Why Did the Man at the Crossroads Go the Wrong Way?

Overall, the removal and destruction of Diego Rivera’s murals, particularly the Man at the Crossroads, at Rockefeller Center was the right result, especially for that time period. The image of Rockefeller Jr.’s father drinking gin (alcohol) surrounded by women in low-cut gowns (prostitutes) in the Man at the Crossroads was the main reason why Rivera was dismissed from the project.  The Rockefellers were Baptists and therefore were supporters of the Prohibition. The Prohibition actually ended in 1933 (the time when Rivera began the project, but Baptists still continued to oppose alcohol). As for the presence of prostitutes, according to the tour guide in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Rockefeller Jr.’s father was not a “womanizer,” but Rivera was one. Therefore, the mural did not reflect Rockefeller Jr.’s father true character, but Rivera’s.

As for the portrait of Vladimir Lenin, it was possible that the essence of the First Red Scare back in 1919 – 1920 still lingered among the Americans. The Red Scare was a period of anti-Communist hysteria in which there was widespread fear of Communist takeover in America. Overall, it was best that the mural was removed during that time period to prevent conflicts among the masses. Furthermore, this provided a valid reason in the point of view of the Americans for the removal and destruction of the mural. Again, much of the features seen within the mural reflected Rivera’s ideals and beliefs.

In the approved sketch of the mural, Rivera did not include the portrait of Lenin and the portrait of Rockefeller Jr.’s father. Instead, the sketch included two machine televisions (one at each side). The one on the left illustrated people in gas masks, while the other one on the right illustrated a crowd of people with a tomb-like structure in the background (possibly Lenin’s tomb?). Overall, Rivera practically sneaked those images in the mural and refused to remove/cover them.

I would consider Rivera himself to be at fault for the situation, but ultimately it was Abby Rockefeller, the mother of Rockefeller Jr. Abby encouraged Nelson Rockefeller, her son, to have Rivera work on the mural project since both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse rejected the offer. In fact, Abby was a huge supporter of Rivera’s works and even purchased his sketchbooks and art pieces for MoMA. Overall, although there could have been other potential artists to work on the mural, Abby heavily influenced the decision to invite Rivera. An interesting idea that emerged from the tour guide was if there was a very close relationship between Abby and Rivera. However, most likely the relationship did not exist, and instead, she only deeply admired Rivera’s works. If the relationship were to exist, then it may provide additional explanation on why Abby chose Rivera to work on the mural.



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The Danticat Proverbs

During the “Meet the Author Event: Edwidge Danticat,” Danticat mentioned five fascinating proverbs that emerged from her memoir (Brother, I’m Dying) and/or inspired her writing. She defined proverb as an inspiration for writing, and I absolutely agree with her. Here are the five proverbs:

Proverb 1: Words have wings, words have feet.

In other words, words are able to travel to many places to be in the hands of someone else. For Danticat, letters were important her, in which communication between her and her family was by words on letters. Her words were able to create her memoir. The words of her life traveled through her memoir so that others may be inspired also.

Proverb 2: Sometimes you’re running from the rain, but you end up in the fire.

This relates to Uncle Joseph, where he ran away from the chaos occurring in Haiti. He believed that entering America would be the safe zone, but instead, he still didn’t escape into safety. Unfortunately, he died there from his illness because of mistreatment.

Towards the bigger picture, Danticat relates this with immigration, in which immigrants viewed America as a safe haven where they can potentially prosper. However, many immigrants, whether illegal or legal, continue to face hardship (but possibly not as worse as back in their home countries).

Proverb 3: Misfortune has no horn.

Overall, anything can happen at anytime, whether it’s a miracle or some misfortunate. Be prepared to face the worse.

Proverb 4: Those who care cannot rest. (Variation: Those who are concern cannot sleep).

Probably self-explained, but in Danticat’s experience, those who want to fight for justice should continue to fight until it is achieved.

Proverb 5: When you see an old bone in the street, remember that it once had flesh.

