Two Stories

Don’t chase dreams.

These were the words she’d remember, stuck between her riddled thoughts as though a shard of glass were lodged within. She’d press them or shake them, but their message remained the same.

Don’t chase-

Dreams. A fog in time, a cloud for her to fly in as space around her wilted to swim beneath the seas of age. She was an olive branch to her fears, a dove caught amidst the thorns of life.

She was torn.

Worn out, too, as though her skin were made of yarn, unwoven by the kindles of her sorrows. Such fantasies that hid in her soul’s cracks, she thought, could only be imagined by a madman.

She was indeed, mad, as ginger and rash as the freckles on her cheeks.

Once, as rain poured down like chords of a melody which spun from the tumultuous storms above, a spark in her blood awoke. With her in bed, she braided her harvest curls as though they had heard her traitorous ambitions and disapproved. Yet she could not help it, for she was, in her delusion, a dream too.

A shock of alarm struck her as quick as the realization came. For if she were to be the dream, then she needn’t pursue an illusion at all. 

A sudden smile crept to mark her lips, for a resolution had, for certain, come to ease her qualms.

She was the chase. 

─── ∙ ~εïз~ ∙ ───

She lives in her shadow, behind it, sometimes beside it. It does her everything, and that’s alright with her. It often cooks, or cleans the dust off shelves while she watches. She doesn’t impede. 

It goes on like this: it works, she sits. No one bothers her with chores, nor scolds her when she misses a corner, since she can’t. She just stares, content with her boredom.

Her nails grow thinner, brown at their sides. Edges near her eyes and ears wrinkle, though more often than not where she can’t see them. White hairs greet her black ones, and they accept their presence with no dispute. That’s how she’s worked through much of her troubles, anyhow. 

Her shadow continues its tedious labor, but she herself speaks none. Even her memories, alone and dim, have forgotten what it is to dream.

She waits for action to happen. For death to come, maybe, and rid her of misery. She’s naught, done none, never will do any.

Her shadow scrubs the floorboards, pats the beds. Feeds the pets, takes the kids to daycare. Day after night, past bedtime or at late dawn, it works. And she, ever in darkness, sits in her shadow’s wake.

-Emilia D. 

How Art Helped Me Through the Pandemic

It’s been a tough year. No matter which school you go to, you likely had to stay home and work online for at least part of the school year. However, though it was a struggle to adjust, I find myself satisfied with how both semesters went. Why? It’s simple; art. 

I suppose art is a section of me – a chance for others to tap into parts of who I am that I wouldn’t naturally express, by choice. It’s a means to show a complete picture, whether it be raw emotion or opinions I hold, with full colors. In other words, art isn’t a wall to hide behind, it’s a banner to adhere to.  

Though art can be applied outside of quarantine, it made an important “comeback” for me then. When the significance of school is all you can focus on, it makes a difference on one’s attitude, and therefore art. However, this year gave me a chance to see both sides of the coin – to experience what it would be like to continue academic studies at home. As a result, my dedication to the arts increased as my worries over projects and exams were reduced. And though I’m eager to get back into a classroom, I can’t help but appreciate the extra minutes spent on what I love most. 

I asked a friend about how she felt art impacted her during the pandemic. She mentioned similar points, but one comment stood out to me. She stated that quarantine helped her “put experiences and memories to a distance,” where she could view them less “in the moment,” and more with an objective, artistic view. In short, it was her reminder of the freer days and old times, her method to arouse hope in an already difficult situation. 

Here are some tips if you ever need to “let go” and release. These tools apply no matter the situation! 

  1. Write. Don’t worry about complexity, just go for emotion. Sometimes the best work is done raw, rather than with technicalities. 
  2. Draw. Just scribble! Pour out what you’re going through. If it’s anger, doodle shapes, or simpler characters and backgrounds. If it’s joy, attempt to draw whatever makes/is making you happy. 
  3. If all else fails, read! There’s so much to choose from!

-Emilia D.

