Categories
Entertainment Magazine Volume 70, Issue 7

I Got Feelings

By Cameron Pitzak 

Graphic By Jennifer Notman

The Oakland dream pop duo Brijean, composed of pop percussionist and vocalist Brijean Murphy and producer Doug Stewart, have released a full-length album titled Feelings last month, continuing to develop their unique sound with influences of disco, synthy dream pop, and Latin jazz from their previous half-length album Walkie Talkie. Feelings drifts you away to some far-off island where you get to dance with the fun and upbeat live congas and lets you relax with the synths that really create the dreamy atmosphere for a lot of the project. All of this is accompanied by Murphy’s vocals, which seem to be strongly influenced by Astrud Gilberto’s tender voice.

The album starts with the song “Day Dreaming,” which probably has some of the most fun sounds on the LP, with Murphy’s live drums alternating back and forth in the space between your ears, the far-off back-up vocals, and various other percussion sounds that surround you, creating an exciting experience that fills up every corner of your ears. The soft cords at the beginning are a perfect way to start the album. With the second track, “Softened Thoughts,” the lyrics really give you a better understanding of what Brijean wants you to feel. She sings about renewing the mind and finding new perspectives that give her a better understanding of the world and the psyche and how this feeling excited her. The fourth track, “Wifi Beach,” has a super groovy bassline and an overall disco sound that really lets you dance along if you want to. The song will probably be one of the most memorable on the album.

But these groovy vibes do not last throughout the entire project, as from here, we start to see the whole thing slow down and become much more atmospheric. This is especially prevalent on the sixth song, “Ocean,” which, as the title suggests, makes you drift off into the deep blue with the much slower beat from the live percussion. The synths that drone quietly, complimenting Murphy’s tender vocals. “Ocean” is a beautiful, atmospheric piece that would probably work very well on a movie soundtrack or an Animal Planet episode exploring the deep blue sea. Tracks like “Paradise” slow down the groove from before, essentially giving the idea that your trip to this island is coming to an end soon, but enjoy it while you are still here. “Ocean” and “Paradise” both do the best job of giving the listener a vibe of pure serenity and calmness. Later on, the second to last song, “Hey Boy,” has Murphy asking the listener if they have found some answers from this project and telling them to hold onto the vibe that Brijean created on this LP. The project finishes off with the track “Moody,” which has some of the biggest bass kicks you’ll hear on the album. It ends the album with a sort of 3 A.M. vibe of reminiscing on your past mistakes. The songs’ order makes it feel like you are observing your mind and the feelings you feel throughout a day trip, starting with the lively excitement of the morning to the night, where you look back and reflect on your day.
Comparing Feelings to the Oakland duo’s previous work does show how they have improved. They still are making the same sounds, but they are a lot more refined on this project. Brijean Murphy has worked with various other Bay Area artists like Poolside and Toro Y Moi, where her live conga percussion was used in fusion with more western pop sounds which was very interesting to listen to. Luckily with Feelings, Murphy used her skills with funky Latin melodies and disco grooves, unlike other things she has worked on. This was also an opportunity for her to utilize her skills as a vocalist with her tender, welcoming voice and songwriting. Of course all of this would not sound complete, nor would it have the dream pop sound, if it were not for Doug Stewart’s production on the album. The mixing and mastering turned out great, and all of the various instruments were all balanced well and had their own individual opportunities to shine on different tracks.

