The Rose That Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur

SHAKUR,TUPAC & VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Rose That Grew From Concrete -  Amazon.com Music

Released three years after Tupac’s murder in 1996, The Rose That Grew from Concrete is his writings from the time he was nineteen to just a few months before his passing. The poems are simple and concise, written in rhyme and Tupac’s loving shorthand.

Again, I tend to shy away from celebrity poetry and posthumous collections/albums- both of those labels usually hint at money grabs. However, I decided to make an exception for Tupac- and I’m very glad I did.

Tupac is an almost mythical character in the American psyche. He was a pioneer of hip-hop, of rap, of social justice in a way that is often downplayed. He knew it too- his writings hint that he always knew he was destined for great things. Still, these poems serve to humanize Tupac in a way that has never been presented before. Although the poems are a little clunky at times, they speak of a person– of a human being who fell in love, fell out of it, wanted better for himself, had hopes, had dreams. The poems being presented in his handwriting, as written, only adds to this. They prove that, at the end of the day, Tupac was just as human as the rest of us- just as pained and angry and lovelorn and real as anyone else. And this is the true essence of this book- far beyond the words on the page.

-Vaidehi B.

Expanding Our Musical Tastes

Recently I went to a very different kind of concert. My sister is in college and took an Early Music class that required her to play different types of recorders. While at this concert, it got me thinking about expanding my music taste and trying new things when I am listening to music. Often, I find myself listening to the same couple of songs over and over again. I find that even though I get bored of the music I’m listening to, I can never actually take the time to find new songs. Going to this concert made me realize that there are so many different types of music that, though I might not listen to all the time, could be interesting every once in a while. 

A lot of music streaming services offer radios that are designed based on the music we already listen to. Often, they have pre created playlists that feature one type of song. Using these, I have seen myself learning about songs that I would never have any other way. These premade playlists are also great for the holiday season when they have all our favorites in one place. With these, we can learn about artists that are just starting out, as well as ones that might not always be deemed “popular.” 

As we head into the holiday season and the stress of school and gift giving, take the time to find some new music. I have always found that music is a great way to destress. Listening to my music always helps me relax and focus on the tasks at hand. So however you listen to your music, try out some new things with your listening habits. 

-Danielle B.

The Most Beautiful Libraries Around the World

  • Biblioteca de Convento de Mafra: This library is located in Mafra, Portugal. It is filled with leather-bound books from the 14th to the 19th centuries. This library had once been a part of the Mafra National Palace and it’s exquisite structure still stands today because of the bats sleeping in the shelves to keep away any pests. You should see it if you are ever nearby!
  • National Library of China: This library is located in Beijing, China. Several shelves consist of archives dating to the Song Dynasty and even some made of tortoise shells and bones from the Qing Dynasty. In the year of 1909, this library had been granted by the Xuantong emperor as an ordinary library but after the Revolution of 1911, it was taken over by the Ministry of Education and eventually led to being the country’s national library. People of all different interests in books find this library absolutely astounding.
  • Abbey Library of St. Gall: This library is located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The paintings on the roof and the fashion of the book shelves leaves people breathless at first sight. This library is attached to the church of Abbey of St. Gall and has archives that date back to 820 CE. In the mid-18th century, the library had been redone in the Renaissance art style and architecture. A must-see that doesn’t allow any photography inside!
  • Starfield Library: This library is located in Seoul, South Korea. A unique characteristic of this library is that it is located in an underground mall! This library seems to be one of the most recent of beautiful libraries as it was built in 2017. Its two-story athenaeum shows the space as glowing and the plush sofas there are very relaxing.
  • Klementinum National Library: This library is located in Prague, Czech Republic. The original library of a Jesuit library became the “Baroque pearl of Prague” national library of the country. The adorn ceiling came from the artwork of Jan Hiebl and a portrait of Emperor Joseph II is placed at the head of the hallway with all of the works done throughout the centuries that had been in libraries that no longer exist anymore.

-Saanvi V.

