Book Review: The Sisters Grimm Book 1: Fairy Tale Detectives

Cammy has a soft spot for children’s and young adult literature.  I do not share this particular weakness.  Maybe it’s because I’m not as much a fan of kids?  I dunno.  There are a few like Harry Potter which have drawn me in.  A lot I can appreciate the value of and a few for which I have fond nostalgic memories (Babysitter’s Club!).  So when I was recently assigned to read a children’s book for one of my classes, Cammy was much more excited than I was.

Yeah.  She didn’t have to read it.

*Warning:  This review will contain spoilers.  If you’re concerned about having young adult fiction spoiled for you, stop reading.*

The book in question was the first book in Michael Buckley’s The Sister’s Grimm series, The Fairy-tale Detectives.  Now before I go any further, I have to say, it’s not terrible.  It’s not offensive.  I would give this to my niece and not worry about how it was damaging her.  Or that it was poorly written.  It is overall, mediocre.  And as such, I have an easier time saying what’s bad about it than what’s good.

The book tells the story of two sisters, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, whose parents mysteriously disappeared.  Having bounced around painfully in the foster system the girls are sent to live with their Granny Relda who they believed to be dead.  They then discover that they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, that all fairy tales/legends/random fantasy fictions are real and that the characters from said tales have been resettled in a small town in New York called Ferryport Landing (get it?  Ferryport=Fairy Port!  Very original).  Oh yeah, and Granny’s a crime fighter.  And Prince Charming is mean and trying to replace democracy with monarchy.  Oh also, there’s a giant on the loose.  Wackiness ensues but just like a Disney movie things all get worked out in the end.

The good: Like most geeks, I like the idea of a world where fairy tales are real.  And it’s fun to see all those characters interacting in the modern world.  Um… yeah, that’s about it.

The bad: Said concept is also not very original.  I’ve seen it done plenty of times, usually better.  If you can’t be original, you should at least be good at being unoriginal.

Dull characters.  I’m not big on most kids, but these are particularly annoying.  Sabrina who is the more central character really needs a couple smacks in the mouth.  Granny Relda never quite makes it to lovable eccentric, she’s just the old lady who cooks strange food and fails to give her granddaughters information they really need to have.

Call me a prude, but I was bothered by Sabrina killing the giant at the end.  Particularly seeing as by that point the audience has been told that the giant is just a tool, not the criminal mastermind.  It just seemed… inappropriate to have an eleven year old killing someone in such a causal manner.  Then there’s a moral issue with the entire premise.  We are to understand that essentially all the characters from the fairy tales we know and love are being kept in what is essentially a Gulag.  And the Grimms put them there.  But the Grimms are the good guys.  Um… what?

And this might be the folklorist in me, but the fairy tale incorporation is lackluster.  First, Buckley’s definition of fairy tale is extremely broad (The Wizard of Oz, really?).  Add to that he apparently found inspiration in the lesser known elements of these tales and yet, what he uses are essentially the Disney versions.  And after tons of prose about all the source material Granny Relda has on fairy tales, none of that turns out to be important in solving the case.  It seems like a lot of lost opportunity.

Again, I need to reiterate, it’s not a terrible book.  It’s just a lot easier for me to find what’s wrong with it than what’s right with it.  Apparently others have not, as the series is now on book eight, so it would seem someone wants to keep reading them.  I will not be one of those people.

The Tear Jerker List

Sometimes you need a good cry and you just can’t muster the water works.  You know you’ll feel better if you can just bawl for a good half hour, but as cranky and frustrated as you are, nothing has triggered the tears.

This is when you resort to the tear jerker list.  You know you’ve got one.  Those songs that will find you turning on the water-works, those movies that will result in geometrically-increased tissue consumption, books that you can’t read in the airport because it would draw too much attention to your swollen red eyes and nose.

If you’re lucky, you trigger easily and your list is long.  If you’re more unfortunate, like myself, you’ll find that there are fewer things that will set you off, so getting a cry out of your system is something that has to occur within a very narrowly defined scope.  The limited triggers does have one side bonus–it means you develop a new appreciation for those things that do have the power to make you howl like an infant in need of a diaper change.

