My Poetry: “Caterina”

The Daily Suck

Almost two years ago, I was blessed with the most incredible gift: my little sister, Caterina.  With the 15-year gap between us, I treat her like my little baby and love her more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  She truly lights up my life and gives me so much happiness! That being said, on her first birthday last year, I knew I had to do something special.  I ended up with this poem.  Entitled simply “Caterina”, I’m very excited to share it with you so that you can get a sense of how special she is to me.  Enjoy!

  “Caterina”
If my joy and happiness and laughter are caged birds
Then you are the key
And in the shape of a smile you unlock my heart
And bring all the good to light

If I want to know of love and purity and grace
Then you are my teacher
With the quiet wisdom of a child you inspire
I am content to sit at your feet

If my soul craves a song full of beauty and truth
Then you are a symphony
And your music lifts my spirit to impossible heights
I want all the world to hear you

If I long to see Heaven or a glimpse of my God
Then you are a window
And your eyes radiate with the glory of Divine Light
In every act, a daughter of The King

So in my imperfection
I know my words are not enough
Sentimental,
and utterly inadequate
But maybe when days have turned to months and months to years
Maybe when you feel small and alone
You’ll read the words of a foolish girl
who loves you
to the stars and back

Friday Movie Night: Citizen Kane

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The Daily Suck

On this week’s Friday Movie Night, I present to you yet another classic, maybe the movie to top all movies: Orson Welles’ masterpiece: Citizen Kane.  There’s a thousand things I could say about the actual production of the movie, including the fact that Welles’ bascially did everthing, but for now I’ll just talk about the film itself. 

Citizen Kane tells the story of a reporter trying to piece together the life of recently deceased newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane.  One question in particular drives the journalist: the meaning of Kane’s mysterious last word, “Rosebud”.  Even though Charles Foster Kane is the man whom the movie orbits around, we as the audience share the same limited knowledge of him as the reporter, only learning about his life through the accounts of the men and women who knew him best.  Through a series of flashbacks, people like his former best friend and ex-wife weave the story of Kane’s life and career, but it is important to remember that these witnesses may or may not be reliable narrators, leaving us with even more questions and making the mystery of Charles Kane even more cloudy.  That may be the greatest part of Citizen Kane.  He is the main character of the movie, a larger-than-life character who is simultaneously the hero and the villain, and yet we never truly know him.  His best friend is a bitter old man and his ex-wife is an alchoholic, only adding more doubt to their memories of Kane. 

Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane is powerful.  His scene-stealing presence onscreen shows Kane’s charisma and influence but also the intimidating and controlling side of his personality, which rears its head in more than a few points in the film.  Without ruining anything for you, Kane is a multi-layered and complicated character, and you’ll spend the whole movie trying to uncover his secrets in complete fascination. 

Orson Welles’ filming techniques are perfect; every shot, every camera angle, every shadow effect is not there just to be there: they all mean something to the film and add yet another layer of nuance to the supporting cast’s flashbacks and memories.  There’s a reason why this film is number one on many, including the American Film Institute’s, list. 

In short, Citizen Kane is pure power in every aspect.  Through every up and down, rise and fall, triumph and defeat, we look through the windows of memory into Charles Foster Kane’s life, which ask much and answer few.  The only time we witness a guaranteed true moment of Kane’s life is at the beginning, moments before his death.  Somehow when it’s all over, this scene tells us more than we ever anticipated.  Citizen Kane is one of the greatest movies of all time and one of my personal favorites.  Its deeply-layered, thought-provoking story could be discussed for hours, but for now, I’ll leave you to uncover the mystery of “Rosebud” for yourself. 

I Hate Hating On Haters

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Haters? Those people are the worst! Why can’t they just smile and agree with every little decision that I make, all while proclaiming how awesome/right/gorgeous I am? I can do whatever I want, when I want! Haters…screw those guys!

Yeah, actually, no. 

Anybody else catching the irony here? By calling out your “haters,” like so, you are being a hater.  Not letting what other people think or say bother you is good (with some exceptions), but saying stuff like that in retaliation is not only rude and immature: it’s puts you on the same level as your so-called haters.  And that’s not the only thing. 

