Friends on the Hill

Yesterday, Mikey and I both went to a meeting with the other C.U. student bloggers. Among many things, the event was a great opportunity for all of us to catch up and to discuss some new ideas for the Friends on the Hill blog platform and future posts.

Credit for this picture goes to the owner of those three fingers…whoever they are…

Many of our friends are graduating at the end of this semester (aw, so sad!), and it was nice to hear that many of them will be using their blogs this Spring to reflect on their experiences as students here at Cornell. Maybe their reflections will give us underclassman a better idea of what we can expect in our futures? Our other friends had similarly interesting ideas for their blogs, as well. It got me thinking about all the different ways I can try to make this blog more interesting this semester. Any ideas, readers?

We finished the meeting with a quirky video featuring none other than Mikey the Panda, himself! Mikey and I have been filming a lot of videos lately for my little sister back home (more on that later), but it was especially nice to make something impromptu with our friends from the hill. Maybe it’s not the best quality shot, but it’s definitely a keeper memory-wise!

And, of course, Mikey would like to give a special shout-out to a few student workers at Day Hall who helped Mikey and I find the room where the C.U. bloggers’ meeting was taking place. Day Hall is a maze–one of many on campus–and we are especially thankful for their help. They were even nice enough to pose for a short video clip!

Well, that’s all for today. Signing off from on top of the hill!

If you haven’t already, I greatly recommend checking out the other C.U. student bloggers’ blogs, too, whenever you have the chance. It will benefit you to get different perspectives on what life is like at Cornell, I promise. Check out their blogs at the link below:

http://www.cornell.edu/studentlife/blogs/

Feel the love! 😀

Mikey Visits the Big Red Barn

Mikey Enjoys a Nice, Warm Fire at the Big Red Barn

Cornell University is famous for its multiple eateries across campus. With so many choices, it can be hard for new students to visit all of the dining halls and restaurants available to them, especially when convenience encourages students to visit the same locations over and over again. In an effort to properly paint social life at Cornell, Mikey and I will be travelling to some of our favorite locations to comment on their food options and to encourage you to branch out to new restaurant locations on campus.

Today’s post centers on one of our more frequent dining spots on Central Campus: The Big Red Barn.

Mikey Studies at the Big Red Barn

The Big Red Barn serves different pasta meals and sandwiches in addition to the traditional grab-and-go meals you can find at other Cornell eateries. Its dining area is much smaller than places like Trillium or larger dining halls, but it is usually easy to find a spare table outside of peak lunch hours (usually between 11am-1pm). It’s a cozier, more intimate atmosphere–a style not so easily found on Central Campus. The Big Red Barn also doubles as a great meeting location and study spot, especially if you can grab a sofa on its second floor.

So comfy.

One of its downsides is that it doesn’t serve dinner and closely its food stations relatively early in comparison to other dining locations on campus. If you want to eat there, I strongly recommend looking up its open hours on Cornell’s Dining website before heading over. You don’t want to go there on an empty stomach just to be disappointed. Believe me.

All we wanted were some chocolate bars….*sniffle*

The line can also be fairly long during rush hour and, since there is usually only one register open, you may wait a very long time to get your meal. At those times, you should grab a sandwich and drink from the cooler instead and skip right past the meal line straight to the register. Sure, the meal won’t be as great, but at least you won’t be late for class.

Silly Mikey.

When Mikey and I went, we spent several hours at the Big Red Barn studying for an upcoming exam. It was very cold outside, so Mikey naturally drifted towards the fireplace in the corner. Having missed the meal shifts, we settled on eating popcorn from the first-floor popcorn machine and tried very hard not to look at the beverage cooler situated all but 10 paces away from us. (Oh how it mocked us so…)

As we studied and occasionally distracted ourselves by swinging down the banister and playing hide-and-seek, Mikey and I caught the attention of several people who were there. The first people was a group of students who were meeting together at the Big Red Barn for a social gathering. The girls thought that Mikey was very cute and willingly posed for a photograph after hearing Mikey’s story.

