Phenomenal Casting

This week the movie based on the Stieg Larsson book “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” opened and my friends Courtney and Janine invited me to go with them. We were somewhat surprised that there wasn’t more of a crowd at the theater, but it was a Tuesday night.

Both Janine and I had read all three books, however if you haven’t I would suggest that you do as my friend Courtney did, a little research prior to going so your not confused by the storyline. In the book Larsson takes his time developing the characters, however the movie starts from the point in time when Mikael Blomkvist played by Daniel Craig has lost a libel judgement and decides to take on a special investigative project.

While working on the project Craig decides her needs an experience investigator, enter Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara whose performance drives the movie. Often when you read a book one is disappointed when a character does not look like what you pictured them to be in your mind. This was not the case with Lisbeth as the twenty five year old Rooney cut off a foot of her hair, dyed it black, bleached her eyebrows and got six piercings to play the part perfectly. In my humble opinion she deserves a nomination for an Oscar.

The movie was dark as was the book and the rape scene in the movie was very intense along with the scene where she pays back her perpetrator. Larsson who wrote the book witnessed a gang rape of a girl named Lisbeth when he was fifteen and he did not intervene. This experience haunted him for the rest of his life and in an effort to atone for this all of his books deal with the issue of women being abused by men.

I loved the movie, was entertained by it, would go see it again and would highly recommend it to all. Just as an aside – this was my 200th post on Webnerhouse – hard to believe.

Grant’s Tomb

Ulysses Grant should be counted as one of the great Americans.

Grant’s two terms as President were marred by scandal, and as a Civil War general he was derided by some as a soulless butcher who attacked relentlessly, without regard for casualties.  Yet when Grant was living, he was revered — because the people of his time recognized that he not only assembled and then led the team of generals that had the fortitude to see the Union through to ultimate victory, but also that his easy terms of surrender and his gentle treatment of the former rebels helped the nation to quickly overcome the deep divisions caused by our bloodiest war.

Grant’s Tomb, located along Riverside Drive near the Columbia University campus, gives a sense of how he was beloved by his contemporaries.  It is a huge mausoleum with a columned dome and other classical features, reached by a wide path shaded by trees along each side.  The inscription above the entrance reads, simply, “Let Us Have Peace.”

Grant and his wife lie in red granite coffins in an open crypt at the well of the Tomb.  If you stand at the foot of their coffins and look up, you can see a representation of the famous scene of General Grant graciously greeting Confederate General Robert E. Lee before accepting the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.  It seems fitting that the scene that is visible is not a depiction of a battle or some other feat of arms, but rather the simple handshake greeting that began the process of reunification of a war-torn land.

A Visit To The 9/11 Memorial

Yesterday we visited the 9/11 Memorial.  It was a moving and sobering reminder of that horrific day.

The Memorial lies at the foot of the Freedom Tower and the other buildings that are being rebuilt on the grounds of the World Trade Center towers.  Although the Memorial is completed, much of the surrounding area is still under construction.

It was a warm, sunny day, and the air was filled with the beeping and buzzing of construction equipment, the drone of heavy trucks, and the shouts of hard hat workers.  For some, the background noise may have detracted from the solemnity of the Memorial itself, but I appreciated the energy and sense of rebuilding that the ongoing construction work reflected.

You get passes for the Memorial on-line.  Admission is free, although donations are encouraged.  You show your pass repeatedly and move through the ubiquitous, airport-like security screening area, then wind your way around a fenced-off construction area until you reach the Memorial grounds.

The Memorial ultimately will consist of a museum — which is unfinished and wasn’t open during our visit — and two large, black, square holes in the ground.  The holes sit on the footprint of the World Trade Center towers and, according to a helpful security guard, are somewhat smaller than the area covered by the actual towers themselves.

The square holes are ringed with ledges, into which the names of those killed on 9/11 are deeply carved.  The victims on Flight 77, for example, appear in one area, the people killed in the World Trade Center in another, and those who died at the Pentagon in yet another.  The appearance and feeling that is created is like that of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Although some might deem the idea of listing the names of the victims to be derivative, I thought it was a simple, and powerful, representation of the devastation wrought by the terrorists’ attack, and the sheer randomness of the event for those who were killed.  Looking at the names also generates an appreciation for America, in all its melting pot glory, for you can find names suggestive of every ethnic group and national origin.

The name-filled ledges surround two vast, square, holes within holes.  Water rushes over the sides of the two large holes, collects at the bottom, and then tumbles into inner holes that are so deep you cannot see the bottom.  The sound of the rushing water is soothing, and when the breeze is blowing it riffles the falling water, as if the spirits of the dead are moving in the cavernous holes.

The two large holes are found in an expansive plaza, with benches and trees in abundance for those who want to sit and reflect on the events of 9/11 or the loss of a loved one.  According to the security guard, one of the trees is a hardy survivor that was uncovered in the twisted rubble of the fallen Towers, nursed back to health, and ultimately replanted at the site.  At the time of our visit a memorial wreath had been laid at the foot of that tree — and I predict that the story of that little tree will make it a popular stop for those who visit the Memorial grounds.

I seem to recall that some people objected to the design of the 9/11 Memorial.  Having visited, I see no reason for any objection.  I expect that many native New Yorkers, and tourists, will want to gaze into those vast black holes, touch the sharply carved names of the dead, feel the mist from the falling waters, and remember.