Sunday, December 30, 2012

Short Post and a Song #34: Four years old and already her schtick is better than mine.

A conversation with my four-year-old niece:

Niece: (Eating Arby’s fries) These are so good! Do you ever get fries at Arby's?

Me: No, honey, I don’t really eat fast food.

Niece: Oh. I eat fast and slow food.


“Hey Jane” by Spiritualized

“Hey Jane” is one of my favorite songs of 2012 so it felt fitting to feature it in my last post of this year. The first time this song came up on my shuffle, I checked at three different points to see what cool new song was playing for future reference—only to realize that it was the same song the whole time. This nine-minute-long tune travels to a variety of places and all of them are glorious. The music video is very good as well. It centers on a transwoman who tries to raise her children between shifts at the strip club and turning tricks on the street. The video is raw, disturbing, and beautifully done.

Have a fantastic New Year’s, my Velocininjas, and I’ll see you in 2013!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Short Post and a Song #33: Yep, laziness had nothing to do with it.

I failed to prepare a Short Post for today because the world was supposed to end Friday. I will try not to let doomsday predictions guide my blogging decisions in the future.


“Real Rain” by Randy Newman


Rather than pelt you with more of the Christmas music that’s been haunting every store since Thanksgiving, I thought I’d focus on a piece of music that reminds me of my parents. I don’t get to see them very often, and getting a chance to spend some time with them is what makes the holidays special for me. I took a trip with them to Vancouver when I was eleven while my sisters were off at summer camp. One day we went driving in the Whistler Mountains, and the only tape I had to feed the car’s tape player was the Pleasantville soundtrack.

Just as we got to the area with the most beautiful views around us, this track started playing. And now whenever this song comes on while I’m writing, for a second I’m back in that car watching the sun peek through the clouds in rays over the mountains, and hearing my dad saying he was so glad that we hadn’t had any other music to play.

I hope you Velocininjas are enjoying the holiday with your own families, be they biological or just the people you love most. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Short Post and a Song #32: Goddamn it, Alejandro.

I hate when I ask my server to recommend something, and he or she recommends a dish that sounds just fucking terrible. I have a near-crippling fear of letting others down—even perfect strangers. So it is more likely that I will spend the evening slurping goat brains through a fake smile rather than tell Alejandro (who came to New York to DANCE but has to work this stupid job to be able to pay the rent for his tiny studio in Queens) that his recommendation was in vain.


“Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners

I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower this week and it has been a long time since I’ve loved a movie quite that much. It’s a very honest movie. It faces both the very best and very worst parts of being an introverted kid in high school. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the music. “Come On Eileen” plays during a particularly cathartic scene at a school dance in which the main kid realizes that he’s not the only weirdo in his school, and that maybe he and the other weirdoes could be weirdoes together.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is still playing in a few theaters—I highly, highly encourage you to go see it. And if it’s not playing near you, buy the DVD when it comes out on February 12th. That movie deserves a hell of a lot more success than it's seen thus far. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Are you a big person or a little person?"

Every Thanksgiving, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins drive to Ohio from Washington D.C. and spend the long weekend with my family. Before our relatives make the long drive back to D.C., my family always (semi-illegally) meets up with them at their hotel for the continental breakfast. 

During that breakfast this year, a lady who worked at the hotel came over to our table bearing a coloring book and crayons and asked my twenty-year-old cousin, "Are you a big person or a little person?"

It was the greatest moment of her older brother's life.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Short Post and a Song #31: Seriously, it's all they had in common.

Every conversation Margaret and Owen ever had on the show Boardwalk Empire:

Owen: Do you remember (insert random aspect of life back in Ireland here)?

Margaret: Why, yes. Yes, I do.

Owen: God that is so hot.


“Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter

I try to keep up some variety with the artists I feature, and realize that I just featured another Johnny Cash song a few weeks ago. But how cool is it that you can watch this video of Johnny Cash and June Carter singing “Jackson” on the Ralph Emery Show in 1967 on any old computer? June Carter really was the most adorable human.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Updated: Short Post and a Song #30: These are the gems one finds at the bottom of an IMDB rabbit hole.

H. Jon Benjamin, whose vocal talents have graced Home Movies, Archer, and Bob’s Burgers (AKA three of the funniest cartoons in the history of ever, largely thanks to Benjamin), was once in an episode of Sex in the City. He played Miranda’s coworker who mistakenly set her up on a lesbian date. When Miranda told him she wasn’t gay, H. Jon Benjamin just looked her up and down and said, "Seriously?"

My life got the tiniest bit better after learning that random fact, and I hope yours did as well.


“My Neighbor Totoro” by Joe Hisaishi

I saw Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle while I was still quite young, but didn’t end up seeing this particular Miyazaki film until only a year and a half ago. I loved the movie and only a few days later I began sketching out ideas for Moorhouse. My story’s quite different from My Neighbor Totoro—substantially darker in tone—but I was very inspired by the beautiful whimsicality of the film and the strong familial relationships at its core. 

