The Shield McQuaid Jesuit's biweekly content heap. Mon, 16 Dec 2019 14:15:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shatner Claus: Dear God, Why? Thu, 12 Dec 2019 03:34:45 +0000 Since I was supposed to write this article last year, but the album failed to drop in time for Shieldmas, I’m going to be very upfront with you: while I cannot confirm this, empirically speaking, what assorted experience I have had with Shatner Claus leads me to believe that listening to the entire album would destroy whatever mental faculties you somehow retain even once you decide to listen to it.

I imagine that most of you have some idea of who Bill Shatner is, but in case you don’t: he’s from Montreal, and he was, by all accounts, a decent stage actor who’d done a couple of film roles before he was chosen to be the id of Cold War America Captain James T(iberius) Kirk of USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), in which capacity he served for three years of television and several movies that have spawned some memes, and the rest, as they say, is T.J. Hooker.

There’s other stuff (he paid someone else to worked very hard to write a sci-fi series named TekWar), but ultimately, we’re here for William Shatner not as a writer, not even as an actor, but as a singer. That puts us up against a rather intractable problem:

William Shatner can’t sing.

Don’t believe me? Just watch:

What was your favorite part of that video? Was it the 1970s special effects? Was it that Shatner clearly never learned to stop acting for the cheap seats? Was it that he had so little self-awareness at this point that his complete seriousness is almost entertaining? Whichever one it was, I hope that gives you some clue, however scant, into what we’re dealing with.

To be fair, Bill Shatner does not take himself anywhere near that seriously anymore. You see, after the Star Trek movies, after T.J. Hooker, contemporaneously with TekWar, he started work on his memoirs, and reached out to his old Star Trek costars to see whether they would help him reminisce about the old days, maybe provide some testimonials about what a wonderful, funny, and handsome man he was. Unfortunately, Shatner’s colleagues remembered those times very differently, and told him so, in no uncertain terms, over and over again. (James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, and who refused to be interviewed for said memoirs: “I like Captain Kirk, but I sure don’t like Bill.”) That, Shatner says, led to him reevaluating what a gigantic jerk he had been to, well, nearly everyone he had worked with or for in the last four decades. As a result, William Shatner, who once wore lifts purely out of spite and complained about how much more fan mail Leonard Nimoy got than him, became William Shatner, who laughed at himself constantly and, in a true feat of acting, played a befuddled and out-of-touch old man for several years on Boston Legal.

Yes, yes, I know this is supposed to be about Shatner’s Christmas album and not the fact that, say, whoever runs his Twitter account is terrible and, I’m reliably informed, confusingly into anime, but here’s the thing: Shatner Claus is a perfect example of the New Shatner. It’s painfully unambitious from start to finish—the production is entirely prerecorded, karaoke-style, and it’s perhaps two ticks above the level of a garage band that can’t keep a lineup together longer than six months. The carol selection (now there’s a turn of phrase) is actually fairly skillful, insofar as it avoids sticking Shatner—who, again, can’t sing—with anything too difficult for his careworn pipes.

No, instead, what you get is Henry Rollins bringing so much misplaced energy into “Jingle Bells” that Shatner’s counterverses feel almost like you’re being anesthetized. You get a rendition of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” in which Shatner is trying to shove a poem written in anapests into the familiar iambic pentameter of his Shakespearean training. You get him stepping on a woman with an actual singing voice doing her best to belt “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” You get maybe 30 percent of Iggy Pop singing “Silent Night,” because why not? Who’s going to stop him? Half the time, you get Shatner deciding to ad-lib for an entire minute like the world’s pushiest Christmas party host.

By the third, or fifth, or seventh track, or however long you manage, the impression you get is of a man who knows that his audience expects him not to try, and just like in his acting days, Bill Shatner gives the audience exactly what they want.

I suppose there’s worse things in the world, really, than overproduced Christmas garbage from a man who knows we’re all laughing with him—wait, is that Feliz gosh-danged Navidad I’m hearing? Why does it have mariachi horns? Why is Shatner the one butchering Spanish when there’s an actual mariachi musician on there?

. . . you know what, I’ve suffered enough. I’m out. Happy holidays, enjoy whatever you celebrate, so long as you don’t listen to this album while doing it.

]]> 0
August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ Hill Thu, 12 Dec 2019 03:34:45 +0000 It would be an understatement to say that Christmas is a popular holiday. Christmas plays such an important part in millions of people’s lives that hundreds of countries decide to dedicate a certain amount of time off for this holiday celebration to be done properly. The impact of Christmas affects not just certain individuals, but the entire economy, as exemplified by the music of Christmas: hundreds, even thousands of songs dedicated to Christmas throughout the centuries, and many of these songs have become timeless classics. However, since there are a number of songs that millions of people have heard throughout their lifetime, there is a certain annoyance to hearing those same songs again and again. This oversaturation makes these once-beloved songs, such as “Jingle Bells” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” old and tiresome to many listeners’ ears, which include this reviewing Scrooge. August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ Hill is here to make the most cynical of music listeners fans of Christmas again.

Source: Wikipedia article on the album.

August Burns Red are a metalcore band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. To those unfamiliar with this genre, it is a style of music that incorporates both metal and hardcore punk. Generally, this style of music does not do Christmas albums, so this caught my interest right away; as someone who likes this genre, it would be interesting to listen to these different renditions. Moreover, this album can even get listeners interested in metalcore through the uniqueness of its covers. Furthermore, this is August Burns Red’s first attempt at a Christmas album, with only two original songs, so it makes the listening experience interesting, as we hear the band have fun and be creative with their carols.

