Tuesday, September 1, 2015

See 'Van Gogh And Nature' At The Clark

Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
Schow Pond is a tranquil spot on the grounds of The Clark Art Institute
By Apoorva Sajan and Mugdha Gurram
Reporters
WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – Van Gogh and Nature, the special summer exhibit at The Clark Art Institute, which runs only until Sept. 13, features some of the painter’s lesser known works and his focus on nature.

A Post-Impressionist painter, Van Gogh’s work contain dots and individual brush strokes that add texture and shadows.
His use of oil paints also adds texture to the pieces and the way the colors blend suggests uncertainty of memory. A piece that looks complete at a distance becomes disassembled up close.
With the chance to see so much of his work up close and gathered into a single exhibit, viewers can follow each of Van Gogh's strokes and imagine the flick of his wrist as he blended colors to create one living image.
In addition to pieces by Van Gogh, the temporary exhibit contains several Japanese wood-block prints owned by Van Gogh. One of them uses a unique technique to show the patterns of rainfall across the artwork. On display next to the print is a Van Gogh piece, possibly his last work before he died, showcasing his own attempts at mimicking the style of rain from the wood print.
Along with these wood-block prints, the exhibit also displays many of the other works that inspired the artist, including novels he owned.
It was interesting to see the influence of these works on his art. For example, Van Gogh’s artwork featured many more cypress trees after reading about them in a French novel.
The exhibit uses an intriguing arrangement of the work to put it in the context of Van Gogh’s life. It’s organized by the places he lived, beginning with a period from 1881 to 1885 in Holland, followed by his years in Paris, Auvers, Provence, Arles, Auvers and a hospital in Saint-Rémy he stayed in to address his mental illness.
Visitors can see photographs of the countryside that fascinated Van Gogh, and read about the different places he visited that add meaning to and shape his work.
In letters to his brother Theo, Van Gogh stressed the healing properties of the countryside. He often took long walks to find subjects to paint, and swore these would cure their shared illness.
Throughout his life, Van Gogh kept in touch with his brother, sharing with him his fascination with nature and dedication to his art, which kept him going in his battle with depression.
His time spent at the mental institution, where Van Gogh painted many of his best works, proved to be one of great creative productivity.
Van Gogh and Nature, which opened in mid-June, closes September 13 so there is still time to see it.
Over Labor Day weekend, the museum is holding special extended hours just for the Van Gogh exhibit. While the entire museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Van Gogh portion will be open until 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4 and open an hour early, at 9 a.m., on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 5 and 6. Labor Day hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Youth Journalism International students Mary Majerus-Collins and Laura Espinoza Jara contributed to this article.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Nigerians Losing Faith In New President

By Gideon Arinze Chijioke
Junior Reporter
LAFIA, Nasarawa State, Nigeria – How would you react when the government in power fails to deliver on its mandate? Would you criticize the government or watch with clinical detachment as things go wrong?
It is pretty obvious that once those at the helm of affairs are incompetent, or merely mediocre, trouble sets in.


Since the current government in Nigeria – led by President Muhammadu Buhari – clinched power in what can be best described as a landslide victory, the trouble with Nigeria has continued. Insurgency, a blight on the people's happiness, is unabated. Citizens, mostly in insurgency prone areas, hardly sleep a wink at night.
It would be recalled that during Buhari’s inaugural speech, the former military general promised to tackle insurgency head on. The promise renewed many hopes. It restored despairing souls. We all anticipated a new Nigeria, where security of lives and property would become a top priority.
The scourge of insurgency, with its incessant loss of lives and property, was the Achilles heel of former President Goodluck Jonathan's administration. His administration was considered incompetent in that aspect, and the only way citizens could express dissatisfaction was to cast votes for the former general in the March 28 presidential election.
Muhammadu Buhari's

