senses to poke holes in their con game, and then turning it into a weapon in the brilliant climax.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t really a “scary” movie, not like the ghost and monster films on this list, not even like the serial killer shocker Psycho. But it’s undeniably thrilling. Part of it is Hepburn herself – she’s so universally charming and beloved that you can’t imagine anybody wanting to harm her. Part of it is the character – Susy is someone with real courage and intelligence, the sort of person you just want to see achieve a victory over the dark forces are plaguing her. The cool, calm way she faces Talman after the masquerade is exposed is completely gripping, the sort of thing that makes theatre audiences cheer with excitement. In the end, I only wish I could have seen this movie in the theaters when it first came out, when the managers shut off even the dimmest lights, bringing the audience into total blackness just when the lights go out for the bad guys.

The final scenes of this film are legendary. Susy kills the lights, then douses Roat in his own gasoline so he doesn’t dark strike a match. Plunging the screen (and theater) into darkness, Susy keeps him tapping her cane so she knows where he is, while at the same time holding him off with his own matches, the only light source. Roat gets the upper hand again when he opens the refrigerator door, but again, Susy’s blindness becomes a weapon. The musical doll tell her exactly where he is, the noisy, plastic gloves he’s wearing alert her to the fact that his hands are not currently holding a weapon. And when he drags her off to the bedroom, where again, the light is gone, it’s Susy who gets the upper hand. The finale does pull out what has since become a horror cliché – the presumed-dead villain who comes back in the last seconds – but in this early stage it’s still thrilling, and just this once, it leads to a spectacular finale.

Tomorrow it’s time to get supernatural again, with the godfather of modern zombie movies: Night of the Living Dead!

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

07
Apr
11

We don’t believe you, Dr. Gray…

This morning, before I went off to work, the local news folks were talking about the infamous Dr. William Gray, who has spent years now making outlandishly incorrect predictions about the activity level of the Atlantic hurricane season. This year, he’s predicting 16 named storms which — based on his previous track record — means we’re likely to get exactly 16 storms, or maybe 12, or three, or 97, because seriously, these guys are never even remotely correct.

Every year, we get the announcement: “HIGHER THAN ACTIVE HURRICANE SEASON PREDICTED” is the most popular statement. The local news media loves this, because it then allows them to get on the television and radio and tell us to rush out to the stores, hoard food, buy generators and shotgun shells and wait for the apocalypse.

What happens next? Usually, nothing. Because you see, even on those rare occasions that the predicted number of storms is even vaguely close to the actual number, that prediction doesn’t say anything about whether or not those storms will touch any inhabited piece of land, because there’s no way to bloody tell ahead of time. There are sometimes dozens of hurricanes a year that nobody remembers, because they build up their intensity, thrive, sputter, and die out there in the vast reaches of the ocean and never touch land!

The stupidest part of the pre-season hurricane predictions, though, is the fact that these predictions can be “revised” midway through the season. It is not at all unusual for Dr. Gray to release a press release in April saying, “Yep. 20 storms. That’s what we’re getting,” then coming back in August to announce, “We’re revising our original prediction, now I think there’s only gonna be six storms this yea — OH, SNAP! LOOK AT THAT! RIGHT AGAIN, DR. ME!”

I paraphrase, of course.

Nothing else in the world works this way. I cannot go down to the dog track, put a bet on Santa’s Little Helper, and then run back to the window during the final lap and say, “No, wait! Now I think Ovarian Cyst is gonna win it all!” and expect them to give me any money.

So, Dr. Gray and the National Weather Service and everybody else, please, STOP making pre-season predictions. It’s pointless. We here on the Gulf Coast know that hurricanes happen and know that there’s always a chance one could come our way, and it doesn’t matter for squat whether you predict 1 or 187 named storms. Wasting energy on pre-season predictions is nothing but Chicken Little Fearmongering, and god knows we’ve got enough to be afraid of in this world. (Snooki wrote a book, for God’s sake…)

Just save your energy and let us know when a storm is actually coming our way, okay?

Thanks.

