Category Archives: Culture

Book Review: “Water for Elephants”

By Alanna Anderson 

***There is content within the review that may ruin the plot for some people***

If you’re into historical fiction, shifts between time period, romance, slightly graphic sex scenes, and don’t mind animal abuse and violence or slightly unrealistic endings, then Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen might just be for you.

The story tells the journey of the main character, Jacob, who ends up in the circus after an unfortunate event leaves him feeling lost, abandoned, and in search of a new home. The rest of the story entails not only his journey with the circus, but also narrative shifts to present time where he’s in an old folks home complaining about his helpless state. Not only are the morals and scenery of the story compelling, but the characters of the story, for the most part, seem to come to life.

If you are looking for action, this story is probably not the best place to look for it but it does include its own spark. The story is one that mainly touches on the struggles and troubles of life and those who are living, just trying to make it through. The main downfalls are the main character (and his romance), unnecessary description, and lack of a structured plot that keeps the story from being truly great.  Overall, the main purpose of the story was clear and I felt anticipation, but not enough to be truly impressed with the story.

 

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Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson starred in the 2011 movie adaptation of the book.

Something that definitely caught my attention throughout the story were the morals that the characters introduced. The author had the good fortune of choosing a setting and time period that could be manipulated easily for her story. Since the story took place during The Great Depression, Gruen does a great job of channeling all of the desperation and loss that was common during that time. This was also used to find ways to implement specific themes and values throughout almost the whole story, but the one that stuck out the most to me was the idea of respect. The idea of being able to respect people as a common courtesy and only stopping when their actions prove that they should be treated otherwise.

Another moral was that everyone has struggles and that it’s not wrong to acknowledge them. These are just two among the many that could’ve been interpreted, like how being abusive and not showing humanity can result in a hard case of karma. The morals definitely made the story more complex emotionally. If someone wanted to read a fiction book that touched on morals and the underlying aspects of human nature then this book is suggestible. This is one of the techniques that I really appreciated in the book and found to be enjoyable.

It was enjoyable how the author took advantage of characters and their development in order to keep the reader interested. Sadly, she seems to expand on every character except for Jacob and Marlena (a person very close to Jacob). With these two characters she sort of expects the reader to just like them and automatically accept them. This lead me to create a strong bond with a lot of the characters, such as Kinko, a man who ends up being Jacob’s friend. I really felt for him and wanted to hear more about his story than I wanted to hear about Jacob’s. Another person who I wanted to know more about was Camel, a kind-hearted drunk in the circus, as it’s hinted at that he has a dramatic past, but his past is only mentioned to make Jacob have sympathy for him.

43641.jpgA way that the author created these connections was making the reader feel sympathy for
a character; it made me care more about them and feel like I’m supposed to pay attention to them. It was actually very effective but where the author went wrong is when she only added in these characters’ stories to attempt to make Jacob more interesting. I feel that this was a lost opportunity for her because her story was held back due to trying to progress a character who just wasn’t that interesting.        

A cool aspect of the story is that the point of view shifts between the young and older version of Jacob. Seeing the differences between the two sides of him helped with the mystery of the story because it built anticipation as to how he ended up where he was at. His grouchiness seemed a bit odd too. When he is young he is cheery and innocent and chivalrous, and when he is older he loses that charm and becomes a crabby elderly man. This can happen and I’m sure that it has happened to people before, but for the character himself it seemed to just discredit the positive emotions that he feels while he’s young. This also begins to create too strong of a contrast between young Jacob and older Jacob. The differences in their personality at times makes it seem like I’m not even reading from the perspective of the same character.

The personification in the story was one of my favorite techniques.  Rosie, the smartest and most kind-hearted elephant who is Jacob’s best friend, and even other animals such as the always smiling chimpanzee were described frequently as smiling or doing something such as shaking a hand in thanks, or showing a strong spark of intelligence. This had the benefit of making me feel closer to the animals than the humans sometimes because they were the only ones acting relaxed most of the time and not freaking out like the humans were.

The one issue with this is that I wanted more mentions of the animals. They seemed like they would be a focal point of the story because of Jacob’s occupation and interests, but they’re used more to enhance the story than actually be that involved in it. The personification of the animals was made even more interesting when they’re compared to how the humans are physically described in the story. In one sex scene the man is made to sound beWater-For-Elephantsast-like and in moments of anger the humans are described as feral and wild. This contributed to the parallel of appearance being deceiving and the “real animals” being humans due to their destructive nature.

I started reading the story with high expectations because of the buzz that had been built around it, but found myself greatly disappointed. Expecting something great from a book because it has become popular and a movie is always a way to find disappointment. I still have an underlying frustration with the story because I was stuck in a state of excited expectation and never-ending boredom.

Many aspects of the story left me conflicted, like my opinion on Jacob. He was the kind of main character that I felt sympathy for, but started to lose a connection to because I was constantly waiting for him to make up his mind and come to a decision about his life and people and stick to it. Luckily, I felt a better connection to a lot of the other characters of the story and they’re what helped me to pull through and kept me reading. I do appreciate that the impression of chaotic circus life did help me to connect to the story and Jacob more.

The anticlimactic events in the story (that were usually anticlimactic due to Jacob’s constant inaction) contributed, in my opinion, to the story’s decrease in greatness. It’s alright to have a few teasing moments, but the story seemed to take the moments that I was looking forward to and made them completely disappear. The ending made me want to bang my head against a wall for a bit as well. It seemed too farfetched and unrealistic and completely rushed. It seems especially rushed when I found out that the author wrote the story in a month, and this might have made it zoom through the editing process. If it weren’t for my interest in the characters of the story and how they would turn out my interest in the story would’ve almost been completely gone.

