Thursday, December 31, 2015

How Mighty Quinn's BBQ Saved My Life - A Year End Story

Do you remember this ambiguous rant from July?:

July 11, 2015

On Thursday morning I made a mistake and was really distraught about it because there are times when I reach a breaking point and this was one of them. Loudly crying in the car and not wanting to go home yet, I didn't know where else to turn so I drove to the one place I thought I could turn - the local Catholic Church. I parked in the parking lot and wept for awhile. I then decided to go to the Rectory because I felt like I really needed to talk to someone. Amidst sobs, I rushed over and rang the doorbell. A woman answered on the intercom and I asked if a priest was in. She asked if I had an appointment, and I said no, unfortunately I don't. She told me to hold on. She then opened the door a few seconds later to my red, tear-stained face and told me that the priest would be with me in a few minutes. She led me into his office and I sat on the couch. She then gave me a box of tissues and offered me a cup of water. A few minutes later the priest walked in, greeted me in a friendly manner, shut the door, sat at his desk, and asked me to proceed. Through tears I then ranted to him about my frustrations of what has been bothering me and he listened attentively. He waited until I looked up at him and paused. He then responded to my situation and gave his opinion, along with his Godly wisdom and advice. God was certainly working through him. This went on for about an hour and I gradually calmed down, although I still didn't feel 100% better about my situation. I thanked him and we parted ways, a smile on my face. I also thanked the woman for her kindness earlier. I then went to pray in the church for a bit. Ideas came to me as I sat there and I decided to be very productive for the rest of the day in regards to what was upsetting me. I was in a better, not greatest, but better mood after talking to the priest and then talking to Jesus.

I decided to share that story because I am so tired of hearing so much negativity about Christians and Catholics. Priests aren't perfect, but they often tend to help me, so good stories about them and the laypeople of the Christian community like this one should be shared more often.


Well, this is actually a prequel to an even bigger story that has taken place ever since.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Theory for the Third Red Devil's Identity is...

My blog posts have really been "Scream Queens" themed lately, haven't they? lol

Okay so we already know that the two other Red Devils are Gigi and Boone, may he rest in peace. I've been muffling around in my head who the possible third Red Devil is the entire season, and I think I finally figured it out.

Let me let you in on my other possibility before I reveal my one true suspect. The Red Devil could very well be Chanel #3 for the mere fact that we're yet to see her get attacked by a Red Devil. It would also make sense for Sam to suspect her considering that heart to heart that they had. We also don't know her real name like we do with the other Chanels, so perhaps it would give her away. A lot of people seem to think that the third Red Devil is her. I still somewhat suspect Grace too because I think it would be a great twist that the one girl we've been following investigating these murders draw attention away from herself and turn out to be the perpetrator all along.

However, I believe that I finally figured it out. I finally figured out who the Red Devil is.

The Red Devil is none other than...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Character Equivalents: A Look at Ryan Murphy's "Scream Queens" and "Glee"

I love "Scream Queens". :D

How fitting that my October blog post is about "Scream Queens", which is a new anthology series whose first season is about the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority of Wallace University being terrorized by the school's Red Devil mascot that keeps murdering a character or two every week.

It's so stupid and corny, but at the same time I love the show for that reason. It's the point of the show, parodying '80s and '90s slasher films. I also love mysteries and twists, and this show provides them. Every episode provides new clues to help us viewers figure out the Red Devil's identity. It's my new favorite show. I look forward to it every Tuesday night on FOX. I was looking forward to it since I first heard about it.

The more I watch it, the more I realize that it is EXACTLY like "Glee", which makes sense because it has the same creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. It's literally the same humor with the same plot with the same characters. It's the same exact show! The only difference is that they replaced musical numbers with bloody murders. It seems to me that Murphy might be having some "Glee" withdrawals.

It's funny because "Glee" used to be the only primetime dramedy show I watched. The TV I normally usually watch is dance competition shows. I guess I just really like Ryan Murphy's stuff. I don't appreciate gore at all but for some reason the gore in this show isn't as severe or it just doesn't bother me much. I think the humor balances it out.

Do you ever notice that certain TV shows or movies tend to have the same character lineup, as if each show needs the same character structure? I do, so therefore "Character Equivalents" is now a new "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" series. :)

Comparing and contrasting "Scream Queens" and "Glee" is our first installment. I'm going to prove to you that this is the same exact show. Given that the shows have the same creators, the similarities are a bit understandable.

Yep. This is going to be one of my long analytical essays. I know you've missed them. ;)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stef Sears Professional Blog!

Hey all!

Just for your information, I have a blog on my website where you can check out the latest stuff I am doing with my writing and other aspects of my professional life. I started using it July 2014, but I've been using it more lately now, considering that more things are going on. :)

I'll still be writing here as well, of course, but whereas "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time" (TIOSAAT) is a more analytical, recreational, and in-depth blog, that blog is used to document the steps I am making to further my career. The pieces also aren't as long and I am trying to keep it that way.

I've been very busy with new writing and part-time jobs and writing a bit more on there. If it has seemed like TIOSAAT hasn't been as active, this is partially why.

Check it out! :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Let Me Tell You About THE TIME I MET TEDDY COFFEY! :D

IT HAPPENED, PEOPLE! IT HAPPENED! THIS EVENT ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE!!! :D

I can't believe that this actually finally happened!! :D

Okay so if you follow me on Twitter, you would know that I am a huge fan of the dancer Teddy Coffey. If not, you can kindly read this fun piece. :) 

Teddy and "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 10 alum Nico Greetham, along with other swell dancers, were in a dance performance this past weekend at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater called "Pearl The Show", which celebrates the life of prize-winning writer Pearl S. Buck and how she is a connection between East and West cultures, China and America specifically. It tells her story in correlation to the Chinese poem ”Spring, River, Flower, Moon, Night”.

