Author Archives: Luke O'Dowd

Posts by Luke O'Dowd


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

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

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


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


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New York’s 150 Year Old Toy Store


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

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

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

People of New York

In my collage project I wanted to do something that would represent all the people of New York City. This is one of the things I was struck by most when coming here for the first time. I think many New Yorker’s take for granted how diverse their environment really is, and they fail to realize that most of the world is much more homogeneous. Diversity can sometimes be scary. There is a lack of uniformity, which can be perceived as something novel and uncontrollable. Most of us, myself included, like to be in control of our situation. We don’t like change. As I’ve grown since I’ve been here, I’ve learned to appreciate the differences in the vast variety of people who call New York their home.

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I wanted to do a photo collage of many small photos being used to make one large photo. There are a few programs that help artists make these “photo mosaics”. I chose to make my larger photo the statue of liberty. As a non-native New Yorker, I always believed this to be a great representation for the city. It is a symbol of American freedom to be whoever or do whatever you want. The city has so many different types of people who look nothing alike, do nothing alike, or even like anything in common. It is a place where everyone coexists and forms one large haven where everyone can do what they want and be who they want. The people of New York are New York.

William Henry O’Dowd

I’ve also been fascinated by war and WWII in particular. I am an avid fan of history, and for me WWII is really the turning point for the world in entering the “modern age”. Life has changed so much since the late 30’s and early 40’s, an era marked by the bloodiest war in history. Millions died around the world, each called to fight for their country. It was a time of national pride, but also tragic in the number of young American boys lost in a war marked by so much evil.

My grandfather’s brother, William Henry O’Dowd, grew up in Miami, the first of eight children. He graduated from high school in ’39, a time when the country was still stuck in the Great Depression. There were no jobs available and so two years out of high school he joined the army. I cannot fathom such a decision being made by a 20 year, only 1 year older than I am now. William died just a few years ago, and everything I am able to relate about his life was recounted to me by my grandfather, James O’Dowd. The great pride that he has for his brother can be heard in his voice, and the excitement with which he describes different stories his brother must have told him.

William, Bill for short, wanted to join the Army Air-core, the segment we now call the Air-force. Unfortunately, because he didn’t have perfect vision he could not become a pilot as he dreamed. He had to content himself with loading the “bomber aircrafts” that went on raids. Through my grandfather, I learned that he and his loading crew would always count how many planes returned from the mission, and often, especially in the beginning of the war, only about half came back. Through this counting of plans, the winning side could be learned. In the beginning of the war, many planes did not return. However, as the war continued and Germany became over-extended in their aggression, a larger percentage of planes returned. The Allies were slowly beating back the aggressive Axis of Powers.

William stayed in the Army Aircore all throughout the war, serving his country from the age of 20 to 25. Can you imagine being a war during your early 20’s? Still today, we see young men enlist in the marines for no other reason than for their eagerness to serve their country. I’m very proud of my great uncle William and his duty to our country. I hope that I may also be able to contribute to a better America and help further the world with acts of courage and justice.

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Alone in a Pew

Christmas-time in December is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the cold weather and how the air actually feels fresh, quite an event in Manhattan. I love seeing the evergreen trees spread out on the sidewalks all around the Upper East Side near my dorm.

However, what I love most is stopping in my local church to just sit and think, pray, meditate, whatever word you want to use. I love sitting in a church pew in an empty church with the lights turned down low. The 4 candles symbolically circumscribed by an evergreen wreath stand as reminders of the rapid approaching 25th of December. 2 large evergreen trees stand guard on both sides of the altar, and white branches scattered in glass vases sit in front.

I honestly felt ashamed to take a picture of the scene. In some ways I felt I was depicting something that shouldn’t be captured. In fact, I knew it couldn’t be captured. My lens could only capture the concrete, not the spirit or emotion of the experience. There I sat alone, one of the few places I can get away and be by myself. Some people hate to be alone, but for me it’s one of the best experiences I know.



The Queen of Description

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Katherine Vaz, the 29th writer in residence of the Harman Writer program, came to Baruch to speak about her 5th book, but also her writing in general. Her writing was full of imagery and metaphors. Speaking of “eating music”, she described the mother pleading for help in a dignified way. The character in her new book is described as “consuming the birds song” from within the jail; an extremely fresh and vivid metaphor describing the woman’s distress.

She told the story of a family moving to the Midwest. “In the beginning was New York. The Midwest would be a haven of jobs and shelter. Here praising God is action.” Her writing flows beautifully well and invokes and incites the reader’s and audience’s imagination and memory. Vaz confesses the difficulty she had when writing the war scenes. However, the reader would be totally unaware of her clumsiness as her writing flowed beautiful even in her war writing. She describes the men “crying out for their mothers, always their mothers.” The savagery of war is illustrated by her portrayal of wild animals eating and attacking the bodies of men. She depicts the battle horses as “dreams of flight”, with their sleekness and regality saying, “any horse, after all, is evidence of God’s artistry.”

During the Question and Answer session Vaz was asked many questions by aspiring writers. Some of her advice included, “There is not good time to start [writing]. Commit to writing, 15 minutes in the morning.” This advice mirrors the same advice I’ve received from almost all my English teachers. It seems that by habitually forcing yourself to write something down each day, we eventually come up with something that we want to pursue and refine.

