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Denebola » Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net The Award-Winning, Official School Newspaper of Newton South High School, Newton, MA Fri, 17 Jun 2011 02:00:19 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.2 BBM Me: BlackBerries at South http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/bbm-me-blackberries-at-south/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/03/23/bbm-me-blackberries-at-south/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 04:52:15 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=5606 When senior Rebecca Shait received a BlackBerry for Chanukah, she cried.

This outburst of joy was followed by a series of screams and subsequent phone calls to friends, who picked up their BlackBerries and shared the excitement.

BlackBerry in hand, Shait has joined the group of more than 41 million worldwide Blackberry users.  Though consistently a phone of choice for many, holding nearly 15 percent of the world’s smartphone sales, BlackBerries are becoming an increasingly popular form of communication among students at South, particularly those in the senior class.

“I feel as though I’m one of the last people out of my friends who has gotten one,” Shait said. “I always see people on their BlackBerries, whether they are BBMing, playing Brickbreaker, or texting another person.”

As with most smartphones, the BlackBerry is not essential to a student’s education or daily life and now, though many high school students have BlackBerries, the phone wasn’t created for this purpose.

The Canadian-based company Research in Motion (RIM) has been producing BlackBerries since 1999, but its purpose and format has drastically changed since then. The first model was a simple two-way pager, intended for business use only. Over time, RIM further developed its capabilities to receive emails and eventually turned it into the technologically advance smartphone seen today.

Because of their capabilities, BlackBerries have long been the device of choice in the business world; many corporations still require employees to have them.

Over the past few years, however, there has been a shift in customer base as the demographic has grown to include a younger audience, evident in the number of users at South.

Senior Andrea Braver has been a BlackBerry user for about a year and a half, after getting her father’s old phone.

“For workers [like my dad], the phone serves as an electronic dog tag, in that companies have 24/7 access to their employees,” Braver said.  “Initially, when my dad generously lent me his old phone… the BlackBerry wasn’t popular yet. However, within six months, a lot of teens got them.”

Unlike Braver, who was unaware of the phone’s capabilities, many South seniors getting BlackBerries now are attracted to the convenient and useful features such as internet access, email, BlackBerry Messaging (BBM), applications, a full keyboard, and occasionally the calendar.

The businessperson stigma of the phone has been removed to reveal a modern phone attractive to many students.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of people have them, and people get really into BBMing and even the cases,” senior and non-BlackBerry user Shireen Pourbemani said. “They can be a little ‘culty’ because it is easier to contact people with BlackBerries [through BBM].”

Despite this, Pourbemani would get a BlackBerry if she had the opportunity.

“They’re very addicting and you can never go back.  I don’t want to say that I want one, but I secretly do.”

Though plentiful and useful, its features, apart from BBM, are not exclusive to the brand.  And though none of these extra features are vital, countless students continue to flock towards it.

Senior Shayna Sage has a total of 104 BBM contacts, 46 of whom are past and present South students and the rest of whom are camp friends.

“BlackBerries are useful because they allow us to stay in touch with foreign [camp] staff members throughout the school year,” Sage said.  “It also enables you to send sound bites and pictures even faster than before. Who wouldn’t want that?”

In addition to South students, celebrities and politicians from Madonna to Barack Obama have been spotted with BlackBerries, creating a prestigious status for the phone.  Twenty-year-old singer Sean Kingston even recorded a song with Soulja Boy and Teairra Mari called “BBM,” praising this popular feature.

Kingston took to his Twitter account to say, “If u got a BlackBerry, stand up rite now! This is yo’ anthem. Smash it. BBM me!”

Braver, who now sports a BlackBerry Touch, which is the newest model, vocalized a sentiment which stems from the status now attached to the brand.

“I decided, in order to keep up with the trend, I would buy the newest, coolest of them all,” Braver said, slyly smiling. “It’s all about staying on top.”

Smartphones users in general are on the rise.  According to the International Data Corporation, third Quarter smartphone sales in 2010 have risen 89.5 percent from third quarter sales in 2009. Although other smartphones like the iPhone and Android-operated devices are certainly popular, many South students still turn to the BlackBerry as the phone and its competitive market continue to grow.

“I prefer [BlackBerries] to the iPhone because touch screens are really hard to type on, and I prefer it to the Droid because the Droid has so many unnecessary features and is way too confusing,” Shait said.

Senior Ashan Singh recently chose to buy a BlackBerry after deliberating between this and the iPhone.  But he does not regret his decision at all.

“I really wanted a smartphone.  Period,” Singh said.  “And I realized I needed a keyboard so I chose my BlackBerry.” And while he mentioned the excessive nature of the phone, he noted that “it’s the cool thing to do.”

When purchasing a new phone, students are signed to a two-year contract, and as more people are swayed, the number of users increases even more.  Although the Blackberry does not present any unique capabilities other than BBMing, it has carved a cult status at South.  Users are locked into a commitment and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Why would I choose another phone?” Sage said, looking up as her fingers click across her BlackBerry.

