Thursday, November 03, 2005

GG suicide barrier

You know what, now that I'm reading the articles I link below I thought I'd warn you that it's pretty grim reading. The New Yorker one is a bit less gory. If you like all those disturbing details (I can't stay away from morbid crap like this, read this one from the Chronicle)

I caught a glimpse this morning of part of a series the SF Chronicle is doing on the debate over putting a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate bridge. Check it out. I have a feeling that this could finally happen. I think the momentum may be there. The first time I really thought about this issue was in 2003 when the New Yorker printed this article on it. The author, Tad Friend was clearly on the pro-barrier side, and I agreed with him. The case that struck me most clearly was the guy in the 70s who jumped and had left a note in his apartment that if one person smiled at him on the way there, he wouldn't do it. So sad. Your first reaction may be that it's not worth spending money on or possibly obscuring the view because those people will kill themselves anyway, but if you know anything about the thought process of suicidal people you would now that that's just not true. Most people who are suicidal are not thinking logically, and some people kill themselves impulsively when they are particularly down. At this point, the bridge is such a powerful symbol that it attracts people who are in this state of mind. Well, read the articles if you have time, especially the NYer one, because he states it more eloquently than I can.

22 comments:

Jake said...

"2003 -- Public safety railings: For $5.2 million, directors install 4-foot, 6-inch railings on each side of the bridge to separate bicyclists and pedestrians from the roadway. No one has ever died from falling into traffic."

Why are people so fucking stupid about safety? They put the fence on the wrong damn side. I can buy an SUV, but not raw milk cheese. Stupid.

I think I read the NYer article before. If I recall, there's really no reasonable case to be made against a barrier.

Has anyone proposed a net to catch jumpers? That way the bridge experience would be preserved, but you couldn't really kill yourself. I suppose you'd have to have a fine for people jumping into the net for fun (cause it probably would be pretty fun).

beckler said...

how about a net filled with raw milk cheese? now that would be fun. i think i must have eaten some in portugal, but i am skeptical about whether you can really tell the difference. just cuz steingarten can doesn't mean that i can.

Anonymous said...

If I recall, there's really no reasonable case to be made against a barrier.

Except that some people want to kill themselves. Bridges don't kill people, people kill people.

beckler said...

I would bet that you haven't read any of the articles I linked, anonymous. Read the New Yorker one. Many different factors can influence whether a suicidal person actually goes through with it. And I speak from personal experience. I've been there (loooong time ago, don't worry about me!) and I know the kinds of options that run through your mind when you're desperate. I ended up making what psychologists call a suicidal gesture, which is what many people really want to make. It's just a cry for help, but if the people who would maybe just make a gesture have the golden gate bridge nearby they are much more likely to end up dead. Like I said, it's now a powerful symbol. If this wasn't true, then why don't as many people jump off the bay bridge? I bet more people jump off the Brooklyn Bridge than the Williamsburg Bridge, too. Desperate people make weird decisions, but that doesn't mean they deserve to die just because we don't want to spend a few bucks to buy some time for them to change their minds.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, you can tell the diff, for sure! They heat the fuck out out of pasteurized cheese. Dude, the best comparison is between raw milk brie and typical brie. People wonder why brie isn'tthat exciting? it's because it's not raw milk. Also, you've probably had raw milk cheese here too, they just have to age it for 60 days, which is not a problem for a lot of cheese that want to get melty and delicious in their old age.

I'm sure Anna, Jake and Ben could add to/correct me on all this, but you can definitley tell the diff.

-michele

Jake said...

Two things:

1) I crafted a devasting response to "Bridges don't kill people, people do." But it got lost in the cyber air. Beckler's is better anyway.

2) Michele's totally right. here's some cheese homework: Go get a hunk of Brillat-Savarin (the cheese, not the dude) and a hunk of St. Andre (again, the cheese). Compare. Both are triple creams, but B-S is raw milk and S-A is not. Of course that's not the only difference between
the two; B-S is also made in much smaller batches with much more care. But these aren't independent variables: Pasteurization is pretty expensive.

beckler said...

are you suggesting that I break the law, Jake? Where would one get one's hands on a hunk of this outlaw cheese?

Anonymous said...

Saint Andre you can get at Trader Joe's, and I'm fairly positive you'd have to go to Berkeley to get the nearest hunk of Brillat Savarin. Or wait! Maybe Whole Foods...or maybe not. Anna could tell you definitively of course, but she's probably busy getting ready for NYC.

-michele

Anonymous said...

Raw milk is probably good. But as far as I can tell, it seems to me that any Brillat Savarin, or Epoisses for that matter, that you eat in America is made with pasteurized milk. Brillat Savarin is aged three weeks, and Epoisses is just aged a month; both well under the 60 days as is required for legal importation. Or is it importization?

Personally, I have to say that I don't really know what young raw milk cheese tastes like, since my own experience is so narrow.

Ben

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess sometimes, it is illegally imported. Remember that cheese dinner at L'Espalier? He told us that the Epoisses was raw milk, and then did like a little wink wink to let us know it was illegal. But I guess that doesn't mean that all the epoisse and Brillat-Savarin is raw milk that we've had. But what about that brie you get for the Amanouz omelet? Isn't that raw milk?

-michele

werenotdeep said...

I'm going to have to agree with Beckler on the suicide business as well.

People who really will stop at nothig to kill themselves might do something like jump off a bridge, but they're also a lot more likely to do something much more calculated and definate.

People who jump off bridges don't care that there's a slight chance that they might survive and be seriously messed up for the rest of their lives.