Categories
Issue 6 Magazine News

eSports to Come to Miramonte

By Cameron Pitzak

This will be the first year Miramonte High School will offer a varsity eSports team at the school.
Until recently this idea was unheard of, but now, many colleges recognize eSports as valuable and viable. Many colleges offer eSports scholarships, which has been further pushing the viability of eSports. In the past ten years, the eSports scene has grown tremendously. For example, the 2021 League of Legends World Championship is going to have a prize pool of $1,000,000, the League of Legends Championship Series will be broadcast on major platforms like ESPN, and there are plenty of other regional tournaments pro players compete in. There are many games with huge eSports scenes such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Rainbow Six Siege. All of these games have multimillion dollar competitive scenes along with sponsorships for players and teams as well.
With these programs growing more and more, many put continued pressure on the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which is the entity that manages and approves all varsity sports in school, to offer eSports as varsity sports. While many Miramonte community members show a lot of excitement for the program, it’s off to a rocky start. According to Miramonte’s counselor and eSports team coach Mrs. Conners, “They are trying to build the plane as they are flying it,” citing the fact that the CIF hasn’t previously managed any eSports team or league, so it has chosen to outsource the management to a company called PlayVS. PlayVS is currently cooperating with over 21,000 schools and managing eSports leagues for high school and college teams all over the country.
Conners also talked about wanting to take people from the Miramonte eSports club and building the program off that. “There are several students on the club side of things; we are trying to find a way to mesh the varsity team and the club together… We are encouraging students to try something new, you don’t have to be good [at the title you choose to play].” This is because she wants to get as many players on the team as possible so they can really get the program off the ground, even though many students don’t even play most of the games being offered. For example, only two students showed interest in the League of Legends team.

One of the biggest issues is that through PlayVS, there is a very limited selection of games, including League of Legends, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, along with a few other smaller titles. The biggest competitive eSports games in the world like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant, Overwatch, and Fortnite aren’t available for teams to play at a varsity level. It’s most likely that PlayVS doesn’t allow them because most of those games are rated mature, mostly for the shooting and violence in the games. Although these games are popular for their intense strategy, team play, and skill based gameplay, schools dislike them because they see guns and violence. However, there is still a lot of excitement and dedicated people who want to see the plan succeed. Conners said Miramonte has already assembled a full Rocket League team and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team. It is also possible that playing on the team in the spring will actually count towards PE credits for graduating, though that is something that won’t be decided until next year.

Categories
Issue 5 Magazine Opinions

What the Senate’s 50-50 Split Means for America

By Cameron Pitzak

The election in Georgia has been decided, with senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock taking two previously Republican seats. This has led to a lot of excitement among Democrats because with these two seats, they technically have a majority in the senate with the added tiebreaker vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, who acts as President of the Senate. While many thought this would give the Democrats a chance to finally push forward legislation, this isn’t completely the case.

In the Senate, it is possible to filibuster, which is the act of taking advantage of the rule in the Senate that allows unlimited debate time, infinitely prolonging the legislative process by giving constant speeches for hours on end. In order to stop a filibuster, the senate can invoke cloture, which allows the senate to end the debate as long as they have three-fifths of the Senate votes. Right now it would take 60 votes from senators to actually pass any laws that are more favorable to the Democrats as Republicans have a long history of using the filibuster. For example, Republicans used it to try and stop the civil rights movement for as long as possible.

At this moment, it will be virtually impossible for the Democrats to get the required 60 votes due to the incredible polarization between Republicans and Democrats over the Trump presidency. However, it is still possible for President Joe Biden to eliminate the filibuster as there have been debates over whether or not it is a good rule for decades now. Top Democrats like former President Barack Obama have argued that Joe Biden should only remove the filibuster if Republicans use it to obstruct voting rights legislation.

While it may now seem as if the Democratic majority doesn’t mean anything at all, it does actually serve one purpose. When Republicans had senate control, they were essentially able to just block any bill that would have come to the senate floor and not even bother to vote on it. But now, Democrats can now force Republicans to to actually vote on legislation, which hasn’t even been happening before. Now when voting for bills concerning voting rights and healthcare, Republicans can finally be publicly held responsible for going against legislation, putting pressure on Republican seats. If voters see that their representatives are voting against new health care measures, voting rights, and other democratic legislation that tends to be popular across party lines, they can easily feel the need to remove Republican seats when midterm elections come around in 2022.

Here is a list of a few bills that the people should keep their eyes on and see how Congress reacts to them. 

To repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. To repeal Public Law 107-40. Both sponsored by Rep. Barbra Lee (D-CA) This vote will probably be glossed over by a lot of people, but it will actually have a huge effect. The first bill to repeal the AUMF Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, was the bill that allowed the US to go to war with Iraq under the justification that they had “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and the second bill, to repeal Public Law 107-40, was the bill that allowed the President to declare war on anyone that could be held responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Now almost two decades after these events, most people have come to the conclusion that nothing good has come out of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In reality, many people probably forgot we were still even fighting there. So now it’s up to congress to decide if there is a reason to continue fighting. It’s significant that Barbra Lee was the one to sponsor these bills, as she was the only House Representative that voted against Public Law 107-40, in a 420-1 vote. She has still held true to her belief that the war in Afghanistan was a rash decision made in a moment of fear and mourning.

To prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for any violation of federal law, and for other purposes. To abolish the death penalty under federal law. Sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY). These bills, if passed, will be a huge part of American history. Currently 28 States still allow capital punishment. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 1,529 inmates were executed, and there are still more scheduled to die. As of October 1, 2021, there were 2,553 prisoners on death row. In California, only 13 people have been executed since 1976, though California is also the state currently with the greatest number of death row prisoners, totaling up to 711 according to information provided by the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, DC.

To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes. Sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) This would actually be the first time the US government considered giving reparations to those that have been affected by slavery, and would be a huge step towards facing our dark past.

Categories
Magazine Opinions Volume 70, Issue 4

Visualizing Real World Data: Bias and Twisting the Truth

By Cameron Pitzak

Both of the images below were made using the exact same data provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local county websites. The map on the left shows COVID-19 cases per 100k and the map on the right shows total COVID-19 cases. Especially now that COVID-19 has been politicized, both versions of this map could be used to prove the points of both Republicans and Democrats, and both would be correct, but each one shows a very different story. This is an example of how you can show two different biases in real world data. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have created an environment where people listen and blindly follow the arguments of a single source. In this environment, all it takes is a single piece of evidence to justify one’s point, and people will listen.

Showing COVID-19 data by cases per 100 thousand does a better job at showing which counties are being hit the hardest by the virus because it does a better job at comparing smaller counties to larger ones by making the color shade based on the percentage of confirmed covid cases to the population, instead of just the total number. There are many counties like Lassen that seem to be almost completely unaffected by the virus on the COVID-19 total cases map, but are shown to be having devastating breakouts when looking at the percentage cases map. Any person on the internet or on the news with a decent following could use either map to prove their point.

There are a variety of different ways to not only show some bias in data, but to blatantly twist the truth on graphs and maps just like these. It’s possible for graphs to be flipped upside down or colors inverted to outright trick people into seeing the exact opposite of the truth. It might seem like these should be easy to spot, but when someone is just scrolling past it in their feed, they probably won’t spend more than a second examining the graphic. Graphics like these are very useful and commonly used in misinformation campaigns, so I always take these things with a grain of salt, and try to find another point of view to analyze the information.

Visualizing data in a graphic can be very useful to give us a better understanding of the information put before us, but it’s important to understand that real world data will always have some sort of bias depending on how the data is recorded or collected. I would like to see news stations, political influencers, and government agencies attempt to find multiple ways to visualize their information so people can have a better understanding of the information. Whether it be in an email from Las Lomas or on national television, it’s always important to take a close look at graphics.

Categories
Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 2

Gyms and Athletic Centers Reopening – What Will It Look Like?

Contra Costa Country has now entered what’s called the “red zone”, during which gyms and fitness centers will be able to open indoors with modifications at 10% capacity.

Most gyms and other athletic centers are keeping 10% capacity by implementing a reservation system where only a set number of people can reserve a slot each hour. Some gyms, such as Diablo Rock Gym, are only allowing current members and 10-pass holders as of September 30th to climb and work out.

Gyms are asking that all members wear masks at all times, even when working out. In addition to mandating masks, Forma Gym in Walnut Creek is only making sinks and toilets in lockers available for use, rather than the lockers themselves, showers, or other facilities.

Some people believe that gyms are safe to reopen, and some do not, but most agree that they would rather work out in the comfort of their own home instead.

Alex Enkhamgalan is a sophomore at Las Lomas who normally works out in his own personal at-home gym. Even though he feels that gyms are safe now that they have many safety protocols in place, he said that, “Working out at home is honestly better because you get the air you need after working out your body,” referring to the mask mandate at gyms. He said that he would rather work out at home with no equipment than use equipment in a gym with mask requirements.

Blake Weinker, another sophomore at Las Lomas, and member at Diablo Rock Gym, also said he doesn’t feel gyms are safe enough to go to. “I think that the nature of having people in an enclosed space breathing heavily is a major breach in safety,” even with the mask mandate. Weinker also worried that somebody won’t properly clean gym equipment. “I personally would choose to work out in my house with no equipment” said Blake. 

