Explorations 2008

§ December 24th, 2008 § Filed under Assignments § No Comments

My Cultural Passport Portfolio: Cover Statement - Yan Davydov

§ December 19th, 2008 § Filed under Announcements, Portfolio: Cultural Passport § Tagged § No Comments

Cultural Passport Portfolio: Cover Statement
I think that my Cultural Passport Portfolio is limited in the sense that it only features two of the many articles and reviews that I wrote during the IDC Arts in New York City course. It would be nice if the Portfolio encompassed more than just two, because I feel like I have developed considerably as a critical writer. All works considered, my Portfolio is like a time capsule for me, where my progress as a writer from early September right up to this statement is documented. But, more importantly than developments as a writer, the Portfolio chronicles my development as a patron of New York arts.
Nonetheless, I think that my two chosen Cultural Passports, I Served the King of England and Break Out, are two excellent examples of how I’ve changed because of this class as a whole. Both were useful in teaching or reinforcing some type of lessons for me. On the simplest level, I Served the King of England was important because it exemplified the importance of giving new things a chance, as this was my first time seeing an independent film. Break Out, on the other hand, allowed me to see a different, laid back and comedic side of New York for my first time. My writing was appropriately jovial as well. Through the varying types of performances we’ve seen in this class, I’ve learned to adapt my writing depending on what it is I’m writing about, such as a play, gallery, concert, one man show, dance presentation, or even an opera.
I’ve noticed that about the only thing that has remained throughout my reviews and responses is a general positive approach to the performances. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a generally optimistic person or if I was lucky enough to see good show after good show, but my reviews followed a trend of satisfactory responses. I think, as an open-minded person, I found it easy and natural to like and enjoy most of the performances. Also, having been on stage many times in high school, I can honestly say that I appreciate what actors and performers go through.
Apart from improvements in writing, this course, and the freedom of choice granted by the Cultural Passport assignment, has been so helpful in increasing my appreciation of the arts. From the successes I’ve enjoyed with my choices to see I Served the King of England and Break Out, I feel much more inclined to continue taking advantage of New York arts and culture on my own, which is the main point of my Portfolio.

