Friday, September 30, 2005

Where to Begin

Of late, I have been giving quite a bit of thought to what can and can not really be taught. A certain amount of what people that do what I do is more or less walking and chewing gum concurrently. No matter how much class time is devoted to ambulatory mastication, in the end, I think, really it can't be taught.

I am sure there is a more complete discussion of this topic burbling through the back of my head, but for the time being I give you this example:

I guess really this type of behavior has to be modeled and emulated over a period of time, not instructed and assessed at a milestone.

I once, while at an ESTA Essential Skills meeting, saw a syllabus for a community college course in stagecraft. Off the top of my head I would think that such a class would begin with some vocabulary and then maybe material and tool introductions. This class started with lifting and carrying. I wonder if they did it by example in a lab session or if he tried to teach it from the front of a classroom.

After some time it is clear that these kind of things need to be somewhere in the curriculum. I just doubt they can actually be taught.

This is Closer

And with a much better accessory.

Profgrrrrl Saves Me From a No Posting Day

I've posted about the LEGO part of my past often. It turns out from my Stumbling there are many people like that on the web. I came across this on one of the blogs I read: Playing School Irreverently.

Its a Lego Minifigure Self Portrait Generator.

In the end I don't feel like I got real close. But really, sometimes you just have to take what you can get, right?

Thanks, Grrrrl

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I'd Been Wondering About That

Pittsburgh has roughly 6 major arteries coming into the city. Half of those make the last phase of the trip coming through the hillside, through the Fort Pitt, Liberty, and Squirrel Hill tubes. When there's no traffic this part of the trip takes a minute or two. During rush, it can be longer. A year or so ago, when they were working on the Fort Pitt tunnel, people were in there so long that they installed air monitors to insure people weren't getting too much carbon monoxide (too much, as if it is possible to get too little CO).

Because of physics, when you drive through a tunnel you lose radio reception. For AM this is true even when driving under a bridge - hence the Steve Wright joke about his friend the AM radio announcer who you couldn't hear speaking under a bridge.

It always seemed to me like it would be a good idea for one of the Pittsburgh radio stations to take a hunk of their advertising budget and use it to technically defeat the reception problem in the tubes. Then they could have a real cool campaign:

WDVE- The only station to rock you
to work!!!

I imagine that even if they didn't get a lot of full time converts that just about everyone listening to the radio would flip for the time they were in the tunnel. Anyway seemed like an interesting thought.

And apparently not such an original one.

Recently, much to my surprise I drove through the tunnel and the radio didn't cut out. I did a full double take and for a moment wondered if I was actually listening to a CD rather than the radio. But there it was, radio signal, in the tunnel. What was up with that?

It turns out that an intrepid CMU Professor and a gang of graduate students had the same kind of thoughts and as a class project had designed and installed FM antenna systems in the Fort Pitt and Squirrel Hill Tunnels. There's an article about it in this weeks Pittsburgh City Paper (although it isn't posted online yet - its in a section called "You Had to Ask"). The article lists a site: where you can read about the project from the participants.

So I guess the world isn't so screwed up that no good things happen just for the sake of good things happening. Or maybe this is the exception that proves the rule. For whatever reason, I'm glad I don't have that annoying gap in my Morning Edition anymore.

Very cool.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I thought perhaps some people might not have gotten the proper sense of scale for the project posted a few days ago. The artists were nice enough to make a few in process photos available to me for this post:

Monday, September 26, 2005

That's Our Mayor

Nice when public figures hold up their end, you know as a role model for our youth.

KDKA: Local Mayor Arrested at Steelers Game

Well, I guess that at least lets us know he is a true Steelers fan, and that he didn't have to endure the pain of watching the 4th quarter with the rest of us.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Did You Know, Many People's Lives Are Based On Phone Numbers?

A while back I wrote something about HU2-3700 and 588-2300, I might have well have also thrown in 867-5309. Also 591-ROCK & 591-ROLL (bonus points for that reference) It often amazes me what kicks around in one's memory. Recently I began to wonder what if any significance there is to what remains and what fades away. I was thinking about addresses and phone numbers and what I recalled and what I didn't.

For instance, the house I grew up in had three phone numbers, the current one from more than 20 years ago and I remember all of them. My grandmother, who lived a couple blocks away, I can't remember her whole phone number, just that it was a 433 and not a 432 exchange - my recollection is that HP numbers were 432, 433, or 831, and Deerfield was 945. I do remember her next phone number but I think that's a mnemonic 635-6565, just hard to forget and maybe an artifact. I don't think I remember any friends phone numbers from that long ago, although there is an 0549 kicking around in my brain and a 4446 that I believe are significant in some way.

This goes for addresses too, but seeing as how I lived in one house my entire early life I guess it isn't as significant that I remember. It was very strange when the reunion committee had me as lost when if they had dialed the number or sent a card to the address I had in high school they would have gotten my folks.

It also goes for work. I remember the address of the store I worked at: 2099 Skokie Valley Highway, but not the phone number - which I must have dialed something on the order of a million times.

After HP? I can't remember my address or phone for any time I was in the dorms at CMU. I know the apartment address I had my senior year, but not the phone number. I do however remember my soc as if it were tattooed to the back of my eyelids. Anyone who goes to college these days I think winds up committing that 9 digit number to memory. I don't remember either the phone or the address at Northwestern from when I worked at their summer theatre. I do remember 1711 W. Fullerton and 312-348-0115 (later to become 773 - and for that matter the numbers above were all 312 and then 847) for Chicago Scenic Studios, but that may have something to do with my return there 7 years later.

I remember my bosses number at Yale, and the 2 TD extensions, but not the shop. The address was 222 York Street, but that may be another that is sticky. I do remember the apartment address in Branford, but not that phone, nor any friends, nor the addresses or phone numbers of either NJSF or MSMT. I do remember my aunt & uncle's phone number from where I lived for two months, but not the address.

By this time I must have learned and forgotten a bushel of numbers of significant others. All right on my fingertips when I needed them, and now - nothing. Those are numbers I must have dialed a gajillion times. So iterations must not really be part of the process.

Back to Chicago Scenic, but no recollection what so ever of the address or phone in Evanston. This is also the time of the first cell phone number I have since forgotten. The first of a few actually.

I never knew the phone number or the address for the Bellagio. In hindsite that seems fairly foolish since I worked there for a good chunk of time. I had the labor coordinator's cell number and I think eventually my supervisor's cell. All things being equal though, there was a period there where I dropped off the planet. Oh wait, I forgot that I forgot a pager number when I lived in Chicago - and then another pager number I have forgotten from Las Vegas. Although I still have both the pagers, just no service, and absolutely no recollection of the numbers.

