Monday, June 30, 2014

Better To Be Playful

In my constitutional law class today I learned something really interesting. According to my professor, the United States is the only country that doesn't ban hate speech. Hate speech is any phrase, or message that demoralizes or offends anyone. Apparently people are free to go ahead and verbally bully people without really getting in trouble. After that I thought about why people aren't just bullies to get what they want. In retrospect I would say it's because the teachers and the parents that institute kindness and look down upon hatred. The reason I bring this up is because in Brandenbur v. Ohio, the Klu Klux Klan leader was found not guilty because he was teaching discrimination but not exactly advocating it. He was merely mentioning how to do things that are discriminatory to the African American race.

The next thing I did was go to he soup kitchen for the second time. If you can recall my first one was a little all over the place, in which I had to step in. This time, everything was under control everyone had assigned roles,m and things went smoothly. We served over 100 people and I was really proud of myself and this Community Outreach program for having such an impact. We were all separated into groups, each one distributed equally to a few tables. We then came out of the kitchen with food and started handing out dishes to people in our jurisdiction. It was really hard being patient with the people because they kept asking us when they were getting their meal, or why did another guy seem to have more. It takes a lot to do this job and I just want to thank the workers there, because I appreciate them so much. I'm there learning a thing or two on patience and then how to do thins more efficiently with large crowds.

I finished off my day with Phantom of the Opera. It was my first Broadway show and my first show ever. I absolutely enjoyed it, I came in with an open mind and then really started to like every speech in song. It was my first time and this is a relatively hard concept to grasp, but I just want to tell people to sort of do the unexpected. This show was a romantic tragedy of some sort and I ended up liking it, unlike all the Shakespeare plays (joking). Well in that case I recommend doing things that are safe and out of your comfort zone. "challenge by choice", as my people from Youth Enrichment Strategies say (go check them out).

Wicked Day

Instead of two hours of discussion and lecture today, we had a guest speaker in class! Doctor Porwancher's friend, Kiran Bhatraju spoke to us about his career. He works at Capitol Hill and has worked for several congressmen and governors. He is from a small town in Kentucky, but he ended up double majoring in Literature and Political Science at UPenn. It's inspiring to see how far he's gone since his time in Kentucky. Our activity of the day was to break into two groups and convince both the professor and Mr. Bhatraju that politicians should or should not be limited on their campaign spending. I'm glad I got to say that they should limit spending because that's what I agree with too. My team's points were that politicians running for reelection could focus on their current jobs, there would be a more leveled playing field, corruption would be limited, and it would appeal more to the common man if politicians actually got to know people. Mr. Bhatraju picked our team as the winner while Doctor Porwancher voted for the other team. It was a fun exercise before we left for lunch. During my library hours, my group got together to discuss our cases for Thursday's debate. 
At night, I met with Emily to eat dinner and go see Wicked. About fifteen students from Columbia's program went together with three RAs. Neither Emily or I have been to a Broadway show before, so it was really exciting! I didn't realize that Broadway was only two blocks away from Times Square! Our seats were actually pretty good. The music was loud, but the singers sang really well. The show kind of fit in with my class because we read about The Wizard of Oz on the first day of class. The costumes were all so vivid and Elphaba was so green! The set was beautiful and I was impressed by the large mask used to hide the wizard. It was mechanical, covered in lights, and well built. I've seen it in cartoons and movies, but not as an actual mask. As a souvenir, I just bought a soda that came in a cute Wicked cup. 
A quick snap before the show!

During and after the show, Emily and I kept meeting new people! We sat next to Kayla, another high school program student. She overheard us talking about colleges on the subway station, so she chimed in a few times because she's toured a lot of colleges too. On our way back, another student, Michelle from Oklahoma, overheard us talking and joined in our conversation too. And across from us, two actual Columbia students overheard us and started talking to us too. It's incredible that we keep meeting new people every day. I've been learning so much every day and I can't imagine a better way to have spent the last day of June!

Broadway Bonanza!

I am excited to announce that I have finally seen a Broadway show. And to top it off, I got to see Wicked with the one and only Michelle, a fellow Broadway rookie. My plans to see the show were a bit last minute; only on Saturday did I really think about watching a Broadway show. 

Time Square broadcasting
the Wicked show!
When we got to the venue, everywhere in sight was decked out in Wicked themed decorations. Even down to the columns of the venue was the place representing all things Wicked. Unfortunately, our seats were at the very back row of the first floor, but the theatre was set up in a way that basically all seats had a pretty god view of the stage. Even from that far back, I had no trouble seeing everything! I don't want to ruin too much about the play, but all I want to say is that it was amazing. Lots of the humor was hidden in sharp one-liners, but the play still managed to be serious. The play was very well done!

