Twilight… the next teen classic or teen harlequin romance novel

I inhaled the Twilight series.  It helped that I started the first one when I was sick one weekend, so I finished that in a sitting.  I borrowed the second one a week or so later and finished it over the course of a week or so and then I finished the third and fourth books over 4 days — reading the last one 12 hours straight. 
 
I had pretty mixed feelings about the books though.  There’s definitely entertainment value that kept me take in the words on the page as if I was given a pitcher of water after hiking a week in the desert.  At the same time though, I found the storyline so simple, borrowed and cliche.  The whole time I thought to myself, is this what a Harlequin romance novel is like?  I almost felt like a vegetarian who was eating steak and potatoes for dinner… it tastes good going down but then leaves you feeling heavy and slightly sick afterwards.  And the sickness is b/c your system isn’t used to the change in diet but also from the guilt of breaking your own principles and worse yet… it’s so good, you want more and wonder if you can fundamentally still call yourself a vegetarian.  Ok, that’s a bit dramatic…
 
Here’s what I liked about the series (BEWARE OF SPOILERS):
 
  • The vampire and werewolf lore had a very interesting twist. 
    • The existance of wolves only as a result to providing a natural predator to the vampire — this is Buffy-esque
    • The vampire in the sun — a surprisingly refreshing deviation from the typical vampire myths
    • The extra "powers" each vampire had and how they carry over from your human nature to your vampire nature.  Made sence Bella’s protective nature of the people around her would translate to the special power she got as a vampire.
  • The progression of the storyline – it was well-planned and well-paced.  I heard some complaints about Book 2 (and I have quite a few of my own), but the overarching storyline across the four books was good.  Things built up and unfolded in a nice manner.  Any longer and it would have just felt drawn out — any shorter and you wouldn’t really be able to appreciate the characters’ growth
  • I have to admit, I was hooked on Edward — the oh so perfect vampire/man.  Stephanie Meyer clearly has a finger on the pulse of what women want in a man, in a relationship.  One of the driving forces that kept my eyes ripping through the pages was Edwards complete and utter dreaminess — the perfect, gallant, gentleman who’s strong, powerful, smart and gorgeous but sensitive, respectful and romantic.  He’s your confidante, protector, mentor, best friend an lover all in one.
  • It’s very relatable.  As much as I hate the fact that Bella epitomizes the weak victim that needs saving and excusing instead of the strong heroine (Buffy) who’s taking names and kicking ass, her flaws, her mistakes, her insecurities… those are all things everybody feels.  On principle, I felt the books don’t give young women a strong female role model but at least by the end of the series, Bella is prety bad ass.  And in retrospect, I think this is why these books are such a strong pull… even the imperfect person, the bumbling clutz, ugly duckling can have their happy ending.

I’m generally not that critical of things that have entertaining value to me.  My friend made the astute observation that I’m like a infant in some ways — very easily entertained and amused.  Not that I don’t enjoy picking apart and analyzing movies and books and whatnot, but I more often than not can just appreciate the escape they provide me from my many other responsibilities.  However, in this one particular case, there were some things that really bugged me.  Some more than others and ultimately not enough for me to put the books down or to consider it anywhere near a waste of time.  Just enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth afterwards.

  • There wasn’t really anything new or deep about the storyline/relationship that was portrayed–nothing that hasn’t already been explored and portrayed in much better ways
    • Typical boy meets girl, breaks her heart, learns he’s made a horrible mistake, makes it up to girl and boy & girl live happily ever after
    • Boy in love w/ girl who doesn’t feel the same
    • Loving someone you’re not meant to (romeo & juliet, tristan & iseult, lancelot & qwenivere, etc.)
    • Typical love triangle
    • Revenge and vendettas
    • Tortured vampire w/ a soul or humanity atypical of their kind
    • Soulmates finding each other
    • True love conquers all (princess bride)
  • The subtext wasn’t so "sub" and ultimately felt like a more entertaining after school special
    • Marriage is binding… forever and ever (we got this on the wolf and vampire side)
    • Marriage before sex
    • Relationships are about open & honest communication and compromise
    • Violence is bad
    • School is good
    • Truth and honesty are good
    • Discrimination and fear are overcome by an open mind and a common cause that binds
    • Protect your soul and ensure your passage into heaven
    • Ugly duckling becomes a swan
    • Recognize your own strengths and what makes you great
    • Modesty is the best policy
    • Love is the desire and willingness to put someone else’s happiness, needs, and desires before your own
    • Undying, unbreakable devotion and loyalty
    • You control your future
  • For all the lessons we learned and the decently good job of portraying positive, healthy relationships, I hated that Bella was so attached to Edward.  She completely lost herself in him and lived entirely for him and was so consumed by him that she did ultimately commit suicide over him.  While it’s realistic that she needed help coming out of that dark period in her life, she never truly did snap out of it on her own.  She never realized her behavior was destructive and juvenile.  It’s like she learned nothing from that.  Same w/ Jake … crazy infatuation/love/desire for another person to the point of becoming a horrible person whether destructive to yourself or someone else.  And what’s worst is that their happiness ultimately was delivered to them in finding that special someone. 

