Resume

Ariel Caspar

arielcaspar@gmail.com

916-607-0580

arielcaspar.home.blog

Education:

AMERICAN RIVER COLLEGE – Sacramento, CA

Studying journalism and public relations, 2018 – present

THE CURRENT: Editor in chief (arcurrent.com) – Spring 2020

  • Designed pages for print edition of the Current
  • Edited and copy edited articles for all sections when needed
  • Lead editorial meetings, assigned stories and kept track of all stories to keep website as updated as possible
  • Posted articles to arcurrent.com two to three times a week to keep website updated with new content
  • Frequently checked in with editors and staff writers on their work and offered help and guidance

Covered the most pressing, interesting topics in news, opinion and feature.

THE CURRENT: Managing Editor & Arts & Culture Editor (arcurrent.com) – Fall 2019

  • Designed pages for Arts & Culture, Feature and Opinion sections for four print editions of the Current
  • Participated in editorial meetings and contributed interesting pitches and ideas
  • Posted articles to arcurrent.com weekly to keep website content updated
  • Edited and copy edited articles for all sections whenever needed

Covered interesting people and topics in news, arts & culture, feature and opinion

THE CURRENT: Staff Writer (arcurrent.com) – Spring 2019

  • Pitched various story ideas to the editorial board
  • Contributed stories for online and print publication
  • Provided photos for stories and assisted other staff writers with photography
  • Interviewed various sources for quotes and accurate information

Skills Summary:

  • Proficient in WordPress and Medium blogging
  • Proficient in Mac and PC operating systems
  • Proficient in photography
  • Proficient in Bridge, Photoshop and InDesign
  • Efficient in communicating with editors and staff members
  • Creative, cooperative, helpful and diligent

Awards

General Excellence – American River Current – JACC spring 2019

General Excellence – American River Current – JACC fall 2019

General Excellence – American River Current – JACC spring 2020

Los Rios and Sierra College break the news that fall semester will be fully online

FallOnline
Due to the recent news from the California Governor’s Office that the same social distancing guidelines will most likely be in place this fall, the Los Rios Community College District and other college districts in California have announced their fall semesters will be entirely online. (Photo by Emily Mello)

In wake of the coronavirus-induced campus shutdown in March, the Los Rios Community College District has asked students to prepare to go online for the fall semester.

On May 12, Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brian King sent out an email on behalf of all Los Rios Community College presidents,stating that the district has collectively made the decision “to move to a fully online fall schedule with extremely limited exceptions for courses that cannot be converted.”

According to King, the decision was hard for the whole district to come to terms with, but was strongly supported due to the recent news from the Governor’s Office that the same social distancing guidelines for the state of California will most likely be in place this fall.

King said these guidelines will be in place because it’s highly unlikely that the state will have access to enough testing, contact tracing or any personal protective equipment that will be necessary to open all Los Rios campuses on a broader scale, meaning the safest option will be to proceed with remote online learning.

According to the email, the district’s administration is aware of the concern regarding the classes that are heavily facility-dependent and cannot be converted effectively to online learning.

“College instructional offices will be working with individual departments on identifying these exceptions and assessing the options for those specific classes,” King said in the email.

The district has also developed new training tools to continually support online education including Canvas Quickstart Training for faculty, staff, and students still struggling to navigate Canvas, according to the email.

They are also working towards developing additional opportunities to aid staff and faculty with online planning. According to King, the goal is to increase their capacity to support as many faculty and staff as possible with this transition.

According to the email, the campus will remain 100 percent closed until at least July 4, and will continue to update students as things continue to change.

“Above everything else, our top priority is and must always be the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We also recognize that students are going to need strong support to be successful online, just as they rely on our support to be successful on-ground,” King said in the email. “Even as we take these necessary measures to protect our community’s collective health, we remain committed to serving students in this new environment.”

According to Gabe Ross, associate vice chancellor of the LRCCD, since the public health dynamic of the next few months is still unknown, the district had been preparing to go online, instead of once again having to make a shift halfway through the semester.

Ross says that every class will have a required element on Canvas.

“We believe that this approach will allow students, faculty, and staff to prepare for the possibility of a fully online schedule while still giving us the flexibility to offer classes on campus if public health experts suggest it is safe,” Ross said.

Admissions and student services were also forced online this semester, and according to Ross, are prepared to do so again come fall.

“Faculty, staff, and administrators at the college and throughout the district have done an outstanding job adjusting to a situation that nobody was prepared for and we continue to make great progress,” Ross said.

Ross also says the LRCCD is currently working toward a system that changes the way they distribute textbooks to students, including possibly mailing them to students.

This decision comes around the same time Sierra College announced it would be going largely online for their fall semester.

In an announcement sent out to the Sierra College student body two weeks ago, Public Information Officer Josh Morgan said that preparing now allows faculty to participate in training and professional development programs to ensure they are providing the highest quality education.

According to the statement, the college will have certain programs and classes that take place in person, though even those will be prepared to go online in case of a fall resurgence of the virus.

Morgan says that this decision keeps the safety of the community and the continuity of instruction at top priority.

“We have not made a decision or announcement regarding in-person delivery of student services and other activities as those will be greatly impacted by the health environment at the time,” Morgan said.

On Tuesday, California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced that the CSU district will also be canceling most of its in-person classes for the fall semester and transition to primarily online. The University of California system has yet to announce its plans for the fall semester.

Mairi Jo Jones, an interior architecture major who is graduating this semester from Sierra College, told the Current what she thinks about this situation of classes going online.

“The range of students varies between 18 years old to the elderly. It’s definitely a smart move to plan mostly online,” Jones said. “And it’s so much easier to have professors who maybe aren’t computer savvy to prepare during the summer for being all online in the fall and to gather good resources for that.”

Jones also emphasized how important it is to plan ahead of time so either professors and students can be ready for any type of decision that the administration might have for next semester

“Even though it seems so far out, it’s important to allow either part-time or full-time professors and students to prepare for being fully online. Nobody knows, but at least they can be prepared for it,” Jones said. “But I think it’s so much easier to do the transition from a face-to-face class to online, than the other way around.”

With churches becoming the center of coronavirus cases, church communities must move online

Churches
New Life Community Church, a church in the Sacramento region, pictured here, is one of the many churches in Sacramento that has chosen to follow stay-at-home orders and has transitioned all of their services and sermons online. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

The California shelter-in-place order has made our lives drastically different. Non-essential businesses and facilities have been ordered to shut down in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed nearly 2,000 Californians, according to Worldometer, an international statistics site that is tracking coronavirus cases and deaths. However, some California churches and houses of worship are choosing to take this order as a suggestion and have continued to meet, while others have transitioned online.

