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Film critic John Powers reviews ."My Son the Fanatic." Miramax Films describes it as a contemporary love story set against a comic clash of generations and cultures. Eastern fundamentalism meets Western hedonism over the kitchen table of a Pakistani family in the industrial north.

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Other segments from the episode on July 2, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 2, 1999: Interview with William Langewiesche; Commentary on Seiji Ozawa; Review of the film "My Son, the Fanatic."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JULY 02, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 070201np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: The Thrill of Flying
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

If you're flying somewhere for the holiday weekend or your forthcoming summer vacation, you're probably not looking forward to the cramped seating, the very small bag of pretzels, the tiny lavatory or the delays. The small frustrations of flying have helped us forget how exotic and strange it is to be fly through the sky.

William Langewische puts the mystery and awe back into flying in his book "Inside the Sky," which has just been published in paperback. It's based on his experiences piloting small planes. He's a contributing editor to the "Atlantic" magazine, but before he made his living as a writer, he flew small cargo planes and worked as an air taxi pilot along the Mexican border.

He still flies private planes. As a child, he flew with his father, a test pilot who also wrote a highly regarded text on flying.

I asked Langewische if he feels like he belongs in the sky, or if he thinks that it's only through violating certain laws that he's able to stay up there.

WILLIAM LANGEWISCHE, WRITER, ATLANTIC MAGAZINE; AND AUTHOR "INSIDE THE SKY: A MEDITATION ON FLIGHT": No, not -- there is no violation at all. It's a natural thing to be in the sky once you accept the wing as a natural shape. I think of the wing as being something that was not invented, but discovered. And the pity is it took us so long in evolutionary terms to discover it. But it was lying out there waiting for us all along.

The airplane is a very simple thing. It's almost a force of nature.

GROSS: You write that the greatest gift of flight is to look around. What do you find most exciting and revealing about the aerial view?

LANGEWISCHE: There are various forms of the aerial view. The first aerial view is the view of the Earth from above, and more specifically the view of home from above. So, since the surface of the Earth is home, I guess they're about the same thing. But I mean home in a very specific, even more specific way: your house, your city, your block, your neighborhood.

To see that from above is compelling and interesting. It is endlessly fascinating, even for me now after so many years of looking at the Earth from above and looking at my own houses or neighborhoods from above. I never tire of it. It's a frank and unobstructed view, and it's a view in which the patterns of our lives emerge. So that's one view.

The other view is a view entirely within the sky -- an internal thing. Starts simply with a view of weather from the inside -- in the inside of a storm where the snow may fall upward or the rain may fall right toward your face; where there are lightning strikes around you and they're -- which reveal at night inner secret kingdoms in the storms and clouds -- and on and on. There are many surreal views on the inside of the sky.

And then there's another view, which is the view of ourselves, which is where really piloting comes in. I mean, piloting is largely an internal, mental process with pilots after the initial few years. are not that interested in the actual manipulation of the controls. That's not what it's about. It's about a process of thinking and of seeing the world and of making decisions, but important ones.

And that -- that view is -- becomes a view of yourself. You begin to look in on yourself and you see yourself in difficult conditions sometimes, and you have to grapple with fear. And that's a good thing. And then in the end you also begin to see -- I do at least -- reflections of all of society in the sky; in the way we organize our life when we're in the sky.

GROSS: It seems that you've probably had your formative flying experiences in small planes as opposed to the large commercial airliners that most of us are used to flying. Do you think it's a fundamentally different experience to be in a small plane than, you know, in one of the commercial airliners?

LANGEWISCHE: No. The fundamentally different experience is to be in the front of the airplane as opposed to being in the back of the airplane. In a small airplane, if it's small enough, everyone is in the cockpit in a sense. But my experience is primarily in all kinds of airplanes in the front seat.

GROSS: Right. Now in commercial airliners when you're just flying as a passenger, which is the way I always fly, you're separated from the act of flying. You don't see the controls. You don't really see the pilot. You don't see the panoramic vista that the pilot sees if there is light.

And I think in these big planes, when you're just a passenger, it's kind of as if you're sitting still. You don't -- unless there's a lot of turbulence, you don't even feel like you're flying except for the landing and the takeoff. And I'm wondering, like, why is that true? Why does it feel like you're sitting still?

LANGEWISCHE: Well because the pilots work so hard and the engineers work so hard on providing a smooth ride. There of course is a lot of motion, and with a -- just a slight control movement, you can make the passengers realize right away they're in motion and they're flying, but that doesn't go over very well.

So it's actually one of the more unfortunate sides of professional flying, I found in my years of flying passengers who were not interested in getting thrown around, that you have to be so concerned about turbulence, for instance, that people are so worried about it that you spend a lot of time and anxiety fighting turbulence.

