Kenneth Turan, a movie critic for the Los Angeles Times, asserts that Man on Wire is an extremely well directed and edited movie. He asserts, “British-born filmmaker Marsh, impressively assisted by editor Jinx Godfrey, has deftly woven several strands of material together.” It is said to be a combination documentary and drama, with a chronicle of Petit’s articulate character and love for the Twin Towers before they were even built, as well as his ambitious nature at a ripe age of 17. Turan describes Petit as a truly creative artist, searching for neither wealth nor fame, but merely “conquering beautiful stages.” Petit has a love for life, and “every day was a work of art for him”, according to his girlfriend.

Turan describes a film that will make one do a double take, for the moments captured are ones of of amazement and awe. The movie takes on two sides, a “psychological drama” as well as keeping with the fast pace of a thriller. Both contribute to amazing feat of “enjoying” a 200 foot walk between the 1350 feet high towers for 45 minutes in what became known as the greatest artistic crime of the century.

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Being familiar with two different ways of living, the suburban comfort zone and the urban labyrinth both have their relative distinctions. Beginning with the comfort zone, the inhabitants are confronted with a day in day out sense of predictability and certainty. The garden described on page 2 serves as a metaphor for this certainty. Normally, a garden would have plants growing naturally, ignoring barriers placed by people. This garden though, appeared with “lines of trees in faultless perspective” and flowers appearing “as a luxury item set against the urban fabric” (2). Though being contained in the city, the garden represents an idealized bourgeois  world, where disruptions are not tolerated, just as the trees must be kept in perfect perspective and the flowers neatly trimmed. This contributes to a sense of formality, tranquility and stability.

The zoo is also a metaphor for safety and formality contained in the comfort zone. The crowd is described as “an eighteenth-century mob come to stare at whatever exotic spectacle was on offer” (2). In this manner the members of the bourgeois world can watch the unpredictability of the contents of the cages from a distant and maintain their sense of harmony as well as superiority. It is their way of distancing themselves and keeping the contents of the cages, (in this case the animals) under control.

Wilson describes nineteenth-century planning reports, government papers and journalism as a “campaign to exclude women and children, along with other disruptive elements” (6). Wilson asserts that these leaders contribute to the comfort zone’s sense of traditionalism. All external elements must not, for lack of a better phrase, “rock the boat”. This subsequently contributes to a sense of reassuring dullness, where adventure need not be searched for. This ensures order and that one will not lose one’s sense of identity.

The labyrinth, on the other hand, is the place of adventure, of ambiguity, etc. Freedom of emotion is manifested throughout the city, especially the bohemian world. The city is described as “like a magic set of boxes, with, inside each box, a yet smaller and more secret one” (3). This is what makes the city so alluring and attractive. With each street, each alleyway, each corner, lies a myriad of secrets. One can infinitely explore and yet still ones desires will not be satiated. The city is a melange of contrasts: “escape and entrapment, success and disaster… exaggerated scenarios of personal triumph or loss of identity” (6). This is the heterogeneity the the city posses.

Finally, the labyrinth is where “what is most feared and desired-becomes possible” (6). Wilson describes his mother’s feeling of uncomfortableness with regard to walking through a crowd. She was a woman of the bourgeois, and this promiscuity of the crowd exposed Wilson and his mother’s vulnerability. This is the nature of the labyrinth. What one fears and desires coincides in an inversion of what is considered normal. This should be unappealing, but instead many becomes hypnotized by this, much like the seductive honey talk of Whitehead’s Brooklyn Bridge.

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As Whitman regarded previously, all life and time are so intimately interconnected that we see the parallels of 19th century bohemia and present bohemia. Just as Luc Sante witnessed the trendy cafes, conversation and art of her day, so have we, as 21st century residents, not to mention in the same vicinity. Trends are cyclic, and just as it was popular to be anti-mainstream, pro-union, progressive etc. during that time period, so it is now. The only problem is, this goes against the bohemian ideal. The bohemian aspires to be the individual, the breakthrough avant garde artist, but as this becomes popular, what was once underground becomes mainstream. Quite the scandal in bohemian neighborhoods such as Soho and the West Village. So as bohemian trends reach the mainstream, why it’s as though the rest of the city is being gentrified in the inverse way. Sometimes I chuckle at the bohemian’s endeavor, because in his or her quest to remake to world, to bring about change, he or she forgets the bottom line. At the end of the day, even the bohemian is a victim of his or her socio economic status and needs a roof and a hot meal.

