Thursday, May 29, 2008

This is IT: A tribute to the Class of 2008 at Harvard University

I just wanted to share a speech I entered for Class Day at Harvard that unfortunately did not get selected. Regardless, I think it expresses something we've all felt throughout our experience here and in this last week of insanity. I tried on my cap and gown tonight and I definitely had that shiver of recognition of the end/beginning of things. Enjoy.

Congratulations. You made it. And what a glorious moment it is. But I can guarantee that you, the Class of 2008, have all been here, in this moment, before. And I quote:
“Dear Mr. Zebrowski-Rubin
I am delighted to inform you that the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid has voted to offer you a place in the Harvard Class of 2008.”

And you probably thought, at that moment: this is it. You, the number one student of whatever high school you attended, got into the world-famous, top-notch, ticket-to-success Harvard University. You made it through the SATs, the APs, the IBs, the extracurriculars and the sports. Now, you would find yourself among a sea of 1700 number-one students from across the country and the world. And thus began the journey through Harvard.

After a year of owning up to the fact you were a tourist attraction, adjusting your eyes to the flash of photos and telling yourself, “I really am at Harvard” you had to pick a concentration (or major for the outside world). At the end of Freshman year, I panicked, I really had to decide what to study. Initially thinking I would study Engineering, Psychology or Philosophy, after two semesters at Harvard, I had discovered that the math was far beyond highschool level and had words in it, psychology was an actual science not some dream of leather chair counseling, and philosophy involved overturning large abstract concepts using logic. I decided to meet with my Freshman Dean, Dean Mancall. I met with Dean Mancall 4 or 5 times.

In and out of these meetings, I wandered the concentrations, looking for the right fit: English? History? Literature? What about History AND Literature? But I soon realized that I learned best with pictures and settled on Art History joined with Italian Studies just for kicks. And at that moment, with concentration decided, I thought: this is it.

But at each new turn, came new challenges. Papers, problem sets, core classes, section, blocking groups, changing concentrations, changing concentrations again… and just when you thought you could relax, watch another YouTube video, Facebook stalk that special someone, or chat up an acquaintance at the Lamont CafĂ©, there was more work, longer papers, more problem sets, more classes, tutorials, and finally, what you thought would be the pinnacle of your Harvard career, a thesis. And if you wrote a thesis, after you handed in that 50- to 120-page sucker, you also thought: this is it. But it, as you can probably tell by now, really isn’t it at all.

And so, today, we hit that nondescript two-letter word again, and we label this moment: it. What is it this time? The end of a very expensive education? The end of a four-year paper-writing friend-making party? Or is it something else? Is this, indeed, the start of the rest of our lives? Is this the part of the story where we, the Class of 2008, grow up? In this it moment are all those moments of triumph from the past four years where we thought this is it: from our first wide-eyed glance up the stately columns of Widener library to that moment we put down the pen in our last exam. As we move on towards our next it moment in our lives, let us take the time to remember all those that came before.

Sure, that 20-page paper wasn’t always an easy late-night, day-before creation, and we haven’t always been frolicking joyously through the tasks and requirements Harvard set for us, but the substance of this place: where no question is too big to be asked or tackled and where students arrive with sharp minds for learning have made it a worthwhile journey.

Just think of how lost you were when you first wandered into Widener stacks looking for Pusey… or remember how awed you were hearing the names of the professors who taught here, no remember instead how awed you were speaking to those professors that teach here, or recall again how talented/intelligent/artistic or take your choice of praise-slathering adjective your classmates are… or bring to mind the gratification you felt joining the Boston community the year the Red Sox broke their 86-year losing streak and went all the way, and don’t forget the gratification you felt three years later when they did it again.