P.S. I realize now, hours later, that I could have made this post cohesive for once if I had said "I saw Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle when I was a wee baby Jillian." Opportunity wasted, right?

And if you didn't get that, start watching Archer. Seriously. Danamaniac just got me into it and it is fan-fucking-tastic.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Short Post and a Song #29: I wouldn't advise picking us for your Ultimate Frisbee team.

Dan of La Mancha after I tossed him a shirt: "You throw like a girl." Pause. "Which is good, because I throw like a slightly more athletic girl."


“Skyfall” by Adele

I finally got around to seeing the latest Bond flick over Thanksgiving weekend. I adored pretty much everything about it (especially you, Judi Dench, you classy old Dame. See what I did there? Oh, us), but my favorite part was most definitely the visually stunning title sequence. Daniel Kleinman outdid himself this time and guaranteed that no one else will ever design a James Bond title sequence ever again.

(Right, MGM? Right?? I’m game to pretend that Quantum of Solace never happened if you are.)

The sequence wouldn’t be complete without this haunting Adele song, which suits perhaps the most ominous Bond title sequence beautifully.

P.S. This is a day late due to Thanksgiving festivities at home in Ohio with the family. More nifty bars and stores have opened in my hometown in the past year and they have further convinced me that there is a direct correlation between how cool Wooster is and how many years I spend away from it. I don’t really know how to feel about that. Did I stunt your coolness, Wooster? How cool would Brooklyn be without me? Is my mere presence depriving Brooklyn of bike lanes on every street and coffee shops in the lobbies of every apartment building?

Watch out for me come December, Wooster. I’m spending a whole two weeks in you and I’m gonna uncool you so hard.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dear Rude Subway Girl,

Your hair feels like corn silk. I’m sorry, that was a weird way to start this letter. But really, my hair has never felt that soft. Considering your Burberry coat and classy boots that were most definitely NOT bought at Payless (even though they have great boots there at reasonable prices, but whatever, lady), I assume you can afford to spend the equivalent of my rent on hair care products.

I know that you don’t feel this way, but it is your fault that I know how your hair feels. Maybe you think you’re above touching the germ-infested subway pole with your fancy lady hands—or maybe you just mistook the pole for your model friend, Heather. Perhaps in the movie of your life that you construct in your head, you are a more interesting and intriguing individual because you wind your arms around the subway pole rather than hold it with a single hand like everyone else.

Your perception of yourself.

But the fact is that on a crowded subway, the pole can serve as a substitute seat for about six people. It keeps us steady while the train veers this way and that. In a packed car overflowing with ladies with strollers, college kids lugging suitcases, and elderly dudes with canes, how can you think that the subway pole belongs to only you: A twenty-something girl carrying nothing but a comically small purse?

Everyone else's perception of you.

I’ve met your kind before. And I’ll have you know that I didn’t allow them to rob me of a pole to hold during my forty-minute ride. I’ve rested my knuckles against the backs of men fatter and smellier than you.

So I held that pole in defiance, bringing my fingers in close contact with your Burberried shoulder and your soft, soft locks. You gave me a dismayed expression, like I was the one being unreasonable here, and refused to loosen your vice-like grip on the pole. But I was happy to stare you down and wear your hair like a silky glove the whole way home.

You didn’t say or do much before you got off the train at Broadway-Lafayette—you mostly just looked progressively more and more annoyed that I was invading your personal space. But I hope I got through to you, just a little bit. I hope you realized that, wow, I’m making this pole really hard for even just one other person to hold—maybe I should rethink my selfish pole-hogging behavior.

Remember, New York can be disconcertingly small when it comes to the MTA—this probably isn’t the last we’ve seen of each other. And if I catch you hogging that pole again, I will be more than happy to make your life very, very mildly awkward for the next forty minutes.

You’ve been warned.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Short Post and a Song #28: I'm also weeping.

Every so often I decide I should be a responsible adult and learn more about finance. 

Hours later my browser is overflowing with tabs, I’m considering canceling all of my bank accounts, and I still have no idea what the fuck a "credit default swap" is.


“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

Dah-na-na Na-Na NAH-NAH! Dah-na-na Na-Na NAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!! Dah-na-na Na-Na NAH-NAH! Dah-na-na Na-Na NAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

My sincerest apologies for what the surrounding populace has to endure whenever my presence and this song collide. 

Because I will obnoxiously sing along with that guitar riff in nonsense words every time. 

P.S. I'm posting this on Saturday instead of Sunday because I have lots of work to do to tomorrow. Like Sunday, Saturday also begins with the letter "S" and therefore "Short Post and a Song" is as cohesive as it has ever been, AKA not at all. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Short Post and a Song #27: A PSA for my weather-challenged New York bros

Considering the weird weather we’ve been having lately, here’s a little PSA to my fellow New Yorkers from a former Midwesterner:

Tornado: Basement good
Hurricane: Basement bad

You’re welcome.


