Monthly Archives: January 2016

Two Christmas Trees

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By Maddie Sokoloski

A few weeks ago, my sister Lily and I put up our Christmas decorations. This year, due to the fact that we live in a new house, we had to do things a bit differently. Our old tree was too tall to fit under our shorter ceilings so we bought a new, smaller Christmas tree. We hung over a hundred matching gold and silver ornaments, newly bought. My mom climbed a ladder to place a brand new silver star tree topper with rotating disco lights. The ceiling was splashed with red, blue and green lights, spinning and whirling in some pattern I couldn’t follow. The tree is organized, beautiful, uniform, everything I always wanted a tree to be and I’m still not sure about it. It’s all as new as the house we live in. This isn’t the tree I’m used to.

A few days after the tree was put up, we broke out the rest of the decorations, including the box of sentimental, kiddy ornaments that didn’t match the gold and silver theme of the tree. To accommodate for this and use the extra decorations, a second tree, the scraggly one we put on the porch of our old house, was set up in a different room. On it, we hung all the ornaments that didn’t match the gold ones. Aside from the silly, homemade crafts that were slowly falling apart and the few bits and pieces that belonged to my dad, we hung up every one until the artificial branches drooped with the weight. All five of my mom’s nativity scenes were scattered throughout the house. We strung garland along the rail by the steps and accented it with some big red bows. We hung five of our six stockings on a shelf across from the gold tree because they looked better there than on the mantle.

Five stockings. Just like our house and our Christmas tree, this was different too. Even though my parents split up some time last year, we still had Christmas together in our old house. This year though, my mother bought a new house. The garlands and bows are on a new railing; our fake tree is color coordinated in a way my dad would never have appreciated in the old house. All the decorations are beautiful and I still can’t help but feel something is missing.

“I don’t believe in Christmas,” my dad told me when I asked him what he wanted. I still harbored every intention to buy him a gift anyway. As opposed to my mom’s house, my dad’s apartment still looks exactly the same in December as it did in August. Even though he took us shopping to buy gifts for our mom, we have no tree or garland or big red bows. To my dad, Christmas was always about family. It was about going to tree farms to purchase the perfect tree then taking it home and coating it in a thick layer of ornaments, each laden with memory. Now that it’s just the two of us in our two-bedroom apartment (with the occasional weekend visit from my siblings), there’s no need to hang stockings or string lights. There’s no point in rushing out to buy a tree when no one’s going to appreciate it. Without family, there’s no reason for Christmas in the apartment.

Christmas is more different than I ever imagined it could be. At the new house, there is no balcony overlooking the bottom floor for my sisters, brother, and I to look over and stare at our tree on Christmas morning. There’s much less space to decorate at my mom’s and nothing to decorate with at my dad’s. As much as I don’t want to admit it, our new Christmas makes me sad. I knew Christmas would be different when my parents split up but it’ll be a challenge forming new traditions, trying to uphold the old ones with one less person, holding onto old memories with nothing to reinforce them every year, getting to spend time with both parents during Christmas break. I assumed I’d have two trees this year. I didn’t know they’d both be in the same house. But it just means I’ll be forging new holiday memories by both the light of our two Christmas trees and the glow of the regular old lights in my dad’s apartment.

Maddie Sokoloski is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram 

This Mad Fad Called Plaid: Why We Channel the Flannel

By Amelia Lowry 

Flannels, plaids, tartans– whatever you wanna call them, they’re everywhere and everyone wears them. Confused dads with fanny-packs and vests wear flannels; hipsters pair their plaid with vans and whiny voices claiming that they listened to Bon Iver before anyone else did. Greasy-haired, Kurt-Cobain loving people wear flannels over band t-shirts. Kylie Jenner wears her plaid tied around her waist and people who want to be like Kylie Jenner wear their plaid the same way for $300 less.

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There is not one group of people that tartan is not advertised to. L.L Bean, the nerdy parent store, sells plaid shirts by the thousands. Forever 21 and H&M sell it to the youngins. Even obnoxiously expensive companies like Burberry and Chanel sell plaid to its obnoxiously rich customers.

The question that is banging its head against the wall, wanting so desperately to be asked, is why? What is it about flannel and plaid that everyone loves? Why is everyone going loony over this specific geometric pattern?

The answer may never be learned, but we can still investigate why the world is doused in plaid (and we will).

