Italo Calvino by Miles McCallum

“Reading Calvino, you’re constantly assailed by the notion that he is writing down what you have always known, except that you’ve never thought of it before…” (x)

No literature is quite like that of Italo Calvino’s. His stories maintain a true liveliness; characters jump out, not as specific agents with predetermined arcs, but as expressions of human essence and inquisition. His characters interact with the world in a very personal and human way. Cosimo, the “Baron of the Trees”, is not born in any extraordinary circumstances but he works in reaction to the world through a specific human desire for freedom. Agilulf is literally nothing — he’s a formless, empty suit of armor. But acts in the virtue of the specific human sense of loyalty and dedication. They don’t create or define their worlds, but instead work in reaction to that around them, and explore themselves in the standards of a place and time they’ve been born into. As he says himself, “What interests me is the mosaic in which man finds himself framed, the games of relationship, the figure waiting to be discovered…”. It’s difficult to balance the mechanics of a story and its real underlying meaning, but Calvino does so beautifully.

The biographies of authors and artists are often just as interesting as their works, and Calvino is no exception. Born in 1923 to an agronomist and a professor, he grew up in Sanremo, Italy on the temperate Mediterranean coast. From coming of age among the works of Marx and Kropotkin to fighting  as a partisan during WWII (only with a blessing from his mother), Calvino helped shape the post-war world through his pen. He began his literary career as a columnist for a communist newspaper, but following the USSR’s brutal invasion of Hungary he grew disillusioned by the totalitarian style of Marxism spreading across the world, and abandon his official adherence to that ideology. Calvino became a world renowned author, travelling to New York and Havana, meeting the likes of Che Guevara and Raymond Queneau — all the while influencing and being influenced by the world around him.

Drawing from his life and perhaps more so the fabric of life around him, Calvino’s literature explores the many questions of existence posed by a new modern world. Unlike many of his contemporaries he doesn’t accomplish this through a melancholy, hopeless lens, but instead from a place of exploration for explorations sake. In any age or time we face questions of identity, existence, and being. Calvino’s thoughts, ponderings, and questions serve as a vehicle for asking these questions in a new world so far removed from that of Aristotle or Descartes. His works offer an exploration of philosophy for a brand new day.

The Bastard of New York (part 2) by Harlan Friedman-Romell

The year? 1986. The month? August. The place? Your apartment balcony; ‘tis a balmy, summer’s eve in The City That Never Sleeps. You look over Central Park, the fleeting sun catches the beautiful reds and golds of the changing leaves. A soft summer wind catches your silk nightgown, gently attempting to whisk you away into the night with it. You wish it would.

 

Five months have passed since your unforgettable tryst with Mr. Sinatra. That night was a whirlwind of passion, sensual exploration, and pure love. He made you feel so young.

But that night is far behind you.

Woody hasn’t come over in weeks. This morning, he drove Soon-Yi to school after a particularly nasty soccer incident left her injured. Such a responsible man, that Woody Allen. What a morally strong individual.

Tubs of ice cream and jars of pickles are strewn across your apartment. Your insatiable cravings for these contrasting delicacies only reinforces your deepest, darkest, fear for the inevitable.

You’re pregnant. And Frank Sinatra is the father.

The phone rings, and you let it ring out. Once. Twice. Three times. He’s taught you how to keep someone in suspense.

You pick up the handset.

“Frank-”

He cuts you off. “I know.”

“What are we going to do?”

“We?”

“Yes, Frank. We. It’s yours too.”

“It? Don’t call my son an it.

“We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl yet!”

“I’m due for another boy, Mia. Don’t let me down.”

“You think I’m going public with this? What will the press think? What will Woody think? We can’t have kids, Frank! He’s infertile!”

“Psh. Big surprise.”

“Frank, what is the matter with you? What happened to the wonderful, sensitive, kind man from five months ago?”

There’s silence, at first. He lets out a long sigh. You’ve caught him.

“Mia, I’m, I’m sorry. Ever since that damn Kitty Kelley book came out, my family and I haven’t been the same. I’ve lost everyone important in my life. Except, except you.”

Zing went the strings of your heart. He has a way of getting through to you.

“Frank, it’s okay.”

“Thank you.”

“I know.”

“I want to see you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I know it isn’t. But I need to talk to you. Face to face. Cheek to cheek.” You hate it when he quotes himself.

“Frank, as much as I want to see you right now, that would be somethin’ stupid. Not just for me, but for you, too.”

“You’re right. That’s life, I suppose.”

“I suppose.”

Another pregnant pause.

“Frank, I have to go,” you reason. “I need to rest.”

“You rest. Goodnight, sweetheart.”

“Goodnight, Frank.”

You set down the phone, thinking this will be the last you’ll hear from Ol’ Blue Eyes. But, in fact, you two shall meet one final time in precisely four months, the night before you deliver your son: Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow Sinatra.

