Archive | March 2014

Snarking Nostalgic: The Baby-sitter’s Club #1 Kristy’s Great Idea Chapters 9-12

I’ve uncovered a great deal of nostalgia for these books among my peers, so when I decided to start the blog, I was thrilled for the excuse to reread and snark them.  I snark with love, friends–I’m still a total fangirl.  So let’s drop what we’re doing, put on our nostalgia goggles, and pretend it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 5:30pm.

Part 1–Chapters 1-3 can be found here

Part 2-Chapters 4-8 can be found here

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 5.54.50 PMKristy’s Great Idea

By Ann M. Martin (she wrote the first 36)

Chapter 9

Stacey’s turn.  We see Stacey’s entry in the notebook at the start of the chapter, and we learn that Stacey dots her i’s with hearts.  I know I’m not the only one of us who did that in middle school as well.  Which leads to the question of would I have done that if I didn’t read the BSC or did I do it because I read BSC books?  It’s disturbing, really how much of my life Martin/Lerangis influenced, and how much I still remember about these books.  Shouldn’t I be using that portion of my brain for something more useful?

Stacey says she had a fine time with David Michael in the entry.  Kristy does my snark for me by telling us that the strumpet Stacey had a fine time flirting with her older brother Sam.

Guys, Sam is 14 and in HIGH SCHOOL.  Stacey is 12 and in MIDDLE SCHOOL.  She’s got to be one hot piece of ass for a 14 year old to date down like that.  Two years?  That’s just shocking–as shocking as the exact same age gap between my husband and myself.  Sam and Ravi are cradle robbers, yo.

Kristy introduces David Michael and Stacey and then rushes off to babysit–LOL–the St. Bernards.

Five minutes after Kristy leaves, Sam gets home.  Sam labels Stacey a foxy chick.  She refers to him as a gorgeous hunk.  I repress the urge to go make out with my Wesley Crusher poster.

Kristy tries to figure out what on earth Sam saw in Stacey and vice versa.  We get a paragraph of Stacey’s outfit, and Kristy thinks it was babyish.  Also babyish is the fact that was drinking milk at the time.  What is wrong with Stacey?  Girl hates junk food and isn’t an alcoholic?  Freak.

Sam is wearing a radical t-shirt that says “I know you are but what am I?” immediately triggering this scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in my brain.

Kristy admits that Sam is pretty cute.  Now, I’m an only child so I’m only guessing, but isn’t it kind of icky to find your sibling hot?  Can we invent/invoke the “Flowers in the Attic” rule?

Sam and Stacey do this gorgeously classic teen flirting that actually feels kind of authentic to me until David Michael interrupts and asks for a twinkie.  Stacey gives him one, and then Sam offers to split the other one with her.  Stacey says no, and Sam compliments her on how hard dieting is (OHMYGOD BOOK STOP WITH THE DIETING TALK).

Stacey suggests to David Michael that they play Candyland.

Heck, I’ll play, too,” said Sam.  “We can have a championship series.  First one to win two games is the Candy Land Champion of the Universe.”

You’re going to play?” David Michael’s eyes widened.

“Yeah, sure.”

“But you nev–“

“Hey, little brother, your shoe’s untied.”

David Michael, quit cock blocking Sam.  He’s working here!  Stacey has to be seriously foxy for anyone to willingly play Candy Land, much less multiple games.   Inventing new rules and throwing the game to make the torture of Candy Land end are my only tools for enduring the hell of that game.  No one over the age of seven would ever do that without an ulterior motive.

I’m pretty sure this is another dead end plotline.  Book 8 is Boy-Crazy Stacey, and there are multiple books on the same variation of the theme of Stacey likes older guy, nothing happens.  Because NOTHING that isn’t PG happens in the BSC–no making out, no second base, and no teen pregnancy.  In real life Stacey and Sam would’ve been playing tonsil hockey in the kitchen while David Michael played nintendo.

The only version of Candy Land that they’d be playing is Strip Candy Land?  Oh crap, now I’m trying to figure out how to play strip Candy Land—see what you’re doing to me, book?

Worth noting–I stumbled into a dark corner of the internet and found out that the BSC fanfic writers don’t think that Stacey and Sam belong together.  There is a serious amount of Stacey and Charlie stories.  Even the fanfic writers realizes that Sam is too young for Stacey.  I predict she will grow up to be the trophy wife of a Wall Street banker twice her age.

BSC Stacey dollI can’t help but notice that the Stacey BSC dolls is sporting less blush than the Kristy doll was–What’s up with that?

Chapter 10

Mary Anne has beautiful cursive writing.  Now you guys see why she’s the secretary (although Stacey’s has always seemed more legible to me, even with those annoying hearts over the i’s.)

She totally does a passive aggressive number on Kristy in the entry–

“I think Kristy would really like them if she ever baby-sat for them.  Are you reading this, Kristy?.”

Question time-do we think that Mary Anne ever really grew enough of a spine that she would be more than the mom who volunteers for everything at school and then sends out emails saying “If any of you could find the time in your busy day to volunteer for the next field trip, because I’ve done the last five, that would be so great…”?  Or, once she goes to college and breaks free of Kristy’s shadow, does she totally vamp up and bust out of her shell?  She is the first one to land a serious boyfriend (Book 10–This totally makes sense when you learn that MA is based on Ann M Martin).  Maybe she upgrades the part of herself that got the sassy haircut and splurges on tight miniskirts.  Does she become a exotic dancer?  She does have all that experience with pigtails, plaid and playing shy.  I see it going either way–what do you think?

Here is what you’ve been waiting for–we finally get to meet Karen and Andrew!  Karen got all the personality for both of them.  Andrew is just sort of a formless lump of age three following around behind someone else…and stays that way for the rest of the series.  Karen has always struck me as swinging wildly between hysterically adorable (hence why she got her own spin-off book series of 128 books–way to milk the franchise, Ann!) and beyond annoying.

We get our next set-up for the eventual discover that Watson is a MILLIONAIRE

Mary Anne says Watson lives in a very pretty, big house.  I guess he has a lot of money.  He’d have to, the way he throws it around, buying Chinese food right and left and taking my mom out on dates almost every night.

I need to stop the review to go die of laughter.  Watson making it rain with dollar bills at Panda Express.  Just picture it.

Anyway, the house is large, and Andrew and Karen have neat rooms.  And toys.  Mary Anne had never seen so many–gigantic stuffed animals, dolls, a train that you could really ride around the backyard, cars, bikes, a playhouse, costumes to dress up in.  It was incredible, kind of like being in Toys “R” Us.

Cue Annie singing I’m gonna like it here.

Boo-Boo the cat is a demonic spirit housed the body of a cat almost big enough to be bordering on the size of a mountain lion.  He bites.  He scratches.  He chewed THROUGH A DOOR.  Everyone warns Mary Anne to stay away from him because he’s vicious.

“Whatever you do, don’t touch him,” added Watson

Golly, guys…I feel like this might be setting something up for later….

Karen tells Mary Anne that their parents are divorced and that their mom is getting remarried.  Hey Watson, you know that having your ex remarry when you’re still single or dating mean that THEY WIN, right?  What are you going to do about it?

Karen then babbles on about god knows what–my eyes starting glazing over, just like Mary Anne’s.  Until Karen tells us that the witch lives next door, and I groan.  Because oh my hell this story line needs to go die–it is funny in one, max two books—but it is a running theme for the next 20 years.  MAKE IT STOP.

“Its Mrs. Porter, and she’s an honest-and-truly witch.  Mrs. Porter isn’t her witch name, though.  Her witch name is Morbidda Destiny.  The big kids on the street told me so.  And she eats toads and casts spells and flies to witch meetings on her broomstick every night.”

If you need me, I’ll be hiding in a closet.  This is exactly who my Elanor will be in a year or two.

Mary Anne strongly considers telling Karen she needs to up her meds, but chickens out.

BOO-BOO IS IN MORBIDDA DESTINY’S YARD, Y’ALL!!!!   MARY ANNE HAS TO GO AND GET HIM!!!!  Wow, who could’ve seen that plot twist coming?  (Although, Ann—Two sub plots about escaped pets in one book?  L-A-Z-Y)

Mary Anne is meekly trying to coax Boo-Boo back toward her and away from the flowers.  Mrs. Porter, who is a bit of the crazy eccentric old lady (okay, so Karen has an eeensy point when you look at her from pov of a 6 year old) starts screaming at the cat and waving a rake at it.  That actually works and Boo-Boo runs back Watson’s yard.