Katherine Vaz also spoke of different words of wisdom she tries to keep in mind every time she writes. The first quote she spoke of was by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “People tire of magic and want the real.” I especially enjoyed this quote. The simplicity, yet veracity of the statement resounded within my very being. We don’t want to be fooled, but told the truth. Humans don’t like be tricked.

She also tried to follow the advice of Percy, “The feel of the place on your skin”, especially in describing the wind of Jacksonville. Vaz stressed the importance of research in developing a character’s persona. Her Portuguese roots and Catholic background helped form a strong foundation for all her writing. Katherine Vaz’s unbelievable ability to take an audience through an experience was absolutely wonderful.

Great Show, Disappointing Q&A

I very much liked “House Divided” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I think the show was very successful in portraying the crisis through a particular lens. As evidenced by the Q&A session, there was much frustration and almost disdain for the producers and directors of the program. I think the program depicted Wall Street’s role in the crisis very vividly, especially when the mortgage processor was told it wasn’t her place to question the firm’s decisions. The moving stock tickers above the stage were an excellent touch. The young man who played one of the stock traders was excellent. He showed his role versatility and far outshined all the other actors/actresses in the show.


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From Google Images


The audio was very clear; especially considering how high and far back we were sitting. I believe the use of props and scenery was very well done. The house that was able to allow the audience to see inside was magnificent, nothing I’ve ever seen before. The juxtaposition of the Dust Bowl and the displacement of a family with the foreclosure of a home were very vivid.

During the Q&A session, one member of the audience voices her very negative opinion of the program very clearly. She almost needed to be pushed away from the mic, and the Q&A couldn’t shake the negative tone brought on by the first question/statement. It was truly a disappointment.

While the play was very good, I was very disappointed that the Q&A was not more of a view into the minds of the actors, producers, and directors.

Food & Wedding Capturer

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Photo from

Max Flatow was not the type of man I was expecting to come in and speak to us about photography. I pictured a flamboyant, eccentric, artsy type of guy who would speak hyperbolically on the wonder of photography. Instead, the real Max Flatow entered the room, a stout man with a beard who seemed by all appearances just “run of the mill”. All things changed when he started to tell his story and as he showed us his portfolio of photographs from food to wedding parties. His company is currently based in Brooklyn and has been for the past seven years. His passion for photography began in the 7th grade when he stepped into a darkroom. She is totally self-taught and truly believes in “practicing your own techniques.”


In his senior year of high school, Flatow traveled abroad to Spain where he took many different types of photographs. Upon his return, he asked a local café to feature his prints and it was upon selling his work that he decided, then and there, that he wanted to become a professional.

As a person interested in business, I really liked how Flatow explored the business side of having your own photography business. Many artists neglect and even despise the business side of their art, but it is very important perhaps the most important aspect to “look after.” For, one can create the best artwork in the world, yet be unable to continue due to lack of funds. Flatow stressed the importance of networking and “social networking in particular.” He also spoke of the importance of building a clientele, and how sometimes you must work “pro bono” to build a customer base.

The second half of his presentation consisted of him showing the audience some of his work. He asserted the importance of weddings for his business, and how “each wedding is very different” something I never had thought about. He spoke of the “rule of thirds” and depth of field. He often utilized silhouettes to give his photographs a certain tone to them. He liked to give his photos a little tilt, giving the viewer a new perspective on an otherwise conventional photograph. His work on shadows was of particular interest to me. I really like how shadows can be photographed and the different perspectives they can give a scene.

In his final segment, Flatow spoke of photographing food and the specific challenges that accompany this niche. He spoke of the trend towards the natural in preparing the food to be photographed; Glue and Lacquer is being replaced by the foods natural substance and color. The actual process of food is often the most interesting and I agree with this exactly. I want to see how the food is made. It is much more interesting than staring at the static finished product.

Flatow presentation brought me a fresh outlook on photography, and actually instilled in me an interest to be an amateur photographer, every now and then.

Natural & Man-made

Natural and Manmade Beauty, both awesome in the literal sense of the word; that is inspiring awe. However there does seem to be some tension between the two. Where one thrives, the other shrivels. New York City, Manhattan, in particular is a mecca of man-made feats. Huge skyscrapers and strong sturdy all-brick buildings are testaments to human achievement. However, we are reminded that theire is a natural force; one much stronger than our own. Experienced by Storm Sandy, we understand we cannot control nature and its power is often overwhelming.

            I took some creative license when attempting to capture my scenes I wanted to present. Although our assignment was “street photography:, I decided to be a little bit more creative. A street can be a road, highway, or path and each of these words has a totally different connotation. A path is a small human encroachment onto that which is nature. I picture a small dirt walkway that winds through forests or parks. Streets intrude further upon the natural beauty, and highways often blot out nature entirely. My home in Saint Louis and my residence on 97th and 3rd could not be more opposite. In Saint Louis, we live on 4 acres of grass and trees. Here, I live on the 15th floor sharing a one-room residence with a roommate. There is no outside place to call your own or somewhere you can be guaranteed silence.

            Because I’m in New York City, and there isn’t very much natural beauty to capture. I decided to shift my focus to human architecture and the building that have become evidence for man’s innovation and power. Many have stood for over 100 years. I chose to focus most of my attention and time to the NYCPL (New York City Public Library). I love the old meticulous design of the building; the ornate staircases and floors.

