Sunday, November 19, 2006

It Helps To Laugh: Comic Relief For Katrina

Hi everybody. This review will be a little different due to the special circumstances. First off, there will be no grade because the interview itself wasn't very newsy. However, I never would have known about the special without it and since I ended up watching and donating (as I'm sure did many others), the hour served its purpose. Anybody else watch? If you did I really hope you got to watch it on HBO because watching on TBS totally sucked. Why must comedians cuss so much when one of the networks has to mute all of that out? The TBS guy with standards and practices must have been having a heart attack. I know this post is long, but please check out some of the great pieces that are linked near the end.

Anyway, as I'm sure you all know, this 360 was an interview with Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, and Billy Crystal to promote their Comic Relief special for Katrina. The trio has been doing these Comic Relief specials for the past 20 years and they've got an interesting relationship. This recap is going to be kind of schizophrenic because with Robin Williams there the interview went all over the place. I mostly like the guy, but oh my God sometimes I just wish he'd shut up. Anderson does a lot of laughing throughout the hour. A lot. He begins by asking one of his favorite questions: do they think Katrina has been forgotten? They all agree that in a way it has. Someone brings up the trailers and Anderson laughs, "don't even get me started on the FEMA trailers." Man, wouldn't it be cathartic to sit down with Anderson and just bitch about the Katrina response with him for an hour?

When we come back from break we're shown a clip of Bush's speech from New Orleans. Whoopi cracks up as she watches it and I really can't blame her. It was a joke. The thing is, when I watched him give it I remember it broke my heart a little because I knew it was a lie. I knew that nothing he was saying was going to happen and he was going to sweep out of there and all would be forgotten. However, it killed me because though I knew he was lying, there were other people watching who believed him. I knew that there were people who just had their lives destroyed and they believed him because they wanted to. Because they needed to. And to know that down the road they were going to be devastated by their government all over again was heartbreaking. Whoopi mentions how Bush went down their and lit everything up like it was a Hollywood set. She's right. I remember Brian Williams blogging about how the lights went on 30 minutes before the president got there and then off again an hour after he left.

Next the group talks about the images that they remember, such as the old woman in the wheelchair. There are so many I remember: the man recounting how he lost his wife, the little girl standing by the car stuck in the water and screaming for help, the mother who couldn't get her baby to hardly wake up. These are just the ones that popped into my head while typing this. There are so many more that are forever imprinted on my brain. The truth of the matter is that I believe in the end I will remember the specifics of what I saw and heard concerning Katrina better than I will concerning what I saw on 9-11 and the days after. Don't get me wrong, the planes hitting the towers and the towers falling will be with me until the day I die, but during 9-11 I did not watch news in the same way I do now. Once I realized how corrupt the adminstration was and what a horrible job the media was doing holding them accountable, I began to not just watch the news, but analyze and categorize it. I turned my brain into a filing cabinet. Now instead of just vaguely remembering a story I saw on the news, I know what network I saw it on, the reporter involved, when it aired, and any other information I can. I try to do this with print too.

In May of 2005 I went to a Media Reform Conference and one of the speakers there told us that we weren't like normal people; normal people didn't watch the news like they were trying to decode the matrix. I remember hearing that and thinking, "OMG, that's exactly how I watch the news." Obviously I have a human brain, so things aren't perfect, but I will never forget Katrina. At the time of the storm I was only working part time at home, so I basically did nothing but work, watch the news, and read blogs. I barely even slept. In fact, that Thursday night I didn't sleep. I've got hours upon hours of Katrina footage stored in my brain.

The interview turns serious for a moment as Billy ponders what might we not be ready for next. That's a question that keeps me up a night. If you'd like to be kept up too, you should check out this dailykos diary about how the US infrastructure is falling apart. A fair warning, readers of this blog might just want to ignore that third sentence. Hey, Anderson can't be loved by everyone. Anyway, I don't know about the rest of you, but to me, Katrina was shocking to watch unfold, but not surprising that it occurred. It was no secret Bush had stacked his cabinets with political appointees. It was no secret a good chunk of the National Guard and their equipment were in Iraq. It was no secret the Bush Administration and Republican led Congress didn't give a crap about the poor. It was no secret that natural disasters happen. And if you want to see how much normal citizens were informed about the hurricane two days in advance (as opposed to our idiot president who proclaimed no one could have predicted levee failure), you just have to check out this dailykos diary. Robin then gets all serious for a moment to talk about great politicians, which does not include Bush. Robin really is a smart guy; I wish he'd take it down a notch more often.

