Hello, Internet! Cole here. It’s been some time now – senior year’s been busy – but I’m finally back to writing for pleasure now. Today, I’d like to review a play I saw in October. Its name was “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, and it was very, very good.
Defeat at District Champs
Hello, Internet! Cole here. I haven’t talked about robotics in a while, so I’m going to revisit it this month. Blue Cheese, Deep Run’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team, still exists, and I’m still part of it. Specifically, I ghostwrite and proofread certain documents related to various awards, such as the Chairman’s Award, a highly prestigious award given to teams who “best represent a model for other teams to emulate and best embody the purpose and goals of FIRST.” I am also part of the Chairman’s team, a subgroup of Blue Cheese dedicated entirely to receiving this particular award. Chairman’s, you see, has its own type of competition within FIRST; the winners of the award at a lower level of competition automatically rise to the next highest level to compete with other winners, meaning a team who wins Chairman’s at a regional competition goes to District Championships and a team who wins at District Championships goes to the World Championship.
March 2018: More Trivia Questions
Hello, Internet! Cole here. Last year, I wrote a brief article in which I responded to a few trivia questions – nothing too special, just an interesting way to show off my views of the world and have fun in the process. This month, I’m going to do the same thing, because as we all know most major publications rely at least in part on creating similarly-themed content for long periods of time.
Hello, Internet! Cole here. This month, I attended Deep Run’s production of the musical version of Footloose. I didn’t expect much out of it; it was a high school play, after all, and I mainly went to obtain a point for National Honor Society. However, I soon discovered that my initial judgment was wrong: the play went excellently, showcasing an interesting plot, above-average acting skills, and a devoted backstage crew.
Hello, Internet! Cole here. Last month, I wrote an article about my vacation to Costa Rica. For the sake of brevity, however, I only wrote about the preceding events and the first day of the adventure. This month, I’ve written about the second day. Enjoy!
Day 2: More Transit
The next day, we packed our bags, ate breakfast at the resort, and got on the bus again. Thirty minutes later, the bus entered a small parking lot at the foot of a hill. After applying bug spray and sunscreen, we began hiking up the hill. Halfway up, Juan led us down a side path to our left. On this new path’s right lay a clear view of Arenal Volcano; on its left grew plantain trees, cacao trees, and sugarcane. We spent thirty minutes listening to Juan’s information about each of these things in turn, and then we used a second side path to reach the top of the hill. The view was quite expansive, so we stopped to take it in and take some photos.
Hello, Internet! Cole here. It’s been a while since I wrote about a robotics competition, so I’ve decided to write about last month’s FIRST (that is, the name of the organization) World Championships. This year, we didn’t perform as well in District and Regional Competitions as we did last year; however, since we won Championships last year, we were allowed to attend this year’s festivities as well. This time, I rode with the rest of the team on the bus instead of traveling by plane with Dad.
Hello, Internet! Cole here. This month, at the request of my beloved matriarch, I’ve decided to try an interesting exercise: I’m going to respond to random questions. Hopefully, my responses will provide insight as to how my brain works; if not, they should at least prove entertaining.
I Read a Book
Hello, Internet! Cole here. Recently, I read a book called Population: One. It was about the author, Tyler McNamer, and his life experiences with Autism. In my opinion, the book needed a bit of work. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t without its share of noticeable problems. Naturally, I’m going to write my thoughts about the book in this article; otherwise, I would have just been wasting words with the other sentences in the article.
November 2016: An Unfortunate Loss
Hello, Internet. Cole here. On the ninth of this month, something alarming happened – something that could greatly change our nation for better or for worse. Depending on who one asks, this event is either a symbol of America’s triumph or its demise. Regardless of opinion, however, many can agree that the repercussions of this event are going to be serious. Since serious things are no fun, however, I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, I’m going to talk about my robotics team’s latest competition, Rumble of the Roads. (Hopefully I’m less likely to be swamped with half of America’s hate this way.)
This competition deserves some introduction, since it wasn’t a normal robotics competition. We were – and currently are – off-season; this means that FIRST isn’t directly hosting any major competitions. Thus, this was much smaller-scale than anything like Worlds. Fewer points were scored overall, and there were only 30 teams, including ourselves. Our own entry into the event was pretty shaky: we were invited by the leaders at the last minute after a large number of teams unexpectedly cancelled. As a result, only 12-16 members attended the event – mostly veterans like myself.
Despite this smaller scale of competition, I still had a good time. The ride there was pretty long, so I passed the time by staring out the window and listening to music. Once there, most of my time was spent alternating between watching from the stands and trying to help the team in the pit. Our robot wasn’t performing well; it often stopped during matches, and it handled very poorly. We were having a lot of technical issues that we couldn’t quite understand – more on that later – so I found myself drawn to the pit on more than one occasion. At lunch, a team member went out and brought us Chick-Fil-A. The food was a bit salty, but adequate.
After the qualifying matches ended, things got… interesting. We discovered that our gearbox, an integral part of our drive train, had one of its axles bent. This was why we couldn’t move properly. In order to even come close to fixing it, we had to take an entire side-plate off of the robot, which put us way behind schedule and caused us to miss our alliance’s first qualifying match. Some members of Triple Helix, another team on our alliance, eventually came and helped us try to fix it. In the end, though, we made only marginal progress and had to send the robot out to the next match at below-average quality. We did… surprisingly well in said match, but it wasn’t enough; the opposing alliance won the quarterfinals, and we were out of the competition proper.
Most of the team, including myself, left after that – it being a relatively minor competition, after all, we had little reason to stay. A few people remained for their own reasons, though, and it ultimately paid off; we ended up winning the Captain’s Award, which is, according to my coach, on par with the Chairman’s Award, and those people got to carry the thing back to PCS.
This excursion could have gone better, to be honest. We were given very short notice on account of being a replacement for another team, and our robot was already battered a bit from a pretty difficult season… the whole scenario sort of lent itself to disaster. I don’t really mind, though – after all, the things that go wrong are more memorable than the things that don’t. Even though we lost, I was satisfied by the competition. Besides, we won an award anyway. Thanks for reading, Internet, and I’ll be seeing ya!
Cole is our young adult monthly contributor. He is an incredible asset to all of us. He is in the IT program in Henrico County, has Asperger’s and is also an animal whisperer.
Phantom of the Byrd Theater
Hello, Internet! Cole here. Last week, the Byrd Theater hosted a fundraising performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic play, Phantom of the Opera. I, of course, was in attendance, since this introduction wouldn’t make sense otherwise. The play was okay – not great or excellent, just okay. The actors put forth a clear effort, and it was quite impressive in regard to costume design and performance; however, the experience was irreversibly damaged by the play’s Second Half. I will explain what I mean by this shortly. First, however, I’m going to go over everything else; I could honestly talk about the Second Half all day, but that would be poor form without the context of the rest of the play.
I’ll start off by discussing perhaps the most solid part of the play overall: the performance. The play was staffed with both professional actors and upstarts, and the acting was firm all around; even the child actors had memorized their lines fairly well and didn’t overact – or underact – to a noticeable extreme. Probably the best of the troupe was the Phantom – the actor used a smooth, Victorian style of eloquence interspersed with loud, intense outbursts to create a frightening, temperamental character whose obsession knew no bounds.
In addition to a decent amount of talent, the performers also sported an exemplary wardrobe. The costumes were distinctly Victorian. Most of the men wore business suits and top hats, though some wore plainer clothing; the women donned vibrant, strongly-colored dresses of all shapes and sizes. Unlike in most plays I’d seen before, the characters changed their costumes throughout the play; the main character, for example, changed from a dark purple dress to a bright red one at one point. The costumes were never distracting, though – while they were elegant, they were never so elegant as to detract from the rest of the play.
For the most part, the stage was not so fancifully decorated. In fact, during the first half of the play, there was no real set decoration at all. My dad justified this initial design choice as the result a lack of space in which to put things, and I was not bothered by it because the Byrd Theater, with its old-fashioned, elegant style and its multicolored chandelier, more or less served as a backdrop in and of itself. In the Second Half, however, Dad’s claim was proven incorrect; two candelabras, a table of some sort, and a fog machine all appeared on the stage at once. (Believe me, this is far from the Second Half’s only inconsistency, and it’s hardly the most jarring.)
That’s all I have to say about the technical aspects of the play. Now, I’m going to discuss the narrative . . . of the first half. The first half followed an opera singer named Christine, who was being courted (coerced?) in secret by Eric, the eponymous Phantom. The plot thickened as her childhood friend, Raoul, fell in love with her and vowed to find and stop Eric from stealing her heart – for reasons both selfish and unselfish. Interspersed with this main plot was a subplot in which the characters portraying the new owners of the theater, who did not believe that the Phantom actually existed, failed to comply with Eric’s demands. This subplot ended with the Phantom sabotaging the chandelier in the middle of one of the other performers’ big moments, causing it to “fall” and end the first half.
This, of course, leads us into the Second Half. Before I begin discussing this segment, however, I need to get a few things out of the way first:
-Apparently, the running time of Phantom is normally somewhere around the range of 2 to 3 hours. The show I went to was initially planned to be two hours long without any sort of intermission – setting it on the lower end of running time right from the start. As such, it may have had to cut certain corners.
-This production being my only exposure to Phantom of the Opera, I’m not entirely sure which sections may or may not have been omitted for brevity. It’s entirely possible, in fact, that I somehow missed something crucial during the play that would have greatly augmented my understanding of the transition between acts. In any case, I can certainly speak for my own confusion.
The Second Half went as follows, directly out of the intermission: Christine was taken to a hidden chamber by Eric that was, according to outside narration (an element not seen in the first act), connected to another chamber where Raoul and some other characters were imprisoned. Eric proposed to her and set her up with a sort of mechanism with two switches, one shaped like a scorpion and the other like a grasshopper. She was told that the scorpion meant “yes” and the grasshopper meant “no”, and she was also told that if she selected the grasshopper, the building would be detonated with gunpowder. After a period of internal debate over whether the Phantom was telling the truth about the nature of the switches, Christine selected the scorpion, which flooded the chamber rather than exploding it. She then firmly asserted that she did not and could not love the Phantom, which finally broke him; he let her go, and he then died of a broken heart. Cue curtain call and confused Cole.
My biggest problem with the Second Half was that its connection with the events that came before the intermission was tenuous at best. The same actors played the same characters, of course, and the overall plot was about the same; the details of the sections, however, were completely at odds with one another. The first half let its events speak for themselves; the Second Half added voiceover narration in an attempt to clarify them. The first half had sparse on-set decoration; the Second Half saw the use of candelabras and a fog machine. The first half took its sweet time in establishing the details; the second half rushed its details on in rapid succession. Even if the missing elements of the plot were easy to glean from certain details, the complete difference in style would still create a high degree of confusion.
All in all, though, the play was alright. There was a clear amount of effort and love put into it, and it managed to captivate me during its first half with its sense of style and focus. If this play were re-performed, however, the producers would have to focus on connecting both acts. All in all, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5.12 stars. Thanks for reading, Internet, and I’ll be seeing ya’!