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Kirtan singers unite for Somerville event http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/kirtan-singers-unite-for-somerville-event/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/kirtan-singers-unite-for-somerville-event/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 07:02:39 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4900 Three of the biggest names in kirtan joined forces for the Om Trinity Fall Estatic Chant at the Somerville Center for the Arts on October 23.
Donna De Lory, Girish, and David Newman (aka Durga Durga Das), all distinguished kirtan singers, performed throughout the six-hour event.
Events similar to this occur frequently in places like California where there are numerous yoga and chanting festivals throughout the year, yet in the Boston area, they are less common.
All three singers have performed separately in the area, but this event marked the first time they played together onstage in Boston.
Kirtan originated in India centuries ago and has exploded relatively recently in Western culture as yoga has gained popularity. It literally means “to repeat in Sanskrit, and traditional kirtan is in the form of call-and-response chanting between the singer and the audience. But these three artists demonstrated the wide variation possible in the genre.
De Lory kicked off the event, backed by both Girish and Newman in the absence of her regular touring band. With a new remix album, “Remixes, released the previous week, many of her songs were given invigorating new arrangements and were further reinterpreted with the help of the other artists.
Playing a set consisting of mostly Sanskrit mantras, De Lory set the tone for the entire night. She opened with the slow mantra “Aham Prema (meaning “I am divine love), and soon the audience was chanting along with “Ganapati Om, and up dancing to a tribal version of “Om Nama Shivaya.
Her songs are a unique blend of Sanskrit and English, as in “He Ma Durga, the moving and personal closing number.
De Lory played both harmonium and synthesizer when she wasn’t dancing on stage, and it was easily apparent that she enjoyed playing and harmonizing alongside Girish and Newman, both friends and collaborates of hers.
After a short intermission, Girish took the stage, playing guitar and harmonium with his band.
Girish takes mantras and sets them to a jazzy instrumentation, and the positive atmosphere after De Lory’s performance continued into this set.
Girish played a few songs off his new album “Diamonds in the Sun, all extended versions for the audience to song along to.
Through call-and-response chants like “Kali Durge, or poignant numbers like the title track of his album, Girish was able to incorporate the audience, all eager to participate. At one point he explained that “bolo (a word repeated in the song “Shiva Shambo) means “chant, as he encouraged the audience to sing along, which they did energetically.
After singing the melodious song, “All Good and Long Time Sun, Girish exited the stage for Newman’s closing set.
Newman performed on his guitar with his band and wife Mira. Taking a more folk approach to kirtan, he sang many of his verses in English and brought the audience in singing in Sanskrit as he improvised and extended his songs.
The enthusiastic energy of the audience from De Lory and Girish’s performances continued as Newman went through songs such as “Like Rain/ Radhe Bolo and “Hare Krishna.
His anecdotes and comments during the songs added humor to the sometimes-serious tones.
Towards the end of the set, Newman premiered a new song he has been working on called “Stay Strong.
He said this is the “We are the World of the kirtan world as he invited any young children to come on the stage and sing with him. By the end, everyone in the room was on their feet, with hands up, swaying to the inspirational lyrics.
The Om Trinity event proved successful and Shunyam Productions, who brought this event to Somerville, are already planning a similar event in June with a new lineup of artists.
It was a unique experience for the Boston area community, with such a large number of like-minded people from all walks of life gathered for a night of kirtan.
It just shows the growth of the genre and local appreciation it is gaining.
All three singers were clearly excited to play together and their individual passion and talent for music inspired the crowd to chant along in the true nature of kirtan.
“I feel so blessed and my heart is so full to be playing with these guys, De Lory said, smiling as she closed her set.

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New students from Ghana experience South http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/new-students-from-ghana-experience-south/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/new-students-from-ghana-experience-south/#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2010 05:06:42 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4685 Imagine moving across the world, continent to continent, and arriving at Newton South High School. What expectations would you have?  How different would it be?
Cousins Bernard and Patrick Kufour found out as they started school at South this year after moving from Ghana.
THis fall, the two seniors entered South, the first time they attended an American school.
Bernard moved from Kumasi, a quiet residential area and a comfortable place to live.
Patrick lived in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.  He described the city as “pretty fun but warm out there.  Both cousins have family in the United Kingdom and Ghana, as well as in the United States where they are staying.  It was hard to leave family and friends, but they are excited for the new opportunities Newton has to offer.
Patrick went to a private school in Ghana before coming to South, as did Bernard.  Bernard attended the Opoku Ware boarding school, an all boy’s establishment located in Ghana.
Before this, he attended the Ridge School, a British middle school.  These schools educated people from all over the world and there was a great sense of diversity among their peers.
Although the rigorous courses both at the schools they attended in Ghana and at South are challenging, there are many differences between the schools.
“The classes are very good¦In Ghana, they are pretty hard but there is not much homework, Bernard said.
Patrick shared that sentiment, one many students at South believe.
“I think I have adjusted to my classes so far except for the homework part, he said.  He also noted the differences in resources between the schools.
“The technology [at school in Ghana] is not as developed as here.  It is more modernized [at South] than Ghana.
Despite these adjustments, both Bernard and Patrick are making their mark here at South and having fun while doing it.
They each expanded on their interests to become more involved in the culture of the school, particularly in sports. In Ghana, Patrick played soccer but was inspired to switch fall sports after moving to Newton.
“When I was in Ghana I used to play soccer, but when I came here I wanted to try something new [and now] I play football, Patrick said.  “The team I had in Ghana wasn’t different compared to the one here. We were a family.
Bernard continues to play soccer, now on South’s team.  He noted that there is “more motivation over here when compared to the teams he played on previously.
In addition to soccer, Bernard may want to play basketball in the winter, a sport he especially enjoys.
His team even reached fourth in the national tournament for his league in Ghana, a success he is proud of.
So far, life in Newton has been an exciting and interesting experience for Bernard and Patrick and both are excited to see what the year will bring.  “Well now I think I like South¦ It’s pretty cool and I’ve made a couple of friends, Patrick said.  Bernard added that “it’s all the same in a way.  It just depends on how you react to it.

