Sitting on the beach in Destin, Florida. I’m held hostage by the white sand, blue water, orange juice and sparkling wine.
I did a phone interview for a story my first day here. Since then the beautiful weather and steamed shrimp has stifled any motivation to do more than dig my toes deeper into the refined grains of rock and minerals of the Gulf of Mexico.
I intend to finish three stories while I’m here, but you know what they say about good intentions.
This time last year there was a black hole bleeding approximately 798,000 gallons of toxic Texas tea into the gulf daily. One year later many victims are still waiting for compensation.
Their lawyers say BP has failed to comply with “the letter and spirit” of the U.S. Oil Pollution Act by using “coercive tactics” to force people to accept inadequate payments. They convince the victims that they are only eligible for a small amount of money and they have to sign a full release to receive it. Many have accepted the terms because they can’t afford to wait anymore.
BP set up a $20 billion account to pay victims and damages last year. To date, the company has paid more than 20,000 claimants for a total of $250 million, fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg said. Altogether BP has paid about $4.3 billion in damages.
But the company is doing extremely well financially. They reported a $5.3 billion profit for the second quarter of 2011. It’s a shame the property owners, businesses, and people that live in the Gulf aren’t doing as well as BP is one year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Like the hole that spewed 205 million gallons of oil into the gulf, there is a hole in our system that allows the elite to abuse it. They have the financial means to jockey the courts, destroy environments and ruin lives while making ridiculous profits.
We should slash the red tape of our legal system and use it to bind the hands of giant corporations that use it to exploit the country’s middle and working-classes. Some of these bloated companies would inevitably get tangled and asphyxiate trying to get free. Like animals in an oil spill. But capitalism is survival of the fittest.
This 90 degree heat and cool ocean breeze must be getting to me. I’ll just listen to the waves crash, go back to burying my toes in the sand and consider doing the same with my head. After this mimosa.
A man named Tim drove me around Piedmont yesterday. We followed the path of the May tornado from east to west by northwest. It was humbling to see the destruction, even two months later.
It was more humbling to hear the story of goodwill from members of the community after the storm. The tornado didn’t just lay waste to lives and homes. It raked across the countryside like an errant plowshare and buried small town politics. If only temporarily.
Earlier this week I surveyed some of the damage alone. The day before I went out there my cousin told me it looked like a scene from “Apocalypse Now,” but I didn’t really believe him.
Some homes were leveled. Many looked like chewed up shoeboxes. One reminded me of a grand piano, with chunks of wall missing and its roof splayed upward like a propped lid. But it wasn’t grand and the only music I could hear was the overbearing wind pushing a storm eastward just south of me.
Three guys were cleaning up the remnants of a home less than a quarter-mile away. They were busting up the foundation with a jackhammer. The driver of the Bobcat would hit the throttle – dumping pressure through the hydraulic lines like adrenaline in the bloodstream – and slam the metal spike into the concrete in rapid bursts. It was destruction razing destruction so that someone can rebuild.
Some residents don’t plan to rebuild.
Tim said construction of one house was completed shortly before the tornado wiped it out.
He told me a story of homeowners who had been fighting with their insurance company for months before the storm. They were uninsured and lost everything.
One house had just been rebuilt from a fire not long before it was demolished by the tornado.
Another house has already been repaired and sold.
Some homes had been relatively new and others had been there for 30 years. One had 12 windows busted out but was otherwise untouched. Others were reduced to twisted metal and piles of bricks and wood scattered across the ground.
The drone of the Bobcat motor and the “pop-pop-pop” of the jackhammer combined with the debris and destruction gave the former neighborhood the semblance of a warzone.
My cousin was right.
This is some of the footage I shot. I will have more video with my story. The structure in the third image used to be a three story house. Check out the last scene of the storm shelter and the storm in the background, there used to be multiple trees and houses behind the now-vacant foundation.
I used to live in California. I worked in a recording studio in San Francisco and played in punk rock bands. We played shows big and small from San Diego to Seattle and Japan.
I’ve wanted to record an album since I was two-years-old. That’s one reason I recorded other people’s music; I was determined to get my name in the liner notes of a record.
Liner notes – such a dated concept, right? Aside from vinyl enthusiasts, who buys physical records anymore?
Apparently more people than I thought, but that number is decreasing.
Fifty-three percent of all music in the U.S was purchased as physical discs and 43 percent of sales were digital downloads during the first quarter of 2011.
Those numbers were 57 percent and 43 percent, respectively, for the same time last year, according to the NPD group. But overall music sales are up for the first time since 2004.
The news isn’t as positive for books.
One report says physical sales were down anywhere from 23 to 42 percent last month, depending on the type of book. Meanwhile, e-book sales were up 157 percent for some companies.
Adult Fiction was hit hardest by e-book sales, according to Publishers Weekly.
Speaking of adults, the average age of a video-gamer is 37-years-old.
A few days ago, I watched my mother play “Bubble Shooter” for an hour on her iPhone. Afterward we discussed her high score at length. My mother joined AARP a few years ago and she never played video games while I was growing up.
Total hardware and software sales for video games are up from last year. Over all sales were almost $6 billion but physical sales of video games are decreasing slightly and downloadable sales are increasing.
Over one million units of “Gears of War 3” have been preordered worldwide and it doesn’t hit the streets until September. In music, Adele’s new album, “21,” is the biggest album of the year; it has sold 2.5 million copies since February.
What does all of this mean? How does all of this affect local businesses?
I’ll answer those questions and more in the story I’m working on.
For the record, my name eventually made it into the liner notes of a few albums as a band member and an engineer.
I’ve been a recreational reader since kindergarten but I rarely read nonfiction without someone forcing it on me. But earlier this year I turned a new page and started reading nonfiction for personal enjoyment.
The books have been primarily about Oklahoma territory and Native-American history. It started with “Empire of the Summer Moon,” a brutal and thrilling examination of “Comancheria,” Quanah Parker and the Comanche tribe’s forgotten place in the history of the Great Plains. I am familiar with the stories. I grew up hearing and learning about them from every perspective but the book still blew my mind.
I’ve also read “The Way to Rainy Mountain,” a book of stories and poems about the Kiowa tribe and a sacred foothill southeast of Gotebo in Kiowa County. The place was important to the tribe for many reasons but it also served as geographical marker. Before U.S. development, the plains were an amorphous land comparable to an ocean or desert in vastness, danger and navigability.
I used to cut wheat and plow fields at the foot of that landmark when I was a kid. I would commute from Apache via back roads and also use Rainy Mountain as a guide.
Right now I’m reading “Chilocco: Memories of a Native American Boarding School.” The book is about the “Indian Agricultural School” north of Ponca City, just inside the state line. It was open from 1884 to 1980. More than 5,000 students graduated from there and approximately 18,000 students, representing 176 different tribes, walked the massive 8,640 acre campus.
I plan to read “Carbine and Lance: the Story of Old Fort Sill” next. I went to the museum at the military base every year as a child, but I hope to learn something new from the book.
These books and stories like the one on Collings Castle by Derrick Ho and Hannah Rieger, and others I found in the archives have inspired me.
While writing stories for the metro section, the know-it section of Newsok, the forthcoming Yukon Living Guide, and working on stories for the business section, I’ve also been developing a multimedia project that examines endangered historical sites in Oklahoma.
I’m just not sure if I will have time to do them all.
Many of these sites are rural and forgotten. It is sad to see locations rich in historical significance give way to the elements of weather and neglect. Oklahoma City residents had the tax base and common sense to restore Bricktown. However, there is no economic incentive to save many places on the list of the state’s most endangered historic places.
I have five sites selected. I hope to do at least three. Feel free to email me with any suggestions at email@example.com.