Interstellar: Out of this World

Christopher Nolan aimed for the stars in his new film Interstellar, and he surely reached above and far beyond. Many thought that Christopher Nolan’s own brilliance might have set him up for failure in future films, forced as he was to live up to the universal acclaim of his Dark Knight trilogy, but this movie succeeds on an entirely different level. Interstellar, featuring such acclaimed actors as Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Matt Damon, is a grand tale that perfectly blends human emotion and scientific intrigue into one uniquely moving package.

McConaughey stars as Cooper, a former NASA pilot and current devoted father who lives with a daughter and son in a dystopian future where mankind is struggling just to survive after getting hit by a deadly blight that has destroyed every agricultural crop except for corn. This dystopian scenario is not exactly new, but it does not need to be: indeed, by portraying a world of people teetering on the brink, trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy while the world crumbles around them, rather than the more typical scenario of a world suddenly falling apart amidst chaos, Interstellar breaks new ground without distracting from the story’s true emotional core. Cooper is pulled away from his family and thrust into action when he discovers that soon even the corn will die, leading to human starvation and eventual extinction, and that NASA needs trained astronauts to send on a mission to find mankind a new home. Leaving behind his devoted daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain/Ellen Burstyn), aptly named for Murphy’s Law, which states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, Cooper journeys into the stars. Due to the relativistic effects of space travel, the family Cooper leaves behind ages far more quickly than he does, as evidenced by the trio of actresses it takes to portray his beloved daughter, but the love he feels for them keeps him going throughout the desperate search for a new world. The innovative use of time dilation to further the distance of a family already torn apart through sheer distance makes Interstellar a movie that offers a brand-new take on the familiar story of the struggle to balance the quiet necessity of family with the longing for grand ambition.

This film is undoubtedly superb on a scientific level alone; indeed, the software the graphics team used to render the black hole inadvertently made a genuine scientific discovery about the actual way black holes may appear in real life. However, the movie’s greatest triumph is in its emotional, even spiritual, elements. Brand (Anne Hathaway), one of Cooper’s fellow astronauts, notes that, “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space.” While the sentiment might seem cheesy, it is tempered not just by Cooper’s skepticism, but by the revelation that human emotions are indeed as powerful a force as any other in the universe.

Interstellar blends time-honored storytelling traditions with new takes on genuine scientific wonders such as time dilation and wormholes to create a thought-provoking journey around the universe. Go see it, or else risk losing the galactic journey of a lifetime.

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FIFA Fallacies The Saga of the 2022 World Cup

In December of 2010, the FIFA selection committee voted Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host, in a shockingly dominant vote. Qatar, a country with very little soccer history or viability, received over triple the amount of votes as the United States, and fourteen times the amount of votes as last place Australia. Almost immediately following the voting, allegations of corruption and bribery swarmed FIFA over their decision to award the prestigious event to such an unviable location. In the summer, Qatar’s temperatures routinely reach 120 degrees fahrenheit, which is unplayable for a soccer game. The proposed solution to move the tournament to the winter is not doable, as it would disrupt many soccer leagues worldwide. However, FIFA’s track record in terms of fair and ethical decisions, as well as Qatar’s inhumane methods of building the stadiums for the event, are the real questions as to how FIFA awarded the event to Qatar.

In order to build the proposed sixteen stadiums, Qatar has employed a method of labor similar to that of North Korean slave labor in order to finish the stadiums on time. Reports have stated that over 3,000 migrant workers have already died while constructing the stadiums, and projections state that over 16,000 workers are expected to die over the next eight years while constructing the stadiums. While questioned over how they allowed this to occur, FIFA has continuously stated that they do not find any wrongdoings with Qatar’s building methods. It is both odd and shocking that FIFA, a worldwide organization that promotes peace and togetherness, continues to turn a blind eye to such an atrocity of human rights, and has no desire to rescind or reconsider their vote to allow Qatar to host the 2022 event.

In order to maintain the smallest shred of credibility, FIFA decided to launch their own investigation run by their “ethics committee.” Amid numerous reports that Qatari officials bribed several high ranking FIFA officials, FIFA had to do something to combat the harsh, but likely true, allegations against them.

FIFA’s investigative findings were released in mid november of 2014, and in typical FIFA fashion, allegations of unethical practices were brought upon every other nation who vied to host the 2022 world cup besides Qatar. Even though it is blatantly obvious that the complete opposite occurred, FIFA stood by their incredibly illegitimate findings. Former executives of FIFA have claimed that at least five high ranking FIFA officials accepted bribes worth over a million dollars each from Qatari officials in 2010.

The Qatar World Cup saga is sure to drag on for a long time, and is a conflict that easily could have been avoided. FIFA has had opportunity after opportunity to rectify their mistake in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, but have failed to do so. FIFA’s culture of secrecy, and their continuously decreasing amount of credibility will continue to slowly destroy the governing body of world soccer. In order for change to occur, a boycott of the 2022 World Cup, unless it is moved from Qatar, is necessary. A message needs to be sent to the soccer world that FIFA’s ways must be altered, and as saddening as it would be to miss a World Cup, it is the only way to send a message to FIFA that their corruption must end.