I remember everything but the street number for the Vegas apartment - which is just about useless. Plus also zilch on that phone number or the address for TEN - it was on Cameron, but number or zip, right I got zip. My cell from Vegas is a complete blank.

Somewhere around this time I also lost any and all memory of anyone else's phone number. Somehow memory phones as cell phones caught on in a way that speed dial never really did for land lines. I wonder why that is? This is also about the time that one would have to start recalling email addresses and AIM handles.

I remember every email address I have ever had, all the way back to from before anyone even knew what email was and I had to connect to their service with my 32K RAM computer over a 300 baud modem and that was a lot of memory and twice as fast as last years modem. I don't know how good I am at remembering other people's obsolete emails.

Since I've been here I have totally blanked the Walnut street address and phone. I remember the SqHill address, but not the phone - its amazing how fast that went.

I also couldn't tell you the license plate number of my truck right now, I had to write it down. I do however remember what it was when I was in Chicago "YTDP 96." Another mnemonic, probably shouldn't count if we're keeping score. I can't think of a single other license plate I have managed to keep in my memory. Truth be told I don't think I am missing anything.

Addresses, phone numbers, pager numbers, license plates, tax ID numbers, cell numbers, email addresses, its a lot to keep straight. Is it any wonder most of us walk around with three and four address books for this sort of thing now? Back in the day all you had to know was your friends phone number and where their house was. A real cool/lucky friend might have their own line. OOOOOOOOOOOh I'm jealous. Can you imagine what a 13 year old must keep track of now? Phone, address, cell, handle, email, url... It must take a full time assistant to coordinate a slumber party.

So is there a significance? Something to be gleaned from 633 Hill Street, 2099 Skokie Valley Road, 432-4310, YTDP 96, 16 Pine Orchard Road, 348-0115?

Actually, I don't think so. I know it's a lot to read to get to a no, but there it is. I can't find any correlation between the things I do remember and the things I don't. Length of stay? Maybe, but it doesn't hold together well. Iterations of repetition? I don't think so, or some girlfriend from the dawn of time's number would bound to be there. Novelty? Maybe. That's certainly why I remember WLUP's numbers or the Empire Carpet Company. But it seems to have less traction in my personal life.

I just don't know. What do you remember? Why do you think that piece remains for you?

Small tip of the hat to Douglas Adams and Eddie the Computer for the title of today's post.

Fantasy Football

I am not really sure those two words should go together. I have a post brewing in the back of my head about the whole "meta" nature of so much we do now, and fantasy sports are so very meta-sports.

Really the whole fantasy sports thing is something I have had my fair share of disdain for almost as long as I have known there is such a thing. Really, now there are people who make their living supporting fantasy sports - tip lines, web sites, player guides. Isn't there something better for these people to do? But perhaps I am too harsh, or maybe specifically to harsh while generally being not harsh enough. Afterall the fantasy sports vendors are just another vendor like the t-shirt guy and the hot dog guy - oh, and don't forget the beer guy. I likely ought to be ranting about all the pomp & circumstance and MONEY in sports in general.

But that isn't what I started talking about, so I will stifle that urge for another post.

My new family, or more specifically my brother-in-law (that takes some getting used to), has had a fantasy league in a couple of sports for a while now. I begged off season after season, trying to do so without copping to the elitism that was fueling it. Finally, with the marriage and all, and with the thought of tag teaming it with the missus I agreed to take part - and lose big. Or at least that's what I thought.

So now I am the manager of The Pittsburgh Alloy in the Cut That Meat League.

After two weeks we're 2-0. I thought we had a pretty mediocre draft, but I guess most people do. Hard to get everyone you want, and really I think in this group I had it a little easier. Most of the others in the league are from Indiana, so Colts players were at a premium. I would have taken Peyton Manning had I had the chance, but really I was looking more for Pittsburgh players. Or rather, if I am to tell the truth here, I was just looking for the best player available at the time. I guess I took a few flyers on positions that really weren't being drafted yet, sacrificing attempts at more involved positions. As a result I think I got a good kicker, defense, and tight end, but didn't do as well at running back. We'll see if it works out well, truth be told I think that fantasy football is all about quarterbacks and running backs.

That puts my future in the hands of Michael Vick and on the back of Priest Holmes. So far so good, but I am not confident in the long run that Mr. Vick will hold up.

Which brings us to this weeks fantasy discovery. You really do have to pay attention to football if you don't want to make a stupid mistake. Every team, every week. In week one, somehow we won with two players we started not even playing. Dez White played, but didn't have any points. Jerome Bettis was my running back and was on the DL. So now I have to listen for news about all these players I ordinarily wouldn't care about - actually pay attention to sportscenter when its on or to the annoying sports guy on the radio. I didn't realize this would require my attention.

So now, all this week, on the top of all my other bothers and hovering somewhere above my stress noise floor of worrying about alien abduction I am wondering if Michael Vick is going to play this weekend, if Steve McNair would be a better play even if Vick is in, or if I should do some tweaking, maybe get Pennington from the Jets.

Are there people that really have time for this?

Still, it is a nice way to spice up the watching of the game. I had a real soul searching moment this week trying to decide if I am a fantasy player or a Steelers fan. I have the Steelers defense and something tells me someone that isn't a fan sits them this week. Turns out I am a fan. I hope they play well.

The old way people spiced up the game was gambling, or I should say other way. People still do their share of gambling. I guess if there are people that would have gambled to make the game more interesting playing fantasy football then in the balance of things it must be a positive.

At least until people start gambling on fantasy football.


Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go check the NFL Injury Report site.

Link of the Day

Hate your job? Or more accurately, hate the people you work for? Well, so do these people: Archives

Some very nice storytime reading when you are sitting in the parking lot wishing for a meteor strike.

By the way, the meteor is unlikely.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Now We're Getting Somewhere

I was pretty sure there was a set in there someplace. Might get there yet. Stay tuned.

Man, Do I Miss Him

Bill Clinton made the rounds of the Sunday shows this week. A strange consequence of the twin tragedies of the Asian Tsunami and of Hurricane Katrina has been an increased presence for formed President Clinton in the media.

This weekend I guess he was supposed to be talking about fund raising for Katrina rebuilding, but somehow he wound up talking about other things. Moreso than what he was saying, I found myself marveling at how he was saying it. He made statements with real content and actual information. Not once did he fall back on a slogan. He never said anything was hard work, or that we need to stay the course, or that when the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

Or rather, he did say all of these things, but he said them in a way that made me think he thought I might actually understand things if they were explained. He didn't talk to me like I was stupid. On point after point he forwarded argument with real structure, logic, and foundation.

I'd almost forgotten what that sounds like.

Bill Clinton

"We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover [Bush's] tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina," Clinton says. "I don't think it makes any sense. I think it's wrong."

