Tag Archive | book blog

And Tango makes a banned book

I’m crossposting this from my expat blog because the subject of book banning is worth addressing more than once.

Expat Bostonians

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Dear parents who challenge this book

I too, am a parent.  I too have had my children bring over books that I am not comfortable with them reading at their current ages.  The difference between you and I is that I tell my children to put the book back because it’s not right for our family,  while you choose to tell ALL children that they may not read the book.  Your family’s “just right” books don’t trump mine.

You argue that it is oppositional to your faith.  I would counter that all religious texts are oppositional to mine.  Yet I am not asking the library to remove children’s Bibles because they have no place in my faith.  Your faith does not trump mine.

You say that this book promotes a “homosexual agenda.”

  • Firstly I am curious what you think a homosexual agenda is.  I’ll let you in on a non-secret–I’m…

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Book Review: Cast Member Confidential by Chris Mitchell

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.51.36 PMCast Member Confidential: A Disneyfied Memoir by Chris Mitchell

Rating 3/5 stars for the casual reader

1/5 for those Disney fans who don’t want to sully the brand

5/5 for those who enjoy the peek behind the mask

Last week when I reviewed Spinning Disney’s World, I promised that we’d get to the memoir with sex on property, hijinks and a very different view of life under The Mouse from Ridgeway’s rarefied PR office.  This is a memoir that will give you that peek. There are a few others, but this was the most enjoyable.

Just as the reader has to keep in mind that Ridgeway was intent on keeping both the man and the brand Snow White (sorry, I had to), it is worth noting that Mitchell defines himself as anti-establishment.  At times he tries a bit too hard to convince us of that fact.  To his credit, Mitchell seems far more aware of his bias than Ridgeway, and he does make fairly self aware statements throughout the book to that effect.

One of the things that made Spinning Disney’s World such a tough review was the lack of a narrative.  Mitchell does us the favor of both giving us a sequential narrative, and one with a central theme.  After his mother’s cancer diagnosis (and his parent’s attempt to hide it from him–he finds out from his older brother) he effectively decides to run away to Disney and hide in the magic, playing Peter Pan/Lost Boy in the Magic Kingdom.

Nobody has every died at Disney World (again, no page #’s, so I’ll cite percentages throughout the review–2%)

Mitchell uses this piece of Disney lore as a framing device at both the opening and close of the book.  At the start of the book, he’s told that bit of lore by Nick Elliot–Former X Games Champion turned skateboarding monkey on the Tarzan float in a WDW parade.  (I’ll address that bit of lore at the end of the review)

The narrative shifts to Mitchell’s personal life a short time later–within a very short period of time he is fired from his job, his girlfriend dumps him for a friend, and his brother tells him that their mother has cancer but that he can’t tell her that he knows.  Mitchell’s reaction to all of this is to run away to Disney World to put his professional sports photography skills to use….as one of those guys taking pictures of families with Disney Characters.

“Your job will be to work with the characters.  You’ll take pictures of Minnie and Mickey and Winne the Pooh and Tigger and anybody else our beloved guests wish to meet.  And you’ll try to capture a moment on their faces that doesn’t look like desperate misery, and then you’ll sell the photos back to them at a very reasonable price” (said to Mitchell by his Boss Orville 7%)

Mitchell begins his time at Disney trying to find “The Magic.”  He submits to a haircut approved by “The Disney Look” employee handbook.  He removes piercings.  He shaves.  He tucks in his uniform shirt, and leaves the chain wallet and sunglasses at home (or at least in his employee locker).  He learns to identify Cast Members by their uniforms (photographers like himself wear Khaki uniforms in the Animal Kingdom, for example).  He learns the “Seven Guest Service Guidelines,” such as “(4) If you sense that a guest is a having a less-than-Magical moment, provide immediate recovery any way you can.”

