Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's wrong with Breaking Dawn? A LOT! (But I still love it.)

Sorry for the long break between posts. I have no excuse to offer up other than the fact that I forgot my Blogger password and couldn’t log in until I figured it out. I feel like such a dumbass. Fear not, though, because I have it written down now, in case I experience another premature Senior Moment and forget it again.

OK, I am now officially done reading the Twilight Saga in its entirety, and, despite the way it kinda jumped the shark by Breaking Dawn, I still declare it AWESOME!!! Where did I leave off? Oh, yes, I was covering Eclipse, and Bella was at a tribal gathering/BBQ held by the Wolf People. So she’s hearing all these legends and whatnot, and there is this one about someone called the Third Wife, a mortal human who was the third wife of the leader of the ancient werewolves. Anyway, she sacrificed herself to save the lives of her children by plunging a knife into her heart so the vampires would be distracted by her blood and come after her instead. Bella, martyr that she is, takes a shine to this particular legend and tucks it away in her head for future use.

Oh, I think I forgot to mention this in the last post, but this whole time Edward is kind of bugging Bella to marry him, and in fact, won’t even DO IT with her until she has become Mrs. Edward Cullen. Hmm…I don’t know if Stephenie Meyer purposely put these abstinence-friendly undertones in her book or if it just kind of happened accidentally, but I think it is ironic that there is something in a book about vampires and werewolves that the fundamentalist Christians can get behind. Anyway, in some classic Bella Swan pretzel logic, she is totally ready to pledge her immortal soul to Edward for all eternity by letting him or Carlisle change her into a vampire, yet she’s not quite ready for a commitment like marriage. Not to trivialize marriage or anything, but compared with becoming one of the undead, a signature on a marriage license doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal. Yet Bella has issues with it, because she feels that eighteen is too young to get married. A very sound argument for most people, but not for Bella because-DUH, if she is planning to become immortal, she’s going to be 18 forever!!! Even Edward seems like he wants to slap her when he explains that. It’s kind of aggravating. Here’s Bella- “Oh, I love you and need to be with you forever. I can’t breathe when you’re not around. Never leave me- oh, wait, you want to marry me? Um, I don’t think I’m ready…” Ehhh…as this series progresses, I find myself sort of rooting for the Volturi to swoop in and set Bells on fire. Sorry, but it’s true.

Anyway, in an ultimate power-play, Edward decides to hold the whole marriage thing over Bella’s head, saying he won’t let her get all up on his sparkly, cold vampire junk until they’ve been pronounced man and wife. He goes ahead and proposes to her with his mother’s (his real mother who died in 1918, not Esme) engagement ring, and she accepts, albeit in true Bella style, with lots of pouting and grimacing. (Really, I’ve never seen anyone “grimace” more than all the main characters in the Twilight Saga. I think grimaces are to Stephenie Meyer what ellipses are to Judy Blume.)
And now, back to the main plot- Victoria, the vampire whose boyfriend James got killed by Edward and Company in the original Twilight book, is out for revenge, but her target is Bella, not the Cullens. The way she sees it, the best way to get revenge on Edward for killing her mate is to kill his so he has to live with the grief and pain of it all. While Bella is on house arrest over at the Cullens’ house during Edward’s hunting trip, someone (presumably Victoria) sneaks into her bedroom and steals a bunch of her clothes and stuff so she and the other vampires can track her oh, so delicious scent, and now they’re on their way to get her!! Oh, no! The werewolf tribe is all over this, though, and are all set to tear it up in the woods. Unfortunately, though, some of the werewolves have mixed feelings about fighting alongside the Cullens. They develop this elaborate plan for Bella to go around all over the place, spreading her scent through the woods, and then to get carried away by Jacob, so that the vamps lose the scent and it gets replaced by stinky old werewolf-smell. In this way, they lure all the vampires into one area of the forest so they can attack them.

Oh, and there’s this one really funny part where it’s freezing cold in the tent where they are camped out overnight, waiting for the big showdown. Bella is really cold and her icy, rock-like boyf Edward can’t help warm her up, so to save her from frostbite and/or hypothermia, he has no choice but to allow Jacob to snuggle her with his 108-degree body all night long. Woo-hoo!! The best thing of all- Edward can hear every single thought Jacob has, and not all of them are 100% virtuous. They have a great little snide-comment war and it’s all very bitchy and fun.

Then morning comes (or nightfall- I can’t always tell what time of day it is when these showdowns happen) and the wolves and Cullens fight the bad vampires (complete with Bella pulling a Third Wife stunt and trying to get their attention away from her beloved by cutting herself), but it turns out that Victoria is not with them, and is in fact on her way to come kill Bella with her new little vamp-boy toy. Of course, all this drama has to take place right during Bella and Edward’s high school graduation (which-you guessed it!- Bella prepares for with more grimacing) Anyway, since Alice has already graduated about 37 times in the past century or so, it’s no biggie for her and the rest of the Cullens to ditch graduation and take care of Victoria, which means getting ripped to shreds and set on fire, which is apparently the way to kill vampires these days. Wooden stakes are SO 10 years ago! That’s pretty much it for this one.

Breaking Dawn:
OK, first of all, this final installment of the series is nearly twice the size of all the other books- we’re talking 750 pages of pure vampire-y goodness! Well, maybe not “goodness,” because as I mentioned before, if the Twilight Saga was a TV series instead of a book series, Breaking Dawn would be that awkward last season where they’re just desperately trying to wrap things up for a big finale, complete with the cute baby who rapidly ages a la Chrissy Seaver from Growing Pains.

This book opens with an engaged Bella at a gas station three days before her big wedding day. As per uzh, she’s too busy being all pissed off about being the center of attention to notice anyone being nice to her. I mean, OK, I just paid for a wedding myself this year, and I would like Bella’s life for one second where my biggest problem is that my rich future in-laws want to pick up the tab for a big lavish wedding AND buy me two new luxury cars on top of it. I mean, I think most girls would be ecstatic not to have to worry about how to foot the bill for any of this, but as we are always reminded, Bella is NOT LIKE MOST GIRLS. True to form, she’s like, “Oh, waa, waa, everyone’s going to be looking at ME, and my awesome, fashion-forward vampire sister-in-law has gone all out to make this the greatest wedding ever. I hate everybody!” I really sort of want to punch her in the head. Alice, by the way, is even more awesome than usual in this book- the lengths she goes to for this wedding and the subsequent honeymoon would put Martha Freakin’ Stewart to shame. Yet I don’t fully understand why she or any of the other Cullens even bother wasting their time and money when they know Bella’s going to act like a total ingrate.

Anyway, so like I said, Bella’s at the gas station and a few dudes come and admire the car her future hubby bought her- a Mercedes Guardian, which apparently is bulletproof, missle-proof, tank-proof, probably nuclear radiation-proof, etc. I went on the Mercedes website to see if such an awesome car actually exists or if it is simply the brainchild of Ms. Meyer- there is no such thing as a Mercedes Guardian, but there is a model called the Guard, which is armored and bulletproof, though not to the same extreme extent as this Guardian. Bella, of course, is just so embarrassed to be driving around in a flashy Mercedes instead of her janky old beater truck. Ugh. Shut up, Bella.

So we get to the wedding day, and we find out that Jacob has run far, far away into the woods, bent on staying in his wolf form forever, so incensed is he that Bella is marrying a “bloodsucker” and will obviously become one herself in the near future. His dad and a couple of the other werewolf contingent show up to represent at the wedding, though. Alice spends all morning making Bella look all glammy in her World War One- era wedding gown, and what thanks does she get? Big fat none- dumb old Bella won’t even look in a mirror when she’s done. I mean, who doesn’t look in a mirror on their wedding day? I consider myself a simple gal, and my wedding dress was merely an off-white sundress with some flowers in my hair, but you couldn’t stop me from looking in every available reflective surface that day. True story. If you can’t admire yourself when you’re the bride, when can you, eh? But Bella’s like, “Oh, I look all dumpy and plain next to my dreamy, super-hottt fiancé and all my new vampire in-laws, so why bother looking?” Shut up, Bella.