Mrs. Porter shook her rake after him (Boo-Boo).  “Rapscallion!” she cried.  She headed for her house.  Mary Anne could her her mutter things like “Children and pets” and “Darned nuisance.”

Let’s play “What did Mrs. Porter REALLY say” in comments.

Mary Anne then has to explain to Karen that Rapscallion is not a magic spell.  I’m dying of laughter over here…but mostly because it’s not me (yet).

They go in and have an uneventful rest of the day.  Boo-Boo calms down before the Thomas family moves into the house.  I’m guessing Mrs. T required that Watson put him on kitty prozac or got Boo-Boo a regular catnip dealer?  I don’t recall a book titled “Kristy, the Demon Cat, and the trip to the Emergency Room for 105 stitches,” but I could be wrong.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 9.35.05 PMtagged “when you have to baby-sit Karen Brewer”

Chapter 11

BSC meeting on Wednesday.  Mrs. McKeever calls to ask for a sitter for the two most atrociously named St. Bernards in the world (Buffy and Pinky are the names of your miniature poodles, not your miniature pony sized dogs, even if you’re Martha Stewart).  I appreciate the girls’ restraint in not saying “HELLZ NO,” instead explaining that they’re not pet sitters.

Phone call number two is a new client, Mrs. Marshall.  She has 2 little girls.  The girls ask if they have any pets.  A plot hole opens in the space/time continuum and Kristy says that some people are surprised when they ask this–to which I reply exactly how many calls have you gotten off screen?  Because I count three adults calling about 4 baby-sitting jobs, AND if you’d asked McKeever that question the first time, we would’ve only had one runaway pet subplot.  They have a non demonic cat.  Oh, and you’ll have to give Eleanor her ear drops. Maybe it’s age, and maybe it’s just really lazy writing but I can see this plot twist from a mile away–who thinks something will go wrong?

Claudia gets the job because Stacey is mysteriously busy that night.  Maybe she’s using that 10pm curfew to go out on a date with your older brother Kristy?  Nah, she’s just MYSTERIOUSLY busy.  I can’t quite figure out how this could relate to her SECRET DIABETES, so I’m sticking with my theory of date with Sam Thomas.

You know what would be super fun?  Let’s figure out how much money we’ve made at all our sitting jobs!  $26.75?  WOOHOO! Let’s blow it on a pizza party and junk food instead of all those other things we said we were going to buy with our baby-sitting money.

I’m sitting here bitterly contemplating that my average sitting bill on a Saturday night is $60-75.  Even with the almost 20 year cost differential I begin to dream of finding a middle school student I can totally underpay to watch my children.  Or of the day that’s roughly 7 years away when I can underpay Elanor to watch Rhiannon.

Where were we?  JUNK FOOD, AMIRITE STACEY?  Stacey?  Stacey?  Oh, right….  Stacey lies and says she’s going to New York and won’t be around anyway, so it’s no big deal, they should have their pizza party, OKAY?  Every sits there baffled that Stacey’s feelings were hurt that they never remember this really important thing about her because they’re such good friends.

Kristy gets home and WATSON IS THERE.  She notes that this is the third time he’s had dinner with them in the last week.  When do you see your children, Watson???  Cheapskate didn’t even bring food this time–he’s there for leftovers!  Couldn’t he at least have brought food for Kristy to refuse to eat again?

Worse, Mrs. Thomas tells Kristy to go upstairs and put on a dress.  Long time readers of the BSC will understand that Kristy putting on a dress is roughly equivalent to my degree of enthusiasm for taking my children on long haul flights from Singapore to Boston (36 fun filled hours in economy and random airports door to door–WOOHOO!)  Her brothers have also been told to dress up.

Mrs. Thomas and Watson have news, ya’ll.  Brace yourselves.

“Mom,” I said, “will you please tell me what’s happening?  Why is everything so fancy?”

“Because we’re celebrating.”

“With leftover SpaghettiO’s?”

“It doesn’t matter what we eat.  I just want us feeling festive.”

“Why? What are we getting festive about?”


A few minutes later, we were sitting around the dining room table, which looked almost as fancy as it does at Thanksgiving.  Mom had spread out a green tablecloth and put a white runner over it.  We were eating off our good china, and everyone had a wine goblet.  Mom and Watson were the only ones with wine in their wine goblets though.


“Something very special happened today,” she (Mrs. Thomas) said.

I drew in my breath.

“Watson asked me if I would consider getting engaged to him.”

Full stop.  Watson asked what?  Pussy.  Grow a pair and ask her for real, dude.  PUT A RING ON IT.

Further, if you’ve got such momentous news, class it up a bit from spaghetti and gatorade–at least get McDonalds or something!

Finally, is there a real reason to break the news like this if Mrs. Thomas wants to think things over or discuss it with her kids?  Especially given that Kristy will explode why are you telling them with Watson there?  You lose like five hundred parenting points.

Kristy freaks out.  Because of course she does.  Anyone who has been reading the book for the last 108 pages could’ve told you that was going to be her reaction.

Kristy freaks out hard enough that the plot hole space/time continuum re-opens and changes Kristy’s meal from spaghetti and gatorade to fried chicken and twinkies.  (Did Scholastic get some sort of product placement deal with Twinkies?  Because they’ve been mentioned with some regularity in this book.)

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 11.32.25 PMThe space/time continuum has broken to the point where the BSC of the future is giving you side-eye

Chapter 12

Apparently Stacey actually had a legit trip to NYC with her parents on Friday, because the whole family left early that day.  Her parents are okay on the permissive/playing along scale but I don’t think they’d take her to NYC just to let her continue to hide her diabetes–that’s taking the subway to crazytown, and I don’t mean Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Kristy, Claudia, and Mary Anne decide to play the whole pizza party thing by ear because Stacey might come back in time for the pizza party, even though she’s made her feelings clear that she’d rather wear ugly clothes forever than go to a pizza party.

Saturday is one of those days.  David Michael has the stomach flu.  Mrs. Thomas is pissy (probably because 1-sick kid means drama, 2-Kristy is being a bitch about the potential wedding, and 3-because she’s thinking FML).

Kristy then spends FIVE PAGES on the phone.

Mary Anne calls Kristy sobbing that her dad says she needs to save her money for things like college and clothes (he’ll come to regret that last one down the line when she starts shopping at Rave instead of GAP) and can’t use it for a pizza party.  She doesn’t want to be a charity case, so she’s not going.

Claudia calls upset that her parents got a letter that she’s not working to her potential and they flipped out so no parties for her.  Claudia points out that multiplying fractions is irrelevant to real life and that school is stupid.  (I have a magnet that says “School prepares you for the real world, which also sucks.”  I think Claudia might need that more than me.)

Kristy calls Stacey’s house because ??? and is surprised when Stacey’s Mom answers the phone.  Damn you 2003 one hit wonder.

I introduced myself to her and asked for Stacey.  There was a pause, then it sounded as if Mrs. McGill might be covering up the mouthpiece of the phone, and then she got back on the line and said, “I’m sorry, dear, Stacey’s not home.”

“Oh,” I said, disappointed.  “Where did she go?”

“Well, sh’s…um…she stayed in New York with friends, Kristy.  She’ll be back tomorrow night.”

Liar.  Even Kristy can figure out that something bad is happening in Oz (sorry guys, I’m in a music mood today.)

The phone then rings and it’s Mary Anne ratting out that she JUST SAW Stacey. Something fishy is definitely going on.

Kristy calls Claudia and they gossip about Stacey too.  Why is Stacey so MYSTERIOUS?  What is she HIDING?  (For fuck’s sake, it’s diabetes…I’m losing my freaking mind over here)

Mrs. Thomas yells at Kristy to get off the phone and I genuflect in gratitude.  Seriously, Kristy, get off the phone.

The phone rings.  Mrs. Thomas looks like she’s going to lose it. When it turns out to be Watson, and she begs him to take her away makes kissy noises at him.

Then she turns to Kristy and tells her that Watson needs a sitter for Karen and Andrew.  Right now.  HOLY SHIT–ALL THOSE TOYS ARE TO MAKE UP FOR THE FACT THAT HE NEVER SPENDS TIME WITH HIS FREAKING KIDS.  She’d have them dropped off at the house, but they could get David Michael’s illness.  Kristy thinks it through, and realizes she’s the only one available.  She looks at her mom, and knows there’s no worming out of this–she is going to baby-sit Karen and Andrew.

Where’s Kathy when we need her?

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.04.03 PMTV Show Kristy says “WHUT?”

