Author Archives: Alessandra Rao

Posts by Alessandra Rao

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.


The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Review

A profound and explicit exhibition at the International Center of Photography, Rise and Fall of Apartheid holds a magnifying glass up to the Apartheid, offering a multi-faceted view of South Africa in a span of 60+ years.Not only does it present the confrontational horrors of racial segregation and its tangible effects, but the collection of magazines, books, documentary clips, uncensored video, commercials and many other mediums present the every day life that adds up to form a culture. The photos and media are strung together to form a powerful narrative, classified into segments of a common theme. Two themes, the political and emotional response, and blacks in the media offered a bi-lateral perspective into Apartheid.

One talented photojournalist, Peter Magubane, set the scene for the political and emotional responses to segregation in South Africa, especially in the Soweto Uprising. The uprising was sparked by black students in 1976 in attempt to change the unjust, highly segregated school system.  Magubane’s photographs blur the line between aesthetic and documentary, while effectively conjuring feelings of pathos from viewers. He especially captures the chilling aftermath of the uprising with an image of a black person’s corpse covered by newspapers, with a desolate open palm in the foreground. The newspaper ironically reads “This, I believe, as a South African.” According to the description beside the photograph, dead bodies covered with newspaper filled the streets during the Soweto Riots in 1976. Another image by the same artist, depicting the funeral of Hector Pieterson, who was the first young victim of the Soweto Uprising, poignantly captures this family’s struggle by highlighting body language. Four individuals, side by sidestand behind the casket with raised right fists and bowed heads.

The Treason Trial, beginning in 1956 until 1961 was yet another tumultuous event of Apartheid; 156 people, including Nelson Mandela were arrested in a raid and accused of Treason. Photographs taken by Eli Weinberg and an unidentified photographer lay out a narrative that demonstrates the sociology of power, the strength of the force that results when the people band together to ignite change. Weinberg’s Crowd Near the Drill Hall on the opening day of the Treason Trial illustrates a historic moment by documenting the facial expressions of the subjects, the unity of the signs they are holding up, and how the entire frame is occupied by the crowd. Another powerful Weinberg photograph is featured in the exhibit, which shows a young Nelson Mandela in 1961 clad in traditional beads and a bedspread, hiding from the police. The subject’s expression is one of sincere dedication and nobility; the photographer captures his presence as a leader. Surrounding photographs are arranged chronologically, with a heavy emphasison crowds for this particular event. A photograph by an unnamed photographer shows an anxious, somber crowd behind a foreground of three white policemen. The crowd, which is mostly black with some whites, seem to be staring in unison in the same direction, at a distant spot behind the camera.

A German-born South African, Jurgen Schadeberg, takes a particular interest in the Black Sash, an anti-apartheid women’s group. In contrast to images of fiery crowds of the Soweto Uprising and the Treason Trial, adjacent images of the Black Sash appear to be funeral-like. Schadeberg captures grave faces, bowed heads and women holding a candle to their chests. This juxtaposition of images shows the stark differences of how certain crowds conduct protests. The women in his images wear black sashes and stand still in the frame like mannequins, frozen in time, as they passively hold up signs. The photographer makes a point in his photographs that this was a global cause, contributing to the exhibit’s theme of the sociological influence. An interesting choice that was made in curating the exhibit was to showcase the group rather than the individual. A crowd of women of the 29 ANC Women’s League are shown being arrested for breaking a law that prohibited them from entering township.

The exhibit cleverly weaves in an environment of the culture and everyday life that took place, despite the horror of the Apartheid. A long panoply of Drum Magazine covers lie in a glass showcase, a contrasting sight against the chilling images on the opposite end of the room. Drum Magazine is targeted to mainly black readers and contains market news, entertainment, and feature articles. Peter Magubane, who worked for the magazine, says, “Drum was a different home; it did not have apartheid. There was no discrimination in the offices of Drum magazine. It was only when you left Drum and entered the world outside of the main door that you knew you were in apartheid land. But while you were inside Drum magazine, everyone there was a family.” The brightly-colored covers featuring smiling black women seemed to belong to a different place and time period. In the next room, photographs of rebellious women in South Africa’s “jazz age” hung on the walls. The unnamed photographers captured photos of women with bare breasts, surrounded by men. This time period during the Apartheid showed women establishing a presence on the stage: some sang, others danced, and a few engaged in promiscuous acts. While Schadeberg’s images displayed a culture of reserved, noble women, this section of the exhibit portrayed women as objects of pleasure, entertainers.

Newspaper articles, drawings, journal pages, picture books, and other primary sources are on display in the exhibit, giving a 360 degree view of Apartheid. Posters, advertisements and guerilla marketing also make a presence, highlighting the business trends of the time. The International Center of Photography designed a show that exceeds photojournalism; it creates a highly realistic atmosphere that has the ability to bring viewers back to this historical time.

Rise and Fall of Apartheid at the International Center of Photography will be open for viewing until January 6, 2013.

BAM: House Divided, Experimental Hi-Tech Design Puts Form Before Function.

Inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, House/Divided is an experimental, multi-media theater piece that features video projections, documentary clips, live acting and a moving set. When a play defies the conventional by diving into the digital realm, it is easy to get lost in the limitless opportunities for innovation. House/Divided attempts to multitask with the chaos of technology. It puts form before function, a sacrifice that is somewhat foolish, especially since the subject matter, foreclosures and repossessions in Ohio, is already complicated in nature.

Rather than a narrative play that has a linear storyline with the rising action, climax, and falling action, House/Divided is more of a collage. The scene transitions, although not fluidly, between the present and the past, between metropolis and farmland. The starkness of the transitions gives off the notion that the playwright intended for the audience to observe different facets of the issue without following a focused, solid storyline. Although the breadth of technology used is quite remarkable, each feature seems to compete for the viewers’ attention as the Times Square advertisements do. The ‘live’ tickers, the webcam projections, the banker (Jess Barbagallo) on the side making phone calls, and the repeating background music adds to the high-tech experience, but it is rather overwhelming.  At one point, a projection of Alan Greenspan appeared, while an overlapping projection of a ticker quickly infiltrated the set with a rising sea of negative, red numbers signifying the major decreases in the stock market. It was a clever representation, but the underlying messages are politically charged, almost resembling propaganda. The problem with using technology is that glitches are more likely to happen. About halfway into the play, a part of a documentary clip was repeated. The superfluous use of technology in the banking scenes really only served the singular purpose of communicating that the debt crisis is, in itself, confusing, forceful and ubiquitous.

Amidst the serious subject matter, the script does include some humor through caricatures of bankers that make myriads of mortgage-related phone calls in a short amount of time and mockeries of automated recordings. The script incorporates some scenes of comedic relief that bring up economic annoyances that most people in the audience can relate to.