Categories
Features Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 1

Protests in Walnut Creek

Photography by Emma Cypressi

When outrage over the killing of George Floyd spread throughout the country, anger over the police killing of Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Black man, resurfaced in Walnut Creek, prompting multiple figures and organizations to bring back the fight that was swept aside in 2019.

On June 2, 2019, police shot Hall during a mental health crisis. One activist from Las Lomas, Moxie Marsh, organized a skate protest on National Rollout Day, a movement to end hate against racial minorities. Marsh commented, “I was motivated to organize a protest for that event [National Rollout Day] in Walnut Creek because of the current increase of pressure for Justice for Miles Hall. The second one I organized was on August 9, and was specifically planned in support of Justice for Miles Hall,”

A local organization, Bay Area Grass Roots, has organized BLM protests around the Bay Area and is a supporter of the Justice for Miles Hall movement. “The Hall family and the rest of the community protesting, 100% stand behind the Hall’s request to have [a] 24/7 non-police response to mental health crisis,” commented Bay Area Grassroots. But even though hundreds of citizens in Walnut Creek have cried out for the WCPD to take responsibility for their actions in 2019, it seems these cries have fallen on deaf ears.

However, not every person in Walnut Creek aligns with the protesters. As a representative of Bay Area Grass Roots said, “I would say a lot more racists and white supremacist Trump supporters came out… not a lot of people knew how much hate and racism lies in Walnut Creek.” According to the official City of Walnut Creek Website, there are 10,708 voters in Walnut Creek registered as Republicans, and 21,391 registered as Democrats.

When Marsh was organizing her first rollout, the Walnut Creek Bomb Squad Commander asked if she wanted to organize street closures for the day, but she declined. Marsh said, “I didn’t want to make the protest avoidable. Giving a mandatory detour makes it seem like a minor inconvenience when it’s a statement on a major injustice.” Even after declining, police cars immediately began to follow the protesters. This prevented cars she organized to assist with traffic control from joining them. Marsh even described being followed by a cop home. She explained that she was terrified because she had heard about another young protester being followed home and arrested.

Bystanders should pay attention as the situation in Walnut Creek further evolves.

Categories
Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 9

How Are Students Making Money During Quarantine?

Graphic by Lashall Richards

On May 14th, the New York Times reported that the number of unemployment claims filed in the past 2 months has reached over 36 million. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many adults are unemployed, and if adults are losing their jobs, students don’t stand a chance. Some students have been making money through doing chores or getting birthday money, but for the majority of students, that’s not the case.

Before coronavirus, many students were holding part-time jobs for many reasons,  saving up for college tuition, saving up for a car, or to help out their family, but now all those supplemental funds families were getting from their kids is gone, which is just pouring salt on the wound of quarantine. So who is still making money and how are they getting it?

One of the common tropes we have seen due to the stay at home orders is people having to celebrate their birthday alone. Some students have gotten some cash in the form of birthday presents from relatives. Ashton Viramontes, a freshman at De La Salle Highschool said, “I made money from my birthday cause that’s all I ask for.” He is also one of the luckier students who has been able to make some money from doing chores for his grandparents. In this pandemic, few students are making money, but the ones who are recognize how lucky they are and are grateful for it.

Many students are not making any money at all now, students like Diego Ramirez, a freshman at Las Lomas who said, “I am not making money at the moment due to me not being allowed to leave the house.” Students in all grades might have had jobs or did chores for a neighbor or for their family, but now those opportunities are no longer available.

Various ideas have been suggested to help with low teenage wages. One idea would be to offer student discounts to high schoolers as well as college students. Another possibility would be a non-profit organization that tries to support students affected by COVID-19. 

Categories
Entertainment Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 9

Parks and Recreation Quarantine Special Review

Graphic by Zeyada Negasi

The cast of the beloved sitcom Parks and Recreation reunited to make a special episode about the coronavirus pandemic that was aired on April 30, 2020. It’s a short 25 minute episode that takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic where all the main characters are talking to each other through a fictional video call app. The episode as a whole is a nice throwback that makes you want to binge the entire show again. It’s generally more of a PSA than actual episode, because it focuses on current issues like maintaining mental health while quarantined.

