The state of streaming: June 2021

By Sammy Bovitz

If there’s anything that people all agree on when it comes to streaming services, it’s that there are simply too many. An overwhelming amount of content to choose from for ongoing monthly prices means that consumers have to pick and choose which services they deem to be worth shelling out real money for and which one will be Quibi. Each major streaming service has spent a little under a year on the market at this point, so let’s take a look at each one in terms of their outlook now and what the future holds. We’ll be taking a look at nine services, which can be easily split up into three categories:

Group One: The Powerhouses

Netflix

With over 200 million subscriptions, Netflix is still king, and it’s easy to see why. The sheer amount and variety of content is unmatched. HBO Max has since outclassed them when it comes to quality, but still, no one is topping Netflix. But it still costs a bunch of money– even an account for one person costs $8.99 a month, and that doesn’t even provide HD. Most people are probably getting the next tier up, which is $13.99. To keep people convinced, and to keep Netflix at the top, the company is going to have to fight off Disney+ and HBO Max, and they need to keep providing quality originals and variety of content. Seinfeld alone coming over is not going to save them. The Crown and Stranger Things are still coming, but that’s not enough– not to mention that we haven’t seen anything about release timing for the latter show’s fourth season. 

More than any other streaming service, Netflix is seeing their third parties leaving for other services or to start new services of their own. The Office, Friends, and Disney content alone is a huge blow, so Netflix needs to rebound and double down on originals. For now, that’s exactly what’s happening. The sheer variety that they have already is overwhelming: Bridgerton, Ozark, The Witcher, Narcos: Mexico, The Umbrella Academy, Outer Banks, Master of None, The Poltician, Space Force, Big Mouth, Love is Blind, Grace and Frankie, Cobra Kai, and Lucifer are just some of the original shows set to return right now. As for the future in both movies and shows, the Knives Out sequels, the Avatar: The Last Airbender reboot, Tick… Tick… Boom!, the star-studded Red Notice, a Cowboy Bebop reboot, a Matilda series, The Kissing Booth and The Princess Switch sequels (for people that are not me) are just the tip of the iceberg. Netflix is also going all-in on games, with Magic: the Gathering, Resident Evil, Sonic Prime, and The Cuphead Show! all slated for the next few years. If people see enough originals they like, Netflix will be just fine. But we’ll truly understand how much shows like The Office mattered as the service moves into full-on original territory within the next few years and subscription numbers are revealed. 

Disney+

Absolutely no one is shocked to see that this streaming powerhouse is still going strong, and their recent price hike to $7.99 a month didn’t seem to faze anyone. Disney+ doesn’t exactly live and die by its originals– the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel content they already have will keep plenty around– but the remainder of their 2021 lineup looks incredibly strong. We’ve got big hitters for Disney+ coming up for every major tentpole. Marvel is going to continue to lead the way with Loki, What-If, Ms.Marvel, Hawkeye, and even Black Widow coming to its $30 Premier Access service– for my money, the first real must-have for that price. That’s only 2021 we’re getting into, and Disney+ will always have the Marvel diehards locked into a subscription as long as the shows keep coming and they keep making a splash. Star Wars spinoff The Bad Batch is going to carry on through the summer, and with The Book of Boba Fett, The Mandalorian season 3, Andor, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi coming in the next year or so, fans of the franchise will have more than their fair share. The Pixar straight-to-streaming trend is going to continue with Luca, but keep an eye on this one– it’s not getting nearly as much attention as Onward and Soul did. Luca’s performance could mean a lot for the future of Pixar in theatres. It could also mean nothing, so we’ll see. But that’s not even the end of Disney+ originals this year: Monsters at Work, Muppets Haunted Mansion, Dug Days, and The Mysterious Benedict Society are among the highlights slated for this year. 

The service hit 100 million subscribers months ago, and as long as enough people don’t get tired of Marvel and Star Wars, Disney+ will continue to rise. But it remains to be seen how rapidly this rise will continue– the service is running out of big new regions to hit and big service-selling originals. If WandaVision didn’t sell people, who’s to say that Hawkeye would change that? The only gigantic title I see next year that could finally push people over the edge is Obi-Wan Kenobi, but beyond that, this subscriber momentum probably won’t be sustained for too much longer. But the service is going to continue to break through milestones and could even gun for Netflix long-term. 

HBO Max

If there’s any service that I thought could topple Netflix down the line at the start, it was HBO Max. But the service really stumbled out of the gate. Max’s $15 price point and lack of compelling launch originals– along with the debacle of having and almost immediately removing the Harry Potter series– made for a largely unappealing service to start, as only The Flight Attendant managed to make a splash in 2020. But a couple of originals came out recently that are pushing the service in the right direction, and those are Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the Friends reunion. The amount of positive press the service is getting– and will continue to get– because of these two titles alone really boosts the first half of their year. Not only that, their decision to bring all of their theatrical releases to the service, if only for this year, is a pretty big bet on the service that could really pay off. The fact that In the Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and even The Matrix 4 are all coming to HBO Max– no Premier Access required– will drive a lot more subscriptions for sure. But as for the originals themselves, Max has a largely unremarkable lineup. Gossip Girl and the untitled Conan O’Brien series are the headliners confirmed for a 2021 release thus far, and it looks like the real year for Max originals will be 2022, when Peacemaker and Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon headline. 

Overall, the best bet for HBO Max will be gradual success in the long term. Over 40 million subscribers is nothing to sneeze at, but it looks like the service is still looking for its Netflix-level tentpole originals, and there are several projects coming up with a lot of promise. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens when it comes to the service’s new ad-supported tier. The fact that the privilege to watch HBO Max with ads comes in at $9.99 a month– $2 more than a typical Disney+ subscription– shows that HBO is still about high-quality content for a high price. Finally, the merger deal with Discovery is going to drive a lot of subscribers– especially if they dissolve Discovery+ in favor of a more robust all-in-one home. This is a direct challenge to Disney’s dominance in the second generation of streaming, and will make for a huge drive of subscribers. I still think HBO Max can beat out Netflix, it’s just going to take a clearly defined strategy– and some slip-ups from the top two. 

Group Two: The Wild Cards 

Hulu

Hulu is in a weird position right now. While The Handmaid’s Tale, Love, Victor, PEN15, the Animaniacs reboot, and MODOK is a fine original lineup, it’s not exactly a showstopping group. But there are promising originals in the future, from American Horror Stories, How I Met Your Father, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to reality shows booked with both the D’Amelio and Kardashian families. None of these originals really appeal to me, but I’ll admit it’s a good enough lineup to keep them going. But their content from partners like FOX, ABC, Sony, PBS, and DreamWorks are going to have to continue to carry them– especially with NBC and ViacomCBS content leaving for their own streaming services and one of their biggest shows in Seinfeld heading to Netflix in 2022. A price drop or straight-up merger with Disney+ could be in the cards, but for now, this is one of the weirder players in the streaming wars.

Amazon Prime Video 

This company is rich with a capital R, so continuing to invest in streaming for movies, TV, music, and video games is going to continue. Being free with Amazon Prime will allow this service to continue to survive. But whether it’s going to do anything with that remains to be seen. They’ve got The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel, The Boys, and Invincible as headlining originals, but like Hulu, their strength mostly lies in their vast back catalog. But with partners pulling out, they’re going to have to pivot to bigger series to keep people interested. Good thing is, Amazon has The Lord of The Rings, A League of Their Own, and even an adaptation of popular video game series Fallout coming. I don’t see this service going away anytime soon, but it’s not going to take the world by storm either. But they purchased MGM for $8.4 billion as I was getting ready to finish this article, so I guess they’re serious about this. 

Peacock

Peacock is yet another weird one, and haven’t quite done enough to set themselves apart from the competition. NBCUniversal doesn’t seem to be all-in on the service, but they’ll probably stick around– Peacock has The Office and Harry Potter, and that on its own might be enough for some people. Shows like the Saved by the Bell reboot, Rutherford Falls, Girls 5eva, and The Amber Ruffin Show have been modest successes if nothing else, and future titles like a Battlestar Galactica reboot have promise, but nothing is really selling me about Peacock right now. For one thing, the “free” tier they offer is not a lot more than a glorified free trial, except with no time limit, almost no original programming beyond the first couple episodes, and with ads. Peacock needs to push more people to the Premium tier, as it’s a fairly good Hulu alternative for $4.99 a month with ads, and less to the very limited “free” offerings. Peacock will stick around as long as NBCUniversal understands they’ve got a long way to go and sells their more appealing tiers more often. They have The Office, but as even Netflix learned, that’s not enough. I don’t think Peacock is going anywhere, but they need to have more standout originals and have a much clearer direction in order to stand out.

Group Three: The Unnecessary Ones

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is another case of the gigantic company dipping their toes into streaming, and is perhaps the most confusing one we’ve seen outside of Quibi. The only original I really love from Apple is Ted Lasso, and other headliners like The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Dickinson, Central Park, and the film Cherry have a niche audience at best.  Things like a new Jon Stewart series, the Fraggle Rock reboot, Come From Away, and The Shrink Next Door have promise, but none of these sell people on Apple’s service. Their back catalog outside of originals is also pretty barren– they’ve got Charlie Brown and the Fraggles, but not a lot else. There’s not much of a reason to buy Apple TV+ right now, and as much as I love Ted Lasso, I wish he and Charlie Brown were just on Netflix. 

Paramount+

You might have known this one as CBS All Access or as that one commercial that played too much during the Super Bowl. ViacomCBS actually has a pretty big library, but they don’t quite have the movie library that NBCUniversal does. To me, this service is just a lesser Peacock right now. Their original headliners are Star Trek, a spinoff of The Good Wife (The Good Fight), and, I don’t know, the Rugrats reboot? To be fair, they’ve got reboots galore in development (iCarly, Frasier, Dora the Explorer, The Fairly Odd-Parents), and for some reason ViacomCBS thinks they can adapt the award-winning green man shoots things video game known as Halo into a television series. But unless you really like Star Trek, there’s not a lot here. Sure, they’ve got a limited amount of live sports similar to Peacock, but both of their offerings are so all over the place that it’s not worth much of a mention, especially because of the last service we need to talk about. 

ESPN+

I am a huge sports fan, but I still don’t understand ESPN+ for the life of me. I love 30 for 30 and would love if live sports pivoted to streaming– after all, when that happens, cable will be officially obsolete. But ESPN+ is pretty unclear about what it offers. They have a lot of soccer and a little bit of baseball, but even when NFL games come over, it won’t really be enough. Not only that, no one’s going to pay $5 a month for Peyton’s Places or the return of NFL Primetime (which should’ve been on cable, let’s be honest). Not only that, the weirdest streaming service in the world in ESPN3 is still active, but most of it is behind a paywall. Plus, people that want to pay a premium for more ESPN articles don’t always want to sign up for a streaming service to do so, and vice versa, so selling them separately might be a nice option. It would make a lot of sense for ESPN+ to fully merge into Hulu so both services can stay relevant. If they combine Hulu’s back catalog and originals with 30 for 30 and actual live sports, Hulu will make the case as the strongest challenger in terms of variety to Netflix, except for the fact that they don’t have the best family-friendly content, which stays on Disney+. Sure, it makes sense to have three separate streaming services so that people pay for all the Disney they can consume (each sold separately), but from the average consumer’s perspective, combining all three services for the price of an HBO Max subscription makes all the sense in the world. They’re already bundling Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-tier Hulu right now, after all! An all-in-one Disney home might be overwhelming, but to truly dethrone Netflix, it might be their best bet. 

So that’s a general recap on the state of streaming so far, but it’s going to be a while once we see the hierarchy of services actually take shape. I’ll bet that at least two of these services won’t last too long– my money’s on Paramount+ and ESPN+– but we’ll just have to see how much streaming the average consumer can take. Services like Quibi got absolutely destroyed, and there aren’t many major entertainment companies left that aren’t attempting their own streaming services. I don’t see more than 5 or 6 of these services really sticking with everyone long-term, and it’ll be fascinating to see where this weird world of watching goes next. 

The Champions League Final

On May 29th, 2021, in the Estadio Do Dragao in Porto, Manchester City and Chelsea fought for 100 minutes, for the glorious Champions League trophy. Here’s what happened. 

The line-ups were as follows, left to right:

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson in goal, a back four defensive line of Zinchenko, Dias, Stones, and Walker, with a midfield trio of Foden, Gundogan, and Bernardo Silva, and a front three of Sterling, De Bruyne, and Mahrez. A very offensive formation with no true striker and 2 wingers (Foden and Silva) in midfield, so while it was technically a 4-3-3, it played closer to a 4-2-4 formation.

Chelsea (5-2-2 / 3-5-2): Edouard Medny in goal, a back 3 of Rudiger, Thiago Silva, and Azpilicueta, a pair of fullbacks in Ben Chilwell and Reece James, with a defensive midfield duo of Jorginho and Kante, an attacking midfield duo of Mount and Havertz, and their lone striker in Timo Werner.

Manchester City started with the ball and right from the kickoff went on the offensive. Forward Kevin De Bruyne passed a through ball to midfielder Phil Foden on the left wing, who missed the first real chance of the game. In the 8th minute, forward Raheem Sterling of Man City got a shot at the bottom left corner, but got parried by Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. This was City’s only shot on goal in the whole game. In the 14th minute, Chelsea striker Timo Werner missed two on-goal shots, with one saved by Ederson and the second deflected as it left his foot. Midfielder Phil Foden and the aforementioned Sterling got a pair of deflected shots in the 27th and 30th minute by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. These were Man City’s only real chances since that shot on goal. In the 38th minute, Chelsea defender Thiago Silva went down with a groin injury after hyperextending his leg to tackle the ball and was replaced by Andreas Christensen. In the 42nd minute, Mendy cleared the ball to fullback Ben Chilwell, who played it off to midfielder Mason Mount, who followed that with a through ball to fellow midfielder Kai Havertz in the space before the box. Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson slides out too early and misses the ball, clipping Havertz’s heel– but he regains his balance, chases the ball down, and kicks it into an open net. Chelsea had scored the first goal of the Champions League final, and took the lead 1-0 at the half. 

In the 55th minute, De Bruyne and Rudiger collided with each other. De Bruyne stayed down for 3 minutes before being subbed out with a black eye and potential concussion, replaced by Gabriel Jesus. In the 66th minute, Christian Pulisic came on for Werner, becoming the first American to play in a Champions League final. In the 72nd minute, Havertz was approaching the goal and passed a light touch to Pulisic, who tried to lob it past Ederson, but the ball was just slightly wide. In the 76th minute, forward Sergio Aguero came on for Sterling to play his last minutes of his Manchester City career before heading to FC Barcelona. In the 90th minute, Manchester City had a cross on goal which went unchecked by the Chelsea defense until forward Riyad Mahrez tipped off Rudiger and Christensen, who slid in to clear it. In the 96th minute, Manchester City had a through ball into Mahrez, who shot a volley on goal that went inches above the top right corner. That was the last chance City had to equalize and send the game into extra time. The game ended 1-0, with Chelsea taking home their 2nd Champions League Trophy. 

N’golo Kante won man of the match, with three chance-breaking tackle (a tackle that occurs when a player is nearing the penalty box near the goal), an 85% pass completion rate, 11 duels (or challenges to the player with the ball) won, one interception, 2 clearances (kicking the ball away from your own penalty box), and one chance created (a key pass to a player moving towards the opposing side of the field). Defender Reece James also played exceptionally well, completely nullifying the threat of Raheem Sterling on the left wing, and not letting him get a single successful dribble or shot on goal. Overall, a great performance for Chelsea, who will now play Europa League winners Villarreal in the European Super Cup.

This was an incredible turnaround in their season, the obvious difference being the change in manager from Frank Lampard to Thomas Tuchel. When Tuchel took over Chelsea were almost mid-table in the Premier League, but he quickly turned the tide. He completely solidified the defense and led Chelsea to an FA Cup Final victory and top 4 finish, as well as this incredible achievement. Beating Real Madrid over two legs and then Manchester City in the final is a tall task. Manchester City go home in disappointment in the club’s first-ever Champions League final. They did very well to reach this point but will be devastated to not have finished the job, their main goal for this season. They still had a very good season, easily winning the Premier League title and the Carabao Cup for the fourth consecutive season. It was odd to see manager Pep Guardiola opt not to play a holding midfielder, as this was the first game in the whole season that neither Rodri nor Fernandinho got the start. Manchester City also played without a true striker, and even though they had been doing that successfully for the majority of this season, in a game like this they could have used a player like Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus in significant minutes to unlock the Chelsea defense. Some overthinking on Guardiola’s part may have cost his team in this one. They will try again for next year, with their squad being more than good enough to challenge for the title once again. And there we have it, the glorious 2020/2021 football season has come to an end. Chelsea are victorious and will play Champions League football next season. As for our prediction, we had Bayern as champions but as we saw, the unbeaten were defeated and a new king was crowned.

Euro 2021 Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

Club football and the Champions League have come to an end, and now it’s time for international tournaments. The biggest international tournament this side of the World Cup will occur from June 11th through July 11th, and that’s the UEFA Euro 2021, Europe’s national championship. 

The teams of Euro 2021 are split into 6 groups of 4 teams each, of which the top two of each group and the four best 3rd-place teams will move on to the knockout stages. Let’s break down the six groups. 

NOTE: We’ve listed each group in order of our predicted finish in the standings.

Group A: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales. 

Italy is the clear favorite in this group, if not one for the whole tournament. The Italian national team has always been great, winning 4 World Cups – good for second all-time- and have made the Euro finals 3 times, winning once in 1968. Today’s group is a mix of old and young, Roberto Mancini has done a great job as manager after the team’s failure to make the last World Cup under Gian Piero Ventura. Some of the team’s top young players include goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma, midfielders Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella, and a pair of forwards named Frederico with Chiesa and Bernardeschi. Some of the more experienced players include defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, midfielder Marco Veratti, and forward Ciro Immobile. Mancini has found a formula that works with a 4-3-3 formation that has them competing at a high level again and has earned him a contract extension through 2026.

Key player: Ciro Immobile. Italy has lots of talented players but lacks a superstar, so many players could have been picked here. Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne will be leading the front line and will have to contribute a lot if this team is to go far in this tournament. Immobile is a great striker playing for Lazio and should be the starting number 9, which is usually a pure striker role and one of the most important attackers on the team, if not the most important. If he scores at a high rate as he has for the past 5 seasons, then he is a dark-horse candidate to be the best player of the tournament.

Switzerland is a team that is always tough to play against and always boasts a competent team that can match up against anyone in a standalone game. The defense should be solid with Yann Sommer in goal, the experienced Ricardo Rodriguez at left wing back, with Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji, and Nico Elvedi at the center back spots, and Kevin Mbabu possibly the starter at right wing back. The midfield and attack also have lots of quality players, the main ones being Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Denis Zakaria, Remo Freuler, Steven Zuber, Djibril Sow, Hans Seferovic, Admir Mehmedi, and Breel Embolo. This team should be set to make a deep run and could even cause a few major upsets.

Key player: Hans Seferovic. There could be many players that we include here, but we picked Seferovic because he could be the most crucial in deciding the fate of the team. He will likely be the starting number 9, and has a lot of responsibility if that is the case. Seferovic is very much a hot and cold player, and Switzerland will need to hope that he doesn’t disappoint. 

Turkey will likely end up in the fight for 2nd place, or as one of the 3rd place qualifiers. The team, like Italy, has a good mix of old and young players and could surprise a lot of people by going deep in the tournament. The defense has been shaky in recent fixtures but boasts quality players such as Caglar Soyuncu, Zeki Celik, Ozan Kabak, Kaan Ayhan and Merih Demiral. The best midfielders and forwards for Turkey are Cengiz Under, Yusuf Yazici, Hakan Calhanoglu, Burak Yilmaz, and Enes Unal. This is all without mentioning the dozens of players from their domestic league. Manager Senol Gunes has the tough task of playing a balanced system that can fit in all the good attacking options whilst remaining solid at the back. If the team hits form at the right time, it can go past the group stage and even into the second or third round.