Never once did he call anyone a neo-con, or refer to the right. Just talked about things plainly, explained what he was saying and why he thought it was important and the right thing to do. Somehow he managed to talk about tax cuts and spending priorities, the war in Iraq, and the great importance of victory in Afghanistan without resorting to any partisan name calling.

He talked about how there can be tax cuts and still not hurt 99% of Americans. He talked about how you can oppose the reason we went to war in Iraq, how you can oppose the administration without opposing the effort, the troops, or the Iraqis. He talked about Afghanistan in a way I haven't heard it discussed since we began the invasion.

It was so refreshing to hear someone sound presidential. No giggling, smirking, downtalking, jingoistic, politico - presidential, like a public figure and a leader of a nation - nothing like an overgrown fraternity brother who is now the CEO.

I wish there was someone on the horizon of the Democratic Party who is still eligible for the Presidency that could sound like this. A man can dream, right?

There's a video of This Week here, and a transcript of the session here. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This game again

Who are these people:

8. LadyAliria [2]
15. Purple Jypsy [1]
22. OAKCOKE [1]
23. KRISTENoverhere [1]
25. Baffler22 [1]
29. ElectricVolta [1]
30. FLY116 [1]


Just curious.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lysistrata - progress?

So I thought since I did some day 1 pictures a couple of days ago that I would post some progress pictures - lest you think that we all just quit and went home.

What's that you say? There doesn't appear to have been much progress?

You don't know the half of it.

It appears that between the pre-college work and the crazy scheme I may have inadvertently caused what I hope is the world's first (and last) scenery construction version of the game "telephone." I guess its up to Kevin and I to be Johnny Dangerously...

Prisoner: "Johnny and the Mothers are playing 'Stompin' at the Savoy' in Vermont tonight."
Johnny D: "Uh oh! Vermin's going to try to kill my brother at the Savoy Theatre tonight!"
Prisoner: "That's not what I said."
Johnny D: "Yeah, but I know this grapevine."


or "Larger than Life"

Once upon a time I was part of a group called the ESTA Certification Program Committee. Four times a year we would meet to discuss how to make this business we all work in that much better, safer. One day, the chairs of the group decided we might be better at what we did if we had some instruction on meetings, collaboration, and brainstorming.

While presenting an innovative method for brainstorming we were indoctrinated into the order of the Post-It. It was revealed to us that if everyone quickly wrote early impressions onto individual sheets, one idea per Post-It, the chair could then collate the ideas physically on a board and we could quickly begin to see agreement and the range of ideas, not just intellectually, but graphically with the Post-It notes taking on an added level of meaning as a group. The participants could gauge the range of agreement without even knowing what was written on the individual notes.

Huzzah! What a discovery!

The CPC went on to use the Post-Its often, and we spread the word of their power to the ESWG and the RSWG, and we all went forth from the meetings to take the method of the Post-Its back to our respective homes and offices.

It is often said that there is no one more devout than a convert, and I was definitely one of the converted. I used the Post-Its for much more than meetings. I brought them into my classrooms to organize discussions. I used them as the centerpiece of multiple presentations to the faculty in my department. If there was a task I had to do, I looked for a way to apply the method of the Post-It.

Most recently I used the Post-Its to gather a consensus in a quick meeting with 1st Year undergrads at their Drama Orientation. I think it stuck (no pun intended). Recently I was brought before an installation done by the first year's Basic Design class. I present it to you now:

To think, my own form, composed from the greatness of the Post-It process - over 15 feet tall! Replicated on the loading door of our very own scene shop where all may bask in it's glory!

I am not worthy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dual post

CMU Alums, look here.


I really, really miss Bill Clinton... I was really looking forward to Ian McShane's acceptance speech... I still don't know what an "enemy combatant" is... The EmmyIDOL thing didn't turn out to be nearly as stupid as it sounded like it would be... I should really say something about the ECHO Project & Grisha Coleman... They could have at least given The Wire the writing award... There is a possibility that as a collective many of the neo-cons form an American Taliban... Oliver Platt deserves an award for the work he is doing on Huff just as compensation for what people now think of him... The Stumble thing is leaving me with more links of the day candidates then I know what to do with... Have I explained that the worst part of assigning homework is that you then have to grade it?.. The rest of the dining room has arrived... It looks like the Steelers are pretty good, I wonder when their first real hard game is... It looks like local #3 is not going to strike this time... I am playing fantasy football in my brother-in-law's league, we won last week, I wonder how we did this week - it looked good, but who knows... The new blog, although it has no ellipses, has many many entries - and takes quite a bit of time to manage... Trinity appears to be over her fever... When homework looks like an overgrown D&D game is there something wrong?.. Did I explain how cool it was to hear the original Battlestar Galactica theme used on the new show?.. The RAZR phone is pretty cool... It sucks that SciFi Friday is going into reruns already, at least I get West Wing back next week... Ellipses are harder with all these links... The only way I would watch a TV movie about Martha Stewart in prison would be if it were written and directed by the people that did OZ...

What My Students Care About

PTMStudent: question...about one of your classes
PTMStudent: we have a little debate going on...
DBoevers: you're not in one of my classes
PTMStudent: are you around...ah...there you are :-)
PTMStudent: nope...but we still have a debate
PTMStudent: what grade would someone get if they sat in class and picked their nose...
DBoevers: are they good at it?
PTMStudent: I realize this is gross, but none-the-less...subject of debate
PTMStudent: judges
PTMStudent: so....
PTMStudent: debate says a 'B'
DBoevers: expert nose picker?
PTMStudent: yup
DBoevers: does the nose picking keep them from participating in class discussion?
PTMStudent: yes
PTMStudent: ah..sorry.
PTMStudent: no
DBoevers: who is in the digusting discourse
PTMStudent: they DO participate in discussions
DBoevers: well
PTMStudent: several people (names have not been released for the protection of participants)
DBoevers: nasal probing would not effect test scores
PTMStudent: true
DBoevers: or project scores
DBoevers: I'm not sure I can participate in a conversation with unknown parties
PTMStudent: then I guess we are at an impass
PTMStudent: :-(
DBoevers: do they show up for class?
PTMStudent: yes
DBoevers: well
DBoevers: if you read my syllabus
DBoevers: inter-nostril spelunking would likely only effect ones participation grade
DBoevers: and would likely be offset by decent attendance and discussion participation
DBoevers: so as long as it didn't become a huge distraction it would likely be immaterial
DBoevers: and if it was a distraction, I would likely be forced to deal with it outside the confines of the grading system
PTMStudent: hmmm....I see....
PTMStudent: so then someone could not..'sit in class picking their nose and get a B'
DBoevers: like pulling them aside and explaining that their being up to their elbow might be distracting to myself or their classmates
PTMStudent: haha
DBoevers: most classes, if I give someone a zero for participation I can force a letter grade change
DBoevers: but I almost never give less than a 70% for participation
PTMStudent: hmm
DBoevers: would have to be pretty special nose picking

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lysistrata Install - Day 1

Today we began the installation on our first mainstage production of the year - Lysistrata. I hope for the sake of the School of Drama that this production of Lysistrata is better than the one I saw in the old studio theatre when I was a student here. That production has changed my theatre going life fundamentally - and not in a good way.