Anyway, so the wedding commences and all that lame, uncoordinated Bella can think of is that she’s probably going to fall down the stairs in her long dress. Yes, Bella, we get it- you’re a clumsy hot mess who could probably stub her toe standing still. Must you keep reminding us? Shut up. So she manages to get down the stairs and Edward looks all dreamy, and of course she suddenly really wants to get married, because, as Stephenie Meyer keeps unintentionally reminding us, the Edward/Bella romance really lacks depth, and the only thing that should ever matter when choosing your partner for all eternity is that they look smokin’ hot, right? Seriously, these two wouldn’t last a year in the real world, if all they do is spend their time alternately grimacing and glowering, looking anguished, and saying stupid things like, “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…” Then again, since vampires don’t have to eat or pee or do laundry, I suppose they would avoid all the usual little tiffs about leaving dishes in the sink, folding the towels the right way, and leaving the toilet seat up, wouldn’t they? Hmm. Still, though.

So they are pronounced vampire and wife (ha ha, not really) and go on to the reception, which is lavish and beautiful- Alice has gone all out, once again with no real thanks from Bella. For a change, Bella spares us the usual tantrum that goes along with having to dance in public, and consents to have a first dance with her hubby. Edward even chokes down a bite of cake when they feed it to each other! (Only to cough it back up again in private, I would assume. Hot!)

As the dancing and festivities continue, there is a big surprise- Jacob has come to the wedding after all! (Presumably in his human form) He asks Bella for a dance, and all is going smashingly until she sort of lets it slip that she and Edward are going to, erm, do some consummatin’ on their honeymoon. He gets all peeved that Edward would do such a thing, since his bride could easily be accidentally smashed to death with his superhuman strength if he isn’t really careful. He storms out of there after a heated little exchange in the shadows. Bella’s like, “Hmm, my best friend has changed back into a wolf, possibly never to return again. That sucks- oh, well, time for the honeymoon!” and leaves for a secret, undisclosed location with her groom. (I don’t know, but I think if I were Bella’s mom and dad I’d be a little alarmed that my daughter’s new husband won’t tell me where he’s taking her on the “surprise” honeymoon. Sounds sort of alarmingly Tom Cruise-y to me, but whatevs, I guess…)
So they get on a plane that stops somewhere boring like Milwaukee (I forget where, exactly) and then take a connector flight to Rio de Janeiro- which would be a totally sweet honeymoon spot for mere mortals. But Edward, not being a mortal, takes it to the next level and sails Bella out to a secluded island that Carlisle bought for Esme, called-are you ready?- Isla Esme. Try saying that five times fast!

OK, maybe I’m the weird one here, but I’d be quite skeeved out if I knew that my new in-laws had gotten busy in the very bed I’m about to use. Bella doesn’t seem to care, though- she busies herself looking through the honeymoon luggage Alice packed. Yes, that’s how awesome Alice is- not only did she go above and beyond as a wedding planner, but she also went out and bought a whole new wardrobe for Bella to take on her trip. And what thanks does she get? Only stupid Bella being all butt-hurt that her comfy old sweats aren’t in there, and “grimacing” some more at the (probably La Perla) awesome frilly lingerie she packed. Shut up, Bella! I think that if my new sister-in-law bought me a whole set of matching luggage filled to the brim with elegant designer clothes, a grimace would not be my facial expression of choice.

Bella goes out to the water where Edward is all shimmery in the moonlight, and it is presumed that they GET IT ON!! WOOOOO!!! I say “presumed” because there is a disappointing lack of actual detail when it comes to the sex scenes. I mean, I get it that these books were originally intended for a young adult crowd and should therefore rightfully be kept PG-13, but leaving it out entirely only to join our newlywed couple the next morning in a bed that has apparently been broken with feathers from the dismembered pillows everywhere sort of begs for a bit more detail. But that’s all we’re going to get, apparently- broken bed, feathers everywhere, and an uncharacteristically blissed-out Bella waking up from her night of rapture. (Because, as we all know, that’s exactly how your first time always goes. Awesomeness and rapture. Sure.) Edward, unfortunately, can’t leave well enough alone and is glowering in a corner about the bruises he unwittingly inflicted upon his new wife. (I swear, Edward “glowers” nearly as much as Bella “grimaces.” And they both "shudder" too much, too! Remind me not to invite Mr. and Mrs. Pouty-Pants Cullen to any couples’ Scrabble tournaments!) Bella’s all, “You didn’t hurt me. It was awesome- let’s do it again!!” And Edward, who is undeniably the strangest 98-year-old teenager I’ve ever read about, is like, “No, I never want to do it again while you’re still human.” You’d think after an 80-year dry spell, he wouldn’t let a few little bruises stop him for a second go, but as you know, Edward is a GENTLEMAN!

So actually, this part is quite funny- Bella has turned into a little hornball, now that she knows what she’s been missing all this time, and goes all out to try to get her hubby to have another little throw-down. Meanwhile, Edward tries to pack her day full of exhausting activities such as snorkeling and eating large quantities of food so she’ll be too tired to be in the mood. So basically, Bella spends most of her honeymoon bloated, stuffed, and sleeping for 12 hours a day. Nice!! One night she decides she’s going to use sex as a bargaining chip a la Edward himself, and tells him that if they can DO IT more often, she will take her time about changing into a vampire and will stay human and even go to Dartmouth like he wanted! Yes, nothing screams “healthy marriage” like making college plans against your will in exchange for a little nookie. Also, she finally embraces the concept of the naughty lingerie Alice packed for her and dons a little lacy black number. Well, Edward can’t resist all that, and next thing you know, it’s Honeymoon Th'ow-Down Part Deux!

Bella wakes to discover that, to both of their delight, she doesn’t have bruises this time. Edward sees that he was able to get it on without accidentally almost killing his wifey, and relaxes a bit about the sex embargo. They start honeymooning for real. (Side note: maybe it’s just me, but I think the whole rough, bruising, bed-breaking, feather-spewing action they’re engaging in is in direct contrast to the way their relationship’s been set up in the past three books. If Edward’s supposed to be all gentlemanly and World War 1-ish and in constant obsessive fear of Bella’s safety, it seems that their honeymoon fun would be more on the tender, schmoopy side, not WWE Smackdown. But what do I know from sweet vampire lovin’?)

All is well until one night Bella stuffs her face with some chicken that doesn’t taste right, only to get food poisoning and start barfing every hour on the hour. When she goes into her first-aid kit for some Pepto Bismol (also packed by Alice, no thanks from Bella!) she notices a little box of tampons also thrown in there (though Stephenie Meyer never actually says the word “tampons”- she just calls it a “little blue box.” Heh.) and realizes that she should have had to use the contents of that little blue box by now. Oh, noes!! Bella’s preggers!! She realizes upon looking in the mirror that her abdomen is quite distended, perhaps the way a woman who is a few months pregnant might look. (Which begs the question, however did she fit into those black lacy outfits if she is already gaining preggy-weight?) However, even Bella is smart enough to realize that there is no way she could already be experiencing morning sickness and a big tummy only three weeks after her missed period (yes, Stephenie Meyer DOES go ahead and say “period,” much to my surprise). And besides, her husband is a vampire- they can’t have children, right? The couple hastily calls Dr. Carlisle Cullen to describe the circumstances. He tells them to come home right away. While they’re on the phone, this two-week-old fetus starts kicking Bella as though she were already about 6 months along. WTF? Obviously vampire babies incubate a bit more rapidly than a human baby. They beat it home and tell Bella’s dad some cockamamie story about her catching some South American virus and needing to be quarantined. Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot- the South American cleaning lady who, I guess, cleans up all the feathers and splinters from shattered bed frames, takes one look at Bella and starts screaming in Portuguese about evil and whatnot. Apparently the people of this region have some experience with this brand of supernatural phenomena (store that in your mind-grapes for later, yo- it will come into play.)

