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By Matt Miller
Graduation is looming on the horizon. For many students, their high school career is coming to a close and the next door is about to be opened.
Everyone’s path differs. Some people decide to go straight to college while others find the armed forces is right for them. One student, Josh Kohnstam, will be taking a year off to do volunteer work in Europe and elsewhere.
This alternative is called a gap year. Instead of going to school in the fall like everyone else, the student takes a year off. Students who commit to this program usually wind up working instead of vacationing. Many colleges allow this sort of situation, although they want to obtain a list of what plans the student has for the gap year.
The student then begins school as a freshman the following year.
Kohnstam began to contemplate this idea during his time on the German exchange program in the summer of 2010. He really enjoyed the program and wanted to do something like that in the near future.
He has two cousins who have both gone on very similar expeditions. One traveled to Southeast Asia and enjoyed activities such as walking pumas in a puma sanctuary and traveling across Laos on a moped that he rebuilt.
Another cousin attempted to gain the title of chief amongst a small tribe on the island of Fiji. Unfortunately, he lost to another candidate. Afterwards, he flew over to Nepal to hike in the foothills of the Himalayas. From what it sounds, his cousins left a huge impact on this choice.
All through the process, his parents have been a factor determining this adventure.
“My parents completely support this idea. In fact, they’ve been encouraging me to do this,” said Kohnstam. “My dad does not support it as much since he has to fund it.”
He has a plan set in mind. From September to December, he will be joining the humanitarian organization Where there be Dragons and will be doing service work in the Himalayas.
He hopes while in Nepal to learn the native language.
From December until about March, he hopes to work as a ski instructor in the Alps of Switzerland. From that point on, his schedule is open. He mentioned plans of going into Russia to see Moscow or possibly just visiting friends and relatives around Europe.
After his journey, he will be attending Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.
“As a person, you sometimes have to get out there an enjoy life,” said Kohnstam. “It’s almost like you have to get out there and grow as a person before you move on to the real world.”
On Tuesday March 27th, the progressive rock/metal super-group OSI released their fourth studio album. The album has been two years in the making and well worth the wait.
Currently, the group is centered around two fixed members and a rotating line-up of session musicians. The group originally started as a trio including guitarist/bassist Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), keyboardist and vocalist Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, ex. Dream Theater) and legendary drummer Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. Although the album does not include any contribution by Portnoy, current drummer Gavin Harrison does his job very well and shows that he has chops. The group’s music incorporates both progressive metal and electronica into their music, to which Moore stated “are natural enemies.”
Opening with the stuttering electronics and wide-roaming samples of “Cold Call”, the band gets off to an atmospheric start, the music ambient but with a sense of menace that has you ever so slightly on edge although it’s impossible to clearly define exactly what is causing such unease. The contrast between the softly whispered passages – all stuttering beats and polite electronica – and the more surging guitar passages complete with the duo’s mellifluous vocal harmonies, gives the song an unpredictable edge, and the chugging riffs have both power and energy without overly contrasting with the unique melodic subtlety that OSI’s haunting vocals provide. As with previous records it’s all about control and restraint, and OSI knows how to temper their performances so that every phrase has maximum impact.
“Guards” opens with a stuttering beat that’s neatly augmented with overloaded bass and powerful vocals before opening out with the introduction of a vital guitar riff and analogue drums. It’s one of those songs that builds towards moments of real power, the fury of the guitar serving as an unexpected counterpoint to the more relaxed style of the verses.
However powerful these first two tracks prove to be, it is “Indian Curse” that really sets the senses tingling with its gentle acoustic strumming and atmospheric piano. It’s a track that combines haunting beauty with a very real sense of sorrow and it is enough to set your spine tingling as it slowly draws to its close only to lurch into the Porcupine Tree-esque riff of “Enemy Prayer.”
The two tracks forming an emotional climax to the album, the agitated electronics of the latter track stripping away the sense of sorrow and loss and replacing it with a chrome-plated rage that shimmers and gleams beneath the track’s surface.