official Facebook photo.
Reputed to be a stickler for discipline, Buhari ruled Nigeria as a military head from 1983 to 1985. He is seen as an incorruptible leader and he rode on that reputation to amass millions of votes. His victory after three failed attempts promised a new start for Nigerians who for long have yearned for an end to growing unemployment, poverty and insecurity.
Buhari was considered fit for the job. He was seen as having the political acumen and the requisite wisdom to contain the brazen acts of terrorism perpetuated by the dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram. We trusted him so much we could dismiss pessimists without any hesitation.
But since Buhari was sworn in as president on May 29, stories continue of Boko Haram brutal attacks and the anguish that follows.
There has been, to put it mildly, no significant milestone recorded in the war against terrorism. Bombs go off and scores of people in northeastern Nigeria are killed or injured.
Our hopes of living in a secure, peaceful country have been dashed. And we find ourselves asking what viable measures should be taken to swiftly address the problem.
Though Buhari has been working around the clock to adequately contain the menace, his inability to do so betrays the people's trust since he promised to tackle insecurity as soon as possible.
The task of leadership obviously is a daunting one. It requires unreserved commitment to duty. It is a selfless service.
Hence, our president must realize that posterity waits on him to make a difference and salvage the country from dire straits.
Edited by YJI Correspondent Linus Okechukwu, a student in Nsukka, Nigeria.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Remembering Katrina: A St. Bernard Teen's Powerful Hurricane Journal Touched Hearts

Michele Lee / youthjournalism.org

By Jackie Majerus
Executive Director 

Ten years ago today, in the worst of circumstances, we met 17-year-old Samantha Perez, then starting her senior year of high school, and Youth Journalism International - and our many readers who were swept up in the story - were changed forever by her powerful words.

Sam, or Sammy, as we sometimes called her, is from St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. As the world watched as Hurricane Katrina barreled toward New Orleans, the storm veered away from the city and hit neighboring St. Bernard head on.

Samantha Perez
With deep roots in the parish, it wasn’t an easy decision for the Perez family to leave home in the face of the oncoming storm. Typically, they stuck it out. But this time, Sam and her parents packed in a hurry and left.

Somehow in all the chaos, Sam saw and responded to a notice posted on a community message board from YJI co-founder Steve Collins, who was hoping to find a young writer to tell the story of the storm first hand. (At the time, YJI published student work through The Tattoo teen newspaper.)

Sam turned out to be not only a gifted writer, but an amazing young woman with plenty to share. With courage and raw honesty, she wrote a series of articles we called the Hurricane Journal that took readers along as she spent her senior year bouncing from one school or town to the next, living in a cramped FEMA trailer and struggling to make the best of it.


Justin Skaradosky / youthjournalism.org
Her work, coupled with drawings, cartoons and photos contributed by fellow students in California, Florida and Connecticut, remains some of the best work that Youth Journalism International has ever published in our 21 years.

Today is the anniversary of Sam’s first installment.  You can start reading here. The entire collection is here.

As for Samantha, she’s all grown up now and still making us proud. She’s a PhD candidate at Tulane University, studying late medieval and early Renaissance history. She continues to live in the St. Bernard area and will always impress us.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ant-Man: Big Film, Tiny Flaws

Official photo from the Ant-Man Facebook page
By Felicity Rodger
Reporter
EDINBURGH, United Kingdom – Ever killed an insect? You might not want to kill this one. This new type of superhero comes on a completely different level to any Avenger ... literally.

Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas star in Ant-Man, an epic new film showing that small creatures are mightier than you think.

Rudd’s character, Scott, is your average, lovable rogue. He seems to always find himself in trouble, until his unique skills come to the attention of former hero Dr. Hank Pym, played by Douglas.
With the help of Dr. Pym's daughter, Hope – played by Evangeline Lilly from The Hobbit film trilogy – the three seek to stop upcoming mastermind Darren Cross from destroying the planet with his new invention.
This new Marvel film has really set the boundary for the future of the franchise. Imaginative plot lines, along with witty humor, create a more light-hearted superhero classic which will, no doubt, be revisited in years to come.
There are some areas which the film fails in comparison to others. For example, the accompanying music isn't as recognisable as some of the great scores from the Captain America or Thor films.
The fast-moving storyline requires full attention to keep up to date with each scene. But this does give an advantage – we miss out a lot of long pieces of dialogue that we have seen in the Avengers many times.
Apart from this, Ant-Man really is worth the watch. It follows on very well from this year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and gives a desired, fresh new face to the Marvel Universe which I will be glad to see return to the big screens very soon. 
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Renovation Underway, But Art At The Wadsworth Atheneum Still Captivates

