Archive for June, 2012

Made Fresh for the Best: Crepe Cafe

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

As a lover of the arts and travel, I’ve always dreamed of studying abroad or traveling across Europe. Sure, NYC is beautiful; the aesthetic beauty found in everything – literally everything – is exactly what I’ve been yearning for while living in the city that never sleeps. But I still want to experience and absorb the beauties found in European architecture and, of course, the traditional European cuisine. Because I haven’t had the opportunity to go abroad to Europe, I’ve been satisfying my cravings for anything European through the restaurants and cafés within my city. Having said that, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying crepes, a type of French dessert, at the Crepe Café in 14th street.

This petite café features charming interior designs spread across the walls, and baskets full of fresh fruits and vegetables line the counter to show that they serve their customers only the freshest ingredients. With four different categories of crepes and an infinite number of drinks, Crepe Café offers some variety while still focusing on its main item–crepes. Bo, one of my co-interns, and I each started off with a drink. She decided on the Sunny Day smoothie, an iced blended drink with fresh orange, mango, and banana, and I ordered the almond bubble milk tea with pearl tapioca. Both of our drinks were made fresh and on the spot. The smoothie was well-blended with a mix of sweet, sour, and tropical tastes, cool enough to fight off the summer heat, while the almond bubble tea was creamy and milky, with just the right amount of well-soaked pearl tapioca.

As for the crepes, Bo and I started with the chicken and mozzarella, one of the savory varieties. I was surprised by Crepe Café’s extremely hearty servings, with crepes much larger than those of many other New York creperies. The chicken and mozzarella crepe consisted of fresh spinach as well, adding an extra freshness to the already savory and cheesy dish. The combination of chewy chicken breast with the rich mozzarella cheese under a bed of thin crepe sheets had an addicting taste that kept both of us wanting more. We therefore followed this up with the Nutella fresh strawberry and banana crepe. The Nutella crepe was packed with fresh fruits and a heaping amount of Nutella spread across the crepe sheets. With the sour strawberries mixed in with sweet Nutella and bananas, this dessert crepe was the perfect finishing touch to our meal.

Chicken and Mozzarella Crepe


Nutella Fresh Strawberry & Banana Crepe

Crepe Café has such an extensive list of crepes and drinks that I’m already looking forward to going back to try some different combinations. With a firm emphasis on  fresh ingredients, Crepe Café definitely offers the best for its customers. I’m confident that almost everyone will find something to suit their tastes at Crepe Café, particularly in light of the variety of the menu and sizable portions. Crepe Café is a great place to go for lunch or tea with your friends, especially after a long day of classes – its crepes and refreshing drinks should help you unwind from your stress.

Enjoy a free bubble tea or smoothie with a purchase of any crepe at Crepe Cafe using this coupon from the Campus Clipper!

Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter
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Classic Barbeque Without the Wait: BBQue’s Smoke Shack

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Summer is the time for picnics; picnic season means it’s time for barbeques. While growing up in Korea, the term “barbeque” only meant the zesty sauce that McDonald’s gave out with my four-piece chicken nuggets. It was only after moving to the states that I came to understand the origin of this word. After indulging in my first barbeque during a summer night in California, lounging around in my uncle’s backyard, I realized that America was the land of good food. Barbeque involves cooking meat slowly over a smoked fire and then covering it in a sweet and tangy sauce. Despite my love for classic barbeque, I’d been disappointed in my food search in NYC– until I visited BBQue’s Smoke Shack on 6th avenue.

Upon walking into the restaurant, I instantly fell in love with the barn-meets-cowboy interior, southern antique pictures hanging upon walls of wooden logs. The menu is filled with traditional southern foods, ranging from pulled pork to collard greens. Joe Cutolo, the owner of BBQue’s Smoke Shack, briefly explained the menu, recommending the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw. In Cutolo’s own words, BBQue’s Smoke Shack is “great BBQ served fast, and an alternative to fast food”. With its focus on only pit smoked barbeque meat untainted by preservatives, its no wonder the restaurant is enjoying its current popularity. Hordes of people people came in seeking meat and went out laden with trays of pulled pork sandwiches.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw and Waffle Fries

Stuffed Burger with American Cheese

My meal came out quickly and I was able to dig into the famous pulled pork sandwich. I quickly understood just why Joe had recommended this to me after the first bite. This was BBQue’s Smoke Shack’s finest, with the pit smoked taste fully integrated into every part of the pork mixed with their special barbeque sauce; I knew that this was the type of barbeque I’d been searching for. Tender meat, fresh and tangy homemade coleslaw, crunchy waffle fries: this was the perfect combination of a well-done southern meal. My friend had opted for their stuffed burger and waffle fries, which she said was cooked to perfection as well. We sat in silence as we buried our faces in our trays of food, only lifting our heads up to tell each other of how great the meal was.