Well, she’s got a little bloodsuckin’ bun in the oven alright, but they can’t ultrasound the lil’ bugger because there is apparently too hard of a placenta thingy around it, being a vampire and whatnot. They all realize that if Bella tries to deliver this thing, whatever it is, she is certainly going to die, and they really just sort of want to get rid of it- except Bella has suddenly gotten all maternal on us and decides to keep this baby or whatever it is even if it kills her. Wait a tick- did we just get a pro-life message and an abstinence-until-marriage message in the same book??? I certainly hope Stephenie Meyer didn’t really have a hidden agenda for this storyline. Anyway, all the other Cullens and Jacob (who has resurfaced in time to see this whole thing happen) all think she’s nuts for wanting to sacrifice herself for something that might be a terrible, bloodsucking monster. (Obviously they have never met Bella or they would realize how she relishes the opportunity to be “selfless.”) Anyway, the only one who is onboard with the whole Vampire Hybrid Baby thing is Rosalie, the only Cullen who has never really cared for Bella. Suddenly she is all about her, taking care of her and never leaving her side. Everyone, including her own parents and siblings, sees right through her protective sister-in-law façade and understands that she is living vicariously through her because she never had a baby of her own.

About 3 weeks into Bella’s pregnancy, she looks like she’s about 8 months along, and she is way sick- she can’t keep any food down and the baby keeps breaking her ribs with its superhuman kicking. She takes it all cheerfully, of course-well, cheerfully for Bella, that is. As we know, nothing makes her happier than when she can sacrifice her own well-being for a paranormal creature. She is convinced that the baby is a boy and wants to name him EJ, or Edward Jacob. Everyone else is convinced that it is not a baby at all but some sort of crazy parasite draining her of life as they speak, but she and Rosalie won’t let them get it out of her. She still can’t keep any food down and has developed a very interesting craving- for human blood. Dr. Carlisle hypothesizes that Lil’ Baby Vamp needs blood to thrive, and therefore Bella must drink it to get it to him. She has a cup of O-neg, finds it delicious rather than hideous and disgusting, and begins drinking blood regularly. She starts looking better again.
One night, clumsy ol’ Bella spills her cup o’ blood, something you never really want to do in a house of vampires. Suddenly it’s a full-on blitz, and the resulting commotion puts her into early (VERY early, since she’s been pregnant for about 4 weeks at this point) labor. Carlisle and a couple other Cullens are out hunting, so he’s not there to help her. Edward decides to go ahead and deliver the baby himself, changing her into a vampire with a syringe of his own venom straight into her heart the second after she has the baby. She goes through the torture of being “changed,” which she describes as feeling like she’s on fire for about two days. Fun! Oh, yeah, and before she blacks out, she sees that the baby is a girl and names her- wait for it- Renesmee. A hybrid of her mom, Renee, and Edward’s mom Esme. Feel free to barf now. Stupid celeb names like Apple and Suri sound downright adorable compared to Renesmee.

Until now, I forgot to mention that Breaking Dawn is split up into separate “books,” with different narrators for the different books, kind of like a BSC Super Special, only with more vampires. Anyway, Bella took the first book, about the wedding and honeymoon, so we could get the full impact of her whining and grimacing, and Jacob narrated Book 2, which covers Bella’s odd pregnancy and his resentment towards her and all the Cullens for putting her though that. So, as we end Book 2 and little Renesmee has been born, Jacob is about to go ahead and kill the hybrid baby, convinced it is pure evil and that he owes it to his wolf-people to rid the world of her and all that. But then guess what? He sees that Renesmee has Bella’s eyes, and suddenly “imprints” with her!! Oh, wait, haven’t I mentioned imprinting yet? Well apparently, the werewolf tribe does this instinctive thing where they know exactly who they are supposed to be with all their lives from the first moment they look at them. They call it “imprinting,” as in, they have imprinted themselves on the person’s soul, and once they have imprinted, it’s a done deal. Here’s the weird thing- they can imprint with anyone of any age, and since they really don’t age that rapidly, they can just wait for the object of their affections to grow up and then marry them. One of the other boys in the wolf pack has gone ahead and imprinted with a two-year-old, and though it sounds quite skeevy, nothing gross ever happens- they act like their caretakers, big brothers, etc. until the girls are of age, and then it becomes something more. Which, yeah, I guess IS skeevy. So anyway, Jacob goes and imprints with Renesmee, and Edward is some PISSED!! So is Bella, once she wakes up from her vampire-changing experience. She’s all, “I want you in my life as my friend, not as my son-in-law!” Funny!

In Book 3 is where things really start to make no sense, story-wise. I mean, it DOES make sense, but in that convoluted way things do when the plot is all kinds of messed up. Bella’s got this baby now, and she has finally become a vampire, but unlike any other “newborn” vampire that ever existed, she is able to control her bloodlust and still be her normal self (because she’s SPECIAL, remember?) Since she’s no longer human, she doesn’t have to deal with the inconvenience of recuperating from childbirth, and within an hour of waking up from her big change, she’s learning how to jump really far and scale tall trees and whatnot. It is also quite convenient that little Renesmee (who, by the way, already looks like at least a 6-month old baby because of her rapid progression) is more vampire than human when it comes to her eating habits and prefers a bottle of blood over breast milk or formula. So Bella can leave her for long periods of time with Grandma Esme and Grandpa Carlisle whilst she goes on her first hunting adventure, etc.

Also, she and Edward can have some crazy vampire “relations” all night long, now that her non-human status has relieved her of the pesky need to sleep, eat, go to the bathroom, etc. Also, now that she is just as cold and rock-like as her hubby, they no longer have to worry about accidentally breaking any bones, bruising, black eyes, or general soreness. So they do a lot of that (or, at least, Stephenie Meyer alludes to that fact, since she dammit never comes right out and gives us one juicy scene. Grrr!) Also, Esme and Carlisle give the happy couple a little Snow White-ish cottage in the woods as a “happy turning-into-a-vampire-and-having-a-weird-rapidly-aging-hybrid-baby” present. Here’s what’s funny: they are obviously so sick of how lame Bella always acts when she gets a gift that they purposely don’t go with her to see it for the first time. Finally Bella’s like, “Hmm, I must act difficult when I receive a gift.” I’m like, “Uh-DOY!!”

Then there’s also the entirely unbelievable debacle of telling good old Charlie Swan that his daughter, who just got married a month ago and who, BTW, no longer resembles the old Bella in any way AND has glowing red eyes, also is the mother of a week-old child who looks like she’s about 2 and a half. Without letting it slip that her in-laws are vampires and now so is she. Um, yeah, right. So Alice hooks Bells up with some brown contacts to hide the glowing redness (which must be switched out every few hours as her eye-venom melts the contacts. Neat!) and Charlie comes to visit. At first he doesn’t even recognize his daughter, since she has gotten drop-dead gorgeous, thanks to her venom infusion. So that’s Clue #1 that all is not right. Then, for Clue #2, they bring out Renesmee with some stupid Baby Boom-ish story about how she is Edward’s cousins’ child whom they have adopted because the parents were killed in an accident. Naturally, though, since Renesmee looks like a perfect hybrid of Edward and Bella, Charlie’s like, “Oh, come on!” So they have to acknowledge that something is definitely off and they are quite different, but they won’t say the V-word. Instead, they just tell Charlie that it’s a supernatural thing and he’s on a need-to-know basis with everything. Which Charlie takes surprisingly, unnaturally well. But then again, he just found out that his best friend’s kid and all his friends are werewolves, so maybe he’s just kind of used to it.

Then it gets boring for a while. Blah blah blah, life is idyllic and Renesmee is so smart! She can walk and talk and looks like she’s about 4, but she’s like a month old. To break up the monotony, Renesmee gets spotted by this vampire chick, Irina, who is a member of a fellow coven of “vegetarians,” with whom the Cullens hang out on a semi-regular basis. Since kids aren’t usually the type of thing you see with a family of vampires, she jumps to the conclusion that this kid is one of the “immortal children,” a type of vampire kid that was banned by the Volturi centuries ago. See, back in the day, some vampire women got a craving to have some young’uns, so they just decided to bite little human babies and toddlers and turn them into adorable vamp-kids. One problem, though- you know how difficult a regular human kid can be to control when he hits his Terrible Twos? Well, imagine that toddler going on a rampage for human blood and drawing WAY too much attention to the vampire world. Yup, quite the disaster. So in an effort to minimize negative PR for vampires everywhere, the Volturi banned anyone from creating these lil’ monsters and also mass-executed the ones that did exist, as well as the adult vampires who created them in the first place. This chick Irina’s adopted vamp-mom was one of the ones who got executed for creating a darling little vampire boy, so she’s got a real vendetta against immortal children everywhere, apparently. She goes and tattles to the Volturi on them, and they decide a visit is in order.

