Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stef's "So Good You Can't Put It Down" Book Reviews Summer 2017 Reading Challenges! - Final Update PREVIEW

Hey all! I haven't forgotten about this series! I want to complete it soon! It's always in the back of my mind!

I've just been so busy with the play and my freelancing and such that I haven't really been able to devote the time and effort I need for the final installment. There's a lot I want to say about the final two books and I don't want to rush it. I hope to read more books soon too. I've been holding off a bit because I haven't written about the last summer ones yet and don't want to forget them. :P

I'm a little annoyed that I couldn't have gotten it done before autumn hit like I wanted to, but I hope to deliver soon!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When is it Appropriate to Cheer During a Live Performance?

A few years ago I went with my friend Lauren and her family to see 'Jersey Boys' on Broadway. I blogged about this before.

One of the plot points was that Frankie Valli had written a song about his wife, but no one liked it to the point where it almost never existed. Finally the guy playing Valli began singing said song, and it turned out to be "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You". As soon as he breathed the initial line, the audience started cheering.

Lauren turned to me and whispered, "Why are they all cheering? They are supposed to be quiet." She was insinuating that because it was theater, us audience members were supposed to be quiet and respect the performance.

I usually agree. I'm against talking a great deal during a performance, of course, but I wanted to explain that people were reacting to one of the Four Seasons' greatest hits, thus it was appropriate.

I remembered that above story after something that came to my attention more recently.

This past summer SYTYCD produced its 14th season. In one of the episodes, four of the dancers (Kiki Nyemchek, Koine Iwasaki, Mark Villaver, and Taylor Sieve) performed a contemporary piece about diversity and standing up against hate, choreographed by Sean Cheesman.

It's a beautiful piece and obviously one that is much needed nowadays. They performed it to Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise," as recited by Alexis Henry. So therefore, they performed a dance not to music, but a poem. I was spellbound watching it, and I tried to envision how I would react to such a piece live. I felt that I would be so entranced by it, as if I was consumed by it as an experience, temporarily forgetting that it was a performance I was witnessing.

However, there is one problem I have with it.

People would NOT stop cheering.

I wanted to listen to the poem as it complemented their movements, but all of the audible reactions just reminded me that it was a routine executed by competing dancers with the audience applauding the impressive motions and positions that told the story. I found the cheers distracting and felt that they took away from the experience and the piece itself.

In fact, I felt so strongly about this that I made a comment on YouTube about it:

The screaming ruined this one. This piece is beautiful and is one of those art forms that just needs to be witnessed without interrupting cheering in the background.

And then I even took it upon myself to tweet my feelings:

However, this is where it gets interesting. A Twitter friend of mine and fellow SYTYCD fan Michelle Waxman, who was actually in the live studio audience for this performance, responded to my tweet with a different opinion. Our conversation is as follows:

I disagree. Especially being there in person. They tell you to cheer if you like something. See something so beautiful like this had the crowd go absolutely nuts. It was life changing.

I can see your point. :) For me I just find the cheering distracting from the piece. Cheering is appropriate depending on the dance. You do bring up a good point about being so moved and reacting as such. For me, watching it made me speechless, so a different reaction. This one feels like you need to quietly be immersed in it as an experience to get the full effect. I really like your counter though. :)

Lol you're kinda making me reconsider my argument now. Lol

Lol well just being there makes it so different than watching through a tv screen

See I would think being there would make you feel more entranced, hence not likely to cheer.

It's hard to explain!

I had a difficult time explaining my point as well. Even though I still stand by my own argument, I began to see Michelle's side. I personally believe that there is a time and place for such constant cheering, like a lively hip hop performance. However, people have the right to react to an art form that moves them in any way they like, just like that 'Jersey Boys' audience that one 2011 afternoon. And who knows? Maybe there will be moments when I may respond certain ways to certain things that move me as well. Plus, time and time again I often hear how audience reactions encourages the performing dancers. 

So what side do you take in this argument? Does appropriate cheering depend on what type of live performance it is, or does it not matter?

In fact, you know what? If any of you reading this plan on attending the tour this year and this routine is a part of the lineup, which I see it is based on a tour video I saw, tell me how you reacted to it live and why. :)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

You Have to Check Out go90's "In the Vault"! :D

Let's talk about go90's new 8 episode series "In the Vault", starring "So You Think You Can Dance" (SYTYCD) star Paul Karmiryan.

