Author Archives: John Scanlon

Posts by John Scanlon

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


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

Is Technology Destroying our Culture?

Our society has become very dependent upon technology; but when will we have enough of it?  The answer to this question is apparently never, and it can be quite disturbing at times.

Growing up as a child, I am sure most of us remember the various toys, or dolls, with which many of us played.  Some may stand out more than others, and these things may well have shaped who we have become today.  I remember specifically playing with two toys around the age of two, or three.  One of them was a small electronic keyboard that made an assortment of sounds.  The other was a game with a set of blocks of all different shapes and sizes.  Each of these blocks had to placed into its corresponding hole.  These toys helped us recognize the various shapes and sounds that exist all around us in the world.

Heading back to my dorm on the 6 train the other day, I decided to sit next to a woman with a small child on her lap.  I am going to take the wild assumption that this was her son.  After a few stops, the boy started getting antsy, so the mother began reaching into her bag.  I assumed that she would pull out a small knickknack that would occupy to child, but man was I wrong.  From the bag, she pulled the latest IPad.  She handed it to him, and he knew exactly how to work it.  He turned it on, selected an app, and went about playing his game.  For the rest of the ride to 96th street, I observed the child electronically playing the keyboard and placing blocks into their respective holes.

When I got off the train at 96th, I had some food for thought.  My parents always joke around how “back in the Stone Age,” they didn’t use technology, nor did they need it.   Now, the latest generation of children is now becoming familiar with the latest gadgets on the market.  Slowly but surely, technology is consuming the lives of our youth.  I can’t help but wonder whether this is a destruction of our once accepted culture, or a revolutionizing of it.

From this…

Children’s Electronic Keyboard
Taken from EBay

to this…

Taken From

Apartheid: Gone, but Still Here

When something is outlawed, it does not fully erase the impact that it once had in society.  Many people tried to destroy Apartheid again and again, but the legislation did not come down until the 1990’s.  Even though it has been uprooted from South Africa, the remains of it still exist today.  In the International Center of Photography, better known as ICP, there are a plethora of images that still capture the troubling atmosphere that surrounded Apartheid.  Within ICP, some of the photographs are much more graphic, and consequently moving, than others.  To me, there were three photos that left an impressionable mark on my understanding of Apartheid.

Peter Magubane, a well-known combatant of Apartheid, captures perhaps two of the most frightening images in the exhibit.  The first snapshot was taken during 1960.  It features what seems to be a never-ending line of coffins for all of the African Americans who died during a riot.  On both sides of the caskets are families and friends mourning the deaths of their loved ones.  In the description of the picture, it is said that there were more than 5,000 people at the graveyard that day.  When the South African government learned that Magubane was taking pictures of such tragic events, they did not want these photos published.  Even though there is no immediate violence depicted in this picture, a feeling of heartache can be sensed by the facial expressions of those present at the cemetery.

Never Ending Row of Caskets
Photo Credit: Peter Magubane

After being arrested for his striking photography, Magubane returned in the 1970’s to capture the tragedy of the Soweto Uprising.  During one of these riots, he may have taken the most disturbing snapshot of his long career.  In the photo, there is a man holding a rather young child, placing him into the back seat of a vehicle.  The famous Apartheid photographer captured an image of a child shot dead and now being situated the back of a car.  Anyone who stood in the way of law enforcement was ultimately shot dead.  This shows the severity of the situation because they did not discriminate who they killed, not even small children.

Still, there were others who revealed the true brutality of Apartheid through their photography.  In 1959, Gideon Mendel photographs a struggle between a family and the police in action.  In this image, the policemen possess a variety of weapons, whereas the family has nothing to defend themselves.  This parallels the idea that despite the large numbers of people against Apartheid, they could not make much of an impact because they were basically powerless.  After taking a closer look, I saw that there was a child lying dead on the ground after being shot with a bullet.  Just like Magubane, Mendel vividly captures the ruthlessness towards children in South Africa during the time.

The Rise and Fall of Apartheid exhibit at ICP contains some of the most power photographs of the 20th century.  They show the harsh reality that many African American families experienced during that time.  Magubane and Mendel both gained wide spread recognition with their photographs of the cruelty unleashed on children.  Even though Apartheid no longer legally exists, its impact will live forever through these photographs.

The Rise and Fall of Apartheid Exhibit at ICP
Photo Credit:

Street Art/Graffiti

If I went around asking people what “art” was to them, I would receive an array of diverse answers.  After taking this course, I have been exposed to many forms of art that I never would have thought to explore.  IDC has opened my mind to the various forms of art that exist in our world.  With that being said, I decided to delve into an often forgotten form of art: Street Art and Graffiti.

Street Art and Graffiti does not always have malicious intent.  Often times, street artists use their art as a means to express their ideas about a certain social or cultural issue.  Because there is an infinite amount of graffiti all over the city, I decided to limit my collage to one specific location. “5 Pointz” is located on Davis Street in Long Island City, Queens.  For ten years, it has housed the creations of countless adept street artists.  It has been a place for artists to go and express themselves, without having their work filtered by a museum, or a gallery.

Street Art and Graffiti is often overlooked because of the negative aura associated with it.  The purpose of my collage is to show that different forms of art have unique ways of displaying their beauty.  I wanted to shed a positive light on these disregarded paintings.  I photographed all the images in my collage; however, 5 Pointz holds all rights to their original paintings.

Starting this project digitally ultimately changed my thoughts on the actual structure of my collage. When creating it, I decided to use Prezi.  I figured an online collage, rather than an 8×11 handmade one, would be more effective in the classroom.  With Prezi, I am able to show the collage as a whole, in addition to focusing on each individual image that I took.  With a handmade project, I would probably have to pass it around for everyone to see each individual picture.

There were, however, downsides in choosing to make this presentation through Prezi.  As a child, I made many collages by hand but this was the first one I’ve ever made on the computer.  As a result, this may have limited the potential of my presentation, particularly because I’m not familiar with the program.  Another problem I faced with the online presentation was the amount of creativity I was able to incorporate.  Other than transitioning from picture to picture, I was very limited with my visual effects.  Even though a handmade collage would have been more appealing, I think creating it digitally better suits this assignment.

Different Opinions Left this House Divided

For four consecutive evenings, the Brooklyn Academy of Music put on House/Divided, an original production inspired by John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.  The show itself smoothly transitioned back and forth between two distinct settings.  The first is inside a brokerage firm, which allows the audience to see the large scale, economic effects of the Great Depression.  The other half of the performance follows the Joad family, the main characters of Steinbeck’s novel.  This setting follows them on their difficult journey westward and highlights the individual struggle for families during the 1930’s.

The set of this production is very confusing at first, but it allows the audience to see the opposing sides of people during the Depression quite effectively.  Stationed on the left are two brokers, who seem to be exchanging stocks within their firm.  In the middle, there is a run down home that emphasizes the hardships of the Joads.  All the way to the right, there is a single man constantly playing music that adds to the emotions already being portrayed.  Lastly, there is a projector in the background, along with a stock market ticker.  At first, I thought the transiting was going to be awkward, considering everything was crammed on stage.  However, Jennifer Tipton and her crew did a superb job with the lighting, allowing the audience to focus their attention on certain cast members.

