Top 5 Albums of 2014

–by Tamara

As we move on along 2015 and somehow end up in February without even realizing it, I still keep on looking back at all the good things 2014 left us with. In my last article, I picked out my personal top-5 of movies from last year. This time, I want to do a similar thing, but with music! So here are my Top 5 Albums of 2014. Feel free to disagree and share your own chart!

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Wuthering Heights

–by Tamara

Classics have always been an important part of culture and art. No matter how much time passes, they are still considered to be highly influential, both for the mentality and for the direction arts take.

Today, despite the emergence of simpler, popular literature, classics are still widely read and appreciated. Just a month ago, I read the magnificent Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, that was written in the 1800s. The complexity of its plot and the diversity of its characters is what makes it an exceptional book.

The story begins with a homeless, possibly gypsy boy being adopted into a normal, well-off Victorian family. As the boy is named Heathcliff, he quickly bonds with his new “sister” — Catherine Earnshaw but, stealing away the attention of the father, he just as quickly becomes an enemy of his new “brother” — Hindley Earnshaw. From that point on, the novel will tell us of the characters’ growth, both mental and physical, and development (or lack of thereof).

Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontë’s only published book. She grew up with two sisters and a brother, and all the girls wrote books and poetry. Her biography states that she was melancholic and reclusive; an introvert of nature, with a strong mind and immense knowledge, which even made her teacher say that she should have been born a man1.

We can certainly see that Brontë was of special character — the way the book is written, with strangely convoluted sentences, and the ways in which characters behave and respond to certain situations are overblown and excessively emotional. In addition, Brontë purposefully makes the book very confusing — even the names of the characters make us question who is who.

Wuthering Heights juxtaposes classicism and romanticism within itself, as it opposes Wuthering Heights, the abode of the Earnshaws and later Heathcliff, and Thrushcross Grange, Lintons’ property.
Lintons are the embodiments of classicism — they are driven by knowledge and reason; they are calm, patient, and mostly realistic. They execute the power of their social status just as much as they live up to the standards exerted by the status on them. In addition, the Grange is big, bright and surrounded by a well-attended park.
Earnshaws (including Heathcliff) are the opposites — they are a walking pillar of romanticism. What pushes them forward are passion and emotions. They are individualistic and have strong personalities; perhaps too strong for even themselves, seeing as all of their generation spirals down into moral decay and madness. The Heights is dark, the nature around it is wild, the residents are free-willed and savage.

During the Brontë’s era, the book received very mixed reviews. Many people thought she was crazy, and they went as far as to burn it. To be fair, she did quite distance herself from the Victorian ideals, and even questioned some of the principles of that society — in the book, religion is not portrayed in a very positive way, for example, as Joseph is a huge hypocrite; the difference in social classes is challenged as Heathcliff climbs to the top; the gender equality is questioned, as Catherine spends a lot of time trying to define herself as a free-willed individual, only to end up married accordingly to Victorian traditions and imitating real happiness. The book also did what they usually did not at that time — it highlighted the negative in people, and how this negative can ruin one’s life.

Today, it is deservedly seen as one of true masterpieces of English literature, surpassing Emily’s sister’s, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, which was thought to be superior at that time. Its meaning for contemporary literature is immense, because, as I previously mentioned, it diverged from what was considered to be appropriate at that era. It also explored the difficulty of human relationships, the destructive power of human emotions and of mental instabilities.

My Perspective

–by Hamza


Four weeks ago, a massacre occurred in Paris. Unfortunately three French-Algerian men went into the offices of Charlie Hebdo newspaper and murdered twelve people working there. The reason why the men did so was because the newspaper was satirizing the prophet Mohammed in an offensive caricature. What the three men did was completely inhumane and brutal. I am not supporting the way they reacted to the caricature, but I understand why they were upset.

Nobody wants to see somebody who’s very special to him or her being derided. The media made Charlie Hebdo look like heroes championing freedom of speech, but to me they are not. No one should be killed for any reason. And all should be respectful towards everybody’s beliefs and not be provocative, even though they have the right to be. I mean there are so many other ways to say something you want to in a much kinder manner. People say it’s freedom of expression and freedom of press, and that they’re in France, a country built upon principles of Voltaire who said: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”.