Coming back from another commercial we're played the infamous Nagin chocolate city clip. Anderson takes the opportunity to talk about what turned into a quest to get an interview with the mayor. Nagin would often agree to talk, only to cancel at the last minute. On one of these occasions his reason for canceling was an emergency meeting, so 360 decided to track him down. As it turns out, the "emergency meeting" was taking place in a bar. Anderson and producers then had the reporter in New Orleans (I think it was Sean Callebs) stay at the bar to wait for Nagin to come out. I remember watching this broadcast and laughing my butt off, saying, "OMG, Anderson is stalking Ray Nagin...by proxy." It was hilarious.

Anderson then asks Robin about a blues musician that he channels. Oh Anderson, don't encourage him. It's too late though because Robin is off on a tangent. Once Anderson is able to get a word in edgewise again he mentions that Whoopi took a bus to Vegas. Apparently flying really freaks her out, so she doesn't do it. Flying freaks me out too (It's not natural not to have anything underneath you-unless you're a bird!) , though I guess not as much as Whoopi. Anderson tells her she's not missing much because all the pilots think they're comedians now and crack jokes the whole flight, which apparently annoys Anderson a great deal. I find this all very ironic seeing as though he's sitting with three comedians who are completely cracking him up with jokes that sometimes aren't all that funny. Polite laughing perhaps? At this point I start to wonder where the heck the interview is going because we seem to be all over the place. Anyway, somehow we end up learning Anderson liked Battlestar Gallactica. Anderson then tries to throw to commercial, but he can't stop laughing because Robin won't shut up. Robin is having fun with this and cracks a Ryan Seacrest/Brokeback Mountain joke that makes Anderson lose it so bad he clutches his chest and almost falls out of his chair. I gotta say, I'm laughing more at Anderson's reaction here than I am the joke itself. Poor Anderson barely makes it out to commercial.

When they return, the subject transitions to the mideast. Anderson mentions that the last time he went he bought a bright blue burqa for his mother and she proceeded to put it on and walk around New York City. Gloria is so cool. Anderson then asks what they thought about the midterm elections and Robin says that now Dubya has to play with others. He also says that with Clinton nothing was too small to be investigated and with Bush nothing is too large to be ignored. Amen brother. Anderson then brings up the phrase "Katrina fatigue" and how much it annoys him. I'll never have Katrina fatigue. Honestly they could cover it every night and I'd be okay with that. However, what I do have is stupidity fatigue because we've had a whole lot of that lately. Whoopi thinks everyone is just overwhelmed because everything seems to be falling apart lately. She's right. Life has been hard these last few years and while most people feel for the gulf coast, many are just trying to get by themselves.

Our last clip of the night is of a man Billy met in the lower ninth ward. He's rebuilding his house and he's literally the only one living there. I can't imagine what it must be like to be living all alone surrounded by devastation. The determination is astounding. Anderson mentions all the college kids that have gone down to help and Robin mentions the church groups. I know a group of kids from my own church went and I was happy to participate in one of their fundraisers. I would love to go and be able to help out on the ground. Unfortunately my job, lack of money, and fairly severe back problems are standing in my way. But maybe I'll try if God forbid they still need help next summer. Anderson points out that there is still no plan to rebuild and Whoopi states that she is convinced they've left the ninth ward to rot on purpose so people won't want to come back. I agree with her. I think sometimes we confuse what looks like incompetence with what is actually criminal negligence and a plan to purposely do nothing. Next there's some talk about Robin being in rehab. Robin was in rehab? I guess I'm behind on my Entertainment Tonight viewing. Anderson then laughs us out. I thought it was an entertaining hour.

