Author Archives: rubinsammy

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Who She Is: Babushka Raisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raisa before the War

Under-Appreciated African art and Metaphysical Matisse

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


White Flight

It’s actually as it sounds. In many neighborhoods—including mine— a lot of middle class white people started leaving and heading out to the suburbs. I didn’t want to find the answer by studying Census data. Instead, I wanted a personal account.

So, I went to my neighbor, a man who is 93 years old and has been living in the same house since it was built. He explained everything to me. A lot of his former friends were using the pretext that they had enough money to move out. But the real reason is more sinister: according to him, his friends were afraid of the influx of minority groups. I was a bit shocked, even though I was expecting such an answer.

He said that our neighborhood didn’t change that much, except for the increased number of Asians. He said that if I ever wanted to look at such drastic changes in a neighborhood, then I should go to Canarsie.

Being a man of ambition, I embarked on a journey. One Friday at Union Square, I decided to finally go on the L train. I have been on the L train before to get to Williamsburg, but I never took it to the last stop. The ride was rather surreal. The view was amazing. You can see beautiful buildings and amazing train stations in terms of structure and art (Broadway-Junction had to be my favorite spot). At one time, I saw that I was the only white person. I was a bit scared, but I was even more scared when I got off the last stop. I didn’t know where to go and I stood out like a sore thumb. After ten minutes of trying to get directions from a Caribbean restaurant, I found the bus I needed. When I was finally in my neighborhood, I told my neighbor that I was just in Canarsie and told him of my experience. He laughed and told me that Canarsie used to be filled with Italians, Irish, and Jews.

Then I asked him, “Why didn’t you leave?”

He replied, “This home is my life. No matter what happens, I would never leave Brooklyn!”

House (and Opinions) / Divided

I do believe that history repeats itself. If we don’t learn and apply the new knowledge we acquire from historical events, then we will keep making the same mistakes. Marianne Weems’s “House / Divided”, a play inspired by Grapes of Wrath, focuses in on this idea.


The play is divided into two sections and is constantly shifts between the two. The first section deals with a family during the Great Depression. They can’t afford their home due to the Dust Bowl and as a result, they move to California. The second section deals with Wall Street and the banks before and after the 2008 recession.


Interestingly enough, the set was very resourceful. The same house was used in both eras of time. When the play shifted to the Depression, one can really understand the problems that family was facing. But as we shifted to Wall St, one sees almost no focus on the individual. It was only focused on the corporate and banking side of homes. By juxtaposing the two, the audience can clearly see the differences.


The acting and costumes were superb. The stockbrokers from the present day era showed a certain corporate culture through the use of multiple computer screens, fast-talking, and profanity. The performers, through the use of accents, the clothing, and the banjo playing, brought the poor Midwestern family to life.

Credit goes to

Moreover, the recent era focused more on the pre-recession. Everyone in the audience knew that eventually, the fall would come. It was very self-reflexive. It always is. We as humans look at all of our mistakes from a retrospective point of view. The Depression era focused more on the aftermath. Unlike the recent era, there was a certain mystery. Where does the family go after this? You just had to stay and watch to see what was going to happen next.


In all, the play was good and relevant to many of us since we all lived through the 2007 financial crisis.


Lucky for us, this play had a talkback. The producers and the director set on the stage and explained their work. It was very helpful. As they were speaking, I better understood many of the play’s themes and sub-themes. Then came the part where the audience can ask any question they want to the people on stage. Many of the questions that were asked were that of praise of the play. But then the famous old lady came on stage. She stated to people on the stage that, “YOU BLEW IT”. The entire audience—including me—experienced a moment of aporia. No one expected it. At first, I thought the lady had no decorum, but on the train ride back home I thought of something else. The lady seemed to be in her late seventies to early eighties. If you were to do the math, you can say that she was born around the 1930s. That decade was what I would like to call the time of harsh truth and when children became adults. There was no sugar coating of issues. They were presented as is. So, I don’t blame the old lady for making the comment. I do blame the era in which she was born for influencing her.

Credit goes to

Still, Marianna Weems could have handled the situation better. Instead of ignoring the lady down, she could have gave her a rebuttal on why she chose to do this and say that she values her opinion. Instead, she sounded a bit like a child by saying “Well, you go make a play and I will come review it.” She should have acted more professionally. Luckily, that episode didn’t diminish my view on the entire play.

NYC Call Box

We walk past at least one every day. They are always there when we need them for an emergency. They never move and they stand out in their red coats. I am not talking about a British Royal Guard. I am talking about call boxes!

Call boxes are remarkable. During the middle ages of America when no one had an IPhone, people used this to get into contact with police or the fire department and the response was almost instantaneous.

But where does one get this inspiration to make a collage for a simple city utility? Well, one day I was reading up on the murder of Kitty Genovese and in the police report, it mentioned she tried to go to the call box. That lit an incandescent light bulb in my head and I was inspired. I walked a five-block radius around my house and saw how many call boxes are still there. Some were working, while others were broken. It didn’t matter. I took pictures of both of them.

Viola! I get my collage. Instead of the central image being that of a call box, I have it of a street light with an orange bulb on top. The bulb was on at night and was used to let someone know that on any of the four corners of the street, there is a call box. With that in mind, I made the collage design with four corners in order to show the same idea.

In the first corner I have pictures on when call boxes were practical. I honor Kitty Genovese because she is the reason I am doing this project. I found pictures of a man in the 1950s, but the point of the picture is to emphasize on the call box in the box. The last image in this corner is a functioning one two block away. I always walk on that avenue to get to school, but I never really paid any attention to it.

In the second corner, I focus on the decay of non-functioning call boxes. It was rather sad. Some of them had garbage stuffed into them, but the day I went to take pictures, it was cleaned out. Still, there is extreme paint damage, graffiti, and rust on many of these structures. I found one with the number 1929, the year when it was established. To know something this old exists in my neighborhood and that it is going through such negligence, really did tell me that we should preserve the history that we have.

In the third corner, I have images explaining the cause of this decline in call boxes. First I have a functioning call box with the sticker “False Alarms Kill”. That was always an issue with call boxes. A lot of pranksters would call for help and run away. The police couldn’t just ignore them. It was common protocol to check if everything was okay. Doing this diverts emergency resources from where actual emergencies were happening. The second image is that of a cell phone. Honestly, I believe that the cell phone killed the call box. A cell phone in a sense is a miniature call box. The final image is the side picture of the call box with the sticker. Why I picked this picture is because it looks as if there is a noose around the “neck” of the device and it reiterates my belief that the call box is dead.

The last corner represents the first step of urban renewal. It is only one picture of a call box in Woodside where someone painted over it.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see this work of art. I found a blog and copied it on my collage. As a result of this mysterious painter, he or she created something aesthetic. This represents a hope that one day the local government would recognize the important of these devices by sponsoring artists to re-paint them. Thus, creating something pleasant to the eye as we walk on the street.

Apartheid: From the photographer’s Point of View

In our IDC class this semester, we have talked a lot about Apartheid. We even saw a play about it. But, we never had the chance to “see” what was going on. That all changed when we visited the Apartheid exhibit at the International Center of Photography (ICP). Out of all the pieces there, only two had a lasting impact on me.