With its options of dine-in, take-out, or delivery, BBQue’s Smoke Shack might be a busy, hungry college student’s dream come true. BBQue’s Smoke Shack will also be incorporating draft beer and wine into its menu soon, opening up its drink selection to a wider variety of customers. Personally, I think a cool, refreshing cup of beer is just the thing to go with the restaurant’s zesty sandwiches. I also loved the laidback ambiance and friendly service, and I can’t wait to return to try their Smoke Shack ribs and more of their southern styled sides. Offering flavored wings and platters of pulled meats as well, their classic barbeque menu is enough to remind students of the barbeques they had with their families back at home. My experience at BBQue’s Smoke Shack was fantastic and has convinced me that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed for speed of preparation. So take a trip down to BBQue’s Smoke Shack– it’s a meal worth the subway ride.


Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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Thai Twist on Modern Chic: Cafetasia

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Union Square is famous for many things: countless union protests, the summer farmer’s market, the myriad shops and restaurants. I’ve only recently become acquainted with the neighborhood and have been discovering many hidden restaurants in the process. With many of my friends attending NYU just around the corner from Union Square, I’ve seen many pictures on Facebook of one particular restaurant that seemed to be a favorite. Cafetasia, the restaurant in question, offers Thai cuisine at an affordable price so that college students like myself can enjoy a quality meal without draining their wallets. Standing on 38 East 8th Street, Cafetasia is a spacious restaurant, dimly lit with a chic, modern interior. Surrounded by wooden tiles with mirrors placed in between them, the entire restaurant exudes a hip, romantic vibe.

Upon being seated my friend and I decided on the early bird special which goes from 4PM to 7PM. Luckily for us, it was ten before seven so we were able to get an appetizer, an entrée, and a drink for just $11. We both started out with the spring rolls, which came out to our table fairly quickly. The spring rolls were cooked with an extra crunch, and in a break from the usual, the sauce came drizzled on top rather than as a dipping sauce on the side. I especially liked the presentation of our appetizers, particularly because dipping anything in a sauce plate tends to leave a mess and does not leave room for double dipping.

Thai Spring Rolls

For my entrée, I ordered the shrimp pad Thai (bottom left), one of my favorite Thai dishes, and my friend ordered the grilled pork tenderloin with sautéed vegetables (bottom right). The pad Thai was a bit too salty for my friend’s taste, though I enjoyed it, finding the mixture of vegetables, flat rice noodles, and shrimp delectable. The grilled pork tenderloin came with a sauce that hinted of apple cider, and the two combined together well to complete the dish. Cooked well-done, the pork was rougher than the type of meat that I usually eat, but because it was sliced into thin strips, I had no difficulty chewing. As part of the early bird special, my friend ordered the Thai iced coffee and I the Thai iced tea. The sweet, woody taste of my Thai iced tea accompanied the pad Thai wonderfully, adding more exotic flavors to the already flavorful dish and giving me a full taste of Thailand.

I always enjoy a good Thai meal and I’m always on the lookout for the best pad thai. Cafetasia was beautifully decorated, and I was satisfied with the overall ambiance of the restaurant. Lively and modern, Cafetasia is definitely an “it” spot for college students looking to get away from their mundane dorm lives. With its special vibe and affordable menu, Cafetasia’s popularity amongst local eaters and even food-travelers like me should come as no shock. If you’re in the neighborhood or want to take a trip to Union Square, don’t hesitate to try out Cafetasia – you’ll walk away satisfied with their reasonably priced, high-quality, exotic meal.

Take a look at Cafetasia’s menu at:

Use this coupon from the Campus Clipper for a discount on a Thai meal that you’ll fall in love with!

Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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The Perks of Creating Your Own Burger: Top Brgr

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

There’s something about eating a well-cooked burger that leaves so many people with a great deal of satisfaction and contentment. I’m one of those people. As you have seen from my previous posts, I’m crazy about burgers. Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Top Brgr, conveniently located on 103 West 14 Street about ten feet from the train station. As I walked in I was greeted by Ron Raykin, the owner of Top Brgr, who helpfully explained the menu to me.

Top Brgr takes great pride in serving 100% Kobe beef in all its burgers, raising the bar to how a model burger should be prepared. Aside from beef burgers, Top Brgr also provides a vegetarian option with its veggie burgers. In creating its burgers, Top Brgr allows customers to make their own, giving them a bun-and-patty base with unlimited toppings to choose from. Starting with the burger basics, all sauces, dressings, and vinaigrettes toppings are unrestricted with no extra charge. Then there are the super toppings, which include different types of cheese, mushrooms, and cooked onions, these costing only a dollar extra. Finally, Top Brgr offers extraordinarily unique “super duper toppings” that cannot be found in other burger houses for only $2.50 extra, and I was extremely impressed with the variety of toppings available. For my mini Kobe burger (4 oz.), I wanted to make my burger something that I’ve never tried before, so I decided to put avocado and red & black caviar inside my lettuce-onion-cheddar burger. Having caviar on a burger may sound strange, especially because fish products and meat are not commonly found in the same dish; however, putting caviar in my burger might just be one of the best decisions I’ve made over the past 19 years of my life. The caviar’s distinct taste blended perfectly with the smoky grilled flavor of the patty, making me savor every bite of the mini burger.

