Central Park

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Bethesda Fountain, one of Central Park’s most famous sites.

New York City is full of amazing places to visit. There’s Time Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wall Street, and many other attractions. After living there for three years, however, I found that one of my favorite places to be in New York City was Central Park. Central Park is an oasis of trees and open space in the midst of an iron jungle of skyscrapers. When Emily would visit me, we would always take walks through the park. While you can see many of Central Park’s most famous sites in different movies such as Enchanted and 27 Dresses, I thought I would take you through a stroll through my favorite parts of the park and show you the route that Emily and I often walked.

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Gapstow Bridge

Emily and I often walked from my apartment on 34th St. up Fifth Avenue to Central Park. That way we got to see all of the fancy shops on our way to the park. We entered the park from the Artist’s Gate near the southeast corner. This “gate” is actually just an entry to the park surrounded by elevated statues of Jose San Martin, Simon Bolivar, and Jose Julian Marti. This entrance leads you around the Pond, one of seven small bodies of water in the park. Walking around the Pond leads you over Gapstow Bridge and where Donald Trump builds his ice rink during the winter.  Above this area is the Dairy, a country-esque structure that was built in 1870 to provide free milk for children.

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Christopher Columbus, located at the beginning of the Mall.

Continuing our stroll, Emily and I would cross the 65th St. Transverse, a road that stretches across the park. Then we would find ourselves at “the Mall”, a walkway that takes visitors past the statues of literary greats such as William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns and leads to the Bethesda Terrace.

Bethesda Terrace is one of the most beautiful places in Central Park. It overlooks the Boathouse and Central Park Lake where tourists can rent rowboats. From the terrace you can descend down stone stairs through the Arcade, which features arches and a tiled ceiling. Bethesda Terrace is also home to Bethesda Fountain, 96 feet wide and 26 feet high featuring the Angel of the Waters statue. Though it is drained during the winter, during the spring and summer lily pads and flowers float in the water.

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The “Imagine” mosaic at Strawberry Fields.

After Bethesda Terrace, our path split three ways. Sometimes, Emily and I would walk over to Strawberry Fields. This grassy hill is across the street from the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived until Lennon was shot dead. The top of the hill features a black and white mosaic built by Italian artists, embedded is the title of one of Lennon’s most famous songs—Imagine.

If we did not visit Strawberry Fields, Emily and I often crossed over Bow Bridge, the most famous bridge in Central Park. Bow Bridge is the place of many Hollywood scenes, like in the Disney movie Enchanted, as well as the location of many proposals and photo ops. The path across Bow Bridge leads into winding trails through a small wood around Central Park Lake.

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Bow Bridge

Alternatively, Emily and I also would take a left from Bethesda Terrace (Strawberry Fields and Bow Bridge are both to the right). This would lead us past the boathouse, across the road to a small conservatory pond (the location of the boat race in Stuart Little). The Hans Christian Anderson statue and the Alice in Wonderland statue are both located next to this conservatory of water.

If you walk farther into the park you will find other fun attractions, from Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare Garden to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cleopatra’s Needle. The park has many beautiful sights to offer visitors if they are up for a little walking. Since Emily and I are both big walkers, we often strolled through Central Park. It is a much-needed respite from the city. Whether it is full of snow in the winter, colored orange in the fall or green in the spring, Central Park is always beautiful. If you ever visit New York City, this is one of the places you must see.

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In the spring, Central Park is full of beautiful tulips.

Crazy, but not Stupid, Love

When a friend suggested we watch the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love, I looked up the premise—‘a middle-aged husband’s life changes dramatically when his wife asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a newfound friend, Jacob, learning to pick up girls at bars.’ After reading that I thought it would be just another Hollywood chick flick that undermines marriage and belittles true love. I could not have been more wrong.

Despite the fact that Crazy, Stupid, Love is a Hollywood chick flick, the movie portrays morally upright themes and a positive view of marriage. True to its title, the movie focuses on the crazy (and sometimes stupid) aspects of three different relationships. A closer look at these three relationships reveals that love may be crazy, but it is not stupid.

