The Last Night

So there once was a man. He loved New York. He was leaving, and still had not seen each and every place he wanted. In fact, he did not even see half of what he wanted. There were so many places to go. There were so many places to visit. There will never be enough time.

He was there for an education, an education in which he loved very much. He loved his classmates and loved the environment of his classes. He stepped off of the plane with high expectation and will soon be leaving with those same expectation exceeded.

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He met so many amazing individuals and developed numerous relationships in which he wishes to continue.

On his last and final day, he simply did not complete his bucket list. New York City is just too big. The hustle and bustle of the city engulfed his personality and created a bond never to be broken.

Sometimes, you never seem to be able to follow your dreams. Sometimes your dreams are just out of reach. Sometimes, they are ripped out of your hands and thrown into a dumpster. And sometimes, you leave and watch them out the back of a packed van and wonder if you will ever see them again.

Just kidding.

On a serious note, New York is on point. We wanted to make it to one more “must go” place and chose grand central terminal because it was raining. When we got off the train, I heard this seriously intense amazing awesome on point beat. I was like, lame. I felt this way because I assumed this was an electronic beat with no effort involved. Instead, to my surprise, I walked up the stairs to see a dude beat boxing. I filmed an exclusive video. See below.

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Cinderella, ballet; artistic sublimation

The tale of Cinderella pervades almost every culture. Cinderella we’ve watched on Tuesdays was in ballet version. It was my first time ever seeing ballet in my life.

The plot was slightly different from which I’ve already known from the Disney version. However, everyone knows basic plots of Cinderella story. I could easily follow the flow on stage. Happy ending story and lovely dance scenes of Cinderella and Prince were very sweet and heart-warming. The most splendid scene was when Cinderella transformed into a beautiful princess. With the appearance of fancy carriage, horses and servants, the act 2 drops the curtain.

 

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Unlike other ballet performances, comic elements are noticeable in the ballet Cinderella, thanks to the stepsisters’ brilliant exploit. “The stepfamily’s lighthearted acting and outrageous costumes kept the ballet fun and fast-paced. Purposeful ungainly movements in heavy costumes and comical acts made the audience bear no resentment toward the characters; the stepsisters are not portrayed as evil, but as clowns who don’t know any better.” (http://dailyuw.com/archive/2012/09/24/arts-entertainment/ballet-review-cinderella)

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Ballerinas’ dancing movements on their tip toes were beautiful, elegant and delicate. Their graceful movements brought much resemblance to the little mermaid. The little mermaid dances beautifully after becoming human. However, anytime she takes a step, the legs will feel like they are being pierced by a sword. The dancing is accompanied by the constant paid of swords jutting into her legs. She would be able to dance better than any dancer, in order to show her feelings of love for the prince but it would hurt like hell

To me, every ballerinas dancing on stage looked like pitiful mermaid leaving behind all the pains and sufferings. It brought somewhat sympathetic sense of pity while watching the ballet. How much times they had to change their pointe-shoes, how much they had suffered to be able to dance like that! For me, I cannot stand on tip of my toes no more than few seconds.  Numerous turns, jumps and all the pointe-movements must be the fruits of thousands hours of practicing. They must have endured the pain out of an obsession with perfection and to move many hearts of audiences. Truly amazing and sacrificial acts of art!

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   ( Rusalochka, (the little mermaid), USSR&Bulgaria, 1976)

In the film, the mermaid gets two legs from witch in exchange of hair color instead of voice

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Actual feet of world-famous ballerina

This photo shows how much pain they’ve endured to make perfection

After the ballet, I googled ballet, ballerina and their life out of curiosity. A life of ballerina is quite hard and sacrificing. They could hardly have a social life, a danger of injury is always near them. Favoritism and jealousies are everywhere. Economic earnings is also never enough. Only passion for dancing can let them keep dancing. Mental struggles and fierce competition in ballet society are vividly described in the well-known movie “Black Swan” starred by Natalie Portman.