The first to hit me was a photo of the aftermath of the 1976 riots in Soweto taken by Peter Magubane. It was a picture of a dead body. There were many images of the deceased, but this one affected me in a powerful way. In order to cover the dead male someone put a newspaper over him. It just shows how poor the nation was. No one had a blanket to conceal the corpse. Adding insult to injury, if you were to see what was written on the newspaper, it was an op-ed article talking about how long Blacks would fight for freedom in South Africa with the news caption as, “What would you die for?” I don’t know if Mr. Magubane planned on using this irony or if it was just a coincidence.


The second piece wasn’t a photograph. It was a sculpture by Hans Haacke. It was used to criticize Alcan, an aluminum company that still had mines in South Africa. During Apartheid, many companies and corporations pulled their operations out of South Africa in fear of public backlash. Alcan remained and according to Professor Bernstein, they said they promoted the arts in South Africa. So, Mr. Haacke used that idea to make an aluminum piece with the Alcan name on top. It composed of three parts. The outer edges have pictures of opera and a play. The middle shows the dead body of Stephen Biko, an activist. By juxtaposing the three segments, Haacke successfully ridicules Alcan’s dealings with South Africa.


ICP was an interesting experience. It really showed me how photojournalism was different back then. There was no Twitter or Facebook. These brave photographers needed to go to magazines to get their pictures published so that the whole world would know what is going on in their country. These men and women deserve credit because they helped exposed the problem that was going on in their country and this exhibit is a way of appreciating the work they have done.

Hans Haacke creation

Max Flatow: Photography Boss

“If you have an IPhone, you can be a photographer.” That’s a pretty bold statement Max Flatow makes, considering the fact that his career revolves around being a photographer.


Flatow is based in Brooklyn and has been doing this for seven years. His love for photography stems from a 7th grade program. In order to better his skills, he worked by and taught himself. In college, he found a darkroom and taught himself the techniques. Still, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. All that changed after his study abroad trip to Spain. When he came back to America, he showed his pictures took a local café and they decided to hold a gallery for him, where he sold the pictures.


From that, he worked for many set designers, which led him to be exposed to famous photographers. He even got a job in video production. But he didn’t like it so he quit to become a full-time photographer.


After he created his business, he needed to build clientele. The only way he saw he could do this is by using Facebook and doing work for free.


He likes to take wedding pictures, but he is versatile. In these shots, he doesn’t like the standard picture where the bride and groom stand in the middle. Instead, he creates a more dynamic image by applying the “rule of thirds”. He does have his preferences. He “doesn’t use flash”. It’s either natural light or his assistant would create an artificial light. Flatow likes shooting in black and white because it gives “classic taste, but only when appropriate”. Still, he loves to shoot silhouettes.


Besides weddings, food is another area where Flatow enjoys. He isn’t a fan of the pretty product. He rather see the backstory on “how it’s produced and caught”. Before he goes on a vacation, Flatow would call the restaurants and ask them that when he is there if he could take a picture of their meals. According to Flatow, “Chefs love when people take pictures of their creations”.


In all, Max was an interesting guy. As a young Brooklynite, he runs his own business and he is “his own boss”. He knows the classical techniques of working in a darkroom as well as the modern skills of Instagram and Photoshop. Most important is that his pictures are amazing!

Credits goes to Max Flatow

Below The Salt was Above The Standard

I have never been to a public reading before. I didn’t know what to expect. But Katherine Vaz, 29th Harman Writer-In-Residence, did a stellar job!

Vaz read excerpts of her work in progress, Below The Salt. The story revolves around John Olves before, during, and after the Civil War.

In the prologue, the audience learns that John as a three year old was in prison with his mother in a different country. The prison guards were holding the son as “collateral” and they tried to starve them. But the mom appealed to the guards by telling them “I’ll go hungry, but feed my son.” In addition, the parent and the son sang with the birds. As Vaz describes, “They eat with songs.”

In my opinion, the most powerful scene had to be when John was in the Civil War. After the Union victory at Shiloh, the battlefield is described as gruesome with the “sameness of death.”

During the question-and-answer session, Vaz revealed that she did extensive research at the Library of Congress (LOC) on the Civil War. This transitioned to one of her anecdotes about LOC when she asked if she could look at specific documents on John Olves. The librarian was relived because she looking at research and “not checking if they are somehow related to Abraham Lincoln.”

As stated before, the main character was a real person. Vaz took the historical evidence, but spinned it to create the story. In addition, it was interesting to know that she “needed to feel the setting.” She spent six months living in Jacksonville, Mississippi. It just shows me how difficult it is to write a book. It took Vaz eight years to compose this masterpiece.

Her voice was clear and powerful. When I closed my eyes and heard her, I could picture myself standing there with John as he is surveying the dead bodies or as he is drinking his first hot chocolate. It was magical and surreal to visualize all this.

I do have one regret though. It is that I should have given her a question. It was my first book reading so I didn’t know what kind of question was appropriate to ask. I am hoping that next time, I will be braver to go up to the microphone!

Katherine Vaz

Katherine Vaz


Watchin’ your watch

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I chose to photograph the different watches New Yorkers wear. The reason I chose this topic is because I am big fan of tem so I thought this was going to be easy. But it wasn’t.


The first issue that I experienced was that it was very hard to go up to people on the street and ask them if you can take a picture of their watch. One man screamed at me, while one lady said “no” because she thought I was going to steal it. The borough that I experienced the most problems would have to be Manhattan. The people were always in a rush. They would ignore you or worse, they would stop, listen to my request and would just keep walking away. That is why I tried to remain in the “suburban” boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.


Even though I found a fpeople from the street, it was still a challenge. I had an issue with a Quartz (battery powered) watch a man was wearing. The watch had a seconds hand. Unlike Automatic timepieces, where the hand sweeps continuously, a battery watch sweeps for one second, then it stops, and then it goes again for the next second. Each time I tried photographing his watch, the seconds hand would cause the entire picture to be blurry because the camera would capture it in motion.


I thought that I could be like Walker Evans and take pictures of people’s watches on the subway or on the bus. Sadly, that didn’t work. On the L train one day, I saw a middle aged man sleeping next to me with a beautiful Bedat & Co (one of the top tier brands) watch. I took out my camera and started focusing on it. From the corner of my eye, I saw everyone on the cart looking at me. I tried to fake it by pretending to look at my gallery. Their eyes were still fixated on me. I realized what was wrong. As I was focusing and zooming in on his watch, my camera lens extended by an inch. I was embarrassed. So much so that when the man woke up, I didn’t even ask him if I could take a picture of his arm.


After the incident, I was pretty depressed. So, I went to get a burger from my local diner. As I was eating the burger, there was an elderly lady sitting in the table left of me. I saw she wearing a watch and asked her if I could take a photo of her hand. She looked at me and said, “This cruddy old thing? Yeah why not?” Relieved that she allowed me to take a photo, I snapped a few pictures of her timepiece and thanked her when I was gone. That episode with the lady gave me an epiphany: Why should I go out to the street and look for people when I can go to a coffee place and wait for people to come?