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Cal and Emily

The focal relationship of the movie is the marriage between Cal Weaver (Steve Carrel) and his wife Emily (Julianne Moore). In the beginning of the film, Emily confesses to Cal that she cheated on him and wants a divorce. She tries to explain that the two of them have grown apart and their marriage is no longer working. Cal handles it as well as one would expect—drowning his sorrows in a local bar. That’s where he meets Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a professional womanizer. Jacob takes Cal under his wing and teachers him how to rediscover his manhood and pick up women. Despite a rough start, Cal develops a confident attitude and a way with women, but rather than this leading him towards careening young women, it ultimately leads him back to Emily. That was a twist I wasn’t expecting from Hollywood. Throughout the movie, Emily and Cal rediscover the love they have for each other, and they realize that marriage is something worth fighting for.

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Hannah and Jacob

By experiencing the shallow life of one hook up after another, Cal remembers how much he loves his wife and his life with her. He realizes that the only romantic relationship he wants is the one with his soul mate, but he isn’t the only one to learn this lesson. Cal’s mentor in the art of seducing women, Jacob Palmer, also comes to see how today’s hook up culture is ultimately unfulfilling and lonely when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone). By developing a relationship built on something other than sex, Jacob switches his life of empty hook ups for one with a meaningful relationship. Jacob learns that lust can’t satisfy but love can.

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Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton)

The third relationship is outwardly the most ridiculous in the entire movie, but it is actually the most important—Cal’s son Robbie’s crush on his babysitter. Robbie is Romantic with a capital R. He believes in the existence of one’s soul mate and doing anything to prove your love to that person. He inspires his dad to fight harder to win his mom back. Robbie knows even before Cal does that his parents will restore their relationship because he believes that love conquers all—fights, age differences, misunderstandings, flaws. Robbie is the heart of the story, the constant proponent of love and hope.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is not your average Hollywood romance. Through these three relationships this film tells us that marriages are worth fighting for, that the hook up culture is unfulfilling, and that love is faithful. If you’re looking for an uplifting romance movie, this is it. If you’re looking for a quality movie with good themes, this is it. I was skeptical when I read the premise of this movie, but after watching it several times it has become one of my favorite movies. It is a much-needed perspective in Hollywood. It has something to teach middle school kids experiencing their first crush, young adults searching for relationships, and long married couples. Because love may be crazy, but it is not stupid.

The U.S. Open

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Andy Murray winning the U.S. Open in 2012

Today is the first day of play in the U.S. Open. Tennis fans from New York and across the country will crowd into Arthur Ashe stadium to watch the great tennis players of our time take the court for the opening rounds of America’s greatest tennis tournament. It will prove to be an interesting and exciting two weeks. Andy Murray, who just won Wimbledon, returns to the U.S. Open as the 3rd seed to defend his 2012 title. Novak Djokovic comes in as the top seeded player and one of the finest hard court players of all time. Rafael Nadal is seeded 2nd with his knees finally healthy and a good streak going on hard courts. Then of course there is Roger Federer, seeded 7th, his lowest seeding since 2002 but always a fan favorite. On the women’s side, defending champion and current no. 1 ranked Serena Williams received the top seed, followed by her rival Victoria Azaranka. Azaranka has proved herself to be a formidable opponent for Williams, winning 2 of their 3 meeting this year. It will be a battle should they meet in the final. Maria Sharapova snagged the 3rd seeding.

With two weeks of great players and excellent tennis ahead, I’m reminded of why I love the sport so much. Tennis is competitive, classy, has a rich history full of incredible people, and it is so much fun to play. As the 2013 U.S. Open begins, I can’t help but think about all the things that make tennis such an incredible sport. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

1. The players.

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Maria Sharapova

On the whole, tennis players are among the most respected athletes in the world. They’re an incomparable mixture of class and a competitive spirit. I think of players like Juan Del Potro, regarded as the most polite athlete in any sport. Then there are players like Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova who both demonstrate an intense work ethic but also demonstrate a high level of class.

2. The rivalries.

Tennis boasts some of the most historic and competitive rivalries in sports history, from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. These rivalries are the perfect embodiment of the nature of both the sport and its athletes, as rival players are intensely competitive with one another but carry a great deal of respect towards each other. It also makes for some awesome tennis, which we should see if Williams plays Azaranka in the women’s final.

