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My Favorite Geeky Things of 2013

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I’ve seen a lot of great stuff to geek out about this year, so I’d thought I’d share my favorites. Have fun with the links!

1. RWBY by Monty Oum- This anime-inspired animated series was featured online via the website of the creator and YouTube. The series focuses on four girls who attend a prestigious academy to learn to fight monsters.

The main characters and most of the supporting characters have awesome abilities that are fun to watch. The abilities of the four girls Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang were previewed in four trailers before the  series premiered. In addition, the series also spawned a great soundtrack for the first volume (season 1).

Favorite Trailer: White (Weiss)

Favorite Episode: 8

Favorite songs from the soundtrack: “Mirror Mirror”, “This Will Be The Day”, and “I Burn” (Yellow Trailer Version)

Watch RWBY YouTube Playlist– includes the four trailers and all sixteen episodes of volume 1.

2. Link’s Shadow and Next Gen. Smash Bros 300%– I saw both of these videos during YouTube geek week over the summer. Both of these videos have awesome live action role-playing. Link’s Shadow has Link and Dark Link from the Legend of Zelda video game series fighting each other.

Next Gen. Smash Bros has different characters from the Super Smash Bros. video game series fighting each other at huge sizes (sometimes).  I love both of this video games because Link is awesome in both!

3. Star Wars Themed Videos: Cello Wars- The Piano Guys, Bohemian Rhapsody- Arizona Cosplayers

I saw the Cello Wars during YouTube geek week. I’m not sure of this, but this may have been my first PianoGuys music video. I loved it because it was a lovely and funny take on the score.

As some of you may already know, the Star Wars version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is very recent. I originally saw the video on Buzzfeed and clicked on it out of curiosity and because it seemed geeky yet cool. I was right! If you click on the CC button at the bottom of the video, you can see the lyrics on-screen!

4. Kid Dressed as Harry Potter at Penn Station– I found this via the site Buzzfeed back in November. The boy playing Harry Potter is so cute! My favorite part was when the security guard says, “You kinda look like Harry Potter.” Improv Everywhere did a great job staging this.

5. Legend of Korra Book 2-  After a very long wait, book two of the animated series Legend of Korra finally premiered in September. Legend of Korra is the sequel to Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.

While the first half of the season could have been better, the second half was freaking awesome. The only thing that spoiled my enjoyment of the series somewhat was the Korra haters.

(insert mini rant: Korra is a freaking human being, even if she’s also the Avatar! So what if she made a lot mistakes and had anger issues? Korra would not be who she was at the end of Book 2 if she was flawless. )

Anyway, to celebrate the LOK series and Korra herself, here is an animated music video that features scenes from Book 1 and Book 2 of LOK and the song “Transcendence” by Lindsey Stirling.

Written by Serena Zola

December 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

My Favorite Books, Movies, and Music of 2013

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It has been a great year for blogging! I’ve seen and heard so many good books, movies, and music that it is impossible for me to pick just one favorite. Get ready for a lot of links!

Favorite Movies of 2013The Perks of Being A WallflowerPariah, and Crazy, Sexy, Cool: The TLC Story

Favorite Books of 2013 (By Genre):

Adult FictionThe Writer by Cristian Mihai

Autobiography/BiographyThe Big Sea by Langston Hughes

ClassicsLes Miserables by Victor Hugo

Historical FictionA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Teen FictionKojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi, I Am J by Cris Beam

Favorite Music of 2013:

Album: The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae

Musicians: Adam Lambert, Janelle Monae, Lindsey Stirling, and P!nk

Bands: Blondie, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Classic Musician: Janis Joplin

Rising Musician: Angel Haze


Marry The Night (Lady Gaga Cover)-Adam Lambert

Same Love (Mackelmore Cover)-Angel Haze

Different– Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Mirror, Mirror– sung by Casey Williams, written by John Williams (not the film composer)

I hope you all had fun reading my blog this year because I had fun writing these posts! Thank you for taking the time to follow or read my blog! Happy holidays! See you in 2014!