For example, the third track, “Sleigh Ride,” shows the diversity that the band offers with its key changes, breakdowns, and playing the traditional melodies of the original. Another track is “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” which plays around with the original sound and incorporates elements of metalcore to create a solid re-imagining. Even the overplayed songs of “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” are executed so masterfully that they will have any listener headbanging. Ultimately, each song, including the two original songs, “Flurries” and “Sleddin’ Hill,” will successfully shake any listener out of their cynicism, and perhaps into some neck pain. That is because the instrumentation shines throughout this album.

First, the immediate standout throughout this album is the lead guitar, which makes sense since J.B. Brubaker is the arranger for each of the songs. This means choosing the highlights is very difficult, so here are my personal favorites: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” since the solo adds a lot of energy to this very fast rendition, and “Carol of the Bells,” since I already liked the instrumental rendition, and August Burns Red’s cover adds a thumping lead guitar.

The drumming from Matt Greiner is also solid throughout, not only keeping a heavy pace, but also providing versatility throughout the album; look at “Jingle Bells” and “O Holy Night.” The rhythm guitar, by Brent Rambler, is also well-done, since it provides some solid riffs that really get listeners moving. The best examples include the aforementioned fast rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” The bass work, by Dustin Davidson, keeps the rhythm together and adds heaviness throughout the album, which is highlighted best on “Little Drummer Boy” and “Sleigh Ride.”

If you wonder why I am highlighting the instrumentation, the reason is simple: vocals are absent from most of this album. This can be help or hindrance, depending to the listener. If someone generally already enjoys metalcore style, they may miss Jake Luhrs’ vocals, unless what they enjoy about metalcore is instrumental elements like breakdowns. This could actually be helpful to listeners that are new to this genre, since they may not be comfortable with listening to unclean vocals, which often come off as harsh. The two tracks that have vocals are “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Joy to the World.” The former is sung by the whole band in a punk rock chant that adds to the fast energy of the song, which works with the atmosphere. “Joy to the World” is done in August Burns Red’s traditional style, which allows for new listeners to hear Jake Luhrs.

Ultimately, coming from someone that can sometimes be a scrooge about Christmas songs, “August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ Hill” is fun and refreshing. It allows itself to take creative risks that make these overdone songs more enjoyable and memorable again. If the cynicism and “bah humbugs” of the holidays are affecting you, listen to this album, put your metal horns up, and start headbanging away, my friend!

]]> 2
Cullenary #4: Holiday Candystravaganza Thu, 12 Dec 2019 03:33:35 +0000 Welcome back to The Shield, and happy holidays to all!

Ed. Note—This is going to be a slightly different article from most. We’ve collected a few of the Shield’s best writers to go head-to-head defending their favorite holiday candies, and at the end of this article, we’ll poll you on what your favorite is.

With that said:

The classic: candy canes.

Candy Canes (Elliot Aguirre)

The candy cane is easily the best holiday candy—it never gets old! They come in all different flavors, as you can almost get any flavor you think of, and they last quite a while before they’re gone. I think the best flavor is probably cherry, but I can think of ten other flavors that are amazing, and they’re in almost every stocking. Furthermore, candy canes have a range of various sizes, which means you can customize your eating experience quite a bit.

Sour Patch Kids (Ian Cullen)

Short answer: They’re good. Long answer: they’re good and you should vote for them.

Hot take of hot takes: Sour Patch Kids, the kings of Christmas.

I know that this may not seem like a holiday candy, given that they don’t have any of the typical flavors like peppermint, ginger, or chocolate. I of course chose these because I love them, and some may even consider this to be a childish choice of mine, but Sour Patch Kids are on my list because they are an all-time great when it comes to stocking gifts.

Sweet and incredibly sour, these guys are an all-time classic during just about any given time, and that includes Christmas.

Hot Chocolate (Sammy Goodwin)

Ah, hot chocolate. Just hearing its name conjures up cozy images of sitting close to a fire, wrapped up in a blanket, after a long day outside in the cold. It is a refreshing, delicious drink, perfect for the holiday season. This is especially true in New York, considering the cold weather and thick snowfall. After trampling through the snow, what is a candy cane going to do for you? I think we can all agree that hot chocolate is the best holiday candy.

You will say, “this is not my beautiful mug.”

What’s that? You don’t think it counts as a candy? You fool. It has chocolate in the name. Just because it’s a beverage it doesn’t count? What are you, thermophobic? Grow up. The future is now, old man. Second of all, you’re a coward. Candy canes? Have fun eating toothpaste. Eggnog? You fiends. Hot chocolate is the drink of champions, the nectar of kings, and the choice beverage of the NFL (don’t look it up).

Consider the flavor. Consider the versatility. Can you put marshmallows in hot chocolate? Darn straight. Can you put marshmallows in candy canes? Please. Whipped cream goes great with that sweet Swiss mix, but not with that poor attitude of yours.

Peppermint Bark (The Morales)

Insert joke about bark vs. bite here.

You know, winter gets a bum rap. Fall gets pumpkin spice everything—pie and coffee was one thing, but when you’ve seen pumpkin spice chicken sausage, you tend to lose your appetite. In general, not just for the particular spice mix.

