It’s Never Too Late To Skate

Many assume ice skating is solely dedicated for young individuals who possess ample strength, endurance, and agility necessary for such a graceful sport. The combination of a bone-chilling rink, slippery surface, and a natural fear of injury all make skating extremely daunting to any inexperienced onlooker, especially one of advanced age.

But Leslie Bryan, 65, and Charles Luce, 72, prove otherwise. The Weehawken residents are avid ice skaters at the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, New Jersey. This inspiring couple defies all stereotypes of age and ability, confident in their skills as they savor every exhilarating moment on the ice. While their love for skating has been fueled by different driving forces, there is no doubt that the sport has left a profound and positive impact on their lives.

Lost and Alone

Careful to only move one muscle at a time and make as little sound as possible, I began to inch my way out of the dark confines of the cave. I placed a shaky paw onto the grass and pushed my body into the sunlight, exposing myself to a vast expanse of unfamiliar territory.

On high alert, I followed my nose to the distinct aroma of fresh water. I made sure to stay hidden beneath the foliage, bristling in fear at every unknown sound and smell. But once I caught sight of a small stretch of water, thirst overcame me and I bounded full speed to the sparkling surface.

I dove into the lake, purring in satisfaction from the delicious taste after suffering from days of thirst. But despite the revitalization I received, I could not shake the loneliness that remained. I racked my brain, desperate to recall anything of my life before I was abandoned in the cave, but I felt nothing but emptiness.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the snap of a twig and I found myself face to face with a small hairless creature. I bared my teeth and hissed in intimidation, but before I could pounce, a larger creature appeared and released a horrid blood curdling scream. I darted off in time to see the large creature whisk the smaller one away, retreating as fast as its two legs could carry it.

I realized in surprise that they were running from me. Power surged through my veins as I realized my ability to inflict fear on these strange creatures. I scoffed at their stupidity. Arrogance replaced my loneliness and I set forth to find the creatures to terrorize them.

I followed their trail and reached a clearing filled with rows of cave-like dwellings. I watched in confusion as dozens of creatures came in and out of the dwellings, communicating with odd gestures and unusual sounds. This must be where they live, I concluded.

Teen Angst

While listening to the song “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes, I was inspired to express my low spirits in a poem, incorporating the lyrics (in italics).

All the feelings built up inside
Hard to express, yet hard to hide.
Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
Overwhelmed and insecure
, the tears start gushing.
As waves of sadness come crashing down
You get lost in a sea of emotions and drown.
No medicine, no cure
Nothing to relieve the pain you endure.
No one can see the angst consuming your heart
Alone is where you fall apart.

Are Humans Primarily Driven by Self-Interest?

I will be competing in a new debate forum at my first speech and debate tournament of the new year. ‘Big Questions Debate’ is a new format which presents students with a complex worldwide question and each student is required to debate both sides of the resolution. Big Questions Debate will not only help advance my knowledge and promote interest in learning more about a subject matter but it will also enhance my debate experience by encouraging and challenging me to engage in life discussions that may not align with my previously held beliefs and values.

The Big Question Debate for this weekend’s tournament is Resolved: Humans are primarily driven by self-interest, and here are my arguments for both sides…which side do you agree with?

I. AFFIRMATIVE SPEECH
Psychological egoism, the idea that humans are motivated by self-interest and selfishness, is highly prevalent in society. Despite having good morals or values, at the end of the day, the most important person to you is yourself.

Skating Promotes Fitness and Good Health

The Journal Publications, January Issue
https://www.thejournalnj.com/publications-monmouth-county/holmdel-journal/holmdel-current-issue/


The editor of my local paper asked me if I was interested in writing another article for its publication. The theme of the first issue for the new year is ‘Health and Fitness’. I immediately embraced the opportunity as it is THE perfect time to introduce skating as a new and fun exercise for everyone to learn. Also, January is National Skating Month and it’s a great time to promote interest in skating and support US Figure Skating’s annual celebration of the sport.

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'Reader in a Lost World" Review

My tenth grade English teacher and advisor, Dr. Holden, recently published an article, “Reader in a Lost World”, (http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/reader-in-a-lost-world/) for The Marginalia Review of Books which is an online international review of academic literature on history, religion, and culture. As I was only exposed to his writing in the classroom, I was curious to read what he had to say and discover his purpose and technique as an author.

While reading about the misconception students and teachers have about writing an essay, I found myself nodding along in agreement. As I was trained to do so, I naturally formulate arguments in the standard five paragraph format. Although I often struggle to adhere to its boundaries, I continue to submit essays in this format without a second thought. However, reading this essay made me open my eyes to the truth - literature has no formula. Therefore, I should not be following one. I found this incredibly enlightening to learn about as I can apply this newfound knowledge to my own writing.

