The Joys of Cinema

The Joys of Cinema

There are many things in life that you only value once they have been taken away from you. Out of the million things that have been affected by these prolonged months of isolation, I’ve felt the emptiness created by the closed movie theatres a lot. I have a soft spot for movie theatres for many reasons and it breaks my heart how I wasn’t able to enjoy the big screen in over a year. Now, as all the bad things in life come to a halt and we are slowly trying to return back to “normal”, cinemas have once again opened their doors to us. 

After more than a year, I’ve finally had the joy and privilege to go see a movie on the big screen instead of watching something on Netflix through my little phone or laptop. While the movie I saw is nothing to write home about, the experience that I had was nothing short of surreal. You know how people always talk about having a home theatre to watch movies in peace, without noisy people around them? Well, I experienced something very similar while watching Cruella on a Friday night, sitting in an almost empty movie hall with a mere 4 people (including me). It was weird, cool and a little heartbreaking, all at the same time.

Come to think of it, I’ve always wanted to enjoy a movie in an almost empty theatre with my popcorn and coca-cola but this experience was more or less just imposed on me (and others) by circumstances completely out of my control. It sucked that one of the most popular movies right now was almost empty on a Friday night. To make things a little worse, there wasn’t even popcorn that one could eat; though I’m sure by the time this thing goes up, we’ll have popcorn back again.

I wonder why it was that empty. Do people not know that theatres are open? Do they care enough to check if they are open again? Are they enjoying Netflix more now? Maybe, just maybe people don’t care about going to the cinemas as much? I really want to be proved wrong here.

I know people have come to enjoy many aspects of being alone and consuming entertainment in solitude but cinemas, of all things, deserve our love and our presence.

While there is always a time to watch a movie at home, not much can beat the joy of spontaneously going to a movie during the middle of the day or late night to zone out from the real world for a few hours. It is de-stressing, no doubt about that, but it can also be very empowering. I vividly remember the first time I went to see a movie alone. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch something without worrying what my friends were thinking about it or if I was the only one liking it. To be able to go sit in a crowded hall alone with a bunch of strangers actually does wonders to your confidence. Plus, I also didn’t have to share my popcorn with anyone, you see. Oh and yes, the comfortable seats. All that forms part of the experience.

But hold on, I’m not pushing you to go see a movie alone (though it will be very cool, believe me), you can always enjoy the company of your friends and family and experience something new with them if they are down for it. In the end, what matters is that we make time out of our very scheduled lives to go enjoy somebody’s work and have it impact the rest of our day(s). Cinemas have the charm to snatch us away into this space even if for a limited time. I also firmly believe that watching a movie on the big screen will always affect you differently than watching it on your laptop.

So, please stay safe and go watch a movie. Try to take in the allure of the red chairs and the faint scent of popcorn lurking everywhere because this experience is only exclusive to one place.  

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What Studying In A Pandemic Taught Me

What Studying In A Pandemic Taught Me

As I have finally accomplished one of the biggest goals in life i.e. graduating from university, I believe that a little essay to acknowledge it is obligatory. You see, my whole journey culminating to this hasn’t been easy and has been very unpredictable to say the least.

My last year, which I expected to be the most fun-filled and defining moments of my university experience, involved watching mostly pre-recorded lectures, in my mismatched pyjamas with little to no social contact with my other classmates (or the world in general). It definitely sucked that I wasn’t able to get ready for class, meet new people at the beginning of each new semester and engage with them at a more personal level, eat out after a class and so on. 

I’m not going to sugar-coat it because it would be utterly dishonest and disrespectful to all the other students who struggled with the same issue this year, so I am going to make it official. I definitely had the worst experience while studying at home alone.

I am very tempted to write more about all that has been bad and horrible but what’s the point when all that could be understood with the few sentences above. Life definitely threw curveballs, not that I wasn’t expecting any but a PANDEMIC? Oof. Anyway, what has happened has happened and I suppose I have earned some bragging rights, right?

