Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes is community page on Facebook, which re-unites individuals with personal items lost during the recent tornadoes that devastated the southern states of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana. Created by Patty Bullion, after hundreds of photographs and documents fell from the sky into her yard, last Wednesday, as the New York Times reports:
One document, lying face down on the wet pavement, was a sonogram, just like those she had saved from her own pregnancies. “I would want that back,” she said.
Ms. Bullion already had her own Facebook page with a few hundred friends, but the chances of any of them knowing the people whose items she had found were slim, she thought. So she created a new page with a title that described precisely what she hoped it would contain: “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes.” She asked her friends to post a link to it on their own pages.
“I feel like I know these people,” Ms. Bullion said. “They could so easily have been us.”
The first of the images that Ms. Bullion had posted was identified a few hours later by the sister of two children shown in a black-and-white photograph. They were from Hackleburg, Ala., the sister wrote in the comments section, a town almost 100 miles away: Ms. Bullion’s husband, a forest ranger, looked it up on a map.
By Friday evening, more than 52,000 people had clicked the “like” button on the page, and more than 600 pictures had been posted: an unopened letter, a death certificate and scores of photographs. Some of the items were unscathed. Some were carefully pieced together by their finder. Some, like mortgage statements and canceled checks, evoked calls to be sure to block out account numbers and personal financial information.
One water-damaged picture of a chubby-cheeked toddler elicited over two dozen comments, its rips and smudges an unavoidable metaphor for what people feared had happened to the child. “This breaks my heart,” wrote one commenter. A digitally restored version someone posted yielded approving comments, almost as though saving the picture could ensure the child’s safety.
If you can help identify any of the people in the pictures, or have photos and documents to post, please check Patty Bullion’s page here.
Terrific documentary from 1980 on the roots of reggae. Director Howard Johnson interviews some of the seminal figures in the pioneering of ska, rock steady, toasting, sound systems and reggae. Deep Roots Music - Revival/Ranking contains some rarely seen archival footage of the early Jamaican music scene. This IS deep. Truly informed and informative with some great great music. With cinematography by the masterful Roger Deakins. Close to three hours of non-stop ranking!
Featuring: The Skatalites, Toots and The Maytals, Prince Buster, Lee Perry, Bob Marley, The Mighty Diamonds, U Roy and many more.
His first assignment for Esquire was to interview Frank Sinatra - no easy task, as Old Blue Eyes had knocked back such requests from the magazine over several years. But Gay Talese wasn’t so quickly put off. He spent 3 months following Sinatra and his entourage, racking up $5,000 in expenses. Not common then and unthinkable now in these days of Google and Wikipedia.
The result of Talese’s hard work was “Frank Sinatra has a cold”, possibly the best profile written on the singer and certainly one of the greatest pieces of New Journalism written at that time. As writer and broadcaster Michael Kinsley has since said, “It’s hard to imagine a magazine article today having the kind of impact that [this] article and others had in those days in terms of everyone talking about it purely on the basis of the writing and the style.”
What’s great about “Frank Sinatra has a cold” is what’s best about Talese as a writer - his ability to make the reader feel centered in the story by reconstructing the reported events using the techniques of fiction. You can see this technique in another of his essays, “Joe Louis: The King as a Middle-aged Man”, which begins:
“ ‘Hi, sweetheart!’ Joe Louis called to his wife, spotting her waiting for him at the Los Angeles airport.
She smiled, walked toward him, and was about to stretch up on her toes and kiss him, but suddenly stopped.
‘Joe,’ she said, ‘where’s your tie?’
‘Aw, sweetie,’ he said, shrugging, ‘I stayed out all night in New York and didn’t have time.’
‘All night!’ she cut in. ‘When you’re out here all you do is sleep, sleep, sleep.’
‘Sweetie,’ Joe Louis said, with a tired grin, ‘I’m an ole man.’
‘Yes,’ she agreed, ‘but when you go to New York you try to be young again.’”
The article has its own symmetry and ended with one of the boxer’s ex-wives, Rose, watching home footage of Louis’s fight against Billy Conn:
“Rose seemed excited at seeing Joe at the top of his form, and every time a Louis punch would jolt Conn, she’d go ‘Mummmm’ (sock). ‘Mummmm’ (sock). ‘Mummmm.’
Billy Conn was impressive through the middle rounds, but as the screen flashed Round 13, somebody said, ‘Here’s where Conn’s gonna make his mistake: he’s gonna try to slug it out with Joe Louis.’ Rose’s husband remained silent, sipping his Scotch.
