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‘Cat in the Stax: Behind the Lines of The Other Wes Moore

In wrapping up November’s Read with the (other) Jenna book club pick, today I wanted to look a little more at the life of Wes Moore. Specifically looking at his involvement with us in the Villanova community and his involvement daily with communities nationwide.

Wes Moore at Villanova University

Alumni may remember reading The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates when it was Villanova’s One Book selection in 2014, the 10th anniversary of the program at Villanova. Wes Moore came to visit Villanova’s campus on Sept. 25 of that year and kicked off his visit with a dinner featuring foods inspired by the memoir, followed by a headshot of author Wes Moorepresentation to the entire Villanova community. Moore’s presentation also coincided with the opening of the University’s annual St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration. 

In 2014, the book was selected because it talked about important and relevant topics including education, poverty, and the importance of determination and mentors in a young person’s life. Today, I selected this book to read as the November book club read for all of the same reasons. The themes discussed in The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates are timeless. 

To see a full list of all past One Book selections click here

Wes Moore in the News Today
The timelessness and impact of Moore’s story can also be seen in the news even now. Below, I briefly touch on three of the news stories this past month that include Wes Moore.

Wes Moore — With a Little Help From His Friends — Sees a Historic Moment

In the days leading up to the election, Wes Moore sat down as part of a five-person panel to discuss the upcoming election and its implications. When asked why he votes, Moore answered that he votes for those who cannot vote. The themes of fighting to give equal opportunity and create a more supportive future for all are brought out in his book are echoed in many of his presentations to this day.

Robin Hood’s ‘Heroes of New York’ special celebrates resiliency and generosity amid pandemic

Wes Moore serves as Chief Executive Officer for Robin Hood, New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization. Yesterday, Dec. 1, they partnered with iHeart Radio to air “Heroes of New York,” showcasing efforts of New Yorkers to bring light back to their city in the midst of the pandemic. In Moore’s life, he has not only overcome poverty himself, but now works to help others in New York to do the same.

CCM to hold forum on racial equity with national speakers in December

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is holding a forum to discuss racial equity on Dec. 3 and Wes Moore is set to be a speaker. Issues surrounding race and diversity are not just a trend, but something that should be an ongoing discussion. Moore has emerged as a key voice to be listening to and learning from as we continue navigating these discussions and advocating for change.

Who are your mentors that inspire you to fight for more every day and what can you do today to inspire someone else?

And remember, be on the lookout in late January for the Read with the (other) Jenna Spring line-up of books!


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Creating my book list for 2021.


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‘Cat in the Stax: Get Organized, Crush Finals

Thanksgiving may be a little more stressful this year given that finals are upon us, but like I’ve said before, balance is important, especially during finals season. Today, I want to break down a couple of different ways to structure your to-do lists and study times. Everyone studies differently, and it’s important to find the way that works best for you. This list is definitely not all-encompassing, but if you’re looking for a new study plan, this might be a good place to start looking for inspiration.

Keep your to-do list to no more than 10 things. Or five things, or three things, or whatever works best for you. When I have a list of everything that I need to accomplish and it’s over 10 items, I find myself getting overwhelmed. That’s why I keep a list of the 10 most important things that need to be done and that’s my to-do list that I tackle for the day. I have a master list of to-dos somewhere separate and then when I do my prep-work for the day, I pull that out to pick out the top 10. 

Put self-care items on your to-do list. Every day I add items like free-reading for 30 minutes, workout, and do my daily devotion to my to-do list. That helps me make self-care a priority and forces me to take a break from homework each day, while still feeling like I’m accomplishing something by crossing an item off of my to-do list. That being said, make sure everything on your to-do list isn’t self-care related because unfortunately your assignments and exams won’t complete themselves. Find the right balance for you. 

Prioritize your top three to-do items. At the top of your to-do list write down three nonnegotiables: three things that absolutely need to get done before you go to sleep at the end of the day. This helps prioritize what is the most important and helps you not procrastinate by doing other tasks, but not the paper that’s due at 11:59 p.m. When at the end of the day you’ve crossed off those three things, you know you’ve accomplished a lot and made good progress to your overall goals. 

Grow a tree to stay focused. If you haven’t heard of the app Flora before, it may be something worth checking out. Flora is a study app where you grow trees and other plants if you stay focused for a certain amount of time. If you stay focused for a certain amount of hours, or want to pay for an in-app purchase, a real tree will be planted because of your study time. If you pick up your phone and exit the app during your study time, the tree will die. This app only really works if the thought of killing even a hypothetical tree makes you upset, but I have found it to be helpful. You can also set up group focus times with your friends through the app.

Change up the scenery. I know changing the scenery can be hard when everyone is pretty much just stuck inside their houses all day everyday. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and find different places to get work. Sort out your tasks based on things that you need to do sitting at your desk versus things that can be done curled up on the couch. Then, when you feel yourself starting to become unproductive, change scenery and try working someplace else. Sitting in a different place or having more natural light might be all you need to be productive.