Today’s modern generation currently suffers from a lack of literary comprehension. Beginning at a young age, the classic five paragraph essay structure is ingrained in students’ minds, creating an illusion that any deviation from this norm is not acceptable. However, strict adherence to this standard format does little to enhance students’ writing abilities; rather, it creates a model they feel they must conform to which prevents them from elaborating on creative thought. As students focus on writing within this specific format, they lose sight of the true purpose of an essay. Far from merely serving as a tedious school assignment, the essay embodies a thought-provoking use of the mind “engaging with something real.”

The art of producing a well-written essay comes from one’s ability to read. As reading is the foundation in which all forms of literature is built upon, “the essayist is [therefore] … an image of the reader.” Reading also serves to convey new experiences, connecting human minds and providing insight into one’s inner thoughts through his/her subjectivity. “By reading we encounter life as another,” in which our opinions and perspectives are affected by the words we read.  

Because an essay intends to address a specific topic or object, “it is the generic form of subjectivity.” The writer strives to imprint his perspective of the subject on the reader, therefore influencing the reader’s subjectivity with his own. To do so successfully, the writer must have full freedom to explore and express his thoughts - and this is why the five paragraph essay fails. One cannot create a compelling piece of writing by conforming to restraining boundaries. In the grand scheme of things, the essay serves a much more significant purpose than what is taught in the classroom.  

Written with colloquial yet sophisticated diction, Dr. Holden draws on his experience as a teacher to express his perspective on the purpose and significance of an essay. He uses direct literary references to connect his argument with characters/storylines that readers are familiar with. In the sentence, “It is the crack in the wall through which Pyramus and Thisbe—or any two people—can speak,” Dr. Holden includes Greek mythology to further enhance his argument. To provide more substantial support for his reasoning, he also cites well-known writers such as Kant, Montaigne, and Emerson to logically appeal to readers.

Crazy Rich Asians: We are Asian, Hear Us Roar!

I can’t remember the last time I went out to see a movie with my whole family…was it when I was 10 yrs old?…12 yrs ? My brother and I got dragged out on a Saturday night, the one night I usually block off to hang out with my friends, to see “Crazy Rich Asians.” My father had been excessively talking about this new movie, explaining the importance of supporting the first all-Asian film in 25 years. So on one of the rare nights he was off from work, my family took a trip to the movie theater. I admit I did not know what to expect at first, but I was immediately captivated by the Chinese music once the movie began. As I laughed and cried, I was pleasantly surprised at how touched I was by this film. I was especially impacted by the strong feminism portrayed in the movie with powerful female characters dominating the storyline. As each woman acted as a direct inspiration to me, I was compelled to further analyze the characters and their characteristics.

http://publications.myranney.org/torch/2018/12/12/crazy-rich-asians-we-are-asian-hear-us-roar/

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Girl Scouts- It's a Whole Lot More than Cookies

The Holmdel Journal Publication, December Issue
https://www.thejournalnj.com/columns/teen-scene-emily-chang-girl-scouts-its-a-whole-lot-more-than-cookies/


I am so honored to be selected by the CEO of Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore to write an article for the community paper about Girl Scouting and its mission and values. Given the country’s current challenging and hostile environment, it is essential to discuss programs that encourage love, compassion, and giving to promote peace and unity among our fellow citizens.

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'Human Flow' Documentary Screening

A hush fell over the crowd as the lights dimmed. Every audience member’s eyes were glued to the front of the room, as if locked in a trance. As images of innocent families enduring immense suffering filled the screen, raw emotion was present on every viewer’s captivated face.

On Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. in MAN 105 of Brookdale Community College, students and residents of Monmouth County gathered to watch “Human Flow,” an emotional and informative film depicting the greatest human displacement since World War II. In the documentary, filmmaker Ai Weiwei travels for one year through 23 countries to capture diverse yet urgent stories of innocent people forced to leave their homes.

Viewers received insight into refugees’ physical and mental struggles as they witnessed them desperately trying to escape famine, poverty, climate change and war. Scenes depicting police brutality, sick and injured individuals, dying children and blood curdling screams deeply affected the audience. Almost in tears, one viewer claimed the film was “two hours of full misery,” due to the vivid imagery of human mistreatment.

“[The film] was very impactful because I went through that,” a young man in the front row courageously spoke up, reflecting on his own experience as a refugee. He was especially affected by a scene where a young boy was promising his brother that he would never leave him, no matter how bad things got. The spectator explained how touching it was to see love and family prevail in the midst of disaster.

Professor Ashley Zampogna-Krug, who led the film discussion, was “stunned by the sheer resilience of human nature.” Watching the film was incredibly enlightening to her, she said, opening her eyes to humans’ unbelievable ability to persevere despite such detrimental and seemingly hopeless scenarios. In the film, one refugee explained that “if there is will, nothing is impossible.” Seeing positivity in such a treacherous environment was extremely inspiring and encouraging, audience members said.

However, the film proved that humanity did not necessarily favor people. Debbie Mura, a journalism professor from Toms River, recalled a scene where refugees chose to feed stray dogs and horses rather than give the food to the starving people. “[This] shows how much we care about animals and not human beings,” she said.

