The power of persistence

Published on FAME Canada: April 17, 2014

Even if your plans are shot down for the millionth time, it’s the hardest workers who have the greatest successes.

That’s what YouTube sensation Shawna Howson (A.K.A. “Nanalew”) of Cambridge, Ontario has learned throughout her seven years of writing and filming her own YouTube videos.

YouTube sensation Shawna Howson, also known as “Nanalew”

“Challenges are everywhere, both internally and externally,” said Shawna. “It’s hard to not get disheartened from time to time, but this is the nature of the business.”

Shawna started creating videos herself when she was only seventeen; in her final year of high school. She attended a small, private school that didn’t offer many arts classes, except for the mandatory English courses throughout grades 9 to 12.

She describes these classes as “exceptional” and “on-par” with university level classes, which really developed her writing skills.

“I started making videos because I needed an artistic outlet and wanted to connect with people like I’d seen a lot of YouTubers doing,” said Shawna. “It’s definitely been a journey filled with hands on learning and peer motivation. My friends online have been there to inspire and challenge me to grow, and I’m very lucky for that.”

In terms of motivation, it’s all about seeing an idea realized in actuality instead of just being in your head. Shawna strives to get ideas from inside her head to a computer or television screen.

Many of her videos (which can be seen on her YouTube channel) have garnered over 600,000 views worldwide. “Twinkle Lightly,” posted in September 2012, has had 632,875 views to date, and is about a girl’s idyllic last night with her friends, as she attempts to cope with their lives moving in different directions post-graduation. 

Puppy’s First Christmas,” posted on Dec. 24, 2012, is about a shih poo puppy named Sadie, who is now owned by Shawna’s family. It has had 6,190,109 views to date.

In the future, Shawna plans on moving forward with her YouTube projects, eventually moving on to traditional mediums such as film and television.

A piece of advice she would give to aspiring actors and filmmakers is to work as much as you can with the goal of bettering yourself.

“Treat people well and pay them when you can,” said Shawna. “Try to keep a good attitude and remember why you love what you do.”

For more information about Shawna Howson and her work, visit her Tumblr page. You can also follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook page.

It wasn’t me! It was Dino Dino Bambino!

Movie Review

Need for Speed

Director: Scott Waugh

Studio(s): Touchstone Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Bandito Brothers

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Release date: March 12, 2014 (U.K.), March 14, 2014 (U.S.)


What a cheap attempt at dramatizing a meaningless concept. I had high hopes for Need for Speed when I watched the trailers, despite having my doubts about video game franchises being made into films. However, little did I know the engaging moments I saw were the only ones that existed in the entire movie.

Need for Speed centers around Tobey Marshall (Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul), a former race car driver who owns an upstate New York garage and is struggling to make ends meet. As if that wasn’t overwhelming enough, he gets framed for the death of his buddy Pete Coleman (Harrison Gilbertson), when his former rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), tags Pete’s car during a drag race that sends it flipping down a ravine. Since there was no evidence of Dino causing his death, Tobey is sentenced to two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

To avenge Little Pete’s death, Tobey borrows the Shelby Mustang (which was valued at$2.7 million according to Dino and was part of a business deal proposed by him to Tobey at the beginning of the film)

Right from the beginning, the film tried desperately to create a false sense of drama, with the camera panning around the garage at the old pictures and awards. While I do applaud the spirit, Need for Speed didn’t have the “right” concept to be able to pull off nail-biting intensity.

The drawn out drag racing at seemingly regular intervals were the only half-enjoyable moments of the film (Of course, I don’t know how the crew evaded the local police so smoothly, but that’s a story for another day), making the “journey” to the anticlimactic ending not too flimsy. I know it’s not really meant to be, but even action flicks contain a deeper, thought-provoking story that might entice the viewer to pay closer attention. However, these brief instances wear off rapidly (no pun intended).

Skipping ahead to the film’s conclusion, it didn’t make watching the rest of the inconsequential adventure worthwhile. It was rather predictable overall. What would of made Need for Speed a watchable action-thriller is if it wasn’t just about drag racing.

Flat and forgettable are the words I’ll use to describe this “video game without a controller.” It’s true what they say. Some video game franchises should be left played with a controller, rather than witnessed with a bag of caramel popcorn (even that’s questionable). If ever there’s a film adaptation of a game, a franchise that contains a deeper (yet understandable) plot should be selected.