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Senior Cup: Chenzhe Cao & Ariel Kirshenbaum http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/senior-cup-chenzhe-cao-ariel-kirshenbaum/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/senior-cup-chenzhe-cao-ariel-kirshenbaum/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 12:21:55 +0000 Andrea Braver http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4415 Every year, two seniors are chosen to receive the prestigious Senior Cup award. Seniors Chenzhe Cao and Ariel Kirshenbaum were selected this year as recipients of the award, announced at the Graduation ceremony.

Throughout his years at South, Cao has exhibited exceptional leadership, beginning with positions in Class Office, including two Vice Presidencies and the seat of President his senior year.

According to his teachers, Cao’s impressive natural leadership abilities have led him to succeed and stand out amongst his peers.

“Chen is a leader in so many facets of school, but certainly his role of class [President] is his hallmark, British Literature teacher Corrine Popp said. “[He] loves helping his fellow students and his unifying presence has made such a difference in our school.

Math Department Head Steven Rattendi shares similar sentiments, admiring Cao’s leadership qualities as well. “My first experience seeing Chen in action as a leader was during the pep rally earlier in the year. I was amazed at the way he was able to interact with a large crowd of students, Rattendi said.

Cao is extremely involved in other aspects of the South community as well, such as being a member of the Band, and the web editor of Denebola.

“Chen is an excellent musician, band teacher Lisa Linde said. “His discipline shows in his playing.

Cao combined his talent for technology and passion for music by creating a website for the school’s band.

He continually updated the website, each time accommodating the band’s needs. Cao’s determination and tendency to exceed expectations is what makes him such a beloved member of the senior class. He is valued for his friendliness and approachability. “Students seem comfortable talking with him, Popp said, “He is always smiling and laughing.

Cao is able to balance his extracurricular activities, the pressures of high school, and added stress in his life. “When all the seniors seemed to be at the end of their rope and beyond stressed, Chen remained consistently calm and composed, French teacher Sebastien Merle said.

Cao is also a hardworking and dedicated standout student who “always goes beyond the expectations of the assignment, Popp said.

Next fall, Cao will be attending Boston University.

Ariel Kirshenbaum, a talented student, athlete, and artist, exhibits admirable qualities. She was an integral member of both the Varsity Girls’ Soccer and Gymnastics teams since her freshman year. Kirshenbaum became a captain of both of these sports during her senior year.

Kirshenbaum’s gymnastics coach, Greg Beaupre, could not say enough about her.

“She is incredibly talented, yet incredibly humble, Beaupre said.

When she initially joined the gymnastics team her freshman year, Kirshenbaum knew nothing about the sport; however, she was extremely athletic, dedicated, and quick to learn, which resulted in her rapid success in the sport. In fact, her athleticism was a contributing factor in her team’s tremendously successful season this year.

Kirshenbaum is a phenomenal student and person as a whole.“Ariel puts 100 percent into everything she does, Beaupre said. “She is very gifted, kind, and supportive of people academically and athletically.

Kirshenbaum’s Journalism teacher, Alexander Kaplan, agreed. “She is an academic star, but you would never know it by sitting in a class with her, he said.

She does not openly exhibit her intelligence; “Ariel tries not to stand out from her peers, Kaplan said.

Kirshenbaum demonstrates exceptional skill in art. She was one of three recipients of the annual Newton South High School Drawing and Painting Award.

“Ariel never settles for mediocre results in art and life. She faces challenges head on, grappling until she can come out on top with the best possible results, art teacher Megan Leary-Crist said.

Along with her talents in a plethora of different activities, she was also the Sophomore Speech winner.

One can hear her laugh across the halls; she has a vibrant countenance and a winning smile. Along with a stellar personality, Kirshenbaum has an incredible sense of humor.

Many were left in hysterical laughter after reading her monthly column in the Lion’s Roar.

Next fall, Kirshenbaum will be attending Yale University.

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Student Obsessions http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/student-obsessions/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/student-obsessions/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 09:20:27 +0000 Brittany Bishop http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4582 In a sea of students, a world of obsessions swirl through the minds of those walking down the halls. Everyone thinks of something different, from a specific boy to their favorite pasttime. Here, we’ll dive into the minds of a few students and their favorite obsessions.

Boy Bands? Can’t Get Enough
By Brittany Bishop

For me, two bands are everything. Despite the embarrassment, I can’t help but immerse myself into these groups, these seven boys, along with their bodyguards, their families, their managers, and their street team leaders, lives. I am obsessed with two bands: The Jonas Brothers and Honor Society; I know everything about them. In the last 365 days, I have gone to a Jonas Brothers concert, two Nick Jonas and the Administration concerts (two nights in a row, along with meeting Nick), five Honor Society concerts, and three rounds of promotion for the bands.

