13 Reasons Why You Need to Watch 13 Reasons Why

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Photo by Highsnobeity

Netflix released “13 Reasons Why” a book turned-series on March 31, 2017. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking of the characters and their stories. There are 13 episodes in the series and I watched all of them in 5 days.

Synopsis:

13 Reasons Why tells a tragic story of a high school girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. Before she takes her own life, she creates 13 tapes. Each episode, synonymous to each tape, is dedicated to a person or a reason why Hannah took her own life. We listen to the tapes with Clay Jensen, a boy who was a friend to Hannah. Clay, a once soft-spoken geek, turns into a pioneer for Hannah’s truth and justice.

Yes, this story is heavy. It is going to bring you into a sad place. A place that we all need to go to in order to prevent future stories like Hannah’s from happening. As we watch, we are forced to think about sexual assault, sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, drug abuse, depression and suicide. The truth is, we all know a Hannah Baker. This is a story for everyone. Hannah Baker’s struggles and challenges are the same challenges young men and women face every day. Even though Hannah Baker is a fictional character, suicide takes more than 40,000 lives a year in the United States a year, according to the CDC.

I encourage you to watch this series. No, it does not have a happy ending but life isn’t always Disney. *Before watching this series, please be aware that scenes and situations can create triggers.

Here are my 13 Reasons why you need to watch 13 Reasons Why

  1. The show teaches us how assuming always worsens a problem. Throughout the series we see Hannah and each one of her classmates consistently operating on assumption based perspectives of reality. The characters don’t seem to realize that a situation is always more complicated than what’s being spoken. Communication is not just words, what we do, or how we speak sometimes speaks louder than our words.
  2. Realizing the dangers of social media. Our phones are a part of us, and so are their cameras. Our world has changed and we need to acknowledge an individual’s right to privacy. The line has never been more unclear as it is now. Hannah was first bullied when a revealing photograph was taken of her and sent without her consent. Online bullying is more of a permanent problem than young people tend to think. We all need to contemplate the long lasting effect of online bullying and social media.
  3. 13 Reasons Why explains what abusive relationships are. (SPOILER ALERT) In the series, we see two girls get raped by the same boy. At school, he is the popular guy who plays sports. The guy who is loved by everyone and his teachers. Here, we can take away the fact that an abuser isn’t always the person to fulfill the stereotype of a rapist. We tend to think that a rapist is an older stranger yet, in most cases, rapists are the people we wouldn’t expect, the people we know. Abusive relationships take many forms. In this series, we see sexual assault, emotional abuse, and physical abuse. Abuse comes in many forms and variations and it may be a challenge to recognize it in the beginning. This is why having friendship and mentors are key. If you see someone sitting alone, or are showing a noticeable behavior change, start a conversation with him or her. Be the light.
  4. Life doesn’t always have a happy ending, and suicides happen all the time. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. That’s 44,193 Americans a year. 121 a day. A day. That’s a staggering number.
  5. 13 Reasons Why shows us how ignoring an issue makes situations worse. Although the main characters in this show are young and learning/failing at solving problems, we can see just how detrimental it can be to ignore a problem. Hannah’s 13 reasons span over a year in time. That was a year to talk to anyone. She kept details and secrets from her family and didn’t have the means to discuss her pain. Hannah did reach out for help, however. During a meeting with her guidance counselor, Hannah tried to open up about her abuse and wasn’t taken seriously.
  6. Realize indirect cries for help. When these characters started acting out, I felt so disappointed in the parenting strategies and the reaction of the students at the school. This series helps us to see how important it is to make an effort to check in on people that are acting out, have unexpected behaviors. Detecting odd behavior can lead to a conversation, and lead to help.
  7. What is good communication. The characters of this story are portrayed as awful communicators. I’m not sure whether or not people in real life are actually that bad at communicating. I’m afraid that they can be. The inability to communicate is portrayed as a typical teenage hormonal condition consisting of uninterested short and nonexistent answers to questions. Throughout the whole show, there were never any complete conversations between characters. It is important to know that having someone listen may be more important than providing your own opinion.
  8. Challenges of parenting. Similar to the last point I made about having good communication, having a reliable adult/parental figure is key. As Clay Jensen listens to the tapes, his parents consistently ask him about the situation at school. They notice a change in his behavior, and act on it. They attempt to have conversation but they are repeatedly shut down. I was surprised at how there is such a distance between teenager and parent. This relationship is a normal portrayal of the parent-child relationship in media, and I think there is an issue with it. Too often do we see rebellious teens, lacking a solid relationship with their parents. In this case, Clay and Hannah’s parents were good people with a strong marriage, however their kids didn’t confide in them. Could it be that it is inevitable that teenagers will always keep things from their parents? If that’s the case, the role of having a strong friendship/ mentor/guidance counselor is paramount. I call for more positive portrayal of teenager and parent relationships in television and film.
  9. The importance of having a friend. Each kid on the tapes come to the realization that if they had been a friend to Hannah, she wouldn’t have committed suicide. Of course, we can’t know if a real friend could have saved Hannah. However, I do know from watching the series that if she had a friend that could communicatively engage her, she would have had an outlet of hope.
  10. Suicide shouldn’t be romanticized. Hannah’s character went through extreme lengths to communicate to her peers after she passed. Many of the characters in the show believe Hannah had been seeking attention the whole time, can we know that? No. In reality, suicidal men and women often aren’t thinking of the other people around them. Those who battle depression probably will not leave a set of tapes describing their feelings. People with depression and suicidal thoughts are around us, and they look like you and I. These people don’t want attention. And more often than not, we do not know the reason why people take their own lives.
  11. How we grieve. Clay is the character we see grieve the most. We see his grieving cycle and it sheds light on the process. At first he held all of his feelings in. He was trying to ignore the pain. As he listened to the tapes, Clay becomes angry. Combined with his desire to spread Hannah’s truths, Clay does find some sort of relief from the grieving process. It is important to note that this series effectively shows how individuals grieve differently and in their own way. Having a support system is key to the grieving process in order to begin healing.
  12. We can never know how much we affect those around us. Every life leaves roots in every person he or she meets. We often change the lives of those around us. We all are loved and we all mean something to someone. To devalue this influence, is an incorrect vision on the world. Hannah’s character felt that her non-existence would benefit others, yet as we watch the series we see how many lives are changed forever.
  13. How suicide is never the answer. As we see in 13 Reasons Why, suicide doesn’t only take one life, it takes a part of all the lives this specific individual once knew. Suicide should never be an answer. If you know someone who is battling depression, go to them and listen. If you think someone’s behavior has changed, don’t be afraid to ask, “are you okay?” or offer some time to listen. Your ego will survive, but they may not.