After the play, Michelle and I strolled around Time Square for a bit, since it was so close to the venue where wicked was playing. Even on a Monday night at 10 pm the city was still bustling! No matter how many times I visit Time Square, it was never cease to amaze me. 

Today has been quite an experience! I am glad I got the chance to watch the show tonight, and mostly that I got my homework printed (I finally figured out the printers). I wonder what tomorrow's adventures will hold... 

Cyber Seniors and Constitutional Controversy

In class today we analyzed Supreme Court cases that had to do with the abridgment of free speech in certain instances. Some instances include Brandenberg v. Ohio (a case involving a Klu Klux Klan member) and New York Times v. The United States (a case that had to do with the release of top secret files concerning the Vietnam War). It was interesting to learn about the New York Times v. The United States case because at the time it was a national scandal and Daniel Ellsberg, the man who obtained the top secret files, was in a lot of danger for trying to spread news about the Vietnam War. Aside from the in-class curriculum, one of my classmates mentioned the latest Supreme Court case ruling in the Hobby Lobby case which ruled that under Obamacare, religious for-profit employers with religious concerns can opt-out of providing contraception. Seeing in class a progressive view of the Supreme Court  rulings and how it has evolved over the years considering free speech rulings, I think the ruling involving contraception can be seen as a parallel to it. I think that in the future, cases involving abortion will evolve and become broader, leaving a different interpretation of the Constitution in the same way that free speech is protected under broader definitions than when compared to the first cases involving the conflict between people and government.

At lunch, I volunteered at the Community Outreach table for the Cyber Seniors program. A group of about seven of us got together on Friday to discuss the topic of helping senior citizens become more familiar with working computers. I gave a short presentation on using Word Document and other people presented on password safety, captcha codes, social media, etc. Everyone there was very attentive and incredibly kind. It was so much fun being able to help them and speak to them on a one-on-one level. It was a great experience and I felt important whenever Frank came around to snap pictures with his camera or Kathy interjected to ask a tough question. Aside from teaching about computers, I spoke to a few people at the senior citizens center about the ILC and what it has done for me. The people I spoke to were very supportive and overall awesome. I had a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to doing it again next Monday.
The Cyber Seniors crew! Not including some of the camera shy folks.
Toward the end of the day, I was going over my reading on Low Steps and struck a conversation with some really nice people from New York that are also in Columbia's high school program. Their names were Erika and Elliot and they reminded me of some of my friends back home. Today was a productive and fun day!

Lots of Pics!

So many pictures! I took so many pictures today! We started off at Strawberry Fields in Central Park and got to see the memorial to John Lennon. We also got to walk past a lake that had great views of New York City Buildings. Then we made our way to the MET.

I was so excited to see the MET. This is the part of the trip that I had been looking forward to for a while. The first exhibit we got to see was the Egyptian Exhibit. Next the Greek and Roman. Then was my favorite, the African exhibit. 
Although this blog is going to be a little short, it's because I spent a lot of time being entranced by the artwork. These are some pictures of the American Wing and the Asian exhibit.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Museum Amusement

Our group had an excellent day that started off with a stroll through Central Park at Strawberry Fields, a region widely known for the death of John Lennon. We spent time in this area of the park remembering someone who helped shape the nation's culture and views and we were able to see the impact his life made. we continued our stroll throughout Central Park and walked all the way through to the end where we saw the Metropolitan Museum. 

We found our way to the entrance and decided to see the Egyptian exhibit. We saw pyramids, mummies, hieroglyphs, pottery, and jewelry. I stood in awe at the grand structures that surrounded me and the vast culture that I saw while walking through the exhibit. This particular section was my favorite because I knew my ancestors achieved something beautiful and it made me feel proud to be of African descent. After we finished browsing through ancient Egypt, we went to a special
exhibit on costume, Charles James: Beyond Fashion. My group stood in awe at the costumes used in Hollywood's golden age. The collection of women's clothing expressed sensuality and class. This section was also one of my favorites because I have a slight obsession with classic movies and to see some of the dresses made in the same era as the one that some of my favorite films were released was astonishing. My third favorite exhibit was the Greek and Roman Art. It's needless to say that Greek and Roman art is beautiful. The sculptures are highly detailed and careful. The art shows how the body moves and tells a story with a specific stance. 
Scarab jewelry in the Egyptian exhibit.

