January 25, 2006

reminiscing about the winter break

it was a fun and enlightening break
I had time to do mini-independent projects like read tons of poetry books, tons of writing samples from the greatest Jorge Luis Borges and watched old and new movies (these are just some of the few)
I went to a job fair, which was very business like and cold
I sat around in starbucks, splurged on expensive coffees for two hours minimum, and just sat there
I met up with friends and chilled with them
I hanged out with my family
of course "life" continued to cruise down- death, disappointments, hope, birth...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:22 PM | Comments (1)

deluge of writing: prediction of this semester

After being deprived of not having writing classes specifically for writing creatively (fiction etc. not essay or literary criticism [not that these are bad]), this semester I have two classes which are focused on creative writing (mostly on the artistic and applicable side). I'm taking Publication Workshop and Writing for Fiction. I was looking at the 'sylabii,' and I have tons of creative writing, exercises, critiquing, and journal entries to do.

I see them working together (hand in hand), but it would have been nice to have them spread out. Last semester I did a lot of reading in my four literature-heavy English classes. These semester I'm going to do a lot of writing and different types for different subjects.

In my 20th Century Art History class, our exams will be in essay format, and we have a research paper and presentation to do. In my History of Jazz class, we are required to write a Jazz performance review, and a research paper on a Jazz figure. In my Musical Dance class we have to analyze the structure of a musical of our choice and do a mini dance presentation on it incorporating the dance style of the musical.

I don't know what's in store for me for tomorrow night's American Literature class, but I know that there will be a research paper.

This semester will be the most challenging ever. In a twist perverted way I sort of like the higher classes because the people who are there, want to be there. I guess this is how I've always envisioned college life and academia- a balance between overt application and book knowledge.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:57 PM | Comments (2)

January 19, 2006

Role of Women in Japanese Lit/poetry in General

While I was reading the introduction for the book I bought at the MET (The Thirty-six Immortal Women Poets), I learned something about Japanese women's role in developing Japanese lit/poetry...

The ironic thing I found was that the limitation/restriction placed on them (due to women's "lower" status) eventually led them to act as catalysts in this cultural production of lit/poetry unique to Japan. Japanese women poets kept alive the haiku/tanka tradition in love letters.

The one in power (the emperor) had set the standards especially in the arts. At a time when haiku/tanka was blossoming, a change in emperors occured. With this change came a change in taste/fashion. The new emperor liked Chinese society and its arts so much that he did everything in his power to imitate this society (even if it meant destroying everything "Japanese"). Aristocratic men had to learn how to read, write and speak Chinese.

A majority of the women even in the courts (aristocrats) didn't have to be educated in this way. This was probably one of the few phenomena were lack of education helped to advance an intellectual movement. Women continued to do what they knew how to do, which was speak/communicate in Japanese.

The way they corresponded with their male lovers was through haiku. Their lovers had no other choice but to respond the same way. It wasn't much of a hassle for them because the form was simple and concise. One of the reason for this type of correspondence was because men and women were required to live separately (even when they were married- marriage wasn't monogamous).

I also learned that since Japanese women didn't have a clear role to play in society unlike Japanese men (ruler/protector etc.) back then (probably besides for procreation). In another twist they had more freedom to express their "emotion."

Even though men had the "power," they (like women) still had to conform to the mores of their time. Emotions led to feelings and therefore suffering, which was a result from desire according to Buddhism. So men tried to stay away from this.

The advantage of being 2nd class citizen, one had the potential to go either or direction- up to the top, or down. Having androgynous/vague standing enabled Japanese women poets to write about mixed emotions (better than men).

Many things especially the characters of the person were revealed in these short haikus. According to the intro, the brush strokes of the calligraphy, the words used, the color and thickness of paper showed the virtues and traits of a person. Everything had its purpose (subtlety painted the picture).

One of the other things I liked was what the author said about showing emotions rather than telling: externalizing inner feeling using nature or directly stating emotional condition (becoming nature). What was mind boggling was what the author said. According to him the essence of poetry writing was to express deep feelings by connecting internal feelings to the external events and objects of the world (Andrew J. Pekarik 18). He continued, their aim was more often to qualify and complicate that feeling than to express it clearly and simply.

With this new information, I understood more clearly the novel I read last semester in World Literature called Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. One of the editors wrote in its introduction that this novel was like a giant haiku.

The haikus that influenced and kept alive Japanese lit/poetry were records of Japanese courtship. Snow Country followed this archetypal form of courtship.

the man's courtship, the woman's resistance, the joy of meeting, the pain of waiting, the sorrow of parting, the woman's fear of rumor and abandonment, the man's protestation of good intentions, the woman's anger and resentment because of his neglect, and the final despair and sadness of both man and woman. (16)

If one were to read Kawabata's novel Snow Country, one would notice this outline (but if they were to rely only on this, they would miss the splendor of imagery in words- so I recommend others to read it even if it's difficult).

Which brings me to my last thought, which is a tangent compared to the points made above (but still goes along with image, role, subtlety etc.)---> clothing specifically (aristocratic) Japanese women's 12 layer coat robes/kimonos. The length, it's nuance of color, the folds, the weight- all of these contribute to the burden women carried and the complexity of male/female relationship.

***Old cliche: Appearance is not what it seems...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:25 PM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2006

Image of Man in Ads

How do the media envision/portray today's man? ...

Thesis: a drifter.

The Research

One day out of ennui, I decided to peruse through the December 2005 issue of Men's Journal, which happened to be lying around the living room. I couldn't but help take notice of recurring images in ads which were watches, cars, and alcohol.

What could these images reveal about the state of man today? Just for the sheer fun of it, I went back and counted to see the ratio. 36 out of 85 ads were either an ad for a watch, car or alcohol. In simpliest form, 3 out of 7 were about these objects (almost half of the total ads in one issue). The others were about accessories, fashion, technology etc with implications related to the images mentioned above.

