You’re Canceled: Stan Culture Brings the Best and Worst of Social Media
Twitter is a whirlwind. Likes, followers, content, mutuals, these are all confusing terms to latch onto at first, but as a frequent Twitter user, I’ll guide you through them and show you a new side to the social media platform you may not know about.  
Stan Twitter is a section where users dedicate their accounts to supporting a music group, solo artist, TV show and more. It’s how you connect with people who share the same interests as you and have a fun time creating content—or, if you’re like me—liking and retweeting everything about Adachi Yuto, a member of the Korean pop group Pentagon, which you should definitely listen to! Out of the nine members of Pentagon, Yuto doesn’t post as often, but when he does, I’ll like it, retweet, spam the comment section and all.  
Stan culture is a more modern way of supporting your faves. Sarah Poulter, 43, co-executive director of WriteBoston, reminisced about how teens supported their favorite celebrities in the (g)olden days. “When I was in high school, email addresses, phones, the internet, didn't exist. I bought posters. I had mini Michael Jackson pins, posters and a lot of items like t-shirts, folders, things were branded,” she said. Before the age of social media, industries could profit off celebrities by creating physical items for consumers. But, in the stan Twitter age, we can find artwork, memes and various content just a simple click away for the extremely low price of free!  
Stan groups have a fan name, and they section off into fandoms. Think of it like the great hall tables in Harry Potter. You exist peacefully in your chosen fandom, or you can mingle around and choose to be a multifandom, stanning more than one group/artist at once, and curating your online presence to surround them.  
If spending time on the internet keyboard smashing on your fave's new cute selfie doesn’t seem like a new concept, then what's good about stan culture? Well, have you ever fallen in love with an underground artist and found yourself not being able to talk about them because no one knew them? Stan Twitter resolves this issue by quickly creating a fandom to support underground artists, and you won’t have to feel like you’re the only one who has interest in the artist.  
Stan culture also allows you to make a place for yourself in online communities. People who are shy, or have a hard time making social interactions in real life have a platform to make mutuals. Mutuals are accounts who you follow, and they follow you back. They are like an acquaintance you’d make at school and wave at while you pass them in the crowded hallways. Also, these accounts help you escape the hectic schedule of day to day life. Having an online space to relax and look at cute pictures of your faves is a stress reliever to many. 
However, stan culture isn’t always the best place to be. Constant fan wars and hate messages make stan Twitter less enjoyable. Mare Chavez, @pandayanan says, “So far, on stan Twitter no one has sent me hate yet. But, as I gain more followers, I’m expecting people to be more judgemental and negative. Back when I was on Tumblr and had a popular aesthetic blog, I’d get hate for no reason, nothing but the fact that I had a lot of followers.” 
When I ran my Tumblr blog I stuck to myself, reblogging content I enjoyed, art that I liked, and I enjoyed being part of the Voltron fandom. Tumblr has a feature where you can send a user a message or ask someone questions, with the option of  being anonymous. I got nice messages often and it made me happy that someone out there liked the content I posted. I once got a hate message and the user didn’t bother to use the anonymous option, so it made it easier to report the account and have some of my mutuals report the user too. 
Cancel culture is the act of unstanning someone because they did something negative, either currently or in their earlier years. Cancelling happens when an artist does something way out of hand, like saying a slur that doesn’t belong to them. Once a famous person has been cancelled, it takes them a lot to gain what popularity and respect they had before. Cancelling is done by some fandoms out of spite, who want their faves to succeed, and they’re willing to go as far as dragging others down to see that happen.  
Stan Twitter is fun and all, but take time to invest in other activities. Feed the fish that you haven’t fed in a while. Take the chicken out of the freezer before your mom comes home. Clean your room and find ten dollar bills lying around. Your life isn’t tied to how many likes you get, or the amount of mutuals you have. 
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Summer with The Food Project Sprouts Interest in Agriculture
Photo courtesy Madison Beehler
I board the T exhausted and wanting nothing but a hot shower and rest. It’s a normal commute, until passengers sit next to me then shuffle away in a hurry. Is it because I have dirt streaks on my nose? Or do I reek of unripe tomatoes and sweat? Well, at least I have enough space on the train to relax.  
Being a farmer is challenging, especially for someone who avoids gym class like the plague. You’d ask why someone who hates physical activity would seek a summer job as a farmer— but this past summer, I learned a heck ton about agriculture and it helped me grow (pun intended) as a thinker and hard worker. My enthusiasm towards gym class hasn't changed,  and no, I still don’t own a pair of overalls, but I’d definitely work as a farmer again. 