The episode was a collaboration between NBC Universal, Subaru, and StateFarm to get fundraising for a nonprofit organization FeedingAmerica.org. The goal of Feeding America is to support families that are struggling to buy food because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This special episode was chock full of references from the show, for instance, the fictional “Zoom” app used in the episode showed how many “Gryzzl” points they had in the bottom left of their screen. With this it’s obvious that the app was made by the fictional tech company “Gryzzl” that was featured in the 7th season of Parks and Recreation. 

For anyone who may be confused about what the Gryzzl points are, it’s most likely a similar system to a snapchat score, where the more often the user uses the software to chat with others, the more points they get. We know this is the case because characters like Ron Swanson who don’t use social media have very little Gryzzl points, or none at all, while characters like Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle have tons of points. This is just one of many subtle references to the show that make the special that much more enjoyable.

Due to stay at home orders, all of the actors had to film their parts all in their own homes. This most likely made life a lot harder for all the behind the scenes people like the editors and writers, but in the end they produced a surprisingly well polished product given the conditions. But the fact itself that everyone working in the show was stuck inside gave it a much more genuine feel.

Anyone who is locked inside with nothing to do should definitely make sure to watch the episode. I might even leave the viewer with an urge to rewatch the whole show. “A Parks and Recreation Special” can be streamed on Hulu or on NBC’s YouTube channel.

Categories
Magazine News Opinions Volume 69, Issue 9

Where Did the US Go Wrong in Containing COVID-19?

Graphic by Lashall Richards

The worst thing the US did in response to COVID-19 was turning it into a partisan issue, and here’s how it happened:

When the first US case was reported on January 19, president Trump was quick to calm any panic the news may have caused. Just a few days later Reuters reported on an announcement Trump had made concerning the coronavirus, quoting Trump, “We do have a plan and we think it is going to be handled very well. We’ve already handled it very well. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is terrific. Very professional…”

In response to Trump’s confidence that the coronavirus was an issue that would quickly be resolved, democrats in the government began alarming people of the dangers of coronavirus. Governor Cuomo of New York became one of the loudest voices on the issue when New York became the epicenter of the outbreak in the US. From then on the COVID-19 virus turned into a partisan issue. 

This was the United States gravest mistake, turning what should have been a bipartisan issue into an argument between republicans claiming that the democrats are alarmists, and that COVID-19 isn’t as big as it may seem, and democrats that are claiming that republican legislators have failed in attempting to contain the virus by trying to reopen business and public areas. 

Somehow one of the biggest political issues today is how dangerous the coronavirus is. This is a terrible mistake, because it puts even more lives in danger when people underestimate the threat of something. Imagine if suddenly people began arguing that driving isn’t very dangerous. Obviously driving is dangerous, but if somebody interprets the numbers in a way favorable to them, suddenly they will have people on their side of the argument. That is exactly what has happened with the coronavirus pandemic.

It is time to stop quarreling over a scientific fact. COVID-19 is life threatening, and the pandemic should be treated with great urgency. Trying to calm the public down about the virus, and then arguing with scientists and calling them “alarmists” was the greatest mistake made by the US government.

Categories
Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 9

How Will Students Return Their School Supplies?

Graphic by Jackie Veliz

As of May 13, the Acalanes School District has yet to release any announcements about how students will return borrowed items like chromebooks, library books, textbooks, etc. All that can be done right now is under speculation.

Right now, there are two ways that this will most likely happen. The first and most likely option would be to wait until the next school year starts; when it is deemed safe enough for schools to reopen. This is likely because most students in the Acalanes Union High School District have at least one thing that is school property. Attempting to manage hundreds of students returning borrowed items and still keeping social distancing guidelines would be a logistical nightmare.

However, it is possible that students will still return their things by the end of the school year. The district may find an easy way to manage the amount of students coming to school to return their things. A solution could look like the process being stretched out over a long period of time, with scheduled appointments for students to come. While something along those lines is possible, it is still very unlikely. 

Waiting until school reopens again definitely seems to be the best option, but there is a problem. Most people don’t keep track of everything they own, so it would be very easy for students to lose or damage school property over the next few months. While this is a pretty insignificant issue it might cause a little frustration when the school inevitably has to replace anything that was lost.

Regardless, every possibility is complete speculation. Due to the fact that the district has not released any official statements on the matter, there is only so much that can be said.