About Maxim Avshalumov

Most people call me Max. I am a student at the Macaulay Honors College at CSI and proud to be one. I am originally from Russia and currently live in New York City.

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

I usually have a hard time establishing a connection between my personal life and a work of poetry.  Once in a while, I am given a poem that I can connect to, like Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.  This poem frequently reminded me of my experiences on the Staten Island Ferry.

Every time I use the Staten Island Ferry, I look around and wonder what the other people on the ferry are up to.  Walt Whitman seemed to have shared my nosy characteristic,”the hundreds and hundreds that cross…curious to me.”  I assume that many others do the same when they are on a busy ferry but it is nice to know that I share this characteristic with a famous poet.

Another thing that I have in common with the poem is that Walt Whitman and I see the people in a ferry as part of a larger organism.  When I sit in the ferry, I have a tendency to sit back and think of how every person on the boat has a role to play in society.  I appreciate that this poet seems to have done something very similar, “simple, compact, well-join’d scheme…every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme.”

There are so many more connections I have with this poem but I feel like there is only one more worth talking about.  Whenever I am on the outer parts of a ferry, such as the balconies, I often stare at the passing water.  Something odd occurs when this happens; I tend to be very calm and relaxed on the ferry yet the passing water currents make me feel as if I am in a hurry. I am glad I am not the only person that experienced this, “Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried.”

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry was an enjoyable read and provides strong motivation to start reading more poems revolving around New York City life and art.

The Heiress

Yesterday, the class went to see the Broadway show, The Heiress.  This has not been my first Broadway show; I have been to multiple Disney based shows and having been spoiled by the excellence of The Lion King, I did not expect much.  After the night ended, my expectations were most definitely inaccurate.

I think that the most important part of a story is the ending.  While the rest of the story must contribute to its overall purpose, the ending must execute what the story leads up to. I would not be surprised if the writer of The Heiress would agree with me.

At first, I was not having too great of a time at the show; I thought that the plot points of the play were underdeveloped and the actress that played Catherine needed some serious acting lessons.  After the class experienced the shockingly entertaining and unexpected ending of the play,  my initial thoughts of the show were thrown away into oblivion.  It was as if the the play was steering the audience in one direction the entire show and then once it came to the ending, the play made a complete 180.

I highly adore the fact that the creators of the show took this approach to the story.  Rather than make an accurate retelling of Washington Square, the creators made their own version of the story.

As shown by my tone, I find the ending of the show much more favorable than the novel’s.  There are countless classic stories that depict a protagonist as a mature hero or heroine that took care of their conflict(s) with just and noble actions.  It is a refresher to see the cold face of revenge take charge at the end of a storyline.

I cannot wait for the next seminar trip to the city.  Hopefully, the next performance the class will see is as clever as The Heiress.

Movies Based on Washington Square

This session of seminar went by rather quickly.  We watched two movies, both based on the novel, Washington Square.  Both films followed the story of the novel; one was a black and white movie, The Heiress, and the other one was, Washington Square, a more recent film.  Personally, I enjoyed watching segments of The Heiress more but Washington Square was enticing as well.

I rarely enjoy black and white movies and I avoid them when I watch TV.  This is what made the class significant for me; when I saw that The Heiress was black and white I thought watching the clips would be very boring.  Yet the film was oddly alluring, I thought that even though the film was old, it portrayed itself as a modern film.  In addition, I really liked the way the actor performed Morris.  The character was simply likable, I did not like Morris when I read the book but this actor drew me in. I would root for him throughout the course of the movie.

The film, Washington Square, was enjoyable but I would not watch it on my own time.  Especially because of the actress that played Catherine, to put it simply, she was a terrible performer.  Every time she spoke I felt uneasy; she just made the film needlessly awkward.  I cannot really put my finger on the reason for her awkwardness, but I assume it was because she overreacted to everything; very melodramatic.

Hopefully, we will watch more movies for seminar in the near future. Who knows, a new favorite might arise out of this class.

Epiphany- 10/10

It was really difficult for me to come up with a topic for this response.  In my prior blog entries, there was always a topic or an idea that I wanted to write about.  Thankfully, while I was thinking about something to write, I had an epiphany.

During class, Professor Sirotta brought up something interesting before he gave his lecture about variations of music, his epiphany.  He spoke of his first memory of listening to music, back when he was five years old. The professor said that he remembered listening to an older family member sing a Jewish folk song.  In all honesty, I thought he was stretching the truth but just a few minutes before I started writing this response, I believed him.

