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Hamlet

By Josh Wilson

The play put on by our school this past weekend was an interesting take on a classic Shakespearean play, Hamlet. Hamlet is about a crazy prince of Denmark who is trying to take revenge on his Uncle.

Directed by our very own Meghan Astrachan, the play took on a form of experimental theatre as the audience moved through an array of rooms during the viewing experience. This was partially to cope with the construction being done around the PAC during the month of October, but the creativity was a perfect fit for this cast, enhancing the play further. Starting in the gym on the 3rd floor, David Siklos, a 12th grader, took on the role of Hamlet masterfully as he delivered an intense monologue to set the dark tone of the play. As the play continues, comedic relief is interweaved fantastically through the supporting cast, making the audience, and most specifically our beloved English teacher Ileana Jimenez, laugh uncontrollably at times.  Two actresses specifically that delivered this comedic relief seemingly with ease were Dylan Corn and Rehana Hirji. They used unordinary, New Jersey sounding accents that when juxtaposed to Shakespearean language really sped up the pace of the play

Then came the first migration of the audience. Depending on what ticket you bought you would go to a certain room in the school where a set of characters would showcase their acting talents. In the each of the small rooms the same information was given to the audience, so everyone can follow the story line. There were four types of tickets. A jack, a queen, a king, and a joker, which each represented their own room. To give insight on one of the rooms, if you had a jack on your ticket, you would have gone to the fifth floor where Hamlet was waiting for you lying on a round wooden table. Once everyone who had jacks on their tickets filled into the room and sat around the table, the monologue started as Hamlet walked on and around the table discussing his feelings toward his uncle, even interacting with the audience at times.

After this intimate part of the play the audience took an intermission and entered the newly renovated PAC soon after. The play resumed on our brand new stage as the cast delivered a memorable ending of this legendary tragedy. Through sword fighting, poisoning, and plenty of arguing, the play ended with an energy that will not be forgotten. I personally want to thank the cast, crew, and most importantly Meghan for putting on this fantastic play, and I hope the musical will bring the audience just as much pleasure when it comes around.

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The Matrix

By The Philosophy Club

This week someone brought up a scenario they came across which has a remarkable resemblance to the movie The Matrix. If you haven’t seen The Matrix I’m afraid you need to stop whatever you’re doing and watch it right now then come back and continue reading.

Presuming you have now seen The Matrix or have already seen it before reading the article let’s dive in.

The scenario is as follows. Let’s say you were walking down the block by your house, just out for a nice stroll, when suddenly a person appears out of thin air before you (Be warned things are about to get very hypothetical). This person tells you that they can take you to a world where you will be happier than you are now, the only catch is that everyone in this new world will not be real and that there is no telling who you will be or what the world will be like.  However, you will definitely be happier.

Now let’s say you take the offer and are transported to a new universe where you are happier but everything is different and you have no memory of who you were in the old universe. You may become a snail who is very happy, or you may become a mass murderer who is very happy. No matter what you are, you have now become a happier person. Then one day the person appears before you again and says that many years ago you opted to be transported to this universe and become happier. The person also tells you that everyone around you and everything you experienced was, as he said in the first part of the scenario, not real. The person then offers to take you back to the real world where they can guarantee you will not be as happy as you are now but you will know that everything is real.

If your scratching your head in confusion don’t worry there are a lot of hypotheticals and a lot of various transportations. Keep following the next few articles and maybe stop by in philosophy club, as we will be breaking down this scenario more and more. 

Higher Ground 10.25.13

LREI Music Prod Class 2013

37 Plays

By Josh Wilson

The 11th and 12th grade music class started to record live music in conjunction with composing music with music software. We began the trimester using a program called Logic, which students predominantly used to make electronic music. When this shift from electronic to live music took place, the class began to use software called Pro Tools, which has been the music industry standard for the past 20 years. We play an array of music in this class, and the first song we chose to record reflects this versatility within the class perfectly. We chose to play “Higher Ground,” a song originally composed be soul, funk, and R&B legend Stevie Wonder. However, we imitated the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of this song. 