In early February of last year, I was scrolling through the PIC job postings but nothing sparked a sprout of interest in my heart, and I did not want to dedicate my precious summer to doing something I wasn’t keen on. At the bottom of the email chain was a posting about Seed Crew, a seven week program of The Food Project (TFP) teaching sustainable agriculture, administering fun workshops and connecting agriculture to our daily lives. I was interested and decided to apply because I feared a boring summer re-watching Netflix shows and the dreaded, “Are you still watching?” prompt, where I’d see my groggy reflection in the black screen of my phone. I filled an application in one shot and submitted it. Weeks later, after the interview, I wondered if I’d go through if I got a job offer. I was so sure I would decline. Days later, I got a call, and with apprehension, and slight nervousness for what was to come, I accepted the job. 
As a city kid, farming seems like an unnecessary skill. We don’t have much farming area—and the dead, grey, muck-filled patches aren’t much to look at either.  
Farming taught me how to work on a team. When working on a team at school, I ended up taking most of the weight on my shoulders because I didn’t want a lousy grade. On the farm, there were new teams every day, so new conversations sparked, and I ended up having a different workflow with one partner, and a different one with the next.  
Walking onto the farm, I didn’t even know how to use a Hula-Ho, a farming tool used to upend the weeds and pull fresh soil. My tired wrists from using the Hula-Ho the wrong way taught me that I’ll struggle before learning anything new.  
I also learned that farming isn’t all about sweat and physical exertion, it also takes mental strength. Waking up at 6 am to start a new day on the farm, and coming home at 6 pm, tired and sweaty was tough. I often thought, why did I decide to do this? It made me ponder over my values and what I wanted to gain from this experience.  
Learning new farming skills also came with new friendships. While working in teams, digging through dirt for annoying weeds, we learned each other's favorite movies, cultures and customs. When you see your peers with questionable fluids dripping down their face, it sort of, well—bonds you. 
When I was younger, most of the food in the fridge was bought at the grocery store or the farmer’s market. The TFP mantra was “from seed to fork,” and after hearing that I thought, where does my favorite comfort meal come from? Who is involved in putting it onto the shelves of the grocery store?  
During a lesson on underpaid workers in the food industry, I thought about how we put our food on the table. Most of the crops we eat don’t grown in Massachusetts, so we have to import them—which costs money and time. Working at TFP, it opened my eyes to what it takes for food to go from a teeny seed to the stove.  
A fellow TFP worker, Zack Myers, told me about how he learned where his food comes from. “I mostly took it for granted, where it comes from and who grows it seemed so far away. After workshops and learning about those who grow the food and those who are in need of food, I appreciate it more and feel more connected to where it comes from,” he said. 
So why be a summer farmer? Madison Beehler, an operations specialist at TFP, says that it is a fun experience for teens. “Each experience is unique to the teen and a lot of the interactions I've had were very meaningful and impacted me as a person,” she said. “It can be tough at times because the weather is hot, the work is challenging, but it's also very rewarding.” Not everyone is going to love farming, and some people will decide not to continue this work during the fall.  
Looking back, I miss the sun beating on my neck. It’s awfully cold now, and although I only spent seven weeks on the farm, it showed me how much of an impact I have on my surroundings. Next time you go to the farmers market, or the grocery store, or are sitting around the family dinner table, remember that your food didn’t Harry Potter magic itself onto the table (although I wish it did) and that there were many people that put effort and time into it. 
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The Unlikely Team Behind “The President is Missing” Penned a Solid Thriller
The first time I saw “The President is Missing,” I was at the airport buying a pair of headphones for a three hour flight. My initial thought was, “How does this book even exist?” I had read half of a James Patterson book, and I knew Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America and that he did,in fact, have sexual relations with that woman, but how did these two end up writing a novel together? There was something I found utterly hysterical about the existence of this book. 
“The President is Missing” takes place over three days, focusing on the president—a man named Jonathan Duncan—who is in the middle of trying to save his presidency, the U.S. and the world. He must challenge the ones trying to take him down and protect one of the people trying to cause the most amount of harm to his country. 
Patterson has been writing longer than I’ve been alive and it’s clear why people enjoy his work. It’s readable, paints tangible images in your mind and keeps you interested. The very first page grabs your attention with a metaphor comparing sharks to politicians grilling a man he deems right for his people in front of the entire world. The plot has many layers and bounces between perspectives, which moves things along nicely. Some of the best parts are when Duncan faces difficult decisions and we have to go through his process of making a choice with him and his staff. 