Photo Credit: James Gibbs

If someone wanted to attend a show for quality acting, this was the production to choose.  Throughout the evening, the audience has a sense of all the emotions that many families dealt with during the Depression.  The Joad family experiences many hardships in such a brief period of time.  Within a few months, they are evicted from their home, they are out of work, their grandfather dies, and Rose of Sharon delivers a stillborn baby.  But the actors who play the Joads magnificently provide the viewers with the necessary sense of fear and distress.  In a similar way, the music only adds to the theatrics of the night.  When the stock market crashes, the music goes from serine to hectic.  It progressively gets louder during the evening, and the crowd becomes one with the Joads.

Overall, the BAM Harvey Theater displayed an excellent rendition of the Great Depression. However, some people begged to differ.  A seemingly harmless, elderly woman took to the microphone during the post-show talkback.  As soon as she got to where the microphone was, she exclaimed, “YA BLEW IT!”  Silence fell in the room, as this out of whack viewer rambled on about the poor quality of the production.  Rather than calmly responding to the lady, one of the female producers immediately jumped on her case to shut her down.  To me, both of the women did not handle this situation properly; luckily it did not take away from the actual main event.

After that whole instance, the producers went on to discuss their reason for making this show.  “It’s about making the invisible, visible,” said one of the producers.  I found this statement to hold some immense value because often times, people do not notice the inevitable forces of nature that are affecting their lives.   For those who stayed for the talkback, they gained insight about making a theater production in addition to the stellar production that preceded it.

Photo Credit: Richard Termine, NY Times

Max Flatow: Photographer and Entrepreneur

Max Flatow’s career as a photographer began in the dark room during middle school.  As he continued his education, his interest in photography grew.  After high school, Flatow enrolled in Southern Vermont College, where he was given complete control over the school’s abandoned dark room.  Much of his time was spent in here, and he said that he “essentially taught himself.”  During his final year of college, he spent the entire year abroad in Spain.  When he came back to America, Flatow had some of his travel photos displayed at a local café, and this is where his career began to take flight.

Fresh out of college, Max held a few jobs before becoming a full time photographer.  He worked for Mary Howard, a renowned set designer, and for a post-production video editing company.  After working these jobs, he realized that this was not his scene, and he made the decision to become a photographer officially.  For the first 1-2 years, he did a lot of his work for free to get his name out there.  He worked for another famous photographer in addition to taking his own snapshots.  “He taught me not only how to run a business, but also how to network myself,” Flatow said about his employer.  He values the importance of being both a professional and an entrepreneur.

With the transition from film to digital, his photography was revolutionized.  Flatow effectively applies the principles of “Depth of Field” and “Rule of Thirds” to his work.  When using depth of field, the subject is focused, whereas the remainder of the backdrop is blurred.  In order to obtain this effect, one must open the shutter and allow light to enter.  He said, “I try to be as versatile as possible with my lighting,” and it should be noted that he never uses a flash on his camera.  As for applying the rule of thirds, Flatow tries to put his subjects off to the side because it “creates a more dynamic image.”  To top off his techniques, Flatow has picked up a slight tilt to his photography.  “A lot of these photos, I’m just capturing a moment,” he said, “And adding a tilt creates more excitement.”

This Brooklyn-based photographer has been quite successful for being in the business for just seven years.  He has photographed a wide array of subjects from weddings to desserts.  He has even shot portraits of celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Cee Lo Green, and Steve Nash.  But what I enjoyed most about his presentation was his mindset as a photographer.  “I am my own boss,” he exclaimed towards the end of his presentation.  While Max Flatow realizes there are many difficulties to being an innovator and an entrepreneur, he focuses on the positive light and attempts to let it shine through his photography.

Photo Credit: Max Flatow. Here he uses lighting and depth of field, along with his “signature tilt” to capture the perfect wedding photo.

Katherine Vaz: A Dreamer who created Reality

On the evening of October 23rd, Katherine Vaz came to speak on behalf of her experience as the 29th Harmen writer and her upcoming publication of her 5th literary work.  Her book, entitled Below the Salt, is a novel that is placed in the mid 19th century.  The main character, John Olives, is imprisoned with his mother, who was arrested for heresy.  Her novel explores the interdependence of a mother and her son as they journey to America, and eventually wind up in the state of Illinois.

In her piece, Vaz expresses her fascination with New York through the thoughts of the mother.  To quote John’s mother, “In the beginning, there was New York.”  The mother marvels at the various skyscrapers and wonders what it was like to be a part of the construction of New York City.  Throughout the rest of the novel, they travel to Illinois, where they encounter a group of life changing missionaries.  However, Vaz’s work would not be complete without the thematic twists of love and war scattered throughout.

When the mother and son become closer with the missionaries, they run into the Catholic sacrament that is the Eucharist.  The mother does not believe that the “communion bread” is truly the body of Christ, himself.  Here outpours the internal conflict of reality and religion, with which many people of society struggle.  As a young child, Vaz grew up a devout Catholic, but was deeply scarred later on in her life.  “People get tired of the magic and want the real,” Vaz commented after her reading.  She enjoys delving into the ideas of reality and dreams, which she frequently transitions back and forth from in her writing.

At the conclusion of her reading, the floor was opened up for a question and answer.  One of the initial questions asked by a member of the audience was how Katherine comes up with the thought provoking ideas for her writing.  To answer that question, she compared the way ideas come to her to the way that songs come to the everyday person.  Then, an aspiring writer from the audience claimed she had an idea on a future writing piece.  She was having difficulty finding a starting point, so she asked the Harmen writer for some advice.  “Less is better than more when starting to write,” Katherine gently told the student.  It allows the writer to key in on one focal point, rather experience an array of confusion with countless ideas.

Since her first publication as a writer, Vaz’s career has taken off.  She has given talks to the Library of Congress, and she even spent six months in Jacksonville to conduct research.  “Research is mostly about how it might apply to my characters, not what they do, but who they are,” she noted.  When carrying out studies, Katherine Vaz looks for signals that will give her a better understanding of both her characters and herself.

Photo Credit:

Street Photography

The morning after Hurricane Sandy struck, I drove around Staten Island to survey the damage done.  I wound up taking several “street photos” of the chaos that was present in Staten Island.  In the following days, I heard of people I knew who had suffered from this natural disaster.  It was devastating to hear that my friends and family were affected by the storm.  By the time school resumed, I had spent a lot time looking for a theme to select for this project but I wasn’t having any luck.  Then, one day while sitting in my door room­­- it hit me.  I decided I would do my Street Photography project on Hurricane Sandy, but not just the destruction of it.  I would also incorporate how Staten Island has been working together as a community to get through these tough times.

My theme of Hurricane Sandy was extremely important to me because of how it affected the people in my life.  My grandfather, who lives in Rockaway, had his entire basement and first floor flooded, leaving him with nothing but a destroyed home.  In addition to this, he lost his boat, which has been very dear to him for many years.  Other than my grandfather, I had friends who had their homes flooded, and as a result they lost many of their possessions.  Fortunately, I did not know anyone personally who lost a life in the storm, but I heard the countless gruesome stories that left families devastated.  I almost feel as though this small project is a tribute to all of the people who have continued on with their lives despite the tragedy that struck.

With a project such as this, I was bound to run into a plethora of problems.  First of all, I had the difficulty of traveling back and forth between my dorm in the city and my home in Staten Island.  For a while, the MTA shut down many trains, in addition to the Staten Island Ferry.  Immediately following the hurricane, I was only able to travel to neighborhoods that were relatively close to me because there was a shortage of gas.  As a result, I did not get to see the scope of the damage that existed along the entire shore of the island.  All of the restrictions placed on my transportation limited the amount of immediate photos I could take of the storm.  If I had the chance to take more photos right after the storm, I think the class would have been better able to see the truly devastating effects of the storm.