The “high-tech” quality of the play is much more emotionally powerful during the rural Ohio scenes than in the bank setting. While the acting and the set of the bank scenes appear fast-paced, machine-like, cold and opportunistic, we see the humanistic presence of rural Ohio. An image of a home with white shingles and many windows is projected onto the main, boxy structure of the set, giving the illusion that it is three-dimensional. Here, the use of technology seems more effective because the panels of the structure are translucent, allowing the viewer to see a cutaway with actors inside.  The first rural scenes look tranquil and beautiful, as nostalgic images of tall grass sweeping before the sunset are projected onto the panels—effective images that conjures the pathos. Further into the play, the tone becomes desolate and hopeless when the house is foreclosed. The panels are moved around by the repossession men, making the empty structure seem more like a house than a home, at this point.

Although we get a cutaway view into the house, it is almost futile since the panels are not transparent enough to see the facial expressions of the actors. Furthermore, the character voices telling their anecdotes is just as unsuccessful; the highly artificial Midwestern accents were more of a distraction than a set of believable monologues. Despite the unrehearsed accents, the narrator’s grave, whispery voice was at least an appropriate fit for the poetic narrations that supplemented the scene of the house on the verge of foreclosure. One chilling banjo (or ovation guitar) cover of Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend” arose from the shadows, and marked the beginning of the foreclosure. The deep, resonating strumming of the ballad created a poignant moment that is difficult to forget.

The play’s message would have been more successful if it did not go to the extremes to illustrate the debt crisis, but instead exhibited arguments from both sides. A clear focus and a simple design are the two things that a theater company must consider, especially when taking on the challenge of an experimental-digital medium.

House Divided played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from October 24, 2012 through October 27, 2012. For current and future productions at BAM, please visit

Holiday Marketing and Consumerism on 42nd Street

Retailers know how to get into your head. As consumers in this Capitalist economy, everywhere we go, we are bombarded with advertisements that crave our attention. Colors, sounds and textures are strategically placed so that they stimulate our senses. Art of this sort plays a crucial role in marketing because it has the power to subconsciously effect our decision making process—meaning, it might increase the amount of time a customer spends in a store, and time is money. Humans are naturally drawn to the center of displays, so the more expensive items are placed there. In addition, there is a deeper psychology to the colors red and green than just serving as a representation of the upcoming holidays. In fact, a Time Magazine article states that green “is an optimistic color associated with luck and wealth,” and red “stimulates and energizes.” The article also mentions that studies have shown that waitresses who wear red reported receiving 14% – 26% than waitresses wearing any other color. Music played in stores serves the role of providing a sense of happiness, comfort and nostalgia in customers. Most Christmas songs played on the radio have lyrics that somehow tie the holidays with spending—perhaps a subliminal message?

I am fascinated with the culture of American consumerism and marketing tactics that have the power to influence. My iPhone camera collected photos of all kinds of holiday décor and merchandise along 42nd street, from east to west, beginning in Grand Central and Ending in Times Square. The streets were saturated with crowds from every direction, carrying clusters of bags and boxes. Their eyes were tinted with the sparkling chaos of the window displays. As a street photographer, my objective is to investigate the visual psychology behind what lures consumers into shops on 42nd street, one of the most populated areas of New York City.

Inspired by Phillip Lorca-Dicorcia, I photographed with the intention of creating a dreamlike, surreal essence. However, the Leica (used by Lorca-Dicorcia) and the iPhone are quite different, so I focused on the aesthetics rather than the technical settings. Lorca-Dicorcia uses high contrast, paired with saturated colors and sometimes, reflections to create the impression of a transient, illusionistic moment. My intention in utilizing this style was to convey the message that these lights and decors seem to blur reality and time, and sometimes even seem to hypnotize consumers by bringing them to a place and time where they felt most comfortable and safe. In fact, many of the scenes in my series look like a ‘grandma’s house’ setting or a warm living room for that particular reason. I took close-ups because not too many people stop to observe the artistic facets of the décor. In wanted to photograph people, but that brought up quite a number of challenges.

First, I took several photos of people interacting with these objects, but most of them were out of focus, because the subjects often turned away when they noticed. It takes a great deal of courage and poise when photographing people, because a photographer can never accurately anticipate how they will react. The Dicorcia lawsuit brought up the case of the man who sued the artist because he was photographed and his image was displayed and shown in Lorca-Dicorcia’s exhibit Heads, so I wanted to be respectful of the privacy of those who happened to walk into my photographs. Similarly, the displays in retail stores and booths are often protected by copyright laws, so I was often stopped in the process. However, I simply moved on after being confronted and just went to another store. Taking a clear, focused photograph is rather difficult when you’re pretending to text.

Editing the photos allowed me to see them in a new light, and facilitated my intention to create a semi-surrealist series. Using iPhoto, I chose to make the hues deeper and create a higher contrast in most pieces. In addition, because half the images were taken after sunset, they came out rather dark so I raised the exposure. On a few pieces, I decided to alter the hue because color is probably the most crucial part of establishing a tone. For instance, I exaggerated “Lost Wallet” to be a deep blue with purple accents to communicate the sense of panic and desperation the woman must be feeling while rummaging through her bag. I added a sepia tint to “A Grand Central Evening” because I felt this monochromatic palette would convey the sense that this space is timeless. Here, I especially blackened the individuals to a mere silhouette since I’d rather bring more attention to the sociology of crowds and public spaces during a busy time of the year. The rest of the pieces are saturated to capture the presence of a strong energy.

My slideshow offers an inside perspective on how images can stimulate feelings. Each person who views it will establish their own personal tie to each scene, based on past experiences, religious views, etc. However, I hope that all my viewers will see merchandise in a new way the next time they walk into a store.

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“Punch Tom in the Face”

Yesterday morning at 6:30 AM I sprang out of bed, determined to get to my 10:20 Calculus class on time. Screw the stupid express bus, it goes 10 miles per hour on the Jersey Turnpike. It was the first time I took the train this semester, and to my chagrin, it breaks down, causing me to miss half my class. On the same night, I had to get off at a bus stop that was a 20 minute walk from my house (long story). Next to a creepy forest and a desolate gas station. In pitch-blackness.

The past couple of days—maybe weeks—I’ve been finding myself with my eyes on the ground, with not much of an appetite, and not much to say. I’ve been down, mainly because of my daily four hour commute.

But the story is not called “the sucky life of Alessandra.” I thought I had it bad, up until the moment I got off the bus today and saw what happened outside of a private high school. A cluster of boys in tan slacks and hulking coats lingered around the bus stop, laughing, texting, pushing each other’s backpacks. A party of three caught my attention. One wiry kid particularly felt the need to showcase his overtly large ego. With a sinister grin, he said, “Hey Paul, punch Tom in the face.” This ‘Paul,’ who stood facing forward waiting patiently for the bus, attempting to ignore the churlish demand, was about an inch shorter in height, and had the same amount of grace as a turtle, as he lugged a terribly large backpack-shell over his tense shoulders. Tom, I assumed, was the bully’s buddy from the way he smiled like a dumb horse.

“Punch Tom in the face.” He repeated.

“I’m not going to punch him in the face.” Paul let out an awkwardly fake snicker.