POV Paper- Racism in Irena’s Vow and Madama Butterfly

§ December 19th, 2008 § Filed under Point Of View § No Comments

Irena Gut Opdyke from Dan Gordon’s Irena’s Vow and Madama Butterfly from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly both encountered racism from their significant others. Irena endured oppression during the Holocaust, when millions of Poles (among other victimized races, including Jews) perished under German tyranny. Her lover was Major Eduard Rugemer,  a Nazi officer who clarified his distaste for non-Aryan, “inferior” races. Madama Butterfly encountered racism during the early 1900’s from her husband, American Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton. The libretto, written from a Western perspective, depicted Eastern nations as substandard. Westerners equated Easterners with feminine qualities, believing that Asians were submissive, fragile, and easily overpowered.  Pinkerton exemplified that viewpoint by dominating and manipulating Madama Butterfly. Throughout their marriage, she became completely obedient and dependent upon him. On the contrary, Irena refused to be victimized in her relationship and fought for survival and independence.
Irena’s sexual relationship with Major Rugemer and Butterfly’s marriage to Pinkerton started under different circumstances. In the former, Major Rugemer despised Poles but allowed Irena to serve as his housekeeper. She lived in constant terror, worrying whether the twelve Jewish companions she was hiding would be discovered. Eventually, Rugemer found out and threatened to expose them publicly unless Irena became his mistress. While he loved her, Irena obliged solely to ensure her and her Jewish companions’ survival. Irena agreed to this relationship with honorable intentions, fighting the Nazi regime by protecting and saving Jews. Major Rugemer’s discovery of the Jews and his consequent request created an intense, dramatic scene. Shocked and outraged by Irena’s betrayal, Rugemer smoldered with pure wrath. He withdrew his gun, silencing Irena’s feeble attempts to explain the situation. It appeared certain that Rugemer would murder Irena, until he lowered the weapon and confessed that he loved her. Unless she returned his love and became his mistress, she and her Jewish companions would be murdered. Irena’s expressions betrayed her conflicted feelings and a dreadful silence loomed as she considered the request. Remembering her promise to keep the twelve Jews safe, she finally agreed in a soft, trembling voice. Major Rugemer calmly walked away, pretending as though the encounter never happened. Although he despised Jews, he manipulated the situation to serve his selfish purpose and degraded Irena.
Similarly to Rugemer, Pinkerton used Butterfly for sensual pleasure in Madama Butterfly. Similarly to Irena, Pinkerton feigned his love. His intentions and discriminatory viewpoints were clear from the very beginning. During his brief stay in Japan, he would marry a compliant and delicate native woman. When he returned to America, he would remarry an American woman indefinitely. He actually purchased Butterfly from a marriage-broker, as though she were a disposable product rather than a human being. In these terms, Pinkerton regarded Butterfly as a toy, something to play with until he became bored or found somebody better.  Unlike Irena, Butterfly completely bought Pinkerton’s act and succumbed to racism; she was younger, 15-years-old, and naïve. She was initially unaware of the truth and unwilling to accept it after Pinkerton returned to America and deserted her.
Madama Butterfly’s submission was unrelated to honorable intentions; by marrying a Westerner and converting to Christianity, she rejected her Japanese roots. This destroyed her companions and family, who rejected her and furiously stormed out the wedding. By changing religions before marriage, Butterfly was already conforming to Pinkerton’s stereotypical belief that Easterners were easily influenced. When Madama Butterfly finally recognized Pinkerton’s true intentions and discriminatory views, she felt defeated. Unlike Irena, she could not overcome the oppression and gain control of the situation because it was too late; Pinkerton had married an American woman and her family and friends had disowned her. She had allowed herself to be swept away and dominated, coinciding with the Western world’s perception of Asians. Heartbroken by Pinkterton’s deceit and rejection because she was Japanese, Butterfly ultimately committed suicide.
Irena and Madama Butterfly both encountered different forms of racism. Irena endured oppression during the Holocaust for being Polish and therefore inferior by Nazi standards. Madama Butterfly was discriminated against Western nations viewed Eastern countries as substandard. Irena’s lover, SS officer Major Eduard Rugemer, and Butterfly’s husband, Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, both discriminated against their significant others. Both relationships were founded on feigned interest and relatively short-term. However, Madama Butterfly was ambiguous to the racism and truly loved Pinkerton, becoming submissive and conforming to the Western perception of Asians. Irena recognized the prejudice and became Major Rugemer’s mistress to ensure her and her Jewish companions’ survival.