But be careful.  Overuse of your triggers can either wear them out or, if you’re prone to wallow in depression long after a good cry, your room mate might restrict you from your Tear Jerker list (Kristy basically hid my copies the final episode of Babylon 5, “Sleeping In the Light” and Reba McEntire’s Starting Over album for a year and a half).

Sharing of the Tear Jerker list with friends is acceptable, but understand that what sets you off may have little to no effect on others….and you might find that what the majority of your friends sob buckets over, you can bear with ease.  For example, I love Anne of Green Gables and I really am heartbroken when Matthew dies, but its only on my worst of days that either the book or the scene in the Kevin Sullivan miniseries will actually result in tears.  This has marked me for a heartless head-case in some circles.

Here’s a few common triggers (from myself and which I’ve witnessed from others) to get you started:

Steel Magnolias –this is a personal go-to.  Comes with the added bonus of laughter to pick you back up after you’ve bawled.  It’s convenient therapy.  I also know for a fact that it works on some men.

-Reba McEntire’s For My Broken Heart album — Reba’s first album after the loss of her band in a plane crash.  Oddly….this one doesn’t work for me, but I know other people who find it more than sufficient to result in swollen eyes and nose.

-The finale of Battlestar Galactica — really works best if you were actually a fan who’s watched the rest of the series.

Ol’ Yeller–okay, so apparently I’m a heartless bitch here, but I don’t cry at this.  I did the first few times as a kid, but, while I find it quite sad now, I don’t cry.

Bones “Mayhem on the Cross”  –this boils down to one scene in which Bones confesses about breaking the dish in her foster home and resulted in an instant melt down in front of the TV.  As I reported to Kristy in an e-mail “I do believe Emily Deschanel just *KICKED* me.  Like, I should find a way to sue for this.  There might actually be damage.  Bruising even.”  It should be noted that Kristy just cries when Bones does.  Which I find weird mostly because Kristy seems to be a rather discerning crier–not easily triggered.

Beaches.  Another classic tear-jerker.

An Affair to Remember– I’ve seen people cry buckets over this one, but I’m able to enjoy it without ever reaching for a hanky.

Saving Private Ryan–This one even gets the guys.  In fact, I definitely saw a higher percentage of males crying over this one than females.

If you don’t have a list, here’s hoping you can find something there to get you started.  A good long sob-fest is worth its weight in gold.

Coffee with… Henry VIII of England

Kristy: Okay, I’m a little torn on this.  On the one hand, I’d get to say I had coffee with Henry VIII!  On the other hand, I’d have to actually have coffee with Henry VIII.  A lot of my answer depends on what stage of his life we’re talking about here:  Are we pre- or post- jousting accident?  Because I like to think of myself as open-minded and considerate, but I’m not sure I can drink coffee with someone who smells like gangrene.  Sorry.  Also, by the time he developed said gangrene he’d been king for quite a while and was probably used to people fawning all over him.  I’m sure by that point he was the kind of guy who expected you to laugh at his jokes, but probably wasn’t witty enough to make ones that were genuinely funny.  After all, by that point Henry was almost certainly suffering from some kind of brain damage either as a result of the aforementioned jousting accident or poor circulation caused by diabetes or some other condition (my half-assed research tells me the syphilis theory is generally discredited).  This all tells me he’d be lousy company.

But like a lot of maligned historical figures, Henry was to some degree a victim of circumstance.  He’s the kid who wasn’t supposed to be king.  Who was supposed to actually get to live his own life, but had that taken away from him by his brother’s death.  By most accounts in his younger days he was charming and intelligent.  Someone who, for a while at least, treated his first wife with respect and doted on his daughter Mary.  Might have been fascinating to have coffee with him.

So final answer:  Up to and through the Katherine of Aragon era: yes.  Anne Boleyn era:  No.  Someone who’s just caused a major religious schism, executed some of his closest advisers and is thinking of how to ditch his wife never makes good company.  Jane Seymour era:  Maybe.  He seems to have recovered his sanity a bit then.  Anne of Cleves onward:  Please send my regards to his majesty, but I will have to decline.