There's an emphasis in today's society about 'drifting.' Technology facilitates this transaction into the "fast-paced life."

The target audience for this magazine are those who "live the adventurous life." The ads help to perpetuate the notion of always moving and never settling down.

Optimistic Interpretation

The watch reminds man of his mortality (hinting at him to get going, to go on that 'adventure'). The car is the vehicle that will get him from point A to point B to all possible points (faster than using his own feet). The alcohol is a gateway, which transcends him from earth to the heavens.

Maybe the question is, What are they looking for?... perhaps there's hope. All the way at the end of the magazine, on it's back cover, a solitary ad for diamonds (the only one in this issue). The ad consists of pictures of wife, children, and family events.

They say diamonds are forever. Maybe they're looking for immortality through their children or maybe just a moment to sparkle/shine like diamonds in one of those constellations.

Pessimistic Interpretation

The paragraphs mentioned above are a bunch of crap. The reality is that the ads are not about men being drifters, it's really about the decadence of men- their greed and unfulfillable passion/desire.

The watch shows the power of man, to be able to capture time- to imprison/enslave the infinity/ to grasp the beyond within a circular trinket on their wrists. The cars are modern day horses that help them to conquer other lands/geography. These vehicles give them a chance to escape from responsibility, and they act like outer shells- keeping out all those emotional 'feminine' stuff (to be tough). Alcohol is man's invention to control perception- to weaken others so they could easily take advantage of/enslave them.

In short these images confirm men's urge to dominate. Diamonds are forever- they give these bands with glittering rocks to entrap women (proffering to them love eternal when in actuality an illusion of beauty is what they give). It's all about serving their ego. They realize that they're going to die, they might as well (at least) have somebody with the same genes as them. Part of him will live on. j/k ;)

Neutral interpretation

It's sort of sick how media (ads) play with our minds, our perception (subtly imbedding images in our minds). Or maybe they're just trying to maintain a universal concept, something innate in human nature. But if men (mankind) were to advance/progress, shouldn't they start questioning the impact of these images. If it's a bad thing, they should change their ways. If it's a good thing, then they should explain why in order to help others understand.

Conclusion: It's all up to you, don't be afraid to question things...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

Job Fair: Selling myself...I feel like a prostitute

I went to a job fair today. It started at 10 a.m. and lasted until 4 p.m. I arrived around 10:30 (I was going to pre-register on-line but the site was closed already) and waited in a long line to register (the line went through a serpentine maze almost like going to an attraction/show). Good thing I brought a book to read.

I looked professional (you could say that I dressed the part). I wore khakis, shirt and tie, with my brown shoes. My tie matched my pants and the geometric blues on it accented my blue shirt. One of the organizer commented that "everyone looked sharp."

Registration was easy. I handed them my resume and they stamped my hand with a red star. I was looking for a job (for when I graduate) in the writing and publication field. It was really rare. Most of the jobs available were for sales. The writing jobs available were corporate insider newsletters and medical news.

I also talked with these two newspaper company. Once again they were looking for sales/distribution. For a typical reporter job, they would only hire those with a five year experience in copy-editing in another smaller metropolitan newspaper.

***Typical quagmire for college graduates: how do you get 'experience' when companies are only hiring those with experience?

I did talk to a career counselor. She liked my resume. She gave me a minute advice on how to improve it. My internship and my capstone project (honors program) would really make it more 'impressive'. She reassured me by saying that experiences were not limited to paid jobs.

As I waited in line to talk to representatives from one booth to another, I heard prospective employees give their sales' pitch. At the beginning I didn't have one but by the time I gave my seventh resume I developed one.

I wondered how many of them would actually look at my resume. Later on I met up with my friend at starbucks and chilled there for two hours (to reflect about the event).

***It would be nice if they were to just look at the resume. Like an artist's work, let the resume speak for itself. It would save everyone time.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:41 PM | Comments (1)

Haiku, Tanka, Waka to tinka bouta

I didn't write these but I thought I'd share them to the community. They're thought provoking and 'simple.' If any of you would like to analyze them with me or if you want to talk about them (feel free to do so). If not, just have fun and enjoy reading them. The following wakas (Japanese poems) are from Kenneth Rexroth's translations entitled One Hundred Poems From the Japanese.

The mists rise over
The still pools at Asuka.
Memory does not
Pass away so easily.

Though the purity
Of the moonlight has silenced
Both nightingale and
Cricket, the cuckoo alone
Sings all the white night

The purity of the moonlight,
Falling out of the immense sky,
Is so great that it freezes
The water touched by its rays.

As I watch the moon
Shining on pain's myriad paths,
I know I am not
Alone involved in Autumn.
-Oe No Chisato

A strange old man
Stops me,
Looking out of my deep mirror.

I go out of the darkness
Onto a road of darkness
Lit only by the far off
Moon on the edge of the mountains.

It withers in the world,
This flower-like human heart.

The white chrysanthemum
Is disguised by the first frost.
If I wanted to pick one
I could find it only by chance.
-Oshikochi No Mitsune

Someone passes,
And while I wonder
If it is he,
The midnight moon
Is covered with clouds.
-Lady Murasaki Shikibu

I may live on
In the passing world,
Never forgetting
this midnight moon.
-The Emperor Sanjo

As I row over the plain
Of the sea and gaze
Into the distance, the waves
Merge with the bright sky.
-Fujiwara No Tadamichi

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2006

Fun in New York for under $100

Everytime I go to New York (NY), I feel like I've travelled around the world without leaving the country.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Gateway to the World
On Friday January 6, I went to NY for my first self-planned and self-financed trip. I did the planning, the research, and I didn't rely on my parents or older relatives for transportation (to get around Manhattan). I was pretty much on my own (of course I was accompanied by my cousin/friend because I'm not that insane to go by myself).