Mikey Poses with Friends at the Big Red Barn

Another person we met was an older gentleman from Puerto Rico. He was very curious as to why I was taking pictures nonchalantly of a stuffed panda sitting on the couch on sliding down the banister, and when I told him about how I use Mikey (and Tobi) to keep in touch with my sister back home and to write for my blog he opened up about his own relationship with his teenage niece and how he wished he had done similar bonding activities with her when she was young. Now he worries that it may be too late to form that familial bond with her because she is so busy with all her own life now that she is headed for college. We had a very interesting conversation about how to best balance work and home life and how to best develop relationships with younger family members at different stages of their life, be they children or young adults. We also touched upon the role of language and age barriers in the separation of generations among immigrant families. A more detailed account of the discussion can be read here [insert link] and it illustrates some of the amazing conversations and experiences one can accidentally come across while travelling about Cornell.

Or you can just swing down banisters. Whatever suits your fancy.

In short, the Big Red Barn is a cozy place to eat and study that is conveniently located smack in the middle of Central Campus–right next to many of the academic buildings which many students call home. It hosts several night events throughout the semester, but it is most convenient for its cozy atmosphere during the day which greatly facilitates group conversation and studying. If nothing else, you should visit the Big Red Barn simply to slide down its banister when no one is looking or to play hide and seek with your favorite panda friend.

I see you, Mikey. 🙂

One Billion Rising

On February 14th, 2013, Cornell undergraduate students rose up on Ho Plaza against violence towards women in a small flash mob mirroring similar movements in over 200 countries. Mikey and I joined in their dance to celebrate the One Billion Rising event advocating for gender equality worldwide.

Both male and female students came together in the days leading up to Valentines’ Day and learned the dance in various locations around campus. For students who couldn’t make the trek to Central or North Campus, the event’s Facebook page provided a Youtube link to an instructional video which they could use to learn the dance at home. The sessions were fun and short, and the dance itself was easy enough for even the most uncoordinated dancer to learn (even Mikey).

Mikey Poses with the Organizers of Cornell’s One Billion Rising Flash Mob Event

At around noon on V-Day, students and bystanders began chalking up Ho Plaza with inspirational messages against female violence. Some students left short impacting phrases like “Cornell Rises Above Violence” while others rewrote the event’s slogan in different colors across the Plaza. One particularly talented student managed to recreate the logo of the organization which began the One Billion Rising event–V-Day–known best for its creation of the Vagina Monologues and other gender equality-based initiatives.

Mikey Stands Beside the V-Day One Billion Rising Logo, written in chalk on Ho Plaza; Photo Credit to Angela Lu

At 1pm, the participating students came together to prepare their dance to the song “Break the Chain.” Midway through the song, students brought in members of the crowd to join them and soon a small crowd of dancers began celebrating the cause together as fellow activists. It was a wonderful, fun event and it was a remarkable way to bring attention to the issue of gender violence.

Photo Credit to Cornell University’s Facebook Page

Unfortunately, amidst its success there also lie its critics.

Unlike Cornell’s recent Gangnam Style flash mob and its upcoming Harlem Shake event, the One Billion Rising movement had a much smaller turnout and was organized by a smaller group of students. By sheer number, the popularity of these other pop media movements greatly overwhelmed the One Billion Rising flash mob, attracting more volunteers and more audience members  in both cases. Some students point out that this lack of turnout points to an underlying issue in the priorities of Cornell’s community: students as a whole would much rather emulate pop culture than volunteer their time for a legitimate global cause, even when both activities require the same effort (in this case, dance). Other critics point to an alternative reasoning for the small volunteer base: the timing of the event. Smack in the middle of a heavy academic time slot, many students couldn’t make it to the event because of class conflicts. In addition, other events like the Gangnam Style flash mob utilized social media much earlier to attract interest than did the organizers of the One Billion Rising event, giving more students a chance to learn about the opportunity and to reorganize their schedules around the dance sessions.

Regardless, it is important to realize that the turnout was not nonexistent. There was a moderate group of volunteers and audience members, given the time and resources provided, and the event did capture a lot of interest on various media outlets throughout Cornell. For example, the event was featured on the front page and website of  the Cornell Daily Sun and Cornell University’s Facebook page. Several pictures of the events also circulated between students on social media outlets like Facebook.

Photo Credit to Angela Lu

It is important to acknowledge the good will that was demonstrated by those who did come to support the cause. In the context of the greater picture, where our students stand in the backdrop of over 200 countries standing behind their message, the flash mob was certainly not a small feat.

If anything, parlaying the facts about the issue before the dance helped bring us closer to the issue by illuminating the seriousness of gender violence.

One in three women on the planet will be raped of beaten in her lifetime.

One billion women violated is an atrocity.