Now, I’m sure most people will turn the page upon the mere mention of these bands, but that’s because they do not understand how they make me feel.

With every concert, every picture, every live chat, and every song, a new piece of appreciation forms. It’s not just their appearance that attracts people, mostly teenage girls, to these boys, but their morals and their actions (even if they do come off slightly forced every once and a while).

Still, it’s truly difficult not to crack a smile when Joe calls a girl during a live chat and pretends to be her principal, or when Andy Lee makes jokes about Mike’s body rolls for a good ten minutes straight. It’s also hard not to feel proud to be a fan when both bands continuously raise money for important funds like diabetes, the Salvation Army, or the Special Olympics.

They use their fame for good and in the best way possible.

Most bands also do not give to the fans like these two do. Most bands don’t have meet and greets, or make funny videos, or have live chats, or go to a friend’s house to make up for leaving early from a house party two years prior. Most bands aren’t so kind.

With every song comes a new depiction into the lives of these seven boys. They speak directly from experience and, being young, allow the fans to grow up with them.

Yes, that sounds a little cheesy, but with every interview and every song, you can learn something new about them.

I also happen to be lucky, already having the chance to meet Honor Society countless times, spending time with them exclusively because of one of my friends. Having met them first hand and being able to joke with them in person changes my outlook on them. Being familiar with them makes me proud to say that they are truly who they make themselves to be: honest, funny, amazing gentleman.

Finally, half of the fun of the bands is the friends you make. Going to concerts, or even talking online, allows fans to make an endless amount of friends, all of who connect and understand each other just because of one or two common interests.

The Jonas Brothers and Honor Society are binding factors for teenage girls, and maybe the rare guy fan.

Madonna: The One and Only
By Justin Quinn

Madonna. It is more than a name. It is an attitude, a way of life. And I have been living it since I was eight years old. It all started at summer camp in music class when we played freeze dance.

The counselor put on Madonna’s then new “Music album, and it all went downhill from there. That year for my birthday, I asked my parents to buy me the album, which I overplayed on my portable CD player for the following months.

While still young, I bought “American Life when it was released a few years later, but my major Madonna-awakening was in 2005, when I discovered the masterpiece that is “Confessions on a Dance Floor.

Fast forward to July 2006, the best day of my life, the first time I saw Madonna live. The Confessions Tour was magical.

From the time I bought my ticket to the night of the show, Madonna was all I talked about (ask anyone who knew me in seventh grade).

I still remember the rush I felt as the giant disco ball descended from the ceiling of the Banknorth Garden, and the video projections of horses were so loud, the floor shook. When the disco ball opened and Madonna emerged, I was lost in a Madonna-induced bliss. I saw Madonna again in 2008 during her Sticky and Sweet Tour, another amazing, unforgettable experience.

I still get goose bumps thinking about the image of the whole arena jumping to “Like a Prayer.

I spent a long time immersing myself in Madonna’s back catalogue to find a world of music spanning from the 1980s to right now. I have since bought all her albums (in multiple editions) and seen all her tour DVDs and movies she has acted in (and I attest that Madonna is in fact a good actress). Currently, I have 492 Madonna songs on my iPod, including studio albums, concerts, remixes, and unreleased tracks.

The thing I discovered about Madonna is that she is more than just the music.

I fell in love with her music, but I have grown to respect and admire the person behind it as well.

Madonna tells us never to go for second best, become better than we are today, and save the world, which are all qualities that she demonstrates herself and inspires other to do. She is a self-determined woman, and I hold a great amount of respect for her.

She knows what she wants and this value is apparent in her music, motivating me as I get pumped for a big day, dig through the last mile of my run, or am in need of inspiration.

This may seem crazy but Madonna, her music, and her message is an integral part of my life.

She is inspirational to fans across the world and although universally accessible, her music is undeniably personal.

I feel lucky to be a fan and, to quote Madonna, “you can love me or leave me, but I’m never going to stop.

Lost in a World of TV
By Gabe Feldstein

It’s 9:00 pm. The screen is black. Boom! All of a sudden, an eye is staring at you.

Whose eye is this? It’s Jack Shepard’s eye. He is covered in blood, his own blood.

He is in a jungle. A woman is screaming. Who is this woman and why is she screaming?

It doesn’t matter because you are experiencing the first few moments of one of the greatest network television shows ever.

You are experiencing the first few moments of Lost.

On September 22, 2004, Oceanic Flight 815 departed from Sydney Australia, headed for Los Angeles.

Oceanic 815 never got there. The plane crashed landed on an island in the middle of the ocean, where a bunch of confused strangers would have to make do with this new fate that some higher power had granted them.

Now, this is not a story with a happy ending. This isn’t Gilligan’s Island, this isn’t Survivor, and nobody is going to get a million bucks after a month.

This is reality. People live, people love, and people die.

Now, what is it about Lost that is so good? Personally, I can’t really describe it, but I can say that since I was admitted into college, I have watched an absurd amount of that show in all my new free time.

I probably watch so much of it for one of two reasons. The first potential reason is that it is genuinely one of the best shows of all time, and to not watch it would be missing out on a part of television history.

The second potential reason is that I am an idiot, susceptible to the juvenile ploys and hooks the show uses to pull me in every time I watch.

