Dick on a Wire

Man on a WireMy father seemed to be impressed with Nik Wallenda’s upcoming high wire walk over Niagara Falls. It seems really boring to me. I just can’t see it as much of anything after seeing Man on a Wire a couple of years ago. So I forced my father to watch it. He was very impressed, but still looked forward to Wallenda’s walk.

The main thing I remembered about the film was that while Philippe Petit had all charges dropped against him after his walk between the Twin Towers. His co-conspirators, on the other hand, were thrown out of the country. In fact, there is a remarkable moment late in the movie where a police officer comments on the wire the group had put up, “The rigging outfit itself, it’s magnificent the way he did it.” The way he did it. Well, he didn’t do it. If he had been alone, he could not have done it. The walk required a group of committed people. But in America, all that matters is the guy in front of the camera. No one else matters.

What I most noticed this time is what an asshole Petit is. He treats his friends very badly. And I feel that to all of the people involved there was a feeling that Petit was never really much of a friend. He was a fun and interesting guy to be around. He is a symbol of a great thing they were involved in. But they can’t miss the personal relationship they had with him, because they never had a personal relationship with him in the first place.

I’m glad that people like Petit are around. He makes life interesting. But he doesn’t make it true or deep—even for those who are physically close to him. He is the personification of the lonely man on a wire pretending that he willed the wire from his mind.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Dick on a Wire

  1. Ahhaha! "Dick on a Wire". . .my sentiments exactly! Admittedly, I did enjoy the documentary (as a whole) and found it to be an entertaining and fascinating film-but, the same thought kept creeping into my head: ‘what a DICK!’ At the same time, I agree with the statement, ‘I’m glad that people like Petit are around. He makes life interesting."

    Initially, I didn’t notice the same issue as you did. But, I definitely understand and find valid your point. It’s probably one of the reasons I kept thinking Petit was *such* a "dick"?

    Reading your article, I was reminded of our conversation on how the famous/successful (not to mention ‘mega-wealthy’ and ‘privileged’) seem to believe their accomplishments are "ALL their own". We were speaking on the ‘Libertarian mindset’ at the time but, I think you demonstrate, quite nicely, why and how the public seem to ‘buy into’ this same idea as well?

    When you wrote how the documentary, and nearly everyone in it, seemed under the impression Petit was: the whole performance, you illuminated this very common misconception. . .I think the confusion is partially understandable? While it’s true Petit had the ‘dream’ to perform the stunt and actually took the most obvious physical ‘risk’-you’re correct to point out a general lack of interest and curiosity in his ‘crew’. For without them, and their technical know-how, he probably wouldn’t have even boarded a plane to NYC; let alone tight-walk between the Twin Towers.

    Another insightful point!

  2. @karl – Probably because of my name, my childhood was filled with the verse:

    Frank, Frank turned the crank
    Joe, Joe made it go.

    I never understood it when I was a kid, but as an adult I have come to see that I am perhaps 1/3 Frank and 2/3 Joe. As a culture, we do tend to over-value the creativity of the "idea men" and think that the people who implement the idea are just dunces. In my experience it takes far more creativity to bring an idea to fruition than to have an idea. In fact, ideas aren’t that helpful. It normally takes hundreds of them to make something good. People like to focus on the one guy who had one particular idea along the chain.

    Since I’m on the subject, I have really grown to hate Steve Jobs. What did he do that was so great? All I see is a lot of massaging of other people’s stuff. Apple didn’t create the MP3 player–Not even close!–but they packaged it well. I’m all for that. I like well designed toys. But is this genius? I don’t think so.

    And just to finish the thought out. Bill Gates is a ruthless business man whose dominance held the computer industry back. Mark Zuckerberg did what? I’m trying to figure that out. As far as I can tell, he got a lot of people to use a kind of software that had been used in various contexts (Including the one Facebook uses!) for years and years.

    I don’t begrudge these people their billions. But do we also have to treat them like they are gods?

  3. @frank-yup, I think you pretty much nailed what Steve Jobs did (I liked him well enough, I’m completely ‘habituated’ to using Mac computers now). but, I think his real ‘talent’ was in ‘finding’ what other people created, and having the notion that it would illicit strong consumer response? he was also really good at making sure his products were made well, and aesthetically pleasing. is that genius? i don’t think so either? He was more like someone with really good ‘business sense’ and an ‘eye’ for what consumers like.

    I agree on Gates as well, I think his one ‘great idea’ was to implement the ‘windows idea’ (taken from Apple, who took it from Xerox) in order to make computers ‘user friendly’. If Steve Jobs didn’t keep his ‘concept’ to himself and Apple, he probably would have been like Gates? He probably could have made a lot more money? After Windows though, it seemed to me, Gates was sort of ‘pushed’ (because of his inordinate wealth) into becoming what he is now, some kind of ‘philanthropist’-but, genius? I don’t think so.

