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Cat in the Stax: Reality Television

By Ethan Shea

"Hand Crushing Rose"

A few weeks ago, yet another season of The Bachelor began, and just in time for yesterday’s holiday. It may seem like reality television has no place in a library. If libraries are places of learning, why would they promote something as vapid as reality television? But maybe there’s more to these TV shows than meets the eye.

Just a quick search into Falvey’s online database will bring you a plethora of information on reputable research involving reality TV.

For example, one aspect of reality TV worthy of study is the effect of surveillance. In shows like Big BrotherLove Island, and The Bachelor, contestants are watched almost constantly for weeks on end. This undoubtedly has a profound effect on participants. A book titled The Surveillance of Women on Reality Television: Watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette confronts these issues directly with specific regard to how each show watches women. You can find this text on the fourth floor of Falvey’s stacks.

Another reason reality TV makes for fascinating research is because of the phenomenon of spectatorship associated with the genre. Lots of people love reality television, and researchers want to know what makes these shows so appealing.

The book Reality Television: The TV Phenomenon that Changed the World takes a close look at why people love reality television and even why they choose to take part in it. This text treats the reality genre as worthy of critical attention because of its status in popular culture rather than just a trashy form of entertainment.

What do you think of reality television? Is it useless entertainment, or does it have a place in academia? Leave a comment below with your opinion!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: Polar Vortex

By Ethan Shea

"Cold Weather Image"

Last weekend brought some freezing temperatures, a dramatic change from the 50+ degree weather we enjoyed earlier last week and will be encountering once again later this week. Meteorologists blamed the frigid cold on a “polar vortex,” one of the many meteorological terms added to our vernacular over the past few years. Akin to phrases like “arctic blast,” “bomb cyclone” or “heat dome,” weather seems to become stranger every year.

This time around, the Arctic air was sent in the form of a polar vortex, but it was only aimed at the Northeastern U.S. because of a bomb cyclone in the Labrador Sea. A bomb cyclone can appear in several forms, as it is only defined as a rapidly intensifying storm, but because of the location of this particular storm, the pressure of the system coupled with another sent some of the coldest air in the world to the American Northeast.

Last weekend’s wild weather was the coldest the Northeast has seen in decades. In fact, the highest point in the Northeast, the summit of Mt. Washington, set a record for the coldest windchill ever recorded in the United States, even including Alaska. Atop Mt. Washington wind chill reached a frigid minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit as hurricane force winds combined with minus 47 degree air temperatures.

At minus 18 degrees, frostbite can affect exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes. One can only imagine how quickly minus 108 degrees can become deadly.

Many of these extreme weather patterns are caused by climate change, even when they entail weather becoming colder than normal rather than hotter. For more information on climate change, you can check out Falvey’s Environmental Science Subject Guide or browse a plethora of resources on the topic in the stacks.

Here are a few, just for starters:

Recently, Falvey co-sponsored a townhall regarding the effects of climate change and what Villanovans can do to confront the issue. The main topic of the townhall was divestment, which is essentially the opposite of an investment. Rather than continuing to invest money in companies that contribute to climate change, this townhall urged Villanova to shift investments away from oil companies as a means of curbing climate change. If you believe this is the course of action that should be taken, add your name to this petition!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.


Cat in the Stax: The Trillion-Dollar Coin

By Ethan Shea

"Spilled Pennies"

Once again, the infamous American debt ceiling is all over the news.

Last Thursday, the United States hit the $31.4 trillion debt limit. What does that mean? In brief, the debt ceiling (or limit) is the amount of money the United States government can borrow to spend on programs such as social security, paying government workers and anything else the government deems necessary. Because the United States must borrow money to afford such payments, failing to raise the debt ceiling means the government could default on its debt.

Even when the United States technically reaches the debt ceiling, there is still time to avert economic ruin. By taking “extraordinary measures,” the government can continue to pay debts for a few months even after the limit is reached.

There are plenty of ideas floating around that all claim to be solutions to this economic issue, but there is one particular plan I find both fascinating and hilarious.

"Trillion-dollar coin design by DonkeyHotey"

Trillion-dollar coin design by DonkeyHotey

This idea is known as the trillion-dollar coin. The concept involves minting a coin worth one-trillion dollars and placing it in the Federal Reserve. This would give the United States more spending power and the ability to pay its debts.

Miraculously, because of a 1996 law, such coinage would be legal if it were minted with non-traditional metal such as platinum, as there are no value restrictions officially imposed on platinum coinage.

This concept was first introduced in 2011 during a debt ceiling crisis that lasted until the end of July, just days before the U.S. would officially default. Ever since, the trillion dollar coin has faded into obscurity and subsequently reemerged when another debt crisis looms.

