Ten years ago today, on August 28th, 2005, the mayor of New Orleans ordered the mandatory evacuation of the city. Hurricane Katrina had just been upgraded to a category 5 storm, and New Orleans was in the middle of its projected path, with a near-100% chance that the storm would tear through some part of the metro area, and an almost 30% chance of a dead-on hit.

I watched it unfold on the news, because my parents were watching it unfold on the news. My mother, at the time, was suffering from kidney stones so chronic they were incapacitating. She had brought it on herself, trying to stave off menopause by eating her weight in flax seeds on a daily basis, but that's neither here nor there; someone had to help her, and I was the unemployed child, so I was elected. She was in a terrible mood to begin with, and watching a major city get washed off the face of the Earth didn't help.

I don't really keep track of news personalities. The ones I know, I mainly know from having absorbed their names in early childhood, when network news was still big, and there were only three channels of people to recognize. I used to keep CNN Headline on for background noise as a teenager; I have forgotten everyone on it except for Christiane Amanpour, who stuck because she had an accent I'd never heard before. (BBC Received + Persian, as it turns out. She was raised in Tehran.) I quit watching news before Al Jazeera America became a player, and I'm not entirely sure our basic cable package included Fox News or MSNBC back before I was in college.

One of the few I do remember is Anderson Cooper. He was the only anchor I recall who acted like a human being. When it became clear that the local disaster response plan was for the authorities to sit there picking their collective nose and waiting for someone else to do something, Cooper started teetering on the brink of losing his temper during all the satellite interviews. Other journalists were treating the mismanagement of relief efforts like some sort of political machination, as if fucking up the safety and repair of an entire city were a scandal on par with having given money to the wrong lobbyist years ago and then trying to cover it up in time for elections. Anderson Cooper was going, 'There are bodies in the street. What the hell is wrong with you people?'

Cooper has a book out, Dispatches From The Edge. I've read it. It's melancholy. He's melancholy. I knew he was the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, and that the Vanderbilts were a rather melodramatic family -- to put it mildly -- but I didn't know his father died when he was ten, and his brother suicided when he was twenty-ish. Reading between the lines, his mother sounds rather needy, and Cooper sounds like he's been very much a lost child in many respects, and unclear on the point of his own existence. Moved to tears or shouting by the plight of other people, not so hot about remembering to put on his own flak vest in a war zone.

The book has at least one very large lacuna: It was published years before he allowed himself to be outed in the media, and so does not go into that aspect of his life at all. To be honest, I'm still trying to work out why he wrote it. It's intensely personal, and given the timing it can't be the result of a publisher convincing him to humanize himself after delivering to the world the shocking idea that sometimes, gay people read you the news. Cooper makes reference to having the work hammering around in his head for quite some time before he managed to get it down on paper, but why the hammering started in the first place, he doesn't say. He might not know.

I ran into all this following one of my current running themes of, "I like people who aren't particularly ashamed of having feelings." Cooper has interviews in the archives of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and is the subject of a couple of clips on both, in which Stewart and Colbert point out more or less the same thing. ("It's almost like you're a human being dealing with human beings," notes Stewart dryly.) Stewart likes him; they cross paths on occasion at CNN, where Stewart has apparently decided to call him 'Coop'. Cooper brought him interesting tchotchkes whenever he was on TDS. "Colbert" expressed the kind of backhanded derision that usually means Colbert thinks whatever he's talking about is brilliant but can't say so in character.

Anderson Cooper is currently and probably forever doing Anderson Cooper 360, where he gets to do stories in long blocks rather than short snippets. This lets him poke his nose into everything, and also -- since it is his show, and is technically editorial instead of headline -- snark whenever he feels like it.

The book has pictures in it, incidentally. His hair used to be jet black, if anyone's curious.

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