Personally, this is my favorite proverb out of the five. As Danticat explained, the memoir is putting the flesh on the bone of Uncle Joseph and that the memoir is also dedicated to his father and as a tribute to family. It can be said the same for other memoirs, such as Patti Smith’s Just Kids. Her memoir is the bone and she attempts not only to cover that bone with flesh of her own, but of Rob’s flesh also. Overall, with this proverb, Danticat provides us with crucial advice: “Don’t forget the great sacrifices that others have made for us.”


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My First Visit to Carnegie Hall

First of all, I thought the setting couldn’t get any worse compared to the Metropolitan Opera House. Even less leg room and the large steps…I almost fell on the first step down because I didn’t realize how low each step was.  I began to develop more fear of heights, just thinking about flying off the seats, diving towards the bottom floor below. Aside from that, knowing that we would be listening to Beethoven, I was quite excited for the orchestra to begin playing.

I recognized the Beethoven pieces that the orchestra was going to play, but I was interested in comparing the orchestra playing them to listening to them via online. Also, I’m sure many people would recognize a section of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major in the media (such as in random moments on television on shows or commercials).

I was fascinated by how a group of the same instruments created a voice, responding to other group of the same/similar instruments. When all the instruments played together, that synchronicity created one loud voice. In the playbill, I came across a paragraph on Beethoven as the Dionysian Maestro:

“Commentators of the time imply that Beethoven himself tended toward the Dionysian version when conducting [Symphony No. 7]. According to these accounts, Beethoven gyrated about on the podium, bending down deeply for diminuendos and leaping up for crescendos, his podium manner made all the more bizarre by his deafness” (p.30).

I did notice something Dionysian about the symphony, in which I noticed some pandemonium…either the instruments all at once played at a loud, chaotic volume or the group of the same/similar instruments began to play separately, thus creating separate voices.

Overall, the event was a great first-time visit to Carnegie Hall with a great orchestral performance.

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The Women of Don Giovanni

…are all pathetic.  When I read through the libretto a few days ago before the opera, I did notice how inferior the women were in the opera (and that wasn’t surprising, because during that time period, women were subservient to men [side note: could also be seen in Shakespeare’s plays]). However, during the opera, the actors, the pace, and possibly the music emphasized those parts to the point that they become quite comical (ultimately showing how pathetic the women were). Actually, I noticed that some parts I didn’t recognize from the libretto…

Zerlina asks Masetto (as she treats his injuries) to forgive her by allowing Masetto to do anything to her body as he pleases (such as ripping her eyes out). Donna Anna wants to go to the convent after Don Ottavio achieves revenge on the murderer who killed Donna Anna’s father (Don Giovanni). Donna Elvira…oh, come on, really? She would really go back to Don Giovanni after all that has happened?

Aside from that, the place was elegant and so were most of the people. The opera exceeded my expectations, and I admit that it’s better to witness that actual play rather than simply reading the libretto. My favorite part had to be Don Giovanni entering into hell. As the opera approached that scene, I was wondering how the scene would be portrayed. Would they cover the structures in sheets with hell’s fires illustrated on them? Would they play around with the lighting? I didn’t expect they would use ACTUAL fire in that scene (I wonder how rehearsal is like?).

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Tokyo String Quartet: Emotions of the Melody

As I listened to the music played by the Tokyo String Quartet in 92nd Street Y, I could not help but remember the class discussion about lip-synching. I remembered the question of whether or not musical lyrics reflected a person’s mood at the moment when he/she lip-syncs. At that time, I was not sure whether to agree or disagree, mainly because I do not lip-sync, but instead, I hum. However, the Tokyo String Quartet performance provided me with an answer to the question. When one listens to music, the melody, not the lyrics, evokes emotions and often reflects a person’s mood.

