The Problem on Maple Street

By Alyssa Reid

            The screaming has finally stopped. As I cautiously turn my music down, I curse Nancy Jones from next door for having a pool party for her birthday.

            Because some of us have summer reading.

            Then again, she’s, like, ten. She doesn’t know about the wonders of ninth grade.

            So far I’ve heard a hurricane’s worth of splashing, a horror-movie-scream version of Marco Polo, and—best of all—a gloriously off-key version of “Happy Birthday.”

            And, you know, you’d think the kids would be quiet when they were eating cake—some luxurious chocolate flavor, according to Mrs. Joes, from her three weeks’ worth of her bragging about (and my dreading) this party.

            Butno. Charlie pushed May into the pool and the screaming was back.

            I’m pulled out of my angry reminiscing by a blood-chilling: “The red popsicle’s mine!”

            I slam my head into my book and turn my music back up. I can analyze A Tale of Two Citieslater. I let out a groan, but I can still hear them screaming over those popsicles as if they don’t all taste the same.

            They must be really passionate about what color they want their tongues to be.

            After deciding some toddlers aren’t worth the hearing damage, I turn my music down again and check my room for things that could drown the noise out.

            Blankets? Not heavy enough. My closet’s too small to shut myself into as well, and anyway, I wouldn’t want Mom asking how I managed to get myself in there (probably after a firefighter had pulled me out).

            It’s 3:23. There’s got to be something I can do.

Growing Out of It

By Alyssa Reid

I didn’t know I loved the sunrise till I watched the sky wake up with a city that rarely sleeps.

I didn’t know I loved the snowfall till my boots became ice skates and the sleet melted down my coat.

I didn’t know I loved the rain till I heard thunder from inside a fort of assorted pillows.

I didn’t know I loved long elevator rides till I saw a metropolis from above and the clouds a little closer.

I didn’t know I loved the stage till I heard applause so loud it shook the floor.

I didn’t know I loved painting till I watched colors bloom from the tip of a smooth brush.

I didn’t know I loved driving till I felt the increased hum of the accelerator beneath my sneaker.

I didn’t know I loved nighttime till I watched the moon glow to a glimmer in the sky.

Writing Sucked

By Alex Zhang 
iWRITE Youth Club Member & Published Author

Picture

​​There once was a boy called Alex,
Who thought writing was a chore.
It was tiring, frustrating, hopeless,
And most of all, it was a bore.
He hated it with a passion,
He thought it was a waste of time.
Why think of really good poems,
When you struggle even to rhyme?
But one day, everything changed.
His parents had had enough.
They said, “Fool, silly, enter this thing!”
So Alex wrote down a poem with a huff.
Alex entered that contest,
And forgot about it for a while,
But then one day he got an email,
And what was inside made him smile.
It said, “We’d love to feature you,
Alex, your poem is great!
If you ever want to join us,
Send an email; don’t hesitate.”
Of course, that’s not what it said,
But he had won himself a name.
Alex joined this wonderful group,
And he was never again the same.
He actually liked writing now,
As he wrote and he wrote with delight.
And so, my gracious audience,
Ends the magical tale of iWrite.

The Video Game Turned Reality: A Review of Tomb Raider

By Alyssa Reid

iWRITE Youth Club Secretary & Published Author

Picture

​Director: Roar Uthaug
With: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Nick Frost, Hannah John-Kamen, Antonio Aakeel, Alexandre Willaume, Tamer Burjaq, Adrian Collins, Kennan Arrison.
Release Date: Mar 16, 2018


This review contains spoilers.

The thing about video games, I’ve learned, is that it’s always about making sure everything that can go wrong will go wrong. And it is with this mentality that the screenwriters composed the 2018 action film entitled Tomb Raider.
It’s a rather enticing name, if I do say so myself—even if, by the time the credits roll, little has been stolen except a few lives. And, to be fair, that was stolen by the tomb itself.

Alicia Vikander is the woman behind a strong, female lead; she’s exactly what audiences came to see. Of course, as Laura, she is more agile and clever than those above her, as protagonists are; however, amid her stubbornness and bravery, she refrains from any choice quips about her gender. She allows Laura Croft to be defined by her own actions, and some lead to her finding herself trapped inside a coffin-enclosed mystery that her father once tried to lock shut.

