RFH Tower Players Perform “Aida”

by Emily

On March 22-24, the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional Tower Players performed their spring musical, Aida. Written by Elton John and Tim Rice, Aida takes place in an ancient Egyptian setting.  English and Drama teacher Mrs.Sweeny directed the play, as she has been for past musicals.

The plot of Aida revolves around a Nubian princess, Aida. Aida is captured by a powerful Egyptian war captain, Radames, while their countries are at war. As Radames takes Aida under his wing as a personal servant for his fiancee, a forbidden love evolves between the two. Despite their different social statuses, Aida and Radames’ profound romance paves the way to bring peace and civility to their war ridden countries.

The elaborate costumes, tribal music, and exciting choreography made the audience feel as though they really were in ancient Egypt. Aida was extremely successful and a truly great performance by the Tower Players.

The core cast of Aida included senior Clare Fitzgerald, starring as Aida and senior Harrison Best as Radames. Both lead performers have been participating in the RFH productions since freshman year, and lit up the stage one last time in their last musical.

“I’m really happy with how Aida turned out. It was a lot of hard work and long rehearsals, but it was definitely worth it,” said Best.

For the senior cast, the final performance of Aida was bittersweet.  However, many were glad their time with the Tower Players ended on a successful note. Sophomore Julia Mosby held a lead role as Radames’ fiancee and gave a stellar performance for one of the younger Tower Players. Other roles included a washer woman, servant, model, and other minor parts played by many freshmen and upper classmen within the ensemble. After seeing the play, it was apparent that Aida took many months of preparation by all Tower Players.

“We rehearsed nearly every day, perfecting every little detail in each musical number,” said senior, Shannan Kirchner. This was Kirchner’s first year doing the spring musical, and she described the experience as strenuous but rewarding. Like Best, Kirchner was very proud of all the Tower Players, and all the dedication hard work that went into Aida.

Each intricate detail of the performance went smoothly. Of course, the play would not have been such a success without the backstage work of stage craft and tech crew. The set of the play was very complex and detailed, making it look extremely authentic. Similarly, all lighting and microphone work ran smoothly, making for awesome performances all three nights. Last, but not least, the orchestra pit led by Mr.Grillo performed all musical numbers. Pit members included students who take various music classes at RFH and have volunteered their time. It was the work contributed by these “behind the scenes” Tower Players that helped the play become such a success.

Overall, Aida was a theatrical success and was nearly sold out all three performances. Those who saw say the play would agree that the Tower Players’ countless rehearsals definitely payed off. Congratulations to the Tower Players on a wonderful performance.

_____________________

The RFH Annual Blood Drive Saves 219 Lives

by Emily

_____________________

On February 25, Rumson Fair Haven High School held its annual blood drive. In the week leading up to the drive, students and staff members could make an appointment to give blood during lunch periods or in the nurse’s office. Throughout the day, students and staff members attended their respective appointments to donate blood in the auditorium.

The blood drive was held by the Central Jersey Blood Center. The CJBC has sixteen service centers throughout the state of New Jersey. According to CJBCblood.org, its mission is, “to provide an adequate, high quality, and safe supply of blood, and other related services to meet the needs of area hospitals.”

There is no doubt that hosting blood drives at institutions like Rumson Fair Haven High School is extremely beneficial to these organizations and their mission to save lives. The donated blood will go to cancer patients, trauma victims, and others that need life-saving blood. The entire process is free and those as young as 16 can participate with a parent-consent form.

“The entire process was very quick and painless. Everything went very smoothly and I was happy to donate what I could,” said Shannan Kirchner, an RFH senior.

To sign up, students simply made an appointment with the school nurse, received a pass in their homeroom, and attended the drive at their respective times, bringing a parent consent form and ID. This was Kirchner’s second year donating blood, and she encourages all students 16 and over to participate in next year’s blood drive. Donating at the blood drive is simple, convenient, and an effective way to raise awareness.

