Author: Evan McKenna

Help Prevent Illness with These 5 Immune Boosters

Originally published under Smack Media, written by Evan McKenna

It’s 9 p.m., and as you lie in bed, you notice something strange about your throat and ears: they itch when you swallow. You tell yourself that it’s pollen or seasonal allergies. But both you and your body know that it feels like something worse.

By morning, the itch has developed into a sharp pain, and now it’s too late to call out of work. As you sit in traffic on the way to the office, you look for tissues in your glove compartment. But they’re all gone. Your nose is running. You need to wipe it.

I’m sick, y​ou admit.

For the next week you endure the burdensome and painful illness, asking yourself something along the lines of, “​why did I touch my face after picking up my son’s germ-covered baby toys?” Or, “Why didn’t I just wash that lettuce?”

But there is another way you could have prevented this from happening: immune boosters. Here are five herbal and vitamin-infused products that you can try next time.

Protects Against More Than Just Vampires

It’s time to open those sinuses and protect against colds with Garlic Allium Sativum. This valuable herbal supplement has a long history of healing because of its antiviral powers. Crushing garlic cloves generates a sulfur compound called ​allicin, ​which is the strongest component in garlic, due to its antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Doses of this can stave off those tragic sore throats and congested noses that we so often face.


Acute Respiratory Infections? No thanks

One teaspoon daily of Panax Ginseng is a natural way to prevent acute respiratory infections. Research shows that ginseng users contract considerably fewer colds, and that it is a safe way to combat illness. Go herbal with Panax Ginseng, and save yourself from lung and nasal congestion.



The All Powerful Virus Fighter

Siberian​ ​Eleuthero Root has similar effects to Panax Ginseng, although the two are not entirely similar. Eleuthero has effective strength-boosting action, which specifically focuses on antiviral defense. This is just what you need to protect yourself from the unpredictable, unknown viruses that so often ambush our immune systems.


The Ancient Chinese Medicine

Astragalus, a plant that has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, is another type of antiviral, immune-boosting herb. A daily dose of 2-3 oz. astragalus root provides your body with the nutrients it needs to shield viruses. It is also a great mix with garlic, enhancing the body with a double protective force.


Spare the Oranges

And last, the non-herbal, Emergen-C supplement that we see in every store. It has more Vitamin C than ten oranges and is filled with electrolytes, antioxidants, and B vitamins: three elements that help prevent or treat the common cold. It can be taken every day in regular doses, but larger doses when sick. Fight off colds with the ultimate pack of Vitamin C. If not, at least pack tissues in your glove compartment.


While these boosters cannot ensure you safety from colds, flus, and viruses, they have the potential to heavily lower the risk.

So lower that risk. Don’t be the person who shows up to work fatigued by the throes of temporary sickness. Be the person who walks in the office smiling, like a freshly bloomed flower, healthy and happy with the immune system of a champ.


The End of the Reckless Freshman Boy

Originally published on Odyssey Online (2015) by Evan McKenna

There comes a time in a college boy’s life when the rowdy, frivolous idiot inside him dies.

Often, though not always, it is the end of freshman year.

Some call it the period of realization. And it is when a boy realizes that he should no longer be proud of his binge drinking habit, but embarrassed. When he sees that skipping class and squandering money is no longer funny, but foolish.

Following these realizations, (along with many others, each similar,) he makes five personal changes before his next semester.

1) He sacrifices fun for hard work—and he likes it. 

A boy starts prioritizing. He has developed willpower and understands that writing his essay an hour before class is a worse idea than electing Herbert Hoover for president. This U.S. history joke is not esoteric to him, because lately, he has put down the video games and social medium to properly complete the history assignments assigned by his academic instructor.

2) He cleans his reputation.

He removes all online photos of himself passed out in snow banks, especially the ones in which he holds a handle of cherry Rubinoff. He combs through all social media platforms—including his YouTube account from seventh grade—and deletes both the comments and memes that poorly represent his new and improved character. He doesn’t do this to look good for potential employers; he does this because he is pivoting into adulthood.

3) He watches his mouth.

He has omitted derogatory terms from his lexicon. He understands that it is 2015, and he does not use offensive words that refer to race, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, sex, or physical and mental disability. If he slips up, he apologizes to those around him–whether they care or not—and takes initiative to not let it happen again. He doesn’t do this to be politically correct; he does this because he understands the importance of human equality. Nevertheless, he does not hesitate to scream “fuck,” when he stubs his toe on the corner of his aunt’s coffee table. He understands that this particular pain inevitably results in profanity and therefore does not merit an apology.

4) He is honest and admits to his mistakes.

No matter how embarrassing or shameful, he admits to his wrongdoings. He understands that lying only exacerbates his problems, and that he must always exhibit his respect for others by telling them the truth. (Yes, even if he had one too many drinks at his high school reunion and pissed on the bathroom floor. As a responsible adult, he seeks the custodians and acquires the tools necessary to remove the biohazard he created.)

5) He listens to others.

Whether it’s politics, religion, or why cookie dough is better than other ice cream flavors, he listens closely to his fellow’s opinion, especially when his fellow’s opinion contrasts with his. He understands that he is entitled to his own opinion, but that his opinion should always be both substantiated and delivered in a tone considerate to his opposing view. Most importantly, his goal is not to prove his fellow wrong; it is to investigate the objective truths in human knowledge. No matter how ignorant Uncle Kevin is being, he endures the cringe-inducing, close-minded rant and waits his turn to reply in a productive, thoughtful manner.

The college boy’s initiation into adulthood is more than just ironing shirts, curbing procrastination, and daily flossing. The boy who walked on campus eager to find drugs now focuses on his future, with hardly any time for fun. But that’s OK with him, because he is a new person now—a person who will take on his desired career with the demeanor required for success. With his matching socks and daily showers, he is proud of what he has become, and he looks forward to completing all objectives in his path.

The Divine Comedy as a Bias Allegory

Emerson College:

by Evan McKenna

The Divine Comedy as a Bias Allegory

During his years away from Florence, Dante Alighieri published various works that addressed his opinion on government, both in treatise and allegory. An opposing Florentine faction, the Black Guelphs, led by the ruthless Corso Donati and Pope Boniface the VIII, had exiled Dante and the White Guelphs, leaving Florence a city that would unify papacy and state. During this time, Dante wrote his renowned text, The Divine Comedy, where he reveals his animosity for the Black Guelph principle: marriage of papacy and state. Dante believed that temporal world rule must come from the nature of God, and not from the reign of a pope or influence of religious institution (De Monarchia 23). The Roman Empire system was ideal to Dante, since it was built and operated by secular judgment and lacked influence of a papacy. Dante’s political convictions manifest themselves in The Divine Comedy, where Dante encounters the souls of many political figures from the papacy and state. While The Divine Comedy is remembered for its portrayal of divine love and historical significance, I argue that it is chiefly a political allegory. Although the text takes place in the afterlife to describe to the judgments of God, it ironically focuses on the mortal realm. Dante’s afterlife does not deal with sins from the traditional Roman Catholic viewpoint, but instead from his own political biases. His critical allusions to the Roman Empire and city of Florence discredit the theological aesthetic of the text, making it a bias, political allegory.

 The advocacy of secular government, which drives the aesthetic of Dante’s afterlife, is rooted in his veneration of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. Dante’s veneration of Caesar causes theological inconsistency in The Divine Comedy, specifically evident in the end of the Inferno. At the very bottom of Hell, Dante sees the betrayers of the Roman Empire, in person of King Caesar, being chewed on by Satan (Inf. 34.58). Between Cassius and Brutus is Judas Iscariot. The punishment of Judas is rational of Dante, in regard to the Catholic consequence of betraying the Son of God. However, by placing Cassius and Brutus with equal punishment to Judas, there is theological inconsistency, since Roman Catholic doctrine states that sinning against God results in harsher punishment than mortal affairs. By placing the murderers of Caesar next to the betrayer of God, Dante as an author manifests his admiration of the Roman Empire and Caesar. Dante, however, did not irrationally worship Caesar as a Christ-like figure. In Joan Ferrante’s critical text, Political Vision of the Divine Comedy, she writes, “The objects of betrayal in the final section of all creatures, Christ, who died to redeem mankind, the founder of the empire, which exists to restore mankind to paradise. In sinning against any of them, the implication is, we commit the worst of all sins and ultimately betray ourselves” (194). Dante believes that Caesar played the largest role of mortal men in the coming of Jesus, since he founded a society that had the conditions necessary for the divine process to occur. Still, this only makes rational sense to Dante’s belief in government, not to theology and judgment by God. Consider the placement of Cato, who also attacked Caesar, being sent to Purgatory instead of Hell. “Cato fought Caesar as an enemy of the Roman State but remained true to his principles, and Brutus and Cassius, who changed sides and whose allegiance should have been to the empire once it was established as well as to the emperor who had befriended them” (Ferrante 194). While Cassius, Brutus, and Cato each took part in the attack; Dante wants the reader to believe that God punished them separately, punishing Cassius and Brutus, and forgiving Cato. The explanation behind their separation is not based on their sins towards God, but what they did to the Roman Empire, which reveals Dante mode of writing to be political allegory.

Though his biases also manifest themselves in brief references to political enemies, Dante can also be read as theologically rational, depending on the enemy. Corso Donati, the ruthless leader of the Black Guelphs, is mentioned in Purgatory by his brother, Forese, “He, whose guilt is most/Passes before my vision dragg’d at heels? Of an infuriate beast. Toward the vale, / Where guilt hath no redemption (Pur. 24.81-4). Since Corso has historical opposition with Dante’s brutal placement of him can be read as a political comment. However, Dante is also theologically rational here. Corso Donati is remembered for many sins, from causing great evil by unleashing unprecedented violence and anarchy on Florence, to forcing a widowed sister out of the convent in order to take control of her wealth and her children’s inheritance (Encyclopedia Dantesca, 2.559). Dante also had theological rationale to provide a pre-destined throne for Pope Boniface VIII in Hell. Though he had personal animosity towards Boniface VIII over his exile, Pope Boniface VIII had been accused of various heresies and blasphemies, of fornication, simony, idolatry, demon-worship, war mongering, sodomy, assassination, violation of the confessional, political intrigue, embezzlement of crusade funds and slandering the French souls (Ferrante 82). The overlapping of being intrinsically evil as well as an enemy of Dante allows Corso and Boniface to be read in two different allegorical perspectives: the theological and the political. This shows that the text does make an effort to rightfully punish sinners through divine judgment. However, it asks the questions why Dante meets only his political enemies to encounter in Hell, and not sinners he supports politically. This question leaves the structure of the afterlife appeared skewed in Dante’s bias, bringing the text back to a main focus of highly subjective, political allegory.

The question of theological or political allegory also occurs with the destined fates of King Henry VII, who Dante supported, and Pope Clement V, who Dante utterly despised. Towards the end of Paradise, Beatrice tells Dante that there is a seat in God’s Rose–the highest level of heaven–for Henry VII after death (Par. 30.135-7). Though Henry was objectively a leader of good faith and heart, Dante explicitly places him at the highest good. This exclusive placement in paradise is unnecessarily extreme in regard to Christian theology, since Henry VII was not particularly saintly. However, Dante believed he would restore the State through separate papacy and state policy, which he reflects not only in the Divine Comedy, but also in his treatise, De Monarchia (Havley 42). Although Dante’s bias deals with salvation instead of damnation, it still gives the impression that the story is chiefly a political allegory. It is no surprise that the betrayer of Dante’s favored Henry VII, Pope Clement V, has a seat reserved in Hell. This is another case, however, where the text can be read as both a theological and political allegory. Pope Clement V, who was lobbied into position by King Phillip the IV of France, is mentioned following the comment of Henry VII, as Beatrice says, “God will not endure/ I’ the holy office long; but thrust him down/To Simon Magus, where Alagna’s priest/ Will sink beneath him: such will be his meed“ (Par. 30. 143-5). Clement V, “Alagna’s priest” is destined to end up in Hell, sinking below Pope Nicholas III and Pope Boniface for his unforgivable fraud and destruction. Dante, like the common man, abhorred Clement V for moving the Papal See (the promise Clement made to King Phillip) from Rome to Avignon, France in 1309, which caused the Great Schism. Though Dante exhibits his political biases in the text, this can be read in a theological perspective, since Clement’s fraud and betrayal disrupted the order of Christianity in Rome and was objectively corrupt and sinful.

However, it seems that Dante’s political bias of government ultimately outweighs his theological focus. This is shown when heretic Farinata mentions the presence of Frederick II in the Circle of Heresy (Inf. 10.119). Though a brief reference, this is perhaps Dante’s most complex, discreet, yet compelling example of political bias in the entire comedy. Seeing that Frederick II dwells in eternal Hell, it appears that Dante, who has already in the text attacked the concept of papacy and state, is showing that he is not blind to the sins of emperors. But Dante admired Frederick as the notably strong, successful, emperor he was. He revered Frederick’s ability to develop an efficient state in Italy, and was fond of the leader’s scholarly writings. Critic Ernst Kantorowicz states this is a puzzling fact in some ways because Frederick was a significant force against the political ambitions of the papacy in Italy” (Frederick II). Though puzzling, it should be noted that Frederick II had a strict policy against heresy, as he persecuted any level of the sin, and extended an anti-heresy legislation all the way to the German State. “Perhaps what troubled Dante is that Fredrick treated Heresy as a crime against the state as treason and assumed all responsibility for it” (Ferrente 123). Frederick’s placement in hell represents Dante’s unwillingness to relent with political bias, and discredits the rational of theological judgment in the text.

G.R. Sarolli sees the Divine Comedy as a secularized prophecy, a visionary allegory which irrupts into a concrete historical crisis with the confessed intent to reshape the moral order of the world and reconcile its two providential structures, Empire and Church” (Prolegomena alla). This is clear in the fact that Dante constantly recoils from theological reasoning to take shots at those who opposed him personally and politically. In his oscillation from theological allegory to political allegory, the political not only eclipses the theological, but also discredits it. By claiming that God sent respective souls to damnation, purgatory, or salvation, Dante would need to focus on sin from the Roman Catholic view. Because his shots at the papacy and personal enemies exist in the text, the story can be chiefly read as a political allegory.



Works Cited

Cary, Henry Francis. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. Roseville, CA: Dry Bones, 2000. Print.

Ernst Kantorowicz, Frederick II, trans. E.O. Lorimer (1931:reprint, New York: Ungary, 1957).

Ferrante, Joan. The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 19884. Print.

Gian Roberto Saroli, Prolegomena alla Divina Commedia (Florence: Olschki, 1971),

Havley, Nick. “Landscapes from Exile.” Dante. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007. Print.

Schneider, Herbert W. On World Government = De Monarchia. Middle Village, N.Y.: Published by Griffon House Publications for the Bagehot Council, 2008. Print.

 Sestan, Ernesto. “Corso Donati.” Encyclopedia Dantesca. Ed. Umberto Osco. 559. Print.









































Literary Legend Contacts Massasoit: A Visit from Harlan Ellison


EVAN MCKENNA, Editor-in-chief 

Published to the Massasoit Tribune 2015

It was a surreal moment last semester for the students of Professor Mark Walsh’s Science Fiction and Fantasy class when legendary writer Harlan Ellison called in to talk about his award-winning novella, “A Boy and His Dog.”

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Apr. 30, nine students and two professors huddled around a speakerphone in the school’s Language Arts conference room, eager to speak with the author about his story they had read. Ellison woke at 7 a.m. in his California home, drank a cup of coffee, then picked up his phone and greeted the class.

Ellison began by telling the students that they could ask any question pertaining to “A Boy and His Dog”, as long as he could ask each student a question in a return, whether it be about personal life goals, or simply about irrelevant, interesting topics. He made it clear to the class that he wanted them to ask and answer questions honestly to make the experience genuine. Things went underway when Walsh suggested that we go around the room one at a time to begin the discussion on the novella.

But this was not just a neat visit from some ordinary, accomplished author.

Ellison is one of the most prolific and honored American authors of 20th century fiction, with 1,700 published works – including novellas, short stories, essays, scripts, and teleplays. He was an editor for the renowned science fiction anthology, Dangerous Visions and its sequel. He worked for the original Star Trek, the 1980’s Twilight Zone, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour many other productions .He has won several Nebula, Hugo, and Edgar Awards, and pieces such as “I Have No Mouth and Must Scream,” “Deathbird,” and “’Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” have been studied in institutions of higher learning around the world.

Ellison is beyond notable. Numerous students on campus expressed their envy of those who were able to be part of the conversation with the literary legend. And professors and faculty were thrilled that the class had such an opportunity.

From questions about writing style to intertextuality, Ellison answered each student elaborately, adding comical and personal anecdotes that better explained his points.

Greg Schmidt started it off, asking Ellison about the origin of “A Boy and His Dog”. Ellison replied, telling the class about his close relationship to his dog, Abhu, and how their bond influenced his story’s message. Ellison then went on to ask Schmidt about his life goals, linking Schmidt’s answer to an interesting lesson on writing.

Given a chance to speak, I asked, “Harlan, how do you balance humor and seriousness in your stories? I often see humor taking away from the tone of a story, but in A Boy and His Dog, you seem to balance the two elements” Ellison explained to me the difference between humor and wit. Using what he called “a bad example”, Harlan brought up the Los Angeles Clippers incident between team commissioner, Adam Silver, and racist coach, Donald Sterling, calling them Sterling Silver, a name for a rich, racist fictional sports team character. On the other hand, he explained that jokes, which are not clever, usually forced in the story, do not result in solid storytelling. In just a minute of conversation I was taught an everlasting lesson on fiction.

After Walsh asked Ellison what his view is on the importance of reading, Ellison told his own personal story. Ellison talked about his desire to read as a child. He admitted that he never thought he would be a writer, but still was very interested in reading. He talked about his experience with a librarian who prohibited him from going into the adult section of his hometown library: “Like an anaconda on my belly, along the back board, along the floor, I reached one hand and took a book from the stacks-Lorna Doone.” The class laughed throughout the story, enjoying everything Ellison said. It was possibly the class’s favorite part of the hour.

Whether they were taking notes on Ellison to improve their writing, or only listening to develop an understanding of his work, the students and professors valued every sentence. The class had spent a considerable amount of time focusing on “A Boy and His Dog,” but also had time to talk about writing good fiction.

During post-discussion on Friday, Schmidt shared with the class, “[That was] hands down the best classroom experience of my life. I don’t think anything will ever beat it.”

“Now I am contemplating retirement. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Walsh jokingly replied.

With his busy schedule, it was extremely generous of Ellison to offer his morning to Massasoit. But it was not his fame that made the visit notable. It was his wisdom. With more than fifty years worth of writing experience, Ellison knows the ins and outs, the dos and donts, and the rights and wrongs of the profession. That is what made his presence so valuable. His visit was arguably the most exciting surprise this year for Massasoit and will be a timeless memory for the students and professors who were fortunate enough to take part.

Will Science Bring Back the Woolly Mammoth?

Evan McKenna, contributor

Published to OdysseyOnline 2015

The idea of bringing back the woolly mammoth is nothing new to the world of genetics. And now, in 2015, paleogeneticists have recovered enough woolly mammoth cells out of the frozen lands of Siberia to recreate the pre-historic beast.

The woolly mammoth is nearly identical to the Asian elephant in regard to genetic code.  Because of this, scientists theorized that they could use the Asian elephant to bring back its extinct cousin. As they continued to gather fragments of mammoth DNA, paleogeneticists slowly puzzled together the genome of the species, showing them the genetic similarities and differences between the mammoth and the elephant.

Researchers knew that if the unique genetic information encoded within the Asian elephant cell could be replaced with the unique genetic information of the woolly mammoth, the newly modified asian elephant cell would hold the exact sequence of a woolly mammoth. The theory then became a reality in March of 2015 when Harvard professor of genetics George Church successfully spliced the unique fragments of woolly mammoth DNA into the modified DNA of an Asian elephant.

When this woolly mammoth cell was created, scientists knew they were no longer experimenting with DNA in laboratory. They were playing God.

To put the procedure into practice, scientists would have to scrupulously complete a particular set of steps. First, they would have to inject the unique DNA of the mammoth cells into the modified DNA of an Asian elephant embryo. Next, they would have to both monitor and nurse the mother elephant through her life-threatening pregnancy, making sure all life-permitting conditions remain constant. If she survives to the stage of conception, the experiment would result in a woolly mammoth offspring containing all the distinct qualities that it did 10,000 years ago: the extra hair, extra fat, different tusks, and bigger ears.

But this would only be the beginning of the struggle. A suitable, artificial climate would need to be created immediately, with medical improvisation being the only method of remedy in the case of an emergency.

The possibility of mammoths roaming the earth once again fascinated researchers–not to mention the rest of the world. But after digesting the excitement and restraining the impulse to act suddenly, the ethics of the mammoth revival were brought into question.

The problem is that this procedure, while possible, is estimated to fail. A failure would result in severe consequences, specifically slow deaths of impregnated Asian elephants.

“It seems to me that trying this out might lead to suffering for female elephants, and that would not be ethically justifiable” Paleogeneticist Love Dalen, associate professor at Swedish Museum of Natural History and co-author of the study told the BBC.

In regards to the offspring, scientists are skeptical whether it will survive  either. When the Pyrenean ibex goat was brought back to life in 2003 using the same genetic splicing process, it died seven minutes after birth. And until attempted, the survivability of the woolly mammoth offspring cannot be predicted.

Prioritizing between the living species and the dead was also brought into the ethical discussion, becoming another reason behind science’s reluctance to recreate the animal.

“We face the potential extinction of African and Asian elephants. Why bring back another elephantid from extinction when we cannot even keep the ones that are not extinct around?” Professor Alex Greenwood, an ancient DNA expert, told The Telegraph. “What is the message? We can be as irresponsible with the environment as we want. Then we’ll just clone things back?”

The ethical concern has gone unresolved and continues to be discussed in laboratories across the world. Where would the species live in this increasingly hot climate? Would the purpose merely be for our own selfish entertainment? Playing God is a game of ethics, and to many scientists, just because the woolly mammoth could be brought back to life doesn’t mean it should be.