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

Cape Cod

Every summer for as long as I can remember I have visited my uncle in Cape Cod. My family and I always go towards the end of August, right before school starts, and it is the perfect ending to summer. I get to escape the cloying humidity of the city and replace it with the cool salty breeze of Cape Cod. Time seems to stop in North Truro, the area where my uncle lives. I spend lazy days reading a book on the beach, occasionally getting up to cool myself in the icy water. I often just sit and stare out over the waves, sometimes being rewarded with the sight of a sleek seal popping its head out of the water. We visit the nearby Provincetown in the evening, a place full of happy and boisterous people. It is the only town I have ever experienced where people are so open about their sexuality and this contributes to the relaxed and carefree atmosphere you encounter there. Whether it be two men, two women, or a husband and wife, no one hides their affection and romance is everywhere. It is a town where everything and everyone is accepted.

Our last day in Cape Cod, I always make sure to run out to the cliff and take in one last view of the beach and endless ocean, as shown in the photo above. This will have to be enough to last me through the year until next summer.

December 9, 2010   No Comments

My Dad, the Tree Hugger


My dad and Pedro acting silly.

William Lynam grew up on Long Island, in the small bayside town of Babylon. His backyard was situated on a canal, where he spent his days playing with the neighbor children he had known since birth. William thinks back on his childhood fondly. “I feel I had a charmed life.“ Growing up he had a lot of different jobs, from newspaper boy to fisherman, and he saved up enough money to pay his way through college. He spent the first two years commuting back and forth from Stony Brook as a pre-med student in his red Volkswagen and then transferred to the forestry school at Syracuse University. Here he majored in wildlife management with a minor in entomology. William graduated Syracuse in 1983 and went on to work as a fisheries biologist in Alaska. He lived aboard foreign fishing vessels, ensuring that they followed the rules and regulations of the U.S. government. He went on to work as an urban park ranger in Central Park for the next year. He then completely switched directions and became involved in show business. He worked as an assistant editor for movies and also did some commercials and modeling to make quick money.

When William was thirty-one years old he joined the Peace Corps. It was something he had always wanted to do, but other things had gotten in his way. He had been expecting to be the oldest volunteer there but there was a nice variety of people, from young college graduates to older married couples. The first thing the other volunteers said to William when he showed up at the airport burdened with tennis rackets, scuba gear, a guitar, and other luxurious items was “Where do you think you’re going, on vacation or something?” Unfortunately most of these things were stolen along the course of the trip, especially during the stopover in the Dominican Republic.

The forestry program William participated in was far from being a vacation, but has been one of the best and most influential experiences of his life. He specifically requested to participate in this program when he joined the Peace Corps, despite having heard rumors that they never allow volunteers to choose their projects. Surprisingly he was granted his wish, likely because of his impressive background in forestry, which would greatly benefit the program.

William reconnected with many of his old friends who he had met on earlier trips to Costa Rica and made many new friends. He loves the people in Costa Rica, describing them as being “gringo-friendly.” He also finds it easier living in Costa Rica than in other Central and South American countries because the people there are wealthier and there exists a much larger middle class. This leads to less tension among the population in Costa Rica.

William ended up buying property in Costa Rica a few years ago with one of his old friends, Panfilo, and now owns 99 acres of land there. On this property lie three small houses. In one of these houses live Pedro and Gustavo, two young men from Nicaragua who watch over the property when William is not there.  William visits at least once a year and spends his days doing what he loves most … planting trees.

December 7, 2010   5 Comments

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder

The “Abstract Expressionist New York” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) held a wide variety of different forms of abstract art, some more impressive than others. Some of the first paintings I saw consisted of a uniform colored background with a strip of a different color running down the middle. This is exactly the kind of art I always poke fun at for not being real art. Perhaps you need to have knowledge in the technical aspects of art in order to appreciate such work but I believe that the average individual has a limited appreciation of such simple design. I frequently heard the people around me saying things like, “My dog could make that!” Art is generally perceived as a product of someone with a unique talent for creating beautiful work and some of the art in this exhibition did not give off that impression.

I personally think that for something to be considered art, it has to hold some meaning for its viewers. Therefore art has different significance depending on who is observing it. A piece that may be considered art by some people can be considered worthless by others.

I found myself drawn to the less abstract and more detailed pieces in the exhibit. One of these paintings was “Gladiators” by Philip Guston. It depicts four children and a dog playfully fighting each other. The most interesting aspect of the painting is the fact that all the children’s heads are covered so that you cannot see their faces. Though I was not sure what the message of the piece was it captured my attention with its bright colors and missing faces. The description of the piece mentioned that much of Guston’s early art focused on the Ku Klux Klan, which may explain the covered heads of the children. The possibility of a story behind this painting intrigued me.