“Sleeping Lessons” by The Shins

I became obsessed with this song a few years ago since it went well with a scene I was writing at the time. In the scene, a girl was painting. “Sleeping Lessons” is still one of my all-time favorite Shins songs so I decided to feature it today, and watched the music video for the very first time. And the video is of a girl painting! The song’s not about painting and yet The Shins (or whoever makes their music video decisions) and I both associated the song with it. It's not tough to understand why when you listen to the lyrics. "Sleeping Lessons" is about throwing off the previous generation's rigid ideas and following your own way, and a paintbrush can be a great tool for doing just that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Short Post and a Song #26: Feminist Shame

I love to sing along to Ray Charles but whenever I get to the "She knows a woman's place is right there in her home" part of "I Got a Woman," I always pretend to forget the words in feminist shame. 


“Save Me” by Aimee Mann

I watched the movie Magnolia for the first time recently and loved it. It was even worth the lifelong frog phobia I’ll probably have from now on. I came across this Aimee Mann video, which Wikipedia tells me was filmed along with the rest of the film.

The collaboration between P.T. Anderson and Aimee Mann is so apparent in watching Magnolia—the songs fit the scenes so well that they define each just as much as the actors’ performances. Often Mann’s songs play over the dialogue, delivering a better explanation for what’s going on in the scene than words ever could.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This isn't a real post; it's a post-Zombie Apocalypse update. (Shut up. Hurricane Sandy may be as close as I ever get. Don't ruin this for me.)

Hey my Velocininjas. In case any of you were concerned about my well-being in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I just wanted to let you kids know that all is well. Danseph and the Amazing Technocolored Dreamcoat and I have been hanging out in Brooklyn for the past week, him mostly playing computer games, and me watching Friday Night Lights and wishing I could've knocked on Coach and Tami Taylor's door whenever I had problems in high school. 

The worst consequence of the storm for me has been the inability to enter Manhattan. Some of the subways are running again but every point of entry from my neck of Brooklyn is blocked. I only go into the office part-time but it has still been strange spending an entire week on the other side of the East River. 

I probably should have spent this past week catching up on the blog and reading, but I've been reading so much these days I think I'm starting to go cross-eyed. So instead I've been doing some super-secret book-writing, and caring more about imaginary football than I have ever cared about the real thing.

For right now I am focusing more on my book than I am on the blog, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. I'm halfway through a few non-book related posts that I'll slap up here once I've finished them. And I'll keep doing my Short Post and a Song each Sunday. But otherwise there will be less activity on here for the next few months. There's always a certain point in the process of writing a story where I fall pretty hard into it, and writing it is all I want to do. That's where I am at the moment. I hope you'll undertand. I should come back from the book-writing trenches with plenty of advice for you budding writers out there.

Thank you for your patience. I hope everyone's doing well in wake of the storm, and if you're not doing okay I hope you got to see some people kayaking in the streets, because if you don't have power in your apartment you should at least get to see cool shit like that.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Short Post and a Song #25: Slutty Halloween of Doom

Four Dansmen of the Apocalypse, in reference to Hurricane Sandy being headed toward New York: “Do you think God’s smiting New York because of our slutty Halloween parade?”


“Fade into You” by Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen

You may have guessed by now that my taste in television can veer a little soapy—I count Revenge and Pretty Little Liars among my favorites, knowing damned well that real life is never that dramatic or ridiculous. My new slightly shameful show is Nashville. But though I may be a tad embarrassed by how much I care about these characters’ romantic entanglements and secrets of illegitimate children, I am not at all ashamed of how much I love the show’s music.

The boy singing in this song, Gunnar, recently convinced Scarlett, the girl singing, that the poems she writes are really the lyrics to songs and they’ve started songwriting together. Unlike the song the two performed in the show’s first episode (actually written by my beloved Civil Wars), “Fade into You” totally seems like it started out life as a poem. Listen to those lyrics. There are metaphors—actual metaphors in a world where one of the most popular current songs is called “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together!” 

I know I should be posting a scary song for Halloween. But this song could TOTALLY work in a horror movie. While poetic, this is a pretty creepy idea of love, eh? I could see this song playing while some Edward Cullen creepster is watching his lady love from afar, but it would be suitably terrifying rather than dreamy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Short Post and a Song #24: Old Wooden Eyes

A fellow trying to sell me “free” spa care on the street paid me a rather bizarre compliment in an attempt to lure me in:

“Hey there, miss, are those your real eyes?”

I said nothing and walked away quickly, as is my usual practice with the many sidewalk salesmen that litter Manhattan’s busiest streets. But I did feel very tempted to tell him that no, I lost my eyes in the Battle of Gettysburg, and these ones are made out of wood.


