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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brewer's game tomorrow!

Milwaukee Brewers game tomorrow in Philadelphia. I'm excited, but a little nervous. A lot of Philly fans are brutal/sore losers towards non-Philly fans. I'm taking the train and a cab -- avoiding buses and subways just because you get rowdy people there.

I'm meeting my friend that lives in Staten Island. I met him in Wisconsin. He bought the tickets; this is where we'll be sitting:

This park is strict. I'm not bringing a purse. I'm taking my carrying case of the SLR camera, putting my bigger point and shoot in it and my phone and wallet. I'm hoping it's okay -- bag requirements are 16x16x8.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Baltimore Planning

Mom said she wants to go over with me the places I eat and the things I do in Baltimore so I don't spend a lot. I know I want to go to Boog's in the Camden Yard's. A Facebook friend of mine said it's awesome and the travel guide I borrowed from the library recommended it as well. I'm just debating between these two places to eat for my first night there:

Pickles Pub

This looks close to M&T Field, but I'm not sure. I'd have to look at a map or call.

Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co

This is in the Inner Harbor. Mom said anything in the Inner Harbor is expensive. So, I guess we'll see.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day, dear blog buddies! I hope those of you that celebrate it had a good day. :) Mom and dad cleaned out nan's house -- the auction is Thursday and I'm not sure if people bought it yet. It struck me today, this is going to be my first summer without her. It's going to feel weird not staying at her house at nights and her taking me to the bus stop in morning. I miss it. :(

I'm going to write about my Philadelphia trip from Saturday tomorrow since I only graced you with pictures. It was a good time and I can't wait to go back on Friday to see the Brewers play the Phillies.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Debating CARAVAN

Tom (you know, the guy I used to have a crush on) sent me an invite to see his band, Penrose, for one weekend in Maine at the beginning of August. They do this every year and it always looks fun, and I sorta do want to go, but I'm unsure. I'm not sure if a train goes there and if it did, I'm nervous of my anxiety. I just don't feel like I fit in and I'm unsure about the people. I guess it's my social anxiety again and I feel like I'm losing friends. :\ Caravan 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013


Great band rocks the Whitpain Tavern in Whitpain, PA. Great job, guys!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

RIP Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for the 60s band The Doors, passed away on Monday in Germany of duct bile cancer. He was 74. Sad day; growing up I would listen to the Doors with dad and Daniel (the foreign exchange student). The Doors, along with Nirvana and other grunge and heavy metal bands were the staple of my middle and high school years. Those memories will never die and Ray Manzarek will live on in those memories.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Hi y'all,

Monday was the official start of working the summer at West Chester University. This week is a special week because I'll be working Thursday for a technology conference—over the summer I decided to work at WCU Monday-Wednesday and Thursdays and Fridays at the library to save some money on bus fare. In July the passes will be going from $83 to $92; I decided to take the local bus (Septa 92) again rather than the 104 because that'd be more expensive (granted, in the morning I will have to walk to the 99 bus to take to the mall, but in the afternoon I'll be getting picked up; whereas if I took the 104 I'd have to pay that fare plus the fare for the high speed line) since I'd be paying in cash starting in June. I calculated that I'll be spending $15/week, which would be $60-$75 a month depending on the month. That's a $15-$30 savings from the pass. But, I've also been debating this. The past few days it has been foggy (and I haven't really felt like walking) and tomorrow will be thundering so I'll be taking a cab. I spent $8 to get to the mall from my house, so this week will be $24 getting to the mall. I was debating taking the cab every day I work, but that would be too expensive. I'm fine this week since I still have my bus pass; but I will save a cab for the rain. I leave my house at 5:20am to be at the bus stop by 5:45am to catch the 5:55 bus.


I've been thinking about driving lately. I don't really look forward to it, but I'm thinking when I start a new therapist I might have him or her go over techniques of calming down. Someone told me most employers aren't flexible with transportation and I have a feeling the temp agency might be the case (the way mom talks about it). Mom and a few others say I'm limited with jobs too by not driving. I'm not sure if I'll ever get over my anxiety because I'm not sure if it's my thyroid or possible bipolar disorder. If I have Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid (my mom has it), there might be a possibility I might not be bipolar. But, even that's a gray area because bipolar people can have Hashimoto's disease. I'm switching to a hopefully better psychiatrist instead of seeing someone who doesn't even write down what I'm on and either blames my thyroid and tells me to go to my doctor (half the time my thyroid has been in range of good levels) or gives me more medications. I'm also changing from a nurse practitioner to a MD for the thyroid issue and general health concerns. I'm hoping to find answers once I switch; no one in my family to our knowledge has ever had bipolar disorder, but a few of us have thyroid disorders. I also hate the Risperadol, it makes me feel numb and like I don't want to do anything. My writing has suffered and I'm surprised my grades didn't—I earned 4 B's and an A. I'm hoping to get off of that, I hope I can. But, if I do drive, I'd only stay close to home and work, then the bus for everything else. Not really comfortable driving long distances, especially alone.