The Never Never Land that Mitchell was seeking when he ran away to Disney does seem to exist.  Or, at least, it is possible to exist in a Disney bubble.  Rather than debate the 2000 election, Cast Members were arguing  passionately over whether Maria in “The Sound of Music” or Mary in “Mary Poppins” was Julie Andrew’s greatest role. (22%)

However, he still doesn’t get off to the best start.  He likes to make snarky comments, only to realize too late that (at this point in the book) the people he’s making them to, and the context in which he’s making them get an icy reception.  You shouldn’t really crack jokes about Mickey getting “a call from his Hollywood agent who just cast him in a movie with Jessica Rabbit” to someone who uses phrases like “oh my ears and whiskers” as part of their everyday conversation.(10%)  Don’t tell a woman who took a job as Pocahontas after finding out she can’t have kids as a way to be a special part of kid’s lives  that “Children are idiots.” (11%)  Even when you just saw someone kick Mickey as hard as they can, you don’t ask that person if they’re okay by their “real” name (21%)

Eventually though, he begins to integrate, then gets a bit too comfortable.  Backsliding begins with snacking on property (38%).  Temptation comes knocking when he begins to do “out of character” photography–Goofy blowing a smoke ring (39%), Mickey picking Minnie’s Nose (39%), Chip and Dale in a 69 (42%) until Mickey Flashing Tit gets the girl in question fired–the tit in question has a very individual tattoo.(73%) .  He has sex on property with a girl who plays Chip on a bunch of boxes of Disney t-shirts backstage at Epcot (41%).

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.34.18 AMA sample of “out of character” photography (found via google/reddit)

Mitchell’s world is populated by characters as colorful as any dreamed up by Disney, although they are hardly what Walt had in mind.

  • Brady is a character actor–Mike Wazowski, Pooh and Roger Rabbit.  Offstage, he’s a bit of a sociopath.  Eventually Brady will rope Mitchell into kidnapping a dog (30%) and taking “medication” to Cuba (81%).  But first, Brady will give Mitchell his first peek into the dark side of working for Disney–an after hours party at an apartment complexes (referred to as ‘the Disney ghetto”) owned by Disney where cast members live.  The party as described by Mitchell is one party Alice in Wonderland esque drug fantasy and one part orgy drenched in alcohol.  (15%)  Brady also becomes Mitchell’s tour guide and translator in the backstage rules and workings of the parks.
  • Johnny works in PR.  A NASCAR and beer enthusiast, Mitchell answers an ad on a cast member bulletin board to become his roommate. (22%)  He’s also a chickenhawk–an older gay man who loves a different younger man every week. (38%)  By the end of the book, he’s trying to become the next Lou Pearlman by creating his own gay-themed Boy band called “Boy Banned” (86%).
  • When Mitchell first meets Calico (50%) she is playing Ariel.  Orville (his boss) tries to warn Mitchell off of her, but he doesn’t listen.  At first there’s no discernable reason why.  She seems like a sweet vegetarian who cries over her Wish kids and wants to be a wedding planner.  Then she starts speaking in a British accent, eating meat and missing dates when she’s cast as Cruella DeVille. (80%)  She lies to Mitchell, claiming she’s been diagnosed with cancer.  He overcompensates, doing for her what his mom won’t let him do as he’s not even supposed to know about his mother’s diagnosis. This all culminates in Mitchell catching her cheating on him with another cast member, telling her sexual partner “You’re a miserable, naughty little puppy!” in her fake British acent.  (93%)

Rather than evoke “true patriot” or “great man” Walt Disney narrative used by Ridgeway, Mitchell says that Walt was–

A product of Midwest values and Industrial Revolution savvy, he learned how to make money the old-fashioned way: from children. (24%)

If you are looking for behind the scenes dirt, there’s plenty dished

  • I used to think that characters were immune to the smells of the outisde world, but, in fact, it was exactly the opposite.  Any scent that drifted into the head stayed i the head: cigarette smoke, perfume, garlic breath.  Passing gas inside a costume was to be avoided at all costs.  The stench was trapped inside the body untilt he character bent down to hug a child, then blew out the only opening in the suit–the mouth.  Within a week, I’d lost count of the number of times I heard a child turn to his parents and say, ‘Eew, Pluto has doggie breath!'” (25%)
  • Cast Members sitting around coming up with Disney themed porn titles (34%)
  • Sex on Property (mentioned starting at 40% and then throughout the book from there)  I used to work at the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum in Boston in the late 90’s and it seemed that everyone hooked up somewhere on property at least once.  I never had sex on property–but I did know every inch of space that the cameras didn’t see.  Do I think a ton of 20 something Disney employees are going to hook up on property?  Abso-fucking-lutely–pun intended.

