The portfolio of Brandon Touhey

Tune in to learn more about colleges

School radio stations can be key in your search for higher education

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

If you’re going to college, raise your hand. If you know what radio is, raise your hand. If you have Internet access, raise your hand. Still here? Keep reading this article. It’s pretty interesting – especially if you’re in pursuit of a college to attend after high school.

Music. It’s on TV, at the movies, in your car, and most likely blasting into your eardrums while you’re dancing around your room in a T-shirt and socks (and you thought no one was watching).

So combine the two. No, not doing laundry and listening to your iPod. I’m talking about searching for the college that fits you – and, well, your ears.

There are hundreds and hundreds of colleges to choose from. So how does one narrow it down? Research. Those fliers you keep getting in the mail from different colleges all have the same goal – to intrigue you. Remember: Nobody (not even a college) is perfect, and it’s best not to judge a book by its cover (or in our case, promotional material).

Here’s an alternative approach to a college search you may not have heard yet: Radio. Most college radio stations can be accessed not only by local radio, but online as well. Therefore, if you can find out if the colleges you’re considering have radio stations, and they’re not accessible in this area, you still can listen in.

College radio stations are usually run, monitored, and DJ’d by the students who attend that college. So it’s undeniable they’ll be talking about their school and the people in it. You may learn that there’s a club or two that you might be interested in, that the dorms are the absolute worst, or just that the place two blocks away makes the absolute best pizza.

And you can always call in with questions. If you find a show where the DJs seem friendly, they’ll more than likely be happy to answer any questions you have – especially since they’re representing their college.

So a portion of your college search just got a little easier – and undeniably more fun; unless of course you enjoy your neighbors seeing you dance around in your pajamas through your bedroom window. Lean back and listen to some college radio. Even if you’re not planning on attending the college, the radio shows are usually amusing.

Turn on, tune in, find out

Check out these college radio stations for information about campus life:

THE BLAZE

Arizona State University

Tempe, Ariz.

www.theblaze1260.com

RAINYDAWG

University of Washington

Seattle, Wash.

www.rainydawg.org

WSIA

College of Staten Island

www.wsia.fm

Local station: 88.9 FM

WSIN

Southern Connecticut State University

New Haven, Conn.

www.wsinradio.org

Published October 28, 2007

Recalling the magic of Harry Potter

Here’s a quick look at the books leading up to the final story in this mystical series

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY and MEGHAN PERO / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

Well, it’s almost here – the release of the final book in J.K. Rowling’s mystical and mesmerizing Harry Potter series. To prepare readers for Book 7, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” we’ve put together a quick synopsis of each volume leading up to this final moment in the story of “The Boy Who Lived” – Harry Potter.

But beware – for those of you who may not have read all of the books in the series (GASP!) – there are some spoilers included in each synopsis. Personally, we suggest picking up each book, so you don’t miss a moment of this enchanting story. After all, we did not include all of the finest details of each tale here.

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE’

We are introduced to one Mr. H. Potter, residing with his aunt and uncle at 4 Privet Dr. in London. He is hated by Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley, who became his legal guardians after his parents were murdered by Lord Voldemort, a dark, dangerous wizard.

The Dursleys have kept a secret from their nephew, which is revealed to Harry on his 11th birthday by Rubeus Hagrid, the Keeper of the Keys at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: Harry Potter is a wizard – and a legendary one at that!

It turns out that many years ago, when Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, he was unable to kill baby Harry. When he went to kill the child with the Avada Kedavra curse, Harry survived with nothing more than a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. Prior to this, no one had ever surived the Avada Kedavra curse, and after the encounter, Voldemort vanished!

Once at Hogwarts, Harry meets some key people: Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the school; Severus Snape, the school’s potions professor who expresses an immediate dislike of Harry; students Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, soon to become his best friends, and classmate Draco Malfoy, soon to become an enemy.

Before Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is completed, he is faced with Professor Quirinus Quirrell, whose head is host to Voldemort (the dark wizard is no longer a whole person after his failure to kill young Harry, and he has to live like a parasite). Voldemort is after the Sorcerer’s Stone, an elixir of life – but Harry prevails.

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS’

Harry’s second year at Hogwarts is off to a bumpy start – his rare ability to speak to snakes and his knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time get the young wizard into serious trouble.

