Student Choice Essays (Journalism I Period 2)

Every year Mrs. Umstead’s Journalism classes write a news story of their choice. This year, The DCP wants to put these stories out there!
Attention and Fame but Still Neglected by Alexia Meredith
Attention and Fame but Still Neglected by Alexia Meredith

Heard but silenced, seen but ignored, and calls for help all but left behind. Guilty. Ashamed. Nightmarish. Spine-chilling. Abandoned. In 1981, Rick Butler was accused of having sexual relationships with underage volleyball athletes. In 2008, a former assistant volleyball coach was charged with second degree sexual negligence with a minor. 3 days ago, in Long Island, New York – Jason Maser (a girl’s volleyball high school coach) dies instantly by throwing himself in front of a railroad speed train just hours after entering a “not guilty” plea with sexual assault on a 15 year-old girl in court with numerous charges. There are too many accounts of rape, assault, sexual relationships, abuse, and even murder in women sports that have been shrugged off or not taken care of. And they all have one thing in common – all are guilty and no one even cares. Guilty.

According to the UN Women Organization, about 21% of professional woman athletes have experienced and endured sexual abuse even as a child in sports, and men the rate is doubled. There are multiple short term and long term effects. 

The most immediate effects of child abuse are connected with fear, anxiety, confusion, and guilt. And, if they endure the abuse regularly the fear and anxiety will become persistent and daily. Usually, victims would develop coping strategies to overcome the neglect and it may help the child survive momentarily but later on lead to emotional behavioral problems and somatic symptoms. The long term effects will have a pretty negative impact on their lives that can stop them from maintaining healthy relationships and trust issues. Usually, the many unlucky athletes who undergo sexual abuse do not even comprehend or realize what harm happened to them until several years later. Children typically will not speak up out of fear or shame. The abuse can be linked to a range of crucial mental health issues. PTSD is the most common psychological effect for athletes that experienced abuse. Depression along with anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicide all link up with the long term effects. 81% of women and 69% of men have reported substance abuse after abuse. (Helping Survivors © 2024) 

Even though this is a very dark and sensitive topic, there is always a way to get help or help out a victim of assault. Number one: Always speak up; even though you are not totally 100% sure, you would rather be safe than sorry. Number two: tell him/her that they are not alone and it is not their fault! And believe them unconditionally, do not ask a lot of probing questions. Number three: get professional help as this is a serious matter that requires someone who is experienced in knowing ways to handle it. There are several opportunities, resources, and coping mechanisms such as The 24 Hour Helpline (757) 258 – 5051. You can always reach out for assistance to your friends or family. (RAIIN) 

In a trial interview on September 15, 2015, Simone Biles, a gymnast, spoke out about her journey and thoughts on the recent scandal of a gymnastics doctor of the name, Larry Nassar. “We have been failed,” Simone gasped out with tears streaming down her face. Nassar has molested more than 265 women athletes. This has to be stopped and brought to alert the public. It is never okay to endure, see, or participate in sexual assault, abuse, rape, or misconduct. If you or someone you know is a victim of assault it is very important to speak up and there are many ways to get help. You are not alone. The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

12oz can of Bubblr flavor Lemon Lime Twistr colored with green and different colored fruits.
Battle of the Bubbl’r by Annie Smith

Being a fan of fun drinks, I have become a critic of which ones have the best flavors, carbonation, and even packaging. Bubbl’r is one of my favorite drinks when I want something a little different than water, but not quite as much energy as other fun drinks. I tried the flavors Twisted Elix’r and Lemon Lime Twist’r. These two drinks have different, explicit flavoring. 

A fan favorite and overall favorite flavor is Twisted Elix’r. This flavor is like a firework in your mouth. The second you taste it, the bubbles pop, the flavor explodes, and you feel the excitement. To describe this flavor, I would say it tastes similar to a pink Starburst, but a little sweeter and a more dull flavor. The flavor is present, but not overpowering and is the perfect amount of tang. The unique flavor in a drink drives many people to try and continue drinking this bubbly drink. Another flavor that many people enjoy, but I can’t get into is Lemon Lime Twist’r. Many people describe this drink as having a similar taste to Sprite. I think it tastes nothing like Sprite, but a sour, rotten-tasting drink. This drink tastes more similar to the Lemon-Lime flavor of Liquid IV, but that is not what I am looking for in a drink when trying to enjoy it. 

I made sure to also get my friends on in this drink flavor testing. “Twisted Elix’r is like nothing I have ever tasted before, and it is on the healthier side of fun drinks,” says Anna. I started to compare Bubbl’r drinks to other energy drinks, and they are significantly better for you than the others. Bubbl’rs only have around 70 mg of natural caffeine while most other energy drinks have around 200 mg of caffeine. They have about 5 calories, 0 sugars, and multiple vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants according to drinkbubbl’ “Bubbl’rs are something I enjoy a little too often, so I decided this was what I would give up for lent,” describes Molli. 