I’m not a blacksmith, I’m a dimension hopping hero!

Video Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Developer: Nintendo EAD

Publisher: Nintendo

Release date: Nov. 22, 2013

Platform: Nintendo 3DS


A Link Between Worlds is exactly how I envisioned Zelda 3DS. Exhilarating, memorable and disturbingly addictive. This indirect sequel to the Super Nintendo classic A Link to the Past introduces a idiosyncratic concept that combines a feeling of stealth with nostalgia.

Link, a descendant of the hero who hopped between the worlds of light and darkness in ALTTP, awakens from a nightmare involving a dark, shadowy figure. Gulley, the blacksmith’s son, tells Link that he’s overslept once again, and must report to work immediately.

The blacksmith handcrafted a sword that he wished to present to the Captain (who presumably oversees the soldiers of Hyrule Castle), who absentmindedly strolled out of the blacksmith’s house without it after getting lost in conversation. Link is then ordered to deliver the sword to the Captain, but unexpectedly gets himself into trouble.

Before returning to Hyrule Castle, the captain decided to stop at the sanctuary at the base of Death Mountain before returning to his duties. Link walks in on a conversation between Seres (the daughter of the sanctuary’s priest) and Dampe, who attends to the cemetery just next to the sanctuary. Just when Seres goes to retrieve the Captain, the door slams shut, signifying the start of a treacherous road of trials.

An androgynous sorcerer named “Yuga” has terrorized the sanctuary and transformed both Seres and the Captain into paintings. Despite Link’s valiant efforts, the sorcerer gets the upper hand and transmutes himself into a wall mural. He also is successful in turning Zelda, the princess of Hyrule, into a painting which allowed him to resurrect the demonic beast, Ganon.

These events prompt Link into setting out on an adventure around Hyrule (which has shown little to no geographical aging). He retrieves a bracelet tat allows him to “muralize” himself onto walls, which greatly aids him in battles and traversing through dungeons, ruins and castles.

You’d think that returning to a previously explored overworld would be unimaginative, but A Link Between Worlds has epitomized how a game series should go about rekindling its classic roots without ruining the experience for dedicated players. Mixing together a lingering nostalgic aura with a few sprinkles of modernity proved to be sensational for old and new Zelda players.

It brought the player to an alternate world called “Lorule,” where it’s princess, Hilda, is (supposedly) wanting to save Princess Zelda and her own world through the help of Link.

There’s only one point of criticism I have about this game. One is the lack of a proper challenge during the first playthrough. Although the game offers a “hero mode” at its completion, most of the dungeons were far too simplistic and didn’t really prompt any critical thinking. The final boss fight was a bit of a joke and could very easily be figured out.

On the upside, the score was immaculately orchestrated. Leading up to the final boss fight, the music of Lorule invoked a sensation of finality. It’s almost as if the citizens of Hyrule and Lorule were calling out to Link to save both worlds.

A Link Between Worlds is a game I’d recommend to any midcore gamer who’s looking for excitement, whether or not they’re familiar with the Legend of Zelda franchise. It certainly satisfied my trademark Zelda withdrawal, and has me looking forward to Zelda Wii-U even more.

Five greatest tracks of 2013 – a personal list

I’ve made it an annual tradition to sit down and track my five favourite songs of the year. Although this can make for a debilitating New Year’s Eve, I trudge on through and make my selections. The only issue I deal with is suddenly forgetting every single song I’ve ever listened to in my life.

Some of these songs might not be recognized by some people in Western continents, because some of my most adored artists reside overseas. However, a few of their tracks do end up seeping into the American top 40 charts and make a small impact.

In no particular order, my 10 favourite songs of 2013 are:

1. Birds – Anouk

Album: Sad Singalong Songs – May 17, 2013

In 1997 at just 22-years-old, Dutch artist Anouk stormed her country’s musical world with her immensely successful single, “Nobody’s Wife.” This explosive rock anthem served her well, dominating the Dutch music charts for weeks. The Dutch population was enthralled by her powerful, clear voice and the expression with which she poured out her soul. 16 years later, Anouk has remained an influential artist in the Netherlands, with “Birds” reaching ninth place in the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2013.

