CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College/Professor Bernstein
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Category — HKiang

Who She Was/Who She Is

December 9, 2010   3 Comments

“Although you’ll find our house a mess, Come in, sit down, converse. It doesn’t always look like this: Some days it’s even worse.”

Often, the walls and counters are splattered with tomato sauce, the microwave is covered in mysterious substances, and both the sinks are clogged with an odd assortment of meat and noodles at the bottom and gray material floating to the top.  That is the average condition of the kitchen at Ludlow.

However, there are times when the kitchen is spotless or at least there is enough clean counter space and one unclogged sink.  I boil water in the kitchen for my French-press made coffee; it is always empty and usually just cleaned.  I usually cook meals in the kitchen, and usually find some space.  But most interesting in the kitchen is seeing who actually uses it.

It is the one kitchen for eighteen floors of residents, and there is usually not a wait.  There are some regulars that I always see, first-time cooks, the occasional ramen cooker, and the Brita fillers.  There’s the girl from Baruch that I thought was from SVA whose family lives in the Dominican Republic, the awkward King’s College kid who owns all of the appliances and has the largest trunk of kitchen supplies, the other awkward King’s kid who makes cheesy baked chili and other boxed meals, and the Baruch guy that makes breaded chicken all the time.

It’s interesting to meet different people in the dorm’s kitchens that cook different cuisines and come from across the United States.  We all at least share one thing: a big mess.

December 6, 2010   No Comments

The Art of Art

Seeing George Maciunas’ diet presented in a piece representative of the Fluxus exhibit begged the question, “what is art?”  It shows how we change our perceptions of art, aesthetics, and beauty over time, even if individuals don’t consider it art.  The organization of the food containers looked like panels of printed paper from afar and not just piles of food.  Whether to consider this art is subjective, but the piece is nonetheless revealing of his life and his perceptions.

Jackson Pollock

From the widely known works of Jackson Pollack and De Kooning to the lesser known Rothko and Hofmann, the Abstract Expressionism exhibit reflects the post-World War II art movement, a movement challenging the way people perceived art and how to portray figures and landscapes.  Pollack’s work has such interesting texture, certain color, and certain movement that gives it a certain mood.  To me all of his works basically look the same yet produce a slightly different mood with varying color choices.


The artist that I enjoyed the most was Pousette-Dart whose pieces were colorful and intricate, conveying a certain feeling and distorting shapes in some chosen curves and lines.  Many look like machines, reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s surrealism, and are abstract yet provide a perception of depth and layers.

Then there were the sculptures that looked strange and unseemly, yet were supposed to be the artist’s reflection of a body or an object.  There was a room that was mostly blocks of color with a line or two on the canvas; one “piece of art” appeared to be a wooden stick painted black and tacked on to the wall.  It is easy to say that a five year old could have done some of these, and I concur with that sentiment for art like the stick.  Yet the lines or colors are probably chosen purposefully, and observing them up close helps one appreciate the texture in the canvas.  But that stick just seemed to have drips of paint.

The “On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century” exhibit produced some interesting three dimensional works as well as interesting two dimensional works all playing with form and space.  Incorporating video and modern dance, this exhibit captured both still and moving image, the most questionable of which was the nude, tortured looking woman who attached herself to a harness of paper covered walls, and drew on them.  Perhaps it is the method that makes the art, and the end piece may be called art, but that simply doesn’t make it enjoyable or thought provoking.

December 6, 2010   No Comments

Up Close and Captured

I didn’t do it on purpose.  In class, when mentioned that I forgot to give the link to a photograph, my heart dropped, especially when I heard that the photographer would be coming to speak to us.  So my apologies to Sara Krulwich for not double-checking that I did not credit the photograph.  Ms. Krulwich appeared to have a masked anger when addressing this, saying only that people shouldn’t steal photographs.  I was slightly miffed by this, as I did not copy it with intent.

However, I understand this sentiment to be due to the pride Krulwich takes in her work.  She broke barriers in photography for women at the University of Michigan, and her bold personality remains today.  Her passion for photography was clear and that is respectable.

Most memorable is her advice to “not be afraid” and to “get close.”  To really capture something you have to get close.  Her personality and tenaciousness lead to her post at the New York Times.  It is interesting that she takes so many images a day at the performances she attends, only to have one or two picked.  Having to capture moments that are already crafted seems irrelevant to her advice about getting close.  But as her photograph of Richard Price (in my Price blog post) shows, she follows her own advice.