07
Sep
08

My last Gustav post

It’s been a long week, friends, but we’re back home. I just wanted to give you one last post updating you on the status of my family and friends who’ve been impacted by this storm. At home, almost no damage. Fallen branches, fallen shingles — absolutely nothing compared to what could have happened. I’ve gotten in touch with all of my family and it doesn’t sound like anyone suffered any real damage, thank goodness.

I spoke to my podcasting partner Chase just a little while ago, and he informed me that the Secret Lair is also out of power. Amazingly, the storm blew open the front door and blew a tree into the house, so the rugs are soaked and there’s a tree in the living room, but no other damage. However, it may be weeks until Chase has electricity again. Because of the havoc Gustav caused, both in terms of damage, power loss, and total upheaval to our work schedules, it will be a few weeks before Chase and I can resume a regular podcasting schedule. Until then, I’ll try to post a mini-episode once in a while to keep up with you guys, and I’ll be sure to let you know right here as soon as we’re back full-time.

Mike’s house also suffered very minor damage, lost shingles and the like, as did Kenny’s apartment. Neither of our emergency back-up geeks have power at the moment, and Mike will be busy the next few weeks helping his parents, who lost their roof in the storm. Jason’s house came out fine, and the good people at BSI Comics are back and open for business. The comics that were supposed to come out last Wednesday will be available tomorrow, and the new stuff for this week will be out Wednesday as usual.

As I write this, I don’t know the status of either of the plays I’m involved with. Hamlet was supposed to go on at the Houma Civic Center, which I understand got hit pretty hard. The cast and crew of this play have worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen in theater, and I’d hate to think they would have to give it up. As for my show, Bless Me, Father, our facilities came through the storm pretty much intact, but at the moment, we have no power. I don’t know if we’ll have the time to finish rehearsing, build the set… y’know, everything that needs to be done. And even if we do, I don’t know if the parks service will make us reschedule. While we were out, though, my sister Heather put the finishing touches on the Playhouse’s new website. You can look for updates there at ThibodauxPlayhouse.Org. As for work, I’m scheduled to go back Friday to get the school ready in anticipation of our students returning on Monday.

Thanks to everyone who sent us well-wishes during the storm. Now let’s just hope we don’t need them again next week for Ike.

Odds and Ends:

Just a few other things I wanted to mention before I go. First of all, sorry there was no chapter of Summer Love last week. I’m sure you all understand. But chapter 12 will be online tomorrow, Sept. 8. I promise.

Next, I was really sad this week to hear about the passing of Bill Melendez. Melendez was the animator and producer who teamed up with Charles M. Schulz to turn the legendary Peanuts comic strip into a series of legendary animated specials. A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown… these masterpieces wouldn’t have been made without Melendez’s talents. He was one of the greats, and it’ll be a sadder place without him.

And finally, although I didn’t get my comics last week, I still managed to turn out a couple of reviews. One novel, one book of essays, and one graphic novel, respectively, courtesy of the Amazon vine program:

04
Sep
08

Gustav: The Return

Hey, everyone. As I type this, on the afternoon of September 4, I’m still at my Uncle Wally’s house in Folsom, Louisiana. A lot of us wound up here — I came with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law, while Wally and my aunt Aimee were entertaining her mother and three of their four children… not to mention their cat and three dogs, plus the three cats we brought with us. We were in tight quarters for a while.

On Sunday evening and into Monday morning, we watched the news as Gustav made landfall. We kept our fingers crossed and prayed for our family and friends elsewhere. As the day progressed, we managed to make contact — via cell phone or text message — with just about everyone we knew in the danger zone. By the time the power went out on Monday, we were feeling better. We barbecued in the wind for dinner and went to sleep just after the power came back on… then it killed again until the next morning.

My father went home on Tuesday to check out the neighborhood. The rest of us stayed behind, knowing that we had no power or sewerage service back home. We still have power here, and just a little while ago, our Internet connection was finally restored. As of now, we’re still here in Folsom for the same reason: no power back home means, in the southern Louisiana heat, no air conditioning. And as none of us will be going back to work until next week at the earliest, we’re not in a rush to get back.