“By having the blood drive at RFH, we are exposing students to the importance of donating and they can donate in a comfortable environment,” says the RFH school nurse and Health Club advisor, Mrs. Nill.

This was Mrs.Nill’s tenth year running the blood drive with the Health Club, and she was eager to be a part of the cause. Mrs.Nill believes that by bringing the blood drive to the school, we are leading the way for students to become lifetime donors to a great cause that is always in need of aid. If students miss the annual blood drive they can donate at any other Central Blood Center in New Jersey just by calling and setting up an appointment.

At the end of the day, RFH’s blood drive was very successful. According to Mrs.Nill, despite the limited 72 appointments available, 81 people donated, collecting 73 units of blood in total. With one unit of blood saving three lives, that’s 219 lives saved.

The Central Jersey Blood Center was very happy with the success of the blood drive. The entire RFH community was eager to donate and as a whole made a big difference. Mrs.Nill and the Health Club encourage all eligible students and staff members to participate in next year’s drive. 219 lives saved is a tremendous accomplishment and those who donated or worked the drive should be extremely proud. With the generous and big-hearted RFH community there is no doubt that next year’s blood drive will be just as prosperous.

___________________

Book Review: “Oryx and Crake”

by Emily

_________________

Take a moment and think of our planet in the near future. You’re probably thinking of a large human population, mass consumption, and maybe fewer natural resources. As a whole we accept that these characteristics of our modern society will inevitably evolve.  It is simply human nature to inherently develop ideas, explore, and advance in all fields. Unfortunately, humanity can now see the consequences of such rapid development through environmental issues like global warming, limited resources, and disease.

These consequences are seemingly nothing compared to the dystopia that Margaret Atwood depicts in her novel Oryx and Crake. Arguably best known for her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. Atwood credits many of her ideas from current events, making her pieces shockingly realistic. Living in a family of biologists but thoroughly studying literature, Atwood draws inspiration from her scientific and literary background. It is clear that both science and literature intertwine in the majority of her work. The novel Oryx and Crake illustrates a terrifying future which includes eugenics, population sterilization, and large corporations holding political power.

When I was first handed Oryx and Crake, I was skeptical. It was assigned in AP Language and Composition and was due in a month. Since it was a requirement, I immediately was disinterested and doubted that the book held any exciement. When I had spare time a few days before the due date, I flipped through a few pages. In the days following, I could not put it down.
The plot revolves around a man named Snowman (also known as Jimmy) and a series of flashbacks in his life. The reader sees Snowman’s childhood in a corporate compound that is trying to recreate human organs in animals called pigoons. In this future setting, genetic manipulation and the desire to maintain youth are the hot topics of conversation. Jimmy befriends a man named Crake and the rest of the story is their journey through life in the compound, college, and real world.

Despite their strong friendship, Crake and Jimmy are polar opposites. Crake is an intelligent man with a dark side. He is constantly criticizing human emotions and the flaws in our species. On the other hand, Jimmy believes in the will of humanity and is constantly on a rollercoaster of emotion. I liked the contrast between the two characters and it definitely amplified the suspense within the plot.

The plot constantly switches from Jimmy’s past to his present identity as Snowman in a world that was once a civilization. Suspense and mystery lingers over the reader, especially as they approach the end of the book. Throughout Oryx and Crake the reader is left to question what happened to destroy humanity in such a age of technological advancements.

Atwood’s commentary on the “uncontrolled genetic engineering ride” is extremely compelling. All events in Oryx and Crake are shockingly realistic and are brutally honest when depicting a dystopia that could be our future. Whether you like to read or not, the book will keep you interested through the direct parallels to our modern society today.

The night before Oryx and Crake was due, I stayed up the latest I have on a school night. It’s not because I was cramming for the test in the morning, but because I genuinely wanted to read the book and find out what happened. For me, I was fascinated by the dystopia that Atwood illustrates and intrigued by the frightening similarities to society today. For those who are fans or plan to read Oryx and Crake, the second book in the series, The Year of the Flood, is already available, and a third book will be released in May.