Honestly, it is probably the latter. Lost pulls out all the stops: eerie music, seeing dead people, a fat guy; you really can’t help but buy in to such a catchy show.

Everything about the show is done knowing exactly what effect it will have on the viewer, except in the most recent season, which is simply putrid television.

When there is a close-up on John Locke’s face as he stares at what either may be a ghost, monster, or strange combination of both, and then the show suddenly cuts to commercial, the people who make the show know that the viewer is going to be sitting through that commercial break heart pounding with bated breath.

At times, Lost is more than a TV show, it is a way of life. For seniors, getting home after a long day of sleeping through classes and barely paying attention, nothing is better than coming home to an episode of Lost. It’s refreshing; Lost is a source of drama and mystery in the monotony of everyday second semester life.

Wizarding Wonder
By Lily Fein

The premiere of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a week earlier, and even though I had gone to the midnight showing in full costume, I still wasn’t satisfied. To fulfill my Harry Potter needs, I saw it for a second time, again in full costume.

It’s moments like this that define my obsession with Harry Potter. Since 1997 when the first book was published, Harry Potter has been a major part of my life. At first, I just listened to the audio books in the car with my family on long drives, but soon I would immerse myself even further into Harry Potter’s world.

From Hogwarts to Hogsmeade, Dumbledore to the Dursleys, every essence of the Harry Potter series intrigues me. Rowling’s quirky writing style and complex story line sucks me into a magical world. I can’t count how many times I’ve read the series and every time, it gets better and better.

Maybe I love the stories so much because no matter what is going on in reality, Harry Potter is always there. Maybe it’s because Harry kicks so much butt. Maybe it’s because when I was little, I was desperate to become a witch myself. For whatever reason, I have fallen hopelessly in love with the Harry Potter books.

Dumbledore is like my second dad. The countless morals he passed to Harry, I have also taken to heart. He has taught me that it is the choices I make that define me, to not fear death, and to give everyone a chance to redeem themselves. The lessons he has taught me prove that Harry Potter isn’t just another silly kid’s book.

However, the aspects that make it so youthful and fun for kids to read also entice me. Every book is full of laughs and comic relief that contrasts with the dark magic threatening Harry’s world. Whether it’s Dumbledore exclaiming, “Alas, earwax! or Molly Weasley screaming “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU B****, I know that J. K. Rowling will mix humor perfectly with the increasing intensity of Harry’s world.

My friends think I’m crazy, and I can understand it. They love to laugh at the video on Facebook of me crying about the death of one of the characters. But in the end, it’s so worth it; I wouldn’t trade my obsession with Harry Potter for anything.

After all of these years, I know this isn’t just a phase. Ten years from now, I’m sure I’ll still be dreaming about throwing back butterbeers with Rubeus Hagrid.

No matter how many times I relive Harry’s seven years fighting Voldemort, I want to know more and more.

Even though all of the books have come out, I still embrace every Harry Potter related opportunity I get.

Like just this year, I went to a Harry Potter concert with musicians in the Wizard Rock genre. It was totally dorky, but the love for Harry Potter was immense. In the end, I don’t care how dorky it is.

I’ll love Harry Potter for the rest of my life, and I don’t care what anybody thinks about it.

The Power of Magic
By Leigh Alon

Imagine a world of creatures, sorceries, enchantments, artifacts, spells, and mythical beings. No, not Hogwarts, but rather Magic the Gathering, a card game which has kept some students around South occupied for endless hours.

While the intricacies of the rules are nearly impossible to understand without some experience, the basic idea is that one has a deck of 60 cards, 20-24 of which are mana, or resources. Resources are spent by casting spells upon an opponent until they lose the game. Cards vary greatly in rarity and value, with the most sought after card being the Black Lotus, with a limited print run, originating 15 years ago.

Although this may seem like merely another run-of-the-mill diversion, the competitiveness and environment in which Magic the Gathering is played in is quite unique and offers to its players much more than a temporary alleviation of boredom.

Players attend tournaments where they advance upon continuously winning matches against opponents they are pitted against.

After nine 50-minute rounds, only the top eight players remain, and they play in a final match. Even obtaining cards is an experience, as magic players attend drafts, called Friday Night Magic, in which each player opens a pack of cards, picks one, and passes it on in a circle until all the cards are taken.

There are indeed many around the world who have found this game intriguing, and therefore, some major tournaments have attracted hundreds and even thousands.

Senior Jason Gens attended one such event when he went to a tournament hosted at the Hynes Convention Center, where over 1500 magic enthusiasts from around the world attended, including many professional magic players who have gained much notoriety in the magic community.

Gens also placed 16th out of 259 people when he attended magic nationals. It’s these big tournaments and the interaction with other players that make magic so fulfilling for him.

“Magic is so much fun for me because I get to travel around the country and meet new people. Because Magic is also a strategy game, I work with other people to improve my play and decision making, Gens said.

Junior Jacob Tepper also enjoys being part of the unique combination of people that magic tournaments attract. “You’ll find mainly nerds, but there are kids who are ‘Ëœnormal’ like us. It’s interesting to see all the different types of people, and I would normally never interact with these people, but they play magic and I play so it’s something to converse about, he said.

As fun as it may be, Magic the Gathering does carry a social stigma that many of its most avid fans acknowledge.