These people are right, and I completely agree with them; but just because one has the right to say anything, it is not wise to do so. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Why would they want to be offensive and hurtful towards a person by making fun of something that partially defines who he or she is as a spiritual human being? Parents teach their children: “Don’t make fun of people.” Teachers discipline children who draw mean pictures of classmates. We are taught: “Don’t judge (or in this case, make fun of) a person based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation”. So why do adults do these things?

To me, what that newspaper was or is doing is another form of discrimination, and frankly it disgusts me. I’m not saying this because I was raised in a Muslim family. I’m saying this because anything that is prejudicial towards anyone disgusts me. This didn’t affect me in anyway at all because that newspaper is known for trying to offend.   People keep posting #jesuischarlie (#Iamcharlie). Well no, I am most definitely not Charlie as I do not go around with the intention to offend people.

Although the Charlie Hebdo workers did offend tons of people, they did not deserve what happened to them and I hope they’re in a much better place, may they rest in peace. I wish the killers had approached the problem differently in a non-violent way, and didn’t give the media an opportunity to bash about “Muslim Terrorists,” and paint a population of 1.5 billion people with a single brush again. Sadly, what the media does not display is that there are Muslims who are totally against what happened and have risked their lives to save these hostages, such as the cop Ahmed. He defended people that were making fun of his religion, because it’s his duty of course, but also because his religion does not tolerate such acts and strictly instructs people to NOT kill people no matter what.

Top 5 Movies of 2014

–by Tamara

2014 passed in what seemed to be just a blink of an eye. Looking back at the year, many events took place around the globe – good or bad, happy, sad. And, as other years before and in the future, that year is now part of our lives and histories.

I love watching movies a lot. Whether it is going to the cinema and watching new blockbusters on the big screen, or sitting in my room with a cup of tea and watching something on my laptop – it gives me immense pleasure. I get to immerse myself into many different stories, and even enhance my knowledge on different topics.

2014 left many great movies behind. I, having watched quite a few, would like to list my own top five. Check them out, let us know what you think, and maybe even give us your top 5, too?

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Deliberate Life Project

–by Hamza

A couple of months ago, my teacher introduced to my AP English peers and me a very unordinary type of assignment she called the Deliberate Life Project. It was based on romanticism and transcendentalism found in the works of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as in a movie Dead Poets Society, we studied. You would think in English class, assignments would be reading books or writing essays, but this one was building up our minds, characters, and bodies. We had the liberty to do whatever we wanted as long as it was legal and with parents’ permission, highly challenging and forced us out of our comfort zones. I believe this project was heavily inspired by Thoreau, who went off to live in the woods for two years by himself with very limited resources. Frankly, I did not like the project in the beginning because I thought it would be a waste of time, and I thought to myself that I had better things to do. I was wrong. Some of the things my teacher pushed me to do became part of my life routine, such as signing up for a gym membership. I was never athletic and I always struggled with sports, so I completely gave up on any type of physical exercise for years. That changed when I decided to go ahead and try again. I’m not going to lie, it was overwhelming in the beginning, but after motivation and determination, I stuck to it and I enjoy working out now.

Lamia and me at the GYM.

Lamia and me at the GYM.

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Christmas and New Year’s Day in Russia

–by Tamara

--by Hamza. This is my (fake) christmas tree at home. My family's not christian, but we like to be in a festive mood at this time of the year. ^_^

–by Hamza.
This is my (fake) christmas tree at home. My family’s not christian, but we like to be in a festive mood at this time of the year. ^_^

As the holiday season approaches, people are already in a rush to buy presents for their loved ones. Christmas and New Year’s Day approach, entitling celebrations, joy and quality family-time.

These holidays are celebrated all over the world, with all kinds of traditions original to different places. Even in countries where Christianity is not the main religion, such as Morocco, Christmas is celebrated just for people to have fun and spend extra time together without the religious background.

Russia is, mostly, Christian — Orthodox, to be precise. Of course not everyone practices Christian religion, so many people do not celebrate Christmas; for instance, my family is Muslim, so we are among those who do not. We still celebrate New Year’s the same way though.