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The Fire in Ferguson

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Ed Said: Edward Gelernt’s comments on the world

This week: Violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri

“Ferguson.”  The word immediately evokes conceptions of brutal police homicide, contemptible judicial injustice, and insidiously ever-present racism.  It also elicits images of protests turned to guerrilla warfare, rubber bullets and Molotov Cocktails flying through the streets, the First Amendment’s specification of “peaceable” protest torched alongside vandalized buildings.

Neither is a pretty image.  The former speaks to deep-seated racial inequality pervasive in society and has sparked much-needed conversation regarding how to remedy the problem.  The latter speaks to–well, sheer human irrationality, frankly.

It amazes me how people can entirely disregard the very premises for which they are fighting.  Perhaps the father of modern civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., in his enormously famous speech “Beyond Vietnam,” recounted telling poor, black teenagers “that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.”  There are lots of apt descriptions for this statement, but I would bet that reverse psychology isn’t one.

The day after Mike Brown’s death, protesters in Ferguson took to the streets in protest that began peacefully.  This quickly devolved into a Hunger Games-reminiscent clash between citizens and police, with rubber bullets, tear gas, and glass bottles only some of the projectiles launched between sides.  This clash came the day after wild acts of vandalism were conducted, with at least 12 businesses looted and a QuikMart burned to the ground.  What did QuikMart ever do to you?  And more pertinently, how do people hope to end police brutality by brutalizing police?

As a human being, one can understand the pent-up fury felt by the people of Ferguson over the racism of its police force, for whose unleashment Mike Brown’s death was more a catalyst than a cause.  Statistics reveal clear racial inequality in numbers of people pulled over, arrested, indicted, and convicted.  And racism goes beyond the police force: there is an unfortunately large number of individuals and groups in American society that simply do not understand that all human beings are equal.  Period.

But fighting fire with fire is counterproductive.  Peaceful protest is both an incredibly noble show of unity and maturity and a demonstrably effective method for instigating change (look at anything from the American Civil Rights Movement to the Arab Spring).  Violent protests have turned a respectable effort by a town to stand up against racism into an awful situation of a town destroying itself.  Some people in Ferguson would benefit greatly from relearning an important lesson: violence is never the answer.

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Daily Grades on NetClassroom

In 2012, Moorestown Friends School introduced myMFS, an online portal for the school community. The portal lists each students classes, and allows students to see their report card grades from previous years on NetClassroom. Starting this school year, MFS faculty are beginning to post individual homework, test and quiz grades to NetClassroom. While this process is only in the beginning stage and is not yet used by every teacher, some students are finding this tool very useful.

“It’s a really helpful tool,” said Junior Kieran McMenamin.  “Being kept up to date with my grades is a huge help.  I think it’s pretty cool how we’re able to do this now.”

Other students haven’t really been able to use the new tool. When asked about his feelings on it, junior Travis Benedict replied, “Wow, this is actually the first time I’m hearing about this. I guess I’ll have to check it out when I get home.”

When asked when he believes all teachers will be regularly using NetClassroom, Associate Head of School and Academic Dean Chris Kimberly said, “While we are not certain that all teachers will be posting grades to NetClassroom next year, it seems likely. The plan will need to be reviewed by both administrative council and the department chairs group to ensure that we have in place appropriate guidelines and expectations for teachers, students, and parents.”

The MFS administration was motivated to make the switch to NetClassroom for the sake of the student body. By giving students the opportunity to check daily how they are doing in a class, the student is kept up to date on their progress and is able to anticipate their likely quarterly, semesterly, and ultimately yearly grade. When in full effect, NetClassroom will no doubt be a useful tool for students and teachers alike.

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Sucks to the Littluns’ Lower Schoolers Excluded from Hallway

This year, Spirit Week lost a bit of its usual charm. Most years, the lower schoolers are asked which hallway they liked the most. However, due to the postponement in Spirit Week, the Friday that the Lower Schoolers would normally be touring each hallway coincided with the parent-teacher conferences, meaning that the younger kids were not in school. The results of each Lower School class’s opinion of the best hallway is usually announced right before the Freshmen’s airband. While the kids’ vote does not factor into the scoring, it is still a charming aspect of Spirit Week that the Upper School body missed this time around. Each grade loves to hear that the three and four year-olds liked their hallway the most, and hearing their grade called as the kids’ choice always results in an eruption of cheering. Especially this year, with the surprising way the placement for hallway scoring worked out, as well as the new 20% rule limiting how hallways are designed, all four grades sorely missed the Lower Schoolers’ feedback. Let’s hope they’re back for next year’s hallway.

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Studs and Duds Best (and Worst) of Dodgeball Names

Dodgeball team naming is an art. One must balance the 5 D’s of Dodgeball: dirty, deviant, deprecating, dauntless, and dirty.  The following is a list of our favorite names from this year- these have been creative and comical. Have they crossed that line? Perhaps a little, but it’s not funny if you don’t rock the boat.