Another piece of art that caught my attention was “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” by Larry Rivers. This was based on its namesake, a more well known painting by Emanuel Leutze. Larry Rivers used similar shades of brown, red, and blue to recreate the same scene, however he did this in a very original way in which everything in the painting seems to blend together. The hazy figure of George Washington is the most prominent person in this painting, staring out into the museum.

One piece of art that completely confounded me was “Abstract Painting,” by Ad Reinhardt. It featured a square canvas painted black. On close inspection you could see that there were three slightly different shades of black, which did not really alter my opinion of the painting in any way. It simply remained a black square, devoid of any meaning.

There are many different forms of expression in art, as well as many different ways to interpret these forms. The “Abstract Expressionist New York” exhibition displays many different kinds of art and holds something appealing to everyone. Even if you do not like anything you see, you are exposed to pieces that can at the very least be called interesting.

December 7, 2010   No Comments

Close Up and Personal

The first photograph Sara Krulwich showed us was one of herself as a college student, standing on a football field with a huge camera in hand. In the background she is surrounded by the amused grins of the men in the marching band. Krulwich is on the football field of the University of Michigan, a place which at that time was forbidden to women and dogs. This moment marked the start of Krulwich’s struggle as a photographer. She is now one of the foremost photographers for the theatre section of the New York Times, but her struggle is not over. Photographing performances, such as Broadway and operas, seems like a relatively easy task however Sara is constantly fighting for the rights to photograph these shows. The producers want to convey a certain image with the pictures they release and are therefore very cautious about having anyone from outside their control photographing performances.

One thing Sara Krulwich constantly emphasized was the importance of getting close to one’s subject when photographing. She mentioned our street photography projects and how they could have been strengthened with the inclusion of close-ups on people. She also acknowledged that getting close is one of the major difficulties in being a photographer. I personally experienced this during my street photography project, as it felt extremely awkward to take pictures of people. I was afraid of angering them or simply looking like a creep. Sara Krulwich’s presentation made me realize that there is so much more to photography than just taking pictures and it gave me an even greater appreciation for this art form.

December 5, 2010   No Comments

The Light in the Dark

Knowing the plot of Scottsboro Boys, I was not expecting the energy and humor the show started off with. The sad story of nine innocent black men in Alabama being accused of raping two white women suggested a somber performance to come. However, the show opened up with two men dressed in frivolous red suits, who revealed themselves to be minstrel men. They were soon joined by the nine Scottsboro boys who performed an upbeat song and dance routine to start off the night.

The costumes of the Scottsboro boys were very simple and appropriate for the time period. I did not appreciate their costumes in prison however, where they were all dressed in the same white outfits. It made it too difficult for me to distinguish between the men, especially since I was not close enough to the stage to see their distinct facial features. Perhaps the point was for them to all look the same, as this is likely how the Southern law viewed them. However I personally appreciated the characters more when I could discern between them, such as the boy who loved reading and writing. I could point him out by the glasses he wore, but when the characters were all wearing the same clothing I could no longer identify them by distinct clothing markers.

Another interesting aspect of The Scottsboro Boys was the lack of attachment between the characters. One would expect that their ordeal and time spent together would result in a deep bond between the men, but they seemed to have a very limited emotional connection. One of the boys even repeatedly tried to put the blame on his cellmates in an effort to save his own life. There was an obvious bond between the two brothers, but that had existed before their arrest. Other than that, the most outstanding interaction between the men seemed to be when Haywood, played by Joshua Henry, was taught to read and write by the one literate boy in the group. I believe this disconnect added a more realistic element to the story.

A major component of this show was satirizing extremely sensitive subjects, such as rape and lynching. Though this has offended people to the point of protesting outside the theatre I thought it was a new and interesting way of portraying such a dark time in American history. I have learned so much about black history in school over the past few years but it has never been in this context. I had also never really heard of minstrel shows and I think that the topics of minstrelsy and the Scottsboro trial were combined in a clever way. The show also did not target one specific group in its mockery. The minstrel men poked fun at everyone, from the Southern white women to the sheriff to the Jewish lawyer from New York.

The ending to the show was extremely powerful and chilling. The woman who had silently remained in the background throughout the show, revealed herself to be Rosa Parks and as she refused to move to the back of the bus the show literally ended with a bang as the lights went out. I liked that the makers of Scottsboro boys used this woman as a way of linking the different historical points of black history. It showed that the trial of the Scottsboro boys affected individuals later in history, which added a warm feeling of hope to the show, despite the many horrors and injustices it presented.

Though The Scottsboro Boys made light of some very serious topics, it did so in a way that was original and effective, without being offensive. I think this show opens up the door to a whole new category of Broadway. It presents a dark time in history with a twist of humor and music, which will hopefully grip audiences, like it did me.

