By Sabrina Franza
By Sabrina Franza
“I’ve learned to live with my limitations,” Eila Koski, 73, says as she plants one crooked foot before the other, one frail hand gripping a swiveling chair while the other grasps a shaking cane. She hobbles down her apartment’s narrow hallway to her bedroom, where piles of newspapers, sheets, magazines, boxes, and socks are stacked on every surface. A wardrobe sits in the corner, drawers open and shirts draping out. Koski’s own shirt is a bit too large, perhaps having fit in the past, but now slips off her left shoulder as she pushes stacks of paper off her armchair so she can sit down.
Ms. Koski is among the 560,000 elderly in New York City who are confined to their homes. These men and women comprise 40 percent of the city’s elderly population, reported in the 2010 census. She also belongs to another isolated group: homebound elderly who don’t expect any visitors this holiday season, except for a brief food delivery from Citymeals on Wheels.
In New York City, 44.3 percent of people 85 or older live alone and often live below the poverty line, according to a 2014 report by the NYC Department for the Aging. The study states that elderly people living alone in the city risk social isolation, contributing to factors of disability and deprived access of care.
New York and other cities tend to have more isolated elderly because people are living longer and having fewer children, says Victor Rodwin, 67, an NYU professor of health policy and management. It’s especially common on the Upper East Side, where Koski lives, because many elderly residents, the majority female, are “house-rich but cash-poor,” he said. They can afford their often rent-controlled or stabilized apartment, where many have lived for decades, but live on fixed incomes and struggle to buy groceries and other necessities.
Citymeals on Wheels feeds more than 18,000 homebound seniors delivered by about 300 staffers. The busy schedule leaves little time for socializing. “There’s a very small window that our staff can spend with the seniors because they have so many meals to deliver,” said Vivienne O’Neill, director of volunteer programs. But she said that the staff still make time for some friendly conversation and that those few minutes make a huge difference in the lives of the seniors.
Many volunteers are well aware that they do more than just deliver food. The work is a mental health project, according to volunteer Veronica Torres, 18, a New York University student studying global public health. “Their lit up faces when they see us at the door with food is indescribable and invaluable, and they deserve to have that more often than just through deliveries,” Torres said.
Since it began in 1982, Citymeals on Wheels has tried to find new ways to make connections with the elderly, such as its hand-written holiday letter program, as well as the “Senior Chat” and “Senior Script” programs where volunteers can create a written or online correspondence between themselves and isolated seniors.
Yet the thousands of socially isolated elderly in Manhattan are largely unseen, said Alicia Flores, the volunteer supervisor for Citymeals on Wheels at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center on 93rd Street. Flores insisted that seniors need to see “friendly faces” more often. “We need more people to go and just talk to them,” Flores said. “If you say you don’t have to go and deliver more meals, they keep you there forever! It’s sad, it’s really sad. But it is what it is.”
For some, like Eila Koski, 73, there’s no family left in the U.S. She emigrated from Finland in 1968, and most of her relatives live in Sweden. She’s lived alone at the Knickerbocker Plaza apartment building on Second Avenue for five years, and said that she has not seen any family since 2013. “They have their own life,” Koski said. “My children have their families, work, and their children. They can’t just come here.” She has two older siblings who have not visited her due to their own health problems.
Koski used to enjoy outings to the Isaacs Center, but has not gone for years due to health problems. “Taking care of myself takes all of my time and energy,” Koski said. “I would probably have gone to Sweden myself by now if not for my health problem.”
Asked about her plans for this coming Christmas, Koski expects to enjoy a holiday meal in the quiet of her home. “I know it’s not possible to see my family more,” Koski said, her fingers fidgeting with the spectacles in her hands. “I have had enough entertainment in my life, I don’t really require anything.” Yet upon leaving her home, she leaned over her armchair, widened her large, blue eyes, and asked, “Do you have to go?”
Jesus Martinez, owner of Martinez Handmade Cigars, gives an inside look to the hand rolled cigar making process.
I sit down with Sara Auster, a sound therapist and meditation teacher, to talk about what sound therapy is and how it helped Auster on her journey of personal recovery.
SARA AUSTER: My name is Sara Auster. I am a Sound Therapist and meditation teacher.