Want to try a Refreshing Cultural Desert? Halo-halo is a must!

Halo-halo, a heavenly filipino dessert; it consists of my favorite thing in the world, nata de coco which is coconut jelly. The flavors of the sweetened beans, fruits, evaporated milk, delicious purple yam (ube), and leche flan balance each other out. This shaved ice dish is perfect, especially for the blasting summer heat!

Some of you may be wondering, what is Halo-halo exactly made up of? Well the average Halo-halo sweet course consists of sugar plum fruit, coconut sport, saba plantains cooked in syrup, jackfruit, agar jellies, tapioca pearls, nata de coco, sweet potato, sweetened beans, pounded toasted young rice, shaved ice, and evaporated milk. Then it’s topped off with a combination of leche flan and mashed purple yam (ube); adding ice cream on top makes it special.

A major pro to this dish is that the toppings pair well with the evaporated milk. The sweetened beans are warm, so you feel a warm yet cool sensation at the same time. Halo-halo isn’t for everybody, but it’s certainly an amazing desert that can be eaten and enjoyed many times. Not all restaurants have the same recipe for Halo-halo and prepare it the same way, so you can experiment! 

Restaurants/fast-food places I recommend trying this desert at are Jollibee, Red Ribbon, Chowking, or Manila Kusina; these are not that far from the Mission Viejo area. Some other places are Manila Sunset, Goldilocks, Gerry’s Grill, and Pinoy-Pinay Filipino Fastfood. However, I must say that these eateries are further from Mission Viejo.

Though Halo-halo is most commonly eaten in the summertime, it can be eaten at any time of the year. It brings smiles to many faces and lives up to its reputation, you may check the reviews for your satisfaction. Hopefully this special desert brings joy to you, as it does for me!

-Hannah M.

Leonardo Da Vinci Biography

Leonardo Da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Florence, Italy. According to Britannica.com’s Leonardo Da Vinci biography, Da Vinci’s father was a landlord and his mother was a young peasant woman. Da Vinci only received an elementary level education when he was young, and only decided to learn more about subjects like Geometry or Latin later in life. When Da Vinci was fifteen years old, he became the apprentice for an artist by the name of Andrea del Verrocchio. There, Da Vinci learned how to paint and sculpt. He would continue to work and live in Florence until 1482, where he moved to Milan to work for and provide service for the city’s duke, Ludovico Sforza. Da Vinci eventually left Milan after seventeen years, in which he completed six paintings. The most famous paintings he made during this time period were the “Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa”.

Movie Review: Knives Out

Boy, oh boy, was this a good movie. I wanted to wait until the official end of awards season to write this review, so I could add in any awards it won or was nominated for. It didn’t win any, but I think it deserved far more.

If you weren’t already aware, Knives Out is something of a whodunit film, with innumerable red herrings and so many (and I mean SO many) twists. Due to the mysterious nature of the film, I’m going to refrain from revealing too much of the plot. Plus, the point of this review is to entice you just enough to go see it yourself and spoiling the movie would spoil the effect of that enticement.

So basically, the movie is centered around this extremely wealthy family, and all their wealth comes from their patriarch, mystery author, and owner of a successful publishing company Harlan Thrombey. The morning after his 85th birthday, Harlan is found in his study with a slit throat, and police deem it a suicide; however, an anonymous party calls Benoit Blanc, a renowned private detective, to the scene because they suspect foul play. There definitely was foul play at hand, but the viewer finds that every member of Harlan’s family had a strained relation with him, and so they all had a theoretical motive.

The movie follows Blanc through his case with subplots surrounding Marta, who was Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker. The viewer has no idea what could possibly happen next, right up to the very last scene. The plots take riveting and unexpected turns, and the whole movie is the best kind of roller coaster. I won’t give any explicit spoilers, but the ending of the movie was absolute gold and gave me almost complete close (I am holding out for a sequel!) If you are looking for a movie that will have you glued to your seat and pondering for hours afterward, or even just something to watch on family movie night, Knives Out is definitely a contender.

