By Fiona Rose Beyerle

To be honest –  and I hate to say this – but I hate a lot of female movie characters.  You read that right.  Too often, especially in mainstream movies is a female character portrayed as less intelligent, less interesting and less likeable than her male scene partner.  This girl is often painted as what has been coined as a “manic pixie dream girl” which is a character you can find in many films as the female who is unique yet exists as a source of inspiration for the struggling male lead lost in the world.  This is not to say this character herself is not memorable, however, there can and should be so much more to these characters.  

Here are four films in which I find to have incredible female characters that are not existing to please males. Instead, they will make you think “I want to be like her.” 

  1. The Lure (2015)

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska

Language: Polish

Where to Watch: Kanopy, Youtube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

Why This Film Stands Out: This film is utterly insane, and that is what makes it exceptional.  This is the kind of film you see and keep thinking about.  Two carnivorous mermaids named Silver and Golden wash up on a beach and start working in a nightclub with their new musician friends.  Golden and Silver both face different challenges as they juggle life on land, love, friendship and getting what they need.  Combining horror and musical numbers, this film is entertaining beyond measure.  I guarantee you have never seen anything like this as on top of all that, it takes place in an alternative 1980’s Poland.  Give this one a watch for sure.  

  1. Level 16 (2018)

Director: Danishka Esterhazy

Language: English

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play, Hulu, Sling TV, Showtime

Why This Film Stands Out:  There are many sci-fi films out there, but few where females take the lead, especially young females.  I am not talking about young-adult dystopian novels because those place a huge focus on romance. When living in a dystopian society, it seems like dealing with relationship problems would be the last thing you would want to stress about.  This particular film takes place in a girls’ boarding school (or so that is what the girls are told).  When Vivien moves up to the final level of the program, she and another girl, Sophia, team up to figure out the disturbing truth and attempt to save the others.  While this film is chilling, it brings up interesting questions for the future of science in society and delivers two female heroines at the same time.  Love it. 

  1. Leave No Trace (2018) 

Director: Debra Granik 

Language: English 

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Vudu 

Why This Film Stands Out: Tom and her father Will, a war veteran with mental health issues, live in isolation in the middle of a forest in Oregon, only entering town occasionally.  When a mistake gives their secret life away, they are forced to reevaluate their lives and their relationship as father and daughter.  Tom is an incredibly powerful character and holds her own against her father.  You will be touched by these characters and their story.  

  1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) 

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour 

Language: Persian 

Where to Watch: Kanopy, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Sling TV

Why This Film Stands Out: Three Words: Skateboarding.  Vampire.  Girl.  I kid you not, this is the main character in this film.  Identified only as The Girl, this chador-wearing mythical character skates around an Iranian ghost-town killing men who treat women poorly. This film blends elements of different genres and clearly succeeds in this amazing film that is beyond worth watching.  There is not a lot of dialogue in the film, but instead the story is delivered primarily through unpredictable visuals and is coated with a killer soundtrack.  

Now it’s your turn – who are your favourite female movie characters? Let us know in the comments!

by Nicole Mattson

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(A record player plays a tune).

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled or postponed all of the upcoming concerts we all have been looking forward to. If you are stumped on what to listen to next after you have grown tired of repeatedly listening to your playlists, try listening to instrumental music. Most bands from the 1970s are known for their phenomenal chemistry between the singer, guitar, drums, keyboard, and even cowbell. That being said, it can be eccentric to take the singer out of the equation. You can find underlying meanings in how the instruments are played, which can help you understand the bands’ music and dynamic even more than before. Instrumental music gives you, the listener, room to think more creatively and make the song your own: how does the song make you feel? What does it remind you of? The options are endless. In times when it feels like the pandemic will never end, listening to different types of music can help you relax, which is a crucial part of taking care of yourself.

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(A guitar and band setup sits on a stage).

It is also interesting to look through instrumental music since many songs are not well-known. If you are tired of listening to the same Fleetwood Mac album over and over again, try listening to some instrumental versions! You can chill out to all the songs listed below, or you can pick and choose certain songs based on your mood.

If you are feeling strong:

 

  • “Pali Gap” by Jimi Hendrix 

 

Rainbow Bridge, posthumously in 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ7AttIb-kc

“Pali Gap” was released posthumously in Rainbow Bridge in 1971, after Jimi Hendrix’s death the previous year. One of the more powerful songs on this list, how could you resist listening to Hendrix’s moving guitar solo? This song is perfect for both loosening up as well as doing something you enjoy.

If you are feeling groovy:

 

  • “What a Shame” by Fleetwood Mac

 

Future Games, 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DcfbD_NuNo

Fleetwood Mac… there is not much to say about them except that they are one of the grooviest bands of all time. This song was released before Stevie Nicks joined, but it’s still worth listening to since it is instrumental. “What a Shame” is an easy listen, since it will make you feel good about yourself.