Even though the book is clearly a political thriller,  I didn’t know what to expect going into the novel. Was it going to be some secret way for Clinton to let out frustrations of his presidency? Was there going to be subtle commentary on the political climate of today, in a post-’bama world? Or, is the novel just a fun, dramatic tale with no real hidden bias (though, I think we all can guess that wouldn’t happen)? 
One thing that is clear is that this isn’t Bill Clinton’s personal diary. Yes, we do see the difficulties of being in charge of millions of people’s lives, but in nothing less than the most dramatic sense. It’s clear that Clinton and Patterson don’t want us to think about Clinton when we read through the eyes of Jon Duncan, but we can’t help but hear Clinton’s voice when the books goes into its not-so-subtle social and political commentary. Stuff like, “what happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting?” (which I try not to be too hurt by) and “we’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations.” If Clinton’s name wasn’t smack at the top of book jacket (and his signature engraved underneath it), it wouldn’t feel like as much of a statement. Putting aside the questionable amount that he was actually involved in the writing process (it was ghost written by David Ellis), I certainly believe that he was involved with this book more than people might give him credit for.  
Overall, “The President is Missing” was a delightful surprise. It’s not marketed towards teens, so maybe you aren’t drawn to it unless you’re a total nerd like myself. Sometimes the political terms can be a little confusing if you’re unfamiliar, but this was enjoyable. There is a decent amount of filler that can deter you from continuing, yet nothing unbearable. And while I unfortunately have not read many thrillers in the past, I can say this book certainly pushes me to want to change that.   
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Cover Story
What the Future of Our School System Means for Us Now
Located across the street from Fenway Park, Boston Arts Academy is the city’s only public arts high school. Founded in 1998, the school harbors about 450 students, myself included, all brought together by a love for the arts. The building, formerly a warehouse, has gone through a lot over the decades. While it wasn’t falling apart, it was remarkably bland. Most spaces felt cramped, and there wasn’t even an auditorium—just a small black box that only fit 100 people.  
In December 2017, our school was finally okayed for some serious renovations under Mayor Marty Walsh’s BuildBPS plan. While this meant we would have to move all the way to Dorchester and share the building with the Community Academy of Science and Health for three years, the end result would give future BAA students the creatively fulfilling space they deserve. However, while we were complaining about our temporary move, other BPS students were losing not only their buildings, but their entire school communities. 
BuildBPS is a plan to renovate, merge and build new schools over the next decade. “BuildBPS is an opportunity to invest in school buildings that will deliver high-quality learning environments for our students for generations to come,” said Walsh in a press release. “In order to achieve our goals, we need to think big and work together to build a bright future for our school.” According to the BuildBPS Phase II Report, the goals of the initiative are to “expand access to quality learning environments for more students, locate new or expand buildings in neighborhoods with high student need and low current access, create more equitable program placement and learning opportunities for vulnerable students, and reduce pre-K-12 transitions by creating clear pathways.”  
BAA has been positively affected by BuildBPS, with renovations underway 20 years after the doors first opened. The project budget is $125 million—only a tiny fraction of the $1 billion going into BuildBPS overall. 
However, the McCormack Middle School, which is also part of this initiative, is getting the short end of the stick. The Dorchester school, along with Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy, is being affected in the worst way—the school, as well as the community, is being destroyed in order to phase out middle schools. The current BuildBPS plan neglects these communities, and places the best interest of future students far above those of current students.  
The original plan stated that McCormack will close in 2020 and its students will become part of Excel High School, a lower-performing school. Traditionally in a school merge like this, the entire staff and students would move to Excel and become a new community. However, that is not what is happening with McCormack. 
“It's more like dismantle and then send the kids to Excel on their own," said Neema Avashia, a teacher at the McCormack who has spent months advocating for the community. "What upsets me about it is that it’s not necessary. They're going to need seventh and eighth grade teachers when they go to Excel, so why would we, as a city, enact additional harm on kids? It's already going to be hard enough for kids to change schools… there's no reason to separate the adults and the kids." 
Rob Consalvo, Chief of Staff of BPS, talked about the plan and how our voices are being heard. “We are extremely sympathetic to the aspect of closing schools and recognize how difficult that is,” he said. According to Consalvo, BPS is listening to both students and teachers, considering the ideas they are putting forth and using that feedback to devise the final plan.  
One of the biggest motivators for the BuildBPS plan is making fewer transitions for students—which involves getting rid of middle schools. According to Consalvo, in 2009, there were a total of 16 middle schools in Boston. Currently, there are only six. This dissolution of middle schools is already happening naturally, and the McCormack is part of that demographic.“We believe that it's in the best interest of the entire district to give parents that sense of continuity, to move away from middle schools and into that shorter structure," explained Consalvo. 