From that diner, I headed out to Dunkin Donuts where I really understood the theme of my photography. Are watches practical nowadays or is it a fashion piece? One girl in her twenties was wearing a watch with colorful designs resembling almost like a child’s watch. Also, that watch wasn’t even working. She said the only reason she wore it was that it matched her outfit. Another female was wearing a Bvlgari watch. I didn’t know if it was real or not, but I asked her, “What’s the time now?” Instead of looking at her watch, she took out her phone and told me the time. A man saw what I was doing and he showed me his “watch”. He took out his phone and put on his wrist and said, “Here you go. This is my timepiece.” I couldn’t resist. I took the picture. In my opinion, that photo was the worst in terms of quality, but it was the best in terms of impact. The role of watches has changed dramatically in the past twenty years. People back then didn’t have any IPhones so the only way to know the time at an exact moment was by looking at their watches. Now, for most of us, our phones became our watches.

Black Friday

Oh the joy of Black Friday. Waiting in huge lines, fighting over items, and saving money. It is perhaps the best way to celebrate capitalism.

I went to my local mall, Kings Plaza, at midnight. Besides the huge line waiting outside for Best Buy, there was nothing dynamic at all. People were sane! No pushing in Macy’s, no fighting over shoes in Foot Locker, and no cat fights in Victoria’s Secret. Where was all of the Black Friday enthusiasm?

At 1:30 AM, I headed out to another shopping complex in Starrett City. There was a line at Best Buy as well. But I chose to go to Staples instead. The best way to describe it would be that of the line at the DMV. There was no place to move, the people were easily irritable, and the workers hated their jobs. After ten grueling minutes, I decided that it wasn’t worth it to stand in line for a phone case. I experienced the Black Friday blues, but I didn’t get the satisfaction of buying something at a ridiculously low price.

Down on my luck, I tried one more place. I headed back on the Belt Parkway to Caesar’s Bay. There was a Best Buy as well. While I was walking near the line to check out Modell’s, I hear a voice, “Hey Sam! What are you doing here?”

It turns out that it was a few of my friends from High School. They told me they were there waiting in line for a few hours.

And then it hit me.

This is insane. Who needs this stress and disappointment?

I said bye to my friends and went home to my bed, where I didn’t need to wait inline!

Guard the Yogurt

Sergeant: “Men you will guard this yogurt to your death.”
Soldiers: “Sir, yes sir. Hurrah!”

Carmen: Story of Don Jose

Carmen is a beloved opera known worldwide for its music, its singing, and plot.


The most recent rendition featured Anita Rachvelishvili as the new Carmen.  Her singing was spot on.  From her mezzo-soprano voice, one can tell that she was someone with the ability of persuasion.


But Anita didn’t have the physical attractiveness of Carmen.  We have the perception of Carmen as a sexy and promiscuous young female.  Maybe that is society’s fault for setting these standards and also it is very rare for thin girls to be opera singers.



Starring as Don Jose was Yonghoon Lee.  Some have called Carmen a tragedy, not because of Carmen’s fate, but because of Don Jose’s fall from grace.  In the beginning of the opera, Don Jose is a successful military corporal with Micaela (Kate Royal) as his fiancé.  As Carmen starts seducing him, Don Jose begins to tumble.  Don Jose always had agency.  He had the freedom to act on his own will.  At times, Don Jose could’ve left Carmen and went back to his mom and fiancé.  Instead, he decided on his free will to stay.  Carmen’s seducing did play a role, but it was up to him to make a decision.


When the audience first meets Micaela, she is presented as the “good girl”.  She goes to church, she visits her fiancé’s mom, and is innocent.  This is complete opposite to Carmen who uses fortune cards, gets into fights, and is sinful.  This  “good girl” reveals her power in Act III.  She was the only reason Don Jose decided to turn back and go him to his mother.  It is true that her and Carmen are complete opposites.  Carmen is now repelling Don Jose, while Micaela is attracting to Don Jose.


In this production, the props themselves represented something greater.  The first was during the climax. When Don Jose decides to join Carmen, he takes off his military jacket to put on a different jacket that resembles that of a smuggler.  The jacket is used to portray the identity of a person.  When Don Jose took off his military jacket, he finally renounced his past.  Before that, he was attracted to Carmen, but had agency.  Now, with a new jacket, Don Jose is a new person who has given into his impulses and there is no turning back for him.



Another symbol were the lights themselves.  Before every two acts, a dance ballet is performed.  In the first one, a ballet is performed under red light.  The color red has a connotation with love, blood, and passion.  This was apparent with the first two acts where Carmen starts seducing Don Jose and Don Jose proclaiming his love toward Carmen.  Before Act III, instead of the red light, there was a blue light.  The color blue represents that of cooling, sadness, and calmness.  This was shown in the last two acts where Carmen rejects Don Jose’s love.


The music was amazing.  The orchestra did an amazing job to make the audience to feel that they were in Seville, Spain.  There were no synchronization errors, but I believe that it was wrong for the music to stop playing before Carmen dies. With no music, the death seemed melodramatic.  The music would’ve complemented the death scene by making it something that the entire audience has been waiting to see.

Hurricane vs Halloween

To “trick-or-treat”, or not to “trick-or-treat”, that is the question.


As we all know, Halloween fell on the same day thousands of New Yorkers were still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Personally, I was surprised that I didn’t get hit at all, but this isn’t about my home. It is about the homes of all New Yorkers. Some homes were flooded so bad, that people threw away their belongings and don’t even compare your problems after you hear the horror at Breezy Point.


Halloween is considered a happy holiday. Children go house to house for candy. Then, they come home and eat it all up. The argument is that is still too soon. Not everything is back to normal. The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, even moved Halloween to Monday. What did I see in my neighborhood? I saw kids going around and eating their candy. Then I went to my grandma’s neighborhood, which had no streetlights at all, no kids were there. In Brighton Beach, it was the same story as in Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach. It was an interesting disparity to see.


Some people who I have talked to argued that children are innocent and they should understand that the world isn’t perfect, but taking them “trick-or-treating” is a sign of hope that everyone will be okay.


Others say that it is not right. How can your children go “trick-or-treating”, when so many other children have no access to electricity, hot water, and have their homes flooded?


It is an ethical issue, if you ask me. What would you do?


Then, my sister asked my mom if she could go “trick-or-treating”? I immediately voiced my disapproval. My sister was trying to convince my mom to let her.


My mom came up with a solution. “If ten kids come to our home and ask for candy, we will go ‘trick-or-treating’,” my mom said.


Only seven kids came.


For the reading I chose the story of Larry Sultan.


What I really enjoyed about Mr. Sultan’s piece is that he talks about the difference between perception and description in photography. Perception is how things should be, while description is how things actually are. Larry Sultan gets into an argument with his dad over a picture of his mom. Larry took a picture of his mom holding a turkey on a silver platter (descriptive). Larry’s dad complained that his son was stereotyping on how people age. Larry then started to point out that all of the photos his dad took of him mom looked “like a model selling one thing or another” (prescriptive).


