Wednesday, December 26, 2012

At the End of the Day

Struggling to determine which is more inspiring: a pleasant and quiet Christmas surrounded by friends and family or a gory and depressing three hours of Les Miserables. Both were entertaining and, admittedly, predictable. But only one involved murder, betrayal and revolution. So I guess Les Mis was better. Then again, Russell Crowe's singing voice (or lack thereof) nearly ruined the movie.   So… Christmas wins.

Have had some time to think and read since classes ended last week, and have decided that to write better - or more creatively, meaningfully, [insert another adverb here] - I should broaden my reading horizons. So instead of reverting to 19th century English literature when I can't think of any other delicious novels to feast on, I'll try modern American lit or a magazine that isn't the New Yorker. Will read more non-fiction (though only while reading fiction simultaneously. How can anyone go on without some tragic hero to worry about?) or something Russian or post-colonialist or whatever. If nothing else, maybe I'll find a new favorite author. Have just started reading A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. So far, so good.

Speaking of favorite authors… a few photos below from the Dickens exhibit at the NY Public Library.

Chinese edition of David Copperfield. When CD's works began to be translated abroad, he was criticized internationally for some of his politically incorrect and racially and religiously offensive characters (such as "Fagin the Jew.") A highly sensitive author, Dickens ensured that in subsequent novels he corrected for any offenses he might have caused. Hence "the gentle Jew" of Our Mutual Friend. 

An illustration for a later edition of David Copperfield (published 1849). Dickens was highly influenced by the artist Hogarth, who depicted scenes of the working class where the details of the background (settings that spoke volumes about societal norms and hypocrisies) were as important as the characters in the foreground. However, by the middle of Dickens's career, the impropriety of Hogarth's drawings were no longer considered appropriate and more proper and innocuous illustrations (such as this one) became fashionable. 

Doesn't every kid want a Charles Dickens action figure? The pen is mightier than the sword, eh?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Writing (or, more accurately, On Not Really Writing).

Time to put pen to paper. And I mean business. I'm even sitting on my reading couch - the couch I only venture over to when I'm committed to doing my most importantest reading and writing (though lately it's the couch I've idly gazed at from across the room with a vague sense of repressed guilt and anxiety). Have stumbled through a few speed-writing attempts over recent weeks and now know that practice makes perfect. I've discovered this by conducting an experiment that I affectionately refer to as Being Lazy and Also Afraid to Write (side note: when you spell "write" as "rite" and only catch the error because of the red squiggly line, it's time to worry).

I'll have to ease into this until I've remembered how to string words together in a manner that is eloquent enough to hold someone's attention for longer than five seconds (including my own). So, will cheat and kick off with a witty quote from a new favorite literary magazine, McSweeney's Internet Tendency:

Don’t spend your career lost in a sea of copycats when you can establish your own set of rules. If everyone’s putting periods at the end of their sentences, put yours in the middle of words. Will it be incredibly difficult to read? Yes it will. Will it set you on the path to becoming a literary pioneer? Tough to say, but you’re kind of out of options at this point.

Perhaps I'll experiment with grammar. 
 Bang; zoom! or s.yntax said she. hi! ku?

And out of options I am. The issue I'm grappling with is overexposure to expendable writing. Cheap, bland writing simply meant  to convey some tactical, tangible message, or maybe without any real intention at all. Words that will be rendered meaningless in a day or are already meaningless because today's news article is just a modified iteration of yesterday's.  Prose whose only metaphors are dead ones and in which "corp speak"is more prevalent than imagery. We're surrounded by it when we consume our daily news and magazines. We hail it as efficient and clear when we send emails at work. And it serves a purpose in its own right. Sometimes we just need to know the facts. But when we spend our days reading news articles written for an 8th grade reading level (as is standard for nearly all major news publications) and typing concise bullets to ensure others read at least some of what we write, are we training our minds to forego the beauty of language in favor of convenience?

