The Hawk's Eye

Ahmaud Arbery

On February 23, a young black man was running in the Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood near his home while two white men followed him on his route by truck. As the black man continued to run, the white men tried to cut him off in a truck two times, but he simply ran around it. Then, the truck pulled in front of the black man a third time, so he tried to go around it again. As he ran around the truck, he was met by an armed man who proceeded to let off multiple shotgun shots, killing the black man. 

The victim of this incident was 25 year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a name almost everyone in America knows at this point. But for over two months, Arbery’s murder was not brought to the general public’s attention. Not only did it not get the national press that should have been immediate, but the men who committed the crime were not charged until more than two months after the incident occurred. 

The men charged with Arbery’s death have been identified as father and son Gregory and Travis McMicheal, who said that they did not know Arbery and “did not see him do anything other than run down the road but knew instinctively he was a criminal” (S. Lee Merritt) Even after police arrived on the scene and assessed the situation, the McMicheals were free to go on about their lives. It was only after the video of Arbery’s murder spread across social media that the two men were arrested. 

As much as social media is condemned for its sometimes trivial content, the way it was used to bring attention to a situation that was unknown outside of South Georgia is exactly what it should be used for. All within the same hour, Instagram user’s timelines were flooded with posts mourning Arbery’s death. Celebrities such as LeBron James, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart and many more began posting about the tragedy, which eventually led to the case being brought to a grand jury and the McMichaels being taken into custody. As of June 4th, the McMichaels are participating in a probable cause hearing, which revealed that according to defendant William Bryan Jr, the man who recorded the video, “Travis McMichael declared “F****** n*****” as he stood over the body of Ahmaud Arbery” (S. Lee Merritt), making it more likely that the McMichaels may be charged with a hate crime. 

What is craziest to me about this whole situation is the reasoning why the McMichaels felt obligated to murder Arbery: because he “fit the description” of a neighborhood burglar. Not because they had proof or they had seen him commit such a crime, but because they thought he looked suspicious. Because he fit the description of someone who would commit a crime in America: a black man. 

Rest in peace

Ahmaud Arbery 

1996-2020

George Floyd

1974-2020

Breonna Taylor

1994-2020

and every other innocent black person killed at the hands of racism and police brutality in America. 

How Does Biden’s VP Pick Affect his Candidacy?

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have forgotten that the 2020 Presidential Election is less than 6 months away. With Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race last month, Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee and has begun the vetting process for a vice president. Ever since he pledged that his running mate will be a woman, several names have been floated, and multiple reports claim that he has a shortlist of about a dozen candidates. He needs a well-liked and experienced vice president to solidify his candidacy, and his choice could make or break his chances of defeating Donald Trump in November.

One of Biden’s biggest priorities is getting progressives on board with his campaign. Many have openly expressed their concerns about  Biden, citing his vote for the Iraq War and his previous opposition to Social Security, among other things. To attract the progressive vote, he could choose Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senator and former Presidential Candidate, to be his VP. In many ways, choosing Warren makes a lot of sense. She is progressive, well-known, and has a compelling personal story. However, Warren is far from a perfect candidate. She is 70 years old, and with Biden being 77, many advocate for a younger person to be selected. Additionally, she is not a person of color and would not racially diversify Biden’s ticket. Lastly, she is a somewhat controversial figure within the progressive movement, as many believe her decision not to drop out and support Bernie Sanders before Super Tuesday was fatal to his campaign. 

Another priority that Biden must address is his issues with minority voters. In the primaries, Latinx voters overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders, so if Biden wants to make states like Arizona and Texas competitive, he needs to increase their turnout. To do so, he could select Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. On paper, she seems like an ideal candidate; she is Latina, from a swing state, and young. The only problem is that she is not well-known nationally. 

Biden must also convince African Americans to turnout in large numbers. While they overwhelmingly backed him in the primaries, they failed to turn out for Hillary Clinton in 2016 the same way they turned out for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, so Biden could decide to nominate an African American in order to inspire a large turnout. Many believe that his current top choice is California Senator Kamala Harris. Simply put, Harris checks the most boxes of any choice; she is black (and Indian), is somewhat progressive, has experience as a Senator and Attorney General, and is well-known nationally. Biden could also pick Stacey Abrams of Georgia or Val Demmings of Florida to attempt to tilt those competitive states in his favor. 

