Category Archives: Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Museum

Summer vacation is finally upon me. After completing two summer classes and my audiology internship I’m finally on vacation and I have twenty days before fall semester. Let the summer-ing begin!
I love visiting museums because you always feel like you’re learning something even while you’re simply enjoying the art. There’s a sense of calm in museum exhibits. Plus, there’s always air-conditioning!
The Brooklyn Museum is so close and so impressive. My mother and I had a wonderful time exploring the varied exhibits after joining a guided tour. Here is a quick snippet of what we saw.
My summer recommendation: eat ice-cream and then visit a museum!

Anatomy of a Mockery

“All censure of a man’s self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare. It has all the invidiousness of self-praise, and all the reproach of falsehood.” – Samuel Johnson, quoted in James Boswell’s “The Life of Samuel Johnson”

Last week, I attended a wedding. The bride’s family and mine have been close for a long time; needless to say, my sisters and I were invited. Over the years, at Shabbat meals and semahot, I’ve gotten to know — or at least recognize — many of this family’s relatives.

In the inter-‘od-yishama,’ food-getting period, when I and a certain young man were passing each other, we both stopped for what to me was an obligatory hello. He is married to the first cousin of the bride, and he was dressed in a black hat and a long beard; the smile on his face was genuine. I can’t remember if he asked me what I did or if I was in school. I know he asked my age, and I told him. Twenty-two. Then, perhaps inevitably…

“Are you looking for a shidduch?”

My response came immediately: “Nooooooo.” (If I were writing in pinyin, I’d write “Nó”; I didn’t say the word very loudly, but I said it with a distinctly rising tone, beginning with my head down and lifting my chin on the follow-through. Ok, I think I’ve about overdone this image.)

A few moments pass, as the unexpected, irreverent, obnoxious response registers. I then said, (something like) “I know I’m supposed to say something like ‘thank you,’ but… [trail off]” And it was over.

Immediately afterward — hell, even now, as I write this almost a week later — I was glad, maybe even proud. It’s hard to explain the emotion, because it was mostly a hop-up-and-down, yesssssssssss feeling, as if I’d done something so awkwardly magical, so brave, so clever. What a great story this will make! Let me text everyone!

But… alas.

Background time. It’s not so much for having grown up in Flatbush that I so hate Flatbush; it’s much more for having spent my young adulthood here. So the topic of dating and shidduchim and marriage is one I’ve long since thought, emoted, upchucked, and spoken (debated?) about. Still, was I making a point? NO! I would be lying to myself (and whoever my audience happens to be) if I claim to have taken some sort of principled stand for all that is moderate and normal and righteous. I wasn’t. I lashed out from an insecure place, an aggressive place, a disingenuous place, and mocked this (I’m assuming) well-meaning dude.

Some more background. In the last year.5+, I’ve lost my religion, so to speak. Or not so to speak… I don’t observe Jewish law, and I certainly don’t affirm any of the various faith declarations I was educated to affirm. I am an apostate, I suppose. (A nice-sounding word, that. Uh-pah-steyt.) This leaves me in a particularly uncomfortable position in the Orthodox world. The trouble is, this dude had no way of knowing this. I mean, granted, I wore a kippah serugah; so, nu, he’s modern, ach veis nisht, i know a mizrachi girl! So here I was, in my Ortho get-up at an Ortho wedding, being asked by an unknowing Ortho guy, effectively, if I’m doing what Ortho guys my age do… but I messed it up. I mocked the idea, the institution; and I mocked this man. Now, I have plenty to say on the idea and the institution, mostly bad. (Sorry.) But that’s not where I was coming from.

In turns I’ve felt like a jerk, a hero, and a harmless nobody — come on, as if this guy went home and cried about our exchange — about how I dealt with it. And I ask myself, would it be better — for me, for the questioner, for the oylam — if I play the part of the religious-but-not-ready guy? “Thanks so much, but I’m really not looking right now. B’ezrat Hashem, when the time comes…” I’d feel like an ass. Am I, then, honest (and justified) if I mock the question and the institution, etc.?

Other things to say. No more for now. Thoughts?

Pax.

A Pre-Manifesto

I’m thinking a bit about graduate school these days. I don’t mean “a bit” as a euphemism, or as stylistic placeholder, in that sentence; I really mean I’m thinking about it a little bit.
Five years ago, I was going into my last year of high school, and I was thinking a LOT about college: where I wanted to go (probably Columbia, but I hadn’t yet seen the disarming apparent Jewtopia that is Penn), how I’d do on the SATs, which electives I’d take, how I’d pay for it, what I’d write my essay(s) about, what I’d major in, what I’d say I’d major in, &c. &c. &c.
There were of course other things on my mind — girl(s), sports video games, general off-and-on misery; the usual — but college was really all there was.
So after one year of finding myself -ish and three years of transcript-building (and -demolishing), more or less always assuming I’d head into the world of the academy, because a) I like reading and fancy myself an intellectual, albeit a meek one; b) being in school is much less taxing, having-responsibilities-wise, than most anything else; and c) for various reasons good and bad, I cannot really think of any other path. But, at the same time, I don’t really want to follow that path as much as I thought I would…
On the cusp of my senior year, therefore, I am tugged at by a bunch of different (maybe irreconcilable) goals and needs, and am unsurprisingly as lost as I’ve ever been, with the stakes raised to levels that seem almost unfair.
For one thing, I need — stress on NEED — to get the hell out of OrthoJew-dom, ASAP. The urgency of this cannot be overstated. Basically, I’m not part of the ‘faith community’ (if I’d validate Brooklyn enough to call it either a community or an entity in any way related to faith), and I certainly don’t share any of the values flying around these parts. And living away from home would probably be good for me.
Second, I need at least one good friend. I learned a few things in my yeshivah year — e.g., Bnei Akiva-brand Religious Zionism is crazy, Americans can be crazier, Tanakh can be cool, it’s really fun to really acquire a language — but none more strongly (in this connection) than the fact that I can’t get by without friends. (This knowledge was reinforced in a big way by my experience in China almost two years ago. I was lonely, and my having a girlfriend — she wasn’t there with me, but my being in a relationship at all — didn’t help as much as I would have thought.)
Third, I need to have books close at hand, and outlets for talking about them. Working on/picking up a language would be a big plus.
Fourth, I need to have some kind of Jewish involvement. I don’t know if this means socially or intellectually or emotionally or communally or what, but something. This doesn’t mean kosher food or minyan, per se — God knows that’s no sticking point — and it probably doesn’t mean MO-issue discussion group; but whatever it is, even if it means a Judaic Studies section of a library, or an occasional Kabbalat Shabbat service, I’m pretty sure I’ll need something Jewish. This may just be a manifestation of a conservative-religious-identification-holdout strain, but I’m really not that good at getting myself.
Fifth, I’d like to figure out some kind of career-ish path, and do something that’ll help me get there. I’m not feeling super-invested in this at the moment, but I feel it’s not something I should ignore completely.
… So what to do? The options are as follows: I can look for entry-level jobs in writing- and editing-related fields (maybe publishing, maybe journalism-type), if such things are available. Or I can look for teaching positions in middle America or Europe or elsewhere (Goob sent me this site for teaching English in Korea). I can look into graduate programs in history, Judaic studies, religious studies, geography, education, or whatever else humanities/teaching types would be into. I can look into shorter-term programs like Yeshiva University’s Revel Graduate School, where I can get a Master’s in Medieval Jewish History. I can move to Wisconsin, look for work in a diner or library or congressman’s office, and live in an apartment that will surely be cheaper than just about anything in New York.
That’s what I’ve got so far.
Pretty lame blog post, if you ask me…

