Funny Picture

A Funny Monkey


An unsuspecting girl caught candidly doing a funny monkey-like pose.

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Having never been to the Opera before, I’m at the disadvantage of being unable to compare Carmen to any previous experiences. The show first hit the opera stage in 1875 and has transformed every year since. As social boundaries were pushed further, directors allowed for more scandalous seduction on the part of the actresses playing Carmen, in this case Anita Rachvelishvili. As it was my first time, I wanted to put a focus on each individual feature of the show that stood out to me.

The opera is different from Broadway for many reasons, mainly the constant singing and the fact that it isn’t actually anywhere near Broadway. However, the reason I was remembering my experiences at several Broadway theaters was because of the extravagant set at the Metropolitan Opera. The massive pillars that served as reminders of Seville, Spain were beautiful in there ability to create an archaic beauty as well as supplement the strength of the military soldiers that were marching around the stage. The dull colors helped compliment the intended effect of the cigarette factory as well as the obviously tragic storyline.

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

From literally the last row of the Metropolitan Opera, it was far more difficult to visualize and appreciate the costume design of the cast, yet a pair of binoculars seemed to fix that obstacle. The costumes did their job of describing how the cast was to be seen, yet I didn’t see anything special in each individual character. I hoped to see something distinguishing Don Jose or something evoking sympathy for Micaëla. Since the story was set in much simpler times, it made sense to see Carmen’s more conservative clothing and she did a great job of bringing that seductive and scandalous attitude on her own.

I saw the acting as a roller coaster, with certain ups and certain downs (for the most part “up” though). For the most part, each individual character did a great job of evoking an emotion from the audience, whether it be sorrow, humor, or anger. However, at times the show seemed to be stretched out. It could well be that the show hasn’t adapted for a modern audience, or it is trying to bring the modern audience to understand classical opera. Yet I felt that certain scenes could be much shorter. For example, the scene where Don Jose is finally set to confront, and kill, Carmen. It could have been much more compact and allowed for the audience to feel the same emotion. By the end of the scene though, I was almost happy that it was finally over. What made it worse was the terrible death scene on behalf of Anita Rachvelishvili (Carmen). She wandered on the stage after being “stabbed” and again stretched out the scene. This is an area where many of my classmates disagree, yet I feel strongly about this.

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

Credits to The Metropolitan Opera

I were to assess this show as a whole, I can confidently say that it altered my expectation of the opera. I came in to the show thinking I was being dragged and left appreciating an evidently lost art. I still question if the show was trying to adapt to the modern audience or trying to allow the audience to understand opera and I still can’t confidently state an answer. However, I can confidently say that I am now more accepting of these lost arts that shouldn’t have vanished in the first place.


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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Strikes Back

Coming to the Metropolitan Museum of Art drew from me the experience I had when I was a freshman in high school. At that time, I went to see Roman sculptures as well as ancient Egyptian art.  However, four years later and here I am again at a class field trip to see an exhibit I never would have bothered to look at. That is the African Art and Matisse Exhibits.

What really amazed me was how the two exhibits were literally next to each other in terms of location. The African Art exhibit contained many sculptures and carvings that portrayed the human body whether alone, in couples, or families. Art was incorporated into unique objects such as spoons.

In the displays, there were multiple masks lined up next to each other. From far away they looked similar in technique and design yet upon further inspection of the carvings they were all very different at the same time. Proportions were not accurate but it was clearly the portrayal of the human face and body.

It became clear to me that African artworks are linked to the artworks by Picasso and Matisse due to the nature of Cubism and concept of abstraction. The Cubist movement used the methods in African pieces for inspiration. Cubism was also not in proportions to to the objects they were trying to represent yet there was a clear idea that a face is still a face. There are still two eyes a nose and a mouth. The only weird thing is that they do not look realistic at all.

The sculptures in African art often are created with geometric shapes and have many deep angles. The concept of abstract is presented beautifully in these sculptures and I can begin to see the elements artists like Picasso used.

The experience at the Matisse Exhibition was completely different for me. It was not about contrasting the differences and similarities between the two works but rather, Matisse created his work in pairs. He created two paintings of the same subject in an attempt to learn which technique he was more suited for. He created various perspectives by manipulating differences in seeing the same setting.


Matisse offers us a glimpse of the power of the eye and perception. There are amazing ways to convey not only imagery but information without losing out on the beauty and true meaning behind things. Because of this, it seems that creativity has been opened up to fascinating possibilities.

Overall, my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a really enjoyable one because the architecture still fascinates me and its a great opportunity for anyone in New York City to open their eyes to culture of the past and present. It was a great experience to learn about African art and actually see how something so basic and primitive is in fact a big factor when it comes to affecting future artist and their concepts.

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Photography Packet & Terms

Photography, like any other art, speaks to people in different ways. Interpreting that art is a different conversation and is too often discussed. These readings allowed for me to gain interest in a whole new conversation, the importance of photography. With their reasonings, two authors stood out for me. Berenice Abbott and Larry Sultan had very interesting ideologies as to why photography was appealing for them and it really stimulated my mind to understand why I wanted to pursue it as well.

Berenice Abbott was a photographer, primarily of the 1930s and 1940s. Her story sheds light on her passion for capturing the significance of her time. She acknowledges that it has become a large aspect of human life to try and capture our lives. While living through the depression and World War II, it is needless to say that the times she lived in were interesting. They served as an example of what caused her to get interested, the fact that her time was inspiring. According to Abbott, “there is no more creative medium than photography to recreate the living world of our time.” That belief strongly appealed to me, because when I take pictures and look back on those from years ago, it’s the feeling of nostalgia that pushes me. The feeling of being taken back and having a grasp on another time serves as my motivation and I really connected with Abbott on that aspect.

Larry Sultan had a far different drive, yet it interested me because of it’s refreshing take on the matter. Sultan described how he used to take pictures as a child. His father would question him when he would use thirty roles of film and only take one or two pictures. His father always asked him why he only liked such a few amount. Larry would explain that he liked most of the pictures, but he would only publish the ones that worried him. He described an event where a picture of his mother was interpreted differently by Larry and his father. The understanding of opposing messages from the same picture interested him and although it isn’t what really drives me, it definitely interested me.

Some terms for our class to keep in mind are:

Aperture- A space through which light passes in an optical or photographic instrument, esp. the variable opening by which light enters a camera

Negative- The developed film that contains a reversed tone image of the original scene

Underexposure- A condition in which too little light reaches the film, producing a thin negative, a dark slide, or a muddy-looking print

Vignetting- A condition in which too little light reaches the film, producing a thin negative, a dark slide, or a muddy-looking print

Zoom Lens- A lens in which you adjust the focal length over a wide range. In effect, this gives you lenses of many focal lengths.



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Katherine Vaz

The problem with books, and literature in general, is that the author can only try to do so much with their writing to evoke an emotion that the rest is left to the reader. However, at a reading, the author is able to take full control of the situation by really putting the plot into perspective. Such was the case at Katherine Vaz’s reading of Our Lady of the Artichokes. We were on campus all day and were told to arrive sharply at 6:30. We decided it would be best to arrive ten minutes early and went on our way. We turn into the hall, facing the auditorium and the room was packed. It became harder to pay attention from the benches outside the room, yet we managed to get a good vantage point.

The first portion of the reading wasn’t actually a reading, as much as an introduction to the topic and some background information on Katherine Vaz. She came on stage and briefly advertised her new book Below the Salt, which focuses on the impact of the Civil War on a young man’s life.

What I liked about this portion was that she described her methods and techniques, which is similar to a behind the scenes peek. She explained how ideas don’t just manifest themselves in her mind, but she actually has to dig for them. It is incredibly painstaking for her to even get started but just as difficult to keep the fluidity going. It made her seem less of a figure and more human.

She went into detail into what really inspires her. Her spark comes from actually feeling something, a feeling that should take you back and appreciate where you have traveled. It was a trend that seemed to appear frequently in her works such as Our Lady of Artichokes and her coming book, Below the Salt.

Credits to Baruch

Credits to Baruch

Unfortunately, I was only able to listen to her reading for a brief amount of time before I had to leave. The reading overlapped with a religious holiday for me. However, while ending this piece, I wanted to focus on the strength of her voice in helping the text have a stronger effect on the reader.


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African Art and Matisse

My idea of African art was a very basic perception of the disproportionate features of the human to their actual body size. I would remember briefly seeing heads far too small for their bodies and breasts far too large for the woman. That was merely how I remembered African art and our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a great way for me to rediscover and understand the meaning behind the art. It served as an opportunity for me to realize that there is so much more to it than disproportionate subjects.

Our entrance into the exhibit led to a sharp understanding of what encompassed African art. It displayed the focus on specific features and aspects of life that made the pieces more appealing, and explained my previous perception of disproportionate body parts. Some pieces would have a strong emphasis on the teeth, by pushing out the jaw and creating a deep imprint around each individual tooth.

One piece that stood out to me was the Maiden Mask. As I previously mentioned, it too put an emphasis on the teeth and pushed out the jaw, however, there was so much more to its beauty. The elongated nose created a sleek feeling to it, adding some contemporary beauty, which appeals to the modern taste. There were essentially two main colors on the mask: beige and brown. Both match well and were used to appeal aesthetically. Though the main highlight of the Maiden Mask was on the elegant and intricately made headwear. The mask was a representation of woman, yet men wore it to dance with. The headwear held small little containers, which in my opinion stand as symbols of water containers which women used to carry on their heads (the museums text didn’t specify). It was so well made that when I reminded myself it was from a far older era, in a place with scarce resources, I was left speechless.

Credits to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Credits to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

After the African exhibit we went directly to the Matisse exhibit. In all honesty, I have never been a fan of French art, or European paintings in general. I see people look into the subjects and I feel sometimes they look too far and misinterpret something which should just be appreciated at face value. Now that I have made my confession, it will allow me to better explain how I saw Matisse’s work. The pieces were great, not because of the subject matter, but because of the technique. I can’t even recall some of the subjects which he attempted to portray, but the way the colors were used is still fresh in my mind. It was different from other artists, because he painted each color as a dot and constantly pressed them around the painting, making it seem as a constant stroke from far. I saw the genius when he would place colors side by side to create the illusion of another color. The work was interesting to me because I truly hadn’t seen anything like it and I wondered how revolutionary it must have been for his time. Below is an example of the style which I was referring to:

Credits to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Credits to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Powerful Words

For our class, we read Our Lady of the Artichokes throughout the semester. After reading it, we quickly realized that her style of writing offers multiple perspectives behind historical events. She presents this in the form of the actuality of an event and compares it to the perception of the event by certain people. This is a method she frequently uses as in her new novel named Below the Salt, she is able to provide a rich background of information in her telling of the story.

Her visit was primarily a reading but I found it amazing how she was able to take out a passage and read from it in order to demonstrate her ability. Her voice was able to resonate in my ears as she went on to describe tragic moments with beautiful imagery and words. This really helped to paint a picture in my head as I soon found that the story was easy to follow and it was quite memorable. I think that technique is extremely valuable. Being able to paint a picture in the audience’s head is one of the first steps in creating a great story. Doing so without the audience knowing is incredibly difficult and requires expertise in writing which is something the 29th Harman writer has no problem with.


Image provided by

Image provided by

She gave some insight on how she is able to create stories. She explains that images come to her. It is like a song and how words come to the someone who is creating a song. For her, sometimes stories just come to her which definitely show off the creativity of the writer.

The day was an interesting day for me as I left with a story in my head but also I left with advice from the talented writer herself. We all have great ideas so coming up with an idea is simply step one. After that, you ask yourself “how can I make this thing blossom out?” It includes the branching out of what you want to say and the refinement of all you have to say. In the end, she gives off a vibe that encourages everyone to write.