The diary of a Hogwarts alum Tom Riddle finds its way into Harry’s possession. Harry communicates with Tom through the diary.

Harry embarks on a journey through the dungeons of Hogwarts. With help from Headmaster Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, he uses a special sword to slay and enormous snake in the Chamber of Secrets, and learns that Tom Riddle is actually Lord Voldemort when he was a young student at Hogwarts.

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN’

At the beginning of this book, Ron’s dad warns Harry that Sirius Black, and escapee from Azkaban Prison, is looking to kill Harry.

In his third year at Hogwarts, Harry learns how to protect himself against the Dementors – the dangerous guards of Azkaban who are currently guarding Hogwarts in hopes of catching Black when he comes for Harry.

Harry eventually learns that Sirius is actually his godfather, and is prepared to kill Peter Pettigrew. It is Pettigrew who tipped Lord Voldemort off as to where to find Harry’s parents so he could murder them. Pettigrew was believe to be dead, but was in fact transfigured full-time into a rat.

This book ends with Harry saving Sirius from the Dementors, helping him to escape so he won’t be sent to Azkaban.

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE’

After the appearance of a dreaded Dark Mark, which signals that a Death Eater (a follower of Lord Voldemort) has killed someone, there are rumors of Voldemort’s return in full force.

Harry’s name is mysterious entered into the Goblet of Fire, which is a wooden goblet used to help choose the pariticpants of the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous competition between the wizarding schools of Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.

On the verge of winning the Triwizard Tournament, Harry is led into Lord Voldemort’s clutches, where he must fight for survival. His hollow victory is overshadowed by the death of a fellow student and the dark times that undoubtedly lay ahead.

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX’

In this book, readers are introduced to “The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.” It is here that the Order of the Phoenix, the opposition to the Death Eaters, meets to formulate a strategy to restore order in the wizarding world.

With danger appearing to lurk around every corner, Ron, Hermione and Harry form Dumbledore’s Army to teach fellow Hogwarts students how to use magic to defend themselves.

Dumbledore’s Army meets at the Ministry to Magic to participate in an epic battle between good and evil – one in which the fate of Harry’s godfather, Sirirus Black, is deemed as death by his own cousin – Bellatrix Lestrange.

And finally, the prophecy is revealed: Harry is Voldemort’s equal, “and either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.”

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE’

In Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, he is given some textbooks, which turn out to be the property of someone called the “Half-Blood Prince.”

Professor Severus Snape, Narcissa Malfoy (who is Draco’s mother) and Bellatrix Lestrange form an Unbreakable Vow, with Snape promising to protect Draco at all costs.

Dumbledore helps Harry find and destroy the Horcruxes left by Voldemort. A Horcrux is an item in which a dark wizard has hidden a piece of his soul in order to attain immortality. Voldemort split his soul into seven parts, storing six in different Horcruxes, and the seventh in his body.

When Harry and Dumbledore return to Hogwarts, a battle is raging amongst the Aurors (an elite group of witches and wizards who battle the dark arts), students and the Death Eaters. Voldemort has ordered Draco to kill Dumbledore. When Draco falters – Snape, in order to keep his Unbreakable Vow, kills Dumbledore. It is revealed that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince.

The fate of Harry and Hogwarts is unknown at this point.

‘HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS’

Book 7 in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series will be released Saturday. There is speculation that at least one main character will not survive this final adventure.

Published July 15, 2007

Remembering those crazy days of high school!

You’ve read their work on various topics on this page each Sunday. Now the graduating seniors on this year’s FL!P corps share some thoughts as they leave behind those memorable days of high school!

It’s hard to believe I graduated!

It still shocks me to this day that I graduated high school. Four years of education – and it went too fast, in my opinion. I can still remember my first day at St. Peter’s Boys High School. I wanted to make my first impression with both my fellow classmates and teachers a good one.

Sophomore year was more relaxed, and in my opinion, the best year. You were already a year in the school, so you know your way around it.

Junior year was the most hectic. That’s when you started looking at colleges and taking your PSAT. You also started to plan which Saturday morning you wanted to get up to take that dreaded SAT.