While I was thinking about a topic for my response, I looked through my class notes and mentally ran down all my memories of the class.  I cannot say for sure but I believe my brain established some sort of a connection between Professor’s Sirotta’s talk about his epiphany and my own first memory of listening to music.  I visualized myself sitting on a floor and in front of a television with my back laying against the bottom portion of a couch. I was watching The Lion King, specifically the beginning part in which, Circle of Life, was playing.  I cannot recall exactly how old I was but the room I was in throughout the visualization was in my old Russian apartment.  I was probably either 5 or 6 years old, around the age the professor was in his epiphany.

I am so thankful for this response, it let me reminisce about a significant moment in my life.  Hopefully, the next response will have a similar outcome.

The Opera, 10/3

Yesterday, I saw a live opera for the first time in my life.  I could write about the parts I enjoyed or disliked but I think there will be enough of that during class.  The one thing that I surely want to talk about are the riddles.

Relief went over me when I realized that the theatre let you read the captions of the dialogue.  I read up on the opera beforehand but it was nice to know that I could follow the story with ease. Most importantly, the captions let me solve the riddles for myself, and if it was not for that, the opera would have been a lot less memorable.

I made sure to skip through the riddles when reading the opera in order to guess them for myself.  I was sitting next to Christian and Andrew during the riddles and I quietly said what I thought the first answer was.  Christian and Andrew followed suit and we all tried to compete for the right answer.  Through a lucky guess, I was the only one who got the first one right.  The second riddle was by far the easiest, all three of us stated the answer with confidence and were not surprised that we were right.  The last riddle was not even close to any of our guesses, in fact, we thought the last riddle was downright unfair.  Who would guessed in a million years that the name of the princess was the answer?

Although the last riddle was a disappointment, the little game we had going was pure fun.  The opera was so rich with style, talent and scenery but in my opinion, the riddles were the best part.

Opera, 10/1

Up until this seminar class, I was not looking forward to the opera.  Dressing up and heading all the way to Manhattan to watch something I have no interest in felt displeasing. Fortunately, due to the several YouTube videos we watched during the class, heading to the opera seems like a trip worth taking.

I went to multiple musicals in my life, ranging from the disney musicals to the Phantom of the Opera.  The only musical that I thoroughly enjoyed was the The Lion King and in all honesty, the rest were a bore.  Since most of the shows I have seen lacked my interest, my past experience contributed to my disinterest of operas. I did consider the fact that musicals and operas were two different art forms but since I never took an in depth look at opera before, I sort of meshed the two as a single genre.

To my surprise, the opera videos we watched in class were simply fun to watch.  The performance from The Marriage of Figaro was by far my favorite since it made me laugh.  I actually never thought of operas as comedies, in fact, I had the notion that all operas were just melodramatic performances.  I am not sure why I had this outlook on the art form,  maybe because of the term, Soap Opera.  Melodrama is the first thing I think of when it comes to Soap Operas.

Thanks to youtube and this class, my thoughts towards opera changed. I never figured that operas would be fun to watch, I assumed they were boring melodramatic performances.  It is nice to expect a good time Wednesday night and I am sure I will be seeing more operas in the near future.


I Feel Pretty, 9/24

I have been a student for the majority of my life, a dozen years to be precise.  Throughout all of elementary school, junior high and high school, I have never experienced a student sing in any of my classes, ever.  I did, however, have music class in elementary school.  There was, technically, plenty of singing in that class but the students just muttered the words in order to get through the class.  Other than that class, it is hard to fathom that with all the teachers and broad range of classes I had, the teachers or professors never asked a student to sing.  This is why I adored this session of Seminar, something new was involved.

In order to develop a point about the elements of music, Professor Kahan asked a student to sing something from the film, West Side Story.  I mentioned the song, I Feel Pretty, which the professor seemed to like because she knew how to play the song on the piano and she asked a student to sing it.  Personally, I love the song; it is comical, simple and singing along is easy.  Nobody sang along the student though, probably because everyone wanted to sit back and listen to the student’s great voice, including myself.

I take pleasure in the fact that the class has such a light and musical atmosphere.  I would have never thought that I would experience such a whimsical class in college, especially my freshman year.  In a year full of monotone general education courses, I pray towards the next class a song like, I Feel Pretty, will be relevant.