Written by Serena Zola

December 7, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I don’t want to end this year without attempting to get some people my age hooked on late sixties singer Janis Joplin.

I decided to give her music a try a few months ago when I found myself looking for more soulful singers to listen to. I can’t remember the first Janis Joplin song I enjoyed. After listening to almost all her albums, it felt like all the emotion in her voice had blended into one howling note.

Her voice is raspy yet extremely powerful and soulful. While I didn’t like all of her songs, I admired the fact that Joplin could sing rock, blues, funk, soul, and country. Most of her live performances are great and some are better than the album version.

Combined together with the lyrics, her voice is deeply moving. While Joplin didn’t write all of the songs, her voice makes it sound like she did.

At the same time, songs that Joplin did write are touching because of how honest her voice and lyrics are. Some of my favorite songs are “Turtle Blues“, “Kosmic Blues” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” and “Cry Baby“.

Besides Joplin’s voice and lyrics, I related to who she was as a person.

According to a documentary on Joplin, she had a tough time during and after high school. At school, she was bullied for being overweight and she was considered an outcast for being artsy and liking black people.

Things didn’t seem to get better, even when she became famous. Not only was she insecure because of high school and numerous rejections, but she had to deal with the pressure that came from being a woman in rock n’ roll.

By the time she was about to create what would be her final album Pearl, she had created an alter-ego of the same name to go with it. I really liked her as Pearl; her outfit on the album’s cover looked cool.  Yet, Joplin seemed to smile only on the outside.

After learning that she passed away at the age of 27, I felt as sad as I did when I became a fan of Amy Winehouse. Just like with Winehouse’s music, I wished Joplin could have put out more albums before she passed.

I love Janis Joplin’s music just as much as I love Amy Winehouse’s music. I admire Joplin pouring  her heart and soul into her music and for showing that women without the ideal image can be successful.

Written by Serena Zola

December 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

The Nightmare Before Christmas 20th Anniversary

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just in time for Halloween and Christmas, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Originally released in 1993, the film follows Jack Skellington The Pumpkin King and the inhabitants of Halloweentown as they try to put their own twist on Christmas.

As a huge Tim Burton fan, this is my favorite film he’s done. However, my love for the film didn’t start with the film. It started with a little video game called Kingdom Hearts Ii.

The world of The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of many Disney worlds featured in the game. Needless to say, it became my favorite one.

It was creepy and cool at the same time because you could enter Halloweentown and Christmastown to fight Heartless (one of the evil creatures of the game). Also, the special move that Jack and Sora do when they fight together is awesome.

Aside from the gameplay, I grew to love the characters. Jack was creepy yet fun, Sally was creepy yet caring, and Oogie was creepy and fun to fight against. Sometime before I beat the game, I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time and really enjoyed it.

One of my favorite things about the movie is how Tim Burton combined the two most fun holidays of the year together. It makes the movie great for kids and kids at heart.

The other thing I loved about the movie was its soundtrack. Danny Elfman proves himself not only as an excellent composer, but also an excellent singer.  In the film, he does the singing voice of Jack Skellington.

The soundtrack was so well done that musicians and rock bands decided to do their own version of it.  Entitled Nightmare Revisited, the album features musicians such as The Vitamin String Quartet, Marilyn Manson, and Amy Lee. My personal favorite song is Amy Lee’s cover of “Sally’s Song”.

Recently, Danny Elfman has been performing songs from the original soundtrack live at the Royal Albert Hall. I’ve seen four performances via a Rolling Stone magazine article and YouTube.  It’s hard to believe these are Elfman’s first performances in eighteen years.

Happy anniversary, Nightmare Before Christmas!

Here is Danny Elfman performance of “Jack’s Obsession” live from Royal Albert Hall

Some Serious Thoughts On Halloween

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Even though I don’t dress in a costume or go treat-or-treating, Halloween has always been a favorite holiday for me. During this time, I like to watch fun Halloween kid movies and read at least one gothic novel.

