Monday, July 30, 2012

Short Post and a Song #13: Revenge in the Name of Bacon

I was a vegetarian for ten years. Now I really wish I could challenge my past self to a duel as revenge for ten years’ worth of bacon I’ll never get back.

Vegetarian Jillian was pretty shrimpy—I could totally take her.


“We No Speak Americano” by Yolanda Be Cool & D Cup ft. Cleary & Harding

Not only is the hand dancing by Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding highly entertaining to watch, but the drumbeat that the hand dancing creates adds a lot to what is already a very fun song. Try listening to this song without bouncing in your seat. You just TRY.

P.S. Sorry this is a day late, loves. My parents, aunt, and cousin are all visiting this week, which means my usual schedule is gonna go to hell. I will post at least once again this week but Twilight adventures probably won't continue until next week. 

I'll leave you to your weeping.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Literate Adult’s Return to the Valley of Twilight, Part Three: The “Bella and Edward are Dicks” Edition

Read Part One here and Part Two here.

When I’ve defended this book in the past, it’s always come back to the characters. I never would have called Stephenie Meyer a master wordsmith, but I remember being quite compelled by Bella and the whole gaggle of Cullens the first time around.

I’m at around the 200-page mark now, and there have been a few moments in which I have felt something resembling “like” for Bella. After Bella has a bad dream, she thinks this:

My subconscious has dredged up exactly the images I’d been trying so desperately to avoid.

What’s that, Bella? Are you actually using the word “subconscious” correctly? I could just kiss you on the mouth. You are getting way more than one point for that.

Bella Swan: 52, Anastasia Steele: still 0.

This happens later on that same page:

I dressed slowly in my most comfy sweats and then made my bed—something I never did.

I think making the bed is totally stupid and pointless too, Bella! High-five! If I could just rip Page 132 out of this book and ignore the rest, my memories of Twilight could remain fond ones.

But instead I have to acknowledge that Bella is a real douchenozzle most of the time.

“You’re not inhumanly beautiful and/or sparkly, so I really don’t give a shit about you or anything you have to say.”

Bella just started out at a brand new school, which is a pretty scary experience. It’s not particularly scary for Bella, though, since she is quickly welcomed into a large group of friends.

I would tell you about these friends, but I can’t since Bella doesn’t take the time to tell us much more than these people’s names and if they are 1) A boy who instantly falls hopelessly in love with Bella or 2) A girl who hates Bella because all the boys keep instantly falling in love with her.  

It makes sense that Bella doesn’t seem to know much more about these friends than I do—she never listens to them!

I couldn’t remember her name, so I smiled and nodded as she prattled on about teachers and classes. I didn’t try to keep up.

Jessica babbled on and on about her dance plans—Lauren and Angela had asked the other boys and they were all going together—completely unaware of my inattention.

I shambled along behind Jessica, not bothering to pretend to listen anymore.

The only one of these friends that Bella actually seems to like is Angela:

It was relaxing to sit with Angela; she was a restful kind of person to be around—she didn’t feel the need to fill every silence with chatter. She left me free to think undisturbed while we ate.

Of course you like Angela, Bella—she doesn’t force to you to pretend that you are capable of thinking about anyone but yourself.

“I am so boring and disgusting that a demigod like Edward would never love me.”

Despite the fact that she’s like some kind of Angelina Jolie in the eyes of every teenaged male in Forks, Bella constantly laments how out of her league Edward is:

Of course he wasn’t interested in me … I wasn’t interesting. And he was. Interesting … and brilliant … and mysterious …and perfect … and beautiful…

Only the first ellipsis is mine, by the way. The others came straight from the book. You've talked to Edward, like, twice at this point, Bella. You have no idea if he is interesting or perfect. You just know that he is beautiful, and you’re allowing that to excuse every creeptastic thing he’s said or done.

Let’s talk about those creeptastic things, shall we? 
Edward still hasn’t been in the book that much. He saved Bella from death-by-van, told her they shouldn’t be friends, and then almost instantly reneged on that statement by inviting her to sit with him at lunch. Pretty much everything Edward has said or done thus far could be divided into two categories: “I am a condescending prick” and “I want to murder you and/or others.”

Let’s bring out the evidence:

“I am a condescending prick.”

“Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant.”

He enunciated every syllable, as if he were talking to someone mentally handicapped.

“Bella, you are utterly absurd.”

He actually “apologizes” for that one a few lines later:

“I’m sorry, that was rude … I’m not saying it isn’t true,” he continued, “but it was rude to say it.”

“Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know.”

Edward says this after Bella gets lost in Port Angeles, accidentally wanders onto Rape Boulevard, and is nearly assaulted by four sketchy guys. Isn’t it adorable how Edward makes it seem like that was her fault?

Oh wait; he’s not done blaming Bella for her almost-rape!

"You’re not a magnet for accidents—that’s not a broad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble."


