“The Pulse of the Student Body”
The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper
Volume 106 No. 1
September 11, 2015
Stuyvesant Class of 2019: Freshman Survey
osie’s Theater Kids program recognized senior Zi Ying Cao with a Scholastic and Artistic Merit Scholar for her dedication to the performing arts. The award includes a $100,000 college scholarship.
enior Loren Maggiore made a guest appearance in a Huffington Post news segment about the need for workers in cybersecurity, as well as the lack of women in the field. She and two other women, Shelley Westman of Operations and Strategic Initiatives at IMB and NYU Senior Fellow and Professor Judith Germano, discussed solutions.
reshman physics classes have been discontinued, beginning this fall. One factor contributing to the change, according to Principal Jie Zhang, is that Assistant Principal of Chemistry and Physics Scott Thomas will be teaching fewer physics classes.
he 5Tech course Video Production has been replaced with a new course, Web Design, due to staff changes within the Technology Department. Newly hired Technology Instructor Natasha Dillon is teaching the class.
The new Student Union (SU) Cabinet, under SU President Ares Aung and SU Vice President Matthew So, has been chosen: Chief of Staff: David Kang
CFO: Kai Chen Budget Director: Niels Graham
Communications Directors: Mary McGreal and Taylor Joines
Club Pub Directors:
Paulina Ruta and Chloe Delfau
took a preparatory class to study for the SHSAT
say their favorite subject is Science
predict they will be in the top 50% of their grade
are opposed to the use of recreational drugs On pages 13-16
Damesek Returns to Stuyvesant After Two-Year Forced Absence
Courtesy of 2010 Blackboard Awards
ix students from the Stuyvesant Muslim Students Association competed in the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament in Houston, Texas from August 7 to 9. All six competitors won first place in at least one event: junior Aronno Shafi won first place in Original Oratory, senior Ishraq Khan claimed fourth place in the Knowledge Test and first place in the Quiz Bowl along with juniors Siam Muquit and Reeshyal Fatima, and Fatima also won first place in Social Media along with senior Roadra Mojumdar and junior Saadia Islam.
By Julia Ingram Former Assistant Principal of Organization Randi Damesek has returned to Stuyvesant as the Assistant Principal of Data and Technology Services. Damesek had been removed from Stuyvesant upon the release of a Department of Education (DOE) Office of Special Investigations (OSI) report on the June 2012 cheating scandal, in which she was accused of failing to carry out the duties entrusted to her as a testing coordinator. After prolonged investigation, Damesek has been cleared of the charges against
her and reinstated into the school. As the Assistant Principal of Organization, Damesek planned school events, organized exams, coordinated locker distribution, resolved programming conflicts, and assisted the Student Union (SU) and Big Sibs. Damesek was also known for resolving a number of issues within the school. “If you went to Ms. Damesek with a problem, she would make sure it was fixed, even if it wasn’t necessarily her area of expertise,” Sweyn Venderbush (’14) said. In 2010, Damesek earned The Blackboard Award for Best Assistant Principal in New York City.
Two years later, however, Damesek was acting as testing coordinator for the June 2012 New York State Regents Examinations when a student referred to by the OSI as “Student A” circulated answers via text message among 92 classmates during four different examinations. Because no students were caught cheating during three of these Regents, the OSI attributed the failure to Damesek’s “lack of professional judgment” in managing Stuyvesant’s testing environment. Many proctors expressed disagreement with the OSI’s claims at a meeting held among Stuyvesant teachers on September 3, 2013. One anonymous teacher told The Spectator in 2013: “As a proctor, I understood what my duties were. There was never a time where I felt like my duties were unclear, and we were given very specific directions on how to handle cheating. […] Damesek has always been the pinnacle of productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.” Though the OSI’s report was filed on Monday, November 5, 2012, Damesek continued to occupy her position throughout the 2012–13 school year. Four days after the public release of the report, on Friday, August 30, 2013, Damesek was removed from her position at Stuyvesant, and moved to a separate DOE
facility while pending investigation. Damesek’s removal was met with unrest among Stuyvesant students. Students staged a protest in response to Damesek’s removal on September 9, 2013, the first day of school that year, on the wall adjacent to the TriBeCa bridge staircase. Students held up posters with sayings such as “Bring Damesek Back” and “Free Damesek,” and refused to enter the building. Posters to a similar effect were plastered on school walls. Students also made a Change. org Petition, titled “Damesek’s Army: Protesting the Injustices Against Stuyvesant’s Assistant Principal Randi Damesek,” which stated, “Damesek has committed no offenses to merit firing and is simply being scapegoated to pacify a media frenzy.” The petition received a total of 1,103 signatures. Additionally, students expressed their gratitude for Damesek’s contributions to the school through an online presentation for Thanksgiving 2013, which featured a number of “Thank You” notes from various students sharing their positive experiences with Damesek.
continued on page #3
AP of Mathematics Position New Heads of Programming Office Chosen to Remain Temporarily Vacant By Sharon Chao and Sharon Lin Programming Chairperson Joy Hsiao, Programming Assistant Jonathan Cheng, and computer technician Jerry Lin will be working in the programming office this school year after former Assistant Principal of Technology Services Edward Wong and former Programming Chairperson Sophie Liang retired last year. In June, Principal Jie Zhang originally planned to remove the position of Assistant Principal of Technology Services and instead hire a Programming Chairperson and a Programming Assistant. Candidates within Stuyvesant were considered first, but applicants either did not have enough experience or were not interested in the position. “There was very little interest from [Stuyvesant faculty] [...] I kind of hoped that some [computer science] teachers would apply, since they know the school and they have the background, but nobody from the department did,” Zhang said. After the position was opened and programming assistants from various schools around the city had applied, Hsiao was considered for the position. She found out about Stuyvesant’s two vacant programming positions through professional networks. After applying, she was deemed the most qualified candidate because she previously worked as a math teacher and a Programming Assistant at the City Col-
lege of New York. “[Hsiao] will have to step into a leading role, but she has tons of experience […] Nothing is strange to her,” Zhang said. Hsiao will teach one math class and will spend the rest of her time working in the programming office. Lin was hired in June before the school year ended. He previously worked as an operations analyst in the technology division of the Children First Network (CFN), an organization part of the Department of Education (DOE) that helps schools deal with problems dealing concerning payroll and budget, technology, and special education in schools. He was part of the CFN 201 Support Team, which covers 27 high schools, including Stuyvesant. “I [was] basically like a customer service representative,” Lin said. “I [helped] the schools in my district with any programming issues.” Cheng is the only person of the trio who has worked in Stuyvesant’s programming office before. “I needed to make sure that not all the programming staff was new […] Cheng was the only one left after Wong and Liang retired,” Zhang said. Cheng, who used to be a fulltime school librarian, also helped Wong and Liang with programming changes and scheduling in the past. This year, he will spend four periods in the library and three periods in the programming office.
continued on page #2
By Giselle Garcia, Sharon Lin, and Jessica wu The Assistant Principal (AP) of Mathematics position will remain vacant for the first several weeks of the 2015–2016 school year. The decision came after Principal Jie Zhang was unable to find a suitable interim acting AP to temporarily replace former AP of Mathematics Maryann Ferrara, who retired in June 2015. In the meantime, Zhang and Ferrara will be taking over the responsibilities of the position. Ferrara will be reinstated with a portion of her past responsibilities, including heading ARISTA and conducting teacher evaluations. She will be employed on a part-time basis, or F Status, according to the Department of Education (DOE). Former AP of Guidance Randi Damesek is returning to Stuyvesant this year and will assist with the administrative duties of the AP of Mathematics position, such as issues with room assignments or supplies, in addition to covering as the AP of Technology Services. In May, a search was conducted to find a new interim acting for the position, but no suitable candidates were found. Zhang opened up the position to the members of the Association of Mathematics Assistant Principals Supervision of NYC, but received no responses. “We had a
couple of resumes and interviews [for the position], but no one appeared to be ‘The One,’” Zhang said. Zhang also attributed the scarcity of applications for the interim acting position to staff members’ reluctance to switch from teaching to administration. “A lot of people [would] miss teaching so much,” Zhang said. “Being an administrator, [there are] so many political, unnecessary obstacles that really wear you down.” Another factor that contributed to the lack of staff applicants was that few possessed the license required to become an AP. The typical procedure for finding a new AP is to appoint an interim acting chair from a pool of candidates, temporarily taking over the responsibilities of the position while the search for the permanent chair is conducted. The opening for the position is then posted. If a candidate from the pool of applicants is found suitable for the position, then Zhang and her accompanying committee decide to accept the candidate, or to keep the interim acting for the permanent position. In this case, however, Zhang and the committee decided to keep the position vacant, rather than to continue searching for an interim acting.
continued on page #3
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Chloe Delfau / The Spectator
Makris Appointed New Director of College Counseling
By GRACE TANG and Namra Zulfiqar Former College Counselor Jeremy Wang recently accepted a position as a guidance counselor at Townsend Harris High School to shorten his commute and spend more time with his family. To accommodate this move, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Casey Pedrick has hired and appointed Jeffrey Makris as the new Director of College Counseling, a title Pedrick had held for three years. As director, not only will Makris will be counseling students directly, but he will also have responsibilities such as communicating with college admission representatives, maintaining and managing policy and programmatic changes, and working on Naviance, a platform that assists students with the intricate college application process. Pedrick was first introduced to Makris when she viewed his resume for an opening in the guidance department. However, because Makris’ specialty was in the college counseling field, Pedrick
did not hire him. But when a position opened after Wang’s resignation she reconsidered: “I immediately thought of Mr. Makris,” Pedrick said. “I pulled his resume from the file and reviewed it again. The passion Mr. Makris has for college counseling spills over outside the school building. I always found myself impressed with his work ethic and passion for students,” Pedrick said in an e-mail interview. Makris first entered the college counseling world when a counselor at a previous school introduced him to the role. For five years, Makris served as Vice Chair, then Chair of the Board of Directors for College Access Consortium of New York (CACNY). He is also an active member of the New York State Association of College Admission Counseling (NYSACAC), which awarded him High School Counselor of the Year in 2011. For the past year, Makris has also been a Featured Blogger on NYC College Line’s Access to Success blog. Makris formerly worked at the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology (UAG), but pursued
New Heads of Programming Office Chosen
a job opening at Stuyvesant. “My time at the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology was an incredible experience. [...] But, as I have progressed within the profession, I have found myself eager for new experiences, challenges, and opportunities for professional growth. Stuyvesant High School serves some of the most talented and motivated students not only in New York City, but the United States; when I noticed that there was an opening here, I realized that I had to pursue this possibility,” Makris said in an e-mail interview. Makris is confident about the future of the college office. “[I hope to] ensure the continued success of the college office here at Stuyvesant and, in the coming years, work with our team to help our college counseling program evolve in ways that allow us to continue to serve our students and families as best we can,” he said. Pedrick is now Stuyvesant’s Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services, where she will continue to oversee the college counseling and guidance departments while managing her original college caseload for homerooms, JJ and JA. Pedrick believes her decision to transfer the position of director to Makris will benefit the school enormously. “I sat back in my chair and reflected, ‘What if I offered the Director position to Mr. Makris? What would that structure look like? How would I feel giving over a position that I love?’” Pedrick said. “The answer to the [last] question came easily. For every decision I make in my position as AP, Pupil Personnel Services, if I ask myself, ‘What is best for the students?’ the answer becomes clear. In this case, the answer was to offer this talented man a position at our school.”
continued from page #1
Cheng and Lin have been working on student schedules at Stuyvesant since mid-August. In previous years, Stuyvesant’s programming office had primarily used its own software to create all the schedules before inputting the final versions into the DOE system, called the Student Transcript Academic Record System (STARS). Most other schools use STARS for the entire programming process, but “we found it advantageous to use our own [system],” Wong said. “We have our own little crazy things here—our linked science classes, seven and a half period classes, [and] singletons [free periods] galore—so it makes it very difficult […] to schedule using the DOE system. [It is] not as flexible as what we need.” However, this year, the programming office will use STARS more frequently, partly because Lin used STARS when he was working with the CFN. Because Stuyvesant’s system is so uniquely adapted to the abnormal class schedules, it will still determine which classes a student takes. But, STARS will be used to determine which section of each class a student is put in. While Hsiao, Cheng, and Lin will exclusively deal with the programming aspect of Wong’s former responsibilities, newly reinstated Assistant Principal of Technological Services Randi Damesek will take over the technology maintenance portion. “[Hsiao, Cheng, and Lin] will work on the programming part of [Wong’s] job […] My plan is for [Damesek] to work as the other
half as [Wong]. She is good [with] computers and Excel for organizational purposes,” Zhang said. Wong used to be in charge of both programming and tech support, but this year Damesek will run the school website, maintain the Smart Boards, and resolve any technology issues that teachers may have. Assistant Principal of Security, Student Affairs, Health, and Physical Education Brian Moran will manage the school locker system. Meanwhile, Stuyvesant may also have Daedalus, its current data-management and communication software for students, replaced with a new system in around October. Daedalus’ most important features include an integrated gradebook, elective registration, and compilation of college admission statistics. Though some NYC high schools use it, the DOE is planning to phase out the system. Damesek and Zhang have been working with the two companies that are developing the new system to ensure that student college admissions data is properly transferred once the new system is released. “We really cannot afford to lose ten years of data,” Zhang said. “This is really [where] I would like [Damesek] to be helpful in training the teachers to use this system.” Because of the major changes in the programming office, it is unclear to what extent student schedules will be affected. “I have confidence in the new staff, but I’m still worried about beginning of school year, [though it’s] understandable because after twenty-something years we lost […] Wong and Liang, the two giants of programming,” Zhang said.
SU and Kweller Prep Sign $10,000 Sponsorship Agreement
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News Damesek Returns to Stuyvesant After Two-Year Forced Absence continued from page #1 Despite these efforts, the DOE continued to investigate Damesek’s case for two years. She was charged with a number of small infractions, which were resolved through arbitration. In the meantime, she reported during school hours to a facility comparable to the noweliminated DOE Temporary Reassignment Centers (informally known as “rubber rooms”). There, Damesek continued to perform administrative tasks while receiving her full salary from the DOE. Damesek was eventually cleared of the charges, and thus regained
the right to return to Stuyvesant. The timing of her return coincided with the vacancy of the Assistant Principal of Data and Technology Services position, a contributing factor to her new role at Stuyvesant. “Although [her return] wasn’t completely planned, I kind of delayed the decision of who was going to cover Technology Services,” Principal Jie Zhang said. “This […] came out at the right time.” As the Assistant Principal of Data and Technology Services, a position formerly occupied by Edward Wong, Damesek will be taking over various responsibilities involving the maintenance of technology within the building, including the school website, SMART boards, and facilitating
the school’s transition from Daedalus to a new data-management software. She will not, however, handle the programming aspect of Wong’s former role. Additionally, Damesek will be assisting Zhang with the administrative tasks of the Assistant Principal of Mathematics position, which is currently vacant. Despite the change in her responsibilities, many believe Damesek will continue to be the hardworking Assistant Principal from years past. “I think she [will] get the job done no matter what her responsibilities or her duties are, so in terms of the school’s needs, she’ll definitely make sure they are met,” Feng Lan (’14), one of Damesek’s supporters, said.
