All posts by Sheridan Cyr

Modernizing the Childhood Favorite, “The Jungle Book”

by Tyler Roaix

In this age of film production, we seem to be given one reboot after another. In nearly every instance, we allow ourselves to build hope to a point where it can never be matched. That is not the case for “The Jungle Book,” reinvented for 2016 by director, Jon Favreau, who knows just how to mix the heavy blows with the light touch. It is a little more reminiscent of the jungle and the book than the 1967 Disney classic. It’s much, much darker and yet ultimately as exuberant, with a surprisingly strong and novel message at its heart, in a story that already didn’t lack them.

There is no “boy found in a basket on a boat” stuff here. We meet Mowgli (Neel Sethi) at age 10 and already finding himself struggling with the wolf life. While his wolf pack is as accommodating as ever, a “water truce” which was called due to a drought – bringing all the animals together in peace to a sole watering hole – leads him to the attention of the other animals in the jungle. Most are just curious, but Shere Khan (Idris Elba) is furious.

Sethi is terrific as the character of Mowgli, whose frame and stance eerily echo those of his animated predecessor, while Bill Murray and Christopher Walken lend loose appeal and mobster menace respectively to the vocal roles of Baloo and King Louie. As Shere Khan, Elba scares. As Kaa, Scarlett Johansson seduces. From the opening chase, it’s clear that we’re not going to be short-changed in terms of running, swinging and falling action. Even more impressive is the balance between threat, emotion, comedy and uncertainty.

Along with the story itself, the visual effects in the film will leave viewers nothing short of dazzled. Favreau, along with screenwriter Justin Marks and hundreds of crew members created an inviting world for the characters to immerse themselves within. Streams trickle over weathered stones. We see frogs and the dew and the drooping ferns. The incredible CGI rendering of real-life animals from a 12-story building in Los Angeles is evidence of the effort put into this project. This may be the best computer-generated animated film in years.

For all of “The Jungle Book’s” innocence and sun-streaked patches of ground, however, there are shadows here, too. It takes several turns into the sinister, offering up images of terror and despair that may come to surprise the adults and flat-out frighten the younger viewer.

But this most certainly is a Disney film, complete with memorable songs like “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” You leave with knowing that the movie and director think highly of the much-loved childhood story but also treat it with the growing maturity of an adult.

This wasn’t an easy movie to develop, with each shot reportedly taking two weeks to animate. Favreau and his army of technicians have truly created something magical. In a film that will bring you from tears to the edge of your seat, this will definitely reach the hype, no matter how high you set the bar.

“The Girl on the Train” Forces Readers to See Roles Differently

by Kaitlin Lyle

Subsequent to the release of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” in 2012, the suspense surrounding the lives of deceptive men and women has frequently surfaced as the subject of this decade’s literature. In reading Paula Hawkins’ debut thriller, “The Girl on the Train,” the familiar phrase, “everything is not what it seems” comes prominently into play. In terms of the novel’s countless moments of treachery, the author slyly coaxes her reader into considering just how sincerely they can trust their perceptions of the people closest to them.

Following two mysterious snippets that give a glimpse of the events to come, “The Girl on the Train” begins as our protagonist, Rachel Watson, takes the 8.04 commuter train into London. By reading her entries, the reader learns that Rachel’s journey on the 8.04 contributes to a daily routine that distracts her from the torments of her reality. Embittered by her failed marriage, Rachel’s self-destructive alcoholism is fueled on a regular basis by her inability to move on.

As a way of numbing the pain of her life’s disappointments, Rachel takes the train to conform to the crowd and exude normalcy. Along her daily journeys, the train waits at a signal where Rachel can peer into the back gardens of 15 Blenheim Road. Living in the house is a young couple and Watson, in her wistful longing for happiness, imagines their lives as filled to the brim with marital bliss. Over time, she assigns the couple names – Jess and Jason – and conjures up imaginary details until she feels part of their perfected lives. However, the daily doses of happiness that Rachel receives in living vicariously through these daydreams are abruptly shattered when she catches her beloved “Jess” kissing another man. An insurmountable fury wells within her, yet the shock that Rachel discerns from this betrayal proves to be inconsiderable in comparison to the tremors that surface when “Jess” is reported missing three days later.