______________________

Valentine’s Day: A Long Way from its Origin

by Emily

_____________________

On February 14th 2013, about 150 million cards will be mailed, about $1.5 billion dollars worth of chocolate will be purchased, and 110 million flower deliveries will be made. Citizens in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia will spend the day with family or a loved one to celebrate a holiday dedicated to those they care about.

Unlike other holidays, Valentine’s Day’s tradition is unique because the activities need little explanation. It’s almost a given that on February 14th, the colors pink and red, chocolate, or flowers will somehow make their way into your day. You could hear an exchanging of Valentines wishes or spend money on those you care about. Whether you choose to participate or not, Valentine’s Day seems unavoidable.

But why, on February 14th, have chocolate, flowers, and cards expressing love become so popular? This Valentine’s Day, the 150 million card receivers and 110 million flower deliverers will have a vague idea of why exactly this came to be.

The true history of Valentine’s Day is vague because three accounts of Saint Valentine exist in recorded history. The term “Valentine” actually comes from a priest named Valentinus who lived in ancient roman times. When the Emperor of Rome forbade marriage for young men in hopes that they would become soldiers, Valentinus recognized the unjust nature of this and took action to rebell against the powerful government. Valentinus would conduct illegal weddings of young lovers, therefore becoming a symbol of love. Once the Emperor uncovered these secret affairs, Valentinus was immediately put to death. This explains the name of the holiday, but not the specific date of February 14th.

The entire month of February was once celebrated in Christian and Roman civilizations as a tribute to the fertility Gods. However it wasn’t until the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius finally acknowledged St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th. February 14th was the believed beginning of the birds’ mating season, so therefore a very symbolic day to celebrate love. For centuries, on this day, it was tradition to give small tokens of affection. According History.com, it wasn’t until the 1900’s that printed cards and heart shaped candies began to replace written letters and a loaf of bread. And today, this has spiraled to hundreds of accessible Valentine’s gifts,ranging from a box of candy to diamond earrings.

In my opinion, Valentine’s Day has unfortunately lost its true meaning and become a marketing ploy. Today, a majority of Americans feel obligated to purchase Valentine’s-themed items for others. This is a result of excessive advertising by companies such as Hallmark and Hershey. The price of small chocolate candies is raised simply because they are in red packaging, and flower companies make extravagant rose bouquets simply for the occasion. Although these companies profit tremendously when Valentine’s season comes around, it is a sad reality that Americans spend money on these items without knowing the true history of Valentine’s Day.

I feel like the chaos, hype, and materialistic factors surrounding Valentine’s Day take away from its true meaning of completing a small act of kindness. After all, Saint Valentine was a poor man known for performing secret marriages in church cellars by candlelight, not for giving luxurious gifts to all his friends. But for those secret brides and grooms, their simple exchange of words in a basement was enough to make them whole-heartedly happy. If more people knew Saint Valentine’s story, they would recognize that spending hundreds of dollars on a heart-shaped necklace for a loved one isn’t entirely necessary. Helping a friend or going out of your way to do something small and kind doesn’t require money, but thought. Because thought means so much more than a red box of heart-shaped candies.

__________________

Hurricane Sandy: Returning to Normalcy

by Emily

_________________________

On October 29th 2012, a 900-mile wide storm struck the east coast and caused about $62 billion in damage and at least 125 deaths in the United States. Hurricane Sandy was an unexpected tragedy that affected millions of people, not only in the U.S but in the Caribbean, as well. Months later, the devastation of Sandy continues to linger over the New York- New Jersey area, as buildings and towns that have become ruins wait to be rebuilt, and those who have lost everything, try to return to normalcy.

Luckily, these people are not alone. Almost immediately after the storm, campaigns and fundraisers emerged that were both creative and successful. Some of the most successful efforts were led by the American Red Cross, opening public donation centers around the country where anyone could donate supplies that varied from articles of clothing to non-perishable food items. These generous donations,  collected throughout the nation were given to families living in shelters with very few items to call their own.