Several news outlets, including the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times, have reported that churches who are refusing to stop meeting are now becoming the center of the bulk of coronavirus cases in California, and canceling in-person services would make a huge difference in flattening the curve.

Abundant Life Fellowship Church in Roseville, Calif. was one of the many churches that was continuing to meet just a few short weeks ago. The church was recently sent a suspicious package that the pastor thought to have been a bomb. After making a 911 call, a bomb squad was brought in and the street was closed for nearly four hours. Police confirmed the item in the package was non-explosive, but may have been disguised to look like a bomb, to threaten the church. The church had received several threats in the weeks prior to receiving the package.

I am definitely against people sending death threats of any kind, but I’m not surprised something like this happened, given this church had been recognized in the media for their decision to continue meeting. This made them an easy target to receive threats.

Growing up attending church, I understand how important it is to members of a church to meet and congregate in the same building. But at the same time, I would argue that we are in the middle of a serious pandemic that is taking people’s lives. Churches should respect the stay at home order and learn to adapt to the situation.

Continuing to meet comes with dangerous possibilities. The point of the stay at home order is to encourage social distancing and discourage large gatherings where viruses can easily be spread.

CNN recently reported that a large, influential Russian church near Sacramento is responsible for an outbreak of 70 new cases. Even after the church transitioned online, large groups were continuing to meet in homes, which health officials have linked to clusters of cases throughout the Sacramento community.

For many church members, this is a touchy subject. They want to believe that they are divinely protected and that God is bigger than the virus. Outsiders may be quick to judge, but this is a reality for many people of faith.

While it is not a crime to have faith, church communities must still make intelligent decisions and operate out of a balance of their core beliefs and common sense. You can believe that God will protect you, but you must also have respect for our national and local officials in the midst of a crisis that we do not fully understand. I’m pretty sure respecting your authority figures is in the Bible?

We are also approaching a new era of the online church. With the aid of technology, the church and other faith communities will survive and even continue to thrive, by taking advantage of what technology has to offer. Sermons and worship services can be streamed online, tithing and giving can be done online, Bible studies can now meet through Zoom, etc. Many churches are already on this path and have continued to adapt as the stay at home order has lengthened.

This pandemic is pushing the dinosaur churches stuck in the past to catch up and modernize their tool kits and skill sets. It is possible to have church without a building, and respecting the shelter-in-place order will keep everyone safe and provide a resolution sooner rather than later.

As coronavirus continues to spread, conspiracy theorists have a field day

Conspiracy
Conspiracy theories spread and become popular topics of discussion because of the spread of misinformation online. It’s important to remember conspiracies are theories and are not fact until proven otherwise. (Photo courtesy of 123RF.com)

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most unexpected things to come out of 2020. Months ago, we heard about a new virus that was breaking out in a small Chinese village, but we never thought it would affect our lives in Sacramento.

Many people still don’t believe it actually has.

There is an entire community of “truth-seekers” out there that are always looking for ways to dig deeper and understand all the aspects that surround something as big as a worldwide pandemic. When people aren’t satisfied with answers, misinformation spreads and the sleeping conspiracy theory giant awakens and spreads lies across social media and conversation.

Conspiracy theories are spreading faster than the disease itself and the fact is, nobody can set the record straight. We just have to simply acknowledge that we don’t know all the answers and we may never know. Conspiracies always stem from fear of the unknown. When people are anxious and isolated, they tend to go fishing for answers and are highly likely to believe a slew of inaccurate information.

Below are some of the most interesting conspiracy theories circulating the web right now involving the coronavirus’ origin and purpose. It’s important to remember conspiracy theories are not fact. They are just theories that sometimes can sound convincing enough to stir up entire online and social communities. Many of these theories have already been debunked by professionals.

 

1. The coronavirus was predictively programmed through novels, TV shows and films.

When the coronavirus hit and began to spread, the “truth” community couldn’t help but notice that this virus had some similarities to the fictional virus that was part of the plot of Dean Koontz’s 1981 novel “Eyes of Darkness.” In the novel, a deadly virus called “Wuhan-400” was created in Wuhan, China, which is where the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from. Although this is slightly disturbing, this theory was debunked after comparing the two viruses. There are essentially no similarities between Wuhan-400 and COVID-19. In the novel, the Wuhan-400 virus has a 100% fatality rate and eats away at brain tissue. COVID-19 has less than a 2% fatality rate with breathing related symptoms, so this is very far-fetched.

Apparently, the conspiracy community also believes the “Simpsons” predicted the coronavirus back in 1993, since “The Simpsons” have been known for their bizarre predictions over the 30-plus years they’ve been on the air, including the Donald Trump presidency. In the episode “Marge in Chains,” an outbreak of a mysterious illness called “corona virus” is reported by a newscaster. This theory was debunked very quickly, when observers noticed the screengrab used to prove this theory on social media had been altered. The actual plot of the episode focuses on an illness called “Osaka flu,” not coronavirus, and the screengrab that read “corona virus,” when reverted to the original actually read “apocalypse meow” and was from an entirely different episode. This was merely the clever work of Photoshop.

 

2. If you can’t hold your breath for 10 seconds, you have the coronavirus.

This myth came from a “self-check test” that started circulating through social media in March. The original post was written on an iPhone notes application, which should have waved red flags from the get go. The post gave a list of ways you can self-check yourself for the coronavirus. One of the checks stated if you can’t hold your breath for 10 seconds, you have fibrosis in the lungs, which is an indicator of the virus.

While some of this is true and patients with coronavirus may experience fibrosis in the lungs, this is in no way an exact indicator of contracting the virus. Some people who have tested positive can hold their breath for much longer than 10 seconds, so this is an inaccurate test.

 

3. The coronavirus was bio-engineered in a Wuhan lab as a weapon to wage war on the United States.

This theory has probably gained the most attention in the news media, because Sen. Tom Cotton (R – Ark.) publicly endorsed this theory on Fox News in February.

“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” he said in a Fox News broadcast. “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level four super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”

A British tabloid also published a story acknowledging the lab’s existence and strongly implied it was responsible for the outbreak in Wuhan. This speculation sounds convincing on the surface, however, Richard Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, disproved this possibility with scientific fact. He told the Washington Post there’s “absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered,” claiming this theory could be firmly excluded.