The final chapters can be found here.

Divergent Book Vs Movie (Contains Spoilers)

When you turn a book into a movie, there are several outcomes–from least to most rage inducing

  • It is a faithful adaptation (To Kill A Mockingbird, animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, animated Charlotte’s Web)
  • It’s a reasonably good adaptation, given the limitations of the medium (Some of the Harry Potter movies, Hunger Games, Gone With the Wind)
  • I like it even thought you’ve diverted from the book/guilty pleasures (Devil Wears Prada, First Wives Club)
  • Meh (Twilight, some of the other Harry Potter Books)
  • It was a good movie until you fucked up some major component of the book (Nanny Diaries, Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka, The Golden Compass)
  • What the HELL was THAT?  It had nothing to do with the book! (Ella Enchanted, World War Z, Johnny Depp’s Alice in Wonderland, live action How the Grinch Stole Christmas)


This post contains spoilers.  You’ve been warned

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.16.24 PM

Sigh.  I have feelings about this movie, people.

I saw Divergent on Tuesday.  There were moments when I was really pleased with the movie and got sucked in.  Then there were the moments where I was just plain confused–WHY are you doing that, THAT didn’t happen, your sequencing is way off–and I wanted to yank out my phone and start blogging using my wordpress app.  As it was, after the movie was over, I sat in my car and sent myself an email with over 30 bullet points.  While finishing a reread of the book in the last day, I’ve sent myself another 8 or 9 bullet points.  There is a LOT to talk about.

I should confess that when I originally reviewed Divergent on goodreads I gave it 4 stars out of 5 (like it, don’t love it).  I’m not sure if upon rereading it for the second or third time I’m seeing more of the bigger picture issues, or if I really just dislike where the sequels went such that I’d probably give it a 3—a “meh” rating–at best.  Maybe having seen where the movie went with the source material also lowered my enjoyment of the book.  I don’t know.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.17.46 PM

Before we get to the stuff that pissed me off, let’s talk about the things that were actually done well.

Maggie Q as Tori Wu was great.  I would’ve liked to see a bit more Tori, as she does play a slightly larger role in the book than she does in the movie and she has a large role in Insurgent (which will be out as a movie next year), but I was pretty pleased.  I liked Q’s intensity as Tori, and I thought she did a really good job of being conflicted between wanting nothing to do with Tris and wanting to help her because of what happened to her brother (killed for being Divergent).

I also like that they cast Zoe Kravitz as Christina.

Persons of color are often absent from books, and they are often absent from movies–particularly in visible roles.  Even when a character is a person of color in the book, people can be asshats about the casting of that role–I’m looking at you people who were shocked and upset that Rue was played by an African American girl.  In fact, we see a lot of actors of color in the Divergent movie—unfortunately apart from Tori, Christina and Max (leader of the Dauntless)—they are all in the background.

The character of Uriah was effectively absent from the movie apart from his name on the board.  In the book he is explicitly a non-white character and I would have been curious to see if they cast him as such. **Edited to add–my friend Johanna says there’s announcements that he was cast and played by an African American actor in the movie, but most of his scenes were cut.  Worth noting–in the book Roth specifically describes him as having “golden skin” (pg 152). Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t recall seeing any/many Latinos.  ***

I was watching to see if there was any racial coding of the factions–did I see African Americans in Erudite?  Was Dauntless the only faction with non-white members?  As they are the “violent” faction, I was a bit worried going in if we were going to see disproportionate minority representation–making it not unlike middle America’s notion of what a gang would look like.  But I saw persons of color throughout the factions.  An over representation of white people for certain–but we at least had people of color present–and it’s pathetic that that is noteworthy.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.17.24 PM

In the first third of the movie my hopes were reasonably high…

I loved the way they did Chicago and the former Lake Michigan.  The skyline as they panned in or out at various points.  The way the buildings look when Tris is zip lining.  The “something bad happened, but it’s still being lived” in vibe was great.

I really liked the visuals of the different factions in the first 20 minutes of the movie.  They did a good job of communicating the essence of each faction during the opening–such a good job that the exposition was sometimes overkill. (Although, why didn’t the Erudite wear glasses–I loved that detail in the book–that they all wear glasses as an affectation.)  The moment when the Dauntless members jumped off the train before testing was exactly the image I’d had in my head–right attitude, dress, and contrast to the other factions.  Although they didn’t exactly stay true to the book (kids not sitting with their parents), the visual of the five factions at the choosing ceremony was great.

The scene pictured above (Tris jumping off the roof) was well executed.  Apart from the fundamentalist vibe wardrobe was clearly going for when dressing Abnegation women in the movie (when they wear grey, but t-shirts and slacks–neither Tris nor her mom wear dresses in the books), I liked the visual of Tris as the first initiate to jump.  I enjoyed the dramatic tension as she convinced herself to just jump.

While they put it out of order, I thought the scene where Four throws the knives at Tris (who has taken Al’s place) was good.  Visually it worked, tension-wise it worked, and the actors did a great job with it.

Call it a weakness for a good gun fight (you can take the girl out of the US, but you can’t take the US out of the girl, I guess) but the scene where Tris and her mom are shooting together against the mind controlled Dauntless is AWESOME (except for the moment where her mom looks over at Tris shooting and smiles instead of focusing on who you should be shooting–out of character from how she’s portrayed in the book).

But let’s face it–a few good scenes and some pretty scenery don’t make up for some serious flaws in the adaptation


Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 12.48.02 AMTris, Four and the attempted rape

I realize that this is already being talked to death, but I need to go here too–The almost rape in the fearscape.

In the movie, Tris and Four have sexual tension and there’s one make out scene, during which Tris says she wants to go slow.  This is a lame, weak portrayal of the complexities of coming from Abnegation where this sort of affection is very private compared to the book, but fine.  Then we get to the fearscape.

One of Tris’s fears is portrayed as Four.  He starts to kiss her and she gets scared and says no.  He then throws her to the bed in a forceful move that we know means he’s going to rape her.  She kicks him in the balls and fights him off, defending herself.


For comparison, this is the scene in the book, after a long build up of a slowly budding romance and some kissing.  The quotes scene below is from the fearscape and needs to be shared in full.  Tobias is Four’s real name for those of you who may not remember.

And then Tobias is standing in front of me.

But I’m not afraid of Tobias.  I look over my shoulder.  Maybe there’s something behind me that I’m supposed to focus on.  But no–behind me is just a four-poster bed.

A bed?

Tobias walks toward me slowly.

What’s going on?

I stare up at him, paralyzed.  He smiles down at me.  That smile looks kind.  Familiar.

He presses his mouth to mine, and my lips part.  I thought it would be impossible to forget I was in a simulation.  I was wrong; he makes everything else disintegrate.

His fingers find my jacket zipper and pull it down in one slow swipe until the zipper detaches.  He tugs the jacket from my shoulders.

Oh, is all I can think, as he kisses me again.  Oh.

My fear is being with him.  I have been wary of affection all my life, but I didn’t know how deep that wariness went.

But this obstacle doesn’t feel the same as the others.  It is a different kind of fear–nervous panic rather than blind terror.

He slides his hands down my arms and then squeezes my hips, his fingers sliding over the skin just above my belt, and I shiver.

I gently push him back and press my hands to my forehead.  I have been attacked by crows and men with grotesque faces; I have been set on fire by the boy who almost threw me off a ledge; I have almost drowned–twice–and this is what I can’t cope with?  This is the fear I have no solutions for–a boy I like, who wants to…have sex with me?

Simulation Tobias kisses my neck.

I try to think.  I have to face the fear.  I have to take control of the situation and find a way to make it less frightening.

I look Simulation Tobias in the eye and say sternly “I am not going to sleep with you in a hallucination.  Okay?”

Then I grab him by his shoulders and turn us around, pushing him against the bedpost. I feel something other than fear–a prickle in my stomach, a bubble of laughter.  I press against him and kiss him, my hnads wrapping around his arms.  He feels strong.  He feels…good.

And he’s gone.

After the simulation, she and Four are outside talking, and she confesses that this was part of her fearscape.  He tells her that he’s a bit nervous too, because he’s also a virgin.

Almost rape is a common literary (and other forms of entertainment) trope.  The almost-rape is solved by the hero swooping in (usually followed by him comforting the just almost raped heroine with sex because that totally makes sense) or in the more straw feminist/”girl power” scenes the girl fights him off.