On a larger scale, celebrities did their part in raising public awareness, as well as money, for Sandy victims. On 12/12/12, a benefit concert was held at Madison Square Garden where all proceeds went to charities such as the Robin Hood Relief Fund. The Robin Hood Relief Fund is the largest organization in the New York area that fights poverty. The 12/12/12 concert featured Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, Kanye West, The Who, Paul McCartney and even more. The fundraiser was more successful than anyone imagined; these musical icons came together to raise $300 million alone just in ticket sales. The concert was broadcast to about 2 billion people around the world, and merchandise is still being sold world-wide.

Other efforts included the “Restore the Shore” campaign led by MTV. On November 15th, MTV invited viewers around the country to tune in to watch special messages by pop-icons such as One Direction, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj. These celebrities, encouraged viewers to get involved in some way or another. The Restore the Shore efforts took off and began selling hoodies, T-shirts, and other merchandise with the Restore the Shore logo. Proceeds from the sales goes to Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization that helps rebuild communities in need or recovering from natural disasters, such as Seaside Heights. To get involved in Restore the Shore efforta, simply text a number to donate something as small as $10. In all, The Restore the Shore Campaign is still raising millions of dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief, making a big difference in the wake of this disaster.

Whether it’s multi-million dollar celebrities performing a sold-out concert, donating non-perishable foods to a community center, or even buying a Restore the Store T-shirt, anyone can aid in Sandy Relief efforts. Hurricane Sandy definitely took it’s toll on the east coast. Billions of dollars in damage and crushed dreams cannot be fixed overnight, but the fundraisers discussed in this article are sure doing a good job to get there as soon as possible. In the wake of such a devastating natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy has reminded Americans what really matters. It has reminded us that coming together to make a difference in any way is more powerful than any one could imagine.

__________________

The Evolution of the “Boy Band”

 by Emily

_____________________

Ever since the 60’s, boy bands have continued to be universal heartthrobs for tweens and teens worldwide. From the Beach Boys and the New Kids on the Block to NSYNC and the Jonas Brothers, something about these collective groups of all-American, innocent personas has led to sold out shows and massive fan bases. Boy bands were not only dominant in the 60-80’s but continue to be the center of attention. What is it that makes these modern boy bands pop culture icons? Obviously as the years passed, the “look” of boy bands has changed dramatically, but by comparing them, it is easy to see what has kept them around for so long.

 When the Backstreet Boys released their third album, Millennium, on May 18th 1999, it held the record for the most shipments in one year, over $11 million. It later became one of the best-selling albums of all-time, with sales reaching $40 million. The band consists of five members, who each have distinctive and well-known personalities. America seemed to fall in love with their “all-American” image and choreographed performances. The Backstreet Boys set the stage in the late 90’s and led the way for future boy bands. NSYNC, a similar group, came in as a close second and worldwide fame. With catchy songs, and a likeable persona, the Backstreet Boys instantly became the face of advertising, merchandise, world tours, and superstardom.

Today, the Backstreet Boys remain the best-selling boy band of all time with 130 million records sold. But that may soon change. One Direction is a British boy band who appeared on the show the X- Factor in 2010, but soon took their career into their own hands. Similar to the Backstreet Boys, the group consists of five members, each with a quirky and friendly personality that makes him so likeable. “Directioners”, or fans of One Direction, have brought back the boy band craze that had been missing since the 2000’s. In March 2010, nearly 10,000 directioners swarmed the stage of  The Today Show to watch their first television performance. Unlike the Backstreet Boys, some argue that One Direction has more of a sexy appeal to teens, with daring lyrics and an edgier look. They have broken away from the traditional “boy band choreography” and changed the overall “look” of a traditional 90’s boy band.

