With the newfound boredom that the shelter-in-place order has brought, new books have been difficult to get ahold of. While modern technology allows for ebooks, kindle versions, and audiobooks, nothing beats the feeling of a real book. So while libraries are closed, the cheapest option is to browse the options at home. What a better book to brave a shelf than a classic? George Orwell’s 1984 is one of the most relevant, suspenseful, and entertaining classics. Many students read it as part of their school curriculum, including myself, but it’s by far one of the most engaging options amongst the drags.
Published in 1949, Orwell wrote of a futuristic, nightmarish world of 1984 United Kingdom, under totalitarianism rule. It was relevant at the time period it was written, and still relevant today, as ideals such as communism and totalitarianism are still being discussed.
Imagine a dystopia where the ruler is always watching, and always listening. One wrong move and you are “vaporized.” All traces of you disappear and people are expected to forget your existence entirely. Big Brother rules over Oceania, where any hint of disobedience to him can be detected by various regulators, such as the Thought Police.
One poor man, Winston Smith, struggles to find himself in a world where there is no such thing as identity. He has little memory of his family, but he does know this: Big Brother is not as perfect as he seems. Working in his government job, he is ordered to delete evidence of vaporized people and create cover-up stories of the past, where he discovers some secrets behind Big Brother.
There’s controversy surrounding whether this book deserves its high praises. As a fan of suspense, mystery, and a good dystopia, this book could not better fit my liking. Since reading Orwell’s Animal Farm my freshman year, I’ve wanted to read this book – and I shouldn’t have waited so long! While the book can be slow at times, the climax and ending of the novel make up for the boring aspects. I physically squirmed in my seat at times, but couldn’t put the book down.
Any slew of adjectives could not describe the admirable novel that is Lovely War by Julie Berry. Berry integrates historical fiction, Greek mythology, and modern day language to create a phenomenal story full of love, war, and heartache. The novel follows the story of four young adults – two male soldiers and two girls – as they find love during World War I. It is narrated by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, as she is put on trial by her husband, Hephaestus – god of metalworking and fire – for her infidelity with Ares, the god of war.
James and Hazel first meet at a party in London. She’s a shy and talented pianist and he’s an aspiring architect bound for war. For them it’s love at first sight, but it is cut short when James is sent off to become a sharpshooter in France. Aubrey Edwards is also set for the trenches. Like Hazel, he is a gifted pianist and is recruited to play with the 15th Regiment of the New York Infantry, an all-African-American Regiment. He falls in love with a Belgian nightclub singer who is volunteering with the YMCA to help soldiers waiting for battle. They bond through their love of music. Thirty years after the couples meet and the war begins, Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, to prove that love and war will always coincide. They are set in a deluxe Manhattan hotel room at the end of World War II.
The premise of the book was fascinating and immediately grabbed my attention. I thought, no way could one writer incorporate all of these genres – Greek mythology, historical fiction, and romance – all together in one book and make it cohesive and well-written, but Julie Berry surprised me. I am not typically a fan of romance novels, but the story intrigued me with its inclusion of Greek mythology and historical fiction. From the first page I was teleported to the dirty trenches of World War I, a Manhattan hotel room, and even the Underworld. The book also successfully discusses several issues, like shell shock, racial discrimination and prejudice, physical and mental degredation and injuries, grief, and obviously, love. The romance in the novel seems rather cliché, and although it wasn’t what pulled me in, it was sweet and captivating. Berry really made me feel for the characters and the environment they live in.
I will say that the characters seem rather lacking in some sense. Collette, the Belgian singer, uses French intermittently, much like a cheesy foreign character would on a TV show. Aubrey is constantly talking about his mother and his hopes to make her proud, which is sweet but nothing new and gets boring towards the end. Hazel is your typical shy, closed-off girl who comes alive when she plays an instrument, and James is simply… average. I connected with each one nonetheless, despite their minor flaws. The gods are arrogant and funny, to put it simply, and I enjoyed their intermittent chapters as much as I enjoyed the actual stories.
Julie Berry surprised me with this one, and I’m excited to read her other books and see what they might have in store for me. This book was a perfect mix of love and war, and proves Aphrodite’s point successfully without drilling the theme into your brain. Anyone who is a fan of historical fiction or mythology, please take a look at this novel. Even if romance isn’t your cup of tea, the novel will blow you away.
