Category Archives: Opinion

Super Bowl Halftime Show Fizzles Out

By Lexi Rynning

I was very disappointed with Super Bowl LIII’s  Pepsi halftime show, featuring Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi. I went into the show with such high expectations and it did nothing for me. There was a lot of flash for very little substance. The song choices, which included Maroon 5’s hits “This Love” and “Girls Like You,” could have been better. I was bored. I wanted to jump around and sing along but I couldn’t because it was so unexciting. I hated the outfit choice of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine as well. It was a poorly executed halftime show with very little storyline, nothing to get me engaged. Yeah, sure, fire is cool, but if you don’t have anything backing it up, it’s pointless to include it in the first place.

I think that Travis Scott, best known for “Sicko Mode,” did a decent job but I feel like he should have cut out the curse words in his songs to make it a family-friendly concert. With all the words being bleeped out, you could hardly recognize the song. I was very upset with Big Boi’s performance. This is more of a personal gripe because when I heard he was performing, I got very excited to hear his hit song “All Night.” He didn’t even end up singing it.

I think the stage setup was very boring and static. With the huge budget they most likely had, the producers could have utilized more technology and maybe even some auto tune.  Overall, I think the halftime show didn’t live up to the hype, and many critics agreed, using words such as “bland” and “underwhelming” to describe it.The Atlantic magazine called it “designed to be forgotten.” 

Gillette Ad on Toxic Masculinity Causes Controversy

By Callia Gilligan

Gillette, a well-known Boston-based razor company, has recently put out a new commercial that does not feature razors. Instead, it draws attention to the idea of toxic masculinity.

If you haven’t already seen the video, watch it here.

What is toxic masculinity? While there are many different ways to describe the idea, at its root it is the notion of what it means to be a “real” man. This could mean not showing emotions, having a belligerent nature or having dominion over things. It is often believed that because the idea of being a “man” is so important, men act hostile or extra aggressive and repress their emotions. The Gillette commercial featured this idea and went into depth about how toxic masculinity influences societal norms for men.

There are many opinions on this commercial. Some say it was a way to call out men and make them feel ashamed. Others argue that it perfectly addresses a serious problem in our culture. Some are angry at the fact that the ad focuses on politics instead of razors. While everyone’s opinion is valuable and deserves to be heard, I’d like to share mine.

I personally thought the commercial was well-done and addressed issues that we as a country face. It talks about how society often uses the phrase “boys will be boys” to excuse aggressive or inappropriate behavior. Not only did it address toxic masculinity, but I thought it did a great job of addressing topics like victim shaming. People, specifically women, go through a lot to avoid getting sexually harassed. We are taught to not walk alone at night, to not wear suggestive clothing,  to train ourselves so we’ll be able to defend ourselves if ever needed. This commercial reversed that by making the point that behaviors such as cat-calling make people feel the need to protect themselves. It drew notice to the fact that this behavior will always be the attacker’s fault, never the victim’s. I also though the commercial did a really could job of addressing the societal norms that men and women are expected to uphold. I feel like some feminists can get a little to obsessed with the adversities that women face and ignore the fact that men can face similar ones.

Many people say that the commercial was unfair because it pointed fingers at men and made them feel poorly of themselves. While I do see where this point was coming from, I would like to draw attention to the decades of commercials that have sexualized or objectified women. Rather than exposing the problems with those conventional ideas, those commercials gave into them, making women feel poorly of themselves.

Overall, whether you liked or disliked the commercial, I think it deserves thought. I feel it calls attention to behaviors and norms in society that shouldn’t exist. It’s important to ask yourself: do you ever see, participate in or experience this behavior? If so, what are you going to do about it?

I congratulate Gillette for acknowledging the power of its media presence. They took a risk, making a commercial they knew might anger some, in order to spark a conversation — and maybe even a change — in society.

The Santa Conundrum: How Long Will the Magic Last?

This article was originally printed in November 2014.

I’m someone who always reads the last page of a book first, and the spoilers before I watch the next episode of The Walking Dead. For me, the ending is interesting, but how we get to that ending is the real payoff. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that when I was 10 or 11, I begged my older brother to tell me the truth about Santa. When he did, I wasn’t crushed; I didn’t feel fooled or lied to. I felt that a new world had opened, one of getting to play Santa while my younger sister still believed, staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap presents with my mom and older siblings, being trusted with secrets. I had become, if just for a few hours one night a year, one of the grownups.