Next week I'm ordering the Orioles ticket since I took a cab three times this week and I went to lunch on Monday. Once the hotel room is ordered, that'll be the end of my spending for the trip (besides what I spend while down there, but the limit is $75/day). This is a reason why I'm only saving a cab for rainy days because I need to start putting aside for tuition. It doesn't look like part time tuition hasn't gone up (has stayed at $295/credit), but I'm not sure if the technology fee will go up. I'm looking at a little more than $1,000 for next semester. I'm not sure if I'll have my school job in the fall since I'll be part time and yesterday I had an incident. My boss left early and so did I. I finished work early and made note of it on the time sheet and left. I received a text message from someone and I assumed it was my boss asking me about my progress. I started flipping out, having panic attacks about getting fired (another reason I'm switching doctors, I read Risperadol adds even more to anxiety, and like I said I want to know if it's thyroid or bipolar or both). I'm not sure if it was her, she didn't say anything this morning. Anyway, I'm going to put money aside just in case something happens. I'm thinking if I get a job at the temp agency and it pays better, I might leave the job here. If not, work three jobs. I don't really need my class in the fall, so it's not really a worry (I'm only taking it because I found out too late I could have graduated in the Spring since I dropped my creative writing minor, but I rather graduate in December because of weather).


But, that's enough for now. I hope to update later!



Monday, May 20, 2013

Baltimore Trip

This weekend I am going to get my Orioles ticket. I found a good seat above the field for $17. Next week, I'm going to get my room. After that, I'll be saving up for tuition.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve

Today my parents and I went to the Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania. It's a thee mile wildflower walk that is so beautiful. Not many flowers were in bloom though, it was very green. The rivers were so peaceful and one of the rivers, the slow moving river, almost looked frozen. That was neat.

Rare flowers-- I think they're called Ballerina Slippers.

What looked to be a frozen river.

Since New Hope is ten minutes away from New Jersey, we went to lunch in Lambertsville (New Jersey) at the Lambertville Inn. We decided to sit outside, despite the overcast day, and as soon as our lunch came it rained. They moved us to the bar area, but it didn't spoil our yummy lunch. I had a soft shelled crab sandwich with French fries, mom had French dip and dad had a gourmet hamburger. It was expensive, but we'd definitely go back.

For an appetizer, dad had French onion soup and mom had wine soaked clams (she let me taste one and they tasted the way she makes them with the wine sauce).

I'm starting my Summer 2013 album now. I'm going to add the two pictures from last night when I saw Jerry Watkins at Screwballs. Summer 2013

2 years since Tragus piercing

It's been 2 years since I had my left tragus done at Infinite in South Street, Philadelphia.

Picture is from May 18, 2011.

Last Friday, I had my right tragus done:

Picture is from May 10, 2013.

Kellan was my piercer for both piercings. He did one other one -- he has to be one of my favorites, next to Kyle who did my rook. Yep, I like getting pierced too much. :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Appetites on Main

After I turned in my Shakespeare paper, I went to Appetites on Main in Exton, PA. Great, great, great!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May the Odds Be in Your Favor: Star-Crossed Lovers in The Hunger Games and Popular Culture

My 2nd research paper. It's not the best, but it had to be 10 pages. I might go back (after it's turned in) and focus on the Hunger Games. That gave me 6 pages.

May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor: Star-Crossed Lovers in The Hunger Games and Popular Culture


Two tributes, both alike in blood-filled fate,

In corrupted Panem, where we lay our scene,

From twisted games comes new protest,

Where teenaged blood makes teenager's hands unclean.

From forth the faulted Capitol, bred this new rebellion

A pair of star-cross'd “lovers” about to take their life

Whose misfortuned fate, leads to impossible solutions.

Do with their decision, protest the Capitol.

The painful passage of their death-mark'd "love,"

And the fault of the Capitol’s Game.

Which, but their suicide, nought could challenge the Capitol's rules.

Is now the 374 pages' traffic of our novel;

The which if you with open eyes attend,

What here shall miss, our conflict shall strive to mend.



            It’s funny to think that in the early twentieth century some scholars believed that Shakespeare would die out in American culture in future generations. However, within the past two decades there have been many movies released of Shakespeare works and many movies and TV that borrows heavily from Shakespearian works. I never realized this until none day I was searching the term “star crossed lovers” in Google and many presentations popped up citing Suzanne Collin’s 2008 novel, The Hunger Games has references from Romeo and Juliet and a few other Shakespearian works. The sonnet shown above is from a blog I found, but many fan fictions have similar sonnets, showing that teenagers and young adults associate Romeo and Juliet with The Hunger Games (and possibly a new love for Romeo and Juliet?). Some sites believe that The Hunger Games, Twilight, Brokeback Mountain and a few other popular novels and movies have sparked a Shakespearian interest in the United States.

But, the United States isn’t the only country that has renewed interest in Shakespeare.  Iraq has surprisingly took on a production from the Bard—Romeo and Juliet and has received high acclaims and good reviews; Iraq loves Romeo and Juliet. It is evident that Shakespeare spans across religions, socio-economics and interestingly, in a war torn area almost reminiscent of scenes from Julius Caesar, Hamlet and modern adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. I was amazed to see all the movies, books and television shows that have Shakespearian references. It’s interesting because we are living in a time of war where it seems like differences tear people apart. Maybe readers turn to Shakespeare to better understand what is going on and to better understand an adult world filled with so much strife? I believe Shakespeare is used in works like The Hunger Games, in popular music ranging from the late 1970s to early 1980s that included artists such as Blue Oyster Cult, Ratt and Dire Straits as well as the remake of Romeo and Juliet in Iraq because our culture never got rid of Shakespeare. According to the trends I have seen in various articles that will be included in this piece, it seems like people recycle him and he returns in small ways in each decade. Our Shakespeare obsession not only paints a picture of mixed emotions of what is going on in the world— with fear and hence most of the remakes either take on a dystopian feel like The Hunger Games or Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”; or sometimes we get a feel of sappy romance from artists like Dire Straits in a world that seems like there is no love. We can learn from Shakespeare these lessons and we always return to him to teach us what it is like to live in this world.