Self-Image (1)

Note: Remember how I said I’d be consistent about maintaining this blog? Well, about that…

The Second Note, or Note II, or NII: I actually first started writing this post weeks ago, with the purpose of lovingly criticizing The New Yorker (2), but it ended up making a better case for a different kind of post.

Introduction, or the Part in Which Something Begins to be Said

I talk to myself.

I talk to myself all the time. I talk to myself in soap and grime. I talk to myself (3) in the shower and in the street. I talk to myself in the rain and in the sleet. I do it when it’s night and day. I do it in the grass and hay.

But that’s not really the topic of this post (4). The real topic is talking about oneself to oneself, a wholly different phenomenon, as I hope will become clear.

So here’s the skinny (5): We peoples, maybe especially we American peoples, have this tendency to talk about ourselves. Our self-esteem needs it (6); our potential enablers of matriculation, suppliers of capital, and lifelong bedfellows demand it (7). But every so often we talk about ourselves to ourselves, and that is where identity and selfhood and [synonyms] are fashioned. These are the times when we reveal to ourselves (and those who drop eaves, and those who lope between, and those who pass tresses and those who hear over) what we see and think and doubt and want. For me at any rate it is often maddening, but it is always productive and instructive.

The Next Part, in Which Something is Supposed to be Said

Self-reflection aside, there is a kind of awesomeness in watching this phenomenon in action. I take particular joy in the moments when I catch people and characters and Institutions in the act of talking about themselves to themselves (8).

One such catch was the following passage from an essay about the late John Updike, in which the writer, speaking (I’ll say) for the magazine, reveals in part the self-perception of the character that is The New Yorker (9):

If he gave so much to the magazine, he took something from it, too. He took, and kept, a tone. Updike the humorist is probably the least known or recognizable Updike of them all, but something of the White-cum-Thurber sound of the New Yorker that he joined—that bemused, ironically smiling but resolutely well-wishing, anti-malicious comic tone—lingered in his work till the very end….

He flourished in his early years here… the material of comedy remained implicit in almost every sentence he wrote: the dancing recognition of the likeness of the unlike, the will to treat the organic mechanically… The common sense that regularly inflected his judgments of big writers and dubious ideas had its origins in a humorous tradition, too; in his criticism he caught the notes of Wolcott Gibbs and Brendan Gill as much as those of Edmund Wilson.

And the comic current ran deeper even than that. Despite the lyrical surface of his prose, Updike was a realist, as comedians must be, and never even marginally a romantic. He was genuinely unseduced by all the myths of American romanticism: gorgeous Daisys and vast sinister Western landscapes are equally absent from his books. His girls and women are real, with scratchy pubic hair, and his American landscape of car dealerships and fast-food retreats held no place for doomed, exciting, existential gunmen. He was, for all those perfect shining sentences, a realist; the sentences sing, but they don’t ennoble.

Given how seamlessly he fit here, it’s a miracle that he ever got out; he could have stayed at the magazine, tried out all the chairs, and become a local god. But he did something braver. He fled New York for Ipswich, and then made a bolder journey into writing, absorbing the hardest and highest of the moderns—Proust and Nabokov first of all, but Borges and Henry Green and so many others—without abandoning the old sounds he loved, either.

In writing about Updike, what is really being described is the quintessential New Yorker, the New Yorker as it sees itself — perfectly balanced, home of the most thoughtful and crafty writers of the generation. The beauty of Updike is the beauty of what a writer should be, of what The New Yorker doubtless is — humorous but not overly so, creative but never to the point of inviting incredulity, highly attuned to the lives and quirks of normal people and never intolerant or mocking of them — nuance and subtle brilliance. The monologue that comes out the mouth of the person, kivyakhol (10), of The New Yorker is one that reflects the self-assuredness of the magazine. This is but one monologue, however, and I look forward to catching more such glimpses as I keep reading the magazine. We’ll see what else comes up.

The End, in Which I Conclude; or Conclusion, in Which I End

Point is, there’s this type of self-interaction that can be illuminating about people and magazines and what-else-not. Being on the lookout for it in others can be an amusing pastime, but applying this kind of self-reflection and -knowledge and -criticism is, I think, the most important thing of all.

Notes, in Which I Ramble and Bore

(1) Honest Injun, this isn’t what it sounds like.
(2) I called it “that eternal beacon of literature, Culture, and the left-leaning upper class,” going on, “It should be established before I go on that pretense and pretentiousness and suchlike are not to me entirely opprobrious concepts or categories. If anything, my embracing of the style and the worldview that attends it is probably apparent in a way usually not so easily detected in my fellow young, über-exposed, self-righteous, semi-to-very privileged, if genuinely curious, East Coasters. Let it be known, then, that I read The New Yorker (and The New York Review of Books, as well as African literature and all the other things teased by StuffWhitePeopleLike) and enjoy it; I appreciate hyper-vocabularized and -wordplayed writing, and even aspire to successfully do the same in my own; and, I must admit, I can’t help but think myself a bit superior to those who fail to exhibit curiousness or humility (ironic, I know; don’t stone me) in their opinions or at least an attempt at nuance and some sort of more sober wisdom. Even so, I find what to criticize in The New Yorker, the publication I would die to work for but rather die than work at.”
(3) And I don’t mean talking-to-yourself-is-one-thing-but-oh-no-dear-sir-having-conversations-with-yourself-is-quite-another talking to myself. I mean full-on talking to myself.
(4) I break that damn fourth wall entirely too much, no?
(5) I don’t know where this expression comes from, and I’m vaguely curious, but not enough right now to look it up. At home I have a Dictionary of Cliches, which has been very useful in the past, but I neither have it handy nor do I think it would have this particular phrase.
(6) Mmm, says the blogger.
(7) I hope I’ll have some kind of blog-rant on this some day, especially re: the employers and educators.
(8) It’s fun and at least a little mind-blowing to find yourself in a discussion that begins with the thought, for example, “Imagine the character of God in Tanakh/the Hebrew Bible/the Old Testament. [Or, Imagine Tanakh as a composite character.] What do you think he’s like? What would it say about itself?” The reason this is a footnote is because I had it in the previous version of this post, and it has nothing to do with what I’m trying to do here, and I didn’t really want to cut it.
(9) Ahh, that’s why it was relevant. Disregard the end of the note above.
(10) Poor translation, from the Hebrew, “as it were” or “if one could say.”