We all knew someone that sat alone at lunch. Did you ever go and invite him to your table? We all deal with upset or angry people. Do you ever ask if he or she is okay? I hope 13 Reasons Why encourages people to observe others behavior a bit closer. I hope people can put their reputations aside and see each other as one.

A Stop on the Hair Tour

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Photo of Rachel Appleton, Mark Garrison Salon, Photo by Rachel Appleton

By: R. Theodora Appleton

Salsalhair is his name online. His Instagram bio reads: “Sal Salcedo, Mex • SF • LA • Benjamin Salon Arts District • Changing the world one head at a time.” He has a rising 96,300 followers and nearly 3,000 pictures of hair before and after’s. I’d often wonder what it would be like to see my hair on his photo feed.

In the midst of all the Instagram posts, I see an advertisement for a “Hair Tour” that will stop in New York City. “Yes!” I think, “this is my chance to get the hair cut of my dreams!” Hoping that the appointments aren’t all booked, I email Sal about the price and times.

“Hello! I am interested in getting a hair cut in NYC on either of the two days you’ll be in NYC! Do you have any appointments open, and how much it costs?” I write.

In the matter of a couple hours, I receive a reply from someone named Brianna.

“We have a 6:00 a.m. slot and a 7:00 p.m. slot open on Sunday. The price is $300.00 for a haircut.”

THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Who in their right mind would get a haircut at 6:00 in the morning.” I look to my friends and family.

I give my spiel, “This guy I follow online is cutting hair in NYC and I’m thinking about getting mine done. It costs a lot of money, but I’m thinking about splurging because, what the heck! It will be exciting because he’s someone I’ve followed for a while and I love his work.”

I get mixed answers: “I would never spend that much on a haircut!” says some friends or “You should totally do it for the experience” says the others. I dare not ask any men.

Experience wins, and I pick a time and send a confirmation email back to Sal.

On October 16, 2016, I arrive in the city with my sister and we decide to get dinner before my appointment. We find an over-priced café, a typical find in New York City. As we enter the building I lock eyes with the hostess and she is the most stunning woman I have ever seen. Her complexion is as dark as the night sky. She is tall and has buzz cut. She wears a form fitting dress and she looks like she walked straight out of vogue.

She asks me the most normal question ever. A question that I have heard so many times before. This question sounds different coming from her. “How many?” she asks in a foreign accent I can’t name.

Dinner was fantastic and the food had encompassing depth. I leave dinner 15 minutes early to catch a taxi in order to make my appointment. The sun has gone down and the traffic is subsiding, but traveling in a taxi in New York makes you feel like you’re going to be late.

I make it to the salon and the lights are bright, they shine past the construction panels on the building. It reads “Mark Garrison” on the glass. The clear and shining glass is welcoming so I walk up to the door but it’s locked. One second of panic and then a casually dressed woman opens the door.

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Mark Garrison Salon, New York, NY Photo by: Rachel Appleton

“Are you here for Sal?” she asks.

“Yes!” I say.

“Welcome! Sorry about the doors. We lock the doors just as a safety precaution,” she says.

But this is the rich part of New York, at least that’s what I thought.

I can’t tell how far back the salon goes. From the front door, it looks like the building never ends. I smell bleach, hair, confidence and change. The woman takes my jacket and gives me a robe. This is fancy. Will they bring me wine and cheese too?

She leads me to the back and I see Sal. He’s a small man but he looks like what I’d expect. He looks like his pictures. He wears a flowery long button up. Stylish and expensive looking crocodile boots. His hair is big and curly. He is working on another woman’s hair and talks in a monotone voice. I’m excited to actually meet him.

A woman named Brianna, the girl from the email and Sal’s assistant greets me and sets me up at a chair.  Brianna is born and raised in Los Angeles. She’s short with short hair. She is on her phone the whole time recording Sal.  I sit and observe what’s going on. Sal is cutting away to the left of me. When he cuts, it looks like there’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s scary and yet artistic. There are women getting their hair colored behind me. Sal’s colorist is named Cherin Choi who happens to look like she walked out of Rolling Stone.

Her hair is black and pink on the ends, its wild and free. She wears some fringe shirt and sleek black tights. She is the epitome of ‘trending L.A.’ She looks like confidence and self-assurance in the flesh.

