Saturday, March 31, 2012

Video: Racism On Display At Twain House

Here is a video report by Youth Journalism International reporters Mary Majerus-Collins, Alexandria Garry and Yelena Samofalova about the opening night of the "Race, Rage & Redemption" exhibit at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut:

Also see these stories about the exhibit:

'Hateful Things' At The Mark Twain House (By Mary Majerus-Collins and Alexandria Garry of Youth Journalism International)

Bringing Tubman's Spirit And Strength To Life (By Yelena Samofalova of Youth Journalism International)

My Childhood Had Some 'Hateful Things' (By Alexandria Garry of Youth Journalism International)

Hartford Girl: 'Hateful Things' Aren't Right (By Chelsea Lara, Special to Youth Journalism International)

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Childhood Had Some "Hateful Things"

By Alexandria Garry
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – “Hateful Things” an exhibit at the Mark Twain House and Museum, is a shocking and disturbing look at our country’s history and continued bias towards race.
The exhibit holds posters, figurines, games, and commercial products all containing degrading and at times graphic depictions of African Americans.
The most shocking pieces for me were a display of classic children’s books including beloved characters like Dumbo, Mickey Mouse, and Woody the Woodpecker and the DC comic Captain Marvel, each with African American characters depicted as ignorant and uneducated.
They played into the typical stereotypes of the age, either with a broken Southern dialect, or as tribal “savages.”
Seeing childhood favorites portraying these hateful messages hit home for me, making me look back on old movies and TV shows where the racism may not have been as explicit, but still contained the undertone of white superiority.
The second and most shocking item was an anti-Obama banner from the 2008 elections, which read ‘Stop the Monkey Business.’
Exhibits like this remind me that slavery was not so long ago and segregation and the fight for civil rights was within my parents’ lifetime. 
I like to think that as a society we have come a long way on the road to seeing beyond race, but the fact of the matter is racism is still far too common. And I hope that the horror of this fact can be recognized and resolved by, if not my generation, then the next.
The exhibit, though troubling, was incredibly thought-provoking and presented in a beautifully poetic way.
Twain quotes adorn the walls throughout the exhibit, giving a break from the morbid artifacts and shedding a hopeful light on the whole experience.
One thing that came to mind while reading through the hateful words and propaganda was the subject of biology and X & Y chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes and out of those 23, 22 pairs are exactly the same in every single human being.
We are all exactly the same, and yet we let one difference – whether it be race, gender, or religious beliefs – justify the discrimination and humiliation of people.
One set of chromosomes can tear people apart.
Twain said it best: “I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being – that is enough for me; he can't be any worse.”

Bringing Tubman's Spirit And Strength To Life

Mary Majerus-Collins /
Camilla Ross portrays Harriet Tubman in a 
at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.

By Yelena Samofalova
Youth Journalism International
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – In a recent performance at the Mark Twain House, actor Camilla Ross used the perfect combination of humor and tragedy to tell the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
Ross really captured the audience with her one-woman show by the Emerson Theater Collaborative and told Tubman’s story well.
Several times during her performance of “Harriett Tubman’s Dream,” she broke into traditional slavery-era songs and also told funny stories.
At times, when she was talking about tragic events from Tubman’s life, Ross almost started crying.
When talking about Tubman getting beaten by one of her masters or separated from her family, Ross had every reason to bare her emotions.
I learned a lot about Tubman from this presentation, which was written by Lisa Giordano and directed by Aaron Arbiter, both about her background and her efforts in helping slaves to freedom.
Viewers were educated on Tubman’s family history and the events that led her to help free hundreds of slaves.
The show taught the audience how religious Tubman was and what she and other slaves thought about slavery and politics at the time.
This show was an excellent, and at times heart-wrenching, representation of Tubman’s life.

Hartford Girl: "Hateful Things" Aren't Right

Mary Majerus-Collins /

Chelsea Lara at the Mark Twain House and Museum Thursday

By Chelsea Lara
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – What I see in this exhibit is not right. I’m part white and I don’t know why the people did this.