Laura Espinoza Jara / youthjournalism.org
Pablo Picasso's 1934 work, The Painter, is on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum.
By Laura Espinoza Jara, Mary Majerus-Collins
and Mugdha Gurram
Reporters
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – The Wadsworth Atheneum, a place to see important art since 1842, showcases a variety of works.
Currently under renovation, much of the museum’s artwork is unavailable to visitors, but there is still plenty to see.
The Wadsworth’s contemporary art exhibit featured provocative pieces like the 1992 Daisy Chain by Kiki Smith.
Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
The 1992 work, Daisy Chain, by Kiki Smith.
The steel and cast bronze sculpture of a heavy chain with body parts as “charms” attached to it, represents the artist’s perspective on rape and domestic violence, issues that were at the time prevalent in the media.
The 1972 color photograph collection Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints) by Ana Mendieta, is the artist’s statement about the unrealistic expectations of beauty and fashion that often bring women to abuse and manipulate their bodies.
A temporary exhibit that showcased painter Peter Blume’s life work, stood out. It features pieces such as Tasso’s Oak from 1960 and Eternal City, which document the different sights Blume saw in his travels.
Visitors get to see the progression of the artist’s work through smaller, detailed “studies,” or drafts, displayed next to his finished work. It provided an interesting window to the way Blume worked.
The museum’s Amistad Center is showing the temporary exhibit, This is My Story, This is My Song: Writers, Musicians and the Black Freedom Struggle that focuses on the work of black authors and musicians – including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois and Duke Ellington – who used their influence in the Civil Rights Movement.
A grand re-opening of the entire museum, complete with free admission, is Saturday, Sept. 19.
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bonfire Begins An Ethiopian New Year

Dawit Leake / youthjournalism.org
Ethiopians celebrated Debre Tabor, also known as Buhe, on Wednesday. It’s a Christian holiday that leads up to the New Year celebration for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The fire, called a Damera, is made of special wood called chibo. It is lighted and people dance around it. Despite its religious roots, people of many faiths enjoy the celebration.
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Friday, August 14, 2015

Remembering Early Independence Days

Hafsa Ahmed / youthjournalism.org
A boy waves a Pakistani flag in celebration of the country's Independence Day.
By Hafsa Ahmed
Junior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Compared to the lively Independence Day celebrations now taking place in Pakistan, the simpler, earlier celebrations of Independence Day carried more meaning, according to one man who remembers.
“I used to get up bright and early in the morning,” said 88-year-old Muhammad Mohsin.
“The first thing I did was to switch on the television and watch the Pak Army’s honorary parade. They would play the national anthem and tributary hymns too, and I loved to listen to them and sing along. The rest of the day was spent with friends, eating and enjoying together, decorating the roof and walls of our houses with little paper flags. It used to be beautiful.”
When Pakistan was formed 68 years ago, its diverse people stood united under a green and white flag, the emblem of peace and tolerance. They had shed sweat and blood as one, to achieve a singular goal: freedom.
Amenah Shabbir / youthjournalism.org
Muhammad Mohsin, 88, remembers
the Independence Day celebrations
of his youth.
This unmediated encounter with adversity only made love of country stronger for those first Pakistanis. It radiated, this love, when the people came together as a single, to celebrate their patriotism each year on the 14th of August.
When asked about his feelings on Independence Day, in the wake of the tragedies that had befallen his people in 1947, Mohsin was ambivalent.
“I was happy and sad at the same time,” said Mohsin. “Happy, more so. We finally came to live in a place where we could do things, say things, without anyone imposing on us. It was gratifying, this new-found freedom.”
There is no doubt that over the years, Independence Day celebrations have seen a marked change. They are bigger, aesthetically pleasing and more jubilant than ever.
“But they lack the simple honesty and genuineness that we had back in my time,” said Mohsin. “The events of 1947, and the prior years, were still fresh in our mind. We had experienced the loss first-hand, had paid the heavy price of an independent nation ourselves. It made us appreciate Pakistan in a way today’s generation never can.”
Furthermore, he added; “Over the past few years, the country has been plagued with disastrous floods in the month of August, among other political issues. That leaves everyone perturbed and disoriented and simply unable to recognize the day of 14th August for what it truly signifies.”
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New Promises Needed To Bring Meaning To Pakistan's Independence Day

Amber Shakil / youthjournalism.org
Twelve-year-old Ibtassam Shakil, a student at English Grammar school in Lahore, is the younger brother of author Amber Shakil. He is celebrating Independence Day.