12oz can of Bubbl’r flavor Lemon Lime Twist’r colored with green and different colored fruits.
Blumhouse’s Imaginary Doesn’t Need to Imagine Positive Reviews by Quentin Steinbach
Blumhouse’s “Imaginary” Doesn’t Need to Imagine Positive Reviews by Quentin Steinbach

In the past few years, studio releases of horror movies have become increasingly frequent; however, the quality of many horror flicks has been lacking due to actor strikes, overuse of CGI, and unoriginal storylines. Through it all, Blumhouse Productions has sat above the rest, in both quality and storytelling, finding new and original ways to engage audiences. Whether it be with a psycho animatronic doll in their 2023 movie M3gan, or their 2019 “body snatcher” sensation Us, Blumhouse has a sterling reputation among horror movie veterans and newbies alike. To ensure that quality control at Blumhouse isn’t lacking, I turned to Dowling Catholic Sophomore and horror movie aficionado Ephraim Messer for the full report on whether or not Blumhouse needs to resort to imagining positive reviews for their newest flick, Imaginary (2024).


Q: Was this your first experience with a horror movie?

A: Imaginary was not Messer’s first horror movie experience. His first horror movie was Alien (1979), and more recently The Boogeyman (2023). Imaginary was his first experience with a Blumhouse movie. 

Q: How does it hold up against other horror movies?

A: While Messer liked Imaginary more than any other horror movie he has seen, he thought that compared to the entirety of the horror movie genre, it sat in the middle of the pack.

Q: What is the basic storyline?

A: Step-mom Jessica moves her step-kids Alice and Taylor into her childhood home, where Alice finds a stuffed bear, Chauncey, in the basement. Over time, Chauncey becomes her imaginary friend who gives her a list of things to do. Alice’s tasks start light-hearted and easy, but soon turn sinister. Jessica realizes that Alice has the same imaginary friend that she did while growing up. Facing the threat of being taken away from Alice, Chauncey kidnaps her, leaving Jessica to follow into the “Never-ever.” While Jessica is able to save Alice in the end, the movie is packed with gore and jumpscares that will satisfy any moviegoer.

Q: Do the jumpscares land or fall short of a typical horror flick?

A: The jumpscares in Imaginary go above and beyond most horror movies and aren’t predictable, unlike in some movies from uninspired studios.

Q: How violent is the movie? Is violence offscreen or front and center?
A: There is not much violence in Imaginary. Anything that is extremely gory is kept off-screen, and anything else is tame compared to other horror movies such as Terrifier.

Q: What are your overall thoughts on the movie?

A: Messer thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The premise was original, handled well, and executed perfectly. Overall Messer gave Imaginary  3.5/5 stars. 

Q: Are you more likely to go to other movies produced by Blumhouse after watching Imaginary?

A: Messer is enthralled with Blumhouse productions and will definitely want to go see any and all future movies.

Q: Would you recommend this movie to others? 

A: Messer loved Blumhouse’s Imaginary and recommends that any horror movie fans run to theaters to experience this movie.

Two Very Popular Chicken Fast-Food Chains
Chick-fil-A’s Triumphant Business by Layla Trytten

Chick-fil-A is known for being the largest fast-food chain specializing in chicken sandwiches; however, that is not the only item keeping them in business.
Chick-fil-A has the dream menu any customer could want, containing a variety of options ranging from breakfast to lunch and dinner foods. However having multiple menus is not the only thing that grabs people’s attention; it is also their welcoming staff, speedy service, and long operating hours.

Another restaurant that comes to mind when thinking about chicken tends to be one of Chick-fil-A’s biggest competitors: Raising Cane’s. Often competing against each other for their name to be the answer to the big question, “Who has the better food?” However, when it comes to a question like this, there are many more factors that come into play than just the commonly thought about one, the chicken. Raising Cane’s menu solely consists of one item: chicken, served with a combination of fries, coleslaw, and toast. Although this limited menu may allow the company to focus on the quality of the chicken, it also has a way of limiting the income of customers only allowing them to purchase one item.

Therefore, one of the biggest things that gives Chick-fil-A a step ahead of Raising Cane’s is their seemingly limitless menu. Offering a collection of items from a breakfast menu to a lunch and dinner menu followed by the dessert menu. Not only different menus but many different options are available at any time of the day. Something that seems like such a simple addition to a restaurant truly has a way of attracting customers from all over.

Kristin Meyer, head coach of the Dowling Catholic Girls Basketball Team states, “I really like Chick-Fil-A’s salads. Not only are they delicious but they are a great healthy option for a fast food restaurant.” Chick-fil-A, even though it is known for its chicken, is finding different ways to attract customers from all over. Yet again, in order to have a successful and high thought about business, more goes into just the menu. Joel Danner, assistant coach for the Dowling Catholic Girls Basketball states, “I like Chick-fil-A because I can always rely on them to not only serve me quality food, but to do so in a timely and nice manner.”

