Have you ever been in the situation where you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, a certain song plays over the speaker and you find yourself overcome with emotion? Maybe it triggered the memory of your first boyfriend, or it reminded you of a particular place, or the lyrics were particularly relevant to a recent event. If you’ve ever stifled sobs in the dairy aisle while deciding between skim and 1%, you’re not alone.
When we would return from school holidays while I was growing up in Malaysia, some of my friends would render tales of surfboarding in California or chasing pigeons in Trafalgar Square. I don’t know if we couldn’t afford it, or if my father simply didn’t find the travel and/or destinations appealing, but we never visited the western hemisphere. Our family vacations took us to closer locales like Thailand and Indonesia. There’s a lot of overlap between Indonesian and Malaysian culture — we share similarities in language, food and beliefs — but Indonesia is much larger and more diverse. The archipelago of over 18,000 islands has hundreds of ethnic groups and distinct dialects, so it manages to feel familiar and exotic at the same time. Visiting the Indonesian Street Festival this past weekend was a fun return to that very same intoxicating combination.
As I mentioned once before here, I studied English Lit at university. And I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I read a fair bit of Shakespeare during that time, and by “fair”, I mean a lot. And throughout my studies, I analyzed, discussed, and wrote a lot of papers about the famed playwright and his innumerable works. The Merchant of Venice was one of those works — a challenging one. It was required reading in a few of my later classes, so I’m quite familiar with it. It’s sort of notorious for being an emotionally complicated and intellectually treacherous play to study, and it’s much less read for enjoyment due to its subject matter. And for this reason, it’s anathema for many students. Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, I cannot think of another fostering a more strained and contentious relationship between readers, academics, historians and the material itself.
What are the criteria for an outstanding short film? Or, more precisely, what are the criteria for an outstanding student-produced short film? The specificity makes a huge difference, actually. That’s exactly what the Columbia University Film Festival seeks to answer with screenings, voting and discussions. The festival is the result of Columbia University’s MFA students’ years of study in the prestigious school’s film program. As one would expect, being part of the Columbia University system gives the students access to massive film archives, unparalleled research collections and mentorship from industry leaders. Alumni have gone on to produce box office hits (Frozen) and Netflix favorites (Making a Murderer), and are regular film award nominees and winners.
Like the children who came before and after me, I, too, went through a dinosaur phase — an obsession with toys, comic books, movies, novels and archaeological journals related to the clade of vertebrates Sir Richard Owen established as “Dinosauria” in 1842. Theirs was an entire alien world that could coexist simultaneously in the past and the present, the imagination and reality. And what better place to be immersed in the irrefutable, fossilized evidence of the Mesozoic Era than the cathedral of “Dinosauria” devotion, the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan?
You weave through the throngs of people, the red, blinking hand taunting you in the distance. When you finally make it to the street corner, the red hand is stationary and the cabs are leaping out of their lanes towards you. You jump back onto the sidewalk to safety, barely avoiding the murky puddle at your feet, when some unidentifiable cloud of smoke wafts up from the sewer grate and hits you in the face. Maybe it’s time for a getaway.
To leave the city without actually leaving the city, make your way to the North Woods of Central Park, where it’s so tranquil you’ll believe the subway tunnel was a portal to another world.