Thursday, August 26, 2010

California Gurls

I've just returned from a lovely, lovely vacation back home in San Diego (sleeping in too long in my familiar comfortable bed, welcome old traditions and friends, irreplaceable home cooked meals and comforts, a startling beautiful ocean, amazement at the skintight, too mini dresses and stilettos in downtown San Diego, petting miniature horses at the zoo (!), and all with the accompanying fresh eyes of the boy--who is a first time visitor, and in fact apparently the first in his family to ever visit California) and got back to a wet, cold New York. Feels like I've never left at all...except there's already the impending deadline of London, a flurry of preparations and panicking and last goodbyes with friends.

I'll probably be busy with preparations and leaving, so postings here might be a bit sporadic until I get settled in London. In the meantime, I've been obsessing over Katy Perry's absurd, superficial glamour of the golden coast in "California Gurls" (a far cry from its historical painful reality, of course). The video, as the song, is wildly addicting, and the celebratory approach to the hard to believe emptiness of California girls is somehow exquisitely delightful. A perfect song for the summer...and the impossible reality of the summer's end. What have you been doing all summer? And what are you looking forward to in the whispering hints of fall?

Friday, August 13, 2010

All About NYU: Part V, Should I Go?

When it comes down to the ultimate decision making time, after you've received that marvelous purple postcard bearing the word congratulations! And weighing between other universities, priorities, dreams versus the obligations of reality, how to decide if NYU is really and truly worth all its weight in appearance...the decision is obviously, always, yours, and personal circumstances might play a far greater role than any stranger's description of the NYU student who would thrive, but, from my understanding:

Don’t come to NYU for a liberal arts degree if it means getting into tens of thousands of dollars of debt. NYU’s prestige isn’t really going to get you a job (experience, professionalism, and relentless drive will). The NYU experience, while, no doubt, unique, is likely not worth the years of regret and tears and poverty you’ll have afterwards. Also, don’t come if you are not (and don’t think you could be) independent, or have always fantasized about college frat parties and any sense of community. There is no sense of community save one of general cynicism and mild resentment. Without independence, you simply cannot survive here.

Why should you come to NYU, then? If, you’re one of those people who grew up hating your hometown, if you’ve always wanted to live and experience every aspect of the city, if you’re not afraid of obstacles, hard work, competition, if you’re desperate for excitement, if you can make concessions for life’s comforts for a life of unpredictable surprises, if you want experiences like nothing you’ve had before, if you’re not afraid to be embarrassed and learn silly new things, if you’re not afraid of disappointment, of shattered hopes and dreams, if you’re willing to give up almost anything for the opportunity that only New York City offers: then, come to NYU, because it will be a center of countless opportunities you haven’t even imagined before, it will be diverse adventures and meeting people you can’t believe exist. It will be what you make of it, what you force it to be, it’s a lover who needs to be tamed, who needs an equally strong match. If you’re not afraid of being alone (and it won’t be forever), if, even while reading all of this, the harsh reality and exaggerated nature of the university, you still feel the fire burning your insides screaming that you belong, then it’s not a matter of the quality of your department or the quality of living.

What NYU, really, truly offers, is outside of the university itself. Yes, you might get a few life changing professors. Yes, you might meet classmates who will alter your perception of the world forever. But ultimately, you will learn to live alone, to be a New Yorker, learn the taste of blissful success (even in small moments) and the bitterness of failure, unforgiving, cold, failure. You’ll learn how to live, and hardly how to live in a college, but in the world. You’ll learn much about humanity--suffering, kindness, and just inexplicable acts of humanity. Don’t expect NYU to be your magic ticket to anything. Expect to work for what you want, and hard, and expect for it to hurt, and to cry and hate everything you might have done. But in the end it’s a university that is rewarding in its freedom, its loose hold that lets you step off the pavement in stiletto heels, bruised bloody knees and a broken ankle, and lets you struggle with tear brimmed eyes until you can walk again (albeit, with a significant higher doss of New York irony and disenchantment with all that the city offers).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

All About NYU: Part IV, Social Life

With few sports or extracurriculars that students actively, and collectively engage in, NYU leaves far more room for individual exploration. And by the end of Sophomore year, nearly every single friend I had from Freshman year was living off campus, working and interning and living a life seemingly entirely distinct from that of a typical college student. You will probably find Freshman students to be, generally, more friendly and open, eager with bright shining eyes and confused directions at the start. But after that golden period of ecstatic introduction passes, many settle into friend groups and routines that feel impossible to break into. Tisch students, especially, form very tight collective friend groups.

