Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oh What A Night: 'Jersey Boys' Shines

Stephanie Hamann
Junior Reporter

NEW YORK CITY -- The Broadway hit musical “Jersey Boys” is about exposure.
“Jersey Boys” revolves around the group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, whose fun, catchy pop music topped charts in the 1960s.
Watching from seats in the August Wilson Theatre in New York City, we got a taste of 1960s America.

However modern pop music seems today, it was around long before Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or even Michael Jackson. If you have never heard Four Seasons’ songs such as “Sherry,” “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!)” and “Walk Like a Man,” the musical will open your eyes.
We are reminded that pop music has a wider range than we acknowledge these days, extending beyond “Call Me Maybe”-esque tunes stylistically and age-wise.
Throughout the show, The Four Seasons’ success is lavishly complemented by the best talent that the theater world has to offer, resulting in a lively, passionate musical.
It also offers insight into the way a person can be simultaneously both good and bad, with valuable contributions balanced by scandal.
In addition to getting to know The Four Seasons and their music, the audience observes the many personal ups and downs that plague the four men throughout the show. Love fizzles out, secrets are kept between band members, monetary problems are found ou, and loved ones are lost.
In “Jersey Boys,” the native New Jersey boys have a phase before they produce chart-toppers during which try to get noticed in the hotly competitive world of music.
It gives the audience time to familiarize itself with the four band members: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito. Each of the four narrates a portion of the show, making it possible to come to know each man by the end of the show.
We learn that Gaudio has a knack for writing music and is more of a “good boy” than the other three.
DeVito is the most street smart and troublesome, but he helped bring The Four Seasons together, an accomplishment that must not be overlooked, no matter how many wrongs he committed later.
Valli is the lead singer, with a high voice that stands out from those of the other members. His popularity exceeds that of the other three.
Massi is the band’s most reserved member and arguably the least popular of the four. He thinks so, as well, likening himself to drummer Ringo Starr, the most overlooked member of The Beatles.
Even as The Four Seasons’ hardships play out on stage, it is clear the band ultimately made a lasting contribution to American music.
Otherwise, of course, Broadway would not have bothered with “Jersey Boys” and the musical wouldn’t still be going strong years after its first performance.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stephen King Wows Eager Hartford Crowd

By Yelena Samofalova
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – A sellout crowd gathered at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts last week to be in the presence of one of America’s greatest authors, Stephen King.
Many of the people there were fans, but even those who didn’t know about him enjoyed the interview he had with WNPR radio host Colin McEnroe. The two entertained the crowd the whole time and seemed to answer everything the audience wanted to know.
King revealed even the darkest parts of his life in a positive light, making jokes the whole time. He talked with confidence and hope for the future about lapses into drug addiction, periods of withdrawal and even a horrible accident when he was struck and nearly killed by a van.
The crowd listened intently to the stories, hanging on his every word, and cheered whenever he so much as said the title of one of his books. He then mentioned what gave him the inspiration for some of his works and how he had started his career.
He had always loved horror books, sharing some of his favorite, chilling quotes, and started writing scary short stories while working as a high school English teacher.
King talked about books by other authors, too, including the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin.
“They drag you in, you can’t stop, you can’t put them down,” he said.
Although I was not a fan before, this captivating interview with King made me want to read his books.

King donated his time to speak at the Bushnell as a fundraiser for the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Magic Falls Short In 'Now You See Me'

