Friday, February 21, 2003

Best class ever!

65 people died in Rhode Island yesterday because they went to a Great White concert. I think we can all agree that this is somewhat more punishment than they deserved. To my mind this is a much greater tragedy than the recent Columbia disaster because 10 times as many people died, they were not taking the kind of self-conscious risk that astronauts blasting off into space on a rocket were, they were probably by and large younger, and they probably represented a good third to two-fifths of the state population. I am still trying to get my head around the idea that there were hundreds of people at a Great White concert, but I suppose there were. I do hope that these two recent nightclub/concert venue tragedies make us look a little more closely at the safety of these venues; I know from my own historical research that there is precedent for that to happen.

The 1903 Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago is illustrative not just for its public safety implications, but for the way we deal with tragedy as a society and a culture. Twice as many people died in this fire as in the so-called "Great Fire" of 1871 (though, admittedly, the amounts of property damage were not comparable), yet this event is largely forgotten while the Great Fire is commonly known. At that time we had a very ambiguous attitude toward popular culture, and spectating was widely seen as inappropriate leisure activity. I think there's still a thread of that in our culture, though not the dominant thread certainly, and I'll be interested to see how coverage of this incident will progress in that light. My hunch is that we will see a much greater expression of some variation of the idea "they had it coming" or at least are somehow less deserving of mourning because of the low-brow activity in which they were engaging than we would normally see in a tragic situation. Hell, I couldn't even pass up a couple of cracks before moving on to analysis. I guess we shall see in the days and weeks to come.

In personal news, I found out today that this temp assignment will end after two more weeks, so I'll be out looking for another temp job on March 10 barring massive and unforeseen movement on the permanent gig front in the next week or so.

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