A bit about Paul. Paul is a Top 10 finalist from Season 10 of SYTYCD. I met him at the Season 10 Live Tour at the Pine Belt Arena in Tom's River, New Jersey. He's a down to earth guy and I still follow his career. Although he is still heavily involved with SYTYCD as an All-Star, he is also embarking on an acting career. He has been featured in (and written) various skits on YouTube and was recently seen in the Hallmark film The Stalker Club (2017). "In the Vault" is his latest project that premiered on go90 on September 13, 2017.

So, if you liked Ryan Murphy's "Scream Queens" on FOX and you miss it, you're going to love "In the Vault" to fill that void.

Like "Scream Queens", the first season is a murder mystery that takes place during the main character's first semester her freshman year of college on a fictional college campus. We meet Liv Steele, played by Claudia Lee, who also provides the voiceover narration, a storytelling technique reminiscent of "Scream Queens". A previous bad girl, she wants to use college as an opportunity to reinvent herself and leave her past behind her. A "Reformed Queen Bee" (according to IMDb), if you will. I really appreciate how good-natured her character is. She lives on the same floor of her residence hall called "The Vault" (hence the title) at Woodlawn College as the rest of the students who make up our colorful cast of characters. She meets her straight edge Russian roommate Jane Sidorova (Audrey Whitby), the overachieving Denise Parlsey (Sadie Schwolsky) whose whole thing is that she eats, breathes, and sleeps studying, the jock Evin Watson (Caleb Castille), the accented but unpleasant womanizer Omid Ayman (Karmiryan), the former movie star and apparent heartthrob Taylor Price (Timothy Granaderos) with whom Liv of course starts a sexual, social media relationship, Taylor's strange and creepy roommate Karlis Kehoe (Taylor Gray) who so far just films everybody all the time, and Evin's roommate Chris Rummel (Jac Bernhard), the...ahem...Christian.

For some reason people assume that because we are Christians, we don't drink. One of my favorite lines and biggest laughs from the first episode is when all of the characters go to a party and Omid literally duct tapes liquor bottles to Chris's hands to get him to drink and Chris says something like "I don't/can't drink. I'm a Christian." to which Omid responds, "And I'm Muslim. What's you point?"

It's hilarious to me knowing how kind Paul is in real life and seeing him play such jerks. lol

It's also nice to see a religious Christian/Muslim joke actually work in this day and age.

Then we are introduced to the final member of the cast, Denise's social justice warrior roommate Valentina Velez (Julia Kelly) who definitely keeps this story current and relevant. She has some sort of an unrevealed past with Liv, therefore causing friction between the two.

So the way this show works is that each episode is dedicated to one of the characters, the first being Liv. At the end of Liv's episode, someone dies. Now everyone is a suspect because each of them seems to have a motive to kill said victim and we get to see the story from every one of their points of view until we determine the true culprit.

Here is the official description:
One month into college, a freshman dies – suicide or murder? Everyone on the dorm hall suspects one another of foul play. Each week spotlights a different character, so a hero one week is a villain the next.

For some reason, suicide is a suggested result even though right now I don't see why that is.

As you can see, it is way similar to the first season of "Scream Queens" in terms of plot, setting, eccentric characters, humor, and quotable lines, as well as to how it is shot with accompanying sinister background music. However, it is not as juvenile as "Scream Queens". "In the Vault" uses more adult language (f bombs), and although both have their share of dirty jokes and intriguing word usage, the students in "In the Vault" come across more normal as opposed to the over the top, flamboyant Chanels of "Scream Queens". Also, I think for "In the Vault" we only investigate the one death, whereas "Scream Queens" was a parody about slasher films.

One thing that is kind of lost on me is Liv suggesting that Jane has a crush on Taylor. I personally don't really see any truth to that, unless the facial expression Jane gives when Liv steals Taylor away from their invigorating game of hackysack for an intense night of sexiling is any indication. Perhaps we'll get more insight in the next episode, which is dedicated to Jane, premiering September 20. :)

The beauty about go90 is that it is a free web live streaming service with no intrusive ads or subscription needed! It's awesome! :D

Here is the trailer.

And here is the first episode. 

"In the Vault" uploads a new episode every Wednesday. It's a typical murder mystery, so if you're into that, I highly recommend you check it out! :D

Friday, September 15, 2017

Are Pirates the New Hot Bad Boys of Fictional Romance?

This blog post is a long time coming because this really needs to be discussed.

Let's talk about Captain Hook. You know, the bad guy from Peter Pan. He has gotten quite a few makeovers throughout the years and I am here writing about them because it is a phenomenon that never seems to get the acknowledgment it deserves.

First I will provide examples, and then follow up with my argument.

J.M. Barrie created Captain Hook as an adversary to his titular character Peter Pan. Most children, myself included, were first introduced to him through the 1953 animated Disney film, Peter Pan.

Here he is wearing the iconic red swashbuckler outfit and of course, the famed hook. This look will be the basis of the character's overall style and is the one most associated with him.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Stef's "So Good You Can't Put It Down" Book Reviews Summer 2017 Reading Challenges! - Fourth Update

You know that part in "Hamilton" in "Nonstop" when the lyrics go "Why/How do you write like you're running out of time?"?

Well, I kinda feel this way now, only I am reading like I am running out of time. I'm at the point where I am juggling three books at once and wondering if this is the right way to go about it and if I should just focus on one at a time.

We are now in August, which is technically the final month of my Summer 2017 Reading Challenge, so now I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do.

Here are my pages numbers now:

Beach Blondes by Katherine Applegate - 445 out of 721

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer - 99 out of 323

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - 34 out of 340

Since I have completed Mindy Kaling's book, I have been doing some catching up with Beach Blondes. I am not in the August part yet, but the transition between June and July in the book didn't matter much for me to time it this way. There is no indication that months change between parts (even reading ahead between July and August proves such), so it doesn't make much of a difference. Also, I'm pretty sure that I will be reading the August part in August eventually anyway.

I still consider it a light read, but once I read the progress in Diana's storyline, I find myself in need of a break from it. The things that she endures are so heartbreaking that it infuriates me, so I need to break away and read some comedienne memoirs.

I hadn't been reading much of Amy Schumer's book, although I wished to continue it. However, in fact, I was also considering returning it to the library earlier due to my lack of interest in it.

I started reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and so far I am glad that I have not purchased this book or returned Schumer's in lieu of it. The action is kinda slow and because of something that happens in the first chapter, the main character Lo loses sleep and most of Ware's descriptions is explaining how tired she is, making the story an actual sleeper. I'm hoping it picks up better. I am currently a chapter away from Part 2, actually. It is due back at the library on August 14, so I have time with it.

I finally did manage to read more of Schumer's The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, but I think I might be done with this book for the summer. I returned it to Sprague Library on August 2, its due date, and was actually looking forward to doing so. Throughout these blog posts I have been kinda "meh" about it, so I guess this was the best time for us to finally part.

If you plan on reading this book thinking that it is going to be her being funny, you are highly mistaken. This was my surprise.

I mean, she's somewhat funny at certain times. But for the most part, she isn't.

What's interesting is that when I first picked up this book, I was initially more excited to read it than Kaling's (before I actually started reading Kaling's). I felt more of a connection to Schumer and so I was looking forward to reading about what we had in common and maybe learn some things from her. Don't get me wrong, there are some similarities that she and I do share and I found that I have more in common with her than I thought. I appreciate learning this kind of stuff because I originally saw her one way, but because this book allows her to be truthful about herself, it made it a partial interesting read and easier for me to relate to her.

However, this ultimately lead to my biggest issue with the book: it's morbidity. Instead of talking about her career and the many humorous things that have happened to her, which was what I was anticipating and she does briefly, she mainly discusses family problems, sexual assault, relationship abuse, gun violence, etc. Every time I went to read another chapter thinking it was going to be any less heavy, it turned out to be yet another story that made me even sadder about life. They read more like PSA announcements. She provides a personal example and then ends with her testimony.

When I read a book or watch a movie or play, I understand that these art forms are used to take a stand and can brilliantly achieve this, but I also do so to get inspired or explore another domain for a bit. If I wanted to read about or see how horrible the world is, I'd just go on social media or read any news article. I read books and watch films to get away from this.

Basically put, this book is a collection of Amy Schumer's serious side, or as what I like to call, "Serious Schumer."

However, this being said, I now see her in a new light and respect her more for this too. Each chapter focuses on a certain topic that she talks about for a reason and she is completely honest. Though each one comes across morbid at first, she uses them as opportunities to offer lessons or epiphanies from her life. She clearly wants to make several statements with this book and I really admire that she wants you to learn from her experiences. She sincerely cares about her readers. As much as I want to stop reading, I also want to press on. She provides nice insight. She also has a chapter dedicated to her stuffed animals. Other readers don't seem to like this, but I'm okay with it.

As a side note, she talks about sex and needlessly references her vagina way too much. Not that that's BAD, but it is just a little too overboard. It's one thing for her to talk about sex life, which she does enough of, but it's another thing for her to randomly bring up her vagina when discussing a carnival ride. Even this isn't totally awful, but just seems a bit unwarranted, as if she must mention her genitals for the sake of mentioning her genitals.

I recommend that if you do read this book, choose certain chapters that seem of interest to you and read sporadically. Upon realizing that I would be returning the book the following day without much eagerness to check it out again, I chose to read chapters sporadically from the Table of Contents to get as much out of the book as I could. This was when I noticed that whatever chapter I chose, I kept receiving desolate material. Because of these intense chapters, I noticed that she follows up with comic relief sections as reprieves, so perhaps my suggestion is pointless because it is formatted in this specific way.

Schumer has every right to discuss what she wants to in her own book, no matter how dark. There's nothing wrong with that. It just wasn't what I was expecting or looking for at the moment regarding my summer reading. Even though it may not be for me, I appreciate her writing it. I hope to return to it because I don't totally despise it.

I'll end my review of Schumer's book with my favorite passage from it, from actually one of my favorite chapters. In "Officially a Woman," she talks about making people laugh for the first time at her Bat Mitzvah, which helped her recognize that she wanted to become a comedienne. I thought that was nice.

She ends the chapter by saying that afterward she and her friends went to Medieval Times in New Jersey!!! :D

I LOVE that place and I love that she went to the one that I go to! What made this even cooler was that I had just recently been there about a week before first reading this! :D

This was one of the few parts of the book that made me happy.

So, because of my overall unfortunate disappointment in Schumer's book, I decided to change up my Summer 2017 Reading Challenge YET AGAIN.

I've heard a lot good about the following two books. I often see them available at Barnes and Noble and think that they will provide the reading enjoyment that I am looking for, so now I am officially adding them to my list.

Two female professional best friends and writers. Perfect.

I had originally seen Amy Poehler's Yes Please on the Sprague Library Pop Picks shelves awhile back, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tina Fey's book Bossypants is also available at Sprague. I found Bossypants right away, but for some reason the available copy of Yes Please is missing, so the librarian is keeping a lookout for me. I checked out Bossypants the night I returned Schumer's book. It has the same light physical feel as Kaling's book does, so I have a good feeling about this one. :)     

I also found another book on the Pop Picks shelf that I haven't seen in a long time, so I decided to check this one out as well. I think I might have written about this one on this blog before.

I started reading Nicholas Sparks's novel The Wedding on DECEMBER 20, 2014. I entered my latest Goodreads entry for it on SEPTEMBER 5, 2015! So basically I had given up on this book TWO YEARS AGO, but yet it is still under my "Currently Reading" list.

To be fair, I hadn't seen the book again until now on the shelves. I didn't realize that the book was still in the library.

The book is a cute enough love story about a man who is trying to re-romance his wife (the daughter of Nick and Allie Calhoun from The Notebook) while planning their own daughter's wedding. The only thing is it is tedious and bland. It's not the most riveting book, but yet I kept returning and checking out again throughout that year because I wanted to see what finally happens with their relationship.

I am on page 184 out of 263, meaning that I am actually more than halfway done with it and I still haven't been able to finish it! Considering that it is still under my "Currently Reading" list, I have always wanted to. I've gotten this far!

I'm taking being reunited with this book as a sign that I must finish this copy. I have also found paperback editions at Barnes and Noble and considered buying it, but have not.

So will I finally finish reading this book by August 30, which is when this one and Bossypants are due back at the library?? We shall soon see!

Also, Basement Bookshelf has now reached 353 books! I'm proud of this because most of the recent contributions have been my own books, particularly my The New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley collection, a series about the Olsen twins having their own detective agency and solving mysteries. I've had a pile of these books (20), some of which that I have considered donating, but I'm too attached to them because these were the first books that got me excited about reading. They also sparked my interest in the mystery genre, which is one of my favorites to read. I would rip through them so quickly as a kid and I even reread them again now as an adult. They kept taking up space in my room and bookshelves, so I'm happy to have finally found a home for them. :)