Author: Maisha Kamal

Sometimes I write stuff.

The Art of Words

In the style of my seminar final project (a sneak peek of which is up on my blog), I’ve decided to title this one “not-discussed-in-class” post The Art of Words.” Can you guess what it’s gonna be about? Can you?

Although we briefly discussed poetry in class months ago, the one thing I felt we didn’t talk about enough was literature. Writing is one of my absolute favorite things in the world, and studying literature is the other half to the equation of my happiness. After all, reading makes a person a better writer, and I’ve learned a lot of skills and lessons from my favorite books. Even more, I think literature is something incredibly important, and something more people should start actively exploring. A humanities degree is often looked down upon, and while I’ll confess I’m double majoring with my second major in something more “profitable,” I don’t regret for one bit having invested so much of my time into English.

As a matter of fact, it’s proved more worthwhile than a ton of the other things I’ve learned over the years, although that’s understandably a matter of taste. I can’t remember a single formula from chemistry in sophomore year, bit I still remember many intricacies from reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth in my European literature class.

In my junior and senior years, I took AP English classes that ended up being some of the best experiences of my life. In junior year I read, among others, The Great Gatsby, and Fitzgerald’s effortless way of describing love, loss, and the sparkle of the 1920s is still something I hold in high regard. My senior year, however, was arguably the year I developed my writing the most. All our assignments were far more creative, and the final project was a “senior portrait” that answered the question: What have you learned in all your 18 years of living? It was one of the hardest things to write, but the introspection was something I desperately needed to learn how to convey into words.

I’m sidetracking a little.

Anyways, the realm of literature is something spectacular because the best writers find ways to transport you to faraway worlds and still keep you grounded in reliability. Take Shakespeare for example again; his plays are nearly 400 years old, but they still depict universal themes. We’ve seen a hundred different takes on Romeo and Juliet that still tell the same story: boy meets girl, they fall in love, a horrible misunderstanding happens, and they both die. Most recently, I read Juliet Immortal, a version of the story in which neither Romeo nor Juliet actually died; instead, their spirits lived on after Romeo killed Juliet for immortality. It was definitely an original take that I enjoyed reading. I’ve yet to buy the sequel; should probably get on that…

To end this post, which I know has gone on for a little too long, I want to recommend some of my favorite books for the rest of you. (List below, taken from my blog.) They range from the classics to mainstream favorites; from teen paranormal romances to the first year assigned reading. I hope you read at least one of them and get back to me, because I’d love to hear what any of you think.

Stay golden.

Continue reading

All that Jazz

Jazz is pretty cool.

Walking into the conservatory, that was one thing I was sure of. I’m a fan of music, and music made mostly by instruments (so I guess, instrumentals) is particularly my favorite, because I can play a song while working and not be completely distracted by words. (Still, sometimes that doesn’t make a difference and I start humming, so as of late productivity ≠ music.) Jazz itself is also rather interesting. I associate a lot of it with the 1920s, which is coincidentally one of my favorite eras in American history. One of my closest friends (WHO GOT INTO STANFORD ON FRIDAY, THEREBY MAKING ME EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY PROUD) also plays in the jazz band at my high school, so it’s a type of music I’ve had a few listens to. Add this all together and I hope you’ve deduced that I was looking forward to the Brooklyn College performance, because I was.

And by golly (nobody says that, do they…), they did not disappoint. I’ll admit I was in a bad mood that night and a little antsy of sorts, so I feared that my frustration would deter me from enjoying the show. Fortunately, it did not. The band was extremely talented and many of the members managed to show off their skills, leaving me totally immersed in the melodies. Furthermore, I thought it was really great that the band had people of all different ages—not just Brooklyn College students. It showed me that this group was a bunch of people who really loved music and appreciated what they got to do. Lastly, I don’t think I had a favorite piece, per say (I liked them all), but I did find myself humming “Baby Jack” a few days later while searching my fridge for a late night snack. Rock on.