            My photos spanned a few different scenes. One of my favorites was taken from the plan near Saint Louis. I love the winding river and the plains. It is very stereotypically Midwest. I took one picture of a tree almost blurred out by sunshine. It reminded me of a sunny day in the country.

            The major challenges I encountered was trying to get photos at interesting angles and deciding on which scenes to shoot. I shot probably 75 images, finally choosing about a 15 or so.

            I am very proud of how the photos cam out as I wasn’t expecting my IPhone camera to take such detailed shots.

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The Story of Apartheid in 3 Pictures

On a cold, bitter day our class trekked over to the International Center for Photography to view the “Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life” Upon entering two televisions played looped scenes of both the beginning and end of apartheid. The curators of the exhibit set up different areas for guests to view different stages and categories of the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa.
There were so many photos and videos on display throughout the entire center, and it was almost impossible to view each one patiently and up close, stopping to think about the scene captured by a lens just a few decades ago. I therefore decided to focus my intention on just a few photographs, glancing over the remaining quickly to gain context and perspective.

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The first photo that really struck me was of black South African women holding signs, “We Stand by Our Leaders”. As a tour guide passed, leading an older couple through the gallery, I heard her assert the importance of signage to the South African anti-apartheid movement. Upon looking around, I knew she was right. Almost every-other photo contained a sign; all statements of defiance and civil disobedience, bringing is back to the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s and the British anti-colonial movement in India led by Gandhi. The power of disobedience is much stronger than violence as illustrated by all three of these movements. In the middle of this black and white photo stood a young boy, who appeared to be around 12 or 13. The only aspect that seemed striking was the color of his skin. He was white surrounded by a sea of black. Who knows how he came to be in the picture? Maybe it was at his own free will, or perhaps a mother or father wanted his/her son to stand for something that was good and right.

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The next photo that popped out for me was a photo of a white South African woman standing next to a sign on which was written, “The Bible Proclaims: Segregate!” As a Christian myself, it pains me to see religion, especially my own religion, as a justification for evil. Religion throughout the centuries has been used to assert dominance over people and mis-used to subjugate people and degrade them. The old woman looks very tired and angry in the picture. Maybe she is frustrated by her own situation. I really like the old statue in the background. The shift from the old traditional way to the new and the resistance to this change is very much evident in this picture.

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Towards the end of the gallery, there was a famous picture of Nelson Mandela along with Winnie Mandela. The two are pictured holding hands with their other hands raised in fists defiantly. This pose has become a symbol for defiance and triumphant in the face of such adversity. Finally, after so many struggles, the nation of South Africa has ended legal apartheid. However, as noted in the exhibit there is still a struggle for real integration, as apartheid cannot be totally wiped away by any one law.

Photos courtesy of

Funny Photo

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Compliments of

A Country Divided

I am always amazed at New York City’s diversity, racially and socioeconomically. However, I’m also amazed at the seeming homogeny of New Yorker’s political views. I always knew that New York City was overwhelmingly democrat. I did not expect the percentages to be so one-sided though. Brooklyn voted 82% for president Obama this election. Manhattan voted 85% for Obama, and Queens voted 79% in favor of the incumbent. The Bronx voted 91% for the president, and even the normally conservative Staten Island voted 50% to 49% to elect Obama to a 2nd term. Up-state New York is more diverse in their political party affiliation. While there are more Republicans, there are at least a fair number of Democrats (30-40%) mixed in. It astounds me that with the huge divide in wealth and race, almost all individuals would all affiliate with one party.

I must confess I am from a traditionally “red” state, Missouri. Even there though, there is a much greater range in political party affiliation. While almost all counties voted for Romney this election, each race was close. No county voted for Romney by more than an 80% margin, in contrast with Obama winning more than 80% in 4 of the 5 boroughs of New York.

It’s amazing how deeply divided our country is now. There was even a report recently that after it was announced that Obama had won reelection, there was a riot at the University of Mississippi. Just search “University of Mississippi riot” on Google and you will find the top search results containing a detailed report of what occurred. The protest comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the forced integration of ‘Ole Miss which was met with intense violence almost half a century ago.

I think now more than ever, it’s important for both sides to look at what the other party is saying and try to find some compromise. We need to work on things that both parties can agree on, and sometimes we have to realize we cannot always get everything we want. It seems many of our politicians never learned the basic skill of conciliation.
I think both parties need to be more open-minded to opposing ideas. New York City is supposed to be tolerant of all ideas, but it seems that Republicans are often derided as bigots. In the South, Democrats are disdained as “sell-outs” or socialists. I think it’s time that we quit with the name-calling and actually work together, but I suppose that in Washington things never change.

What is Photography?

Rodchenko’s letter to Kushner was a very interesting read. I especially liked his point on how the first time he saw the Eiffel Tower from afar, he didn’t like it at all. However, when he passed up to it closely while traveling on a bus, he was struck by the “lines of iron receding upward right and left”. This is a pretty strong argument for unconventional photography. Unlike the painter and the conventional photographer, the unconventional photographer has a duty to portray the world through various perspectives and lenses.
Rodchenko’s criticism of conventional photography is especially strong when he compares it to the standard reproduction that we see in “postcards ad nauseam”. He claims that photographing “non-posed” scenes is a much “higher form of photography”. The challenging nature of capturing such scenes, Rodchenko’s expresses quite lucidly on page 4 and 5. His argument for a new form of photography is quite convincing and very fascinating indeed.