My awareness of writing techniques definitely made me disappointed with certain aspects of the story. Scenery was definitely a high point and cannot be touched, but the graphic sex scenes of the story felt sort of desperate at times. Instead of relying on the natural surprising aspects of the circus, the author began to write in sex scenes that left me wondering about the necessity of them.

Capture.PNGAs they continued I became more and more aware of how unnecessary they were and how exactly they were holding the story back. It seemed like the author felt the need to throw in unnecessary events to an already wild story, unrealistic love between love interests, a slightly boring main character that remains stagnant while others develop, and a pace that isn’t consistent. All of these elements contributed to my displeasure at the story.

Gruen’s imagery was bitter-sweet for me. Some of her imagery was enjoyable and helped me to keep reading.  The life of someone living at a circus was vivid and descriptive and I could clearly imagine Jacob tending to the animals, and his vivid horror at being tricked into being bit by a lion. A counter to this is the fact that Gruen would describe some unimportant things more than others. There’s a sexual scene that is described in great (great, great, great) detail and it bordered on making me uncomfortable because the language and description became very vivid at this time specifically. At other times, events that were important to me just fell through the cracks. So while imagery was one of my favorite techniques of the story because it connected me to the text, it also put me off at times because of the moments and events that the author chose to explode and describe the most.

One of the biggest downfalls of the story was its lack of a structured and well paced plot. The story begins with a flash of a future event and it built the anticipation a lot. After reading that my expectations for the story grew even more because I looking forward to said huge event.

The beginning of the story had a pace that was okay. In the middle of the story I started to water-for-elephants.pngget the feeling that the author was getting bored with the story. It just felt like she was slowing down too much and trying to expand all of the moments that really didn’t need that done to them. At the end of the story I was so disappointed. The author seemed to just give up and assume that what she had written was enough to make up for a rushed ending. Basically, it felt like she was turning in an assignment that was due in an hour. This caused me to care a bit less about the story because she seemed to care less too.

The story had good points and bad points, but overall it is not a book that I will come back to soon. I felt like I was constantly looking for something that the story just couldn’t provide. The good use of writing techniques really couldn’t make up for the issues that I saw with pacing, Jacob, and the lack of attention drawn to certain aspects like secondary characters, because they were too distracting. If I had to read the story again it would be as a reference for imagery, but not for the plot at all. I’m still really glad that I could find a moral to take away from the story, but it’s from what I found in the text and not from any special relationship with a character. Maybe if the author had payed more attention to making her events deliberate and blending with her writing techniques I would feel differently.

I would suggest this book to someone if I knew that that didn’t bother them. I’d also suggest this book to people who enjoy books with imagery and are looking for something fun that includes morals about life, but not something that is even close to being considered a literary classic.

Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

When Killers are Idolized

By Alanna Anderson 

 

A recurring fact of life is that when you see a disaster or crime occurring it is hard to look away. The suspense surrounding the situation seems to capture our attention there and keep it due to morbid curiosity. But while looking at the crime itself, we don’t see the victim(s). We don’t see who has been affected and injured by the event. Of course there are victims, but we don’t know their names, we don’t know who in their life will be affected by the event, and we don’t know their stories. All we’re usually told is an estimate of their age, a brief mention that they are leaving children or a spouse behind, and facts on why the attacker would’ve attacked them: like gender, race or other characteristics and actions to provide motive.

This is the same case in a lot of mass killings. While we receive detailed observations of the attacker through the news (their name, age, reassurance of their “calm” personality, and how exactly they had planned and executed the crime) the information about the victim(s) is left in the dark. They become lost as a number. A countless one, two, and three on a list of the people dead or injured. In the meantime, the attacker receives multiple detailed profiles.

Even when reading some novels on serial killers, the killers are almost idolized because of the attention that they receive, but usually just one or two of the victims are mentioned, usually to evoke sympathy, and the rest is just statistics. Otherwise, the lives of the victim(s) are lost to us and they become the unwilling catalyst for propelling the killer’s fame and popularity.

To add on to the idea of idolization, you have to think about this from the point of view of the shooter. In their profiles, they are often depicted as attention seekers that feel wronged somehow by a perceived injustice that has been dealt against them. They then turn that strong feeling of betrayal into an ideology that includes the pain of others for retribution. Part of that retribution could be public humiliation. Though many killers say that the act was for themselves and not the public, there is a harsh kind of empathy in forcing others to feel the pain that you are feeling or have felt.

By paying so much attention to the killer we are giving them attention that they may need to further their agenda. This attention is given to them in place of reaching out to give sympathy to the victim who has been violated and exploited.

“We need to pay more attention to helping the victim instead of making killers into movie stars.”

People tend to dehumanize shooters and make them into pop culture icons instead of the actual human beings that they are. But it does help to keep in mind that they are people. They are our neighbors, the people standing behind us in line at the grocery store, and driving in the car in front of us. In the words of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird: “A mob’s made up of people, no matter what.” Behind every violent action is a human emotion that drove them to that path.

While these people shouldn’t be idolized and given so much attention to the point of ignoring the victim(s), we need to make sure that we keep this person as human as possible without glazing over their horrible actions. By seeing the attacker as human, it helps to keep in mind that they have to be held accountable for what they have done since we are all (for the most part) accountable for our actions.

Sometimes people may not even be aware of the fact that they are promoting what this person has done. This, however, can’t be helped. The idea of the unknown and different just attracts us. We can’t help but be curious about the people who have deviated from the morals and paths laid coded into different cultures and societies. We collect their facts like trading cards and we memorize every facet of their treacherous executions. The issue is not the morbid curiosity itself, it’s how it becomes presented when dealing with the situation. Writers and publishers are getting paid to provide what will be relevant and what will sell. When they see that what people are more interested in the killer than the victim, they feed off of that in a cycle of buy and demand.

