Saturday, August 26, 2006

The top

As all of you who read that email know, I am totally sick and way out of it at this point. See, my headlamp is still switched on. It's 7 a.m. and I've been climbing straight up, begging my guide to lie and tell me it was almost over, for the last 7 hours. I thought for sure I had frostbite on my fingers and my face is covered in tiny splinters of ice from my breath. The darkness of the night had been so monumental that the sunrise became this kind of holy grail. I thought for some reason that it would dispel all chill from my bones, all that was exhaustion and bad. In general, make the world a better and more hospitable place.

And, boy was it beautiful. No one has lied - it is one of THE places to witness a sunrise.

But, it was also not quite the answer to my every prayer. The air remained as cold as before and all I could think of was how desperately I wanted to get down and get off of the mountain.

Onward and Upward

After my day of acclimatization, we travelled out of the moorland and into the alpine desert. This was the day of not just the 1000 meter ascent to the next campsite but the beginning of our summit attempt - which was to commence at midnight. All in all on this fourth/fifth day we climbed 2200 meters. If you look closely, you can make out the switchback trail we used to get to Gilman's Point (the entry onto the crater rim). It is dark grey and barely visible but quite definitely there; scary upon first sight. I think my exact thought was "No fucking way."

While I'm on the subject of film....


Shameless, shameless, shameless.

Let it be said that I went under duress and already expecting to hate what I saw - however, to be fair, I allowed myself to be talked into the thing, if only to confirm my suspicians. Such sentimental trash. Disheartening to read a review in The Economist which says "the film contents itself with a tribute to the working-class heroism that shone out of the black hole of the event". Our poor working class Nicholas Cage, just as painful to watch as ever, with his Long Island accent fading in and out; his special family moment, doing what working class men do - sawing wood with his son, smiling up at his wife who is contentedly cooking dinner; the heartwrenching worry over another mouth to feed.

All this adds up to is an elitest idea of what it means to be working class. A film that, in a sense, denigrates the individual men and women who responded to the World Trade Center disaster by lumping them into a 'class' and presenting them as one-dimensional stereotypes, in the form of wincing actor who daydreams of jesus and prays.

What else. Besides the absolutely juvenile film-making. An empty subway train to represent the people who were lost. The excruciating attention to providing a viewer with nothing more than the images we all saw on the nightly news, or heard about from New Yorkers. It was almost a primer to the day. Beautiful morning. Check. Shadow of a plane. Check. Papers falling. Got that. Man falling. In the can.

All in all, a film meant to become a classic. Shown to schoolchildren of the future - forever linking the attack on the World Trade Center with a call to American Patriotism and the war on Iraq. (Where is the natural conclusion to the tag about the religious Marine going on to serve two tours of duty in Iraq - namely, 'a nation that had nothing to do with the attack".

I only write this out of frustration with all of these positive reviews that I keep seeing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Quick and probably obvious universal lament to follow.

Michael Heneke has finally gone the way countless fairly good European and Japanese filmmakers before him; he's agreed to remake his terrific film FUNNY GAMES in English, with Naomi Watts and Hollywood backing.

Why remake something that exists so perfectly?

Exasperating. Are we so U.S.-centric that we can't watch something with subtitles - all signs point towards yes. As with THE VANISHING, this is sure to disappoint, due to audience testing and a general lack of imagination among the movie going public. If it were to end the same, would it need remaking. In the HAMPTONS no less!

OK, I'll shut up now, eat a fig and bicycle off for some skim milk

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

through the first view....

With some time having passed, my body generally recovered and all of my more mundane concerns having filtered back into my conciousness - I think back on my week on Kilimanjaro like someone might remember an episode from one's childhood. Save for the physical exertion, the monotony and the exhileration I felt at being truly alone in my own head is my only real souvenir. It is something not easy to recreate. Walking for days on end is an almost mindless activity - it became, for me, a true exercise in endurance of a sort completely different than I had expected. With this in mind, along with my impressions of Ethiopia, I started - last week - to read Rory Stewart's book about his walk across Afghanistan, THE PLACES IN BETWEEN. I highly recommend it.

But, I digress.

The main point of this entry is to give anyone who didn't get that long, long email a quick photo essay on my recent climb. Now, you too can witness how a girl can go from smiles to complete done-in-ed-ness in less that seven days!

These pictures are of the first two days - see, I start out looking all outfitted and collected, shorts and waders. We move to our first night's encampment on the border of the rainforest and moorland - it was very misty, wet and chilly when the sun set. Not, too horrible though - and, exciting as it was the first day. The next day gets even more misty - we ate our dreadful boxed lunch (fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a tiny banana and sugary water) at a small circle of metal tables positioned just about halfway through our day's trek. The last picture is of our arrival at the second group of huts - our first view of the summit, covered and snow and impossibly high and far away.

This is where we stay for our extra acclimitization day....