It’s important to know that people will always abuse the system and this is no different.  Instead of going with the healthy mindset of doing what you think is right (no matter if people try to bring you down) and listening to constructive criticism, we’ve gone with “I can do whatever I want and no hater can tell me that it’s wrong!” This is a problem.  We allow ourselves to do and say whatever we want or “feel like” by using name-calling and bashing as an excuse to ignore people who say anything we don’t want to hear.  Now I’m not saying that there aren’t some real jerks out there who say mean things for the sake of being mean, but somehow I’m thinking that most people who call out the haters just want to be praised ceaselessly for their skill with posing and Instagram filters. 

Let’s lay down some simple facts.

1. People who have different opinions than yours are not haters. 
I really can’t overstate this one enough.  As long as they are respectful of you and kind (and respect does NOT mean tolerance or agreement), people who have different opinions than yours are not haters.  Across issues large and small, this always holds true. 

2. Calling out your haters doesn’t make whatever you’re doing right; it only makes you sound obnoxious.
Like I said before, you don’t have to think what people are saying is right, but you don’t have to resort to name-calling and flat-out hostility.  And can anyone count as a hater now? How about your parents? Are they haters for correcting you and trying to lead you down the right path whether you can see it or not? Playing the hater card never justifies your actions, no matter if they’re good or bad.

3. And finally, sometimes listening to all those haters can be good for you.
Again, I’m not telling you to let what other people think and say dictate your entire life, but sometimes there’s some constructive criticism there that can only benefit you.  Nobody has it all figured out! We all need some guidance and criticism to help us learn and become the best people we can be. 

So maybe you’ll think twice the next time you want to dish out the h-word.  Love yourself and who you are, but love yourself enought to listen to others who can make you a better person or teach you an important lesson.  We teenagers may have it now, but there won’t always be people there to coddle you and tell you everything you want to hear.  And once you get to that point, calling out your haters isn’t going to be too effective. 

Birthday Day Off

The Daily Suck

Hey guys! Just a short message explaining why I didn’t post today.  It’s my 17th birthday and I’ve been out all day: it was my first day of my college class and then I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my family! I had an amazing day and am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family and friends! Normal posting will continue tomorrow! Thanks and see you then!

– Julia

Spinning Jenny Songs: Suddenly

ImageToday I wanted to share with you one of my band, Spinning Jenny’s songs, “Suddenly”!

Check it out here: http://www.reverbnation.com/spinningjenny19/song/18152254-suddenly
Now that you’ve heard it (and hopefully liked it), I thought I’d give you a little insight on how it came together. 

I had never written a song before and I was fed up.  After several failed attempts, I was convinced that I couldn’t do it.  I didn’t have it in me, and I could never be as good as the songwriters I looked up to.  It started out as that annoying, hit-a-brick-wall, frustrated anger.  And then I was just sitting on the couch venting about it to my family when it was  like a switch turned on.  There’s just no way. I thought.  There’s no way that I can’t put at least one song together.  I gotta go do it.  So I grabbed my guitar and headed down to the basement.  Somehow my frustration came out on paper and around 45 minutes later, “Suddenly” was born.  But that wasn’t the end of it. 

It was the first song I ever wrote and I was happy about it for that reason, but I wasn’t 100% on it.  In fact, I woke up one day with it stuck in my head and declared that I hated that song.  I hated it and I never wanted to hear it again! That’s around when our other original, “Outside The Lines” was written (which I’ll talk about in a future post) and I was definitely not thinking about “Suddenly”.  But one day when I was trying to write a new song, I heard my dad playing guitar.  At first I didn’t really pay attention to what he was doing, but then he started playing a riff that I liked.  So I listened, and realized that it was “Suddenly”.  And it didn’t sound too shabby.  Eventually, after working on it and tweaking it until it was ready, we went to the studio and got it recorded.  The song that I hated became something that I’m now really proud of and excited to share with others and I hope you like it too!

The song, as you can probably guess, is all about that burst of joy and understanding when, after being empty and lost for so long, you find what you’ve been looking for in someone that’s been there the whole time.  It’s a powerful thing, and hopefully I’ve been able to capture it in the song with the help of my sister, Angelina’s, powerful singing.  Big shout-out to Dan and everyone at Aardvark Studios also for helping us make the song the best it could be! I really hope the song speaks to you and I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

– Julia

I Hate Feelings, But It’s Ok To Feel

The Daily Suck

*Note: if you are a robot, android, Vulcan, or similarly emotionless being, please ignore this post.  Thank you.*

*Other note: I am only a little bit crazy, I promise*

This probably happened to me earlier in life than most people, but at one point when I was younger I realized that I had *dun dun dun* FEELINGS about things.  Stuff like the books I read (shout-out to my always and forever first book love, the Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda), the games I played (although Kingdom Hearts is known to have said effect on people), the music I listened to, and the movies I watched.  I had no idea what was wrong with me, only that certain things would set off a bunch of confusing emotions inside that only made me more sad and frustrated the more I tried to figure them out.  Like the chick from Mean Girls, I had a lot of feelings.  And I was really freaking confused up until the past few years.

