Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Salem Halloween 2007: The Party's Over

Salem Halloween Night 068, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Halloween in Salem, 2007, has just ended. It was a busy night, from what I could hear on the scanner. I did some people watching at Federal and Washington, near my house, where this photo of the Ghostbusters was taken. I got to see the closing fireworks at the end of the night, which was cool.

It was great watching all the costumed people having a good time. Multitudes of wenches, pirates, bats and ghouls walked by me. The best costume I saw (but didn't have a picture of) was a pair of Spys--The White Spy and the Black Spy from Mad Magazine.

Webcasts and SATV

[SATV studios, before the Haunted Happenings Parade]

SATV gets a mention in a Boston Globe article in the North local section of Sunday's paper:

Salem Access Television is currently offering some limited on-demand programming on its website, said its executive director, Sal Russo.

The organization plans to expand that feature next year, when it has completed computerizing its cablecast playback operation, and to eventually offer Web streaming, he said.

"The initial reason to do it is to make your programming more available to your community members who cannot watch it when it's on the channels," because of their schedules, Russo said. "But the ultimate benefit is that anyone can see it once it's available on the Web, which is a good thing."

I've written about our cablecast operation before. We've done experiments with live streaming, the most recent being the Haunted Happenings parade, but we've never been able to offer this full-time.

There is a lot of material we could air over the web if we had the means to do so. Right now, we're using for live programming, after looking all over for a streaming provider we could afford. I want to put the Salem Commission on Disabliities meetings online and am trying to move things forward with the city on that goal.

We have Windows Media Services on our SBS box. It works great. We just don't have the bandwidth to self-host our operations. (Per usual best practices, our web site is hosted at a third party.)

For us, and most other access facilities, we can only move in baby steps as our funding permits. I'm not comfortable relying on a Web 2.0 provider like Ustream, but that's the best we can do. The facility in Newburyport uses so we're not alone.

Our engineer is supposed to arrive to start construction on the new cablecast in January. I have promised to be the first to take a sledgehammer to the old, and fervently hated, wooden cabinets.

Original article: Webcasts bring local access cable TV shows to the world - The Boston Globe

[Crossposted to David Moisan's Blog]

Halloween 2007: The Crush Begins

Halloween Scenes 011, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

You may have experienced the crush of people at yesterday's Red Sox rally (I didn't go.) We experience it once a year. 100,000 people are expected tonight, with a heavy police presence to go along with them. That's the NEMLEC mobile command post in the photo.

I have a police scanner and I've been streaming it over the web for a few years. Unfortunately, my server I use to stream is broken, so after going to plans B, C and D, I set up a Shoutcast streamer on my desktop machine. It's at and is openable in Windows Media and Winamp.

I was supposed to make an obligatory "Is celebrating Halloween in the true 'character' of the city?" but the Boston Globe already beat me to it; After we get through tonight, I'll say something.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween in Salem: It begins

Halloween Scenes 035, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Tonight is the beginning of the busiest five days of the year for Salem: Halloween weekend. Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year. Almost everyone who comes for the holiday, does so as a day trip, so many different people will come.

The crowds tonight were moderate, more like the crowds on Halloween night were 10 years ago. I don't attempt to navigate the crowds on that night, but I'm going to the fireworks at Salem Depot, since I live nearby.

I have an opinion on Halloween in Salem and its effect on the "character" of the city that I'll express in another post.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Political Activism and Putting Disabled People on a Pedestal

I have been involved in some way or another with disability activism for over 12 years. One of my first web pages was a disability page (The Invisible Disability Page) which spawned an email list that's still active, though I don't run it anymore.

I've watched the Salem Commission on Disabilities struggle to get things accomplished in the city. We have no budget and are an advisory commission; as I said in a previous post, we rely on moral suasion to do our job.

It's easy to be a "disability spokesperson". All you have to do is just appear (and stand or sit) while everyone tells you just how courageous and heroic you are. "Oh, what a role model you are for today's youth!" I've seen a number of disability advocacy groups (and worse yet, have been in a few of them) that get the funds in this way.

I note with no small amount of cynicism that that is what not a few politicians and community leaders want out of the Commission. Just put the cripple of the month on the podium and say nice words about "courage".

Through the invisible-disability list, I was alerted to a great article by Ruth Shagoury Hubbard in The Truth about Helen Keller, with this money quote from Helen herself:

"So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me 'archpriestess of the sightless,' 'wonder woman,' and 'a modern miracle," Helen wrote to her friend Robert LaFollette, an early pacifist who ran for president as a third-party Progressive candidate in 1924. "But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics - that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world - that is a different matter!"

Seemed like Helen was a quintessential firebrand socialist! We can't be that feisty--our commission by necessity is non-partisan, even in this blue town, but her attitude is something I want to live by.

I can't count how many times I hear from disabled "spokespeople" who seem to all say the same things: "I want to be an 'ambassador of good will"' "This disabling condition is so Hard but it teaches me Something Important about Myself/Society/The Universe" "We need more funding/sensitivity/good feelings for <the disease of the week>!"

Those sentiments are what token disabled people say, and I hate tokenism and the twee sentimentality that is too often part of the disability experience!

Our meetings are very unsentimental. Oftentimes, they have topics brought forth from problems our residents have. Things like sidewalks being too rutted for wheelchairs, or trees planted in the way of someone trying to use a walker. Or the endless handicapped parking space circus.

It is just as you would expect from a good committee. Lots of discussion. Some yelling. If we're good, some issues get to be resolved right there. More often the case, things are put off to a hopeful resolution in the next meeting. Remember, we rely on moral suasion, so a good outcome just means we got the city, the state or a property owner to go along with our suggestions.

And the meetings are broadcast on local cable TV, so the whole city sees what we do.

You don't get the work of the city done by being a token for anything.

My chairman has multiple disabilities and he is raising two special-needs kids himself. I don't always agree with the things he decides on, but he's put in the effort to be informed on disability issues. He's no token. Or my fellow commissioner Andy LaPointe, blind but an absolute demon workaholic! He's no token either. None of us are.

No wonder that I'd rather follow my colleagues on the commission, than any twenty "courageous, inspirational crips" with no other talents other than to be pitied on the podium.

I didn't apply for a commission seat just so I could be a token. I'm using my talents in IT and video to balance the needs of people with disabilities, against the tyranny that the majority tends towards. And I am a fervent believer in transparency.

You don't do those things by being a token.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Haunted Happenings Parade Live Telecast

Move the playbar to 85:00 to see the parade coverage

The 2007 Haunted Happenings Grand Parade

Haunted Happenings Grand Parade 2006 046

Marchers watch the rising moon as they wait for the 2006 parade to get under way. Photo by the author.

Tomorrow night (October 4th), I'm going to be in a parade. If you've never been in a parade, it's an amazing thing. I first marched in a parade only a few years ago, in the defunct (and bitterly missed) Salem Heritage Days Parade.

Last year, I marched in the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade with my good friend Leo Jodoin, producer of Salem Now and chairman of the Salem Senior Recognition Committee. This year, we were invited back and we accepted! We will be riding courtesy of Salem Trolley.

Salem Access TV will have coverage and a live Internet stream through Ustream. I'll post the URL a little later tonight.

Haunted Happenings Grand Parade set for Thursday - Salem, MA - Salem Gazette