Paul stood there calmly.

“I could knock you out in a second you bitch.” A cacophony of snickers.

“So knock me out.” Paul said, undisturbed.

“Ha.” He attempted to save face. “Okay.”

Paul still faced the other way. The two boys were behind him.

About ten confusing seconds passed, then the kid took Tom’s bulky notebook out of his hand and called, “Yo Paul—”

Paul turned around, only to feel the pang of a notebook being smashed into his face at full speed. Loose papers flew out. His glasses were whipped to the floor, and he stood there, motionless. Without a sound.

Then, the boys’ cacophonous howls of laughter, followed by a distant “Oooh, is he okay?” and “Oh my God” from somewhere in the crowd. Someone picked up his glasses and tried to hand them to him but he was frozen in a state of shock. No tears, just emotionless.

And then I saw myself. I felt the embarrassment and the river of tears when I was constantly bullied in middle school. That throbbing wound in my gut and the pressure behind my ears. And it enraged me, even though I didn’t know any of them because nobody should ever have to go through that. It just leaves me with…why? What have you achieved by doing this? Bullying and cyber-bulling are so prevalent in our culture. Instead of yearning for unity, this social institution craves destruction. Drama. Misery. But why?

As I walked home I realized how selfish of me it was to feel bad for myself when someone is wishing they could escape the harassment and be somewhere far, far away.

This needs to stop.


Boats in Backyards

“In all my years I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like Katrina in New York,” my mother said as she looked outside. You’ll never know what it’s like until you’re forced to look it in the face.

From the car window, I had a view of a war zone. A heap of tree limbs mixed with sheet rock mixed with wood and nails blocked the roads. People with gray faces and deep set eyes entered through their garages and came back with sheet rock and ruined furniture to deposit onto the side of the street; emotionless, like slaves. Every gas station on the boulevard was bordered with orange cones. Desolate. As we turned onto the block where my grandparents reside, we slowed down to observe a large boat that gruesomely jut into the side of a house, laying on a heap of backyard fence. There were cars spread out in abnormal formations in the middle of the road, all of them weathered with sea water. Beneath the lopsided sign that read “Roma Street” were hills of hay from the ocean, rubble and sediment. A Mercedes was half buried under a pile of straw. On my grandma’s neighbor’s lawn was what looked like a brand new washing machine, tossed into the heap of garbage in the front lawn. Couches, end tables, shoes, coats, rugs, shards of glass. I stepped out of the parked car with caution, and stepped onto a sidewalk coated in yellow-brown mud.

Nonni’s neighborhood looked like a post-apocalyptic field. Inside, the hallway that used to smell like musty roses now smelled like putrid mold. Nonno’s shoes in the closet were wilting, soaked. The water mark was about four feet high; I couldn’t imagine it flooding their house at this height. Nonna used to have these gorgeous white knit pillows (very 70’s), but now they were sprawled across the floor, stained with brown. Plants knocked over, dirt everywhere. My childhood coloring books and drawings thrown like a piece of shit. Mom’s old typewriter face down on the floor. What hit me the most, however, was seeing Nonna’s garden in pieces–that was her pride, a project she had been working on for years.

Where do we begin? It’s a question that thousands of Staten Islanders are asking.

Laura is the tenant (a single mom) that lives downstairs. I saw her last month, but it looked like she had aged about 10 years. Her wrinkles traced heavy lines of gray on her skinny face. Hair frizzy, tired eyes. Victoria is her 17 year old daughter. She was one of the few people I know that always wore a smile. But her face, like her mothers, was dry, gray and aged. They waited out the storm and now regret it, Laura said. She motioned a hand, placing it midway up her thigh. “The water was up to here. Our brand new couch was floating like a raft.” Their mattresses were soaked, so they had to sleep over a friend’s house.

The mailman came by and I overheard his conversation with the neighbor. “I’m alright. I’m trying to deal with the loss of my sister.”

This is real. You’d never think this would happen to such a quiet, normal suburban neighborhood. We see those stories on TV and think, these things don’t happen to people like us. But they do, and at the worst of times. My family was very fortunate, but others were not so fortunate.

These Two Bozos Finally Found Waldo.

Wait…Waldo is a girl?! This changes everything….

Modern Photography in Four Perspectives

Since its debut in 1826, photography has come a long way. In fact, it was largely used by the wealthy in the form of studio portraits. A milestone in photography was the invention of the Daguerrotype, “a photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor” according to the Apple dictionary. These types of photographs were often identified by a gold frame around the perimeter. Then, in 1888, the first Kodak camera becomes available to the public—8 years after its inventor, George Eastman, sets up the company in Rochester, NY. The appearance of the Kodak camera was a catalyst in photography’s turning point from traditional to unconventional. The beginning of the 20th century conjured a new “face” of art. Known as modern photography, this experimental genre of sorts made a turbulent debut in a society that widely rejected it for some time. Four historical figures document the complicated integration of modern photography into the mass media, and explore commercialism versus fine art.


A letter entitled The Paths of Modern Photography from Alexander Rodchenko to Boris Kushner, a critic and theorist attempts to explain the need to turn away from “stereotypes” and “false realism” by accepting what is now known as the “candid” shot. In his letter, Rodchenko describes the monotony of conventional photography as having only two static perspectives: what he calls “from the belly button level or the eye level.” The value of his experimental style was challenged because it deviated from the norms. He strongly believed that photography should encompass “the most interesting viewpoints,” according to him, which are “from above down and from below up.”


Rodchenko’s letter, along with a 1951 magazine article written by Bernice Abbott, both express the value of the candid shot in documenting honest, real events and viewpoints. While Rodchenko encourages new perspectives, Abbot stresses a photograph’s purpose to record a real, truthful moment in time. They both frown upon the media’s tendency to portray the “pretty,” “picturesque” and “unreal”; Rodchenko believes that an aesthetically-pleasing,  staged picture does not offer a “new perspective” to the viewer. “Photographs of everyday, familiar subjects from completely unexpected vantage points and in completely unexpected positions” was this new perspective in his words. Abbot views the photograph as a documentary whose responsibility is to make a statement of the now.


Ken Light, in Central America and Human Rights: an Interview with Susan Meiselas, extends the role of photography as a documentary: “I have come to believe that documentary photography offers a voice to the dispossessed and a view of the past to future generations.” Like Abbott, Light felt that his duty as a photographer is to document what he saw as history, but his contributions proved to be another milestone in modern photography. Light’s photographs of Nicaragua were marked by establishing relationships with the people of a community to “get a sense from them as to what was going on.” This is a cornerstone of modern photojournalism that we see today in some of the most world-renowned newspapers. In his essay, he explains that newspaper photographers are forced to depict certain kinds of stories, whereas he was capturing the world he was seeing. This relates back to the value of the candid shot, which Abbot emphasized. Unlike the traditional “eye-level”, “staged” photographs that Rodchenko described in his letter to Kushner, Light’s photographs were marked by Light’s immersing himself in the realness of the events he captured.