So far its not much to look at, but considering how the day really went a lot did actually get done. So far the scheme team is transitioning into their first install fairly adeptly. We'll see how things really start to work when the other build gets going on top of this load in. Well that, and like three other estimates, and whatever other overload I can think of to give them - oh and class, can't forget class.

So really this post is just an excuse to post a couple of pictures. I'll try to find another excuse for most of the week.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

FrankenKitty Update

It's been a while since we've had an update on Trinity.

Here she is relaxing on the couch after a long day. She went to the vet and then had to spend the rest of the day in my office, which she did, under the couch so she wouldn't have to be nice to anyone.

I'm sure you can see that there is something obviously wrong on her hip. If you aren't squeamish, you can click on the picture and see a closeup.

What you'd be looking at is in fact a hole. This is where she worried open the abscess that had formed over the tumor. It hasn't really been healing. The vet says that in normal tissue it would eventually close up, but that since we are talking about cancerous tissue it is much less likely the thing will ever heal.

We also discovered today that she's dropped 5 pounds in a month. That might not sound like much, but an analogous weight loss for myself would be 75#. So its a big deal. She's also running a fever. Probably from an infection due to the wound.

All of which is leading to that we're probably in something like phase two of the end. Phase one was when the UberVet gave her 6 months last February (7 months ago). We can of course take heart that we don't know how many phases there are. Now we're just going to try to get her over the fever and see what happens then.

And when I know, well, that'll be the next FrankenKitty update.

New Blog

For the past couple of years, a combination of my graduate assistant and myeslf have maintained a bulletin board of theatre industry news in the hallway outside my office. This year I've decided that printing all the emails and web page stories and then posting them in the hall is wasteful and needlessly time consuming.

Instead, a combination of my graduate assistant and myself are now going to maintain a news blog with stories relevant to PTM students. Check it out:

Perhaps the first order of business ought to be a title naming contest.

Anyway, there are some cool stories there about IA Local 3 and their current labor dispute, and there's a nice story about the impending collapse of Clear Channel's theatre empire (I'll believe it when I see it).

We'll try to keep new stories up every day or so. If you've got a story that would be appropriate, send it my way - as well as anything that ought to be linked on the page. Also, I wouldn't mind another associate editor or two - if you're into this sort of thing.

Consider it the link of the day.

Friday, September 16, 2005

From Hardwareman

posting is so much better than forwarding...

I have no idea if this is real, but one hopes so...


A Charlotte, NC lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against fire, among other things. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed claim against the insurance company.

In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost in a series of small fires. The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion. The lawyer sued ... and WON! (Stay with the story)

In delivering the ruling, the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer "held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire" and was obligated to pay the claim. Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss of the rare cigars lost in the "fires."


After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

This is a true story and was the First Place winner in the recent Criminal Lawyers Award Contest.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dante Meme

General asshats
Circle I Limbo

PETA Members
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Militant Vegans
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Osama bin Laden
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

NAMBLA Members
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Circle VII Burning Sands

Creationists, George Bush
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

Parents who bring squalling brats to R-rated movies
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

Today I Piss Off... Nobody?

How is that possible?

Two major chunks of work in development of projects - both things I have been doing in a somewhat unproductive Ivory Tower kind of mode (read alone, at my desk, largely without input from others). Two presentations in one day. No shrapnel.

I wonder how that happened?

I'm not really sure how to deal with that development. Guess I'll have to go back to teaching classes - or more accurately grading homework.

That's the worst part about homework. If you give it you have to grade it.

My inlaws say the best academic gig is one that includes no administrative duties. Both of these projects from today are nearly totally administrative in nature. I think I like the administrative stuff.

Oh well, back to the grindstone.

Link of the Day

Tired of reading all of those results from the Google Search Engine? Try this:

But no complaining about backtalk!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why CYA is the Devil

The last few days I can't help but think about work when hearing about Katrina aftermath. Its like FEMA and NOPD and all the respective governments are all at a notes meeting during a tech right out of hell.

For those of you that don't know, a notes meeting is a gathering among the creative and production teams from a show that happens late at night after a technical rehearsal. You talk about what is working and what isn't, what has to be finished, and what has to change - sometimes because its broken and sometimes just because it is wrong.

In a functional production, you look at the next day's schedule, prioritize the notes, arrange to minimize any scheduling conflicts and leave the building with alacrity. In a dysfunctional production, collaborators argue over whether something is in fact broken, and if so who broke it. Or if why the reason something doesn't work was because it was built wrong or if it was simply designed incorrectly from the get go. The problem being that as these tete a tetes ramble on the clock is ticking, everyone is getting more tired & frustrated, and really you are no closer to knowing what the schedule is for the next day or how to prioritize your notes.

I believe that it came to me sometime mid undergrad, and so it is something I try to pass on to my classes around the same time, that all things being equal knowing what went wrong - or even moreso knowing who's fault something is - it just doesn't matter at that moment.

My senior year I posted these signs that said "from here to the end of the semester I am officially taking the blame for everything that goes wrong - now, lets please move on."

The most important questions to be answered in those meetings are all some form of "what do we need to get through tomorrow?" Authorities in the gulf states ought to be thinking that way. The press ought to be thinking and reporting that way. I'm not saying that there won't be a time for the placing of blame. It just isn't now. There's nothing to be gained.

And there is plenty to be lost, because with the bantering of recriminations comes the reflex of CYA. What better way to keep oneself from taking the blame than to deny that there is anything wrong in the first place. Lacking that, pick out the person least able to protect themself and push the blame to them - classic misdirection.

(this works in notes meetings too by the way:
DESIGNER "will you ever fix the rattle in those casters?"
TD "didn't the costumes look just fantastic tonight?"
DIRECTOR "oh, actually I have some costume notes"
TD aside "ah, the perfect crime!")

Lately there is a whole posse of people running around saying alternately that the Katrina aftermath was some other person or agency's fault or that actually nothing really went wrong in the first place. Hey folks! Focus! The show isn't open yet. What do you have to do to get through tomorrow?