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A Different Approach to Humanism

The selection of pieces in the African art exhibit of the MET seems strange. Our perception of strange, however, is subjective to the art that we have grown to appreciate. When we dream in paintings, we often visualize Baroque-style art that emphasizes each muscle, vein, and skin tone of the human body. To depict with realism, and perhaps to add a divine quality, was the norm for the multitude of artists that that created “European Paintings”, or at least, the corresponding exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

African sculptors depict the human body in a way that is radically unique.  Without focusing on the intricate details of the general human physique, they bring emphasis to the most important parts of the face. The “Sculptural Element From a Reliquary Ensemble”, as shown in the exhibit, is one of such pieces in which several facial features are dramatically depicted. With an elongated jaw, oversized forehead, and large ears that connect the disproportioned neck to the well-polished face, this piece epitomizes the stark contrast between African art and that of Europe. Unlike the people of Da Vinci’s paintings, the wood-sculpture does not convey emotion through its eyes. In fact, pupils are not even incorporated into the work, an effect that provides the eyes with a blank stare. Without an evident emotion to understand, this piece can be admired at face value and for its captivating design. It is this emphasis on geometric shapes that provided numerous 20th century artists with inspiration to create a whole new segment in art.

“Sculptural Element From a Reliquary Ensemble". Image provided by

“Sculptural Element From a Reliquary Ensemble”. Image provided by

As one of the prominent partakers of the Modern art era, Henri Matisse exhibited great reverence for African art. Taking the base idea of focusing on shapes rather than details, Matisse created “Female Torso”. Though identifiable with its inspiration, the bronze sculpture takes abstraction to a whole new level. The hands of the piece are little nubs, the head is without any facial features, the breasts are protruding, and the body is covered in indents made by the artist’s fingers. Without any hard edges or enough details to give this “torso” a specific identity, Matisse’s creation captures the essence of a woman.

A few strides down from the African art collection is an exhibit fully dedicated to Henri Matisse. Seeing the works in both exhibits draws a clear parallel between the seemingly distinct art-styles.

Matisse’s painting “Nasturtiums with the Pair Dancing” is astonishingly similar to “Female Torso”. It is possible to say that both pieces are of bodies, and but no further meaning can be derived from them. His painting shows several women, hand in hand, forming a circle. Though they are nude like his sculpture, they are painted in a bright pink color to signify that they are the main part of his painting. All parts of the body, from the dark head to the feet, are made with linear or curved strokes of the brush; creating what looks to be more like a silhouette than an actual representation of the body. Though his art does not represent reality, it has a very humanistic approach.

Matisse experimented with a few artistic styles to see which best brought attention to his human subjects. The MET’s exhibit, entitled Matisse: In Search of True Painting, conveniently showed his various attempts at creating the right depiction. Stationed along one wall, his three works entitled “Le Luxe” all portrayed the same scene with three different mediums and techniques. The first, oil on canvas painting, was vibrant with various colors and shades. The water in the backdrop appeared to vary in depth and the sky had distinct hues of blues and purples. The main subject in the foreground had clear facial features and well-defined fingers. Moving away from realism and into a more abstract area, Matisse used fewer colors in the second painting. This time using distemper, he made the background less eye-catching and the subjects more intriguing. Though possessing fewer contours, his subjects stood out like marble statues against a pale backdrop. Matisse took his modern approach even further in his third picture, this time, making it out of charcoal. Evidently using cubist techniques, he altered the bodies of his subjects to look more like geometrical shapes than flesh and skin. Remarkably, he was able to recreate the style of African art on his final attempt. Standing in the foreground, his main subject had a long, thick neck and dark eyes without pupils.


The three paintings of “Le Luxe”. Image provided by

Modernism, an artistic movement that dominates the contemporary world, found its root in an art form that was seldom noticed in the past.

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What can you do?

Whenever I meet a group of new people, we almost always end up forming a circle and begin a icebreaker that goes through everyone in an attempt to learn a new fact that is supposedly interesting. Some of the typical answers involve unique skills or talents such as an ability to play an instrument or speak another language.

Upon further analysis it seems that our cultural backgrounds play a huge part in determining the development of these skills. For instance, I found that it is extremely common for many Asian-American students to say that they are able to play the piano or violin. Another popular skill common to many students of Chinese descent is the ability to read and write Chinese. It is a popular idea that children of Asian families participate in learning an instrument and when one meets a Chinese person, chances are pretty high they have played the piano before.

This brings me back to a memory in the second grade when I was attending the school talent show an there were many piano players who all happened to be of Chinese descent. I overheard a person in the row in front of me whisper sarcastically, “Oh another Chinese pianist! What a surprise!” It seems that along with mathematical ability, playing the piano and violin is another stereotype that is popular when Asians are being talked about.

Here is a video of a famous child pianist


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IMG_0630 IMG_0631I must confess I had never been to the Metropolitan Museum, although I have heard of its diverse array of exhibits and pieces. I was absolutely floored just walking through the Roman and Greek exhibit to get to the African art exhibit. I liked how the different pieces in the African exhibit were totally handcrafted objects. The nicks and imperfections could be seen in the wood of which they were made. The African art, although ancient, looked very modern. It seemed to be the basis on which many of the abstract artists modeled their own work, including Pablo Picasso.

I chose to focus on two pieces in this section. The first appeared to be a brass head turned on its side. The abstract facial features and slender nose gave it the appearance of some modern creation. The second piece of art was a drawing that looked to be in blue crayon, but of course wasn’t, of a person. It is so basic, it is impossible to tell its gender or race. The eyes and the nose function as one line, and only the lips are colored in. The left ear is drawn, but the right ear is totally and conspicuously absent. The arms and legs are unable to be seen. The entire piece gives its viewer a semblance of modern art. No loner is it important to depict things as these seem, but rather as they feel. Feelings are a higher power of that which is concrete.

In transitioning to the Matisse section, I didn’t see what I expected. There were pairs and trios of paintings that looked almost identical, yet with a few changes. Colors and lines changed, giving each painting a different “look” or tone. It was fascinating to observe. The influence of the African art on Matisse was a little difficult to see. However, there were hints here and there. On one painting there were many simplistic brush strokes that reminded me of the African drawing I saw.


The connections between the African art movement and the Modernist movement are surely strong. Pablo Picasso’s very shapes and diagrammatical painting and drawings as well as Matisse’s subtle changes all mirrored the African art exhibit.


IMG_0625 IMG_0629 IMG_0628 IMG_0627 IMG_0626 IMG_0624 IMG_0623 IMG_0622 IMG_0621 IMG_0620

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Max Flatow

As this class has proved, just being in the city leads to some of the most amazing sights and stories, most of them are worth sharing. A bustling population is even more of a reason photographers find solace in the five boroughs. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to speak to such an artist.

Max Flatow, spoke to us about his experiences, his works, and his techniques. Flatow’s entry into photography serves as a clear example of his passion for the art and his dedication to success. He attended South Vermont College and was unsure of his career path, yet he wanted to pursue photography as a hobby. The school wasn’t very focused on their photography course, so their single darkroom was left locked and unused. Flatow decided to ask the supervisor for the key and he was granted full access to the room to use at his own whim and desire. This opportunity really helped him learn how to use basic equipment and set the spark in his career.

As someone looking to get into photography, Flatow’s techniques were very helpful in helping me understand how to take better pictures. He explained how he avoids using flash and instead prefers to play with the light in the room. He is a fan of natural light and manipulates it to make a more aesthetically pleasing image. Sometimes he blacks out the the subject, forming a silhouette, to bring attention to the colors of the background. He also showed us about the rule-of-thirds, where the subject is placed in a section away from the center to balance a focus with openness.

Credits to Max Flatow

Credits to Max Flatow

Flatow’s main interests remained in two key areas: weddings and food. He enjoyed working on weddings because he found that every wedding project he worked was different and a new experience. He liked food, because it’s different from human subjects and everything is still and constant. He commented on how food photography can be more challenging yet often more interesting.

As Baruch is largely a business school, I was glad to see that Flatow went on to explain the aspect of business and entrepreneurship in his past experiences. He described how he is forced to wear “the many hats” and be able to socialize, make sales, maintain contacts, and so much more. What I found most interesting was how he goes on vacations. In order to avoid any loss in business, he tries to gain clientele in the are which he’s visiting, often abroad. It was obvious that his business led to a great deal of success, with clients such as Harrison Ford, Adrian Garner, and other well known celebrities.

Credits to Max Flatow

Credits to Max Flatow


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Before seeing the African Art Exhibit at the MET Museum, I believed that African Art was basic, and even casual. Because their sculptures seem to be realistic for the most part, I did not think that it required creativity. That is until I understood the composition of each piece.

Analyzing one of the pieces in the exhibit, I learned that African Art was based on geometry. It amazed me that this type of art would be able to influence artists from the 19th and 20th century. For example, Henri Matisse created Female Torso in 1906 with distinct elements from African Art. The sculpture can easily be divided in half, which represents the balance that African artworks have. Also, the proportion of the piece gives off an elegant, yet realistic vibe. Created from bronze, Female Torso also shines under the spotlight. The luminosity of this piece labels it as perfection, yet realistic.

Female Torso, Henri Matisse

African Art tends to replicate human’s physical features and adds a touch of perfection to it. I did not consider this technique prominent in modern art until I saw how paintings from notable artists, such as Picasso, were juxtaposed to African Art. Recognizing the resemblance of the composition of African Art in one of Picasso’s painting made me realize how African Art had already left an impact on famous pieces. Cubism, a style of art that Picasso used, has many features that can relate to African art. Although they tend to be abstract, the geometric composition allows for a unique balance in each piece.

Walking around in the Matisse Exhibition was a different experience in that it focused on the contrasts between his artworks. Throughout the room, there are often two to three pieces that Matisse created with the same subject. Although the setting and objects are alike, each piece emphasizes on different elements of art. Through his pieces, he portrays various perspectives of the same setting. In Still Life with Compote and Fruit and Still life with Compote, apples, and Oranges, he manipulates the lighting to showcase a different environment in his paintings. Although alike in many aspects, these two pieces bring two contrasting vibes. One being bright and blissful while the other one is gloomy. Many of Matisse’s other artworks give the audience many perspectives of the same objects.

Still Life with Compote and Fruit, Henri Matisse

Still Life with Compote, Apples, and Oranges, Henri Matisse

These two exhibits portray how artists have varying perceptions of art. Many well-known artists such as Picasso and Matisse look into African Art for inspiration. However, in their creations, they include their own touch, or in Matisse’s case, multiple versions. In the end, artists have their own style of painting and sculpting that leaves lasting impressions on other artists.

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The Art of “No”

“No” is a word very common in every language, and it is a weird one too! In different cultures, according to context, the degree of rejection can vary so much! And sometimes, it is very impolite to say a simple no! This may sound abnormal for people here, but it is true. Let’s find an example. Let’s say, we are in a family dinner. In America, if an elderly offer you a drink that you don’t want, you can just say a simple “No, thank you”, and that’s it, right? Well that’s not the case in Chinese or Japanese culture.

In China, sometimes it’s fine to say no, but most of the time, it is best to find an excuse like “Oh, I’ll have it later” or “Thank you, but I tried it already”. No matter what, you have to pretend that you have tried the drink or try it for real—of course, unless you have some medical reasons for not trying it. Nowadays, although the rules are looser, sometimes “no” is still an impolite word to say. In Japan, the rules are much more stricter. The word “no” is forbidden if you are speaking to an older generation. When someone, especially someone older, offered a drink to you, just accept it, even if you are just holding it in your hand and don’t drink it at all.

While there are many ways to say no while avoiding saying “no”, in some culture, accepting is more polite than rejection. It is not only a matter of preference, but also a show of your family culture and status. Of course, it is still good to know ways to reject, since they may really come in handy when cultures encounter.

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Photography In a Professional’s Eyes

Max Flatow came in and gave us the story of his life, well at least the story of his life in photography. He spoke to us about many of his experiences and his work.