Cammy: Well, I  have to tell you, I’m abandoning you to coffee with him alone if you can get him during the correct era.  While I’m willing to grant that changes in circumstances and events can change people who were, a one time, charming and intelligent, but sometimes charming and intelligent are words that little old ladies at garden parties use in describing frat boys who–unbeknown to the little old dames–will be raging jerks who are, admittedly, quite skilled at the beer luge back at the frat house later that night.  I guess I could give him an out on a brain damage, but if that wasn’t the case, then the fact that he ever thought hookin’ up with Anne Boleyn was a good idea is proof enough that I just wouldn’t enjoy sitting down for a cuppa joe with this guy.  Props to him for respecting the first wife, and doting on Mary, but I think I’ll leave you two to chat and make my way over to chat with some German or other….

Kristy: What’s with the hatin’ on Anne Boleyn?  Yes, I know loving Anne Boleyn has become a little cliche, but I always liked her.  I liked Anne Boleyn long before she was played by Natalie Portman.  Maybe I just watched Anne of the Thousand Days too many times as a kid.  It’s possible.  But she was definitely not the typical woman of her era, and I respect her wit and her ability to scheme her way into a position of power.  Unfortunately, she underestimated the longstanding impact of said schemes (or perhaps she underestimated the impact of the king’s head hitting the ground after a fall from his horse, we’ll never know).  Anyway, we’ll have fun without you Cammy!

Cammy: I think it could be the “over sold” problem.  So much focus on Anne has made her kind of, well, trite, to me.  It’s probably not fair of me to go hatin’ on her.  But you’re still on your own with ol’ Henry.

In Praise of Supporting Characters

I think it goes all the way back to my childhood.  I have vague recollections of reading children’s books where I was kind of annoyed by the main character, but loved the minor characters enough to keep reading.  I can’t list specifics, but I know it happened.  For whatever reason, I’ve always loved those characters who don’t overstay their welcome.  Who rarely get to be the center of attention.  The supporting cast.

Take Bones, for example.  Cammy’s a nice, standard issue Bones/Booth shipper.  Now I’m not saying I don’t love me some B&B UST (unresolved sexual tension for you non-fangirls out there) but my real concern on that show is that Hodgins and Angela get together and ten thousand weird but adorable multiracial children.  And while we’re at it, I’d rather have Hodgins make me an orgasmic grilled cheese than have Booth rescue me from near certain death.  Or grill for me.

But at least with Bones I like the main characters.  There are a whole group of shows I watch exclusively for their supporting cast.  The short lived and never better than mediocre series Moonlight was one example.  Alex O’Loughlin is sufficiently dreamy, but Mick was never more than a cliche.  And a bad one at that.  And Beth I wanted to smack in most scenes.  But Josef?  I would have kept watching if the show had centered on his character (yes, it’s in part my love for Jason Dohring, but it was also about the character.)  Even that cyber punkish chick who showed up in one episode who’s job it was to clean up after vampires.  I would have watched a show about her.  Hell, I would have watched a show about the Latino vampire morgue attendant.  Great supporting characters, even though the show as a whole was justly canceled.

Right now my supporting character show is Human Target.  Christopher Chance is okay, but sometimes I want to smack him in the mouth.  But I keep watching the show, because I love Winston and Guerrero.  Chi McBride is one of those actors who apparently shines as a supporting character as he was one of my favorite parts of Pushing Daisies too.  Allison Janney is another.  Have you seen Drop Dead Gorgeous or Juno?  She practically steals both of those.

I don’t know if this comes through to other people, or if I just have a personal proclivity towards supporting characters.  But it’s amazing how much they can improve a narrative, whether it was good to start with or not. What do you think internets?  Who are your favorite supporting characters?

A Little Flashback TV Review Work

On a recent business trip I got stuck over-night in Goleta, California with nothing to do.  I wandered down to a little shopping center and wound up in a FYE store, perusing the used DVDs for something to watch on my laptop to kill time.  I was at a bit of a loss until a certain TV DVD box set I’ve thought of buying for awhile jumped out at me for under $20.