Although science has disproved this, government officials continue to fabricate this theory, even suggesting the creation of the virus was funded by Bill Gates, who allegedly has connections to the biosafety lab outside of Wuhan.

This theory has the most attention most likely because of the spread of misinformation from both sides, since China recently declared that the United States’ military is to blame for the virus’s arrival and spread. This very well may be the U.S.’s stab back at China for falsely pointing the finger.

 

4. The coronavirus will become an excuse to declare national martial law.

This theory seemed to originate from a text that began circulating in March, claiming that with the declared state of emergency and under the Stafford Act, the president would declare martial law and institute a mandatory lockdown on the entire nation.

While the Stafford Act (a 1988 disaster relief law that allows the federal government to hand power over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its resources), is real, it does not give the president authority to issue a nationwide lockdown. The National Security Council declared this false, but it hasn’t stopped citizens who are convinced the lockdown is coming, from panic-buying and hoarding supplies. No wonder there is a nationwide toilet paper shortage.

 

5. The coronavirus is actually not real, and the sick are actually experiencing symptoms from the effects of 5G towers.

This theory is definitely one of the more far-fetched theories that is hard to believe people are falling for. Even celebrities such as Woody Harrelson, John Cusack and Wiz Khalifa are supporting the possibility of this theory on Twitter and blasting out to their millions of followers 5G may be linked to the coronavirus.

On April 1, Harrelson posted his findings on Twitter with a report titled “Role of 5G in the Coronavirus Epidemic in Wuhan China”, citing Martin L. Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University, who said in his report, “5G: Great risk for EU, U.S. and International Health! Compelling Evidence for Eight Distinct Types of Great Harm Caused by Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Exposures and the Mechanism that Causes Them” that “putting in tens of millions of 5G antennae without a single biological test of safety has got to be about the stupidest idea anyone has had in the history of the world.”

On April 3, Khalifa tweeted “Corona? 5G? Or both?” implying he may be in support of this theory as well.

When this theory began to gain traction, arsonists in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe began burning down cell towers believed to have 5G technology. The Guardian reported that some of these arsonists were accidentally destroying the wrong towers that only had 3G or 4G technology. Now, at least 20 towers have been vandalized throughout Europe.

This theory originated from an article published in a small Belgian newspaper, “Het Laatste Nieuws,” where a reporter interviewed Dr. Kris Van Kerckhoven, a Belgian general practitioner with no known credentials. The headline read, “5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it.” Van Kerckhoven claimed in the interview that 5G is dangerous technology and may be linked to COVID-19.

The newspaper has since deleted the article from their website, but the conspiracy still continues to spread rapidly through various social media posts, videos and blogs.

This theory has been disproven several times, since no medical or scientific professionals have found any evidence that 5G is helping spread the coronavirus or that exposure to 5G signals, mimic or create life-threatening symptoms.

 

6. The disease was planned and funded by Bill Gates.

This theory gained traction from a Q-Anon supporter. Q-Anon is an over-the-top, far right-wing, Trump-supporting political group, and is known for stirring up massively controversial and false conspiracy theories.

The supporter, Jordan Sather, posted a link on Twitter to a 2015 patent for a coronavirus vaccine filed by the Pirbright Institute, a U.K. based organization, that suggested the government planted the virus to make money off of vaccines.

Sather than followed his post with another post with information that supposedly connected the Pirbright Institute to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The post included a link to a 2019 press release that announced the foundation would be helping to fund a project to study livestock and disease control. This speculation was set straight by Pirbright representatives.

Rolling Stone reported that Pirbright confirmed with media outlets that the 2015 patent was intended to aid the creation of a vaccine for a very specific strand of avian coronavirus found in chickens, which has not been cited in any professional records as a potential cause for COVID-19. Pirbright also confirmed that Gates had no ties to the funding of that 2015 patent whatsoever.

 

7. The virus came from consuming bats.

This was one of the first rumors that started circulating after the virus broke out, but the fact is, it has actually not yet been proven exactly where, or what animal this virus originated from. Wired reported that those who originally tested positive at the pandemic’s inception did not have any contact with live animals prior to contracting the virus.

One medical journal, the Journal of Medical Virology, suggested the virus may have actually originated from snakes. In reality, professionals have not pinpointed where this strand of coronavirus came from, and we should not be characterizing this virus by an entire country’s eating habits.

 

8. The virus is treatable by household items.

This ridiculous theory also developed out of the Q-Anon community. Q-Anon had been spreading an announcement through social media that told people to drink Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), a bleach-based product, to treat and prevent coronavirus. The product contains toxic chemicals that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and acute liver failure if ingested in large amounts.

On April 26, the New York Times reported Trump started yet another bogus conspiracy that injecting disinfectants into the body could help combat the coronavirus. Any rational human being would have the capacity to recognize that form of “treatment” would not help in any way, but could be very foolish and harmful if taken seriously.

There is also information now circulating online that the coronavirus can be treated with lysol, oregano oil, oil and by gargling bleach, which have all been proven false and even hazardous since their circulation.

 

9. Hand dryers can kill the coronavirus.

This bizarre theory for treating the coronavirus originated from Chinese social media. The various posts claimed that using a hand dryer for 30 seconds is effective in killing the virus. This myth was debunked and proven false by the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

10. The coronavirus is an elaborate hoax to remotely arrest hundreds of pedophiles and child sex traffickers involved in a Satanic Hollywood cult.

This was by far the most bizarre and elaborate conspiracy that has come out of this pandemic. This is a conspiracy that came out of the Q-Anon community yet again.

Q-Anon supporters started a rumor that celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGenerous, Madonna, Tom Hanks, members of the royal family and high-ranking government officials are actually involved in a massive pedophile and child sex-trafficking ring, and the coronavirus is just a cover-up to distract the public and keep them unaware of the hundreds of “house arrests” taking place of the celebrities and officials involved in this Satanic pedo-cult.

Mother Jones reported that the rumor gained traction when a random YouTube user filmed a live stream saying he was personally witnessing Winfrey’s arrest at her Beverly Hills home. Critics were quick to note the footage appeared to be bogus and the house did not appear to be a residence that billionaire Winfrey would live in, and this raid was most likely unrelated police action.