Behind the disclosure of the report, the reader learns that the missing woman, “Jess,” is a former gallery manager named Megan Hipwell who harbors a shady past as a “mistress of self-reinvention.” With each entry that frames Megan’s perspective, it becomes apparent that Rachel’s imaginings were nowhere near the reality of Megan’s circumstances.

Within tangled webs of deception, Hawkins conveys intricate story lines so that each incident can be pinpointed in memory, turning her readers into critical detectives. Breaking from the traditional two narratives, the plot is told through the perspectives, both past and present, of the story’s heroines: Rachel, Megan and Anna. As the plot thickens, the three narrators share the same haunting realization that the lives they lead are far from how they appear to be. Though unaware of it at the time, each of them made a series of wrong decisions that quietly accumulate as their individual entries begin to coincide with one another.

In analyzing this particular mystery, the reader is not only placed in the role of bystander to the characters’ actions but also that of investigator as they track each clue that yields and contrasts to the many stories afoot. Characters that we initially dismiss are brought into a severe line of questioning and characters that we originally sympathize with ultimately lead us to a horrific side of their personalities.

DreamWorks Pictures recently released the first trailer of the novel’s upcoming film adaptation, which has been set to release on October 7 and will star Emily Blunt in the role of Rachel Watson.

Prince Dies, Baby Boomers Scramble

by Sheridan Cyr

Another great hero of music has left us. Prince Rogers Nelson passed away last Wednesday at the young age of 57, stirring up the music industry and yanking at the heartstrings of fans.

Prince’s passing comes in a growing line of celebrities’ unexpected deaths. David Bowie and Alan Rickman were both 69 at the time of their deaths earlier this year.

These deaths are arguably hitting the baby boomer generation the hardest, as these celebrities served as their idols and heroes. The pattern has people wondering, ‘who’s next?’

Joan Didion wrote in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” “When we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”

This rings true with recent events. With the cascading of these idols into the collections of obituaries, a sense of youth and cherished memories of childhood go, too.

It is no secret that music has a powerful ability unlike any other medium to change a person. You have that one song you listen to when you’re sad. The tune that came on during your cousin’s wedding that you danced to with your dad and makes you smile whenever you listen to it. Remember when you just broke up with your significant other and that one unfitting Justin Bieber song could be heard in the distance, and now every time you hear it, you twist up your face in resentment? Music sticks with you. Music changes who you are, even if you aren’t a musician yourself.

Losing Prince broke the hearts of many. It left some feeling abandoned and left others terrified for themselves and others around them. Los Angeles Times writer Mary Laura Philpott wrote, “Celebrity deaths alarm and sadden us because as they add up, they threaten to deliver us to the unavoidable.”

Her concerns, she explained, lie more in the lives of her parents than with herself. She described some of the most meaningful things her parents have done for her and thanked them, promising to call later.

Prince’s remains were cremated on Saturday after a small funeral attended by close friends and family, a private memorial in respect to the very private life the rockstar lived. The star’s cause of death is still unclear. CNN reported that he was last seen at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday night getting dropped off outside at Paisley Park, his home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The next morning, a staff member reported that he was found unresponsive in an elevator. No one saw it coming. The eerie mystery leaves fans distraught, incomplete and afraid for what is to come.

Professor Stephen Balkaran: A Voice for America

by Sheridan Cyr

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photo by Sheridan Cyr

Central Connecticut Philosophy Professor Stephen Balkaran immigrated to the United States 27 years ago from the Caribbean and has since become a prominent figure as a voice of the Hispanic community as well as for all citizens who have immigrated to America. He has given over 75 speeches across the country, spreading the ideas that he has captured in over 50 scholarly articles and three books, with a fourth underway.

Speaking with Balkaran was an enlightening experience. He has an incredible argument and motive and the knowledge he has is crucial to American politics in this election. Balkaran is requested all over the country to give speeches and educate the American people on the importance of the immigration vote, culture, expansion and more. His articles are shared in a number of universities, where professors are hoping to educate youth on what they have missed out on from grade school textbooks.

