The Worst Statue In The World

Maybe that title is a bit of an exaggeration. But when a few weeks back, on one of the first days where spring showed its pretty face in this crazy, I spent a greater part of my afternoon reading at Battery Park, I was very much put off by the memorial dedicated to the immigrants that made their way from their home land to the United States through Ellis Island.

See here:Image

Now, I understand that the United States has been a land of opportunity for many who have settled here. In fact, I’ve been lucky to be able to take advantage of the beautiful things one can do here. But does this memorial have to be so unabashedly self-congratulating?

Take this guy:Image

He looks like St Peter just let him into heaven. And maybe I am too cynical, and the majority of people who set foot here felt that elated upon arrival. But this statue was made in the early 70′s, when it was known that immigrant life was no walk in the park. So sure, people found a new home in the United States, but in hindsight, can there not also be a hint in the monument that the country they arrived in has evolved thanks to their arrival and that it owes them a little something too?

The Parks department description of monument says “the figures’ expressive poses emphasize the struggle and toil inherent in the experience of the immigrant or dislocated person” but I saw none of that when standing in front of it (and I stood for a very long time). As these figures make their way inland from the water, their faces only translate a feeling of a happy future, one where struggle is behind them forever. It’s slightly disturbing to me.

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So yes, maybe it’s not the worst statue in the world. I’ve probably yet to make that one. But it sure lacks subtlety. Even the seagulls agree.

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What Am I Doing?

Today was going to be somewhat productive. April 15th is looming and my taxes have yet to be filed. It was going to get done today, early enough so that I could then run out to a fabric store and buy some scraps that I could use to continue teaching myself how to deftly use my sewing machine.

It’s now 4:51 pm. Operation Taxes 2011 has been unsuccessful so far. I did make some nice pasta for lunch–I even cleaned the pots and pans–but I have totally missed the mark when it comes to doing what I meant to do. 

That’s been happening a lot more than I thought it would. As I am now taking a leave of absence from school, I was going to spend time doing the things I left on the back burner when my only concerns were grades, ie. eating correctly, discovering of New York and exercise. I’ve been okay at the eating and exercise parts but have a lot of room for improvement on the enjoy-the-city part, especially since my main goal in achieving that last goal was to chronicle my new discoveries on this blog. Sedera the tourist was going to come alive on this blog and be extra-active in the little time she is allowed to tour this city and its surroundings.

I’ve taken some notes on the trusty notebook I keep in my handbag; I’ve just never typed them out. So, in the next week, I will do my best to spend time catching up on the writing I told myself I would do. My Secret Activity, the travel blog edition, is now a go!

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Nom Nom

This Christmas plate magically fills up with chocolate...

The holidays are never a time to plan diets but this year, I might possibly be making it worse for myself because I’m also using this time to try out fun recipes that I don’t have time to make when school is in session. Yesterday, I made a delicious apple pie with my mother. The crust is simply margarine, flour, water and a tablespoon of salt, and the filling was made with 6 Golden apples, lemon juice, 100 g of sugar, a hearty dose of cinnamon and a handful of flour; before putting it in, I put a layer of sliced almonds on top of the crust. I had to adapt this pie from a recipe given to me by a co-worker at my last internship. Her recipe also includes either cherries or blueberries but none of those were available to me. It was all still delicious.

This is what it looked like before going in the oven:

And this is what it looked like when it came out after around 45 minutes baking:

It smelled pretty scrumptious

I chose to eat it with some cream… I’m pretty proud of myself and my mother!

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Hope Your Christmas Was As Sweet As Mine

Christmas has come and gone and now the countdown until January 1st is well underway… Time flies. I say that all the time, and I feel like a lot of my blogging has been infused with that sentiment but it really does amaze me. I think that’s why I am so intrigued by the hours I spend traveling between different time zones; it’s the only time when time technically stays still or moves particularly slowly (but then I get a reality check when I travel back the other way and time moves extra fast). Anyway, this is how Christmas celebrations went for me; I hope everyone else also had a wonderful time!

I had a pretty delicious dinner on Christmas Eve at my uncle’s house. I dressed in elf colours as I like to do during these festivities and opened my stomach up to an endless stream delicious treats.