    One of my strongest beliefs when it comes to relationships is that you can’t be happy in a relationship if you don’t know how to be happy by yourself.  I don’t believe that completeness is what your soulmate gives you.  You should be complete on your own and your soulmate makes everything better.  Together you achieve more than you could have individually.  The equation isn’t half + half = one.  It’s one + one = three.  I believe someone can be truly happy without a life long partner… we’re whole on our own and we control our own happiness.

    And surely, there was ample opportunity amongst the three pegs of the triangle to illuminate different paths, different choices, etc.  Edward can have the undying devotion and "this world is nothing w/o you in it so as soon as you croke I’m outta here too" is appropriate for a vampire who has lived 90 years.  I wish Jake would have moved on (and as a side note that the harmony that eventually was created between vampire and wolf wasn’t forced upon them due to a genetic wiring instead of conscious choice like on the vampire side).  Maybe throw himself into truly accepting and embracing his Alpha status and perhaps stumbling upon love perhaps with Leah (which would resolve her special role as the only female wolf — that it’s not that she’s deformed and isn’t meant to propogate the wolf genelogical lineage but rather add to by creating an even stronger lineage w/ another Wolf decendent).  For Bella, it would have been nice to have her snap out of her destructive phase… at least to the point of living a normal life… maybe not quite happy and moved on, but at least functional and healthy.  

  • That leads me to what Book 2 (at least the last two thirds) should have been…

    I would not have had Bella saving Edward w/ the Volturi… I would have changed that whole storyline to be that Edward leaving Bella was more centered around trying to protect her from Victoria.  He still breaks up w/ her under the false pretext of not loving her anymore (hoping that makes it easier for her to move on) but really is doing so in hopes of leading Victoria away from Bella and hunting her downhimself.  Perhaps he sacrifices himself to the Volturi legion for their help tracking and destroying Victoria since he sucks at tracking and she has the uncanny power to elude harm.  Maybe the Volturi reneg on the deal — keeping his servitude but refusing to destroy Victoria since she’s got a special power Aros would want in his arsenal too.  So he risks defying the Volturi and barely escapes death (only due to his family’s help) at their hands (all so he can find another way to protect Bella).  Ultimately, it’s still Alice’s cunning and quick thinking with showing Aros that Edward’s sacrifice is all for a human that will become a vampire but only if they let Edward go.  Of course, now Edward needs to return to Bella to continue to protect her from Victoria and now the Volturi too.   The Cullens are sworn to never tell Bella of the looming Volturi threat (and on a more personal note Edward’s sacrifice and continued devotion during his time away from her to allow Bella to move on).   

    Oh… maybe when Edward returned, Bella is dating Jake and seems happy.  Maybe Bella and Jacob start the same — a friend helping a friend in need — but Jake takes the initiative to the next level b/c he loves her and she thinks she loves him the same way but subconsciously is just filling the void Edward left.   Classic rebound syndrome.  Seeing this, Edward sacrifices his own happiness never revealing his true feeling for her because he wants her to keep her own.  So, he’s back but he keeps his distance — watching and protecting her, but otherwise staying away.  They’re both living a lie.  Bella is the first to realize this and breaks it off w/ Jake when she does — choosing to find strength and happiness within herself to fill that void rather than lead Jake on and continue to use him.  

    She still harbors a strong, stubborn sense of hatred and hurt towards Edward.  But then she starts getting these dreams (which i really wish they’d done more w/ as a Vampire power–like premonitions but somehow different than Alice’s)… where she essentially dreams about a battle between Edward and the Volturi and that he dies leaving her devasted.  She finally realizes her subconscious is telling her that she can’t bear to see anything bad happen to Edward even though her conscious self wants a voodoo Edward doll that she can prick torture to avenge her broken heart (oh come on… you know you’ve wished it before yourself).  The dream while its message shakes her into realizing it’s more natural to love Edward than hate him (although at this point she’s refusing to act on it thinking he has moved on — essentially they’re both now doing the same thing), is becoming more vivid, more frequent and ultimately more real.  Scared, she consults Alice and finally confesses she thinks she still loves Edward and now wants to enlist Alice’s help to protect him.