Meanwhile, in winter, we have all managed to agree that you can eat as much of the beautiful cooling flavor known as peppermint as you want, and stick it firmly under the umbrella of holiday candy. What’s not to love about a delicious layer of creamy white chocolate—please direct your takes on how white chocolate is not real chocolate to—flavored with peppermint extract and spread over the half-sharp bite of semisweet chocolate, topped with the sugary and crunchy detritus of well-stricken candy canes? You let it sit in the fridge, get completely solid, and then break yourself off pieces over the course of the next week, devouring them whenever you get a chance, experiencing a mix of warm and cool flavors that autumn simply can’t compete with that easily.

Honestly, you owe it to yourself to make some, and it takes basically no time or effort, except the arm strength you need to appropriately pulverize the candy canes. Go do that now, please. Let me know how it goes. We can compare notes some other time.

Honorable Mentions

While we couldn’t find writers for chocolate oranges or gingerbread cookies, we figure they’re popular enough that they should be options as well. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll. ]]> 2
Algae as Biofuel Thu, 12 Dec 2019 02:17:21 +0000 As fossil fuels are depleted from the earth, humans are looking for renewable energy. Some of the most popular sources of renewable energy include solar panels and windmills. While these can effectively produce clean energy, they are not without flaws; solar panels require clear skies and do not produce electricity at night, while windmills require wind to produce electricity. While the idea of using algae as energy dates back to the 1950s, demand for it has never been greater. About a decade ago, scientists became fascinated with the energy potential of algae. While further research and technological advances are required, algae hold much potential for a clean energy source with high yields in the foreseeable future.

The science behind using algae to produce fuel is not very complicated. Millions of microorganisms grow in ponds, lakes and rivers. These microorganisms contain lipids, which are fatty acid molecules, and which contain oil that, once extracted, can be used to power diesel engines. Organisms such as microalgae demonstrate future potential for producing energy. The problem with using algae is that there is not currently a viable method of extracting the lipids from them. Under current methods, extracting these lipids takes more energy than they are worth, which makes it unprofitable.

One of the main issues with lipid extraction from algae is that all moisture must be removed from them, so that they become a dry powder from which the lipids can be separated, which causes the process to require so much energy. A new method, invented by researchers at the University of Utah, may solve this problem. They have designed a jet mixer that will not require the algae to be dried. The new mixer shoots jets of solvent into jets of algae in liquid suspension. The jets provide the force required for the lipids to be separated, and they are transferred into the solvent stream. This new process requires less energy and can extract the lipids from algae much faster, taking only a few seconds. This new technology has the potential to produce algae biofuel at a price point that is competitive commercially.

Another solution to make algal biofuel production profitable is being explored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) National Bioenergy Center. While they predict that, even in the future, algal biofuel production will not be competitive with oil, they believe there is a way to make its production profitable. NREL has been exploring the viability of a “combined algal processing” (CAP) concept. This would require a facility that can combine the production of both biofuel and other products, such as surfactants, polyurethanes and plastic composites.

Then there are biofuel-focused companies like Synthetic Genomics, which partnered with ExxonMobil to develop ways of producing algal biofuel at an unprecedented scale. Companies like SG are now working on an outdoor field study growing naturally-occurring algae in several contained ponds in California. Synthetic Genomics and Exxon predict that, based on their progress, they will be able to produce 10,000 barrels of algal biofuel a day by 2025. Their research is proving to be very beneficial, as they have found ways to double the lipid content in algae from 20% to over 40% through genetic modification, among other methods.

While most of the companies making algal biofuel in recent years have gone out of business or shifted their focus from fuel to marketing algae for dietary supplements, food additives, animal feed and cosmetics, the future of algal biofuel still remains bright. Scientists have not given up on algae’s potential yet. Research that is currently in progress, as well as technological advances that will be made in the future, could make algal biofuel both sensible and profitable.

]]> 0
A Study In Horror: Part I (The Early Years) Thu, 31 Oct 2019 14:32:42 +0000 With Halloween fast approaching and the October season in full swing, our minds have been brought back to considering what may go bump in the night.

Cheerful and thrilling, the monsters and ghouls of the month have returned to the forefront of our imaginations in force, and macabre mainstays in the vein of Jason, Freddy and Mike decorate storefront windows and rickety porches. These icons of fear stand as if their presence is a given, statuesque in their stature but seemingly ready to strike, their every nightmarish action alive in our own heads. It’s relatively easy to get caught up in it all without stopping to consider where we may have been before. There were many Halloweens without Jason and his mask, where the fear, fright and fun remained all the same. It would be easy to move on, wouldn’t it? Why do Jason Voorhees and other genre giants like him stick around for so long, a massive imprint on our social conscience that lives through October, and ultimately, beyond? To find the answer to that graveyard riddle, one needs a careful eye and a brave heart, as the mystery’s end lies in the history of horror.

The horror genre has had many different focuses during its long and storied life. Explosions of auteurism, differing directors providing their own specific takes on tried and true formulas, and innovative studios taking some very profitable gambles have all contributed greatly to horror’s longevity. But the greatest ally of the horror film is its number one effect: fear.

