Saturday, September 26, 2009

"9/11: The Falling Man"

Everyday for almost a week now, I’ve been watching different documentaries about the 9/11 attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center. I suddenly got hooked on knowing different perspectives and new information about what happened that day. I remember how horrified I was when I first watched the attacks on TV. It was all so shocking and unreal at the time that I almost didn’t want to know about it or see any pictures.

Since 9/11 happened, I’ve heard a lot of thoughts and theories about what happened but I never really got into it. 8 years have passed since that day and now I’m interested to know more about it. There were a lot of very interesting aspects discussed in different documentaries, there was the political and conspiracy theories, and there was the whole talk about how 9/11 was an inside job and that it was all a scam. What I found even far more interesting were the documentaries that shed light on the human stories and the horror of that day. The stories told by journalists, photographers, fire fighters, police officers, street witnesses and survivors were heart breaking.

One of my favorite documentaries that I’ve seen was one called “9/11: The Falling Man”. It’s a 2006 documentary by American filmmaker Henry Singer about a picture of a man falling from the World Trade Center and the story behind that picture. The documentary had some interviews with some of the families that believe or know that their loved ones had jumped to their deaths from the towers. You get to see how different people think about it. Most of them considered it an act of bravery to accept death and be able to take a decision on how they’re going to die, choked to death by toxic smoke or jumping off the tower. What resonates in my head the most was something a man said about his wife whose body was found later on the street and was thought to have jumped, he said, “She flew”. The coroner's office refuse to call them “jumpers” and say that they were people who were blown out of the tower, forced to get out.

Something that the photographer of the images of those people falling said that made me think about how different people react to something as traumatic as what happened on that day, he said that he saw what happened and the people falling only through the lens of his camera and that it was somehow his way of isolating and sheltering himself from the reality of what’s happening. Another photographer is still very traumatized by the image of people falling till this day and still vividly remembers this falling lady in a blue jacket holding hands with another man.

Witnesses say there were people jumping in groups holding hands. A woman whose husband was stuck in the north tower told her he could see people jumping from the floors right above him because of the fire that was slowly spreading to where he was. She said he has been seeing people jumping from the floors above him for more than an hour. The woman does not know if her husband has jumped or stayed where he was until the building collapsed but you can never imagine what was going through his head seeing those people jumping from above him. It all makes you think of what you would have done if put in their position. And the thought itself is haunting and you don’t want to think about it, you don’t want to make a choice, it's too scary. In the documentary of the Naudet brothers, “9/11”, you could hear the very heavy and loud thump of people hitting the ground.

I’ve listened online to a phone conversation between a distressed woman stuck in one of the towers and a 911 dispatcher and the woman said something that when you think about is extremely sad and somewhat disturbing, she said, “Would you please stay with me on the line? I feel I’m dying”. She was scared and even though there were a few people in the office with her, she probably felt alone. She found comfort in the voice of the stranger on the other line telling her “You’re doing great. Stay calm”. Listening to the woman’s last words is haunting and reminded me of how small we are at the end of the day.

Follow the link to watch the documentary, “9/11: The Falling Man”*:


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

“Three Books For Frugal Fashionistas” – (Radio Journal)

(Click on the title to listen to the feature story at

“Three Books For Frugal Fashionistas” is the name of the feature hosted by Robert Seigel about novelist Melissa Walker’s suggestions on fashion books. Walker, former magazine editor who has written four books for young adults, talks about three books that she really recommends. Walker talks briefly about each book and their authors.

What makes this story very interesting to me is that Walker is stating something that I’ve always believed in. I’ve always believed that fashion is not only for people who can afford to be fashionable and who value lavish extravagance, but for everyone and anyone who’s creative enough to be able to develop their very own sense of style. Fashion to me is all about originality and creativity. This is more or less what Walker talks about in this feature; she recommends three books, Fashion 101, Vintage LA and DV, that guide people on how to find their true personal style without it having to do with their bank balance.

The length of the feature was 3 min. 17 sec. Quality of the sound was perfect. Walker’s delivery was slightly monotonic but she didn’t really lose my attention since the whole feature is relatively short. There was not a single sound bite in the feature, which I didn’t like. I was looking forward to hearing something from any of the authors of the recommended books but seeing that the feature is more like a quick short report on the books, it’s understandable.

“Coco Chanel: The Orphan Who Transformed Fashion” – (Radio Journal)

(Click on the title to listen to the feature story at

“Coco Chanel: The Orphan Who transformed Fashion” is the name of the feature hosted by Renee Montagne and reported by Susan Stamberg. The feature is about Anne Fontaine’s new film “Coco before Chanel” which tells the real life-story of the young French designer Gabreille “Coco” Chanel, how she started out in the business and the inspirations of her unique designs.

The feature started off by describing Chanel’s beginnings and how her very early interest in designing came to being. French film director Anne Fontaine talks about her movie and about Chanel’s first introduction to a skill that later helped shape her future - sewing. Fontaine continued talking about how Chanel wanted to be special at what she does and how she observed the world around her with piercing eyes for inspiration and ideas.

It was a very interesting feature as it shed light on a story so few of us knows, a story of a fashion legend. We hear the very posh designer name Chanel all the time but little do we know that this designer was a singer in a very lower class cabaret and a survivor of poverty and abandonment before she became the legend she is today.