On a more technical note, the cinematography was beautiful. Sweeping shots follow Laura as she dashes across Hong Kong docs; a shaky camera dashes through a sinking ship with her; and a steady hand walks across the tomb room with the characters. In a world where so many aspects of life are captured by screens, the storytelling through a film must be immersive; and immersive this is.

The CGI is coupled expertly with this; terrifying waves crash over the Endurance, the ship. Although the shots from guns can arguably look cartoonish and fake, it’s not something that has a high level of complaint for me.

There is also the element of coloring: Laura and her father’s memories all consist of similar hues: normally grayish tones with highlights of pink and green. It creates a faded look, but one that is reminiscent nonetheless.

The film was written expertly. Croft, a broke orphan and enthusiastic boxer, seems to have a way of getting in trouble—as seen when she joins a “fox-and-hound” bike race (where herself, as the fox, has to outbike many other competitors as green paint attached to her bike marks her trail) and ends up running into a police car.
And so begins the story of how Laura Croft ends up thrust into a world far more ancient than anything she believes exists and more mysterious than her father’s unfortunate disappearance.

“I’ll be back before you know I’m gone,” her father can be heard saying in Laura’s memories. They have a universal symbol; the kissing of two fingers before outstretching them to the other.

The film blends both faith and fantasy; blends religion and reality. Mathias Vogel, the “bad guy” ready to leave a myth-torn island, just wants to get the tomb of the privately infamous Queen Himiko so he can leave it, and Laura is with him; they both know there is no supernatural substance when regarding the myth of the Queen who was so demonic she killed people by touching them, who was so cruel that every story of her rein “ended in rivers of blood.” Her tomb is real, and that is it.

And even the finding of her father, the great Richard Croft, who firmly believes the Queen is alive and trapped in her coffin, does not sway Laura.

“Ladies first,” Vogel tells her when the tomb entrance is opened. And so Laura goes down into a cave that legend says she should never come back out of.

They make their way through various challenges where various crew members are lost along the way.

And they wait. The tomb is opened. Nothing happens, until it does.

The means for the end of the world lies in a cavern designed to keep people in, but Vogel, holding the key to all of that destruction, has other plans. Laura chases after him, the man who now walks towards leading the demise of the world. She’ll fight for this.

Perhaps, in the end, it is no mystery that the girl who was an expert with the bow would grow up to save hundreds from an imprisonment camp with that same weapon; that she would fight to the death for the man she thought was probably dead; that she would end up saving the world with little more than her own hands.
Despite her dislike of the supernatural and, for her, unbelievable, her story slots in nicely with other hero-like tales. She was a nobody, thrust into a world far different than the one she once knew, and now, she has to fight to know what she never could have imagined.

This is why, I believe, we enter theatres of all kinds: to learn something. Perhaps we learn the importance of family, or strength, or bravery; perhaps we learn that, no matter our pasts, we all have a greater responsibility to those who may never appreciate us or may never care. Perhaps some of us go to reaffirm the belief that myths are myths; but some of us learn that myths, no matter the amount of truth in them, affect us in ways we never could have believed, either: in fights, in bike rides, in adventures far beyond our wildest imaginations.

And perhaps, in the end of it all, Laura Croft becomes something of a myth herself.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Dungeons and Dragons, Written by a Semi-Beginner to Dungeons and Dragons

By Annie Jones
iWRITE Youth Club Junior Officer & Published Author
Picture

“Can I do a stealth check?” Andrew Nanna asked. Mr. Center looked at him, confused. “On… What?” he replied. “I want to sneak to the back of the cave,” he explained impatiently. Mr. Center said, “Nanna, there’s nothing in the cave with you guys. You don’t have to sneak up on the wall. It hasn’t noticed you yet, so I don’t think it’s ever going to.” The room full of boys erupted in laughter. Well, not full of boys. There was a girl (me) who laughed along with them. Finally, someone said, “Can I do a perception check?” He rolled the die and got… Drum roll… a 3 out of 20. Mr. Center said, “To you, the cave looks big and dark.” The next kid goes and rolls a 1. “OK, that cave is looking big and dark.” I raise my hand, “Can I do a perception check?” I reach for the dice. “Thank goodness! Go ahead,” he says. I drop the die onto the table. “16, plus my intelligence score adds 2, so 18.” Mr. Center goes into storytelling mode.

“Jack starts to walk into the cave, but Annie throws out her arm and says, “Stop!” Everyone grumbles, but she lights a torch and waves it in front of the group. In the light of the torch, you see a thin, glimmering tripwire across the entrance to the cave. Jack backs away. You were all about to set off the trap. Alright, activity period is over. Time to go to class!”

At my school, we have activity periods where we get to choose what activity you want to do. I chose Dungeons and Dragons, and even though it had come out in 1974 (the year my parents were born) I knew nothing about it. And to make matters worse, I was the only girl in the group. Granted, I had told Mr. Center, the head of the activity, that I didn’t mind that (which I didn’t), but still. All of the D&D guides online used fancy words like, 1d20 Constitution saving throws or +2 charisma modifier. How was I supposed to know what all that meant? So I’ll be giving you the rundown in my D&D basic guide.


First and Foremost, how do you play? Well, you have your party, which is the people you’re playing with, and the Dungeon Master, or DM. Mr. Center is my DM. When you start a game, your DM might say,” all of you are in a tavern, minding your own business, when you overhear some dwarves talking about how they need someone to guard their wagon through the forest on a 3-day trip.” You can ask your DM, “can I walk up to the dwarves and say I’ll guard the wagon.” You walk up to the dwarves and your DM tells you what the dwarves say. The DM is the god of your D&D world. He tells you where you are, who’s with you, and what’s happening.


But you aren’t in this D&D world, are you? You aren’t in a tavern with dwarves. That’s where your character comes in. You have to design your character and their abilities to take your place in the game. First, you choose your character race. The races are Tiefling, Dragonborn, Half Orc, Elf, Half Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling, Human (at least, those are the basic races. Beginners should limit themselves to these). Next, you choose your class. I won’t list all of them, but some examples are sorcerer, warlock, ranger, barbarian, and rogue. Your class adds to your character’s abilities. If you are a sorcerer, you typically don’t have heavy melee weapons and instead rely on your spells. Barabarians are just the opposite. It helps to pick a class that works well with your race (i.e. barbarian half-orc, ranger elf), but it can also be fun to mess around with a contradictory character and write a more interesting story for them.


Once you choose your class and race, there are a lot of varied things you have to do, so check with your DM if you are a beginner on cantrips and proficinecies and things like that, but you really don’t have to know every single term to play for the first time. But something you definitely have to know is how to use the dice. Say you are being attacked by a cougar and want to use your “Acid Splash” spell. You ask the DM if you can do it. You have to roll the die to see if the spell works and if you miss.If you roll an 18 (and it isn’t a freaky magic cougar) that cougar will die. If you roll a 3, you miss and the panther gets back to trying to eat you. Pro tip: have someone else with you in combat. One bad roll and you’re dead without some backup. If you’re fighting something more challenging that takes a lot of hits to defeat and you’re swinging a sword at it, you also have to factor your strength score into the damage it makes. If you have a low strength score, it won’t damage the monster as much.


Finally, how do you determine that Strength Score? Well, you have 6 different statistics that describe your character’s strengths and abilities. These are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. If you are a sorcerer and casting a spell, you use Charisma. High charisma, stronger spell (same as in the strength example). You determine this charisma by rolling a die. Roll four 6-sided dice and add up the results. This number will be the points for one of your scores. Repeat this for each one, and voila! Just make sure to do this in front of the Dungeon Master so he knows you weren’t cheating.


So now you know the basics of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a really fun game, encouraging the use of imagination and creativity. Make whatever character you want, with whatever race/class combo you want. As I’ve said, this game has existed since 1974 and in currently in it’s fifth version (if you ever google something related to D&D, put 5e at the end). It’s still as fun as ever and it’s awesome when you’re first trying it out. So mess around a bit, write a cool backstory, and don’t get eaten by an Undead Wolf. I hope this helped.