Category Archives: Editor’s Column
The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki’s goodbye to us. It’s a visually stunning piece that takes its time, indulging in the narrative about finding what you love to do, no matter what. It speaks volumes about Miyazaki’s dance with cinema, his passion and devotion to the dying style of 2D hand-drawn animation (embodied by the character of Naoko in the movie).
It’s his farewell to us. And it’s beautiful. Gorgeous. Poignant. Heartbreaking. Moving. Miyazaki is a genius and I hope against hope that goodbye is just a substitute for we’ll meet again.
“I’ve loved you since the day the wind brought you to me.” ~ Naoko
[I drew a color swap with her hair and her wedding kimono.]
MEMORIES SPOKEN AND HEARD: INTERSECTING PERSPECTIVES OF THE HOLOCAUST
A Holocaust survivor story of Frances Flumenbaum
Time Stood Still
I breathe in the musty smell of history books,
words coming to life as I relive our forefathers’ stories.
My friends and I dance on sunlight beams outside, laughing and twirling,
there’s a feeling of infinity, nothing’s going to happen to us.
The smell of Shabbat in the air as my mother cooks in the kitchen,
the mouth-watering aromas for Sunday, Rest Day.
People come to our house to learn from my father, a scholar.
He says, “Any thing you possess, you might lose in your life, but not what sticks in your brain.”
Because I am a girl, I hide in the corner, listening to conversations between men.
The weight lifts off our shoulders on Shabbat Day, filling everyone with the joy of a child
A comforting presence watches over us as we sit and celebrate what God has given us,
and I gaze at my sister and my two brothers.
I survived the war with one sister.
I went to jail on a Monday for holding my silence.
When the judge asked me, “Who gave you that linen?”
I pictured my Jewish friend hanging from the gallows.
My father said, “Frances, do not ever say who gave it to you.”
I remembered his words, even as a German sitting next to me lit a cigarette
and pushed the burning stub into the skin of my clenched fists.
I still have that mark today.
Time Stood Still
The screams of children clinging on to their mothers still echo in my ears.
The image of a 14-year-old boy chained to a fountain until he died still burns in my mind.
But even in the ghettos, there were prayers. Always prayers.
May 8, 1945—Liberation
The Holocaust taught me to cherish every day of the week.
I have more to tell—there is no end to my story. Please listen.
People should not forget.
Ever since the box office success The Hunger Games hit theaters two years ago, movie companies have been scouring for YA adventure/fantasy/dystopian novels to bring to the big screen. Seeking to emulate Lionsgate’s massive success, the book to movie adaptations come and go, from The Mortal Instruments to The Host to Beautiful Creatures to Vampire Academy, all of which either failed at the box office or were panned by the critics. In 2013, the only one that really scored huge wasThe Hunger Games’ successor: Catching Fire. What an incredibly well-done movie! But the question is, can the 2014 YA dystopian novels-turned-movies beat their 2013 failures? Let’s take a look.
With an extremely large fan base from the novel by Veronica Roth as well as Lionsgate’s widespread publicity marketing, I predict that this will be a box office success. Many fans are planning to go to the midnight premiere. The premise is fascinating with a future city in which teens are separated into factions or categories in which they learn to develop a certain virtue. It also helps that Theo James (Four) is, in the words of my peers, extremely attractive.
The initial reaction will not be as big as The Hunger Games, but ultimately, perhaps this is beneficial to the movie—going in with a high expectation may ruin the experience. In addition, some fans are upset that Theo James is approximately 10 years older than his character. How high is the worry level that this will turn out to be another Percy Jackson, with the wandering plot and miscast of characters? High. (But no worries, because this reporter has already watched the movie and thinks it really does justice to the book!)
The Maze Runner
Again, another enthralling plot about a community of boys living in a maze in a post-apocalyptic setting. The author of the book, James Dashner also wrote the screen play. Even so early in the year, Fox is already releasing promotional images and will soon release their first teaser trailer, dangling bits and pieces for fans to leap up and hungrily grab. The cast may be young, but by no standards inexperienced, with Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), Will Poulter (The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Ferb from “Phineas & Ferb”). Can this movie come out already?