Friend groups tend to shift and alter with living location, personal interests and schedules, and though enthusiastic orientation staff will convince you that the friends you make Freshman year will be your FRIEND FOR LIFE, and though occasionally this does turn out to be the case, most likely your friends from Freshman year will fade into a slew of lukewarm acquaintances you’ll learn to want to avoid rather than embrace in later run-ins on campus.

Freshman year social life tend to include stereotypical NYU activities: falafels and dollar pizza from St. Mark’s, marveling at the beauty of Washington Square in the fall, attending 18 or 19+ college freshman oriented parties and clubs (though I’ve never actually gone to any), trips to the Brooklyn Bridge or the MET with a special misty eyed significance, staying up late playing board games in dorm rooms (this sounds impossible but actually, inexplicably, always happens). This dissolves into various individualized paths, from going after every obscure and bizarre event listed in Nonsense NYC to fixedly over studying and panicking, to desperate hunts for glamorous internships (that inevitably end up filled with long hours and endlessly refreshing Twitter until that blessed six o’clock release).

Then it’s all a blur of house parties in the East Village, Bushwick. Weekend brunch at a scattering of restaurants, weekend nights scouring bars that don’t card. Occasional performances and events (that probably won’t actually be attended out of laziness, night of), fewer day trips, long afternoons spent between napping and half hearted watching a TV show (here, the hip favored show is Skins, and on the other end, Gossip Girl). Shopping (of course), whether it’s hip designer boutiques or the bigger stores down Broadway. After Freshman year, except for the most enthusiastic, there tends to be a period of anti-social tendencies, when even the thought of meeting a friend for coffee becomes dreadful (or perhaps that was just me?). At some point there tends to be some sort of disillusion, frightful realizations of reality and people’s intentions that might not always be the best.

But really, social life at NYU is hard to categorize, and though I suspect many would find similar echoes as my experience (and conversations revealed the same), there are just as many happy giddy NYUers who never experience a moment of anxiety or self doubt in their life. Well, not true, but can dismiss the negativity enough to go on deliriously happy (these are the types of people who gets picked to be your grinning orientation leaders! And hence, a cotton candy, rather unrealistic and overly optimistic, presentation of the university.) What is absolutely integral is the ability to self initiate, for unless you get sucked into one of those constantly existing and buzzing social friend groups, without any effort on your part, you’ll probably end up spending most weekends alone in bed with FroYo and leftover pizza.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All About NYU: Part III, Dorms, Food & Facilities

This all mostly becomes irrelevant after Freshman year (as you will be much happier living off campus and be paying much less for--usually--better conditions, and you probably won’t care for the meal plan after having to indulge in it every day for the first year), but NYU Freshman dorms are nice as far as college dorms go. Without comparison as far as their locations, mostly basic, sometimes with wonderful views, but mostly what you’d expect of a college dorm room: repetitive furnishing, bland walls awaiting posters and photos. The newer dorms are shinier and apartment style, especially, do resemble a clean, minimal, dorm like apartment. RAs keep a (relative) close eye for incoming students, ensuring that not too many leap off of Bobst (the library) or transfer, though inevitably, some will.

Dining options are quite extensive, but not necessarily always appealing. Most of the Freshmen dorms have a dining hall or food options attached, though my Freshman dorm, Brittany hall, lacked it (as well as air conditioning or a kitchen! But it did have a ghost or two, so I suppose that made up for things).

