Monthly Archives: November 2012

Let England Shake – PJ Harvey

“We got up early, washed our faces
Walked the fields and put up crosses
Passed through the damned mountains
Went hellwards and some of us returned
And some of us did not
In the fields and in the forests
Under the moon and under the sun
Another summer has passed before us
And not one man has, not one woman has Revealed the secrets of this world
So our young men hit with guns in the dirt
And in the dark places
Our young men hit with guns in the dirt
And in the dark places
Our young men hit with guns in the forests And in the dark places
And not one man has, not one woman has
Revealed the secrets of this world”

I should start by saying that I’m only familiar with PJ Harvey’s very early stuff, and somehow missed what she’s done for most of her career.  Nonetheless, this album, released in February of 2011,  has recently grabbed me.

Every generartion since time immemorial has its war music, and the topic crosses through every genre, from the bombastic 1812 Overture and Benjamin Britten’s landmark War Requiem, to the 1960’s folk protest song.  The reason is obvious – war stirs extreme and confusing emotions and experiences, and the arts addressing it try to make some sense of it, for both those directly, and indirectly involved.

In Let England Shake, PJ Harvey and filmmaker Seamus Murphy take a hard look back at the defining  conflicts their country has experienced over the past century, and reinterpret that history in a way that addresses the current war generation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The danger in making art about war is that one will become too heavy-handed, but Harvey and Murphy navigate the territory well, not shying away from being explicit, but not indulging in it.  There are countless war songs out there, but no artist has surmounted the challenges of making an entire album on the topic.  As the NME put it: “Francis Ford Coppola can lay claim to the war movie. Ernest Hemingway the war novel. Polly Jean Harvey, a 41-year-old from Dorset, has claimed the war album. And like Coppola and Hemingway, calls it straight…”

The lyrics are succinct and the musical production is hazy and ethereal, at times verging on the raw distorted psychedelia of the Velvet Underground and Mazzy Star.  Each song develops constantly, and ends differently than it begins.  The changes are often disjointed, which match well the jarring nature of violence.  Atop this dreamlike bed, Harvey’s voice is powerful and plaintive, and recalls the folk singers of the 1960’s.

The music alone is a masterpiece, but one cannot talk about Let England Shake without including the equally brilliant films that accompany each song.  War photographer Seamus Murphy treats his videos in much the same way as Harvey approaches her music – not shy, but not over-the-top; hard and soft in equal measure.

Much of his footage is of daily life in England and, with the music, create an elegy to a home that is lost in nostalgia and memories.  When you miss something, even mundane details carry weight.  Murphy captures that feeling poetically in his images.  Each video begins with a person (Murphy engages everyday people for his scenes) reciting some of the lyrics of the following song.  It’s an element that draws you in an unusual and intimate way.

The work reflects on the past – in fleeting images, and in references to the slaughter of trench warfare, and the Gallipoli Campaign, a horrific and tragic episode of World War I which has long been the inspiration of English-speaking songwriters.  It also, of course, tries (all one can do with such a topic is try) to address the impact of our current conflicts, and to address both the nobility and tragedy of war.  Most poignantly, it also considers the future – how history repeats itself, and how the generation that follows ours may be resigned to further futile killing.

Albums that can stand as a continuous piece of coherent and developing thought are very hard to come by.  Add the fact that Let England Shake has been created around such an incredibly thorny topic as war and you have a masterful piece of art.

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postcards from the womb of the skyscraper – Chicago, November, 2012

Two related songs:


Hurricane Sandy – Relief and Recovery – as of evening, November 7, 2012

On Friday, I compiled my running string of Facebook and Twitter posts dealing with “Superstorm” Sandy.  Today, with relief and recovery efforts underway, and as another nor’easter bears down on the NY – NJ metropolitan region, I once again present a compilation of my hour-to-hour posts.

Some photosets of post-storm NYC:

Scenes from a blacked out Manhattan:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157631914010512/

Scenes from the Rockaways: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157631950208338/

Rockaway Beach Blvd.