Mini Kobe Burger with Caviar & Avocado

Aside from the burger, I also ordered Cajun fries from their extensive list of fries, and I found my hand continuing to reach for them even after I had finished the entire basket by myself. Richly dusted with Cajun pepper and salt, the abundance of zesty flavor in the fries was enough to make me crave them as I write this review. To top everything off, the vanilla milkshake that I had ordered brought me back to my childhood of eating at an all-American diner with my family, with its perfect blend of sweet and creamy. All of the ice-cream and milkshakes in Top Brgr are homemade, giving them the intense richness and taste that would make anybody return to try all of their flavors.

Cajun Fries

Top Brgr’s menu doesn’t stop at just burgers, fries, and milkshakes. They also offer flavored chicken wings, onion rings, salads, corn on the cob, fried Oreos, and fried pickles, or as they call them, “frickles”. My visit to Top Brgr was superb and I strongly recommend it to people of all ages and tastes. With so much diversity in its menu, Top Brgr definitely offers the entire package of good food, variety, and environment. Where else would you be able to have caviar on your burger for the price a college student can afford?

Visit to check out their beyond-amazing, variety packed menu!


Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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Poetry Review: David Mutschlecner’s Enigma and Light – Not Your Everyday Ekphrasis

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

“Enigma and Light offers up a poetry unlike anything I’ve recently encountered: intelligent, fearless, engrossed in the rigors of its own journey.” – Elizabeth Robinson

      The exercise of ekphrasis – a literary description or critique of a visual work of art, intended to illuminate an essence which reveals itself (perhaps exclusively) in the dialogue between two mediums   – is not new. Dating back to ancient times, the term’s original definition extended to a description of anything: person, place, art, or even experience. Rooted in the Greek, ek and phrasis, translating to “out” and “speak;” to literally “speak out” to or identify an inanimate object by name. Unoffically originating in Plato’s discussion of the forms, the rhetorical device can be found throughout literary and philosophical history. Socrates and Phaedrus had ekphrastic discussions. Virgil used it in the Aeneid; Homer in the Iliad; Melville in Moby Dick; Cervantes in Don Quixote. But perhaps the most demonstrative – and notable – use of ekphrasis comes to us in Oscar Wilde’s Sui generis The Picture of Dorian Gray. While it also has robustly traceable roots in poetry, from the work of the Pre-Ralphaelite Brotherhood to William Carlos Williams to W.H Auden, the most contemporary, prominent example is found in the eponymous opening poem of John Ashbery’s Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (which of course takes its name from Parmigianino’s famous micro-painting). To put it mildly, Ashbery exploded on to the scene following the book’s release, a worthy recipient of what has been dubbed the “Triple Crown” of poetry awards (the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award). Ekphrastic poetry has, ever since– more due to Self-portrait‘s notoriety than comparative critical reception – lived in the shadow of Ashbery’s landmark collection.

That is, until now.

David Mutschlecner’s newest book of poetry (author of Sign and Esse) titled Enigma and Light is an exquisitely crafted (a capacity which Ahsahta Press has recently exhibited industry-leading proficiency for) intertextual gateway to a world whose borders are typically only penetrated via hallucinogenic/augmented imaginative assistance. Past its mesmerizing grey-canvas wrapping – once an adequate attention is attained – inside one is greeted with familiar names unfamiliarly juxtaposed to familiar names, as titles. Mutschlecner adamantly takes his departure from the rhetoric’s Platonic origins, and then proceeds to gracefully transcend it.

My own personal experience with ekphrastic discourse goes back to freshman history in high-school, where I had the serendipitous pleasure of encountering one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. Not only was his knowledge encyclopedic, but his diverse and expansive array of areas of expertise would put most encyclopedias to shame (he memorized libraries while we refused to commit even the Bill of Rights). Yet, it was one fairly well known anecdote, haphazardly proclaimed, that has managed to stick with me some 8 years later. Mr. McShane was in the habit of playing music in class, which given his impeccable taste, was a welcome addition to an otherwise traditionally obtuse syllabus. On one such occasion, without warning (as he was also in the habit of doing) he played “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan, followed by abruptly slamming the pause button (as he was never in the habit of doing) after the line, “you don’t need the weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” If it wasn’t a Dylan song, I don’t know that I, or anyone else in the class, would have even realized the words prior to this anomalous occasion (keep in mind this was around the advent of “artists” such as Lil’Wayne and E40). Of course we would eventually learn that the song and the lyric in particular, was the inspiration behind the Weather Underground, a radical organization started in 1969 which went on to become one of the faces of the New Left.

Dylan somehow (this is another article altogether) captured a zeitgeist buried in young people that they could not bring into aperture themselves. In his art, his message, his essence was the Rosetta Stone they had been waiting for to translate their own ideals (which were more or less parallel to Dylan’s in Blues) into a full-blown movement. To put it simply, it spoke to them, in a language they could finally understand.

