The Middle Years by Abigail Herbst

I don’t think there is a single person on this entire planet who can say that they are not at least slightly embarrassed by their middle school self. From awkward physical to mental changes, to bright fashion trends, I can confidently say I did not peak in middle school. Unfortunately for me, I entered a “photography phase” during my middle school days, thus my middle school career is very well documented.

I recently came across a series of photos from a photoshoot I had with a friend after school one day. Needless to say, the pictures were horrific, and for lack of a better word, cringy. Many thoughts ran through my mind. The first being “Oh my God!” to “What am I doing here?” to “Who let me wear THAT?” to “Why did I think that obnoxious filter was a good idea?” While these photos were slightly horrifying, they were extremely entertaining to look at.

Back in middle school, I would have loved these pictures. In fact, I remember confidently posting one in a since deleted Instagram post. Five years later, my reaction is not the same. Am I more self conscious now than I was in middle school? Probably so. Somewhere along the line, my expectations rose, and I lost the confidence I once had in my middle school photo shoots. Today, in the height of social media, there is a lot of pressure to look your best in every day, to come across a certain way online, to have a certain aesthetic. Although they were mildly terrifying, I miss the simplicity of middle school days, where we shamelessly did whatever we wanted and did not worry about the judgments of others. I am glad I have grown out of my awkwardness, but I wish I kept that attitude of not caring what others thought with me.


In Advocacy Of David Simon’s “The Wire” by Renold Mueller

This is not a review in the commonly used sense of the word. Nonetheless, I am literally reviewing a piece of art from the past, in order to recommend it to anyone reading. So, one can call it a review of a sort.

A little background information: I bought a subscription to HBO about a year ago, with the expressed purpose of watching Game of Thrones. When I finished the most recent season of that, I debated unsubscribing; sixteen dollars monthly felt reasonable for seven seasons of one show, but after that was over, it would have been pointless to keep paying if I wasn’t going to be watching anything else. Upon browsing the other offered media in HBO, I realized I couldn’t; there was too much critically acclaimed content there.

For all you readers out there who don’t have very much time for excessive binge watching, I highly recommend HBO above Netflix, Hulu, et al. (if you don’t have a tv with cable, HBONOW is the mobile/browser version of it, for people like me who watch everything on their phone or computer). I know sixteen dollars a month seems steep, but for the amount of great content it comes with, it’s a very solid investment. Sure, it doesn’t have fourteen seasons of NCIS, but on the other hand, it doesn’t have fourteen seasons of NCIS; while HBO doesn’t have every season of all the most popular shows, it does have a concentrated little pool of high-quality series and films, so you will never be as overwhelmed as you are with Netflix. And in that pool, along with Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Boardwalk Empire, Westworld, The Sopranos, and La La Land, is where I discovered The Wire.

While it is regarded by most critics and film scholars as one of the greatest television shows of all time, it seems to be one of those works that everyone has heard of, and has heard good things about, but few have actually seen. In fact, during its entire airing from 2002 to 2006, it had poor viewership and ratings. Only retrospectively has it received the attention it deserves.

In 2002, HBO aired The Wire, former Baltimore crime journalist David Simon’s virtuosic creation about the city where he spent his years reporting. The first season focuses primarily on drug enforcement (as well as trade) in the inner city, the second on workers at the docks, the third on the political structure, the fourth on the city school system, and the fifth and last on the press.

Every season exposes a different element of “the system.” In the police department, for example, all of the police have been trained to follow the chain of command and do their job according to what will move them up the ranks. The cops that try to do so-called “real police work” end up being reprimanded and punished. The higher ups prefer quick, plentiful busts that put dope “on the table” (into their stats) and leave the real major players out on the streets. The show’s title refers to the wiretaps that protagonist Jimmy McNulty and his fellow “real police” carry out throughout the show, in efforts to produce proper evidence against the people pulling the strings.

See, The Wire is an answer to all of the crime scene investigation shows that are out there; there are no high tech, sleek office places where they operate, no everyday big busts on major criminals, extremely limited resources, almost no cooperation from command, and plenty of broken rules. While in most other crime shows, in every episode the difficulty is finding the right person to put handcuffs on, most of the conflict in The Wire results from the police trying to make sure they have the proper leverage to get the key figures they want in prison for as long as possible. And most of the time, handcuffs don’t mean the bad guy won’t be back in the streets before too long.