Larry Sultan presents yet another “face” of modern photography. In its earliest stages, photography was used to depict a wealthy family, generally presented in a flattering manner. Sultan instead points out the familiar, yet he intended for the gruesome reality of old age, culture and drama. His photographs offer a sociological viewpoint, in which he steps back from the expected and typical. He described his photographs as “evidence,” and files the majority of them into boxes. In his essay, he writes about how his father frowning upon the thousands of photos. In addition, the photographs of his family make them look “older and more despairing than [they] really feel,” according to his father. Like Abbott, he strongly believed in the notion of photographing the now, or “stopping time,” as he puts it.


5 Photography Terms


Panorama – an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer

Emulsion – a light-sensitive coating for photographic films and plates, containing crystals of a silver compound dispersed in a medium such as gelatin.

Aperture – a space through which the light passes in an optical or photographic instrument

Grain – a granular appearance of a photograph or negative, which is in proportion to the size of the emulsion particles composing it

Saturation – the intensity of a color, expressed as the degree to which it differs from white


Vantage – a place or position affording a good view of something

Carmen: A Bull That is Yet to Be Tamed

In Spain, the men try to tame bulls. In New York’s Metropolitan Opera, they try to tame Carmen.

Built upon the fervent, feisty, cunning title character, Carmen is a three-hour-long opera that dives headfirst into the profound struggle between love and jealousy; manipulation and destiny. The Met’s revival of Georges Bizet’s 1875 production marks the merging of opera and theater, with the hefty, Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili as its centerpiece.

She makes her loud debut in Act I, when she first appears strutting out of a cigarette factory in Seville, Spain. Against the other factory girls—all thin and dainty and clad in mute earthy pastels—Ms. Rachvelishvili produces a sultry voice that flutters gracefully between the highs and lows, although far from clean and proper. It provides quite a contrast against the tender, pallid voice of Kate Royal, who plays Micaela, a peasant girl.

The environment captivates the audience as much as Rachvelishvili’s stage presence does. The walls, a glowing cerulean blue, and a circular arrangement of weathered arches gives the set a Mediterranean palette, which is an excellent visual supplement to the libretto, which is sung in French. The costumes of the soldiers (which, by the way marched in perfect unison in the beginning of Act 1), the townspeople and the buoyant crowd of children was a cluster of olive, khaki, and pale pastels. Although some blend in with the weathered arches, it allows for the eye to easily spot Carmen, even for someone sitting in the very last row of the house. In addition, the set opens and closes with a translucent red lightning bolt on a black background—a classy trademark.

One of the most powerful scenes in the performance unfolds when Carmen throws a rose at Don Jose (Yonghoon Lee), a corporal and Micaela’s beau. It serves as a foreshadowing of a strong theme: love kills. The drama heightens as Carmen’s voice is infiltrated with power and dignity, as she dominates Don Jose in this scene. Conductor Michele Mariotti coordinated a symphony that brought a trance to the swaying, almost hypnotized movements of the men surrounding Carmen.

Act II was anything but bland; here we are introduced to Escamillo the bullfighter. Kyle Ketelsen is poised and plays the part of Escamillo with duende; his voice takes on a rich, deeply vibrant texture, especially in Act II when he flirts with Carmen. His wiry bone structure paired with Carmen’s full-figure makes for an interesting dialogue in the chemistry of their body languages. Carmen reaches yet another high point when she performs the gypsy dance. Clad in a beautiful, Spanish bohemian-style skirt, she and other gypsies light up the stage with a sultry unified suave in their step. Although Carmen is the dominant figure in most of the first two acts, Don Jose rises up with an assertive, masculine resonance in his baritone voice; we see Carmen conveying intimidation as her voice settles down to a passive, yet rich alto. For a moment, the audience is swept away by the subtle fragility in Don Jose’s tone as he attempts to prove his love for Carmen, and again when he first discovers that his mother is dying.

Act IV, the last and shortest act is one that suggests a powerful metaphor: the bull. Although the set could have been represented more clearly as a bullfighting arena, it was nonetheless bustling with the collective energy of the actors. In this act, we see the steepest change in Don Jose, as his character goes from collected to passionate to desperate. The drama reaches its peak when Carmen’s foretold fate begins to unfold: her voice is shrill, movements striking and tense (appropriately) as she finally proves to Don Jose that she no longer loves him. The final scene, after a chilling (but not melodramatic) death scene, is a striking revelation of a fallen, powerful symbol. The stage is drenched in brilliant red lightthis scene, and then the curtain closes, leaving the audience with a gruesome image of jealousy.

“Carmen” runs through March 1 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center; (212) 362-6000,

Fall For Dance Program III : a conglomeration of cultures

One word of advice: if you’re hungry, do not see Fall For Dance, Program III’s “Grand Pas” from Paquita. The ballet suits, which resemble peachy-pastel-colored pastries, topped with berry colored embroideries may result in your involuntary contribution of stomach growling to therecorded classical music.  Other than that, it was a tastefulintroduction piece from Ballet West.


Artistic Director, Adam Sklute’s piece opened the October 2nd on Tuesday with a panoply of Russian ballerinas, each painted with a smile (although many looked strained).There is quite the resemblance between the set and a classic Degas ballerina painting—the pinkish palette seemed to blend into impressionism. The two stars of the show made quite a not-so-subtle debut. Christiana Bennett, with her strikingly beautiful vermillion hair, plays the princess, with Rex Tilton as the prince. While there seemed to be a placidenergy current flowing through each of the dancers, there was an evident lack of being in sync. Calves and forearms slightly out of place were palpable against Bennett and Tilton’s fairytale poise and impressive strength. However, there was a lack of chemistry between the two—in one instance, he lifted her with great power, yet with daintycaution, as if she were made of porcelain. Otherwise, his figure was soft and suave. Bennett reached her peak, stole the show, when she delivered a remarkable pirouette of more than 10 consecutive spins on a perfectly arched, silk-clad foot. Roaring applause swept through the audience.  


“High Heel Blues” appeared in a quite contrasting atmosphere after a short break. The jazziness unfolded like a purple ribbon to the swaying and twirling and careless sweeping unpredictability of the dance. A shoe-obsessed woman, Yusha Marie Sorzano, and a cunning salesman, Uri Sands were the two sole characters. Dancing amidst a color palette of glum, earthy shades like an evening in a lonely city, Sorzano made herself the focal point of the piece in an unflatteringly chunky, below-the-knee skirt. A deep velvety alto voice narrated the scene (courtesy of Tuck and Patti); it drew me into the story more than the body language of the dancers did. The style of dance was sloppy and sluggish, giving off the notion that the woman was hypnotized by the charms of the salesman. However,the lazily curvaceous and weighty spinning was often not in sync with the jazzy, sultry rhythm that rolled off the voice.Uri Sands as a choreographer sacrificed the design of the dance by putting more emphasis on utilizing the full area of the stage. The audience did, however, get a good laugh from the whimsical lyrics.