As a former active pianist, the speed of the music is written in Italian and can often foreshadow the mood of the music piece. Here I will translate some of the Italian (in the order in which they appeared in the booklet) that I recognized from experience:

Lento: slow

Poco: little

Allegro: fast

Vivace: increase tempo

Molto: very

Adagio: slow

Scherzando: playfully

Presto: very fast

Andante: moderately slow

Musical pieces played in allegro or in presto were often joyful sounding. In fact, allegro is translated to “joyful” in Italian. However, pieces played in lento or in adagio sounded depressing and dark. The transition of lento/adagio to allegro/presto created a dramatic effect and sometimes created a sense of being chased. In addition, in the beginning of the performance, I noticed that each instrument created its own separate “voice,” producing a chaotic effect. However, towards the end of the entire performance, the instruments were played in-sync and produced a harmonic effect. That harmonic effect created a playful tone in combination with the speed (allegro). To me, that melody evoked a sense of joyfulness in my thoughts, whereas the pieces played in lento or in adagio evoked depressing/angry thoughts.

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One Dance, Three Stories

For some, “I don’t believe in outer space” was a random, confused dance performance. Grey rocks scattered around the floor. Dancers were freely dancing as if they had no control over their bodies. There were different scenes and random actions. However, to me, I found it soothing with a surreal mix of life and fantasy. In fact, I considered the entire dance performance as three different stories: the atomic world, the human mind, and New York City (Yes, Nietzsche would probably smack me thrice for this).

The Atomic World

I was not sure how I began to think of the entire dance as the atomic world. Possibly because the Chemistry lecture that day was about internal energy? However, to me, it did make some sense. Atoms move randomly, occasionally colliding to other atoms, thus forming a compound. Likewise, the dancers moved around randomly, and some even attached to each other for a while. Some bonds collapsed, while others did not. The scatter grey rocks represented sub-particles (more specifically the electrons), which, like atoms, are scattered around. What about the chatting and occasional background voices? Well, even atoms communicate with each other, whether they are vicious to bond with other bonds or remain alone like a noble gas element.

The Human Mind

As I listened to the words coming from the “bipolar” dancer in black, I began to consider the entire dance in an existential point of view. At the end, the dancer spoke about her lover, in which she loved him and hoped he would come back “from outer space.” This could indicate a sense of withdrawal or even insanity brought about by the lover’s death. Could the dance be the entire thoughts of that “bipolar” dancer in black? Maybe her state of mind is in “outer space?”

New York City

A dancer in a blue hoodie was playing ping-pong. Occasional dancers sat by the corners of the stage as if they were poor. A Japanese acrobatics instructor was jumping around. Dancers grabbed onto each other as they were fighting. Does the randomness reminded you of New York City, or even captured an essence of the city life? I even considered the references of Hamlet (“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” and “I Will Survive” (by Gloria Gaynor) as satires, which could reflect society’s view on such literature or music.  It was also difficult to notice every single dancer’s actions. Likewise, in the city, we do not notice every single movement in the crowd of people. We do see movement as a whole, but to notice what each person is doing, we have to focus our attention on one person at a time.

Overall, out of the entire dance, I considered the ending of the performance as my favorite. No, not because it was the end of a random, confused dance performance. The voice combined with the choice of words (for example, the repetition of “no more…”) created a poetic, dream-like tone. Therefore, the tone created a soothing ending (a feeling of serenity) to a random dance performance.

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The High Line Portal

Welcome to the High Line Portal.

What is your destination today?

Would you like to see the floral?

Or enjoy a gourmet parfait? Take a seat on the sundeck

The weather is nice and bright.

Relax and rest your neck

But we must get going, alright?

Look down and watch the streets,

Or is it a motion picture screen?

Sit down, there’s plenty of seats,

And enjoy the busy city scene!

Let’s go! It’s a long way to go.

Down the path, pass the grassland,

Follow the people, that’s the flow.

Don’t get lost. Grab my hand!

Here we are. Our beautiful lawn.

Would you like to read a book?

Or take a nap until dawn?

Wait, over there! Take a look!

No more grasses, but trees,

All grown over the tracks.

There’s nothing more to see,

Would you like to buy a snack?