Lastly, Biden would benefit from convincing some moderate, “Never Trump”
Republicans in competitive states to vote for him instead of voting for a third party candidate or sitting out the election entirely. He could increase his odds of doing so by choosing Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is ideologically very similar to Biden and has a track record of winning races in a competitive state. He could also choose Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose response to the Covid-19 outbreak in her state propelled herself into the national spotlight. Both of these picks would make logical sense, but would fail to racially diversify his ticket. 

Ultimately, Biden can go in many directions with his VP pick. It remains to be seen, though, whether his choice will be the difference-maker in what many are calling the most important election of our generation.

*Note: Since the time this article was written, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has withdrawn her name from consideration to be Joe Biden’s vice president.

COVID-19 and College Admissions

COVID-19 and College Admissions

Along with other uncertainties, the coronavirus pandemic has left prospective college students anxious about what the future of their education will look like. While current high school seniors are now faced with the possibility of transitioning to a full-time online college education, the members of the junior class are reviewing updated standardized testing policies, attending virtual campus tours and webinars, communicating with counselors online, and hoping for the best. 

Social distancing policies have certainly complicated the college admissions process. High schoolers must work to craft their resumes, brainstorm essay responses, and finalize their college lists without having access to campus tours, standardized testing, or extracurriculars. Because SAT and ACT dates have either been cancelled or postponed, many colleges, including the UC schools and the Cal State system, are shifting to test-optional policies.

In a webinar presented on May 6th, the School’s college counselling team informed juniors about how they are tackling the college application process in response to the coronavirus. One of the major adjustments involves shifting to “deconstructed” college blasts. Typically, the School’s college blasts are in-person sessions that take place over summer to assist rising juniors with resume drafting, interview preparation, and more. However, they are now shifting to fully online modules. College counselor Kora Shin clarified in the webinar, “The Google Classroom modules are meant to point students where they should be and where they will be at various points in the next few months. Remember, this is still individualized.” 

Though the class of 2021 may be entering unknown territory when it comes to the newly revised admissions process, colleges emphasize that they are completely understanding of the situation. Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid at Yale University, assured students that “a community’s response to the outbreak—and a student’s personal circumstance associated with it—will not negatively affect a student’s chances of admission.” 

Holistic reviewing processes are taking on a whole new meaning this year. Students who have gone through (or are currently going through) the college admissions process have heard the term “holistic review” being thrown around constantly, but what does it actually look like? Holistic review refers to a selection process in which a broad range of factors are considered, including extracurriculars and personal attributes, not just academics. This year, personal essays and student transcripts will be the major focus of a candidate’s application, since standardized testing is either postponed or cancelled. Though some high schools have shifted to a pass/fail system, college admissions counselors will still be able to gauge a student’s academic progress throughout their first three years of high school. Some colleges even say that it is very likely that their supplements will include a question relating to how a student spent their time in quarantine and how the pandemic affected them.

Along with the change in reviewing applications, some colleges and universities are also altering the way they accept AP and IB credit. The College Board published a statement addressing student concerns regarding AP credit and testing: “We’re confident that the vast majority of Higher Ed institutions will award credit as they have in the past. We’ve spoken with hundreds of institutions across the country who support our solution for this year’s AP exams.” 

Over 100 schools have confirmed that they will accept AP and IB credits from this year’s exams. While the more selective universities state that they will be accepting scores of 4 and 5 on AP exams and scores of 6 or 7 on IB exams, others state that they will also be willing to even accept a 3 on an AP or a 5 on the IB. 

Due to social distancing policies, the majority of the country’s colleges and universities have cancelled on-campus interviews. This also means that international students will be negatively impacted because of travel restrictions. However, some schools will be offering sign-ups for Skype interviews with local alumni and admissions officers this fall. 

Colleges and universities still depend on the tuition of the students they admit, and while that may mean capping the amount of gap years or regulating financial assistance, they are still relying on student attendance to supply revenue. Some schools plan on continuing in-person classes while regulating the amount of students allowed? on campus. Others have considered having alternating sessions in which only a small portion of the student body is allowed on campus per day. 

For rising seniors applying for fall 2021 admission, there are a multitude of ways to stay engaged and informed on the college process. Attend virtual information sessions and tours, begin brainstorming possible essay responses, and get creative with extracurricular activities. Visit college websites, sign up for college mailing lists, research scholarship opportunities, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Everyone is navigating this process together.