Key player: Burak Yilmaz. A player that deserves a shout-out here is AC Milan attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, a skilled player that is outstanding at set-pieces. But we have chosen Burak Yilmaz as the key player because he was the top scorer in Lille’s unexpected win of the Ligue 1 title. An experienced player who always fights extremely hard, Yilmaz could be a player that becomes the hero of a deep Turkey run in the tournament.

Wales was the Cinderella team of the 2016 Euros, reaching the semifinals after upsetting Belgium 3-1 in the quarter-finals. This was a wonderful run and one that the team will no doubt hope to repeat. But it will be much more difficult, as they have been drawn in quite a tough group. Wales will probably have an outside chance of second place, but more realistically will look to get a spot as one of the best third-placed teams. The squad is mostly average but boasts a few very good players like Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey, and Gareth Bale. Wales also has experienced players such as Wayne Hennessey, Chris Gunter, and Joe Allen as well as promising players for the future like Joe Rodon, Neco Williams, Ethan Ampadu, Rabbi Matondo, and Daniel James. There is a big question mark going into the tournament, and that’s manager Ryan Giggs, who has been charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend. If this is a distraction that impacts them, it will be tough to get out of this group. 

Key player: Gareth Bale. The easiest choice so far, Wales’ hopes in the tournament depends on how Bale plays. If he plays extremely well like in his early Real Madrid days, then the team can get out of this group and even cause an upset in the knockout rounds. If he plays poorly, like he has in large parts of the last three seasons, then there is really no hope for Wales to go anywhere. There is a huge responsibility on Bale to perform and we’ll have to see if he delivers. 

Group B: Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Finland. 

Belgium isn’t a team of many traditions, but is currently filled with talent and ranked #1 in the world by FIFA. Manager Roberto Martinez has the responsibility of coaching the so-called “golden generation” of Belgium and trying to lead them to their first-ever major trophy. The reason this feels like a crucial tournament for Belgium is that their core of important players is aging and it feels like it could be their last opportunity to win big. The squad is filled with world class players, starting with Thibaut Courtois in goal and the back three of Jason Denayer, Jan Vertonghen, and Toby Alderweireld. The likely starters in the midfield are Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, and Kevin de Bruyne. On the wings and fullbacks, there is Thomas Meunier, Timothy Castagne, Leandro Trossard, Nacer Chadli, Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard, and his brother Thorgan Hazard. The two up top will likely be Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens. Again, many quality players and ridiculous depth across the board, the question is if it will all come together. But for now, they should have no problems topping this group. 

Key Player: Kevin de Bruyne. De Bruyne is the best player on this Belgian team and is arguably a top 5 player in the world. His vision is incredible and his intelligence is elite, and he should be the most influential player in a potential run to the title. Honorable mention goes to the wild card Eden Hazard, who a few years ago was one of the best players in the world for Chelsea, but after joining Real Madrid has struggled mightily with injuries. Belgium also needs Hazard at the top of his game to win the Euros.

Denmark are an underrated squad in this tournament and are another one of those teams that can make a deep run if everything breaks right. They have a phenomenal defense, with Kasper Schmeichel in goal alongside Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Jannik Vestegaard, Joakim Maelhe, Daniel Wass and Joachim Andersen at the back. In the middle, they will probably start Thomas Delaney, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Christian Eriksen, a trio of quality players who will be essential to this team. In the rotation for the midfield and attack they have Mikkel Damsgaard, Martin Braithwaite, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Cornelius, Kasper Dolberg, and Jonas Wind. The team is stacked and should be tough to score against, but we question whether they have enough going forward to make a deep run. They will be the favorites to come in second however, and are a tough team to play.

Key Player: Kasper Schmeichel. Schmeichel will need to be on top of his game for Denmark to make a deep run in this tournament, with the goalkeeper being probably the most important position on the field. He is a phenomenal keeper and the son of Man United legend Peter Schmeichel, and is also known for leading Leicester City to their improbable Premier League title in the 2015-16 season. Honorable mention to Christian Eriksen, who needs to be decisive and generate chances for goals for this team.

Russia was host in the 2018 World Cup and went on a great run, losing on penalties in the quarterfinals to eventual finalists Croatia. They remarkably beat Spain in the round of 16, and while the home fans helped no doubt, this was an incredible run by Russia either way. The roster is not incredibly talented, with almost all of the players playing domestically. Manager Stanislav Cherchesov has done a great job in getting the most out of this group. The goalkeeper spot is uncertain, and at the back the main players will be Mario Fernandes and the experienced Yuri Zhirkov. In the midfield and attack, they will once again look for a spark from guys like Denis Cheryshev, Aleksandr Golovi, and Artem Dzyuba in addition to players like Aleksei Ionov, Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyayev and Aleksei Miranchuk. These guys will be the leaders if the Russians are going to repeat what they did in the 2018 World Cup.

Key Player: Artem Dzyuba. He is the captain and top goalscorer of the current squad but also finished as top goalscorer of the Russian league the past two seasons, as well as twice finishing as the top assist provider. At the age of 32, Dzyuba is still performing consistently as Russia’s main number 9 and true striker and shows no signs of slowing down. 

Finland enters as the clear underdogs of this group, as this will be their first major international tournament ever. They have nothing to lose, so we expect them to be a harder team than most expect, but also lose out in the end because of lack of talent and experience. Anything for them at this point is a bonus. They should have a quality starting goalkeeper, with Lukas Hradecky in goal. Their hope in the attack will be with Norwich striker Teemu Pukki. Other than those two, there aren’t many known players in that squad, but the Euros will be a spotlight on young and experienced players to show the world who they are.

Key Player: Teemu Pukki. Pukki is a 31 year old striker who has been around several clubs, but settled in very well at Norwich City. There he has an amazing 66 goals in 120 games, scoring consistently both in the Premier League and the Championship, England’s second tier. His record for the national team isn’t bad either, with 30 goals in 90 games. Expect him to be the main focus for Finland up top. 

Group C: Netherlands, Northern Macedonia, Austria, Ukraine

The Netherlands has gone through a tough rebuild that has lasted 6 years. But it’s been worth it, as the Dutch national team has been loading up with young talent, with the majority of their team being younger than 28 years old. They are stacked on defense with Matthijs De Ligt, Stefan De Vrij, Joel Veltman, Danny Blind, Denzel Dumfries, and Nathan Ake, have a stellar midfield led by Georginio Wijnaldum, Frenkie De Jong, Marten De Roon, Donny Van De Beek, Teun Koopmeiners, and amazing forwards in Donyell Malen, Memphis Depay, Luuk De Jong, Wout Weghorst, Steven Berghuis, and Quincy Promes. Although they are going through a big rebuild and have missed out on two major tournaments in a row, we think the Dutch will do well. The only question mark is how manager Frank de Boer does. He is not a proven manager, and early results haven’t been promising, but the players are there– so it’s on him if they don’t get the results the country is looking for.

Key player: Memphis Depay. Depay is a great goal scorer and assister and is the team’s essential player. They will be very reliant on his skill throughout the tournament.

Northern Macedonia is the newest entry to the Euros. Although they are debutantes, they have put forth a pretty solid team, with Egzijan Alioski and Stefan Ristovski on defense, Eljif Elmas, Boban Nikolov, and Enes Bardhi in midfield, and their forwards are led by captain Goran Pandev and his partner Aleksandar Trajkovski. They will do well if everyone plays their part. This could be a repeat of Iceland in 2016, a team who in their first Euro appearance made it all the way to the quarterfinals. Macedonia will be the underdogs of the group, but their belief and hard work could be what takes them through to the knockout stages.

Key player: Eljif Elmas. He can score, assist, and has played with Napoli for a fair share of Champions League, Europa League, and Serie A football. If he plays at his best, making key passes and turning them into assists, Macedonia can do well. The only downside is that he is fairly young, so experience is a question mark. Still, Elmas is a vital piece to Macedonia’s World Cup qualifiers success and could do the same here.

Austria is a team who is under the radar despite having a lot of talent. First off, their defense and midfield is absolutely stacked with talented players like David Alaba, Aleksandar Dragovic, Stefan Lainer, Andreas Ulmer, Martin Hinteregger, Valentino Lazaro, Julian Baumgartlinger, Stefan Ilsanker, Florian Grillitsch, Marko Arnautovic, and Alessandro Schopf. Their forward line is a bit weaker, with Marcel Sabitzer and Michael Gregoritsch as the only stars up front.

Key player: Marcel Sabitzer. Sabitzer is the Swiss army knife of this stacked Austria side. Although he is a traditional center-attacking midfielder, he is used as a forward here. If he gets the ball and consistently takes chances, Austria will progress to the knockout stages. 

Ukraine is a once glorious team that has declined sharply and are also rebuilding, bringing in talent from their major academies in Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk, the two biggest club teams in Ukraine. A whopping 23 of the players in the squad are below the age of 28. They don’t have many talents that have a good reputation in domestic leagues outside Ukraine’s own. This could be a problem for them, as many of their players don’t have experience in the biggest stages.

Key player: Ruslan Malinovsky. He’s a young but skilled midfielder playing for Italian club Atalanta, with similar experience to Elmas playing against European giants in the Champions League and Serie A. He is mainly a standard midfielder but has the leg power to bang in goals from afar.

Group D: Croatia, England, Czech Republic, Scotland

Croatia is one of the favorites for this year’s Euros. The 2018 World Cup finalists have with an all-around team with defenders such as Dejan Lovren and Duje Caleta-Car, midfielders such as Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, and a dominant forward line led by Ivan Perisic, Ante Rebic, and Andrej Kramaric. This team should go far in the Euros, and their rematch against England after beating them in the 2018 World Cup semifinals should be a highlight of the group stage.

Key Player: Luka Modric. Modric is an absolute beast in the midfield and was a key factor in Croatia’s 2nd place World Cup finish. If he plays like he did in his Ballon d’Or-winning 2018 campaign, Croatia will be a force to be reckoned with. Without dominant play from Modric, their stability may crumble.

England are a rather weak team, taking into consideration their key players and their comparison to other great football teams like Belgium and Croatia, who both bested England in the World Cup. Still, England will likely do rather well. They have a good defense with Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Tyrone Mings, a solid midfield with Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish, and Phil Foden, and an outrageously exciting forward trio in Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Jadon Sancho.

Key Player: Jadon Sancho. Sancho may be a little bit under the radar for this team, which is crazy considering he is one of the top young players in the world, but we’re choosing him over the many other talented players we could put here. Look for him to score and assist in high numbers throughout the tournament.

Czech Republic are on-the-rise and could challenge the favorites in this group. They have a pair of solid defense and midfield duos with Vladimir Coufal, Pavel Kadeřábek, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Darida, plus an amazing forward in Patrick Shick. This team has potential to do well, especially better than their 2016 Euro campaign where they went home early.

Key Player: Patrick Shick. He’s a dangerous forward that can score goals from practically anywhere. If he gets the ball enough from the midfielders, he can get the Czechs some vital wins.

Scotland are a fairly average team that has good players in every position but don’t have that edge most contenders have. It’s quite simple: put enough pressure on Scotland and they will crumble. It was seen in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against England, where they got an early lead but couldn’t hold on as England kept attacking and attacking. This appearance is Scotland’s first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, and thus probably won’t be a very surprising team. 

Key Player: John McGinn. He’s a skilled and deadly midfielder, this team’s Swiss army knife. As long as he plays to his best, Scotland have a chance to do well and maybe steal a 3rd place qualifying spot from the Czech Republic. Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, and Scott McTominay are also players to watch out for in this Scotland team.

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia

Spain is another favorite for the tournament, they have put forth a very strong squad for the Euros. With key players like Unai Simon, Jose Gaya, Pau Torres, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata, and Gerard Moreno, they can go very far. This is the first time in history where no Real Madrid player has been featured on the squad, not to mention the shocking news of Aymeric Laporte switching nationality from French to Spanish to get some playing time and immediately getting the call-up. This could be because Luis Enrique, Spain’s current head manager, coached bitter Real Madrid rivals Barcelona 5 years ago. Enrique also left out great players like Sergio Ramos, Isco, and Iago Aspas on the Euro roster, leading to a quite unspectacular roster. This team has fallen mightily from the glory years where they won the World Cup and two Euros in a five year span, from 2008 through 2012. Still, they’re favorites here.

Key Players: Gerard Moreno and Alvaro Morata. Both are in good form, especially Gerard Moreno, who finished as joint top scorer in the Europa League and led Villareal to their first major trophy ever, upsetting Manchester United in the final– and they both need to stay consistent for this team to truly contend.

Sweden made the World Cup quarterfinals three years ago but have since lost lots of talent. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s muscle injury is the biggest blow to their chances in this particular tournament. They have stars in Alexander Isak, Victor Lindelof, and Emil Forsberg but they will struggle and might even exit in the group stages.

Key Player: Emil Forsberg. Forsberg is one of their most underrated players, a deadly midfielder who can do well under stress. The question is if he will be consistent enough to pull Sweden through. If they had Zlatan it would have been easier to advance, but his absence is a major issue and makes Forsberg all the more important.

Poland are constant competitors in the Euros, and made the quarterfinals in 2016. They have a good offense and midfield led by Robert Lewandowski, Kristof Piątek, Piotr Zieliński, Mateusz Klich, Kamil Glik, and Arkadiusz Milik. They can do well in the tournament if the loaded attack can mesh together well.

Key Player: Robert Lewandowski. He is the best striker in the world at the moment. If he stays in form in the Euro, Poland will be deadly.

Slovakia has very few stars outside of Marek Hamsik and Stanislav Lobotka. They won’t have high expectations this year and have a very weak squad. What makes these tournaments magical are the underdog stories, but this one seems quite unlikely.

Key Player: Marek Hamsik. He’s the team’s creative playmaker, and has to carry this team on its back or they won’t get out of the group stage. Formerly of Napoli, Hamsik now plays for Sweden’s IFK Goteborg.

Group F: France, Portugal, Germany, Hungary

Germany will play their last major tournament with manager Joachim Low before turning the page to the next manager Hansi Flick. They will try to look past the 2018 World Cup group stage exit and embarrassing 6-0 and 2-1 losses to Spain and North Macedonia, respectively. They still have an amazing squad that should compete in this tough group and for the tournament as a whole. Hungary will be the heavy underdogs in this group and it will be surprising if they get past this stage. 

France is another favorite for this year’s Euro and will likely top this tournament’s Group of Death. They have the strongest squad in the world and are current World Cup Champions so there are naturally very high expectations. Their talent and squad depth is unmatched by any nation worldwide, with key defenders in Raphael Varane, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, and Jules Kounde. They also have a frightening midfield in Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, and Moussa Sissoko, and a near impossible to defend offense with forwards like Kylian Mbappe, a returning Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, and Marcus Thuram, son of 1998 world cup winner Lilian Thuram. This team is the Euro favorite without a doubt.

Key Players: Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema. They are a pair of skilled and dangerous strikers, and will spearhead the attack well in the likely event that this team wins. Honorable mention to N’golo Kante, the backbone of this team’s defense. 

Portugal are also favorites to win this tournament, as they won the 2016 Euro against France and are thus the reigning champions. Although they underperformed in the World Cup, they have new talent as well as some in their prime. They are full to the brim with superstars, with Jose Fonte, Ruben Dias, and Joao Cancelo on defense, and Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and Renato Sanches in midfield, and Joao Felix and Andre Silva up front. Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introduction. This team will do well. 

Key Player: Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes ended his season with 28 goals and 17 assists in 58 games. If he performs as well as he did for Manchester United this year, Portugal will be incredibly successful. Ronaldo is the best player on this team, but Fernandes could be the key to them winning the whole tournament.

Germany is a sleeping giant that has been wounded beyond repair. They are still haunted by their early World Cup exit, losing two games in the group stages. But this year is looking bright. They have brought in new talent, and are back on track. Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels led their 2014 World Cup victory and are back, and that’s incredibly important. They have talent in defense, with Hummels, Matthias Ginter, and Niklas Sule, and their midfield is out of this world with Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, and Leon Goretzka all involved. Finally, their trio of strikers up front will be Serge Gnabry, Kevin Volland, and Timo Werner, 

Key Player: Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos. They are easily the best players on this stacked German team. Thomas Muller has the most assists in the Bundesliga with 18, and Kroos came in 3rd in La Liga with 10. If both of these two can feed Volland and Gnabry through balls towards the goal on a consistent basis, Germany will do quite well. 

Hungary is a team rich in history that has sunken mightily over the years. Many say that Hungary has no chance– and that’s likely true, but it’s largely the fault of the stacked group they find themselves in. They do, however, have a lot of players that could squeeze them through to the knockout stage. A skilled goalkeeper in Peter Gulacsi, good defenders in Gergo Lovrencsics, Willy Orban, and Attila Fiola, a midfield team of Adam Nagy, Laszlo Kleinheisler, and Dominik Szoboszlai, and the captain Adam Szalai with his right hand men Nemanja Nikolic and Roland Sallai up front. There is a chance this team manages to get through, and while it’s unlikely, it would be incredible if it does happen.

Key Player: Adam Szalai. The captain of this team is a consistently solid forward. Although Hungary might not get past the group stage taking into account the group they are in, they might have a chance if Szalai hits his shots– provided he gets enough chances. 

That will do it for our preview of the 2021 European Championship. Lots of interesting storylines and fun games right from the get-go, especially with the headliner in Group F. International tournaments are always fun, as we see big upsets and crazy moments every year. It’ll be exciting to see what the group stage brings when it opens on June 11th. 

Communication During the Pandemic

By Olivia Barker Dell

As of now, our world is recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 was first reported from Wuhan, China to the World Health Organization on December 31st, 2019. It has been over 500 days since the first report of COVID-19 cases. During the pandemic, everything has shut down, people have stopped traveling to work or to school, attending broadway shows or sporting events, or even meeting face to face. That last one is key, because it hampered our ability to communicate, which in itself is key in our world. Without face-to-face communication, our social lives are diminished, and we resorted to online communication. Apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Zoom, Google Meet, Discord, Snapchat, Messenger, and WeChat are just a few ways people have had to communicate in the pandemic. As a teenager starting her first year of high school, communication was a huge issue for a few reasons. First, friendships and school and at the workplace are key, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was much harder to make connections with my classmates. 

I’ve heard from a few friends that have struggled to make friends and communicate. They’ve told me that there are positives and negatives when it comes to communication and social apps. Apps such as Discord, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and Zoom. Freshman Jonah Kau told me that he “uses apps like Discord or just simple messaging on my phone to talk to my friends and stay connected with them. Without these apps I feel like I wouldn’t be as open with my friends and these apps have really helped with talking during the pandemic. When I think about it, we kind of take it for granted and I think that it is a helpful tool.” Tenzin Chemi, another Beacon freshman, said something very similar.“I think they have helped me in making friends during this freshman year being that I’m doing fully remote. Although I’m unable to go to school in person to make friends, I can make friends online with the people from my school,” Chemi said. Even though everyone has different experiences, the most common and important part in all of their experiences was the ability to connect with new and older friends during the pandemic. They also shared with me how they have made connections with their fellow classmates, especially via Instagram and Discord, the two most popular communication apps used by the Beacon freshmen. 

Both Kau and fellow freshman Arcadia Santos Valentine mentioned many positives, but also told me how social media and communication can negatively impact someone’s health. Arcadia said that “one of the major problems is seeing other people living their exciting and socialized lives during the pandemic can make you feel isolated, which can impact your mental health.” This really stuck with me, as this feeling can be created from many different situations, whether it’s being left out of a group chat or not being able to download a key communication app because of your parents or technology. But overall, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives of these communication apps. 