And now, senior year. Where in the world did those three years just fly by to? The great things about senior year were fewer classes, earlier dismissal from school and driving. The worst thing was that day in June when you were in a blue gown and your name was called, and you walked up on that stage to receive your diploma. You said to yourself, “I can’t believe it’s over.”

- Andrew DiLorenzo

You know you’re a senior (in Tech) when:

  1. 1. You’re still writing a seven-page research paper senior year third term – the last week of school.
  2. 2. You get out fourth period, go home to take a nap and come back to school ninth period because people will still be hanging out here.
  3. 3. Every other day people wear their college shirts – by this time you know just about where every senior is going.
  4. 4. Going to Ralph’s is every senior’s 10th-period activity.
  5. 5. You count down the days of school – not because you can’t wait to leave, but because you can’t bear to leave.

- Ai Yamanaka

Remembering all the ups and downs

As a freshman, walking into your new high school is interesting, if not completely terrifying. You find yourself scanning the faces scattered on the bleachers for a familiar one.

You then become more acquainted with those around you, becoming less terrified. Classes take forever to end, homework is the enemy, and you just can’t wait for high school to be over.

And then it happens. Your head jerks up and you hear applause, so you straighten up and gravitate toward the stage. You smile at your principal as he shakes your hand and hands you your incredibly fake diploma and whispers in your ear telling you when the real diploma will be distributed. You’ve just graduated.

You start talking about roommates, majors, and orientations. And while you wait, you think back: To prom, when your limo driver stopped short and everyone flew up to the front (an incredibly wake-up call), to your favorite classes and to your best friends.

- Brandon S. Touhey

A defining moment in my life story

As the high school portion of my life story comes to an end, I find myself reminiscing about my past four chapters. High school has definitely been a defining moment in my life. It was during these years that I discovered much about who I am, and who I want to become.

These chapters of my life have also been filled with hundreds of characters (family and friends) who have sculpted my plot and made it all the more interesting. Without them, my story would be nothing but a long-winded narrative of Aps, SATs, and ACTs, and numerous other dreaded acronyms.

The four years pass so quickly, it’s imperative to stop and enjoy this unique time of life before it is gone. And, if you manage, at the end of the journey, to leave with more good memories than bad ones, then it was all worth it.

- Erin Semler

4 years that were truly an adventure

My high school experience was truly an adventure, to say the least! There was never a dull moment, and my schoolwork and extracurricular activities always kept me on my toes. I was given the opportunity to explore so many things, inside and outside the classroom, that have helped to shape who I am today.

I am going to miss the teachers at Staten Island Tech very much. The relationships between the students and teachers at Tech is a truly unique one. There is a mutual respect in the classroom that allows for a wonderful learning environment.

I am really looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life at Swathmore. Although I am saddened to be leaving home, I see many possibilities for myself in the near future.

- Eva Amessé

Published June 17, 2007

Fallout over MTV’s ‘Island Girl’

True Life: I’m not ashamed – neither should you be

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

When your best friend since kindergarten tells you how ridiculous it is that you and your sister fight tooth and nail and scream at one another until both of your wardrobes end up on the front lawn, you laugh and tell her about how stealing your sis’ shoes was so worth it. When Joey calls you a fat Italian and tells you to be outside in 15 minutes to be picked up to go to the Mall, you smile and call him a spiky-haired moron and put your sneakers on.

But when it’s an outsider saying it, it’s totally out of line. So what happens when it’s actually true?

That’s the heated debate about the “True Life: I’m a Staten Island Girl” episode that recently aired on MTV, portraying Staten Island as the land of orange tan, spiky hair, thick accent, with all the girls owning at least one pair of pants that say “juicy” on the back.

Relax, MTV is interested in good television, not what is good for Staten Island.

“MTV has made a bigger name for itself off of people’s anger,” said 16-year-old Giuseppe Conte of Dongan Hills.

Liana Inzerillo, 14, of Great Kills agreed: “I don’t think Staten Island should be mad that they stereotyped us, but rather should laugh at the true humor of it. I think there’s more to life on Staten Island than just being angry at major corporations who choose to make a mockery of a cultured place.”

Still MTV only showed the majority of us – and you have a right to be angry if you are part of that majority and feel misrepresented; otherwise you know they just didn’t include you at all.