Everyone knows something went wrong or in the very, very least could have gone much better. CYA, whether it comes in the form of blame shifting or denial doesn't help feed anyone, doesn't house anyone, doesn't reunite anyone, doesn't rebuild anything. Step up and solve the problems. I bet the world will cut you a whole lot of slack in the end, even if you were yesterday's goat as long as you make yourself today's hero.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today I Piss of Everybody

Its rare when you have an opportunity to make so many people unhappy at one time. In a small way it was almost worth it just to see the hand wringing.

We are all such creatures of habit. One small change, to one day of the semester, breaking up groups they are comfortably in for like 111 other days and everyone is diving for the e-stop. Many with some very unfortunate tone, and several obviously without for one second considering the reasons given before deciding that it must be the end of the world.

And that doesn't even allow for some of the reasons that weren't given. Some that have absolutely everything to do with their experience and yet simultaneously absolutely nothing to do with them at all.

I hope the wave washes over and then everyone unclenches some. We're just going to try something once afterall. If it sucks, we won't do it again. And we were only ever talking about the fall. For a myriad of good reasons the spring really has to remain as is. So they are guaranteed of at least one totally status quo semester.

Perhaps that will be some consolation.

I'm glad people did not react to the Crazy Scheme the same way they have to AlphaCrits. Good to know we are not totally bound in our ways. Afterall, with the complete curricular review coming to fruition there are many changes coming up people haven't necessarily heard anything about: a totally new course sequence, new curricular requirements, new unit guidelines, new discipline guidelines, totally new production philosophy, new crew requirements, new season selection procedure...

(or maybe he's just kidding - stay tuned)

If we have to go through this angst every time we try to implement a new initiative its going to be a very stressful next couple of semesters. Really, and I thought I was stubborn.

Everybody fasten your seatbelts, its gonna be a bumpy ride!


3:18 and all is well. Maybe I missed my calling. Perhaps I should have been a town crier. You know it's late when even the Pacific Timezone people on your buddylist are all gone/away/idle. I need to make some friends in Hawaii, or maybe Australia. The hitmap implies there are people there who occasionally check out the blog. I wonder if they'd like to be friends. Alternately I could try to get an appointment to some Australian University teaching Production Planning online. I should look into that.

What I really don't understand is how if Mrs. Boevers and myself both got up at the same time how it is possible that she is snoozing away and I am here typing. What is up with that?

I thought since I was laying awake rhuminating that I would share. Tonight, interspersed with the song "Are You Ready for a Miracle" which is the end title to "Leap of Faith" which I was watching before turning in for good, I have been mulling over details of the curricular review at work. That, and thinking about forming a somewhat less informal PTM Advisory group out of some of our alums. Exciting isn't it? Let me see if I can give you some insight into the ADD that is my trying to sleep mind...

"Are you ready for a miracle?"

"I wonder if Liz would pay for me to bring some alum back to Pittsburgh for some strategic planning?"

"What is the cat doing over there?"

"There are some words we just have to stop using in our meetings."


"The whole depth vs. breadth thing is just getting us noplace."

"Maybe Andy Palmer, Sarah Deutsch, and Mike Goglia."

"Are you READY for a MIRACLE?"
"Maybe foundation is better for this conversation than breadth."

"Religion convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there's 10 things he doesn't want you to do or else you'll go to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! ...And he needs money!"

"We should do a mock invoice for the ECHO people so they know how much money they saved."

"Do I need a graduate student?"

"And skills, skills has got to go."

"Ready as I can be!"

"I could bring them to town and they could be like the CFA advisory board, but for the option. Then we could establish some new long term goals that were vetted."

"I mean, actually, why have skills classes at all? Studio skills go in the classes that use them, and full scale skills, well that's lab - crew."

"I am never going to make it to my dentist appointment in the morning."

"Are you ready for a miracle?"

"That would bypass the whole Design Skills = Production Technology landmine completely."

That's about 5 minutes I guess. Do you get the idea? Its not a perfect rendering actually because in my head everything overlaps some. It's amazing the stuff that pops into your head. I guess the Carlin thing is because of the movie.

The worst part is that there are sometimes some genuinely good ideas floating around there and then I become worried that I've actually solved something and I won't remember in the morning. This of course adds to the problem and sooner or later I wind up sitting in front of a monitor again if only to get a fresh attempt at sleeping in a few minutes after clearing some of the debris and getting a glass of water.

Really what I guess I should do is email this post to a physician and see if they have a nice prescription for me. Ok, enough typing. Time for sleep. Take two.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Link of the Day

Courtesy of StumbleUpon...

Todays link of the day will help you communicate in the new millenium. At least it will help you express yourself. What it really needs is a reverse engine so that you can understand it when people use this kind of language only to baffle you.

Ladys and gents:

An example of this tools work? Here's yesterday's post about convocation after going through the translator:

"Today was convocizzles or "the shizzow that shant be named" as it isn't really a schoo` production, n shouldn't cause conflicts wit anyth'n else, but always does. Faculty is often gangsta fo` barbs as piznart of this th'n, n I have thought thiznat a good natured barb at convocizzles actually is evidence thiznat you is doing a good job . Holla!. My boss has bizzy tha centa of every convo since she gots here, all fairly good natured . You'se a flea and I'm the big dogg. I think tizzle is fairly impressive. Prior ta this I think I only was referenced once . Keep'n it gangsta dogg: April declar'n as me "I'm not gay, I just like lesbian music." Today I heard mah name twice before I had ta leave, once fo` cruisin' grads (to tha tizzle of Bitchez Jiznust W-to-tha-izzant ta have Fun) "Dave Brotha asks W-H-to-tha-izzat is you gonna do wit yo life" n tha bitch as P-to-tha-izzart of tha open'n (to tha tune of The Time Warp) "I'm so sleepy... Dave Killa ream'n..." I will have ta ask if there was anyth'n else I missed . Boo-Yaa!. This year seemed a shawty more good natured T-H-to-tha-izzan tha pizzay few which had gotten downright nasty . Aint no L-I-M-I-to-tha-T. They also checked fo` cameras at tha door, which is good coz I had bizzle wonder'n wizzy we will see a drunken, naked CMU alum on E doggystyle! n it seemed like they also toned dizzay tha doggy stylin' some . Holla!. Although there was an open heezeeset mic on stage, so in mah office I did git ta hizzle `bout how disgust'n someone's tequila was, n `bout someone else drink'n a whole bottle of champagne. So perhaps there's stizzill wizzy ta be done there . Dogg House Records in the motha fuckin house."