I am brought back to the sink to get washed. Then it’s time to dry the hair. An hour has passed and it’ after 8 already. I sit down and the assistant blow dries and straightens my hair. After about one hour and a half of prep, Sal comes to my chair and asks what I’m looking for. He sounds tired. I am his last appointment of the day, and I hope he isn’t too tired to do a good job.

“I am looking for some layers, I have a couple of photos that I love.”

He starts working and I let him. There’s some small talk. He asks me how I found out about him and if I’m from New York City.

“I found you on Instagram, and no, not from the city, I live in a small New Jersey town.” Boring. I feel like the most boring person in existence. I could have said I was from the lower east side. Grew up with rich parents that know style and the city.

He asks if I’m going out after I’m finished with the haircut. Do I tell him I am going to probably go home to watch T.V. and go to sleep? That doesn’t sound very exciting. I don’t know enough about the city to make up a good lie. Why am I lying to a stranger anyway?

The sheer scissors make a constant clipping noise and I wonder what the finished product will look like. My sister sends texts about when I’ll be finished. She starts to get angry at me because it is taking so long. It’s passed 9 p.m.

Sal tells me about how he got a large following. He cut the hair of some famous woman in Latvia. She went home and then thousands and thousands found her picture on Sal’s site and so they followed him. More texts from my frustrated sister come in. There’s a woman that knows Sal who is getting her hair colored. She, Sal, and other workers contribute to a conversation about frivolous L.A. life. They all sound so sure about what they’re saying. They all talk with conviction, with agency.

It’s time for the big reveal. I touch my head and the weight is gone. He thinned my hair out dramatically and gave me a bunch of layers. It looks good and I wonder how in the world I’m going to make it look like this after I shower. For now, I won’t worry about that.

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Photo of Rachel Appleton, Mark Garrison Salon, Photo By Rachel Appleton

I pay and my wallet cries.  An imaginary tear crashes ever so softly on the glimmering tile below. Sal doesn’t take pictures of me. I suppose I don’t have to be on the Instagram page.  I pay on an IPad and that just weirds me out.

I walk outside and spend twenty minutes trying to find my sister and friend. The upper east side is nice. There’s no smell of garbage, even though bags and bags of trash are piled along the street. The lights are bright and I feel like a model with my new look. My sister and friend can’t find the car so I stay on the block for a while. I look into the store next to me. It’s a Jimmy Choo shoe store. I imagine the ladies with long fur coats and expensive shoes that shop here. I see a boot and the price tag is unbelievable. It’s fun to imagine the lives of people who can buy and want to buy a shoe that costs $2,000.

It took a while to learn how to style my new hair. If I didn’t do anything to it, it looked like a chopped mess. I still need to wait for the short layers to grow out. I wonder if the people in Los Angeles look like mess when they wake up.

The Mystery Behind Staying Single

By: R. Theodora Appleton
Twitter: @TheApples_816
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(I do not own this image.)

I know that my situation isn’t unique. The odds are, many people have been in the same exact shoes as I am in at this moment. I am 22 and single. When I tell people, they tell me to live it up and enjoy it. I enjoy being able to talk to whoever I want to, whenever I want to. I enjoy answering only to myself. I enjoy the mystery. The mystery of not knowing the future. Not knowing the answers.

The more we age, the less unknowns there are. Hundreds of relationships and marriages dwindle into separation because there’s nothing exciting anymore. The couple has communication issues, or the chemistry is gone. But what makes that desirable chemistry? To say the sparks are born out of mystery isn’t a half-bad theory.

To build on this mystery theory, this could be the reason why so many women fall for the “bad” guy. You know, nice guys finish last. Nice guys finish last because they are easily predictive. They listen. They make plans. They just want to please you. The bad guy is always doing something different. There’s a chase involved and you never know if you’ll get what you want or not.

Over the past years I’ve met many fantastic men. Some were interested in me. Some became my friends. Some left my life completely. There have been so many crushes and crushes are what feed the fire of mystery. They make the journey exciting and unpredictable.

I have gained enough confidence to be aggravated at the crushes and not sad about them. In the past, I would simplify the situation down to me not being good enough. So many women and men think this way.

As we grow into adults, we realize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. This is self-realized. No matter how many people tell you “oh, he is missing out!” or “you are wonderful,” each individual will realize self-worth on his or her own.

I have finally realized that I am worth it. So why do I still have crushes? How can we debunk this “mystery man” fantasy?

If I ignore the desire for mystery and settle for the nice guy, he will foster a wonderful friendship that can outlast any crush. My eighty-year-old self would say to choose your friend. Even though we all know what the wise decision is, why is it so hard to let go of the burning desire to want what we can’t have?

It could be that the journey is more enjoyable than the destination. Someone famous said a quote like that before. Actually, BrainyQuote has an entire section called “destination” where every quote reflects upon the importance of the journey opposed to the end point.drake1

Could these crushes keep surfacing because it is more than the mystery, more than the journey itself? Could it be an issue of idealism? My imagination has sculpted a perfect person, so that I am subconsciously waiting for a human representation to <POOF?!?!?> show up to capture me and live happily ever after.

Moreover, it could be an issue of media. Over 4 years of living in a real-life social media experiment with Instagram and Facebook, I have learned how to act in a social media connected existence. Only now do I understand the fatal flaws of social media. Yes, it makes socialization faster, but it sets us back years in self-efficacy and self-esteem. The fact that we are connected with so many people in the matter of seconds makes it hard for me to believe there is just one person for me.

