Michelle's blog

November 30th, 2010

man on wire

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

In Marianna’s summary of the new york times review of Man on Wire, she states that “Man on Wire is constructed like a heist movie and is very unpredictable.” Immediately after hearing the word unpredictable I couldn’t help but think of Wilson and the idea of the Labyrinth.

As I viewed the movie Man on Wire, I noticed that Petit was a person who really enjoyed living on the edge, he definitely wasn’t someone who enjoyed staying within a comfort zone. As he said within the movie, “life should be lived on its edge”.

This idea that life should be an adventure and that we should be “doing something that’s supposed to be impossible”, made me think about Whitman and how different his feelings are. Whitman believed that the the ferry provided all generations a chance to be connected, it was an experience that was never changing, and that it could bring all people together. By never changing you will remain within this comfort zone of the expected. Petit definitely contrasted with this in that he lived for the adventure and got “such great pleasures from liberties”.

It’s interesting to notice the differences between different views on what’s beautiful. To Petit the unpredictable was just so beautiful to him. “The beauty of it was I didn’t have a why, I did something mysterious”. He also felt that the most beautiful death would be “to die in the exercise of your passion.” To Whitman, and also many other people the beautiful aspects in life are the things that never change, and that connect one generation to the next. So it brings us back to a very important question, what is more beautiful and worthwhile, settling in your predictable comfort zone, or entering into the mysterious path of the labyrinth.

November 23rd, 2010

Age of Innocence through the eyes of Wilson

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

Throughout Wilson’s essay the concept of the comfort zone and the labyrinth keep reappearing. The comfort zone is the place of safety, where everything is certain and predictable. There is a bourgeoisie order, which does not allow for any room to change. The labyrinth on the other hand is not a straight path, and is filled with mysteries and uncertainties.

After reading Wilson and then watching the rest of the Age of Innocence in class, it has become clear to me that these two very different worlds were represented in this movie. Another major aspect of Wilson’s essay however was women and their role in the city. With that in mind, the very different personalities of the main women characters, Countess Ellen Olenska and May, became even more apparent.

May represents the very essence of the comfort zone. She follows all of the traditional manners that are appropriate for a women in her time. She is very familiar with what is acceptable from a lady and what is not. Whenever she is shown in the movie she is shown sitting upright, or behaving in a proper manner, she doesn’t seem to ever stray from the acceptable. As the narrator in the movie had said, May had the “incapacity to realize change.”

On the other hand, Countess Olenska “had become the complete vision of all we had missed.” She was different, and didn’t mind being different. Countess Olenska didn’t want to be a part of the comfort zone. She had broken out of the comfort zone, and entered deep into the labyrinth. In this movie, Wilson would view Countess Olenska as the sphinx in the city. She represented all the mysteries that life had to offer, and even tempted others to want to join her way of life. Newland falls victim to this. Countess Olenska’s presence tempts him to want to give up everything and enter into this place of the “other”. The labyrinth is the place where Countess Olenska belongs, as is seen when everyone tries to get her to reenter into the comfort zone and she is unable to.

Wilson would feel as though the role the women should follow is Countess Olenska’s. The role the May has is portrayed as being boring, and almost even artificial or fake. Wilson would argue that women shouldn’t try to stay within this fake world and should leave the order and discover what it’s like to enter the unknown.

November 16th, 2010

the sphinx in the city

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

Wilson states, “Women have become an irruption in the city, a symptom of disorder, and a problem: the Sphinx in the city.” What does Wilson mean by this? Isn’t Wilson a feminist, why then would she be describing women as a problem. Here Wilson is not showing her views, but rather she is expressing the views that others, in particular males, have of women in cities. The women’s role in cities is so far into the labyrinth that it causes a problem in the comfort zone. People who are so used to males dominating society aren’t prepared for the opportunities that the city is offering women, and this to them is a problem. By describing it as “the sphinx in the city” it describes how the city is leaving the comfort zone more and more as women gain more influence and power, and going farther and farther into the labyrinth where there is a “loss of nature” and “loss of identity”, and where the female sphinx lay at the heart of the labyrinth.

November 11th, 2010

Comfort Zone vs. The Labyrinth

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

When I hear the word comfort zone, I immediately think of a place where I know everything will be the same when I go there. That’s exactly what a comfort zone is. A comfort zone is somewhere where you know there will be stability. This stability enables you to feel tranquility because you have that certainty about everything, there is no wondering about if something is going to change, because there is no change. The comfort zone seems like it’s an amazing place, but then why would people want to experiment with the Labyrinth?