Chick-fil-A is the better restaurant because it has much more to offer day in and day out. The variety of options, prices, and even sizes allows Chick-fil-A to be the perfect choice when asking yourself the question, ‘Where should I go to eat?’ The options seem endless, the food is of great quality, and like they say, “Eat Mor Chikin”!

Two Very Popular Chicken Fast-Food Chains
Cozumel Palace: The Place To Be by Allison Hunnicutt
“Cozumel Palace”: The Place To Be by Allison Hunnicutt

Looking for a tropical destination to vacation in this summer? Book the flight and make the trip to Cozumel Palace. You won’t regret it! Cozumel Palace is an all-inclusive resort located on the beautiful island of Cozumel, about 10 miles off the coast of Mexico. This impressive resort is objectively a top tourist destination in Cozumel in both popularity and quality.

Over Spring Break, my family and I were able to experience Cozumel Palace for a week, and little did we know that it would be a trip of a lifetime.
According to, Cozumel Palace, built in 1988, consists of 175 rooms, each being very spacious with polished marble floors, a simple layout, and a neutral color palette. The rooms, identified as a “Superior Ocean View Suite”, have a patio with a swinging hammock overlooking the vibrant blue ocean. Cozumel staff insists on around-the-clock room service to meet any need, whether it be a late-night snack, new towels, or cold beverages.

The resort provides five-star food in six different restaurants that each serve a different cuisine that embraces that country’s culture through their exceptional food. In addition to this, Cozumel Palace has activities for vacationers of all ages. Each morning and afternoon, the staff introduces a variety of engaging activities, some being pool volleyball, trivia, paddle boarding, and various competitions. At night, excitement buzzes as a new performance group entertains the crowd each night. When I was there, I was particularly intrigued by the magic show and aquatic performance.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Cozumel Palace is its unforgettable staff. Their constant special treatment began when we first checked into the hotel and were greeted with a rose and a refreshing drink in a champagne glass. Elliot Stair, a native of Texas who I met on this trip, said, “The customer service was amazing, and a big part of that is thanks to my guy, Pascuel, a staff member there.” When I asked Tessa Pothoff, a sophomore at Dowling Catholic, about the impact the staff left on her, she was quick to report, “Oh! Be sure to mention Martha!” Martha was a perfect representation of the Cozumel Palace staff, as she was quick to meet any need: if you needed silverware, she was on it. Did you accidentally spill your Strawberry Mojito on your towel? Don’t worry, Martha will clean it up, grab you a new towel, and make you a new drink. Not only this, Martha always had the most genuine, sweet smile on her face and grew to know my family and me personally.

Cozumel Palace was an unforgettable vacation that I would recommend to anyone. Their gracious, accommodating staff, incredible food, unique layout, and engaging activities set it apart from other resorts in Cozumel. My sister, Madeline Hunnicutt, retorted to my parents as we were boarding the airplane, “That was the best vacation ever.” “Best” is an understatement, in my opinion.

Does The Addition Of Hollywood Brown Mean a Three-Peat for the Chiefs? by Jimmy Daughenbaugh
Does The Addition Of Hollywood Brown Mean a Three-Peat for the Chiefs? by Jimmy Daughenbaugh

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is a high-caliber wide receiver coming from the Cardinals. The Chiefs have managed to win two Super Bowls in the past 2 years without a real wide receiver. Brown has the ability to step in and be the guy Patrick Mahomes can rely on all of the time. Brown has been able to put up great numbers even without a top-10 quarterback. With Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback, Brown will really be able to show all of his skills.

Hollywood Brown signed with the Chiefs for 11 million dollars on a one-year deal. Once Brown signed, head coach Andy Reid messaged Brown, “Hollywood, think Red today, KC red with diamonds!!! – Andy Reid, according to the NFL´s Instagram. Brown was seen dancing after his signing on Twitch, a streaming website.

Brown has been able to put up over 1000 yards in a season and has 28 career touchdowns, according to The Chiefs already have a solid receiver in Rashee Rice, but Brown is going to be the main guy Patrick will hit. with weapons on both sides of him, defenses will have a tough time stopping Mahomes. Mahomes will now have 3 receivers who have close to 1000 yards seasons and a running back who rushed for over 900 yards. The Chief´s offense is looking very solid and with the addition of Brown, the Chiefs might win the Super Bowl three years in a row.

El Fogon by Juliana Clark
“El Fogon” by Juliana Clark

When I first walked into the restaurant, a good smell hit my face. It looked very clean and well put together. Someone walked up to me, smiled at me, and proceeded to seat me.

  El Fogon is a Mexican restaurant in West Des Moines Iowa. The restaurant itself has amazing food but the service is slow and rude. The waitresses didn’t come to check on me in a timely manner, there was long black hair in my rice, and the server brought me the wrong food. I have no complaints about the tasty food, it was very warm and was brought out swiftly. 