LAURA RUBIO: What you are hearing right now are Himalayan Singing Bowls, one of the many instruments Auster uses in her practice. Sound therapy found its way into Auster’s life in an unexpected manner.
SARA AUSTER: I have been a musician my whole life and then, in 2002, when I was working as a professional artist and musician, the floor of my studio collapsed. And I fell 15 feet, I broke my back, I was temporarily paralyzed.
I suffered from chronic pain for a long time after that, which is really the very specific moment that set me on a path of sort of self-healing and self-inquiry and trying to, you know, figure out how to not be in pain all the time.
LAURA RUBIO: After the accident, Auster wanted to find a way to keep music in her life.
SARA AUSTER: Well, I have this love of music and I’m an artist and how can I creatively express myself in a way that’s holding space for other people to heal and recover from injury and trauma? That’s how I ended up here.
LAURA RUBIO: Auster offers her therapy in sound baths, meditative events that can be private, in small groups or at large-scale events.
SARA AUSTER: It’s not a concert. It’s often described as a concert. It’s not a concert because I’m not performing. I would say maybe it’s most similar to jazz in that it’s really like a conversation however it’s not just me in conversation with myself. It’s me in conversation with the humans that are in the room with me.
LAURA RUBIO: Something that is always present in Auster’s sound experiences are the crystal singing bowls heard earlier.
SARA AUSTER: Because they are bowls, they’re round, and I’m playing them by taking this rubber mallet or suede or, acrylic often, to circle around the outside to create a friction that makes them “sing,” that’s why they call them the singing bowls.
LAURA RUBIO: Auster also includes wind chimes in her sound baths, although they play their own part at the end of her sessions.
S: This may be like a little bit of a, you know, coming back, like a little gentle uh, you know, “Good morning! It’s time to wake up.” (Laughs) Yeah.
LAURA RUBIO: Auster believes that sound, like music, has the ability to shift our mood. It all depends on the relationship we develop with them.
SARA AUSTER: And so, it’s just, it’s part of life and part of city living. There’s lots of sounds like that in the city that I love to talk about, even the noisy neighbor.
LAURA RUBIO: She hopes that people can see that meditation is anything but a soundless experience.
SARA AUSTER: The truth is meditation is, it’s really just a practice of knowing yourself better, in a sense. And by knowing yourself better, you then know how to interact and relate with the world around you in a much healthier way.
An exploration of gender inequality within the film industry through the lens of NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Shot and edited by Sam Fritsch.
Unintentionally prophesied in the early 2000s by the likes of American rapper Eminem in his song “Stan,” stan culture and its growing prolificacy have become immensely widespread in recent years, enough so that Beyoncé’s dedicated fanbase, the Beyhive, were parodied on Saturday Night Live in 2014 and the term “stan” was entered into the lexicon of the Oxford English Dictionary earlier this year.
Despite the subculture’s prevalence online and in burgeoning youth cultures that cannot separate themselves from the internet’s omnipresence, most news media is lacking in its coverage of stan culture, and what limited coverage there is pertaining to it can be disparaging, with articles often noting the extreme extents to which some stans express their devotion to a celebrity they idolize.
The severity of sensationalism pertaining to stans this year alone has ranged from the harmless reporting of stans, sometimes deemed as superfans, waiting hours in line for a Lady Gaga concert in Miami to a celebrity gossip blog reporting on Taylor Swift’s legion of stans, dubbed Swifties, commenting rat and mouse emojis on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram posts to an article reporting on the aggressive nature some stans direct towards their own idols on Twitter.
Nolan Feeney, a music editor for Entertainment Weekly, reported on stans for the entertainment magazine, going so far as to interact with some on the social media platform, Twitter, and the online pop culture forum and stan mecca, ATRL. “I think a lot of articles about stans have been very sensational and focused on how they’re ‘crazy’ or ‘rabid,’” he said, “But I just knew there was more to it than that.”
The coverage of stans is made even worse by how the current definition of the term “stan” has been propagated by the Oxford English Dictionary as “[a]n overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.”
