Lehman Students Fear Their Rent Will Triple if HUD Bill Passes

By Juan Vasquez

Ben Carson during his 2016 Presidential Election. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A new bill from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calls for a threefold increase in rent for Americans least able to pay. Ben Carson, the Secretary of HUD, presented the bill on April 25. If passed, it will affect fifteen percent of people living in federally subsidized housing, according to the Washington Post. The paper also stated that Carson suggested changes in housing law that would make it easier for housing authorities to create work requirements that tenants be employed to receive such benefits. The proposal has some Lehman students worried it will hurt them or their peers and families if it becomes law. 

“I believe that raising the rent will limit the chance of students trying to graduate,” says Steven Gonzalez, a psychology major at Lehman. “I know quite a few people that have to take breaks just so they can focus on their jobs in order to pay for the classes they need, not mentioning the bills that they pay for housing.” 

English major Rhue Alice, a senior, told the Meridian “a lot of [students] would lose housing, and have to scramble for alternative living arrangements. I know a few people who in the past have had to drop out of school in order to work so they could live somewhere.” 

“A lot of [students] would lose housing, and have to scramble for alternative living arrangements.” 

- Rhue Alice, Lehman English major

According to the 2017 NYCHA Fact Sheet, over 204,000 Bronx residents rely on subsidized housing. And while rent under subsidized housing is capped at 30 percent of the household’s income, only 47 percent of those households actually earn income. This means that if any sort of rent increase were to come into place, more than half of those living in subsidized housing would not be able to afford to live in their homes. This bill has not yet reached the Senate.  

“If there is a need to gain more money, taking it from the those considered working class is a terrible idea,” computer science major Adrian Moore remarked. He also stated that “such a change would without a doubt affect the tenants who would have to work under a new system like that.”

‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ Fails to Live up to Hype

By Juan Vasquez

The promotional poster for the film. Courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Live action films based on anime have, more often than not, turned out to be awful. The American remakes of “Fist of the North Star,” “Dragon Ball: Evolution,” and “Ghost in the Shell” are all notoriously bad. The most recent addition to that list of shame is “Fullmetal Alchemist,” widely considered to be one of the most influential anime and manga series of all time. So naturally, as with the anime that came before it, studios had to go and ruin it with a live action film. 

Because this manga-to-movie fiasco seems to be one of Hollywood’s more vicious cycles, it is crucial to understand why this movie adaption, released in January 2018, was truly horrible. “Fullmetal Alchemist” the manga was released in “Monthly Shonen Gangan,” a Japanese manga anthology, in August of 2001 and ended its run in June of 2010. Since then it has released two anime adaptions: “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.” 

This film attempts clumsily and hastily to stitch these three related but different pieces of media into one cohesive narrative. In the beginning, we see brothers Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse chasing down a man named Father Cornello (Kenjiro Ishimaru), because they believe he has a Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone is a powerful magical item that provides its user with almost god-like alchemical powers. The director tries to condense the manga's 192-page first volume into a ten minute scene. However, it can never be done convincingly to create a narrative that makes sense. 

Most of the cast was terrible, save for Maes Hughes (Ryuta Sato) and Roy Mustang (Dean Fujioka). Both even look like the characters if you squint hard enough. The others just look like passable cosplayers. Gluttony (Shinji Uchiyama) was the worst of these offenders. He’s supposed to look terrifying, not goofy. Another disappointment was that this was the fifth time the fan favorite Maes Hughes died on screen, with fans left heartbroken yet again.

The only plus in this film is the setting. The background of Volterra, Italy really made the setting seem so believable. Some effort was put into making this world seem authentic. Also, the CGI for Alphonse was so pristine, there were times I forgot I was looking at a CGI suit of armor.  So, the film is not all bad, just mostly bad.

This film is not recommended for even the most diehard of Fullmetal Alchemist fans, let alone someone new to the franchise. Its poor character design and poorer attempt to condense twenty-seven manga volumes into a two-hour abomination of a film ends up, not surprisingly, blowing up in viewers’ faces. As with almost all anime adaptations, this one has proven to be a dud. 

‘President Luthor’ Provides an Entertaining Look Into Today’s Political State

By Juan Vasquez

A copy of President Luthor. Photo by Juan Vasquez

Comic books have always been inherently political forms of media. The X-Men were originally used as an allegory for the Civil Rights movement, with Dr. Charles Xavier representing Dr. Martin Luther King and Magneto representing Malcolm X. In the Green Lantern and Green Arrow comics, Green Lantern is forced to recognize and reconcile with his prejudice towards African-Americans. And lastly, the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Watchmen” gave us a politically charged superhero story set in an alternative political timeline not much different from the time in which it took place. Fittingly, the “President Luthor” saga does the same as it predecessors.