All Time Low has been around for a decade now, and their sound has transformed from year to year, all while staying true to their punk rock roots, and nothing has changed in their new album Wake Up, Sunshine – except for the surprising and incredible features with blackbear and The Band CAMINO.
The band announced the album in mid-February, after the release of their first single, “Some Kind of Disaster,” in January. Frontman Alex Gaskgarth told Kerrang! Magazine that the band went back to their roots for this one. He said, “It had been a long time since the four of us made a record under one roof. That became a central theme.” While I’m not sure how much work these four goofballs got done, each song is unique and captivating and as an avid fan of the band, I can clearly hear each member’s influence on the tracks. I’ve been a fan of All Time Low since day one, when they released their EP, Put Up or Shut Up , and it’s refreshing to hear similar melodies from that album in the new one.
With the world on lockdown, the band was sure to keep their fans entertained. They released almost half the album in singles until the release of the album. “Sleeping In” was one of the first, and my personal favorite of the singles. Maybe it was the hint to their song “Dirty Laundry” in the second verse, or the mention of Britney Spears (my favorite pop diva), or the heavy drums. This song is perfect to wake up to in the morning. The band is labeled as pop-punk, so it’s only right they have some good dancing tunes, and “Sleeping In” is the perfect one for that. Other singles include “Trouble Is,” “Melancholy Kaleidoscope” – which is sure to get stuck in your head – and “Getaway Green.” Every song manages to stand its ground alone as a single, or blend perfectly with the rest of the album. I find that typical of All Time Low. The way All Time Low sticks to their roots while being able to put out an entirely new album and sound is captivating, and I can safely say most bands aren’t able to do that well.
While the singles boosted fans’ excitement for the album, I think it’s safe to say that no one was expecting “Monsters (feat. blackbear).” Including heavy bass and guitar, it reminds fans what genre All Time Low belongs to. That is, until blackbear’s verse comes on. Not only does the rap make the song that much more exciting, it includes a sample of blackbear’s “idfc,” making this song one of the best on the album. All this week, the band held a contest to see what fans could recite the rap. Even Gaskgarth got involved (and killed it).
There are 15 songs on the album and I could gush and awe about all of them, but I’ll leave something to the imagination. All Time Low has done an incredible job with their eighth album, even in the shadow of COVID-19. The band is doing all they can to help those in need, including numerous charity performances on Twitch and releasing an exclusive piece of Wake Up, Sunshine merch where all proceeds go to funding COVID-19 relief. By the way, the shirt is pretty cute.
5 Seconds of Summer’s fourth album was released on March 27th. Two years since the release of their last album, Youngblood, fans have long awaited the release of CALM. The title of the album is an ode to their fans, revealed lead singer Luke Hemmings: “it’s also a nod to our fans who coined this name when we started” (New York Post). Fans created the acronym, containing each member’s name: bassist Calum, drummer Ashton, lead singer Luke, and guitarist Michael.
Since the release of their first album in 2014, 5 Seconds of Summer has dominated the top charts with pop hits such as “She Looks So Perfect,” “Amnesia,” and “Youngblood.” When the first singles for CALM were released, the heavier bass and guitar had fans expecting a more punk-rock album, something the band hinted at for years. I too expected this, but that doesn’t mean I was disappointed when the rest of the album seemed more pop than anything else. Either way, the album brought new and interesting music to the table. Billboard claimed the album to be “the Australian group’s most musically complex project yet.” I couldn’t agree more.
The first singles, “Easier” and “Teeth,” caught my attention. With vocal variation and poetic lyrics, I was excited to see what CALM would bring. As one of my favorite bands, I would be excited no matter what they put out, but the new album’s sound definitely came as a shock. As other songs were released, like “No Shame,” “Old Me,” and “Wildflower,” I could already see the variation in the album’s sound. Personally, I think “Old Me” is one of their best songs yet. It is a beautiful ode to the bands’ younger selves and shows how much they’ve grown as a band over the years. It reflects on the mistakes they made in the past and what they’ve learned from it. Not only do I think everyone can relate to this song, but it reminds people that they can learn from their mistakes. “No Shame” also has a deeper, hidden meaning behind the catchy tune. The song reveals how fame is a double-edged sword. With hints to other celebrities like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and even Jake Paul in the music video, the song and music video are not only entertaining, but full of clues and easter eggs regarding Hollywood. “Wildflower” became a popular song on Tik Tok, when users began to post dancing videos to the song. The band acknowledged this and held a competition to see who could do the best dance over Instagram. “Wildflower” is a very poppy (pun-intended) song, and I regret to say that it’s not my personal favorite. Although it is fun to dance to, the song doesn’t stand out for me.