At the risk of putting a big, fat date-stamp on my forehead, allow me to state that I was a big fan of Moonlighting back in the day.  Not in re-runs.  First run, original airing.  Of course, I was pretty young.  Young enough that I’m kind of weirded out that my parents let me watch it back then.  Even my younger brother remembers how I used to love Moonlighting.  In fact when he started buying up the MacGyver DVDs, he mentioned that I needed Moonlighting so that our 80s primetime TV childhood would be complete.

So, here I sit, rediscovering memories of all kinds–memories of cars that used to be cool, rotary dial phones on walls (and NO cell phones), of Bruce Willis at what I still consider his coolest point ever, and that once upon a time I used to think I would have Maddie Hayes’s hair when I grew up.

Aside from a few rough moments in these first few episodes I’ve watched, this really was a pretty good show.  Not fantastic.  It still has some of the pathetic formulaic cheesiness of most 1980s TV.  Some of the action sequences are so hokey it’s painful (I swear in one episode Cybill Shepherd’s stunt double was a dude).  But, the dialog is actually pretty good:  snappy, fast paced and fairly witty.  Particularly good is the David Addison dialog, which comes with a side of whacky, and, of course, anyone remotely familiar with the show knows that Agnes DiPesto’s rhyming was one of the more memorable character traits ever.

The real review is yet to come–and will entail my procuring the remainder of the seasons–as I get to what Moonlighting is really known for these days:  its deadly syndrome.  I’m currently watching several TV shows which contain the key ingredients that lend themselves to the dreaded Moonlighting syndrome: a partnership with chemistry, antagonism and a will-they-won’t-they relationship.  Bones and Castle fans, you know how this goes.  The theory that actually putting that couple together spells total demise is the threat that has loomed over every show that’s come after Moonlighting.  But what I’m eager to find out is whether the doom is as inherent to the get together as is feared, or whether the people behind Moonlighting, for all the awesomeness they started out giving us, failed to make the situation work because of poor planning or writing.  Because, frankly, I’d like to see the syndrome debunked to open up the field for someone else to at least try to face the challenge of writing beyond the relationship coming together.  And this is a distinct possibility, given that a lot of the people I hear tossing out the fear-mongering term are people who weren’t even conceived when the show began in 1985–so are they even qualified to call the Moonlighting failure on another program when they never watched Moonlighting to start?  Is it really that David and Maddie got together (yeah, I know, I spoiled it, but as Kristy says, if it’s been out in the US for a year, you get no spoiler protection here), or was the problem an offshoot of schedule delays, a writer’s strike and issues with production that coincided to ruin it all?

And in the meantime, I can laugh at the cars, mock the phones, rock out to Al Jarreau (and occasionally Bruce Willis) and keep wishing I had Maddie Hayes’ hair, because, really people, this show?  It’s a just another slice of what made the 1980s an awesome decade.

Beginning Twilight: Description Overload and Character Flaws

So, as planned, I cracked open Twilight while sitting at the aiport gate waiting to begin my trip out to Santa Barbara.   Feet propped up on my carry on, seated off to the side away from the in-and-out foot traffic.  Here we go, aaaaaannnnnndddd…

We start off with a Bible quote.  From Genesis no less.  Now, a well-placed quote from the B-I-B-L-E can be a spectacular asset to a piece of literature, but in this case I was skeptical.  Beginning with a quote from another beginning can have a lot of symmetry, but it can also be a little heavy handed.  I made a note of this and then moved on–only further reading will reveal the value using this quote.

What’s next?  Oh, look.  A preface.  If anyone reading this book is expecting the preface to come in the form of an essay giving an overview and scope for the book, you’re going to be disappointed.  What you do is read is the end of the story, written all vauge and suspenseful-like to draw you in.  It serves a valuable purpose though, because catching a reader in the first few paragraphs is key and as I moved on to the first paragraphs of the actual first chapter, I realized that if not for the preface, I would definitely not have felt even remotely hooked by the first paragraphs of the initial chapter.

