Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy birthday to me*; or, BSC Portrait Collection: Claudia's Book

*It's not my birthday; that's a line from the book. Sorry for any confusion.

I don't even know where to start with this one...Maybe with the freaky little clowns on the cover.

Kinda giving me nightmares...and I'm not even asleep!

Yeah. This book doesn't really have a plot. At all. The idea is that Claud has to write her "autobiography" for school. So, she recalls a few choice anecdotes that are never otherwise mentioned. Like the time she spent at a special school in Stamford. Wait, what? Don't worry, I'll go back to that one.

So, I figure the easy way to do this one (because I am nothing if not lazy) (and self-deprecating), is to give you a brief summary of the different events that Claud covers.

Big event #1: The Kishis get another baby.

Don't worry, even Claud's not stupid enough to think she can remember being born. But Janine? She remembers A LOT. Especially given that she was only 3 1/2 when Claudia was born.

Lucky us, we get an anecdote about pre-school wonder-trio Claudia, Mary Anne and Kristy putting their hands in wet cement. Yay.

Big event #2: Claudia's sixth birthday "party" hits a speedbump.

So, Claudia liked kindergarten. [I hated kindergarten. But that's another story for another therapist.]

On the last day of said kindergarten [damn, I hate typing that word!], Claud distributes invitations to her upcoming (as in a few weeks away) sixth birthday party. It's going to be all circus themed. Or something. Only nobody RSVPs, AND the only people who show up are Mary Anne and Kristy. So Claud's all crying and heartbroken, so all the parents (and Mimi) and Mary Anne and Kristy all throw together a little surprise party to cheer up the wee artist.

Big event #3: Claudia loses a tooth (but finds the truth).

Circa second grade, Claud is scared to lose any teeth because she thinks that the Tooth Fairy is a monster that eats teeth (and even yanks 'em if she's really hungry). (Oh, and all the kids in 2nd grade are apparently obsessed with losing their teeth.) But the C-dawg falls or something and knocks one of her teeth loose and then she has to have the dentist pull it. And she catches her mom in the act of being the notorious T.O.O.T.H. And then Claud realizes that *SPOILER* [NOT REALLY] Santa and the Easter Bunny are also made up. And she feels all sad and grown up. Yeah.

Big event #4: Claudia IS the new girl!

So, after a decent year in third grade, Claud really starts to lose her shit, academically speaking, in fourth grade. Halfway through the year, she winds up transferring to a special school, the Stamford Alternative Academy, where she gets a lot of special attention, etc. And she really starts to do well in school, but she's crazy depressed and anti-social and does that BSC thing where she pre-dumps Kristy and Mary Anne rather than let them "outgrow" her or whatever. Finally, she gets so depressed that her parents let her go back to Stoneybrook Elementary School. And we all know how well that worked out for her.

Big event #5: Claudia goes to the beach. Seriously. (With the Thomases.)

So, the summer when the girls are eleven, Claudia joins the Thomas (post-Mr. Thomas, pre-Watson) family for a trip to the beach; Charlie and Sam are both playing on a baseball team that's in the playoffs or something. In this little bit, we learn that the Thomases don't have much money, and Kristy has to be really responsible. Or something. Oh, yeah, cause Kristy has to watch David Michael all the time. Blah.

So, that's the general picture. Now for the rants!

