The Fixers’ Collective: Pro Bono and Next Level DIY

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by Ruby Samuels

If you walk through the unmarked door and narrow stairs of Brooklyn Commons on the first Wednesday of any month, you will find at least one pro bono fixer waiting for New York’s broken objects to arrive.

This is the Fixers’ Collective, a group of hobbyists who fix and repurpose the objects  of everyday life. The group was founded in response to the Great Recession of 2008 by Tammy Pittman and David Mahfouda, enthusiasts who want to teach people how to fix things for themselves. Originally, the collective met in Proteus Gowanus, a now closed art space in Brooklyn, where it attracted fixers from the Maker movement and other subcultures organized around DIY and resource sharing agendas.

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Now, the Fixers’ Collective meets once a month at Brooklyn Commons, a “movement-building space” where the wifi password is “compost” and the groups who meet there are often Marxist. They also meet monthly at Hack Manhattan, a makerspace on 14th street.

On this particular Wednesday, the only fixer present is Vincent Lai, a grocer by day who hopes to monetize his handy hobby soon. Vincent embodies his passion for repurposed materials via his Harry Potter-esque glasses, which are held together with plastic that he melted himself. His expected partner for the night (a college professor by day, Project Runway tech engineer by night and pro bono fixer in the wee hours) cancelled last minute.

From 7 to 9 pm we watch Vincent take apart the broken computer we’ve brought in, leaning in to examine every aspect of the gutted machine as others walked awkwardly into the room holding defunct devices. With a mixture of obscure technological terminology and dad jokes, Vincent gives everyone a sense that their objects are safe in his hands.

IMG_3390When a disheveled woman comes in with an antique plant-shaped lamp that she purchased at a yard sale 20 years ago, everyone watches in fascination as he tinkers with it for a few minutes, screws in a new socket and bulb and turns it on to fill the room with circulating rainbow polka dots. “The disco bulb is our tester,” he says with a grin.

Although we brought in a laptop that really needed fixing, it seems as though most of the people visiting this Wednesday have come more out of curiosity than urgency.  One woman comes in with a super 8 camera that her parents found gathering dust in their garage; another man brought in an old light meant for an aquarium that he no longer uses.

Whatever the outcome for a device, being part of a late night fixing session is exciting. The idea that there are people out there who want to know how the things that we use every day work is hopeful. The fixers mission, as stated on their website, is to “increase material literacy in our community by fostering an ethic of creative caring toward the objects in our lives.”

With more creative caring comes more self-sufficiency, more art and less waste. Plus, who doesn’t want to meet someone whose face lights up when confronted with your broken computer?

 

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An Evening at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

 

By Allison Yeh

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Last Friday at 10 o’clock in the evening, I joined my Spanish class in line outside the Nuyorican Poet’s Café on East 3rd between Avenue B and Avenue C. We huddled outside in the cold speaking a mix of English and elementary Spanish. Our teacher, in a black fur coat and boots, whipped a takeout box of French fries from her purse. “No tuvo tiempo para comer, queraís, alguién?” She said as she circled the box under our noses to entice us. I took one since I didn’t have time to eat either.

Inside the café, we were squished into a small box-like space, every inch taken up by a person in a puffy winter coat. It was uncomfortable, yet strangely comforting, knowing so many people had come together to watch the power of words be delivered. Our class split up, weaving our way through bodies towards the tiny stage. I stood on my tip toes, ready for the performance to begin.

The event we were attending was a poetry slam. However, to start the evening, a more well-known poet, Carlos Andrés Gómez, author of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood  came on stage to warm up the crowd with two poems. Gomez’s stage presence and delivery gave me the same chills I get when I hear a singer on the the Voice belting their lungs out (in all the best ways). His second poem, “What’s Genocide” hushed the audience like a graveyard. Once he finished, the crowd hollered, applauded and rushed to get in line for an autographed book.

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The poetry slam itself was also inspiring. Three contestants each spoke from their own diverse backgrounds. One spoke of her experience as a black woman in a small town in North Carolina. One young man spoke of his Jewish heritage and his abhorrence of Hebrew school. The last participant (and ultimate winner of the slam) was of Dominican descent and spoke about his working as a public school teacher in Manhattan. The three performers each shared three poems that even though ranged in content, could be connected through the potency of their verbal communication. The poems were not only lyrical, but also advocated for something beyond the brick walls of the space.

To close the night, Whitney Greenaway (an award winning slam poet) recited a poem about how to be a lady, inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl. Earlier in the night she also performed this.

While the event ended at 2am, probably the longest and latest Spanish class I have ever attended, I left with a new sense of community, a sense of power of words, and a want to look up more slam poetry on Youtube.

 

Allison is a Sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor of Barnard Bite.

 

pictureS:

http://www.nuyorican.org/

 

http://www.nuyorican.org/

City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Festival

By Zoe Baker-Peng

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20 minutes on the downtown 1 train is worth it for this

February is often deemed one of the most depressing months of the year with grey skies, cold temperatures, and slushy streets as snow flurries sweep in and out of the city. City Bakery is out to change these perceptions, however, with their annual hot chocolate festival. Famed in NYC for their decadent hot chocolate with a large, fluffy homemade marshmallow, City Bakery certainly knows how to create luxurious chocolate concoctions. Throughout February, the bakery will produce a different flavor hot chocolate for each day. Trying as many flavors as you can is the perfect way to escape the outside elements and look forward to each February day. Below is the list of flavors (as posted on amny.com). How many will you try?

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Life Hacks for Staying Healthy at Barnard

by Molly Scott

Let’s face it: everyday life at Barnard can be extraordinarily stressful. Trying to finish readings and getting papers in on time usually takes up all of our mental energy and our day. Since staying physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy is just as important as getting A’s, we’ve created a list of life hacks to staying well at Barnard.

Take the stairs. This is like a mini-workout, which is especially helpful when there’s no time to visit the gym. It gets your heart accelerating and leg muscles working, and you will feel refreshed after you get your blood pumping all over your body. Using the stairs also means you won’t have to wait for the tortoise-slow Sulz elevator.

Make use of your space!

Get enough H2O. Drinking water throughout the day has multiple amazing benefits. It keeps you hydrated, which not only keeps you physically healthy but can also help ward off sluggishness and tiredness. Drinking plenty of water can also help you stay full; this can prevent you from overeating at your next meal or indulging in an unhealthy snack.

Try mini-exercises. Doing small in-dorm exercises can get your heart rate up, tone muscles, and energize you for studying. Pushups, squats (either standing against a wall or not), planks, and sit-ups are all great ways to work out right in your dorm room. If this method works for you, you can invest in a pair of dumbbells or a yoga mat to use for in-dorm exercises.

Take a break. While studying and writing papers, it’s extremely important to take breaks. We recommend taking 30 minute breaks in between readings or during paper-writing. Watch one episode of your favorite show on Netflix, read a magazine, stalk people on Facebook, watch YouTube videos, grab a snack, or take a nap! Breaks are vital for your mental sanity and you will end up doing better on assignments.

Essential to an amazing study break.

Eat something. Studying and writing takes up a ton of energy so it’s really important to keep your body fueled. Eating food will ensure that you’re at the top of your game. Snacks like apples and peanut butter, chocolate-covered raisins, and pita chips and hummus are just a few really great options. If you don’t feed yourself, you will lose energy and fixate on your hunger, which is very distracting.

Get out of Morningside Heights. You probably decided to go to college in NYC for a reason…so explore it! Leave campus for a few hours on the weekend and see what Manhattan (and Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx) have to offer! Grab a bite to eat with friends, go to the Met, see a Broadway show or a movie, or have a picnic in Central Park. It’s essential to get out of your daily environment to maintain mental clarity and sanity.

Molly Scott is a junior at Barnard and Senior Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of The Bookshelf and Tested.