“I never bring up that I play magic unless someone asks me. It’s not that I’m a closet magic player or anything like that. Most of my friends already know that I play magic and so it’s not a problem, but it’s just not something I would bring up in conversation, Gens said. 

Tepper is also affected by the stigma as people often pass judgments because of his involvement with magic. He, however, believes Magic the Gathering’s reputation is unjustified.

“Most people are surprised probably because it seems like only nerds play magic and I’m not a “nerd, but that’s not really true. It’s basically the same as playing video games but for some reason not nearly as accepted, he said.

As Magic fans continue to be lured by the game, many will undoubtedly attend an upcoming tournament in Hartford, Connecticut next week. Whether it’s the close knit community or the complicated strategies that keeps magic fans hooked, Tepper sums up the sentiment of many magic addicts with a simple statement: “it’s just a really fun game, that can be absurdly complex, which is probably why I love it.

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Nicaraguan exchange inspires Newton South student http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/nicaraguan-exchange-inspires-newton-south-student/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/nicaraguan-exchange-inspires-newton-south-student/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 05:05:16 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4527 As our plane took off from Logan Airport on April 14, I could not begin to imagine what Nicaragua would be like.

After months of preparation- volunteering at a food pantry, fundraising, collecting school supplies- a group of six students and two teachers were about to embark on a journey to this Central American country we had heard so much about for an eye-opening experience.

The first thing I noticed when we landed in Nicaragua was the heat. Nicaragua’s rainy season was approaching so the air was constantly humid and sticky, which proved overbearing at first but by the end, most of us had grown accustomed to it.

Every year since the early 2000′s, a group of South students has traveled to Nicaragua, staying in San Juan Del Sur, a small town right on the Pacific Coast.

This year, although two months later due to a fraudulent travel agency, was no different. We stayed with host families only a few blocks away from each other as we were immersed in the unique culture.

This was not the tourist experience and staying with an actual family as opposed to a hotel made the trip even more memorable.

I stayed in the home of a wonderful woman named Nena, who lived with her extended family. The two other boys stayed with me while the three girls were close by with another family.

Every morning, I awoke to a hot meal of rice, beans, and eggs, accompanied by fresh fruit and freshly squeezed juice (sometimes really good, other times, not so much).

Most mornings we met together as a group to set out on community service adventures.

We each brought with us a bag full of school supplies to give out to schools in the area. We traveled in the back of a pickup truck through the rural areas of Nicaragua.

Although there are paved roads in San Juan Del Sur, the majority of places we visited were in less-developed areas where we traveled through hilly regions on dirt paths.

I was surprised to see the first school we visited, a two-room building painted blue and white, the colors of the Nicaraguan flag. It was so different from schools in Newton, yet common throughout Nicaragua.

It was clear after visiting more schools throughout the trip that some were better off than others, but none were like anything I had seen before.

As we went from school to school and delivered our supplies, the gratitude and genuine excitement from the kids was amazing to see.

Every place we went to, we did something different with the kids, sometimes playing games, other times teaching English.

The most unforgettable school was also one of the poorest. There, we started teaching English to the elementary school-aged children, but we took out our cameras and let them take pictures of each other and us. I realized that although these kids have so little, they are no different than kids anywhere else in the world. The smiles and authentic feelings of joy are universal and it was incredible to experience so much of it.

In addition to distributing supplies, our big service outing was to paint a preschool.

We arrived at the shabby, brown building to find a group of kids of various ages willing to help us paint the school blue and white. After we finished, the difference was huge and I wish I could have been there to see the kids come to school the next day and see our work.

In the afternoons after returning form our community service trips, we had a lot of leisure time to explore San Juan Del Sur.

We often went for a swim in the ocean or visited the stores while immersing ourselves in the true Nicaraguan way of life. At night, we took Spanish lessons at the local Spanish school before returning home for dinner and then meeting up again as a group at Eskimo, the delicious ice-cream shop.

We took two full days to further explore Nicaragua. One day, we went on a trip to Masaya, a region about an hour away from where we were staying. There, we visited a smoking volcano and the large, bustling marketplace, a personal favorite.

The last day before leaving, we all went on a two-hour boating excursion to a private beach.

As I sailed through the crisp blue water, I appreciated every moment, knowing that the next day, we would be returning home. The beach was a relaxing paradise where we lounged and ate delectable Nicaraguan food, cooked right there on the shore.

The whole group grew closer (and tanner) as the days went by, and by the last day I could not believe it was time to leave.

While in Nicaragua, everything moved at a slower pace and I eventually lost track of the date and time.

The hot, sunny days blended together to form an experience I will never forget.

While I hope we made a difference in Nicaragua, I know Nicaragua changed me. I feel like my global horizons are expanded and my understanding increased.

I took a part of Nicaragua away with me as I boarded the plane in Managua on my way back to Newton. No, not just in the piles upon piles of souvenirs, but an intangible awareness in my memories and experiences. I feel so privileged to have traveled to and formed this connection with Nicaragua and I know one day I will return.

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Retirement: Rebecca Block http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/retirement-rebecca-block/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/retirement-rebecca-block/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 04:09:21 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4413 After 34 years of teaching at Newton South, Spanish teacher Rebecca Block will be retiring at the end of the year.
Block started her teaching career at South after gradating from Simmons College, but had prior experience with the school while still in college.

