Category Archives: staff memo

‘Stranger Things’ falls short of expectations

After much anticipation, season 2 of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things is finally here. When the critically acclaimed first season ended, fans found themselves wanting more of the story to satisfy their viewing needs. So, does this season bring the goods? For the most part, yes, but there are plenty of exceptions.

The second season continues the story of the same group of characters in the same small town of Hawkins, Indiana. While the first season focused on the small-town feel and really navigated the through all the streets and forests in the area, season 2 introduces a larger scale production and includes more big budget scenes with high-quality special effects.

One of the main aspects that the show gets right is the chemistry between the four main boys. This was one of the highlights of the first season, and it doesn’t disappoint here. It’s easy to see how they’ve matured since the first season, and when they’re onscreen together,the viewers can truly feel any emotion they are trying to put out.

Even without the four main boys in the mix, Stranger Things still carries an extremely talented cast that viewers have grown to love. It’s not too hard to understand how any of the characters feel, and it’s easy to truly care for each one of them. Along with the talented actors, the show also carries other characteristics from the first season that provide excitement, like the cliffhangers. At the end of each episode, they make fans thankful that all nine episodes were released at the same time, allowing for the famous binge watch.

However, this season does not give quite the experience that season 1 does, and this is mainly due to the mediocre writing. While watching, it is also incredibly easy to predict the next line of dialogue, word-for-word. It is also really easy to see exactly where each character’s story arc will go, with a few exceptions.

The storyline also has a tendency of doing exactly the same thing that it did in the first season. It seems like show creators, the Duffer Brothers, were short on ideas for some minor plotlines, so they cut and pasted some of the recurring themes that they had already used.

Nearly every performance is great, but the standouts, character-wise, are Dustin and Steve (Gaten Matarazzo and Joe Keery), who have a very unexpected and heartfelt relationship that is a remains a strong plot point through some weaker storylines.
The performances, however, cannot save some storylines from becoming dim-witted and simply boring. For example, Millie Bobby Brown is great as Eleven, but her character’s storyline gets taken in a direction that seems like it was written at the last second by the Duffer Brothers so they could add an extra episode.

Overall, the second season is uneven. Episodes 5 and 6 deliver the material that the show needed, but every other episode is somewhat lackluster. At times it feels like that a team of different writers were working on it, so the viewers get a whole bunch of different perspectives. Stranger Things season two is in no means a disaster, but it is definitely disappointing. The quality is reduced to that of every other teen show that is on air, and viewers have come to expect more from Stranger Things.

~nate thomason and joel alexander, design director and entertainment director


Gov’t teacher David Smith says released JFK files offer little insight for enthusiasts

Since his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, the controversy and conspiracy of President John F. Kennedy’s death has been one of the most notorious in U.S. History, with topics of debate ranging from who carried it out to the CIA’s methods of covering up the real story. But when the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records were recently released, the public finally got a taste of the truth, or lack of it.

The National Archives released 2,891 documents on Oct. 26 and 3,810 records on July 24, which, in total, consist of approximately 5 million pages of records. The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection under an act of Congress in 1992, which called for the release of all additional records related to John F. Kennedy to be made public at the discretion of whoever was president 25 years later. When the day came, President Donald Trump was the one in office. Although he hinted at the possibility of releasing them all, Trump blocked the release of the final quarter of these documents, at least temporarily, citing national security concerns.

After the assassination of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963, the newly sworn-in president, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered an investigation and established the Warren Commission through an executive order. It received its “nickname” because of its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. The commission’s 889 page report, along with 26 additional volumes of supporting documents had a goal of putting to rest any of the theories about the assassination, other than the government’s official findings.After the assassination of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963, the newly sworn-in president, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered an investigation and established the Warren Commission through an executive order. It received its “nickname” because of its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. The commission’s 889 page report, along with 26 additional volumes of supporting documents had a goal of putting to rest any of the theories about the assassination, other than the government’s official findings.

Instead, it added to the speculation. Critics argued that much of the information regarding the assassination was being withheld. The purpose of the John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act was to finally give the files to the people so they could reach their own conclusions.

