Buckyball

After class one evening last week, a classmate and I took the walk up to Madison Square Park.  We were motivated by a new art installation by Leo Villareal, Buckyball.  The installation is a small ball of LED lights in bedded in a larger ball of LED lights (they look like soccer balls).  They are held high up on a pedestal in one of the green spaces.  Around the installation are “zero gravity” benches.  The benches are made out of wood that hold the body in a comfortable relaxed lounge position allowing viewers to experience the installation from below looking up towards the sky.

The night we went was fairly clear and cool.  We relaxed comfortably on the benches and watched as the lights performed for us, changing colors while creating affects and effects.  Just beyond we could see the surrounding buildings and imagined that those tenants must stare for hours at the changing installation.  Further afloat were the stars in the night sky calling to us to imagine just a little bit further.

Buckyball will be on display until February and should you find yourself in the area, definitely take a few minutes to just lay back and enjoy.

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Life after Sandy

Things are finally starting to get back to normal here after super storm Sandy.  Power is back on for most.  Classes are running a regular schedule finally.  My job is back to normal as well.  Despite this getting back to normal, not everything is quite back to normal yet.  The subway is still a wreak in lower Manhattan.  I usually take the N-Q-R line but this is still not running normally so any little disturbance in the system becomes a major problem.  It is now not uncommon to wait 20-30 minutes for a train; something unheard of 3 weeks ago.  Unfortunately, this is becoming old hat and people really would like to have their trains running normally if they have to live normally!

Another lingering effect is that Union Square Park has become a staging area for utility trucks.  There are dozens of trucks parked in the square at any time and this has forced the farmer’s market to relocate!  I miss the market a lot and the trucks serve as a constant reminder of the trauma we have just been through.  Having said this however, I am eternally grateful to the assistance these crews have provided to that this city and region can get back on its feet and start moving the world again 🙂

 

And to add insult to injury- we had a snow storm (named Athena) just 10 days after having a major hurricane!  Here are some of the trucks in the park during the snow storm.  For reference, this photo is facing North.  The visibility was so bad that night that the Empire State Building is not seen in this picture even though it would normally dominate the shot.

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My continued neglect…

So, I have continued to neglect my blog therefore I will be doing a sort of photo dump.  I am posting a few pictures today with very brief comments.

This is St. Bart’s Cathedral which is hardly visited compared to its much more famous neighbor a few blocks over- St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I pass this place of worship several times a week when I leave my office on my way to the subway to head to classes.  The architecture is beautiful and it seems so out of place in the heart of Manhattan’s office skyscrapers.

 

On my work into work I pass through Times Square in the morning.  Every so often there is some sort of event happening drawing large crowds.  Last week as I passed through the area there was a large gallery of Disney themed ice sculptures to walk through.  There were a large number of people but I managed to catch a photo of one of the larger pieces on display.

 

On Tuesday, I made my way to the New York City Public Library Midtown Branch to apply for a library card.  This building is largely a museum of sorts, but absolutely beautiful and inspiring.  This is a view from the second floor staircase to the foyer.  After receiving my library card, I walked across the street to the building that actually has books to lend in it and started searching for some research materials.

So that’s it for now.  It has been a long few weeks and hopefully I will have some interesting photos in the coming weeks as season change and post hurricane!

 

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It’s the start of midterm season…

… and I have already managed to neglect my blog only a few weeks into the project.  For good reason though- I was writing a paper this weekend on top of doing all my other weekly reading (anywhere from 300-500 pages a week).  I expect that I will be slightly neglectful over the next few weeks as we begin writing and re-writing and conducting research to be presented in December.  On the bright side, I am halfway through the semester!

A few days ago, I met my nephew for lunch near my classes.  He is a college student at a university near by and he had a few hours free to come meet me and see the area I am in.  As I was waiting for him to arrive on the subway I decided to take a walk around Union Square Park.  I spend a great deal of time here, but usually on nice days or market days.  This day was neither.  It was rainy and without a market there was not much to direct my attention upward.  For the first time I truly noticed the brass tiles on the ground.  To be honest, I knew they were there, but I didn’t pay much attention to them.  When I did take the time to look down, I was pleasantly surprised.  The tiles contained the history of the park and surrounding area as well as the many meanings of the word “union.”

 

This tile was a more contemporary use of the word union- the unionizing of workers to gain rights and protections.  Depicted here are photographs of women garment workers striking for better working conditions along with popular musical review “Pins and Needles” that was produced by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in 1937.