This album is the shortest one 5 Seconds of Summer has released, with only 12 tracks on the entire album. I don’t want to say I’m disappointed, but I’m used to seeing 16-tracks on an album, like the three before CALM. Regardless, when the release of the album came, I was ecstatic to see what interesting melodies the album would hold. My personal favorites include “Thin White Lies,” “High,” and “Red Desert.” I fell in love with the harmonies and the interesting sounds – a little more synth than I’m used to – and I think it’s safe to declare this my favorite album by 5 Seconds of Summer this far.
As we live through a history lesson in the making, boredom may take roots in those stuck in their homes. Without actually leaving the house, books are a perfect way to escape to another world or time period, and vicariously live through the main character’s wild adventures. In this day and age, a physical copy of a book can be hard to come by if you’re not an avid reader, but other options pursue: audiobooks, kindles, and kindle apps. While cooped up in your home during this state-wide lockdown, here are plenty of book recommendations for those looking to escape reality.
Historical fiction is not for everyone, but as more books are released, authors are taking their own liberties in the historical fiction genre. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks tells the story of a book conservator who travels to Sarajevo, Bosnia to restore the Haggadah – one of the oldest surviving Jewish texts – and discover how it survived centuries of use and turmoil. The story alternates between modern day and several other time periods, including World War II, 1609, and the 1400’s, following the story of the Haggadah over five centuries. It’s a fascinating read for anyone remotely interested in history. Other fascinating historical fiction reads include All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer, a novel about a blind French girl and German boy who attempt to survive the devastation of World War II, and The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin that tells the real story of one of America’s famous couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
Whether it’s an old-fashioned “Who Done It?” or a psychological trip, thriller, crime and murder, mystery novels have always been a crowd favorite. New titles by up and coming authors include Sadie by Courtney Summers, Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates, and The Fever by Megan Abbott. While all unique and fascinating on their own, they all include one thing: creepy storytelling. In Courtney Summers’ Sadie, a young girl goes missing while looking for revenge after the brutal murder of her younger sister. At the same time, a popular radio personality is hunting down the real story, and that means finding Sadie. Black Chalk is one of the many murder-games-gone-wrong novels, when a group of six students get involved in a high-stakes game of humilating and personal dares. Fourteen years later, the group must unite again for the final round. While not previously mentioned, Black Chalk is very similar to Kristy McKay’s The Assassin Game. Last but not least, The Fever by Megan Abbott is a chilling story in which young girls come down with a strange illness that has all doctors and medical professionals stumped. Tom Nash is a father of two young girls, and he is determined to save his family, but how can he if the illness appears in strange, untraceable ways?
The world is becoming a more inclusive place, and authors are sharing more and more novels with main characters of different races, religions, and sexual orientations. Some of these novels are strange new takes of classics, such as Pride, whereauthor Ibi Zoboi retells the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring all characters of color. Others are historical novels about characters struggling in the Deep South during Jim Crow laws, like Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s novel A Kind of Freedom. Becky Albertalli has become increasingly popular in the coming years after the release of Love, Simon, the movie retelling of her novel Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda, because her novels include all different types of people from body shapes, sexual orientation, and race. Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda is the first book of three, the other two being Leah on the Offbeat and The Upside of Unrequited. Other popular LGBT+ books include Rainbow Rowell’s novels Carry On and Wayward Son, which follow a cliche story of two magic-dwelling boys who go from hating each other to falling in love.