November 28, 2010   No Comments


Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

— Kurt Vonnegut

I always choose laughter. In tense situations, I am usually the one laughing, while everyone else mopes. Studies on laughter have shown it to relieve stress and improve quality of life. I can personally attest to this, as laughter has helped me get through some trying moments in my life. Laughter is the main way in which I deal with stress and it never fails to help me relax and feel better.

In this collage I tried to capture the joy and lightheartedness that laughter brings to people. My original plan was to record all my own photographs and videos and sound. However I soon realized that capturing laughter is not as easy as I expected it would be. One major obstacle was the speed of my camera. It takes several seconds for it to snap a picture once I have pressed down on the button. By the time it finally does take the shot, the moment has already passed.  Another obstacle was that the laughter often died off as soon as people saw the camera aimed at them. Many people seemed self-conscious about having their laughter recorded, though I believe that people look their best when they are smiling and laughing.

Another, different, kind of obstacle was the fact that I am technologically challenged. Just the simple task of cropping the clips I wanted in my video took me a long time to figure out. Fortunately I finally realized there was a ‘help’ option where I could type in my questions and this quickened the video making process greatly for me.

The first half of my collage along with the last three clips in it, are my own images and videos. All the still images are pictures I have taken in the past, without this project in mind. However all the movies have been recorded over the past couple weeks. I decided to include pictures from the internet to add some more body to my video, as well as to give it more diversity.

Choosing the music for my video was easy. I immediately knew to look through my show tunes in order to find the kind of corny music I was looking for. Just this week, the popular television show Glee performed a cover of “Make ‘Em Laugh” from the musical “Singin’ in the Rain,” which I immediately decided to include in my collage. The other song, “I Love to Laugh,” is from the musical Mary Poppins. These are both fun, cheery tunes that I think everyone will recognize. I also included the sounds of sitcom laughter to accompany a series of close-ups on laughing mouths.

Overall, I am happy with my final collage. I just wish I had been able to capture more laughter on camera. However, I think the few pictures and video clips I had were effective in portraying the spirit of laughter.

November 23, 2010   No Comments

Where are the bubbles in bubble tea?

Coming from a middle school of mainly Hispanic students, I was shocked by the heavy Asian culture at my new high school. There were names and foods and languages I had never really been exposed to before. One drink in particular, called “bubble tea,” was mentioned frequently among my classmates. I assumed it was some kind of carbonated tea beverage. The explanation they eventually gave me for this drink, “sweet tea with these gooey tapioca ball things,” did not appeal to me. One day, a few weeks into school, I ran into a girl in my environmental club on the bus. She invited me to get bubble tea with her and her sister and I accepted, just for the sake of meeting new people. When we got to the bubble tea shop, my friend ordered a plain milk bubble tea for me and I watched anxiously as the gooey tapioca was poured into my cup. I had always been a picky child and bubble tea was completely foreign to me. When I was handed my tea, my friend inserted a fat pink straw into my cup and I cautiously took a tiny sip. The tea tasted like sweet, milky Lipton, rather than the exotic flavor I had been expecting. However my next sip shot a slimy chunk of tapioca down my throat, causing me to choke. My friend giggled next to me, warning me not to drink so fast. When I finally got the tapioca in my mouth I almost gagged at the strange texture and lack of flavor. Though I lied to my friend that I enjoyed the bubble tea, I had absolutely no intention of ever trying it again. Now, years later, I am a big fan of bubble tea. I tried it again my sophomore year of high school and that time I loved it. However, the only place I will drink bubble tea is at a shop called TenRen’s, so I am still quite limited in my drinking of bubble tea.

November 23, 2010   3 Comments

Pedaling Through NYC


I love biking, though I rarely get to do it in New York City. I spend my summers at my grandfather’s house in the countryside and I bike everywhere during those months, from my friend’s house to the nearest food store, which lies miles away. The feel of the wind on your face and the different sights and smells that you experience cannot be felt anywhere but on a bike. In addition to being enjoyable, biking is also a great way to stay fit; a much more stimulating form of exercise than a treadmill or a stationary bike.
Though I have my own bike here in New York, I never use it. I do not feel safe pedaling through the streets on my tiny bike, among reckless drivers in oversized SUVs. On top of this, my dad has many alarming stories of all the injuries he and his friends have sustained while biking in the city. Despite the apparent danger of biking, I have noticed that it has been growing more and more popular in New York over the past few years. Biking is no longer just limited to Central Park and deliverymen and this is what I wanted to capture in my photos.
There has been much talk over the past few years of building more bike paths in New York City. The goal is to have them extend all the way throughout Manhattan. There have been efforts in NYC lately to emphasize transportation via bicycle rather than car as part of the budding “green” movement. Lower Manhattan especially seems to have been affected by this cause. When I was taking photos there I noticed that the streets were full of chained up bikes. There were many young people biking on the new paths, schoolbags on their backs. Biking is becoming a “hip” thing now, which means a lot of support from enthusiastic youths in the current efforts for a green revolution.
One major issue for me in this project was taking pictures of people on their bikes. I felt very awkward doing this and would therefore jerk away my camera too quickly when snapping pictures of people in order to avoid being seen by them. This resulted in many blurry shots. I definitely missed out on several good pictures due to my hesitation.
Initially I did not edit my photos in any way. However I thought the colors in the pictures were very dull and I enhanced them using iPhoto. This did not really alter the pictures too much, it just made some of them lighter and brought out the greens in the park pictures.
As I mentioned before, I started out in lower Manhattan taking pictures of people actually using their bikes as a means of transportation. This contrasted with the Central Park photos, where people bike for pleasure or for exercise. I think that I captured a fairly wide range of images. However, I regret my reluctance to photograph people as this was the main element I want to convey in this project: the relationship of New Yorkers to their bicycles.