If you are feeling bored:

 

  •  “One of These Days” by Pink Floyd

 

Meddle, 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48PJGVf4xqk

You all know the saying, “only boring people get bored”. Sometimes being bored is inevitable, since there are limited options for things to do during the pandemic. “One of These Days” starts off repetitive and a little dull, but escalates into something great. Hopefully, it will put you out of any boredom you may be experiencing.

If you are feeling candid:

 

  • “Do You Know What?” By Sly and the Family Stone

 

There’s a Riot Goin’ On!, 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIuCZhxTBx4

According to Oliver Wang in their article, “Sly and the Family Stone: 20 Essential Songs” published March 15, 2016, on rollingstone.com, “Greil Marcus famously wrote that There’s a Riot Goin’ On! ‘was no fun. It was slow, hard to hear, and it isn’t celebrating anything.’ In short, ‘It was not groovy.’” So, while you can still chill out to this song, it’s important to note that it was created in a time of change when being honest was more important than ever. If you’re feeling outspoken, you should listen to this “Do You Know What?”, as well as the other songs in There’s a Riot Goin’ On! such as “Family Affair”.

If you need a pick-me-up:

 

  • “Daybreaker” by Electric Light Orchestra

 

On the Third Day, 1973

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaJNjYmpeWY

Electric Light Orchestra’s music is known to put people in a better mood; honestly, who wouldn’t feel better after listening to “Mr. Blue Sky?” Even without lyrics, ELO’s music can still make you feel happier. The addition of the violin in this song is phenomenal and can make you feel some type of way.

If you are feeling nostalgic:

 

  • “Lipstick Traces” by UFO

 

Phenomenon, 1974

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQJgWIaP7UU

The wailing guitar in this song is begging for you to reminisce about your past; perhaps this includes your life before the world shut down. “Lipstick Traces” encourages you to think deeper about yourself and what you’ve been through, and how you can improve your life post-pandemic.

If you are feeling inspired:

  • “Intermezzo No. 1” by Abba

Released in 1975

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6kShipYwCk

Intermezzo No. 1 is one of the more upbeat songs on this list. Like ELO, Abba’s music guarantees it will put a smile on your face. You could cook, paint, or just walk around the house listening to this song.

Bonus song: If you have wanderlust:

 

  • “Bron Yr Aur” by Led Zeppelin

 

Physical Graffiti, 1975 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKge6Ay9O4E

Are you tired of listening to “Stairway to Heaven” over and over again? Put on “Bron Yr Aur” and drive around for a little bit. Even driving is a good way to take a break from things happening in your life, and an excuse to leave your house. This song is nice to listen to on a road trip. Even if you can’t travel anywhere due to the pandemic, going somewhere like a park could be a fun adventure.

Since the beginning of the worldwide shutdowns due to the pandemic, there has been talk about a ‘new normal,’ or a persistent wish to return to the old sense of ‘normal’ that everyone had become so comfortable with. Many continue to wish for the reopening of their favourite local café, the dance floor of the nightclubs, or for their university to begin allowing in-person classes once more. And these people are not alone in their wishes, as I too wish for the flexibility and care-free spontaneity of the past. However, this quarantine has allowed for many, including myself, to reflect on what the ‘new normal’ should look like and the changes that need to be made so that we can all move forward, together.

Image courtesy of Prexels

Movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the acknowledgment of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have picked up steam during the past few months and changes within government, companies, and society at large have been numerous. Arrests still need to be made, police still need to be held accountable, and systemic racism must still be addressed, but change is happening, albeit long overdue. With the inequalities of our society being brought to light and gaining traction in mainstream media, it is necessary that we no longer strive to return to ‘normal’ but rather a ‘new normal’ that offers equality to everyone.

Image courtesy of Prexels

With Pride Month just behind us, it is also important to recognize the areas in which individuals in the LGBTQ2+ community continue to be disadvantaged and discriminated against. Whether related to discriminatory policy changes or the high murder rate of black trans women, there is still a long way to go for equal rights and justice. As such, our ‘new normal’ should be one of acceptance, love, and pride and individuals in the LGBTQ2+ community should not be forgotten or ignored.

There are many instances of a need for change and a need for this ‘new normal’. In order to achieve such a hopeful dream of equality, one must reflect inwards. It is about recognizing your privilege and becoming an ally. As a cis, straight, white woman I have had to reflect on my privilege and further educate myself about the inequalities that exist in the world. On top of that, I have also had to acknowledge the systems of oppression that I continue to profit from such as colonialism and racial discrimination.