Overall, the album is a fine crafted and well polished progressive metal album. It definitely shows the song-writing prowess that the Matheos/Moore songwriting partnership has to offer.
By Matt Miller
After four years, a Mr. WA was crowned. The event was attended by students and parents who came to see either their friend or son perform. There was a panel of seven judges including principal Jim Antonelli, Dean Mike Parent, special education teacher Kelliann Harrigan, psychologist Kristen White, health and wellness teacher Melanie Jozokos, junior class vice-president Dan Bugos and junior class student council representative Taylor Freud.
The event was short and showcased ten WA seniors including Mitchell Cohen, Will Clark, Joe Royal, Tak Wong, Dylan McCusker, Ali Koese, Reed Peraner, Mike Burgomaster and Kyle Boyd.
The show began with an exhibition of tuxedos for Men’s Warehouse in Nashua. A myriad of styles were displayed promoting their line-up. All ten contestants were accompanied by a female sponsor.
After the showcase, the talent portion began. Up first was Cohen playing a self-composed jazz piano piece. It garnered much praise from both the audience and judge panel.
Next, Clark gave a rather humorous monologue regarding a fictional encounter with his father. The audience roared with laughter and Antonelli jokingly wanted to see Clark at 7:30 on Monday.
Third came Royal who sang, while Matt Warner accompanied him on Guitar.
Wong followed after showcasing his impressive break dancing skills. As usual, the crowd was awed by his ability.
McCusker followed with two improvised songs, accompanied by Nick Nudler on Piano. Both the songs were based on words that members from the audience shouted to McCusker. He then would sing a song based on that word.
Following McCusker, German exchange student Koese provided a bit of stand-up comedy regarding his experiences in America.
Afterwards, Peraner sang a rendition of “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Buble.
Burgomaster brought something unique to the table. Instead of singing or dancing, he decided to showcase his ability to tweet. He went backstage and tweeted about some of the WA faculty, some of which were on the judges panel.
To conclude the talent portion, Boyd paid tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes, Sinatra, with a grand showstopper. Every judge and the audience were mesmerized by his singing ability.
The next portion of the show consisted of a Question and Answer and a casual wear display. Each contestant was asked a question regarding their future plans or who inspired them to run for Mr. WA .
After a short intermission, the judges made their final decision. Every contestant except for the top three were awarded T-Shirts. Wong was awarded third place and Royal was awarded second place. Ultimately, Burgomaster was crowned Mr. WA.
March 5th was just like every other Monday for many people last week. Adults went to work and children went to school. Videos were posted on Youtube, thousands of them. However, one video gained much attention from people across the globe. Despite being a phenomenon and establishing awareness for this cause, there is a controversy surrounding both the director and the pledge organization.
The video was titled Kony 2012. The thirty minute documentary tells the tale of Joseph Kony, the leader of a guerrilla army known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. He is considered to be a notorious war criminal involved with the abduction of children and forcing them into his army. He is extremely infamous in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
This short film was directed by Jason Russell, the founder of the non-profit organization Invisible Children. The video promotes a campaign with one goal in mind; to arrest Kony and put an end to his atrocities. Their goal is to make Kony famous or rather open people’s eyes to the horrors he is brewing in Central Africa.
The video has garnered approximately eighty million views and is still growing. The video’s popularity is largely due to the word of mouth. Many people believe this video to be very significant and open many people aware to this campaign.
“This is a good thing because prior to the release of the video barely anyone knew about Kony or the LRA” said sophomore Karun Kannan. “This awareness results in people around the world starting to become more aware of what’s happening in the world, which is important.”
Despite gaining much popularity in the walls of Westford Academy, there are many students who have not seen the whole documentary. Some have sat through only a few minutes of the documentary.
” I had watched approximately two minutes of the video,” said senior Charit Tippaready. “I still have not managed to finish the other twenty-seven minutes.”
Some students had not seen the video or let alone heard of it.
“I had not even heard of the video until now,” said senior Vivek Gaddam.