AP of Mathematics Position to Remain Temporarily Vacant continued from page #1 As a former AP at Forest Hills High School in 2001, Zhang has the experience required for filling in the position. Ferrara will also be available several times a week to speak with students and parents about course placement issues. Ferrara, who served as ARISTA’s faculty advisor before her retirement, has recommended Guidance Counselor Jo Mahoney as her successor. Mahoney had previously helped with reviewing ARISTA appeals, and has agreed to meet with Ferrara and several student representa-
tives from ARISTA the first week of school to discuss the responsibilities of the job and whether she can commit to being the faculty advisor. Meanwhile, the posting for AP has been opened for a 15-day window, which began September 1. At the end of the period, if a candidate is not found, the window can be renewed, or re-canvassed, until more applications are sent in. Once the process is successful, the administrators move forward to C-30, the DOE term for the process of appointing a new AP. “We should have an [AP] by the second half of October or November,” Zhang said.
StuyPulse Returns to China By Sharon Chao Eighteen members of Stuyvesant’s robotics team, StuyPulse, traveled to China this summer from August 10 to 26 to mentor inexperienced robotics teams for the Chinese Robotics Challenge (CRC). The China Urban Youth Robot Alliance (CUYRA) supplied StuyPulse with a $30,000 grant to cover the trip costs for the students and their chaperones: Technology teacher Rafael Colon, Technology Department Coordinator James Lonardo, StuyPulse mentor Dan Lavin, and four parents. This was the second trip of its kind; in August 2014, ten members of StuyPulse traveled to China for a nine-day trip to mentor Chinese robotics teams for the first annual CRC. The CRC is one of the few expansions of a robotics program called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology
(FIRST) outside the United States. “Because FIRST is not really international, StuyPulse went to the CRC to uphold one of the main principles of FIRST, which is spreading knowledge,” senior and President of Marketing Yubin Kim said. The CRC has grown since the 2014 competition: while only three FIRST teams, all from the United States, attended last year, 11 teams, including one from Brazil and one from Australia, attended this year. The teams had approximately one week to prepare for the competition. During the robotics camp from August 12 to 14, the international teams helped the Chinese teams work on their robots. Because FIRST is relatively new in China, the Chinese teams had barely started their robots beforehand. “The robotics camp was pretty intense because we had one week to finish a robot when normally it would take six weeks to
make one,” senior and President of Engineering Jion Fairchild said. Each international team was assigned to mentor one to three of the 27 Chinese teams. However, the teams were spread across different floors of an office building, which made communication difficult. “I tried to [assign] everyone to a Chinese team that needed help, [in case] one international team had extra mentors and another team needed more hands,” Kim said. “But it didn’t always work out.” Kim was one of the students in charge of overseeing the distribution of mentors, while other students like Fairchild and junior Zakhar Lyakhovych helped build the robots. “Most of the work was focused on designing a grabbing mechanism. While most [other] teams went with a lifting design, [the Chinese team that we mentored] decided to make a simple hook,” Lyakhovych said. “While this
was a lot simpler than most teams, it was also a lot more reliable and it allowed [our mentee team] to rank very well among the Chinese teams.” After the robotics camp, the international teams toured China together for two days while the Chinese teams finished their robots. Everyone regrouped on August 17 to practice. The international teams were allowed to participate in the competition, which began a day later with qualifying matches. StuyPulse moved on to the playoffs on August 19, ultimately finishing as a semi-finalist. “We were competing against the FIRST world champion, finalist, and semifinalist teams,” Kim said. “Our priority wasn’t winning first place. We were [at the CRC] to have fun, so it was more of a relaxed competition.” One of the most challenging aspects of the trip had nothing to do with engineering or driving the robots. “Only one person [on the Chi-
nese team] spoke a decent amount of English [...] Everyone else, including their head mentor, spoke Mandarin. On our side, only one person spoke Mandarin, but he didn’t know more technical words like ‘Lexan’ or ‘aluminum,’” junior and Director of Strategy Christopher Sherling said. Despite the language barrier, the teams performed well. StuyPulse was given the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Ambassador Award for their work. Just as valuable was the experience the team members gained from the trip. “We got a lot of time to socialize with some of the greatest teams in FRC […] There was a lot to learn from talking to them and watching their robots in action,” Fairchild said. “China is the new frontier of FIRST Robotics and I’m excited to be part of the new China FRC movement.”
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Regression Analysis, or How the Backcountry Taught Me to Cut Back
By zora arum
This summer, I spent the entire month of July backpacking with twelve other kids in Wyomingâ€™s wilderness. The trip was organized by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a program through which my brothers, cousin, and uncle all had their first real introductions to the great outdoors.
NOLS taught me how to return to the vulnerability, curiosity, and simplicity that colored my perception of the world as a kid.
Being the fifth Arum to traverse the backcountry with NOLS instructorsâ€™ guidance, I was ready for the experience to change my life before I arrived at the local airport. I had visions of all I hoped to gain from the trip: namely, a
whole new array of skills; a new, vibrant connection with the exceptionally beautiful terrain; and a new understanding of myself. Most importantly, I wanted NOLS to provide me with a path to self-improvementâ€”to help me mature. I had trouble realizing that NOLS doesnâ€™t teach you to gain, to build up or to accumulateâ€” it teaches you to strip down, to eliminate. It teaches you to regress. NOLS taught me how to return to the vulnerability, curiosity, and simplicity that colored my perception of the world as a kid. It taught me the value of stripping my life down to its bare essentials in order to appreciate what really matters. When you live within five feet of fourteen other people for a month, you are forced to abandon standards of â€œdecency.â€? You change, poop, and pee in front of each other, and, if youâ€™re a girl, you talk about your period openly with your male friends. You share food, water, hot drinks and warm layers, and you put sunscreen on the parts of your friendsâ€™ bodies that they canâ€™t reach. You take care of each other, and you carry what you needâ€”nothing more. One day, at the end of our first ration period, I had a packet of instant soup for breakfast. My cook group was running low on food, so I gave the boys in my group the more substantial food, assuming that, since I was smaller, I would be able to plow through the day on fewer calories. That day, we hiked for 13 hours, and when we got to camp, my body stopped functioning. I felt completely and totally drainedâ€”my vision was fuzzy,
You trust the people youâ€™re withâ€”you respect themâ€”because no matter what beliefs you do or donâ€™t share, you hold each otherâ€™s lives in your hands.
Danielle, one of my closest friends on the trip, undressed me and unlaced my boots like I was a baby. She unpacked my bag, pulling out my magenta sleeping bag and warm layers, and covered me up, doing everything in her power to get me to stop shivering. While she worked to get me warm, Walker, a fisherman from Texas, cooked and fed me hot rice and Rachel, a large blonde Californian with a passion for death metal, gave me her gloves and forced me to drink hot water out of my blue Nalgene. In the wilderness, it doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™re pro-life or recently got an abortion, if you pray at your local temple on Friday nights or go out and get sloshed with your friends. You trust the people youâ€™re with, because no matter which beliefs you do or donâ€™t share, you hold each otherâ€™s lives in your hands. You learn to put your prejudices aside and
work together, because prejudices have no place in getting you to camp each night. You learn to prioritize the things you prioritized as a kidâ€” happiness, and self-sufficiency, and survival. You stop judging others, and feeling self-conscious, and wanting things you donâ€™t have, because you have to put all of your energy into moving forward and being there for your group. But when the trip was over and we got back to civilization, things changed. We had phones, and clothes, and food to occupy us, and ads begging us to buy more of just about everything, even if we didnâ€™t need toâ€”calling upon us to waste. Full, able to sleep on a real bed, and a text away from talking to my best friend again, I felt more empty, tired and alone than I had in weeks. I wanted to be back in the mountains, where things were simpler, and I felt more grounded. Because, surrounded by excess, itâ€™s easy to become absorbed in ourselves and our possessions. We forget how little we truly need to survive, how unproductive our judgments are unless they are used to fight for what we believe in. We are taught to arrogantly prioritize consumption, and constant expansion, over conservation. We forget the meaningfulness of being a small part of something big, and beautiful, and collaborativeâ€”sitting on a cliff, a canyon, a pass, in your magenta sleeping bag, and feeling hopelessly, beautifully insignificant in the face of a group of unique, hardworking people who have decided to entrust each other
with their lives, or an expansive, ethereal, pale blue sky. We forget what matters: sunscreen gently rubbed onto your back, and a bowl of hot rice after a 13-hour hike. Perhaps the feather-light kiss of a monarch butterfly on your fingertip, or the soft taps of rain that keep the forest alive.
In the wilderness, it doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™re pro-life or recently got an abortion; if you pray at your local temple on Friday nights or go out and get sloshed with your friends.
Vulnerability, curiosity, and simplicity can color our world even when we stop being kids. It just takes regression to remember how to see it.
Courtesy of Zora Arum
Courtesy of Zora Arum
I could barely walk, and I began to shiver uncontrollably. If I had been alone, I donâ€™t think I wouldâ€™ve been able to set up the tent or make myself dinner, but my friends took me by my arms and led me to the kitchen.
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Courtesy of Lila Pague
Approaching Fun, With Foam Daggers Drawn
By Danielle Eisenman
At first, the thrumming was impossible to discern from beneath the thick cacophony of crickets and cicadas. It was just another sound of the night. As they approached the lake, however, the Lunarians decided that the low humming did indeed have an elusive, but ultimately identifiable sourceâ€”human beings, twirling scarves above their heads, sprinkling sand on one another, and swaying back and forth to the rhythm they were creating with their own vocal chords. Gilda Trout was the first to comment on the scene. â€œGolly gee whiz!â€? she said in her anachronistic southern drawl. â€œWhat in heckâ€™s name is going on?â€? *** Iâ€™m sure that you, like Gilda, are perplexed by the scenario Iâ€™ve invited you to take a peek at. And, while I donâ€™t think an outsider like you will ever be able to fully understand what in heckâ€™s name I did with my summer, I might as well start with the basicsâ€”like, for instance, something fairly concrete: location. All of the previously described nonsense took place at the Omega Institute in upstate New York. To cynics, Omega is a place where white people come to revel in the appropriation of â€œexoticâ€? traditions. Year round, the campus is dedicated mostly to retreats for adults who want to learn Afro Flow Yoga and find their chi, but we youngâ€™uns are invited to join in on the fun once a year during Family Week. And for whatever reasonâ€” it may be our short shorts and spotty moustaches, or maybe our intimidatingly un-punctured youthfulnessâ€”teenagers reign supreme. Well, not all teenagers. You see, there are two classes of adolescent folk at Family Week, segregated based on the day camps they take part in: the Wayfinders and the Rock Band kids. The Wayfinders are royalty, deified by little kids and avoided at all costs by adults. By day, they whack one another with foam swords. By night, they alienate everyone everywhere with their shocking public displays of affection. The Rock Band kids, on the other hand, have yet to let go of their Guitar Hero phases. I will confess to you now that I was a lowly Rock Band kid for three Family Weeks in a row. And this year was my first as a Wayfinder. *** At first, I had difficulty wiggling my way into the social hierarchy. This may have to do with the fact that Iâ€™m terrible in situations where everyone seems to know each other and Iâ€™m the odd one out. So, I would watch my
peers interact with one another from what seems now like a slightly creepy distance and craft angsty aphorisms in my head (â€œBeing social means laughing when the people around you are laughing and not laughing when your peers are silent,â€? â€œBeing social means surrendering your freedom to laugh to the evil forces of popularity,â€?etc). When we had our daily hugging sessions (in which New Age music is played and you walk around for ten minutes hugging everyone you make eye contact with), I stared at my feet and shuffled around to quickly avoid all outstretched arms. When clumps of teenagers would make their way to the dining hall for lunch, I would be clumplessâ€”the only one without at least one friend to walk next to. My solitary state was only exacerbated by the constant talk of the magic that was apparently so implausibly ubiquitous at Omega. â€œThis place,â€? the other Wayfinders would say, â€œis someplace else.â€? â€œThe people are different here. Theyâ€™re better.â€? â€œWeâ€™re in a bubble. Real life is not like this.â€? I decided that I was revolted by the cultish tendencies of the Wayfinders. Omega was nothing but a pathetic attempt to create a utopia, where people worked embarrassingly hard to maintain it. They were making themselves cry to create syrupy sentiment and confusing the definitions for â€œsuperfluousâ€? and â€œsuperfly.â€? I was too smart to surrender myself to something so disingenuous. *** Now, thereâ€™s more to being a Wayfinder than simply hitting people with phony weaponry and attempting to make friends. The main eventâ€”while it does involve an adequate amount of whacking and social interactionâ€”is actually the Game. The Game is an RPG (role-playing game), but instead of experiencing everything from a computer screen, you wear elaborate costumes and act it all out. The story for the Game took about two years to write and about the same amount of time to explain, so I wonâ€™t go into all of the hairy details. The basic premise, however, is that six nations living under a sphere of pure magic think they are safe from a fatal virus called â€œthe Veignâ€? until new outbreaks are reported and everyone starts dying. Unfortunately, my character, a dissertation student from the land of Lunoc, wasnâ€™t as easy to relate with as I had hoped her to be. Professor Arenaâ€™s identity was a nebulous clump of nothing hastily scribbled on one
of the character development worksheets that were distributed to us. How could I understand, much less embody a character whose name I wasnâ€™t even comfortable pronouncing? Maybe, I hoped, the cape of crushed turquoise velvet and the clouds of cerulean eye shadow would help me find the Lunarian within me. After all, we did have one thing in common. Arena, like me, was the new kid on the block. Arena was not born a Lunarian. Instead, she had come from the faraway desert lands of Korva to study. Pieces of her past never managed to escape her, the way stubborn grains of sand never stop showing up in your sneakers after youâ€™ve worn them to the beach. Arena desperately wanted to move up the academic ranks, but didnâ€™t know if that was possible, considering that she would always be known to her peers as â€œthe Korvan,â€? just like I thought Iâ€™d always be â€œthe Rock Band girl.â€?
thumping of bongos? After everyone had munched through platters of what the others referred to as â€œPirateâ€™s Bootyâ€? (the Professor had never seen comestibles of the sort in neither Lunoc nor Korva), a round of lighthearted duels began. Suddenly, a shrill scream rang out among the buzzing festivities and everyone turned to see the King, slaughtered next to his throne, which had been knocked over. That moment, the Lunarians looked at one another and made the tacit agreement to run for their lives. After seven full minutes of speeding across campus, the Professor finally noticed the adrenaline rush that thumped throughout her entire body. Each loud heartbeat contributed to the unbelievably exciting realization that I had been engulfed by another worldâ€”a different kind of place, separated from real life, where magic truly was ubiquitous.
It was a quarter past seven , the night of my first Game. Everyone had just finished rapidly swallowing â€œLebanese Tempehâ€? in the dining hall and all one hundred of us were standing in the meadow by the basketball courts in full costume, holding hands to form a colossal circle. The countdown began. â€œTHREE!â€? Our arms swung up to the sky. â€œTWO!â€? They went limp and fell back down. â€œONE!â€? They swung back up, but this time, we held them there. â€œLET US PLAAAAAY!â€?