David Simon’s portrayal of Baltimore is one filled with intricate and fascinating characters, some of whom are good and some of whom are bad, but most of whom are a delicate mix of both. Detective McNulty, who is maybe the best policeman and the only real hero in the entire city police department, and has a slew of self-destructive habits, and no respect for any authority. D’Angelo Barksdale, Kingpin Avon Barksdale’s young nephew, who has a thirst for respect within the gang but balks at the brutality of his everyday life. Omar Little, the openly gay “Robin Hood” of the streets, who wages a one-man war on the biggest gangs that occupy the streets. And my personal favorite, Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, heroin addict, con man, and tramp, who, behind his comedic stumbling demeanor, has a heart of gold and lives a life of weakness and failure resulting in a desire to do good. And the list does not end.

As you may have noticed, the characters I listed above are from varied ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and walks of life, yet all of them are men. It is true that there is a very small handful of complex women in the entire series—however, I am not one to believe that stories can’t be feminist or progressive without a sprawling world of strong female protagonists. I don’t plan on spending several paragraphs explaining how there’s a hidden feminist message in The Wire, though I probably could. But do not let the lack of female protagonists dismay you; I ask you to suspend your preemptive judgment and look at the show for what it is before declaring what it isn’t. It may not be a feminist piece to inspire the next generation of gender equality activists, but it is a gritty, lifelike window into America’s broken system, in a city decidedly east of Eden.

To go into extreme detail about every theme and idea would be as sprawling a feat as it was to create the show itself, but each season leaves you with a satisfying yet sickening burn deep within your bowels, like so many delicious and picante bowls of curry you thought you could handle. From the first episode, it becomes apparent why the show had such a weak following—it’s far too bleak for mass audiences. Any character who stands for change in the right direction, whether they wear a badge or a bandana, may end up being destroyed or corrupted by the system. It is fairly Orwellian when you think about it—and frighteningly close to reality.

Throughout every season there is this theme: no one can break the cycle of the system. Any attempts at change will no doubt result in more of the same. Every season ends with a different montage, showing all the roles established at the beginning being the same as they always were—drug dealers on corners, workers struggling to make ends meet, policemen beating on civilians, politicians lying and stealing to appease their constituents, addicts regressing, children and teachers alike being left behind by the state, and the city standing tall and gritty as ever. In The Wire, much like in our world today, the system always wins.

The Wire will make you rethink everything about the way you conduct your life, about your political priorities, about our culture wars, and about the world we live in, as well as your perceptions of who is and isn’t on your side. Much like the wiretaps that it is named after, it allows you to listen in on the real goings on in the American urban system. And while it was clearly made in a Bush Administration, post 9/11 America, it is as relevant now in 2018 as it was in 2002. After all, nothing has really changed all that much.

Ash by Sofia A-A

In my dreams there is smoke. Smoke billows through my hair, while it makes them cough up blood. When there is smoke, there is fire, and destruction, and ashes, and heat warming freezing air. When there is smoke there are screams and ashes fall onto my face like snowflakes. The air smells fresh like roses. Some of the people cut themselves as they run, they fall, and their blood burns sweetly, sizzles, sweetly. Around me wood crumbles. Red wood crumbles, it falls on my hair and I sigh. It’s so easy. And when it’s over, the smoke carries me away with it, and it’s easy, all done, and we all forget it ever happened, like it never happened.

Later, soldiers march through the main road of the town. At the back of the procession, a man with hard eyes bends down. He pulls a cloth doll from the dirt. The doll has been smashed by many feet, but her button eyes, one black and one blue, are still intact. The man opens his pocket to take the doll with him when he notices the bloody handprint of an infant on the doll’s backside. He drops the doll on the ground. His comrade kicks him in the leg. Keep going. The man spits on the ground and walks on.

Olympian by Mattie Conley

A weight around the neck.


The culmination of innumerable hours,

Minutes beyond count,

Opportunity years in the making.


A show of strength,

Of guts,

Of poise.


How does it feel to battle for that weight around the neck,

To fly or fall,

To finish one length ahead or just a second behind?


The breathless moments of waiting,

Tallying the score,

Glory hanging in the balance.


How does it feel to have that weight around the neck,

To stand tall and watch the flag rise,

To hear the anthem sound?


Is its mass a tie to the ground,

Or a ticket to the stars,

The first of many or a final statement?


A weight around the neck.

It has begun by Indee S.

It has begun.


At 4:53 a cab (white, nondescript) parks before your colorless abode with it’s russet brown shutters (extremely tacky) and I’m in it. This shouldn’t surprise you. For months now Valerie and I’ve been exchanging emails, planning the day I’d be sitting in a stuffy shuttle of perspiration and must, observing your unclipped bushes and unwashed windows (your Wal-Mart garden and over-mowed lawn) with a raised brow. A day where the sun shines at mega watts and over-zealous children (basking in the early moments of summer break) take advantage of the warmth. This day.