The infamous Bobst library is not known for its aesthetic appeal--it sits in an ugly, heavy, brown-red building with dark, long stripes of windows down the sides. The inside feels oppressive and depressing, and during midterms and finals time gets extremely, extremely crowded. I prefer the lower levels of the library, which are newer and with less of a foreboding atmosphere. It’s a good resource as far as research goes, and Bobst has extensive online collections with nearly every major research center. Though their own selection seems a bit confused...copies of occasional obscure forgotten texts, yes, but lacking in seemingly basic novels.

Alternative study centers include some of the upper floors of Kimmel, the supposed student life activity center. Floors nine and seven have lounge/study areas by the open windows, which do present a rather gorgeous bird’s eye view of Washington Square Park and up. There are study lounges in Silver, the main CAS academic classroom building, and peppered elsewhere in the department buildings. I’d advise finding a nice department and nestling there, rather than vying for a spot in the already unpleasant Bobst. (The NYU Law School is especially nice, if intimidating). The school certainly lacks that grand, traditional campus appeal, but its scattered resources are, more or less, apt for most student needs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All About NYU: Part II, Academics


NYU has a just below 30 percent admissions rate, which seems relatively undaunting compared to Ivies and other near Ivy names. However, there is the matter of money to consider if you do get in, and whether that tens of thousands of loans price tag is worth it. A certain level of competence is expected, of course, as NYU is still a rather acclaimed university, but its standards are not at all impossible. If you have your heart truly set on the university, with a passionate essay, an unique talent, and an independent spirit, and solid academics to back you up, you should not be fretting about receiving that purple postcard in the mail.


I can only speak for CAS, so remember that experiences/expectations/quality of classes vary greatly between schools and even between majors.

I’m an English major and a Creative Writing minor, have taken a few Psych courses, and am otherwise oblivious to the rest of the university. CAS has quite a reputation for its core courses, a few of which you can test out of (language requirements, math and science), but most of which are unavoidable and really beat you in shape to what NYU is all about. The most notorious of those is the innocuous and tedious sounding Writing the Essay—but far from your high school essays, WTE is a rite of passage, that necessary staying up until four AM frantically typing a delirious draft filled with grand intellectual ideas, endless deadlines and three final products that determine your worth as a college student. (Or, as another NYU expert called it, the biggest ego boost afforded to Freshman. Hey! You’re in college! You can write long elaborate essays about real subjects!)

Also par for the course: a study on a specific World Culture, and Conversations of the West, a philosophy/classics course designed tax your ability to stay awake during lecture and write long essays about entirely irrelevant things. A few more required courses that you can wriggle your way out of with the right departments and appeals, and that comprises the heart of CAS academics. As you might guess, none of these classes (except maybe WTE, and always a brilliant professor) will probably dramatically change your life, or really contribute much to your college experience except increasingly irritating headaches.

The English department is good (if not all that brilliant). Required survey lectures are massive and boring, but if you get lucky with a smaller class (and avoid certain self-important professors who only care to preach his own theories) you might be in for some rewarding intellectual conversation...or be baffled by the banality of your supposedly equally brilliant classmates. It’s a somewhat popular major, so you’re likely to find gum chewing, iPhone on desk, blond hair twirling girls who are always late, though a bit less when you get into the smaller, upper level courses.

I can't speak enough praise for the Creative Writing department. The required intro to fiction and poetry class wasn’t half as painful as I expected, and although stuffed full with people wanting easy GPA padding, or convinced that they are writers when they are, in fact, entirely incompetent (adverbs and passive tense with every other sentence), not altogether unpleasant. The Advanced and Master workshops require an application to get in, but the two workshops I’ve been (taught by Irini Strauss and Marcelle Clements) have been absolutely wonderful. The professors actually, deeply care about the students’ work, are honest but encouraging, and often teach as much about life, and life as a writer, as about technique or craft. Am not sure the workshop model is necessarily the best, but at least interesting, if not entirely useful. Visiting faculty includes Johnathan Safran Foer, Zadie Smith and Junot Diaz. Those workshops are naturally harder to get into, but absolutely worth the battle.

