Team StarKid

By: Annika Getz

Team StarKid is a theater group that produces high quality pro-shot musicals, and posts them for free on YouTube. They’ve made 12 musicals in the past 11 years.

Their first, and one the one that they’re best known for, is ‘A Very Potter Musical,’ which is a parody of the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. It was released in 2009, by a group of college kids, with a budget of $150. Since then, they’ve grown significantly, both in popularity and budgetary status. Now, I want to explain why they’re my favorite theater group.

Reason one is that they’re the only group which makes their shows accessible to the general public. For most musicals, you have to pay thousands of dollars to see them, or watch illegal bootlegs online. StarKid however, just posts the entirety of all their shows onto YouTube. This shows that they care less about money, and more about the happiness of their fans.

Now, let’s get into the actual quality of the shows. I honestly haven’t watched one and thought “Well, that sort of fell flat.” Each show has an engaging plot, good jokes, interesting characters, and most importantly, amazing actors. There really isn’t any one actor who I don’t think is talented and entertaining to see on screen. They’re all unique, and bring fun and interesting things to each show.

The shows are also very creative and unique. The stories they tell can’t really be found anywhere else (several of them are parodies of certain franchises, but even those find ways to be new and interesting). I’ve seen most of the shows multiple times, because I find each one to be fun and engaging.

So, there you have it, the reasons that I (a broke theater kid in the middle of a pandemic which stops me from being able to go to any shows), absolutely loves Team StarKid. I’d recommend their stuff to anyone who likes comedy musicals, or musicals in general.

‘One Piece’ review

By: Mohamed Ahmed

What is ‘One Piece’? ‘One Piece’ is the number one best selling manga in the world. ‘One Piece’ started on June 3rd 1999 and is still going on today. During that time ‘One Piece’ broke every sales record for manga sales in manga history. It is one of the big three anime and is by far the number one most popular and best selling manga on earth. 

There is an anime show that is based on the manga ‘One Piece’. There are lots of reasons people have for not watching ‘One Piece’. The number one reason I have heard that makes sense is that it is too long. The manga, ‘One Piece’, is currently at chapter 999 and the anime has 954 episodes out. 

The reason why ‘One Piece’ failed in the west was because of the infamous 4kids dub. 4 kids was given a dubbing license as part of a package deal with some other series. ‘One Piece’ is not a show that can maintain its charm without the dark elements. The corruption of the world government, the main antagonistic force and the brutality of the pirates cannot be conveyed through censorship. 

‘One Piece’ has heart wrenching backstories and when you censor them to the point where it changes the plot, and closure is not given to the characters who found some way into the story, this takes a lot out of the way people view the series. 

The animation is another problem people have. Many ‘One Piece’ fans had that problem before watching the anime. After watching the anime people tend to miss the objectively bad animation and have a sense of nostalgia. That said, some people cannot watch something if it doesn’t suit their standards. 

Overall, I feel that people should give this series a chance, and not just rely on what the internet says about it. 

Manga rating: 10/10 

Anime rating 8/10

How will Biden transitioning to the White House work?

By: Aisha Dirie

There are many questions surrounding when, and how, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will transition to the White House. Many institutions and news outlets have recognized Biden’s victory.

Although Donald Trump has been making baseless claims of voter fraud, it is safe to say the election is over. As soon as Biden had been elected, he got started, and chose the top members that will assist him in the presidency. This is stepping in the right direction, and the first step to transitioning to the White House. 

Trump has said that he will cooperate with transitioning, but continues to make claims of voter fraud to invalidate the election. As Biden adds new cabinet members, the days until inauguration day are coming closer. Transitioning during the pandemic is also a struggle, with concerns about contracting COVID-19.

There has been some miscommunication between Biden and Trump’s transition teams this past week. These meetings are to stay connected to have a peaceful transition, and learn any other information. According to CNN, these meetings are set to continue, or more likely to continue after the long holidays.  

Although there have been many accusations made by Trump and his team of voter fraud in many key states, almost all of these have been proven false, and it is safe to say that Biden will assume office in 2021. Overall, the transition of President-elect Joe Biden and his team to the White House is going smoothly. There have been a few set backs, but those have been fixed.

Inaugurations day is set to happen January 20th, 2021. This is when Biden is sworn into office, and officially begins his 4 year term.   