And if you listen to the air traffic control frequencies, a lot of the chatter you hear is not about weather in particular or about traffic, although that's out there, but largely it's ride reports. How smooth is it? How rough is it? What can I expect ahead for my precious passengers?

And I understand that, and I think it's a good thing for the passengers, but it's a little unfortunate for the pilots.

GROSS: Well, you know, when the pilot warns you that you're about to experience turbulence and to buckle up your seatbelt and all that, and then -- and then you have that kind of sinking and rising series of motions, I think most of us -- most of us passengers start to worry, like is something going terribly wrong? Are we going to be trapped...

LANGEWISCHE: Right.

GROSS: ... in a storm. Is this a sign that something's going wrong? Is turbulence and that kind of dropping and rising, a sign that something's really out of control?

LANGEWISCHE: Not at all. Turbulence is -- the thing that worries people the most and should probably worry them the least. I mean, there is turbulence that will damage an airplane. There is turbulence that will throw an airplane out of control, but it's very rare and is much more severe than what people in airlines experience; much more severe.

So the threshold of the airplane and of the pilot is higher than of the passengers by a factor of, I could probably measure it, by a factor of 10 or something.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is William Langewische, and he's the author of the new book "Inside the Sky."

There are things, apparently, I learned this from reading your book, there are things that you don't feel in a plane that you would think you would feel. And that is, for example, a turn -- when a plane turns, you don't feel that it is turning and that can cause serious disorientation for a pilot whose using his physical senses and intuition to figure out where he is and what he or she is doing.

Why don't you feel a turn?

LANGEWISCHE: Because of the very simple Newtonian equilibrium, the physics of the term, because when an airplane, in order to turn, an airplane must bank and inertia comes into play. And what it really means is that inside the airplane, gravity, so to speak, the internal gravity inside the airplane, is always to the floor of the airplane no matter how steeply it's banked.

And that's a good thing for the passengers because it means the coffee doesn't spill and it's, as proved over the years, to be the core problem of flight control for the pilots. It's a problem which had to be solved before the airline -- the airlines could be born in the late '20s. It is the problem of weather flying.

Now, if you can see outside in the cockpit -- if you can see the horizon -- it's not a problem. You know when you're in a bank. But when you're inside the weather, you have to measure the turn because you cannot feel it. And if you go into a turn unintentionally, the airplane will go out of control. I mean, I think that's the word. We can simplify it by "it will go into a spiral dive." And the spiral dive is a very dangerous condition when it's uncontrolled.

GROSS: Tell us more about the spiral dive.

LANGEWISCHE: In the spiral dive, the airplane puts its nose down and gains speed and a sort of aerodynamic lock-in occurs. And that's, again, a very simple way of putting it. But in this dive, with the nose down and the wing down and the speed picking up, the airplane does more of the same. It -- the nose goes farther down; the effect is to bank -- to cause the airplane to bank more steeply and the speed to pick up.

So the airplane very quickly accelerates past its limits and quite often breaks up in flight.

GROSS: Now, you say in the book that if you see -- if the weather's clear and you can see the ground coming at you when you go into the spiral dive, you know exactly what's happening. But if you weren't looking and if -- or if you couldn't see because of the weather, you wouldn't necessarily know this was happening. I find that impossible to fathom.

LANGEWISCHE: It's very difficult for people to understand that. And you know, what's funny to me is that your honesty in saying that because that is precisely -- that -- you find that difficult to accept is precisely the problem that pilots have and that pilots historically did have. It is very difficult to accept. It is so counter-instinctive to find yourself in a condition that -- where your sense of balance abandons you completely.

To make it worse, not only is the sense of balance neutralized by the physics of the turn, but in fact because of physics inside the ear, the sense of balance sometimes begins actively to lie to you; to tell you that you are in turns when you're not; or to tell you you're in the left turn and when you're in a right turn, and it goes on from there.

So it's worse than having a neutralized sense of balance. You have a malicious sense of balance; very difficult to accept and that's something that took, oh, at least one, maybe two generations of pilots to learn. It is a humbling experience. And it was really only with World War II that this -- when masses of pilots had to be taught in a hurry how to fly and fly through weather, that this became OK; that it was OK to accept as a pilot, a proud pilot and all of that, that you need some gyroscopes; you need some instruments. You can't do this with sense of balance. If you try it, you will fail.

GROSS: Have you ever gone into a spiral dive?

LANGEWISCHE: Yes, I've gone into spiral dives. I used to teach people to fly in bad weather, and still sometimes do. And I -- sure, if you do that, you have other pilots who are flying the airplane and typically less experienced, who go into spiral dives. Have I gone into a spiral dive myself without teaching?

Only once in a simulator, actually, and I was an 18-year-old cocky guy thinking that I was God's gift to flying and there was a -- actually, it was at the Redding Air Show and there was a new simulator and they put me in there because I was a young guy and had a lot of time for my years.

And I thought I'd do a good job of flying. And they put me into a spiral dive right away. And I -- I learned a lesson from that. I -- I was making some technical mistakes and luckily it happened in a simulator because soon after that, I got my first real flying job as a cargo pilot -- night cargo pilot in bad old airplanes; a dangerous job out of San Francisco.

And during that winter, I had a lot of failures and failures among other things of the gyroscopes. And if I had not been through that lucky experience of being embarrassed in public at the Redding Air Show, I probably would have gone into a spiral dive for real.

GROSS: Now, I still don't understand why in a spiral dive or on certain kinds of turns, like your coffee isn't going to spill; why you're not going to feel, you know, that you're upside down because you are upside down.

LAUGHTER

LANGEWISCHE: Well, if you actually go upside down and you stay upside down, the coffee will fall out of your cup, your hair will stand straight up, the dirt will fall off the floor and you'll know you're upside down. You'll hang from your seatbelt -- truly inverted flight.

But a spiral dive, you see, which may take you upside down and in this book it takes -- the 747 -- the Air India Kukar (ph), a 747, upside down -- a spiral dive is -- is a turn. And in the process of turning, if you go upside down in the process of turning, none of the above will happen. I mean, your hair will be normal. Your coffee will not spill. And it has to do, again, with the physics of inertia -- very simple Newtonian physics.

Don't forget that the airplane is always in motion and the best way to think about this might be to remember a curved track, a curved road, a curved race track, or maybe a curved toboggan track, and why do the toboggans go around those very steep, almost 90 degree turns, banked over that way, and not slip down to the bottom? Well, for the same reason that the airplane -- that the coffee does not spill. And if you put a cup of coffee on a toboggan and it went at high speed down one of those 90-degree banks, the coffee would not spill.

And that may be instinctively obvious.

GROSS: My guest is William Langewische, his memoir about flying, "Inside the Sky," has just been published in paperback. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: My guest is William Langewische, his memoir about flying, "Inside the Sky," has just been published in paperback.

What's it like to fly at night when you can't see anything, particularly like if you're in bad weather or a lot of clouds. And you're relying completely on instruments, but you can't -- your eyes are not going to be at all helpful to you?

LANGEWISCHE: I love to fly at night. It's the time I like to fly most -- late at night.

GROSS: Why?

LANGEWISCHE: It's quite. There's relatively little traffic on the frequency. You can kid around with the controllers. It's a private world and it's very, very far away from the Earth. It is the most remote and exotic destination, and that is even more at night than during the day. A night storm -- bad weather at night -- you are so far from any concern on the Earth; so far from pedestrian understanding; so far from the experience of the people you're flying over.

It is as if you -- well, it's more exotic than any earthly destination. Put it that way. I guess that out in space, there are places like that; that must be the experience of space, I don't know. But I imagine it's about as alien as going into space. It is an utterly far away place. And it's attractive to me because of that.

The solitude is attractive also. It's hard to think of a lonelier place than a cockpit at night in a storm. And that's a good thing. I like to get away from society. I like the desert and I like wilderness, and this is an extreme form of it.

GROSS: Can you tell us about a storm that you flew through? A storm that was a bad storm, a threatening storm?

LANGEWISCHE: I've flown through so many. It also depends on what you mean by "storm." I mean, we use the word "storm" in so many different ways. Does it mean a single thunderstorm? Does it mean an air mass system like a massive low pressure system?

One storm ...

GROSS: How about a storm when they were throwing everything at you? -- the rain, the thunder, the lightning, the wind.

LANGEWISCHE: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you one story. I was flying, again, cargo in an old airplane -- twin-engine airplane. And it was winter. And I was trying to get across the Sierras into Reno I suppose or maybe Cedar City, Utah. I forget where I was going. It was one of those places. I was out there in the middle of nowhere, meaning I was off somewhere far away inside the sky.

And my airplane was causing trouble. The right engine was running hot. I was looking out at night. I was inside clouds. And it was rough and it was snowing and raining. And I looked out -- the left engine, you can see the glowing of the hot turbo-charged exhaust. And I looked out to the right engine and saw a much brighter hot out there glowing, and it was running rough. And it was running hot by indications.

