On The Handmaid’s Tale by Caitlin Cullina

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. 

This is my favorite quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I just finished reading over Thanksgiving break. It is about having strength and perseverance, in times of terrible crisis.

The novel is set in a future where the birth rates are so low that an entirely new society is created for reproducing. It is a giant step backwards from all the freedoms of today. And the story is told from the point of view of a young handmaid, she is essentially a vessel for children and that is one of her only purposes. The plot is difficult to explain because the hierarchy of this strange world is very complex, but it is essentially how this woman survives. It also includes memories of the protagonist’s life before the new lifestyle was implemented, and how her it changed as she transitioned into being a handmaid. 

I really enjoyed reading the novel, though it was strange how realistic Atwood made each circumstance seem. There are so many themes and motifs that are timeless, like what the definition of liberty is and what each person’s purpose in life is and where is the life between safety and privacy. It was almost haunting, especially in today’s political climate, reading about rights being stripped away from the people.

I would definitely recommend this book to other people, even if they don’t usually like dystopian types of novels. It seemed far more plausible than some other futuristic sci-fi novels that I’ve read in the past. It reminds me of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. Which is a fantastic book about an alternate path of history in which Charles Lindbergh became the President of the United States as the Nazis rose to power. Both of them gave me the chills but it was so interesting to think of how small things can change the world so entirely. It also makes me wonder about the authority to take away human rights, and how those changes can be justified. 

Body Image by Sophie Browner

“I wore a tight one piece bathing suit under my clothes every single day of 6th and 7th grade to make myself look thinner.” “One time I wrapped my stomach in saran wrap before bed, hoping to wake up with a smaller waist.” “Back in only 3rd grade a guy told me my arms looked hairy like a monkey, and from then on I really switched from just not being aware, to realizing it was a ‘bad thing.'”  “I am 120 pounds and 5’9, and I have always been underweight; but I feel like I have been taught that it’s better to think you’re fat than it is to be happy with your body.” These stories are not glamorous, they are not feminist propaganda, and they are not from a small minority group. These are stories of real people who walk the halls of Shaker Heights High School. These stories are important. 
Right now in English class, I am writing a research paper about the factors that affect body image throughout adolescence for females. I have been asking friends to share personal experiences or stories about their body/self confidence during middle school years. With each line that is sent to me, my heart grows more and more heavy. I have caught onto the simple pattern that everyone has something. As small as a comment that some jerk made in 3rd grade, to skipping meals, or anywhere in between, these experiences have lasting effects on how we see ourselves. Yes, it is an absolutely terrible phenomenon that so many people tell such a similar heartbreaking story. However at the same time, I think that it is comforting knowing that nobody is really alone in this struggle. By telling our own stories, along with current body positivity movements and progressive ads in the media, we are working toward a more accepting and self loving society.

An Existential Stream of Consciousness by Margaret Bart

 I have bubbled over and eaten myself into a meal not unlike Thanksgiving dinner. It was not bland, or bitter, not too sweet, and not good at all. I have never felt compelled to dip myself into hot wax like I do today but I don’t think target sells candles or vats big enough for myself and all that I hold. I write the same lines over and over until I brand my handwriting into my brain and then I am all the exists. What have I done to you Louise, have I forgotten how to spell my own name? I have eaten the ice in the ice box because all the plums were gone and I melt myself into something vast and flowing. What have I done to deserve this skin I wear. Little. I drove a guy to his house and he told me he had it all. I was very happy for him. My fingers hurt, and my friend laughs, and I feed the fish I don’t have yet, and time ticks. I am craning my neck to fit into the car, so we can crawl across this bridge I built inside myself. How many times have I said the word ‘myself’ ? How long am I? How am I doing. Hm.

Would you rather be a fish?

I think I would rather be a fish.

Just a mind, and a spine, and a heart that beats bluer blood.