Before the pandemic, Instagram and Snapchat were used for quick communication or just to advertise your life by posting photos and videos on your account. But times have changed, and some now use Instagram and Snapchat for class group chats, meetup planning, video calling, and more. I utilized Instagram almost every day during the pandemic, and I expect to continue to use it daily even when we return to our “normal” social lives. Even though group chats might die out and there might be less users livestreaming on the app, I’m sure that many will continue to use it.   On the other hand, while I’ve definitely kept Snapchat downloaded on my phone even though I might not check my messages every day. I’m more active on Instagram personally, but during the pandemic, I kept daily streaks on Snapchat with many of my middle school friends, and it was nice to connect with them even though we don’t see each other every day anymore. I expect to keep using that tool on Snapchat even after we recover from the pandemic. A slightly different situation lies with Discord, one of the most popular social media apps. Before schools were shut down, I thought of Discord as just a version of iMessage, but with options to make it more useful as a gaming platform. But since the pandemic hit New York City, I’ve learned that Discord offers so much more. I have joined several Discord servers and found you can create voice channels, text channels, minigame channels, add bots to provide special content for things like birthdays and pet ownership, and more. In my opinion, Discord has almost been a second home. On the app, I talk to all of my friends I’ve made this year at beacon. It has a multitude of abilities that suit our needs during the pandemic such as video, text, and voice calls, as well as music, streams, and more. Overall this app has been a very useful tool to my fellow freshmen. 

While apps that I’ve mentioned already skew younger, it’s worth mentioning apps like Facebook and Twitter becoming key for generally older generations. Facebook Messenger provides text, video, and voice chats. I rarely use Facebook Messenger, but I’ve found it useful when connecting with friends outside of the United States. Instead of paying extra for out-of-country calls, I’ve used Facebook Messenger to connect with them for free. Twitter also provides instant messaging, quick posts, and an interesting feed. 

Lastly, let’s talk about the two most used video conferencing apps: Zoom and google meets. These conferencing apps have been the home of my education during the pandemic, and even though school isn’t the most fun all the time,these apps have helped me get to know my friends and teachers. Even though my generation has mostly used these apps for educational purposes, people all over the world use Zoom and Google Meet to connect with each other, whether they live in a different time zone, borough, or neighborhood. 

Now that our nation is recovering from the COVID-19 with millions of people receiving vaccines, our regulations are loosening, and hopefully, we will be able to get back to our normal face-to-face conversations. But until then, it’s certainly been interesting to see what communication has been like during this time.

AJR: The Most Confusing Three Letters in Music

By Sammy Bovitz

On March 26th, 2021, the musical trio known as AJR released OK Orchestra, a 46-minute, 13-song experience that can best be described as, well, okay. And in the years leading up to that release, my relationship with the group’s music has been very odd. As I slowly discovered that some of my friends or acquaintances enjoyed the band, I attempted to try out their music as both an attempt to be a good friend and simply to see what all the fuss was about. Their band name, album art, and overall tone is relatively unassuming, and the overall beats backing the lyrics are satisfying enough that, when stripped down to mere instrumentals, many of their tracks are fairly serviceable. But where AJR really sets themselves apart is in their lyrics, and it’s both their greatest strength and most glaring weakness.

For example, let’s take the track “Netflix Party.” When I first came across AJR in 2019, “The Office” was still fresh enough in my mind that I was purely enjoying it and not thinking critically about the show as much as I would later. I had also just finished watching season 7, the final season that’s generally seen as quality by both fans and critics. The song “Netflix Party” is about one of the band members’ journey growing up with the show. At face value, a first listen to this song is pretty enjoyable, especially for someone who is currently enjoying the show, say, through Netflix. But songs like AJR’s have lyrics that are always at the focal point. Obviously, lyrics are important to every song, but, for example, a younger version of me enjoyed the production behind “Blurred Lines” while remaining blissfully unaware of the song’s misogynistic message and copyright infringement. That song, at least in my view, isn’t really about the lyrics: it’s about delivering a fun pop song with a tune that is easily memorable and can be danced to. But “Netflix Party” is about telling a narrative through a song, and while it’s intertwined with fun beats, it’s not mainly about the beats. So on multiple listens, lines like “The one where Dwight became the head of sales/My eighth grade graduation wished me well,” don’t trigger nostalgia or relatability as much as they simply confuse.


Let’s look at a few more examples. “Sober Up” is initially about discovering that your old friends have matured and grappling with that, but on multiple listens, the line “My favorite color is you/You keep me young and that’s how I wanna be,” is so bizarre. It could be a nod to band member Ryan’s synesthesia, but that’s about associating visuals with sounds, not people with a visual concept like a color. The line “My favorite color is you,” whether isolated or given as much context as possible, makes absolutely no sense- and it’s one of the main refrains of the song. “Break My Face” is a bizarre and oddly charming song on first listen, but after that it’s just plain irritating. The pre-chorus of “What doesn’t kill you/Makes you ugly/Life gives you lemons/At least it gave you something,” is attempting to turn cliched phrases around, but it doesn’t feel genuine or interesting as much as it is frustratingly downbeat and “rebellious,” which contrasts with the fairly upbeat nature of the song’s production. “3 O’Clock Things” was one of the “good” songs on OK Orchestra in my view (more on that in a bit), but with lines like “It’s kinda funny how I paid for college/When YouTube was an option,” multiple listens just make the song worse. 

I do not think I am an expert in music production in any way. If you asked me to write a song, I would fail miserably, as I just don’t operate like that creatively. But I can speak from the experience of someone in AJR’s target audience, which is– whether intended or not– insecure millennials or teenagers. That is to say pretty much every millenial or teenager, but I digress. 

AJR’s songs seem to aim for relatable lyrics and catchy yet experimental tunes, and they seem to position their entire style as both refreshingly bizarre and very accessible. That’s something that grabs a lot of people around my age, as in a world where more people attempt to make creative projects for a living ever, it’s shown that it’s incredibly attractive to be positioned as weird while still having mainstream appeal. “Relatable content” is something that people seem to love, and AJR fits that niche perfectly while still being experimental enough to be “weird.”

Again, none of this is to say that AJR’s music is bad or that it’s simply a cookie-cutter experience. Like most songs, the lyrics are probably based on stories from the band member’s lives or of their general thoughts on the life they’re living. They struggle as both creatives and as representatives of Generations Y and Z, who, like many generations before them, feel both a sense of insecurity and a desire to move forward and create a world they want to see. And that is something that, at its core, can make for some fairly, well, relatable music. At their core, what AJR seems to be showing with their main themes have wide appeal. But it just comes down to how those themes are executed that feels off. The band feels like it’s in a constant tug-of-war between their desire to get weird and a desire to make things that they– and the thousands like them– can relate to. 

Let’s get back to OK Orchestra. Of the 13 songs on the album, four are singles from the past year or so. Those songs are all okay and fairly inoffensive, but of course, things like the chorus of “Way Less Sad” don’t make a ton of sense on multiple listens. But my least favorite song on the album has to be the hilariously titled “OK Overture.” It feels like random sounds and snippets from the album were just thrown at a wall with little attention to what would stick for the listener, and it’s a fairly good indication of the album to come. Overall, AJR’s discography follows some core themes, but the albums themselves are more a collection of songs, and thus their “best” work is probably enjoyed without the context of the full album. I went into OK Orchestra with an open mind, but quickly found myself skimming through some tracks and skipping others entirely. The album’s songs are best enjoyed standalone, but again, once the production begins to get repetitive and the only thing left to latch onto is the lyrics, the band completely falls apart for me as a listener.  

AJR at face value should be just another indie band, but the content of their lyrics and in the way they carry themselves– see the reveal for the album Neotheater— make them very appealing to younger people. And yet that’s why they frustrate me so much. Their surface-level relatability makes them have the appeal of a mainstream pop artist while still being “quirky” enough for their audience of teens and millennials to eat it up. I’m not saying that AJR is evil, I’m simply saying that their success confuses me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to Google how to successfully defend against pitchforks. 

Sports arenas reopen: What will become our new normal, post pandemic?

By Olivia Barker Dell

Covid-19 has developed into a full on  pandemic over the last year. By early February of 2020 we knew about the incoming virus, but we never thought it would affect our lives to this extent. Everything we once knew as  normal, was  switched and mixed. Working from home, learning from home, and watching sports games from home became our new reality. During the Covid-19 city wide lockdown, families were forced to remain at home with only a few exceptions like going grocery shopping or traveling to work. And during this time, many office buildings, factories, restaurants and more were shut down due to the virus. In addition, most of our entertainment industry closed down, including sporting arenas.

This affected sport fanatics across the United States,especially New York: home to the Mets, Yankees, Nicks, Nets, Jets, Giants, Rangers, Islanders, New York FC, and more. The list goes on, from football teams to baseball teams. New Yorkers love the thrill of the crowd, the music, the food, the games, and the energy. This was all lost when restrictions were put in place for in-person events, you just don’t get the same feeling sitting in your living room staring at your television that you do surrounded by fellow fans. During the rise of Covid-19 . 

Over the past few months as our city has been reopening, people have begun  going back to work, restaurants are opening to a certain capacity, schools are reopening, and sports arenas are reopening as well. They were one of the last to reopen in New York. Currently baseball stadiums, like Yankee Stadium, are allowed to let in fans to see the game in person, but only up to 20% capacity. While centers, like the Barclays center in Brooklyn, will only be able to let in 10% of their fans to watch their team in person. Attendees will also have to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative covid-19 test within the timeframe given by the certain arena. Because of these new requirements, most new yorkers won’t be able to return back to their regular routine of going to see the games with family and friends. Something we’re all asking is: when will we be able to go back to our normal? Many people remember what it was like to attend a sports game in their home arena. As a New Yorker I would go to Yankees games all the time with my family. I remember getting ready for a game, wearing my sports fan gear, waiting on ridiculously long lines to get in, buying soda and hotdogs, crushing peanuts during the game, rooting and screaming when the yankees scored a run, and watching everyone around me scream, laugh, and show joy. That’s what many New Yorkers remember, but that is all in the past, sadly. That was before Covid-19’s new normal. And now we need to figure out what our post-covid normal is. The new regulations and restrictions will definitely change our known normal, but we will learn to adapt to it. There are many compontines to our new normal, some are economical, political, and some just involve the energy and feeling attendees will experience. As we have seen our current Governor of New York Andrew Cummo has continued to loosen guidelines as we progress through the pandemic. More and more New Yorkers are taking the variety of covid-19 vaccines available to our city, but many are against getting the vaccine. We have most seen this hesitation from the republican party. I think we all know, many supporters of the republican party are against getting the vaccines because of the politicians they support, who are against the covid vaccine. But as we progress many republican party supporters will give in and take the covid-19 vaccine because of the new sport arenas requirements. While getting a covid-19 test is another way to gain entry, it is much easier and quicker to just get the vaccine. 

Because of the lockdown we have seen a rise in food delivery because we were stuck in our house. While we were at home, we were still able to order in from most of our favorite restaurants. And many did so, while they were watching sporting events on television. Before and during football, baseball, basketball, soccer games NYC’s crazed fans would order many of these foods from online delivery websites such as doordash, and grubhub. A lot of this food came from fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, KFC, ect. But now that sports arenas are open, eventually food venders will reopen in all sports arenas. Stadiums like Yankee Stadium have reopened their retail food but many others have not. Other sports arenas are letting fans bring their own drinks and beverages to the game as long as it is checked by stadium security before entering. Our new normal sadly is wearing masks, getting vaccinated, bringing food and drinks, and not having the full energy of the crowd. But at least we can go to attend games. In the end, this is our new normal and we will adapt. Our lives were turned upside down a year ago and we are now getting back to our before pandemic lives. It will be a slow recovery for our nation and city but one day we will return to the roar of the crowd and the crushing of peanuts.  

A Health Crisis Transforms into a Humanitarian Crisis; South America’s Fragile State

By Sasha Danielle Rafiy

With bodies abandoned on sidewalks and new burial grounds cut into thick forest, South America was one of the world’s hardest hit regions by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A year later, among many other social and economic problems, South America remains a COVID-19 hotspot, with a recent surge of cases in many countries that is even more deadly than before. 

Born out of political instability, corruption, social unrest, fragile health systems, and extensive inequality, South America’s inadequate and unsatisfactory COVID-19 recovery was inevitable. 

According to recent data collected by the New York Times, despite holding just 8 percent of the global population, South America accounted for 35 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the world. Recently, an aggressive coronavirus variant was discovered in Brazil, having spread throughout South America, prompting deaths and hospitalizations to skyrocket–even in countries that have widely administered the vaccine. 

Colombia, a country of 50 million, is seeing occupancy in intensive-care units hit 90% in the capital, Bogotá, with hospitals in other cities at their breaking point. The mayor of Bogotá is warning the residents to prepare for “the worst two weeks of our lives.”

The variant from Brazil is not only a problem for South America, but also a global problem in fighting the pandemic. The P.1 variant has spread to countries including Canada. In the province of British Columbia, officials have recorded 2,062 cases of P.1 as of April 26, up from 974 as of April 9. Other nations should be taking 

South America’s crisis as a lesson as it could be a driving force in the pandemic.  

What began as a health crisis in South America is now a humanitarian crisis; experts worry about what effects the pandemic will have on the nation’s future. As one of the globe’s “longest-haul Covid patients,” public health, the economy, social and political scars are a prime concern, which may run deeper than anywhere else in the world. Although this issue may not seem like a prime concern to rich countries who are returning to some type of “normalcy,” global involvement is necessary to handle and prevent the spread of these new variants.

Pinocchio and the Film’s Life Lessons

By Aylin Montoya

Disney’s Pinocchio premiered on February 23, 1940, receiving critical acclaim and today is  considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. Pinocchio is filled with music and wonderful acting, which led the film to win an award for best song (for “When You Wish Upon A Star”) and for best original score. But apart from the music and story, Pinocchio leaves the audience with important timeless life lessons, highlighted by the characters and their journey throughout the film. 

   A crucial lesson in Pinocchio is to be wary of finding the easy route in life, which is embodied in the setting of Pleasure Island. Pinocchio follows Lampwick to Pleasure Island where they can play, drink alcohol, smoke, and do everything they want without supervision. It is a place where children who do not want responsibilities get tricked into having a life without limits. The result of living a life without responsibilities? In the end, all the children get turned into donkeys by a curse that is on the island which turns naughty boys into “jackasses” with the Coachmen then taking them hostage. It is conveyed in a dark way for a children’s movie, but the lesson remains clear. The children turned into donkeys as a consequence of taking the easy route in life, Pleasure Island, then falling victim to that same mentality of living a lazy life, causing them to become donkeys. The same easy route they thought would make them free only trapped them into a life filled with limits, highlighting how bad habits and being lazy only lead to consequences and being trapped in a destructive way of life. 

     From the beginning of the film, Pinocchio refuses to listen to his conscience, who is embodied by Jiminy Cricket. Jiminy warns Pinocchio about doing so as he states, “Go ahead, make a fool of yourself then maybe you’ll listen to your conscience.” Jiminy’s warning to Pinocchio is specifically illustrated in a crucial dramatic scene of the film. Pinocchio is drinking beer and smoking a cigar while Lampwick laughs as he starts to turn into a donkey. At this point in the movie Jiminy Cricket has figured out what is going on in the island and goes to warn Pinocchio. As he goes to find Pinocchio, Lampwick is complaining about Pinocchio’s conscience as he states, “Where does he get that stuff from?”, because to Lampwick, he knows everything and conscience is just an oppressive force to not be free to live life. Pinocchio continues to drink his beer until he notices Lampwick start to transform and it stops him right in his tract because reality has hit him. By the time Lampwick notices he has turned into a donkey, his laugh becomes a bray and he gets hoofs. He kicks around the room and leaps until he stops at a mirror, but instead of seeing the reality, he breaks the mirror. Lampwick refused to see his mistake until the very end and he never listened to his conscience, which only led him to make mistakes that could have been avoided had he reflected on his actions. It is because Pinocchio finally listens to Jiminy right before he fully transforms that he is able to escape. Everybody makes mistakes and we should learn from them, but there are mistakes that can be avoided if we can reflect on what the right thing to do is. 

     Another important lesson Pinocchio teaches is that reaching goals takes time and at times hardships happen, but it is important to keep going. Once Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket get off of Pleasure Island a new hardship is confronted: a big cliff that only leads to an ocean with turbulent waves. Pinocchio’s journey towards home (and becoming a real boy as he wishes) is not over, as he is confronted with a cliff where he must dive into the unknown. It highlights that in order to get to a good place, he had to go through a worse place first. Pinocchio knows the journey home is going to be difficult, but he still leaps forward and swims with Jiminy Cricket through the turbulent sea. What follows is more hardship, but Pinocchio does not give up, and in the end he does reach home and meets up again with his father, Geppetto. His wish of becoming a real boy does happen in the end, despite the difficulties he had to go through, because he did not give up on his journey. 

     Sometimes it feels as if plans are not going well and we can feel like giving up on our goals, but it is important to keep going because journeys take time and often hardships happen. Like Pinocchio, learn from your mistakes and like Jiminy Cricket teaches Pinocchio, don’t forget to listen to your conscience. You can reach your goals so keep going!

Champions League Semifinal Review and Final Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

It’s decision time. We’ve gone from the original 32 Champions League teams all the way down to two that will play on May 29th in Istanbul. The remaining sides are Manchester City and Chelsea. Congratulations to them both for completing such a difficult journey to the Champions League final. But before we talk about that, let’s discuss those semifinals.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

The first leg was played in Estadio Di Stefano in Madrid. Chelsea got a quick start to the first half with a goal by American forward Christian Pulisic in the 14th minute. This lead didn’t last long though, as Karim Benzema equalized in the 29th minute with a sensational scissor kick on Real Madrid’s first real chance of the game. Give Benzema an inch and you will be punished. The first half was exhilarating, but the second was frankly disappointing. Both sides came out very conservatively and appeared to settle for a dras. The game ended at 1-1, with a slight advantage for Chelsea heading to Stamford Bridge, their home stadium, as they had a lead on the away goal tiebreaker. In the 28th minute, a shot by Chelsea midfielder Kai Havertz bounced off the crossbar and into the air where Chelsea striker Timo Werner headed it into the net to grant Chelsea the lead. The first half then quieted down other than a pair of vital saves of Karim Benzema shots by Chelsea goalie Edouard Mendy. The second half got to a slow start, with Real Madrid getting frustrated and getting 3 yellow cards. In the 85th minute, Chelsea had a breakaway on the wing and Christian Pulisic crossed the ball into the box where midfielder Mason Mount was waiting unmarked to score. Real Madrid failed to respond and the game ended 2-0. Chelsea go on to the final on the aggregate score of 3-1 and will play Manchester City in the final. Real Madrid’s full focus now is in the La Liga title race where they currently sit 2 points away from the leading Atlético Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester City

The first leg was played in Parc Des Princes in Paris. PSG got a quick start to the first half with a goal by defender Marquinios in the 15th minute, and the game stayed 1-0 into the half. In the 60th minute, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne whipped a cross towards the goal that went untouched and went past PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the score to tie the game at 1. Shortly after, midfielder Riyad Mahrez then took a free kick through the wall and into the bottom left corner and took the lead for Manchester City, 2-1. A couple of minutes later, things got worse for the home side as midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye tackled Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan outside the box. Gueye got sent off with a straight red card. For the rest of the time, the two teams, especially PSG, were getting frustrated, hacking at each other constantly. Other than that, PSG stalled out compared to the first half and the game ended 2-1 in Manchester City’s favor, with the return leg going to the Etihad in Manchester. At home, Manchester City got a quick start with a goal by Riyad Mahrez. For the rest of the first half, both teams got some shots on goal with nothing to show for it. In the 63rd minute, Mahrez got another chance from a Phil Foden cross and slotted it in. 5 minutes later, Angel Di Maria of PSG got sent off for losing his head in response to a poor Fernandinho tackle. The game ended 2-0, meaning a Manchester City victory on a 4-1 aggregate. PSG had no shots on goal, with Manchester City’s defense holding strong. Manchester City will go onto their first Champions League final in history. PSG will now look to overtake Lille, win Ligue 1, and try to win the Coupe de France which they are in the semifinals of. Regardless of how those competitions turn out, this defeat will be rough for PSG and could have implications for the future of some of their star players, specifically Kylian Mbappe.

Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview 

It’s the last challenge for these 2 teams. All eyes are set on Istanbul, where this historic battle will take place. Manchester City can win their first ever Champions League, and Chelsea can add a second to their collection. In their 2 games played against each other in 2020-2021, both had one win against the other. It’s a really close matchup here. Chelsea have had much success with a heavy defensive game in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation. Like Chelsea, Manchester City are a heavy defense team that usually line up in a 4-3-3. Manchester City have the upper hand here, having a well rounded team in general and in great league form. Chelsea have also been in great form, but we don’t see them beating Manchester City. Our early prediction is that Manchester City will win the final 2-1 after extra time and will take home their first UCL title.

Blue Velvet: The Unheard of Prequel to Twin Peaks

By Anya Geiling

Have you ever heard of the infamous director, writer, actor, and musician, David Lynch? He was the brains behind many cult classics, including Dune and both seasons of Twin Peaks. You might have heard of Twin Peaks, but have you ever seen Blue Velvet?

 Blue Velvet was released in 1986 as a mystery/crime drama. The main actors were: Kyle MacLachlan (later starring in Twin Peaks), Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Dean Stockwell. The movie has the song, “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton as the main theme song. 

To begin, the movie starts with college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) coming home after finding out his father experienced a stroke. After walking in a field one day, Beaumont finds a severed ear and teams up with the detective’s daughter, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), to solve the mystery. They suspect the beautiful singer, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), to be connected with the case. Beaumont then finds himself drawn to Dorthy’s confusing life, leading to the encounter with psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). 

This leads into Lynch’s cinematography. From the beginning of the movie, Lynch creates a surreal picture for the audience. Most of his work has been dubbed “Lynchian”, and is characterized because of its adoring imagery. His color pallets also vary. He uses warm and cool colors to determine the mood of a scene, which makes the show more enjoyable for viewers. 

Additionally, David Lynch uses old songs throughout Blue Velvet and transforms them into psychopathic rhythms. For example, in the beginning scenes, Lynch presents the movie as a picture-perfect town, along with the song “Blue Velvet” sung in a very dream-like way. This seems to set the expectations for the film, but in reality it turned out to be very different from that picturesque fantasy. Later on in the movie when Dennis Hopper meets Dean Stockwell, Dean sings part of the song,“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison. One of the lyrics read, “In dreams I walk with you… In dreams you’re mine all the time”. These lyrics are meant to be for lovers, but Lynch twists them to correspond with his character’s lunatic actions. 

This movie is the unheard of prequel to Twin Peaks. From the beginning of the film, many parts felt familiar. To start off, the town is a logging town just like Twin Peaks was, and the characters were played by many of the same actors. I see this film as the life behind Dale Cooper. There is never any mention of his past, and this movie fills in that void. Laura Dern’s character also has significance later on when Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) came out.

I definitely recommend watching Blue Velvet and diving deep into the world David Lynch creates. You will truly be amazed!

Champions League Quarterfinal Review and Semifinal Preview

By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt

The Champions League quarterfinals have come and gone quickly. Across these past two weeks, four teams have gone home and now four remain – Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The semifinals are due to be in the weeks of April 27th and May 4th, and from there we’ll know who will make the final in Istanbul. Here, we will review the quarterfinals and preview the semifinals. We’ll start with the most entertaining of the four games, Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain.

Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain

The first leg of this 2020 Champions League final rematch was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. PSG got a quick lead through a goal via superstar forward Kylian Mbappe. Then, in the 28th minute, PSG center-back Marquinhos scored from a beautiful assist from Neymar which doubled their lead for nine minutes until Bayern forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, in for the injured Robert Lewandowski, scored a header. Once the second half got underway, Thomas Muller of Bayern scored a goal in the 60th minute to tie the game. But eight minutes later, Kylian Mbappe scored another goal, which would be the last of the leg as PSG beat Bayern in Munich 3-2, having a significant away lead with the return leg going to Parc De Princes in Paris. Bayern dominated the run of play in this leg with 31 shots to PSG’s 6 but PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas had a great game and was arguably the man of the match. This was a fantastic game and beautifully set up the second leg, in Parc De Princes. PSG looked the better side until the 40th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting of Bayern scored a header and tied the aggregate score at three. That was the only action of the game as they drew 3-3 on aggregate but PSG advanced on by the away goals rule, scoring three away goals compared to Bayern’s one. Throughout the game, both teams missed some great chances as PSG forward Neymar missed five clear chances at a goal, including 3 shots at the post, whilst Leroy Sane of Bayern Munich for his part missed seven goal scoring chances. Overall, poor finishing in the game by both teams but PSG advance and will play Manchester City in the semifinals. For Bayern, the only competition left for them this season is the Bundesliga, which they will look to win for the ninth consecutive time (currently they are 5 points ahead in first).

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

This was another Champions League final rematch, this one being from the 2018 final where Liverpool lost 3-1. This time, however, many key players were injured on both teams, including both teams’ senior center backs. The first leg was played in the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid scored twice in the first half, goals by Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio, in the 27th and 36th minute, respectively. Both of these goals were caused by errors from Liverpool, with the second goal stemming from an especially bad error from right back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The rest of the first half stayed relatively quiet, but only five minutes into the second half, Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scored a goal and got Liverpool back into the game, only for their hopes to be crushed in the 65th minute by Vinicius Junior, who capitalized from another error by Alexander-Arnold. The game ended 3-1, a big boost for Real Madrid going into Liverpool. In the second leg, the game was slow and frankly boring. Real Madrid were playing rather defensive with a comfortable two goal lead. Liverpool was quite cautious as well, having only four shots on goal, all of which were saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Real Madrid’s experience and tactical fouling gave Liverpool nothing and they coasted through. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, meaning that the aggregate score was 3-1, so Real Madrid goes on to play Chelsea in the Semi-Finals. Liverpool will now have to finish top 4 in their league to be back in the Champions League next season.

Porto vs Chelsea

This was the least exciting of the clashes in our opinion. This was because Chelsea opened up as huge favorites and were in great form under manager Thomas Tuchel going into this game. The two legs were played in Sevilla due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In the first leg, with Porto being the “home” team, they went on the attack. They had a number of goalscoring opportunities but Chelsea’s defense held strong. Then, against the flow of play, Chelsea’s attacking midfielder Mason Mount coolly spun off of Porto defender Chancel Mbemba with his left foot and shot with his right foot into the bottom corner. This fantastic turn and finish came at the half hour mark and changed the momentum of the game. Porto then looked for an equalizer but couldn’t find one. Unfortunately for them, Chelsea would go on to double their lead late, when Porto’s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona gave a gift to Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell who then went over to Porto’s keeper and scored. This gave Chelsea a very comfortable 2-0 lead going into their “home” clash, the first leg being an example of how individual mistakes and inability to convert chances into goals will cost you at this level. The second game played out as you might expect, with Chelsea looking to keep a clean sheet and Porto looking for the goal that would halve the deficit. Porto threatened little in this match, and while they would get a goal, a spectacular bicycle kick (rivaling Oliver Giroud’s goal from the last round) by forward Mehdi Tahremi in the 93rd minute, it mattered little in the end. Chelsea go through to the semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate where they will face Real Madrid. Porto will aim to finish in the top 2 in their league to be back in the Champions League next year.

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund

Heading into this fixture, Manchester City were the huge favorites being that they were 11 points ahead in first place in the Premier League and were still in the running for the quadruple (winning all the trophies they are in play for). In contrast, Borussia Dortmund sit in 5th place in the Bundesliga, seven points out of 4th and face a real danger of missing out on the Champions League next year, when new manager Marco Rose will arrive. Failure to make the Champions League for Dortmund may force them to sell their biggest stars, namely Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. However, Dortmund gave Manchester City trouble early on, pressing hard in the opening 15 minutes of the match in which they were on the road. Unfortunately for Dortmund, their midfielder Emre Can gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch and City made them pay with a lightning quick counter attack finished by attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne: another example of how mistakes cannot happen in games where you are the underdog. Dortmund would fight back though, and they were absolutely robbed of a goal at the end of the first half when midfielder Jude Bellingham was said to have fouled City keeper Ederson when in reality, it was Ederson who kicked Bellingham. So, Manchester City were fortunate to lead 1-0 at halftime, but they failed to add to that in the second half and Dortmund captain Marco Reus made them pay by scoring an equalizing goal in the 84th minute. This could’ve set up Dortmund very well where they would be in front due to the away goal for the second leg. Unfortunately for Dortmund, they switched off on the defensive end and Manchester City’s Phil Foden gave them the winner in the 89th minute. This gave City the 2-1 lead heading into the second leg, where Dortmund took the surprise lead in the 15th minute on a Jude Bellingham rifle into the top right corner. If it stood, the 1-0 result would mean Dortmund would go through to the semis, and that was the score at halftime. But the whole game changed when Manchester City was awarded a penalty early in the second half, as the ball hit Emre Can’s head and then hit his arm. It was a questionable penalty, and when you add this with the Bellingham disallowed goal in the first leg, Dortmund have a reason to feel slightly robbed. Riyad Mahrez smashed the penalty into the top corner to make it a 1-1 game, putting Manchester City back in front. Phil Foden wrapped it up with a beautiful shot into the bottom corner from outside the box in the 75th minute to send Manchester City through to the semis. The aggregate score ended up being 4-2 and Manchester City will now face PSG. Borussia Dortmund will now have to focus on getting top 4 in their domestic league and will look to finish the season on a positive note if they win the German cup competition known as DFB Pokal.

Semifinals Preview

As stated before, PSG will play Man City and Real Madrid will play Chelsea. Let’s take a look at those games, as well as our takes on who will go on to play in the Final.

Man City vs PSG

This fixture is the tastier of the two. Both of these teams are on fire, both in their domestic league and here in the Champions League. Manchester City has had a near unstoppable run with nine wins and a single draw in their last 10 Champions League games. Although they’ve had the easier road here, they are no pushovers. Paris Saint-Germain has had their ups and downs throughout their season, first having to survive the dreaded Group of Death we talked about earlier this year. Then, they had to go through Spanish and German giants- Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively. They beat both teams away but at home they’ve had their troubles, and in that lies their main weakness. When they get too confident with their lead, they falter and their offense slows down and underperforms. On the contrary, Mbappe and Neymar of PSG, as well as the defenders surrounding goalkeeper Keylor Navas, have been outstanding. Although they don’t have many flashy players in the midfield, they are worth more than the sum of their parts. The first leg will be played in the Parc De Princes in Paris. We predict a large 3-1 win for PSG. The second leg will be played in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. We predict that Manchester City will win 2-1, but they will ultimately lose on a 4-3 aggregate and PSG will advance on to the finals.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

Real Madrid has been a very difficult team to get a read on this season. They’ve had many embarrassing defeats including losing to Shakhtar Donetsk two times in the group stage and nearly failed to make it through. On the other hand, they are in the semifinals of the Champions League and this is their competition, having won it 13 times in their history, the most out of any team. In the knockout rounds, they made quick work of Atalanta and Liverpool and seem to be in top form at the right time to win a title. They also beat their fierce rivals Barcelona 2-1 this weekend, putting them squarely in the La Liga title race and giving them some momentum as they head into this matchup. Real Madrid are never to be counted out in this competition and their manager Zinedine Zidane will look to win it for his 4th time in 5 tries. Chelsea have similarly had an odd season to this point, starting off really slow with previous manager and club legend Frank Lampard until they replaced him with German boss Thomas Tuchel. Their form has been much improved since, especially on the defensive side. They are now 4th in the Premier League and find themselves in the FA Cup semifinals in addition to the Champions League semis. Tuchel’s work has been impressive for having taken over midseason. In the round of 16, they dominated a poor Atletico Madrid side and in the quarters made easy work of Porto. This will be no doubt their biggest challenge so far. We expect a pretty defensive matchup, with Real Madrid taking the home leg 1-0 and tying the away match 1-1. With this result, Madrid will have won 2-1 on aggregate and will advance to the final as they seek their 14th title.

Wrap-up

Through the past 18 weeks of Champions League football, we’ve seen 32 teams in the group stages get whittled down to four. All four semifinal teams have had uphill journeys to get here (apart from perhaps Man City). Real Madrid had a rough first start to the campaign and barely got past their group but they held on tight with a close win on the final day before moving through the knockout round smoothly. Chelsea had an easy group stage, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 draws before going through the knockout stages.  PSG had a very difficult journey. In the Group Stage they were drawn in the Group of Death with Manchester United, Leipzig, and Istanbul Basaksehir. They got through, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 losses, having to win their last 2 games against Istanbul and Manchester United to scrape through before having to go through Barcelona and Bayern Munich back-to-back. Manchester City had the easiest road here, breezing past the group stage with 5 wins, 1 draw, and 13 goals while conceding only 1 before playing a demoralized Borussia Monchengladbach team in the round of 16. But as the four teams get set to play there can only be one champion, and we won’t have to wait long to find out who. The final will be played on Saturday, May 29th in Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

Important Black Women in History

By Hannah Rajalingam and Talia Willscher

Madam CJ Walker, known to history as Sarah Breedlove, was the first-ever female, self-made millionaire. She was born on December 23, 1867, one of six children. By age 14 she had married a man named Moses McWilliams; this marriage was partly motivated by Walker’s desire to get away from an abusive brother-in-law. So when he died 7 years later, she moved to Missouri to be with her brothers. For the next decade or so Walker worked as a washerwoman and sang in the choir of her church. She eventually worked under Annie Turnbo of the Poro Company. Then, in 1905, Walker moved to Denver and learned basic chemistry working as a cook for a pharmacist. These skills helped her to perfect an ointment that healed “dandruff and other hygiene-related ailments”. In 1906, Walker married Charles Joseph Walker; she started making some local successes with her products with what would later be known as the “Walker Method”  or “Walker System of Beauty Culture” from which she became known as “Madam CJ Walker”. After a couple of years training “beauty culturists” and “Walker agents” through the eastern and southern United States, Madam CJ Walker and her husband opened the Lelia College of Beauty Culture, in 1908, named after their daughter, which drew lots of African-American business to Pittsburgh where they were living at the time. She continued to travel through the US providing career opportunities and economic independence for thousands of African-American women who otherwise would have been consigned to jobs as maids, cooks, laundresses, and farmhands” (Bundles). Madam CJ Walker expanded to the Caribbean and Central America and acquired 25,000 Walker agents by 1919. She was also a philanthropist, giving $1,000 to the African American Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and $5,000 to the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) anti-lynching fund, in 1911 and 1919 respectively. She was politically active speaking out against lynching and for the rights of African-American soldier, even speaking about it when she visited the White House in 1917. (Bundles)

Not many know the name Dr. Gladys West, an essential pioneer in the creation of the technology used in all GPSs today. As a kid, she picked corn, cotton, and tobacco but began to use mathematics as her path out of agriculture once her teachers discovered her aptitude for it. Many years later, West earned a full ride to Virginia State College (currently Virginia State University) since she was valedictorian of her high school class. After West graduated in 1952, she applied for many government jobs, but in a white-male dominated field and a segregated state, her attempts were fruitless. West however, decided to continue to pursue her education and received her master’s in math in 1955. West’s continuous pursuit of government jobs and finally landed her an offer in 1956 from the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia. She was the second African American woman and fourth African American person employed there; West worked with Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) and her work on Project 29V, which helped to establish the motion of Pluto in relation to Neptune “through 5 billion arithmetic calculations and 100 hours of computer calculation” in 1964. Dr. Gladys West managed the project for SEASAT in 1978, the first satellite that orbited the Earth and measured ocean depths, which eventually led to the creation of the GEOSAT. The SEASAT was used, in addition to other data, to make incredibly accurate, detailed “computer simulations of the earth’s surface” The guide that West published in 1986 outlining how to use the GEOSAT to measure geoid heights. In the article “Gladys Mae West (1930- )”, published by Black Past, it states, “Colleagues noted her mathematical brilliance particularly with algorithms, which created efficiencies that transformed calculation timetables.” The calculations and algorithm West created are the reason we have such accurate GPS data today. She went to complete her PhD at 70 years old, while retired, at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. In 1973 West earned a public administration degree from the University of Oklahoma, her second, while she worked at Dahlgren. The Virginia Senate, joint resolution was passed to formally commend “Gladys West for her trailblazing career in mathematics and vital contributions to modern technology.” on February 26, 2018. That very same year, in December Dr. Galdys West was inducted into the Space and Missiles Pioneer Hall of Fame. Today, she still continues to speak with grade school students about the importance of STEM studies. (“Dr. Gladys West”)

In aviation history, the name Bessie Coleman is often overlooked. She was born on January 26th, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. Coleman lived with her twelve brothers and sisters and her parents. Her mother was a maid and her father was a sharecropper, who was of African American and Native American descent. Coleman’s father moved to Oklahoma to escape the discrimination because of his mixed race in 1901, Coleman’s mother didn’t move with him, and the rest of the family also stayed with her. Coleman would help her mother wash laundry and pick cotton growing up. She went on to attend Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston Oklahoma (now named Langston University) at eighteen with her saved up money, which unfortunately only lasted her for one semester. Coleman later moved to Chicago to live with her brothers at 23. She was eventually able to attend Burnham School of Beauty Culture in 1915 and became a manicurist and worked in a local barbershop. Some of Coleman’s brothers ended up serving in WWⅡ as pilots. They would tell Bessie about how French women were allowed to fly. It was this that inspired her to become a pilot. Coleman applied to numerous flight schools in the US but was rejected to the schools she applied to because she was both a woman and African American. Robert Abbot, “a famous African American newspaper publisher”, told Coleman to move to France to learn how to fly. Following his advice, Coleman began to take night French classes since her applications had to be filled out in French. The Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation finally accepted her, where it was located in Le Crotoy, France. Coleman finally got her international pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921. Coleman soon dreamed of opening her own flight school. “She gave speeches and showed films of her air tricks in churches, theaters, and schools to earn money. She refused to speak anywhere that was segregated or discriminated against African Americans.” (Alexander) 1922 marked Coleman’s first public flight as an African American woman. “Loop-de loops” and figure eights were her trademarks, these and more of the fascinating tricks she did became increasingly popular in Europe and the US. Coleman also encouraged women and African-Americans to learn how to fly. February 1923,  a couple of years into her flying career, Coleman got into a plane crash; her engine died mid-flight. She sustained some injuries but was able to fully recover and continue flying in 1925. Coleman was able to use the money she saved up to purchase a plane for herself, “a Jenny – JN-4 with an OX-5 engine”. She returned to Texas to perform but it was during segregation so there were separate entrances for black and white. Coleman refused to perform with the segregated entrances, so her managers eventually gave in and had a single entrance, but the stadium was still segregated in its seating. Despite her death in April 1926, Bessie Coleman’s steadfastness to her beliefs inspired change long after her death. In 1931, the Challenger Pilots’ Association of Chicago began the tradition of flying over Coleman’s grave every year in her honor. In 1977, the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club was formed by a group of African American female pilots. In 1995, “the Bessie Coleman Stamp” was created to commemorate her accomplishments. (Alexander)

Cathay Williams was an African American woman born in 1844 in Independence, Missouri. She was initially a slave, leading to her being forced into serving in the army, doing jobs such as cooking and washing clothes. She later joined the army of her own free will, going under the pseudonym William Cathy. However, after a long stunt in the army, illnesses such as smallpox plagued her, leading to hospitalization in 1868. This trip to the hospital outed her as a woman, and she was discharged. Yet, this setback didn’t stop her. She joined an all black group of soldiers known as the 38th Infantry Regiment, which later became the well-known group the Buffalo Riders. This group mapped out territory, protected white civilians, escorted wagon trains, and fought in skirmishes with Native Americans. Cathay Williams became the first black woman to join the army, a feat that was quite impressive especially because of all she succeeded in doing. 