And I was also -- my main gyroscopic instrument was intermittent and I was having -- in other words, I was hanging onto flight by a thread. It was a night when trees were being knocked down on the ground. I don't know how strong the wind was where I was. I was probably at 15,000 feet or so; 16,000. And it was snowing. And my lights were boring these holes forward through the snow, so the snow was coming back at me at about 200 miles an hour; 250 miles an hour.

And I looked down at one point -- oh, by the way, I got put into a holding pattern. I remember that.

GROSS: Oh, great.

LAUGHTER

LANGEWISCHE: And during that hold -- yeah, right -- exactly right. During that hold, I looked down and I saw the lights of a little town. There was a main street and there was a car pushing its lights -- its own little headlights forward down that street; just a glimpse of it.

But seeing that town down there gave me an idea of the vertical distance -- my own vertical distance away from that town and I -- in other words, I looked down through a sort of a canyon through the clouds and there was lightning around. And I saw how far away I was.

And I was in a hold and it came to me then, something I never would have known before, that Sant Exupary (ph), the French writer who talked so much about death and glory and all of that romantic nonsense, in flight, that Sant Exupary was right; that there is a time -- there is a time in a pilot's experience when he's so far away from the ground and so beleaguered that he may actually begin to think about death. That's something I denied before, and it scared me. It took me ...

GROSS: Did you start thinking about death during that flight?

LANGEWISCHE: I did. When I saw those lights, I thought, well, I may never come back from this one. And it was a shock to me. It was -- I think the real shock to me was not that I was worried that I would die. That's a possibility of course for all of us at all times. But that I would worry about it in flight; that as a pilot -- that I was sitting there thinking about death when I should have been flying the airplane. And that shocked me and it scared me for several weeks after that.

And it took another storm that same winter for me to come out of that. Several weeks later I was in another storm at night as usual in the same kind of lousy airplane. And I was -- I had a lightning strike, basically. That's a pretty fancy word for it, but a discharge between the airplane and the clouds. And it burned a hole in my wing and blew a hole through the top of the tail.

And I came back from that flight -- it was another rough one -- and I was at the airport in San Francisco and the cargo guys were unloading the cargo from this battered old unloved junk that I'd been flying. And I thought, you know, I have been to a place out there in this unlovely machine that is beyond even my own understanding. How can this airplane have taken me there? And my emotion at that point suddenly was to want to go back.

GROSS: William Langewische. His memoir about flying, "Inside the Sky," has just been published in paperback. Our interview was recorded last June when the book was first published. We'll hear more of the interview in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with writer and pilot William Langewische. His new book is a meditation on flight called "Inside the Sky." It's based on his experiences flying small planes. He even spent a lot of time in the sky as a child flying with his father, who was a test pilot. Langewische is now a contributing editor at the "Atlantic" magazine. Before he became a writer he made his living piloting small planes.

You know, you were telling us a little bit about the period when you were flying I guess it was cargo planes in -- along the West Coast in like cheap, run-down planes. But you also went through a period of your life when you were younger when you were a taxi pilot along the Mexican border of West Texas. And this is an area in which there were a lot of drug and gun smugglers.

And you say in your book that the danger wasn't the flying itself. It was the same dangers that face other taxi drivers -- bad neighborhoods and aggressive passengers. What kind of -- what kind of suspicious offers and bribes were -- came your way, you know, when you were working in this area filled with drug and gun smugglers?

LANGEWISCHE: Well, the first thing is no one works down in that area for long without getting offers from strangers ...

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

LANGEWISCHE: ... to run dope. And they -- how that is worded depends. In my case, somebody offered to pay me to go down to Mexico and "repossess" an airplane. That's the term he used. Now, it was pretty clear what was going on and of course I refused him absolutely, to do anything like that.

But the -- those people are always nosing around looking for pilots who would be willing for a lot of money to make a run. That's not too much of a problem because I don't think a pilot gets into that without knowing what he's getting into.

That's a conscious decision. But the problem for me was that we would get calls from the river -- from people we didn't know, who wanted to leave the river. Now, we don't know what's in their suitcases. All we know is somebody who's just come across the Rio Grande, maybe by boat, maybe by foot, maybe by swimming, maybe by car -- who knows how. And you get a call and you're the public air taxi pilot and you go down and pick them up.

If those people are carrying dope or if they're doing something with guns or money, you may as a pilot get in trouble yourself legally, even though you don't know what's on board. And worst than that, there are cases in which the pilots have been taken out in the desert and simply shot. That is, the guy pulls a gun out in flight and he's got a valuable load and doesn't want any witnesses and he wants to go to some remote area where he can unload it. There is some truck waiting for him. And the pilot is disposable.

So I -- of course, I was very concerned about that. I mean, very concerned -- I was concerned about that.

GROSS: And how did you protect yourself?