We are a part of ‘trend culture.’ Where at one moment a style, trait, look, personal quality is exciting. Then the moment passes. Our vices and virtues shift and we find different muses. It may become ever so difficult to complete the journey of love when our perception of what we want changes so frequently.

The divorce rate continues to rise, which isn’t encouragement for youths to go and get hitched. All of these factors contribute to a single nation. The single nation of the millennials. “The single generation of hookups and unofficial relationships.” Yay…

So yes, relationships are intimidating. But what to do about being stuck with a crush. Back to my crush. I am at the point where I don’t understand why this guy won’t go out with me. Here’s the deal:

We work together. He fits my type exactly (thin guy, brown hair, light eyes, isn’t interested in me.) He’s been single for a few months now. I’ve been pretty forward with him, asking him out to the bar when my coworkers and I go out. He’s denied every invitation 9/10 times. I asked him if he’d like to see a film, but he didn’t like any of the movies in theaters. Womp. womp.

It seems like there’s no chance he is interested because if he was, he definitely would have said yes to a movie. At least that’s my thought process.

So it seems like he’s just another crush to get over. Another guy that feeds my need for mystery.

When I think of the future, I can’t tell whether I will be married or not. So much is up in the air, so many unknowns. During a trip to the bar with friends, marriage came up in conversation. One friend thinks the institution of marriage is phasing out. That long-term relationships are opposite of what humans are programmed for.

One friend is currently young and married (and is a romantic.) This friend believes there’s someone special out there for everyone. I recognize a regular at the bar I work at. She’s been married for over thirty years. So naturally I ask her how it has worked.

  • Successful relationships are built on the groundwork of a solid friendship. The first words that came out of her were “we’re best friends.”
  • Successful relationships are built on a groundwork of trust and independence.
  • Relationships work when two people accept the fact that people change over time. She admits that her and her husband are completely different people now than when they met.
  • Love is not easy.
  • Love is something that needs constant work.

Being single. It’s not bad. Having a crush. It’s not too bad. For a crush, can turn into chemistry. Chemistry can turn into an indestructible friendship. Friendship can become a worthwhile relationship. A relationship can turn into a successful marriage. All benchmarks of a journey of love with no specific direction.

A Tale of the Politcally Undecided 21 Year Old

By: Rachel Theodora Appleton                           Twitter: The_Apples816                              Instagram: Apples816

Being a politically undecided 21 year old during the 2016 presidential campaign is a tough life.

1) My parent’s generation thinks I’m a flaming liberal, even though I’m not.

Look, I know I go to a liberal college. I know most of my professors detest Donald Trump and Chris Christie. I know that they are #withher because they give indiscrete innuendos during lecture all the time. I know that children and young minds are sponges that soak in their surroundings, BUT COME ON GUYS; it’s not that simple. One of the main goals of college is to teach people how to make rational decisions. College teaches us that a black and white world doesn’t exist. Most circumstances end up with a greyish answer. You think I’m liberal, but I just choose to look at both sides of a story. I’m not soft and I’m not too sensitive.

2) Your classmates think you’re a racist, sexist, murderous trump supporter if you don’t agree with them.

I’ve brought this up to a couple people outside of University. Whenever I bring it up to Gen Xers and baby boomers, they’re not surprised in a that’s so typical kind of way. From their perspective, college is a cesspool of liberal brainwashing camps. This entire campaign has brought the ugly out in society, a society that judge’s character based off of political opinion. I haven’t dared to support Trump in class (#1 because I don’t, #2 if I did- I would be attacked by he said this, this, and that’s by a majority of my peers,) and who would out rightly disagree with the person grading you? If I did support trump, I bet I’d have a harder time making friends. In a Pew Research Study, more than half of consistent liberals delete friends on Facebook if they disagree. About the same number of republicans only have friends that support their opinions.

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3) You feel like the government cheated you out of a nice voting experience.

I was lucky enough to vote in 2012. That campaign year was intense, the stakes were high, but it was nothing compared to the 2016 horror “reality TV show esque show” of an election. So many of us now understand the flaws of a two-party system supported by monetary power moguls and corruption. Deciding who to vote for based off of “who is less terrible” doesn’t make anyone feel good after sending in a ballot. I want to vote for a candidate I have faith in. I refuse to vote for the not as bad candidate.

4) If you don’t vote, you are seen as un-American and disrespectful towards your veterans.

When people ask me who I’m going to vote for, my stomach drops, I start to sweat, my vision blurs, I get the shakes… well, no, not really, I’m exaggerating a bit, but I do give the same answer every time, and it goes a bit like this: “oh, God…I don’t know…I don’t like either of them. It’s crazy. I don’t even know if I’m going to vote. What about you?”

The truth is, I want to vote because that’s what democracy is all about. However, when your representatives don’t represent you, who do you choose?

5) You feel like you really wanted Gary Johnson to pull through, but realized he’s an idiot.

Remember a couple months ago when thousands of people heard the word “libertarian” for the first time? A flame of hope shot across their hearts. (queue musical chimes in the background.) Unfortunately that flame burnt out when Gary Johnson made it to prime time media coverage. The guy sounds fantastic on paper, but then…. but then… he speaks and words come out of his mouth that just sound ridiculous. It was a short-lived dream, but hopefully libertarians can gain some more inertia next time. Back to dumb and dumber.