Language has for centuries been regarded as among the highest forms of art. In today's world, can we appreciate the flavor that an extra adjective adds to a description? Or relish with pleasure in a non-native English speaker's imperfectly written note, even if it's not as concise as we were hoping for? Most importantly, how can we ensure the beauty and richness of language and words continue to color our lives despite the writing we see and write every day - the prose that is stripped of art and flair? It's time to embark on a new experiment, or an effort at least: to re-train my mind to write artfully. Not practically or logically. Maybe not grammatically. But honestly and creatively, to appreciate and respect the essence of language. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Do I Desire?

"What if Money Was No Object" by Eastern philosopher and author Alan Watts.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Of Birthdays and Balls

Sadly I haven't been reading enough to write anything even mildly insightful about books, current events or anything at all. I can only write the second installment of what may become a lengthy series about my utter lack of productivity at the weekend, coupled with overindulgence in coffee and other beverages.

The downward spiral began with a Thursday afternoon shopping spree, followed by a day of coffee and cake at home with the family. Even without heat and sitting three-blankets deep in front of the fire for several hours, laughing with Mom and Dad made home feel like home.

Next came what can only be called a birthday extravaganza at a unique, if not somewhat confused, jazz-or-something-like-it bar in Chelsea.  This very queer venue has a restaurant vibe, yet with bottle service and guests dancing between tables, plus holograms on the ceiling, a fish tank through both floors of the space and what seemed like a Swing band disguised as a Bryan Adams cover band.

Birthday Girl
NYU's Charity Ball raised money on Saturday for Hurricane Sandy victims. 750 of us turned up and had a good time for a good cause.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why This Page Exists

… not why I write per se (still trying to answer that question), but why I write here and to a faceless audience. Not surprisingly, another's insight prompted not only introspection, but a reconsideration of blogging in general: 

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
           - - Cyril Connolly

I suppose this means one should write secretly by candlelight with a feather pen and a jar of ink, then slip  the parchment into some secret compartment under a creaky floorboard to forever waste away in obscurity, all the while relishing in one's own brilliance and superiority over others who couldn't possibly undertake such a feat. Though a romantic notion that your long lost letters might be discovered (there's probably a Nicholas Sparks novel about it…), I'm not convinced that writing publicly renders the writing insincere. Bloggers (most of us, anyway) have no incentive to pander to the readers. 

I'm inclined to think we write because we have something to write about. And it's up to others whether they want to listen. So, in a sense, Cyril Connolly is spot on… write for yourself, irrespective of the (your) public. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Escape from the Usual

Can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday than strolling through Greenpoint, popping into coffee shops and wandering aimlessly. Led by my favorite Brooklynite, was given a warm and sunny introduction to a previously unfamiliar part of town. Quaint and quiet side streets, casual brunch spots and coffee shops with enough seats to stay a while... I think I could get used to this. And maybe am already a little too comfortable. After returning to my own borough (3 coffees deep),  I've spent the rest of the afternoon browsing antique furniture shops and local book stores. Am now sitting at yet another coffee shop and doing… well, nothing at all.  And certainly not studying as planned. A silent protest against a school that apparently thinks any professor will suffice for introductory courses, regardless of experience or credentials? Perhaps. Ah, well. Off to drinks.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do the Happy Dance

Go-Bama, Go-Bama, Go-Bama! [Insert nerdy dance moves here]. I don't generally try to mimic the news and post real-time updates, but I'm overwhelmed with energy just itching to get out, even though we all knew who would win (thanks, Nate).

Saw my life with Romney as Commander in Chief flash before my eyes during those fleeting moments when he was ahead in the polls… the "haves" over the "have nots," Donald Trump's hair getting more air time than it already does, the sense that we better all fight for our own well-being because no one else is looking out for us, Ann Romney ('nuff said), repeal of healthcare reform, Dracula - er, I mean Paul Ryan, more military spending to pile onto the deficit and the return of polo shirts tucked into khakis.

… what a nightmare. Glad that's over. Back to work, Mr. President. Sorry for the diversion.

And the Empire State Building has been lit blue.

[not my own picture unfortunately]

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Boss Wants You to Vote

… and said so by campaigning in Wisconsin with the president today. I don't have a cool video about it, but I do have a video to remind you of how incredibly cool Springsteen is.