Well, that’s all the Cullens need to hear. They go all psycho and decide they’re about to get wiped out. Alice and Jasper head for the hills, and everyone else is all, “WHAT?” Alice leaves Bella a cryptic note that leads to a guy who can make fake IDs for Renesmee and Jacob in the event that they have to be sent away to save her. This part is rather boring and redundant, so I’ll just skip ahead to the big showdown- Carlisle calls upon all his vampire brethren to come to Forks and testify as witnesses that Renesmee is not an immortal child, rather a vamp/human hybrid deal. It’s kind of like a vampire family reunion of sorts, and some of them have awesome powers. They stay and prepare for a while, and then one day the Volturi comes a-callin’. They bring their own army and have this, honestly, quite anticlimactic showdown during which Bella uses her new ability to shield everyone from having the Volturi read their thoughts, etc. Long story short, Alice and Jasper return at a very crucial moment in the impending fight against the Volturi with another vampire/human hybrid kid they dug up from that same place in South America where the house-cleaning lady seemed to know something was up with Pregnant Bella. Upon producing evidence that Renesmee is, in fact, not an immortal child, the Volturi leave Renesmee alone and end up executing Irina for not getting her facts straight before telling on them. All’s well that ends well, and that pretty much wraps it up.
So, yeah, all in all, I still LOVE the lovely Twilight, but I think this last book was a tad far-fetched, even for a series about vampires and werewolves. Also, the characters had sort of become one-dimensional caricatures of themselves, also not unlike the lame last season of a TV show that used to be good. (Friends, I’m looking at you.) Rather than brooding in a troubled, tortured, James Dean-y kind of way, Edward has been reduced to a glowering, anguish-faced bit part who only shows up in the story to get it on with Bella and to despair over his family’s fate. The rest of the Cullens pale in comparison to their former selves in the first three books, and hello? Alice, the undisputed awesomest one of the bunch, is missing for like half the book! Lame!!

Also, not that I even thought it possible after Eclipse, but Bella is even more of a pain in the ass than usual! You’d think she’d be happy after the whole debacle with the Volturi is behind them, but at the end of the book she’s like, “We’re safe for now, but someday they’re going to come back and wipe us out.” Way to go, Debbie Downer!! Also, it is way stupid how her mother Renee, whom she once described as “her best friend”, never makes another appearance again after Bella’s wedding! Here’s Bella, assuming she’s about to get killed by the Volturi, and when it occurs to her that she’ll never see her mom again, she’s like, “Well, it’s better this way than to drag her into all of this. I’m glad we won’t see each other again.” Some best friend!! You know, my mom really IS my best friend, and we talk every single day. Believe me, if I dropped off the face of the earth to become a vampire and have a hybrid baby, she’d know about it! So that didn’t ring true.

What else was wrong with the end of this series? Oh, so many things- Jacob suddenly realizing that it wasn’t Bella he was in love with, but the girl who had been inside her all along. Ewwww!!! So basically he was all about Bella for all that time because one of her eggs would someday become his one true love? That is messed up in like 8 different ways.

Oh, yeah, and like 5 pages from the end, we find out that Jacob and Company are not werewolves after all, but shape-shifters, since the moon has nothing to do with their ability to phase into wolves, which is kind of the main werewolf thing. It’s like, everything we know is wrong! Oh, and in more disappointing news, stupid Bella never even drives the awesome Ferrari that her hubby purchased for her, because she feels it’s too ostentatious. Say it with me now- SHUT UP, BELLA!!!

So, while I give Breaking Dawn itself a big old honking F-minus for plot and content, it was still a page-turner and reading it made me so happy that I actually ran to my car one day on my lunch break, so excited was I to dig in to the book. So, if a book can get an F for storyline but an A for true reading enjoyment at the same time, that is my grade. And yes, that is a very odd combination, but that's how it is.

I still can’t help but love the Twilight Saga in that rampant guilty-pleasure way, the same way I love Dawson’s Creek and America’s Next Top Model and a bunch of other shows/movies/books that probably actually make me dumber as I enjoy them. I am all kinds of excited to go see the screen adaptation of New Moon (in theatres November 20, y’all) and am such a dorky fangirl that I will probably end up buying my movie soda in one of those ridiculously large collectors’ cups.
Tune in next time when I review Lois Lowry’s masterpiece, Anastasia Krupnik.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Once Bitten...: Or, How I Accidentally Got Into Twilight

Oh, no- it’s happened. I’ve become one of THEM. I tried to stay away from it as long as possible, but in the end, it always catches up with you, no matter what you do. I am talking, of course, about the Twilight books. As a child of the 80s/90s who grew up on such favorite book series as the Baby-Sitters Club and the Ramona books, I scoffed at the vampire romance series by Stephenie Meyer, chalking it up to a slightly more feminized Harry Potter phenomenon (yeah, I don’t read the Harry Potter books either…yet.) Besides, I never cared about vampires- I wasn’t even a devoted Buffy fan back in the day. Normally when it comes to the fantasy genre and series like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or the Narnia books, I’m like, “Meh.” (Jay Willy still can’t believe he’s gone and married a gal who falls asleep 20 minutes into every single LOTR movie.) Don’t get me wrong- I like a good story of a hero on a quest- I mean, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Star Wars, and aren’t I like SUCH a geek about Super Mario Bros.? It’s just that when mythical beasts like dragons and hobbits and talking lions that are supposed to represent God or something enter the scene, I usually lose interest fast. Not to mention that, with the exception of re-reading all my childhood favorites under the pretense of blogging about them later (but really just because I want to read “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” yet again) I tend to feel awkward about purchasing/checking out a book meant for teens when I’m very nearly th-th-thirty. So I was doing a pretty good job of staying away from the Twilight books in the YA section and the screaming teeny-bopper fangirls going psycho over Edward…and then my friend Meg said, “You should really read Twilight, it’s a good read.”

Now, I tend to trust Meg about book recommendations- she reads about as much as I do, and I’ve always enjoyed the books she’s recommended in the past- not to mention that she’s the same age as me, and if it’s OK for her to buy Twilight, then it’s OK for me too, was my rationalization. So I checked it out at my local library and brought it with me on the cruise, figuring I’d skim a few chapters on the plane ride, hate it, and switch to another book (I even went so far as to pack a second book for the plane in my carry-on, in case my hatred for Twilight was so intense that I had to switch books right away!) Imagine my surprise when, as the plane touched down in Florida, there were three things of which I was sure: First, that I had read more than half of the book in under 3 hours, second, Stephenie Meyer is a much better writer than I would have given her credit for, and third, I was unconditionally, irrevocably in love with Twilight.* So I was like, “Oh, CRAP!!” because I’d really wanted to hate it. (Oh, and as a side note, after devouring Twilight so fast during the cruise that I had nothing left for the plane ride back home, I ended up reading the first half of the “emergency” book I’d brought with me as a precaution against the suck-itude I was so certain Twilight would contain. Guess what: it totally sucked. Irony? Maybe. )
*Paraphrase of a line from Twilight, but Bella’s talking about Edward…yeah, I wish I could kick myself too…

