For those who don’t know, Philippe Petit is a French high wire artist who gained world fame when, at 7:15am on August 7th 1974, he stepped off the edge of The World Trade Centre South Tower onto the tightrope he, and his team, had rigged during the night. ‘The Coup’, as Philippe calls it, had taken 6 years to plan and was the culmination of a dream inspired by an article in a Dentist’s waiting room magazine.
Prior to this, Philippe Petit had walked between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral and between the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
I have unlimited admiration for people who pursue such astonishing, self-imposed goals. When repeatedly asked ‘why’ he did it, Petit responded ‘I see three oranges, I juggle. I see two towers, I walk…’.There was no financial motivation but oddly, Petit’s Coup improved public and commercial perception of the World Trade Center considerably helping attract new tenants. There was no malicious intent or desire to promote a cause of any description. He just wanted to do it. He had to do it. Create something unqiue and beautiful and, above all, achieve what had become a dream.
Those who witnessed Petit, walking, standing kneeling, saluting and laying down on the wire 417m above the Austin J. Tobin plaza described the experience as ‘transcendental’, ‘mesmerizing’ and ‘etherial’. Some of this emotion may have been fuelled by the distinct possibility of seeing Petit fall, but the interviews and comments brought together in James Marsh’s Oscar-winning film Man on Wire suggest that it was heartfelt joy in repsonse to an extraordinary expression of skill, dedication and beauty.
If you haven’t seen Man on Wire , you should. I almost dismissed it as an art-house, low-budget documentary and, to some extent, it is all these things. It’s also magical, uplifting, joyful, moving and inspiring. All the things in such short supply at the moment.
I’ll also be buying Philippe Petit’s original account of The World Trade Centre Coup To Reach the Clouds. He’s a man worth listening to.
My daughter, who’s nine asked what the big black circly things in the cardboard envelopes were so I began explaining what vinyl records are all about…
“Ok, the big ones are LPs, or albums, they have about the same number of songs as a CD”. She can just about get grips with the almost obsolete concept of a CD.
“But they have songs on both sides, so you had to turn them over to hear the other half of the record.” “Why?” she mused. “Well, they’re played with a pointy needle and there’s one groove on each side.”
“So this is an LP too?”.
“Ahh, no, that’s a twelve inch single; they have a long version of one song on the first side and maybe one or two songs on the other side.”
“So that one song lasts as long as six songs on the LP?”
“Well, no, because the LP goes round slower than the twelve inch single – 33 times a minute for the LP and 45 times a minute for the single”
“How does the machine know what speed to go at?”
“You have to tell it by moving a switch?”
“So this little one, what’s this?”
“That’s a seven inch single?”
“What’s an inch?”
“Never mind right now, it’s not important, that one just has one song on each side. Unless it’s an EP and that has more songs but plays at the same speed as an LP…”
“So my iPod has the same music as 400 of those little black circles?”
Lesson learned here, never try to explain the complex nonsense of yesterday’s normality. Especially to a nine year old. They don’t need to understand it and when they try, they quickly realize that some things have definitely improved.