Christmas in NYC

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By Sinead Hunt

Whether you’re the type of person who starts celebrating Christmas at midnight on November 1st, or if you prefer to abstain from celebration until Thanksgiving has passed, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than Christmas in New York City. Read More »

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?

 

Animation Nights New York

By Ruby Samuels

Millennials lie on an indoor astroturf lawn, drinking beer and eating m&m’s beneath gigantic glass orb lights and one glass wall. Every variation of animation imaginable is projected onto a screen in front of them. Hand drawn characters who could almost be Popeye or Betty Boop follow a short animation that uses stop motion characters made out of what appears to be scraps of garbage including soap and wire.

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Popping the Bubble Week 7: Our Presidential History

By Sinead Hunt

This week I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a New York City landmark that has been on my list for quite some time: the New York Historical Society. Typically, tickets for students can be quite pricey ($12 with student ID). However, on Friday nights from 6 to 8 p.m., the Historical Society runs a promotion where visitors can enter for a “suggested donation.” Thus, with only a crinkled dollar bill to spare, I was able to gain admittance into this amazing New York resource.

My favorite exhibit of the night was definitely, “Campaigning for the Presidency, 1960-1972: Selections from the Museum of Democracy.” This collection of political memorabiliap1 allows visitors to experience firsthand the highly contentious presidential campaigns of
the 1960’s. All in all, I found the items in the collection to be highly entertaining. From Richard Nixon’s many poorly-worded campaign slogans, including, “Click with Dick!” and “My Pick is Dick,” to cigarette packages proudly displaying Nixon’s face, I found myself stifling my laughter as I meandered about the exhibit. Though the collection was, without a doubt, incredibly funny, it was at the same time both informative and captivating. I believe that the political paraphernalia displayed in this collection affords visitors a unique insight into political zeitgeist of the 1960’s.

The first presidential race discussed in this exhibit was the election of 1960. As tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union continued to escalate, American voters were faced with the decision to elect either seasoned vice-president Richard Nixon, or the charming one-term senator, John F. Kennedy. The advent of the televised debate proved decidedly important in the election of 1960. Over seventy-seven million Americans tuned in to watch the presidential debate from the comfort of their own homes. Kennedy excelled during the debate, looking right into the camera in order to provide a sense of intimacy with the viewership. Nixon, however, floundered on camera. He refused to wear stage makeup, and the bright lights of the set made him sweat excessively, so that he came across to voters as extremely nervous. Ultimately, the televised debate highlighted one of Nixon’s greatest weaknesses as a candidate: his complete lack of charisma. As a p2result, much of the political paraphernalia produced by the Nixon campaign aimed to portray their candidate as personable (hence, the awkwardly phallic campaign slogans).
The second campaign examined in this exhibit was the election of 1964, which was a veritable tete-a-tete between incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Johnson, who had vowed to “build a great society” upon his ascension to the presidency in 1963, ran on a campaign promising greater social programs. Johnson defiantly declared a “war on poverty,” and sought to create a better society for all Americans, regardless of  race, creed, culture, or socioeconomic class. Republicans struggled to unite behind candidate Barry Goldwater. In particular, Goldwater’s decision to oppose the 1964 Civil Right’s Act alienated many moderate Republicans. Goldwater’s many off the cuff remarks regarding liberalism, as well as his vehement emphasis on states’ rights, portrayed him as an extremist. In p3response to Goldwater’s campaign slogan, “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right,” the Johnson campaign countered with the incisively witty comeback, “In Your Gut You Know He’s Nuts.” Ultimately, the American people’s perception of LBJ as a moderate candidate proved invaluable in helping him to be elected.

The 1968 presidential race featured, once again, Richard Nixon, as well as LBJ’s vice-president, Hubert Humphrey. Though Nixon had already lost the presidency once, by 1968 the general tone of American politics had been completely transformed. Voters, disenchanted by America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, increasingly resented Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson’s withdrawal from the race offered a way for three contenders: anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy, vice-president Hubert Humphrey and, the one and only Richard Nixon. While Hubert Humphrey ran a campaign that boasted the accomplishments of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Nixon’s campaign invoked imagesp4 of burning American cities. In response to the race riots proceeding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s tragic death, Nixon ran on a “law and order” campaign, capitalizing on the racially-motivated fear many Americans secretly harbored (sound familiar to anyone?). Nixon’s criticism of federal civil rights legislation resonated with many White Southerners, and his favorability among the “silent majority” undeniably helped him to secure success in such a close race.

Ultimately, I believe that this exhibit is incredibly important, even now more than ever (incidentally Nixon’s campaign slogan in the 1972 race). The political climate in the United States is a pendulum, constantly oscillating between conservatism and liberalism. Though Nixon initially lost to liberal p5candidate John F. Kennedy, he was later able to gain two consecutive terms in office. The 1960’s were an incredibly turbulent time in American history. Between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the forced desegregation of public schools, many Americans resented the government for forcing them to comply with social policies they didn’t necessarily believe in. Many Americans secretly harbored racially-motivated fears, which were further exacerbated by the racial riots following the assassination of Dr. King. This “silent majority,” who felt that the government had betrayed them and their interests, and that their opinions were no longer valued, found their champion in Richard Nixon. In this way, the past forestalls the future, as Donald Trump capitalized on many similar sentiments to win the presidency in the 2016 race.

Image Courtesy of Sinead Hunt

Sinead Hunt is  a first-year at Barnard and Liaison for Barnard Bite.

 

Popping the Bubble Week 6: Photo Tour for the ‘Fun’ Run

Loyal readership (aka my older sister), this week I want to apologize to you. I was unable to go anywhere interesting in NYC, as I have returned home for the Fall Break. Rather than subjecting you all to an unenthusiastic article about the many wonders of White Plains (we have a movie theater AND a Panera, take that Scarsdale!), I’ve decided to share with you some photos from the long run across Manhattan I made last week. Enjoy!

1
Museum of Natural History on Central Park West

 

2
Saint John’s Cathedral in Morningside Heights

 

3
James A. Farley Post Office Building on 8th Avenue

 

4
View from Tribeca

 

5
Ethical Culture School on Central Park West

 

6
USS Maine Monument at Columbus Circle

 

7
One World Trade Center

 

8
My route!

Sinead Hunt is  a first-year at Barnard and Liaison for Barnard Bite.