As nightime temperatures approach freezing, millions are still without power, and many communities are completely displaced.  People are no less in dire straits than they were when the storm hit.  Here are a few resources for those who need help, and those who can offer help:

http://www.newyorkcares.org/
http://www.artfagcity.com/2012/11/01/how-to-volunteer-for-hurricane-sandy-clean-up/
http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycservice/home.html
http://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-sandy-victims/story?id=17598687#.UJP0WXYy2kA

A site specific to the Rockaways – a resource for volunteers and those needing help:  http://rockawayhelp.com

By all accounts I’ve heard and seen first hand, OccupySandy has been doing an excellent job getting into areas and helping in ways that conventional relief agencies have been unable to:
Check out the site if you need help, or can provide it:  http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/

An NYC.gov apartment sharing resource.  Be a host, or a guest!  https://www.airbnb.com/sandy

– A tremendously comprehensive crisis map from Google. Even a week after the storm, things are changing hour to hour, so always double check!:   http://google.org/crisismap/2012-sandy

Text SHELTER + zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to receive information on the nearest shelter in your area

Friday, November 2, 2012 –

Yesterday I took some photos from within the “blackout zone” of Manhattan, the immense stretch from 34th Street to the Battery:

Looking down Broadway – post Sandy blackout

The full photoset:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattron/sets/72157631914010512/

– Lights are coming back on in Manhattan, and the marathon has been cancelled.  You can probably hear the cheering from space.  It’s just in time too.  Manhattan is dealing really well, but I can’t see it taking the lack of access to food and water for too much longer.

– In the city alone, more than 200 lost pets need foster homes:  gothamist.com/2012/11/02/urgent_adopt_or_foster_these_dogs_a.php

– An incredible shot of a darkened Chinatown:

– So power’s coming back rather quickly to Manhattan – Considering the nightlife “meccas” that were hit, whatever bar manages to open is surely going to see a rager tonight.

It was before I was born, but many recall that during the blackout of 1977, which didn’t last nearly as long, the city saw terrible rioting and looting. I can’t say enough about all the comraderie and generosity I’ve seen; people really did become reacquainted with their immediate neighbors. You see it often on the news happening in other parts, but it’s really striking to see the Nat’l Guard handing out MRE’s in NYCNow that things are looking up for Manhattan, hopefully more attention can be focused on the really devastated areas in the Rockaways, the Brooklyn oceanfront, and, of course, the Jersey Shore and Staten Island. It’s a neighborhood most people don’t know, but it’s coming out that Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, which was not officially in the Zone A evacuation area, saw tidal surge upwards of 8 feet. Another shattered neighborhood among many.On a brighter side, many would-be marathon participants are offering help and their hotel rooms to the displaced. Also, the NY Aquarium, which was completely flooded, seems to be on the path of recovery, with most of the animals unharmed.

– From Staten Island:  “It was like tsunami going through my house. It was up to the attic”

in the Rockaways

Jersey City and Bayonne are back on the grid, may be another week for the Rockaways. Floyd Bennett Field is a staging ground. People are waitng on line for more than 4 hours for gas – one stretches for two miles. Some counties are enacting rationing – (even days for plates that end in an even number)

They’re still looking survivors all along the shore. Many have lost everything. Devastation and terrible stories from Connecticut down to New Jersey – The world’s 4th largest metropolitan area and then some.

– Text SHELTER + zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to receive information on the nearest shelter in your area
Saturday, November 3, 2012
– Red Hook (Brooklyn) Recovery graphic.  Variations on the same are being played out all over the region:
– A bunch more trains coming on line today – the L is still filled floor to ceiling.  Fuel shortages continue, as does the grief in the hard hit areas of our city and region   .
It’s been a week since my first post about the storm, when the heavy salty air hung over the city and the vanguard clouds began to appear.   I’ve heard it said that the way people react during the first week of a disaster is a no-brainer, in fact sometimes the numbers coming out to help overwhelms the coordination.

It’s the weeks after that count just as much – after all the news moves on and daily routine returns. People and places will still need help long after the cameras go away.
Sunday, November 4, 2012 –
– More looting and the power outage continues in Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, et al..  Situation’s getting more desperate, and it sounds like FEMA and the Red Cross have been ineffective in those parts most affected.  Donations are needed – cleaning supplies are particularly running short.  Also, places like Staten Island need people on the ground. Some are asking volunteers to just show up, as coordination has been dicey.
– There is some false info circulating about how to contact FEMA – the best thing is to go to their website www.fema.gov  The phone number listed on the site is: (800) 621-3362
– Some runners who would have competed in the marathon today are running supplies down to Staten Island.
– A great resource for those in need and those who can help in the Rockaways: http://rockawayhelp.com/
– Looting and poor sanitary conditions. This is getting on the brink of a big emergency:
– The cover of this week’s New York Magazine:
Monday, November 5, 2012-
– I’m seeing this mentioned on various sites:   Of immediate need are cleaning supplies, OTC medicine and toiletries, and, with the nighttime temperature hovering over freezing, warm clothes for all ages. (gloves, hats, coats, etc..)
– Info on polling site changes: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112102908/Poll-Site-Change-Post-Sandy  Also you can check – http://gis.nyc.gov/vote/ps/index.htm
or call 1-866-VOTE-NYC
-Long live the Rockaways!
– Mobile Medical Clinic has been set up today in Coney Island – 2828 Neptune Avenue between 28th & 29th Street. Please Share info with folks in need. #SandyAid

