Archive for September, 2008

Book review: 1776

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

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Trip report: Building REsources, San Francisco

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

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“I LOVE this place!,” my 13 yr. old exclaimed, after we had finally escaped the mesmerizing grounds of Building REsources. “They have GARBAGE CANS FULL of BROKEN GLASS. And they’ll sell it to you. How cool is that?”

Hey, other people pay upwards of $65 to go to Disneyland for a day. You can get into Building REsources free any day of the year. And not only do they have broken glass, but they also have broken doors (and some not so broken…), counter tops, tiles, doors, windows, chandeliers, globes, wooden flooring and many, many plants growing out of old bathtubs, cement stuff, and fountains made of — who knows what.

There are wind vanes made out of old metal barrels and others made from tiny signs, whirling above you.

There are the folks who welcome you in — funnier and more personable than the jokesters on any Disney trams. The guy in the shed built the chandelier that looks like a filthy jellyfish that greets you when you enter. We sought him out when we could not figure out how to get into the Paradise of Broken Glass. He introduced us to Angel, who gave us a tour of the glass and the machines that break it.

Dear daughter was absolutely transported by the glass. Angel was very supportive; gave hints about which types of glass would work best for various projects, backed us up when we parents warned that sometimes projects take longer than expected, made our daughter feel welcome to take samples of the various kinds of glass so she can experiment with grouts and adhesives.

Our visit was about two hours of thrills and chills. I kept reminding my daughter not to run up and down the aisles, not to jump on the carts, not to put her hands into the bins of broken glass (it is rounded down, but still…)

Oh, and the oak moldings we got (slightly worn, but much nicer than the ones at Home Depot, we thought), cost a fraction of what we’d have paid for new ones.

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Movie Review: Man On Wire

Monday, September 1st, 2008

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One day when my older daughter was about 4, before we knew that she could read, we took a trip to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. It was a great visit. The grounds are lovely and we saw many creatures we’d never seen or even heard of before. But then, all of a sudden, dear daughter cried, \”What time is it? We have to get out of here. Now!\” She started lurching around, dashing one way and then another. But we were looking at some very interesting red kangaroos, or maybe they were tree pandas, and hadn’t seen the real pandas yet. \”WHY do we have to leave now?,\” we asked her. Eventually, she calmed down enough to point a sign out to us. One we hadn’t realized that she had seen, let alone read and understood. It said, \”Park closes at sundown.\” There ensued a heated family discussion about the definition of sundown and it was finally agreed that it might be open to interpretation. The compromise reached was that we would dash over to see the giant pandas and then leave before the federal authorities arrested us for overstaying our welcome at the zoo.

Man On Wire is the true story of how Phillippe Petit and a group of his friends snuck into the World Trade Center and strung a high wire between two of the towers so that Petit could dance nearly 1400 feet in the air over New York City. And was then arrested and charged with trespassing. It was the \”Artistic Crime of the Century\”.

We took our 13 yr. old (younger) daughter, the one who likes to climb to very high places, with us to see the movie on condition that she \”not get too many ideas\”. Luckily, the movie features shots from above the \”crime scene\” so we could all experience what it might feel look like to look down at the streets of New York from 1400 feet. Dear daughter shuddered with the rest of us.

Man On Wire is hilarious, exhilarating, terrifying, inspirational, and, to those of us with a previous relationship with the World Trade Center, nostalgic and sad. Anyone trying, for any reason, to sneak into any New York landmark for any reason these days would no doubt not get even the modicum of support that Petit did. And they might indeed be shot on sight. Sad, very sad. Petit’s lovely graffiti gone, all gone, along with the terrible smells of the subway under the WTC and the soaring views above.

Man On Wire is like a real life Mission Impossible, told in flash-back. It is the story of a team of friends who are very, very, very good at what they do and have to learn to be very good at other things too (like sneaking into buildings), so they can do the thing they love to do.

There’s Petit at 17… Already obsessed by walking the high wire in challenging places, he reads a story about the plan to build the World Trade Center (the towers were going to be the tallest buildings in the world at that time). Before he even knew what they looked like, he knew he had to wire-walk between them.

When he gets out of jail after wire-walking the Sydney Harbour Bridge, he learns that the WTC is about to be completed. We hear Petit and some of his co-conspirators reflect back on their adventure. (The interspersing of live footage and photos with \”re-creations\” of some moments is confusing, but does not detract from the authenticity of the film.)

The lessons taught by this documentary are plentiful and satisfying:

  • That one with a true gift should be honored, but that challenging that person to exercise that gift is permissible. (Petit’s friends worry that by helping him perform this walk, they might be abetting a suicide. The policemen who arrest him let him dance on the wire for a good long time before they drag him in for psychological evaluation.)
  • That competent co-workers and friends you trust are not easily replaced, so you should treat them well, appreciate their advice, take their counsel. That you never truly lose them, but you can through your own carelessness, lose them as true friends.
  • That hard work and planning, in addition to raw talent and drive, are key to success.

Maybe I’ve said enough about this movie. See it. And take your teenage children. (There is one very, very short scene in which a man and woman romp in the nude. But the real reason you don’t want to take youngsters is that you probably don’t want your three year old to get ideas. Also because a fair amount of the film is in French with English subtitles.)

And, if your child has a gift, even if it is a scary one, you might as well help him or her to do it well and with competent support. We want our children scaling great heights. We don’t want our children breaking into high buildings and jumping off roofs but feeling all alone.

— Emily