So the cast is great, but how about the crew? Wes Ball is better known for his work in the art department rather than his director credits. James Dashner, although he is an amazing author, has never written a screenplay before. Will the crew be able to handle bringing to screen a story that involves vicious creatures called Grievers and hundred-feet walls that move at night? We will simply have to wait and see—and pray that they don’t botch our beloved book and characters.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
The cast has already proven itself many times over, the crew is nothing short of phenomenal—Lionsgate could merely sit back, relax, and not even promote the film at all, yet there’ll be hour-long lines just to get into the theaters during opening week. We already know that the movie will do justice to the book as proven with Hunger Games 1 and 2. The gaps in between the franchise release dates are not excruciatingly long, so fan hype is still going strong.
However, with only a year in between Catching Fire and Mockingjay, will the cast and crew have enough time to produce the movie to their best effort? Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has thrown a wrench into the production with 7 days left of filming. Going back to the very first pro I mentioned for Mockingjay—perhaps fans’ high expectation could be the movie’s ultimate pitfall. Even if it is, we will still very much enjoy Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss trying to find her way around District 13.
Divergent is in theaters March 21, 2014. The Maze Runner is in theaters September 19, 2014. Mockingjay Part 1 is in theaters November 21, 2014.
The Essay Contest is sponsored by Optimist International to give young people the opportunity to write about their own opinions regarding the world in which they live. The approach can encompass a young person’s personal experience, the experience of their country or a more historical perspective. In additional to developing skills for written expression, participants also have the opportunity to win a college scholarship!
Clearly, the competition for scholarships can be intense, but with perseverance and determination, an applicant’s effectiveness can be increased. If I didn’t win, it is also a good practice and experience because winning is not the ultimate goal just like what I had written in my essay ” Every experience will direct my path to success. Success lies not in where I am going, or the results that I see, but rather it is the adventure to fulfill my destiny.”
How Dreams Lead to Success
“Once upon a time…”
A seven year old with rosy cheeks and pigtails reads her story about pandas in front of her 2nd grade class. Everyday, the teacher sets aside a little class time for story sharing—except this is the first time anyone has ever dared to read original writing. The class is enraptured, spellbound.
“Theo became the most famous panda in history,” says the girl. “The End.”
The class takes in a breath. Then, loud, enthusiastic, thunderous applause breaks open like the roar of a waterfall.
A fellow classmate gazes at her in admiration. “You’re going to be an author someday!”
The 7-year-old in me still remembers the fateful day in elementary school that jumpstarted my passion in writing. Now, my hands are perfectly curved so that my fingers fly over the keyboard, pouring my thoughts onto paper, weaving a story of my own in between time and space—a raw, mercurial place I call home. However, the dream of being an author only truly blossomed when I discovered a true gem in a book titled, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Growing up in poverty, Louisa turned to writing as an outlet. She began to sell stories about thrillers and mysteries to the local papers for large sums of money. Louisa was certainly successful by the world’s standards, but her conscience did not rest easy with the genre she wrote. In 1868, while juggling multiple jobs to support her family, she followed her heart and made the big decision to build her stories on her own experiences. Her biggest success, Little Women, reached 87,000 sales in three years after publication. Louisa received thousands of letters from girls who were touched by her plain, simple, and honest words. At the time, the timid writer in me marveled at what it took for Louisa to narrate with such a clear, compelling, and enticing voice. I admired her choice to write fiction grounded in truth instead of fantasy. Success came naturally when Louisa stuck to her heart’s desire with fierce determination and a leap of faith.
Without action, a dream is merely a far-off fantasy. Triumph belongs to those who are prepared. In the 1950’s, when a poor small town girl read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Oprah Winfrey connected so deeply that it reinforced her love of literature. She said in an interview, “I would take out five books, and I would have a little reading time every day. That’s what encouraged me to become a great reader. Who knew I was going to grow up to have my own book club?” When opportunity knocked on her door, Oprah was ready with her education. At 17, she received a 4-year college scholarship and went on her trajectory towards becoming host of her very own talk show. The wisdom that she received throughout the years and her desire to be in the world of journalism led her to be who she is today.
Every dream has a beginning, but never an end. Louisa May Alcott showed me that when reaching a crossroads, choosing the untraveled path is a risk worth taking. Oprah Winfrey inspired me to arm myself with education, perseverance, and determination to leap through windows of opportunities.