When looking at the menu, I found a wide variety of food. From enchiladas to burritos, a kid’s menu that had hamburgers and cheeseburgers, to soup, and salads. After scrolling through the menu I ordered Chicken and Steak Fajitas, with a side of only rice and no beans. When I asked for no beans, the lady didn’t seem to understand what I wanted and started to get very passive-aggressive about it. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the price of their food. The most expensive thing on the whole menu is $30, for a Molcajete. The fajitas I purchased were only $20 and came in a big dish. It included steak, and chicken, with colored peppers, and was topped with melted cheese. The dish came out very hot and the meat was delicious. But I was brought a side of beans. I then asked if I would be charged and the lady got very angry, never answering my question. When eating my scrumptious food, I found a hair in my rice and respectfully asked them to take it back. 

When it came time to get my check, no one was to be found. After roughly 20 minutes a woman came over to give me the check. They rang it up very fast, and when I was leaving told me to have a good rest of my day. 

However, I find that every time I go eat at El Fogon, it is always longer to get the check than the food or anything else. The food is to die for and is very affordable if you’re looking for a good Mexican restaurant, but you should schedule a good amount of time because you never know how long it will take.

Noodle Companys menu
Noodles or Doodles? by Avery Stence

As I walk into Noodles and Company I am greeted by a warming and tasty smell that fills my nose. I go to look at the menu and I’m amazed by the amount of options they have. From Mediterranean to Asian dishes, Noodles and Co. rarely fails to satisfy and fill your stomach.

I am a consistent customer there and have a number of experiences, good and bad. Although Noodles and Co. looks nice and efficient, their workers say otherwise. It’s hard to predict when you’re going to get a nice and welcoming worker, or a rude and aggressive worker. With my luck, I have only come across a rude worker a few times out of the many years eating there. I will say that their pricing has gone up over the years so it has turned into  a ¨every once in a while¨ treat.

When I order, it usually never takes more than ten minutes for my food to come out. To me I’d say that is pretty efficient since it isn’t a fast food restaurant. Every so often, the manager will be working actively around the restaurant, meaning he is going around picking things up, asking customers if they need anything, and double-checking orders. This shows that Noodles and Co. really values their customers as well as their employees.

Most of the time, I order the regular buttered noodles, which come with parmesan and Italian seasoning. Other times I get the mac n’ cheese. I couldn’t tell you one single time I haven’t enjoyed a meal there and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good pasta dish.

Noodle Company’s menu
Spinning the Story by Ben Kladivo
Spinning the Story by Ben Kladivo

This Tuesday, March 26th, 2024, the 52-year-old Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore was hit by a large cargo ship, the Dali, causing it to collapse. The incident garnered national attention, and discussion of the collision quickly became an opportunity for political factions to insert an ideology, economic system, or ethnic group of their choice as the cause. These were some of the most prevalent that I found while reading posts on X about the issue.

  1. The bridge collapsed because of capitalism. This belief was prevalent throughout the more socialist side of discussion, one of the more notable examples was Jerry White of the Socialist Equality Party’s explanation. White stated that the collapse “exposes the real state of American capitalism. The corporate and government officials whose negligence led to this disaster must be held fully accountable”.
  2. The bridge collapsed because of Indians or (insert other ethnic/racial groups). This was a popular line of attack from the most extreme anti-immigration and many racist groups. This theory was split into two camps of thought, one that the entirely Indian crew was incompetent because of their race, and the other that it was an intentional terrorist attack. X user @pain___killer posted that it was an intentional terrorist attack, although this seemed to be largely a minority opinion even among the race-blamers.  It was also very prevalent in memes posted by right-wing accounts, satirically or otherwise.
  3. The bridge collapsed because of Secretary Pete Buttigieg. This was a popular rallying point for the anti-Biden, anti-Gay, and anti-DEI groups. Buttigieg, Joe Biden’s secretary of transportation, has taken the fire for many transportation-related issues, including the airline outages of January 2023. He has been criticized as being unqualified for his position and called a diversity hire by many of Biden’s critics. Republican Brigitte Gabriel was one of the most popular figures to make this claim, calling for him to resign immediately in a post.
  4. The bridge collapsed as part of a conspiracy to give taxpayer money to Ukraine and Israel. Many complex conspiracy theories sprung out of this event, including the obligatory Ukraine and Israel-related conspiracy. This appears to have stemmed from Biden’s statement that the federal government will pay the entire sum of the reconstruction costs, which some believe is an attempt at covering up additional support to Israel and Ukraine by inflating the rebuilding costs and sending the difference to these foreign countries. This particular theory appears to have originated from TikTok user @thebannedbeard4 and was reposted on X and Facebook several times.
  5. The bridge was intentionally destroyed by the elite to damage crop planting this year. Supporters of this conspiracy claim that Baltimore is the largest port of entry for agricultural machinery and diesel fuel, and it has been attacked intentionally by “the elite” to prevent farmers from being able to plant their crops this spring, which could lead to food shortages. This theory originates from TikTok user @_iplaymusic_.
  6. The bridge was hit due to an electrical fault on the Dali. This is the explanation being offered by the federal government and Baltimore officials, although it hasn’t caught on nearly as well due to it simply not being sensational enough.

