Archive for category: News Outta My Control

Sonic Bummer

26 Jun 2002
June 26, 2002

I knew it! I knew it!

Earlier this month I mentioned that the sound of children’s crying could drive someone mad. I suggested someone invent a deafening device to save parents from approaching the brink. One must be careful for what one wishes for.

In a twist, the Pentagon has taken my research and is now developing a weapon that WILL drive people (i.e. our enemies) into submission using the cries of babies. Our government wants to harness the power of this innocent, yet untapped demographic to help in the war effort!

I never meant for my problem to become others’. I never thought my wishful “thinking out loud” would lead to the development of a weapon so powerful, so utterly agonizing that the very thought pummels me into capitulation.

Conservatives and the Bush administration are worried about cloning and using stem cells for research. What are the moral underpinnings of developing a race of supersonic criers? Will researchers vie for government grants to identify the genes responsible for decibel potency? And will the rush to develop such a weapon take precedence over other audible (and dare I say, cultural) developments?

Will composers and conductors be called to duty, dropping their metronomes and batons for the good of our country? Will our hearing impaired be drafted for this new war effort? Afterall, while the reports state that operators of this new superweapon will not hear those killer sounds, stealth covert activities during transmission will require special operatives, those who would most certainly need to be immune to its effect.

Finally, who will raise these supertykes? If they’re kept at home, they (and their poor families) will certainly have to be segregated. Auditory ghettos will arise. Huge Cones of Silence will have to be built around these zones. We are inching perilously close to that slippery slope!

Where do I sign my daughter up for field testing?

Reliving Ground Zero

28 Jan 2002
January 28, 2002

Last week I took a trip up to NYC to see Ground Zero. I’d been wanting to make the trip for some time. And, after working on Dichotomy since September, I felt it was important to take the trip. They’ve recently put up a platform, about two blocks away from the site. You have to get [free] tickets at the South Street Seaport kiosk, about 7 blocks to the East.

horoscopeMany have mixed emotions about The Platform. Some see it as just another stop on a tourist’s itinerary and are concerned about the carnival atmosphere at the site. Even though I’m sure it exists I didn’t see any evidence of that attitude.

While in the city, I met with a friend who is involved with many art and culture issues. He told me that a panel he was helping to organize on 9/11 was just cancelled due to lack of interest, not only by the public but by the panel members! The event affected all of us in a major way as a nation (that is, feeling a part because we are all Americans) and in individual ways, whether we experienced 9/11 directly, knew people who did, or simply witnessed it on TV. After four months, there seems to be a whole range of feelings now from “let’s move on” to “I’ve hardly begun to process this.”

As you look at the site now, the viewer’s experience is, in a way, too abstract. Ground Zero is about 2 blocks from the platform and it now looks more like a construction site. The initial visual shock is missing for most of us. And for most who haven’t spent a lot of time in the city, it’s hard to remember where the WTC would be in one’s field of view as you walk down the streets.

Yet many are drawn here because they want it to be more concrete and less abstract. It’s important to them. I overheard a woman here in DC say she was taking her children to see the site so they would think a little about the realities of what happened. To a some teenagers who have grown up with the mayhem and murder on TV, these things can be pretty abstract and unbelievable.

I was there at about 5:15 pm. The sun had set, yet the sky was still blue in the west, in the direction we were looking. It was cold and windy. I felt the beauty of living with the realities of what we went through. And, I’m glad I went. Yes, of course, there were some who took snapshots but documenting this place and our contact with it is as important as documenting any family event. I’ve created documentation of my own at The Platform (Quicktime 2.3 MB).

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Update: I just found out the Dichotomy is a Finalist in the Art/Culture category at the SXSW Festival!

Hunting for Zippers in the Emperor’s New Clothes

13 Sep 2001
September 13, 2001

I remember one night being so scared I wouldn’t go to sleep. I’d been watching Invaders from Mars on TV for the fourth night in a row. When I yelled for my mom, she opened the bedroom door and told me “just think good thoughts” (as if that was going to work). When it didn’t, she forced me to watch it again with her the next night. Only when she pointed out the zippers on the Martians’ skin could I think about anything good.