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(Black Swan, 2010)

 It was truly wonderful night with beautiful music and dance, I will never forget this invaluable experience. This experience made me fall into the world of ballet.

Today, I watched the most representative ballet “Swan Lake” through the Youtube. This was the first time that I’ve watched this masterpiece from start to the end. Through the Youtube, we could see some of the most famous ballet performances in full version, thankfully. Next ballet that I’ll watch later is The Nutcracker, second world famous ballet.

 

 

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Trespassing

Seen at the 9/11 memorial

Seen at the 9/11 memorial

I was seven years old when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, and just like most people I remember where I was on that day. When the towers fell, I was at school and had no idea what had happened until I came home. My parents had the television on to the news and I remember standing in the living room watching the towers collapse in slow motion. For several days afterwards I listened to the panic speculations of further attacks. I remember hearing someone worrying that the CDC in Atlanta would be the next location for a terrorist attack. Rumors and conspiracies spread like wildfire as information regarding the attacks were slow to come to light. During all of this I was able to understand that something terrible had happened despite being only seven years old, but I was too young to understand what it all really meant in a broad, universal sense. Even today I am unsure what 9/11 meant in the grand scheme of things.

Today I accompanied some of my fellow CSU students to the 9/11 memorial. I felt an obligation to go, not only as an American but as a human being. It only seemed right to visit the memorial while we were in New York City for three weeks. So we went to ground zero on a depressingly grey and cold day. After weaving through construction sites and throngs of traffic, we eventually made it to the memorial site. The ever-flowing fountains were stunning in their enormity and sleek appearance. I was awestruck by the beauty of these two fountains located in the exact spots where the twin towers once stood.

It didn’t take me long to break away from the group in order to view the memorial on my own. I felt like it was meant to be a solitary experience. As I walked alongside the barriers inscribed with the names of those who perished, I felt like a trespasser on some sacred space. I have no direct connection to the tragedy of 9/11. No one I know witnessed the event firsthand or died on that infamous day. Here in this place of remembrance I was just another tourist and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong here. I looked at each name carved into the black marble and felt a pang of sadness for these strangers, which was immediately followed by a sense of guilt. I tried to imagine how it would feel if some stranger cried over the death of one of my loved ones. What if my grandmother’s grave site was made into a memorial that attracted hundreds of tourists everyday? Is this a reasonable comparison or am I stretching the connection?

I don’t have many answers to the questions that 9/11 and other global tragedies inspire in me. I suppose there are some questions that you can never answer.

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Conversion Narratives and Cultural Confluences, Part Two

"No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time." -Virgil

“No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time.” -Virgil

I’m a humanities scholar, which to me, means that I have to look at issues from all perspectives—that I can’t just accept one answer and that I’m consistently making connections between my experiences. This is the nature of critical thinking for me. So, when I visited the new 9/11 Museum and memorial, I couldn’t help but think again about religion—this time in a somewhat different context.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the new museum because I wasn’t sure this was a tragedy I wanted to relive. So it wasn’t on my list of must-do while in New York, but my friend Casey wanted to visit, so I was ready to tag along with her and one of our students. First, we got a little lost trying to get there. It’s still confusing in that area because of construction, which makes it feel more chaotic than normal walks around the city and probably also lent to my feelings of being overwhelmed when we finally arrived. The memorial itself, free and open to the public, is beautiful and peaceful: two deep ever-flowing fountains, where the bottom isn’t visible, inscribed with the names of the dead, in the same spots of the Towers. To view this scene of loss and to know that the acts of 9/11 were sparked by the misinterpretation of religion already had me thinking about my church experience the previous day. When I stepped into the museum, my meditation on (I’m going to say this quite plainly) the evils of religion continued. I was thinking about religion in absolutely different terms than I had just the day before.