As we went about this process, we set up two microphones in the room on an x-y grid, which optimizes the sound waves by eliminating phasing. Through an audio interface we hooked up the microphones to Pro Tools and after a couple takes we were happy with the product. We then overdubbed the vocals in the chorus by shouting the lyrics as a group on a background track, which is a tactic used by the Chili Peppers frequently throughout their career. This process took us about 3 full classes. We focused on recording live rhythm tracks and overdubbing vocals to produce a demo quality recording.  The usual process in a studio to create a final song might take weeks. We quickened the process for the sake of this project, which is why the quality is that of a rough draft. However, this song accurately reflects what the 11th and 12th grade music is learning in the first trimester.

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Good vs. Evil Pt. 1

By The Philosophy Club

This week in philosophy club we started discussing a topic that often triggers intense debate. The question brought up was: Can someone or something be considered inherently good or evil? We didn’t have a quote to start off this topic, but consider the following statement by Marcus Aurelius, a prominent philosopher and emperor of Rome, while reading this article:

“Life is neither good nor evil, but only a place for good and evil.”

Let’s start with a little flashback to a discussion the philosophy club had a few weeks ago. When we discussed the concepts of freedom, the philosophy club agreed that society creates certain limitations on us and thus it is hard to say with complete certainty that we are free. Society creates those limitations through various mediums such as our education and our cultural guidelines that we have grown up with. With this in mind we can assume that what is defined as “good” and “evil” is mostly determined by what our society deems it to be. Most of us have been raised in the United States and we agree on the fact that murder is wrong. Why? Well because society says it is (amongst many other reasons but lets just focus on this one) and thus it is an evil thing to do. But there are other areas in the world where murder, under specific circumstances, is not wrong and might even be encouraged. So is murder evil to the people of that society? The answer is no.

This concludes that what is “good” and what is “evil” is all a matter of perspective, so before we can understand if someone or something can be inherently one way or the other, we have to understand that this is all in our frame of reference. Stay tuned as philosophy club will be discussing this topic for a few weeks with hopes to answer the second part of the question, can life be good or evil from your own perspective?

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The Looming Default

By Josh Wilson

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the U.S. government may find itself unable to pay the interest and principle on its trillions of dollars of debt to its lenders. This is referred to as defaulting.

The cause of this crisis is that congress cannot agree to raise the limit on the amount of borrowing that the U.S. government can do. Also, they have realized that the only way the debt can be paid off is by borrowing more money.

One may ask, how did we get to this point? For most of the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent more money every year than it has collected in taxes. This is called running a deficit. When a country runs a deficit, it must borrow money from lenders to cover the difference between the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out. Since the United States has been running a deficit for most of the past 40 years, the amount of debt the United States has accumulated is over 16 trillion dollars. If anybody would like to see our government’s debt in action, click on this link (http://www.usdebtclock.org/) for an accurate portrayal of how fast our debt climbs every second.

Everyone in Washington understands that we should cut spending and raise taxes for every taxpayer and every company so that we can balance the budget. But, the Republicans and the Democrats cannot agree on how to raise taxes and lower spending, so every year we obtain extremely large deficits. On one side, the Republicans are playing a game of chicken with the white house over the debt ceiling. They refuse to pass a budget or raise the debt ceiling unless President Barrack Obama agrees to postpone Obamacare and cut other forms of spending. On the other side, the President refuses to consider postponing Obamacare since he prides his administration on health care reform, and he refuses to cut spending elsewhere without increasing taxes at the same time. This political dichotomy is the crux of the problem.

This game of chicken between the two parties has been going on for over a week and shows no signs of stopping. Since the United States has never defaulted on its debt, we have no idea whether it would cause our economy to go into a massive collapse or not. However, many experts are predicting a major financial catastrophe, one that could possibly be even worse than the crisis of 2008. If this does happen, then we may not just see our economy fall into a recession once again, but our credit rating as a country could be at serious risk.

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Giant Disappointment

By Will Balsam

Many of you may be asking, what is going on with Football’s New York Giants?

Through the first 5 weeks of the NFL season, the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl Champions are 0-5. They are one of the worst in the league in all categories and haven’t shown any real signs of promise. Many fans are disappointed, which was apparent at the Giants vs. Eagles game this past weekend from the lack of fans. As a frequent attendee of Giants games, I don’t recall a time when the stadium has felt as empty as it did this past sunday.