 

Method (by Jake Lehner)

Though I am not an expert by any means, I’ve come to recognize that there are at least a few different schools of thought when it comes to acting. I’d like to share a couple of anecdotes, if that’s okay.

The first major school of thought comes from a Russian theatre practitioner by the name of Konstantin Stanislavski, who is famous for saying “find the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.” He believed that, in order for the actor to fully embrace the character, they must pull from their own life experiences. This technique, called “memory-recall” is one of the many devices that contemporary actors use to shape moments onstage. Intensive research and critical thinking were the most important ingredients in Slavikavski’s recipe for acting.

However, an acting coach by the name of Harold Guskin, who has worked extensively with performers such as Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Christopher Reeve, and Peter Fonda, challenged this notion. He believed that critical thinking is the enemy of creativity, and that the actor must pull meaning straight from the text on the page. The key, according to Guskin, is to make choices without hesitation. The more arbitrary the choice, the better. Spontaneity, flexibility, and authenticity are among the most essential components in Guskin’s method.

I believe that there is a place in theatre and film for both of these concepts. It’s important to learn from experienced actors, because finding as many ideas without any sort of help would surely take more than one lifetime.

The Countdown Begins by Bronwyn Warnock

5 days until Spring Break. 6 days until April. 33 days until prom. 38 days until May. 73 days until June 5th (aka the LAST day of school). It’s incredibly surreal to think that the school year is slowly winding down. It honestly feels like the school year just began yesterday.

As the students and staff begin to count down towards the end of the school year, some people may be filled with anxiety due to college decisions or improving grades, yet others may be filled with happiness. The end of the school year brings exciting events, such as prom and graduation. For some, just the idea of not having to wake up in the early hours of the morning is satisfying enough. Other events at the end of the school year such as Advanced Placement testing and finals can be a stressful time.

Change can be a hard thing to adjust to but the transition from the end of the school year to the summer is a very easy change for both the students and the staff. The seniors of the high school building are especially looking forward to the end of the school year as they have paid the most time at the high school. The effects of the deviled “Senioritis” have already set into the minds of the seniors, who are anxious to be done with high school. As for the juniors, they are working to push through the end of the school year in order to show future universities and/or employers what they can do. The sophomores, and especially the freshmen, are simply just wishing for the end of the school year as they have already gotten into the groove of the year and are anticipating an end.  Once Shaker gets through the “countdown” of the end of the year it will be smooth sailing out of the high school building and onto brighter (and hopefully sunnier) days.

Why I Love Shazam- The Best Song Identifier on Apple by Grace Meyer

 

Have you ever heard a new song on the radio or somewhere random with a chorus that tickles your fancy or strikes you as incredible, no matter how simple the lyrics are? The kind of music that refuses to leave your thoughts and hooks you on the first note? Have you been dying with curiosity to find out its name, but don’t want to ask your friends in hopes of not seeming out of the loop? If so, I recommend checking out the app Shazam. It has millions (I’m pretty sure) of songs stored in its memory so after a couple seconds of listening, it automatically pulls up information about it! I can remember at least one instance where I let the opportunity of finding out the name of a song go by, and I wish I would’ve found out about this app earlier (although it is free, if you have an Apple device asking Siri works perfectly fine too). However, if you get no results, the song was probably recorded only for the purpose of a movie or other entertainment purposes, which is the only disadvantage. Some songs are too obscure to be well-known, but the chance of this happening is pretty low. If you get the chance, Shazam will be worth your while (this sounds so much like an ad, sorry).

Hundreds of Playlists by Molly Spring

In times of joy, happiness, despair, or frustration, I turn to music. I, myself, have never played an instrument besides the recorder in the second grade; however, I consider music to be one of the most important parts of my life. Music teaches us about each other. Music can captivate, amaze, heal, and move you in such a way that nothing else can. Some of my best memories I can attach a song or artist to and I am reminded of the same smiles and laughs when that first note plays. I have made hundreds of playlists in my life. Playlists that convey an array of emotions, playlists that represent certain times of my life, playlists that bring a strong sense of nostalgia or a smile to my face. I journal in playlists. Each month, sometimes each week, I create a new playlist of all the music I’ve discovered that month, playing it constantly until I get sick of each song. Music is therapy.

 

Jeanne Calment by Josh Skubby

The oldest person ever recorded is Jeanne Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122 years (and 164 days) old. She was born in 1875 and lived until 1997.

That’s ridiculous. It’s also really hard to comprehend.

She was born a decade removed from the American Civil War, and died a few short years before 9/11. When World War II ended, she was 70 years old. Then she lasted another 50 years. She lived more than two lifetimes, especially by 1875 standards.

Let’s run down a list of things she experienced.

