Group Gifting: Secret Santa or White Elephant?

‘Tis the season for giving, although giving can come in many forms. Two of the most common large group gift giving activities are white elephants and secret Santa.

Buying gifts for everyone in a group can be difficult, time consuming and expensive. Practices such as white elephant and secret Santa can ease the stress of gift buying and can ensure a comfortable budget for everyone to be able to follow.

If you aren’t aware of either practice, white elephant exchanges consist of each participant bringing a present, typically within a given price range, then at an event, the participants go around the room and randomly select presents. 

From there, a white elephant can go in many different directions, but typically each person opens the present as they receive it, and others after them can either steal a previously opened gift or select their own to open. If someone’s present is stolen, they can then select a new gift to open or steal someone else’s, and the chain continues.

In a secret Santa exchange, each participant is randomly assigned another participant’s name, and are then responsible for buying that specific person a gift. Typically, the presents are then distributed together, and everyone receives a personalized gift from their “secret Santa.” Depending on the group, the “Santa” can either remain forever anonymous, or reveal themselves.

Personally, I prefer using the secret Santa method for a few different reasons, but I do recognize the appeal of the white elephant exchange. 

White elephant exchanges can be great for groups that dont know each other as well, such as classrooms or large clubs. They can also be done in a larger variety of ways, with different methods of distributing white elephant presents. 

While white elephants are a great way to celebrate, I have a personal affection towards Secret Santa gift exchanges, especially with groups of friends or families. 

Growing up, my family always participated in secret Santa exchanges. With a larger, but close family, gift giving was just not possible with so many people.

 With my mom’s side of the family, we even took things as far as separating the groups by cousin exchanges and aunt/uncle exchanges. This way, the exchanges were divided by generation, making it easier to shop for the assigned person.

Secret Santa exchanges are able to be much more personal than white elephant exchanges. When you are given a specific person to shop for, it makes it possible to buy them a present that will be meaningful to them, rather than a generic gift that can be meant for anything.

There is nothing wrong with generic gifts, I recently received a really awesome present from a white elephant exchange, and it was really sweet and thoughtful. But when I buy presents, I like to make them personalized for the recipient, as I feel it makes the tradition more meaningful and special.

Most romantic Season: Deciding once and for all the most romantic time of the year.

What is the most romantic season? Fall, winter, spring or summer? I think it is safe to rule out spring and summer, but the race between fall and winter is tight. 

With fall activities being increasingly romantic, between apple picking, couples halloween costumes, and drive in movies, fall romances are at an all time high.

Despite these factors, the most romantic season of the year is hands down winter. With Christmas and Valentines day both taking place in Winter there really is no contest. 

Now full disclosure, my favorite way to show affection is through giving gifts, so Christmas is where I tend to shine romantically. Valentines day as well, I typically go all out when buying my boyfriend presents that are suitable for him and are representative of our relationship. 

I had a conversation with my roommate, Emma Best, recently when trying to determine the most romantic season, and she said something that really resonated with me. “Fall is for dating, winter is for relationships,” said Best. We realized that while fall may have all of the cutesy romantic dates, winter is where a relationship can flourish. 

There are more holidays in winter that can be romanticized. Halloween in fall may be ideal for couples costumes, but Thanksgiving is more of a family holiday, not a romantic one. All winter holidays are easily capable of being romanticized. 

Christmas presents the opportunity to snuggle up and watch Christmas movies, kissing underneath the mistletoe, buying each other presents, and unwrapping presents in pajamas on Christmas morning. 

New Years and New Years Eve are great for celebrating a midnight kiss with your significant other. Partying with friends or just with each other creates a connection unlike any other. 

Valentines day, despite being a holiday created solely to sell Hallmark cards, is arguably the most romantic holiday of all. In a holiday centered around love, the romance practically forms itself. 

Moral of the story, my soul basically belongs to the Hallmark company as they dominate the romantic season between their repetitive Christmas movies, novelty gifts, and Valentine’s money grabs. 

No matter the season, never feel afraid to show your partner some love, romance is year round when you have the right person.

Driving Equity Bills Bans Low-Level Traffic Stops in Philadelphia: Philadelphia becomes the first major city to ban police from stopping motorists for minor violations which disproportionately affects people of color.

In a vote of 14-2, Philadelphia city counsel made the majority decision to ban police from making traffic stops for minor violations.

The bill, passed on Oct. 14, was implemented to assist in eliminating racial inequalities among Philadelphia drivers by preventing the chance of bias in these unnecessary stops.