Of the many stories published in the 2018 omnibus, “President Luthor” strikes true to today — considering the current political climate and the 2016 Election still reeling in the minds of many. The book starts with Luthor’s prologue, where he decides to run for President after seeing Superman’s influence in Metropolis. From here I was expecting a political drama akin to Watchman. But right after he announces his candidacy, he is arrested by Aquaman, King of Atlantis, and a giant sea monster starts attacking Metropolis. I admit that I was taken aback by the sudden shift in tone, but then found it quite enjoyable. 

What I really liked about “President Luthor” was the writing. Despite being written over a span of sixteen years, each part feels fresh and uniform to the entire story. The omnibus itself is divided up into three parts: “Campaign,” “Election Night,” and “Inauguration.” While the art styles are vastly different (in both style and quality), the story manages to maintain a cohesive narrative. Once you reach “Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography,” however, you see the change back into a dark, political thriller.   

This omnibus adds a refreshing take on politics in comic books. It is not as grim or dark as its predecessors, but it is a delightful read. It will please long-time Superman fans as well as inviting readers to revisit to an old storyline that, if one were to look closely, echoes our own real life political state. Lex Luthor is a vile comic book character, similar to the comic and cartoon characters in our government.  

‘Devilman Crybaby’ Delivers a Hellish Reincarnation of a Classic Manga

By Juan Vasquez

Cover of “Devilman Crybaby.”
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

At its core, Netflix’s new “Devilman Crybaby” is a bloody, perverse, visceral masterpiece that appeals to the ear and eye. A 2018 reboot of the classic anime-nasty “Devilman,” originally released in 1972, this modernized take directed by Masaaki Yuasa is filled with freestyle hip-hop, drugs, graphic sex, and gore. 

The plot follows Akira Fudo on his quest to save humankind from demons. With some help from his friend Ryo Asuka, Akira merges with a demon and becomes the titular Devilman as he visits a drug filled, sex crazed nightclub.

The shining gem of this new “Devilman Crybaby” is how faithfully it adapts the original manga while introducing a modern twist and a few plot alterations. One such change is the addition of a track team subplot. While I must admit that the subplot seems like a weird addition to the dark, ultraviolent world of Japanese Manga artist Go Nagai, I came to like it and was shocked to see how it added to the plot and setting. Similarly stunning is the more savage killing of a certain main character. While the death in manga was certainly gruesome and leaves quite the mark with you, “Devilman Crybaby” kicks this up to an eleven. 

The animation quality is also a cut above your average anime production. The animators at Science Saru clearly put a lot of effort into “Devilman Crybaby.” While there was one scene that may have been animated in Flash, creating a downgrade in animation quality, the studio made sure that this limited OVA (Original Video Animation) series was a feast for the eyes. 

This leads to my one criticism of the series: this is not an anime that you can watch with your family. There is a ton of graphic sex, graphic death scenes, casual nudity, and enough diabolical themes to shake a stick at. If you are planning to watch this anime in public or with sensitive friends and family, my one piece of advice would be: don’t. 

While viewers may want to advise the utmost discretion while watching this series, Devilman Crybaby is not to be missed.   

What Tops at Anime NYC

By Juan Vasquez

The first annual Anime convention hit New York City last Nov. 17-19. Held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, it featured some eye-opening participants who collectively made for a jubilant overall success. Here is what topped out at Anime NYC.

The Cosplayers

 It is never a convention without cosplayers! Many of them went all out, even when compared to the extravagant works seen at New York Comic Con. Despite Anime NYC being an anime-oriented con, many of the cosplayers came from all four corners of the pop culture world.

The Vendors

Anime NYC had a few dozen vendors, each of them offering unique items of interest to the con-goers.

The Creators

Conventions like Anime NYC give a voice to up-and-coming content creators. Many of the artists at Anime NYC were largely indie artists and manga (Japanese, or in this case, Japanese-style comic).

Lehman Students Are Spellbound by Magic: The Gathering

By Juan Vasquez

A game of Magic: The Gathering. Photo by Juan Vasquez.

“I didn’t know what Magic was, I only ever heard about it in passing,” said Kat Anne Fornier, a novice player and Lehman student. “Then one day I watched a chaos match, which was really confusing and I wasn’t feeling it.” Though she felt intimidated at first, after other players guided her, she said, “it was actually really fun...I don’t even remember if I won or lost but by the end of it I wanted to enter the Magic community and have my own deck.”