Just as Mitchell begins his memoir with the rumor that no one has ever died on property, at the 91% mark, he sees an older employee’s heart give out.  He’s reprimanded for ruining people’s “magical experience” on property because kids saw Mitchell administer CPR.  He gets into a massive fight with his manager and quits/is fired.  After attending the funeral of his fellow cast member, Mitchell is having brunch with  two fellow employees and the following conversation happens.

“….I found this amazing, magical place where nobody ever dies, like the Bermuda Triangle, only in a good way, and I actually started to believe that I could settle down here.  I honestly thought I had it in me to be a lifer.” (Mitchell)

Marco looked at me, puzzled.  “What are you talking about?  People die at Disney World all the time.”

I shook my head.  “There’s never been a death at Disney World.  Even Walter.  The paper reported he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.”

Marco and Orville exchanged a look.  Orville took a deep breath before he spoke.  “Nobody’s ever been pronounced dead on Disney property because that’s Disney’s policy.  If somebody passes away at one of the parks, the body gets loaded into the alpha unit and pronounced dead in transit.”….”Hey, don’t look so sad.  I didn’t mean to upset you.”

In reality, I wasn’t at all that surprised.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I knew that was the case the whole time. What really threw me was my apparently innate talent to deceive myself into believing the most absurd fantasies: that I could escape reality in an amusement park, that I could continue to live a life unexamined. …. I ran away from my mom when she needed my support the most.  I was a shallow, self-centered bastard. (95%)

Mitchell drives back to California, shedding his Disney self as he goes–changing his ring tone, re-inserting his labret piercing, and so forth.  He finds out his mom is now in remission.  The book fades to black with the family watching, and him falling asleep to Disney’s Peter Pan. (100%)

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Makes for a cohesive, tight, and convenient narrative, doesn’t it?  Boy loses girl and job, finds out Mom is sick, and runs away to Disney World.  Boy loses job and girl friend,  runs back to CA, and mom is well.  The “no one dies on property” rumor is ash is just one more piece of Disney misdirection to bookend the narrative.  All very slick.  Too slick for me, as a critical reader, to take at face value.

Let’s start with that whole “no on ever dies on property” rumor.  According to snopes, it is false.  But does that mean that situations like the one described don’t happen?  Probably not–it wouldn’t shock me that in general the policy is to have the person declared DOA at the hospital, but it isn’t true that it never happens.

Like Ridgeway, Mitchell takes his artistic license too far at times in a way that calls everything into question.  Do I buy that the greeter died on property but got a DOA at the hospital–maybe.  Do I buy that Calico was a bit method?  Sure.  The extent to which Mitchell describes, though?  Especially given the perfection of the timing for everything to fall apart at the precisely correct moment?  Smacks of artistic license.  It’s all a bit too perfectly timed in an After School Special  “Very Important Lesson” kind of way.

Exactly how much exaggeration is going on?  How much of an axe does Mitchell have to grind?  Hard to know.

Both of the Disney books are skewed.  Mitchell is the E True Hollywood Story to Ridgeway’s Travel Channel documentary, so to speak.  When put head to head, which you’ll like better is up for grabs depending on what kind of mood you’re in.

Book Review: The Three Little Pigs by Susanna Davidson (Georgien Overwater, illustrator)

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 7.59.36 PMThe Three Little Pigs by Susanna Davidson, Georgien Overwater (illustrator)

Rating: 3/5 from Elanor

Here is Elanor’s second book review.  Please remember that she is only five, and that she’s new to summarizing and presenting material.

