Thursday, July 19, 2007

Disaster Film Live

When a pipe exploded in New York City’s midtown, sending a national park sized scalding geyser of steam, rusted silt and rocks hundreds of feet into air, trains below Grand Central station sped past the 42nd street stop, and the shuttle between Central and Times Square halted mid-ride and back peddled to where it came. Passengers were herded out in an emergency evacuation.

On the crowded subway platforms people were panicked. Even the businessmen looked harried and uncertain. Mothers frantically tugged at their children. There was no information, just a tired, nervous, stampede.

Outside the station, steam billowed into the sky like smoke and people burst into tears at the sight of it. On their commute only moments earlier, passengers flipped through AM New York where an article discussed the government analysis that the threat of terror is higher now then ever. When trains jerked in unplanned stops and passengers rushed out to find a column of steam skyscraper high, there could be no other conclusion - the terrorists had struck.

So much so is terrorism in the public zeitgeist that young adult books these days discuss dirty bombs, nuclear bombs, suicide bombs – publishers must consider these relevant topics for a demographic coming of age Post 9/11. A few years ago, I was struck by an art exhibit that showed the crayon drawings of children in Palestinian refugee camps – stick figures with guns, clouds of smoke – that was their playground - and it surprised me that children could intuit so much. Even in the states, where the daily threat is considerably less severe, children are not left unaware.

A.O. Scott’s review of the frothy Hairspray remake, suggests that the triumph of youth culture, the optimistic, belief that the future will improve on the present, is possibly outdated. What do you think, do we really no longer believe that the future will be a better place – or are we just passing through a morbid phase like sixteen year old goths?

And let me just freaky is it that you could be walking along and the street would erupt beneath you - more grist for the diaster film genre.

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