Categories
Animation Kids

Cartoons for Kids

Video
Paul and Mark try to pick a video to watch

Wallet
Mark searches for his lost wallet

Underwear
Paul and Robert talk about clothes

R2C4
Mark meets a new robot friend

Heart of Gold
Man’s best friend

Interactive Storytelling for Children
Diane the Mouse – unfinished

One Week Later

I still get whiffs of ozone every now and then through the window. People speak of feeling numb, but the most numbing thing is to hear people on TV speak so mournfully, then break to commercials for shampoo and contact lens cleaner.

Things are really not so different than they were 2 weeks ago. There are fewer cars on the downtown streets, and village bars that normally sell beer for $5 per glass have $1 and $2 drafts and $0.15 chicken wings because fewer people have been going out. But people don’t instinctively look up now when they hear airplanes overhead.

The incident (which doesn’t have a real name; it wasn’t a ‘bombing’, but more than just some ‘plane crashes’, and ‘attack’ doesn’t completely describe the event) is still the main topic of conversation – what to rebuild on the site, what the consequences of military action will be. However, I now hear people arguing over trivial things. In the first few days, I spent nearly every waking minute with the circumstances in my awareness somehow – but now I only think about it about a third of the time.
People have more distance now, and now status is based on how close one has been able to get to “ground zero”. My boss’ son attended Stuyvesant High School which is just across the street from the WTC, but the school will be closed for the next few months. They went to the school one day to clean out the locker, and he got to be within a couple blocks. So of course we all stood around in a circle grasping for every word. I for one, am eager to hear anything other than the televised melodrama of flag-waving and weepers.

On one news show was a reporter looking at some rubble saying “A simple rag doll. All that remains. Of the people who once worked. And lived. Here.” I couldn’t stand it.

The truth is that most New Yorkers, let alone Americans, were never in any danger during the entire event, and most were not even inconvenienced. 10 times more people die each year from drunk driving, yet terrorism is treated like a bigger threat. I guess because it’s preferable to kill thousands of foreigners than to try to change behavior. It’s preferable to invade than to just pull troops out of Saudi Arabia and apologize for damaging the image of Mecca and Medina. America has been a bully for a long time, and I think everyone who has ever been bullied sympathizes to some degree with the Afghans, while those who have been bullies are the ones arguing for war.

The Columbine shootings, and similar episodes which now seem part of an epidemic, are more of a threat to American school kids than terrorism is, yet in response to which nothing was done or is done. But those shootings were motivated by the same feelings as last Tuesday’s attack: a small group resented being marginalized by an arrogant, affluent, aggressive group – and couldn’t take it any more. The name of the U.S. military retaliation, “Operation Infinite Justice”, shows that America is still incredibly arrogant, not realizing that the plan, “To rid the world of evil” is the objective of both sides of the conflict.

I feel like a curmudgeon when I see all the patriotic images, but I think all the fear and sadness is self-indulgent: focusing on one’s own emotions rather than the real issues. I find myself humming tunes such as “God bless America”. But that’s because I hear them all the time these days.

$5 is the universal price for souvenirs now. In addition to so much else, I also don’t like the crassness downtown; postcards that have the image of the towers go for $5, and tourists take pictures of everything, even of the funeral processions around town. I guess they want every image they can get of every attack-themed scene. Last week, some theaters had free movies, since no one was going and they were losing money, but the popcorn was still $5 for a large. Last Wednesday, the Times ran out of issues quickly. A few entrepreneurs bought thousands of copies, in order to sell them as souvenirs. Most people aren’t sad or afraid, they just see an opportunity to make a few dollars.

A lot of rats were displaced by the building collapses, and have moved north. Some of these are 5 or 6 pounds, and I’ve seen many more than usual downtown, both live and dead. They may have been attracted to the stench of fruit and fish stores and groceries that hurriedly abandoned stores a week ago, and left perishables locked up unrefrigerated for several days.

It is a little freaky working at the UN. They still have lots of extra security, and still have salt-spreaders full of sand blocking off the streets around the Secretariat. The easiest job is that of the dudes sitting in the trucks, backing up to let occasional police cars through. I learned that there was a plan in 1993 to bomb both the WTC and the UN, but the UN attack was thwarted. There was a suspected attack at the UN last Wednesday, and the terribly inadequate evacuation measures scared many people more than the actual threat of an attack. Fortunately I work across the street from the Secretariat.

I remember sitting next to a cricket player a few weeks ago on the plane from London to Bahrain in the UAE. We discussed my job at the UN, and it was clear that he felt that the UN was just a tool of the US, and that Arab countries could not trust the actions of either organization. It was interesting to visit the airports in Nepal, the UAE, England, and the US during my trip. JFK airport was the only one that had totally incompetent people working in every capacity, who didn’t even try to look at my bag, who let the restrooms fester, and got angry with me whenever I had a question. The airport in Abu Dhabi had the most courteous and helpful staff, as well as the most armed guards – but also most obnoxious kids running circles around their oblivious parents.