Balkaran is a highly active member of the CCSU community. In his 10 years here, he has brought significant figures such as Paul F. Chavez, the son of late Hispanic Civil Rights Activist Cesar Chavez, and Fred Gray, the civil rights attorney for Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and Mrs. Rosa Parks. He is hoping to have another significant figure visit in the early fall, but has asked not to give it away just yet.

He also runs a summer course bi-annually in which students travel south by bus and trace many of the most significant historical civil rights movement locations. Students see first-hand where Martin L. King Jr. was shot, where Rosa Parks sat on the actual bus that she made her peaceful protest from, churches where many civil rights quests originated and much more. Reading about these events does not compare to experiencing them in person, and Balkaran is thrilled to help American youth capture the historical significance and understanding.

His arguments and beliefs have come to a head in the midst of this presidential election. According to Balkaran, in the next eight years, 36 million new voters will immigrate to America, adding to the 50 million recent immigrants. That’s about 37 percent of the country’s population. Because of the massive amounts of people coming in, it is crucial that presidential candidates consider how they will vote.

“Hispanics are a swing vote in 19 states,” said Balkaran. “Because of this, we have to talk to them in a very sensitive and cautious way.”

Balkaran is specifically considering the remarks of presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who he feels has been harsh and often ignorant toward immigrants.

“It was kind of interesting how a guy who is running for the president of the United States is not really embracing the new America, and doesn’t embrace the diversity of this particular ethnic group, the Hispanics,” said Balkaran.

Balkaran argued that many Americans are unaware of the Hispanic presence in America. Hispanics, he said, have always been present here, even before the pilgrims arrived. When Trump twists his face up and shouts, “go back home,” he does not understand that they have always had a strong presence here.

In an article called “Consequences of Immigration Reform” published in Hispanic Outlook in 2014, Balkaran describes this presidential debate as “the civil rights debate of the 21st century,” said Balkaran. “The political importance of the Hispanic vote is closely tied to the Immigration reform, and, whether we admit it, the American Presidency will be dictated by the Hispanic vote.”

In another of Balkaran’s articles, “What Would America Be Without Hispanics?,” he called on a report from the New York Times that claimed as of 2010 more black or brown children are being born in America than white, and that at the time of publishing, one out of every six people in America were Hispanic.

One of Balkaran’s most interesting arguments is nicknamed “The United States of Amnesia.” This describes how Americans have forgotten altogether what it means to be an immigrant — those who have come to this nation, in particular.

“We always hear the Irish story, the Polish story, the Jews, where are these immigrants today? Where are these groups? They all forgot,” said Balkaran, asking immigrants to recall why they came here, and to remind America that they have a strong, powerful presence. “We are a nation of immigrants, but you know what, we are a nation of selfish people. We came here, we got our piece of the pie, and that’s it. We forgot.”

The remarks Trump has stood by are alarming, to say the least. In another of Balkaran’s articles, “The Hispanic Vote,” he urges that the candidate’s “racist remarks remind us that the hatred towards immigrants is alive and well in a country that practices integration and acceptance of all.” What will happen to this massive portion of citizens if Trump becomes the face of America? It is a question that worries Balkaran and motivates him to continue his fight.

It’s not just Trump. It’s not even just the Republican Party. The Democrats, while not having made such alarming claims, have not really done much at all to attract those 50 million Hispanic voters. Ever since President Abraham Lincoln made the first significant moves toward ending slavery, black and Hispanic voters loyalty to the GOP have typically been counted on. This election, however, is shaking up that notion.

Victims of Abuse Share Trauma, Evoke Change

by Joshua Quintana

Semesters in Devil’s Den was transformed last Tuesday into a space where survivors of sexual, physical and mental abuse were welcomed to share their struggles, experiences and stories of survival.

Take Back the Night is an event that brings awareness to sexual assault as well as physical and emotional abuse. The event not only focuses on creating awareness but also providing a safe space for those who have fallen victim to these evils. It offers a place for them to share their stories of abuse, empowering them to move forward in a positive direction.

The Central Connecticut community showed commitment and support to Take Back the Night’s cause with help from the Women’s Center.

