Sunday, May 28, 2017

I Got Quoted for a Buzzfeed Article!!! :D

One of my goals achieved! lol!

They originally asked the Buzzfeed Community "Which Show From Your Childhood Do You Wish Was Never Cancelled?"

I contributed "The Puzzle Place" in the comments and they chose mine!! ​I wasn't sure if they were going to choose my contribution or not, but I really wanted them to and purposely commented to be included. I never really submit comments to Buzzfeed for this intention, but this time I tried it out. It was too perfect of an opportunity. I even carefully crafted my comment to be presentable and especially well written if chosen. Haha! I was thinking maybe they would use mine because it's unique and I provided an explanation.

I make it a habit to deactivate my Facebook account but purposely stayed active until the article was published so that my comment would remain live and I wanted to use my main account for the submission! lol I was determined. I didn't want to take any chances. However, I ended up deactivating my Facebook a bit more again recently because I felt like it (I am way more productive and peaceful when I am not on social media) and was thinking that if they were going to use it, they probably had seen it already anyway or maybe didn't see or maybe decided not use it. lol I was like, "No big deal if they don't."

But tonight when I got home I visited Buzzfeed, as I do, I saw that they had finally posted the article. So I clicked on it and scrolled, wondering if I was going to see my contribution.

I came across "The Puzzle Place" addition, wondered if it was mine (Could it be??), AND IT WAS!

This is so cool! I'm so excited!!!

I may be going a little bit too enthusiastic about this, but it's pretty interesting to see myself and my opinions in a Buzzfeed Community article on a site I consistently visit. I appreciate their nostalgic posts. :) Some of the comments even say that they are glad that someone (me) remembered "The Puzzle Place". :)

You can check out the full article here. It's a list of "25 Shows From Your Childhood That Should’ve Had At LEAST One More Season".

It's a nice list with plenty of great old kids shows acknowledged on there. Number 8 is my personal favorite though. ;)

8 is actually one of my favorites numbers, so I love that about this experience too. lol

If I'm this excited being quoted in a Buzzfeed article, imagine how psyched I am going to be when I'm published in even greater forums. Looking forward to that. ;)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Biblical, Shakespearean, and Other Themes in "Heathers"

Let's celebrate my half birthday by sharing my first analytical blog essay in months! :D

For the past few weeks, I have been on a "Heathers" kick. Heathers was a teen movie in 1988 starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater and it was remade as an Off-Broadway musical in 2014. I watched this YouTube video one Sunday morning, heard "Dead Girl Walking", liked it, looked it up along with the rest of the musical, and the rest was history.

I had heard about the musical when it came out, but still didn't really think that much about it. Although, I will give its Twitter account credit for being the one Broadway musical account to follow me. ;)

I never really knew what "Heathers" was about, hence my current interest to now delve more into it. All I knew was that it is about a clique of girls all with the name Heather and that this teenage bad boy tries to kill everybody. I always sensed the dark tone, but now I have more of an understanding of the story in general.

For example, I never knew that Ryder's character wasn't named Heather. I always thought that she was the fourth Heather or something. However, high school senior Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder in the movie, Barrett Wilbert Weed in the musical) is a teenage nobody who longs for life in elementary school when all of her classmates got along with each other. She hooks up with the awful popular girls, the Heathers (Heather Chandler, the Queen Bee, Heather Duke, the bitchy second-in-command, and Heather McNamara, the one that tags along and has some deep issues of her own), in order to avoid being targeted by the bullies. She becomes attracted to new kid Jason "J.D." Dean (Christian Slater in the movie, Ryan McCartan in the musical) when he is the only one strong enough to stand up to the bullies and wishes for him to protect her. The two develop a sort of flirtation and end up accidentally-on-purpose murdering the mean kids for revenge and framing the homicides as suicides to alleviate the blame, thus launching a whole teen suicide awareness campaign at their Westerburg High School. From this, Veronica's life starts to spiral out of control as J.D.'s true dark colors are revealed and he gets more and more determined to purge the bullies in order to sanctify society.

There are some themes in this plot that I believe are worth noticing, so let's dive right in! :) Incidentally, although I will be talking about both the film and the musical, I'll be going by the musical more. They made some changes from the film for the stage version and I feel more familiar with the latter.

Beware of spoilers and adult language!!!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

I'm Still Here!!!

Hey friends! You might be wondering where my blog posts have been. Well, as I have said in this blog post, once I get busy professionally, I can't really focus as much on this blog. However, that being said, this blog is still a priority that I keep thinking about. I have blog posts to finish and share (especially this year's Women's History Month project, which is almost finished but yet behind...I'm working on it!) plus other things I want to accomplish, so I just wanted to let you know that I'm still here! :) April has been a pretty busy month for me, for I recently started a new freelancing position that has been keeping me hard at work, so I am extremely grateful for that. It's just a matter of me managing my time better and using my free time to work on this blog.