Despite the appealing simplicity of the idea, there are quite a few reasons why minting a one-trillion dollar coin could be harmful. The biggest risk is rapid inflation, which is already a major issue in the United States.

But above all, minting such a coin would be an action never taken before, so despite speculation, no one truly knows what would happen. Markets generally dislike such unpredictability, so to keep investors calm, government will most likely avoid such a move.

If you’re interested in learning more about the trillion-dollar coin or economics in general, check out Falvey Library’s subject guide on economics. There, you can access economic article databases, peruse relevant statistics or even chat with Linda Hauck, Falvey’s Business Librarian.

With complimentary access to the New York Times provided by Villanova University, you can also read this in-depth article on the current debt ceiling debacle.

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.


Cat in the Stax: Winter Break Reading Recap

By Ethan Shea

"Man reading in the snow"

Welcome back Wildcats! I hope everyone had a restful break. 

In addition to my annual tradition of buying more books than I need with Christmas cash, I was able to read some exciting books during my time off.

To begin the semester, I thought I would give a couple reading recommendations and share these recent reads.

Circe – Madeline Miller 

The first book I read during break was Circe by Madeline Miller. The majority of this book was read during a Caribbean cruise I went on with my family, making the islands described in the story seem even more surreal. I really felt like I was on Aeaea with Circe.

Circe tells the story of, well … Circe, the daughter of Helios, God of the sun. Importantly, this story is told from Circe’s perspective, a response to the generally male-centric focus of classic Greco-Roman literature. Miller’s tale manages to make the grandiose life of Gods relatable through her intimate depictions of girlhood and motherhood. Overcoming childhood trauma and being outcast because of differences are problems not just mortals but even children of Gods must overcome. 

During last winter break, as you can see on this blog, I read Madeline Miller’s first novel, The Song of Achilles. It made sense to read Miller’s second novel during my second winter here at Villanova. 

"If We Were Villains"If We Were Villains – M.L. Rio 

Another book I read has a much different toneM.L. Rio’s novel If We Were Villains is a classic dark academia tale, an aesthetic you can learn more about on this blog. I usually would not have been drawn to a book with such an aesthetic, but I’m glad I listened to my roommate’s recommendation.

In Rio’s story, an elite group of students working to become Shakespearean actors are forced to reconcile with the mysterious death of a classmate. With no shortage of Shakespeare quotes, Rio slowly unveils the truth of the matter while weaving a messy story of romantic love and friendship.

If you haven’t already, I hope you find the time to check out one or both of these great novels before the semester gets too busy. 

Stay tuned for more Cat in the Stax content every Wednesday throughout the semester! 

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: Fall 2022 Semester Rewind

By Ethan Shea

"Rewind Button"

For the final Cat in the Stax of 2022, I will continue the tradition of ending each semester with a recap of some recent Cat in the Stax highlights.

"Altoona Style Pizza"

Altoona Style Pizza (Image Courtesy of Matt Alvarez of WTAJ)

To begin, one of my favorite blogs this semester was “What are you listening 2?” This blog published back in September was one of my favorites to write. I’ve always enjoyed keeping up to date with the latest music releases, and given the constant output of content these days, I could write a new version of this blog every week!

Another memorable post took place during spooky season. Halloween is usually a time to stuff your face with sweets, but this year I took a more savory approach to the season. In the blog “The Season of Pizza?” I shared my experience eating New-Haven style pizza in my home state of Connecticut. I even introduced some more obscure regional slices, such as Altoona pizza. I’m looking forward to returning to Connecticut during winter break to eat some more delicious pies!

"World Chess Hall of Fame"

World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri

Another food-related blog I enjoyed writing was “The Fast-Food Graveyard.” To celebrate National Fast Food Day on Nov. 16, I shared some memorable discontinued fast-food meals such as the McRib and McDonald’s Cinnamelt. Although the McRib recently returned for a limited time, the sandwich is supposedly gone forever … but we’ll see how long that lasts.

One thing I didn’t mention in this blog is the recent loss of all-day breakfast at McDonald’s. Because of COVID-19, McDonald’s was forced to end its all-day breakfast, and it is yet to return. I understand there are probably many reasons for this decision, and hopefully they take the well-being of workers into account. That being said, I hope we can someday find a way to safely return to a world where I can eat a McGriddle at midnight.

Without a doubt, the blog that was the highlight of my fall semester was “A Game of Chess.” This blog about my visit to St. Louis allowed me to talk about many of my favorite things. There was discussion of chess at the World Chess Hall of Fame and of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, which celebrates its hundredth birthday this year!

If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can take a trip down memory lane and return to any of these Cat in the Stax blogs on Falvey’s website.

