All posts by Jackson Reichardt

The decline of the feline

When you hear the term “newspaper comic strip,” what do you think of? Some people’s minds are drawn to the misadventures of Charlie Brown in Peanuts, while others might think of the imaginative and colorful adventures of a young boy and his tiger in Calvin and Hobbes. Among all the other comic strips, the one with the lazy orange feline is the one that reigns supreme, Garfield.

Garfield is one of the most important and influential comic strips. Over its 43-year run, the comic has provided endless hours of entertainment to millions of fans across the globe. However nowadays, Garfield isn’t as popular as he used to be in the 1980s and the 1990s, and most people want to know “what happened?” Slowly over the years, the comic has been on a slow and steady decline in its quality, with seemingly no end to the strip and its downward spiral. Garfield is a former shadow of itself, failing to deliver the same enjoyment and iconic status that it once held, however all hope is not lost, as there are things that can be done to improve the comic to its legendary status.

After Jim Davis had canceled his earliest comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, he began working on a comic strip simply titled Jon that ran in the Pendleton Times newspaper from 1976 to 1977. Soon, the comic would be renamed to Garfield, and would begin its syndication in newspapers on June 19th, 1978. This comic strip followed the daily adventures of Jon Arbuckle, a freelance cartoonist living with his obese, orange tabby cat, Garfield. Together, the two would experience many exciting mishaps, specifically surrounding Garfield’s laziness and constant bothering of Jon. With its deadpan sense of humor and a feeling of sarcastic, dry wit, the comic instantly became a smash hit, with a Sunday strip being added to the comic’s lineup only a year after release. The comic was becoming one of the most popular strips in newspapers. For a brief time, Garfield seemed unstoppable, and would lay the groundwork for hundreds of many future comic strips through its influence on millions of people. However, Jim Davis didn’t wait very long to cash in on his favorite feline and little did he know that this would lead to the downfall of the very thing he created.

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Most people would say that Garfield peaked between the late 1980s to the early 1990s. This was when the comic was at its all-time height of popularity, and Jim Davis wanted a piece of the orange pie. Two years after the comic’s debut, with the comic strip appearing in over a thousand newspapers at the time, Jim Davis founded Paws Inc., a company that would handle the merchandise distribution for the franchise. With the ever-growing popularity of Garfield exploding into pop culture, merchandise sales for the franchise increased as well. Jim Davis would then spend more of his effort and time as a businessman managing the merchandise sales of his comic strip franchise, rather than spending time on the actual comic strip itself. This is the start of Garfield’s slow decline: a push to focus on merchandise on promotions rather than the center of the content. Many would argue that the shift to marketing for the franchise is what got the comic into the state that it is currently in, but I would argue that the comic is not completely lost.

Even after all that has been previously described about the comic’s critical status, the comic is not completely gone. There is a way that Garfield can return to the iconic and legendary status that he once held. The simple answer is that Jim Davis would just have to return to the comic and continue to contribute more. While Jim Davis wouldn’t have to be the head writer for the comic anymore, if he at least were a more involved creative supervisor over the ghost writers and authors, the comic’s quality would absolutely see a positive growth.  It’s no secret that the Garfield comic is mainly handled under unnamed writers and artists under Jim Davis’ name, but if the comic had a more solid direction from Davis himself, chances are the comic’s quality can be improved for the better.

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Garfield has been running for several decades and doesn’t show any signs of stopping any time soon. The comic has had a massive influence on millions of people across the world and has inspired future generations of comic artists as well. It’s impossible to deny the huge presence and iconic status that Garfield has held, even if it is a simple comic strip about a fat orange cat and his cartoonist owner living in Muncie, Indiana. Even though the comic might be in a quality rut nowadays, hopefully it won’t stay that way forever. If Jim Davis understands why people love Garfield and company so much, then maybe one day he can return to write for his magnum opus. While the comic is not on the same quality as it used to be, the fact the comic is still running is a testament to the legacy of the strip and the characters that Jim Davis has created, and I’m looking forward to reading Garfield for years to come.