-Ramandeep Singh

Reflective Essay

§ December 19th, 2008 § Filed under Portfolio: Cultural Passport § No Comments

New York City offers numerous forms of entertainment and cultural opportunities, which explains the flocks of tourists visiting annually.  Living here, studying here, and working here, I ashamedly admit that I seldom take advantage of these opportunities. Before this course allowed me to discover New York City further, I rarely looked up and was unaware of the splendor surrounding me. Reflecting back, I realize that throughout my journeys, I toured museums I often passed by but hardly glanced at. The Cultural Passport provided me with the perfect opportunity to explore what I had been missing for some time.
For the September and October Cultural Passports, I visited historical museums, which taught me about my neighborhood and this country. The King Manor Museum informed me about Jamaica, Queens while the National Museum of the American Indian provided me with information about America’s history. Whether it was shopping at Jamaica Avenue, seeing a movie, or borrowing books from the Central Library, I always passed by the King Manor Museum. Surrounded by King Park, it looks displaced among the shopping stores and small businesses of Jamaica Avenue due to its colonial style structure. Furthermore, Jamaica is notorious for its drugs, violence, and bootlegged products- a museum is very unexpected in this instance and aroused my curiosity.
The National Museum of the American Indian is located in a better region, Battery Park, where the ferries to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty are available. Although the latter focus on immigrants, the Museum focuses on America’s indigenous people. While working in Battery Park during the summer, I would rush past the Museum to and from work. I was focused solely on being punctual or returning home, ignoring the tourists gawking at the Museum. One evening, some Native American elders, musicians and dancers were performing and blocked the route to the subway station. After failed attempts at pushing through the crowd, I decided to watch and see what the fuss was about. The show was absolutely spectacular and left me breathless. While the elders chanted and beat drums, dancers wearing colorful headdresses and costumes performed energetically. Although I became fascinated by Indian culture, I never got the opportunity to visit the Museum and explore my interest. Through using the Cultural Passport, I satisfied my curiosity about the National Museum of the American Indian and the King Manor Museum.
Although I had learned about Native Americans in school, reading about them and personally seeing their culture are very different things. In contrast, I never learned about Queens or its neighborhoods during school and was completely blind to the borough’s history. At the King Manor Museum, I discovered that Rufus King- New York’s first U.S. senator and a framer of the Constitution- had lived and worked there. This was mind-blowing because I never expected a prominent figure to have resided in Jamaica, which currently breeds drug dealers and gangsters. Furthermore, I discovered that Jamaica was formerly a village, with dirt roads, horses, and buggies, and present-day Jamaica Avenue was actually Fulton Street. It is still connected to Fulton Street, Manhattan today. My experiences at the King Manor Museum provided me with a positive perspective on Jamaica and I felt enriched learning about my neighborhood.
At the Museum of the American Indian, I enhanced my previous knowledge about Native American lifestyles by visiting two exhibitions- “Identity by Design” and “Beauty Surrounds Us.” Both exhibits were dedicated to preserving and celebrating Indian traditions. “Identity by Design” displayed women’s dresses, created with intricate patterns, beadwork, and unusual materials like elk teeth. “Beauty Surrounds Us” focused on different aspects of Indian culture, including recreation and pastimes, instruments and household tools. These exhibitions expressed Native Americans’ pride about their unique heritage and taught me more than any textbook previously had.
After visiting the King Manor Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian, I felt relieved having satisfied my curiosity. It was great slowing down and enjoying the cultural opportunities New York City offers. I could finally appreciate my surroundings, which I never a second thought before. My explorations taught me the importance of understanding the background of your nation and your own neighborhood. The people and their contributions may surprise and inspire you.

-Ramandeep Singh

Cover Statement

§ December 19th, 2008 § Filed under Portfolio: Cultural Passport § No Comments

This semester, I visited the King Manor Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian for my Cultural Passport journeys. This collection reflects my interest in history, which probably developed during my internship at The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. I like discovering new facts and ideas, especially outside the classroom and textbooks. Visiting historical museums allowed me to explore subjects without rigid boundaries and my enjoyment was reflected across my writing.
My writing depends upon my thinking and view of the subject matter. If the topic is boring, my writing suffers because my disinterest is obvious. I become careless about grammar and the content, jotting down anything that comes to mind. For several of my high school and college courses, I wrote research papers, droning on fact after fact and keeping my personal feelings separate. Usually, the research topics were assigned and even if I disliked them, I was powerless to change them. However, when papers were assigned about subjects I passionately liked or disliked, my writing improved and became more focused. By using the Cultural Passport, I could explore cultural institutions of my choosing and disclose personal feelings and express my thoughts. Rather than staying neutral, I could select a side and explore it further.
Initially, it was difficult to break away from my research-paper mode. I was used to being told which topic to write about and the format to write it in. Now, suddenly, there was this freedom to choose and I struggled to figure out the topic and tone of my writing. I wondered what would happen if I disliked what I saw. Was criticism acceptable or should I hold back, staying positive throughout? In this situation, I learned not to restrain criticism and clarify why I disliked certain artifacts. However, since my journeys involved museums I found interesting, my writing turned out mostly positive anyways.
I explored the King Manor Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian because despite walking past them quite often, I rarely glanced up. During my visits, I paid greater attention to artifacts and their detail to provide better descriptions in my writing. It helped me appreciate the artistry and history behind the artifacts, and gain new perspectives. Through my journeys, I developed a better understanding of New York City’s history and improved my descriptive and reflective writing.

-Ramandeep Singh

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