“The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death” is a 2012 Book List Essential

As Posted on the Democrat and Chronicle Young Professionals’Blog

I rarely go a day without wanting to learn some new piece of information. It can be something as complex as the Vietnam War or as mundane as the origins of Pixy Stix (which started in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952, for the record), I have always been a fiend for knowledge. But more often than not, it takes an older book or primary source to satiate my thirst for history. As a religion major at the University of Rochester, I had to read documents that were older than the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves (~400 BCE)! However, I have fallen for the works of a historian and journalist who actually isn’t as old as papyrus. The New Yorker staff writer and David Woods Kemper ’41 professor of American History at Harvard University Jill Lepore has hooked me into the profound, yet intuitive, concept that historical events of the past can constantly be rewritten to offer an amazingly witty narrative. What Lepore writes about surely has been discussed over the years, but the way she links one seemingly unrelated cultural staple to the next uncovers an abstruse motif. In essence, that is what the best historians offer society

The book that won me over you ask? Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death. The title caught my eye while I was browsing through a few book displays around my stomping grounds at Rush Rhees Library. (If there is one thing you should know about marketing anything to a religion major, it is that you can virtually add the word “life” or “death” to any product or service and we will likely want to investigate). With my strange bias against newer books — with the exception of biographies — I sifted through the pages rather dubiously when I saw that it was published in 2012. Personally, I consider someone who publishes a book in 2012 to be my competition as opposed to my teacher.

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NYC Mayor Race 2013: No Jewish Candidates A Sign of Shift in NYC Demographics

As Published on PolicyMic

America’s capital of diversity is experiencing a noticeable absence in its 2013 mayoral election diversity round table. As the prospects for New York City’s upcoming mayoral race come forward, it is beginning to seem more likely that this will be the fourth time since 1965 that there are no significant Jewish American candidates in contention for the seat.

The attention that New Yorkers have given the topic is a clear indication of the importance of race identity and representation to New York City voters. However, while much can be said about this year’s void, it certainly should not detract from the vast landscape in race, gender, and even sexual orientation in the 2013 mayoral election. Instead, New Yorkers should consider the demographic shifts in our City that are being reflected in the historic race.

Earlier this year, I posted an article that highlighted the diversity in NYC’s mayoral race. In this year’s lineup is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is of Irish descent and would be the first female and openly gay mayor; Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, who is of Italian and German descent (and happens to be married to an African American woman); City Comptroller John Lui, who would be the first Taiwanese American mayor; and former Comptroller and 2009 Democrat nominee Bill Thompson Jr., who is black. The only significant GOP hopeful is former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr., who would be NYC’s first Latino mayor. This year’s race is indisputably one of the most diverse mayoral elections in NYC, if not the country, and deserves a grin from even the most extreme Tea Partier for its historic implications of our nation’s social progress.

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Thanksgiving 2012: How to Stay in Shape This Thanksgiving Day

As Published on PolicyMic

This week is Thanksgiving. For some of us, it is a day to feel good about ourselves by writing depressing blog posts in a dark room and claiming that we were the first ones to ever argue that the Pilgrims killed the entire Native American population on the Third Thursday of every November. For others, who are apparently not cool enough to skip out on a big feast with their friends and families, it is a day to eat, drink, and be merry and thankful for the blessings and virtues in our lives.

But how much eating and drinking is too merry? As a gym rat and one of the few males in this world who wants to get an RD, I wrestled with which side to advocate for on the crowded American dinner table. Should we overindulge ourselves when our country has record high obesity rates and portion sizes that eclipses as recent as the 1980s? Or should we be conservative by replacing Thanksgiving hallmarks with more healthy ingredients?

My conclusion, you ask? Eat till your heart’s content!

The purpose of Thanksgiving is to celebrate family, friends, fortunes and opportunities through the sacred food pathways of our own unique family traditions and culture. All I ask is that we care about the person sitting at our dinner tables and refuse to go to Target after we devour our turkey.

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New York Voting: Hurricane Sandy Displaces Countless Voters in New York City

As Published on PolicyMic

Lines, lines, and more lines.

This morning, my father practiced his 30-years-old Election Day tradition of voting before he typically catches the B6 to work. Much to his surprise, there was a line that went up and down Vermont St. in the heart of East New York.

The result: I got an early morning tirade that woke me up from sleeping in on my day off.

“I swear they’re trying to pull another Gore! This is a travesty! They’re giving out numbers to vote! They can’t stop us from voting! You better find out if this is happening in minority neighborhoods around the country.” Then I went back to sleep.

The answer to his question probably has a lot to do with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issuing an executive order that gave New Yorkers that were displaced by Sandy permission to vote at any site. So long as you fill out an affidavit on site, you can vote.

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Filed under Environment, Policymic, Politics

NY Election Results: LIVE Hurricane Sandy May Cost Democrats the 11th District Seat on Staten Island

As Published on PolicyMic

Any Democratic Presidential nominee can typically count on banking 29 electoral votes from the Big Apple, but that is not the case for congressional races — especially in Staten Island.

Staten Island has always been viewed as the black sheep in the liberal City polls. In fact, in 2008, John Mccain won 52 percent of the popular vote in Staten Island, while he merely earned 12 percent of the Bronx. But according to the polls, and a stream of NY Times articles, the GOP may be endanger of losing the ultra-conservative 11th District to a political novice. Despite the fact that the 11th district has only sent one Democrat to Congress in 30 years (former City Councilman Mike McMahon, who lost handedly to current incumbent Michael Grimm in 2010 after serving just one one-year term), the GOP incumbent faces a legitimate threat in Mark Murphy following NY Times’ coverage of Grimm’s checkered past. As Democrats battle to reclaim the House, a win against one of the more vulnerable GOP congressman can bring them one seat closer to 218.

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7 Huge Issues You Really Don’t Hear Obama and Romney Talking About, But Matter a Heck of A Lot

As Published on PolicyMic

Every four years, two of the best (or wealthiest) civic servants burn through millions of dollars, hours, trees, and airwaves to convince us that they are going to be the first commander-in-chief to tackle everything that they mention in their ads and debates.

That, of course, has yet to be the case. But at the very least, voters must demand that our elected officials make an earnest effort to take on the issues that are so often passed on to the next administration like a can getting kicked down Main Street. Our best plead for an answer often lies in the two major candidates’ attempt to capture some of the third party votes by slightly tapping into their platforms.

In the meantime, we are left listening to the same unaddressed (if even noted) topics election after election.

That said, here are seven pressing issues that both President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney have yet to offer an adequate explanation for: Read More

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Hurricane Sandy Path Shows Need For Major New York City Infrastructure Improvements

As Published on PolicyMic

Last August, Tropical Storm Irene barreled through the east coast and left over 1 million people without power (over 300,000 in the tri-state area alone), caused 50 deaths nationwide, and cost the nation over $15 billion — and that was over $1 billion in New York State when you take into account the amount of money that the MTA lost from shutting down its services. The effects were most devastating for New York state’s dairy farmers who suffered tremendously due to inundated feeds for their cattle and flooded routes that impeded dairy deliveries. But even with nearly 200 upstate family farms left under water, a quick glance at any native New Yorker’s Facebook newsfeed or New York City pub promotion ringed of a single motif: “Storms aren’t that serious here because New York is storm proof!”

But arrogance is an awfully expensive vice (or virtue). As Sandy continues her 800 mile voyage across the east coast and whistles at the speed of 75 miles per hour, it is time for New York to shed itself of its sense of natural disaster impalpability — which is the same mentality of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2011 blizzard blunder — and begin to get serious about truly creating a storm proof city that is technically structured the same way as the overly confident New Yorker boasts. Read More

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