David Mutschlecner accomplishes a similar goal, tantalizing his own latent curiosities to uncover ones in the reader he or she didn’t know were there. The poetry grounds its tension in the struggle of a man drowning in ideas and a faith that seem to be at odds. What occurs in Enigma and Light is rare, and does so immediately. A few pages into the opening poem, as David Peak of The Rumpus keenly observes, Mutschlecner gives us six lines that work as a quasi-micro-orientation, a layered ekphrastic invitation itself of what is to come, a revelation of the pulse that sustains each of his scintillating conversations.

“Martin’s marks are Stein’s
word stipplings,
both inter-patterning one another

as they could not
without the clear delineation—
each word girded by the grid.”

This is the precious commodity with which the poet performs his alchemy. The marks and words which inter-pattern one another, the invisible thread of thought which extends beyond eras, mediums, and death itself between artists and thinkers (and us all) alike. Mutschlecner states in the author’s statement that “seeking the inherit similarity in dissimilars is the work of the Holy Spirit;… this is, to me the highest goal of poetry” (which, unsurprisingly, could just as easily could be the words of Ashbery – less “Holy Spirit”), a pursuit satisfying not just an artistic hunger, but metabolic need to digest the work of those who title his extrapolative discussions. On the surface, Mutschlecner‘s work is a serial poem, but a more perspicacious description would be an amalgam of philosophical discourse, an extended and fragmented essay on art, a treatise on form and message and meaning; a meditation on medium.

Gertrude Stein and Agnes Martin, Martin Heidegger and Ezra Pound, Thomas Aquinas and Emily Dickinson, Robert Duncan and Dante Alighieri, Joan Mitchell and Charles Olson, Georges Rouault and Robert Motherwell: just a selection of the intriguing – to say the least – pairings which compose this unusual and beautiful work. Names like Herman Melville, Nicholas of Cusa, Robert Ryman, Karl Rahner, Saint Faustina and the Gee’s Bend Quilters, alongside so many more, are used by Mutschlecner to sketch a stimulating, abstract, time-bending map of voices he follows until excavating the fault lines where centuries of celebrated art and ideas intersect.

You might be saying to yourself, this idea seems fresh, interesting, intelligent and perhaps even worth the purchase price on its own. But it might also seem a bit pretentious, implying a necessary body of knowledge very few, if any, potential readers will possess upon checkout. Despite the fact that Mutschlecner’s lifetime of intense study and obsession with detail are (albeit quite elegantly) on open display in essentially ever y other line, this is not necessarily the case. This is, because, and not despite, the premise the work takes. By choosing the unknowable, highly subjective domain that exists in these contrived discourses between artists of his choice; using settings mundane as empty rooms and cracks of sunlight sneaking through veiled curtains as his meditative arenas; a vigorous stripping of line and length, producing a perfectly rationed minimalistic prose; Mutschlecner provides ample avenues of accessibility into his own idiosyncratic thought process and associations. The “world view” which reveals itself at the bottom of the glass of this cerebral concoction is an original one. It is a view that comes more and more into focus with every poem, with the diction, pace and measured metronome of each consistently aesthetically pleasing. The grey area that Mutschlecner’s unique combination of knowledge and inquiry inhabits is a place opened to the reader, where he is then able to infuse his own philosophy and curiosities to a discussion that never ends, and if we are to side with our guide, perhaps never was. A place where the patterns of being that are generated only appear to do so; they have been there all along, our experience is simply the recognition, the girding of each word to the grid.   Consider an excerpt from “Karl Rahner / The Dusky Seaside Sparrow”:

“There is no improvement
can spark substance. The message dead
in this bottle, and yet the message

still, is read: Dusky—“Orange”
—Last one
Died 16 June 87

tagged to the lid. . . .”

It is in such benign everyday moments, ones we all must tolerate, that our most deeply ingrained (whether through internal or external means) patterns seem to correlate; a phenomena for which Mutschlecner has (perhaps unknowingly) conditioned his eye. It is for the same reasons, we are able to make that eye our own, to see from a place where allusions are the horizon on which “thought rolls and turns and” can be followed to gaze upon our most substantial, and lasting constructs: those composed of agreed-upon meaning.

I highly recommend this new collection poetry not just because of its sublime musicality, but it is educational, provocative, and demands an active and thinking mind beginning to end – most of which without the reader even knowing it. If you’re like me, then it won’t take very many lines to inspire the inner artist in you – regardless of whatever you consider your primary walk of life – so why not use the student advantage provided (below) by your friends at #CampusClipper for some awesome art supplies at Da Vinci (they have a great selection of moleskine notebooks too in case Enigma inspires the poet or writer in you as well!).

Mahad Zara, The University of Arizona and Columbia University, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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A Short History of Chocolate

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Chocolate: it’s sweet, it’s brown, it’s everywhere and in almost everything- chocolate covered bacon anyone? But what we’ve come to known today as a staple of the confectionery shop has its roots in much more bitter and slightly bloody beginnings.