Ways to Stay Creative

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Many of us have probably experienced a creative block, whether it be for writing or art, at some point in our lives. Often, such blocks can be difficult to break out of, and can lead to us abandoning the task altogether. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are five tips to stay creative and get rid of artist’s block!

1. Create Distance

When you hit a block in your work, it’s actually a better idea to step away than to continue struggling. Create some distance between yourself and the task- go for a walk, talk to a friend, or even just step away from your desk and eat a snack. For bigger blocks, take a day or two off, and push the thought of the task to the back of your mind. That way, when you come back to it, you will feel rejuvenated and re-inspired.

2. Let Yourself Get Bored

Rather than try to chase down inspiration on the Internet or social media, let inspiration come to you! Put down all your devices and mental stimuli, and feel yourself get bored and start to daydream. Daydreaming, with no support from a stimulus, has been found to boost creativity.

3. Surround Yourself with Blue

It is exactly what it sounds like. Whenever you feel a creative block, try surrounding yourself with blue objects- sit in a blue room, or go outside so you can see the sky. Studies have shown that blue, being linked to peace, calm, and nature, can help us feel more creative and explorative!

4. Get Emotional

Inspiration most often tends to strike us when we are highly emotional. So do something that excites you! Go to a theme park or organize an outing with friends. However, negative emotions can also help stir up creativity- so you can even watch a sad movie or read a sad book!

5. Meditate

Meditation has long been used as a process to calm the mind and help shake loose new ideas from your brain. You should try it! If you feel incapable of sitting still and quiet for ten or fifteen minutes, try it in increments of three minutes. It will relax your mind and really help get your creative juices flowing!

-Vaidehi B.

RENT, the Musical

A playbill from the Original Broadway Cast of RENT.

RENT, the musical by Jonathan Larson, is one of my favorite musicals of all time. I’ve listened to a lot of musicals—and at this point, I can’t really name them all. But RENT makes it near the top of my favorites, because of its music, plot, and beautifully fleshed out characters. 

RENT tells the story of a group of starving artists living in Lower Manhattan’s East Village, from 1989 to 1990. During this period, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was wiping out thousands of people not only in the US, but all over the world. It was a devastating epidemic, and even today, around 35 million people have passed due to HIV/AIDS since 1981. This epidemic plays a huge role in the story of RENT, as different characters—Roger, Mimi, Angel, and Collins—are living with it, and one of them eventually passes away during the musical. 

The main characters include Mark, a filmmaker; Roger, his roommate and a musician; Mimi, a dancer at the local club; Angel, a drag queen and performer; Tom Collins, a professor; Maureen, a performer and actress; and Joanne, a lawyer and Maureen’s partner. All of them struggle to achieve their dreams, and this musical shows the struggle and the cost of wanting to achieve those dreams. RENT shows the discrimination and the stigma that surrounded HIV/AIDS during this time. This same stigma caused the real life deaths of so many people around the world. A disease that could’ve been stopped and prevented sooner, wasn’t, all because of discrimination. And the cost? Countless human lives. 

This is what Jonathan Larson set out to do when he wrote RENT. He lived in the same village the characters lived in, and he wanted to put out something that people could relate to. He based the experiences of the characters, especially the ones living with HIV/AIDS, on some of his own friends. Although, this was very controversial and experimental at the time. He wanted to write a rock musical, and those were rare—even never done before. It took him so many years and work to complete RENT and eventually have it produced and performed. The most heartbreaking thing about it all is that he passed away the night RENT was going to be debuted. He put in all his work, and never got to reap the fruits of his labor. 

But even so, RENT continues to be one of the most beloved musicals in the world, and a classic. So many productions have been performed around the world, and its been translated into so many languages. It also became a movie in 2005. The reason why RENT became so popular and beloved was because it was so real. You could feel the pain these characters were facing, you could relate to their loss, and you could relate to the joys they experienced together. The message RENT is trying to tell us is that no day is promised. No day is promised, and we need to cherish our lives with the people we love, and that is such a beautiful statement. 

No day but today!

Another Day, from RENT

-Claire C.

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”.