Although the comfort zone provides you with reassurance because it’s so stable, this reassurance can become dull. The order within the respectable bourgeoisie becomes too predictable. This formality leads to fixed identities. Everyone has their fixed roles to play, and you can not step out of these roles. Everything is tamed, and so segregation is common among class, ethnicity, and gender.  This comfort zone is seen in rural and suburban areas, where it seems that these people are happy with their structured lives, but are they? If they were so happy with this way of living then why are many people are allured to the mysterious life of the labyrinth.

The labyrinth is completely different from the comfort zone. The Labyrinth is not a straight path, there is no end in sight, whereas with your comfort zone you know exactly where you will end up. The path you take seems to be nightmarish, and yet you dare to enter it. At the center of the labyrinth there is terror and anxieties. It’s full of mysteries and extremes, so why then would someone choose the labyrinth over their comfort zone?

It’s just a place that you’re drawn into. The labyrinth is the place of the “other”, and the change and instability of it is what makes it so attractive. This environment allows you to explore desires and impulses that in a comfort zone would be considered forbidden taboo topics. Bohemians lived in the labyrinth rather than in a comfort zone because they were captivated by this environment of change and mysteries. The uncertainty of the future made the labyrinth that much more alluring.

November 3rd, 2010

The Panic in Needle Park

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

Review written by Geraldine Baum from the Los Angeles Times

Title: Needle Park? It’s been pushed ino the shadows

“The Panic in Needle Park” seems to be hidden from viewers, “Out of circulation and almost never shown on television because of its uncompromising portrayal of heroin use”, this makes it very difficult to get a hand on this film. Geraldine Baum after searching was finally able to get a copy of this film so that she could revisit it.

This movie is can be seen as the story of a couple, Helen and Bobby. As Baum says, “Director Jerry Schatzberg offers a documentary-style look at a druggie couple and the lowlifes sharing a bench with them on Broadway”. Although this movie is telling the story of this couple, it more importantly is portraying New York City in a way that it has never been seen before. This film made New York seem as if it were a nightmare to live in and as if it were a “madhouse”. The way the area was portrayed in the film made the are “unrecognizable”, “Except for the angle of Broadway and a few fairy-tale turrets on old limestone buildings”.

If Schatzberg’s sole purpose for this film were to tell the story of two druggies then he could have chosen any location for this film. The fact that this was filmed in New York City is very important. Baum states that “Schatzberg had told me he made “Panic” three decades ago because he wanted to show the addicts to people who walked right by them without noticing.”

Baum also makes us think about how we no longer see these “Bobbys and Helens”, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still exist. As we watch this film now we think we think about how strange it is that this could have taken place in such an area. We think that now there are no more of these situations taking place, but as Baum states “Before we didn’t see what was in front of our eyes because we chose not to. Now we don’t see them because we’ve chosen to move them out of sight”.

Link to the article:


November 2nd, 2010

“The City of the Yellow Devil”

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

We live in a materialistic world, and all we care about is getting money, and spending this money.

In Maxim Gorky’s “The City of the Yellow Devil”, his view of what New York City is, is made extremely clear to us as the readers through the strong stance that is taken, as well as through the voice within the entire chapter. Gorky’s opinion about New York City is that the city corrupts people, and is centered around money and obtaining money, so once you become a part of this city, you too will only live for money. “People have finished the days work and- never thinking of why it was done, or whether it was any use to them- hurry home to bed” (15). Gorky expresses how people only live for money and that the original identity of America has been lost. America which used to be the land of opportunities, of freedom to live, is now a land centered around the “Yellow Devil”.

When we normally think of immigrants coming to America, we think of the description of America as the land of opportunities. However Gorky provides us with an extremely different view America. His opinion on the American dream is made clear when he states things such as “Entering the city is like getting into a stomach of stone and iron, a stomach that has swallowed several million people and is grinding and digesting them”(9). Gorky is able to describe a moment that normally resembles hope and optimism, and creates a completely opposite feeling within the reader.

While reading this, I found Gorky’s voice to be pessimistic and disappointed. Gorky is looking down upon the city, and he doesn’t like what it has become. “This is a city. This is New York….A haughty pride in its height, and its ugliness is felt in each house. There are no flowers at the windows and no children to be seen”(8). He is disappointed that the city has lost its life, its exciting aspect, it has strictly become business. “They were taught to work, but not to live, and so the day of rest is a hard day for them…..Six days of the week life is simple. It is a huge machine, and they are all its cogs….But on the seventh day-the day of rest and idleness-life looms before him in a strange dismantled guise” (34).

