This is Zach's personal blog. If you're looking for his movies, please click here. Otherwise, have fun!

Friday, September 23, 2005

A tale of two disasters.

The Post's opinion pages has a comparison between Katrina and Chernobyl today. I was going to just highlight one of the comparisons I found funny, but I see they don't actually have the article online. So, here, manually typed in, is the entire article:

"Katrina vs. Chernobyl," by Richard Rhodes and Gwyneth Cravens.


  • Katrina: Levees neglected despite years of warnings of damage a major storm could cause.
  • Chernobyl: Reactor not upgraded despite multiple previous accidents in similar plants.

  • Katrina: Breach of levees: poor design, overconfidence, federal budget cuts.
  • Chernobyl: Reactor expolosion: poor design, overconfidence, construction material shortages.

  • Katrina: New Orleans submerged in contaminated water; billions of dollars in damage.
  • Chernobyl: Widespread radioactive fallout from burning reactor; billions of dollars in damage.

  • Katrina: No protective clothing for local rescue workers.
  • Chernobyl: No protective clothing for local rescue workers.

  • Katrina: Helicopters dropping sand into levee breaches.
  • Chernobyl: Helicopters dropping sand into burning reactor crater.

  • Katrina: FEMA director's previous experience: horse shows. Friend of a friend of the president.
  • Chernobyl: Chernobyl director's previous experience: party hack. Promoted after another reactor exploded on his watch.

  • Katrina: Media coverage overrides attempted political spin.
  • Chernobyl: Dispersing radiation plume overrides attempted coverup.

  • Katrina: Contractors and lobbyists roaming Washington and Baton Rouge, La.
  • Chernobyl: Wolves and feral dogs roaming exclusion zone.


  • Katrina: National leadership response delayed by disbelief, poor coordination, vacations.
  • Chernobyl: National leadership response immediate.

  • Katrina: President Bush tours Gulf Coast five days after storm hits, avoiding New Orleans.
  • Chernobyl: Two Politburo members reach Chernobyl within 48 hours to direct rescue operations.

  • Katrina: 475 buses delayed two days before evacuating 30,000 flood victims from Superdome Evacuation stretches across four days.
  • Chernobyl: 1,216 buses, 300 trucks arrive overnight to evacuate 35,000 residents of Pripyat reactor community. Evacuation completed in one afternoon.

  • Katrina: Delayed and inadequate emergency response, lack of coordination seriously hamper relief.
  • Chernobyl: Quick decisions, good coordination, rapid response remove most of surrounding population from harm.

  • Katrina: Roving gangs of armed criminals, random violence, derelict police officers.
  • Chernobyl: Unarmed and cooperative population, minimal disorder.

  • Katrina: Toll of preventable deaths: 1,069, according to the Associated Press, as of yesterday, and still counting.
  • Chernobyl: Toll of preventable deaths 19 years later: 60.

Richard Rhodes is the author of "The Making of the Atomic Bomb." Gwyneth Cravens's examination of nuclear energy misconceptions, "The Hollow Mounatin," is to be published in 2006.

As published in today's Washington Post.

I'll leave the professional bloggers to dissect this, if anyone reads it, that is.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Just in case you were wondering.

The Podcast is not dead. But it is on life support. I'm told the Congress is going to pass a law to make sure I don't euthanize it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's getting hard to not sound blasé.

<ESC> was just accepted to the Annapolis Film Festival. I found this out just after a producer from G4 (formerly TechTV) emailed me asking if he could screen it as part of a short animation series. Oh, and it was shown at the Animation Block Party in NYC on Thursday... I found out about that one day after the screening. Next time, send your filmmakers an email, guys... is it really that hard?

Rock and roll.

Yesterday was International Talk Like a Pyrite Day...
Arrrgh, matey. I wuz born in th' bowels o' the earth, sulficatious and hotter than the blast o' a spanish cannon. Me golden face may sometimes be striated, an' even octahedral. I've a specific gravity that swims somewhere around 5.0, as like as not, and a conchoidal fracture, and am polymorphic with mah goodly chum, Marcas.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Events, momentous, more.

Yesterday wasn't quite as wild as Friday in terms of accolades, compliments, and swooning, but <ESC> did get a big laugh (or two). No one had any questions for me this time; it might have been because there was a different moderator, who was much less energetic. (Presumably, that's 'cause no one on the festival staff had slept for four days.) But, afterward, the Cleveland Film Society gentleman came up to me (he was much more casual this time, wearing a Browns jersey), and said, "Okay, you can send 'em both." So, two films, guaranteed in. Not a bad haul. (Although, as a friend said when I told him I was heading to Cleveland, "I'm sorry.")

The whole family came to this screening, and D & E were quite good at staying in their seat, although D did feel the need to comment on nearly everything. The awards ceremony was as fun as such things ever are when one doesn't get awards. I'm reminded of something the playwright Nicky Silver wrote in the introduction to a compilation of his plays:
A word on awards. I've been nominated for quite a few and won a couple. It's a strange phenomenon. I arrive feeling quite above the fray. I, personally, NEVER think I have the remotest chance of winning, so I adopt an "artists shouldn't compete" attitude. Within five minutes of the evenings [sic] commencement, I start to think... "What the hell, I could win. You never know." By the time my category rolls around I'm in a white-knuckled frenzy of competitive zeal, ruthless to win the damn thing! "Let me at MY statue and why is everyone clapping for Terrence McNally!"
That's pretty much exactly how I feel at these sorts of things.