The reason I love Halloween so much because it is the one time of year where it doesn’t matter if you’re “scary”.  All through October, you’ve got Tim Burton movies playing on television. Also, there’s the fact that everybody is excited about dressing up in costumes that may or may not be “scary”.

As fun as this stuff is, I wish we could take the entire month of October to learn to celebrate people who are deemed “scary” every day.

Some of those people include disabled people (esp. the mentally ill) and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual,Transgender, and Queer community.

Every time there is a shooting, the words “mentally ill” come up in every article. All this does is stereotype and perpetuate fear. Next thing you know, we’ll be having witch burnings again.

At the same time, we’ve got everyday people and well-known people, who are disabled and are making a positive impact on people’s lives.

For instance, singer Mary J. Bilge conquered her depression and became one of the best singers ever.  Actor Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s disease, but he’s still acting today.

An everyday example is a girl I’d run into every week while attending community college. She was in a wheelchair and she seemed to be paralyzed because only her arms could move. I can’t remember name, but I remember her kindness.

Whenever I saw her, she’d wave and sometimes asked how I was doing. Her good mood despite her circumstances made me feel good too.

When it comes to the LGBTQ community, they are also stigmatized and stereotyped. In some cases, they’ve also been murdered or driven to suicide.

Yet, like disabled people, many have impacted society. Some include singer David Bowie, poet Audre Lorde, and model April Ashley.

My personal favorite members of this community so far are singers David Bowie, Debbie Harry (from the band Blondie), and Adam Lambert, poet Walt Whitman, and upcoming rapper Angel Haze.

Maybe it’s because I commute to college, but I haven’t met many LGBTQ members in my everyday life.

The one gay girl I met and became friends with was in high school. We were lab partners and she kept me from puking at the sight of a dissected frog.  Not only was she nice, but she was cool because she was my first goth friend AND my first gay friend.

As long as you are a good person inside, it doesn’t matter how “scary” you seem to be. I wish more people would take this to heart, not  only this month, but everyday.



Written by Serena Zola

October 24, 2013 at 11:21 PM

Banned Book Week Spotlight: The Harry Potter Series

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Hogwarts Coat of Arms

Hogwarts Coat of Arms Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s one of my favorite literary times of year again: Banned Book Week! From September 22 to the 28th, people are celebrating the freedom to read classic books and current books. This year, I’m going to spotlight The Harry Potter series.

I was in fourth grade when I first heard about the series. A kid brought in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to class and my teacher read some of it aloud. The story had me intrigued and I remember getting my mom to buy it for me. The only problem was, I hadn’t realized I was reading the series out-of-order until I looked on the spine. Oops!

Anyway, I think I either somehow read the entire book with no clue what was going on or I managed to get the first three books and read them first. I can’t remember which happened, but either way I eventually understood the plot and became a fan of the books.

When I was in elementary school, I liked the books because I was in awe of Harry’s world.  There was magic, creatures, and places I couldn’t have dreamed of before reading the series. I found it really cool.

By the time Harry Potter and The Order Phoenix came out, I found that book becoming my favorite in the series, I could relate to Harry’s angst and the way he wondered about what kind of person he was. Another thing I liked were the weird characters and creatures that were introduced: thestrals, Luna Lovegood, Nymphadora Tonks, and Grawp.

I had also realized I could relate to Hermione the most. Like her, I was “an insufferable know-it-all” who read a lot and got bullied for it.  Unlike Hermione though, I specialized with being a know-it-all” in a particular subject: literature. Also, I was pretty lonely and there were plenty of times I wished Hermione actually existed.

The biggest impact this series has had on me was introducing me to fantasy-fiction, mythology, and folklore. Without this series, I would have never read the Percy Jackson series, the Song of the Lioness quartet, or any Dragonlance books.  I am eternally grateful for this series giving me a strong love for fantasy-fiction.