In the end, the only real differences betwixt versions of The Three Little Pigs is how it ends.  For parents who are worried about “scary ending” you should know that this is one of the versions where the wolf climbs on top of the brick house and then comes down the chimney.  The Pigs have boiling water ready to go and have some Wolf Soup.  Or, as we say in my household–bad choice, bad consequence.

We got our copy of the book as part of a 50 book set from Usborne–all soft cover copies of stories from The Three Little Pigs to The Wizard of Oz.  I don’t know that I would make much of an effort to find a specific edition of The Three Little Pigs as a parent, but this is a reasonably good version.

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.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

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+…..as an adaptation C-/D+

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

 

 

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.

Book Review: Feed by Mira Grant

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 8.03.53 PMFeed by Mira Grant

Rating 4/5 stars

I have a weakness for dystopian YA fiction,and have since I read Pretties by Scott Westerfeld.  I have a new fondness for zombies thanks to The Walking Dead.  Dystopian YA Fiction WITH Zombies?  YES PLEASE!

Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot–in this case, my brother Shaun–deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.  As if we didn’t already know what happens when you mess with a zombie: The zombie turns around and bites you, and you become the thing you poked.  This isn’t a surprise.  It hasn’t been a surprise for more than twenty years, and if you want to be technical, it wasn’t a surprise then.

When the infected first appeared–heralded by screams that the dead were rising and judgment day was at hand–they behaved just like the horror movies had been telling us for decades that they would behave.  The only surprise was that this time it was really happening.

There was no warning before the outbreaks began.  One day, things were normal; the next, people who were supposedly dead were getting up and attacking anything that came into range.  This was upsetting for everyone involved, except for the infected, who were past being upset about that sort of thing.  The initial shock was followed by running and screaming, which eventually devolved into more infection and attacking , that being the way of things.  So what do we have now, in this enlightened age twenty-six years after the Rising?  We have idiots prodding zombies with sticks, which brings us full circle to my brother and why he probably won’t live a long and fulfilling life.

This has to be one of the better openings to a book I’ve run into recently.  I knew I probably wasn’t going to put my phone down until I was done with the book, if it lived up to those first few paragraphs.  It did, and I cheerfully spent the next week or so devouring all 3 “Newsflesh” novels and the 3 Newsflesh Novellas.

George (Georgia) Mason is our main narrator.  She’s a newsie (non fiction news and op/ed piece blogger).  Along with her brother Shaun Mason, an Irwin (named after the croc hunter Steve Irwin)-a blogger who takes risks for blog hits and ratings, and their friend Buffy (Fiction and all things Tech), they run the website After the End Times.  Buffy is actually Georgette (all derivations on George became the most popular names post zombies, in honor of George Romero, whose zombie movies were suddenly like instruction manuals) but in her own words “I’m cute, blonde, and living in a world of zombies.  What do you think I should call myself?”  She’s a Joss Whedon fangirl, and sighs that no one seems to get it.  (Side note, one of the Newsflesh novellas takes place at Comicon 2014 and features a booth of browncoats–referencing the fans of Whedon’s Firefly–Grant is obviously a fellow Whedonite.)

The zombie apocalypse began in 2014 (yay, something to look forward to this year!).  Two viruses (the cure for the common cold and the cure for cancer) combine and infect the world with what becomes known as Kellis-Amberlee. No one gets cancer, no one gets a cold, but everyone turns into a zombie after death.  While the trope of “we were trying to cure cancer and made monsters” is an old one, Newsflesh does it well.  I like the competing viruses setup, and over time we learn more and more about them and how we got from cures to zombies.  Grant is a student of virology and her knowledge shows in the material…and her spin on the trope comes off as plausible.

Zombies, however, aren’t the only danger in a post-Rising world.  The US (where the book is set) has reacted with what feels like a very realistic set of  “safety measures.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 9.29.42 PMsource

Some of the ways the US has given itself over to fear include…..