The Rockaways

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 (Election Day)
– NYers living in disaster areas can vote at any polling site in the state
– Mobile health unit in Howard Beach. Cross Bay and 157th Ave
– Broad Channel is also a mess. Just passed a boat in the street
– Sign in the Rockaways:  “Sandy was a bitch.  We’ll be back”
– FDNY handing out blankets at B116 near the A train.  Also a large FEMA/Natl Guard setup at the Waldbaums near B110.
– Already a week later and it feels like everyone’s just at the very beginning of cleaning up. There’s still a long long way to go
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 –
– Everyone’s been trying to push the thought out of mind, but there is a nor’easter coming through. Storm surge up to 5 feet, high winds, and lots of rain. It’s no Sandy, but still a slap in the face from mother nature.  Some senior and health facilities along the shore are evacuating, again.  With the nightime temperatures nearing freezing these past few nights, some areas are going to see winter conditions from this one.
– South shore of LI in voluntary evacuation again.
– A little video my sister worked on about the gas shortages in the region (particularly on LI):
– A repost:  “Volunteers are still needed to prep hurricane survivors for the upcoming nor’easter today! Bring non perishable food to Our lady Of Solace in Coney Island for distribution today at 12pm!”
– A tremendously comprehensive crisis map from Google. Even a week after the storm, things are changing hour to hour, so always double check!:   http://google.org/crisismap/2012-sandy
– Rockaway residents and volunteers – word on the ground is that there is a mandatory evacuation order in effect.   I haven’t yet seen it officially, but given the weakened beaches and the forecast, it would make total sense.  Also, there are warnings to stay out of parks and watch for falling trees/branches.  We didn’t get a lot of rain during Sandy; this storm will soak more, making already weakened trees and structures vulnerable.  Be safe!
– Make a wish. It’s the first snowfall of the season out here.  Hurricane/nor’easter/superstorm Sandy, then a string of mockingly still, sunny, and chilly days, and now a classic winter nor’easter with snow.  Unpredictable weather is par for course in the Northeast US, but these 2 weeks have been totally bizarre.
– In the past hour, the snow has accumulated an inch or so and is still coming down strong in Queens.  Yesterday I saw Dept. of Sanitation workers dealing with impossible amounts of sand on the shore, today I see them salting the roads.  I’d venture to say that the DSNY has never had to deal with what’s happened these past 10 days. Keep up the good work!

Hurricane Sandy – as of Friday afternoon, November 2, 2012

Over last weekend, a storm of historic proportions battered the Northeastern U.S..  The following is a consolidation of posts I’ve made to Facebook and Twitter as I’ve seen the situation go down hour by hour from Queens and Manhattan, NYC –

Thousands of pictures of heartbreak and destruction are emerging, and the losses are great.  The situation is very fragile and a lot of people are going need help over the coming days and weeks.  Here are some resources for volunteering (These are NY-centric; New Jersey badly needs assistance also!)

http://www.newyorkcares.org/
http://www.artfagcity.com/2012/11/01/how-to-volunteer-for-hurricane-sandy-clean-up/
http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycservice/home.html
http://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-sandy-victims/story?id=17598687#.UJP0WXYy2kA

A site specific to the Rockaways – a resource for volunteers and those needing help:  http://rockawayhelp.com

By all accounts I’ve heard, OccupySandy has been doing an excellent job getting into areas and helping in ways that conventional relief agencies have been unable to:
Check out the site if you need help, or can provide it:  http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/

If you are in need of food and water, here’s a list of distribution areas:  http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/11/01/nyc-announces-locations-for-food-and-water-distribution/ . As of today, many food carts are giving away meals, and I’ve witnessed many acts of generosity.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

– Hype=Viewership=$.  Still – this is the same exact setup and at the same time of year (almost to the day) as the 1991 “Perfect Storm”, which was absolutely no joke. (Hell, they made a movie about it)

– I have never smelled this city so laden with the scent of the sea. And I’m 5 miles or so inland. I love it.  I think it’s because the sea is being whipped up and the advance edge of the storm is pushing the air inward.  There’s definitely a charge before every storm. It’s slightly different every time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

-Today the charge is more like the precursor to a winter storm. A chill.  The winds have become cyclonic and are pulling chilly air from the Nor’east.  At the moment it’s supposed to make landfall on the Jersey Shore (24 hours from now!) between Atlantic City and Tom’s River. But with this projection, a lot of wind and water is going to be forced onto LI and into NY harbor. Storms surges in excess of 10 feet are possible for the Battery.   I did most of my shopping yesterday thankfully, but ran out today for a few extra things and it’s a mob scene. It’s funny to see what people think they can’t live without for a few days.   The biggest thing is that the storm is lumbering along so slowly that conditions will be elevated from now until Tuesday morning, with the brunt tomorrow afternoon. Which is a lot of time for water build up.

-Damn, this storm is mammoth. Largest diameter ever recorded in the Atlantic.  The wind is already getting stiff here and the center is still off the Carolinas.

-HOLY! Someone is leaf-blowing outside. I can’t imagine a more Sisyphean task right now!

Monday, October 29, 2012

-A good summary of pics from around the city as of this morning. Lots of flooding already.
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/hurricane-sandy-300-miles-nyc-article-1.1194527

-Schools closed again tomorrow; also the New York Stock Exchange (the last time the market was closed for weather for two consecutive days was during the legendary Blizzard of 1888). The Battery and Holland tunnels are being closed, the Jersey Shore is being pummeled. Incredibly the storm’s winds have increased as it moves north, munching off the Gulf Stream. I went out around 830am and the wind was already vicious at times. And the brunt is still many hours away.  Stay safe!

-Crane collapse in Midtown, and the East River is breaching into the UES and the FDR Drive.

-One of the lowest barometric pressures ever recorded in the Atlantic, unprecendented storm surges, 1500 miles wide diameter of intense storm conditions. And now it’s becoming a winter nor’easter type hybrid with snow on the back end in the Appalachians. Basically the most powerful storm to hit the Eastern Seaboard in recorded history, I’d posit.  (edit – I have to fact check this)

-Brooklyn waterfront near the Manhattan Bridge:   http://youtu.be/jNYLvuBRFUQ

-From the National Hurricane Center:  “Atlantic City is under water. The boardwalk is in the street”.

-7 bridges in the metro area to close in 50 minutes.  Surge all the way up the Hudson to at least Tarrytown.  And the horrifically toxic Gowanus Canal is overflowing.  Atlantic City is half underwater and the boardwalk’s been washed out in spots.

-The Queens-Midtown Tunnel is now the only land passage between LI/Brooklyn/Queens, and the mainland.  And water is coming up in the East Village.

-Avenue C, Manhattan, between 10th and 11th Streets:

-Just keeps getting worse and worse – Ave. C at 20th Street, Manhattan:

-Power outages and now reports of 4 feet of water in the East River subway tunnels. This city is getting a historic beating.  http://gothamist.com/2012/10/29/photos_cars_are_floating_through_fl.php

-Seems like there was an explosion in the 14th Street Con Ed plant.  A huge swath of Manhattan is blacked out. Window panes are flying off of 30 Rock and the Empire State supposedly on generator power.  All bridges and tunnels are closed and the subways are flooding.  Scattered reports of building collapses.  Given the developments of the last few hours, I can say with confidence that, in recorded history, no storm like this has ever hit the city.  That’s 400 years.   http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-10-29/postcards-underwater-new-york

-The Lower East Side:

-NYU hospital is being evacuated.  Highest winds on Long Island hit registered around 95mph.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

-According to preliminary assessment, it may take up to 4 days to pump out the East River subway tunnels.  Pretty obvious, but the MTA now says it has never suffered a disaster of this proportion.  Meanwhile, reports say a buoy in NY harbor recorded a 32 ft wave.

-Coney Island is underwater, there are fires and floods in the Rockaways. Lower Manhattan, including the WTC have major flooding.  Ships washed ashore on Staten Island.  Extensive damage up and down the coast.  Search and Rescue is underway, with many out of state and federal responders.  Manhattan and much of the city will remain dark for the foreseeable future.   The surge in the city last night temporarily restored the pre-Colonial, pre-landfill, waterline.