From reading Gorky’s chapter, we see through his passionate word choice, and pessimistic and disappointed voice that he is not a fan of what the city is now, and through the use of many similies he conveys these feelings.

Gorky’s stance on this way of living in New York is extremely critical. He is describing his observations to the reader, and is trying to convince the reader that this is not the right way of living life.

Gorky’s voice is one of an infuriated witness.

Gorky uses a lot of support to strengthen his thesis throughout the piece. He uses many similes to further support his opinions. These similes are clearly full of emotion and strong opinions so they  allow the reader to understand Gorky’s perspective. Along with these similes, Gorky also uses vivid descriptions to create images of the city.

October 26th, 2010

Luc Sante

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

“Hey that sounds like something I have already read”. As I was reading Sante’s piece I realized that there were moments where I felt as though I had explored some of the ideas he is mentioning in different texts I had already read. For example, every time immigrants were mentioned I couldn’t help but think of Whitehead and his description of immigrants. Another similarity I found between Sante and Whitehead was that they both mentioned the dead. “When the dead are endlessly represented in monuments, images, memorials, and ceremonies, their vigor passes into these objects and events.” (x). This description reminded me of when Whitehead states, “The bones of their ancestors lie at the bottom among refrigerator doors and license plates. They cannot wave but currents stir their bones and perhaps that is a gesture toward kin.” (105). Certain lines in Sante also made me think of some themes that Whitman was portraying. When Sante says “The city was like this a century ago, and it remains so in the present”(xviii), this reminds me of how Whitman felt that all generations were connected. Another part of Sante’s text that stood out to me was his description of the city as a monster, “It is a city and it is also a creature, a mentality, a disease, a threat” (ix). This description of the city made me think of the way Whitehead begins his piece describing the city as food, something that she can take a piece of, “It’s over there, that striated island, cut up carved out and waiting. Pick up your favorite cuts and gorge.” (99). Both of these are very unique ways of depicting the city, and I definitely would have never thought of the city in these ways without the help from these authors.

October 12th, 2010

tentative thesis statement and outline

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

However a common theme present within three texts, “Brooklyn Bridge” by Colon Whitehead, “Brooklyn Bridge” by Lewis Mumford”, and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman, is that the journey begins as a physical one, getting from one destination to another, but as you continue on reading these essays, you realize that the journey is a spiritual and mental one rather than a physical one.

This thesis statement is still very general, and still needs to be adjusted, but it’s a starting point!

Thesis Statement

I. Brooklyn Bridge: Colon Whitehead

-Journey motif

  • The girl is traveling across the bridge, her physical journey.
  • The reason for going across the bridge was to leave her “immigrant spices” behind and to move away from the crowd.
  • She didn’t want to be a part of the crowd anymore and going to Manhattan she thought would be the solution to this problem.
  • When she walks onto the bridge, there is a clear destination in mind, and her reason for getting onto the bridge is clear
  • As the journey continues, she faces challenges along the way.
  • Not knowing if she should continue on
  • Why are there people coming back from manhattan and heading in the other direction on the bridge? What do they know that she doesn’t.
  • Everything is hazy and unclear to her. The future is unknown.
  • The real reason for going on the journey becomes clear as we continue reading on.
  • To escape reality and think about the future.
  • Looking forward to what’s to come and realizing that there’s going to be changes.
  • Journey through time
  • Thinking about the future. Reflecting on what she wants to accomplish.
  • Future is unclear to her and the journey provides her with the chance to discover the changes that are to come.

–Whitehead also provides other smaller examples of a journey throughout this journey.

  • The journey of the man who once walked the bridge and now has two kids and a corner office.
  • The man who stopped in the middle of his journey.

II. Brooklyn Bridge, Lewis Mumford

-Journey Motif

  • The person who goes on the journey is himself.
  • He goes on a physical journey across the bridge, but in reality he really is going through a spiritual journey.
  • His intentions when first getting onto the bridge is to just get from one side to the other.
  • Along the way we realize that his journey is about so much more than just getting to the other side.
  • In the end the journey becomes about the transition from childhood into adulthood.
  • While on the bridge, the perfect moment provides for an epiphany.
  • This epiphany is the moment where everything makes sense to him and he loses all of the confusion that he had felt beforehand.

III. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Walt Whitman

–journey motif

  • The person who is going on the journey is Whitman himself when he goes on the ferry.
  • Whitman is going on a simple everyday journey on the ferry across the river on his way back home from work just as many other people do everyday.
  • His initial reason just as everyone else’s reason is just to get across the river so that he an get home.
  • Challenges on the way include discovering how the past and future are related.
  • Other challenges along the way include all of the hatred and violence and evils that everyone has to face in life.
  • In the end the real reason for going on this journey is really to discover how past and future generations are related, the spiritual journey that he went through, future generations will also experience the same things.
  • The experience of self discovery is a common journey that relates him to the future generations
  • Journey also provides him with the opportunity of connecting with nature, and in doing so he discovers more about himself, which is what will be common with future generations as well.
October 6th, 2010

journey motif

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

While reading Colon Whitehead’s essay “Brooklyn Bridge” I found myself finding many similarities between this essay and the novel The Grapes of Wrath. I guess the main reason why I kept relating this essay to the Grapes of Wrath was because of the idea of a journey taking place throughout the essay. In the Grapes of Wrath, the Joads leave everything and journey off to California in search of jobs and the novel explains the struggles that they face along the way. The motif of journey is seen throughout The Grapes of Wrath and similarly the journey motif is seen in “Brooklyn Bridge” by Colon Whitehead.

The piece is written so that Whitehead is telling us a story. This story is about the journey that a women is taking across the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s all right? Is this whole essay just about a girl going over a bridge, crossing over from one side and going to the other? At first you may think so, but as you continue to read on you realize that there is more to this story than someone crossing over a bridge; we discover that this journey over the bridge is so much more.

The piece begins with a women getting onto the bridge. She knows where this bridge leads to. We know this right away from the first lines of the essay, “It’s over there, that striated island, cut up carved out and waiting” (99). When the women gets onto the bridge there is a clear destination, which is Manhattan. She gets onto the bridge with a purpose, which is to get to the other side, and get away from the crowd of immigrants which she is a part of. “Her whole history hordes behind her with its unfashionable are code and immigrant spices”(99) “She steps on the bridge to exit” (100).

Throughout her journey she encounters challenges. These challenges include dealing with the unknown and whether or not she should continue on in her journey, “Up here everything is hazy” (102). She is faced with making decisions as to whether or not she will continue going. “Refugees pass her going the other way and she wonders what they know that she doesn’t. Forsaking what she seeks, concrete walkway becomes wooden slats and less assured” (100). In the end the overall journey isn’t about making it to the other side of the bridge, but rather it is about the knowledge obtained during the course of the journey.

The real reason for the journey is to escape reality and think about the future. It’s about looking forward to what’s to come and realizing that there’s going to be changes. In essence it becomes really a journey through time. Being up on that bridge to this women really becomes an opportunity for her to decide what she wants in life. “Years ago, she picked a window and told herself one day she would live behind that window and watch them walk on the bridge like she walks now” (103). The future is unclear to her and this journey provides her with the opportunity of discovering the changes that are to come. “Closer you get to the other side, the slower you walk. On the other side there is no more dreaming. Just solid ground” (108).

Whitehead also includes other smaller journeys within the story of the journey of this one women. “A couple of years ago he stopped in this very spot, shook his fist at the skyline and declared, You can’t break me. Now he has two kids and a corner office” (103). This provides us with an example of a journey where the person has been successful in changing. However Whitehead also provides us with an example of someone who is unable to change and is paused in their journey. “A man pitched a tent here once and was hauled away. He told the police, I renounce all boroughs. You have the right to remain. You have the right to shout to the gods. If you have no philosophy one will be appointed to you” (105).

Through the journey motif, Whitehead is making a statement about making choices and dealing with the future. The future is unclear and mysterious. People are afraid to approach it since it’s so unknown, they’d rather stay where it’s safe, remain where everything is known. However this is not what life is about, we can try to escape reality and avoid change, but in the end as much as we may try to escape our future, we are brought back to reality.

September 27th, 2010

“Brooklyn Bridge”, Mumford and Whitehead

Posted by michellemartins in Uncategorized

Considering I’ve never had the experience of getting to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, these experiences about the bridge that I’ve read  have made me really want to go and experience it for myself, although I am a little nervous that my experience won’t be as eventful as these experiences. Now when I think about it, normally when I cross a bridge I don’t focus on the scenery, but rather I focus on the destination ahead of me. I actually ran across the 59th street bridge and instead of taking a moment to look around me and even just to the side and see the scenery, I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the edge of the bridge and just focus on making it over so I could get a bottle of water. Now I realize that I missed out on a great opportunity to really appreciate the moment and everything around me. I’m glad now that I’ve had the opportunity to read these pieces before having ever gone to the Brooklyn Bridge because now when I do end up going to the Bridge, instead of just focusing on getting over, I can take my time going over and really just enjoy the moment and get the full experience. So when I make my way across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time I can thank Whitehead and Mumford for opening my eyes up to so many things that I would have neglected otherwise.