LANGEWISCHE: Well, the one -- my best protection was a 250 pound or 220 pound mechanic friend of mine named Tweeter (ph), who worked at the airport. And on flights like that, of course, they had a certain signature to them. You didn't know the people, that's one.

Tweeter would come along and Tweeter was a guy that nobody messed with. Tweeter had a great big mustache and he had a baseball cap and a fire extinguisher in one hand and a baseball bat in another and nobody messed with Tweeter. And that's true not just in airplanes. So as long as I had Tweeter along, there was no real problem.

GROSS: Did you ever do any fancy daredevil flying things to intimidate your passengers if they were trying to intimidate you?

LANGEWISCHE: I once was stuck with some people out of Presidio, Texas on the river, who -- a man and a woman -- who frightened me and I thought really threatened me. I found that they were carrying a gun in a little satchel they had.

And Tweeter was not along. It was a weekend and Tweeter had gone off to El Paso for the weekend. And I picked them up and they frightened me. And after takeoff, I took them to Odessa -- about 200 miles away.

After takeoff, I leveled off inside the landscape at fencepost height, on a route I knew well and on a route that I often flew low so I knew all the wires, of which there were very few by the way. It's pretty wild country. I knew all the canyons.

And I went down inside the landscape and I used it as a weapon myself or as an ally. My idea was partly just malicious. I didn't like these people and I was mad that they had threatened me, in a way. And also that my idea was that if I flew that low and fast, even if they were pilots, they would not dare come after me.

They would not dare try to take control of the airplane or shoot me in flight or attack me in any way because we were so close to hitting the ground. We're talking about flying at 200, 250 miles an hour at about six feet.

GROSS: Whoa!

LANGEWISCHE: So ...

LAUGHTER

... that's very low. Yes.

GROSS: That's very low. You were confident that you could pull this off?

LANGEWISCHE: Oh yeah, I did it all the time. Everybody does out there. That's no big deal. That's wide open country. You can do it no problem. It's perfectly safe.

GROSS: Right.

LANGEWISCHE: I mean, of course, officially you're not supposed to and there are many rules and this and that. But no, it's no problem.

GROSS: So were your passengers duly intimidated?

LANGEWISCHE: Well I didn't spend a lot of time turning around and looking at them, to tell you the truth, 'cause my eyes were forward...

GROSS: Right.

LANGEWISCHE: ... flying that low, but I did get one glimpse of them. They were sort of huddled in the back of the airplane. They did not mess with me and in the end, they paid me in cash and sort of ran away ...

GROSS: Right.

LANGEWISCHE: ... in Odessa.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: That's good all the way around.

LANGEWISCHE: In the end, I had -- of course, had to pull up -- about 50 miles out of Odessa, I had to pull up and act like a civilized pilot and -- but the problems were over.

GROSS: My guest is William Langewische. His memoir about flying, "Inside the Sky," has just been published in paperback. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: Back with William Langewische. His new book about flying is called "Inside the Sky."

I -- I know that, you know, just about all your life ever since you were a teenager, you've flown small private planes. How often are you a passenger like the rest of us in the big commercial airliners?

LANGEWISCHE: Well, let's see. Last night, I left Washington, D.C. -- I tried to. And I think I had -- I was on five flights that were canceled.

GROSS: Yes. So you are in the position we're in.

LANGEWISCHE: Oh, yeah ...

LAUGHTER

No, I fly on the airlines all the time. Sure. You know, as a writer, I travel all over the place and not as a pilot. And sure, I'm on airlines all the time.

GROSS: Do you always feel confident in the commercial airliners?

LANGEWISCHE: Yes. I am not ever worried when I'm on the airlines. I recognize big differences in the way the airplanes are flown. Some airplanes are flown well. Some airplanes are flown poorly, kind of rough.

And some airplanes -- some airplanes are flown -- airliners are flown even maybe dangerously, especially if you're in the third world, where I often am. And you're in some small rinky-dink airplane.
So, I see the full range. For the most part, of course, airline pilots are extremely good pilots and there is no problem at all.

When I'm sitting on an airplane that's being flown dangerously, which has occurred to me, I -- I have a strange fatalism which I cannot explain. I'm completely unafraid. I don't care. And I -- even if I recognize that something quite serious is happening, which has happened a few times to me, where there's a real potential of an accident, I don't care. It's a -- I cannot explain that. I don't know why that is.

GROSS: I'm wondering if you've ever listened to tape recordings of pilots' last words before a crash, and what reaction that gives you?