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In Lewis Mumford’s piece “The Brooklyn Bridge”, the motif of transformation is manifests itself in many ways. Using beautiful imagery and an even tone, Mumford uses the bridge as a metaphor for the changes that the city has undergone and a reflection on what has happened. I was amazed and captivated by the manner with which his piece transitions from the nostalgic and simplistic ferry rides to the grandeur of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mumford refers to the ferryboat in the first section as “that great turtlelike creature” (840), and his metaphor inserts up to a time before the Brooklyn Bridge and before the ferry being used explicitly as a mode of transportation; but instead an antiquated notion of the ferry. It is purely recreational, and the transformation the city has undergone has been this need for speed, and with it, the departing of the  poetic and slow paced ferry ride. Then, Mumford transitions masterfully to his discussion of the bridge, it is built up; he describes the “spidery lacing of cables, stone masonry that seemed in its harmony of granite pier, classic coping, and ogive arch to crystallize the essence of Romanesque and Gothic architecture” (841,842) that is such a vivid contrast from what I imagine to be a lowly ferryboat rocking in the middle of the East River.

Mumford also briefly comments on the bridge being built during a time of great change and transformation, at the end of the 19th century, when human ingenuity was at its best, and the human race felt as though it were undergoing ” a quite magical translation in which the best hopes of the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution would all be simultaneously be fulfilled” (843). The Bridge’s size was testament to all many achievements such as “factories and steamships, of employers and labor unions, of political strife and private ambition” when success seemed to be at its pinnacle. Even though this positive change happened, we see though, through Mumford’s eyes, that humans are still faulty and that World War I, The Great Depression, and World War II brought the human ego and “spirit of our confident years” (843) back down to earth.

These are just preliminary ideas and brief ways through which Mumford expresses the transformation of the city through the bridge and through world history.

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Mumford’s approach when compared to Whithead’s approach is more of an outsider’s perspective.  In Mumford’s piece, he reflects on the all encompassing beauty of the bridge along with the imagery and nostalgia that went along with it. His voice is one of disdain for the direction of New York, he says, “everywhere the wholesale commitment to bridges and tunnels across and under the rivers and bays, for the sake of speed alone, is depriving us of this primal source of recreation” (840). Because of the dying use of the ferryboat across the East River, commuters become deprived of the joy of the ferry ride.

His voice though, changes to that of awe in the following pages. He beautifully describes the architecture  of the bridge, with its “spidery lacing of cables, somber perfection of form, and Romanesque and Gothic architecture; while its cables stretched like a bolstering to shoot a steel arrow into our own age” (841,842). Now this is the grandeur and spirit of American power and ingenuity that I am used to hearing about. The bridge further captivates Mumford’s imagination, and his voice of the piece is tied together by his romantic notions and the exhilaration he expresses on the last page, where he was “breasting the March wind, drinking in the city and the sky” as well as “the world at that moment, opened before me, challenging me, beckoning me, demanding something of me that it would take more than a lifetime to give” (844). This experience has sexual connotations and shows how the vastness of he bridge conveys Mumford’s sense of possibility and opportunity.

Whitehead on the other hand, conveys his representation of the bridge very narrowly. The bridge takes on a life of its own; in this piece it becomes an entity. Her voice shows the bridge being saddened by all she is forced to endure. Whitehead says, “You’d try to flee too if everyone heaped their dreams upon you. Pack mule and palimpsest”. She describes refugees passing and “she wonders what they know that she doesn’t”. In this respect the bridge is confused and incapable of taking her fate into her own hands, probably because she is solitary.