There are many more theories of varying credibility, but these were the most prevalent throughout social media. There was also a large amount of discourse on Biden claiming that he had ridden a train across the bridge many times, despite the fact that there are no train tracks on the bridge, and never have been. This event serves as a prime example of how political activists can twist events to their benefit, no matter the facts of the situation.


Student Journalists in Iowa Save Two Local Newspapers by Grace Frye
Student Journalists in Iowa Save Two Local Newspapers by Grace Frye

According to CNN, the increase in popularity of digital media in the last decade has had devastating effects on many local and national newspapers, with many being forced to lay off a significant amount of their employees or shut down. Student journalists at the University of Iowa have discovered a solution to this issue: transferring ownership of local newspapers to student newspapers.

The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa’s student newspaper, began conversations with two local newspapers, Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun and the Solon Economist, in the fall of 2023. A couple of months later in February, The Daily Iowan officially purchased both newspapers.

Jason Brummond, the publisher of The Daily Iowan, says, “Our hope is to deliver a strong news product and improve the paper. For local communities, their paper is a big part of the capital of the community.”
Many local newspapers depend on advertising revenue to support their newspaper. However, ad revenue is declining. University newspapers could be very beneficial to these newspapers because they do not depend mainly on ad revenue and are viewed as a public service by schools.

Additionally, student reporters can help fill gaps in content, create excitement in the newsroom, and put their technology skills to use. Students involved with The Daily Iowan will be able to intern at one of the local papers or earn class credit for writing articles. Considering that the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun only has one full-time reporter and one part-time reporter and the Solon Economist has one full-time reporter, the students’ contributions will be extremely impactful.

Student newsrooms present a new opportunity for local papers that are struggling financially as digital media becomes more common or family-owned businesses that aren’t able to pass the paper down.
“It’s definitely increasingly becoming a conversation that people interested in robust local news are having about how to create more sustainable models,” Margaret Little Reilly, the Managing Director of the Center for Community News says. “And the benefits are pretty irrefutable.”

The Best Cookies in the 515? by Siri Beecher
The Best Cookies in the 515? by Siri Beecher

Crumbl Cookies seems to be a fan favorite for many people, including my mom and I. In 2021, every kid on Tiktok begged their parents to take them to the nearest Crumbl store because of these highly-rated cookies whose flavors change every week. I was one of those kids begging my parents to take me. I look every week on their website at what the new flavors are, and after I saw this week, I immediately sent a screenshot to my mom that we had to do a flavor test! My mom, Paula Beecher, and I went to the West Des Moines location, which is right by our house, which is a bad thing because it is addicting!

As we walked in we were greeted by all the smiley workers. The store smelled like all the delicious cookies being baked, this smell was appealing at first but then started to give us a headache! We ordered 6 cookies off of a tablet at the front, and waited until they said, “Siri, your cookies are ready!” It is not a very big store, and lots of people come in and out, so we were crammed by others while we waited. Once she called my name, I grabbed the box and headed towards the car! My mouth could not stop watering, knowing that these cookies were going to be put to the test!

The cookies that we ordered were Strawberry Pretzel Pie, Lemon Crinkle, Double Fudge Brownie, Sugar (Candy Eggs), and 2 chocolate chip cookies! My mom and I sat at our kitchen counter and tried each cookie, one at a time. First, we tried the chocolate chip cookie, which is an all-time favorite, and consistently good. My mom said, “OOO! It’s still warm, I rate this an 8/10.” I would have to agree on that one, very good. Next was the Lemon Crinkle cookie. This cookie shocked us both and ended up being one of our favorites. Next, we tried the Sugar cookie that had Canterbury eggs on top. As my mom, Paula Beecher, cut this cookie she said, “This cookie is a lot thicker than the others!” She was right, it was a very thick cookie, but good. Nothing special about it but it was a cookie that anyone would love. Next, we cut the Strawberry Pretzel Pie cookie. Before taking a bite, we both thought we would not enjoy it, but we were wrong. My mom and I love strawberry shortcake, and this was a replica but in cookie form! We barely tasted the pretzels, but were very impressed. Lastly, we tried the double fudge brownie. This one was freshly baked, and warm as well. It was very good, and we had a hard time choosing a favorite! We decided our favorite was the Lemon Crinkle.

According to my mom, she ended the cookie review by saying, “Even if those are all more than 1,000 calories combined, it was worth it!” I think Crumbl Cookies is worth the hype that social media portrays about it. We would say that Crumbl Cookies is the best cookie spot in the 515.

The Highs and Lows of eternal sunshine by Ariana Grande by Reese Frost
The Highs and Lows of “eternal sunshine” by Ariana Grande by Reese Frost

Ariana Grande released her highly-anticipated 7th studio album eternal sunshine on March 8th. It has been 3 years since her last album, positions, and this is reflected in her newest piece. Since positions, she got married, has been through a divorce, and battled rumors about new relationships. She has grown more mature and found her voice in eternal sunshine. This will be a personal review of each song.