“Girl With One Eye” by Florence + the Machine

I imagine this song playing at that exact moment at the end of a thriller or horror movie when you realize, “Oh, fuck. EVIL HAS WON.” Like you see Grandma Sue giving a particularly creepy smile, and you know that the demonic ghost didn’t REALLY die when Sally did—it just hopped onto the nearest body to possess. Or when Lola, after Lady Macbething the crap out of a bunch of gangsters and subtly convincing them to kill each other, wraps a scarf around her hair and drives her convertible into the sunset with a trunk full of stolen diamonds.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Short Post and a Song #23: What freelance writers really want Yelp to tell them.

It’s nice that this cafe twelve blocks from my apartment has a "quirky atmosphere" and "exquisite Sweet Potato pound cake." But are there more than two outlets for the café’s thirty customers to share? Is the café’s Wi-Fi pretty consistent, or is it spotty? Are the chairs comfy, or of the rigid, scoliosis-creating variety?

Tell me THAT, Yelp.


"La Foule" by Edith Piaf

In keeping with my vaguely intentional Creepy Songs theme for October, I give you "La Foule" by Edith Piaf. I chose this particular video of a live 1984 performance since it provides a translation of the lyrics into English and also displays Edith Piaf's unbelievable stage presence. The song is about a woman and man who are pushed together by a crowd of people, but then that same crowd tears the two apart. Listening to this song makes me think of whirling through a carnival at night; intoxicated and happy but also terrified of what surprises the evening might bring. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shoes make Hulk ANGRY

I’m a big fan of a café called Urban Vintage. I’m aware that its name is exactly what a writer would call a café in a story making fun of Brooklyn hipsters, but it provided a warm, friendly office away from home when I was working on some particularly stressful revisions. The coffee and food are also delicious.

I was on my way back from Urban Vintage when I spied this thing of beauty:

Someone had thrown a pair of shoes tied together over the street sign. I don’t know if some kids stole these shoes from another kid and threw them up there just to be dicks. I hope that’s not what happened.

Instead I like to imagine a dude walking down the street who became suddenly, venomously angry with his shoes. He was like “MAN WAS NEVER MEANT TO WEAR SHOES!!” Then he Hulked out and ripped off his shoes (which somehow got tied together in the midst of all the Hulking out), and flung them hard as hard as he could at the nearest street sign.

I lost my iPod a while ago, so instead I think about shit like this on my walks home.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Short Post and a Song #22: Landlord of Party Central

I just want to take a second to thank a certain pencil-wielding vandal who lives in my building for what he or she did to a sign on the wall beside the elevator: 

Now whenever I'm waiting for the elevator, I get to imagine a landlord welcoming a new tenant to a building and saying something like this:

"Every night there is ABSOLUTELY drinking, smoking, or hanging around the staircase. This is mandatory. If you fail to do at least one of those things, we will evict you. Now go forth and party on, my friend."


"Falling" by The Civil Wars

I mentioned my enormous love for The Civil Wars in my very first Short Post and a Song, but have never actually featured one of their songs on this blog. Joy Williams and John Paul White are incredibly talented and have some of the best performance chemistry I've ever seen. All their songs are great (and I don't say that lightly) but I've been attached to this one lately due to its haunting melody. My dark fantasy WIP is kind of taking over my life at the moment (in a good way) so don't be surprised if the songs continue to be a little on the creepy side in the coming weeks. Let's just pretend it's a Halloween theme, yeah?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I wonder what else I've been doing wrong my whole life? Probably eating salad. I'm TERRIBLE at eating salad.

I recently came across this guide to improving your handwriting by Dyas A. Lawson. The guide gives a detailed description of how to hold a pen properly. Some people might think, “I don’t need to be told how to hold a pen. I’ve been holding pens for years!”

Well, you’re probably wrong about that. Because I’ve been holding pens for DECADES but that didn’t stop me from doing it completely incorrectly.

You’re supposed to hold your pen between your thumb and index finger, resting the pen on your middle finger. I hold the pen between my thumb and index finger but rest it on my ring finger. Ms. Lawson admits in her guide that this is a thing people do, but it is absolutely the wrong thing.

I attempted writing the correct way, and it didn’t go very well. I’ll show you the horrid handwritten pages themselves, but I’ll also transcribe them below since I highly doubt you will be able to read them:


Is this how most people write? It feels extremely uncomfortable. I don’t write properly. I NEVER LEARNED TO WRITE! 

Maybe writing in cursive would be easier? 

(In cursive) Hello! My name is Jillian. How do you do? 

(Back to print) Haha I always read cursive in a British accent.

Dude I’ve been writing wrong for so long. It does not look better now that I am writing properly. I am probably a lost cause, doomed to life as a gypsy hobo, because what else is a person without proper handwriting skills to do in this day and age?