Scared Hitless
A well done pun both referencing the sport and masterfully using self-deprecation.

Beastie Balls
Makes the always funny balls pun. Also satirically bombastic.

Thunder Down Under
It’s funny because they win. End of story.

There also some names that just missed. Names that made a clear effort, but it didn’t work out and we don’t give points for effort in comedy.

Yas
No.

Dynasty
There is a dynasty. You’re not it. Sorry.

Tru legends
Legends of what? A bit presumptuous.

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Let It Snow

Last year, MFS truly experienced a winter to remember, filled with a record number of snow days and two-hour delays–so many that students began to question whether or not extra days would be added in June to make up for lost time. Thankfully for summer-lovers, this did not happen, and instead many fun-filled snow days were passed happily without compromising days in the sun. But it’s a new school year, and yet another furious New Jersey winter may be upon Moorestown. As anyone who has tried to pick a good day to go down to the shore in the summer can attest, predicting weather is a tricky business, and MFS students are desperate for some definitive answers as to this winter’s severity. When asked how she expected this year’s winter to be, freshman Anna Immineni said, “I don’t know. Hopefully better than last year!”

On a statewide weather level, leading New Jersey meteorologists remain unsure of what this winter will bring, but they have made some educated guesses. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), a government-sponsored organization, maintains that there is not as of yet any definitive evidence to predict for certain whether or not this winter will be frigid or mild. No doubt the CPC has been humbled by their erroneous prediction last year, where they anticipated a mild winter in a year that was anything but. However, they have still made some tepid predictions this time around. While the CPC does not expect a repeat of 2013-2014’s freezing winter, instead anticipating mild temperatures, they do anticipate above-average precipitation—good news for those legions of students hoping for snow days. Private weather companies such as AccuWeather have been much more effusive, predicting storms, nor’easters, and bouts of extreme cold to rival last year. This prediction is echoed by WeatherWorks, a local New Jersey weather firm that accurately predicted last year’s frigidity. Climate experts throughout the Eastern United States warn that El Niño, a changing of surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, could lead to major coastal storms along the Atlantic coastline.

While the official sources are somewhat mixed, though leaning towards a fierce winter, students themselves seem to be wholeheartedly anticipating another winter to remember. Sophomore Elijah O’Neil said, “”It’s gonna be cold and snowy”, while Junior Billie Rae Brandt added , “I think that there will be a lot of snow days.” Sophomore Alyssa Klier echoed the sentiment, saying this year will sport “below freezing temperatures with snow and hopefully a lot of snow days.”

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Agenda Recap 11/24/14

This week agenda talked about potential competitive activities between grades.  These activities would work similarly to spirit week activities minus the points system.  One idea was a basketball shootout.  These activities would hopefully work to unify grades.  Concern was expressed that these competitive activities could cause arguments and conflict in the same way that spirit week causes conflict.  The possibility of holding out-of-school events was proposed, but many students voiced concern that the student body would be unwilling to dedicate time after the school day or on weekends to compete.

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Foo Fighters Make “Something from Nothing”

On November 10, 2014, the eighth studio album from the iconic American rock band the Foo Fighters will become available worldwide. Sonic Highways, a “love letter to the history of American music,” as the Foo Fighters themselves said on their website, has been in the works since 2013.

This album is quite unique. Grohl said in a 2013 interview that “we are going to make this album in a way that no-one’s ever done before and we’re pretty excited about it.” On October 12, a trailer was released, outlining a new HBO series that will accompany the album for promotional purpose. For each of the eight new songs, there will be a corresponding  episode that details the writing and recording process of that song. Each song is focused on a city and the local legends it holds.

The first episode aired October 17, with a special focus on Chicago. “Basically, the process is we come to a city and we spend a week and we start recording an instrumental, because I interview all of these different musicians from that city,” said Grohl. Next, Grohl writes his lyrics based on the interviews from the musicians in that city. The first single from the album, Something From Nothing, was released a day before its episode aired. The Foo Fighters credit many other artists as influences in the writing of this single, ranging from Steve Albini, producer of Nirvana’s third album, to Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen.

The second single, “The Feast and the Famine,” was released October 24, the same day episode 2 of the Sonic Highways series aired. It took place in Washington, D.C. this time, which happens to be Grohl’s own home turf.

The next five episodes air every Friday, leading up to the final episode on December 5. Future cities visited include famous recording studios in Nashville and Los Angeles, as well as New York, Austin, and New Orleans. “Mostly we wanted to pick cities that meant something to us, so there’s Seattle, where Dave made the first Foo Fighters record plus his history with Nirvana,” guitarist Pat Smear said.

Since the last album from the Foo Fighters was released all the way back in 2011, fans are excited for the mountain new music, clocking in at just over 44 minutes of tunes. With new tour dates and surprise concerts to come, it will be an eventful year for the Foos and their fans alike.

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