Dec. 24th: My uncle's glorious tree

Dec. 24th: Sitting down to eat

Dec. 24th: I'm always amazed by the man's dashing tableware

We started the meal with home made foie gras, cooked by one of the guests, my uncle’s friend Francis. I don’t generally like foie gras, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Its taste was subtle, not overly earthy and married itself very well with the onion confit. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Dec. 24th: Tasty prawns with soy and sesame

I don’t have pictures of our main course, a stuffed capon but it was also a success. I always have capon at Christmas because on the 25th, you can count on my grandmother to throw one in the oven for our big family lunch, but she likes her capon without frills so sometimes, it ends up being a bit dry. But with his meaty stuffing, my uncle added unknown dimensions to what I knew that meat to taste like.

Dec. 24th: It's not Christmas without a sweet dessert

Dec. 24th: Needless to say, we ate well

Let’s fast forward to Sunday at my grandmother’s. Even more family, and even more food.

Dec. 25th: My sister serving up some amuse-bouches

Dec. 25th: Olive-filled puff pastries by my one of my cousins

Dec. 25th: Our table

Dec. 25th: Shrimp over a caramelized apple, foie gras with onion confit, smoked salmon and gingerbread by my aunts

In this dish, the apple was particularly nice touch. Not anything I would ever have thought of putting together (although to be fair, I don’t have very sharp cooking chops yet; I’m starting to work on it though). Again, my dedication to photographing the meal was beaten when the next items came on the table: oysters. Having them meant we didn’t get escargots (part of me was disappointed) but I really only get oysters at this time of the year so it was a still the highlight of the meal.

Dec. 24th: My grandmother's Christmas staple #1, Goose

Dec. 25th: My grandmother's Christmas staple #2, capon

It was a much more “meat and potatoes” type of meal here compared to the kitchen pyrotechnics of the previous evening, but it’s just as nice. Especially in the complicated times many of us are facing, it’s always nice to remember to appreciate simpler pleasures. Besides, we left off with very sweet treats for dessert.

Dec. 25th: Fair trade chocolate brought by my sister

Dec. 25th: As tradition goes, my sister also cut up our ice-cream dessert for everyone

Dec. 25th: My grandma even shared the tea she got as a present after all the eating was done

Speaking off presents, I can’t speak about Christmas without sharing some present opening pictures from both events. Here they are! Hope your Christmas celebrations were as full of smiles!

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Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

Needless to say, Post A Week was a dud. The bright lights of New York and the intensive blogging I was doing for my internship this summer meant that I was dried up by the time I got to sit down in front of my computer. My mind could function enough to keep on all the Facebook and Twitter updates of the world but, sadly, this cute little blog fell by the wayside. Luckily enough, after half a year not writing, I still remembered the password combination so I’m giving another try and of course, that means I’m changing my focus once again. I’m currently working on a documentary project on student loan debt and I really am having trouble figuring out how to be creative visually. Now that all the schoolwork I had for this Fall semester is over, I’ll be reporting back here what I see in documentaries I watch that I want to incorporate in my own project.

The first documentary I’m watching: Hoop Dreams. My thesis advisor, Jason Samuels, gave this 1994 doc about two teenagers pursuing their basketball dreams rave reviews so I figured I should watch it, especially since it’s on Hulu. Now, in terms of visual presentation, this doc has a great advantage because basketball inherently provides the filmmaker with great visuals, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be inspired.

The first thing that’s great about this documentary is the amount of access the filmmakers had to the families, the schools (even inside the classrooms) and the neighbourhoods that allow the viewer to truly get a feel for what these boys’ lives were like. With the crazy amount of work I had this semester, between my internship, the radio station and getting the footage that I needed, I was not able to spend as much time as I wanted simply building trust. With my lighter semester in January, I should be able to do that more. Jason is always talking about us shooting verite and becoming a fly on the wall; the Hoop Dreams documentarians were following these players for years so they had great luxury, but I can manage to insert myself more in the small time frame that I have, I think.