    Alice is frustrated she’s in the middle of an episode of Three’s Company what with all the miscommunication, assumptions and misunderstandings.  Finally, she let’s it slip that these dreams are alarming considering the conflict between the Volturi and Edward and thus she’s forced to reveal the whole story — the reason Edward left (to hunt Victoria and protect Bella) and his sacrifice then and now and how tortured he’s been this whole time without Bella.  Finally, it’s Bella who finds the courage to clear up all the misunderstandings and finally confesses her love to Edward, who is beyond relieved and euphoric to hear she feels the same way he does. 

    That, in a nutshell, should have been the second half of book 2.  Maybe it’s a bit contrived and still doesn’t offer anything new by way of plot lines but hey — that’s not where this book is meant to make its mark, so at the very least, it could have been written to give some variety in the portrayal of love & loss. 

  • Finally, the character development could have been richer and deeper.  I think my plot would have shown some growth in the characters.  It also feels more powerful becacuse the character’s intentions are not just stated or danced around, hinted at but actually acted on, which is more telling of their character.  Edward does come back for Bella but seeing her with Jake gives up his own happiness for hers.  In the original storyline, he just swears up and down he was on his way back anyhow before Bella saved him — why just have him say it; make him do it.  Jake never really makes his move except later in a very sleezy way which really, just makes the reader dislike him when they shouldn’t have to.  Bella explores her options (with Jake) w/o cheating on her boyfriend… fiance.  Again… making the reader dislike her in a way they shouldn’t have to. 

    If reader’s dislike of any of these main characters, it should be w/ mixed feelings due to their own personal preferences as opposed to character flaws that make them dispicable and not just forgivable human nature.  This isn’t the kind of book where you’re plotting to have an unredeemable force of evil that the reader is supposed to vehemently hate and enjoy doing so.  We’re supposed to feel torn by these very human characters.  For example, disliking Bella because she chooses Edward over Jake is better if it’s b/c you think wolves are cooler than Vampires or that Jake is sweeter than Edward.  But disliking her because the author made her a weak girl who doesn’t have the self respect or self control not to use another person for her own happiness, string along a friend while selfishly claiming the whole time she’s in love with another guy so much but then eventually cheat on her perfect boyfriend/fiance and still expecting everyone to love herand be around her and be the specific role she want them to be in her life.  Not to mention, treating her friends like cough medicine she can take to feel better when she needs or when her father says she needs but then putting them back on the shelf again until she’s feeling blue.  I mean, come on… how can you really like a character like that?  All the empathy or sympathy that you should be feeling for her gets negated by the bad character development. 

    It’s the whole essentential argument that choices you make with self awareness of their consequences are more meaningful than the same choices made out of ignorance or obliviousness.  It applies equally to good and bad choices.  While wrong, Bella’s bad choices would be more forgivable if she weren’t so damn aware that she was making bad choices and ones that hurt not just herself but others as well.  Doing something that happened to make someone else happy is great, but if you did it out of deliberate mindfulness and care for that other person, that’s more admirable. 

For all the complaints, I still have to admit, it was an enjoyable read.  It’s one of the few books I’ve read that I haven’t bought and I wonder whether I like it enough to buy, which assumes I’d read it again.  I’m not sure I like it enough to read a second time, but I am sure that if I did decide to read it again, I’d probably be equally entertained and frustrated by it. 

The Perfect End…

I have been working since 8am this morning for a small dinner VNSF hosted for our most loyal and generous donors.  Here’s how my day looked:
7:30am     Woke up, got ready for the day
8:00am     Had breakfast
8:15am     Finalized the agenda/time table for the evening
9:00am     Headed to Ben Franklin to buy cardstock to print menu cards for the guests   
10:00am   Finalized menu cards, printed, and assembled them
11:30pm   Lunch while watching "Lie to Me"
1:00pm     Head to the hostesses house to help prepare the dinner
1:30pm     Started washing dishes, setting the table, chopping food, etc.
5:30pm     Dinner service begins and for the next 6 hours I was on my feet – prepping food, plating dishes, cutting garnishes, washing dishes, cleaning up
10:30pm   The last guest leaves and we start washing the last of the dishes, bag & box the nice silverware and dishes, wipe down all the tables, counters, etc.
11:30pm   Head home
12:00am    Turn on boob tube, poured bowl of cheetos, and start surfing to find something to watch and decompress.  On comes my all-time favorite movie…
 
The Princess Bride… I could not have chosen a better way to end such a LONG day.
Big thanks to our Chef and Hostess for donating a wonderful 5-course dinner for 10.  And many many thanks to my volunteers who came in shifts to help me out–I would have fainted from exhaustion if not for your help!
 