CAJE Closing

So, according to this page, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education is closing. I don’t know much about the organization — it sucks when you only find something great when it’s too late; or, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone — but it seems like they’ve done great work.
In order to pay off their debts, they’re appealing to anyone who can to make tax-deductible donations to help cover their outstanding costs as they close their doors.
Any help will surely be greatly appreciated.

A New Semester

The new semester started a few weeks ago. I’m just trying to get everything together in order to graduate by this summer. I’m enjoying my classes, especially Chinese 3.1 because it takes me back to being in China and haggling with all the merchants to give me a better price (even though it was clear that I could pay the full price). It was nice interacting with the people of China in my uncertain, poorly spoken, broken Mandarin. I hope I get to do that again someday soon… with much improved Mandarin abilities.

I haven’t been home for that long but I’m ready to get out of New York. I really hope to return to China soon, I miss it a lot. To me, China represents a lot of possibilities. It contains my hopes, my desires, my interests, my personal and academic goals. I really hope that my language ability does improve so I may be able to study, work and live there.

Some pics from China.

Learning how to Hot Pot

Learning how to Hot Pot

Dinner in Nanjing

Dinner in Nanjing

When in China, do what the Chinese do!

When in China, do what the Chinese do!

Happy Niu Year! from Shanghai!

Happy Niu Year! from Shanghai!

Cookie loves Forbidden City! in Beijing!

Cookie loves Forbidden City! in Beijing!

Cookie tours Bird's Nest! in Beijing!

Cookie tours Bird’s Nest! in Beijing!

中国,再见!

Sonic Itch’s Latest (1) (2)

Isaac Raisner and Benjamin Wallick, of Queens’ third most popular two-man folk band, Sonic Itch, have released a new song and music video, “How About Me?” Until they get their own show on the Home Box Office network, this may be the best way to follow up on the band’s career.
The video can be found here.

(1) Note: Not “most recently deceased.” Rather, plainly “more recent.”
(2) Isn’t this a much better way to footnote than the asterisk craziness?

Post-Shabbat Ruah and Mah-Lo

First Thing’s First

I haven’t written a post in a while. In fact, I haven’t written a post since the first one, which means I haven’t written a stitch about my crusades course/program/trip, the ostensible raison d’etre* of this very web log. Here we go!

But first, a note on blogging: I’m inclined to radical honesty in real life,** uncomfortable as that makes me (admittedly) and those around me; in writing, I will only indulge that more, the counseling of those who warn of over-exposure and suchlike be damned. So fret not, dear reader, it’s just me, and furthermore, bear in mind that it’s all been done before.***

What We Did

Basically, we criss-crossed the Golan and Galil following in the footsteps of Jesus the Nazarene — or, more accurate if not more to the point, following in the footsteps of some people, mostly more than a thousand years later, thought He had walked and taught and healed and died. So we went to Tabgha (site of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes — but were there enough dishes?), Capernaum, the Mount of the Beatitudes (”Blessed is the geek, for he will inherit the earth,” for example), Golgotha, and other places.

These towns and dig sites tended to have churches and/or ancient synagogues, which had something of a coolness factor, albeit without the expected soul-spirit stuff. At least not for me. In fact, I wasn’t even so much plagued by the “why-am-I-not-feeling-anything-am-I-so-numb-and-empty-inside-tLinkhat-I-can’t-even-be-moved-by-this?” thing. (I guess that means I have my answer to that question…) The stations of the cross walk in the Jerusalem’s City that is Ancient**** was actually incredible. Duh, they may be mis-attributed in a big way, but duh, that’s hardly the point these days. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which housed the last few stations, is a study in mixology.***** Every denomination of Christianity lays claim to the Church, so each one controls some part of it. This leads to complications, however… See here, here, and here.
In the church itself, there is a surprising amount of uniformity, though, at least to these eyes: There are icons and altars and pews and candles and halos and maddens aplenty, everywhere you turn. I’m not good at this distinguishing thing. Sorry.

We also saw some crusader stuff. That is to say, most of the places we visited were sort-of-formally established as Christian sites and en-church-ificated during the centuries of crusading. But then there were places that were politically crusader-ish: Nimrod’s Castle was pretty sweet, and Lord-of-the-Rings-like in its grassiness and stoniness and battleness. The Horns of Hattin (Qarnei Hittin) was not exciting visually, but the battle that took place there (”when the battle was done, the blood of the dead came up to the knees”) was recounted to us in situ, and that was pretty damn cool.

During this time, we were led by our brave professor, Dr. Helen Gaudette, our guide, Tikva, and driver, Cushi. Tikva knows much, leads magnificently, and teaches music fun-ly. Cushi, a settled Bedouin, brought us to his home, where we met his family, ate and drank some, and generally spent an enjoyable afternoon-evening in each other’s company. ‘Twas nice indeed.

When our tours with Tikva and Cushi were at an end, we relocated to Jerusalem, where we stayed for eight days. There, we dug in our heels (is this an expression?) and geared up for the main part of our course, The Game.****** The Game is a pedagogic tool that reminds me much of skits put on in camp on the Ninth of Ab or in opening tokhnit.******* We the students, in order to form a more perfect crusade (nothing came to mind, guys; my agony over this failure far outstrips yours, believe me), became the Council of Acre in 1148, and were to debate on and decide whether or not to launch the second Crusade, then who would be its leader, then which city would be the first target. Each of our characters had zir own (secret) agenda, and ze had to obtain zir personal objectives. I was Fulcher, Patriarch of Jerusalem and overseer of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I had a pretty obvious agenda: I wanted the crusade to happen, I wanted to be chosen as its leader, and I wanted a city other than Damascus to be our target. I only got the first one.
:-(
I was a really bad actor, even though I had prepared for the debates and written spanking good essays towards the debates… (We had to write short-ish essays laying out our positions. I didn’t sleep much during Jerusalem week. Others slept less. It was grand.) … Until the second half of the second day, when I whipped out the I-can-be-a-complete-jerk-when-I-need-to-be part of my personality (or, ahem, Fulcher whipped out the … part of his personality, as you prefer) and destroyed one of the other candidates; and the next day, when I gave the best speech of my entire life, citing our hallowed histories of Middle Earth, specifically the battle at Helm’s Deep, when the riders of Rohan came charging down the hill, destroying the orc armies laying siege to the fortress. I feared that, in surrounding Damascus, we’d similarly expose ourselves to the orc-like armies of the savage and clever Nur-ad-Din of Mosul. What I’m trying to get at is, I kicked some war-council-naysaying ass. And it was wonderful. And then my side lost the vote. And it was wonderless. And then The Game, and The Class, was over. And it was wonder-neutral.