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Why Trump’s ban of transgender people from the military is transphobic

By: Quentin Miller

Image taken from: Time Magazine

On July 26th, 2017, Trump tweeted out this: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military, our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

On January 22nd, 2019, this ban was put into temporary action by the Supreme Court, despite there being multiple lower court cases going on. 

In the wake of controversy related to the 2020 election, many Trump supporters have been trying to defend these actions to win over support of the LGBTQ+ community for Trump. Claiming that, just as Trump said, it was for economic reasons only.

Here’s why that’s factually incorrect.

First of all, he didn’t just claim it was for economic reasons. While he did say it was for the military budget, he also claimed it was to prevent “disruption that transgender(s) in the military would entail,” a blatantly transphobic statement claiming that transgender people are somehow disruptive, dramatic, or a burden. 

Second of all, if you do any research on the topic, you will learn that almost no medical  insurance in the U.S. covers facial reconstruction, hormone treatments, or genitalia reconstruction. Those are the only medical procedures that trans people “need” to go through, to transition. The health insurance issued to all U.S. army members, regardless of rank or division, is called Tricare. And while it is an extremely nice health care program, according to its own website, Tricare.mil, it only covers cosmetic surgery under these conditions: 

  • Correction of a birth defect (includes cleft lip).
  • Restoration of a body form following an accidental injury.
  • Revision of disfiguring and extensive scars resulting from neoplastic surgery (i.e., surgery that removes a tumor or cyst).
  • Reconstructive breast surgery following a medically necessaryTo be medically necessary means it is appropriate, reasonable, and adequate for your condition. mastectomy.
  • Reconstructive breast surgery due to a congenital anomaly (birth defect)
  • Penile implants and testicular prostheses for conditions resulting from organic origins or for organic impotency.
  • Surgery to correct pectus excavatum.
  • Liposuction when medically necessary.
  • Panniculectomy (tummy tuck) performed in conjunction with an abdominal or pelvic surgery when medical review determines that the procedure significantly contributes to the safe and effective correction or improvement of bodily function.

None of these apply to transgender people. This means, the U.S. military wouldn’t even be paying for these treatments.

Third of all, let’s just say there was a contract change, and Tricare would be responsible for paying for transitioning treatments. If we do the math, the argument that this is too big of an economic burden on the U.S. is still ridiculous.

There are anywhere between 2,000 and 15,000 people in the military (counting active duty and reserve troops). Now, I’m going to be doing an extremely high ball estimate, so we’re going to use 15,000.

Now, the most expensive set of treatments a trans person can get is, genitalia reconstruction (aka gender reassignment surgery), facial reconstruction, and hormone therapy. A reasonable estimate for the cost of these surgeries is about $61,500 upfront plus $1,500 a year for continued hormone therapy.

But, many transgender people aren’t interested (these people could be non binary, or could be using other non surgical methods of dealing with body dysmorphia) or have already had these transitions, so let’s cut the amount of trans people in half.

Let’s also take into account that those prices are for the average consumer, not insurance companies. Insurance companies negotiate prices that they pay hospitals for treatments, meaning they get massively discounted prices for everything. And the insurance company with the most bargaining power is, you guessed it, Tricare. So let’s just cut the cost in half, which is still way higher than what the military would be paying. So we’re left with 7,500 x $30,750 and we get an initial cost of  $230 million plus $750 a year for every transgender person taking hormone therapy, which can be stopped and continued at any time.

Just a reminder, the annual budget of the military is approximately $721,531,000,000, with around $200 billion of wiggle room. So, the military would be able to pay for the initial treatment of every transgender person in the military 3,137 times over, not even including the $200 billion they normally spend over their allowed budget. And again, that is an extremely high estimate for how much they would actually be paying.

So, not only would the government not have to pay anything at all, as cosmetic surgeries for non medical reasons aren’t covered, it would barely even be a dent in their budget.

So, the only possible reason that Trump could have for not wanting transgender people in the military is because he wants to discriminate against them, which isn’t surprising coming from the man who was sued by the Justice Department for discrimination in the past.

Who’s ready for the 20-21 NBA season⁉

By: Khadar Greer

Here are some players to keep an eye on in this upcoming NBA season:

Rookies: The NBA has upcoming rookies like: LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and Cole Anthony. They are all very gifted young talents that have worked very hard to get to where they are now. I cannot wait to see what they do playing against the best of the best in the NBA.