The assassination of JFK has been of great interest to me since I heard about it in my fifth-grade class on that terrible Friday afternoon in 1963. I did not start looking seriously at the case until I was in college and saw the film of the assassination. Countless books have been written and theories developed over those few seconds. As my students are well aware, I couldn’t wait for the release of these files, hoping that there would be some closure at last. That has not been the case, as they have raised even more questions.

After the arrest and subsequent murder of the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, much of the focus of many of the investigations has been on the movements of Oswald before and during the day of the assassination.

Oswald was, indeed, a lonely character who defected from the U.S. to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He became disillusioned with the Soviet Union and returned to the United States. He would try and fail to murder Gen. Edwin Walker, an extreme conservative who had run and lost a bid to be governor of Texas. This fact that was often used by the Warren Commission to portray Oswald as a lone-wolf assassin who had the mental capacity to kill officials.

I have always been a fascinated by Oswald’s trip to Mexico City before the assassination, from late September to early October of 1963. One of the FBI documents reports on Oswald’s movements in Mexico City; it was obvious that he was under surveillance and it is believed that Oswald was seeking a visa to Cuba.

Files show that JFK had plans to remove Castro, the leader of Cuba. Oswald may have thought that by killing JFK first, Oswald would ensure his being accepted into Cuba.

The files have not changed a great deal of the speculation. They were disappointing for some who had hoped to find the “smoking gun” that would give a definitive answer to “who” and “why.” For others, including myself, it was a step in looking at what the government agencies were doing during those dark days.

There may never be a final answer, but we need to heed the words of JFK, “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.” I think he would want us to look for the truth.

~david smith, contributor

Hollywood scandal presents dilemma for movie fanatics

When Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault in October, it created a deluge of Hollywood actors and producers coming forward with their own experiences of misconduct, making cinephiles around the country re-evaluate their admiration for these moguls and their films.

As immensely famous actors and producers were being accused of these crimes, I was faced with a dilemma: Do I watch the entertainment that the accused have worked on or shun them to show my opposition of their actions? Does watching Louis C.K.’s comedy indirectly mean I like him, despite the claims of him exposing himself in front of women? By boycotting Pulp Fiction, am I truly taking a stand against Weinstein’s years of dehumanizing behavior? Where is the line between holding these media stars accountable for their actions and still being able to enjoy the classics?

One thing to remember is that a character is not the actor who plays it. Ultimately, characters and movie plots are products of fiction, and while they can seem real in the excitement of the screen, they do not truly exist. Consequently, having an attachment to Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects does not equate to supporting his alleged predation of  young men and boys. While it is important to be aware of the background of the actor and recognize the potential harm and realities happening when the cameras are not rolling, there is also a need to differentiate the movie from the actor.

The media and the public cannot keep quiet about this unveiled sexual abuse in Hollywood, and even politics. The more we hold these accused rapists and sexual harassers accountable for their actions, the less normalized this behavior will become. Consequently, there needs to be a method for the people to get away from this harsh reality. Entertainment has been a part of the American culture for generations. From movies to TV shows to music, these creative arts have been a way for a variety of people to come together and share a common appreciation, as well as a temporary escape from the harsh pressures and realities of life.

Boycotting films solely because one person plays a role in them discredits the years of work and passion that others have dedicated to the production. And for those who cannot overlook what these actors have done and must stick with their morals, I respect you. However, in a time where the idolization of manipulative and powerful moguls is woven into our everyday lives, we could use a cinematic escape from reality.

~erica gudino, editor-in-chief

Students show patriotism on Veterans Day

Soldiers limping and wounded hoping to get to a safe place and trying not to make the wrong move that could risk their life. Freshman Tommy Olney’s grandfather was in World War two and is still alive and well today. Although he lives in Texas “we’re pretty close, and I visit him a lot,” Olney said. Olney’s family celebrates Veterans Day by having a cookout with family and friends here in Virginia.