“I want to murder you and/or others.”

“It would be more … prudent for you not to be my friend,” he explained. “But I’m tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella.”

“You really should stay away from me.”

“I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.”

“What if I’m not the superhero? What if I’m the bad guy?”

“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, outraged. He was gripping a fistful of my jacket in one hand.

That one could really fit into both categories—it’s at the center of the Douchery/Murder Venn Diagram.

These last two are especially blunt:

“Your number was up the first time I met you.”

“It was very … hard—you can’t imagine how hard—for me to simply take you away and leave them … alive.”

Bella finishes Chapter 9 by saying the exact same thing she says on the back of the book: that she is “unconditionally and irrevocably” in love with Edward. You sure know to pick ‘em, girl!

Read Part Four here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

They Can’t Take Batman Away from Me

I was planning to post Part 3 of my A Literate Adult’s Return to the Valley of Twilight series today. To those of you who don’t know, it is my epic saga of updates on the arduous process of reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer for the second time. I liked the book the first time around for reasons that I still have yet to understand.

As important and groundbreaking as that would have been, I decided instead to be a bit serious for a moment. Please bear with me—I promise I’ll be back to fuck words and inappropriate jokes by my next post.

Due to The Dark Knight Rises’ recent release, there have been all kinds of Batman-inspired blogs and comics floating around the Internet. I’ve been looking at quite a few of them since I happen to be a big fan of web comics, blogs, and Batman, and I can’t help but notice that each and every Comments section is overflowing with comments like this:

“You should take this down out of respect for the victims in Aurora.”

And I just wanted to take a minute to say this: No. No. These bloggers and web comic creators should not have to take their tributes to the comics and films they love down because of a senseless tragedy.

I’ve long been a fan of comic books and though I didn’t find him until college, Batman is my very favorite superhero.  He is a superhero who never kills the bad guys and abhors the violence he must use to beat them. In fact in Knightfall, a Batman story arc which The Dark Knight Rises borrows quite heavily from, Bruce Wayne is temporarily replaced by the vicious and violent Jean Paul Valley as Batman while Bruce recovers from his broken spine. This man who is willing to kill, and who uses violence other than when it is absolutely necessary, quickly becomes a villain.

In a city overrun with corruption, Batman is the one man who is willing to fight for what is right. He’s willing to look like the bad guy if necessary, if that is what Gotham needs. Other superheroes are adored by the cities they defend, whereas Gotham always seems so ready to condemn its caped crusader.

I’ve spoken before about how Batman and Knightfall helped to inspire my own work. Batman taught me to create characters who would question what they were given, who would strive to be good no matter what the authorities were telling them, and who would do anything to give people just a little bit of hope in these dark times.

So no, I’m sorry. James Holmes has already taken so much. He took twelve lives. He inflicted physical wounds on many other victims and emotional wounds on the victims’ families. No way in hell am I going to let him take Batman too.

In several articles I’ve read about the tragedy, witnesses point out how James Holmes spoke as though he was a movie star prior to the killing—that he called himself “The Joker” when arrested. Every time people try to make Batman about James Holmes and self-righteously call out writers and artists for their lack of respect, they are doing exactly what this man wants. He wants to be famous—he wants to be a household name. He wants to be forever associated with who I think is the greatest superhero of all time.

I, for one, refuse to participate. After this blog post, I don’t plan to speak that bastard’s name again. I do, however, plan to talk about Batman as much as I ever have. If you really want to respect the victims of the shooting, then I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Short Post and a Song #12: MY EMOTIONS

I'm about a season behind in Breaking Bad. I know it's an amazing show with wonderful writing and fantastic acting. It has hands down the best pilot I have ever seen.

But watching such a relentlessly dark show always seems to reduce me to this:


"Hotel Song" by Regina Spektor

"Hotel Song" is used extremely well in the first few minutes of Jennifer Westfeldt's lovely film Friends With Kids. This scene provides the viewers' only glimpse into what life was like for this group of friends before any of them had children. The light, fun tune manages to communicate so much about how breezy life can be until babies turn your friends into frustrated, sleep-deprived asshats.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flesh-Eating Monsters and the Destruction of Private Property AKA My First Babysitting Job

At age thirteen I got my first babysitting job. I had turned thirteen literally the day before and was still tired from the late-night shenanigans and drama of my birthday slumber party. I showed up to my neighbor’s house in a wrinkled t-shirt and shorts and couldn’t go more than a minute or two without yawning.

Still, my next door neighbors thought it would be a fine idea to trust this sleep-deprived barely-teenager with their two daughters for the evening. Lisa was not much younger than I was and required little supervision. But Gretchen, on the other hand, was four. A magical age, if by “magical” you mean “so difficult to deal with that even experienced parents on their third child can’t control these little fuckers.”