Last but not least, the perfect genre to escape and go to another world – literally – is fantasy. Fantasy novels have become increasingly popular, and there are even book subscription sites dedicated to this genre. Speaking of which, if you or a friend are looking to buy good fantasy novels without leaving your home, consider the company Owlcrate, which will send books and other goodies to your home! They send a wide variety of new fantasy books, that come with special covers, notes from the author, and other items like candles, enamel pins, and bookmarks. Holly Black’s Folk of the Air Trilogy has been a star seller through Owlcrate, with all three titles available: The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing. Each one follows Jude, a mortal girl who lives in the fantasy world of faeries who despise her. She fights to become part of the king’s court, despite society’s hatred for her. In the process, she experiences betrayals, love, and war. Other fantastical novels include Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte, Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart, and Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.
Without leaving the comfort of home in these trying times, books are a way to escape the reality around us and experience something new for a little while at least, until we run out of pages.
“When you diminish one group….you are diminishing the entire society and closing down its ability to expand for good,” said Ms. Gieleghem on how objectification affects our society. She elaborated that objectification is forcing women to take on certain roles in order to be taken seriously, and the roles include staying youthful, attractive, and skinny.
The simplest definition of objectification goes as follows: the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object. For women, that means they are degraded to an object used for sexual pleasure, a way to sell something, or as a sidekick to a man. It is engraved into society that women are only valuable if they are pretty, or as Mrs. Gieleghem puts it, “pretty and skinny.”
Objectification is seen everywhere in the media: commercials, television and film, video games, and even women’s health magazines, which contribute to the societal expectation that women must stay youthfully attractive. Frequent articles from Women’s Health Magazine include titles such as: “How to be Better in Bed” or “Doing This Every Morning Can Snap Back Sagging Skin” which promote the idea that a woman is only good for sexually pleasing her partner and maintaining youthful beauty, and women are expected to only focus on those two goals. Because of this, they end up subconsciously take part in self-objectification, which is psychologically proven to lead to long-term psychological harm (theconversation.com).Sophomore Hayley Orr said, “You’re not a full person…you’re so focused on how you are outwardly, instead of focusing on bettering yourself as an actual person.”
Advertisements often use a womans’ beauty and body to sell objects, especially because “sex sells,” as Senior Riley Pellman puts it. But these women aren’t real women, they are airbrushed bodies with barbie doll-like features, perfectly smooth skin, long shapely legs, and impossibly thin waists. Advertisements like these–particularly those selling lingerie– are programming straight men to desire barbie-doll women. Playboy built their empire on the beauty and youth of women. The problem is, these women do not exist. Supermodels themselves are airbrushed, edited, and powdered with makeup. Pellman said, “It makes me feel like I have to try harder to show people I’m not just a walking sex object.”
Fortunately, several brands have shied away from this type of advertising. Aerie and Dove claim to be “photoshop-free” and their adverts often include diverse women of all races, religions, and body types. According to Dove research, 77% of women believe that all images in the media have been digitally altered, so they set out to change that statistic, and boost body-positivity. Marketing Director of Dove Amy Stepanian said, “It will help identify reality and relieve some of the pressure women and girls can feel to look a certain way.” This pressure is a direct cause of objectification seen in the media, and is only boosted because of altered bodies seen in adverts.
Mrs. Gieleghem told The Page that society has become “a culture obsessed with youth” because older women are rarely seen in the media: unusual for people to see an older woman in a commercial, unless she is representing a wrinkle-free serum or another product advertised towards the older generations to help them stay youthful. This forces women to feel less valuable as they age, because women are viewed as youthful, sexy objects. Mrs. Gieleghem said, “I’m not valuable to this society unless I’m young…once you’re past menopause you become invisible.” Unfortunately, older women are faced with harsh standards to stay youthful and ‘pretty’ while older men are often praised and fawned over. Often called a “silver fox,” an older man can still be found attractive while an older woman struggles to hide her wrinkles and graying hair.
This idea is also represented in the news rooms. Female newscasters are switched out frequently as they age, while a male newscaster can stay with the channel for decades. Junior Dani Luna said, “There’s always a new, younger female news reporter while the men stay there for a long time.” This is another way for the media to degrade aging women. Women not only face ageism in the workplace, but also harassment and sexism. Newscasters Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson have spoken up about working for Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, mentioning that they two were sexually harassed in the workplace. The recently released movie Bombshell illustrates their struggles, but they are not alone. Many women face sexual harassment and sexism in the workplace, as a direct result of objectification because they are expected to act and look how the media portrays them.