  • Lots of places have blood tests at the entryway.  All blood tests are rigged to send an automatic signal to the CDC if they come up positive, so that you can be rounded up/shot before you finish amplifying and go on a little terror spree.
  • Public schools require 3 blood tests per day.
  • The government has declared certain towns and the state of Alaska lost.  They are impossible to secure, so you don’t go there (or need permits to go there and understand you’re not likely to make it out alive).
  • There is a law-The Biological Mass Pet Ownership Restrictions–currently under debate to outlaw animals over 40 pounds (the minimum before you can be turned into a zombie–so horses, cows, moose, etc can become zombies, but the average housecat or chicken can’t).
  • Lots of houses have voice prints.  The Mason’s also requires that you read a non sequitor sentence on a pad to prove you still have higher cognitive function.  If you fail, the house’s system will incinerate you.
  • Clothes are washed in industrial grade bleach.  People are also hosed off with bleach.  George is contrary in that rather than accept the inevitable blonde hair due to the bleach, she keeps dyeing it brown.
  • The country is divided into biohazard zones.  Rules are different in each of thezones.
  • Apple has branched out into blood tests, and makes the most expensive/high end ones–because of course they have.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 8.57.05 PMGeorge Cosplay suggestions by Shaylabauwf

George and Shaun are the adopted children of the Masons–originally a Berkley professor and his wife–who lost their child in the early days of the outbreak.  They were some of the earliest blog star to come out of the Rising.  Everything they’ve done since then, including adopting George and Shaun has been done with an eye toward ratings.

Numbers slipping?  Go for a field trip to a zoo.  That’ll get you right back to the top.

After the End Times is chosen to join with the Ryman Presidential Campaign as bloggers.  They’ll be trailblazing as bloggers haven’t ever been invited to be part of the process before..  Although bloggers have become the more reliable media post-rising, official things like campaigns have used the traditional print and video mediums.  Ryman (who comes off in the spirit of all young presidential hopefuls–the JFK/Obama/Clintons) has decided to invite them along as sponsored media.

Since the blogs and website are such an important part of the book, we see Grant talking about  things like blog comments, traffic, editing in a way that feels authentic to the characters and part of the narrative, rather than expository blather.  This is a refreshing change from authors who info dump in the most boring way possible.

Peter Ryman comes off as smooth.

Shaun settled with his back to the wall, affording him the best view of the room.  He may seem like an idiot, but in some ways, he’s the most careful of us all.  You can’t be an Irwin and not learn somet things about keeping your exits open.  If the zombies ever mob en masse again, he’ll be ready.  And filming.

Buffy took the seat nearest the light, where the cameras studded through her jewelry would get the best pickup shots.  her portables work on the principles defined during the big pre-Rising wireless boom; they transmit data to the server on a constant basis, allowing her to come back and later and edit at her leisure.  I once tried to figure out how many transmitter she actually had on her ,but wound up giving up and wandering to do something more productive like answering Shaun’s fan mail.

……

–His tone easy and assured “I’m not going to beat around the bush.  I read your public reports, you op-ed pieces, everything before I agreed to your application.  I know you’re smart and won’t forgive bullshit.  That doesn’t,” he held up a finger, “mean I’m going to be one hundred percent straight with you, because there are some things no reporter ever gets to be privy to.  Mostly having to do with my home life and my family, but still, there are no-go zones.”

The first major campaign covered is an event in a civic center, where Georgia notes that the press outnumber the public two to one because the public doesn’t really like things like political rallies with a bunch of strangers anymore.  Or being anywhere with a large group of people.  We see some of the various segments of the population like the woman who asks him about the Rapture–the zombie outbreak has inspired some to religious fanaticism.  Another asks about the death penalty (especially given that that death penalty is a little different post zombies).  Another brings up public health-because again, this is a different level of priority post-zombies.  And so forth.