Around midday, we got lunch at some of the nearby food trucks before we went back into the museum for a second look. We visited the Asian Art section and the American Art collection. It was strange to see things like crystal lanterns and china there because my grandma has sets like the ones we saw at her house that I see regularly. We soon returned home and I was able to catch up on some of the work that I wasn't able to get to this weekend. I was amused by everything I saw today. I hope I get to have more fun like this in the future.
A Charles James gown.

Maybe History isn't Always a Mystery

Our first week of being at Columbia has ended and the cohort is already familiar with New York! We headed straight to Ms. Thrift's hotel to get breakfast and head over to Central Park. The park was a lot larger than I thought. There was a reservoir, bridges, tons of grassy areas, and people from all over the world. We took the scenic route and walked for a while to see all the animals and trees. The park was so peaceful and relaxing to walk in. It was fairly close to the Metropolitan Museum of Art too. 
The whole cohort on the bridge! 

Going into the museum, we found out that Columbia students get in free! We just flashed our IDs and dived into the exhibits. Our first(and my favorite) exhibit was the Egyptian one. There was a variety of jewelry, pottery, sarcophagi, and parts of old buildings. They even had a part of an old temple! I liked that all of the Egyptian items were so intricate and colorful. The history behind all of the items was really interesting too. Since Egyptians believed in afterlife, they would bury treasures along with the bodies of royalty. Other Egyptians took advantage of this and stole the items. I'm not sure how long we were in there, but I think it was around 45 minutes of an hour that we were in that one exhibit. 

 We spent another three hours or so looking at the Asian, fashion, modern art, American, African, arms and armor, music, and Greek areas. No matter how much further we walked, there would always be another staircase, door, or other opening to more parts of the museum. I would say that we only got to see about half of the museum today. I liked that the museum was designed to match the themes of the exhibits. All of the collections were really extensive too! When I went to the Asian gallery, I learned so much about my own culture. It showed that I wasn't very knowledgeable about Chinese history, but I was glad to learn more about it. And in the fashion gallery, I saw that a lot of the styles that were popular back then are still seen today. I wouldn't say that the clothes look like they could be worn on a daily basis, but I could imagine a lot of celebrities wearing those dresses on the red carpet. I also recognized a few of the pieces and artists in the modern arts section because my Spanish teacher, Senora, went over a lot Spanish artists in class. Instead of seeing these pictures over a projector, I got to see the actual pieces. Joan Miro was one of the prominent artists in the exhibit. Our last thirty minute consisted of roaming around the gift shop. 
A collection of porcelain teapots 
Vines and Olive Trees by Joan Miro
Old clarinets
Lastly, I went back to my dorm and met up with my hall mates. We decided to go to Amsterdam Tapas, a little restaurant right off of campus. I ordered crab and avocado napoleon and crispy plantains with garlic sauce as a side. All of the girls were really friendly and the conversations continually flowed throughout dinner. At the beginning, we were all kind of on our phones until someone suggested we all place our phones in the middle of the table. No one was allowed to text her check their notifications, so we were able to be more engaged with each other. It was interesting to eat out with this new group of people and the food was great too! For dessert, we went to get frozen yogurt.  I love that New York has been full of so many interesting places and people. Our second week of class starts tomorrow, so goodbye until tomorrow night! 
Cassie, Sammy, Ann, and I at Pinkberry

Walking Pays Off

My day consisted of on foot traveling more then 80% of the day. Again I met with my cohort and then got on the subway to meet with my chaperon Joyce at a subway stop. From there we got some breakfast and then walked all the way to and through central park. All the attention and fame that Central Park receives is well deserved.

I was able to experience all the luscious grass flourish in the sun and in the park. I absolutely loved it, I let myself enjoy every bit of my surroundings and better yet I took pictures. Definitely check Central Park out it's amazing. The park is huge, I went two different paths and I wasn't even close to covering half of everything that was available.

Next thing we did was head to the conveniently placed Metropolitan Museum of Arts at the other side of the park (shorter side). The museum was big, and I mean it felt as if it was as big as Central Park itself. Anyway that museum is just too big to see and enjoy all of it in just one sitting. We went around for 6 hours and didn't cover all of it. I encourage you to go to the Greek/Roman art, it shows a lot of sculptures and even has sculptures of the gods Hermes and Zeus. I was really lost today viewing the art because I never really appreciated it. Thanks to Joyce and the description right next to each of the pieces of art, I was able to appreciate it a little more. I had so much fun today I'm really glad to be able to spend time with my old friends and be able to experience more things. I appreciate Joyce, she's very good at time management and helps me make the most of my day.