3. The Athleticism

Because it’s regarded as a gentlemen’s sport, tennis is often dismissed as a ‘hobby’ or a less athletic sport. This could not be further from the case. Tennis players are some of the fittest athletes in the world. Matches can last up to four hours of play—that’s four hours, not including breaks, of sprinting, lunging, and diving. The game requires strength, agility, and endurance. This isn’t golf, people. You actually sweat playing tennis.

4. Earning it.

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Roger Federer

Tennis is one of the few major sports that does not operate under athlete/organization contracts. Unlike baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey athletes, tennis players earn money by winning tournaments. Contracts can hitch an athlete to one organization anywhere from one to ten years, even if athlete injures himself, his talent diminishes due to aging, or he is suspended. Tennis players, on the other hand, earn their salary based on their performance.

5. The Women.

I’ve mentioned mostly male tennis players, but I would be remiss to ignore the women of tennis. Not only are there great female tennis players—Maria Sharapova, Chris Evert, and Billie Jean King come to mind—but tennis is one of the few sports where women receive the same recognition as their male counterparts as well as the same pay grade. It was not always like this. As in every sport, women struggled to be taken seriously as athletes and earn the same rights as men. The ESPN film Venus VS. highlights Venus Williams’ role in bringing equality in tournament winnings for women. Billie Jean King also played an important role in equalizing tennis, particularly in her exhibition match against Bobby Riggs where she beat him in three straight sets.

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Serena (left) and Venus (right) Williams

There are many more reasons to love tennis, but I can’t go into them now. It is a sport with a rich history and respected players. It is fun to watch and to play. These next two weeks will showcase to the world an incredible level of athleticism, sportsmanship, and excitement. And on September 7th and 8th, new champions will be crowned.

What is Young Adult Literature?

teen-titlesYoung adult literature is a tricky genre to define because of its proximity to both children’s and adult literature, as well as all the subjects it can include. These subjects range from the innocent to some of the heaviest topics imaginable, including abuse, death, war, suicide, etc. While some of these topics seem more adult in nature, there are a few things that set the young adult genre apart from books that are strictly geared towards adults.

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Rick Riordan’s best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is a great example of a series told from the hilarious perspective of a teenage protagonist.

There is a clear difference, according to Patty Campbell in her book that explores young adult literature, between the two genres. She writes, “The central action in YA fiction is essentially internal, in the turbulent psyche of the adolescent . . . Voice is all-important here and is the quality that most clearly distinguishes YA from adult fiction . . . To be a YA novel a book must have a teen protagonist speaking from an adolescent point of view, with all the limitations of understanding this implies”.

There are books that fall in the adult category that include stories from adolescence or have a teenage protagonist, but these do not fit into the young adult genre because they are told through a narrator who is looking back on his or her life—they are not limited to the protagonist’s perspective during adolescence.

Publishers and librarians tend to view the young adult genre as a genre geared towards anyone between the ages of twelve and eighteen, the people who “think they’re too old to be children but who others think are too young to be adults”.

Because of this age range, most books in the young adult genre deal with “the coming of age story”. Just as the genre itself bridges children’s fiction and adult fiction, the books that populate the shelves of the young adult sections in bookstores and libraries feature characters who still have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood.

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Clare and I are big, big Melina Marchetta fans (our blog’s title is inspired by one of her books). Saving Francesca is a wonderful example of a coming of age story with a fantastic female protagonist.

The purpose of the coming of age story is to detail the process of the protagonists growing up and shrugging off the vestiges of childhood, and moving to adulthood.  Campbell says, “The central theme of most YA fiction is becoming an adult, finding the answer to the question, ‘Who am I and what am I going to do about it?’”. As Richard Peck, an award-winning author of novels in the young adult genre once said, “The last page of every YA novel should say not, ‘The End’ but ‘The Beginning’”.

To summarize:

  • Young adult literature has protagonists who are generally between 12 and 18 years old.
  • What sets young adult literature apart from its adult counterpart is the fact that its stories are told from the perspective of an individual who is between 12 and 18—not an adult looking back on events from adolescence.
  • Young adult literature deals with the period in life in which people come of age, and therefore this is a big theme in the genre, no matter the sub-genre in which a book falls.

I’m not saying that these things are always the case, but these are facets of young adult literature that I’ve noticed and that others have noticed as well. These are a few of the things that make young adult literature special and a joy to read.