“I think we’re the oldest people here,” my friend Taylor whispered to me as we waited in the lobby for the theater to open up for The Hunger Games in March 2012. Tweens and teens stood around in their handmade Hunger Games shirt that either read “We love you, Peeta” or “Katniss is our hero” (ironically, two months later I made a “Team Katniss” shirt for my friend and a “Team Peeta” shirt for myself, both on purple shirts and the goal was to wear together to show our allegiances) shouting their excitement for the movie and hopes that it wouldn’t desecrate the book because of director and screenplay writer interpretations.  Even though I had just begun to read the novel (I usually wait until after I’m done the novel, but I wanted to hang out with a friend), once the movie started I was pleasantly surprised with the results and even after I was done the novel, I was still a fan of both the film and story. There was some reason I liked it, maybe it was the dystopian feel, but it later hit me that it had a twist of Romeo and Juliet in it.

The Hunger Games is located in Panem, which is North America after a catastrophic civil war that Mark Fisher describes in Precarious Dystopias: The Hunger Games, In Time, and Never Let Me Go that Panem is a world that “as with all dystopias that connect, is a distorting mirror of our own” (Fisher 27). According to the Ethics and Literature blog, Panem was chosen by Suzanne Collins because it was “derived the name of her fictitious country Panem from the Latin phrase, “Panem et Circenses” or “bread and circus.” According to Mockingjay, the final book of The Hunger Games trilogy, the country’s name Panem refers to the Latin phrase because in exchange for an endless supply of food and entertainment, the people of Panem surrender their political freedoms to The Capitol. To the people of Panem, the Hunger Games are the greatest form of entertainment, and the gruesome and bloody deaths of those who have no choice but to compete are disregarded as necessary punishment” (Ethics and Literature 1).  Ethics and Literature further claim that Katniss is similar to Brutus in Julius Caesar because they are both “sacrificers, but not butchers”. The premise of the Hunger Games begins to unfold when Katniss enters The Hunger Games as a tribute to be sacrificed, but she begins to inspire revolt in the oppressed districts” (Ethics and Literature 1). There is also a revolt after Rue, a tribute from District 11, is killed which the blog points is closely linked to the revolt led by Brutus and Cassius against Caesar. Interestingly, both Peeta and Katniss seek sympathy from viewers watching the Hunger Games, which the Ethics and Literature blog writes is reminiscent of Brutus attempting to gain favor amongst the Romans and “Peeta, Brutus, and Mark Antony all make the same ploy to subvert the public by gaining sympathy for their own cause” (Ethics and Literature 1).

The names that Suzanne Collins chose for the other characters are also interesting, especially since a few of them are borrowed from Shakespeare’s works. Cinna, Katniss’s hairstylist and responsible for presenting her to the people of Panem after she volunteers to be a tribute in the 74th Hunger Games. Despite being officially employed by the Capitol, Cinna engages in subtle forms of defiance, which according to Encyclopedia Britannica’s blog is a nod towards Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Cinna in Julius Caesar is conspirator against Caesar. It is he who suggests to Cassius that Brutus join their conspiracy. Also assists Cassius' manipulation of Brutus by placing Cassius' letters responsible for manipulating Brutus where Brutus is sure to find and read them (Absolute Shakespeare 1). It’s to no surprise that the game master is Seneca Crane, who Encyclopedia Britannica believes perhaps resembles Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), who, as a judicial officer of ancient Rome, might have been “responsible for the production of the public games” (Encyclopedia Britannica Blog 1). The talk show host, Caesar Flickerman pays homage to Julius Caesar because he is very well-known and revered. Brutus does appear in the Hunger Games as a former tribute that was feared for his strength.

However, one blog I found believes Collins is borrowing from Titus Andronicus, an earlier piece of Shakespeare because a “Close study reveals that the young Shakespeare was grappling with the universal theme of revenge head-on, and was laying out a carefully constructed sequence of falling dominoes, which illustrated what happens in any human society when people begin to take the law into their own hands. What happens is that mercy goes by the boards entirely, and humans, tragically, choose instead to perpetuate a cycle of violence, until everyone is dead” (Sharp Elves Society 1). Fisher further claims that it is certain that “The Hunger Games is irreducibly political in a way that Harry Potter and the Twilight films could never be” because that film relies on a brutality that is “affective rather than explicit; the amount of gore is actually quite low, and it is the prospect of pubescents murdering each other, which shocks” (Fisher 27).  Suzanne Collins, like Shakespeare did in Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus, suggests that the public cannot be trusted because they are easily swayed by convincing words of power-mongering pedagogues.

Romance does play a role in The Hunger Games and this romance nods to Romeo and Juliet. Katniss tells readers that she and Peeta must be

The star-crossed lovers…Peeta must have been playing that angle all along. Why else would the Gamemakers have made this unprecedented change in the rules? For two tributes to have a shot at winning, our "romance" must be so popular with the audience that condemning it would jeopardize the success of the Games. No thanks to me. All I've done is managed not to kill Peeta. But whatever he's done in the arena, he must have the audience convinced it was to keep me alive.