‘Whimsical’ was the opposite of the third performance of the first act, entitled “Tarian Malam (Night Dances).” A curtain rose, revealing men and women in roomy, red and black martial arts costumes—a decision that communicated a theme of “fight.” The stark, dramatic overhead lighting created a serious atmosphere in which there was minimal movement for much of the beginning. Not only was this piece—by Nan Jombang Dance Company—abstract, but it depended heavily on the actions of the individual dancers, instead of the collective frame, to communicate a message that seemed rather vague and curious. According to the program, “traditional dance and martial arts” was used “to create a contemporary narrative about the earthquake that struck the region [West Sumatra, Indonesia] in 2009, which explains the desperate shaking, the slow motion movement, the numbing vocalizations that resembled ritualistic chants. Without this vital piece of information, the act seemed unconnected and tense. Sudden jerking movements within slow episodes, such as when one female dancer quickly leaped onto the back of a male dancer and attached herself like a leech, did not contribute to clarifying the story. Most of the dancers delivered a passionate, organic performance more towards the end of the piece, when each pounded on different sized drums. The collective rhythms, accompanied by the dancers’ chilling howls gave off an aura of icy gray desperation; a muted, blunt energy. Paradoxically it was a clash between civilized and savage and the predominant emotion conveyed served as a symbolic, psychological view of the turmoil caused by the earthquake.


The second half of Program III was presented by MoiseyevDance Company, led by artistic director, ElenaShcherbakova was divided into four parts. “Kalmyk Dance” was the first, followed by “Tatarotchka”, “Dance of the Bessarabia Gypsies” and “Suite of the Moldavian Dances.” Moiseyev Dance Company outshined the others, as its acts were bustling with energy and marked by quick, meticulous footwork. The first act was a cultural visit to the nomads “near the mouth of the Volga River”, according to the program. Roman Ivashchenko was a powerhouse—his hands and shuffling feet, which fluttered effortlessly, conjured smiles across the audience. The costumes were elaborate and well designed, instantly giving off the “village” theme. Excellent posture, genuine smiles and precision were the ingredients that made this act spectacular. The last act, “Suite of the Moldavian Gypsies” brought the night’s performance to a close with its heartwarming unity and colorful disposition. This large group, diverse, folk dance is called “Zhok.” The curtain descended, and the act left the audience with a burst of energy to take home.

Dancer or Artist? A Spotlight on Jody Sperling

An avid connoisseur of dance and the avant-garde performer Loie Fuller, Jody Sperling gave a keen lecture on October 4th at Baruch College’s building on 17 Lexington Avenue.

Sperling has been the artistic director of Time Lapse Dance since its start in 2000. She attended Wesleyan University, where she earned a BA in dance and Italian, and holds an MA in performance studies in NYU, according to her website, She opened the 2 hour-long lecture with images and video clips from her company’s past performances, whose style is heavily influenced by Loie Fuller. Via her iPad, the multimedia presented beautiful modern dance categorized by ethereal, fluent movement that is sculpted and manipulated by light. Sperling explains the extent to which the transformation of light projections and color plays an important role in creating the illusion of abstract objects like flowers, water, fire, patterns, and animals like the snake in the famous “snake dance” by Fuller. The stage is a canvas in which she fully utilizes the light projections and sweeping spinning movements to “sculpt” a perpetually moving piece of art.

In one video clip shown, she twirls, arms creating grand sweeping movements, on a box that projects red, orange and yellow lights. Superfluous, lush fabric creates an environment around the dancer that envelops her, making the shape of the body nondescript, she says. Sometimes, there may be bilateral lights of two different colors that play with each other on the abundant ripples of the fabric, which is often white. Green and blue lights combined with fluent movement might mock the essence of an ocean, for instance. Sperling explains how sticks, used as invisible extensions of the arms, are responsible for creating the grand movements, which can be attributed to Fuller. The use of mirrors is sometimes incorporated into the performance, as the running dancers disappear and then instantly reappear. It gives off a kaleidoscopic, transcendental experience.

Sperling allotted a significant part of her lecture to describing the heavy influence of Fuller’s signature “Snake Dance.” It is created by waving the stick extensions, attached to the thick layers of fabric, in a cycle of oscillations. The trail of fabric in motion creates the illusion of a slithering snake. This is one of the factors that caused Fuller’s fame to escalate, which also spurred the rise of impersonators. According to Sperling, the Snake Dance was actually first performed in front of a live audience in France by an impersonator. Sperling showed students old art deco posters advertising the dance, explaining that there are no actual images or video of the real Loie Fuller performing.

Sperling is the definition of a visual artist, just as she is the definition of a dancer. She embraces every facet of visual art, while drawing inspiration from history, to create an impressionable work. Aside from blood, sweat and tears, donations are what keep the company alive, she explains. Visit her website to buy tickets or to donate.



The One Who Waved Back

They say New York is a lonely city. Yeah, I could definitely relate. As a native New Yorker, I notice too, the people on the streets looking out for themselves, never looking away from their straight path, the nonchalant brushing of bags and people rarely saying “excuse me” or “sorry”. It seems like none of the natives take a second to crack a smile at a street dancer or spark small talk on the train. I could be like that too a lot of times.

I was on the x1 bus on my way back home. It was a little past nine and I was on the phone with a friend to pass the time. He told me to hold on one second. I quickly glanced outside. Double take–next to my bus was another bus bustling with excited tourists looking right at me. The seating arrangement was not the usual—they sat facing the window, like a mini movie theater. It was like they were watching a live movie through the glass, and I happened to be right in the frame. The moment they caught my eye, I was greeted by a sea of hands all waving at me. Enthused looks. Some fingers pointed to acknowledge that I was looking. I’ve never seen a cluster of people so excited to see me. So, I’m not a big fan of tourists (especially ones who ask me where the “yellow line” is) but I decided to be a good sport and I waved back, flashed a smile and a thumbs up! They mirrored my thumbs up all together.

What the hell–life is short and this is the greatest city in the world. At that very moment in their live movie, I was the face of New York City. I hoped, in this small “act”, that I would at least be one example to prove that ”lonely city” paradigm wrong. And even though to them I’m just a “real live New Yorker” and even though they don’t know a thing about me, it still generated a great feeling–being acknowledged, amidst the crazy hazy blur of this 8-million people city. Maybe they’ll go home with this cultural encounter that they experienced, from the outside looking in, laughing about that New Yorker who actually waved back.

The Train Driver Review

When we hear a TV broadcaster say “suicide by train,” we suddenly tune in to get the details. The reporter goes on to tell the facts about the victim. We find out the victim’s name, possibly why he or she decided to jump into the tracks, and maybe some words from friends or family. Did you ever hear what the train driver has to say about it?