And what happened to that kid, Trayvon Martin, wasn’t right.

I thought that guy killed him because of his skin color.
All the racism is just too crazy. I know some racist things are still happening.
Chelsea Lara is 11 years old and a student at the Naylor /CCSU Leadership Academy in Hartford. She wrote this for Youth Journalism International after viewing the exhibit “Hateful Things” at the Mark Twain House and Museum.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Hateful Things" At The Mark Twain House

By Mary Majerus-Collins
Senior Reporter
Alexandria Garry
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – The “Hateful Things” of racism are on full display at the Mark Twain House and Museum.
A disturbing and thought-provoking focal piece of the three-part Rage, Race & Redemption, “Hateful Things” features artifacts from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University.
The artifacts contained discriminatory signs, imagery and playthings such as trading cards against African Americans. One such item was a Monopoly parody called Ghettopoly filled with racist stereotypes.
There are children’s games and toys such as trading cards and books, even the popular books Dumbo, Mickey Mouse, and Woody Woodpecker with racist images. 
Any African American characters in these books were portrayed as uneducated and uncultured. Many companies used propaganda against African Americans, making fun of stereotypical southern accents and dialect.
The viewers of the exhibit, which opened Thursday, expressed strong reactions upon seeing the artifacts which stretched chronologically up to 2008.
Mary Majerus-Collins /

Keyla Ortiz, 14, visited the new exhibit
the Mark Twain House and Museum

in Hartford Thursday evening.

Fourteen-year-old Keyla Ortiz of Hartford said she was “shocked” by the horrors shown in the exhibit.
The treatment of African Americans was “very cruel and not nice,” said Ortiz. “They have feelings, too.”
Patti Philippon, chief curator of the Mark Twain House and Museum, said the museum wanted to host the exhibit for several years in hopes of opening a dialogue.
She said the idea is to explore what the images mean by using “this imagery that’s really difficult to look at and difficult to see, difficult for people to explain, even to themselves,” as a starting point for discussion and education to hopefully lead the next generation to see beyond race.
Racism is still relevant, said Philippon.
“Every day there are still examples in the newspapers of racist issues & race riots, these kinds of things that still happen, and I think that as far as we have come there is still more that we can do,” she said.
Mary Majerus-Collins /

Patti Philippon, chief curator
The Mark Twain House, Philippon said, “can be a place where people can really talks about it and have a positive response to negative imagery.”
Though much of the “Hateful Things” exhibit was troubling – and at some points disturbing – people attending saw the importance of the history.
“It’s a great exhibit because it shows the history of cultural racism in this country,” said museum visitor Julius Fabrini. “It is important for today’s generation to see how racism was reflected and how it had an impact on everyday life.”
Rage, Race & Redemption also includes “A Sound Heart & a Deformed Conscience,” which examines Twain’s personal evolution on race matters and “Hopeful Things,” a collection of memorabilia depicting a positive view of African Americans through music, children’s books and portraits of cultural heroes.
Several films, lectures, and performances are also part of the museum’s spotlight on race. The exhibit closes September 3 related programming runs through mid-September.

"The Phantom Menace" Doesn't Need 3D

By Francis Byrne
Junior Reporter
WEST HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – Many generations have come to love the Star Wars series of movies. The films have been called the pioneer of science fiction movies as we know them today, with loads of special effects action.
Movies had special effects before, but the Star Wars films were the first with really well done computer generated effects, opening many doors in the frontier of special effects.
I grew up having seen the Star Wars movies as did all of my generation, and enjoyed them.
Recently, the first episode – The Phantom Menace, written and directed by George Lucas – came out in 3D.
This movie was available to rent, and anyone could watch it easily, so a question you would ask yourself could be, why pay more and see it in a theater?
One reason would be the new 3D effect, and another would be simply the experience of seeing Star Wars on the big screen.  Seeing a movie at home can never compare to seeing one in a theater, and if this is true for any movie, it is Star Wars.
The Phantom Menace is the story of the young Anakin Skywalker before he became the half-man half-machine classic villain from Star Wars: Darth Vader.
I went to see The Phantom Menace to see what it was like in 3D. The movie was enjoyable because it was Star Wars, but not for any other reason.
I found that the 3D did not really make much of a difference and possibly even made the experience worse, because the 3D glasses darken the movie.
There were a few scenes where a broad panoramic scene was shown and 3D enhanced the feeling that you are actually there.  Shots during the famous pod race, for example, worked well.
If you are going to go see this movie, go to be able to see Star Wars on the big screen, not because of the 3D.  If possible see it in 2D, because the 3D is definitely not worth the extra $5.
The Phantom Menace is a great movie by itself, but the extra money that is paid for 3D is not worth it. My advice is to see this timeless classic in 2D.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Prom Proves Rip-Roarin' Good Time