A few days after the film gained prominence, some began to question the film’s validity. When it was screened in the country of Uganda, people reacted with negatively. They claim that Kony and his soldiers disappeared from Uganda almost six years ago. Most of them have fled to neighboring countries. Some claim that this documentary presented irresponsible information creating almost a false impression of the current situation in Uganda.
“This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today” says Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire. “It gives an impression that Africans are totally helpless and depend on American help.”
Director Jason Russell has been in some hot water recently. On March 15th, he was arrested by the San Diego police department. According to sources, Russell stripped out of his clothing, ran into traffic, made sexual gestures and possibly vandalized cars. Medical experts gave an official diagnosis for his behavior, stating that it was a “brief reactive pyschosis” brought on by exaustion, dehydration and stress. This behavior may be attributed to the feedback of his film.
Many have questioned the motives of the Invisible Children organization. If you look at their annual reports, a majority of the money they receive is spent on movie making, travel, and sustaining the organization. In fact less then 30% of the donated money goes to Ugnada and the surrounding regions to build schools and establish early warning systems.
“All in all, Invisble Children is not the best non-profit organization out there but it is the one that set this world on fire with it’s 30 minute video and for that they should be credited” said Kannan. “No matter personal opinions, this video did change the world for the better.”
On Friday March 30th, a group of boys from the class of 2012 will partake in an anticipated talent show. This group will compete for the title of Mr. WA, a title that has not been held since 2007.
The event started back in 2004 and did very well for a number of years. It was used as a fundraising event for the varsity cheerleaders. Since 2007 it has lost interest, but now it is back by popular demand.
There will be a total of fifteen participants including Joe Royal, Reed Peraner, Dylan McCusker, Kyle Boyd and Kyle Russo to name a few. Royal explained why he chose to participate in this event and what he is bringing to the table.
“It seemed like a great fundraiser and I get to be with a lot of other great participants,” said Royal. “And I get to do something that I love, which is singing.”
In order for a senior to participate in this event, an application was required to be involved. There were two questions on the application: what skills or talents the participant possessed and why they believe they could be Mr. WA. This event is more of a talent competition than a pageant.
“It is not based on looks, rather it will be based on personality and talent,” said guidance counselor and event coordinator Betsy Murphy.
The actual competition will consist of the talent show as well as a tuxedo showcase. This year contestants will adorn tuxedos donated by the Nashua Tux Shop to showcase the variety of tuxedos the shop has to offer. This will serve as a means to advertise their attire for the upcoming prom season.
The class of 2013 will sponsor the competition. The group will also sponsor the event next year and then pass the torch onto another group.
“In the past, it has been a great time,” said Murphy. “The event brought many different people out to see the guys before they graduate.”
Who will become the next Mr. WA? Only time will tell.
By Matt Miller
During one school week in March, Westford Academy’s Amnesty International will fast for a significant cause.
For all those who are unaware, Amnesty International is a humanitarian organization that works in numerous countries across the globe. Established in 1961, Amnesty International is a movement of people assembled to fight injustice and promote human rights. Currently, there are more than one million members in the organization. This group has a number of goals they wish to see accomplished including abolishing the death penalty, ensuring fair and prompt trials for political prisoners and freeing all prisoners of conscience.
The students’ goal here at WA is to raise money to purchase a number of solar cookers for women in poverty stricken parts of Africa. Junior Priyanka Ram is organizing this event after a life altering trip to Africa last summer.
“I was influenced to organize this event during my vacation to Kenya this past summer said Priyanka. During my trip, I noticed the destitute conditions of men, women, and children living in rural villages. I decided I wanted to help out in some possible way.”
In many villages in Kenya, a woman’s traditional role includes cooking, gathering firewood, and hauling water. Due to climate change and population growth, many areas have been depleted of firewood and water. In these areas, women and young girls spend up to six hours a day hauling water from distant sources or searching for wood for cooking. There is also a risk for these women and girls who trek for firewood and water. They could be potentially subjected to abuse and other dangers.
“These women are at risk in these areas of Africa” said Amnesty International advisor Donna Kavanagh. “These cookers should help to reduce the risk of assault and rape.”