Zeus head


A Change of Pace

Waking up was the hardest part, but once I got that out of the way this morning, I was okay to take on the day, or so I thought. At around ten this morning, the Columbia cohort met up to walk through Central Park through Strawberry Fields and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the Subway we walked to  Starbucks for breakfast to Central Park to the Met. We was finally made it and it was huge! And, you can guess it, a huge museum requires a huge amount of walking. Even though I'm keen to complain about the walk, I honestly think Central Park is stunning. It did not feel like being in the center of loud, smelly, constantly moving New York, but more like the Santa Cruz trails like back in California. It was beautiful and I envy the people who can visit it everyday.
Once we arrived at the Met, I was expecting it to be like any other museum: paintings, a few sculptures, and a food court. I'm starting to love being proved wrong. The Met is immense, beautiful, and full of life! Every single exhibit is fantastic and included at least 50 pieces from that time period and culture. Ancient Greece and Rome were my favorites because I love that culture (give me some pita bread!) and the artifacts presented were real beauties, each with individual stories. I wasn't expecting to stay the entire day, but we all ended staying from the morning until closing.
A part of the Ancient Egypt exhibit
A repaired Ancient Greek statue
A Buddha statue from the 11th century
By the end of the the excursion I definitely felt worn out, but it was completely worth it because every exhibit at the Met is captivating, including the food cart "exhibit" in front of the museum steps. It turns out that the days that wear me out the most are the ones most worth it and I think that everyone in the Columbia cohort can agree.

Aside from all the fun things I am experiencing, I am starting to wonder where my place here at Columbia is. I am not homesick, but I am trying to feel a part of this cool community more which I didn't expect to be so difficult a week ago. Meeting new people everyday is a different story than developing connections with them. New York is a crazy and slightly intimidating place, but I hope I will find my way within Columbia and broaden that to my adventures in the city this week.

Museums, Parks, Oh My!

Our adventures today took us to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET). 

We first went to Central Park to eat our breakfast and admire Strawberry Fields, a part of the park commemorating John Lennon. It was a gorgeous, lush area filled with pathways and pieces in memory of Lennon. We took a scenic route through the park that led us to some other gorgeous sites too! 
After that little stroll in the park, we went to the MET. We first visited the Egyptian Art. There they had cool artifacts ranging from cave paintings to tombs. It was really cool to be able to see all these artifacts in person! We also went to see a fashion, Greek and roman, Asian, and American history exhibit. My favorite one was definitely the fashion exhibit. I thought this one was so cool because all the old styles displayed in the museum are coming back into style now! The big coats and accentuated waist lines are definitely becoming trendy again. 

The vastness of the museum really shocked me. I didn't realize that there was so much to see! We took a little break during out visit to eat like a real New Yorker. We got some food from the nearby food trucks and sat on the steps of the MET, taking in the sounds, smells, sights, and tastes of New York. After we finished out lunch, we headed back in to see what we could before the closing of the museum. 

Since it had been a long day, we didn't do much more after the MET. I was very grateful, as I still had homework to do! I was very happy that I would get a full night of sleep as well. Most people hate mondays, but I am actually kind of excited for class to start again! 

A Seemingly Endless Abyss

The word that I can use to describe today is solemn. Not that the morning or late afternoon was, but our trip to the 9/11 memorial definitely changed the way that I felt about certain things. I want to write about the 9/11 memorials first because it was the highlight of my day. I have never visited a museum that was so intense.

The first thing we came across was the expansive pool with the hole in the bottom. The water seemed to endlessly flow into the pit, but it didn’t have much meaning to me until after I visited the museum. While I was inside the museum, I wanted to get a sense of who died, how they died, and what the effects were of their death. My first realization was when I entered a part of the exhibit that showed the faces and names and every person that died as a result of 9/11. Inside that part of the exhibit, they even had videos that would tell details about the person, and sometimes they would tell how their family members remembered them. I was in complete shock as to how many people lost their spouses, family members, friends, and coworkers.

After that part of the museum we watched a short film about the rebuilding and placement of the 9/11 memorial. It took many years to rebuild and I think this also symbolized how it took many years for people to recover from the effects of 9/11. I enjoyed how the exhibits didn’t only speak about the Twin Towers. It also spoke about the crash into the Pentagon and the crash into Shankesville. The crash into Shankesville affected me the most because the passengers on the plane actually fought to stop the hijackers. At the exhibit I got to hear the voicemails that they left for their family members and spouses, it just got to me that all of them died.