I think maybe I will forego a spell check this time.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


So the ECHO::SYSTEM people are gone and the workshop is finished. I've been on the sidelines of this one for the whole time and yet somehow managed to be pretty crucial as well having hooked them up with a free venue, a production manager, a free lighting console, a bunch of free materials, and a staff of free labor - plus a fair amount of consulting of my own, gratis. In the end I'm not even sure why. Just goes to show, it can't hurt to ask for something. They came to visit me in my office and I did all kinds of things for them just because it made sense, would make a better workshop for them and I could help. In the end I think it worked out real well for them, and for everyone at the School of Drama that managed to get involved. The project looks kind of neat too. Its a multi cultural, multi discipline, performance art piece matching desert ecology to urban life. Or something, it may have been out of my depth. It would be interesting to know what the people who saw it though of it. I'll have to keep an eye out.
Today was convocation or "the show that shant be named" as it isn't really a school production, and shouldn't cause conflicts with anything else, but always does. Faculty are often fodder for barbs as part of this thing, and I have thought that a good natured barb at convocation actually is evidence that you are doing a good job. My boss has been the center of every convo since she got here, all fairly good natured. I think that is fairly impressive. Prior to this I think I only was referenced once: April declaring as me "I'm not gay, I just like lesbian music." Today I heard my name twice before I had to leave, once for hastling grads (to the tune of Girls Just Want to have Fun) "Dave Boevers asks what are you gonna do with your life" and the other as part of the opening (to the tune of The Time Warp) "I'm so sleepy... Dave Boevers reaming..." I will have to ask if there was anything else I missed. This year seemed a little more good natured than the past few which had gotten downright nasty. They also checked for cameras at the door, which is good because I had been wondering when we will see a drunken, naked CMU alum on E! and it seemed like they also toned down the drinking some. Although there was an open headset mic on stage, so in my office I did get to hear about how disgusting someone's tequila was, and about someone else drinking a whole bottle of champagne. So perhaps there's still work to be done there.
Its been a good couple of days for web referers. The 8 Lies post got picked up by Newsweek/MSNBC and by this site Patrick Ruffini. I guess its a bummer I didn't write it what with all the attention it is getting. Makes me wish the It's Not 9/11 post could get that interest. I guess I have to learn how to use more keywords. The What is so Complicated post wound up on a student site and then got aggregated to a bunch of others. All this interconnectivity is pretty cool, but I wonder if in the end its any better than anything we've had in the past or if it is really just a big distraction.

ok, so im kinda annoyed....

so Wednesday i had a production project due.....this student worked really hard and it turned out like a 5th grade project, but she liked she goes back to her room before class to get it and realize she lost her key and cant get into the room, so project locked in room = bad...she runs all over Purnell looking for her key, cant find she has to go to class without the project...she finds me right before class and tells me what happened and asks if she can turn it in before the end of the day....I, of course, said yes.....

ok so she comes back to her room at the end of the day....roommate is there so she can get into the room, get her project and take it over to my office.... I’m not there....the project was big so its not like she could of just slipped it under the door or put it in the mailbox, and she really didn’t have time to wait there till I came back, and anyway earlier I said I would be around later because I had meetings, so she assumed I was in a she didn’t want to, because something could of happened to it, but she left it in front of his door....logical thing to right? I knew she was going to drop it off.....ok.....

Next part of the story, this student has a blog thing, i randomly check it, she sometimes writes amusing i checked it today and i found this.....

if you didnt realize thats her project outside of my door.....

She’s sorry, what did I want her to do.....I wasn’t there she needed to give me something.....yeah....

Probably hang onto it until the next time you could give it to me..... yeah.... :-P

Friday, September 09, 2005

Eight Big Lies About Katrina

posting is so much better than forwarding...

Eight Big Lies About Katrina
By Jeremy Schulman and Raphael Schweber-Koren, Media Matters for AmericaPosted on September 9, 2005, Printed on September 9, 2005

In the past week, Bush administration officials and conservative commentators have repeatedly used the national media to spread misinformation about the federal government's widely criticized response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

1. Bush: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"

On the Sept. 1 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America, President Bush told host Diane Sawyer, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that protected New Orleans from flooding. As Media Matters for America has noted, Sawyer
did not challenge Bush's claim, despite numerous, repeated warnings by government officials, experts and the media that a major hurricane could cause levee breaches resulting in catastrophic flooding. A September 2 New York Times front-page article repeated Bush's false claim without challenge -- even though a Times editorial the same day declared, "Disaster planners were well aware that New Orleans could be flooded by the combined effects of a hurricane and broken levees."

A Sept. 5 article reported that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff falsely told reporters that "planners"
did not predict a breach of the levees that would flood the city. As reported, Chertoff said, "That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight." But unlike the Times, noted that "officials have warned for years that a Category 4 [hurricane] could cause the levees to fail." The article added that in an August 31 interview on CNN's Larry King Live, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown said, "That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it." But in the same Larry King Live interview, Brown responded to complaints that rescue efforts were not moving quickly enough by insisting, "And I must say this storm is much, much bigger than anyone expected."

Additionally, as journalist Joshua Micah Marshall
noted on Talking Points Memo, National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield "talked about the force of Katrina during a video conference call to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas" on August 28 [St. Petersburg Times, 8/30/05]. The Washington Post quoted Mayfield on September 6: "They knew that this one was different. ... I don't think Mike Brown or anyone else in FEMA could have any reason to have any problem with our calls. ... They were told ... We said the levees could be topped."

2. Chertoff strained credulity in defense of Bush, claimed levee breaks and massive flooding came as a surprise -- more than 12 hours after local media reported them

On Sept. 4, Chertoff appeared on NBC's
Meet the Press and attempted to explain Bush's discredited claim that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." After host Tim Russert asked Chertoff how the president could "be so wrong, be so misinformed," Chertoff suggested that Bush had been referring to newspaper reports the morning after the storm that New Orleans had "dodged a bullet" because the eye of the storm had passed to the east of the city. But more than 12 hours before the appearance of those headlines in print, a post on the weblog of the New Orleans Times-Picayune -- dated August 29, 2 p.m. CT -- reported, "City Hall confirmed a breach of the levee along the 17th Street Canal at Bellaire Drive, allowing water to spill into Lakeview." This initial report on the Times-Picayune weblog was followed throughout the afternoon and evening of August 29 by reports of other levee breaks and massive flooding.

While Chertoff said he recognized that the city's levee system failed sometime Monday night or Tuesday morning -- in fact, the first breaks occurred earlier, as noted above and as Think Progress noted in its
detailed Hurricane Katrina timeline -- he insisted that "it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake [Pontchartrain] was going to start to drain into the city." According to Chertoff, this "second catastrophe really caught everybody by surprise" and was a major reason for the delay in the government's emergency response.