Why were Mumford and Whitehead able to express experiences on the Brooklyn Bridge in such a passionate and profound manner? Well it’s because both of these authors present a unique voice within their piece, and their voices are strengthened by their use of motifs. The motifs allowed me to really be able to picture these experiences crossing over the bridge. It made me feel almost as though I was actually in the bodies of the people crossing and I was the one who was crossing over the bridge.

Mumford and Whitehead present different experiences of going over the same bridge. Obviously since it’s the same bridge they’re going to encounter the same scenery, but the way the two authors describe the impact of the journey over the bridge is completely different.

Mumford’s voice seems to change throughout his piece. He describes how he feels about something and then a little bit later his opinion about that same thing has changed. For example, his piece begins by praising ferry rides and putting down any other form of transportation. He believes that all other forms of transportation are taking away from such a wonderful experience. “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 causing us to go farther in search of enlivening change” (840) Here Mumford is putting down that fact that we are in search of bigger, better, faster. His voice here is angry and critical. Are we giving up something so valuable to us just to make life faster? Shouldn’t we just slow down and enjoy the experience? All of these questions arise, and yet Mumford later goes on to praise the bridges and describes how walking over a bridge can provide you with a similar experience as riding the ferry. “Here was my city, immense, overpowering, flooded with energy and light; there below lay the river and the harbor, catching the last flakes of gold on their waters, with the black tugs, free from their barges, plodding clockward, the ferryboats lumbering from pier to pier” (844). Here Mumford’s voice has clearly shifted. The bridges that he was before describing as something so negative towards the city has now provided him with an experience that has filled him with so many emotions. His voice here seems to echo Walt Whitman with the way he describes the nature and all of the scenery around him. Mumford’s voice is joyful and becomes personal in a more enchanted way. There has been a transition from a negative voice to a rekindled positive voice.

Mumford’s motifs that he presents in his piece reflect his many voices. A motif that is brought up is that of uncertainty and the transition from childhood to manhood. This motif adds to Mumford’s voice because his voice is very unclear throughout the piece, it switches a lot, which reflects the transition from being a child and becoming an adult. “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, but raising all energies by its own vivid promise to a higher patch” (844) At the end of his piece we get a description of how at a moment on the bridge the energy of the whole city transmitted through him and it was an epiphany to him and he was able to drop all of his confusion and finally achieved adulthood.

Whitehead’s piece is presented very differently. Whitehead begins his piece with his voice being conversational. This was successful in catching my attention and drawing me into the text, I felt as though Whitehead was talking to me. “You can always tell the hungry ones by how they move. Case in point, this one approaching the bridge. Her steps give her away: she has appetites” (99) The way Whitehead uses short sentences made me read the paragraph as if there were pauses between each phrase, almost as if Whitehead was expecting an answer in between the thoughts. This to me added to the way the piece felt as if it was a discussion. As the piece continues it becomes more just telling the story of this girl.

Motifs that are brought up throughout this piece include elevation or height. Being off of the ground is an important aspect in this story of crossing over the bridge. Being elevated off of the ground is described as a “spectacular leap of faith” (100). Being off the ground becomes a place where you can just think about everything and slow down your life. “Hardly noticing the gentle lift, but then she looks to the side and she’s waist level to buildings. Up in the air before she knew it.” (100). The transition from being on the ground to being elevated at first is not noticed, but once it is the effects it has upon you makes you not want to leave and just take your time getting across. “Closer you get to the other side, the slower you walk. On the other side there is no more dreaming. Just solid ground.”(108). The idea of not having your feet touching the ground, and being suspended in the air allows for you to escape from the world for a while, so this journey over the bridge provides you with the opportunity to just dream and escape reality, which is why when you begin to approach the end of the bridge you just want to take the longest amount of time possible to get to the end.

So when I do end up walking across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time I will take my time getting across the bridge. I’ll focus not on where the bridge is going to take me, but rather the beauty around me and enjoy the moments of being elevated off the ground. By doing so who knows maybe I too will have an epiphany and if not even just be able for those moments to just be able to escape reality for a little bit.

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