By Chi Le
HANOI, Vietnam – I was eager to attend Now You See Me right away for two reasons: the cast is amazing and who wouldn’t love some good magic?
That Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was my favorite movie on the same subject and having heard this classic compared with the fledgling Now You See Me tickled my fancy threefold.
Firstly, Now You See Me poses an intriguing question that everyone is curious about: how can a gang of four illusionists (The Four Horsemen) steal millions of euros from a bank on a different continent in minutes?
What is more remarkable, the story promises to give answers, to confuse us most of the time obviously, but then to enlighten us. Unraveled secrets are the best, those with magic tricks even better.
Unfortunately, the screenwriters seemed to hold all the answers back for the last minutes of the screening.
That was my moment of disillusionment. When they left out the biggest part toward the ending, the magic they sought to create vanished in a flash.
The second attraction of Now You See Me is its ensemble cast.
Jesse Eisenberg returns, though not necessarily surprisingly, with the role of J. Daniel Atlas, lead magician in The Four Horsemen. I may not lose appetite for the old quick-witted, self-conceited and socially awkward guy, but the dish he continues serving has been too overdone.
Apart from Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo (Agent Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney) and Isla Fischer (Henley Reeves) are other familiar faces with certain stances in the industry, not to mention substantial ones.
They all nailed their parts, by and large, yet hardly did they invade my mind when I left the cinema.
As a fan of both Morgan Freeman and Sir Michael Caine, I would not invite them to star in this movie only to tempt the audience into buying tickets. Their two characters are comparatively distinctive.
However, with total respect, I must say they keep blending into the flow of the plot to the point of being bland. Despite a spicy sudden turn, both of the characters are undeserving – and unworthy of Freeman and Caine.
There are no bad actors in this film. To be correct, they are earnestly great actors. Sadly, together, most are not as stunning as they could be in individual projects.
I suppose a caper film on incredible magic tricks needs a good twist or the intellectually demanding air will be largely diminished.
Now You See Me’s ending is unpredictable. Nonetheless, being unpredictable may not be the the most important thing in creating an equally mind-blowing twist.
Watching the final scenes made me frown.
I would prefer not to know who the mastermind behind the bank robberies was and let my mind be free with self-assumptions and affirmations. As subjective as this movie review could be, I was disappointed by how the screenwriters chose to entangle the story.
Now You See Me’s finale failed to engage my mind in the slightest.
Still, after all, I would not lament the ending if I had not paid extreme focus to the storyline.
Without a doubt, Now You See Me has the ability to attract as much attention (sometimes compulsive scrutiny) as if it were coated with a layer of superior mystery. Magic always has that flair whether you are young or old.
That thought about magic and how it captures the eyes of many puts a smile on my face.
Maybe I was not so excited due to the well-known cast.
Maybe Now You See Me was on top of my movie list this summer just because it is about magic.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Murray's Wimbledon Win Unites Britain

By Robert Mooney

RICHMOND, North Yorkshire, UK – Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon, the first by a British man since Fred Perry did it 77 years ago, united the country behind one man, with everyone feeling immensely proud.
Defeating men’s tennis star Novak Djokovic, the world’s top player, looked impossible despite Murray’s victory over him at the Olympics last year.
But with the roar of the Centre Court crowd, the Grand Slam champion from Dunblane, Scotland pulled it off.
Apart from the fact that it means so much to the nation to finally have a British champion again, people also saw the win as a sign of hope for Dunblane.
Back in 1996, a gunman entered a primary school there and killed 16 students and a teacher before committing suicide. Murray, 8, was among the survivors crouching beneath his desk in a nearby classroom.
Had the shooter arrived a little later, he might have been in the room where the murders took place.
After the match, many are speculating that sometime in the near future, the new champion may be knighted as Sir Andy Murray.
All around, people are calling his win the greatest British sporting achievement in years. However, they said the same thing Chris Hoy after the London Olympics last year. But it’s no bad thing to have a long list of greatest achievements.
There is an amazing number of talented young people in sports. It’s just a matter of finding them and providing the support necessary to make them better. Britain needs to find the Murrays of the future, as successors to come up in a few years time.
It will be good to see what happens next.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Indian Rock Campers Enjoy Colonial Trades

BRISTOL, Conn. U.S.A. -- Two campers at Indian Rock Nature Preserve -- Ella Ward, 10, and Avery Hamilton, 11 -- spoke about their day taking a Colonial Trades program:

Video taken by Emilio Mercado, who participated in Youth Journalism International's environmental reporting program at the preserve.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Photos Detail Wigwam Construction In Bristol

Here's a slideshow of photographs detailing the initial stages of the construction of a wigwam at the Indian Rock Nature Preserve in Bristol, Conn. this week:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Wigwam Takes Shape At Bristol Preserve

Indian Rock staff and volunteers work on the frame for a new wigwam.
(Photo: Emilio Mercado/YJI)
By YJI Staff

BRISTOL, Conn., U.S.A. – A new wigwam is rising at the Indian Rock Nature Preserve.
The wooden hut, made mostly from  tulip tree bark and  red maple saplings, aims to match the style of buildings that the Native Americans who lived in the area erected in days past.
“It’s coming out pretty good,” said Mike Chagnon, a Bristol Central H igh School sophomore who is volunteering this week to help on the project.
Indian Rock's Jon Guglietta outside a wigwam.
(Photo: Jennyletz Arroyo/YJI)
As rain began to fall Tuesday, Chagnon and older men were tying the long branches together at the top to form a hooped framework for the structure.
Next they’ll gather tree bark to cover the outside of the wigwam.
“It’s like shingling a roof,” said Jon Guglietta , the preserve’s director. 
They’ll likely finish the project this week. The new wigwam will sit on a flat parcel in the woods about 20 feet from a pond, not far from a similar structure put up less than four years ago that already looks ancient.
The builders aren’t following Native American ways entirely. They’re using hay twine to strap the pieces together and they’re going to use screws to attach the bark so the project won’t take too long.
Tulip poplar leaf.
Construction of  the wigwam is being done in early July because people can peel the bark off the trees more easily while new cells are forming at the base of the bark this time of year, Guglietta said. Later in the summer, it would be too hard to strip away, he said.
The nature preserve, part of  the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, will use the finished wigwam to show how the Tunxis Indians lived when they inhabited the area centuries ago.

Reporters Yelena Samofalova and Mary Majerus-Collins assisted Emilio Mercado, Ryan Carzello, Kathy Santana and Jennyletz Arroyo with this story. The four are part of a week-long camp at Indian Rock on environmental journalism done in cooperation with Indian Rock, the Bristol Rotary Club and Bristol Boys & Girls Club.

Video of Jon Guglietta, by Ryan Carzello:

A Critical Call For Support:

Arooj Khalid /
Arooj Khalid is a 16-year-old girl in Lahore, Pakistan. She surprised her editors at YJI with this graphic as her way of helping with the challenge. YJI students are hardworking, smart and committed. They need and deserve your support.

You can make a gigantic difference to Youth Journalism International right now!  This worldwide educational charity, based in Connecticut, is facing a challenge in July to become one of the nonprofits featured on Microsoft’s online Give For Youth initiative.
Gaining a spot on Microsoft’s powerful online platform will be a huge boost to the young writers, photographers and artists you already know and support through Youth Journalism International.
To make the cut with Microsoft, YJI has to raise at least $5,000 from the combined contributions of 40 or more people, during the month of July. Donations, which are tax deductible in the U.S., must be a minimum of $10.
Is is now nine days into the challenge. With online donations (and some checks that are not yet counted) the organization has raised about a fifth of the needed money and has about half the required donors. Your help is needed to close the gap!

Here's how to help:

1.       You can donate $10 or more at Your generosity is crucial. Please help if you possibly can. Thank you!
2.       Please tell your friends about YJI and urge them to help. A few kind words on your Facebook and a link to will go a long way. YJI has never charged any student to participate and relies on your donations to serve youth on six continents.
3.       Think about the people you know who are well-connected online and try to get them interested. The more people who click on, the easier this fundraising challenge will be.
4.       You can offer your ideas to YJI about how it might raise the money needed or anything else. We’re always eager to hear from anyone who cares. You can write to YJI at
5.       You can use social media to promote for the entire month. Some people will see it on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram or other page tomorrow who didn’t see it today. Post something once in a while throughout July to make an even bigger difference!

