Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rerun Article: Lizzy the Singing Lizard

Lizzy the Lizard loves her music!
Hey everyone, Lizzy here and I've been busy this week. I got home and I started listening to music on this app: Pandora. I found many of my favorite songs on it. I have no clue what I'd do if music was never here. I listen to music constantly, like when I'm writing my stories, cleaning around the house and my room, and before going to bed. Sometimes I love the song so much that I play it over and over. Lily, my sister, is a little annoyed when I play the same song over and over again but I can't help it. I've tried to write a song but Lily read it and said it wasn't very good, even though I think it is. Anyway, our topic today is music (as you can tell). I decided to have fun today and I looked up what music was and here's what came up:
"The art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotions."
Here's my definition of music: music can either lift our spirits or trash them. There are clean and uplifting songs and then their are in appropriate and dirty ones. Today I will show you some of my favorite song and why I like them.

I have so many good songs but I decided to pick the top seven. 

1. It's time for Africa by Shakira
Most of the time when I listen to songs on YouTube, I usually look for the lyrics video instead of the music video because I like seeing what words are in the song first. Anyway, I like this song, not only because its energetic but because its feels encouraging to me. You'll see why after reading the first verse.
You're a good soldier, choosing your battles. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and back on the saddle.  You're on the frontline, Everyone's watching. You know it's serious, we're getting closer. This isn't over. The pressure's on, You feel it. But you've got it all, Believe it.
It seems encouraging to me, maybe you have a different opinion but when I'm out on the field playing soccer or anything else that's a competition or hard, I'm gonna have this song in my head.

2. Radioactive by imagine dragons
I wasn't sure how to explain how I feel about this song. It may seem dark but that's not how I feel about it. Trying to look for the right words, I looked up what the song means. Dan Reynolds, who sang the song has this to say, "Radioactive to me, it's a very powerful-sounding song, and the lyrics behind it, there's a lot of personal story behind it, but generally speaking, it's a song about having an awakening; kind of waking up one day and deciding to do something new, and see life in a fresh way. A lot of people hear it in a dark way, but, I think, without saying the word too many times, it's empowering, and so we wanted to display that in a way that the listener wouldn't see normally." Reynold's had been struggling with depression and anxiety issues for most of his life. He put it like this: "Coming out of a pretty serious spell of depression and having a new awakening and real vigor for life."

3. Tell the World by Lacrae
This song also has a very powerful message to it. I've listened to it over six times in a row. That's how much I like it! The message is about being brand new in Christ. Near the end of the song, it says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, Behold, the new has come." That is based on one of my favorite verses, reminding me that I'm new in Christ and nothing should ever change me back. 

4. Fingerprints of God by Steven Curtis Chapman
Although this song seems to be meant for girls, the song has many important statements. My favorite is, "never has there been and never again, will there be another you." It makes makes me feel special and unique, knowing that no one is like me.

5-6. Fearless and Nothing's gonna stop me now both by Olivia Holt.
Both these song are upbeat and encouraging. I feel confident when I hear these songs. I find myself singing the songs, often. I guess songs can have that effect on you. Songs will change your attitude about things, that would also be why you have to be careful what you listen to.

7. Good time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson
This is the last song I'm going to talk about. It's all about having a positive attitude throughout the whole day. "It's always a good time", is the phrase used throughout song. Yep, this song is very catchy, especially the chorus.

Well that's all the time I have for today so this is Lizzy signing off!

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas of the Nativity Fever!

 “It's happening all around us,” said Nigel Milligan, CEO of Animal Adventures Inc. when my trusty, junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater, and I interviewed him last Tuesday. “Every year, I get more concerned about Christmas because it seems that with each passing year, the true meaning for this season gets lost in the shuffle, even by those who claim to proclaim it!” Nigel knows that way back when, America as a country considered Christmastime a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Though Jesus existed before He was born on earth – because He is One with God the Father – Christmas is the time we celebrate when Jesus was born as a human being – because He is also human) “But times are changing,” Nigel explains. “If you talk about Jesus Christ, people call you intolerant; nativity scenes and other Christian symbols are being removed and forgotten, and it's even often times forbidden to say something as simple as 'Merry Christmas'. My girlfriend was shopping in some of the department stores the other day, and she said she couldn't find one Christmas card with the Nativity, or Mary and Jesus on it? 'What is this world coming to?' she said. In fact, it's so bad that some have begun calling it 'The War on Christmas'.”

