Joe “Speedy” Deady: Track Star

Produced by Paul Abowd

 

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Video Critique 1

“Dream World” (http://vimeo.com/24561491)

This video has beautiful shots from a variety of angles, as well as an editing style that matches the intensity of its subjects — extreme acrobatic parkour people.

The piece is organized in a way that holds the viewer’s attention as it continues to unfold and surprise. It flickers at the very beginning with a sort of nervous energy foreshadowing some big unknown event, then starts calmly with what might be the story of one kid being philosophical, talking about what a “free man” is.

Then you see him in action, as an urban explorer, as a jumper, and acrobat. The camera runs and jumps and flies with him. The cuts between interview and action are pleasing as he describes the sport.

Then you see a plane in midair. Where are we going? We land in London with ferris wheels and water and raindrops and beautiful skies and sunlight, really capturing the elements well.

We realize that the lone character at the beginning is part of a community of weird acrobats in the “pre-game” section, which builds anticipation and explains what the sport is about, what the ethos is: they’re all in brother and sisterhood of sorts, competing against the course, not against each other.

There are many varied angles and film speeds, especially when the third section, the event, begins. All the elements of the party-like spectator atmosphere are represented, and the music is used effectively to resonate that energy and sparkle. The viewer is able to empathize and feel what the crowd feels and also what the athlete feels (focus, nerves, and heartbeat).

The slow motion captures the acrobatics mid-jump, and then speeds back up to realtime. The viewer really gets a sense for the danger, the exhilaration, and the challenge of the sport. We see flying bodies landing on concrete and ricocheting quickly away into flight. There is great action footage, but perhaps almost too much like a music video. The interviews stop and the music takes over.

The character in the epilogue explains the title—the “dream world” is the shared experience of the sport amongst the athletes, now together in silhouette before the skyline cuts to black.

“Aquadettes” (http://californiaisaplace.com/cali/aquadettes/#aquadettes)

I like old people who swear, and videos about them. I am interested in esoteric stories about elders and am interested in doing videos with an oral history component. This video does a great job of telling the story of an old lady, using the metaphor of a senior citizen water-robic-dance team to represent the struggle for vitality and fulfillment through the golden years.

Soon we learn the main character has MS, and the clouds get dark in California. Before that we see all hot weather sun and cool pool water and the video does a great job of portraying the heat and the retiree village feel.

Then we realize that our main character smokes marijuana, and how it basically saved her life. We watch as the shot goes blurry while we watch her smoking a medicinal joint. The plot thickens.

The music, with keys and horns, cast a sort of surreal and somewhat dark tone over the costumed old ladies choreographing their aquatic dance. The camera actually goes into the pool, jumping in and submerging itself to illustrate suffocation or dizziness or weightlessness while the old lady discusses the difficulties of staying in control of life. But swimming is also a place where you have fun, stay young, find a young mindset, even when you’re getting ill, getting older, and losing control.

There’s a nice variety of interview shots, from the side, on the bench, and up close. And the B-roll continually surprises, as we discover her smoking, walking her dogs, and also living with a heretofore un-introduced companion. I like the disjointed jumping from her very serious story of survival to the Beach Boys-infused portraits of old ladies dancing and the underwater shots of their dance routine.

The sickness and the cures finally collide when we see her walking on canes, all wet, just out of the pool. The two aren’t separate at all.

The ending has a beautiful shot of sunshine reflecting on the pool, refracted by the water. Again we get a dizzy sense that correlates with the unsettling and inescapable realization that you’re dying. The video doesn’t romanticize getting old by any means, but also gives us hope through the will of the old lady to persevere and find meaning.

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Seeking sanity for a criminal justice system

Flanked by representatives of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., announced legislation to establish a national commission on criminal justice in 2010. / Photo: The office of Senator Webb.

A Virginia senator slogs through a broken Congress to fix a broken criminal justice system. 

Jim Webb, D-Va., rode a shifting political tide into the Senate in 2006. “We’re the new Democratic Party. We’re used to cleaning up other people’s messes,” he said following the congressional takeover won on promises of a new course—notably in Iraq.