Other Things

Honestly, they’ll just have to wait. This is long, and the hour is late, and the degrees are few, and the parties are a-waitin’.

The next blog post, I hope, will come sooner than a month from now. And there will be more, or other, than just summaries of things. Thanks, and goodbye!

Notes and Asides, for Your Pleasure

* Yes, yes I did just pull out a pretentious, intelligentsia-employed, high/cultured English (aka , in this case, French) phrase.

** “In real life” denotes in person, as a general rule. Over the course of this program, to my friends and instructors and such, I would often return to this trope, referring to my typical comportment and reception throughout the year, in the company I usually keep. For example, I am less wanting-to-be-and-successfully-being-the-center-of-attention-y in real life than I was in this group; for another, I am found less funny and more ugh-that’s-awkward-than-aww-that’s-kind-of-endearing-awkward in real life than I was for these three weeks.

*** I like this quote. I can’t call to memory where I got it from, but I think it’s in at least about five songs. Point is, ’tis true, friends.

**** See previous post. ;-)

***** As in the study of mixing. Not mixing in terms of races or ethnicities or religions or whatever (in other, 11th-grade Jewish history, words, not mischlinge-style), but the way Snapple comes up with new flavors. Anyone remember when Kris accidentally put together a batch of Lemonade and a batch of Iced Tea, thanks to which we have the — actually a-ma-zing — Lemonade Iced Tea flavor? No? Well, I guess that is the factum less remembered by, and that has made all the difference.
Also, if so, “a study in mixology” sounds redundant, but isn’t. Think about it, a’ight?

****** It should be noted that this does not refer to the The Game as found on Wikipedia, which I just made you lose. (Sucka!)

******* The ninth of Ab is the saddest day in the Jewish year: According to tradition, both Jerusalem temples were destroyed, the decision that Israel would wander in the wilderness for forty years, and various other tragic national events occurred on this date.
Opening tokhnit is the set of plays and things the staff puts on for the campers as they get off the bus at the beginning of the session, setting the tone for the theme and narrative of the coming month.
Point is, they’re kind of fun and cute and educational, and they involve role-playing and costumes and, more often than not, replicating some kind of violence. Guten zeiten, yo.

Post-Shabbat Ruah and Mah-Lo

First Thing’s First

I haven’t written a post in a while. In fact, I haven’t written a post since the first one, which means I haven’t written a stitch about my crusades course/program/trip, the ostensible raison d’etre* of this very web log. Here we go!

But first, a note on blogging: I’m inclined to radical honesty in real life,** uncomfortable as that makes me (admittedly) and those around me; in writing, I will only indulge that more, the counseling of those who warn of over-exposure and suchlike be damned. So fret not, dear reader, it’s just me, and furthermore, bear in mind that it’s all been done before.***

What We Did

Basically, we criss-crossed the Golan and Galil following in the footsteps of Jesus the Nazarene — or, more accurate if not more to the point, following in the footsteps where some people, mostly more than a thousand years later, thought He had walked and taught and healed and died. So we went to Tabgha (site of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes — but were there enough dishes?), Capernaum, the Mount of the Beatitudes (“Blessed is the geek, for he will inherit the earth,” for example), Golgotha, and other places.

These towns and dig sites tended to have churches and/or ancient synagogues, which had something of a coolness factor, albeit without the expected soul-spirit stuff. At least not for me. In fact, I wasn’t even so much plagued by the “why-am-I-not-feeling-anything-am-I-so-numb-and-empty-inside-tLinkhat-I-can’t-even-be-moved-by-this?” thing. (I guess that means I have my answer to that question…) The stations of the cross walk in the Jerusalem’s City that is Ancient**** was actually incredible. Duh, they may be mis-attributed in a big way, but duh, that’s hardly the point these days. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which housed the last few stations, is a study in mixology.***** Every denomination of Christianity lays claim to the Church, so each one controls some part of it. This leads to complications, however… See here, here, and here.
In the church itself, there is a surprising amount of uniformity, though, at least to these eyes: There are icons and altars and pews and candles and halos and maddens aplenty, everywhere you turn. I’m not good at this distinguishing thing. Sorry.

We also saw some crusader stuff. That is to say, most of the places we visited were sort-of-formally established as Christian sites and en-church-ificated during the centuries of crusading. But then there were places that were politically crusader-ish: Nimrod’s Castle was pretty sweet, and Lord-of-the-Rings-like in its grassiness and stoniness and battleness. The Horns of Hattin (Qarnei Hittin) was not exciting visually, but the battle that took place there (“when the battle was done, the blood of the dead came up to the knees”) was recounted to us in situ, and that was pretty damn cool.

During this time, we were led by our brave professor, Dr. Helen Gaudette, our guide, Tikva, and driver, Cushi. Tikva knows much, leads magnificently, and teaches music fun-ly. Cushi, a settled Bedouin, brought us to his home, where we met his family, ate and drank some, and generally spent an enjoyable afternoon-evening in each other’s company. ‘Twas nice indeed.

When our tours with Tikva and Cushi were at an end, we relocated to Jerusalem, where we stayed for eight days. There, we dug in our heels (is this an expression?) and geared up for the main part of our course, The Game.****** The Game is a pedagogic tool that reminds me much of skits put on in camp on the Ninth of Ab or in opening tokhnit.******* We the students, in order to form a more perfect crusade (nothing came to mind, guys; my agony over this failure far outstrips yours, believe me), became the Council of Acre in 1148, and were to debate on and decide whether or not to launch the second Crusade, then who would be its leader, then which city would be the first target. Each of our characters had her/his own (secret) agenda, and ze had to obtain hir personal objectives. I was Fulcher, Patriarch of Jerusalem and overseer of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I had a pretty obvious agenda: I wanted the crusade to happen, I wanted to be chosen as its leader, and I wanted a city other than Damascus to be our target. I only got the first one.
🙁
I was a really bad actor, even though I had prepared for the debates and written spanking good essays towards the debates… (We had to write short-ish essays laying out our positions. I didn’t sleep much during Jerusalem week. Others slept less. It was grand.) … Until the second half of the second day, when I whipped out the I-can-be-a-complete-jerk-when-I-need-to-be part of my personality (or, ahem, Fulcher whipped out the … part of his personality, as you prefer) and destroyed one of the other candidates; and the next day, when I gave the best speech of my entire life, citing our hallowed histories of Middle Earth, specifically the battle at Helm’s Deep, when the riders of Rohan came charging down the hill, destroying the orc armies laying siege to the fortress. I feared that, in surrounding Damascus, we’d similarly expose ourselves to the orc-like armies of the savage and clever Nur-ad-Din of Mosul. What I’m trying to get at is, I kicked some war-council-naysaying ass. And it was wonderful. And then my side lost the vote. And it was wonderless. And then The Game, and The Class, was over. And it was wonder-neutral.