One more event tomorrow and then I have another 60-70hour work week to look forward to.  Woohoo!!
 

Out with the old. In with the new…

 
5 Things I Miss about my Corolla:
  1. Outside temperature gauge.  I realized after it was gone that I always check the temperature every time I get into my car.  It’s a nice thing to know
  2. Seeing both ends.  I miss being able to see the ends of my car — makes parking so much easier.
  3. Gas tank reserve.  Even when I was below E, I still had 2-3 gallons which could get me 50-60 miles before I really needed to gas up.  E means E on the Civic
  4. Silver.  Covers so much pollen, dirt, cherry blossom petals.  Black is hard to keep clean
  5. Auto lights.  I never had to make a conscious decision to turn the lights on.  It was so convenient.

5 Things I Love about my Civic:

  1. The sound of the engine… it almost sounds like an electric car. 
  2. Horsepower.  The civic glides up to 70mph almost gracefully — the Corolla huffed and puffed its way up there rather resentfully.
  3. Black.  It just looks so cool.
  4. Digital spedometer and blue interior lights.  Again, very cool.
  5. Storage. There are so many compartments for storage — love it!

 

Martha Van?

I’m snacking on organic vanilla yogurt topped with fresh homemade strawberry puree and homemade granola while I wait for my strawberry fruit leather to finish drying in the oven.  Yum!  There’s a little Martha Stewart in me afterall.  =)
 

My new baby…

So… I recently did my part to stimulate the economy by going further into debt with a new car!  Nothing special or extraordinary like a hybrid or a Smart car… just a reliable, safe Civic.   The morning after I bought the car, I was up til 1am contemplating my drive into work, where the best place to park is, etc.  I don’t know when I finally fell asleep but I was awake — bright and alert — at 5am.   I was on the road by 6am and driving it hard (to break it in properly).  Felt nice to floor it and go "full throttle".  It drives much much smoother than my old Corolla. 
 
What I can’t get used to is not being able to see the ends of my car.  What am I supposed to do?  Use the force?  I’m horrible at "knowing" my car and just "sensing" its dimensions.  I’ve never gotten into an accident or tapped a car or object and I think I owe that perfect record in large part to the fact that I could see both ends of my Corolla.  I can’t see nothin’ but road when I look outside my car.   Sure, that’s kind of cool, but it’s not like I’m driving a Smart car and there really isn’t anymore car beyond the windows.  Let’s just say, it’ll be a while before I parallel park anywhere that’s for sure.  I joked w/ my friend Kim that I should afix a banner or flag in the front and back so I can see where the car ends.
 
Et voila… my new baby…

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

… the book!  Not my life.  =)
 
This was a recommendation from a old coworker of mine.  Finished it in 2 days = good book!  The premise of the book is interesting — "reputation economies" and infinite life.  Your worth as a person is based on the respect that you command from others and their worth in turn.  They call it "whuffie" and people can ping each other’s whuffie level to see how low or how high on the totem pole you are.  It’s kind of like google — you’ll come up higher in the list if a lot of people like you and those people are liked by a lot of people as well.  It’s in interesting premise — the ultimate system of "it’s who you know not what you know".  Another interesting twist was the idea of being able to restore yoursel from a back-up and imprint it into a fresh clone of yourself perserved at whatever age you decide.  Kind of nice… never age, just get wiser, wipe out entire years of your life if you decided it wasn’t worth remembering by just restoring to a old back-up.  Also neat was the idea of "squirting" data directly into someone’s head — the ultimate wi-fi world where everything and everyone was connected.  And as the title suggests, the whole thing plays out in Disney World. 
 
I like the idea of whuffie… especially the ability to ping someone else’s whuffie to see if having their respect would boost your own.  It certainly helps you be more efficient at ass-kissing.  Wouldn’t want to waste your time chumming up to someone who’s got absolutely no pull with anyone.  It’s a neat concept though and I think the idea was that it would keep people more honest, but really it just means your value is completely based on what other people think of you.  Is it too idealistic to believe that’s not the way the world really operates?  Is self-worth is worthless?
 
Oh well… off to the next book.  I’m going to dive into some P.G. Wodehouse.  I bought the Psmith collection as well as an anthology of Wodehouse’s work.  Looking forward to it.  Although part of me wants to reserve it as a reward for finishing Saving Fish from Drowning (the Amy Tan book I started last year).  Books are both like medicine and ice cream for me… except that I actually read books when I’m sick and I neither take medicine or eat ice cream.  That’s beside the point though — some books are just pure mindless dribble for fun and others are food for the brain… and then there are some that I feel I just need to swallow it down quickly to get it over with so I can move on and eat some ice cream. 
 