When the Louis combinations began to land, Rose went ‘Mummmm, mummmm,’ and then the pale body of Conn began to collapse against the canvas.
Billy Conn slowly began to rise. The referee counted over him. Conn had one leg up, then two, then was standing - but the referee forced him back. It was too late.
But Rose’s husband in the back of the room disagreed.
‘I thought Conn got up in time,’ he said, ‘but that referee wouldn’t let him go on.’
Rose Morgan said nothing - just swallowed the rest of her drink.”
It’s a clever and poignant ending, revealing as much about Rose and her relationship with her husbands, as it does about Talese’s talent as a writer. It also signals his need to record everything, which is all the more impressive when you know Talese never used a tape recorder when working on these profiles.
Gay Talese was born into a Catholic, Italian-American family in Ocean City, New Jersey in 1932. It was an upbringing he would later claim made him “not unfamiliar with the condition of being an outsider”:
“Indeed it was a role for which his background had most naturally prepared him: an Italo-American parishioner in an Irish-American church, a minority Catholic in a predominantly Protestant hometown, a northerner attending a southern college, a conservative young man of the fifties who invariably wore a suit and a tie, a driven man who chose as his calling one of the few possessions that was open to mental masqueraders: he became a journalist, and thus gained a licence to circumvent his inherent shyness, to indulge his rampant curiosity, and to explore the lives of individuals he considered more interesting than himself.”
His father was a tailor and his mother ran a dress boutique, it was here the young Talese learned his first journalistic skills:
“The shop was a kind of talk show that flowed around the engaging manner and well-timed questions of my mother; and as a boy not much taller than the counters behind which I used to pause and eavesdrop, I learned much that would be useful to me years later when I began interviewing people for articles and books.
I learned to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments (as the listening skills of my patient mother taught me) people are very revealing - what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them.”
In his brilliant “Frank Sinatra has a cold” Talese created a portrait of the singer that captured his over-bearing “mood of sullen silence”, his capricious nature, which made him at times both cruel and aggressive; or kind and overly generous. Talese revealed the background of Sinatra, the only child from Hoboken, who was scarred at birth by forceps, considered a weakling, reared mainly by his grandmother, his father a Sicilian who boxed under the name of Marty O’Brien, his mother worked at a chocolate factory, was strict and ambitious, who originally wanted her son to become an aviation engineer.
“When she discovered Bing Crosby pictures hanging on his bedroom walls one evening, and learned that her son wished to become a singer too, she became infuriated and threw a shoe at him. Later, finding she could not talk him out of it - ‘he takes after me’ - she encouraged his singing.”
Unlike other members of the New Journalism group (Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson), Talese didn’t put himself at the heart of his essays, rather he saw himself as a non-judgmental writer, who allowed each subject to speak for him / her self. Nowhere was this more true than in “The Loser”, his incredible profile of boxer Floyd Paterson, which included a shocking admission by the former World Champion:
“Now, walking slowly around the room, his black silk robe over his sweat clothes, Patterson said, ‘You must wonder what makes a man do things like this. Well, I wonder too. And the answer is, I don’t know…but I think that within me, within every human being, there is a certain weakness. It is a weakness that exposes itself more when you’re alone. And I have figured out that part of the reason I do the things I do, and cannot seem to conquer that one word - myself - is because…is because…I am a coward.’”
Non-judgmental, perhaps. But somewhere down the line, Talese makes the decision of what to keep and what to cut out, and by nuance and omission, he shapes our impressions, and gives the reader an intimacy mere facts could not supply.
Seven pages in, there is an incredible event that gets described where a bunch of professional drummers, invited by Brian Eno from some of the biggest bands in the world, allowed Eagleman to observe them. They were outfitted with EEG units on their heads in special workstations for the data collection.
Early this winter, I joined Eagleman in London for his most recent project: a study of time perception in drummers. Timing studies tend to be performed on groups of random subjects or on patients with brain injuries or disorders. They’ve given us a good sense of average human abilities, but not the extremes: just how precise can a person’s timing be? “In neuroscience, you usually look for animals that are best at something,” Eagleman told me, over dinner at an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill. “If it’s memory, you study songbirds; if it’s olfaction, you look at rats and dogs. If I were studying athletes, I’d want to find the guy who can run a four-minute mile. I wouldn’t want a bunch of chubby high-school kids.”