Questioning Chertoff further, Russert pointed out that the Times-Picayune published a
five-part series in June 2002, in which it warned that if a large hurricane hit New Orleans, the city's levees would likely be topped or broken -- resulting in catastrophic flooding and thousands of deaths. Russert added that "last summer FEMA, who reports to you, and the LSU Hurricane Center, and local and state officials did a simulated Hurricane Pam in which the levees broke. ... Thousands drowned."

Chertoff then clarified, "What I said was not that we didn't anticipate that there's a possibility the levees will break. What I said was, in this storm, what happened is, the storm passed and passed without the levees breaking on Monday. Tuesday morning, I opened newspapers and saw headlines that said 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet,' which surprised people. What surprised them was that the levee broke overnight and the next day and, in fact, collapsed. That was a surprise."

Even accepting as true Chertoff's incredible suggestion that he -- the secretary of Homeland Security -- and the president of the United States relied on the print media for their information on the situation in New Orleans, as Think Progress
points out, had administration officials "bothered to read the full text of the three articles they found with favorable headlines, they would have realized that federal government help was needed immediately." Moreover, while Chertoff did not indicate which headlines he was referring to, many newspapers -- in addition to the Times-Picayune -- did report on broken levees and significant flooding. For example, on August 30, the Los Angeles Times reported that a levee break had occurred by late morning August 29, with water from the break "spill[ing] through the area, flooding the town's two main shelters and swamping the local National Guard armory, leaving even public safety officials homeless."

Or Chertoff could have turned on the television. On the August 30 broadcast of NBC's Today, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported at 7:05 a.m. ET, "There has been a huge development overnight ... the historic French Quarter, dry last night and it is now filling with water. This is water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain; the levees failed overnight."

Indeed, Chertoff's and Bush's professed ignorance notwithstanding, the federal government was well aware of the continuing threat of the levees breaking. Just hours after the storm passed on Monday, August 29, FEMA director Brown confirmed that the potential for catastrophic flooding remained. In an interview with Brown, NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer noted, "In New Orleans, in particular, they're worried about the levees giving way or the canals not holding, and they're worried about toxic runoff." Brown responded that even though the storm had weakened, there was still a 15- to 20-foot storm surge causing "the water out of Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf and the Mississippi continue to converge upon Louisiana." Brown added, "So we're still ready for a major disaster."

3. Brown: "We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day"

On the Sept. 2 broadcast of NBC's Today, FEMA director Brown told host Katie Couric, "We've provided food to the people at the [New Orleans' Morial] Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day." Couric did not challenge this statement.

But on Sept. 1, NBC News photojournalist Tony Zumbado
reported on MSNBC Live:

ZUMBADO: I can't put it into words the amount of destruction that is in this city and how these people are coping. They are just left behind. There is nothing offered to them. No water, no ice, no C-rations, nothing, for the last four days. They were told to go to the convention center. They did, they've been behaving. It's unbelievable how organized they are, how supportive they are of each other. They have not started any melees, any riots. They just want food and support. And what I saw there I've never seen in this country. We need to really look at this situation at the convention center. It's getting very, very crazy in there and very dangerous. Somebody needs to come down with a lot of food and a lot of water.

4. Chertoff: "Apparently, some time on Wednesday, people started to go to the convention center spontaneously"

On the Sept. 1 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now, Brown claimed, "Every person in that convention center, we just learned about that today [Thursday, September 1]." During a September 4 interview with Chertoff on CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, host Blitzer replayed Brown's comments. In response, Chertoff said:

CHERTOFF: Well, I mean, this is clearly something that was disturbing. It was disturbing to me when I learned about it, which came as a surprise. You know, the very day that this emerged in the press, I was on a video conference with all the officials, including state and local officials. And nobody -- none of the state and local officials or anybody else -- was talking about a convention center. The original plan, as I understand it, was to have the Superdome be the place of refuge, of last resort. Apparently, some time on Wednesday, people started to go to the convention center spontaneously.

Chertoff's claim that hurricane survivors sought refuge in the convention center under their own initiative echoed his September 4 Meet the Press interview, in which he suggested, "We became aware of the fact at some point that people began to go to the convention center on their own, spontaneously, in order to shelter there." Chertoff's statements were false, but neither Blitzer nor Russert challenged them.

Though scenes of thousands of hurricane victims awaiting water, food, and buses at the convention center were not broadcast on television until Thursday, Sept. 1, Chertoff and Brown would have had access to media reports about the convention center before then. As early as Aug. 29, Times-Picayune staff writer Bruce Nolan wrote an article for the Newhouse News Service in which he reported, "City officials said they might open the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as a temporary refuge to shelter an estimated 50,000 people made homeless by the storm."
Nolan's article appeared in the Times-Picayune on August 30.

Beginning Aug. 31, other reports of survivors at the convention center emerged:

Knight Ridder, Aug. 31: "Derwin DeGruy had been kicked out of two hotels, the first on Sunday right before the storm hit, and the second one on Tuesday morning after it hit. He and about 50 other people found makeshift shelter on a ramp leading to the mall and parking garage at the New Orleans Convention Center. They rigged places for people to go to the bathroom, pooled their water for the babies, placed some blankets on the concrete and decided to wait and see what happened."
  • Associated Press, August 31: "The 37-year-old banker -- who admitted to looting some food from a nearby supermarket -- said the hotel guests were told they were being taken to a convention center, but from there, they didn't know."
  • Associated Press, Aug. 31: "After several hours, a small fleet of rented moving trucks showed up to take the people to the downtown convention center so they could be taken out of the city. Police herded people up metal ramps like cattle into the unrefrigerated boxes."
  • By Sept. 1, when Brown claimed FEMA first learned about the situation at the convention center, TV networks were broadcasting footage of thousands of survivors waiting for water, food, and evacuation buses. Despite Chertoff's later insistence that New Orleans residents "spontaneously" converged on the convention center, the September 1 broadcast of ABC's Nightline included footage of a law enforcement official instructing survivors to go there:

    SURVIVOR: Ain't nobody helping us.


    SURVIVOR: No, ain't nobody doing anything for us.

    LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL: Y'all got to go to the convention center.

    5. Chertoff pointed fingers: "New Orleans officials and the state officials ... called for the Superdome to be the refuge of last resort"

    In his Sept. 4 interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Chertoff attempted to place blame for the conditions at the Superdome solely with state and local officials. Chertoff asserted, "My understanding is, and again this is something that's going to go back -- we're going to go back over after the fact -- is the plan that the New Orleans officials and the state officials put together called for the Superdome to be the refuge of last resort."

    But this claim is misleading at best. As The Washington Post
    reported on September 3, a FEMA official acknowledged participating in meetings in which the plan to use the Superdome as a shelter for thousands of evacuees was discussed:

    Brown, the agency's director, told reporters Saturday in Louisiana that he did not have a sense of what was coming last weekend.

