__________ Was a Good Movie, You Just Didn’t Understand It


Humanity has had many accomplishments: the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, and sliced bread, to name the most outstanding. While considering the leaps and bounds we have made in positive progress (and we will, for the time being, ignore dictatorial regimes, genocides, large-scale destructive wars, and you know, slavery), there have been none quite so daring and so monumental as the development of cinema. We revere the top caliber of movies as glorious, awe-inspiring, and a treasure for the ages movies so good that we are profoundly moved to sob, laugh, or scream in frustration at the injustices of the human experience. Then, there are the others. The bad movies. The ones that not only can we not tolerate, we simply will not (a certain M. Night Shyamalan begins to spring to mind). Yet, is it so far-fetched to say that there are merits to even the most seemingly awful of films? Sometimes a film is so spectacularly “bad” that it transcends even the boundaries of plain movie-watching and becomes a cinematic and philosophic experience.

For example, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” This was widely panned by critics, with some saying it was possibly the worst movie ever made. I highly doubt that, because this is in the same universe as Nicolas Cage films (which have ceased to be thought of as bad and have now become a pop-culture joke). The wooden acting of “Avatar:TLA”, coupled with the lack of coherence and plot, is what made it a box-office bomb, but perhaps it was made that way so that the audience can focus on the arguably stunning visuals and portray the surrealistic intention of the film. “It was so bad, it was unreal” now takes on a whole new meaning when you realize: that was the point.

Even “Sucker Punch”, which was universally dubbed A Movie of Cultural Irrelevance is actually smarter than you might think. It was a fantasy movie. Okay I know‒obviously, Sherlock. But what I mean is the entire movie was a fantasy, none of which was taking place in any realm of reality. It was the fantasy of Sweet Pea, the true main character, who retreats into her mind to deal with her very awful life. “Sucker Punch” is the result of a lobotomy‒just one big, odd subconscious coping mechanism for a girl to find peace despite the tragedy that’s befallen her. Also, with the way sexuality is used in the film, being partially set in a brothel, it becomes more about the difference between exploitation and empowerment. I will sound redundant, but, yes, the visuals were fantastic.

“Disaster Movie”, which received a 1% on film review site Rotten Tomatoes (I did not think that was possible), may actually be, not just two filmmakers experimenting on screen with a terrible script and horrific acting, but a testament to an attempt of pop culture to make sense of the inherently and seemingly pointless nature of existing, and exploring the philosophical concepts of existentialism and absurdism. Am I reaching here? Possibly.

Then there’s the entire “Twilight” franchise, which are actually decent movies if you free yourself from the mindset that everything that a teenage girl likes has to be dumb, vacuous, vapid, and devoid of meaning. Seriously, I feel like the dislike of these movies has less to do with the plot, character development, or coherence and possible lack thereof, and it more concerns the general dismissal of adolescent females and the idea that anything they like or identify with is of little regard. Adam Sandler’s movie That’s My Boy was actually about‒no…you’re right. That was a legitimately terrible and disgusting movie and if you like it, do endeavor to stay away from civilized society.

This has been a PSA.



Mr. Abelkop Interview Part 3: College and Beyond


Mr. Abelkop is the debate coach for Chattahoochee. He is also an alumnus of the school.

Speculator(S): Did you ever feel overwhelmed about choosing a college?

Abelkop(A): Yeah. I hate that feeling when you don’t know what you are going to do next year. You could be anywhere, basically. It’s like when you go through school your entire life, you know that next year is 9th grade, the year after is 10th grade… your know what to do the next year. And even once you’re in college you know you’ll be in college for four years. But those moments at the end of high school and at the end of college, when you don’t know where you are going to be and what you will be doing, I hated that uncertainty and pressure. And so it was overwhelming, to a large degree, making that choice and deciding what the next year would entail.

S: Any advice for seniors?

A: Join the debate team! Being a senior is tough because you’ve spent the last four years engaging in choosing which classes you’re going to take, and the activities you’re going to be involved in, and getting a résumé that hopefully will get you wherever it is that you want to go next year. So, it’s tough to give advice to people that are at the end of their high school journey. You’ve already made your decisions, you’re pretty much done with high school. My advice for those people is to continue to work hard. One of the biggest lessons debate taught me as a student is that you get out of debate what you put into it. I think that’s not just true for debate, but is true in so many other things in life. And, never give up on your goals. Figure out a way to make it happen—just work, work, work until it happens. it’s easy to fear the unknown, but life’s not supposed to be easy, and part of those choices are taking a leap of faith, working hard and keeping your mind in the right place. But I think that more useful advice would be for freshmen, because they still have four years of high school to make those choices, and for them I say join the debate team.