There are several clumps of people who started this flannel-fever, and it actually wasn’t the hipsters that did it first. Scotland in particular can be accredited for tartan. Way back when, before the mid-1800’s, tartans were crafted by local weavers and could be used to identify towns and general regions of people. This is partially because the dyes would have to be local, and partially because tastes and styles would differ from town to town. Though it is definitely rude in 2015, sometimes we can see people and identify where they are from based off of their style– for instance, if someone is wearing an organically-dyed maxi skirt and Birkenstocks, they are probably from Shepherdstown. When people wear denim shirts on top of blue jeans, they are trying to tell you that they are from Canada and the people who wear leather hats are almost always from your local Harley Davidson store.

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After the 1850’s, there were more machines and available materials, such as dyes and fabrics. It was much easier for weavers to make family-specific tartans, and so many families had patterns unique to their family. If someone from nineteenth century Scotland were to time-travel to today’s time, they might start giving everyone hugs. For all they know, you’re their brother from another mother.

Another group of people who are strongly associated with plaid are the lumberjacks. Go ahead, search ‘lumberjack’ in your Google search bar. Every image is of a ripped hipster, complete with a pair of suspenders and a beanie and a beard and, most vital to the success of this paragraph, they are all wearing flannels! Part of the reason that the lumberjacks loved their flannels (and probably why so many people have become attached to their plaid shirts) is because of the comfiness factor. Lumberjacks would often live a migrational life, traveling from place to place and chopping down trees where they could find them. This meant that they had a rough time finding someone to love on them in the colder months. For this reason and this reason only– the lack of a lover’s warmth– lumberjacks would want to stay warm, and would use this blend of geometrically-woven cotton to do so. Maybe this is why everyone is wearing flannel all of a sudden– because they are single and therefore rendered perpetually cold.

A lot of people believe that those with symmetrical faces are more beautiful than people with regular faces, and this has been tested with science. According to a study by Anthony C. Little, Benedict C. Jones, and Lisa M. DeBruine on facial attractiveness, humans tend to lean towards people who have symmetry in their face due to Evolutionary Advantage. In essence, this means that we find will typically find someone who has eyes that are evenly lined up more delightful to look at compared to someone with eyeballs all over their face in uneven proportion because subconsciously, we see that person as a potential mate and we want our potential children to be perfect. At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with plaid. I’m not so sure anymore. But, I think that one reason plaid might be coming back in such a big way is because it tends to be symmetrical. We like plaid because it is a good potential mate.

Whether people are wearing plaid to look like another Kardashian or because they liked it before it was cool, plaid is here to stay. The Scottish started it, the lumberjacks perpetuated it, and Beyoncé probably wore it better.  If you are a lover of plaid, you’re in luck! Plaid is here to stay, unless we make something else popular– something weirder than lumberjack-chic. Maybe plumber-chic? We can all have plumber’s cracks. It’s a real cute idea.

Amelia Lowry is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

The Academic Hub: What’s Up?

By Ray Newby

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“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent van Gogh

“What about the Academic Hub?”

The question was arguably off topic, but I can’t for the life of me remember who brought it up. We were in government class one Tuesday morning, only an hour and a half or so into the school day, and we were listening to the Mayor talk about local infrastructure. Though the class had started off on an interesting note (we’d all met him at one point, but not this intimately, and we were temporarily star-struck) most of us had our phones in our laps or, like me, were drawing on our hands with pen ink. Most of us, however, looked up when an unidentifiable voice peeped up on this.

My immediate response was to look at Mr. Drabczyk, our teacher. He stayed silent. He was curious too.

The Mayor, as if he knew this was coming, sighed slightly and leaned against the table behind him. We knew he felt somewhat responsible for our school’s struggles — he’d alluded to it at the last Board of Education meeting (we’d been there — 90% of the crowd was BISFA, BISFA, BISFA).

“The Academic Hub,” he said after a pause, “is in a complicated position.”

Barbara Ingram School for the Arts was opened in 2009. Named after a woman passionate about the arts, there were five original disciplines — theater, instrumental music, vocal music, dance, and visual arts. Two quick years of success and another department became “literary arts,” renamed creative writing (it had a better ring). Students had classes in stairwells, offices, lobbies, and dressing rooms. I am only a sophomore, and since those first years we have acquired spaces in five different buildings for classes. Through rain, snow, incredible heat, and even once or twice a hail storm, Barbara Ingram students from 13 to 18 trudge across downtown every other hour. With at least two art classes and three academic classes every day, we meet our credit requirements and then some. All students are loyal to the school, bussing in every day from as far as counties away. All students care — all 270 of them.

 

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Students of Barbara Ingram crossing the street to attend classes at one of our five buildings downtown.

