Saturday December 3rd
SomArts, 934 Brannan Street, SF
6.00PM – 2.00AM
I finally watched Eric Steel’s film The Bridge on Hulu. After reading this 2003 New Yorker article about Golden Gate Bridge suicide jumpers, Eric Steel set up cameras around the GGB to film the jumpers. He managed to film 23 of the 24 suicides in 2004, and in the process, annoy CalTrans for showing a part of the bridge experience that tourists shouldn’t see.
The film is fascinating, and thankfully doesn’t take the easy melodramatic or Helen Lovejoy approach. Steel treats the the subject, and everyone, involved with a distance that makes the film come off as more descriptive than anything. Other film makers may have turned the second half into a call for foxconn-esque nets.
When I first mentioned bridge jumpers, I said:
I [had become] enamored with the moment that the jumper’s center of gravity moves over the water, and the inevitable plunge begins. That moment, when your heart skips a beat, and your stomach tenses, and you think “Here we go!” It’s not the moment of total commitment. No, it’s the moment just after that. Did they intend to go just then, or were they just trying to get up the nerve when they slipped? More disturbingly, do they change their mind on the way down?
In the film, jump survivor Kevin Hines, recounts his experience. “[I] hurdled over the railing with my hands, and I was falling head first. And the second my hands left the bar – the railing – I said, ‘I don’t want to die. What am I going to do? This is it. I’m dead.’” Watching person, after person, simply turn, climb over the railing and immediately jump, I wonder how many of them were like him.
One that probably didn’t think twice was featured jumper Eugene Sprague. The interviews with Sprague’s friends, reveal a man that for years had decided to kill himself. He simply was waiting for the time to do it. He reminded me of my great aunt Doris. Aunt Doris, talked about suicide for years. She even tried a multiple times, while simultaneously teaching me lessons about suicide. Lessons like, cutting your wrists doesn’t work. You have to cut your elbows, or as they say, “Down the road, not across the street.” She taught me, that if you want to get hit by a train, you should check the train schedule first. Perhaps her best advice was when she told a 9 year old me, “Jonathan, if you ever want kill yourself, don’t try to electrocute yourself. It hurts like hell.” My response: “Oh, okay.” My mom and my great Uncle Lee, would take her to psychiatrists for years, but none of that helped. My mom says that eventually one of them simply said, that Aunt Doris would keep trying until eventually she succeeded.
On my birthday, (I think my 10th birthday), she came over and brought me a lava lamp, almost identical to the one that she had sitting in her living room. I thought her lava lamp was one of the coolest things around. When I opened the box, I was amazed. I couldn’t imagine ever getting something so grown up like a lamp. It was awesome. She said, sitting in the recliner of my parents’ living room. “I got you that so you’d have something to remember your crazy Aunt Doris by.” I was confused by the statement, but mostly just in awe of owning a lava lamp. I remember that my mom got up and left the room rather angrily, and I had no idea why. The next day, Aunt Doris shot herself in the heart with a pistol and died.
I still have the lamp.
I managed to make my way up to San Francisco and see both the USS Bunker Hill and the Varyag. Unfortunately, there was a mixup about how long Russians were giving tours of the ship. Instead of going to 3 pm, they stopped at 1 pm. However, I did get some decent photos of the ship from the pier. For more detailed shots, I suggest you view the Chronicle’s pictures of ship. I did manage to take a tour of the Bunker Hill. We mainly stayed on the outside of ship, seeing the fore and aft vertical launch systems, the helicopter hanger, and also the bridge. About 350 crew members are on board, and about 40% of those are female. In 2008, the ship was the first Ticonderoga class cruiser to underwent an upgrade to its fire control systems, that allowed (in addition to other things) the ability of both the fore and aft 5 inch guns to be targeted independently. On of the new roles for the Bunker Hill is ballistic missile defense, and the ship is of the same type that recently shot down a satellite.
It was very cool tour, and look forward to the next San Francisco Fleet Week (October 7 – 12).