Alyssa Cornwall, the director of the ACABellas, certainly feels that the issue deserves to be in the forefront of discussion. She and the ACABellas performed a stirring rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You.”

“Rape culture is prevalent in our society. I’m glad that we could bring light to this issue on campus and in our society,” said Cornwall. “Everyone in the ACABellas is happy to use the fame that we’ve earned to bring this issue out in the open.”

Also showing commitment to the cause of Take Back the Night was Residence Life, all of the resident halls and their councils, Student Wellness and Conduct, Student Activities and Leadership, the CCSU Police Department and the Women’s Center.

The event also garnered the participation of Natasha M. Pierre, Attorney at Law for the Office of the Victim Advocate. Pierre has been involved since the first Take Back the Night at the University of Connecticut 20 years ago.

“Every campus always has room for improvement and we live in a culture where rape is acceptable,” said Pierre. “We are beginning to move forward as a culture and as a campus. Central has a climate to start fixing that problem.”

Present at Take Back the Night was the University’s Director of Student Conduct Christopher Dukes as well as Sgt. Jerry Erwin representing the CCSU Police.

“There is a lot that CCSU has done before the legislature decided to act,” said Dukes. “We started back in 2003 and since then we’ve been fully funded in regards to Crisis Training and Counseling. We continue to train to be better to handle this very serious issue.”

“You know, it might not seem like it sometimes, but under this uniform we’re fathers, we’re mothers, we’re average people. We care about this community and we want everyone to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to come forward,” said Erwin.

Sgt. Erwin recounted a tale of when he first started, “There was this girl who had an abusive boyfriend. He made her feel like scum. Thanks to her coming forward, we were able to get the strength to leave. She got the counseling she needed, and now she teaches here at CCSU and got her Master’s degree.”

“It was amazing,” said Gretchen Marino, who helped organize the event. “The amount of survivors who got up and told their stories were amazing people.”

What made the night all the more compelling was listening to the stories. The tales of abuse from loved ones and strangers alike made Take Back the Night as real as it it could possibly be.

The daunting thing about sexual assault is that it can happen to anyone. It is not something one can expect or look out for often times until it’s too late.

“The event went really well,” said Zoe Grant, SGA Senator At-Large who is also currently running for Resident Senator. “It was important for people to share their stories so people can understand the different ways that sexual assault can occur.”

When Grant took the stage to tell those in attendance about how she was assaulted, she spared no details. She described how she was powerless to stop what was happening and how people made excuses for the assault. She was blamed for being a white girl in the wrong part of town, with accusers saying that she was, in essence, asking for it. She concluded her nightmare tale by saying that even though it was by far the worst thing that had happened to her, she feels empowered.

“For me, it’s a healing process. The more I get it out, the more I’m a survivor. It helps people to stop feeling like victims and start feeling like survivors,” said Grant.

Take Back the Night is one of the most important events that occurs on campus. This event and others like it bring everyday people out of the shadows, making themselves advocates who transcend the word “survivor.” The courage it takes to recount the traumas that these people had to endure makes them into the best examples of what this campus has to offer.

If you or anyone you know is involved in an abusive relationship on campus, call the CCSU Police or go to the Women’s’ Center located on the second floor of the Student Center. You deserve better. You are better. Get the help you need to be free of abuse.

 

Drag Ball Fever Hits Central

by Josh Quintana

It’s 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, instead of shuffling over to Semesters,the regular Devil’s’ Den crowd heads to Alumni Hall for what is the best of the best as far as Devil’s’ Den goes – the Drag Ball.

What is immediately evident upon entering the Drag Ball was the level of detail and work that was put into the organization of such an event. Marlena Oliveri, PRIDE Club president, could be seen in the hours leading up to the opening of the Drag Ball running to and from Alumni Hall and the PRIDE office, located on the second floor of the Student Center. She kept saying amidst her hurrying, “Tonight is going to be worth the work,” and “It’s going to be a great time, once we get set up.”