Still, the video gained the attention of several Q-Anon Facebook groups who took the theory and ran with it, with essentially zero evidence of its relevance. Winfrey tweeted in response to the ridiculous accusation.

“Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE,” she tweeted on March 17. “Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self-distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody.”

According to the Millennial Source, another Q-Anon post began circulating with loads of other outlandish claims including that Harvey Weinstein had made a deal exchange with the courts regarding his prison sentencing, in return for his testimony against hundreds of top Hollywood celebs involved in various illegal crimes, namely pedophilia and child sex trafficking.

Various Q-Anon Instagram pages are supporting the theory as well, and have even cited Timothy Charles Holmseth, an investigative journalist based in Minnesota, who claimed the tents being erected in Central Park in New York City to treat individuals with coronavirus, are actually there to treat hundreds of children and babies being rescued from sex-trafficking.

This theory came out of nowhere and went viral because of its obscene nature, but it has no legitimate news outlets reporting on its relevance. This is just whacky Q-Anon spewing out their twisted pedophile conspiracies through YouTube and Facebook. While this theory has not officially been debunked, its origin and fabricated details have no credibility whatsoever, and should not be taken seriously.

Quaran-reads: 10 book suggestions for the readers out there

Read
Reading can benefit you in many ways. It helps with thought development, increases your knowledge and understanding, keeps your mind active and further broadens your vocabulary. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

We are only a couple weeks into shelter-in-place, and I’m sure at this point many of you are over self-quarantining. With all the time off, it can be hard to find things to keep you busy and pass the time. For all the readers out there, this is a great chance to catch up on all that reading. You know that pile of books on your nightstand that you keep saying you’ll get to? Now you can cross those off your list, and dive into some new material. Below you will find a versatile list of books that may pique your interest.

1.“The Touches” by Brenda Peynado

This dystopian short story takes place in an apocalyptic, futuristic, touchless society where all of humanity has adapted to living in isolated cubicles, where robots assist them with basic human necessities, known as “the Dirty” or the real world, due to bacteria and viruses becoming completely resistant to all medications. Everyday they log into “the Clean” or the realistic virtual world that was created to continue with normal life. As disturbing as this may seem, given the current circumstances, it’s still a good, short read with very interesting dystopian possibilities. “The Touches” has elements of both romance and science fiction. It can be read for free on Tor.com.

 

2. “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

 

“The Awakening,” was a very controversial work of its time and landed itself on the banned book list for its supposedly “immoral” depictions of female sexual desire and a main character that completely breaks social norms and gender roles. The 300-page novel follows Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother, and her family as they vacation at the ritzy Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico. Edna meets a charming, young man named Robert and they soon form a connection that leads to Edna falling in love. The story has a central theme of a woman caught in between wanting to express her unorthodox views on femininity, yet still maintain her maternal duties. This was one of the first feminist novels of its time, and is a strong example of “early feminism.” This literary classic is available for free in PDF form, or can be ordered online.

 

3. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

 

This touching novel by Swedish New York Times-bestselling author Fredrik Backman, follows the life of Ove, a retired senior, who is still grieving the death of his beloved wife. Ove’s quiet, simple life is interrupted when a young and overly friendly family moves in next door and flattens his mailbox. On the outside, Ove is cranky, overly sarcastic, and is known as the “neighbor from hell,” but underneath, he is a broken man in need of relationships. If you enjoy heartwarming stories that move you to tears, this is one you want to add to your list. There are e-book versions of this available for download through multiple platforms, or it can be ordered online.

 

4. “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski

 

Now this one is a little complicated to explain. According to the description on the book itself, many years ago, “House of Leaves” was an unpublished heap of papers that was passed around amongst the younger generations, that eventually was adapted as a novel in 2000, with all the original footnotes and artwork. This novel is a difficult read, since it follows multiple storylines, with several different narrators that interact with each other in chronological footnotes and commentary. It is a story within a story within a story, that begins with a young man, Johnny Truant, who discovers a mangled essay written by a dead, blind man named Zumpano, who lived in his apartment complex. The essay is a detailed account of the documentary “The Navidson Record,” which follows the unexpected events of a family who moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane. They film their horrifying experiences in their home when they discover the home is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, with a five-and-a-half minute hallway and a never ending spiral staircase that plunges deeper and deeper into the abyss. “House of Leaves” sometimes feels like information overload; a puzzle filled with mysteries and unciphered codes, but getting to the end is worth it. It is best to read this horror/thriller in print, given the text goes every which way on certain pages. Some may even want to write notes in the margins. Currently, it is available to be ordered online.

 

5. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy

 

This Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, is for those who are young at heart and enjoy picture books. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” however, is not a children’s book, but a book for all ages as the author states in the introduction. This “Winnie the Pooh-like”  work was called “a book of hope for uncertain times,” by the New York Times and is a collection of wonderful encouraging phrases woven together in a story of friendship and adventure. Four friends embark on a journey to find home, but they discover home is so much more than a place. The book features unique watercolor artwork done by Mackesy, that shows the beauty of imperfection. If you’re looking for an uplifting, short read to cheer you up during these times, try this out. I’d highly recommend getting a print copy, but there are online versions available.

 

6. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan

 

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is an incredibly eye-opening novel about where our food comes from, a question many have never considered. This novel explores the dilemma Americans face when it comes to understanding how the food we buy at the store got from wherever it was made or raised to our tables, and why we need to understand this more deeply, because it could change the entire American perspective of food and consumption altogether. Pollan documents his experiences tracing the origins of our food right back to the factory they were made in. The things he reveals about the food industry will shock you. This is a great read for those who are looking into altering their diet in some way for health reasons. This book may have the answers you’re looking for. It is available in many e-book versions or can be ordered online.

 

7. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

 

This philosophical, gothic novel, which went through multiple rounds of publication, was one of the most controversial works of its time. The work was first published in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, but the editor deleted roughly 500 words from the original without Wilde’s knowledge before publishing, for fear of the story offending the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers of that era. Wilde defended his novel aggressively and had it revised and lengthened for publishing the following year with a memorable preface defending his right as an artist. This preface soon became a literary and artistic manifesto for artists around the world. The novel centers around a portrait of a man named Dorian Gray, who is deeply disturbed by aging and the fading of beauty. He decides to sell his soul in return for eternal youth. As the years go by, he does not age, but his portrait ages and is collecting a record of the many sins committed in his wildly passionate, immortal life, that may come back to bite him. This novel is available on e-book platforms and can be ordered online.