One of the other uses of the word union- the union of states that makes the United States.  Another tile depicted the funeral carriage of Abraham Lincoln passing through the park.  A very interesting bit of history since he was the President that saved our union.

I learned on this rainy afternoon a little more about the city and also that sometimes we need to look down to see the most amazing things!

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A little piece of Germany in NYC

This week was rather long on reading and short on the sights and sounds of New York.  We had off for Yom Kippur on Tuesday and Wednesday so our professors all decided we could use our “extra” time to do additional readings.  I am not complaining that much since all of the readings were truly fascinating, but I think someone needs to point out that we only spend two hours in class and each book takes far longer than two hours to read!

I did however have the opportunity to run an errand at my job and found myself walking down Park Avenue and upon seeing this place I had to smile.  This is evidence as to why Americans seem to think all of Germany is like Bavaria!  Coincidentally, my walk coincided with lunch time and I had fun watching hundreds of black SUV’s full of the UN delegates driving/blocking the city streets.  It was interesting to see how the NYPD managed the traffic flow by not letting taxi’s and other private vehicles idle behind a delegates vehicle- I saw one waiting to turn left and the officers forced the other waiting cars to go straight as opposed to idling behind the delegate.

So, this week I am sharing a smile from me to you and the great anticipation I have for visiting Germany again next summer!

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Occupy Wall Street

In the last year I have had the privilege of hearing Omotayo Jolaosho, a Rutgers University Phd candidate in the Department of Anthropology, present a lecture and later a conference paper regarding her research in South Africa.  Her fieldwork looked at the aspects of performance during protests in South Africa.  In one such instance, she told us about a protest in which the police were pushing back the protesters into a specific area.  In return, several protesters began using dance, and the performative aspects of dance, to push back against the police and re-claim the area the police had moved them from.

On September 17, I made my way to the financial district to observe the Occupy Wall Street protests and I  immediately thought of Ms. Jolaosho’s work.  It becomes immediately clear that there exists a unique performative aspect to the OWS protests that is not typically present in American protests.  Of course there are signs and chanting along with some marching, but there are also many performances which seem to generate a lot of attention.  There is the well known drum circle, and I did observe several other bands playing.  There were also a number of people, or groups of people, wearing costumes and performing.  Several were dressed in “Robin Hood” costumes advocating for a tax on the exchanges taking place on Wall Street.  Many people dressed in suits and performed as the role of “the 1%.”  The performances that generated the most attention were certainly among the most clever.

At one point, I was confronted with two men wearing the masks of our current Presidential candidates, Romney and Obama.  These men were interacting with their audience by presenting themselves as the candidates and discussing topics of relevance to the audience and the perceived hypocrisy of the political parties.  Throughout this interaction the men would continuously find ways to show the two candidates as two sides of the same coin, even going as far as to say “Americans have a choice of voting for evil or eviler.”

Another performance that drew a large crowd was that of a group dressed as a baseball team named the “1% Tax Dodgers.”  The play on words and Americana (“Tax Dodgers” being a reference to the the American baseball team, the Dodgers) along with their song regarding the shady tax practices of big businesses provided the group significant positive feedback.

While all this is interesting, it was one incident that I witnessed that really made me reflect on Ms. Jolaosho’s work.  Chalking up sidewalks and walls is becoming a standard practice of the Occupy movement- at least in New York.  As such, many protesters were writing messages in chalk on the surfaces of Zuccotti Park.  During the height of the afternoon, a man, presumably an employee of the property management firm for the park, came into the park on a sidewalk sweeper (think street sweeper on a smaller scale) and began to wash away the chalk.  What was interesting however was that he was not clearing the writing in a way that would be indicative of performing his normal job duties.  As he drove across the plaza he aimed specifically at the areas in which people were writing at that moment, ignoring the many chalk writings between his starting point and the writers.  As several writers became aware of his intention they formed a line protecting their particular writings forcing the driver into a short game of chicken.  As the sweeper approached the line of protesters he turned the sweeper and pulled over to the side of the plaza having only made one pass through the drawings.  Realizing they had won at the game of chicken, the protesters re-chalked some of the writings:

 

 

I began to think about performance and occupation.  These protesters performed and re-occupied their writings.  Furthermore, the movement itself is in a state of re-occupying, having been forced out of their encampment at Zuccotti Park nearly a year ago, through performance.  There was a significant performance by the NYPD as well with hundreds of uniformed officers present and the use of attention getting equipment (riot gear and loud motorcycles.)  All in all, the day gave me a lot to think about outside of the political messages on display.