Berenice Abbot’s commentary on America’s importance in the novel field of photography felt wholehearted. The reader can sense the pride she has for her country in helping advance photography, but her tone quickly changes to criticism as she complains of the commercialization of photography, comparing it to “photography [being] torn from its moorings, the whole essence of which is realism. The disdain with which she describes “cash” entering the field instills in the reader a sense of her anger. Abbot seems to be hinting that she wants a purification of photography; an art she claims has been poisoned by advertising.
Ken Light stresses the need for documentary photography; a way for an audience thousands of miles away to “experience” an event more closely than would seem possible. This is my favorite type of photography, as I am an avid fan of history, and I am very much in accord with the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Finally, Larry Sultan’s short piece was especially moving. The simplicity with which he writes and photographs emulates the unconventional “perfect” form of photography that all four writers are debating.


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

Definition: The clarity of detail in a photograph.

Diffuse Lighting: Lighting that is low or moderate in contrast, such as on an overcast day.

Graininess: The sand-like or granular appearance of a negative, print, or slide. Graininess becomes more pronounced with faster film and the degree of enlargement.

Vignetting: A fall-off in brightness at the edges of an image, slide, or print. Can be caused by poor lens design, using a lens hood not matched to the lens, or attaching too many filters to the front of the lens.

Passionate & Emotionally Diverse

Georges Bizet’s Carmen gave its audience a night full of intense drama and emotion. The play opened with the backdrop almost “tearing”; a red light spilling onto the stage. A shirtless, chiseled male appeared with a sultry young woman, and the two danced provocatively on stage. Their movements suggested a strong passionate relationship foreshadowing the future relationship of Carmen and Don Jose.

The opera’s actual plot began with the appearance of the timid Micaela resisting the unrestrained soldiers. The soldiers, having been confined with their own gender for so long, wanted Micaela to stay for some “fun”. The audience automatically sympathized with the young Micaela, and we all hoped for her safe escape. Here was the origin of the strong emotions exuded by the characters and the scenes.

Micaela’s exit transitions into a grand display of the “changing of the guard”. Here a dramatic, powerful tone resonates between the children and the soldiers. The children’s high-pitched voices blended with the soldier’s deep voices very well. The grand scene was one of the best of the night. The choreography was very well done and executed without any obvious mistakes.

Carmen appears in the middle of the “cigarette girls scene”. She makes an ostentatious appearance among the girls. Anita Rachvelishvili, the actress who played Carmen, appeared very flirtatious, and moved seductively around stopping at different men gathered around the cigarette girls. It was obvious she was not popular with the other cigarette girls. Her voice was good, but not excellent. She seemed to be overpowered by Micaela’s vocals in her earlier appearance. The romantic, sweet voices of the cigarette girls were contrasted with Carmen’s sultry voice and movements.

Carmen’s flower that she seemed to point at different men seemed to symbolize her latest love interest. Its scent was said to overpower even the most faithful man, and her “stabbing of Don Jose, seemed ominous and foreshadowing. The episode ended with the innocent Micaela entering and embracing Don Jose. Micaela’s innocence is juxtaposed with Carmen’s forwardness throughout the opera.

The elements of folk dance were particularly clear in the “Seguidilla”. The twirling of skirts and stomping of their boots created a spectacle of carefreeness that seemed to permeate the gypsy camp. The men flipped and spun the girls and the children imitated the toreador in a bullfight. The passionate impersonation of the bullfight mirrored Carmen and Don Jose’s relationship. As the bull, Carmen too is slain.

The destruction of Don Jose by Carmen takes place both emotionally and physically. He seems intensely weakened by her power, until he kills that which destroyed him, Carmen. Beethoven’s Fate Motif can be heard in the background as all of this takes place. As Don Jose takes off his military jacket to join the gypsy troupe, it symbolized his abandonment of duty and fidelity to Micaela. It is here that Don Jose is permanently changed. It is the point of no return.

The Opera’s music was excellent. The orchestra was brilliant, and their control of their sound level was exceptional. The music directly correlated with the scenes’ tones. The drawn out music during the times of mourning and the faster, lighter music mirrored both the scenes of despondency and frivolity.

The grand scenes in conjunction with the more intimate emotional episodes created a robust array of emotions for the opera’s audience.

Emotion Through Dance

Fall for Dance, held at the New York City Center on W 55th Street, is in its 9th year of running. The October 2nd performance provided a diverse array of performances, including a traditional ballet, a southern, soulful duet, a powerful tribal ceremony, and an eastern European folk dance. Each of the four performances evoked emotions through movement.

The traditional ballet was by far the longest of the four. Many of the ballerinas appeared almost sickly, with slender arms and legs. They flew through the air and performed many spins and twirls while balanced on their toes. Their performance was graceful, elegant, and well choreographed. The one ballerino almost pranced around the stage, and completed every turn with fine precision. The entire piece induced a feeling of majesty and inspired a real appreciation for such exactitude and grace.