Created in 1994 by Richard Garfield, Ph.D., Magic: The Gathering is a pastime that has drawn many Lehman students into a world of dueling wizards attempting to do each other in. The rules are simple--reduce your opponent’s life total from 20 to 0. Players use 60-card decks filled with monsters, spells, and lands that aid the player and hinder their opponent. While there are more ways to win--reducing an opponent’s deck to zero cards, using cards that create certain win conditions when activated, etc.--this is the most common win condition. 

Players find the game helps them get away from the rigors of college life and regain a sense of calm. Fornier notes that playing is “extremely stress reducing…a lot of laughter comes out of the games, and…all the laughter means dopamine, which is kinda like a runner’s high without the exercise.”

Many players credit the Magic: The Gathering community as being a safe and supportive community. Andrew Negron, an avid Magic player and Lehman student says, “I enjoy the community...how players help each other get better by assisting new players with getting cards and learning new skills, which makes the game even more enjoyable.” Negron adds “It is very fun so I believe it’s a very relaxing game that helps you make new friends and strengthen bonds with current friends that also play.” 

Yet to most Magic players, the real enjoyment is going to victory with a deck that they put hours of research, development, and construction into. Frederick Kemeh, a Lehman Student and longtime Magic player, said, “It’s always rewarding, making a successful deck and winning with said deck, but it takes time of planning and preparation. That, however, is fun for its own right.” 

Starfinder: An Updated Pathfinder for the Stars

By Juan Vasquez
Explore the galaxy with Starfinder. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Explore the galaxy with Starfinder. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Published on Aug. 17, Starfinder is the latest, long-awaited role-playing game from Paizo Publishing. It mixes pulp-style fantasy and derring-do sci-fi. Think “Star Wars” with more fantasy influences. Perhaps the game’s greatest strength---and some will argue, its greatest weakness---is its similarities to Pathfinder. Despite a few minor changes, if you know the rules for Pathfinder, then you will have a much easier time learning Starfinder. This makes the game not only an enjoyable read, but an absolute blast to play. 

On the plus side, the game’s simple premise makes it very engaging. Much like Pathfinder, the core rules are divided into two parts, the player’s guide and the game master’s guide. This is great because you do not need three core books for players, game masters, and monsters as with Dungeons and Dragons. Players create spacefaring adventurers and romp around in a science fantasy setting akin to Spelljammer and Dragonstar.

Character creation is also very similar to Pathfinder’s; each character has a race and a class. There are there are six races in total, whose unique variety presents an amazing homage to the works that inspired the game. The character classes themselves are designed to be gaming staples and fit well within the setting---the envoy, mechanic, mystic, operative, solarian (a Jedi-style character), soldier, and technomancer. 

In addition to these classes are character themes, which seem to have some similarities to characters’ backgrounds in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. These include ace pilot, bounty hunter, icon, mercenary, outlaw, priest, scholar, spacefarer, and xenoseeker, and are supposed to add several customizable features to characters without being overwhelming to the player. Besides detailing a ton of gear that players can purchase, steal, etc., the book also covers rules for vehicle and space combat, which is a welcome addition.

However, its similarity to Pathfinder’s rules leads to one of the game’s biggest problems. Much like Pathfinder, Starfinder is very crunch heavy; mathematics and quick calculations play a hefty role in the game’s mechanics. For seasoned grognards, this brings very little concern, but for the uninitiated, this can easily be a baptism by fire, especially if this is their first attempt at role playing. 

In terms of presentation, however, the art is much better than the iconic masterpiece of the Pathfinder core rules cover art. With no disrespect to Wayne Reynolds (artist of the Pathfinder core rulebook), the art presented in Starfinder is sleek and modern. Given that the book’s artwork is full-color and presented throughout the book, Starfinder gets high marks for its production value. 

Overall, I am in love with Starfinder and I look forward to running a few games. Sure, it is a bit on the “Mathfinder” side, and some of the subtle rule changes may leave you scratching your head. Despite these details, the game is a welcome addition to any gamer’s library. 