20 Cent Life by Sophia A-A

                                                                                She is up again

                                                                            Up, up above the rafters 
                                                                   Enclosed in the fondness of distance
                                                   Worlds away from the salty stench of butter and popcorn
                                                             And crumpled tickets and mothers who warn
                                                                   Not to get too close to the elephants.
                                                          Protect her from the gawks, the laughs, the jeers
                                                                Shield her from the gulps of anticipation 
                                                                  Of people who paid 20, 30, 50 cents 
                                                     To gasp as the acrobat tumbles through sweaty air
                                                            Swoops across the audience, transfixed
                                                                                 They stare
                                                          To land gracefully on a ribboned balcony:
                                                                             Arms outstretched 
                                                                                   Smile wide
                                                                                 And forgotten.
                                                                                  She sighed.
                                                                      And if she never came back?
                                                                         Released from the ropes, 
                                                                             The cables slack
                                                                    Something a little shier than hope
                                                         Would draw her to the clouds born of fresh air
                                                                      Would cleanse her senses
                                                                                  Her soul
                                                                             Her smoky hair
                                                                        And while she soared 
                                                                Far from the audience she so adored 
                                                                  Would she know that miles below 
                                                                   “She disappeared, what a show!”
                                                                             Was proclaimed
                                                                           A fresh new finale
                                                                   A life worth 20, 30, 50 cents
                                                            That with a swallow of cheap lemonade
                                                                         Was quickly forgotten.

Living up to the Hype by Mattie Conley

              Just before the end of summer vacation, I found myself in need of a good book, so I grabbed my Kindle and began browsing. As I was scrolling through the current deals on Amazon Prime, I saw that the first book of Game of Thrones was available to purchase for less than a dollar. Several people had recommended the series to me previously, in both book and TV form, so I bought it.
              Suffice it to say, it was a really good read, and I ended up finishing the entire series in short order. Before I knew it, I was already done with the fifth book, the last installment of the series that George R. R. Martin has published. Martin left almost every character on a cliffhanger.
              Immediately after finishing A Dance with Dragons, I Googled when the next book was coming out. Surely it must be soon, I thought, but George R. R. Martin hasn’t give a clear or reliable answer. At first, I thought I would wait for Martin to finish the book series before watching any of the show, but then I stumbled upon a rather discouraging fact: the fifth book was published in 2011. Six. Years. Ago.
              My take on the relationship between authors and their audiences, especially concerning the timing of new releases, is a topic for another day. (Six years really is a long time!)
              It was at that moment that I decided to watch the show. At least, I told myself, up to where the books leave off. However, by the time I reached the end of season five (each season corresponded more or less to one book), I changed my mind. There were several places where the show diverged from the books, and a couple deviations were so enormous that I wasn’t worried about spoiling future books. The plotlines seemed to have taken two very different paths, and I found myself very excited to see how each one ended.
              One of my biggest pet peeves is when a movie fails to live up to a book. Off the top of my head I can’t think of an example of a movie adaptation of a book that has ever lived up to my expectations. There is a lot of plot and character detail and complexity in books that can’t be translated in film. That was part of the reason why I didn’t want to watch the show first; I wanted to get the most out of my first experience with the series, and I was more likely to do so by reading first. 
              After watching the show, I was pleasantly surprised in a lot of ways (though still disappointed in others). There were a couple characters that weren’t given much depth in the books that became some of my favorites in the show. I loved the new dynamics and importance these characters were given and wished that the books had treated them in a similar manner. On the other hand, I felt the show did a couple characters some disservices. For one character in particular (I will not name names because no one likes a spoiler), I thought that the show neglected to properly address their character development, which was frustrating, as that character’s growth was one of my favorite elements of the plot. The show also killed off some characters earlier than they were eliminated from the books (if they died in the books at all), which was especially aggravating. 
              Overall, I did really like the show, even with all the deviations from the books. As strange as it is, the huge splits that were made actually made me like the show more, not because I liked the direction in which the show is going better than that of the books, but because it provides a greater capacity for storytelling. Now, instead of having one single story-line that the show would be likely to butcher, the TV adaptation can develop its plot-lines with greater independence and creative freedom. It is also fun to compare how different variations affect both the characters and plot. I’m interested to see whether the show and books closely converge in the future, or if their differences will prove to be too big to overcome.
              Usually, when I’m asked whether I liked the book or the movie better, I can answer without hesitation that (of course) the books are better. With Game of Thrones, I’m a little more divided in my answer. I love different parts of both the show and the books, though I still think the books are better. Perhaps when George R.R. Martin (finally) finishes writing all the books, I’ll have a different opinion on whether the books are definitively better than the shows, or vice versa. For now, though, I’ll take advantage of every opportunity to immerse myself in such a complex and well-written story.