December 6, 2010   No Comments

Be Seated!

Jim Crow representation

In 1932, Rosa Parks married Raymond Parks and the two join the campaign to save the Scottsboro Boys; in 1955, she was arrested for refusing to move on the bus.  Her peaceful resistance on that night is widely taught, but the Scottsboro Boys are hardly as much of a household name.  In a rather bright, humorous (though darkly humorous) manner, “The Scottsboro Boys” tells an important and regrettable case in history.  Told in the minstrel tradition, “Scottsboro” is at once funny, offensive, and a reminder of the past.  A colorful set, vivid costuming, a simple but intricate set, an incredibly engaging, talented cast, the political undertones, and to some extent the offensiveness of the play made “Scottsboro” captivating and entertaining yet with a bit of bite.

The presentation of the story of a rape case between a white woman’s claim, black defendants, and a white jury in the South is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, yet the mocking minstrelsy, vivid color, and bright lighting kept the play feeling modern.  The simple set with interlocking chairs representing the prison, the train, and various other sets was genius.  I especially liked the train scene where the tambourines were used as the wheels of the train, and the actors made it look like the train was moving.  So many people moving on such a makeshift structure made it so surprising that is was so sturdy when actors jumped on top of it.

The song in that scene was so catchy; “commencing in Chattanooga…” is still playing in my head.  Yet the bubbly tunes come in sharp contrast to the subject matter.  Cheery music including tambourines, memorable beats, and the occasional beat from tap dancing provided an irresistible upbeat feeling.  The contrast was most distinct during the electric chair scene; although the chair signifies imminent death, the movement and staging seemed to suggest nothing of the sort.

The most memorable performance came from Joshua Henry who portrayed Haywood Patterson who in the play was put into solitary confinement and died in prison.  He provided strength and dynamism in his dance movement, acting, voice, and simple presence.  Other memorable performances include the youngest in the cast, Julius Thomas III, who portrayed Roy Wright, Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon who portrayed the offensively funny and changing roles of Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo.

It is a shame that the show is closing on December 12 at a 5 million dollar loss, though the producers contend it is due to the economy more than the protests.  “The Scottsboro Boys” keeps present episodes in our history that we might like to forget, but question society today.  Although spoken by the interlocutor (played by John Cullum), his message resonates: “Gentlemen, be seated.”

December 6, 2010   No Comments

Azúcar, Açúcar, Sugar, Suiker: The Cultural Politics of Sugar in Latin American History

Sugar.  It’s everywhere.  It’s an addiction.  And it’s something that most people appreciate.  Some say it is part of the reason being obese or overweight is so widespread. There is talk of a sugar tax on drinks like the tax levied on cigarettes. The product is widely enjoyed, and its history is a reflection of globalization and industrialization

Once discovered by Europeans during the Crusades by coming into contact with the Arabic world, sugar was reserved for the wealthy and highly coveted.  Early on, sugar cane was processed in Italy and Christopher Columbus took some sugar cane with him where it flourished in the Caribbean because of the ideal weather conditions.  From then on, the Dutch, the United States, and much of Western Europe capitalized on the new discovery, importing slaves from Africa to Latin America and the Caribbean, notably Potosi (Bolivia), Cuba, Haiti, and Brazil.  In the imperialists’ dust is poor, infertile land and economies that have remained poor.

My collage reflects the slaves, workers, and people forgotten and exploited by the sugar trade and the obsession with sugar that allowed it.  Voyagers at first came for the gold and silver, and found sugar to be just as worthwhile a cause.  The image was created electronically, while there is a physical aspect.  The brownie bars are representative of gold, and the use of sugar as a commodity (as well as cacao).  They are the basis of an intricate and fragile system that falls as inequality rises and the sugar (brownies) became scarcer.  The collage is meant be interactive: brownies representative of the wealth amassed, and as it is consumed, the sugar globe falls, and just might break.

However, I clumsily dropped the sugar globe and it was in pieces; this speaks to the fragility of the connections.  The origami ball is meant to represent the same ideas; it should not be held together by anything but fragile connections (Mine isn’t for the sake of transportation).  If not held together by some sort of tape, the ball could be thrown and fall apart.  The origami ball was made in mind with the facets of Latin American representation as well as that of the United States and Asia.  It was made with old issues of The Economist.