 

8. “The Incendiaries” by R.O. Kwon

 

This novel follows two college students, Phoebe and Will, who are complete opposites. Will, a Bible college transfer, is drawn to Phoebe, and becomes convinced he is in love with her. Phoebe, however, becomes obsessed with a religious extremist cult that is founded by a former student who has questionable connections to Phoebe’s Korean American family. After the cult decides to bomb multiple buildings which end up taking five people’s lives, Phoebe disappears and Will becomes determined to find her. “The Incendiaries” is a fractured love story and an interesting examination of the minds and actions of extremist terrorists, and how far people will go for love. This book is available on multiple e-book platforms or can be ordered online.

 

9. “Lullabies” by Lang Leav

 

This gorgeous book of poetry is magic in writing. Lang Leav fills this book with short, thoughtful poems and short stories that reflect life, love, passion and beauty. If you’re looking for something unique and modern to add to your poetry collection, “Lullabies” and other works by Leav are a good place to start. “Lullabies” carries a musical theme, starting with Duet, then flowing into Interlude and ending with Finale. The book also features Leav’s own unique artwork. Leav says in the introduction, “I imagine it to be a bedside table kind of book – hopefully, one that you will pick up on some windy, restless night and it will help sing you to sleep.” “Lullabies” is available to read in PDF format for free, but I would recommend reading it in print. Good news is, it can be ordered online.

 

10. “The Seas” by Samantha Hunt

 

“The Seas,” Samantha Hunt’s debut novel, is a whimsical tale that follows a 19-year-old, nameless outcast who lives in a small, remote, seaside town. She lives with her dictionary-obsessed grandfather and mother. The no-name narrator is convinced that she is a mermaid, in which she believes she inherited from her allegedly deceased father, who walked into the sea one night and never came back. Additionally, she is lovesick for a local Iraqi war veteran who is 13 years her senior. Her delusional state and rebellious behavior lands her in jail, and how she escapes is quite unforgettable. American author Michelle Tea called “The Seas”, “creepy and poetic, subversive and strangely funny, a phenomenal piece of literature.” Hunt received a National Book Foundation award for this novel. “The Seas” can be found on multiple e-book platforms or can be ordered online, but the book has some elements that are much better to experience in print.

As coronavirus spreads in Sac, LRCCD closes campuses

Coronavirus
Starting Wednesday, March 18, all campus facilities will be closed to all students, faculty, staff and community members, and classes will move to online or remote operations. (Photo illustration by Jennah Booth)

As concerns about the coronavirus continue to grow throughout the college communities, the Los Rios Community College District announced March 12 that, effective Friday, March 13, the Los Rios district will suspend all face-to-face classes and student interactions, and beginning March 18, the campuses will close.

“Starting Wednesday, March 18 all campus facilities will be closed to all students, faculty, staff, and community members; however instructional, student services, and operational responsibilities will continue online or remotely,” the email said, regarding the district’s decision to close Los Rios campuses.

According to Brian King, LRCCD Chancellor, based on the guidance from the California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, all colleges should prepare for this crisis to last at least through June, and should expect to continue with remote operations through the end of the semester.

This follows in the wake of previous emails and RAVE alert updates the district has been sending out since Feb. 27. These alerts had been sent out due to four students within the LRCCD who had been exposed to the virus in February.

Since the disease has spread to a handful of states in the United States, including California, where now 11 deaths have occurred and a range of 200 to over 500 cases have been confirmed, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, and urged the restriction of all meetings of 250 or more people, according to multiple news outlets. Recently, this number has dropped to 10 people or more, with shelter in place a likely possibility, according to multiple news outlets.

COVID-19, or coronavirus, is a pathogenic, respiratory illness that first emerged in Wuhan, China, and is said to have originated from bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

As this disease continues to become more threatening, the LRCCD is keeping students, staff and faculty as informed as possible with frequent updates and alerts, according to the March 12 update.

“This situation is rapidly evolving, so all students, faculty, and staff should be prepared for additional critical updates and districtwide alerts,” the email said. “We will continue to provide regular updates, including updated frequently asked questions, on the district coronavirus website.”

According to a Los Rios Health alert sent out via email on March 11, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all events with a total of people exceeding 250, or where social distancing of 6-feet per person is not possible, have been canceled until further notice, including all athletic events, performing arts shows, celebratory gatherings and non-essential gatherings.

That same alert confirmed that there continues to be zero confirmed cases in students or employees within the LRCCD of the COVID-19 virus.

Although there are no confirmed cases, the alert also informed students the LRCCD is “taking all appropriate measures and will continue to follow the expert guidance of the California Department of Public Health and county agencies.”

Sacramento County Public Health experts had directed all colleges to continue with regular class and work schedules at that time, according to the alert. On March 12, the LRCCD made the decision to close all Los Rios campuses as a precautionary measure, according to the March 12 alert.

According to a March 8 Los Rios Health alert, college custodial teams are taking extra measures to deep clean campuses with higher-strength disinfectant agents, with a focus on “high-touch” points such as doorknobs, railings, door handles, bathroom push doors and light switches. Areas where confirmed exposed students may have been have also received extra cleaning.

On Feb. 27, American River College’s communications office first reported to all Los Rios Community College District staff, faculty and student population through RAVE alerts sent via text and email, that two students, one from ARC and one from Cosumnes River College had both been exposed to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The two students are medical health professionals and were exposed to the virus while performing their medical duties, according to the ARC communications announcement. After the exposure, both of the students returned to their respective campuses. Shortly following this announcement, ARC communications reported that two more students from Sacramento City College were also exposed at a different hospital.

The original announcement said that since the exposures, the Sacramento County Department of Public Health had indicated that there were no indications at that time that members of the campus communities were at risk of potential exposure to the virus, but that later changed on March 12 when all face-to-face interactions on campus were suspended by the district.

Scott Crow, ARC public information officer, told the Current that the exposed students made contact with the infected individual before it was confirmed they tested positive for COVID-19, and that is the reason why they returned to the campuses.

According to Crow, both students had been instructed by county health experts to self-monitor symptoms and to self-quarantine for 14 days as a mandatory precaution.

“We would definitely recommend that those students do as instructed,” Crow said.

It was later reported in a separate announcement that same day, that a third and fourth student, both from Sacramento City College, were also exposed to someone who may have contracted COVID-19 while performing their medical duties as healthcare professionals. One of these students did not return to the SCC campus, and one did.