Part I: Getting to NY (I want to be a part of it, New York, New York...)
Ch 1: Planning and the Budget
Ch 2: Putting together the Itinerary
Ch 3: Guidebook and Mastering the MTA New York City Subway
Ch 4: Asking Around/Talking to Friendly Strangers

Part 2: the NY Adventure (it's not possible to see everything ... in one trip)
Ch 5: Chinatown
Ch 6: The Empire State Building
Ch 7: The Metropolitan Art Museum
Ch 8: Lounging in Times Square and Pictures

Conclusion: Microcosm of the World

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:22 PM | Comments (1)

Chapter 1: Planning and the Budget

I've been to New York before, and if you were to go without a plan you'd be overwhelmed when you see the enormity of the city. They (the so-called experts) said that part of the experience and "fun" was getting lost: you're really having fun when you get lost in Manhattan. This is true to an extent. Sure the chance encounters in NY would be memories all to itself, but you'll get more out of your experience if you were to accomplish something. The serendipitous moments would be extra treats/bonus instead.

***My goal was to see the Empire State building and to see the Asian Art collection in the Metropolitan Art Museum.

I had to limit myself to these two so I had a focus. This was my third attempt to go to the Empire. In the past I was daunted and hindered by its block-long line. This was my third trip to the Met also. The Met is huge. The first time I went there, I arrived 30 minutes before they closed. I had only time to glanced through the two-story gift shop in the main lobby and passed by the Egyptian exhibit while trying to look for the rest room. The second time I went, I had an hour and a half. I focused in on the Greek and Roman antiquities and a bit on the Egyptian. While looking for the cafe with my friends we passed by really quickly some European paintings.

To help me with the schedules of bus ride and museum/site hours, map and getting around NY, I borrowed a book in the library called The Rough Guide to New York City. I found this really helpful and informative. It also gave me confidence to go out there.


I had $100 to spend. This was possible for a day trip (not staying over night of course). This even included a round trip bus fare to NY from Philadelphia. In this budget, I didn't include super expensive unnecessary souvenirs. Pictures and memory of the trip would suffice as souvenirs.

Chinatown Bus- $20.00 roundtrip (my photography teacher told me about this)
Unlimited Ride MetroCard (1 Day Fun Pass) $7.00
Empire State Building (86th floor observatory and skyride) $34.00
The Metropolitan Art Museum (The Asian Art Section) $7.00
Food $12.00
Souvenirs $20.00

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:20 PM | Comments (1)

Chapter 2: Putting together the Itinerary

At first I found this difficult because I wanted to do so much (but I knew I couldn't do everything in one day). I had to be selective (but I took comfort in the fact that I could come back).

The first thing I wanted to do was reserve tickets for a broadway musical. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do this because the showtimes I was hoping to get weren't available. I was trying to find 2 p.m. shows (this time slot was only available on Wednesday and Sunday afternoon, some Saturdays). Janice and I went on Friday impulsively. We planned our trip to coincide with a fair weather (it indicated to us when to go). I settled for the Empire and more time at the Met (It turned out to be a good decision).

In planning the itinerary, I sequestered enough time for each site and traveling and wait time in between. The bus trip from Philly to NY and back was four hours total (2 hours each way). I even considered the wait time for the Empire State Building. We woke up early to catch the 7 a.m. bus to NY.

6:00 a.m.- Leave Home, catch Septa Bus 38 to go to city
6:35 a.m.- Meet at Chinatown Bus station 11th and Filbert St.
7:00 a.m.- Bus departs from Phila.
9:00 a.m.- Bus arrives in NY Chinatown
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.- Empire State Building
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.- The Met
7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.- Dinner at Chinatown
8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.- Shopping at Chinatown
10:00 p.m.- Bus departs from NY Chinatown
12:00 a.m.- Bus arrives in Phila
12:30 a.m.- Home sleeping

The only thing that changed was the second half of the plan. We didn't wait as long as expected at the Empire State Building. We decided to eat in Time Square instead for conveniency and to socialize. I also arrived in Phila. an hour earlier than expected.

***Flexibility is important
"The good thing about plans is that you can change them and adapt them to the situation."

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:18 PM | Comments (0)

Chapter 3: Guidebook and Mastering the MTA New York City Subway

I know it's so "touristic" to read a guidebook, but you know what YOU ARE A TOURIST, I AM a TOURIST! I'm not ashamed of it and you shouldn't be either (no one should). What you do with your time is your business.

What I liked about the Rough Guide to New York City was that it was informative and easy to use. Initially all I wanted from this book was a map of the NY Subway system, the map of Manhattan Island (based on past experience I found it helpful to have a visual so I could pinpoint myself and a map to locate the Metro stations. The tall buildings in NY -kingdom of skyscrapers- could make you feel claustraphobic.

The bonus thing in this book was the summary of New York history and its sites (The Empire, Met, Chinatown etc.). I learned a little something about the historical context of New York's formation and Modern Art in America.

Beside traveling on your feet, the next best transportation to get around NY City is the subway system. It's quite reliable and consistent (rare traffic, in the summer pretty cool and in the winter pretty warm). Aside from seeing the sights, one of the things I wanted to accomplish in this trip was proficiency in using the subway system.

We bought a fun day pass and we wanted to use the most of it. Originally we bought one and we were going to share it. I'll go through it and then hand it over to Janice and she'll go through it (I did this because in the pass, my friend showed me that this was possible). However the NY subway authorities changed the policy. They reprogramed the machine to accept only one swipe from the unlimited day pass every 18 minutes.