6) You feel like you’ve put the decision off for far too long, and now it’s two weeks away and you’re still questioning everything.

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Photo by: Communities Digital News

People are sending mail-in ballots and your research hasn’t made anything better. You have put off choosing for so long that you forgot you had to make a decision in the first place (god-willing that your voter registration didn’t expire unknowingly to you.) Maybe it is the pressure of defending either choice that makes this difficult. Perhaps, I’ll flip a coin? I might just go to the booth and rely on my intuition and prior research to get me through the ballot. Wild card, anyone?

7) If I don’t want to talk about politics, it doesn’t mean I am ignorant.

This happens a lot, but sometimes politics consumes too much of my life. Maybe I want to talk about trivial things like other people’s experiences and theories on philosophy and life.

8) You may actually believe the whole world is a conspiracy theory now.

We all know Donald Trump thinks the election is rigged. I mean, who are we to say he’s wrong, we’re just working plebeians. I’m all for our whole existence being a video game. Maybe someone’s pulling the strings for us. At least we’d know someone has a direction in mind.

 

The political world has changed, for the better or worse? That’s for you to decide. As for me, I feel that presidential campaigns will increasingly become a part of our lives and make us crazier than we already are. For the past year, our Facebook newsfeeds, Twitter pages, emails, and newspapers have probably said “Clinton” and “Trump” 13.62 trillion times (yes I chose our national debt as an extreme measurement as emphasis.)

Being an undecided 21 year old during this campaign has been stressful and unrewarding. It’s showed some ugly sides of society and prejudice that I hope can be addressed by young politically undecided 21 year olds all over the land of the free, like me.

Blood, sweat and tears

By: R. Theodora Appleton

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NJ Transit Train Car- Picture taken from Google Images

 

Traveling home from New York Penn Station is an adventure during rush hour. The train cars fill up and everyone has to squeeze in. Coughs, sneezes and phone calls serve as the playlist for an hour.

The air gets tighter as more people pile into the car. I sit with my eyes glued to my smart phone and tune out the activity around me. The two ladies sitting next to me leave after the first stop. Someone immediately replaces them.

I see three tattoo teardrops on his face, one from his left eye and two under the right. There is a white towel tied around his head like a makeshift durag. Tattoos cover his entire body and it looks like art. He’s wearing a white shirt and black shorts. He notices me and I notice him. I go back to making eye contact with my phone.

The conductor walks by and checks off the same box on both of our tickets. Not much time passes and he asks if I’m going to New Brunswick too. I respond and the conversation begins.

He talks to me about relationships. He reflects on the meaning of true love. I listen, and encourage the conversation more. He tells me that he wants to be married one day. That he wants to bring flowers to his wife, and make her smile.

He is from Paterson, NJ, and he tells me that he’s always had a business mindset. The conversation surprises me when he tells me that he used to sell drugs to make a living. He tells me about his dangerous lifestyle and what the drug industry has done to his life. He tells me that things are looking up now that he’s out of prison.

“I’ve been on probation since I was 13, it’s hard, you know what I mean,” he says.

I understand what he is saying, but I cannot accurately imagine the life he is living. I’m surprised that he is so open to telling a stranger his story.I enjoy it though.

He tells me that his childhood has shaped every decision he has made and how he sees the world. As he describes his life and hardships, the story remains hopeful. He delves deeper into his soul.

The stranger on the train tells me about his dreams of starting a business. He also has plans to pursue art as a poet and singer. His greatest challenge is staying out of the world in which he grew up. He tells me he sees people he grew up with selling drugs, driving expensive cars, and ruining people’s lives. A life he used to have. A life he regrets.

As I reflect during our conversation, I once again reencounter an internal debate. Are we all the same, or are we all completely different? Could anyone have the life this man has? The unfortunate truth is, his fate is not unique to him. Anyone of us could have this life.

I ask him what his tattoo means because not knowing its meaning has been bothering me the entire time. He tells me it stands for, “Blood, sweat and tears.”

We reach our city and I wish him luck as I leave the train.