Chocolate comes from the cacao seeds which grow directly on the trunk of the cacao tree, native to tropical regions of Latin America. Chocolate has it’s root in the Aztec word “xocoatl,” meaning bitter water, it is the name given to the very bitter drink brewed from cacao seeds. The drink was bitter and spicy, a sharp contrast to the milky and sweet chocolate we consume today. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means food of the gods. Mayans believed the cacao tree was discovered by the gods and given to humans. Aztecs believed Quetzacoatal discovered cacao in a mountain with other plant foods. Aztec Emperor Montezuma is alleged to have consumed 50 cups of xocoatl a day. Both Mayans and Aztecs considered cacao drink divine and used it for sacred rituals of birth, marriage, and death.  Cacao was only drunk by men and considered toxic to women and children (Theobromines in chocolate indeed make it toxic to animals). Aztec sacrifice victims were given a gourd of cacao, with a splash of the blood of previous victims, to cheer up victims who were too depressed to participate in the customary ritual dance before death (I find this only slightly comparable to my 4AM tear stained Lady Godiva indulgences as I weep silently about the one who got away). This makes sense considering that chocolate has been found to affect serotonin levels in the brain. Alcohol fermented from the pulp of the cacao tree was consumed as early as 1400 BCE. So valued was cacao, that seeds from the tree were used as currency in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations, and in the America Revolutionary war it was used as part of soldier rations.

When Spanish invaders landed in Latin America, cacao was one of the drinks served to conquistadors. The Spanish hated the brew, calling it a “bitter drink for pigs,” and it only became popular in Spain when sugar cane or honey was added. Thus began what we have come to know as chocolate. The cacao seeds were dried, roasted, shelled, ground, and then liquefied to make chocolate liqueur (it contains no actual alcohol). In 1828 a Dutch chemist made powdered chocolate by removing the fat from chocolate liqueur, producing cocoa butter, and treating the nonfat mixture with alkaline salts to alleviate the bitter taste, and was later known as “Dutch” chocolate. Previously, chocolate was considered a drink rather than a solid food. The first chocolate bar was sold by Fry’s chocolate factory located in Bristol England in 1847. Later, Cadbury and Nestle pioneered milk chocolate into what we know today.

While milk chocolate is high in fats and sugars, dark chocolate has been proven to have medicinal benefits. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that benefit the body.  According to an article in the Journal of American Medical Association, polyphenol rich dark chocolate was shown to improve blood pressure in those with mild high blood pressure. However the milk in white and milk chocolate may interfere with the body’s absorption of antioxidants. When it comes to health, the darker the chocolate the better. However, this isn’t an open invitation to gorge on Hershey’s Extra Dark. The benefits come with a significant caloric price. As with most things, all is well in moderation.


Whether you’re treating yourself after a long day, getting a gift for someone, or trying to cheer yourself up before ritual sacrifice, chocolate is the way to go.


Pick up some hot chocolate or coffee at The Bean.

Catherine, Hudson County Community College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (Come to Terms with Unhappiness)

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Hannah (Mia Farrow) is caring and giving. She’s closed off emotionally.

Lee (Barbara Hershey) is beautiful and passionate. She’s sleeping with Hannah’s husband.

Holly (Dianne West) is funny and vivacious. She’s a recovering coke addict.

Hannah and Her Sisters


These are Hannah and her sisters, the stars of Woody Allen’s drama about the complicated relationships of a family of middle-class New Yorkers. Though one could argue for the inclusion of and their Men at the end of the title, this story is really about the three sisters and the intertwining of their romantic lives. Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine) becomes involved with Lee, while Hannah’s ex-husband Mickey (Woody Allen), who once dated Holly to disastrous results, finds himself facing an existential crisis after suffering a cancer scare.

Some parts of Allen’s film feel reminiscent of a Raymond Carver story, with its examination of New England, upper-middle class dissatisfaction. It’s distinctly lighter in tone, though, with the usual Allen assurance that even though life’s dull and complicated, we might as well enjoy it when we can. One can probably see the director’s own struggle with faith and religion in Mickey’s search for God (in one amusing sequence, Mickey goes home to tell his Jewish parents he’s decided to become a Catholic).

Micky hits bottom


Caine and Hershey both deliver powerful performances as adulterous lovers Elliot and Lee. Though Lee conceals a quiet passion in every glance, it is the devoted, bespectacled Elliot who surprises us with his professions of undying love, especially when one considers Hannah’s caring nature. Then again, it is this very aspect of Hannah’s personality—her self-sufficiency, both in life and in bed—that Elliot finds so difficult to endure. As for Lee, she feels stifled by her partner Frederick, a misanthropic artist who claims that Lee is his only connection to the world. Feeling burdened and perhaps even a little dismayed by the notion of being a recluse’s anchor to reality, Lee decides to take the risk of seeing her sister’s husband behind the doors of a hotel room.

Hannah and Her Sisters succeeds most brilliantly through its inclusion of moments of internal dialogue on the part of the characters. In one scene, Holly berates herself for not being more forward as she travels in a taxi with friend/competitor April (Carrie Fisher) and their mutual love interest. In another, Elliot urges himself to be cautious and prudent about revealing his feelings for Lee. A moment later he has pressed his lips upon her mouth in a desperate profession of love. These scenes display the pull between desire and social expectation in the lives of Allen’s New Yorkers.