Thoughts on Art by Renold Mueller

The word “art” is a hard one to use properly, because it includes a multitude of media and wildly contrasting definitions. The technical definition is as follows: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
The problem with defining art is that art defies all limitations and assumptions. Art is a term that can refer to infinite possibilities. Saying something is art is a lot like saying something is a “thing.” It doesn’t mean a whole lot. There are so many media that can be considered art, you can’t really limit it to any finite number of canvases. Even an act could be considered art, if done with creativity and passion.
Even to say “art can have no constraints” is a constraint in itself. Of course art can be free and unrestrained, but the best art does follow rules. For instance, Shakespeare’s plays are most powerful if you understand the rules about meter and rhyme, and even the social rules of the time. And Mozart is average without understanding how pieces were usually written, and his own form that exist only within each piece. Creativity cannot prosper in the absence of limitations––it only works when limitations exist to be interpreted, bent, or broken. 
More tricky is distinguishing between levels of art. When people say high art, they refer to classical music, literature, and art, while low art refers to pop music, literature, and art. It’s the difference between Bach and the Backstreet Boys. High art is lofty and only enjoyed by few, low art is easily enjoyed by the masses. One issue with that is that it makes it sound like one is superior to the other; for instance, if someone claimed all orchestral music is more pure or moving than all pop music, they would be discrediting a huge amount of perfectly good music. 
A notable example of this is John Williams, the famous music composer, who created the soundtracks to countless famous movies, such as Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter. Everyone knows and loves his soundtracks. Yet if you are familiar with orchestral repertoire, you realize many of his most famous motifs and melodies bear striking similarities to famous orchestral pieces, including Debussy’s La Meer, Holst’s The Planets, and Dvořák’s Symphony no. 9, “From The New World.” A group of contemporary orchestral music critics criticized him for making low art of high art. In a move to be taken seriously by high art contemporaries, Mr. Williams composed a series of pieces, all of which were entirely abstract, atonal, and, frankly, not very good. In my opinion, Prince should be placed on the same level as Mozart, and Breaking Bad on the same level as Dickens. 
I have neither time nor space to go into great depth about this topic, but before I conclude I want to mention the issue of distinguishing good art from bad art. I don’t think that it’s good to label art as good or bad based on your personal opinions regarding it, as many critics do, but even worse is to say all art is created equal, because it certainly is not––if someone personally enjoys reading the Percy Jackson series, and they hate reading Great Expectations, to claim The Lightning Thief is a better novel would be folly, whether or not this someone is a freshman in high school. To properly judge art, you have to analyze the goal of the piece in question, and the effect of the piece. If that sounds like too much work, you can always just say “I hated this book” rather than “This book is awful,” the latter of which I hear far too much. Frankly put, Percy Jackson and Great Expectations are two completely different works with completely different intentions. One can only look at each in reference to itself and other works with similar intentions.
Art is complicated. Many people would have wrapped this up by leaving everything up to the readers,  and saying its all up to how you see it, but I have more faith in myself to give a satisfying conclusion. Art is up to personal preference––I cannot claim to be better than someone else just because I’d rather listen to Jazz than Country––but there is good and bad art, beyond the limits of high and low art. Batman v. Superman exists, and it’s an example of terrible pop art. Someone might enjoy it, but it’s still bad art, kindly put. It is not necessary to engage art intellectually to enjoy it. Everyone has the freedom to like what they will like, regardless of its universal quality. However, to judge, to speak with authority about something, requires a lot of consideration and contemplation.