The Drag Ball is put on by the quirky and often times whimsical PRIDE Club here on campus. PRIDE Club is one of the most active clubs here. They make the effort to help those who are confused or trying to figure out where they stand in terms of personal, sexual and gender preference. It’s not only about being gay, bisexual or transexual – it’s also about finding out if asexual is who you are or maybe even demi-sexual. Just because you’re straight doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in the Club or enjoy the Drag Ball!

The Drag Ball is put on by the Central Connecticut PRIDE Club and the Central Activities Network (CAN). It is arranged so that professional drag queens can set the tone of the night for those amateur drag queens and kings to get a feel for the atmosphere and not be left out of the fun.

The range of professional and amateurs who perform at the Drag Ball really provide a fun and entertaining atmosphere. After they had performed, several students got involved and did their own shows. Some went in drag while others decided not to perform in drag at all.

The lineup of the professional drag queens that graced the stage with their presence was talented, to say the least. Morgana De Luxe and Summer Orlando knocked it out of the park with their performances and made one thing for sure, this event is always one of the best times you can have on campus.

“I thought it went really well. I just didn’t like that they turned the music up or that the straight guys won because they weren’t in drag,” said Sara Carey, treasurer for PRIDE Club taking issue with some of those students who decided to perform not in drag. “So it’s basically just a strip tease.”

However, she noted that thanks to everyone who came and donated, the PRIDE Club was able to make a major contribution to a pro-LGBTQ organization.

“We raised $236 for True Colors,” said Carey.

“The Drag Ball was a blast,” said senior Megen Litwinczyk.

For those who are interested in joining the PRIDE Club or are passionate about LGBTQ issues on campus, the PRIDE Club meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center, or visit the PRIDE Office on the second floor of the Student Center.

Ms. Bubblegum (6)
Photo by Devin Leith Yessian
Morgana Deluxe (15)
Photo by Devin Leith Yessian

Phi Delta Theta, Creating Future Leaders

by Kaitlin Lyle

In an organization of “leaders leading leaders,” the fraternity Phi Delta Theta at Central Connecticut stands prominently as a brotherhood of strength and integrity among their endeavors on and off campus.

While its original organization was created on Dec. 26, 1848, at Ohio’s Miami University, the fraternity at CCSU was founded by Jason Cartilage on Dec. 13, 2002. Derived from the beliefs of the fraternity’s founding fathers, known as The Immortal Six, Phi Delta Theta is organized around the three cardinal principles of strong learning, moral rectitude and friendship – all of which have been strongly taken to heart by its members.

With regards to the fraternity’s motto “One man is no man,” members of Phi Delta Theta look to their mantra as a representation of their brotherhood standing together as one and leaning on one another as part of a lifelong bond.

“We always feel like we have each others back and we know we’ll always have somebody to rely on,” said Tum Tum Souriyamath, who has been a member since the spring semester of 2014.

“At the end of the day, if you want someone to be there for you, you have to be there for them,” said member-at-large Matt Guilmette.

As is printed inside the CCSU Student Planner, the mission of Phi Delta Theta is to promote the greatest version possible of their members throughout their endeavors within the brotherhood. In the eyes of the Phi Delta Theta brotherhood, the mission is not only to help their members carry out the fraternity name, but to also give them the tools needed to succeed in life.

“Empowering others gives them the potential to grow and to show themselves that they are better than what they may think,” said CJ Wells, the current president of Phi Delta Theta as of December 2015. “A flower doesn’t prosper in the darkness; it doesn’t grow in darkness, it grows in light.”

When it comes to appealing to potential recruits, the fraternity’s closeness as well as their outgoing individuals is frequently demonstrated throughout the campus, whether it can be seen at the bi-annual club fairs or at their tables in the Student Center. From brotherhood outings to team-building exercises, Phi Delta Theta provides open opportunities for its members at CCSU to develop bonds with one another while promoting necessary skills like social etiquette and business procedures.

Along with a majority of brotherhood events, the fraternity is known for co-sponsoring with other organizations in order to get more involved on campus – including the Center for Victim Advocacy, the Student Veterans Organization and Greek Life. Amid their active social calendars, the fraternity members collaborate to generate activities on campus, such a Breakers Takeover and their annual paintball events. Off campus events include nature hikes near Quinnipiac University and planning a Six Flags trip during its Fright Fest season.