LANGEWISCHE: Yes, I -- I have listened to it. And it's a very emotional thing to listen to something like that. It is -- I have physiological reactions to it. It -- almost -- it's not that I want to cry, but it's a very powerful emotion. And I don't like it very much. It is very, very sad and horribly voyeuristic.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

LANGEWISCHE: It is not a good thing and I don't recommend it and I try not to do that. I'd rather read the transcript. That's bad enough. But to listen to it is an unpleasant experience.

GROSS: What -- are there kind of typical last things that are said by a pilot before...

LANGEWISCHE: Well, the famous one we can't say is "oh, shit." You know, that's the famous one.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

LANGEWISCHE: That's what people say. And then it depends on your culture. You know, you can say that in various forms in different languages. Then there is -- there are variations. I mean, there was the really incredible thing, which was the PSA 727 I believe that went down over San Diego years ago now -- an airline that doesn't exist anymore, PSA. And they -- they actually hit another airplane going into San Diego and I think it was the right wing that was hit.

Anyway, they went out of control. They were going down and they knew they were going down. And they radioed that. And then the last word as I remember it was one of the pilots -- there were actually two crews in the cockpit, so I don't even know which pilot it was -- but one of the pilots, speaking for the record into what he knew was the cockpit voice recorder, said: "I love you, Mom." Now, that's pretty sad stuff.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. Well just one other question about pilots who are going down.

LANGEWISCHE: Right.

GROSS: Do they often have like one last plea to whoever they're talking to if they're still in touch with, you know, with someone on the ground, to like help guide them or help land them or help get them out of this situation?

LANGEWISCHE: I'll tell you something that I've never clearly thought about before. There's a distinction between pilots who belong in the sky who are going down and pilots who don't belong in the sky who are going down. Those who don't belong there are the ones who are going to make that plea to help from the outside, typically from a controller. Controller's can't help with that kind of thing.

And when I hear those or read about them, I don't feel the same emotion. I feel anger, actually, and sort of disgust; impatience. Don't ask that question. Fly your airplane. Pilots who belong up there -- who are doing a job and approaching the problems, the machine and the environment, with the severity and discipline that is necessary in that particular pursuit, will not plead -- make pleas. They will not call to God or to controllers, but will fly the airplane all the way down.

And that's set in stone. The one thing I know if I'm going down in an airplane some day is that I will fly it all the way down. I'm sure of that. That's not a -- I'm not bragging about that. It has to do with the very nature of what you're doing out there in the sky and the approach you take toward problems when they come up.

GROSS: You ...

LANGEWISCHE: It may be melodramatic ...

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

LANGEWISCHE: ... I mean, I'm worried about that sounding too melodramatic, but it's the truth.

GROSS: Your father was a test pilot. What are some of the things he had to test?

LANGEWISCHE: You know, I don't know very much about his flying. He was a test pilot during World War II. He was a German who came to this country. He is a German. He's alive and well. He came to this country when Hitler was rising in Germany. He's an opponent to Fascism and he ended up flying for the -- essentially for the U.S. Navy. And continued to fly as a test pilot after the war.

GROSS: So was he -- was he still being a test pilot when you were a boy?

LANGEWISCHE: No, he was -- he was not. Although he's a well-known fellow in aviation. He wrote a book which is very famous and -- a technical book called "Stick and Rudder." And because of that, when I was a kid, I sort of grew up in the -- in the -- at the heart of American flying, in sort of a small core of very serious pilots -- his friends and he himself.

GROSS: And he'd let you take the controls when you were a kid?

LANGEWISCHE: Oh, absolutely. No problem. I mean, I -- I started letting my little boy -- my little boy now is eight, Matthew. He's, oh, I started letting him take the controls when he was about two, maybe?

And he was a little wild in the beginning. And he would bank steeply, and my wife did not like this at all. She thought it was -- I was breeding the wrong attitude in the boy and teaching him to be a cowboy. And actually, I thought it was sort of good because he was exploring the airplane in the way it should be explored.

And what I really wanted to let him do was to roll the airplane upside down. I remember once he banked over to about 90 degrees, just about all the way -- well, 90 degrees, wing down -- and noticed below him a truck moving down the freeway in California.

And he could barely say the word "truck," but he pointed out it was a truck and that's what interested him. He wasn't interested in the machine, in the airplane. He was interested in the view of the ground. And I like that.

So there's no problem. I mean, airplanes are inherently -- in good weather, airplanes are docile, well-behaved. The engineers have done a wonderful job with these machines. These are -- these airplanes are not difficult to fly. That's one of the -- the inner secrets of flying; and a lot of people don't want that said because it tends to erode the mystique around airplanes.

But these machines are not difficult to control. They're designed to be flyable, and by God they are flyable.

GROSS: I want to thank you very much for talking with us and good flying to you.