The biggest drag for me as I dove into the first legitimate chapter were the descriptions.  Now, I like a lot of description and detail in a scene, but for some reason even I felt overloaded in this first chapter…and the second…and the third.  Heck, even the first few paragraphs seemed to be full of too many adjectives  “omnipresent”  “gloomy”  “near-constant”  “cloudless”  “perfect.”    And that’s before you ever get to the in-depth description of Bella & Charlie’s Fork’s residence.  I felt like I was reading a first draft–that this was where the author was making sure she knew just how it looked in her mind so that she had it firmly cemented where she could make sure the necessary highlights were conveyed to the audience.  Necessary being the key word there, because I have a hard time believing at this point (at this writing I’ve not yet finished the book) that there’s a a real reason I needed a full tour of the home in chapter 1, complete with description of the paint colors.  Maybe talking about the yellow cabinets would have been more meaningful if it hadn’t already been spelled out at least 3 different ways that Forks was gloomy and overcast and that this was part of why Bella’s mother (and Bella) hadn’t liked it there.  The violation of show-don’t-tell has the consequence of taking a description that could have been meaningful, and making it redudant and tedious.

These, of course, are all stylistic nitpicks on my part, which is kind of low given that I barely edit my posts before they go out, and I’m world famous for using the cliches and phrases that my teachers specifically told me not to use, ever.  But, I’m not getting paid to do this and the only editor I have is Kristy–and she only edits if I specifically ask her to edit and she has the time.   I feel like I can demand a little higher standard out of a published book.

But, let’s move on to bigger stuff.

Like Bella annoying me from the get go.  She’s so MarySue that I feel like I stumbled into Fanfiction.net, and so whiny I’d rather go out and deal with real high school students.

Okay, congrats on your martyr complex, sweety, now shut the hell up about the horrors small-town Pacific Northwest living.  Since you don’t actually find out why Bella chose self-exile until nearly chapter 3, I spent the first two chapters mostly wanting to beat her nut-job ass for the constant stream of whoa-is-me over the weather and small town when there was, at that point, no good reason for her to have chosen to suffer.  And, straight ball honest, I didn’t gain any sympathy for her lone-suffering even after hearing the explanation.  Being a martyr works better if you soldier on with less complaint, rather than constantly reminding us all of how much you’re suffering for someone else.

Then there’s Bella’s stereotypical “oddball” traits, which, honestly, aren’t oddball anymore.  She’s worried about being pale.  Seriously?  I joked a lot about the pathetic pasty color of my legs when I was in high school, but even then it wasn’t so horribly out of fashion that I actually felt bad about it.  Pale is the new tan and has been for a while.  Actually, by proliferating the pale-as-abnormal thing, it does a disservice to a lot of people.  With skin cancer being a real threat, wouldn’t it make more sense to at least acknowledge that the pastier members of society are smart to do what they can to remain that way, in the name of avoiding melanoma, rather than implying that by not getting sun they’re non-conformant?

And sucking at gym.  There’s another over-done cliche.  I hated gym as much as anyone.  I loathe volleyball with the fire of 1000 suns, and I still can’t muster any sympathy for Bella because gym itself is not that bad and even in a tiny, tiny school you are never the only klutz.  Not everything in gym is about coordination.  A lot of  it is just about not being a chicken shit.  If I can manage to find a few things in gym I could handle (basketball!), then anyone can, even Bella.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to use the “I’m a klutz cop out” than to actually make an attempt at something.  Either way, crying not being any good at sports is pointless.  Getting a line-drive aimed at your head by a school bully in gym, now there’s a reason to cry.

But it’s all good y’all, because Bella is pale and a klutz, BUT she’s super!smart and has already done all the homework and reading and stuff (but she hates Trig–you always have to hate math in these cases).  This is just another thing for her to ponder as she dwells (in her not-infrequent sessions of self-analysis) on how she’s sooooo different than everyone else, which of course, she’s acutely aware of because she’s also so super-observant.  And no one else is.  Except maybe Edward.