Before the parents left, they gave me three instructions:

1) Make popcorn for the girls

2) Watch a movie with them

3) The parents’ bedroom was off limits

Of course the second her Mom and Dad were gone, Gretchen went straight for their room with the zeal of a One Direction fan. That room was the ultimate forbidden fruit in Gretchen’s young mind and she would not rest until she had tasted its sweet juices.

I raced to the door and managed to block the little girl’s frenzied attempts to propel herself through it. With my back against the door, I insisted through a fake smile that Gretchen’s parents had said that she wasn’t allowed in their room.

Gretchen replied to this with an emphatic no.

“Gretchen, your parents told me right before they left that you girls aren’t allowed in there. You were there.”


My argument was more sophisticated, but Gretchen’s stubborn will made up for what she lacked in logic. Eventually the enthusiastic promise of a movie and popcorn convinced Gretchen to cease ramming her tiny body into my midsection. Lisa coaxed her sister into playing dolls in the playroom while I made popcorn.

Considering my other failings of the evening, I would like to point out that I handled my responsibility of making popcorn with aplomb. I made the shit out of that popcorn. I took it out of the microwave long before it burned and even drizzled some melted butter on top. I brought the popcorn to the girls’ bedroom, popped in the movie, and all appeared to be going according to plan for about fifteen minutes.

Then Gretchen announced that she had to go to the bathroom. Her true villainous intent should have been apparent to me. But I was a brand new teenager running on forty-five minutes of sleep, so I let Gretchen go. It wasn’t until five minutes later that I realized my mistake.

I left Lisa watching the movie and raced down the steps, all the while mentally damning Gretchen’s parents and their stupid, stupid rule. If they wanted to keep their children out of their room so badly, they should have put a goddamned lock on the door. My heart lurched when I saw the parents’ bedroom door gaping open. I’d been running before but now I tiptoed down the hallway in dread. Images of silk pillows bleeding feathers and expensive vases reduced to mosaic-making supplies crowded my mind.

So I was relieved to find the room pristine when I reached it. Gretchen stood in front of her parents’ bed with a look of dazzled awe on her face. Luckily it seemed she had gone to the bathroom, and therefore hadn’t had time to do anything but bask in the glow of her victory. Now all I needed to do was get Gretchen the hell out before she caused any damage. I stepped into her Mom and Dad’s room—though technically I was pretty sure I wasn’t allowed in there any more than Gretchen was. My subsequent conversation with Gretchen went something like this:

Me: Gretchen, you know you’re not allowed in here. Don’t you want to see more of the movie?

Gretchen (crosses her arms): No!

Me: Gretchen, you’re not allowed to be here.

Gretchen: But I am here.

Me (genuinely stumped by this for a second): Yes, but you’re not supposed to be.

Gretchen (sits on the ground): Let’s play!

Me: Gretchen, we can’t play in here!

Gretchen: Why not? I want to play in here! I want to play in here NOW!!

Me (sensing the “you’re not allowed” tack just isn’t going to work): There’s a monster in the closet!

Gretchen: No, there isn’t.

Me: Oh yes there is. That’s why your parents don’t want you in here. They’re trying to protect you.

Gretchen: Nuh-uh.

Me: Gretchen, get up. (She does not.) Listen, I know there’s a monster. I knew the family who lived in this house before you. The parents left after the monster ate their daughters. All the parents found were the little girls’ bones in their closet, licked clean.

Gretchen: (wide-eyed silence)

Gretchen: (wide-eyed silence)

Gretchen: (an hour’s worth of uncontrollable sobbing)

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Scary stories should not include flesh-eating monsters until the kid you are telling them to is at least seven. Four-year-olds take such stories far too seriously. Gretchen was convinced that her parents had been all that stood between her and this grisly fate. Now that her parents were gone, we were most certainly, certainly doomed.

“But can protect you,” I assured her, near tears myself. There is really nothing worse than watching a four-year-old girl weep with such abandon and knowing that you’re the one who made it happen. “I eat monsters like him for breakfast!”

In response to this, Gretchen only cried louder. It seemed that she did not have much confidence in my monster ass-kicking skills.

So I stood tall, took a deep breath, and went back into her parents’ room. I stomped around and knocked awkwardly on the wall in an attempt to simulate the noises of a monster fight. But since I was afraid to move anything for fear that Gretchen’s parents would realize I had been in their room, the result was what must have sounded like the wimpiest monster fight ever.

Still, Gretchen looked up at me hopefully when I walked out of the room five minutes later. “Did you get him?”

“I got him,” I confirmed.

I was afraid Gretchen would ask me more questions—like, had I killed him or merely subdued him? Because if I said I killed him, then Gretchen would think it was fine to go prancing right back into her parents’ room. But if I said I had just knocked the monster out Gretchen would start freaking out again.