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Occupy winter? K Street protest tries to stay warm

A harsh economy sparked protests of Wall Street in D.C. and hundreds of cities. Now protesters are gearing up for harsh weather.

by Paul Abowd

Occupy D.C. protesters continue to pitch tents at McPherson Square, and are stockpiling donated gear for the approaching winter. / Photo by Paul Abowd

Hundreds of Occupy D.C. protesters on K Street emerged from their tents Wednesday morning to relatively balmy October air. Some campers skipped around McPherson Square shoeless, while others sat in lawn chairs letting their shirtless shoulders take some sun.

The encampment has grown considerably in the last two weeks, filling the park with tents, generators, a kitchen, a library and a very popular medic station offering everything from cocoa butter to cough syrup to condoms.

Occupy encampments are being tested by police crackdowns and detractors who insist the movement will not outlast the inevitable frost. Some campers on K Street are in willful denial about the cold weather, while others rush to prepare for a winter occupation.

“We’re going to need some sort of a heat source, and we are concerned about it—it’s something we’ve been working on,” said Jean Ross a president of the National Nurses United. The union established the medic station a week ago. “We’re definitely concerned about hypothermia.”

Listen to an interview with Ross:

Ross stands before a table of lotions, salves, bandaids, and vitamin C packets, tending to wounds, giving advice and pointing protesters to the comfort station where they can obtain donated clothing and hygiene supplies. Every once in a while, she leads more serious cases under the cavernous yellow tent for treatment.

‘A survival thing’

One of her patients this morning is Aaron Bickett, 33, who has lived through several winters on the streets of Indianapolis.

“You need lots of blankets, lots of insulation, lots of tarps,” he said. “It’s a survival thing, man.”

Bickett has been camping on K Street for two days since hitting town to find work in the city. He says fellow protesters have fed him and set him up with a sleeping bag while he gets on his feet.

“I don’t want to be in a tent in the wintertime,” said Bickett, who has applied for work at a nearby kitchen. The movement die-hards will nevertheless have his support come wintertime. “It’s going to be a challenge. It might end up being four tents out here, but those will be the soldiers,” he said.

Bundling up

The D.C. camp has a lot going for it heading into winter, said Daniel Dungan, who came down from New York for a few days. The original Wall Street protest based in Zuccotti Park is more exposed to the elements.

“In New York, they’re not letting people even do tents,” he said. “Everyone there is in sleeping bags and on pillows, without shelter except for umbrellas.”

Dungan believes that the sheer warmth of movement energy will nourish winter occupations. “Unless there’s a severe change in the economy, I think they’ll still be here in January,” he said. “It’s going to stay no matter what the weather conditions are.”

Police in Chicago and Oakland raided encampments in late October, making mass arrests and firing teargas to disperse crowds. In D.C., the Park Police who oversee McPherson Square have maintained a minimal presence. The K Street camp could very well be around when snow starts to fall.

“Our job is to protect the constitutional rights of people to peacefully assemble, regardless of their cause,” said Park Police spokesman David Schlosser, adding that police deal with outdoor events year round. “It depends on what’s going on in the park, but we’ll do what’s appropriate.”

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[Audio] Life lessons of a longtime D.C. cab driver

Veteran of the road brings internment camps, war, and spirituality along for the ride

Yoshihiru Takata has been driving the streets of D.C. for more than four decades.

Forty-two years—and thirteen robberies—later, Yoshihiru Takata is still concerned for the well-being of the people he picks up. Takata, 82, knows all the shortcuts through town. But long ago, he made cab driving about more than merely getting people from point A to B.

Since he took up driving in 1969, Takata, who goes by “Yosh,” has developed a cabdriver code that draws on his struggles in World War II internment camps, his Seventh Day Adventist faith, and his run-ins with—and forgiveness of—the people who’ve held him up.

He’s been robbed more than any cab driver in the city, on several occasions at gunpoint, but Takata maintains he’ll pick up anybody who needs a ride. “That is our duty as the cab driver,” he said.

‘Concentration camps’

Only 10 years old in 1941, Takata was rounded up and sent with his family to what he calls “concentration camps” along with 120,000 Japanese-Americans. The U.S. government shipped his family to four camps in four years: two in California, one in Arkansas, and one in Texas.

“I remember being a boy, and being so excited to be on a train [to Arkansas],” said Takata.