A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words (or Something)

When I found out I was going to miss the Snapshots exhibition, I was totally bummed. Granted, I didn’t have a bad weekend—I went to visit my two best friends at the University of Pennsylvania—but I had spent a few Thursdays helping organize it so getting to see the fruits of my labor would have been nice. I also loved the ideas we had come up with; the motif of time and using that as a baseline for arranging the photos seemed rather clever to me. I heard the event went well, however, and that everything ended up working out, which is awesome. But since I couldn’t actually be there (and therefore can’t reflect on it) I’ve decided to talk about the process and my photo submission instead.

Continue reading

Henry IV: Jailhouse Rock with Shakespeare on the Side

First things first, I think I must publicly acknowledge that I love Shakespeare and was extremely glad to be able to see one of his plays. I’ve read Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet,  Macbeth, and Hamlet; each of them left its mark on me in inexplicable ways. Whether it was the betrayal in Caesar or the madness in Hamlet, Shakespeare was always able to uniquely convey emotion through powerful language. At the same time, he touched on timeless themes and relatable topics: the lust for power, parent-child relationships, and the temptations of love are only a few.

There was also his intrigue with history and the monarchy that I could relate to. I am fascinated by the class structure and political systems of the United Kingdom, something I enjoy learning about whenever I can. Whether it’s through watching television (i.e. The Tudors and CW’s Reign, whose season 3 plot intertwines England and France) or doing research, there are so many compelling things about the English monarchy that I’m glad Shakespeare tried to highlight. I mean, just take for example how Henry IV became king by ousting Richard II. Can you believe that happened? What about Elizabeth I, whose feud with Mary, Queen of Scots, resulted in her (Mary’s) execution? English history has been tainted with, among others, murder, treason, incest, and religious rebellion. I can see why Shakespeare loved it.

Henry IV was an amalgamation of the aforementioned traits and themes (namely power and family), set in the 15th century after Henry IV seizes the throne. In the St. Ann’s version, however, there were obvious differences: the cast was all women and it was set in a prison. Coming in, I figured this would be a problem—what would a Shakespeare play be without the glitz and glamour of the monarchy?

Perhaps not much. I admit the play was spectacular—the acting was captivating, the jokes were laugh-out-loud hysterical (Scotland!), and the addition of music was lovely—but some part of me kept feeling like Henry IV the play was really just the backdrop to the drama within the prison. After all, that was the context; the review in class mentioned that, in the plot, the prisoners were staging a show. This ultimately disappointed me. And in the end, while I loved many parts of the St. Ann’s rendition, I came out of it realizing I would rather stick to the old stuff that made Shakespeare great. Unpopular opinion, I know. Sue me.

Tosca: Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

Oh man oh man. If I told you I’ve liked opera forever, I would be lying. Honestly, I don’t think I was ever fan until recently. Growing up, I always thought of opera as that art form nobody took seriously. My earliest associations with it included loud singing, melodramatic acting, and the whole “shatter-glass-with-your-voice” bit. It’s true, as a kid opera is a bore—the ultimate form of punishment. But when you get older and start to appreciate its many facets, opera becomes something beautiful you want to understand.

Which brings me to Thursday. Getting to see Tosca was absolutely awesome. I have such love for interesting stories and the plotline of Tosca was just that. Sure, I predicted Mario’s end from the beginning, but I did not predict that ultimate plot twist. I also really loved how there were bits of history included, as there were a few mentions to a Napoleonic invasion.

As for the voices, each opera singer was spectacular. I still can’t believe they weren’t wearing microphones! Looking down at them from our seats and still being able to hear the power in their voices was incredible. Although I could only comprehend a few words (I guess opera’s like that) even after my 6 years of Italian, I could feel the emotion, passion, and agony.

All in all, I’m really glad to have been give the opportunity to have this experience. I hope to go see another opera in the near future—maybe La Boheme this time!