2. Glorious – Cascada

Album: The Best of Cascada – March 29, 2013

Cascada has enjoyed international success with singles like “Everytime We Touch,” “Miracle” and “Evacuate the Dancefloor.” This pop trio, consisting of Natalie Horler, DJ Manian and Yanou, dropped their first album nearly ten years ago. Their first mega-hit was “Everytime We Touch,” which dominated the U.S. charts in the early to mid 2000s. Cascada was chosen to represent Germany in Eurovision 2013 with “Glorious,” which reached 21st place in the contest overall.

3. Hey Brother – Avicii

Album: True – Sept. 13, 2013

Swedish DJ Avicii (Tim Bergling) was ranked at No. 6 on DJ Magazine’s annual top 100 DJ poll in 2011 and No. 3 in 2012 and 2013. He’s been nominated twice for a Grammy award for his work on “Sunshine” with David Guetta in 2012 and in 2013 for his single, “Levels.” In 2011, Avicii and his manager and executive producer, Ash Pournouri, began the “House for Hunger,” a charity dedicated to quashing world hunger. To date, the organization has helped the “Feed Foundation” distribute 2 million meals to elementary schools in Africa.

4. All Night – Icona Pop

Album: This Is… Icona Pop – Sept. 23, 2013

Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo create music “which you can both laugh and cry at the same time.” The electro house duo grew up in Stockholm, Sweden and are now based in Los Angeles and New York City. They received international attention following their debut single, “Manners,” which was released by Neon Gold on the French label Kitsune. “All Night” has been used as the theme song for the NBC gameshow “The Million Second Quiz,” was promoted on the “Ellen Degeneres Show,” and was used as an opener for Miley Cyrus‘ Bangerz tour.

5. Live It Up – Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull

Album: Unreleased – first quarter of 2014

Although “Live It Up” was only moderately successful worldwide (it only reached No. 60 in the U.S. charts), this Europop tune has to be one of my picks for my personal list of catchy tracks. This is the third collaboration between J.Lo and Pitbull, the first being “On The Floor” in 2011 and “Dance Again” in 2012. It’s a real shame that it didn’t become the pop anthem of the summer (Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” took that spot), but it’s still an inspirational song regardless.

The ambivalent relationship between two captains

Film Review

Captain Phillips

A foreboding aura fills the air when Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, begins packing his suitcases. Not a word is spoken from the time he heads out onto the road and says goodbye to his family to when he boards his ship. Sailing from the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa seems like another day on the job, but little does Phillips know that he’s about to experience the most traumatic event of his life.

Captain Phillips relied heavily on actions and thrilling events to progress the story, rather than dialogue and “telling.” It was crafted in a way that the viewer could piece the plot together while enjoying the constant feeling of danger, suspense and not being able to escape the impending hijacking of the ship.

Mr. Phillips’ crew begging their captain to return home after they scare of the pirates the first time was depressing and terrifying. They just knew that those pirates would return to the ship and hijack it, yet the captain wished to follow his orders and deliver the cargo to the right location at the right time.

This movie has all the necessary elements of a great action thriller. There’s the starting point which sets the groundwork for the road of trials, as well as a nail-biting “calm before the storm.” Instead of there being a two-hour heart attack with no points of calmness, the last part of the second act included an attempt at building a relationship between Phillips and Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), the pirate “captain” who took over the MV Maersk Alabama. This doesn’t go over so well with Muse’s crew, mainly Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman) who makes a point of torturing Phillips any chance he gets.

Now, let’s talk about the ending. The final act wasn’t as exciting as it should have been, but thankfully it built up to a half-decent climax. Unfortunately, the movie ended on a slightly anticlimactic note, but the mental state of Captain Phillips was heartbreaking and haunting. As usual, Tom Hanks pulled off playing a memorable character, this one being a real person whose ship was actually hijacked. The way he begged for his family and was riddled with pain is just more prove that Hanks is one of the most versatile actors of our generation.

Despite some minor flaws with the story towards the end of the film, I’d recommend Captain Phillips to any moviegoer who enjoys a good action flick.


Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Released: Oct. 11, 2013

Paparazzi is danger, not journalism

Journalists have a pretty bad rep. According to a study conducted in September 2012, journalism is the least trusted profession next to banking and politics. With that being said, we don’t need the paparazzi to make the stigma any worse than it already is.

Photographers who harass famous people, are physically aggressive towards them and wait outside their homes are not journalists. They’re the ones who are doing what they’re not supposed to be doing, which is behaving unethically and invading a person’s right to privacy.