Then Larry looks at his father. He started taking pictures of his father’s reactions. He makes it clear that his father has been laid off and this causes his father great pain. Not only because of him losing his job, but also because of the social implications of the time. Larry makes clear these were the Reagan years and the main image of this time was “perfect family” also known as the prescription of the time. No one has a perfect family and Larry uses his own as an example to show “what happens when we are driven by images of success.”


It was a truly powerful piece and Mr. Sultan does a superb job showing the judgments photographers need to take before taking a picture: to photograph the representation or the thing itself?


UNDEREXPOSURE: Failure to expose correctly because not enough light has struck the film or sensor to faithfully render the color and brightness values.


UV FILTER: A clear, colorless filter that stops most ultraviolet rays from recording on film.


SATURATION: In color, a vividness, or intensity.


INCIDENT LIGHT: The light that falls on a subject, rather than that which is reflected off it.


HIGH CONTRAST: A scene where the range between the brightest and darkest areas is extreme





United they stand, divided they Fall…for Dance

This year was the ninth annual Fall for Dance festival. As always, it showed a variety of dances. Each dance had its own distinctive taste and nuances.

The first dance looked like a fairy tale between a princess and her prince. It was performed in the classical style. One issue that caught my eye was the other performers besides the prince and princess. It was a quantitative, not a qualitative, issue. There were thirteen of them. The number “13” always had a bad connotation. Maybe the choreographer didn’t notice it, but after counting them, I thought that it was going to be a not pleasant ending. Instead, the ending showed the both of them together, happy, and strong.

The second dance was a seduction piece between a woman and a salesperson that deals with shoes. The dance movements seemed modern, but they were powerful. The piece itself was shorter in comparison to the first piece, but it was very explicit. There was no guessing on what the piece may be about. There is a new expression that defines shoes (not diamonds) as a girl’s best friend. Logically, the best way to win over a girl is through shoes.

The third dance seemed like an East Asian indigenous ritual. The movements were slow. At times, they were too slow and worn out. For five minutes, someone could hear a sea of coughs and iPhone ringtones. After their movements were done, the drums came. It seemed as a relief to the audience. Finally, there would be something dynamic. I thought the drums would change the aspect of the piece. Instead, it was worn out. The beats all sounded the same. It was very redundant and made me yearn for the piece to end.

The fourth and final dance was that of the gypsies in Southern Russia. The piece was performed in a gypsy dance. There were lots of shaking of the body by both of men and women. As someone who has seen a Russian gypsy dance before, there was something missing. It was the singing! When they sing, they don’t sing in Russian. It is a different language. It has certain sound of magic and mystery in it, which drew me in the first time I heard it. The dance performance was on key, but the singing would’ve made it better.

Another issue with the performance was the romanticizing of the gypsy culture. The dance represented the ideal gypsy life with people dancing. In reality, many of the gypsies are in poverty and they were prosecuted. In addition, I imagined the piece to be set around the Volga River. People who worked near the Volga River faced terrible working conditions. They needed to pull ships against the current on the Volga River. Many men and women died trying to pull the ships. It would’ve been interesting to see if there could’ve been an incorporation of the tough lives they faced. It would’ve provided a so called “reality check”.
“Barge Haulers on the Volga” by Ilya Repin

            Looking at each part, some dances were better than other. Looking at the whole, Fall for Dance succeeded at what it does best: to show the audience different styles of dance.

Jody Sperling: Dancing the History

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and art historian. She has performed all over the world. As someone who is knowledgeable in all dances, she decided to talk to us about serpentine dance and a certain Loie Fuller.

I looked around the class and everyone had confusion painted on their face. This discussion was going downhill until Ms. Sperling brought in pop culture.

“How many of you watch Friends?” Sperling asked.

The entire class woke up. Everyone who is anyone has seen Friends. Even though it ended eight years ago, people (including me) still watch reruns and enjoy them. Apparently there was a poster of Loie Fuller in the rooms of one of the characters. I was shocked; so much so that when I came home, I tried to find the episode with the poster.

Look at the poster all the way to the right!

Sperling gave us a brief biography of Loie Fuller. Loie was born in a tavern because it was the only place in the entire village with heat. Through the use of pictures, the audience sees how she changed. Eventually, Loie moved to Europe to pursue her career in performing arts.

It has been rumored that Loie discovered serpentine dancing accidentally. During one performance in Quack M.D., Loie saw that the audience liked the way skirt moved with the light. From there on, she kept developing this style. One way was that she made the skirts bigger and bigger. Another way was that she synchronized her movements with lighting, which was harder back then because humans operated it.

Jody Sperling doesn’t speak of serpentine dance as a historian, but instead as a fellow dancer. She told us that for a celebration at the Library of Congress, she performed a serpentine dance piece. She told us how difficult it was. It’s not easy to carry the skirt around. I thought that one needs to carry the skirt with their hands, but really they are holding on to the poles that make the skirt move. There must be a balance of weight when the poles are being held. If one hand is lower, the dance can’t be done properly.

At first, it was difficult to picture serpentine dancing in my mind. When Jody Sperling showed us a video of a 1890s dancer performing the dance, it was just a lady twirling her skirt around and no sound. It’s not Jody Sperling’s fault considering that movies back then didn’t have any sound. It wasn’t until Sperling showed her performance at Library of Congress that I saw how music and light plays a vital role. Without it, all you have a woman swinging her skirt around. Another disappointing thing is that there are no videos of Loie Fuller dancing! There are only pictures of her. It would’ve been nice to see dancing and comparing her movements to other dancers who performed the serpentine dance. Maybe that is why Loie Fuller has mesmerized the dancing community. Today, no primary sources exist of Loie’s performances. This mystery teases art historians and makes them want to learn more about her. It is not just in arts, but also all throughout human nature. We are all attracted to mysteries whether it is the Bermuda Triangle or D.B. Cooper.

Jody Sperling ends on a political note. She compares the American Arts programs to that of Europe. In Europe, the state subsidizes a lot of it, while in America, as she says, “makes it unfair for all.” An interesting fact that she pointed out is that the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs gave out more money than the National Endowment for the Arts. How one city can give more money to its art programs than an entire nation is astonishing. To know that NYC can find funding for art programs is remarkable. Especially with this mood in Washington where politicians are screaming for spending cuts and art/music programs tend to be the first programs to be cut. Overall, Jody Sperling talking to us was a lively and enjoyable experience.

Jody Sperling



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The Train Driver…Driven to Insanity

What does an emotionally disturbed man, a graveyard, and a train have in common? It is not a question many of us face on a daily basis, but the answer is the source of Athol Fugard’s new play, The Train Driver.

The audience first meets Simon (Leon Addison Brown). We learn that Simon is a gravedigger. As Simon is working, a loud ruckus comes and we meet Roelf (Ritchie Coster). Roelf asks Simon to direct him to any new grave of a woman and her baby. According to Roelf, a woman with her baby jumped in front of his moving train and he couldn’t do anything about. Afterwards, Roelf experienced visions of him pulverizing the woman. Ultimately, causing him to lose his job, his family, and his sanity. Throughout the performance, Roelf keeps trying to find the grave in order to scream at her for all the pain he caused her.