Collage images from:×6.png?w=268&h=348

November 30, 2010   3 Comments

Deck the Halls and Drink Some Glögg

I love the holiday season.  My friends joke that it’s my namesake (deck the halls…), but from Thanksgiving to Christmas, everything’s just more cheerful.  Perhaps its because of all the family gatherings—and the huge feasts that come with them.

Starting with Thanksgiving, is when the family comes to my house, and the food is prepared by lunch and we eat endlessly until the night, play games (mahjong and cards), watch television, and just catch up.  There’s always the turkey that starts defrosting since the night before, garlic clam pasta, garlic bread, some sort of fish, Stouffer’s stuffing, baked potatoes and yams, and a little bowl of gravy.  Then there’s the stuff I make: the mashed potatoes and baked goods (brownies, pumpkin pie, pecan pie).  And the cranberry sauce from the can that I used to like when it retained the can-shape.

But the greatest event is Christmas because it’s when everyone comes to New York City.  Thanksgiving is usually my grandma, relatives from Jersey, my second cousin’s family, and whoever happens to be in town.  Instead of Forest Hills (where my house is), we used to gather at my aunt’s loft at Greene Street.  This aunt used to fly in from Sweden with her husband and son, then there’s the uncle from New Jersey with his wife and three children, and the family from Australia.  Being the closest in proximity (a subway ride away), my family would always come early to help set up.  There would be vacuum packed fish from Sweden, along with loganberry jam made from scratch, nougat from Australia, and other foreign goodies.  The Jersey aunt would always make chocolate covered fruit and bring everyone gifts.  Meals would start off with appetizers and they alone made one full and usually included fried salt and pepper shrimp, shark fin soup, and other delicacies.  Then there’s always a break to relax before eating one’s own weight in food.  And there’s the drink that’s one of my favorite parts about the holidays: glögg, a sort of mulled wine with cloves and nutmeg.  Along with food is the endless number of family members I seem to have and meet, cousins, extended cousins, and then there’s the random professors that are lifelong friends of my grandmother.

Can be heated up and drunk as is or heated up with alcohol.

That loft is now regrettably gone (it was a rent-controlled studio bought out by a new landlord), as are some of the most loving family members.  There’s the new apartment at which to celebrate, and all the old gatherings are some of my fondest memories.  And the holidays don’t really end there: there’s New Year’s and Chinese New Year’s and then birthdays and more.  So in a way, its always the holiday season, and there’s always something to be grateful for.

November 23, 2010   1 Comment

Creatures in New York City


Pigeons fly lower these days, rats scamper through the streets, and cockroaches are on subways, streets, and on buildings; yet when one actively looks for them, somehow they seem to go into hiding.  Finding pigeons was not much of an issue, and neither were squirrels if I sat at a park long enough, but squirrels were quite elusive.  I saw many interesting squirrels; one eating newly planted seeds right by a sign that said not to enter the area, one digging for food, another diving in and out of potted plants, and another that slapped a fence as a baby ogled at it.  Yet I could not capture any of these moments; they all disappeared too fast.  There was a pigeon sitting atop the edge of a bench and a woman at the other end; a squirrel climbed up and sat staring at the pigeon, but too close to the women who was startled and scared the squirrel away.

I wanted to capture “creatures,” some bit of nature that we don’t experience we live in a city.  There would be blocks upon blocks of nothing creature related: no sculptures, random art, or actual critters.  Yet creatures are not just from nature, others can create them; representation of creatures also falls under such a category of creation.  I found many more living creatures in Brooklyn and Queens than in Manhattan, yet many more representations in Manhattan.  Centuries ago, the area we know as New York City used to be one of the most biodiverse areas, and as it became industrialized and a center of commerce, the presence of animals has declined.  Then there are the animals that we would never see here like elephants and monkeys, that are interesting to see represented and how we place them.  And there are the humans (that dress up as Elmo or are some sort of green monster creation) that are our creations.