Through their intimate link to the families, the documentary also manages to deal with issues that have nothing to do with the game of basketball, from domestic violence, drug problems to unemployment in the black communities. I don’t have time to dedicate as many minutes of my project to peripheral issues, but I do want to make sure that beyond the personal, student loan debt appears as one problem linked to several others, and I hope that people who do see the project will understand that this is not just the tale of a few people’s struggles.

One great strength of this documentary is also that it’s just a gripping story and the process/progress of the two players sucks you in, even though the span of time covered is so long. I, who have no particular interest in basketball, especially on the high school level, found myself rooting for the two teens’ teams and gasping and screaming during the most exciting plays. That will be a hard feeling to create with my subject matter, but I hope the personal stories will be compelling enough that my viewers will care about the future of the borrowers I follow.

Finally, although my project isn’t going to be nearly as long as Hoop Dreams, I hope that I can manage to keep it interesting the entire time. I think the 2:51 hours I just spent watching the film are the most hours I’ve ever spent watching a documentary and it never felt particularly long. It certainly never felt like I was wasting my time. I guess a lot of painful hours will be spent in the editing room.

I need to see which doc is next on my list… I’ll be back in a few days!

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Me Against The Music

From tech-information

I rediscovered my iPod.

I guess that phrasing is incorrect; I’ve always known where it was, I just haven’t bothered to plug it in for probably a year (I can’t remember for sure).

In that time, oddly, I only missed it a little. I wasn’t adding a terrible amount of music to it, choosing to listen to new (and old) material on YouTube instead. Hulu and its (almost) endless reserve of TV episodes–complemented by Netflix–had become my go-to tool for background distraction while doing my homework.

It’s weird. Music was so central in everything I did, from my shower to my mindless free time. But slowly this past school year, it’s taken the back seat.

Until now.

The reason why might sound stupid but now that I spend so much more time on the subway (the demands of Brooklyn life, I guess) made me feel I needed to bust out my iPod again. During the first few weeks of intense subway riding from Brooklyn, I read books but I soon saw that there were some times of the day (morning, late night, digestion time) when even the most gripping and thrilling book couldn’t keep me from succumbing to the sleepiness caused by the sustained rocking of the subway car. More sensory involvement was necessary.

So I took my iPod out of the front pocket of my camera case (that’s another piece of hi-tech equipment I need to use more often) and plugged it into my computer. It’s quite fortunate that only a few days earlier I found the cable that would allow me to synchronize my two awesome Apple products.

My only issue now? I really need new music. Listening to all these tunes I liked sometimes years ago is nice, but it makes me feel really old.

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TV Pro

I said earlier that getting into my new Brooklyn life should give me no excuse not to update this blog. Well, I underestimated the time I spend outside in this pretty city and just how burned out I sometimes am at the end of a day spent writing for my internship. Nonetheless, I am taking the time now to talk about the other reason that has been eating away at my productive time: television.

Obviously, I will admit that I let it eat away at my time willingly; I’m the one who chooses to turn it on or to sit down in front of it if someone is watching it. My biggest surprise is just to see how different it is to actually have access to a TV set compared to just watching TV shows on hulu or Netflix.

I spend a sizable amount of time on hulu. Often, it’s playing on one of my tabs while I am doing something else. And because I haven’t had a television for a year, I had forgotten what it was like to live that experience: the endless, bad quality commercials and mostly the all-powerful remote control, made to let me escape programs I’m not interested in.

Until these past weeks–I will have officially been here 2 weeks tomorrow–I had fooled myself into thinking that my menu selected television consumption was the same experience as turning on a TV set and watching what comes on. On one hand, you know what you want, you’re watching it and feel satisfied. On the other, you’re searching blindly, and the more channels you have, the more you find yourself thinking entertaining the possibility that there is something better on the other channels; the hunt never ends.

It makes watching television so much more distracting than I remember it! And the worst part is that evidently you won’t always be pleased with what is offered at the time you turned the TV on, but now that it’s on, it’s somehow a problem just turning it off because you’ve already reached a semi-lethargic TV-watching state , which only gets worse once you decide to settle for a subpar option.

All in all, I’m really glad I have a lot of things to do during the day because otherwise, the TV monster would get me.

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