Recognizing your privilege can be difficult and challenging but it is necessary to create a better, more just world. It is important to keep in mind that your privilege does not mean that you have had an easy life, it just means that there are not factors of your identity that are making your life more difficult. For example, if you are white, your white privilege does not mean that you have not experienced hardships, but rather that the colour of your skin has not contributed to your hardships. I think it is important to keep this in mind, especially when educating yourself on the inequalities of the world.

Overall, there is hope for a ‘new normal’ that is inclusive, accepting, and equal and that ‘new normal’ begins with everyone. It is each person’s responsibility to work for change and to be an activist and an ally. We have the opportunity to create a ‘new normal’ and it is time that we begin to realize these much needed changes. 

by Sumner Lewis

people at theater
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

(Spectators wait for a theatre show to begin).

The very first musical I ever saw was The Lion King. I was five and I can clearly remember the amazement I felt as I watched the performers on stage. My family and I sat in the first row of the mezzanine at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT, right next to a little platform where actors would occasionally come and make beautiful birds dance in the air over the audience below. 

I fell in love that day with the concept of a musical, which I saw as an art form that enveloped me, inspired me, and made me want more. I didn’t just want to watch the show unfold before me; I wanted to be up there in the hoi polloi.

The next show that caught my attention was Wicked. I was seven when my mother saw it for the first time and brought back the cast album for me. I learned every word, note, and harmony on that CD. It became my dream to one day play the role of Elphaba. Idina Menzel’s voice spoke to me. Elphaba understood me.

Idina_Menzel_Defense.gov_Crop

(Idina Menzel gained prominence due to her role as Elphaba in Wicked).

If you’re into musical theater, you can’t deny that you’ve wanted to play every single character in your favorite show. I’ve gained a larger appreciation for Glinda as I’ve grown older and I want to challenge myself with playing different kinds of characters. But then I remember that she is blonde and I’m not. Where did anyone ever see a blonde Black girl in the late 2000s/early 2010s? Nowhere. So that also rules out ever being Elle Woods from Legally Blonde.

I inherently knew from a young age that race was everything in theater casting. Not as well as I know that fact now, but young girls need to see people who look like them inhabiting the spaces that they want to be in. Representation is everything. The more musicals I got into, the more I understood the subliminal message that there wasn’t a spot for me in a show except for playing a green witch that I love so much. Even in The Lion King, the performers are mostly darker-skinned, much darker than my tan, biracial skin.

In 2015, my discovery of Hamilton caused a revolution for me. I saw people on that stage who reflected me and my life experiences, a phenomenon which had not happened within the sixteen years that I was alive before that time. It didn’t matter what race you were as long as you were a person of color. Read that again. It didn’t JUST not matter what race you were, the casting directors WANTED people of color. That stage was a celebration of the skin tones that have historically been labeled ‘other.’ I finally saw a show I could actually be in.

The problem doesn’t solely lie on the shoulders of casting directors. There is simply a lack of characters being written for broader people of color. Sure, there are some Black characters, some Latinx characters, a couple Middle Eastern characters, but I, an ethnically ambiguous person of color, don’t get to play any of them because they have a distinct ethnic heritage to display. I’ll never be Nina from In the Heights (although I really, really want to be), Jasmine in Aladdin, or Nala in The Lion King. 

My most recent role was Ronette in Little Shop of Horrors. The show has four female roles; three are reserved for women of color. However, the leading female role is the single white woman in the cast. The other three women are the cast’s backup singers. We worked as a trio, three harmonies that would be lost without the others, but it meant that we were more of a conglomerate than we were individuals. 

Only two people of color showed up to audition for a show with three spots available for someone with that description, so it wasn’t even a competition to get a role. Sometimes I wonder if I got the part based on my own merits or if they didn’t have enough people to fill a historically Black role. We almost didn’t have enough people to fill all three spots and had to hold another round of auditions, to which only one person showed up. She got the role.

On top of that, the urchins are written as the stereotypical sassy Black girls. There are so many different ways to be Black. The only requirement is to wake up with your Black skin every day. Playing a sassy character can be loads of fun, but when it plays into racial stereotypes, one has to wonder why they were written that way.

I’ve always said that Hercules should be adapted into a stage musical just so I could play one of the Muses (and now it has, last year for a short run at The Public Theater). I love the strong, Black women with incredible harmonies and powerhouse voices. They are a Greek chorus, and they work as a nameless group behind the scenes. No one Muse exists without the others.

