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

Keep an Open Mind

My trip to the Museum of Modern Art was eye opening, to say the least.

Definitions of art on the Web:

  • the products of human creativity; works of art collectively; “an art exhibition”; “a fine collection of art”
  • the creation of beautiful or significant things; “art does not need to be innovative to be good”; “I was never any good at art”; “he said that architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully”
  • a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation; “the art of conversation”; “it’s quite an art”
  • artwork: photographs or other visual representations in a printed publication; “the publisher was responsible for all the artwork in the book”

I was told that the “Abstract Expressionist New York” exhibit that we would be seeing did not conform to that standard definition of what art is. I cleared my mind of all prejudices against modern art before entering the museum, and was prepared for what I was about to bear witness to – or so I thought.

The first work of art that we saw was what, at first, looked like my high school research project on pressurization and fluids. Two fans, opposing each other, kept two thin metallic rings suspended in the air. I was amused. At first, I thought about how this could be classified as art, but then it dawned on me that it was inspiring, intellectually stimulating, and beautiful. It had to be art.

The two fans served as a precursor to what lie ahead. As we walked through the lower levels of the MoMA, I thought to myself “this isn’t too bad…” You see, in my pre-teen years, my parents tried to force me to like museums and art, and that inevitably led to my hatred of them. As a mature adult, however, my views changed. Even the abstract art had something in it that I could think about and appreciate. Sometimes, the work of art would be as simple as a white square, but upon close examination, the brush strokes, different shades of white, and artistic talent could be seen. It took some effort, and creative thinking, but most of what was on the first few floors of the MoMA was artistically inspiring.

Moving to higher floors in the museum means that you are moving towards more abstract art. The sixth floor had works that were still in the midst of debate – can they be considered art or not? Much of this floor had to do with physics – my favorite subject. Naturally, it appealed to me. Even if it is not considered art by some, it was certainly fascinating. From rooms filled with vector art, to videos of people scaling down buildings, and ending with digital maps of demographics, the exhibits made me feel like I was taking a tour of a truly modern museum.

When we talk about art, we usually associate it with oil painting, or some other sort of drawing. My definition of art was shattered when I was introduced to modern art. “The end-result may not be as important as the road taken to get to it” –Susanna Akopova. My mother’s words lingered in my head as I toured the museum. What we were viewing was the result of countless hours of work, effort, imagination, creativity, thinking, and talent. When you pour so many resources into one work, it is considered art. Keep an open mind, and you can appreciate that.

December 7, 2010   1 Comment

Who IS he?


Hey everyone, this is Leon Baburov and today, I traveled through the depths of the Internet and plunged into the hacking world. My interview was done on a hacker who preferred to be called “Johnny Quest.” I came across Quest in my search for a hacker to interview. He was by far the nicest person on the mass-internet-relay-chat server that the hacker channels were hosted on. I later found out that the server actually belonged to him.

My first question to Quest was a simple one: “At what age were you drawn to hacking?”
Quest said that it depends on my definition of hacking, so it was when he was either 12 or 16 years old.

This begged the follow-up question: “What do you define as hacking?” I asked this because everyone has their own, personal definition. Quest replied: “What is commonly referred to as ‘hacking,’ would be more accurately classified as ‘computer hacking.’ Social engineering is a type of hacking too, but it’s ‘people hacking.’ If you’re a really good mechanic, and can do crazy things with a car’s engine, perhaps you’d be an ‘auto hacker.’ What I would define as hacking very roughly is the search for a way to use things in unexpected or unplanned ways.”
Quest then proceeded to answer what drew him to hacking in the first place, especially at such a young age.

He really likes knowing how things work, and takes things apart in search of this knowledge. He likes puzzles and the reason what computers and computer hacking appealed to him so much was because they allowed him to do most of what he wanted for free, because it was all online. He could also work at his own pace, and wasn’t held back by a slow teacher or class.
When asked what he saw himself doing in five years, he replied very vaguely “probably more of the same: working and playing with my computers at home.” I politely asked him to elaborate, even though he was clearly trying to keep most of his personal life a secret to maintain his anonymous identity. He replied that he spends a lot of time on the computer – who could’ve guessed! He has around twelve computers and they require a lot of maintenance. He writes a lot of code just for fun, doesn’t play video games, and spends most of his time just experimenting. “I like puzzles.” He repeated again. “It’s like those kids who play with rubix cubes all day… all four of them. Writing code is like building with LEGOs though, and since I’m not doing it for school/work, I can do whatever I want: games, apps for personal stuff, hacking experiments. My biggest problem is that I don’t have enough time to do all that.”