Most of all, however, wrapped up in all the it moments of Harvard are the classmates and friends who sat next to us in core classes or stretched meal times out to an hour or two. Sure, Harvard has the largest undergraduate library in the country, and a jaw-droppingly impressive roster of professors, but the students, your classmates, these kids sitting next to you, these are the people who populated and created the Harvard experience. I think it safe to say that you will be hard-pressed to find an environment filled with such intelligent, driven, multi-tasking, multi-talented colleagues. This may be it, but look around you… we are it, a crowd of students, teeming with talent and popping with potential, both past, present and future.

Freshman year, you might have thought that you were a whole other brand of it, that you were the mistake, the kid who shouldn’t have gotten in. But here we are, all graduating tomorrow. Secretly, those kids that thought they were the mistake are now thinking Haha, suckers, I got through… Truth is, each and every one of the members of the Class of 2008 here assembled has made it, we all graduate, cap-and-gowned, tomorrow. We all know how capable we are: all of us have an incredible drive, commitment to hard work and some carefully honed talent that we will continue to bring with us.

Whether you’re headed to Wall Street to take on the Dow Jones, back home to reconnect with family, around the world to travel, to pursue an introductory foray in unemployment, or chase after a dream that can’t be recruited, each and every one of us has a four year Harvard experience, full of it moments. Besides the HBomb we now have as ammunition, Harvard has given each of us a valuable and formative education. Regardless of what classes we took, if you wanted to Count People or just engage in some Loitering, if you wanted to make your Psychology, Positive or become a Medical Detective, we have, with Harvard’s help, continued to nurture that thirst for questions that doubtless got us here in the first place.

I remember in my meeting with Dean Mancall, I kept saying that at the end of 4 years I wanted to have read the classics, done multivariable calculus, been exposed to world religions, etc. etc. My refrain was: after 4 years, after 4 years, after 4 years. And here I am, after 4 years, and only now do I remember what Dean Mancall told me: “Your undergraduate education will, hopefully, only be the beginning. You may not satisfy the academic checklist you set out for your education. It is only the first 4 years.” And he was right. I will leave Harvard tomorrow perhaps a little wiser, maybe a little more popular, and a lot more qualified. But I will also leave with that constant questioning, drive, and love of books that I and we have had all our lives. These instincts, which make us all the intelligent and on-point capable people we are, have, with the help of inquisitive classmates and encouraging professors, come to a nurtured fruition here at Harvard and, as a consequent, can only continue.

So, Class of 2008, this is, indeed, it. But sit tight, because this IT is only the beginning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

drugged out and... fashionable?

Right before I left for March Break, I decided to enter this modeling competition. It was a total shot in the dark, but it's something I had always toyed with in my mind. The competition was being put on by Vmagazine and Ford modeling agency, thus, I deemed it credible and worth a shot. Over the next 2 months, I rallied some friends to vote for me, who rallied their friends to vote for me and I managed, in the popular vote to stay in the top 12. A good showing.

Ultimately, though, the final decision of picking three finalists (from a pool of over 1000) came down to industry professionals. Let me just say that I am not bitter at their decision. It is what it is. And it is symptomatic of the fashion industry in this moment... supposedly. They picked three white boys from Ohio, Alabama and Tennessee, all in their teens, all 6'1". According to the official rules, the selection criteria, determined by "a panel of judges...consisting of individuals from the modeling, casting, fashion, and fashion magazine industry... [will judge the finalists]... on the following criteria: (i) the Finalist’s “match” with the current modeling and fashion industry “look”, and (ii) the originality, creativity, appropriateness to subject matter and sincerity of the Personal Statement." Now, while all three of these boys match up in their look, their personal statements definitely lack orginality, creativity and appropriateness to subject matter and sincerity. They read (i) "Thought I'd give it a shot" (, (ii) "This is a dream of mine. I love Hedi!! [Hedi Slimane the photographer for this contest]" (, and (iii) "Because I look good" (

If anything, the personal statements are cliched, taciturn and boring/arrogant. That set aside, because we all know how much fashion models actually talk, let's check out their look.