Behold Jimmy Fallon impersonating Neil Young impersonating Willow Smith (Will Smith's teenage daughter who released an album last year). Oh, and also Springsteen as himself... circa 1975?

Really doesn't get any better.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Was reading a Reader's Digest article a minute ago and was touched by a nice sentiment by our president. Just wanted to spread the word:

RD interviewer: What is your favorite word in any language?

Mr. President: Grace. I love the word grace because I think it captures what we strive for in life. It's not just an individual thing. It's not just a matter of excellence or something you've achieved. It's something internal to you, but it's something that's given to you. It's not just individual, but it has to do with your relationships with others. You know - those moments of grace that we have. Grace notes that we have in our lives."

...Eloquent and sincere, as always.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Will Ferrell Wants You to Vote

He'll make you angel hair pasta. Vote.

Welcome to New Jersey

It's like Hotel California. You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never leave. In this case it's because there's no public transportation back to the city and I'm not keen on hitch-hiking through the Holland tunnel with a trucker.

The thought of Sandy is still too raw to comment on - I've hardly processed it all. The photos from last night's telethon were alarming. A time to stay close to loved ones. If their support is all we have, then we have a lot. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recommended Hurricane Sandy Preparation

For those who are unsure of how to prepare for the storm, below are the essential items we've stocked up on:
  • Butternut squash ravioli,  spinach and ricotta ravioli (made fresh from Eataly)
  • Montepulciano wine 
  • Haagan Daz Dulce de Leche ice cream 
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (the original version from 1984)

This should obviously suffice for the next several days.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sleeping is So Last Night

Really great to see Counting Crows again and, as always, they were in great form. Less August and Everything After than I was hoping for (no 'Round Here. Sigh…), but two great opening acts, one of which is a Counting Crows (i.e. Adam Duritz) creation: The Tender Mercies, with two Crows members - guitarist (and apparently fantastic singer) Dan Vickrey (sporting an awesome Abe Lincoln t-shirt at the show) and drummer Jim Bogios. Was nice to hear some classics and glad to have a new band to add to the playlist.

Hi Adam.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Return to Normalcy

"America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality."

— Warren G. Harding, 1920

Candidate and soon-to-be President Harding not only invented the word "normalcy" in his campaign speech of 1920, but also touched on a sentiment that rings true today…. both for America as the election draws near and also, well… for me. (Except the national versus international part - that's just about America).

Healing, restoration, adjustment, serenity…  all concepts that will hopefully play a role in my near future. I plan to take fewer classes during longer semesters (when it takes more time and energy to secure fewer credits) to pursue other endeavors… like sleeping. And also spending more time with family and friends, reading, writing and maybe even being bored for an hour. I'm dying to be bored for an hour. I'll research which museum has the best new exhibit but secretly know that I'm just going to sit on my couch doing nothing instead.

Have just been reflecting on the past year - it's been a whirlwind (and a good one), but thinking back I'm not nearly as proud or appreciative of the classes I've taken or anything related to work as I am of the time spent during coffee breaks with a friend between meetings, conversation over a beer after class and summer barbecues at the house. At the very least, the past year has taught me to value time. I've learned what's important to me by being constantly forced to choose between competing priorities.  It turns out dinners with Kaila trump just about everything else,  Krugman's weekly column is more important than most emails, taking the long way to the subway doesn't mean I can skip the gym (that one's not relevant to my point. It's just a fact.) and election forecasts are more crucial than GPA. So with winter and spring class registration coming up, I'm planning my return to normalcy. And I can't wait.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Don't Know How to Say It.

Do you ever feel like you have so much to say but have no idea how to say it? Or rather, you just can't say it because whatever you say - regardless of which words you choose or the context in which you utter (in my case, mumble) them - cannot possibly capture your meaning? Most of the time this obviously isn't the case - we're not passionate about everything that comes out of our mouths. And we might even say something to one person and the same thing to another and to the first it means nothing but to the second it means everything. But how do we signal those rare moments? Those times when your brain is yelling, "Hey you! This matters. Pay attention!" Because it's never at the "right" time and it's never planned. It's just that one nice thing that someone says over a beer or maybe even the thing that someone doesn't say but you know he wanted to. In the movies when someone has a close encounter with death, his life always flashes before his eyes, right? It's usually pretty lame. Which events "flash" and why those? Seems kind of superficial or disingenuous. But sometimes I wish the meaning I were trying to convey could "flash" before our eyes. It's not enough to just say it and getting it right is never easy, but don't you just wish you could pull all of the magic out of your brain and just hand it to someone, as if to say, "Here's everything I want you to know. Sorry, but words weren't good enough."