The tracklist consists of 13 songs for a total of 36 minutes. She kicks off the album with “intro (end of the world)”. After my first listen, I thought it was a little boring and didn’t stand out to me. When going back for a second and third listen, it really started to grow on me. In the song, she asks, “How can I tell if I am in the right relationship?” which is a powerful statement, considering the drama she has been through within these last few years. This leads to “bye”, a song all about leaving a relationship. It is a pretty self-explanatory, straightforward song. It’s a catchy and fun song to sing along to, and I find myself excited when it comes on next.

Next is “don’t wanna break up again”, and this song is carried by its lyricism. There isn’t much production going on, but I feel that was an intentional choice so the audience can truly listen to what she is saying. She sets the stage by saying, “I fall asleep crying, you turn up the TV.” That speaks volumes. It is not my favorite song to listen to, but I admire her storytelling and honesty. She then gives us “Saturn Returns Interlude”. According to Rolling Stone, this is the voice of astrologer Diana Garland. Since it is an interlude, there is not much to talk about. It is a spoken statement about getting older and becoming more serious about life. The end of this track transitions into the next song “eternal sunshine”. Being the album title, I had big expectations. Comparing this song to the others, however, left me a little disappointed. Regardless, this song is not bad and I would not skip over it. 

The 6th track is “supernatural”, a song currently in my top 3 for this album. After the first listen, I felt Grande herself lifting me up from the heavens. It is a beautiful song about falling in love with someone. The production perfectly portrays the message she is trying to get across, which is that whimsical, almost unreal feeling when you first fall in love with someone. This song has not left my head since I first listened to it. Unfortunately, this sets the next song, “true story”, up for failure. I understand the appeal of the song, but it doesn’t necessarily catch my interest. Nevertheless, I do believe it has the characteristics to grow on me after more time.

She then follows up with “the boy is mine”, another song in my top 3. This song is a perfect example of what I am expecting from an Ariana Grande song. It’s a sound she is comfortable with but still unique. We then reach her one and only single “yes, and?”. This song got me excited about the album. Looking back on it now, it definitely feels out of place compared to the other songs. Regardless, it is a great, catchy song. Next is “we can’t be friends (wait for your love)”. This track is amazing. All parts of the song work together to create a beautiful piece. This is the last song to appear in my top 3.

On the home stretch, we have “i wish i hated you”. This song is a tear-jerker. Sound and production are limited, but that really makes the lyrics and her delivery stand out. At one point in the chorus, you can hear her voice crack, as if she is crying while singing. You can literally hear the emotion in her voice. We move on to “imperfect for you”, a surprisingly clever song. During the chorus, the music feels off at one point, which nods to the fact that it is about being imperfect. I appreciate the song for what it is, but I would not consider it a favorite. Finally, we end with “ordinary things (feat. Nonna)”. This song is fine, but the great part is a voice memo from Grande’s grandma (or Nonna as she calls her). She says towards the end to “never go to bed without kissin’ goodnight… and if you don’t feel comfortable doing it you’re in the wrong place.” This ties back to the question Grande asks about knowing if you are in the right relationship in “intro (end of the world)”. Her ability to make each lyric have a purpose is incredible, which is part of the reason why I love this album.

Overall, this album is filled with emotional curveballs and powerful lyrics. It is different from what she is used to, but she did a beautiful job conveying her message and story. It has jumped up to one of my favorite albums in her discography. I encourage you to listen to the album in full and see how your review lines up with mine.

A recent photo from Google Photos eager to welcome new customers
The Local Cookie Shop Was A HIT! by Molli Young

This past weekend, I got the chance to take my wheel to the nearest, most popular cookie shop in West Des Moines. Located in West Glen Town Center near the Jordan Creek Mall, this place is just filled with delight, and you can immediately taste your savory sensation the second you walk through that door. According to multiple recent TikTok influencers, Crumbl has been highly purchased since 2021, and it has not failed to stay true to its popularity. I remember being entirely excited to find out that we were getting one SO CLOSE to my home. On Saturday, March 23rd, I went with a very good friend of mine. I sat in the passenger seat of the car, eager to try this week’s new flavors. From plain chocolate chip to confetti cake, I knew I was in for a real treat.

When we got there I immediately jumped out of the car and opened the front door. The bell jingled above my head, and a sweet voice called out “Welcome into Crumbl!” It felt nice to know they cared about good customer service. I walked with my friend to the nearest kiosk on a desk and eagerly started stacking my box.

We only ordered 4 total cookies, but the wait was just unbearable. After paying and seeing my name pop up on the screen above, I got way too excited. My name was called relatively quickly, and the worker even asked just to make sure our order looked correct. We happily told her yes, and grabbed the warm, sweet-smelling cookie box to the car.

The whole ride home I just wanted to pop it open and put one in my mouth. As I sat down to try each flavor individually, I contemplated on which was the best one to start. I wanted to ease my taste buds, so I went with the simple chocolate chip. After trying each individual flavor, I had to go with the confetti being my favorite. “It tastes like a birthday party in my mouth!” my friend exclaimed. We were pretty excited about this week’s flavors, and we are definitely going to make our way back to West Glen sooner rather than later.

A recent photo from Google Photos eager to welcome new customers
The Relevance of Cult Classics Today by Mara Mead
The Relevance of Cult Classics Today by Mara Mead

I am a huge fan of old, cult classic movies. The music, the ambiance, and the funny characters draw so many people like myself to a feeling of nostalgia even if we weren’t around during its debut. However, Gen Z hasn’t grown up with these films. Instead, we have movies like Barbie and Oppenheimer. Although I am technically Gen Z, I feel so connected to older movies. Maybe it has something to do with my love of the eighties or because I’m interested to see how my parents would have grown up, but I’m biased towards cult classics.

I’m not the only Gen Z kid to enjoy a good oldie, though. My cousin, Carter Salley, runs a podcast and Instagram page relating to all things film and pop culture. He is the person who inspired my brothers and me to watch cult classics. According to Salley: “The way we use the films we love and grew up with as a form of communication and understanding goes to show how much one movie can change a person’s entire view of life.” Further, cult classics are a special way to reminisce on both the past and future. Many themes, while sometimes cheesy and silly, still apply today.

Obviously, my cousin and I are in favor of older films. However, I needed a test to prove other Gen Z kids enjoy cult classics as well. In order to get an unbiased opinion from Gen Z, I had my brothers watch The Breakfast Club with me. We all sat down in the basement for an hour and a half and watched. After the movie ends with the classic freeze on the fist pump, my brothers both say, “That’s it?” Maybe we are too used to two or more hour movies.

Nevertheless, I asked, “What did you think?”
Lucas says, “The plot kinda jumped around a bit, but I think it was meant to humanize the teenagers. It’s not a normal teen drama. It makes it more relatable… Everything was just real.”

My other brother, Caleb, explains, “I just thought it was weird.” Maybe thirteen years old is a bit too young to watch The Breakfast Club and understand the more mature themes.

However, Caleb does admit: “There’s just something about the way they’re made that makes them different… I think I liked it.”

Tumea & Sons by Chloe Fallin
“Tumea & Sons” by Chloe Fallin

I walked through the small door and was greeted by a very nice young woman. The restaurant smelled wonderful and the customers’ plates looked delicious. I was so excited to sit down and enjoy a lovely dinner.

Unfortunately, I came in on a Saturday and they are a very popular place with a small building. I had 3 other people with me so we had to be put on the 45-minute wait list. While waiting, one of the kind bartenders came and offered to grab us something to drink. A gentle old man came up and began talking with us, later to find out he was the owner of the restaurant, Joe Tumea. “I arrived in the United States when I was 18 and my family opened this place,” he said. He told me all about the history of the restaurant and he told us to come back soon!

“4 for Chloe,” said the host, Gina. We followed behind her and sat in a booth in the front dining room. As soon as we sat, a young male brought over water for us and told us our waitress would be right out. Sure enough, our waitress Bianca was out within 2 minutes. We each ordered a Shirley Temple and got homemade breaded ravioli as an appetizer. 

A middle-aged man brought out our appetizer very quickly and asked if we needed anything else. I asked for a side of ranch, of course. The appetizer was $14 but definitely worth every cent! As soon as we finished our ravioli the same young boy who brought us water, came over and picked up our plates. Followed by another young male who refilled our water glasses. Then came our waitress, ready to take our orders. I ordered the chicken diablo which is a penne rigate served with spicy tomato cream sauce which was $19. My sister ordered the chicken de burgo which was $20, Juliana ordered the cavatelli which was $16 and lastly Eva ordered the chicken asiago which was $22. 

Overall, the restaurant had great service and amazing food! The owner as well as the staff are all very talkative and generous. I will definitely be going back and really appreciate the very nice customer service!

When I Fly Towards You: A Cure To My Sadness by Samantha Ratsakanh
When I Fly Towards You”: A Cure To My Sadness by Samantha Ratsakanh

The show “When I Fly Towards You” had me kicking my feet and giggling like an idiot wishing that was my life. WIFTY (When I Fly Towards You) is a television show that is based in China. According to the site My Drama List, it’s about a young high school girl by the name of Su Zaizai. On a rainy day, Su takes shelter at a convenience store where she encounters Zhang Lurang, a boy who attends the same school as her and she falls in love at first sight. Su Zaizai is determined to help Zhang Lurang perform better in school as Zhang Lurang has to deal with the constant comparison to his younger brother by his own mother. By those comments, he tends to be more introverted, quiet, and a bit distant from others.