Schooling in a Time of Crisis

Schooling+in+a+Time+of+Crisis

Let’s admit it. School life is anything but normal nowadays. Just a few weeks ago we were spending warm spring afternoons on the patio, navigating the bustling hallway traffic, spending free periods in the library while sneaking whispers to friends, surviving long blocks, and attending assemblies twice a week in the MEW. As the school year comes to a close, we now find ourselves waking up twenty minutes before classes, baking copious amounts of bread, viewing our teachers and classmates through computer screens, and attempting to make it through our afternoons, all while keeping up with the latest news updates. 

The transition to distance learning wasn’t exactly smooth for everyone, and the Division Heads, Assistant Division Heads, and Dean of Academics and Community were hard at work crafting a new schedule that would maximize student-teacher interactions while still regulating screen time. Despite continuous redrafts of the schedule, students are still struggling to manage their time, workload, and stress. 

The initial distance learning schedule that went into full effect on Wednesday, March 18th only outlined the synchronous times. The schedule was designed so that students would be online from between 10 am and 12 pm, each class would check-in two times a week for 20 minutes, and students would receive 10-minute breaks in-between classes. That left students free to do work in the afternoons. 

Based on an overwhelming amount of feedback and survey data from students, parents, teachers, and neighboring schools, the administration decided to make some major changes, including the extension of class periods, alternating synchronous and asynchronous time, increasing the number of club meetings, and limiting advising to once a week. 

In an interview conducted by Sonia Mahajan, Saya McKenna clarified that the administration “didn’t want to extend synchronous screen time beyond 30 minutes because of data and reports of diminishing returns (and other damaging side effects) of excessive screen time. That said, we still imagine that students will be in front of screens for more than 30 minutes, given that a lot of instructional resources, materials, and interaction with peers are now accessed and conducted virtually.” 

Even when social distancing, the School’s notorious amount of homework continues to consume a major portion of students’ time. The heavy amount of work, coupled with the alternating synchronous and asynchronous sessions, has led to some confusion amongst students and teachers. The student feedback, which McKenna reported, stated that “having assignments due before the next class meeting verses at the end of the period relieves stress for a variety of reasons [because it allows for] some breathing room and less time pressure for students who need more processing time.” In attempts to relieve stress and minimize screen fatigue, the administration asks that teachers be mindful of the amount of classwork they assign during the 45-minute asynchronous sessions “so that students can complete their work within the allocated school day [instead of] adding on additional work that cuts into necessary downtime and family time.”

As someone who has relatively good time management and executive functioning skills (at least that’s what I like to think), I much preferred having all of the synchronous meetings in the morning so that I could have my entire lunch and afternoons free to do work. I do agree that 30-minute classes are much more productive and valuable, but I personally find those 45-minute breaks in between classes a bit awkward. 

Many of my peers expressed similar reactions to this aspect of the schedule, explaining that it typically takes more than 45 fully focused minutes to complete an assignment, and having to stop in the middle and come back to it later in the day is somewhat disorienting. McKenna stated, “We hope that the classwork (perhaps the more encompassing term) assigned will be do-able within the school day (asynchronous and homework blocks)… so that’s about 75 minutes of work per class with overflow limited to 30 minutes one to two times a week.”

For many students, including myself, switching between assignments is quite draining because we have to constantly shift our focus from one topic to the next. Though our current schedule is more detailed and fully fleshed out, I’m strangely feeling more unorganized. Nonetheless, I understand the intention of the 45-minute breaks because some students function better with a more structured day. Unfortunately for us students who prefer more flexibility, specifically the upperclassmen, we now have to pay the price. 

For those wondering if there will be any more changes made to the schedule if we have to continue this distanced format in the future, McKenna stated that the administration “will be formally surveying the broader community and continuing broader research to see if and how [they] can adjust and improve the experience.” For now, the schedule remains the same.

When taking all the feedback and adjustments into account, we must keep in mind that this time is a learning experience for both students and staff members. While we try to retain some normalcy in our lives, we must realize that our current situation is much more permanent than we hoped it would be. Our new, confusing reality now purely consists of virtual interactions, and whether we like it or not, we must accept the fact that we are schooling in a time of crisis. It’s not going to be easy for everyone, but the least we can do right now is attempt to welcome change.

Stories Through Steppin’

Note:  While this show occurred before we retreated into quarantine, we decided that the article is still a meaningful review to share.