It seems that the team has no heart and it shows in their body language each game. Eli Manning has thrown the most interceptions in the league and the Giants running game is pitiful. On the other side of the ball, the defense is unable to rush any quarterback and is allowing a league worst 36.4 points per game. 

The most sensible conclusion to all of this mess is that the team just has no talent. However, as a true football fan and as someone who watches basically every game televised, I know that is not the truth. At quarterback they have a two-time Super Bowl MVP in Eli Manning. They have two of the top 15 wide receivers in the league, in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. And, on the defense, they have two-time pro-bowlers Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.

The answer to their problems then must lie within the locker room and staff. Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride coach their teams with classic formations and zero trick plays. They never add anything new to the team’s dynamic and don’t ever seem to prepare for the opposing teams strengths and weaknesses. Yes, both of them have Super Bowl rings, but most of that was thanks to some crazy plays down the stretch led by Eli Manning’s coaching from the line of scrimmage in the two-minute drill. The answer must be to fire these coordinators and most of their supporting staff, without changing the core of the team and leaving head coach Tom Coughlin in command.

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Henry David Thoreau

By The Philosophy Club

Much like the beginning of the year we started this week with a quote that one student brought in. This week’s quote was from Henry David Thoreau, who said:

            “A gun will give you the body, not the bird.”

This is an interesting quote that actually brings up a hot topic in our nation currently which is gun laws. While we didn’t get to go too in depth with the quote we were able to tease out some of its fascinating ideas about one’s personal freedom, which is similar to what we did in our first meeting as well. The quote sets up somewhat of a scenario for the average person to understand. Let’s say you have a gun and you go out for a stroll around your neighborhood. All of a sudden you see a bird flying in the air. You think to yourself “Wow, I wish I could be like that bird and fly through the air.” So in order to obtain this bird and its ability to fly you decide to shoot it, but now the bird is dead and you no longer have a bird. You have the corpse of a deceased bird. Gruesome, yes, but it gets the point across.

In the scenario you wanted to obtain something the bird had, you wanted to take away it’s freedom, it’s ability to fly, and the only way you could do so is by shooting it. There lies the question at hand, how does force help you in this situation? The truth that we found is that force doesn’t help. The bird is a free being and nothing can change that, you can try to overcome it with force and with death but what are you left with? You don’t obtain the bird, or the freedom the bird has. Instead, you obtain a dead body that has lost the very thing you attempted to gain. 

Thoreau brings up a great point about attempting to rob someone of their freedom for selfish gain. If you were to use force in order to obtain someone’s freedom it would not work. You would only obtain their physical being and lose their spiritual ideals forever.

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Bitcoin

By Josh Wilson

Over this past summer there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the digital currency Bitcoin in the news. This article will explain this new digital currency and why it is important.

Bitcoin is a virtual currency that was launched in 2009 by a group or possibly an individual by the name “Satoshi Nakamoto”, that isn’t connected with or backed by any government. Differing from all prior currencies before, Bitcoins aren’t physical objects that can be put in one’s pocket, but they are virtual “hashes” (I will explain later) that can only be obtained online. Although they are only online, they are used to trade for real goods and services as users just send the Bitcoins to each other using digital addresses.

So far few merchants actually take Bitcoins as payment, but the number is growing. For example, a popular blogging service WordPress.com, dating website OkCupid, and social news and entertainment site Reddit all accept Bitcoins as of right now. It is more and more common to see people trade Bitcoin’s for intangible goods such as services. Also, many people store their money in the currency of Bitcoin instead of their national currency, for Bitcoin seems to be gaining value at an unmatched pace.  In order to store money in the form of Bitcoin, one would have to join a virtual bank or trade on a virtual exchange. There are two prominent services on the tech scene right now; the leading Bitcoin exchange which is called Mt. Gox and the leading Bitcoin bank which is called Coinbase. These online services let users exchange whatever currency they hold into Bitcoin. If Bitcoin is kept at a bank like Coinbase it is put into a “vault” that no one can access without the correct username and password combination.

It’s not hard to understand how Bitcoin works as a virtual currency, but harder to comprehend what Bitcoin actually is. In the United States our government prints money and puts it into circulation. But if Bitcoin isn’t physical, one may ask how it can be created in the first place and how it can become a currency if there isn’t a government or nation representing it.