 
 
 

Wild Nights!

 
… the book!  Not my life.  =)
 
I FINALLY finished Wild Nights (the only good thing about being home sick).  It was.. eh.  I had such high hopes for this book… searched high and low for it and was so excited to get it as a present from M.  It’s essentially 5 fictional short stories about the last days of famous authors, e.g. Mark Twain.  I only really liked 1 of them and the rest were ok.  They were just too weird.  I’m hoping the rest of my reading list pans out well.  I’m going to try "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" next.  If it’s a slow read, I’m pulling out the big guns and whipping out Twilight. 
 
iPhones… I can’t tell if I’m jealous or annoyed by the iPhone phenomena.  Every time I see an email w/ "this was sent from an iPhone", I have a reaction.  It’s likely that email was sent by someone who was ignoring the people right in front of them to mindlessly tap tap tap on their iPhone.  Granted, if it’s to answer an email from me, is that really a crime?  Probably not.  I guess that settles it; I’m jealous.  I’ll be anxiously awaiting to get it as a present from someone… anyone.

I just can’t accept change… yet

There have been a lot of changes the past 12 months…
 
  • i changed jobs
  • i changed roles on the vnsf board
  • the nation got a new president
  • my 401k is paltry and quite frankly frighteningly meager that I don’t even check anymore
  • my msft stock is all underwater, making me wish i sold it all at 31 when i wanted to
  • there have been big lay offs at my company
  • i no longer work for my favorite manager
  • i have a new manager who’s really cool
  • facebook has a life of its own and i don’t think i like it
  • joss whedon has a new tv series
  • two of my friends are now moms
  • one of my closest friends is engaged (YAY!!)
  • the economy is in the pooper
  • I have friends who are recently unemployed
  • the economy being in the pooper makes me hesitate everytime i feed my sbux addiction
  • i eat vegan/vegetarian almost voluntarily
  • my triglycerides went up 10 pts… i blame all the food on the asia tour

That’s a heck of a lot of change!  But I can roll with all those changes… life happens, you just gotta deal.  However, there’s one change I can’t yet accept — the LITERAL kind!  I sprained my wrist and as a result can’t rotate my right hand enough to accept change.  Seriously… I can’t rotate my hand more than 20 degrees past a handshake w/o starting to contort my entire arm followed by my body.  So sad (pathetic).  What’s more sad is that the injury has sidelined my volleyball.  =(

A good month for VNSF

I had a GREAT vnsf day! 
 
First, I picked up the VNSF mail and we got a lot of money!  This doesn’t always happen.  First, we have an upcoming event (that you should go to if you can — the Long Restaurant Opening).  I was happy to see so many registrations.  Yay!  There’s still space, so go online and register now.   Second, we got a bunch of microsoft giving and matching from last year’s benefit event and giving campaign.   Double YAY!!  Money coming into the organization is always a good feeling.  Big, huge thank you to all the VNSF donors and supporters.  In particular, those of you who do payroll deduction — that level of committment to our organization is amazing and much appreciated.
 
Second, I found an event planner!!  I’m so excited.  I posted on volunteermatch.com for some positions on my Fundraising Committee and I got 3 responses.  I scheduled a meeting with 2 and met one of them this evening.  She’s energetic, passionate, and seems reliable.  She’s volunteered before, she’s run clubs and organizations and she’s passionate about event planning.  O… I could barely contain my excitement!  I’m SO looking forward to working with her.  I have had trouble recruiting for my committee before but I have high hopes for my new recruit.  I’m so jazzed.  It’s nice when you’re recruiting and you find that perfect fit.  It’s exciting!! Yay yay yay… what a good day!  Open-mouthed
 

New Toy

For over a year now I’ve been wanting to get a new laptop.   I finally parted with the money and bought myself one.  It’s nothing special (just a Dell Inspiron 1525) but it’ll suit my purpose and it comes with Vista.  I don’t care what people may say (including myself from time to time) but I like Vista. 

Yes, I said it, I like Vista.  I like the sidebar – gadgets in particular.  I downloaded the gmail and google calendar gadgets so now I can see it all at a glance.  I like the look – it’s much sleaker than XP.  I don’t know what they’re calling the bar at the top (that’s like the Mac toolbar at the bottom), but I’m even beginning to like that thing.  I’m a little bummed I only have the Home edition of Vista.  It doesn’t come with Aero so I don’t get the super cool graphics.  Oh well.