Above all, Phi Delta Theta goes beyond the call of righteousness in their community service events. Set for Saturday, April 16 on Vance Lawn, the second-annual ALS Walk has been a large bonding point among the members, particularly in their philanthropic goals for the ALS Association.

In addition to their determination towards the ALS Walk, Phi Delta Theta exhibited pride at their latest community service program. Created last semester by Souriyamath, the fraternity devotes every Sunday to working alongside children with autism with the location split between St. John’s University in West Hartford and the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain.

Among their future community service events, Phi Delta Theta plans to assist the American Red Cross with the upcoming blood drive as well as creating a car wash outside of Elmer’s Place on April 18. President Wells noted that the fraternity would like to generate a Sober Fest in order to promote better well-being on campus.

Meetings for Phi Delta Theta are held on Wednesday evenings at 9:00 p.m. in the Bellin A & B rooms of the Student Center. During that same time, Pledge, or “Phikeia,” Educator Souriyamath conducts his own separate meetings in order to provide new recruits with an education on the basic foundations of the fraternity’s history. In addition, chapter meetings for Phi Delta Theta are generally held at 6:00 p.m. in Bellin A & B. On Sunday evenings, member Guilmette hosts Office Board (“O-Board”) meetings at 6:00 p.m. in the Blue and White Room followed by the Phi Delta Theta E-Board meetings at 7:00 p.m.

In the organization’s entirety, Phi Delta Theta can be highly praised for its promotion of excellent values, dedicated efforts and the long-lasting strength of its brotherhood. When reflecting on his three years of experience, Wells encourages future members to take advantage of the opportunities presented during their time with Phi Delta Theta.

“I honestly just want them to get the most out of it – to truly understand what brotherhood means, to truly understand that one man is no man and to become the best they can possible can be in school, in life and as a man,” said Wells.

Tuition Increases Potentially Effecting Quality of Higher Education

Exiting high school and stepping into the college realm, many students chose Central Connecticut for two main reasons: It is affordable and you get a good education close to home.

Good education at a good price. Short and simple.

But is it still that way?

Not as of March 29th.

According to an article from CT Mirror, the Board of Regents (BOR) for Higher Education approved 3.5 to five percent tuition increases for the 17 schools in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system. Only one dissenting vote was cast.

This cut to universities may take from the quality of sports, classroom technology, campus building structures, dining halls and much more. The Hartford Courant reported that, at the system’s four regional state universities, Ojakian said, academic support services have been “drastically cut or reduced,” library hours have been cut and dozens of staff positions have been eliminated. Tutoring, academic advisement and psychological counseling have been drastically cut, he said.

While it has become normal, even if unpleasant, to see an annual tuition increase, this year is different because it comes on top of a a roughly 20 percent increase over the past three years.

To make matters worse, the BOR is facing budget cuts from the state, which can already be seen in the form of a hiring freeze.

So what does this mean for students?

The Hartford Courant reported in February that UConn President Susan Herbst told members of the legislature’s appropriations committee that the $19.5 million cut for the university would mean that students have “larger classes and fewer of them. It would mean sections filling up so students get locked out of courses they need. It means students possibly not graduating on time, increasing the cost of their education and their debt.”

The case is similar for CCSU.

The goal of a government is to provide for its citizens. But in the wake of all budget cuts, the government, or the State of Connecticut in this case, arguably is not providing for its students of higher education, and not investing in the future of Connecticut.

President of the BOR and the CSCU system Mark Ojakian, told legislators that the governor’s proposed $26 million cut in his budget, or about seven percent, “May have profound long-term implications.”

Even though it is fiscally responsible, cutting funding for higher education in Connecticut  is not necessarily the right choice to benefit the suture of your community. Sometimes investing in the future of your state takes precedence, in order to promote future economical growth.

 

 

Local Specials for Valentine’s Day

by Lisa Massicotte

If you college students continue to procrastinate and don’t make reservations for Valentine’s Day, you’ll be out of luck.  But if you give yourself a little time to plan, this Valentine’s Day could be the best yet.

