The George’s Gazette — Issue #4


Grace, credit, layers, Winslow Homer, and the debut of Movies with Suraj!

Welcome back!

It is great to be back with a new issue from the nation’s Capital. Congratulations firstly to all the college graduates from the Class of 2022, you rock! New alumni of The George Washington University, Raise High in all your future endeavors! In this issue, Re-emerging Manners is about social grace and how we can act responsibly in daily life. Check out the other sections below for lessons on how to decide if credit cards are the right fit for you, why layering is essential, and two culture reviews. Let’s get started.

Re-emerging Manners: Showing grace in public

Being graceful in public doesn’t just involve dodging those potholes like a ballerina. It is especially important to demonstrate social grace, and patience to strangers. I was waiting to deposit money at the teller with my mom. We stayed there longer than average, asked questions about the account and other minutiae. The man behind us grumbled “People these days are so stupid…” and some derogatory remarks about questions and people holding up others. I simmered against my better judgement; it was a fraught situation, and I am not used to blatant insults about my mother or myself. As we left not a minute later, I glared at the man and exited.

There are some key takeaways from this interaction. Firstly, I should have blocked out his comments. People say rude things in frustration all the time, and we should not let them ruin our days. Secondly, we can all calm our frustrations from bursting into view with some grace. That man was within his rights to speak, but he did not need to voice that opinion. If he was patient and preoccupied himself with something else, and took a second to think about his words, he did not have to insult us. Do not let your emotions or first instincts rule you. You can take time to reflect before you act. This way, the next time someone is taking too long at the bank or supermarket, you will know how to gracefully navigate your feelings and show some grace.

Finance 101: Credit Cards, friend, or foe?

Gen Z (those born from 1997 to 2012) are a rapidly growing generation (that I am part of!). Companies, governments, and many public groups are trying to decipher our habits and preferences. It was assumed that growing up during the 2008 fiscal crisis would shape our preferences away from risky credit services and towards debit cards. Recent studies have illustrated the inverse; fifty percent of Gen Z has a credit card, more than Millennials at similar ages. What does that mean for personal financial habits as Gen Zers grow up?

Fifty percent of Gen Z has a credit card and a prime credit score — and they’re more credit active than millennials
A new TransUnion study found that 50% of Gen Z has a credit card and prime or above credit scores, surpassing millennials when they were the same age.

Credit cards have been around in various forms since 1928, with the recognizable “Diners Card”, a multi-purchase charge card originating in 1950. Charge cards (like certain American Express cards) have since diminished in popularity, with most Americans having credit cards.

Credit Card vs. Charge Card

Credit Card:

  • Balance can be carried with a fixed or variable interest.
  • Fixed credit limit (the amount of credit you can use) each month.

Charge Card:

  • Balance must be paid each month.
  • Most charge cards do not have limits but require the balance to be paid in full each month.

Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express are the largest payment networks for credit services (with the original Diners Club now a part of the Discover Card network).

This is not financial advice. I will outline common facts about credit card usage and my own personal usage. These cards are often loathed for their interest rates and the restrictions they apply such as late fees, and balance transfer restrictions. What is important to keep in mind is that while money in cash or debit form is essential for life in our society, credit cards are tools that are increasingly necessary to build a financial history. Credit cards have good qualities that should be appreciated but can be dangerous tools.

They are the entry point to a credit score and developing credit history. A good credit score can mean the difference between receiving a mortgage at a low interest rate or a higher one with a smaller loan amount. Additionally, credit cards can serve as a buffer to your bank account. I often use credit cards for recurring payments that I do not want to be automatically drawn from my bank account.

For most credit card users, this is what credit cards are meant for, with the exceptions being travel or rewards cards. Depending on your usage and temptation, it can be worth it to put as many of your normal expenses on a rewards card for the customary 3-month period where you can receive miles, rewards, or cashback. It is essential to note that along with all credit tools like personal loans, you should not put more than you can afford on a credit card. Putting phone bills, music streaming and other monthly payments on a credit card that you pay off in full every month keeps your credit history healthy. Additionally, credit cards are better for purchases from merchants you may be wary of. Purchase protections are far stronger than debit cards.

Are Credit Cards Safer Than Debit Cards? —
Credit and debit cards provide two convenient ways to pay. Learn how they are different, what laws protect consumers and how to stay safe while using them.

There are consequences to credit card usage. Having a large credit limit is a temptation. I force myself to look at my bank account before I make any purchase via credit card. If there is not enough money in my account, I will not make the purchase. Most times the product I sought is still available when I have the funds.

I understand that sometimes credit cards are payment methods of last resort or for emergencies. In these cases, talking to the credit card company about removing the interest or APR can be helpful until your emergency has passed, and your normal payment schedule can resume.

Another consequence of credit card versus debit card usage is the ability to put yourself in a deep financial hole quickly. Creating a budget after looking at your expenses is essential to using a credit card responsibly. Refer to the second issue of The George’s Gazette for guidance on creating a budget. Using debit cards can restrict the instinct to overspend, since money will come from your bank account, rather than “imaginary” credit lines.

George’s Gazette — Issue #2 |
The George’s Gazette — Finance, fit, art, manners: Your essential Gazette.

