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My Personal Book, Musician, and Movie of 2012

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Since the year is almost over and I’ve been seeing “Best -insert artistic medium here- of 2012” I’d figure I should go ahead and make one of my own. The best book, musician, and movie I have chosen are based on what I have posted this year on this blog. So, without further delay, let’s see my choices.

Favorite Book I’ve Read in 2012Wuthering Heights

Last year, I read a story in an American Lit I class called “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not only did it make me want to start reading gothic novels, but it also taught me the one thing I’ve come to appreciate about great literary characters: duality. Having a character with both redeeming and distasteful qualities, a public self and a private self,  shows how truly complex we are as human beings. While I have read other novels (in other genres, not just gothic literature) that have well-developed characters, Wuthering Heights is, to me, the best example of duality I’ve read this year. It is for that reason I loved Catherine and Heathcliff even though they aren’t goody-goody characters.

Best Musician I’ve Listened to in 2012: David Bowie

When I first stumbled onto David Bowie’s music, I was watching a tv special on the show Soul Train. When I saw the red-haired white dude dancing to a funky, catchy rhythm and singing “FAMEEE”, I decided to look up the song  “Fame” to hear it in it full and then look up his albums. Once I did the latter, I decided not to listen to anymore songs because I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy his work. His Ziggy Stardust persona was a bit weird and intimidating  for me.  The rest of his work seemed like something I wouldn’t relate to or like because it was all over the place when it came to its genres.

Then, I saw the film Bandslam and I was convinced to look up more of Bowie’s work, especially after hearing the song “Rebel Rebel” in the film’s soundtrack. Seeing how the main character of the film Will Burton connected to Bowie made me reconsider the impact Bowie’s music could have on me as a young person. After listening to Rebel Rebel and loving it, I went back and listened to the first song David Bowie got attention for: “Space Oddity”.  My mind was blown as soon as I heard the stylophone and Bowie’s ethereal vocals afterward.

The rest is history. I grew comfortable with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona after Rebel Rebel and found a couple more Ziggy era songs I liked. Furthermore, I ended up appreciating his eclectic music style after finding songs with beautiful, awesome melodies and lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics were relatable, sometimes they weren’t. I realized that I enjoyed not only introspective lyrics, but also lyrics that make you think and  lyrics about different aspects of life. I didn’t enjoy a particular album or all of David Bowie’s work, but all the songs I personally liked demonstrated how amazing and talented David Bowie is.

Favorite Songs:

Space Oddity-


Rebel Rebel-

The Jean Genie-

As The World Falls Down-

Bring Me the Disco King (Lohner Remix)-

Favorite Movie I’ve Seen in 2012RENT

Sometimes, watching Jeopardy leads you to awesome things. I googled RENT after hearing a question about it on the show, and while the fact that it was a broadway musical turned me off (I hate show tune music) , but the fact that it featured rock music got me interested. I rented RENT and was surprised to see how much I enjoyed and connected to the movie. Some of characters in RENT (Roger, Mark, and Angel) were the artistic friends I always wanted. At the same time, the characters of Joanne and Collins provided a practical yet impulsive perspective that I also enjoyed.

I could relate to the character Roger, how he wanted to write one great song before he died and how he was afraid to get close to people. Furthermore, I admired how everyone had pride in what they stood for and what they loved doing; the “La Vie Boheme” scene in the Lite Cafe is my favorite part of the movie. The only thing I was disappointed about is that I was too young to experience the original broadway show in its prime.

Written by Serena Zola

December 7, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Op Ed: How Pop Music Can Be More Unique

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A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post entitled “Pop Music Too Loud And All The Same: Official“. I don’t know about the too loud part, but I’ve thought most pop music sounded all the same since high school.

Anyway, the article got me thinking about how pop music can be more unique:

1. Don’t be Cookie Cutter; Be You

One of the reasons Pink is my favorite pop musician is that I admire her for having the courage to find her own sound and tell people she was going to do her music her way. And what better way to do it than with the song “Don’t Let Me Get Me”? A song with a similar message is Avril Lavinge’s “Nobody’s Fool”, which is from her debut album Let Go. Like Pink, Avril Lavinge has left her own mark in the music industry with this song and many others.