There is so much wrong about using rape or attempted rape for dramatic tension.  There are times when a rape is part of and crucial to the narrative.  However, most of the time I’ve seen it used it is “near rape” and it serves no other purpose than the virtuous heroine narrowly escaping it.  Which adds to the incredibly problematic cultural narrative of who “deserves” to get raped and that those who haven’t earned their rape can fight off the attacker.  This is a subtle perpetuation of rape culture and it pissed me off.  I can go on about it, but this article sums it up better than I can.

Tris fighting off a would-be rapist (her boyfriend as would-be rapist) is not empowering or a further show of her strength.  The invocation of the visceral fear of rape that every woman is taught from a young age is cheap.  Every woman is taught to fear rape–because there’s a 20% chance she will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.  Using that fear for entertainment, when it’s not even close to the narrative they’re drawing from  is just offensive.  I had to restrain myself from throwing something at the screen.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 12.49.15 AMUnder developed characters–aka I didn’t give a shit about Al in the movie

In the book version of Divergent, the character of Al is incredibly powerful.  He is by far the largest of the initiates.  He is physically larger.  There’s a throwaway line about how he must need to shave already–he’s more physically mature.  But that outward largeness–the implied power and strength–aren’t real.  He cries, audibly, every night.  In his first fight, he knocks his opponent unconscious easily, but then feels terrible about it–that it’s an unfair advantage, and that he didn’t join Dauntless to be a bully.  After that he stops fighting back, allowing his opponents to knock him down.  He only manages to get into the second phase of training because of Edward and Myra leaving Dauntless after Peter stabs Edward in the eye with a butter knife (we’ll get to Edward in a minute).  He lets Tris take his place when Eric is going to make Four throw knives at him and if he flinches, he’s out of Dauntless.  When they start having to face their fears, it makes him start to crack.  He likes Tris romantically, but is rebuffed.  He is a visibly ticking time bomb.

In the book when Tris is attacked, it isn’t some random attack.  It is Peter and one of his lackeys–both furious at her ranking and out to get her, and Al who is lashing out against her who represents both everything he wants and everything he can never be/never have.  After the attack he apologizes and she threatens his life.  He then commits suicide.

It is emotional, and tragic and you ache for him as the reader.  I found Al to be the most compelling character in the book, and I really would love to read his story.

In the movie he isn’t that much larger, and he looks superficially close to the character who plays Will–and both are minimized to the point where I didn’t always remember who was who until they started speaking.  The actor doesn’t have that overly large physicality to him in height or comparative maturity.  He serves as window dressing for the Tris’ friend group.  His fight isn’t memorable, and you never know why his rank sucks.  You never hear him cry.  So his motives for being part of the trio who attack Tris are totally blank.  When he commits suicide, it’s really not that much of a thing.  You don’t get to know him well enough to care that he dies.

This is a common problem with the movie.

Edward is totally absent, which means the screenwriters just wrote themselves into a corner, given that Edward plays a large role in Insurgent and is also in Allegiant, and everything about him in those books relates back to his time as a Dauntless initiate with Tris and Peter.  Peter stabs him in the eye with a knife before Edward has the top ranking and Peter is number 2.  Is he just never going to show up?  Is he going to show up but have no reason or a totally different backstory?  What’s up with that?

Uriah is missing (again, apparently he had a role, but his scenes were cut) and he’s the bridge for Tris to bond with the Dauntless born initiates and to forge a stronger tie with Dauntless.  We have the ziplining scene, but no understanding of why she’s there but none of her friends are.  She’s just there and it’s a random scene they kept in because fans would’ve been pissed if they hadn’t kept it in.  (Another scene they kept in, but were crap about was the ferris wheel–they’re up, but no understanding of why and then completely skipping over Four turning it on and Tris riding it down).

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 1.10.50 AMNo one is supposed to know what Divergence is, but EVERYONE talks about it

Okay, so in the book we learn that Divergence is a huge secret.  Few people have heard of it.  To talk about it is to risk death.  In 400 pages, the word “Divergent” only shows up 43 times, but only 9 times in the first 15 chapters, and 19 of those times in the last 10 chapters (6 of those in a conversation with Jeanine Matthews in chapter 34 alone).  Thank you Kindle search function.  By the end of the book you figure out that Eric has suspected Tris of being Divergent the whole time, but it’s done without using the damn word blatantly every third paragraph.

If I were to sit in the movie theater and tick off every time someone used the word divergent or someone talks about divergence, I assure you that I would hit triple digits plus.  For something NO ONE is supposed to talk about, EVERYONE talks about it.  Random guards in the Dauntless compound talk about it.  People come right out and ask Tris if she’s divergent.

“One of my friends told me he was tired of hearing the word divergent in the movie—because it was never explained except that you know she’s like a sparkly unicorn”
They tried to give these long pseudo philosophical and often nonsensical explanations for why it was bad

–My friend Johanna

They completely botch the way that Erudite and Dauntless are working together to hunt Divergents/go after Abnegation by HITTING YOU IN THE FACE WITH IT IN A MILLION WAYS THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE until everyone just looks dumb for not knowing that it’s happening. Everyone seems to know what divergence is, it doesn’t come across as that big a deal.  In the book it’s portrayed as scary, dangerous–almost superpower-y.  That it is your secret identity–no one knows what it is.  That you will be executed for it.  it’s not something guards at Dauntless are joking about.  Here they keep telling you to keep it a secret, but then it seems to be something of an open secret that divergents exist and it should be a secret because….they can’t control you…and we care because…..?

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 1.26.02 AM^^How I feel about the movie in a nutshell ^^

There is so much more I can go into.

  • The way they ruined the ending of the movie because they felt the need to give Kate Winslet a bigger role.
  • The addition of unnecessary tech like the stingy bullets and the magic screen of ranking (instead of paintballs and a chalkboard as in the book)
  • How when they under-develop the existing characters, they added another 10 initiates for reasons unknown.
  • The chasm has no visible river, so instead of a river slamming up against Christina in the hanging off the chasm scene, there just drops of water from the pipe above.  She hangs for seconds instead of minutes, making a scary scene kind of pathetic.
  • Four trains Tris to act like a Dauntless in the simulations in the movie.  This is not in the book—in fact, in the big fear scape every single problem is solved by Tris like a Divergent.
  • Eric throws Tris out of Dauntless before capture the flag in the movie and then just lets her back in?  WHUT?  Never happens and it’s so way out of character that it’s baffling-why did you do that, writers?
  • Why were so many scenes moved around?  I don’t think it really streamlined the narrative or did anything useful.

Should you go see it?  If you’ve got nothing better to do and aren’t going to have to pay a babysitter, or have a friend who really wants to see it—I guess?  There’s not much else out right now that I can recommend higher (although the number of US movies we get in SG is pretty small compared to what you have available in the US).  Will I bother seeing Insurgent/Allegiant?  Not in a theater–maybe if they’re on the in flight entertainment on a long haul flight and I’ve nothing better to do?

Divergent the book–3 (at best) out of 5 stars  (my goodreads review is here)

Divergent the movie—As a movie B-/C+… an adaptation C-/D+

Your turn–what did you think?  Argue with me in comments!



Your Opinion–Divergent the Movie

Instead of blogging today, I’m trying to burn through the last third of my reread of Divergent.  My husband got home early yesterday, which meant I was able to go see the movie without the internal debate of whether I wanted to see it badly enough to pay a babysitter.  I saw it, and afterward I sent myself a 30+ point bulletin email of good/bad/questions.  I should hopefully finish my reread tonight and get the post done tomorrow.

In the meantime–who has seen Divergent?  Did you like it?  Hate it?

I’m declaring the comments open to spoilers, so only read them if you’re okay with that.

Snarking Nostalgic: The Baby-sitters Club #1-Kristy’s Great Idea Chapters 4-8

I’ve uncovered a great deal of nostalgia for these books among my peers, so when I decided to start the blog, I was thrilled for the excuse to reread and snark them.  I snark with love, friends–I’m still a total fangirl.  So let’s drop what we’re doing, put on our nostalgia goggles, and pretend it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 5:30pm.

Snarking Nostaligic: The Baby-sitters Club #1-Kristy’s Great Idea Chapters 1-3 can be read here.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 5.54.50 PMKristy’s Great Idea

Original Publication Date-August 1986

Written by Ann M. Martin (we know she wrote the first 36)

Chapter 4 (aka the longest chapter EVER)

The next day at 5:30 Claudia (baggy yellow and checked mark shirt, black pants, red jazz shoes, bracelet that looked like it was made of telephone cord, dangling skeleton earrings) answers the door.  Kristy seems relieved notices Claud isn’t wearing makeup.  Claudia blamed her strict ASIAN STEREOTYPE parents.  Claudia then teaches us all the secret to getting away with daring fashion choices like skeleton earrings…

I didn’t put those on until I got to school.