As Christians should know, Christmas is the time we set aside to celebrate Jesus' birth. But even many Christians seem to forget this. Nigel is quoted for saying, “Department stores and other businesses are trying to sell things as quickly as possible, and we the consumers are running around like dodo birds in a thunderstorm trying to buy, buy, buy and find that perfect gift for our friends and family. While giving to others is a good thing, we tend to focus more on ourselves during this time of year rather than on Christ. Without Him, there is no Christmas.”

I asked Nigel if there is any connection between the lack of focus on Christ during Christmas and Santa Claus, a popular icon for this time of year. “Yes and no,” Nigel answered. “No, I don't think Santa Claus is intentionally trying to lead people away from God. However, people, children especially, are always focusing on Kris Kringle...[They're] trying to be good so they can get presents on Christmas Eve when he flies their way. Parents, television and friends of these children sow the seeds of commercialism in them during Christmastime. Sure, many parents may assume their children already know about the true meaning of Christmas, but what if they've been paying for attention to the false meaning of Christmas; what if when asked Who the center of Christmas is, they answer, 'Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer?'; what if when it's time to sing Christmas songs together, they can't seem to remember the words to 'O Holy Night', 'Mary, Did You Know' or 'Away in a Manger', but know 'Jingle Bells' and 'Santa is Coming To Town' perfectly well? I've seen it happen so often in children of this generation.”

Adults too, Nigel explains, fall into the world's trap of commercialism and focus on everything but Christ during Christmas. “It's saddening,” Nigel says, “to see how many parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and other family members remind their children that they need to rush out of church so they can get home and fix a meal before the family comes over, or so they can run to the store and get that last minute Christmas gift.”

Nigel says, “For this Christmas, I have some advice for everyone: slow down! Slow down and consider what you are doing for the holidays. As Christians, we should show those around us through our actions Who are focus is on and who we are in Christ. Are we really doing that when we're acting just like the rest of the world this time of year? That's why, we at AAI. have decided to start the 'Nativity Fever'!”

Nativity Fever, is, as Nigel's calling it, an attempt to get people thinking about the true meaning of Christmas. “Jesus was a radical person,” Nigel explains, “and I believe that He wants us to follow in His footsteps, so we should be radical too, even if other people don't like it. Hey, I mean, not everyone liked Jesus in His time either!” Inspired by the recent Minnesota Nativity Scene occurrence, Nigel and everyone at AAI. will be setting up nativity scenes around the property and several designated areas around the town. In addition to that, they will be conducting a mini-parade through the streets of Riverville featuring a live nativity. “We will have many human residents participating, as well as many animals: sheep, donkeys, cows, goats and camels, things like that. However, we'll be careful to be as biblically accurate as we can in our portrayal of the Nativity; for example, we will not show the wise men and their camels near baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the manger because, according to the Bible, they didn't visit Jesus until He was a 'child', perhaps a year or two old.”

It's a small step, but what Nigel believes that this parade and the Nativity scenes he and his company will set up will be a good witnessing tool. Lord-willing, it will get people thinking about Jesus, the real meaning of the season, and give Nigel and the others a chance to share with unbelievers (and remind believers) that Jesus Christ came into the world as a baby almost 2,000 years ago so that, 33 years later, He could sacrifice Himself by dying on a cross for the sins that each and everyone one of us commit each day so that if we call upon His name to save us, we will not have to suffer the penalty of sin – eternal separation from God – and exist with God after we die. And to prove what He said He came to earth to do was true, He rose again.

To coin the phrase,” Nigel says, “it's time to put Christmas back in Christ!”


Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

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Next Issue: Rerun Article: Lizzy the Singing Lizard

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rerun Article: Star of Wonder, Star of Treasure Discovered!

The three gifts the wise men gave long ago

“Through mountains and valleys it led them each night, a star of most radiant light. The wise men rejoiced as they journeyed afar, to behold such a beautiful star!”
sung by Kathy Mattea

These are the words to a beautiful song called “When They Saw the Star”. This song talks about the wise men that had visited baby Jesus and presented him with gifts. But this is where many people get the Nativity Story wrong: if you were to go out and ask a bunch of people walking down the street right now and asked what they know about the wise men in the Bible, most, if not all of them would say that they visited Jesus in Bethlehem as He laid in the manger. Well, go get your Bible and look in the book of Matthew in the second chapter. That’s where it talks about the wise men. Does it say they visited Jesus in the manger? Read it for yourself in verse 11: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him . . .” Does that say anything about a manger? Noooooo! It clearly says that they visited Jesus when he was living in a house with His mother (and His dad too). Yet, we see the wise men visiting Jesus in the manger in television shows, movies, plays, nativity sets and so forth. However, the wise men really did follow a star to find the Child. They followed this star until they finally reached the place where Jesus was. Then they presented Him with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We don’t really know how many wise men there were, but since three gifts were given, it is assumed by many that there were three. However, after the gifts are given to Jesus, they mysteriously disappear. As far as we know, they don’t appear in scripture anywhere. They kind of just floated off into the unknown . . . right? That’s what everyone thought until one day, that famed explorer and archaeologist, Indiana James, took a little trip to Vermont to visit his grandparents. While visiting, he went in a little antique shop and saw something in the corner of his eye sitting in a box in the very back of the store (the store was really junky, the antique dealer just bought antiques and piled them into piles or onto shelves in the store, so for the most part she really didn’t know what she had to sell). He took a look at three little “jars” in the box and realized there was something very peculiar about them . . . they looked strangely familiar. “I don’t know how on earth these would have looked familiar to me,” says Indiana James, “considering I really had never seen them before. Maybe it was just pure providence. Yeah, it probably was.” After taking a few minutes looking at the beautiful objects, he opened one of them up to reveal some strong smelling spices. He recognized it as frankincense. He opened another container and realized it was a bright, shiny object called gold. And the final container was filled with myrrh. He instantly knew the kind of find he had made and quickly bought the objects he found. He tried asking the antique store owner how on earth these three objects got from the Middle East to Vermont, she shrugged. So it was up to Indiana James to find the origins of these little “jars” to see if they were in fact the same ones given to Jesus. How would he find out? Well, he first found out where the antique store owner bought the pieces from. She said she had bought them from an old lady who lived up by Champlain Lake. This is what Indiana did with all of the people who had once owned these valuable artifacts. After doing his research (and eventually flying all the way to the Holy Lands), he believes he knows how on earth these pieces made it here to the U.S.: the lady at the antique shop bought the “jars” from an old lady. The old lady got it from a friend of hers who had had it in her family for at least three generations. The “three-generation” family kept the artifacts because a man in their family named Pilot Gorge Kingston, had it in his possessions during his piloting during World War II. How did he receive the treasures? Well, he bought it from a merchant in the Middle East who found the treasures in an old shed. The shed used to belong to a “police” who had confiscated the treasures from thieves who stole it from an emperor who had received the “jars” from a poor man. This is where the story is abrupt. “I looked in all the resources I could find,” says Indiana James, “but nowhere could I find how the treasures got from Jesus’ family to the poor man. All I know is that this poor man lived in the area Jesus grew up in. This mystery will have to wait for future generations to solve it . . . if I don’t discover it before I am dead and gone, that is!” So as the archaeologist says, this mystery will have to wait to be solved. But regardless of how it got from Jesus’ family to the antique dealer, we mustn’t forget that this is not the reason for Christmas in the first place. The real reason for the season is not the wise men’s gifts, instead, it commemorates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who left His throne in heaven and humbled Himself. He came to earth for one main reason – to die for our sins. He took the punishment for our sins so that we don’t have to. Thanks to Jesus, when we die, we can go to heaven to live with God. Thanks to Jesus, all we have to do to get admittance in heaven is admit that we have sinned and need Jesus’s salvation, next we have to believe that Jesus is 100% God (yet he’s also 100% man), and last but certainly not least, we must confess our faith in Jesus and chose to live for Him. And that’s what Christmas is all about! Have a merry, merry Christmas from all of us here at Smiley’s News!

PS: The wise men’s treasures are now safe and sound in the Riverville Museum of Natural History, thank goodness for that!

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographed by: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

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Next Issue: TBD

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rerun Article: Reindeer Girl Power!

Elizabeth Sorkin and a pair of reindeer, Elizabeth is one of the scientists involved in explaining how Santa's reindeer do certain things, such as fly
You know their names, we all know their names. I think just about everybody knows the names of those helpful little animals that, come every Christmas Eve, help Santa Claus pull his sleigh. You know – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Those nine reindeer faithfully, every year pull Santa Claus’s sleigh to help him deliver presents to all the children of the world. Over the years, a lot of myths have come up about these deer. One of the biggest myths of all is also the most surprising. How can I break it to you? After careful research, scientists have concluded that Santa’s reindeer buddies aren’t the majestic, awe-inspiring bucks we often see depicted. Instead, these reindeer are majestic awe-inspiring . . . does (pronounced as doehs)! Yes, you did read right. Santa’s reindeer that haul the sleigh full of toys are actually female! How is this possible? Well, my trusty junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater and I headed over to Dr. Elizabeth Sorkin, the veterinarian at Animal Adventures Institute to learn about this reindeer myth. Dr. Elizabeth says, “The reason why we now know Santa’s reindeer are female is because of a few reasons. First of all, right after the rut in the winter, male reindeer, like all other deer, lost their antlers, while females keep their antlers all year long. Also, soon after the rut, reindeer bucks are tired from the fighting with other males over females. The reindeer pulling the sleigh have to contend with a load of toys AND a plump little man while they fly through the night air.” After asking why male reindeer are normally what is seen in Christmas movies, she says, “This is because most Christmas movies are actually filmed in the summer. Very few Christmas movies are filmed in the winter. During the summer, reindeer bucks are big and strong, even stronger than the does. So naturally, they choose these deer for the movies and ever since, people have always been confused.” Wow, this is shocking, I mean, we’ve all grown up thinking these deer were male.

On the topic of reindeer, I decided to ask Dr. Elizabeth another popular question came to mind: How do reindeer fly? Dr. Elizabeth is quoted to saying, “A lot of people have different ideas about how reindeer fly. This is because no one knows. I have my own theory: if you’ve ever seen the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, you’ll recall that Charlie and his grandpa were able to float because of this special drink they drunk. The drink filled them with gas and this was how they could float. (However, unlike the movie, reindeer have more control in the air and don’t have to burp to get the gas out of their body). I did my research and found out that the drink was made from a special type of corn that grows only in below freezing temperatures. It is called Zea mays hellifer, a.k.a. “Magic Feed Corn”. I believe that “Magic Feed Corn” is fed to the reindeer and this is what lifts them off the ground and helps Santa deliver presents to children all over the world.”

Then yet another question that has puzzled me since forever: how does Rudolph’s nose glow? “No one is quite sure why Rudolph’s nose glows the way it does,” she says, “but there are many theories. One theory – the Sun-to-Nose Theory – is that light from the sun, moon, or whatever light source is around hits the nose and something inside the nose makes the light bounce back from the nose and to every other direction. One problem with this theory is that the light from Rudolph’s nose shines on and off, with or without another light source. Another possibly theory is the Hot Nose Theory. This theory suggests that Rudolph’s nose is lit up by the hot air coming out of her nose. Another theory – the Firefly-Nose Theory – is that perhaps inside Rudolph’s nose, there are two chemicals, luciferase and luciferin, the same chemicals that make a firefly’s tail shine. So perhaps this is why her nose glows.”

Wow! We learned a lot about Santa’s Best Friends. Now you know how they fly, what gender they really are and why Rudolph’s nose glows. Most of the reindeers’ names are unisex, so there’s no problem with most of them. If the name “Rudolph” sounds a bit boyish to you, you can simply call her the name in the song that we can now all sing, “Rudolpha, the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose . . .”

A reindeer

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographed by: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan

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Next Issue: Rerun Article: Star of Wonder, Star of Treasure Discovered!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Rerun Article: The Mysteries of Saint Nicholas

Does Santa Claus exist? There's plenty of "evidence" that he doesn't . . . but how valid is it? Read this week's article to find out!
Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus and Kris Kringle, is a hot topic this time of year. (And by hot, I mean HOT!) Many people firmly believe in him, others do not. But what's the truth? I mean, how else do all those presents get under the Christmas tree? I've heard plenty and plenty of so-called evidences that Santa Claus doesn't exist. I've heard them time and time again and it gets awful annoying. I seriously believe some people are paid to prove Santa Claus doesn't exist. This past Monday, I was bored in my office at Smiley's News (which, as you might recall is a part of Animal Adventures Inc.) with my trusty, junior photographer, Daniel P. Smithwater, Lizzy the Lizard, another writer at Smiley's News and a ton of arguments on the internet that Santa Claus doesn't exist and what was I to do? Well, my photographer and I decided to get to the bottom of this and find out evidence that Santa exists! I firmly believe that he exists with little or no evidence, but other people aren't so convinced so . . . oh, my photographer just informed me that I'm babbling so I'll get right to the point. Daniel, Lizzy and I did our own research to find a conclusion. First of all, I'll refresh your memory on just what Santa Claus has to do every Christmas Eve – as we all know, Santa jumps into his sleigh with his red bag and tons of presents and he flies into the sky thanks to his nine reindeer. Now, let's look at each of the arguments against Santa Claus' existence and I'll put my arguments forth and we'll prove once and for all that old Saint Nick exists!

Argument #1 – No one can deliver presents all over the world in one night, not even Santa Claus

Well, let's look at the facts: there are around seven billion people in the world and around one billion are kids. Here's the math: Santa has 24 hours to deliver all the presents, and one billion divided by 24 equals 41,666,666 kids per hour! And we're not finished yet! After dividing 41,666,666 by 60 (as there are 60 minutes in an hour), you get 649,444 kids to be visited per minute. After dividing 649,444 by 60 (as there are 60 seconds in one minute). That's 11,5574 kids per second! How does the old guy do it? Many Santa-disbelievers object to his existence because they think it's impossible to visit that many kids in one night because the day's simply not long enough. So, how do I counterattack this? Well, my assistants and I visited Dr. Dodo Bird, Animal Adventures Inc.'s psychiatrist (he does other stuff as well) to offer a few theories as to how this could be done. “First of all, a lot of people believe that Santa can't deliver presents to all the children of the world,” Dr. Dodo says, “but many people forget that not everyone celebrates Christmas in the first place! So if you count out those kids that don't celebrate Christmas, you still have a lot of kids left to visit. That's where the Time-Continuum Theory comes in!” Dr. Dodo explained that in the Time-Continuum Theory, Santa Claus could travel in his sleigh in the direction of the setting sun. So if he leaves the North Pole at 12:00 pm. he would start in Australia, in the earliest time zone, and then fly west. As he passes through different time zones going westward, he gains an hour each time he enters a new time zone. Dr. Dodo is quoted for saying, “Even though this theory is quite popular among Santa-believers, it's probably not enough time for Santa Claus to make his delivery. That's why I invented an all-new theory of my own: meet (*drum roll*) . . . the Time-Travel Theory!” According to the Dodo bird (who isn't much of a dodo after all!), Santa would have to travel extremely fast and thanks to a presumably reindeer AND jet-powered sleigh, this can be done. Dr. Dodo explains, “If Santa could travel extremely fast – say, jet-airplane-speed – strange things could happen. Going at extremely fast speeds could possibly result in the ability of time travel! (It might seem weird, but flying at light-speed might actually accomplish time-travel) And if Santa is time-traveling, he might be able to travel back in time and therefore add time to his time limit!” So much for this argument!

Argument #2 – Reindeer can't fly

Obviously, most reindeer can't fly. So how would Santa's Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Doner, Blitzen and Rudolph take to the air? Since it turns out we already covered this article last year in an article all about Santa's best buds, I'll just sum it all up: it's theorized that the reindeer gain their power of flight by consuming a special type of corn (called Magic Feed Corn) that fills their bodies with gas (not the rude kind of gas) and they can float into the air. By kicking their legs while in the air, they can move quite gracefully through the air. If you're thinking about trying some of this corn, I wouldn't advise it – side effects may include throat rashes, hair loss and strange hallucinations and dreams concerning Santa Claus and the North Pole-themed shopping centers.

Argument #3 – The North Pole's in the middle of the Arctic ocean

It's true, if you look at a map of the world and look at the North Pole, you'll realize that it's smack dab in the middle of the deep, blue ocean. How can Santa Claus's workshop be in the middle of the ocean? Well, it turns out that up in the pole, it's obviously bitterly cold, so icebergs often floats in the ocean all year round. My sources have led me to conclude that Santa Claus might have special techniques not only to keep the icebergs the size they need to keep the workshop floating, but also to keep the iceberg in the same location so we don't find Santa's workshop floating somewhere in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Many have also wondered why we don't find satellite-imaging evidence for Santa's existence, but perhaps his workshop's inside instead of on top of the iceberg? Something like in the Santa Clause franchise? Then we might never know he's there (which is kind of the point). While doing my research, Lizzy brought up another suggestion: “What if he's not in the North Pole at all?” “What do you mean?” I asked. “What if we think he's in the North Pole? He could be living in the South Pole for all we know, and we'd never know to look there because we think he's up north!” Then it hit me – Lizzy's got a point! So in summary, Santa's workshop could be either in or on top of an iceberg in the North Pole or at the South Pole in Antarctica.

Argument #4 – “I saw my parents putting 'presents from Santa' under the Christmas tree.”

One of the most common arguments of all is that kids claim to have witnessed their parents putting “Santa's” presents underneath the Christmas tree. How on earth can we argue against this? Well, my assistants and I thought long and hard about this . . . and we finally thought of an incredible solution! Santa Claus needs to be kept secret, right? And nonbelievers in Santa wouldn't be so inclined to find him, especially if they remember putting presents underneath the tree for their kids. What if Santa has an ingenious invention to ensure people don't make serious searches for him by causing them to forget with – what else? – an amnesia-inator? If this supposed amnesia-inator exists, one of Santa's elves could easily press a “global-extent” button and people would not only forget not-putting presents under the tree and “remember” doing just that, but (some) kids might “remember” seeing their parents doing the deed. Isn't it ingenious? Of course, it must not effect everyone, or we'd have one too many unbelievers and that's not good.

So there you have it! Four evidences against the four most common arguments against Santa's existence. So you readers can now scream to your unbelieving friends, “Ha! Mr. Smiley told me evidence that Santa does exist!” Now that you've read this article, I have a question: do you (now) believe in Santa Claus? My assistants and I know our answer full and well, and it was the same one given to a certain young girl who asked about Old St. Nicks existence: “Yes [Virginia], there is a Santa Claus!”

Written by: Mr. Smiley
Photographer: Daniel P. Smithwater
Edited by: Christian Ryan, Joy Hammond

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