 

Walking in to the step show, you can immediately tell that this is unlike any performing arts show you have ever been to. Bright lights, music blasting, and people dancing gives you the feeling of entering a party rather than a performance. The newest rap and hip hop shake the floor, interrupted only by the quintessential R&B hits of earlier generations. It didn’t matter if it was Aaliyah or Roddy Rich; if you could dance to it, they’re playing it. Young and old folk alike swayed and stepped, sliding in unison. They did not tell you to put your phone away as at a typical play, instead encouraging the audience “to charge up [their] phones and get ready to put this up on insta.” Kids demonstrated the popular “renegade” dance before the show. And after, their parents showed off the electric slide from their childhood. Doing the “wobble” was all but a requirement for those of us in the audience. Everyone danced together, no matter where they were from, what they looked like, or which team their kids were on. The music was played in its full, explicit entirety: an uncensored, unfiltered, unapologetic tribute to Blackness. A student led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the line, “with liberty and justice for all,” half of the crowd spontaneously said “with liberty and justice for some.” The most powerful moment of the show was the student rendition of the Black National Anthem. The power came not from her spectacular performance, but from everyone singing in unison. Everyone sang the song that embodies pride in Black history, Black culture, and Black triumph. Everyone sang in defiance against a system that has only suppressed Black pride. At the end, everyone raised their fist in the air: Black power. 

On the final day of Black History Month, Black history was appropriately a throughline of the show. A local Black educator led us in call and response: “Black, HISTORY, Black, HISTORY… I’M Black AND I’M PROUD… Black history is what I’ve been making since I came out of the womb, and when I drop this mic, you should make some too.” And this all was just the introduction to the show.

The Wikipedia entry for stepping (steppin’) says that it “is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds,” but this definition does not even begin to capture the essence of what steppin’ is. The origins of steppin’ can be traced back to South Africa, and it’s a way for the Black community to uphold the African traditions that were stripped through slavery; it’s a way to uphold Black history. 

During the show, teams of multiple ages, from multiple places, competed in front of judges. Elementary school kids and high school seniors alike stepped to represent themselves, their schools, and their ancestry. Although mostly Black, the step teams featured a diverse mix of students. Each step routine told a story. One was in the form of a podcast, and another was about Chick-Fil-A. Each was meticulously planned and flawlessly executed, despite the multitude of cameras and the immense pressure. Between the routines, Black entrepreneurs were invited on stage to promote their businesses. One business made shirts that said “from the hometown to college town,” and another made shirts that said “I love to see my people doing good.” During these breaks was when the prominent message to the youth was stressed: college education is the most important thing for you. Stemming from steppin’s prominence on college campuses, the show took time to honor Black scholars: college graduates and doctors, business owners and artists. They offered scholarships to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to seniors competing in the show. College education is how you find excellence, and as one entrepreneur said, “Black lives matter, Black excellence matters, Black business matters.” The most memorable moment was when the MC asked if anyone in the audience had a poem to share. One high school girl, Chienne, from El Camino Real in Los Angeles, delivered her powerful poem titled “The African American Disease.” The poem described how she must have a disease, because she feels as if her life could just end because of the color of her skin, and how police officers and white supremacists could take her life just as abruptly as a disease can. 

It became apparent during the show that all of the teams were cheering for all of their competitors, despite a cash prize for the winners. All of the parents rooted for the children of other parents and everyone supported each other, rather than competed against them. The event shows that steppin’ not only serves to preserve history and pride, but serves to strengthen the Black community and elevate one another. This was not a display or a performance or a competition. This was a celebration; a celebration of Black history, Black scholarship, Black excellence, Black pride, and Black triumph.

It’s impossible to explain the emotion and the power of a step show experience in just 700 words. Steppin’ is something that you very much have to experience to truly understand.

Local Restaurants and How to Support Them

Local+Restaurants+and+How+to+Support+Them

In an attempt to curb the coronavirus pandemic, many states have mandated the closure of non-essential bars, restaurants, and local businesses. As businesses try to navigate this crisis, here are some ways you can help your local restaurants from going out of business while still staying at home.

 

  1. Order take-out

Just because you can’t eat at your favorite restaurant doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that restaurant’s delicious food. One option is to pick up a meal or delivery. If you’re craving Chick-fil-a or Bay Area favorite, Zachary’s Pizza, they are still offering takeout and delivery, as well as several other local businesses. Many delivery services are offering to waive the fees for orders placed by essential workers and are also willing to send someone a meal as well. Please remember to tip your delivery person extra, as gratitude for their work. 