Saturday, October 13, 2012


For any fellow politics junkies, you'll def want to check out the NYTimes 538 Blog. Nate Silver (highly regarded statistician) posts a daily electoral college forecast and updates on tipping point states. He runs a model generated from hundreds of state and national polls a whopping 25,000 times every night before reporting the predictions in the a.m. In the 2008 election, Nate accurately predicted the outcome of 49 out of 50 states a full 30 days before the election.

23 days and counting… 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Content Over Form

Question from the audience: So what do you think of someone who says, "With whom did you go to the meeting?" 
Response from the communications instructor: "I think he's asked the question correctly. I also think he's an asshole." 

I've been avoiding writing. Mostly because I haven't been reading. How can I write about anything at all when I haven't scoured the newspapers every day and haven't pored over Clinton's Time essay? I generally try to refrain from opining on anything without being fully informed. But, as sometimes fortuitously happens, a few distinct, yet strikingly comparable, events have occurred over the past several weeks that have made me question that seemingly sensible and obvious concept I've posited [isn't it odd that we can derive meaning from a series of random events purely because they've happened in tandem?]

After Obama's flat-footed and dull performance at the presidential debate, a helpful grammar and writing refresher and a subpar attempt to explain what I do to a few college students,  I'm wondering…does what we say matter, or only how we say it?

Obama got it right - he said everything he should have about the economy and discussed real, tangible proposals for the future. Romney made a few less-than-honest comments and didn't even take a crack at how he would achieve all of the wonderful pie-in-the-sky improvements that will descend on America like angels as soon as he takes office. Yet we're disappointed by the president's performance and we're hailing Romney, the victor of the debate.

I'm completely overgeneralizing here, but the way I see it, the person who knows what he's talking about is also the person who works hard, has strong values and morals and is thoughtful and reliable. The person who can walk into a room and talk about anything in a confident, charismatic way, but who doesn't actually say anything meaningful is a mystery to me. I don't know what he really thinks, nor do I understand how he's so confident without any substance behind his demeanor, and I'm wary because he can win people over and build relationships without necessary ingredients like credibility, honesty and trust.

But are we even really listening? Time and again I find myself thinking about something someone said and then realizing it's contradictory or half-baked. And I'm guilty, too, when I can't find a way around talking about something I'm really not familiar with. But I'd much rather admit that I just don't know the answer than try to BS whomever I'm speaking with.  I've yet to see anyone lose any political capital, personal relationships, etc. because they've said what others wanted to hear (for lack of an idea or new perspective or belief) or have made vague generalizations about the topic at hand (this usually involves paraphrasing what has already been said). Do we let is slide because we're too busy to really listen to others? Or because it's exhausting to dissect and analyze what is said, versus what someone kind of meant, versus how we think someone will act despite what he says?  Do we not trust our own intelligence enough and assume we don't fully understand? Do we just not care enough about the truth and the implications of people's words?

The fact is, what people say matters. Maybe I feel strongly about it because I love language or maybe it's because if "form" is paramount then I'm kind of screwed (blushing and tripping over my words won't score me any points, right?). It's respectful to listen to others. And if we do start paying attention, then we can hold others accountable for what they say, which means we'll have more insight into people's characters, can develop more effective relationships and maybe even can begin to understand more about what we, ourselves, think and feel. Or maybe I'm just crazy. But I think I'll continue listening anyway.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Rare Moment of Peace

Nearing the end of a week dampened (drenched) by 1:00 a.m. process flow sketching followed by 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. calls with Tokyo and concluding with 14 hours of linear programming (no, i don't know what that is... and it's still not over). Glad the end is in sight. So despite feigning disappointment that the US Open women's finals were postponed until tomorrow, I'm enthusiastically basking in the overwhelmingly relieving turn of events that allows me to spend an evening doing nothing at all. In fact, my cumulative exertion in the past hour hardly exceeds the efforts of a glacier to proactively move itself or of Paul Ryan to solve the deficit. I've lit a candle, poured a glass of wine and read a good book (some mental exertion required).