Before we found this out, Janice was aimlessly swiping the card for minutes. This New Yorker then informed us the new policy (In my mind I was thinking 18 minutes wasn't bad, I could read a book while I waited for Janice- but I could also see how this 18 minutes wait could be inconvenient for travellers who were pressed for time [like we were]).

I'm just proud of myself for finally comprehending the subway system (I've graduated and got my certification in Subway Map reading/application). This was my sixth trip to Manhattan Island (NY). The first time I didn't use it. The second time my uncle dropped us. The third time I used it as a passive follower- my friend's mom led us. The fourth time we followed directions given to us. The fifth time we walked instead to take advantage of the weather. Finally on the sixth trip I did it!

What made it confusing was that when you first look at it, you'd see squiggly lines in rainbow colors. Then you see the letters and numbers, then you see black and white circles connected to each other and then you see that the destination you're trying to reach has two kinds:uptown and downtown. All of these made it look complicated. After using it for a while, it all made sense.

What helped in my situation was asking people and knowing where I wanted to go. This is when I understood the concept of Uptown and Downtown (North and South). Chinatown was considered downtown and Central Park was uptown. I looked in the map and the Empire was near Central Park so I took an Uptown train. Chinatown and Central Park were the two standing points I used to evaluate where I was (Seeing this in the map made it so much easier).

By the end of the day, the subway system was no longer a labyrinth. Rather it was an open choose-your-own adventure book- with many possibilities.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:16 PM | Comments (0)

Chapter 4: Asking Around/Talking to Friendly Strangers

The world is full of good and bad people. But in general people are good. You'll be surprised how many people will actually help you out if you were to ask. Just always be cautious, careful and selective.

When we finally arrive in NY Chinatown, the first thing I did was ask the bus driver where the meeting place would be to get back to Philadelphia (common sense- it was the same place where we were dropped except opposite side [I had to make sure]). I also took notes on what streets it was on (Division and Eldridge) and a main store (Ming's hair salon) that would help me identify it, also a landmark (across from a bridge with trains and cars). This was especially beneficial later on when it was nice and dark.

After asking the driver, the next thing I needed to do was look for a bathroom (2 hour bus drive while drinking plenty of fluids). I read in the guide that Canal street was one of Chinatown's busiest section. I deduced from this that it'll have plenty of cafes/restaurants or establishments with bathrooms (was I wrong). I went inside this store and asked. They pointed me east, but they sounded unsure so I decided to continue west. I went inside a laundromat. She said to go north.

We found ourselves in a Buddhist temple and the workers there were kind enough to let me use their restroom. We continued northward and we encountered NY cops handling traffic.

The first cop we saw I asked him to point me to the direction of Conficious Plaza. He wasn't sure, he asked me if I had a map so he could see and I showed him. He told me to keep going North. We saw another cop (a female one). I asked her and she straighforwardly told me that she didn't know, she wasn't familiar with this area because she usually worked in Brooklyn. The third cop I asked didn't know either but before he could reply I saw the statue of Confucious.

The cop and I had a little chat. He asked me where I came from originally and I asked him why there were Brooklyn cops in Chinatown. I wanted to know if something was happening with the bridge that they were monitoring. He explained to me that it was part of an exercise the cops were doing to counter terrorism. When I told him about Confucious Plaza, he told me that he didn't know anything about it and that he learned something about Chinatown (he assumed that the typical tourist spots were in uptown Manhattan). He learned from an outsider- I think this is one of the good things about tourists, they're not only good for the economy, in some ways they bring awareness to the locals (consciousness about the land and its resources).

While looking for the Metro subway station, I asked several Chinese residents and they pointed to a direction. Of course I needed to be reassured so every street we passed I continued to ask. I ended up asking this brownish-red headed woman for the nearest Metro. I think I startled her when I chased after her asking her in my "outdoor voice": excuse me! I told her that I was going towards Central Park. She told me that two trains were going 'uptown' the 'N' and the 'F' train. At first I got confused (in my mind, I asked why do you need two trains that would go in the same direction), and then I slowly got it, they were going the same way just different paths (this almost sounds like philosophy doesn't it?).

She told me that the N train was a fifteen minute walk to my left. To simplify things I asked her which was the nearest train to where we were at that moment. She said it was the 'F' train. I rationalized that since they were both going uptown we were going to be at least near our destination.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:14 PM | Comments (0)

Chapter 5: Chinatown

Originally we were going to eat dinner and shop here for inexpensive souvenirs. Plans changed however (more explanation in Chapter 8- Lounging in Times Square...).

Earlier I mentioned we accidentally found a Buddhist Temple in search for a bathroom. After the bathroom, we entered the temple. It was a red and gold room. At the entrance, you can receive your fortune for a dollar donation and you are greeted by a gigantic gold-plated Buddha towering above atleast 12 feet high.

There was a long vertical rectangular table with chairs at the center and on the sides, chairs and kneeling cushions were interspersed. On the side walls were the illustrated story of Buddha. Oriental flutes was played in the background, and a faint smell of incense continued to drift- reminiscent of an ancient ceremony. It was a peaceful sanctuary that kept the city noise out.

Before leaving I asked the temple worker if we were allowed to take pictures (I didn't want to be disrespectful). He said it was fine. We exited the temple. In the hallway across from the exit to the streets while I put on my coat, scarf, hat and gloves, this old Chinese woman bowed with folded hands to the entrance of the building and resumed her walking. We continued our search for the metro.

In our amble, we found the bronze statue of Confucious with an inscription of his teaching about harmony and responsibilty. We passed by a park where some Chinese were doing meditation or some type of t'ai chi. Of course we saw plenty of Chinese signs but what stood out in our minds the most was the Chinese McDonald's we saw- what orientalized it was its facade, which was similar to a Chinese Friendship gate (except its color scheme was the garish colors of plastic classic McDonald's).

