Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The new TAFKAP

Remember when Prince changed his name to a symbol and was usually referred to as "TAFKAP" (The Artist Formerly Known as Prince)? Well, now there is a new TAFKAP in space: The Asteroid Formerly Known as Pluto.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The twin towers

I learned of the existence of the twin towers of the World Trade Center when I watched the 1976 remake of "King Kong". I had heard there was a new building in New York that was taller than the Empire State, but I didn't know anything about it. The movie impressed on so many levels that I watched it four times in the theater. Of course the sight of a bare-legged Jessica Lange was certainly stunning for a 16-year old. But the special effects, which look dated by today's standards and can be easily spotted on video, also caught my attention. Especially the scene where Kong climbs one of the twin towers, then jumps from one to another, gets killed by helicopters equipped with machine guns then falls from the top, lying lifeless in front of the towers in the final scene. When I first saw that movie I wished I could one day visit the World Trade Center.

I fulfilled this dream in an excursion in 1985. In our first visit, there was too much fog and visibility in the observatory was zero. Even so, I took a picture standing beside the sign that read "Visibility is Zero". The next day, I and a roommate took a taxi went back to the building on our own, and this time we could enjoy a nice night view of New York.

I went back to New York in 1990, this time with my (now ex) wife. We didn't go to the top of the World Trade Center, but we did have lunch at the building's food court. Then I tried taking a picture of one the towers very up close, just to see how much of the building's largeness the lens would be able to capture. You can see the results below. In the other picture, we are going to visit the Statue of Liberty. I'm the bearded guy with glasses on the left. I was 29. The twin towers are in the background.

It's been five years since the towers were wiped out from the New York skyline. I haven't watched "United 93" yet, but no movie and/or video release about the event will be more breathtaking than "9/11". The French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were making a documentary about the transformation of a young "rookie" into a full-fledged firefighter. As fate would have it, not only did they capture the only footage of the first plane hitting the towers, but they also recorded the last moments of the towers from the inside. The misfortune of many turned out to be a golden opportunity for these two moviemakers.

A Brazilian writer has written a book about 9/11. I'm an avid non-fiction reader, but I'm not usually interested in books written by Brazilian authors about facts or people from other countries. I always assume there are people closer to the sources who are better suited for the job. But in the case of Ivan Santanna, I decided to make an exception. He wrote an excellent book titled "Caixa Preta" (literally "Black Box") about three major plane accidents in Brazil and proved to be an excellent non-fiction writer. He has the knack to reconstruct an event in detail and narrate it at the right pace to take you through every minute of it. His book about 9/11 is called "Plano de Ataque" (Attack Plan). I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to doing it. And when I do, I'll post my impressions here.

On a final note, I understand how this subject can be hard on those who lost friends and relatives on that fateful day. This post is not meant to be disrespectful in any way. As much as the details can be instigating for historians and journalists, after all is said and done, the truth is that this was one of the saddest moments in the history of mankind.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Reliving the past

I think everyone would like to see parts of one's life again as if in a movie. Especially those who have experienced watching a movie again decades later. How much had been forgotten! And yet, how many details had been preserved for years! In my case, I had an extra reason to see movies of my childhood again after I learned English. Now I could listen to the original dialogues and even evaluate the translation.

That's why, if I could choose one passage of my life to see again in a movie, it would be the trip I took to the United States when I was 13. I stayed there for two weeks, but I'd be content with a 2-hour digest. Not to show the Walt Disney World attractions and others, as these are still there and haven't changed much. And even those that have changed have been preserved in documentaries and private movies. No: what I would really like to hear is what the Americans were saying to us and about us. For instance, the chambermaid trying to communicate with me then calling the hotel administration. I think she understood that I was telling her not to clean the room and called to check whether it was OK.

One night, before going to sleep, I and my roommates watched a rock performance on TV. I didn't recognize the group or the song, but I remember the chorus was so simple that one of my friends began singing along in excitement. Years later I learned that there was a TV show called "Midnight Special". As the name says, it was broadcasted at midnight and had music as its main feature. I assumed that it was this show that we saw on that occasion, but the curiosity about the group remained. Today I finally realized that at least this piece of information could be looked up on the Internet. And I think I've solved the puzzle.

Our departure to the United States was on July 14th 1974. On the 19th, one of the "Midnight Special" guests was the group Brownville Station. Today this name is not strange to me. Their biggest hit was "Smoking in the Boys' Room" and I have it on one of those "Have a Nice Day" 70's compilations. But one of the songs they sang on that show was "I'm The Leader of The Gang (I Am)", whose original recording by Gary Glitter I would hear many years later. I obviously didn't recognize it as "that" song I had heard in an Orlando hotel in 1974. But today, after hearing a sound bite of Brownsville Station's version on the Amazon site and seeing pictures of the group, I'm sure it was them. The chorus that was easy to sing was "come on, come on". The next step would be to try to find this performance on video.

One question that will be harder to answer is about a movie that was playing on another night, which included football (American football, not soccer) scenes. I think I could even understand one line. A character was talking about a player and he said: "I forget his name, but I'll never forget his number". (I suppose he said "I forget…" If he had said "I forgot…", I wouldn't have understood.) Some day I shall solve this mystery, too.