One billion women dancing is a revolution.

The message of the movement rang clear through Ho Plaza this Valentines’ Day, and no amount of criticism can dilute the impact of that message.

Congratulations to the volunteers of Cornell University’s One Billion Rising Flash Mob event for illuminating that message.

Pandas Don’t Dance: Mikey Visits PMA 2300 at the Schwartz Center

 

Do you shy away from public displays of random dancing?

Do you hide in the corner when dance music comes up in a party?

Do you happen to be two feet tall and covered in fur? 

Check.

 

Well then, you might just be my toy panda, Mikey.

And, even more shockingly, you may not like to dance.

If you are my panda, then I am very disappointed in you. Dance is an amazing way to exercise and can be lots of fun when done with the right people. Sure, pandas might be notorious for having a lack of rhythm and, sure, you may just be an inanimate object incapable of movement, but that shouldn’t stop you from becoming the next animal dancing sensation! 

So, today, we’re going to the Schwartz Center so you can enroll in a dance class.

Don’t give me that face. You know you’re loving this.”

 

The Schwartz Center is on the edge between Collegetown and Cornell University’s main campus. It’s home to Cornell’s Performing and Media Arts Department and hosts numerous classes in acting, film, stage production, and dance. On occasion, the Schwartz Center also hosts its own stage productions and offers rehearsal space to Cornell’s numerous dance troupes. Today, we’re going downstairs to the sub-basement to visit the students of PMA 2300: Introduction to Dance Composition.

…once this confounded elevator decides to finally show up…

 

PMA 2300 teaches students different techniques for creating dance choreography. It combines students from all levels of the course (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels) into one section, and there is usually a wide variety of styles and skills among the participating students each semester. The instructors also alternate between semesters, so students who continue the course into their later years can expect to be continuously challenged by different teaching styles and new assignments. 

Now don’t get nervous by that guy doing pirouettes in the corner. You don’t need any previous dance experience to join the class or to do well in it. Grades are determined by one’s own class participation and level of improvement throughout the semester. Weekly dance assignments may demand that you use certain techniques for creating your piece, but they remain mostly broad and applicable to many styles and levels of dance technique. Moreover, your professor and peers will generate constructive criticism for you in class with your unique level of performance technique in mind. In fact, some of your assignments may even require that you create pieces that are performed by other dancers, instead of yourself. So, in essence, you’ll be graded on how well you followed the assignment and how much effort you put into your choreography.

Another great benefit of this class is that you get to meet so many interesting people. Once you overcome your initial nervousness of performing in front of others, it can be a lot of fun to talk with your classmates about why you liked or didn’t like certain dances or whether you prefer certain dance styles over others. With classmates spanning across Cornell’s various majors and class years, you’re bound to find someone with an interesting new perspective on dance or a unique way for explaining why we react to human movement the way we do.

Mikey Poses with His New Classmate

 

Before and after class, you have the opportunity to bond with your peers on a less academic level. You can talk about events happening on campus or share stories about surviving killer midterms through excessive cramming. Vent about your day with a fellow student or talk about deeper issues and ambitions you have for when you leave Cornell. Don’t forget to talk to the professor, too! Most PMA professors have years of experience in their field and have tons of interesting stories to tell. For example, my current instructor shared with us a wonderful story about how her first and only stuffed animal as a little girl was….a panda!

It’s a small world.

 I took the introductory course last semester with essentially no dance training whatsoever. I enjoyed the class so much that I immediately signed up for the intermediate level this semester. Having taken the class a total of 1 ½ times, I do have a few tips for aspiring pandas who want to enroll and do well in PMA 2300:

  • Don’t worry over how your dance experience compares with other students. Remember, you’re graded individually, not on a curve. Focus on improving your own skill instead of trying to keep up with others.
  • Don’t underestimate the workload. PMA classes are not free passes or GPA boosters. PMA 2300 is a 3-credit class, so expect to put in a few hours a week into each assignment if you want to create a quality piece.
  • Reserve a room, immediately. Each student of PMA 2300 gets to reserve rehearsal space at the Schwartz Center for a few hours a week. The earlier you reserve your space, the more time slot options you have to choose from and the less likely you will struggle with making time for rehearsals against your other classes. If you can’t find a space in Schwartz or need more time, ask your classmates and professor for other options on campus (like Helen Newman).
  • Be friendly and social. It’s easier to perform in front of people you already know than complete strangers. Talking to your classmates before and after class (not during!!!) can make the atmosphere more comfortable and relaxed for when you have to dance together. It also helps to build relationships for when you need other people to dance in your pieces.