I read in the guidebook that in this Chinatown, there was a store which would be the closest thing to attending a Shanghai Bazaar without going to China. The book also said that they had tons of trinkets for tourists near Bloody Angle (an alley aptly named for it history; this was where dead bodies were dumped in the olden days). Unfortunately, we didn't get to experience this side of Chinatown. But it was okay because there was next time.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:11 PM | Comments (0)

Chapter 6: The Empire State Building

Third time's a charm. When we reached 33rd street and 5th Avenue, I was excited to see and go in the Empire. I was a little bit anxious to see how long the line would be, but I was prepared for it (I had planned to wait at least four hours, and I brought books to read and my journal to work on a short story).

I was surprised to see that the line didn't extend outside. I thought that maybe the Empire was close because of the cloudy weather (it was open so yay!). The ushers pointed me to the second floor ticket booth. I went inside and I thought wow this isn't too long if I were to wait in the long line that extended outside (gee was I wrong again). It looked short but as I walked through it I followed a smushed serpentine path like intestines.

Luckily for us, there was no line. We made our way easily to the booth, and went through security/metal detectors. Next thing we were entering the elevators to go up. The workers had remote controls (they pushed a button that would send us to the 80th floor).

The elevator was fast. We started in the 2nd floor and in less than a second we were already in the 10th floor. It exponentially rose (10, 30, 50 etc.). My ears actually popped. When we got off 80th floor, the workers herded us as if we're sheeps. Exiting you felt the air coming from the elevator shaft urging you on. From 80th we went to 86th. We were going to go to its zenith the 102nd floor but it cost an extra $14. The guidebook said that the space was smallish and the extra 16 stories "didn't really add much to the view" (the Empire experience).

It was breathtaking to see the city from this point. To the north I saw the Hudson River and the canopy of Central Park. To the east, the East River winds down while the Chrysler building acknowledges the victor of the skyscaper race to the heavens. To the south, Lady Liberty ushers in the waves of the Atlantic ocean which brought in the immigrants of the past.

It was breezy and the sky was in layers of gray. In the horizon, the sun tried to reassert its presence- illuminating it with a peach orange glow. I asked this fidgety photographer who knew how to use a manual camera to take my picture (he didn't know about the etiquette of counting down to three before taking the picture- I just hope that it turned out alright).

I walked around the observatory deck and watched the contrast between a congested city below and the open sky above lands beyond. A black pigeon was at the edge nested/rested for a bit- curious. I watched it catch the wind and drift upward momentarily before gliding to the urban abyss. Smoke from cigarettes, smoke from factory pipes and steam from pyramidal building roofs all seemed to vanished before one's eyes. Camera flashes and clicks filled the atmosphere. People, 'perpetual tourists' intently looked beyond. What are they looking at or what are they looking out for?

After this we went down and rode the virtual skyride around NY. It was pretty cool. It was like riding a helicopter minus the cost and perhaps the danger (and who would want to miss Footloose's Kevin Bacon's commentary about NY). This ride was also a good and entertaining introduction to NY. It gave you some highlights- the top ten things to do. The following is a summary of this, not necessarily in the same order of importance.

10.See the Blue Man group
9. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
8. Helicopter Ride (NY by air)
7. Cruisin at Sea/river (NY by water)
6. Watch a Broadway Show/Musical
5. Central Park
4. NY Double-decker Bus
3. Chinatown and Little Italy (Shopping)
2. The Museums (the Met, MoMa, etc.)
1. The Empire State Building

With a couple of substitutions, I could claim that 9 out of the top ten things to do in NY, I had accomplished. I combined the Blue Man Group with Broadway Musicals (both very histrionic in appeareance). The virtual skyride took the place of the actual helicopter ride. The boat ride around Manhattan was replaced by the ferry that took me to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The next thing I needed to do in order to complete this list is to ride the double-decker bus.

For lunch we ate inside the Empire at Rosa's Pizza and Pasta. I ordered this Sausage specialty roll for $4.50 (like a strombolli but smaller). I only finished half of it. Rather than throwing it away (and wasting food) I wrapped it up and hoped that I would encounter a homeless person who would accept it. I didn't see any homeless in the streets or subway, but I was still glad that I didn't throw it away because later on in the night, I ended up eating it for dinner.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:09 PM | Comments (0)

Chapter 7: The Metropolitan Art Museum

Our next stop was the Met. Our focus was the Asian Art collection and for a bonus we also saw the Modern Art section.

They had a lot of artifacts and I hoped greatly that they had texts that would accompany it- providing background and explanation. However the texts were mostly limited to name and date with a few exceptions.

We started our vicarious trip to Southwestern Asia in India and its influence. Janice noted how there were variations of Buddha as we travelled throughout Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, China, Japan, Korea etc.). Buddha and his teachings were very influential.

The section of Asian Art that interested me the most was the artist literati. Based on the examples I saw, I inferred that this distinction could be paralleled to today's dynamic authollustrator- a hybrid of an author and an illustrator.

I liked the line drawings (with its variations of density, expressiveness, functionality, simplicity [yet complex/intricate- the ying and yang] texture, and 3-dimentionality etc.). I liked how both writing and image complimented each other.

In the Chinese example I saw I liked the poems. I also found amusing the 'colophon' of the artists. In the colophon, they either explained their work, bragged about their greatness etc. In some of them it was like a poem or a philosophical pondering.

In spite of this duality, the artist literati in Chinese society was looked down upon. They were considered below professional artists and scholars. Artists needed to focus on their art (the more art one saw helped one to develop the 'eye'). Scholars who didn't have a secure job/place in society had to lower their standards and accept this job working for the merchant class who had the money to support them.

