June 6, 2016

Scenes from the last two weeks

hudson{Hiking Break Neck Ridge in Hudson Valley}

It’s officially summer in New York, and I am loving these sunny June days and cool nights. Below are some pictures from the past two weeks!

polp{A snapshot from Saturday’s Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic}

*photo courtesy of Estherina’s World

image12{At the Polo Match}

image10{At MoMA’s Party in the Garden}

image2{Robyn performing at Party in the Garden}

image5{Art History Happy Hour at the Brooklyn Museum}

image3{At a tropical house party}

image6{This sums up how I feel about summer!}


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May 30, 2016

colour study: sandwich shades


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May 24, 2016

Metaphysical poetry as explained by Florence + the Machine (part 2/4)

paradiso(For the introduction to this series, see here)


“And I had a dream/ about my old school”

Dante’s journey through hell and most of purgatory is guided by the great poet Virgil, who he credits as his mentor. When they first meet on the outskirts of hell in Inferno Canto 1:61-99, Dante proclaims the deep tutelary impact that Virgil has had on his career: “Are you then that Virgil, and that fountain, that pours out so great a river of speech?…You are my master, and my author: you alone are the one from whom I learnt the high style that has brought me honour.”

“And she was there all pink and gold and glittering/ I threw my arms around her legs/Came to weeping”

The other source of edification who leads Dante through the remainder of purgatory and finally into heaven is none other than Dante’s idolized muse, Beatrice. And while she is not described as gilded, pink, and glittering, she pretty much has some of the most fabulous entrances ever described in both The Divine Comedy and The New Life.

In Purgatorio Canto 20: 1-48 she takes over from Virgil, emerging in a cloud of flowers, carried by angels, dressed in “colours of living flame,” and crowned with a wreath of Minerva’s olive leaves set over a white veil. In response, Dante quakes in awe and turns to tell Virgil that “There is barely a drop of blood in me that does not tremble.”

Beatrice’s appearance in Dante’s vision in The New Life is equally as grand: an unknown figure identified as Dante’s master carries her as she eats Dante’s flaming heart while clad in nothing but a crimson cloth. It’s curious how Dante always seems to attire her in red when he claims to despise the colour in Inferno Canto 14 because it reminds him of Bulicame, a hot spring known as much for its trail of red clay as it was for its usage as a source of bath water for prostitutes.

“And I heard your voice/ As clear as day/ And you told me I should concentrate/ It was all so strange/ And so surreal/ That a ghost should be so practical”

Beatrice’s first words to Dante are unfortunately not tender ones. Although she is obscured by her veil, she speaks in a clear and severe voice, first telling him that he should not weep for Virgil’s disappearance because he should save his tears for what is about to happen next. She then admonishes him for being unaware of his unworthy placement in heaven:

“‘Look at me, truly: I truly am, I truly am Beatrice. How did you dare to approach the Mount? Did you not know that here Man is happy?’ My eyes dropped to the clear water, but seeing myself there, I looked back at the grass, so much shame bowed my forehead down. As the mother seems severe to her child, so she seemed to me: since the savour of sharp pity tastes of bitterness.”

“And my body was bruised and I was set alight/ But you came over me like some holy rite/ And although I was burning, you’re the only light”

As a mere mortal wandering through otherworldly places, Dante endures his fair share of emotional and physical discomfort throughout his journey towards heaven and Beatrice, who symbolizes the path to God. Luckily for him, his guides, along with other blessed creatures, ensure that he is not too badly affected. For instance, in the seventh circle of hell’s third ring, large flakes of fire fall from the heavens to burn the naked sinners below. To protect Dante, Virgil instructs him to walk along the edge of the sand, lest his feet be burned.

Even more uncomfortable is Dante’s crossing onto the shore of the Blessed. In Purgatorio Canto 31, the lady Matilda submerges and pulls him by his head along the river Lethe in such a way that sounds like drowning. He swallows water but is eventually fished out and declared cleansed to satisfaction.

“And the grass was so green against my new clothes”

When Dante asks Matilda where Beatrice is in Purgatorio Canto 32, she replies, “See her sitting under the new foliage at its root.” In fact, the entire expanse at which they stand at the foot of heaven’s door is a woodland covered in lush grass and greenery. It is there that Matilda draws Dante across the stream of forgetfulness and where he also drinks from the river Eunoë. These waters essentially prepare Dante to venture into heaven through their transformative powers, and he describes the experience as one that renders him anew in Canto 33:103-145: “I came back, from the most sacred waves, remade, as fresh plants are, refreshed, with fresh leaves: pure, and ready to climb to the stars.”