Here's one from the archives, a senior journal from July 4, 2005 by Katie Jordan:

My prom night was unforgettable. And I’m not just saying that because they want me to.
Oh, sure, they gave us a none-too-subtle hint in actually naming the event “Unforgettable.”  But when I say I had a memorable night, I’m not necessarily referring to the magic of the evening.
And while I realize some of my peers may have found their memories a bit blurry the morning after – for some less-than-magical reasons – that’s not what I mean, either.
No – it was memorable for me as Alice’s trip to Wonderland was memorable for her: As a journey into the realm of the bizarre.
Understand, the whole idea of prom was pretty bizarre to me from the start. Guys shell out lots of cash to wear borrowed clothes for an evening. Girls do the same to purchase a dress they can only wear for one night – and shoes that they’ll be lucky if they can wear for one hour. All this so they can look good … in a darkened room.
But I agreed to go because my friends were going, and one of my friends asked me to go with him.
That, and because I heard the food was really good.  Click here for the rest of the story.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love And Death: 'Hunger Games' Is A Thriller

Promotional movie photo / Murray Close
Jennifer Lawrence, playing Katniss Everdeen,
Josh Hutcherson, playing Peeta Mellark, 
in The Hunger Games
By Yelena Samofalova
WEST HARTFORD, CT – Since it opened in theaters last week, thousands of teens rushed to see the long-awaited The Hunger Games. As expected, this awesome book was turned into a pretty amazing movie.            
The story centers on a future dystopian society, where 24 teenage “tributes” are chosen each year to fight to the death on a live television program called The Hunger Games.
The main character, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, takes her beloved sister Prim’s place in the Games but does everything she can to rebel against the evil rulers of Panem.
Along with her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, Katniss tries to show that the Capital doesn’t own them and that they will not just be pawns in their game.
Most teenage girls, as usual, are choosing whether Katniss should be with Peeta Mellark, who she’s been through a lot with, or her best friend from home, Gale Hawthorne, played by Liam Hemsworth.
My personal choice is “team Peeta,” and I think this is the popular decision.
When I saw the movie, at first I was completely starstruck and thought it was the best movie of all time. But when I thought about it further, I realized some of the flaws.
The lack of background music, especially in the first part, leads to some quiet moments in the theater.
All of the actors were well chosen to reflect their characters and were physically trained for months. I especially enjoyed the smoking hot Hutcherson in the role of Peeta.
I was satisfied with how it followed the events in the book. Some happenings were cut out or shortened, but otherwise it was accurate.
For example, the story of how Katniss got her mocking jay pin, a symbol for her, was changed to include her sister. A couple other parts from the description of her life were shortened as well, but most of the scenes of The Hunger Games were perfect.
What I liked most about the book were the vivid descriptions of the fighting scenes and of Katniss hunting. These were well incorporated into the movie because the graphics were amazing and the fighting scenes looking very realistic, even though it was only rated PG-13.
The love story between Katniss and Peeta was portrayed excellently, as well as how much Katniss loved her sister, Prim. The acting was good in general.
I also liked all the advanced technology in the city of Panem, which was brilliantly shown. There were holograms, screens in the sky, trains that go 200 miles per hour, and much more.
Overall, this was a great movie and kids will probably be talking about it for the next couple of months and then eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trapped In A Kentucky Cave, 'Floyd Collins' Delivers Thrilling, Heartfelt London Theater