-Arushi S. 

Knives Out is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Why a Met on Demand Subscription is Better Than Any Other Streaming Service

Have you heard of the Met Opera on Demand streaming service?! Let’s be real, probably not. But I know many people who have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime to stream from… so I think this is might interest y’all, teens! It’s award-winning, recent, full length, HD performances from the Metropolitan Opera House. And it’s the best thing ever. Stop using Netflix. Cancel that Hulu subscription. Forget your Amazon Prime password. This is all you need in your life right now. Here’s why the Met Opera on Demand is better than any other streaming service.

1. You Can Learn a New Language

Operas are in English, Italian, French, German, and loads more languages! They have subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, and Swedish! Opera is slow and repetitive, so it’s a great way to learn languages! If you’re learning German, for example, it might be useful to have English subtitles on an opera like Die Zauberflöte (which side note is a beautiful production… it’s just so pretty to watch, it’s like watching a moving painting). You’ll understand all the German being sung with the English subtitles, and some new vocab might stick in your brain if it’s being sung in a catchy tune over and over. I think learning a language through song is a great way to learn new vocabulary, and get an ear for the language. “Comic operas” like Die Zauberflöte and Carmen even have spoken dialogue. The opera singers’ pronunciation is amazing when singing and speaking!

2. You Can Learn History

Opera loves to take place in ancient times, and tries to be as authentic to the time period as possible! When learning history, sometimes it’s hard to picture the time period. Watching an opera in the time period you’re learning about really helps you picture what you’re learning. Also, many operas are based on true stories. For example, there are three operas about Adrienne Lecouvreur, a French actress who mysteriously died in 1730. Or Boris Godunov, an opera about real events in 1584 surrounding a real Russian tsar. Or Doctor Atomic! It’s an opera about the test of the first atomic bomb. And all of these have full HD videos of the performances! There’s so much history to learn with this subscription.

3. You Can Learn About Books

Reading Shakespeare in school and struggling to picture the action? Well, Met on Demand has you covered! HamletMacbethA Midsummer Night’s Dream, and more are full-length operas that come with this subscription!

Der Ring des Nibelungen (although Tolkein denies it) is the basis for The Lord of the Rings. Don’t believe me?! Watch it on Met on Demand to see the shocking similarities.

The opera Marnie is based on the book that inspired the Hitchcock classic of the same name. (the 60s movie where the lady gets stabbed in the shower to strings going EEK EEK EEK).

There is also audio of operas based on The Great Gatsby and An American Tragedy, which are books titled of the same name.

If you look up the operas on the website, I’m sure you can find more book-related stuff.

4. It’s Relaxing

The Met’s performances are beautiful. The performances are visually dazzling, and the singing is world-renowned. It’s a nice thing to just have on quietly in the background. If the stunning video is too much, there are recordings dating back

-Jessica F.

Theatre Review: She Kills Monsters

*Warning: This play may not be appropriate to those under age 13 

Recently, my friend and I went to go watch a school play called She Kills Monsters. The play focused around the wildly popular and loved game called Dungeons and Dragons. The play would switch back and forth between “real life” and the game. 

The story was that the main character, Agnes, had lost her younger sister Tilly to a car accident. Before passing, Tilly created her own version of the game in order to escape the harsh and cruelty of the real world. Agnes, still mourning the loss of her sister, finds Tilly’s game and through the help from “dungeon master” Chuck, is able to play the game. 

The game was essentially a version of Tilly’s life told through monsters and different characters that was a part of Tilly’s life, whether they had a positive impact or not. Through the game, Agnes was able to find solace from the loss and was able to find out some secrets about Tilly’s life that she did not know before. The story is filled with action, humor, angst, and some surprising romances that the audience does not see coming. 

Even though I personally have never played Dungeons and Dragons, I loved the play so much and had an amazing time watching so there is no issue if you do not know anything about the game. However, if you do know how to play, it will probably be even more enjoyable than it already is! 