Other Things

Honestly, they’ll just have to wait. This is long, and the hour is late, and the degrees are few, and the parties are a-waitin’.

The next blog post, I hope, will come sooner than a month from now. And there will be more, or other, than just summaries of things. Thanks, and goodbye!

Notes and Asides, for Your Pleasure

* Yes, yes I did just pull out a pretentious, intelligentsia-employed, high/cultured English (aka , in this case, French) phrase.

** “In real life” denotes in person, as a general rule. Over the course of this program, to my friends and instructors and such, I would often return to this trope, referring to my typical comportment and reception throughout the year, in the company I usually keep. For example, I am less wanting-to-be-and-successfully-being-the-center-of-attention-y in real life than I was in this group; for another, I am found less funny and more ugh-that’s-awkward-than-aww-that’s-kind-of-endearing-awkward in real life than I was for these three weeks.

*** I like this quote. I can’t call to memory where I got it from, but I think it’s in at least about five songs. Point is, ’tis true, friends.

**** See previous post. 😉

***** As in the study of mixing. Not mixing in terms of races or ethnicities or religions or whatever (in other, 11th-grade Jewish history, words, not mischlinge-style), but the way Snapple comes up with new flavors. Anyone remember when Kris accidentally put together a batch of Lemonade and a batch of Iced Tea, thanks to which we have the — actually a-ma-zing — Lemonade Iced Tea flavor? No? Well, I guess that is the factum less remembered by, and that has made all the difference.
Also, if so, “a study in mixology” sounds redundant, but isn’t. Think about it, a’ight?

****** It should be noted that this does not refer to the The Game as found on Wikipedia, which I just made you lose. (Sucka!)

******* The ninth of Ab is the saddest day in the Jewish year: According to tradition, both Jerusalem temples were destroyed, the decision that Israel would wander in the wilderness for forty years, and various other tragic national events occurred on this date.
Opening tokhnit is the set of plays and things the staff puts on for the campers as they get off the bus at the beginning of the session, setting the tone for the theme and narrative of the coming month.
Point is, they’re kind of fun and cute and educational, and they involve role-playing and costumes and, more often than not, replicating some kind of violence. Guten zeiten, yo.

Nanjing Impressions.

Nanjing was our home for two weeks. Classes were mighty intensive. Winnie and I took a history class about modern China and although it was a heavy workload, I think learning about the modernization of China and witnessing it at the same time was a great experience. There were many sites to see in Nanjing. From Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s mausoleum to the Nanjing Massacre Museum to the Presidential Palace to the city roads themselves, there was a lot to do and see.

Jimeng Temple, a Buddhist temple near our hotel. 

Jimeng Temple, a Buddhist temple near our hotel.

 Pagoda of Jimeng Temple

Pagoda of Jimeng Temple
  
  City shots of Nanjing 
City shots of Nanjing
Some thoughts about food.
For the most part we ate lots of local food, from noodles to rice. We also went out to restaurants including a Vietnamese restaurant and an Indian restaurant. However, we both liked the taste and smell of what the local people ate: a bowl of hot noodles with beef or chicken for only 7 yuan (about $1.00) and of course, nothing could beat the sweet aromas of street food. From sweet potatoes to different types of fried breads to lamb on a stick, I think we ate a lot more on the street than in the restaurants. 
Cucumber flavored chips were not very appetizing.

Cucumber flavored chips were not very appetizing.

 My friend Ruby, whom I met while in China, eating lamb on a stick. Mmmm. Delicious.

My friend Ruby, whom I met while in China, eating lamb on a stick. Mmmm. Delicious.
Blood Duck Soup- Nanjing's Specialty Dish

Blood Duck Soup- Nanjing’s Specialty Dish

I'm tasting the Blood Duck Soup.

I’m tasting the Blood Duck Soup.

My dish- sweet potato noodles with pork and/or beef.

My dish- sweet potato noodles with pork and/or beef.

 

Our Vietnamese dishes. Very tasty, but very pricey.

Our Vietnamese dishes. Very tasty, but very pricey.

Xi’an Impressions.

Xi’an, our next stop was about a 12 hr. train ride south of Beijing. Sleeping in our assigned bunks was a trial, as we were tightly packed in. The city itself was proof of how history can be found right in your front yard. The huge wall/ gate of the city stretched on for miles around the city. We biked and walked past many workers preparing for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Winnie riding a bike on Xi'an's wall.

Winnie riding a bike on Xi’an’s wall.

 

Workers adding details to the warrior/ sentry-looking mannequins/ dolls.

Workers adding details to the warrior/ sentry-looking mannequins/ dolls.

More impressive than the wall was seeing the pits of the Terracotta Warriors. These stone soldiers were built for the tomb/ mausouleum of the First Qin emperor, but were only discovered in 1974. They were massive, both in size and in character.

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

Beijing Impressions.

The few days we toured Beijing were brisk yet fulfilling. Climbing the uneven stairs of the Great Wall was exhilarating (and mighty painful), especially when we reached the top. (The section of the Great Wall we climbed only went up to a certain point). Here’s the proof that we climbed it.  

Touring Tiananmen Square was awe-inspiring. The vastness of space and the depth of history on the pale colored pavement moved us all.

Our feet on Tiananmen Square

Our feet on Tiananmen Square

 

 

The Square

The Square

The Square leads to the gates of the Forbidden City, home to the Emperors when Beijing was the capital of the Empire.

After our historical tour, we immersed ourselves in a cultural exploration which included the Peking Opera, a Kungfu Show and a taste of Beijing Kaoya (Beijing Roasted Duck). 

A classic star-crossed tale about the love between a snake goddess and a mortal man, the opera was rich in color as it was in sound.

Nanjing

I suppose I should write about Beijing and Xi’an first since those cities have passed but I’m currently in Nanjing. The internet here is faulty at times but I do manage to get it sometimes, it’s really not so bad. If anything, I go to the coffeehouse across the street from my hotel to get internet. :D

Nanjing is such an interesting city. Full of history and modernity. You have shopping districts along with historical places of significance. I’ve been to many different places and seen so much. I will try to post up some pictures after this entry. I’ve really enjoyed the food here, especially all the street food. I really love the hot bowls of noodles you can get for less then 10 yuan (that’s less then $1.50 USD).

I haven’t uploaded my Nanjing pictures but here is a view right outside our hotel!

right outside our hotel

Gate of XuanWu Lake

Long Overdue Update-Cum-Recap

(originally published January 4th, 2009, at http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/william/

True story: I played Bananagrams* for the first time recently, and one time when the winning player was reading off his board, he tried to hide one of the words, saying, “It’s a bad word.” When forced, he uncovered it — the word was “cum” — and his mother (!) did not appreciate it. I, however, pointed out, that it didn’t have to be dirty. Point is, get your this-title-reading mind out of the gutter, you perv.