I want to see more diversity in the theatre community. We need to see characters on that stage that reflect who we are a society and the world we wish to be. Take Hadestown for example; it is written and cast in a way that any person, no matter the color of their skin, can play any character in the show. It is art used for a purpose. It encourages the dreamers, those of us who see a better world in our future. I see a better world where, even if my dream of performing in shows professionally doesn’t come true, I can share my love of theatre with my future children and they will see themselves represented on stage, celebrated, no matter the color of their skin.

Over the past month in the United States, the protests over police brutality have forced us to re-examine how we go about our daily lives when thinking about race relations. For myself, I have re-examined political beliefs and opened my eyes to new ideas and thoughts. For my college, this past month has put a spotlight on the need to listen to BIPOC and other minority students.

On June 1st, students from my university, Clark University, were arrested when a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest turned violent. Several of the students arrested were simply filming the protest and were not causing problems. None of the students were responsible for any damage or caused damage to any property. The resulting arrests led to student injuries such as bruises and scrapes, and outcry from the student body, as these students were arrested within feet of the university campus. Within 24 hours of the incident, the administration sided with the arrested students and said that they would end hiring non-campus police for events and patrols. 

While the administration’s decisions outraged the City Council and the police, it galvanized students to push for reforms. The Black Student Union sent out a list of requests for the administration to adhere to as a marker of support for the marginalized people of our university. According to College Factual, non-caucasian students made up 44% of the student body. Among these requests, the Black Student Union demanded that the University implement anti-racist training for staff and students, cut all ties with the city police, have more African American mental health providers, and more transparency with investigating reports of bias and racial incidents, including having a Black representative on the review panel. In response, the university agreed to some of the demands such as promising to hire a BIPOC mental health counselor but has not satisfied all of the requests made by the Black Student Union. In response, the Black Student Union, alongside student campus organizations have led a movement called for the removal of advertising material featuring the use of BIPOC students on the university’s page. This organized action is to shine a light on the exploitation of BIPOC students to show diversity, but not truly fighting for anti-racist and equality for all students. 

The opening statement of Clark University’s Black Student Union in response to recent Black Lives Matter protests

In addition to the changes pushed for by BIPOC campus organizations, a city-wide effort to transfer funds from the Worcester Police Department to other places such as schools, and mental health facilities have taken hold. The movement, Defund WPD, came to prominence after many citizens were concerned by the aggressive actions displayed by Worcester Police in early June from the Black Lives Matter protests.  Many people learned that the City Council was planning on increasing the budget of the Worcester Police Department by $250,000 for the next fiscal year. Despite outcry by the public who flooded the City Council meetings with calls and pleas to reroute the money, the Council unanimously approved the budget and sided with the police over those who have called for accountability. The outrage over the initial decision brought a torrent of emails, calls, and protestors to City Hall. After a deluge of calls and citizens making their voices heard, the City Council unanimously decided to reconsider the budget during their meeting on June 23rd. While a step in the right direction, Defunding Worcester Police Department could only be done by those who were spurred by protests across the country looking for a change. In addition to the movements in Worcester, another project brought nationwide attention to legislators taking police union money.

After watching the lack of action from politicians on police reform, one student became interested in how much money elected officials took from police unions. His research became a nationwide movement to hold officials accountable for making a change to their community. A college student from John Jay University tracked how much money members of his state assembly were receiving from the police. His project went viral and ended up having legislators donate money taken by police and similar unions to bail funds and other Black organizations. At this moment tens of thousands of dollars have been donated to funds and other organizations from politicians who have taken money from police unions. After making national news, many other spin-off projects sprouted, creating awareness of those who have taken money from police, corrections, or other agencies that could lobby against meaningful police reform. If you are interested in seeing if your legislator has taken money, here is the link. (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bu1wXgR8WKxhiF46W_VcVjk86myBC47S6bIfD8bwqic/edit#gid=830940746)

As a result of the Black Lives Matter Protests, people have gone beyond just protesting, they have begun to advocate and demand change through their own means. From my own university’s Black Student Union’s push to remove advertising of BIPOC, to standing up against police budget increases, to a college student going viral for showing how much politicians take from police unions, the Black Lives Matter movement will likely going to have a huge impact on the future of policing.

by Molly Rosenfeld

I’ll start off by saying I am not much of an athlete, never was, and probably never will be. My lung capacity is below average, I don’t have much in the way of upper body strength, and I’m not particularly flexible.

As a young child, I participated in swimming, ballet, soccer, and gymnastics. It was important to my parents that I got good aerobic exercise at least once a week and that I tried a variety of activities to find a good fit. After I learned how to rollerblade at 10, I wanted to ice skate. I loved it from my very first public session, and my parents signed my sister and me up for group classes.

To my own surprise, skating came relatively easily to me. I have a good balance and have enjoyed learning new elements and choreography. I passed the five recreational levels within a year and began learning jumps and spins. 

