A Night at the Ballet

Julie Diana and Zachary Hench in After the Rain

Recently, my friend had plans to see the Pennsylvania Ballet and she let me tag along. The dance company celebrated its 50th Anniversary Season with Director’s Choice. The program was divided into three parts: a two part scene from After the Rain, the four scene world premiere of The Accidental, and the company premiere of Grieg: Piano Concerto.

For each night of the performance, the line-up of the program differed meaning that a person would literally never see the same show twice. This series also marked the final performances of Julie Diana, a principal dancer who joined the company in 2004. She has recently found another passion in writing. Even though Diana may not be on stage, don’t expect her name to disappear.

The performance was breathtaking and magical. Each of the pieces showcased the diverse talent of the dancers within the company, especially in The Accidental. The dancers pirouetted across the stage to modern, indie music. Seeing classical dance moves set to modern music was jarring at first until I focused on the beauty of the dancers. After that, everything else disappeared. For two hours, I watched in fascination at the strength, poise, and dedication of the dancers.

Although the Pennsylvania Ballet’s season has ended, I encourage you to explore other shows taking place in the city such as the Walnut Street Theatrethe Academy of MusicWilma Theater, and the Philadelphia Theatre Company.

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Short Story Struggle

Growing up, I was that kid who read books above my grade level. I wasn’t interested in a five page story book; I wanted the chapter book. From then on, I only craved the book that had a lot of pages. I wanted to stick with one story and read about the beginning, middle, and the end. For this reason, I have struggled to find an interesting collection of short stories. (It’s also hard to find a writer who can write a short story as well as my favorite, Edgar Allen Poe, but that’s another topic.)

In my writing class, we are currently reading two collections of short stories: one is called Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson and the other is What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg. When I’m reading the first collection, I’m forcing myself to read until the end. I’m not interested until half-way through the story and somehow, at the end I’m always left with confusion. Part of me wants to reread so that I can understand it and the other part of me does NOT want to go through that roller coaster of emotions again. Then I move onto the second collection I mentioned. The words draw me in and keep me turning the page. I suddenly wonder why can’t other short stories be like this; why they can’t make me feel as if my heart is heavier. To make a short story shorter, after reading van den Berg’s work, I understand the appeal of short stories. I still wish that I could continue on the character’s journey after the short story ends but I don’t see that as a frustration. In truth, it means the writer did a perfect job of making the character come to life.

Now, I’m forced to create my own short story. In the end, I hope to make my short story come alive for the reader like van den Berg was able to do for me. It’s been a while since I wrote something that didn’t relate to an academic topic. It’s an intimating fact that my creative muscles are out of shape but with a few breaks to reread van den Berg’s collection for inspiration, I think I’ll be able to write what I want.

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Drexel Alert

As a Drexel student, we receive texts and emails from the Drexel Alert system. It sends a message that describes the situation, for example “Robbery by strongarm on 36th Street. Be alert”, with a follow up message such as, “Police arrived at the scene. Investigation pending.” My question is: should we be notified of EVERY event?

I have lived in the city my entire life so I know that I have to be aware of my surroundings. However, before attending Drexel I have never been in this part of the city. I assumed the usual petty crimes went on but because of the Drexel Alert, I get to know certain things that won’t make the news.

On the other hand, there are a few things that the Drexel Alert leaves out. What about the fire that happened in MacAlister Hall a few weeks ago? Or the incident in Hagerty Library where a student brought in a firearm? I never heard about this until I read an article in The Triangle.

I appreciate the Drexel Alert but if this system is to continue, I would suggest that it includes updates on events that happen in our buildings. I’m suggesting focusing on common buildings like MacAlister, Hagerty, Main, etc. These buildings always have a constant flow of student traffic. I would want to know if something happened in these buildings. If the Drexel Alert is aiming to make me feel safe, it is failing by not informing me of certain events that happen on Drexel’s campus.

Maybe it’s just me who feels this way. It’s probably because I’m a worry wort or a gossiper or I’m keeping track of how many times the cookie truck can be robbed (current quota: 2). Although the Drexel Alert system has to be updated, thank you to the Drexel police for keeping us safe, even when we don’t know it.

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We Need Diverse Books

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Recently, I read an article about children’s literature and the lack of diversity in the characters of the books. Last year, 3,200 children’s books were published but only 93 had African American characters. The big question here is: WHY?

In our day and age, one would expect more diversity in literature. It’s hard to say who’s to blame for these low numbers: the writer, the publisher or the public. Are there enough minority writers? Are publishing houses really run by “old, white men”? Or is it our fault because the public gravitates towards a “more traditional” children’s book?

