For Lehman Students, Plastic Is the New Christmas Green

By Leah Liceaga

A Christmas tree lot ready for the holiday season. Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

“To me you’re taking away from nature every time you cut down one of those trees just to have it in your home, or anywhere else,” Christine Auiles, a Lehman English major, explained of her choice to get an artificial tree for Christmas. “They last longer, it’s more durable, [and] you can put it away until you need it.” She added that she does not feel it is necessary to have a live tree at home for Christmas when it will only last a couple of days.

For many Lehman students, like Auiles this holiday season, going for plastic was the greener and more affordable choice. According to Diffen, a website that makes comparison that people worldwide can add to and update, the price of a mid-sized artificial tree can average $100, while a real tree of the same size costs $40 to $50. A fake tree is ultimately better in the long run. The artificial tree will also last up to ten years and require less care than a real tree, which would have to be replaced every year.

Home Depot charges anywhere from $70 to over $200 for an artificial tree, depending on size and appearance -- for example, a tree covered in fake snow or already outfitted with Christmas lights would cost more than a simple artificial tree. While the real trees Home Depot sells are cheaper in the short term, over a period of years, buying multiple real trees becomes costlier than buying one artificial one.

“We got a fake tree,” Sandra Matos, a Lehman English major said of her Christmas tree choice this year. “The prices were better, and we needed one quickly.”

For other students, the issue was not price but durability. Lehman College junior, Laura Leonardo, said her family “used to get real [trees] when I was younger, but my family started getting fake ones when I got older because we got too busy to really care about Christmas like that…a fake tree, and reusing it seemed more practical.”

Buying a plastic tree gets around another problem that has increased in recent years -- a shortage of trees. Due to the recession in 2008, many people who grew Christmas trees either went out of business or had to decrease how many they grew. Since trees take a decade or so to grow, there was a shortage of Christmas trees this year.

“There is a touch of an undersupply," Doug Hundley, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association told Newsweek. Drought in the Pacific Northwest also shares blame for the shortage. GWD Forestry -- a company that offers direct investment into sustainably managed agroforestry plantations internationally -- predicted the recent droughts and wildfires in North Carolina and Oregon could keep the tree shortage going until the year 2025. It also noted that the amount of Christmas trees being planted across the country has dropped dramatically; falling from 5.6 million in 2010 to 3.7 million in 2015.

Once the holiday season is over, real Christmas trees are usually thrown out, though some are recycled. From Jan. 2 through 13 of 2018, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) collected real Christmas trees left at the curb and turned them into mulch to be used for the city’s parks, community gardens, and institutions. They also encouraged those with gardens to use as much of the tree as possible for mulch. The remainder of the tree could be taken to MulchFest at city parks to be chipped, or left for the DSNY to collect.

Lehman Students Favor Costumes That Go Against Predicted Trends

By Leah Liceaga

Comic book superheroes and villians remain popular Halloween costumes. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

This Halloween, some Lehman students have different---and grimmer---costumes in mind than those trending nationally.  

Biology major Francisco Aquino Ramirez, for instance, said that while his favorite costume from past Halloweens is Batman, this year he plans to dress as a Catrin, a male version of the traditional Catrina, a figure associated with Día de los Muertos.

Senior, and English major Mariah Dwyer also wants a scarily powerful costume. “I’m either going to be Poison Ivy or the Red Queen this year,” said Dwyer, who plans to attend Oktoberfest this year and go trick-or-treating. In the past, Dwyer has dressed as a witch, a police officer, and a teacher. 

These choices diverge from mainstream tastes, which can be on the lighter side. “Princesses and superheroes are always popular,” said Wayne Baker, owner of Frank Bee Costume Center and Frankie’s Carnival Time, located on 3435 E. Tremont Ave. Baker added that movies create particular interests in costumes. “Captain America, Iron Man. ‘Game of Thrones’...surprisingly a lot of people want to be IT [the clown]. It’s a mix of what’s new in the movies and what’s classic.” Baker also noted that sexy costumes have become popular in the last decade; listing the sexy cop, sexy nurse, and sexy Batgirl.

Traditional Catrina costumes, associated with Día de los Muertos. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Jasmine Monserret, an employee at the Party City on White Plains Road, concurred. “Adults costumes, for females it would be something sexy, short skirt, and something to show off their body,” Monserret said. “For males, it would be Michael Myers, Jason, or Freddy Krueger.”