And before you get excited about my starting to tear into Eddie, hold you horses.  That’s a topic for a whole ‘nother entry….

I’d like to say I’ve got some good comments to pass along about the first 3 chapters, but my notes really don’t have much in them.  I know that some of the sarcasm was vaguely amusing, but unfortunately while some of the individual statements are funny, they were generally given in conjunction with the whining, so over-all they weren’t all that much of a positive.  I also know that I was a fan of the short, choppy sentences in the first two paragraphs or so.  It was different, but kind of worked.  Unfortunately, beyond that, I didn’t find anything worth really noting that I enjoyed up to that point.

But, I wasn’t about to let it beat me, even though by the time I was flying over the Rockies, I was way more distracted by the scenery below than the book and surrendered reading for the reaminder of the flight….I’d pick it up again on the beach…..

Time Vampire of the Week

I’m taking a slightly different approach to our Time Vampire of the Week feature this week.  Mostly because I lost a lot of time when I should have been writing a research paper to this particular Vamp.  I was researching Lewis and Clark and happened to read some vague reference to mystery surrounding the death of Meriwether Lewis.  Since I had no idea what the author was talking about I had to know more.

And moments later I was sucked into the vortex that is our Time Vampire of the Week:

Historical Conspiracy Theories

I’ll readily admit that I’m a sucker for any kind of conspiracy theory.  I’m not sure how many of them I believe, I just find them fascinating.  And I find it fun to watch Cammy get annoyed and then flustered when I go on and on about Freemason Conspiracies (for those who haven’t been paying attention, Cammy’s a part of the vast Freemason Conspiracy).

But there’s something extra fun about it when such theories involve events long past which have no bearing on my actual life.

So here’s the 411 on the death of Meriwether Lewis (as told by someone who has very limited knowledge of the matter, almost all of which is obtained from the interwebs):

The facts:

On a trip to DC Lewis stopped at an inn about 70 miles from Nashville, Tennessee.  The “inn” was two cabins, one occupied by the inn keeper’s family, one by guests.  During the night the inn keeper’s wife (the innkeeper himself was away from home) heard gunshots and Lewis asking for water.  Afraid for herself and her children she did not open the door, but peered through a crack.  She saw Lewis crawling back to his cabin..  The next morning he was found with multiple gunshot wounds, he died shortly thereafter.  The death was ruled a suicide.

The gossip:

Suicide was not so shocking a ruling because Lewis had been known to suffer from “melancholia” at various points in his life and did not adjust well to being back in society after the expedition.  His behavior that evening was described as erratic by the innkeeper’s wife.  He paced and spoke to himself like a lawyer.

Dishier gossip:

I know it’s kind of a fad to say this about historical figures, but in this case it sounds not so far fetched.  Lewis may have been gay.  Being gay in less than socially progressive 19th century America might have been the cause of his depression.

Or… it could have been syphilis.  When in doubt, assume all crazy people had syphilis.  Or malaria.  He almost certainly had malaria.

The WTF?:

Lewis was a pretty good shot.  All of a sudden the man is unable to hit an artery or organ with three separate attempts?  Based on the sketchy descriptions some of said wounds might have been difficult to achieve with a self inflicted shot.

Then again… syphilis.

Then there’s the innkeeper’s wife, Mrs. Grinder, who knows that the governor of Upper Louisiana is in bad shape, possibly wounded, and she takes her time about checking on him?  Odd.

So was it *cue dramatic sound effect* murder? All I can say is something smells rotten in the western territories.

The suspects:

Mrs. Grinder.  At best she was a lousy hostess.  But then you have to consider that there were at least two unmarked graves later found on the family’s property and that her husband later bought a nice property without completely explaining where he got the money.  Were the Grinders really lazy highwaymen who waited for wealthy guests they could murder and rob?

John Pernier–Lewis’s ambiguously ethnic servant.  Claimed Lewis owed him money and committed suicide a short time later himself.  On the other hand, he journeyed to Virginia (not an easy trip) to inform Lewis’s mother of his death, which doesn’t seem like a logical next step.  Then again, he could have been guilt ridden or just looking for that money her son owed him (which he did not get–Lewis’s mother chased him off her property with a gun).