The fundamental aspect of horror lies in its ability to frighten us. Human beings have always had an innate desire to delve into the supernatural, our nice little brains allowing us to conjure up demons and ghosties from beyond the pale around every darkened street corner. We love to be afraid, love to jump in our seats and feel the blood rush to our every tingling nerve as adrenaline thrusts us into terrified ecstasy, popcorn flying and eyes widening as we take in every thrill with gusto. It is a singular experience to enjoy a horror movie, one that took a while for people to catch onto.

The sense of capitalizing on that shared human interest in the dark beyond our vision finds its roots in literature, however. Early horror greats like Shelly and Poe tantalized readers with petrifying, inhuman stories that covered a sizeable range of emotions and proved to not only be fantastic literature, but literature that thrived in how many spines it could shiver. The stories within the scares still held up as well-written novels and poems that would later be elevated far beyond their initial aspirations and venerated as purely artistic forms of the craft. As time drew on, the genre expanded, more contemporary twentieth-century authors, such as H.P.. Lovecraft with his Cthulhu Mythos and M.R. James’s ghostly tales, served to redefine the limits of the genre, drawing still from the same deep elements of fear and wonder at the unknown that so many people could still be transfixed by. It would not be for some time before the first horrific tales began to show up in film: silent movies by the late great Georges Méliès featuring demons and devils playing cruel games with mortal men and women. To a contemporary audience it may appear rather tame, but to audiences of the time (the late 1890s) it would have been simply shocking to appear on screen. Horror pictures during these very early years would have a heavy focus on the nature of demons, the Devil and Hell itself, with the European audience being primarily religious and therefore very susceptible to fear of eternal damnation.

It was in this way that the earliest horror directors understood what they had managed to tap into; a shared experience of fear coupled with a never-ending interest in the unknown nature of the subject matter. It wowed audiences all over the continent, and the success of even such early films was an evident reflection of that fact. Clearly the genre had promise, and as it continued to draw more of the spotlight, its practitioners began to tackle more prestigious projects.

The first film to take on a major pop culture influence was the 1910 production of Mary Shelley’s famous novel Frankenstein, the first filmed adaptation of the source material to ever grace the public eye. Edison Studios of the United States did in fact attempt to mask the horrific aspects of the tale and focus on the psychological and philosophical questions it raised, but the deeply macabre subject matter cemented the story as synonymous with horror, and the great monster craze began to take shape. More directors took more and more stabs at differing source materials, the classics such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being adapted into film and once again thrust into the limelight as horror darlings to be remembered. This trend of adaptation continued, with gems and flops alike, into the 1920s, when the visceral mind of Robert Wiene exploded onto the scene with his classic masterpiece, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. The film not only proved the skill and relevance of German filmmakers of the time, also greatly influencing American horror cinema through the introduction of elements such as the twist ending and “unreliable narrator” that have become mainstays of the genre.

Caligari is often credited as the first “real” horror film of the age, and through its critical acclaim and monetary success, it set the standard for films to come. Nosferatu made waves as an unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker’s gothic horror triumph Dracula, and its central villain, the vampire Count Orlok, made a lasting impression on not just moviegoers, but the genre as a whole. The shadowy imagery and striking contrasts used by director F.W. Murnau helped cement the vampire as a force of fear and thrills on the silver screen. Murnau built a sense of dread masterfully, creating tension and keeping viewers on the edge of their seats as he reveled in the effectiveness of his fear, and raked in fame and fortune as a result of his skillful work. Work in the vein of German Expressionism would continue through the early 1920s, but as the decade waned, audiences found their attention gripped by another force from the American filmhouses of Universal Studios. Horror had made its mark, and the first rising stars of its stories had made their presence known. It was time for the monster craze to begin.

]]> 0
This Exists Thu, 31 Oct 2019 14:32:42 +0000 The following story is scary. Not for a grotesque monster, but for its terrifying universal truth. This is a seemingly simple tale, but it will surely shake you to your core. Tread lightly, and happy Halloween.


I spookily wipe my brow as a scary bead of sweat rolls down my face. I take a deep breath. My heartbeat is pounding in my ears, making it more and more difficult to concentrate on my task. The sudden, violent gushing of water brings me to my senses as I twist the knob.

Too high, I think, twisting back a little. I douse the bristles, as the ritual goes. I take the tube and squeeze it with reckless abandon. I will pay for this action in the future, when I want more of its contents, but for now a bountiful supply of its goo shoots out onto the brush. I douse it once more, careful to simply wet the goo and not push it off into the drain. I falter.

Should everything be lost to time? Shall the past remain as nothing but a memory while we scrub away all of its residue? Is this what justice is: the constant correction and godlike control of all that influences us? Or is our hubris overshadowing our judgement, leaving us frenzied and desperate for routine and unchecked power?

My heartbeat is still pounding as I make eye contact with my reflection in the mirror. My gaze hardens, and I know what I must do. My arm slowly rises, bringing the brush to my mouth. I have the momentum now and I begin to scrub. I do my job thoroughly and without remorse. I am a man at war, and those unfortunate enough to be in my wake are cleansed of this realm. All my anger pools in this moment, and every struggle I’ve faced comes down to this. My hand begins to cramp, but I do not slow down. You could sooner divert a river from its course than deny me my nature. I brush, I rinse, and, by God, I spit. 

And then, as quickly as my anger flooded within me, it dissipates. I stare into the mirror, remnants of the carnage still strewn across my face. I reach for a tissue, preparing to wipe my mouth so that no proof of my wrath endures. And yet, my anger is gone. I know I have to finish the job, but the strength eludes me.

These flecks of paste are nothing but a bitter reminder of the pain that led me to this moment, so why can’t I eliminate them? I wonder. Is it some testament to the cruel face of man? Can the pain shape us, the carnage make up who we are at heart, the war symbolize our deepest and darkest traits? No matter how hard we fight, no matter how far we run, can we never truly escape these savage bonds? 

I reach once more for a tissue, but a dark truth strikes me. Violence for violence is the rule of the beasts, is it not? I muse. Yet it still does not sit right. Should I not proudly bear these battle scars? If the pain is what shapes me and makes me strong, then why am I taught to hide it, to ruthlessly wipe it away?

I look at my face in the mirror. There is sadness looming in my eyes, and yet, there’s strength too. I came here for a reason. A spoopy reason. I finally grab a tissue and all signs of my struggle are wiped away.

A story lost to time. However, I manage a smile. Only now I realize that I am strong, not because of my pain, but in spite of it.

]]> 0
Wings of Fury Thu, 31 Oct 2019 14:32:42 +0000 FADE IN: INT. ELEVATOR

The elevator drolls out a melancholy tune. Standing centered, alone in the elevator, is DIANDRA PAITION. She has been struck head-on by the insanity of Hollywood. Her hair is a mess, and her dress has a drink stain on it. In one hand are her stiletto high heels, in the other an Emmy Award with her name on it. In spite of this, a dejected frown hangs upon her face, underneath her drunken, far away eyes. The art on the elevator wall behind her fans symmetrically outward and upwards, giving the appearance of soaring wings. She begins mumbling along to the tune of the song with a crackly voice. She is clearly drunk and emotional.



DIANDRA exits the elevator with a stagger. She uses her hand with the Emmy to brace herself against the doorway of the elevator. She enters a massive hotel room, the penthouse of a New York City high rise hotel, decadent with art and high end furniture. A banner hangs from the ceiling: “CONGRATULATIONS PAITION ON THE BIG NOMINATION!”

Sitting atop the grand piano and surrounding its base are giant congratulatory gift baskets. Around the room are clusters of life size cardboard character cut outs, promoting a television program: “TEAM RENEGADE.” She crosses the elevator threshold and drunkenly addresses the room.

Lucy, I’m ho-oooooome!

Her words are indistinguishable, understandable only by her tone of voice, her inflection matching Ricky Ricardo’s. She sighs in the empty room, dropping her stilettos as she strolls toward a marble pedestal table. Sitting atop the table is a lavish sign that reads “ENJOY YOUR STAY” with the hotel’s logo of a dove beneath it. She looks at her award. A beautiful golden angel with sharp wings pointed to the heavens and the whole world in her hands. She runs her finger across the point of the wings and sways slightly. This swaying remarking of beauty becomes a dance. With the award in her hand she twirls across the living room arms outstretched as if to accept the world within them, she is simply one pair of pointed wings away from flight. She stops dancing and looks enviously at the smile upon the angel’s face, rubbing her thumb across the cool metal veneer. She plants the Emmy Award down on the marble pedestal and sighs again. Her disappointment melts into frustration.

(in a drunken, mocking tone) Oh no. Don’t be a writer, you’ll never make enough money to support your motha. What I am supposed to do? My only daughta not supporting her only motha? You can’t do nothing right.
(in regular voice) Screw you.

She tears a barrette from her hair and it falls down past her shoulders. She paws through the gift baskets until she finds what she’s looking for.


She discards the big yellow bow and rips through the cellophane, producing a bottle of wine. Behind her, one of the cardboard cutouts shifts, crossing the room. She is not alone.

Oblivious to this, she examines the label to find french lettering that she cannot decipher: AILES DE SANG.

C’est la vie.

DIANDRA crosses across the room towards a doorway.



She flicks the light on. The light pours from the kitchen into the room where she just was. Behind her, illuminated for just a second, is INTRUDER. He moves out of sight as DIANDRA searches for a corkscrew.

Where the hell?

She opens a drawer underneath the kitchen island, and she finds the corkscrew. She smiles, removes the gold foil, and opens the bottle of wine. She removes a wine glass from the hanging rack, but then looks at the bottle, and returns the glass to the rack, opting to drink it straight from the bottle. She slowly walks out of the doorway back into the living room.



DIANDRA enters the living room, turning off the light behind her. Directly to her right is INTRUDER, but he disappears as she turns out the light. Barefoot, she approaches the couch.

She stops to take a sip of her wine, feeling the soft white carpet between her feet. She climbs over the couch and picks up the TV remote off of the coffee table. She holds down a button and speaks into it.

Play Team Renegade, season five, episode . . . eight.

The television beeps and swirls with a loading animation. A sound is heard from the kitchen. Her drunken stupor is undone as she whips her head around.


Hastily, she picks up her phone and turns on its flashlight. She gleams it towards the kitchen. On the floor of the kitchen is the cork from her bottle of wine, still rolling back and forth slightly. She breathes a sigh of relief and turns off the flashlight. She takes a sip of wine. Her show loads and the screen goes from a dark grey loading to the bright shine of an opening credits scene. INTRUDER stands in the center of the room, now illuminated by the light of the plasma screen. She watches her show obliviously. He watches her.



A burly character by the name of DUKE MAXUM runs through a warehouse, his gun drawn. He is recognizable as one of the cardboard cut-outs on the side of DIANDRA PAITION’s hotel room. He kicks down a door to find the notorious drug dealer VINCE TYSON, holding a gun to the head of the young, attractive MAYBELL SIMONS, another recognizable cut-out.

Let her go!

And why would I do that? Honestly, you keep underestimating me. I am not some junkie plug. I’m the damned king of this city. I am-

VINCE turns suddenly. DUKE screams into his earpiece.

Don’t take the shot! I repeat: Don’t take the-

The window explodes as a bullet tears into the room, hitting



DIANDRA sits on the couch with the bottle of wine. She speaks every line of dialogue on top of the character’s on the screen. With the hand unencumbered by the wine bottle, she directs the movement with a single extended finger, much like an orchestral conductor. There is a bored longing in her expression. She recites the line with envy in her voice.

INTRUDER approaches her from behind. DIANDRA gazes into the wine bottle in her hand. She cocks her head at the reflection she sees. It almost looks like there’s a man standing behind her. In a voice near tears INTRUDER speaks.

She didn’t have to die.

DIANDRA screams. She turns to see INTRUDER directly behind her. Panicked, she throws the bottle of wine at him. It hits his face, sending him off balance. She runs through the dark living room, and ducks behind the grand piano. From the light of the plasma screen she can only see his silhouette. Her phone is sitting just across the room, on the edge of the couch. INTRUDER stands in between the two, orienting himself. He now stands in a pool of wine and broken glass.

I send you a letter every day, begging you not to hurt my Maybell. And instead you killed her!

There are loud crashes as he flips the coffee table and throws a vase against the wall. DIANDRA cowers behind the piano, her hand, clasped in front of her mouth stifling a terrified scream. Her phone sits useless across the room. INTRUDER’s voice surges with rage as he destroys the suite.

Come out here, you coward! You killed her! You-you-you-you goddamn killer! Where are you?

INTRUDER picks up her phone and throws it into the plasma screen TV. The light it had been giving off dies and now the room is entirely dark, except for a periodic blue flash from the shattered screen and the soft green glow of the elevator call button. INTRUDER is no longer visible.

DIANDRA shifts slightly in her hiding spot behind the piano. The cellophane from a gift basket crinkles, the sound carries throughout the room. She tries to listen to footsteps but all
she can hear is her own racing heartbeat. For a beat, everything is still in agonizing anticipation. The piano jolts out an ugly, guttural sound as INTRUDER slams his hands down on the keys. DIANDRA screams and runs to the elevator.

DIANDRA just barely pushes the call elevator button when the INTRUDER grabs her from behind, pulling her backwards.

No! Please, no!

INTRUDER, holding DIANDRA, bumps into the marble pedestal table, knocking it over. He throws her to the floor. She kicks and screams, crawling backwards, away from INTRUDER.

Why didn’t you read my letters? Huh? Why did she have to die? How could you let her die?

INTRUDER jumps on top of the screaming DIANDRA; he wraps his hands around her neck and begins strangling her.DIANDRA pounds on either side of INTRUDER’s head. No matter how hard she pounds and flails, he remains unfazed. Her vision of the room around her becomes darker. As the TV intermittently blinks blue she can see the face of INTRUDER. His snaggled teeth are twisted in a screaming frown, casting spittle down upon her purple face. One of his eyes hangs off up and to the right, the other stares directly into her dying soul.

DIANDRA’s pounding heartbeat becomes slower and slower as the dark room loses every bit of dimension.

With a flailing hand she feels the Emmy Award. She takes it, and with its blunt base bashes INTRUDER in the head. He releases his grasp on her, and in that moment DIANDRA takes a
breath and drives the twin points of the golden angel’s wings into his throat. She rips the statuette’s wings out of him. Blood spurts out of either side of his neck in long crimson arcs. INTRUDER stands for just a second and collapses again.

DIANDRA lies on the floor, Emmy in hand, breathing deep,
greedy breaths.

The elevator reaches the penthouse suite and its doors open,
pouring light into the ransacked room. On either side of
DIANDRA is a spatter of fresh red seeping into the white
carpet, giving the illusion of wings.


]]> 1
Review: NBA 2K20 Thu, 31 Oct 2019 14:32:42 +0000 Greetings! This article is meant to cover the pros and cons of NBA 2k20 (if the picture and title did not tip you off) since launch. Before I begin, I should note that I have mostly been playing the MyTeam mode, so my point of view is coming from a MyTeam player. There are many positive aspects to the game this year, but the initial release definitely had a rocky start. Here is how I think it has gone so far.

First off, let’s talk about some of the malfunctions the game had right at the launch date.

  • One main aspect of MyTeam mode was that players could grind Triple Threat (three-on-three games) offline against the CPU to earn great rewards from the slot machine after every win. However, there was some criticism that spinning a slot machine to earn rewards promoted “gambling,” so 2K decided to change this rewards system to a vault, which made Triple Threat unavailable to play for the first week the game was out. The new vault is less aesthetically pleasing, and I think that 2K should have stuck with their idea despite the criticism.
  • In all game modes, driving to the hoop has seemed to be the meta so far this year. Shooting from three-point range was beyond impossible until last week, because unless you shot a perfect release on the shot meter, your shot had a very low chance of going in. Shooting is now a little more stable, and 2K releasing new three-point shooters weekly should help get that aspect of the game functioning again.
  • During the month of October, 2K hosted a $250,000 MyTeam tournament qualifier. Just like last year, the point system was based on luck rather than skill, as playing all four quarters of a game and winning by 50 points would gain you approximately the same points as if you opponent quits after two minutes of playing. Hopefully 2K can fix this points system soon, because there is $250,000 and a trip to the NBA All-Star game on the line.
  • Of course, a new game will always have a medley of problems, such as players being kicked from games and the servers randomly crashing. As long as 2K seeks to make improvements at the rate they have been, the game should be as relevant as ever in a few short weeks.