I suppose I should enlighten people with some very obligatory “Don’t do this, cause I did and it sucked.” I have done some mental gymnastics to work out a little list of the things I wish I knew better about and some mistakes that I saw my friends make so here it goes:

  1. Dress up everyday even if you have nothing to do.

I never turned on my Zoom camera because I didn’t have to and I definitely felt no need to dress up. In retrospect, I was dumb. One of the biggest joys that I had came when I was getting ready for my in-person classes. The little ritual everyday was the biggest boost to the quality of my day and my confidence. The past year or so, I just found myself more and more disconnected from the person I was and I 100% agree that not keeping up my ritual made me more sad and unproductive. Now that I think back on it, I should have turned on the camera more often because, when I did, I had the most fun and fulfilling experiences, similar to my in-class experiences. I wish I could have gotten that push from somewhere but it’s okay. At least now I know.

2)   Talk to your classmates/professors more whenever you get the opportunity. 

Now this is something that I saw a lot of people struggle with pre-COVID, and post-COVID times gave them a safe haven for not communicating. This is one of the most damaging aspects of having online classes. Many people are okay with studying alone and passing, but I think that they often lack or risk losing the confidence that is crucial in the real-world. Something that they will have to do once everybody gets to see each other in-person.

Be active in your class’s Zoom group chat and get to know other people. Type out your questions or responses and most probably the whole class will read it and try to help you out. What’s even more interesting is that you will actually make a bigger impact on your friends and professors because they will see your name every time you speak up and will probably end up recognizing you more. This is something that I found to happen very rarely in-person. Many students end up being scared of speaking up because they feel the whole class’s eyes on them and get scared that they will make a fool of themselves. So if you have your camera off, go ahead and ask away all your questions because NOBODY knows what you look like and the probability that all your classmates will see you in-person one day and recognize you are slim. Might as well make some use of that “anonymity.”

3)   Attend Live Lectures

Having pre-recorded lectures has been extremely helpful to me and many, many other students. There is absolutely no denying that being able to go back to certain topics that you were unable to understand and rewatch them without anyone counting is very helpful in building a better foundation of that subject. I certainly did that many times but now that I look back at it, I should have been present for the live lectures whenever possible.

Nothing can beat the experience of being in the same boat as your other classmates at 8 in the morning. Sure you will need to learn to be punctual and dedicated but you will also feel much less lonely. I have seen a lot of friends complain about feeling alone or left-out of the class and most of the time it’s because they miss the live lectures and the group discussions. Don’t be lazy and miss out because all these little things are supposed to make you feel better about studying at home and this is why you should take the opportunity.  

4)   DO NOT STUDY IN BED

Yes, this needed to be capitalized. I have been guilty of it and many, many others are. Studying in bed is counter-productive and very unhealthy in the long run. You basically become a slob and unknowingly channel all slob-like tendencies in your work and personal life. Make yourself a designated work-station and force yourself, if you have to, to go sit there. Make your bed the sacred place to watch Netflix and sleep but please don’t be writing your biology papers there at 3 a.m. when you actually should be sleeping in it.

As I conclude, writing this made me feel a little better because at least I learnt what I should never do in the future. Lessons learnt one way or another are lessors learnt. So hopefully you will take some of my advice and have a much better and fulfilling time at on-line school.

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The Power of Naruto

The Power of Naruto

Out of every television show I have ever seen, there is one that holds a special place in my heart. It is simply titled Naruto, and it is the show that changed my life for the better. While you may be skeptical that a mere television show can change someone’s life, I must assure you that it is not a hyperbole. Let me explain. It all started on a cool summer’s night when I was only thirteen-years-old. That year I was on a nostalgia kick and I watched many shows from my childhood. One show that I could never bear to watch was Naruto. It seemed too violent for my younger self, but once I became thirteen, I felt like I had matured enough to handle it. And so, I searched it up online and after the first episode, I was hooked.

naruto poster 2

Naruto is an anime that follows the story of a young boy who was left without parents as an infant and must struggle for survival and acceptance in a world that rejects him. I do need to mention that Naruto is set in a world where people fight as ninjas to protect their villages from their enemies. Ninjas are able to manipulate their spiritual energy, called chakra, to create powerful attacks. Some ninjas can create fireballs, others can manipulate water, some can heal injuries while others can create multiple shadow clones of themselves. It is hard to describe in words, but I would definitely recommend searching up some fight scenes from Naruto, the animation can be amazing at times.

nine tailed fox

On the day of Naruto’s birth, his village was in the midst of destruction by a rampaging demon fox spirit. To protect the village and its people, a powerful ninja sealed the fox spirit within Naruto. Unfortunately, as Naruto grew, the people of his village ostracized and bullied him. This is because when they looked at Naruto, they did not see a child, but a demon. Despite this, Naruto becomes a high-spirited goofy kid who likes playing pranks on his teachers and classmates. He isn’t the best student, if fact, he is one of the worst. And yet, he believes in his ability and potential. This belief is the core theme that is presented throughout the show. While no one really believes in him, in actuality most people look down on him, Naruto believes in himself and fights to protect his friends.