The rise of social networking hasn’t hurt One Direction’s career either. The boy band fan bases target the demographic of young people throughout their teen years, and more exposure to social networking at younger ages make the bands more globally popular. As of 2010, Twitter’s fastest growing audience lies within the ages 12 to 17. Worldwide hash-tag trends make iconic pop stars such as One Direction household names. As more and more teens have social networking sites readily available to them, it’s easier for One Direction’s fan base to expand, and rapidly. Obviously, this is shown by their business empire of $50 billion.

One Direction’s career is significant while looking at the changing dynamic of boy bands because of how much they stray from the traditional 90’s boy band persona. Many One Direction’s songs, including “Live While We’re Young”, are about partying, whereas many of Backstreet Boys’ singles were about romance, with songs like “Shape of My Heart.” They also differ in their performances, with more casual dances that are not dramatically in sync like the Backstreet Boys. Despite the changes, One Direction’s debut has undoubtedly brought back the boy band craze that has been missing for nearly a decade.

Whether it’s the old school, choreographic appeal of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC or the modern day, social-network dominating and edgy One Direction, boy bands have continued to remain pop culture icons. Although the standard formula for boy band success has changed over time, the same fascination over these groups have created historic fan bases and captured the hearts of teenagers everywhere, and continue to thrive as global phenomenona.

______________________

Not Exactly in the Numbers

by Emily

______________________

Each September, high school juniors worldwide frantically begin the process of college preparation. Naturally, we have been taught that the first instinct in this process is taking the SAT. Being in the same boat as most juniors, I remember talking to a family member about the test, and they reassured me that it was “the test that determines the rest of your life.”

Each year, about two and a half million students will spend collectively two and a half billion dollars on SAT preparation. What these two and a half million students do not know when they sit down that one Saturday morning to begin the three hour long exam is that they have spent their money on an outdated test that favors the wealthy, and plays a microscopic role in their future.

When Wake Forest University announced that it had become “SAT/ACT Optional,” it sparked tremendous controversy. Previously, the SAT had been one of the major factors in college admissions. Large universities have had difficulty admitting thousands of applicants and relied on SAT scores to quickly respond to applications.

But how “fair,” really, is the SAT? It has been proven that the amount of money spent preparing for the SAT directly correlates to your score. Essentially, the SAT is testing you on how well you know the tricks and schemes of the SAT questions. These are tricks and schemes that are taught through pricey courses and textbooks that can range to over $2,000 a course.

Since the SAT does not test your knowledge of content, but rather how well you know how to take standardized tests, families that cannot afford to study the dynamic of these tests will be at an extreme disadvantage. So as a whole, this filters out applicants that simply cannot afford SAT preparation, discriminating against many minority groups and lower class citizens. It is no coincidence that a study in the early 1990’s proved that 14% of lower class citizens had strong GPA’s but low standardized test scores due to their low income. Because of this, the SAT is simply discriminatory.

Rather than letting one single test determining what college wants you or not, many colleges are looking at the all around stats of a student. Factors like grade point average, course selection, and after school activities are what really illustrate a profile of a student. Rather than what happens one Saturday morning on a 2400 point scale of carefully crafted questions, colleges can look at who this person is, and accept them on the things that count.

Of course, students may still send their standardized test scores if they’d like, but is it really worth it? As of autumn 2012, more than 815 colleges and universities have taken to the test-optional policy. Countless others are in the process of doing away with standardized test scores, as well.

As the college process becomes more selective each year, colleges want to see holistically who they are going to admit into the class community. Many colleges actually prefer that students focus on creating rigorous and challenging schedules and maintaining strong GPA’s than taking the SAT countless times. College interviews have become a good alternative because it allows admission officers to get to know the applicant, rather than reading a number.

It is these tiny altercations that will one day eliminate discrimination from the college application process. Eventually, high school juniors will not have to succumb to slaving over SAT prep and spending tremendous amounts of money. Eventually, all colleges will see the futility of the SAT and do away with standardized tests.

Hardworking high school students, no matter what their family’s income is, should be judged on their all around performance and attitude in high school. What happens one Saturday morning should not determine the future of a young student. One’s life accomplishments, academic growth, and future goals cannot be measured in a single number.

_______________