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Obligatory post about September 11th

I do remember September 11, 2001. Like it was almost yesterday. But somehow I was trying to avoid writing a memorial post. It feels obligatory and not that it comes from the heart. Everyone in NY writes a post of remembrance so mine is going to be more about moving beyond than reflecting back. This picture was taken from Union Square Park of the lights that are displayed every year as a memorial. I quite like the idea and think the lights reaching up to the heavens is a great metaphor. But you will notice that my picture is, well, a bit awful. It’s blurry and maybe even a bit crooked. That is because instead of spending this day of remembrance living in the past, I chose to remember the victims by living. My cohort has class together each Tuesday and after class we often go to have a few drinks together. Just on the other side of the park is a little bar that has a great outdoor space in the back. So after enjoying a beautiful evening with my classmates, discussing philosophy and theory over a few glasses of wine, I took a few moments to snap this picture- reflective of my living- to share with you. We should not forget, but it is also our responsibility to live life to the fullest. That is what September 11th should remind us of each year.

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Walking down Broadway

Not the best picture, I apologize, but this week has not been the best for weather and I was running to avoid being stuck in a downpour. As such, I didn’t really take time to frame the shot well. What you see though is that a walk down Broadway is not what it used to be. A few years ago, Mayor Bloomberg started an initiative that would shut down several lanes of traffic along Broadway and create pedestrian zones. As a major thoroughfare for car traffic, this plan was met with quite a bit of opposition (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/nyregion/06broadway.html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www). As a walker in the city, I love it.

The Department of Transportation claimed a few lanes of traffic and have created a wonderful green space that, when nice, is filled with people. In the picture, you can see that cars are blocked from the space by large potted plants. This stretch of Broadway pictured also includes a unique art installation that is steel cubes filled with bushes. Many areas include seating and tables to stop and relax or even take a quick bite to eat. The program began as a pilot to see how it would be received and despite some opposition the program has remained- and even increased. These spaces help to make NYC a friendlier looking city, something many argue is not mean streets image that has come to characterize New York. Personally, I enjoy these spaces- though I do admit to eye rolling occasionally at large groups of tourists who manage to block the entire pedestrian zone as I am trying to get somewhere.

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Film shoot

Yesterday I went to lunch at a small pizza place, Mozzerelli’s , on 23rd Street. It is a frequent haunt of mine because they serve really awesome gluten free pizza (pesto is my favorite). While enjoying my lunch I started thinking about some of the things that I want to share with my readers- things that many city inhabitants/frequenters regard as quotidian yet others would find interesting. One of the first things that came to mind was a film shoot. Many TV shows and movies are filmed in NYC, so on any given day areas of the city are blocked off or have restricted traffic flow in order to facilitate filming. I finished my lunch and headed back downtown to class and lo and behold, there is a film shoot right on Broadway just north of Union Square Park! Fishing through my bag looking for my camera to catch a photo, I walked right past Martha Stewart (for readers outside the US, Martha is a domestic goddess). I took this quick shot of the crew setting up for the shoot- you can see the lights already set up. Only after this did I really notice all the paparazzi; before I saw the shoot I was impressed by the large numbers of tourists with expensive DSLR cameras :).

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Hello world!

 

Welcome all to my photo journal. On these pages I intend to share images of some of my experiences in grad school.  Currently, my educational sojourn finds me in NYC, but with plans to travel as part of my adventure I plan on adding more images and details here.  Until I can afford a quality camera, the photos are from my point and shoot.  Some of them are rather mundane and others will include more interesting notes.  I hope to reflect on everyday life in the places I find myself…. and my goal is to include one new image each week!  Let’s see how much time my research takes before I commit to anything 🙂

This first photo is from the Union Square Farmer’s Market.  I loved seeing the many hues of the heirloom tomatoes.  The market itself is wonderful.  The variety of goods is amazing.  There are several vendors of various cheeses from cows milk to goat’s milk.  There is a vendor selling ostrich products; meats, eggs, etc.  Plenty of fruit and veggie stands, of course.  At one stand, which is always busy, market goers can purchase vegan and gluten free breads and treats!  Lastly, one of my personal favorites, a vendor selling all things made with lavender.  Dried bunches fill the table with color and fragrance the air sweetly.  It makes me smile every time I pass by. 

The market is near where I attend classes, so I have the privilege to visit it often.  Surely, as classes become more difficult there will be many more images from the market as this may be the only parts of New York that I see besides the inside of a book!  For now, I enjoy the colors, tastes, and smells of the market and adjacent park as I eat my lunch.

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