This message is one of the reasons Naruto changed my life. I am quite a shy person and I never had much self-confidence. I’m not sure why, but I always had this idea in my head that I am a failure and will fail at everything I do. I thought that everyone was better than me, so there wasn’t any use in trying. However, once I started to watch Naruto, this idea began to shift. The show did not completely cure me of my insecurities, but it did give me a small boost of encouragement. When faced with a challenge, after watching Naruto, I would start thinking, well what would Naruto do in this situation? Would he give up? No, never! I mostly focused this newfound self-confidence into school. My high school would rank its students by overall averages and would post your average on the school’s Honor Roll list. When I was thirteen, I started on the bottom of the list. But, after 3 years, I was able to consistently be ranked number one. I attribute this gradual growth to perseverance in the face of difficult subjects.

Okay, now back to Naruto. The show begins with Naruto at thirteen-years-old, who just graduated from the local ninja academy. Once graduated, he is placed in a team with his sworn rival Sasuke Uchiha, his crush Sakura Haruno, and his new teacher Kakashi Hatake. Throughout the show, Naruto and his team are faced with enemies that are either planning to destroy their village (Konohagakure) or capture Naruto himself so that they may gain the power of the demon fox within him. While some ninjas are bent on killing Naruto, he still sees the good in them. He speaks to their pain, tries to understand why they have decided to hurt others, and ultimately helps set them on a better path (usually through lots of heart wrenching battles and intermittent discussions). This is one of my favorite parts of Naruto. No antagonist is truly evil, they have their own personal backstories and trauma that lead them to hold certain beliefs, which affect their goals and actions. No one is considered a lost cause. People can grow, change, and become better people.

naruto poster

There is also a sub-plot in the show regarding the character Sasuke, whose entire clan was killed in a single night by his brother Itachi. Now, Sasuke’s goal is to gain enough power to kill his brother, no matter the means or the cost. This leads Sasuke towards a dark path of moral disengagement, and away from his village and his friends. One of Naruto’s main goals is to save Sasuke from himself, bring him back to the village and restore their friendship. The bonds of friendship is another main theme of Naruto. Friends help and support each other, both in battles and through emotional struggles.

This theme even carried over into real life. Naruto, and anime in general, has brought me closer to so many special people in my life. As a young girl, I would watch Naruto with my younger brothers. My youngest brother was only three-years-old at the time. While we all grew into different people, Naruto will always be something that brings our family together. This show even helped me make a friend. In 2017, I was at one of the lowest points of my life, and all I wanted was a friend. Then, one day, I decided to wear a shirt with Naruto and Sasuke printed on it. As I walked into statistics class, something magical happened. A girl called out to me, and said that I had a nice shirt, which then prompted me to ask her if she wanted to be my friend. Since then, we have become quite close friends and I love her very much. I can’t imagine my life without her. And yet, without Naruto, our friendship might have never happened. Finally, watching Naruto thrusted me head-first into the world of anime. From there, I watched Death Note, Bleach, Dragon ball and more. Anime became part of my personal identity. I’m not sure what draws me to Japanese animation, but there are many people who are drawn to it as well. So much so that McGill has its own anime club. I joined the club last year and have met so many kind people, and even made some wonderful friends. This is why Naruto is so close to my heart. Not only does it tell its audience to believe in themselves, but it also brings people together. And for that I am eternally grateful.

amber lee tag


 

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A Case for Remote Schooling in Quebec

A Case for Remote Schooling in Quebec

Our individual provinces (and Canada as a whole), are currently battling a second wave of spikes in coronavirus infections. In Quebec, this wave began to be reported around the third week of September, shortly after the reopening of schools throughout the province. When asked why Quebec’s numbers remain high, the government continues to blame its citizens, specifically those under 40-years-old. Saying that their Francophone roots lead to lax behaviour and a tendency to party. What the CAQ government refuses to provide, however, is hard data backing up their claims as to where the infections are coming from.