In seventh grade, I had other commitments and had to take time off. I started playing recreational volleyball and joined the swim team at my high school, but found that I didn’t really enjoy either one. 

I later took a dance class at school, and “jumped” at the chance to start ice skating again. I signed up for more group classes on weekends and have been going once or twice a week ever since. For the past five years, I have worked with a private coach. When I’m in Southern California with my family, I go to The Rinks-Lakewood ICE. It’s truly become another home for me. I walk through the doors and I know I’ll be around people who care about me, who are people I deeply care about in return. 

Last August, I moved to Northern California to attend San Jose State University. I started up with group classes at Solar4America Ice-San Jose. I don’t feel the same connections and love that I do at Lakewood, but it’s been a nice change of pace.

And then… the pandemic happened.

It’s been difficult taking time off, but I suppose absence does make the heart grow fonder. I’m looking forward to beginning taking the United States Figure Skating sanctioned tests and thus begin competing. Thus far I’ve only taken tests through the Ice Sports Industry and competed on a recreational basis against myself or only one other person in my division.

Ice skating is an expensive pastime, but I’ve found it worth every penny. It’s my favorite outlet, exercise and socialization all rolled into one! I plan on skating for the rest of my life.

I reached out to a couple of coaches I’ve known for years to learn what professionals are currently doing.

Angel Sarkisova started skating when she was 6 years old and has been coaching for about 10 years. She will be transferring to California State University Los Angeles this fall as a communication major.

Q: At what point during your childhood did you realize that you truly enjoyed and had a talent for ice skating?

A: I realized I loved skating almost right away about a week into coming back consistently. I realized I had some natural ability for the sport shortly thereafter and decided to commit myself full-time to try to reach my full competitive potential.

Q: What are your favorite memories from being a coach?

A: I have so many favorite/special memories from being a coach. I really can’t remember specifics anymore, but rather the especially special moments. My favorite memories of coaching come from my everyday conversations, milestones, and accomplishments my kids achieve on a regular, non-special day. In other words, my favorite moments happen every day, while I share some kind of special interaction between one of my skaters and myself.

Q: How do you think coaching and skating will change when we return after the pandemic?

A: After the pandemic, unfortunately, I think things will change in ways that will hurt the progress of skating for a while. It will be hard to correct skaters without being able to physically touch or get close to them. Ice time will be much harder to come by and reserve, and we will have to take extra precautions that will take time away from effective training. However, that being said, whatever gives the people and customers peace of mind and safety is most important. So I’ll take whatever we can get when we all get back on the ice, whenever that is.

Skye Wheeler Koachway received a BA in English Rhetoric and Composition from California State University Long Beach and began coaching during her second year of college.

Q: At what point during your childhood did you realize that you truly enjoyed and had a talent for ice skating?

A: I started skating after a Girl Scout field trip to Paramount Iceland when I was 6, and I think I loved it immediately. For sure, I know that I begged my mom for lessons and she finally signed me up the January after I turned 7. She thought I’d take one session of classes and then be over it but of course I loved it and wanted to continue. I don’t remember not skating and I always thought I was “meant to be” a skater.

Q: What are your favorite memories from being a coach?

A: I have so many favorite coaching moments! I’m trying to think of a favorite and can’t think of just one. I love watching my skaters grow up. Most skaters will not become world champions so I always try to think about how I’d like to help them learn actual “life skills”- hard work, positivity, kindness, and sportsmanship. I’ve also loved working on the synchronized skating teams and the shows; the team comradery is amazing!

Q: How do you think coaching and skating will change when we return after the pandemic?

A: I think we’re going to get back on the ice very slowly, beginning with freestyles. Coaches will need to wear masks and be spaced out along the walls. I think some skaters will quit during this break, but the ones who return will really know they love it.

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(Selfie at the 2019 ISI Winter Classic Competition!)

image4(With Coach Nha-Quyen Nguyen after I passed my Bronze Freestyle test in July of 2018.)

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(With Coach Skye Wheeler Koachway at my first ISI competition.)

image1(The badges I’ve earned for passing the Freestyle 1, Ice Dance 1, and Freestyle Bronze Tests.)

 

 

By Catherine Duffy

Lunches with grandma, birthday celebrations in our favourite diners, and late night drinks at the bar have all been activities I’ve missed during the quarantine. As of June 8th 2020, the province of Saskatchewan announced that restaurants could open their doors once again. While residents may believe that their dining experiences will remain the same as they were before the pandemic, there are several changes they must stay aware of.

Having recently begun working in a restaurant myself and having taken the opportunity to eat in my favourite restaurants since their reopening, here are some of the changes I’ve noted.

