Book Review: “Oryx and Crake”

by Emily

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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.

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Restaurant Review: JR’s in Red Bank

by Josh

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If you want absolutely delicious food at a reasonable price, JR’s is the place for you. Outfitted with a diverse selection of entre’s and a variety of desserts, you can easily frequent the restaurant and never lose interest.

At $6.50 for two medium sized sliders, the value is hard to beat. Some may think the price is a bit steep but the quality of the burgers is second to none so the price is more than fair.
Located on 17 west Front Street, JR’s is right in the hub of Red bank. The place has a nice, welcoming feel that is noticed upon entry.  ESPN is almost always on, which a big plus for  sports fan is looking to get the latest updates. JR’s hours run from 11 am to 4 am each and every day, so the food is available even before the break of dawn!
During my first trip to JR’s, I purchased a Original Junior which consists of 2 ground sirloin burgers with American cheese, green leaf lettuce, and burger sauce, as well as Crinkle cut fries and a small drink.  This came  to about $13. The burger was well cooked, yet flavorful, and the burger sauce  made the flavor very unique. The fries and drink were standard as expected and every facet of the meal was served in a relatively quick time frame.

Check out JR’s in Red Bank–long story short, it’s hard to beat!

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Legalizing Marajuana: Not a Good Move, America!

by Alex

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A wise man once said, “If the people cannot trust the government to do the job for which it exists—to protect them and promote their common welfare—all else is lost” (Barack Obama).

Legalizing the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana, I believe, will do exactly this.

Medicinal marijuana, without a doubt, has many positive benefits, such as helping and relieving those undergoing cancer chemotherapy or those suffering from AIDS, asthma, pain and muscle spasms, and glaucoma. However, legalizing marijuana cannot be seen as a value to our country when the risks outweigh the benefits.

If a government’s sole purpose is to protect its people and not expose them to risks, how can it legally endorse the production and distribution of a drug that has proven to be dangerous and is still considered immoral by a majority of the population?

The medical risks of marijuana include loss of brain cells, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, energy loss, impaired thinking, and blood vessel blockage. This drug has also been found to contain up to 100% more tar than found in tobacco and often is laced with other, more harmful drugs without the smoker’s knowledge. A government, whose job is to protect its citizens, cannot, in good conscience, allow these citizens to risk their health and lives with the use of marijuana, legal or not.

However, many supporters of legalizing marijuana question a government’s right to intervene in an individual’s free will, in their private decision of choosing whether or not to use marijuana. But a government, when it forbids its citizens from taking this drug, is not actually taking away their free will but protecting it. Drugs, such as marijuana, are addictive. Once an individual tries it once, whether this be for recreational or medicinal purposes, they no longer have the ability to make a rational decision of whether to continue to take the drug. They are addicted. Even users of “soft drugs” like marijuana can experience both a physical dependence on them, and withdrawal.

Besides harming just the smoker, the use of marijuana can also negatively impact others. Statistics link marijuana use to both crimes and car accidents. Children can even suffer the consequences through neglect by drug-addicted parents. A “medicine” that has such potential detriments to both the user and innocent third-party members cannot be seen as a medicine at all.

The last, probably most dangerous, side effect of legalizing marijuana is an increase in drug use. The Gateway Theory depicts how smoking marijuana can often lead to the usage of harder, more dangerous drugs. Gabriel Nicholas, a marijuana prohibitionist, describes its dangers: “it appears that the biochemical changes induced by marijuana in the brain result in drug-seeking, drug taking behavior, which in many instances will lead the user to experiment with other pleasurable substances. The risk of progression from marijuana to cocaine to heroin is now well documented.”

Legalizing this drug will also send the message to many that drug use is acceptable and safe, a statement that is far from the truth. Permitting a dangerous drug to be dispensed legally, even if only for medicinal use, undoubtedly allows easier access for people to recreationally use and abuse it. Adolescents are most at risk to believe this message and suffer the effects from marijuana, such as delaying emotional development and puberty. Our country cannot afford to take these risks.