(Courtesy Metro News)

The shortest routine followed the first and longest. It contrasted with the seriousness of its predecessor, with a bluesy humor resonation. The performance could be described as slick, and took the audience back to the 60’s. The main dancer, who both sang and danced simultaneously, sang the witty lyrics strongly and with much intonation. Her song was almost a short story. Her strong expressive pitch induced feelings of the old south and a nostalgia for the past. Her co-performer, a male, was excellent in playing a background role in the performance. His lifts and assistance allowed the main dancer to successfully perform her routine.

The most unique performance centered on a sort of tribal re-enactment. The number utilized drums as an element of sound. The dancers also used the drums as a prop in their dancing. The piece began with a woman wailing center stage, in front of a drum. Additional members of the tribe joined her, and the wailing eventually transformed into a fierce, chaotic beating of drums. The women frantically shook their long hair back and forth. Their movements mirrored the beating of their drums. Their dancing was very powerful as was their strong drumming. This performance was very artistic and moving. The wailing invoked raw personal emotion and the piece’s primeval element was uniquely reverberating.

(Courtesy the New York Times)

The final performance brought the evening to an end on a happy note. The performance seemed to be in an eastern European style, perhaps Bavarian. The folk dance seemed very light and often humorous. Through the dancers faces, the audience could see that they were truly enjoying themselves. The group of male dancers was perhaps the most entertaining. They galloped around stage effortlessly, kicking their legs high in the air. Their costumes were reminiscent of old world Europe. They wore black boots and medieval clothing. The group of women, who seemed to outnumber the men, wore green skirts, white shirts, and bandanas. They appeared as gypsies. They used their skirts as props in their own dance steps, shaking them from side to side. The men and women took turns in the spotlight, but came together periodically and danced with each other. The number was very light and fun.

The range in dance routines provided a night of excellent entertainment, but it also allowed the audience to participate in the dancers’ own unique emotions.

Choreographer, Dancer, & Historian

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and historian. She attended the renowned Joffery Ballet School in New York as a child. She went on to receive her Bachelors from Wesleyan College in ’92 and her Masters in Performance Studies from New York University in ’96. She was fascinated with avant-garde style as well as the social history of dance.

Loie Fuller and skirt dancing is Jody Sperling’s source of inspiration. She describes Fuller as a “fearless innovator, both technological and scientific”. She is “one of the mother’s of modern dance”. She goes on to explain how Fuller was born next to the fire in a tavern and how as a child, she ironically gave talks in the Temperance movement.

Kate Vaugn developed the concept of “skirt dancing” in London. Loie Fuller, according to most historians, learned the “skirt dance” in London at the Gaiety Theater. Fuller adapted the generic “skirt dance” into her own form called the “serpentine dance”. Unlike the 1880’s Burlesque style, the serpentine dance focused on the shape of the movement, not the body. In skirt dancing, the body was obscured by the ruffles and folds of the fabric. Loie Fuller had her 1st success performing her “serpentine dance” in New York. Unfortunately her art had no legal protection and therefore many imitators began to copy her unique style. Fuller left the United States for Paris, where her performance was viewed as revolutionary. She used cutouts within the stage to allow light from below to illuminate the stage and the dancer. She was the first to project images on herself and her costume. She also made her own set and scenery. Unfortunately, the photography of the time was unable to capture Fuller’s innovations.
Jody Sperling took much of her inspiration from Loie Fuller, herself. She employs the mixing of colors and shades to create something new. She describes using a green light from the west and a blue light from the east to create a blending of color on the skirt’s fabric. The folds are illuminated in blends of blue and green. In describing her use of Loie Fuller as a model, Sperling states, “People sometimes say what I do is “reconstruction” and that is wrong. I use the word “re-imagination”

One of Sperling’s dances, she named, “Turbulence”. She explains how the fabric shows the movement and body’s wake. More specifically, she tells of how as we move we displace the air around us just as we would if we were in water. The fabric captures the displacement of the air that our movement creates.
Just as in Sufism, Sperling explains how in spinning we find a calmness and stillness. The constant movement becomes a “new normal” for us, and we learn to take comfort in its steadfastness.
Sperling’s newest piece is called “Ghost”. In one of the sections she recounts, “I wear a bodysuit with LEDs on it that I can trigger manually in performance. It was quite a feat to rig this up, but it’s fun to improvise the lights in relation to the pauses in the music. This concept was inspired by an act from 1893.”
In summary, Jody Sperling, as a multi-faceted artist and historian, continues to innovate in the fields of dance, lighting, technology, and costumes.

Sources: (Youtube &

A Holy Place Destroyed.

After Business Recitation on Friday, I decided to attend the short 12:30 daily mass held in the small church next to my dorm. Located on 96th and Lexington Avenue, the small neighborhood chapel is one of the few places that seem familiar. The wooden pews, stone altar, golden tabernacle, and flickering candles are common to all Catholic churches throughout the world. For me, the building has been a sanctuary, allowing me to step away from the chaos outside in the streets. It is a time for me to sit and pray or maybe just think; it helps me put things in perspective.
On this certain Friday, I arrived at 12:35, a few minutes late. I walked up the side aisle, genuflected and sat myself down on the far right side of the wooden pew. I asked God for comfort, for strength, for patience; nothing too out of the ordinary. In deep thought, I closed my eyes periodically, listening to the mass but also meditating on my own life. During Communion, Catholics kneel while the Eucharist is being consecrated. It is a time for deep prayer and I often close my eyes in order to concentrate more deeply.
After the prayers had been said and the consecration had taken place, Communion is distributed and everyone forms a line and receives the Eucharist distributed by the priest at the front of the Church. This was all very routine for me, but the familiarity brought comfort. Because all the pews look identical, it is often hard to determine which pew you were sitting in. On returning, I looked for my backpack as a marker for where I had been sitting. However, even after checking multiple times I was unable to locate it. I spent the last few minutes of the mass, frantic.
I assumed at that moment it was probably stolen. I feverishly searched each set of pews to no avail. I expected that because my backpack didn’t contain anything valuable, it wouldn’t be taken. It only contained a few folders and notebooks full of notes, a black umbrella, and a plastic “Polish Spring” water bottle. However, the entire experience was a little bit traumatic. My place of peace had been permeated by the outside. Not even a church was immune to outside influences, and this was extremely hard to take in.

The Church (St. Francis de Sales)


The Struggle Continues

Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver traces the life of Roelf after the “accident”. It explores his emotions and his psychological journey as he attempts to cope with his predicament. The setting of the play is in a makeshift graveyard in South Africa. The stage is littered with empty bottles, plastic bags, and aluminum hubcaps. A huge wrecked car looms above the characters near stage right. Sand covers the stage and bits of glass and other debris are scattered haphazardly.

The play was performed at the Pershing Square Signature Center, a small theater with only a few hundred seats. The venue gave the play a very intimate touch, and the characters voices were crystal clear, although hard to understand at times due to a heavy accent.

The play begins with Simon, a black South African who acts as narrator of the story. His role is unique in that he has an active position in the production, but he also plays the part of the omniscient storyteller. His facial expression is very believable, and his diction is clear and authentic. He wore a light brown work suit that appeared dirty and old. Underneath the work suit, a stretched-out ratty t-shirt could be spotted. He was barefoot, and his face, chest, feet, and lower legs were covered in dirt. He seemed aged and his facial wrinkles appeared accentuated. He moved around the stage slowly and with much effort. His actions all seemed forced, and they gave the impression of a weary man, worn out by life’s hardships. Leon Addison Brown, who plays Simon, fit the part perfectly.

The protagonist of the play was Roelf, played by Ritchie Coster. A white South African train driver, Roelf must “come to grips” with the event that changed his life. His character emanates tones of anger and discontentment. He wears a dark red short sleeve polo shirt with tan pants. His sneakers look out of place. In contrast to Simon, he speaks much more aggressively and louder, and his words are spat, as if his words are venom. Often times, Roelf gets so worked up in his tirades that the audience is able to see spittle spray from his mouth as he shouts. Roelf’s anger is directed at the “Red Doek”, who the audience understands to be the cause of his anguish. Simon is often the target for Roelf’s rage as he is the only other character in the play.

The sound effects are subtle throughout much of the play. The howling of dogs can be heard at night as can the whistling of the wind. The most dramatic effect occurs towards the end of the play, as Reolf attempts to bury the figuratively the native woman and her child. The sound of a freight train rushes through the theater, and the blaring of the train’s horn is haunting. The audience feels the harrowing effect of the collision through the sounds, and the actual collision is not depicted on stage.
The plays’ ending is certainly a little twist. The audience expects some type of closure; that Roelf and Simon will grow to understand each other. The ending seems to symbolize the ongoing struggle of South Africans in growing as a people. It suggests that much work still is needed to overcome the remnants of apartheid.

(by Luke O’Dowd)

Collage Proposal

For my collage, I want to focus on the various street vendors across Manhattan. I want to explore what “wares” they are selling, and the different techniques they employ. There are food vendors, clothing vendors, book vendors, and thousands of other varieties of street carts. Different types of carts are concentrated in different areas in the city. I think that the products that vendors sell says something about the culture they identify with or what they enjoy. I think that Chinatown would not be Chinatown without all of the vendors selling Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Channel. The Greenwich Village has hundreds of small eclectic street vendors selling anything from tie dye t-shirts to odd antiques.

The techniques vendors use vary from very aggressive to more relaxed. I will use photographs as my primary source of media. I will create a digital collage using Prezi or some other software to create my project. I believe that the diversity among street carts mirrors the diversity of the city’s many inhabitants and cultures. Coming to the city for the first time, I was amazed at all the merchants selling food or clothing on the street. I think that the act of selling to passer-by consumers is unique to New York and big cities in general. The foot traffic supports a large customer base for such vendors creating a convenient, but real an up-close cultural encounter everyday.

Times Square

A few weeks ago I went to Times Square for the first time. I was told that it was overrated before I went, but I decided I needed to go as it was THE place that all tourists visit when they come to the city. Although I was told it was crowded, I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near as “packed” as it was. It was very hard to maneuver though the crowds and I uttered a quick “excuse me” every few seconds after bumping into numerous people. I’ve never really enjoyed being in crowds and instinctually I always try to find an empty space to walk through. The lights of the billboards and neon signs lit up the area.

You could feel the energy of the crowds, lights, and sounds. It was like you were in an amusement park. Never have I been to any place similar. In the suburbs of Saint Louis, our only lights are street lamps with their dim yellow bulbs. Here, there were red, green, blue, and yellow lights; all in various shapes and sizes. Some were formed into letters making up company names. Others were entire advertisements on huge big screens. The sound of taxis honking was almost constant. The experience was a little bit stressful with the commotion and bustling so intense. The culture of Manhattan is epitomized by Times Square. It seems the appeal of the city is how much fun the chaos is. It seems ironic, but it’s true.

Forgetting the Past.

Sometimes I look back at my childhood and wonder where all the years went. It has been four years since I started high school, and it feels like it was just yesterday. I know this is a cliché, but I never believed it. When I was young my grandparents used to tell me how fast time was flying; how they remember my baptism that occurred five years ago like it was just months ago. I always chuckled at this and never could comprehend the feeling they described. I now am able to at least partially understand what they were talking about.

Reminiscing, high school seems like an ephemeral dream that lasted only months, not four years. I think this is especially true because of the great distance I am away from home. It has only been one month since I left, but already life back home seems distant. I have mixed feelings about this. I am afraid of the independence I now have, but am obviously excited about the future simultaneously. I don’t want to forget my past, but I now have to make a conscious effort to remember and this is frightening.

When I was young, I used to love to hold lemonade stands. On a particularly hot and sunny day I decided to mix some lemonade mix and water. I brought out my table, cups, ice, chair, and pitcher filled with fresh lemonade I had just mixed. I lived in a neighborhood in the suburbs and to say I didn’t have many customers was an understatement. I think I sold three cups, but I still remember the experience vividly and how much fun I had. Success didn’t matter back then. It wasn’t about the outcome, but the experience. It didn’t matter how many cups I sold. It was all just “for fun”.
Today it is very difficult for me to just sit and think, cut off from the electronic grid. I know that growing up has made me less patient and less able to simply relax. I’m not sure if its technology or time that has changed me. I’m sure it’s a little bit of both. As a child, sitting and dreaming was fun. It was a time before the Internet; before technology changed the way we live. There were no Iphones, Ipads, high-speed Internet, or DVD’s. Life was simple and I didn’t worry about responsibility. I often wish I could go back and relive a day in my childhood.

Who am I, is a question I often ask myself, and how much am I a product of my environment? What makes me unique? I am pretty serious. I like to talk and can spend hours talking to someone I just met. I am outgoing and shy at the same time, if that’s possible. I find meeting people in groups is much harder than one on one. I am competitive and a little controlling. It’s difficult to explain who I am with adjectives because while I am competitive, I am also relaxed; while I am serious, I also like to “have fun”. I am complex and I don’t even know who I am. All that I know is that I never want to forget where I came from, a small suburb in Saint Louis. I feel I have a unique perspective because of the way I was brought up.

Diwali: The Festival of Lights

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my friends who was Hindu, invited me to the Festival of Lights. We were good friends and while I knew nothing of the celebration, I was excited to attend. When I arrived I saw many foreign foods that his mom was making in preparation for the ceremony. His mom was always cooking and their house always smelled of spices. First he and I went upstairs and we put on what I assumed to be traditional Indian garb. It was so long ago so I cannot recall exactly what we wore, but it seemed to be a type of tribal Indian vestment that was white or tan in color. After we dressed we went downstairs for the ceremony. It lasted around thirty minutes if I recall and I cannot remember all that was done. I do remember receiving a red dot on my forehead and a piece of rice was placed in the middle of the red pigment.

Looking back I remember the excitement I felt going through the ceremony. It all seemed so mysterious and the stories of the four-armed god, Vishnu were deeply intriguing. I received a silver commemorative coin with the god Vishnu depicted on it. After the ceremony ended, it was time to eat. There was much exotic food that I didn’t dare to try. At 11, spicy food was not appealing. His mom made macaroni for him and me while the grandparents and relatives ate traditional Indian food. There was a tray of Indian desserts that looked more inviting to a young child and so I tasted one. It was soft and sweet, a type of pastry. The entire experience was so different from anything I had ever attended. It was a mixture of a religious and cultural experience, and I would love to attend a Festival of Lights now, as I am more aware of different cultures.

5 Critical Terms


The overture is the introductory musical piece played before a musical which contains many of the musical motifs and themes of the score.


The mark is the place on stage where an actor is to deliver a particular line or carry out some action.


Vaudeville is the form of show consisting of mixed specialty acts, including song, dance, acrobatics, comic skits and dramatic monologues.


From the Latin interludium (between the play), the term refers to a short dramatic sketch in early English drama. The short, light pieces would be performed between the acts of more serious plays.


The narrative dialogue or spoken part of a musical play, as opposed to the lyrics and the music.

Far from Home.

Arriving in New York City for the first time, I exit the airport, and quickly see an Old Italian man in front of a queue of people. He hastily barks orders in a heavy accent at taxi drivers and passengers alike. The honking of horns and strong smells of the city overwhelm my nostrils. I am totally enveloped in a whole new world, full of new sights and smells. The streets are dirty, littered with various things; empty plastic bottles, newspapers, and even unidentifiable objects. The novelty of it all is terrifying, but I am also eager to start a new adventure. I know that home can’t offer what New York can. The various sections from China Town to Little Italy provide a miniature tour of the world’s cultures; a tour that can be walked, a plane not needed. The city from the airport does appear to be a cement block. The light from the sun barely reaches the ground, and the weather seems cold and cave-like, although it is summer. I feel a sense of loneliness and I begin to comprehend what people mean when they say, “New York is a lonely city.” I quickly put my thoughts aside and walk to get in line, waiting for a taxi, to start my journey.  