The game finished the next day after a brilliant mess of deathly battles, random card games, creation myth analyses, and even a little police brutality (the Korvans posed as an all too familiarly bigoted police force). And, like we do every year, we ended the night with a dance party. The dance is similar to school dances in terms of the concentration of crop tops (high), but itâ€™s definitely something special. Thereâ€™s the comfortably familiar collection of Bruno Mars hitsâ€”though, balanced out with heavy doses of Michael Franti and a dribble of Duck Sauce. Itâ€™s the one time during all of Family Week that the Rock Band kids rub elbows with the Wayfinders. The absence of light provides a source of relative anonymity and every teenager spends the night breathing in musty air thick with the vaporized sweat of other adolescents. We surrender ourselves to the funky pulses of the remixed versions of â€œOne Loveâ€? and experience the collective heartbeat weâ€™re all invited to feel together. *** The morning after the dance, we gathered in what was called a Community Circle, where people were invited to say whatever they wanted to as a way to tie up loose ends before going home. People mostly talked about how the Wayfinder community helped them through the ugly isolation of adolescence and we all sniffled a bit to communicate the reciprocity of our own experiences. And then one kid who didnâ€™t normally say very much began to talk. â€œYou see,â€? he said, â€œafter school every day, we get pizza. Every single day. And we just talk. I donâ€™t have any other friends like him...You know, nobody who knows as much about me as he does. And thereâ€™s nobody that I know more about than him.â€? We all listened intently to the description of their friendshipâ€” it was refreshing to hear about something warm and constant in the midst of tales of bullying and absentee parents. â€œAnd, I guess the difference between the two of us is that I have all of you to support me and he doesnâ€™t.â€? One of the counselors who had been timing every personâ€™s
His grief seemed to take on a sort of electric quality that all of us felt zinging through our entire bodies.
*** The Lunarians arrived at the festival grounds after 72 unnaturally long (or so it seemed) hours of traveling. Professor Arena was looking forward to distancing herself from the Associate Professor Goldman (did he really think she would go on a date with an associate professor?). The festival, however, was just as irksome to the Professor. First, two wood nymphs grabbed her hands (you know the Leariansâ€” looser than a zoot suit on an underweight man) in an attempt to make her dance. The Professor abhorred such frivolities as dancing, but was even more reluctant to join them because the only musical accompaniment was absolutely unbearable. How could anyoneâ€”even airheaded forest fairiesâ€”be expected to dance to the tasteless twangs of mandolins and rhythm-less
micro-speech began to play his ukulele to let the kid know that his minute of speaking time was up, but I donâ€™t think the kid heard him. â€œAndâ€”â€?
Maybe, I hoped, the cape of crushed turquoise velvet and the clouds of cerulean eye shadow would help me find the Lunarian within me.
Long pause. There was relative silence, with the exception of ukulele twinkling that was gradually increasing in volume. â€œAnd, uh, he killed himself last night.â€? The ukulele playing stopped. Simultaneously, all one hundred teenagers erupted into hysterical tears. His grief seemed to take on a sort of electric quality that all of us felt zinging through our entire bodies. It seems selfish now, to have consumed another personâ€™s misery and remember it in a way that can only be described with the word â€œsurrealâ€? (only a couple levels of insensitivity away from â€œgroovyâ€?), but there was something that didnâ€™t feel very real at all about it. I mean, it felt magical. We felt pure emotion in such a strong way that we couldnâ€™t even stomach it, like when you see colors that are so vibrant you never knew they existed and you donâ€™t know if you should trust your eyes. Eventually, tissues were passed out and the crying reached a lesser volume. Another kid picked up the mike. â€œAt home, weâ€™re encouraged not to feel things. Tears are a sign that youâ€™re weak, that youâ€™re too mushy, that you need to take Zoloft. But, this place is someplace else. Here, we get the opportunity to feel things in ways we never have before. But, feeling sad isnâ€™t as yucky, because you never really have to feel sad by yourself. Because it just bounces off the people next to you.â€? He bounced his long fingers off the shoulders of the people sitting next to him and we smiled. â€œAnd this bouncing creates a sense of warmth, because, like, thereâ€™s comfort in unity, in crying as one. And this works because the people here are differentâ€” better than the people at home. We all know that weâ€™re safe to feel because weâ€™re living in the magical haven of a bubble, or, if you will, a sphere.â€? We chuckled in response to his Game reference. Shared love only feels cultish when youâ€™re too cynical to let yourself feel it.
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Features Yasmeen Roumie’s Journey to Space thing but they’ve been there for me for so much more. They accompany me to a lot of competitions—especially my mom. She’s taken me to Ohio for a regional competition, China last summer for the China Robotics Competition, and St. Louis for the World Championships. I was actually able to intern at NASA this summer because my family rented an apartment in Florida and stayed with me all summer. It was really sweet of them and it’s comforting knowing that they have my back.
Soham Ghoshal / The Spectator
How did you end up applying for an internship at NASA?
Yasmeen with the Kennedy Space Center Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana.
By Rachel Kwon
Senior Yasmeen Roumie
talks of her passion for software programming, her internship at NASA, and her plans for the future.
What led you to be passionate about technology and science? I started competing in robotics [when] I was six years old. The team was definitely more on the relaxed side; we just played and experimented around with Legos in my basement, but we still researched the topics. I remember that my robots were never really “complete” because I always felt
the need to try new variations. When I was 12, my mom and I founded a nonprofit robotics league in our community. My growing enthusiasm for robotics was part of the decision too. It was hard having to learn everything for ourselves first and then teaching it to others but it was great and [sparked] my interests in technology and science. Has your family been supportive of your goals? They always go out of their way to make sure I can take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. The nonprofit robotics league we set up was one
I actually really wanted to do something software-related, but it’s difficult to get a software internship in New York [if you are not] a college student. So, I basically browsed the Internet nonstop looking for opportunities—it’s how I came across the internship for NASA. I eventually ended up applying to 15 positions all over the country. I applied to NASA specifically because I really enjoyed physics and technology. NASA’s mission to reveal the unknown to benefit humankind also really drew me; it fit my own mission to help people in big ways. Honestly I did not expect to get accepted to NASA so my family and I were extremely happy. What is a day like as Yasmeen Roumie at NASA? I worked from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Every day in the morning I checked my NASA calendar and e-mail so I could know my schedule and what the day would be like. That was really important
in keeping me organized and on track. I got to NASA by carpooling with some other interns and we got pretty close that way commuting back and forth. When I arrived I would have to go through all this security and get to the third floor using a keycard. On the third floor is the Launch Services Program (LSP); it’s an office with cubicles, but the work is not boring at all. We handle all of the launching of cargo and things like acquiring rockets. I actually got front row seats to all the rocket launches done at NASA. Once I went outside for lunch and there were alligators, tortoises, and snakes just roaming around. It’s probably because the center is built on a wildlife refuge, but I still found it really cool. You don’t really see that here in New York. Workwise I help teams cooperate more effectively. I have tried to do this through setting up a Wiki site and organizing a center-wide knowledge sharing event. What surprised you the most during your internship? What surprised me the most was how much of an impact everyone makes. They didn’t use us to go photocopy files and organize their paperwork. My project, a Wiki site teams can use to collaborate and give each other feedback, is actually now being used to plan missions. Other interns [worked] on chemical/ mechanical engineering projects that are actually going to be launched. NASA really values our time and skills and they like to make the most out of our 10 weeks with them. I feel like we’re really different from other interns at regular companies.
Could you see yourself working at NASA in the future? I actually really want to become an astronaut. I always thought that it would be cool but it didn’t seem as accessible as it seems now. I met the Center Director, Bob Cabana, a former astronaut and fighter pilot. I ran into him at a lot of events and we naturally got to talk. Mr. Cabana likes to tell a lot of stories about his days as an astronaut. He was the first American to go to the International Space Station. He was with a Russian astronaut so his journey was revolutionary, considering the tension between America and Russia in terms of space travel at that time. He also talked about NASA’s plan to reach Mars by the 2030s. How do you think this internship has affected you as a student and a person? I realized how important it is to meet deadlines because you will always have multiple teams relying on you. Because each person works on multiple projects at a time, it’s really important to keep track of them. NASA has this program called “Les-s o n s Learned,” in which people post problems they come across and how they can be avoided in the future. It’s helpful to have others’ mistakes to guide you since NASA does not have much room for error. I never really stopped to think about my mistakes because I always felt too busy, but NASA has really helped me to change my mentality.
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The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Editorials Staff Editorial
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell other equally prestigious high schools like Bronx Science and Hunter. There is no reason why you should feel like you have to tell other people what your grades are. If someone asks, just say, “I prefer not to share my grades,” and you should be left alone.
The Spectator “The Pulse of the Student Body” E DITOR S
]Yuchen Jin/ The Spectator
Emma Bernstein* Ariella Kahan*
F eat u r es
The problem is that grade-sharing will inevitably allow one person to feel superior and the other to feel inferior; it will never end well.
We share grades because some students believe that grades are a perfect indicator of intelligence—the higher your grades, the harder you work and the smarter you are. At Stuyvesant, it’s easy to feel insecure: teachers may applaud students who score above the class average, parents can be disappointed in our performance, and we have high expectations for our-
Grade-sharing creates an academic hierarchy and entrenches competition between students in an environment that is already filled with self-imposed and parental pressure.
The culture of publicizing grades is ubiquitous at Stuyvesant, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it. Sometimes once you share one grade, you feel obligated to share the next, or risk that your peers will assume you’ve done poorly. Allowing our grades to circulate throughout the community has made it easier to for Stuyvesant students to categorize each other by the trail of numbers they’ve left behind. In a sense, this creates an academic hierarchy and entrenches competition between students in an environment that is already filled with self-imposed and parental pressure. In fact, our school is one of the only places where this kind of thing happens. Surprisingly enough, students’ averages are not common knowledge at
More important than determining your academic standpoint among your classmates is your own personal growth as a student— something that is hardly captured by a set of numbers, and definitely not by a classmate’s.
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selves. Feeling like we’re up against the best and wanting to be the best of them motivates the sharing of grades. Similarly, we may feel the need to hold on to our own academic integrity by prying into our classmate’s report cards to justify our own performance. The problem is that grade comparing will inevitably allow one person to feel superior and the other to feel inferior; it will never end well.
Jensen Foerster* Soham Ghoshal Jin Hee Yoo
The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper
It’s early July and the combination of waking up late and watching Netflix during the daytime has enabled you to liberate yourself from the stressful grasp of school. However, after opening up Facebook to see what’s going on, all the anxiety of the school year floods back in a matter of seconds. That girl who you know only because she sat across the room from you in Forensics has just posted a status that she’s received all fives on all five of her AP exams. And the boy who yells at you about which bins you ought to throw your sandwich crust into at lunchtime has shared that he earned a four on one of his exams with his 684 closest friends. At Stuyvesant, we have a unique culture of sharing our grades with just about everyone we meet. It doesn’t matter how well you know someone— chances are, you know what they got on their last math test. Whether you care or not is irrelevant. You will be approached and asked what you got on your last English paper.
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We are not asking for a ban on grade sharing; it’s always healthy to express things that are important to you with your close friends. However, sharing and complaining about grades on public forums, such as Facebook, is toxic for our community. Your friends on Facebook do not care to know which numbers make you feel inadequate, especially if their grades happen to be lower. So this year, don’t approach people and ask about their grades. Many times, people do not want to make their grades well known, but are gently coerced into doing so when prompted. The concept of affirmative consent can be applied to grade sharing: make sure the person you are conversing with has stated they feel comfortable with you sharing your grades with them. More important than determining your academic standpoint among your classmates is your own personal growth as a student—something that is hardly captured by a set of numbers, and definitely not by a classmate’s. A grade’s purpose is to assess your own performance. Your existence at Stuyvesant does not have to be defined by your grades, and you don’t have to let anyone else define you by them either. The next time you get a 98, smile and keep it quiet.
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The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Opinions Point-Counterpoint: By Andrew Chen The dazzling desnudas of Times Square pose topless with stars and stripes painted on bare skin. Onlookers are amazed at the scene. One man walks up and asks for a photo, and his friend snaps a picture to be laughed at over the table for years to come.
[...] The desnudas have been occupying the spotlight, even though they haven’t displayed similar signs of aggression.
The tips the desnudas get from this practice are enough to support them financially. Though the novelty of topless women in public is shocking to onlookers, what the desnudas are doing is in fact perfectly legal. In New York, a 1992 State Supreme Court ruling in Santorelli granted the freedom for women to go topless. The other part of the desnudas’ alleged crime— asking for tips—is also legal, as long as it isn’t considered aggressive.
Though the desnudas aren’t what we expect to see in Times Square, they have just as much of a claim to this space as the Naked Cowboy. In fact, the desnudas even contribute to a larger cause: the normalization and acceptance of the female form.
The prime example of aggressive panhandlers is the crowd of costumed cartoon characters, who similarly pose in photos for tips. They grab children and pressure people to give tips, and have been seen punching and cursing at tourists, causing several of them to be arrested. Recently however, the desnudas have been occupying the spotlight, even though they haven’t displayed similar signs of aggression. The desnudas’ critics claim that their profits from public displays of nudity is indecent and immoral, but this assertion is contradictory. The
El Problema con Desnudas
infamous Naked Cowboy, who prowls By Jason Mohabir the tourist hotspot, dons just a pair of and Stiven Peter briefs. Just like the desnudas, he derives his income from assuming the A flock of fervent, persona of a naked individual. Yet the topless women march criticism from the public and media is the streets of New minimal, if existent, compared to that York demanding the of the desnudas. So why is one party right to be topless in being so heavily criticized for doing public. With “GoTopthe same thing as another attraction? less” painted on their The desnudas are also accused of bare breasts, they deperforming in a sexual manner, simply mand that the scantily because they’re topless, which we’ve clothed desnudas be already seen is a glaring double stanable to strut around dard. There is nothing intrinsically Times Square asking sexual about female breasts, which, bifor donations. The ologically, act only as glands for milk. tensions between the Men fought for the right to go topless desnudas, who decoin the 1930s. Looking back, the banrate their bosoms with ning bare male chests in all contexts— American flags, and even bathing suits covering the male public officials have resulted in Mayor torso—because they were too sexual Bill de Blasio making threats to close and inappropriate for children is comthe iconic pedestrian plazas for good. ical today. Saying the female chest is With the desnudas evoking comsomehow so much more sexual than parisons to pre-Giuliani days of New that of the male is based upon outYork, where pornographic theaters dated ideology. This logic also implies and prostitutes littered Times Square, that breastfeeding in plain view, which many fear the plazas may be headed is legal, needs to be banned. down a similar path. As always, changes in society The pedestrian plazas of aren’t instantaneous. To dismanTimes Squares were not always tle an ingrained taboo, exposure the hub of topless women, nais the key, as we see from the ked cowboys, and fight for men’s right pushy Sesame to go topless. It Street chartook several acters. The years of explazas were posure after meant to legalization make New before the York more controversy open to tourfaded away. ism and alThe parallel low for safer is clear here. walking spacThough the es. However, desnudas after almost aren’t what six years, the we expect to plazas have besee in Times come overpopuSquare, they lated with coshave just as tumed harassers. much of a claim These performers, to this space as the no matter what art Naked Cowboy. In they claim to make, fact, the desnudas demonstrate avaeven contribute to rice in their techa larger cause: the niques. normalization and The qualms acceptance of the that exist within female form. the desnudas’ beThe right to havior are moral go topless was issues. The partial given for a reason, nudity that the desand it wasn’t so that nudas use is far less we could continue to so for activism than single out the desnudas. monetary gain. Rather Rui Ling/ The Spectator We don’t need to support the than advocate against sodesnudas to see that the claims against cietal injustice, desnudas profit off of them are merely contradictory covers the shock that is associated with seefor the real qualm: bare breasts. The ing topless women. The majority of the legal battle was won, and we are now public finds this behavior disruptive, in the midst of the social one. Let’s not with desnudas being the subject of, acban our fighters. cording to the Times Square Alliance, about four out of every five complaints received by e-mail and on Twitter since June. By allowing people to sell their bodies through photographs, we are forced to have a discussion about sexual expression in public spaces. Specifically, it’s a discussion debating our ability to assign sexuality to people compared to our ability to opt for what many believe to be indecency. More importantly, the desnudas use their breasts for monetary gain and in doing so promote an opportunistic view on sexuality. In a world saturated by sexual images and advertising, the desnudas only encourage sexuality to be seen as a mere commodity. In order to implement legitimate measures against the desnudas and other sexually devious behavior, there are a multitude of possible options. De Blasio and Commissioner Bratton both claim the desnudas debase the
Saying the female chest is somehow so much more sexual than the male one that it requires covering for society to function is baseless.