Once in the museum, I was—like my experience at Judson—blown away. I don’t know what I had expected, but it wasn’t this. The first space was a bit sparse, with large artifacts like the last column, the survivor stairs, bent pieces of steel, a fire truck, select screenings of the missing person posters that emerged after 9/11. It was somewhat quiet and immense, perhaps like the parking garage that had once stood there. As we entered the areas representative of each tower, the experience was different. I walked through images (moving and still), voices telling their stories, television screens full of reports, more large artifacts like those in the entryway and then much smaller artifacts in glass cases. The walk through the North Tower exhibit was sort of circular, allowing one to get lost in the overwhelming exhibits about many different aspects of the attacks: from pre-9/11 to post 9/11, from the perspectives of those who perished, those who survived, those who served and rescued, and even those who committed the attacks. Wandering (sort of aimlessly) in an exhibit like this brought manifest feelings of awe and disbelief, sadness and sympathy, frustration and anger.

Yes, of course, anger. Anger directed at the terrorists that committed these acts, that were the cause of this memorial in which I stood. Now I could go back to my earlier dismissal of organized religion, even religion generally, and say, “Look what happens when the wrong people appropriate, manipulate, misinterpret, and misuse religion.” I’m not singling out Islam or contemporary religion either—there is, of course, a long history of the Christian religion and violence going hand-in-hand. For instance, in the history of my own region, slave-owners beat their slaves during the week and worshipped God on Sundays, reframing biblical stories to justify their violent ownership of other people (see the narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs). It would have been easy for me to quickly forget my Sunday experience at Judson and return to my pessimistic view of religion.

But the 9/11 Museum did more than just document the event and stir up my emotions; it also brought people together to think about this tragedy. While the museum was crowded, this crowd didn’t seem to be there for simple spectacle. They moved through the exhibits slowly, they lingered, and most importantly, they shared their stories with each other. As a practiced eavesdropper, I overheard many stories about where people were during 9/11 and what it meant for them to come to this site. Upon our entrance to the museum, a man was telling the security guard that he used to park in this garage everyday for work. My student and I shared our stories with each other, too. Afterwards, we all shared more, discussing what we had seen and what had been particularly moving to us. It occurred to me, as I sat outside listening the ever-flowing fountain and watching folks exit the museum with drawn hushed faces, that this memorial isn’t about the evils of religion—although I felt so angry, so sad about the intolerance that generally accompanies extremist religious perspectives and that led to the loss of so many people on 9/11. In the end, the nature of the museum and memorial (which encourages overwhelming immersion but also thoughtful emotion) brought me back to my conversion at Judson—to an affirmation that a faith in humanity–and humanity itself–will triumph over violent extremism in the end.

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Harlem Tour

Since I attended African American Literature class last semester, I became familiar with African American culture and Harlem Renaissance. Perhaps the music “Harlem Shake” and the term “Harlem” would be everyone’s familiar subject as well. Harlem tour was one of the most anticipating listed schedules which I wanted to attend.

Before we began the tour, we heard the general explanation of Harlem history from the tour guide, which was quite informative and impressive.

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However, the scenery of Harlem streets was somewhat different from which I expected. The street was so quite and calm, people were busy on their ways. Many houses in Harlem were similar with which I’ve seen at the Brooklyn. Brilliant traces of Harlem Renaissance were hard to find. If there were no people in the street and no sign marked as Malcolm X blvd, we would barely recognize that we’re in Harlem.

Compared to the fame and long history that Harlem possesses, I felt something lacking from the tour. Distinctive characteristics that only Harlem could possess weren’t enough, or probably, my expectation would have been too high. Still, I think we hadn’t toured enough even though we diligently followed the tour guide until we became seriously hungry. Maybe that’s why the guide kept saying “You have to come to the Harlem again on Sunday”. Maybe on Sunday, there would be more to watch and see, like he said.

After touring Harlem, I became to think of the impression that I’ve got from the Tiffany store. Tiffany in the present has been so much changed and modernized from the Tiffany in the movie. I feel lost when things are not as it used to be. But it doesn’t mean that meaningful places should keep their old customs and appearances, because, New York is definitely not only for tourists. Buildings and landscapes would naturally change to serve the convenience of local residents. But still, it would be wonderful if people preserved some of the old buildings of significant spots (as tenement museum did) so that we could experience the past memory and the record of history in our raw eyes.

