Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, the Fist of Syzygy, and Politics Past and Future

(Pictures I didn't take myself are followed by their links.)

This is the great fist of Hurricane Sandy, late October, 2012.
The storm will merge with a nor'easter and the phenomenon of syzygy to create
"The Perfect Storm."

In 2007, the Painted People 
(former Barbies, Ken, GI Joes who left their old identities behind to become assimilated into a clan of wanderers, living outside of time)
began a trek through the city at night, a place mysteriously altered, often flooded...

...not unlike the real city during the siege of Sandy.

 I found this photo on the following website, 
source of many scary/amazing photos of the city during the storm:

Hurricane Sandy is made worse because of a "syzygy," an alignment of celestial objects -
sun, moon, earth in this case - causing tides to be higher than usual.
The Sandy moon is also a "super moon":  full, and at the lowest point of its slightly oblique orbit.
Thus, the sun and moon battle over the earth's tides, pushing and pulling,
acting badly,
creating havoc for mere mortals below.

Here's a handy drawing showing you the line-up, sun, earth and full moon, respectively.
(Drawing not to scale.)

Frank and I are on high ground here in Park Slope, mostly watching Sandy from our window.

And on TV.  All those newscasters with their cheeks flapping in the wind.
Makes me miss Dan Rather, the master of storm-flapping.

Here he is during Hurricane Opal, 1995, and Andrew, 1992, below.

We miss you, Dan - you were the man!

We prepare for Sandy by shopping in stores jammed with frantic people.

My survival food is on the left, Frank's is on the right.
On Facebook, Alex Bird says:  "Only one will live if the power goes out."
We know who it will be.

My brother Dan asks,
Where is your generator and gas masks and anti-riot gear?

This is our only gun, but we have other resources, 

such as a machete, a sword, a baseball bat and an oriental rug.
Don't mess with we, ye rabid dogs and starving masses.

The art critic Jerry Saltz, who lives in Manhattan in the hard hit Chelsea area, has his own preparations:

"Update: Tuesday Night. Still 100% in dark, without power. No internet, cell-phone, running water, toilet. Down to four candles; four books of matches; scavangered two D-batteries for use. Shot gun and seven shells. Finished 'The Odyssey' by candle-light this evening. I walk up to 29th Street to use Blackberry. Then back in the zone. Never get off the boat. Okay, I am walking back to the darkness now. Am told only four more days of this in lower Manhattan .... I hope the rest of you made it through safely.
Is there world out there? Carry on, if so ..."

 Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times, (married to Mr. Saltz, 
living in the same Sandy-fied darkness) 
reports on the havoc in the Chelsea art gallery world here:

A week ago my Pratt Seminar class and I were in Chelsea to visit galleries
when I shot this random pic of a wall mural.

Here's a before and after:

But Frank and I are safe by our 4th floor window, taking pics with the iPad.

 The orange area is Zone A, which was ordered to be evacuated a few hours 
before mass transportation shut down.  Woe to you if you don't have a car!
The green X is where we live, out of the danger zone. 
The green O-X is where I teach, Kingsborough Community College, in the Manhattan Beach
area of Brooklyn near Coney Island, right on the water.  I fear for its future.

In 2007, artist Eve Mosher did a project called "HighWaterLine" 
where she went around with a chalk-writer cart and marked out the ten-foot-above-sea-level
areas in New York City, the area that will be underwater if global warming continues
and the sea levels rise.  Her chalk marks often align with Sandy's flooding, and in some cases
the flooding goes further than her lines.

(photo of DUMBO from Eve Mosher's website, 2007) 

Above is Dumbo on Monday night of the storm, before high tide.
The following is a quote from Mosher's website:


Can we still change the future?  I wonder.  Maybe it's too late, at
least for the coastlines of the world.
 Up here in the oak tree, I feel lucky and also somehow guilty, like shouldn't we at least
have a moment or two of power outages?  But, alas, we don't.
We sit in our brownstone version of an ivory tower, and eat delicious survival food...

...and watch Sandy fiercely whip our tree around. 

Are the Painted People also harbingers of things to come, similar to Eve Mosher?

Again, the real city during Sandy's onslaught, not unlike what the Painted People are experiencing.

All Sandy did in our neighborhood was plaster cars with leaves,
and shred the trees.

We are so fortunate, compared to the devastation of other areas like the Jersey Shore, Staten Island,
Coney Island, Fire Island, the burnt-out Rockaways, the East End of Long Island, Long Beach, 
etc., etc., etc.

New York City traffic is a nightmare since mass transit is not running.
Thousands of cabs on the road, and millions of cars.

When the buses start running, they are crowded, stressful and free.

I'm glad we don't have a car, for many, many reasons, one of which is that 
we don't have to travel afar to find gas for it.

The car lines remind me of the seventies when Jimmy Carter was president.

The lines were blamed on Carter policies, but it was a complicated situation 
that he tried to address in a far-reaching, visionary way.
Some people call Carter's years a "failed presidency,"
but it was our nation that failed.
 Had we followed up with research and development into alternative energies, 
we may have avoided a lot of the problems we are having right now.
That was the time to act.
But instead Ronald Reagan ripped Carter's solar panels off the roof of the White House
and set the stage for years of gas-guzzling SUV's and Hummers, 
giving the green light go-ahead to increasing global warming.

"By 1986, the Reagan administration had gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy at the then-fledgling U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and eliminated tax breaks for the deployment of wind turbines and solar technologies—recommitting the nation to reliance on cheap but polluting fossil fuels, often from foreign suppliers."

Excerpt from Carter's 1977 speech:

"Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.
It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.
We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.
Two days from now, I will present my energy proposals to the Congress. Its members will be my partners and they have already given me a great deal of valuable advice. Many of these proposals will be unpopular. Some will cause you to put up with inconveniences and to make sacrifices.
The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.
Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy."

Here's a quote from Phil Ebersole's blog about Carter and Reagan 
and their attitudes about energy: 

The Carter administration was the first to make a serious effort for energy conservation and energy independence (sometimes acting under authority of laws enacted during the Ford and Nixon administrations).  Fuel efficiency standards for automobiles were increased.  Incentives were provided for insulating buildings.  An ambitious research program on solar and other alternative energy sources was launched.  Large industrial companies such as Kodak and Xerox voluntarily launched their own energy conservation programs parallel to what the government was doing.
We benefit from the accomplishments of the Carter era to this day.  We would benefit even more if governmental policy had continued on the same trajectory.  But Ronald Reagan planted the meme that conservation is unmanly, alternative energy is a fad and the supply of oil will take care of itself.  
That's a meme we're going to have to get rid of.

Maybe the only good thing that Sandy has done is bring NJ Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama together.
They are so totally BFF's now, and Mitt Romney is out in the cold.
Christie won't even  return his calls.

So here we are with Sandy, and reports say that another storm is moving up the coast to hit
the Jersey Shore in a few days.

Our view above,
the view from the Hamptons, below.

We've been lucky.
I count my blessings, and my thoughts and prayers are with those who weren't so lucky.


  1. Great blog as usual Jeanne. Deep in the heart of the new neighborhood, NOPO (No Power)we were lucky that things weren't worse. Thanks!!!

    1. Thanks for the comments
      Glad we made it through, very sorry for some of the people still suffering.

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