Despite the film’s success in stimulating intense emotions among viewers, the audience found fault in certain production qualities.  “From a cinema point of view,” one said, “it was very difficult to follow, which made it lose some of its impact.” She criticized the subtitles for being too small and fast, preventing her from being able to understand certain scenes, especially ones spoken in foreign languages. Nodding her head along in agreement, another viewer added that the film was “a little long on a production note.”

While response of the film consisted of mixed opinions, one belief remained the same. Every audience member was incredibly touched, as the film triggered emotions of sadness and sympathy for the suffering refugees. Voicing the thoughts of every person in the room, one man said, “watching this was an eye opener to appreciate all you that have.”

A Memory's Accuracy

Carey, Benedict, and Hoffman, Jan. “They Say Sexual Assault, Kavanaugh Says It Never Happened: Sifting Truth From Memory.” The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2018

After hearing about the charges against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I decided to do further research to gain a better understanding. I came across an article that analyzed scientific elements of memory to explain the case which I found incredibly enlightening and changed my perspective on the situation.

In light of the serious sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh, experts have taken a closer look into the science and accuracy of one’s memory. Although multiple women have come forward claiming Kavanaugh attempted rape, Kavanaugh continues to deny allegations that he was responsible for such actions. This makes people wonder what the real story is and who to truly believe. Studies have proven that memory is selective, and its details lose accuracy over time. The brain “encodes” emotions and sensations that the person endures in the moment, affecting individuals in the same situation in different ways. Timing of memory retrieval is also a crucial factor because this can affect the accuracy of memory. Random senses, situations, and words may trigger a certain memory and allow a person to suddenly recall things they did not think about before. In this situation, alcohol plays a role as both sides were intoxicated. Alcohol affects one’s memory and often leaves a person unstable and delusional. This brings into question the credibility of both Kavanaugh and one of the accusers, Dr. Ford, since they both consumed alcohol and therefore their stories are not necessarily accurate. Both Kavanaugh and Ford strongly stand by their case and believe they are telling the truth, however their side of the truth may be distorted by their memory/interpretation of the situation.

Memory and the accuracy of one’s memory plays a pivotal part in both Kavanaugh's and Ford’s credibility. There is no true evidence to prove either side, so recollection of events is all that the court has to go by. I think it is really important for Americans to understand the science behind memory before jumping to conclusions. In any situation, people should be fully informed on both scenarios before forming an opinion and choosing a side. After reading this, I personally support Ford in her case. She was able to remember this event after 36 years because it was so traumatic to her, whereas Kavanaugh may not remember it because he was drunk and unhurt. “Experts suggest, there are scenarios in which someone could have committed an assault and yet also have almost no memory of it.” Kavanaugh may be telling the truth, but his version of the truth may lack certain memories.

Despite writing about such a controversial topic, I was struck by how the authors, Carey and Hoffman, maintained an unbiased tone throughout their article. They focused on the facts that were provided without ever once letting their opinions or emotions get in the way. They used credible research and statistics from scientists and experts to provide readers with as much information as possible. By providing the facts, readers had the opportunity to formulate their own opinions on the situation.

Guinness Oyster Festival

The warm September air was filled with nothing but laughter, singing and cheers. The usual traffic was replaced with happy families, enjoying delicious food and unique shopping. As summer officially came to a close, the streets of Red Bank came to life.  

The ninth annual Guinness Oyster Festival took place on Sept. 30, 2018 from 12-7 p.m. in the White Street Municipal Parking Lot. Modeled after the Galway Oyster Festival to celebrate the beginning of oyster season, this popular street festival in Red Bank was once again a huge success.

The event served as a “culinary feast,” showcasing Red Bank’s restaurant dishes, as well as food from vendors. From lobster rolls to oysters to fried oreos to chocolate bacon, there was an option for everyone. Food vendors were so popular that their lines took up almost the entire width of the street.

One food vendor sold various flavors of gourmet pastry dips. This family business explained how fortunate they were to discover the event through the Internet because it rewarded them with enormous publicity.

“[It was] a very great experience. We’ve had a lot of business and the people were really nice,” said 19-year-old Alyssa Cassisi from East Brunswick, one of the workers running the stand. “We would love to come back next year.”

The festival was also kid-friendly. The roads were closed and guarded with police officers to ensure a safe environment. Freshly painted faces and twisted balloons made frequent appearances as kids excitedly scampered through the streets. They were drawn to carnival rides, a bounce house and for the first time, a petting zoo.

Two stages provided space for live music, seating and dancing. The music consisted of a mix of Irish, blues, funk, pop, rock and roll and more. Vendors also played a major role as people purchased unique items, such as jewelry, clothes, hats and other nick-nacks.

Some stands were designated for good causes. Many charity stands that worked to raise money and raise awareness.

Orphan Outreach solicited donations in order to fund international travel and medical mission trips.

However, not everyone received the desired results. “The people are quite stingy, for whatever reason,” said Dianne Berg, 52, of Toms River, a volunteer for Orphan Outreach.

