On May 25th, 2020, the California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing performed a flyover the Bay Area and Central California. Southern California had their own flyover as well.
There was a map (shown below) beforehand and I saw that it would be flying right over us. I made sure to be ready to record this.
The flyovers began and ended at Moffett Air National Guard Base in Mountain View. The aerial formation included one HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and two HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and passed over north and south Bay Area medical facilities. In addition, a single HC-130J Combat King aircraft, also set to begin from Moffett, will perform a flyover and pass over Central and Salinas Valley area. The flyovers were to show gratitude to health care workers during this pandemic.
Our house was positioned in between San Rafael Kaiser hospital and Sutter hospital in Novato.
There wasn't anything normal about 2020. In January, I had been really sick. As I emerged from the illness, I started following this novel virus in the Wunan province and Northern Italy with deep concern, because it was only a matter of time that it would effect us. I nervously attended live music concerts being the only person in my circle that was concerned at the time.
On March 16th, everything shutdown and we were all sheltering-in-place. It seemed that the entire world was in shutdown. There were scenes where the virus hit first where people would go out on their balconies and bang pots and cheer in honor of the health care workers. Marin decided to join in by howling. It started just south of us in Mill Valley, and spread quickly. Every night at 8pm, the howling and banging of pots could be heard.
One night on April Fools, I went out to capture it happening in my neighborhood. There was a forum on Facebook devoted to those who howled that seemed to extend to the entire American west and perhaps further. People would howl for loved ones who died or who were sick. Some howled because they lost a job. Many not only howled to honor health care workers, but to connect with each other. It was a way to feel solidarity with neighbors and connect via their voices. There was a little bit or even more than a little bit of cabin fever craziness involved mixed with a little primal yell. The howling was sad, exhilarating, and strange.
The howling did not survive the Spring. I imagine there a many reasons for this. There will be a list of things that happened in 2020 that will be difficult to explain to those who were too little during 2020 or came after 2020.
Americans decided to collectively forget going through the 1918 pandemic, and it will be interesting to see if we decide again to forget or decide to remember so we can be better next time.
M. Jack Steckel's 21st Century Vaudeville
"While at Apple, Tad Williams developed an interest in interactive multi-media, and he and his colleague Andrew Harris created a company, Telemorphix, in order to produce it. The result was "M. Jack Steckel's 21st Century Vaudeville", which was broadcast on San Francisco Bay Area local TV in 1992 and 1993. People at the station and viewers were asked to provide images of themselves, which were then animated primarily at the mouth: viewers phoned in to the show and could then be these characters. The action was a mix of improvisational performance and storylines which Williams created (along with secondary, non-interactive characters.) M. Jack Steckel himself—the host—was played by Andrew Harris."
I was a college student at SFSU in 1992-93 living with roommates in San Francisco when in channel surfing one night came upon a strange show on local cable access. They were driving around familiar tunnels and streets of the city while the host was interacting with callers. It was fascinating to all of us and we ended up contacting them. Since we all had Macromind Director and graphics skills we started working with them. I created Ms. Savage Fear who was this chain smoking punker chick and an ample home shopping network woman who you could animate by calling in. I hosted some shows as Ms. Savage Fear coming after local cable access show, The Lavender Lounge. People would send in random videos we would play, including a dark and strange video of a train passing Auschwitz and someone speaking in Polish.
As host, not knowing what would come next in the program required improv skills whether it was commenting on a video or interacting with random people who would call in. It was interactive television that was before its time. We would get paid for our time when Telemorphix got money, but that never happened, which was fine. It was worth it because it was fun to try to do something no one has done before and to use technology in creative and artistic ways.
As soon as it entered our lives, M. Jack Steckel's 21st Century Vaudeville, disappeared. The above video is the version of the show when it was in Boston.
When you live long enough, you find that places you worked are gone. Not all of your work gets preserved. Sometimes you feel that you are just painting with butter or sand that is impermanent. Digital work on 3.5 inch disks, hard drives, or IOMEGA Zip Drives gets corrupted. For so many years, I was on a PC platform which can crash hard drives. Sometimes what you do is like a butter or sand painting that gets experienced at the time only to be wiped away over time and erosion. Digital work is often lost and also the work you do in the analog world isn't captured either. Not everything has been saved in files, photographed, or caught on video. If I come across any of my art from 21st Century Vaudeville, I will certainly post it.