Essay, or Blabbermouthery

I left the house in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon with my mother, Sara; younger sister, Melody (age 20); mother’s husband, Ira; and stepbrothers, Josh (16) and Brian (13). I was scheduled to be on the 5:05 Alitalia flight, and they were flying Virgin at 6:00. The cab-van dropped me off at my terminal, and I did all the airport stuff, pretty much hassle-free (just like the Platinum One card!). And then I got to the gate…

Long story short, the flight was delayed a few hours — I made the connection in Rome, but the luggage didn’t. Until the following Sunday night. (The Turkish Air flight of my sister Grace (age 25) was delayed and then canceled, which was kind of suckier but kind of not.)

I got to Jerusalem via sherut (group-cab, lit., service) – I hadn’t been to Israel in two years to that point – and visited a few friends in the Old City (henceforth, at least occasionally, “The City that is Ancient”), looking out at but not approaching the Western Wall (henceforth, also occasionally, “The Wall that is Westerly” or “The Wall that Doth Wail”).

I then walked to the hotel in downtown Jerusalem (henceforth, “J-town”) where my family would be staying, checked in on my own, washed some of my clothing by hand (I’m gross, I know), hung it up to dry, met some other friends at a restaurant down the street – don’t ask how I was dressed; it’s complicated – ate their fries, faux-danced in my seat to Israeli radio, walked with them to the place my family was having dinner, ate some kind of steak wrap, took a walk, and returned to the hotel. When conditions were right – the lighting, the music, the mood – I washed up and went to bed.

The following morning, Friday, the day before Shabbat, we arose from our repose and enjoyed a pretty weak breakfast, and then headed to our scheduled City of David tour. (The 3-D video was pretty cool, but 3-D is kind of lame at this point, isn’t it?) Melody and I left early on, so I could buy lots of clothes: I was at that point wearing Brian’s socks, boxer shorts (get over it, guys), and t-shirt, and I wouldn’t manage through Shabbat on that plus the clothing I had worn on my flight. So, much was bought and much was spent. Guten zeiten were had by all.

That evening I walked to the Wall that Doth Wail, situated in the City that is Ancient, where many groupings of people recited the Acceptance of the Sabbath. I saw Keith, an old friend now studying and working in Israel, which was solid,** as sightings of, and interactions with, Keith tend to be. (Luckily, I bumped into him again the following night, so I could get his number — you know how it is, you flirt on your own time, not on God’s time.) Later on, after dinner at our hotel, instead of reading the DFW essay I had, I ended up talking to an increasingly intoxicated Birthright-er. It was fun, sorta. And not so stimulating, sorta.

On Shabbat day I compleeeeeeeetely slept through the services of the Dawn (fem.), ate lunch with the family plus Melody’s boyfriend Matan, took a nap (yup), walked with the latter two to the apartment of our friend Rivky’s sister Tzippy.*** That night, I met up with friends who were studying in the City that is Ancient. We ate on Emek Refaim. That turned into chilling**** with camp friends I bumped into, which turned into meeting a camp friend, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend. I love chai lattes. It’s a fact.

But not as much as I love Mountain Dew. Are you ready for this? Basically, the first night I happened to find a store that sold Mountain Dew. In my experience, Israel didn’t have the Dew. Israel was Duden-rein. (Too soon?) But then it wasn’t. My sense of the possible had been warped in a way it had never been warped before. I started looking for it everywhere, hoping against hope, wishing against wish, aspiring against aspiration, that I would find it again. Alas, alarum, and alabaster, I did not succeed. Was it better to have Dewed and lost than if I had never Dewed at all? Mmm, hard questions and harder answers.

The following few days were spent mostly with the fam, crisscrossing, ticktocking, and kingkonging the country in the quest for excitement and lunacy, intrigue and piracy, awesomeness and privacy. The final adventure was Papagaio, the Brazilian-meat, all-you-can-eat restaurant in Herzliyah. Eizeh wai wai!*****

Then I was outside of Bar-Ilan University, then inside the Hebrew University, then out and about, then in Jerusalem all the way through Sunday morning, then on the way to, and then in, Tel Aviv on Sunday, where I ultimately met up with the group whose doings and seeings are the reason for this here little blog. On this more later.

Notes, and Further Ridiculousness

* FYI: Bananagrams is a game the object of which is for each player to build an independent and fully coherent Scrabble board with the letters dealt hir. One wins when one is the first to complete a board when there are no letters remaining. It’s fun, if you like words. And frustrating, if you’re competitive. (That’s you, Rafi.)

** “Solid” here is meant as a synonym for “righteous” and “gnarly” and “bitching.” E.g., “Daled is solid, but Alef speaks Wolof!” Get it? No? How about, “Gases may be gaseous, and liquids may be liquidy, but solids are solid!” Still nothing? You’re just not worth it…

*** I think those are actually their legal names, not just nicknames. Rivky is like Rivqah, or Rebecca (like the biblical overbearing mother), and Tzippy is like Ziporah, or Ziporah (like the biblical neglected wife). Sheesh, Becks is gonna kill me for this…

**** “Hanging out” is so vulgar, no? The Hebrew verb, levalot, actually means to become worn out. As in the Talmudic passage about the priestly vestments that had been so worn that they became unfit and were declared impermissible. Hat’s off, Rav Ashi!

***** Lit., “What a ‘wai wai’!”; Fig., “Wow!”; Sig., “Stop dreaming about your mother!” — I could go on, like this, you know: Dig., “Don’t kiss him, Cho, I still love you!”; and Gig., “I like to be in bed by nine… and home by eleven!” All right, enough of that.

Long Overdue Update-Cum-Recap

True story: I played Bananagrams* for the first time recently, and one time when the winning player was reading off his board, he tried to hide one of the words, saying, “It’s a bad word.” When forced, he uncovered it — the word was “cum” — and his mother (!) did not appreciate it. I, however, pointed out, that it didn’t have to be dirty. Point is, get your this-title-reading mind out of the gutter, you perv.

Essay, or Blabbermouthery

I left the house in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon with my mother, Sara; younger sister, Melody (age 20); mother’s husband, Ira; and stepbrothers, Josh (16) and Brian (13). I was scheduled to be on the 5:05 Alitalia flight, and they were flying Virgin at 6:00. The cab-van dropped me off at my terminal, and I did all the airport stuff, pretty much hassle-free (just like the Platinum One card!). And then I got to the gate…
Long story short, the flight was delayed a few hours — I made the connection in Rome, but the luggage didn’t. Until the following Sunday night. (The Turkish Air flight of my sister Grace (age 25) was delayed and then canceled, which was kind of suckier but kind of not.)