1. Restaurant staff will be wearing masks to protect not only customers but also themselves. Busy kitchens and interactions with dinner guests make physical distancing impossible so masks serve as the next best thing to prevent catching COVID-19.

Source: Pexels

2. Hand sanitizing stations have been set up all around restaurants to remind people to clean their hands as much as possible. Staff members have set up timers to ensure they are washing their hands regularly.

3. High touch surfaces are getting regular cleaning treatment. This is a restaurant manager’s way of making sure they are doing everything that they can to prevent a second wave.

4. One-way traffic has become mandatory inside certain restaurants and there is always one door for entering and one door to exit. While this might make the walk to the bathroom longer, it helps guests avoid coming within six feet within one another.

5. While many may be eager to return to their favourite restaurants, by law, they can only operate at half capacity. Reservations may be the best way to guarantee a table for two on a Friday night. By operating at a limited capacity, restaurants can ensure that people from different social circles stay apart by placing a few empty tables between parties.

5. Your food may be placed at the far end of the table to avoid a waiter having to reach across the table and come in close contact with restaurant goers. While the service may seem incomplete, it is in the public’s best interest.

6. Though servers are usually prompt to clear away dirty plates, some may walk away from your table leaving them behind. This is to avoid cross contamination. Bussers have been hired to handle the dirty dishware.

7. Finally, while it may seem like the perfect chance to get together with a big group of friends, whom you haven’t seen in months, parties are limited to six guests per table, by law.

Source: Pexels

Dining with these new guidelines in place is a new reality and while some may be excited to return outside again, others may believe there is still too much of a risk and stay inside. Though it may seem like going out to eat has become a chore with many rules to follow, if everyone follows government implemented guidelines, people may begin to socialize again while still physically distancing and ensuring the safety of their fellow citizens. 

by Abbey Ross

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(A girl looks at her phone with a sense of fear)

If you are a technology user living in 2020, you have undoubtedly seen tremendous amounts of troubling and stressful news stories during the past few months. Television channels are clogged with their usual politics, crime, and celebrity news, but now an entirely new topic has crammed its way into the already overwhelming news cycle. Yes, you guessed it: COVID-19.  As if turning on the news wasn’t stressful enough, we now have more portable—and more intrusive—forms of technology that ding and beep at us as soon as the death toll rises, a gaggle of gun-wielding protesters emerges, or a politician makes a statement on Twitter. 

If you are like most people, including myself, who feel like they’re drowning in a river of events and notifications, you’re probably looking for a way to get some air, to escape the never-ending rapids. How are you supposed to do this, though, when we live in such a quickly evolving world where it seems like every hour brings another devastating wave of events? 

For some people, the solution is to just turn it all off. They take their phones and hide them in another room, silence notifications, and escape into the world of Netflix or a good novel. In all my efforts to do this, however, I’ve felt suddenly and alarmingly disconnected. What if my sister calls or my friends need my advice? What if my boss emails me or a vaccine is found today and I miss it? I have listed some things that I have done when I just need to step back and take a break. They help me feel more grounded and less anxious while allowing me to maintain a healthier level of connectedness.

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(Being in front of a laptop can cause you undue stress)

Listen to Your Brain and Body—feelings of anxiousness can manifest in many different ways.

Be kind to yourself and be open to the sometimes subtle signs that your mind and body are overwhelmed. These can include anything from changes in appetite and sleep patterns to sudden tiredness, loss of motivation, loss of memory, and other mental and physical symptoms. For example, back in March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I convinced myself I was sick because of tightness and pain in my chest. After a week or so, though, I noticed that I only felt these symptoms while reading or watching the news.

Communicate—tell your loved ones what you’re doing and why.

When you start to feel overwhelmed by being tethered to your phone or computer—whether by news alerts or lengthy debates in a group chat—don’t be afraid to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling. A simple text explaining where your head is at and that you will be stepping away for a little while should suffice. Your friends and family have surely been dealing with similar concerns lately and will likely support your choice to take a break.

Example: Hey guys, I hope you all are having a good day. I am a little overwhelmed with what we’ve been chatting about/the state of the world right now/my notifications, so I’m going to put my phone away for a bit and do something else. I’ll talk to you later.

Set Up an Alternative—find a less intrusive method of communication where someone can reach you if they really need to.

 If you are concerned about being completely disconnected from your phone (a very reasonable concern in this day and age), include in your message that someone can reach you if something urgent comes up. If you’re living at home right now like me, giving your friends, coworkers, or family members your home landline phone number is a great alternative.

Make it a Habit – set aside some no-phone time on a scheduled basis.

 By doing this, your contacts will be aware of what you’re up to every day from 3-5 pm, for example. They will know not to worry if you don’t answer right away, giving you some peace of mind to escape and relax.