As an Italian-American teen, Liana has her viewpoint. “Most of us have better things to do with our weekends than pay our parking tickets and go out to Fushimi with Anthony,” explained Liana. “MTV failed to find girls who hang out at places like Dock Street or Mystic Lounge. A whole different type of girl hangs out at those venues, and the more intellectual type of girl was not portrayed.”

But whether you were misrepresented or unrepresented, if you’re ashamed to say where you come from, stop blaming it on MTV. They got their facts straight; it just looks different when you see it from the outside.

True Life: Welcome to the REAL Staten Island

By TIFFANIE PEREA / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

Orange skin, spiky hair? Sure you see plenty of it on Staten Island, but on MTV’s “True Life: I’m a Staten Island Girl,” the borough’s female population were viewed as tanning fanatics with unintelligible accents who rarely left the Island. The three girls who were followed by MTV’s cameras were all residents of the South Shore, showing basically how only one side of the Island lives. What about the North Shore? Do we even exist?

Where was the diversity? These girls were from the same race, the same way of living and the same environment. Staten Island is a melting pot of people from many races.

Many people were left misrepresented or not represented at all.

“The ‘True Life: I’m a Staten Island Girl’ didn’t portray the real life of all Staten Island girls. I don’t go tanning, and Manhattan isn’t some foreign land. Staten Island isn’t as isolated as those girls made it seem. We are part of New York City, remember?!!” exclaimed Rachel Sainte, of Clifton.

We are already the “Forgotten Borough,” why make us seem like we have forgotten about the rest of the world? No wonder people might forget about us.

New Yorkers – you can sense us from the minute we say “hello.” Our strong accents do separate us from the rest, but these girls, constantly repeating the word “yous” and pronouncing chocolate “ch-aw-clat,” made Staten Islanders look as if we spoke a whole different type of English.

So MTV next time you want to come to the “Forgotten Borough,” try getting some facts straight.

Published November 19, 2006

Fueled by faith

Mixing alternative rock and emo, Movie Star Tragedy plays original songs that are inspired by their sense of brotherhood

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

From photos: Movie Star Tragedy members Mohamed Ghanem, 16, Manny Mavrakis, 18, and Jay Campbell, 17, practice in their Stapleton studio. Movie Star Tragedy member, Mike Groves, 17, plays bass guitar.

It’s a hot spring evening, and I’m sitting on a couch in a barely air-conditioned studio on Sands Street in Stapleton. It’s dark except for the pulse of a strobe light, and I am enjoying my own personal concert.

Manny “MannY” Mavrakis, 18, is beating the drums in the corner while doing background vocals; Mike Groves, 17, on bass is standing in front of the door. Lead singer Jay Campbell, 17, is playing his guitar, and Mohamed Ghanem, 16, is on lead guitar just roaming around the cramped room. Everyone is from Dongan Hills except Mike who is from Port Richmond.

Movie Star Tragedy (http://myspace.com/moviestartragedy/) is recording a new EP, “We Don’t Sleep at Houses.” They will be played at Dock St. in Stapleton on June 23.

How would you describe the band?

Jay (J): We have basically alternative sounding guitars, but the emo part of us, I think, comes through with the vocals and lyrics.
Manny (MA): My drums are pretty, and they sound wicked.

How expensive is it to rent out the studio?

Mohammed (MO): $470 a month – an arm and a leg!

How’d you come up with the name?

MA: Jay’s emo.

How did the band form?

MA: I started playing the drums when I was 16, and I wanted to start a band, and a bunch of my friends started playing with me and Mohamed. Since then, we’ve gotten new band members, broken up, became very close friends, and are now the band we should be.

Do you write your own lyrics?

MO: Our music is all original – we write and we play.

Do you collaborate?

MO: The sond writing process starts off with either me or Jay coming up with a really cool-sounding basic rhythmic guitar part, and we elaborate on it as a band.

What influences your music?

MA: We’re not a uniform religion, but God is our major influence.
J: Friends and family and stuff like that – without them we wouldn’t exist.
MO: God, love, brotherhood, family, and friends. Those are our influences.

Tell me more about how God is an influence.