 

  1. Buy gift cards

Support restaurants now and dine at them later by purchasing a gift card. When you buy one, the funds go directly to the restaurant. So make sure to stock up on holiday and birthday gifts for your family and friends. When the restaurants open back up, it will almost feel like you’re eating for free!

 

  1. Buy some merchandise

You can support your local business far beyond just buying food. Many of these places offer cool merchandise, such as tote bags, mugs, t-shirts, or comfortable sweatshirts. Even after the shelter in place is over, you’ll still be able to utilize these items and your purchase could have helped keep a business up and running. It sounds like a win-win situation to me!

 

  1. Make a donation

Many local businesses have set up Go-Fund-Me pages to raise money for their workers and to keep the business running. Any donation, big or small, could really help, so check to see if there are any local businesses you could donate to. 

Environmental Benefits of COVID-19

Environmental+Benefits+of+COVID-19

After receiving countless negative updates on America’s current COVID-19 statistics, my outlook on our current situation has grown to be quite negative. However, it is important to remember that social distancing can have positive side effects in which the environment, wild animals, and our pets all benefit from. 

The climate change benefits of coronavirus are immense, starting with the mass reduction of carbon emissions, emissions that have been dramatically decreased due to the increased number of people working from home. Between February 3rd and March 1st, China experienced a 25% decrease in carbon emissions, a decrease that measures to an estimated 200 million tons of carbon. China’s coal consumption also dropped by 36% from February 3rd to March 1st. Additionally, air quality in both Italy and China have improved immensely. These significant changes were captured by NASA below.  

Many wild animals have been spotted exploring cities while people are staying indoors. While wild deer are normally fed by tourists in parks, they now freely roam the empty urban streets of Nara, Japan. In New Delhi and Thailand, monkeys have been congregating in front of shops in search of food. And right here in Oakland, Guardian editor Charlotte Simmonds spotted wild turkeys playing on the playground at the elementary school next door. 

A girl wearing a face mask looks at a sika deer at a temple on March 12, 2020 in Nara, Japan.

Rivers worldwide are appearing crystal clear for the first time in ages, revealing fish and other marine life. In Venice, many attribute the water clarity to the minimal traffic on the canals, which calm has allowed sediments within the water to settle. In San Antonio, Texas, occupants have also observed that their local waterways have cleared due to the cancellation of Go Rio Cruises and other activities. People are pointing out objects in the water like crabs and beads left over from Mardi Gras events in February. 

The coronavirus has also allowed for beautiful moments of solidarity amid isolation. Videos of Italians singing from windows have circulated the internet, and neighbors have been offering to aid each other with groceries through postcards or notices in apartment buildings. In Nevada, a medical student set up a group of “shopping angels” who deliver groceries to elderly citizens or those with compromised immune systems. Therapists have created platforms on social media to aid with increased anxiety and stress. One small organization, the Help Hub, made their online services available nationally through the support of therapists around the country. Hopefully hearing about these snippets of kindness and environmental healing among the chaos of a global pandemic improve the quality of your day! 

Francesco and Greta Innominati wave after placing a banner reading “Everything is gone be all right” out of a window of their apartment in Rome on March 13, 2020.

 

Claudia’s Movie Recommendations

Claudia's Movie Recommendations

Movies have always been a source of emotional comfort for me. When I was really young, before I could even walk, my parents would sit me down between the two of them on our worn couch and turn on a movie every Friday night. Now, during these uncertain, anxiety-provoking, and unfamiliar times, I’ve once again turned to watching movies for comfort and distraction. This is a list of some of my all-time favorites, as well as ones I’ve recently watched that I think you should, too. 

 

(Disclaimer: I am in no way a seasoned movie critic, and I don’t really know any movie jargon or anything. These are just some movies I find really interesting/funny/lovely to watch!)