With a total of four exposures, Sac County Public Health experts had directed all colleges to “take no immediate action and proceed with regular class and work schedules” at that time, according to the RAVE alert announcement.

On Feb. 28, ARC President Thomas Greene issued a message to the whole campus in regards to the announcements.

“I want to reassure you that your health and safety is paramount, and we are actively monitoring and responding to this situation as it evolves,” Greene wrote.

Greene said the ARC Health and Wellness Center staff were prepared to give guidance to individual employees and students regarding these concerning times.

Dee Dee Gilliam, director of student health and wellness, released a statement to the Current via email regarding the growing concerns of COVID-19, and whether or not there had been a contingency plan in place.

In response, Gilliam said the ARC Health and Wellness Center was also working closely with the Sac County Department of Health Services and were frequently monitoring communications from the California Department of Public Health, the CDC and the World Health Organization, and was prepared to follow their expert guidance, before the campuses closed.

“As healthcare professionals, we follow best practice guidelines from those who have the knowledge and expertise from many years of communicable disease control,” Gilliam said. “The information that we are providing is based on those best practices, as well as basic infection control practices that we have worked within for many years, in preventing the spread of respiratory diseases.”

Since the exposures were reported, the situation has continued to evolve, with messages from the ARC communications office being sent out frequently regarding new developments and communicating that the Los Rios district and its colleges were in close communication with county health officials and the Center for Disease Control, which led to the decision to close campuses.

Brenda Bongiorno, Sac County Public Health Services public information officer, spoke to the Current via email on behalf of SCPH regarding the cases within the LRCCD.

Bongiorno said that SCPH has developed a coordinated system with healthcare partners for successful infection control. She said they are effectively identifying possible cases, conducting testing and diagnosis of suspect cases and leading investigations to identify individuals who may have been exposed.

“Currently, we are working very closely with the Los Rios Community College District to perform contact analysis of people who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 either as travelers or because of a connection to a family member,” Bongiorno said.

According to Bongiorno, SCPH is instructing identified cases to quarantine or isolate themselves. She also clarified that an individual who has been released from isolation or completed quarantine no longer poses a risk of infection to others they come into contact with.

Borgiorno said that the SCPH recognizes students may have concerns, and emphasized the importance of remaining calm.

“Please be assured that there is no need for alarm or to change daily routines,” she said. “We recommend you practice the same precautions you do during cold and flu season and avoid non-essential travel to areas where COVID-19 infection is widespread.”

In more recent developments, the LRCCD is now coordinating daily discussions to assess the daily status at each campus so they can make quick decisions and communicate new information to students and employees, according to Gabe Ross, the Los Rios district associate vice chancellor.

For the few students from the Los Rios campuses, who are still in quarantine, they are being treated on a case-by-case basis with their instructors in regards to their absences from class, according to Ross, and if new identified cases arise, this is how students and instructors are advised to proceed.

It has also been communicated that the college should pay special attention to any incidents that involve stereotyping, bullying or harassment directed towards people perceived to be Chinese American or more generally of Asian descent, as there had been several media reports of this issue.

“Ethnic harassment or bullying exacerbates hatred, harms students, and is never justified,” Ross said. “We reaffirm our commitment that all students should be able to study and learn in an environment that is healthy, safe, and free from bias or discrimination.”

To prevent the spread of this infection, the Los Rios Health Department, the Sacramento County Department of Health services, and the CDC have made information on coronavirus available to students and employees through email links.

These agencies encourage the washing of hands frequently for 20-60 seconds. Washing hands remains an effective way to halt the spreading of pathogens. They also recommend avoiding touching your mouth, eyes or nose with unwashed hands, as well as covering your mouth while coughing.

The Sac County Health Department, the CDC and the Los Rios Health and Wellness Center also recommend that individuals self-monitor in case they show any signs of symptoms. They recommend checking for fever, if coughing is getting more frequent or if experiencing shortness of breath.

If infection is suspected, please notify the Sacramento Health department immediately, especially if there has been any travel to mainland China, Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea within the last two weeks, or have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, according to the Los Rios coronavirus FAQ page. The page also recommends self-monitoring daily, checking for fever twice a day.

According to the Sacramento Department of Health, there have been a total of 40 cases of COVID-19, with three deaths and a recovery in Sacramento and Placer Counties. Sacramento Department of Health is also changing the way they are handling these cases from containment to mitigation. With this shift, a 14-day quarantine will no longer be necessary and health agencies are now requiring individuals who have been exposed to go into isolation immediately if they are experiencing symptoms, according to NPR.

Continue to check emails daily for Los Rios Health Alerts, as they will provide the most current updates on COVID-19 in the Los Rios District.

Update: This article was updated on March 17 @ 5:03 p.m. to reflect new information.

Los Rios district confirms first exposures to the COVID-19 virus

Covid-19
Four LRCCD students were instructed to go on 14-day self quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. (Photo illustration by Emily Mello)

On Thursday, American River College’s communications office reported to all Los Rios Community College District staff, faculty and student population through Rave Alerts sent via text and email, that two students, one from ARC and one from Cosumnes River College had both been exposed to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19. COVID-19 or “Coronavirus,” is an animal-originated virus that broke out in Wuhan, China that is now spreading to other countries.

The two students are medical health professionals and were exposed to the virus while performing their medical duties, according to the ARC communications announcement. After the exposure, both of the students did return to both campuses. Shortly following this announcement, ARC communications reported that two more students from Sacramento City College were also exposed at a different hospital.

The original announcement said that since the exposures, the Sacramento County Department of Public Health has “indicated that there are no indications at this time that members of the campus communities are at risk of potential exposure to the virus.”

Scott Crow, ARC public information officer, told the Current that these students made contact with the infected individual before it was confirmed they tested positive for COVID-19, and that is the reason why they returned to the campuses.

According to Crow, they have both been instructed by county health experts to self-monitor symptoms and to self-quarantine for 14 days as a mandatory precaution.

“We would definitely recommend that those students do as instructed,” Crow said.

It was later reported in a separate announcement that same Thursday, that a third and fourth student, both from Sac City College, were also exposed to someone who may have contracted COVID-19 while performing their medical duties as health care professionals. One of these students did not return to campus, and one did.

With a total of four exposures, Sac County public health experts have directed all colleges to “take no immediate action and proceed with regular class and work schedules at this time,” according to the Rave Alert announcement.

