Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Steps

Cool people hang on out the steps of Low Library; awesome people hang out on the steps of Low Library with us!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Something Simple

In an attempt to understand classical art as a form in itself and not as a specific time period, one must determine the most important characteristics belonging to this genre.  Perhaps the most important trait is the visualization of the ideal in relation to a mundane life.  Taking the ordinary and creating something extraordinary is the quintessential mark of classicism.  Symmetry within the work and the use of parallel lines are also dependent qualities of classical art.  “Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue” by Jo Baer presents a simple representation of classical work that incorporates these three requirements.  Through the simple application of paint on canvas, this minimalist painter captures the elegant style of classicism.
Upon first look at Baer’s work, an initial indifference sets in; as with much of minimalist art, the meaning can be overshadowed by the simplicity of the composition.  This is art?  Anyone can do this!  However, with some time to ponder upon the installation of the three panels, the connection to the classical becomes apparent and the importance of the artist’s vision is shown.  The ideal is portrayed through the use of color.  Though just a small strip of color around the border, the three primary light colors are displayed indicating the importance they play in one’s ability to visualize anything.  Red, green, and blue combine in various ways to bring the visual world to life.  The three large canvases also hold a symmetrical balance in their composition.  Rather than viewing the three pieces as individual works of art, they are brought together in one piece that has no intersecting lines.  The use of parallel lines creates a balance similar to many classical works.  Finally, the three canvases give the appearance of columns through the use of these parallel lines.  Arranged in a horizontal fashion, they become a representation of three columns that provide support to an important roof of the visual spectrum. 
Similar to the Parthenon, Baer’s works creates an illusion of openness while maintaining distinct boundaries.  The Parthenon with its rows of columns and interior walls portrayed the openness needed to worship, and communicate with, Athena while also setting limits of where the common man could not go.  “Primary Light Group” also keeps this balance; the openness of the white canvas allows the imagination to fill in the gap and create new pictures, but the borders are clearly marked by each of the primary colors and black frame—keeping the viewer within certain limits. 
Both the Parthenon and “Primary Light Group” attempt to capture the ideal through less than perfect mediums.  The Parthenon was built as a house to the goddess Athena.  The inherent irony is that common earthly material could be used to create a home for a celestial god exists within its design.  Baer’s work is plagued with this same irony; she used pigment based paints of oil and synthetic polymer to capture the image of light.  Can light be captured, and can a celestial power be housed on earth?  Light and deity as the ideal are attempted to be portrayed in the best forms available to the artists.  Despite the imperfections in their portrayals, the Parthenon and “Primary Light Group” both elevate the ideal through simple expression.  The concept of “nude but not naked” can be used to describe the white canvas and the sculptures of the meotopes on the Parthenon friezes.  While Baer’s canvas may be white, it is not blank.  The beauty is found through the portrayal of the ideal form.

The obvious difference between these two classical pieces is that one is a work done on canvas, and the other is an architectural and historical artifact.  Comparing the two on this basis alone is an unfair look at classical art since both come from different eras and cultures, but the themes they both present are harmonious.  In keeping with one of the main themes, both subjects display great symmetry.  Oddly enough, the Parthenon only appears symmetrical through the use of creative design in which there are slight curves in the structure to undo the natural perception of asymmetry that occurs with large scale buildings.  The symmetry of the “Primary Light Group” is real and repeated.  Each of the three colors has its own canvas that is presented as a square on the wall.  This repetition of frames adds to the symmetry of the paintings.  Each border becomes a part of the continuous horizontal line while the vertical borders also balance the work.
Not only do the pieces resemble columns, but they also recreate the triglyphs found on the Parthenon’s friezes.  Creating a break from the initial understanding of the work, the natural separation between the canvases allows for the viewer to look at the art in a separate way just as the triglyph separated one meotope from another.  With precision spacing, Baer’s work becomes a cycle of viewing; just as one could walk around the Parthenon and understand the story told through different angles, “Primary Light Group” also allows for many interpretations.  If the three paintings were too close together the individual canvases would blur into one, and if they were spaced too far apart, the sense of connection would be lost.

 Although classical art may be seen as an ancient genre, modern artists are still influenced by the core themes that have transcended time.  Through an elevation of the ideal, the use of parallel lines, and the symmetrical composition of her work, Jo Baer’s “Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue” stands as a great example of classical art in the modern age.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Just when I thought I was out..."

I officially started my life in pest control when I was 21.  In 2000, I had just returned home from a LDS mission in the Philippines, and I needed a job.  I called my uncle and started work the next day.  He owned the company that my grandfather had started, and it seemed like a great way to pay for school.

I liked it.  It wasn't too hard, and I enjoyed working with my customers.  I found satisfaction in helping people get rid of their bug problems and sharing my "bug knowledge."  I worked as a technician, manager, owner, and salesman with various companies in various states.

Eventually I wanted to try something new.  I was tired of the office politics found in large companies.  I was tired of wearing a degrading uniform.  I was tired of not being fulfilled in my career.  Although I considered being a technician honest work, there were many people who felt I was at the bottom of the social order.  Through condescending words, humiliating tasks, and repeated threats, I was constantly reminded of my status.  After working nine years as an "exterminator" (I really hate that term) I decided to finish my formal education and start a new path.

I excel in academia.  I love attending class, writing papers, learning new thoughts and perspectives, meeting intelligent peers who challenge me in many ways to become a better student.  After my acceptance to Columbia, I felt certain that I was a new man and that my technician days were just a stepping stone on the path of life.