In an effort to support my favorite dancer while he was back on this east coast and because it is about a female writer, I decided to attend opening night on Thursday, August 27. My parents came along with me, as well as my Aunt Maria "Ea", whom we brought to celebrate her birthday. My aunt actually told me that this was the best birthday of her life. Beforehand we had dinner at P.J. Clarke's, which treated us very well. I recommend the Pickled Cabbage Burger. ;)

I correspond with Teddy and his family every so often so I told them that I was going to be there. His family was attending the same show that I was, so we hoped to meet each other, which we did! I saw his father Bob first and then scanned the rest of his group and recognized the other members, which included Teddy's mom Pam and of course his Aunt Cindy. I was like, "It's them!" so I ran over to them and tapped Bob's shoulder. They recognized me right away and embraced me with thrill and open arms and introduced me to Teddy's Uncle Greg and grandparents. We took some pictures, talked a bit, and resolved to meet up again after the show to hopefully see Teddy.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Many July Rants of Stef Sears

This month on Facebook I posted quite a few well thought out lengthy posts that I believe are worth sharing with the masses. So here there are all together.

On Appreciation for America:

July 4, 2015

It makes me so angry when U.S. CITIZENS complain about America and burn the American Flag. You never really hear about any other country burning their flags, being offended by them, or being asked to take them down! Even if this does also occur in other countries, it's ridiculous.

Sure, we have our own problems here (Who doesn't?). Sure, we are not perfect (Who is?). Sure, we may not have the most positive history (Who does?). AND, because we ARE Americans, we DO have the freedom to express negative opinions. I'm not saying that we shouldn't utter any disapproval ever.

BUT, there is a REASON why SO MANY PEOPLE want to live and immigrate HERE. THEY know what America is all about. THEY know what opportunities America has to offer. If America is really as bad as these criticizers say, there wouldn't be so many people wanting to obtain U.S. citizenship AND there wouldn't be other countries often needing assistance from the U.S.

To me, the people who complain are just so accustomed to their American privileges that they don't even appreciate or even notice them. Practically everything is available to us and we need to remember how good we have it here.

I, for one, am grateful for the United States of America and for the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for and protect our freedom. I love this country and am glad that it exists. I am proud to be an American. America, as well as the veterans, deserve more respect, ESPECIALLY on days like today!

Happy Birthday, America!

On Catholicism, Christianity, and Priests:

July 11, 2015

On Thursday morning I made a mistake and was really distraught about it because there are times when I reach a breaking point and this was one of them. Loudly crying in the car and not wanting to go home yet, I didn't know where else to turn so I drove to the one place I thought I could turn - the local Catholic Church. I parked in the parking lot and wept for awhile. I then decided to go to the Rectory because I felt like I really needed to talk to someone. Amidst sobs, I rushed over and rang the doorbell. A woman answered on the intercom and I asked if a priest was in. She asked if I had an appointment, and I said no, unfortunately I don't. She told me to hold on. She then opened the door a few seconds later to my red, tear-stained face and told me that the priest would be with me in a few minutes. She led me into his office and I sat on the couch. She then gave me a box of tissues and offered me a cup of water. A few minutes later the priest walked in, greeted me in a friendly manner, shut the door, sat at his desk, and asked me to proceed. Through tears I then ranted to him about my frustrations of what has been bothering me and he listened attentively. He waited until I looked up at him and paused. He then responded to my situation and gave his opinion, along with his Godly wisdom and advice. God was certainly working through him. This went on for about an hour and I gradually calmed down, although I still didn't feel 100% better about my situation. I thanked him and we parted ways, a smile on my face. I also thanked the woman for her kindness earlier. I then went to pray in the church for a bit. Ideas came to me as I sat there and I decided to be very productive for the rest of the day in regards to what was upsetting me. I was in a better, not greatest, but better mood after talking to the priest and then talking to Jesus.

I decided to share that story because I am so tired of hearing so much negativity about Christians and Catholics. Priests aren't perfect, but they often tend to help me, so good stories about them and the laypeople of the Christian community like this one should be shared more often.

So, do you have any stories about when a priest or a layperson Christian helped you?

On Writers and Artists Getting Paid for Their Work:

July 17, 2015

I got angry at something I just read so I decided to write this:

Can you imagine going to a restaurant and not paying but say instead that you'll refer the place to someone else? Of course not.

But this is the reality most writers and other artists face everyday. EXPOSURE does not equal GETTING PAID FOR YOUR WORK. Writers and other artists are qualified professionals in their fields just like anyone else and deserve to be treated as such.

Writers and other artists, don't settle for less than what you deserve!! Settling is what keeps this unfair cycle going. There might be times when you may want to do work for free, but the only time it is truly acceptable is if it's for YOUR OWN ENJOYMENT. Employees put time in and then get paid for the hours they work, correct? Well, so should writers and other artists for theirs!
____

I should write a book. :P

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Successes!

Looking back on it, June was a pretty busy, successful month for me. I love that! :D

So, here's what I've been up to.

Recently I made the career decision to just stick to my writing and if I found any other job opportunity, I would look into it. The idea was to not stress myself out anymore looking for jobs in other areas but rather go with my gut for what I truly love and studied in school, which is writing and journalism. I am learning to be more aggressive and hands on when I see career opportunities and search for them. I've been happier keeping busy in this way trying to stay focused.

All month I've been mulling over in my mind what should be my June blog post. I didn't write one of my blog essays (although I am brainstoming them still), so I will take this chance to talk to you about "Stef's VIEWS, reVIEWS, and interVIEWS", my professional blog that I created and published at the beginning of this month.

Like "Taking it One 'Stef' at a Time", "Stef's VIEWS" is run entirely by me. The only difference is that unlike "Taking", I intend to run "Stef's VIEWS" as a business, an additional market for my writing. The idea is to interview people and cover events to feature on my site for monetary compensation. I'm not sure how well this is going to work, but I'm willing to try it. So if you're an artist, writer, performer, etc., or have a local event and you would like me to write your story, please reach out to me! I would love to write about you! :D Let's see how this goes!

I actually already published an article on there. Here is my interview with "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 11 competitor Serge Onik.

I've come to realize that a handful of the dancers from Season 11, particularly Carly Blaney, Teddy Coffey, Emily James, and now Serge Onik, have helped me professionally in their own ways so I am so eternally grateful to them for that!

This month I actually interviewed a TV and film actor for another magazine. That was a great interview and I'm excited for the story to come out. :D Also, just yesterday I was hired as a freelancer by yet another magazine company and I am wrapping up a book project with another client!

Another reason for my newfound happiness is following the "Dancing with the Stars" Live Tour, especially their opening show in Atlantic City and their two-night show a few days later at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey, one of my favorite NJ theaters. :) I was VERY excited those two days! I was actually somewhat hoping to interview Alan Bersten and maybe some of the other tour dancers for "Stef's VIEWS" while they were here because I have been wanting to interview Alan for awhile now, but that didn't come to pass.

I keep hearing from EVERYWHERE that I should write down my goals, which is supposed to make my goals clearer and me more focused to accomplish said clearer goals. I have done this, to an extent, but this is something I am yet to do more intensely, which is odd considering I am a writer and like making lists. I have been planning some other future endeavors as well, such as with my vlogging and maybe even my creative writing, so stay tuned!

I'm also getting into volunteering lately. On June 7 I volunteered for Brides Against Breast Cancer in Weehawkin, New Jersey. My vlog for that is coming soon, so look out for it! :) I've kept it under wraps because I was working on other things, but it was one of my June projects!

I'd say that things aren't at their very best for me yet, but they're looking up. Here's to more productivity!

Also, Happy Fourth of July/Independence Day, everyone! :D 🇺🇸

Sunday, May 31, 2015

10 Years and 20 Seasons Later - How I Learned to Finally Appreciate "Dancing with the Stars"

The 20th season of "Dancing with Stars" came to end on May 19, 2015 (Teddy's birthday!) with #TeamValenRue, Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, as the Mirror Ball Trophy victors. #TeamRallison, Riker Lynch and Allison Holker, came in second place and #TeamShway, Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess, came in third.

ABC

This was the first time I watched a whole season of DWTS from beginning to end, dedicated to it and making a point to tune in each week, so now I want to write about it. :) These are my reflections. I have a lot to say, so hang in there.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: The Women from "Reba" (2001-2007)

The final installment of my series this year is the Texas sitcom "Reba", starring country singer Reba McEntire as title character Reba Hart. Like I said, this show is a little too good to be true, and I'll explain why.

The show's main focus is the foundation of family and getting through life's obstacles as a unit. However, the real concept is questioning the true definition of family. The series opens up with Reba and her family at a court-ordered family counseling session. She is separated from her dentist ex-husband Brock (Christopher Rich) and they are trying to solve their marital problems and custody battles. It is revealed in this opening scene that Brock has to marry his dental hygienist Barbra Jean (Melissa Peterman) because she is pregnant, and that their high school senior drill team daughter, Cheyenne (JoAnna Garcia), is pregnant as well with her star football player boyfriend Van Montgomery's (Steve Howey) child. These are the plot points that set off the fireworks for the rest of the series. Reba and Brock also have two other children: the cynical Kyra (Scarlett Pomers) and the innocent, youngest Jake (Mitch Holleman).


Reba Hart (nee McKinney) (McEntire) is literally the mom of the group. When Van's parents disown him due to the pregnancy, Reba takes him in. Reba eventually has a full house minus Brock, which includes baby Elizabeth when she is born during the Season 1 finale. Right away you know that she is a good mother and genuinely cares about others. Though being a stay at home mom seems to be her main role, she is also seen working as a secretary for Brock's dentist rival and eventually goes into the real estate business with Van.

But of course, this full house also means that the other woman, Barbra Jean, feels entitled to show up unannounced at any time. She calls Reba her best friend, leaving Reba nauseous at the very thought. The conflict between these two is the true heart (Haha, Hart/heart) of the show, but it usually is more lighthearted and comical as opposed to serious, angry female rivalries. They are a typical duo with Reba as the short deadpan snarker and Barbra Jean as the tall goofy one.

But see, that's the thing. Though Reba clearly shows her dislike for Barbra Jean, she sucks it up and tolerates her, but while often insulting her to her face and wanting absolutely nothing to do with her. Very rarely would a jilted wife in real life put up with the other woman's antics let alone even deal with her in a civilized manner. There are even times when she is the mediator between Barbra Jean and Brock when they go through a rough patch. What ex-wife would do this? This is probably why Barbra Jean misreads Reba's good nature.

However, Reba isn't perfect herself. A lot of times she has a lot of pride and thinks she knows what's best for everyone but she ends up having to eat her words. It especially pains her when she has to apologize to Barbra Jean or get her approval on things, particularly in my favorite episode "Date of Mirth" when Barbra Jean has a crush on her marriage counselor and Cheyenne and Van convince Reba to get permission from Barbra Jean to date him, and in the episode "Parenting with Puppets" when Reba is convinced that Barbra Jean's parenting tactics are incorrect, leading her to mistakenly blame Barbra Jean and Brock's son Henry for breaking a lamp.

But then again, Barbra Jean "BJ" Hart (nee Booker) (Peterman) using puppets as a parenting technique is pretty juvenile. But that is her nature. The reason why Reba can't stand her, other than the fact that she stole her husband, of course, is her immaturity and over the top personality. She often has these cutesy or crazy ideas with which Reba originally wants no involvement. However, Reba is eventually roped into Barbra Jean's schemes, such as when she takes Reba to see her marriage counselor to explain her crush issue in "Date of Mirth". Other examples are the time they diet together with Cheyenne in "Have Your Cake" and when she and Reba go out man hunting during Barbara Jean's separation from Brock, an activity that Reba surprisingly finds herself enjoying, in "The Two Girl Theory", two of my other favorite episodes.

Barbra Jean may be a pest, but she is also caring and a sweetheart. She is often the one to bring up the Lord or pray in the middle of a scene, though often dramatically. When I watch "Reba" episodes, I see people criticize Barbra Jean in the comments for this reason, saying that she is a phony praying and calling herself a Christian, yet getting pregnant by someone else's husband. Now is my chance to defend her.

Even though Barbra Jean may not realize that some of her words and actions done in innocence may aggravate Reba, she does recognize that she is a sinner. She feels a lot of guilt for what she did to her. She states this every so often, particularly in "The Ghost and Mrs. Hart" where she thinks that ghosts are haunting her because of the wrong she did to her "best friend." Perhaps Barbra Jean tries to forge a friendship with Reba to amend her wrongdoings. Does nobody think that maybe Barbra Jean is turning to Christianity because of the wrong she has done and is trying to make peace with God? For some reason, people seem to have this misconception that we Christians think we are perfect and preach it but don't act it. That couldn't be farther from the truth. As Christians we acknowledge that we are flawed and Barbra Jean is a fictional character that also does this.

Another person who acknowledges the error of her ways is Cheyenne Hart-Montgomery (Garcia), the pregnant teenager of this series. Like with Nikki Parker and Maya Wilkes, we see Cheyenne live with the aftermath of her actions, such as watching her juggle student life and motherhood, but unlike them, we watch her go through the actual pregnancy as well. During the first season, Cheyenne endures a lot of ostracizing and ridicule for her position, along with the fears of having to grow up too fast and put any of her aspirations on hold. Towards the end of Season 4 and into Season 5, she develops an alcohol problem to cope.

Notice too that all three teenage mothers in my series this year keep their babies and raise them. I find this interesting because no other option seems to be considered.

Though she is vain and ditzy, Cheyenne actually has a heart of gold. In "The King and I" it is suggested that she was kind to the nerdy kids in high school, she volunteers, and she's a very good mother to Elizabeth. Her partner-in-crime husband Van pretty much fits this description as well.

But the thing about Van is that his willingness to commit himself to Cheyenne is very unrealistic, just as unrealistic as Reba's strange relationship with Barbra Jean. I had this issue with the show when I first watched it too. In many cases, never is there the guy who impregnates a woman going to be the type of man Van is. Perhaps the show wanted to create a character like this to encourage deadbeat dads to stand up to the plate, but it also gives false pretenses to young women that guys are going to be like Van, when the sad reality is that they are more likely not. In the first episode of the series, he is willing to marry Cheyenne and the marriage lasts throughout the series even though oftentimes the two bicker about things and face bumps in the road. Regardless, they never separate like Brock and Reba and eventually Brock and Barbra Jean. Unlike the previous generation, Cheyenne and Van have a very successful partnership. Interestingly, Cheyenne is portrayed to anticipate and enjoy sex more than Van, so that is different.

Finally there is Kyra Hart (Pomers), who can basically be considered a sub-character, often involved in the sub-plots earlier in the series but receiving a bigger role as the story goes on. She is the smart sarcastic kid who is your typical middle child - often forgotten. Well, at least she feels this way. Towards the end of Season 2 and into Season 3, Kyra moves in with her father and Barbra Jean, feeling like there is no place for her in the filled Reba household. She is the rebellious one who often masks her feelings and makes fun of the stupidity of others, specifically that of Van, Cheyenne, and Barbra Jean.

Although she may come across as an antagonist, often stirring up conflicts to her advantage, there are moments when she softens her heart (Haha. Hart/heart again :P). A shining moment for her is in the episode "Mother's Intuition". In this episode, Kyra keeps canceling dinner plans with Reba and it is revealed at the end that the reason for this is that she needs to stay home to keep Barbra Jean, who is depressed because Brock has moved out, active in life. In the final scene Barbra Jean lacks motivation to go to the park with Kyra and Henry, but Kyra persuades her to get off the couch and join them, much to Barbra Jean's appreciation. What's nice about this is just that. We actually see a nice side to Kyra, and that is rare. She has a strong mean streak to her, especially towards Barbra Jean. It shows that she genuinely cares about her stepmother and has warmed up to her. It also shows that it is not impossible for Kyra to be kind. Kyra is also the one who usually reluctantly, yet willingly, takes part in Barbra Jean's shenanigans.

At the end of the series, Kyra begins to focus on music and has a band.

"Reba" was cancelled a bit suddenly as well, but at least this series has a decent finale that wraps everything up. During the final scene, everything is hunky dory. Cheyenne and Van are getting on their feet, Barbra Jean decides to not leave Texas for work so she could work out things with Brock, and Reba actually ends up finally calling Barbra Jean her best friend. Then Reba delivers the following monologue:
"I'm just so happy that all of our lives worked out...Six years ago I thought I was cursed. Turns out that I'm blessed. Blessed to be in the middle of the craziest, most dysfunctional, WONDERFUL life I could imagine. And I love all of you."
This gets Van all choked up and he suggests that they take a group photo to capture the moment (but really, the only reason why this is done is to mirror this same event that takes place in the closing scene of very first episode). Then Reba delivers the following line as an homage to the show's theme song "I'm a Survivor", sung by McEntire herself:
"We got through it all. Because we're survivors."
This ends the series with the picture being taken, accompanied by the song playing and audience applause in the background, and a final montage of scenes from the show.

I'm not sure if I like this series finale much either, so therefore I don't like any of the series finales on this list. lol :P

To me, everything ends too perfectly. I know that they were probably going for a happy ending, but this final scene insinuates that because the show is over, their lives are essentially over and they will never have any more problems because they "got through it all." It's as if because it was the series finale, it had to be entirely conclusive with everything tied in a precious bow.

But then again, the whole show is like that, so you have to take it for what it is. It has its serious moments, sure, but ultimately it's a sweet show about family and crazy family members and experiences. Perhaps instead of emulating everyday life, "Reba" is there to give us hope of what life could be and that it's possible that we all can have a positive outcome.

Well, that is all for this year's "Fictional Woman of the Week"! I hope you enjoyed this spin on it! Happy Women's History Month, everyone! We'll see what I'll cook up next year! :D

Monday, March 23, 2015

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: The Women from "Girlfriends" (2000-2008)

"Girlfriends" is my most intense sitcom on this year's list, and by intense I mean that it covers more serious issues than the other two do. The show discusses jealousy, sex, weddings, failed marriages, being a black woman in today's America, and AIDS, which is somewhat rare for a sitcom. Though other sitcoms may include it, this sitcom focuses on it a bit more heavily. It's actually pretty educational in regards to AIDS, especially in the episode "The Pact". Even though all three shows bring God and religion into the equation, "Girlfriends" is the one that tended to do it the most often.

The show follows the lives of four professional women. They also have a male friend in William (Reggie Hayes), but the main focus of the series is the female camaraderie.

Of course I would like it. :)

TV Tropes

I started watching this show again because I noticed that Tracee Ellis Ross, who played "Girlfriends" lead character Joan, is now in the new ABC comedy "Black-ish".

Out of all four ladies, I always felt like I related to Joan Clayton, Esq. (Ross) the most. Joan is a lawyer but eventually in Season 5 opens up a restaurant called "The J-Spot". She is considered the mom of the group and is not as free-spirited as the others. However, she is very loyal and usually the voice of reason. Even though all four women are the show's main characters, she's the rock that holds the story together. Without Joan Clayton, we wouldn't have "Girlfriends". We see her perspectives the most. In the beginning episodes, she would even break the fourth wall so we could see her inner thoughts.

I also like how she often addresses her friends as "You guys."

However, watching it again as an adult made me realize her negatives more.

Throughout the whole series she is on the search for a husband. This is her main goal, which now that I think about it when writing this series, is a change of pace. Here we have a professional woman looking to be a wife when normally female characters would more likely be wives looking to have professional lives.

This isn't a bad thing to want nor is Joan a horrible person, but at times in her quest to find true love she can be very insecure and in other circumstances get too involved where she shouldn't. Then there are times where she is not as loyal as she could be and tends to be selfish and condescending, even though this is not her intention. She is just trying to juggle her friends and priorities, which proves difficult for her.

Most of her problems in the show involve her childhood best friend, real estate agent Antoinette "Toni" Childs (Jill Marie Jones). Because Toni was always there for Joan in the past, Joan feels indebted to her and is quick to give her the benefit of the doubt whenever she wrongs her. Even though Toni is often there for Joan and is the first one Joan turns to in times of trouble, like when she thinks that she is pregnant in "Pregnant Pause", Toni is often Joan's main antagonist that causes her unnecessary stress. She is usually portrayed as the bad guy because, like I said before, the show is from Joan's perspective. Their on-again, off-again friendship is much of the show's conflict, especially early in Season 2 when Joan goes to therapy because of her. Another example is the story arc in the last half of Season 3, which consists of Toni preparing for her wedding to Todd (Jason Pace) with Joan persistently and obviously being jealous of her.

Toni stands up for others and herself, but her narcissism and self-centeredness is her trademark at an extreme degree and she is often prone to hasty actions. She is very confident in herself, especially her looks, though she comes across vain, and like Joan she too tries to be there for her friends. She prefers the finer things in life because she grew up poor, but when she finally has her child Morgan with Todd, she matures and becomes a devoted mother.

Both Joan and Toni have qualities that don't make audiences totally despise them, but they both also come with baggage and drama, which they acknowledge. This makes them more human as opposed to archetype, cartoonish characters. There are many layers to them. Their roller coaster friendship is such an important aspect of the show that the hostility between the two even continues after Season 6 when the Toni Childs character is terminated, thus terminating the friendship once and for all because Joan missed Toni's custody hearing even though she promised she would be there. Jones decided to leave the show and her character, who is now separated from Todd, moves to New York so that Morgan could be with her father, leaving Joan feeling withdrawals and guilt. This plot point is very evident in the Season 7 episode "Everybody Hates Monica".

The other two women in their "four girl ensemble" are a bit more real and straightforward and less likely to get into high school drama but are also very loyal friends, though often caught in the middle of the Joan/Toni disputes. The first of the two is Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks). She is introduced as Joan's secretary and assistant and is the teenage mother of the series, her son Jabari a recurring character. At first she and Toni don't get along because they come from opposite worlds, but eventually they warm up to each other.

Maya is the character that is most like everyday people. She isn't rich like Joan or Toni but struggles to make ends meet. Perhaps the fact that she is a mother makes her more down to earth than the rest and we see how good she is to her son throughout the series. She is the one with the quick wit and snarky remarks that often uses sarcasm to respond to and make fun of situations. She coins the phrase, "Oh, HELL no!" Lol. I love that. I think she says it at least once in every episode. I always like the way she expresses herself, even her laughter. She also mentions once that she loves her some Jon Bon Jovi. That's not very important but it needs to be included in this regardless. lol

Like Nikki Parker, Maya too tries to go to school and get her degree, but her stress in piecing together her life and having conflicts with her husband Darnell (Khalil Kain) emotionally leads her into the arms of another man, Stan, who is first introduced in "Maya Takes a Stan". This causes a separation between Maya and Darnell, but they eventually get back together by the end of the series. She also becomes an author of a self-help book entitled Oh, Hell YES!, so that's pretty cool.

Finally, we come to the comic relief and the character most post-graduates could relate to the most, Lynn Searcy (Persia White). I call her a comic relief because she's the one laid back character that has most of the funny lines in spite of everything, but it's not like she's only there for that reason. She seems to be more of a side character, and maybe she is at the beginning, but she eventually becomes a more solid character and has her own serious storylines, which get more and more serious as the series goes on and she matures as it progresses. She's also half white and was adopted and raised by a white family, thus adding more details to her.

Lynn is Joan and Toni's bohemian friend from college who is always crashing at her friends' places. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't think she ever has her own place in the entire series. She holds five post-graduate degrees but yet lacks motivation to find a job and struggles to keep one. She cares more about developing her creative side, being the artistic one of the group. She dresses like a hipster, attends poetry slams, and eventually makes a documentary about African American women and the AIDS epidemic.

My favorite Lynn-centered episode is "Take This Poem and Call Me in the Morning". In this episode, Lynn meets her love interest Sivad (Saul Williams), a poet who performs at one of the slams Lynn attends and is the one who inspires her to make the AIDS documentary. She finds out that he is celibate, which marks her relationship with him a huge story arc for her. Out of all four women, Lynn is the most sexually experienced and experimental. Sex is a huge part of her character and she is very open about it. Sometimes it is used for comedy, but other times it's a big factor in her relationship with men that can either make her or break her. At first she hides this from Sivad and tells him that she is celibate too in order to get closer to him, but he eventually finds out that she is lying. They then agree to become a couple anyway with Lynn willing to repress her sexuality to be with him. Knowing how sexually driven she is, seeing her willing to surrender that about herself for love is a very mature move for her and renders respect.

(Addition 8/20/17 1:29 AM I just found out that Williams and White were once a couple in real life who eventually got married! They actually MET on the show!!! :D However, they are no longer together. End Addition 1:31 AM)

Lynn utters one of my favorite lines in this episode. I liked it so much that I put it under my Facebook quotes. She equates sex with freedom, so after the poetry slam at the end of the episode when she and Sivad are discussing her sexuality, Lynn says:
"My sexuality has been my spirituality."
This was so profound to me when I first heard it. It's beautiful. I never really linked sex and worship together before but her saying this made a lot of sense to me. This brought up to me a whole new way to express spirituality and a whole new way to connect to God, though she is referring more to a connection between two people. Sex is a beautiful thing that is often tarnished by media, so therefore Lynn saying this reiterates the true intention of sex.

However, it comes to a point where Lynn can no longer handle her new celibate lifestyle and the two decide to call it quits and have a mutual breakup the following season in "Snoop, There It Is". Even this is handled good-heartedly and maturely. It's actually pretty impressive that she lasted as long as she did, so I consider this storyline a turning point for her character. Towards the end of the series, Lynn finds music and starts a band called "Indigo Skye". She is seen singing, songwriting, and playing the guitar.

As you can see, this was a very deep show. It had eight very good seasons, but unfortunately it did not get the series finale it deserved when it was cancelled in 2008 and abruptly ended with no satisfying conclusion.

Next week's sitcom had a decent series finale, but it was too good to be true. In fact, the whole series was too good to be true. There's your clue. Stay tuned and thank you for reading! :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: The Women from "The Parkers" (1999-2004)

The first installment of our series this year is the women from "The Parkers", which was a "Moesha" spin-off. I've been wanting to talk about it, so I decided to use this chance to do so.

Wikipedia

This show has a mother/daughter theme. Nikki Parker, the mother of the duo, was played by Mo'nique. I've realized that in every installment of my list this year, there is a character that went through a teenage pregnancy, and Nikki is the first of the three. Nikki actually made my "Fictional Woman of the Week" list last year, so therefore I'm not going to discuss her too much in-depth now, but she's still worth talking about in this blog post.

Because she got pregnant in high school, Nicole "Nikki" Parker (Mo'nique) missed out on college to raise her daughter Kimberly Ann Parker (Countess Vaughn). So when her daughter attends Santa Monica College, Nikki joins her.

What I like about the show now as an adult, other than its slapstick humor, is the college setting. I loved college life, so because a lot of the scenes of this show is set on their college campus, particularly their student center, it appeals to me. The concept itself is interesting. It's very rare that you see a mother going to college with her daughter, which makes this show unique.

Regardless of how irrational she may be when it comes to her unrequited love for Professor Stanley Oglevee (Dorien Wilson), which is the main plot of the show, there are many admirable qualities about Nikki. She is very devoted to her family, friends, education, and business. She's very strict sometimes, but for good reason. She is often encouraging others and seems to have a very positive outlook on life. At the end of the series, she finally graduates college and gets her man.

Kimberly "Kim" Ann Parker (Vaughn) is actually the complete opposite of her mother. Even though she is just as devoted to friends and family as Nikki is, education is not her top priority. Unlike the rest of the characters, she doesn't graduate college by the end of the series.

She's actually pretty much considered the "dumb one" of the group. Most of the goofy one-liners come from her, much to the others' frustration at times. However, this being said, she also has a lot of innocence and has this cuteness about her, especially her giggles. She's the relatable, childlike, sweet character that ends up learning life lessons throughout the series and we watch her grow up. At the end of the day she has a decent amount of common sense and ability to make her own decisions and learn from them. Even though she is not book smart, there are times when we see her very worldly wise as she tries to stay faithful to her beliefs.

One shining moment of hers that comes to mind is during the Season 3 premiere. In the Season 2 finale, her boyfriend dies in a fire and leaves behind his baby girl and in the Season 3 premiere, Kim is determined to raise the baby herself, much to Nikki's dislike. Not wanting Kim to throw her life away for something that is not her responsibility, Nikki contacts the biological mother, leaving Kim angry with her. This episode was shining for Kim because this is one of the few times we see her acting like a mature adult taking things seriously. She was willing to raise the child and was disgusted by how the mother just abandoned her daughter. At the end of the episode, however, Kim gives the mother advice on how to be a good mom because Nikki left such a good example for her and is at peace with the situation.

In addition to all of this, Kim is a talented singer and fashion designer.

Next up is Kim's best friend, Stevie Van Lowe (Jenna von Oÿ), and the more I think about it, the more I realize that Stevie isn't very special lol.

Well, okay, let me talk about her first. She's a foil to Kim when it comes to smarts. She is very studious but, like Kim, has a singing talent. In fact, the two of them, along with their male friend "T" (Ken Lawson), whom Stevie dates for awhile, have their own singing group called "Freestyle Unity". She and Kim actually plan to go into business together by the end of the series. Unlike Kim, she has a very estranged relationship with her mother and often goes into bitter rapid rants about her.

...But that's all there really is to Stevie. There's nothing very exciting about her nor does she really add or take away anything from the show. I think the thing with her is that she's the "straight man" of the group, meaning that she's usually the most sensible and serious out of everyone and to maintain that role she is probably considered the least funny. She's the least likely to get into antics or be comical while in them, so therefore she's not going to be quite as memorable. But that doesn't mean that she isn't likable or influential. She has a lot of good qualities for her to deserve a spot on this list and this type of character is sometimes needed in comedy. She's basically a female companion for Kim and a decent person as seen from her actions, and that's all there is to it.

Finally, we come full circle to Nikki's best friend Andell Wilkerson (Yvette Wilson). Andell doesn't appear until the second season. In the first season Nikki originally has a best friend in a character named Desiree, and although Desiree is kindhearted, her personality proves blander than Stevie's, so thankfully she was replaced with someone with more pizzazz.

Unlike Stevie, Andell is more likely to chase after men and hilariously get herself into jams with Nikki, whether it is dressing in drag to get a signed jersey from Shaq ("Sign of the Shaq") or being trapped on a window ledge to get concert tickets from Tweet ("Kim's 21st Birthday"). However, like Stevie, she is the sarcastic friend who uses that very trait to knock some sense into her Parker friend. Normally Andell is sucked into Nikki's antics, especially when it involves her obsession over the Professor, but she always proves to be a good friend as she sticks up for Nikki and always stands by her side. In fact, even though she is the one who normally talks against Nikki's desired union with the Professor, wanting her friend to find love in the arms of another man who legitimately cares for her, she is the one who finally acknowledges their love for each other and brings them together in the series finale. After she locks Stanley in the closet, that is.

Andell is also a business woman. From Season 3 on, she owns a eatery named "Andell's".

Even though this is a show about close mother and daughter relationships, which is something that Nikki and Kim clearly do have, their heartwarming love for each other the core of the show, this is a show about friendship as well, even though the friendship theme is a bit more secondary.

However, next week's "Fictional Woman of the Week" centers fully on the friendship of women. That's your clue. Mull it over and see if you can guess what show it is and let me know your guesses in the comments. Stay tuned and thanks for reading! :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week: Reloaded

Hello, everyone! I know I haven't been posting a lot during Women's History Month this year, which is what I normally do. However, I would like to before the month ends. Last year I was more prepared to deliver and right after March was over brainstormed about who to write about the following year. I came up with a decent series and I was excited to write about it, but then as the year went on it just sat there and I lost my motivation with it. I still plan on using it at some point for I still believe it is a good series of women to discuss, so therefore I am not going to disclose my ideas to you just yet.

This year, however, I will write spotlights not only on individual women from certain TV shows, but some of television's leading women. I've always wanted to write about the women from "Sex and the City" for "Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious)" since that series began, and even the women from "Three's Company" found their way into my brainstorming for this year, but I decided to narrow it down a bit more.

There are times when at night I would binge watch sitcoms on YouTube from the early 2000s because I remember watching these when I was younger and like going back to them. This is something that I've been doing for the past few months and I see them differently now as an adult. I then noticed something that all of these sitcoms have in common: They are all lead by women. So therefore this year I would like to dedicate "Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) - Fictional Woman of the Week" to the women from these particular sitcoms. There's only three of them that I've been watching really, and there are three Mondays left of Women's History Month, so therefore it should fit well like last year's did.

Something I noticed about the women in my list is that they are all very flawed in some way, especially when compared to the perfect housewife women of earlier sitcoms. This makes them different and perhaps even more admirable, so this should be interesting.

The more I think about it, the more I am realizing that the women this year have a lot in common, so I'm excited.

The first one should be rolling around this upcoming Monday, or at least earlier in the week. I have other things to take care of as well so I'll do my best to deliver these for you. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#ThingsWritersGetExcitedAbout

This is a hashtag I use on Twitter sometimes. I use it to describe situations that only writers and readers would fully appreciate. Something happened today that is too much to fit into a tweet and worth more than a Facebook post, so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.

Earlier today I went to Sprague Library on Montclair State University's campus with my father. This is something we do every so often. There is a small section on the first floor called "Pop Picks", which consists of recommended modern fiction and non-fiction and is pretty much one of the only sections in this library with this genre, so I go there to browse.

The last time I went to Sprague, I returned this book called The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks, which is from this section. I didn't finish it, but according to the library's policy, you can't renew a book unless you are a student, so I had to return it and wait until next time.

I was concerned about this though. The last time I returned a book, The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, I never saw it in the "Pop Picks" section since. That one I at least finished and adored, so I was concerned that I would never see Sparks's book again on the shelf.

So today I went over to the "Pop Picks" section again to look for The Wedding. At first I had no luck. Let me explain how this section is set up. I left my camera at home so bear with me. I would've taken pictures of this with it. The top three shelves have the books displayed with their frontal book covers facing out whereas the bottom two shelves has books stacked together side by side with only their spines visible, which is what you would usually see at most libraries and bookstores.

I studied this section more because this is where I found the book last time. I was feeling discouraged because I kept seeing the same books I always see there and not my books. Then I looked up and on the second or third shelf, right in front of me with its cover facing out, was The Obituary Writer! I gasped I was so shocked and excited! I wasn't sure if I would ever see it again! After feeling thrilled about this, I resumed my search for The Wedding, because finding the other book gave me hope. Wouldn't you know that three books to the left of The Obituary Writer was The Wedding??? Usually the same books are displayed like this on the top two shelves but now my two books were! They were both right next to each other on the same shelf looking out! Now they are not lost from me! I thought this was a very cool coincidence. So then I took out the book and plan on reading this rest of it. :)

I also took out a book about Aphra Behn, the first female writer to get paid for her work. She paved the way for me and many others. I'm thinking about writing a blog post about her for my "Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious)" series for Women's History Month.

Friday, February 27, 2015

19 Reasons Why I am a Teddy Coffey Fan

Well, another "So You Think You Can Dance" Live Tour has come to an end as of February 18, making it the longest-running tour in SYTYCD history, so what better way to commemorate it than talk about my favorite dancer of Season 11, Teddy Coffey. :) Though he did not make the Top 10, he was chosen as an alternate to tour with them.

I often tweet about him, so people, especially non-SYTYCD fans, may wonder, "Why do you like Teddy Coffey so much?" So, because he is currently 19 years old, which he musically expressed to us in this moment, thus revealing his singing talents...

"My name is Teddy Coffey...

and I'm nineteeeen-years-old...

I'm a boy who is a Taurus... 

that likes grooving to the radio."
I love this song! :D

...here are 19 reasons, in no particular order, why I am a fan of Teddy Coffey. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Conducting Interviews, New Paper Cup Reviews Episode, Meeting the Kratt Brothers, and Living Life!

Hello, everyone. I've been brainstorming and writing other blog posts for here, as well as wanting to update my blog on my website, but right now I have been concentrating on interviewing and writing articles for a Bergen County magazine among other business prospects. I'm trying to keep busy and professional.

Meanwhile I'll give you a small update of what the first month of 2015 had in store for me (before I got sick and snow started happening for the second half).

The first Sunday of January the Paper Cup Review Crew was at it again when we saw "Into the Woods"! This was our longest episode yet and I finally uploaded it this week. Check it out:


I'm actually looking for audience feedback suggestions for our fifth milestone episode, so let me know if there is anything that you'd like to see us discuss!

I'm perhaps looking to make these more consistent and shorter.

The following Sunday, I MET THE KRATT BROTHERS FROM PBS KIDS!!!! I had originally saw the ad for their "Wild Kratts Live!" show at the Count Basie Theatre when I was there for the SYTYCD Season 11 Live Tour back in November. I had been wanting to see it, but wasn't sure if I'd be able to. It turns out that they were also performing at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), which is closer to my home, the following day. So January 11 showed up and even the day of we weren't sure if we were going to go, but ended up getting a steal on tickets, so we actually went! We had fantastic seats just for the three of us (my mom, my aunt, and myself) all the way in the back on the center aisle. We didn't get Meet and Greet tickets, for those were already sold out, so I wasn't sure if I would meet the brothers, but we ended up meeting them outside. Martin was in a hurry to catch a plane and Chris came out later after he left and we chatted for a bit about "Zoboomafoo" and such. They both took the time to take a picture with me, which I extremely appreciate.



It means so much to me that I was actually able to see them in person. I got so excited to see them come out onstage. We were the only group there without children with us. I was literally the oldest "kid" there and the show clearly was geared towards the children, but I didn't care. I still had the best time. I have been watching their TV shows since I was a child and everything I know about animals is pretty much attributed to them. They are great with kids! I was so thrilled and getting teary-eyed because this was so much attached to my childhood. :)