The end of the exhibits spoke about the motivation of the hijackers and the political effects of 9/11. I thought that this was important as well because it is something that I have never been able to comprehend. All the acts of 9/11 are hard for me to comprehend actually, it seems somewhat unreal to me. It seems unreal that other human beings could carry out such a devastating act. It also saddens me, I felt completely exhausted after just being in the museum.
This is the name of an honorable man who died in the attack on the Pentagon. I did some research on him but to keep this blog short, this is the link to find out more about who he was and what he did.

In the morning we went on a tour of NYU, however I really didn’t feel like it was for me. The campus was just too broad and it was also too artsy for my tastes. The Lombardi’s pizza that we had (my suggestion) was nothing short of some of the best pizza I’ve ever had before! I’m looking forward to eating even more great food on this trip. Toodles.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Before and After

About thirteen years ago, I saw video footage of the 9/11 attacks on my tv. I don't think I realized that it wasn't a scene from a movie. I didn't even know what the terms "terroists" or "radicals" meant. A year later, I went on a vacation with my parents to New York. I was still really young though, so I barely remember anything from the trip. The only recollections I have are of me complaining about walking and seeing "old stuff" locked up behind glass cases. I didn't enjoy the trip at all, however, my experience this year has been so different in comparison.

We went to eat breakfast, tour NYU, and eat at Lombardi's today, but the place that inspired me the most was the 9/11 Memorial. As we squeezed through construction areas and crowds of people, we started to see tall, shiny buildings. We approached a glossy black fountain with names engraved into it. I ran my fingers across the carvings of the names of 9/11 victims as I walked along the fountain. About three-thousand names could be seen. Ms. Thrift actually asked us what we thought the fountain meant later on in the day, but I've been thinking about it and I see the fountain as a symbol for the hole that still remains in the United States. It's shaped like a hollowed cube which is similar to the base of the World Trade Center and the volume of the cube becomes smaller as it becomes deeper. I think that it represents that as a country, we're healing together over time. The emptiness is slowly fading away, yet the victims of the attack will always cycle through our minds. Maybe that's not what the fountain was made to symbolize though. It's just how I interpret it!
The construction on our way to the memorial
The first thing I saw entering the memorial was a woman crying as she exited. Seeing her cry made me a little overwhelmed, especially because the building was also dark and cold. Voices of victims' family members filled the room. They spoke about their reactions when they heard the news. It was so sad to hear these people talk about the feelings because you could hear their voices trembling and their speech was so solemn. Although I don't have any family or friends who were victims of the attack, I felt like I was connecting to the families of these people. While the majority of the building was black, a blue tiled wall could be seen with the quote "No day shall remove you from the memory of time." Downstairs, there was a room covered by pictures of victims on all sides. There were pictures of newlyweds, senior portraits, families, young children, senior citizens, and servicemen. It was heartbreaking to see that all of these people were killed because of the terrorist attack. 

The more I thought about the attack, the angrier I was. The attack in itself was tragic, but in addition, they purposely chose September 11 since 9-1-1 is America's emergency number. I know there's no reason for someone to hijack planes and kill almost 3000 innocent people. The motives that the Al-Qaeda cited were all due to their religion. Instead of gaining more respect for the Muslim community though, this group shocked everyone and left negative impressions. As a result, countless hate crimes occurred because people assumed that anyone who was Muslim or wore turbans was a terrorist. It's unfortunate to see that the attack lead to more violence because of the hate crimes and wars that are going on. 

Other parts of the museum included artifacts that were retrieved from the scene. There was a separate room where there was a firetruck, notes from victims, pieces of clothing, and recordings of voice-mails. News reports of the event were played and there were pictures of people who jumped from the buildings to escape the fire. Despite the fact that pictures weren't allowed in this room, I didn't take pictures inside the other parts of the building either because it was one of those places where I just wanted to absorb everything that I was seeing. The memorial wasn't like the college campuses where you snap pictures in front of old statues and ivy covered buildings. By the end of the day, I didn't really have a preference on where to go or what to eat anymore. I was just thankful for the day and grateful to have had all these experiences. I realized that the children, teens, and possibly even adults that were killed never got the chance to see these landmarks, spend more time with their families, or even spend the rest of their lives.