I devoured the rest of the novel as voraciously as if I were one of the vampires myself, and plowed headfirst into the second book in the series, New Moon (apparently due out in theaters in November- I am ashamed to admit I had to repress a “SQUEE!” when I saw the trailer, and promptly leaned across Jay Willy to chatter excitedly with Meg and our other friend Sharon about what we’d just seen. *Rolling eyes at self*.) Now, a mere week later, I am done with New Moon and more than halfway through Eclipse, (no small feat, I might add- these are not the 150-page YA books of yore: each one is about 600 pages long!) and I’m going to the library today to pick up the fourth and final book in the saga, Breaking Dawn, that is on hold for me. This is all a means of explaining why I haven’t yet blogged about Anastasia Krupnik, as promised. I have a shelf of delicious YA novels from back in the day just waiting for their moment in the sun, but my mind is currently stuck in Forks, Washington and until I can complete the whole saga, I’m afraid I’m staying there.
I actually had a little synopsis of what I’ve read so far, so I wouldn’t leave you empty-handed, but it was starting to look like one of those “OMG TWILIGHT ROCKS!!!” types of fansites that are usually run by high-school freshman girls. So I’ll just sum it up for you in one rather long, run-on paragraph per book:
TWILIGHT: Girl named Bella moves to Washington and is pissed because the weather’s so cloudy and gross all the time. Meets dreamy boy named Edward at small-town high school; dreamy boy turns out to be a vampire. Bella doesn’t mind that he might accidentally on purpose kill her and loves him anyway. Bella also has another friend, a younger Native American boy named Jacob who lives on a reservation. Jacob’s dad doesn’t like Edward because he knows he’s a vampire. Edward saves Bella from series of unfortunate accidents, as well as an attempt by another, mean vampire to kill her. They go to prom. Bella wants Edward to change her into a vampire too, so they can live together for all eternity and be immortal together. And also so they can finally get it on, because apparently they can’t do much in the way of sexy-time without him accidentally almost trying to drink her blood. Oops! Edward won’t change her because he doesn’t want to be responsible for damning her that way.
NEW MOON: Bella’s 18th b-day rolls around and she’s all butt-hurt because now she’s older than her perpetually 17-year-old vampire boyf. Edward takes her to his awesome vampire family’s house for a b-day party. After acting sufficiently douche-y over a bunch of awesome vampires trying to do something nice for her, Bella gets a paper cut from wrapping paper on a present and Edward’s brother Jasper goes nuts over the blood and tries to kill her. Ruh-roh. Edward gets scared and decides it’s better for everyone if he and his vampire family (let’s call them a “vamily”) goes away from her. Bella is WAY depressed and catatonic because her vampire is gone. She’s all numb and crazy for a few months, and then starts hanging out with Jacob more. She does things like ride motorcycles and go cliff-diving because every time she risks her life, she has delusions where she can hear Edward’s voice and it seems worth it just to hear him for a minute. Jacob “like-likes” her despite the fact that she’s acting like a big ol’ can of crazy, but she just wants to be friends. Then Jacob starts acting strange and avoiding her. Did she finally piss him off with her mood swings? Nope! He’s just a werewolf! So now she’s in LUV with a vampire and her BFF is a werewolf, the vampires’ mortal enemy. Yipes Stripes!! Bella’s like, “Oh, that’s OK that you’re a werewolf,” as soon as she knows that he doesn’t kill people. She is tolerant!! When I was single, I didn’t even want to date guys who were shorter than me, but Bella’s all, “No, it’s fine that you’re not human.” Makes me feel shallow. Then Alice, Edward’s awesome vampire sister upon whom I have a terrible girl crush, shows up and is all, “Edward’s in danger!” See, she can see the future, but she’s kind of like a weatherman because about 60% of the time, her visions don’t really amount to much. Anyway, she saw Bella cliff-diving (and subsequently almost drowning because she’s kind of a klutz) and thought she was committing suicide, and then in a wacky misunderstanding, Edward called the house and Jacob told him that Charlie (Bella’s dad) was “at the funeral,” but he meant the funeral of Charlie’s pal Harry, who’d had a heart attack. Oh, no! Edward thought it was Bella’s funeral and decided to go off himself too since she was dead, a la Romeo and Juliet. How does an immortal kill himself, though? Simple- go piss off the Volturi, a scary, bad-ass royal vampire family who lives in Italy and sort of polices the vamp world by killing any vamp who draws too much attention to themselves. Edward’s big plan is to take his shirt off (OWWW!) and stand in the sunlight in a public plaza so everyone can see his skin sparkle. (Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that- vampires’ skin sparkles like diamonds when they’re out in the sun, so that’s why they have to be careful about that.) So Alice and Bella jet off to sunny Italy, of course, so Edward can see Bella and how alive she is before he does anything stupid. Luckily, she spots him right before he’s about to publicly disrobe, and stops him from taking off his shirt (AWWWWW!) But the damage is sort of already done- some Volturi goon got wind of what he was about to do and is waiting to escort him to their secret underground lair *miming Dr. Evil’s pinky-to-the-mouth move.* Edward, Bella, and Alice get taken to this crazy vampire castle deal where they have to stand before the Volturi and plead their case, sort of. They agree to let them off the hook, under one condition- Bella has to be changed into a vampire, like soon. She’s like, “Yay, finally,” but Edward’s not so sure. Anyway, they fly back to Washington and Bella’s dad is some PISSED, naturally, that she took off like that. He sees Edward carrying her into the house after like 8 months of him being gone, and Charlie’s like, “Get out of this house!” So now he’s sort of forbidding Bella to see him, in a very star-crossed sort of way. Oh, and she’s pretty much grounded for life, but she’s happy because her undead man is home.

ECLIPSE: OK, I’m only halfway through this one, so here’s what’s up so far: Bella’s dad is still pissed at Edward, but he has relented somewhat and now allows him to come visit Bella, under strict parental supervision, for like 2 hours a day. Bella is still pretty much under house arrest, but she gets to see Edward at school all day, so it’s not too bad. Basically now Bella is even more co-dependent than she was before, not wanting to let Edward out of her sight because she’s afraid he’s going to leave her again. He’s not much better- he is WAY overprotective and won’t let her go see her werewolf buddy for obvious reasons. Also because he’s crazy-jealous of Jacob the werewolf, but won’t admit it. So Edward finally has to go “hunting,” which means he needs to go feast on some animal blood so he doesn’t accidentally snap and eat a human instead, so he leaves Bella in the care of Alice. Well, naturally, Bella sneaks off to go see Jacob (because she can’t dammit ever just be happy with what she’s got. All last book, she’s like, “Oh, Edward! Edward!” and now she’s running away from the very same Edward to go see another dude, who is a werewolf to boot. I’d be pissed too, if I were Edward- that’s really kind of a slap in the face. Bella’s actually really starting to piss me off. ) But believe it or not, he comes back from his “hunting” trip suddenly really cool about the whole thing, and even lets Bella go hang out with the werewolves at a bonfire party/tribal council meeting type thing. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Oh, yeah- and I watched the Twilight movie last night. Squee times infinity!!! Yeah, it was naturally not as good as the book (they never are), but it was so awesome to see the object of my new literary obsession playing out in front of me- it was like when I was 10 and learned that there was a made-for-PBS movie based on Anne of Green Gables!
I thought that Kristen Stewart played a spot-on Bella, and I was surprised and pleased that they had thought outside the box and cast minor characters such as Tyler, Angela, and Eric so multiculturally (because in my mind they were all a bunch of white-bread Northwestern kids in the book). At first I thought they cast Edward wrong, because sorry, Robert Pattinson, but I do NOT think you can effectively portray “the most beautiful person in the world.” However, about halfway into the movie, I sort of got it: he’s got kind of a James Dean-y bad boy thing going on, and is, in fact, probably EXACTLY the kind of guy I would have had a huge crush on back in the day. (I mean, jeez, I loved Jason Priestley back then, after all…) And I hear he has a British accent in real life, so yeah, I’m pretty sure 13-year-old me would have had posters of him all over the place, even though he doesn’t do much for 29-year-old me. I mean, I heard he hasn't washed his hair in like 3 years. That's sort of gross... Anyway, yeah, it was cool to see the first book of my new favorite series come to life, and I eagerly anticipate the sequel. (Nov. 20)
Sorry- upon re-reading this post, it DID sort of veer off into fan-girl territory. But at least I hope this explains why some awesome YA books have yet to be read and reviewed for your enjoyment. I’ll be back soon with the thrilling conclusion to this saga, as well as (hopefully) a post about good old Anastasia Krupnik. Ciao!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's about to get a LOT better!!