MO: Music is about love, caring, and devotion, and we apply ourselves as much to God as we possibly can. He is our Lord of Life and Love, and He is just so amazing in his works that the least we could do is recognize Him and glorify Him in whatever way possible, be it through prayer or our music.
The only thing that separates us in faith is the way we go about praying to our God; I am Muslim the others are all Christian. We have the same God – it’s just a different way of going about worshipping Him, you know?
It’s kinda like getting dressed for private school: Everyone goes to the same school wearing the same thing, but they get dressed in a different order, be it pants, shirt, shoes, or shirt, socks, pants or whatever.

Have any day jobs?

MA: I’m a merchandiser at Staples, and I’m a full-time Brooklyn College Student, and I play drums for my church youth group.
J: I work at the coffee bar at Royal Crown Bakery/Café [in Grasmere].
Mike: I’m in between jobs. I just quit at FYE [in the Staten Island Mall], and I’m going to work at the Staten Island Yankees Stadium [Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George].
MO: I’m the world’s greatest busboy at A & W [Dongan Hills].

Published June 18, 2006

These ‘Chicks’ aren’t chicken

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you should listen to ‘Taking the Long Way,’ their new CD

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

DIXIE CHICKS

Album: ‘Taking the Long Way’

Download this: ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’ or ‘Lullaby’

GRUDGE. That’s the only word to describe what you’re holding against the Dixie Chicks, if you don’t listen to them because you disagree with their political views. For those of you who haven’t heard, or need the story cleared up, the Dixie Chicks voiced their disapproval of President George W. Bush in 2003 during a concert in London. Their opinion? That they, three talented women from Texas, were ashamed to share the same home-state with the president. They voiced this opinion right before the commencement of the Iraq War.

Natalie Maines, the lead singer, doesn’t regret revealing her views to that crowd, and her band-mates, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, both sisters, feel the same way.

The response was swift and furious and long lasting. They were banned from most country music radio stations – their largest source of sales – and were the target of multiple threats. Their fan-base dropped by around 50 percent. They’re not fazed. They’re actually enjoying the change.

In the May 29 issues of Time Magazine, Maguire said, “I’d rather have a small following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for lie, than people that have us in their five-disc changed with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith.” McEntire recently spoke negatively about the Chicks during a country music awards show, and Keith displayed unflattering photos of Maines.

With “Taking The Long Way,” their first CD since the London incident, the Chicks expand their genre beyond country with music that leans slightly towards rock.

And they cover a lot of life’s experiences, including the song “Not Ready To Make Nice” in which they criticize those who sent them threats: “Made my bed and I sleep like a baby / With no regrets and I don’t mind saying / It’s a sad, sad story when a mother will teach her / Daughter that she oughta hate a perfect stranger / And how in the world can these words that I’ve said / Send somebody so over the edge / That they write me a letter saying that I better / Shut up and sing or my life will be over.”

Their songs encompass a variety of topics, from children to love to infertility. They also were wise to include such big-name songwriters as Neil Finn (Crowded House), Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), Dan Wilson (Semisonic), and Linda Perry (Christina Aguilera) to help them with their lyrics, as well as country music star Bonnie Raitt and folk rocker John Mayer as backup.

So is it worth a listen? Yes. Otherwise it wouldn’t have sold 526,000 albums in its first week and received as much coverage as it has. It’s met with critical acclaim and, in the opinion of many, will sweep the Grammy Awards.

You want to hold a grudge? Go right ahead – they didn’t commit a crime. The real crime would be not listening just because they don’t have the same political views as you do. There are other people out there who disagree with you and are just too much of a coward to show it. For those who do get it – you will be fan

Published June 11, 2006

Laurence Collins / 16, South Beach

‘When we’re wrestling and when something comes out as planned, there’s nothing better.’

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

When did you first develop an interest in wrestling?

I’ve been watching it for as long as I remember. My dad was a fan, and when I was a little kid, it was always on.

So did you take those wrestling moves and try them on a younger sibling, perhaps?

Yeah, me, my brother and my friends tried to, and still try to, emulate our favorite wrestlers. As a matter of fact, even though the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] strongly advises not to try what we see on TV at home, we backyard wrestle.

Has anyone ever gotten hurt?

No, we’re pretty safe about it. We don’t do anything crazy. And we always make sure that there is an adult on hand.