Picking the right (and best) courses at NYU often feels like a game of Russian roulette, and even after scrutinizing RateMyProfessor and CAS's course reviews might reveal mixed messages. It's better to take a course by an interesting professor than base your decisions based on subject alone, as certain professors can make the most fascinating topics into the driest, most excruciating three hours of struggling to stay awake and feigned legible notes of your life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

All About NYU: Part I, An Overview

I remember when it was the ultimate fantasy: an university that, while not as prestigious as its uptown counterpart, carried a weight in the Hip factor that made it all the more appealing, Washington Square Park (the fat squirrels, the marvelous people) as a playground, a shopping trip to Soho (where the affordable but wildly stylish stores I could only read about in fashion blogs lined the two sides of Broadway) too accessible in the breaks between classes, and most of all, of course, New York City at my fingertips, and the delicious independence that came with it.

So, I suppose it should be no surprise that I’ve received the flurries of questions and emails about NYU, from tips of admission to hint of school life. And, as promised (though much, much delayed and with apologies), I will endeavor to provide the best perspective I can from a university I’ve gained an intimate knowledge of—if not solely based on my own experiences, then the stories and misgivings from friends, transformations and lifestyles witnessed first hand. But be warned: this isn’t what the admissions office advertises, and certainly not a comprehensive indication of what your experience might be. It’s simply my version, and if there is one thing you realize from all of this, let it be this: there is no definitive NYU experience, and realizing that you make your college life what it is will influence absolutely everything about it.


This information is easily found on NYU’s website, of course, but for brevity’s sake, NYU breaks down into a number of smaller colleges for specific fields. CAS is the biggest school of general liberal arts (where I go), Tisch and Stern are the notorious and esteemed film and business schools, respectively (each rich in stereotypes and dramatically different lifestyles), Steinhart is the misc education/arts school, and Gallatin is the make-your-own-major wonder child of an ambitious and (seemingly) diverse university.

Among students, the most frequent NYU-centric topic of conversation is the hefty tuition (a bit over 50K per year, which is comparable to most other private universities) and the legendarily terrible financial aid that accompanies it. It’s also known for being a hipster breeding ground, fond of pretension, and flocks of Freshman generally irritating to New Yorkers and upperclassmen everywhere. That and of course, its ultimate appeal: a nonexistent campus generally circling the heart of Greenwich Village, and its ever expanding ties/annoyance to the rest of the city.

Mostly what people attend NYU for is for the chance to live in heart of New York City, and you’ll find few natives in the pool of students. And for those less fond of city life, and wanted either some experience the university itself offered and/or were forced to attend from lack of better options, it generally turns out to be a big more of a disappointment than it would otherwise.

It’s a big university, but that does not mean that you’ll be missing out on any of the awkward and unlikely run ins of the hook-up from Welcome Week two years later on a crowded subway train on your way home. It does mean that you probably won’t feel at ease instantly. And will probably get lost, a lot. And will be intimidated by the subway and the whole big stretch of the rest of New York. But that passes quickly enough, and anyway, chances are if your sights are set on NYU, you are probably not craving the intimate small college experience and don’t mind a bit of adventuring to find your way from one class to the next.

Tomorrow: getting in and academics, and for the rest of this week, elaboration on anything from dorms and food to social life and whether the university may or may not be worth it. In the meantime, email me (tweexcore at gmail dot com) any specific questions or concerns you might have, and I'll do my best to see what I can clarify!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Things That Seem Okay At First But Are Really Not Quite Good Enough

+ That new street style blog by the girl with the big bangs and black lined eyes who sat a row behind you in your comparative lit lecture Sophmore year and who won’t stop asking you become to become a fan of her poorly shot photos of people who look kind of familiar and like the sort of people who gets recruited to work for American Apparel on Facebook.

+ The all organic, fresh herb roasted chicken sandwich with the exotic sounding vinegar dressing that costs $13.95 at the deli across the street from your office that everyone raves about and which you always feel vaguely guilty for buying knowing it is a bit bland and for half the price you could buy something from Subway you’d like much better, but won’t for fear of being judged.