Part 1: Why Young Adult Literature is Important

Part 3: The Catcher in the Rye and the creation of young adult literature

Part 4: How The Outsiders changed young adult literature

Part 5: How The Chocolate War won the battle for realistic fiction

Part 6: The Return to True Romance

Why Young Adult Literature is Important

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Young adult literature has become a lucrative market for publishing houses.

Today, as the crumbling empire of Barnes and Noble still holds a tentative grip, there are several fixtures in the layout of a bookstore. There is the coffee bar, the long aisle of over-priced trinkets, and then there are the shelves that line the walls. On these shelves Faulkner, Joyce, Dickens, Austen, the Bronte sisters and others mingle with the commoners: the chick lit, the Star Wars paperbacks, the New York Times bestsellers no one will remember in six months. And, somewhere towards the middle of the store, is an island awash with colorful covers and fanciful titles with a placard that reads something along the lines of “Young Adult Literature”.

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Adaptations of young adult novels become worldwide phenomenons.

The young adult genre serves the purpose of bridging the gap between children’s literature and adult literature. It is a relatively new genre that has only been around for several decades as a named entity. But it seems to be here to stay. In 2009 the Wall Street Journal called the genre of young adult literature “one of the book industry’s healthiest segments.” Since the 1970s, educators, publishers and the public at large have shown a greater interest in young adult literature. The success of publications like VOYA, which stands for Voice of Youth Advocates, and the addition of young adult books in schools and textbooks illustrate this rise in popularity.

Popular young adult book series such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and The Hunger Games have translated to the big screen and have shown how lucrative young adult novels can be and how powerful their teen fan bases are. Young adult fiction has proven profitable in many different places and venues, and has gained prestige as titles in the genre– such as the Harry Potter series– have gained an adult readership. The genre has also gained prestige as authors who typically write for adults, such as Alice Hoffman, Joyce Carol Oates, Carl Hiaasen, and Isabel Allende, have crossed over and written books targeted to a young adult audience.

Just as young adult literature is a genre that focuses on the time when people come of age, the genre itself has recently come of age. The Young Adult Library Services Association, more commonly known as YALSA, says, “Though once dismissed as a genre consisting of little more than problem novels and romances, young adult literature has. . . become literature that welcomes artistic innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking.”  Young adult literature is an important and innovative genre that is impacting our culture. In the next few posts and throughout the fall, I want to write about young adult literature. Later this week I will write about what young adult literature is and how to define the genre. I will then write several posts dealing with the history of the genre and several of the genre’s seminal works. Through these posts I hope to show the significance of the genre, as well as show the impact the genre has in today’s culture.

Part 2: What is Young Adult Literature?

Part 3: The Catcher in the Rye and the creation of young adult literature

Part 4: How The Outsiders changed young adult literature

Part 5: How The Chocolate War won the battle for realistic fiction

Part 6: The Return to True Romance

Harry Potter fans scramble to get a copy of the latest Harry Potter book

Young adult series have ardent readers and fans.

Road to Perdition

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With Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, and Stanley Tucci, Sam Mendes assembled a cast of the highest caliber for the film.

There are several movies that I would unequivocally recommend to any of my friends, and Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition is one of them. The film, which is based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, tells the story of a family in a small mid-western town in 1931. Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a hitman for the local crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman), a man who rules the town and looms large over Sullivan’s past. Sullivan’s son, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) is a boy who always wanders into trouble. Sullivan provides for his family and tries to shield his sons from the life that he leads. But after Michael follows his father to one of his mysterious jobs and sees the seedy and violent side of the Rooney family, tragedy strikes the Sullivan family. Forced to go on the run, Sullivan has to look out for his son in new ways as they try to outsmart a chilling hitman (Jude Law) and seek revenge against Rooney and his son (Daniel Craig).

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Sam Mendes uses cinematography to capture the relational distance between a father and son.

This movie, at its heart, is the story about a father and son developing a relationship. Mendes, director of American Beauty and Skyfall, is known for his carefully crafted films and gorgeous cinematography. Road to Perdition is no exception. Mendes takes the time to introduce you to the Sullivans’ world and the state of Sullivan and Michael’s relationship at the start of the movie. When the viewer first sees the father and son interact, they are at either ends of a dark hallway, with a chasm between them. Throughout the movie, however, they become all that the other has, and both become determined to protect the other in any way that they can. They become comrades and a bond stronger than blood alone develops during their six weeks on the road.