By Emily Couch

LONDON, England – Floyd Collins, with music by Adam Guettel and lyrics by Tina Landau, tells the tragic true story of a 1925 cave explorer who becomes trapped in a Kentucky cave. 
Whilst Floyd battles to cling to hope 150 feet beneath the earth’s surface, an ever-growing media circus engulfs his family and the world above.
The Southwark Playhouse, with its dark and cave-like vaults, completely transports the audience from a bustling London borough to Floyd’s eerie prison.  
The set, designed by James Perkins, is minimalistic but effective.
Perkins uses levels and the depth of the vaults to superb effect, with ladders comprising a large part of the design.
Guettel’s score does not follow the typical musical theater formula. 
There is no “eleven-o’clock-number” or a big, bright, Broadway style chorus song.  
However, the music – which draws influence from the bluegrass style – is refreshing, seamlessly interweaving dialogue with song to create a tasteful and realistic portrayal of an historic tragedy.    
Under Derek Bond’s direction, the cast delivered a stellar performance, bringing the famous event to life.
Unlike many current musicals, realism and naturalistic acting is essential in Floyd Collins and each and every cast member delivered. 
Glenn Carter manages to capture the courageous spirit and simple humanity of Floyd superbly whilst remaining on stage throughout the whole show. His fear, faith and pain are all too believable, wrenching the hearts of the audience at his predicament. 
Robyn North brings a glowing innocence to the role of Floyd’s dreamy-minded sister Nellie. 
Her well-portrayed childlike happiness and optimism is moving, especially in contrast to the ever-growing despair of her family.
Her beautiful soprano enhances her character, contrasting effectively with the lower range of the other characters. 
Ryan Sampson successfully plays the heroic journalist “Skeets” Miller who is able to reach Floyd and make his story known to the nation and the world.   
Sampson brings an endearing quirkiness to the role but also portrays real courage and compassion when the rescue team begins to lose hope. 
Gareth Chart plays Homer, Floyd’s loyal and determined brother, realistically showing his anguish at the commercialisation of his brother’s fate. 
With a strong onstage band of eight under the musical direction of Tim Jackson, Floyd Collins gives the audience an all-engulfing experience that touches hearts, leaving us questioning deeply the morality of today’s media.  
Although perhaps not the typical choice of musical for most, Floyd Collins is harrowing but brilliant, with realism that leaves the audience wondering at the flawed but tenacious nature of the human spirit.   
Floyd Collins runs through March 31 at Southwark Playhouse. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

'Hunger Games' Blends Action, Suspense

  By Emma Bally
BROOKLYN, New York, U.S.A. -- If you are looking to see a superb blend of action and suspense this spring, The Hunger Games is the perfect movie for you.
This film will cause you to wait anxiously on the edge of your soda-smelling seat or in my case, crack your knuckles nervously until the ending credits.
The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross, is set in a dystopia – a futuristic world where every year one boy and girl are randomly selected from each of 12 districts to fight to the death in The Hunger Games.
Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, are the two leading characters and the two children chosen from one district to compete in this violent game.
In the midst of The Hunger Games’ arena Katniss, Peeta, and 22 others must face issues of loss, love, and courage, as they feverishly hope that the odds will be ever in their favor.
Lawrence was the perfect Katniss and she was exactly how I imagined Katniss to be. She was tough and brave all wrapped in one and very believable throughout the entire film. Her acting was splendid and it was no surprise to me that she has received several major awards in the past.
Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta was impressive and quite different than his in other movies that I did not like as much, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth. I felt as if this movie was a turning point for him, that he really grew up in this film.
The other actors and actresses in this film were amazing as well and I thought that Willow Shields, who played Primrose Everdeen, Katniss’ sister, did a particularly wonderful job, especially in scenes with a high level of tension.
One issue that I had with this movie was the fact that the other competitors in The Hunger Games had very small roles. Rue, for example, only appeared in a few scenes, while in the book she was by Katniss’ side for a good portion of the novel.
The special effects in this film were incredible. I truly felt as though some of the creatures in the movie, such as the big dogs, were going to jump out of the screen and land in the seat next to me.
Also, the costumes in this movie were well put together. When Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), interviewed Katniss, she wore a stunning red dress. I desperately wanted to wear it myself. The red glitter that was glued to her shoulder was a lovely touch with the gorgeous dress that she wore.
My only problem with the costumes, hair, and makeup in this movie, was the fact that while Katniss was fighting to the death for a few weeks, her hair and makeup remained perfect. Her braid was still intact through a forest fire, running from wild animals, and many more dangerous obstacles. Her makeup was still beautiful after everything that she went through and I never saw her break a sweat during all of her near death experiences.
This was quite unrealistic, of course, but all of the amazing acting in this movie eventually distracted me from this little issue.
In total, I highly recommend the movie for any child or adult who is in the mood for a thriller that is filled to the brim with tension, action, and suspense. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