S: What would you say to seniors that don’t exactly know which direction they’re heading in?

A: I was in that spot. I really wanted to continue with debate as an activity that I wanted to participate in but I didn’t know what I wanted to do after that. I didn’t know that I wanted to teach debate or be a debate coach. It’s tough because there are so many professional schools. You can go to med school and be a doctor, you can go to law school and be a lawyer, or you can go to business school and be a businessman. But, the degree that I chose—international relations—and others in the social sciences are not links to a direct profession. It’s not like you go to school here and you immediately get a job doing this, like med school, law school or business school. And so, I’ve found myself certainly in a quandary a little bit, trying to think about what direction to take with my life. And it’s in that moment where you ask yourself what you value the most in life, whether it’s a huge paycheck or impacting the next generation of youth. And, there’s no one right answer for everyone. It’s just a matter of self-discovery and figuring out what path you want to go down. But no matter what college you go to or what degree program you choose, there’s going to be a whole host of people along the way that help guide you to make the right choices and to realize there are doors that are left open in front of you.

Mr. Abelkop Interview Part 2: Chattahoochee, Then and Now


Mr. Abelkop is the debate coach for Chattahoochee. He is also an alumnus of the school.

Speculator(S): When did you start thinking about teaching debate?

Abelkop(A): I debated for four years at Chattahoochee, and then debated for four years in college at Michigan State University. And somewhere in those 8 years I determined that I loved the activity and wanted to teach it and coach it, and bring the gift of debate to other students. So initially, right after college, I coached debate at the University of Kentucky for a year. Then I coached debate at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a year. After those two years I decided that I still wanted to keep coaching debate. Later, a job opened back up at Chattahoochee, and Mr. Duncan gave me a phone call saying he wanted me to go back and coach.

S: So it was a coincidence?

A: Yeah, it never really was a master design or plan, it just happened. But I love it. Teaching is not easy, and it’s not very well respected. And the combination of it being very challenging, doing long hours on top of it being not paid very well is a deterrent.

S: Has Chattahoochee changed in the past ten years?

A: When I was a student here there were six to seven hundred more students so it was a lot more crowded. There were about 40 portables out back in the senior parking lot where we now have one. That was a big issue. Parking was really tough—there weren’t enough spaces for the amount of students that wanted to park. A lot of students either didn’t get parking spaces or had to park at Taylor Road[Middle School]. And juniors shared spots. Some days your friends would drive, other days you would drive. The student body has also changed a little bit. When I was growing up, there was a whole host of neighborhoods that were districted to Chattahoochee because when I was in school, Northview, Johns Creek, and Alpharetta didn’t exist. My sophomore and junior year was when they first built Alpharetta, and that’s when Dr. Burke, who used to be the principal here, went to go open Alpharetta. And at the time Mr. Duncan—he was an assistant principal— became the principal in my junior and senior year. And I have friends that lived in neighborhoods districted to Chattahoochee, whereas now they will be districted to Johns Creek or Alpharetta, which is weird. It’s strange to think about it, that I might have never known those people had the other schools existed at the time.

S: Ten years ago, was the school population as diverse as now, or was it more homogenous?

A: It always was a diverse school. The student body always had racial and socioeconomic diversity. I do think it’s more diverse now, but it was also definitely diverse back then. It was never homogenous, never completely one thing. There’s people from all over the place here. And I think that has always been true. I think that the more diversity the more empathy, and the ability to examine other people’s perspective and to appreciate diversity and celebrate it. It also helps diminish the fear of what’s different. Nowadays, both in terms of the way that society has progressed and also in terms of how the school progressed, diversity is something that’s more celebrated and less feared.

Mr. Abelkop Interview part 1: High School and College


Mr. Abelkop is the debate coach for Chattahoochee. He is also an alumnus of the school.

Speculator(S): When did you graduate?

Abelkop(A): I graduated in the 2004-2005 school year. That would be about ten years ago.

S: Did you participate in any sports or clubs?

A: Debate. That’s about it. I started off as both a student in marching band and debate, and after the first semester I chose to focus solely on debate.

S: Were you able to balance debate with your school work?