Besides my initial efforts to photograph the chaos, I went around on two separate occasions taking dozens of photographs.  One instance was approximately two weeks ago with my father, and the second time was during the Thanksgiving break with my friend Mario.  The day I traveled with my father, I focused on the South Shore of Staten Island. However, the day I roamed Staten Island with my friend, I focused more on the Midland Beach area.  During both days, I encountered a number of diverse problems.

After going for breakfast one morning, my father agreed to drive around with me and help me take pictures of the destruction.  One of the biggest problems I encountered that day were the various reactions of people.  There I was, trying to take pictures for my slideshow, and people were giving me looks that seemed to wonder why I was driving around taking pictures of their ruined homes.  At the time it didn’t make sense to me, but looking back I feel as though I should’ve been more discreet with my photography.  Also, many of the homes were boarded up with big pieces of plywood around the property.  In order to obtain some of these photos, I had to climb on top of my dad’s Ford Explorer to get a good shot.  When Professor Bernstein told us to try to take the best picture possible, I took that advice literally.

My final round of photos was taken with one of my good friends, and it focused on the Midland Beach area.  This area was probably hit more severely than the rest of Staten Island.  On this day, we visited the sites of the Brown Cross and other volunteering organizations.  In addition, we drove around taking photos of all the destruction that took place.  This day I remember running into a few more problems.  Midland Beach before the hurricane was pretty hectic. After the hurricane, I realized there was an absurd amount of traffic that made it nearly impossible at times to park my car and get out to take a photo.  We also experienced the same awkward glances from natives of the area when we were photographing their homes.  Despite the rushed nature of the day, I still managed to capture countless graphic photos.  What I did not expect to get from all of this was the strength that some people found inside themselves, despite the mass chaos that surrounded them.  I found that the pictures, such as the one in the final slide of my presentation, truly expressed the morale of Staten Island after the hurricane.

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Mi Español esta malo

Just last week, devastation struck New York.  Hurricane Sandy pulverized many parts of the city, including Staten Island, Breezy Point, and Long Island.  I knew I had to do my part to help out once I saw parts of Staten Island were destroyed.  When I came back to the dorms late Wednesday evening, my friend informed me that she was going to Long Island the next day to help out with the Red Cross.  I decided to get up early the next morning to join her on the trip.

After brutally waking up before 6 AM, we made our journey to the Red Cross headquarters in Midtown.  Once it was time to leave there, three buses took volunteers out to scattered areas of Long Island.  I spent the first half of the day standing in the middle of the street advertising the free Red Cross meals.  Once four o’clock rolled around, I was called over to hand out dinner to the families who lost everything.  This process went smoothly for quite some time, until a large number of Spanish speaking families began to arrive.  Although I took three years of Spanish in high school, my Spanish is rusty because it’s been a while.

“We have bologna, cheese, and turkey sandwiches,” I said to a man.

He looked at me very puzzled and responded with “Que?”  I knew he was speaking Spanish, but I did not know how to tell him the types of sandwiches in his native language.

Luckily, my friend, fluent in both English and Spanish, jumped in quickly and said, “Tenemos mortadella queso y pavo.”

He smiled and answered, “Dos mortadellas, por favor.”

After listening to this conversation, I told her I would handle the next Spanish speaking person, thinking I could handle it.  Sure enough, there was a Spanish couple a few people later on line.

I said, “Tenemos mortadella queso y….” I forgot how to say turkey in Spanish.  After about a minute, I pointed at the turkey and said “El pave-o!”

Both the couple and my Spanish-speaking friend burst out laughing because of my horrible pronunciation, but they understood what I was trying to say.  My friend even told me after that I was massacring her language.

The wife then replied, “Mortadella y queso, por favor.”

I was then stuck with the challenge of asking how many sandwiches they would like.  Accepting defeat, I told my friend to take over, and she carried out the rest of the conversation.  From there on, she handled the Spanish speaking families for the day.  Even though I wasn’t much of a help to some of them, I provided a lighthearted, comic relief for those going through a difficult time in their lives with my broken “Espanol.”

Photo Credit: Red Cross Website

Hurricane Sandy: Staten Island Edition

The day before tragedy struck, I went home so I could attend a NY Jets vs. Miami Dolphins football game with my family Sunday afternoon.  After the game, my parents broke the news to me that I could not go back to my dorm room, and I would be spending at least Monday at home.  With that said, we spent the entire Sunday evening preparing for the storm: shopping for food and waiting in line for gas.

When Sandy began, I remember seeing my friends from all over posting on the Internet, from their smart phones, how they had lost power.  My neighborhood was one of the lucky ones.  We lost power around 9:30 PM and most of us didn’t regain it until Thursday night, or Friday morning.  During our time in the darkness, my friends and I did anything to occupy us.  For two days we played hours of pick-up basketball in the street, followed by countless games of Monopoly.  It seemed as though once seven o’clock struck, the day was over because the sky turned pitch black.

What irked me was seeing the devastation that my borough had experienced.  I remember driving around with my dad the morning after to look at the damage in my neighborhood by the water.  It was devastating.  Trees were down.  Boats were in the middle of streets.  Homes were flooded, and some were even uprooted by the massive 15-foot waves.  My dad and I got out of the car at his friend’s house, which faces the water of Staten Island, to make sure that him and his family were OK.  Although they were OK, next door there used to be a pub.  Now, the bar was on the ground completely crushed, and the owner stared desolately at his property.

The devastation that hit the bar

Boats washed up into the streets

Unfortunately, my college did a poor job of informing us when we would officially return to school because they did not know when they would restore power.  I had to go back to my dorm, just in case I had class the following day.  Late Wednesday evening, I returned thinking there would be school the next day; It turns out, there was no school.  This bothered me greatly because I could have been home with my friends helping out clean up the homes of people in our neighborhoods.

Just before midnight on Wednesday, a friend informed me that she would be heading out to Long Island Thursday morning to volunteer with the Red Cross.  I figured if I could not help the people of Staten Island, I might as well help out my fellow New Yorkers.  I spent the day giving out lunch and dinner to those who lost their home and everything inside of it.  Listening to some of their stories makes you truly grateful for everything that you have in your life.

Still, as I sit here writing my “Sandy story,” something does not feel right.  Here I am at school, going about my business as if nothing has happened.  In reality, my home, Staten Island, is in ruins.  Those people need help, and unfortunately for quite some time Staten Island was “forgotten.”  People always joke and kid about how Staten Island is the forgotten borough, but it’s actually true.  If there was no outcry from the people of Staten Island, there was a good possibility that these people would still be neglected.

It’s sad to say, but I have heard multiple stories of people I knew whose houses were flooded, damaged, or even destroyed.  An alumnus from my high school track team, who is also an army veteran, rounded up a bunch of his friends the days following the storm.  They called themselves the “Brown Cross” because they knew they were going to have to get their hands dirty to help out.  This group, which started out as a small circle of eight friends, has grown to over 100+ volunteers including many of my fellow teammates from my high school track team.  Although the rebuilding process may take weeks, or even months, for some, I look forward to going home and helping these guys out on the front line.