Thank you so much J.K. Rowling for giving me one of the best things about my childhood. These books will always be in my heart.

Written by Serena Zola

September 20, 2013 at 11:11 PM

Why I Love/Hate Being a Geek and Some Favorite Geeky Things

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It’s geek week on YouTube and I’ve recently started reading the geeky section of BuzzFeed. Both of these things come on the heels of an article I read that “vindicates” anyone who was a geek in high school. As such, I’d figured this was a good time to show my geek pride and share some my favorite geeky things.

I like to think that I’ve been a geek since I was seven years old when I realized I loved books and Sailor Moon. Since that time, I’ve had great times and bad times. The great times came with discovering new anime and manga from Japan and reading the Harry Potter series. The bad times were in high school when I felt like the only black geek in existence and was bullied by my black peers.

My personal definition of a geek is someone who is obsessed with something most people aren’t, things like cartoons, sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal television, and comics. They may or may not be a brainiac.  I also think that some geeks (like myself) have eclectic tastes, that a geek can be geeky about many things.

I like being a geek because it allows me to discover new and creative things. Most of the time, being a geek makes for great discussion and fun. However, there are times that I wish people would take being a geek more seriously.

When I was in high school, I found solace for my geek outcast angst in books and alternative rock. However, there were times that I wished there were more realistic representations of a non-white geek in entertainment media. Seeing very few geeks of color in tv shows, movies, and books made me feel like  people like me had no place in society. Sometimes, I felt like it wasn’t worth being myself because the non-white geeks I did see were only made fun of and were not accepted as they were.

Growing up in the early 90’s, the only black geek I ever saw on television was Steve Urkel from the sitcom Family Matters. Since he was pretty much a stereotype and had the guy version of the “geek-turns-into-a-beauty-queen” moment, I loathed him. As I became a teenager in the 2000’s, things didn’t improve much.

During my sophomore or junior year of high school, I saw Akeelah and the Bee. Although I found it predictable, I thought it was a decent representation of a young black nerd and the impact they could have on their community.  Unfortunately, that was the only film I saw that was like that. Today, I still consider this film the only film to feature a black nerd in a decent manner.

In addition to the lack of diverse and realistic geek representation, the article I previously mentioned is complete trash because of the research but its findings. For me, being a geek is not about making a lot money. It is about sharing your interests, knowledge, and passion with others and knowing that other people are interested too. If you do make a lot of money and get sweet revenge on haters, then that’s just icing on the cake.

Now, I present some of my favorite geeky things:

1.  World is Mine AMVA fanmade anime music video featuring various anime and the song “World is Mine” by  Hatsune Miku.

2.  Japanese Sailor Moon Theme (Violin Cover)– A violin fan cover of the Japanese Sailor Moon theme by YouTube user JTehAnonymous.

3. Simple & Clean/Sanctuary Duet– A beautiful fan duet of the songs “Simple & Clean” and “Sanctuary” from the Kingdom Hearts video game series. Sung by YouTube users AmaLee and Adrisaurus.

4. What It’s Like To Be A Teen As Told By Harry Potter– Possibly the best Harry Potter related web post I ever read

Written by Serena Zola

August 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Short Film Spotlight: ‘The Language of Love’ by Kim Ho

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I know what a monologue is, but I’ve never seen one before. Until recently, I’ve never seen a short film. After seeing seventeen year-old Kim Ho’s short film  ‘The Language of Love’, I’m awed by the power of both.

This short film features a boy named Charlie who falls in love with his best male-friend. Charlie struggles to come to terms with his feelings as he ponders how to answer an exam question instructing him to write a letter to his best friend in French. The story itself is fictional and was originally a monologue that was entered into a contest for Australian playwright.

The thing that I enjoy most about this film is its raw honesty. The struggle is clearly painted on Charlie’s face, but the words and the way that they are said are very poignant. My favorite part is when Charlie is beating around the bush about how he feels about Sam and then all of a sudden blurts out, “I’m in love with Sam.” During this moment you can tell how anxious Charlie is and how much he wants to express himself.