LANGEWISCHE: Well, thank you, Terry.

GROSS: William Langewische is the author of "Inside the Sky." It's just been published in paperback. Our interview was recorded last June when it was first published.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: William Langewische
High: William Langewische is a writer and a pilot. He grew up around planes and learned to fly when he was a child. His father, a test pilot, wrote a text that is considered to be the bible of aerial navigation ("Stick and Rudder"). Langewische's book "Inside the Sky: A Meditation on Flight" has just come out in paperback. His other books include: "Cutting for Sign," "Stick and Rudder," and "Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert."
Spec: Aviation; Travel; Lifestyle; Culture; William Langewische

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Thrill of Flying

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JULY 02, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 070202NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: BSO Music Director Announces He is Leaving
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:40

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Seiji Ozawa is presently the longest tenured music director of any major orchestra in the world. But he's just announced that in three years he will be leaving his current post at the Boston Symphony Orchestra to take over the Vienna State Opera.

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz, who lives in Boston, has been thinking about Ozawa and what it means to lead a major orchestra.

LLOYD SCHWARTZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC CRITIC: One person with vision and imagination can make a difference. Think of Leonard Bernstein. Whatever your opinion of him as a conductor, his televised young people's concerts probably helped turn a whole generation of Americans on to classical music.

For 25 years, before his retirement from the Boston Symphony in 1949, the brilliant Russian conductor Serge Koussevitsky devoted himself to the shaping of that orchestra. He was committed to music by living composers. And we have him to thank for at least two commissions that are among the masterpieces of 20th century music; Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms" and Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra."

Koussevitsky also had a vision for a summer music festival that would be combined with classes for serious musical training. And so he started Tanglewood. One of his students was Leonard Bernstein.

A later Tanglewood student was Seiji Ozawa, who has just broken Koussevitsky's record of 25 years as conductor of the Boston Symphony. Last week he stunned the music world when he announced that he'd be leaving Boston in 2002 to become the music director of the Vienna State Opera, one of the world's leading opera companies.

And now Boston, like Philadelphia and New York, will be looking for a replacement for this crucial position; the leader of the city's classical music life and in many ways the most conspicuous leader of the city's cultural life.

This is now a great opportunity for these longstanding and wealthy institutions. A chance to escape the entrenched syndrome of leadership by elderly white European men. It was courageous of the BSO 25 years ago to hire a non-European; only 38 years old, who had long hair and wore beads and turtlenecks.

For a couple of years there were a few memorable performances of unusual works. Ozawa looked great on the podium, he still does. He could have been a dancer. But he never fulfilled the initial promise.

His performances veered between the boring and the coarsely overstated. His frequent guest appearances elsewhere, something Koussevitsky never indulged in, kept him away from Boston. His family lived in Japan. He never tried to improve his English.

Major musical events would come to Boston, but you'd rarely see him in the audience. There's no evidence that he had any ideas about music or programming or education or how to create an identity for the orchestra or bring in desperately needed new audiences.

It's a sad truth that even in the high culture establishment, where maybe we shouldn't expect it, the icons and heroes remain popular not because of their artistic achievement, but because of an image; because they're already popular.

I'm not sorry to see him leave.

Still, I hope that the BSO, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic go out on the same limb the BSO went out on 25 years ago. You'll have to look hard though, and perhaps not in the usual places.

Up until the day Ozawa made his surprise announcement, the top candidate for his replacement was probably Sir Simon Rattle (ph). Rattle made his first mark in the unlikely industrial city of Birmingham, England.

His exciting programs, his musical penetration and his unstinting commitment to this provincial orchestra soon came to international attention and recognition. Unlike Ozawa's recordings, Rattle's became top-sellers and are still desirable.

His guest shots with the BSO are always among the year's highlights. But a few hours after Ozawa's announcement the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, perhaps the world's greatest orchestra, revealed that it had signed Rattle to be its next music director.

It's sad for Boston that Rattle slipped through its fingers, and there are no obvious second choices. But if the BSO keeps its priorities straight and goes for the imaginative individual rather than the big name, there might be an exciting future for Boston; and maybe for all classical music in this country.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music critic for FRESH AIR and the "Boston Phoenix."

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Lloyd Schwartz
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz comments the news that Seiji Ozawa will leave in three years as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His tenure, which began in 1973, is the longest of any music director currently active with an American orchestra. As for his next job, he says he will take over the Vienna State Opera. Ozawa was born in Shenyang, China.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Seiji Ozawa; Lloyd Schwartz

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: BSO Music Director Announces He is Leaving

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: JULY 02, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 070203NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Review of "My Son the Fanatic"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: "My Son the Fanatic" is a new British film written by Hanif Kureishi, who first became known for writing "My Beautiful Laundrette." Our film critic John Powers hopes that "My Son the Fanatic" won't get lost in a crowd of big summer movies.

