Thursday, January 31, 2013

Black Saturday

Earlier this month:  a crowd waits outside an Apple store in Shanghai.

Definition of scary:  being wedged tightly in a crowd of impatient shoppers as Wal-Mart opens the door on Black Friday (or is it Black Thursday now?), especially if there is a single pallet of heavily discounted smart phones waiting inside.  You have no choice but to go with the flow, whether you want a phone or not.  Best to suit up in body armor in case some of the amazing racers start brandishing  firearms.  Best not to stumble to the floor and get trampled underfoot.  No, best to stay home.

Then there is beyond scary.  On the morning of May 30, 1896, a half-million people were gathered on the Khodynka Field on the outskirts of Moscow not to buy anything, but to accept a royal handout.  Khodynka, a military training ground, had been prepared for a festival celebrating the coronation of Nicholas II as the new Russian czar.  The common folk would be showered with gifts:  a commemorative mug (below), scarves, edibles (pryaniki, saiki, sausage), and beer.

The very first iThing.

Peasants had been arriving from the hinterlands for days to join in.  The night before they had been sleeping on the ground, drinking and singing around bonfires, or crowding about pavilions and tents, amused by bands, circus performers, gypsy entertainers, trained bears, the whole nine yards.  [cf. Harrison Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow]  By midnight, tens of thousands had begun to line up for the free stuff.  The mad rush began soon after dawn, apparently triggered by a rumor that there would not be enough free stuff to go around.

When demand exceeds supply, watch out.

1,389 dead.

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