A previous study done in Philadelphia showed that black and latino drivers were 3.4 times more likely to be pulled over for the same infractions as their white counterparts. 

The offenses that are being discussed are ones that normally lead to otherwise unprompted vehicle searches, hence the decision to take action against the stops. Experts say “these “pretextual” stops are used disproportionately against Black and Latino drivers, resulting in excessive fees and distrust in police,” 6 abc shared. 

The type of stops being banned are categorized as secondary violations. This includes stops for bumper issues, driving with a minor obstruction or single headlight, driving with a singular broken tail light, driving without a full visible inspection or registration sticker and driving without vehicle registration within 60 days of the incident, among a few others. 

People found committing the formerly mentioned vehicle violations will still face repercussions despite the new bill. The forms of repercussion are still being discussed, but the idea of using traffic cameras to mail out citations is being considered. 

The purpose of removing the traffic stops is not to allow people to “get away” with  committing the infractions; hence the efforts being made to still provide warnings or citations for the acts. 

This bill is the first municipal legislature of its kind, and the law was put together by Philadelphia mayor, Jim Kenney and Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Danielle Outlaw. 

“This is not stopping police officers from making legitimate public safety stops. If I have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause you’re involved in criminal activity, I can make the stop,” said Francis Healy, special advisor to Commissioner Outlaw.

These changes will only be implemented in the city of Philadelphia and will not be applied or make any changes to Pennsylvania state motor vehicle code. 

In the past year, 94 percent of drivers in cases where vehicles were searched in Philadelphia were people of color.

Supporters of the new bill not only hope that the bills introduction will reduce racial profiling, but supporters also hope the implementation will free police officers to focus on more serious offenses, maximizing police resources. 

The bill was first introduced last October by Philadelphia Counsilmember Isaiah Thomas, who spoke about several instances where he experiences the racial profiling by police officers firsthand.

“I’m confident that this bill will be able to address some of the equality issues that we’ve faced in the city of Philadelphia. I think it will put us in a position where hopefully we’ll see significantly less stops as it relates to these types of traffic violations,” said Thomas. 

Sources: Fox News, NPR, Whyy (PBS), 6 abc

The Fault in Our Feathers: A satirical take on the university’s goose shortage.

Flaws are a natural consequence of any relationship, and between Eastern and its students, there are many flaws. One of the most popular flaws of Eastern University is that of the geese that take pleasure in invading campus. 

This year is different however, as the geese have decided that more action should be taken to ensure a safer year between geese and students, and to achieve a higher approval rating amongst the geese. 

As many students may have already noticed, there is a significant lack of geese on campus in comparison to previous years. 

All of this is to say, the geese want more from us. More financial compensation, more fearful reactions from students, more fulfilment. 

To discuss these new criteria, the geese requested a meeting with the President of Eastern University, Dr. Ronald Matthews.

In this meeting, to gain credibility, the geese stacked themselves on top of each other, hiding the tomfoolery under a large trench coat, with their leader, Mother Goose, atop the stack. 

With Mother Goose leading the negotiations, the meeting began on September 31st at 9:30 a.m. in President Matthews’s office. 

“We need more from this establishment” said Mother Goose in a hasty beginning to the negotiations. 

“Who are you and what are you doing in my office?” was Dr. Matthew’s reply. Needless to say, the meeting did not go well. 

As the geese continued their attempt at a meeting, Matthews grew increasingly annoyed at the breaking and entering of his office. Public safety was called to the scene, but the geese left on their own a few hours before their arrival. 

“I have never felt so disrespected before in my life” said Mother Goose after dismounting from the stack of geese. “I will get my payback”

Following the meeting, the geese held a brief protest on campus to gauge the reactions they would receive from being back on campus. After watching a group of freshmen run away in terror, they almost considered staying for the year, but it just was not enough. 

Soon after, a group of geese from neighboring University, Cabrini, showed up to back up the Eastern geese mafia. The geese surrounded Matthews’s car until he caved into their demands. 

Following the negotiations, administration agreed to admit more freshmen both this year and for upcoming years, increasing the number of individuals who can be scared by the geese. “We enjoy hearing the screams of unsuspecting new students,” said a goose representative who asked to remain anonymous. 

The addition of a new goose path has also been ordered to allow the geese freedom to defecate more freely around campus, and provide more opportunities for students to ruin their shoes whilst on their way to classes. Construction is set to begin and finish in September of 2047. 

On top of the other met demands, the geese will also be allowed to feast on the remains of food scraps thrown out after meal times from Sodexo. The geese declined said offer, but appreciated the gesture. 