We also visited a Chinese garden and an interior of a typical Chinese house of the 14th century. The garden with its oddly shaped rocks, pond, goldfish, and trees clarified to me the concept of Ying and Yang (light/dark, empty/full, fluid/solid etc.). The geometrical shapes helped to create illusions of space/layers- inspire the eye/mind to wander/explore.

When we were in Japan, the ukiyo-e woodblock prints (pictures of the floating world- of the burgoisie class) captivated me. I learned something new about them. Some of them were used as calendars. The length of the kimonos would subtly indicate the phases of the moon or the days of the month.

The arts of Southeastern Asia (Philippines etc.) were still being discovered and studied today (that's why the Met didn't have a lot of them).

After this we saw the Modern Art exhibit- totally different from the Asian collection. There were still some that I didn't grasp- like Pollock and Kelly. Gardner explained it- the 'Modern' artists were exploring the process-making of art, and the actual paint/color. These artists weren't as concern with renaissance perspective or the effects of light.

I did enjoy the classic modern art masters- Picasso, Dali, Matisse etc. I found another artist to add to my favorite list- Paul Klee. I saw many of his landscape and abstract expressionistic paintings. His use of color is magical- a weird juxtaposition of pastels and greys. His geometrical scenery is perfect for his stringy creatures.

Before leaving the Met, I stopped by the gift shop. I was going to buy another magnet but I decided "to save money" instead. As I was heading toward the exit I stumbled into the Japanese Books section. This is where I ended up going $20 over my $100 budget. I only had $20 sequestered for souvenirs. I saw these two books that I don't normally see in Borders or the library: Fishing for the Moon and other Zen stories Pop-up book (illustrated and translated by Lulu Hansen), and The Thirty-six Immortal Women Poets: a poetry album with illustrations by Chobunsai Eishi.

I splurged and used my credit card to buy these two books for $51. I felt guilty because in two weeks I'll be using this credit card again to buy books for school. But they were really cool and inspiring books. And it's an extension of my learning (it's for the glory of academics).

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:06 PM | Comments (0)

Chapter 8: Lounging in Times Square and Pictures

This is where the plans changed. After the Metropolitan we met up with Dan and Diana, Janice's friends (recently became mine [networking]) in Times Square. They were in a Pizzaria chilling.

After they finished their late lunch we invited them to chill with us in Starbucks in 51th and Broadway Ave (This was the sixth starbucks we saw in a fifteen minute walk). We recounted our day and got to know each other a bit. I bumped into this rude girl who was busy talking on the phone and not watching where she was going.

We found out that they had checked in a posh hotel (for the low price of $200 a night) near the Chrsyler building. Since our plans changed, I wanted to see what this prestigious hotel was like in the inside. I asked them if we could see, and they said yes.

On our way to their hotel we walk through Times Square and Broadway. We took fun pictures. The half moon was grinning wide with its white teeth. We saw our 3 o'clock shadows. At one point while waiting to cross the street our whole face glowed the red light of the gigantic tv billboard screen. Left over new-year's-eve confetti fluttered down to the glitering silver sidewalks. Some honking of the horns were heard, and it was 30 degrees cold (it wasn't as cold as it could have been according to its average temperature).

We went inside Grand Central Station and took more pictures. Diana had a digital camera. It was nice because I actually ended up being in most of the pictures because I wasn't the one taking the picture. I used up all my pictures (manual camera) at the Empire State building.

They were staying at 'W' the Court hotel and their single room was pretty spacy. The view behind their room was the Empire State Building (and bricks)- its top was lighted with the colors of Christmas/holiday.

Their room had a king size bed with a soft headboard big enough to be a large twin bed. I jumped on it for a while and I tested the pillows, which were really impressionable- it followed the contours of your head. The bathroom was huge, and it had this green soap- redolent of a lemon square cake (you can almost eat it but don't try it, it's still soap).

Plans continued to change. Dan and Diana invited us to stay and crashed in their hotel. I was so tempted to do it. I didn't have to catch the night bus home. My time in NY could be extended and perhaps I could catch a Broadway show. I could also experience staying overnight at the heart of the city, and wake up in the city that never sleeps.

BUt no, I didn't stay. Moderation was the key, plus there was next time. If I were to try to do everything in NY all at once then it would all become a blur. This day wouldn't be as memorable.

However Janice decided to stay. I couldn't stop her. I was also excited (ready to take the challenge) to venture on my own to Chinatown and go home (to apply my subway skills I've recently learned outside the comfort zone of having a friend to help me).

I was nervous of course. They did walk me to Grand Central Station. I said goodbye to them all. I took the Times Square Shuttle Express to 5th avenue where I transferred to take the 'F' train downtown to East Broadway.

I didn't think I was conspicuous (an obvious outsider/tourist). At one moment I sat at the edge of the seat looking around. I squinted to read the stops. Every five seconds I furtively took out my guidebook to study the streets of Chinatown to prepare myself.

I got off, retraced my steps from Essex Street to Canal Street. From here I went straight until I found Division and Eldridge streets. To my relief I saw the Chinatown bus waiting across the street from Ming's Hair Salon (to make sure I asked if this bus was going to Philadelphia, the Chinese lady said yes).

I hopped on-board and called Janice and the others to tell them that I made it. I wished them good night and a fun evening. I finished reading the rest of the historical context in Rough's Guide to New York City during my ride home. It was informative/helpful and a great supplement for my NY adventure. I had fun, and I learned something. It was an unforgettable day.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:03 PM | Comments (0)

Conclusion: Microcosm of the World

New York is an international city- it's possible to travel around the world in 24 hours in NY (at least glance at the multi-cultural makeup of the world).

I asked a Chinese man for directions. I visited a Buddhist temple where two blocks from it I saw a French Arc of Triumph as a gate to a bridge. I talked to three American Brooklyn cops (no I wasn't being arrested). I learned to ride the subway station.