Playwright Athol Fugard pries into a subject as sensitive as suicide in The Train Driver, but turns the victim’s seat so that we observe a point of view that is not widely discussed: that of the white train driver in the era of apartheid.  He plays the role of a journalist, extracting the basis of his story from a newspaper article: a black woman carrying her three children (in the play, she only has one child) steps into the track where a train is approaching and the white driver kills her. Fugard hands us a magnifying glass, allowing us to observe the aftermath from Roelf’s (Ritchie Coster) perspective. So no, we don’t actually see the accident, for those of you who are into gore. We encounter the two characters, Roelf and gravedigger, Simon (Leon Addison Brown) in an eerie graveyard setting—a small, dimly lit field of sand sprinkled with pieces of shiny rock, empty plastic bottles, shards of glass, hubcaps, abandoned wires and other miscellaneous items that are meant to represent graves in this poor squatter village.  A half-view of Simon’s shabby hut barely stands upright and a junkyard car on the left completes the scene. The set, which remains stagnant for the entirety of the play, is not only tragically beautiful, but mirrors the yearning, lonesome voices of both characters.

The audience is introduced to Roelf with a thick Afrikaans accent, thick enough to make you lean your ear further in, trying to guess what he just said.  The character was wonderfully realistic, but at a cost—it left me trying to fill in the blanks. To some, it may be a foolish sacrifice because his words are crucial to understanding the underlying change in the train driver’s psyche. However, Coster’s breadth of emotions, from ragingly aggressive, to painfully vexed, to unpredictably skittish, to hopeless, gives us a multi-faceted look into his dynamic psyche. His first dialogue with Simon consists of Roelf frantically demanding Simon to find the woman’s grave. He exerts his rage onto the dead woman for ruining his life, but his attitude towards her changes gradually. While Roelf is the firework, Simon is the glass of water. Although we meet Simon first, singing a sad jazz tune in his native tongue, he is dominated by Roelf’s boldness. Also bearing a thick, coarse accent (and a rather realistic limp), his character reads “frazzled, impartial grave digger.” Unfortunately, because too much of the play relies on dialogue, it may fail to capture the interest of young children or people who do not understand English very well.

Although Fugard successfully brings up issues about this racially sensitive topic, he is not so successful in how he decides to end the story. It is a rather abrupt, unnecessary attempt to bring the play to a final close.

The Train Driver played at the Signature Theater until September 23rd.

I <3 Faces

It’s true. I am so fascinated by faces. It’s my favorite thing to draw and paint, but this time I’m going to explore a different facet through photography. Except I’m not going to take any pictures of human faces. Instead, I’ll take a picture of anything man-made that looks like one. Every day, we walk by still-life that is a caricature of the humans that made it. Eyes don’t have to be round. They can be square, triangular, star-shaped, etc. Mouths don’t have to be depicted with a line. I’m going to capture every “face” that has some sort of expression. The more dramatic, the better. I guess you can say it’s my spoof on “face-recognition” technology, which is not always accurate.

Oh, and if faces start appearing on the street on your way to school, don’t blame me.


It’s Thursday night. As I approach 5th avenue right before central park, I see the inevitable crowd. It’s a sea of faces-some illuminated with delightful anticipation, some crusting with a lack of sleep. Some nestled under cozy quilts. Some bubbling with energy. The perpetual chatter lights up the avenue with all kinds of crazy stories, questions, deep dreams, partyers, crowd-pleasers, drunkards, nerds, black people, white people, beige, orange, purple and the occasional shameless dancing-lunatic-weirdo. “Party Rocker” boomed out of a stereo system, competing with the sound of two 20-something girls near the back violently barking at each other about who was ahead of who. A reporter and his camera man hover around the bustling crowd. “How long have you been waiting here for?” He asks a group of guys. “Seven hours.” A bystander walking down the block turns to her friend and says, “Wow. All this for a phone.” Within 10 minutes, the line had wrapped around several blocks. I can’t think of a more interesting way to learn about business, sociology and calculus than to stand and watch thousands of people lining up for the iPhone 5.

1. I learned how marketing makes people feel that they “have to have it first” – tv-ads-physics

2. I learned how technology brings thousands of strangers together

3. And most importantly, I learned “at what rate, in people per second, is the crowd accumulating when f(x) = (25cos(x) – 60pi (tan(4x))/(5.328x – sqrt71)

Just kidding.

Welcome to the technological revolution. We are dots and numbers on a timeline that will go in a history book to eventually represent ‘the generation of iPeople’.  Yes, I envy the people who got to live through the ‘bodacious 60’s’ and the Disco Decade, but nothing compares to seeing first-hand the phenomenon that’s taking place in the dawning of the 21st century. iPhones, iPads, MacBooks are everywhere. In Starbucks you’ll see people writing their novels on their laptops while nonchalantly sipping an iced Caramel Macchiato. No offense to anyone who uses address books, but who uses them anymore? When someone asks for your number, they will most likely hand you their phone. And then you see 5-year-old kids on the train keeping busy with Angry Birds as their mothers read 50 Shades of Grey on the Kindle or iPad. Even in our very own Baruch BUS1000H lecture hall, a sea of silver MacBook Pros light up the room, all aligned like windows of a building at night. A few years ago I read an article about an author whose handwriting became completely illegible because he wrote everything with the keyboard. It makes me wonder—how long until pencils and paper become totally obsolete?

Technology fascinates me.

Technology fascinates toddlers too, apparently. Whenever I babysit my cousins, I have to make an extra effort to hide my iPhone from my four year old cousin. Otherwise, she will hog it for literally two hours and spam my camera with photos from Camwow, an app that distorts photos to make them look funny. So if I hear perpetual hysterical laughter for an abnormal amount of time, it is a certain indication that my phone has been hijacked.

The first time I babysat Joey (from a different family), he pulled me over to look at his dinosaurs. He took his daddy’s iPad off the charger and pulled up a picture book of dinosaur diagrams with no words. “That’s Brachylophosaurus. That’s Stegosaurus. Giganotosaurus….” And he continued to leave me in awe as he pronounced the names perfectly from his memory. Oh, and he’s about six. That moment lowered my self-esteem to a sad level.

Fact of the matter is, this 21st century American culture is immersed in the technology era. It’s interesting every now and then to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the city to simply observe how connected we all are. And how silly we are.

It’s Not Rocket Science

This story is a personal one, mentioning my thoughts about certain people I encountered who had some kind of impact on me. It’s about a design contest I entered and how a failure turned out to be an eye-opening experience.


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The many meanings of “Baruch”

The other day, I bought a Baruch sticker to put on my car window. I peeled it off, and proudly stuck it on the freshly windexed glass. Now everyone on Staten Island will know that the girl in the red Volkswagen Jetta goes to Baruch. My nonna, or “grandma” was beside me, and I asked in Italian, “Hey Nonna, do you know what college I go to?” She thought for a second. “eh, no.”

“I go to Baruch.”

“pah-acka” I giggled at the sound of her struggling. She did too.

“Bah-ruke” I phonetically emphasized.

“Parrucca!” She exclaimed. I laughed even harder this time because that means “wig” in Italian. Now every time I tell someone I go to Baruch, or walk into Baruch, I can’t help but imagine myself walking into a giant, hairy wig. Thanks Nonna.