Many words can be used to describe marijuana: fun, amusing, dangerous, medicinally beneficial, immoral, and most importantly, illegal, and that is how it should stay. As journalist George Will comments, “There is no reason to think today’s levels of [drug] addiction are anywhere near the levels that would be reached under legalization.” No one is certain if this is true, but I for one, do not wish to find out.  

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Review: “Game of Thrones”

by Billy

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Game of Thrones, written by George R. Martin, is the first novel in the highly esteemed series of fantasy novels called A Song of Fire and Ice. Game of Thrones, as well as its sequel Clash of Kings, has been transformed into a surprisingly successful HBO series.

Through my own life experiences, which in the grand scheme of things have been somewhat limited, I deduced that works of fantasy were usually ignored by the general public. Somewhere, my twisted logic forgot The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which captured the undivided attention of millions. If Tolkein can do it, why can’t Martin? I began to answer my own question in the days that followed my discovery of Martin’s series. Martin did do it, and did it so well that his work of fiction enticed not only faithful fantasy fans, but people who lived and died by the real life scenarios one would see in CSI or other hit dramas. When Game of Thrones is brought up in discussion, I usually find that one, if not more, of the discussion participants has religiously followed the series on HBO, and is eager to voice their own opinions about what the future will bring for the inhabitants of Martin’s world.

Being the young scholar and avid reader that I am, I find that my preference will unyieldingly reside with the textual format, rather than the visual. A Song of Fire and Ice followed the near unbreakable trend of book before movie, and therefore while all the visual fans waited for the third installment of the HBO version, I devoured the first two novels, and didn’t hesitate to proceed to third, which is as far as I have delved into the series so far. While the debate between books vs. movies will never be resolved due to ego and opinion, I urge those who think they prefer the HBO series to the novels to think again. If you haven’t read for pleasure because you don’t have time, you should make it. If you haven’t read for pleasure because you don’t like reading for pleasure, then Game of Thrones is one of the few books that I believe might change your mind.

The first installment of the series is called Game of Thrones, a title that perfectly describes the story that is about to be told. Martin introduces the main characters, who live in a world that more or less resembles the medieval times. When the story kicks off, the realm had just endured a long and bloody war for the iron throne. Two competing families had gathered massive armies and battered each other senseless until one prevailed. Out of the rubble emerged an environment that similarly resembles that of courtroom, only instead of two lawyers dropping the gloves, there are about five, and the lawyers all want their own form of justice carried out by their own people. The king would be the judge, but he is murdered, and therefore the most powerful families act as deranged lawyers without a judge. They bicker, backstab, and persuade until one family puts a king on the throne.

The aspect of the story that I most admire is the way that Martin describes the characters’ feeling and emotions in great detail, until you find you know the characters better than you know yourself. Once he accomplishes that, Martin devises countless plots and sub-plots that either pit characters against one another, or make them join forces in hopes that alliance will yield personal advancement. Somehow, Martin devises ways to constantly manipulate what might seem like separate plots, and join them together to create insane twists. The characters rarely act in a selfless manner, which enables twists and turns. Sometimes the reader knows something the main characters don’t, but usually the reader and characters are equally surprised at the turn of events.

Throughout the three novels I have read, Martin never fails to provide heroes with an ample supply of villains, and at times, it seems like the villains have the upper hand. The reader might not even be able to decipher hero from villain, and is forced to make an educated guess based upon previous character descriptions and actions. You can also be certain that when one main character dies, another emerges somewhere else to ensure that the story never loses its substance. With betrayal and murder supplied in vast quantities, new characters become paramount to the storyline’s survival, so don’t assume that Martin won’t hesitate to kill off your favorite hero. In a game for the throne, nobody is safe, and you have few friends.
Martin is an incredible writer who can bring a fictional world to life with astonishing clarity. Both the TV series and book series are captivating, and if you are hesitant about the label fantasy, it might ease your mind to know that dragons are only a small component of the story. If you heed my advice and at least read Game of Thrones, I promise that you will be left with no regrets.