Songs For a New World, Bloomfield- NJ

Songs for a New World is a song cycle style musical, composed and written by Jason Robert Brown, 2-time Tony award winner. The show was first performed off-broadway in 1995. Since then, the show has been performed hundreds of times, and adored by many.
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           This musical takes it’s audience through musical monologues that describe what it means to go through life changes, particularly in American history.
           The show has 19 songs  and is separated by two acts. Some of the most frequently performed songs outside the formal production include “Stars and the Moon,” “I’m not afraid of anything,” and the duet “I’d give it all for you.”
          These stories of love, exploration, and grief left me feeling connected to the characters and their experiences.
Listen to the cast, here.
            4th Wall Theater in Bloomfield New Jersey, opened Songs for a New World to the public the weekend of March 11-1, 2016, as a fundraiser. The show was set to run for only one weekend.
           The exceptional arrangement of the opening number “The New World” immediately brought me into the world of the characters and extraordinary music.
            This show was one of the most impressive shows I have had the pleasure to experience and I urge you to get a copy of the music if you can’t find a live performance. (It might be hard to find a show, it’s not performed very often!)
             The directing team made some interesting choices that separated this production from other shows, particularly the arrangement of the stage.
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Directing Team:
Director, Kate Swan
Music Director, Markus Grae-Hauk
Light Designer, Nicholas Marmo
Sound Design, Nicholas Von Hagel
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            The chosen venue was the Bloomfield College Westminster Arts Center and the theater had a beautiful proscenium style structure. The pit was placed upstage and the cast used risers to create a dynamic image. This allowed the audience to appreciate all parts of the show at once.
            Songs for a New World calls for two males actors and two female actors but Kate Swan strategically added 5 more actors which created diversity on the stage and life to the stories.
Actors:
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Marisa Cucuzza, Julie Galorenzo, Angela Rose Masi, Jenna Rose, Alyssa DePonte,
Andre Jamal Williams, Joshua Clifton Powell, Cory Herbert, and Daniel Peter Vissers
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            Each and every actor had an incredible voice and talent for telling a story. Since there was no set, props, or intensive choreography to work with, the cast built a world through their ability to act.
            Some of the fantastic performances included “Stars and the Moon,” (Julie Galorenzo,) “On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492,” (Daniel Peter Vissers,) and “Flying Home,” (Andre Jamal Williams.)
            Williams gave an unforgettable performance of “Flying Home.” Besides bringing tears to my eyes, he made me feel as if I was going through heartbreak, just like his character was. “Flying Home” is about grief and the unbearable desire to be with someone who has recently passed. On stage, Williams started singing to a grave. It was the most intimate moments of the show and it led to the climax.
Watch Williams sing “Flying Home” here.
           This show doesn’t have a traditional plot which sometimes makes the songs appear unrelated. However, it is clear that each character learns a precious lesson by the end of the show. Especially during Williams’ performance, his character learns that the end of a relationship, or moment, is the beginning of a new one. A new world, that’s waiting to be lived.
           It sounds like a cliché but it is so relatable that you can’t help to love it anyways.
          Songs for a New World isn’t performed as much as it should be, so it was an absolute pleasure to be able to go see such an exceptional production of it. 4th Wall Theater is a company that ought to be followed and kept an eye out for. What great talent they have attracted.
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Photo belongs to 4th Wall Theater

Tinder and STDs

“The people we meet change our lives. A friend, a date, a romance, or even a chance encounter can change someone’s life forever” says Tinder’s official website.

People don’t just swipe right or left, they actually meet up. “I actually met my girlfriend on Tinder,” said Dan Siegel, school of arts and sciences junior.

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Tinder focuses on the human desire to make new connections and 3 weeks ago, Tinder incorporated features to make these connections healthier and safer.

“Tinder has added a health safety section to its website that will include a link to Healthvana’s free HIV and STD testing site locator…” reported a press release on January 21.

You can find the link to http://www.healthvana.com/free-std-testing/ under the “know your status” section of Tinder’s website.

Healthvana is a cloud-based technology that improves communication between healthcare providers and their patients.

“Healthvana empowers people with actionable health information at their fingertips so they can make better decisions,” said Ramin Bastani, CEO of Healthvana.

Back in September last year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) campaigned for a greater awareness of sexual health and safety on dating sites by putting up billboards and advertisements in LA and NYC, according to the press release.

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It’s essential for dating apps to help educate their users about their health and where to get services near them, just like Tinder did, said Bastani in an email statement.

Tinder has taken a step in the right direction by putting resources in people’s hands, said Dr. Francesca Maresca, director of Health Outreach Promotion and Education (H.O.P.E.) at Rutgers.

The CDC announced a significant increase in the number of reported STD cases in 2014, particularly affecting young people, the press release said.

Some concerned individuals believe that apps like Tinder and other dating sites are the cause for this increase. When accusations were made, Tinder argued that there was no scientific proof correlating the relationship with STDs and it’s software.

“Through centuries people have been able to meet up for sex, this is not a new phenomenon,” said Dr. Maresca. The opportunity for sex is increasing, but the app doesn’t suggest how people should be having the sex.

Having Healthvana and Tinder collaborate is a helpful tool, but it shouldn’t be completely necessary, said Siegel.

“Tinder could be one of the reasons that there’s an increase in STIs, but it’s a modicum. People are going to meet people anyways, the app just increases the number of people you meet,” said Siegel.

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The risk for getting an STD or an STI is not greater here or anywhere else, said Dr. Maresca. The real risk comes from not knowing the ways to practice safe sexual behaviors.

As director of H.O.P.E, Dr. Maresca speaks to hundreds of students about sexual health among other topics throughout the year.

There’s definitely a portion of students at Rutgers who don’t know enough about sexual health safety, said Dr. Maresca. Oftentimes, this is a function of what happens before they even come to college.

“Communication skills, accurate medical information and ways to prevent STIs are essential to students health,” and that’s why workshops with H.O.P.E are so important, Dr. Maresca believes.

Rutgers provides students with ample information about STIs, the recent increase in STIs is more about the individual decision making process, agrees Siegel.

www.health.rutgers.edu is a great website to check out for more information about testing locations and dates.

In a world with exuberant amounts of information, it is crucial to understand the dynamic affordances of the technology we use.

Technology is a very helpful tool when it comes to learning about STIs. “The positive side of new technology, is that we have information and resources in people’s hands immediately,” said Dr. Maresca.

However, the amount of misinformation that’s out there is dangerous. “People haven’t yet developed the health literacy that we need,” said Dr. Maresca.

Above all, it is important to have the conversation about sex health. “Talking about tinder and STIs shouldn’t be a taboo topic,” said Siegel.

Antonin Scalia Dies, Change Expected in Courts

By: R. Theodora Appleton

Justice Antonin Scalia was pronounced dead on February 13th at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas where he was enjoying a weekend hunting trip, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Cibolo Creek Ranch, Presidio County, Texas

Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia’s death without seeing the body and attributed his demise to natural causes, said the article.