Yet, what is the true meaning of success? Oprah once said, “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” Success is not crossing over a finished line. It is the little validations received along the way. Of all my accomplishments in writing, perhaps the greatest feat of all is not that I have command over words, but that my dreams and passions fill the sails of my ship.
“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing,” said Louisa May Alcott. When chasing the horizons, I know I will have to leap over hurdles. Even so, every experience will direct my path to success. Success lies not in where I am going, or the results that I see, but rather it is the adventure to fulfill my destiny.
SANTA ANA – For readers who think that poetry is a thing of the past, 21 high-school students proved you wrong Saturday night as they competed in the first Orange County Regional Youth Slam Event.
Representing schools across the county, they gathered in an Orange County School of the Arts theater to perform classical and original poems – written in response to the classics – for cash and grant prizes provided by sponsors.
Allison Benis White, a poetry teacher at Chapman University, was one of the four judges who evaluated the performances on accuracy (classics) or difficulty (original works), articulation, and physical and dramatic presence.
“You have the value of honoring contemporary poetry and the value of making something new,” White said. “You can’t beat that.”
“To bring poetry into the mainstream is extremely important.”
The students were registered as four teams. Two groups of eight represented OCSA, four students represented Sage Hill High School, and one student represented South Orange County High School of the Arts.
Theatrics were not scarce during the readings. From animated hands, to dramatic voices, and even a comedy during one poem performed as a duet, the teenagers put a lot of soul and energy into delivering the poems.
Carlisle Huntington, 16, the student from South Orange County High School of the Arts, recited four classical poems from memory and four original poems, while others read one or the other.
“It’s exhilarating and terrifying,” she said. “I was inspired to perform and decided to participate, if anyone wanted to join me or not.”
Themes of maturing, social stigmas and fanatical adventures carried the audience of about 175 into the minds of the adolescents and allowed listeners to think of classic poets such as Charles Bukowski and Margaret Atwood in a new way.
Mariah Wilson, 17 and a senior at Sage Hill, began performing poetry during her freshman year and fell in love with it immediately, she said. She recited her own poem about growing up.
“The poem is saying we need to let go of our childhood, but I don’t believe we really need to let go of our childhood completely.”
After four rounds, the pubescent poets waited on stage for the final results. But just when the audience thought the performance was over, the students improvised a dance as “Come Together” by The Beatles was playing. Even the esteemed judge Myrenna Ocbu, host of radio’s “Poets Cafe,” sang along.
Out of 760 possible points, the winner on the night was one of the OCSA teams, which received 592 points. Second place went to Sage Hill High School, at 576, and third place went to Huntington of South Orange County High School of the Arts, at 581. Fourth place went to the second OCSA team, at 561.
The first-place team will split the cash prize of $1,000, and the school will receive a $500 grant. Second place will split $750, and the third place prize of $500 will go to Huntington.
Griffin Vrabeck, a Sage Hill senior, may have unknowingly nodded to the evening’s theme in his original poem.
“Poetry is the greatest discovery of mankind,” he said.
By Cassandra Hsiao
Third Place in the 2013-2014 Voice of Democary Audio Essay Scholarship Competition for District Six
The sun kissed the horizon and stretched its rays to the beach. Waves crashed against the shore as the water began to recede. Stranded starfish were scattered on the sand for miles up the beach. The tide retreated and the starfish started to bake in the sun. A young boy reached down and gently flung the starfish back to sea. He fought tears and tried not to remember how his older brother and his friends taunted him, laughing that he’d be there for an eternity picking up the thousands of starfish. “It does makes a difference,” he whispered to himself fiercely and tossed another one into the waves. He straightened up and looked out into the horizon, imagining a smiling starfish happy to be back in the water. “It made a difference at least to that one.”
We’ve all heard some version of this tale before. It’s hard not to look through paradigms of pessimism at not only saving stranded starfish, but also at making a difference in the community. After all, what can one simple act of kindness do? The answer is, it may be enough to spark an underground movement that could change a nation’s future – with the perks of a better education and a youth geared program.
With America’s economy crisis including a high unemployment rate and a growing number of food insecure families, it’s easy to squint and predict our nation heading downhill on a dark, bleak desolate road. On the currents we are drifting with now, no one can say for sure – but I believe we can make changes for the better.