Paulina Ruta and Xin Italie / The Spectator
Breasts: An Unnecessary Taboo
pedestrian plazas, and de Blasio has suggested that New York get rid of the plazas all together. A more comprehensive solution, however, is to make Times Square Plaza into a park. This way, Time Square is preserved as the public space it ought to be. And with the status of a park, solicitation is illegal. The desnudas will no longer be allowed to panhandle and neither will the other costumed persons. Time Squares is in an enforced
The majority of the public finds this behavior disruptive, with desnudas being the subject of, according to the Times Square Alliance, about four out of every five complaints received by e-mail and on Twitter since June.
area, but it currently lacks laws necessary to structure the environment. Though there are many other public spaces that the desnudas could potentially move to, there are very few spaces in New York as large as Times Square where solicitation is allowed. The problem is not topless women. The problem is women exploiting their sexuality in a public space for monetary gain. The desnudas are the product of years of poor practices in Times Square that have culminated in a space where doing almost anything for money is permissible. Transforming Time Square ensures that all panhandlers are removed from this prized public area. Preserving Times Square’s desired nature is both plausible and attainable, and it’s only a park away.
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
By Raniyan Zaman What does it mean to be an American? Are you an American if you were born here, or do you need to be raised here, too? Is it based solely on whether you feel at home in America? At the very least, everyone considers the 50 states to be full of Americans. However, there are many U.S. citizens in the Caribbean Islands, including Puerto Rico, that identify as Americans, but are frequently overlooked. As a result, many of these people are suffering. Improving U.S. relations with Puerto Rico is a key step to resolving their issues, but granting Puerto Rico statehood or independence at this stage would be a faulty decision. Puerto Rico is in a dire situation, and though the U.S. federal government exerts nearabsolute authority over the island, they have done little to
remedy its troubles. Because of this, Puerto Rico’s poverty rate and median household income are worse than that of any U.S. state. For example, its unemployment rate is 12.2 percent, and, according to an article in the Atlantic called “What’s Really Happening in Puerto Rico?” by Gillian White, it is approximately $72 billion in debt. In addition, both federal minimum wages and welfare benefits are high, and consequently, companies hire fewer workers. Unfortunately, the U.S.’s reluctance to help has contributed to Puerto Rico’s troubles. As stated in a New York Times op-ed written by Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner to the U.S. Congress, the federal government gives less attention to Puerto Rico in areas like health care. In fact, not only is federal funding for Medicaid capped for the island, but it also receives a mere fifth
of the funds allocated to many state Medicaid programs. This, along with Puerto Rico’s exclusion from several other valuable federal programs, is causing the deterioration of health care and the economy, and people are struggling to get jobs, food, and retirement funds. Since Puerto Rico receives no other economic aid apart from the U.S.’s aid, and the U.S. gives Puerto Rico only about $6 million annually for federal aid, without federal programs and assistance, Puerto Rico has very little economic support. In fact, this is what has caused Puerto Rico to borrow money so heavily, leading to its insurmountable debt. The solution to these problems is complex, but including Puerto Rico in a variety of federal programs would be a good place to start, as it would boost its economy and, consequently, the well-being of its residents. The sick and disabled would receive better medical attention, the elderly would be taken care of, and people would have a chance to escape poverty through joining the workforce. This revitalization of the economy would in turn contribute to solving the debt crisis. Two options that America could offer Puerto Rico for both self-sufficiency and economic stability are statehood and independence, but both courses are ultimately unsustainable. Any land set to become independent must be financially secure enough to support its
people. If Puerto Rico were to cut off ties with the U.S., on the other hand, Puerto Rico would have to manage a growing population, limited jobs, and extreme debt without any significant economic aid. These challenges would be even more difficult to overcome as a result of Puerto Rico’s near-complete lack of self-government. Further, through the time and resources invested in reinventing their systems and establishing themselves as a country, Puerto Rico’s debt could become insurmountable. Meanwhile, statehood is an unwise option, as Puerto Rico actually benefits from its exclusion from statehood. Though overall federal funding could nearly triple if Puerto Rico were made a state, Puerto Ricans, as members of a territory rather than a state, are currently exempt from federal income taxes. This is helping Puerto Ricans save much-needed money. And, beyond taxes, as noted by an article in the Washington Post titled “Why
does Puerto Rico want statehood, anyway?” by Olga Khazan, many Puerto Ricans worry that statehood could compromise Puerto Rico’s cultural and linguistic identities, “especially if the federal government requires it to adopt English as its sole official language.” Puerto Rico might have to relinquish other customs and traditions to assimilate fully into the U.S., which could stir up controversy. Thus, it is vital that Puerto Rico remain a territory as of now so that the island has a chance to redeem itself and rise out of recession. However, the Puerto Rican economy will only improve if the U.S. increases financial support for the Caribbean Island. Hopefully, our willingness to watch out for Puerto Rico will emphasize that Puerto Ricans are American, too. Puerto Rico should serve as a fresh reminder that people of every background deserve respect.
Adam Wickham/ The Spectator
Stephanie Chan/ The Spectator
The Necessity of Remaining a Territory
Zhixing Che/ The Spectator
When Service is a Disservice
By Stephen Nyarko Coming into Stuyvesant, I believed that its lack of a community service requirement was a godsend. At my Quaker middle school, where one of the core values was service, gradewide trips to soup kitchens, food banks, and public parks were frequent, compulsory, and boring, so having the choice to volunteer wherever and in whatever capacity I wanted was a giant weight off my shoulders. However, many of us, myself included, don’t take advantage of the freedom that Stuyvesant gives us to choose a meaningful community service experience, both for ourselves and for those we hope to help. Here at Stuy, one of the main avenues for organized volunteering is the Red Cross Club, which sends large groups of students across the city to volunteer at a variety of venues and log their hours, working to fulfill the minimum service requirement to stay in the club. According to the Stuyvesant
Red Cross website, at the end of each successful year, members receive a “fancy certificate as proof of [their] community service.” The site also mentions that “events are usually held […] in Manhattan. Sometimes they will be in Queens or Brooklyn, and very rarely in the Bronx.” While Red Cross does plenty of good, if the club’s goal is, as it states, “to improve [its members’] community […] in Greater New York,” then this template is extremely out-of-touch with reality. According to the most recent statistics from the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, Manhattan is the borough with the lowest poverty rate, while the Bronx has the highest. If economic need were the main metric for where community service aid is allocated, there would be nearly twice as many volunteers in the Bronx as in Manhattan. The operating system of the Stuy Red Cross Club is just one example of the global trend of volunteering focusing on the
experience of the volunteers, rather than the experience of those they help. One prime example of this is “voluntourism.” Volunteer tourism, or “voluntourism,” is a way for wealthy, socially-conscious travellers to volunteer in an exotic locale, such as Central America or SubSaharan Africa—often in order to supplement their resume or college application. While there, participants build schools or orphanages, provide childcare, and teach English language classes. Additionally, many programs offer excursions, such as safaris, to increase the appeal of the trip. However, voluntourism doesn’t always help the communities it affects. In some cases, such as in programs that volunteer at orphanages in Nepal, the industry supports an elaborate system of corruption. According to the Unicef website, “it has been estimated that up to 85 percent of children in orphanages in Nepal have at least one living parent.” Unicef cites one of the major causes for this astounding statistic is “children [being] deliberately separated from their families and placed in orphanages so they can be used to attract fee-paying volunteers and donors.” Thus, though voluntourists may mean well with their donations and service hours, they are actually, at times, providing incentive for illegal, immoral actions. As for programs that build local facilities, such as schools or housing, volunteers often waste time and effort on a task that can be done faster and cheaper by the locals, without the costs of plane tickets
or chaperones. Pippa Biddle, a writer and former voluntourist, wrote an online essay about her experience volunteering with a group in Tanzania that was cited by many major publications, including The New York Times. In the essay, she states, “each night the men had to take down the structurally unsound bricks we had laid and rebuild the structure so that, when we woke up in the morning, we would be unaware of our failure.” While the veracity of this statement is unclear, it shows what the main driving factors are for students on voluntourism trips: self-fulfillment and accreditation.
“Puerto Rico’s poverty rate and median household income is worse than any state’s.”
To solve this issue, specifically on the high school level, colleges and other organizations that use volunteering credits in their applications need to
change their system for evaluating volunteer hours. Currently, the common core application has community service grouped with all the other extracurricular activities, allowing just 150 words to describe the experience. Similarly, on the ARISTA application, there’s no space in which to describe your experience. If someone has logged 100 hours of handing out t-shirts at a track meet, while another has logged 100 hours working in a soup kitchen, there is no way to distinguish them on the ARISTA application: it’s all just “Red Cross Volunteering.” To change this, if students volunteer, there should be an additional writing section in which students are encouraged to write about what their experience meant to them and volunteer plans for the future. This would be helpful in signaling to colleges and similar institutions that a student is particularly committed to volunteering, and plans on continuing their service. We can’t make all these changes ourselves, but we can call upon Red Cross and other organizations that organize community service, to put more emphasis on continued, sustained work in a specific area, or on a specific project, rather than focusing on a series of weekend events. This would allow volunteers to do something that they’re passionate about, and learn skills to be more effective in what they do. Let’s change the way we ask Stuyvesant students to approach service hours to encourage fostering a useful and fulfilling connection with their communities.
The Spectator ● September 11 , 2015
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Survey Class of 2019: Freshman Survey In order to better understand the Stuyvesant student body, The Spectator decided to survey the incoming class to find out about its study habits, methods of preparation for the SHSAT, and character traits. Look through our graphs to meet this year’s freshmen, the Class of 2019. The data was collected in a 22-question anonymous survey that was distributed to homerooms in Camp Stuy Part One. While 875 freshmen responded to the survey, not every student answered every question. Other slight discrepancies arise rounding issues and faulty bubbling. The Spectator would like to thank Assistant Principal of Chemistry and Physics Scott Thomas for taking time after the school year ended to allow us to use his Scantron machine. Without his help and patience, this survey would have been impossible. We would also like to thank the Big Sib Chairs, as well as all the Big Sibs for helping us distribute the surveys during Camp Stuy. If anyone would like to see the raw results of the survey as returned by the Scantron machine, or if you would like to request information relating to correlations that we chose not to include, please e-mail email@example.com.
Part A: Demographic Information 1) Choose the race that best describes your background. a) Asian: 71.89% b) Black: 1.37% c) Hispanic: 1.83% d) White: 21.24% e) Other (American Indian, Pacific Islander, Multiracial): 3.2%
13) I spend ___ hours on homework or studying on an average school night. a) less than ½: 30.06% b) 1/2 – 1: 43.20% c) 1 – 2: 17.49% d) 2 – 3: 5.71% e) more than 3: 1.03%
Part C: Applying to Stuyvesant
2) Choose the following that best describes your legal status in the United States. a) U.S. Citizen (Passport): 86.97% b) Permanent Resident (Green Card + Passport of another country): 5.71% c) Dual Citizenship (Passport of two countries): 4.00% d) Visa: 1.26% e) Illegal: 0.34%
14) When did you start studying for the SHSAT? Leave this blank if you did not study for the SHSAT. a) Less than one month before the exam: 6.06% b) One month – four months before the exam: 26.07% c) Four months – six months before the exam: 17.71% d) Six months – one year before the exam: 25.60% e) More than one year before the exam: 20.80%
3) Choose the religion that best describes your background. a) Christianity (Catholicism, Protestantism, etc.): 19.31% b) Islam: 14.06% c) Judaism: 7.77% d) Agnosticism/Atheism: 30.86% e) Other: 25.03%
15) Which best describes the method of studying you used for the SHSAT? Leave this blank if you did not study. a) Self-study/Preparatory books: 19.20% b) Preparatory class (not SHSI): 61.49% c) SHSI preparatory school: 7.89% d) One-on-one tutoring: 6.97%
4) How would you classify your family’s socioeconomic status? a) Lower/working class: 8.69% b) Middle class: 48.57% c) Upper Middle Class: 19.77% d) Upper Class: 1.71% e) I don’t know: 20.00%
16) Approximately how much sleep do you expect to get on any given school night at Stuyvesant? a) Fewer than 4 hours: 9.03% b) 4-5 hours: 17.37% c) 5-6 hours: 33.71% d) 6-7 hours: 31.31% e) More than 7 hours: 5.71%
5) What type of middle school did you attend? a) Selective Public School (NEST+m, Mark Twain, etc.): 52.80% b) Zoned Public School: 37.94% c) Private School: 5.83% d) Parochial School: 1.60% e) Homeschool: 0.34% 6) I identify as the following gender: a) Male: 52.14% b) Female: 44.46% c) Other: 1.49%
Part B: Academic Information 7) I participate in my classes frequently. a) Strongly Agree: 34.29% b) Agree: 33.94% c) Neutral: 20.91% d) Disagree: 7.43% e) Strongly Disagree: 3.09% 8) I considered myself to be aware of current events. a) Strongly Agree: 14.63% b) Agree: 42.51% c) Neutral: 34.40% d) Disagree: 6.40% e) Strongly Disagree: 1.71% 9) I have a strong work ethic. a) Strongly Agree: 22.74% b) Agree: 46.06% c) Neutral: 23.66% d) Disagree: 5.49% e) Strongly Disagree: 1.71% 10) Approximately how much sleep do you get on any given school night in middle school? a) Fewer than 6 hours: 8.23% b) 6-7 hours: 27.09% c) 7-8 hours: 44.11% d) 8-9 hours: 18.29% e) More than 9 hours: 1.83% 11) My favorite subject is: a) Math: 45.14% b) Science: 24.91% c) English: 8.69% d) History: 8.91% e) Other: 11.31% 12) By the end of my Stuyvesant career, I predict that I will be among: a) the top 10% of my class: 20.23 % b) the top 25% of my class: 40.57% c) the top 50% of my class: 30.63% d) the bottom 50% of my class: 5.60%
Part D: Identity 17) I consider myself to be a sociable person. a) Strongly Agree: 17.37% b) Agree: 35.06% c) Neutral: 30.74% d) Disagree: 9.49% e) Strongly Disagree: 4.69% 18) I frequently read for pleasure. a) Strongly Agree: 22.97% b) Agree: 30.29% c) Neutral: 24.91% d) Disagree: 14.63% e) Strongly Disagree: 4.69% 19) After I graduate from Stuyvesant, I hope to attend an Ivy League University, Stanford University, or MIT. a) Strongly Agree: 54.40% b) Agree: 26.17% c) Neutral: 14.29% d) Disagree: 1.49% e) Strongly Disagree: 0.91% 20) I am opposed to the use of (recreational) drugs, like marijuana or alcohol, by high school students. a) Strongly Agree: 69.14% b) Agree: 11.77% c) Neutral: 9.37% d) Disagree: 2.86% e) Strongly Disagree: 3.89% 21) Choose the extracurricular you will be most likely to dedicate yourself to in the next four years. Leave this blank if you do not think you will partake in extracurriculars. a) Academic Clubs: 23.54% b) Sports: 34.29% c) Debate / Government: 10.29% d) Community Service: 5.71% e) Arts (visual art, music, dancing, theater): 17.83% 22) When I am older, I hope to go into ____. Leave this blank if you are not sure. a) Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM)-related fields: 56.34% b) Social Sciences (Psychology, Sociology, Law): 7.09% c) Language-related fields (foreign or English): 11.14% d) Finance/Business/Management: 8.69% e) Other: 8.23%
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
By Nalanda Sharadjaya The demographics portion of the survey largely affirms familiar notions about Stuyvesant’s student body. Questions in this section addressed six basic traits: gender, race/ethnicity, legal status, socioeconomic class, religion, and middle school. Around 85 percent Stuyvesant students are U.S. citizens, and the majority of the remaining students are either permanent residents or hold a dual citizenship. There are more boys than girls, and only a small number of students (1.5 percent) identify outside the gender binary. The school is predominantly Asian (Asians outnumber other races by nearly a factor of five, as compared to the overall ethnicities of students in the NYC Public School System), and White (by a factor of 1.5). While Hispanic, Latino and African American students comprise more than 70 percent of the citywide student populace, at Stuyvesant, they barely break 3 percent. More than eighty percent of Stuyvesant students are US citizens, and around five percent say they are permanent residents or hold citizenship in another country besides the United States. Nearly 70 percent of incoming freshmen self-identify as middle or upper middle class; comparatively few say they fall at the extremes (working or upper class). Around one-fifth of the incoming freshman class say they don’t know what socioeconomic class they belong to. Most students say they are at least somewhat religious, with less than one-third self-identifying as Atheist or Agnostic. More than ninety percent of incoming freshmen attended public middle schools; the majority of these attended schools with at least some selective admissions criteria. Citywide data taken from Hunter College.