Guevara claims that she spoke with law enforcement officials who said there was no foul play at the scene, said the article.

“Scalia’s physician in Washington said that the 79-year-old justice suffered from a host of chronic conditions,” said Guevara in an interview with WSJ.

Under Texas law, it is permissible to pronounce a death without seeing the body. Yet there are people who find suspicion in that the family requested no autopsy, reported WSJ.

Chelsea Price, SAS Rutgers alum who studied criminal justice and psychology, believes that people today are hardwired to question everything nowadays which could be the root of people’s suspicion.

“Had he been in optimal health, I would have been more suspicious of his death,” said Price.

Scalia’s death came as a shock to many American’s because his health issues were less known than that some other justices, said Stuart Deutsch, former dean of Law at Rutgers Newark 1999-2009, in an email interview.

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The late Antonin Scai

Deutsch believes there is no reason to feel suspicious about the passing of Scalia. “79-year-old men die every day,” said Deutsch.

Scalia was arguably one of the most influential justices on the Supreme Court for the last generation, according to Dr. Alec Walen, professor of philosophy and law undergraduate director at Rutgers.

“While he never won the agreement of a majority of the Justices on Court, he brought originalist jurisprudence into the mainstream of legal arguments to this country,” said Walen.

Scalia’s sudden death woefully puts a new decision into the senate’s hands. Who is going to fill his position?

The Republican Majority Leader has warned that the US senate will block a vote on any nominee President Obama recommends, according to a BBC news article.

While there are individuals who want to wait to fill the position, many believe that President Obama should appoint a new justice as soon as possible.

“[President Obama} has almost a full year remaining in his term, and he has twice been elected by the people,” said Deutsch. The entire process of appointing a new justice would be completed in sixty to ninety days.

The Constitution says that it is the president’s job (with influence from the senate) to appoint a new judge, said Price.

Price was shocked when she read reports on attempts made by the Republican Senate to block any nominations from President Obama for Scalia’s replacement.

“The people elected [Obama] and they trust his opinion, and this is one of his duties,” said Price.

In the hopes that the current president will appoint a new judge, sooner rather than later, positive changes will be made in the courts, believes Price.

“Scalia was especially known for his scathing and witty dissents,” said Walen. His conservatism defined his character.

Many Americans are ready for a wind of change in the justice system and they hope it will start with a new justice.

Before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court had been closely divided between five conservative justices and four liberal justices, according to BBC news. If a new justice isn’t appointed soon, many of the decisions may be deadlocked, said BBC news.

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“I hope that the new justice will shift the balance of the Court in favor of the progressive, liberal values of Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan,” said Deutsch.

In a perfect world, the judge to be elected will not use their own biases or agendas to heavily influence their rulings, said Price.

There are a few cases being brought to the Supreme Court in the near future that are very controversial, according to Price.

“There’s one that is dealing with Abortion regulations, another with California’s teacher’s unions…”

Now that there are only 8 judges, a lot of these cases will most likely split, said Price.

Hopefully the appointed judge will uphold American’s constitutional rights, said Price.

 

Zootopia, A Film to See

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By: R. Theodora Appleton

A friend of mine wanted to reunite so he invited me to go see Disney’s new animated film, Zootopia. Let me tell you, Disney animated classics aren’t made just for children.

Zootopia is about Judy Hopps and her dream to make the world a better place. Hopps moves to Zootopia, an eccentric metropolis of diversity in hopes to become the police department’s first bunny cop.

There are predators and prey of every species coexisting in peace in Zootopia, but her parents constantly encourage her to give up on her dreams because they believe bunnies should stick to their natural responsibilities of growing carrots.

Judy defies their low expectations by moving to Zootopia and yet more obstacles are shoved in her way when the police chief does not believe in her.

An odd duo forms when Judy meets the con artist fox Nicholas Wilde on ticketing duty. In order to crack a huge case the department is struggling with, Judy hops on the case and drags street-smart Wilde with her.

The city of Zootopia mirrors our society with its beauty and visible inequality. Similar to the racial and cultural diversity in New Jersey, Zootopia has an enormous mix of species. The production team humorously included the tiniest of mice to the largest of elephants all living together in harmony.

But its not all smiles and fun, real discrimination exists amongst the various populations in Zootopia. For instance, in the beginning of the film, an elephant doesn’t sell an ice cream cone to a fox because of his size. In our world, discrimination may be subtler and stereotypes are often ideas we can’t even notice.

Although discrimination exists in Zootopia, the sheer beauty of the diversity makes it clear that everyone is beautiful no matter what size, shape or color.

Another important idea in Zootopia is that your stereotypes, expectations from society, and social norms should not dictate your dreams and goals.

Societal roles were forced upon Judy by her parents, which was the ultimate challenge for her. To leave her parents wasn’t an easy task, but leaving them was fundamental for her personal growth.

There are countless innuendos and hidden messages in this film. Zootopia is inspirational, motivational and hilarious. I guarantee that you will fall in love with the characters immediately and find a way to relate to the story.

Milo Yiannopoulis Brings Heat to NJ

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Rutgers Scott Hall 123, Feb. 9th 2016

@Theapples_816

By: R. Theodora Appleton

Milo Yiannopoulis is one of the most abrasive personalities I have yet to observe in life. He’s a journalist and a cultural commentator from the UK who happens to be rapidly gaining attention in the US.