I've failed you, Ms. Lawson. I'VE FAILED YOU. I will just go sit in my box house now and weep as I make a necklace out of garbage.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Short Post and a Song #21: Why I'll never be a cool writer.

Me, every morning: "I'm not ready to be awake yet. I want to finish my dream where … where something COOL was happening. I think. Goddamn it, now I don’t remember what I was dreaming about.”

This is why I will never be one of those cool writers who write books based on their dreams.


"He Loves and She Loves" by George and Ira Gershwin

I've been a bit hooked on instrumental scores from movies these days. Songs with words can get a bit distracting while I write, and movie scores often pack more of an emotional punch for me. "He Loves and She Loves" is originally from the play Funny Face, but Woody Allen used this instrumental version on the soundtrack of the film Manhattan.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Literate Adult's Return to the Valley of Twilight, Part Eleven: I fell down some stairs.

Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here, and Part Four here, Part Five here, Part Six here, Part Seven here, Part Eight here, Part Nine here, and Part Ten here.

After over two months, I have finally finished reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Why, you might ask, did it take me so goddamn long to read a book targeted at tween girls?

Well, first I would chastise you for your foul language because I am a lady. And then you would call me hypocrite, and you would be right.

Then I would tell you that I read books for a living. I spend my subway rides and weekends reading manuscripts. I’m always reading at least one book for fun, if not two, and work to find time to read them. Twilight cut fun book time in half, and Dune by Frank Herbert happened to be the other book I was reading at the time. If you haven’t read Dune before, let me just tell you that it becomes terribly addicting in its second half and once I reached it, I couldn’t help abandoning Twilight until I had reached the end of Dune.

(I still have several more books to read in the series, which I will get back to as soon as I finish writing this post.)

But now Twilight is over. Bella didn’t die, unfortunately, and we didn’t get to see James die either. Bella did, however, get a broken leg, four broken ribs, some cracks in her skull, tons of bruises, and lost lots of blood—probably because not one, but two vampires bit the fuck out of her hand.

Bella wakes in a hospital room and Edward tells her how the Cullens chose to explain Bella’s injuries to the doctors:

“You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window.”

Yep, they went with the old “fell down some stairs” excuse. That still doesn't explain Bella’s vampire-mangled hand, though. So, really, that story would only work if Bella fell down two flights of stairs and through a window and then got attacked by a ferocious dog with a fetish for attacking hands and nowhere else. But instead Bella’s hand is simply ignored—maybe the doctors think the stairs bit her.

The Cullens should have just said that Bella joined a fight club.

Bella’s injuries were supposedly incurred at a hotel, and Edward assures Bella that Alice has fabricated all the evidence they’ll need to prove this story. Never mind the fact that hotels have security cameras, not to mention employees and guests who would have noticed if a girl fell down two flights of steps and through a fucking window.

Edward kisses Bella and this happens:

He leaned in slowly; the beeping noise [of the heart monitor] accelerated wildly before his lips even touched me. But when they did, though with the most gentle of pressure, the beeping stopped altogether.

A peck on the lips from Edward makes Bella’s heart literally stop beating. That’s just … I can’t even make a joke about it. It’s a joke all on its own—as is this entire book, really.

Bella’s mom shows up and Edward pretends to sleep. Instead of addressing the fact that her seventeen-year-old daughter ran away from Washington to Arizona and is now horribly injured, Bella’s mom all, “Your stepdad and I are moving to Florida—isn’t it awesome? Also your new boyfriend is so cute!” (I’m paraphrasing but not by much.)

Renee’s all excited for Bella to move to Florida but Bella insists that she wants to stay in Forks. Even though she supposedly JUST ran away because of how fucking much she hates Forks. But whatever—all Renee really seems to care about is that Bella’s in looooooove.

In the Epilogue Bella is back in Forks. Alice dressed her up all fancy and Edward is in a tux, and he says he has a surprise for her. Bella’s hoping Edward is planning to turn her into a vampire, because what’s eternity without sunlight, sleep, or food coupled with a dependence on blood to live if you get to have a hot stalker for a boyfriend? But instead he’s taking her to prom.

Bella’s annoyed since she hates dancing and school and humans, but gets over it quickly enough. She studies her classmates while she dances with Edward:

I caught a glimpse of Jessica and Mike dancing, staring at me curiously. Jessica waved, and I smiled back quickly. Angela was there, too, looking blissfully happy in the arms of little Ben Cheney; she didn’t look up from his eyes, a head lower than hers. Lee and Samantha, Lauren, glaring toward us, with Conner; I could name every face that spiraled past me.

Bella’s looking around at these people like she hasn’t spent the previous four-hundred-and-ninety pages ignoring them with all her might. This is the first time half of these people have ever been mentioned—I’m pretty sure Bella is just making their names up.

And so the book ends with Bella really wanting to be made into a vampire, and Edward wanting the opposite of that. Jacob shows up for a minute and it's not important, just like all his other appearances in this book.

And that’s it! It’s finally over! Having finally reached the end, did I ever locate the quality in the book that made me like it so much the first time? No, not really. It’s written better than Fifty Shades of Grey and Bella isn’t quite as stupid or implausible as Ana. But Twilight is still an overlong, tedious story that sells creepy, I’d-kill-myself-if-I-lost-you obsession as true love to teenage girls.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this trip through the valley of Twilight with me. Though reading Twilight again was far from enjoyable on my end, I’m glad I did it. I’m not sure why I liked Twilight the first time around but I’m proud that I seem to have grown out of whatever it was. 

I'll leave you with a crude artistic rendering of the only explanation for Bella's injuries that actually makes sense:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Short Post and a Song #20: Just call me Jilly the Kid.

My left brown boot has been kind of broken since I received the boots in the mail; its gold buckle jangles with every step I take while the right boot remains silent. Sometimes this annoys me, and sometimes it makes me feel like I'm starring in my own personal Spaghetti Western.


"Resolution" by Jon Brion

I was so, so impressed by the clay animation in the movie ParaNorman and was equally affected by the film's delightful score. I've been listening to the entire soundtrack a lot while writing and have grown particularly fond of this track. I just love all the places that "Resolution" goes—the xylophones at the beginning, the stunning violins toward the middle, and the plucky bass at the end. If you haven't seen the movie, you need to remedy that problem right away. ParaNorman is funny, terrifying, heart-warming, and makes me wish it had come out when I was still a kid.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Literate Adult's Return to the Valley of Twilight, Part Ten: Apparently stating your exact plan of escape in front of your enemy is the "perfect ploy."

Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here, and Part Four here, Part Five here, Part Six here, Part Seven here, Part Eight here, and Part Nine here.

When we last left Bella, she was sneaking away from Alice and Jasper so she could go to her mom’s house and call Psycho Vampire James. He says that he’ll kill Bella’s mom if she doesn’t do this. James hasn’t given us any reason to believe he won’t kill Bella’s mom if Bella DOES do this, but I get that Bella has to try just in case she might be able to save her mother. This relating to Bella thing does not feel awesome—I wouldn’t recommend it.

Bella goes to her mom’s house and uses the key hidden under the eave to get inside. I assume that this is how James got into Bella’s mom’s house as well. Back on Page 292, Edward told Bella that he had been sneaking into her house for weeks to watch her sleep (not creepy at all, nope, nope) by using a key that was also hidden under the eave.

I’m going to ignore the fact that an eave is the “overhang at the lower edge of a roof” and would therefore be very difficult to reach without the help of a ladder. There would be fifty of these Twilight posts if I took the time to harp on every little thing that has bothered me in the reading of this book.

Still, here’s a Google search of “hide key under eave.” One top result has to do with musical keys and the other two are about Twilight because hiding keys under eaves is a thing that literally no one does in real life.

All that aside, why in the fuck would you leave a key hidden outside a house where no one is currently living? That’s like saying, “Hey, burglars, come and take all my shit!” Vampires did not have to use any of their sneaky vampire powers to break into either of Bella’s houses—they just took advantage of the fact that neither of her parents seem to understand the idea of home security very well. Stop being so lazy and carry your keys around with you like everyone else, Swan Family.

Bella calls James and he tells her to go the dance studio and it’s all very anticlimactic. Thanks to Alice’s future-telling, we already knew that was where Bella was headed. So narratively speaking, the trip to Bella’s mom’s was pretty pointless.

But now we’ve reached the dance studio and made it back to the prologue at last! Bella finds a TV playing an old home movie of when she was visiting her grandmother for Thanksgiving when she was twelve. Bella leaned too far over the edge of the pier in the video, causing her mother to cry “Bella? Bella?” So basically it turns out that Bella’s mom is still in Florida, and James used this recording of her voice to trick Bella into thinking she’d come back to Phoenix early.

This twist would be good if I could believe any of the steps James must have taken to get there. First of all, how did James know where Renee’s house was? This is not something Bella ever mentioned in her conversation with Charlie. James does make a vague comment about Victoria finding out more about Bella, but how did she do this? When did these vampires even learn Bella’s last name, which would have at least made a Google search possible?

Even if I decide to believe that somehow James knew where to find Bella’s mom’s house, I simply can’t imagine him chilling on her mom’s couch watching home movies and just hoping he might find a clip of Bella’s mom sounding worried. And why in the hell would Bella’s mom keep a video of Bella almost getting hurt anyway? “Aw, Bella, let’s watch that video where you almost died again and get lost in the nostalgia of a more stressful time.”

James launches into his Evil Explanation of his Evil Plan, and I laughed out loud at this:

“…I’d heard you say you were going home. … And wouldn’t it be the perfect ploy, to go the last place you should be when you’re hiding—the place that you said you’d be.”  

Goddamn it, book. Stop acting like Bella is a ninja spy because Bella gave away exactly where she was going when she knew James could hear her. It wasn’t “diabolical,” nor was it the “perfect ploy.” It was stupid, plain and simple.

We learn that James is hoping Edward will want to avenge Bella after James kills her. Edward reminds him of this other vampire that he knew who loved a human in an insane asylum. And holy coincidence, Batman, that human turns out to have been Alice! Everyone thought Alice was insane because she had psychic visions even as a human and James had planned to kill her. But the vampire who loved Alice turned her into a vampire before James could get to her. So James killed her vampire maker instead.

This whole story of a psychic girl in an insane asylum in the 1920s and the vampire orderly who adores her doesn’t sound like a half-bad book to me. Why didn’t Stephenie Meyer write that book, instead of simply inserting the story as a too-coincidental, too-convenient motivation for James to want to kill Bella in this book?

James beats the living shit out of Bella and films it. He plans to leave dead Bella and the video at the studio for Edward and the other Cullens to find. Even I have to admit that this is pretty chilling. James may give teenage Bella way too much credit for her terrible plans, but he does do psycho quite well.

In the midst of being beaten up, Bella passes out. When she wakes up, James is dead and Carlisle is tending to Bella’s many wounds. Bella’s hand is burning because James bit it, so Edward sucks the poison venom out of Bella’s hand and she passes out again.

James wasn’t in this book for long, but he was still Twilight’s only antagonist. His being after Bella drove the only real action that didn’t involve lingering stares and sexual tension. And yet the big climactic fight where Emmett and Jasper kill James happens off screen. Also, even though seven Cullens didn’t manage to kill James back in Forks, suddenly two of them can in Phoenix.

Fuck this book.

I kind of meant for this to be the last Twilight post since I have in fact FINALLY finished the book. But it turns out I still have quite a bit more left to mock in the book’s final chapter and epilogue. So we’ll wrap this book up next week.

In the meantime have a good weekend! Have a drink, have two, and raise your glasses in the honor of the fact that I don’t have to read about sparkly vampires anymore!  

Read Part Eleven here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Literate Adult's Return to the Valley of Twilight, Part Nine: I would watch Room Detective

Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here, and Part Four here, Part Five here, Part Six here, Part Seven here, and Part Eight here.

To give those of you who haven’t read Twilight some idea of the pacing of this book, let me first summarize what happens in several weeks, AKA the first 300 pages:

Bella arrives in Forks. Forks rejoices. Bella gets asked out by some dudes but the only one she likes is Edward, even though all he ever talks about is how much he wants to kill her. Bella does poorly in gym class. Edward saves Bella from death-by van. She goes to the beach and Jacob exposits that the Cullens are all vampires. Bella uses the Internet. Edward saves Bella from rape-by-sketchy-dudes in Port Angeles. Edward and Bella plan to go to Seattle this one Saturday when there’s a dance but end up going to a meadow instead. They kiss. Edward spends the night at Bella’s but they don’t bang or even make out because Mormonism.

Now let me run you through everything that happens the very next day after Bella and Edward hang out in the meadow, AKA pages 300-400:

Edward and Bella go to Edward’s house and Bella meets his vampire family. Edward exposits how all the members of his family became vampires. Bella goes home and Billy warns her to stay away from Edward. Edward meets Charlie. Most of the Cullen family plays vamp ball while Esme and Bella make extremely awkward conversation. In the middle of the game, three vampire baddies—Laurent, James, and James’ girlfriend, Victoria—show up. Everybody seems to be getting along fine but then some wind blows and the vampires realize that Bella is human. Laurent says his group won’t hunt in the Cullens’ territory, but then Edward, Emmett, and Alice drive away with Bella super fast. Between Edward’s mind-reading and Alice’s future-telling, they know that James wants to kill Bella SO MUCH and will never stop until she is dead, and neither will his girlfriend. Bella goes home and tells Charlie that she has to go back to Phoenix RIGHT THIS SECOND and, miraculously, he allows this. The group goes back to the Cullen house where Laurent is chilling with the other Cullens. Laurent tells the group how dangerous James is and then leaves. Edward and Bella say a tearful goodbye, and then Alice, Jasper, and Bella take off in a Mercedes toward Phoenix.

After three hundred pages of nothing happening, suddenly EVERYTHING happens in a single day. Generally there’s a rising and falling of action in a book—not this sudden flight into space from a plateau.

I will allow some shitty drawings to illustrate:

Good Plots

Twilight Plot

So Edward’s vampire siblings kidnap Bella and take her to Phoenix, where Bella said in James’ presence that she was going as part of her “diabolical” plan. Even though if Bella hadn’t said that, it would have made it MUCH HARDER for James to figure out that she was going to fucking Phoenix. Bella cries on Alice’s “granite” neck and it sounds extremely uncomfortable.

They stay in a hotel and wait for Carlisle to call Alice and report back on the successful killing of James and Victoria. Even though Alice is psychic and would know instantly anyway. Alice sits and waits and draws pictures of dance studios. If she had stayed in Forks, she could have predicted where James and Victoria were going and made the killing of them much, much easier. And Bella and Jasper could’ve hung out with Charlie at Bella’s house, and Jasper could’ve used his powers to manipulate people’s emotions to make Charlie feel okay about everything. And then James would be dead now and this book would be over and I would be reading other things.

Damn it, Alice. Damn it, Carlisle. Damn all of you.

Bella gets to talk to Edward and damn near orgasms on the phone. (Naw, not really. But the Mormon version of that.) Edward tells her that they managed to lose James. (This would not have happened had Alice been there. Okay, I’ll shut up about it now.)

Victoria is back in Forks or something—I don’t know; like Jacob, she doesn’t really matter in this book. Edward says this to console Bella about the fact that there’s a psychotic James on the loose:

“You don’t have to worry, though. He won’t find anything to lead him to you.”

Uh yeah, aside from the fact that James could hear Bella when she said EXACTLY where she was going. I don’t know where James was when Bella was telling Charlie this, by the way. Nor do I believe that at any other point in this book it has been made clear that hearing through walls is a power that vampires in this world possess. But considering the fact that the entire rest of the plot hinges on James being able to hear through walls, I’m going to go ahead and guess that he can.

Alice has visions of James in the dance studio where Bella took classes ten years prior. I took dance classes ten years ago too and I most certainly would not recognize a sketch of the studio where I practiced. Bella, on the other hand, remembers all kinds of shit:

“That’s where the bathrooms were—the doors were through the other dance floor. But the stereo was here”—I pointed to the left corner—“it was older, and there wasn’t a TV. There was a window in the waiting room—you would see the room from this perspective if you looked through it.”

So, kudos, I guess, Bella, on your uncanny memory of random rooms. Maybe you can have a TV show called Room Detective where you solve crimes by recognizing sketches of rooms instead of murder suspects.

Bella worries about her mom and leaves her a message warning her not to go anywhere or do anything until she talks to Bella. Bella leaves this message on the machine at her mother’s house in Phoenix because her mother doesn’t have a permanent phone number on the road.

Bella’s mother is on the road with Bella’s stepdad, who plays baseball (and would thus get on famously with the Cullens). She has a daughter living far away after seventeen years of living in Phoenix together. In the few descriptions we get of Bella’s mother, we learn that she is the type to worry and email repeatedly when she doesn’t hear from Bella for a few hours.

Are we really to believe that Bella’s mother would not have a cell phone with her so that her daughter could reach her without having to bounce a message back to her from Phoenix? This book published in 2006—that was well into the age of cell phones. Bella uses Alice’s fucking cell phone to call her mother.

Edward decides to come to Phoenix on a plane (he can do that, apparently, while Bella and Co. had to drive for days, but whatevs) and Alice and Jasper plan to meet him at the airport.

Alice’s next drawing presents Bella with a legitimately heart-wrenching conundrum, or what would be one if the steps to get us there hadn’t been so contrived: Alice draws Bella’s mother’s house. This means that at some point, James will be there.

Then Alice’s cell phone rings and she gives it to Bella. Bella hears her mother’s voice saying “Bella? Bella?” and then James comes on the line and tells Bella that her mother came home early. (Charlie mentioned that Renee was due home in a week when Bella left.) James says he’ll kill her mother if Bella doesn’t get away from Alice and Jasper and sneak to her mother’s house so that she can call James and he can tell her to go somewhere else (the dance studio). James warns that if Bella brings anyone with her, he’ll know and he’ll kill her mom.

I’ve got to admit that this is a relatably shitty situation. Bella knows James could kill her mom in, like, a second if Bella sends one of her vampire friends in to rescue her. On some level she knows that she probably won’t be able to do anything to stop James from hurting her mother, but Bella has to try just in case this might save her.

So Bella leaves an extremely melodramatic letter for Edward in which she apologizes for the millionth time how this whole situation is her fault, when it’s really not. James is a crazy fuck who happens to get off on the idea of hunting humans that vampires love, Bella. Like rape-by-sketchy-dudes and death-by-van before it, this is a senseless thing that is out of your control. The way you continuously claim fault for them is exhausting. Just scream, “I’m being SELFLESS,” and you will be less obvious.

Bella tells Alice to give the letter to her mom. I know Bella’s assuming that her mom will be at the dance studio but still laughed at the thought of Bella’s mother reading:

Don’t be angry with Alice and Jasper. If I get away from them it will be a miracle.

Then Bella loses Alice and Jasper in the airport, goes home, and heads to the dance studio alone without any weapons. Sweet, simple Bella.

Read Part Ten here.