The play wasn’t just a story about a man confronting his emotions; its sole purpose was to teach the audience that blacks still face poverty in South Africa today. Athol Fugard showed this with his use of innuendos. The set is one huge innuendo and it deserves credit. At first, it didn’t look like a graveyard. Instead it looked like a junkyard with the amount of scrap metal around and even a defunct car. As the play progressed, the audience is allowed to zoom on more innuendos. Simon’s living conditions are one of them. Simon lived in a small hut with no electricity. He only had a candle for light and he still used it very efficiently. The last two were because of the set design, but the final one was revealed in dialogue. It was less subtle, but more effective. Roelf shows Simon the news article that talked about how Roelf’s train ran over the woman. As Simon was going to grab the article, Roelf says that he doubts that Simon even knows how to read and Roelf is right. As Roelf starts reading the article, the audience learns that the setting is around 2010. To know that blacks live in terrible conditions even today, it was a bit exaggerated, but it served its purpose of informing the audience.

One scene that Athol Fugard doesn’t show is the reason why Roelf is in disarray. The audience knows how Roelf feels about the woman and how she had a profound effect on him. It would have been interesting to see why the woman jumped with her baby. What was she thinking? Did she want to make a statement? Why take her baby with her too? This wasn’t a major issue because of how well both characters were portrayed. Here, the clothes didn’t make the men, but the men made the clothes. The rags worn by Simon or the baggy sweatpants worn by Roelf didn’t feel like an article of clothing. Instead, it felt like an extension of their respective characters.

The Train Driver is filled with turns and epiphanies. On the outside, the play looks like a man versus self theme, but if one is willing to look past this façade, he or she will see something different. Athol Fugard does a good job at implying apartheid isn’t over yet and that many South African blacks face terrible life conditions.

The Pen is mightier than the Sword!

It’s true what people say: The Ancient Greeks influenced our way of life. For me, it was in an indirect way. Last Saturday, I was brainstorming my idea of what Homer means when he uses mist in The Odyssey. After I got an idea of what I wanted to write, I put my ideas on paper. Only one problem remained. I couldn’t make this transition. Apparently, the pen ran out of ink.

It was no big deal. I had plenty of pens in my room. I took one. I started writing and once again there was no ink so I threw it out. After countless pens, none of them worked. The easy solution was to use a pencil, but I am a stubborn man. I want to write this essay with a pen.

I went downstairs and asked my dad if I can borrow a pen from him. He said, “No. I won’t give you a pen. I will give you something better.”

“Sure,” I said because honestly want can better than a pen?

We go into the basement and my dad takes out a box. He opens it and inside was a bunch of fancy looking pens.

“Dad, those are still pens,” I said.

“No. They aren’t pens. They are writing instruments!” he replied.

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“Try it. Then you feel the difference,” he said.

I opened the cap and saw the tip of the pen. It was nothing I had ever seen before. Thanks to Google, I found out I was using a fountain pen. I went up to my room. Took out a piece of paper and started writing random things to get a feel for it. After a while, I was getting the feel for it and then the ink also ran out!

I went downstairs to my dad and proudly exclaimed, “Aha! The ink ran out. This isn’t better than my pens. Looks like I’m going to throw this out.”

“No! Stop. Do not throw away the pen. The whole point is to refill the ink,” he said.

I was even more confused now. I never knew that pens could be refilled. We went back to the basement. He took out a syringe and a bottle of black ink. He took my pen and opened it up to reveal a cartridge. There he used a syringe to fill the cartridge.

“There you go. I refilled it. No need to throw it out like your cheap pens,” he said with a smile.

I was in total shock. I never knew that anybody still has bottles of ink lying around their home. I thought it was an 18th century thing…something of a shocker in the 21st century. As I now using my new writing instrument, I feel different than when I do with a regular pen. It gives me a sense of originality and superiority because honestly, who uses a fountain pen nowadays? Thanks to my Dad, he introduced me into this world of writing elegantly with elegant tools. Now, off to Homer!


Collage Proposal

My collage theme is to look at the infrastructure of NYC. I am not talking about the bridges, highways, or parks. Instead I will look at the things many of us walk past on a daily basis (utility covers, manholes, etc.) or things we rarely use (call boxes, mail boxes, even the old parking meters) The whole point is to show how many of these underrated things lasted over the years and represent a time we didn’t before. For example, who uses a call box.

I will also want to do it digitally. One of the most important things is to have a side-by-side shot. For example, looking an older street sign compared to a new one. Looking at antique streetlights compared to the new ones. Even looking at the old subway cars compared to the new ones or the old parking meters with munimeters. This project in a sense will get the audience involved in the fact that NYC is a huge city with huge electrical, sewer, water, and transportation demands and that most these utilities that have been here for many years still function, they provide art (intricate designs on call boxes, manholes, utility covers), and even can provide a history of NYC.

Unique Sam.

Unique New York. Unique New York. Unique. To most of us, the phrase is a tongue twister. To me on the other hand, it’s a motto and it represents my character. I live in one of the best cities in the world and everyone is unique in their own way. To succeed in such a city, I believe one must be very unique.

When I was 4 years old, my father introduced me to the game of chess. It’s a thinking game that involves strategy and logic. In addition, it’s not a game most people play and study. What I like most about it is that the game us known throughout the world. Last February, I went on an exchange trip with my school to Avellino, Italy. It is a small city south of Naples. I stayed with an Italian host. One night, my host took me to his family friend’s house for a dinner party. Everyone was drinking wine, eating delicious meats, and yelling in Italian. I had no clue what was going on, but then I saw something in the corner of my eye. It was a chessboard. I suddenly asked my host to translate if anyone in the house played chess. Next thing I know, the man who seemed like an alcoholic to me said that he did. We took out the chessboard and started playing. It was a long game, but in the end, I won. When we were playing it amazed me how two people can’t communicate through language, but can communicate through chess moves.

Table Tennis is another sport I view as unique. Most people know how to eat a ball with a racket, but to study the sport and get better, that involves skill. Table Tennis is really like chess except for the reaction time. In chess, it can take minutes to make the next move. In Table Tennis, it takes a matter of seconds. I take pride in playing the sport and it’s a very practical sport. Whenever you go on vacations, most hotels will have a table set so you can go play. Also, what I love about this unique sport is that many people confess to be godly in the sport, but after playing and destroying them, it makes me feel good to destroy his or her ego.

One last unique passion I have is for watches. Not any watches, but Swiss Made mechanical watches. Most people have a quartz watch. That means that the watch is battery powered. Mechanical watches are the ones that need daily winding. Sure it is tedious, but each time I wind the watch, I can feel all of the individual movements working together to produce harmony. One disadvantage is that the time isn’t as accurate as a quartz watch, but one good thing is that you need to change the battery because there is no battery. Once in Pennsylvania, my friend and I went to the woods. We had to be back at the home by 6pm. Out of nowhere, my friend’s watch just stopped working because the battery died. While my watch kept working and we got home just in time. A mechanical watch is practical and I like practicality.