Why am I so optimistic? You ask. Ever since the invention of Facebook, social networking has burst into the frontiers of everyday life. “What?” You may say. “This is one of America’s biggest problems! Unmotivated teenagers glued to the screen, instant messaging, tweeting, status updating, and posting!” But I say, this makes change in America easier! Communication has increased so greatly that anything can be instantly shared and passed along.
After the Newtown school shooting in December 2012, a campaign went viral. Ann Curry from NBC News tweeted an idea simple in its concept – do 26 acts of kindness in remembrance of the 20 kids and 6 adults that died in the shooting. It sparked a movement in which thousands have tweeted back about how they’ve spread the kindness, such as anonymously paying for a co-worker’s coffee, helping strangers, and delivering meals. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all played huge roles in sharing this wave of random acts. People became so passionate about these small acts of kindness, just like the boy who rescued stranded starfish. In fact, the 26 Acts of Kindness Facebook page has garnered over 100,000 likes.
Education has also improved – it’s now cheaper and more accessible! The Gates Foundation did a study in 2008 that found that young adults from ages 18 to 26 would like to pursue college degrees but are afraid they would be too overwhelmed with family, work, and school. Now, online education makes students’ schedules flexible, allowing instant access all around the clock. Some of the world’s leading universities have released free online courses. In 2001, MIT offered OpenCourseWare, a program that allows anyone to access the college courses for free. Students can watch tutorials and lectures online with a click of a button. With a world of knowledge right at our fingertips, America’s next generation can easily access current events, trending topics, and the tools needed to fight for what we believe in.
With a push in the right direction and a nod from the older, experienced generation, I am optimistic about America’s future. I believe young people are actually open and willing to take the responsibility as our country’s leaders – as long as we are well prepared. Like the little boy walking the shore, if the idea that “making a difference, no matter how small” can take root, our generation will be well-equipped with the perks of social media, accessible education, and advice from our elders to step up and revolutionize the world. Although big changes may not happen anytime soon, it’s saving the stranded starfish that count.
[This was a project I did for school, titled “Freedom From Fear”. I believe that what is going on in Pakistan and other Taliban-controlled countries is VERY IMPORTANT to spread the word about. Everyone should have the chance to fight for their rights.]
Little red, Little red, put on this cape, and you’ll be safe—or so they say.
If you went into the forest and saw a wolf today, you would run if you were weaponless or shoot it if you had a gun. But over time, wolves have evolved to become smarter, quicker, faster. Now they look like masked men and instead of stealing away like shadows in the night, they rule the streets in broad daylight. Now, they’re the ones armed with a gun. Why does crime run rampant in Pakistan? Why can’t Little Red go to school without getting shot by the Taliban?
Little Red wants to be free. She wants freedom from fear and she wants to go to school at the same time. Why can’t she have both?
The colors of her world are two-dimensional, but the colors I used are not. Perhaps there’s hope found in her red cape, a bright beacon against the dark backdrop of forest.
Red, the blood of angry men
Black, the dark of ages past
Red, a world about to dawn,
Black, the night that ends at last.
The word fear, letters spaced out, if you add e and rearrange the letters it could spell Free, but that’s just a trick of the mind, that’s just a trick of the Taliban, making Fear look Free, that’s their sign.
I am Malala, she declares. She knows the truth when the Taliban call themselves Freedom Fighters, but she’s the real Freedom Fighter here, and I admire the courage that burns like a flame in her. Red, the color of fire and blood, black, the color of fear and death.
The fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood that scared you as a kid is the reality for many people all over the world. Education of women has been banned all over the country, but everywhere, underground schools are popping up, with teachers risking death each day for rebelling against the Taliban.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and Malala is not scared. She possesses a freedom from fear, but what about the rest of the girls in Pakistan?
FDR had a vision that production of weapons would be reduced all over the world so that no one nation could have the power to commit a violent act against a neighbor. In his own words, “That is no vision of a distant millennium…Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them.” Don’t women in Pakistan deserve our support? Take away the gun from the wolf, and perhaps girls like Malala can be finally be free from fear.
My family never met him, but it’s almost as if they had.
“You should be more like Ajay,” I would say constantly to my ten-year old brother. “He’s always holding the door and so gentlemanlike.”
I must have told my family about Ajay countless times, a classmate who I believe was the only uncorrupted guy at our school. His encouraging Facebook comments, posts, and messages never failed to cheer up his friends.