Although 2K has had many bumps in the road so far this year, there are also many positive aspects of the game. When 2K finally released Triple Threat offline, the rewards were great, and grinding this mode allows you to unlock really good players. You can also earn a fair share of tokens to unlock player rewards that can make a huge impact on your team. (Jamal Crawford and Gheorghe Muresan are two of the best token rewards for their price.) Evolution cards are cards that go up in overall rating when you complete a certain task with them, such as scoring 500 points. Unlocking Evolution cards through Domination (five-on-five games against the CPU) and the auction house can really boost your team. Cards like Stephon Marbury and Terrance Ferguson, which you can get for next to nothing, make an outsized impact on your squad. Most of the players you unlock from Triple Threat rewards are also Evolution cards, which can boost your team heavily. Buying Evolution cards at low overalls and then auctioning them once evolved is a great way to earn currency. With all this ability to grind game mods for great cards, this means that, unlike in 2K19, you do not have to empty your wallets to have a great team. Last year’s 2K had nowhere near as good free cards at the beginning of the year. NBA 2K20 may have had its fair share of glitches so far, but that shouldn’t prevent it from becoming one of the best sports games we’ve ever seen.

]]> 0
Cullenary #3: NOSH Thu, 31 Oct 2019 14:32:42 +0000
  • Location: 47 Russell St, Rochester, NY 14607
  • Website:
  • Welcome back to The Shield, and more specifically speaking, Ian’s Cullenary! On this third episode of my series, we are taking a trip back to the city—specifically, the Neighborhood of the Arts, just off of University Avenue, and directly next to the Old Pueblo Grill (read that one if you have not yet already).

    In fact, the chefs at NOSH cook the food for OPG, as they are owned by the same food-loving family. Nosh is an informally used British noun that translates to “food.” NOSH, the restaurant, is therefore classified as a “New American Restaurant,” with food that presents all kinds of varieties, from classic pizzas to Korean dishes and seafood. You name it, they probably have something related to it. In addition, I would definitely put this place under the “fine dining” category. The lighting in the restaurant is gorgeous and rather vibrant. The food is expensive, but worth it.

    DISCLAIMER: If you are here looking for something scary and related to Halloween, you can just feel free to click the back arrow. What I do know is that just about everyone is looking for good food, so if you blatantly ignore me and click that arrow anyway, it’s your loss.

    DISCLAIMER IN REGARDS TO THE FOOD: The menu changes sometimes. My family and I were in shock and borderline panic when we walked in and failed to recognize a single item on the dinner menu.

    Ian Cullen ’21, for The Shield.

    Here today, I would like to mainly talk about the starters. I have no complaints about any of the ones I have tried. They are all highly recommended and great to share. Each appetizer is unique in its own way.

    To the right are the K-Town Empanadas, which are made up of bulgogi beef, sweet corn, peppers, cheeses, napa slaw, and a gochujang sesame crema. They were a little on the spicy side for me, but the beef was so well-cooked and -seasoned that I almost didn’t mind. The flavors of the peppers and cheeses to go along with the sesame cream run perfectly parallel with the tenderness of the beef and the crisp of the empanada itself.

    Below are the Katsu Buns. (Insert immature laughing.) These must-have steamed buns (insert immature laughing, more) are comprised of panko shiitake mushrooms, sweet katsu sauce, cucumbers, radishes, and scallions. I am not a big vegetarian dish type of guy, but the sweetness and warmth of these are absolutely to die for. Now, aside from these hot commodities, the entrees are solid as well. My personal favorite were the BBQ Spare Ribs, but this one, unfortunately, got yanked off the menu, too. There are so many different food items that I recommend, but I cannot explain all of them, because they are too good, obviously. I will provide you with a link to the dinner menu here. To round it all out, the waitstaff is friendly and the selection of beverages is sufficient enough.

    Ian Cullen ’21, for The Shield.

    On the downside, it is relatively pricey. NOSH is also a popular place on most weekend nights, so it is quite loud at times, and loud thumping music blares from the ceilings at all times. Whenever you may choose to go, you will most likely end up needing a reservation. Finally, the food lost a point, only because the items on the menu are quite complex, perhaps more than some people might want. They do, however, have a small children’s menu. Regardless of what the numbers say, I would definitely give this one a try! Happy Halloween—count yourself lucky that I do not want to scare you too much.

    [Ed. Note—if you’re wondering, why, yes, it would have been better to save Old Pueblo Grill for our Halloween issue, but unfortunately, the Morales insisted on this way around. Maybe it finds interestingly plated food inherently terrifying.]

    By The Numbers:

    • Atmosphere: 4/5.
    • Authenticity (Creativity): 5/5.
    • Food: 4/5.
    • Price: 3/5.
    • Service: 4/5.
    • Total: 4/5.