 

 

  • Midsommar (2019)

 

Basic Plot Summary: A couple travel to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown for its fabled midsummer festival, but what begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. (Courtesy of Wikipedia) 

 

Holy moly this movie was crazy. Personally, I had been avoiding it because I don’t do too well with really, really gory stuff, and from what I’d heard about Hereditary (Ari Aster’s other big movie), I didn’t think I could handle it. However, quarantine boredom combined with a burning curiosity led me to watch it one fateful night. It was crazy. The gore was intense at times, and there were certain scenes I watched from behind my fingers (like the cliff scene). However, the story was enthralling and disturbing all at once, and I could not tear my eyes away (except for the cliff scene- it escalated quite quickly). The cinematography is beautiful, and the bright colors and beautiful shots almost make you forget you’re watching a nightmare-fueled film. It almost makes me want to join a Swedish cult. If you like movies where you get a pit in your stomach from the first scene that doesn’t leave until the end, then you should definitely watch this one. Just do it. It’s worth it, in my opinion. Except for the cliff scene. That was tough.

Rate: 9.5/10 

Where you can find it: Kanopy, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video

 

 

  • Parasite (2019)

 

Basic Plot Summary: Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

I watched this one a few weeks ago, and it literally has not left my mind since then. I know it’s gotten a lot of hype because of its award-show success, and let me tell you one thing: it deserves more. I went in blind, and came out at a loss for words. The story is eye-opening and makes a cut-throat commentary on classism and the struggle of the working class. It’s also a really interesting concept for a movie, and I thought Bong Joon-Ho did an incredible job at executing it. I definitely think watching this movie has made me much more open to watching foreign films (not that I was ever against it), and the subtitles don’t take away from the drama at all. I wish I could brainwash myself so that I forgot I watched it just to have the experience of watching it for the first time again. 

Rate: 10/10

Where you can find it: Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Youtube

 

 

  • Kill Bill, Volume 1 and 2 (2003 & 2004)

 

Basic Plot Summary: A former assassin, known simply as The Bride (Uma Thurman), wakes from a coma four years after her jealous ex-lover Bill (David Carradine) attempts to murder her on her wedding day. Fueled by an insatiable desire for revenge, she vows to get even with every person who contributed to the loss of her unborn child, her entire wedding party, and four years of her life. After devising a hit list, The Bride sets off on her quest, enduring unspeakable injury and unscrupulous enemies. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

Okay, so remember how I mentioned how I was bad with gore? This movie probably is the one I’m most surprised I actually made it through. My mom persuaded me to watch it, because a.) she thinks I’m a baby and b.) Quentin Tarantino is one of her favorite directors. I was definitely a little nervous going in, and I will admit that the violence was pretty…violent. However, I’m still happy I watched it. The drama, cinematography, soundtrack, badass female assassins, and satisfying story of revenge made it all 100% worth it. Uma Thurman is really cool, and good at killing people, and I found myself captivated by the story from the first (gun)shot. I would recommend this movie if you’re bored of the usual rom-com or jump-scare Netflix original, because it was really refreshing and, honestly, inspirational. Not the killing part so much, but the perseverance and versatility of the main heroine. Also, it’ll give you a slew of new ideas to murder someone, so there’s that!

Rate: 9/10

Where you can find it: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video

 

 

  • Juno (2007)

 

Basic Plot Summary: When precocious teen Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) becomes pregnant, she chooses a failed rock star and his wife (Jennifer Garner) to adopt her unborn child. Complications occur when Mark, the prospective father, begins viewing Juno as more than just the mother of his future child, putting both his marriage and the adoption in jeopardy. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

Doing a complete 180 from the previous movies, Juno is funny, quirky, and cute. I watched it a little while ago, so it’s not as fresh in my memory, but what I do remember is how much I loved it. You immediately fall in love with Juno and become sympathetic to her story, as well as most of the other characters. It’s slightly dramatic, too, as complications arise surrounding the relationships that are made, and jeopardized, over the course of the movie. I personally also really enjoyed the soundtrack and the dry humor of many of the characters. The movie shows an accurate portrayal of what it means to be on the cusp of adulthood and learning what it means to be an adult, because they’re not so perfect either. I’d recommend watching this movie with some friends (over Facetime!) and laughing at the awkward, heartwarming interactions of the characters (especially whenever Michael Cera’s in the scene). 