For many reasons, that I will probably expound on in future posts, I have been trying to escape social media. I have been on Twitter and Facebook for almost 13 years and for the past six years, I have been trying to give it up. Giving it up meant that I would lose the positive connections I have developed. If I cannot escape social media, I can at least change my relationship with it.
I have been trying to get back to blogging and having a website with social media being a source of writing and art prompts. Eventually, when this is fully operational, I can just use my social media accounts to point here if people want to keep in touch or interact with me. I can use social media here.
This plan I have has already made a difference. I was properly outraged by something on social media this morning and was into a Facebook post. Then I stopped myself and scolded myself, "Save that for the blog. You are there to enjoy and stay in touch with friends and family."
So much of social media delivers pellets of outrage that is designed for you to engage with it without thinking or what Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls fast thinking instead of slow thinking. Slow thinking is more purposeful and careful, whereas fast thinking just blurts out in flight or fight. I will blog more about this.
I am off the 24/7 cable news opinion peddling and have returned to the days where you go to one of the three broadcast channels and have an hour of local news and an hour of national and international news. It is a healthier way to consume news. So I am trying to do the same with social media.
I just peaked over at Twitter and someone I have followed for a long time is taking a break because someone had sent death threats to his brother. So, there is a toxicity there as much as it can be silly. So I am creating an online home that is mine. Hope you can join me.
Imagine it is the morning of your 25th wedding anniversary and there is a strange red glow coming from your curtains. You pull back the curtains and everything is imbued with an orange red fog. Even your teenage son, who normally is in a state of being unimpressed by things, was shocked and took a picture of it.
Since the climate change driven extreme wildfires began in 2017, we were accustomed to unhealthy to very unhealthy air from wildfire smoke. While children elsewhere have snow days, kids here have had a smoke day, when the air hit dangerous. The smoke seasons of 2017, 2018, and 2019 did not prepare us for this day of red skies. Fortunately, the smoke was actually far enough up in the atmosphere that it wasn't a health hazard at all. It was just ominous and suggested some dystopia had found us. This video of my native city cemented the comparison to Blade Runner.
Earlier, in March someone got drone footage of the City emptied by COVID shelter-in-place that still stirs up emotions and a tear. Even though I moved away from it and live just north over the Golden Gate, it is still my town. Having had a lifetime of memories in this city, my mind still has trouble processing these videos.
The Verge had a great write up about these red skies. The day of red skies will be forever burnt into my memories of 2020, but I also know this could very likely to happen again and perhaps worse. Every fire season gets increasingly worse.
What happened in 2020 all started with a dry electrical storm on August 16th, 2020. It was a hot, dry, and windy Summer. We all held our breath that the electrical storm would not start fires. I remember staying up and heading to the cottage to watch the lightning storm from the windows. It was beautiful but hard to capture on my iphone. So I just took it in knowing there will be plenty of footage of them across the region. Unfortunately, this big and weird lightning storm would create a record wildfire season that created these red skies.
A man, a neighbor who lives on the other end of the street saw a family draw on the sidewalk of this intersection. They were drawing in support of LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter. It was a family with kids. This man started yelling and cursing them in front of the children. They feared for their safety and caught him on video. George Floyd's death was shaking our country along with Breonna Taylor and countless other names. This video hit us close to home and I still do not understand why anyone would think that the notion of Black Lives Matter would be even a bit controversial. I cannot understand any human being having any problems with that statement. Yet, my neighbor did.
When I was talking to my friends in the neighborhood, I said that the answer to this man is we need more chalk. So I bought a large box of chalk and wore a mask in support of this family and in support of Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community. It was a celebration of free speech. This was during a pandemic and it was the first time for me being out with a group of people. For the next two weeks after I waited to see if I would get any signs of COVID (Yay, I didn't), but it was totally worth it.
As you can see, we had a remarkable turnout considering we were in a pandemic. We had one guy come around without a mask asking us why we were wearing masks. He suggested we were wearing a mask to hide our identities. What I said to him was that it was an expression of care for others and ourselves. I did not want to get into with him because we were here for Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community.
I do not know if this man learned his lesson or not. The important thing was that we had the last word.