Phillis Wheatley was born in Senegal/Gambia, West Africa, and at the age of seven, was kidnapped to be sold into slavery. She was sold to Susan Wheatley, who wanted a “frail female child.” The captain of the slave ship had believed Phillis to be ill and wanted to earn a small sum of money off of her before her death, but the Wheatley family was surprised to discover how smart Phillis truly was. She was taught to read and write, which was something most enslaved people were not permitted to do. Despite being educated, however, Phillis still had to do some domestic duties. She studied many subjects and soon published a poem called An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of that Celebrated Divine, and Eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, the Reverend and Learned George Whitefield at the young age of thirteen. Phillis then went on to have written twenty eight poems by the age of eighteen, which she advertised through Boston newspapers with the help of Mrs. Wheatley. She later published a book of poetry, becoming the first African American woman to do so. Wheatley later married a man named John Peters, a free black man. She died later after complications from giving birth to three children (it is believed). In total, she is believed to have written over one hundred and forty five poems, and was an important figure to the role of women in literature. 

Katherine Johnson was born in West Virginia in 1918. When she was thirteen years old, she was already in high school, and she enrolled herself in college at eighteen. She graduated with the highest honors in the class and later went on to teach at a black public school. Later on, when integration in graduate schools was taking place, Katherine and two black men were chosen to be offered spots at Western Virginia University. She eventually got a job analyzing flight data, but when Sputnik, the Soviet satellite was launched into space, Katherine’s job changed. She ended up doing trajectory analysis for Alan Sheperd’s space mission. She also wrote a research report and it was the first time a woman had been credited as the author of one. Then in 1962, while working at NASA, Katherine was called to check the numbers for John Glenn’s space trip. They had already been done on the computer, but she checked them by hand and said they were good to go. Glenn’s space mission was successful and changed the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. She retired in 1986 after thirty three years of work, but became a  symbol of hope for young girls across the nation. The “Hidden Figures” movie of 2016 drew even more attention to Katherine Johnson’s name. She died February 24th, 2020, but her smarts and her dedication changed history and allowed for the United States to move forward in their space technological discoveries. 

The Roaming Black Hole

By Anya Geiling

Astronomers have identified 13 massive wandering black holes in dwarf galaxies less than 1 billion light-years from Earth (siliconrepublic.com). One of them, called B3 1715+425, started out normal. Now, it’s hurtling through space at 2,000 kilometers per second. 

To begin, a black hole is a place in space where gravity is so strong that nothing leaves it. Not even light can escape from this gravitational monster. Black holes have a radius at roughly 12 million kilometers. Earth has a radius of 3,958.8 miles. That is a dramatic difference. 

Ok, but let’s get back to the black hole on the run. B3 1715+425 started out just like any other black hole with a galaxy full of stars around it. Astronomers, however, have proved otherwise. The black hole was stripped, essentially naked, bolting through space at astronomical speeds. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down. 

This black hole in particular is supermassive, which in definition can be millions or billions times larger than our Sun. Black holes are commonly found to be at the center of most galaxies (ours included). James Condon, a lead researcher from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory stated that this roaming black hole instead fled from its larger galaxy and left a trail of debris behind it. But what happened to B3 1715+425’s galaxy? Why did it disappear?

It turns out that galaxies collide. When they do, the black holes at the center of each galaxy combine and become one larger mass. When B3 1715+425 had a galaxy, it seemed to have collided with a much larger galaxy, therefore a much larger black hole. Instead of coming together, the larger black hole destroyed B3 1715+425’s galaxy. B3 1715+425 managed to escape and is slowly losing the stars that feed it. All of this happened over millions of years ago. As of now, B3 1715+425 is still hurtling through space. If it comes our way, we’re in big trouble. 

What Jobs will We Have in the Future?

By Anya Geiling 

With technology advancing by the hour, it is hard to picture our upcoming years as a species. By 2022, 60% of all U.S. companies expect to be using AI or advanced automation to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting or performance (Genesys). If the majority of work is taken over by a computer, what jobs will you and I have in the future?  

To begin, apart from realizing that technology will essentially take over the world, let’s start with the process before humans try to make ends meet. College. College is more important now than ever to even apply for a job. Nowadays, most people are actually overqualified for their job due to the shortage of job openings. Therefore, let’s now talk about even earning a college degree. 

College tuition this day and age is unbelievable. Ivy leagues range from $50-$60,000 a year, and regular public universities are anywhere from $21,000 in-state to $30,000 out of state. These costs put students in debt, and make them rely on financial aid. There are no better options for the middle class, in which there are few scholarships that can provide help to those families. With larger pools of applicants each year due to a boom in population around the world, going to one’s dream college seems to be becoming obsolete.  

But let’s just say you do go to college. What happens next? You apply to multiple corporations, schools, hospitals, etc. Resumes get tossed around and you anxiously await the decision that can change your life forever. Accordingly, 3,000 other people applied to the same position you wanted and had the exact same credentials. This is what is hurting our society today; there are too many people and not enough jobs to go around. 

Our species is creating its own downfall– we create AI to take away more jobs from people which then leads to an increase in crime. Increased crime rate equals drug use, and drug use equals the downfall of that town. Fights, riots, and corrupted rulers arise from those areas, resulting in the destruction of the whole nation. 

Education is necessary for any species to survive, from animals to creatures of the sea. Without utilizing our great gift of cognitive learning, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But now, we are using that tool meant for survival to help the rich get richer. This is because using AI means less money spent by the owner, in which only 5 staff will be hired instead of 50. Where do those 45 other people work? What will they do to support their families?

I hope this topic is looked upon more as we realize we are in for a ride when it comes to advancement in technology. Just think about what you will do in the future and how you can fulfill that goal, because there are millions of others thinking about that same exact thing. 

Inauguration Day

By Anna Di Iorio-Reyes

On a day of such importance, tradition is expected. Every rule, however, has an exception, and this year was one of them. January 20th, 2021, Inauguration Day, was a day like no other of its kind. Some differences were the result of the pandemic, obvious things like masks and social distancing. Others were the result of a weakened state of Democracy through the insurrection, also culminating in the 45th president not attending. Despite all the factors that could have easily canceled the ceremony, Inauguration Day was followed through and consequently showed Democracy will prevail.

A direct result of the weakened state of our Democracy was the 25,000 or so national guard members issued by the Pentagon to be at the Inauguration. They surrounded the Capitol building to indicate that this time, they were ready for any attack. It saddens me, as I’m sure it does many others, to see that this is the necessary protocol for the Inauguration. That there needs to be 25,000 guards on the premises because our nation is so divided that we have to defend ourselves from us, and that much force is needed to do so. The Mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, advised people to “participate virtually and to protect the District of Columbia from a repeat of the violent insurrection” which the guards’ presence insured. Trump attempted to make up for his hazy response to the Insurrection by saying “I urge that there must be NO violence.” he announced, regarding the Inauguration. “That is not what I stand for, and is not what America stands for.”

The Inauguration was not only determined by who was there, but by who was not. The first, and more expected, was the lack of a crowd: yet another effect of the pandemic and perhaps solidified by the insurrection. Taking their place on the field in front of the Capitol building were American flags. Usually held up by the crowd of people on past inauguration days, the flags this year were instead staked into the ground. They solemnly represented the 400,000 plus people this country has lost due to the pandemic, and the whole scene was dubbed as the “Field of Flags.” The second glaring absence was former President Donald Trump, who apparently wanted nothing to do with tradition. Trump announced his decision to not attend on January 8th, tweeting, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” President Biden, the then president-elect, addressed the situation naming Trump’s choice “One of the few things he and I have ever agreed on”. About 3½ hours before the Inauguration ceremony Trump and his wife, Melania, exited the White House for the last time, mounted Marine One and flew to Florida. 

On past Inauguration Days, the president and the president-elect have had pleasant interactions to show the peaceful transfer of power that keeps our democracy stable. Usually, the incoming family, or just the incoming president and their spouse, are welcomed into the White House by the outgoing family, and they all sit and have tea. After, the outgoing family normally accompanies the incoming family to the Capitol building, where the swearing-in ceremony commences. Trump did not participate in any inaugural events, but did partake in the tradition of leaving a letter for the president-elect. Although Trump’s letter has not been released to the public, Biden did comment on it, saying “The President wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him, but it was generous.” Filling in Trump’s place in the events was former Vice President Mike Pence, who even greeted the incoming family into the White House as well as left a letter for the then vice-president elect Kamala Harris. This was appreciated by many, that in the absence of Trump the Vice President remained professional and a part of basic protocols. Even though the unavailability of Trump put a rocky-edge to the Inauguration, Pence’s presence assured a peaceful transfer of power, and maybe a sense of relief to those involved. 

The 2020 election and the 2021 inauguration are events to be remembered. Former President Trump is the first president to miss his successor’s inauguration in 150 years, and joins history’s 9 other US presidents who have failed to be re-elected for a second term. Our democracy, shaken as it is, has overcome the attempts to destroy it. As President Joe Biden stated in his Inauguration speech, “at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.” However, that isn’t to say that there isn’t still work to be done, and we need to come together now more than ever. Our country is divided, something Trump insured before he left. As long as his followers believe in his word, it will be a while before peace is on anyone’s mind. 

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The Round of 16 of the Champions League has come and gone, with 8 teams advancing: Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Porto, Bayern Munich, and Paris Saint-Germain. The two legs will take place on the weekend of April 5th and April 12th, respectively. Let’s break them down:

Manchester City vs Dortmund

This is a rematch of the 2020 Champions League final, making this the best and most unpredictable draw of the lot. Both teams breezed through their opponents, with Bayern beating Lazio 6-2 and Paris Saint-Germain beating FC Barcelona 5-2, though PSG’s victory was all the more impressive over a powerhouse like Barcelona. These teams have only played each other once in the past 3 years and have changed a lot since then, especially PSG’s hiring of new coach Mauricio Pochettino. The first leg will be played in Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. My prediction is that Bayern Munich will get a 3-1 win over PSG at home, with a 2 goal advantage going away. PSG will have a lot of catching up to do and will score two goals but concede one in the final minutes, with Bayern Munich winning on a 4-3 aggregate. The winner of this draw will play the winner of Dortmund and Manchester City in the semifinals.

Manchester City vs Dortmund

Manchester City are on a roll right now, having won 24 of their last 25 games across all competitions. They are currently top of the Premier League by 14 points with 8 matches left to go, meaning they can now turn their attention fully to the Champions League. They are chasing a rare sweep of titles, looking to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, and the Champions League in the span of a year. The Champions League is a competition that they have never won, despite having very quality teams in the last few years. They have lost in the quarterfinals in the past 4 seasons which gives hope to Dortmund. Still, they will be the strong favorites to advance from this and a failure to do so will be seen as a huge disappointment for them. Borussia Dortmund should not be overlooked though, as they have started to improve this season after a disappointing start. They are currently 5th in the Bundesliga, battling for a top 4 spot needed to return to the Champions League in 2022. Dortmund has the potential to beat anybody, even Manchester City, as on their day they are unstoppable. 2 players to watch out for on Dortmund are Erling Haaland, the current top scorer by far in the League, and Jadon Sancho, who has something to prove playing his former team which he left because he was given no playing time. At Dortmund, he has become one of the best wingers in the world. Both can make a difference and help Dortmund to the upset. My prediction is a 2-0 win for Manchester City at home and a 2-1 win for them away, helping them win on an aggregate score of 4-1. As mentioned, the winner of this matchup will take on the winner of Bayern Munich and PSG.

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

This draw should also be incredibly entertaining to watch. This is a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final, where Real Madrid won to take their 13th title. As for this draw, it will be pivotal for both teams’ seasons. Real Madrid currently sit 3rd in La Liga, 6 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid. While they can overcome that deficit, the Champions League is their competition and likely presents them with their best chance of winning a trophy this year. The Champions League is Liverpool’s only chance of winning a trophy, as they are currently sitting in eighth in the Premier League. If they can’t make the top 4 in the Premier League, they have to win this competition to be back in it next year. I expect a very close, tense battle in both legs, and it is very hard to pick a winner. My prediction is a 2-1 win for Real Madrid at home in the 1st leg and a 1-1 draw at Anfield in the 2nd leg, with Real Madrid going through with an aggregate score of 3-2. The winner of this draw will play the winner of Chelsea and Porto in the semifinals.

Chelsea vs Porto

Both are underdogs in this year’s Champions League. Chelsea came off of an easy win against Atletico Madrid, while Porto had to beat Italian giants Juventus, as well as playing against one of the greatest players of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo. The first leg will be played in the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal. As for our predictions, Porto will win 2-0 at home, with their strong and centralized defense holding strong. The second leg will be played in Stamford Bridge in London, England. Chelsea will win 2-1, but that away goal will be the key to Porto securing a 3-2 victory on aggregate and advancing to the semifinals.

Champions League: Round of 16 Review

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The round of 16 has come to an end. Through this 4 week span, we’ve seen upsets, feats of persistence and perseverance, and lackluster performances. Let’s start with the first match of the bunch and arguably the most entertaining. 

Porto vs Juventus

The perfect case of a comeback story gone wrong. The first leg was played in the Estadio de Dragao in Porto, Portugal. After a goal right after kickoff and right at the start of the second half, Porto came away with a vital win at home and a good lead despite a late goal for Juventus. The second leg was set to be played in Turin, Italy, the home of Juventus. Like the first leg, Porto got a quick first-half goal from a penalty and put Juventus in a bad position. However, forward Mehdi Taremi was stupidly sent off in the second half. It was a second yellow for kicking the ball away in frustration. Juventus needed to score 2 goals and concede no more goals to send the game into extra time. Federico Chiesa of Juventus, the same player who scored their lone goal in the first leg, scored 2 goals and sent the game into extra time (which is 30 minutes with 15-minute halves). The score didn’t change after the first 15 minutes of extra time. Then, in the 115th minute, Sergio Oliviera of Porto, scored from a free-kick. Porto regained the lead and Juventus needed to score 2 goals to win the game. There were only 5 minutes left when Adrien Rabiot of Juventus got the goal they needed. The comeback was back on. Juventus continued to attack but the iron wall of Porto, led by their captain and veteran Pepe, held firm. After 5 minutes of extra time, the game ended in the 125th minute. Even though the score was tied 4-4 on aggregate, Porto went on because of the away goal tiebreaker, since they scored 2 goals at Turin, while Juventus only scored 1 in Porto. Porto toppled an overwhelming favorite, and will advance on to the quarterfinals. Lots of questions will now be asked about Andrea Pirlo (Juventus’ manager), Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus, who completely flopped in the Champions League again.

Barcelona vs Paris Saint Germain

This was one of the better games of this round, at least on paper, with two European giants going head-to-head. PSG were the better team from the start, taking a 4-1 win from Barcelona at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. Kylian Mbappe bagged a vital hat-trick which helped PSG get a big away win and a big lead ahead of the second leg in their own stadium. The second leg played in the Parc-Des-Princes in Paris was much less interesting, as Mbappe scored a penalty and Messi missed one, though he did score a ridiculous goal shortly before his miss. Barcelona was completely out of it for the entire round, but PSG were perhaps a little too careful with the lead. Still, they’re on to the quarterfinals. After the elimination, speculation abounded that this could be Messi’s last Champions League game for Barcelona. That will be an answer for which we must wait.

Dortmund vs Sevilla

Sevilla were probably the favorites in this match because of their recent performances in La Liga under ex Real Madrid manager Julien Lopetegui, but I picked Dortmund as they have slightly better players, especially when it comes to their forwards, although they have been very inconsistent in the Bundesliga this year with interim manager Edin Terzic. Sevilla actually started in front in the first leg with a very early goal by forward Suso, but from there, it was all Dortmund. Mahmoud Dahoud scored to tie the game up, and the goal machine Erling Haaland made it 2-1 at the 30-minute mark. He then scored a second goal right before halftime and gave Dortmund a very comfortable 3-1 away lead. Luuk de Jong would score a beautiful free-kick near the end of the game to cut Dortmund’s lead to 3-2, which is where it stayed. In the second leg, knowing they would need to score at least two goals, Sevilla was pushing for an opener and dominated the first half-hour. After that, Dortmund went on a beautiful counter-attack which was put away by Haaland. Now Sevilla needed 3 goals to win, so the tie was pretty much out of reach. Haaland would go on to score a penalty early in the second half, which brings his total in the UCL this season to 10 goals in 6 games. What a machine! Youssef En-Nesryi would score a penalty in the 68th minute and a consolation goal in the 96th minute, but it meant nothing. Dortmund go through to the quarter-finals, and if they continue playing like this they have the potential to be one of the dark horses that can win the Champions League. Sevilla were very disappointing in this tie, especially their two young center-backs in Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde. After their collapse against Barcelona in the Spanish Copa del Rey, their season is basically over.

Liverpool vs Leipzig

Similar to Dortmund and Sevilla, these two teams played quite differently in their domestic leagues. RB Leipzig are currently 2nd in the Bundesliga, giving Bayern Munich some competition for the title. Liverpool on the other hand are currently eighth in the Premier League, in large part due to the crazy amount of injuries that they have had, especially on defense. It has been a roller coaster season for them after winning the Premier League last year, but this year they have collapsed. Given this, you would probably think that Leipzig would win this, right? Wrong. Liverpool put their domestic woes aside and got a very impressive 2-0 away win in Budapest, this match’s temporary home due to COVID travel restrictions. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored a goal each early in the second half and coasted to an easy win. Still, Liverpool had to finish the job in the second leg. Very similarly, Salah and Mane scored within 5 minutes of each other to punch Liverpool’s ticket to the quarter-finals. These two players are among the top 10 best in the world when they’re on, they just have to play their best more often. RB Leipzig should be very disappointed in themselves, as they could not have picked a better time to play Liverpool yet were thoroughly outplayed. In the first leg the two goals were due to mistakes on defense, specifically Marcel Sabitzer and Dayot Upamecano. They barely made Liverpool keeper Alisson work in either leg. Now, Leipzig will look to win the German DFB Pokal and maybe catch Bayern in the Bundesliga, though that’s unlikely. Liverpool will march on to the quarter-finals but it is hard to really predict how far they can go at this moment in time. We’ll have to wait to see who they’ll play and what state they’re in come the next round. In the meantime, they have to drastically improve their league form or they won’t be in this competition again next year.

Real Madrid vs Atalanta 

Real Madrid and Atalanta are two teams of completely different sizes. Real Madrid are a European giant, the most successful team in the history of the Champions League by far, with 13 titles (almost doubling any other team). Atalanta are the underdogs but have been punching above their weight in the last few years. The expectation was for Real Madrid to win, but Atalanta did have a chance. They came so close to making the semifinals last year and were looking to make a similar run again this year. The first leg had a questionable red card in the 17th minute against Atalanta’s Remo Freuler. From there, Real Madrid had almost all of the possession and in the 86th minute they finally broke through with a beautiful Ferland Mendy goal. This gave them a 1-0 lead going back to Spain. Atalanta actually started the second game reasonably well but it all went out the window when Atalanta’s goalkeeper, Marco Sportiello, gifted Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema the opening goal. Real Madrid were up by two goals and were in complete control. In the 56th minute, Real Madrid’s captain Sergio Ramos converted a penalty to put the series to bed. Luis Muriel would grab a consolation goal on a beautiful free-kick for Atalanta in the 83rd minute– though it was quickly canceled out by super-sub Marco Asensio’s goal one minute later on only his second touch of the match. Real Madrid march on and should never be counted out in this competition. The fairytale story ends for Atalanta this year in the Champions League but they will now focus on getting top 4 in their league to get back to the UCL and also look ahead to the Coppa Italia final vs. Juventus, which will be one of the biggest games in the club’s history. They have only ever won the Coppa Italiana once, so perhaps this loss is only setting up a major victory.

Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid have had a great start to their season, sitting at the top of La Liga. On the other hand, Chelsea have had a very up-and-down season, which started with the firing of manager Frank Lampard. Since then, Thomas Tuchel has taken over and righted the ship, particularly on the defensive end. As for this matchup, it was a tough one to predict,  as Chelsea came into this in great form and Atletico, despite their great start domestically, have dropped some games as of late. In the first leg Atletico came out flat, with Chelsea taking most of the possession in what was ultimately quite a boring game. The difference was a phenomenal bicycle kick goal by Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud, which was initially ruled offside, but eventually was awarded as it had touched an Atletico defender on the way. Chelsea went into the second leg up 1-0. In the second leg, Atletico’s task became a lot harder when Hakim Ziyech converted a beautiful counter-attack for Chelsea in the 34th minute. Down 1-0 at half-time and 2-0 on aggregate, Atletico Madrid’s likelihood of coming back was almost zero, given how Chelsea had only conceded two goals in their previous 12 games. Chelsea would hang on for the victory, and would get an extra goal in the final minutes to complete a dominant performance against Atletico over the two legs. A great start for Thomas Tuchel, whilst Diego Simeone’s Atletico crash out of the Champions League once again. Atletico’s season will now depend fully on if they can win La Liga for the first time since 2014.

Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach

Coming into this match, Manchester City were clear favorites to win, being on a 10 game winning streak and the top of the Premier League, while Borussia Monchengladbach were struggling in the Bundesliga, currently sitting in 7th. The first leg was played in Hungary’s Puskas Arena, a neutral site due to the aforementioned COVID regulations. Manchester City had a quick start with a goal by Bernardo Silva in the 29th minute of the first leg. Later in the 2nd half, Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City scored a goal in the 65th minute, and the leg finished with the English side up 2-0. Borussia had trouble completing passes and getting up the field to score a goal. This could be due to the announcement of their coach, Marco Rose, leaving for their German rivals Borussia Dortmund after two years of rebuilding, which was quite a backstabbing. In the second leg, Manchester City got a pair of early goals in the 12th and 18th minute by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, respectively. Borussia could not get going on the attack, having only 30% possession and only 400 passes compared to Manchester City’s 850 passes and 70% possession. Manchester City advanced on with an aggregate score of 4-0, with Borussia receiving their 10th straight loss. Very dominant win for Manchester City, who continue their amazing form. They are probably one of the top two favorites (with Bayern Munich) to win this competition. Maybe this is finally their year.

Bayern Munich vs Lazio

This was probably the least interesting of all the matchups. Bayern Munich were going to win without a doubt, as they were the defending Champions League winners, whereas Lazio had the worst defense of the 16 knockout stage teams. The first leg was played in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, home of Lazio. Bayern started off with a quick goal in the 9th minute by Robert Lewandowski, with Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane following up with 2 goals in the 24th and 42nd minute. In the 47th minute, Francesco Acerbi of Lazio scored an own goal, giving Bayern a 4-0 lead, though that was quickly remedied by a Joaquin Correa goal two minutes later. The rest of the game was relatively quiet and ended 4-1. The second leg was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Bayern got another early lead through a Robert Lewandowski penalty kick. They got a second goal in the 73rd minute through Eric Choupo-Moting, and while Lazio scored late in the 82nd minute, there was no upset here. While the games were a bit disappointing, the result was not shocking. In the end, Bayern advanced to the quarterfinals on an aggregate score of 6-2.

The Round of 16 games are now over, with some upsets but ultimately the majority of the bigger teams going through to the quarter-finals. Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Porto, Liverpool, Chelsea and PSG will advance. Next time, we’ll be previewing the next round.

Are Instagram likes worthless?

An experiment by Sammy Bovitz

I really do not like Instagram. I find its addiction loop and the way it twists people towards a new and lower form of communication awful. Sure, there are apps that are worse in this way (see: Snapchat and TikTok), but Instagram succeeds on a larger scale by pulling from everywhere while seeming more inclusive than the more Gen Z-driven apps. Its Facebook-derivative posting, the “Reels” it ripped straight from TikTok, and a direct messaging system that takes cues from Snapchat provides an odd blend of features that appeals to nearly everyone. But the way I see people using Instagram goes beyond frustration– it makes me sad. 

People relentlessly ask for likes and comments and saves and follows and any form of what is ultimately empty validation. Some people that seem like the happiest, most attractive people on the app are likely to be eaten alive by their own self-doubt and lack of self-worth, because Instagram uses metrics that try to quantify how popular you are. Likes, comments, followers, likes of your comments, replies to your comments, number of direct messages, and views of your story are all tracked and available for you to see. This creates a feedback loop of small bits of dopamine traded for a massive amount of anxiety about your body or your skills as a photographer or how many friends you have. It’s why I deleted Instagram from my phone in September. And yet, I still found myself checking direct messages or posts from time to time on my computer because there was a small percentage of posts or messages out there that I actually enjoyed seeing or reading, worthwhile stuff that I couldn’t really see anywhere else buried under meaninglessness. But when I reinstalled the app in January, I took a look at how dominant the “Reels,” shop, and search pages were and deleted it after 3 minutes.  

A month later, that little return to the app was still bothering me. So, I came up with an idea for an experiment, and after about 15 minutes, decided to do it. I was going to start taking pictures of no value with some things that people just scrolling through will like and move on with their day. No overly long captions, no promotions, no need to really comment, just things people can like and move on with. That’s the thing about the app– some people just double-tap for half an hour a day as a matter of routine. I couldn’t exploit attractiveness in order to gain extra likes or comments (just ask my highly nonexistent girlfriend!), so I instead reposted the day’s post on my story with attention-grabbing emoji and hope for a secondary stream of mindless likes from that. I told myself I would post daily for 5 days and write dumb captions to have at least a little fun while doing so. From there, I’d hope to boost my comment count by relying on some friends that would hopefully realize what was happening and reply to each one, incentivizing repeat likes and comments on future posts. 

As a baseline for this experiment, I used my post promoting my Black Student Union roundtable on this paper back in June. It was probably one of the most fulfilling conversations I had in 2020 and helped me retain perspective as I tried to figure out how I could contribute to social change and how my peers at school thought those who have privilege should go about things. 52 likes, 3 comments. On February 22nd, I started my experiment.  

This first day was really telling in terms of how funny yet how sad the results were in the 24 hours after the selfie I took without turning the camera to selfie mode. By the time the next day rolled around, I had already gotten 71 likes, 130 story views, and 5 unique comments, performing a lot better than a thoughtful conversation on a timely issue. This could signal things about how people choose to portray their activism on social media, but that’s a discussion for another day. Though it was a fresh post after 8 months without one on Instagram, my theory about mindless likes looked to somewhat be there. All I had to do was make slight tweaks and take similar photographs of nothingness with short captions and I thought I would be okay. 

The next day I made sure to tag LeBron James and promise daily content with a picture I captured by throwing my phone onto a couch. I did expect slightly diminished returns and I got them, receiving 54 likes and 115 story views, though I did get 6 unique comments this time rather than 5. Still, this was a pretty large interaction, with the majority of the likes and comments coming in the first few hours. 

Day three came with a 2-second video of the floor as I walked. While 7 different people commented within the first hour, the post wasn’t as successful as the first two days– likely due to the fact that some prefer to watch the video before hitting the like button. Still, it approached and matched that original 52 likes at a healthy pace, plus got a few more that evening to hit 55. 

The fourth day came with a popular meme template without anything filling it in. It hit 50 likes a little quicker than the previous day, and finished the day with a quite solid 58 likes. 6 unique commenters also weighed in before the day was done. 

The fifth and final day was a blurry picture vaguely related to Marvel Studios’ megahit WandaVision. 7 unique commenters entered the fray in the first few hours, though that could’ve been because of my call to action to comment “lol SPOILERS” out of sheer boredom. That aside, the final post finished with 54 likes. Every single post that I sent out that week with literally zero substance was deemed better than my roundtable with the Black Student Union. Somehow, in my quest to get mindless likes, I succeeded: my posts added up to 294 likes over 5 days.

I don’t know if this is “impressive,” nor do I really care about how this performed relative to an influencer. I have a private Instagram account and I’m not necessarily popular or attractive. But why should I care? Why should you care? Social media sites can be a way where people can genuinely express themselves, find connections, or just share photos they took or works of art they created. In theory, apps like Instagram should be amazing. But with posts that the current culture encourages, that’s not happening right now.

There are exceptions, sure, with plenty of people just posting whatever they want. But every time I see the acronym for “like my recent,” I get upset. Who cares how many people like your post or comment or message you directly or follow you on TikTok or subscribe to your YouTube channel or anything? Sure, it’s possible things like YouTube subscriptions could be important in a future career, but that is years down the line, and most jobs do not rely on social media relevance.

I’m not telling you to delete every social media app you have. In this time, that might not be possible for a teen that wants to be social. But please stop using likes and comments as a barometer for how much people actually like you as a human being. The only time I’ve truly enjoyed social media is when it actually simulates real human interaction, but that’s rare. No matter how many times you get a follow back, or a comment from a person you barely know about how attractive you are, or open up your phone to ten direct messages, it won’t ever come close to having real interactions with real friends in real life. If I can get 300 likes from doing absolutely nothing but getting mindless clicks and having a few friends in on a joke, who cares how many followers you have? At the end of the day, the people that truly care about you won’t have to comment “so pretty” to let you know that you’re beautiful. 

A Real Review: It’s Bruno!

By Anya Geiling    

While scrolling through Netflix one night with my family, we came across the “Hidden Gems” section. After viewing the ad for It’s Bruno! we were immediately hooked. After watching the first episode, we were shocked as to where the series was filmed…

Released in 2019 on Netflix, as an 8 episode series, this charming, and heartwarming story made viewers go nuts. This show features a man named Malcolm, and his beloved dog, Bruno. The storyline is set in Bushwick, Brooklyn, however, they filmed many scenes in Ridgewood, Queens, where I grew up. It stars Solvan Naim, the creator, scriptwriter, director, and producer of the show. Each episode is only 15 minutes long, but this makes it easy to binge-watch and to enjoy viewing multiple times. 

Now, as a person whose family lived in Queens all our lives, seeing the show made our keen eyes come to a halt. For example, in one episode, Malcolm is standing in front of a Chinese restaurant and talking to someone. We would occasionally order take-out from there! They then filmed near the Queens Public Library in Ridgewood, and at Rosemary’s Playground beneath the M train. These are places I am familiar with, and I was elated to spot my neighborhood on screen. 

With comedy, cuteness, and mischief, this series earned 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. As of February 9, 2021, the series has not been canceled or renewed for a second season. Hopefully, they can create another great season!

Walter Tevis

By Anya Geiling    

Unacclaimed author Walter Tevis was a master writer of scientific and realistic fiction. Dying only at the age of 56, he created just some of the masterpieces out in our world today.

  Tevis was born on February 28, 1928, in San Francisco CA. From an early age, he was diagnosed with a rheumatic heart condition and had to be placed in the Stanford Children’s Convalescent Home for a year. While he stayed there, his family moved back to Kentucky; Walter traveled home to Kentucky at age 11 all alone on a train. 

Fast forward a couple of years, Tevis made friends with Toby Kavanaugh, a fellow high school student. He learned to shoot pool in the Kavanaugh mansion in Lawrenceburg. There was a library there, which is where he read science fiction for the first time. Kavanaugh and Tevis remained lifelong friends, and later Kavanaugh became the owner of a pool room in Lexington. This event would then have an impact on Tevis’ writing.

Tevis’ most popular books consisted of: The Hustler (1959), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963), Mockingbird (1980), Far From Home (1981), The Queen’s Gambit (1983), and The Color of Money (1984). Four of his novels were converted to movies or mini-series. The Hustler was made into a movie in 1961 which earned many awards, and The Color of Money was transformed during 1986. One cult-classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth, was created in 1976. It featured David Bowie as Thomas Newton, the main character. He was an alien who came to Earth searching for water to save his home planet. 

Just recently, on October 23, 2020, the drama miniseries: The Queen’s Gambit, was released on Netflix. This was long after Tevis died (1984), so people asked, why? Well, believe it or not, there has been a film adaptation being made for this book since 1983. The main director was going to be Heath Ledger! Harmon was set to be Ellen Page, and the story related to Heath’s personal life. The project was closed due to Ledger’s tragic death in 2008. 

After watching The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Queens Gambit, I was curious to find out who created these wonderful scripts. Usually, people would know the writer right away, but in this case, I had to dig deep because I had never heard of him before. I just wanted to bring attention to a great author; be sure to check his work out!

Unmentioned Bands

By Anya Geiling

As we sit at home, music can be a way to escape. For many people, it is therapeutic. That is why I wanted to share some of my favorite underrepresented bands.

 At the top of my list is Holy Motors. They are a band from Tallinn Estonia and were formed in 2013. Singer/songwriter, as well as guitarist Lauri Raus, brought in vocalist/songwriter Eliann Tulve to the band when she was just 16 years old. She came from a musical family and sang in a choir when she was young. To complete the lineup, guitarist Gert Gutmann and drummer Caspar Salo were included. Their name, Holy Motors, came from the hallucinatory 2012 film by Leos Carax. 

This band has been around for 8 years, but they only soon started to release albums that really made fans drawn in. Along with Wharf Cat Records (where I bought their albums), in 2015 they released a debut single called Heavenly Creatures/Running Water. Another single, Sleepryder came in early 2017. In February of 2018, they reunited with Cox to record their album, Slow Sundown. This earned critical acclaim: the Debut Album of the Year at the Estonian Music Awards. 

Recently, in October 2020, the album Horse was released by Wharf Cat Records. Not too long ago this album was nominated for Alternative/Indie Album of the Year at the Estonian Music Awards! The first time my father and I heard one of their songs from this album was while driving and listening to WFMU. The song is called Life Valley (So Many Miles Away) and it sticks to us even today. It is an instrumental piece that includes reverb, a not-so-common technique used by many bands. Its individuality really differentiated it from the rest of today’s societal norms. Therefore, when we got home, I quickly researched the band and immediately became attached. With only 162 subscribers on YouTube, I was shocked to see how underrepresented the band actually was. Here is the link to a live session I absolutely love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfVIbngccrU. I definitely recommend checking them out, and you should support them!

Second, on my list is Undersea Poem. The duo, Chris Root and Juju Stulbach, had previously been part of an American-Brazilian band named Mosquitos, which they had left in 2007. With only 23 subscribers on YouTube, they have created songs since 2009. They have 2 albums: Washing Away Yesterday and Undersea Poem. My personal favorite songs from the Undersea poem album are What Makes Me Happy and You you you. These songs are dreamy and will bring you to another world. 

I really hope you tune in on these truly remarkable bands! Thank you!

Count von Count might be the oldest civilized being on Earth

By Sammy Bovitz

One day, I was surfing YouTube for random videos, as one often does when they are bored in the 21st century, and decided to rewatch the old Sesame Street WIRED “Autocomplete Interview.” 

I decided to really scrutinize what everyone’s favorite marionette monsters were saying this time, and at around the 5:00 mark, I heard the Count say something that caught my ear. It was a throwaway line, but it somehow hit me hard when the Internet asked his age. He responded by saying “I am 6,523,728 years old… next October.” 

This video was released in February of 2017. If we assume this was filmed a week or so before its release, this means that as of this writing, Count von Count from Sesame Street is 6,523,732 years old– because remember, he turned 6,523,728 years old in October 2017. 

HOW IN THE WORLD IS THAT POSSIBLE? 

The Count is a vampire, sure, but vampires as we understand them aren’t invincible. He says that he has an “unquenchable thirst for numbers,” but could a steady diet of math really sustain him for more than 6 and a half million years? If he were to eat nothing but an invisible, numerical version of alphabet soup for that period of time, 3 meals a day, would there ever be a day where life would no longer be worth living? Does he actually subsist on counting, or does he need blood like his former co-worker, Dracula? 

What makes this even more ludicrous is the fact that numbers, as he counts them today, have only been around in civilized form since the start of, well, civilization. Specifically, that’s Sumer, a Mesopotamian civilization that got really boring to learn about after a few weeks in middle school history class. According to HISTORY.com’s estimate, Sumer was first settled, if we’re being generous, around 4,500 BCE. That’s around 6,500 years ago, which is a long period of time if you’re not SIX AND A HALF MILLION YEARS OLD!

Sumer contains one of the oldest recorded instances of mathematics as we know them today, so that means the Count is either lying to us about his age or he invented counting hundreds of thousands of years before humans did. 

Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old, which means the Count has been around for about .014% of the planet’s existence. That may seem like very little, but let’s take an example of an old dude who’s left a pretty big legacy on the world at large. Let me see, how about, uhh, Jesus Christ! That’s probably a good one. If he were still alive today, he’d be 2,025 years old, meaning Jesus would only have been around for .0000044% of Earth’s existence. By comparison, the Count might be the oldest influential creature on Earth. 

But for argument’s sake, let’s assume this Muppet vampire is not lying to us and is actually over 3,000 times older than Jesus. What might that say about what The Count has seen, and how much has he had the privilege of counting?

Let’s go by standard human metrics and assume his childhood was 18 years, meaning for the other 6,753,714 years, Count von Count has been an adult. What would he have been able to count? Well, he would have been able to count a number of members of one of the first big steps in human evolution. Around this time is when chimpanzees and humans stopped having common ancestors. There’s not exactly anything to count there, so let’s go on. 

The Count would already be around 1,500 years old by the time he would be able to count hippopotami, and would be 3,500 old by the time he could count swordfish, and yes, he is over 4,000 years older than the species Homo habilis, one of the earliest species that would eventually evolve into the very dumb Homo sapiens– the species he is around 6 million years older than. Finally, around the time that the Count could count all 5,500 years of his existence, he could celebrate by counting the first wolves. Of course, this also means that by the time Jim Henson himself was born, the Count was already over 6.7 million years old. And yet, he chooses to spend his time with a 3-year old and someone who literally lives in a trash can. He could be– and count– so much more. 

Which brings me to my next question: if I were the Count, what would I do with my boundless knowledge of all of human existence plus an additional 6 million years? Well, I would share it! If the Count has subsisted on basic counting before the concept was invented and is over 3,000 times older than possibly the most beloved dead guy on Earth, then he NEEDS to be a historian. The Count’s perspectives on the dawn of human existence and civilization, and all major world events, past and present, would be fascinating. But no, he just wants to count to 20. 

Quantum Computing

By Daniel Aarao Reis Arturi

Quantum Computing; a term that most have not ever heard, and if you have it’s most likely been dismissed as too esoteric to warrant more than a moment’s discussion. But as we march into the future, quantum computing may prove to transform the world as we know it. 

But what does this boujee sounding term even really mean? Obviously, there is no way to understand quantum fully in the scope of one newspaper article, not even a PhD is enough to fully understand the field (or at least what we have figured out so far), but the core concepts are accessible to anyone. First, it’s pertinent to describe classical computers. Classical computers are basically anything we would consider technology today. All the circuits in your phones, computers, fridges, planes, all that is run by classical computers. And, as anyone who has seen a good 80’s hacking montage can tell you, those computers run on tons and tons of 1’s and 0’s. These 0’s and 1’s answer our complicated questions with billions of combinations of yes’s and no’s; nothing else. 