James Neelly.  He was escorting Lewis (he volunteered to do so, reasons for doing this unclear) but was not there at the time of Lewis’s death (they had split up).  He was in the employ of a known Aaron Burr co-conspirator.  Were there political motives for Lewis’s death?

My guess:

Rochester.  He was between wives and looking for a little adventure, assassinating explorers.  Because he’s Rochester.  And that’s what he does.

Cammy Reads Twilight: Intro

Quite recently I found myself lucky enough to have Kristy come visit, and, being the lovely house guest that she is, Kristy brought gifts.  Well, one was a gift.  The other may turn out to be a curse: it was a used copy of Twilight.  Ostensibly this is so that I could plug into pop-culture without actually having to shell out hard earned money for the experience (incidentally, this copy had circulated amongst several people for this purpose).  However, I was more than a bit dubious of all this.  The part of me that abhors ignorance–even ignorance of pop-culture–felt the need to be informed, but….

Cammy doesn’t do vampires.

It took major cajoling a full 4 years after Angel had been cancelled for friends to convince me to even start watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I’ve never read an Anne Rice novel, and the only movie version I saw was Queen of the Damned which I went to with friends who were fans:  I spent the entire movie trying very hard not to regurgitate the tacquitos I’d had at Don Pablo’s just before.  You see, the primary problem I have with vampires is that the mere thought of drinking blood makes me turn green and reach for the waste-basket.  Combine this with the fact that even without the slurping or graphic images of blood dribbling down the sides of the mouth, the entire vampire mythos has been a little over-done in the past decade and a half.  It’s gotten to the point that every time a new book or movie about vampires comes out, I roll my eyes at the cliche of it all.  I don’t find vampires mysterious and intriguing, I find them  kind of annoying and old-hat.

As if the vampire bit wasn’t enough, Twilight is teen angst, something which I loathed when I was a teenager myself, and have gained no patience for in my advancing age.  I had a non-negligible amount of trauma in my teen years (something more than being teased in gym or not getting boys to like me or not getting to sit at the popular table or whatever the hell these brats bitch and moan about), and I never found the whining of these fictional teen-angst heroines to be remotely realistic in comparison to actual problems.  It sure doesn’t seem any more important when you’re an adult.

So, really, Twilight by virtue of its genre and subject matter does not start off well in my eyes.

But, Kristy didn’t give me a choice.  So, knowing I had a business trip to Santa Barbara coming up, I decided that Twilight would be my plane-and-beach reading.  A business trip to California just seems to cry out for trashy reading material and I am apparently just not able to buy or check-out a trashy romance novel (that’s a topic of an entirely different blog entry).   While this isn’t going to be a bodice ripper, I’m pretty sure the potential for brain-rot is just as high.

And, even though critiquing Twilight is almost as hack as the book itself, I found myself compelled to make notes as I read.  And if I was going to make notes, I ought to share right?  For the near-future, we’d like to introduce you to It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter‘s first mini-series:  Cammy Reads Twilight.  Stay tuned to this blog.

On an Uncharacteristically Serious Note

So, confession:  When either Cammy or I has no idea what to write, our go to writer’s block technique is to go to Wikipedia and see what happened on that particular date.  I just did that, only apparently it’s already tomorrow on Wikipedia.  I know, freaky, right?  So thinking today is March 24, which it’s not, I scan through the list of events, and notice a disturbing trend.

March 24, 1765  The British Government passed the Quartering Act requiring the American colonists to house British troops.

March 24, 1972  The British Government imposed Direct Rule on Northern Ireland

March 24, 1976  The constitutional government of Argentina was overthrown by a military dictatorship which would go on to murder thousands of its citizens

March 24, 1980  Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated in the middle of mass for speaking out against poverty, injustice, and human rights abuses

In short, tomorrow marks the anniversary of a lot of shitty things done by governments against their people.  (This blog generally stays out of politics, but I’m not sure it’s a political statement to argue that murder is wrong)  But reading this list made me realize how lucky I am.