 

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(Exercising is a great way to retreat from technology)

Use Your Free Time Wisely – once you have identified feelings of anxiousness and established some time away from the noise, make sure you really appreciate the silence.

Now that you have created some space for yourself to retreat from the endless stream of news and notifications, make sure you allow yourself to fully occupy this space! No sneaking looks at your phone or flipping on the news (even if it’s just for five minutes)! Do something that makes you feel calm and centered; for tips on mindfulness, exercise, yoga, and new activities during quarantine, check out these other BTP articles: 

Quarantine Activity: Learning a New Language

   Stretching it Out: Keeping Connected Through Yoga

   Staying Fit During a Pandemic

   Rediscovering Reading During Quarantine

   Meditating in a Time of Crisis: A “How-To” Guide in Clearing the Mind

 

 

 

By Andy Chau

Bored? Still need NEW things to do? Look no further!

  1. Watch the “Tiger King” docu-series on Netflix (if you haven’t already)! 

Tiger King documents the journey of Joe Exotic and his run-ins with an interconnected society of supposed “tiger conservationists.” You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to watch it! 

  1. Reorganize your room.

Don’t go Marie Kondo mode and throw away everything! Only declutter what is necessary and take it slow to ensure you don’t throw away anything precious/valuable. If you need assistance, check this out: Abundantly Minimal

  1. Send a cheer card to a special patient!

The isolation occurring from shelter-in-place orders has significantly limited the amount of visitors allowed at hospitals. Why not send a positive note to a patient, especially to kids in need? 

Go to the link and send one now! Send a Cheer Card

  1. Learn what items can be composted. 

Apparently, there are 163 things and MORE you can compost on your own! *DISCLAIMER* PLEASE look into other ecological sources of sustainability. 

Follow the link to know more: 163 Things You Can Compost

  1. Watch the entire “Everything Before Us” series from Wong Fu Productions (cuz why not?) 

From cheesy lines to serious moments, Everything Before Us captures a society in which EQ gives advice for everything in your life from college admissions to securing a loan. Watch it now before it becomes offline again!

Everything Before Us | Chapter 1: Everything Before Us | Chapter 1

  1. Start becoming financially responsible.

It’s not too late to start your emergency funds or pay off your student loans! Whatever your financial situation may be, right now is the perfect time to trial and error your budget while planning for the long-term. Here is an article from Ally Banking to help with your budget planning: Savings by Age: How Much to Save in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, and Beyond

  1. Create art from magazines. 

Nowadays it seems as if art has become an underrated venue for expression. We have our photographers, but where are the painters, drawers, visual artists, and others? Well, you can become hip by collecting or reusing magazines. You can then clip the magazines and piece them together as some form of artwork. It is up to your imagination and creative drive. Give it a try and post it on your social media. 

  1. Volunteer for Be My Eyes

Seeking to satisfy your samaritinary desires? Want to volunteer but can’t do it in-person? Be My Eyes is an app that has you register as someone in need or someone who can help. As someone who can help, the app lets people in need call you for assistance amongst their everyday tasks. To learn more, Google search “Be My Eyes” and click on their official website. It’ll direct you to their About page and FAQs if needed. 

  1. Polish your resume. 

The job market for 2020 will be difficult to navigate. Luckily it won’t stay that way for more than a year and, regardless, this is the chance to be proactive. Being proactive can start with polishing your resume. If your resume is outdated, filled with unnecessary content, or is missing key descriptions, then go, go, go! 

  1. Take 10x More NAPS!!! 

Don’t feel like doing anything? Go ahead and take those naps. Rejuvenate yourself and try again. No one is stopping you except yourself!! 

Many of us are graduating into one of the worst job markets in history, at a time when lots of organizations are on a hiring freeze. Society as a whole is changing as a result of being in a COVID-19/post-COVID-19 era, and the generation coming out of college is stuck right in the middle of it. It seems to make sense that we will at least have our homes to unwind in, somewhere to go that will always be a place of safe haven. The places that feel like they are ours; that in some way they are integral to our stories as human beings. Yet what is home? Can it be defined as just a place where you sleep? Does it have to be?

Most people will tell you a house is a home. Yet this concept of home limits the very definition, as for some people a house is not a place where they can go to relax. Whether that be because of internal pressures, or exterior, where you sleep may not be where you relax. And what about the people for whom their house has changed throughout the years? In the last six years of my life I’ve lived in five different “houses” for varying amounts of time. From houses, to dorm rooms, to an apartment in an old warehouse, or an old duplex, all of these places have been places that I’ve laid my head to rest in, yet are all of them home? For many young people taking whatever jobs they can, their house may be too new to be considered a home.