Apparently, “Baruch” gets confused with other things too. I was telling this story to a classmate, and he told me his mother asked him, “you’re going to a Baroque music school?”

“So, Alessandra. What college are you going to?” When I answered my family friend who was visiting from outside the country, he asked, with a puzzled expression, “eh? Bar-uhck Obama College? Good for you!”

Apparently, to other cultures and tongues, Baruch can mean a number of things. What does “Baruch” mean to me? A wonderful, state-of-the-art college that is full of open doors and hundreds of unique cultures. Despite the confusion, I am proud to have this name gracing the window of my car.  But I’m also glad that people associate it with the president of the United States, an ornately sophisticated genre of music, and a wig.

By the way, you can click here to listen to how “Baruch” is pronounced in Italian:

5 Critical Theater Terms

Comic relief– comic episodes in a dramatic or literary work that offset more serious sections.

Shakespeare often incorporated episodes of comic relief in his plays, even after very serious, heavy scenes. 

Diction – the choice and use of words and phrases in speech or writing.

The actor’s diction, consisting of choppy words, stuttering, and terse phrases, indicated that he was playing a skittish character. 

Pantomime – To act out very physically without using words; a style of acting that is most often utilized in Children’s Theatre.

To help the little students better understand Spanish, she pantomimed “el coche” by pretending she was turning an imaginary steering wheel. 

Fly System:  A system of rigging and ropes that is used to raise and lower scenery within on stage, operated by hand or mechanically from backstage.

“The acting was utterly mediocre compared to the way you handled that fly system,” said the New York Times reporter to me. “how did you manage to lift the curtain at such a perfect speed?” 

Fourth Wall: The imaginary divide that separates the audience from the performance space.

We all gasped as the actor burst through the fourth wall and into the front row, where he boldly embraced a member of the audience. 


Pit: The area, usually below the front part of the stage, where the orchestra is set up to play the music for a live performance.

The loud, clashing sounds produced by the pit orchestra below the stage added to the intensity of the suicide scene. 


I apologize in advance: my memory is hazy and I am not familiar with the names/procedures of certain religious practices.

My father owns a small tailor shop in Soho, where I worked every so often after school. One night, just around closing time, he got tangled in a situation that required him to stay longer. To pass the time, I grabbed my Ibanez and went to the back, behind the forest of dry cleaned clothes, to play. I strummed away a little song I wrote. When I finished, an unexpected clapping sounded in the front. Kauser, the artisanal tailor from Bangladesh, paused his hem job and walked over. “Ali, you sing biutiful,” he told me, through a reverent nod of approval and his thick Bengali accent. “You wrote?” I nodded sheepishly. “I write song too, Ali.” “I’d love to hear it.” He cackled through a set of perfect, white teeth and the brown skin around his eyes wrinkled. “First you must teach me guitar!” He said, as he rummaged through a shabby collection of clothing scraps, books and other miscellaneous belongings in the back. Kauser pulled and a strange instrument emerged from all the junk. It had the same basic structure as a guitar, except its body had an egg-like shape, with a very long, thin neck. I don’t remember how many strings it had; it was more than six. The imperfections in the wood were particularly beautiful. “Play song,” he said. “Which song?” “Doesn’t matter. I follow you. Teach me.” As he said it, he pulled out a thin blanket-rug and spread it across the floor. He invited me to sit. We both sat cross legged facing each other. The pattern on the carpet looked like Arabic symbols. I was puzzled because the instrument was clearly not a guitar, so I didn’t understand how he expected to learn from me. However, I experimented by starting with a G Major chord. This chord has a ‘happy’ tone to it. Kauser strummed his instrument, which let out a dazzling ring that echoed in the small space. It was not a G chord, but nonetheless, the two guitars sounded harmonious. “Play song,” he repeated. I played some chords that I knew went well together, and he strummed back with his multi-string guitar instrument. He closed his eyes and rocked to the slow beat. I noticed it was dark outside. I closed my eyes as well, and also attempted to feel it. After a while we were both strumming passionately and he began to sing. It was an exotic tune, a piece of the Bengali wind that he carried with him deep in his vocal chords. I could imagine the myriads of different euphonic notes vibrating in his throat as he delivered each one so delicately. It was not a powerful voice, but a voice of humble duende. I found myself playing chords that I knew, yet didn’t knew, because each new sound was a facet of an unraveling creation. Being immersed in these beautiful foreign sounds was a transcendental poem.

Here I was, and there was Kauser sitting on the same rug, two different cultures, two related instruments, and somehow making a new, harmonious sound. The encounter was a lesson that all art speaks the same language. It is the instrument of culture.