Instead of a magnificent engineering feat, the bridge appears to Whitehead as a stage set, with the characteristics of the joggers, walkers, parents, children, bicyclists and others much like actors. As opposed to Mumford, who sees the walk as an uplifting experience, Whitehead makes it seem like a long trek. If one gets stuck in the middle, no one will help. And if one makes it to the middle, there is nothing to do but go forward. It’s almost as though the walk is a lose-lose situation. “Traffic slows to rubberneck” and “up here everything looks hazy”. These phrases are negatives and for me a deterrent to walking on the bridge.

Whitehead’s commentary on the journey over the bridge is one of solemnity. At the beginning of the journey, one had hopes, one had aspirations. But by the end of the journey, it’s as though one is disappointed, nothing has changed, no miracles have occur, and as the walk continues, one merely assimilates with the rest of the crowd.

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I found Whitman’s recurring motif of time/future/past to be the most interesting one in the poem. For example, in stanza 3 lines 2-11, Whitman uses visual images to portray that what he is seeing from the ferry is timeless. He speaks in the present tense, using “just as you feel” to represent an ambiguous audience that could be a reader of his time or a reader of our current time. He describes the feelings felt when looking on the river and sky, being part of the crowd, the refreshing ways of the rivers, feeling hurried, and looking at the masts of ships and steam pipes of boats. These activities are timeless and quotidienne with respect to daily life.

Whitman also uses time in a different manner to represent the birds flying through the sky. He says, “Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south; saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water” (Stanza 3 lines 17-19). He uses time to paint a picture of the beauty of what appears to be the migration of the sea-gulls as well as the beauty of their motion in the sky. Their grace and fluidity of movement makes them appear “floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies” ( Stanza 3 lines 13-14).

In stanza 5 Whitman explores time in a different kind of way; he is now asking the reader a series of questions to ponder. He asks, “What is it then between us?, What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?” (Stanza 5 ,lines 1,2). He changes the rhythm of the poem by making the reader wonder whether or not he or she is in fact actually different than Whitman. He is delving into the eternal question of purpose and reason for the life. He says, “I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me”, and this directly parallels to Hamlet’s soliloquy on the purpose of life. Much like Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”, this concept of human identity with regard to time and space has recurred in every historical time period in different contexts.

In stanza 9, the final stanza, we are confronted with Whitman’s notion of time again, this time with respect to the commonplace. He gives what seems to be a call to arms with regard to life. He re counts the ways through which people tackle life. He says, ” Live, old life! Play the part that looks back on the actor or actress! Play the old role, the role that is great or small according as one makes it! ” (Stanza 9, lines 15-17). He uses the motif of time to show that anyone at any time can grab life by the horns and make of it what one wants. This universality is what brings humankind together, in Whitman’s case, while pondering on a ferry.

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The two Goliaths stood towering over me in the middle of a vast empty plaza. I was not even five feet tall, and standing in their shadows both belittled and humbled me. My family and I walked into the lobby of one of the towers to take photographs in the building. it was late on a cold and windy December night in 1999. Beautifully handcrafted snowflakes dangled from the ceiling to celebrate the holiday season. Even at seven years old, I didn’t see any better way to spend the last few days of the century than by spending it with my family at my favorite architectural landmark. This was before September 11th.

I vaguely remember sitting in the back of Mrs. Sacharoff’s 4th grade class. It may be the most over used phrase regarding this event, but it really was a typical fall day. I believe it was the 4th day of school. All my friends were excited, ready to take on the new school year and excited to finally be upperclassmen of elementary school. My teacher seemed nice, but at around 9 A.M. an assistant slowly walked into the room and whispered into my teacher’s ear. Her facial expression changed in an instant. The lady whispering looked as though she possessed some deep dark secret too harsh for young children’s ears. As the minutes wore on, more teachers began walking briskly through the halls, and the sounds of their heels could be heard from a mile away. After many minutes of uncertainty, we were finally told to shuffle out of the room quietly and wait for our parents to pick us up. School was canceled. Some students looked happy, some sad, but most confused.

We stood outside and met the beautiful weather with smiles. As our parents approached us though, we could see some with arms crossed and tears in others eyes. Husbands held wives. They all looked too grief stricken to touch. Then, in the distance, I saw a faint plume of smoke and I knew something had gone terribly wrong.

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