Such an interpretation of stans and their prevailing culture in the contemporary world seems to bear some form of negative connotation with being a stan; as if to be a stan is to be Eminem’s “Stan,” i.e. someone who repeatedly and violently strives for acknowledgement from their favorite celebrity to a point where the obsessed fan would harm themselves or others for the attention of a celebrity.
Among those who consider themselves stans of a celebrity, there is a sense of a different perspective within stan communities of what it means to be a stan. Anthony Davis, 20, has been stanning Nicki Minaj since sixth grade, and finds the media’s portrayal of stans to be exaggerated yet sees truth in the culture’s obsessive tendencies.
“I feel like a stan is just engrossed in who they [celebrities] are as a person and everything,” Davis says as he scrolls through a seemingly endless Twitter feed on his phone teeming with images of and tweets in reference to the Queens rapper he devoutly follows.
Krista Burton, 20, is a Swiftie who has a different reasoning for what comprises a stan while also distinguishing her feelings as a stan from that of a fan.
“You can be a fan of a specific artist and not really place an emotional development in them,” she says. “But since Taylor Swift has been a huge part of my life and present throughout the journey, I don’t think the word ‘fan’ is strong enough to decide how I feel.”
However, Burton does recognize that there is a detrimental aspect to stans in this subculture of what some may regard as extreme fanaticism. “I think for a lot of people it can be really unhealthy,” she says. “I know Swifties who are always on their phone watching Taylor’s movements.”
“Like, they know when she’s online and they just start reposting their content to get noticed,” Burton continues. “It really gets unhealthy, obsessive, and stalker-ish.”
Regardless of Davis or Burton’s perceptions on what a stan is, it is certain that articles on the topic of stan culture are very few this year despite “stan” entering into the vernaculars of numerous teens and young adults, as well as of Nicki Minaj in her verse on Katy Perry’s song “Swish Swish” and of news outlets like Buzzfeed that tend to market themselves towards younger segments of the population.
A quick search of the term “stan” on Buzzfeed’s website yields more than 40 articles and listicles that relate to the word in some manner. A decent portion of these search results are in reference to comic book writer Stan Lee and actor Sebastian Stan.
Interestingly, however, the website seems to have overhauled its use of the word “stan” in over 25 pieces within the past two months alone. Of these pieces related to the term “stan” in Buzzfeed’s search results, only a few analyze the impact and psychology of the stan, with one analysis focusing on the media’s negative spin of fan and stan culture in pop music throughout time. The rest mostly use the term “stan” as if it were any other verb akin to “love” or “admire,” which provides a positive spin for a currently underrepresented and misrepresented culture in the news.
As much as Buzzfeed has begun overdosing much of its content with themes related to stan culture, even going so far as to have an entire week dedicated to stans this year, it seems to be the only non-specialized news outlet bringing it any form of considerable press coverage.
However, what content Buzzfeed does publish in relation to stans may not be enough to spur a movement like the fervor of groupies in the 60s, but it is comparatively more in quantity and, in some regard, quality; that is, if those other outlets are even publishing anything at all concerning an ever present subculture that has become less underground and more airborne nowadays thanks to the prevalence of the internet and social media making stanning more accessible to those with a Wi-Fi, broadband, or cellular connection.
What little media coverage stans do receive, Davis does not believe it is generally positive. “I think that the media portrayal is kind of skewed negatively, but I’m not sure if it’s always intentional,” he says. “The things that are worth talking about sometimes are the things other people outside of stan culture notice or when it gets extreme.”
Feeney believes the size of stan culture partially contributes its misrepresentation. “Part of [it] is just that stan culture is so big,” he says. “There are all kinds of stans and all kinds of stan communities and all sorts of ways to be a stan.”
Thomas Fortune, 21, stans multi-platinum solo artist, Beyoncé, and agrees that the media seems to represent the most extreme stans that “drag” and “come for” people mostly on the web. “It’s this unfiltered kind of anger and a celebrity as an excuse to come for people slash [sic] insult people,” says Fortune in his formal explanation of the two stan jargons mentioned.
Apart from the sensationalism of stan culture through the reporting on its most extreme proponents, the media representation of stan culture could be the result of a lack of journalists like Feeney who are well versed in contemporary pop and internet culture, or of a lack of being online where stan culture abounds in its natural habitats of social media comment sections and message boards on pop culture forums.