If this play is showing anywhere around you I totally recommend going and watching this! However, as stated in the warning above, some topics in this play might not completely be appropriate to those under 13 years of age so take precautions and enjoy the show! 

-Phoebe L

Opera, Opera, Opera!

Would you pay $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton on Broadway, live?

I know few Orange County friends who love opera, let alone are willing to see one. This may be because Orange County has few operas. I’ve been looking! The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has some performances, but Costa Mesa is pretty far. Moreover, it only has concert performances (full shows done without staging or costumes in front of an orchestra).

Recently, I discovered my favorite opera, Carmen, broadcasted live for free on the Santa Monica Pier from the LA Opera. The LA Opera is the grandest local opera house, and witnessing something this professional live was moving. Dancers were hired from the depths of Spain for a genuine Spanish vibe, and costumes shimmered and poofed in all their Spanish glory. Tickets are at least $90 for a “cheap” theatre seat, in which performers can barely be seen or heard; free showings are unheard of!

My friends and I zoomed to the pier and fangirled over the huge stage and thick French accents. The music can be found in our playlists; we hummed along the whole time. The opera is risqué, funny, and dazzling. If more people had access to opera in Orange County, I’m sure we could love and appreciate it the way this crowd did on the Santa Monica Pier. It was so enjoyable!

The Live at the Met series is broadcasting full operas live from the Metropolitan Opera House in most Regal movie theatres. This is the best opera house in the country! I’ve never seen a bigger stage, and the cameras show so much detail I can see reflections in the characters’ eyes. Tickets are around $26, with over 10 operas this year! More than the average movie ticket, but very cheap compared to live tickets, often at Hamilton prices ($855+). Only internationally famous and experienced singers have been cast! If you’re an opera fan like me or are ready to behold these regal performances, please come and support the art by attending. Few people know about it, but more should.

This is the same as $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton live on Broadway, in the movie theatre!

The Orange County School of the Arts is also doing L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges in the spring, so look out for that!

Meanwhile, I will be hunting down local operas. I’m determined to find performances in Mission Viejo! Operas can be expensive, but I’m working on finding deals so teens can experience this difficult and powerful art form at an accessible price. I’ll keep you updated!

What local opera productions do you know of? Please comment to let me know!

-Jessica F.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s classic play, “Romeo and Juliet,” sheds a light on young love and risky decisions. Depending on what you think of Fate, you either really enjoy this romantic story or get extremely annoyed with its resolution. It’s a light fun play that touches on youthful passion but ends on a dark twist.

Taking place in Verona, Italy, this tragedy illustrates the romance between two teenagers from two feuding families. Ultimately, Romeo and Juliet are enemies but after they meet at a party, their family names are nothing more but a barrier between them. They get married in secret with the help of a few characters and plan to run away together. However this plan is altered when a series of unfortunate events results in both of them tragically dying. Many simple mistakes and the tragic ending could all have been avoided with a little more communication and clear thinking but Shakespeare wanted Fate to play a huge role in the outcome of the play.

In my opinion, the best aspect of this play is the flow of words and the speech that brings everything alive. The writing style itself is beautiful and Shakespeare finds a way to use words to shape the plot. For example, Romeo’s speech is dull and full of misery when he is rejected by Rosaline but as the play progresses and he meets Juliet, his words are bedazzled with figurative language. Juliet also has lovely soliloquies that are fun to annotate and dramatically read aloud. Another way Shakespeare really enhances his play is the use of characters. He provides the young and inexperienced Romeo and Juliet, the hysterical and crude Nurse, the outspoken and verbal Tybalt, the self-righteous and semi-helpful Friar Laurence, among many others to advance the play and add comic relief. Shakespeare skillfully writes this play to demonstrate Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden and rebellious love and the painful cost that hateful feuds bring.

-Jessica T.

Romeo and Juliet, and collective works of William Shakespeare, is available for checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.