Ajay and I met at the beginning of seventh grade at our art school, OCSA (Orange County School of Performing Arts). A typical day included academics, our talent classes (conservatory), music blaring during lunch, dance classes, and climbing the stairs to the seventh floor. I had always admired Ajay’s talent as a photographer and an Artist. Most of all, I loved his big smile and unmistakable laugh that completely fit in to what we both had in common – a love of arts and our unique, crazy school.
In seventh grade, we were grouped for a history project. “Come on, guys, we need to concentrate here,” I barked, taking charge of my new tablemates. “Focus!”
Ajay wouldn’t. He and my other friends kept laughing at something. Although they never did focus, I couldn’t help but join in the laughter. He taught me that sometimes, you have to learn to laugh at yourself.
When eighth grade rolled around, Ajay was in two of my classes. He never failed to greet me with his warm trademarked smile and “Hey Cassie,” one of the few people who used my nickname. We sat next to each other in Science and had weird talks about nights out at Souplantation to the Aurora Borealis.
So on a Friday in February, when the bell rang excusing us to lunch, I didn’t think too much of the commotion surrounding the classroom next door. A teacher told us to clear the hallways.
“What happened?” I asked my friend later, who was at the scene.
“It’s Ajay,” she said tightly, her voice strained. “He had a seizure.”
That night, I Googled “brain aneurysm.” On Instagram I found photos of Ajay with the hashtag “prayforajay”. I reposted the picture, praying to God that he’d be back soon. At the time, my biggest worry was that he wouldn’t be sitting next to me in my classes and that I’d have to wait until the next school year to see him. The teacher said we could write letters and she’d deliver them to him.
On Wednesday, in Creative Writing class, we fell into a discussion of death. Where was the line in literature concerning being humorous and being offensive in the area of death? My classmates shared their own tragic experiences with a lost loved one. I said that I had never experienced death before.
That night, I wrote a letter to Ajay and planned my outfit for the event “Wear White to support Ajay” that was taking place on Friday.
Then, I logged onto Facebook.
When I read my friend’s post, my first thought was, there’s got to be a mistake.
I felt the familiar burn in my chest that always hurts when I cry.
I cried into the arms of my mom and I cried until I fell asleep.
Tears wouldn’t stop as I rode to school in our carpool the next day, our car deathly silent. Grey clouds blanketed the sky. The only sound that echoed in the hallways of our usually noisy high school was the sound of hearts crying out in unison. Strangers became family as we hugged and wrapped our arms around each other. In one class, for an hour and a half, we reminisced, cried, laughed and shared stories of the amazing ways Ajay had impacted us all.
I couldn’t believe that he was gone. I wrote a little note on the envelope of my card – this time, addressing his family and sending my prayers. My friend and I spent an entire class in the girls’ bathroom, comforting each other and wiping away our never-ending tears.
The next day, Friday, the entire school showed up in white. We crowded around the steps leading up to Symphony Hall, a church-like building that housed our theater. One by one, we pushed our way up to the front, dropping off flowers and letters until the whole staircase was covered. It started drizzling as Ajay’s favorite music played softly in the background. We stood there, crying quietly, gazing at the display of love for Ajay as his family stood at the side, clinging onto each other. Then, the clouds parted and gentle rays of sunlight touched our faces, illuminating us, a flock of angels on earth. Ajay’s angels.
Skies were never the same shade of blue again. His unexpected death hit me like waves crashing against the shore. Even though I’ll never understand God’s reasons, I know God wanted a professional photo-shoot up in heaven.
From the smallest seventh grader to the toughest senior, Ajay had united us. We were all brought together by his smile. He’s personally touched my life in many ways – all the moments in between laughs and tears that I’ve shared with and without Ajay. I’ve come to treasure every second of life, but instead of counting every second, I hope to make every second count. As my fourteenth birthday passed, I decided to take the time to enjoy the journey. To take the scenic route. To slow down and admire a flower by the edge of a road. Even though I know I’m inevitably headed towards 15, I’m determined not to let life pass me by in the blink of an eye. And although some people don’t get a chance to live to a hundred, Ajay has lived a hundred times a more fruitful life.
“Fifteen there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
Fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live”
– Five for Fighting