This festival was so popular that people even crossed state lines to be there. Barry Allen, a 59-year-old from Philadelphia, travelled two hours to attend with his wife. This was his first time and he was incredibly pleased with the experience. “This was a great event,” he said, “with great food and great music.”  

'Let Teenagers Sleep In' Review

As I begin my junior year in high school, I am already experiencing the mounting stress and anxiety of this critical year and sleep is definitely something I don’t get enough of. Although I already knew how important sleep is, I was surprised to discover how extremely crucial it is for teenagers specifically. We often sacrifice our sleep for more pressing things, such as homework, extracurriculars, and social life. However, we fail to consider the repercussions. As a teenager myself, Henry Nicholls’ Sept 20 NYT article, “Let Teenagers Sleep In”, definitely spoke to me and I felt myself nodding along in agreement to Nicholls’s statements. Although surprising, his claims definitely made sense. For instance, his scientific evidence proves why I have a habit of sleeping in so late. I am glad to finally have credible evidence stressing the importance of sleep and explaining my sleep habits.

Due to the education system, increases in technology, and biological changes, teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation, preventing them from receiving the necessary 8 hours of sleep. As teenagers’ brains are still developing, lack of sleep negatively affects their mental and physical health, potentially leading to serious issues such as mental illness, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more. Studies have proven that schools start much too early and this causes students to lack focus and attention in class. Technology is also an issue because of the difficulty for teenagers to resist the lure of their electronic devices. Blue light emitted from such devices suppress melatonin levels, the body’s critical sleep hormone. Teenagers’ biological makeup also comes into play because as bodies experience puberty, they develop a natural, uncontrollable tendency to stay awake later and sleep in later. These factors contribute to the sleep deprivation that teenagers suffer from, leaving drastic damages on their overall health and well-being.

Nicholls begins his article with an enticing lede, posing a question to get readers immediately interested. After this descriptive hook, he dives right into his argument, presenting solid statistics to begin on a strong note. He takes a clear stance from the start, fully supporting the fact that teenagers need more sleep. Nicholls successfully uses pathos, causing feelings of sympathy to arise among readers, especially in parents. He also presents cold, hard facts as evidence to support his argument, demonstrating the use of logos. As a high school science teacher, Nicholls is able to use not only his academic knowledge, but also is personal experience that he draws from his teenage students.

Art and Fashion in Skateboarding

By: Emily Chang
Please note fictional names were used to protect the privacy of individuals. Happy Reading!

Golconda Park is adorned with a variety of beautiful stickers, bringing color & culture to the park

Golconda Park is adorned with a variety of beautiful stickers, bringing color & culture to the park

A rainy Tuesday morning in Brooklyn does little to stop people of all ages as they make their way to Golconda Park, the hottest new spot in town. Colors flash by as participants skillfully fly into the air performing tricks and perfecting their technique. Dressed in baggy attire, gliding on embellished boards, these people are easily identifiable: skateboarders.

For as long as skateboarding has been around, art and fashion have followed. This huge aspect of skateboarding culture is often under appreciated and even looked down upon by conventional society, but these skaters’ artistic talents are often not given nearly enough attention.

“Why be boring?” said John Garcia. The 20-year-old from Fort Greene, Brooklyn explained how much he loves seeing people use their artistic eye to create sensational effects in both art and fashion. He, along with other skaters, believes skateboarding doubles as both a sport and a form of individual expression.

The beautiful designs that adorn boards are unique to each skater, giving individuals their own personal, creative outlet to explore various designs and patterns. Using their boards as their canvases, skaters can express themselves through colors, designs, and sticker selections.

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Stickers are one of the most recognizable characteristics when referring to art in skating. As described by Garcia, they are a “sign of creativity.” They are a key element in the decorative process, appearing in every shape, size, and color.

Skaters select stickers based on personal preference - many stickers have undercover meanings and symbolic references, while others are chosen simply for the overall aesthetic. Popular sticker trends include rebellious slogans, favorite animals, and memorable locations.

Steve Rodriguez, the 47-year-old creator of Golconda Park as well as an avid skater himself, referred to each board as a “personal DIY gallery” of stickers.

“Stickers have always been a part of skateboarding,” Rodriguez explained, due to the fact that almost every participant uses them to customize his or her board.

Stickers also function for advertisement purposes, allowing skaters to show off their favorite brands. Neff, Zumiez, and RipnDip are just a few of the many companies that can be found displayed on customers’ boards.

Rodriguez also mentioned that “a lot of people actually make stickers themselves using sticker sheets,” and garnishing their board with their designs allow them to promote their brand and gain recognition. Not only is this good publicity, but the intricate detailing of brand stickers also makes them aesthetically pleasing and shows off the creator’s artistic abilities.

Besides art, fashion plays another major role in skater culture. Typically dressed in loose-fitting pants, printed t-shirts, and sneakers, skaters aim for a look that represents a cool but comfortable vibe. Not only does the relaxed, casual clothing allow skaters to move around freely, but it also reflects their free spirits.