    "I was here on Saturday and Sunday, it was my belief, I'm trying to think of a better word than typical -- that minimizes, any hurricane is bad -- but we had the standard hurricane coming in here, that we could move in immediately on Monday and start doing our kind of response-recovery effort," he said. "Then the levees broke, and the levees went, you've seen it by the television coverage. That hampered our ability, made it even more complex."

    But other officials said they warned well before Monday about what could happen. For years, said another senior FEMA official, he had sat at meetings where plans were discussed to send evacuees to the Superdome. "We used to stare at each other and say, 'This is the plan? Are you really using the Superdome?' People used to say, what if there is water around it? They didn't have an alternative," he recalled.

    Moreover, the plan to use the Superdome as a shelter for evacuees was widely known. The 2002 Times-Picayune series on the potential for a catastrophic hurricane
    reported that of the estimated 200,000 New Orleans residents who would likely remain in the city, "[s]ome will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter in New Orleans for people too sick or infirm to leave the city."

    6. Chertoff falsely minimized federal government's role in Katrina response as subordinate to states

    The Bush administration has responded to criticism of its role in the Katrina disaster by attempting to deflect blame onto state and local officials in Louisiana [The New York Times,
    9/5/05 ]. One way they are doing that is to claim that the federal government's role in a natural disaster of this magnitude is to provide support to state and local governments and work at their behest. Conservative media figures immediately fell into line, echoing the administration's claim that the federal government's role was subordinate (see here and here). In fact, the Department of Homeland Security's December 2004 National Response Plan clearly indicates that in these situations, the federal government will pre-empt state and local efforts and provide immediate assistance to the affected area.

    On Sept. 1, two days after the levees were breached, Chertoff, at a press conference announcing the start of "National Preparedness Month 2005," characterized the federal role in response to Katrina as that of providing support to state and local officials: "The Department of Homeland Security will continue to work with federal, state and local partners to support efforts on the ground in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. We are working tirelessly to make sure that federal resources are being applied where they are needed all across the Gulf" [Federal News Service, 9/1/05]. But on Sept. 2, Chertoff told reporters that the situation had changed and that federal agencies would now take over the primary role: "The fact of the matter is, this set of catastrophes has broken any mold for how you deal with this kind of weather devastation, and so we're going to break the mold in terms of how we respond. The federal government is not going to play merely its customary role in giving all necessary support to first responders. The federal government is going to step up and take a primary role, working with state and locals to deal with the outcome of this tragedy." [National Public Radio, 9/3/05]

    But Chertoff's Sept. 1 statement ignored the administration's own homeland security response plan, which directed the federal government to act on its own authority to quickly provide assistance and conduct emergency operations following a major catastrophe, pre-empting state and local authorities if necessary. According to DHS' December 2004
    National Response Plan (NRP), "catastrophic events," such as what occurred in New Orleans, call for heightened and "proactive" federal involvement to manage the disaster. The response plan listed "guiding principles" to govern the response to these major events. The "Guiding Principles for Proactive Federal Response" make clear that, in these "catastrophic" cases, the federal government will operate independently to provide assistance, rather than simply supporting or cajoling state authorities:
    • The primary mission is to save lives; protect critical infrastructure, property, and the environment; contain the event; and preserve national security.
    • Standard procedures regarding requests for assistance may be expedited or, under extreme circumstances, suspended in the immediate aftermath of an event of catastrophic magnitude.
    • Identified Federal response resources will deploy and begin necessary operations as required to commence life-safety activities.
    • Notification and full coordination with States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources. States are urged to notify and coordinate with local governments regarding a proactive Federal response.
    • State and local governments are encouraged to conduct collaborative planning with the Federal Government as a part of "steady-state" preparedness for catastrophic incidents."
    The NRP also says that, when responding to a catastrophic incident, the federal government should start emergency operations even in the absence of clear assessment of the situation. "A detailed and credible common operating picture may not be achievable for 24 to 48 hours (or longer) after the incident," the NRP's "
    Catastrophic Annex" states. "As a result, response activities must begin without the benefit of a detailed or complete situation and critical needs assessment."

    A Sept. 5 Los Angeles Times article quoted
    former FEMA chief of staff Jane Bullock saying that "[t]he moment the president declared a federal disaster [on Aug 29], it became a federal responsibility. ... The federal government took ownership over the response." Moreover, DHS' own website declares that DHS "will assume primary responsibility on March 1st [2005] for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort."

    7. Wash. Post, Newsweek, Gingrich falsely claimed that Blanco did not declare a state of emergency

    In recent days, two news articles falsely reported that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco had failed to declare a state of emergency, which had supposedly hampered the federal response. An article in the Sept. 13 edition of Newsweek
    claimed that "Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco seemed uncertain and sluggish, hesitant to declare martial law or a state of emergency, which would have opened the door to more Pentagon help." Likewise, a Sept. 4 Washington Post article incorrectly claimed that "As of Saturday [Sept. 3], Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency," citing an anonymous senior Bush administration official. (The Washington Post's article was later corrected, although Newsweek has yet to correct its article.) Fox News political analyst Newt Gingrich repeated the point on the September 5 O'Reilly Factor, saying, "As you [O'Reilly] point out, the governor [Blanco] failed to call the emergency. And initially, it was the governor who had to call an emergency." In fact, as the Post later noted, Blanco declared a state of emergency (PDF) on August 26.

    8. Gingrich falsely claimed that Nagin could "have kept water pumped out" of city had he ensured that pumps worked

    On the Sept. 5 O'Reilly Factor, Gingrich also claimed that if New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin had been able to keep the New Orleans pumps working, the flood waters could have been pumped out of the city. "[F]irst of all, the mayor of New Orleans had a real obligation to make sure the four pumps could work. Three of them didn't. It would have kept water pumped out." In fact, New Orleans has 22 "notoriously fickle" pumping stations, according to an Aug. 31 New York Times article would have been overwhelmed by the rapidly rising floodwaters:

    Soon waves will start breaking over the levee.

    "All of a sudden you'll start seeing flowing water. It'll look like a weir, water just pouring over the top," [Louisiana State University engineer Joseph] Suhayda said. The water will flood the lakefront, filling up low-lying areas first, and continue its march south toward the river. There would be no stopping or slowing it; pumping systems would be overwhelmed and submerged in a matter of hours.

    "Another scenario is that some part of the levee would fail," Suhayda said. "It's not something that's expected. But erosion occurs, and as levees broke, the break will get wider and wider. The water will flow through the city and stop only when it reaches the next higher thing. The most continuous barrier is the south levee, along the river. That's 25 feet high, so you'll see the water pile up on the river levee."

    Jeremy Schulman and Raphael Schweber-Koren are members of the research department at
    Media Matters for America.

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