Well, Johnny Quest was certainly an interesting individual, and one who I learned much more about from this interview. It gave me, and hopefully you guys as well, a different perspective into what hacking is about. Thank you all, and thank you, Johnny Quest for the new insights!

December 7, 2010   3 Comments

do what You love

A text message pops up on my phone: “Hurry up and get to class, the professor needs you!” I assume it’s a technical issue, and my suspicions are confirmed as soon as I walk through the door. I see this photograph on the screen:
Professor Bernstein and the guest speaker, Sara Krulwich, ask me to fix the projector, and after fiddling around with the brightness and contrast controls, this comes into view:

The Michigan Daily – Jay Cassidy

I take a moment to understand what I am looking at: A crowd exclusively of men, and one female news reporter wearing an enormous hat. What an extraordinary way to stand out!

Standing out was something Sara Krulwich has been doing in her entire life, and she is rather successful at it. A combination of courage, skill, and determination propel her to take pictures of people 10 inches away from their face, force her way into a men-only football stadium, and perform the many other difficult tasks that a photographer encounters on a daily basis. Clearly, this woman had a passion for her art, and it vibrated throughout the room intensely as she spoke about her life and career as a photographer.

Sara Krulwich currently works for the New York Times as a theatrical photographer, and we were lucky to have her as a guest speaker in our class. Her photography and stories captivated our class and she did not cease to astound us with big numbers: Number of years as a photographer, number of pictures taken per performance, and ratio of men to women in that football stadium. However, the most valuable piece of knowledge that Krulwich conveyed to us about had nothing to do with her alone, but rather with us. This message was not spoken, but rather conveyed emotionally through her presentation: do what you love, and. in turn, people will love whatever it is that you are doing.

December 4, 2010   1 Comment

Will We Grow Young Together?

My cultural encounter came last night in the form of an article. Dana Farber researchers discovered a way to reverse the aging process in mice. I think this is a fascinating discovery that may eventually lead to reversing human aging. There is a cultural dimension to this scientific development because the cycle of life and death, although historically inevitable, are understood in different contexts across an array of cultures. Many religions believe in an afterlife, hinting that the life we are living now is just a pre-cursor to the afterlife that lies ahead. Death has always been fabled to be an inevitable occurrence that cannot be avoided, no matter how much money, friends, or power you have. Here science and culture clash, simultaneously testing the religious tolerance and cultural tradition. Will people separate themselves from traditional livelihood as individuals for an indefinite period of time, or will they revere pious doctrines?

November 30, 2010   No Comments

Car Collage

Click here to see the collage!

In my original collage proposal, I presented the idea of combining many pictures from different cars into “one” supercar. Since then, my idea of the perfect car collage changed. I incorporated that original idea in the introduction to my new collage by having forty-two cars flash by very quickly. These first forty-two cars are part of my top 100 list that can be seen here: The cars flash by too quickly to focus in on any particular one, so I used the rest of the video to take a closer look at my favorite engineering marvels of the automotive world.

I used the instrumental track from the Swizz Beatz song – It’s Me Snitches to augment the stop-motion nature of many of the shots in my video. Since the song is perfect for pop-lock-and-drop dance, I envisioned it tying together the choppy nature of my collage, and it fit the video perfectly. I synchronized the shots and clips to match the sound effects from the music track, and this can be seen at various moments in my collage. For example, at 0:27, a GT4088R turbocharger from a Mazda RX-7 spools up together with the “spooling up” of the music.

Opening the video is a stop-motion capture of my favorite car, the Toyota Supra Twin-Turbo. This is Steven O’Donnell’s 600HP Pearl Blue Toyota Supra, owner of Shots of his car are followed by two separate clips from the 2001 movie, The Fast and the Furious. The first clip has the camera moving towards the back of the rear wheels of the car. This was shot inside the garage where the car was being worked on. I noticed that this was the same exact angle that the wheels were being shot from during a race against a Ferrari F355, so I combined the two clips. At first glance, it even appears as though the Supra is launching out of the garage.

The next car in my collage is an R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R. This particular car was used in the 2009 Fast & Furious. Godzilla, as the Japanese call it, can be seen as a direct rival to the Supra, and I found it appropriate to have a juxtaposition of the two Japanese supercars in my collage. It is illegal to import any more of these cars from Japan, and since they were never produced in America, they are very expensive, and a rare sight on the streets.