Photography was a gamble for him as he went to South Vermont College and was incredibly unsure of his career path and what he really wanted to do. His hobby at the time was photography and the school dark room would later help him foster his ability to shoot and create photographs.

But Max Flatow is a modern photographer and we can definitely see this as he appreciates all the changes in technology that the photography industry have gone through. The expenses of film are no longer a problem as digital allows him to take hundreds and hundreds of photos in order to capture that perfect shot. That is exactly what he does too. As a wedding photographer, capturing the moment is part of his job. In order to do that effectively, he snaps away whenever the moment allows for it.

As a wedding photographer, he explained that in the past, the wedding photographer would have only a few basic shots and then they left to develop them and you would hvae no idea how everything turned out. Technology has allowed for the capturing of the wedding before, during, and after the ceremony.

During his segment of wedding photography, he explained some of his techniques and how angles as well as subject placement play an important role in the composition of the pictures. His pictures offer a breath of amazement as the clarity and composition of these photos are just breathtaking in some sense. Although he does not rely heavily on photoshop, he appreciates the tools that it offers to create certain effects.

He later went on to talk about food photography and how the industry is changing. The industry used to revolve around enhancing the look of food products with dyes and pigments that the product is not something you would want to eat. Recently there has been a shift to create foods that are naturally beautiful and photograph them immediately before they go bad.

He explained that his business started out as a free service and later on became bigger as he started charging people for money. His best advertising is word of mouth. He experiences travel as he would often travel outside of the country in order to shoot his weddings. He is also an adventurer as he may wander off and take pictures of foods during a wedding project. He has gotten the opportunity to meet some very famous people such as Harrison Ford and Adrian Garner.

As a student who wants to develop photography as a hobby, his visit was incredibly helpful as it gave me an idea of how photography became such a big part of his life and eventually he left me some advice through the techniques and experiences he presented to us during his presentation.

My own photo attempting food photography:

Sushi From Jebon

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New York’s 150 Year Old Toy Store


IMG_0639 Yesterday, I went to Fao Schwartz. I felt compelled to go to the iconic 150 year toy store located on 59th street. It took almost 10 minutes to get into the store, an event in itself I have never experienced. Never have I waited in line to get in a store. Upon entering, I was greeted by an array of stuffed animals that ranged from 200 dollars up to 2000 dollars. There were giant giraffes and pandas, camels and lions. They were breathtakingly ornate and pricey.

The store was absolutely packed, with kids running around and panicked parents trying to keep track of their kids in the huge emporium. On my way to the second level, I passed the candy section. There were nerds boxes that were the size of cereal boxes, and Spree rolls the size of very long sausages. It was a candy-lover’s heaven. The second floor was much larger. There were thousands of Lego boxes, Barbie dolls, and hot wheel cars.

The entire store was a child’s paradise and everything was almost too overwhelming to take in. Never have I had been more overwhelmed by so much merchandise. The store seems to be an icon for conspicuous consumption, and I think it’s fair to say that we often get too caught up in the commercialization of the holidays. After all, it really comes down to simply being with the people that mean the most to you in your life; family and friends.

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Which Way Do You Roll?

The other day me and my friends were eating at a Wendys and we were just talking about life when all of a sudden someone across from us is getting cursed out at is called a “faggot.” I stopped and wondered for a moment on why so many of us call people gay, queer, and faggots when we inarguably mean stupid. In that situation the man was obviously with his girlfriend so there was really no reason to pull out such derogatory terms.

Upon further thinking, I realized that American culture has ingrained in our brains that homosexuals are weird which creates some sort of “homophobia” found in many people. But things are quickly changing. In the last decade, gay-pride has been bigger than ever and being gay is no longer as devastating as it once was for many individuals.

Many other people are also speaking up for gays and incredibly supportive whether they be gay or straight. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with being gay and if someone else’s orientation bothers you that much than the problem lies within you and not the individual being targeted.

I remember when my friend was called weird because he was gay, I simply asked the opposition what his problem was. My friend had done nothing wrong and at the same time he was one of the most active people in school and friendliest people I know. He was making a difference in many people’s lives by leading the Red Cross Club so who was he to question his orientation when he had not done anything to prove his worth.

At times, religion and upbringing blinds us from laws and equal rights but here is a clear separation between the belief and equal rights

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This play truly surprised me, like the acronym of the place it was shown at. When I first entered the BAM Harvey Theater, I could see the disgusted looks on the people’s face as we climbed a steep sketchy staircase to our seats. I was thinking to myself, I hope no one trips and falls on these stairs, because if anyone does the slightest topple, we’d all fall down like dominoes – that would not be good. The walls were peeling; the pipes were rusted. As we arrived to our seats, we were able to see the seats were just as steep. Sitting there waiting for the play to start made me tense that I might fall over and land on the stage. It didn’t seem like the play would be good, I thought.
But then, BAM! The lights dimmed, and the production amazed me. Combining technology and ordinary theatrical props, it created an interesting appeal to the play. There were various projectors shining not just light but screens of the stock market running across the top of the stage. A house stands at the middle of the stage and light played a really nice role – it manipulated whether or not the audience could see the people clearly or just their silhouette. At the end of the play, the house surprisingly transforms into a table, with the character, Mr. Alan Greenspan. the chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, sitting at one end answering to questions of an interview.

The context of the House/Divided was just as interesting. It combined the struggles of those in the times of the Dust Bowl, and the struggles of the mortgage crisis. Throughout the play, there were occasional clips explaining in layman’s terms what was going on. This production made the two economic crises more interesting to learn about and understand.

Many actors played multiple roles. They alternated between the scenes at the stock exchange and the house falling apart. Their enthusiasm was clearly shown on their faces as they ran back and forth onstage and backstage – which was a clear sight for those like us who were sitting up really high. Several screens zoomed into the actors face live. It made the audience really feel a part of the play.

What happened after the play ended at the ‘Talk backs” should not be left out. Surprisingly, someone had the wits to stand up and say “You blew it.” She continued to destroy the performance and create havoc and confusion. In response, the director angrily replied, “you go write your own play.” It concluded the play in a more interesting way, and I had thought I was the only one with the doubts on the play.


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Our Current Writer-in-Residence

Not too long ago, Katherine Vaz read to our class and many other her newest work, Below the Salt. After reading Our Lady of the Artichokes, a collection of short stories, one of her other books, it was interesting to see how her writing techniques and thought process could carry on throughout her work. In both stories, she showed the struggles of families and how they survived them.

She explained to us, “I wrote for about a year, stuff that was so terrible that I threw it in a box.” It was almost nice to know that a top-notch author could encounter writer’s block, like the way I’m sure many of us do too.

Vaz continues to read to us an excerpt of her latest work. It uses a lot of detailed words describing a man named John imprisoned with his mother in the 19th century. Feeling trapped and despair, they look to music and each other for inspiration and happiness. John is soon sent to fight in the Civil War. Vaz conducted extensive research to get the facts right and add her emotions of sympathy toward the ones who fought in that war. Through a well descriptive narrative of a man Vaz created, she was able to portray her sentiments on the war. Vaz explains, “the story just came to me.” She knew she had to write something about them, all the struggles and emotions families of that time faced. Her brilliant work did just the thing.

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Paying a visit to the Metropolitan Museum

It was gratifying to revisit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I used to go often for an intensive drawing class shadowing Van Gogh’s art. However, it wasn’t to see that, I had a class field trip to see the African Art Exhibit and the Matisse Exhibit.

What shocked me the most after paying a visit to these two areas in the MET was that they were actually linked. African Art usually consisted of sculptures and carvings in portrayal of the human body. Multiple masks are lined up on display. Each similarly carved yet so different and unique at the same time.

It wasn’t so clear to me that African artworks are associated to the artworks by Picasso and Matisse, until I was told the Cubism movement looked back to African pieces in inspiration. Then I was able to see how the two vastly different time periods were in fact really alike.

The sculptures in African art often are created in geometric shapes and have most 90-degree angles. The abstractness in the sculptures also appeared very alike to Picasso’s famous creations.

It was an entirely different experience at the Matisse Exhibition. It wasn’t about comparing the similarities between the arts of two artists. Matisse actually created artworks in pairs – two differently composed paintings of the same subject. Matisse wanted to learn what technique better fits him. He portrays various perspectives by manipulating the same setting.

As one can observe the clear differences between the techniques used in creating an image of the subject, Matisse showed how either method and many more can recreate a scene in a beautiful manner.

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Her Life as My Childhood Stories

Prologue: I know I’m supposed to write about someone in New York, but a phone call with my grandma caught my attention. Instead of a single story, I guess I want to capture the sequence of impacts from a single historical event on her life. I’ve always known the stories she told me since I was very young, but listening to them once again with a new attitude, a set objective and a phone line distance was a provoking experience. And I wish to share this with all of you.

My grandma was a typical girl with a relatively rich background—well, at least for a while. She was the youngest among four girls. Her family had a business in Chinese wine making, but unlike those greedy landlords shown in the Chinese soap dramas, her father and the generations before him had worked out a trust-worthy reputation. They were respected by the town, and her life was happier and simpler than most of the people at her age, who often had to worry about the next meal while eating this one. Of course, this changed dramatically when the downfall of China arrived.

She was adopted by one of her close relatives. When the Cultural Revolution came, the red guards took away all the properties from her house. The story gets complicated here; she often stops for a while, acting like I don’t want to know what happened to her parents. Sometimes, she may let a couple words slide through her mouth, but oftentimes that is not the case. So, after gathering the “couple of words” for a while, I think that even though her parents were not hurt physically, they were going through some emotional ups and downs.

Anyway, so she was adopted along with her three older sisters, and with three more cousins, the seven sister-flowers made up the youngest generation in the family. They all changed their names (first and last) so that they could be safe. She never told me how exactly would her name affect her, but I guess it was a pretty big deal at the time.

Then the story jumped to her life as a student. She was hard working and was very smart. I can often sense the pride in her when she talks about her experiences in school—academics only. Now that I think about it, I never heard anything about her childhood friends or events related. It was always one sentence through her school life, maybe in the end a couple of sentences about her sisters. Even during the interview, she didn’t say anything more. Did she censor them on purpose? I don’t know, but she always did it so naturally that I forgot to ask her for the little details.

At the time, she couldn’t choose her own career, so she became a chemical engineer. She always said to me, “…I realized later when I went to the office of Dr. Zong (a close friend of hers who studied Chinese medicine, I call him Zong Ye-ye) that I was more suitable for a doctor. All the senses a doctor needs—he always told me that I have them all…” When I asked her why she didn’t change her career, she answered, “It was too late. I was good at being a chemical engineer, though. I chose it only because one of my uncles was doing this, but I found it interesting, so I put it down as my first choice. At the time, you have to put down your top three career choices, and the government would choose it for you. Many people didn’t get their first choice, and a lot more had to work in an area they didn’t choose at all for the rest of their lives! Plus, chemical engineering was a very hot choice—I was lucky enough to get my first.”

So, as her nature pushed her, she soon became the best within the factory. She worked on several projects, and successfully completed every single one of them. However, because of her background, she was unable to achieve further in her career. She often faced problems with her boss regarding the supplies and the procedure of experiments. One time, she succeeded in developing a big project on her own, but someone else stole her work and replaced her in getting the leading position. Of course, she was angry, but there were nothing she could do. Luckily, all the people in her workplace recognized my grandma as the best. Well, actually, my grandma never told me this part, but from her expression, I knew that they respected her for her personality and her work. I guess that was why she didn’t complain at all and continued to work as she had before.

When I was younger, every time she told me these stories, she sounded like she was talking about somebody else. But this time, when I heard these stories once again from a distance, I realized one time: it wasn’t that these events didn’t affect her; in fact, they impacted her so much that she had to depart herself from her own life to avoid showing too much emotion. That was the only way she could tell the stories—from a third person perspective.