To improve on both the negative and lack of coverage of stan culture, Feeney suggests improving upon the coverage of pop music, which he believes is integral to stan culture considering how musicians tend to have greater and more represented stans in the media.
“I think you can’t really have serious, legit reporting and criticism about stan culture until after you have serious, legit reporting and criticism about pop music,” he says. “So I think as that trend continues or that type of pop coverage becomes more commonplace, coverage about stan culture will grow, too.”
Burton believes stan culture shares a direct relationship with the internet, and that it may receive better reception once both it and internet access mature. “I think stan culture is just beginning,” she says. “The more connected the world gets, the more intense stan culture will get.”
Whatever the trend may be for the coverage of stans, there are signs that it truly is in its beginning stages as Burton suggests, and that it is starting to receive fairer and wider coverage. Just this year, The New York Times culture reporter, Joe Coscarelli, highlighted the relationship between Taylor Swift and her Swifties, and how their strong relationship has emboldened Swifties to prevent leaks and preserve their matriarch’s good image.
Only time will tell whether the media reception of stans improves. All that is known is that these digital upgrades of now outdated groupies will continue subsisting off of Wi-Fi connections to feed their borderline obsessions of the idols they cherish. The internet is their sandbox and social media their pails and buckets which are rapidly forging virtual communities and societies that may soon rival those of the real world.
Major streets are blocked off. The subway is packed. Sidewalks are crowded and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” blares from multiple directions, the bass turned up so earth-shatteringly loud that it can be heard through the Nassau Station underground. Despite all the commotion, the atmosphere in Greenpoint is not one of stress. It seems that today, on the morning of the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, New Yorkers do not mind the disruption to the city’s sights and sounds.
At the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue, spectators crowd along the street to see runners prepare to cross the Pulaski Bridge, marking the halfway point of the race. Neighborhood residents and international travelers alike bring the enthusiasm, practically dangling off fire escapes to wave posters and handing out free bananas by the bunch on the sidelines. There is a slight drizzle in the air, but that doesn’t deter the bands set up every few blocks playing covers of 80’s rock songs.
Christina, a resident of the neighborhood, came to the bustling intersection to cheer on three of her friends. “I’m two for three so far. I missed one,” she says, her neon pink poster rolled up below her arm. She has watched the race here four times now, though she claims she would never want to run it herself. Still, she loves the energy that the race brings to her area. “I think it’s really inspirational, and the camaraderie is great.”
While some only have to go out on their balconies or sit on their porches to see the race, others have to plan their trips months or even years in advance. Sharon, a woman in her mid forties, came all the way from South Africa with her husband to cheer him on in his first marathon. She stands on the sideline with a friend waving a full-size South African flag. She has never visited the city before this week, but her husband’s decision was more about timing than location. “Basically, it was in a year’s time from when the decision was made, and that’s enough time to train,” she says with a shrug.
A sight that brings a smile to the faces of nearly every runner that passes is a man in a full cow costume leaning over the sideline barrier, furiously rattling a cowbell and screaming cheers. Brian, who is from Seattle, is donning the outfit to cheer on his girlfriend and her sister, and chose the location because it’s nearby their Airbnb room. His favorite part of the race so far is the reactions of runners when they see total strangers cheering them on. “You can call anybody’s name here,” he says, then proves his point by screaming, “LET’S GO, MARY!” at a passing runner in a pink t-shirt with her name printed across the front.
With the advent of music streaming, catalogs of music have been made more accessible to a greater number of people in the United States, and it is slowly contributing itself to independence in our tastes and most successful songs.
To gauge the extent of streaming this year, there have been over 184 billion on-demand audio streams reported from music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music since the beginning of 2017, a 62% increase from the same time in 2016, according to Nielsen.
This news comes after it was reported that on-demand audio streaming’s share of music consumption reached 38%, and had surpassed those of digital sales in 2016. It is highly probable that streaming’s share could rise even further by year’s end given Nielsen’s 2017 mid-year findings.
Russ Crupnick, managing partner at music market research firm MusicWatch, details one reason why the streaming phenomenon has rapidly taken place in recent years. “It wasn’t always convenient to play vinyls, cassettes, or CDs,” he says. “Streaming is more convenient because it works with all kinds of different devices with access to 30-40 million songs. The amount of variety is limitless!”