More recently, urban skater fashion has become immersed in high fashion. Skaters’ clothing choices make a statement, influencing pop culture icons and inspiring new trends as a result. Hunter explained that many celebrities such as A$AP Mob “get a lot of their fashion from skating, you know like baggy pants.” As trends continue to evolve each day, more and more skater qualities are becoming enmeshed in popular culture.

Although skaters’ fashion ideas have become more prevalent in today’s society, this actually negatively impacts them. Companies such as Vans and Supreme which initially existed solely for skaters, have now become huge brands that have expanded far beyond the skating community.

“If skateboarding companies get more popular, they’re going to hike up the prices and then we can’t wear our own clothes. It’s kind of messed up,” said 17-year-old Lisa Tsang from Brooklyn.

For instance, Supreme has existed for 24 years, initially considered nothing but skate-wear. However, more recently, this company has become a reputable brand, especially for celebrities and rappers. Their prices have skyrocketed with shirts, sweatshirts, and hats costing in excess of $1,000.

Like Supreme, many other skate companies’ customers are not skaters anymore. This has negatively impacted the skating community because their culture is no longer uniquely theirs. These brands have become more of a world fashion statement rather than something only skaters share. Lewis Clark, a 14-year-old from Brooklyn, is against this, saying it is “taking away the culture of skating.”

Skaters are also very emotionally attached to the brands which they identify as skaters’ clothes. When Justin Bieber and Rihanna were spotted wearing Thrasher shirts, skaters lashed out in protest.

“ Back then, skateboarding was rejected by the public. People got mad at skaters and told them they are a nuisance to society,” skateboarder Henry Smith commented on Youtube. “It pisses off skaters that (were) ridiculed by society, and now society just seems to take away one of our major companies.”

Even Thrasher magazine’s editor, James Phelps, believes celebrities have encroached on the skating industry. He released a statement that cursed out “clowns” like Bieber and Rihanna for wearing skater clothes.

Despite the fact that popular culture has begun to take over skating culture, this has not stopped skaters from continuing to express their true selves through art and fashion. Aesthetics are a pivotal part of their culture which should be celebrated in order to preserve the “skater look.”

“The most fashionable people,” Smith said, “are skaters.” 

The Evolution of Street Art

By: Emily Chang
Please note fictional names were used to protect the privacy of individuals. Happy Reading!

Walking through the streets of Brooklyn, murals, sculptures, and stickers on every corner never fail to fascinate tourists and residents alike. Adorning walls and embellishing buildings, street art brings a variety of color and vibrance to the neighborhood. Whether seen as art or vandalism, it is a pivotal part of New York culture.

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However, it has not always been this way. Originating underground through the grimy subway tunnels, it took a while for street art to work its way up to street level, eventually escalating as high as buildings and rooftops.

“None of this will ever last,” said Ken Lee, a 40-year-old street art photographer from Brooklyn. Due to the constantly changing world we live in, street art continues to rapidly evolve in synch with the environment and modern society. Different factors both positively and negatively affect the development of street art, making it what it is today.

In the public eye, street art has always received negative connotations, perceived as merely a rebellious act for lower-class misfits. Because it is illegal and offensive to many property owners, it is easy for people to make this generalization. Although these stereotypes may have been true in the past, they no longer apply to every aspect of modern street art.

According to Lee, the negative stereotypes associated with street artists are currently no longer “as strong as you would think.” He claims that all of the street artists he’s met are “wonderful people,” despite the fact that they break the law on a daily basis.

The illegality of street art is actually what brings its allure. Lee describes legal art “like seeing animals in the zoo vs seeing them in the wild.” Illegal art really makes people think about its undercover meaning and what the artist went through to successfully display it. The amount of effort dedicated to a piece shows how important it is to the artist - important enough to risk his or her life.

“The idea of it being illegal is an incentive,” said Raymond Conlon, a street artist from Brooklyn. He claimed that if it was legal, he would not be doing it.

Conlon’s work displayed right next to a surveillance sign- a clear sign of rebellion yet also a huge risk

Conlon’s work displayed right next to a surveillance sign- a clear sign of rebellion yet also a huge risk

People also commonly associate street art with mostly male figures. Although women have been involved in street art since the beginning, the community has always been dominated by men. Recently, however, street art is “being increasingly taken over by women,” according to David Mason, an art historian.

Lee claims that the recent women’s movement is “like a reckoning,” inspiring women to use their voice to make meaningful contributions to the street art community. “I think it’s cool, I think it’s great,” said Conlon, showing his full support of female participation.

Feminist street art displayed in Brooklyn

Feminist street art displayed in Brooklyn

Social media is another factor that has played a major role in popularizing street art, especially among younger generations. With platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, artists have the ability to post pictures of their art for the whole world to see. In a society where everyone’s eyes are regularly glued to their phones, online posts are a great advertisement method to grab people’s attention.