At the top of this post I promised you some great links. I've read a lot of stuff related to Katrina and some of it has really stayed with me and I'd like to share. First off, there is the piece "Being Poor Like the Nolas" by Boyd Blundell, which imagines New Orleans as the equivalent of a family (the nolas) living in a very affluent neighborhood (Bush Gardens). We follow the nolas through their trials and tribulations and end with their heartbreaking suspicion that there is no neighborhood. Another tearjerker is "They Are Not Coming...A Katrina Diary" from luckydog at dailykos. This is but one of many personal stories. Then there is this post from Bob Geiger, titled "I Know This Little Boy in New Orleans", which simply points out that the children of New Orleans are the same as all our children. Keeping with the tone, Times-Picayune reporter Chris Rose recounts how his Katrina induced depression brought him to the brink in "Hell And Back".

Then there is this diary on dailykos that recaps the Aaron Brown broadcast (with crawl) in which I and many others learned just how bad things were. And if you'd like to get your outrage on, here is a compilation of idiotic and offensive quotes said by our leaders and others in the days surrounding the hurricane. If animation is your cup of tea you should check out this from Mark Fiore, which was posted on September 7, 2005. And finally there is the music video The Saints Are Coming by U2 and Green Day, showing how it all should have been.

Back in July of this year, St. Louis was hit with two unbelievably strong storms within two days of each other that brought hurricane force winds and knocked power out to half a million homes and businesses. To make matters worse, the area was also under a severe heat advisory. A state of emergency was declared, The Red Cross set up shelters, and FEMA was sent. It was the worst disaster the city had seen in a long, long time. If you're wondering why you didn't hear about this, it's because it happened at the same time the Israel/Hezbollah war was starting. Anyway, there was no where to get food or supplies because most everything was closed at first and the roads were dangerous anyway because the lights were out and there was debris everywhere. Some people didn't have water service and some that did were under a boil order (including me), which is hard to do without electricity. I'm telling you all this because as I sat by candlelight listening to a mother call into the radio desperate to find somewhere to buy diapers for her baby, I couldn't help but think of New Orleans. What St. Louis went through isn't comparable at all. The heat wave lifted quickly, the debris was picked up, and in a little over a week everyone had their power back. But it was a reminder how easy it is for a city or town to suddenly find themselves in a heap of trouble and needing someone else to help. If we abandon New Orleans then that means any city can be abandoned. And if we let that happen then those nolas in Boyd Blundell's piece are right, there really is no neighborhood.

Please help:

Comic Relief
Red Cross

Use the comments to tell your own Katrina memories, share a piece, or add another charity to donate.

Screencaps of the show by liberation337. Other pictures from Google images.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was laughing more at Anderson... that man didn't even know what a Ferengi was. Does he live under a rock? At least I forgive him because of Battlestar Gallactica knowledge :) But totally- Robin Williams practically gave me a coniption SHUTUP! Billy and Whoopie could barely say anything. Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch because my motel in Jersey doesn't get that channel. Oh, and I'd love to hear Anderson's personal opinion on stuff... I just hope he doesn't puke on the floor the next time he has to talk about TomKat (lol)!

Sharla

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still don't know what a Feregi is??!!To be candour, I was relieved he didn't either. He's filled his brain with way too much tv trivia...

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Ferengi is an alien species on Star Trek. :)

10:22 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

really nice post Eliza...you captured the hour really well! The Brokeback joke was the best. Still makes me giggle thinking about it.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the whole hour was great. I did worry about Robin and some of his comments, but Anderson laughing seemed like he was having a good time. If he is getting ready to go to Iraq, it is great that he got to do something fun and at the same time promote his Katrina cause.

I remember so much about Katrina. I was so glued to the tv as much as I could with working. It was then that I noticed Anderson. Not for his good looks, but for his caring and compassion. When he attacked, (yes attacked and I am glad for it) the Senator, I was then hooked on him, because I was screeming at the tv, what does all this thanking of politicians have to do with helping these people and apparently Anderson thought the same thing.

I remember wanting to help, but didn't know who to trust with giving money to. My dad had a bad experience with the Red Cross, during WWII and that had always stayed with me. Our local Radio/TV station was taking up donations and they were going to take them down themselves, so that is who I ended up donating to.