When media and people’s personal interests give so much attention we are feeding into the attention that they crave. We are giving into that motive that they had and proving that through this terrible action they are getting closer to reaching their ulterior motive. What makes this even worse is when a person who allegedly knew the attacker says things about them that seem to erase the fact that they have murdered or injured a person/people. Things like: “they are usually so nice,” “I’ve never known them to be violent or rude to anybody,” and, “this isn’t like them at all.”

There’s also the trouble behind the news displaying certain attackers as distinguished and polished people and focusing on all of the reasons why they couldn’t have done this instead of all of the things that they did.

Remember that whenever you think about the actions of a killer, you must always remember those directly affected by them too. While the killer should be considered in a situation, you must always acknowledge the victim and their suffering. Pay attention to the victim in a car crash instead of the sight of the cars after they’ve crashed. And, besides, why would you want to romanticize a person who’s done nothing romantic or heroic?

In order to make the victim feel like what they have gone through has not been ignored in the face of the person who has hurt them, we need to make sure that we have our priorities straight as far as who we’re going to reach out to. We need to pay more attention to helping the victim instead of making killers into movie stars.  

Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram 

Fourth of July: When America Takes Over the Internet

By Alanna Anderson 

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Fourth of July is a time for barbecues, fireworks, people wearing full outfits with the American flag as the only pattern, and the highly anticipated summer memes. They can be optimistic, or sarcastic, but either way they will discuss the views and thoughts of some citizens when it comes to America. First, I’ll start out by introducing a little background on this holiday that is more than just a day for elaborate firework shows.

We all know, even if it’s vaguely, the story of the colonists showing true American stubbornness by declaring independence from the British. What you may not know is that since John Adams believed that Independence Day was on the 2nd he refused to celebrate it on the fourth. Ironically, he died on July 4th, 1826. I don’t know exactly what you’d like to do with that information but, if anything, you could use it as an excuse to light fireworks on both days — even if your neighbors give you disgruntled looks. Early celebrations of the Fourth of July differ from today mainly because of the cultural differences of the time periods.

Fireworks were documented to have been used as early as 1040 in China, but the first commemorative fireworks set off in America was in 1777. Despite this, fireworks for public use didn’t become available until 1783. This ruled out the early use of fireworks and in its place was instead the ringing of bells, bonfires, recitation of speeches, concerts, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets.

Another interesting event, which may or may not be debated as morbid, was the fact that the colonists held mock funerals of King George III. The colonists saw this as a way to symbolize that the King’s rule was dead. They would even carry around an empty casket with the King’s name on it and sit it near a gravestone that also had his name on it. I don’t know about you but I could see this becoming a coming-of-age tradition for eighteen year olds leaving the house to go to college. Or for millennials when they leave home.

Back to the focus of the article, it seems that a new tradition has been adopted by the holiday. While some guests at celebrations are kicking back with reminiscent tales, the others are lounging back in order to post what we’re all really excited for: holiday memes. It seems like memes have a culture all their own. They manage to connect all of our thoughts and emotions into one little picture and facial expression.

Fourth of July memes take on a whole new meaning when they begin to remind us of the reasons why some people might not appreciate the fourth of July. Such as:

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While others are focusing on the advantages that this holiday brings (like the sales) (just kidding) (kind of), others are focusing on other aspects. Like the reasons why the holiday highlights the fact that though we fought for independence, the lack of independence for some means that we have an unfinished battle.The Fourth of July is when  some will take the time to focus on the fact that the holiday contains a lot of irony.

Such as:

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We shouldn’t ignore that there is merit to the holiday, but we also shouldn’t ignore the irony of the holiday. While watching the fireworks light up the sky, also remember the smoke of muskets that took the lives of people whose land was taken. While stuffing hot dogs in your mouth, also remember those who were stopped from eating for the sake of being forced to build this country.

Fourth of July memes help to bring people back from the fireworks and into reality. They help people realize that there is more to this holiday than food and American flags. That even though we are free from British rule, there are still people in the present and in the past that have been oppressed by America’s power and ruling. This is not to say that people shouldn’t enjoy the holiday, it’s just to say that people should be aware of what this holiday means to everybody and not just themselves. Memes help people to be able to step away from themselves and into other perspectives. A memorable caption and a facial expression accomplishes this with just a click, and internet connection.

Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram 

Amelia’s Long List of Suggestions For a Grand Romantic Summer

By Amelia Lowry

“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”- Bob Dylan

My great-grandparents met when my great-grandfather rode a motorcycle past my great-grandmother, who was taking a stroll with her mother. When he saw her, he knew she was the one he’d spend the rest of his life with. My great-grandfather stood up on his motorcycle (I wasn’t even an egg yet, so there’s no way to know for sure, but I like to imagine he was sort of proud, with his hands on his hips and his shoulders back) and my great-grandmother’s mom turned to her and said: “You can never marry a boy like that.”

Sometimes I think about the stories I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren (or, if the whole starting-a-family thing doesn’t work out, the stories I’ll be able to tell my six tiny snakes). I want to have crazy stories about my teenage-years. More importantly, I want to experience things. I don’t want to be at a disadvantage just because my generation has faster access to entertainment — I want to get up and go just as much as my parents did and their parents before them. And while there’s no time like the present, let’s face it: there’s just more time to do stuff in the summer.

So, if you’re like me in the sense that you want your coming-of-age years to be as grand and unforgettable as possible, here’s a giant list of 20 ideas to make your summer something for the books.

  1. Keep a journal! Of course your summer will be something for the books if you record your summer in a book. Thisaway, when you’re sad in the winter because you miss the hot weather, you can pull that baby out and reminisce. Also, there’s something about a used journal that just makes me !!!
  2. Put on some funny clothes and go rollerskating. Here: some inspiration.
  3. What’s a summer without camping? A bummer, that’s what.601864ce07e8ca8c123aa740313fd7f0
  4. Or, if you’re not an outdoorsy kinda person, don’t bug out! I see a blanket fort in your future.
  5. There’s so much free time in the summer, so naturally, it’s a great time to adopt a new hobby. Cooking is always a good one because if you don’t eat, you’ll die, but there’s also knitting, or gardening, or the arts (ha!).
  6. If you live in Washington County, I’m willing to wager that there are times you aren’t the proudest of your small town. But since you can’t change everything, research the most touristy spots in your town and check them out! Try to see where you come from with a different point of view: from someone who wants to be there.
  7. Alternatively, sometimes you just live in the middle of a cornfield any way you slice it. But do not fret! There are some super neat places in the tri-state area. Shepherdstown is a delight, and there’s something for everyone: a book store, a small theater, a fairy store. If you’re the singing type or even if you just like to watch, the Blue Moon Café has an open mic night every Wednesday at 9 o’clock and it’s quite a time. (And if you haven’t already been, the Lost Dog Café has great coffee and a super great atmosphere. Unless you’re easily frightened by stickers — then you must run far, far away.)
  8. Go to a concert! Local or not, you can never go wrong with a good ‘ole hip-hoppin’ family-fun. Unless it’s a band you don’t like, and then you may not have a very nice time.RH-MIXTAPE_grande.png
  9. Make a soundtrack for your summer! Whenever you’ll hear those songs in the future,
    they’ll make you think of nice stuff.
  10. Find a dirt-filled spot, spray some water on it, and you’ve got your own mudpit! Do you love feeling like you’re covered in chalk? Then mudpits are the thing for you!
  11. Go swimming in the river and pretend your life is a scene from an old country movie!
  12. You’ve probably got a little basket or bag around your house somewhere — make some sandwiches and hit the road! Have a picnic somewhere new. (Extra points if you invite me!)
  13. Trampoline. Park. You must. Go. Bounce.
  14. Get a bunch of your friends to dress up like you’re all from Grease and go to a drive-in movie! It’s a requirement to dress up like you’re from Grease, because otherwise, you might as well go watch an indoor movie.
  15. In general, do stuff that scares you! It’s summertime, and this is the best time to change and grow because you don’t have an audience. Remember that it’s perfectly OK if something doesn’t happen like you think it will — what matters is that you try. You don’t want to be stuck in the same place forever, do you? I don’t think so!
  16. Take a train somewhere!
  17. So, you know how sometimes when you’re listening to music, you’ll look outside the window of the car and pretend you’re in a movie? What if you made a little dumb hipster montage of a day in the life of YOU? You could add in a little song, too, then you’ll basically have a you-themed version of Submarine.
  18. Wat-er was that? Did someone say “cape-cod-beacheswatergun fight”? More like water-fun fight.
  19. Have a bonfire and make s’mores! *POST SCRIPT MAGAZINE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY OUT OF CONTROL FIRES FUELED BY THIS SUGGESTION*
  20. Lastly and not leastly, wake up early and watch the sunrise. Start your day off appreciating something you probably don’t see very often!

Don’t spend your whole summer inside your house not doing anything. What kind of a story is that? “Yes, my grandchildren, when I was a young whippersnapper like yourself, my Tumblr was especially aesthetic. There were gradients all over the place. It was wild.” Figure out what everyone means when they say that these are the best years of your life. As Hannah Montana once said, “Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock!”

Amelia Lowry is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

The Most Literal Ways To Stay Cool This Summer

By Kaitlin Gertz 

Summer’s here, and so is ninety-degree weather, sunburn, and heatstroke. Of course, the break from school is relaxing, but there’s just no way to stay cool enough to enjoy it. You’re slathering on sunscreen and sweating like a glass of iced tea. Now it’s time to follow your tea and get iced. Take it from the experts at staying cool (like me): there are easy, affordable ways to stay cool this summer, and one of them does include becoming a human ice pop.

The absolute easiest way to stay cool is to stuff yourself inside your fridge. Make sure to clean out any food or drinks that may be blocking your way. This rule also applies to any drawers and shelves that don’t look too important. While you’re at it, have some ice cream. It certainly can’t hurt. An expert tip is to take the ice cream in the fridge with you. Though you may be in a space that’s only 30 cubic feet, you are sticking it to the sun and are more ice-cold than Outkast. (Side effects may include suffocation, hypothermia, panic attacks from claustrophobia, freezer burn, and thoughts of “How could I have been this stupid?”).

In the vein of stupid (which is what your honey might be calling you after this trick) there’s another tip that we can assure helps to keep you cool. Instead of cozying up with dunking-fred.jpgyour boo and smooching, avoid getting heated up. Alternately, you two can do fun couple activities that involve staying cold, like chugging ice water to see who gets brain freeze first. Or if competition isn’t your thing, you can snuggle–just make sure to get a freezable blanket and put it on ice.

Mint is renowned for its fresh, cool flavor. This is your chance to stock up on all things
mint. Mint leaves, gum, candy, jello, toothpaste, scented candles, car fresheners, you name it! You can chew, huff, and smoke all the mint you want if it helps you beat the heat. You may go broke buying all those mint products, but hey, at least you won’t be hot.

 Lastly, we all know being cool comes from the inside, not the outside. The best way to avoid the heat is to put on some shades and rock out to the coolest bands. Some recommendations include Vanilla Ice (and “Ice Ice Baby”), Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and Arctic Monkeys. You have to let the spirit of those cooler than you move through you. Listening to cool bands makes you cooler, after all. But most importantly, you have to chill out and not stress.Tic-Tac-Coupon

So if you’re worried about getting too hot this summer, don’t. There are a plethora of options to help you escape the heat, from stuffing yourself inside a fridge to smoking mint (but not weed; drugs aren’t cool) and listening to the chilliest bands. Whether it be inside or out, you can always be cool.

Kaitlin Gertz is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

 

College Sucks and Here’s Why (And Capitalism Isn’t Cool Either)

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By Kaitlin Gertz 

In an age where colleges consider factors such as gender, class, race, and sexuality for admission, college isn’t discriminatory on the surface. In fact, it seems like it’s gotten more open-minded as your grade point average isn’t the only thing being weighed next to your entrance essay. So then why do the poorest cities see the highest high school dropout rates, and as a result, lower college admissions? Why do women make up the majority of college students, yet earn less once graduated? If it’s truly unbiased, then why is the percentage of students of color enrolled rising only infinitesimally in private colleges after the ruling of Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke? In this age, college can be discriminatory, even while taking strides to be more diverse.

Though many colleges have starting using holistic reviews for admissions, it still remains a numbers game, no matter how great your admissions essay is. Entrance usually s
tarts with a base SAT score, number of community service hours, GPA, and, of course, how much you can pay. The average year at a public university in-state will costStudent-Loan-cartoon-2bdrn8a a student around $9,410. The average year at a private university is more than triple that, costing around $32,405. Sure, that may sound like a lot, but if you get a job and maybe take out a small loan, you’ll end up in the clear. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. Minimum wage jobs are the most prevalent type of jobs amongst students, but they don’t provide necessary funds. Going off of federal minimum wage requirements (keep in mind, this can vary state to state), it would take someone working 25 hours a week to completely pay off in-state tuition. Not too strenuous, until you get to how many hours you would have to work a week to pay off private university: 85. That’s twice the amount of hours of working full time, and is impossible for the average worker, let alone someone who is in college. No wonder so many people end up taking out student loans, and no wonder that in 2012, students nationwide ended up borrowing over 110 billion dollars.

It holds no candle to national debt, but certainly outweighs the student debt forty years ago. In 1970, student loan borrowing only amounted to a paltry 7.6 billion, and a lot of that has to do with minimum wage and the cost of college. For example, the minimum wage was $1.60, and with inflation rates, it would be $9.80 today; already higher than the current federal minimum wage. (But wait! There’s more!) In 1970, a year’s tuition at a public university cost $1,207, which meant it could be completely paid off by working 15 hours a week. So, while minimum wage has slowly and inconsistently been raised, the price of college has skyrocketed, making it almost impossible to afford without taking out loans.

That being said, college has become more and more necessary for obtaining better jobs, and with it, better pay. With just a bachelor’s degree, a person could earn $23,291 more than the average high school graduate. In addition to college, there has also been a lot of focus on unpaid internships to become qualified for jobs. Companies hire college students who are willing to work for little to nothing in order for the students to attain credit and work experience. After all, the more experience you have in a field, the more likely you are to get hired in it. It’s also a way for companies to take advantage of this need and use students for free labor. While unfair, many students see it as a necessity to achieve the career they want. It’s a vicious cycle.

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Let’s say you’re born in a well-off family. It’s never an issue of if you will go to college, but where you will go to college. You study hard and get in, but without a scholarship. That’s not an issue. Your parents will gladly make up for the deficit and which means you can avoid taking out student loans or working minimum wage jobs. In the summer, you decide on an internship that will look good on your future resume and find out that it doesn’t pay. Again, to save you the trouble of an internship and a job at the same time, your parents either invite you back home or put up money for you to rent an apartment and buy necessities. After years of this you graduate, and thanks to your internships and your degree, you land a well-paying job. Now your kids will be born into a well-off family, and the cycle continues.

But what if you’re born into a lower-income family? Maybe you’ll go to college if you can. You might earn a small scholarship. Even in high school, you might already be working a minimum wage job to earn money for yourself or your family. Then, you study hard and get into college. Your parents can’t pay for tuition, so you take out student loans. You decide that once you graduate college and land a good job because of your degree you’ll pay off that debt. However, you’re not able to afford an unpaid internship. There’s no way to earn those extra points while also working at a paying job. So after graduation, you’re left with your loans, your degree, and your inexperience. You get a job that isn’t bad, but isn’t the best. It’s going to take you longer to pay off the student loans than you thought, and the interest keeps accumulating. You might not be poor, but you’re certainly not rich. This means your kids will go through the cycle you went through if they choose to go to college, all because you don’t have enough money.

Not having enough money is a big problem, and surprisingly, so is race. Cities like Detroit, Baltimore, and New York City are notorious for their large high school dropout rates, as well as a large population of minorities. While not indicative of a college’s racial bias, it shows that many people of color don’t even have the chance to go. Most universities don’t accept high school dropouts, after all.
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(Detroit Dropout Rate: 78%; Baltimore: 62%; New York City: 59%; U.S.: 19%)

 

The trend of race relating to a high dropout rate doesn’t signify that a particular minority isn’t intelligent, but rather reflects inner-city life. In fact, the trend seems to stop with New York City, where there are more white dropouts than black. When compared to the United States’ population overall, however, it shows a stark contrast between those cities and the U.S.

Is it simply that college is more biased towards those with more money and discriminatory towards minorities and the lower class? Perhaps not, and as we as a nation bring more attention to inequality as a whole, universities are more likely to change criteria even more. Who knows? One day, they might even make it free (I’m looking at you, Bernie).

Kaitlin Gertz is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram

Earth Day Isn’t Just Any Day For April

By Amelia Lowry

April gallops gracefully around her friends. The eleven faces of her closest companions all blur into one as she runs.

“April, stop dancing and come sit down with the rest of us,” September orders.

“Woah, Sep, chill,” June says lazily, chewing loudly on a giant wad of bubble gum. “It’s not like she’s, like, doing drugs or something.”

At this, all eleven people in the circle exchange dubious looks.

“I don’t get why anyone would do drugs. I mean, isn’t life just amazing as it is?” December asks with a wide smile on his face. “April knows what I’m talking about, right April?”

April skips lackadaisically over to her friends. Her long hair bounces up and down behind her each time her bare feet hit the grass.

“Hey man, did someone, like, say ‘April’?” April asks in her watered-down voice.

September narrows his eyes upon April’s approaching.

“Sep, what’s the matter, dude? The war is over if you want it,” April says to September, kneeling down beside him. He grumbles and tries to scoot away from her, but October stops him with a spooky, eyeliner-rimmed look.

“Hiya, April!” December cheerfully chitters. “I was just tellin’ the gang about how great life is! Don’t you just love it?”

“Totally, man, it’s outta sight. It’s the grooviest time of year — you know how I love April,” she says with a lethargic smile.

“I know I love April,” February says. February gives a sly wink and twirls a lock of curly hair with her slender, pink-polished fingers.

Without missing a beat, December shows the group a glimpse of his twinkling eyes and rosy cheeks. “I love April too — the sun is out, the grass is green — it’s the best time of the year!”

“Oh my God, December, you say that every twenty-four hours,” September replies hotly.

“Simmer down, my friends,” April says.

June changes the subject. “It sure is a chill time of year,” she says. “The twentieth will be here before we know it.”

“Every day is April twentieth if you try hard enough, man,” April says. “Besides, dudette, you gotta think bigger. Expand your mind.”

December grins broadly and says, “Yeah, Christmas is on the way!” He looks off into the distance lovingly, as if he’s thinking about all the different flavors of candy canes, or how soft Santa’s beard is. “Here comes Santa Claus,” he mutters under his breath.

April follows December’s gaze. “Oh, yeah, I think I can see him, man,” she says.

“That’s not Santa Claus, you imbeciles, it’s just a red-breasted robin,” September says.

“Did someone say ‘breast’?” February asks, suddenly alert.

April stretches out, lifting her kimono-covered arms high above her head. Everyone turns to look at her — her sudden shift in movement enough to gather their attention.

“Oh, hello friends,” April says when she notices everyone’s eyes on her.

“What’s your favorite holiday, April?” December asks.

“Oh, that’s a tough one man. It’s tough to decide between Earth day and Arbor day,” April replies. She puts her arm idly over December’s shoulder. “It’s like the two days of the year where everyone is, like, united in the common goal of loving the planet. You know I’m all about the love, man.”

October readjusts his clunky headphones and asks, “April, what is Earth Day? I don’t really know a lot about the Earth.” He pushes his straightened, black hair out of his pale face and looks toward April. More darkly, he says, “I spend most of my time in the underworld.”

“It’s just some dumb hippie holiday. What does it matter? Arbor day, too — they’re just excuses for hippies to hug more trees,” September says.

“Hey man, make love, not war,” April says to September. “Don’t let the man keep you down, October. He probably just didn’t eat his granola this morning.”

“Nobody here eats granola except you, April,” September spits.

“Whatever, my friend. Anyway, Earth Day always falls on April 22nd and Arbor day is on the 29th. I’m planting trees down on the park if you want to join me,” April says.

“Oh, the 22nd? No can do — I’m making some sacrifices that day,” October replies.

“Thank god,” September says. “That’s what this country was built on — some elbow grease and a lot of sacrifice.”

October gives September an ice-cold look. “I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing.”

“It’s totally turbulent, October,” April says. “You don’t have to plant trees to celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. Another thing you can do instead is make people feel bad for throwing stuff away, or protest at your local bank.”

“Why the bank?” September asks, suddenly intrigued.

“Because, man, money doesn’t grow on trees. But you know what does grow on trees?” April asks. Nobody responds. “Air. Why don’t banks help with air? Don’t they know that the air is contaminated? Don’t they know that they, as Americans, are to blame for 25% of carbon dioxide pollution in the environment?”

There is a drawn out silence as everyone digests April’s sudden attitude.

“Well… I’m glad you feel so passionately about something. That’s the bomb,” October says.

“Hey man, watch your language!” April shouts neurotically. “The trees can hear you!”

“Anyway, April.” February flirts, batting her eyelashes. “What are you doing this Friday?”

“I’m going to Wall Street,” April says, shaking her head. “Nobody wastes paper like those tree-hating fascists.”

“Ooh, I bet that’ll be a real good time. But you know what they say — you’re gonna  need a honey if you wanna save some money. Whatdya say, April? Do you wanna –” February began, lowering her eyes to April’s beaded peace-sign necklace, “take a chance on me?”

“No, man, we humans have no right to take the bee’s honey, man. That’s just like us humans, taking what isn’t ours. Like trees, man. Trees don’t belong to anyone,” April says. “That’s why we have to serve the trees, man. Arbor Day is the perfect day for you to serve them. Pick up some trash. Recycle. Plant trees, get your hands muddy, man.”

“I love it when you talk dirty,” February says.

“Far out, dudette, it’s a date. Is the 29th okay, man?” April asks February.

“The 29th is perfect, pick me up at 8,” February responds with a wink.

“Okay, man, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to fit you on my bicycle,” April says, scratching her head, and sways to her feet. “I gotta jam, guys, there’s a protest against fracking going on soon, man.”

April starts skipping away, leaving her eleven friends in near-silence. February is still sitting on the ground, forlornly looking at the grass.

“Oh, I didn’t know she had something against fracking,” February says.

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Amelia Lowry is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram. 

Humanity’s Fling with Spring

By Kaitlin Gertz

So, what’s the buzz with all the bees (and flowers and pastels and everything spring)? Why are college students migrating to Florida? And what makes people so obsessed with spring that it makes them sick? Spring fever, usually associated with a physical illness, can also describe the intense focus people give to the season. There’s spring cleaning, spring break, and the cheerful alliteration of “spring has sprung!” In all, it seems people just can’t get enough of it.