Sophomore season: We have some rookies from last year that are looking very, very good, like: Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Tyler Herro, and Coby White. These are all great young talents that are looking really good down the road in the future. Can’t wait to see what they have in store in the 2021 season.

Returning Players: The NBA also has players coming from very career threatening injuries like: Kevin Durant coming back from a torn Achilles, John Wall coming back from tearing his ACL, DeMarcus Cousins coming back from a torn ACL, and more. They’ve all been playing so far so good in the preseason, looking very good. Can’t wait to see what they’ll actually do in the regular season.

Veterans: And we also have some veterans who could really be passing down knowledge to the upcoming generation before they retire. We have veterans like: Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Marc Gasol.

The effects of ADD in boys vs. girls

By: Olivia Miller

Image taken from: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbalancehealth.me%2F2017%2F07%2F29%2Fback-school-addressing-attention-deficit-disorder-add%2F&psig=AOvVa w0BGCSmDAYnkDmkVrdvthbh&ust=1608258946888000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCKCYh8390-0CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

According to Medicinenet.com, ADD is a mental disorder/condition that is common among children and adolescents. ADD/ADHD causes the person, who is diagnosed, to have difficulty paying attention. It can also affect how much the person is able to sit still (which could get difficult over a long period of time).

ADD is also known for taking a toll on young girls and boys learning ability in school. Getting homework/tests done can be twice as difficult for a kid with ADD. Also, these kids may not be able to sit still and quietly for a long period of time like most students do in school, which causes them to be seen as a kid who acts out, or is disruptive, which compromises their whole experience in school.

ADD also has many other effects that people don’t usually associate with ADD. These effects surprisingly can be very different between boys and girls who have been diagnosed.

Starting off, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADD than girls. Boys and girls can share some symptoms but other times symptoms can be different depending on gender. According to Healthline.com, boys seem to show external symptoms, which is usually the hyperactive side to ADD. This could mean running around, speaking out of turn, not being able to sit still, and any other external effects of ADD. Girls are the opposite, their symptoms are usually internal, this could mean having low self esteem, inattentiveness, and impulsivity.

In both boys and girls, ADD/ADHD can lead to other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and various eating disorders. If not treated, ADD can be very difficult for children in school, and even adults when it comes to daily commitments. There are different medications that can be prescribed if someone is diagnosed with ADD. There are also different therapies as well that people try.

Although common, ADD is a disorder that can be hard to live with if you’re a kid. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.

‘Come and See’: Real horror

By: Hayden Fitzsimons

The World Wars are a subject in film and media which has been done to death and beaten beyond recognition. However, within all of the schlock and reasonably good war movies, there is one particular film that stands above the rest. That film is the 1985 masterpiece, directed by Elem Klimov, ‘Come and See.’ Elem Klimov set out to depict war to the realest degree that he could, along with Belarusian cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov. Both experienced the Second World War firsthand, Rodionov in particular who fought against the Nazis whilst he was still a teen.

‘Come and See’ follows Florya, a young teen, as he excitedly joins the Russian revolution against the Nazis. Florya is left behind by the revolutionaries, and he is heartbroken. Florya returns to his village following an attack on the revolutionaries’ base with his newfound friend Glosha. When he returns to his village, Byelorussia, they find the village to be empty.

From this point forth, the film transforms from a somewhat tense and emotional romp to one of the darkest and realistic depictions of war to ever be made. The viewer accompanies Florya as he witnesses the pure evil of the Nazis, and their conspirators, against innocent men, women, and children.

Florya turns from a cheerful & optimistic child, who wants to do nothing more than fight for his people, to an aged and decrepit husk of his former self after watching all those around him die in extremely brutal fashion. Not only was what Florya saw some of the cruelest horrors one could see, they are all depictions of reality. All the events of massacre in the film were truly committed by the Nazi forces, and that is what makes the film absolutely destructive to one’s psyche.

However, the grueling and realistic story is not enough without the proper film elements to support it. Fortunately, ‘Come and See’ has masterful execution of every factor in film in spades. The cinematography, especially for being an 80s Russian movie, is top notch.

Head-on shots of characters are a repeated motif throughout the film. These shots have the characters often looking directly at the camera, and are an excellent way to dig into the viewer’s psyche as well as depict deep emotions without the need for dialogue.