However, we see exactly why the public is scared of this sort of event when a zombie outbreak happens post meeting.  None of the alarm systems function correctly, and George is almost taken out among others.  It’s the first in a series of sketchy events that eventually mean our intrepid reporters have a conspiracy to report upon….

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 9.43.55 PMMira Grant’s author picture, which is one of the better I’ve seen.

If you like your books smart, skeptical of the government, and full of zombies, you’ll enjoy Feed and the rest of the Newflesh books….

Snarking Nostalgic–The Baby-sitters Club #1 Kristy’s Great Idea Chapters 1-3

My name is Crystal.  You would think that I went by Kristy in middle and high school because it’s a natural nickname, yes?  You would be WRONG.

I loved The Baby-sitters Club.  I wanted to be a member of The Baby-sitters Club.  I tried to start a Baby-sitters Club in Lisbon Falls Maine when I was in the 7th grade.  I read them from when they first came out (I was 7, a few months away from turning 8) and bought each new one (roughly every other month) as soon as I got my allowance until middle school (and even occasionally in high school I’d pick one up at the library and skim it).  I watched the tv show.  Even though I’d long since stopped reading the books, and even though I was in high school, I will totally admit to seeing the movie.  When I became an elementary/middle school teacher, I started rebuying the books FOR MY CLASSROOM.

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.

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

Original Publication Date-August 1986

One of the books we know for sure was written by Martin (after book 36, many were ghostwritten)

Chapter 1

The Baby-sitter Club.  I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together

Kristy tells us that she got the idea the first Tuesday afternoon of seventh grade. The BSC girls spend books 1-10 (roughly two years) in 7th grade.  They will then spend the rest of the series (aka the next the TWELVE YEARS) in 8th grade.

But before we can learn about how she got the idea for the BSC, we get to hear about her getting into trouble in class, establishing that she’s impulsive and a bit thoughtless.  She gets a hundred word essay on “decorum” because she punched out Alan Gray cheered the end of the school day.  I can totally picture that middle school teacher cracking open a beer and tossing the essay off to the side, smug that a point had been made–let’s see if I let you brats make fans during class time again (except I totally will because it’s too damn hot to teach right now).  Kristy is a REBEL, yo.

“-I can’t keep my mouth shut, and Mary Anne is very quiet and very shy”

We next meet Mary Anne, whose personality (until she manages to land the new resident hunk Logan Bruno in book 10) is that she has braids and is quiet.  She is the anti-Kristy–aka the nice one.  Although, seriously, from a 2014 perspective, only in the late 80’s would a father who let his 12 year old daughter go babysit at stranger’s houses be described as “overprotective.”  Today he’d be wildly permissive, no matter her hairstyle.  Oh, and her mom is dead.  Dead. Dead. Dead.

I pulled her hand out of her mouth and looked at her nails. “Mary Anne!  How do you ever expect to be able to wear nail polish if you keep doing that?”

I’m sorry, Kristy Thomas, but have you met Kristy Thomas–aka the LAST human being on the planet who would give a shit about wearing polish? By the end of the series, this is a woman who would need a significant bribe–like World Series tickets to give a rat’s ass about nail polish.

OH NOES! It’s Tuesday, and Kristy tells us that it’s her day to watch David Michael.  Apparently in Stoneybrook, the elementary school gets out way earlier than the middle or high schools and thus DM’s beating everyone home is a thing that happens.  So K and MA rush to Kristy’s house and there is DM on the stoop having a meltdown.  As they run we get exposition that Charlie (16) and Sam (14) and Kristy (12) each take a day with DM and that Kathy–a 15 year old girl from down the block watches DM the other two days a week.  (We’ll get to you in a moment, Kathy.)

We now get to some exposition about Claudi from across the street.  She’s really into art and junk food.  She’s also way too cool for Kristy and Mary Anne, as evidenced by the fact that they haven’t been hanging out enough and that she’s started to get into boys, the harlot.  Throwaway line about Mr. Kishi being serious about homework because Asian Stereotypes for the win!