Intel and QuTech Demonstrate High-Fidelity 'Hot' Qubits for Practical  Quantum Systems | Intel Newsroom

Single Purpose Quantum Chip

So then, what is the quantum part of quantum computing? Because of some physics that might be a little too tedious to explain (google the Stern-Gerlach experiment if you’re curious) electrons are probabilistic. What does that actually mean though? Another term you’ve probably heard is electron spin, an easy way to think about this term is which direction the electron is pointing towards. At any given point of measurement, the electron decides where it’s going to point, up or down. It’s also pretty magical to pause on this point of measurement for a minute. Electrons are so small that nothing interacts with them in any meaningful way; this means that any observation or interaction, either by humans or light, is a measurement. Us perceiving these quantum objects causes them to change their nature, pretty cool huh? So when an electron is measured it stops having an unknown state and settles into the state that it was measured as. This is a completely random decision that our electron makes, and it is this property that is manipulated in quantum computing. 

In classical computing, a bit is a 0 or a 1, but in quantum computing a qubit (a quantum bit) doesn’t follow those same rules. Like our electron, upon measurement, it randomly chooses which state to collapse into. So, through mathematical manipulations implemented through code we change this probability to suit our needs and accomplish certain goals, just like the goals we accomplish with classical computing. So while a classical bit can either be a 0 or a 1, a qubit could have a 40% chance of turning up as a 0 and a 60% chance of turning up as a 1 and we won’t find out until we measure the qubit. This probability is called a superposition, so until the qubit is measured, and collapses into either a 0 or a 1 the qubit is in a superposition of the two. 

So what is actually interesting about this? Why should you be excited about indecisive 0’s and 1’s? So, so many reasons. Let’s take for example cryptography, the science of storing and transmitting data in a particular form so that only those for whom it is intended can read and process it. We all know about hackers, the shadowy figures trying to steal our credit cards. Hackers often obtain information by intercepting it as you send or receive information from another party, like you sending your password to your bank to log in. But how can quantum computing help stop these dastardly crooks? I mentioned before how qubits are in a superposition until a measurement collapses that superposition. So, if our hypothetical hacker snatched your password, that would collapse the superposition making both parties instantly aware that their data had been tampered with. So, a quantum internet might mean goodbye to hackers. 

Developing a topological qubit - Microsoft Quantum

A single qubit

Another of the countless exciting opportunities presented by quantum computing is the opportunities for modeling that we have never had hopes of before. In 2017 the AAAS published an article excitedly talking about the simulation of the largest molecule ever simulated. This molecule was very small, beryllium hydride for those who remember enough of chemistry class to have that mean something. And yet, this feat was monumental. For all the many wondrous materials and compounds that humanity has dreamt up in the past decades (like the special alloys for spacecraft, the new wonders of modern medicine, etc) we’ve had to come up with those materials based on known properties, math, and lots and lots of testing. So what does quantum offer? Well, at the core level of all these breakthroughs is the creation of new compounds that can do new things. And these compounds exist at their most base form, at the quantum level. So using quantum technology we can simulate these compounds as they truly are, not based on what we know about them. This opens up new exciting possibilities about future medications and materials that have the potential to change the world as we know it. 

But, quantum is not all rainbows and sunshine, there’s still a lot of issues. ENIAC, the first computer ever built, only came around in 1943, and that’s honestly about where we are with quantum technology at this moment. We have a lot of ideas and possible applications, and while the field is not quite in its infancy, it’s probably somewhere in the range of a toddler. We still only know how to make quantum computers with up to 65 qubits, and that’s an amazing feat, as compared to classical computers that can billions or trillions of times as many classical bits. It may be a while before the aforementioned applications truly begin to take concrete form in the world around us. Skeptics say that this is one of those technologies that we will always be talking about but never realize, optimists say stop complaining and get to work. 

How Quantum Computers Work

If you couldn’t tell before, I am among the optimists. Just like the first computer ever built, we don’t really know what this technology can bring. The possibilities are as vast and as endless as those that were unleashed with the birth of classical computation. And the most exciting part? We are the first generation to be able to truly participate in the development of this technology, it isn’t just relegated to a bunch of old people sitting in dusty labs. Quantum computing calls for people from a myriad of backgrounds, humanities-based educators to organize education communication, engineers to build new and better quantum hardware, computer scientists that work to create algorithms to better explore and utilize these new tools, physics students that work to unlock the hidden mysteries that abound in the field, mathematicians to come up with new math to explain the curious phenomena that characterize the field. There’s so much to do, so much to learn, it truly is an opportunity for collaboration and intersectionality between fields and people. We have a unique opportunity to define what this field can be, to escape the pitfalls that we have seen in big tech, and further science in a way that is ethical and equitable.  

And you, even as a high school student, can get involved too! MIT has all its lectures open to the public online, the IBM Quantum experience allows for any curious individual to play with real quantum computers themselves and to learn from their extensive documentation, and there are countless papers and textbooks available to those curious enough to care. There are even classes available to high school students, such as the one offered by IBM and The Coding School through zoom, taught by grad students from the most prestigious universities from across the globe. And all these materials: free as air! 

If this article does nothing else, let it give you some wonder and appreciation for the possibilities of mankind, and the discovery of science. Next time you want to skip your math homework, think that maybe, just by being born at the right time, your name might make it into the textbooks of future generations. And if you’re really interested IBM has a whole slew of programs to educate people just like you going on right now, check out the Qiskit Advocates page to learn more about quantum and maybe to get involved in it yourself. The world sucks right now, but let the innovation and magic of this age propel you towards discovery and learning, not just for yourself but for the whole of humanity. 

Qiskit Advocates Webpage:  https://qiskit.org/advocates/

Qiskit Advocates Interest Form: https://airtable.com/shrt7lqrHDWO56W9x

Qubit by Qubit: https://www.qubitbyqubit.org/

IBM Quantum Experience: https://quantum-computing.ibm.com/
Potential of Quantum Computing: https://www.ces.tech/Articles/2020/The-Potential-of-Quantum-Computing.aspx#:~:text=Overview%20Quantum%20computing%20has%20the,currently%20unsolvable%20by%20classical%20computers.

The NBA 2020 Finals

By Alexandra El Mcardle

It is March 11th. In the middle of one of the most highly anticipated NBA seasons of all time, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID-19. He had only tested before the game for precautionary reasons, as no one had expected any cases. The Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game that night was postponed, and Utah said they would be working with the CDC to take necessary steps forward.  

But it didn’t matter. The NBA shut down that same day, a sudden suspension on the 2019-2020 season. People in the media said it was Gobert who “shut down the NBA”, when really, it was just his positive test that opened the eyes of the players and teams to the severity of the pandemic. 

In the months following, as most of us experienced, the country went into lockdown.  Families quarantined at home, social distancing was enforced when public interaction was necessary, and masks became required in stores and public and general.  With most people stuck at home, many wondered when sports would return.

Fast forward to the end of June, where word was spreading that a bubble was being built at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida, where rumor had it the rest of the NBA season was going to be played. Once the rumors were confirmed, the process was explained. 22 teams, with their full roster and staff, would travel to the bubble, where they would quarantine together for two weeks before the rest of the season would take place.  There would be daily testing for everyone there, and masks would be required around the complex and inside the arenas.  

Then suddenly, the nation was taken over by the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and racism, sparked by the brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers. We saw NBA players speaking out on social media, and some participated in nationwide protests. 

As the season quickly approached, many players wondered if this was the right time to go in the bubble. However, many players felt they could make just as big of an impact there as they could anywhere else and decided they would return on certain conditions. Power forward Jerami Grant of the Denver Nuggets said that “The consensus was that we could come down here and use our platform to bring awareness to important issues… I thought I could do more here than back home.” 

They took on their own forms of protest within the bubble by wearing warm-up shirts with “Black Lives Matter” across the chest, and were allowed to replace their last name on the back of their jersey with one of a few permitted phrases relating to the movement. Teams also knelt during the national anthem in a form of protest and locked arms to show their unified support of the movement.

The season returned on July 30th, 2020. Each of the teams in the bubble would have eight “regular season” games before the highly anticipated NBA playoffs would begin. Surprisingly, there were no positive cases of the Coronavirus in the bubble. However, some players did end up leaving the complex for other reasons and therefore had to quarantine again and potentially miss games.  

The NBA playoffs began on August 17th, and the playoff format of past years remained the same. There would be three inter-conference rounds before the Finals that October.  The only difference was the tight scheduling. Teams would be playing every other day, which gave them a much shorter break between games compared to other years.  

After weeks of fast-paced and close playoff games, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat advanced to the Finals after defeating the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics in their respective conference finals. The first game of the Finals itself was a blowout, with the Lakers, led by All-Stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis, winning 116-98. Many thought this was how the series could be expected to play out, but they underestimated Miami. After losing Game 2 to the Lakers as well, the Heat pulled through with a big win in Game 3 after some of their star players, namely Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, had their hard work pay off.

LA and Miami traded wins in Games 4 and 5, leading to a pivotal Game 6.  The Lakers ended up winning the game and the NBA Finals and became the 2019-2020 Champions on October 11th in one of the most unique seasons in basketball history.

There is no question the players participating in the bubble worked harder and sacrificed more than anyone ever had any other year.  However, that does not mean lovers of the sport have not questioned the process and sparked controversies along the way.  

The first thing that seemed to upset fans was that out of the 30 teams in the NBA, only 22 went to the bubble. Sure, they chose the teams with the best records to compete for the championship. However many of the teams excluded were expected to make a playoff push later on. Teams such as the New York Knicks were anticipated to win enough games towards the end of the season to at least snatch a low seat in the playoffs, but they never got the chance since they were not invited to finish the season. This was eventually accepted by most fans, as it was acknowledged that sacrifices had to be made for this bubble to work. 

One of the biggest arguments pertaining to this season is whether the Los Angeles  Lakers deserved to win this championship. Not in the sense of whether the team was good enough to win, but whether it was easier for them to win under the format the 2019-20 season presented. 

Some felt that without the fans in the stands, or the hostility that comes with away game crowds, the entire environment of the Finals was not as competitive as it should have been. Although the NBA did filter in canned sounds of cheers and chants and had fans video calling into the court, some believed it was not nearly as crazy as a typical playoff atmosphere. 

However,  making statements like these would undermine the entire ending of the 2020 season. It is important to remember everything the NBA players, especially the champion Lakers, had to overcome to make this season successful. They cut their break between games in half during the playoffs, and were separated from their families for more than 3 months. They fought for racial justice on and off the court. They worked hard through one of the most challenging times our country has ever been faced with. They knew the risks, but they also knew how much they loved the game and how much it would mean to their city. While stuck at home in isolation, it made fans feel like they were a part of something. 

We all witnessed history last season, and we have seen nothing less from the 2020-2021 season since it kicked off on December 22nd.

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2880465-rudy-gobert-reportedly-tests-positive-for-coronavirus

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/29/rudy-gobert-coronavirus-nba-return/

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/30055011/everything-happened-nba-bubble

https://www.gq.com/story/nba-bubble-courts-2020

https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nba/news/nba-bubble-rules-teams-schedule-orlando/zhap66a9hcwq1khmcex3ggabo

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/13/us/nba-players-break-campus-bubble-trnd/index.html

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2895295-2020-nba-playoffs-tentative-start-dates-for-play-in-finals-more-reported

https://theundefeated.com/features/how-the-nba-social-justice-efforts-dominated-the-season/ 
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/sports/basketball/covid-nba-unrest-season.html

Booze and Gyms But No School in NYC

By Sasha Danielle Rafiy

Over the past months, New York City life has slowly come back together; people can make reservations and eat dinner inside restaurants, run on the treadmill at the gym, grab a drink from the bar, and shop around at their favorite stores. However, while all of this is happening, over 1 million public school students in New York City remain at home sitting in front of a computer screen all day (if they are even lucky enough to have one). 

Online learning has significantly disrupted the education of many of the 1.1 million students in the New York City public school system. According to the Center on Reinventing Public Education, low-income, black and Hispanic students have significantly suffered through online education; through an analysis of the 477 school districts, “it found that only a fifth have required live teaching over video, and that wealthy school districts were twice as likely to provide such teaching as low-income districts.” With more relaxed instructional expectations and no live-meetings, it is inevitable that students will slack off and disengage from online learning.

In addition, researchers begin to worry not only about the quality of the students’ education, but also about the effect social isolation has on childrens’ mental health. Sitting at home all day on a computer limits the amount of exercise and socialization students get.  

As many cities in the United States have prioritized keeping restaurants and bars open–rather than schools, countries in Europe took another approach: closing restaurants and bars while keeping schools open. 

In fact, many European nations have proved that it is possible to flatten the surge of coronavirus cases while schools remain open. For example, France reinstated its lockdown with a positive test rate of 11 percent (almost 4 times higher than New York City’s rate), yet decided to keep schools open. Yazdan Yazdanpanah, an infectious disease specialist who advises France’s government on the pandemic, explained that “the decline has been slower because schools are open, but we had to find a middle ground.” However, he added, “the slower drop in infections has been offset by positive effects on education, mental health and the economy.”

The significance of prioritizing education goes back to a renowned 17th Century English philosopher, John Locke. In his treatise, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, published in 1693, Locke emphasizes the importance of education; “Of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil useful or not, by their education.”   Locke proposes that it is education, not going out for a drink, that makes a man who he is. 

Locke highlights the essential need for education to further understand important aspects of our life, such as citizenship and government. He notes, “proper calling is the service of his country, and so is most properly concerned in moral and political knowledge; and thus the studies which more immediately belong to his calling are those which treat of virtues and vices, of civil society and the arts of government, and will take in also law and history.” Here, Locke shows how education has incredible value, and should be prioritized as it is essential to politics, understanding law and government, and citizenship.

In addition, one of Locke’s central themes in Some Thoughts Concerning Education is to make learning enjoyable for children, rather than it seeming as a task or duty. He notes, “Learning anything they should be taught might be made as much a recreation to they play as their play is to their learning.”  According to Locke,  just as children play at their own liberty, they should also learn at their own liberty.

As a current student attending Beacon High School (a public school in Manhattan), online learning is far from enjoyable. In fact, it resembles exactly what Locke described education should not be: a task or a duty. Reflecting on my past education experience, it was such a privilege to come into school, do experiments in the labs, physically see teachers and classmates, socialize with friends and participate in-person in after school clubs and sports. 

Therefore, as John Locke described, education is among the most important things in life–and should be prioritized in New York City during this pandemic over nonessential businesses.

Works cited page:

Crittenden, Jack, and Peter Levine. “Civic Education.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, August 31, 2018. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/civic-education/. 

“DOE Data at a Glance.” web. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.schools.nyc.gov/about-us/reports/doe-data-at-a-glance.

Goldstein, Dana. “Research Shows Students Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions,” June 5, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/us/coronavirus-education-lost-learning.html. 

Holden, Drew. “What Has Lockdown Done to Us?,” December 8, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/08/opinion/covid-lockdown-isolation.html?auth=login-google.

“John Locke.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., October 24, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Locke.

Locke, John, and F. W. Garforth. John Locke: Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1964.

Onishi, Norimitsu, Constant Méheut, and Antonella Francini. “Positive Test Rate of 11 Percent? France’s Schools Remain Open.,” November 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/30/world/europe/france-covid-schools.html.

Ruiz, Michelle. “New York Schools Are Closed, Restaurants Are Open, and Our Society Is Broken.” Vogue. Vogue, November 19, 2020. https://www.vogue.com/article/new-york-city-schools-are-closed-restaurants-are-open. 

Champions League Knockout Stage Preview

By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt

The matchups for the Round of 16 of the Champions League were released on December 14th, and they’re listed here. 

(Teams in bold will play their home leg first, then the teams underlined will play their home leg second)

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Lazio vs Bayern
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
Porto vs Juventus
Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
Sevilla vs Dortmund
Atalanta vs Real Madrid

Now, let’s break the matchups down before they begin on February 18th:

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City

This is an interesting matchup strategically, as it’s a showdown between counter-attacking (Borussia Monchengladbach) and possession play (Manchester City) football. Borussia’s style of play is rather defensive, relying on absorbing pressure from the attacking team and counter attacking quickly down the flanks, hence their 4-2-3-1 formation. Manchester City is the opposite, with a possession-heavy game that relies on short and quick passes, as well as heavy pressing. Manchester City could use this heavy pressure to overload Borussia’s defense and create chances through the middle. Borussia, on the other hand, could continue using their game plan that has been working really well for them: absorbing the opponent’s heavy pressure and counterattack swiftly. Both teams are struggling in their respective domestic leagues, both in 8th place on their tables, good for around the middle of the pack. Borussia has also faced more difficult opposition, beating Bayern Munich in the Germany’s top pro league, the Bundesliga, 3-2 on January 10th. This will be an interesting matchup, but we predict Borussia will take their home win 2-0, after which Manchester City will come back home and win 3-1. The conceded away goals will hurt Manchester City and they’ll lose out to Borussia on that tiebreaker. Borussia will prevail utilizing their play style that got them this far, and with their Coach Marco Rose’s heavy defensive game, they have a good shot at upsetting Manchester City. 

Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea

This is a great matchup that won’t disappoint, with two great managers in Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid vs Frank Lampard of Chelsea, playing defensive and offensive football respectively. Atletico Madrid’s play style is defensive, with a 4-4-2 formation. Luis Suarez and Diego Costa make up the bulk of their offense, with midfielders like Saúl and Koke supporting them. They are a possession-heavy, defensive team similar to Borussia. They also play wide to open the field up for the wingers on attack to create a temporary 4-2-4 formation. Chelsea, on the other hand, are a more offensive team who rely on their speed and offensive capabilities on the wings, specifically with Ben Chilwell and Reece James. They line up in a 3-4-3, with Kante dropping back into a center back role. Werner, Ziyech, and Pulisic go up front and have Havertz and Kovacic in support. Atletico is playing at home first, and because of Simeone’s genius, we predict they will take a 3-0 win. They will then travel to Stamford Bridge, where defense will prevail and Chelsea will win 2-1, but lose on aggregate to the advancing Atletico Madrid. 

Leipzig vs Liverpool

Another interesting matchup where two attack-centric teams go head to head. Leipzig are off of two fabulous wins where they scored 7 goals, while Liverpool are coming off a loss and draw. While Liverpool finished strongly with a record of 4-1-1, they are weakened by injuries to their defense, losing Van Dijk, Matip, Joe Gomez, all three of their best center backs. Leipzig, on the other hand, have revamped their offense, with Angelino, Haidara, Sabitzer, Szoboszlai, Olmo, Kluivert, and Poulsen, all of which will surely threaten Liverpool’s already weak defense. Leipzig plays at home first, so they’ll take an easy 2-0 win but at their home, Liverpool will prevail and win 3-0. The series would end in a 3-2 aggregate, with Liverpool advancing on. 

Lazio vs Bayern Munich

This matchup is less interesting than the other for 6 main reasons: 1. Bayern Munich is off of an incredible run to the Champions League title. 2. Bayern’s attack, led by Lewandowski and Muller, is unstoppable, scoring 18 goals in 6 games. 3. Bayern’s defense is outstanding, conceding only 5 goals in 6 matches. 4. They have the experience: Lazio joined the Champions League for the first time in 13 years this season. 5. Lazio has done absolutely terribly for being one of the clubs in the top 5 European leagues. 6. Lazio’s defense is terrible and often loses leads quickly or fails to impress like most of the big teams. Let’s get this prediction out of the way. Lazio will play at home first and will draw 2-2. Then to the Allianz Arena in Munich, Bayern will win 4-1 to end the series with a 6-3 aggregate lead to advance on.