Whether it is a mental game, a physical sport, or a love for man made inventions, I take pride in all three activities. They provide me with great skills. Guess that is what makes my character so unique.

By: ybot84

Racism in Brooklyn

This summer, I had the opportunity to work on the re-election campaign for NYS Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz. The Assemblyman needed was facing a primary challenge against Ben Akselrod, a relative newcomer in politics. The Assemblyman needed me to reach out to the Russian community because Ben was a Russian-speaking candidate and could easily communicate with the community. (Just to let all the readers know that in South Brooklyn there is a huge Russian speaking population and this group of people helped elect relative newcomers before.) I thought that my job would involve translating dialogue about issues between the Assemblyman and constituents, but what I got instead was a whopping dish of racism.


It first happened in an Adult Day Care Center. The Assemblyman was to speak and give out tickets to a senior luncheon. After he was done, I was walking with him out and then a man in his 70s stopped us and said, “Hello Mr. Cymbrowitz, what do you think of the schvartzer in the White House?”

Schvartzer is a derogatory term for black people in the Yiddish language. I was in awe. Not because he said the word, but how he said it with such conviction and emphasis.

Mr. Cymbrowitz replied, “That isn’t nice to say about him, but I believe he isn’t doing a good job, but it’s a hard job.”

It was a generic answer, but it was good enough for the man so he walked away.


A week later, I visited a community center with the Assemblyman. We went inside an ESL program for adults. It was filled with Russians, and then a black man came in with a notebook. The room lit up with gossip in Russian.

“What an idiot?” said one person.

“Of course, black people don’t know how to speak normal English,” said another.

“The room started to smell the second he came in,” said one person to her friend.

The black man dropped the notebook on a desk went to the front and said in perfect Russian grammar, “I understand you all. My wife is Ukrainian and I lived there for 10 years. She is the one studying English. She left her notebook at home and I came here to give it to her.”

As the man was talking, the faces of all the Russian immigrants turned pale white, as they were embarrassed. Me on other hand, I turned bright red because it was hard to control the laughter.


2 weeks before the primary, the opponent released a new flier, which talked about crime in the neighborhood. The only problem was that the flier didn’t say the word “neighborhood”. Instead it said “negrohood”. There was uproar everywhere. Before you know it, this story went from being on a local blog site to the NY Times. Everyone was shocked and disgusted. How can someone get the word negrohood from neighborhood? The opponent said it was a typo, but one of the comments said it was a Freudian slip and I believe that error was due to some unconscious train of though.

In my three months of working for the Assemblyman, I encountered racism in 3 languages. This experience showed me that even though everything America faced in terms of civil rights, people still have pre-existing beliefs in racism whether it is in a diverse place such as Brooklyn or a very homogenous place such as West Virginia.

P.S. Last Thursday was the Primary and we won by 200 votes! Now it is time for the General Election.

The Assemblyman and me at a community event!

White Rabbits Concert

It was a hazy summer evening when I received a text message from my friend asking me if I would like to go to a free concert the next day. Without even thinking or asking the name of the band, I replied that I would like to go.

This was a first for me. I never went to a rock concert before. My parents had always dragged me to classical music concerts and I dreaded it. My friend gave me the name of the band. They were called the White Rabbits. Originally, I thought they were called the White Rabbis, but it turns out my friend misspelled the name. I started researching them and I found out that they were an indie rock band. I don’t tend to listen to indie music, but I decided why not.

We arrived at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and this definitely was not the music hall I was expecting. Normally, there would be chairs so the audience can sit in…not here! Everyone was pushing to get as close as possible to the stage. The music itself was unexpectedly loud. When the first song was over, I thought my ears were going to bleed. After a while, my ears adapted to the noise. Finally, there was the occasional smell of a drug used for medicinal purposes in some states.

The band was amazing! They were very skilled and hey, it was a free concert so I can’t complain. This cultural encounter showed me there is a side of the NY music scene, which I barely scrapped the surface of and I hope to go to more free concerts in the future.

All the way in the front!

White Rabbits – Kid On My Shoulders

5 Critical Terms

1. Personification

The ability of giving lifeless objects human attributes.

2. Apex

The highest part or the climax.

3. Epilogue

The closing section of a performance.

4. Anachronism

An invention mentioned before its time.

5. Motif

A repeating theme in a story.

Lexington Avenue

Wednesday is what I call hell day for me. I have 2 classes that day. My first class is from 9:30 to 10:45 and the next one from 2:55 to 4:15. I do not have a problem with classes themselves, but I do have an issue with that huge gap of time in between.

I woke up Wednesday and had set on my mind that I would pay a visit to Bloomingdales on East 59th Street and Lexington. I always loved going to Bloomingdales and since Baruch was on East 25th Street and Lexington, I believed I could survive the trek of 30 plus streets. I thought I was just going to find something amazing on sale, but I discovered something else instead. My Speech and Communication class ended at 10:45 and my journey began.

Between East 25th and East 30th, all I can see were food places ranging from the standard Subway sandwich shop to Chinese/Indian restaurant. There were an unusually high number of Indian restaurants and at times, the street smelled like curry and biryani. Then between East 30th and East 40th, I saw the residential area with a vast array of homes, but no stores. It was a pleasant sight to see because it made me feel like I was back in Brooklyn.

Then everything changed from East 40th street. No more housing apartments. Instead, there were corporate buildings. No more people walking their dogs in shorts and sandals. Instead, people were walking and holding their Starbucks in suits and shoes. Even the signed changed from the authentic green street sign to a blue one! Then on East 50th street, the tourists invaded. The streets became clogged and I couldn’t walk without bumping into somebody. Before I knew it, 30 minutes passed and I was one block away from Bloomingdales.

I had made it. I walked into Bloomingdales. Looked around and I saw nothing good on sale. I walked and thought I wasted my time, but I realized that the time wasn’t wasted because I knew I needed to walk back to Baruch and this time, I chose a different Avenue. This walk allowed me to see the different parts of Lexington Avenue and I consider it my cultural encounter.