I got to Jerusalem via sherut (group-cab, lit., service) – I hadn’t been to Israel in two years to that point – and visited a few friends in the Old City (henceforth, at least occasionally, “The City that is Ancient”), looking out at but not approaching the Western Wall (henceforth, also occasionally, “The Wall that is Westerly” or “The Wall that Doth Wail”).

I then walked to the hotel in downtown Jerusalem (henceforth, “J-town”) where my family would be staying, checked in on my own, washed some of my clothing by hand (I’m gross, I know), hung it up to dry, met some other friends at a restaurant down the street – don’t ask how I was dressed; it’s complicated – ate their fries, faux-danced in my seat to Israeli radio, walked with them to the place my family was having dinner, ate some kind of steak wrap, took a walk, and returned to the hotel. When conditions were right – the lighting, the music, the mood – I washed up and went to bed.

The following morning, Friday, the day before Shabbat, we arose from our repose and enjoyed a pretty weak breakfast, and then headed to our scheduled City of David tour. (The 3-D video was pretty cool, but 3-D is kind of lame at this point, isn’t it?) Melody and I left early on, so I could buy lots of clothes: I was at that point wearing Brian’s socks, boxer shorts (get over it, guys), and t-shirt, and I wouldn’t manage through Shabbat on that plus the clothing I had worn on my flight. So, much was bought and much was spent. Guten zeiten were had by all.

That evening I walked to the Wall that Doth Wail, situated in the City that is Ancient, where many groupings of people recited the Acceptance of the Sabbath. I saw Keith, an old friend now studying and working in Israel, which was solid,** as sightings of, and interactions with, Keith tend to be. (Luckily, I bumped into him again the following night, so I could get his number — you know how it is, you flirt on your own time, not on God’s time.) Later on, after dinner at our hotel, instead of reading the DFW essay I had, I ended up talking to an increasingly intoxicated Birthright-er. It was fun, sorta. And not so stimulating, sorta.

On Shabbat day I compleeeeeeeetely slept through the services of the Dawn (fem.), ate lunch with the family plus Melody’s boyfriend Matan, took a nap (yup), walked with the latter two to the apartment of our friend Rivky’s sister Tzippy.*** That night, I met up with friends who were studying in the City that is Ancient. We ate on Emek Refaim. That turned into chilling**** with camp friends I bumped into, which turned into meeting a camp friend, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend. I love chai lattes. It’s a fact.

But not as much as I love Mountain Dew. Are you ready for this? Basically, the first night I happened to find a store that sold Mountain Dew. In my experience, Israel didn’t have the Dew. Israel was Duden-rein. (Too soon?) But then it wasn’t. My sense of the possible had been warped in a way it had never been warped before. I started looking for it everywhere, hoping against hope, wishing against wish, aspiring against aspiration, that I would find it again. Alas, alarum, and alabaster, I did not succeed. Was it better to have Dewed and lost than if I had never Dewed at all? Mmm, hard questions and harder answers.

The following few days were spent mostly with the fam, crisscrossing, ticktocking, and kingkonging the country in the quest for excitement and lunacy, intrigue and piracy, awesomeness and privacy. The final adventure was Papagaio, the Brazilian-meat, all-you-can-eat restaurant in Herzliyah. Eizeh wai wai!*****

Then I was outside of Bar-Ilan University, then inside the Hebrew University, then out and about, then in Jerusalem all the way through Sunday morning, then on the way to, and then in, Tel Aviv on Sunday, where I ultimately met up with the group whose doings and seeings are the reason for this here little blog. On this more later.

Notes, and Further Ridiculousness

* FYI: Bananagrams is a game the object of which is for each player to build an independent and fully coherent Scrabble board with the letters dealt hir. One wins when one is the first to complete a board when there are no letters remaining. It’s fun, if you like words. And frustrating, if you’re competitive. (That’s you, Rafi.)

** “Solid” here is meant as a synonym for “righteous” and “gnarly” and “bitching.” E.g., “Daled is solid, but Alef speaks Wolof!” Get it? No? How about, “Gases may be gaseous, and liquids may be liquidy, but solids are solid!” Still nothing? You’re just not worth it…

*** I think those are actually their legal names, not just nicknames. Rivky is like Rivqah, or Rebecca (like the biblical overbearing mother), and Tzippy is like Ziporah, or Ziporah (like the biblical neglected wife). Sheesh, Becks is gonna kill me for this…

**** “Hanging out” is so vulgar, no? The Hebrew verb, levalot, actually means to become worn out. As in the Talmudic passage about the priestly vestments that had been so worn that they became unfit and were declared impermissible. Hat’s off, Rav Ashi!

***** Lit., “What a ‘wai wai’!”; Fig., “Wow!”; Sig., “Stop dreaming about your mother!” — I could go on, like this, you know: Dig., “Don’t kiss him, Cho, I still love you!”; and Gig., “I like to be in bed by nine… and home by eleven!” All right, enough of that.

15 hours later…

15 hours later… we finally arrived in Shanghai, where we transferred for a domestic flight to Beijing. You would think that after spending hours on a plane (with no leg room!) and hardly any sleep, I would be jetlag and tired. But I wasn’t. In fact, it was just hitting me that I was in China.

Already from the start, from meeting everyone at JFK airport to line jumpers at the Chinese airport, this was going to be fun. On this first and exhausting long day, we retired to our hotel rooms, explored the nearby attractions (Olympic Bird Nest and Water Cube) and got our money exchanged. Afterwards we went to eat Chinese food and watched a Beijing opera.

It’s been a long day. I’m ready to pass out and go to sleep!

The Marriage of Art and Science

Art is the antithesis of Science. Art arrests motion. Like a snapshot, it captures time. The aim of Art is to define a moment, a millisecond, forever. And yet, Art marauds. Art only knows instant. Art cannot travel past its frames. Science is boundless. Science prescribes motion. Science, unlike Art, cannot be stagnant. Science is constantly evolving, its dynamic elements rising, falling and then re-rising from its own ashes. But Art and Science, though defined by distinctly different parameters and manifested in parallel realms of greatness, abruptly collide, like shooting stars. Every generation has its own renaissance; each century watches intellectual and artistic insurgency bellow. But the greatest renaissance took place in Florence, Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries. Art strided. Science stampeded. Together, they tangoed, puppeteered by Renaissance men like Leonardo da Vinci. Renaissance men embodied the collision—sparks, fireworks flying!—of Art and Science. It is Florence, Italy, the home of the Renaissance, of the genesis of Science and Art’s progeny, which initially attracted me to this study abroad program. When further examining the programs available, I chose Photography in Florence. Photography, the modern method of art, in Florence, the home to centuries of classical art, is the ideal way to develop old world beauty and silent grandeur with new world technology, a renaissance onto itself.