Although there have been zero confirmed cases of the virus at any of the LRCCD campuses, out of an abundance of caution, all campuses have “implemented enhanced cleaning practices in high traffic areas” and have increased the frequency of cleaning surface areas throughout campuses, according to the announcement.

On Friday, ARC President Thomas Greene issued a message to the whole campus in regards to the recent announcements.

“I want to reassure you that your health and safety is paramount, and we are actively monitoring and responding to this situation as it evolves,” Greene wrote.

Greene said the ARC Health and Wellness Center staff is prepared to give guidance to individual employees and students regarding these concerning times. As the situation evolves, ARC communications will continue to monitor the situation, closely following the instruction of county health officials, keeping all Los Rios colleges as informed as possible.

For more information about COVID-19 facts and prevention visit the Los Rios FAQ website, or the CDC’s FAQ page.

Former LRPD officer sentenced to 81 years in prison

NoahW
Noah Winchester told the Current in 2014 that he served for the Sacramento Police Department for 10 years before joining the Los Rios Police Department, but other sources say he only served on the Sac PD for two years and left before his probationary period ended. (File photo by Adnan Ramic)

“I will do whatever to keep my student’s safe,” Noah Winchester, former corporal with the Los Rios Police Department once said.

That statement came during a November 2014 ride along with a former American River College Current reporter who observed Winchester conducting an off-campus drug bust.

What seemed like a well-intentioned statement six years ago is now proving to be ironic for students and staff who remember the former cop in light of recent events.

On Oct. 9, 2019, Winchester, 35, was convicted in the San Mateo County Superior Court for sexually assaulting three women in San Mateo, after a 20-day trial that resulted in guilty verdicts on 14 charges. He was sentenced 81 years to life in state prison, according to San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, as reported by the Daily Journal.

Winchester was arrested in July 2016 and had been in custody on a $3.1 million bail for six months prior to his sentencing.

In an email interview with the Current, Gabe Ross, Los Rios Community College district associate vice chancellor, said that after Winchester’s 2019 conviction and sentencing, the LRPD issued a statement that read, in part, “We are extremely happy that justice has been served for Noah Winchester’s victims … [We are] committed to keeping our college communities safe, and we will vigorously pursue severe consequences for anyone whose actions belie that commitment.”

Winchester was charged in 2016 with 22 felony counts of sexual assaults involving incidents as an officer on duty in San Mateo in 2015 and when he was an officer for the LRCCD police department in 2013, according to San Mateo County prosecutors, who also confirmed he had five victims between July 2, 2013 and Oct. 19, 2015.

Wagstaffe said those charges included kidnapping with intent to commit rape, rape, sexual penetration and oral copulation under color authority, battery, criminal threats and forceable sex offenses, as reported by Bay City News, who covered Winchester’s arrests in 2016.

According to Winchester’s case file, The People of the State of California v. Noah White Winchester, many of these charges were also enhanced because he had a weapon in his possession during the act.

The case file also noted he was ordered to take an HIV test in November 2019, and those results will be reviewed at his next scheduled court appearance on March 2.

WInchester and his attorney, Paul F. DeMeemster, recently put in their notice to file for an appeal regarding his recent prison sentence as of Feb. 4.

According to Ross, Winchester served as a police officer for LRCCD, rotating through Los Rios campuses from January 2009 to July 2016, under the authority of former LRPD chief of police, Cheryl Sears, and was the subject of an investigation during his time of employment with the LRPD for unsubstantiated allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“That investigation was led by …[the Sacramento Police Department],  [which] completed the investigation and found the evidence to be inconclusive,” Ross wrote.

Following Winchester’s arrests in 2016, LRPD released a statement that read in part, “The safety and security of our community is our highest priority. If these allegations are proven to be true, that would be horrific for the women who were victimized. Such criminal behavior is contrary to the core values and mission of the Los Rios Community College District.”

According to other news reports, Los Rios district spokesperson Mitchel Bensen said Winchester worked for LRPD up until January 2015, and began work as a police officer in San Mateo shortly after.

At the time of his hire in San Mateo, he was already being investigated in Sacramento and had also been under investigation for six months in San Mateo prior to his resignation with their police force in February 2016, according to Bay City News.

Winchester had also been briefly employed with the Sacramento Police Department from 2006 to 2007, but left before his probationary period was up, according to the Bay City News article.

The Daily Journal recently reported Winchester’s confirmed sexual assault incidents involved multiple young women under the age of 25. One of the assaults Winchester was convicted of happened in Sacramento in July 2013, when he forced a 21-year-old woman who was sleeping in a building exterior elevator with her three children present, to have sex with him.

According to Ross, Los Rios Police Department officers are hired by the department and then assigned to individual campuses. Ross said currently, ARC has four officers on campus and is in the process of hiring two additional officers. Since Winchester’s arrests and sentencing, LRPD has taken measures to improve their hiring processes, Ross said.

Ross said that these hiring changes were not made entirely because of the Winchester incident, but that it was a strong contributing factor. Over the last several years, the LRPD has taken a different approach to hiring and is no longer hiring individuals who have had any past or present disciplinary issues with outside agencies.

“LRPD is no longer a ‘second chance department,’ a term commonly used for agencies that recruit officers who have had minor struggles previously,” Ross wrote.

Although the LRPD has changed its hiring approach, it doesn’t mean other police agencies are taking the same measures. The question still remains as to why Winchester was hired in San Mateo while the subject of an investigation with another police force. Ross clarified in an email with the Current that LRPD will always prioritize the safety of staff and students when swearing in new officers.

“I cannot speak for San Mateo or any other agency regarding their hiring practices or procedures. In the Los Rios Police Department, we do not and would not hire an officer who has an active investigation pending against them,” Ross wrote. “The shift in focus from the quantity of officers we are hiring to the quality of officers we are hiring has helped us attract more qualified and experienced officers.”

Former ARC student and military contractor tragically killed in rocket attack

Nawres
Former American River College student and Iraqi-American military contractor, Nawres Waleed Hamid was buried in the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery on Jan. 4, 2020, after being killed in a rocket attack in Iraq in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Scott Crow)

In January multiple media outlets reported that former American River College student and Iraqi-American military contractor, Nawres Waleed Hamid, was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq in December 2019.

An email sent by ARC president, Thomas Greene reported to college staff and faculty that Hamid was a linguist working at a military base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

“His death has been cited as one of the reasons for the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani,” Greene wrote.