By Amber Shakil
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
LAHORE, Pakistan – Thousands of people gave their lives so that their children could live in a separate homeland here in Pakistan.
We remember the sacrifices and unlimited hard work of the nation’s most prominent leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, known here as “Quaid–e-Azam” or “great leader.” He was an Indian politician who worked to create an independent Pakistan on this date in 1947, along with our first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, the political poet and thinker Muhammad Iqbal and Syed Ahmed Khan, who pushed for education for Muslims. 
The day means a lot to every Pakistani, so every year, the whole country celebrates it with patriotic songs. A flag hoisting ceremony of flag hoisting is the main part.
Starting August 1, every street, home, hotel and market is decorated to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their homeland and to thank Allah for this special gift for all Pakistanis.
Amber Shakil / 
youthjournalism.org
For Independence Day
in Pakistan, everything
is green, even the cones
for ice cream.
On this holiday, Pakistanis spend it remembering our national heroes and singing patriotic songs.
People set up stalls for face paintings and selling bands, badges and flags for Independence Day.
But can celebrating this one month, or this one day can make this country a better place?
We all are living our lives happily but have we ever thought about those children who were brutally murdered in their Peshawar school last December 16?
What is our responsibility? A few days ago I was shocked to see a video of a fire in a plaza here. The video showed a man trying to save his life by hanging on to a third floor balcony. He tried to hang there for as long as he could but after several minutes his hands slipped and he died.
During that time, people stood by watching and taking video, doing nothing. NOTHING AT ALL!
This is why those people will celebrate Independence Day? Our country was achieved by the sacrifices of our ancestors so that we can live happily, but now here are fire brigade and rescue teams that cannot reach and save people in time and energy load shedding problems that impact many citizens.
But it seems people are concerned only with their own lives. So why did our ancestors gave theirs?
Let all of us make a promise to ourselves that we will do everything possible to help others, to raise our voices against cruelty, to do whatever it takes to make Pakistan the place our ancestors wanted so that our next generation can celebrate this day together and with true happiness. 
YJI Senior Reporter Arooj Khalid contributed in the editing of this article.                                  
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Protests In Taiwan Over School Changes

Kelly Liu / youthjournalism.org
Citizens of Taiwan marched last week in protest of high school education changes.

By Kelly Liu
Junior Reporter
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwanese students recently started camping outside the Ministry of Education, objecting to the new high school history course guidelines, calling them "China-centered.”

Throughout the days of protests, which began July 31, the students had three main demands: withdrawal of the new guidelines; for Wu Se-Hwa, the education minister, to step down from his position; and withdrawal of the charges against them for storming the gates of the ministry earlier in July.
In the face of the approaching typhoon Soudelour – which has now passed – student leaders announced August 6 that they would end the occupation of the ministry, but planned to continue the campaign in their hometowns.

Ultimately, Wu announced that schools could choose freely whether to use the old or new guidelines for the 2015 academic year. He also decided not to press charges against the students.

More photos from the march, all by Kelly Liu on August 2:





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Monday, August 10, 2015

'La Cage Aux Folles,' A Hilarious Musical Romp With A Powerful Message

Photo courtesy Goodspeed Musicals

Jamison Stern performs as Albin, a drag star in La Cage aux Folles.
By YJI Reporters
EAST HADDAM, Connecticut, U.S.A. – There’s a good reason why the run of La Cage aux Folles at the Goodspeed Opera House was extended – it’s simply that great.
The show features terrific acting and a variety of songs, ranging from upbeat show tunes to slower romantic melodies, so there’s something to satisfy everyone. Between the risqué and up-tempo “We Are What We Are” and the emotional “Song on the Sand,” the musicians in the live orchestra had their work cut out for them. 
The plot centers on a gay couple – Georges, who manages a nightclub, played by James Lloyd Reynolds, and Albin, the star of the drag show, played by Jamison Stern.
Conflict arises when their son falls in love with the daughter of a big-shot conservative politician.
Stern’s powerful rendition of “I Am What I Am,” a reprise of the show’s first song, “We Are What We Are,” struck a chord with many members of the audience.
Photo courtesy Goodspeed Musicals

The Notorious Cagelles in peacock attire, 
inside a birdcage.
As Albin poured his heart and soul into the beautiful song about the joy and importance of self-expression, the audience was moved to tears and applause fitting of the Act One finale.
While performing, Albin interacted with audience members.
“It’s scripted depending on what happens,” Stern said after the show in a special audience talkback session with the cast. “I would say it’s about 70 percent scripted.”
The Notorious Cagelles, the dance ensemble appearing throughout the show, made the most of their fabulous costumes. From flowy white dresses, to colorful and frilly peacock outfits, the dancers were probably the best dressed of the show, and always covered in glitter.
They performed with a natural grace, doing cartwheels in high heels. Although much of the dancing was in the background, the ensemble was a vital part of the show and contributed greatly to its spirit and mood.
Photo courtesy of Goodspeed Musicals

