Thursday, June 19, 2008

Iowa's "Katrina"?

The thing is, though, the people of eastern Iowa seem to be stepping up in the Iowa stubborn way. I have seen any number of man-on-the-street interviews, and nobody is complaining. They all seem to be working to solve their problem, which is not surprising because Iowans do not complain about tragedy. They complain about hot weather and dry weather, but not tragedy. And I have looked for reports of looting and come up empty so far.

Katrina has become a metaphor for many things beyond natural disaster, including governmental and individual incompetence (depending on your point of view). In Iowa there is a 500 year flood, but the people are not paralyzed, whining, or looting. There will be no massive relief effort from around the world, and nobody will step up to help Iowans except for other Iowans. Yet years from now, there will be no Iowans still in FEMA camps.

The difference is not in the severity of the flood, but in the people who confront the flood.

Why does rail suck?

It's gotten to the point where I absolutely hate flying and long for a return to a more civilized age of rail travel. Unfortunately passenger rail (in the United States anyway) is government enterprise, and they do it about as well as they do everything else.

Megan McArdle explains:

Why isn't there a high speed train from New York to Chicago? Well, first of all, this would greatly anger legislators from New York and Michigan, who like the fact that the Chicago train must pass through Buffalo and Detroit, even if this assures that almost no one with a job will actually use it.

There's also the problem of the Federal construction process. The high speed train between DC and Charlotte was first conceived in the early 1990s. The EIS for this project will be completed probably sometime in 2010. Then we have to get final legislative authority. Then we have to put out the project for bids. By the time the thing is actually built, we'll probably all have evolved an extra leg and be able to run faster than the high speed train.

Cyd Charisse dead at 86.

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952).

She was lovely and talented, one heck of a dancer, and for my money one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.

She overcame polio to become a world class dancer. That alone should tell you a lot about her grit and determination. She set out to become a star and she made it...with a little help from Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

As she noted in her autobiography:

"As one of the handful of girls who worked with both of those dance geniuses, I think I can give an honest comparison. In my opinion, Kelly is the more inventive choreographer of the two. Astaire, with Hermes Pan's help, creates fabulous numbers — for himself and his partner.

But Kelly can create an entire number for somebody else ... I think, however, that Astaire's coordination is better than Kelly's ... his sense of rhythm is uncanny. Kelly, on the other hand, is the stronger of the two. When he lifts you, he lifts you! ... To sum it up, I'd say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on screen. But it's like comparing apples and oranges. They're both delicious."

I miss her already.