Comments by Luke O'Dowd

"I'm always been a fan of caves and waterfalls. It must be something about being underground. In Missouri, we have the Meramec Caverns. It's a huge expansive set of caves and tunnels. It is very cold and wet, but what can you expect from a cave! Great Post!"
--( posted on Dec 18, 2012, commenting on the post Waterfalls- Real vs. Fake )
"Your post is very interesting. Even in America, I don't like to simply say no to my grandparents. I think it's more of a respect "thing" rather than culture. It's very interesting how you have to make up an excuse in China and Japan. However, I find myself doing the same thing here. Great Post!"
--( posted on Dec 18, 2012, commenting on the post The Art of “No” )
"I think it is excellent how your cultural encounter at the Columbia restaurant led you to learn that your Dad lived in Columbia when he was young. I think all remarkable cultural encounters allow us to learn something new about ourselves or those around us. That's an interesting fact that they called you Julio after your Dad, as is custom in Spanish tradition. Great Post!"
--( posted on Oct 9, 2012, commenting on the post Taste of Growing Up )
"Although I have only been in New York for about 2 months, I have seen many different performers in the subway. Most seem to perform a song or play a guitar, and then at the the end they ask for donations. Rarely, someone performs for free, just for the opportunity to have an audience for their rendition. It is these performers that are most fun to spectate."
--( posted on Oct 9, 2012, commenting on the post Cultural Encounter )
"I too have never seen someone actually pick pocketed, although I have been warned it happens quite frequently in New York. My friend actually saw a tourist have his wallet stolen just a few weeks ago in the subway. The thief, in the overcrowded subway, managed to grab the man's wallet from his back pocket and quickly disembark the train as the doors were closing. The man quickly shouted his wallet had been taken, but there was really nothing he could do. The thief was long gone. His wife scolded him for not having put his wallet in his front pocket as she suggested."
--( posted on Sep 26, 2012, commenting on the post Safety in the City )
"That's a great story. I took spanish from 7-12 grade, but I am embarrassed when a native speaker asks me to say something in Spanish. I don't feel my pronunciations sound authentic and I am always worried that my verb conjugation will be inaccurate. I want to travel abroad to a spanish speaking country to practice the language, but I am nervous I will be laughed at or people will not be able to understand me. That is great that you went up to help her. I'm afraid I would not,] because of my own fear or embarrassment."
--( posted on Sep 26, 2012, commenting on the post Ein süßes chinesisches Mädchen hat mir geholfen )
"That's great that you agreed to go without knowing anything about the band. I don't know if I would have been so brave. Lately, I have been trying to do more things that I normally wouldn't do. I went and saw Shakespeare in the Park although I'm not really a huge Shakespeare fan. I also watched a showing of Faust right outside the Metropolitan Opera. Despite the fact that I only stayed for 45 minutes, I think it is important to try new things. Even if you don't enjoy them, you would never know if you didn't try."
--( posted on Sep 3, 2012, commenting on the post White Rabbits Concert )
"Your post is a great example of encountering new cultures by chance. I think it interesting that you believed Finland would be "nothing special", but upon arriving your perception of the country changed drastically. For me, it is the great diversity of culture and scenery that is truly exciting. Although New York is nothing like home, it is "special" in its own way. Of course it doesn't have the vast amount of trees and green grass that I am accustomed too, but it does have many things that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If every place were to be the same, life would be boring. Personally, it is somewhere in between the rolling hills of Ireland and the towering skyscrapers of New York that beauty reveals itself."
--( posted on Sep 3, 2012, commenting on the post A 12-Hour Cultural Encounter )
"Your post made me realize that I, myself, haven't really listened to many different types of music. Although I don't really consider myself a music person, I believe that music is a very important medium through which we learn about other cultures. I will most certainly get on youtube and listen to some Indian music right now. Thanks for the inspiration!"
--( posted on Sep 3, 2012, commenting on the post Musical Preferences )
"I believe this moment of reunion will play out quite similarly during Thanksgiving Break. During this time, I will return back home for only 4 days to spend the holidays with my family. I am sure that I, like you, will feel extreme happiness when I reunite with my parents and siblings. Your story brings about a swelling of nostalgia within me. I long for home, but I don't want this longing to get in the way of my positive experience with the city."
--( posted on Aug 30, 2012, commenting on the post Coming to a New Country )
"Your writing is brilliant. Your cultural experience is very unique, and I wish that I was able to experience such an encounter. I love how you employ music and instruments as a bridge between cultures. Although there are different variations of music between cultures, all cultures have a unique form of music totally their own. I like how you use dialogue to show the differences in accents and language between Kauser and yourself. It seems that learning and the eagerness of Kauser to learn is common to all people and cultures."
--( posted on Aug 30, 2012, commenting on the post Instrument )
"Living in the suburbs of Saint Louis, MO my entire life, I cannot relate to your experience of moving around. Where I come from, the culture is much less diverse and everyone listens to similar types of music. There is only one language spoken, English, and there is more of a division between peoples of different socioeconomic statuses. I love that in New York City all of this changes. Although it is hard for me to become accustomed to it all, I know it it a good change and the way culture should be."
--( posted on Aug 30, 2012, commenting on the post My Culture– My style )