My daughter, Amelia, is 10½ and she still believes. A recreation of the royal gown she saw on TV? Santa can make that. A life-sized stuffed rhino that sells for $900. Santa can make that. She’s pretty good at understanding the value of money in everyday situations, that we can’t always afford to buy everything we want at the very moment we want it. But where Santa is concerned, all bets are off. He’s Santa, after all. He can make reindeer fly! He can do anything!

derek
Derek, the Elf on the Shelf, with his friend Barbie (or it could be Bella from Twilight, not sure).

A week before Thanksgiving, she’s already written a letter to Santa for her Elf on the Shelf to deliver. Nicknamed Derek, the elf lives year round with her Barbie dolls but in the weeks before Christmas, he’s supposed to travel nightly to see Santa. (I know this goes against the Elf on the Shelf tradition, but that’s what she decided and who am I to fight it?) It’s not enough for Derek to deliver the notes that Amelia writes, he has to bring one back from Santa too. Imagine how hard it is for me to disguise my handwriting so my pre-teen doesn’t suspect it’s me writing the notes, or forging the hoof-print signature of Rudolph. And beware the wrath when I forget to “deliver” Derek’s letter. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, groggily scribble a note from Santa, and then tiptoe into Amelia’s room to leave it with the elf. It makes for a very nerve-wracking holiday season.

Amelia's note to Santa in 2010: Dear Santa, my elf on the shelf is not moving. Does he come to the north pole much?
Amelia’s note to Santa in 2010: Dear Santa, my elf on the shelf is not moving. Does he come to the north pole much?

I don’t want to ruin the magic and mystery for her, so I try to tweak it a little. I tell her, “Santa brings what he thinks you need. He’s got to spread his toy-making time and elf labor force’s efforts among all the children in the world.” Or “maybe Derek was too tired to travel to the North Pole last night; he didn’t want to leave his girlfriend Barbie.” But there are already plot holes in the story. Last year, I tried to convince her that Santa leaves gift receipts when she got a pile of clothes (from Grandma Santa) that were too small. And she almost lost faith in him when he brought her the wrong action figure from The Hunger Games (She’s team Peeta, not Gale, jeez, EVERYONE knows that).

If Santa disappoints her again this year, this may be the end of the whole deal. On one hand, I know it’s an inevitable part of growing up, but on the other hand, it signals the end of a chapter in her life, when Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were real and holidays were magical times. Will she be okay with the truth, like I was, or will she be upset that the magic isn’t real? My hope is that she will understand the reason behind the story of Santa, the idea of giving to others without expecting anything in return, that the magic that made reindeer fly can exist in real life when we do good things for other people.

That may be a lofty idea for a 10½ year old to grasp, so just in case, I’ll spend the next few weeks scouring the malls for an affordable recreation of a royal gown and the biggest stuffed animal that I can fit in my car.

 

Look Back to 2014: The Evolution of “The List”

It’s been some time since I was a Christmas punk. I was a whiner and a complete brat in my formative years, a  true tinsel-time terror. I wanted this, that or whatever cheap plastic toy made in China.  My list was filled  with toys I’d end up breaking within a week (I played hard, don’t judge) and I always wanted more. Luckily, I have matured over the years and I’m no longer a whiny brat. (If I saw “kid” me, I would full force dropkick little me in the face). Thus with being a big boy now, my list has decreased to, like, some boots and a new phone. But in truth, it’s all I need. When we were kids, more equaled better, definitely quantity over quality.

When I was 14 or 15, I wanted video games and a couple of toys but most certainly not the absurd amount I once clamored for as a tiny loser. As the years went on, I mostly wanted clothes and adult stuff. Now that I’m a young strapping 18-year-old, I want very little. Which is good; I have enough things in my life that asking my parents for lots of things seems completely juvenile (I cannot stress enough how fast I would uppercut lil’ Eric) I feel the list evolves with everyone because as we are, unfortunately, destined to age, and as we do, our tastes and wants mature.