She was a young woman when the Wright Brothers first took off from Kitty Hawk in 1903. The world became a hell of a lot smaller in the following decades. Over her life. she saw airplanes revolutionize the way we travel.

Thomas Edison tested his first light bulb in 1878. Nowadays, light bulbs have taken over the developed world. It’s hard to imagine an American home without them.

Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for the telephone in 1876. Over the next 120 years, it spread like wildfire and connected humans in a way never done before.

Basketball wasn’t invented until 1891. In the 1996-97 season, Michael Jordan was on his way to his 5th championship.

Geopolitically, she saw almost everything there is to see. The second wave of colonization effectively began with the Berlin Conference in 1884-85. She saw the scramble for Africa, World War I, World War II, de-colonization, and the Cold War’s beginning and end. We think of all these events as somewhat separate, with certain links connecting them. Although their circumstances differ, Jeanne Calment witnessed them all.

Imagine living that long, with the world around you transforming in so many different ways. She must have met so many different people and heard so many different stories.

With so many years, however, she lived through plenty of tragedies. She only had one daughter and one grandson. Her husband, Fernand, died in 1942. Her daughter, Yvonne, died in 1934, on her 36th birthday. Her brother, François, died in 1962, while her son-in-law, Joseph, died in 1963.

Her only grandson, Frédéric, died in August 1963 in an automobile accident. Of all the things she lived through, I’m sure that stung especially hard. He was 37.

Imaging being old as long as she was. If we consider 70 to be old, she was old for over 50 years. It makes you wonder; how long is too long?

Peace, Love, Plants by Ava Byrne

I am a self described plant mom. I have around fourteen potted plants at various places around my room. The other day, I was thinking about how I would have to leave most of my plants at home when I go to college. I was so sad and of course the obvious course of action is to buy another plant, which is exactly what I did. So I thought why not write my blog about plants. My plant obsession started a few years ago with a succulent and my collection grew to the 14 assorted potted plants I have today. In my humble opinion I think everyone should have at least one potted plant. Here’s why.

  1. They’re super cute. You cannot argue with me on this. Need to spruce up your room? Boom potted plant.
  2. They reduce anxiety and stress- According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, interacting with houseplants, like touching, watering, etc, can reduce physiological and psycological stress.
  3. You can give them silly names. I personally have an Aloe Vera plant named Queen Latifah and a cactus named Jorge.
  4. It feels nice to take care of something and see it grow.
  5. Your parents won’t let you get a dog? Fill that puppy shaped void in your heart with lots and lots of plants.

First Reflections by Ian Marr

Though it feels as if the school year is still young, I can see my cap and gown waiting. It’s hard to grasp that my time at Shaker Heights High School is drawing to an end. When I was an underclassman, I dreamed of this year, expecting it be fun, carefree, and unpredictable. If I was right about any of those things, it would be that this year has been unpredictable. I’ve had grueling homework assignments to complete, auditions to prepare for, and I’ve pulled three all-nighters in a row just to barely keep my grades above water. Indeed, it seems that senior year is far from what is expected by many students. The year steadily moves forward, assignments come and go, previously established relationships strengthen or fade, until it all eventually just… stops.

It almost seems like some sort of cruel experiment. In your freshman year, you’re thrust into an unfamiliar environment with hundreds of others just like you. As the years gradually progress, you begin to see how you stack up against other students. You watch clusters of students rise to the top, while many fall behind, all while you try to decide which area you’re going to land. You build friendships and close bonds with others. Some become stronger through the toughest of times, while others are destroyed by jealousy or neglect. Perhaps a significant other enters the fray, and with them an idea of a future that may not ever become reality. As the years continue, emotions are tested and become stronger, assignments become more challenging, and the pressure to do well and gain respect increases, until the final day, where old friends smile and part ways, marking the start of a new chapter of life. At the end of this journey, when I will carry these memories with me to my next destination, I will ask myself if this was all worth it. The culminating experience that these four years have brought me will surely remain in my memories forever. Whether or not it will leave a positive or negative impact still remains to be seen.

After all, I haven’t even started college yet. Who knows what changes those years will bring?

I Am in Control by Claire Ockner

I am in control, at least that’s what I tell myself

I control these words,

I control the steadiness of my breath,

I control what I say, what I do,

And when I do it.

 

I control what I think, don’t I?

Or do you — the part of me that is not me,

The part I can’t control.

Breathe in, breathe out

I am in control.

 

They’re just busy, I say

No, they’re dead, you reply

And then I spiral and spiral

And it just won’t stop —

Breathe in, breathe out

I am in control.

 

I keep you safe, you tell me

All you do is hold me back

From everything, absolutely everything.

Breathe in, breathe out

I am in control.

 

You are gone, for now

I’m sure you’ll come back, though

Today is mine, and mine only

I am in control.