Rotate tasks you’re working on. As much as I wish I had the focus to sit down and study for five hours for one exam, that’s just not the case. When my brain is scattered and cannot focus on one task for very long, I set a 20-minute timer and then just rotate down my to-do list. If I haven’t finished my top three to-dos for the day yet, I’ll rotate between the three of those things for 20 minutes each until I get one done. Usually, I’ll throw in five-minute breaks either between 20-minute sessions or when I finish a task as an added bonus. It helps me make progress on lots of my to-dos and cuts down the time I’ll need to spend on them when I go to finish them up later. 

Most importantly, listen to yourself and do what works best for you in the moment. I’ve used all of these different study tactics and organization methods depending on the semester, month, week or even hour! Just because something doesn’t work for you at one time, doesn’t mean it’s something that will never work. Be patient with yourself and find a routine that helps you crush your study goals!


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Checking writing this post off my to-do list.

 

 

 

 


 


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‘Cat in the Stax: Thankfulness in a Chaotic World

By Jenna Newman

 

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Although it may look different this year, Thanksgiving is still a time to reflect on everything for which we are thankful. That might feel more difficult: what’s there to be thankful for in the middle of a global pandemic, right? But upon reflection, I discovered a cornucopia of things for which I am grateful. 

Extra Family Time
After I was sent home during my senior year of undergrad last semester, all I could think about was the time I missed with friends before we all moved on to what was next. I was also dreading being at home for the longest time since high school. But the last 10 months gave me an opportunity to spend extra time with my little brother before he went away to college, live with my future in-laws, play tons of games, and binge practically every movie on Netflix with my family. It’s easy to focus on what we missed out on this past year, but try to refocus on the time with loved ones that you may not have had otherwise. 

Flexibility with Courses
I wasn’t sure how courses were going to go this fall, especially with all the technical difficulties that marked last spring. But ultimately what last spring did was help provide professors and students more tools to connect virtually and allow the school to give more options with courses. Students are able to make the best decisions for them and their health and find a balance between in-person and online courses. Adjusting to a new semester’s worth of courses can be overwhelming even without additional problems, so added flexibility is definitely something to be grateful for this year. 

Health
My family has experienced
COVID first-hand and seen how quickly the virus can take a life, but through all of that, I’ve tried to remember that it could always be worse and focus on the positives. I’ve been able to stay healthy throughout this time, and I’m grateful for that. It’s easy to look at the negatives. In reality, feeling comfortable to come to campus is a privilege many people don’t have. I know some people reading this probably have it worse than me, while others have it better, but keeping your health in perspective is important.

Books
Ever since middle school, I’ve complained about not having enough time to read. And whenever I did have time, I would binge read as much as possible. With social activities slowing down and spending more evenings at home, that’s allowed for more time to read. Plus, with Falvey being open for contactless pick-up, I’ve been able to check out all the books that have been on my reading list for ages. With the news and social media becoming overwhelming, books offer a way to escape into the lives of other people, real or fiction, for a couple hours.

(Shameless plug! I am running a book club that is currently reading the past One Book Villanova selection The Other Wes Moore. Learn how to join in on the fun here.)

Villanova
The last thing that I am so grateful for this semester, is that Villanova’s campus has been open throughout the entirety of the fall semester. The fact that we have to wear masks is a small price to pay for the social interaction that comes with being able to go into work twice a week and not have to attempt to do virtual presentations. My study habits would be considerably worse off if it weren’t for Falvey’s research librarians and having Holy Grounds as a go-to study space. 

Hopefully this list inspires you to take some time, and a break from studying, to reflect on the things you have, even in this crazy, chaotic year that is 2020. Share with me below what you’re grateful for this year!


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Thankful for all the good food I’m going to eat next week.

 

 

 


 


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‘Cat in the Stax: Bakkhai Variations

cover for Bakkhai variations theatre program

“Dionysus is god of the beginning before the beginning.” 

– Anne Carson

The Villanova Theatre program has adapted over the last seven months to this constantly changing  world and emerged victorious with five short plays in response to the provocative Greek tragedy Bakkhai. All five of these plays were written by  alumni of Villanova’s MA in Theatre program. The plays were rolled out individually over the second half of October and a full-length film showcasing  all five plays is still available until Nov. 14.

As a precursor to the five new plays, the actors engaged in a Zoom reading of a new version of Bakkhai written by Anne Carson and directed by Heidi M. Rose, PhD, Chair, Department of Communication, Professor, Performance Studies. The play tells of Dionysus, god of theatre, ecstasy, and intoxication returns to Thebes. This new adaptation brings together Euripides’ original with a contemporary feel as it explores themes of violence, family relationships, and gender roles. The cast and production team did an incredible job with this reading, showcasing the actors skills in using their voices and seated body language through this Zoom reading. Ultimately, this reading introduces viewers new to the story of Dionysus to the themes that will continue to be explored in each of the five short films.

