Where Were You When?

The Times, reporting on the tragic death of Heath Ledger, interviews a law student on the street:

Others in the crowd said their first reaction to word of his death was disbelief. [X], 24, a law student at New York University, was in a seminar about Jesus when someone sent her a message about Mr. Ledger. She checked the Web, then walked to the apartment “because of the way our generation is; we sort of feel we’re a part of each other’s lives.”

X,* I agree. And, as an interested observer of the lives of others, including law professors, I wonder how Prof. J. H. H. Weiler will feel about this random mention of web surfing during his class in the nation’s paper of record.**

* If you want to see the student’s name, check out the article. But it doesn’t add much to the story to repeat it here.

** At least I think this is the right class. It is the only class in the NYU directory with Jesus in the title, which seems pretty conclusive. It is also a seminar, taught Tuesdays this semester from 4-5:50.

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5 Responses

  1. Belle Lettre says:

    I was also in class, I also reacted with disbelief, but not as much drama. It says something about my generation that we feel closer to celebrities than our neighbors, and that their places of residence are more emotionally resonant than most civic or religious buildings.

    Anyway, I liked this post on the significance of Heath Ledger for cinema: without him, would Brokeback Mountain have been made, and has that not changed the artistic and political discourse?

  2. Eoin says:

    I find it interesting that it is unexceptional to become aware of such news in class, either via text message or an online source or both. In my Contract Law class, I forbid the use of cell/mobile phones, and look with disfavour on online browsing, in part because of their potential for disruption. These anecdotes demonstrate to me the problems with access to such external sources in the ordinary run of things, and I wonder what others might think of this angle?

  3. eric says:

    I confess to never having seen any of Heath Ledger’s movies. By all accounts, he was a very talented actor. His death, whether accidental or otherwise, is a terrible shame for his family, friends, and fans.

    Still, the notion of a law student, or any adult for that matter, reacting to news of a celebrity’s death by thinking it appropriate to go to the dead celebrity’s apartment house and grieve publicly, is absurd. If such behavior truly reflects that generation (and, judging from my own students, who seem very sensible as a group, I seriously doubt it does), I weep for the future.

    I guess I am now officially a crotchety old man. Damn.

  4. I’ve never sat in a law class, so I can’t hold forth on the rules of evidence, but Miss X might have the alibi of a reporter’s time compression. She got a text message, then checked the web, then walked to the apartment. Did she walk out of the class to the apartment? She may have checked her computer after class as well.

    As for the generation generalization, surely they not the first people in history to grieve in such manner. I was a little too young to remember this, so I checked the Times from December 9, 1980: “At the Dakota, the scene resembled a pilgrimmage, with cars double-parked as young men, some of them on roller skates, and women, some in slippers and housecoats, stood on the street.”

  5. NYU Student says:

    I wonder how Prof. J. H. H. Weiler will feel about this random mention of web surfing during his class in the nation’s paper of record.

    Perhaps you jest, but Professor Weiler is notorious among students at NYU for his strong rules against checking email and surfing the web while in class, to the point of ejecting students from class. Were I this student, I would be wary about having my name quoted in the Times.