UPDATE Fri Jun 25 12:23:50 PDT 2010
Flickr user Kyle Mizokami has some great shots from tours of both the Varyag and Japanese ships that were in town.
Today, five warships from three countries arrived in San Francisco. The Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser, CG-52 USS Bunker Hill Three Japanese training ships, lead by the Kashima class, TV-3508 JDS Kashima, and the Russian Slava class guided missile cruiser Varyag (formerly the Chervona Ukraina) will be there.
Why mention this? Well you can get photos and tours of all these ships, except the American Bunker Hill.
Updated: Thu Jun 24 09:26:24 PDT 2010: Thanks to some mysterious stranger in the comments, the Bunker Hill is conducting tours. Table updated.
|Bunker Hill||Pier 17||Thursday, 1 pm – 4 pm|
|Kashima||Pier 27||Monday 9 am – 11 am and 2 pm – 4 pm|
|Varyag||Pier 30-32||Thursday, 10 am – 3 pm|
The SF Fine Art Fair is this weekend at Fort Mason in SF. Tickets are $15. In all honesty, I don’t know much about this. Zer01, presenters of the 01SJ Biennial are sponsoring an entrance, so there should be something there beyond what you’d normally expect at a “fine art fair.”
Bansky is purportedly in SF. Follow Uptown Almanac for all your breaking news. Of course, when your popular, and your art is stencils, there’s a definite possibility of copy cats. So all this talk about “confirmed” is total bullshit. Still. It’s worth seeing.
Valencia and 20th Street in The Mission and SOMA
More photos and locations after the jump.
What’s more interesting, is that the fabled “recluse” might have been outed.
I present you, the rat himself.
Next Wednesday and Thursday, (Feb 17-18), at the DNA Lounge (“A disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals”) (375 Eleventh St; SF) is BarBot 2010. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 day of show.
Come out and have iZac pour you a fuzzy navel, and the girliest drink in the house!
It’s that time of year again, where we (and by “we,” I mean “The Marin County Coroner’s Office”) tally up the number of jumpers from the World’s Leading Suicide Magnet, YOUR GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE!
A drumroll please….
If you chose 31, congratulations! You win a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni – The San Francisco Treat *ding* ding*. Yes, 31 successfully took the plunge in 2009 (That’s one every 11 days!), and another 77 managed to screw it up (like everything else in their miserable lives) and got stopped by staff. (Another year without a local Lai Jiansheng “helping” anyone.)
So what about the $50 million net that was approved back in aught-eight? Well, that’s still in limbo, since the Bridge District has forbid local money to be used for the nets, and now the Bridge Rail Foundation is trying to get federal funds.
Is 31 a lot? The Pro-Net folks would no doubt saying something vacuous like “Even a single jumper is one too many,” but let’s look the numbers. 31 is 72% more than then average since the bridge opened in 1937, but is that number really meaningful? The Bay Area’s population has been steadily increasing, so what about the “success” rate? There are over 7 million people in the Bay Area today. In 1940 there was less than 2 million. Perhaps if we want more informative numbers, we should look at this instead in terms of suicides per capita.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the number of jumpers per decade, but
the SF Examiner, provided a helpful table of the number of jumpers over the last eight years, that show that every year was “above average.”
UPDATE: Tue Jan 26 00:23:45 PST 2010
I realized that I did have the number of “splash hits” each year that the bridge opened, thanks to the Chron. The Chron’s count differs slightly from the Examiner’s, but not enough to matter. (The Chron counts one more in both 2002 and 2004.) Coupling this with Bay Area population stats, I calculated the GGB Suicides Per Capita.
While I haven’t bothered to do any sort of significance testing, it appears that for the last 30 years, the number of successful suicides has remained constant after controlling for population. In fact, it appears pretty much constant for 4 of the last 5 decades. So just as I suspected, the “above average” statement is a bit misleading.
If anyone wants to look at the numbers, I’m posting a CSV of the numbers.