As per usual, I asked some of the fellow souls trapped in educational purgatory known as HHS what their favorite all-time holiday gifts were. Junior Sarah Powers had an interesting fave in that it was only part of the whole gift.  “There was a cow toy on a bike, and I saw the cow toy and went, ‘AHHH,  A COW TOY!’ and my parents wanted me to be happy about the bike but I wasn’t.” (I then led her to a padded room with her cow toy.)

Senior Nick Ricciarelli’s favorite gift was his Xbox when he was a young lad. “Yeah, I went pretty crazy for that.”

Senior Maya Collins’ favorite was the stuffed Minnie Mouse doll she got when she was three. She said she carried around for years and I suspect it’s still in her backpack.

My favorite response came from the mad chemist himself, Kenneth Decie. As I barged into the classroom to ask him this question, I saw that nothing had changed since I was in his class last year. The familiar smell of sulfuric acid, lithium, and red phosphorus wafted through the air. Anyway, when I asked him what gift stuck out in his mind, Mr. Decie said it was when he received the ultrasound of his son. It took me a while to mop up all the tears from the floor because that was a beautiful response. Well played, Ken, well played.

 

 

Midterm Elections: A Political Stalemate

By Matthew O’Hara

The midterm elections raged on for weeks after the November 6th election due to voter fraud controversies in North Carolina, machine failure in Florida, and extended deadlines to accommodate a runoff election in Mississippi.

The Facts:

Overall, the midterm elections presented wins and losses for the Republican and Democratic parties. While the Republican party remained in control of the Senate with a 53 to 47 seat majority, they lost their majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats now hold the majority of House seats with 234, while the Republicans have 198. In both House and Senate races, there were many toss up seats that could have been won by either party. Winning these seats was crucial to each party, as it could give either party the upper hand. In most of these races, the winner was decided by only a small margin. For the Senate, these toss up seats were in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Tennessee. For the House, the toss up seats were in Florida, California, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. When the contested elections for the Senate concluded, the Republican party won the majority of the contested states 6-4 over the Democratic party. This minority in the contested states made the Democrats unable to regain the majority in the Senate, and thus remain the Senate minority. The contested elections for the House of Representatives were a very different story. The Democratic party gained 20 of the contested seats, with just seven going to the Republican party and one vote undecided. These wins allowed the Democratic party to regain control of the House of Representatives.

While this election is now coming to a close, it did not go as smoothly as most Americans had hoped. This election was racked with mechanical failures, voter fraud, and controversy throughout the country. In the state of Florida, multiple mechanical failures in the voting machines led to many votes going uncounted, forcing several counties in the state to conduct a recount lasting for weeks. There were also cases of suspected voter fraud in North Carolina, after the 9th district seat for the House of Representatives was called into question. An extremely high number of absentee ballots were never returned, and reports that people claiming to be state officials went door to door collecting absentee ballots from citizens are under investigation.  The confusion and controversy in this year’s midterm elections was wide and varied. One example was when Florida Senate candidate Bill Nelson refused to concede to his opponent Rick Scott after Scott was shown to have slightly more votes than Nelson. Also, in the controversial Mississippi Senate election, when both candidates were unable to receive enough votes to declare an outright winner, they were forced to participate in a runoff election. This runoff election became even more heated with the release of a controversial comment by Republican candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith, who eventually won the seat by a comfortable margin. 

My Opinion:

With each party controlling one of the two legislative offices, I fear that we will see a period of conflict and stagnation in the government. If each party only works to shut down the other, then legislation will stall and the country will suffer with useless stalemates. The conflict between parties is one of the issues that plagues America today. Elected officials are tasked with representing the people that elected them, not just their party and everything it stands for. This singular loyalty to party over people has led some politicians to outright reject many ideas that are not in line with their party narrative. This practice has led to a deep division in America. What America needs right now is for both parties to set aside their differences and become a bipartisan Senate and House of Representatives that works for the American people. If each party tries to respectfully communicate with their counterpart instead of fighting them on every issue, America will be productive. If both parties cannot put their wants aside for the betterment of America, the country will continue to be divided and conflicted.  As Lincoln famously said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

Should Attending Sports Parades be an Excused Absence?

By Drew Murphy

Since the moment the Red Sox clinched the World Series, the debate began raging among students, teachers, coaches and administrators. Should students be penalized for taking a day off for the victory parade or should it be considered an excused absence? Teachers and administrators argued the absence would be unexcused and no extra time would be given to make up work. Coaches warned that students who skipped school would be benched.