With greater access to these multi-million song libraries, it is evident that less people would be willing to pay for one album on a digital store like iTunes when they could essentially have access to that same album and millions more with streaming memberships for a similar price.
As streaming continues to provide music more directly to the consumer, its dominance rises with each passing year since 2013 when digital track sales suffered a 5.7% decline that year, according to Billboard.
Now in its phoenix moment, the music industry celebrates 2017 as the year that saw Ed Sheeran break numerous Spotify records, and R&B/Hip Hop become the genre with the highest share of streaming distribution among Nielsen’s recognized genres.
This year also made clear of the industry’s shift to promote artists with generally high streaming numbers and audiences associated with them, with seemingly unconventional crossover collaborations transcending geography, language and culture.
From The Weeknd and Daft Punk to Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber to Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé, Billboard’s chart topping singles this year showcased an array of diverse artists and genre bending in today’s pop music world.
The novelty of streaming has since become beneficial to a recovering music industry which seems to be less at the discretion of record labels and more of its own consumers.
Every night, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., a palpable cloud of hopelessness and despair hangs thick over the defendants of New York City’s criminal court. The familiar scene of primarily unkempt, poverty stricken, mostly non-white citizens awaiting their bail hearings was disturbingly juxtaposed on a recent Monday night by the nonchalant chattering of the in-house lawyers, judges, and safety officers whose bodies, if not spirits, could be observed occupying the same space.
“There’s not much to report in there,” a public defender said, indicating the court room that would soon decide the fate of 11 living, breathing individuals.
Nowhere in America is the systemic idea of the “undeserving poor” more easily evident and realized than in a $10,000 bail decision levied against a homeless drug-addict. Ten out of 11 defendants on trial at New York City’s criminal court this night were ethnic minorities. Three out of 11 were homeless. All cases ,but two addressed drug crimes, and all cases but one, resulted in the judge’s advancement toward prosecution.
A young Latina woman’s grandmother wept quietly to herself in the third row of the wooden benches, as her terrified granddaughter Amanda entered the court chambers before the proceeding began. Just beside Amanda, an unaffected officer killed time by conversing with an off-duty lawyer and munching on candy, merrily indifferent to the emotional temperature of the room in a perfect display of the business-as-usual mentality of the American criminal justice system.
While the United States represents only five percent of the world’s population, it is responsible for 21 percent of the world’s population of prisoners. Research also strongly suggests a racial/economic status bias in bail decisions. The system is flawed and, for a prime opportunity to see this inequity in action, one needs to look no further than the TripAdvisor verified tourist spot known as New York City’s night court.
As her family watched on, Amanda awaited a crack-cocaine sentencing, the mounting anxiety of every passing minute visible on her face. Conversely, the public servants holding her future in their hands milled about their night in no apparent rush, before ultimately settling on a $10,000 bail amount and a trial date. In an instant, Amanda was reduced to yet another data point in the radically disproportionate statistic of America prosecuting its ethnic minorities.
The night continued on, as case after case saw people of color and the impoverished fall victim to the glaring statistics. In a country where two-thirds of those arrested are white, but two-thirds of those incarcerated are black, it was little surprise that every African-American facing a drug sentence received consequences in the form of hundreds of dollars in fines or thousands of dollars in bail.
One African-American man, arrested earlier in the day at Marcus Garvey Park, pled guilty to possession of a dime-sized bag of marijuana and was forced to pay a $225 fine. This penalty stands in stark to contrast to another hearing from just last week, when a white NYU student who had gotten caught smoking marijuana received nothing but a reprimand from a night court judge to “not do it again.”
This leniency was not extended to Melissa, a 28-year-old homeless woman who had unwittingly sold crack-cocaine to an undercover officer. On Monday, she stood in defeat before the judge after her lawyer failed to lessen the $10,000 bail appointed to her.
“She had two pipes on her,” her lawyer stated. “She’s not only selling crack to live. She’s also a drug addict. My defendant is 28-years-old and has never been convicted of a crime.”