At the end of the line,

It’s time to say goodbye.

Hope you enjoyed the design,

A park floating in the sky.


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High Line and Coney Island

Coney Island and the High Line are two locations where one can escape the busy urban life, yet still be in or near the city. In Delirious New York, Koolhaas describes Coney Island as a place once filled with “technology of the fantastic” with theme parks for entertainment and leisure (29). In “A Walk on the High Line,” Gopnik describes the High Line as a place “in which New York has returned to the wild with an almost Zen quality of measure, peaceful distance.” Likewise, in “Miracle above Manhattan,” Goldberger describes the High Line as “a rare New York situation in which a wonderful idea was not only realized but turned out better than anyone had imagined.”

However, during my first-time visits to both locations, I was a bit disappointed that the “studium view” of both locations did not reach my expectations as others described them. In Coney Island’s case, the entertainment value dissipated over time compared to the Coney Island Koolhaas described during the early to mid-20th century. In the High Line’s case, Gopnik and Goldbeger’s descriptions of the High Line were somewhat exaggerations compared to what I have observed.

For a Friday afternoon, Coney Island seemed like a ghost town. The amusement parks were closed or deserted. Closed-down arcades surrounded an empty arcade. More people were in Nathan’s than on the boardwalk and the beach. The activity didn’t even change much as I waited for sunset. However, the small details of Coney Island did impress me. I noticed the garbage cans throughout the boardwalk with words, “Do Not Litter,” or some variation painted on them. Some contained special messages, such as “Mama Loves Shanna” and “Ally <3 Lee,” and little child paintings of the ocean in the midst of the chipped paint and rust. I felt that the ocean was a cemetery for the names that were painted on the garbage cans, filled with fading cries for a cleaner beach. I also noticed a sticker on a lamp post that said, “You were born original. Don’t be a copy,” as if Coney Island was speaking out to everyone. Coney Island was no longer seen as the “fetal Manhattan” as Koolhaas described, but instead it was its own kind in its entirety (30).

The next day I walked through the High Line on a cloudy afternoon. As mentioned in Goldberger’s “Miracle above Manhattan,” places transitioned around the High Line as if they were like “episodes.” For instance, the 10th Avenue Square was a theater-like complex with the city streets as an infinite stream of motion picture. Continue walking down south and one would then enter the sundeck, a tropical paradise-like section of the High Line. I admired the preserved use of the railroad tracks to echo of what it once used to be and to create an artificial coexistence of nature and industrial life with the trees and grasses growing over the tracks. Leisure on the High Line was limited though, from sitting on benches to relaxing on the sundeck. Despite the presence of the lawn around 23th Street, the space was not enough for recreational activities because many would either simply rest or sit on the grass. Jogging was even not an option with the constant congestion of crowds.

While visiting both sites, I noticed some striking similarities. Both attempted to create a tropical paradise-like atmosphere, whether it was the artificial palm trees on the Coney Island beach or the sundeck on the High Line. The murals around the Coney Island boardwalk and the abstract building structures around the High Line both reflected an artistic taste in the societies nearby. Furthermore, the messages on the garbage cans in Coney Island and the concept of the High Line itself reflected society’s interest for preservation. Amazingly enough, both were locations of interest for wedding photos. In Coney Island, a couple, along with their family, took photos on the beach with the ocean and sunset as the backdrop. On the High Line, a couple took photos with the back of a church (around 21st Street) as a backdrop in the midst of people walking by.

Although I did mention that I was a bit disappointed of Coney Island and the High Line as a whole, I admired many of the small details. Will I consider revisiting those sites again? Of course. Who knows what I will see in my next visit?

Works Cited

Goldberger, Paul. “Miracle Above Manhattan.” National Geographic April 2011: 122-137. Print.

Gopnik, Adam. “A Walk on the High Line.” The New Yorker May 21, 2001: 44-49. Print.

Koolhaas, Rem. Delirious New York. New York: Monacelli Press, 1994. Print.

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