A: Yeah, I actually was pretty good at that. It is something that poses a challenge to a lot of students that do debate. They have a hard time balancing the amount of work debate takes with the amount of work that their classes take, especially since most of the debaters are in honors and AP classes. I never found it too difficult. I was a fairly organized person, so I just kept to-do lists. Teachers were very flexible with assignments—if I was out for a debate tournament they would allow me that time to make it up.

S: Any memories at Chattahoochee?

A: I remember debate tournaments and the debate team back then. The debate team used to be in F122. I also remember Ms. Cooney’s lit class. It’s sort of a funny thing because a lot of teachers that taught me are still teaching here. I had Ms. Cooney, Ms. Hunt, Ms. Engelberth, Ms. McMillan, Ms. Nevins… there’s a good seven or eight teachers that taught me that are still teaching here now. And the majority of them remember me. It’s weird, going from being their student to now being their colleague. But it’s fun too.

S: Any struggles in high school?

A: I struggled a lot through high school figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I think that’s the biggest question mark that hangs over every high schooler’s head. The next few years after high school are going to determine the future path that you take, and making sure that you make a decision that you can live with and that you’re happy with is hard. And I definitely could have gone down a few different paths. It’s interesting to think about where I would be today if I had taken one of those paths. I applied to a whole lot of colleges, and some of them had debate programs and were very debate-focused, while other schools weren’t. It would have been interesting if I had chosen to go to a school and not debated in college, and focused more on college life. Debate takes a lot of time—the traveling, the preparations…you have to do so much research and be prepared to argue every possible contingency related to the topic, so work never ends. It’s constant work, and so because of that, for high school and college, you don’t have much else. You have your school life, you have your debate life, a little bit of a social life, and that’s it. It just takes up so much time. And the same is true for college. I have no idea what my life would have been like had I not done debate in high school or had I not done debate in college.

S: What was your major in college?

A: I majored in international relations. It’s a great field. It’s all about the way countries interact with each other in the international system, and that’s very much related to debate because a lot of the topics we argue about are related to domestic and foreign policies that deal with how countries interact.

S: You probably could have gotten a different career, although you didn’t exactly do that.

A: Yeah, I was thinking about that for a long time, and was thinking about it even after college. Because I majored in international relations I considered going into D.C.—think tank politics—to some degree. I actually have a lot of friends that have gone down that path. My debate partner at Chattahoochee is a fellow at the Center for Strategic International Studies and he’s writing all about U.S nuclear policy. That was a path that I definitely thought about going down. Ultimately, I have no regrets. I’m very happy with where I’m at now, so we’ll see.

Feminism: Still Relevant?


Feminism used to be a movement to unite women to fight for gender equality. Recently I have found that there are two different connotations of the movement: raising women’s status to be equal to men or lowering men’s standing in society to be equal to women. In Emma Watson’s famous UN speech about feminism she addresses the negative connotation of feminism by stating: “I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.” In a world where men have been placed on a pedestal, women are speaking out to get their own podium to stand on. Feminism is still needed today and will continue to be needed until there is no such thing as a superior gender.

I have heard the phrase “superior gender” in sports too frequently. Men may have more testosterone which allows them to build more muscles, but a sport is much more than how much you can bench. As a former soccer player, I have witnessed muscular guys get beaten by petite girls, so the argument that men are better at athletics is invalid. And if you say that’s just a one time situation, have you ever looked at drag racing? Commonly known as a male sport, females in the past have left their marks as champions. Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampay dominated drag racing at one point in both of their lives. Both females, but nonetheless, champions.

“You’re a bad driver because you’re female.” Let me tell you, my bad driving has nothing to do with my gender, and for people who say it’s girls who are the bad drivers, did you know insurance for males is more expensive? According to insurance quotes online male drivers’ insurance is higher because they’re more of a risk than females, so please, tell me again how girls are worse drivers than boys. Driving is not the only place that women are poorly represented. According to studies done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2013 women’s salaries were on average 80% of what a man earns working the same position. Why is this? At the rate we are going it’ll be 2058 when women make the same amount of money men make for the same work.

Feminism is similar to racism in the sense that it’s not going to end immediately, but we have to start somewhere. As Emma Watson quoted in her UN speech, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?” Even though racism still exists, the common citizen sees racism as outdated. Society needs to make sexism outdated as well. Writing this article led to an argument with someone close to me, and he told me I need to lighten up. I will never find sexism to be a “light” issue, and it’s because of people who don’t think it’s a major problem that it still exists today.