These characters are not the victims of disaster. Don’t look for car crashes or unexpected declarations of paternity. Even the cancer storyline couldn’t be more different from your usual soap opera fare. But problems lurk below the surface, simmering slowly, sometimes hot and sometimes cold. Despite the safety of material comfort, marital and existential happiness remain elusive–always sought, but unappreciated when found.

As with many of Allen’s films, the characters are followed with almost claustrophobic focus and regularity. This neurotic intensity of the camera denies us any grand shots of New York, or even sometimes just a little room to breathe and gather our thoughts. Though some may find it uncomfortable, it reminds me that this moody actor/director called Woody Allen loves people. It’s not a romantic love, nor is it unchanging. Rather, it’s a love that watches with fascination, equal parts amused and enchanted by the absurdity of the world.

Enjoy our great student discounts today with this coupon for Ballaro Caffe Prosciutteria!

Andres Oliver, Emory University
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Ray Bradbury Tribute: Fahrenheit 451 – “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

“”One of the most brilliant overall jobs of social satire.”
The Nation

“My art is on its final breaths, and chances are it will be dead, buried, and forgotten before most of you walk out of here with degrees.” The seismic words fell so hard on the 400 undergraduate shoulders surrounding me in an ASU lecture mega-hall that I can still vividly recall nearly falling out of my seat. The class was titled “Mass Media & Society” and the speaker was not (to everyone’s delight) our elegant, and aging instructor – the excruciatingly eccentric “original Dr.FUN” (who literally wrote the book on how media portrays sex, love, and relationships and its consequences) – but rather a previous radio executive and disc jockey, and current “expert scholar”; which apparently included spending time in front of groups like an intro elective course at a public university. Regardless of his overt melodramatic undertone, the speaker’s sentiment was hard not to empathize with as an aspiring creative type myself. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this industry insider was – quite broadly – referring to all the “cool new shit (his words, not mine)” that was causing radio to progressively fade into obscurity until only a handful of super-stations would remain. To be more specific, his presentation focused on the greatest threat to radio since television itself: internet in cars. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together to realize that once moto-WiFi is as common as removable cup-holders that most people – particularly those with roots elsewhere than the state on their license plate – if given a choice out of every radio station on the planet, will pick something other than their commercial-littered local indie jukebox for the drive home.

Assuming you possess an average reader’s attention span, right now you’re probably thinking, “cool story bro (assuming you also possess an average reader’s courtesy), but what does this have to do with Ray Bradbury, his death, or Fahrenheit 451 – you know, the book this review is supposed to be on.” Beyond the painfully obvious parallel of “technology is killing art” theme that F451 is remembered for (among other reasons), here, right before my eyes – in whatever relatively infinitesimal, isolated form – was Bradbury’s meticulously crafted nightmare coming true. Something, unfortunately, that is now – given a watchful and interested eye – observable on a daily basis. It wasn’t just that technology like internet-enabled Honda’s would be the death of the “his art” (partly, yes) that precipitated the invisible tears I saw running down the side of the speaker’s face for 65 minutes. It was what that death meant for the rest of us.

Ray Bradbury is one of only a small handful of names that would undoubtedly be on every list of nominees for the Mt. Rushmore of Science Fiction (if such an awesome monument were ever to be erected). With his place among an echelon of genre juggernauts such as Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein; his influence on future masters in their own right including Ursula Le Guin ,Phillip K. Dick, and Neil Gaiman; his work garnering comparison over the years to the likes of George Orwell – with over 500 publications and a laundry list of awards; Mr. Bradbury’s passing is a significant one.

You might say it was peculiar that I found myself researching a secret bookstore called Brazenhead in New York the day it happened; a physical symptom of Bradbury’s great diagnosis. You might say it was peculiar that the day before I was sketching an idea for a piece on outdoor libraries and breathtaking bookshelves; more attempts at fighting a war that is already lost. You might say it was less peculiar that almost every writer/literary/culture/arts/creative/humane type I knew had something to say in the form of everything from status updates, Tweets, and blog entries; to using what other great writers had to say about this great writer to say what he meant to them. To say the very least, on June 6th, 2012 there was a painfully gaping hole pierced into the heart of the American cultural landscape. And while I am in no way qualified to write an ode worthy of patching even a pixel of it, I however can pay homage by using this week’s first review to re-visit one of his most paramount works.

The occasion that lead to my first reading of Fahrenheit 451 is a fairy universal one: assigned reading. Oddly enough, I originally encountered the title on my preparatory summer reading list for sophomore chemistry class (a coincidence that led to some very imaginative interpretations of the title, as I grew up around adults who strictly read, and shelved, the classics – in the most archaic sense of the term). Four-hundred and fifty-one degrees: the temperature at which paper burns. The reference to which perhaps is reason why the first thing that most people think of in regards to the book is book burning – or censorship – itself. The publishers of the mass market paperback version – Del Ray Books – certainly seemed to think so, adorning the more commercial than praising byline of “The Classic Bestseller About Censorship – More Important Now Than Ever Before.” The latter half of which is more interesting, given the edition came out in 1987, as the observation remained a consistent one over the course of the book’s 50+ year lifetime. Ironically enough, less than a fifth of the class had read the book when the first day of class eventually came. But that didn’t stop Guy Montag from – horrible pun incoming – igniting a debate that an innocent onlooker might mistake for an actual scholastic discussion. This of course, speaks less in support for the matter, and more for the subject. No one wanted to be in a generation that was too dumb to realize that it was too dumb to realize anything. Wherein of course lays the dilemma, if we ever did reach that point, how would we know?