But then I needed a job.  I searched for seven months to find something, anything, that wasn't pest control.  Nothing was offered.  With a resume that showed close to eleven years of killing bugs, companies saw me as nothing more than the bug guy.  It was not easy looking for a job and explaining to potential employers that I intended to attend school full-time until I graduated.  I saw their faces change as they read my resume and came across my history.  I needed a job that would value my vast experience, be close to school, allow me to finish my degree, provide health insurance, and still give me the time to be a dad.  This was my prayer.  This was my intention that I gave to the Universe.

In an attempt to broaden my networking, I talked to my building superintendent last week to see if she knew of any job opportunities within Columbia that I could apply to.  She didn't, but she did make another call.  She called the pest control company that has the contract for all off-campus University Housing in my neighborhood.  They were interested, and I hesitantly sent them my resume because I wasn't too sure that I wanted back into the pest control world.  Something amazing happened.  Not only were they interested in me, but I was offered a job without a formal interview and started work a few days later based on my experience that they valued.  As they have a large contract with Columbia, I am one of four men working full-time here in my neighborhood.  They provide health insurance even if I do not work a 40 hour week, and they will schedule all of my work around my classes.  I can walk to work, kill some bugs, walk to class, walk back to work, and then walk home at the end of my day to spend time with my boy.  They have been great to me.  They plan to use me for the "high profile" calls that they get which means that I will get to know some very important members of the Columbia community.  With a little luck, I might get a couple of great letters of recommendation for graduate school from some influential people because of this job.

Despite my initial indifference to a life that I thought I had left behind, I was blessed to find a connection that allows me to be a full-time dad and a full-time student.  I am grateful for this opportunity.  I know that it will not be easy, but I never liked taking the easy road.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lucky Boy

People love to give cool things to my son.  This  morning on our way to the bus stop, we saw the vendor who sells us chicken gyros, and he stopped to buy little man some candy at the newspaper stand.  Someone was very happy to get free candy.

I wonder if I can get someone to pay for his college too...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Hey There

My Little Son,

Tonight is the first night that you are spending at your mother's house, and I thought that it would be so exciting to have this huge bed all to myself, but I have discovered that I cannot sleep without your little feet kicking my back.  I want to write you a small note that might capture some of the feelings that I have during this transition.

If the day comes that you stumble upon this blog, scroll through the archives, and find this post, call me.  I don't care what time it is or what I may be doing, call me.  There is so much that I want to talk with you about, and I am sure that won't change even to the day you are reading this.  You might even remember this day.  Do you remember when I took you to the Intrepid museum?  I am sure that we went many times while living in NYC, but this time was special.  When we were getting the tickets, I lied and told them that you were two, so I wouldn't have to pay the $12 to get you in, and you were quick to shout out "No, I'm not two; I'm three!"  I won't lie about your age again.  We played in the helicopter and rode the bus singing songs all the way home.  Do you remember doing that with me?

There are a few things that I am certain about how you will be as an adult; there are a few things that I wonder about your future, and there are many things that I hope you have learned.

I know that you will have many friends.  You have a light inside that people are drawn to.  I know this not just because I am a proud dad, but because I watch you interact with everyone you meet.  You take the time to look people in the eye and say hello.  You smile and wave at the people you see, and they smile back at you. Even the grumpy people on the subway that pretend to ignore you eventually fall under your spell by smiling back at you and telling me that you are special.  Not only will you have many friends, but you will be an amazing friend to each and every one.  Your talent is found in making each person feel special.  You have so much love to share, and I know that you will always find someone to share it with.  I know that you will be very smart-- smarter than me or your mom.  You learn things so quickly that I often feel inadequate in keeping up with your many questions.  I know that you have a fantastic smile.  Your smile brings a lasting happiness, and I know that it will never fade.

I wonder what sports you will play.  Did you decide that you like baseball more than soccer, or have you taken up track because of your endless energy?  What college did you decide to go to?  I am sure that you had your pick between Princeton and Columbia, but was there another offer?  Did you become a Rhodes scholar?  What are you studying?  What are you reading right now?  Do you take your kids to get ice cream cones during evening walks with them?  How tall are you?  Do you enjoy camping?  Has my obsession with Les Miserables inspired you to read Hugo, or did it push you away?  Perhaps what I wonder about most is: was I good dad?  Did I give you the right balance of love, discipline, and attention?  Did we stay friends?

I hope we did.

I hope that you have had your heart broken, but that you have not broken many hearts.  I hope that you have moved around a lot and met many people, but that you have a place to call home.  I hope you have learned about forgiveness; not for yourself (although that is important), but that you have learned to forgive others.  I hope that you don't hold on to the bad things that have happened to you.  I hope that you read "Balow, My Boy" and "Soldier and Dog" to your children at night as they cuddle with you in bed.  Do you still have that same book I read to you from?  I hope that you are safe.  I hope that you know that my door and my heart is always open to you.

I love you, son.

Call me.


ps- you got a funny face!

Friday, June 03, 2011


This morning we visited the  Museum of Modern Art and then walked around midtown seeing Rockefeller Center, Times Square, four Elmo street performers, two Cookie Monsters, one Woody, and one Buzz Lightyear. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Cooling Off

We spent the morning in Central Park.  Thank goodness for playgrounds with water features.