(Collins 247)


Mark Fisher further claims that this “star-crossed lovers” charade is an act for the television audience because it’s worthwhile to get sponsors to send you things you need to survive during the hunger games. When the Gamemakers pick up on the romance, they change the rules and announce there will be two winners, only if the two survivors are from the same district. Only after the other tributes are killed, the rules change resulting back to one winner (Fisher 28). Just like in Romeo and Juliet, they attempt to commit suicide by poison berries. Fisher theorizes that by choosing to commit suicide they “checkmate the Capitol. In choosing to die, they not only deny the Capitol the captured life of a victor, they also deny it their deaths,” thus the process of converting fatalism into insurrection and Katniss sees she has to confront the Capitol (Fisher 30).

            It’s interesting to see in the movie that they don’t include the scene of Peeta’s parents meeting Katniss like in the book. In the book, we see a desperate Katniss scourge for food for her family after her father’s death. In District 12, Peeta’s family was a little bit richer than Katniss’s family since they were bakers compared to miners. This scene is reminiscent of the Capulet/Montague feud because Peeta is smacked after her gives her the discarded bread. Katniss will never forget that and Peeta confesses that he liked her even before that and that’s why he did it. In Robert Shaughnessy’s Romeo and Juliet: the Rock and Roll Years, social change is important in these films. He believes that the West Side Story take on Romeo and Juliet was so popular in the 1950s because the plot of a star-crossed Polish descent guy of the East Side falling in love with a Puerto Rican girl from the West Side demonstrates that the success comes from “anxieties of post-war bourgeois America. As an ‘American tragedy’ which concentrates less on Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story presents a liberal plea for ethnic tolerance” at the time of the Cold War (Shaughnessy 177). We have something similar going on with the Hunger Games. Shaughnessy further argues that Romeo and Juliet was so popular because of a teenage audience. That is why West Side Story was so popular in the 1960s and I believe that is why The Hunger Games is popular among teenagers today. Shaughnessy argues that “ascribing Romeo and Juliet as teenagers (or to align Romeo and Juliet to teenagers) is an anachronistic maneuver which obscures the fact that ‘teenager’ is a modern terms.” However, by doing that the definition of ‘teenager’ smooth out the critical, theatrical or colloquial discourse and contradictions (Shaughnessy 175).  Maybe that’s why Shakespeare’s work, especially Romeo and Juliet seem timeless, regardless of the socio-economics, religion, and culture of the reader.

            In April 2012, The International Herald Tribune published an article about a theater group in Iraq putting on their take on Romeo and Juliet. The article, titled ‘Romeo and Juliet’ recast as sectarian tragedy that unfolds in modern times, opens  that it is a suicide bomb that takes the lives of Romeo and Juliet, and the Montagues and Capulets are divided not only by family, but religious sects. Even the dialog is referencing Blackwater, Iranians and the U.S. reconstruction effort—the story sounds almost like The Hunger Games and as the news reporter writes that art returns to Baghdad after the dictator degraded the arts. Their rendition of Romeo and Juliet has been there life for nine years and as one interviewee states, “It was about our reality, the killing that happened between the Sunnis and Shias” (Arango 1). Of course, this warfare is still a reality in Baghdad, as explosions were heard the day after the first showing. Monadhil Daood, the Iraqi actor and playwright who is directing this play, said  of his play that his “message is that love is better than conflict between the families” (Arango 2). Even an American general, toting a machine gun, makes a cameo after the Queen Mab speech was considered too risqué for a conservative audience, and an Iraqi folk story about a beetle finding a husband makes it into a play. That’s an interesting take and shows that those ideals are important in Iraqi culture. However, he Sunni that plays Juliet said the limits placed on Romeo and Juliet are still felt, especially when she fell in love with a poor man. She did marry him, but she could relate.

            The last point of this paper I’m going to explore is music and its relationship to Romeo and Juliet. Country music is a big offender of using Shakespearian references in their songs, but some rock music does too. I remember when I was in high school and studying Shakespeare, I liked to listen to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” Stephen M. Buhler argues that “Don’t Fear the Reaper” casts Juliet into a secondary role because listeners hear ironic echoes in lines “Like Romeo and Juliet” after being told they are “together in eternity” that points to sensibilities of a figure mourning her beloved. Buhler further asserts that this woman follows “Juliet’s example, when it seems clear that “she couldn’t go on.” Instead of allowing her to do so, the band summons up a variant on the “Demon Lover” motif and has her Romeo appear at the window to her away into Death’s realm” (Buhler 257). In another favorite song of mine, Ratt’s 1984 “Round and Round,” Buhler argues something similar happens.

Lookin' at you, lookin' at me
The way you move, you know it's easy to see
The neon light's on me tonight
I've got a way, we're gonna prove it tonight
Like Romeo to Juliet
Time and time, I'm gonna make you mine
I've had enough, we've had enough
It's all the same, she said

I knew right from the beginning
That you would end up winnin'
I knew right from the start
You'd put an arrow through my heart

                                (Ratt: Round and Round)

In “Round and Round,” the protagonist declares that he’s going to prove himself, placing all the initiative on Romeo and Juliet is never summoned. The last song I’m exploring is Dire Straits’s 1980 song “Romeo and Juliet.”

Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above and I'll love you till I die
There's a place for us you know the movie song
When you gonna realise it was just that the time was wrong Juliet?
A lovestruck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
Laying everybody low with a lovesong that he made
Finds a convenient streetlight steps out of the shade
Says something like you and me babe how about it?

You and me babe, how about it?