Jamison Stern, playing Albin, and
James Lloyd Reynolds, playing Albin's
mate Georges, dance.
The different pieces of the wonderfully orchestrated set moved seamlessly from scene to scene, completely transforming the stage from nightclub to home to restaurant and back again.
In the talkback session, Stern praised director Rob Ruggiero’s approach.
“He cares more about the truth of a moment than a joke,” Stern said.
Of course, no show can go on without the work of the technical staff and backstage crew. With barely any space behind the scenes, no fly space above the set, and incredibly fast costume changes, this crew faced many challenges in order to make the show a success.
It’s “profoundly creative what goes on backstage,” said Joshua Ritter, education and library director for the Goodspeed Opera House.
Of course, at its heart, La Cage aux Folles is still a comedy, and the show is not without a truly incredible sense of humor.
While writer Harvey Fierstein’s material was much more shocking in 1983 for the Broadway debut of La Cage aux Folles, the poignancy still remains in every line, every dance move, and every exaggerated gesture.
The show, which opened in June, runs until September 10.
YJI student reporters Alan Burkholder, Mugdha Gurram, Mary Majerus-Collins and Laura Espinoza Jara collaborated on this review.
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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Singapore Celebrates Its Diamond Jubilee

Modern-day Singapore. All photos are by the author.

By Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan
Reporter
SINGAPORE - If you happen to be in Singapore this year, you'll see posters with the label "SG50" plastered everywhere.
The brand and acronym, SG50, was created to commemorate Singapore’s separation from the Malaysia Federation and its declared of sovereignty on August 9, 1965.
This year's diamond jubilee is themed "Majulah Singapura!" or Onward Singapore.
The government and numerous organizations have embarked on a multi-million dollar initiative to make SG50 celebration a memorable one for Singaporeans as well as to stoke nationalistic fervor.
The Ministry of Education, in conjunction with Lego, designed and distributed Lego sets to all students island-wide.
Lego model of Changi Airport's control tower
The Lego bricks could be used to construct national icons, such as the Control Tower at Changi Airport, the Tree-Top at Gardens By The Bay and the Cavenagh bridge in the city center.
Workers at some state-owned firms, including Singapore Airlines, received a one-off bonus of SGD 500 (equivalent to about $360). The airline painted two of its A380 jets, the world's largest passenger aircrafts, in the red and white colors of the national flag.
SG50 Fun-pack
Non-students and state workers also got a piece of the action.
Contents in the SG50 fun-pack
A whopping 1.2 million SG 50 fun-packs were distributed to every household in the republic. Among the items it contained were a tote bag, sweets, traditional games, and a booklet in memory of the late Lee Kuan Yew, universally lauded for creating the modern Singapore.
The perks did not end there.
Sign at Bukit Batok Mrt Station
The country’s main transport operator announced that travel on Aug. 9 will be free of charge.
The big three broadband providers in Singapore – M1, Singtel and Starhub – declared they would offer unlimited data usage on the holiday.
This weekend, Singaporeans got a rare four consecutive days for the celebration. A one-off SG50 holiday was declared on Friday while Monday is a holiday in-lieu for national day itself, which falls on a Sunday.
Banner at Marina Bay Sands resort.
SG50 banner featuring MP David Ong
With a long weekend, many Singaporeans are taking the opportunity to visit national icons. Many museums and attractions have opened their doors free-of-charge.
Government officials have urged Singaporeans not to use this long holiday to travel abroad.

 
Banner at City Hall MRT station
“It is important that everybody come together and celebrate in their own way together with family, friends and neighbors and then really we have that real meaning of being part of a nation,” said the speaker of Parliament, Halimah Yacob.
The festivities will culminate on Sunday, when a huge parade will be held at the central business district. Some 3,500 performers will put on a parade at the historic Padang, where the first national day parade was held in 1966.

Overall, a nationalistic spirit has gripped most Singaporeans, with many attributing the success of this wealthy global financial hub to great and incorrupt leadership and the hard work of the pioneer generation.
​The Black Knights putting on an aerial display recently.

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