During the first wave of Covid-19, our government likewise reprimanded the population for the rising numbers in the first month of lockdown. They refused to advise which age cohorts were testing positive, in what occupations, and areas. Eventually, we learned that front-line workers and health staff were those most at risk while doing nothing more than being of service to other Canadians. Front-line workers did not have PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at the start and peak of the first wave and were amongst those falling ill. Along with medical personnel who had PPE but were exposed at close range to active cases of COVID-19 during their workday. It was not until shortly before the federal government dispatched military staff to assist Quebec’s CHSLDs (Long-Term Care Homes), that we learned where the virus was spreading the fastest, and why.

Now we are in the second wave of infection, which began just weeks after learning institutions reopened throughout Quebec. The numbers of those infected have not decreased despite the partial lockdown restrictions ordered by the CAQ government for the hardest-hit cities and regions. These were announced for the month of October, and have since been extended to November as well. The restrictions include the closure of restaurant dining rooms, movie theatres, museums, and all other indoor public spaces. As well as churches and places of worship having a maximum attendance of 25 persons permitted at one time. Individuals living alone, are asked not to have more than one guest over, except for service calls, such as plumbers, or home care workers (for those in need of such). Yet non-food and drink industries, businesses such as hair salons and hotels, are allowed to remain open. As well as public establishments, where elementary school children are not required to wear masks in their classrooms, and their in-person attendance is mandatory unless they have a medical note excepting it.

However, most serious illnesses affecting these preteens, including kidney failure, organ transplant waitlist, and active cancer treatments are not automatic exemptions from school attendance during COVID, according to the province’s back-to-school plan. Doctors’ associations in this province have been spoken to by our provincial government and asked to be stringent in the medical notes they issue, exempting youths from attending school. Which is what is required to allow them to have access to publicly provided (free), remote schooling. Otherwise, parents can either homeschool their kids, or enroll them in a private school if they can afford the tuition, as they offer online learning. These options require parents of school-aged children to have one of the following circumstances: one parent not working, or not working during the day, or for this to not be a single-parent household. Or, for the parent(s) to have the spare income to enroll their child (ren) in private school. This is not the case for the majority of Quebec families, and creates a disparity in the risks that the offspring of lower-income parents (and their immediate family), are obligated to face during this pandemic.

Lawsuits launched by parents of severely ill children, asking for remote learning to be an option in Quebec, for all parents who choose it for their children, have been denied by the courts. Our premier claims this law is due to a teacher shortage in our province, to focus the number of teachers in the classrooms. However, every province in Canada has a teacher shortage, including Ontario, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Canada after Quebec. Still, it offers that option to parents, as does every province except for Quebec, Manitoba, and New Brunswick. All three provinces insist on school attendance up to Grade 8, and offer remote learning with a medical exemption. But only Quebec makes medical notes, and illness exemptions especially hard for parents to acquire. As of this date, New Brunswick has had 334 cases of coronavirus, Manitoba has had 4,500, and Quebec has had 102,000 cases. Despite having a much greater population infection, Quebec’s government offers the least options in Canada for parents that are justifiably worried about sending their children to school.

Dining in a restaurant, or going to a cultural establishment, is currently too dangerous in Quebec’s red zones, but forcing sick children to attend school is not? So far there have been 6,554 cases of COVID-19 reported in Quebec across 1,476 schools, in less than 2 months of schooling. 5,267 of those infected were students, and 1,287 were teachers. These children and adults all have families that they came home to prior to developing symptoms. Who, likewise have or will contract the virus too, as they isolate in the same dwelling. As the CAQ government refuses to disclose the ages of those contracting coronavirus in raw data, it is unclear if this second wave is not directly linked to the insistence on in-person school attendance in this province. What is the percentage of 40-years-old who are contributing to this second wave of COVID numbers because they work in a school, or have children attending school who brought it home with them? Unfortunately, with the emergency powers in place for our government to protect us, there is no way of forcing more transparency in the coronavirus data that is rendered public. Unless once again, federal interference is required, and they have no choice but to advise us on where the problem truly laid this time around.

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