The cinematography also includes views that are often behind the characters, as if they are constantly being stalked.

In addition to these, many of the shots are long, winding, tedious sequences that continually feed into the next shot after the next after the next. There are nearly no breaks, no moments of calm. It is a constant deluge of pain and suffering, with no end in sight.

The sound design is also incredible, rivaling that of many films which have come out decades later. This sound design accompanies incredibly with the long arduous shots at creating a film that feels intensely real and difficult to watch, yet still terribly hard to look away from.

‘Come and See’ is real. No, it doesn’t follow real characters or a real life story, however what happens in the film is still real. Innocent people were massacred in the millions by Nazi forces. Their methods of murder are real, and truly horrific. Everything presented in the film, the viewer knows to be true, even if it is just a fictional depiction.

Once all is said and done, there is still no resolution. No solace, no victory, no optimism, no release, nothing. ‘Come and See’ only lets the viewer feel pain, a pain they know to have been real.

I believe ‘Come and See’ is the best war movie to ever be made. This film should be seen by all, as it is one of the closest ways to see true evil without truly seeing it happen. However, the film is extremely brutal, intense, and realistic. It is not for the faint of heart, but it still is for everyone. ‘Come and See’ is a depiction of the true evil that lies within humanity. If we were to live in a world without pieces of art such as this film, we may then live in a world devoid of understanding, devoid of hope, and devoid of resistance to evil.

Music and the brain

By Nora Doyle

Image by Thrive Global

Why can listening to your favorite song sometimes cheer you up like nothing else? Why can we remember all the lyrics to a song we haven’t listened to in years, but not math formulas?

Professors at the University of Central Florida have been trying to answer questions like these for a long time. They explore how music impacts brain function and human behavior, including by reducing stress, pain, and symptoms of depression, as well as improving cognitive and motor skills.

These professors say that these reactions on the brain can be seen on an MRI. Professor Kiminobu Sugaya says, “Lots of different parts of the brain light up.”

Music affects different parts of the brain in different ways according to this study by the UCF professors. For the temporal lobe, which processes what we hear, professor Ayako Yonetani says that this part of the brain allows us to appreciate and enjoy music. Have a favorite song? This part of the brain is what likes it.

Music affects the Broca’s area, which enables us to produce speech. This is because playing an instrument may improve one’s ability to communicate. This is where we express music.

In the Wernicke’s area, where we comprehend written and spoken language, we simply enjoy the music through analyzing it. Analyzing lyrics, instrumentals, and tunes helps us enjoy a song.

In the optical lobe, which processes what we see, professor Sugaya says, in short, that musicians visualize cords and notes as they perform.

As for the cerebellum, which coordinates movement and stores physical memory, Sugaya says “An Alzheimer’s patient, even if he doesn’t recognize his wife, could still play the piano if he learned it when he was young because playing has become a muscle memory. Those memories in the cerebellum never fade out,” which is probably the most incredible thing that music can do to the brain! Muscle memory is a term that is also used in sports, like dance, because we also connect music to movement when it is choreographed.

The remaining parts of the brain are affected by music through translating notes from our brain to our fingers while playing an instrument.

There is the fact that music can be addictive like a drug. When I hear a song for the first time and love it, I want to play it over and over again. Also, songs are addictive in the way that they get stuck on our heads.

So, next time you listen to music, think of all the ways it’s affecting your brain!

Heteronormativity in the portrayal of historical figures

By: Irene Cohen and Ellie Mulvaney

Stigmas have been prevalent in modern society since its creation; limiting those who act or think differently than the status quo. Even now, there are conscious and subconscious prejudices against these people or ideas that taint the way they are perceived.

Homosexuality is one of such stigmas that has been frowned upon or discouraged in many communities, from the past through to present day. There are many figures in American history alone that have been rumored or confirmed as LGBT+, though this is often omitted when their stories are recounted. Let’s look at who some of these people are and why their sexualities were kept under wraps.

To begin, we have a revered poet and author responsible for works such as ​”I Hear America Singing​” and “​Song of Myself”;​ the latter of the two being a mildly controversial poem that sparked intrigue over the topic of sexuality. The University of Illinois reports that this poem contains a certain “Section V”, which contains explicit themes in a setting with another man. He titled the group of works centered around this man ​”Leaves of Grass”,​ and upon its discovery by his employer, this homoerotic poetry cost him his job. He was quickly rehired, but the work remained controversial and even prohibited in places. Since he self-published it in 1855, it underwent multiple transformations to muffle it’s suggested nature by scandalised editors, and was banned in Boston in 1882. At the time, Robert K. Martin was credited with saying “Whitman intended his work to communicate his homosexuality to his readers.”