After all, visiting Harlem was an exciting experience. It reminded me of many significant events of African American history and many important artists and writers that I’ve learned from the class. Somehow, I felt something deep sadness and strong emotions after visiting Harlem.

Image Street view of Harlem during the period of Harlem Renaissance (the scenery I expected)

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by | June 12, 2014 · 3:41 am

Conversion Narratives and Cultural Confluences, Part One

I should start this post by saying I’m not a religious person and that even my spirituality is rooted very much in the human world. When people ask me about my religious or spiritual beliefs, I always answer that I put my faith in people—and in the artistic creations of people. Literature. Music. Visual Art. All arts, really. While I normally avoid organized religion, that faith in literature is what drew me in to a real church on Sunday. When I saw that a sermon about Eudora Welty was offered at Judson Memorial Church just around the corner from our lodgings at NYU, I was intrigued. My friend Casey, a graduate school colleague who also studies southern literature and culture, visited, and we decided to brave the sermon together—along with two of my literature students. It just seemed too good, too serendipitous: how could we pass up a church service about a Southern writer in New York?

When we arrived, we were, perhaps, unpleasantly surprised to learn that it was children’s day, which meant that the Sunday school class would be performing all of the music, much of the reading, and even some theatrical skits. We double-checked the program to make sure that the Eudora Welty sermon was still part of the service before climbing the stairs to the church space. Once inside, we were warmly greeted by a chaotic scene of diverse peoples roaming around, including the Sunday school teacher who would deliver the sermon. (Just so you get a good picture of this place and its people, our speaker was a long-haired bespectacled hippie-type, wearing a Yankees jersey with “Grand Poobah” printed on the back). After looking again at the program, I noticed that the songs sung were not traditional hymns but instead Wilco, Patty Griffin, and Nick Lowe songs. I was a little astounded that this could be categorized as “church.” It seemed more like “fun,” which has never been my church experience (at Episcopal or Methodist churches, anyway).

When the service started, the children—age ranges 5 to 16 or so—took over. All of their performances were moving, from the piano preludes to the songs to the theatrical deliveries of significant first lines of literature (like Harry Potter, which apparently is not devil-worship material in this church!) and brief important scenes from the Bible (my favorite was Samson and Delilah: ask me about it when you see me). By far, the most meaningful was when several children of different ages spoke about what God meant to them. For instance, a boy in his tweens or early teens said that he didn’t really know how God fit into his life or if he believed at all, that he was still figuring it out. Another, a girl probably 10 or so, said something like this: “There are lots of stories out there about God and the Bible. Some of them I don’t believe. I don’t believe that God is a great big man looking out over all of us from the sky. I believe that God is love.” I was still astounded that a “church” would allow young people to express their beliefs so openly—mostly, to question their beliefs so openly. By the time our guest preacher stepped in, I was pretty much converted—converted to the idea that religion can reflect the best parts of my faith in humanity and the arts. Certainly, this place was challenging all of my previous beliefs about the nature of God.

But, going forward, the sermon absolutely opened my heart in ways I had not expected. It was more than a nod to Eudora; it was the life story of a southern ex-pat from Alabama who lived his life in New York. It was the life story of our guest preacher, who told us about his love for the city, but also his love for his birth place—who spoke to the discomfort of being asked to explain (and perhaps apologize for) a southern region characterized by ignorance, violence, and prejudice. He talked about college football as a sort of religion. He talked about sweet tea. He led us into Eudora Welty with pride in his home region, suggesting that, although the South may be a region historically associated with tragedy and trauma, it is also home to the best American writers of the past 100 years. He must have listed at least 50 writers (including all of the writers on my syllabus—our own Carson, too). We Southerners in the audience pretty much clapped—we pretty much clapped out loud, happy to hear our region being discussed in positive terms in this Northern city. In a church. Surrounded by people of all walks of life. I now knew I had been converted to thinking about religion in a different way.