Eliza I really like your blog. I like the way you recap all the 360 shows.
Jan

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The burqa was purchased in Afghanistan, not Iraq. From what I saw in the news, Iraqis like Persians tend to wear scarves or veils ( Chador) mainly.

1:16 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

I didn't know what a Feregi is either. We can't all be trekkies. ;)

@Jennifer-Thanks.

@Jan-Thanks. That interview with Landrieu is what hooked me on him too. I'd actually known of him for years, but I didn't start to respect him until he went to Niger and then after Katrina I was officially a fan.

After Katrina I had that feeling of not knowing how to help too. Initially I gave to the Red Cross, but I wasn't sure I was happy with that, so the next time I gave I gave to John Grisham's charity that was profiled on 360. It was cool because he actually sent me a signed thank you letter.

@anonymous 1:16-Oh, you're right. I just heard Iraq and wasn't even thinking. With Robin Williams it was kind of hard to just keep up. ;) I'll change it.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Dixie Girl said...

Being a native New Orleanian, it really means a lot to me that so many people across the country still think about Katrina. My house was spared but my two best friends lost everything. One house had to be demolished and the other house is still under repair. Both families are still displaced.

After the storm, one of the families came to live with my family for 3 months. Never did get a FEMA trailer. They ended up buying their own trailer and parking it in my front yard.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for keeping NOLA in your thoughts. The city is recovering but it is going to be a long, long road for all of us. One good thing from the storm is that friends and family seem to have this "we survived together" attitude and we are all much closer, and we appreciate the more important things in life.

3:39 PM  
Blogger midnite6367 said...

Now instead of just vaguely remembering a story I saw on the news, I know what network I saw it on, the reporter involved, when it aired, and any other information I can. I try to do this with print too.

And that's why I love this blog, TONS of great info and links. Excellent post.

The good thing about the Comic Relief show was that it focused on Katrina victims/survivors, I haven't been hearing as much on the news about what's taking place in the Gulf lately, 360 did a piece on the trailers, but news from the area has lessened a bit, which was bound to happen, but it's a story that shouldn't be forgotten. I hope 360 continues to do the "Keeping Them Honest" segments--sometimes that segment is used for non-Katrina reports that aren't quite as worthy, IMO.

It was fun to watch Anderson laughing so much, he looked like he was going to have a stroke at one point! I keep picturing Anderson sitting on a plane and suffering through the corny jokes of the pilots and saying "oh, puhleeze"...
I'm with Whoopie about flying, no thanks.

I may be remembering this incorrectly but I could've sworn that former presidential candidate Ross Perot used to be described as looking like a Ferengi...

Gloria Vanderbilt is amazing, from purple beaver-skin coats to a bright blue burqa--what a cool lady.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

Great post as always Eliza. You captured the entire hour really well. I agree with all the comments on Katrina.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad your blog is an intellectual place to exchange thoughts. One particular cooper blog is posting scissor sister pictures and if you make a comment about it, guess what, you get censured! That's really mature.

9:23 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Barbara-I'm glad your house was spared and I hope your friends are able to get their lives together soon. I've never been to New Orleans, but since the hurricane I think about it all the time.

@Thank you! I have to admit my brain hurts sometimes. ;) Yeah, it seems as if the Katrina coverage is becoming less and less (from all news sources) and I too am annoyed that the "Keeping Them Honest" segments have been used for what I would deem not worthy subjects, like a lottery scam.

Anderson's laugh is something else. The first time I heard it was when he was on The Daily Show after the January 2005 Iraq elections. At the time I didn't know quite what to thinks about it. Now it just cracks me up.

@Liz-Thanks!

@Anonymous 9:23-Thanks. My blog focuses on the show rather than the man himself. There are A LOT of Anderson Cooper fan blogs out there and some of them are, shall we say, interesting places to visit.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read that Simpson's TV show got cancelled. I'm wondering if he still gets the money. I wonder if Fox finally caved in because of public pressure. Is the book still going to be published?
Gissou

7:30 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Gissou-I heard that too. The book is also being pulled. Yay! Yeah, sounds like it was public pressure. It's not like Murdoch suddenly found he had morals. ;) I'm wondering about the money too. My bet is he's still getting some.

8:52 PM  

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