American Ballet Theatre: Leotards, Marcelo Gomes, and Why Diplomats in Face Masks are the Scariest Thing Ever

Hello friends! It’s a Saturday night and I should be sleeping, but I got home an hour ago and decided to bang out this blog post like a good student. I think I’m a good student? Feel free to disagree.

On Thursday we went to see the American Ballet Theatre and I thought it was pretty awesome. I’ve been doing ballet/lyrical/contemporary for the past 13 years so I was excited to see professionals on stage. I’ll admit it made me self-conscious about my own skills, but I don’t think I’d ever have the patience, heart, or drive to practice for as long as they do so there’s that. I’m a recreational dancer. They’re the big deals.

Anyways. While I loved all the performances, my favorite by far was The Green Table. I think the subject of war is intriguing on its own, but it was even more interesting to see those horrors translated into dance. The opening routine with the diplomats was captivating, and their costumes (and terrifying masks) added to the overall mood of the piece. I also loved how each segment of the ballet focused on specific aspects of war. There were the displaced soldiers, the lonely loved ones, and then Marcelo Gomes as death claiming lives along the way. The fact that it ended with the diplomats once again—encountering similar chaos as they had before—made the frustration and futility of negotiation even more palpable to me. Overall, I was very, very impressed.

Some things I noticed I thought were worth mentioning:

  1. The dancers’ bodies are so controlled and their movements are so sharp. You’re able to tell exactly what step they’re doing and how they intend to do it. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially if you’re practicing such control for literally 20 minutes. I get lazy doing my bar warmups (sometimes), so props to these guys. That’s dedication.
  2. The music was really, really important. One thing I especially learned that night was how every element of a performance works together. When there’s a drop in the music there’s a pause in the movement or a harsh step to make the drop stand out. If the music is fast, so are the dancers. If the music is sad or depressing, the movements are elongated or more elegant. Dance is an art, man.
  3. The dancers are really talented. Of course there are a number of justifications for this but one especially is that I was able to sense what emotion they were trying to evoke even from all the way up in the second ring. I could see their smiles from my seat or their dramatized hand swishes and what not. I didn’t even need the binoculars! It was awesome.

That’s just about all I have to say. Here’s a picture I took of the stage if you want to see it. Rock on!


A Photo from the High Line

Although this work of art wasn’t on our list, I chose to upload this photo because I think it’s pretty awesome. The art has a powerful message from an influential person, and I love how it sort of blends in with the grays of the background while managing to stand out.  It adds life to a rather dull building, don’t you think?

Night at the (Brooklyn) Museum

I think going to the Brooklyn Museum was one of those things that just made me really happy to be a Macaulay student.  

Let me explain.

I’m a huge fan of museums; I can’t talk about them enough, and if I tried someone’s head would probably explode from boredom. So naturally, the idea of having our first Macaulay-wide event (besides orientation) at one was so exciting to me. Any chance to bond with the people I’m bound to graduate with is extremely nice, especially if they don’t go to Brooklyn College like we do. I felt like an A-list celebrity roaming the halls of a museum closed down to everyone but the incoming class. I’m pretty sure I knew then, finally, that I’d made a good choice in terms of what college to attend. (Which is probably silly since we committed in May, but a person can have doubts, right?)

I also thought the art was spectacular. The Met has always been #1 in my heart for its extravagance, but I think I’d visit the Brooklyn Museum again and again as well. There was so much variety that I kind of wanted to just sit in one room for an hour, take it all in, and then continue on my way and repeat the process for every exhibit. (Though, to be honest, I feel that way with every museum. I’m really such a nerd.) I think this comes from the fact that I appreciate art (the conventional kind) in a different way then I do other art forms like writing or music. Fine art is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to create. How do people paint so perfectly? Or sculpt things that look so realistic? It’s one of the coolest things in the world. So hats off to the artists in the world—you’re all pretty dope.

P.S. I took a bunch of pictures like a tourist. Take a peek below!

Continue reading