86.97% 5.71% 20%
Upper middle class
Middle class Lower/ working class
Academics “I have a strong work ethic.”
22.7% Strongly agree
“I participate in class frequently.”
“By the end of my Stuyvesant career, I predict that I will be among...”
20.2% 40.6% 30.6% 5.6% Top 50%
F S 57.11% consider themA U selves aware of current events. V B 24.9% 8.9% History O J Math R E I C T T 45.1% 8.7% 11.3% E S Science English Other
This portion of the survey reflected the mostly positive expectations of our incoming class. The questions focused on the students’ lives in class and at home, related to academic preferences, general knowledge, predictions of future success, and more. This sense of optimism was made most obvious by the fact that 60.8 percent of students believe they will be in the top 25 percent of their class at Stuyvesant, which is statistically impossible, but endearing. The students’ high spirits make sense, though, given that most of them seemed to have relatively laid back middle school careers (the survey reported that 73.3 percent spent one hour or less on homework a night and a little more than half of students got seven or more hours of sleep a night—the same cannot be said for Stuyvesant students). Despite their relaxed pasts, the freshmen consider themselves prepared for high school—68.8 percent of students believe they have good work ethics and 57.1 percent consider themselves to be aware of current events. In many places, survey results lined up with well-known gender stereotypes, with math and science being more popular as a favorite subject among males than females (10.9 percent more males favoring science, and 6.1 percent more favoring math), and English reported as a favorite by 7.6 percent more females. More females also reported that they “strongly agree” that they have a stronger work ethic than males. However, data gathered by race is much less consistent with stereotypes, with 20.8 percent of Asian students favoring English (only 14.3 percent of White students reported English as a favorite, and no students of any other race), and White students were more likely to favor math than Asian students. Moreover, more White students anticipated they would be among the top 10 percent of students by the time they graduate than Asian students. The greatest number of students favoring English were minority students, including Hispanic, black, and mixed race students.
How long do you spend on homework/studying each night?
2 - 3 hours
By Danielle Eisenman and Julia IngraM
17.5% 1-2 hours
< 1/2 hour
43.2% 1/2 - 1 hour
Approximately how much sleep did you get on any given school night?
are U.S. citizens
are permanent residents
I don’t know
went to public school
> 3 hours
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Survey SHSAT By SONIA EPSTEIN There is one thing that Stuyvesant students can safely say they have in common: they all took the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), and they all received above a certain cutoff score. As debate over the merits and disadvantages of the SHSAT continues, a closer look at the backgrounds of the students who achieved this cutoff score is necessary. A prominent 61.5 percent of students studied for the SHSAT through a preparatory class, with the next largest group (19 percent of students) studying independently through preparatory books. Relatively few students (6.5 percent) prepared for the exam through one-on-one tutoring, and 4.0 percent said they did not study. Student responses regarding how much time they spent studying for the SHSAT were more widespread. While most students—26.1 percent—studied for one to four months, (a time period encompassing the summer before the test), almost the same number studied for six to 12 months, and 20.8 percent studied for over a year. Only 6.1 percent studied for less than a month, and a mere 3.77 percent (33 students) did not study at all. We broke down these results by the students’ race and type of middle school attended. The students who prepared for the least amount of time were largely from private or parochial schools, while the majority of students who prepared for more than six months were from zoned public middle schools. More than 50 percent of students from zoned schools studied for the exam for over six months. Most students from selective public middle schools prepared for one to four months, though many studied longer. Students of all races and from all types of middle schools studied through preparatory courses. Though the students who did not study by this method form a minority, several interesting trends still exist among these groups. All of the students comprising the four percent who did not study identified as Black, Hispanic, or other. Additionally, over 30 percent of students identifying as Black, Hispanic, or Other studied independently with preparatory books. The SHSI program did not contribute many students to the incoming class, but those who did study through this program were White and Asian and came from selective or zoned public high schools. Additionally, while only about seven percent of students studied through one-on-one tutoring, the students who did were mostly White. About twenty percent of White students studied by this method. Our data shows that there are many paths to performing well on the test. However, the people who we surveyed all, by definition, did well, and thus a fuller study of the SHSAT would require surveying people outside those admitted to Stuyvesant.
��� When did you start studying for the SHSAT?
191961 + +61+87+587+5 19.0%
Preparatory Class (not SHSI)
Preparatory Class (not SHSI)
>1 year One-on-One Tutoring
Which best describes the method of studying you used for the SHSAT?
SHSI Preparatory School
7.9% SHSI is a government-sponsored preparatory school that
1 – 4 months
Did Not Study
Preparatorydisadvantaged School serves academically promisingSHSI but economically students.
Did Not Study
15 20 25 30 35
Selective Public School Zoned Public School Private Parochial School
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Class of 2019: Freshman Survey Identity & Future Plans I consider myself a sociable person.
BY Laszlo Sandler The Identity and Future Plans section of the survey asked students about how they think of themselves, as well as about what they expect to do at Stuyvesant and beyond. Regarding personality, only a little over half of incoming students “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” that they are social, while just under 15 percent of students “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree” with this statement. As for how the incoming class spends its free time, more than half of the incoming class read for pleasure, although only 46.3 percent of males do, compared to 62.2 percent of females. Incoming students have a bleak outlook towards sleep at Stuyvesant, with only 5.7 percent of students expecting to receive more than seven hours of sleep per night. More worryingly, however, and perhaps influenced by the horror stories told by upperclassmen, over a quarter of the grade expects to receive fewer than five hours of sleep each night. College aspirations are high, with 80.6 percent of the grade hoping to attend an Ivy, Stanford, or MIT. Unsurprisingly, 90.5 percent of the students who expect to be in the top 10 percent of their grade and 87.8 percent of the students who expect to be in the top 25 percent of their grade hope to go to one of these colleges. Over three quarters of the incoming class is opposed to recreational drug and alcohol use, while only 6.8 percent of students are unopposed. As for extracurricular activities, the majority of students plan to dedicate themselves to sports. Sports were the most popular extracurricular activity among students who chose math, history, English, and other as their favorite subject. Students who preferred science were the exception, with more planning to dedicate themselves to academic clubs. Stereotypes were in effect when sorted by gender, with more males than females planning to play sports, and more females than males dedicating themselves to the arts. The extracurricular with the lowest gender disparity was Debate/ Government, with only 3.9 percent more females planning on pursuing the activity than males. As for future careers, the majority of students aspire to work in a STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field, which is unsurprising given Stuyvesant’s reputation as a STEM school.
30.74% 14.2% neutral disagree
I frequently read for pleasure 23.0% 30.3% 24.9% 14.6% strongly agree
14.7% strongly disagree
Approximately how much sleep do you expect to get on any given school night at Stuyvesant? 33.7%
After I graduate from Stuyvesant, I hope to attend an Ivy League University, Stanford University, or MIT.
54.4% strongly agree
0.9% strongly disagree
I am opposed to the use of (recreational) drugs, like marijuana or alcohol, by high school students.
66.1% strongly agree 11.2%
55+7+1+9+8 2.9% disagree
3.9% strongly disagree
DEBATE / GOVERNMENT
When I am older, I hope to go into
Choose the extracurricular you will be most likely to dedicate yourself to in the next four years. ACADEMIC CLUBS
SOCIAL LANGUAGE FINANCE/ BUSINESS SCIENCES
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Arts and Entertainment By Zarif Mahmud The wall-to-wall “Ant-Man” posters swore by the slogan, “No shield. No hammer. No problem,” and for anyone who did not follow the original comics, the phrase did not seem too convincing. For one thing, who’s ever heard of an ant being a superhero? Of course, Batman and Spiderman come to mind. Still, the idea of a superhero whose superpower is shrinking really doesn’t seem all that impressive. The movie, however, definitely proved that wrong—intense action scenes on a miniature scale fostered by CGI effects breathed life into the stale brand of action that has become the bread and butter of modern superhero flicks. (We get it—the evil no-gooder wants to destroy the world, but did half of New York need to get destroyed to stop him?) Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is a self-made millionaire who has created and weaponized a substance that can shrink things and now wants to sell it to the highest bidder. His former mentor and the original creator of the substance, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), sees how this can go horribly wrong and enlists the help of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a reforming ex-burglar, to help steal the substance, using Pym’s perfected Ant-Man suit. Rudd’s Scott Lang gets the job done, but not in any spectacular fashion. He doesn’t have the charisma of Robert Downey Jr., nor the
BOOK By Sonia Epstein
Melanie Chow / The Spectator
My copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is in danger of splitting in two. When I lay the spine of the book on my palm it flops open to page 168, roughly the middle of the novel, where the last layer of binding is slowly disintegrating. I am sure that my book is just one of thousands like it: crinkled, yellowed, and worn with readings and re-readings. Thus the discovery of an earlier version of Harper Lee’s renowned novel was met with a whirl of excitement and uncertainty from the book’s vast group of followers like myself. The first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” titled “Go Set a Watchman,” follows an adult Jean Louise Finch, no longer called by her childhood name “Scout.” It was not until later that Lee’s editor, Tay Hohoff, suggested that she rewrite the story in first person from the perspective of young Scout, a decision that ultimately produced the work we know today. The earlier draft follows 26-
How to Save the World in Ant-sized Bits goofiness of Chris Pratt. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t have anything going for him, though. His deadpan delivery of lines does add a lot of the humor to the movie. For example, when Hank and his daughter are having one of the few touching moments in the movie, Scott interrupts them to point it out. His whole underdog story is of a guy who means well, but keeps messing up, prompting the audience to sympathize with him. This especially takes shape when he starts getting the hang of his powers, and, to quote the movie, “starts being the guy his daughter already thinks he is.” Douglas’s Hank Pym is the stereotypical old guy mentoring the young prodigy (think Mr. Miyagi or Yoda). Nevertheless, Douglas takes a break from the gravity of his usual films and isn’t afraid to crack a few jokes with enthusiasm, like when he chews Scott out for making out with his daughter at the end. Hank’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), isn’t some damsel in distress. Instead, she plays a huge role in the movie, both as a fighter and a double agent in Darren’s company. There is also a group of three of
Yujie Fu / The Spectator
Scott’s ex-con friends played by David Dastmalchian (the creepy guy from “The Dark Knight”), Michael Pena, and T.I. (yes, the rapper). They’re comic relief in an already funny movie, which sounds weird at first but manages to work. During the dramatic scenes in the movie, they act as foils to the seriousness of Lilly, and at times, Douglas.
While loaded with humor, “AntMan” desperately tries to avoid sentimentality, often to a fault. The main character had lost his job, wife, and by extension daughter, because he tries too hard to be good. A few more sad moments could have helped to accentuate the funnier moments. Think of it like why people add salt to cakes. A whole lot of it would ruin the cake, but just a pinch, and suddenly, the cake’s a whole lot sweeter. And although there was a sentimental moment about the death of Hank’s wife, it was riddled with jokes, which ruined the moment. The CGI effects in the film are what set it apart from the rest of this year’s action movies. The shrinking effects weren’t some weak “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” type miniaturizing, but actually made the process seem awesome in the literal sense of the word, fit for a superhero. The use of after images that represent Ant-Man’s shrinking body adds urgency and motion. When coupled with dramatic music and unusual camera angles, it gives the same visceral response that an explosion would. The shrinking itself let there be epic battle scenes on places like a Thomas the Tank Engine play-set, and the
scene where he jumps over a bullet while literally standing on the muzzle was, undoubtedly, breathtaking. Also, the CGI ants that AntMan could control were incredibly realistic, which is bad news for all the myrmecophobes out there but made the atmosphere in the theater feel closer to real life. For people who like linking things back to the rest of the Marvel Universe, this movie gave them a lot to talk about. Flashbacks showed that Hank knew Peggy Carter (Captain America’s ’40s flame) and Howard Stark (Tony’s dad). The first after-credits scene showed that Hope might put on a suit, and be Ant-Man’s counterpart, the Wasp. The second one hinted that Ant-Main might make his next appearance in the next Captain America flick. The most accurate way to describe “Ant-Man” would be 2015’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s a lighthearted summer blockbuster, with all the action and fun of Marvel movies but without the intense drama and real world connections that the latest ones had. For a movie that’s been in production for so long (Stan Lee tried pitching to movie execs as early as the 1980s), it turned out really well. It’s hard to say how Scott Lang will tie into the rest of the Marvel Universe, where there exist super-soldiers and Norse gods who clean up bad guys, but this movie shows that even though he has no shield and no hammer, he’ll really have no problem.