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Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig

The direction and cinematography are wonderful, and film score, composed by Thomas Newman, is dark, searing, and hauntingly beautiful. The acting in this film is also excellent. Whoever cast this film did a great job. Tom Hanks gives a moving performance as the distant father, a man too tied up in his work to pay his son much attention. As the movie progresses he grows and changes, and some of his scenes were so raw and emotional that they still move me to tears. Paul Newman, who happens to be my favorite actor, is phenomenal as the aging crime boss who at one moment is a kind and smiling grandfather and the next can show just how cold you have to be to make it to the top of the crime world. Jude Law is skin-crawlingly creepy as the hitman following the Sullivans, and it is obvious that he reveled in this part. Daniel Craig, in an early performance, plays sniveling, cowardly Connor Rooney well. And Tyler Hoechlin, who grew up oh so nice, gives a moving performance as Michael, the boy who is forced to come of age and reconcile with his father during a time of violence and danger.

This film is one of my favorites because I love the time period, the actors all give incredible performances, and at its core, the story of the bond between a father and son is so powerful and moving. Some people complain that the movie is slow, but I think those people miss the point of the film. This isn’t a shoot ‘em up gangster film. This is the story of a father, who happens to be a hitman, and his son, who has to deal with the ramifications as his father goes down the road to perdition.8B532A27902AE2CAA6FE2159A6AA

The Heroine Part 7: Why It Matters

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Emma Watson as Hermione Granger

Now I’ve spent a lot of time posting about the heroine. I suppose it’s important to clarify why—why spend so many words on determine what the ideal heroine should be? There are several reasons why this is so important to me. One reason is that I am so sick of reading books with awful heroines. See my review of Kristin Cashore’s book Graceling for an example. Cashore’s heroine Katsa is the cliché fighter with nothing uniquely feminine about her. I know heroines can be better than that.

Another reason I wanted to write about the heroine is that there is a lot of research out there about the hero, but not the heroine. There are books about what it means for a man to be a hero, but there is hardly anything to instruct women on what it takes to be a heroine. Heroines are important because they teach women how they can be heroic. Heroines are examples, but there are bad examples as well as good examples. It is important for readers to be able to distinguish between the two, and so readers need to know what they are looking for in a heroine.

Literature provides a plethora of characters—some examples are what not to be and others are examples worth emulating. There are so many lessons in literature. Here are some examples from the heroes of my favorite book, J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings:

Frodo teaches us that we must sacrifice ourselves for others. Sam teaches us to be faithful to those we love. Merry teaches us that even the smallest of us can have courage. Aragorn teaches us that leadership takes wisdom as well as bravery. Legolas and Gimli teach us that sometimes the most unlikely friendships are the strongest. Boromir teaches us that sometimes we do the wrong thing. Faramir teaches us that sometimes we do the right thing.

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Cate Blanchett as Galadriel

Tolkien’s trilogy also contains incredible examples of heroines:

Eowyn teaches us that personal glory is unfulfilling. Arwen teaches us that hope and faithfulness are the strongest form of support. Galadriel teaches us that power can be used for good. Rosie teaches us that sometimes the more important heroine is the one who welcomes the hero home.

Both heroes and heroines have something to offer the reader and I believe that some of the best lessons can be learned through literature. Books are not just entertainment, though they are also that. Harvey Mansfield, a professor at Harvard University, wrote in his book Manliness that “literature uses fictions that are images of truth [to speak the truth].” Literature entertains, but it also reveals the truth. It reveals the truth about who we are and what we can be, both good and bad.

Heroines are important because they show women what we can be. Bad heroines show us the costs of our decisions and good heroines show us the good that women can do. I believe that heroines are necessary because in a broken world a woman’s touch is necessary. It isn’t enough that women can be badass fighters, though they can be. Women need to know that they bring something that men don’t, something that is desperately needed. Heroines demonstrate assertiveness, compassion, kindness, courage, faithfulness, sacrifice, and many other qualities. Women in this world can do the same.

For more on the heroine:

Part 1: An Introduction

Part 2: The Helper

Part 3: The Damsel in Distress

Part 4: The Sexualized Heroine

Part 5: The Masculinized Heroine

Part 6: Poor, Obscure, Plain, and Little