Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some BSC Trivia!

Check out what I just found...

As a Sporcle trivia addict, I'm upset I didn't know about this sooner!

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

I need to be honest here.

I am a crier. I am the girl that doesn't watch Animal Planet or coffee commercials or Say Yes to the Dress without sniffling. If my suspicions are aroused even a little, I'll read the last few pages of a book to make sure that all of the characters I'm emotionally attached to are alive in the end. Don't even mention A Walk to Remember to me (book or movie version) or there is the very real danger that I'll become dangerously dehydrated from the two hours of body wracking sobs that follow. I am an emotional reader and watcher.

Despite this information, I forged on with this book. I thought that my occasional "Ice Queen" (boyfriend's words, not mine, in reference to my stone cold response to Ladder 49) mentality would take over. I thought I could read this book like a normal person.

I made through the book okay. I was even proud of myself. I read about little Ishmael heading to town for a talent show while, unknown to him, rebels were attacking his village. I read about Ishmael running from the army and the rebels. I read about Ishmael hiding in the forest (jungle?) while groups of soldiers and rebels walked by him. I read about Ishmael finding refuge in an army controlled village. I read about Ishmael and the other children being given the choice--join the army or leave the village to die. I read about Ishmael training for the army by cutting a rebel's throat. I read about Ishmael's friends dying while he watched. I read about him wielding an AK-47 as he opened fire on rebels and innocent people. I read about his entire family burning to death minutes before he was reunited with them. Not a single tear was shed.

But then...Ishmael was released from the army to UNICEF. Suddenly, he's being rehabilitated and befriending the rehabilitation center's nurse--who happens to buy the kid Bob Marley cassettes. Suddenly, he's returning to his childhood and going to school again. 

Suddenly, he's sent to live with an aunt and uncle and slew of cousins when he had thought his entire family was dead. And what does his bitch of aunt do? She makes him chicken for dinner. Chicken for dinner is reserved for Christmas, and that bitch made it for Ishamel's welcome dinner.

That bitch and her chicken broke me. Suddenly, I'm sniffly. Suddenly, I'm dabbing my eyes. Suddenly, I'm regretting my choice to read this book while eating my own chicken dinner in the cafeteria.

And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse with the damn chicken dinner, Ishmael is chosen to go to New York City to speak in front of the UN at a children's conference. And he's getting a passport and visa. And getting new clothes. And hopping on a plane. And discovering New York City. And giving speeches about his time as a child soldier. And making his listeners (and readers!) cry.

But then...relief of reliefs, Ishmael has to go back to Sierra Leone. And back to the warfare that's breaking out near his new home. And back to living in fear of stray bullets. And back to worrying that he'll relapse into the military.

And right when I think that little Ishmael is going to return to a life as a soldier and allow me to detach myself from him, he decides that he needs to leave Sierra Leone if he wants to live. Through checkpoints and embassies and secret bus stops, Ishmael pushes on. And suddenly, he's calling up a woman that had worked for the UN children's conference. And that bitch, just like his bitch of an aunt, is asking him to come live with him in New York and to change the course of his life.

Ishmael has my respect. 

Even if his aunt cooks him chicken.

Monday, February 15, 2010

BSC #5 Dawn and the Impossible Three

  • Bewildered and frustrated facial expression
  • Boat shoes
  • Cuffed pants
  • Oversized denim shirt
Combine these things and what do you get?

The first BSC book featuring California Casual Dawn!