Quartz magazine also predicted that the clown, Pennywise, from “IT,” Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” and the kid protagonists from “Stranger Things” would be the most popular costumes for Halloween this year. Also on its list were characters from “Game of Thrones” like Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen, “Wonder Woman,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” whose live-action films both came out this year. 

Yet Lehman students are leaning towards more sinister looks. Stefanie Nolli Gaspar, another Lehman student, with a double major in Latin American and Caribbean studies, and anthropology, said this year she plans to try something new, and dress as a dark angel. Her favorite costume ever, she added, is that of a schoolgirl since she’d never worn a uniform before then. 

Michelle Santillan, a senior and English major, plans to take it easier this year and just use face paint, though she hasn’t decided on what to go as yet. “I’ve done the Queen of Hearts, and I’ve done vampires,” she said. “The rest is just hair color change and make-up.”

Baker praised the versatility and diversity of today’s costumes, adding that he likes all costumes, including scary ones. “I like Jason, I like Michael Myers, I like Chuckie. I was a big fan of Freddy Krueger at one time. There’s such a variety today, of costumes, that you can be anything you want to be.” 

Netflix Adapts “A Series of Unfortunate Events” for the Small Screen

By Leah Liceaga

Photo by Leah Liceaga.

Are you familiar with the Baudelaire orphans? The three are the protagonists in Daniel Handler’s book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” written under the pen name Lemony Snicket. The books have been turned into a Netflix series, with the first season already up and a second one promised. Neil Patrick Harris stars as Count Olaf, Patrick Warburton as narrator Lemony Snicket, Malina Weissman as Violet, and Louis Hynes as Klaus. Baby Sunny is played by Presley Smith, and voiced by Tara Strong.

Before I begin my review of the series, I will introduce the Baudelaires for those who may be unfamiliar with Handler’s work.

The orphans consist of the eldest child, Violet, an inventor; middle child, Klaus, the only boy, with a brilliant mind, who never forgets what he reads; and baby Sunny, the biter, whose teeth can cut through almost anything. Their sad tale of misery and woe filled a total of 13 books, published from 1999 to 2006. Since the final book was published, someone who seems to have taken depraved pleasure in their pain concocted the dreadful idea of bringing the Baudelaires’ woes from ink and paper to television.

With actor Patrick Warburton in the role of narrator Lemony Snicket, the first season depicts the first four books of the series over eight episodes; “The Bad Beginning,” “The Reptile Room,” “The Wide Window,” and “The Miserable Mill.” The show follows all of the books quite faithfully, which many fans, like myself, will no doubt find satisfying. It includes all of the Baudelaires’ tragic luck after the death of their parents.

In the first episode, the audience is shown the heartbreaking reaction of the Baudelaire children as they learn they are now the Baudelaire orphans from the family banker Mr. Poe, played by K. Todd Freeman. The loneliness and uncertainty of what will become of them as they spend a few uneasy days with Mr. Poe’s family, and the disappointment in discovering the squalor they will live in with their selfish guardian Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) is admittedly depressing to watch. Olaf quickly reveals that he only wants the Baudelaires’ fortune and treats them like servants. It is a depressing, but fitting, start to the show.

As in the books, the Baudelaire orphans rise to the challenges thrown at them, and they discover that they did not know everything about their parents. With the possibility that one of those secrets may have resulted in the Baudelaire parents’ deaths, the children try to find out more. With sardonic humor to lighten the woefully depressing, and the depressingly woeful, hardships of the children as they fight to uncover the past, their journey comes to life flawlessly on the screen.

There are divergences from the book, however, that make the show’s storyline differ from the original story, particularly if one has read the books beforehand like myself. There is subplot with Mr. Poe’s assistant, Jacquelyn Scieszka (Sara Canning) working incognito. She likely has the answers the Baudelaires are seeking about their parents’ pasts, but must chase after Count Olaf to stop his nefarious schemes against the orphans. There was no such subplot mentioned in the books, but it is interesting to watch- --along with the character Jacquelyn- --as she does everything she can to aid the Baudelaires and stop Olaf.

Each episode is also nearly an hour long, which may tempt some viewers to fast-forward to get to the excitement; the inevitable confrontation between Olaf and the Baudelaires. When his schemes are on the edge of succeeding, the orphans must act to save themselves.

The entire first season awaits those brave enough to watch, though I implore you once more, if this review has not done its job, to find a more cheerful source of entertainment. I believe Lemony Snicket recommended a book called “The Littlest Elf.”