Although Conlon agreed that social media has significantly benefited his career, he admitted there are negative aspects as well. He said that social media “dilutes the quality” of the art, as people will choose to view it online out of convenience rather than experiencing it fully in person. This consequently eliminates the authenticity of the art and sometimes even blurs the message the artist is trying to convey.

Street art also significantly contributes to gentrification, spreading the culture and allowing it to thrive in new places. “Artists tend to be the first to come to a new area,” said Conlon. “(They are) responsible for bringing gentrification in.” Filling streets with vivid images not only brings culture in, but it also helps brighten and “uplift a community.” The artwork plays a role in attracting tourists as well as permanent residents, and the neighborhood quickly fills with life.

Gentrification, however, pushes artists out, ridding the neighborhood of their work and culture. Ion explained that as time progresses and apartment prices rise, artists’ incomes do not increase at the same level. Artists are therefore unable to financially support themselves in a community that has priced them out.

Because of gentrification, artists are constantly moving and bringing their work with them. As they discover new locations, their art conforms to the different environment, affecting their styles as a result.

Conlon claims that he is unhappy with some of his old work because his “style has evolved.” Artists’ designs and techniques change in synch with the surrounding world, allowing fresh new pieces that reflect modern issues to circulate through the streets.

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However, artists maintain their identity by preserving a strong voice through their work that is uniquely theirs. Despite changes in style, artwork is often easily recognizable due to the creator’s distinct voice.

Despite the myriad societal changes that have affected street art over the course of time, one aspect has remained the same: the artists’ overall goal.

“Being known for your art,” Conlon said, ““and then being able to use that to do good things.”

The Crucibles - Characters that are Flawed but Good

The Crucibles is playwright by Arthur Miller that represents the Salem Witch Trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692. After reading this play for school, I realized a similar theme that was also depicted in The Scarlet Letter. This inspired me to analyze the similar theme in both books about the possibility for flawed characters to be good. 

People often find it difficult to look past one misdeed a person is guilty of. However, despite one flaw, people still have the potential to be good. In the Crucibles, John Proctor committed the crime of adultery when he had an affair with his 17-year-old housekeeper. However in the end of the story, Proctor tells the truth and consequently abandons his good reputation. He also sacrifices his life for others and remains loyal to his friends by refusing to give up names. Therefore, despite committing a crime and being the cause of the entire witchcraft hysteria, Proctor was a good person and did the right thing in the end. His situation is similar to Hester Prynne's story in The Scarlet Letter. Although Hester was also guilty of sexual indiscretion, she made amends by creating beautiful needlework for the community and devoting time and money to charity. It was hard for people to realize her actions were genuinely good but , she made efforts to make up for her sin. It is clear that it is possible to still be good despite one mistake or misdeed.    

The Great Gatsby and the American Dream

The Great Gatsby is known as the great American novel and it has easily become one of my favorite books. Gatsby was on a quest for love and he went to extreme measures to achieve his goal and reach success. This inspired me to think about the American Dream and how F. Scott Fitzgerald represented this theme through Gatsby's story. 

Fitzgerald portrayed the American Dream by depicting Gatsby's difficult journey from rags to riches in attempt to win the girl he desires. The American dream is about reaching one's full potential and prosperity which is exactly what Gatsby does. He is stuck in the past and shapes his entire life to reach the goal of being with Daisy. In order to achieve this goal, Gatsby knows he must obtain wealth to impress and satisfy Daisy. The green light on Daisy's dock represents the color of money and Gatsby reaches out to it because it is something he wishes to possess. In addition to becoming wealthy, Gatsby pursues the American dream by attempting to achieve moral perfection. He models his life after Ben Franklin's schedule events as shown in the flyleaf of a book. However, Gatsby's journey to wealth did not follow the moral road as he was involved in the illegal liquor business with Meyer Wolfsheim. His actions therefore portray a negative perspective of the American dream because he achieved his goals unethically. 

The Horrors of Animal Testing

Ever since I was young, I have always loved animals. My aunt is a veterinarian and has extreme compassion and empathy for all animals. She would constantly bring over stray pets left at her clinic for my family to foster which further stimulated my love for animals.  A couple of years ago, my family and I had fostered our fifth homeless cat and eventually we adopted him after I was no longer allergic to the cat. Since then, my cat has brought me much companionship and happiness to my life. After spending time learning about abandoned and homeless pets and shelter animals, I became aware of a growing national animal welfare problem. Local shelters get increasing number of animals that must be cared for and these shelters don’t receive enough donations which they can rely on to care for these abandoned and homeless animals. Given my love for animals, I wanted to help shelter animals and make a difference in their lives and was motivated to raise awareness of this growing animal welfare issue in my community.  In 2016, I organized and led a successful animal needs drive at my local animal shelter and collected donated pet foods and supplies. In only a couple of months, I collected over 160 lbs of dry dog food, 20 cans of dog food, 50 lbs of dry cat food, 40 cans of cat food, a dozen bags of dog and cat treats, blankets, pet carriers and many pet toys and clothes. 