Comments by rubinsammy

"Wow! Usually, most people don't want their neighborhood to be turned into a hipster area. It does make the area more valuable and bring economic benefit. But there is a risk of displacement because of increased cost. Where do all the people go? Not a lot of people like talking about this issue, even though it's relevant. If you look around Red Hook, Williamsburg, and Bed-Stuy, gentrification has been occurring there for a while. During the break, I highly suggest you watch the movie, "Do The Right Thing". Spike Lee made it in the 80s and the issues there can be applied to our day and age. Sadly--or fortunately--, I live in the "uncool" part of Brooklyn. Way down south. It's very unlikely that my area would become "hipsterville" because there are many middle class people here. In addition, gentrification occurs in the poor parts of Brooklyn. Bushwick has and is going through a tremendous change. I am not a supporter or opponent of gentrification. But I do believe that some neighborhoods are benefiting from it, while others are left behing. It was a good post!"
--( posted on Dec 17, 2012, commenting on the post Too Much Diversity )
"Wow. Out of all the places, you chose to go to Tennessee? That is very original. Ruby Falls looks interesting. So it is also an artificial waterfall? Then why is the title so misleading? It looks as if Tennessee is copying New York. Or maybe we are copying them? I have been meaning to go to the South. From what I got from your encounter, it is a very relaxed place with Nature doing all of the leg work. Great post!"
--( posted on Dec 12, 2012, commenting on the post Waterfalls- Real vs. Fake )
"I feel the same way! Some times I believe my family has integrated to the American culture. At other times, I still feel like we are the immigrants on the block. We buy food at American and Russian supermarkets. My family is not into herrings. But we are into caviar. That's the only seafood we eat. Also, it is completely different from your family."
--( posted on Dec 12, 2012, commenting on the post A Dried Herring, Please )
"Are you crazy? 3 weeks in India sounds amazing. I would have went within a heartbeat. You always want to go to new places. It may be true that you go to India every year. But being in a place is not the same as exploring a place. If you want to explore the area, you must become part of it and understand how everything works. Yes it sounds cliche, but it works. At least you enjoyed the trip at the end!"
--( posted on Dec 12, 2012, commenting on the post India Trip )
"That was an interesting moment for you. I always feel that people in NYC (especially Manhattan) are always in a hurry. They don't have time to stop, be aware of their surroundings, and ask questions. That has never happened to me nor have I gained enough courage to go up to person on the street and start conservation. That person probably picked you because of your stellar beard!"
--( posted on Dec 5, 2012, commenting on the post What Was Your Name Again? )
"I know exactly how you feel. Coming from a Russian family, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving for the literal meaning as many people do. We celebrate as a family gathering. The food as well is a mix of both cultures. We have the Turkey and the Cranberry sauce on one side of the table. The other side we have vinaigrette, kvass, and other Russian delicatessen. It's an amazing to see the two cultures juxtaposed on one table and your encounter shows this!"
--( posted on Dec 5, 2012, commenting on the post A “Traditional” Thanksgiving Dinner? )
"Wow. I really enjoyed your pictures. It made me visualize the flooding. I find it very strange that the water quickly receded on Roosevelt Island. What I heard from a friend who lives on Roosevelt Island was that the wind was scary. Since almost all of the housing are apartments, go figure. Honestly, I didn't hear anything about Roosevelt Island in the news, so that means everything went well? By the way, how high is Roosevelt Island? Is it sea-level or a bit elevated?"
--( posted on Nov 11, 2012, commenting on the post Guess what happened with Sandy? )
"I liked how you described the trees as if they were dancing. It was a scary experience for me. There is a tree outside my house and I was worried that it would come down and fall on my house, a car, or worse a power line. I was most afraid of the power line scenario. It's not because I wouldn't be without my internet. It was because I was afraid that a fire could start. The last thing my family would need is a fire on our block. I saw the same picture that you posted online as well. It has a sense of surrealism to it. To imagine that the water can come over to the street and flood Stuyvesant, Ground Zero, and other residential homes is something I couldn't believe."
--( posted on Nov 11, 2012, commenting on the post Hurricane Sandy: Dancing Trees )
"I am in the same 10% as you are! I as well find my lefty skills to be amazing. No one else in my family is a lefty. I heard the disdain for left-handed people went back many of years to the Feudal system. Whenever someone would make an agreement, they would shake with their dominant hands (right-handed) and would have their weapon in their left handed. With lefties, their non-dominant hand was the one they would shake with and would control the weapon with their left hand. They weren't trusted because a lefty could kill the other party in an agreement. It is very silly, but the influence is widespread. No one says my "left-hand man". They say "right-hand man". I enjoyed your piece, but I like how you didn't mention of the lefty plan to take over the world and convert all of the right-handed people...oops!"
--( posted on Oct 29, 2012, commenting on the post Culture of the Southpaws )
"Well, I am not Asian, but I do have Soviet parents and grandparents. I wouldn't say I had a spoiled childhood or that it was terrible, but it was manageable. I am not going to lie, but my grandparents had it tough. They lived during the Hunger Years in the USSR. My grandma keeps telling me stories about how she needed to walk miles to her school, grow her own food, and then cook. Their life is much tougher than mine. Considering they had to evacuate their homes (not because of a hurricane), but because of the Nazi invasion. My parents did live comfortable lives as well, but it was in the Soviet Union so it is hard to compare. Honestly, I can't speak for myself considering my sister and I are first-generation Americans. It is all based on perspective. For example, the other day, my sister was complaining that she didn't get that many likes on her Facebook pictures. Then, it hit me. When I was her age, there was no Facebook or laptops. It made me remember the old times and then I gave her the old person staple speech, "When I was your age...."."
--( posted on Oct 29, 2012, commenting on the post At My Age )
"It's amazing at how much waste and useless operations there are every year. The only reason doctors do them is to get more money from insurance companies or Medicaid. As you would know, back in the USSR, there were no "superfluous operations". My great-grandfather and grandparents were doctors and the one thing they always believed in is that you should never do anything that is not needed. That's the problem with doctors nowadays. Doctors only care about money. Think about. Anytime you walk into a doctor's office, the first question isn't "what's the matter with you?". It is "what kind of insurance do you have?" People became doctors for the primary reason of helping out in the community. Now, it looks like doctors care about making profits. That is why I don't like most doctors. The only doctors that I truly respect are VA and military doctors. They don't make as much as their peers who work in hospitals or in private practices, BUT they do good to the nation. I really enjoyed your piece. It really showed the problem of medical waste and the profit seeking motives of doctors."
--( posted on Oct 29, 2012, commenting on the post Immigrant Bonds )
"Sorry about the link not showing the area of the Chinatown. The first link only has one "border." This is the other one.,Ocean+Ave+%26+Avenue+U,+Brooklyn,+NY+11229&gl=us&ei=irx6UIfaBam80AGZkYCYCg&ved=0CB0Q8gEwAA"
--( posted on Oct 14, 2012, commenting on the post Private: A Culture, Re-Encountered )
"Yes. I agree with Melody. There are different "Chinatowns". Personally, I pass by the Avenue U one everyday. It's a lot of supermarkets, bubble tea places, and the rare acupuncture office. You would imagine that the Avenue U would be huge, but it only covers a small area.,Coney+Island+Ave+%26+Avenue+U,+Brooklyn,+NY+11223&gl=us&ei=Nrt6UKLLAYrk0QHfoYHYAQ&ved=0CDAQ8gEwAA After you cross one of the "borders", the neighborhood changes. I walk past it everyday and the sudden change is still unbelievable. One complaint I do have about these markets is the fish. Yes it is fresh, but boy does it stink. For me, I can hold my breath for 10 seconds, but I have friends who live right around the corner of these markets and that's the biggest thing they complain about."
--( posted on Oct 14, 2012, commenting on the post Private: A Culture, Re-Encountered )