  • "But as usual, I'm jumping into the middle of things. I guess that's because I see things not as having a beginning and an end, but as a big picture spreading out all around me with me (of course) at the center." Seriously. That manages to sound both stupid and pretentious. Quite a feat.
  • "I'm smart, but, well, school and I (except for art and maybe phys ed) just don't agree." Me neither, actually.
  • "Because I also have, well, an appreciation for what some people call junk food. But then, some people call wonderful works of art junk, too, right? Even Nancy Drew books! It's all in how you look at it." Okay, I've never heard the high/low art dichotomy used as a pro-Twinkie argument before. Also, even if you love Nancy Drew books, you know they're not great works of art. Not that they have no value, or aren't enjoyable or well-made or whatever. But not "wonderful works of art." Heh. "Art junk."
  • Ah, yes, the notorious "fascinating parental fact." Sometimes, though, you just don't want to know. Trust me.
  • Yes, I'm sure that "being smart and laid-back and looking totally together is the result of all those sprouts and tofu!" Oh, wait, though. Dawn's not laid-back! Damn, there goes your sales pitch.
  • Apparently, Claudia knew what an art show was when she was young enough to draw all over the bathroom. Prescient!
  • Holy fucking retardedness, Batman! When she was in kindergarten, she drew a fucking butterfly as her self portrait. Proving once again that huffing while knocked up is a baaaaad idea, Mrs. Kishi.
  • Outfit! "An enormous shirt and patchwork vest over striped leggings." How edgy! How...exactly what she wears in every fucking book.
  • In a mighty presumptuous move, Claud titles her autobiography "An Artist's Life."
  • Dumb bitch can't even spell the name of the state where she's lived her entire life.
  • Well, duh. Of course you don't remember being born or being brought home from the hospital.
  • I always thought Mimi was a nickname, but, according to Claud's birth announcement, her name is Mimi Yamamoto. So, Claud calls her grandmother by her first name. Even as a kid. Kinda weird.
  • Heh. Toddler Janine has a mullet.
  • One of Claud's earliest memories is from when she was four and a half or five. Which seems kind of late, no? [Though I know jack shit about kiddie development, so I could be totally off.]
  • On the first day of kindergarten, Kristy "looked around the room, folded her arms, and said, 'Not bad.'" The fuck? How old was she when she started school? 30?
  • Ah, undiagnosed ADD. Excuse me, ADHD.
  • L'il Claud outfit! "I was wearing black tights and my tall black rainboots and my red jacket with the brass buttons. I had a T-shirt with a lion's head painted on the front and I wore that under the jacket. I thought it made me look like a lion tamer." Um, is she wearing any pants? Or just the tights? Sure, Nancy Sinatra and Edie Sedgwick could pull it off, but I'm not sure it's appropriate for a five-going-on-six-year-old.
  • Janine, on the other hand, was wearing "a [wait for it...] Laura Ashley flowered dress and white tights and flats." So, I'm totally trying to determine the rules for the BSC drinking game. And I think part of it should be "drink twice when someone wears Laura Ashley."
  • L'il Kristy's idea of "party clothes?" So glad you asked. "Kristy was wearing navy blue shorts with a matching camp shirt, white socks, and her best sneakers."
  • There's an elaborately contrived reason for no guests. Lame.
  • I don't remember everyone being obsessed with losing their baby teeth. It just happened. I enjoyed it personally, cause I'm a sick fuck.
  • The illustrations in this book totally fucked with me. First of all, Claud looks like a different kid in each picture. Then she looks younger when she's supposed to be older and vice fucking versa. Seriously. Weak.
  • Some more "clever" homemade devices for deterring intruders. Yay. Still not amusing when the "intruder" is a creepy fairy.
  • A 3rd grade teacher that wears "business suits?" Hmmmm...
  • Claud's 4th grade teacher is both black and southern. But I thought Jessi's fam were the only black people in town?!?!? And the Brunos were the only southerners!?!?! My world is falling apart, much like when Claud realized that the tooth fairy was her mom.
  • Claud gets tested for learning disabilities!!!! But I would've gotten a second opinion if they came back clear. Cause, not bright.
  • Okay, a couple of things really bothered me about the whole special school thing.
    • One, I would think Claudia would kind of like a school that didn't make her feel stupid all the time.
    • Two, she threw a teenage hissyfit about going to school, and she alienated all the kids and didn't even try to make friends.
    • Three, did she really think that the two girls across the street wouldn't have anything to say to her if they went to different schools?
    • And, finally, is it really better to go back to the school where you were doing terribly, have to spend all kinds of time outside of school getting tutors and getting extra attention, and still not do well? Wouldn't that be worse for her self-worth? And she couldn't be in the same classes as her friends as school progressed, so what good would being at the same school be? Lunch period? This whole interlude really bothered me.
  • Also, these girls talked EXACTLY the same at eight as they do at thirteen, and it's all ridiculous.
  • Claudia never like Mr. Thomas. How convenient.
  • I don't think I ever went away with another family when I was a kid, except with my extended family. I don't think that counts. But these girls are constantly travelling with other fams. Crazy, crazy parents.
  • Claud's the only one who thinks the hotel at the beach is run down. Ha ha, Kristy's family is poor. And Claud's a snob.
  • Also, Claud's acting like Kristy's all grown-up, taking care of David Michael. At eleven. Wait a minute...isn't that how old Mal and Jessi are?
  • Of course, the written autobiography inspires some lameass art project.

Wowza. That sucked Cartman's balls.