Jackson Reichardt is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Teaching in the age of misinformation

It’s unarguable that politics is now a part of modern society more than it ever has been before. With the growth of the internet, and its spread in accessibility across the world, more and more people across various demographics have entered the world of politics. One of the most important and potentially most impressionable demographics exposed to this topic are children and teens. Kids and teens are being exposed to politics more than generations prior, primarily through social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. Unfortunately, this has also led to this young demographic being fed political misinformation and exposed to extreme and polarizing views on various arguments. Thankfully, efforts are being taken across society to help combat the spread of misinformation, as well as helping kids learn to educate themselves on various political issues and topics.

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Mount Saint Joseph’s own Mr. Ryan Folmer is an alum from the class of 1996 and has been teaching at the Mount for 17 years. He aims to help combat political misinformation within his class curricula. When asked what period of history was most significant for him to teach, Mr. Folmer stated that learning the origins of humanity is essential for his students to learn, as it helps students understand the concept of race.

There are many, but I think my core, central goal is for us to do and understand history as it really is, not a set of facts or dates to be memorized, but a process of argument and understanding about the past.

Mr. Ryan Folmer

“There are many different lessons that students need to learn, but if I had to pick one, it would be understanding the origins of our racial issues in this country; how race is a construct that has been used by people to gain and maintain power over people for centuries, but it is not natural. It is a decision people have made and continues to be made.”

When asked about his core goals as a teacher at The Mount and the Social Studies Department Chair, Mr. Folmer had this to say:

“There are many, but I think my core, central goal is for us to do and understand history as it really is, not a set of facts or dates to be memorized, but a process of argument and understanding about the past.”

Learning about how history has affected our society is the first step to understanding the spread of politics in modern society. Without this understanding of the evolution of humanity throughout history, we won’t be able to know how politics is a critical factor in our modern society’s growth.

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With politics being a primary factor in society more than ever, it’s affected how human society views and reacts to politics. With how rapid-fire political memes and messages are shared on social media, kids and teens are being exposed to more radical and polarizing viewpoints from all sides of the political spectrum. On the one hand, it is good that kids are being exposed to political topics at an earlier age, as it will help these kids develop a thinking pattern of detecting lies and misinformation early on in their lives.

When asked about kids being exposed to politics sooner, Mr. Folmer responded with this: “I think the younger students start having these conversations, the better; they will have these skills as older students and adults without succumbing to prejudices, biases, and lies.”

Ryken Award winner, Mr. Phil Campbell has been teaching at Mount Saint Joseph for 25 years. When asked about politics being more readily available, he had this to say, “I feel that it has been helpful in providing an array of resources available to students, but it places more responsibility on the students to find accurate, less biased news.” 

The Social Studies classroom holds a quintessential role in teaching students how to evaluate and corroborate sources, whether for a research paper or just while reading your daily news.

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Unfortunately, while kids being exposed to politics at a younger demographic can be positive, every reaction has an opposite and equal reaction. With social media comes the spread of misinformation, both through fake news articles and political and satirical memes shared around. With how widespread the internet is, people are being exposed to incorrect information daily, forming political opinions purely based on misinformation and not fact-checking their sources.

Mr. Folmer stated that the spread of misinformation has already impacted the previous election results and will continue to affect voter stances for years to come. “If you look at those who wrongly believe that the last election was illegitimate, it’s clear this is already having an impact and likely will in the coming years.”

However, all is not lost. Mr. Folmer is taking action in his classrooms and class curricula to help combat information. When asked how he is taking action against the age of misinformation, Mr. Folmer said, “I am asking my students to take a critical look at sources, ideas, narratives, their own positions, etc., and understand media biases and their own biases is at the core of so much of what we do; whether that is in a history class, a current events class, or a government and politics course.”