But let me get to Eudora Welty’s significance in the sermon. First, he acknowledged that Welty might roll over in her grave, that it might be a stretch to include her in a Sunday sermon, and then he read bits from The Optimist’s Daughter. He kept discussing Welty’s use of the word “confluence”—of her descriptions of confluence. Of course, he related it to his own experiences in New York and to the congregation itself. And then, as so rarely happens to me in church (but often happens in a good class with a good teacher), I understood. Sitting in this peaceful space with my friend and students, surrounded by a diverse group of open-hearted folks, listening to a man tell me that the meaning of Welty’s confluence brought us close to something spiritual (what he referred to as God), I believed it. I was converted by his discussions of confluence, what I viewed as the confluences between North and South, literature and religion, the cultural confluences of the people in this great city. But really, I was simply affirmed: he affirmed that my faith in humanity and the arts does not (perhaps should not?) have to conflict with Christianity. It’s about embracing our confluences—not dwelling on our differences in hateful ways—which, not surprisingly to me, is something that we Southerners work hard at, despite our history.

This is the cover of the Judson Memorial Kids' Day Program, where "God" can mean and be many, many things, including love.

This is the cover of the Judson Memorial Kids’ Day Program, where “God” can mean and be many, many things, including love.

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Free in NYC

I have a free day to do basically whatever I choose. For some reason I am simply choosing to relax in my room and listen to music while getting some work done. I was going to go hang out and explore New York some more. However, I find myself wanting to just chill. I have this weird urge to go to the top of the rock and record lip-sync video.

While contemplating my options, I started to clean my room. It was decently dirty. I was attempting to create a homier atmosphere and I feel as if I did a decent job. I guess it got out of hand. I almost subconsciously began packing because I cannot stop thinking about the fact that we are leaving in three days. Three days. We only have two more days of adventure.

*As you read and examine the following words and images, be sure to press the play button underneath this sentence.

I am listening to the classical for studying radio on Pandora Internet Radio and they are playing songs such as “Breathe” by Greg Maroney and “Schindler’s List, Film Score” by John Williams. I am writing this blog post in the strange depressing ambiance that I am weirdly enjoying. I think it is humorous. I wanted to accompany this post with images and audio in attempt to convey my homey atmosphere and interesting ambiance to you.

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Already, I preview each photo, remembering each and every photo as a memory I will forever treasure. Some of the objects in each image represent a new adventure I participated in during the trip. I bought the New York hat from a street vendor, along with some Ray Ban Clubmaster look-a-likes. Those stuffed super heroes were bravely earned through much hard ache and pain. AN addicting game at Luna Park on Coney Island sucked us in and we played until we ran out of points.

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Even if there are images in which embody some of my personal belongings I brought, I remember each and every reason why I used them. Above is a New York University shirt I purchased from their bookstore.

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I brought this notebook from home and only used it during the first day of English class in Washington Square Park.

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Here are my newly folded clothes after cleaning my dorm room. This particular moment brought sadness because I was basically cleaning to prepare myself for the move-out on Saturday. Less work for me to do then.

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My laptop is placed on my temporary workstation next to my phone and self-made MP3 player. I just personalized a screensaver to showcase recent images from the trip so far.

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This is my place of rest at night. It embodies both a part of New York and Georgia by combining my own comforter with a pillow purchased from a Kmart here in New York.

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This image holds much history. The SD camera cards embrace thousands of defining moments in my New York City experience. The bow tie is an artifact resembling my once in a lifetime ballet experience. My sunglasses case in the background remains the only evidence of my lost shades.

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Both my old and new metro cards. I only forgot it twice, both times took place yesterday in fact. It is amazing that I have not lost that stupid little dorm key yet.

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Those wonderful Starbucks mints are amazing. I bought them for a specific purpose.

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This last image is not last for any particular reason. However, I find it humorous that the trashcan happened to end the post. Perhaps I will talk about the trash can another day.

Much Love,
Nathan

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