"I hate them!!!! It's not only Asians who do this. I have seen many whites, blacks, purples, half-giraffes do it as well. On a more serious note, they are very annoying. If one lives in an apartment, one may not notice this, but it is noticeable when one lives in an house. They go into your trash and start sorting through your trash. Taking out the bottles and leaving the mess there. My dad and I do this awful thing to them and the environment (and I hope no one else does this). Sometimes, we gather all of our bottles and cut them in half so that they can't get any money out of our bottles. It's a very sick thing we do haha. It's not residential trash only, many of them open up public DSNY trash cans for cans and bottles. This causes the block to get dirty and the smell of trash becomes noticeable. I always knew why they did it, but how you described your grandfather's trouble with picking up the garbage is another thing that I never thought about before."
--( posted on Oct 13, 2012, commenting on the post Can Collecting )
"I remember when you told me this the first time, I was in shock. I understood if you had your Macbook, but you only had your Business and Public Policy notes. Who would want them? A student who doesn't take notes? Your professor? Someone needing toilet paper? This reminds me of my friend in High School. He also got his bag stolen. He had a few notes, folders of looseleaf paper, and his graphing calculator. A week later, he finds his bag in a classroom just laying there. He goes through his bag and finds that the thief didn't care for the 100 dollar graphing calculator, but instead for a few sheets of looseleaf."
--( posted on Oct 13, 2012, commenting on the post A Holy Place Destroyed. )
"That would have strengthened the play in my opinion. It would have given the audience a better understanding of the woman. What were the circumstances of her jumping? Why did she drag her baby along? Did she want to portray a political message? It all goes back to my taste. I like it when books/movies/plays explain everything at the end and leave nothing for guessing. This has been my first Fugard production, but I was wondering...are other Fugard plays similar? Are there also little nuances that Fugard doesn't explain, leaving the audience to guess?"
--( posted on Oct 12, 2012, commenting on the post The Train Driver…Driven to Insanity )
"Yes, you are completely right about museums. I never liked going to them, but after since I got the Macaulay Cultural Passport, I don't mind them. I visited the Guggenheim the other day. I showed them the passport and there was a ticket there for me. I walked around saw the exhibits. I had a new view of them. Primarily because of the fact that I didn't need to pay anything for them! The story with Lucy was an interesting one. I liked how the archaeologists gave her a name. In my opinion, it gives the bones an identity. Whenever I see exhibits on ancient humans, they don't have names. They are only known as "primitive male" or "young girl". By doing so, the archaeologists try to make it easier for us to connect to these bones. I hope you use the Cultural Passport to go to more museums and see other cool exhibits!"
--( posted on Sep 30, 2012, commenting on the post Ancient Cultural Encounter )
"You bring up an interesting point. All of us do rely on technology more than we did 5 or 10 years ago. I really like how you talked about the sea of MacBooks in our business class. It put an image in my head! One thing that will be interesting to see over time is how these kids will do after being introduced to this technology at such a young age. For example, my sister is 11 years old. She had a Facebook profile since she was 8. When I was 8, I didn't have a Facebook. I didn't kill my time on the computer or complain about people not liking my profile picture. I only had a Playstation 2 (which still works today!), I enjoyed how at the end you used photobooth with Joey and started taking pictures on the Mac. As many people say, you don't take photos, you create memories. That's one good purpose of technology. To create new and better memories! P.S. Completely irrelevant, but for that math problem, take the derivative! (I like math)"
--( posted on Sep 30, 2012, commenting on the post iPhonatics )
"That's awesome that you went to the Cherry Blossom festival. I am really jealous of you! I never knew that there were any performances. Was the samurai play a pantomime? If not, what language did the actors speak? We are lucky to have the cherry blossoms in Brooklyn, but the cool thing about them in my opinion is that it is a once a year thing. Luckily for you and your friends, you got to see the sakura when they just bloomed. Would you happen to know if now, the sakura are still there? If you are ever in Washington D.C. around March or April, I highly advice you to visit its sakura near the national monuments! The sakura trees are amazing and it makes everything smell nice."
--( posted on Sep 30, 2012, commenting on the post Sakura Matsuri )
"That sounds so cool! I love hearing stories of small business owners such as your mom. To deal with such stress and government regulations, your mom must have some patience. A lot of the family owned or independent restaurants in my neighborhood have been closing their doors the past few years mainly because of government regulations. This hurts the neighborhood in terms of unemployment and in quality of food. Who would want a burger from McDonalds when you get a good ol' fashioned burger from a mom and pop shop. You should have put a picture up! I normally don't eat cheese, but how you describe rasgulla with mangoes, it made my stomach grumble."
--( posted on Sep 19, 2012, commenting on the post A Sweet Story )
"Yes! Your story makes me feel good to breathe the air in outside. When I was in Italy for my school exchange program last year, the two things I will remember most about Italy are the food and the constant smoking. A good majority of all high school kids smoke. In between classes, they'd go outside and have a smoke break. When I went to an Italian club, people even smoked inside it too. Let's just say that when I came back to my room, all of my clothes smelled like cigarette smoke. It was a disgusting smell and feeling. It must have been worse for you since you were experiencing second hand smoke at a greater intensity than I was. Another factor is the price of cigarettes. If I can imagine, what you can pay for a pack here, you can buy 2 or even 3 packs in China. I know in Italy, a pack costs 5 US dollars. With such lax regulations, it's no wonder why many countries have their citizens facing major health problems. These two countries in my opinion are leading all the countries in the battle against tobacco."
--( posted on Sep 15, 2012, commenting on the post Private: Cultural Encounter )
"Epcot is definitely the best place to go in Disney World. I was there twice, but both times were amazing! I like how you described the Mexican restaurant because I never knew there was one. I thought there was a just gondola ride. Is Canada one of the new countries at Epcot? I don't remember it being there. I do remember one thing. When in "Deutschland", I got one of those old fashioned German frankfurters piled high with sauerkraut and with mustard. I thought the franks at Nathans were good, but these were godly. Just from that one bite, my stomach got filled, but my appetite for German culture grew. Now, I am hoping to study at Berlin! Thanks for the piece because it reminded of how much fun Epcot is and that I definitely need to go back there!!! Credits go to toyman70. Tell me that doesn't look delicious."
--( posted on Sep 15, 2012, commenting on the post Many Cultures, One Place )
"It was a very funny post! It very so reminded me of my friend's story when she went to the McDonalds in Turkey. When it was her turn to order, she didn't know what she wanted so she started saying "um" multiple times. The cashier started laughing. My friend didn't realize what was going on until her friend reminded her that "um" means vagina in Turkish. Your story and my friend's story shows how certain words in English may sound like curse words in other language and how words in different languages sound like curse words in English. Press the "Swap Languages" button to see for yourself!"
--( posted on Sep 15, 2012, commenting on the post THE Word )
"I totally agree with you. I know personally that the same thing has been happening to my sister and I. We speak Russian, but when it comes to communicating with other people, it is in English. I feel like you, I, and many others are starting to assimilate to American culture. I am not saying that is a good thing or bad, but it is a sad fact that many immigrants or many children of immigrants start to lose their own culture and native tongue. I personally believe that people who know two languages have a greater chance at success. Here are some things I do to retain and improve my language. -Try listening to your native language's music or even TV programs -Talk to your sibling in the language so you both improve -Pick 10 random items in your room and say what they are in your language."
--( posted on Aug 29, 2012, commenting on the post Cultural Re-encounter )