All they’re looking for is meaningless gossip which is bound to be exaggerated in some form. For example, I almost always hear stories about celebrities being spotted walking without a wedding or engagement ring on their finger, so right away the reporter jumps to conclusions about how their “relationship is in trouble” and before you know it, the rumour has become widespread and is taken as fact.

This doesn’t bear even the slightest resemblance to what journalism is supposed to be.

In journalism, we’re all about telling the truth and fascinating stories about people. It’s our duty as reporters to disseminate the most important and significant stories in an objective way.

Paparazzi are proving themselves to be no more than ruthless harm to famous people who deserve the same amount of privacy and respect as we do. Taking photos of a movie actress on the red carpet is one thing, but engaging in a high speed car chase just for some unavailing photos is unacceptable. Not just to the person you’re harassing, but sometimes you put your own life in danger.

Some people might think that a celebrity fluffing off a paparazzo is simply out of conceit, but little do they know that the situation can be far more serious than it may seem.

In May 2012, Halle Berry lit into a paparazzo who hid outside of her daughter’s school waiting to take photos of her. I don’t know about you, but I think harassing children (of famous people or not) just to satisfy your gossipy needs is pushing the envelope even more than doing it to their parents. Luckily though, Halle didn’t stop. She successfully got a bill passed in California criminalizing the harassing of children who have been singled out because of their parent’s profession.

That’s a substantial amount of progress in itself, but now it’s high time for a regulation to be put into place where these children’s parents are concerned, because to me paparazzi aren’t any different from a high school student taking unflattering photos of someone and posting them all over social media.


Wesley Butler is a journalist and freelance writer from Waterloo, Ontario. Follow him on Twitter and like The Reporter’s Chair on Facebook.

Alluring moments from 90s children’s television

When I watched television growing up, there were a few distinct moments that always stuck out in my mind. I can’t really put my finger on what made them so special, but it was probably because they were extremely well-written and gave me chills, not to mention the fact that I would think and talk about those moments days later.

Here’s a list of my top four moments from children’s television back in the 1990s.

For those unfamiliar with Are You Afraid of the Dark?, it entailed a group of children who called themselves the “Midnight Society” huddling together near a fire in the woods taking turns telling horrifying and heart wrenching stories.

In this particular episode, a foreign exchange student named Julie is contacted by the ghost of a girl who died in an accident at her high school in the 1960s. The girl, Candy Warren, hands Julie a mysterious necklace that allows her to transport back to the 60s so she can “take Candy’s place” and prevent the accident, which ultimately changes reality.

Why was this moment so alluring to me? The ending of the episode sent chills down my spine. By Julie going back in time to stop the accident, she unknowingly saves Candy Warren’s life and finds out that she became the assistant principal of the high school.

Another episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? takes a spot. This episode, “Tale of the Dream Girl,” wasn’t so much terrifying as much as it was tear jerking. What’s interesting to note is that this episode inspired M. Night Shyamalan to create the movie “Sixth Sense.” In “Tale of the Dream Girl,” a teenager named Johnny doesn’t realize that the girl who keeps stalking him is actually the ghost of his dead girlfriend, who died in a car accident in the 1950s. At the end, his sister finds his obituary and tombstone, making Johnny realize that he is a ghost as well.

I will always remember this moment as being one of the best I’ve witnessed on television. Although the show was meant to be scary, this episode was heartbreaking.

Boy Meets World depicted the ups and downs of a child’s life as they reach adulthood. What stuck out about the series finale was the raw emotion displayed by the main cast members. They did not want the show to end, but they knew that it was time to move on from the show. As for the characters, they departed for New York, but not before saying one final farewell to their teacher, Mr. Feeny.

Moody’s Point was a “show within a show” to the Amanda Show, which starred Amanda Bynes from 1999 to 2002. This episode was considered the finale to Moody’s Point, because the Amanda Show was unexpectedly canceled in 2002, even though it was set to go on for another season until 2003.

That’s probably why it was so alluring to me. The way it ended was enchanting, and we’ll probably not know what happened after this moment.


Wesley Butler is a journalist and freelance writer from Waterloo, Ontario. Follow him on Twitter @wesbutler11 or like the Reporter’s Chair on Facebook.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,321 other followers

%d bloggers like this: