Friday, October 16, 2009

The View from Fort Collins

By R.B. Moreno

Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers' adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are opens tonight across North America. "The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another," the original story begins, "His mother called him 'WILD THING!'" Sendak's 1963 picture book runs just 338 words, and it tells of a boy who must go to bed without supper:
That very night in Max's room a forest grew and grew––and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.
On Thursday morning, Sendak fans might realize, Jonze and Eggers' adaptation was spectacularly upstaged. Because for a couple of hours here in Colorado, the walls did become the world around another mischievous boy––as his imaginary self took to the sky in another kind of boat. "'Balloon boy' Falcon Heene found safe in attic of Fort Collins home," is how a team from The Denver Post reports the story in today's paper, which continues:
the bizarre image of a homemade, helium-filled flying saucer — thought to be carrying a 6-year-old boy — transfixed a global television audience as it blew for 50 miles across the Colorado sky.

But the tale of a boy's unplanned flight from his Fort Collins backyard aboard his father's experimental aircraft took two jarring turns: first when the craft settled to earth with no sign of the boy; and later, when young Falcon Heene reappeared, frightened but safe, from his hiding place in the family's garage attic.
Along the way, rescue workers from several jurisdictions mobilized, helicopters filled the air, Denver International Airport rerouted planes and perhaps millions of television viewers watched with reactions ranging from horror to disbelief.

At a news conference after the boy emerged, the family said Falcon hid because his father had earlier yelled at him when he tried to climb into the craft.
Police want to know more about why Falcon hid in the attic. But last night, there was also good news for the boy and his brothers at home in blustery south Fort Collins: despite satellite trucks at the playground and reporters lounging on the front lawn, in this adaptation, there would be pizza.

Update: the county sheriff says Falcon's disappearance was part of a hoax orchestrated by his parents. In November they pled guilty to related charges; Richard Heene began serving a 90-day jail sentence in January.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Every Friday, our friends at the journal Suss post "some number of things currently interesting us . . . be it a book, a building, an awesome peony bush." Today's gossip includes this excerpt from "Made in China," RBM's forthcoming essay on human hair:
DOUGH CONDITIONERS reads the fine print on a bright blue box of Texas Garlic Toast. It’s made by Great Value, or GV (“When Quality Counts”). Wal-Mart, the product’s distributor, describes GV as the country’s largest food brand. Peering closer at the ingredients listed under dough conditioners, which fall just before sugar but after yeast, I spot a familiar term: L-CYSTEINE.

Some time later, deep in the bowels of the European Union’s legal archive, in correspondence with an alarmed German legislator, I find that one means of dough conditioning hinges on a process called hydrolysis. This entails boiling hair, usually human hair, in vats of hydrochloric acid for several hours on end, which makes the follicles decompose into a white, odorless powder: L-CYSTEINE.