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Too Much Diversity

In New York, diversity seems to be the characteristic that builds the foundation for everything else. New York is the capital and center of numerous trades and industries. What helped foster that success and still fuels it, is the variety of cultures and ideas that people have to offer. For any society to improve and progress, it must accept change and use it to advance. However, a conversation with my friend led to a very startling discovery.

My friend preferred not to be named directly when I asked him for permission, so I decided to name him Jessy. A few weeks ago, Jessy and I were walking around SoHo and we were talking about the crazy things we’ve seen on the subway. I mentioned that although the subway always smells like urine, I’ve never actually seen someone urinate. He replied, almost shockingly, saying that he’s seen in several times in Brooklyn.

I asked him, “Where in Brooklyn are you from?”

“I live pretty close to the Barclays Center,” said Jessy.

We joked for a while about how Brooklyn has the reputation for the wrong reasons (i.e. gangs). However, the conversation took an interesting turn when I asked Jessy about his own area. He told me how it isn’t that safe and mentioned that more white families are starting to come in. He said it with excitement. “I was walking down the street and I saw a new white family move onto my block and I was so happy!” said Jessy. It caught my attention because I didn’t expect Jessy, a person of hispanic descent, to want LESS diversity. His neighborhood in his opinion was too ethnic and he wanted to see it reach more of a medium level. It was an interesting experience for me, because I’ve never heard too much diversity being a problem.

Jessy says that his dream is to see the neighborhood become a “hipster” area.

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My Model

One of the few people that I revere is Yu Qin Chen, my mother. Not only because she is my parent but also because of her dedication and altruistic attitude towards my younger brother and me. Not long after she arrived with us to New York City from China, she found a job in a garment factory. She worked twelve hours a day, six days a week, as my brother and I were attending elementary school. The money that she earned all went to supporting our education, food and clothing. As for herself, she rarely used it. While I knew and had witnessed her efforts and hardships in America, her past was a mystery to me.

Yu Qin Chen was only a child during China’s great revolution under Mao Zedong’s rule. The Great Leap Forward plan lasted until 1961. As a result, millions had died while famine and poverty continued to spread many years after. My mother was born two years later in 1963. During the time, around the 1970s when she was just a little girl of eight or ten, she already had to work to earn money for the family and balance her time with her studies.

Life in China was very difficult. Every day was very much a struggle, but she was able to make it through because of her family. My mother was the youngest of amongst her siblings; she has two sisters and a brother. Because she was the youngest, her siblings and parents were always helping and supporting her. At the time, almost everyone in the village in Taishan was very poor. Even though she was supported, she was also independent. To repay her family’s kindness, she began working even though she was still in elementary school. Every morning, she would get up around 5 or 6AM, sometimes with her sister, and “[they] would go to the shores to pick chicory, tie them up and bring them to the market to sell … We would be overjoyed if we sold one renminbi.” One renminbi was a considerable amount of money back then even though it didn’t sound like it. That value has not change much over the years. I still could recall that with fifty renminbi, I could buy pretty much anything I wanted as a kid—that was around 2001.

Without a doubt, from my mother’s efforts to earn as much money as she could, the economical situation for the people in the 1970s was grim. Her home was build with clay bricks and wood. With no or little food or money, my mother’s family managed by “[eating] half a bowl of rice and [filling] the rest of our stomachs with potatoes.”

Life began to improve around 1983 when the restrictions on immigration were eased because of China’s Open Door Policy. Thousands of Chinese immigrated to the United States as a result. Subsequently, my mother’s sister decided to immigrate to the United States too. With the Open Door Policy, China gradually gained wealth and the people’s lives were slowly improving. My mother added, “Land was distributed so people could farm and grow things to eat.” Even though her family was still poor, they could now grow their own food to eat. She then worked together with her family in the fields. My mother was twenty by 1983, however, that fact didn’t lessen her family’s support and bonds with her. She told me sincerely, “Your uncle and aunts worked very hard on the fields. I was the smallest so I was relief from work some of the times.”

The struggles she faced as a child and the years of support that she received because she was the youngest must have motivated her to do the same for her children, my younger brother and me. When we were still little, my mother told me that we were very active so she couldn’t take her eyes off of us. When dinner was ready, she had to feed us first. She said, “By the time you were full, my food was already cold.” If she wasn’t watching us, she said that we might break things. She then told me an anecdote of the time when my younger brother—or me but I didn’t recall it probably because I was too young—broke a newly bought hot water container. I was surprised when she explained to me, “[your little brother] took it outside and smashed it with a rock.” As she was telling me the story, my mother seemed to get a bit excited, and perhaps somewhat angry. I could sense that these memories really meant a lot to her. After all, she was the only one left in the family after my grandparents and father immigrated to America. She only had my younger brother and me, and wanted to do her best to care for us.

My mother’s past and stories helped me visualize how experiences had shaped the person she is now and explained to me why her was do everything for our sake. She worked meticulously as a child and received warm support from her family, all which nurtured her kindness. She had to raise the two of us alone until we immigrated to America and reunited with my father in 2003, which deepened her bonds with us through memories that she treasured. Even after arriving and living in New York City with my father, she continued to work selflessly with hopes that my younger brother and I would succeed in the future. Knowing this, I revered her even more and dedicated myself to my studies so I could repay her kindness and altruism.

Yu Qin Chen

(Sorry for the bad quality. I took a picture of the picture…)


My mother does not speak English. Hence, her answers or perhaps story in response to my questions was in Taishanese, her native dialect (forgive me for whispering the questions but I usually don’t talk louder than my parents when I’m around them). Below is the audio file:

Interview With Mom


I translated it so that you know what was said:

Me: How was it like in China when you were little?

Mom: When I was little, I studied and worked.

Me: Studied until what grade?

Mom: Until high school.

Me: What work did you do?

Mom: While I was studying I picked chicory* and sold them

*(“猪菜” I think means chicory—but I’m not certain. It is a plant that pigs eat though)

Me: How old were you?

Mom: Eight or Ten. I would go to the shores to pick chicory, tie them up and bring them to the market to sell. We could only eat potatoes. We were very poor. My sister and I woke up very early every day, around 5 or 6AM, and carry the chicory to the market to sell. We would be overjoyed if we sold one renminbi* or so. We would continue to save and save. When we had saved up to about ten renminbi, we were very happy. At that time, everyone was very poor. We had very little to eat, only potatoes! Our family would eat half a bowl of rice and fill the rest of our stomachs with potatoes. Until the 1980s when people were allowed to immigrate to America, life was getting better. Land was distributed so people could farm and grow things to eat. When we were little, it was very tough.

*(Unit of Chinese currency—equivalent to saying dollar here)

Me: So did we get farm land as well?

Mom: You were born yet. I was still a girl. But of course we got land as well. Your uncle and aunts worked very hard on the fields. I was the smallest so I was relief from work some of the times. They were older so they worked a bit more while I worked a bit less.

Me: How did grandpa immigrate to America?

Mom: Your grandpa? Your aunt helped him. Your grandpa and grandma moved to America around 1990s while your aunt moved in 1984. Only after five years could your aunt help your grandparents immigrate here. Then your father came and he helped to get us here.

Me: How did you feel when you first got to America?

Mom: Nothing much really. I started working right after we arrived to earn money while you (my younger brother and I) were going to school. That was all…

Me: Why did you work so hard for?

Mom: Of course to raise you guys. It’s very difficult to raise a person. Look at your cousin’s baby, he’s so small. When you were very little, I fed you first before eating. By the time you were full, my food was already cold. You guys were always playing around so I had to keep an eye on you so you don’t break everything. Do you remember? When your younger brother was little, I bought a new hot water container to store boiled water. He took it outside and smashed it with a rock. It was no more. The container was considerably expensive. I didn’t even know when it was broken. It might have been your younger brother or you. I don’t remember very well anymore. It’s been so long. Back then, I had no one to help me. Your grandfather and grandmother had already gone to America, your father too. I had to raise you two by myself.

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The Rise and Fall of Apartheid

For those who have read my previous reviews/posts, it’s quite apparent that I appreciate chronology in any work. It adds a realistic storyline that keeps the piece coherent as well as interesting. It’s easier to follow a story than a collage and more meaningful than a single work or piece of art. International Center of Photography’s Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibit used a chronological technique to tell the story of Apartheid in South Africa and used the chronology to manipulate the audience’s emotions.

When I entered the photography exhibit, I picked up on a few things instantly. First was the order in which the works were set up. Unlike museums or art galleries, the International Center of Photography wanted the audience to start and end in specific destinations, making the entrance to the actual exhibit very small. Other galleries will keep the layout open so that people have agency and the freedom to walk around on their own desire. Here, the work was essentially dictating the method of interpreting the work, which in my opinion made the experience that much better.

To continue, the entrance leads to the first section of a series of works. Here is where the viewer is supposed to gather background information and an idea of what life was like before the conflict surfaced. There is a poster hanging on the first wall with a list of significant dates and what major events occurred at the time. A old movie plays constantly on a small screen, incorrectly depicting the natives of South Africa as animals and cruelly poking fun at them. The section showed the foundation of the tension between two groups, as well as how their lives were separately. The natives lived peacefully, with pride in their background, while the whites preferred to stay apart from the blacks.

The work moves on to show an era of mixture and prosperity. We see minor occurrences of the two races coming together and working together. This all takes place during a period of economic progression in South Africa, a plausible reason as to why the people didn’t object as much to the races mixing. As the work makes a turn, we see the emergence of the arts and the value of creative thinking in South African society. What came across as striking was the presence of numerous native figures in these new arts.

However, the work also created an abrupt entrance into the section covering the prevalence of violence in society. The photographs often involve a strong inclusion of blood and gore to evoke a sense of empathy from the eyes of the audience. They want those looking at the photographs to understand the pain the natives were going through during Apartheid.

The second, lower level took a very different approach as compared to the first. I found that because it served numerous purposes, it let go of the concept of chronology and allowed people to walk freely.

Overall, the exhibit at the International Center of Photography was a great experience which really helped me understand and experience the events that surrounded Apartheid in South Africa.

Credits to

Credits to

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The Moment that Changed Everything

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As a business major in St. John’s University, my aunt Linda’s dream was to work in the Financial District in Downtown, NYC.  She grew up believing that she needed money and a title in order to succeed in life.  Her main goal was to have a leadership role in her company.  Switching from accounting to marketing at Morgan Stanley, she believed that she had found the career that she was going to stick to for the rest of her life.  When I interviewed her, she had a bright smile on when recounting the many projects she completed as a member of the marketing committee. She stresses that she was comfortable with accounting, but marketing was right for her.  Sitting in her office in one of the World Trade Center buildings, she believed that she had everything under control: her career, her future, her life.

My aunt Linda is a person who likes to plan out everything in her life. She knew when she wanted to get married, have children and how she was going to live a fulfilling life.  She believed strongly in her abilities to achieve a position at her company. Looking out of her window from the 64th floor of this tower, she was tall enough to oversee a large portion of Downtown. The WTC buildings also provided a great working environment. People were very friendly and welcoming. She was comfortable in her building.  This environment motivated her to work harder so she could move up in ranking—she had confidence in herself, and it was only a matter of time.

This confidence was ephemeral.  If she were worrying about something on that fateful day, it would be preparing for her next conference call. She, or any of her colleagues, never imagined that a plane would crash into her building, but it happened.  There are many accounts of how people tried to flee the collapsing structure, but my aunt had her own unique story.  September 11, 2001 was the day that threw everything she knew off balance.  The environment she was so familiar with turned into chaos.

She had first heard the news from her colleague. All she knew was that something happened and they should leave.  My aunt describes the scene outside her winder: debris was flying everywhere, and 1 WTC had been hit. That news was enough for everyone to panic. My aunt was scared, but she was able to stay calm and composed.  During a time when everyone was panicking, her and her friends decided to run around and announce this news to everyone on the floor.  Everyone was evacuating, but order was necessary.  My aunt helped keep order when everyone else tried to run down the stairs as fast as they could.