2.  Use love, sex, and relationship lyrics sparingly

Ok, I know these things make the world go round. However, as human beings, we have other emotions and things we experience. It wouldn’t hurt if more pop musicians wrote about the world around them. Even Michael Jackson, for all his dance songs, literally wrote about the world in  songs like “Earth Song”.

3. Don’t be afraid to go deep

Sometimes, the most powerful songs end up being inspired by personal experiences. Take the song “I’m Ok” by Christina Aguilera. Any fan (or person willing do some research) will know that this song is based on Christina’s childhood. While it might not be as famous as the song “Beautiful”, it is still a song worth acknowledging.

4. Make a creative music video

While the song may be fine by itself, a great music video can bring it to life. If you don’t like the song, then maybe the music video will make you appreciate it a little. A recent example is for Pink’s new song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” I don’t like the song due to my personal taste, but the music video made me feel better about it.


Don’t Let Me Get Me-

Nobody’s Fool-

Earth Song-

I’m Ok-

Blow Me One Last Kiss-

Written by Serena Zola

August 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM

How to Develop Your Music Taste

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With the recent release of Katy Perry’s concert movie “Part of Me”, it seems like that concert movies in general are becoming the next big thing with young musicians. However, it has also become the target of constant bashing among many people.

While this isn’t anything new, it seems like the bashing has increased since last year. Even though people have the right to say what they want, it seems unnecessary at times. Many people don’t seem to be aware of the good music that is still around. Therefore, I’ve decided to share some tips on how to find that music.

1. Listen to Internet Radio

If you really can’t stand today’s trend music on the mainstream radio, go online. Sites like Pandora and Lastfm allow you to find new music by musician and genre. It is also important that you pick the right internet radio site to use. If you want to sample music that most people already know (e.g. The Beatles), you can still discover new music because the station will play music that is similar to that musician. However, if you want music that is unknown to the general public, then lastfm is the way to go.

2.  Use YouTube

YouTube is somewhat better than internet radio because it tends to be quicker and more accurate with selecting music similar to what you already listened to. In addition, you get music videos and concert performances that are uploaded by millions of users every day. Not to mention, you can discover new music from independent musicians who upload their material.

3.  Listen to more than just the released songs

Four years ago, I used to think that the band Coldplay sucked. I saw their music videos and heard their music on the radio so many times, I almost hated them. A few years later, I was watching “100 Greatest Songs of the 00s” on VH1 and my ears perked up when I heard the song “Clocks”. Not long after that, I looked up all of Coldplay’s albums. While I didn’t like everything, I did like enough to become a fan.

When it comes to listening to music from musicians, some people tend to judge them based on the songs they hear on the radio or the songs with a music video. However, the fact is that in order to properly enjoy music, you need to listen to the songs that aren’t released as a single as well. Try picking songs at random from an album and go from there.

4.  Keep your ears and mind open

A couple of years ago, I had a psychology class where I had to do a very long survey paper on anything I wanted. I chose music. Before the actual paper came the background information on music. As I researched the history of music, I became fascinated and ended up looking up various blues, jazz, funk, and classic rock songs. Surprisingly, I ended up liking a moderate amount of the first three genres and a lot of the last genre.

Sometimes new music comes from unexpected places. It can come from someone’s online page, a movie, or even work or school.  It is up to you to notice when you are curious about this music and act on it.

5. Do not let anybody discourage you or pressure you

I personally know what it feels like to have people think your music taste is lame. In the past, I’ve also felt like I had to conform to other people’s tastes because it is what –insert person type here– do. If someone is making you feel bad about your taste, ignore them. In fact, just consider them brainless robots and yourself an awesome human being.

Written by Serena Zola

July 9, 2012 at 8:24 PM

Op-Ed: Should YA Books Have Movie-Style Ratings??

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Normally, I don’t post twice in one week but when something gets me fired up I have an urge to write. Earlier this afternoon, I was on the Huffington Post when I came across this article entitled, “Should YA Books Be Given Ratings?

As a former grade school student and an aspiring YA author, I am against these proposed ratings. One important reason is that YA books are in schools for required reading and pleasure reading. One example is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

When I first read this book, I was in 7th grade. I can remember reaching the climax of the book. Suddenly, my teacher said, “Ok class, we’ll stop here.” I could feel the disappointment all around me. I was feeling it inside me too. “Can we read one more chapter?” a voice asked. It reminded me of a little kid asking a mom for another treat.