FC Barcelona vs Paris St. Germain

This, on paper, is the best matchup of the lot. We have Barcelona, who have struggled domestically this year but were on track to win their Champions League group until they got absolutely smoked by Ronaldo and Juventus in their home stadium. Now, they have to face Paris-Saint Germain in a far harder draw than what would’ve been Porto. PSG, in contrast, looked at one point like they were going out after losing to Manchester United and Leipzig before turning around and winning their final 3 games to win their group. But it is probably the hardest team they could’ve faced. Still, we would give PSG the slight edge, based on the current state Barcelona are in. The big storyline in this one is PSG star Neymar against his former club. He’s currently dealing with an ankle injury but hopefully looks to be back for this one. PSG have also just sacked former manager Thomas Tuchel and hired ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pocchetino. He did a good job at Tottenham and it will be interesting to see how he does in this matchup, given that the Champions League is all that matters for PSG. PSG won the Ligue 1 and made the Champions League final last year but failed at the final hurdle, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich. They will be hungry to get back to the final and win it this time. Barcelona’s boss Ronald Koeman is under a lot of pressure, and we think that if he loses this tie he will get fired. It could go either way, but we think PSG will edge it out, 3-2 on aggregate. But never count out Barcelona– at least while they still have Lionel Messi. 

Atalanta vs Real Madrid

In this clash, we have the dark horse from Bergamo, Italy, in Atalanta, and the European heavyweights in Real Madrid. This matchup should be interesting to see. On one hand, we have an Atalanta team who are capable of beating anybody with their attacking style under manager Gian Piero Gasperini. They proved this by beating Roma 4-1, crushing Sassuolo 5-1 this past weekend, and beating Liverpool 2-0 at their home stadium of Anfield. Their risky style of play can go wrong though, like their other matchup against Liverpool, a 5-0 loss at home. Real Madrid has had a weird season but has been in better form as of late. Real will be the heavy favorites in this matchup, but it would not shock me to see Atalanta go through. Real only barely got out of their group, leaving it to the last matchday where they got a clutch 2-0 win vs Borussia. Atalanta also advanced at the last matchday, winning 1-0 away at Ajax. Overall, look out for tons of goals as both defenses have been shipping a lot of goals. We expect Real to beat Atalanta 5-4 on aggregate. 

Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund

This tie is probably the hardest one to predict given how each team has been playing. Sevilla won the Europa League and finished 4th in La Liga last year, making it a successful first season for manager Julien Lopetegui. This year, however, they have been quite average domestically and got smashed 4-0 at home against Chelsea in this year’s group stage. Still, they are usually a force in Europe and the signing of ex-Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic will be huge for the experience and morale of the team. Dortmund, on the other hand, has been infuriating to watch. At times they play beautiful football, beating teams by 4 or 5 goals. Other times they lose games they should win. This season alone they have lost 2-0 to Augsburg, 2-1 to Koln, 5-1 to Stuttgart and 2-1 to Union Berlin, all teams that should be fighting to avoid relegation. They also lost in this very round of the Champions League for the past two seasons. These poor results have made Dortmund sack manager Lucien Favre, hiring Edin Terzic in the interim. It is so hard to say how they will be playing by the time this fixture arrives. But Dortmund has a lot of potential, and they have better players than Sevilla. For this reason, we will say they will scrape by, specifically by an aggregate score of 4-3. 

Porto vs Juventus

Finally, we have Porto and Juventus. Juventus was in an easy group and they managed to top it, in large part because of a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou, Barcelona’s Stadium. Porto went through as runners-up to Manchester City in their group, playing pretty well. In this clash Juventus should be the huge favorites, not just because they have Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world, but because they have more quality and depth than Porto in almost every position. Porto will have to rely on a solid defense, led by ex-Real Madrid center back Pepe, and will need to score goals with their attack of Mehdi Tahremi, Mousa Marega and Felipe Anderson. They will have to play nearly perfect to win. Juventus have won the last 9 Serie A titles, and even though they have been inconsistent this season and even though they got upset in the Round of 16 last season against Lyon, we think they have the experience to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

What Marijuana Legalization Can Offer New York

By: Daniel Aarao Reis Arturi

The conversation surrounding the legalization of Marijuana is not a new one; decriminalization began in 1973 in Texas, medical legalization in California in 1996, and of course recreational legalization in Colorado eight years ago. But I’m writing this article today, why? 

One of the most significant aspects of the legalization of marjuana is the way in which those laws disproportionately affect people of color. Black people were found to be 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than their white counterparts despite equal rates of usage, and in some states the number was up to ten times as much. (ACLU) But this is a vast, expansive subject that would require ten articles and a documentary to properly do justice to, additionally last year I wrote another article on the legalization of marijuana that delves into this matter more deeply, if you want to learn more. 

The defining cataclysm of our age has been, as I’m sure no one needs to be told, the coronavirus pandemic. And as those in power have not listened to the 91% of people who believe that marijuana should be legal in some capacity (Pew Research) perhaps they will heed the language of death and money in the coming months. As a country we have all suffered immensely, but here in New York that suffering has been acutely felt. Mornings we were accustomed to spending on crowded trains have been replaced by 24 hours in bed. I even find myself missing the sight our tourists meandering around Times Square. 

We have all felt the human cost of the past months too. I remember doctors and nurses using halloween costumes as makeshift masks in a horrible satire at our federal government. I remember the fear I felt every day knowing that my mother, an essential worker might get sick and not have a bed available at a hospital, let alone a ventilator (another thing we were horribly short on). Or when Trump effectively started a bidding war amongst the states for those very supplies, the panicked mad dash for supplies. 

Of course the most important thing has always been the lives of our fellow human beings, but it is very important to note how money has played into this pandemic. The stimulus checks that, for many, were a too brief reprieve from a long winded disaster. The moratoriums on eviction that have only prevented displacement of many but not even close to all. And those rent payments will still be due, and the financial destruction of many has already happened or is imminent. Small businesses are suffering while big corporations rake in bailout money. 

New York has been one of the states most affected by the virus. Because of how the economies of our major cities are structured New York state holds 4 of the 5 most affected cities (nytimes), including New York City itself. This is a uniquely abrupt recession, and how we respond to it will define our quality of life as a state for years to come. And of course those most vulnerable have been the most affected. Before the pandemic unemployment has been hovering around 2 – 4 percent in the greater New York City area, now that number has multiplied to closer to 12 percent, with poorer neighborhoods impacted far worse than that. 

Our own school system has also been impacted as well, the largest school district in the country requires a lot of resources, resources that the city has not historically been able to provide. This pandemic has pushed the system to the absolute limit. Even earlier this year Mr. Jacobs (C) said that hybrid school wasn’t possible because the school wasn’t granted enough resources to hire new teachers to fill the necessary positions in order to teach two groups of students. Because of these city-wide budget cuts a hiring freeze has been put in effect, but now is a time where schools need more support than ever, not less. But, it’s no secret that the DOE has always purported an inequitable distribution of resources and Beacon has been lucky enough to be on the disproportionately well off side of that inequality. 

In April the DOE was hit with a $707 million budget cut in time where it’s more and more essential to develop new strategies for teaching in a pandemic; strategies that often incur new costs. With such a big package of cuts from the budget it’s not surprising to hear that a lot of very important programs were cut. The wraparound program targeting high need students had their budgets cut, threatening the existence of those programs at many schools where the programs were proven to have positive impacts on the community. Reimbursement for teachers buying supplies has been cut, something additionally impactful now that teachers are finding themselves with far more responsibility. These are two examples of many cuts that we at Beacon will not feel nearly as acutely as those living in lower income communities.

Covid has also incurred many new unexpected costs that further emphasize the city’s desperate need for funding. The city has spent $269 million dollars on 300,000 iPads for the new class of students forced to work from home, along with hotspot connections for all of those new devices. The city is so strapped for cash they have been sending schools the cheapest protective equipment they could find – at the expense of actual functionality. A Queens principal complained of thermometers that display temperatures colder than a corpse, smelly wipes that don’t disinfect, and cheap masks of dubious effectiveness. 

This is why, now more than ever, we need to legalize marijuana. 61% of New Yorkers actively support the legalization of recreational cannabis. In legal states marijuana is an essential service that is helping get people through this tough time, in the same way that liquor stores have stayed open for that very reason. New Yorkers have long (rightfully) complained about the deficiencies present in many of the city’s services. Now, in this time of extreme crisis we as a state need more support from the government, support that we don’t have the resources to fund. Support required across the city, not just in the public school system. 

So how juicy is this big pot of money that other states have been enjoying? Michigan has brought in $35 million between December and July. As of June 2019 Colorado has generated over $1 billion dollars to fund government services. California, while having legalized weed much later than Colorado, has created $1.03 billion in tax revenue, with the industry projected to earn over a billion dollars a year in the coming years. New Jersey, among the latest batch of states to legalize predicts that their marijuana sector may be worth $2 billion a year, a valuable chunk of which will go into the state coffers.

Every state distributes revenue from marijuana sales differently, and despite the budget related problems our school system is having, there are many different city services being threatened by the economic recession we are experiencing. Other states have put those funds to work in very positive ways, with Washington pledging the money towards healthcare, Alaska is funding programs to reduce repeat criminal offenses, some states are distributing the money among local governments, the list goes on. 

The people are calling for the legalization of marijuana. Marijuana has shown itself time and time again to be none of the things our federal government has claimed it to be for so many decades. It has proven itself essential in all the states that it is legal in. The criminalization of marijuana was incentivized by racist pro war ideologies, and has continued to perpetuate the racist system of mass incarceration of black men in this country. Right now we need this. Our state is hurting, as no one needs to tell you. Our schools are hurting, lower income neighborhoods more than anywhere else need support that the city has failed to provide. New York already has such a vibrant and famous marijuana culture, and this pandemic has encouraged larger and larger intakes of marijuana in weed smokers. There is money on the table that we are leaving, when we need every penny we can get. That’s unfair to the New Yorkers who have been financially crippled, to the school systems without the money they need to make the critical adaptations that the pandemic has called for. When will our state legislature finally start representing the will and best interests of their constituents?

Every Vote Counts! … Or Does It? The Electoral College: Explained

By Anna Di Iorio-Reyes

In the 2016 presidential election, around 2.9 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump. So why did Trump become president? Even though Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won the Electoral College; a crucial victory which allowed him to be in office, but also led to his inability to be re-elected last year, in 2020. 

The Electoral College is a complicated system that decides the President of the United States. Perhaps what makes this system seem hard to understand is that when a citizen is voting, they aren’t technically voting for president, even though they are selecting a candidate’s name on the ballot. What they’re actually voting for is if they want the electors in their state to vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in the Electoral College meeting (more on that later). Those who are ‘directly’ voting are called electors: people elected by the political parties in each state to become a part of the Electoral College. What qualifies a person to be an elector is showing a certain dedication to a political party, for example being a state official or party leader.

 The number of electors in each state depends on the total number of senators and representatives in congress. For example, California (the state with the most electoral votes) has 53 representatives and 2 senators, which sums up to 55: the number of electors in that state.     Each state is entitled to at least 3 electors, but there needs to be 538 total electors in the country. 

You may have heard the number ‘270’ come up around the time of an election, including last year. 270 is the number of electoral votes a presidential candidate needs to become president. For example, if California “goes blue”–the democratic candidate wins that state– then all of those 55 electors will be added to that candidate’s count, and will help them reach 270 electors. Why 270? Well, half of 538 (the total number of electors in the country) is 269, a number both candidates can tie at, so the candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. However, if they do tie at 269, the House of Representatives decides who wins.  

Another factor that makes the Electoral College even more complicated to grasp is that not all states are like California, or what’s called “winner take all” states: states that give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state. There are only two states- Maine (4 electoral votes) and Nebraska (5 electoral votes) who, instead of being “winner take all” states, give two votes to the states winner, and then one vote each to the candidate who won each congressional district within the state. For example, say that the republican candidate wins Maine, but there is one area in the state that was overwhelmingly democratic. 3 votes would go to the Republican candidate, two for winning the state and one for winning a district, and 1 would go to the democratic candidate for the democratic district they won.The Electoral College meeting, which I had mentioned earlier, took place on December 14th, 2020 (and happens around the time of every election). The meeting comes after the results of the general election have been shown and certified, and essentially determines, officially, who becomes president. All 538 electors meet in their own states and cast their votes. They all have to vote for the democratic or republican candidate depending on if their state went red or blue (except for the electors in Maine and Nebraska). The results of that meeting determine who is sworn in on Inauguration Day, the final step of the election process until four years later, when we have to do it all over again.

THE NBA BUBBLE : A Major Win Among The Losses

By Griffin Feather

The NBA is back just a few short months since the end of the one-of-a-kind end to the 2020 season. This rapid turnaround, like most things during the pandemic, is unprecedented in major league sports and poses all kinds of questions about the health and safety of the players. But one thing that has gone unchallenged as we look back at the end of the NBA season is this: the NBA bubble of the 2019-2020 season in Orlando was an incredible success; a truly good story in the midst of many terrible ones. Not only did it provide people with a welcome distraction during the monotony of the pandemic, but it also created a sense of normalcy for fans of the game. For many basketball fans like myself, having these games available was one of the best escapes from the toll of lockdown. But what made it work? This simple question is one worth looking into if we want to see more sports leagues return as well and safely as they can. 

The reason the bubble can be deemed as a success amid so many terrible outcomes is that there were  zero coronavirus cases reported during its entire run. That’s right– zero. Not many organizations or corporations can claim such a miraculous number. Perhaps even more remarkable than that is how the league valued the health and safety of their players. For one, they had daily and organized coronavirus tests for all of the players. This was an essential medical safeguard required for participation in the bubble. If anyone tested positive, all the games would be cancelled. I suspect the reason none of the players tested positive was due to the tight restrictions mandated by the NBA, and, with few exceptions, the cooperation of the players and teams. No player was allowed to leave the bubble, a rule making life difficult for players with families, but it was the first rule to ensure safe play. Once they arrived, they stayed for the duration of their season. This meant that everyone stayed sealed off from society beyond their enclosed NBA world, making it much harder to contract the virus. This was a challenge mentally, emotionally and even physically for the players, as it was an unfamiliar and lonely lifestyle. They were not able to see their loved ones, and didn’t have the freedom they normally would. 

That said, there were uspides to the new world they inhabited. Players were able to enjoy time getting to know other players who would usually be far away in different cities. I learned about a lot of bonds created in the bubble experiment, a little gift in a time when most people felt alone. In a comprehensive GQ article on the bubble by Taylor Rooks, I learned that Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers got to spend time with Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers. They talked about their experiences in the league and how their own bubble situations were going. Stories like these showed friendships forged among previous strangers, an unusual thing to happen for people in a pandemic. Additionally, players were able to catch up with members of their old franchises, as well as their former coaches. DeMar DeRozan talked with Masai Ujiri, general manager of his old team, the Raptors, and it makes me wonder what other connections may have been created or reborn in this strange setting. 

It also seemed to me that the bubble strengthened individual team bonds. Since they were all living together in this bizarre, high-end summer camp, they had a lot more time to get to know each other. Yet, however great all of these fun and gossipy pieces of the scene were, they were far from the very best thing to come out of the bubble. The goal of the league and commissioner Adam Silver was a certain thing above all else: keep the players one hundred percent healthy and focused on their game. The league implemented protocols and routines related only to basketball and safety, and to their immense credit, it worked. 

However, the league now faces a new challenge. This challenge will be the start of the new season, already going strong. There is no more NBA bubble. It was likely an impossible sell to get players to return to bubble life after a mere two-month offseason, so the league went in a different direction. The players will no longer be constantly monitored by the NBA in the way they were in Orlando. This also means they will no longer be isolated and will have some of the freedoms they previously lacked. They will get to see who they want and when they want– within reason– without the monitoring of the NBA. This could become a huge problem, because they will also be traveling city to city instead of staying in one place. The spread of the virus will be much easier in this non-isolated setting. A basketball analyst from the New York Times said, “They will not be playing once a week, as teams do in the NFL. They will not be playing a sport with baked-in social distancing, a la Major League Baseball. They will be playing a game teeming with contact and face-to-face interactions – and, unlike football, baseball and soccer, they will be doing it indoors.” Worth noting too is that the NCAA’s college basketball tournament has just been announced to be fully hosted by Indiana, in, you guessed it, a bubble. For now, I can only hope things in the NBA remain as they did last season: safe, fun, competitive, virus-free, and the best escape from pandemic gloom that I can think of. Long live the NBA, in the bubble or out. 

The Rules and Etiquette of Online Learning

By Cali Morrison Carss

The year 2020 has been one of adaptation. With a global pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s mind for the better part of the year, the spring semester of last year was undoubtedly messy. New York City was sent into lockdown in March with the expectation of reopening following the week of spring break. Because of this, students and the administration did not prepare to be online for very long. However, as the back to school date got pushed further and further, schools had to quickly switch to the uncharted territory of online school that has become the new normal. The problems with online class last year at Beacon were abundant. The school did not have a set schedule, nor were there many expectations for students. Work has been marginally cut down for many; and while that was a smart and considerate move made on the student’s behalf, it makes regular online learning that much more difficult to adjust to. 

This school year is different. Not only does Beacon have a new principal leading the school, but there has also been time to organize a more structured model. Teachers have adapted their curriculums and a set schedule has been put in place. Additionally, the class time has been cut down to still allow students break times to work alone. One of the biggest factors of this new school year is a new set of rules put out strictly for online classes. These rules provide guidelines for making online learning as efficient and practical as possible. They are the:

Beacon Student Zoom Expectations

  • Join your class a couple of minutes early to ensure proper connection
  • Mute yourself when talking; to eliminate background noise
  • Have video on whenever possible; turn it on if a teacher requests
  • If having video on is uncomfortable, communicate this with a teacher directly
  • Check to make sure your background is appropriate and dress as you would if you were going into school
  • Make sure your name is accurate
  • Add your preferred pronouns to your Zoom name to create an inclusive community
  • Try to wait to eat or drink until a break from class – if needed make sure you’re muted and be discrete
  • Act appropriately; treat it like a regular classroom
  • Do not share the Zoom link with anyone outside your class
  • Inappropriate comments, verbal or chat, or images will result in a follow-up with an administrator as per the Beacon Respect for All policy

Overall, these seem to have been taken quite well by the students of Beacon, leading to a much more organized and formal classroom environment. For example, almost all teachers require students to have their cameras on as it demonstrates attentiveness and accountability. It’s also an effective way to stay partially connected to our classmates. As we cannot physically meet, at least being able to see faces on Zoom keeps up the feeling of a school community. This rule has probably had the most impact seeing as it’s one of the most enforced and it helps quite a lot in terms of normalizing the online classroom. Additionally, rules like “try to avoid eating” and “mute yourself while not talking” help to keep up the atmosphere of being at school, even if it’s not actually in person. Most of the other rules generally connect to rules that are kept in an in-person environment as well. The one rule specific to online classes would perhaps be “dress as if you were going into school.” While this rule can’t exactly be enforced like the rest, it is good advice to take. 

However, one of the rules “Join your class a couple of minutes early to ensure proper connection,” alludes to one of the biggest issues online school presents: inequity. Obviously, not every student has access to the proper technology or a stable internet connection. When attending school in person, there are ways around this, like using school computers, working at libraries, etc. Unfortunately, under the current conditions, the reliance on at-home technology for learning takes away these solutions. Now, the problems schools face is how to approach the issue. For most teachers, it means being lenient on latecomers, or not penalizing them at all. It’s a new adjustment, but a necessary one in order to not exclude any student from their deserved education. This also helps students who might be preoccupied with watching siblings or helping their parents. Online learning would be a huge hindrance in situations like this, so it’s important to have accommodations like this. But for students with proper access, joining a bit early is a good habit to develop, as it could help out teachers who are trying to reach so many students within the limitations they’ve been given. Common courtesy is needed at a time like this, so this rule is much more important than many students might think it is.

Online school is new territory for everyone, and students have to be a lot more responsible about showing up to classes and keeping track of their work. These rules are supposed to serve as a loose guide to the expected conduct while attending classes. Cooperation with them makes school a lot smoother, no matter how confusing it is to be online. The fact of the matter is that reality is not going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully, with the cooperation from everyone, Beacon can continue through this semester and grow as a school and as a community.