Su Zaizai along with her longtime friend Jiang Jia, and her new friends (longtime friends of Zhang Lurang) Gu Ran and Guan Fang are determined to help Zhang Lurang break out of his shell and help him learn the meaning of life and plan what he wants to with his life. As he and Su Zaizai are supporting each other with helping out achieve their goals, their romance starts to bloom within the friend group.

As I was first watching the show, it was a bit slow but as the show went on, I wanted to know what would happen in the next episode and after another and it just went on and on. The cinematography, the characters, the acting, and just the overall vibe of the show was it for me. When Zhang Lurang said, “If fate could have told me in advance that I would meet such a person, could have I chosen to meet her a little earlier? For a long time afterward, I would think of that scene, over and over again, she stood over my roof with her shining eyes looking at me through the rain. That glance seemed to hint to me that my light was coming,” I literally bawled.

Watching this show feels like a cool morning in the summer; the sun is out and shining bright, the air feels clean, and the wind is blowing at the perfect speed. With that description, that is why I prefer to watch shows like that because they portray the life of a high school student without them being overly sexualized like most Western shows. I just prefer to watch more fun and bright shows like WIFTY because as a viewer, that is what I wish my life would look like.

There is no ounce in my body where I felt the need to be out partying every night and consuming substances. I enjoy my youth. This show is in my top 3 favorite shows that I’ve watched and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in watching it. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry but it seems like you’re the problem. I’m totally kidding but all jokes aside, I love this show, 10 out of 10, would turn back time to watch this again for the first time.

Official album cover for Dirty Nachos
A Satisfying Snack? by Jose Perez-Gaeta

Chief Keef has delivered another studio album in collaboration with producer Mike Will Made It, this one by the name of “Dirty Nachos”. Chief Keef has released this as fans have been waiting for the release of almighty so 2 for about 10 years now. The album starts off with an intro talking about how this is just a little snack before his big release, hence why it’s called “Dirty Nachos”. The rating scale I will be using is 0 means they should be punish for this creation, 2-3 is they should just stop making music, 4-5 is it’s bad but just skippable, 6-7 are tracks I wouldn’t skip but I’m not specifically searching for them, 8-9 are songs that will be put on playlist and repeat, finally 10 is musical perfection.

The first track called “2 times’’ which sets the mode of the album decently as the beat is grimy and Keef calmly slides over the beat to make a chill catchy song. Rating: 7.7/10. This is followed by the self-titled track “Dirty Nachos’’ which is one of the better tracks. As I put it as a better version of “2 times’’; as a calm, grimy track, without the catchy hook reminiscent of prime Keef. Rating:  8/10.

This is followed by the track “doja’’ with a super aggressive beat as the calmest track by Keef until he speeds up at the very end but is interrupted by a dialogue reminding us the main course is on its way. Rating: 7.5/10. Next is the track “ridiculousness’’ with the very feature of the track which is also the very bad track of the album as it is a very generic track by Keef which is then ruined by the artist Ballout by a short but trashy feature. Rating: 5/10.

This song is followed up by a good feature with the track “pull up ghost-clan’’ with Future and Chief Keef  rapping reminiscent of this smooth 2014 autotune style slightly followed by a very solid verse by future. Rating: 8.9/10. Next a song with so much potential- “damn shorty’’-as Chief Keef glides over the beat with an amazing performance ruined by the worst feature on the entire album by Sexy Redd. Rating: 3/10.

Next is another attempt to recreate his 2014 autotune style with “why you mad’’ terribly failing with the chorus but maybe saved by amazing verses. Rating: 6/10. Next is “watch for the pigs’’ which is a solid aggressive Keef track with a nasty beat. Rating: 7.8/10. Then comes “charged up’’ which I feel like is a solid track mixing Keef’s old and new style. Rating: 7.8/10.

Next we hear “promenade’’ as this song is such an amazing but mid track being a solid recapture of this old style just ruined by a couple of flow screw ups throughout the track. Rating: 7.7/10. Next is where I feel the album marks as its best run through the later half starting with “beware of dogs’’ which in my opinion is some of mike wills best work on the album. Rating: 8.5/10.

The song “girl woo’’ which is one of the weakest attempts at recreating the success he had with his hit “luv no thotties’’ back in the day, is next. Rating: 5/10. Then is another attempt at a love song but done a bit better with “player in me’’. Rating: 6/10. The energy immediately switches but still stays in the same topic with the drill aggressive “love don’t live here”. rating: 8.7/10. Next is the calm “Status Keef” having a very solid run in the later quarter of the album. Rating: 8.7/10. Toward the end of the album is the best song on the album, “Harley Quinn’’ with amazing work from both Keef and Mike. Rating: 9.3/10. And last but not least the track “bang bang’’ just solidifies how amazing the later half of the album is. Rating: 8.8/10. So the album “Dirty Nachos’’ gets an overall rating of: 8/10 shout out Sosa .

Official album cover for “Dirty Nachos” (Spotify)
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