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Thoughts on the NFL Draft

by Josh

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The NFL draft is an exciting time for football fans.  During the spring season, they are left yearning for the first kickoff to come back around. Once the draft coverage begins and mock drafts begin to be thought up, fans latch on to whatever inklings of information they can find to help fill the void that the sport has left in them. Every mock draft is different and no matter how smart professional sports analysts think they are, there is no way to guarantee that their mock draft is the correct one. So knowing this you must be sure to take every draft evaluation with a grain of salt and not let them convince you that your team will undoubtedly draft a certain player. For the rest of this article I will give my analysis and mock draft of the first four picks in the 2013 NFL draft. This includes the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles.

  1. With the first overall pick comes the Kansas City Chiefs, who posted a disappointing 2-14 a number which is almost embarrassing for a roster that sent a staggering six players to the pro bowl during this season? I see the Chiefs drafting Luke Joeckel out of Texas A&M. He’s a strong powerful tackle that can play on both the left and right side. It makes a lot of sense for him going #1 because he is one of the few prospects coming out this year that are viewed as a sure plug and play starter going into the 2013 season.
  2. With the 2nd pick in the draft, little is known about what the jaguars will be doing with it. Many sources have shared that Jacksonville has narrowed down their draft board to less than four people. I’m fairly confident that the Blaine Gabbert era is coming to an end and that they will be taking a quarterback with the number two overall pick. That means Geno Smith out of West Virginia will be on his way in. People say that this draft class isn’t as high quality as in years past, but with Geno posting 42 touchdown passes with a mere 4 interceptions and a 163.9 passer rating to boot, he seems more than ready to take on the challenge of being in the NFL.
  3. At number three I see the raiders picking up Sharrif Floyd out of Florida.  He’s an athletic defensive lineman that can be a three down player from day one if put in a coaching scheme that fits his style of play. The Black hole could use a pass rusher with longtime veteran Richard Seymour seemingly on his way out, Floyd would be a nice addition to a struggling defensive unit.
  4. The number four pick is one that is particularly special to me because it is held by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been my team since I began following football as a sophomore in high school, and seeing them struggle posting a 4-12 record during the 2012 season was pretty upsetting. With long-time head coach out the door and now in Kansas City, there was a large amount of uncertainty with how the Eagles would look during the 2013 season. With head coach Chip Kelly, there’s a lot of anticipation to how he will try to run the team. This draft is a major part of how his regime will be viewed years to come, so he has to be sure to nail this draft pick. Line backer Dion Jordan seems like a perfect fit for Kelly’s 3-4 defensive schemes and since he played under Kelly at Oregon last year he would already be accustomed to Kelly’s fast style of play that made him so successful in the college ranks.

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The Downfall of “The Bachelor”

by Emily

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It was a cold Monday night on January 7, 2013, when I was flipping through television channels and stumbled upon a season premiere. The Bachelor opened with an energetic Chris Harrison as the host, eager to begin the show’s 17th season. Twenty-five women compete for one handsome bachelor. Through a series of dates, competitions, and vacations, the bachelor gets to know each of these women. Each episode, two women are eliminated, in hopes that the “bachelor” will end the season with his one perfect wife. For years I had heard mixed reviews of the series, but what interested me most was how I couldn’t seem to escape all the hype surrounding it. That Monday evening, I watched for two hours as twenty-five women began the journey to find true love.

Since 2002, The Bachelor has captured the hearts of American viewers. With views reaching 15 million in 2010, something about the show has captivated fans, making them want another season. Personally as I was watching the premiere, I thought it seemed scripted, forced, and unrealistic. The most recent “bachelor”, Sean Lowe, seemed very confident that his bride-to-be was about to step out of the limo and the two would have an immediate “spark.”  However, as Sean met each contestant, he was greeted with a clichéd saying and an exaggerated smile, just as the previous contestant had before. To me, I was perplexed at how the show was able to maintain 17 very successful seasons with its redundant series of events, personalities, and forced romantic settings. Of course, spin-offs like The Bachelorette and The Bachelor Pad have revived the hype surrounding the show; making The Bachelor, a never ending endeavor.