I may be out of work even longer. Central Lafourche High School, where I teach, is in one of the parishes hit hardest, and although the storm wasn’t nearly the Katrina-level disaster some predicted, it will still be weeks before power is restored to some areas of the parish. The school likely already has power back — it’s on the same grid as nearby St. Anne’s Hospital and, as such, the first place they restore — but many of our students are still scattered to the four winds. I have to admit, I wonder if I’ll be losing any of my kids whose parents decide just not to come back from this one.

Heather and I have contacted most of the cast of our play and talked to them about when we’re getting back (short answer: I don’t know). Chase and Jenny are still in Texas, and we know their home in Golden Meadow was damaged. Mike, Kim and Kenny were all in Atlanta for Dragon Con, so while their homes were in the bull’s-eye, they dodged the bullet. I hope they all come home to what they left behind. Jason and Andrea wound up in Jackson, Mississippi with her parents, and their home in Luling is safe as well. My brother, sister-in-law and her parents rode out the storm in Baton Rouge, which also took a bad hit, but nothing they can’t return from.

All in all, we were lucky. It seems we’ve learned from the mistakes of Katrina — we had the relief efforts in place before the storm this time, we had a governor coordinating everything from evacuation to rescue from the outset, we built the walls higher and tougher (although clearly not high or tough enough), and for the most part, we made it through. Even the city of New Orleans itself handled the evacuation well this time — although the biggest misstep in the handling of Gustav needs to fall on the feet of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and yes, this is the rare instance of me getting political in this blog, and no, it’s not going to be a joke like when I endorsed a candidate to win Last Comic Standing.

Nagin pissed me off.

While everyone was doing their best to stay calm, to keep people from panicking (which is the WORST POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD HAPPEN), Ray Nagin got on television and told people — among other things — that the city of New Orleans was going to be hit by “the storm of the century” (it wasn’t), that the footprint of the storm was 900 miles wide (it wasn’t) and that people would need axes to chop themselves out of their roofs (they didn’t). This at a point where the storm was already weakening to a lesser degree than we had originally feared, about a storm that was about 300 miles wide at its maximum. It’s one thing to try to make people take the storm seriously. A great number of those who died in Katrina could easily have survived if they had simply taken the warnings seriously, and a great number of people who stayed in the city are just damn lucky that this storm wasn’t as bad as Nagin predicted.

But what Nagin did, peddling fear to that degree, is inexcusable. He gave a speech intended to terrify people instead of appeal to their logic, and while some will argue that he did it to try to save lives, it seems to me that a person who isn’t rational enough to leave town for a 300-mile storm is likely to become a serious danger to others if they start to panic over a 900-mile storm. If his words had been heard by more people in the city (most had fled at that point), it easily could have sparked a total collapse of order. It was a mistake, it was a stupid mistake, and Nagin is just lucky that it didn’t cost anybody their life.

The other big mistake, as usual, came in the national news coverage. Prior to the storm, it was doom and gloom, the end of New Orleans, the utter destruction of all we hold dear. After the storm, from what I’m told from friends in other parts of the country, the news is reporting that New Orleans survived, which is true, but they’re not even mentioning the devastation that’s happened in other parts of the state like Baton Rouge, Houma, and Lafourche Parish. These cities, clearly, are not big enough news to report on the people in need there.

Okay, off the soapbox. Hopefully by the time I make it home we’ll have our power and internet connection back online, so I’ll be able to resume a more regular posting schedule. Thanks to everyone who sent out good thoughts and prayers to us during this time of crisis. And let’s just hope that it’ll be a long time before we need them again.

31
Aug
08

Gustav Update: On the Road

The good news: Gustav weakened overnight. It’s not as strong as they expected it to be at this point.

The bad news: As whatsisname on South Park said, “It’s comin’ right for us!”

We’re loading up and we’ll be on the road soon. Wish us luck.

(Oh, and for those of you expecting a Summer Love chapter tomorrow… sorry, but it’s probably not going to happen. But I promise to pull up next to a lantern with a pen and notebook and work on it longhand.)




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