Have you ever recorded and of your backyard “matches”?

Yes, we like to critique ourselves and point out what we do wrong and try to improve upon our mistakes. When we’re wrestling and when something comes out as planned, there’s nothing better.

There’s a lot of debate over whether or not wrestling is fake or not.

I know the matches are pre-determined… Wrestling is like a soap opera with a little bit of violence and a few scantily clad women thrown in. Basically for those who believe – no explanation is needed. And for those who don’t believe, no kind of explanation will do.

How many wrestling matches have you seen?

Only a few, but the one that sticks out was two years ago – I was a freshman – Wrestlemania XX in Madison Square Garden.

Who’s your favorite wrestler?

Shawn Michaels. He’s one of the first guys I remember seeing when I was a little kid. I was just mesmerized by everything he could do in the ring as far as his wrestling ability and what he could do … He could fly (jump off the top rope) like no one I had ever seen before.

Have you ever met him in person?

I met him when I was in eighth grade at Island Trains. I was starstruck. I was 12.

Do you want to be a wrestler?

It seems like an impossible dream, and it would take a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, and a lot of respect for your peers and those who are helping you to get you where you are trying to go. And patience – it’s a very long process. There is no guarantee you will become successful – you know? That’s why I’m going to get an education first and see what happens down the road. But I’ll study for it like I would for school.

In school, what are you interested in?

As of now, I am looking into getting a degree in communications.

Published June 4, 2006

End the silence

When you ask and then listen, gay teens will tell

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

EDITORS NOTE: In the interest of confidentiality, all names have been changed.

You might notice that your day is a little quieter than usual on Wednesday. Some teens will be observing The Day of Silence (DOS) – a project led by students who remain silent to stress the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

It’s not uncommon to hear a slur being blurted out – something as simple as condemning something as “gay” or joking calling your best friend a “queer” for fumbling during football practice. Simple, maybe, but isolating for the gay teen who has to censor information about his or her relationships.

THE REALIZATION

The time from the first inkling to the full acceptance of one’s sexuality can take a few years or longer. Ryan, a Great Kills resident, first realized he was homosexual when he was in seventh grade. “I know of had a crush on my friend, a little. I finally accepted [my sexuality] like at the beginning of freshman year,” said the Susan Wagner High School student.

Rachel first got the idea that she was attracted to girls in eighth grade but figured it out in sophomore year.

“My main concern or worry was that it was a phase I was going through,” said the 17-year-old Grasmere resident who attends St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Huguenot.

Teens may also feel nervous about what to tell their parents and worry about what their friends will think. “There are people who have gone through horrible stuff [like parents throwing them out of the house], but there will be people who will support you for who you are, and that’s just the best feeling in the world,” explained Rachel admitting that initially her mother had a negative reaction. “My mom didn’t want to talk to me for a while, like a whole week,” she said.

Rachel, who found acceptance among her friends and made some new ones, feels strongly that you are better off being out of the closet.

“Though you may get unfavorable reactions, you feel so much lighter and more comfortable in your own skin,” she said.

Since Madonna’s lip-lock on primetime TV with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, every other show seems to have featured a lesbian kiss. But what is it like in real life to find a girlfriend or boyfriend of the same sex?

“You have to be willing to be really observant. It’s just a matter of being perceptive and more alert to signals,” responded Rachel when questioned about “gaydar.”

Ryan has encountered another challenge. “I really can’t tell anymore because all these random emo people look like it. It just confuses me,” said the 16-year-old who has had boyfriends but never been in a serious relationship.

What happens if he hits on someone who is straight?

“I’d be embarrassed or just act like I was joking,” added Ryan.

Coming to terms with your sexuality doesn’t necessarily mean “experimenting” with both sexes. Rachel has had serious relationships with girls but has never had a boyfriend. “I don’t think it really bothers me, it’s just something that’s never happened and maybe never will. I am kind of curious. Which doesn’t mean I’m a very good lesbian, does it?” she joked.

Published April 23, 2006

Dave Balsamello / 16, of Rosebank

‘Ever since I was a child I have been artistically inclined, and I have always known that I have wanted it in my life forever.’