The BMW GINA is a concept car that was designed by a team led by Chris Bangle. What makes this car unique is its exterior. The GINA uses a flex-fabric that can be customized into any shape that the user wants. A few shots of this magnificent car capture the magic of this design and the talent of BMW’s finest engineers and designers. Once again, the sound track is synchronized to the lights shutting off, and the headlights closing.

Bugatti has been consistently producing the most impressive, and expensive, cars known to drivers. Featured in my collage is one of their latest concept cars that is expected to reach the market in 2013 – the Galibier. This four-door sedan, which will cost more than a million dollars, combines art, technology, and passion. The full-length promotional video of this car does a much better job at capturing the beauty of this car, and can be seen here:

Finally, I ended my collage with my favorite form of car racing – drift. For a split-second, you can see another shot of my favorite car to match the choppy nature of the music. This is followed by various drift racing clips. The majority of the clips here have been taken from Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which featured cinema-grade racing.  The collage is resolved with a drifter sliding through a parking garage ramp onto its roof where his peers cheer him on, and the bright lights from the Tokyo advertisements illuminate the setting.

November 19, 2010   No Comments

The Scottsboro Boys

The Scottsboro Boys was not the first musical I have seen, and certainly not the last. It was, however, a new experience to watch a musical from, what felt like, the sky. As a few people in the row behind me began to comment on how impossible it would be to see anything, I started to feel a little uncomfortable too. I was pleasantly surprised when the show began, and I felt that the eagle-eye view was better than from any other seat I could have asked for. So before beginning this review, I would like to thank Professor Bernstein and the Macaulay Honors College for setting our IDC classes up with such great seats to a spectacular performance.

“One-thousand laughs guaranteed,” the sign outside the Lyceum Theatre read. Skeptical at first, I kept this line in the back of my head. The dramatic entrance that the actors made caused my first laugh. Traditionally, you would see actors magically appear on stage after the lights come on, but the Scottsboro boys made their entrance from the rear of the auditorium. Breaking traditions was a recurring theme throughout the musical. The whole story is about nine young men being accused of a crime they never committed, and their fight to break the prejudice that plagued the United States in the 19th century. Other broken traditions included the use of men representing women, and blacks representing whites. It got exceptionally confusing when black men were presented as white women.

There was also another representation of a specific woman, which was not very obvious. For the audience (myself included) who thought that The Lady, who is present throughout the entire musical, was an angel, a ghost, or simply a witness, Rosa Parks elucidates her identity at the resolution of the show. It seems as though the director did not want her identity to be clear to everyone, because even the playbill had her character listed as “The Lady.”

I lost count of how many times I laughed, so I can neither testify, nor disprove, the 1000 laugh claim, but I can vouch that The Scottsboro Boys was a musical that would put a smile one anyone’s face. From the clever puns, to the ironic drama, the musical took the audience on a roller coaster of emotions that left them in awe of the spectacle beheld to them. The Scottsboro Boys was, in itself, a history lesson, as well as a great performance. The colorful costumes and set design, as well as music that would rival Broadway’s finest, only adorned an already fantastic story that left us all in awe, but did not leave us in spirit. It served as a great lesson on truth and honesty, as well as history and prejudice, and did it in a way that only a musical could – with laughter and entertainment.

November 18, 2010   No Comments

Snowbird Mountain, Park City, Utah


As I come off of a jump, I see my brother out of the corner of my eye, watching me. In an effort to impress him, I spin 180 degrees before landing. All would be fine and dandy, except instead of landing on snow, I landed on a rail instead, which initiated a grind. Miraculously, I kept my balance the entire time, and came through the grind without falling. My brother processed what he just saw for a brief moment and spoke: “I think you’re ready for Utah. You wanna come with me this year?” It was either the adrenaline in my blood, or my brain having trouble comprehending his words, that caused me to spit out “yes” before he could finish his next sentence. I felt that I was ready too, and a month later, I was on the airplane to Park City, Utah.

With two exceptions, I took all of these pictures on the slopes of Snowbird Mountain. The first picture in the album is the first exception. This picture was taken 11 kilometers above sea level. No, I did not jump that high… I took it in the airplane on the way there. Upon landing, we were driven to the hotel along some narrow roads through many mountains, and finally arrived at the resort. The next morning, we had a hearty breakfast and hit the slopes.

The second picture was taken from the lower peak of the mountain. A gondola transports 50 people at a time to this point, and this is the view you witness as soon as you step outside. It was a beautiful sight, and I was pumped for the trails that awaited me. Notice the orange ribbon! This is the only protective measure that you have from slipping down into an “expert” (Black Diamond) slope. In the third picture, I got as close to the edge as I could, without falling, and tried to capture the fifty degree drop. I did not consider myself an “expert yet, so I just edged away from there and went down the “intermediate” (Blue Square) slope.

A few hours later, I met up with my brother and his friends and snapped picture number four. It was another Black Diamond trail, but I felt that I should try it, so I joined them in taking it down. It was quite an exhausting trail, and we decided to take a break half-way through it. In picture five, Pasha is resting. You can see how his hood blends right into the mountain, like a chameleon. This is my favorite picture in the album, and the one that I believe captures the serene beauty of the mountain.

As we get back up, I hand the camera to my brother to take picture six. A good rider can always “see” the trail that he is going to take. This prevents surprises and mistakes that can easily be avoided by just thinking ahead. Here, I can be seen doing just this. My planning proved to be useful, because in picture seven, you can see the edge of a cliff which leads to a Double-Black Diamond trail. Only true experts should go on these trails, and I managed to avoid it by a safe distance. Pasha, was not so fortunate and slipped off the cliff unintentionally. He came out alive, but spent a considerable amount of time getting through the trail.

Picture eight was the most difficult one to take, because I really wanted a shot that captured speed. This meant that I had to be moving while taking the picture – backwards. Admittedly,  I did fall immediately after this shot, but it was well worth capturing the beauty of speed.

Pictures nine and ten show the tunnel that went through the mountain. It brought riders from the lower peak, to the higher one. The tunnel had a motorized track so that you would not have to walk the enormous distance with all your gear. As I was exiting the tunnel, the blinding light made it difficult to see, but my eyes quickly adjusted to the beautiful landscape portrayed in the final two pictures.

It was the first time in my life that I, literally, felt on top of the world.

November 15, 2010   No Comments

Musical Encounter

Most of us can say that we experience many cultural mixes very often in our lives. For some of us, these encounters with different cultures come as often as every day; but how many of us can proudly say that we were the ones creating these encounters?

In the eighth grade, I started getting really involved in music; particularly electronica. (pronounced five-three-acht punt en el) took over the Z-100’s and Hot 97’s of my life, and I was immersed in the worlds of trance, house, and techno. I also thought it would be really cool to be a DJ, and had a fair amount of musical background, so I combined my two hobbies into one super-hobby – a trance producer.

My obsession with trance music lasted for a couple of years, and in those years, I released some really awesome tracks, but alas, my career never kicked off. My brother told me that there was no future in DJ-ing, and I was never going to be good enough to rival Tiesto and Paul van Dyke, who were my idols. Had conversation taken place now, I would have taken it as a challenge and continued my pursuit of fame and glory. Alas, my experiences mixing music from countries all over the world ended during my Freshman year of high school when I gave up hope and lost inspiration. I still listen to electronica, and even mess around with mixers and turntables from time to time, so I want to hear your opinion – should I pursue my passion in music and go professional, or just accept it as a hobby?

Eternal Sunlight by DJ Infrared

Crash Course by DJ Infrared

E3 Mix by DJ Infrared

November 14, 2010   1 Comment

Richard Price

As we all take our seats, I look around the room to see familiar faces. I see my classmates from IDC, a few friends from high school, and Professor Bernstein talking to a main in jeans and a yellow button-down. He looked like Richard Price, but I knew that this could not be the case, because Price would have to be really dressed up. I kept looking for the author of Lush Life, but gave up after a few moments of no success.

It came as a great surprise to me when Richard Price was asked to come to the stage, and that man in the yellow button-down came up. In an atmosphere where everyone tried so hard to look nice, the most important man in the room was wearing casual clothes. It became quite clear to me very quickly that this man tries hard to impress no one with his looks. I greatly admired that his values rested in impressing his audience with his rhetoric, and not his presentation. Momentarily, he started his reading of a chapter from Lush Life. We read this same chapter in class, so the ending was spoiled in a sense, but Price still managed to hold my attention. He was a very good reader, and I noticed some key differences between the way he read his story, and the way I read it for the first time. Following the reading of the excerpt from Lush Life, Price read an excerpt from his latest work, which featured the repetition of the word “God” at the end of every sentence. It started off as a humorous piece, but quickly became too repetitive and predictive.

Then came the questions. There were only two types of questions asked. The majority of them focused on how Price writes, and it was obvious that he was getting annoyed at these questions. “Write about what you know” seemed to be the answer to most of the questions in this category. The other questions were about the police encounters and how he knew so much about them. Admitting that he had some connections to the police departments in the tri-state, Price answered them all with a hint of pride.

Pride seems like a characteristic that many people take too far nowadays, turning it into arrogance. Price, being modest about his achievements, appealed to me greatly, and I admired his excellent writing skills. “Tell me another one” was not just a sentence that his niece kept telling him, but a line that stuck with me for a long time, serving as my goal when writing captivating stories. Of course, I cannot capture an audience’s attention as well as a renown author, but by adopting his style and techniques, I might come close one day.

November 14, 2010   No Comments

The Mexican Suitcase and Cuba

As you enter the International Center of Photography, your attention is immediately drawn to a large wall that has a little background information on the exhibit, to introduce you to what spectacles you are about to witness. The main focus of the exhibit at ICP was the Mexican Suitcase, which contained nearly 4,500 negatives that were considered lost. They were recovered from Mexico City, and are now on display at the ICP. The Suitcase was actually three separate boxes, and four photographers took the negatives inside: Robert Capa, Chim (David Seymour), Gerda Taro, and Fred Stein. Stein mostly captured self-portraits of Taro, “which after her death became inextricably linked to images of the war itself.”

Introductions are generally overlooked, skimmed, and forgotten very quickly. This introduction, however, already had an artistic touch. The six ceiling lights in the room were directed at the text in such a way that you had to continuously move around to avoid the glare from the shiny letters. I thought it was an interesting touch, although I did not appreciate having to move around, or squint through the glare when reading it. It seemed as though the lighting throughout the entire exhibit was either poorly planned out, or intentionally directed in such a way that you had to strain your eyes. Either way, analyzing and critiquing the lighting was not the reason why I came to the ICP, and I quickly overcame my annoyance and focused on what was really interesting and captivating – the photography from the Spanish Civil war.

The prints of the negatives found in the Mexican Suitcase captured scenes ranging from frontline war action to families working together in shops. Chim was responsible for the latter types of photographs, while Taro and Capa were the ones who risked their lives on the front, trying to capture the reality, fear, and violence of the war. On July 26, 1937, Gerda Taro became the first female photographer to die reporting on a war. She was a passenger in a car that was struck by a tank, and was fatally wounded, dying the next day. Many of her prints that were on display at the ICP were astounding, and more importantly, genuine. There was no posing; only real scenes, with real action, and real death.

As I moved further through the exhibit, I came across the Suitcase itself, which as I already mentioned, was actually three separate boxes that resembled the boxes I used in my childhood for collecting rare rocks and minerals. Their yellowed and tattered appearance definitely resembled their age – over 70 years old.

An interesting way of presenting the prints was brought to my attention by a friend – it appeared as though there was no effort put in to rotate the photographs. We constantly had to tilt our heads to see the photographs that were taken in landscape view, but presented as portraits. It is likely that this was an attempt to preserve authenticity and originality. Luckily no photographs were upside down! Another detail about the presentation of the prints was brought to my attention by Professor Bernstein. The vintage gelatin prints were all floated, to “preserve antiquity” and avoid ruining them, while the modern prints were overmatted. Overmatting is used when the edges of prints serve no integral purpose, and it seemed appropriate that the prints with sharp contrast were cut off with sharp edges.

Continuing down the stairs to the first floor, I came across the photograph that I now consider my favorite from the exhibit. It was a print by Capa titled “French internemtn camps for Republican exiles.”

This was my favorite print because it resembles one of my favorite paintings by Repin – Бурлаки на Волге

There was no story captioned, so I appreciated it for a few moments and continued down the stairs to the rest of the exhibit. The rest of what I saw in the ICP focused mostly on Che Guevera and Fidel Castro. This is understandable, because they were the ones who revolutionized Cuba. Che Guevera seemed to be big on watches; in an interview with Laura Berquist of Look magazine, he can be seen wearing a Rolex GMT Master in a photograph of him pressing his fingers to his eyes, engaged in thought. In another print of him in Ernest Hemingway’s Marlin Fishing Competition, he is wearing two watches, one of which is another Rolex.

From the interviews, to the fishing and hunting trips, to him just smoking cigars, I was almost given the impression that Che Guevera barely did any work at all. My first impression was quickly shattered by the images in the next room, of his death. The story flowed slowly, but as I walked around the room, it all came together, and the hero’s death was summed up. I am not religious, but many would object to his “iconization” and portrayal as Jesus Christ in some of those photographs.

I left the ICP with a greater understanding of the Spanish Civil War, and new ideas and views on Che Guevera and Fidel Castro. The exhibit showed them in a positive light, unlike the one that our government tries to show them in. I enjoyed the exhibit and regret not being able to stay with the group and experience it together with them – sorry guys!

November 5, 2010   No Comments