 

Space is becoming a problem again, however. The building we use for most of our academics has only signed our lease for one more year. A year we are halfway over with.

Proposed almost since the school’s beginning is the Academic Hub. Most of us see it as the end game for Barbara Ingram — no more weekly rumors of shut downs, monthly “talking to”’s about proper street-crossing technique, or how to be mouse quiet and not disturb the other tenants in our buildings. The proposal, though everyone’s interpretations are different, is of a building designed for us and other specialty schools in the county. It would connect to the main Barbara Ingram building, replacing the very wobbly uninhabited structure next to us. It would have academic classrooms for us (no more rainy day umbrellas!) and provide room for other extracurriculars from other schools.

The Mayor suggested it may even connect to the theater next door. “They don’t have a big enough backstage to put on a lot of shows, which is a lot of lost revenue,” he said.

The idea has been out there for a while, and even before this year fundraisers went on to build up a money supply for the proposed 15 million dollar construction project.

Not that a bucket at the back of a poetry reading or a dance show is ever going to raise 15 million dollars.

Recently, after hearing about our trouble in the building we use for academics, the Mayor brought the Academic Hub back up again at a city council meeting. On September 22nd, 2015, everything seemed to be going smoothly. The commissioners had voted 4-3 to begin construction with the money the Board had saved for us (1.5 million dollars, according to the Mayor). Apparently, the commissioner’s only issue was with spending money, as we found out on October 6th when they voted again, denying us the 4.4 million we needed to really get underway.

 

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Barbara Ingram instrumental students performing in one of their many concerts

This is when it all hit the fan.

The students were outraged. One started a hashtag on popular social media called “Why BISFA Matters,” which quickly grew as students even from other schools started posting. I had a few things to say, personally, and so did many of my other classmates. Every single student was rallied for the Academic Hub. No one wanted to leave.

So when in government class the mayor heard this question, he knew months of tweeting, talking, and bad feelings were behind it. Not towards him, necessarily, but towards the situation. He gave us some insider information.

First of all, there is a lot we don’t know about that is going on behind the scenes. Biases, related to “white flight” and against urbanization. A lot of the rather old members of the commission still didn’t believe in the downtown area where we are located. The rather infamous Karen Harshman was calling the streets “unsafe,” and saying she “would never let her children walk around down there.”

I guess she doesn’t know we have police officers at every corner, and these new spangled devices called “stoplights.”

As cliché as it sounds, for every student I know this school is their home. Not everyone has the chance to go here, and we understand we are lucky. But lives at our old schools would mean bullying, mockery, and less of a chance at our dream for a lot of us.

So what about the Academic Hub? The Mayor assured us all Barbara Ingram would not be shut down, but he had that look in his eye the teachers and staff have had for the past couple months; the shimmer of doubt, and of fear.

We fuel local businesses. We come at every angle of the city with a youthful outlook. We perform nearly every week, at least one discipline with at least one show.

We are here to stay. We will use stairwells, offices, lobbies, and dressing rooms as classrooms if we must.

Barbara Ingram School for the Arts lives.

Rachael Newby is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

An Open Letter to Christmas Movies

Dear Christmas Movies,

This is a love letter to your countless forms: comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and even horror. You are, at this point, your own art form. Taking themes of generosity and caring, or even just the immortal Santa Claus and weaving a thousand stories from them. There are your classics, of course. Movies like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer with its claymation cast, that always bring back feelings of nostalgia for Christmases past. Or A Christmas Story, whose famous line “You’ll shoot your eye out!” has been heard by almost any kid who has received a BB gun for Christmas.

You also have modern movies that made their way into our hearts just like the old ones did. One particular favorite of mine being Elf, starring Will Ferrell as a man who grew up in the North Pole, but then goes to New York in search of his father. This movie nails the classic Christmas themes of giving, and also has plenty of laughs along the way. But what really makes this movie special is that in my house around Christmas it is always playing, and I mean, always playing. The small TV in the kitchen is screening Elf in a constant loop as we dash about the house, getting everything ready for our big family gathering. It’s practically a measurement of time at my house, an acceptable response to “What time is it?” being “Three runs of Elf past noon”

But, the greatest thing about you, is that like any other genre there are some wonderfully weird films. One I love is Santa Conquers The Martians. Which is, in all honesty, a terrible movie. But it shows the variety and originality you can have. The story of santa being kidnapped by martians, who have no one to give their children presents, is just one of many examples.

As I look forward to more of you this December, watching the oldies, and even seeing new exciting films, I never want to forget the awe, nostalgia, and joy you bring me every year.

Sincerely,

N.Retherford

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