We could dissect the numbers and the reasons all day. What we really should be doing is focusing on a way to change the numbers for this year and beyond. Starting today, May 1 through May 3, there is a campaign called “We Need Diverse Books”. You can tweet, blog, Instagram or post on a social network the reason YOU believe we need diverse books. Add the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks to your post. The campaign wants this hashtag to trend over the next three days so that writers, publishers, and the public can unite in diversifying literature.

I believe we need diverse books because heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and COLORS!

So, tell me, why do YOU think we need diverse books?

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Quarter Problems

It’s about that time of year when all of your college friends who go to “normal” semester schools are finishing classes and preparing for summer. Let us consider the two ways we can approach this time.

1. Screw semester colleges, how dare you finish so early and leave us quarter system students behind! I LOVE all of the statuses about how it feels to be at home or at the beach or how it’s just nice not to do homework. Here at Drexel, we just entered Week 5 or as it’s also known as the beginning of midterm week, which doesn’t really end until Week 8. So while we continue to wade through work, please continue posting how much fun it is to be on vacation.

2. Screw semester colleges, who needs them? At Drexel, we’re known for the quarter system. We even fought to keep it. Most people don’t understand how it works, even our parents can get confused. In reality, completing a course in 10 weeks is hard and not everyone can do it. So congratulations Drexel students, you’re officially an amazing student with awesome time management skills. Your semester friends might be done school but in five weeks (and counting), our spring term will be over! You’ll either have a new co-op in sight, enjoying summer vacation or showing off that degree! We are Drexel Dragons and being a Dragon means that you stand out.

So let your semester friends enjoy their early vacation. I’ll take those extra weeks in September when my semester friends are back in class and I can enjoy those last quiet, peaceful days of summer over the May “college rush” any day.

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Commonplace Journal

There was probably a time in your life that you had a diary where you detailed what happened throughout the day and personal thoughts you had about family, friends, and your crush. I know that I am guilty of having one when I was younger. (I came close to burning mine when I rediscovered it because I fear that other people might actually read it.) After examining the purpose of a diary, I started to keep a notebook where I detail thoughts or ideas for a story or just use a page or two for a rant when needed. Instead of a diary, I just refer to it as my journal since it has several roles in the writing that I perform.

For several of my writing classes, I was required to have a commonplace book. Professors explicitly note that this is not to be used as a diary but as a writer’s tool to jot down ideas, fragments from conversations or excerpts from stories or poems. For me, this assignment is simple but it also presents a challenge. Since I keep my own journal, I already have a go-to notebook for my story ideas or notes. Also, with a personal journal I don’t have to censor myself; so if I want to include intricate details about my day or rant, who cares? I’m the only one who’s going to be reading it. With an assigned commonplace book, I have to remember that at the end of the quarter, my professor is going to read it. I have to remember that there is an audience for this commonplace book and what I write will be judged.

I love having a personal journal because I can put whatever I want into it. If I’m assigned to have a commonplace book, I’m censored from the start. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of the commonplace book as a way of stretching the writing muscles but I’m prone dislike it as an assignment. If it’s homework, it no longer is a notebook that you turn to because you want to but because you have to for a grade. Maybe you could use it as a place for the occasional rant about the class. It’s still writing, right? Just add a little fiction in.

Perhaps I am one of the last people to support the idea of a journal but to me, it’s the one place where I can write and not worry about an audience. So if your professor assigns the commonplace book, try to write in it as if you didn’t have an audience. If you don’t like it, the ten weeks of class will be over in no time and afterwords, feel free to burn that book if that’s what you want.

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Drexel Weather

It’s about that time of the year when the flowers start blooming, the days are longer, and the temperature in the buildings are more unpredictable. Since Mother Nature still can’t make up her mind, we recently had temperatures ranging from 80 degrees to 30 degrees. Mother nature can’t decide what the temperature outside should be so Drexel is unsure about how to maintain weather balance in the buildings.

If you don’t know, it takes a lot of energy to heat or cool a building. Once Drexel makes the switch to air conditioning, there’s no going back. On those hot days of spring, I admit I have little care about the consequences. I just want my classroom to NOT be a sauna. Then again, on the colder days I’m glad that Drexel has put off turning on the air just a little bit longer. But how long can this go on?

The weather will eventually even out. I mean it’s not like there has been a snowstorm in April orJune, right? By the time summer is here, the buildings will be so cold that I’ll be complaining that I need a sweater to wear when I’m in class. Perhaps there will be a perfect day when the weather outside is warm enough to fuel senioritis and the temperature inside the buildings will be just right. Maybe, just maybe that day will come.

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