Another growing concern over animals is the public opposition to the use of animals in medical research.  I have become a strong advocate against animal testing and have made great strides in spreading awareness and educating my community about the dangers and negative aspects of this research. I used my platform as a staff writer on my school newspaper to speak out against this issues as it is a topic I am very passionate about. 

Locked up, abused, tortured, and killed, animals every day are forced to endure the pain and suffering that results from animal testing. According to PETA, over 100 million animals are killed every year due to this cruel and inhumane process, including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds. The purpose of animal testing is to benefit the future of science by further improving medical, drug, biology, and cosmetic advances, however, it comes at the expense of innocent animals’ lives. There is no justification that makes it morally acceptable for animals to die on human behalf.

Animal testing is meant to benefit humans and the scientific world, so it may seem like the death of these animals is only a small price to pay in exchange for the “greater good.” However innocent lives should not be lost just to benefit humans. The amount of torture and inhumane treatment than animals must endure is overwhelming and unnecessary. The Humane Society states that they are subjected to forced chemical exposure, genetic manipulation, physical restraint, food and water deprivation, pain infliction, ear notching and tail clipping, and more. They are deliberately harmed and usually killed at the end of the experiment. The Draize eye test, where rabbit eyelids are held open for multiple days, is only one example of the numerous inhumane treatments that animals suffer through. This test evaluates the irritation produced by cosmetics, so the product remains in the rabbits’ eyes for long time periods and is unable to be blinked away. Another test, known as the lethal dose 50 test intentionally causes the death of 50% of the animal subjects. These cruel experiments must end because animals do not deserve to be put through such terrible conditions.

Animals differ from humans in many ways, therefore they are not even accurate test subjects and experimenting on them is counterproductive. Due to the anatomic, metabolic, and cellular differences between animals and people, animals are poor models for human beings. The results on an animal can produce drastically different results on humans, which is why drugs that pass on animals are not necessarily safe for humans. For instance the sleeping pill thalidomide was safe for pregnant animals, however it caused 10,000 birth deformities in humans. These inaccurate test results can also mislead researchers into ignoring potential cures or treatments. Aspirin relieves pain in humans, however it is dangerous to some animal species. Vitamin C contributes to treating sepsis in humans, meanwhile it has no effect on mice. It is clear that animals should not be experimented on when they are not even accurate test subjects to begin with.

Today, science has advanced so greatly that it is unnecessary to still use animals as test subjects. Alternative testing methods already exist that can replace the need for animals. For example, studying cells in a petri dish uses human cells, so it is much more effective than using animal testing. Testing on artificial human skin also produces more useful results than testing on animal skin. As you can see, animal testing is not the way to go when humans are perfectly capable of using alternative testing methods that are actually more efficient.

It is clear that animal testing is not only inhumane, but it is also unnecessary. From a moral standpoint, killing and torturing animals is wrong and unfair, and innocent lives do not deserve to be lost. However it is also proven unnecessary because animals are not even good test subjects and they cause inaccurate results that can lead to negative consequences. There are also efficient alternatives to animal testing that can contribute to creating better and more accurate results. Therefore, eliminating animal testing will actually benefit science and make the world a better place.

"The Black Cat" vs "The Tell-Tale Heart"

I love cats!  One of my best friends at school read the short story, "The Black Cat," by Edgar Allen Poe, over holiday break and recommended it to me because she knows I love to read anything about cats. Although its an incredibly morbid story, I immediately fell in love with the fascinating writing style of Poe, inspiring me to purchase the "Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe" book. After reading multiple stories, I noticed similarities between "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" and decided to further analyze their recurring themes. The work of Poe has provided me with a deeper appreciation for literature and allowed me to further enhance my writing skills. He is now one of my favorite authors.

"The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" are two of Edgar Allen Poe's most morbid, yet most captivating short stories. Each first person narrative tells the story of the main characters and the events that caused them to succumb to murder. Although fictional, Poe succeeds in crafting two narratives so realistic that it inflicts fear and horror to the reader. The stories are similar yet different in many ways and these qualities allow the reader to develop a new perspective and deeper understanding of the true meaning of insanity. 

In both "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," the main characters open the narratives by convincing the reader he is not mad. The narrator then proceeds to explain why this is the case, and the story provides justification for his actions. The narrators believe their mental health is critical information for the reader to grasp, causing the reader to wonder if they are really crazy after all. The murder victims of both stories share similar characteristics, for instance, the victims' eye is an important aspect of both. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the entire purpose of killing the old man was to rid the narrator of his cloudy blue vulture eye. The narrator of "The Black Cat" was also disturbed by eyes as he gouged out his own cat's eye and his new cat possessed an eye deformity. The eye is very significant as it is a key factor that leads the narrator into murder. The murderers also shared very personal, intimate relationships with their victims. The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" repeatedly expressed his love for the old man, and the narrator of "The Black Cat" killed his beloved wife and two favorite pets. It was interesting to discover that the thing the two narrators loved most was their object of affection, yet it became the thing they decided to kill. 