So, there you have it! :)

-Stef :)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Stef's Female Friendships - My Early Childhood Family Friends: Mom and Ea, and Cyndi

Let's kick off the final week of Women's History Month with my female friendship series. I'll start this year's series off with the first two women in my life, my mom Lucille and my Aunt Ea, or simply, Ea. Her real name is Maria, but as a kid I struggled to say it, so my Grandma Mary suggested that it be shortened to just "Ea" and it stuck. I still call her that to this day and now my teenage cousin, her nephew Michael, the son of the late Veronica "Roni," calls her the same.

l-r: Ea, Me, and Mom
My Mom and Ea are sisters and are both 100% Italian American, so they definitely contributed to my Italian culture pride. FYI, I'm not Italian at all on my father's side, hence my last name.

My mom is entirely the best. I love her so much. I mean, sure like any mother and daughter (especially Italian American ones) we have our disagreements, but we have such a wonderful relationship. I'm an only child, so I tend to hang out with my parents a lot and my mom and I share mutual interests. She enjoys going to see theater and movies with me and lately we've been coloring and exercising together. Another favorite mother/daughter activity we enjoy is going out to eat for appetizers and Coors Light beer lol. I am so grateful to have such a great mom. She's my best friend and we're constantly laughing together. Quite frequently we are mistaken for sisters (she loves that lol). She is always there for me and is alway proud of my writing and encouraging me to heighten my self-esteem. I love her so very much and my friends love her too.

Then there is who I call my second mom, my Aunt Ea. Ea was my designated babysitter along with my two grandmothers before they passed away, so I have plenty of memories with her. Where do I start? lol

When I was a child, she was my built in playmate, often taking part in homemade plays with me. She often says that even though I no longer really play with toys anymore, now she can spend time with me in other ways. Normally when I talk or blog about Paper Mill Playhouse shows, I see them with her. See? There is clearly a theme. No matter what the age, we often go out to eat together. lol Sometimes we even cook together. :)

Ea watched me grow up and was always there for birthdays and other big events. I may call her my second mom, but she is also my official godmother, assigned at my Baptism, so therefore she makes sure to instill Catholic teachings into Michael (her godson) and myself consistently. Her house is also my second home. My family has dinner there (it always smells good) and I sometimes sleep over there too. I attribute to Ea plenty of lifetime recollections. I love her. :)

Cyndi (on the left) and I at my miniature dachshund
Jeffrey's birthday party that I threw for him. lol
Because I grew up an only child and only have male cousins (Michael on my mom's side, Chuckie and Jimmy on my dad's), I did not really have any female relationships my age during my initial years of life. Then I remembered that Cyndi, my neighbor, was there to fill that void. Cyndi herself has two older brothers and became, I guess you could say, my surrogate sister.

When my parents moved in, they befriended the couple across the street. Eventually both my mom and Cyndi's mom were expecting at the same time. Cyndi was born in late August and then I came around early November. Cyndi's father said that we could hang out until we eventually made our own friends and we did just that. It was easy to hang out because we lived right across the street from each other. She would come over my house and I would go over hers, but most of the time our conversations consisted of us shouting at each other from our opposite lawns. :P

Cyndi's father's prediction ultimately came true. We went our separate ways as we got older, her becoming an athlete and me becoming the artsy fartsy you know and love. However, we still talk. :) We still live in the same houses, greet each other, and chat about our professional lives and her latest activities with Pokemon Go and roller derby.

Despite our differing interests, it's nice to have her there. :)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious) Stef's Female Friendships Women's History Month Project

This Women's History Month I am going to do something extra special. For my series "Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious)" in the past, I have written about fictional female characters and the occasional celebrities and historical figures who I feel exhibit characteristics of the strong woman. I also spotlighted several female TV show cast of characters that compose the nature of their particular shows. Now I am planning something completely different.

This Women's History Month, I decided to write blog posts focusing on the various groups of women who have shaped me, from family members to friendships I have made during my different stages of life. I've noticed that I have individual groups of friends that each has its own title depending on our friendship's theme. So throughout this month (the plan is weekly), I am going to share stories about my friends and how they have each contributed to my life and continue to do so. :)

I'm very excited about these heartwarming installments. Stay tuned!

Happy Women's History Month! :D

(Edit: These might take a while longer because I'm realizing that I may want to include some more photos that I need to find, but I will do my best to deliver these throughout the month, even if it may go into April.)

(Edit: March 16, 11:30 AM: I might save all of these for the final two weeks of March. :) )

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Stef's "So Good You Can't Put It Down" Book Reviews: Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge

LOL! Finally!

2016 was my first year participating in a Goodreads Challenge. Determined, I originally planned on reading 12 books this year, one for each month. However, seeing that I probably wouldn't accomplish this amount, I shortened it to eight books this year. Baby steps.

I did manage to read some whole books, but at the end of the year I was still behind. However, I also dabbled and started some other books, so to me, as long as a still read something, it still counts regardless if I completed them or not. I'll probably consider them my 2017 books too when I actually finish some of them. :P

For a lot of the books I read, I use My Bibliofile: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers to record my thoughts along the process. My father gave me this for Christmas one year and it is one of the best gifts I have ever received! Some books I do not include in this because I want to save pages in it and want to dedicate my entries to books I know I am into and want to finish. I think I might use some of the notes I took in this so I can remember what I thought of these books better. :P

So here are the books I read in 2016! :D

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ryan Gosling Deserves More than an Academy Award for What He Did on Oscar Night 2017

This was originally going to be a "Chatting with Stef" video, but I think I can articulate my thoughts on the matter better here.

So the 2017 Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, took place last night. Awards were given, political stances were taken, jokes were made (mostly at Donald Trump's expense), and everyone is talking about the mistake at the end.

However, there is something that nobody seems to be talking about nearly as much, but should. Although, it has gotten a lot of attention of Twitter and other comment sections.

The news is covering Gosling's facial expression to La La Land's loss and his sister Mandi, who he generously brought to join him, but this needs to be acknowledged so much more, which is why I am writing this blog post.

First of all, I can't stand jokes at award shows. It's like, shut up and just give out the awards. They're usually never that humorous and are all just ways to get people chattering. Then again, perhaps it depends on the jokes, but I digress.

One of the "jokes" was bringing a bunch of unsuspecting Hollywood tourists into the theater and parading them in front of the nominees. The tourists were understandably starstruck, taking photos and videos of their favorite actors and actresses before them as host Jimmy Kimmel guided them down the line and introduced them.

However, what struck me more was Ryan Gosling's reaction to all of this, which for me spoke volumes.

Ryan Gosling, who was up for La La Land and sat in the front row, was the ONLY celebrity to STAND UP and STAY STANDING to greet the lineup. Not only that, he seemed to have quick, lighthearted conversations with each member. I was actually appalled to see that the others didn't really follow suit. And not to change the subject, I heard that he also made a nice speech about his girlfriend Eva Mendes back at the Golden Globes.

The man is a Grade A class act and deserves to be commended.

At first I didn't notice this, but people have pointed out that he gave the first guy his box of candy (throughout the night they dropped candy from the ceiling) and may have even handed him his autograph. But all of this is beside the point. Gosling did what the rest of the celebrities would not.

Sure there were some guys who briefly stood up and took photos and Denzel Washington got up for that one couple, but that was more because the woman said that he was her favorite actor and Kimmel somewhat obligated him. I got the impression that Washington couldn't be bothered and neither could the rest of them. I'll even go as far as saying that they kinda looked borderline repulsed by the everyday people and couldn't wait for them to leave.

Then again, this was just my impression.

I could be over thinking this and overpraising the guy, but it holds true that Ryan Gosling was the only star to treat the tourists with respect as fellow human beings plainly by standing up to get on their level and connecting with them as opposed to gawking and giggling at the "hilarity" of it all. But then again, you can't really blame them for responding strangely like that. It can always be cool for fans to meet famous people and for famous people to meet fans, but this was just such an odd and cringeworthy way of doing it. Now, if the tourists were let into an after party and could freely mingle as equals, that might be another story.

It was as if both the tourists and the actors alike were on display. Okay, well maybe the actors were caught off guard and found the whole extravagancy just as awkward as I did, so they were put on the spot and too stunned and maybe even too shy and low key to respond right. Maybe they deal with fans on a daily basis and needed a break from it. Maybe they aren't supposed to interact with people on the fly to protect themselves. Some of them were friendly enough when hugging and shaking hands with their fans, which was the extent of their communications.

I also want to give all of the women the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps their feet were killing them because of their heels or they were restricted from movement in their outfits. As a woman who has worn such attire in the past, I can totally understand this.

This still doesn't excuse the fact that this looked more like an opportunity to mock the "lesser" common folk and their excitement than anything by tricking them to show up, which isn't necessarily the celebrities' fault. They clearly didn't plan for this to occur.

People are mostly commenting about how funny and/or awesome it was and how lucky these people were, but I did manage to find a few tweets and comments from the opposing side, and I agree with them. Here are two of them:

The others basically echo a similar theme.

I repeat that maybe I am overanalyzing this. Some say that it was nice of the Academy and Jimmy Kimmel to allow this and was a harmless surprise and Kimmel style prank. It was, after all, a once in a lifetime opportunity for the tourists to meet their favorite stars and certainly a night they will never forget. Maybe it was the best night of their lives! Many people will probably disagree with my opinions about this because the tourists themselves looked happy to be there and, like, they were at the Oscars and ran into so many stars at once! Some people wish that they were in their shoes and that this would happen to them.

Why, then, should I complain on their behalf? I don't speak for anybody else.

Perhaps they were also in on the joke? This definitely needs to be considered because they were going to be on the Oscars and maybe certain permissions needed to be verified, such as for being filmed. Some people might feel ashamed wearing street clothes to such a formal event in front of cameras and a bunch of celebrities who are all decked out for the Oscars, which again intensifies the idea of the rich and famous humiliating the common folk. They also most likely had to be fully surveyed for safety reasons before they stepped foot into that theater.

Plus, if they were serious Hollywood fans, how would they not know that the Oscars were being filmed at that location at that time? Isn't the Red Carpet outside also an obvious clue? Well, they did take them through the side door and not every Hollywood tourist has to be that knowledgeable about every single thing happening in the industry...

Maybe it's because I am a private person, but as I was watching this, sensing the uneasiness through the screen and wondering how I would respond to the situation, I thought to myself that I probably would have been annoyed by the spotlight and may not be alone. Furthermore, my desire to meet so many celebrities isn't that great.

The Hollywood elite need to remember that they were once just as ordinary as us and if it weren't for the people walking in, they wouldn't be sitting in those nice comfy chairs awaiting their award acceptances and distributions. People like us spend our well earned money, which is probably about 1/100,000,000 of what these celebrities make, on tickets to see these films because we appreciate this art and appreciate these performers producing that art. I hope to never change my perceptions about this and remain humble.

Ryan Gosling understands this, for instead of remaining in his chair like everyone else, he stood among the commoners. The least the rest could have done was rise from their seats along with him to recognize the people who have helped and continue to help them get into their current positions of success and stature. Not that they aren't grateful, but it would have been nice to see them take this extra step to show that gratitude and camaraderie between us and them. Then again, that could have dragged the uncomfortable segment out longer and they were already pressing on time.

Something tells me that if this happened at the Tony Awards, more of the performers would socialize with the entering fans. Theater people seem more inclusive and accepting.

Interestingly enough, I was never really that huge a fan of Ryan Gosling. Let me be clear that I never disliked him, but I also wasn't one of the many girls my age who gushed over his portrayal of Noah Calhoun in Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook (2004), which is how I first discovered him. If I had to choose a Ryan, I always chose Ryan Reynolds, another fellow decent human being in my opinion.

I truly enjoyed Gosling's performance in La La Land when Abby and I saw it back in late December (and shockingly didn't make a review vlog of it). Gosling was up Best Actor in a Leading Role, but lost to Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea.

He may not have received an award, but he certainly has received a new fan in me from his one simple act of kindness. Many claim it is because of his Canadian upbringing. Regardless of what it is, he certainly earned my respect last night.

Thank you, Ryan Gosling.

If you want to see what I am talking about throughout this piece, here is the video of it:

(But maybe the celebrities were in on it [too]. If so, their reactions were simply them acting! Hmm... If that's true, then they really are a pretty talented bunch and perhaps more talented than I thought because they managed to convince me enough to write a whole blog post criticizing them!)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Reflections about..."The Bodyguard" at Paper Mill Playhouse Friday December 23, 2016 at 1:30 PM

I've been practically either sick or busy all month, so I haven't been able to devote more of my time to this blog, but I am finally delivering this post!

The Bodyguard was a 1992 movie starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner about a pop singer who has a stalker, so her manager hires a bodyguard to protect her.

Now this story comes to audiences live in a stage production...but not quite. I say not quite because I read the synopsis of the movie on Wikipedia and it doesn't really match up. It has some similarities, but the musical adaptation is a total retelling and liberties are taken.

Written by Alexander Dinelaris, the show has played in London, Australia, Germany, Korea, and Toronto, all with different casts. Now it kicked off its U.S. debut and tour at Paper Mill Playhouse, starring Grammy Award winner Deborah Cox as Houston's character Rachel Marron and Judson Mills as Costner's character Frank Farmer. It premiered on November 25 and played until January 1.

Going into it, I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew about this story is that it was based on a movie starring Whitney Houston who sings "I Will Always Love You" at the end. I didn't know how well this would translate to a stage musical, so I was interested in seeing how it is done.