These solar cookers are simple and easy to use. They require no fuel source and are both practical and affordable. These devices can perform tasks such as boiling water or grilling food, and since they do not require any fuel source, they help to prevent air pollution. In addition, these cookers slow the process of deforestation and desertification since they do not require firewood. In addition to cooking food, these machines can help to pasteurize disease filled water and make it safe to drink. The cookers are not much of a fire hazard either, thus reducing the risk of wildfires. They cost less than twenty-five dollars to purchase.
For one week, students will not purchase a lunch from the school cafeteria. The money that would be used for a hot lunch would be donated to this cause. At the end of the week, the students will determine how much money was made.
“I would like to involve all of the students in the school in this project to raise money,” said Priyanka. “Hopefully, students can donate their lunch money for one day and fast for this great cause.”
Being a musician, I have great respect for music and consider it a large portion of my life. I enjoy numerous genres of music, spanning from blues to new wave. I would rather listen to a slick guitar solo then listen to “Party Rock Anthem.” I prefer a lengthy instrumental to a techno song. Lately I have been listening to a smorgasbord of tasty morsels. Here are a few recent personal favorites of mine in no particular order.
1. Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill
Released in 1972, this was the band’s debut album. It is the established the sleek, jazz rock sound that they are often associated with. All the songs are well crafted pieces written by the duo of pianist/keyboardist Donald Fagen and bassist Walter Becker.
The album has a variety of songs, from an Eastern, sitar filled “Do it Again” to a Latin-Jazz romp “Only A Fool Would Say That.” Probably the most famous track off of this album would have to be the FM radio staple, “Reelin’ In The Years.” To this day, this remains to be one of their most popular tunes. This track contains two guitar solos provided by a great session musician named Elliot Randall. Randall also provided a guitar solo on the track Kings. Despite being the bands most beloved song, both Fagen and Becker claim to dislike the song. Elliot’s solos on “Reelin’ In The Years” garnered praise from many other musicians including Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who has stated that it is his favorite guitar solo.
Overall this album, is an excellent jazz-rock album that brings everything to the table and leaves the listener satisfied.
Listen to: “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Only A Fool Would Say That,” “Fire In The Hole“
2. Rush’s 2112
After the commercial failure of Caress of Steel, Rush were experiencing a period of hardship. Caress of Steel was thought to be the trio’s breakthrough album. However it deviated from their previous album Fly by Night and alienated many of their devoted fans. 2112 was produced as a last stand of sorts. The band completed it believing that everyone would hate it, but as it turns out this was the breakthrough album they yearned for.
The album itself is dominated by the twenty minute progressive rock track 2112. The track is divided into seven sections or parts. The song tells a story beginning in the year 2112 in which the world is ruled under a totalitarian government called the Solar Federation. The government controls every facet from what people read to the songs they sing. An unnamed character finds a musical instrument of the “elder race” and learns to play it. This act of self expression is eventually put down by the higher powers and then the song draws to a close.
There are five other tracks on the album. Most of the others are just standard Rush, except for “A Passage To Bangkok” and “Something For Nothing.” The album marries the complexity of progressive rock with the heavy, drive of hard rock into one, direct stream.
Listen to: “2112,” “Something For Nothing”
3. The Black Key’s El Camino
Released in December of 2011, this is a relatively new album. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer/percussionist Patrick Carney have been producing albums for the past decade. Their blend of blues and garage rock helps to create their unique sound.
There is a total of eleven tracks on this album. However, this album relies less on blues and puts more emphasis on garage rock. The album also draws influence from genres such as soul, R &B and rockabilly.
The one track that is the most memorable would have to be “Lonely Boy.” This was released as a single prior to the release of the album. It is a very catchy tune that resonates in the mind. The single was accompanied by a humorous video of actor/musician Derrick Tuggle dancing and the lyrics of the song. Another track on the album, “Gold On The Ceiling,” is slated for release on February 27, 2012.