The feature was 7 min. 19 sec. long, which I believe was a good length for the feature as it successfully accomplished to include all the significant parts of the interview with Fonatine and the information about the film in a very compelling way.

The quality of the sound was great so was the use of all the sound bites. Most of them were either parts of the film (dialogue) or music, which fit very well with the flow of the story. The reporter delivered the feature perfectly as she made it sound like a story being told about someone we don’t quite know which thinking about it is exactly what it is. Being the fashionista that I am, I really enjoyed listening to this story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Art Vs. Bad Art*

*To listen to this podcast, click on the title of this post or go to

How do we view art? Are we conditioned to appreciate certain things and not others?

For instance, when looking at a Picasso, are we admiring the art or the reputation of the artist? Do we even understand what we're looking at all the time or are we just trained to be in awe of the pieces that have shocked and amazed generations before us without knowing why?

Have you met someone who said he or she hated the Mona Lisa? or didn't appreciate the mystery of The Last Supper?

What makes art good or bad?
I asked my sister that very same question before deciding to talk about this. She said that art is something that she can understand. "I don't know what art is but I know what I like," she said citing the most famous and if I may say very honest refrain.

I decided to push it further. I asked her what was the last piece of art that surprised or touched her. Knowing that she lives in London and that she's a regular at the Tate Modern and the National Gallery, I expected to hear a famous name. She didn't pause to think. "It was a series of graffiti sprayed on a white divider cordoning off a construction site".

She said, "It was the best piece of art I've seen lately. It's avant-garde and it's non-commercial. The creator just wanted people to see it, just wanted to vent, to create. You can't transcend beyond that. It simply spoke to me."

Indeed, the first thing I think about when critiquing a piece of art is what it does to me. Is it shocking, pleasing, does it make me think, and how does it make me feel? The second thing that I notice is how the idea was communicated and this has to do with the concept and skills of the artist. Good art to me has to evoke a thought, memory or an idea.

Bad art on the other hand is simply a piece that doesn’t get to me in any way. If I don’t understand it and if I don’t know what I’m looking at, it would fail to evoke any feelings in me because there’s nothing there to relate to. It’s not personal.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I can't...I have rehearsal.

That oh-so-common refrain is becoming more and more irritating by the day. I can’t remember how much I’ve said this phrase, but I bet my family and best friends are keeping count.

As a theatre student I always have an unadulterated commitment to rehearsals or practical assignments with nerve-wrecking deadlines. It depends on the job I’m assigned to; most days I multitask and I scramble to finish all and still find time for sleep. You might think I’m exaggerating, but try this for a week: working for five courses, learning lines for acting scenes, designing a set for one play and assistant stage managing for another while humoring your family and friends into believing they actually matter. If you can pull it off without becoming an expert at nail biting and pulling your hair out, meet me this Sunday to tell me how you managed. Oops, I just realized: this Sunday I’m booked.

As passionate as I am about the world of theater and drama, my busy schedule is unbelievable and it does become a burden. Whether I’m part of the creative team or crew, the hours I spend on stage, behind the stage or sometimes under the stage (yes, there’s used to be a scary dungeon full of props down there in the old campus) are endless. In fact, the theatre has become my second, er, first home.

I spend less and less time with my parents, my sister and my precious cats. I miss on so many social outings, parties and gatherings. And my friends are the best, they never fail to remember to keep me in the loop, they always have to let me know what they’re up to, they always have to let me know what I’m missing out on. So yeah, your social life gradually becomes non-existent.

My point? My schedule is crazy; classes in the morning, lunch at the university’s food court, or a snack of cheetos, chips or cookies (or all three mixed which I burn during the first five minutes of rehearsal) then going straight into rehearsal have turned me into a walking zombie.

Did I tell you about tech week? Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is quite expressive of how I feel (and look like) during this week. Technical rehearsals are usually 10 to 12 hours long and what a treat they are! Stuck in the theatre for hours and hours listening to the words “ACTORS HOLD, PLEASE” over and over again, you start to go slowly, but surely, insane. I remember when I worked as an ASM (Assistant Stage Manager), I filled every square of Sudoko that has been created, read all the plays I had to for my classes, braided all my friends’ hair (boys and girls) and the freaking rehearsal was still not over yet! Sometimes there’s a lot of waiting to do in rehearsal and sometimes it’s working non-stop; I can’t decide which is worse though. 

Of course catching up on assignments for my classes is a whole different story. Finding me doing my readings in a pitch black corner backstage with a tiny flashlight is normal. It actually makes me appreciate the little things in life, electricity, childhood, and a vision that is waning by the year. It also reminds me of how my great great grandparents used to study. Since we’re usually done with rehearsals at 10 pm every night, staying up till 4 am finishing assignments and/or freaking out is also very normal … and of course since I’m too exhausted to do anything after midnight, the amount of typos and gibberish writing I discover in my papers and assignments the next morning is, well, you guessed it, very normal too and quite hilarious at times (and disastrous at others).

I recently discovered this T-Shirt that reads “I can’t…I have rehearsals” printed on it. I decided to get me one – if anything, it makes a point or shows that I try. Check the link:

The morale of the story? I love theatre, I’ d rather be doing theatre than anything else in the world and you know what, I just can’t help being whiny about it every once in a while. I’m a human with a passion but I’m only human :)