The geese have been perusing Eastern for as long as they can remember, and as they become more aggressive, so do the students who have evolved to stand up to them. Students have even gone so far as to bully said geese through one of Eastern’s many meme accounts, @easterngeese.

While many worried that the account would stir up issues with the geese, it turns out that the geese actually love the attention.

“I saw cousin Larry on the meme account a few months ago!” said Mother Goose in an interview. “I’ve been a follower ever since, I love seeing these candid images of my family!”

Halloween on a Budget: Creating costumes for less.

Holidays for college students can be a pricey endeavour, and Halloween is no exception. Between decorations, costumes and candy, Halloween can be rather costly for a college student on a budget. 

However, Halloween does not need to be costly, especially for a costume. There are plenty of ways someone can make a great halloween costume without breaking the bank. 

Movie and TV show characters can be a fun and cheap costume for college students looking to save money. Many characters wear outfits that can easily be found at any regular clothing store, or even thrift stores. Popular sitcom characters such as those from The Office or Friends would be rather easy to find outfits for at any cheap clothing store. Many people may even have fitting outfits sitting in their own closets.

Disney bounding costumes can also be a fun and cheap way to stay in the halloween spirit. Disney bounding is when you use everyday clothing to recreate styles of your favorite Disney characters. It is used by fans of Disney when visiting Disney parks to avoid confusion among other guests from mistaking costumed guests for cast members.

 An example of Disney bounding could be as simple as wearing a polka dotted skirt and Disney ears to represent Minnie Mouse. Some Disney bounding costumes are over the top, while others stay casual in their representation of characters. 

To do a Disney bound costume for Halloween does not restrict you to solely Disney characters either; it is just a way to portray a character that does not require a full blown eccentric and intricate costume for your favorite Characters. 

A classic costume that could be easy to recreate would be a new spin on the old trend of wearing superhero logos under everyday clothing. While the original is an easy idea in itself, another form could be done as dressing up as the alter-ego of your favorite superhero. While being Spiderman is fun, a Peter Parker costume could consist of really any sweatshirt and jean combo. Combined with a name tag listing you as an alter ego, you have a simple costume that can be found within your own closet.

Group costumes are also a fun and easy idea that don’t need to break the bank. From sticking with the superhero plainclothes as a group or writing M on a bright colored t-shirt and going as m&ms, the possibilities are endless and don’t need to cause any financial strain.

Overall, Halloween is about expressing what makes you happy, and it shouldn’t ruin your pockets to do so.

If you end up using any of these ideas, please feel free to DM them to the Waltonian Instagram page @EUWaltonian or email them to us at waltonian@eastern.edu, we would love to see what you come up with!

Club Feature: Meet Blaze step team!

Eastern’s step team Blaze, like many of the dance clubs,  has had an extra long hiatus than most other clubs on campus due to the recent pandemic.

The Blaze Step Team is a student organization which encourages participation, raises student morale, and enthusiasm, all through the art of step-dancing. 

The process of joining Blaze Step Team involves an audition process, and requires a genuine interest in commitment to the team. 

Blaze Step Team has been a club for almost 7 years at Eastern, refreshing each year with more members and more shining faces on the team. The club is run by three leaders, Senior Psychology major and Club President Tia Walters, Senior Psychology major and Captain Marissa Mack, and Senior Psychology major and club Vice President Kysha Nyambura

Blaze works to showcase the art of step both on and off campus, they also engage in team bondings, host mental health check-ins for members and even participate in competitions. 

“Our sole purpose is to contribute to the growing diversity element of the campus. Blaze intends to promote school spirit through steps in order to enrich the lives of upcoming Eastern University students.” said Blaze Leadership. “We strive to support, encourage, motivate, and inspire one another. The team contributes to the EU community by offering diversity, mentorship, and an exciting form of dance, bringing innovative experiences onto campus.” 

Blaze has five goals they hope to achieve through this current school year: creating a family for their members on campus; gaining more general recognition and acknowledgment from Eastern; being able to perform on and off campus; hosting successful fundraising for the club; and hosting a big step show in the spring that students will be able to attend and enjoy.

If you’re unsure if Blaze is the club for you, “Blaze is open to any and everybody! We will host additional auditions in the Spring. It doesn’t matter who you are or if you have dance or step experience. We welcome you to join our family – a growing brotherhood and sisterhood” said Blaze leadership.

The team meets twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Christine Carey: Highlighting one of Eastern’s finest vocalists.

Christine Carey, a senior contemporary music major at Eastern has been spending the past few months gearing up for her upcoming senior recital.