The first of the five plays She Makes Knives Now is written by Mark. J. Costello and directed by James Ijames. The play takes place after the  events of Anne Carson’s Bakkhai and looks at Agave’s journey after her sentence to exile. Through camera angles and street corner verses, She Makes Knives looks at the struggles of women dealing with poverty and homelessness, coupling that with coping with a tragedy. Christy Chory, as Agave, captures the desperation, but also the calculatedness, it takes to survive on the street corners of modern-day America. 

The Bakkhai; or, I’m trying so hard to be good, written by Alix Rosenfeld and directed by Tai Verley explores the acting industry and racial power dynamics in this captivating tale. Alison Scarmella Baker,  Ilana, and  Sharese Salters, Dee, explore what can happen when truth is revealed and many voices come together to demand action. 

Playwright Megan Schumacher and director Malika Oyetimein come together to put on Dionté and Khai, the third play in the set of variations. Megan Schumacher flips between the perspective of Dionysus and Pentheus to create a complete story looking at the misogyny and racism that exists today.

Beginning, written by Jessica Bedford and directed by James Ijames serves as a contemporary prequel to Euripides’ Bakkhai. The four daughters of King Cadmus talk in pairs about the pregnancies of Agave, mother of Pentheus, and Semele, mother of Dionysus. The relationships between sisters are explored as contemporary conversations take place that discuss two pregnancies that will ultimately change the family forever.

The final play in this series is exxx…stasis, exxx…hale… is  written by Alexandra Espinoza and directed by Cat Ramirez. Nadia and Cecily are faced with trying to make their relationship work in a socially distanced world. As they experiment with new ways to keep their relationship interesting, the current cultural climate and tensions continue to swirl around them, ideas that are not foreign to many couples  today. 

Each of the five Bakkhai Variations explore relevant themes in captivating ways, showing the creativity and ingenuity of the directors and actors on the projects. Visit Villanova Theatre’s website to engage with dramaturgical resources and purchase tickets for the full-length film showcase.


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Finding my old Percy Jackson books to read more about Greek gods. 


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Cat in the Stax: Books to the Big Screen

By Jenna Newman

With the weather getting cooler and damper, that means more time inside and more time reading books and watching movies. A constraint refrain heard from book lovers when a film adaptation is announced is, “The book is always better.” That being said, there are a handful of incredible books that have been made into just as incredible films or TV series. Below is a list of four books that have since hit the screen and had success there, too! 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The novel was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Last year, 150 years after the second volume was published, Greta Gerwig directed the most recent adaptation of Alcott’s classic story. Although this is not the first film adaptation, I would argue that it is the best. Gerwig perfectly captures Jo’s determination, Meg’s responsible and kind nature, Amy’s artistic talent and practicality, and Beth’s quiet and loving personality. Alcott made the March sister’s stories come to life and 150 years later, Gerwig brings them to the big screen with her own 21st century twist.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This novel was published in 2017 and explores themes of race and motherhood, taking place in author Celeste Ng’s childhood town, Shaker, Ohio. Ng opens with the main tragedy and conflict and then backtracks as the reader slowly tries to figure out who set little fires everywhere. This past March, right as the world began shutting down, Hulu released their TV series based on the novel starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Despite the show showing an entirely different ending than the novel, it was done with Ng’s blessing. Although there are no definitive plans for season two, there are many people asking for it, so who knows what will happen!

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

If you’ve been reading my Cat in the Staxs for a while now, you may have realized that I love a good non-fiction, based-on-a-true-story novel, and this is no different. The story brings to light the under-told story of three Black pioneers, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who served as NASA’s “human computers,” sending many space heroes safely to space. Following the film’s release it was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won Best Movie at the BET Awards, Outstanding Motion Pictures at the NAACP Image Awards, Best Action or Adventure Film at the Saturn Awards, along with many other accolades.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This installment is the first and most widely known novel in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. Despite being for children, the book has a depth engages the reader in at any age. In the same way, while I would argue that other film adaptations for books in the series did not fully live up to C.S. Lewis’s novels, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe did. Although director Adam Adamson changed the storyline slightly, the magic of Narnia is brought to the big screen. From the cold ways of the White Witch to the kind, sacrificial ways of Aslan, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the perfect story to read through in a weekend or watch huddled under blankets with hot chocolate. 

I will always be someone that claims books are better than films, but that’s not to say books can’t also be turned into great films and TV series. What’s your go-to on a cool, damp day? A book or a movie? Let us know in the comments below!


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Watching Greta Gerwig’s Little Women for the one millionth time.

 

 

 

 


 


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Last Modified: October 21, 2020