Comments by Alessandra Rao

"Great piece. Never thought you could be so rebellious! Haha, just kidding. I liked your story and it was interesting to read about your observations on what is considered the "norm" around you. It's nice to know that you found a sense of individuality through creativity and music. I feel that way too, especially when playing guitar. Music is a really great way to express creativity without being held back."
--( posted on Dec 12, 2012, commenting on the post Struggle Between Cultures )
"Nice job on building the anticipation. Haha. I agree completely. Kids are so addicted to technology! When I babysit, my little cousin steals my phone and drains my battery by spamming my photos with pictures of herself. And she's three..."
--( posted on Dec 9, 2012, commenting on the post Is Technology Destroying our Culture? )
"That's really funny! I heard so many stories of how people are so social outside of New York. My Japanese friend told me that it is an insult to not sit next to someone in an empty movie theater in Japan, even if you don't know them. I agree with you and John that we might find it so strange here in NYC when someone randomly starts talking to us. John's story reminded me of something: I was in Starbucks the other day, carrying a painting, but it was facing towards me so it was mostly covered. I was a little surprised when an old woman asked me to turn around the canvas so that she could see the painting..haha. And then I was saved by the employee behind the counter who asked what I would like. Oh, and great post by the way!"
--( posted on Dec 9, 2012, commenting on the post Encountering a Southern Attitude )
"Great post! Really fun to read, haha. I have no idea why, but in my head, I imagined this man having a British accent. I also like how you put the dialogue in a "me" and "man" format, it makes it a lot more fluid. I agree with Sam that people rarely stop to ask questions to talk to people because everyone seems to be in a I guess you must have made an impression on that man, haha. Good for you."
--( posted on Dec 9, 2012, commenting on the post What Was Your Name Again? )
"Yes, I believe it did, especially because of how the stage designers treated the set. I also thought Carmen's acting was just as powerful."
--( posted on Dec 8, 2012, commenting on the post Carmen: A Bull That is Yet to Be Tamed )
"The image of the bar really struck me. I feel terrible for the owner.I agree with you when you say that listening to other people's stories makes you grateful for what you have. It's very true because a hurricane like this can take everything away in hours, maybe minutes. Good luck to the Brown Cross. Their cause is a noble one and I'm sure that they are very appreciated."
--( posted on Nov 11, 2012, commenting on the post Hurricane Sandy: Staten Island Edition )
"I find it a little strange how Christie postponed it to Monday. I wonder how many people will actually go along with that. During Halloween, only one trick-or-treater came to my house! With my power and internet out for four days, the last thing on my mind was getting candy for the little kids. However, I felt so bad because I had to tell her that we had no candy after she looked so excited that we opened the door. I saw that her basket was empty, but I'm not surprised. Staten Island got hit really, really bad and I highly doubt that anyone around here was in a Halloween mood. Nice post by the way :)"
--( posted on Nov 2, 2012, commenting on the post Hurricane vs Halloween )
"The way you wrote this so vividly really conveyed the humor. I actually laughed too at "RETCH." Haha. There is a lot of truth in this post. Sometimes we don't even notice the little accent mistakes in others, and sometimes it just can't be ignored. My grandpa speaks very little English. He picked up on the language only because my brother and I speak English to him (because sometimes we get lazy and don't feel like speaking Italian). One day, when we were little, he meant to say "go play with the boys and girls" but instead he said "go play with the poison eels." That's still our favorite thing to tease him about."
--( posted on Nov 2, 2012, commenting on the post What Do You Mean You Don’t Know Perfect English? )
"I guess those two men really underestimated Sandy. I can completely relate because I never thought I would experience something this bad. I remember seeing the effects of Katrina on the news, and I definitely felt bad, but nobody ever really knows what its like until it happens to them. When I went to the supermarket today, I also saw incredibly long lines, like those at Staples on that day in september before the first day of school. In Staten Island and Jersey and other suburban areas in the tri-state area, the lack of gas is causing a lot of people to panic. Some people still do not have power here, and their generators are running out of gas...for the first time ever, I saw people waiting on lines to get gas instead of cars."
--( posted on Nov 2, 2012, commenting on the post Sandy’s Two Sides )
"It was brave of you to write that. It's amazing how significant jeans are in our culture. I'll admit I'm one of those people that wear jeans 95% of the time, but I don't understand why people would go as far as to ask you why you didn't wear them. Ironically, this is supposed to be a free country, where people have a right to choose what to wear. I like your ending sentence because it reminds me of how, in some countries, clothing is a major part of religion. The deeper thought behind this post is that some people religiously follow unwritten rules in fashion, despite all the choices we have."
--( posted on Oct 10, 2012, commenting on the post A Pair of Jeans )
"I am so sorry to hear that....and how ironic--out of all places, a theif decides to steal in a holy place. Luckily you didn't have a laptop in there. Getting robbed is such a terrible feeling regardless. A few years ago I was in Florida and I left my bag somewhere in a supermarket. In there was my camera, wallet, and a lot of money. I spent hours looking all over for it in the supermarket, convinced that it was gone forever. Then I went to the back office, hopeless, yet I still asked if anyone brought in a purse. To my surprise, some kind person actually brought it back, with everything in there, including all my money. Did you ask around the church or the office to se if anyone brought back your bag? It's possible."
--( posted on Oct 10, 2012, commenting on the post A Holy Place Destroyed. )
"That's so cool - I had no idea that Epcot had all those things, but now I definitely want to go there. Great descriptions. I feel like that's kind of how New York City is, in a way- you could "visit" a number of countries within a 30 blocks. Which country were you most impressed with?"
--( posted on Sep 18, 2012, commenting on the post Many Cultures, One Place )
"Interesting piece. The visual aspect was very vivid and it had some great writing elements. It is very unfortunate that you came across such racism, but the second situation was actually pretty funny."
--( posted on Sep 18, 2012, commenting on the post Racism in Brooklyn )
"That's hilarious! Actually, when I went to read a poem I wrote at a poetry contest, one of the poems was exactly about this situation, with that word! It won 2nd place. I think you could definitely relate to it. You can read it here (scroll to page 20, on the bottom) I can only imagine how embarrassing that was ! Haha. P.S. A poem I wrote is in there too, if you're curious! Haha. That's on the bottom of page 13."
--( posted on Sep 18, 2012, commenting on the post THE Word )
"Yes, I was being sarcastic too. :)"
--( posted on Sep 10, 2012, commenting on the post Another France story )
"That must have been a cool experience! Maybe the lady sensed that you both had Tiashanese in common....somehow. I feel like the Chinese dialects could parallel with the Italian dialects, like Sicilian, Calabrese, Napoletano, etc. Sicilian is relatively hard to speak, compared to Italian. My family is from Sicily and we speak both Sicilian and Italian, but the dialect is becoming less and less popular. Your post reminded me of the times when I hear Sicilians speaking, like in the Supermarket, or a bus stop, etc, and I smile too because it reminds me that people like us are still out there! Haha. I'm interested in the geographical part of it. Are these dialects so different because the regions are separated by topographical barriers, like mountains and rivers? I know that's the case for Italy. Mountain ranges isolate regions like Calabria, and that is how the dialect was formed. It would be really great if you could upload a map of the village in China where you are from. :)"
--( posted on Sep 9, 2012, commenting on the post Cultural Encounter )
"What a beautiful description! I can tell that imagery is your forte from your posts. I really admire Ancient Roman art/architecture. This post reminds me of some passages in this really expensive Art History textbook that I have. You described it so well that the picture is redundant! Haha. I especially love your last line. New York is a beautiful juxtaposition of the modern and the old (but respected). We are reminded of it every day: how we can walk past a museum of Ancient art, and then across the street is the Apple store - a real-life museum of the technological revolution."
--( posted on Sep 9, 2012, commenting on the post Appellate Courthouse )
"This was a great post, and I can somewhat relate because I come from an Italian family, where drinking wine is the norm during dinner. In fact, my grandpa drinks a glass of wine every day because the doctor said it is good for his heart. A few years ago, my Italian class went to Italy (I didn't though), and according to my friend, they went to a discoteca (club) and had a few drinks! Not to mention, they were only 16. The teacher even got drunk. I also heard there were kids as young as 14 in there. As Gen said, I also find it rather difficult to imagine a three year old drinking, but if that's what floats their boat, then let it be...haha."
--( posted on Sep 9, 2012, commenting on the post Another France story )
"Haha thank you! :)"
--( posted on Sep 5, 2012, commenting on the post The many meanings of “Baruch” )
"Michelle and Wesley: thanks for pointing that out. I looked it up in the thesaurus: "enunciation, articulation, elocution, locution, pronunciation, speech, intonation, inflection; delivery." In more theatrical terms, it can be described as the way an actor chooses to pronounce his/her words, or the way he/she emphasizes certain words. Also, I like both of your definitions of "diction." :)"
--( posted on Sep 4, 2012, commenting on the post 5 Critical Theater Terms )
"Nice! I like this selection of terms. I especially like the word "futurism" and "aria" and would love to read about it in a review. They're not too simple, but the definitions you provided make them easy to understand :) Thanks!"
--( posted on Sep 3, 2012, commenting on the post 5 Critical Terms )