                                        (Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet)

            Mark Knopfler, guitarist and guiding light for Dire Straits, writes about Juliet’s renewed agency that inspires ambivalence. Apparently Knopfler brings in his best recovering schoolteacher sensibilities to this song that brings together West Side Story, Zeffirelli’s film version, and the original play text. Buhler writes that the song is set up with the familiar scene of “a love struck Romeo singing a streetsuss serenade—accompanied, at first, only by his own acoustic guitar to an unreceptive Juliet.” However, Juliet has been singing the Angel’s 1963 hit “My Boyfriend’s Back” and cautions Romeo that he shouldn’t come around here singing up at people like that (Buhler 256). The rest of the song takes on Romeo’s voice and presents his side of the twentieth century version of his story. Buhler ends with that “Juliet may want to distance herself from all that, to rewrite the story—she has apparently found a different source for the material goods desired in “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” and Springsteen’s reworking of “Point Blank.” She has left the mean, dirty streets of West Side Story and Springsteen’s song to move up in the world. In this, Knopfler suggests she has found security with Paris and wants to minimize her past with Romeo (Buhler 257).

            It appears that music in this time period wanted to rewrite the romance of Romeo and Juliet and make it more sinister. Dire Straits wants Juliet to get what she deserves: Paris and the wealth acquired with him. The only question would be, would death be glorified as in Blue Oyster Cult’s hit? “Don’t Fear The Reaper” came out in 1976, so it might have been the time period of the ending of the war and young women who lost their loved ones in war might have wanted to join them because they couldn’t go on. It would make sense that 1980 “Romeo and Juliet” is different since we are getting into a prominent decade. It’s just interesting how different songs portray the same play and how their interpretations differ.

            As was evident in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, Shakespeare as well as Romeo and Juliet are still alive and kicking. Although, The Hunger Games is dystopian and borrows a lot from Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus, the star-crossed lovers theme is central to the plot and is what makes the movie and novel popular among the tween and teenage audience. It is also awesome to see that Shakespeare has expanded beyond the West and is striking a chord with Iraqi audiences that can relate to what Shakespeare wrote almost 500 years ago. Shaughnessy really hit it when he wrote that as long as there is tension, teenagers and adults alike will always root for the good in life. Maybe that is why Shakespeare still lives on in our lives because he wrote about universal issues that we can all relate to, even in the most darkest situations.











            Works Cited

Arango, Tim. "Baghdad's Star-crossed Lovers." The International Herald Tribune [Baghdad] 30 Apr. 2012: 1-3. Print.

Buhler, Stephen M. "Reviving Juliet, Repackaging Romeo: Transformations of Character in Pop and Post-Pop Music." Shakespeare After Mass Media. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002. 243-64. Print.

Callighan, Cash. "Panem Et Circenses: Contemporary References to Julius Caesar Flickerman." Web log post. Ethics and Literature. Blogger, 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 May 2013. .

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.

Cunningham, John M. "What’s in a Name in The Hunger Games." Web log post. What's in a Name? Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 May 2013. .

Fisher, Mark. "Precarious Dystopias: The Hunger Games, In Time, and Never Let Me Go." Film Quarterly 65.4 (2012): 27-33. JSTOR. Web. 8 May 2013. .

Perlstein, Arnie. "The Hunger Games’s Veiled Allusion to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus." Web log post. Sharp Elves Society. Blogger, 12 Apr. 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. .

S, Corrina. "Hunger Games Sonnet (Romeo and Juliet Prologue)." Web log post. Sophomore English. Blogger, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 May 2013. .

Shaughnessy, Robert. "Romeo and Juliet: The Rock and Roll Years." Remaking Shakespeare. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003. 172-89. Print.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Devil's Den, Philadelphia

Devil's Den is located on 1148 S. 11th Street in Philadelphia, PA. Opening in 2008, this relatively new restaurant has a lively atmosphere and great music. The food is awesome and relatively inexpensive, which is shocking for Philadelphia (I'm acustomed to paying premium on South Street). A Jack and coke was $4.50, the absinthe was $9.50 and I had a sandwich for $8. The sandwich was a Buffalo chicken sandwich and as I usually don't like spice, the consistancy was perfect and not too hot. I met a friendly older gentleman at the bar who treated me to a margarita and we talked for a bit; he pointed me how to get to the church where I was going for Grid Alive on 22nd and Spruce Sts. Even the bartender was friendly. Overall, great atmosphere and I'd reccommend.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

The lily of the valleys have bloomed here and at nan's. This picture was taken at nan's. The buyer fell through with the house. It'll be interesting to see whomever buys the house will do with all of nan's plants. I hope they don't get rid of the lily of the valleys. :(

Submitted "Lesbian Identity in Chica Lit"

All done and submitted. Now I have to start reading for my Shakespeare final (due Wednesday). I'll start typing tomorrow.