“My grandpa has been through the unimaginable,” Olney said. His grandpa told him stories about some stuff he went through in the war, “ He told me how terrible it was,” Olney said. “He told me in the trenches he could hear the Japanese whispering at night,” Olney said.

Olney’s dad is also a veteran, he served in the Marines. Olney mentioned he wouldn’t mind joining the military. “ I want to try to get in the Naval academy,” he said.

“They deserve respect for their sacrifices they’ve made,” junior Tim Henson said. Both of Henson’s parents are veterans, his mom was in burn unit and his dad was a surgeon for the Air Force. Henson goes on vacation to the Potomac for veterans day. Because of their experiences in the military “they know how to control situations very well,” Henson said.

Freshman Lindsey Gorsira’s dad was a Navy seal but she spends her Veterans Day a little differently. “My mom hangs up a flag and that’s about it,” Gorsira said. Gorsira’s grandfather was in World War two but sadly he’s deceased now. “I greatly appreciate any World War two veterans, they sacrificed so much for our country,” Gorsira said.

“I think Veterans Day gives us an opportunity to appreciate what people have done for our country,” Gorsira said.

~katie miller, staff reporter

FFA recieves silver rating

From June 26-29, the FHS Future Farmers of America attended the Virginia FFA State Convention at Virginia Tech, where students participated in competitions ranging from floral design to agriculture mechanics. In addition to this, students were given individual awards and overall chapter awards. The Fauquier High School chapter was awarded a Silver Rating and is striving to do better next year, according to agriculture teacher Susan Hilleary. She said that their chapter received a Silver Rating because they did not write their goals in the correct format in the application. She added that the competition’s rigor took the students by surprise.
“The competition was hard,” Hilleary said. “I think a lot of them realized what they don’t know. For almost everyone, it was their first time doing this, so it’s a learning process.”
Junior Hannah Johnson competed in agriculture mechanics, where she had to take four written tests, make a working electrical system, weld, analyze a plot of land and build a structure to make it as flat as possible.
“It was my first year, so I wasn’t very [knowledgeable] with the tests and how well their welding machines were,” Johnson said. “I didn’t do that great, but I think did good for my first year. I learned that you don’t have to be great at something even if you know how to do it.”
Seniors Dylan Kezele and Ben Scaring were awarded state degrees, the highest award one can receive in high school: Kezele in aquaponics and Scaring in landscaping. In order to qualify for a state degree, students must create a Supervised Agricultural Experience, an agriculture-based project or job, where they spend 300 hours working on the project or earn $1,000 in their job in order to qualify. For his project, Kezele used fish waste in place of fertilizer, in order to test its efficiency and its ability to substitute for normal fertilizer. He said it was a relief to be recognized for his hard work after spending hours on the project.
“I used the waste that the fish produced to grow the plants without soil,” Kezele said. “The plants sat in a PVC pipe system, and the water that the fish lived in was filtered out from the pipe and ran through [to] the roots that pick up the nutrients in the water.”
Scaring has owned his own landscaping company for three years and used this as his project. He said it was a lot of fun meeting people from different FFA chapters around the state and getting to reconnect with members from previous years.
“[We] felt very accomplished to know that our chapter has done so much hard work and to succeed in getting the state degrees,” Scaring said.
In addition to building on their success in next year’s competition, Kezele,the chapter’s FFA president, said that he has other goals he wants to achieve in his last year with the organization.
“There are things called state proficiency awards, [which is] the best [project] for each section of agricultural,” Kezele said. “I’d like to win that for aquaculture.”

~erica gudino, editor-in-chief

Arielle Ward competes in one-act festival

In July, senior Arielle Ward wrote and directed an original piece for the Northern Virginia Theater Alliance One-Act Play Festival competition in Falls Church. Although Ward said she wrote the play on a whim, it wound up winning for best costuming and was nominated for best ensemble.
“I’ve written a bunch of one-acts for class and scenes,” Ward said. “I decided to have fun and just write something dumb that I didn’t really care about.”
Ward originally wrote it as a class assignment for Allegro, an arts school in Warrenton. However, when her teacher read it for the students, she urged Ward to submit it to the competition.
“She really liked it,” Ward said. “She thought it could do really well in the competition, so she got me registered and I went.”
The play, titled “Two’s Company,” is a story about two girls who show up at a comic convention wearing the same Harley Quinn outfit and then get into a fight about it. Ward, who also made some of the costumes showcased in the competition, said her inspiration came from previously attending many comic conventions.
“There’s a lot of people that will dress up as the same character,” Ward said. “One of the really popular characters is Harley Quinn, and I know that there’s going to be a lot more Harley Quinns since Suicide Squad just came out.”
Still relatively new to writing and directing, Ward said she did not expect to do well in the competition against 11 other acts, and was surprised to win.
“I was really shocked; I didn’t think I was going to win anything,” Ward said.“I’ve directed before, and I’ve written before, but I’ve never done something like this; I’ve never been so independent in my directing and acting, and I’ve never worked with such a big cast. I even had a few novice actors in it, and it was their first time. It was very exciting.”
Her act featured 11 actors, including junior Alyssa Gilmore and seniors Christopher Agey, Megan McCoy and Alex Craig. When directing your friends, it can be hard to maintain focus and a serious tone, Ward said.
“It’s really fun, but sometimes productivity doesn’t come as easy because they’re your friends and you want to share fun things with [them], but you have to stay with it and be diligent,” she said.
Ward said she wants to continue to act, direct and write in the performing arts, and that she was grateful for the opportunity to compete in the festival.
“Writing wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” Ward said. “And the theater community, even in the bigger cities, is still very comfortable and welcoming to new people.”

~alex wright, sports director

Cheer team prepares for upcoming season

When most people think of cheerleaders, they picture a line of peppy, teenage girls jumping up and down, waving their pompoms in the air at a Friday night football game. What they don’t see, however, are the long, painful hours put into practice, fierce competitions and exhaustion from pushing the body to its breaking point.
“Some people take it as a joke sometimes, just because it’s not a very orthodox sport,” senior Kavena Flores said. “They don’t really think about how much work and effort you have to put into it. It’s like any other sport; you go to practices and have games and team bonding.”
The team practices around 11 hours each week to perfect cheers, tumbling and stunts. According to senior Rachel DeRosa, the team captain, practice is also essential in making sure everyone is on the same page.
“You have to make sure everyone works together, because cheer is the kind of sport where if one person falls or if everyone isn’t getting along [it doesn’t work],” DeRosa said.
Cheerleading requires athletes to execute physically strenuous stunts that often involve throwing or holding team members up in the air or maintaining balance for long periods of time
“You have to go through a lot of training to be able to do the tumbling that you have in cheer,” Flores said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”
Besides the difficulty of the stunts, Flores said that many people don’t realize how dangerous the sport can be. One flaw can have severe consequences.
“There’s a big injury risk, especially in stunting, since we’re tossing girls 10 feet in the air,” Flores said. “The flyers expect to be caught and not hit the ground, because a lot of concussions can happen that way.”
With the sideline cheer season in full swing, the team members are representing the school with every bit of enthusiasm they have. DeRosa said she particularly loves being able to contribute to the Friday night football game atmosphere.
“I feel like everyone loves football games, and to get to be a part of the experience is really fun,” she said. “When everyone imagines a Friday night football game, it’s the football players on the field and cheerleaders on the sidelines. I feel like it’s kind of what everyone knows as a football game.”
While the team continues to cheer at football games during the sideline cheer season, it also is preparing to compete at meets, where the team is judged on routines. Last year, they ended the competition season at regionals, where they placed seventh. According to sophomore Brielle Phillippe, competition is much more rigorous than sideline.
“Competition is much harder; it’s fast-paced and you’re getting judged on it,” Phillippe said. “You have to mix in tumbling, dancing, and harder stunts.”
In anticipation of the start of this year’s competition season on Sept. 19, they prepared by brushing up on the essentials throughout the preseason.
“We’re really just focusing on the basics,” DeRosa said. “Like anything, before you excel in it you have to get the basics down.”

~katie johnston, managing editor