OK, format change. I started out this blog a mere two weeks (three weeks?) ago, in hopes of identifying, outlining, and writing in great detail about all things awesome. Well, that’s great, until it occurred to me that nobody, not even me, wants to read about what I think of Swedish Fish, Groundhog Day, or Count Chocula. (I mean, maybe I’m wrong and people do really care, but I really doubt it.) Long story short, I think I’m going to take a page from some of my fellow bloggers and re-read favorite YA books that I had as a child and then write reviews about them. (Take a page…from fellow book bloggers…get it? HA! Ok…)
Don’t worry, though- it’s just an addition to all the fine things my blog offers. If you still want to read about things I find awesome, they’ll be in there periodically. But wait- there’s more!! In addition to my reviews of YA books by favorite authors like Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, Beverly Cleary, and of course, the Baby-Sitters Club, I plan to also re-watch and review awesome 80s and 90s movies that I loved so much back in the day. Yes, I realize that there are a crap-ton of blogs out there that join nostalgia and snarkiness so beautifully, but for me there can never be too many. Stay tuned for our first review- I’ll be re-hashing Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry, the first in the series of Anastasia books. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Flash Mobs

Ah, what a great cruise!! To my delight, it WAS a bit like Kellerman’s on a ship, without anything too painfully dorky (though I did hear a rumor that there was a Charades tournament somewhere on board during one of the shore excursion days…) Anyone who knows me understands that I’m really just a 90-year-old lady named Miriam inside a 29-year-old’s body, so the endless bingo games, kitschy stage shows involving Carmen Miranda fruit hats, trivia challenges, and animals folded out of bath towels on my bed each night (no, really) were a constant source of happy for me. Ooh, and they had karaoke EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!! And they had all-you-can-eat FLAN in the dining room!! It’s like they made a list called “Stuff Alana Likes” and structured their entire company around it. All they were missing was Guitar Hero, and my dream vacay would have been complete. Jay Willy, on the other hand, merely tolerates all the above-mentioned activities, but he still managed to enjoy himself- mostly through the outlet of overpriced strawberry daiquiris and gambling. We had a blast, and I will post pictures at some point in the future, when I can be bothered to do so.
But enough about The Honeymoon- let’s get into the Awesome Thing of the Day. I had a whole other post prepared about some other awesome thing, but then decided the topic wasn’t nearly awesome enough, so I abandoned it for now (I won’t tell you what it was, though, in case I do decide to post it another day) Let’s talk about…


Anyone who saw the season premiere of Oprah this year knows what a flash mob is. For the benefit of those of you who prefer to watch something else whilst working out, though, a flash mob is a moderately new phenomenon where a small group of people spontaneously burst into a choreographed dance, Broadway-style, in a public place full of unsuspecting bystanders. Here are a few examples of flash mobs- this is the one from Oprah that I mentioned, featuring the Black-Eyed Peas:

And here’s a great one from Weeds (which is actually where I first heard of flash mobs…guess I’m a little slow on the trend uptake), featuring one of my favorite songs right now, “Say Hey (I Love You)” by Michael Franti:


Maybe you have to be a theater geek who likes musicals like me in order to truly appreciate the beauty of a whole group of people doing the exact same dance at the exact same time. For me, flash mobs kind of realize the fantasy I’ve always had of suddenly springing into a choreographed little number, apropos of nothing, with about 25-plus strangers who magically know the exact same routine right by my side. Ever since I saw (and worshipped) Annie back when I was just a lil’ sprout, I longed for an opportunity to see-or better yet, be part of- something like this scene?
OK, not a flash mob by definition, but how cool that everyone in the orphanage knows the same song AND can do a choreographed dance to it without the aid of formal dance training or rehearsals?
Or, you know that part in Oliver! Where he’s just looking out his window and suddenly all the townspeople burst into the lovely little “Who Will Buy this Wonderful Morning?” song? I mean, come on, wouldn’t you just LOVE to see something like that for real? Well, thanks to flash mobs, now you can.
So you’re reading this post and you’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s all well and good, Alana, but how do I create my own flash mob?” Well, I’ll break it down for you in these easy-to-follow steps. Take notes!

1. You must be willing to make a complete ass of yourself in public. Inhibitions? Self-consciousness? Better check those at the door, pal, cause they ain’t gonna work for flash
mob-ery. You’ve got to have total confidence and be OK with spontaneously dancing in a crowded public place in order to really bring it. Entertainment Rule #1: You have to really sell it, and if anyone thinks you look squirmy or uncomfortable, they won’t be buying what you’re selling, and you’ll just end up looking like a tool. Throw inhibition to the wind!!
2. Pick a bouncy tune. Nobody will give a crap if you and your buds start an impromptu lyrical interpretive dance number to Enya’s latest hit- mostly you’ll just put everyone to sleep and make them inexplicably yearn for a massage. (No offense, Enya- I LOVE you, but your music just isn’t super-catchy, as you probably know…) You need to pick something recognizable, or failing that, danceable. What do you think will give you more love from the audience- a kick-ass, perfectly executed number set to “Ghostbusters” or a lackluster routine set to some song nobody knows, like that new one by Chris Isaak? (Once again, my apologies to Mr. Isaak- I think your voice is hauntingly lovely and you are an adult-contemporary fave, but not exactly something you can groove to, ya know?)
3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Yes, it’s supposed to be spontaneous-for the audience. You mustn’t come unprepared for something like this- if you don’t look like you and your chums are all doing the same routine, you will look less like an awesome flash mob than a bunch of d-bags randomly dancing to the same loud tune in a disorganized, chaotic manner.
4. Pick a nice crowded spot full of unwitting audience members. The best places seem to be busy street malls, festivals, or corporate plaza-type things that are always crowded for lunch. Places to avoid- the mall (unless you want people to think you’re the cast of Glee coming around on a mall tour for all the teeny-boppers), a concert (since it’s unfair to steal the main act’s spotlight), and probably the DMV. (Though that would make for an EXCELLENT YouTube video!)
5. Bust a move! In fact, “Bust a Move” would be an excellent song to use in your flash mob routine. Now get out there and DANCE!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Leavin' On a Jet Plane- and a Cruise Ship

Hey, guys, sorr to leave only three posts in, but Jay Willy and I are taking our honeymoon this week. Wheee!!! But that means I will be unable to post anything until next Monday. Boo!!! In the meantime, please enjoy this video of a puppy that can't roll over on his own because he's a big squishy!!


"I Carried a Watermelon!"

Hello, everybody- I am hoppin' mad because I had an awesome post all set to go for you yesterday, and then right as I was about to hit "Publish Post," the power went out in my whole bloody building (actually the whole city block) and my beautiful post was lost forever. Lame! So then this morning I set out to re-create it as best as I can. It was actually starting to turn out even better than the first one, and then...my Internet Explorer "unexpectedly quit," as the dialog box so charmingly informed me. So, ARRRGH! Third time's the charm, I hope, because this is going to be a good one. How can it not when it's about...


Earlier this week, America lost a Hollywood icon. I'm talking, of course, about Patrick Swayze. Sure, he was never as bankable as, say, a young Tom Cruise or pre-gubernatorial Schwarzenegger back in the 80s. But there is a legacy The Swayze left us that is not only a deeply-embedded fiber in the fabric of beloved 80s pop culture, but also a movie so influential in the majority of 20-and-30-something women's lives that we quote it like men quote The Godfather. Seriously, who among us ladies born between the late 70s and early 80s don't know what someone is talking about when they say, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner?" (I opted, however, to go with a more obscure line from the movie for the title of this post because, well, I always loved it more.)

Yes, Dirty Dancing is what all my friends and I were watching on Repeat in our VCRs while you boys were off geeking out about Top Gun and calling each other Maverick and Goose. Every time I'm channel-surfing and find Dirty Dancing somewhere on cable, I stop whatever I am doing and watch it straight through to the end. No matter that I own the deluxe remastered version on DVD-it is still better when you unexpectedly find it on TV. Even though they always seem to cut out that really awesome sex scene when it's on VH1. But what are you gonna do?