In conclusion, are credit cards helpful or harmful? A little of both. They are a tool for growing credit and protecting our purchases. Yet credit lending can obscure our relationship to our spending, and credit card debt carries high interest rates as compared to other loans. For these reasons, be careful and budget. I learned in my high school economics course a lesson that applies to all our credit usage; put your music streaming bill on it, pay off that $10 every month, and see how you fare.

Fit Check: Layer, layer, layer

In Scouting, layering was one of my first lessons as we prepared for hiking and camping trips for a simple reason; Layering can save your life. While I will not belabor this point since I want to focus more on layering choices and fashion styles, survival should be in the back of your mind! Layering means that you should not just have a basic t-shirt and jacket combo. I often do this in colder weather. Instead, you should layer your clothing items to ensure that you remain comfortable even with fewer layers on.

For example, if I am expecting it to be at or below freezing or wintery weather, I will wear thermal underwear and undershirts. Then I will have my second layer of shirt and pants. The third layer will be a sweater/ hoodie. The final layer is a winter jacket, with a hat, earmuffs/hat, and gloves. This basic layering keeps you safe because if you begin overheating in your large jacket, you can take it off and reach a better temperature. If you were not prepared this way, you would plunge from jacket comfort to ice cold.

As the seasons bring us warmer weather, the layers can be pared down. In spring and summer, bring a hoodie or sweater to go with your short sleeves and short pants/skirt. It’s best to be prepared! A fall and spring alteration is to incorporate blazers and leather jackets as an outer layer with a sweater beneath that and a shirt. Keep a poncho and/or umbrella near you as well to remain prepared!

Give these a shot, and while the convenience of wearing a base and a big jacket will try to sway you, you will thank yourself for being prepared for whatever weather comes your way.

Not ideal, but at least he’s warm! 😉

Gallery Review: Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents

Winslow Homer was an American painter active during the Civil War into the early 20th century. His depictions of the aftermath of the Civil War showed the desire for peace in the American zeitgeist. He also reflected on the struggles ahead with some of the first humanist depictions of Black Americans and newly freed slaves. In 1881, he visited England and the fishing town Cullercoats and depicted the dangerous and heroic lives of the locals. The final portion of the exhibit showed his watercolors and oil paintings of Cuba and the Bahamas, with The Gulf Stream, Homer’s masterpiece, on display. His other seascapes are vivid and were followed by depictions of nature and mortality like Right and Left and Fox Hunt. The exhibit is superb and is worth your attention. I only had a vague knowledge of Winslow Homer’s work, and this exhibit gave a masterclass in the eras of his art, and how he fit into America’s Reconstruction and expansionary periods. The exhibit runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York City until July 31st, 2022.

Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents

Visiting Guide

The exhibit at the Met is arranged with each room and hallway highlighting a different theme and time for Homer. The first section with his Civil War paintings is emotional, often youthful, and less animated than his English seascapes. They have heightened situations such as A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876), the scene of free Black women confronting their former slave mistress. Unlike other depictions of Black Americans for the time, and later Vaudeville minstrel stereotypes and body images, Homer paints Black figures humanely. His depictions of children and interracial interactions are creative breakthroughs, with normal activities like play depicted candidly. The exhibitor explained that children were shown in Reconstruction era art as symbols of a new age, a future of unification. Like our own hopes that “the kids will fix it”, and the resigned shadow of “leave it to the next generation”, Reconstruction adults looked to their children to lead the way in a newly reunified nation.

A Visit from the Old Mistress

By Winslow Homer in 1876

The next theme was Homer’s time in England in the fishing village Cullercoats. Here he focused on watercolors or waited until his return to the United States to recreate a scene in oil on canvas. By his own admission, these paintings were exaggerated from the real-life situations he saw. Homer’s awe for the fishing lifestyle was shown by his depictions of the men and women in Grecian heroic style. The women standing on the pier in Perils of the Sea (1881) are like statues, resolute and immovable, waiting for their husbands and sons to return. The perilous conditions meant that many fishermen would never return. Undertow (1886) shows an exaggerated rescue, with two rescuers dragging two women from turbulent waters. Muscles are taut and tense. The rescuers are posed similarly to Greek and Roman statues of athletes or mythical figures.

Perils of the Sea

By Winslow Homer in 1881 in Cullercoats


By Winslow Homer in 1886

Homer’s time in the Bahamas and Cuba yielded his most famous work, The Gulf Stream (1899–1906). It is remarkable to see the process of drafting in sketchbooks that are displayed, to watercolors of specific scenes. He then stitches those ideas into the final oil painting. The Bahamian man is stranded, yet serene. Sugar cane is strewn across the deck. The ship in the upper left was added later because of reactions about the desolation and hopelessness of the work. Despite that effort, there is threatening action all around our central figure. The sharks heaving and turning towards their possible next meal, and the tumultuous sea. The main character’s future is ambiguous, with his ship noticeably with a cracked and missing main mast. Will the ship see him, or will he perish to the sea?

The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer (1899–1906) Oil on canvas

The Gulf Stream

Oil on canvas by Winslow Homer in 1899 through 1906

The last section of the exhibit featured pieces about mortality and American nature. They convey the allure of American natural habitats during the time. Additionally, artwork like Hound and Hunter (1892) and Right and Left (1909) are rife with the violence of hunting, and the mortality of animals. The curators of this exhibit believe that these pieces represent Winslow Homer’s relationship and thoughts about his own mortality. Another perspective draws from the foregrounding of animals. They are the focus, and the left duck that survives in Right and Left appears terrified in an anthropomorphized way. The hunter in Hound and Hunter is a boy, possibly a teenager or young man. He appears to not only be struggling to grab the stag he has shot, but also looks to his dog. Is he looking for approval? What is the relationship between hunters, hounds, and their prey?

Right and Left

Oil on canvas by Winslow Homer in 1909

Hound and Hunter

Oil on canvas by Winslow Homer in 1892

Winslow Homer’s art can be interpreted in many ways, and his skill in many mediums like oil and canvas or watercolors is admirable. He also invites meta interpretations of his work, such as The Gulf Stream, Hound and Hunter, and Right and Left. They explore themes of mortality, nature, youth, and others. This exhibit is a wonderful guide to Winslow Homer’s lifelong repertoire, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Movies with Suraj: The Batman

Introducing my friend and film aficionado, Suraj Kandoth for his debut movie review for George’s Gazette! His long-time Instagram reviews for studio and indie releases have been my north star for deciding which movies are worth watching in the theaters. I am grateful that he will be publishing it here, for this audience. Enjoy this review of The Batman.

The Batman directed by Matt Reeves movie poster

The Batman is a compelling film, if a little long. Directed by Matt Reeves, this story follows Batman on his second year on the job as he’s faced with multiple foes, including the Penguin and the Riddler. Of all the live action Batman films, this one spends the most time with the titular character. He is in nearly every single scene, and the writers give him a compelling arc, which feels quite refreshing in a series where the hero often gets overshadowed by the villain. Robert Pattinson is great and emo as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, although some do have qualms regarding his portrayal as Bruce Wayne, as his personality is no different than Batman. I actually support this story choice, as Bruce is only in his second year of crime fighting, and the movie is very much about his psychology, so it makes sense he hasn’t quite figured out how to be a functioning Bruce Wayne. I believe that in the sequels we will see him embrace the more playboy façade that Bruce is supposed to present when in public. Paul Dano is fantastic as Riddler. I don’t think Dano’s work is going to be as universally beloved as some of the other famous Batman villain portrayals as he goes over the top at times, but I think it works for the character. The rest of the supporting cast, which includes Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and more are all great, although Alfred’s presence is not felt as much in this film.

Matt Reeves is a filmmaker I admire, based on his work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. He tends to explore deeper thematic elements which give gravity to his films, and because of this they tend to be more serious. The Batman takes a similar approach. The film is (mostly) grounded, even more so at times than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which also was going for a more realistic take. I appreciate that the film spends a lot of time showing that a billionaire who dresses up in a bat suit, and then goes to solve crimes is clearly not okay, and that cops other than Commissioner Gordon find it ridiculous. Batman often feels out of place in crime scenes because of this, and it really works to show that Batman is no god-like superhero. He is just a man who wears an armored Halloween costume that helps solve crimes. This feels fresh when compared to other Batman movies, even Nolan’s, as he still feels larger than life in those movies, but here they truly strip him down to the very core.

On a technical level, just like other Reeves films, it’s fantastic. Reeves hired Greig Fraiser, who just won an Oscar for Dune, as his cinematographer, and another Oscar nomination is not out of the question here. He gives a grimy, downtrodden aesthetic to Gotham, which is complemented by the excellent set design. The action is all done in long takes, which is just wonderful to see. He also uses a soft and tight focus in most of his shots, which helps in connecting and truly seeing what Batman is going through and feeling. The music, by the great Michael Giacchino (who also scored many Marvel films, Up, Star Trek, and more), is very good but used a little too much in my opinion.

As for flaws, I believe the movie is a bit too long. This film has four acts, and the runtime did start to get to me by the end. A little trim would have worked wonders. Also, Batman receives a piece of information that threatens to change the very foundation of what he stands for, but the very next scenes end up going back on it. I wish that the filmmakers allowed Batman, and the audience, to marinate with this piece of information for a little longer. Lastly, I would like to say that I hope there are some superhero movies that continue to embrace a serious tone, like this one. It’s so refreshing to find a film that takes this material seriously, which is something I find the MCU often lacks. I do take issue with some critics calling this film the most hopeless Batman film. I highly disagree with this take, in fact, this may be the most hopeful Batman film ever made. To conclude, I think this is a very good movie and a step in the right direction for Batman, and I can’t wait to see what Matt Reeves cooks up next. (Rating: 8/10)

Until next time!

It is my pleasure to release this expanded issue of The George’s Gazette. As you noticed, it features Movies with Sarge, and the manners section is featured first. The newsletter will continue to iterate, and more changes may arrive in the future, thanks to your feedback and reception of these pieces. Thanks for your continued support and avid conversations about this gazette with your loved ones!

Warm regards,

George G Kalyvas

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