But better than a glass statue (though they were pretty neat, and apparently hand-made by the festival director) is acclaim from total strangers. Godfrey found a bloig [sic] entry by a member of the selection committee for D.C. Shorts, and what she said made my jaw drop:
So let me reveal what I believe to be the highlights of the festival. At the top of my list is "Soap Opera� by a local filmmaker, Zachary Brewster-Geisz. Mozart is surely rolling over in his grave--but I don�t care. In this animated aria from "Don Giovanni,� set in a bathroom, the shampoo and soap and sponge sing gloriously in Italian--with subtitles. It�s hilarious.
It's enough to make one think one's in a 40s musical. "What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again..."*

I went to the closing reception at a local arts place. A couple people complimented me on the films, but mostly I stood around, eating brie and crackers. (Brie! Can't afford it usually.) One gentleman, who will no doubt visit me in my nightmares, stood staring at my name badge (which also listed my films) and approached me slowly. Being helpful, I lifted the badge up to display it, and chuckled nervously.

"Soap Opera," he said. "What's that?"

"Ah, it's an opera, sung by soap," I said.

"Oh," he said. There was an awkward silence, and then he looked to my left at the painting I was standing next to. Except, he didn't move, and remained standing one foot in front of me. I remained there for an uncomfortable moment--should I say more, try to start a conversation?--and eventually mumbled "excuse me," and sidled back over to the cheese table.

* That's Gene Kelly, not Malcom McDowell.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Events, momentous.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. We went to Cunningham Falls and hiked a little bit (very little, since with two kids, one of whom refuses to wear anything but a dress and tights, you don't want to take the Cliff Edge trail), then had a romantic dinner at, uh, TGIFriday's. We closed the evening after the kids had gone to bed with our anniversary tradition of opening a bottle of champagne and getting rip-roaring drunk. Of course, we drink so rarely that one glass each is enough to get us singing old Andy Hardy songs, so...

But anniversaries are so old hat. I've had, what, eleven of 'em? (More than my parents had, actually.) The real excitement this weekend was the D.C. Shorts Festival, in which I have two animated films. You can read about them here (PDF), in an article in the Washington City Paper in which you can also see my ugly mug.

The first screening was Friday, preceded by a gala opening-night party, in which K and I were given the literal red-carpet treatment, with photographers and flashbulbs, the whole shebang. I was expecting a more typical hotel-lobby style reception, but this was huge; clearly someone hired a publicist who knew how to Create a Buzz in the Social Scene. Ah, Hollywood. It was all pretty ridiculous. We spent an hour and a half there, met up with a few friends who had been kind enough to come, and then went to feed the meter so our car didn't get booted. Except, we were out of change, so we decided to take our chances. And no, this story won't end with a tow or a boot, so don't get your hopes up.

The screening, as expected, was sold out. Soap Opera was the third film shown, and the first real comedy of the evening. We got a good deal of laughs, though I was too nervous to pay attention to them. My "fan club" of about ten friends probably pumped up the applause-o-meter a bit.

After the screening was over, there was a question-and-answer session with the directors. Here's a partial transcript:
Q: How did you all raise the money for your films?

Other filmmakers: Well, I got a grant and blahblahblah and it was in completion of the MFA and blahblahblah and corporate sponsors and blahblahblah and fundraising blahblahblah...

Me: Um... my film was made for free.

There was one woman who had read the City Paper article and wanted to know where she could find my other films, so I directed her to my website.

When the Q&A was over, I hugged my parents, who had driven all the way from Albany (why were they in Albany, I wonder?), and as I was chatting with them, a gentleman from the Cleveland Film Festival came up to me, gave me his card, and said he wanted to show Soap Opera at the festival in March. "No entry fee, no selection process, you're in if you're interested." Naturally, I told him no. (That's a joke, son.) After I had picked myself off the floor, we headed home to relieve the babysitter, who had done seven hours of duty. We finally climbed into bed around 1 A.M. We realized it was our anniversary already, and, um, celebrated.

Today is the final day of the fest, and my other film, <ESC>, is showing at noon. There's also an awards ceremony afterward. I'm not expecting anything, but who knows? Watch this space for details.

Friday, September 16, 2005

In the interest of fairness and balanced-ness, I should point out that the government appears to have dropped its no-photo policy. There's also some evidence that it was never evenly applied anyway--for instance, photographers from the Times-Picayune were never kept from sites.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The timeline.

No, not a text timeline of the events of Katrina--a photo timeline. Via Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Read this.

Trust me.
Hey, wow! My first comment spam! I guess posting a link in Eschaton has its effect.

Washington Post, free speech watchdog.

Surely the Post ran a story about the implicit censorship of Katrina's death toll?

Why, yes, they did.

Of course, it was only a reprint of a story by Reuters, and it was in the Style section, on the eighth page, but what can you do?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More on press censorship.

Andrew Sullivan is on it. So is Brian Williams of NBC:
While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.

At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It's a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.

Will the media ignore these orders, and take the damned pictures that we need to see? These pictures of victims of negligent fucking homicide?

Press being turned away from New Orleans.

If this is true--and it came from a blogger on the scene--it is the worst abuse of power yet.
No Accountability: Bush Locks Press Out of NOLA
September 7th, 2005
We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they�re TV trucks around.

Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.

The original link is here, but it's down at the moment since being Atrios'd. However I can confirm that the web page did exist--I saw it with my own eyes and copied and pasted the text from my history.

Add to that the Reuters story via
FEMA Wants No Photos of Dead
From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS � The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats.

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

If there was ever a time that full, unfettered photography and reporting was needed, it is now. The dead have faces. THEY MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN, AND THE GOVERNMENT MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

For those who want to know a little bit more about Squelch, check out the new animation web site, masked by tinyurl, of course. There are some pretty good films there, but mostly be sure to check the "about" page.
The Post is now publishing some of Tom Toles' original sketches.

I'll be back with a reaction to Katrina and its aftermath. I find it hard to comprehend at this point.