This cat is signing off until next year! Have a relaxing break, and we’ll speak again in January!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: Spotify Wrapped and the Digital Humanities

By Ethan Shea


Last Wednesday was a big day for people who love to overshare.

That’s right, it’s Spotify Wrapped season! For the uninitiated (and Apple Music listeners), Spotify Wrapped is an annual recap of listening habits that Spotify sends to every user at the end of the year. This time around, there was greater focus on what your music reveals about your personality. Spotify wants the raw numbers we receive to teach us something about ourselves.

As much as I enjoy analyzing my annually released statistics, there’s something deeply personal about these numbers. How is this possible? What does my 58,293 minutes of music streaming say about me? Presumably a lot according to this article.

Everyone is much more than a collection of numbers, but focusing on data is helpful even in the humanities. For me, the overwhelming interest in Spotify Wrapped feels similar to the growing interest in the digital humanities.

"Digital Scholarship Lab Hours"

Digital Scholarship Lab Hours

The digital humanities, according to Falvey’s Digital Scholarship/Digital Humanities Subject Guide, “is an area of research, collaboration, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing, digital technologies, and humanities scholarship.”

Just as Spotify attempts to reveal information about our complex personalities through listening data, the digital humanities provides a new perspective of subjective literary texts. For example, what does it mean that James Joyce uses the capitalized word “National” in Ulysses eleven times but the same word in lowercase twenty times? With statistics provided by the digital humanities,  readers have even more questions to ponder!

If you would like to learn more about the digital humanities, in addition to our subject guide, you can find the Digital Scholarship Lab in Room 218A at Falvey. The Lab is open by reservation-only, so make sure to book a visiting time in advance!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: Thanksgiving Travel and Population Growth

By Ethan Shea


Thanksgiving Eve. Every traveler’s worst nightmare.

Thankfully, more people can visit their loved ones this year, but returning to pre-pandemic travel means more traffic and delays. It feels like roads just keep getting busier, and that’s because they are. With a seemingly ever-increasing population, things are bound to become more crowded.

Which brings me to my tangentially related point. Increasingly busy holiday travel always reminds me of the potential challenges posed by global population growth. Fittingly, the human population made headlines recently, so it’s the perfect time to reconsider my concerns.

In fact, the global population reached a massive milestone this month. According to the United Nations (UN), on Nov. 15, 2022, the global population surpassed 8,000,000,000.

Our population took only 12 years to increase from seven to eight billion, but the UN predicts it will take another 15 years to reach nine billion people. This means global population growth may finally be slowing.

It’s easy to fear the unknowns of rapid population growth. When the time comes (perhaps it already has), will we be prepared to make the adjustments needed to accommodate for a billion more people?

Everyone has their own opinions of what will occur over the next 15, 50 or 500 years, but considering the future of humanity in light of a holiday based on thankfulness encourages us to look on the bright side.

Because of modern medicine and new technology, the average life span of humans has increased over the past century, leading to the population growth recognized earlier this month. Things are far from perfect, but perhaps reaching a population of 8,000,000,000 shows us that things are getting better. That’s for you to decide though.

If you’d like to check out some resources concerning the global population, look no further than Falvey! Here are a few worth noting:

Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth – Alison Bashford

Global Population Health: A Primer – Richard Skolnik

Global Population Policy: From Population Control to Reproductive Rights – Paige Whaley Eager

Global Population at a Glance: 2002 and Beyond – U.S. Census Bureau

Thanks for indulging me with this non-traditional holiday blog, and Happy Thanksgiving from myself and everyone here at Falvey!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: The Fast-Food Graveyard

By Ethan Shea


If you’re reading this blog on the day of its publication, you’re in luck because today (Nov. 16) is National Fast Food Day! Partaking in this seldom celebrated holiday is simple. All you need to do is stop by your local fast-food chain and enjoy a meal.

In honor of this momentous occasion, this week’s Cat in the Stax blog will take a close look at fast food in the United States.

"Spicy McNuggets"

Image Courtesy of BuzzFeed

One fact that caught me off guard concerns the number of locations each fast-food chain owns. Guess which restaurant has the most locations in the United States. McDonald’s? Maybe Starbucks? If these were your guesses, you’re close but still incorrect.

According to Business Insider, as of 2019, Starbucks and McDonald’s respectively owned the second and third most fast food franchises in the U.S., but the most common fast food restaurant in America (by a long shot) is Subway!  Maybe it’s just me, but I was surprised to learn that Subway has 24,798 locations compared to Starbucks’ 14,608 and the 13,914 held by McDonald’s.

This number has almost certainly changed over the past few years, but it’s nonetheless a surprising statistic.

Another one of my favorite topics is what I like to call the fast-food graveyard, a.k.a discontinued menu items.