My mother responded "they all look like druggies" when shown their pictures. "Crack, Meth and Budweiser" responded someone else. They all share a sort of scrawny muscular bad boy not intimidating types who could be spotted on a street corner in a hoodie, smoking a cigarette. I thought this look was done? Didn't Lindsay Lohan and co. exhaust the checked out of life (nudge nudge wink wink) stereotype? I knew the industry was favoring a skinnier model with a less A&F look, but I didn't think that the men were still catching up with the women of pop culture and were stuck in rehab. Drugs and drug addiction isn't something to joke about but, somehow, the paparazzi has forced its way into the personal lives of the stars and caught them in their lowest of low moments and turned it into an en vogue look.

Maybe it is just my taste, but I'd like to see it done with a little class. It might be nice to see these boys modelling something else besides their bare chests in horribly pixelated images.

While I will go on my merry way and pursue jobs and maybe continue to pursue modelling, I can't help but feel the competition was a little capricious in its being carried out. With over 1000 contestants, I definitely wasn't counting my chickens... and I know the contest could have gone any way. Why did Calvin Klein pull out half way through the competition to be replaced by Diesel? Why wasn't the contest period thought out so that it didn't have to be pulled back, impromptu, by two weeks? Why was there a major open call for models throughout the USA DURING an online competition? Why were the final three lumped all together in the rankings online, nos. 949-951? Why did the location of the final selection change both in date and location (from NYC to LA) during the competition? The fickle nature of the rules may also just be symptomatic of the fickle nature of the industry...

All that said, there were definitely a sizeable number of stunning guys in this competition. Flip through the pages yourself: In the end, the look someone searched for in the competition can go any way. It is subjective, it is unpredictable. If these three men that the panel of judges selected is the look the industry currently seeks (because, you and I both know their personal statements didn't win them the competition), I am fairly confident that I will continue being myself until elegant, classy and intelligent comes into vogue.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

people come and go, but the vibe remains the same

last night was my final spoken word open mic. all week i've stressed a little about the details, the AV, the DJ, the food, the setup, the list, the seniors spotlighted. i also stressed because of the conflicts our event had with others; the female orgasm seminar would be overlapping for the first hour of our show, VES film screenings were happening all night, the Leverett Formal was rockin up the Hyatt that night. but, round wednesday, i realized that whatever the event would be, it would be lovely.

in the past spoken word gatherings filled the kirkland jcr, this large room of rich wood and lush couches and seating. we've usually filled the space. but last night we had a small gathering, at least at first. but it was okay, it was great actually. it was small, it was intimate. i was emceeing the night, trying to be funny, to some avail, but otherwise soaking up the strength of the voices and the images of the poets coming up to the mic. some poets i knew and had worked with, others i and most of the audience had never heard before. oke was even back to perform, leaving his trademark jovial sonorous voice, offering us, once again, the continual supernova of thoughtful expression in his work. jose rocked the beats, liza shared her delicate verse, anna shared her wit, jack whipped out another poem from memory, james brought power. but it was all a wonderful ride, personal, deep, playful, funny, poignant, evocative. over the course of the night, i realized that the vibe of that room, the vibe amongst people expressing themselves, that vibe never changed over the last 4 years.

spoken word has always been a nurturing, warm, open and lovely environment. my fellow senior katie said it best, spoken word was a group of people offering support to each other through expression and creativity. such a beautiful thing. i left in disbelief. i was the last person to be in kirkland jcr that night, the room gone silent again after such beauty of expression. and that was it. i came home not knowing what to feel, knowing that regardless of the honors i receive when i graduate or the prizes i do or do not win, spoken word has been such a valuable, nurturing space. and once again, as always it refreshed me. it may not have been the buzzing packed scene as in years past last night, but the vibe was definitely the same. i read with confidence, works from my past 3-4 years at Harvard up until the most recent works of poetry created for a class this semester. they ranged from love poems (or lack of love), odes to venice, and a commentary on facebook. below i share the poem that caused the most stir, continuing the sharing in a new arena... leaving the Word in the hands of another class of poets, because my time has come to an end.


