Friday, 9 September 2011

Kind Of Blue

Thanks to Dover ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajdover/ ) for this Kodak Klassik.

Durham City Open Mic 7/9/11

In contrast to last week's low-key night, the Tav was rammed this evening and I ended up jacking my solo set to play a Crème Brulee giglet with Steve. We did four tracks, including our usual banging version of 'I Fought The Law' to finish. Can't remember much else, save a cracking version of 'Ziggy Stardust' from Ian. Apparently, he was nearly run over in the dodgy new market place/pedestrian death arena this week. I have been assured in a letter from our local MP Roberta Blackman-Woods that this will be sorted soon - but it was almost too late for Ian. Have the local Highways Department got no concern for the arts in our city?

Thoughts On 9/11 + 10

This Sunday is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity in New York. The TV is full of documentaries on the subject, which must surely have been the best-documented disaster in history. In fact, I still find it incredible that I was watching it more or less live at the time from the other side of the Atlantic.

What most of these documentaries don't mention is that the building was a fire trap from the moment it was built. In 1968, the New York City building codes were changed to make it easier to pack in more lucrative office space into skyscrapers and to cut down on the non-profitable fittings such as staircases, fire towers and emergency lifts. As a result, the 110 storey World Trade Centre towers had only 3 staircases each to provide escape routes to ground level, compared to 6 in the much older 102 storey Empire State Building. It wasn't even fireproofed to the same standard. The Empire State has its steel girders encased in concrete and masonry, whereas the WTC had only a paltry half-inch thickness of fireproof foam sprayed upon otherwise exposed metal. This is crucial when steel loses a significant amount of its load-bearing strength at high temperatures.

One of the worst aspects of 9/11 was that around half of the 2,749 casualties were people trapped in the upper stories of the buildings with no possible way out. If the WTC had been built with better fire escape provision, many of these people might have had a fighting chance to escape. It's not as if the authorities weren't aware of the danger: in 1975 there was an arson attack on the building; in 1981, an Argentine airliner came within 90 seconds of hitting the WTC when it had problems communicating with air traffic controllers; and in 1993, there was a terrorist attack which claimed 6 lives.

Perhaps one important lesson the authorities should learn from 9/11 is that building regulations do matter and that safety should be given at least as much consideration as profit.