Then I, along with the rest of the class, spoke our support as one. “Can we please?” Please?!” We were so ecstatic about the book, we were almost hopping like kangaroos. My teacher just smiled, laughed, and said, “Okay.” The class and I cheered and we resumed reading.

Two years after that memorable moment, I started high school. From then on, there were no more memorable moments because we were no longer reading material that engaged us and related to us.  Instead of reading young adult books, we were reading classic works like Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby.

The only bright side for me and some of my classmates came when we had to do book reports. During this time, I explored the YA section of the school library. Not all of the books I chose to read were good, but there were a few I enjoyed. Some of these books included the Hazelwood High Trilogy and the fantasy series the Daughters of the Moon.

At this point, I was aspiring to become a YA author. By the time I graduated, I had read plenty of YA books. As time passed, I started to hear about banned YA books and learned that YA writers target certain age groups when they write their works. It is for this reason that I understand why people would want these ratings. After all, a book written with sixteen year old situations would not be appropriate for a thirteen year old.

However, ratings shouldn’t be used to guide pubescent and adolescents. This is something parents should do. If it concerns them, then they should ask their kid why they want to read the book. If the reason is valid, then parents should say, “Let me read the book with you.” or “I’ll read the book, too.” If you need an excuse, say something along the lines of, “If you find it interesting, maybe I will too.” By reading what their kid reads, the parent can discuss the book with their kid as they read and provide guidance if necessary.

As previously stated, kids are exposed to YA books as early as middle school. This is also the point where kids pull away from their parents and start searching for who they are. With a parent’s a loose yet firm grip, the kids will be fine.

Written by Serena Zola

May 24, 2012 at 2:28 PM

A Contemporary Wish

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Tomorrow, the film adaptation of the dystopian novel the Hunger Games will be released worldwide. Since I was a huge Harry Potter fan and saw almost every film when they were released, I can understand the Hunger Games fans’ excitement. At the same time, I’m also disappointed.

The reason for this is that it seems like film companies think that all youth care about is action, adventure, and romance. Before the Harry Potter series (both the films and books) were complete, I read contemporary teen fiction novels like Looking For Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why, books were just as good, important, and sometimes better than fantasy. Sometimes I’d think, “This book should be made into a movie.” Yet, it seems because the contemporary teen fiction hasn’t sold as much as Harry Potter, they weren’t made into films. Eventually, it made me wonder if the film industry was a popularity contest.

In this present day era, there have been non-book adaptation teen films such as Finding Forrester that present teens in an honest and realistic light. For whatever reason, films like these seem too scarce.  In fact, good contemporary teens films seemed to have peaked in earlier times, with films like Rebel Without a Cause and The Outsiders.  When you consider how much of an impact the entertainment media has on youth, there is a huge difference between a cookie cutter film and an authentic one. Whether it comes from a book or not, a film should have a fresh impact on people.

Recently, I’ve heard the film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being A Wallflower will be released later this year. Depending on how I feel, I may or may not see the film. However, when it is released, I will pray that similar teen films will follow.

Call for a Celebration of All Culture

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As you may have noticed, I’ve  been posting things in order to celebrate Black History Month. While I am proud of my heritage and culture, I also appreciate other people’s culture too. Yet, it seems like most young people in my generation and the generations coming up can’t see outside their own ethnicity. Even though there is nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, too much of it can cause you to become close minded.

For the most part, today’s youth culture is unhealthy because of its emphasis on conformity rather than individuality. Other harmful things such as prejudice and discrimination can cause young people as well as everyone else to develop an “Us versus the world” perspective.

Recently, I read an article that says ninety percent of students arrested for crimes in New York City are black and latino.

Ever notice the race of some of the people arrested for crimes anywhere?

Ever consider the effect of that on people?

One of the most awful effects of stories like the one above is prejudice and discrimination in a never-ending cycle. Some people see these stories and assume all people of a certain ethnicity commit crimes.  They may discriminate against a race so much that they embed that hatred into some people. After a while, the hatred from one turns into self-hate and anger that may eventually explode out in self-destructive or violent ways. The latter can lead to crimes being committed because that person feels they have no choice but to be the criminal people expect them to be.