I was ushered in to the Empire State building by a Latina. I ate Italian food prepared by Mexicans. An Indian lady told me where the nearest Starbucks was and the nearest Metro station.

I saw the Asian Art collection and the Temple of Dendur at the Met. In 5th avenue and 77th street, I passed by a French man conversing with his comrade.

I encountered throngs of people from different walks of life while passing by Times Square. This all happened in one day.

With the exception of my minor splurge, I was still able to stay with the $100 budget (just went $20 overboard). It is possible to have a fun day in NY for only $100.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2006

getting excited

my mom reminded me to continue saving up for my Philippine trip. She said that my cousin found another professor that could possible help me with my project. She also said that there was a possibility for me and my cousin to go to Disneyland Hong Kong if I were to save enough money. I know Disneyland around the world is pretty standardized BUT there is always something that separates it and makes it "Hong-Kongish." I'm extra motivated now! :)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2006

Experienced Four States in One Day: CT, NY, NJ, and PA

My experiences and adventures in four states were culminated (came to a conclusion) on the first day of the new year 2006. This is a story of awe in the vastness and multi-cultural identity of America.

On the eve of December 26, I left Philadelphia and went with my cousins in Greenwich CT. On the way, I fell asleep and when I awoke, the van was making a right turn at High Street, then at View Street. I stepped out of the van, and surprisingly, it wasn't as cold. There was something different in the air (maybe it's cleaner because it's away from the city or maybe it's the thrill of a new year approaching).

In my cousins house, all I did was totally "lounged"- I slept, woke up, watched tv. ate/ ate out/went to the movies/ played videogames/ took showers/ brushed teeth/ slept- then repeated cycle the next day with few variations like an excursion to NY. Could you believe that I sort of got sick and tired playing videogames (moderation is always the key, too much of something is bad). I did these activities during my stay at Greenwich.

On the 27th of Dec., my cousin and I woke up early and caught the 10 a.m. train to Grand Central Station N.Y. The ride was only an hour away. We rode the subway. It was an exhilirating ride to be cruising in the darkness of the subway and then to suddenly burst out, susnshine filtering its rays as the train temporarily wave goodbye to the Manhattan skyline.

It was crazy for my cousin and I to go to NY before the New Year's Eve celebration. By this time, NY was only beginning to gather its many party-goers/participants. Walking through the sidewalks, we inched our way like ancient Japanese women wearing wooden thonged-slippers. The usual tourist spots were packed. A lady fainted on the sidewalk, I heard the male accompanying her call for the paramedic. According to him, she was having a cardiac arrest. This was along the N.Y. Public Library (the one in the movie the day after tomorrow). We saw Times Square 4, where the famous glittering ball would drop on New Year's Eve.

We were going to go up the Empire State building but the line was almost a block long. We decided to see the giant christmas tree in Rockefeller instead. It was packed there as well. NBC was there and they hosted a no-obligation photo-shoot- free to the public willing ot wait in line. We passed the Gothic St. Patrick's Cathedral, and we went in this Romanesque church (I think it was called St. Thomas).

We continued our way up 5th Avenue towards the Metropolitan Art Museum. On the way we were distracted by the stores. We went inside Gap, the World of Disney store, there was even a line to go in FAO Schwartz. I decided to walke by the side and looked through the windows instead. We found an opening through the diner.

When we reached the Crown Plaza hotel and Central Park, my cousin pointed out that the Met was close. I didn't want to leave NY without experiencing a new New York- thing-to do so we rode the super expensive short horse and carriage ride around Central Park (not through its entirity instead less than a quarter of its perimeter). The ride was $40, and my cousins and I splitted the cost. It would have been nice but the driver was rushing. He would cut in front of other horses. He wanted it to be over in order to swindle the next "tourists." I'm hoping that the $40 would also the benefit the horse.

On our way back to the subway in 33th street near th Empire, we saw a gigantic snowflake suspended in the middle of the street. We saw snowflake light show blinking in-sync to a trans-siberian-esque christmas tune on the side of a building. We passed by a bazaar with an ice-rink set up behind the NY library.

For dinner, we ate at Maui Tacos. It was exactly like taco bell but it had a hawaiian twist to set it apart. They served some hawaiian tea and alcholic drinks. My cousins and I just ordered the $4.99 deal (two soft tacos with a small drink and a side tortilla chips and salsa).

We bought our tickets for the 9:15 p.m. train to Greenwich and before leaving NY, we saw another light show on the dome ceiling of Grand Central Station (GTS). With laser lights, the constellations on GTS came alive. They became dancing green, blue and aqua snowflakes. Rudolph also made an appearance.

I was hoping to go up the Empire and see the Asian Art collection at the Met, instead the NY experience I encountered was the expensive horse ride and the free light show. I'm a New York visitor and I know the things I do are only superficial/surface of the New York experience, but that's what a visitor does.

On January 1st, my cousin's family met up with my family in Atlantic City N.J. We ate at a buffet for a post new year's eve celebration and for my mom's b-day.

The "adults" gambled, and my cousins and I went to Ripley's Believe It or Not museum at the Boardwalk. The museum was interesting. We saw miniatures, learned fun facts and riddles, got tricked by mirrors, illusions and technology. The museum was a walk-in culturally mystifying labyrinth of magic. We had a picture galore. We took pictures of Dracula's victim, awesome models, gypsy manequin, old people manequin who were also taking pictures.

Before meeting up with my parents, titos and titas, my other cousin (who is also 21) and I decided to try our luck in the slot machines, while my younger cousins sat at the designated corner in Sands Casino. My cousin and I each exchanged a $10 bill into quarters. Putting coins in those machines and winning was total luck/chance. It didn't matter if you had some kind of ritual or lucky charms, it was all random. Out of the ten dollars I played I won four dollars back and lost it again. For our gambling souviner, I took a picture of my cousin side by side with a slot machine. Before my cousin could take my picture, a security person came up and told us that there were no picture taking allowed inside the casino.