Part of my understanding (or close enough) came from realizing that I was not like the other girls I knew.  I do indeed suck at being a teenage girl, but in deeper ways than my stances on selfies and general interests.  The other part came from realizing that I was a creative person.  I thought too deeply, cared too much, felt too strongly to be anything else.  When I was exposed to great (or what I thought was great) works of art and writing, something inside of me – the artistic side – reacted more strongly than the internet’s reaction to Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman.  I couldn’t understand how my friends could just see a great movie and move on with their lives, when my mind was working on overdrive thinking about and feeling about it.  I think you can understand how this puzzled me for a long time and separated me even more from my peers.  I was too young to know myself entirely and I didn’t know what to do.

I struggled with this for a while until one day I clumsily tried to explain something that I didn’t understand to my parents.  They are amazing people and after listening to me, told me that, yes, I had strong feelings towards certain things, but what was wrong with that? They told me that’s what great books, and movies, and music do.  They make you feel.  Then, last year during my studies in poetry class, my teacher told the class a quote that I’ll always remember by someone I can’t remember.  “Great art is supposed to break your heart.”  I sat there in class mulling over what he just told us as he moved on with the lesson.

And I knew that my heart had been broken many times and I knew that I loved that feeling, and I knew that it was ok.  

Most importantly, I guess, I knew that I wanted to break other people’s hearts as well.

These realizations changed a lot of things for me. Now I accept who I am and why I feel the way that I do about certain things, whatever they are.  Looking at the ocean and John Williams music and endings will always make me sad but the starry sky makes me hopeful, people’s old trinkets make me smile, and there’s almost nothing better than an empty notebook waiting to be filled.  I know this all sounds strange but maybe people like me are supposed to find the hidden layers behind every-day things, discovering their beauty in sadness or joy, and let them leave their mark on us.  We can never leave our marks on the world if we have none on ourselves.  So let yourself feel, really and truly, deeply and powerfully.  Look for the beauty in your life and absorb it.  It’s ok to cry: let yourself be moved.  Transform all that you feel and think and do into wings and fly.  And lastly, let your heart be broken.  To me, the ones with cracks look the most beautiful anyway.

– Julia

Last Day Of Summer Memories

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Don’t worry, I’ll try not to make this post too depressing.

If you haven’t started school yet, today is pretty much the last day of summer for you.  Wasn’t that a fun way to start this out? The correct answer is no, it wasn’t, but I’m not going to be like those stupid back to school commercials with all the smiling kids and catchy jingles.  I tend to take the Pink Floydian view on education, as in “we don’t need no”, but that doesn’t mean that you have to take my notoriously poor attitude towards our grand school system.  You may even be happy about going back to school, and if you are, you’re a better person than I.  But I still refuse to write anything about school on the last day of summer, so I made a list (can you tell I like lists?) of my favorite things that happened this summer.  Maybe all the happy memories will sustain me through this semester at least.

1. Gigs!
My band Spinning Jenny was very blessed this year to be able to play a gig almost every weekend this summer.  Aside from winning the Paramore contest, opening for Casey James, recording our first two original songs, & meeting Rob Parissi of Wild Cherry (which I’ve talked about), we’ve gotten the opportunity to play some incredible shows, meet some even more incredible people, and grow in skill and exposure.  Spinning Jenny has always been awesome, but this summer was fantastic in particular. 

2. Vacation To Universal Studios
Back in July, my parents took me and my sisters to Universal Studios for a few days and we had a blast! Besides riding the incredible new Transformers ride five times, we got to do everything there was to do in the two parks, including getting a picture with spider-man (my first superhero love), and watching the hilarious Horror Make-Up Show.  Universal Studios was a great experience with my family that I still think about today!

3. Myrtle Beach Vacation
Because my parents are so wonderful, kind, and generous (Hi mom & dad) we not only went to Universal Studios but Myrtle Beach this summer! I absolutely love Myrtle Beach; the beach, the hotel, the shows, the shopping, THE SEAFOOD *drool*, everything.  It’s so relaxing and we never ran out of things to do.  Plus we got the best frozen yogurt every night that still makes me cry tears of joy when I think about it.  I really like frozen yogurt. 