One more thing: Mary Anne is one fugly kid.

See ya after Christmas, suckas!


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Uh-oh, am I getting mushy here?; or, BSC Mystery #9: Kristy and the Haunted Mansion

Crap. Terrible. Horrible. Vile. An abomination. Worse than watching Zac Efron and Shia LeBoeuf getting the business. From each other. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I give you another "mystery" with absolutely no mystery. And awful writing. Aw, you missed me!

Is it just me, or does cover-Kristy have an unusual area? Seriously. From the waist down, that is a dude.

Also, where the hell did she get an oil lamp? And how are they standing in the rain but staying perfectly dry? Is it magic? Yeah.

Okay, so here's the deal. Bart and Kristy apparently joined baseball forces and created a mutant team: the Krashers (get it? A combination of the Krushers and the Bashers? Aren't they from Clever-Clever Land?), and said Krashers are playing against some team from some other town. They're all piled into a van, driven by Saint Charlie (aged 17), heading home from the game (which, described in some really boring words, they won) when they get caught in a terrible storm! Oh no! And they're lost! And then they can't turn around, cause some bridges wash out! And they see a house! And they decide to ask for a phone! And they interrupt a bunch of freakies doing the Time Warp! Oh, wait. I think that's the movie version. (P.S.-Kristy is Brad and Bart is Janet.) No, so they see this big "scary" house, and they go to the little cottage by the entrance. And a "creepy" old guy gives them, food blankets, and keys to the big house up the hill. But there are no phones. (Um, way to be all 1850s there, gramps.) And they spend the night there, despite rumors of the house being haunted. Or something. And they learn about a sad tale of a missing girl (Dorothy) and foiled romance and blah blah blah. And the rain clears up in the morning, and "they" fix the bridges (damn Illuminati!) and Kristy and Co. head on back to the 'Brook. Oh, and everyone was way worried about them. The end. Oh, wait, no it's not. They realize that the missing (presumed dead) girl from the house actually runs the sewing store in Stoneybrook. And they go to her to get the skinny. Turned out she wigged about eloping and wanted to be a free woman so she kind of faked her own death and traveled the world or whatever before settling a few miles from the heartbroken man who still pines after her from the caretaker's cottage at her father's old home. Yeah. See, no real mystery there.