As stated before, we’re not a political blog.  In part, this is because the blogosphere is already overloaded with mediocre political blogs.  But it’s also because Cammy and I often stand on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  And yet we’re still friends.  Neither one of us has ever felt the need to shoot the other one (I did once spray Cammy in the face with a water spritzer, but it was because she was making fun of my dysfunctional lungs, not because of her politics).

Tomorrow’s anniversaries make me realize how lucky I am that if I wanted to, I could criticize my government openly on this blog with no fear they would make me disappear for it.  They wouldn’t even arrest me for it.  And the chances are really minimal they would even take down my blog.  A lot of people in the world today can’t say that.  And a lot of people throughout time have not had that luxury.

It’s so easy to look at everything that is wrong, we sometimes forget to appreciate what’s right.  So today, in honor of tomorrow, I’m going to take the opportunity to say:  Freedom is swell.  And I’m delighted to have enjoyed it every day of my life.

Coffee With….Lucy Maud Montgomery

Cammy:  I am a huge fan of the works of L.M. Montgomery.  I didn’t stop with just Anne of Green Gables.  I’ve read every novel the woman’s penned (except Rilla of Ingleside–but I have a reason for not having read that one), 8 of her collections of short stories, The Alpine Path and as soon as I can get my greedy little hands on the remainder of the short stories and her journals, you better believe I will devour them with the same gusto.  And for me, someone who generally avoids poetry, I’d even consent to read the collections of her poetry if I came across them.

Say what you will about her work, it strikes a personal chord with me.  The gently humorous picture she paints of PEI’s inhabitants gives me the warm and fuzzies, possibly because even though several decades and several thousand mile separate my mother’s rural south Texas family from PEI, the tales I hear sitting around with my Mom’s family about the small-town antics of friends and relatives are so similar to the sorts of stories Montgomery relates.  Most importantly, the King cousins in The Story Girl and The Golden Road are the closest any form of literature has come to capturing the childhood adventures I had with my own cousins.

And yet, despite all this….I’m still not sure I’d actually wan to have coffee with the woman.  I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I can’t help it.  I just have no clue what I’d ask her.  So much of her own life was wrapped up in the stories she wrote, at least as far as childhood and family legends go.  I don’t want to talk about the deeper, philosophical meanings behind Pat or Emily or Anne–they already have a meaning for me that doesn’t need validation even from the author.  And, though I was not at all shocked at the recent revelations about Montgomery’s deep depression later in life, I don’t want to ask about it.  I don’t want to pry because I don’t think she’d talk.  Not over coffee.

So no coffee with Maud.  No tea, no chatting.  BUT.

I would become pen-pal.  Montgomery was a writer for a reason.  Maybe she was a great conversationalist, maybe she wasn’t, but I have zero doubts about her ability to communicate in writing.  Both her real-life letters with pen-pals and her published works in epistolary style are enough to convince me that she might be one pen-pal who would be as wordy and in-depth as I am.  And if she drinks coffee while she writes me and I drink coffee while I read…that could count, right?

Kristy:  I have to admit this is probably a less weighted question for me, because I don’t think my love or knowledge of Ms. Montgomery goes as deep as Cammy’s.  I read Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island.  And I read The Story Girl and loved it.  I grew up on the first two Anne miniseries, and loved Avonlea until my parents got rid of the Disney channel.  But there’s a lot of her stuff that I’ve read, but a lot I haven’t.  And I know next to nothing about her as a person.

So with all that in mind, I say, yes, I would have coffee with L.M. Montgomery.  She seems interesting and pleasant enough.  Her works have an almost ethnographic bent to them, and I think she’d like to chat about folklore.  But I wish there was a way we could skip the Spatial Anomaly Coffee Bar and Refueling Station and have coffee on a porch somewhere on Prince Edward Island.  Because if there’s anything I’ve gathered from watching reading the books, watching Avonlea, and the little bits of actual knowledge I have, it’s that PEI is beautiful.  I’d go as much for the scenery as the company.