People who are going to kill themselves anyway usually take better pains to make sure that it's over with fast and that they're good and dead for sure, and it's usually far less dramatic.

They usually use drugs to kill themselves, and drugs that act quickly, or they use powerful weapons that they can operate themselves, like big handguns. They don't as often do things like jump off bridges and buildings or slit their wrists.

People might point out that walking to a bridge and jumping in does take a lot of effort, and then there are people who go through a lot of trouble to hang themselves. But then again, there are an awful lot of people who live through such attempts, too.

Often, a lot of them are going through the trouble of making a statement about themselves, not going through a lot of trouble of trying to do nothing more than end their life.

Anonymous said...

This is what I get:

Brie de Nangis:
A one kilo wheel comparable to Fromage de Meaux, the pasteurized cows' milk emulation of Brie de Meaux. Produced by Rouzaire, Brie de Nangis is an admirable offering despite its pasteurization. When young, the straw colored paste is milky and sweet; it ages to near liquidity and luscious, mushroomy, truffly barnyard-dom. When perfectly ripe it can be scooped like Vacherin Mont d'Or.
----

Nasty domestic brie is factory-made in the cheapest possible way (there's also nasty imported brie, made in the same way). What makes the difference in the nangis brie and other good pasteurized soft-ripened cheeses is quality of milk and technique, technique, technique.

Sometimes people do bend the rules, but I'm starting to think this is rarer and rarer. I don't actually remember that wink-wink dude, but it makes sense that restaurants are better able to get away with serving raw young cheese than shops.

Anonymous said...

Ben

amy said...

i heard this story on NPR a couple weeks ago about the last man making camembert in the traditional way in camembert, france. he talks about the cheese making process, and the difference between raw and pasteurized milk cheese. i was especially interested in his theory about how the bacteria in the raw milk confer gradual immunization against bacteria. interesting. check it out:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4969664

jake said...

woops. Guess I should revise my cheese homework lesson.

B&M -- let's find some compare/contrast cheeses this weekend.

B -- sorry for hijacking this post about the suicide barrier.

Stephen Glass said...

The odd thing is that with he thousands of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge is that only two have ever jumped off the Space Needle (and one was in the 12 years that it didn't have a suicide barrier) in 43 years. One happened to be on the day I was there for the only time in my life in 1978, but I'm not tooting my own horn -- as barriers go it's not that hard to climb over. In any case, not to strike a gallows note, but the bridge has defintely trumped the needle over the years as a spot at which to kill one's self. Probably the water.

beckler said...

I think that further supports my point. A lot of the people who jump off the bridge are suffering from delusional, magical thinking. They don't really want to die, but they're going to. They know there's no chance they could live jumping off the space needle and it just seems too painful and scary. That's why the grossness of the Chronicle series is good, it might disabuse a potential jumper about the gentle sort of death they might be expecting. Did I use the word disabuse right? OK, maybe some of the difference might be that people are scared they would fall on someone and kill them, but I haven't been to the space needle so I don't know where a jumper would fall.

Anonymous said...

The space needle is not so easy to jump off. There are a lot of fences and whatnots that make it very difficult to get to anywhere where you can be in fresh air and jump. It's also fairly populated so hard to be subtle about what you might be trying to do. In other words, it's a good place to make a cry for help cause you probably won't ever make it to the jumping point.

-Wheedle

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Jake and I were confusing variables...industrial pasteurized cheese vs. artisanal pasteurized cheese isn't going to solve the question of whether raw milk makes a perceptible difference, because one of those cheeses is going to be soooo much better anyway. And even if I did indeed have illegal raw milk epoisses at L'Espalier, but didn't notice the difference when I had pasteurized Epoisses the rest of the time, that supports Becky's theory that it isn't really perceptibly different...However, we do have easy access to aged (over 60 days) raw milk cheeses, and could try that with comparable aged pasteurized cheeses, so let's do that this weekend. And one final note, Ben might be wrong. He himself pointed out that it's odd a pasteurized Epoisses would be able to sport an AOC (appellation controlled) label, which it does, even when you get it from Whole Foods (which seems too square to import illegal cheese).

Yeah, the juxtaposition of the suicide and fancy cheese converstaions is a bit distasteful, so sorry about that. We should continue it over cheese this weekend.

-michele

werenotdeep said...

I don't think it's distasteful, I think it's just kind of whimsical.

If the conversation were something more like "So my mom just blew her head off with a sawed off 20 gague. Camembert anyone?" That would be different.

Stephen Glass said...

Yes, you did use disabuse properly.
The fences and such at the Space Needle are pretty hard to scale, and the top is patrolled by at least one guard when it's open (which the Golden Gate Bridge so far as I know is not). It's just odd that in all the years the barriers weren't there so few people tried (because Seattle certainly is not wanting for depressed, suicidal people).
But most importantly, the key is that they wouldn't be hitting the Pacific Ocean if they fell, just a wide-open, concrete pedestrian plaza. I think that's what's down there around the base. Maybe a big planter or two or a snack bar.

Anonymous said...

I'm against the suicide barriers. I'm not against helping sucidal people anyway I can, and I'm not even against public safety as a general principle, but what I am against is the over regulation of our lives. It's like how we can't even buy decent fireworks, or get kinder eggs in this country because we can't be trusted as a people not to eat the toy inside. And I'm really not suggesting that sparklers or candy are on par with suicide as a social issue. It just seems to me that when we try and safety coat the world we prevent people from experiencing it, good and bad. I want the right as an idividual to make my own stupid, dangerous, and possibly final mistakes.
jana