 After watching the premiere, I couldn’t help but wonder how The Bachelor has lasted so many years on primetime. I pondered the possibility that the entire romantic process was the key to true love. I thought that maybe after the drama and broken hearts, the bachelor ends up with a life-long, happy marriage. I quickly abandoned this theory after reviewing The Bachelor’s marriage history. Results have shown that 83% of these “bachelors” have called it quits, some weeks after the wedding. Out of 24 bachelors and bachelorettes, 4 remain married. Season 11 of The Bachelor ended even worse, with bachelor Brad Womack refusing to choose one of his two finalists. In season 12, Matt Grant and Shayne Lamas broke up just two months after the spectacular finale.

I think whenever someone has to audition to begin competing for someone they’ve never met, this fate is doomed from the very beginning. The entire process is pure chance at success. Throughout the series, the interactions between the “bachelor” and the contestants are very uncomfortable for the viewer. The two must touch on sensitive subjects and personal information as the bachelor tries to connect with the contestant on a emotional level. With an extravagant camera crew following the couples around, it seems like this emotional and intimate connection is very hard to achieve when it’s in such a public setting.

Perhaps Sean Lowe’s journey on The Bachelor 17 will shock the world and end with a successful relationship for years to come, but I highly doubt it. 24 girls will be sent home broken hearted, and one girl will have a 17% chance at hitting it off with her husband. After years of failed relationships and corny contestants, I truly wonder what it will take for The Bachelor to throw in the towel . The scripted redundancy of the show, over-dramatized scenes, and awkward silences are not the best ingredients for true love.

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Movie Review: “The Possession”

by Emily

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In an attempt to get into the “Halloween Spirit,” I recently went to see the new horror movie, The Possession, directed by Ole Bornedal. It was a rainy fall day with seemingly nothing else to do, so I took my chances.

The plot of the movie revolves around a family’s battle with the curse of an antique wooden box with Jewish inscriptions. From the beginning, it is obvious that the youngest daughter, who is referred to as “Em,” has a strange obsession with the box. As the movie progresses, more incidents prove just how bad the obsession has become and the pair of divorced parents no longer recognizes its daughter. The rest of the movie consists of the family trying to break the possession of Em from the spirits inside the box. After an emotional exorcism and chaotic ending, (spoiler alert), everything is okay in the end and the family is once again reunited.

The problem with the film was the cookie-cutter events that made me feel I had already seen the movie. Maybe i felt this way because ; I essentially paid to see The Exorcist in PG-13 form. The events of increasing severity of the “evil spirit” into the victim are almost exactly identical to the ones in The Exorcist. The Possession takes a similar average family and provides them with a taboo dilemma regarding demons and religion plaguing their innocent daughter.

Debuting in 1973, The Exorcist took movie-goers by shock when portraying the powerful connection between religion and dangerous evil spirits. The events were incredibly disturbing, making it a rated R movie. The Possession has similar events like convulsing bodies and abnormal demonic screams, but at a very basic level. It seemed to me that the only moments where I was wondering what would happen was when someone or something was about to pop out and let out a loud sound. Although the music, special effects, and actors and actresses all played their role in creating a good setting for a scary movie, the events simply were unoriginal.

The reason The Exorcist was such a successful movie was because it was one of a kind when it first premiered and went beyond the typical unrealistic monster horror movie such as Big Foot or The Blob. The goal of The Possession was to be scary because of its modern setting and religious taboo, but did not achieve this. It was redundant as the parents of the possessed child took almost an hour to figure out what the audience already knew; there was a demon in their child. The Possession was a swing and a miss at updating the events of The Exorcist and was nothing new to the avid movie-goer. When comparing the two films, the only major difference was that The Possession had a rabbi performing the exorcism on the on the child at the end, and in The Exorcist there was a priest.

Walking into the movie theater that day, I was not expecting a revolutionary horror film but I did expect to get my money’s worth and at least feel some suspense throughout the movie. Sitting through the film, I found myself waiting for chills to run down my spine and grab the person sitting next to me. I was completely disappointed at the lack of creativity at plot events and the direct parallels to the movie The Exorcist. To me, The Possession was simply a copy-cat film of an R rated movie translated to a PG-13 movie. It demonstrated a lack of creativity in recent films, which are just looking to make money in the box office. Next time, I will be more skeptical to the films and read reviews of the film weeks after it premiers to make sure I don’t wast $11 on a movie I have already seen.

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