    Oh brother, don’t even get me started on Mark Zuckerberg! I have no idea why that guy gets the attention/notoriety he does? the only thing I can even come up with, is that his success is based almost entirely on ‘luck’? Which is another thing a lot of ‘successful’/’famous’ and ‘mega-wealthy’ people seem to disregard- that a large majority of their accomplishments are luck! And luck seems to be the dominant factor these days? Again, genius? not even close!

    oh yeah, I agree, I wouldn’t say these guys shouldn’t be able to make the billions of they have; but calling them ‘genius’ and/or holding them up like ‘gods’, as you say, is absurd.

  4. @karl – Zuckerberg had two things going for him: wealthy friends and luck. That is a powerful combination. The person in the computer industry I think really highly of is Mitch Kapor, the guy who wrote 1-2-3. And he is also one of the most insightful critics of the industry. When I wrote about Facebook before, I quoted him, "Silicon Valley likes to think it operates as a pure meritocracy, e.g., it’s the best teams and ideas which get funded. In practice, as luminaries from John Doerr to Ron Conway acknowledge, key decisions are often guided by a combination of pattern-matching based on superficial characteristics and the network of people you already know."

    People are always looking for heroes to look up to, but they don’t think enough of them to even know what they did. Just look at the adoration of Einstein when almost no one knows his work.

  5. @frank-you’re right, I should have remembered Zuckerberg’s other advantage: wealthy friends! it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked either. as you rightly wrote, luck *and* wealthy friends, are a whopping & powerful combination. . .

    damn, what a great quote you referenced by Mitch Kapor. he perfectly exposes the: "disregard the man behind the curtain. . ." notion, which seems so prevalent today and the idea certain segments of business are a bastion of perfect free market capitalism, working as a total meritocracy. well, I guess it depends on what ‘merit’ we’re talking about here?

    great point on Einstein. I was reminded of a girl I dated briefly. I remember realizing she was: ‘a dolt in disguise’. the first ‘tip off’? when she listed her ‘heroes’. 1st: Einstein, 2nd: Dali. what struck me at the time was, how cliché both those answers were. especially to: ‘who’s your favorite. . .(whoever)?", even more regarding ‘science’ & ‘art’ in particular. eventually, after spending an entire night explaining to her the difference between ‘a cult movie’ and ‘an occult movie’, I ‘threw in the towel’ and had to say, ‘I don’t think this is working out?’. she could put on a decent facade, if you spoke briefly with her. what amazed me were the amount of people who believed she *did* know these subjects based on the most obvious of discussions.

  6. @karl – LOL. I guess films like Blacula would have been *really* hard to parse!

    That is perhaps the biggest thing I don’t understand about conservatives: their belief in business. I’ve worked for a lot of different companies, and I’ve been amazed that they manage to make money. In my experience, the government is generally much more efficient. Look at Medicare, for example. Most of my time working for capitalists has been spent watching people involved with turf battles and not with what the company was supposed to be doing.

  7. @frank-HA! Right? ya know one of the films we discussed *was* "The Dunwhich Horror", so imagine how hard I worked explaining that one? The most bizarre thing was, I’d explained this (‘Cult’/’Occult’ oh and then there was ‘Religious Cults’-which just made everything *so* much more complicated!) to her at least one other time before, she seemed incapable of ‘understanding these different concepts’?

    Oh, I know. I always hear Conservatives tell me: "What about the Post Office?" in regards to ‘government business’ (even though I know they’re ‘technically’ not directly a ‘government business’)-and I always remember thinking to myself, ‘What about the Post Office?’. I’ve sent packages by Fed Ex and UPS but I’ve always had less trouble and spent less money delivering with the Post Office. So I really have no idea what they’re talking about?

  8. @karl – If you are a business that ships a lot, you can generally get very good deals from UPS and FedEx. But for individuals, the USPS is always a much better deal. And they do a shockingly good job when you look at what they actually do. (Consider: I can send a letter to my sister who lives over 100 miles away and it ALWAYS arrives the next day.) The private companies just want to take the easiest and most lucrative parts of the USPS business and leave all the unprofitable parts. I love the post office!

    And it really pisses me off that the same people who complain about the line at the post office (which has never been that bad for me, but I think they only remember the bad times and never the times they breezed in and out) are the same people pushing to destroy it. Make them pay their pensions 50 years into the future! And give them 5 years to do it! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Fucktards.

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