The Brown Cross in action (Photo Credit: NY Times Website)

While Sandy had little to no effect on many people, it devastated others.  A tragic event like this allowed me to evaluate life and put a lot of things into perspective.  My family was fortunate enough to only lose power for a few days.  I feel as though I owe it to Staten Island to do whatever I can to help speed up this recovery process.  But most importantly, I learned that we should appreciate everything we have because the next day it could all be taken from us.

One of my friends stumbled upon this during the clean-up. (Photo Credit: Liam Vogt, fellow Sea Track alumnus ’12)

The Roller Coaster Performance of Carmen

Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera (better known as the MET), has brought about some striking changes for the 2012-2013 opera season.  According to the October 2012 edition of the playbill, he plans to find a balance of productions that will appeal to audiences of all kinds.  For the last few years, the Met has featured Carmen, a famous 19th century George Bizet opera.  With his new changes comes a change in casting, as Gelb has given Anita Rachvelishvili the responsibility of playing the beautiful, seductive Carmen.

Anita Rachvelishvili gives an impression of power and strength when she first appears in the cigarette factory in Seville.  Her mezzo-soprano vocal range allows her to hit her notes well and convinces the audience of the true fire within Carmen.  Her superb acting is reflected when she flirtatiously stabs Don Jose with the rose.  But as the night progressed, Carmen’s performance becomes rather lackluster.  Her voice begins to fade with time, and it almost takes away from her excellent acting ability.

Contrary to Carmen, Micaela, a peasant girl played by Kate Royal, seems to outshine the star later on in the production.  During Act 3, Micaela’s singing echoes gracefully throughout the opera house when she tries to convince Don Jose to return home with her.  Her counterpart, Don Jose, may well have been the premier performer of the evening.  Younghoon Lee played the role of the young corporal within the army.  His powerful voice effectively shows his passion, especially when he quarrels with Carmen in Act 3.

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Perhaps one of the more impressing sights of the opera was the rotating set.  As Act 1 opens, Micaela comes searching for Don Jose at his army base.  During the same act, the set completely morphs into a cigarette factory with the floor and building automatically rotating.  This revolving stage keeps the audience’s attention, and allows them to easily transition from one scene to the next.  Of course the scenery of the opera would not have been complete without the entrancing costumes.

Carmen, a young, seductive, Spanish factory worker wears an intricate black dress that has floral black and white sleeves.  Her bold wardrobe assures the audience that Carmen is not your stereotypical woman working at the factory.  Don Jose, along with the rest of the military men, wore detailed green uniforms that very much resemble the uniforms of soldiers during the 19th century.  The children working in the factory had the simplest and possibly the best outfits of the evening.  Their ripped-up, raggedy shirts and gowns effectively reflected the strenuous conditions of working in the factory.

The Orchestra does a magnificent job during the evening, remaining completely in unison for the entire three and a half hours.  My only main criticism of the evening was during the final act of Carmen.  The entire opera was building up suspense for the death of Carmen, and the acting and music did not do her slaughter justice.  The acting was cheesy, the orchestra was nonexistent, and the use of lighting was ineffective.  It seemed as though what started off to be a classic performance came spiraling down with the final moments of the evening.

Photo Credit: Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera


Funny Street Photo

So am I waiting for this walk signal or…

A Change in Perspective

In the section titled “What It Means to Photograph,” there were two stories that “changed my perspective” on photography.  The first one that I found interesting was Alexander Rodchenko’s letter to Boris Kushner, which discusses the endless possibilities of perspective.  In his letter, Rodchenko feels the need to address why he is being attacked for photographing from various viewpoints.  According to him, “(Photography) should surely undertake to show the world from all vantage points, and to develop people’s capacity to see from all sides.” (Rodchenko 2)  I think that it is important that Alexander discovered the need to photograph things from many angles.  It goes to show that there are many ways to look at one particular situation, and often one perspective is not enough.  He makes this very clear with his example of the Eiffel Tower.  At the end of his story, Rodchenko makes a powerful statement to Kushner.  He says, “We don’t see what we look at.”  I found this remark to hold immense value.  We do not actually see the deeper significance behind something, until we view it from a different perspective.

The second story I found intriguing was “Pictures From Home” by Larry Sultan.  Sultan is trapped inside his home, but he also seems trapped within his mind.  “What am I looking for,” he asks himself as he rummages through his house. (Sultan 48)   He photographs his family, but only finds the true value in his pictures when he loses hope on taking pictures.  His father is troubled by the way he and his wife are portrayed in his son’s pictures.  He argues with his father that two people’s observations and interpretations of the same photograph can be completely different.  This is where Sultan’s message comes into play.  Each picture is open to various interpretations; that is the beauty of photography.  According to Sultan, his goal in photography is “to stop time.” (Sultan 50)  I agree that photography should aim to freeze time, which would allow each of us to interpret photographs differently.

Photography Terms:

  1. Exposure– the duration of time that light is permitted to act on a sensitive emulsion
  2. Aperture– a circular opening on a camera that controls the quantity of light entering or leaving it
  3. Contrast– the difference between the light and dark areas of a print, or a negative
  4. Front Lighting– the light shining on a photograph that comes from where the camera is located
  5. Panchromatic–  photo that is sensitive to all colors by adding certain dyes

Annual Fall for Dance Festival

On the evening of October 2nd, the New York City Center hosted its 9th annual Fall for Dance Festival.  During the course of the night, four independent dance companies conducted their own individual performances.  Each of these dances had its own unique style; however, some of them received better reactions from the audience than others.

Ballet West put on Grand Pas from Paquita, the opening act for the night.  The Grand Pas from Paquita, a Russian ballet, was a perfect way to kick off the festival.  Each of the ballerinas wore large tutus, which is the norm for ballerinas; however, their matching tutus were gold.  Rex Tilton, the lead male of the performance, wore tight-fighting pants and an elaborate golden vest.  His flashy gold vest seemed appropriate because his performance outshined the rest of the ballerinas. Tilton showed such emotion and passion, often bringing out the best in counterpart, Christiana Bennett.  Throughout the performance, Tilton was required to lift her for extended periods of time, and he was able to do so with such elegance and composure.  The music of this piece was quite soothing, and this performance ultimately set the bar high for the rest of the night.

Photo Credit: Luke Isley

In my opinion, the masterpiece of the festival was the second act performed by Tu Dance.  High Heel Blues was an upbeat and riveting performance that received a large acclaim at its conclusion.  Yusha Marie Sorzano, the lead female, expresses her dilemma of wanting to buy a pair of high-heeled shoes, even though they cause her pain.  While there was not much choreography in this routine, Sorzano and her partner, Uri Sands, performed their roles very audaciously.  Their powerful interactions grabbed the audience’s attention and would not relinquish their attentions, until their routine was over.  My only criticism with this dance was the simplistic black dress that Yusha wore.  I felt as though a more bold and daring costume could have been chosen to add to her role.  Other than that, this duet left the audience yearning for more.

Tarian Malam (Night Dances), put on by Nan Jombang, could not have been placed at a more inopportune time.  After such a lively duet, this company had big shoes to fill after the intermission.  I felt as though the audience was not as prepared for this dance as it could have been.  The dance starts off slow, as a duet, with very subtle movements.  It had a very cultural feel to it; however, it took a while for it to reach its height.  The dragging on of the performance made much of the audience develop negative opinions of it very early.  When it finally picked up, rhythm was an essential element to its “recovery.”  More people came onto the stage wearing tribal outfits.  They were banging drums and various objects in complete unison.  This dance developed its intensity over time, but the audience seemed to tune the performers out before it reached its height.