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

You come from a background of artists – has that been a large influence on your own art? Yes it has; my parents led me to an interest in art by taking me to museums and influencing me with their own artistic abilities.

How long have you been creating works of art?

Ever since I was a child I have been artistically inclined, and I have always known that I have wanted it [art] in my life forever.

Are you always interested in graphic design?

Yes I am.

Which do you prefer – traditional art or graphic art?

I prefer graphic art because it allows me to express myself at a higher degree.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on you?

My family is a large influence, and at school, Mrs. Alfredo, the art teacher. They all help me to get better at what I like to do.

Who is your favorite artist?

Milton Glaser because his artistic style is very similar to my own.

What works has he done?

He has designed the well-known “I Love New York” logo.

Does music, films, or other media influence your artwork?

Music and movies are both a major influence in my style. Mostly movies, being that I am a big movie fan.

Any specific movies or musicians?

When I draw I usually listen to music such as The Postal Service and We Are Scientists. Movies that inspire me are “Artificial Intelligence: AI,” “Pulp Fiction” and independent films.

Have you influenced others with your art?

Honestly, I don’t know, but I hope so. My work is not very well-known, but hopefully what I do will one day influence many people.

How do you think art can influence other people?

It influences people in a variety of ways…It’s inspirational, moving, and it could be controversial. It affects people. I guess that’s the only way to describe it.

Have you won any awards or sold and of your artwork?

I have not won or sold any of my artwork, but it has been used in Our Lady Rosary Makers club designs.

Do you want to enter this field later on in life?

Yes, I do. I hopefully will attend an art college and major in graphic design. I want to go to the School of Visual Arts (Manhattan).

You also seem interested in clothes – what are you wearing today?

Just a shirt from Billabong and jeans that I like.

What are your favorite stores?

My favorite stores to shop in are Billabong in Times Square, Element, and online at threadless.com

Published April 2, 2006

Listening unleashed

On the Internet, you can hear just about any current artist you ever wanted to and some you have never heard of

By BRANDON S. TOUHEY / STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

Who could have imagined what Shawn Fanning, then an 18-year-old Northeastern University dropout, was starting when he united music and the Internet to start the first peer-to-peer filesharing system that he called Napster.

His creative use of the Internet and the ensuing legal battles broke down barriers for listeners and musicians. Able to upload their music to a Web site, musicians no longer need a record label to be heard. For listeners, time is the only limitation to sample the endless variety available. In addition to the music, artists and fans have a forum to communicate.

Personally, I still feel the need every once in awhile to wrestle the plastic off a new CD case. But in the meantime, I’ll be listening to Xiu Xiu, O.A.R., or even Patti Smith; Fiona Apple, Hellogoodbye, Lovedrug – or maybe Tegan and Sara, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or Tilly and The Wall. Some of the sites worth checking out:

15 Megs of Fame
15megsoffame.com
Offering music in all genres – rock/pop, dance/electronica rap/hip-hop, hard rock/metal, R&B/soul, and blues/jazz. The site encourages musicians to make a profile and upload their music by enticing them wit hsome, well, fame and fortune. Weekly contests culminate in a year-end contest with a grand prize of $2,500 and other prizes. Listeners are invited to comment on songs, and artists can interact with listeners in blogs.

MySpace Music
music.myspace.com
Similar to 15 Megs, MySpace has less information and music from their musicians but much more interaction with their listeners. It allows the band to get to know who is listening to their music. The ability to download music from an artist’s page is free, but not always available (depending on the artist’s preference).

PureVolume
purevolume.com
Although it doesn’t allow downloading MP3 files, it does allow listeners to soak up extensive information about the artists. Some artists put show dates and times, links to other Web sites that they have profiles on, and even places to buy merchandise.

Pitchfork Media
pitchforkmedia.com
This site has a great selection of musicians you’ve probably never even heard of. The site has free downloads, reviews of albums, single tracks, and the best new music out there, as well as music news.

iTunes Music Store
apple.com/itunes
iTunes is simple for those who like the music in the mainstream. If you’re looking to pay for the new Missy Elliot CD, or the great new Ashlee Simpson track – you’ll find it on iTunes. Just like any other legal music downloading program, sometimes it’s easier to buy it there than at the CD store. Each track costs a dollar.

Published January 15, 2006