24 Hours With Uncle Tom's Cabin

Here is a video news report from Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Mary Majerus-Collins and Reporter Yelena Samofalova about this week's 24-Hour Reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin at the Harriett Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Celebrating Pakistan Day At A Karachi Mall

Waleed Tariq /
Today is Pakistan Day, a national holiday in Pakistan. This photo, taken Friday, shows a huge
 national flag hung at the Atrium Mall, Karachi. Pakistan Day, also known as the Republic Day, commemorates the passage of the Pakistan Resolution, which eventually led to the creation of an independent state in 1947. 
Celebrations include the hoisting of the national flag at various public and private buildings across the country, military parades and the conferring of national awards by the president.

Cricket Offers Hope And Heartbreak

By Mehran Shamit
TORONTO, Canada – At a time when my homeland of Bangladesh fell into despair, because our leaders could no longer give us anything to hope for or believe in, Bangladesh got into the Asia Cup final.
We started to believe again and raise our hopes.
But Bangladesh was left heartbroken after coming extremely close to winning the Asia Cup in an electrifying match with Pakistan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka.
Bangladesh’s dream of winning the Asia Cup for the first time ever in the history of cricket was shattered after a 2-run loss to Pakistan, a nation that has now captured the prize for the second time.
This tournament was historic for Bangladesh. It’s the first time Bangladesh – after fearlessly beating the current world champions India and Sri Lanka – qualified for the Asia Cup final.
Even though Bangladesh was defeated in the most painful and heartbreaking circumstances, we need to acknowledge the outstanding performances of the Bangladeshi players in this tournament and give them the recognition that they deserve.
Cricket may seem like just a sport to some, but it is a huge deal for Bangladeshis.
The entire country was hoping for a win and I cannot begin to describe how extremely painful and emotional  it was for me and all other Bangladeshis to watch our country get defeated by only two runs, the narrowest victory-margin ever at the Asia Cup.
People in the stadium, including the Bangladeshi players, were in tears. After seeing my country lose in such a close match it was very difficult for me to resist my own tears. Yes, it would be amazing to see Bangladesh win its biggest victory in cricketing history on home soil, but we cannot keep worrying about what should have been done to win the Asia Cup.
Beating world champions and becoming the second best cricket team in Asia is a huge accomplishment and Bangladeshis have to remember that. Throughout the entire tournament Bangladesh played tremendously well with strong results and really proved their skills.
There were many highlights for Bangladesh at this tournament. Among the highlights of this match, Tamim Iqbal became the first batsman ever to score four half-centuries in a row at the Asia Cup and Shakib Al Hasan scored three half-centuries.
Shakib Al Hasan then went on to win the Player of the Tournament award for his impressive overall performance in the Asia Cup. Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim also did a very good job of leading the team in this tournament.
Bangladesh’s impressive performance gave the heavyweights a run for their money and this will definitely leave a lasting impression.
Coming into the tournament as the underdog, Bangladesh proved that its cricket team is truly one of the world’s elite. The way that the players performed showed a completely different side of Bangladeshi cricket and the new heights it is capable of reaching.
Bangladesh will certainly never be regarded as a lightweight contender again.
This tournament marks a new era for Bangladeshi cricket and we should look forward to exceptional performances like this from Bangladesh in all the coming matches and tournaments.
Bangladeshi players should be very proud of what they have achieved and know that they have brought tremendous pride to all Bangladeshis. No matter what the result is, we believe in you and will always support you.
Pakistan may have won the Asia Cup, but Bangladeshi players won the hearts of millions of people and brought pride to our country.
Our team did not let us down, but made us proud on an international scale.
This defeat is only the beginning for Bangladesh. Next time we will be the champions, whether it is Asia or the World. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Uncle Tom's Cabin Marathon Includes YJI