The finale of the night was the lively collection of dances, known as Moiseyev’s Classics.  The Moiseyev Dance Company put on four short, energetic dances that were a thrill for the audience to watch.  Much of their dancing consisted of various jumps, spins, and weaves between each other. Their execution was flawless, and one performer even completed an entire circle of jump-spins without faltering.  The performers’ displayed their passions, and their vibrant costumes and the loud, playful music only aided to their energy.  Their upbeat showing closed the Fall for Dance Festival on a high note.

Photo Credit: E.Masalkov

A Long Overdue Trip…

Throughout our lives, many tragic events shape who we are as individuals by affecting our cultures.  Coming from a family of firefighters, I can assure you that Septemeber 11th, 2001 was one of the most horrific days that New York City has ever seen.  At 8:46 A.M., a plane flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  17 minutes later, the South Tower received a similar blow sending New York City into chaos. Ten years have passed, and I still remember the entire series of events like it was yesterday.  Little did I know that this disastrous day would have an impact on my life for years to come.

Ever since I was 9 years old, I have played baseball under the Robert Curatolo Ranger organization.  Robert Curatolo was a first responding NYC Firefighter who passed in the tragic events of September 11th.  Robert’s best friend, who was also a friend of my father, began the organization to honor the life of his childhood companion.  When I was asked to play at the time, I did not fully understand the significance surrounding the organization and saw it as just another opportunity to play travel baseball.

Mr. Caputo was my coach for many years and Robert’s best friend growing up.  Before every game, he would remind us that we represent something bigger than ourselves.  He used to always tell us, “Remember the name on the front of the jersey that you are representing.”  For years, these words have echoed through my head.  I finally understood the immense sacrifice that Robert Curatolo, along with 342 other firemen, gave on that wretched September morning.  “All gave some, some gave all,” was the slogan made to honor the New York City Firefighters who lost their lives.  With a statement like this, and the lessons I learned as a Ranger, I now strive to give my all in everything that I do.

To pay my respect to Robert and all those who lost their lives on 9/11, I decided I would do something I always wanted to do: visit the World Trade Center Memorial.  When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was the large crowds of people gathered around the memorial fountains.  It was amazing to see that even 11 years later, so many people still gather together and honor the lives of their loved ones.  I spent about half an hour walking around and reading the list of names beautifully engraved around the perimeter of the fountains.  Standing among the crowds allowed me to put life into perspective and realize what is really important.

One of the Two Memorial Fountains

Culture can be defined as anything that has shaped our values and practices, and I can assure you that this chain of events has altered who I am for the better.  Now that I’m 18, I no longer am able to play, but the Ranger mentality still lives on within me.  Whenever I can, I help coach one of the younger teams, which Mr. Caputo gave my father the opportunity to manage.  Now, when someone asks me about the name, or the 9/11 patch on my Ranger sweatshirt, I smile because I get to tell Robert Curatolo’s story and the impact it had on me.

Robert Curatolo Ranger Hat & Patches                           (Photo Credit: Eddie Finn, Fellow Ranger)

A Woman of Many “Elements”

Jody Sperling has been managing her own dance company for just over a decade now.  While this may not seem like such a long period of time, Sperling has still managed to compile quite a resume.  As a scholar of dance, she has earned various dance degrees and has been recognized recently as a dance historian.  In 2000, Sperling founded her own dance company, “Time Lapse Dance.” By creating her own company, Jody has now found a way to continue pursuing her passions as a dancer and a choreographer.  When viewing these accomplishments and feats of Sperling, one might begin to wonder what sparked this fire within her.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Fuchs/Time Lapse Dance

When asked about her inspiration, Jody Sperling points to one of the most influential dancers in history: Loie Fuller.  Born in 1862, she began dancing at a very young age.  Fuller is credited with “spawning” modern dance today with her uniquely developed dances.  As a young woman, she performed in white dresses with long sleeves made of silk.  With long sticks holding her sleeves up, Loie would then spin and twirl to make her dress appear to be changing form.  Her unorthodox style of dance was known as the “Skirt Dance,” or the “Butterfly Dance.” Loie Fuller revolutionized dance during her time because she placed emphasis on the dress, not on the body.

At first take, Fuller was not the most successful at marketing her unique style of dance.  She did not achieve public renown until she took her talents to France.  While in France, her technique of skirt dancing was stolen, and she tried to file a lawsuit.  Although she did not win her suit, she was fortunate enough to upstage the imposters who stole her original dance.  From here, Fuller’s career took flight, and she set the foundation for skirt dancing today.

Jody took her inspiration’s work and added her own little twist to it.  She spent the early part of her choreographing career further developing the “Serpentine Dance” of Loie Fuller.  In addition, she shed light on Fuller’s work by adding mirrors and colored lights, which provided the base for Jody’s “Dance of the Elements.”  For her dance, she conceived a spinning technique that keeps the fabric going for an extended period of time.  Jody stated how the elongated spinning “produces a new stillness,” one that peeks the curiosity of the audience.  As her career continued to flourish, Jody was invited to perform her dance in the Library of Congress.

Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger/Time Lapse Dance

But with all great success comes a sense of determination to overcome challenges along the way.  Jody Sperling founded her own company and produced her own shows, but how did she get her companies’ name out in the open?  A woman of many professions, she considers herself an “entrepreneur.”  Fundraising is essential to obtain the necessary money for shows.  Jody describes the difficulty in finding public funding, and she says, “Corporate funding has almost disappeared.”  Despite her economic struggles, Sperling persevered, and her company survived thanks to donations from family and friends.  While listening to her presentation, one can feel her passion for dancing through the struggles she encountered as an aspiring choreographer.  She leaves people with this idea that they, too, should find their own passion and run with it regardless of life’s obstacles.

“Nobody is built like you”

“Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, we go hard.”  These lyrics to Jay-Z’s hit song “Brooklyn We Go Hard” echoed throughout the newly finished Barclays Center last Saturday night.  Lights were flashing, the crowd was roaring, and speakers were blasting.  All of the commotion gave us the illusion that the arena, itself, was shaking.  Standing in the upper section, my friends and I seemed lost among the 19,000 that gathered to watch one of the greatest rappers of our generation.  Before I recap this experience, let me get to how we got here to start.

Right before summer’s end, my friends and I were planning ways to keep in touch during college.  We knew we would all see each other during Thanksgiving and Christmas break, but that wasn’t enough for us.   One of the ways we decided to stay close was to go see a concert, but we had to decide whom to see.  My friend Matt brought up that Jay-Z was doing multiple concerts in September, but none of us had ever been to a rap concert.  We decided that it could be pretty cool since we all listened to Jay-Z, and it would be a way for us to reunite during the fall semester.

The night of the concert, we all met outside the Barclays Center an hour before the concert started because we wanted to check out the brand new arena.  Everything inside was state of the art, and cleanliness was not a question.  With every slight turn of the head, all that could be seen was Nets jerseys and fitted caps.  People of various backgrounds came from all over to see Jay-Z perform.  For a while, we seemed to be lost in the extravagance of the place.  It wasn’t long before the concert started, and we found our seats.

Jay-Z opened the concert with two of his classics: “Brooklyn We Go Hard” and “Where I’m From.”  He had the crowd going wild, but we were very intimidated at first.  It had been some time since any of us were at a concert, so we were not used to the speakers blowing out our eardrums.  We were quick to learn a Rap concert was very different from the typical Alternative Rock concert.  As the concert progressed, we loosened up a bit, and the concert became one of the best nights in a long time.