Lesbian Identity in Chica Lit
            I remember when I first told a friend I met on Blogger that I believe myself to be asexual. He accepted me and did some research and concluded that, “I read that it can sometimes be harder being an asexual person than an LGBT person, mainly because asexuals receive little prominence in society whereas gays, lesbians and bisexuals receive a lot by comparison.” For those of you who aren’t sure what asexuality is, it’s someone who isn’t really interested in sex or has sexual feelings. It is different from celibacy because a celibate person has interest in sex and feelings about it, but they either choose not to have it or haven't had the chance to have sex. It’s still in a gray area of being included in the LGBT community and many advocate for asexuality to be included. Since the prominence is low, it’s not really known. Sometimes illnesses are said to play into this; I have a thyroid disorder and some people believe it is that since the key feature of hypothyroidism is little interest in sex.
            When I first told my grandma that I was not interested in guys in a sexual way, her reaction was “you’re not into girls, are you?” I replied, “No. I’m not really into anyone sexually.” Her reply was simply, “well, that’s strange, but you’ve been single for a year and it might be that.”  I went through two bad relationships that lasted four months each and both ended badly, but I knew in those relationships I wasn’t interested and never would be (that was the main cause of the breakups and cheating). I was raised Catholic and getting married is a sacrament in the religion that resulted in my grandma’s fear that I wasn’t going to have “normal” relationships that might result in marriage and children. Even when I practiced Islam for several months, I learned that not having any type of male/female relationship that didn’t end in marriage and children was looked at as a sin. I just remember when my Islamic mentor said to me, “you don’t have a boyfriend? That’s odd. You might want to get on it.” Fortunately, the few relatives still practicing Catholicism don’t pester me like that anymore. I have learned that Islam and Catholicism were closely linked in that matter and was the reason why I left both faiths. I have struggled with my identity and haven’t really come out to many people because of the reaction of “it’s just a phase” or “it’s your medication or thyroid” might come up, even though I don’t believe it is that. It is usually hard to find characters in novels I can relate to, but as soon as I read Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s 2003 novel, The Dirty Girl Social Club, I could relate to the lesbian character, Elizabeth. The readers instantly see in the novel that Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez captures the queer narratives that became popular in young adult literature in the late 1960s, add a lesbian aesthetic to the novel to show us how the heterosexual relationships from family and religious communities are forced onto Elizabeth and the other friends leading to the breakdown of relationships in The Dirty Girls Social Club.
Upper Merion Township Library added The Dirty Girls Social Club into their collection in June 2003 and I was curious to see what was going on that year regarding the LGBT movement. I decided to look at what was going on and how it ties into what Rodriguez is trying to write about. On June 10, The United States Department of Justice reverses an earlier decision banning the annual employee gay pride event. Interestingly on June 26, 2003, in Lawrence vs. Texas sodomy laws were struck down. In the 6-3 ruling, the law invalidated sodomy laws in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia and made same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory (US Supreme Court Center). Ultimately, the Supreme Court held that consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Since the novel is set in Boston, Massachusetts, I found that these laws were struck down in 1974; Rodriguez probably just used this location for prominence, but it does add to the debate.
            The Dirty Girls Social Club follows the lives of six Latinas that call themselves sucias (Spanish for “dirty girl”) and have been best friends since college. Elizabeth is the lesbian and she is afraid to come out to the sucias because she fears what they will think of her. My friend might have said it is easier being gay than asexual and that is true in a lot of communities, but in some religious and traditional communities being anything but straight is difficult. Elizabeth, the lesbian Latina, is learning that the hard way and has an identity crisis. She is introduced by Lauren as a “cohost for a network morning show in Boston, current finalist for a prestigious national co-anchor position, former runway model, born-again Christian (former Catholic), and a national spokeswoman for the Christ for Kids organization” (Rodriguez 12). With Lauren’s description of Elizabeth, we’re not aware, just like the group of friends isn’t aware of Elizabeth’s lesbian identity. When Elizabeth confesses to us that she is a lesbian, she is ashamed because she “grew up tall and narrow with a mother who did not talk about these types of things” and in Columbia there is no word for lesbian: men are supposed to love woman, not man and man or woman and woman (65). Sexuality appears to be rigid in Columbia and other Latin American countries. As soon as Elizabeth’s part comes up the reader begins to see that Elizabeth character is a lie because of her shame and fear. When Elizabeth is at the poetry house, she stated she started coming here to find herself and
People know who I am here. They know me. They think they know me. They eat eggs and drink coffee and stare at their televisions and see my face behind all that makeup. They send their children to the bus stop and rustle their newspapers while I read them the news of the day with my perky smile. They tell me to grow my hair, to cut my hair, to gain weight, to lose weight, to speak more clearly, to be proud of my accent, to change my name, to revel in my Spanish surname.
                                                                                (Rodriguez 65)
 Elizabeth is not sure who she is and it shows when people tell her she should do whatever they want her to do. Elizabeth wants to write poetry, but fears that “after ten years of bilingual life, I don’t know where all my words have gone” (Rodriguez 63). Elizabeth is demonstrating to readers that in this double life, she’s not sure of her life and what she represents since she can’t find the words.