Matt Boyer and Aviv Khavich, members of the Young Americans for Liberty student organization organized this talk, according to the Facebook event.

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I sat in the back left side of the argument surrounded by BLM protestors and Milo supporters.

Milo was invited to Rutgers to talk about how the progressive liberals are ruining free speech in America. The talk was titled “How the Progressive Left is Destroying American Education.” Milo is currently on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” and Rutgers was one of his stops.

Interesting, but an appropriate name for the tour.

I didn’t expect a gay white man to be so strongly against the progressive feminism wave and the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM.)

Here is a list of some of Milo’s words verbatim. Mind you, a good portion of the talk was filled with yelling, cursing, and angry/passionate protestors.

Brace yourselves…Milo doesn’t hold back.

1) “Daddy killed it in New Hampshire”

Milo is a strong supporter of Donald Trump, and he endorsed him tonight through the talk. Trump and Milo would have a wonderful walk and talk in the park about political correctness because they feel the same way about the issue. Both guys think political correctness is ruining the country and that it’s poisonous to democracy. He expresses his love by calling Trump DADDY.

 

A guy from the audience makes a joke that lesbians don’t exist and Milo says:

2) “…not sure if there is sex without penises.

First off, this is just a crazy statement because obviously there’s sex without penises. A number of the audience members and I believe that Milo is a complete hypocrite if he does not accept homosexual women. I mean he’s a gay man for god sake.

3) “We can all agree with Martin Luther King… <que angry protestors saying ‘Milo doesn’t have the right to speak of MLK’>… What I was saying is that we can agree that we should judge people on the content of their character not their skin color.”

Since Milo believes the BLM movement is the wrong approach to fixing society, the BLM protestors thought it was shameful for him to even use MLK’s words. But what Milo said was good and true. People should be judged by his or her character, not their appearance. SO, why were the protestors so angry with this? Isn’t this what the goal is? Equality?

4)“The purpose of university is to interrogate new ideas, discover ourselves, meet new people, and explore the world. What ought to be is a free space without trigger warnings. In my view, anyone who asks for a trigger warning should be expelled. What they’ve demonstrated is that they are incapable of being exposed to new ideas.”

I do agree with Milo here. Of all the crazy things he’s said in this talk, this actually makes sense. We have certain affordances from the constitution that protect tax-paying citizens. We can believe and say what we want. But a respectful citizen is one who can be open-minded. Someone that can hear two sides of an argument and respect the other’s view is the only way democracy can survive.

5)“…The world they want is quite similar (in regards to the KKK and black lives matter)”

Okay. This is a loaded statement. Milo is saying that the BLM movement wants segregation again. An example of this would be all black housing. He connects this to the KKK wanting re-segregation. I can’t help to feel that this is completely ridiculous. The KKK wanted to kill people that were black. The BLM movement wants equality and to start a conversation about racial inequalities. Unfortunately, these conversations hadn’t surface because the protestors are so passionate. But to compare a social justice movement to the KKK is absurd.

6)“There is a safe space- it’s called the US. It is what enables people to be rude, and to be awesome.”

The point of this talk was free speech and how “safe spaces” are changing that right. Milo is saying that we are privileged as Americans because of our first amendment right. I agree with him. We are fortunate. But, importantly, we need to keep a watchful eye on the rise of trigger warnings and safe spaces on colleges. This is a sign that our first amendment rights are getting compromised.

7)”If you want to solve the problem [muslim mass migration] in Europe these people need to be deported.”

I think this speaks for itself. Probably another reason why he matches well with Trump.

8)“Mens rights activists…they are right in the way society is turning against men.”

Is this just a backlash to the feminist progress? I think it very well might be. Just 50 years ago women weren’t able to have credit cards without having a man co-sign. You’re telling me that women are dominating the society and men are feeling victimized. WHAT?

9)”The T should be taken out of the LGBT community. This movement has its roots in policing language. It’s all about political correctness, once again. Transgender is a psychiatric disorder-disease. The left has run out of things to complain about so the Trans movement has become a priority.”

Well Jesus. I think some individuals believe that being a homosexual is a disorder as well. What the heck do you have to say about that? I do think there’s too much sensitivity in the world, but to call Trans people diseased is outright despicable if you ask me.

10)“Perpetuating the victim is what hold us down.”

What Milo is getting at here is that when we keep feeling like the victim, nothing will ever get better. What do we do when a group of people was victimized for a period in history? We can’t just make the past go away. What I’m disappointed with is that Milo didn’t give an answer to fix this problem. The only advice he had was for black people to stop voting for democrats… gee…really helpful.

11)“All lives matter”

Here is the truth in it all. However, society doesn’t produce equality. Society shows that the marginalized lives matter less.

After the talk I went up to Milo and asked him why “all you need is love” isn’t the answer. He told me “it needs much more than that.”

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So what do we need? I guess that’s up to us.

We need to start with respect and a relearning of what it means to have democratic ideals. Everyone has different opinions and in America that is our freedom. That is our right. We’re living in a society that believes in double standards and hypocrisy. How can one individual say “you can’t talk about MLK” and proceed to argue “Don’t tell me to shut up, first amendment rights, I can say whatever I want!”

Yes, Milo has some terrible opinions. But he makes us question our societal traditions and social norms that go unanalyzed. The point to bring home is that the freedom of speech in America is being challenged in Universities all around the country. The world will have a rude awakening if Education in America continue on this path.