At the conclusion of the concert, Jay-Z addressed the diverse audience with a quote from his song “A Dream.”  He said, “Remind yourself, nobody is built like you, you design yourself.”  These words had me thinking for the few days.  Yes, we are heavily influenced by our biological and ethnic backgrounds, but who we are as individuals is ultimately decided by us.  Our culture can only go so far as to impact who we will become.  Music allows us to recognize our own cultural backgrounds and to open our minds to other cultures waiting to be explored.

The Barclays Center

The Train-Wrecked Driver

Ritchie Coster (Roelf Visagie) has the audience on the edge of their seats for much of the production.  As the train driver, Coster is given the hefty responsibility of remembering 90 minutes of lines.  Not only does he have every line memorized, he performs his part with such emotion and passion.  He is portrayed as an average white man, who experiences a rather sudden and disturbing twist to his life.  After the audience gets past his thick, difficult to understand accent, he becomes such a pleasant surprise to watch.  Coster’s performance is one jam packed with intensity that he often outshines his counterpart, Leon Addison Brown.

Leon Addison Brown plays the character of Simon Hanabe, an African American gravedigger, who presides over a yard full of unidentifiable persons.  While Brown complements Coster well for the majority of the show, there are times where his performance is less than stellar.  When the train driver is dealing with mental instability, Brown seems to act almost indifferent to his emotionally disturbed counterpart.  He repeatedly tries to discourage the train driver from searching for the no named woman, and at times, he shows a lack of interest in Roelf’s crisis.  As a whole though, the two balance each other effectively with their levels of emotion required of their opposing characters.

(Photo Credits to Richard Termine)

At first glance, the set of the show seems rather disappointing.  The economical setup, however, perfectly fits the plot of The Train Driver.  In one corner, an old, run down jeep is stationed, which characters are seen walking on at various points.  The middle of the stage consists of a large assortment of graves covered in piles of rusted tools and trash.  While seemingly unimportant, this graveyard helps reflect the mental insanity that the protagonist experiences.  The masterpiece of the entire set is Simon’s beat up shed, where he sleeps and invites Roelf to spend the night.  For a production such as this, extravagance is unnecessary; simplicity is key.  Fugard’s set hits the nail on the head for the graveyard of Shukuma, an indigenous camp in South Africa.

Rather than predictably opening with the accident, Fugard decides to take a more unethical approach to his production.  He throws the audience a curve ball when he decides to leave the train accident out of the night completely.  Instead, Fugard would rather the audience focus on this ongoing social issue at hand: Apartheid.  Fugard’s play taking place presently allows the audience to understand the immense impact this has on people of today’s society.  While not specifically referenced, Apartheid remains open for exploration with these stereotypical characters in a South African setting.

This two-person show contains vast amounts of dialogue that can be dragged out at times; however, the excellent reciprocity of Coster and Brown keep the show lively and entertaining.  Roelf Visagie is a middle-class, white male looking to make a living for him and his wife.  After tragedy strikes, Roelf will have his entire world flipped upside down.  It seems as though this woman, who he never met, may have drastically altered the remainder of his life.  Will Roelf be able to let this go, or will he be eaten alive by his self-created guilt?  Through unexpected twists and turns, he makes various conclusions about the tragedy that struck his life; however, the question remains: Did this all happen too late?

Collage Proposal

As we explore the world, it becomes almost impossible to avoid the various forms of art that surround us.  Some types of art are more obvious than others, while others are regarded as most profound.  For my collage project, I would like to explore a genre of art that is often forgotten and disregarded as art: Street Art and Graffiti.  Street artists use various methods of creating their art, and a social, or cultural, issue often inspires them.

While countless delinquent children take a mischievous approach to street art and graffiti, many artists do not; often they are hired to create such works of art.  Often times their main objective is to get their ideas expressed publicly and have people notice them and relate them to their own lives.  For this collage, I will travel throughout New York City and photograph some of the most renowned street art and graffiti.  I will also include some images from the web to compliment the various photos I will be taking.  To create this collage, I will use digital media to help portray the various issues that street artists tend to explore.

Ancient Cultural Encounter

Everyone has their own unique culture that defines who they are as a person.  But has anyone ever questioned where their origins of their culture came from?  A few days ago, a friend and I ventured to the Museum of Natural History on 81st street.  As a child, I was never a fan of museums, but I decided to give them another shot.

Upon our arrival, we mapped out which exhibits we wanted like to see.  The first one we observed was “Human Origins.”  I particularly enjoyed this exhibit because it showed the beginnings and evolutionary process of human beings.  All around us, we could see various emaciated remains of archaeological findings.  Thousands of years ago, human beings did not have a concept of “culture,” rather people socially constructed it over time.  Our various languages, tools, and styles of art and music define who we are as people today.  While spending time in this exhibit, I could not help but wonder what in fact actually makes a cultural encounter, and how do we know if we are experiencing one?

This exhibit also contained the remains of Lucy.  For those who do not know, Lucy is one of the most famous skeletal remains that archaeologists have uncovered. Due to many years of erosion and decay, Lucy has only small fragments of bones left, leaving her with large chunks of her skeletal structure missing.  Supposedly, archaeologists named “her” this because when they discovered the bones, they were listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” by the Beatles.


After wandering through the vast number of exhibits, we stumbled upon the exhibit known as “Central and South America.”  While poking around, I discovered a recreation of Aztec musical instruments.  Since they did not have stringed instruments, the Aztecs had to make do with rattles and bones to create their own type of “music.”  These rattles seem to be made out of clay with a plethora of holes that allowed the Aztecs to create their own type of rhythm.  It is amazing to realize that music has evolved in such a way with the countless instruments and genres that exist today.

Aztec Instruments

Even though I was not particularly enthusiastic about going to the Museum of Natural History, I am glad I made the trip.  While I did not have a typical, modern cultural encounter, I experienced much of ancient culture.  Without observing ancient culture, we would not be able to figure out what makes our own cultures unique today.  Just as we continue to enhance our understanding of culture, I believe we can continue to further understand ourselves, as individuals, through new experiences such as this.

Just a Kid with a Passion…

Reflection of self is often the most difficult type that exists.  This assignment seems unique because it not only allows me to evaluate who I am as a person, but it also allows me to determine what made me the way I am today.  When asked to describe myself, the first words that come to my mind are hardworking, passionate, and supportive.  One might wonder why these three words immediately stand out in my mind, and the only explanation I have for them is my high school experience.  When high school began, I had a feeling of what I wanted to invest my time in over the course of the next four years: baseball.  This dream was immediately crushed when I was cut from the team as a freshman.  After the cuts were made, my friend, who was also cut, approached me about joining the school’s Cross Country and Track and Field teams for the upcoming year.  At the time, I was not interested, but joined the sport to continue various friendships I had made during middle school.

I spent the first two years on the team as one of the worst.  The rigorous workouts took a dramatic toll on me, both physically and mentally.  I contemplated quitting various times, as many of my friends from middle school did.  Time management was a huge issue in my life, and I just was not the most interested person in the sport.  At the end of my sophomore year, I decided to switch to the “Middle Distance” training group.  Mid-Distance requires the perfect balance of speed and stamina, and this switch was when I truly realized I had a passion for running.  At the start of my junior year, everything began to change.  Through hard work during the summer, I began to see the progress I was making during my junior Cross Country season.  As I continued the year, I could not help but realize that my progress made was fueled not by my natural ability, but by my developing passion.   I continued to make huge strides in my running career all throughout my senior year.  What made me even more motivated was the group of individuals that pushed me to the next level.