Screams and cries echoed in the staircase as my aunt and her colleagues ran down from the 64th floor.  The planes hit their building when they were on the 20th floor.  Everyone was scared, including my aunt, but she managed to scream aloud that everything was going to be okay.  She was afraid that people from behind would trample over her. No one was sane at this point.  The only thoughts that crossed my aunt’s mind were to hold onto the railing and run down stairs.  Even at times of chaos, she was able to calm people down, even if it was for a very brief moment.

It only took one hit to bring down 1 WTC, it was not going to take a very long time for 2 WTC to collapse after it.  Running out onto the streets, my aunt turned around to see the building that she was so familiar with collapse in front of her eyes.  Pedestrians continued to scream and push.  There was nothing else she could do to help her colleagues, so she ran.

Watching the buildings come down made my aunt realize how fragile life is.  We can be alive one moment and dead the next.  No one can guarantee whether they will be alive in the next moment. Because of this experience, she values life a lot more. Goals such as earning the most money or gaining a title were all superficial.  In the end, nothing is more valuable than one’s life.  Life was too short for a person to waste it doing something they didn’t like. Although she was happy with marketing, she wanted to stay away from the work environment because this is truly what she wanted.

Every year, there are services held in memory of those who passed away because of this attack. However, for my aunt, they served as a constant memory of the experience on that dreadful day.  It is difficult for her to watch the news coverage again every year.  To watch the collision again was similar to putting her in the same staircase and having her listen to screams echo down the staircase.

That one glance back at the building was the point that changed her life. It was almost a wake up call for her. She came to learn that life was too short to do what she was doing.  Soon after, she had her own family. She values every moment she has with her husband and her son.  Although she no longer earns the same salary, money is not important to her anymore. The job title and amount in her bank account would not give her a happy life.  She is aware that she does not need to have money in order to succeed in life.  The suburban lifestyle she has chosen is happier than the one she led when she was working at WTC.  A job title and money can be taken away from her any day, but the moments she spent with her family would always be with her.  These moments are priceless.

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Who She Was/Is

During the stressful season of college applications back in junior year of high school, everyone was applying to their dream school. Getting in was a different story. They say it depends all on that one college essay. Make it your best writing you’ll ever write. Not only did I learn about myself when I was writing it, I was amazed and moved by the narratives my friends were telling. Their stories were so inspiring. Whereas I was living this normal life, nothing I could ask for more. So thinking back on those stories, I asked my best friend if I could interview her and let her tell me her story once more.

Tian Tian Lin came to America with her single mom at the age of eleven. Born in America but raised in China since the age of two, she could only speak Chinese, and English was completely foreign and confusing to her. At the age of eleven, learning a new language seemed impossible. She faced her first rejection from the town’s better middle school. She recalls, “They asked me what my telephone number was, and I was so confused what they asked me.” So she went to a middle school already populated with other Chinese immigrant kids. The new friends she made were all within her comfort zone. English was never a language she had to really encounter, despite living in America. It was hard for her already at home. Her mom didn’t quite have a steady job. She missed her father. In the last year of middle school, she took the Specialized High School Standardized Admissions Test (SHSAT), aced the math section, and got into the HS for Math, Sciences and Engineering. It’s a small school of about four hundred kids total, averaging a hundred per grade. It wasn’t hard to know the names of everyone in the grade. I remember freshman year, Tian Tian was one of the quietest. She sat alone during lunch. We all thought she was shy! Hearing from her now, about four years later, it was in actuality, she had no idea what was going on in classes, or what people were saying to her. It was very difficult for her to keep up in school. However, she realized she had to step up her game, and forced herself to learn the new language. English speakers constantly surrounded her. At the time, we were also learning German as a ‘second’ language. She struggled to learn German when English was already not her forte. She didn’t receive the best grades in freshman year, but it was clear on her transcript she worked hard and improved tenfold as she climbed to the top ten in class rank by senior year. To top all of that, she made her mother proud by getting into Cornell University, winning scholarships, and receiving a great deal of financial aid. Her mother does not have to pay much, and she’s receiving  an Ivy League education. She worked hard for it – she deserved it. I’m very proud of her too, and indeed it inspires me to work hard in my studies.

I wasn’t able to interview her in person since she’s in upstate New York at the moment, so I don’t have any audio to attach. She’s still a bit shy, so she suggested I could share a drawing of her portrait instead.

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My Dad

My dad has always been there for me and thinking about all the things he has done for my family and me, I sometimes wonder who exactly is this man that I see everyday. Who exactly is this man that I look up to yet ironically I look down at because of his height. That man is my father, a husband, a son, and much more.

His story begins in the year 1962. He was born into a Chinese family but his life was already fated to be unique from day one of his life. He was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela into a family that had little to offer. He recalls that times may have been tough, but they were simple times where running around and playing with any of his brothers was extremely fun and enjoyable.

In his early years, he experienced change and that was ultimately due to the relocation of his family in order to find new opportunities. At the age of six, he would find himself in Colombia where my grandfather opened his own business, a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant became a reliable source of money but life was still hard. He didn’t mind it because everyone played a helping hand. “In a family with six sons, it would only make sense to have them help out around the restaurant,” he said. The restaurant soon gave my grandfather enough to venture into other businesses and in the course of a few years he would have money invested in various businesses.

Growing up in South America my Dad learned Spanish as a second language and started learning basic English. He loved living in South America.

He noted, “The food was great and the weather, while hot felt nice to be in. We didn’t have any of these chilly winters back then.”

But there were times where he did not enjoy it as much as he could have. The reason? Racism.  Even today it is uncommon to see a Chinese family in South America. He remembers that he would often hear “chino” or “chinito” when new people met him.

My Dad still remembers the day he would leave to go to America along with the rest of his family. All of them had their passports in hand and all of them had faces of uncertainty yet hope. He was already aware of the American dream but finally, his chance to experience it first hand has come at last.

America was a new place for him. For starters, he did not know any English and it was through a family friend that on their his first day here, they all went to eat Dimsum. For the rest of the week, they spent their time in the apartments and houses of my grandfather’s friends.

Then he finally bought a house. It is a pretty big house but considering he had five other brothers and later on four other cousins living in it, the living space got incredibly crowded at an incredibly quick rate. My father grew up becoming almost like a father to my uncles. He mentioned, “I was the second oldest, but Big Bro was traveling with Grandpa so that left me in charge most of the time.”

Most people usually mention one thing when it comes to a great change in their lives but in my dad’s case, he said there were two things that changed his life.

The first takes places in college. After graduating from high school he went off to college with some of his close friends. After his sophomore year he made the decision to drop out of college. He no longer found school interesting and felt it was a waste of time. He was a young man who wanted to be out there in the world and just have fun all the time. So he dropped out and found a job that was good enough to give him cash to thrive on. He recalled that it was fun being able to just go out with his friends and hang out.

Things quickly changed though. He got married but barely had any money. Although, my grandfather could afford to take care of him, he didn’t want to live life like that.

He states that, “I did want to be a leech and become the son who cannot take care of himself.”

The second thing that changed his life was having his first son, me. He knew that he wanted to become a father who could provide an opportunity for his child. With the experience of dropping out of college, he realized how much it has set him back in life and because of that he does not want to see the same thing happening to me. Having a newborn son come into his life “set [his] life back on track” as he started looking for a job that would be able to provide more money to help him raise a family.

My father experience many difficulties over his life but he would not change a thing. Although he comes home tired and oftentimes complaining of the work he does, he has his children and family to come home to and because of us, his complaints are drowned out.


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One More New Yorker

For a few generations, my family has been moving from place to place, often following where business was flowing. We lived in mainland India for a long time, until Burma became an up and coming trade city. My great grandfather settled in Rangoon, Burma and had his first two children there (one of which was my grandfather). However, events took a very sharp turn in Burma and the area became a very hostile area to live in. At the time, Burma was still a part of India and there was a big effort by locals to separate and create a new country. One night, my great-grandparents took their children and snuck onto a boat and out of Burma in the middle of the night. They came to Jaipur, India where my family has been for several years and where I visit once a year.

In Jaipur, my father was born and raised and he even took in the family business: gem stones. When my great-grandfather came here, he started a gem stone business which my grandfather inherited and passed onto my father. At an early age, my father was forced to travel to Europe, Hong Kong, Bangkok and even the United States to help my grandfather do business. I specifically use the word “forced” because India then was much more isolated from outside society than it is now. To my father, familiarity was key and being home was most important. Going abroad was never as convenient as it is now because the language barriers were much stronger (since English wasn’t as widely spoken as today), communication with home was incredibly more difficult, and it wasn’t as convenient to travel.

However, with business booming, my father was forced to move abroad. My grandfather had several offices set up in New York, Bangkok, and Hong Kong and he needed people to go and manage them. My dad was one of them and he already knew he couldn’t live in Bangkok and Hong Kong. Many of his friends were moving to the states so it was the only option worth considering; however he didn’t want to even consider it. As I mentioned before, familiarity was key in India and still much hasn’t changed, which is why the decision proved to be so difficult for my father. He was ultimately allowed to postpone his decision, for a brief amount of time, because his cousin was moving to New York then. My grandfather and father came to an agreement that they would send him for short trips and if he really found it unmanageable, then he could stay in Jaipur. Until then, my dad would spend brief business trips in New York, living with my Uncle.

My dad finally came to New York and fell in love with the city instantly- any other response would have been shocking. He was able to manage life here just fine, and even found a great place of belonging amongst his friends that moved to the city from India. He realized that he wouldn’t find it completely easy living so far away from home but seeing that it wasn’t as difficult as he imagined and that someone needed to manage the New York office, he agreed.

However, what was going on during his constant trips to and from New York was that he met my mother in Jaipur. They met, got to know each other, and eventually decided to get married. However, if my dad was traveling throughout his life and was still reluctant to move, my mom had no intention of leaving her home city. She grew up in Jaipur and was even more confined than my father. Her trips were only outside of the city and to different parts of India, yet she became homesick very fast. To her, moving abroad was a ridiculous idea and to this day she doesn’t know how she managed to agree. When I ask her if she would have preferred to stay she immediately answers with a “YES!” It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy life in the United States, but everything familiar to her is still important and it’s with her parents in Jaipur. She’s always been visiting on a yearly basis, but finds it insufficient.

After a few years in the United States, my parents became accustomed to life here. They had three children, me and my two sisters. My dad began to run the family business and says he is very grateful for moving. For him it was the initial push which caused all the struggle, but he’s never looked back on his decision to move.


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The Power of Influence in Two Met Exhibits

African Art, New York, and The Avant-Garde
“My little brother could sculpt something better” says a Met visitor, after their first time seeing African art in person. It is a common misconception to think that African art is primitive. However, the use of over-exaggerated proportions and geometric shapes that deviate from the organic curves found in nature and in the body are characteristic of a sophisticated style. Modern art forms, such as cubism and expressionism, have emerged, drawing from these elements which are particularly found in African sculpture from Kota, Igbo and Fang artists. The exhibit featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, entitled African Art, New York and the Avant-Garde, intends to demonstrate just that.

The exhibit, a condensed space displaying mostly sculptures, is predominantly African art. Next to many of the African pieces (or somewhere in the vicinity), there is a Modern Art piece and descriptions to highlight the similarities, but the modern works selected did not contain enough visual evidence to demonstrate the influence. The description cards for most pieces described how theparticular piece was a muse for late 19th and 20th century art, but there was too much “tell” and not enough “show.” Visual examples, like cubism pieces, would have conveyed this theme in a more coherent—and interesting—manner.