   Yet, while it makes perfect sense to lessen the transitions from school to school, there is no clear explanation as to why the McCormack can’t travel as a community. 
"Closing a school, taking kids out of their community—it hurts,” said Avashia. “The number of our kids who—if you watch our school committee testimony—they're like, 'The McCormack is my home.’ When you take someone's home away, that's traumatizing.” 
Even though she, and many others, are possibly losing their jobs, that’s not their main concern. They are looking out for their students—something they feel the BuildBPS plan isn’t doing.  
“That is completely outrageous and irritates me,”  said TaNeja Williams, a student at BAA and a McCormack graduate. “My question is, why can’t the McCormack be treated the same way and be given the opportunity to have a swing space, thus keeping the community intact, as the Boston Arts Academy was granted?” 
BuildBPS is for the future. It isn’t for the students of right now—it is for the wealthier class taking over urban areas where working class and minority families live, and their future kids. “It's getting more and more expensive for my kids and their families to live in the city,” Avashia said. “So when you are reading them a letter in school that says 'Oh, we're going to make your building really nice, but it's not for you'—kids experience that as being evicted, the same way you get evicted from a house.”  
Recently, interim BPS superintendent Laura Perille stated that in response to the backlash from the McCormack community, the plan may shift—leaders are considering a model in which teachers will help select a partner high school and create a new 7-12 school to move into the building on the McCormack site after renovations. However, even if this plan is ultimately accepted, Avashia believes the fight is far from over. 
"What's happening to my kids now is going to happen five more times,” Avashia says. “And there are going to be ripple effects.” 
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Imagine a movie where the protagonist is the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, with the villains being incompetent, barefooted, drunk black men that must be defeated. Pretty distasteful, right?  
Well, this is the plot of the 1915 movie “The Birth of A Nation,” critically acclaimed then and now and credited as the first Hollywood blockbuster of all time. The movie was based on the novel “The Clansmen” by Thomas Dixon, who claimed the purpose of the book was “to demonstrate to the world that the white man must and shall be supreme.” It was the first movie to ever be shown in the White House. The propaganda was so powerful, it transformed the KKK into heroes. The film is even credited by some for the reformation of the KKK in the early 20th century.  
With the 104-year anniversary coming up, people are still defending this movie to the ends of the earth, and the reason for that is understandable. The movie was revolutionary in the film industry. It produced some of the first movie stars and showcased previously unheard of movie techniques. The Hollywood Reporter praised “The Birth of a Nation” for its use of “spectacular battlefield panoramas, operatic melodrama, thrilling chase scenes—the full power of cinematic art pulling at their heartstrings and quickening their pulses.” says the film’s director, D.W. Griffith, “popularized countless filmmaking techniques that remain central to the art today,” like close-ups, flashbacks, and fade-ins. 
But, in a world where racial tensions are heightened and we’re increasingly aware of political correctness, should this film still be so well-regarded in movie history? What legacy should a movie that revolutionized film, but indirectly increased the death count of black people in America, leave? 
Film Analysis professor Nathan Blake from Northeastern University has studied “The Birth of a Nation” for many years. When asked about the relevance of the film, Blake first acknowledged Griffith’s advanced film strategy innovations that defined the Hollywood studio style and the dominant approach to narrative cinema. However, he then pointed out the film’s troubling racial elements. “It illustrates our troubling, racist history, not just of the Civil War and Reconstruction, but of the early 20th-century and beyond,” he said. “It is also relevant today because we continue to see these same stereotypes and tropes of ‘purity’ in contemporary white-supremacist discourse.” 
 I asked him how his students perceived the film, and he said “Students are generally troubled, and often don’t know how to respond, at least initially. If anything, students are shocked by the film’s blatant racism, its cartoonish stereotypes, and the depiction of the Klan as ‘heroic.’”  
On the topic of how the film should be remembered, Blake explained that “Birth of a Nation” will remain an important film to watch and discuss because it was simply a highly influential film. “It illustrates the ways in which cinema can manipulate its audience,” he said. “It is one thing to feel moved by a story in which you might already share its ideology to some degree. But when you see how you are positioned to fear for Flora (Mae Marsh) as she is pursued by the ‘monstrous’ Gus (Walter Long), you begin to see how the narrative, placement of the camera, music, and editing position the viewer to identify with certain characters and perspectives and against others.” 
“In other words, its objectionable ideology allows us to see the ways in which such messages are conveyed.” 
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