In the five minutes it takes for David Michael to have peed and them to have given him some lemonade, Charlie and Sam show up.  They are obviously trustworthy, as they invite Kristy to come along with them to play ball in the Hanson’s yard–forgetting that she’s in charge of David Michael.  I don’t know why DM is getting so upset about the stoop–clearly given the boys level of commitment to their little brother, being forgotten is probably pretty common.

Their mom gets home with a pizza bribe because Kathy has canceled and she needs a sitter.  Charlie, Sam, Kristy, Mary Anne and Claudia are all busy.  Two other high school girls have cheerleading practice (because of course they do) and then she’s out.  She has run through every last teenager in Stoneybrook.  There are no stay at home moms she knows. David Michael has no friends whose moms she can call to set up a playdate with in exchange for a playdate down the road?

Kristy gets the idea of The Baby-sitters club.  The rest (and apparently Kathy) are history.  Which begs the question–what happened to Kathy?  We all know Kristy is way strict–did she take out a hit on Kathy?

Miss one day of your sitting job once and you lose it forever?  Way harsh, Mrs. Thomas.

Also–I can barely remember the time when this is a plausible story line, given technology.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 7.44.46 PM

Chapter 2

We all get to learn what decorum is.  Thanks for that, Kristy.

Exposition about how the club will work.  I kind of get the feeling that Martin decided phone in this part of the chapter with her own notes about plot points.  According to Wikipedia, the BSC was originally going to be a 4 book quartet, and was inspired because a scholastic editor noticed that girls liked this one book about baby-sitting so we should publish some more books about baby-sitting.

Kristy’s mom knocks at the door.  Blah blah blah working mom guilt, blah blah blah her parents are divorced and her dad didn’t even acknowledge her last birthday.  Kristy has to fess up about getting in trouble and her assignment and her mom finds it all pretty funny.

I asked her if she thought The End could count as the ninety-ninth and one-hundreth words, and she smiled and said she hoped so

Mrs. Thomas totally knows that the teacher isn’t going to read that essay.

9PM–flashlight time.  Kristy and Mary Anne have this whole Flashlight morse code thing they do since their bedroom windows face each other.  I’m dying to know what it was like since it was so advanced Kristy could signal her whole idea in under four hours.  I like that MA responds back “WHAT?” instead of another two paragraphs.  The idea is cool, but let’s try to keep it to the realistic fiction genre.

Mrs. Thomas is back–maybe she saw all the flashing and thought that a UFO was landing in the backyard?  Nope, turns out she’d just chickened out last time and needs to tell Kristy that she’s going out with Watson again on Saturday night.  Kristy cops major attitude (UGH he’s BALDING).  Mrs. Thomas eyerolls before getting to the point–could Kristy please baby-sit Watson’s kids on Saturday morning because it’s his weekend to have the kids?  Because that will TOTALLY endear him to Kristy.

Kristy says no, because UGH, Baby-sitting.

Great plan, Mrs. Thomas.  Maybe you should call Kathy, unless she’s already been executed for missing that ONE DAY of baby-sitting?

The chapter ends with Kristy pouting over being asked to baby-sit Karen and Andrew and then getting excited about her Baby-sitters Club idea.  BECAUSE OF COURSE she’s thrilled to start a baby-sitting club after turning down a baby-sitting job out of spite.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 7.45.15 PM

Chapter 3

Kristy hands in her decorum essay.  Can this please be the end of this stupid subplot?

I handed it to him before school, so he wouldn’t have to read it while the entire class was hanging around.  He didn’t count the words, just skimmed it, looked up at me, and said ‘This is fine, Kristy.  Fine work.  You express yourself very nicely on paper.”

Allow me to decode that for you, Kristy.  “I’m never reading this.  You did it. Yay for you.”

After school MA and K are talking.  Kristy wants to know how many of the 8 Pike kids MA is going to baby-sit for and they both seem relieved there will only be two.  I really hope you guys charged the Pikes per kid. Kristy is baby-sitting Jamie Newton and her brother.  They immediately plan to get the four kids together so they can talk.  You guys have the survival instincts of stay-at-home moms, ladies, and as a stay-at-home mom who has planned many a play date so I could hang out with a friend I salute you.