Listen to: “Lonely Boy,” “Nova Baby,” “Gold On The Ceiling”
4. Robert Johnson’s Complete Recordings
Released in 1990, this compilation album released all twenty-nine recordings made by the late blues great, Robert Johnson. The twenty-nine tracks were recorded over a period of a year beginning in 1936 and ending in 1937.
All the tracks have been remastered from the original recordings. All of the tracks on the album were crucial in movement of the blues and eventually rock and roll. The most notable tracks include “Traveling Riverside Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and the blues standard “Crossroad Blues.” Almost every other blues artist or song has been influenced by Robert Johnson.
Listen to: “Sweet Home Chicago, “Crossroad Blues”, “Dust My Broom”
On December 16th, the Chipotle franchise officially opened in Westford, a dream come true for WA students. Mexican food is popular among young people and Chipotle Westford proved to be an exceptional establishment. On a recent Saturday afternoon, The Ghostwriter visited the restaurant. The experience itself was great, but not without flaws.
Chipotle was not as crowded as anticipated, which was peculiar for a Saturday afternoon. Because of the appeal of this new restaurant, the lines have sometimes been quite lengthy, but not on this particular Saturday.
The decor was typical of most Chipotle restaurants. But, it seemed a bit too metallic. If it had a little more pizazz to it, it would be more appealing. Another oddity was that some of the tables still had food bits on them. Some stray bits of trash had managed to miss the waste baskets. It seems sanitation needs to be a higher priority.
The wait in line only about a minute or two. The staff of the restaurant were well trained, for the most part. On this occasion, the burrito-wrapper could have used a little more training. A chicken burrito and small soda, the typical entree that I purchased. The staff handled exceptionally well an order of a chicken burrito and a small soda, asking about any special requests. They understood this patron’s wants perfectly. The only issue that arose was the way my burrito was wrapped.
The Chicken Burrito was a well-crafted, delicious, stupendous and laudable dish. All the natural, palatable ingredients were wrapped together by a flour tortilla. The grilled chicken was tender and juicy and was grilled to perfection. All the ingredients assisted meshed together and sealed the deal. And the salsa added a whole other dimension to the cuisine.
The meal was not expensive. For the burrito and the soft drink, it only cost about $8.55. The food was well worth this price.
Overall, the experience to the Westford Chipotle was an enjoyable one. The food was well prepared, the service phenomenal and the prices affordable. However it falls a bit behind in terms of cleanliness.
When the word grunge comes to mind, what do you automatically assume? Some people would think of dirt or gravel. Others think of a sub-genre of rock music from the early- to mid-nineties. There were many acts that personified this genre, such as Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam. But the one band that left an indelible mark on this genre, as well as rock music as a whole, has to be Nirvana.
Formed in 1987 in the rainy city of Seattle, WA, Nirvana was a trio consisting of guitarist/vocalist Kurt Cobain, bassisist Krist Novoselic and drummer David Grohl. Their debut album, Bleach, was a moderate success, but was dwarfed in comparison to the 1991 followup release, Nevermind. Nevermind was a massive success and produced several top singles on the mainstream charts.
Considered to be their masterpiece, this album is both a quintessential grunge album and a classic rock album. Most of the songs are angst-ridden testaments to the oppressions of society. Nirvana’s use of dynamic changes is especially notable on this album. Many of their songs contain soft verses and then shift to loud, aggressive choruses.
The first four tracks of this album are considered to be their finest work and are their most popular songs.
The first track, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” is undeniably their most recognized song. It is a very alluring track. The lyrics are difficult to decipher due to their nonsensicality and Cobain’s slurred vocals. Many have interpreted this as a teen revolution anthem while others have cited it as a incomprehensible, slew of random lyrics that serve no meaning.
The next track, “In Bloom,” is a testament to the underground music audience of the early nineties.
The third track on the album, “Come As You Are,” is another fine example of Nirvana’s songwriting craft. Unlike the previous songs on the record, this song contains a lengthy guitar solo by Cobain. The solo is not that of a virtuoso, but it fits the piece. The song has been interpreted in a variety of ways, but Kurt Cobain stated that it is about people and what they are supposed to act like. It is a statement regarding non-conformity.