Both stories share many differences as well. For instance, the narrator of "The Black Cat" repeatedly mentioned his initial remorse for his actions. However in "The Tell-Tale Heart" the narrator felt little to no remorse - the death of the old man left him unaffected. The personality differences between the two characters was important as well as interesting to note because it shows the contrasting natures of the two. Also, the despicable actions of "The Black Cat" were brought on by the corruption of alcohol, explaining the reasoning behind his madness. The narrator did not intentionally hurt his pets, however it was the result of his alcoholism. Meanwhile, the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" possessed no sickness or disease; his motive to kill was merely his own desire. It is clear that although the narrators of both stories had similar minds and actions, there were differences that separated them as well. 

Poe establishes an atmosphere of fear and horror by using descriptive words to depict images of death and suffering. The excessive amount of dark and morbid language is necessary for a story that revolves around character death. A large portion of the story focuses on the plotting, planning, and escalating events that led to the murder, and this provides the reader with suspense and excitement. The stories are written as first person narrators which provides the reader insight to the characters' exact thought and ideas. However, first person narrators are not always reliable because it creates a biased story. The stories are only told from one perspective and this affects the reader's reception because it is one-sided. 

It is clear that "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart were two exceptional yet horrific stories. These stories shared many similarities and differences and these examples shape the reader's understanding of insanity. Although initially I was inclined to assume the narrators were mad and crazy, analyzing the stories provided me with new insight to their state of mental health. Despite the insane actions that took place, I realized that the narrators themselves were not insane. The reasons behind the characters' actions, although extreme, were understandable and justifiable. Therefore it is important to understand the motives and reasoning that explains why people do the things they do before immediately assuming the worst. 

Significance of Sexuality-The Scarlet Letter, Easy A, Catcher in the Rye 

After reading over 'The Scarlet Letter',  I discovered a common theme in this novel with two other stories I had read earlier in the year for school, 'Easy A' and  'Catcher in the Rye'.  The common theme is the significance of sexuality.

Sexuality is viewed in a negative manner, often perceived as a form of sin. However nearly every human eventually has sex at some point of their lives so if this is the case, then the world is full of sinners. It is impossible to be sexually pure, and those who believe they can be are only deceiving themselves. The characters of The Scarlet Letter, Easy A, and The Catcher in the Rye have come to this realization through their own personal experiences throughout each story. Although they struggled with the concept of sexuality, they overcame their challenges and learned to cope with it in various ways.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne committed the crime of adultery and was forced to be publicly shamed for the rest of her life. Her sexual misconduct was exposed to the entire society, causing people to look down on her and criticize her. Hester made one mistake and was forced to live with the consequences forever. Despite other actions she made to amend for her sin, she was still shunned and there was nothing she could do to be accepted back into society. However, it is ironic because other people of the community were just as sinful as Hester; they revealed in secrecy to Dimmesdale that they committed adultery as well. The people shamed Hester for a crime they also committed, displaying sexual hypocrisy in the story.

Easy A was a story that also had a negative perspective on sexuality. After lying about losing her virginity, a series of more lies began to spiral out of control and Olive Penderghast soon became identified as the school slut. Even though Olive’s initial intention was to help others by lying for them, the other students paid no attention to her good deeds and only focused on her sexual sin. Sexual hypocrisy also played a role in Easy A as the students who shamed Olive were the ones who wanted to see her naked. In another instance, an extremely pious boy cheated on his girlfriend, slept with a teacher, and contracted chlamydia. These two scenarios of sexual hypocrisy show that those who criticized Olive were actually committing sexual sin themselves.

The Catcher in the Rye had a different outlook on sexuality because it was not viewed in such a deplorable way as it was in the other two novels. Although Holden Caulfield did not like the idea of kids losing their innocence to sexuality, he accepted it because he knew it was inevitable. Sex was an unavoidable part of growing up, and even though this disappointed Holden, he did not see any shame in it. However despite this acceptance of sexuality, the story still contained sexual hypocrisy in the sense that an adult was not capable of recognizing his own sexuality. Holden’s teacher, Mr. Antolini, was a closeted gay man who was married to a woman. Even after attempting to make a move on a male student, he was still unable to accept the fact that he was gay and could not embrace his own sexuality.

Sexuality heavily influenced the characters and their development as people, drastically affecting their lives. These three stories have proven that no matter how hard you try to prevent it, all people will eventually reach sexuality and give in to this “sin.” Clearly it is impossible for humans to be purely good because sin and misdeeds are inevitable and all part of human nature. The desire to have sex is innate and extremely powerful, and trying to control this is quite difficult and for some, impossible. Sex is a natural instinct inherit in all humans and animals, and seeking sex with another individual is part of our genetic makeup. Therefore humans will never be fully capable of escaping this natural sin they are born with, so it is better to accept sexuality rather than shame people for it.