Another thing that I enjoyed about the short film is how the objects around Charlie are used to express his feelings. A particular scene I like is when Charlie’s breathing gets heavier and then all of a sudden he is alone and the desks are closing in on him. I found it a powerful way to express feeling like you are trapped and no one understands you.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this film is Charlie’s thoughts about love. There’s a moment he compares it to the French language in a lovely metaphor. However, the best thing he says is, “You always hear people say it’s weird and just not normal, but isn’t that the point of love?” To transcend normalness and become something special?”

To conclude, I absolutely love this film and look forward to more from Kim Ho.

Written by Serena Zola

July 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Fandom Spotlight: “To Leaky Con” (La Vie Boheme Parody)

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A couple of years ago, I discovered the movie adaptation of the musical RENT and “La Vie Boheme”, the song that describes my artistic and free-spirited side. Now, it seems that it can apply to my geeky side too. “To Leaky Con” was the finale to the opening ceremony of Leaky Con, an annual fan convention for Harry Potter and pop culture fans. The song sums up everything Leaky Con is about in a fun parody of RENT’s “La Vie Boheme”. The performance of that song which took place in Portland features special guests, among them Anthony Rapp (he’s in a trench coat), the actor best known as RENT’s Mark Cohen.

When I heard the first few minutes of the song, I was a little upset. I wished they could have parodied another song or come up with an original song. “La Vie Boheme” helped me celebrate in my artistic side and appreciate RENT. As the song continued, I began to lighten up. Since it is something that connected to another part of me, why not enjoy it? After all, it’s not everyday you run into a parody like this.

To Leaky Con” Lyrics

Written by Serena Zola

June 28, 2013 at 7:16 PM

Sailor Moon: Personal 16th Anniversary

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Last year, the Sailor Moon manga (comic book) and anime (animated series) franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary and announced that a new series would premiere in Japan during the summer of 2013. Since I completely missed the chance to commemorate it, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a more personal anniversary. It’s been sixteen years since Sailor Moon came into my life and introduced me to the awesomeness of manga and anime.

It was 1997 and I was six years old and in elementary school. I’m not sure of the exact date I started watching Sailor Moon or if I watched the series from its premiere date. All I remember is coming home from school one afternoon and turning on Cartoon Network. The next thing I know, I’m sucked in by a blonde crybaby and her friends as they transformed from ordinary schoolgirls to superheroes.

Out of all the characters known as Sailor Scouts, it was Sailor Moon that I admired the most. Even though she was a crybaby and lazy, she was also kind and protective of her friends and family. At times, the latter qualities combined with her looks to make her beautiful inside and out. I could relate to Sailor Moon because I could be a lazy crybaby and enjoyed doing the same leisure activities she did. More importantly, Sailor Moon’s kind and caring nature made me want to be the kindest person possible.

Sailor Moon was the first cartoon from Japan I ever watched. I loved it and I wanted more. Soon, I was watching Pokemon too. As the years went by, I became exposed to another shojo (girl-targeted) anime called Cardcaptors. When I became good friends with a few guys, I started watching shonen (boy-targeted) anime like Yugioh!

Meanwhile, I started reading manga thanks to Shonen Jump!, a magazine filled with action-adventure Japanese comics aimed at boys. Another influence was boys and girls bringing manga to school. I ended up buying at least one volume from some  of my favorite series. Of course, one of them was Sailor Moon.

Since the original Sailor Moon anime ended in the United States in 2000, I’ve discovered many aspects of manga and anime. Some of the artwork is gorgeous and some of the themes and lessons are memorable. Recently, I’ve rediscovered shojo manga after not having read it for many years. I’ve even managed to finish the Sailor Moon manga series where the English anime left off. Sailor Moon isn’t my number one favorite manga or anime, but it holds a  special place in my heart.

Here is a fan-made AMV (animated music video) tribute to the character Sailor Moon

Written by Serena Zola

April 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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