“I was a student teacher at Newton South from January to May of 1976, Block said. “In May and June, I substituted in various junior high schools in Newton.

“One student climbed out the window while I was teaching. In another class, they were throwing erasers at me.

But Block was not discouraged and went on to become a full-time teacher at the start of the 1976- 1977 school year, quickly becoming a friendly, familiar face for students in the world Language wing of the school.

Junior and former student of Block Sophia Zarsky especially attests to Block’s warm personality.

“Ms. Block was one of the nicest teachers I’ve ever had, Zarsky said. “Going to her class was always fun and exciting¦I learned so much from her.

Block has been drawn to the Spanish language since her teenage years. It was then when she developed an interest in learning more.

“I worked in my father’s law office throughout high school and college. Many of his clients were from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, Block said.

Block’s experience in Spanish continued to grow as she discovered more and more about the language.

“I didn’t start traveling to Spanish- speaking countries for any length of time until college, but it felt very natural to teach Spanish, as a result of my exposure growing up and in college, Block said, looking back on her progression.

“It’s never boring, and one can always learn something new.

And Block’s passion for teaching is not new. “I loved school. I always wanted to teach, have my own classroom, and my own red pens, she said.

Now, Block has accomplished this during her time at South, achieving her goal and becoming a memorable part of Newton South’s history.

Since 1976, she has seen South go through many changes and although she holds many bold memories of the school, Block looks back fondly to near the beginning of her career.

“I feel more nostalgic for the years when Newton South was a smaller school and most faculty members knew each other, Block said.

“I remember when Van Seasholes, the principal, would come by every classroom on the Friday before every vacation and wish us a good holiday.

While teaching, Block formed strong connections with her students, an element of class that students appreciated and will miss as she retires.

But Block enjoys spending time with children and plans to in the future after leaving South.

“I’d like to continue working with students in some capacity, either tutoring and/ or mentoring, Block said.

But when asked what she will miss most about South, Block responded “My students, who always make me laugh.

And students at South are sad to see her go as well. “I will miss seeing her around the school, Zarsky said.

“It’s a shame future students won’t be able to learn from her like I did.

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Donna De Lory hits Newton Centre http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/05/21/donna-de-lory-hits-newton-centre/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/05/21/donna-de-lory-hits-newton-centre/#comments Fri, 21 May 2010 07:04:15 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4341 Singer Donna De Lory returned to Newton Centre on May 3 for a concert at Samadhi Yoga Center as part of her annual East Coast Tour.

The atmosphere in the studio was electric as she took the stage, backed by cellist and long-time collaborator Cameron Stone and drummer Dave Allen for a two-hour show.

De Lory’s passion for her music radiated as she sang, danced, and played harmonium to the intimate audience of about 80 people.

Since releasing her first solo album in 1993, a self-titled dance record, De Lory’s musical style has evolved with each album as she explored world music and Sanskrit chants, two driving forces on her latest album Sanctuary and in her live shows.

Coming from a musical family, De Lory had been around music her whole life, starting to sing when she was only eight.
In addition to her solo career, De Lory was also a singer for Madonna for over 20 years, performing by her side on large-scale tours like Blond Ambition and Confessions. Even while with Madonna, she toured the world with her own music, playing in yoga centers and larger venues.

This is her fourth time playing at Samadhi, and each time she does, she brings a new energy and intention to her performance.

Naturally, since she is releasing a new remix album this summer, every song performed had a new arrangement that lent itself to movement and dancing.

The show opened with “Sanctuary, the title track of De Lory’s latest album.  Right from the beginning, the audience was captivated by her powerful, pure vocals over the rhythmic music.

The song started out slow, the soothing sound of De Lory’s harmonium filling the room.

After a few minutes, however, a beat kicked in and remained for the whole evening.

She went on to play a selection of songs from her expansive discography. De Lory noted at the beginning that she did not have a set list made for the show, so spontaneous moments and extended jams with her band filled the night.

Not too many artists can pull that off, but De Lory did and the results were incredible.

Mantras from De Lory’s acclaimed 2004 album The Lover and the Beloved, like “Om Nama Shivaya and “Govinda Jaya Jaya, were popular among audience members, dubbed the “Samadhi choir because they sang along so much.

De Lory fuses Eastern and Western inspired music to create these Sanskrit mantras, with their English translations woven in.

The upbeat pace of the show only slowed for one of De Lory’s most well known songs, “In the Sun. De Lory’s powerful vocals, echoed by the chanting of the audience, glided over the new, remixed instrumentation.

She played a small synthesizer pad during this song, adding an additional musical element to the performance.

After “In the Sun, the audience sang along with De Lory to “Jai Ma before she went on to the emotional “He Ma Durga.

Two new songs were performed as well: a lullaby she wrote for her baby daughter and a funky song De Lory and her band have been playing on the road for years’€perfect for audience participation.

The energy De Lory put into her music was contagious, and the audience was swaying and dancing throughout the show.

In a concert where every performance was top-notch, the final song, “Lokah Samasta was by far the highlight of the night.

Allen went crazy on the drums as Stone played the funky Latin rhythm on his cello. As De Lory showed off her dance moves across the stage, most of the audience was inspired to do the same.