Luckily she didn’t ask me any questions. She just gave me a tight hug and said a heartfelt “thank you.” Gretchen was a pain in my ass that night. But I can’t help but remember her fondly when I think of all the adorable that she managed to pack into that hug.

Gretchen still wanted to play rather than watch the movie, so after checking on Lisa I went outside with Gretchen into the backyard. I wasn’t sure why the little girl had wanted to come outside—there was nothing but a set of two swings out there. It wasn’t even a legitimate swing set; it was made entirely of plastic.

Gretchen dragged me by the hand to these swings. She hadn’t been overly fond of me at first, but my role of Monster Vanquisher had earned me the second title of Very Best Friend Ever.

“Do you want me to push you on the swings?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I want you to swing with me!”

I looked warily at the swing set. It had been designed with children of Gretchen’s size in mind, not mine. “I don’t think I’ll fit.”

Gretchen’s tiny lips twitched this way and that. “But, but, I want you to swing with me. I want you to swing with me NOW.”

After an hour of her deafening cries, I was not at all ready for round two. So I plopped down in the swing beside her and hoped for the best. It took about a minute and a half of swinging for the swing’s plastic chain to break, which Gretchen found hilarious. 

“Haha, you’re too fat!” she taunted.

Actually, you know what, scratch what I said earlier about remembering that little bitch fondly.

I panicked as Gretchen continued to laugh. Now I can clearly see that leaving the swing alone and explaining what had happened to Gretchen’s parents would have been the wise way to react to this situation.

That is not what I did.

What I did was go inside, fetch a roll of duct tape, and attempt to “fix” the swing. Once I had soldered the orange plastic chain back together with a super-obvious wad of duct tape, I brought Gretchen back inside. Her parents arrived home shortly afterward and when they asked how everything had gone, I smiled wide and said, “Fine.” I accepted my payment and marched out the door with nary a mention of monsters or the swing that I had destroyed.

My first babysitting job was also, coincidentally, my last babysitting job.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Literate Adult's Return to the Valley of Twilight, Part Two

Read Part One here.

I am reading Twilight pretty slowly. That is mainly because I've been too embarrassed to leave the house with it. I took it on the subway once and it sparked many an unpleasant subway conversation. One man leaned over and sneerily asked me, "Do you read? Like, is that the only book you've read this year?" When I told him that I in fact work in publishing, his sneer intensified tenfold. He was probably disgusted to learn that Twilight readers are helping to build the next generation of books.

And after only fifty pages of this book, I'm not sure I can blame him.

Let's start with the positives, shall we? (There aren't many so we may as well get it out of the way.) One is the very first page of the book: The preface. Well, okay, it's the second page—first there's a Genesis quote about not eating from the tree of knowledge. I think the apple on the cover kind of already drove that point home, but whatever, some people don't get symbolism. 

The preface tells us that some dark-eyed hunter is about to kill Bella, but it's okay because she's dying in the place of someone she loves. If you've ever seen the movie you might remember that Bella says this verbatim in a voiceover while the camera zooms in on a deer or some shit. 

That was a really bad decision on the director's part. I'm not planning to give this book much, but one thing I will give it is that it starts in an exciting place. Lives are at stake! Or at least a life. If I remember correctly this scene takes place in a dance studio, and dance studios can be funhouse creepy if shot correctly. But for some reason the director chose to take one of the book's few suspenseful scenes and replace it with Bambi and a babbling brook. Congrats on ruining one of the few decent parts of the book, Hollywood. A++.

This is also an instance in which Twilight proves itself to be a better book than Fifty Shades of Grey. I understand that comparing the literary quality of these two books is akin to comparing the arm-wrestling skills of two armless men, but the former Twilight fan in me will take these victories where she can get them. Twilight begins with Bella facing a deadly enemy—Fifty Shades of Grey begins with Ana brushing her hair.

Bella Swan: 2, Anastasia Steele: 0.

And that's it for positives! Told you it wouldn't take long. I mentioned before that I've had quite a bit of publishing experience since my initial reading of this book. As I predicted, my internal editor (who is kind of like an inner goddess except way bitchier and less inclined toward salsa dancing) kind of went into angry screaming mode each time I picked this book up. I could nitpick for days but I'll just highlight a few of my biggest editorial complaints thus far.

Unnecessary Details

Bella gives us our first of many unnecessary details on the first page of Chapter One, when she takes the time to tell us that her carry-on on the flight from Phoenix to Washington was a parka. 

This is not just unimportant for us to know, but it is a very strange thing for Bella to do. She's sad about leaving her mom and home—wouldn't she want a book or iPod to distract her from her sadness during the plane ride? Or is Bella trying to tell us that she didn't have the will to do anything but forlornly stare out the airplane window through the whole ride? While wearing a parka ... I guess?

In Chapter One Bella obsesses a lot about how she doesn't want to stand out at her new school. It becomes tiresome after a while. You're shy, Bella—we get it. Still, she feels the need to tell us this:

My plain black jacket didn't stand out, I noticed with relief.

