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Gambling on Disaster

If a young Berkeley design firm has its way, a certain popular film combining romance, saltwater and tragic destiny will be expressed in stone and glass in the middle of Las Vegas. "The Titanic Casino and Iceberg Hotel," proclaims a press release issued by E Design, "will be the ultimate entertainment and holiday destination." E Design stresses the first-class accommodations of the ship-cum-hotel, noting that it will be a five-star inn of 3,000 rooms and that its adjacent shopping complex "will house purveyors of the highest end luxury goods, a multiplex theater, as well as full health and beauty spas." The proposed project offers tacky steerage pleasures as well, in the form of something called Norse Land and Viking Village, where "kids and their parents will explore the far North by traveling on Viking ships through icebergs, fjords and ice caves." There will even be something for eggheads, namely Under Water World, where visitors sitting in "lifeboats" will view the re-created wreckage of the Titanic along with an interactive museum and an aquarium. So far E Design has no takers for its $200 million dream. One might suppose that the whole Titanic craze will be as dead as the ship’s passengers by the time the blueprints are finished, but, on the other hand, E Design’s proposal boasts the kind of miragelike contradictions that have made Las Vegas — an ocean liner and unmelting icebergs stuck in the middle of the desert, a historical grave turned into a retail outlet. In true American fashion, tragedy is no match for shopping.


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