Over the remainder of my high school career, my teammates and I developed a special bond that was often coined as “The Brotherhood.”  We considered ourselves brothers because of all that we persevered through, together.  From passing out after practice to our legs filling with lactic acid for days, we could always be assured of one thing: that we were in this together.  While racing, I constantly reminded myself of the unremitting pain my teammates and I experienced during the various weeks of training.  This reminder allowed me to regularly motivate myself to reach unimaginable amounts of discomfort, and then keep going. There were times when my teammates and I needed each other, and we provided nothing but consistent support and concern.  Now as my college years await me, I can always be thankful for the immense impact my “brothers” have instilled upon me.

While one might consider this high school sport as a reflection of self somewhat corny, I do not. I could have quit anytime during my freshman, or sophomore, year and that would have been the end of it.  Instead, I decided to hang with it and wound up proving that hard work does triumph over talent more often than not.  Because of track, I now understand that our purpose in life is to find something we love, and run with it.  In my case, I found running, and well, ran with it.  Lastly, I consider myself a supportive person because of the way my teammates and I valued each other’s time during high school.  I am ever grateful for their impact, and I strive to treat all people I meet with a similar mindset. Not many people know the feeling of stepping on the track and preparing to lay it all on the line.  When that gun goes off, everything stops, and suddenly nothing else matters.  When all is said and done, I can honestly say this unintentional joining of the track team as a freshman has shaped who I am today and who I will be in the future.

Final Indoor Track Race- Senior Year

Many Cultures, One Place

This July, my family decided to make our annual family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  While in Disney, we explored the various amusement parks, one of which particularly stood out in my mind: Epcot.  Epcot is known for its futuristic atmosphere on one half of the park.  This side of the park gives insight as to what the future may hold for us globally.  The other half of the park highlights a world showcase, which contains eleven different countries that one can “visit” that are all within a mile of each other.

The first country my family wanted to visit was Mexico.  One of the first things we saw when arriving there was the massive Mexican pavilion containing various restaurants and attractions.  After touring a few attractions, we decided to get something for lunch.  My dad decided we would eat at La Hacienda de San Angel.  The first thing that came to my attention was the zesty smell coming from the kitchen.  My family is familiar with Mexican food, but we never experienced Mexican cuisine such as this.  The ingredients they used to make the various dishes such as quesadillas and enchiladas made dinner both fiery and delicious.

As the day progressed, we made our way to a few more attractions.  Sure enough, a few hours later many of our stomachs were grumbling again.  This time, my cousin happened to notice a rather elegant and foreign looking restaurant.  It turns out that we were in the part of the park that was replicated to be Canada.  The name of the restaurant was Le Cellier Steakhouse.  One of the first things we noticed upon our arrival was the extravagant collection of wine cellars throughout the restaurant.  While dining there, we had some of the finest seafood, prime rib, and of course filet mignon.  My uncle and father even had some Canadian wine, which they said was some of the sweetest wine they’ve ever tasted.

While I have only been outside of the country once, I can assure you this may have been the next best thing to experiencing a particular country’s culture.  Although I only was able to taste the spicy Mexican cuisine and the elegant Canadian steakhouse, I would love to go back some day to explore the remaining countries represented in Epcot.  I hope to use the stipend, provided by the Macaulay Honors College, to actually visit one of these foreign countries and better my understanding of culture in a global perspective.

Critical Terms

1. Agon– A conflict that takes place, often between the protagonist and antagonist.  In Ancient drama, it is a formalized debate that usually occurs within a comedy.

2. Tragedy– A dramatic composition that typically has a great person, through an internal flaw or conflict with another opposing force, destined to downfall or destruction.

3. Monologue– a prolonged speech, or discourse made by a single speaker, especially one dominating a conversation.

4. Pantomime– The technique of showing emotions, actions, feelings, or anything of that nature by gestures that do not involve speech.

5. Scrim– A piece of fabric used as a drop, or border, for creating the illusion of a solid wall or backdrop under certain lighting conditions. It can also create a semitransparent curtain when it is lit from behind.

From the Suburb to the Big Apple

As this upcoming school year approached, I knew change was afoot, but I was unaware of how much of it I would encounter.  Living my entire life in the reserved suburbs of Staten Island, I didn’t know that my world would be flipped upside down upon my arrival in Manhattan.  Choosing to dorm, as opposed to commute, I have temporarily escaped the stereotypical Italian families of Staten Island.  Since my arrival, I have observed a variety of people and their cultures, and these past two weeks have been quite an eye opening experience.

Everything here from the train rides to school to the diversity within the classrooms has been a unique, but rather enriching venture.  Meeting some of my classmates from all over, as well as eating at some distinct cultural restaurants that the city has to offer has opened my mind to a world of possibilities.  Since I am here, I have tasted some of the best Chinese, Mediterranean, and Mexican foods that are practically located in my own backyard.  While I have lived “here” in New York my entire life, these last two weeks have been incomparable to any other.  Just as this city “never sleeps,” I believe that my cultural experiences will also never rest for as long as I keep an open mind to what this great city has to offer.