The student handbook states that an absence is excused for the following reasons:  “medical/dental appointment, funeral, court appearance or legal appointment, driver’s license, college visitation, religious holiday or at the discretion of the Principal/Associate Principal.” Another example of an excused absence is a school-sponsored field trip. Wikipedia defines a field trip as “a journey by a group of people to a place away from their normal environment.”  If you plan to be absent for any sort of reason and get permission from a parent/guardian and notify the school, the Principal/Associate Principal can make a judgement call and excuse the absence. In my opinion, planning to be absent for the celebratory parade of a professional sport team isn’t that different from being absent for any other personal matter.

When a local sports team wins the top title in its league, it shows that hard work, dedication, and commitment lead to amazing results. The classroom is not the only place that these important lessons are learned. Although we have been lucky over the last decade to see an impressive number of wins by our sports teams, we don’t know that this historical phenomena will continue. What if this parade is the last one for decades?  In a world with such violence and hate, to be able to come together as a whole community and share pure happiness and joy together is priceless. Navigating public transportation, following directions, sharing joy and camaraderie with thousands of strangers is worth more than something you might miss in the classroom for one day of school.

You don’t have to be a fan to realize the significance that sports play in our society. The number of lives that sports change is truly remarkable. You don’t have to be a fan to celebrate the success of a winning team, but you do need to see that parades represent a historical time that we are lucky enough to be present for. No matter the circumstance, sports bring us together. Now that doesn’t mean administrators have to close schools like the city of Philadelphia did in 2018 to celebrate the Eagles Super Bowl win. But they should make the right judgement call and allow students who have permission from their parents to partake in what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Featured picture from ESPN.go.com

Is Social Media Bad for Us?

Throughout the school district, the question of whether screens and social media are unhealthy for teenagers has been deemed an important topic this year. Under the slogan “Choose Presence,” the district is working to educate students and families about responsible use of social media while at the same time encouraging everyone, at least once in a while, to tune out and log off.

Earlier this month, the school administration presented the documentary Screenagers to parents and students to start a conversation about technology and to inform audiences about the dangers of spending too much time in front of screens. In the documentary, film director Delaney Ruston highlights how screens can quickly become a distraction, limiting the ability of teenagers to interact with one another and perform well at school. Today, unlike their parents, American teenagers are being raised and educated in a world where millions walk around engrossed with their cellphones and many classes have online assignments. Naturally, this results in an entirely new set of questions, dangers and opportunities in the digital age.

Personally, I think it is fair to say that there are many valid drawbacks to digitizing so much of our world. I believe that too much screen time can easily detract from the parts of life that are much more fulfilling when experienced without screens. I think that visiting my grandmother on her birthday will always be better than sending her a quick text, and I also believe that only so much can be conveyed in terms of emotion and meaningful conversation in an app. Likewise, quick access to the unlimited revenue of information that is the Internet means someone using a phone or tablet has access to both the very best and the very worst kinds of material. For this reason alone, it’s pretty scary for me to see five-and six-year-olds with their own tablets or smart phones.

I think that there is no shortage of reasons why screens might be dangerous if accessed too much or if used without mindfulness. However, I also think that technology deserves much credit for the equally long list of all that it does offer. Screens such as laptops and tablets have allowed for instantaneous research and all variety of functions available through apps. I cannot imagine how many hours a day I would lose leafing through library books to find information for research projects or essays. Likewise, I strongly believe that social media has opened doors for long-distance friendships and connections. I also have not personally noticed any significant difference in the way that my classmates interact and in the way that adults raised without cellphones communicate.

One of the reasons that I most value screens and social media is the opportunity that both offer for personal growth. In an unprecedented way, access to apps that allow teenagers express their creativity, learn more about global news, or see windows into the lives of people on social media from all over the world provides a glimpse of the world at large with one click of a button.

Ultimately, I think that we have much to learn about how to balance the digital world with the still important tangible world. However, I do not think that we have to face this issue with only fears about what could result from a world immersed in technology. Personally, I would argue that we have the power to use technology to grow our understanding of the world and ourselves in a very exciting and positive way.