Carey has been performing for as long as she can remember, and although she grew up playing multiple instruments, Carey’s go-to musical outlet is her voice.

While Carey’s main form of musical expression is through her voice, she also finds it difficult; “when emotions are a thing, sometimes singing isn’t really possible” said Carey. When emotions become overwhelming, Carey will then turn to her guitar or piano, or even writing her own music. 

Beyond singing, Carey has been playing guitar and piano since she was very young, and recently picked up playing violin as well. 

Carey likes to delve into music that matches her vocal tone. She specializes in singing blues, jazz, and folk music, which also affects the way she writes music as well. Although she tends to be influenced by the music that she listens to, she tends to sing where her voice feels the strongest. 

Carey has been working towards setting up her senior recital since July, when she had her jury to select her song arrangements for the recital. The recital will feature jazz, contemporary folk music, musical theater songs, and a few of Carey’s original songs as well. 

A jury for music majors can be seen as a middle point in a senior thesis; “ It requires a weekly rehearsal with a team of collaborators, a lot of research into songs, understanding text, where they are coming from, and knowing what the story is so I can better tell it,” said Carey.

There are a lot of things that Carey had to take into consideration while planning her senior recital. Everything had to fit within a certain time frame, she had to find a proper accompanist for each piece, and she had to make sure that all of her songs fit with the theme of her contemporary music major.  

Carey is also an active member of the music ensembles; Turning point, University choir and Eastern Winds.

Beyond music, Carey takes on an active role in several clubs on campus. Alongside her music endeavors, Carey is a third year Student Chaplain in Gough Hall. She is also the music coordinator for the swing club, Ethels.

All around, Carey has always been an artistic soul, in her free time she enjoys dancing and sketching when she has the time to do so.

“I like to read but I don’t get much time for it, practice takes a lot, if you really want to get good you have to give a lot of time to practice” said Carey. 

Practice is important for any musician to master their craft. However “you can’t practice too much vocal, not safe, even just listening/visualizing pieces, other instruments can spend hours practicing pieces” advises Carey.

Carey’s advice for anyone looking to pursue music as a career is “to keep trying, even if it feels wrong or like you’re not getting anywhere. Practice takes time, you can’t just rush through stuff, take it slow and muddle your way through it. It is not an easy art, it is a hard discipline, you just gotta keep pushing.”

Carey’s senior recital will take place on Oct. 15 at St. David’s Episcopal Church at 7 p.m.

U.S. Reviews Prison Housing Policies: U.S. Justice Department reviews policies regarding people who are transgender and experiencing incarceration

The U.S Department of Justice has recently begun a new initiative that will reevaluate issues that occur when incarcerating transgender people who are experiencing incarceration. 

A policy for housing transgender people who are experiencing incarceration was initially put into place under the Obama administration. The policy, known as the Transgender Offender Manual, recommended that  legal counsel take gender identity into account when recommending housing in deliberations. 

The policy was then changed under the Trump administration when the policy was altered to using biological sex for housing determinations. With this new policy, many transgender people experiencing incarceration were placed in housing that did not align with their gender identity. 

Due to issues that arose under the altered policy, the Department of Justice is now looking to alter the policy back in favor of taking gender identity into consideration, rather than biological sex. 

While no decision has been made as of yet, the discussions are still being had amongst a special committee appointed by the Department of Justice. 

Transgender rights have always been a controversial factor in determining housing for trangender people experiencing incarceration. 

According to the Department of Justice, of the 156,000 federal people experiencing incarceration residing in the United States, about 1,200 are transgender. 

The decision to re-evaluate the policy came after the recent sentencing of Emily Claire Hari, a transgender woman who bombed the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.

Shortly after her 53-year sentence, Hari and her lawyer submitted a request to the courts asking that they take her gender identity into consideration while contemplating her housing placements. 

Hari has said that gender dysphoria and the actions of right-wing misinformation was her influence in the actions that she took leading into the bombing. Hari was found guilty of civil rights and hate crime charges. 

In the years since the policy change under the Trump administration, queer activists have been pushing back against the change. The policy has been labeled as a “double punishment” for trangender people experiencing incarceration to go through gender dysphoria as well as the intended punishment of prison time. 

The concept of housing for transgender individuals has been a hot topic of discussion among queer and criminal justice communities for a long while. “Jails and prisons have no control over the type of [people experiencing incarceration]—mentally ill, gang member, hard-core or first-timer—who comes in,” Gary Cornelius stated.