The idea of studying drummers had come from Brian Eno, the composer, record producer, and former member of the band Roxy Music. Over the years, Eno had worked with U2, David Byrne, David Bowie, and some of the world’s most rhythmically gifted musicians. He owned a studio a few blocks away, in a converted stable on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac, and had sent an e-mail inviting a number of players to participate in Eagleman’s study. “The question is: do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?” Eno said. “Everyone who has ever worked in a band is sure that they do.”
The drummers study was inspired by an anecdote Eno told Eagleman:
“I was working with Larry Mullen, Jr., on one of the U2 albums,” Eno told me. “ ‘All That You Don’t Leave Behind,’ or whatever it’s called.” Mullen was playing drums over a recording of the band and a click track—a computer-generated beat that was meant to keep all the overdubbed parts in synch. In this case, however, Mullen thought that the click track was slightly off: it was a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the band. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be so, Larry,’ ” Eno recalled. “ ‘We’ve all worked to that track, so it must be right.’ But he said, ‘Sorry, I just can’t play to it.’ ”
Eno eventually adjusted the click to Mullen’s satisfaction, but he was just humoring him. It was only later, after the drummer had left, that Eno checked the original track again and realized that Mullen was right: the click was off by six milliseconds. “The thing is,” Eno told me, “when we were adjusting it I once had it two milliseconds to the wrong side of the beat, and he said, ‘No, you’ve got to come back a bit.’ Which I think is absolutely staggering.”
Read The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain (The New Yorker)
And this is as good an excuse as any to post a number by my favorite drummer, Afro Beat pioneer, the great Tony Allen:
Regular readers of this blog know what happened to us a few weeks back (update here) with one of our posts getting dinged for being “abusive” on Facebook. Yesterday mega-blog, Ars Technica had their corporate Facebook page, where they are able to reach over 40,000 readers in their news feeds, locked out for supposed copyright infringement. Clearly, Ars Techina is no fly-by night organization, and yet they were subject to the same dumb rules as everyone else. The story is really blowing up today, with prominent blogs like Gawker and the Atlantic Wire weighing in. It’s about time the media holds Facebook’s feet to the fire on this issue until they FINALLY change their policies favoring whiners, complainers, blue-noses, trolls and cyber-bullies.
Prior to the account lockout, we had received no notices of infringement or warnings. Truly, we awoke to find that Facebook had summoned a judge, jury, and executioner and carried out its swift brand of McJustice all without bothering to let us know that there was even a problem.
Further investigation has revealed just how flawed Facebook’s infringement reporting system is. To begin with, someone making a complaint can provide any third-party e-mail address they choose. So it is rather easy to spoof the origin of a complaint, while giving Facebook and the accused no chance for a direct rejoinder.
Everyone who uses Facebook is on some level a Facebook partner. A thoroughgoing social site, it is nothing without its users. That Facebook would so harshly judge and move against its most valuable assets without any semblance of fairness or evenhandedness is disappointing.
I whole-heartedly agree. First and foremost, the backasswards way they handle complaints is simply unintelligent, counterproductive and can have extrremely negative consequences for the businesses which are unfairly targeted, often by their own competitors using a fake email address that can’t be traced back!
As Sarah Perez revealed at Read Write Web on the Ars Technica fiasco found out that just about anybody can take down even million dollar companies on Facebook, because the company doesn’t even bother to verify the identity of the complainer:
However, what Facebook does not do is verify whether or not any of that contact information is accurate. While doing so may be an administrative burden the network could not afford, it does not even take the simple step of verifying the reporter’s email address is valid.
Scam artists, as you may have guessed, have discovered this loophole. In one case, with Hamard Dar’s Rewriting Technology site, the page went down for over a month. Dar says he was targeted for money. “He wanted me to pay him…to get the page back,” he told us. Dar didn’t go for that option, however, because there was no guarantee the scammer would return the page once paid. Instead, Dar ran his own personal investigation until he discovered the person involved and threatened him to withdraw the complaint, saying he would report him to U.S. cyber crime enforcement (the scam artist lives in Chicago). The page was then returned.
Facebook has really got to get their shit together on this issue. Just today, dozens of political activists in the UK—including folks related to mainstream group UK Uncut—had their Facebook pages purged. With what we all know will be an absolutely insane election season coming up, their indefensible censorship policies (who are their lawyers anyway???) will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on free speech, no matter what side of the political divide you’re on.