Life will always be a circus and we all play our parts in the chaos... whether we have ten balls in the air or just a few, we're all juggling. But maybe sometimes it's worth letting one drop to look around and enjoy the act. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Photos and captions (abridged version).





Monday, August 13, 2012

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Layover in Munich. Then on to Sofia. Olympics were amazing - London infused with so much energy. Tourists greeted by an enclave of patriotic hosts smiling and welcoming us (a rarity for a somewhat self-deprecating and cynical bunch) Travelers from all over the world - nothing in common save a contagious competitive spirit and excitement to see history in the making. Spent time with old friends and revisited familiar places. Reminded of how much i love London.
Leaving nostalgia behind now in favor of the unfamiliar. Have 4 currencies in my pocket. Should be able to get a coffee with one of them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Travel Log of Sorts

And we're off (tomorrow). Will post a few updates here as we go. *Might* recount the semi-daily thoughts and observations, but will more likely just upload a few pics and jot down the highlights when we happen upon some WiFi. Sent an email separately with contact info. Cheers. K.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sleepless in New York

"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I hope that you choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women." -- Nora Ephron

When trying to say something really important, it's good to do it after a couple of drinks and even better to use someone else's words. And it's best if those words are by one of New York's most prolific and almost impossibly witty women. Renowned director, screenwriter, producer, and author, Nora Ephron not only graced us with her films (most notably: Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail), but effortlessly penned several novels, all of which feature complicated, robust, female lead characters.  Nora championed women's rights - our right, that is, to be ambitious, contradictory, independent, dramatic, exhausting, hysterical and anything else we can come up with. 
Because the thing is, even as a woman living in the twenty-first century and in arguably the most progressive and tolerant city in the world... it's nearly impossible to get it right. 

As a kid, I was never aware that at any point in the history of the world, women were ever treated differently than men were. Why would I think twice about playing baseball instead of playing with dolls? When Dad says I can do anything, why doubt it? But recently I felt a pang of embarrassment when I told someone that I don't usually eat dinner because I don't know how to cook and if by chance I'm hungry, I'll pick something up on the way home from work.  I wished for a second that growing up I had spent more time watching my Mom in the kitchen than playing in the dirt.  But I'm a "career woman" so I'm exempt from all of that. It's enough that I work hard every day and support myself. I don't have to know how to sew because I've chosen a different path...  right?

A man walks into a meeting and is assumed to be the leader until he demonstrates he isn't capable of it.  A woman walks into a meeting and is evaluated first by her appearance. Dress or pants? What does it say about her? Then she opens her mouth... aggressive or trying to please? (which is better)? Finally, people consider the important stuff, like the substance of what she says, but only after everything else.  (If you think i'm being oversensitive, I thought so, too. That's why I polled some of my female friends. It's not just me). 

So I started thinking. Who is capable of putting so much pressure on others? Of being so judgmental and narrow-minded? Who perpetuates these norms? Women.  We do it to ourselves... constantly up the ante and hold one another to impossible standards.  What would happen if we we all got together and re-wrote the rules? Let's throw everything out the window and start from scratch -- housewives and doctors alike. From now on we'll spend more time reading newspapers than doing our hair. And we'll cry when we want and we'll cook if we want or we'll order Chinese every day. We won't avoid math and we'll get dressed up for no reason. We'll stop caring what others might think and we'll laugh at ourselves as loudly and as often as we can. 