Frame of Reference (9/19/12)

Back in my junior year of high school I was convinced to take a CUNY Business Communications course by my guidance counselor.  The class was scheduled on saturday mornings and the sheer idea of getting up six days a week for school was depressing.  Thankfully, the class was enjoyable; the professor welcomed comic relief from the students and the work was not overwhelming.

It has been some time since I finished that course but no matter what I still remember learning about one topic, Frame of Reference.  No matter what I do, where I go, who I meet, the phrase always stumbles back in my life, just like it did in Seminar.  Not only did the dean of Macaulay use the phrase but the book given out in the gallery was subtitled, Frames of Reference.

A frame of reference is the way a person perceives something.  This is what stuck with me when I was in the gallery or looking at the artwork in the books given to us.  After the initial shock caused by the detail in the prints wore off, I thought about the frame of reference of those who would gaze at this art hundreds of years ago compared to my generation.

My assumption might be wrong but I think it is safe to say that mankind is less secular now than the time the art was initially created.  Back then, the average viewers of this artwork would have had an easier time building a connection between this art and their lives, particularly with their religious views and teachings.  Nowadays, I assume that a typical person would merely appreciate the artwork’s attention to detail and shrug it off once the art is out of sight.

I might be making too much of an assumption, but I see the modern generation as a secular one.  However, this is just coming from my frame of reference.

Robert De Niro and Edward Hopper

I enjoy it when classes give me a new outlook in life.  I am not saying that seminar changed my perspective on life or anything to that extent but it changed the way I see art, again.  Last seminar, I realized that I should examine a work of art as a whole, not just the centerpiece (thanks to the Mona Lisa). This seminar, it was clear that factoring social status is significant when gazing at art.

One thing I took out of this class was the idea of social class in art.  In order to fully understand this aspect of art, the class examined a photograph of Robert De Niro in a highly recognized event. The actor had multiple features worth talking about, including a fuzzy beard.  The fuzzy beard displayed that the actor was not well groomed.  However, the fact that he had this beard showed power; someone with as much recognition as Robert De Niro can show up at a formal event and be accepted with a fuzzy beard.  I honestly cannot believe how much of an impact that photograph had on me.  Every time I see someone famous on television or the internet, I try to see how they display power.  The one that hit me the quickest was Lady Gaga, I saw her in a abnormal outfit on a Facebook page and thought, “only she could pull this off.”

The rest of class was a discussion of Edward Hopper’s art collection.  I do not want to sound ignorant but I did not enjoy most of the collection.  The only painting I liked was “Night Shadows” because it made me feel like I was stalking the person in the picture.  There was one painting in his collection we did not get to talk about yet but I hope it intrigues me, at least as much as “Night Shadows.”

As long as I can take one little thing from a class I can be content.  Socioeconomics is more relevant in art than I thought and I am glad I see that.

Mona Lisa and NightHawks

Due to all the math and science I have to sit through in college, schoolwork tends to be monotonous at times.  However, there are two classes that I really look forward to, one being “Intro to Film.”  This class is longer than any other class I have but it never feels that way.  The lectures are interesting and the professor is young and socially connected with her students.  The second class is “The Arts of New York,” simply because it never feels like the typical college class.

The most recent class was about the way people see art, literally and metaphorically.  We started off with the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece.  There were many interesting thoughts thrown around about the painting, especially about the background of the painting.  I never noticed until then that the background consisted of a river, a desert and even a bridge.  The fact that I never even thought about the background shows how much I have to improve the way I examine art.

Speaking of the Mona Lisa, I did have one thought about the painting I did not get to share. I always thought the Mona Lisa seemed as though she saw the viewer do something embarrassing. It may be a bit too comical, but the Mona Lisa’s face looked as if she caught the viewer do something wrong and only she and the viewer knew what it is.

The second work of art was Edward Hopper’s, Nighthawks.  This work brought out many opinions from the class but I never felt like the class nor I captured the essence of the piece.  Professor Kahan’s brief explanation of the art seemed the most accurate, especially her part about the war.  The art did seem as a depiction of a night during World War II.  The work had an irksome quality to it, specifically the depressing feeling an individual might experience when thinking of a war.  When I think of a war I am calm like the setting in the artwork, but my thoughts are as glum as the painting’s darkness.

I am eager to experience the next theme of the class, and I would not mind it being the same as the one we just had.  If I can, I would like to recommend the artworks of Salvador Dali.  His art is all over my house and his work is extremely complex and entertaining.