Although the exhibit lacked a strong theme, the individual pieces were quite beautiful and their descriptions offered an insight into their respective cultures. A mask piece captures a sophistication in its composition: bulbous oval eyes, a wide triangular nose and curvaceous lips carved out of wood are typical of the geometric style that was often embraced by this culture. The mask adjacent to it has contrasting proportions: a narrowjaw line, two slits for eyes, a skinny cylindrical nose and a mouth in the shape of a small “o”. The masks somewhat resemble caricatures, and are mostly made of wood. What is especially fascinating is the fact that the different regions produce their own unique portrayals of facial features, yet the theme of the geometric style can be identified in probably all African masks. One piece, entitled Mask (Kpeliye’e), which according to the description, is a “delicate, feminine representation that honors deceased Senufo elders,” has an array of textures created by etched lines. Environmental influence is present, especially in the goat horns on its head and the small, exposed teeth.

Matisse: In Search of True Painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art features another exhibit emphasizing style: the well-known fauvism painter, Henri Matisse struggles to find his artistic voice. This space is significantly larger than the African Art space, and palpably more crowded. It is plain to see why: the comparisons here are much more successful in threading together a common theme because it shows several versions of the same painting side by side. This exhibit was much more interesting and enlightening because it shows his process; each version, although portraying the same subject, demonstrates how different styles create such varied experiences.

A wall on the right upon entering displays a panoply of four small paintings, all of a bowl of fruit. On the far left, Matisse dips into pointillism, a painting style that is achieved by marking thousands of small colored dots of paint on the page. Darker, condensed dots create shadowsandlighter, spaced dots create the illusion of highlights. The dots form together to create the bigger picture. Another bowl of fruit painting in the series is an experimentation with impressionism, as he uses thick blotches of paint to bring out the strokes and variety of color. Entitled Still Life With Compote, Apples and oranges (1899), this piece was painted with bright, saturated colors and many vibrant strokes full of motion. Although oil paints were used, the consistency makes it look as if it were drawn with oil pastels. The lines seem to move in all different directions, giving it a sense of urgency or chaos. This tone is strikingly different from the piece next to it, again of the same subject. It is unfinished: Matisse leaves a part of the canvas naked, with exposed pencil markings. Other works in the exhibit follow this practice of ‘unfinished canvas,’ which offers yet another look into the artist’s process and decision to keep moving on to create new works, and not going back to finish the others. Because Matisse has embraced so many different styles, he was accused of ‘copying’ his counterparts like Van Gogh and Monet. He was inspired by these artists as well as Cezanne,

Young Sailor I and Young Sailor II are two versions of the same subject, and again, are quite different. While the latter resembles a pop art style with ‘paper cut-out’ bright blocks of color, the former is a painterly piece with heavy outlines, a sense of depth and a more diverse palette. Interestingly enough, both the body language and facial expressions differ in each version: the former features a young man in deep thought, with relaxed limbs and an air of confidence. An up-tight pose, bright eyes and a simple palette are qualities of the other version. The pencil markings make quite a presence in Young Sailor I, underneath a thin layer of paint with some spots of bare canvas.  Both pieces were made in 1906. Young Sailor II has slight indications that Matisse might have been inspired by the African Masks: The boys face is not proportional, but instead characterized by geometric facial features and is painted in a way that creates a directional line texture, which is found in a lot of the masks.

Why is the exhibit called In Search of True Painitng? The exhibit does a flawless job in displaying that this artist had a desire to document the stages of his work and try on different methods. In other words, he constantly compared his works to see if he advanced or regressed. He left pieces unfinished because he intended to use them as a reference point. The entire exhibit maps out his quest to find his visual personality as an artist through the process, not the product.


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Right Place, Right Time

Credit to

Bailey Hu is a junior majoring in Finance. When I asked him if there was any particular moment that shaped him into whom he is now, his eyes lit up and said, “Yes,” without hesitating. This experience is what sent him on the path directed to where he is now.

Originally, he was going to go into marine biology because that is something he is passionate about and truly enjoys. He even applied to three other colleges, other than Baruch College, for their marine biology major. Realistically, he knew that this major isn’t exactly something he would want to study to eventually form into a career. He was first introduced to finance when he joined the entrepreneurship club back in high school. Through this club, he was able to meet some friends who started their own line of clothing and accessories and he learned the basic things about finance from them.

What really swayed him into the business field was an opportunity he was given after an internship he had in Shanghai in his junior year of high school, which was, ironically, related to marine biology. I guess that experience of his is what really struck me and convinced me to base this project off of him because how often do you meet someone who was able to land an internship while in high school in a completely different country?

This all started when he was at a gathering with his family and friends of his parents. He struck a conversation with a guest at the party who happened to have connections with a lab related to marine biology. Bailey contacted someone from the lab and applied for an internship position that he was soon given an offer a few days later. This is when his story really begins.

After the one-month internship in Shanghai, Bailey had a layover in London so he spent some time traveling around and sightseeing the city by taking the tube. Somewhere along the way, he was reading a newspaper when a businessman struck up a conversation with him. Turns out, the man is a recruiter who was looking for someone to work for the company. After talking for a bit, the man gave him a business card with some contact information and told him to call the number as soon as possible. Before he got on the plane back to the States, he dialed the number he was given and soon enough, he found himself another internship. The most exciting part of this opportunity for him? It’s in London for an entire month.

The first issue that arose was where he was going to stay and what he was going to eat. Of course, the standards of living in London were quite high. He had been interning in Shanghai for a month, the money he earned wasn’t really enough for living and eating costs. That didn’t stop him and he wasn’t going to pass up this offer. He convinced his parents to lend him money that he needed for that month which he would eventually pay. But – it wasn’t that easy for him because his parents charged interest. Not just a small interest rate, either, but a pretty large rate that cost him not going out whenever he wanted for the rest of the year.

He ended up missing the first two weeks of school and had to fly back as soon as possible because of the troubles he could face if he had anymore absences. It was worth it for him because he had such an amazing experience to suddenly have the chance work and live in the UK. He learned a lot about finance through this internship and opened his eyes to many different aspects that he was able to apply to courses relating to finance in college.

However, his experience in London didn’t end there. When he came back to New York, the company reached out to him a few months later about the recruiting firm opening an office in the city and offered him another opportunity to work there. Now, when the firm started running into troubles with the manager leaving, he is able to take all the work that was left over with no problem. When there were any difficulties back at the firm in London, he knew enough about the company and its progress to fly back between semesters to give reports.

His story is fascinating to me because he happened to be at the right place, at the right time, for multiple occasions. Here, many juniors in high school are busy burying their nose into SAT textbooks, applying to college, or writing their college essays. Unlike many others, Bailey had the chance to go out to the real world to work at such a young age – all on his own, too! This is an inspiring story because it can show others that when you are given a chance to do something, do it! Even if there are obstacles that come along with it, push yourself through because nothing in life will be obstacle free and in the end, the experience will be worth it. Finally, it’s an example to show that opportunities don’t come knocking when you keep yourself at home. I’m going to end this with a quote that Bailey quoted at the end of the interview, by Danny Wallace: “Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.”

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Influence and Experimentation

The two exhibits we explored in the Metropolitan Museum of Art were the “African Influences in Modern Art” and “Matisse: In Search of True Painitng”.  Each exhibit was interesting in that the African one was small, but provided a plethora of details to analyze in each influenced work, while the Matisse exhibit could be seen as a progression of his life and working techniques.


The “African Influences in Modern Art” exhibit blended modernism with historical technique, which was probably what artists influenced by African art were striving for. One piece in particular that drew my attention was a wood carving of a mask (unknown artist). The many features of this mask allow it to be seen as a modern interpretation of ancient African art. Most ancient African masks were focused on specific portions of the face, and it can be seen in this one that the nose and lips are much larger than those of an average person, and the forehead comes down good amount more. The wood finishing is also a prime example of influence from African masks, with smoothness in certain areas and a grained texture on the sides. This piece is clearly a modern artist’s interpretation of older works of art.


Another piece that caught my attention was Diego Rivera’s “The Café Terrace”. This oil on canvas piece was clearly influenced by African abstract art. The various colors long with sharp but unrecognizable shapes attest to this. Moreover, the color gradients and choices are also reminiscent of Africa works. One can distinguish certain figures, such as a spoon, the bottom of a table, and a woman’s dress, but the rest is open to interpretation, just like older abstract works. Other modern artists such as Picasso were also influenced by these techniques, color schemes, and textures. Rivera’s work, according to the description adjacent to the work, was at one point placed alongside three African works that were woodcarvings. One can see, through the sharp lines and the fact that some aspects are more prominent that there is a certain amount of influence on Rivera’s work.


While Henri Matisse was influenced by African art during a period of his life, he viewed art as a progression and experiment. He would test different effects and then place them side-by-side in order to compare them. It is almost like writing in the sense that there were many rough drafts before the final piece was accepted. Matisse also liked to paint in pairs and trios in order to gauge how different focuses and techniques could alter the perception of a work. One example of this would be his painting of fruit pairs. He changed the colors around, making different parts of the painting brighter, in order to test how that alters the focus of the work. Even though the fruits were the main focus in the first one, as he made the parts around the fruit brighter and higher definition, the perception of the picture changed. Instead of viewing the work from the fruits out, one would see it from the surroundings in. I found this to be fascinating. He also used a similar technique in a trio: “Gulf of St Tropez “Luxe”, “Calme”, and “Et Volupte.” Each painting reflected a different mood, and he conveyed this by creating different textures. Some were smooth strokes, while others were made whole by combining many short strokes (almost presenting a Van Gogh like effect). Each painting, though having the same subject matter, completely changed meaning because of the technique used in it.


Matisse was also able to show progression through color and definition. In his works “Le Luxe” (1, 2, and 3), he depicts three nude women standing on what seems to be a field. However, as one views each picture, they progressively become sharper.  The lines become straighter, and each object in the background can be seen more clearly. However, the one concept that does not escape the eyes is that he takes away color as well. So we go from colored and blurry to sharp and black and white. He almost progresses backwards in order to get to the most basic version of picture, as if to un-cloud the judgment of a viewer, and convey the work as it was supposed to be.


African art has influenced many prominent artists, such as Matisse and Picasso. The sharp lines, bright colors, and abstract shapes are all derived from an ancient culture, modernized by interpretation. People continue to be intrigued by the message African art conveys, and artists have done their best to recreate that sense of inquisitiveness. Matisse was also, through his progressive work, able to incorporate many of these techniques.


Matisse and Africa’s influences provide exhibits worth viewing again and again.

Painting Credit: Diego Rivera
Courtesy of MET

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Who She Is: Babushka Raisa

Raisa Kaydanovskaya is my grandmother.  But I can’t call her my grandmother because she speaks little to no English.  Instead, I call her Babushka, the Russian word for grandmother.

She was born in 1928 in the city of Orsha, Belarus.  The 1930s were a rough time in the Soviet Union.  Between 1932 and 1933, it was known as the голод года, Russian for the famine years.  Still, her parents did their best to provide food, shelter, and education for her and her sister.

Then, the true horror came.  In 1939, she had finished 5th grade in the Soviet Education System.  On her last day of school, she was sent to summer camp.  Coincidentally, it was the same day World War 2 had started.  The parents were notified immediately and her father came to pick her up.

It was only the beginning.  When she was home, her entire city was being bombed.  The main reason was that Orsha contained an important railroad junction.  In the midst of all of this, she and her family drove off to friend’s house in the woods.  But they weren’t there for a long time.  The Nazi military front was advancing.

So, her dad asked one of his friends if he can drive his family to a different city.  The friend agreed and when the car came, her father told them to get into the car and drive to Viasmo.  Then he said that he would regroup with them later.

The ride wasn’t smooth at all.  Many times they had to stop driving, go outside, and hide.  They did this whenever they heard a German plane.  According to my grandma, the Soviet planes made little to no sound.  While the German planes had a “wooooo” sound.  When they heard it, they would need to stop driving and hide.  The reason was simple.  If the aircraft saw a vehicle driving, they would come down and bomb it.