Due to the wide variety of people that come into the prison system, it is vital to have a system in place to accommodate every type of person experiencing incarceration. 

Sources: The Hill, USnews.com, NY Daily News, Penal Reform.com, Lexipol

The Art of… Reading: Exploring the importance of reading as a college student.

Reading is a hobby that most people pick up starting back in early elementary school. Some people love reading, some people resent every textbook they need to read to keep up with their classes. Some people are a little bit of both: enjoying reading on their own terms, but not when it is for school. I am one of those who love to read in my own free time, outside of school textbooks and assigned readings. 

When I first started college, reading for pleasure was put on the back burner, and I didn’t make any time for myself to just sit down and read. Without my favorite hobby, I began to feel lost, and I did not know how to make time for my mental health. When I finally began reading for pleasure again, my mental health showed significant improvement. 

Reading is not only a chance to expand your personal knowledge and learn more about the world around us, but it can also be used as an escape from the world and into a fantasy land. 

With a broad range of genres and topics to choose from, there is sure to be a book out there for anyone. Beyond our textbooks is a wide world of books to be explored and cherished. 

Reading is known to have a plethora of health benefits as well. Research has shown that reading can improve brain connectivity, increase vocabulary, reduce stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate, fight symptoms of depression and can even contribute to a longer life (Healthline).

Reading for pleasure also dates back thousands of years, as long before social media, people connected with each other through books and reading. 

With all of the craziness that comes with the life of a college student, reading may be the last thing many students would want to make time for, and that is okay. If you are craving a good book and don’t have the funds to feed a healthy reading flow, there are plenty of resources to help make books accessible. The Warner Library has a wonderful collection of books ranging from a wide variety of topics, and many websites such as ThriftBooks offer great deals on books that the library may not have. The library also features an interlibrary loan system, so you won’t have much trouble finding a book that you enjoy.

Movie Spotlight: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”: A look at Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

After over a year of anticipation, Marvel finally released their second movie since the strike of the pandemic in the form of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the 25th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first to feature an Asian lead. The movie stars Simu Liu as “Shaun,” or “Shang-Chi,” as he and his sister (played by Meng’er Zhang) are forced to face their past with their father and prevent their father from causing destruction using the ten rings.

From the casting, to the soundtrack and the script, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has a little bit of something for everyone. 

The movie, while paving part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, also works as a standalone origin movie. It is safe to say that beyond the end-credit scenes, any non-Marvel fan could enjoy “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and not have to worry about being lost in the lore.

As a Marvel fan, I tend to hold Marvel movies to a higher standard amongst each other, and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” did not disappoint.

The choreography of the fight scenes is among the best that I have seen in any movie, Marvel and beyond. The elegance of the martial arts moves in fight scenes adds a new dynamic to the MCU. The movie also gave off strong “Avatar the Last Airbender” vibes, with the idea of using martial arts to control the elements around themselves. The movement of energy surrounding the characters when fighting was smooth and followed the flow of the actors’ movements extremely well. I could watch the fight scenes in this movie for hours, and I am generally not a huge fan of action scenes. 

The villain, who happens to be Shang-Chi’s father (played by Tony Leung), is not obnoxious in his antagonistic ways. Yes, he poses as a challenge to Shang-Chi, but he plays the villain and father roles remarkably well that makes for a great father-son duel.

The wardrobe department also deserves an ovation for their work in making not only Shang-Chi’s suit, but the rest of the clothing and styles throughout the movie. The visuals in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” were beautiful to look at, and the wardrobe department played a huge role in creating some beautiful scenes. 

Overall, the cinematography in this movie was great, the visuals in this movie were absolutely stunning, and the CGI was incorporated nicely with the rest of the film. The movement of the rings was a pleasure to watch and blended flawlessly.

 The mythical creatures of the forest surrounding Ta-Lo were surprisingly realistic and beautiful to admire. They blended in very well with their background, and for a moment while watching, I almost believed that they could be real. Among these creatures from the forest surrounding Ta-Lo was Morris, a faceless, six-legged creature who stole the hearts of many in the theater, including my own. 

The movie also did a good job of addressing a major elephant in the room that was leftover from “Iron Man 3” in a tongue-in-cheek manner. It featured a unique redemption arc for some characters, and provided closure on an otherwise unresolved plot error.

I had reservations about certain casting decisions going into this movie, but I could not imagine this movie with any other actors in their roles. The movie also featured exciting cameos from other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters that brought the movie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely.

I could not run out of good things to say about this movie, as the entire time I spent watching it, I was thinking about when the next time I could go would be. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend seeing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”