Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

A New York Streetscape via iPhone

I’ve blogged about artist Jorge Colombo in the past. He’s got a wonderful eye for the dynamism that is New York and uses his iPhone to sketch fast, evocative images of the city.

In this new video entitled “Traffic Light,” check out Colombo’s process as he sketches a typical streetscape at night. Small things–like the choice of painting in purple and blue hues first–intrigue the non-visual artist in me.

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Filed under: art, technology, , , , , , , ,

Is College Worth It?

I am a proponent of higher education.

In general, and removed from modern connections to financial success, the idea of higher education is one that pleases me to no end. I’m thinking about higher education–for an intellectually curious student, not just someone who attends college as another rung in the life ladder–as something that feeds the soul, introduces great thinkers, teaches us to question and reason for ourselves. Rebecca Mead meditates on the utilitarian value of higher ed in this week’s Talk of the Town. Separating college from money, she writes:

Unaddressed in that calculus is any question of what else an education might be for: to nurture critical thought; to expose individuals to the signal accomplishments of humankind; to develop in them an ability not just to listen actively but to respond intelligently.

I could not agree more whole-heartedly. The merits of higher education can be seen, if I look at my own place in life: Where would I be if I hadn’t gone to college? And if I had chosen a state school in the Midwest as opposed to the private, liberal education I ended up choosing on the East Coast? Would I have encountered and met the same diverse community? I think of certain friends whose taste in music, whose real engagement with good books, whose desire for travel all helped nurture my own passions. I think of my partner and his intellectual passions and deliberations, and how his powerful life of the mind impacts (directly, through our conversations, and indirectly through his actions) my own.

How has higher education influenced me? Above: Horsing around with friends my first year of college in 1990; Below: Addressing students at the university where I teach, earlier this spring.

Mead writes in response to recent talk that college just ain’t worth it. “Don’t go to college,” argue many, like economist Richard K. Vedder, founder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Mead cites Vedder’s line of thought, including “eight out of the ten job categories that will add the most employees during the next decade–including home-health aide, customer-service representative, and store clerk–can be performed without a college degree.” The conclusion? The number of college degrees awarded statistically does not match what the economy needs for workers.

But this line of thought seems to ignore Mead’s, and my own, thinking that a college education can not be measured merely by post-collegiate salaries alone. And I’m not going to the other extreme, of the Steve Jobs and Ellen DeGeneres, famous folks who never received their diplomas. I’m trying to assess how college, as a total experience, both the in-class and out-of-class, makes us more whole. I think about how lucky I was to have spent six years as a student of higher education, and how this has led me to my current position within the academy. In a series of small, perhaps serendipitous, moments my college years provided the incubation period for me between adolescence (and adolescent thought) and adulthood. I think of the mess I would have been going straight from high school into the working world.

Filed under: economy, education, work, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The List to End All Lists (For Writers)

Fiction editors Treisman and Killingsworth mock up The New Yorker fiction cover. (New York Times)

The New Yorker released its list of “20 Under 40” today. These are the hand-picked, anointed ones to watch. Evenly divided between 10 men and 10 women, the list emphasizes diversity with writers I admire like Dinaw Mengestu (who has written eloquently about Ethiopian and African immigrants to D.C.) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. I wrote a celebratory review of Adiche’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, for the Phoenix several years ago. They’re among other great, if envy-worthy writers in the issue.

Says David Remnick, the magazine’s editor:

“If they had too much in common, it would be really boring,” he said in an interview. “This is not an aesthetic grouping. The group is a group of promise, enormous promise. There are people in there that are very conventional in their narrative approach, and there are people who have a big emphasis on voice. There are people who are in some way bringing you the news from another culture.”

Other writers to admire include more acclaimed authors Chris Adrian (a recent visitor we invited to Boston College) and Jonathan Safran Foer, who share the anointment with lesser-known writers like C.E. Morgan. Will be interesting to see if these predictions make the same splash as their previous list more than a decade ago, which included now-Pulitzer winners Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz.

For all of us jealous-types, there’s a funny list of tips on “How to Complain” about the list over at Gawker.

Filed under: literature, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

Finger-painting New York on iPhones

Jorge Colombo, a regular artist for The New Yorker, has been sketching glimpses of New York City since May. Not so unusual, save for the fact that he makes these images on his iPhone: dead-end streets beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, sunsets over the East River, families watching that iconic train schedule board at Penn Station.

091102_colombo_p154

He uses an application called Brushes on his iPhone. What was his inspiration?

“I got a phone in the beginning of February, and I immediately got the program so I could entertain myself,” says Colombo, who first published his drawings in The New Yorker in 1994. Colombo has been drawing since he was seven, but he discovered an advantage of digital drawing on a nighttime drive to Vermont. “Before, unless I had a flashlight or a miner’s hat, I could not draw in the dark.” (When the sun is up, it’s a bit harder, “because of the glare on the phone,” he says.) It also allows him to draw without being noticed; most pedestrians assume he’s checking his e-mail.

The artist at work is a joy to watch: Colombo begins in broad strokes of color, then adds layers that might contain skylines and geometric shapes, finally ending with specific details. There’s a neon-like quality to the Brushes application that also intrigued me. Read more about Colombo and his New Yorker covers.

Filed under: art, , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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