Obtaining enough food and water just to make it through the day is a daily struggle for drug-addicted Melissa, who now has an absurdly unattainable $10,000 bail price hanging over her head. With very little chance of rehabilitation in jail, it is more than likely that Melissa will ultimately return to the streets, a felony holder still addicted to crack-cocaine and a product of a criminal justice system that overwhelmingly favors the economically elite. Meanwhile, the white and/or wealthy young people across the city, who enjoy a more-expensive form of the same drug that has ruined Melissa’s ’ life, will continue to snort lines in dorm rooms and nightclub bathrooms without any real fear of having to answer for their own drug infractions.
The last hearing of the night belonged to a friend of Amanda’s, 20-year-old Jose. Sitting slumped next to a police officer, the young man was seemingly well-aware of the harsh inevitability of his conviction. His parents, exuding a bit more outward confidence, could be seen gesturing toward their son in an apparent attempt to inspire hope of a near-statistical impossibility, whilst presumably suppressing their own feelings of anguish.
Melendez’s parents pleaded with their legal aid lawyer to attempt to get their son released, as they simply did not have the thousands of dollars required to pay his bail.
Their hopes were dashed before Jose even had a chance to stand before the judge. Throwing on his puffer vest and NorthFace coat, their son’s court-appointed lawyer cut a swift line toward the court’s exit doors. It was almost 1 a.m.. and he was apparently off-the-clock.
“I’m going home,” the lawyer informed them. “That lawyer is going to take over your case.”
Jose is now awaiting his criminal trial in a jail cell.
(Last names have been withheld to protect the accused)
Every chair on the Lower Level 2 of Bobst Library yesterday, was occupied by a student hunched over their laptops with eyes fixated on their screens and fingers glued to their keyboards. Every study room was booked and every outlet was in use.
Papers were sprawled across the floor as students sat on the sides of the hallway, barely making room for passersby. Some study groups were even assembling on the couches of the main lobby. This was not just a snapshot of a day in Bobst Library—this is Bobst Library 24-7. It’s finals season.
“It’s been a time of suffering,” Zahra Watson, a second-year Marketing major, said.
Watson, like many other students at New York University, are beyond stressed about their finals, sacrificing their physical health for a letter grade. Some stay at the library until 3 a.m., or keep working until they go to their 8 a.m. class the next morning.
“I haven’t slept in the past couple of days,” Watson said. “I’ve been living off of Red Bull and Starbucks.”
According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, college students are more likely to have erratic sleep schedules, poor quality sleep and are highly at risk for major mood and substance abuse disorders. But sleep is not the only thing college students miss out on during this stressful time of year.
“I forget to eat… a lot,” Noah Kim, 20, said. “I’m always so into my projects and always thinking about ideas.”
Kim, a film major at Tisch, has been stressing about thinking of ideas for his final film project. According to Kim, most students at NYU don’t believe that Tisch kids have finals, but Tisch final projects are just as, or even more than, stressful as finals at other schools.
“This final project shows everything that you’ve learned throughout the semester and how much you’ve improved,” Kim said. “I just feel stressed and sick.”
Others feel as if finals season is affecting their entire wellbeing beyond their sleep schedule.
“I would label myself as an active person, but during finals season, my body cannot recover the same way,” Nicholas Tong, a student on the pre-med track, said. “I’m lethargic.”
While the immense stress of finals season may simply be a rite of passage in college, high stress levels for a prolonged period of time can cause poor cardiovascular health and lowered immunity, according to the Vaden Health Center at Stanford University. Some students believe that professors can take measures to ameliorate the pressure on the general health of the student body.
“Perhaps professors should space out the tests even more, but I can imagine that navigating those logistics would be pretty hard,” Tong said.
But coping with the madness of finals season is not a lost cause. Some students are taking measures into their own hands to destress.
“I don’t stress as much because I realize one bad grade won’t kill you,” Sally Wu, a freshman at Gallatin, said. “I also take lots of naps.”
When final exams and paper deadlines are quickly creeping around the corner, it can be difficult to balance academic effort with physical wellbeing. According to USA Today, experts recommend some helpful tips such as reaching out to counselors, communicating with professors, and of course, an adequate amount of sleep.
“We often look at mind and body as two different things,” Tong said. “But it’s actually one thing. if we take care of our bodies, we take care of our minds.”