Because that's much more fun than being a lady. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


A recent article in the New Yorker, coupled with a whimsical (possibly fleeting) desire to work at a publishing house (I forewent an internship at a publishing house for my current position in 2008), has reinvigorated my interest in modern literature. Maybe it's a mistake to start with the best of the best (will just be disappointed later), but was walking through the East Village yesterday and passed Slainte Bar (pronounced SHLAN-cha. It's a toast to health in Gaelic). It reminded me of the signed copy of Let the Great World Spin buried deep in the back of my closet: "For Kaila and Kristin: Slainte. Colum McCann." Not only is Colum one of the foremost writers of our generation, but his works are quintessentially New York (despite his Irish descent). What better time to revel in the beauty of this great city than in June, when the summer dawns on us and the mysteries of the city come out to play? And what better way to celebrate it than by getting lost in a timeless urban read? So here goes. First book of summer. And it's got big shoes to fill, coming off of the heels of The Color Purple.

Oh yeah, on a different and belated note, Happy Father's Day, Dad. Thanks for, you know, raising me and stuff.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not Not Rambling

New favorite concept – double negatives.

                  How do you think that meeting went? Well, it was not not a train wreck.

                  What do you think of Romney getting the GOP nod? Well, he’s not not
                  bumbling, out of touch conservative who doesn’t even deserve to share the
                  debate stage with our president.

Sadly, in many cases I’ve misjudged others’ grasp of what I wrongly assumed was obvious sarcasm (not even sarcasm, really. Just grammatically incorrect honesty).  Responses usually go something like this: Wow, I didn’t know you were a Republican! That’s followed by my awkward attempt to back out of the hole I’ve dug for myself (as if I need any help making a situation awkward). So, as it turns out, double negatives are not an extremely useful comedic weapon. Nevertheless, it warms my heart to be thanked by someone after I tell him he’s not not stupid.  

Reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker (very well-known in the Afro-American canon and Pulitzer Prize winner in 1982). Needed to deviate from English literature (so I can welcome it back with open arms in 2 months time). Amazing that a reader can love a book without having any desire to enter into the world of the book. We all want to live at Hogwarts, so Harry Potter has an obvious draw, but what about novels set in some repulsive society where very little good ever happens? What does it say about us that we escape our own worlds to peek into other, less desirable ones? Shows compassion, open-mindedness and a genuine interest in humanity at the very least. And perhaps – in some small way – a sense of dissatisfaction, or probably just some sense of insecurity, with our own lives.  I know your shaking your head, but hear me out. I’m not saying that anyone in his or her right mind would trade places with Celie (I won’t horrify you with the gritty details, but take my word for it - she has been dealt one of the worst hands of anyone in American literature. No one envies her).  But maybe sometimes we need a reminder of our own good fortunes, even if a consciously grateful thought doesn’t cross our minds while we’re reading. 

I don’t close my book each night and think “thank God” – er, not literally of course, but let's go with it just for the sake of this point – “thank God my sister is safe and sound in our home right now, unlike the female characters in this book.”  But it registers somewhere in my subconscious that by pure luck I wound up in an entirely different and better situation than Celie. Somewhere in the depths of my brain I’m thinking… wow, how truly awful that this happened to someone (even a fictional someone). But equally, how amazing that not only have I never encountered this, but I am so far removed from it that I can only begin to understand it by reading about it in a book. It's a kind of "aha" moment for the subconscious, right? This may be a stretch, but I'm going to venture to assert that these subconscious "aha" moments inform our daily lives. Kindness for the homeless man on the street, trying to "walk a mile" in your boyfriend's / parent's / manager's shoes instead of becoming frustrated with them, etc. If we're not reading, when do we otherwise have the opportunity to meet and understand such an array of people from all walks of life? Living in the East Village, I've probably got a better chance than most people, but even I have never met the likes of Celie or Heathcliff or Fagin. And if we can fully accept them into our lives and hearts, then who can we not find common ground with?   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Look About Me, and Make A Discovery

This summer, London will make history. The city will be witness to an historic event centuries in the making; a momentous time that will be forever remembered as one of celebration, triumph and nostalgia. That event, as we all know, is Charles Dickens's 200th birthday.

Long after Sketches by Boz, Dickens still haunts the streets of London, or perhaps just London as I see it. Dickensian London in its most literal sense didn't ever exist. It's over-crowded, gritty, fast-paced and often overwhelming. The streets are mean, pungent and disease-ridden. Smoke pervades every public and private space and some underlying sense of gloom hangs in the air. The fictional city is a caricature of what London might have actually been in the 19th century.

[Quick side note: Dickens himself was quite dramatic. He nearly died from conducting dramatic readings of his works long after his health had failed him. He was also paid to write as many words as possible, so although he may have really believed that he needed five pages to convince us that  Thomas Traddles's hair stuck straight up into the air (I've no doubt that it did), he did have another incentive to be verbose].

London is a key component of any Dickens novel - as worthy and important as a main character. But the city serves as a backdrop to a more profound commentary on the strength of the human will. London (as a character) is a foil to the likes of David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Pip. The desperation and hopelessness of the city highlights the goodness and determination of not only Dickens's leading characters, but of any underdog, of any seemingly hopeless case, of anyone at all whom the world has written off. His novels champion those who value kindness and compassion. The modest, loyal, honest protagonist with a moral compass inevitably prevails, due partly to his own actions, but partly to Dickens's faith in mankind - do good by others and you will be rewarded. And not because of a belief in any religion or higher power but due to an ultimate faith in humanity and society, despite their failings.

Dickens's works were published in weekly or monthly installments in magazines to allow anyone to purchase the reading with the little money he had leftover after paying bills and buying food for the family. The pages were meant to be read aloud to family members by candlelight or near the fireplace - perhaps on a Sunday evening. He wrote for the sailors, teachers, farmers, tailors, watch makers and street sweepers of England; for the hard-working (regardless of class); for the mothers and fathers and orphans and friends; for anyone who makes the world beautiful by demonstrating kindness, strength and faith. This is why a Dickens novel is timeless and reads as though it were written yesterday. And this is why I choose to see London, and the rest of the world, as Dickens did.

To my kind friend who encouraged me to write - I've given it my best effort, despite how unworthy and ill-suited I am to the task.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Machines never come with extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount you need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, then I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason."

-- Hugo, a brilliant and beautiful movie.

To serve a purpose... not to have a dream, exactly. But to have a reason to do what you're doing, or to know there is one, whether or not you're aware of it. And then maybe to know that it's been realized, however small the purpose might have been; even if you didn't know of it all along. That must be something, yes?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feeling Energized

Disclaimer: This post isn't interesting. Just writing down what I've been thinking all weekend. Feel free to stop reading... I just saved you 5 minutes.

New look - what do you think? Not sure I'm feelin' it yet.

Ran 8 miles today starting at 7 mph and finishing at 10 mph. Haven't felt healthy / strong enough to do that in a while (and that was after two nights out!) Felt compelled to apply for the NYC marathon this fall. Probably won't be accepted through the lottery, but figured I'd give it a shot. Was so strange being at my old NYU gym. Felt like I am 19 and a student again (I am!)

NYU ski trip this weekend. I plan to sit in the lodge reading a book. Sounds like a great weekend away.

So here's what's bugging me about work (shocking - I know... something is annoying me about work...) Because I still do care about the place where I work and want us all to be successful, I just cannot understand why people think the world is going to end because some meeting or project didn't go the way they wanted it to. I often get frustrated, but even when I'm worked up about something, in the back of my mind I always remember that we are all showing up to the office every day to try to accomplish something. We all have good intentions and whether we agree on the approach is really not the point. Is your family healthy? Can you pay your mortgage?... then why are you yelling?

The one thing that really puts me over the edge is when others don't treat me or someone else respectfully - when good people get so caught up in their day jobs that they are angry with other good people about something that really doesn't matter anyway. I get angry, too... but sometimes I think we all need to take a step back and really put things in perspective.

How will we all behave if leaders (or anyone around us for that matter) don't lead by example? If we don't see behavior around us that we want to emulate, then we aren't inspired to perform. The system breaks down without this sense of respect and admiration. Without it, inefficiency and apathy ensue and people polish off their resumes. The first step (in my humble / ill-informed opinion) is to get back to basics. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Act with integrity. Be empathic.

That's my gripe for the day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Peru Photos

Better late than never.

These are mostly Neil's photos. Captions are in the comment box to the right.