-The subway:

-Just saw some footage of a twisted Jersey Shore roller coaster, and apparently, 24 train cars washed onto the northern NJ Turnpike.  The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is filled to the brim:

-So I guess a lot of us have to get reacquainted with our neighborhoods. Looks like the subway will be out for at least 3-4 days. Buses may be be back tomorrow.  Most importantly, hope everyone is, and stays, safe. Hopefully, NY can keep its cool over the rest of the week. Cabin crazy is a particularly virulent form of crazy.

-People are stuck on rooftops and neighborhoods are wrecked beyond recognition.  Now that the emergency has passed, sad images and situations are emerging:

http://gothamist.com/2012/10/30/two_dead_on_si_as_island_reels_from.php

http://live.nydailynews.com/Event/Tracking_Hurricane_Sandy_2

-The shoreline got clobbered all over.  Manhattan is still without power below 34th Street, except in spots. Which is worrisome because food will be getting scarcer and people are getting stir crazy. No Red Cross on scene apparently and all the while the financial sector is just ignoring this whole thing and getting back to throwing billions around.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

-Hundreds of thousands are still without power below 39th Street to the Battery.  A huge swath.  Apparently it’s hard to find stores that are open, including supermarkets. No elevators, of course…. No timeline for restoration, no subways…  http://gothamist.com/2012/10/31/outrage_in_the_powerless_zone_a_dis.php

-Red Hook Fairway is giving away perishables. Grocers in your neighborhood might be also if you’re in need.  (in the end Fairway did not give away food, though I heard that other markets were)

-Manhattan south of 34th Street will still be without power for sometime (again, a huge chunk). They’ve cleared 3 of the 7 subway tunnels under the river, so limited service will resume tomorrow, but only to 34th Street from the north, and Downtown Brooklyn from the south. Many lines will still be down, even in the outer boroughs.  MTA subway details for tomorrow: www.mta.info/sites/default/files/pdf/HurricaneRecoveryMapOct312012.pdf   All fares on all MTA transit (including LIRR and Metro North) will be waived through Friday.  Also, there’s a 3 person/car minimum to cross the lower East River bridges in effect

-The power-less are keeping it together it seems. Though surely much food had spoiled and local business is at a standstill.  The coast got hit very badly.  Reports of some looting in the Rockaways and Coney Island.  The Jersey Shore is decimated.   20 ft. surf and roller coasters in the ocean: http://gothamist.com/2012/10/31/photos_sandy-decimated_new_jersey_s.php   Thursday, November 1, 2012

-Eerie to stand in front of the Flatiron Building and only hear the click of my camera.  Also weird to have to cross 23rd like its a suburban highway.  There exist 2 cities right now divided by 34th st.  One carrying on like nothing happened, and the other shuttered in darkness.

-Power trucks from around the country are assembled in a dead quiet Union Square.  I’ve never seen Canal Street and Chinatown so serene.

Friday, November 2, 2012

-The National Guard has been giving out meals, and today some food carts are following suit.  Con Ed is giving out ice, and expects power to be restored tomorrow or Sunday.  Things are getting a bit more ragged, especially along the beachfront.  Some areas are really in dire straits, and by some accounts the relief efforts are slow in coming.  Staten Island suffered the majority of the death toll.

-The NYC marathon is up in the air; some runners are calling for competitors to ditch the race and help out.

-Thousands of photos like these are emerging.  Devastation: http://gothamist.com/2012/11/01/photos_haunting_photos_of_the_rocka.php

-Right now, it’s secondary to those in immediate need, but almost every single business below 34th St is closed. In fact, it took me 2 hours to find coffee. The rare shop that is open is a novel experience – it’s rather pleasant to peruse the shelves with no light other than that of the windows or candles.  But it’s really hurting the mom-and-pop businesses that dominate the city’s local economy.   Chelsea, Union Square, Flatiron, Greenwich Village, the East Village, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Tribeca, Soho, South Street Seaport – all closed down. It’s extraordinary.  With no traffic lights, it’s pretty amazing how cars are flowing below 34th Street. Lots of courtesy, occasional confusion, but it seems both the pedestrian and the driver are in sync – everyone’s going on instinct

-Here’s a list of National Guard/city/FEMA food distribution areas:  http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/11/01/nyc-announces-locations-for-food-and-water-distribution/  I hear the lines are really long; you might find some alternatives – I’ve seen lots of generosity.