4. Completing the Jillian Michaels 90-Day Body Revolution
This is one I never expected to do, let alone be able to do.  I didn’t really have any weight to lose before I started, but I never exercised or tried to eat right.  When my mom decided that we were going to attempt it as a family, I was not into it at all, and at first it was ridiculously difficult.  But as we stayed committed and worked hard, I found myself feeling better and gaining more pride in my hard work.   Now that I’ve completed it, I’ve gained an entirely new respect for myself and my health & my family and I have bonded by getting healthy together.  The exercise program wasn’t for my weight so much as discovering what I am capable of and I’m all the better for it. 

5. Starting I Suck At Being A Teenage Girl
And finally, my blog! I’ve only been at it for eight days and it’s already made me so much happier and more fulfilled! I can’t tell you how glad I am to be able to write this blog and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well! Maybe it’ll even inspire you to start your own blog.  Sucking at being a teenage girl has never made me happier.

So there you have it! A few of my great summer memories to last me through the school year! Now it’s your turn.  Sound off in the comments with your summer memories! It’ll make you feel better and hey, maybe you’ll realize you had a better summer than you thought. 

TV Shows I Can’t Get Enough Of

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Before I had Netflix I wasn’t a huge TV person, but that instant streaming gets to you and soon enough you find yourself watching your new favorite shows through all hours of the night.  Here’s a list of my current favorites and after you get through the list, comment and let me know what show is taking over your life!

1. Sherlock

Written and created by infamous murderer of happiness Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, BBC’s Sherlock is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen hands-down, taking the famous Arthur Conan Doyle characters and putting them in a modern London with both updated technology and crime.  Let’s talk about the cast.  Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes is just genius, giving one of the best performances on TV (or in movies, for that matter).  His Sherlock is brilliant, rude, eccentric, cold, and heroic all at the same time and utterly unforgettable.  Martin Freeman as John Watson is the perfect complement to Benedict, working both as Sherlock’s partner, moral compass and also as a strong, complex character himself.  There are a thousand things I could say about Sherlock but the best one to tell you is to go watch it.  I can’t believe that in only six episodes (yes, six!) BBC has created a phenomenon that is absolutely deserving of all the praise.  With incredible, writing, acting, and storytelling, Sherlock makes this list with flying colors.

2. Supernatural

As a kid, I loved the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, but now that I’m older and have outgrown the series, Supernatural is the perfect replacement.  Supernatural tells the story of two monster-hunting brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who travel across America saving people from ghosts, spirits, vampires, demons, shape-shifters, and pretty much whatever else goes bump in the night.  It’s extremely creepy, scary, and violent so don’t watch it with your little siblings but it’s perfect for a dose of scares and big helping of feels on the side.  See, at the heart of Supernatural is the relationship between Sam and Dean and that’s what makes the show so great.  Beyond all the monster-hunting and slaying are two brothers who love each other unconditionally and would do anything for the other, even going to Hell and back (literally!).  Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean, and Jared Padalecki (Sam) have such natural chemistry that it’s hard to believe they’re not brothers for real and they keep a perfect balance of both tough hunters and caring siblings.  In a world that’s filled with evil and monsters, Sam and Dean’s relationship is the light that shines through the darkness and keeps you clicking on the next episode without hesitation.

3. Psych

Psych has that rare ability to make me smile and laugh even on bad days.  Besides being one of the funniest shows that I’ve seen, Psych’s characters are amazing and the writing is hilarious while still being great.  You can’t talk about Psych without touching on James Roday as fake psychic detective Shawn Spencer and Dule Hill as his uptight partner.  They’re some of my favorite TV buddies and continuously outdo each other in wackiness.  The rest of the cast is awesome, and once you start watching, you will want Shawn and cop Juliet (played by Maggie Lawson) to get together SO FREAKING BAD.  But just watch it for yourself.  Psych is a fantastic show, complete with a great and hilarious cast, some of the funniest writing on TV, and stands as one of the best and most original cop shows ever.

 

So that’s what I can’t stop watching right now! Netflix is a tough temptation, especially when you have blogging to do, but these three are my go-to shows when I get everything done.  Or, y’know, maybe not before I get everything done.  When I have a quick minute or 45 to spare.  Whatever.  I wanna hear what you’re watching and let me know if you check out one of these shows that you haven’t seen before!