According to multiple media outlets, including the Sacramento Bee, U.S. forces blamed the rocket attack on Kataeb Hezbollah, a militia group with connections to Iran.

According to an email sent by ARC public information officer, Scott Crow, Hamid attended ARC from 2013-2018 and earned a Certificate of Achievement in a Computer Information Science field during his time at the college.

Hamid majored in computer networking management but is not considered an ARC graduate since he did not acquire an associate’s degree from the college.

He is survived by his wife, Noor Alkahilili, and two sons, ages 2 and 8. The Bee reported Hamid was buried in the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery on Jan. 4.

Crow said he was not able to identify anyone connected to the college that was willing to speak with any media outlets, including the Current. Crow issued the college’s public announcement regarding Hamid’s passing via email.

“We are obviously saddened by this news and the impact that the apparent escalation of military action in the Middle East will have on our students, both current and former,” Crow wrote. “We send our deepest condolences to Nawres’ family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Best Picture nominations you need to see before Hollywood’s biggest night

Oscars
Joaquin Phoenix performance in “Joker” earned him an Academy Award win for Best Actor. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros)

For the first Academy Awards ceremony of the decade, there are many films nominated that usually don’t fit the description of the typical “Oscar-winning” movie, as the Academy usually tends to favor indie, arthouse-style films. But with comic book-based films like “Joker” and action-thrillers like “1917”, the Academy may be looking to break the norm this year. Here are the Oscar nominations for Best Picture:

 

 

  1. “Parasite” (Bong Joon-ho)

 

This Korean-language film is nominated in six categories at the Academy Awards, including best foreign language film. The plot centers around an impoverished family of four, who weasle their way into working for a wealthy South Korean family, and the mental and physical toll they deal with from entering the lives of this family. With exceptional cinematography, acting and storytelling, “Parasite” has generated Oscar buzz since its release.

 

 

2. “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” (Quentin Tarantino)

 

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is nominated in 10 categories, including Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Rick Dalton, a struggling actor who is attempting to revive his career in late 1960s Hollywood. Tarantino’s unconventional style of filmmaking combined with stellar comedic performances from DiCaprio and his co-star Brad Pitt make this movie a standout at the 92nd Oscars. 

 

 

3. “1917” (Sam Mendes)

 

“1917” is a war-thriller set in the backdrop of a war-ridden France during World War I, as two British soldiers who embark on a perilous mission behind enemy lines. What makes “1917” different from the other nominated movies is the way it’s filmed. The entire movie is made to look like it was completed in one take, which is typically difficult to pull off. Director Sam Mendes’ latest film is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best cinematography for Roger Deakins.

 

 

4. “Joker” (Todd Phillips)

 

It’s a rarity that comic book-based films get nominated for an Oscar, but “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips has managed to change that perception with “Joker”. Set in early 1980s Gotham, the film follows Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) as he slowly continues his descent into madness and devolves into the early stages of the Joker we know from the movies and comics. 

 

 

5. “The Irishman” (Martin Scorsese)

 

“The Irishman,” adapted from the novel, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” is up for 10 Acedemy Awards, among these including Best Picture, Best Director, two nominations for Best Supporting Actor and surprisingly a nomination for Best Visual Effects. The film was nominated in this category for the incredible achievement of technologically de-aging the characters several years, since the film spans over 25 years, 1955 to 1982. The film centers around Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who finds himself involved with high ranking Pennsylvania mobster, Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his crime family. As Sheeran proves his loyalty as a hitman, he also finds himself going to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), a well-known community leader involved in organized crime. The film gives some insight into Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975. With a run time of nearly three- and-a-half hours, watching this film requires focus and determination, but watching the film in its entirety is well worth it. “The Irishman” is promising with its all-star cast including legends such as Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. This one may take the cake…

 

 

6. “Ford V Ferrari” (James Mangold)

 

“Ford v Ferrari,” only nominated in four Oscar categories including best picture and achievement in sound and editing categories, follows the true story of automobile designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and dauntless British race car driver, Ken Miles (Chrisitan Bale), as they attempt to build the first ever Ford race car, that can withstand the 24 hour Le Mans in France in 1966. Shelby and Miles fight Ford’s corporate interferences and their own personal struggles to defeat the long-time winning race cars of Enzo Ferrari. Ford v Ferrari is thrilling with unexpected twists and turns – pun intended.

 

 

7. “Jojo Rabbit” (Taika Waititi)

 

“Jojo Rabbit” is nominated in six categories, among these including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Costume Design. The film centers around a young German boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic in the midst of World War II. Jojo is guided by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, and soon has to come to terms with the moral issues regarding his blind nationalism. This film stars 12-year-old Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Betzler), Taika Waititi (Hitler) and Scarlett Johansson (Rosie Betzler), nominated for best supporting actress. This is Johansson’s second nomination for this year’s Oscars. “Jojo Rabbit” plays with serious themes in a quirky, satirical and comedic style, which makes it a more approachable watch. 

 

 

8. “Little Women” (Greta Gerwig)

 

“Little Women,” adapted for the big screen for the seventh time, is nominated in six categories, including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. “Little Women” displays an all-star cast, with returning Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan (Jo March), Laura Dern (Marmee March), Timothee Chalamet (Theodore Lawrence) and three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Aunt March). Familiar face Emma Watson (Meg March) also graces the screen, along with fresh up and comers Florence Pugh (Amy March) and Eliza Scanlen (Beth March). The film follows four sisters and their individual journeys into womanhood. An unexpected love triangle forms following Jo’s rejection of Laurie (Chalamet), Jo pursues writing in New York, Amy pursues painting in Paris, Meg pursues love at home while timid youngest sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family together. Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a lovely triumph of feminine choice and power.

 

 

9. “Marriage Story” (Noah Baumbach)

 

“Marriage Story,” is nominated in six categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The film follows the inevitable divorce of a theatrical couple (Charlie and Nicole Barber) played by Oscar nominees Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Charlie Barber is a New York stage director married to young actress, Nicole, who originally hails from Los Angeles. Charlie and Nicole endure the challenging process of a coast to coast divorce and ultimately make the decision that is best for their young son. This film was directed in a very interesting dialectic style, since the actors recite their lines as if they are reading them off from the script, with line delivery on a spectrum ranging from monotone to incredibly over-dramatic, which reveals the role-playing nature of a marriage that was fake from the start. “Marriage Story” is a fascinating take on love lost in a marriage that may have never had real meaning.