With all this stress they were dealing, there was a funny moment.  One time as they were coming back into the car, her sister, who was six at the time, accidentally sat on a box of eggs.  At first, she didn’t realize this.  But then she asked, “почему моя попа мокрая?” (Why is my butt wet?).  Everyone started to laugh.  Babushka says that it was interesting that in the heat of this serious moment, laughter found its way to creep in.

Eventually, they made it safe and sound to Viasmo and her father got there safe as well.  Still, the officials in Viasmo told them that they needed to head towards Moscow because the front was closing in.

They got on a train and went to Ciziram, a city near Moscow.  They were there for a few days as well.  It was because her father’s job was being relocated to Kuybyshev.  The family followed suit and that’s where Babushka stayed until the war ended.

Life in Kuybyshev was hard as well.  It was the main city where all the refugees went to, including my grandfather.  Babushka lived in a small room and shared a bed with a girl who would later be her best friend in life.  She attended school, cared for her sister, and worked on farm in order to support herself and her sister.

When the war ended, she went to Medical school in Kuybyshev.  Then in 1947, her parents decided to move to Minsk.  Not be alone, she transferred her studies to the Medical Institute of Minsk.  Then in 1950, she graduated and started to work as a doctor.

It is very interesting to see how little sacrifice Americans went through during the World Wars.  I am not saying that the American men who died in Europe did so in vain.  I am stating that the common US family wasn’t affected that much by the war.  The Germans didn’t cause Americans to evacuate.  It’s a side of history we don’t see: the people who were affected most by these terrible wars.  That is why I chose to interview my grandma.  She witnessed first-hand how everything was and how they needed to escape.  It’s nice to read a textbook and imagine how it was like.  But to hear one individual aspect is amazing.  It can be compared to when you ask an American who was alive when John F. Kennedy was assassinated or when the Twin Towers fell.  They could tell you everything they did on that day.  The Soviet version would have to be when the Nazis invaded.  My grandma sometimes doesn’t know what day it is and also forgets to take her medication once in a while.  But when I asked her to elaborate on how it was to live when the Germans attacked, she remembered everything to almost the exact detail.  I was shocked at how she recalled every city that she went.  Sadly, her generation is dwindling and one day, there will be no more of these eyewitnesses to history.

This project was an initiative by me to record this important account in the world before I regret not doing so. I do regret having the sub-titles up on the video.  Though it is necessary for the entire class to understand what she is saying, it takes away from her voice.  When she speaks, it sounds like a story that is being told. It is very soothing and keeps one interested.  As people are reading the subtitles, they would be reading it through their own voice and not hers.

Raisa before the War

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The Apartheid Told in Pictures

The International Center of Photography wasn’t the first place we experienced the Apartheid, which is a time of inequality, cruelty, and violence in South Africa. Photographers who were around at the time, such as Peter Magubane, Leon Levson, Kevin Carter, and Ken Oosterbroek put themselves at risk and in the end, their work, including videos, photos, and audios, all filled the space in the exhibit. Both floors of the museum showed the transition from the early 20th century to modern day culture and politics in South Africa.

After the ticket check, the first thing I noticed was the small entrance and the way the hallway led into another. I was told that the museum was laid out in a particular way to lead the audience in a specific path that would show them the beginning of Apartheid and have them follow the events of the tragedy right up to the end. I thought that this was a great technique to keep the viewers understand exactly what was happening, as opposed to having displays and photos in different or random places, which could be confusing. Instead, having the layout of a timeline really helps tell the story of Apartheid and can even put the audience right back into that specific period and give them the perspective of what it was like back then.

Moving past the two videos, there is a countless number of pictures, all arranged in chronological order and themes. One of the themes that caught my attention was the time of new culture and prosperity. Jazz is one of the new cultures that were displayed; there were videos and photos of people dancing and singing to the music. The victims of the Apartheid used this as a way to still have hope for better times to come.

Of course, the Apartheid was not all happy times. There was a section of the exhibit showing the violence during that period such as dead bodies and protests. Protesters were often violently taken care of, including being beaten and attacked, simply for voicing their opinions. These were shown through videos, which made the situation very surreal and gave me a better understanding of what kind of violence existed and the pains that the victims were going through during that time.

The media that were displayed did a good job at portraying exactly what it was like during the Apartheid. However, the little captions that went along with these pictures or videos were hard to understand because they weren’t directly linked to each other. It takes some careful evaluation to be able to see which description goes with what. Otherwise, if they were placed in a way that would be more clear to the audience, it would have been even better.

The exhibit as a whole was very captivating and gave the audience a clear vision of what the Apartheid was like. The use of not only photographs but also videos and clips puts them in the shoes of the victims. As the audience follows the exhibit in the chronological pathway, it can be said that they are reliving in the experiences of the victims of Apartheid.

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Cultural Encounters Food Celebration Tomorrow– December 13th

I thought that it would be fun for us to celebrate with a little food tomorrow –perhaps continuing our “cultural encounters” theme.   Asian? Chinese? Indian? American? Korean? Irish? Italian? Etc. Something easy to serve and share.

Do bring your own beverage.

Prof. B.

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In Search of Meaningful Themes

The Metropolitan Museum of Art features many exhibits, but our trip focused on the African Art exhibit and the Matisse exhibit called In Search of True Painting. Both exhibits displayed different forms of art and were unique in their own way. Though each exhibition had its ups and downs, both of them managed to provoke deep thought about relating different aspects of art.

The focus of our visit to the African Art exhibit was on one room that linked the African Art to the avant-garde artists of the 20th century. Much of the African art that was on display in that room was very geometric. Faces were distorted and artists had creative license to display figures in any way they wanted. They took this liberty and distorted people – making eyes bigger, extending torsos and shortening legs. Many of the features on the sculptures such as the eyes or the nose could be broken down into geometric shapes, resulting in a very symmetrical image. This style influenced cubism, a style that well-known artists such as Picasso were famous for. Avant-garde artists like Picasso or Matisse were influenced by the geometry and symmetry that many of the African sculptures and masks had. They evolved on this style and made their own successful work.

Although realizing the link between African art and modern art was interesting, the exhibit itself was dull. The room that linked the past and present was too small and I would have liked to see more connections through more pieces of work. Seeing more work by the 20th century avant-garde artists displayed next to the African art would have made it a lot easier to see the connections the exhibit was trying to bring out. I think that would have added to the power of the exhibit.

In Search of True Painting specialized on Matisse and his search for a style. In his early career, he would paint the same still life two or three times using different techniques, looking for the one that fit him best. In his later career, he moved on to painting series such as “The Dream.” It took him nine months to paint the same image numerous times. His still lives like “Yellow Curtain, Anemones and Fruit” were very ordinary, no matter what style he painted in. It was always the same image and didn’t pull me in like art should. One that did interest me however, was “Large Cliff-Eel” and “Large Cliff-Two Rays.” What I found interesting was that although the background was similar, the different animals created a different feel for the painting and I enjoyed the slight change.

A couple selections from Matisse’s series “The Dream”

Wall text said that the African art and its geometry influenced Matisse. But in this exhibit, I could not see influence. Matisse’s paintings were dotted, made by many dots of paint on the page. Other styles involved a very flowing and shadowed style, and his black and white drafts of paintings. None of his work was very geometrical or distorted so I did not see the African influence. However, this was a thought-provoking exhibit because as I walked through, I tried to discover his style. In trying to find a style, he made his own. He created multiple images of the same painting in different styles. It is an art technique that is unique to him, and it works well for the still lives he does. The different styles for still lives attempt to add spice and variance to an otherwise dull subject.

While both exhibits did not fully interest me, I found their themes intriguing. I found the African exhibit to be too small and did not have enough sculptures and paintings to fully bring out the power of the connection between past and present. The Matisse exhibit was boring because his paintings all looked the same. The still lives were the same fruit and vases over and over again. Even the different styles could not capture my attention. But the themes that the exhibits brought out were well constructed. Connecting African art to popular avant-garde creations such as cubism through geometry was an eye-opening theme that I had never thought about before. Seeing Matisse struggle to find a style while making his own was fascinating, especially seeing all the times he repainted something. And while the art was not memorable, the themes will remain strong because of how well they were created.

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A Losing Bet

This is the interview that is cited in my essay

Paul Woo is my father and he has always had a very confident attitude and outlook on life. Though he has always been like this, a moment in his life secured this feeling, a moment that was shocking to me based on the way he looks now.

My father was heavy during all of his youth. He says he was “fat since day one,” maxing out at 350 plus pounds at age 19 and at a 52 inch waist. He always knew being heavy was unhealthy but there was not much he could do about it. He had a busy schedule with Chinese school in addition to regular school and he ended up eating 5 meals a day around his schedule: breakfast, a 12 o’clock lunch, 3 o’clock meal before Chinese school, 7:30 dinner and an 11 o’clock meal while doing homework for both schools. During grade school, he was picked for a childhood game only because of his weight, a sad story if you think about it. But I chose to ask him about it during the interview because his first-hand details could not be replicated in my words.

He was picked on at Xavier High School for being fat. Xavier was an all boys Catholic school that was predominantly Caucasian. Being Asian and fat did not help his cause. Other students felt that Asians weren’t supposed to be fat, and he was an outcast because of his weight. He was introverted and held back from the social scene. But to his parents who recently immigrated to the U.S. from poor China, fat was accepted because it showed you had the money to eat well. It was a striking cultural difference.

In his teenage years, he tried to lose some weight, but diets didn’t work for him. He ate less and exercised more but nothing seemed to work. Even the diets that seemed to be successful were only short lived. Eventually he would put back the weight and more. But in his junior year of college, he made a bet with a coworker who he had met the previous year. The bet was that he could lose weight on her recommended Scarsdale diet. My dad felt he would not lose weight and it was an easy bet to win. I chose to get these details from him during the interview because it was very personal and it would ring better if he told the story. But the bottom line is that he lost the bet and weight and this got him believing that he could lose weight. He started going to discotheques since they were in fashion in his time, and danced for a few hours for aerobic exercise. He gives more details in the audio clip because I think it makes for a more amusing story.

Soon he dropped 160 plus pounds and was 190 pounds at age 23. Losing the bet gave him the confidence he needed to start losing weight. Although he always liked himself, he liked himself even more when he was thinner. He was more confident after the weight loss and he knew he could handle anything. He says, “I know what I can do for you, what can you do for me?” That attitude has stuck with him until now, even at age 52. He is still confident in himself and feels that it is someone else’s loss if they don’t get to fully meet and understand him. While he was fat, no one bothered to get to know him and he knows they missed out. Now at 52, he is happy and still 190 pounds, working out 5 days a week to stay healthy. But he would not have the same mindset, or figure, if it weren’t for that losing bet.

From this…

…to this, in four years


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Who He Was/Is: John Scanlon

Who He Was/Is

On September 22nd, 1972, one of the hardest working individuals was born into this world, my father, John E. Scanlon.  As a child, he didn’t have much.  He was the youngest of four children to my grandmother, Julia.  They grew up in a small two bedroom apartment in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn just off of Avenue U.  At the age of two, his father walked out on them, ultimately leaving the family financially inept.  Although he does not have much recollection of his father, my dad remembers the impact that he left on the family.

Throughout his childhood, John watched his mother work two jobs just to make ends meet.  My grandmother did the best she could to raise four children, but with two jobs, she wasn’t always around.  Consequently, my dad and his siblings relied heavily on each other while growing up.  As the youngest of the four, my father was always the last one to receive all different kinds of hand-me-down clothing.  Despite their economic struggle, each of them did their part to make sure their home was up and running because my grandmother could not do it all by herself.  By working two jobs, my grandmother did everything she could to assure her kids had the best childhood possible.