Kristy and David Michael are at the Newton’s door exactly at 3:30 and she tells us she’s NEVER BEEN LATE for a baby-sitting job.  You just know she’s dangling Kathy over a pit of vipers for daring to cancel on her mom.  It occurs to me that Kristy could grow up and become Sheryl Sandberg, lecturing all the other moms about how they’re not leaning in enough.

Jamie (3) and David Michael (6) bond over GI Joes and the moms of 25 years in the future have collective heart failure over the boys playing with branded violent action figures and start a collection to time travel backwards and hand out waldorf toys to the children of Stoneybrook.

Mrs. Newton shares that it’s 8 weeks until the new baby comes.  Kristy says she can’t wait and Mrs. Newton gives her the stink-eye.

Mrs. Newton leaves and Kristy calls MA to give her the all-clear and come over.  Because asking permission is lame.  Thank god she’s not planning on starting a professional baby-sitting service.  Oh, wait…..

Kristy and Mary Anne are sitting and talking about starting their TOTALLY PROFESSIONAL baby-sitting business when they hear a scream and look up and see that Jamie had fallen.  He’s totally being three about it, but MA grabs the girls and makes a hasty exit.  They plan to go over and see Claudia after the baby-sitting is over.

Kristy exposits about how Claudia is growing up faster.  DUDES, SHE’S WEARING A BRA!!!!  Slut  Kristy is disgusted because the boys in their grade are gross-what the fuck is WRONG with Claudia?

After that glowing recommendation, Kristy rings Claudia’s doorbell and we are treated to the first of a million descriptions of Claudia’s outfits

She was wearing short, very baggy lavender plaid overalls, a white lacy blouse, a black fedora, and red high-top sneakers without socks.  Her long black hair was carefully arranged in four braids.  I felt extremely blah compared to her

Don’t we all, Kristy.  Don’t we all.

But then—-

I was so used to seeing Claudia in outfits like that that I didn’t bat an eye.  What I did notice was that she was wearing makeup.  There was blue stuff on her eyelids, gold stuff about her eyes, and magenta stuff on her cheeks.

Weren’t you worried about Mary Anne’s access to nail polish in chapter 1, Kristy?

Kristy calls Claudia a tramp clown (no, really–a clown) and for reasons beyond understanding Claudia lets her in instead of slamming the door in Kristy’s face.

We get exposition about how Claudia is Japanese, her parents immigrated as kids (if not read carefully it sounds like they came over together), her parents are conservative and don’t understand her (and she babysits to get her crazy clothes because her parents won’t buy that stuff for her).  Claudia’s grandmother lives with them.  Janine is Claudia’s 15 year old genius older sister who takes college classes (HI ASIAN STEREOTYPES).  Martin then gives us Janine’s IQ–196, and indulges in some nerd bashing about how Janine’s a grammar nazi, her bff is a 14 year old math genius and her other bff is her computer–NERD.

Side note–if Claudia’s makeup, jewelery, art supplies and junk food are all paid for with baby-sitting money, she must baby-sit way more or charge way more than anyone else in Stoneybrook.

Mary Anne shows up and Kristy explains her whole “baby-sitters club” idea.

Claudia, seeing dollar signs, offers her room for meetings since she has her OWN PHONE LINE.  She is so much cooler than all of us.

Claudia also knows someone who could join the club–this new girl Stacey McGill.  She just moved here from NEW YORK CITY (new game–every time the BSC tells us Stacey is from NEW YORK CITY, we all put a piece of hay between our teeth, make our eyes really big and say in our most hickified voice NOO YAWK SEETEE?).

They agree to all meet the next day at 530 for the first meeting of the baby-sitters club.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 7.50.43 PMSource-Halloween Costume Idea (GUYS WE NEED TO DO THIS)

And our lives would never be the same again….

Part 2  (chapters 4-8) is here.