Traditionally, spring is linked to rebirth and renewal. Youth and fertility are also commonly affiliated with spring; both were extremely prevalent and sought after throughout history. Renewal has heavy ties with religion as well. The Festival of Isis was an ancient Egyptian celebration marking the beginning of spring, as it was held around the Equinox. Romans had a rough equivalent with their Feast of Cybele. Even Christianity plays its part: Easter marks the end of Lent, which means people could then indulge instead of restricting.

The ancient Greeks, however, saw no problem with indulgence, and now lend the custom of spring break to college students. Anthesteria was a three-day festival celebrating Dionysus, god of wine. Everyone, no matter their social status, was allowed to party and get drunk because spring had arrived. Nowadays, we just call it “spring break.” Though the original festival was only three days, it was a chance to relax from the stress of winter and warm up. While winter back then might have meant certain crops couldn’t be grown or business for some would be hard, now it is associated with the pressure of exams and school. Spring break is a chance to forget about your worries and chill — or fly down to Miami and party.

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With modern traditions comes seasonal sports like baseball, softball, and the end of basketball. March Madness, the final championship of the NBA, brings in billions of dollars in bets and millions of dollars in revenue (if that’s not enough reason for the managers to love spring, I don’t know what is). Baseball can be a more twofold sport: not only do the major leagues also bring in millions of dollars, but so do the minor leagues. Money doesn’t translate to renewal, but it’s certainly a reason why people are anxious for spring.

So, spring fever could make you excited for the season, or just make you break out in hives when some designer declares florals “groundbreaking.” Whether you’re honoring the Greeks by partying, or the Romans by eating all you can, or even taking some time to relax and smell the roses, getting sick with spring fever might not be all that bad.

Kaitlin Gertz is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram.

The Case Against the Gay Panic Defense

By Alanna Anderson 

Should penalties or convictions in regards to murder cases be lessened by this discriminatory legal tactic?

Imagine that you’re in the hallway at school when someone asks you to be their Valentine; they happen to not identify as the gender that you’re attracted to. Do you get upset about someone saying something to you that you’re uncomfortable with? Or do you let them down gently in order to erase any ill feelings from rejection?

If you happen to be fourteen year old Brandon McInerney, your reaction is going to be a bit more violent. You come to school the next day and shoot the person that asked you to be their Valentine while they are seated in a classroom. Instead of receiving a civilized answer, they end up being murdered. You also get to cut a deal with the prosecutors that will give you a lesser sentence of twenty-one years in prison. How do you manage to convince the jury that you deserve to have your sentence lessened: by using the Gay Panic Defense.

 

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Brandon McInerney (left) shot openly gay 15 year old Lawrence “Larry” King (right) in February of 2008

This may seem absurd to you, but it’s not the only case of murder being excused for this reason. Jonathan Schmitz murdered Scott Amedure, his friend, on the grounds that Scott had a crush on him. He directly stated that he was so embarrassed about Scott having a crush on him that he was unable to control himself and thus murdered him. To some, this would seem like a terrible excuse for taking someone’s life, but the jury bought it and the Gay Panic Defense was able to lessen Schmitz’s repercussions.

In 2002, a seventeen year old named Gwen Araujo, born with the name Edward, was brutally murdered by two other teens because she was a transgender individual. The murder was an act of revenge because they had slept with her and then compared their experiences to later on figure out that at birth she was considered male. She ended up being beaten, tied up, and strangled by them before she was buried in a shallow grave without being found for two weeks. One of the guys even admits to ‘vomiting and weeping’ at finding out that she was transgender, and that he hit her in the head with a frying pan. A third teen, who was not a part of the murder, aided in burying the body in order to stay loyal to their friends. In order to lessen the sentence of the attackers, the defense lawyers offered up the Gay Panic Defense.

In 2008, Joseph Bidermann, age 30, was acquitted of the murder he performed. The victim, Terrance Michael Hauser, was his neighbor and invited him to his apartment, though they had never spoken before. Bidermann ended up passed out on Hasuer’s couch, but awoke when Hasuer allegedly locked a grip around his neck and attempted to sexually assault him while a 16-inch dagger was in his hand. Bidermann responded by stabbing him 61 times essentially carving him to death.  He then fled to his girlfriend’s house where he took a shower. In place of calling the police, he and his girlfriend went to the hospital where Hauser went to get a knife wound on his arm treated, and a call to the police was made for them. In the end it was decided that Bidermann’s choice of stabbing Hauser 61 times was a justified way to handle the situation. And how did he get away with this: the Gay Panic Defense.

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(cartoon from SlapUpsideTheHead.com)


What is it about this defense that can cause murderers to get lesser sentences? Is it even valid?

According to data gathered by expert attorneys at NOLO, many courts have refused this defense, but despite that, it has still been used many times, like in the cases mentioned previously. It’s used when a defendant feels that their crime is justified because their panic over a romantic/sexual advance from a LGBTQ+ individual made them a victim, and in an act of self defense they were provoked into temporarily losing control of their behavior.

Courts defend their acceptance of this defense by stating that they don’t want to dismiss the fact that people can be provoked into actions, and they don’t want to charge them as much as someone who acted in cold blood. For them, the romantic/sexual advance acts as the provoking that the defendant needed to feel as though they were being attacked, and it justifies them going off the deep end.

But what about those victims who were walking home alone and were suddenly brutally attacked; or those minding their own business and not interacting with others? Is it fair to say that, because they were gay or transgender, they caused the people around them to ‘panic’ and lose control?

It is true that the opinions of others have to be heard in court, but there comes a time when the law has to decide whether something is fair or not. The whole point of the law system is to settle disputes between people in a civil manner that is unbiased and full of the rights that the constitution is supposed to provide us. But how can the court consider themselves fair and impartial when they are acting in a way that is discriminatory towards a specific group of people?