So where did John get his work ethic?  He says he gets it from watching his mother struggle all of those years to make his life a little easier.  He didn’t want to experience the distress that his mother did, so he sought a way out.  His hard work began in elementary school, and it ultimately carried over into high school.  To this day, my grandmother and his siblings speak of how good of a student he was and how well he did in school.  Besides being at the top of his class, my father began to work during his freshman year at the age of 13.  He got his first job at S&K, an auto body shop, where he would sweep up the place after school.  He became very interested in the business and wanted to learn more about it.

At age 16, he left S&K to work for De-Ko, another body shop in the area.  This is where my dad began to pick up the tools of the trade.  When his senior year came, he was asked where he wanted to attend college.  My father told his guidance counselor that he didn’t want to attend college; he wanted to own his own body shop.  My grandmother was extremely bothered by his decision because she worked countless hours just to send him and his siblings to Catholic school.  She feared his choice would come back to haunt him, and he would wind up dealing with similar economic hardships.

But my father didn’t think negatively of his decision.  In his mind, he was living the life and chasing a dream.  For the rest of his senior year, he spent days upon days working in the shop, learning everything he could about it.  After high school ended, he went on to work for a 3rd and final body shop, where he learned the essentials of running his own business.  From this point on, John knew he wanted to own a body shop one day, and this opportunity came about quicker than he expected.

He met his partner Steven in the auto shop industry, who my Aunt Brenda would eventually wind up marrying.  After much thought and collaboration, John and Steven decided that they wanted to open up a body shop of their own.  In the fall of 1991, they saw a window of opportunity.  An old, rundown building was for rent, and they figured they could fix it up and use it to start their own business.  In December of 1991, my father signed the official documentation to rent the building.  They spent the next two months renovating the entire place and gathering the resources necessary to run the shop.  In February of 1992, Narrows Body Craftsmen Inc. was born, and my father was only 19.

My dad at Narrows, 1992

Although my father was living the dream of owning his own business, he knew this was going to be no walk in the park.  There were dozens of nights where my father would work additional hours to make an extra few dollars.  There were plenty of nights where my father wound up sleeping at the shop after working the entire night.  To put it quite simply, my father was a “go getter” when it came to business; nothing stood in his path.

By the age of 21, my father had me, his first child.  At such a young age, he had the responsibility of running both a business and a family, but this didn’t stop him.  Most people his age were out enjoying the final stage of their youth, but my father wasn’t.  Instead, he was out doing business on a daily basis to make sure that my mother and I didn’t have to live the way he did.  After he spent a few years in the body shop business, he later went on to partner up with my Uncle Bob in both the potato chip and juice distribution. In 2003, they saw the golden opportunity of becoming distributors of Boar’s Head Cold Cuts.  Currently today, my father and my uncle each own their own routes.  My father’s is located all throughout Staten Island and Brooklyn, the place where he still calls home today.

So as I conclude my first Macaulay Honors Seminar in the Arts, I have become more aware of the cultural realities in the world around us.  Socioeconomic class is often one of the most difficult barriers to overcome in society.  Often times, it is more difficult for impoverished families to move up in society regardless of how hard they work.  My father, however, is a prime example that the American Dream still exists today.  His hard work from a very young age was turned into a success story like no other.  Because of his diligent work ethic, he not only achieved his own goal of starting his own business, but he also made it possible for me, his son, to dream higher than him.

My father winning a prestigious Boar’s Head                       Deli of Distinction Award
December 2012


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Under-Appreciated African art and Metaphysical Matisse

I have been many to the Metropolitan Museum many times in my life before.  It is an enormous museum with many collections.  But I never really zoomed in one aspect of the MET’s many works of art.  Because of our IDC class, we got to focus on two: The 100th anniversary of the African Art exhibit and the Matisse display.

I have to say that the African Art show was a disappointment.  In our class, Professor Bernstein talked about how important this expo was.  It radically changed how artists used to do paintings or other works of art.  With such high expectation I walked into the MET museum.  What I got instead was a little exhibition space.  That has to be the fault of the MET.  They are the ones who decide how everything is set up.  Such an influential group of works needed a larger venue where people can come and appreciate them without being crammed in like a clown car.

But if you looked at the individual pieces, they were amazing.  The woodwork done was amazing.  The sculptures were symmetrical and each had its own characteristic to it.  For example, “Sculptural Element from a Reliquary Ensemble: Head” looks like a bland piece from the straight.  If you were to look at it from the side, you would see a different view.  The chin and jaw are elongated.  The ears are very circular.  I believe that this is the first time modern artists saw that not everything has to be straight and perfect.  Shapes and geometry could be used.  As a result, many artists incorporated these ideas into their work.

As we went inside the Matisse exhibit, it was a stark contrast.  By reading the captions, it showed how Matisse painted everything in pairs or triplets in the beginning in his career.  When I first saw this.  I thought that he might have Over Compulsive Disorder.  But I kept in mind the point of this exhibit: “In Search of True Painting.” It seemed strange at first why the curator called it this.

The first painting that hit me was that of “Le Luxe.”  Matisse painted three versions of this masterpiece.  Each version was different.  Going from left to right, you can see that there is an inverse relationship between color and definition.  The clearest picture was that done by pencil.

After a while, it seemed that Matisse didn’t like to keep painting the same image.  This was the case with “Apples”. This pair was completely different from each other.  First, the background in one was green.  It provides a sort of cool color.  The other painting had a powerful red background.  It represents a hot color.  The angles at which the two were painted are different.  In the former, you see the legs of the chair.  While in the latter, there are no legs. It indicates a different point of view


Honestly, I believe the theme of the exhibit represents an idea that is metaphysical.  How can one person judge which is the “true” or not?  By giving such an idea, the curator was trying to express that there is no such thing.  Matisse it seems realized this after a while and that is why he paints the pairs and triplets of the same work.  Maybe out of one of them, it would really speak to us.

Or on a more cynical note, maybe it was good marketing plan by the museum to get people to go all the way to the end and then to be hit with the gift shop.


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BAM- House Divided

As a person who’s only been to Brooklyn about 10 times in his life, I was hesitant to go for a play I hadn’t ever heard of before hand. I was familiar with the BAM theatre and had heard about it, but still didn’t want to go. Thank god I did. This play did a great job of reviving my interest in theatre and in my opinion, spoke more to us as business students.

Marianne Weems’s House/Divided focuses on two of the most devastating financial times this country has ever faced. However, instead of merely telling a story of the two or using them as mere settings, Weems juxtaposes the two in a great play highlighting the emotional toll these economic meltdowns have had. The plot compared how essentially heartless corporate businessmen would make millions trading on mortgages until the entire system comes crashing. Instead of putting the light on how the companies were affected, Weems directed her attention to how the homeowners were hurt. She wanted the audience to catch light of how foreclosures force a sense of detachment from one’s roots. These homes were where families have prospered for generations and Weems appeals to her audiences pathos by pulling them away. She pushes the envelope even further by portraying life after foreclosure, where families are forced to beg for food.

The set was something I hadn’t seen before and was very innovative. Instead of distracting the audience by constantly changing the house set up, the production played with lighting and used versatile equipment to allow the show to run smoothly. The setting would go from the 1930’s to the 2000’s without catching the attention of the audience. Weems had an interesting technique of zooming up on a specific characters face during specific scenes. I found that it was a way to increase the impact of sorrow or anger towards the character in the spotlight.

In all honesty, I didn’t find anything special to focus on the costume design. I found that it served it’s purpose of portraying bankers as bankers, farmers as farmers, etc. However, the audio manipulation was very successful. In the depression-era scenes, the stringent archaic tone stressed the attitude in focus and brought to light the grim atmosphere. In the more modern, recession-era the sound helped characterize the bankers as individuals JUST looking to show a profit on their bottom line.

Credits to NYTimes

The play was a great experience that really spoke to us specifically, since a majority of us are business students. While we all hear of the banking crises, this play did a great job of comparing it to the Great Depression. It took corporate America out of the focus and really stressed the emotional toll on the homeowner.

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MET Exhibit: Seeing the Abstract as the Norm

The Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts some of the greatest art exhibits in New York City.  The museum’s vast size and structure makes it virtually impossible to see all of the exhibits in one day.  Just last Thursday, I went to the museum to see two particular exhibits:  African Art and Matisse: In Search of True Painting.  While very different from each other, both of these exhibits proved to be rather compelling.

While exploring the African Art exhibit, one piece of art immediately grabbed my attention.  I could not exactly decipher what the artist was trying to portray in his sketch, so it made me curiously stop and read the description.  The piece of art, known as “Seated Man Reading a Newspaper” was painted by the great European artist, Pablo Picasso.  It turns out that Picasso was influenced heavily by African Art and looked for ways to incorporate it into his style of European Art.  What struck me most about this work was the abstract nature of it.  The various geometric shapes and shadings give each viewer the ability to interpret it differently from the next.  But more importantly, it shows the significant impact that African Art had on many big name artists, like Picasso.

Seated Man Reading a Newspaper

At the time it was introduced, Negro Art was revolutionary.  It went against all the conventional methods of trying to depict everything according to scale.  The “Seated Man Holding a Vessel,” created by an unknown artist, epitomizes the idiosyncratic nature of this genre of art.  I really enjoyed this sculpture because of its unconventional features: from the large forehead, to the chinless head, all the way down to the narrow torso.  At times, part of being human is viewing things from radically different perspectives. By stepping outside of the norms (in this case European Art), we can ultimately appreciate the peculiar things of life, such as this early, 20th century wooden sculpture.

Seated Male Holding Vessel

After spending some time in the African Art exhibit, I moved onto Matisse: In Search of True Painting.  What I found interesting about Matisse is that he has an image in mind and recreates it over and over using a plethora of techniques.  Instead of calling the original works “drafts,” he values all of them equally in his quest for “True Painting.”  According to the first description on the wall, he valued the journey of reaching his finished product to be just as important as the final painting itself.   I think that’s important for him to recognize because we often just seek a destination, rather than the journey that accompanies it.

Although most of his work is done in doubles or triples, there is one particular scene that he recreates 15 times.  The scene is a woman with a variety of patterns on her clothing, duplicated until perfection was reached.  All 15 copies are hanging along one wall with the final, colored masterpiece in the center.  We know that as a painter, Matisse was lost and trying to discover who he truly was.  As his career progressed, he created more copies of the same work.  Just as many elderly people do, Matisse could have been trying to rekindle the greatness that once burned during the earlier years of his life.

The Dream
Photo Credit: Stan Honda / AFP

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India Trip

A cultural encounter is an experience that opens your eyes to a different style of living and helps you realize the reality of different communities or societies. Personally, I find that the most interesting and enlightening cultural encounters happen when one learns more about one’s own background. I’ve had such an experience.

Growing up in New York, my family and I still maintained close roots with our family in India. I would visit every year, flying straight to New Delhi and take the drive to the city of Jaipur, where my family lived. We rarely traveled outside because I only had a brief amount of time to spend with my grandparents and cousins before I had to return back to New York. One summer, my grandfather had made the executive decision that we should go on a family trip. He planned out with other members of my family a route passing several cities for about three weeks. Since I hadn’t ever heard of these cities and everyone, other my sister and I, was my grandparents age- I had no interest in going. I also had no choice.

A bunch of us booked out a few cabins on a train and we embarked for Bombay, the first stop of our trip. My parents joined us, but decided to stay in Bombay and return to Jaipur, while we carried on, on to South India.

While India is one country, after my trip, I maintain the stance that the North and South are very distinct areas. I was un aware to the different culture, language, and society until my trip there. I saw amazing sights from high mountains, had a spiritual experience in some of the most ancient and sacred temples, and tried amazing food that the South is known for.

While away, I had to remind myself that I was in India, because the different atmosphere made me feel as if I was abroad again. I was in such awe of what was going on around me that I hadn’t noticed that I was on a trip with my sister and my grandfathers siblings. It went to show me a few things. Mainly that one should keep an open mind to any endeavor, especially the unexplored. Additionally, it’s important to learn as much about the different people in this world, because even one’s neighbors can offer one a new perspective on society.

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