At 4:55 the Cabbie (long beard, too many teeth) turns down the radio (Taylor Swift, numbingly annoying) and fixes a pair of green eyes on me through the rearview mirror. They’re nothing like yours, Rueben. These are dull and somber and infinitely weary. These are enveloped by years of wrinkles and cracks. These are blinking rapidly, squinting in annoyance, startling me because they haven’t connected with mine since leaving the airport.  These eyes watch a young girl zip by on her bike as his lips part to ask, “Luggage?” And I think about this for a moment. Shake my head when I decide I can manage by myself and I tell him this.

I say, “Nah, I’ve got it.” And he nods, removing his baseball cap to scratch at a receding hairline, before popping the trunk. The next minute or three is a sequence of trivial motions I forget before I even set about doing them. Me, slinging my two tote bags and excessively large purse over a set of sweaty arms. Me, slamming the trunk shut and walking around to the passenger side window. Me, digging in my wallet, pulling out a wad of cash and handing it to the Cabbie. Me, pivoting on a pair of dirt-ridden Keds and Seattle-pale legs to face your home with a victorious smile.

Behind me, a mound of pebbles scream under the pressure of the retreating taxi and a dog barks in the distance. A boy screams for his runaway ball and a mother tells her daughter to stay out of the street. This is your neighborhood, your sanctuary, your home and for the next three months or so I get to call it mine as well. Ours.

When a car (blue, in dire need of a wash) whips past me, flinging auburn curls in and around my face, I start up toward your house on a pair of wobbling knees. I toss a hand through my hair and look around. Your driveway is cobblestone and your car isn’t there. Your pathway is granite and your grass is fake. Your porch is enclosed and your doors are french. And I don’t knock right away. I’m too nervous. For a minute I just stand there, taking in the white patio chairs and table. The watering pot by that lone plant. The pair of discarded Nike slippers beside the welcome mat. I take in all the quirks that makes this house your home and I love them hard because I love you. I do, Reuben.

I can’t find your doorbell so, at 5:01, I knock. I step back. I wait. And I wait. And there’s no movement behind the doors for a while. Rather the hum of what sounds to be a ceiling fan and the distant buzz of a television.  Maybe a radio? I’m not sure. Either way, it isn’t until 3:03 that I hear footsteps approaching and make no mistake, darling.  These aren’t yours. These are soft and quick and light. These don’t walk, they slide. They glide. These belong to my sister. These belong to your wife. A snap of the latch and one tug of the door later, this notion is confirmed. Valerie stands before me in a pair of dark grey yoga pants and a sports bra. Her hair is a bronze knot at the top of her head. Her chest heaves. Limbs are sweaty.

“Jane.” She breathes and I know she’s been working out. She looks smaller. Prettier. I don’t like it. And almost as though it’s a second thought, she wraps a set of thin arms around my shoulders and pulls me in for a hug. I return the gesture with a loose grip of my own and surreptitiously sniff her neck. She smells of sweat and kale. Nothing like you and I am relieved.  Perhaps the marital strain she’d complained about to Mother a few weeks back is true. Perhaps you really are short-tempered and angry at the world. Perhaps I’ll be the white-winged angel who’ll swoop in to save you and you’ll finally love me like I do you. Perhaps.

At 3:05 Valerie (finally) untangles her arms from my shoulders and when she pulls back she runs a pair of dull green eyes along my face, assessing me. I’m not sure what she sees but whatever it is it makes her eyes narrow infinitesimally. Whatever it is, she makes no comment about it and instead invites me inside. She tells me to set my shoes by the front door and I’m certain that your anal ways have remained. And because it’s you, because I want to please you as much as I can whenever I’m presented the opportunity, I remove my sneakers with not one protest.

While I’m stuffing socks into my left shoe I run a curious pair of green eyes along the foyer. It’s vast but not dauntingly so. A standard though tall set of stairs off to the right.

Hardwood flooring. A colorless coat armoire to my left. A grand light fixture hanging high above my head. Beautiful. Simple. You.

When my foot touches the cool floor and I turn to face Valerie, she tosses a tiny smile my way and plays with her bun.  “Thirsty?” She asks, dropping her arms as though they weigh a ton and I shrug.