The story above is from a photo/text piece I made in the late 80s. I took the photograph at a park on Victoria Island, BC. The howitzers guarded the Straits of Juan de Fuca during World War II.

horoscopeThe juxtaposition of this image with my vivid memory from childhood reminded me of 1950s science fiction movies, like Invaders from Mars. The U.S. government, when faced with annihilation from an unknown enemy, always called out the big guns, only to have them vaporized by weapons of amazing force. Much has been written about these lightly veiled allegories to the Cold War.

They’re telling us we are at war, again with forces unseen. Despite my mother’s loving advice, it’s difficult now to think about anything good. But I think our strength will be in the collective hunt for those zippers.

The Remains of the Day

11 Sep 2001
September 11, 2001

What can I say?

9:30. I was at the Renwick Gallery, which is right across from the White House, for a press preview for a new exhibit our museum is opening this week (at least was scheduled to open). Someone mentioned the WTC had been hit by two planes. I went downstairs to watch the news. Soon thereafter I decided to take the subway back to my office. I walked about 3 blocks to the Metro station but didn’t notice anything odd. Normal crowds and traffic.

horoscope10:00. By the time I got back to the office everyone was watching the TV. I called my daughter’s daycare, which is at the Smithsonian, to see if they were closing. I was told they weren’t planning on it at the moment but that many office buildings were being shut. I heard reports of fires on the National Mall. That was enough for me. By this time rumors of the crash at the Pentagon were just starting to surface. It just kept getting worse and visions of Oklahoma City became startling clear.

10:05. I called my wife and we decided to pick my daughter up. At that time we weren’t sure of the situation. It seemed bad but the magnitude of today’s events were still unfolding. While information was rising to the surface, my realization of its extent took longer to process. I was reminded of another tragedy I witnessed, decades ago.

While playing with my sister outside our house I looked up and saw a small plane literally fall from the sky. My sister started to cry and a neighbor ran out of her house yelling at me for scaring her. The plane fell into a backyard swimming pool, a few blocks away, while some children were having a birthday party. I ran there, still wearing the official looking ribbon I had been given at cub scouts the weekend before. I pretended to be in charge. I thought, by staring at it, I had made the plane crash.

I figured, despite the day’s events, that work would continue in a normal fashion so my wife decided to take the Metro downtown and meet my daughter and I at my office to take her home. I would, in the mean time, make the 20 minute walk to the school to retreive her.

10:15. After a few blocks it was clear the whole town was shutting down. There was gridlock in every direction and many were walking (walking away from the Mall). I began to regret telling my wife to come downtown. I wasn’t even sure the Metro was working. I heard snippits of fellow pedestrians’ conversations as I passed them, expressing their fears of another attack in the subway below.

10:18. I wasn’t really afraid until I heard military jets directly overhead.

10:30. When I got to the school it was shutting down. Parents were rushing in and out with their children. A group of parents from another daycare had been told their children had been brought to ours (but I don’t think that was the case). I was glad to see my daughter’s happy face. She was blissfully unaware of the tragedy.

10:50. It took another 20 minutes for us to get back to my office. She kept asking why all the people were walking down the streets. What do you say to a three year old? By the time I’d gotten back to our building it was empty. I was lucky to get back into my office to get my backpack and other personal things. We waited outside for my wife.

As soon as she arrived we were asked to move away from an abandoned truck by a secret service and security officer. We quickly moved away. When we entered the Metro, surprisingly, it was empty. We’d missed the initial exodus.

11:30. When we got home I had two frantic messages from my sister in California. Called her immediately. Just got a call from friends in San Francisco. She started crying when we finally answered the phone. We remembered when, in 1989, I was the first to get through to them after the earthquake and even fill them in on what was happening there.

What can I say?

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