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: Americans tend to think of history as something that happens to other people, like Kosovars or Chinese dissidents. Yet history wraps its tendrils around all our lives, from our deepest dreams to our most reflexive prejudices.

A few rare movies manage to capture how these huge historical forces are actually lived by ordinary men and women. That's just what happens in "My Son the Fanatic," a compelling portrait of a man who doesn't know where he belongs anymore.

The scene is Northern England and the hero is Parvez, played by Om Puri, a Pakistani immigrant who's spent the last 25 years driving a taxi. He spends his nights driving hookers and their Johns around town. And though he knows well the dark side of English society, Parvez has spent his life seeking to fit in it.

His hopes center on his son Farid, an accounting student whom he hopes to marry off to the daughter of the local police commissioner -- a social advance for the family. But Parvez' carefully constructed life starts to crumble when two things happen.

Farid calls off his marriage and joins an Islamic fundamentalist group, assailing his father's lack of piety and mocking his dreams of assimilation. And Parvez himself starts falling in love with an English prostitute, Bettina, played by Rachel Griffiths; who was Hilary in "Hilary and Jackie."

When the local Islamic community declares war on the city's red light district a head-on collision between son and father. Parvez' earlier life no longer makes any sense, as he tells Bettina during a brief romantic trip to the countryside.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SCENE FROM THE FILM "MY SON THE FANATIC")

LAUGHTER

OM PURI, ACTOR: I have managed to destroy everything. I have never felt worse or better.

RACHEL GRIFFITHS, ACTRESS: Can't we leave?

PURI: Where?

LAUGHTER

GRIFFITHS: How about India? For a few weeks (unintelligible). You could show me the good places. We can live cheaply, everyone says.

PURI: That's young people's thing, yeah.

GRIFFITHS: Why have you never been back?

PURI: No. No time. No money.

GRIFFITHS: Come away, it's a chance. Otherwise, what will we do but the same thing everyday?

PURI: You put such ideas in my head.

GRIFFITHS: Good. That's good.

POWERS: "My Son the Fanatic" is warmly directed by Udayan Prasad, but its real creator is writer Hanif Kureishi, whose wonderfully written dialog brims with energy and passion. Half Pakistani and half English, Kureishi knows firsthand the terrible and exhilarating truths if lives like those of Parvez and his family.

And he would never diminish such people by sentimentalizing them as victims. Even as he makes us feel the Asian-bashing bigotry that turns them away from British culture, he also reveals the prosperity and freedom that holds them.

Indeed, one of Parvez' great pleasures in life is the Western jazz that his son finds degenerate. As he showed in his novel "The Black Album," Kureishi has little sympathy for fundamentalism. And this movie's weakness is its portrait of Farid.

It's not that we can't see why he becomes so zealous, as with many young Asians of his generation, Farid's fundamentalism is born of the belief that his people will never be welcome in England, and that modern capitalism is sinful. He calls it "the empty accountancy of things."

Yet even as Kureishi gives Farid reasons for his behavior, he doesn't bring him alive as a character. He's merely an example, and the fundamentalists around him are merely cartoonish bafoons.

In contrast, Kureishi throws his heart into Parvez, a character so beautifully imagined that you understand why Salman Rushdie once wrote that "the migrant is the central or defining character of the 20th century."

The middle-aged Parvez doesn't see himself as a Pakistani or a Brit, but as a "man of the world." An attractive title that masks confusion and ambiguity. He has a son he adores, but who makes him despair.

He dutifully supports his wife, Minoo, yet loves the white prostitute who understands him. He acknowledges the contradictory nature of his values and desires, yet says that there's more than one way to be a good man.

We believe it, thanks to a profound performance by Om Puri, whose intense pockmarked face you may recognize from lesser roles in "Ghandi" and "The Jewel in the Crown." Puri is one of the world's great screen actors, and this is easily the best performance I've seen this year. It's filled with melancholy and fire.

Puri gives Parvez a baffled heartbreaking decency that's universal in the best and most revealing sense. It's rooted in one Pakistani immigrants unique history, yet feels as familiar as life in your own home.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for "Vogue."

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: John Powers
High: Film critic John Powers reviews "My Son the Fanatic." Miramax Films describes it as a contemporary love story set against a comic clash of generations and cultures. Eastern fundamentalism meets Western hedonism over the kitchen table of a Pakistani family in the industrial north of England.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Hanif Kureishi; John Powers

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Review of "My Son the Fanatic"
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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