You shut the door to the cold outside and shed
your wool layers, peeling back to the core
of the onion. I watch the heat of your body
radiating outwards like the haze of exhaust fumes
from an airplane. I imagine the skin
tones of your flesh beginning to permeate
the threshold of your body. And I see
pigment spreading like the cyclic cloud of cream
in coffee, allowing itself to dance into neutral
colorless territory. The ink of your skin
tone wanders its way towards me like the very
liquid black of my father’s pen sketching
on napkins, following patterns, losing definition.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

PostModern Longing

I miss you. I want to see your face
book profile. I want to read you
my latest posted item. I want to see where you've been
tagged these past months. I don't want to read the writing on the [wall
your wall with all of the flirting suitors. How are you today?
What is your status? You haven't updated me
or your profile picture lately. Where are you?
I miss you.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Save Water... Shower with your Toothbrush?

Last Friday, I couldn't manage to get up. On Mondays and Fridays I work from nine to noon at the GSD Library in the Visual Resources Department. But last Friday, Stefan and his bed were pretty inseparable. Somehow I had found that niche where supreme comfort reigned. It's come to that time of the year where I've slept in my bed for so long that there is probably some sort of indentation that remembers my body just right.

Anyways... so I hadn't been on time for work lately and, last Friday, nothing was going to get in my way of arriving at 9 on the dot. Once I had the cognitive capacities to roll out of bed and head to shower (some things I won't give up), I decided the only way to get out of here in time would be to brush my teeth in the shower.

Maybe lots of people do this, but I'd never done it before. I've gotta say, it was an awesome new sensation. Minty freshness while you wash your hair. Wild. Does it actually save water? Maybe. Maybe not. But it does save time. :P

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ring in Spring, Bring the Color

If anyone knows me, they know I own a pair of robin's egg blue canvas pants, a pair of neon green corduroy pants, a pink/purple sweater, and a dirty orange blazer. I don't shy away from color. A varied palette of colors was something I learned from the Italians. It may be the fact that it's springtime, or perhaps the general populace has been brainwashed by J. Crew, but I've noticed that strong colors are definitely hitting hard this season.

My roommate Shivani works her colors marvelously, maybe it has to do with the Indian roots, maybe it has to do with the sexy artistic person she is, but her wardrobe (when not pajamas :P) often pack a punch. Three simple items that literally pop into mind are her bright red and bright yellow coats along with her boppin' blue leggings. Adding these things to an outfit, she pops from a crowd with confidence, color and oomph. Girls can easily pull of loud colors because they have more variety to work with, but can boys?

The other day I was catching up on my guilty-pleasure TV show, Gossip Girl and noticed that a similar vibrancy of color had crept into the wardrobe of Chuck Bass. In the intro paragraph of the show, Chuck sports a bright orange trenchcoat. Bright orange, like highlighter orange, just bordering on traffic cone orange. But somehow he pulls it off.

While the upscale girls also pull off bright yellow, pink and green coats and colorful headbands, for some reason the daring palette and the male sex don't seem to associate normally in North America. But why not? Birds do it. Cardinals, for example, give the males bright red coats while the females are boring and grey. Peacocks too endow the men with scintillating pompous-worthy feathers and leave the women with nothing much to strut around. While I don't want to argue for men primping more than the ladies, I think men should be entitled to a little fashion power.

Chuck not only sported the orange trenchcoat, later in the episode he wore a bright red riding-inspired coat (with black trim on the collar) and to top it all off, with simply a glimpse at the episode's conclusion, he mix-matched a pink/purple shirt with green collar, a purple cardigan and oh so big-bird yellow pants. Totally wild? Sure. It definitely is saturation to the extreme. But, I dunno, I kinda like it. What do I say? Kudos to the stylist on the set of Gossip Girl. Bring on the color, men, be bold, be ballsy, go nuts. I know I intend to.