A generation of girls learns to smuggle contraband fashion to school.  THANKS CLAUDIA!

Claudia tells Kristy that Stacey is upstairs, but first they’ll have to go by Janine’s room.  NERD is home and has her door open.  There’s no escape!  Janine lectures K about misusing the word “hopefully.”  See–NERD.

“I really cannot take much of Janine.”–Kristy (of course)

This is why NERDS have no friends, Janine.  No one will love you if you’re too smart.  Maybe all those gender gap studies should’ve considered the BSC as a reason why so few of us grew up to take AP Calc in high school?

Kristy and Claudia escape the Vocabulary Police’s clutches and are about to open the door and unveil Stacey (from NEW YORK CITY) when the door bell rings.  Kristy runs down to get Mary Anne (warning her about Janine).  K and MA are “careful not to look at Janine as we ran by her open door” because if Janine makes eye contact your IQ will go up 10 points.  Seriously–as an adult I feel for Janine who only exists to embody all the ASIAN STEREOTYPES that Claudia falls short of.

Finally we meet Stacey and her outfit (pink sweatshirt with a picture of a parrot and sequins on the front, skinny jeans with zippers on the sides of the legs, pink jelly shoes and she’s blonde).  Kristy notes that she’s wearing jeans, sneakers and a blue hairband, but doesn’t mention a top.  Mary Anne is wearing a skirt, saddle shoes and is sporting (natch) braids, but is also apparently topless.

Uncomfortable silence until Kristy starts ask Stacey about her baby-sitting history.

Stacey told us she baby-sat in her building in NEW YORK CITY which has over 200 apartments.  Mary Anne gapes at the idea of such size and grandeur while Singaporean children reading the book are less than whelmed.  Stacey can stay out until 10 O’clock.  She’s just so damn sophisticated.

Mary Anne begins her interrogation, asking why Stacey left NEW YORK CITY.  Because 12 year olds clearly get to dictate where they live.  Stacey says her dad recently changed jobs and then changes the subject to Claudia’s bitchin’ wall posters.  Claudia tells us she painted them herself because of course she did.

Little miss braids can’t take a hint and tells us that if she lived in NEW YORK CITY she’d never leave it for anything.  She seems to believe that if your parents leave, all you have to do in NYC to survive is go down to the playground where Mr. Drummond will show up and adopt you.  Everybody sing–Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum…

Mary Anne pleads with Stacey to tell her more so she can live vicariously through her.   Stacey proceeds to tell us that she went to a private school without uniforms (At which point every New Yorker laughs.  The uniform is how we know if you’re at some pretender private school that only feeds to non-Ivies or if you’re at a REAL private school that requires you to commit hara kiri if you don’t get into Harvard.)  Stace has taken the subway and taxis by herself!!  Mary Anne’s mouth is hanging open and Stacey is starting to wonder exactly how she ended up here.  To be fair, if you’ve seen pictures of Times Square pre-Disneyfication, this is perhaps a bit more impressive.

Kristy hasn’t heard the sound of her own voice in at least 5 minutes so she cuts Stacey off.  Stacey interrupts right back to ask if she’s in or if she should go back to bedazzling her sweatshirts.  Claudia wants Stacey in the club because someone else in this club needs to be wearing a bra.  Mary Anne wants her in because NEW YORK CITY.

Kristy shrugs and says sure, whatever.  Who cares who joins this totally professional baby-sitting club?

Claudia pulls out celebratory junk food, which everyone but Stacey partakes of.  The other girls apply peer pressure because what freak of nature doesn’t like junk food?  Stacey claims she’s dieting.  The girls all channel their inner grandma and tell S she’s too thin and should eat, eat.  It’s almost like she has a SECRET  (This will make you want to scream by the end of the book)

Mary Anne’s Dad calls the house and demands she return home from across the street because it’s six ten.  Now we all get why Mary Anne has vapors at the idea of a 10pm curfew.

We get a paragraph about lunch the next day and how Stacey and Claudia sit at the cool table at lunch.  Well, of course they do.  Have you looked at yourselves, Kristy and Mary Anne?  Where are your bras?  Your earrings?  Between the two of you, do own anything with fringe or sequins?  If this were set in the 90’s instead of the 80’s, this is the moment Cher Horowitz would’ve swooped in and given them a makeover montage.

Dudes–There are even boys at the table!  Stacey and Claudia, don’t you know that’s how you’ll get an STD cooties?

The four girls meet up outside and go someplace quiet, where the popular kids won’t see Stacey and Claudia hanging out with their social inferiors.  Kristy says they need to advertise.  Claudia’s truly truly truly outrageous red felt hat agrees with Kristy.  Kristy opens a major plot hole by asking Mary Anne if her dad will let her ride her bike around help hang up the flyers, and Mary Anne looks uncomfortable.  Because a dad who will let you baby-sit in a stranger’s house is totally not going to let you ride your bike around the same neighborhood because….?  Kristy says the club needs a symbol and asks Claudia to create one.  Claudia widens the plot hole by acting unsure about her ability to do so because she sucks so hard at art.

“I know I can draw, but I’m not good at…symbols and stuff.  Janine’s better at those things” (Claudia)

I’m sorry, but WHUT?  Janine?  NERD?  The one you all hate and try to avoid at all costs?  That’s who you think we should be asking for help?

Then Claudia and her hat come up with a logo and they all gasp in awe at the complexity of her design.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 5.03.35 PMTo be fair, those 3-d boxes are a bitch to draw.  I know, I tried.  You know you did too.

Chapter 5

On Saturday, the girls call all the families they baby-sit for and place an ad in a newspaper.  If Elanor or Rhi ever read this book, there is so much I’m going to have to explain like physical newspapers, why they didn’t do an email blast, and just what a stationary telephone is. Apparently in the 90’s there was a reboot of the books, trying to update the books to hip things those newfangled children can understand–cassettes become headphones and such.  Which was the worst idea ever, and thankfully it died a quick death.  In the 2000’s they did graphic novels of books 1, 3, 4 and 7  that also died a quick death, but have at least made for some great illustrations for my snark.

Stacey suggests they should have officers.  Kristy is elected President because it was her idea (and they all know that the hell she’d put them through if she isn’t President just isn’t worth it).  Claudia gets VP because it’s her room and her phone.  Mary Anne gets Secretary because she has neat handwriting.  Stacey gets Treasurer because she’s good with Math and money, teaching us all that you can be good at Math as long as you’re pretty.

Claudia gets out Gummi Bears because it’s been at least five minutes and she’s jonesing for her next sugar high (Claudia is going to smoke hella weed at art school) and Stacey runs out of the room because even looking at candy is bad (bad enough that she needs to inject some insulin, apparently).

They create the flyer.  Kristy says her mom will copy it for them on Monday.  Her mom will absolutely want to help her out after Kristy refused to do her a solid by babysitting Watson’s kids back in Chapter 2.

Speaking of Watson, Kristy has to go home so her mom can go out on her hot date.  Stacey asks who Watson is.  Kristy explains, noting that her parents are divorced.  Stacey looks uncomfortable, but shares that her parents have been married for 15 years (raise your hand if you can smell the foreshadowing).  Claudia outdoes her because her parents have been married twenty years–Asian’s don’t get divorced because divorce is a Western problem.  Mary Anne reminds us that her Mom is Dead Dead Dead.

Watson arrives.  David Michael is super excited to see him.  Mrs. Thomas yells at Kristy to come down and act like a human being who can be polite for five seconds. Mrs. Thomas clearly cherishes some illusions about Kristy.

Kristy trudges downstairs as if she’s about to face the firing squad.

SURPRISE!  Watson has brought over Chinese Takeout!  They’re all going to eat together!  Isn’t that exciting?!

Kristy is annoyed that Watson is always bringing food over, as if he wants to develop a relationship with Mrs. Thomas’ kids instead of just taking their mom to a cheap hotel for a quick bang like a normal man.  Kristy pointedly asks who’s watching his kids, and Watson says he found a nice baby-sitter (could this be where the mysterious Kathy has disappeared to?)  We find out that Sam and Charlie also like Watson, who seems like a decent guy.  Charlie eats, but notes that he’s taking his girlfriend Carole (who I’m pretty sure we never hear from again because the BSC needs a hot older brother or two to crush on from time to time) later.  But he’s a boy, which means he can eat second dinner and seventh dinner on any given night.