His father was a leader in the Japanese-American community, and was targeted by the government as a possible traitor. “They put him in a stockade for six months,” said Takata. The family reunited at the end of the war and decided to repatriate to Japan.

His family arrived to Takata’s ancestral home just as smoke was rising from the devastated country. “I remember very clearly seeing the destruction at Hiroshima,” he said. The post-war society put his family on a starvation diet, and Yosh and his brother plowed rice fields day in and day out. “Life was pretty bleak,” he recalled.

Takata navigates the familiar terrain of D.C., imparting wisdom to his passengers along the way.

Model citizen

Despite his internment experience in the States, Takata chose to return to the U.S. at 18, when it came time to choose between U.S. and Japanese citizenship.

Upon return, he was promptly drafted into the Korean War, and sent back to Japan to serve with the U.S. occupation forces as a medic. A devout Seventh Day Adventist since the age of nine, Takata qualified for conscientious objector status, and used his service overseas to initiate bible study with Japanese youth.

A tumultuous life has only strengthened Takata’s resolve to do good. Never pushy with his beliefs, Yosh is more of a conversationalist, asking his passengers about their life and interests—or, sensing the need for a quiet ride, saying nothing at all.

Sometimes he’ll tell a story about life in the ’40s, or reference a favorite bible passage. Other times he’s got practical advice for passengers who’ve been hassled or refused a ride by other cabbies. “I tell them exactly what to do to report drivers like that,” he said. “I am a passenger advocate.”

Lost and found

It’s around 10 p.m., and Takata makes his third trip of the night to Union Station, where he picks up a young businesswoman. Halfway home, she insists that her driver has gone the wrong way—he must turn around. Takata hasn’t gotten lost in the city for decades, but he backtracks anyway.

Soon, the passenger apologizes, realizing her driver was in fact headed in the right direction. “We all make mistakes,” he says. Arriving at her house, Takata helps the mistaken passenger with her bag and returns to the driver’s seat, shrugging off the episode. “Well, you know the customer is always right,” he says with a laugh.

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Audio slideshow: Thousands join Occupy Wall Street protests

Protesters flooded to downtown New York’s Zuccotti Park Oct. 1 to express frustration with corporate greed and growing inequality. The Occupy Wall Street encampment marked its second week with a march of thousands from Zuccotti to the Brooklyn Bridge.

New York Police accompanied the raucous protesters onto the roadway of the bridge, then blocked traffic and made 700 arrests. Despite the arrests, the Occupy Wall Street movement has only grown. On Oct. 15 protests in thousands of cities marked a global day of action. Encampments have spread to 105 American cities since mid-September.

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Students at American University test the shaky job market

Students hustle to make connections at American University's fall job fair. / Photo: Paul Abowd

A thousand students from American University filtered through the fall job fair at Bender Arena Wednesday afternoon. The event, sponsored by the school’s Career Center, drew 96 employers offering internships, part-time and full-time employment.

Students got gussied up and practiced their job pitches in the lobby under the cloud of 9 percent unemployment—and an economy showing no signs of job growth anytime soon.

Bridget O’Connell says student turnout to the fairs, held twice a year, have been on the rise since she began working at the Career Center in 2007. Much of the focus for college students, and soon-to-be graduates is not a lifetime career job, but a way to pay the bills—or student debt—right now.

“A significant increase in students are coming to the Career Center looking for any type of paid, part-time employment,” she says, adding that this year’s fair features 32 employers hiring on that basis.

While student turnout has been rising, the number of employers showing up has dropped from 165 in four years ago. This year, O’Connell says the federal budget crisis has kept several government agencies from this year’s event.

Still, the Department of Defense, State Department, and FBI were all on hand, and drew the largest crowds of students at the event.

The private sector presence has risen in recent years, says O’Connell. Even Bank of America, which laid off 3,500 and promises to cut up to 40,000 jobs in the next few years, had a table to recruit bank tellers and local branch management.

AU Junior Lisa Gabrielson says the competition amongst undergrads is pretty intense—not just for jobs out of school, but even for unpaid internships during school that might lead to a paying gig down the road.

“Getting those internships themselves can be almost as stressful as finding an actual job after you graduate,” she said.

For now, she says her interests are “all over the page,”—a virtue, she thinks, in an age when you “don’t want to get pigeonholed into one career.”

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