Back then, being anything but straight was heavily condemned, and hidden almost completely by those who that pertained to. Despite progress made in terms of acceptance in the present day, there still is heavy criticism around the LGBT+ community. Could this in part be accredited to the lack of normalization?

In the case of Walt Whitman, even after his unconventional poems, that called mass amounts of attention to his identity, his sexuality is not commonly known. In my own years of studying and analyzing his work, this detail has always somehow been excluded from what I’ve learned about him. Teaching about honored individuals while being fully transparent in who they are can not only provide role models for LGBT+ youth, but also give more insight into the lives and experiences of said individuals.

A personal idol of Walt Whitman, who had similar gender preferences in relationships, was the renowned president Abraham Lincoln. Famous for documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln is one of the US’s most prominent political figures.

As familiar as many are with his achievements in office, his personal endeavors are much less known. One piece of information that many point to, to support the claim that Lincoln was actually gay, is the fact that Lincoln admitted to sleeping with another man, Joshua Speed, for four years, though Speed was far from the only man to have shared a bed with Abraham Lincoln over the years. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, mentioned that Billy Greene had once said to him “They were as perfect as a human being could be,” in reference to Lincoln’s thighs.

Another, Captain Derrickson, was known to sleep in Lincoln’s bed and use his nightshirts when Mrs. Lincoln was out of town. Despite this overwhelming amount of corroboration for the idea that Lincoln was gay, historians to this day are maintaining that this esteemed president was heterosexual. One could argue that had any of these citations been with women rather than men, the claim that these people had an intimate relationship with Lincoln would be almost completely certain.

Looking back in the history books, it is evident that there is a lack of LGBTQ+ figures. The idea that people have only now begun to identify as anything but straight is nothing but illogical, though historians have seemingly edited out the parts of history they deemed unnatural or distasteful to further this notion. The public not seeing this aspect of the identities of figures they respect, or idolize, can be toxic to the queer community. Treating being gay as some sort of taboo stunts the movement and normalization of the existence of queer people.

Hopefully, the discussion opens up more and more in the future about just how many capable, and successful, people lived a non-heterosexual lifestyle.

Different animals going extinct

By: Leslie Lopez Ibanez

There are many animals going extinct. Some of them are: tigers, elephants, black rhinos, sloths, and red pandas.

There were, in total, 8 subspecies of tigers. 3 of them are now extinct. Tigers are endangered for a couple of reasons. Their habitat is being destroyed by human activities, by building road networks and clearing forests for agriculture and timber, and by the growth of human population. According to WWF, they have lost 95% of their historical range. Also, in some cultures, they use tiger parts to cure diseases like convulsions, rheumatism, dysentery, and typhoid fever.

There are around 40,000 elephants left in the world. The species is classified as endangered. They are going extinct because they are being killed to use their ivory tusks, which later are traded illegally in the international market. They also go through habitat destruction by building roads, mines, dams, and industrial complexes.

Black rhinos are critically endangered. They can be found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. They are going extinct because they are a part of an illegal wildlife trade. They kill them and take their horn. According to WWF, some Asian consumers, in Vietnam and China, use them for folk remedies. There are about 5,500 black rhinos left in the world.

There are 6 different species of sloths but only 2 of them are going extinct. The maned sloth is one of them. They are going extinct because of habitat loss. Pygmy sloths are actually one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world. There are less than 100 of them hanging in their island home. They can only be found on a tiny island off the east coast of mainland Panama.

Red pandas are another animal that is endangered. They are only found in the mountainous areas in the forests of Asia. The main threat to their extinction is habitat loss by human growth in the area. Climate change has also affected them by the temperature rising and them having to adapt to that. Climate change has led them to fragmentation, and a loss of land that they can no longer live in anymore. Red pandas eat bamboo but only a specific part of it. But since their habitat is shrinking, it is becoming more difficult for them to find food. Red pandas are also hunted. People like them for their fur and meat. According to the WWF, they have found red panda fur hats for sale in Bhutan.