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Another thing to consider it that the situation can arguably become more or less difficult to assess when the defendant is there behind the stand ready to answer questions, and the prosecutor’s family is the one representing the prosecutor because they are dead and can’t do it for themselves. Is it really fair to say that the person who acted out of revenge for being ‘deceived’ was a victim, but the person who has ended up dead for being themselves is at fault for their own death? It seems that using that logic would be unreasonably blaming the victim for a crime that was committed against them and that they can’t even defend themselves against.

The court has to understand that when excuses like these are allowed in law, it is setting the bar for public opinion and stances on matters. The use of this defense in court reflects a grim idea of the parts of society that feel this is justified, and those hateful opinions are being entertained with its continuation.

We can’t expect for the citizens of a country to fully embrace progression and positive change when it’s apparent that’s not what the law itself is representing. On top of this, it also shows that there are those out there that will continue to use it as long as it’s around. There are those who will see the cases where it has succeeded in reducing sentences and provides people with the out that they need to get away with murder. There is no way that the continuation of this ‘defense’ can be argued in favor of standing for the equality and equal rights of all. If we want to provide a safer, more equal, more just government, then we need to take away these loopholes that victimize victims. We need to take away the Gay Panic Defense.

Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram 

Kiss Me, I’m 1/64ths Irish!

By Amelia Lowry 

In 2012, Instagram was congested with Grumpy Cat memes. In 2013, it was Frozen. And every year, on March 17th, the pictures of everyone drinking green beer make their appearance.images

It’s St. Patrick’s Day — the one time of year when it’s actually appropriate to wear your “Kiss me, I’m Irish” merchandise (and receive zero kisses). This is the holiday to celebrate gingers, the color green, and pinching people. Here we are, finally at the one day where it’s socially acceptable to cozy up to people for money because you’re not a gold-digger, you’re just a leprechaun!

So, who is this Saint Patrick and why is he celebrated by canoodling “Irish” people and drinking green beer?

Well, in the late 300’s, Ireland was occupied primarily by Pagans and the like. It was a less-than-ideal environment for the teenaged Patrick, who was captured from his home of Roman Britain and forced to live in Ireland as a slave. But, despite this adversity, Patrick prayed and communicated with God every day. One night when he was twenty, Patrick received a message from God in his dreams, telling him that he could escape Ireland by going to the coast. Sure enough, Patrick was able to break free and go home to Roman Britain. For a few years he studied under a bishop, St. Germanus, eventually became a priest, and then later on, a Bishop. Thus, he became Saint Patrick. He was called to Ireland, where he felt it was his duty to bring the love and light of God.

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Saint Patrick

At first, people tried to kill him. But once he began to talk, people began to listen — his trick was to explain the gospel using a shamrock, a funny little leaf that everyone could understand. People liked that — after all, it was a pretty clover way to discuss religion. Over time, thousands of people converted to Christianity, and entire kingdoms were evangelized. After a long life of building churches and teaching faith, Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461.

So, why do people celebrate St. Patrick’s day?

For at least one thousand years, the Irish have observed St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday. March 17 usually falls during lent, so one of the exciting things about St. Patrick’s Day was that it was an excuse for the Irish to cheat and eat bad stuff for a day. (Although, if their beer was green back then, people might have gotten more than drunk. Like, probably dead.) The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in America, in 1762. People played music and embraced their Irishness, probably did some jigs and tweedily-doo, had some chinwags.

During the Potato Famine of 1845, a lot of sad and hungry Irish people emigrated to America to live better lives. Unfortunately, America was a little stingy and didn’t feel like sharing space with Catholics — let alone Irish Catholics. So every year on St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish people would hit the streets and celebrate the Saint that made their country what it was, and the “pure-blooded” Americans would sit on the sidelines, angrily waving their “Vote Trump 1850” flags.

There are so many different ways to celebrate this holiday. As mentioned before, parades are historically the way to go, and you can still attend them today. Although, today, the parades seem a bit more theatrical than they were 150 years ago. Another way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is by wearing green! This is particularly recommended if you are of ten years of age or below — you might get pinched if you show up to school greenless. For anyone older than ten, wearing green is still a verybig St. Patrick’s Day tradition (although, if you’re too edgy or if green doesn’t match your ~aesthetic~, don’t worry about it). Some people celebrate by searching for a four-leaf clover. It’s pretty discouraging to search through thousands of 3-leafers for that special little weed, but you might be the lucky 1%! And if all of that is too much work, you can always just go around pretending to be a leprechaun.

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The 251st annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17, 2012 in New York City.

Leprechauns, according to myth, are traditionally crotchety, live alone, and make shoes in their free time. They are said to be about two feet tall. The cleverest of Irish fairies, they can and would do anything to escape human capture. Perhaps this is why leprechauns are everywhere — they are just so relatable. If a leprechaun is caught by a human, they can use magic to make an escape, by simply vanishing into thin air or by granting three wishes. For this reason, Irish people sometimes go looking for leprechauns so that they can have their wishes granted. For a tutorial on how to catch a leprechaun this St. Patrick’s Day, click here. Leprechauns are also supposed to be the bomb at playing music so if you
end up being successful on your quest, make sure to ask to hear some sick beats.

Most Americans obdownload (1)serve St. Patrick’s Day in some way or another — whether they’re wearing green or making a point not to in order to be edgy. While it is a small holiday, it’s a good time to appreciate and be thankful for the liberties we have. St. Patrick had a pretty rough life yet still found ways to flourish despite this (and it is his day, after all). So next time you’re invited to a St. Patrick’s Day party, you can tell everyone what you’ve learned and who this St. Patrick guy really is. Then again, if you aren’t invited to a party, never fret! You can always crawl into a hole somewhere in Ireland and never come out again, and live the rest of your life as a leprechaun.

Amelia Lowry is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram.