Friday, December 15, 2017


“Life is a feast and most suckers are dying of starvation”
                                    -Auntie Mame
December 18, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,

 It’s kind of amazing that every nation, religion and ethnic group in the world has holidays of one form or another. Whether they are about celebrating religious events, famous battles or simply the changing of the year, every culture throughout history designates a few, special days a year as times to break from routines in order to do something special with family and friends. As everyone has ten days off from school coming up, minus some homework time, I hope that all of our students take the time to do something special with their family and friends.

Holidays are made special by our rituals and traditions. These don’t all have to be very old or passed down for generations. In my own family, my mother reads the “Night Before Christmas” to us as her mother did to her and cooks delicious lasagna, just as her family did. But in other ways, our traditions change with time. My husband now cooks a Colombian feast for breakfast, my father and I go crazy decorating the house, my brother “surprises” us every year by stuffing of the stockings with silly gifts, and my sisters make crafty gifts. This year, we are adding a new twist to the festivities as we are all going over to my Dominican in-laws home for Christmas dinner. My point is, it is up to you to create your own holiday customs and traditions that make your holidays special to your own unique family, however you define it.

What is true for making your family events special is just as true for making your friendships special this season. As I wrote last week, collecting “friends” on Facebook, sharing pics and texting inane messages are no way to build long-lasting, meaningful friendships – you need to put effort in to special things that create memories. Take some time over the holidays to do something special with your friends – ice skating in the park, cook a meal together or visit the Christmas Trees - in Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park. You can also head up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Egyptian temple or visit the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. They both have a pay as you wish policy, so ignore the big admissions signs and just pay a quarter.

I used to teach in a town of 500 people upstate. The students there always complained that there was nothing to do, and they were jealous of city kids who had so many options. The shame is that too few city kids take advantage of all that is offered to them. Don’t waste your opportunities. Ask someone today if they want to get together over vacation, and then make this holiday time special.

Enjoy your vacation,

John Wenk 

December 21                           Parents’ Association meeting
December 21                           Onesie Day
December 23-January 1          Winter Recess
Some of LoMA’s Families’ Traditions

-We play Ludi every year, when we’re all together.  It’s a Jamaican game.
-We always play dominoes, the games go late into the night.
-Even though we’re all grown, we still go and get into our PJ’s every Christmas morning, even if it’s not what we slept in.
-We go to church as a family, even though it’s the only time of the year we go.
-We all play Just Dance, even the grownups and old people.
-Every time our family gets together, we use it as an excuse to make tamales.  Sometimes I think that’s the only reason we spend time together.
-We celebrate Chinese New Year every winter, we go around to all of our relatives’ houses and get red envelopes full of money.
-My sister and I still go trick-or-treating every year.  She was 21 this year.
-We always cook Hot Pot on Christmas, even though we don’t really celebrate the holiday.  It’s a Chinese soup that is always different, which makes it always the same.
-We go to the Halloween parade as a family wearing a themed costume.  This year, we were the Incredibles.
-We play Wii Sports as a family, and the winner gets a legit wrestling-style championship belt.

Some Ideas from LoMA students of what they like to do around the City

-Go to the Lego Store or the Nintendo Store, they’re lots of fun, even if you don’t buy anything.
-Go see the Macy’s Displays
-Go to the New York Public Library, it’s like walking into Hogwarts.
-There’s a lightshow every night around Times Square.  It’s wicked cold, but very cool.
-Go see a movie at the Pier, but dress warm!
-I like to walk around the Holiday Markets they have at Union Square and Bryant Park.
-The Museum of Math is actually really fun.
-Go to the High Line, it’s better in the winter, especially if it snowed.
-Go to the travelling Cloud Museum, most people haven’t heard of it, but it’s awesome!
-Get some friends and do an escape-the-room!
-I like to bake.  Make a cake with friends or a Gingerbread House.
-Go to the Whitney or one of the small arts museums around Delancey.  Ask an Art Major or Julie!
-There’s a Science Museum in Queens that rocks.  Also, Queens just rocks!  Go to Astoria or Flushing!
-Laser Tag!  Paintball!  Some of them have cheaper prices during the day.
-Go see a Star Wars!  (wink)
-I like the Brooklyn Museum and the Wax Museum
-Go eat at a diner!  I love diners.

-There’s a rollerblade restaurant on Delancey that I love.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Screen time

Dear LoMA,
               This week, we have thoughts from a sophomore, a freshman, and a junior, respectively, who have been ruminating on the perceived happiness of screen time and social media.
               There’s no doubt about it that the invention of the television changed life forever.  People everywhere began staring at TV screens; sometimes for a laugh, other times for breaking news.  Now the TV has turned into an everything device that’s in each of our pockets or hands all of the time.  Regardless of what we use our screen for, these tools have their ups and downs.  Comedic shows and videos make people laugh out loud, but disturbing images like graphic shows and coverage of events like 9/11 bring people to tears and get burned into our memories.  The thing is, though, most people don’t see what these screens actually do.  People spend so much time staring at them, building these emotions and memories that they refuse to leave their homes so much or talk to people in person, thus becoming antisocial or lazy.  Screen time can be a good pastime, but like everything else, too much of it is a bad thing.

*                            *                            *

               I disagree with the idea that staring at screens for hours will definitely make people less happy, because for some people today, they have found that their phones give them a way to relax that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.  For example, I find myself stressed a lot, and I watch slime videos to calm myself down.  For some reason I even find that it motivates me, as crazy as that sounds, it’s true.  I do agree that some people who use screen time and social media or texting often find themselves getting into arguments that are so dumb 99.9% of the time.  Most of the time these arguments lead to anger or tears that wouldn’t have been in their lives if it weren’t for those screens.

*                            *                            *

               I think phones can be an addiction, kind of like drugs.  You get your “phone high” and can’t wait until the next one.  When I first got my phone in freshman year, all I was doing was being on my phone, not paying attention to anything that was going on around me.  Teachers told me to put it away in every class, and I got it taken a bunch of times.  It was a problem I had that I couldn’t break until I went to summer school.  Smart phones, computers,  and certain apps can be addicting due to the fact that they’re very entertaining and made to take all of our attention.  In some cases, our technology can make people even have emotional responses.  For example, some people can get cyber-bullied or harassed, and for that person, they might start hating the smart phones and computers because that is how their harassers find them. The internet can also cause pain because it is everywhere and forever—as soon as you press send or enter it’s going to stay there somewhere, even if you delete it after, because it lives on in screenshots and servers.  People can just take the mean things they do to one another to a whole new level with technology.  The person that’s posting these things feels powerful, and that makes them love technology, because that’s the source of their power.  What it really shows us is that these people are weak and scared behind their screens.  The technology can be a great tool, but I know most of the people I see aren’t using it like that.
Post happily,


Friday, December 1, 2017

Money Can't Buy You Love

                                                                                                                                    December 4, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,

My mom used to always tell us that money doesn’t bring happiness, that a few close friends and family do. While I did not believe it then, several new books and my travels have proven her right.
Cambodia is the most surprising country I have ever visited. Its history is among the most horrific of any country. It was heavily bombed by the US during the Vietnam War, and then Pol Pot, one of the cruelest dictators in history, took over. He killed a fifth of the population, destroyed the schools and hospitals, eliminated money and, most outrageously of all, tried to outlaw love. He’s now dead, but Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world – most villages use car batteries for electricity, many children are hungry and poorly clothed and there are few stores in most towns as there is so little money or product. But here is the ironic part – it calls itself “the land of smiles,” and it’s true. Everyone there seems to smile all day long. It is the friendliest place I have ever visited. People would come up to me when I was waiting for a bus or boat and practice their English, ask about America and introduce me to their families. Unlike other countries I’ve visited, there was never be a request for money. Watching them in the markets, temples and schoolyards it seemed to be the happiest place in the world, certainly happier than an expensive NYC club or luxury hotel.

A 1978 study written by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker confirms this disconnect between wealth and happiness from a different angle. The researchers studied two groups of people: lottery winners and victims of devastating accidents that had left them paralyzed. They asked each group a battery of questions about past, current and future happiness. They also asked them about how much pleasure they took in tasks like shopping, reading and joking with friends. They found that even though the victims regretted their accidents and the winners celebrated their luck, the victims reported greater present happiness in nearly every measure. They were able to find more pleasure in daily activities, and had higher hopes of becoming happy in the future.

This study led to many other studies that confirmed its findings that “people routinely mispredict how much pleasure or displeasure future events will bring.” One reason for this is that people rapidly adjust to changes in their situation and return to their prior state of happiness or unhappiness. For instance, once they get a raise, people quickly get used to having more things and the same problems. Or, think about the day after your birthday, are you really so much happier than you were the day before it? My point is not that money is a bad thing and not having enough can be stressful, but my mother was right, it’s what you do with your life, not how much you have, that really matters.

Don’t wait for your happiness to come to you, create it every day,

Mr. Wenk

December 13                          Freshmen trip to NYTW
December 14-17                     LoMATE production of “The Secret in the Wings”
December 21                          Parents’ Association meeting
December 23-January 1         Winter Recess