Man on Wire

It is 0715hrs on a foggy New York morning in August 1974. 415 metres above a waking city, a 24-year-old Frenchman steps out unannounced onto a wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

No, it’s not the opening line of a fictitious screenplay. What became known as ‘The Artistic Crime of the Century’ really happened and Philippe Petit’s story has now been made into a captivating documentary, Man on Wire which opens today in the UK. Last month, I saw a preview at the BFI Southbank which turned out to be an extra special occasion because the man himself was at the screening.

Man on Wire

After six years of meticulous planning and two previous wire walks at Notre Dame and Sydney Harbour Bridge under his belt, Philippe and his accomplices managed to sneak their way in to the World Trade Center building disguised as workmen. After hiding overnight, they strung a 43 metre wire between the still-unfinished towers and against all the odds the mission was completed. Not surprisingly, Philippe became an overnight celebrity.

When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”

James Marsh’s film takes us on an engrossing and endearing journey towards this extraordinary achievement, although I would say that the distinction between reconstruction and archive footage wasn’t always clear enough for me.

Man on Wire

In an entertaining Q&A session after the film, Philippe was asked where he would like to wire walk in London. “On an incline to the London Eye” was his response and I’d certainly like to see that! He was also asked how he felt on September 11th 2001. It was a question that was bound to come up but he graciously declined to answer saying his feelings were private and he didn’t want to taint the moment in time captured by the film.

Go see the movie. It’s the triumph of one man achieving the seemingly impossible and his spirit, tenacity and guts will knock your socks off.

Microsoft Humour (1)

If you fancy a bit of light entertainment, head over to Microsoft’s latest campaign site for Vista, called The Mojave Experiment. This one is an absolute marketing classic.

The concept behind the campaign is that Windows XP users who have never used Vista (and presumably never even seen it) are asked for their opinion of the OS. We hear nothing but negative words. Then they are shown a ‘sneak peek’ of the latest Microsoft operating system, codenamed ‘Mojave’. The reactions are amazing, ecstatic, “so easy”, “so cool”. The users are then told that they’ve been using Vista. Cue shocked looks and much jaws dropping all round.

I just find it astonishing how clueless Microsoft are when it comes to marketing. Putting aside the fact that the net result of the campaign is showing the participants of the video as misinformed and wrong (psychological alarm bells are ringing here), the campaign concept feels like one big horrible back-handed compliment. Regardless of the ‘positive’ outcome at the end, the video starts with public trashing of the very product they’re promoting. That’s nothing new but coming on a Microsoft marketing message seems to validate those opinions. It just leaves a really bad taste in the mouth.

Check out the bearded guy (third row, fifth column from the right):

So what three words would you use to describe ‘Mojave’?
Easy… (long pause) Can I change easy to convenient?
[OK that’s it, show the Vista logo and end the video]


Hello World. Today I am 40…

In my typical style, I’ve been planning to start a blog for almost a year now. The domain was bought (the other Martin Baker is better known than this one), WordPress was installed, hours were spent mocking up and deliberating over designs (of course mostly going round in circles)…and for months the thing sat hidden away only accessible by me.

In the meantime, I’ve been building up a substantial list of topics to write about, all of which seems a bit of a waste of time when I could just be writing the damn thing and pushing the publish button. I needed an incentive and as today I turn 40, that seemed to be a convenient time to make the site live (my design indecision can now continue in public).

I’ve always loved writing so a blog is an exciting prospect. Partly because ‘the list’ gives me a compass of the subjects I want to write about and partly because it feels like unchartered territory where I haven’t got a clue what I’ll discover.

So today I am 40. Do I feel 40 years old? Not really. Maybe the question is really whether I feel old and the answer to that is absolutely not. In my mind, the best is still to come.