I desire Renaissance. My mind is a Petri dish where cultures thrive and collide. Studying in Florence inspires romantic notions of scholars and artists. As both a scholar and an artist these Italian streets will invigorate the spirit of Renaissance within my veins. Although this may seem like a rather silly fantasy, the creation of magic, the genesis of art requires experience. Italy, I will always cherish as a life-broadening and transforming hour. More concretely, I have a strong interest in publishing and the photojournalism skills I hope to acquire while attending this program will undoubtedly add a unique asset to any editorial position I wish to assume. Photo composition and graphic design are two integral course elements which are also essential to mass media production. I am certain that these digital artistic skills are ones that will provide valuable in a future career.

This study abroad program is truly the best academic fit for me. Photography in Florence is where Art and Science shyly greet each other. Photography is by most means considered an art, capturing a fleeting moment for all of eternity. Yet, the amount of precision in establishing this moment is a science. The digital techniques that will be taught in the course are advances in scientific technology. As a Biology and English major, I am aware that both Science and Art tell stories. Science stripes stories down to their barest, most naked levels, peering through a microscope. Art examines stories under different angles and metaphors, peering through a kaleidoscope. But it is Photography that tells the ultimate story. Photography bears proudly two separate components: stories are stripped down to their barest, most naked levels, while examined under different angles and metaphors. Behind the camera, the photographer chooses how to tell a story. Science is the what. Art is the why. Photography is the how. “How” is an important relation that must be explored between Art and Science. As a pre-medical student with a keen interest in publishing it is one which I hope to do. The unique skills and experiences which I will gain learning Photography in Florence will not only allow me to approach classical literature with a new lens, but also lend a fresh view to my writings. The fundamental understanding of a picture, of experiencing a moment behind a glass eye, will aid me in my quest as a physician. Things are not always what they seem and it is easy to beguile. It is essential to remember this not only when diagnosing a patient but also when wrestling with humanity.

Art captures now. Science spells forever. Photography is about capturing forever now.

And now.

Now.

–Bracha Goykadosh

A Citizen of the World

What does studying photography in Florence, Italy have to do with my college narrative or career path? The answer, simply, is everything and nothing at all. I am majoring in Biology and most of my coursework has been in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, with a path toward a career as a physician scientist. But I hope to be more than a physician or a scientist. I will be a citizen of the world. Outside of the lab, I will engage in the world of art, theater, music. This is why I have chosen to study at the William E. Macaulay Honors College, a humanities-based program that uses the vibrant culture of New York City as its classroom. I have benefited from this premier liberal arts education — from the seminars, the lectures, the trips to museums and other cultural institutions. In addition to enhancing my cultural fluency, exposure to a diverse palette of course material, more simply, and more profoundly, has taught me how to think critically. Honing these skills, a prerequisite for good learning, is the cornerstone of any academically challenging and enriching program.

After sharing in the cultural experiences of New York City, I would now like to study in another great city of the world. The setting for this program played a crucial role in my decision to apply for this program, Florence. It will allow me to get to know the city well, as I immerse myself in the pulse of everyday life, learn its history, and the many stories it has to tell. I will see the great works that have influenced the art I have come to love in the museums at home. Florence, was home to Leonardo DaVinci who said, “Study the art of science. Develop your senses–especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” This extraordinary man of art and science recognized the important connection between the two subjects, that one often mirrors another, and, thus, will allow me to make a more sound argument for combining the study of biology in Brooklyn College and art in Florence.

In fact, it has become increasingly common in medical schools today for the study of art to be required. Randy Kennedy reported in the New York Times that the Yale, Stanford, Cornell, and the Mount Sinai Schools of Medicine have all added a mandatory art-appreciation or other humanities course to their medical school curricula (4/17/06). Kennedy said that, “[these art courses are] partly intended to make better doctors by making better-rounded human beings. . .[which] in some medical schools. . . [are] whole humanities departments — that bring playwrights, poets, actors, philosophers and other imports from the liberal arts into the world of medicine.” A study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2001, reported that looking at painting and sculpture can improve medical students’ observational abilities. JAMA is known for its artistic covers, often on themes unrelated to medicine. Another article from the Times (Polly Shulman, 10/5/99) quoted Dr. M. Therese Southgate, the physician who has selects JAMA’s cover art, ”I don’t use many overtly medical scenes. I’m trying to show that everything is related: art, medicine, life. Physicians and other people in the field can enjoy art, whether it’s medical or not.”

My particular artistic interests are in photography. I find myself looking at a scene and taking a pictures of it in my mind’s eye, wondering what light settings I would use, at what angle, how the final photograph would look. In high school, I studied graphic design for two years. I later used those skills as the editor-in-chief of my school’s newspaper. I became aware how important digital photographs are in the media. I also learned how to “fix” photos and that many images in the media are also often doctored. Graphic design, and art in particular, continued to intrigue me, but I pursued science as a major. Still, before I began my undergraduate work, I told myself that I would not graduate without taking a photography class. That was almost three years ago and those classes just never fit in my schedule. In my freshman Macaulay Honors seminar, Art in New York City, we studied a unit on photography. A trip to the Brooklyn Museum to see an Annie Leibowitz exhibit was a tease to me. It reminded me that photography was something I always wanted to do, but likely would never pursue as a career. The images I saw still haunt me: a bathroom stained with the bloody handprints of children, genocide victims; Susan Sontag at breakfast with her daughter, just months before she died from cancer; the famous picture of Demi Moore, naked and pregnant. All these photographs, the tool, the camera the same, the mood so different. Famous people, anonymous people, rich, poor, all immortalized. A photograph is a record, a point in time that presupposes a before and an after, I learned when we read John Berger’s Another Way of Telling. I want to make my own record, my own history of the world as I see it, to tell a story with befores and afters that other people will make people wonder or understand. During that same semester, I took my own photographs for a photo-essay assignment. The professor had encouraged us to experiment and I did. Instead of printing my photographs on regular paper, I printed them on muslin cloth, to complement the art-and-crafts theme of the pictures I took of my grandmother knitting. I sewed these to pieces of her handiwork.

The class syllabus for the study abroad program includes discussions of “elements of photo composition and graphic design, photo history, and relationships with other art mediums.” Art, by its nature, is creative. Nature, and its study, is art. What I have discovered in the short time that I have been involved with science research, is that it requires creativity, too. The standardization of medicine and research does not take away from the imagination needed to achieve innovation.

My first post

“God, I know we don’t talk much ! Although a lot of girls call out your name because of me… awesome!”
– Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother, Season 4, Not a Father’s Day

My guess is that, for now at least, until I tell everyone I know that I’m keeping a blog, if you happen to have come across this page and are reading this, at most there’s one of you, so welcome…

I have a serious paper due in nine hours, so I can’t have too much fun right now, but in the meantime, have a look around http://www.aldaily.com and http://www.xkcd.com. The former has links to lots of essays and articles and things, many (but not all) of which are dense, many of which are worthwhile; tha latter is a webcomic: I don’t get the computer-programming-related ones, but the rest are clever. Quite clever indeed.

Until later,

Willy Sudz