What has always impressed me most about Bradbury’s masterpiece is the immersive world he creates. A quick survey of only a few reviews over the past half-century will tell you I am not alone. While Fahrenheit’s America is a comprehensive one that stylishly emanates the dismal and spiritless aura Bradbury intended with a visceral force, the reason its setting is so remarkable (to me anyway) is how it defies all genre conventions, yet remains one of its staple achievements. Science fiction novels are supposed to be filled with flying cars, shiny clothes that talk, sleek gravity-and-architecture defying mountains of pristine steel, ubiquitous bliss and void of disease. But there is none of this in Fahrenheit 451. In fact the only discernible difference between our world and the one Bradbury constructed in 1953 is that books aren’t banned and that firefighters are still just that – and not firestarters. Hell, are the homes that Bradbury’s characters inhabit, with their four-walled television surroundings, igloos of mind-numbing media, any different than our iPhone-tablet-notebook-cinema-3DTV-HD modern day cyber-cemented environment? In this fictional society, happiness is commoditized, allotted, and distributed; and the proliferation of books – thoughts and ideas – only reduces the supply, the quality, while also most importantly, raises the price. Perhaps Montag’s boss, Chief Beatty, says it best:

“Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. (61)”

However, this book is not about book burning or censorship. As Bradbury himself has openly stated, it is about how television has corroded the literate circuits of society’s neurology. It is about the virus that makes it more appealing to drool upon one’s Cheetos covered flesh in a La-Z-Boy than browsing on one’s knees in some dusty library to find a relevant 10 hour cerebral journey. It is about the danger of believing in the “sense of motion without moving.” It is about the burning of culture. At their core (at least in theory), our technology is always intended to enrich the human experience. Facebook was supposed to make it easier to connect. Twitter was supposed to make it easier to communicate. Television was supposed to make it easier to tell stories. The internet was supposed to bring us all together. Even with appropriate historical deviations from these (admittedly trivial reductions) mentioned, the intentions can, more or less, be generalized as noble. And the results don’t necessarily support the opposite as the current digital-zeitgeist might suggest. Some people do use technology to enrich life, rather than permitting its erosion, as this TED talk by Stefana Broadbent eloquently, and empirically, expresses.

In other words, Bradbury’s message is not “we should say to hell with the machine”, but rather, “we will find ourselves to be hell if we become like the machine.” We allowed Facebook to turn friendship into a list of “friends” and preferring to “like” instead of love. We allowed Twitter to turn talking to tweeting. We kept watching Jersey Shore instead of The History Channel (or were inexplicably late in recognizing art like The Wire). The two sides at war here are not technology and man, but rather two forms of happiness: the hedonist and the spiritualist. Happiness doesn’t come in megabytes of data; it comes from taking mega bites out of the source. Books as they stand, both in Bradbury’s time as much as our own (though this is less and less becoming the case) were merely the review of the fruit – intended to entice. They are merely vessels for carrying the history of those who “braved the storm of life and lived” so that the rest of us may know that such a courage exists in us all. Bradbury says it best, ventriloquizing through ex-professor and Montag’s second significant mentor, Faber:

“It would be funny if it were not serious. It’s not books you need; it’s some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the ‘parlor families’ today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us. (82).”

So, go forth and find your own cosmic sewing machine; whether it burns at 451 degrees or not. Because otherwise the same flames will consume your exposed, naked mind – and you’ll believe in the “sense of motion, without moving at all”. Chances are you can find a copy of Fahrenheit 451 sitting on one of those side-walk book buys on your way to or from work (especially during the next few weeks).

And in honor of Ray Bradbury and intelligent thinking and meaningful human interaction everywhere – take a trip out to the New York Public Library. Remind yourself of the breathtaking resource tucked away in the heart of downtown. Read Fahrenheit 451 in a way and place similar to how and where it was written. While you’re at it, either before or after, stop by BareBurger for a great bite – and take advantage of the great student discount (below) provided by your friends at #CampusClipper!

Mahad Zara, The University of Arizona and Columbia University, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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The Museum of the American Indian

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Right off the Bowling Green subway stop in the financial district is a free museum worth visiting. The National Museum of the American Indian is in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. A great building that represents  international trade and exploration now commemorates the native people and culture of America.

Admission to this museum is free because it is an extension of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Unlike the museum in Washington, DC, there is a focus on the art. American Indians from the Andes, Amazon, Planes, and Caribbean each have a unique style in the way they design and make their clothing, pottery and jewelry.  The headdresses alone demonstrate the uniqueness of each cultural area from Patagonia to the Arctic.