A Coming of Age for Jean Louise (and Us) year-old Jean Louise as she returns to her home in Maycomb County, Alabama from New York in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Upon her return, Jean Louise finds the tired yet quaint Southern town stirring as it is forced to contend with organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, which prohibited segregation in schools. As white supremacism is called into question, the townspeople cling to their segregationist views with renewed assertion, and Jean Louise, a liberal young woman returning from New York, finds herself repulsed by a place she calls home. The element of the novel that has received the most discussion is Lee’s characterization of Jean Louise’s father, Atticus. The deified man of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” who defended a falsely accused black man in court and taught his children to approach the world with unwavering courage and empathy, reappears in “Go Set a Watchman” as aged and bigoted, overcome by defensive anxiety in the face of the Civil Rights movement. Jean Louise soon discovers that her father and his protégée, Jean Louise’s boyfriend Henry Clinton, are part of the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council, an organization of respectable townspeople with the aim of upholding racial segregation. This revelation sets the stage for the rest of the novel, throughout which Jean Louise grapples with the question of whether it is wrong to abandon her home and the people who love her because she holds differing ideologies. The struggle contin-
ues until the conclusion of the book, an abrupt ending that leaves Jean Louise’s contending emotions ringing dissonantly. What I have found most intriguing among the discussions of “Go Set a Watchman” are the arguments for not reading the book at all, for fear that the “new” Atticus will ruin their view of the “old” Atticus. But such talk implies that Atticus has changed. While “Go Set a Watchman” certainly amplifies Atticus’s faults and throws them under a harsh light, that is not to say they were never present before. In Atticus’s words, the Blacks are “still in their childhood as a people” and to give them rights would be to disrupt a social order that, in his eyes, ought to be dictated by how “advanced” a group is. Atticus’s racism is paternalistic: those who are superior deserve their rights and those who are inferior must be elevated to a higher level to earn them. His defense of an innocent black man does not contradict this belief, and his passivity regarding the whitesonly jury in “To Kill a Mockingbird” supports it. To Atticus, clean, rigid justice does not interfere with a clean, rigid social hierarchy. Atticus’s racism is the manifestation of his a fear of a disrupted social order, and thus this racism is not evident in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” when segregation was so deeply rooted that it was never called into question. Atticus’s other traits, like empathy, are thus highlighted in the novel, glorified by his daughter and generations of readers. Such characteristics are perhaps watered-down in ”Go Set a Watchman,” but they are certainly not absent. It is the same Atticus who listens to and respects the opinions of others. “I’m proud of you,” he says to Jean Louise. “I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right—stand up to me first of all.” Readers will never be able to talk about Atticus Finch without considering both sides of his character: an educated man, a man loyal to justice, and a loving father, but also a conservative man, a bystander, and a bigot. For some, a shadow has descended over a saint. Like any other reader, I am reluctant to
Katherine Pan / The Spectator
allow my view of Atticus to be tarnished, but I think that if there is one benefit the publication of this book has brought, it is the nuance it has introduced to Atticus’s character and his society as a whole. It was, after all, Atticus Finch who coined the aphorism, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” How ironic it is that we should refuse him the same benefit of understanding that he taught us to afford others. We have elevated “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a glorious fight for justice, but in the process, rendered it an unrealistic one. “Go Set a Watchman” allows us to see that the fight is uglier, messier, but for that, more genuine. We must constantly make an effort to open our eyes to the complexity of the racism that existed— and still exists—in our country, for that is the only way we can begin to overcome it. It’s a patchwork effort composed of big steps and small steps, some obvious and some unlikely. And pondering a world where a man like Atticus can still be racist, however uncomfortable it may be, is such a step. Despite the potential of the nuanced story told in “Go Set a Watchman,” Lee’s editor’s request to tell the story from Jean Louise’s childhood was perfectly reasonable. Indeed, the most colorful moments
of the book are the flashbacks to Jean Louise’s childhood. In one tale she is “baptized” by her brother, Jem, and childhood companion, Dill, in a pond in Dill’s backyard. Another tells of her grief when, as a sixth grader, she believed she was pregnant because a boy in her class stuck his tongue in her mouth. A third recalls a mishap with falsies at the high school prom. In the latter two stories, Henry Clinton comes to her aid, ever the comforting hero, allowing the reader to further understand Jean Louise’s quandary. In contrast, the “real-time” parts of the story, while inspired at some moments, feel like, well, a first draft at others. Twenty-sixyear-old Jean Louise is obstinate and quick to aim sharp comments at her family. While the cause of her behavior is reasonable, Lee portrays her as bull-headed and close-minded, causing the reader to quickly lose sympathy for the protagonist. The book would not have been published, as it was not in the past, were it not for its legacy. I anticipate that my copy of “Go Set a Watchman” will not be as worn as my copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It is, after all, just a first draft, and cannot be expected to be as compelling as the brilliant coming-of-age tale that captivated generations of readers. But it will sit on my shelf next to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” equally important in the history it conveys.
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Arts and Entertainment The Many Sides to “Inside Out”
By Danielle Eisenman Statistically speaking, we do not have a terribly intimate relationship. I am just another one of the 3,600 students receiving the same presumably prestigious education as you are in this yellow brick building, and my existence, in your eyes, is a singular thing. I am simply an amateur arts writer—if anything at all. I’m here today (or whatever day you happen to read this) to talk to you about Pixar’s “Inside Out,” a film that details an 11-year-old girl named Riley’s emotional journey as she moves from her familiar and cozy hometown in Minnesota to the uncomfortable new city of San Francisco. In the film, all of Riley’s actions and reactions are dictated by the five Technicolor bipeds meant to represent her emotions—Anger, Fear, Joy, Disgust, and Sadness. Inspired by director Pete Docter’s unorthodox approach to depicting the human brain, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of giving you a one-sided opinion of the film, I am mimicking director Docter’s deconstruction of the human brain by offering each of the perspectives held by the caricaturized humanoids supposedly living inside my head.
ANGER Okay, fine. I’ll put it gently. In my notso-humble opinion, “Inside Out” is one of the most despicable movies that has ever been made, and is a destructive force on the developing minds of our precious youths. I’m not talking about the gushy feelings stuff. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. But what really kills me is the fact that this film is teeming with scientific inaccuracy. There’s no escaping it! Back in my day, we were taught that people come in all sorts of different colors as a way to inspire an appreciation for diversity and all that jazz. And, you know, I get it. But this joke of a film is teaching our progeny that they might run into folks who are purple, blue, and green, and what have you! For crying out loud! And the physiological fallacy doesn’t end there. Before Yahoo Answers rendered textbooks obsolete, we were taught about the brain with diagrams of axons and full-frontal cortexes and vortexes and whatever. For Pete’s sake! Docter Doofus (note: the excuse for a man can’t even spell “Doctor” correctly) is teaching our youngsters that memories look like glowing spherical snow globes, that weird parade floats floating around in our brains are responsible for our personalities, and that there are only five emotions. This film is wrong on so many levels. I say, take it off the air!
Well, uh, I’m really not sure if I should say anything. Y-y-you know, I just don’t know if this Docter fellow is a sensitive guy or anything. I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings. I’m just, uh, not so sure if kids should be allowed to watch stuff like this. Like, you know how Sadness is ignored at first, but valued by her peers at the end of the movie? It’s almost like Docter is saying that it’s, I don’t know, important to be sad. But, if kids are told that they should be sad, our world would become so depressing. And then there will be more crying babies on airplanes. And what if these crying babies make the already tense businessmen on their flights super angry? And what if the angry businessmen complain to the pilots? And what if the pilots get distracted and crash their planes? And what if the airplanes don’t crash-land in the ocean, but in bustling metropolises, killing not only the people in the planes, but in the densely populated cities, as well? I mean, despite the potential slippery slope, I think I do agree with what Docter is trying to say. Like, he’s saying that sadness exists as an emotion and is entirely valid, and that it might even be a little helpful every now and then to shed the occasional tear. And, I guess I can sort of agree with that. Because, as we grow up, we are, like, conditioned to believe that strong feelings are bad and should therefore be blocked out. Like, we’re not supposed to feel anything. And that doesn’t seem like it’s very healthy. It might even be a little bit dangerous. But even though I agree with Docter’s emphasis on being sad, I don’t think this film is that good of an influence on young children. Like, does Riley really have to play hockey? I mean, I don’t have a problem with hockey. It’s just that... You know, it really isn’t that safe.
“Inside Out” was quite possibly the greatest cinematographic work I have ever seen. Rarely do movies radiate with such raw perfection—well, no. All films are flawless, to be truly honest. But this one, in particular, was so unbelievably great. I have got to commend Docter for creating such an accurately gorgeous representation of the human mind. The film captures the simultaneous multiplicity and unity of emotions by representing them (well, us) as characters that are complex enough for viewers to adore, but simplistic enough to belong to an even more complex human being. I might sound biased when I say this, but Riley’s Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) is my favorite character in the film. Her explosively effervescent, Leslie Knope-esque disposition never ceases to tickle my heartstrings—and, as an added bonus, her character is more than just bubbly. Joy comes of age just as much as Riley does. At the start of the film she is a rock star with what appears to be a sense of unbreakable pride for her monopoly over Riley’s memories (Riley had an almost exclusively happy early childhood). With this pride, however, comes shortsightedness and arrogance. And after being sucked from the control center of Riley’s brain (thus briefly losing her influence over Riley’s emotions), Joy’s myopia fades into humbled understanding and cognizance of the fact that other emotions need to be included, as well. While the other emotions lack Joy’s dimension, they are equally fun to watch, dazzling the audience with their own clever flavors. Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Joy’s eventual companion, is an adorably pathetic elongated blueberry, whose morose soliloquies are always accompanied by tuba sounds. Bill Hader voiced the skinny and Woody Allen-level neurotic Fear, Anger’s rants were adorned with Lewis Black’s signature rasp, and Mindy Kaling was the glamorous and sassy Disgust. Despite the effusive characters living inside her, Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) manages to stay believably unassuming. Her journey from childhood to tweenagerdom is an awkward one. We have all been there—even anthropomorphic emotions like me—living on the cusp of puberty, experiencing the first bouts of premature angst, and chewing on our words like they don’t feel quite comfortable enough in our mouths. What makes this film the greatest thing on the entire planet is its motley crew of characters, each overblown enough to entertain, but real enough to make the film an honest work of art.
I’m not sure I really want to talk about “Inside Out.” It just makes me so... Sad. I mean, we live in a world filled with climate change and police brutality and toupee-wearing “politicians” and homework and the societal obligation to rid our bodies of hair and I just find it very difficult to suspend my disbelief and enter the clean, CGI-animated world of Pixar, where the worst thing imaginable is vegetable pizza. Docter’s imagination of the brain is so whimsical and wonderful (thus, so horrifically inaccurate) that it makes me want to melt into a couch and cry indefinitely. That horrible man has led me to crave an endlessly clever world in which a “train of thought” is represented by a literal train, and where existing within the realm of abstract thought means being deconstructed into abstract, twodimensional Picassian figures with sideways mouths, jagged heads, and misplaced eyeballs. A confusing whirlwind of brainwaves and sleep cycles is, in “Inside Out,” a glamorous studio by the name of “Dream Productions.” On the walls of the studios are posters with the names of commonly experienced dreams, with names like, “I Can Fly!” and “I Am Falling For a Very Long Time Into A Pit,” the latter a parody of the poster art for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” What’s so upsettingly genius about Docter’s image of the brain is that it is deeply alluring to small children—all the candy-colored hues and glowing shapes—but also to (young) adults who can pat themselves on the back for being cultured enough to recognize allusions to psychological thrillers made in the late ’50s. The world of Pixar is just a bit cleverer (with inside jokes sneaking up at every corner), a bit prettier (all colors of the Pixar spectrum are blindingly vibrant), and, therefore, a whole lot more perfect than the world we actually live in. I did not shed innumerable tears in that dark theater because Riley’s experience resonates with me, but because I was frightened by how much I craved the elusive perfection of Docter’s fictional world. I can’t say that I’m a fan of a film that is supposed to help us understand our emotions, while taking place in a world completely separate from our own.
In many ways, I found “Inside Out” to be very problematic. Of course, there’s nothing inherently malicious about the premise for the story—a girl and her family have to adjust to a new location. What’s at least vaguely disappointing, though, is that she is thin and white and that she lives with a mother (who doesn’t seem to have a job) and a father (who is a businessman) and they appear to be relatively comfortable, economically speaking. Like I’ve said before, this all isn’t intrinsically wrong. This is what most films are like. In the basic template, you’ve got a regular-sized white kid with the regular family with the mostly regular life circumstances. The family, like the narrative is very secular. The girl has fantasy boyfriends and adorably awkward encounters with boys. This is not evil; it’s the norm. However, I feel like it’s a bit of an anachronistic norm. According to the chorus of praise from the media, the movie’s dealings with the transition from childhood to adolescence make it universally accessible—something that resonates with everyone. The notion of universality isn’t necessarily flawed—we all have felt uncomfortable with change in our lives. That being said, we also live in a world that has emotionally complex people of color, non-binary genders, absentee parents, homosexuality, varying body mass indexes, hijabs, and kids that like the taste of broccoli, among other things. How can a film properly examine the complexities of life if it ignores so many crucial aspects of our reality?
At the beginning of “Inside Out,” all memories are assigned a single emotion—the marbles are solid colors: golden to show that they are happy memories, lilac to show that they are scary memories, et cetera. However, after Joy and Sadness realize they are dependent on one another, we come to terms with the idea that emotions are not by nature mutually exclusive—these opposites exist simultaneously and complement one another. Docter, by doing this, emphasizes the plurality of existence—especially with regard to our emotions. In a world in which we feel the need to compartmentalize everything (experiences are simply sad or joyful; films can only be good or bad), being confronted with multiplicity and nuance enables us to discern a much larger spectrum than we may have been previously aware of. ART CREDIT: Sunny Chen / The Spectator
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Arts and Entertainment You Think You Have A Lion Heart?
MUSIC By Tracy Tse
Generation, the group still managed to display their abilities to harmonize perfectly and mix in powerful, impressive adlibs from their main vocalist, Taeyeon. Of course there is some experimentation in this set of songs. “Lion Heart,” for example, utilizes a prominent bass melody, claps, and tambourines to create a 1960s retro sound, a concept that not many girl groups have tried or managed to pull off before. Nonetheless, Girls’ Generation managed to succeed with this experimentation, creating a pleasant dance song that render listeners swaying to the music. The second set of songs, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Including title track, “You Think,” and five other songs, the second set demonstrates the group’s ability to challenge and— for the most part—succeed in singing in new music genres.
Debuting in 2007 from SM Entertainment, the former ninemember girl group (now with eight members following the departure of vocalist Jessica Jung) Girls’ Generation is one of the longest-running girl groups in the industry. Following their success with “Gee”—the song that launched Girls’ Generation as a global sensation in 2009— Girls’ Generation has been continuously releasing hit songs one after the other, most of them topping the Korean music charts. This summer’s comeback is no different. Almost immediately after their “Lion Heart” album was released, the title tracks topped all seven of Korea’s music charts. The album was released in two sets. The first, consisting of title track “Lion Heart,” as well as five other songs, is mainly made up of songs reminiscent of the group’s usual sound: catchy, upbeat music characterized by a heavy bass drum or guitar in the background. Although these songs may be deemed timeworn, they nonetheless showcase all of Girls’ Generation’s strongest qualities. “Green Light” is a girly, flirtatious song with an intoxicating dance vibe and catchy lyrics (including a repetitive “beep-beep” lyric in the chorus). Though a song that one would expect from Girls’
Each song presented a different style of music and its own little surprises. “You Think,” for instance, a powerful and provocative piece, demonstrates the edgy side of Girls’ Generation that fans rarely see. What is most intriguing and impressive about “You Think” is the way the song called for the singers to reach beyond the limits of their voices—the most notable example is vocalist Sunny’s almost sudden change in timbre. Sunny, known for her somewhat cutesy, high-pitched voice, sang with lower, almost raspy vocals. “One Afternoon,” on the other hand, is a slower, more sorrowful
Yujie Fu / The Spectator
track with a soft Latin beat, some acoustic guitar, and even a piano solo, demonstrating that not only can the girls sing their iconic energetic dance songs but also gentler ballads. There are some instances where the experimentation falls apart, however. “Show Girls” has somewhat eerie, soft, circus-sounding verses, yet its chorus is extremely fast-paced, loud, and chant-like. The transitions between the verses and the chorus are sloppy and occasionally nonexistent. The lack of a unified sound makes the song somewhat confusing, shocking, and as a result, off-putting. Despite the lack of unity in this particular song, the two sets still managed to unify into one coherent album. The mixture of Girls’ Generation’s more iconic music, with their more experimental songs, allows fans to experience the sound they’re used to while still enjoying the group’s attempts to try new styles of music. Without this, the album would have been extremely boring at some points— especially following the songs “Green Light” and “Paradise,” two very standard
songs. The album became a bit dreary and long at this point, until “Check,” a track characterized by its R&B sound and main dancer Hyoyeon’s rare yet compelling husky vocals, brought some flavor back. Two contradicting motifs also run through the album. About half of the songs, including the two title tracks, describe relationships as being dangerous and risky, often describing boys as being spiteful or unfaithful. The title track, “You Think,” has sassy, almost mocking, lyrics, such as “You think ya real cool (you’re not)” and “Boy, you ain’t cooler than me.” However, the other prominent theme in this album is the fluttery, cheerful feeling of being in love. “Talk Talk” uses the repetitive “tok-tok” lyrics to show the time passing by as a girl patiently waits for her loved one to appear in the rain with a “transparent umbrella,” describing her lover as a “small comfort in my mind.” The listener is shown that there are two very different sides of a relationship: love can be unpredictable and risky, but also very beautiful. With eight years of experience under their belt, it is quite refreshing to see Girls’ Generation try new concepts and styles of music for their fifth album. With all the contrast and experimentation that were quite successfully incorporated into this album, one cannot help but anticipate their next comeback.