My cousins tried to convince me to stay two more weeks at their house. But I couldn't do it because I had to do some things in Philadelphia before school begins again.

As I said in the beginning I experienced four states in one day, not just technically/physically passing by it. How was this possible? On January 1st, I woke up in my aunt's house in Greenwich CT. I ate brunch and attended mass at St Mary's (Greenwich Ave/Stamford). I saw the sun set behind the Manhattan skyline NY highlighting the ripples of the river with an orange/magenta tint on the way to Atlantic City NJ. I went home with my parents to PA, slept in my room, said goodnight to the waxing crescent moon, and woke up to the sunshining rays of Philadephia.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:44 PM | Comments (0)

french onion soup disaster

Caveat: gross

French onion soup is delicious but lethal. This is the third time it happened to me. I always forget the previous disaster and somehow I always succumbed to its tantalizing aroma. So if you were to see or hear me order this soup, please stop me (do whatever- yell, slap me [but not too painfully]).

No it wasn't diarrhea, that would have been the easy way out (no pun intended). This would have been quick and less painful.

But what happened to me, I have no name for it. I can only describe it. I ate the soup around 10 p.m. and the effects of it didn't hit me until midnight. My stomach gradual expanded, and it looked like a water balloon about to explode. I felt it and it was not soft. I had this feeling of wanting to burp but it was difficult. I had to stay still because my stomach would hurt if I moved.

It wasn't heartburn. I think it was the cheese's fault. For those who have never eaten a french onion soup, this soup consisted of onions and on top of it was fromage (cheese). The cheese is similar to the type of cheese on pizza but thicker. It almost tasted like and have the melted texture of mozzarella cheese (rubbery very hard to slice with your spoon).

Maybe it was so thick and late in the night that my stomach didn't have the power to digest it. But I think this cheese started expanding in my stomach the way somebody would blow a bubble from a bubblicious gum.

I don't know how long I writhed on my coach but finally I belched three loud ones consecutively (I think these belches were record breaking for me for its loudness and quantity) and all the gas in my stomach disappeared.

I never knew how tiring it could get, and I fell asleep. I woke up two hours later around 3 a.m. I turned off the t.v. and went upstairs in my room and continued sleeping.

The morale of this tale is to stop me from eating french onion soup. In the future do everything you can to stop me, your help will be gratefully appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:38 AM | Comments (1)

January 3, 2006

update on recovery, starbucks and ice skating

spending a week in Greenwich, CT helped me to rest... my allergies are under control...my lips are not swollen anymore and they're not chapped too... the bump on my right head receded and the scraped/wound had closed. The thing that's a bit annoying is taking things slow. I just want to do things and get it over (because my actions are already slow to begin with), BUT I have to be mindful not to exhaust myself and repeat my little "incident."

to celebrate I went to starbucks in ardmore for my annual "reflection" seminar. It took me awhile getting there because I have to be "careful." This year rather writing a summary of reflection (based on my past entries), I decided to write a SHORt fictional story incorporating real events instead. It will be fun and a challenge. While at Starbucks I tried this new latte called Cinnamon Dolce. It wasn't bad, it was tres delicioso. It was a hot beverage and it was an apt choice. I drank it slowly while writing.

I got home around 5:45 p.m. and I watched 5 and 1/2 hours of figure skating: Cups of China and Russia in ESPN. It's really entertaining and awe-inspiring to watch ice skating. I used to root only for certain skaters such as Michelle Kwan or Sasha Cohen, But now I just watch and appreciate all skaters (this doesn't mean that I don't have favorites- it just means that I don't hate a particular skater because he/she is someone's so-and-so's rival).

Figure skating is an international sport. It's interesting how issues such as citizenship come up. One of the ice dancers is trying to quicken her citizenship process so she could make it to the 2006 winter olympics (in order to represent the United States). Congress is supposed to have made the decision by January 10 (just waiting for Bush to sign this new law in Congress).

One of the things the commentator said reminded me of a lesson I learned in World Literature about cultural relevency. The announcer commented about this Japanese skater's new dance program filled with nuances and subtleties- "avant-garde" program. Later on he said that the artistry was great, then he asked: "Does it build?" He expected the performance to be like a linear Western book with it's climax, conclusion,'denoument,' etc.

He reminded me that no matter how global the sport may be, it's still a western sport and the west sets the standard. Nonetheless I still enjoy it. It's interesting how each country approaches the sport: the way they trained, their musical selection, their costumes etc.

One of my classmates commented that Figure Skating is not a sport because the skater has to rely on the judges to be evaluated. He implied (like a Shakespeare tragedy) that skaters are fated to win or lose and that they have no control whatsoever. The way I see it, the judges are like referees who makes the call if violations occurred. Just like any other sports (basketball/football etc.) it has rules that governed it- typical of sports, it's a game where people compete and get points.

Figure skating is just a bit more theatrical (artsy). I think this is why some refute the fact that figure skating is a sport. Some people just don't see this amalgamation between sports and art as a possibility. Because it has always been assumed that one is a nemesis to the latter.

Skaters don't wear shoulder pads- they wear fancy clothes with beads or sequence sometimes (nonetheless it has to be aerodynamic so they can attain/maintain speed). They don't throw footballs or kick soccer balls, they throw themselves in the air everytime they attempt a triple flip or a double lutz. They don't run from one end of the field goal, they skate/glide across the ice backward, forward, sideways and in figure eights.

Figure skating has dance elements. It's physical in this sense-it's a sport. Every sport has it's individual dance/body movement. Figure skating is just obvious and blatant.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)