The National Retail Federation concluded the average person celebrating Valentine’s Day spent nearly $142 in 2015.  So if you get through the 14th and end up spending around $100, you did pretty well.

According to Hallmark Cards, “Approximately 131 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged industry-wide.” My personal favorite gift has always been receiving a handwritten letter filled with memories and jokes only my partner and I will appreciate.  Making a thoughtful, homemade card will warm the heart of the receiver and save you some extra cash to go out and have some more Valentine’s Day excitement.

The New Britain Museum of American Art is hosting “Sweet ‘H‘Art Valentine’s Day at the Museum” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 14th.  It includes a private champagne reception where you and your date can share love-themed confections followed by a private romance-inspired tour, and then enjoy a variety of love songs performed by Monika Krazewski and Natasha Ulyanovsky. Non-member tickets are $30 while member tickets are $25.

The Bushnell Theatre in Hartford is putting on the play “Love Letters” from Feb. 9th to the 14th.  A story about “first loves and second chances” dives into the lives of two people who are kept apart by fate, but live and love each other as they pour out the secrets of their hearts through letters for 50 years. The play stars Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, who were paired in the hit movie “Love Story,” based off the best-selling novel by Erich Segal. Tickets range from $24 to $70.

“Romantic Willimantic” will be hosting its 12th Annual Chocolate Festival on Saturday, February 13th.  Local businesses on Main Street will be giving out a variety of chocolate samples and will be offering special deals to customers. If you love baking, register for the cake baking contest by Feb. 7th and drop off your cake at the Kerri Gallery.  The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.

If you’re feeling anti-Valentine’s Day this year bring a picture of your ex to Hooters, which is located on the Berlin Turnpike, and they will shred it before your eyes. Then you will get ten free wings once you buy your first ten.

Who needs love when you have drag queens? On Valentine’s Day Tisane in Hartford will have a special menu for two. The day after, Tisane will be hosting its annual Anti-Valentine’s Day Drag Show.  The show will start at 10 p.m. and there is a $10 cover charge.

Now you have a bit of information on the Valentine’s Day events happening around Connecticut. So if you do wait last minute to plan out a date, at least you have some ideas now! As the day gets closer, many businesses will be updating special offers so keep an eye out for some great deals.

Creative, Personalized Valentine’s Day Gift

by Lauren Lustgarten

Valentine’s Day is a day to show your loved ones that you care. Most do it through buying gifts, but some like to do it by getting in touch with their creative side by making gifts for their loved ones. Some however, don’t have a creative bone in their body so making gifts can get a bit confusing and more times than not, the finished product doesn’t look anything like the picture. A simple, cheap and cute idea for your loved one seems hard to come by these days, but here is the most perfect one. It is called the “Five Senses” gift.

Step one is getting the supplies. Run over to your local craft supplies store and grab five little folding boxes. Then take sticky labels from the scrapbook section and colorful ribbon of your choice. To add some fun to the boxes, grab some shredded pink, white and red paper.

Step two involves finding the perfect gifts. Assuming you know your loved one well enough to know their likes and dislikes, figuring out what they like should be easy enough. Label one box “Sight” and fill it with anything that goes with the sense of sight. One idea could be if you two enjoy going to the movies or even just watching movies, you can fill that box with a gift card for a movie theater or even their favorite movie on DVD.

Label another box “Taste.” You can fill it with their favorite candy or their favorite baked goods or for those over 21, their favorite alcohol in mini bottles. You can go anywhere with this one! Label another box “Touch.” In this one, a perfect idea would be getting your significant other a gift certificate for a massage or if they’re into manicures/pedicures, a gift certificate for the nail salon. Your next box is “Sound.” In this one you can put an iTunes gift card, their favorite artist’s album, headphones or you can even burn them a CD containing all their favorite songs. Finally, label your last box “Smell.” This one can be tough to think of ideas, but you can fill it with their favorite smelling cologne/perfume, a candle or air fresheners.

You don’t have to spend too much money for this idea at all. You can take many different routes with what you fill your boxes with. This is the most perfect and thoughtful idea, your loved one won’t expect it from you.