Because of these representations, men are viewing their female peers like the women they see in the media. Hayley Orr said, “You can be a doctor if you’re a pretty doctor. You can’t be something without the adjective pretty or hot, otherwise you’re not respected as a woman.” In addition, these representations cause women to tear themselves and other women down. They cannot satisfy society due to the expectations caused by the media. Riley Pellman said, “You give women these false goals and things to aspire to and then they tear themselves down when they can’t reach those goals.”
It’s been approximately fifteen years since punk music was at its commercial height, with both Green Day’s American Idiot and My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge coming out in 2004, but that doesn’t mean the genre has disappeared entirely. Since it’s prime time in the early 2000s, punk music’s spot on the charts has been taken over by other genres, which today includes both pop artists like Ariana Grande and rappers such as Post Malone. In the past, it was uncool to listen to bands like Sum 41, Yellowcard, and Good Charlotte, and for most people, punk rock was classified as “emo” music for depressed losers who wore too much black clothing and makeup. While punk rock does touch on heavier topics and most artists sport dark colors, the genre’s original cringe-factor is slowly starting to fade– and just in time for the new era to begin.
While the term ‘punk’ itself has a specific definition, it can also be used as an umbrella term for all types of alt-rock: pop punk, pop rock, and in some cases, alternative. Bands such as The Ramones, Nirvana, Fall Out Boy, and even Paramore, are all grouped together under the punk genre, despite being from different eras and releasing music that sound nothing alike. Today, that definition still stands, as both new and older bands release music that is identifiable as punk, but coincidentally sound different than punk music a decade ago. Even popular artists are getting involved, mentioning or recruiting popular artists from the punk scene: Lil Peep featured Fall Out Boy on one of his tracks and Lil Uzi Vert told Beats 1 Radio that Paramore’s Hayley Williams is one of his biggest musical inspirations according to The Fader magazine.
In the early 2000s, bands such as Green Day and Fall Out Boy dominated the pop-punk scene with top hits like “Holiday” and “Sugar We’re Goin Down.” Today, these bands continue to release music, with new albums coming later this year and even a world tour. In September 2019, they announced they are co-headlining the Hella Mega Tour, alongside Wheezer, starting this March with dates throughout the summer.
I’m Not Okay, MCR is Back:
With the rebirth of popular punk bands, one that cannot go unnamed is the infamous My Chemical Romance. After a six-and-a-half-year hiatus, the popular punk band of the 2000s has made a shocking return. The band teased their fans with updates to their social media accounts before announcing on October 31, 2019, a reunion show taking place at The Shrine in Los Angeles. The show occurred on December 20 and encompassed music from all four of My Chemical Romance’s studio albums. Since then, the band has also announced an upcoming world tour in 2020.
My Chemical Romance is not only one of the most popular punk bands to date, it is arguably one of the most influential as well. Junior Jennifer Notman, an avid fan of the band, said, “ …it’s undeniable that they have been an influence on the… style of many modern rock bands and I love how newer bands have been able to put their own twist on punk rock.” Punk bands such as Sleeping with Sirens, State Champs, and UK-based Creeper, have all mentioned My Chemical Romance as musical inspirations for them in the past. State Champs’ guitarist Tyler Szalkowski told Rock Sound that: “They were a rock band that’s very comfortable being different, and that’s very inspiring to see them have so much success from just being themselves,” according to Kerrang! Magazine.
At their peak, My Chemical Romance was one of the first to openly sing about mental illness. Notman says she “happened to get into them during a dark time” in her life, and “they hold a special place in my heart now because of that.” Today, many artists are open about mental fragility, including popular artists like Halsey or Yungblud, but back in the early 2000s, most “emo” music was classified as an anthem for cults, and caused teenagers to find suicide and death fascinating. Daily Mail in 2006 released several articles describing emo music as a “sinister cult” that “no child is safe from.” This type of reporting was so against what MCR fans believed, and they protested in response. In London Marble Arch, fans could be seen holding signs stating things such as “MCR saves lives” and “I’m not afraid to keep on living,” lyrics from the song, “Famous Last Words.” This controversy was created from the assumption that punk rock bands are directly influencing kids towards depression and suicide, as opposed to the fans turning towards this type of music to cope with existing mental illnesses.