I went the museum with an artist friend who spent two and a half hours in the museum sketching. I was not bored at all even though the exhibits should only take an hour to look through. I think the reason why I enjoyed my experience so much was because the everyday items were displayed like art, in glass cabinets and under dimmed lights. I was compelled to view each piece not only as representations of each nation but as individual art. There were many unique pieces from a statue made out of seal materials to look like the statue of liberty to a Chimu Jar representing a squash.  The part that makes this museum most worth seeing is the collection of contemporary art at the end of the Infinity of Nations Exhibit. Each piece represents the lives and culture of the American Indian in unique and creative ways. One of the most unique pieces is made out of hubcaps, tires, chair legs, and PVC plastic. These items are arranged together to look like a walrus. I found this small wing contained the most stunning and moving pieces of the museum.

If you are looking for a cultural and artistic experience in New York this is a museum I recommend. I was reminded that even everyday items like a bowl can be considered art. I was inspired to view everything I experience with a more artistic eye. As I walked home from the museum I noticed the artistry in things I used to overlook, from cracks in sidewalks to patterns in people’s clothes.  It is amazing what a little free culture can do to one’s frame of mind.

After your visit to the National Museum of the American Indian I recommend going across the street towards the river for a great view of the statue of liberty and continue your cultural experience at  Oaxacana Revolucion de Taco.

Shailyn Tavella, NYU 2013, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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The Forgotten People: Gangs of New York

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Gangs of New York

I’ve never gone on one of those websites that does your family tree for you, but I can understand the draw. The thought that we creatures of Apple, Walmart, Facebook, and suburbia may count kings and queens among our ancestors is exciting, or incredibly depressing if you think about it. Nations want the same thing. They create myths surrounding their origins, as if playing king of the sandbox with the rest of the world—“we were here first, we’ve always been here.” America is a young nation, so we have no King Arthur and his knights. But we do have the myth of Opportunity, and considering two centuries of almost uninterrupted immigration, one could say it’s a commodity well marketed. In Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese follows the myth to its source—New York City. It was here that Irish, Chinese, and Eastern European immigrants poured in by the boatload, and it was here they found a city as much a window into opportunity as a comic parody of that same myth.

Scorsese’s epic unfolds in the Five Points, the meeting-place of five streets in Lower Manhattan where both immigrants and “natives” were thrown together in squalor and in blood. After the death of his father, “Priest Vallon” (Liam Neeson), in a literal war between the Irish and the native gangs led by “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel-Day Lewis in usual top form), Amsterdam (Cian McCormack, later Leonardo DiCaprio) spends fifteen years an orphan in Hellgate.  Though sworn to avenge his father after his release, he finds himself a gang member back in Five Points under the protection of the very man he seeks to kill. Cutting bleeds men and pigs with equal pleasure and precision, however, so any thought of murder must also be accompanied by consideration for the tender parts of one’s own torso.

Through Amsterdam’s eyes, we see not only his own personal quest for vengeance but also the unfolding of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. In one particularly compelling sequence, Amsterdam’s and Cutting’s respective Irish and native forces go head to head as New York bubbles over with the heat of the Draft Riots, which were aimed at overturning Lincoln’s conscription of men into the Union army. What a time it was, Scorsese tells us—a time when the army of the Union fired upon the same men they would have join them, and a time when foreign and native fought with knife and cudgel in the alleys of the city as North and South took turns facing the barrel of the cannon upon the field.


Odd loyalties were formed and broken. Though Jimmy Spoils (Larry Gilliard Jr. of The Wire), the sole black member of one of the Five Points’ own band of thieves, once may have found acceptance among the Irish—both minorities, both hated and feared—when the riots break out, to an angry mob he is the cause of Lincoln’s war and competition for their labor. Amsterdam and love interest Jenny (Cameron Diaz) find him stretched out upon the stones of Five Points, his body lit by candlelight in a row of a hundred others nameless.

Scorsese no doubt takes some liberties with the myth of New York—though not so many as one might think. Many of the gangs depicted in the film operated throughout the 19th century, and Five Points may have been even more terrifying in real life than it was in the movie. And Hellcat Maggie, the wild-haired gangstress with the sharpened teeth and claws? Really existed.

I went walking down South Street Seaport the other day with some friends. The street carts were out selling Dippin Dots and lemonade, and there atop the quaint rows of brick houses that once would have greeted the merchants as they unloaded at port sit the shining logos of Abercrombie, cafes, and bars full of the young and the fashionable. Suspend this enchanting touristic vision for a moment, however, and imagine what this might once have been. One of many doorways onto a city of multitudes, where Americans were not yet a people but people, merely. Suspend disbelief, and you can almost imagine one of Scorsese’s young rogues leaning casually against a back alley wall, hat turned down to conceal his eyes. Imagine this, and listen to the thousand voices of the city that once were and are now forgotten, their owners’ bones beneath the very stones that now scream out in strident tones: “Dippin Dots! Get cher’ Dippin Dooots!”

Speaking of Dippin Dots… go get yourself something sweet with this coupon for free bubble tea at T-magic!


Andres Oliver, Emory University
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