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Social Studies in our schools is more critical than ever.  We rely on Social Studies to prepare students, and future voters, to think critically and carefully examine the facts.  Social Studies drives us to continue to question and discover the truth. In the earliest days of our nation, our Founders believed in the importance of civic engagement and working for the greater good; these tenants are at the heart of any Social Studies curriculum and very prominent here at The Mount.  Social Studies classes will continue to provide the skills to combat false narratives, fake news, and misinformation campaigns if we are only willing to practice the valuable lessons they offer.

Jackson Reichardt is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Making the most of your summer

The morning sun greets my bedroom from my stay in NC.

The time is 8:30 AM, Eastern Standard Time. The sunlight was peeking through the closed blinds hanging motionless over the windows. Birds sang a soft but gentle song as a new summer day began for the world. I peaked my eyes open to be greeted by the orange glow of the misty sun. I was waking up in an unfamiliar bed. I sat up and slid out of my sheets, ready to take a shower. I was soon ready to start my day, but I was not at my familiar suburb home in Arbutus, Maryland. I was miles away in a house in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, on a summer vacation with my family.

Summer vacation is something that is often taken for granted. Yes, summer is meant to be fun, and you’re supposed to enjoy those three months that you have to the fullest that you can. However, when asked about summer, most people will say that they spent their summer doing what they wanted and focused on their central needs. While it is true that summer should be a time to improve the things about yourself that you may not like, you aren’t the only person you know, after all. With the time in summer, some of it should be dedicated to the most important people in your life: your family. Family can mean various things to different people, but the core definition of family is the people closest to you that you care about. This can either be your immediate relatives that you live with, or it could be people such as your relationship partner or a really close group of friends you’ve known for years. With the time you have in those three months, you have more than enough time to grow closer with your family.

The front entrance sign to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One way that my family strengthens our bonds together is through road trips and vacations. Every year, my family takes a week long road trip vacation to anywhere we can find. More often than not, we rent out a house to stay at and spend a week in the area, checking out the various tourist attractions and sightseeing places we can find. To give an example, during the past 2021 summer, my family and I spent a week in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, where we went to the national park of the area, observed local waterfalls and other scenic vistas, as well as trying the local cuisine.

A smoky morning in the Smoky Mountains.

You may ask, “Why should I bond with my family during summer?” Doing activities that can be commonly enjoyed by anyone is a way to grow closer through the common interests your family shares. Sharing your opinions on your interests with people you know who share that same interest is another way to show affection to the people who mean the most to you. Long after you grow older and move away from your home family, you’ll soon build a new family with your partner and your children, and hopefully they will take the skills you have taught them towards their eventual families. Learning to share the beauty of enjoying each other’s company through the free time of summer is the best way to bond with those you care about. Hopefully, you can take your interests along with you to your family and strengthen your bond with them in future summers to come.

The comforting wooden porch my family and I rested on in the evening.

Jackson Reichardt is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

MSJ at the Movies: Cobra Kai

There are always those classic movies you can go back to watch and enjoy them as much as you did on your first viewing. One of those movies for me is the original Karate Kid. While the sequels or the Jaden Smith spiritual successor don’t pull me in quite as much, the original is still a classic that I can easily come back to watch at any time.

When I found out that there was going to be a new Karate Kid sequel show, I was a little skeptical at first, but eventually found myself engaged in the whole show. Thankfully, the new “YouTube-Premium-series-turned-Netflix-series” gives that same enjoyable amount of content that can be rewatched multiple times, and still be found entertaining and enjoyable. If you are thinking about watching this show, maybe this spoiler free review of Season One will help pull your attention in!

Set thirty-four years after events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, Cobra Kai follows Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

As I wrote earlier, Cobra Kai is a sequel series to the original trilogy of Karate Kid movies from the 1980s. This series follows Johnny Lawrence, the antagonist of the original film, who lost to Daniel LaRusso in the climactic battle of the first movie. Johnny Lawrence is down on his luck, living alone in an apartment block in Reseda, California. One day, after being fired from his job, Johnny saves a kid, named Miguel, from a group of bullies at a nearby convenience store. This act of courage from Johnny inspired himself to reopen the old Cobra Kai dojo, the dojo he was a part of and represented during the All Valley Karate Tournament in 1984. Taking in Miguel as his first student, Johnny trains Miguel in the ways of Cobra Kai karate and begins to take in more students. This alerts the attention of his rival, Daniel LaRusso, who is lacking the direction from his deceased master, Mr. Miyagi. Soon, Daniel begins to train two students, his daughter, Samantha, and surprisingly Johnny’s estranged son, Robby.

Cobra Kai may seem like a dramatic show, but the show is more than just that. Between the drama and tension, there are moments of camaraderie between the masters and students, and yes, of course, there are many action scenes involving karate fights. The show does a great job at balancing out the tension, the comedy, and the action quite well, sometimes even having these tones play into each other. A part of the show that might draw in older fans of the movies is it’s soundtrack. The soundtrack occasionally sprinkles in familiar 80’s classics to tie it back to the generation the movies are from, as well as resonating with older generations of fans of the series. The soundtrack besides the 80s classics does a great job at helping show the emotion in a scene and help the characters resonate with the audience in a scene with well fitting music.

In addition, the show’s scenes are shot very well, with dynamic angles and great shot composition to subtly play into the story and the emotions of the characters. Overall, the composition and details along with a compelling and gripping story that make up this show are incredibly well done and make this show a treat to watch, especially in Season One. Season One was a fantastic start to this series, and this level of quality has carried over to the other two seasons, but for anyone new to this series, Season One is a great start. Enjoy!

Jackson Reichardt is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

A high school artist’s reflection

As an artist, there’s always opportunities to make art in many different mediums, and there are hundreds of other mediums out there, both in traditional and digital. I have personally been drawing with pencil on paper for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until more recent years when I began to gain more of an appreciation for other art mediums. I finally started to branch out into other mediums and expand my abilities beyond just simple sketching. However, even after all these years, I still enjoy basic pencil and paper sketching, so let me tell you about the different ways that I have made art and the many programs and mediums I have used.

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Starting first and foremost with the basics, is pencil and paper. Ever since I even knew how to draw, I was always drawing traditionally. As a kid I would always grab as much printer paper as I could and a stack of pencils and doodle away for hours. While I was never the best artist or respectful of the rules of being an artist like composition and anatomy, I still enjoyed the process of drawing and creating cartoons on paper. As I got older, I got more accustomed to the method of traditional drawing and began to flesh out my own unique style, and began to work more both in the traditional method, and the digital method as well. 

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Getting older introduced me to the method of “digital art,” where I could scan in my traditional drawings through a picture to an art software program, and then add digital coloring and lining. This process certainly took me a while to get used to, as it was essentially drawing the same thing twice, but as I did it more and more, and developed my skills further, it became my preferred method of drawing. With my digital art, I still try to keep a sense of “cartoonish-ness” in my drawings; creating something expressive that someone could view and enjoy upon first glance. However, traditional and digital cartoon drawing isn’t the only thing I am capable of, as I am familiar with another medium through Photoshop editing.

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Everyone and their grandmother has heard of Photoshop before, and for a good reason. It’s arguably the most versatile picture-editing software out there, and has been around for years and used by millions of people across the world every day. I have only recently started using Photoshop in the last year, as most of my summer class in Intro to Digital Art was focused on using pictures and editing them through Photoshop. Even after the class was over, I still wanted to do more with Photoshop, and I didn’t want to let my talent go to waste. Over the summer, I watched tutorials on how to create posters, and create graphic design logos. While I am still learning, I hope I can continue to improve and further my abilities.

Wanna learn Photoshop? Check out this free course being offered on YouTube!

While I initially started off with one medium, I slowly grew to appreciate and use more artistic outlets and mediums. Growing my abilities has taught me that it’s okay to leave my comfort zone, and that going outside of said comfort zone can help me to become an even better artist than I would be inside of my comfort zone. I have been an artist for many years, and I don’t see myself dropping art anytime soon, and I hope to continue my passion for years to come.

Jackson Reichardt is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Mountain biking thrives during the pandemic

On any given Monday, you are likely to find 30 high schoolers in purple jerseys cranking their gears, trying their hardest to climb that final hill. During these confusing and unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of our activities were put on hold. Many sporting events had to be postponed or stopped altogether for safety reasons, such as high school football and soccer. However, there is one sport that has managed to survive through these uncertain times, and that is the sport of mountain biking.

While many of the other sports teams at Mount Saint Joseph High School had to, unfortunately, be paused, Mountain Biking was still given the grace to continue during the quarantine period. How did the riders continue their sport with these new complications, and how has COVID-19 caused a lasting impact on mountain biking? As a mountain bike team member myself, I reached out to riders and coaches to try and find the answers to these compelling questions.

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As mentioned before, mountain biking can be a naturally socially distant sport. On the team rides for MSJ, riders are spaced out in single file lines as they roll and cruise down the valleys and hills of Patapsco State Park. This naturally distant activity is what helped push the sport to continue to remain active as a sport at Mount Saint Joseph after the quarantine order was put into effect. Due to the appeal of an outside activity to many Americans, biking saw a massive increase of people wanting to participate from all across the nation. According to the NDP Group, April of 2020 was the first recorded month to have over 1 billion dollars in revenue generated from the biking business, compared to the average 500 million in previous years.

Mountain biking coach Mike Saverino, from the class of 1983, said this sudden increase was the result of people looking for new sports to try during the quarantine. “I believe the sudden increase had a few reasons.  All other sports were canceled, mountain biking is an outdoor, distanced, and safe sport.  It is also all-inclusive so siblings and families could all participate,” said Saverino.

Mike Saverino, Mount St. Joseph Class of 1983

Many MSJ students wanted to get outdoors to enjoy the fresh air of the woods, and they saw the mountain biking team as the perfect opportunity to be able to not only exercise but to be able to join a community of fellow bikers.

One aspect of the bike team that has culminated in the result of the pandemic was the community of riders on the team becoming closer than before. Communities of bikers could always be seen at special events such as the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) races, trail building at Patapsco, and many other places. However, due to COVID-19 and its many restrictions, races and larger gatherings were not able to be held, but the riders still found a way to form their communities, by strengthening their relationship with members of their home team or other rider friends.

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At Mount Saint Joseph, the biking team is composed of a vast number of members from grades 9 to 12, and a variety of skill sets and abilities. As a team of fellow Mount brothers, the riders together form a community that is strengthened with every new ride. Junior team member Felix Smolen ‘22 said that people had a natural longing to want to spend time with friends, and this led to people forming friend communities on bike teams.

MSJ Mountain Biking member Felix Smolen

Felix Smolen ’22: “I think that ignoring demographics and politics, it’s giving people an opportunity on how they spend their time with people because at the end of the day, we have to stay inside and be with our family, and sometimes that drives people crazy, and I love my family but I also want to hang out with my friends. So we’ve had fewer opportunities to do that in the normal sense, going to the mall or watching movies, so we’ve had to get creative with it. It’s brought people together in different ways and hopefully, once all of this is over, it’s gonna strengthen people with different methods of bringing people together, and make whatever bond there is stronger.”

The future remains uncertain for the time being as to when restrictions will finally be lifted for things to “return to normal,” but the way we do things with other people in public will never truly return to normal. COVID-19 will always have an impact on the way we go about our daily lives and activities and has shown the world how we are to be considerate as to what are the activities that matter the most to us. The communities of mountain biking have grown stronger and closer together ever since the order to quarantine, and once the quarantine ban is lifted, those strong bonds will certainly continue to be felt for many more trail rides to come.

Jackson Reichardt is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class