Mikey Poses with His New Classmate

 

  • Be concise and constructive. When it’s your turn to respond to someone else’s piece, make sure you keep your comments short so others have time to comment as well. It helps to think about what you want to say as you watch the performance, so you don’t have to come up with something on the spot and resort to rambling whenever the professor calls on you. Give constructive criticism. Although it’s always nice to hear that someone enjoyed your piece, it can also hurt you if you only hear praises and miss out on learning how you can improve your technique for next time. On the other hand, criticizing a piece without giving specific and clear reasons for why you disliked it is also damaging to one’s morale. Try to name specific moments that felt lackluster to you and focus on giving suggestions for improvement, not on emphasizing what went wrong.
  • Talk to your professor. If you don’t understand an assignment or you want more personalized feedback on your choreography, schedule a meeting with or email your professor. They are usually more than happy to help and the one-on-one time is especially gratifying for confused students. If your question is more specific and direct, you can even try catching the professor at the end of class to have a quick discussion.

 

At the end of the day, PMA 2300 might be just what you need to overcome your anxiety of dance and to distress from a long day of problem sets. If you’re a panda interested in dance, come on by the Schwartz Center and try it out for yourself.

And don’t forget to sign in and say hi to your neighborhood building manager!

Playing in a Winter Wonderland

Today, Mikey and I decided to go the Arts Quad to watch the pretty, white snow fall….

Photo Credit to Matt Munsey

…as we threw at some other students’ heads.

Yes, today Mikey and I participated in a planned snowball fight at Cornell’s Arts Quad. It was a wonderful event filled with laughter and harmless snow pelting. Our friend, The Batman, put together the event over Facebook and managed to attract a sizable group of people to reenact The Cornell Snowball Fight of 2011.

Officers Monitor Cornell’s Snowball Fight

To protect innocent pedestrians and the fragile windows of Olin Library, some police were nearby watching the fight unfold. However, despite their uniforms, they were enjoying the game as well. Although I didn’t witness any of the officers personally throw a snowball, I did overhear one of the officers say to his partner: “Ouch. Did you see that one? Right in the face…”

It was good to see our local police enjoying themselves alongside the students, especially since they were standing for a very long time in the cold for our own enjoyment. One officer was so nice as to take a picture with Mikey and me right before the fight ensued.

A Fellow Student and Friend Prepares Mikey for the Fight

The students were similarly excited to be a part of the action. Despite concerns that the timing of the fight (1:30pm) would deter students from attending because of class conflicts, numerous students arrived and many of them stayed throughout the entire event. Some came with friends while others were surprised to find that many of their classmates had also decided to come coincidentally. The moments before the fight were filled of laughter and conversation, as students joked about forming alliances and sneaking up onto the roof of the Libe Cafe. Mikey and I managed to find several of our own friends on the battlefield, most of whom were willing to pose for pictures and give us tips on how to make the perfect snowball out of soft snow.

A Friend Helps Mikey with His First Snowball

Other students came later, joining in on the battle in a spur-of-the-moment decision once they realized what was happening. The majority of students waited together patiently, pacing the snow as they waited for the moment of truth. Others were more strategic and gathered up snow into piles of ready-to-go snowball ammo. Needless to say, it was obvious which students were attacked and which were the attackers when the battle finally began. Luckily, Mikey and I were well trained by our fellow students.

Another Student Poses with Mikey, Prepared for Battle 

Finally, at exactly 1:30pm, the clock tower rang.

Snowballs flew into the air and students targeted one another as fair game. It was so much fun that I sincerely wished I could have stayed there longer. Mikey’s fur was completely soaked by the time we walked back home, and my red coat was similarly covered in melting flecks of snow which had been hurdled at me from twenty different directions. In the end, we walked away with wet clothes, large smiles, and a video that is currently spreading across Facebook: Cornell’s Daily Sun Covers Cornell’s 2013 Snowball Fight.

Small events like snowball fights can be a lot of fun but, when an entire community gets together to put aside their stress and share time with one another, you know you’ve experienced something great. Thank you to all of the participants in this year’s Snowball Fight on the Arts Quad! Hopefully we can make this event an annual tradition.

Playing in a Winter Wonderland