A similar effect occurs with stereotypes. The stereotypes of blacks and Latinos are similar; the only difference is the culture. For a student of these ethnicities, these stereotypes could cause them not only to become violent, but also to dumb themselves down in school. For instance, for a black student to make good grades is considered “being white” to some other blacks.

In addition, cliques can be formed from different ethnicities as well. I remember being in high school and seeing a whole table of Asians, a whole table of blacks, and a whole table of Hispanics. There were less white students than other minority students, so I can’t say for sure about them. However, I do remember being one of few students who sat with peers of different ethnicities. I had Asian friends, black friends, Mexican friends, and white friends. They were few and in between, but they were friends.

Being friends with different people of different ethnicities really broadened my perspective and helped me develop an appreciation for different cultures. Today, that appreciation is stronger than ever. We should all come together and focus on our similarities rather than our differences, because we are all connected as human beings.

Written by Serena Zola

February 23, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Real Young Adult Literature

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As an aspiring young adult author and a person who is passionate about teen issues, I voraciously read young adult literature. However, most of today’s young adult literature makes me sick! It seems after the Twilight series came out, everyone wants to jump on the paranormal fantasy bandwagon. All I ever see whenever I go to the library or bookstore are romance books about vampires or some similar thing like angels and fairies.  I’m not saying writing about these things are bad, but what vexes me is that these subjects aren’t written about realistically. I know some people will say, “Well duh, it’s a paranormal fantasy, it’s not supposed to be real.” In my opinion, fantasy is just a more creative version of reality. The Harry Potter series had magic and myth in it, but it also had themes of prejudice, friendship, and identity in it.

After I finished reading the Harry Potter series, I started reading the Twilight series because I kept seeing it everywhere in school. At first,  I loved the series like everyone else. Then, I read another vampire series called Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. As soon as I finished the first book, I no longer liked Twilight. Vampire Academy had stronger characters and themes that Twilight lacked. For example, the main character of Twilight, Bella, only seems to care about having a good relationship with boys. Contrastly, Rose, the main character of the Vampire Academy series, cares about more than just her boyfriend. She also cares for her friend Lissa and the politics she is involved in.

Once I finished reading the Vampire Academy series, I looked for paranormal books with similar themes and found very little that satisfied me. The only other series I found that I liked was the Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler. These books feature supernatural elements, but they also feature teen issues such as eating disorders, self-injury, and bullying. I’ve only read one book in the series, Rage, but it turns out that the books can be read as a stand alone book or as a series of books. Rage is a book that features not only the topics of self-injury and bullying, but also the themes of identity and self acceptance. While the book also features some supernatural romance, it doesn’t overshadow the main themes and topics.

The thing that probably annoys me the most about today’s young adult literature is that most teens don’t realize seem to realize that they are reading books that don’t truly represent who they are. They are too caught up in the romance and gorgeous looks of characters that they don’t care about anything else. Today, I looked up a list of books that were voted Teen’s Top Ten on the Young
Adult Library Service’s Association website. The majority of the books are paranormal.

I understand that finding out who you are as a teen is difficult, but that doesn’t mean that we should sugarcoat adolescence with romance and vainness! There are more important things that teens deal with, things that need to be addressed in books and other forms of entertainment.

According to,  1 million children are bullied every week in and outside of school.  In addition, 20 teens commit suicide every year due to bullying.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from an eating disorder.

According to the Cornell Research Program on Self Injury, 12 to 24 percent of young people self injure.

If teens aren’t aware of real issues they may encounter, then they will not be prepared for life as adult. They must be educated about them in order to cope with these issues properly and to help others who deal with these issues.  Therefore, here is my own list of  twenty young adult books that deal with the many themes and issues of teens.

  1. The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins
  2. The Freedom Writers’ Diary by Erin Grunwell and The Freedom Writers
  3. Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
  4. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
  5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan
  6. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
  7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  8. Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
  9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  10. Staying Fat For Sarah Byrns by Chris Crutcher
  11. Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
  12. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  13. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  14. Looking For Alaska by John Green
  15. Paper Towns by John Green
  16. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  17. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  18. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl by Barry Lyga
  19. Fat Kid Rules The World by K.L. Going
  20. The Realm of Possibility by David Leviathan

Written by Serena Zola

October 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM

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