OK, so for anyone who has never seen Dirty Dancing- wow, REALLY??? Even Jay Willy has seen it (not willingly, but I think he's sat through it with me a time or two- don't worry, I sat through Alien vs. Predator, so we're even.) Let me give you a quick synopsis: It's the summer of '63, and Frances "Baby" Houseman is on her way to vacation with her square but sweet parents and her bonehead sister, who would totally be an awesome reality TV star if this was present-day instead of the 60s (as evidenced by this clip) to a mountain resort in the Catskills (I think) called Kellerman's. A word about Kellerman's- it is like a fancy sleep-away camp for rich old people, complete with daft activities like Trying On Cleopatra and Jackie Kennedy Wigs and Potato Sack Races, and even a lame-ass magic show emceed by Wayne Knight ("Newman" of Seinfeld fame). It is what I fear the "onboard activities" are going to resemble on the cruise we're taking this week. So yeah, not exactly the type of place you want to be trapped for an indeterminate amount of time (2 weeks? A whole summer? It's sort of hard to tell in the movie) with a bunch of old farts, your sister, and a nebbish little troll whose grandfather owns the resort, and who is sweet on you. Even though Baby is quite obviously kind of a dork herself (she wears huge bulky cardigans and those little canvas Mary Janes favored by elderly Asian ladies on the city bus) you have to feel sorry for her being trapped at Kellerman's. But have no fear, for there is a bright spot in all of this: Johnny Castle, the resident hot, hunky dance instructor!! Johnny is a dream come true for many adolescent gals out there: buff, blue-collar sexy in a Bruce Springsteen-back-in-the-early-80s way, AND he can dance!! AND he's straight!!!! Baby first sees him on the stuffy ballroom floor at Kellerman's, but then meets his off-duty bad-ass self when she accidentally stumbles onto a wild staff party. (I say "wild," but all they're really doing is dancing in a srt of suggestive way. There don't seem to be any drugs or anything. I mean, my God, watermelon's on the menu- how hard-core a party can it be??) So Baby meets him and he has a laugh trying to teach her to "dirty-dance," since she really sort of looks like a prudish librarian compared to all the awesomely whorish-looking staff chicks. But then he seems to want nothing more to do with her, because he doesn't have any time for a (possibly underage) rich girl with a nickname like Baby.

But does that stop Baby? Hell no!! The very next night she spots Johnny's dance-instructor partner Penny crying and shaking in the dark Kellerman's pantry, and runs to Johnny for help. Apparently Penny has gotten herself "in trouble," which for some reason makes her unable to get up and walk out of the pantry by herself so Johnny has to pick her up and carry her out. (Just go with it.) Anyway, Baby naturally assumes that Johnny's the baby-daddy, which really pisses him off because it was actually Robby, the snobby Ivy League tool who is waiting tables and apparently seeing how many Kellerman's chicks he can score with before school starts back up (he has now moved on to Lisa, Baby's brain-dead sister who looks a little like Freddie Mercury back in the 70s when he had long hair). Anyway, Baby, altruistic buttinsky that she is, decides to get some cash from Daddy so Penny can have an illegal-in-the-60s abortion and continue her lucrative mountain-resort-dance-instructor career. Oh, no! The sleazy illegal-abortion doctor only rolls through Kellerman's on one day a week and it is the EXACT SAME DAY Penny and Johnny have to go perform their "Mambo Magic" number at the Shelldrake Hotel. What to do?? Obviously the only solution is for Baby, who has the rhythm of Steve Martin in The Jerk before he learns how to snap his fingers, to learn the routine and perform it with Johnny as Penny's stand-in while she's having her, um, procedure. CUE THE SPORTS TRAINING MONTAGE!!! (I tried so hard to find a clip of the montage, but for some reason it is apparently the one thing that is NOT on the Internet, so you'll just have to trust me- Best. Montage. Ever.) It's actually a two-part montage- the first part, set to Wipeout, is the tender beginnings of Baby's dance career where she keeps stepping on Johnny's foot and we learn such important lessons as "Don't put your heel down," and "Stay in your dance space." Then, as the lessons progress, we get a sexier montage, set to Hungry Eyes, where we get to see Johnny use his heartbeat as a rhythm tool (and an excuse to get Baby to put her hand on his chest) and learn that Baby has ticklish armpits. Also, this second montage features a quasi-erotic scene of Baby and Penny mambo-ing together in matching leotards while Johnny sits on the floor, watching their, er, form. Also, it is important to note that as this particular montage goes on, Baby and Johnny seem to lose more and more clothing- she starts out in capri pants and Keds, and by the end of it all she's wearing a little midriff-baring gingham number and he's got his shirt off. Hmm, foreshadowing???

It's the day before the big Shelldrake mambo routine, and though Baby's come a long way, she still sort of sucks at it because Johnny is being kind of a d-bag and won't teach her the lifts. So she yells at him and he decides to take her to the lake in the rain. Oh yeah, and to cement his rep as the James Dean of the Catskills, he busts out his own car window with a fence post because he locked his keys in the car!! He's WILD!!!!

The lake is very important because that is where a) Baby and Johnny mambo on a log, b) Johnny tells the story of how he became a dance instructor, c) Baby learns The Famous Lift at the End of the Movie in a lake, and d) we almost see Baby's nipples through the ree-hee-HEE-ally see-through white top she elected to wear on a swimming trip. (See? -->)

OOH, it's the big night! Shelldrake time!! After Baby goes and tries on Penny's red mambo dress (and reveals to us that, at age 17-ish she already owns an old-lady Playtex bra in Industrial White), and after Penny tearfully admits she's scared for the "procedure," Baby's on her way to the Shelldrake in Johnny's car! They do their "Mambo Magic" and Baby totally screws up one part, resulting in her doing a fun little panic-infused time-filler dance reminiscent of the weird hoedown thing Ashlee Simpson did that time she lip-synched on SNL, but it turns out well enough for the lame Shelldrake audience. Speaking of which, who should walk in at the end of Mambo Magic but the Schumachers, a little old couple with a bizarre penchant for collecting lots of wallets (that will be useful info later!). Lucky for Baby, they don't recognize her with all the mambo makeup on her face, and her secret is safe!! They drive back to Kellerman's, with Baby changing in the backseat and Johnny totally trying to peek. They get back to find out that-big surprise!- the sleazy doctor who performs illegal abortions once weekly at mountain resorts was less than reputable, and Penny is now basically bleeding to death in her cabin. Baby springs into action and grabs her dad, the doctor (did I mention that he is the lovable Jerry Orbach from Law and Order? Well, he is... and Baby's mom is Rory's grandma on Gilmore Girls!!) Well, Dr. Houseman saves Penny, but he's all kinds of pissed at Baby (he seems more irritated that she's wearing makeup than that she just got back from mambo-ing with a guy who is at least 27) and he won't talk to Johnny since he assumed he was the baby-daddy too. Baby goes over to Johnny's cabin to apologize for her dad acting like such a wanker, to find a shirtless Johnny listening to old soul music (which I guess was current soul music at the time) and being sort of self-loathing. She confesses that she is afraid of oh, so many things, including walking out of the room and "never feeling again the way I feel when I'm with you!" So they start to dance, of course, and the next thing you know, Johnny's teaching Baby the Mattress Mambo, if you know what I mean...

I'll just sum up the next bit, as it's not as important as the first half- Baby's dad wants to go home, Lisa wants to be in the end-of-season talent show (oh, Lord), Baby and Johnny sneak around getting all kinds of freaky (though they never really show it in the spirit of PG-ness; see adjacent picture), Johnny gets peeved at Baby for sneaking around with him instead of being open about their relationship. Lisa decides to "go all the way" with Snobby Robby, only to find that he's already getting it on with the ho-bag desperate housewife who used to get it on with Johnny, pre-Baby. Which brings us to the last day of the big Kellerman's season- Mr. Kellerman mentions oh-so-professionally to his guests the Housemans that he's about to go fire Johnny for stealing some dude's wallet during poker night. Baby gets in a mad tizzy and sacrifices her daddy's-girl status for her boyf's "career" by confessiong to Kellerman that there's no way he could have taken the wallet because she was with him ALL NIGHT LONG!!! WOOOOOOO!!!!!! Dr. Kellerman is quite disgusted with his daughter, needless to say, and refuses to speak to her. Baby runs and does what I always do when I'm in big trouble with my parents and my boyfriend is about to get fired- takes a nap in the dance studio. Johnny finds her and regales her with the news that they found the wallet-snatcher and it was the Schumachers!! Remember? The old people with the wallets?? Yay!!! But, awww....bad news, they fired him anyway, basically for "fraternizing" with the guests, especially one who may or may not be underage, as it is still ambiguous. Baby throws a fit, then calms down when Johnny tells her he'll never regret anything and that nobody's ever stood up like that for him before. They drive out to the Kellerman's boundaries and tearfully part, and here is my only problem with this, my favorite movie ever- It is the LAST DAY OF SUMMER!! They would have had to leave each other that day anyway...Johnny would have presumably lost his job, at least seasonally, that day anyway... why so sad? Also, I never figured out why Baby and Johnny didn't just exchange numbers so she could get back with him as soon as she went away to college in, oh I don't know, 2 weeks??? One minor hole in the plot, but for the love of the movie, let's just go with it.