Christmas is not as much of a big holiday in Russia today. It is celebrated on the 7 th of January (Orthodox, remember?) and is purely religious; there is no festive mood like in the western countries; people don’t buy presents. In fact, there are no “traditions” for Christmas today – people spend it how they please; some still do it according to old, historic traditions.

It was a very important holiday before, and it would take up longer than a week. It would all start on the 6th of January – on “Svyatki” – a day that celebrated the dead, with people disguising themselves, most importantly – wearing masks, going around houses singing festive songs and getting food or presents, much like Halloween but without the scary undertone. The Svyatki would last until the 19th of January – “Kryashenie”, the day known as Epiphany. On that day, people would dive into ice-holes, with water in these ice-holes previously consecrated by the clergy. That was believed to cure illnesses and purify from evil. It is actually a pagan tradition; but many pagan traditions were transported into Orthodox Christianity. Believe it or not, while Svyatki are not widespread today, there still are people who dive into ice-holes.

Novy God, which means “New Year” in Russian, is a holiday celebrated by everyone – or by, at least, 90% of the population, – unlike Russian Christmas. It has a long history in my country, but the way it is spent nowadays is not the way people met the newcoming year hundreds of years ago. Actually, Russians would celebrate it in March until 1492, and in September until 1700; and it is only in 1700 that we started to meet the year like everyone – in January.

However, most of the traditions common today were not there until USSR; it is only then that New Year’s became the holiday the Russians know today.

As the Party prohibited celebrating Christmas (due to its highly atheist mentality), people transported their favorite traditions to New Year’s. That way, the Christmas tree became the New Year Tree. They also kept the children’s traditions. Thus, “Ded Moroz” – Granfather Frost was born. Despite the fact that Ded Moroz actually originates from Slavic mythology, today he is basically an analogy of the western Santa Claus – a cheerful elderly man that brings presents to children, with several small differences – he brings presents on the New Year’s Day, not on Christmas; he does not have a sleigh, deers, or elves; and he is usually accompanied by his granddaughter, “Snegurochka” – The Snow Maiden.

There are, of course, other traditions. Throughout the day, people rush to get the tables ready – there are different dishes that are considered a must-have on the table. These include champagne, mandarines, the Olivier salad, also known as the Russian salad, and dressed herring. For the whole day, there are different music or humoristic shows on most of the channels; all of them are festive and merry. Five minutes before midnight, people gather around the tables and on most of the TV-channels, presidential speech is transmitted, in which the president summarizes the yearly events and wishes everyone the best in the upcoming year. After his speech, the striking clock – or the Kremlin clock – strikes twelve times, the twelfth time signifying that it is midnight; you are supposed to make a wish before the clock finishes striking.

Those who do not wish to stay at home go to the Red Square – and there they can eat, dance and have fun. After midnight, the New Year’s Eve is over; the New Year’s Day comes. People eat, drink, get out on the streets, let off fireworks and party.

Marrakech International Film Festival

— by Hamza

Are you the type of person who loves to go to film festivals? Well if you are, and happen to be in Marrakech early December, you are in luck! Marrakech is once again holding its annual international film festival for the 14th time on December 5th-13th. It is one of the largest events along with the Mawazine Festival held in Rabat that bring an international sensation into Morocco. The film festival is held at the Palais des Congrès of Marrakech which is in the heart of the city, and the movies are also displayed in Cinema Colisee and the public square in Jamaa El Fna. If you are wondering what languages the movies are displayed in, well many are in French, English, and Arabic. Some have subtitles and some don’t. You can get a public pass for the festival and a brochure, which would help with the language barrier at the Théâtre Royale.

The Marrakech Festival this year pays tribute to Japanese cinema and many people, such as Yasujiro Ozu, Kore-Eda Hirokazu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, and Akira Kurosawa that will be on the spotlight. The film festival this year is honoring the very famous Jeremy Irons, Viggo Mortensen, Egyptian actor Adel Imam, and Moroccan producers Zakaria Alaoui and Khadija Alami. If you are interested in more information about the daily program, and about what movies they’re featuring, you should check out the official website. If you didn’t find the official website very helpful for the detailed program, you should check this out.

Address: Palais des congrès, Avenue Mohammed VI, Marrakech, Morocco

Address: Cinema Colisee, Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni, Marrakech, Morocco

Address: Théâtre Royale, N8, Marrakech, Morocco