Comments by John Scanlon

"It's pretty crazy how a bet with a friend could change the ultimate course of your father's life. I like this story because it shows that anything is possible with just a little bit of hard work. Your dad is one of those crazy success stories that you see advertised on television ads. Most importantly, I think your dad's personality, particularly his sense of humor, is what gives his story its "touch.""
--( posted on Dec 19, 2012, commenting on the post A Losing Bet )
"This story pains me to read, especially after hearing about the girl in Staten Island who jumped in front of a train because she was bullied. Unfortunately, bullying exists all throughout our society and there needs to be a valiant effort to stop it. Like Professor Bernstein said, your choice of words truly captures the horrors that go along with this bullying, leaving many people to feel helplessly lost within themselves."
--( posted on Dec 3, 2012, commenting on the post “Punch Tom in the Face” )
"Although I'm not one to travel frequently, I have experienced this "weirdness" of people just starting conversations with me all over the place, even in NYC. While on my usual run to Subway restaurant to pick up a sandwich, I was waiting on line behind a rather large and intimidating man. After only a few seconds, he begins talking to me about the IPhone 5, his rough day at work, and if he should get jalapeños on his sandwich. This struck me as completely random and I just kept nodding my head and answering his questions to be polite. I guess we, New Yorkers, because we all possess this "state of mind" where this is not seen as normal. I liked your post because it questions what we perceive as normal, and gives a different perspective of looking at the norms of our society."
--( posted on Dec 3, 2012, commenting on the post Encountering a Southern Attitude )
"During Hurricane Sandy, I had a similar experience with playing board games nonstop, only my board game of choice is Monopoly. Very rarely do I lose a game of monopoly, but when I do it's usually to my father. Like you, I also have a little brother who I can't stand losing to in games, well because he's 13. During the days of the blackout, we played countless games of monopoly with both friends and family. On the final day without power, my brother pulled the upset and finally beat me. Although it was hard to accept, I saw the look of excitement on his face as he had finally outdone his older, and consequently, wiser brother."
--( posted on Dec 3, 2012, commenting on the post Practice Makes Perfect )
"As a child, there was nothing more than I hated than someone yelling at me "cheese" when snapping a picture. I agree with you that it is childish part of our culture, but it is still has its influence in our American culture. I like the fact that you did your research and learned the various ways of saying cheese in another language. When I go study abroad in the next year or two, I'll be sure to give everyone a good laugh by butchering their dialect and making them smile without exclaiming "cheese!""
--( posted on Dec 3, 2012, commenting on the post Say Cheese. )
"Like Chris said, unfortunately it takes a natural disaster to bring out this attitude in most New Yorkers. The morning after the storm, all of my neighbors were out in the street asking if each other's houses were OK and if they could help each other in any way possible. I think every so often we need to step back, put things into perspective, and see what we can do to make someone else's day a little bit better."
--( posted on Nov 7, 2012, commenting on the post Helping Others )
"First of all, I'm sure those two men thought it was a joke at the time, but such a serious disaster should not be taken lightly. Looking back at this, I find it disgusting that people can make such a joke of something when there are people out there dying, or wondering where they are going to live now. On a different note, I do think its extremely important to be prepared for any type of disaster because you can never be sure of how serious it can get."
--( posted on Nov 7, 2012, commenting on the post Being Ready )
"Although I've been living at the dorms for the past few months, I did go home to Staten Island for the weekend and wound up spending a little more time there than I intended. While I was home, I went to get gas with my family the night before and it took us a solid 30 before we got to the pump. Even with the warnings, most of NY underestimated the storm. Most of us expected nothing more than no power for a few hours with a few downed tress in the midst. Unfortunately, it hit us much harder than this and I think the only thing we could do now is be more prepared in the future."
--( posted on Nov 7, 2012, commenting on the post Sandy’s Two Sides )
"It's become a sad reality that we, the people, are no longer able to distinguish between who are the "real" beggars and who is trying to scam us for a few dollars. New Yorkers have developed a mentality that everyone who asks for money is a scam artist, and as a result innocent people, who actually need the money, suffer. I never give any of them money; however, I did once give a man my yogurt once. I felt that it was unlikely that he would go and sell my snack somewhere to make money off of me."
--( posted on Oct 23, 2012, commenting on the post “I Don’t Want Any Trouble” )
"It turns out that I am also "the 10%" that is left handed! Similar to your research, I also have also heard of "the demonic nature" of being left handed. My great grandmother told me as a child, she began writing with her left hand. Her parents would not allow her to write with her left hand. To break her "bad" habit, her left hand was tied behind her back when she wrote, so it forced her to become a righty. In my own experiences, the majority of left-handed people I met have been rather intelligent. While being left handed was previously looked down upon, I am proud to say that I am part of the unique 10% of the population."
--( posted on Oct 23, 2012, commenting on the post Culture of the Southpaws )
"Similar to your situation, I never really played basketball during the earlier years of my life. It was not until high school that I began going to my neighborhood park with my friends to participate in "pick-up" games. For quite a while, I had the reputation as the kid who was afraid to "drive to the hoop," and as a result, I did not get much playing time. Over time, I eventually got better and was able to back up my play on the court. I agree that you get used to this different "culture" when you step onto the court; It becomes almost second nature. Just like any game of street ball, a large amount of trash talking takes place, and the name of the game has become "Who can get more inside their opponents head?""
--( posted on Oct 23, 2012, commenting on the post Streetball )
"A lot of times we take our various cultural customs and habits for granted. An experience, like this one, can open our eyes to our own culture and realize how unique our own customs are. I feel for your friend Tom here because never have I eaten Indian food before, and I probably would've had a similar reaction. The food, however, does sound really good and I'd love to try it in the future."
--( posted on Oct 6, 2012, commenting on the post Eating in a Different Style )
"Normally these subway performers are seeking a monetary incentive for their talent, whatever their talent may be. Like Chris, I was surprised when she didn't ask for any money or have a hat in front of her to place money. I had a similar experience like this when I went to the Feast of San Gennaro two weeks ago with two friends from high school. A man, waiting for the subway, stopped us and asked us if we had any songs for him to play. My friend requested he perform Drops of Jupiter by Train, which he did for us. At the end, we all gave him a dollar because he performed the song extremely well and he made the end of our night quite eventful."
--( posted on Oct 6, 2012, commenting on the post Cultural Encounter )
"That's very interesting that a burger-based fast food restaurant was adopted in Chinese culture as chicken-based. I know from experience that you can't mess with an New York McDonald's cheeseburger because I have been to various places where they change the toppings, and it just was not the same. I wonder if McDonald's in China has the same reputation as being so unhealthy like American McDonald's (being that it is chicken based)?"
--( posted on Sep 24, 2012, commenting on the post McDonald’s )
"This is such a typical NYC subway ride. Living in the city for only a month, I have encountered a number of strangers causing a scene, or making a ruckus, on public transportation. Although it may get awkward at times (like your experience), subway rides can be very entertaining at other times. Now when I get on a subway and I see another "whacko" doing there thing, I laugh it off and embrace it because these things only happen here in NYC."
--( posted on Sep 24, 2012, commenting on the post Oh NYC Subways… )
"I'm surprised that you encountered a man attempting to pick pocket someone else. Although its always on the news and people are always warning of the dangers of pick-pocketers, I've still yet to see it in action. Also like Chris said, I'm surprised he wasn't more sneaky about it. The majority of the time, people do not realize until after the matter is said and done. I wonder how many people are pick pocketed in NYC each year?"
--( posted on Sep 24, 2012, commenting on the post Safety in the City )
"I think it was a great idea for you to go to the concert and experience a new genre a music. Although I've never listened to indie music, I have been to a rock concert before, so I can imagine what your ears must have felt like for the first few songs. Other than that, I also agree with Luke when he said how it is always important to experience something new every once in a while."
--( posted on Sep 8, 2012, commenting on the post White Rabbits Concert )
"Living in New York my entire life, I probably would have had a similar reaction of perplexity as you and your friends had. I find it very interesting that French people would be very open to such an idea, considering their culture is relatively similar to our own. One thing I do wonder is how the native people of France, and other European countries, view the idea of a lower drinking age in their own country."
--( posted on Sep 8, 2012, commenting on the post Another France story )
"I can definitely relate to this cultural encounter, as many family friends and distant relatives have not heard of Baruch College. The humorous approach you chose allowed me to feel like I was experiencing the dialogue first hand. I really enjoy the way you bring everything together with your own perception of Baruch, and you really tied everything together nicely with your closing statement!"
--( posted on Sep 8, 2012, commenting on the post The many meanings of “Baruch” )
"I enjoyed reading your theater definitions because I was not familiar with some of the terms, particularly "aria" and "futurism." Like Alessandra, I would also like to see words such as these used in context of a theater review. Other than that, your definitions were very brief and unambiguous."
--( posted on Sep 4, 2012, commenting on the post 5 Critical Terms )
"I like the fact that your definitions are short, sweet, and to the point. Like Gen stated previously, a motif does not necessarily have to be the theme, it can also be a reoccurring symbol or idea of a story. Other than that, the brevity of your definitions makes them very easy to memorize."
--( posted on Sep 4, 2012, commenting on the post 5 Critical Terms )
"Before reading your definitions, I was unfamiliar with a few of these terms; however, your definitions are very concise, making them easy to understand. I like that you helped convey the definition of comedy by also defining a tragedy; however, I disagree that in a tragedy someone mostly passes away."
--( posted on Sep 4, 2012, commenting on the post Critical Theater Terms )