So Baby's all kinds of depressed because she has to be without Johnny at Kellerman's for the next, hmm, 3 or 4 hours, so she does what I always do when I'm depressed and missing my man- put on a gorgeous dress that is like 47 times nicer than any of the other crap she wore all summer long so she can go sit in a corner and watch The Kellerman's End-Of-Season Craptacular!!!! The talent show goes on, complete with Lisa's horrific hula song and what appears to be a pirate number by the man whose wallet got snatched, and then begins THE MOST HORRIBLE YET STRANGELY ADDICTIVE SONG IN MOVIE HISTORY- the Kellerman's farewell number. Well, I say "farewell," but the song is so freakin' long that I wouldn't be surprised if it was already NEXT summer by the time it ended. The song mercifully peters out, though, when Johnny, in all his black-leather-clad rebel glory, marches up to the Housemans' table, record in hand, and delivers his uber-famous line that STILL makes my friends and me squeal with delight when we get to hear it. He then snatches Baby by the hand and leads her up to the big stage, where she is then forced to stand there awkwardly and alone whilst Johnny goes and cues up the music. And...well, there are just no words for what happens next, so I will just put the clip here and you can enjoy it yourselves.
Oh, and happy ending! Dr. Houseman goes to give that nice, upstanding boy Robby his end-of-summer tip in a big fat envelope, and Idiot Robby totally screws the pooch by letting it slip that he was the father of Penny's baby, not Johnny. Hooray!! Johnny's good name has been restored!! And...scene.


Seriously? Have you not been paying attention to anything I just said?? Dirty Dancing is awesome simply for being awesome. I will outline a couple examples of awesomeness for you, though:

- Baby is just an average-looking girl, thus making all of us out there think this can happen to us, too. I think it was her sort of every-girl likeability that really sold the movie for so many of us.

-Patrick Swayze's character Johnny seems to be equally adept at kicking the crap out of privileged preppies and performing knee-spins. Not many people can be that versatile.

-The soundtrack is killer! If you love old 60s R&B as much as I do, then you should get this CD without delay. If that wasn't reason enough to purchase the soundtrack, it also contains "She's Like the Wind," an absolutely hideous track that is a cliche of every awful 80s power-ballad that was ever written. And it's performed by The Swayze himself!!!

-Penny's monkey face in the scene where Baby carries the watermelon into the wild staff party. Seriously, check out the weird thing she does with her mouth when she's dancing to "Do You Love Me?" It makes the whole movie!

Well, that's all for now, folks. Go rent Dirty Dancing this week!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Post- Wheeee!!!;Or, Why Jack in the Box Rules!

Good day, and welcome to my blog. I've blogged before in the past, but they all turned out to be sad little Doogie Howser/Carrie Bradshaw ripoffs with quasi-introspective ponderings and open questions. Ah, yes, and lots of ellipses. Well, not this time, my friends. I have been reading some blogs lately that have inspired me to actually write about subjects people might care about (see my recommended blog list for some real winners) and I now know that nobody (including me) wants to read a blog that looks more like an angsty teen's diary. Instead, these posts will be (moderately) entertaining and (marginally) informative, and I hope it's a good read for when you're bored at work. So, without further ado, let's talk about...


So, OK, a little background for you. Until quite recently, the greater Denver area was without any Jack in the Box (which shall henceforth be referred to as JITB) locations for over two decades, due to a nasty little kerfuffle with the local Board of Health back in the late 80s. Suddenly, magically, new JITB locations are rising, Phoenix-like, from parking lots and shopping centers everywhere in the Metro area. As if that wasn't fortunate enough, I happen to live right by a recently-erected JITB, and can now go and satisfy my urge for delicious curly fries or any-time-of-day breakfasts as often as I please. My local JITB opened the same week I got married, and I honestly don't know which occasion my hubby and I were more excited about- I saw the "NOW OPEN" sign and the telltale stream of cars overflowing from the parking lot and I called him and was like, "DUDE, JACK IN THE BOX!!" and he met me over there without delay. We toasted each other with bacon cheeseburgers. Feel free to gag a little from all the cuteness...it's OK.

Anyway, for anyone else who has lived in Denver for most of their lives, or anyone else who has never sampled the awesomeness that is a JITB double cheeseburger combo meal, let me lay a little knowledge on you. JITB was founded back in 1951 in San Diego. According to the official JITB website, there are only 18 states which currently have JITB locations. It makes me so sad to think that 32 states out there (and maybe Puerto Rico) have never experienced the tasty goodness.


If you are a native of one of these JITB-deprived states, you're probably like, "So, OK, it's a hamburger place. What's the big deal?" No. No, no, no. You don't understand- it is NOT just a hamburger place. It is not just another McDonald's or Burger King or Wendy's (though I love those places too,BTW...) It is like the awesomest hamburger place ever, in my humble opinion. You know how you Chicagoans feel about your White Castle? Or maybe how you Los Angelinos feel about your In-And-Out Burger? Well, there you have it...JITB.

JITB is not the only fast-food restaurant to have a clown as its mascot, of course, but it IS the only fast-food restaurant to actually acknowledge that clowns, and its clown mascot in particular, are creepy. While other fast-food joints continue to buy into the giant myth that everyone, especially small children, adore clowns and find them amusing and not at all nightmare-inducing, JITB goes ahead and allows its clown mascot, Jack Box, to let his freak flag fly. It's like they go out of their way to make him creepy. For starters, Jack is not a full-on clown; merely a giant Styrofoam clown head with a human body. And he dresses that body in power suits, not standard clown regalia, because you see, he is not just the mascot of JITB- he's the CEO. According to JITB commercial lore, Jack went all mavericky in 1995 and staged a coup to oust the existing board of directors, and now frequently runs rogue in commercials, doing all kinds of scary, Howard Stern-y type things such as running for President against Bill Clinton and creating his own boy band, the Meaty Cheesy Boys. As if a power-crazed clown head dressed like Larry King from the neck down isn't scary enough, they went ahead and let Jack get hit by a bus during the 2009 Super Bowl, only to wake from his coma several weeks later and remind everyone that you can now get breakfast at JITB any time of day. Jack's like the anti-mascot. Crazy, but awesome.

Jack vs. the equally-disturbing Burger King- Creepiest. Fight. Ever.

Ooh, and did I mention the phat antenna toppers? They're little Jack Box clown heads that were introduced in 1995 (around the same time as Jack's ousting of the old Board of Directors) and immediately achieved cult status with all the high-school kids, hipsters, and anyone else who likes to stick things on their car in a humorous way. Anyway, all you have to do is stick one of these babies on the antenna of your car and you are saying to the world, "Hey, world- I'm a non-conformist for not eating at one of the Big Three hamburger joints, and I have an ironic, wry sense of humor. AND I don't care so much about my cholesterol levels, but that's OK because I know from a good burger!" Bonus points if you put the topper on a car in a state that is JITB-free. Jay Willy (my husband whose name is actually Justin Willis, but I call him Jay Willy) brought me back a JITB topper when he went a-visitin' in his hometown of Waco, Texas, and some butthead had stolen it off my antenna before the week was out. True story.

So there you go- Jack in the Box! I have now made myself hungry for an Ultimate Cheeseburger and curly fries, so I must dash! Later.