YJI alum Courtney Pendleton reads a portion of
Uncle Tom's Cabin on Tuesday at the Stowe Center in Hartford.

     HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. -- The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Conn., is marking the 160th anniversary of the historic American novel Uncle Tom's Cabin with a 24-hour reading of Stowe's important anti-slavery novel. Youth Journalism International provided several guest readers on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
     It might be interesting for readers to know the diversity of YJI here in Connecticut. One student reader is a native of Ukraine, another is Tunisian and another is a native of Israel. Two students and the alum are U.S.-born. Together, they all contribute to the wonderful tapestry of Youth Journalism International.
     Though YJI will soon post special video coverage of the event, we offer these photos now. Please check back for the video.

YJI reporters Yelena Samofalova (left) and Mary Majerus-Collins (right) 
with Abraham Lincoln re-enactor Howard Wright after all three
took a turn reading a portion of Uncle Tom's Cabin at the Stowe Center.
YJI reporter Yelena Samofalova
former Hartford Mayor
Thirman Milner after Milner 
his turn reading from Uncle Tom's Cabin.
YJI reporters Kiernan Majerus-Collins, left, 
waits for his turn as YJI reporter Erez Bittan reads
a passage from Uncle Tom's Cabin on Tuesday.

YJI reporter Ameni Mathlouthi takes 
her turn
reading Uncle Tom's Cabin Wednesday morning.

YJI reporters Mary Majerus-Collins and Yelena Samofalova
outside Harriet Beecher Stowe's Hartford home on Tuesday.

YJI reporter Ameni Mathlouthi waits for her turn as
Steve Collins, co-founder of YJI, finishes his passage
 Uncle Tom's 
Cabin Wednesday morning.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Portrait Of An Egyptian Boy

Yasser Alaa /
Youth Journalism International photographer Yasser Alaa
of Alexandria, Egypt, snapped this shot of a young boy
while on a recent trip to the Nubian Village in Aswan, Egypt.

