Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Big Sign that the Water Crunch is Real: Three NYT Stories in Three Days

NEW YORK, Oct. 23 — In a sign that some will argue is a key indicator that the water crisis facing the United States — from Oswego, N.Y., to Atlanta, to the parched western states, The New York Times has, in the past three days, run three major stories on different aspects of the problem.

Sunday the Times Magazine had this story, "The Future Is Drying Up," on the remarkable water shortages in the west, including a striking image of Lake Mead, behind the Hoover Dam, showing the recently exposed, bleached white 100-foot high section of vertical shoreline left exposed by receding waters.

Monday, the Metro Section reported from Oswego on a three-inch drop in Lake Ontario's water level in October alone, in this story, "Inch by Inch, Great Lakes Shrink, And Cargo Carriers Face Losses."

Today, on the front page, the Times reports in "New to Being Dry, the South Struggles to Adapt" from Atlanta on the seemingly most urgent aspect of the crisis, in the southeast, where the reserves in Atlanta's main source of water, Lake Lanier, "could reach the bottom of its storage reserves in about four months." More troublesome, the state, residents, and visitors alike are only now thinking about how to address the problem.

Case in point: my girlfriend visited Atlanta this weekend. As I pondered the water issue with my mother while I was in Rochester (which, incidentally, my mom thinks is poised for a renaissance resulting from the water crisis, and which I tend to think is correct, but more on that another time), I sent my girlfriend a text message asking, "Are you thirsty yet?"

She called back confused, but she did then confirm that she'd had to ask for water at breakfast out Saturday morning, instead of it just showing up with the silverware.

The Times has a great section on its Web site cataloging its water reporting, here. Check it out, and then, ponder some ways to save some. How about this one to start: will NYC Council Member please introduce a bill that bans sidewalk spraying as a cleaning method, or at least limits the frequency?

"Seinfeld" fans may remember the idea from an episode that first aired Dec. 14, 1995, "The Gum," in which Elaine, blouse open as she walks down the sidewalk, has to tread carefully past a florist shop where the owner is hosing down the sidewalk in front. From the script:
A cop stands a little further down the street. Elaine approaches him.

ELAINE: Officer. Officer, is there some reason this man has to always be using a hose? I mean, he's flooding the sidewalk. It's a waste of water. Couldn't he just use a broom?

The cop stares at Elaine's breasts the whole time she's talking.

COP: Lady, you sold me. (strides toward florist) Hey, you with the hose.

Elaine looks confused about his attitude. She glances down, and notices her blouse wide open. She quickly pulls her coat closed, to hide her embarrassment, and hurries away.

Well, Elaine solved the problem with some cleavage, at least until later in the episode, when the hose returns, but maybe the City Council could now consider a more comprehensive approach.

What would you do to save some water?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Big Sign that New York City Council Member James Oddo has a dirty mouth

NEW YORK, Oct. 10 — The Staten Island Advance is reporting another of New York City Council Member James Oddo's episodes of entertainment. Oddo, a Republican from Staten Island, blew up at a Norwegian comedian, Pia Haraldsen, who tricked him into a prank interview about the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

See the video here on YouTube for yourself, but the lowlights begin with Haraldsen asking how Sen. Barack Obama is allowed to run for president because she suggests Obama is 1) not a citizen because he is African-American (and 2) unable to run because he is African-American. The second (better?) half of the 96-second video is Oddo's F-bomb-laced rant, first to his staff about how the Norwegian crew got time with him, and then at the crew to get the F out of his office.

Oddo reacted to the video in an interview with the Advance, whose audio is posted here. "Do I regret demonstrating a very limited vocabulary?" Oddo asked rhetorically. "I absolutely do. Am I embarrassed for my mom and my girlfriend and some of my constituents? Absolutely. But I took great offense that they were there to mock me, to mock me, to mock Sen. Obama, to mock the Clintons, and in essence really to make America. And I told them in no uncertain terms to get out. And they wanted reality television, and the reality is that you're gonna come in and waste my time and sort of goof on all of us, then you have what's coming to you. Emotionally, that was the right sentiment. Intellectually, it could have been worded better, but I've said it from day one, and I'll say it again: I'm not a terribly good politician. I'm like any other Staten Islander, and it showed."

Couple thoughts: Pia, funny concept that you had, poor execution. Probably not the best way to ingratiate yourself to the American people and a Republican politician by pandering to racist, pre-Civil War ideology for a laugh. Jimmy, right reaction, wrong words, funny nonetheless, and thanks for standing up for equality and respectful treatment of American legislators across party lines. But did you have suggest that all Staten Islanders express themselves primarily through four-letter words when angry? Some do, sure, and I know a fair number of them, but probably, on the whole, Staten Islanders don't react as such any more than other New Yorkers, Americans, or even Norwegians, I'm guessing.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Blogging NYT: Singing Staten Island's Praises

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 — The New York Times City section today has a huge piece on the hipster-ization of Staten Island's North Shore. The piece, here, by Cara Buckley, a metro reporter, paints a rather idyllic picture of an emerging arts and underground-music scene on the island.

There remains, however, the inescapable sense of being far away (how about 5.2 miles) from "the City," as most of my S.I. acquaintances (and many other outer borough friends) call Manhattan. Having spent 13 months of my (working) life on the Island of Staten, working to keep people moving between it and the City, I'm not sure what I think of this takeout from the piece, but I'm quoting it here because it's worth it, positively or negatively.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle between Staten Island and coolness is the most obvious and intractable one of all: the ferry. No other direct transit link with Manhattan exists, and the half-hour ferry ride cements the separateness.

“There is nothing worse than it being 4:29 a.m. and you’re in Manhattan and drunk and running for the ferry,” said Tim Duffy, a 25-year-old islander and lifelong ferry catcher. “Because if you miss that, you’re waiting till 5:30 a.m.”

Yet despite the ferry, or because of it, a thriving and tight-knit group of homegrown indie and hipster types has germinated on the North Shore.

Staten Island is a world apart from Manhattan, but it's worth a visit, or at least a ferry ride there and back. If you're on the boat, be sure to tell Capt. José that I said hi.