Although there is no specific mention of whether this transformation applies to his superficial trappings (i.e., clothes), Dante’s preparation runs parallel to the biblical allegory of the Church in its preparation as a bride for Christ. In that allegory, as described in the book of Revelation 19:7-8, the bride is given fine, bright linen to wear, thereby illustrating the biblical importance of cleanliness and newness vis-à-vis the ascent to paradise.

Next (part 3/4): Milton’s Paradise Lost as set to “Cosmic Love”



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May 18, 2016

colour study: carnival hues


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May 11, 2016

Scenes from my weekend

image2{Montmorency Falls}

This weekend I was in Montréal and Québec City, and as always, here are some of the photos from my trip!

image1{View from the top of Montmorency Falls}

Processed with VSCO with q1 preset{A schoolyard from the 1800s in Québec City}

image4{Poutine at La Banquise in Montréal}

{Inside Montréal’s Notre-Dame Basilica}

image3{A military marching band in Québec City}



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May 5, 2016

Packing list: Montréal and Québec City

This weekend I’m running away to Francophone Canada! I’ve heard so much about how simultaneously European and North American it is, and I’m excited to finally see that blend for myself. Now that the characteristically harsh winter has passed in Québec, I look forward to leisurely roadtripping from Montréal to Québec City and eating my weight in poutine along the way!

Below are the things I’m bringing with me, sorted into outerwear and two outfits:





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May 3, 2016

Metaphysical Poetry as Explained by Florence + the Machine (part 1/4)

florence                                                       Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine

A few years ago, The Atlantic came out with an ingenious article by Matthew O’Brien on how Carly Rae Jepsen’s song, “Call Me Maybe” could explain the Euro crisis. By selecting certain lines from the song’s lyrics and linking them to the situations of various EU countries, O’Brien illustrated Jepsen’s accidental macroeconomic profundity as distilled in her catchy pop song.

It was such a good idea that I decided to steal it and apply it to my own interests here—more specifically, in relation to Florence + the Machine and how their song lyrics could be read as iterations of passages in metaphysical poetry. Through three of their songs, I hope to frame the attitudes presented by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), John Donne (1572-1631), and John Milton (1608-1674) toward the supernatural.

The reason why O’Brien’s approach is so brilliant is because it highlights an axiom of contemporary society—namely, that most song lyrics today are hardly scrutinized for the depth of their content. And while that stance is certainly valid, it wasn’t always that way. It’s largely due to our belief that there now exists a wide divergence between poetry and song, the latter of which is considered subordinate to the former.

This is a far cry from our attitude to the fact that the roots of literature were born in song, prayer, and legend. Verse always precedes prose in the creation of a national literature and, as such, early epic poems and ballads (which were often sung) are revered as the revolutionary texts that sanctioned a language’s right to acquire the status of literature. While it is true that not all songs have been respected equally throughout history, the rise of popular culture and ubiquitous pop music has been roughly concomitant with our decline in regard for song lyrics as a literary form.

But I’d like to think that every once in a while we can still find higher thoughts in the manifestations of popular music. And, through the lens of Florence Welch’s fascination with the occult and the sacred, I’d like to explore the extent to which her songs can find communion with the great metaphysical poets of yore.

Next (part 2/4): Dante’s journey through heaven, hell, and purgatory as set to “Only if for a Night”



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April 28, 2016

colour study: 1950’s/1960’s colours


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April 24, 2016

Scenes from the last three weeks

image9{Cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens}

Everything has burst into full bloom here in New York! Spring has finally arrived, and the past week was full of beautiful weather and sunshine. Below are a few photos from the last three weeks, including some very belated pictures from my trip to Japan and Singapore!

image1{An examination of what might be a fragment from one of the most important 12th c. hand scrolls in Japan (鳥獣人物戯画)}

image8{The Brooklyn Museum’s artist’s ball}

{On a hike to 戸隠神社 in Nagano, Japan}

image4{Nagano, Japan}

image6{Sakura mochi in Tokyo}

 a {Nagano, Japan}

image2{The Singapore Botanical Gardens}


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April 18, 2016

colour study: pickled root veggies


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