Right-o!
  • Here's what I don't get...Why didn't they just park somewhere and sleep in the van. Sure, it would've been a little crowded, but still! Instead they stayed in a big empty house at the invite of a complete stranger.
  • Kristy thought the old guy was creepy because his "eyes had no sparkle" and he says things like "I'll see you in the morning...God willing." Sweetie, he's creepy because he lets a vanload of kiddies stay in his big old house in the middle of nowhere. And he doesn't have a phone. And cause no one can hear you scream and no one knows where you are. Just sayin'.
  • "A hundred bottles of pop on the wall?" Really? Even in elementary school, I sang "beer" there. Also, in Connecticut, it's not "pop." That's a Midwest thing.
  • Heebie-jeebies are not the same thing as everyday anxiety or apprehension, like pregame jitters. Sorry. More like "the creeps" or "the wiggins" or "the freaked-outies" which I totally just made up.
  • "Once again, I'd had an idea that saved the day. I don't mean to sound conceited, but that happens a lot." If you don't mean to sound conceited, Kristy, just shut the fuck up.
  • How did Jackie Rodowsky make in on the "all-star" team? Huh? I smell contrivance.
  • Also, since when is there a girl Basher?
  • "A rain-out is better than losing." Kristy, Kristy, Kristy. [Shaking head sadly.]
  • "Stacey also dresses like a model, in outfits I couldn't even begin to imagine wearing. Like lacy purple leggings with big floral tops, or black miniskirts with little cowboy shoes." First of all, huh? Little cowboy shoes? I don't know what those are. Also, anyone who can imagine wearing these outfits should be taken out back and beaten with their little cowboy shoes.
  • As for Claudia, she "might wear a hand-painted silk scarf to top off a polka-dotted jumpsuit, for example. Or two handmade papier-mâché earrings that look like little donuts, with a third that looks like a cup of coffee." Just, yeah.
  • "That fateful day, as Mallory might say, if she were writing one of her stories." And if she were a terrible, terrible writer. Which, let's face it, she probably is.
  • Ha ha. Kristy's afraid of lightning! "This fear of mine is a deep, dark secret. Everybody thinks I'm fearless..." I really doubt that anyone thinks she's fearless. Most people prolly think she's afraid of boys.
  • For a bunch of kids that grew up in small town New England, they are surprisingly afraid of big old houses. If you thought every big, run down house was haunted, you'd think 60% of the town was haunted. Dumbasses.
  • I had to ask RNL what a "passel" was. Ah, fake folky dialogue.
  • Um, you've got the whole house to yourselves (theoretically), and yet you feel compelled to put the food (apples and bread) in the kitchen? Rebel a bit! Put it in the dining room! Eat in the living room! Live on the edge!
  • "Those darn chills." That would be the heebie-jeebies.
  • Fucking backwards talk. I really doubt any kids would bother with that. Takes too long.
  • Why would Bart's dad call Claud for info? Why not the Brewer-Thomas household? And how did he get her number? Does Bart's fam use the BSC? So confused.
  • Oh, yeah, at the beginning, during the standard intro to the BSC, Kristy imagines various members as 80-year-olds, sitting in rockers. Boring. Now, if she had described them as various Golden Girls, maybe I would've been into it.
  • How would (little) kids in Stoneybrook know about supposedly haunted houses multiple towns away?
  • I really doubt a 6-year-old could read an old-timey (1930s) diary. First of all, cursive. Second of all, faded ink. Third of all, I have trouble with it, and I've worked in fucking special collections and archives.
  • "Karen was gazing up at Dorothy's portrait. 'Women didn't have it easy back then, did they?' she asked. 'I mean, she wanted to get out of her father's house, and the only way was to marry this guy.'" Wow, Karen just may be the first 6-year-old ever to get an A+ in Women's Studies 101. Also, it was the 30s, not the Middle Ages. Not saying it was perfect, but women could even vote by that time.
  • Oh, Claudia. "She was wearing white knee-length jean shorts, white Keds, and a tie-dyed T-shirt she'd made the weekend before. It was a beautiful one, with spirals of yellow and green and purple, and she was proud of it." PS-it bleeds all over her skin and jorts (that's the new way of saying jean shorts--fake copyright RNL and TMW, but you can totally use it) when she goes out in the rain. Oops.
  • So, everybody's all freaking out, cause the Krashers have been missing for a few hours, right? But you'd think they'd be used to people disappearing, cause it happens every other fucking book.
  • So the girl on the Bashers? Patty? She wants to be a carpenter and ride a motorcycle when she grows up (*cough* baby dyke!). And then be the president. Yeah.
  • Heh! One of Bart's favorite things to do is "be with Kristy." Maybe Kristy does put out!?!?
  • "Bart gave me a gentle smile and touched my hand. 'You're a pretty awesome person, Kristin Amanda Thomas,' he said." And now we're in a Danielle Steel novel.
  • Oh, yeah, the guy in the shack/cottage/whatever is Dorothy's ex-fiancé.
  • I've always pictured Dawn's room as pretty neat, and the idea of Sharon telling Dawn to clean her room seems a little...off.
  • All the BSC write notes for Kristy in the club notebook, to show her how much they missed her. When she hasn't even been gone twelve hours. Because they're a little crazy.
  • Jessi's note says: "Being lost with eight kids has to be the baby-sitting adventure of all time!" Um, what about getting shipwrecked? Or snowed in? Or lost in the woods? Or running a day camp for every child on the planet with no adult help? Bitch, please.
  • There are a lot of Mets fans in these books. Which is borderline odd.
  • "Missing, without a trace!" For a few hours!
  • Of course Claud makes a sign: WELLCOME HOME, KRASHERZ! That Claud, she's so street.
  • They only order two large pizzas for seven girls? Are they all on Stacey's diet?
  • Ah, yes. The single most clichéd moment in all juvenile literature. All the characters saying "Anchovies!" in disgust.
  • Kristy wants to get Dorothy and the caretaker together again. Guess all that time with Bart turned her into a romantic.
  • "I know it was wrong to let them think I was dead [also, isn't that illegal?], but it was the only way I could see for me to take control of my life." Yep, in the 1930s.

Wow. I'm a little rusty here. But I think it's all coming back to me now, like that bad Celine Dion song.

***

So, I'm going to try to get back on a regular posting schedule, but things are still going to be a bit crazy in my personal life, and my supply of books is entirely different (and less reliable) here in my new locale, so there might be some weeks without. Also, holidays coming up. So eat it, much like West Virginia did in the Backyard Brawl last night! Go Panthers!