Rate: 8.5/10

Where you can find it: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube

 

 

  • 500 Days of Summer (2009)

 

Basic Plot Summary: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), greeting-card writer and hopeless romantic, is caught completely off-guard when his girlfriend, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), suddenly dumps him. He reflects on their 500 days together to try to figure out where their love affair went sour, and in doing so, Tom rediscovers his true passions in life. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

Okay, I’m not really a rom-com person (in case it hasn’t been apparent in this list), but this movie will always be an exception. I’m a sucker for people falling in love, and then falling out of love, because I think that’s one of the saddest and most inevitable parts of being in a relationship that isn’t quite perfect. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a wonderful job at portraying a star-struck romantic trying to love a girl, or maybe just the idea of her, who doesn’t really believe in love at all. The movie is very cute, very sad, but ultimately speaks to the naïvete of young love and how it often makes us blind to reality. Despite the heartache that comes from holding out hope that the two will end up together, despite knowing from the first couple minutes exactly how it ends, this movie is definitely one of my favorites and worth the watch. The soundtrack is also really, really, really good in my opinion. Watch with your friends if you’re looking for a good cry, or with your significant other if you’re looking for an awkward conversation afterwards about why you two might fall out of love. Enjoy, lovebirds!

Rate: 10/10

Where you can find it: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play

The Return of Yellow Peril?

The Return of Yellow Peril?

Growing cases of the coronavirus are fueling racist sentiment targeting Asians across the globe. Many are viewing the spread of the virus as an excuse to voice their xenophobic beliefs and falsely profile Asians. While some are turning to humor, others view this pandemic as an opportunity to safely express their blatantly offensive rhetoric.

The idea of a “Yellow Peril” originated in the late 19th century during the surge of Chinese immigration to the United States and referred to the irrational fear of East Asians as a source of danger. The term expressed a belief that Asians were somehow a threat to the Western World and embodies the work of anti-Asian stereotypes. That being said, are people’s responses to the coronavirus suggesting that we are reverting back to the base fear of foreigners? 

The public’s ignorance and misinformation about the novel coronavirus has led to racist and xenophobic attacks against anyone in the United States who appears to be East Asian. This racist sentiment has even manifested itself in the form of assault and verbal abuse. Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York City have reported hearing numerous public transportation passengers claiming that all Chinese people are diseased and lack basic hygiene, singling out other Asian Americans who are not even Chinese. Perhaps the most widespread form of xenophobia manifests itself in fear mongering stereotypes about Asian food, one tweet stating: “Because of some fools in China who eat weird [foods] like bats, rats, and snakes, the entire world is about to suffer a plague.”

Many are using the global hashtag “#JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” (“I am not a virus”) and other social media platforms in an attempt to defend themselves over misguided fears. The false profiling of Asians in response to the spread of the virus has led to all Asians feeling threatened and ostracized, just because of their facial features.

Not only has the coronavirus sparked racism in the United States, but it has also brought intra-Asian oppression to light. Japanese citizens have called Chinese tourists “dirty bioterrorists,” and the hashtag “#ChineseDontComeToJapan” is currently trending on Twitter. In South Korea and Malaysia, millions of people have signed petitions asking that Chinese people be banned from entering their countries. A number of Vietnamese hotels and inns have hung signs on their doors saying that Chinese guests are unwelcome, many Vietnamese even going online to demand that the border crossings with China be closed. 

The response from China’s bordering countries shows that everyone, even fellow Asians, must take accountability. While it is one thing to feel nervous about the virus, it’s another thing to accuse an entire race and group xenophobia into the fear of catching a sickness. 

The Birds Are Chirping

The Birds Are Chirping

The environmental impact of Covid-19 may be the only benefit received from the deadly virus. The United States currently emits more than 5,800 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), representing 19 percent of all global CO2 emissions despite our nation only making up 5 percent of the world’s population. Of these high emissions, 23 percent is due to transportation – cars, trucks, and airplanes. However, with shelter-in-place orders across the nation along with business and transportation closures, nitrogen and carbon levels in the United States have dropped drastically. Pollution levels in the atmosphere are typically highest during rush hour times in the morning and evening, however traffic has subsided, and rush hour is non-existent. Without the typical highway congestion, the New York Times states that traffic in Los Angeles is moving 53 times faster now than before receiving shelter-in-place orders. The number of cars crossing the Bay Bridge every day has fallen by 40 percent. Similarly, the number of cars that go into downtown Seattle for work has also fallen by 40 percent. In New York, carbon monoxide levels compared to the same time last year have reduced by 50 percent.
According to BBC, coal use in China fell by 40 percent since the last quarter of 2019, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by 35 percent (60 percent in some cities), and the amount of “good air quality days” has risen 11.4 percent compared to the same time last year. Nitrogen dioxide levels fell 40 percent in Milan, Italy. Nitrogen dioxide levels in Madrid and Barcelona are at historic lows, dropping by 75 and 45 percent respectively since before the Covid lockdown. The reduction in air pollution is directly linked to Madrid and Barcelona’s 60 percent reduction in transportation. 

