Sunday, March 27, 2011

Photographs from the Memorial for the Triangle Factory Fire Victims

Every year on March 25th people gather on the corner of Greene St. and Washington Pl. to remember the fallen. The tragic fire that took 146 lives was one hundred years ago today and there was a much larger turnout.

This year throughout the media, both traditional and blogs, there has been much written about this tragedy. Laura Clawson did a great job of telling the story in Triangle: Remembering the Fire and also pointed out that a longtime member of the Daily Kos community, has done great things to remember the lives of people lost on this day.

I wrote a photo diary last year about the memorial and tried to tell some of the stories. This year, just a few pictures of the much larger turnout than most years, the people who remember.

Some laborers with signs that have the names and ages of victims. Kate Leone was not the only fourteen year old.

Members of the once strong Union that was also so young when so many died.

Many people who work to keep the memory alive, they carry shirts on sticks with the names of people who died either in the fire or jumping to there death to avoid the fire.

The building survived. You can see the top floors in the background here.

Blue and black banners hanging from some of the windows that Fire Department ladders could not reach.

A view of this year's turnout.

Musicians, members of Local 802, who played the marching music.

And just a few more photos of the people.

This year Eric Schneiderman, the Progressive New York State Attorney General, wrote a few words about the tragedy in a local newspaper.

Horrific deaths in Triangle Shirtwaist fire launched century of progress to safer, fairer workplaces

It was a tragedy that galvanized New York and America like almost no other.

A century ago today, the Triangle factory fire took the lives of 146 garment workers, almost all Jewish or Italian immigrants, almost all women, almost all young.

The United States opened its eyes for good to unsafe working conditions and the plight of those thrust into them.

In 1911, the world was more accepting of hazards, and business had freer rein to do as it pleased. Then, 18 minutes of flames and searing smoke raced through a Greenwich Village garment factory whose place on the ninth floor was both a sweatshop and a deathtrap.

There was no fire alarm. Fire escapes didn't function properly. Wages were unbelievably low, hours were unbelievably long, conditions were unsanitary and dangerous to health.
The girls who died were, some believed, inevitable casualties of industrial capitalism.

But then remarkable change happened. The New York State Legislature set up the Factory Investigating Commission, led by heretofore run-of-the-mill machine pols named Al Smith and Robert Wagner.

The commission led to three dozen new laws or regulations on workplace and fire safety, wages and hours, child labor and the acceptance of unions to organize and bargain collectively. After generations of building on those accomplishments, worker safety is, today, something 99 out of 100 of us can take for granted. Capitalism can work for workers, not against them.

So, as we remember the girls whose choice was certain death by fire and smoke or by jumping, we must remember, too, how this state led the nation in response.

Ashes to ashes? No, ashes to progress.

In the United States, from disaster comes progress, at least for some time. This year the were more people and higher profile speakers than most years but worker progress has gotten very hard to find.

That's about it. I already described what happens there in last year's diary. The Memorial is all about the people.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Greetings from the Bronx where "It's warm, it's tropical, it's just thousands and thousands of orchids." As an early celebration of spring the Orchid Divas have taken Center Stage at the New York Botanical Garden.

"Horticultural theater" for the "divas of the plant world" is how the New York Botanical Garden describes the "Orchid Show on Broadway." The stars of the garden's 9th annual orchid show are over 25,000 individual drooping, weeping and otherwise highly dramatic blooms.

For this year's "Spring Awakenings" the Garden’s horticultural staff has worked with a Broadway set designer to make the Garden’s conservatory feel like a Broadway theater under glass. Here is the view in the Palm Court for the limited engagement, a simulation of the proscenium at the Walter Kerr Theater.

The curtain has already gone up on to rave reviews. The New York Times also plays the Diva theme for this horticultural theater “The orchids are the stars. We know how to deal with their persnickety nature. They’re flashy. They command and demand attention. But when everything is just right, they absolutely steal the show.”

"Orchid Show on Broadway" opened on March 5th and continues until April 25. Since I'm a bit late with my review, I'll try to offer a backstage pass with a few photos below.

Most reviews give the impression that the entire Orchid Show is in the Palm Court and two glass houses where the lavish production takes place. That really isn't the case and the public walks through the other eight glass tubes and squares that are also decorated with orchids.

These houses with a more natural setting and a host of docents to educate visitors are always my favorite. So let's take the guided tour the way all visitors do instead of focusing on the main presentation. Let's start off in a tropical rain forest.

After viewing the proscenium and approaching a more natural arch, amongst the epiphytes, the first orchids to greet you are the Dancing Ladies.

These Dancing Ladies in Broadway curtain red would have been perfect for the arch.

And a few Dancing Ladies of another color growing in the shade of a big banana.

After the Dancing Ladies these show stoppers came on strong.

To put on a hit show on the Great White Way you need excellent lighting. Something the Enid A Haupt Conservatory has plenty of. Have a corsage.

Here are a few for either Julie Taymor "Turn Off the Dark," or Jules Fisher who really knows how to turn on the dark.

Backdrops count too. This isn't really a reed orchid but this Laelia superbiens fits right in with the papyrus background.

Here are a few more with moody backgrounds.

And one of the real Reed Orchids in mood lighting.

Here a little special effects play.

Speaking of moody, the real Diva of the orchid world. Cypripedioideae is more Ballet than Broadway or perhaps the "Javert" of the orchid world.

Then there is the Vanda that can be seen in a few places now. Every year Vanda seems underrepresented but they are budding throughout the show and by the time the outside grounds are covered in Narcissus, the conservatory becomes a rainbow of Vanda. One of my favorites, the Bernadette Peters of the orchid world.

But nothing finds the limelight as well as the moth. When the sun hits the conservatory, few can compare with the Phalaenopsis.

Of course you can see the real star there, the Darwin Star Orchid.

Don't you fret, M'sieur Marius
I don't feel any pain
A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
You're here, that's all I need to know
And you will keep me safe
And you will keep me close
And rain will make the flowers grow.

Well I guess you would expect the conventional review and as any Broadway fan knows you can't paint a Sunday Portrait without "Finishing the Hat." But first the unofficial DailyKos orchid, the beautiful butterfly.

The main event happens in the last two glass houses. The first square of glass was adapted this year by hanging a Phantom Chandelier over water and there are four balcony rails with an audience of orchids viewing the phantom, but no ghost orchids. Here are the slipper and moth orchids watching the show and the orchid chandelier.

Don't miss the perspective, like Castles in the Clouds.

Looking down from the square glass gallery you can find another proscenium. This arch made of Spanish moss frames an arcade. The walkway represents the front of the house at the New Amsterdam theater and people keep looking up.

Great views inside those columns.

Cue the walkout music.

And here is the backstage view I promised.

It is a good show but it is really about the orchids.

Actually it is about the people and understanding nature.

For me, it is all about the sunshine at my favorite sign of the coming springtime.