Facebook Live or Facebook Dead? by Mariah Jordan

When most people consider social media, they think of teens double tapping pictures or selfies, tweens sending each other funny memes of cats or old people, politicians criticizing one another about the disparaging state of US domestic policy, or maybe even middle aged-housewives liking videos such as the notorious “Charlie Bit My Finger.” Two decades ago it was not so easy to contact friends and relatives living in different parts of the country or world. But today, because of advancements in social media, we are just one click away from communicating with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Social media is one of the best ways to stay informed. Major news outlets and corporations use social media to deliver news to the masses, long before this news hits the stands. Social media is considered positive by many. I, however, see the opposite. If social media can bring major new stories and hilarious memes to our fingertips, why do I believe it does more harm than good?

From the first live streamed act of violence in August of 2015 when a man used Periscope to stream his murder of two TV journalists, to when an Ohio teenager streamed her friend’s rape on Facebook Live, to when when a Cleveland man broadcasted a shooting spree on Facebook live on Easter Sunday, social media has become a playground for violence. The proliferation of violence on social media illustrates the decline of morality on networking sites.

Live-streamed videos are a mere reflection of society’s fascination for felonious conduct.
We live in a technological age where people want to expose their distorted ideas, sexual perversion, and sadism. When millions tune in to watch, predator’s appetite for violence and fame only intensifies. If social media didn’t grant these people the fame they so badly craved, I can’t help but wonder if these violent acts could have been prevented.

We must return to the time when notorious videos like “Charlie Bit My Finger” had more shares than girls fighting in high school hallways. While social media companies didn’t intend for social media accounts to serve as a platform for violence, I believe, they must take accountability for social networking sites going askew. I challenge CEOs, like Mark Zuckerberg, to take their eyes away from their bank accounts and stop the large presence of violent imagery on social media. Whether this means the development of algorithm flags to immediately detect violent images or the instant deletion of violent accounts,social media companies must fix the problem they created so social media can return to a state of integrity.

I’m Sorry by Isabela Carroll

I’m Sorry 

Words uttered so often that I no longer know the meaning
I take the possession
Am I in this moment
Hear these solemn sounds lose structure
A ringed out paper towel
One curdled drop sitting on the table
Broken baby what have they done to you
They tell you to hide your hips
For your safety
I would tell you that you were born to be gazed at
That you should not fear eyes on you on
But it depends whose eyes on you
I’m sorry.. that this world is so much harder than I made it seem
That this gray toned swirl of cold paint clings until you are just another plastered painting
But I knew that if I told you
Wolves whisper sweet nothings to ease the dripping red on your hood
You’d cling so quickly to that sea of sheets
Covering each peek of skin that would ever reveal it’s you
Until once more your head peeks out in curiosity
And with a tilted grin you’ll grasp onto me
Warmed in my love 
When I look at your hands they are so beautiful
smooth and pale
as you wrap your fingers through mine I squeeze tight
to hear your veins play the rhythmic pounding of your heart
and once this beat has sung you to sleep
I close the door.
One day on the way out the peak of sunlight 
beckoned you
And when you mistook
Burning for warmth
It engulfed you in flames
As those hands dragged up the limp remains of a broke down body
I wished to show you that
when I squeeze to not fear suffocating
for embraces are not meant to be cautioned with a flinch
If only you knew that you will grow from this
That wings are built from ashes
And I promise these hands are still strong enough to pull you up again
though time ticks the years on each knotted knuckle
and those stretched out lines tell stories of your pain
When I touch you
I will know these hands are tired
yet your heart still beats
and your hands are still so beautiful. 
Oh lonely love
I’m sorry that they have been so cruel to you
but before you crawl back to those sea of sheets
I promise
If you are willing to spread your arms out once more
That this wide world is only
waiting to embrace you.  

Donald Trump Is Ruining The Environment and There’s Nothing I Can Do About It – Lily Roth

Donald Trump should be embracing the run to renewable energy.  Donald Trump should not be finding new places to drill and mine for resources. And Donald Trump should certainly not be destructing national parks and monuments to do so. Donald Trump is ruining the environment and there’s nothing I can do about it. On December 2nd, Donald Trump and his advisors will travel to Utah to make a statement about how he will murder plants, animals, and sacred ground in order to create “free” land to obtain nonrenewable resources.  His proposals range from lifting restrictions on activities like commercial fishing to shrinking the borders of national parks by large percentages.

None of this is fair. It isn’t fair to me, the #1 national parks fan, to destroy famous landscapes to get some oil. It isn’t fair to Native Americans when Trump tweets with the hashtag #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth but decides to bulldoze through some of the most culturally important sites to Native Americans. What’s even worse? There’s NOTHING anyone can do.  I’ve called my senator, I’ve written letters, I’ve even organized hiking groups in Cleveland to raise awareness. But none of it matters because on December 2nd, Donald Trump will still travel to Utah and explain his plan to destroy some of my favorite places in this country. Oh, happy day.

Broken Mind by Phillip Kalafatis

I knew there was one in my class. I mean…there had to be.
The Department of Homeland Security had just released the percents. Four percent of people can read minds.
We are always cautioned against exposing the readers, as they may panic and hurt themselves.
I say that’s dumb.
In my first period Calculus class there are twenty-six people. Statistically there has got to be at least one mind reader in here.
Now, some people argue that when the Earth was hit by the gamma wave from the mega supernova of the red giant X-28C, only part of the Earth was exposed to the radiation that altered the DNA of thousands, maybe millions of individuals.
That being said, the theory that I believe, the theory that just has to be true, is that when the gamma rays entered the Earth’s atmosphere, they were traveling at such a speed that they actually went through the Earth. This would explain the mass irradiation of the groundwater underneath Iceland we’ve been hearing about. If my theory is accurate, that would mean that people all around the globe could be effected.
The teacher drones on about who knows what, as I survey the classroom.
I carefully shy my eyes away from my crush, Phoenix. My heart jitters as I continue my scan of the room, painfully consistence of the slope of his jaw and the way the lights set his honeyed eyes ablaze.
I stop my search when I see who the obvious Voyant (the slang name for the mind readers) must be.
Sage Arlyn.
Her onyx hair cut into a severe bob that sloped up around the back of her head. Her eye makeup was an ice white, causing her eyes to pop out from her deep topaz skin.
She was hands down the smartest person not just in the senior class, but in the whole school. I locked my eyes ot the back of her head, and thought screamed at her.
Not any particular word just a mental AHHHHH.
Nothing, no response, she didn’t even flinch.
I pursed my lips and shifted in my seat.
“Intriguing.” I mumbled silently.
I dishearteningly sat back and stared at the board, trying to decipher the math lingo on the board when I felt someones fiery gaze on me.
My breathe hitches as his stare intensifies.
He silently turns away and scribbles something down.
He then gets up and walks towards me.
I freeze in my seat as he walks past and drops the sheet on my desk.
Why did you yell at me?
What? I thought to myself as I watched him loop back to his seat, I didn’t yell at him. I yelled at…
Ice floods my veins as I realize what has happened.
Phoenix is the Voyant and he knows my thoughts. In fact he could be reading them right now.
I jump up from my seat and grab my belongings. Saying something about going to the nurse as I charged out of the room.
Phoenix’s eyes followed me out of the room.