“Lithium” is an attack on the stability of the human mind. There is a lot of self-loathing going on in this song, as Kurt Cobain sings, “I’m so ugly” and takes the voice of a man on the brink of killing himself – dysfunctional, random, and all of that. Cobain made it clear that most of the time he was not singing about himself in his songs, but was pulling from what he saw in other people.
There other tracks on this album all have the same general feeling as the first few tracks. If you have the album, pass it around to others. If you do not own it, go to a local music vendor and purchase it.
By Matt Miller
You know what really grinds my gears? The students who clump together in the area around the main stairwell and Mrs. St. George’s room prior to the ringing of the first bell.
They congregate there every morning, in an area which is a main travel route for many of the students in the Academy. They stand in misshapen, deformed circles, discussing who knows what? They make negotiating that space a pestering process to go through first thing in the morning. This writer often offers a simple, courteous request to move through, but it is usually ignored. One would practically require a weed-whacker, scythe or even a machete to cut a way through.
This is a problem for students who arrive at school at 7:29 and need to pass through the horde promptly in order to access their lockers before first block class. Many students are in a rush at this time of day, and this enormous roadblock hinders their progress. Basically, the time for a change is now!
I don’t have any negative personal feelings towards anybody who stands there, but please transfer yourselves to another area away from this main flow of traffic! Then you can discuss whatever you like with your friends in peace. Please, just make it elsewhere.
Let the Ghostwriter know what grinds your gears.
By Matt Miller
The empty business that was once Burger King will be receiving an update in the coming weeks. The Chipotle franchise is setting up shop in Westford and is slated to open in December of this year.
For those who don’t know about Chipotle, here’s the lowdown. It’s a Mexican restaurant that serves the typical cuisine consisting of burritos, tacos and salads. Along with Moe’s Southwestern Grill, another similar restaurant, it is the only other chain of sit down Mexican Restaurants in the area. However, Moe’s is dwarfed by the number of Chipotle establishments.
The idea was discussed in great detail at the town planning board meeting back in September. The primary concern was that alcohol will be served in addition to the food. Town attorney Matthew Fogelman explained Chipotle’s alcohol serving policies at other outlets, which allow only those who purchase beer to drink it, a required second food purchase for anyone seeking a second alcoholic beverage.
Because of this policy, Planning Board members suggested an expanded police presence. Police force members felt that any hiring additional officers would be unnecessary, however, saying if it did come to that with any local establishment, the restaurant’s license would most likely be revoked.
So it seems Westford has a new eatery arriving. This new establishment will have the features similar to their other Chipotle restaurants. An outdoor patio will be assembled along with restaurant. The full menu is available online at their website.
Charlotte Callon is a local musician that has been gaining a bit of attention in recent weeks. She had just recently been awarded 2nd place on WA idol and performs at the Parish and Acton Jazz Café frequently. This is a strong passion for her and she demonstrates that passion overtly. Many as being extremely talented and skillful by numerous peers and classmates have cited her.
When she was a child, she would sing in the car frequently. This was rather informal, but it was a first step. Her first step in the world of music came in second grade with the piano. Towards fourth grade, she began to write songs. “At that point it was just about things that bothered me in fourth grade.” Says Charlotte.
Her inspirations include legendary ensembles such as The Grateful Dead and The Beatles. In addition, she has new found interests in Folk, Indie and Alternative Rock Music.
She is not the only musician in her family. Her father is a guitarist as well as a strong influence.
“He’s always attempting to book shows and taking me to open mics.” Says Callon. “He is very supportive of my spending habits that relate to music.”
In recent weeks, she had performed two back-to-back concerts. On Friday September 23rd, she performed an acoustic set at the Parish including one song that would win her second place at WA idol the following night. The next evening she performed a piece of her own composition, played the night prior entitled “Don’t.” This composition garnered a very meritorious award. According to Charlotte, this was a surprise.
“ I was really happy about that. I just expected to play. I thought my performance had been decent. When they called me for second place, I was really excited.” Said Callon. I do feel as though there were others who deserved second place as well.”