A Comedic Tar Pit Worth Sinking In
TV By Justin Pacquing
ing-for-trouble than a titular character who is a cynical bipedal horse caught up in the unbearable lightness of a crumbling acting career? Perhaps you should not be rooting for the protagonist who alienates his personal relationships and has never been able to escape superficial celebrity tar pit, but you can’t help it. You can’t help but hope that, for an ultimately vulnerable character who tries to mend his self-loathing ways with a kitschy, George-Takei-narrated motivational tape, everything will turn out fine. But this is a hope that will be heart-crushingly ignored. The beauty of “BoJack” is in the cooperation of dark and humor; the humor lures you in, and the dark keeps you thinking and waiting for a resolution that may never come. The world of “BoJack Horseman” is like ours, just with more anthropomorphized animals living hand-in-hand with humans; whales anchor 24hour news desks, cats run cultish comedy improv clubs, and horses star in reruns of campy sitcoms just as bad—or good—as ours. The series revolves around the misadventures of a horse, BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett). He’s the washed-out lead of family show called “Horsin’ Around” and his ego has yet to be
Yuchen Jin / The Spectator
The average sitcom will call viewers to hope for something to go wrong, comforted by the knowledge that no matter what, everything will turn out fine. The second season of Netflix’s animated sitcom “BoJack Horseman,” however, isn’t afraid to get in your face and tell you something is bound to go very wrong and stay that way. What could be more absurdly ask-
deflated even after his reputation has diminished from mild-fame to obscurity. He’s cynical and self-destructive, an alcoholic and a saboteur of his own relationships. Yet underneath that, he is intelligent and self-aware, acknowledging the problems he has with himself to the point where he is self-loathing. Arnett has a stellar supporting cast behind him. Aaron Paul voices Todd Chavez, BoJack’s freeloading roommate who is mainly oblivious to the antics he gets himself into. Paul F. Tompkins voices the happy-go-lucky, lovable dog and foil to BoJack, Mr. Peanutbutter. Alison Brie voices the reserved yet ill-tempered, writerly human and go-to friend Diane Nguyen. The second season is captivating because it builds off the best of what the first had to offer. The main plot point of Season 2 is BoJack playing, and soon becoming disillusioned with, his dream role in a biographical film. He gets this part due to the success of Diane’s biography of BoJack, the publication of which served as the main plot point of Season 1. The premier season also established the show’s foundational base of eccentric humor, especially through the usage of gags and callbacks. The second season continues to use inside jokes, from the “Hollywoo” sign to “A Ryan Seacreast Type” hosting celebrity gossip shows to the whale anchor taking on-air jabs at his ex-wife. Season 2 also does an incred-
ible job of building the absurdist ethos. In the episode “Higher Love,” beloved American Author J.D Salinger is brought back to life and relevancy as the creator of the next biggest celebrity quiz show, “Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!” The show’s bread and butter, however, is the dark, cynical tone it can suddenly take. The latter half of Season 1, which was more wellreceived than the former, shows sprouts of this idea coming about. Much of the episode “Downer Ending,” for example, depicts BoJack’s bizarre, surreally hilarious drugtrip; however, the experience soon crosses over into a sober reflection of his life, including the vision of what it could have been if he had followed the girl of his dreams to Maine. BoJack then wakes up in a rainy parking lot, not knowing how he got there but just accepting it as part of the tragic and disappointing trajectory of his life. Season 2 capitalizes on this by expanding the slow burn of the deescalation of BoJack’s life throughout the entire season. In the first episode, “Brand New Couch,” we see a BoJack bathed in unbridled optimism. However, as the season devolves, so does BoJack. First, he has to attend the funeral of his former best friend who died hating him. Then, he breaks off from his first truly serious relationship after realizing the true extent of
his cynicism. The latter moment captures the sucker-punch of emotions with which the show often catches viewers off-guard. The worst of it comes in the episode “Escape From L.A,” when he decides to run away from his problems and visit the girl of his dreams, Charlotte, in New Mexico. The progression of the episode shows BoJack making worse and worse decisions until he understands he has become a “tar pit.” In Season 1, Charlotte mentions Hollywood being like a tar pit, stuck in a cycle of superficiality and negativity. She then amends the idea in “Escape From L.A.,” calling people themselves tar pits, making the point that they’re too stuck to escape themselves. BoJack’s morally ambiguous decisions make him hard to root for in the episode, but he and the viewers realize that there is something within him that cannot be easily fixed, if at all, and that complicates things. It’s shockingly powerful, especially coming from a show about anthropomorphic animals. Like its eponymous character, “BoJack Horseman” is complicated, even when it decides not to be complex. It can be mind-liberatingly absurd and mind-numbingly dark, all making for compelling television. Perhaps still appropriate for any other time, “BoJack” is perfect show to be bingewatching at two in the morning.
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The Spectator â—? September 11, 2015
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The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Arts and Entertainment CROSSWORD
Arts and Farts and Crafts
While we all spend our summers differently, most, if not all, of us come in contact with at least one form of creative expression during the months of July and August. If you’re lucky, you left the city. Maybe you were holed up in the arts and crafts hut at camp, where you spent every waking minute melting kids’ Technicolor perler bead creations with an iron. You also might have gone to Europe. There, thanks to freshman Art Appreciation, you may have been able to identify the frescoes you saw through the viewfinder of your DSLR camera. And, if you stayed at home, that’s just as well—as the nauseatingly cultured person you most certainly are, you decided to use the summer to watch Ingrid Bergman films at the MoMA. But if you spent your summer the right way, you probably just farted around with pints of ice cream and binge-watched “House of Cards.” Who’s to say television isn’t an art form?
2. Selfie-_________ 5. Plastic stuff used to make neon keychains for parents who are unenthusiastic to receive them 7. League of _________ 9. Spinoff of Brooklyn Flea that offers overpriced artisanal foods 10. American art museum whose new building you planned (but failed) to see this summer 13. Film in which Amy Schumer and lots of famous athletes play themselves 15. The best thing since sliced bread; provider of binge-watching materials 16. East Village shaved ice cream parlor and unofficial hangout space for Stuyvesant students 17. Where the Mona Lisa can be seen, hypothetically—if you are not swallowed alive by the mob of tourists and iPhone cameras 18. Filmmaker and professional nightmare manufacturer, died this August
DOWN 1. Candidate for the 2020 presidential election and appreciator of leather shirts 3. That allegedly educational place where all of your older friends ran off to 4. V-shaped friendship bracelet pattern 6. Theater in London where people voluntarily experience Shakespeare 8. Middle-aged festival that offers free outdoor concerts all summer 11. The only hip-hop show your grandparents might go to 12. Candidate for the 2016 presidential election and most generously quoted man on television 14. Seasonally inappropriate arts and crafts activity popular at summer camps, involving needles
Answers will be published in Issue 2.
These songs are meant to evoke the way it feels to stand in 96-degree weather— to belly-flop into a pool of yellowish sweat, to spill Sour Patch Watermelon Slurpee on yourself and walk around feeling sticky for the rest of the day. Forget the sparkling Aegean or the air-conditioned lab you cured cancer at this summer. Instead, feel the sand in your bathing suit. Accidentally inhale dust while you’re speaking into your grandma’s floor fan because you like the way the spinning blades make your voice sound funky. And, amidst all this unpleasantness, notice an air of liberation—in these past few months, you may have forgotten that standardized tests exist.
Thrown In at the Deep End
A. Summer Days (Daze)
Yuchen Jin / The Spectator
Yuchen Jin / The Spectator
“Rockaway Beach” The Ramones Punk rock
“Summer in the City” The Lovin’ Spoonful Classic rock
“Summerboy” Lady Gaga Pop
“La Temperatura” Maluma Reggaeton
“Cannonball” The Breeders Alternative rock
“I Feel Everything” WATERS Indie rock
“Sunshine Superman” Donovan Classic rock
“Ice Cream Freeze (Let’s Chill)” Hannah Montana Pop
“Someday” The Strokes Alternative rock
B. Back-to-School Blues
As you arrange your brand new Muji pens in your brand new Muji pencil case, let these songs permeate the sweet air of early September. You’ve swept the tags from all your new clothes off the floor and your room is neater now than it will be for the next ten months. Though the prospect of waking up before noon scared you initially, you’ve realized how delightfully refreshing the breezes of early morning are. You’re ready to conquer any amount of schoolwork with your brand new notebooks. But, amidst all this pleasantness, notice an air of melancholy—stimulated by the reminder that standardized tests (as well as quizzes, un-standardized tests, quests, et cetera) do exist.
“Blister in the Sun” Violent Femmes Alternative rock
“School” Nirvana Alternative rock
“Campus” Vampire Weekend Alternative rock
“New Soul” Yael Naim Singer-songwriter
“Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” Pink Floyd Classic rock
“Kids” MGMT Alternative rock
“Expectations” Belle and Sebastian Indie pop
“Figure Eight” Blossom Dearie Vocal jazz
“Thank You” MKTO Pop
“Skool” San Cisco Indie rock
“Dog Days Are Over” Florence and the Machine Alternative Rock
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Arts and Entertainment Looking Forward : September SUNDAY
BEAT Opening Night Fun Home Brooklyn Museum 200 Square Theatre Eastern Parkway Theater Convention Countdown to Zero Melanie Martinez American Museum of Highline Ballroom Natural History Concert Art Epic Rap Battles of History: Nice Peter & EpicLLOYD Webster Hall Studio Concert 13
Van Gogh and Nature Clark Art Institute Art
The Bastard Executioner Television Premiere The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness Book Release
Sunday Sessions Redwood Studios Convention
Hamilton The Richard Rodgers Theatre Theater
The Godfather (New York Philharmonic) Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center Concert
Coney Island Film Festival: Opening Night Screening Coney Island Museum 1208 Surf Ave. 2nd Floor Film
The Maine The Bowery Ballroom Concert
“Rent,” Harbor Lights Theater Company 38 Westervelt Avenue, Staten Island Theater
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind The Kraine Theatre, nr. Second Ave Theater
Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon Album Release Robert DeLong: In The Cards Album Release 20 Brooklyn Book Festival Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn NY Convention
“Rent,” 5th Floor Theater Company Secret Theater, Long Island City, Queens Theater The Gin Game Broadway Theater Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland to 10/12 Morgan Library and Museum Art
27 Atlantic Antic 494 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn NY Convention
In Other Words
The Spectator â—? September 11, 2015
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The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
Humor These articles are works of fiction. All quotes are libel and slander. By Jacob Faber-Rico Summer is always fantastic. After more than nine months filled with a relentless barrage of homework, tests, and broken escalators, we finally get to sit back and enjoy life. This year, we had no shortage of fun, light-hearted things to think about, such as: • Immigration policy • Police brutality • Racism • Several mass shootings • Nuclear weapons How DELIGHTFUL!!!!! This summer was so RELAXING!!!!! Still, for every one of these relaxing events,, there was an equally distressing tragedy, such as the Common Application opening. Speaking of college apps, I should stop putting off this article. Let’s get down to business with the 2015 Summer in Review! In one of several high-profile decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in the entire United States. Critics worry that this is a slip-
2015 Summer in Review
pery slope and could potentially allow marriages between three or more people, family members, animals, or even inanimate objects. However, some experts argue that marriage between two inanimate objects has been legal since May 2014, when Kim Kardashian married Kanye West. July began with the Fourth of July (as tends to happen in July), and we celebrated by supporting the USA Women’s Soccer Team in the FIFA World Cup. For those of you who don’t follow soccer, the FIFA World Cup is a quadrennial competition in which both both athletes and administrators perform various kinds of difficult kicks, such as the “kickback.” Anyway, we won 100-2, or something. Don’t take my word on that, though; I stopped watching after realizing that soccer prohibits full-body tackles. Rapper Meek Mill called out fellow rapper Drake for not writing his own lyrics; Drake cleverly deflected attention by asking, “WHAT ARE THOSE?!?!?!?” This sent the media into a frenzy trying to figure what shoes Meek Mill was wearing at the time, as
everyone overlooked the fact that Drake was really just asking what “lyrics” are. As the first Republican Presidential Lunchroom Fight neared, former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA) announced his candidacy, leading voters to ask important policy questions such as, “Who the heck is Jim Gilmore?” August began with the opening of the Common Application, and seniors throughout the school immediately got to work, because there’s no way we want to be stressed and desperately filling that thing out in the last week of October. Of course we got that all done before school, when we actually had time to do it. Totally. I mean, we’re mature seniors now—we would never procrastinate on something as important as college applications! The highly anticipated Republican Presidential Lunchroom Fight more than lived up to expectations. Afterwards, pundits criticized Governor Walker, noting that he came across as flat and conse-
Dear Incoming Freshmen, I Have Advice. Here’s Why I’m Right and Everyone Else is Wrong.
By Jacob Faber-Rico Dear Incoming Freshmen,
I know that you all have many concerns about entering high school. You’re going to hear a lot of advice about how to deal with the transition to Stuyvesant. Unfortunately, most of it is pure nonsense, except for what I tell you. I remember that when I was a freshman, I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of advice being given to me by upperclassmen, most of whom are complete idiots. I had no idea what was true and what wasn’t. Should I try to get eight hours of sleep every day? Should I join basketball, or wrestling? Do the escalators break down every day, or just every other day? Should I sit on the senior bar? Is the pool on the first floor, or the 11th floor? If I’m a guy, will I get periods? What’s the meaning of life? I had no one to give me a definitive answer as to which of the definitive answers to these questions were right. However, since I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made, I will tell you the truth. My first piece of advice is to listen to everything I say, and don’t listen to anything anyone else has to say, because I am al-
ways right and everyone else is wrong. (To everyone else, don’t argue with me. You’re only going to mislead the freshmen).
To everyone else, don’t argue with me. You’re only going to mislead the freshies.