As Covid-19 forces the economy towards a recession, overall greenhouse gas emissions might fall as well. In 2008, the economic crash led to a 1.3% overall decrease in emissions. Emissions, however, were higher than ever just two years later in 2010. It is unfortunate that it took a virus to lower pollution levels in the atmosphere, and it is important that we also recognize we cannot beat climate change with a virus. It will take more policy changes for these dips in emissions to have a lasting effect, but watching carbon and nitrogen levels drop is a step towards future possibilities combating climate change. 

The Economy, Post-Coronavirus

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Money loss vector illustration in flat cartoon cash with down arrow stocks graph, concept of financial crisis, market fall bankruptcy or budget recession. Investment expenses and bad economy reduction

As of late February, COVID-19 spread from China across the world, reaching many major European nations and the United States. Social distancing, the best-known approach to combat the spread of disease, was put into effect by the United States, as well as most European nations. The United States, Italy, and China missed the “early window,” the period in which social distancing would most effectively prevent major spread. Thus, social distancing is currently being extended into early May as the disease proliferates. 

In a nutshell, the stock market crash that started on February 20th resulted in liquidity shock and financial stress. It became increasingly difficult to trade liquid assets like stocks for cash, impeding all types of investments. Without investments, many companies face financial deficits resulting in problems amassing capital, the means of production, and pressure on central banks (Carlson Szlezak et al). Between financial deficits and capital problems, the market economy saw a decrease in supply, a drop in consumer confidence (and therefore, spending), and widespread layoffs. These problems, compounded by social distancing, grew tremendously. 

Social distancing by nature puts the world in a state of recession, suppressing economic growth and activity. The economy is currently “frozen” and many businesses can not profit or operate (Carlson Szlezak et al.). About 3.28 million people filed for unemployment this past month. Consumer spending makes up about 70% of the United States’ GDP, and with many people’s jobs at stake, there will be a significant decrease in consumerism; already early figures have noted a drop of at least 8%.

There are a few methods to combat the effects of this recession. On March 25, the Trump administration passed a bill to spend $2.2 trillion to stimulate the economy by giving loans to businesses and giving $1200 checks to citizens making $75000 per year or less. This package also increases unemployment insurance benefits. The stimulus bill is meant to cushion the blow for middle and lower-income citizens who were hit especially hard by the recession. Early signs from the stock market were positive, and subsequent Congressional actions have helped the market recover half of its substantial March losses.

Tests For The Rich, Not For The Rest: The Pandemic Highlights The Class Divide

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Who is safe from a pandemic? Throughout the plethora of information about COVID-19, it is known that the elderly and the immunocompromised are highly susceptible to the virus and at greatest risk of death. In the American healthcare system, an even greater number of people are at risk of contracting the illness, and not receiving testing, treatment, or protective equipment. It seems, however, that the wealthy, celebrities, politicians, professional athletes, and others with large amounts of money to their name, find access to these scare items with ease. Why is that? 

Despite the United States containing the largest amount of COVID-19 cases in the world, America lacks globally in testing per capita. As of now, the United States is not conducting enough tests to adequately separate and treat infected patients to prevent the spread of the virus. Oftentimes when individuals are concerned about their health or possible contraction of the virus, hundreds to thousands are turned away from testing centers, receive their results in an extended period of time (several days), don’t have the protective equipment to prevent further spread of the disease, or are unable to receive treatment.  

Despite the scarcity of testing kits, asymptomatic celebrities, politicians, professional athletes, and the extremely wealthy are having COVID-19 tests made easily accessible, and results quickly received within several hours. Even in a global pandemic, threatening hundreds of thousands of immunocompromised and highly susceptible individuals, money is buying over the need for adequate testing. 

Not only does the high accessibility of testing and treatment available to the wealthy expose the overall corruption of the American healthcare system, but it also poses a threat to national and even global safety. If symptomatic individuals are being turned away from testing centers or denied treatment due to scarcity, those same individuals could possibly spread the virus even further. 

This isn’t to say that if an individual is asymptomatic and concerned about their health, they shouldn’t be tested. However, this does show that in the United States, even in the midst of a pandemic, healthcare is a privilege available to only those who can afford it.

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