Thank you!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Brad Pitt Thrills In Zombie Flick 'World War Z'

By Chi Le
HANOI, Vietnam – To be honest, I am not a die-hard fan of thrilling action movies. I hate being surprised in an unnerving way.  However, after some hesitation to buy a ticket to Brad Pitt’s newest movie, I was in for something that does not waste the bucks.
The movie’s subject was predictable: the zombie apocalypse.
But where World War Z succeeds is in creating a theme – though not too distinctive – and sticking with it from beginning to end.
Pitt plays the role of Gerry Lane, the protagonist who fights against time and death to stop a cryptic pandemic that threatens to end humanity. World War Z is not the first movie with portrayal of doomsday on Earth, especially with the walking dead taking over the world.
The slight difference here is a conflict between humans and the force of nature.
“Mother Nature is a serial killer,” says virologist Andrew Fassbach in the movie. Lane’s mission was to find the “bread crumbs” that Mother Nature leaves, to trace back to the “weaknesses” that she “disguises as strengths.”
In a typical plot pattern, Lane races against time to find the source of the pandemic, against the will of his beloved wife.
Director Marc Forster softens the thrilling, heavy atmosphere by intertwining frequent action scenes with those between the Lanes.
Retired from his former job at the United Nations, Gerry Lane engages in the investigation for the sake of the living majority, including his family.
Mireille Enos did a fine job playing the role of Gerry’s wife, Karin Lane, but let’s be honest: it’s hard to overshadow Pitt in a movie even if he plays Civilian #1.
Enos could perfect her character, but most of her scenes give audiences a deeper and more sympathetic view towards Pitt’s. All the characters in the movie have their own parts in the storyline but eventually, I left the theater remembering only Pitt’s solo scenes.
Though the story is told from a broader perspective, I felt I had embarked on the journey solely with Gerry Lane. But I do not whine about it, for World War Z is a more like a modern hero tale.
I am not a fan of horror movies so I cannot tell if the zombies’ look is satisfying enough to all the keen followers of this film genre. To me, it is scary and haunting enough, but not so excessive that I had to cover my eyes throughout the whole screening. Even if I did, the sounds would manage to unsettle me until I opened my eyes and my heart dropped a little bit.
It is a good thing that World War Z successfully holds the suspense, or I would have left my seat regretting my choice over Man of Steel.
If you wonder whether World War Z is a fresh breeze to the zombie genre – no, it is not. It simply extends the genre’s boundaries with good thrills and a solid performance from Pitt.

Can Pitt break the common ground by earning an Academy Award nomination for a highly commercial movie? I doubt it. But World War Z reminds me that Pitt is still one of the best Hollywood actors and his soon-to-come projects will just be the next 5-star films.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Class Pride: Freshman Lions Of International School Of Kenya Climb Mount Kenya

Sabrina Lawson-McDowell /

By Sabrina Lawson-McDowell
Junior Reporter
NAIROBI, Kenya – You are standing in the front row at graduation, ready to toss the gold, or navy or crimson cap off your head, smiling at those rows of people who, like you have finished it all. You and your classmates are ready to open a new chapter: so many International School of Kenya Lions looking back.
Yes, many will depart. It is the nature of an international school, students coming and going.
But regardless of where you finish high school, where you moved or how many changes have taken place, there are moments that stand out.
One of the experiences our class will always look back on was our climb up Mt. Kenya.
Almost 90 ninth graders made the five-day trip.
Sitting agitated on a bus ready to climb the second highest mountain in Africa, our goal was to reach and stand upon the summit, or Lannana, as it is known in Swahili.
Lannana is the highest point a person can reach without a minimum of six years climbing expertise.
In the beginning, the trip was one quite steep path. This winding trail led to what we would call victory. Once we cleared the distance, and finally conquered it, that would be the end – goal achieved.
We were still a long way from Lannana. It would not be until those last days that the profoundness of it all would sink in.
Alex Arrouchdi /