    ]]> 0
    Madvillainy and the Abstract Thu, 31 Oct 2019 14:32:42 +0000 I had just left Ted’s Hot Dogs in Buffalo on a sleepy Wednesday night, and as I settled in to an oddly textured car seat, I began a journey home.

    I had traveled it before, in seventh and in ninth grade, but only twice before had I traveled its entirety, and each time I gained new insights into its twists and turns. The journey that is Madvillainy, by the infamous and eponymous Madvillain, was my sonical home during those years. This album had a lasting impact on me since the very moment that I heard it, though as I grew up, I never quite outgrew it; the songs on this album accompany the memories from my adolescent years. This is my first issue, so I figured I would talk about my first hip-hop album. Hopefully, this album will come to mean as much to you as it means to me. Enjoy.

    The group Madvillain consists of rapper MF DOOM and producer, Madlib. MF DOOM was known for his clever punchlines and complicated rhyme schemes; up until this point, he had been making waves in the underground scene with classic albums such as Operation: Doomsday and Take Me to Your Leader. Madlib was a premier producer known for his otherworldly beats that sampled anything and everything. He had released a solo album, The Unseen, under the moniker “Quasimoto,” as well as working on albums with the group Yesterday’s New Quintet. These two prolific artists met in a Brazilian hotel room in 2001. After that, they would continue to work together under the Stones Throw Label. Interestingly enough, this album was leaked online back in 2002 (sound familiar?), which led to both artists putting it on hold. After releasing solo material of their own, they came back together in 2004 to release Madvillainy.

    What is Abstract Hip Hop?

    Abstract hip-hop is a subgenre of hip-hop that developed in the early 2000s, whose unconventional lyrics expanded beyond the urban backdrops common in much of the genre at the time. Throughout Madvillainy, DOOM and Madlib/Quasimoto rap about myriad topics ranging from philosophy, to drug use, to DOOM himself. In many ways, the album is similar to abstract art, in that it does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. Much the same way, DOOM achieves an emotional response through storytelling and lyricism that floats between reality and fiction. Due to this, Madvillainy marked an important creative milestone in abstract hip-hop and influenced a whole generation of artists, such as Joey Badass, Earl Sweatshirt, and Danny Brown. 


    Overall, DOOM’s rapping on this album is absolutely superb, some of his best work. He weaves tales with incredible ease, littering them with poetic devices. Some of the best examples of this are: “Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster”, “Then it’s last down, seven alligator seven, at the gates of heaven knocking no answer, slow dancer, hopeless romancer, dopest flow stanzas,” and “You’re blind, in the wine zone, leave your mind blown when he shine with the nine, he’s a rhinestone . . . cowboy.”

    These are just a few examples from the copious amounts of wordplay generously spread throughout each and every track. As mentioned earlier, his lyrics do not focus on reality. Rather, they are used to build up one of his many personas, such as Viktor Vaughn or DOOM, a “character” for whom he always uses the third person. [Ed. Note—So this is like if Rickey Henderson rapped.] This lends itself nicely to the verses where DOOM wants to further his villainous deeds. Also, it is an interesting storytelling device that has worldbuilding properties. The best way to appreciate DOOM’s lyrics is to look them up on Genius. Songs such as “Rhinestone Cowboy,”  “Fancy Clown,” “Great Day,” and “Accordion” are first-rate examples of DOOM’s lyrical prowess. I’ve listened to the majority of DOOM’s legendary discography, and perhaps the most memorable lyrics out of any of his albums are on Madvillainy. And that’s saying something. 


    Madlib’s production on this album is fantastic, and each beat complements DOOM’s voice perfectly. The sampling is incredible, and I would highly advise listening to the beats and their original samples side by side. The way that Madlib dissects and transforms his samples is mind-boggling in its creativity. It’s interesting to think that he could imagine entire tracks from a few seconds of a song, or cartoon, or whatever other medium that he pulled the sample form. These beats are timeless and create a very unique ambience for each track that leaves a lasting impression on the listener. Madlib can do it all, varying his beats from sinister and muddy to uplifting and clean. Finally, Madlib often cuts up cartoon, movie, or TV scenes to further add to the villainous narrative. These are usually played at the end of the track and serve as both great conclusions to the track and transitions into the next track. In my opinion, this is some of Madlib’s most creative and experimental production. Some of the standout beats, in my opinion, are on tracks like “Bistro,” “Meat Grinder,” “Eye,” and “All Caps.”

    Further Recommendations

    In truth, there are few albums that sound remotely close to Madvillainy. Rather, the albums that I’m going to recommend are equally great works in their own right, but which share some of Madvillainy’s characteristics. In no particular order, here they are:

    • Mm . . . Food by MF DOOM
    • Some Rap Songs by Earl Sweatshirt
    • Operation Doomsday by MF DOOM
    • Piñata by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
    • Duality by Captain Murphy 

    This album will always mean something special to me. Whenever I hear certain songs off of this album, memories rush forth from my childhood; sun-splashed summer days spent walking outside, or late nights chilling in my basement. Ten, twenty, or even thirty years down the road, I know that I can count on this album to bring me back to my early years. Madvillainy is the tune of my youth. However, I recognize that this album is not for everyone and that’s okay. It was never meant to be, though I do think everyone should give it a listen. Overall, Madvillainy is an essential album for any hip hop fan or music fan in general—if nothing else, because it’s the greatest abstract hip-hop album of all time.


    ]]> 0