A Perverted Carnival

I went to a perverted carnival today, walked down 6th Avenue to gawk with the rest. From 2 blocks from my street to as far south as I could see was a single column of parked Komatsu backhoes. An orange and white cat was trying to climb the front right tire of one, but it was too high for it to get a foothold.

At any moment along Canal Street now are more spectators than died during the entire ordeal: people wearing American flag hats and t-shirts, eating $3.50 hot dogs, taking snapshots, and griping about the poor view. A few middle eastern men were doing brisk business selling overpriced refreshments, and I overheard one guy comment, “You burn down our buildings and you want our money too?”.

Many of the people looked like the type of people seldom seen in Manhattan, a family where every member is so fat that they have to lean backward when they walk in order to stay upright. The kids carry balloons, and play game-boys while their parents crane their necks to see beyond the bored and tired-looking policemen and women. I hated these people for their ogling, but realized I was there for the same reason.
There is still a lot of smoke, but yesterday’s rain cleared out the lingering dust. I still can’t actually believe what happened, and it’s very strange to see a southern horizon without the twin towers.

I struggled to head toward Pier 40, which is a relatively quiet place where I sometimes go to get away from the noise of the middle of the city, but it was also full of spectators. Walking north I passed a few fire stations, one around the corner from my building. Each had hundreds of flowers and ribbons, and the gatherers seemed more respectful of the situation. I heard that 4% of all fire fighters who have ever died in the line of duty in the history of New York City died this past week. I felt some shame that I make a living sitting in front of a computer.

The most solemn vigil is at Union Square, where there is nothing to stare at. More people there have lost a friend or relative, and the hundreds of pictures taped to the walls are quite touching. Now that traffic is allowed below 14th street, however, the singing and prayers are disturbed by car horns and the rumblings of garbage trucks.

There was true unity here on Tuesday and Wednesday, but that has faded each day. Now we hear of lootings near the site, or of kids pulling out knives on a public bus and pretending to hijack it, threatening to drive it into the Empire State Building. At work also, on the first day back we all commiserated and shared stories, but on Friday we argued about what we should do, as part of the UN. The art director had grown up an air force brat and was unwavering in his ideas of encouraging American patriotic images. The editor felt that we still all needed to heal and reflect before doing anything. I was the only one who was critical of the rabble-rousing and encouraged greater education about the backgrounds of the suspected terrorists.

I’ve become a news junkie, listening to hour after hour of updates, then getting so sick that I can’t stand another second, only to turn it on again after a few hours. Fox news seems to have the most irresponsible journalism, fanning the flames of anxiety that then lead to anti-Arab feelings and the search for quick solutions. But I listen anyway.

We have mail and garbage service now, and the local bodegas and laundromats are open now. It’s convenient to have services back, but I actually liked the temporary peace. As old routines are fallen into again, the usual brusqueness of New Yorkers is back. As we go back to work, it’s hard to sustain the initial outrage and desire for action, and I’m afraid that the only people that are able to are the jingoists whose zealotry matches that of the hijackers.

Day Three

I haven’t been watching the news, I’ve gotten frustrated with all the rumor-mongering and lack of facts. There also seems to be a disjoint between what the media portrays and what the streets of Manhattan are actually like.

There are all sorts of reactions to the current situation: the punks are relishing the access to empty streets where they can skateboard freely; some people just hold candles, staring at the dozens of pictures on the walls of Ray’s Pizza, which has become a shrine to the missing as well as an information center; the salvation army is full of volunteers moving crates of bottled water and masks, full of optimism; and a lot of people are just trying to get back to work and trying to resume their normal lives. Everyone seems slightly more respectful of others now, not knowing if the person sitting next to them on the subway has a harrowing tale or a missing relative. I haven’t seen any of the racism or hostility to Arabs that I’ve seen on TV, I think New Yorkers are used to living around people of all backgrounds, and have an innate understanding that most people are peaceful and law-abiding.

There is a gradation of seriousness moving north to south in Manhattan. I had dinner near Columbia University Thursday night, in a neighborhood too far north to even see the World Trade Center. There, the grocery stores were as crowded as always, with people pushing in the usual evening rush. The Columbia students sat around enthusiastically debating the events. In mid-town, rush hour traffic was about a third what it normally was. There were about 2 dozen people waiting in line to get tickets to The Producers, normally there might be 100 or more. Around the UN were dump trucks filled with sand blocking off selected streets: heavy mobile barriers to car bombs or other problems. Armed federal police stood guard every 100 feet or so. Normally in front of the UN are flying the flags of all member states in alphabetical order starting with Afghanistan. Today the flagpoles were empty except a single UN flag at half-mast. A coworker of mine had a panic attack when she entered our building at work, feeling very vulnerable and frightened of what’s next. But we were soon able to cheer her up and soon she was able to complain about the lack of fresh bagels anywhere. It was hard to be productive, as all of our little projects seemed so insignificant compared to the continuing drama downtown.

