Archive for September, 2005

My Experience with the L.A. Blackout of 9/12/05

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

As most people have probably heard, a major blackout hit much of the Los Angeles metropolitan area this afternoon. Here is an AP article about the incident.

I needed to run home at lunch hour today to pick something up that I had left at home. I live in Van Nuys and work in North Hollywood and it normally takes me 20-40 minutes, depending on traffic. The black-out hit shortly before I got home. I was stopped at a stoplight and all of a sudden the light went out. For a few moments, nobody really knew what to do, basically being unsure whether the light was out on all sides. Eventually, people cautiously went through the intersection.

Figuring that the problem was probably pretty isolated, I went ahead and just ran into home to pick up what I needed and headed back to work, assuming I would quickly drive out of the affected area. It ended up taking me over 90 minutes to get back to work. Every stoplight was out except for about the last 3 or 4 before I got to the office. I think I only encountered two that had anyone directing traffic (they were right next to schools, so there were crossing guards). Most people did seem to know what to do at a dark stoplight, but there were enough that figured they could go any time they wanted to that it got pretty scary at times.

The most interesting part of the whole thing was listening to KNX radio while driving. The first report of the outage was just a quick note that there were some reported power outages in the middle of other reports. Then the station went off the air completely for several minutes, followed by a reporter tentatively stating the call letters and saying he wasn’t sure if they were on the air. He briefly started reporting on what was going on, but stopped mid-sentence and said “Oh, we aren’t on the air”. I could then just hear him shuffling papers and talking quietly with co-workers for a minute or so until someone finally told him he actually was on the air after all.

The rest of the resort was actually really interesting, basically seat-of-the-pants journalism and was actually pretty fascinating to listen to. They had no wire services, no Internet and even the phones went out after a couple minutes. The information that they were providing mostly trickled in via cell phones (we got to hear most of the reporters’ ring tones…) and through simple observation of what they could see out the windows. They eventually got quite a bit of their information by reaching people in unaffected areas via cell phone and then asking them to fill them in on what they were seeing on TV coverage. They also got a hold of some of their field reporters (and even one that was on his way home) via cell phone and were able to relay observations. They didn’t have any way to put the people calling their cell phones on the air, so most of it was the reporters repeating what the callers were saying.

While I can’t say that I at all enjoyed having to drive that long (for one thing, I was getting a splitting headache, which this evening I now realize appears to be the flu…), but I actually am kind of glad that I got to listen to this radio coverage. It isn’t that often that we hear that kind of raw reporting anymore.

The Film Music of John Willams (Concert Review)

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

Hollywood Bowl – September 2, 2005

A concert review by Jeffrey Graebner

John Williams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in a film music concert at the Hollywood Bowl has been an annual summer tradition for me ever since I moved to Southern California in 1996. The Friday, September 2, 2005 concert featured a good mix of selections from Williams’ own film scores as well as a few selections from other celebrated film composers.

Including a couple summers where Williams conducted multiple concerts, this was the 11th concert of his that I have attended at the Bowl. Adding a couple earlier concerts with the Boston Pops as well as one concert of mainly non-film compositions at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, this was the 14th time that I have seen Williams conduct a live concert. I’ve been a film score enthusiast since I was around 10-years-old, with Williams’ compositions being important to establishing and continuing that preference.

As is typical of Williams’ Hollywood Bowl concerts, this one featured a good mix of his extremely well-known selections as well as a few that will be very familiar to film score enthusiasts, but probably not to the more mainstream audiences that make up the bulk of the attendees. It came as no surprise that the program was dominated by his scores to films by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, but there were a few less widely recognized selections, including the welcome inclusion of some works by other film composers.

As with most concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, this one got off to a patriotic start with a performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, which was then well complemented by a performance of The Liberty Fanfare, the concert piece that Williams wrote to commemorate the re-dedication of The Statue of Liberty following its refurbishment in the late 1980s. Either this piece and/or one of Williams’ Olympic themes are usually included even when the remainder of the concert is all film music. This is a very rousing and inspirational piece that helps to quickly pull the audience into the concert. These two opening pieces were the only non-film compositions included in the concert.

A definite shift in tone came next as, without any commentary, Williams transitioned into a pair of suites illustrating opposite views of alien visitation. First was a suite from Spielberg’s 1977 classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a film that featured one of the most famous, and my personal favorite, Williams’ scores. While this was definitely not the first time I had heard a suite of music from this film performed at one of the concerts, it is always a very welcome inclusion.

The highly melodic, almost magical tones of the Close Encounters theme were then followed by the much darker and foreboding music from Spielberg’s film of War of the Worlds, which was released earlier this summer. This was Williams’ first time conducting music from this score in concert and, while it was very interesting to hear, I tend to doubt that it is going to become a concert staple. The exciting, action-oriented cue “Escape from the City” seems more likely to be used as an occasional change-of-pace interlude in future concerts than the very dark, downright mournful “Epilogue”, which was also featured.

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