Power of the Pants by Sophie Browner

Last Sunday, I had an unexpectedly eye-opening trip to the mall. As I strolled through the messy isles of Forever21, I observed thImage result for flowey pants trend feminisme rows upon rows of pants. I realized however, that the array of pants being shown on the mannequins were different than what I was expecting. It seems that the skin-tight leggings and ripped jeans are leaving the scene, and vibrant, patterned, flowey pants are on the come up. To some this may just be the current trend, one that will be quickly replaced and forgotten when next month’s Vogue comes out. But to me, this is liberation. This is us, standing up and saying we WILL not wear those skin tight jeans anymore.  When women started wearing pants in the 20’s, it was a huge step towards equality (and a more comfortable wardrobe.) Women’s fashion is so interesting to me, the way that it has shifted and revolutionized through history. From Corsets to poodle skirts, then bell-bottoms to jeggings, each style came with its own message. And today, in 2018, maybe comfort is the new “cool.” I think that showing such freeing styles in the media gives a positive message finally shying away from the “male gaze,” which fashion has tended to for far too long. So, ladies, stand tall and wear the pants that make you feel confident, strong, and like the bad ass activist you are.

Where’s the Diversity? by Phillip Kalafatis

Related imageSomething that is severely lacking in Young Adult novels is diversity. Meaning…there is almost none.

You’re telling me that so and so goes to a whole different realm/world/kingdom etc and everyone there looks just like her, straight and white? It is a tired trope that has been played out one too many hundreds of time.

In my opinion, diversity is what makes a novel good. And what I am not referring to is token characters. Token characters are actually worse than not having any. The reason for this? If you are going to have a person of color as a character, that’s great, but if they are delegated as a servant or as a maid…what are you doing?

Perpetuating stereotypes in a novel that doesn’t even take place on this world, while claiming it has diversity is plain and simply wrong.

Wrong on the level that diversity is not about including people that already exist. It’s about writing about the world we live in. People of every race, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and religion exist. They exist and authors who turn a blind eye to this, who build worlds that exclude people, or put them in token rolls, are doing their reader bases a grave injustice.

Just Some Things I’m Thinking About

The way society has progressed – from the earliest civilizations and their indigenous cultures until now – has a strong basis in the development of language.  Our civilizations and societies developed from Native beings.  Our language, our tools, and many of our simplest ideas are all thanks to the ways of indigenous peoples.  Diné, a Navajo proverb once said, “Be careful when speaking. You create the world around you with your words.”  So, how has language progressed with societies over time?  To get a deeper understanding of why language is such a strong basis of knowledge in these systems, and to understand the groundwork of this question, I examined storytelling.  Many legends contain values that form the basis for Indigenous regeneration, politics, and governance.  Language is the most indispensable way that cultural values are communicated, preserved, and passed down, and is a crucial link to indigenous knowledge and the survival of a culture.

Take the indigenous Tibetan story titled, “How the Fox Fell a Victim to His Own Deceit.”  It is the tale of a cub and calf, whose friendship was ruined by a jealous fox.  In the end, the fox was killed as “payback” for altering companionship.  This legend stands to teach the value of friendship.  Libraries today still carry this story, the same story that the Tibetan heads of house shared with their children.

I Don’t Know How I Feel About Rainy Days by Isabela Carroll

I don’t know how I feel about rainy days,

there’s something so set about them. I sit by windows and watch the rain fall against the glass racing each other until they conglomerate together dripping down the window shield.

These drops are dreamy and cold and dark all in one, and like a wet blanket they cover you in the drab weather.  The day becomes consumed by rain, plans postponed by soggy soil, yet there is also a comfort in its presence.  At night, I welcome the rain as it patters against my window melodically embracing me as each beat plays me to sleep.

Or when I’m sitting in the car and the rain is my umbrella obscuring the outside so I may think in peace; It is a justified excuse for why I can’t leave just yet.  In these moments the rain is my friend a pocket of liquid love separate from the rest of the day, restful and pure.

I don’t know how I feel about rainy days, but with most moments set in the black and white list of likes and dislikes rights and wrongs it’s nice to have a entity that sits just as it is.

On the Rocks by Jocelyn Ting

the side walk is icy today.

walking across the front lawn I think it would make nice
desolate plains for an apocalyptic video game.
I think of texting this to a friend then remember not everything has to be texted.

I slog through the broken plains and wish I had taken the sidewalk,
slide onto the sidewalk and wish I had taken the street-
salted, plowed, with perfect friction
I can’t remember when I started walking on the street
Stopped leaping from snowdrift to slush puddle
Did my boots change? Are they no longer something to be proud of?
Was it my hips? Creaking too loudly, uncared for, breakable.

I choose the sidewalk
slip slowly on the bumpy ice
it is not the same, I am too cautious, but I start to remember
when and how and why I loved the ice
my eyes seek ahead to the next glimmering patch
a jewel among the rough, snow
what terrible friction
I step over a dull patch
delight to find the largest ice patch yet
shuffle my feet.