Image Courtesy of BuzzFeed

Almost everyone has a beloved meal that disappeared without warning. McDonald’s has a particularly iconic list of retired menu items, from the Cinnamelt to Spicy McNuggets.

However, one discontinued menu item has recently been resurrected. That’s right, for the umpteenth time, the McRib has returned to say its last goodbyes. McDonald’s describes the ongoing McRib revival as the sandwich’s “Farewell Tour,” but we all know this isn’t the end of the infamous pork sandwich.

On a personal note, I have to eat a McRib at least once a year. I don’t even know if I enjoy the annual meal, but there’s just something about consuming a carefully measured dose of restructured pork…

Anyways, another fun fact I learned about McDonald’s concerns the Big Mac. Did you know the iconic burger was invented in Pennsylvania? Jim Delligatti created the Big Mac in 1967 and sold it for the first time in Uniontown, PA. You never know where you’ll find a pivotal piece of Pennsylvania history!

Fast food is a topic that you can learn even more about at Falvey. If you’d like to become an expert on the phenomenon of fast food in the United States, check out these resources:

Fast Foods: Consumption Patterns, Role of Globalization and Health Effects – Marlin Sanford

Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age – John Jakle

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal – Eric Schlosser

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.


Cat in the Stax: “thirsty while drowning”

By Ethan Shea

"thirsty while drowning at Vasey Hall"

“thirsty while drowning” at Vasey Hall

Until Jan. 18, 2023, there will be an exhibit in the Villanova University Art Gallery titled thirsty while drowning. In addition to this installment on the second floor of the Connelly Center, there will also be exhibitions in Vasey Hall, Bartley Hall, and the Jake Nevin Field House.

"this majestic ancient ice-flood came from the eastward"

“this majestic ancient ice-flood came from the eastward”

The installation conceptualizes the consequences of climate change and advocates for sustainable solutions in the face of the seemingly insurmountable challenges posed by ongoing environmental devastation.

The artist behind this exhibit, Cole Sternberg, is a Villanova graduate, having received a Bachelor’s in Business in 2001. Today, Sternberg lives and works in Los Angeles. His work is displayed in several prominent museums including the Pérez Art Museum of Miami, the American University Museum in Washington D.C., and Deutsche Telekom in Germany.


"if you turn your head to the side, the horizon moves upwards"

“if you turn your head to the side, the horizon moves upwards”

Villanova University presents this exhibit in conjunction with the ongoing strategic plan, “Rooted. Restless.”, which includes a ten-year sustainability initiative.

Falvey Library is proud to host a sustainability database on JSTOR, which includes countless resources to keep you informed on the latest research regarding sustainability. Learn about the database here.

To read more on Cole Sternberg and his inspiration for the current exhibit, check out this article.



Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Cat in the Stax: What about Duolingo?

By Ethan Shea

"Spanish Study Book"

As you may have seen in a blog published earlier this week, the Booker Prize was recently awarded to Shehan Karunatilaka. This prestigious award is given annually to an outstanding work of fiction written in the English language. The Nobel Prize in Literature, however, can be given to an author who works writes in any language. This year, Annie Ernaux, who writes in French, won the highly coveted Nobel Prize in Literature.

The announcements of both these award recipients who work in different languages led me to look into Falvey Library’s resources that can help you learn new languages.

On Falvey’s website, you can find a Subject Guide for the Spanish language. This guide also includes resources on other Romance languages. A particularly helpful resource you can find here is Mango Languages, an online language-learning website that all Villanova students, faculty and staff have access to. You can access the Mango language database here!

"500 Day Duolingo Streak"

Ethan’s Duolingo streak

But what about Duolingo? In addition to Mango, you can also make use of the free version of Duolingo, something I have been doing for a while to keep my French skills in tact. If you do not already know, Duolingo is a language-learning app known for its uniquely threatening yet comedic social media presence. You can even compete with friends and other online learners on leaderboards in the app.

Not to brag, but last week I reached a 500 day streak on Duolingo. Am I fluent in French? Absolutely not, but I am certainly more capable than I would have been if I never started this streak.

In addition to these resources, you can check out this recently published blog to learn about Ugegbe: Jọnalụ Ụwandịigbo, a new academic journal that publishes work in Igbo.

Lastly, here are some books you can find at Falvey, either in the stacks or online, that can help you learn various non-English languages:

Conversation Guide: Spanish – Eduardo Rosset

Irish Nouns: A Reference Guide – Andrew Carnie

Beginner’s Mandarin Chinese Dictionary: The Ideal Dictionary for Beginning Students – Li Dong

An Independent Study Guide to Reading Latin – Peter V. Jones

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Last Modified: October 26, 2022

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