A Bitcoin is a hash (specifically an SHA-256 hash), which is an extremely large number in hexidecimal format. These hashes, which are all different, are answers to a mathematical puzzle that has somewhere around 21 million answers. So far just shy of 12 million Bitcoin have been discovered, resulting in a race to mine the remaining 9 million. Mining is essentially looking for hashes that answer the problem, which is done by using a computerized mining rig. The conundrum behind mining however, is that as each hash or Bitcoin gets discovered, the next one becomes harder to uncover. However, as they become harder to find, it is very possible that the value of a single Bitcoin will rise proportionally or even faster.

This is all simple to comprehend, but how it becomes a currency may be more puzzling. At first, it is probably easier to think of Bitcon as a commodity, like gold. Once it is mined, it has value and can be sold and or exchanged for money. These exchanges happen on a marketplace like Mt Gox and as a result, Bitcoin holds value. Also, more and more people and businesses are ok with being compensated for goods and services with this commodity. This is where it becomes a currency.

If you are interested in Bitcoin, you can try mining it or buying it at places like Mt Gox and Coinbase. I own several Bitcoin myself and they have more than doubled in value since I bought them earlier this year. I have yet to purchase anything with Bitcoin, for the Apple Store doesn’t accept Bitcoin yet. But, I am hoping that I will be able to purchase an iPhone 6 with Bitcoin within the next couple of years.

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Y Tu Mamá También

By Matan Hatsav

Y Tu Mamá También is a film about the tension between two boys as expressed through their physical relationships. After a lifelong career as an actor, starting from age one, Gael Garcia Bernal stars as one of these wealthy yet in over-their-head teenagers. Alfonso Cuarón directs the coming-of-age tale and uses camera angles, cuts, and great juxtaposition to turn this film into a true piece of art. As the one hour and forty-five minute film carries, we begin to understand why the film was made as it was; a period in the two boys’ lives that questioned everything they knew. Tenoch and Julio embark on a road-trip adventure with Tenoch’s cousin-in-law. Their cousin-in-law doesn’t only challenge their sexuality, but unravels something quite unexpected. In this coming-of-age tale, Cuarón proves that there is no such thing as a friendship on which love does not grow, whether they are the same or different genders. The film’s strength rests upon its intense dialogue, narration and cinematography. As the camera pans to a wall covered with pictures, the narration provokes a sort of “peeping tom” effect, giving off a feel that this film is somewhat of a psychological study. It explores the two boys’ physical and internal feelings under suggestive pressure from the cousin-in-law. The film’s fervor engages its audience in such a way that it can be overwhelming at times. The way that the two boys are attracted towards one other goes to show that for them love is too finite of a concept. And by the end of this story, what is meant to be an unobjectionable road-trip results in a loss that is both emblematic and true.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau

By Emmett Dienstag

Each year the Philosophy Club starts off with the same quote to begin our everlasting quest for knowledge. The quote is from the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose political and sociological work not only influenced the French Revolution but has since shaped the way modern philosophy has developed.

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

If you’ve relayed the quote in your head a few times by now, don’t worry, that is the point. Philosophy club starts the year off with this quote for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s a fantastic philosophical quote. The second reason is that it holds some of the key themes that we talk about in philosophy club and we think the best way to start off the year is with a brief mental warm-up for what’s to come.

So what is Rousseau trying to say? Well it’s hard to say if there is a right or wrong answer because what it means is entirely up to you, or more precisely your perception of it. This week we discussed the social implications of the quote. Rousseau was a pioneer in sociological philosophy. Then why not interpret it as a question of societies constraints on an individual. “Man is born free…” This tells us that as human beings we are born free, which means there is nothing preventing us from doing as we please. The belief is also that “Man” applies to all human beings. Although we may be born free, the unfortunate truth, which Rousseau is trying to show, is that we are not free at all. Rousseau is saying that we are born with a blank slate and that we are free from any constraints, for freedom is literally a birthright given to us. Yet everywhere we go constraints are placed upon us by our society and by ourselves. True man is born free, but do we really have the right to enact our freedom? The answer is no, we fight against the brands society places on us and against our own emotions and ideals. So, freedom may be a right that all humans are given, it is constantly taken from us. If you’re feeling down because you “have no freedom” then reconsider Rousseau’s quote and develop your own idea through your own perspective, you may just find something else amazing and eye opening.

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