Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Flatscreen candlelight, AC-powered Internet, and Hurricane Katrina

I didn't think anything of writing by the green bulb desklight above my laptop. But there I was, writing in the white/green light on Sunday, listening to the New Orleans, NBC affiliate WDSU-TV report the latest weather conditions and explain the phenomenon hitting the Gulf shore from the WAPT-TV news desk in Jackson, Miss.

My friend and I i sat around in my room eating Taco Bell listening/watching the outstretched arms of Katrina start grabbing hold of Louisiana's coastal regions. The light and the sounds reminded me of how my parents and their parents must have followed local weather and unfolding news events by radio.

The last time I followed such a story was 9/11, but that was different. I watched CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews on that day. The last time I watched unfoloding news stories on local, network programming was Princess Diana's fatal car accident. I was still living at home and it struck me as odd that my parents found it interesting - they never seemed to give mind to English royalty - and I was still just beginning to understand America's royal addiction.

Taking in all this - not to mention a few beers - I may have been too hard on the local network news programs. During 9/11, the cable news networks all adopted human voices because they were based in New York - it was the event itself happening live and unexpected behind the sets of Good Morning American and the Today Show.

On Sunday, I turned to the internet sites of those major cable new outlets and all they could offer were updated stories and maybe some satellite footage of the hurricane as it started to hit land. If one could handle hitting the refresh button over and over infinitum, maybe that's a good thing, but being able to listen to a live broadcast to actually see the hurricane's minute-by-minute progression is not without its merit.

But, what I found most interesting was, like listening to severe weather updates on a radio by candlelight with my parents, those reporting have much at stake themselves. Had I had cable when Hurricane Katrina hit land, the television would either have been off or on mute; those news anchors had no vested, personal interest in what happened in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that Monday morning. They would have been professionally consoling and factual, but I, the audience, couldn't feel anything for them. I'm in Central Texas, qutie a few hundred, if not thousands, of miles outside the focussed eye of that storm, but I have friends, friends of dear friends, and family in that area of the US, but more than that, to hear the local news anchors after evacuating New Orleans and to hear them talk of their own Louisiana homes, I felt as if they were extended family members.

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