Your jacket is plain and black, Bella. Of course it doesn't stand out. Why would you have ever expected it to?

Later Bella decides to go shopping since Charlie is a Gruff but Kind Single Dad and therefore can't cook anything but eggs and bacon. We could've skipped all this and gone right into Bella's dinner conversation with Charlie, when actual Plot happens, but instead we're treated to five pages of grocery trip, grocery-putting-away, and using-groceries-to-make-dinner.

But before all that, Bella thinks this:

So I had my shopping list and the cash from the jar in the cupboard labeled FOOD MONEY, and I was on my way to the Thriftway.

...What? Who does this? Groceries, even for just two people, can cost upward of a hundred dollars. So people almost always use cards rather than cash to pay for them. And even if Charlie weirdly gave Bella cash rather than a credit card, he would have given her that money from a wallet. It would not come from a jar from a cupboard labeled FOOD MONEY. It's not even the jar that's labeled—it's the cupboard which contains the jar. Are there multiple jars in there, or something? The way Bella calls it "the jar" rather than "a jar" would lead the reader to believe that no, there is just the one jar.

So not only does Bella give us unnecessary details—she gives us unnecessary details which also don't make a lick of goddamned sense.

Heavy-Handed Foreshadowing

Here are a few examples from just the first chapter:

When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. I didn't see it as an omen—just unavoidable. I'd already said my goodbyes to the sun.

I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me.

See? It seems like Bella's just doing more whining about her Forks predicament, but really she's talking about v—

You already said "vampires," didn't you? Of course you did, because even if the whole entire world didn't already know that this book in some way involves vampires, they most certainly would after reading just those two lines. 

"The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs."

The quote above is from Stephen King's excellent On Writing, a book I doubt Stephenie Meyer has read. As with everything else, Bella goes above and beyond here by not only making the mistake, but doing so in the weirdest fucking way possible:

I smiled at him vaguely and went inside. 

"Was that the boy I sat next to in Biology?" I asked artlessly.

He went back to the TV, and after I finished washing the dishes by hand—no dishwasher—I went upstairs unwillingly to work on my math homework. 

Not only is Bella using adverbs where more descriptive language was needed, but she's using the WRONG ONES. How do you smile "vaguely" at someone? I think in the second example Bella means "tactlessly" but "artlessly" and "tactlessly" are not synonyms.

The third example is my favorite because "unwillingly" means that Bella went upstairs literally against her will. Even though we know Charlie is busy watching TV and not giving a shit. Who is this person who is forcing you to do your math homework, Bella? I know Edward doesn't start sneaking into your house until later, so you can't pin it on him.

The Verdict Thus Far

I'm not getting any particular enjoyment out of this book. Though I commend Twilight for not starting with its leading lady brushing her hair in front of a mirror like Fifty Shades does, we get pretty much that exact scene ten pages later:

I looked at my face in the mirror as I brushed through my tangled, damp hair. Maybe it was the light, but already I looked sallower, unhealthy. My skin could be pretty—it was very clear, almost translucent looking—but it all depended on color. I had no color here.

Never mind the fact that Bella was just complaining about how green Forks was two pages ago and now she's angry that there's "no color." All I'm left knowing about Bella's looks at the end of Mirror Time is that she's pale, slender but not athletic, and doesn't have blue eyes or red hair. Thanks for veiling the fact that every reader is easily supposed to be able to see herself as Bella so well, Stephenie Meyer! I almost didn't catch your subtle manipulation.

Edward's only talked a little bit to Bella. He flipped out the first time she sat next to him in Biology, looking all angry and repulsed and clenching his hands into fists. But instead of henceforth referring to him as "that creepy fuck from Biology," Bella is intrigued by Edward and distinctly dismayed when he doesn't show up at school for a week. 

He's nice enough when he finally does speak to her during Biology—if by "nice" you mean "a condescending prick who doesn't trust Bella to know what Prophase looks like."

Also I call bullshit on how incredibly smart Bella is supposed to seem for having done this lab already in her old school's advanced placement program. As a girl who was actually in a high school biology advanced placement program, I can say we knew how to spot the phases of mitosis by sophomore year. By senior year we were learning the type of DNA profiling that they use in CSI labs. 

I still think Twilight starts out better than Fifty Shades. (You're winning, Stumpy, you're winning!) But I'm also only about a tenth of the way into the book. I'm halfway done with a real post for you guys and will post that instead of Twilight ramblings on Thursday. So hopefully I will have read quite a bit more by my next Valley of Twilight update. 

Read Part Three here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Short Post and a Song #11: When I walked in on a Baby Alcoholics Anonymous meeting gone terribly wrong.

There were no less than five babies in the bar I went to on Friday night. They were running all over the place in the outdoor seating area and kept running into shit and falling down. 