Essentially the Only Important Plot in this Book Presented in Long-Winded Format:
Dawn takes a sitting job with a new family, the Barrets. Mrs. Barret is fresh out of a bad marriage. She's suddenly disorganized, messy, and forgetful. Super Sitter Dawn takes it upon herself to care for the Barret children--Buddy, Suzi, and Marnie--and keep the Barret house clean. Eventually, though, Dawn begins to be worn down with sitting the Barret kids every single freaking afternoon. (Mrs. Barret is always ditching the kids to go to job interviews or antiquing or some crap like that.)
Mrs. Barret fails when it comes to making sure that the baby-sitters are prepared. She neglects to mention Marnie's chocolate allergy. She leaves the wrong number for where she'll be (No cell phones, yet!). She forgets to tell Dawn to not let the kids talk to their dad on the phone. Yeah. Mrs. Barret thinks that she knows better than a judge what an appropriate custody arrangement and frequency of phone calls is. But...not to worry. Mr. Barret feels the same way.
When Dawn lets Buddy go outside while she is getting Suzi and Marnie ready to go (wasn't the Baby-Sitters Agency tar and feathered for this same thing?), Buddy disappears. (Kristy isn't going to like this...) Dawn gets the neighbors to start searching for the kid. Jordan Pike says that Buddy is at a lesson because he saw Buddy get into a car at the same time that he was getting picked up for his piano lesson. How does that make sense?
With this information, the fuzz are called in. They interview Dawn and Jordan over and over again. Dawn and Jordan both get upset by this. Mrs. Barret is nowhere to be found. Typical.
Suddenly! Buddy calls! But not when the police are available to trace the call. Convenient. He's at a gas station and is coming home. The phone goes dead. A few minutes later, Buddy shows up! He's been with his dad the whole time!
Now, this is where it starts getting unbearably unrealistic. Buddy's dad tells the police (and Mrs. Barret who has managed to mosey in by now) that Mrs. Barret has forgotten that it was his weekend to have the kids. True. So he decided to just take the kids to teach her a lesson. His plan was to return the kids after Mrs. Barret realized her mistake. Bad plan, dude. Bad plan.
At this point, we have to question Mr. Barret's intelligence. Who thinks that essentially kidnapping your young children is a good idea? Mr. Barret saw Buddy playing outside by himself (because he's spying on the house?) and decided to just take Buddy. Because nothing says weekend with Dad like only kidnapping 1/3 of the children. It wasn't until Buddy mentioned that Dawn was sitting for the kids that Mr. Barret began to worry. He stopped at the gas station before taking Buddy back (because he couldn't drive five miles without getting cigarettes and lotto tickets?) and never knew that Buddy had called Dawn.

Minor Subplot:
Kristy's bustin' a nut over what will happen to the BSC after she moves across town to Watson's house. The girls all have this moment of cheesiness where they promise that if Kristy can't come to meetings, the BSC will end. Eventually, Kristy decides to raise club dues in order to pay her brother (Sam? Charlie? David Michael? Andrew?) to drive her to meetings.
  • "The club is the most important thing in my life." --Dawn
    • Congratulations, Kristy! You have your first official cult member. Hold onto her because at this point the other girls aren't as brainwashed yet!
  • "There are eight Pike children--and three of them are triplets!" 
    • Statements like this irritate me. I was under the impression that "triplet" implied three! Unless its an awkward two-of-the-three-triplets-survived-their-likely-premature-birth situation, I don't think we need to count how many triplets there are.
  • I'd like to know what the Pikes do for a living. They have eight kids. Three of the kids play hockey, an extremely expensive sport where I come from, and Vanessa is taking violin lessons. Their house sounds like its pretty big--rec room, basement, bedrooms upstairs. Where does the money come from?
  • Dawn is rambling off a list of the historical events that the people living in her house over the years would have witnessed--the War of 1812, the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, the Gay Nineties, first flight, and the Depression.
    • Is it just me or does one of these things not belong on the list of well-known historical events? Apparently, the Gay Nineties is a reference to the 1890s. Not at all what came to my mind...
      • Q: What exactly went on in the Gay Nineties (that's 1890s to us normal folk) that Annie M. felt was important enough to make Dawn's quick list of American history?
      • A: The Gay Nineties were a "period of Pre-Income Tax wealth for the newly emergent  'society set.'" Duh.
  • "I bet our house has a secret passageway. Maybe it was even part of the Underground Railroad."
    • Well, readers, won't we be surprised when we make it to BSC #9 The Ghost at Dawn's House.
  • Dawn describes her mom's disorganization by saying, "Mom is a crazy person--not nasty crazy, just an absentminded-professor type."
    • Um, what? Did she really just imply that people with psychological disorders are being "nasty crazy"?
    • And absentminded-professor types aren't "nasty crazy"? A Beautiful Mind begs to differ.
  • Dawn's mom is insulted when Dawn refers to her one earring as being sort of "punk." Well, excuse me. I guess I know who I won't be taking my piercings around!
  • In what world can a baby-sitter trick kids into thinking that cleaning is a game? In what world do thirteen-year-old baby-sitters feel the need to clean the client's house?
  • Why did Dawn let Buddy go out and play while she was getting Suzi and Marnie dressed?  Buddy is seven! You don't let a seven-year-old play in the front yard by himself! Don't these girls remember the hullabaloo they made over Jamie Newton playing in the front yard WITHOUT mittens?!
    • Dawn--it serves you damn right that Buddy was temporarily kidnapped. That's what you get for letting him play in the front yard by himself!
  • What kind of piano teacher do the Pike kids have? What teacher picks the kid up for the lesson? My piano teacher remained firmly planted in her house while she awaited for parents to deliver the students to her. Lazy.
  • What kind of idiot is Mr. Barret that he just takes Buddy to prove a point? And he thinks Mrs. Barret will "figure out her mistake"?! Really?
    • More blatantly obvious foreshadowing: The BSC discusses what a great baby-sitter Mallory will be some day.
    • I hate how unrealistic this book is. Mr. Barret thought he would "teach Mrs. Barret a lesson" by taking the kids without her knowledge?! His weekend or not, I call that kidnapping! Those are not good parenting skills! That will not guide you through this bumpy divorce!
    • How is Dawn still in the BSC after her charge is 1) left alone outside and 2) momentarily kidnapped? Where are Kristy Thomas' standards?!
    • Regarding Subplot: What makes Kristy think that the BSC wants to pay more dues so Brother Thomas can drag her ass across town? (That'd be three miles. She's only allowed to bike that far in a group.)
    • Also, what makes Kristy think that the girls would stick to their promise to end the BSC if she can't be involved anymore? We all know that other members took breaks and the club still went on! These girls are greedy capitalists at heart. They're too wrapped up in childcare world domination to give up on the BSC!