Hooch Football Takes A Drastic Change


There has been a dramatic shift within the Chattahoochee football team. When former quarterback, David Nicoletta(JR), hurt his ankle, sophomore Chase Owens was forced to step up. The potential of success for Owens was very high considering he has already had success with his two touchdowns in the West Forsyth game. He has proved to be mature enough to handle the responsibility of being starting quarterback and will be a worthwhile replacement for Nicoletta.

Although Nicoletta is not starting at quarterback, in the Johns Creek game he played wide receiver along with Isaac Kinsey(So) who thus far has had a phenomenal season. It seems as if Kinsey and Owens have a special connection considering that they have been playing along side each other since middle school. With Nicoletta’s speed and ability to make cuts, he will help tremendously in Hooch’s pass game.

In Hooch’s last game against Johns Creek, Owens demonstrated his ability to move in and out of the pocket connecting with Kinsey for three touchdowns. Although Nicoletta didn’t see too much of the ball in that game, it can be predicted that sooner or later he will be seeing the ball coming his way. This decision has proved to be beneficial to both Owens and Nicoletta with both players seeing time on the field regardless.

With Owens in the pocket and Kinsey, Nicoletta and Andrew Thomas(Fr) at receiver, Hooch’s air strike will prove to be a force to be reckoned with against all teams. The trio, each possessing a vital skill or ability, will tear up defenses across 6A and has proved to be a crucial asset to Hooch’s very new offense. They provide hope for not only this season but for future seasons to come.

Tech Review: A Week with Android Wear

NateHarris, Guest Writer

Oct. 15 is a big day for fans of the Android operating system and phone lineage. Android L, the newest version of the operating system that was unveiled at Google I/O in June, was officially named “Android 5.0 Lollipop,” sticking to the theme of naming each successive operating system after a confection in alphabetical order. The operating system is set to be pushed out on Friday to the Nexus line of devices first, with other Android devices following over the upcoming months.

Oct. 15 also marks a week after I finally received my Android Wear device, and in that time I have learned a thing or two. Android Wear, for those who do not know, is an extension of the Android operating system running on watches resembling small smartphones, therefore dubbed “smartwatches.” Though Pebble watches have been out for a while, and Apple announced over the summer plans to launch a smartwatch in 2015, Android Wear was the first to take on the concept of a watch being more than a watch in full force. The first smartwatch hit the market last year with the Samsung Gear, though it did not run Android Wear software, and its marketability, though eye-catching, did not fare too well. Since then, a few more iterations of the smartwatch have come out, with “the Big Three” consisting of the LG G Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear Live (both square faced), and the Moto 360 by Motorola, which has a round face. I, like a lot of people looking at this technology, decided to go all out and combine fashion with form and went with the Moto 360. This added about two weeks to my wait, as, while I could walk into any Best Buy and pick up one of the other watches off the shelf, the Moto 360 was sold out everywhere, including at stores, on Google Play and on Motorola’s website.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

So let me start with the design. Motorola designers and engineers attest to their idea that when designing the watch, that it look like a watch first and foremost. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a square face, but in my opinion, if clocks are round, a watch should be round. Motorola also teamed up with a Chicago leather manufacturer, offering black and grey leather straps for the watch out of the box (Motorola recently began offering metal linked straps as well). The leather feels great and adds to the style. It feels integrated with the product, as opposed to just serving a purpose like the plastic and rubber straps on the other two watches. The device itself is only 1.7 inches in diameter, but while some other reviewers argue that it is too big or too small, with my wrist, the size is just right. Some complain that it is too thick, but in comparison to the other smartwatches, it is only two millimeters thicker, and compared to a regular round watch, the difference is basically inconsequential.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