Were they probably just clumsy, as babies tend to be? Yes. But in my comedic opinion they were most definitely drunk.


"Prejudice" by Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin is officially my favorite ginger in this world. I'm allowed to call him that. Not you, though. That would be offensive.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Will It Hold Up? Probably Not: A Literate Adult's Return to the Valley of Twilight

Hey there my Velocininjas and my Velocininjettes. I wrote a whole bunch of posts in advance a while ago so you've been reading pre-packaged goods lately. It's been mad convenient—like making dinner in the microwave. 

But guess what? I ran out of pre-prepared posts on Tuesday and failed to write more. You know what that means, don't you?

It's gonna be yogurt and mixed nuts for dinner tonight, fuckers!

I thought I'd take this bit of free space to discuss an idea that's been bouncing around in my head. I've found myself discussing Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James with people a lot these days, because who the hell hasn't. I really, really disliked the book. It was hard for me to even have feelings about the characters—the writing was just so, so bad. I can't say I hated Fifty Shades, though, because it was too funny to hate. Ana has a sentient subconscious (what?) and an inner goddess who dances the merengue. That's enough schizophrenic fun for the whole family! In a way I think that's the true genius of this trilogy: It's sappy enough to appeal to romance lovers and ridiculous enough that comics, critics, and all the other talking heads that be can't stop making fun of it. It's a double threat. Like Justin Bieber.

Another thing I couldn't help but notice about the book was how incredibly similar it was to Twilight by Stephenie Meyerwhich isn't surprising, considering it started out as Twilight fanfiction. Ana and Christian are clones of Bella and Edward. The book felt like a sequel of sorts to Twilight: Like, "Oh, this is what happened after Bella and Edward started having sex and eventually needed to spice up their eternal vampire marriage."

I read Twilight about four years ago. And you would think, considering my utter lack of esteem for Fifty Shades of Grey, that I would have hated it. Nope! I liked it. I liked a lot. I liked it enough that I read the other two books available right away, and went to a midnight party at Barnes and Noble to celebrate the release of the fourth. I liked it enough that I pitched a story about Twilight's appeal to my bosses at my Hollywood Reporter internship and wrote a blog post about the first movie's opening night in New York.

Even my younger self thought New Moon was the book equivalent of the gray, disgusting sludge that snow becomes as soon as it hits the Manhattan streets in winter. But though Bella lost my allegiance after the first book, I remained committed to the series.

I haven't so much as looked at those books since college. Breaking Dawn annoyed me with its total lack of a climax and soured the series for me. But I could never bring myself to completely turn my back on Twilight. This is partly because I owe my current job in a roundabout sort of way to that blog post I wrote about the Twilight movie. But mostly I wanted to think that there had been some quality in that first book that the other three had lacked—something that had made it deserving of my rabid love. The writing hadn't been great, surely, but there had been something compelling in the characters ... hadn't there?

After reading Fifty Shades and considering all its similarities to Twilight ... well now I'm just not sure I can defend that first book any longer. Christian is clearly a creepy, stalkery fuck of a rich dude. And he's super controlling. And condescending.

He's also Edward. He's so Edward. This is forcing me to confront some disturbing things about what I thought I wanted out of a man at age twenty, guys.

To tell the truth, at this point I barely remember what happened in Twilight. Four years may not seem like a long time to some, but keep in mind that I have worked multiple jobs in the past three and a half which involved reading at least one book a week. So while I have some recollection of the basic plot, my sense of the characters and the quality of the writing has completely escaped me.

So I'm going to read Twilight again. I want to see if I can still see what my twenty-year-old self saw—or if the expectation of liking the book (it was recommended by a friend whose opinion I usually trusted) and my youthful naïveté clouded my vision of what a shitstorm the book really is. For the next few weeks when I find myself with nothing else to post, I will update you with my honest thoughts on Twilight. I'm going to try to keep an open mind, but I also have three and a half years of editorial experience that Past Jillian didn't. If I see terrible writing, I plan to call it out.

This is not going to be a formal happening on this blog. I'm not doing it by chapter or anything. I'm simply going to tell you about however much of Twilight I have read on those days when I am feeling particularly lazy. (And she never blogged about anything else ever again.)

Thus far I have read the back:

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him—and I didn't know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Well, bitch can count at least. So thus far: Bella Swan: 1, Anastasia Steele: 0.

Read Part Two here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In which Generation Y shits the bed for future generations. Historically speaking, I mean.

My generation may know a thing or two about that Internet, but man, we are terrible on the phone. We're the generation that will go down in history as the one that fucked up big time when it came to teaching further generations how to form coherent sentences telephonically. (I'm sure we will be using fuck words in History books by this point.)

To illustrate this, I have taken every memory I have of hearing my peers speak on the phone and rolled them up with my own experiences in the fiery hellscape that is a switchboard. The end result is one little phone-failer named Melanie.