Back home in Queens, there are usually worms in bits of dirt, some ants between the concrete, and perhaps a raccoon at night digging through the trash.  Yet of all the times this has occurred, I could capture none.  There is also a stray cat prowling the streets, yet none passed when I looked for one.  Usually in subway stations, rats can be seen running around the tracks.  At the 14th Street F and M train station, there are cracks in the wall where rats can be seen sometimes scurrying quickly in and out of the holes, swerving around the people on the platforms and sometimes fat rats ambling along, seemingly drunk.  At nights, rats can be seen scampering right in front of a person walking in the street.  I positioned myself and I waited.  And the creatures never appeared.

There was a moment on the subway where there was a cockroach climbing on the window that my friend killed and another where a moth the size of a palm was scaring some people.  Yet I didn’t have a camera at the ready, and was even if I did, wouldn’t want others to think I was some strange person taking these photos.  It’s interesting how people react in front of the camera; I tried not to include them in the photos, and sometimes not so discreetly walked by and took the shot as I passed.  Many of the photos are zoomed in and cropped because of this.  Perhaps if I just pretended I were a tourist, I could’ve taken more time with each shot.  But then again, I wouldn’t know quite what I was looking for.

November 16, 2010   No Comments

Coco Returns!

In the summer of 2009, Conan O’Brien took over The Tonight Show.  I’ve never thought Leno was funny and was glad to see Conan move from late night.  This also meant I could watch Craig Ferguson at late night instead; a great lineup of late night talk shows all around.

Most people I know don’t care for late night talk show hosts, but once I watched The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, I couldn’t stop watching.  Perhaps his humor isn’t meant for a larger demographic such as Letterman or Leno, as his joke are a little dirtier and of the moment (although he doesn’t have the technology prowess of Fallon).  With his Scottish accent, witty humor, yet intellectual musings, Ferguson makes for funny, sometimes laugh out loud moments that Leno and Letterman can barely solicit.  Ferguson doesn’t always get the most popular stars and sometimes they’re relatively little known or just an unknown author or comedian.  His guests are not always the most well known, but he knows how to get a laugh out of them and make the show entertaining.  There’s also his regular use of puppets, the letters from viewers he responds to, the way he throws his speaking cards or rips them up after he’s done reading them, funny facial expressions, and the censorship of curses with various flags covering his mouth and an expression from that country’s language (for example: it’ll be a Spanish flag and the viewer will hear “ay caramba.”

Talk show hosts like these will never be of the same tone as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert but nonetheless, Conan, with his gingery floppy hair and gangly awkwardness will finally be bringing back his brand of self-deprecating humor.  TBS may not be the best platform for Conan, but it’ll be great to have him back on television.  Perhaps on cable he’ll be able to bring what Ferguson brings to late night: little humorous actions and the ability to make a regular interview and experience more interesting.  I feel like Conan is more modern and basic cable will serve him better any way.  On a bit of a side note, hopefully there will be more “wars” between Colbert, Stewart, and O’Brien which sometimes is left to dance-offs and brawls.

As I type this, the season premiere is starting, Conan still has his facial hair, and has done his trademark jig.

The words going through my head right now are the ones Craig Ferguson always starts his show with: “It’s a great day for America, everybody!”

November 9, 2010   No Comments

A Journey in a Suitcase

Either with magnifying glass in hand or torso bent curiously forward, visitors of “The “Mexican Suitcase” examined the negatives of the Spanish Civil War taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Chim, and Fred Stein.  Their work depicts the condition of war as it is: no embellishment, just the human condition in war.  With advances in photography, photojournalists were able to take action shots to document history and reveal a human element not often seen in the media.

Walking through the exhibit was like walking through certain fronts and battlefields; one could experience the history.  From Basque Country to Catalonia, one is exposed to the realities of war; the documentation of the Spanish Civil War was one of the first “media wars” as journalists and photographers wanted to use their work to support their side.  Through magazines of the time such as Regards, Ce Soir, Vu, Life, and Look, the photographers were able share their images and influence the Western world’s perception of the war.

These magazines, displayed at the exhibit reveal the choices the photographers made in what they wanted to portray.  It was interesting to read the captions they chose as well.  The images I found most engaging were not those on the war front, but those of civilians.  With photography, we are able to see landscapes, people, and interaction as it was.  Having the negatives allows us to see what was not necessarily intended to be exhibited as such.  However, the journey of the negatives, and the importance in capturing history that the negatives hold, as well as the presentation of the negatives, make the exhibit worth visiting.

November 9, 2010   No Comments