The Four Best Role-playing Games for Newbies That Are Not Dungeons and Dragon

By Juan Vasquez

A set of role-playing dice. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Role-playing games are perennial go-to for their fans because they let players contribute to the creation of a dynamic world of characters. That versatility is why Dungeons and Dragons has been around for over forty years and still remains a juggernaut in the gaming industry. Despite its popularity and iconic recognition, Dungeons and Dragons isn’t everyone’s flagon of mead. Although it is seen as a mainstream game, many players are thrown off by the game’s myriad of fantasy tropes. So, for those new to the hobby, who want something other than the typical “Lord of the Rings” style fantasy realm, here are four less daunting role-playing games.

Shadowrun Fifth Edition

While it does contain a few (read: a drek-ton of) fantasy elements, Shadowrun’s fifth edition, released in 2013, also takes elements from cyberpunk culture and urban fantasy. Players create and take control of shadow runners, mercenaries and criminals who work on behalf of organized crime groups, corporations, and political associations.

An upside to the game is that players are not bound to a rigid class system, but rather free to create their character as they see fit, from their skill specializations to specific languages. However, this leads to one of Shadowrun’s biggest downsides. The game makes you micromanage EVERYTHING, from your character’s spells and cyberware to each individual bullet they carry. Add this to a steep learning curve and college textbook sized rulebooks and you have one of the most complex RPGs in existence. But who expects running the shadows to be easy?

Golden Sky Stories

Released in 2013, and often referred to as “Hayao Miyazaki: The Roleplaying Game,” Golden Sky Stories lets players take control of spirits and animals in a friendly, non-violent world where humans and nature spirits live side by side. A huge plus is its simplicity, family friendly content, and light-hearted tone, which all make it a good choice for family game night. Its anime style artwork would also make it appealing to the otaku crowd. But while some might be drawn to its completely non-violent approach to conflict resolution, those who like combat might want more bloodthirsty, ravenous murder hobos.

Kuro

A Cubicle 7 production released in 2015, Kuro is a cyberpunk horror role-playing game that takes place in a futuristic Japan. Players are just ordinary citizens who are caught up in nightmarish situations and must find a way to survive, or else die trying.

Kuro’s biggest strength is the vast scope of perils available, ranging from Ju-on with cybernetic powers to mundane serial killers. You could tell a ton of dark, chilling tales with Kuro. Which leads to the game’s downside: while it does not specifically say so in the book, Kuro is meant for a mature audience, as rape, murder, child abuse, incest, and suicide (among others) are all themes depicted in the game.

Talislanta

Now a decade old, and free to download online, Talislanta’s current fifth edition is not your typical fantasy game. In its rich and vivid variety of settings, most typical fantasy races have either been completely turned on their heads or omitted outright. For example: there are NO elves. Character creation is also simple: players just pick a race, class and skills. The game even includes dozens of pre-made characters to choose from. However, Talislanta’s setting may seem a bit bizarre or overly complex. In particular, some characters are better suited for combat than others, which may frustrate players when they encounter combat situations their characters are not equipped to handle.

May Day Protest Attempts to Spark Change

By Juan Vasquez 

Lehman Students march during the May Day protest. Photo by Juan Vasquez.

Cries of “No borders! No nations! No more deportations!” echoed through the Lehman quad as a protest organized by the International Socialist Organization and the Lehman D.R.E.A.M. Team fought for sanctuary campuses. Official sanctuary status would mean the school would have no legal obligation to comply should Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers enter campus with a warrant to arrest all undocumented students.

“The D.R.E.A.M. Team has pushed for sanctuary campus resolutions which have been denied by previous Student Government Associations in the past,” Jona Kerluku, 22, a protester and a member of student government said. “The [CUNY] University Student Senate also passed a Sanctuary Campus Resolution to encourage the chancellor to support students who are undocumented. However, this resolution at Lehman has not passed committee for the College Senate and we have not yet established that Lehman College, and even CUNY at that, is a true sanctuary place for students.”

One observer of the entirety of the campus protest, Lehman student Liza Giralado, said that the protest was “something that should happen.” However, she was afraid to join, she added, because “I’m actually an immigrant...so I am kind of afraid that if I protest the cops are going to come and I just can’t afford to get arrested because I have to keep my nose clean for the citizenship.”

Two members of the Lehman D.R.E.A.M. Team, Denise Acevedo and Flor Reyes, differed as to whether or not the protest had made an impact.

Avecedo thought not, arguing that much more was necessary. “In order to make a difference we must all have an understanding of why May Day is important,” she said, “and that comes with a lot of unlearning and learning to do. I want Lehman administration to fully support and stand next to us and not be bystanders like they did today.”

Reyes, however, was much more optimistic. “Yes, quantity over quality... The protest today was just a mere example of actions that should be taken everywhere in order to better our future.”