– Julia

Friday Movie Night: On The Waterfront

I’m kicking off my brand new feature called Friday Movie Night with my favorite movie of all time, On The Waterfront (1954) starring Marlon Brando and directed by Elia Kazan!

Now asking someone what their favorite movie is a tough question and not too many people can choose just one.  There’s hundreds of fantastic movies out there after all and they’re awesome in different ways.  I’m one of those people.  Picking my favorite movie is impossible, especially since I’ve seen tons of them.  But didn’t I just say that On The Waterfront was my favorite? I did, not because I’ve picked it above all other movies to be the best one ever made, but because it was the first movie that sparked my passion for films. 

On The Waterfront released in 1954, starring one of the biggest new actors in Hollywood, Marlon Brando, and directed by Elia Kazan.  It chronicles the story of Terry, a bum who works at the docks run by mobster Johnny Friendly and gets money for doing nothing because his brother, Charlie, is one of the high-ranking members of Friendly’s mob.  When Terry unwittingly helps his brother and Friendly’s men murder a man for threatening to testify against the mob, Terry must battle his own conscience and his growing feelings for the man’s sister, Edie, especially when a local priest befriends him and urges him to fight against the tyranny of Friendly’s rule.  It’s one of the most powerful stories of redemption and the healing power of love that I’ve ever seen on the screen, made no less more powerful by the performances of Brando and the rest of the cast.  Don’t believe me? Check the American Film Institute’s list of greatest movies of all time.  It’s not just me. 

For a movie made back in the 50s, it’s very dark, and portrays the gritty life of the oppressed dock workers and the cruelty of Johnny’s mob very realistically.  The black, white, and grey colors of the film mirrors its characters, with Johnny and his goons as the corrupt and dark black, innocent Edie and brave Father Barry as pure white, and morally torn Terry as the in between grey.  Every part of the film has significance and every time I watch it I catch something that I never noticed before. 

The first time I saw On The Waterfront I was around thirteen or fourteen and had just started to appreciate the beauty of old movies.  This one changed everything for me, opening my eyes to new ways of filming, acting, and telling powerful stories on screen and that’s why I count it as my favorite movie ever.  Not because the others can’t compare, but because I never loved and appreciated movies the way I do now.  I encourage you to watch it more than anything else! I know it’s old.  But as they say “oldies are goodies” and this one is one of the best. 

– Julia

To Dare Is To Do: On Taking Risks, Putting Yourself Out There, And Buzzing Off Your Hair

The Daily Suck

When I woke up this morning I had no intention of doing anything to my hair.  I didn’t even plan on getting out of my pajamas.  But when my mother scheduled a simple trim with highlights I got this crazy impulse to do something different.  And this is what I ended up with:

And I really, really, love it!!!

Now this haircut is a pretty big change.  If I ever want to grow it out, I’ll have to wait four to six years to get it back to how it was and sure, it was a little nerve-wracking but my excitement outweighed my fear.  It was risk and risks are scary, but it made me realize that taking those risks often lead to the best rewards.

Think back on the most memorable, thrilling moments of your life.  Chances are, you’ll think of a time when you stepped outside of your comfort zone and did something you didn’t think you could do.  It doesn’t matter if it was something small, like changing up your hair like I did, or something big, like facing one of your fears.  Sometimes you do those things and they work out.  Sometimes they don’t: that’s why it’s a risk.  Regardless though, those experiences are the things that you tell stories about later.  Those are the things that shape you as a person and allow you to learn about yourself and what you can do.  After all, how many of the days that you stayed at home and watched Netflix for 12 hours stick out to you? I remember the time I went on the Dueling Dragons roller coaster (rollers coasters are my biggest fear!) much more clearly, even though I was terrified.  

If there isn’t any fear factor involved, however, what’s so special about that? I feel that we as human beings are meant to be brave.  You are meant to be brave! And you are capable of so much if you just do it.  Step out of your comfort zone once and a while.  I’m not saying to live life unthinkingly, always looking for the next high, or even putting yourself in danger but I am not a believer in boring.  You are alive! You have a life! Make it one worth living.  In my experience, I’ve found that curiosity and a little healthy daring can give you so much happiness.  And not the kind that goes away after a while.  The kind that makes you smile whenever you remember what caused it.  So get off of this blog.  Get out there and go do something worth doing.  Help people.  Help yourself.  Sometimes buzzing off your hair is the only the first step.

– Julia