According to the essay “Better Than Ice Cream: Lesbian YA Literature” by Beth Younger, lesbian based themes existed in young adult fiction since the late 1960s (although gay male characters outnumber lesbian characters in novels). Younger insists that new lesbian young adult novels examine sexual orientation and since the topic has become more openly discussed, literary characters have become more overt as well (Younger 51). In earlier novels, which I believe Rodriguez is writing from for Elizabeth’s character, mediated narratives were mostly the norm. In the mediated narratives, the perspective of the antagonist performs an important function because others learn about what it means to be a lesbian through the antagonist’s coming out. This technique subtly introduces the topic of lesbianism in a less confrontational tone because the protagonist is just learning about this as well. It also shows lesbianism is too controversial to talk about (Younger 51). Since Elizabeth hasn’t come out yet to society, we still see the controversy in being gay, especially when she takes off her sunglasses at Selwyn’s poetry reading and someone from her Christian entertainment job spots Elizabeth and writes about her lesbian identity. We also see firsthand this fear and how delicate she is since her identity is built on fear and a lie.
Beth Younger claims that these gay young adult novels have two binaries: blame and gay pride. I see it when we are first introduced to Selwyn and Elizabeth. Elizabeth describes Selwyn’s upbringing as Selwyn’s parents were “liberal[s] who loved her no matter what and knew from kindergarten that she would love women” (Rodriguez 65). In this quote we can see both binaries: Elizabeth is blaming her parents for their limited world view, but gay pride among Selwyn’s parents (or the assumption that they accept their daughter’s sexuality) that almost seems to make Elizabeth jealous. Selwyn embodies gay pride, which Elizabeth tries to run away from because she can’t accept herself yet. Since Elizabeth works for the media and Christian organizations, she is ousted. Churches, conservative organizations and people descend upon her harassing her. Even 60 Minutes wanted to do an interview, but she said no because she’s paranoid and “used to look forward to the spring in Boston, for walks through the greening Common with all its gardens. Now I avoid public places. I keep the curtains closed. I work, but I hurry home and hide” (Rodriguez 174). Even the barista at the local coffee shop, Lorraine, doesn’t talk to her and makes Elizabeth feel isolated. Her coworkers don’t talk about it, but her boss has he back, though it’s awkward. In their conversation her boss asks if it’s true and “anger washes over me. Under me. Washes all around me. I want to float away. I need Selwyn here. She would know what to say. She would not hurt like this” (Rodriguez 177). Elizabeth wishes she was stronger and uses Selwyn for her self-esteem.
Elizabeth is losing a lot of people in her life after the article was published. She talks about how right wing crazies want to destroy her, but her “colleagues don’t speak of it. They don’t ask if I’m okay. They pretend nothing has changed. But they are uncomfortable. I can feel it in the way they avoid looking at me in the elevator (Rodriguez 175). Roberto, Sarah’s husband is also uncomfortable and calls her a “pervert” and doesn’t want Sara to contact her. Roberto puffs up his chest on page 100, but on page 180 Elizabeth calls Sara anyway and goes over against better judgment, but Sara just says “okay, you can come here. But only for a little while. Until we figure out what to do. But you can’t be here when Roberto gets home. He’d kill me” (Rodiguez 181). Sara doesn’t understand why Roberto is so against Elizabeth, especially since she’s the boys’ godmother, but there is a technique in Young Adult literature that I believe Rodriguez is using to add to the heartstrings of readers to make the topic of gay rights still at the forefront.
Compulsory heterosexuality is the last key technique of gay Young Adult literature according to Younger. I believe Rodriguez utilizes this with the Christian and other religious types and the male figures of the book acting out against Elizabeth. After the article is published, a truck driver shouts at Elizabeth, “what a waste. Look at ya. Good lookin’ nigger, too. What you need is a good man to set you straight” (Rodriguez 175). The man thinks she’s pretty and believes her sexuality is caused from a man that did her wrong, but believes he can set her straight by his manliness and sexiness. Younger argues that in compulsory heterosexuality, the lesbian(s) is (are) forced to have sex with a male figure that is angry over the lesbian identity because “in Western Culture, it is commonly accepted that sex equals heterosexual intercourse” (Younger 62). That is why teenagers are often confused when asked if they had sex based on the word “intercourse.” This is where the term “virgin” becomes important since virginity is a form of heterosexual control. That is why Elizabeth muses that “women are not thought to be sexual in Columbia. Sexual women are bad in Columbia. And even when they are called whores, everyone knows they are getting paid and do not enjoy it. They are virgins or whores and there is nothing else, nothing in between” (Rodriguez 66). If you’re gay, you can’t be a virgin or a whore in the traditional sense. The man’s comment to Elizabeth is angry because heterosexual sex is still a domination of the sexes where the male controls the female (Younger 68).
 Also, the whole Christian community is calling for Elizabeth’s resignation because they believe it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, God wanted it to be a male/female relationship, not male/male, female/female because of procreation. Elizabeth says she has not only lost Sara, but the cashier at Dunkin Donuts near the station. Lorraine, the cashier, is an older Haitian immigrant who was “very nice to [Elizabeth]” but “dumped [her] change on the counter instead  of putting it in [her] hand, and clicked her tongue with disapproval. She didn’t say, as she often used to, that she wished [Elizabeth was] her child. She muttered “disgusting” and retreated to the back room” (Rodriguez 174). Elizabeth also has a feeling the news station doesn’t want her anymore because the national news station won’t return her calls. “You crazy dyke,” among other voice messages are being left to Elizabeth as well, and as she tries to ignore them she fears that they want her dead. Crime, according to Younger, is rarely reported because of fear that the police officers will side with the heterosexual and the homosexual had it coming.
Sadly, there is crime in the novel, but not to Elizabeth. Roberto kills Sara’s unborn daughter after he almost killed Sara after he learned Elizabeth was over the house visiting. Sara’s dad informs her that Roberto “killed Vilma, Sarita, she passed away yesterday. When the police went to pick Roberto up, he didn’t answer the door. They broke down the door and he was gone” (Rodriguez 259). Interestingly, it’s not the lesbian character that doesn’t know what to do regarding crime, but it’s the female straight character that is unsure. All the sucias, except Amber (who is the musician of the group and is touring) is there and all want Sara to press charges. Even Elizabeth tries to push her to press charges. Younger doesn’t explore this issue because I think it would be too mature for a young adult novel or too complicated for a younger reader, but I also believe the expediency in this is the fact that Sara is straight because not many people are willing to help Elizabeth in her crisis. However, I’m not sure if it’s in the same light, but Elizabeth’s predicament could have been life threatening. Regardless of what Rodriguez decided in The Dirty Girls Social Club, in this tragedy Sara and Elizabeth become closer.
When Sara wakes up, she sees Elizabeth with the social worker and describes Elizabeth’s reaction to the social worker as by the look on her face with the fake smile that she doesn’t want to talk to her. Elizabeth apologizes for going over, but the social worker interrupts, which I believe is the turning point in modern, adult literature trying to move away from blame, with “Liz was telling me the whole story of what happened. It’s not her fault. And it’s not your fault. None of this was anyone’s fault but the man who beat you. I want you both to understand that” (Rodriguez 260). Elizabeth and Sara begin to speak in Spanish and this is where the social worker leaves them alone—Sara asks if Elizabeth’s lesbian identity is true and if she slept with Roberto since he claimed they slept together. Elizabeth just replies with, “I have only slept with three males in my entire life, and he wasn’t one of them. I don’t exactly enjoy men” (Rodriguez 262). This statement shows how heterosexuals try to impose themselves on Elizabeth and her body image issues that come from it. Elizabeth ends up laying next to Sara in the hospital bed to keep her company; I believe it is in this moment that Elizabeth forgets about her body issues and just opens up with her nonsexual love for her friend.
The last concept I am going to focus on is the concept of the body and the relationship it has to the sucias. Appearances play a big and important role in this book. Elizabeth’s boss says, “TV news isn’t about news, Liz. It’s about entertainment. It’s about sex appeal. If you’re gay, or lesbian, or whatever, they can’t fantasize the way they used to” (Rodriguez 179). It makes sense to why people are over reacting—earlier in Elizabeth’s account, she recalls a truck driver shouting, “what a waste. Look at ya. Good lookin’ nigger, too. What you need is a good man to set you straight” (Rodriguez 175). Roberto is just as guilty. It comes out that Roberto had a fling with Elizabeth, or wanted to have a fling with Elizabeth when they were in Cancun together. This bothers Sara and she asks Elizabeth, but she denies it. It might be why Roberto is so narrow minded when it comes to Elizabeth and his jealousy since if she didn’t want him, she might have wanted Sara. In Mary Ryan’s Ending the Silence: Representing Women’s Reproductive Lives in Irish Chick Lit, she argues that “feminists early focus on images of women was based around a description of the stereotypical representations of women and how these stereotypical limited women’s options and possibilities. This largely stems from the fact that, while women’s images may indeed be represented, women themselves have any say in how these representations are formed” (Ryan 210). This semester we were shied away from using the term “stereotype” because it’s so broad, but the way religious groups form their opinions of Elizabeth’s sexuality is very narrow minded and limiting to Elizabeth’s character.
Elizabeth’s appearances play into what Ryan describes as the beauty myth that was theorized in Naomi Wolf’s 1991 book titled The Beauty Myth. “The Beauty Myth is centered around how any woman who desires to be beautiful is trapped in the confines of the structured definition of what beauty should comprise. It comes into action as the façade between the outward visual presence and the inner destruction that is created by the acts women do to their bodies” (Ryan 211). When The Dirty Girls Social Club opens, we are introduced to appearances of the sucias and the people around them in the restaurant. Lauren in the opening describes when Usnavys, the really flashy sucia, arrives to the restaurant as
Oh, sweet Jesus. I should have known Usnavys would pull a stunt like this. Look at her. She just slid up to the curb out front in her silver BMW sedan (leased), driving super slow with Vivaldi or something like that blasting out of the slightly opened window so all those poor women with all those kids and shopping bags from the 99-cent store hunching away from the wind and snow at the bus stop could stare at her.
                                                                                (Rodriguez 12)
Even the way Elizabeth describes Sellwyn and her uncertainty of how the sucias would perceive her definitely show her uneasiness with the identity and how she’s going beyond a typical Columbian woman with her identity—she’s scared of the uncertainty and it shows in the shame of her body and of Sellwyn since she never wants to go out in public with her.
            As it was shown in The Dirty Girls Social Club, it is still hard being anything other than straight in the twenty-first century. Although Rodriguez borrows heavily from the Young Adult homosexual narratives, she does put an adult spin on the plot and continues the discussion of the possibility of gay marriage and whether or not it should be welcomed in our country. Even in 2013, the debate is still raging and it might be for awhile. The Dirty Girls Social Club also explores the shallowness of characters and in the face of tragedy and adversity, they grow into a stronger group of friends and beyond the control of men (and other women). They move beyond what Mary Ryan states “men welcome the stereotype because it directs their taste into the commonly recognized areas of values” (Ryan 211), but as Sara states to the sucias at the end of the novel, “Be patient, damn” there is still a sequel to The Dirty Girls Social Club and that could change in the sequel.

Works Cited
Ryan, Mary. "Ending the Silence: Representing Women's Reproductive Lives in Irish Chick Lit." Nebula: A Journal of Multidisciplinary Scholaship 8.1 (2011): 209-24.
US Supreme Court Center. Lawrence v. Texas - 539 U.S. 558 (2003). <> May 2, 2013.
Valdes-Rodriguez, Alisa. The Dirty Girls Social Club. St. Martin’s Press: New York. 2003.
Wikipedia. Lawrence v. Texas. <> May 2, 2013.
Younger, Beth. "Better Than Ice Cream: Lesbian YA Literature." Learning Curves: Body Image and Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009. 49-72.