When De Lory performs, the audience is an integral part of the experience, and even after the concert ended, the positive energy from the performance lingered in the studio.

After this unforgettable night right in Newton Centre, De Lory continued her tour visiting New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, before returning to her home in California for an upcoming string of dates on the Lilith Fair this summer.

The Lilith Fair is a touring festival that includes artists like Sarah McLachlan, Emmylou Harris, Kelly Clarkson, and Sheryl Crow, among others.

Fans in the Boston area can catch De Lory again in October, when she will play at the Somerville Center for Arts at the Armory.

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A Helping Hand in a Faraway Land http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/a-helping-hand-in-a-faraway-land/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/a-helping-hand-in-a-faraway-land/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 05:43:39 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3999 Since 1988, the Newton community has held a strong connection to San Juan del Sur, a town on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Strengthening the bond, dedicated churches, schools, and volunteer groups have traveled from Newton to help out the town by performing beneficial community service projects for the community.

Newton South has a unique connection of its own with San Juan Del Sur, sending eight students and two teachers every year to volunteer and immerse themselves in the unique culture since the early 2000s.  This year, I am excited to be a part of that program.

After a plane ticket controversy, our trip was postponed from February vacation to April vacation, but as our plane takes off today, the group and I are as excited as ever to arrive in Nicaragua and begin our work.

While in San Juan del Sur, the girls, the boys, and the teachers will be staying with three separate host families, most of whom have hosted students before and appreciate the connection Newton has with their city. Almost every day, our group will work on a community service project to help the community. Although we will not know exactly what our projects entail until we arrive, past projects include painting a school, teaching English classes, running a mobile library, and digging a hole for the foundation of a school.

In addition to our daily project, we will be distributing school materials to the schools in the area.  To raise money for the supplies, we organized a series of bake sales at South over the past few months, and put donation boxes in the house offices for students and faculty to give any materials they had. Teachers Eugene Stein and Jessica Tortola, who will accompany us on the trip, organized and collected supplies from their own students as well.

With those donations and the money we raised, we each filled bags with pencils, paper, calculators, and various other school supplies that we will carry with us to Nicaragua in addition to our own luggage.

The connection between Newton and San Juan Del Sur is valuable not only to the people benefiting from the community service, but to the people performing it as well. Everyone involvedin this program can all learn so much from each other; our sister city program helps contribute to this global awareness. I cannot wait to land in Nicaragua and put our fundraising and preparation to good use.

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Boys’ Track looks to run the table http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/boys-track-looks-to-run-the-table/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/boys-track-looks-to-run-the-table/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 04:34:46 +0000 Justin Quinn http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4242 The Boys’ Outdoor Track team, with wins versus Concord-Carlisle and Waltham, has begun its quest to earn another two-year undefeated streak after Acton-Boxborough snapped the run last winter.

“This season has a lot of promise; our new kids and returning veterans have all looked really good thus far, junior David Melly said. “Everyone is getting healthy, and we are really excited to get the season rolling.

The Track team, recognized for being one of the top athletic programs in South’s history, will have to work hard to reclaim the rank of top team in the Dual County League (DCL) and meet its own expectations.

“Our goals are to have an unblemished record and to win the [DCL Championship], senior and captain Ross McDonald said.

The team looks extremely different from last year, as most of the distance runners, the 4×4-meter relay squad, and a hurdler graduated last June.

“We have a lot of old people and new people who may have an impact, McDonald said.

Five of last year’s graduates were considered DCL All-Stars, and all had qualified for States.

The incoming freshmen have added depth and filled the roster spots the graduates left.

Both Deion Arneaud and Marini Lopci will be competing at the varsity level this season and look to help match the production by last year’s squad.

“The [freshmen] know what they’re doing and they’re already putting up great marks, Connolly said.

South, and Indoor Track champion Acton-Boxborough, rank atop the state and are projected to be the dominant forces in the DCL. The Lions currently hold the title as defending champions for the Outdoor Track season.

“A-B is probably our biggest competition. We just need to focus on staying healthy and keeping our training up, Melly said. “We have the talent to repeat as DCL champions right now, and for the DCL title. We have a host of talented sprinters, and a formidable 4×4 [meter relay team].

“That being said, we have the advantage of a well-rounded team, and our distance running and field events will help us out. The meet will almost definitely come down to the throwing, jumping, and vaulting events.

Although there has been success for the team thanks to some new additions, South has also been affected by injuries, a problem that any title-contender cannot afford to experience.

“One of the biggest goals this year is to make sure our runners are staying healthy, Melly said.

The Track team will be forced to continue its dominance without a home track this season. Therefore, South will not benefit from a home-field advantage, and must run on unconventional surfaces such as the other fields and the street.

Practicing and training without a proper track increases the risk of injury and proves as a disadvantage.

“[Track] members now have to run on unconventional surfaces, such as the street and fields to work out, Melly said. “Now that we don’t have a track, we have to be prepared to run on any surface. We lost one of our best 800 runners for a while in indoor due to an injury so now we gotta make sure were staying healthy in order to win, junior Eugene Peng said.

Despite this, the team is looking solid, is expecting to be undefeated as they were last season, and is optimistic for this year.

“We have a shot at winning the [Dual County League Championship], McDonald said. “People need to step up and we need to do what we are capable of. Basically, just execute up to our expectations. 

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