The Night Before… (an ode to Fred Emmer – Sandy part 1)

The creeking noises in the attic provides the ghastly mood that would actually work perfect for a Halloween feeling of dismay. The temperature is slowly, but absolutely noticeable dropping and even though well insulated, soft breezes of cool air make the lights move ever so slightly. Outside the wind-chimes move and tinkle softly but constantly. The feeling of dread hides in the darkness outside. The wind makes its unmistakable rumbling sound against the windows. It is picking up. And still, there is this feeling of calm in the house, the family sound asleep, seemingly not aware of the mayhem that will be unleashed.

Well… whoop-tie-dooh! Of course they are sound asleep! Because, well, everything will be fine in the morning.

The description above is actually not that much off from what I am experiencing. It almost sounds like the setting for a bad teenage horror movie where a complete little town will be slaughtered by creatures from hell. At least, if I believe the sites who try to warn us about the impacting doom that Sandy will bring us.

Let me get first one thing straight. I think media does have the reach to warn people that a hurricane will directly hit the eastern seaboard where it hasn’t hit any time in recently recorded history. And Sandy is massive. Fine. But if you have gone over the media, it does feel like the apocalypse is approaching.

I live in a little town between New York City and Philadelphia, just over the Pennsylvanian border. And lo and behold, in 80% of all the predicted tracks Sandy will follow, the core will go straight over this little quaint town. Sure, people should be prepared. And the lower areas here near the Delaware river should absolutely prepare for flooding and possible evacuation. That is all perfectly noted and absolutely fine that people are now so well connected that the information can be spread easily through traditional and new media like websites, Facebook, Twitter. But to be honest, Sandy Online really shows the so many flaws of the internet and how we consume information these days.

Let’s start with a good point; Microsoft is right. It has been a good idea to turn on the Do-Not-Track option on Internet Explorer 10. Even though so many advertising companies now try to go against it, at least Microsoft shows that maybe the whole concept of advertising needs to change. Because, well, although advertisements right now fund over 95% of all websites (I don’t have a source for this, actually, I am just guessing here… but it is known to be a lot. And 95% makes more impression than, well, 92%). And, advertisements only pay when you actually have visitors. And visitors will be drawn like bees to honey when there is something good to see or read. This is nothing new, but, it now shows how weird this is getting.

I actually learned about Sandy a couple of days ago when it was projected it would hit the shore about a 40 miles from here, coming straight at us. And since then, I read on all weather news sites, that this really would be bad. And I mean, head-between-your-knees bad. The stories were all about mayhem, disaster, and everything in-between. And it was supposed to pick up today, Sunday.

The nasty thing was, we had an appointment in upstate New York today, and really did not feel like postponing it. Checking the weather, it actually looked fine. So, we took off, and made the two-and-a-half hour drive. Perfect, racing over the George Washington bridge with no-one on the road. Really, driving straight through New York City, without a single delay. Also on the way back, hardly any traffic to speak of, not even deer crossing the road this time 😉 .

I followed up on the news again on the websites. Still, massive destruction, but, something changed. The closer Sandy gets, the tamer the news is getting. I just decided to walk the dog before it was night, and I noticed almost 50% of all the houses are deserted. No cars, no lights. No one has their car parked under a tree (I do understand that). But people are actually evacuating. Why? Our area is about 40 ft above the level of the Delaware. The news is all about the preparations, the warnings, and the dangers.

But non is about the reality. No one will mention that just to stay inside, get a good book, and sit out the ride. Stay safe, be prepared, but most of all, don’t worry. When you are in a flooding area, prepare, have your go-bag packed, and just be prepared. Don’t panic. Don’t make it into something that is not worth making it into. Look, the sites are not lying, the storm is of epic proportions, but you have to read with more attention to detail to understand this; it is not about the severity, it is about the proportions. Sandy has a radius of 800 miles. That is monstrous. On the other hand, it is bouncing from a hurricane cat 1 to a tropical storm. When Irene hit last year, it was a hurricane cat 2.

And then, when reading those words over and over, I just think lovingly back to a certain person who is in the mind of anyone over 30 and lived in the Netherlands; Fred Emmer. Fred Emmer was simply the best news reader I still can remember. The man had no emotion whatsoever and did not seem to be excited over anything he read. Personally, I don’t think the man ever even blinked. He could match the news item of the birthday of the queen easily with the hunger in Africa without a change of pace or tone in his voice. News was just that, news. It was straight forward, easy to understand, and without any sensation. Sure, it was not commercial. But I never understood why news could be commercial.

If news is what has happened, how can you commercialize it? But it happens, because it means money. And without that money, there is no revenue. And without revenue, there is no product. So I do understand the reason for advertising, but it also make things like news much more difficult to be objective. If you can only report what people want to read, and also in the tone of voice that people want to actually read it, we are doing something wrong.

So… because of this, and because I think Microsoft is taking a good step in providing the advertising industry something to chew on, I think Microsoft should take Fred Emmer for mascot!

Yes, that is the lesson learned today.

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