      Saturday, February 13, 2010

      The Vagina Monologues

      Rather than honor Valentine's Day with a recap of some mushy piece of chick lit whose heroine dreams of being a housewife that lives to serve her husband, I've chosen to hop on my soapbox (just a little!) and tell y'all to run out and buy one of the best things I've ever read.
      (And, yeah, yeah. Its not Valentine's Day, yet. I know I'm 24 hours early. Boyfriend came to visit me, though.  I'm not out of the blogging closet to him--or anyone else--yet. So, here I am sneaking around like I'm doing something wrong.)

      I could talk to you all day about my love for this book. About the papers I've written about Ensler. About the monologue I performed for an interpretive reading class. About carrying this book with me and using it as my Bible.
      I could talk to you all day about the paths this books has led me down. About learning the horrific abuse some women see as "normal." About the inhumane treatment of women around the world. About the disease, indignity, and sorrow brought on because of the way some of our fellow women are treated.
      Listening (or reading) about how much I love it could never do the book justice, though.
      Ensler's V-Day mission is something the world should have been working on years ago. Whether you have a vagina or not, you need to know what she's about. You need to know what she's done and what she plans to do. Ensler is really changing the world, one emotionally charged monologue at a time.

      Sunday, February 7, 2010

      Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

      Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story of a two young, nineteenth century Chinese girls that are brought together as a laotong pair, a sort of contractually obligated lifelong best friend. Lily  narrates her and Snow Flower's shared life story as an 80-year-old woman looking back on her lifetime of regrets.
      Lily is the daughter of a poor farmer while Snow Flower comes from a wealthy family. The two girls write letters to each other and visit as often as possible as they grow up. Lily is married out to the son of the wealthiest and most powerful man in Snow Flower's town. After Lily is married, she learns that Snow Flower has not been completely honest about her lifestyle or what kind of man she would be marrying. Lily's opinion of Snow Flower changes for the worse. Eventually, a misinterpretation of a letter leads the women into a terrible fight that very nearly destroys their friendship.