Kristy decides to be a bitch and asks her mom if they have leftover chili.  She’s not going to eat Watson’s charity Chinese food!  What if he put drugs into it that would turn her into a nice person?  (Seriously, why is she who I wanted to be when I was a kid?  I have to imagine it’s because she gets a fairly big attitude adjustment in the near future).  Watson looks hurt because DUH.  What does he have to do to get her to give him a chance–tell her he’s a MILLIONAIRE (something we’ll be told multiple times a book in every single book from the reveal until the end of time)?  Kristy confesses to us that she’s starving for Chinese food, but makes a pbj because eating the Chinese food would be equivalent to surrendering Europe to the Nazi’s.

Watson, who is clearly a masochist, tries to ask Kristy about school and her life and gets monosyllabic replies.  Sam gives her a death glare and jumps in to tell Watson about his Math Team meet (another exception to the Math makes you a NERD rule–you can also like Math if you’re a boy).  David Michael shares that he’s getting a new GI Joe.  Watson confesses he doesn’t know much about that cartoon and Kristy implies he’s a deadbeat dad because ALL boys like GI Joe.  Anyone else up for tying Kristy to a chair and playing “Free to Be You and Me?”  She then asks if Karen has a My Little Pony because ALL girls like those, or is he ignorant of those too? Mrs. Thomas demands an apology.  Kristy says her mouth is much to full of delicious PBJ to do that, and is summarily kicked out of the room.

“I’m sorry Watson,” I mumbled.  I walked out the kitchen and started up the stairs.  When I was halfway up, I yelled over my shoulder, “I’m sorry you’re such a terrible father!”


The thing is that Kristy knows she’s being a complete asshole.  She admits that Watson’s actually a good dad.  Especially compared to her absent deadbeat jackass of a dad.  But she’s not going to admit it.  All joking aside, I think that Martin’s portrayal here is actually pretty honest.  My mom was a single mom and I made a point of being as awful as I could to any date I ever met, hoping that the prospect of dealing with me would make them dump my mom.  My mom never did marry, which was actually her choice, but as an adult I feel pretty terrible about being such a brat.  Kristy feels bad for being a brat too, and puts an apology note on her mom’s door.

Dear Mom, I’m sorry I was so rude.  I guess I haven’t learned much about decorum yet.  I hope you had fun on your date.  I love you.  Kristy

DECORUM!  The last gasp of that subplot.

In the morning there’s a note saying “I love you too” from her mom because Mrs. Thomas is the best mom ever.

BSC Kristy WTF face“You expect me to act like a civilized human being, mom? WTF?” (screenshot from the BSC movie)

Chapter 6

Kristy runs home and gapes at their beautiful three line ad in the newspaper.  They’re sure to be drowning in sitting jobs!  Claudia, Kristy and Mary Anne are going to go hang flyers.  Stacey is mysteriously busy. (Note from the future-she’s probably at an endocrinologist appointment because her life is all about baby-sitting, clothes, and diabetes).

Kristy has to check to see if Kathy is there before she can leave.  Kathy is alive!  She’s still baby-sitting David Michael!  For now.

You won’t have a job for much longer if Kristy and the BSC have anything to say about it.  You did cancel that one time, so clearly a group of 12 year olds are a better choice for baby-sitting than a 15 year old.  Cheaper?  LOL—Kristy isn’t the type to give a family discount to her mom.

On Friday the baby-sitters gather early, eagerly waiting for the phone to ring.  Janine is a killjoy as she waxes poetic about whether there should be an apostrophe in babysitters or not.  Why does she have to be so fucking SMART and BORING?  Smart people suck.  Stacey, having learned the fine art of being rude and not giving any fucks about it from her upbringing in NYC, comes through the door and shuts it in Janine’s face.  Score one for that NYC upbringing, amirite BSC?

They watch the clock tick toward 5:30, and Claudia hands around the candy.  NEW GAME-every time Claud hands around the candy, take a shot.  It would explain a lot if that was how Martin and Lerangis got through writing the books.  Also how they came up with some of Claudia/Stacey’s outfits.


It’s Kristy’s mom.  Kathy can’t come next Wednesday (see, I told you Kathy wouldn’t be around much longer).  As a mom, I’m betting Mrs. T asked Kathy not to come so she could give the BSC a pity job to make them feel like special snowflakes.  I know she’s knows that the phone wasn’t going to ring much that afternoon.  Mary Anne checks the schedule and Stacey and Kristy are available.  Kristy is underwhelmed at the idea of her first BSC job being for her own brother.

Kristy mentions her two older brothers.  Stacey’s eyes bug out of her head–who knew she’d get to meet older brothers on the job?!  She accepts the job and immediately begins shopping for a new older-brother-impressing outfit in her head–maybe something she could pair with neon plastic geometric earrings?

THE PHONE RINGS AGAIN!  Wrong number for a Jim Bartolini.  Oh.

5:42  Some strange lady none of them know called Mrs. McKeever calls for a sitter for Buffy and Pinky.  Look, ladies, I know this is Connecticut in the 80’s, and it’s so preppy that you all shit pink cashmere sweater sets and argyle socks, but maybe something is up with that?  They’re three.  Oh, so they’re twins?  Maybe while Mrs. McKeever is asking you a zillion questions, you could ask one or two more?  Nope?  Yay for Kristy’s first sitting job?  Wow, I hope that hijinks don’t ensue.

TWO MORE CALLS for Jim Bartolini.  Sad face.

5:55.  Mary-Anne is totally ready to leave because this was a total waste of time.  If you don’t have a rip-roaring success in the first meeting ever, then you’ll never have one.  She might as well go back to knitting and dreaming about NEW YORK CITY.


It’s Kristy’s mom again.

I rolled my eyes.  “Mom?” I said.  “Did Kathy back out of her other afternoon, too?  …Oh….Oh…Oh, no.  Not me.  I am not baby-sitting for them.  You know how I feel.  Okay, but hold on…  Watson needs a baby-sitter for his kids again on Saturday morning.  Not tomorrow, but next Saturday,” I told the others.  “I’m not doing it.”

MO-OM, haven’t we covered that I totally hate baby-sitting, which is why I started a baby-sitting club?  Mary-Anne takes the job and asks Kristy if she isn’t the least be curious what Karen and Andrew are like?  Kristy is, but will never ever ever meet them, which will totally derail everything between her mom and Watson.


“It’s some boy on the phone,” she told us.  “He says his name is Jim Bartolini.  He wants to know if there have been any calls for him.”

Kristy is totally justified in threatening her brother Sam’s life for doing this to them. Kristy goes home and tattles on Sam.  He starts repeating everything she says.  Mrs. T tells him he can’t use the phone for an hour, which seems like a totally legit thing to threaten a teenage boy with since they’re known for being on the phone all the time and we’ve seen Sam on the phone exactly zero times in this book.  Then she sends Kristy to her room.

Mrs. T has had a long day because those are the kind of consequences moms come up with when our head hurts too much and we’re too tired to enforce anything else.

Kristy is thrilled to be sent to her room because Watson is coming over again.

Watson takes Mrs. Thomas out, hopefully for a dinner that includes a big tall glass of wine.

Claudia calls to let Kristy know that Mrs. Newton called for a sitter for Jamie and that she took it since she was free.  Kristy gets emo that Claudia took it, even though it’s her room and her phone and she was free.  Ms. Poutypants goes to bed with Louie the dog at her feet wondering what Buffy and Pinky would be like (FORESHADOWING).

BSC Kristy DollThere were BSC dolls.  I need one RIGHT NOW.  Although-why does Kristy have serious blush and lipstick on?

Chapter 7

Baby-sitting Day!  So exciting!  Kristy arrives at the house, and notices a distinct lack of kid stuff outside for a family with twin three year olds.  Hmmmm….  Mrs. McKeever answers the door and lets Kristy in.  The house is really clean, and full of really nice stuff like glass vases and oriental rugs.  The only sign of kids are baby gates at the kitchen door.  It’s also pretty quiet.  RUN AWAY, KRISTY!  Kristy asks where the twins are.

“Oh, they’re in the laundry room.”

RUN AWAY NOW BEFORE SHE GOES ALL HANNIBAL LECTER ON YOUR ASS!  Then the woman says her name is Mrs. Hargreaves, and she’s Mrs. McKeever’s niece–dude, this is sketchier by the minute, get out NOW.