Poppin’ Champagne to New Music:
Other artists from the past making appearances include Mark Hoppus from Blink 182, who joined forces with the lead singer of All Time Low, Alex Gaskarth, last year to create a new duo, named Simple Creatures. While their music isn’t classified as pop-punk, but rather as new wave or synthpop, the duo’s goal was to make entertaining, dancing music that included some of the real, darker aspects of life– similar to punk rock music, which is known for its cynical outlook on life. In an interview with Kerrang! Magazine, Gaskarth said, “The sensibility that you can have these weird, out-there, pseudo pop songs and lace them with real emotion and darkness. That was a big part of what went into these tunes.” Touching on topics like addiction, depression, etcetera, the duo released their first EP Strange Love in March 2019, and their second, Everything Opposite, in October 2019.
The guitarist for All Time Low, Jack Barakat, is also branching out. In collaboration with L.A-based musician Kevin Fisher, the duo created the band WhoHurtYou. In June 2019 they announced the band and their new single, “Wish We Never Met” followed by a music video.
Despite both the guitarist and the lead singer’s new collaborations, All Time Low is not breaking up or planning to stop making music anytime soon. Guitarist Jack Barakat assured his fans back in April 2019, saying, “The thing is, no matter what, All Time Low loves touring. Alex [frontman] wants to do his thing, but I’m gonna make him come back,” (Kerrang! Magazine). Barakat stayed true to his word. In fact, the band has released two new singles since then, “Some Kind of Disaster” in January and “Sleeping In” just last week. They also announced a new album, Wake Up, Sunshine, scheduled to release on April 3rd.
Check Out These New Bands, Hoping to Become Famous:
While older bands are still lingering and adapting, new pop-punk bands are popping up left and right. Among those bands is an Australian group called Between You and Me. The band put out their first single “Overthinking” with Hopeless Records back in 2016. Hopeless Records is home to plenty of other punk bands, and frontman Jake Wilson told Alt Press back in 2017 that: “It’s honestly super humbling to be signed to a label with a roster of bands… To have our band name next to the likes of New Found Glory, Yellowcard and Sum 41… that’s surreal.”
The band consists of frontman Jake Wilson, guitarists Jai Gibson and Chris Bowerman, bassist James Karagiozis, and drummer Jamey Bowerman. While the band all have different musical influences, they told The Page that “pop punk is something we all come together on and have a passion for” and that pop punk let them live out their wildest dreams to travel the world and meet their fans. The band takes inspiration from a variety of punk rock bands, including Knuckle Puck, Blink 182, Papa Roach, and Simple Plan. The band is proud to be grouped in among famous punk bands and helping make a difference. They said, “The industry at the moment is doing a great job breaking down the barriers and stereotypes…and making it an accepting place for everyone.”
Between You and Me recently finished a total North American tour, and are about to go on another alongside bands Sleep On It, Bearings, and Neverkept. You can catch them in Sacramento on March 19, and Berkeley on March 20.
Mark My Words, These Bands are Making Waves
oll Skin is another one of the newer punk bands’ helping to bring in a new sound for the genre, but instead of angry boys singing about how they hate their life, this all-female punk group sings about making it through addiction, mental illness, and how they’re not afraid to stand up for themselves. Most fans are surprised to hear that despite their ages–the youngest, lead singer Sydney Dolezal, being only 19– the band has been making music for six years now. Back in 2013, Dolezal joined forces with guitarist Alex Snowden, bassist Nicole Rich, and drummer Meghan Herring. The band’s most recent album, Love is Dead and We Killed Her, was released in June 2019 and received lots of love from alternative-based reviewers, saying that Doll Skin’s music is “indisputable proof that revenge is a dish best served loud,” according to Kerrang! Magazine.
Hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Bearings is a developing punk rock band that made waves with their 2018 album Blue in the Dark, a chronicle for the band’s painful experiences in the past. Music critics and fans spoke praise over the album, and for some, it was dubbed the best punk rock album of the year. Jacquelyn Kozak from Stars and Scars Magazine says, “The album as a whole is beautifully balanced – the angst is… sandwiched in… sincere, yearning tracks… Vocalist Doug Cousins has a voice so sweet that you’ll fall in love with it even when he’s shouting.” Other band members include Ryan Culligan on guitar, Collin Hanes on bass, and Connor Kingston on the drums until January 2019, when the drummer revealed he would be leaving the band due to “personal reasons.” Since then, the band has gained two new members, drummer Michael Mckerracher and guitarist Ryan Fitz and released two new singles, “So Damn Wrong” and “I Feel It All” respectively. Cousins describes the band as “a little indie, a little pop punk and extremely personal and holding nothing back.”
Koalas, packed in the back of people’s cars, are desperately trying to escape the flames that are actively destroying their habitats. Almost half a billion animals have been killed by the Australian bushfires, including 30% of New South Wales’ koala population, and scientists estimate that around a billion animals will die altogether from the effects of the flames. Dale Adams, a lieutenant at the Eden Hills Country Fire Service, said that the koalas “stepped out of the bush seeking help.” Spanning the size of West Virginia, the Australian bushfires have forced 2,000 people from their homes and at least 27 people have died since they started in September.
With little help from the Australian government itself, several online organizations have come forward, sending donations towards relief. Donations can be given online to the Australian Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery fund, which sent over 1,285 staff members and volunteers to communities affected by the fires. Besides taking cash donations, the Red Cross says they also accept new volunteers every chance they can get. Another organization, the GIVIT works with victims to find what items they need specifically, and while they are an Australian-based organization, they also use 100% of their online donations to purchase essential items.
“I’m sending nudes to every person who donates at least $10 to any one of these fundraisers for the wildfires in Australia,” Kaylen Ward, a 20-year-old model from Los Angeles, said in a tweet from early January. Through her tweet alone, Ward claims to have raised 700k, according to the receipts she sees in her DMs. The donors must send her a verified confirmation of their donation in order to receive the NSFW images. For every ten dollars donated, Ward sends a nude photo. In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Ward says, “I was expecting to raise maybe $1,000, but the tweet blew up.” The internet praises Ward’s bravery. One twitter user wrote, “She’s really out here harvesting raw horny energy for a good cause. Mad respect.”
“Someone could see a post and decide to donate…EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS!” said Senior Alan Zelin. Most Las Lomas students found out about the fires through the internet, while scrolling through their socials. Zelin continued, “A lot of my friends…were posting about it on their Instagram stories in order to spread awareness.” Although Alan was unable to donate, he did everything he could, in hopes that other people would see the news and share. He emphasizes the fact that with even one dollar from every student at Las Lomas, that would equal to $1500 dollars going to help Australia. He continued, “If everyone in Walnut Creek donated a dollar, that’s almost 70 thousand dollars going to Australia!” Senior Graham Rossi also donated, by purchasing a shirt from Suspicious Antwerp on Instagram.“100% of the profits go to… Australia… which is awesome,” said Rossi. Simply from selling t-shirts, Suspicious Antwerp was able to donate approximately $179,000 to help battle the flames.
“I worry about my grandchildren, their grandchildren, if this is how it is now… imagine what future generations are up against,” said former New South Wales Fire & Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins in an interview with ABC News Australia. Climate change is threatening the lives of millions of species, including our own. Mullins worries that climate change has doomed the Australian fires to not only continue, but get much more dangerous. He said, “This might just be the beginning.” While scientists stress that climate change is not the cause of the fires, they also stress that a hotter, drier climate contributes to frequent and intense fires, and that the risk of more fires remains a serious threat. Dan Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather, says that Australia needs a significant amount of repeated rainfall over a period of weeks to create an environment with little risk of fires. Even then, the risk of fire isn’t eliminated entirely.
Unfortunately, Australia is still in the middle of its summer season, so any chance of rainfall is scarce and almost non-existent. The intensity of their weather conditions are linked to climate change, and droughts in the country have gotten worse in recent years due to long dry terms and last summer was the hottest on record. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of deemphasizing the connection of the fires to climate change, saying in a November interview that there isn’t “credible scientific evidence” that limiting carbon emissions would help diminish the fires. (Time Magazine).
“We will never stop fighting for this planet, for our futures, and for the futures of our children and grandchildren.” Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, has sparked an international campaign to help stop climate change and save the planet. The internet has become a viable asset in the spread of information about everything, and the support to stop climate change is no exception. With images, videos, and constant information about the fires in Australia, people are becoming more aware of the threat of climate change, and making an effort to stop it. Alan Zelin says, “I’m glad that most of the internet responded in a way that was supportive of those trying to help combat the fires.” The spark to fight climate change isn’t the doing of just one person, but the whole world coming together with the internet to connect them. As Thunberg says, “I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
Angelo Surmelis’ The Dangerous Art of Blending In is one of survival and the search to find oneself, and it does not disappoint. This relevant coming-of-age novel not only broke my heart, but stitched it together after the damage was done.
The story of The Dangerous Art of Blending In is what originally grabbed my attention, for the sole reason that it features an abused, gay teenage son of immigrant parents struggling to make it in corporate America. While the story was more than I expected, the duality of the characters really surprised me. Instead of sticking to their intended role in the novel, every single character is complex, thought out, and intriguing. Of course I felt for Evan, but I also felt for the father, stuck between his closeted son and abusive wife. Even the small side characters that only serve as filler context are well-developed and interesting, to say the least. It’s the perfect Young Adult novel in my book (pun intended).
The story follows seventeen-year-old Evan Panos growing up under the rule of an abusive, Greek mother and enabling father, as he spends most of his high school life hoping to fly under the radar. Evan’s cuts and bruises don’t necessarily go unnoticed, but he always found a way to explain them, using anything other than the truth. At the same time, Evan is starting to notice his best friend Henry differently, and his new feelings and hesitancy to trust others makes confiding in him difficult. The relationship between Evan and his best friend plus the escalating abuse pushes Evan further away from everyone. Exhausted from the weight of living, Evan spends his time drawing alone in an abandoned monastery, his one and only escape from reality. This book was emotionally difficult to read, but not disappointing if you can stomach the contents. The abuse and homophobia is constant and if either of those topics are triggering, you’d better skip this book. On the contrary, if you think you can handle the overall degrading treatment Evan receives from his mother, go on ahead. Surmelis does not disappoint.
Las Lomas’ history teachers and books try to cover all topics, including historical figures of different races, religions, and sexualities. In the Twenty First Century, most students are unaware of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the state of California and one of the first openly gay officials elected nationwide. He was elected into San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1977, and his authenticity and openness “gave never before experienced hope to LGBT people…when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination,” according to the Milk Foundation’s website. With homosexuality still considered an illness among most psychologists at the time, Milk’s election broke boundaries in politics for the LGBT+ community, but the victory was short-lived when he was shot and killed only ten months into office.
Known as the “Mayor of the Castro,” Milk was committed to serving everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender. His ambitious reform agenda included creating a daycare service for working mothers, converting old military facilities to low-cost housing, and reforming the tax code to attract more industry to the city. He also helped build alliances among diverse business groups–women, the disabled, asian, hispanic, and black communities–to create a more equal workspace for everyone and stop professional biases. Milk’s main battle was Proposition 6, which would mandate the firing of gay teachers in public schools. With strong opposition from Milk and others, this proposition was defeated at a time when other discriminatory laws against the LGBT+ community were being successfully passed statewide. Milk thought that if the LGBT+ community chose to be open and proud, the people around them would become more understanding and supportive of the LGBT+ community. In one of his eloquent speeches, Milk said, “…we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions… for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it.”
The LGBT+ community has battled with erasure and being overlooked for millenia, including today, in the progressive 21st Century. Seniors Mia Portner and Saramia Leonard both believe that LGBT+ people have been erased from history. Mia Portner says, “since gay people are everywhere… there has to be millions and millions of people that were left out, closeted, or erased from things.” Both seniors vouch for more LGBT+ people to be put into our history books, and taught as part of the curriculum. Fortunately, the history books at Las Lomas do include Harvey Milk, but is one boundary-breaking gay person enough to represent the community as a whole? History teacher Mr. Speir says, “Harvey Milk is certainly an inspirational historical figure and… all communities should be able to see themselves reflected in the history taught in school.”