      • This book introduced me to a lot of information on the customs of nineteenth-century China.
        • I'm a little insulted about this stress put on producing male children to carry on the family name.  My mom's only brother had one daughter. My father had only girls. Neither of my parents' family names will be carried on, but you don't see us throwing a conniption fit.
          • My mom has five sisters and her only brother passed away. What would the people in Lily and Snow Flower's life say about that? What terrible things did my grandparents do in their previous lives to deserve six daughters and one son?
        • Read on for my foot binding rant.
        • The women all have their upstairs chamber. It's a room that men just don't go into. It's used for everyday living, socialization, and chores. I can't imagine a room that men were exiled from. It could be nice, maybe even wonderful.
        • Engaged girls have to sew all of their future family's quilts, all the clothes they'll wear for the rest of their lives, a wedding outfit, shoes for their future husband's entire family, and way too many other things. This does not sound like fun at all. In fact, it sounds like it sucks. A lot.
          • Do you know what would happen if I had to sew all of my clothing for the rest of my life when I was fifteen or sixteen? I change clothing two or three times a day! It would never work! I'd never finish!
      • Lily describes getting her feet bound and let me just say---Holy hell. Who thought this was a) a good idea, b) attractive, and c) safe?!
        • For whatever reason, I've seen pictures of bound feet...They're disgusting! Sexy is not a word that comes to mind when I think of them!
        • After Lily's little sister dies from a blood infection brought on by her foot binding, the girls keep on chugging with it. Um, isn't a dead five-year-old a sign that this is a bad idea?
        • Lily's mom is happy when she can hear her daughter's toe and foot bones breaking because it means progress! Cultural traditions aside, what kind of mom is happy about this?!
        • I'm all for keeping culture alive, but I'm completely with the good folks that outlawed foot binding. It's disgusting. The only purpose for it that I can see is it makes it harder for the women to run away from their husbands. (And in my culture, high heels take care of that for a lot less pain and mutilation, thankyouverymuch.)
      • Snow Flower and Lily communicate by using a secret writing only known by women-- nu shu.
        • Um, how awesome would that be? Freaking awesome, that's how awesome!
        • Awesomeness aside, the book centers around Snow Flower and Lily writing letters to each other using nu shu. Nu shu was meant to allow women to write without men being able to intercept and read their letters. The women would complain about daily life and express their honest feelings about husbands, mother-in-laws, and family life. Basically, nu shu was italicized "men's writing" that used phonetic spelling. Context of words was extremely important to the deciphering of the message. This detail is what the entire book rests around.
          • The importance of the context of the writing makes me think of a Facebook fan page some of my friends have joined lately:
            • "Let's eat Grandma!" or "Let's eat, Grandma!" Punctuation Saves Lives.
      • I'm upset by how much Lily lets Snow Flower's class bother her. When they were children and Lily was of a lower class, Lily was grateful for Snow Flower's friendship and appreciated how well Snow Flower treated her. After the girls are married and they reverse classes, Lily is suddenly ashamed of Snow Flower and cannot believe how low Snow Flower has gone.
        • Question 1: Who does Lily think she is? An arranged marriage puts her with a rich and powerful man and suddenly she's the shit and good enough to look down on Snow Flower? I don't think so.
        • Question 2: What kind of friend is Lily if she let's Snow Flower's undesirable arranged marriage damage their friendship?
      • There is a saying the women use about obeying their father, obeying their husband, and obeying their son at different stages in their lives. Lily's mother-in-law, however, says "Obey, obey, obey. Then do what you want." This gives Lily a lot of confidence as a wife and, eventually, as Lady Lu. 
        • I love that in such a male dominated society, it is the women who really have control.
      • Snow Flower deals with a lot of crap--from her husband, her mother-in-law, and Lily. Yet, she just takes it. I hate that the strong, young girl became a passive woman. I hate that she let's Lily, previously the best person in her life, give her terrible advice about how to make her mother-in-law like her, give birth to a son, and stop her husband from beating her. (Lily's "advice"? Be a better wife. You're getting what you deserve. Huh?)
      • I hated that Lily didn't even try to talk to Snow Flower after the misunderstanding. She threw twenty-seven years of friendship away and didn't try to clear it up. She didn't speak to Snow Flower for eight years over a misunderstood letter! This woman holds grudges like nothing else.
      • The reality of this book is--I don't know if Lily is the heroine or the villain. The entire book has her trying to convince herself that she has made the right choices for her and Snow Flower's relationship. In the last few pages, though, it is revealed that Lily deeply regrets how horribly she altered the path of Snow Flower's life. I am deeply confused.
      • The production on the movie version is set to start this year. I'm curious--how will they portray Lily? Will she be cast as a righteous and upstanding woman that follows social rule? Or will she be the bitch that disowned her best friend because of misunderstanding a few words? How am I supposed to feel about a character that is an accessory in destroying her closest friend's life by remaining true to what is correct without feeling sympathy until it's too late? How can an actress portray a character that is wrong by being correct and doesn't see that being right and correct are different?
      • It's been a long time since I've read something so...thought provoking. Now I'll get to stay awake all night contemplating just what kind of bitch Lily was and wasn't. Fabulous.