The device has only one button on it, placed on the right side where a dial would be on a wind-up watch, and this button serves no other purpose than to turn the screen and device on and off. The Moto 360 does not have a speaker (unlike the other two), so there is a drawback when making phone calls (yes, you can make phone calls using the watch), but, as one main selling point of these smartwatches seems to be a new-found dedication to fitness, all the watches feature some sort of heart rate monitor and pedometer. As far as I’ve used it, it works quite nicely, though finding my heart rate does seem to take a bit of time (perhaps it is just me). The Moto 360 is not completely round; a small cutout at the bottom of the screen is black, but this is to make room for the ambient light sensor and display driver, a feature special to the Moto 360 that allows the screen to adjust its brightness according to the amount of available light around it. The screen also goes dim after a timeout period, and turns back on by the push of the button or by moving the watch in a sweeping motion that simulates raising your wrist up to your face. The Moto 360 seems to have only two major negative criticisms by reviewers, and those are its battery life and its processor. As far as battery life, it depends on what you use it for. Once I stopped touching it every two minutes, the battery lasted me an entire workday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.). An update to the operating system significantly rectified this issue, though. And while the battery does drain a little faster than one might prefer, the device charges (through an inductive charger, no external ports or USB) from dead to one hundred percent in a little over an hour and a half. The other issue is the processor. Motorola put so much effort into the design, yet copped out for three-year old processor chips. I do not see any real side-effects from this decision, though it does seem to lag a bit if put under more than an average amount of stress.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

Now to how the device actually works. These smartwatches are not phones. They are accessories that connect to an Android phone through Bluetooth. The first function of the watch is, of course, telling the time. All the watches come with pre-installed watch faces that can be switched out at will, and many developers are releasing more watch faces that can easily be used on the device. The watch syncs with the phone, and any app downloaded on the phone that works on Android Wear appears on the watch (though it is stored on the phone). Android Wear displays all notifications from the phone on its screen, as well as any cards in Google Now. Many of these notifications can be interacted with on the watch, though all of them will open on the phone. However, one app I have right now is a Wear browser, which allows someone to share a URL from the browser on their phone and view it on the watch (a miniature version of the websites’s mobile view). The watch is mostly a Google Now watch. Saying “OK Google” or just tapping on the screen will bring up Google. There is a keyboard on the phone (at least on the browser, there is), but for Google, it is all voice. Yeah, you look like weird walking down the street talking to your wrist, but those people around you are just behind the times. As for accuracy, unless there is really loud ambient noise, Google will understand what you said virtually every time. This is helpful, because the texting function (yes, you can text from your watch) is also voice-operated.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

From the Google screen, a swipe up will allow access to setting and apps. Since Android Wear is fairly new, there is not too much out there, but it is really interesting to see the ingenuity that developers are having with this new technology. The Moto 360 was the last of the big three to come out, so a lot of apps are optimized for square screens, but many developers are working hard to bring full function to the round screen. I have some games (2048 and a Rubik’s Cube), some functionality apps (Calculator, a third-party Twitter beta app, a flashlight) and some accessibility apps (remotely control the volume or music playback on my phone, remotely control my camera, record audio). The app market is increasing exponentially daily, and it should not be long before big-name apps are available in some function on Wear (iHeartRadio, Tinder and FlyDelta have already taken advantage of the device).

Overall, the device is a nifty little thing. The interface is clean and easy to use, and the round design of the Moto 360 specifically makes it feel like it is a watch. I have had more than a few people give me a weird look as I respond to a text in public, but many of those people end up gawking over it when I show them that I am not crazy, but instead “embracing the future.” The functionality of the watch is a little underdone, but this is a brand new thing and so the full power and extent of its use is still being delved into right now.

Now comes the ultimate question: Is it worth it? I guess I did not say the price in the intro, my bad. The LG G Watch is $229, but Best Buy has been slashing its price to $159. The Samsung Gear Live is $199. The Moto 360 is $249. Now is it worth it? Well, if you are an iPhone person, you can leave now. You too Windows Phone people. Now the non-smartphone people. Now anyone with an Android device older than a year and a half. Okay, first off, you need Android 4.3 and above. Then you need to use Google a lot (as in multiple times a day. Multiple times an hour, even better). Now you need money, and lots of it. Now you need to be able to deal with imperfection, but at the same time experiment, try things out, be a beta tester and respond back to developers with constructive criticism and advice. This is not an everyday user device, not yet. In a few months it may be. The way I see it, as many see it, it is a niche product, for now. Right now, not many people know about it, and even fewer have it, so it is “weird.” The word “smartwatch” keeps showing up as misspelled, that is how unknown it is. Soon more people will know about it, but still few people will have it, and it will be “hipster.” Eventually, everyone will know about it, and everyone will have it, and it will be “mainstream.” Personally, I love being at the forefront rather than in the middle of the pack, being a leader rather than a follower.

So is it worth it? As soon as you have it, as soon as you strap it to your wrist, you will find worth in it somewhere. So is it worth it? Better question is, what is it worth to you?


(Cover photo courtesy Nate Harris)

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