What if we expand it? For many of us, our hometown is the place we grew up in, the place that formed our first memories. For me that was South Pasadena CA, a small town in the middle of Los Angeles. It is the kind of town Hollywood uses when they want something midwestern and small. It has got a wonderful little main street, with brick lined buildings only one or two stories tall. A Carnegie library sits just off mission, and the clang clang of the train rushes through the town on the regular. It is a peaceful escape from the insane world that is Los Angeles, a forgotten haven in a city of traffic, smog, and celebrities. I can name a number of places, some of which have changed over the years, where my attachments are more than solid. I consider them as much my home as my house. Yet something is still missing. In this case we need to look towards the oceans, and some adventures that lay along it. 

At work, when we were asked where we were from, others said specific cities and towns. Yet for me, home is the west coast. I grew up in LA, spent a summer working in the bay, and for four years attended school in the Pacific Northwest before taking a job in New England. That is a huge span of space, far larger than a house, but with specific reasons, for which we have to go north, to a little town in Washington state. 

As I mentioned I grew up in LA, but I spent four years in the Pacific Northwest, in a little town called Walla Walla. Unlike the town I grew up in, Walla Walla was best known for being near nothing at all. Surrounded by wheat, grape fields, and onions, it was a town rapidly changing. The downtown, which had once been all but abandoned, had been taken over by the rapidly growing wine industry. Some call it what Napa Valley looked like 50 years ago, still early in its development. I attended Whitman College, a small school located on the top of main street and three miles from the airport. I worked in the gallery and student center, lost many hours of sleep in the library, participated in a number of organizations and most importantly, came out as a transwoman. As a result of the support I received from so many wonderful people, I went from dreaming, to living in reality. Hallways became the places where I celebrated, and where I went to think. I studied the past, and realized that it would become my future. I joined a sorority, after years of considering it impossible. I curated, or helped to curate, two full exhibitions, one entirely mine, and the other as a part of a team. I even helped to run the tabletop games club, and played some club softball in the rain. These moments cemented Walla Walla and Whitman as a kind of home for me, even if I lived in three different places in my four years there.

Add in things like an In-And-Out burger, saying “The” in front of freeway names, laughing when people from the east coast talk about their “mountains”, or memories munching on some of the best Asian and Mexican food in the country, I am forever marked as being a west coaster through and through. Unfortunately, when we limit it to land and physical property, we leave out the number one thing that allows us to feel at home in the first place. And perhaps our memories can lead us to the answer, something that we are all searching for. 

All of these are focused on land, but isn’t it as much about the people that made us who we are as the adventures we had on the way. Any of those coming of age movies will tell you that it isn’t as much about the space that you occupy, but about the people that you do it with. Saying that my soul resides in the west coast is true because I have left part of it with the people I love. The people who I will travel across the country for a week, taking 20 hours to do so, just to see their faces in person. I did just this in February, traveling further north into the bitter cold because I couldn’t handle going a year without spending time with my sisters, my friends, and my chosen family. I spent that week sleeping on a beanbag in a friends house, and visiting with old friends. Many times I’d be walking along and suddenly I’d get ambushed by someone, as if I was everyone’s queer aunt returning home. While I was here I got an acceptance letter to the University of Washington, and it was here that I cried tears of joy again, another memory at home. 

Home is about the people who make our lives worth living everyday. It is about the smiles, the laughs, and the moments of joy, as it is about the sadness, the grief, and the scary moments. Home is emotionally tied, but in a way that ties the physical to the self. South Pasadena is great, but I miss Hotbox Vintage, the shop I’ve spent so many happy hours in. Not necessarily because of the shop, but because of the friends I have made through it. The owner with whom I’ve shared many laughs (and expanded my wardrobe extensively) and who made me feel comfortable in my identity as a transwoman before I came out at Whitman. She lets me hang out there, in exchange for helping to put things on high shelves that at 6ft 3in, I can reach. I love everything about it, and there is a reason that I included it here. It is a store that is the definition of a hidden gem, and one that I return to on every occasion back in LA. Despite never sleeping here, I consider it home because of the culture that she has crafted within, one that makes you not only feel safe, but also welcomed (and when she reads this, I promise you I’ve meant every word). 

So when you think of home, don’t forget to think about the people that make it possible to come home to relax. The people who will welcome you with open arms, and with whom your memories will be shared with forever. The people you chose to be with, the ones who you’ll fight for on a minute to minute basis.  These are the people that you think about when you think of home. It is not about the physical places that make up our homes, but in the memories and people that fill them. These moments are the ones that help us grow, and the ones that make us different from everyone else. In the end, a house may be a home, but a house without the people who helped to build it is a house without a home.