Second, I know many of you are used to being the smartest kids at your middle schools; at Stuyvesant, the status quo is higher, and you will no longer breeze through your classes. You will hear a lot of advice on how to deal with this new stress, but to be honest the best thing to do is just ignore the pressure and pretend that you don’t have to do any work. Oh, and don’t pay attention to any of the advice you hear to the
contrary. It’s all from pretentious, magniloquent people with inflated egos who write entire essays using big words like “magniloquent,” claiming that they’re trying to help you, when all they’re really trying to do is look nice and sophisticated so that they can feel good about themselves. I had a 97 average at Stuy, was captain of the debate team, and am going to Harvard this year, so it should be clear that my advice is the most accurate. Finally, some miscellaneous pieces of advice: the Hudson staircase is the easiest way to travel between classes, Terry’s is better than Ferry’s, jumping up and down on the escalators makes them go faster, and wheely backpacks are a really cool fashion statement. No matter what you hear, know that this is true. I don’t want to say that my word is the be-all and end-all, except it is. Nobody other than me knows what they’re talking about. I’ve put in my two cents, but if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask me, because only I can give you the most useful answers. Enjoy your time at Stuy! Oh, and one last thing for you to take advantage of: every day after 10th period, the senior bar is open to freshmen!
quently failed to make much of an impression on voters. Walker’s supporters maintained that the governor put in a very strong performance, considering that he was still recovering from the shock of being kicked by a cow out in the pasture earlier that week. As for the Fox News moderators, the general consensus was that they did fairly well. Unfortunately, none of the Fox News staff could be reached for comment after the quarrel; according to an anonymous source, they were all “completely hammered” from celebrating Jon Stewart’s departure from “The Daily Show” that night. Stewart returned to public life two weeks later, when he hit pro wrestler John Cena with a chair during the annual World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) SummerSlam World Championship. It is important to note that the WWE scripted the entire thing and probably paid Stewart thousands of dollars to interfere in the match. Or, as they say in pro wrestling, Stewart had absolutely no business interfering in
the match! “Straight Outta Compton,” a much-hyped documentary about the gangsta rap group N.W.A., was released. Stuy students were extremely excited about the movie, but most were disappointed upon realizing that it was not about what happens when a photon hits an electron. Others were shocked to learn that N.W.A. does not, in fact, stand for “National Women’s Association.” And so we entered September. We prepared for the coming school year by desperately refreshing the student tools schedule page, but despite our excitement about schedules, we lamented the end of summer’s calm, carefree times. And as school began, a Spectator humor writer (who wished to remain anonymous) produced an outstanding work of journalism allowing us to relive our happiest summer memories, and at the same time accomplished a spectacular feat no professional reporter has pulled off: refrain from writing about Donald Trump.
Student Angry Needy Third World Children Did Not Provide Him With College Essay By Miki Steele
This past summer, senior Justin Skobe engaged in a vital step of the college application process: a service trip to Kenya. Like many prospective college applicants, Skobe sacrificed his precious time off to truly be productive and make a change. However, Skobe’s efforts were unsuccessful. After three long weeks of attempting to form friendships with others, flirting with girls, and pretending to engage in manual labor, Skobe still had no idea what to write for his college essay. “My parents spent $4,000 and all I did was spend hours looking at underprivileged African children. I could have done that for free on the internet,” said Skobe, when asked about the trip. This sort of sentiment seems to run in the family, as when we asked Mr. Skobe, Justin’s father, about the trip, he responded, “We are already spending $10,000 on help for Justin’s essay. That extra four could have easily gone to fix the family yacht.” Unfortunately, Skobe is not the only one to have suffered this problem. According to Georgia Price, founder of Cultural Connections,—the company that organized and led the trip— Skobe’s experience is not uncom-
mon. “This is happening a lot,” Price said. “Kids travel across the world and see no reward. Our program is hurting. Why would anyone want to help when they are not getting anything out of it?” Luckily, Skobe has received quite a lot of support from his family and friends. “I feel really bad for Justin. I know this meant a lot to him and he was working really hard to come up with an essay idea,” senior Tara Ivic-Pavlicic said. “I feel partially responsible to be honest. I was the one who linked him to the Cultural Connections’ website in the first place.” Many of the Skobe’s family friends have also been extremely generous and donated thousands of dollars to help repay for the lost time and resources on the trip. This type of empathy from the community is truly inspiring. Though this is definitely a sad moment for Skobe’s path towards his Ivy dream, it does not mean his chances are dead. There are still ample underprivileged children all over the world just begging to act as inspiration to boys like Skobe. His tale truly shows how much work there is left to be done when it comes to making programs like Cultural Connections more effective and helpful.
Incoming Freshmen Excited to Give Advice to Potential Students By Randolph Higgins STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL — In an exclusive interview given this week, freshman Kevin Lin told Spectator reporters that he was excited about giving advice to any and all eighth-graders who might want to come to Stuyvesant. According to Lin, “It was an honor to be accepted into Stuyvesant, and now I want to help share my experience with anyone who needs to talk to someone with genuine Stuyvesant experience.” Lin—who draws heavily from his extensive time as a student at
Stuyvesant—even gave reporters a sample of the advice that any potential students need to hear. He said that despite the school’s reputation as a hub of computer science, almost none of his friends are in computer science classes, and he thinks that the reputation is ridiculous. Lin also mentioned something that most potential students probably don’t associate with Stuyvesant. According to him, “I’ve seen guys wearing football jerseys all day. Stuy has a huge football culture and nobody ever told me.” Some things he said were exactly how he had expected them.
As Lin told reporters, “I got this history teacher, and he’s great and he’s been all over—even to Mongolia. But he gave me so much homework, I don’t know how I’m going to do all of it.” In addition to giving these pieces of advice, Lin also debunked stereotypes such as juniors being crushed under immense workloads and seniors not caring about anything but college. “I’ve never once seen evidence of any of this— it’s probably just made up,” Lin said. Lin even told reporters that he was thinking of expanding his
audience to include his fellow freshman. He says that this decision came after he found himself explaining to a peer why it was necessary to pay $14 for a locker on the 10th floor. “After that,” Lin told reporters, “I just knew I had to help my peers with sage advice on how to comport themselves at this school.” Some have been quick to criticize, calling Lin “uninformed as to how Stuyvesant operates—drawing as he does on just a day’s experience at the school” or that he is “just a freshie.” However, other students have come to his defense.
“Let’s face it, eight hours at Stuy definitely feels like a lifetime, so who are we to judge this kid’s experience?” Senior Laolu Ogunnaike said. “Besides, the majority of students have spent pretty much every class since they’ve gotten here half-asleep, so Lin might well have more positive things to say about the school than I do.” As of press time, Lin seemed unfazed by the opinions of other students, saying he didn’t have the time to pay attention to press as he was busy writing his tell-all book on life at New York’s most competitive high school.
The Spectator ● September 11, 2015
812 Students Programmed for the Same P.E. Class
By Winton Yee Physical education teachers were overwhelmed when nearly 900 students piled into the third floor gymnasium on Wednesday, September 9. After a brief investigation led by P.E. teacher and ex-Secret Service member Phillip Fisher, it was discovered that P.E. teacher Vasken Choubaralian had 812 students in his 3rd period rollerblading class. “I guess that explains why I had 22 pages in my attendance folder,” Choubaralian said. “I can’t believe I got in,” senior David Hodorowski said. “Normally, rollerblading is way oversubscribed, but somehow I managed to beat out thousands of other students for one of these 812 spots. I knew that doing those extra push-ups last year would pay off in a rec for rollerblading.” When contacted, the programming department stated that “it was time to give the people what they wanted. ¡Viva la revolución!” As of press time, Choubaralian had entered his fourth hour of figuring out the seating chart for his class.
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CLASS OF 2019 FRESHMAN SURVEY
Check out The Spectator’s survey of the Class of 2019!
Issue 1 pages 13 - 16
September 11, 2015
The Spectator SpoRts SPORTS CALENDAR
A Peek into the Upcoming NFL Season? By Nadia Filanovsky The NFL is having some significant firsts this year. A more progressive change is hiring their first full-time female official, Sarah Thomas. Another, regarding the numeral for the Super Bowl, breaks a longstanding tradition. This year marks the fiftieth Super Bowl, which corresponds to the Roman numeral L. After much
Regarding the preseason, there are an overall five teams that have gone undefeated. In the AFC there are two undefeated teams, both from the West: the Denver Broncos (3-0) and the Kansas City Chiefs (3-0). In the NFC, the undefeated teams come mainly from the East: the Washington D.C. Redskins (3-0) and the Philadelphia Eagles (3-0). In the North, the Vikings (4-0) have
With it being the 50th season, the NFL plans to launch a series of “golden” themed paraphernalia—from caps to jackets to the Lombardi Trophy itself —to emphasize the importance of this fiftieth Super Bowl, culminating in the golden state of California. fret over the implications of a giant L signifying winners, the league has decided to use the Arabic character for 50 at the Super Bowl instead of the Roman numeral. In terms of first time players in the draft picks, seven teams were rated as having “A” or “A-” rookie lineups, according to NFL expert Bucky Brooks. This includes the Falcons, the Cowboys, the Texans, the Bears, the Jaguars (though hope may be lost with the injury of Tight End Julius Thomas, who will be out for four to six weeks), the Jets and the Giants.
also continued to go undefeated after their kickoff game. Last year’s Super Bowl contenders the Seattle Seahawks (1-2) and the New England Patriots (2-1) have not done as well, but fans still have high expectation as the preseason has little bearing on the regular season. It is still very early, and the rookies on any team will improve greatly while the veterans will bring the team together as they find their dynamics. Despite the preseason giving a glimpse into what to expect for the upcoming season, its shortness makes judging teams quite dif-
ficult. Some of the usually strong teams have also suffered from injuries prior to the beginning of the season. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers have suffered an ACL tear and an AC shoulder joint sprains respectively. Robert Griffith III of the Washington Redskins has also suffered a concussion, and there is controversy on how to proceed, considering his injury-riddled history. In addition, Geno Smith of the New York Jets had his jaw fractured by teammate IK Enemkpali over a $600 debt. These injuries during the preseason will certainly have an effect on these teams throughout the season. Football fans generally see hope for the Seahawks, the Packers, the Eagles, and the Patriots (especially now that quarterback Tom Brady had a potential four game suspension overturned). The Jets and the Vikings also hope to have improved seasons after drafting defensive end Leonard Williams and cornerback Trae Waynes respectively. However, everything is subject to injuries. With it being the 50th season, the NFL plans to launch a series of “golden” themed things—from caps to jackets to the Lombardi Trophy itself —to emphasize the importance of this fiftieth Super Bowl, culminating in the golden state of California. Hopefully the season lives up to this golden label, and we’ll see who takes home the golden Arabic 50 numeral, not a giant L.
Introducing the Newest Members of the Knicks By Joshua Zhu Kristaps Porzingis Avid Knicks fans can easily remember waiting for the announcement of Adam Silver, who the Knicks had selected with the fourth pick of the NBA draft. Many believed Emmanuel Mudiay would be the perfect sidekick to Carmelo Anthony, though others considered Justice Winslow fit for the position. Few expected the Knicks to select the littleknown Kristaps Porzingis, so it was no surprise when there was widespread denouncement of the pick among the Knicks community. However, despite the initial negativity surrounding Porzingis’s selection, fans have come to accept the newest member of the franchise. Some standout performances in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League, where Porzingis averaged 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 48 percent from the field, swayed the opinions of many fans. Early fears about Porzingis’s weight and defensive capability were addressed as he easily adjusted to heavier players and had some impressive defensive showcases, including a notable three blocks against Jahil Okafor in one game. His shooting range and lethal stroke have even led analysts to draw comparisons to Hall of Fame hopeful Dirk
Nowitzki. While many predict that Porzingis will take several years to develop, fans’ perception of the Latvian has rapidly changed. After all, Porzingis may very well be the next face of the Knicks franchise.
whelming in his performances. Grant visibly struggled with his shot, averaging 39 percent from the field. However, despite struggling in that department, Grant showcased his ability to easily get into the paint and draw contact. His average of five free throws per game
Fears about Porzingis’s weight and defensive capability were addressed as he easily adjusted to heavier players and had some impressive defensive showcases, including a notable three blocks against Jahil Okafor in one game.
Jerian Grant When the Knicks traded Tim Hardaway Jr. for the rights to Jerian Grant, the No. 19 pick in the NBA draft, fans were understandably upset. After all, Hardaway had been deemed a key component of the future of the Knicks. However, after a few telling performances in the Summer League, Grant could turn out to be much more valuable than Hardaway. Averaging a respectable 12 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists throughout the Summer League, Grant was under-
ranked ahead of D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, the other two guards taken at the top of the draft. In addition, despite over-dribbling on several occasions, Grant displayed a high basketball IQ by jumping passing lanes with good anticipation skills on defense. In recent years, the Knicks have consistently struggled at the point guard position. Luckily, Grant’s ability to break down defenses and high basketball IQ may very well offer a long-term solution to this problem.
SEPTEMBER Girls’ Soccer vs. Hunter College High School at Randall’s Island Field 91
Directions: Take the 4/5 at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall to 125 St.Take the M35 at Lexington Ave/125 St. to Main Rdy. Field 91 is a minute walk away
Boys’ Football vs. William C. Bryant at Pier 40
First home game of Peglegs’ 2015-2016 season. Directions: 20-minute walk on the Hudson River Greenway
Boys’ Soccer vs. Beacon High School at Randall’s Island Field 90 Girls’ Tennis vs. Eleanor First home game of the CenRoosevelt High taurs’ 2015-2016 season School Directions: Take the 4/5 at at Hudson River Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall to Park 125 St.Take the M35 at Lexington Ave/125 St. to First game of the Lady Main Rdy. Field 90 is a Lobsters’ 2015-2016 season. minute walk away Directions: 15-minute walk on the Hudson River Greenway
We Are Family By Xuanjia Fan It’s a beautiful fall day at Central Park. A group of swimmers walk to a large field with loads of delicious food to have a picnic. They are none other than the Penguins, Stuyvesant’s Girls’ Varsity Swim Team, having their annual “Bonding Day” to welcome their newest teammates and strengthen the ties between existing ones. “Bonding Day is a tradition that happens early in our season,” said senior Helen Jin. “We get to know each other better through various activities at Central Park, like bringing food as a potluck, eating that delicious food, and playing games.” Although Bonding Day may sound like just another average picnic, it offers a way for the Penguins to connect as a team. A common activity involves the team creating a human pyramid, where each grade forms a different layer. Activities such as this offer the team a chance to communicate and develop their teamwork. In addition to Bonding Day, the team hosts several other events including the Penguin Sleepover and April/Kevin Day. During the Penguin’s Sleepover, the team goes to one team member’s house to host a fun filled night. April/Kevin Day, on the other hand, is a more solemn occasion held in honor April Lao and Kevin Kwan, two Stuyvesant swimmers who passed away in a tragic car crash in 2006. During April/Kevin Day, both the Penguins and the Pirates, Stuyvesant’s Boys’ Varsity Swimming
Team, hold a swim meet to honor the legacies of the two swimmers. Bonding with the Pirates is not an uncommon event, as the two teams often participate in events together. A common activity involves two teams going to the beach together and playing “Assassin,” a game that involves “killing” off assigned targets. This offseason, some of the swimmers also decided to go to Six Flags to bond on roller coasters. All these events ensure the Penguins retain their team spirit both in and out of the pool. The team itself provides a very accepting environment for its new members. “Coming into Stuy freshman year, when I was in a new and unfamiliar environment […] having a great group of not only teammates but sisters right off the bat is something that really added to our bond,” senior Susan Wu said. The team not only makes an effort to welcome the freshman, but also goes out of its way to provide advice and help them with their homework. This sets an example of what is expected from the freshmen as they grow. Since the Penguins have developed unbreakable bonds with one another, some find it difficult to build meaningful relationships outside of the pool. However, the profundity of the Penguins’ connections within the team more than makes up any cost. “Although we definitely spend a disproportionate amount of time with teammates than with others, I’m pretty satisfied with the relationships I have built up,” Wu said.