Friday, March 9, 2012

At Age 50, Astros Still Waiting To Grow Up

By Eli Winter
Junior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas – The Houston Astros celebrate their 50th year in the major leagues this season.
This should be a reason for celebration, but it looks to be the Major League Baseball team’s most pathetic exhibition yet.
Though you may think exhibition a bit unusual word choice given that this is not a circus but a baseball team. Yet the way the Astros played in 2011, you'd expect players to be shot out of a cannon, one by one, during the seventh inning stretch, liquidating an unfortunately crummy baseball team of its lackluster payroll and making the team an even easier sale for former owner Drayton McLane.
The Astros played depressed, their necks unable to hold up their heads so they could glance out at the audience awestruck at how a top-tier league could hold a team that managed to win barely 34 percent of its games.
If this team played in England, it would be playing in the Football League Championship, also known as the NPower League. "The NPower League?" you ask, barely interested. "Sounds like a cheesy infomercial."
Even to the British, though, the Astros look worse. Even the team’s normally peppy announcers and part-time comedians – set-up man Bill Brown and punch line deliverer Jim Deshaies – couldn’t keep the jokes flying and the games fun. While always great announcers, they could hardly feign hope this season.       
Under the ownership of Jim Crane, the Astros have managed to win over a few fans with plans to allow food and drink to be brought into the exceptionally beautiful Minute Maid Park and by avoiding, thank God, a name change.
Still, it’s easy to imagine Crane asking an audience, "Who's ready to ROCK?" and finding a cluster of people meekly stare at their shoes, wondering how they got coaxed into coming to see a balding middle aged man get down on his knees and beg for fans to keep coming.
Granted, there were a few brightish spots for the Astros.
J.D. Martinez looked like a promising rookie, joining the Astros late in season and bringing with him an unusually powerful bat. Jose Altuve, coming aboard at the same time, looked equally good, managing to squeak out an inside the park home run and make, for once, Astros fans jump up to their feet with glee. The best part of all is that Brian Bogusevic's grand slam, bottom of the ninth, come-back-to-win-it home run got nominated for...   A GIBBY Award. Gee, I'd feel more proud if these actually got more exposure.
While the Astros are not expected to shine in the regular season, spring training this year hasn't been so bad after all for them. They won four of their first six games – and racked up a lot of runs in two of those wins. However, they also got clobbered by the Braes and Nationals.
So Astros fans may be forced to wait and see how their team will do this 2012 season.
However, one new team is coming to the Greater Houston area that could play even worse than the Astros – yes, really, it is possible. Stop staring at the computer monitor in disbelief.
While the Atlantic League's new team, the Sugar Land Skeeters (Sugar Land is outside of Houston), looks to bring independent baseball a good expansion team for once, history repeats itself, getting more annoying each time. Simply put, expansion teams are consistently terrible their first few years. Nothing will change that, no extenuating factor will disapprove, no outlier will be seen.
The Astros, despite their pathetic previous season, have great things ahead of them. Even if, as the Pittsburgh Pirates showed, it takes 40 or so years for something to happen, it will.
While the Astros wait for the chance to play well enough to win even half their games, there will be some comfort in knowing that for at least a year or so, there will be always one team worse: the Skeeters.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Michigan Students Give Romney Low Marks

By Monica Blaze
WIXOM, Michigan – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may have won Michigan’s Republican primary Tuesday but young people remain skeptical.
Jane Ugrinovskiy, a first year student at College for Creative Studies in Detroit, said,  “I’m not happy he won. He doesn’t believe in Michigan.”
“At the same time,” she said, “there’s not a good Republican to vote for either. While I usually side Republican, I can’t this election.”
Romney defeated top challenger Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, by a 41-38 margin in the GOP primary. Romney remains the most likely Republican to get his party’s backing to challenge incumbent President Barack Obama in November.
On the day of the primary, high school students around Michigan did not show much concern with the voting – and they were still blasé about it after the ballots were counted. However, most high school students are too young to vote themselves.
College students, who are usually old enough to vote, were more passionate. But at least some are not too thrilled about Romney.
Josh Foster, a first year student at Michigan State University, said, “I personally do not think Mitt Romney should have won the Michigan primary.”
“Though he has a fair grasp of economics, his views on civil rights are archaic at best,” Foster said.
Romney “is a master of pandering to whoever he thinks holds the most power over his campaign and in that regard he is a true politician. I do not think a man who is so quick to change his opinion on laws that would govern people's lives should be in a position of power,” Foster said.
“He is a man who says he fights for the American Ideal but constantly seems to forget what that it is,” Foster said.
Kate Lambert, a University of Michigan student who calls herself a liberal Democrat, said Romney’s win was “not much of a victory in my eyes. Sure, he won the popular vote in Michigan, but Santorum trailed closely behind and the two both acquired 15 delegates.”
She said, “This must have been at least partly due to Democrats who decided to vote for Santorum and the other minor candidates to take away votes from Romney. Regardless, Romney had the extra advantage of having grown up in Michigan, although his respect for our state was poorly reflected in his pitiful ‘I love cars’ speech.”
A Central Michigan student, Megan Blaze, said that she didn’t follow the primary closely but she’s glad that Santorum did not win.
It appears that, at least for college students in Michigan, Romney’s win may only have meant that people disliked him less than his competitors.