Things really change at 14th street, where people need photo ID just to walk home, and no one is allowed near the big hospitals. Today we still have no mail or deliveries, and most businesses are still closed.

Last night I saw a bright flash outside the window, followed by a muffled thud, then sirens. Expecting the worst. I watched to see what would follow, and there were more flashes. It turned out to just be the beginning of a heavy thunderstorm, but there were about 90 bomb threats throughout the city on Thursday, and any one could have been real.

We had a bomb scare Tuesday afternoon right outside my building at the corner of King and 6th. Two men were driving a yellow Rider truck north, then suddenly stopped the truck and ran. A woman walking her dog called 911 and within minutes several police had set up barricades, evacuated the lower floor of adjacent apartment buildings, and had their shotguns aimed at the truck. It turns out that the drivers were simply double-parking while getting coffee. The efficiency of response was comforting, though. I feel safer now than I normally do. I actually hear fewer sirens these days than I do on normal days.

I’ve been impressed and awed by the efforts of all the emergency crews, acting professionally and without pride. I’m proud of New York City and know that an even greater tragedy could have occurred, and the city would still have been able to react.

The weather was spectacularly beautiful Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and it matched the optimism most people had about finding more victims in the rubble and the joy of making it through so far. Today is rainy and in the 50s, and that seems to match people’s attitude that the reality of daily life is changed permanently.

Watching the TV, I see that most stations still have round-the-clock coverage with no commercial breaks, but the home shopping channels have resumed normal programming. This seems at the same time very crass but also a refreshing return to normalcy.

Categories
Society

From the Front

Thanks to everyone who called to see if I was okay.

Nearly everyone I talk to saw most or all of the entire event, from the initial plane crash to the second tower collapsing. And everyone seems to know at least one person who worked in the World Trade Center, but doesn’t know where they are now.

The UN was evacuated yesterday, and only essential people are to report today (now I know where I stand in the hierarchy).

Yesterday the dust and debris blew east into Brooklyn, and this morning it blew west into New Jersey. But it’s blowing north now and it’s unpleasant to breathe outside, even outside my building, which is a mile north of the impact site. The smell is odd, very clean-smelling, like chemical cleansers or fire extinguisher spray – not like the burnt wood/electrical fire smell of yesterday.
Many people outside hold cloths in front of their face to breathe, and there is a fine layer of dust on the front windows of the apartment now. I had to close the windows. My nose and throat have been irritated since yesterday morning, but that will pass.

I tried giving blood, but many of the hospitals are turning people away; there are more people willing to give blood than there are people qualified to draw blood. Most medical professionals and volunteers are busy with the people (fewer and fewer as the days pass) who were brought from the wreckage. For now, people with o+ blood are asked to give now, and others are asked to come back in the next few days.

I went outside to explore, but only residents are allowed south of Canal Street, which is a few blocks south of where I am. No cars are allowed south of 14th Street, so pedestrians have plenty of room to wander. The only cars seen are convoys of dump trucks laden with debris, heading north slowly; clusters of 2 or 3 police cars with flashers and sirens on, speeding after some suspicion; or random army trucks chugging down an empty Broadway.

It’s very quiet, and the only sounds are the occasional siren, news helicopters overhead, and the church bells which ring on the hour and which would normally be drowned out by the roar of garbage trucks and taxi cab horns.

I wandered through Little Italy, where they had been setting up for the annual feast of San Gennaro, but the stalls and kiosks had only been halfway constructed before being abandoned.

Chinatown, however, was bustling the same as ever. You would never know anything had happened. The lower east side was similar. I picked up some bialys and bagels at Kossar’s which was open like always.

Some restaurants were open also: Barolo, Il Corallo, Pescadou, but most businesses are closed today. The few that are open are closing. There are no deliveries to stores south of 14th, so many people have to walk a mile or more to get newspapers or fresh milk. Most subway trains are running now, but I and others are a little nervous to ride them.

A lot of people are standing in groups near the police barricades on Canal Street, listening to news updates on car radios. The attitude outside is very mellow. Most people who are out are not in a hurry to get anywhere, and without the traffic no one has to rush to cross the street. The bums still beg and the brats in SoHo still whine, but everyone else seems very calm and sober, still reflecting on what we saw yesterday.

Categories
Animation Art Stories Videos

The Rabbit in the Moon


The Rabbit in the Moon from Matt Slaybaugh on Vimeo.

A “Direct-to-film” animation (I drew and painted the individual cels directly onto the film) – 1,440 postage stamp-sized images with a very fine-tipped Rapidograph pen.

This was for a class “Myth on to Film” in 1992. The assignment was to retell a fable from any culture in one minute without using words. There are a few versions of the story, but this comes from a Japanese “origin myth” about why the craters of the Moon look like a rabbit.

It was shown at the end of the year at the student film show. Sharing video and other things online is fun, but there is nothing like having your work shown in a theater – hearing hundreds of people applaud afterward.