A mountain lake that hikers saw on the first day
The 15-year-olds began to understand what few adults do today; that despite the challenges, and your friends who get there faster, what really matters is that you keep going.
Just as in life, it doesn't matter if you fall down seven times, as long as you stand up eight.
The first day was comprised of briefings, and after piling onto buses, the general tone of excitement began to slip away when confronted with a five-hour drive. We did not know what to expect. They only certainty was that in five days, we would be homeward bound.
After arriving we found our bags and ate what some people could call lunch followed by a quick group photo before embarking on our first trek.
                     Alex Arrouchdi /

Hikers saw mountain monkeys on the
first day
Now, to put this walk in context, on the first day we complained about having one hour left to climb. Yet, by the fifth day, cheers and smiles erupted when we had just a single hour left.
So you can only imagine what it was like to have to make 90 adolescents – carrying 10-kilo (about 22 pounds) bags – move up hill.
It was painful. The only aspect that made the trek oddly bearable was the bizarre, slightly disturbing and random conversations!
As every day must have an end, every walk must come to a stop. I don't think I've ever seen teenagers as giddy as they were upon arrival at the base camp.
People were ridiculous. I think the phrase "I love you" has never been so overused.
That is, until we saw the cabins. These structures were not the typical orderly, steel-framed beds of the dormitory type. No, what we faced was hard wood floors since there were not enough grotty mattresses.
Rat-infested, two-degree bedrooms were the reward for hours and hours of hiking. Oh and I nearly forgot, without any power or lighting.
Now, I can't pretend that I haven't seen worse, but after falling asleep in cozy duvets and air-freshened homes of Nairobi, it was a definite shock to our systems.
That evening, as we settled in our groups, we got the first taste of the cold, and it wasn't sweet. Evening had snuck upon us and the only warmth was in the small, fragmented sunlight that stood between the trees.
But the surroundings . . . If nature came in the form of reward, then this was it.
Pure nature was our breathtaking reward.

Sabrina Lawson-McDowell /
Our camp was located around one kilometer of the tree line. The temperature in the evening was no higher than 5 degrees Celsius, or about 41 Fahrenheit.
Yet, with the excitement, the relief and the need to be around one another that comes with a first night away, we barely noticed the cold.
The setting helped, too. We were entirely surrounded by ancient forest, tall, tired trees that stood in eternal silence.

Alex Arrouchdi /
Freshmen from the International School of Kenya on their second day of hiking Mount Kenya.
Apart from the rare sound of an insect at work, or the beat of a bird’s wing against the wind, there was an air of peace about the place. It’s a wild presence we can feel when we are no longer in a place we belong, when we know that we are merely visitors – passersby who before long shall continue on our way.
This was a place that belonged to untouched wilderness; one of the few places humanity had never fully conquered. For all we knew, it was one of the wild places that a few of us didn't even know existed.

Alex Arrouchdi /
On the third day of hiking, students reached the summit of Mount Kenya.
Alex Arrouchdi /
International School of Kenya students
meet their 
bus on the fifth day and board
for home.
That night we went to sleep at a time only a few eight-year olds would agree upon. At 7:30 p.m. lights out, we finally began to settle into our sleeping bags, the bare tips of our noses exposed to the cold.
I was up at dawn on the second day. Apart from the fact that we couldn't feel our toes, we were well on our way by 8:30 a.m.
We walked in groups and it slowly became clear who wished to arrive faster than others. Halfway through the forest trek, the bustling and rustling of those who wish to lead eventually quieted as we passed the tree line.
The reality of our adventure became clearer, and it was only after the first few hours that we realized just how tough it would be that week.