This is her story.


Phone Rings.

MELANIE: Huh-uh. Clears throat grossly. Hello? This voice is like two octaves higher than the original voice. I mean... And now we're back down again.  ... This is the Office of Glendower and Gold. Hi.

MELANIE starts to surf the Internet while Mr. Blargins is talking. Fuck, did he say "Blargins?" she thinks. That can't be his name. How do I ask again? Who am I kidding; I can't ask again.

MELANIE: I'm sorry--what did you say your name was? Scrunches eyebrows down and adopts a somewhat constipated expression, as though this will somehow help her to hear better.

It sounds more like "Flarepins" now, MELANIE thinks. NONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU ARE HEARING SOUND LIKE NAMES THAT ANY HUMAN HAS HAD EVER, she mentally yells in silent panic.  

Fuck this, she concludes and accidentally drops the call while answering another.

Now you may think that Melanie is not a proper representative of Generation Y's alleged failure at phone talking. "She was at work!" you'll defend. "That is a very stressful environment. How dare you make fun of poor Melanie for being a bit nervous?!"

1) Chill the fuck out. Were you not there during the part where I explained that Melanie is in no way a real person? Learn to pay attention.

2) Oh. So you think Melanie would do a better job talking to, say, a good friend on the phone?

"Of course!" you reply, glad I'm finally able to see reason.

Well all right then.


MELANIE sits in an armchair in her family room. The television is on and a laptop is in her lap. She picks up her phone and dials her friend ELLEN.

ELLEN: Hey, Mel! How's it hanging?

MELANIE: ... Logs onto Gmail. Checks seven other websites while she's at it.

ELLEN: Melanie?

MELANIE: ... Flips channels on the television. Frowns at how many shows include "Kardashian" in their titles.

ELLEN: You know, I actually kind of have to go.

MELANIE: Dude, sorry. What's up?

ELLEN: You called me.

MELANIE: ... Begins a game of Tetris. Forgets about Tetris while it's loading and buys twelve books online.

ELLEN: Groans and hangs up.

You're pretty sure at this point that Melanie has ADHD and is therefore not a very good representative of my generation at all.



Sorry. I was off laughing my ass off. And also checking my Twitter and Facebook because this is what we do, people. Whether you are willing to admit it or not. Here's hoping the next generation falls a little out of love with technology so they can devote a bit more time learning to say them words out loud to another actual person.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Short Post and a Song #10: Sometimes a tube top is really your best option.

A shower in this sort of weather feels about as useful as changing out of a tube top and replacing it with a three-quarter-sleeved shirt during a blizzard. 

It's the warmest thing you have on hand, after all, and you figure it'll be better than a tube top at least. But after a few seconds back in the cold, you become sure that you feel colder than you would have if you had just been a gross skank and stuck with the tube top.

The moral of this story: When it's this hot outside, showers are stupid and pointless.


“I Can’t Read Your Mind” by Emily Hearn

I had the pleasure of seeing this young lady perform live in a very small venue about a year and a half ago, and she was flat-out great. There are professional videos of her music out there—she even got Bill Murray to be in one!

But I thought I’d show you a live video here. I don’t think anyone’s quite figured out how to capture Emily Hearn’s natural charm and raw talent in a recording studio. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason why she has yet to blow up into some kind of Taylor Appspektreilles.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grilled Chicken with a Side of Sautéed Rabies

Me: Y'know, it's funny how chefs are so obsessed with foam. Asparagus foam, cumin foam, lemongrass foam. 

A River Runs Through Dan: Are they?

Me: They are! And I just don't understand it. Why take perfectly good food and just absolutely fucking ruin it? Like, which guy looked at asparagus and thought: "This needs to be as close to what comes out of rabid dogs' mouths as possible"?

A Serious Dan (stares at me in disgusted silence)

Me: That's what it is. I'm just saying it.

The Old Dan and the Sea (quietly): You have rabies.

Me: Oh. ...Well, yeah. I thought you knew.

I guess I should have been more forthcoming about my rabies. It's just ... it's been rough. My life is kind of like 28 Days Later, but all the time.

P.S. I don't really have rabies. My sincerest apologies to any rabies victims I may have offended.

P.P.S. Is it like 28 Days Later all the time?

P.P.P.S. I'm being horribly insensitive. I'm very sorry about this.

P.P.P.P.S. But is it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You can divide the world into two groups of people: People who climbed trees as kids, and people who didn't.

Similarly, you can divide the world into groups of people who took tap-dancing lessons, and people who didn't. Or people who enjoy Parmesan cheese, and people who don't. I don't know why so many writers think it's a clever idea to start essays this way. You can divide the world into two groups over LITERALLY anything.

"There are people who fish, and then there are people who don't."

No shit. If you are assigning ONE characteristic to a group of people, then you either are that thing or you are not. This is not a revelation. Stop it.

But anyway, I was a kid who climbed trees. Though I'm pretty sure I've always loved the idea of tree-climbing much more than I loved the actual act. I am still very fond of setting scenes in trees. There's something romantic and a bit magical about how the world looks from a tree's highest branches.

It's easy to write two people onto a tall tree branch. It is not so easy to physically, actually climb to a tall branch. There are not usually enough branches available to aid you on this perilous quest. Trees were not designed with a young girl's climbing adventures in mind—they are not nature's jungle gyms. And you have not known terror until you are halfway up a tree and realize that you have nowhere nearby to climb to, and that you will probably fall, and will forever be known as the dumbass girl who fell out of the tree in front of her house.

(The fact that I was more nervous about the embarrassment than, you know, broken bones reveals a lot about what kind of kid I was, but anyway.)

One day I came home from school with my friends Skye and Amy in tow. I quickly announced that I was in the mood to climb a tree, and my friends seemed amenable to the idea. Unfortunately, there were not many climbable trees near my house. The tree out front had been my Everest. I had tried and tried, but my sense of dignity could only handle publicly failing to tree-climb so many times. Also my parents had forbidden me from attempting any future expeditions at that particular location, though all they'd really said was that I needed to "stop hurting yourself on that tree, honey."

The branches of the other trees on my family's property were far too high for our nine-year-old arms to reach. I looked in yearning at the small forest behind my house. It was full of trees with low, sturdy branches—practically overflowing with them. Unfortunately those woods did not belong to my family; they belonged to the family who lived behind us. And while that family was perfectly fine with my climbing their trees with their two young sons, they took issue with my climbing into one alone to read a book.

But our neighbors didn't own the entire woods. The first row of trees was on my family's property. These trees happened to be pine trees. I had never climbed a pine tree before. When I asked Skye and Amy, I found they hadn't either. I suggested we take a look at one of the pine trees, to inspect its climbability. They agreed to accompany me on this quest.

With one look back toward my house, I ducked under the branches of the largest pine tree of the bunch. I was pleased to see that plenty of thick branches grew low enough for me to get an easy foothold. The branches also were so close together that they were practically stairs! I quickly scrambled up this easy-to-climb-tree with gleeful abandon, and my friends raced to catch up.

After a while, Amy suggested that we check how far we had climbed. When you climb pine trees, the needles block you from seeing anything beyond the tree's branches. I shimmied a little ways out onto the branch and gasped.

I could see my roof! I had climbed farther than my roof! In my nine year old mind, this seemed on par with propelling myself to the moon by sheer will. The branches were still thick and plentiful, so I insisted that we continue on our adventure. I was shocked that both girls seemed hesitant about this. They had climbed far enough. They insisted that they didn't mind if I climbed higher on my own—it would give them a chance to rest before we climbed down.

Now I was by no means an athletic child. But I liked to think I was on occasion. Tapes of my rec center basketball games provide hours of humiliating proof. (Thank God no one uses VCRs anymore.)

So I climbed farther. MUCH farther. In fact, I only stopped climbing when a light breeze swayed the entire tree to the left. Because that's the thing about pine trees—they are really easy to climb, and they are also FUCKING DANGEROUS to climb. The higher you get on a pine tree, the less ability the tree's matchstick thin trunk has to handle your weight.

I wrapped my arms and legs around the tree trunk as it swayed to and fro. I felt miraculously calm. I could see the whole city (mine wasn't that big, but it was still pretty damn cool). I was up where only birds shared my company and their chirps were all I could hear.

This miraculous calm lasted for about 3.5 seconds.

Then my thoughts went something like this:

Huh. You know, I seem to be clinging to a toothpick of a tree which is behaving much like a bucking bronco. There are also bloody scratches all over me from the climb up here. My house appears to be approximately the size of a napkin. Yes, the view is awesome up here. I'm sure I will appreciate this so much when I'm DEAD.

This was followed by a good five minutes of weeping, sobbing terror.

About four minutes into my sobbing, my mother decided it would be a good idea to come out into the backyard. I silenced my pathetic cries but Skye and Amy called out to my mom. She chastised them for climbing the tree then asked where I was.

They both pointed up.

I don't like to imagine what it must have been like for my mother to look up, up, up and finally find the patch of blue that was my jumper. How it must have felt for her to recognize that spot as her daughter, and to realize that I balanced precariously in a spot where, if I were to fall, I would definitely, definitely die.

I don't like thinking about this because on some level I believe in karma, and I'm not at all sure I would handle being in my mom's shoes anywhere near as well as she did. Instead of hollering at me for my tree-climbing idiocy, she calmly talked me through climbing back down. Once my friends and I were down, we were scolded and also received an in-depth explanation as to why climbing pine trees is, as already mentioned, FUCKING DANGEROUS.

(My mom, who never curses, would like you all to know that I’m paraphrasing here.)