+ The cutting edge hip, intellectual web journal that mastered the art of typography and white space in design but which features articles that either rehash recently printed features in the New York Times or might better suit the Self Improvement section at Barnes and Noble, only with everything written in reverse so that it’s ironic and witty when really it makes you click over to check your Twitter again instead.

+ The blazer you bought last weekend from that high street shop and which looked like something by that much admired (and recently deceased) designer your lover won’t stop talking about in the bright dressing room mirrors but which is just slightly too short and with buttons that look a bit too plastic to wear out without feeling embarrassed, but which you also feel too embarrassed to take back and so save for evenings when you’re sure you’ll only wear it in the subway and will take off and stuff away at the earliest possibility.

+ The poem your roommate wrote, asking for your evaluation of whether it’s good enough to warrant him quitting his day job in PR at a medium sized start up about the shadows of the moth’s wings flapping weakly against the fluorescent lights and how it mirrors his futile resistance, that you think might just be a combination of images from an Annie Dillard essay you suggested to him and buzzwords from his company’s profile, and plus an existential angle from the latest Charlie Kaufman film he watched.

What's on your list?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Little Obsessions

Lately it's the smallest pleasures...

Tea candles and delicate flower pins, sultry aerial jazz/cabarets, a colored stone on a pretty necklace, thin elegant cigarettes.

Intricate lovely stones from Evolution (a store of taxidermy, shells & butterflies, bones & beautiful rocks), and Anna Gillette's beautiful polaroid from the photoshoot (warning: there is nudity!).

The loveliest Caitlin Shearer prints, defiant, melancholy eyes, skinned knees, soft hair and tender peak of pink rosebuds on uncertain breasts.

Long trips to the library, reading in Bryant park, and walking back to the subway carrying a heavy stack of writerly books...and feeling suddenly and entirely convinced that there can be no other future, no other reality than this, a self conscious literary aesthetic.

An oversized perfect flower in hair, lingerie so decadent and exquisite from nowhere else but Agent Provocateur, platform mary janes that look just right.

And mostly, this boy. Absurd conversations and days in bed, a smile or a certain look in the eyes. The trace of a bony wrist, soft warm skin, laughing and crying all at once, countless stories told and remembered and forgotten, tables sat across, glasses drank from, fingers laced, streets walked, nights slept, arms linked, and life blissfully forgotten.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Music Monday: But I Just Want to Hold You When the Music Ends

Allo Darlin' - If Loneliness Was An Art

Theirs is a world of cardigans and Polaroids, unfeigned sweetness and cooking metaphors for love, Woody Allen references and soft dreamy colors, ukuleles and self aware pop that melts your heart. It’s twee in every respect, but with a slight wink of reality, with simple, sweet lyrics not so far from imagined conversations and muted shy smiles. Camera Obscura without all the melancholy. C86 without all the noise.

So: Marsha sits at the kitchen counter, fingering a sky blue and white striped mug with one hand (trimmed lemon yellow nails) and chin propped in the other, eyes at the sunlight from the window, the small brown bird singing his silent song on a quivering branch outside. Daydreams float by on puffs of clouds. She dreams of the boy who will dance with her, hand in hand to the sha la las of the chorus, who kisses her cheek to convince her that she’s pretty (she’s not. Just sweet). She wants just to lean her head against his after the local band strums the last chord on that wood guitar. When the breeze stirs stray strands of her loose brown hair tied back with a pink string, she closes her eyes and imagines him soothing it down, a boy who’s awfully scared and hurt, a lonely heart, two lonely hearts beating in tune to one day be together.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Love: Ricor

There is not much I know about Taiwan based photographer Ricor aside from the haunting impression of her pictures, so ethereal and soft, with incredible dreamy delicacy and a softness, a lingering beauty in the soft tresses of hair or the imprint of a softened dress. But perhaps that is enough, to step into her world of light and wonder for a quiet Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the mystery is just as much a part of the appeal...

More at her website and flickr.