The job is only going to last a few hours, and Kristy is feeling pretty bad for these poor little kids, so she offers to take them for a walk.  Mrs. Hargreaves is doubtful.

“Are Pinky and Buffy boys or girls?” I asked.

“Well, it doesn’t much matter–”

It doesn’t?

“–but Buffy’s a boy and Pinky’s a girl.”

Kristy is rightfully finally getting the creeps when they reach the Laundry Room door.  Mrs. H warns Kristy that the monsters will knock her over.

The door opens…..Two massive St. Bernards knock Kristy to the ground.  LOL.

Kristy, not being the brightest crayon in the box asks if she has to baby-sit them too.Mrs. H looks at her doubtfully.  Did the dogs of doom concuss her or something?  Or is she just stupid?  Whatevs.  She needs to go.  She zooms through some instructions and leaves Kristy alone with two massive drooling hairballs.

You’ve got to give Kristy credit.  She gamely takes them into the backyard and tries to play fetch with them.  Which works for about five seconds before one of them runs her down and they escape.  She finds them next door where they’ve knocked down some laundry.  Poor Kristy tries to hang the laundry back up while keeping the dogs interested in their footballs and not other people’s yards.  She realizes that no good deed goes unpunished and takes them back inside.At the end of the babysitting job, Kristy decides they should keep a journal of all their sitting jobs so that they could learn from each other’s mistakes.  Like hers.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.00.48 PMIt’s all fun and games until there are two of them and they knock you on your ass

Chapter 8

We get our first BSC notebook entry.  This is a bizarre plot device in that it tells you what’s going to happen before it tells you what happened.  These are done in a different handwriting style and voice for each character, and is a nice way to allow someone besides the narrator to speak, if only for a page.  Claudia, whose personality is art, clothes, and sucks at school, will eventually come to write journal entries that border on illegible due to spelling mistakes.  This one isn’t too bad compared to the others that will come in the future (see below).

Apparently Mrs. Newton pulled a dirty trick on the BSC, too.  Instead of it just being Jamie, there were three other kids, which is seriously bullshit.  Kristy is nice about it because it’s not Watson who screwed up, and says that it’s probably because Mrs. Newton has serious pregnancy brain.  To make things more fun, Jamie and Rosie have a private war going, Brenda was just getting over chicken pox (here’s where you know I’ve had two kids-I actually got shocked because pregnant women are supposed to stay the hell away from chicken pox at that stage of pregnancy-it’s a bfd—and then I had to remind myself FICTION), and Rob hated girls including girl baby-sitters.

Claudia is in for a super fun time.The kids proceed to freak the hell out and cry and fight until the adults just throw their hands up and abandon the kids with Claudia.  Because if four adults can’t deal with them, the twelve year old will be TOTALLY FINE.

Rosie began running around and around the room, yelling at the top of her lungs.  She wasn’t yelling words; she was just making noise.  Brenda leaped onto the Newton’s couch and jumped up and down on it as if it were a trampoline.  And Rob turned his fingers into a gun and aimed them at Claudia.  “Pow!  Pow!  Pow-Pow-Pow!  You’re a dead man!…I mean a dead lady!”  Jamie looked on dazedly.

Claudia proves she’s smarter than Kristy who would’ve been screaming louder than the kids.  Claud sits down with Jamie and starts quietly reading to him, ignoring the other kids.  As any parent knows, this will work some large percentage of the time, and one by one the kids came over and quieted down.

Claudia wins at baby-sitting.

bsc claudia entry


Part 3 (chapter 9-12) can be found here

Book Review: Silly Sally by Audrey Wood

silly sallySilly Sally by Audrey Wood

Rating: 4/5 Stars (me)  5/5 (Rhiannon)

On Friday I posted Elanor’s first book review.  Her younger sister, Rhiannon (age 2) saw me videotaping Elanor, and insisted that she do a video review of a book, too.  She worships her older sister, and anything that Ellie does must also be done by Rhi.  So I humored her and was pleasantly surprised by what Rhi did on camera with her book.  Obviously it’s not a review, but I think it demonstrates her love of the book.  Ellie and I were first introduced to Silly Sally in a parent/child class in 2009 and added it to our library.  The book has been a hit with both children.  I didn’t give it a rating from Ellie as I don’t really remember what she thought of it.  I do recall reading Silly Sally with some amount of frequency with Elanor–but not the near nightly reading that Rhi insists on.

Silly Sally is a really fun book told in a rhyming scheme (Silly Sally went to town/walking backwards upside down and so forth).  On the way to town she meets a pig (who dances a jig) a dog (who plays leapfrog) and so forth.  But she falls asleep!  How will she get to town now?

Unlike The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO (see link above), there isn’t a grand moral or lesson here.  It’s a silly book that my littles have loved.  It’s great fun to act out.  As you can see in Rhi’s video we often dance a jig (or at least wiggle dance while seated), have a stuffed animal leap frog over the book, and so forth with each animal.  When there is tickling we tickle.

I picked up a Silly Sally felt story telling set at a teacher store a few years ago.  Within a month we’d lost several of the pieces, so it has been retired.  Far more practical if you have a little who loves Silly Sally are the coloring pages offered as free downloads on the official Audrey Wood website.

Silly Sally is on my list of (board) books I would typically purchase for a second birthday present.  Although E and R both enjoyed it before age 2, it was around age 2 that they really began to interact with it.  Elanor (5) doesn’t pick Silly Sally as a read aloud anymore, but she’ll happily sit and listen if I’m reading it with Rhiannon.  I think it’s best for those littles between 1 or 2 and 4.

Book Review: The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO by Jonathan Allen

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 11.18.09 PMThe Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO by Jonathan Allen

Rating 3/5 stars (me) 4/5 stars (Ellie)

Elanor has been watching a lot of Reading Rainbow lately.  This is a children’s tv program that showed in the US from 1983 through 2006 resulting in 155 episodes.  At the end of each episode, three children review books that they’ve read.  Elanor has been fascinated by these segments, and when I suggested she review a book for me, she was eager.  I will warn you in advance that this is Elanor’s first attempt at reviewing a book and her summarization and presentation skills are in line with a five year old who has never done this before.

I like The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say Moo.  It’s a cute story that shows kids it’s okay to step outside the boundaries of what they’re supposed to do and to try new things.  Calf is surprised that Little Rabbit likes to say “moo.”  But when Little Rabbit asks him if he likes any other noises, the calf says that they like “baa.”  This brings over the lamb, and so forth.  At the end of the story, each of the baby animals reflects that they have fun saying the other sounds, but that they like their own noise best.  Except Little Rabbit–who reveals his very favorite sound on the last page.

I’d put this as a book that’s best for age 2 through maybe 6.  It’s a simple repetitive story that the younger kids can follow.  Kids like making the sounds along with you, which is what makes it a fun read aloud.  The illustrations are cute. There are no rhymes, which can make it (and the other Allen books) a nice break when your brain is about to fry from rhyming overload.  Personally, I would’ve picked up Little Rabbit because we like Jonathan Allen’s books in general and “I’m Not Sleepy” in particular.  Given my choices, I would’ve read it aloud a few times and then moved onto a book that I enjoy reading aloud more (or rereading) like Mo Willems–Mo Willems is always good for a dramatic reading.  But in our house the kids pick the books (or at least pick 2 of the 3 read alouds per night) so I read what I’m asked to read.

Unlike a “Llama Llama Red Pajama”–which I consider an essential addition to a home library–Little Rabbit only needs to visit your home from the library.

Book Review: Diary of an Expat in Singapore by Jennifer Gargiulo

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.07.43 PMDiary of an Expat in Singapore by Jennifer Gargiulo

Rating 1/5 stars

Since becoming an expat in 2010, I have enjoyed reading expat memoirs.  They’ve helped me feel less alone when I feel isolated.  Culture shock and confusion are a common experience, not something that makes me a “bad expat.”  Seeing them come to terms with and part of their new home culture is encouraging.  Considering that, “Diary of an Expat in Singapore,” by Jennifer Gargiulo should be a natural addition to my bookcase.  It isn’t.

We are both expat mothers of two children.  Neither of us expected to stay in Singapore long.  As I approach my 4th anniversary, Gargiulo is approaching her 7th.  We both write about our experiences in Singapore, but we do so in very different ways.

I was hoping for an exploration of the transition to expatriate, acclimation to Singapore, and the difficulties one can have reconciling your culture with that of Singapore’s.  I got oversimplified top ten lists and casual racism.