November 18, 2010   1 Comment

Concert at the Farm

This summer my friend asked me if I wanted to come to a music festival with her. I immediately agreed, not really knowing what she meant by a festival but expecting something akin to a concert. The morning of the festival was cold and rainy, a typical summer day in Sweden. My friend’s dad picked me up and we drove for over an hour until we reached a town consisting of nothing more than a bar and a gas station. “We’re almost there,” my friend told me and I wondered where this “town” could possibly be hiding a concert hall. We turned onto a thin dirt road and continued for about fifteen minutes, going deeper and deeper into the forest. When my friend’s dad stopped the car, I stepped out to the sight of more trees and a few other cars parked along the path. We walked up the road for several minutes and by the time we finally reached a tiny ticket booth I was shivering and damp. I was given a hot pink band to put around my arm and directed even further up the road. We finally came to a clearing with a little farmhouse and three big red barns. I heard faint music playing from one of the barns and peeked through the door to see people spread out on the dirt floor listening to a tiny woman with thick blonde dreadlocks wailing into a microphone. I shot a look at my friend but she was busy talking to a group of women that looked exactly like the one up on stage, all wearing similar flowing tunics and chunky beaded bracelets. I felt like I was at a festival straight out of the movie “Taking Woodstock.” My friend soon returned to my side and ushered me into one of the barns to hear a band called New Tango Orquesta. As the musicians stepped out on stage carrying classical instruments I had to suppress a groan. According to the schedule this performance was going to last over two hours and I did not have the patience to listen to boring music for that long. However I slumped down next to my friend without complaint, making sure to be seated by the wall so I could lean against it if I felt myself growing sleepy.

The next two hours flew by like they were fifteen minutes. From the moment the band started playing, the music captivated me. I downloaded several of their songs once I got home and I still play them often. This was the first time I had ever really listened to classical music and it has led me to a whole new world of musical possibilities. My friend and I have already vowed to return to this festival next summer and I hope I will be pleasantly surprised once again.

November 9, 2010   No Comments

Exploring the Cuban Revolution

The photos in International Center of Photography’s “Cuba in Revolution” exhibition were undeniably beautiful. They managed to capture several different aspects of the Cuban culture from before, during, and after the revolution. The photographs and their subjects were extremely diverse, ranging from funny to somber to celebratory. There was a photo of a grinning Cuban man wearing nothing but tight underwear and an oversized sombrero proudly holding up bottles of liquor, just inches away from a dark photo depicting two grim soldiers.

One especially striking part of the exhibit was the pictures of Che Guevara after his death. As I initially passed these photos I just glanced over them, assuming them to be uninteresting pictures of Guevara sleeping. However I was later drawn back to these photos by a friend who told me that they were pictures of Guevara’s corpse. These photos were perhaps even more disturbing than more graphic photos I have seen of deceased people because the expression on Che’s face was so peaceful. The photos were close-ups on his face and his eyes were open and bright, his mouth shaped into a slight smile. He did not look like a dead man.

Another photo that caught my attention was one called La Caballeria. It was one of the first photos you saw when you walked into the exhibition, depicting Cuban soldiers on horseback holding up revolutionary flags. This photo shows the intense passion of the soldiers and is an uplifting representation of the revolution. The contrast between light and dark in the photo is particularly noticeable. There is a white horse at the front of the group who contrasts sharply with the darker horses surrounding it. Its head is held high and its ears are alert and forward. The other horses seem small and weak by comparison. This white horse is a beacon of light, guiding the soldiers and their horses down the road to independence.

The last photo I saw as I left the exhibition was one of a young man and woman embracing. This photo contrasted with the images of Che Guevara’s corpse that I had just seen. This picture was very positive and hopeful. It hinted at a bright future for Cuba and its youth.

November 9, 2010   No Comments