The racism was particularly problematic for me.  I learn that Swedes are most likely to be training for a triathelete (pg 21), Japanese stick together (pg 89), and that it’s surprising that there are so many skin whitening products on sale in Singapore since Singaporean kids are always inside studying (pg 91).  As the mother of half-Indian daughters and the wife of an Indian American, I was unamused to find out that she thinks

The Indian expat launches websites, compares ways to best store a sari in Singapore…[and] lengthy discussions on where to buy gold.” (pg 24)

and that everyone loves India except Indians because they want to get PR in Signapore(pg 157).  All of these are brushed off as “humor” and “political incorrectness.”  They’re not—they are white privilege at its worst—and blatantly racist.

It takes white privilege to be blissfully unaware that many apartment vacancies specifically say “no Indians.”  Gargiulo is blissfully unaware that my biracial family is carefully billed as “American” when we’ve apartment hunted because our agent would never have gotten to American if she had started with Indian.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.41.53 PMScreen shot from Property Guru in a Wall Street Journal article about discrimination in the Singapore housing market

White privilege and class privilege combine to take potshots at a certain type of expatriate—the foreign domestic worker (FDW–aka maid/helper).

For example, revealing one’s maid’s nickname is Slow Mo (as in slow motion) because she washes salad so slowly she gets to know the leaves on a first-name basis” (pg 38).

Here, even the maids have maids. Seriously.” (pg 59)

How domestic workers manage to have not only better phones than the rest of the population but better phone plans as well. They must be working for SingTel. This is the only possible explanation for the amount of time cleaners spend talking on the phone.” (pg 179)

From the descriptions, you would think that FDW’s have it made here.  The truth is that they work for pennies (the average salary range is 400-600 sgd a month), that many are on call 24 hours a day, and that the government isn’t particularly interested in their rights.  An FDW must get a pregnancy and AIDS screening twice a year, and will be sent home if she tests positive for either (Gargiulo and myself have access to hormonal birth control and abortion by contrast).  An FDW may not marry a Singaporean.  An FDW may be fired and deported without cause.

None of these rules apply to an expat like Gargiulo or myself because we’re wealthy enough to be the employer as opposed to the employee.

The complex dance of cross-cultural expectations and understandings are missing, as is the awkwardness of having a stranger live inside your home.  The only thing she discusses about cultural issues is what nationality of maid you might hire

Filipina, Indonesian, or from Myanmar (in other words: speaks English, acts like she speaks English, or really has no idea what you are saying) (pg 38) 

Construction workers are another invisible expat.  In fact, she doesn’t mention them directly at all, rather she only discusses that construction noise inconveniences her (pg. 7) without any thought to the men who work at that site.  She’s thrilled to share that “unemployed immigrants are nonexistent” (pg 65) but doesn’t seem to know or care about the construction workers who get hurt on the job and are summarily fired and deported without compensation.  Although the book was published in late 2013, late enough to include jokes about the hazardous haze in June of that year, there is no mention that construction workers had to continue working outside when the PSI was over 400 (hazardous).

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.45.02 PMNo Haze (pic of myself and a friend)

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.45.07 PMHaze PSI of 300+ (hazardous) taken by my husband from his work window

There is also no mention of how over 150 bus drivers went on strike in 2012.  Four drivers were jailed and then deported, 29 were deported without jail time, and 150 others were given notices by the police—most of them expatriate foreign workers from the People’s Republic of China.

For Gargiulo, expats aren’t maids, construction workers, or bus drivers.  They’re Wealthy, White, and Western (except for the occasional reference to Japanese, Koreans and Indians—the presumption is that they are white).  They have non-black hair.  Expat children go to international schools.  Expat husbands work all the time, and travel even more.

There is nothing the expat spouse likes less than having the working spouse out of town on the weekend. During the week, it’s fine, almost routine. Early dinners with the kids, late-night snacks in front of the TV, no fighting over the remote… but Sunday, that’s another story. (pg 11)

Let’s not joke about solo control of the remote, Jennifer.  Instead, let’s have an honest discussion about how isolating it can be to be the trailing spouse and the effect that can have on a relationship.  Expats have a higher than average divorce rate, and according to my husband’s company the trailing spouse is the most frequent reason an expat employee will leave Singapore.  We spouses (most often wives) are the ones who interact with Singapore the most—we grocery shop, we need to figure out how to get the kids to school, where to send them for a doctor’s appointment, and so forth.  We argue with the building management, with our agent to get whatever’s broken fixed, and more.  Our spouses go to work and come home.  It creates an odd, potentially new, power balance in a marriage, and it is one of the hardest parts of moving to a new country.

Expat spouses are the ones who interact with Singapore, and thus Singaporeans more than our working spouses (who often are in an office full of other expats.)  To Garguiulo, this is like interacting with an alien species.

Singaporeans are obsessed with school; “If you do meet a mom, she is very likely carrying a heavy textbook to brush up on her math before tutoring her child. If it is the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam) time of year, you won’t see her for weeks.” (pg 25) 

Singaporean English—legitimate dialect of English, just like American English–is mocked; “Had I not moved to Singapore, I might never have known that the word off can be used as a verb: “Would you like me to off the air con?” (p. 63) 

The customs are weird; “It’s only 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade outside… who wouldn’t want a refreshing cup of hot water?” (p. 74) 

Singaporeans are such a puzzle to Garguiulo, who wonders “Why there are so many different types of skin-whitening products at shops in Singapore is a complete mystery to me.…They can thank their kids’ exams for their unblemished skin.”  (p. 91)

As someone who doesn’t live in the expat bubble I’m frustrated by these characterizations.  If Gargiulo made friends with Singaporean moms instead of mocking them, she’d learn about the Singaporean school system.  The PSLE exam determines the rest of the child’s life–what secondary school they can get into, the likelihood of their doing well on O level exams (british system), what Junior College they are eligible for and what A levels they’re likely to have access to, and then what universities the child is eligible to attend.  If you flub the PSLE, there’s no fixing it.  Further, she talks about how some Singaporeans moved into a condo because of schools–yes, they did move there because of the rules about who gets priority to apply into a primary school and those rules are incredibly complex (something I’m dealing with this year).

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.47.01 PMRhi’s birthday celebration last year at her school.  She is one of only a few non Singaporean Chinese children.

It’s not that you shouldn’t point out cultural differences or share that you’re baffled by something.  But there’s a difference between doing that and belittling–and too frequently it feels like the latter, not the former.

Living in Singapore, and interacting with Singaporeans (when you can find them, apparently) have an effect our your children.  Sure you wanted them to have an experience and learn Mandarin, but then they cross that line and become too Singaporean.

“When someone asks the kids where they’re from, they answer Singapore” (pg 48),

The kids’ preference for rice over pasta. (pg 50)

The answer to “What sign are you?” is not Sagittarius. It’s Snake (pg 56). 

Rather than discuss the very real ambivalence and concern over whether you’re giving a child “enough” access to their home culture, Garguiulo jokes that they’ve been in Singapore too long because “When asked how they are in Italian, they answer in Chinese” (pg 56).

Raising a third culture kid is hard, so let’s talk about what makes it hard.  I struggle with my children’s identity-my elder will tell you “I’m a little bit Indian, a little bit American, and a little bit Singaporean,” which is a step in the right direction–when she was three she insisted she was Singaporean.

IMG_1882E at the Natural History Museum in NYC, an hour before I flubbed her intro to US History

I’ve barely introduced the idea of the US and American history to Elanor (5).  We went to the Museum of Natural History in NYC, and when walking through the “Plains Indians” exhibit, I tried to explain early colonization–and as a historian I’m not willing to lie about the realities of European/Native interaction.  We have also read age appropriate books about Martin Luther King for Martin Luther King Day.  Elanor’s takeaway from these two pieces of history is that White People are mean–which shows how far over her head my explanations went.  Yes, but….  It’s really hard to introduce her to American History and culture when we’re so divorced from it (and given that I’m not a particularly flag waving type to begin with).

It’s a really touchy subject with me when I get crap from other Americans about sending my kids to local schools because they won’t be “American.”  While I do have the fury of a thousand suns over that, it’s also true that I have some ambivalence and worry over it too.

Sure, I laughed at some of her observations and jokes.  But that doesn’t mean I think that they balanced out the racism and cheap stereotypes.  Being an expat is hard, and I prefer a far more honest and contemplative narrative.  Without serious content to balance the jokes, and a removal of the racism, this just isn’t my kind of book.  I wasn’t familiar with her blog going in–if I were, I probably would’ve passed on the book.